Scientists have found a (partial) explanation for the ‘blood rain’ in Spain

Rain showers can sometimes take a bizarre turn: in very rare cases, animals such as fish and frogs have been known to fall from the sky alongside water droplets, and around the world, people have experienced what’s known as blood rain, where the water has a peculiar red tinge.

Reports of blood rain have been recorded for centuries – back before humans knew any better, it was believed the sky was actually spitting out blood. Nowadays, we have the technology to analyse the composition of blood rain so we no longer have to jump to any crazy conclusions, but scientists are only just figuring out how and why it occurs. And now a new study has put forward an explanation for a recent incident in Zamora, a city in northwestern Spain.

The people of Zamora and several nearby villages noticed blood rain falling from the sky late last year: was it chemical pollution? Was it some kind of deliberate sabotage? Was it a sign from God? A concerned resident sent a sample of collected rainwater to scientists at Spain’s University of Salamanca to see if they could come up with any answers. And now the results are in.

The researchers say a freshwater green microalgae called Haematococcus pluvialis is to blame – this microalgae is capable of producing a red carotene pigment called astaxanthin when in a state of stress, perhaps caused by getting caught up in a rain-cloud.

That matches up with previous studies of blood rain, one of which found the microalgae  to be the cause of an incident in Kerala in India– different kinds of microalgae, but the same root cause.

AstaxanthinAstaxanthin in H. pluvialis. Credit: Frank Fox/Wikimedia

What’s less clear is how these microalgae spores are travelling. H. pluvialis is not native to Zamora or any of the neighbouring regions, and before the Kerala incident, T. annulata was thought to only exist in Austria – a long way from India. So now the researchers have to figure out exactly how these mysterious microorganisms are making their way across the globe.

Hitching a ride on global wind currents would be a good bet, but so far researchers have been unable to find any concrete proof of this. The researchers identified a prevailing current that could’ve carried the microalgae out from North America to Spain, but have yet to pinpoint the exact source. Their work has been published in the Spanish Royal Society of Natural History Journal.

In the meantime, there’s no cause for panic if you’re caught in a blood rain shower: H. pluvialis is non-toxic and is often used as a food source for salmon and trout to give them a more pinkish hue. Indeed, motorcycle company Yamaha recently used the microalgae to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from its factories.

blood prainsBlood rain puddle from Zamora. Credit: Joaquín Pérez

Source: Scientists have found a (partial) explanation for the ‘blood rain’ in Spain

Scientists have found a (partial) explanation for the ‘blood rain’ in Spain

Construction Begins On Europe’s Largest Floating Solar Plant

Construction has begun on what will end up being Europe’s largest floating solar plant, atop Godley Reservoir in the UK.

Godley-1

The project developer, and the UK’s largest listed water company, announced this week that the installation of Europe’s biggest floating solar power system had begun construction, on the Godley Reservoir in the town of Hyde in Greater Manchester, UK. The entire project will consist of 12,000 solar panels, covering an area of 45,5000 square meters of the reservoir’s total 60,000 square meters. Once completed, the project will provide the utility with 2.7 GWh of electricity per year, for use directly onsite.

With construction already under way, United Utilities is hoping construction, testing, and full operation will all be completed by Christmas, 2015.

“We have a target to generate 35 per cent of our power requirements by 2020 and this project will make a significant contribution to that aim,” explained Chris Stubbs, head of renewable energy at United Utilities. “As part of United Utilities’ energy strategy to generate more power we identified the Godley reservoir as a suitable site to install a floating solar array to provide the water treatment works with approximately 33 per cent of its energy requirements.

“While floating solar has been deployed elsewhere around the world, most notably in Japan, it is a new technology to the UK. Installations such as the Godley solar scheme will help us to keep energy costs and water customers’ bills low.”

Floating solar is by no means a new idea, with a bevy of such projects in development or in operation all around the world. The new Godley Reservoir plant will dwarf the UK’s only other site, an 800-panel pilot project in Berkshire (whose construction is seen below).

Japanese multinational manufacturer Kyocera is currently the developer and manufacturer behind a number of projects trending for largest floating solar power plant. In November 2014the company announced that it would be developing a 7.5 MW solar power plant atop the Umenokifurukori reservoir in Japan, which was followed a month later by an announcement for a 13.4 MW floating solar power plant atop the Yamakura Dam reservoir in Chiba Prefecture, Japan.

In May alone, Kyocera completed two separate floating solar projects in Japan — the first, two projects totaling 2.9 MW at Nishihira Pond and Higashihira Pond in Kato City, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan; the second, a 2.3 MW project in Hyogo Prefecture.

Japan isn’t the only country moving forward with floating solar, however. Brazil announced earlier this year a phenomenal 350 MW pilot project planned for the Balbina hydroelectric plant. Australia saw the installation of a $9.5 million, 4 MW PV system atop a wastewater at a treatment facility in South Australia, India had plans for a 50 MW floating solar project, as did the US.
Source: Construction Begins On Europe’s Largest Floating Solar Plant

Construction Begins On Europe’s Largest Floating Solar Plant