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Surveillance network built to spot secret nuclear tests yields surprise scientific boon

international systemIt records sounds that no human ear can hear, like the low roar of a meteor slicing through the upper atmosphere, or the hum an iceberg makes when smacked by an ocean wave.

It has picked up threats invisible to the human eye, such as the haze of radioactive particles that circled the planet after the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan in 2011.

The engineers who designed the world’s first truly planetary surveillance network two decades ago envisioned it as a way to detect illegal nuclear weapons tests. Today, the nearly completed International Monitoring System is proving adept at tasks its inventors never imagined.

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Nuclear power: why US nuclear 'renaissance' fizzled and plants are closing

nuclear plantsA funny thing happened on the way to a nuclear renaissance: For the first time in 15 years, operating nuclear plants are being forced to close, and energy companies are scuttling plans for new plants and upgrades to existing ones.

In addition to four closures of nuclear plants so far this year, two other US nuclear plants are at a crossroads, and dozens more at risk of early retirement.

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Energy efficiency: How the Internet can lower your electric bill

Enery efficiencyGary Raymond had had enough of the lights in Warehouse No. 5. The old metal-halide fixtures cast a sour yellow hue on the stacks of cardboard boxes inside the storage facility. They hummed incessantly and burned out well before their due.

So Mr. Raymond, the landlord, replaced them with a brighter, smarter Web-enabled lighting system. He hoped it would help attract and retain tenants in the increasingly competitive warehouse market on Chicago's Southwest Side. But when the next utility bill arrived, something looked very wrong.

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Ikea Will Start Selling Solar Panels In All British Stores

Ikea solar panelsBritish consumers will now be able to buy solar panels at their local Ikeas.

Ikea, known for cavernous stores, mail-order furniture, odd names, and wordless assembly instructions, is testing sales of panels in the British market “because it has the right combination of mid-level electricity prices and government-sponsored financial incentives that make investing in solar energy attractive to consumers,” according to the AP.

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Eagle conservation effort at Solano wind energy project is first of its kind

solano wind powerWind energy is known to be environmentally friendly, except for one persistent concern: The spinning turbine blades often kill birds, especially raptors such as eagles.

Now, a wind energy project in Solano County may become the first in the United States to commit to protecting golden eagles under federal law. To make amends for the golden eagles likely to be killed by its turbine blades, the 100-megawatt project near Rio Vista, known as Shiloh IV, would agree to modify power lines in Monterey County to prevent golden eagles from being electrocuted.

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Domestic natural gas: From boom to overkill

Natural gas overkillNot long ago, the domestic supply of natural gas was so limited that facilities were constructed in U.S. ports to import natural gas. However, fracking changed the supply situation. Now, the United States produces more natural gas than it can use. As a result, prices have plummeted to approximately $4 per thousand cubic feet.

In 2012, during the worst of the glut, the Henry Hub price dropped below $2 per thousand cubic feet. The spot price for gas is set in the New York futures market, based on trades at a Louisiana collection center known as the Henry Hub. Comparatively, the industry is generally profitable when gas is sold between $4 and $6.

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U.S. makes $1 billion in gulf lease sale

Gulf of MexicoOil companies paid more than $1 billion collectively to acquire 1.6 million acres of oil and natural gas blocks in the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. government said.

The U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management published the final tallies from a March 20 lease sale for the central Gulf of Mexico.

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