Switzerland votes to ban nuclear power and invest in renewable energy

May 22, 2017 by  
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Switzerland just passed a new energy law that promotes renewable energy and bans nuclear power plants. The landmark vote brings the nation closer to meeting its goal of generating 4,400 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of renewable energy by 2020, and 11,400 GWh by 2035. Over the weekend, approximately 42% of the population turned up to vote in the national referendum, which marks the eighth time in recent history Swiss citizens have voted on the issue. Though the Energy Strategy 2050 was approved by Parliament last year, the country’s right wing Swiss People’s Party challenged the reform to the referendum in an attempt prevent the move from taking place. The move to initiate the reform passed easily with a 58.2% vote, however, shutting down any talk of investment in nuclear energy . At a press conference, Swiss Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said “After six years of debate in parliament and at committee level, a new chapter in Switzerland’s energy policy can begin. But there is still a lot of work to do.” Related: Tunnel collapses at America’s most contaminated nuclear waste facility Energy Strategy 2050 mandates that general licenses provided for nuclear power plants (which presently provide 38% of the country’s energy) will no longer be sold, beginning in 2019. Additionally, when existing nuclear power plants reach the end of their lifespan, they will be closed and not replaced. The reform also aims to reduce per capita energy consumption by 16 percent within the next three years, and by 43 percent by 2035. Energy Strategy 2050 intends for electricity consumption to decline by 3 percent in 2020 and 13 percent in 2035. This will be managed by increasing the output of solar , wind, biomass, and geothermal energy. Supporters of the law say that investing in renewables will make Switzerland less dependent on energy imports. At the same time, the country will maintain its highly supply standard. Activists are also celebrating the fact that by phasing out investments in nuclear energy, the environment and future generations will undoubtedly benefit. Via Swiss Info Images via Pixabay

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Switzerland votes to ban nuclear power and invest in renewable energy

Architect designs solar-powered research center to save dying Lake Chad

May 22, 2017 by  
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Lake Chad in Africa spanned over 770,000 square miles in 50,000 B.C., according to Cameroon -based architecture firm Hermann Kamte & Associates (HKA). But over the centuries it has shrunk, dwindling to a mere 1,544 square miles in 2001. HKA hopes to use architecture to jumpstart regeneration of the dying lake in the form of a desalination and research center called The Forgotten – Dead or Alive. The center would begin a process that would eventually be handed over to nature . The first humans made their home near Lake Chad, according to HKA, but this body of water is in danger of disappearing forever. It could die out in this century if no steps are taken to preserve it. Lake Chad – bordered by Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, and Niger – is vital to the health of the region; HKA says its disappearance would impact over nine million people nearby, and indirectly, 30 million people in the region. Related: Green-roofed wooden tower in Lagos maximizes daylight and natural ventilation So they designed a center to help keep the lake alive. The self-sufficient Limnology Center would offer a location for researchers to study Lake Chad and the surrounding region. A desalination center onsite would actually connect the lake to the Atlantic Ocean via pipelines , which would transport water from the ocean. The desalination center would treat the saltwater so it could be reused as fresh water to help restore Lake Chad and provide a source of water for people in the region. HKA designed the center to have an amphibian-like form to blend in with the lake surroundings. They envision three stages to help revitalize the lake, beginning with the center and then slowly transitioning the job over to nature. Construction of the pipelines and lake research would take place between 2016 and 2026. In 2020 trees and vegetation will be planted around the lake. The greenery will eventually take over the job of regeneration; in 2080 pipelines will stop bringing in Atlantic Ocean water as natural regeneration takes over thanks to a thriving woodland. + Hermann Kamte & Associates Images courtesy of Hermann Kamte & Associates

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Architect designs solar-powered research center to save dying Lake Chad

Daan Roosegaarde introduces smog-sucking, air-cleaning bikes

May 15, 2017 by  
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Daan Roosegaarde has been touring China with his Smog Free Project , showcasing the Smog Free Tower and encouraging people to find innovative solutions to address air pollution . He’s not out of ideas yet though; he’ll add to his tour with new smog-sucking bicycles . These bikes could work much like his Smog Free Tower does, absorbing dirty air , cleaning it, and pouring it back out as fresh air. Biking in a city polluted by smog isn’t healthy, so people are less inclined to ditch their cars and opt for a bicycle. Roosegaarde envisions an answer to that problem in a bike that can inhale dirty air, clean it, and pump it out around a cyclist. Related: China’s crazy smog-sucking vacuum tower might actually be working In a statement, Roosegaarde said, “ Beijing used to be an iconic bicycle city. We want to bring back the bicycle as a cultural icon of China and as the next step towards smog free cities.” The studio says the concept aligns with growing interest in bike sharing programs in China – like Mobike , which has over a million shareable bicycles in the Beijing area. There’s still a long way to go to slash pollution and traffic in the country’s capital, but the smog-sucking bicycle could offer a creative approach to the problem. The Smog Free Bicycle found its beginnings in a Studio Roosegaarde-hosted workshop at contemporary art museum M Woods in Beijing, featuring Professor Yang of Tsinghua University and artist Matt Hope, who worked on an idea for an air-filtering bike around four years ago . According to Studio Roosegaarde, the new smog-sucking bicycle is “currently in the first stage and is intended to become a medium for smog free cities, generating clean air by pedaling, and creating impact on the larger urban scale.” + Studio Roosegaarde Images via Studio Roosegaarde and Wikimedia Commons

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Daan Roosegaarde introduces smog-sucking, air-cleaning bikes

Japan’s House of 33 Years was once two separate buildings in two different towns

May 15, 2017 by  
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The past and the future coexist in this daylit house in Nara, Japan . Tokyo-based architecture studio ASSISTANT designed the house as a cluster of small buildings for an elderly couple who places great value on preserving memories. The result is a steel-framed structure that was built in several different locations and then assembled on-site to create several overlapping spaces. Local carpenters in Aomori built the main quarters of the house using locally available materials . The project was initially installed as part of the “Kime to Kehai” exhibition at the Aomori Contemporary Art Centre. After the exhibition, the team disassembled the structure and loaded it on a truck to transport it to Nara, where it was reassembled as the House of 33 Years. Related: Renovated Vietnamese home ‘sewn’ together with intricate steel threads Students at the Sendai School of Design built the rooftop pavilion as an homage to Philip Johnson’s Ghost House. Before becoming a permanent part of the house, the pavilion was installed in the courtyard of a university campus and used by the students as a space for growing vegetables. + ASSISTANT Via Archdaily Lead photo by Shinkenchiku-sha

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Japan’s House of 33 Years was once two separate buildings in two different towns

Dakota Access pipeline springs first oil leak – before completion

May 11, 2017 by  
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Before the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was even completed, it suffered its first leak. On April 6, the $3.8 billion project spilled 84 gallons of crude oil at a South Dakota pump station, enraging members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and other activists who protested its development for nearly one year. The Guardian reports that the leak was quickly contained and cleaned. However, critics of the spill say that the environmental travesty could have been prevented had state officials listened to concerned members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and those who support them. The pipeline was in its final stages of preparing to transport oil when the leak occurred. Beginning in April of 2016, thousands of people gathered near Cannon Ball, ND, to protest the DAPL ’s development. The main concerns continue to be that its construction could contaminate the Missouri river and that a portion of land the DAPL runs through was promised to the Standing Rock Sioux in an 1851 treaty. Though the Obama administration halted the DAPL’s development in December of 2016, President Trump ordered it to resume shortly after his inauguration. Activists were forcibly removed from the protest grounds. Jan Hasselman, a lawyer for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, said, “They keep telling everybody that it is state of the art, that leaks won’t happen, that nothing can go wrong. It’s always been false. They haven’t even turned the thing on and it’s shown to be false.” “It doesn’t give us any pleasure to say, ‘I told you so.’ But we have said from the beginning that it’s not a matter of if, but when. Pipelines leak and they spill. It’s just what happens,” she added. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has fought Energy Transfer Partners and the U.S. government in court, argues that the project requires a full environmental study to assess the risks. Because President Trump has financial ties to the oil company, however, it is unlikely such an assessment will be conducted. Standing Rock Sioux tribe chairman Dave Archambault II said the spill is just one more sign the courts should intervene. “Our lawsuit challenging this dangerous project is ongoing, and it’s more important than ever for the court to step in and halt additional accidents before they happen – not just for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and our resources but for the 17 million people whose drinking water is at risk,” he said in a statement. Related: Major oil spill 150 miles from DAPL protest validates Standing Rock concerns Neither the company nor the state have made a public announcement about the spill . According to Brian Walsh, an environmental scientist with the South Dakota department of environment and natural resources, this is because the spill was relatively minor as it was caused by a mechanical failure at a surge pump. “It’s not uncommon to have a small release at a pump station,” said Walsh, adding that the company responded immediately and cleaned up the liquid petroleum. Via The Guardian

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Dakota Access pipeline springs first oil leak – before completion

Light-powered device can purify air and generate clean energy

May 10, 2017 by  
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5.5 million people died prematurely because of air pollution back in 2013 – and half of those people lived in India or China. Air pollution continues to plague people around the world today, but now researchers from KU Leuven and the University of Antwerp have found a way to transform that dirty air into energy . They designed an air purifying device able to fit in a person’s hand that only needs light to work. The groundbreaking device houses two small chambers divided by a membrane. In one chamber air is purified; in the other hydrogen gas is generated. Nanomaterials in the device act as catalysts to both break down pollution and produce the gas. Scientist Sammy Verbruggen of both institutions, who’s lead author on a study published recently about the device in ChemSusChem , said the hydrogen gas can be stored and used as fuel in the future. Related: 9-year-old girl sues Indian government for climate change inaction According to KU Leuven, the processes underlying the device are akin to the workings of solar panels: “The difference here is that electricity is not generated directly, but rather that air is purified while the generated power is stored as hydrogen gas.” The higher the concentration of pollutants in the air, the stronger the electrical currents, according to the researchers, which means cities like Los Angeles, Beijing, and Delhi could really benefit from the technology . Verbruggen emphasized to Mic their device is just first proof of the concept, but could open up options in the future. Verbruggen told Mic, “There’s still a lot of work to do to make this applicable to daily life. It’s not like we discovered the holy grail yet. But this is a new field of opportunities.” The scientists are working to scale up their device and improve their materials to draw on sunlight more efficiently to set off the reactions. Via Mic and KU Leuven Images © UAntwerpen and KU Leuven and via Pixabay

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Light-powered device can purify air and generate clean energy

Britain sees first coal-free day since the Industrial Revolution

April 24, 2017 by  
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For the first time since Thomas Edison opened the first power station in London in 1882, Great Britain functioned without any coal-fired power plants last Friday. The milestone marks the first continuous 24-hour period without coal since the Industrial Revolution. This isn’t the first time Britain has gone without coal for a significant chunk of the day, but before this, 19 hours was the longest continuous time that coal power was able to go offline. Instead of coal, National Grid relied on a mix of 50.3% gas, 21.2% nuclear, 12.2% wind, 8.3% imports, 6.7% biomass, and 3.6% solar on Friday. While natural gas still isn’t a completely clean power source, it’s nowhere near as polluting as coal , and nuclear power , while it has very real risks, doesn’t spew greenhouse gasses into the environment. In an ideal world, a larger portion of the nation’s energy would come from renewable sources, but for now, simply ditching coal for a day is an accomplishment to celebrate. Days like this will become more and more common as time goes on – in 2016, the UK relied on coal for just 9% of its electricity needs, down from 23% in 2015. By 2025, the country’s last coal power station is slated to close as part of the government’s promises to meet its climate change commitments. Related: European electricity sector pledges no new coal plants after 2020 However, it’s important to remember that eliminating coal is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to cutting greenhouse gas emissions: the UK government (and, indeed, other governments around the world) still need to tackle the huge amount of carbon generated by other infrastructure and the country’s transportation system. Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )  

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Britain sees first coal-free day since the Industrial Revolution

European electricity sector pledges no new coal plants after 2020

April 6, 2017 by  
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In another sign that the world is rapidly moving away from coal , the European electricity sector just announced a commitment to not invest in new coal-fired power plants after 2020. Every European Union country signed onto the initiative except for Poland and Greece. The Union of the Electricity Industry, otherwise known as Eurelectric , which represents 3,500 utilities with a combined value of over €200 billion, reiterated its commitment to decarbonize the EU economy in line with targets set in the Paris climate agreement . Europe’s power sector is aiming to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. “The power sector is determined to lead the energy transition and back our commitment to the low carbon economy with concrete action,” said Eurelectric President and CEO of the Portuguese energy group EDP, António Mexia. “With power supply becoming increasingly clean, electric technologies are an obvious choice for replacing fossil fuel based systems for instance in the transport sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Related: China calls America selfish amid Trump attempt to revive coal Coal is already in decline as Europe continues making massive investments in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Last year, European coal emissions fell by an impressive 11 percent , according to an analysis published by the European Commission. The decrease of coal emissions is part of a long-term trend — since 2010, European coal’s generation emissions fell by 16 percent and overall power sector emissions fell by 19 percent. Across the Atlantic, US President Donald Trump has pledged to revive coal. However, US utilities, similar to their European counterparts, are moving away from coal in favor of natural gas and renewables. News agency Reuters contacted 32 utilities and the vast majority said that Trump’s actions would not impact their investments away from coal. “I’m not going to build new coal plants in today’s environment,” Ben Fowke, CEO of Xcel Energy, told Reuters. “And if I’m not going to build new ones, eventually there won’t be any.” Via The Guardian Images via Flickr 1 , 2

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European electricity sector pledges no new coal plants after 2020

Trump orders review of Obama-era fuel economy standards

March 16, 2017 by  
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In another move aimed at dismantling former President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy, President Donald Trump on Wednesday told car executives and auto workers gathered near Detroit that he would order a review of the fuel economy standards for cars and trucks that were put in place by the Obama Administration in 2012. The rules would have raised average fleetwide fuel efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 — well above the current 35.5 mpg requirement that has been credited with decreasing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that climate scientists say are the primary drivers of global warming. Trump spoke at a former WWII bomber factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan that is being repurposed to test autonomous vehicles. The president said that he would “ensure that any regulations we have protect and defend your jobs, your factories,” adding that the White House is “setting up a task force in every federal agency to identify and remove any regulation that undermines American auto production.” Related: US vehicle emissions hit record low as fuel economy climbs to record high While Trump talked of ending the “assault” on the US auto industry, it is unclear exactly what he is referring to. Despite carmakers complaining about the EPA’s fuel economy standards, a recent report from the regulatory agency found that Detroit was actually outperforming the GHG emission standards while at the same time selling a record number of new cars and trucks. Last year automakers sold a record 17.55 million vehicles  in the US — the seventh straight year of rising sales. Also, Trump didn’t mention that Obama has been credited with helping to save the domestic auto industry. A bipartisan congressional oversight panel concluded that the government intervention resulted in the industry becoming more efficient, allowing automakers “to become more flexible and better able to meet changing consumer demands, while still remaining profitable.” Via The Christian Science Monitor Image 1 , 2 via Wikimedia

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Trump orders review of Obama-era fuel economy standards

Swiss resident begins peddling jars of Alps mountain air starting at $97

March 5, 2017 by  
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Got an extra $97 lying around? With that money you can now purchase a jar of fresh mountain air from Switzerland . Resident John Green has started collecting air from the Alps and peddling it online, saying “the air in the mountains is like champagne [so] I decided I had better start selling it.” Born in London, Green says he’s resided in Switzerland for 20 years. He’s now decided to sell that fresh Swiss air from his website MountainAirFromSwitzerland.com , in three sizes. A pint costs $97, a quart $167, and a 3/4 gallon jar will run you $247. He includes a certificate of authenticity with each purchase, and captures the air in what he describes as a secret location. “Let’s just say it’s collected by a babbling mountain stream, fed by melt water from a famous glacier , near a very famous mountain,” says the website. Related: Australian entrepreneurs are selling canned fresh air to polluted China But anyone brave enough to shell out that money will also get GPS coordinates, according to the website, so they can pinpoint the location of their air on a map. Green suggests owners put the jar in the freezer first for the full effect should the owner decide to open the jar. On the website he says, “I seriously feel almost reborn every time I go to the Alps and breath the fresh air; there’s definitely something magic in that air. So get your little bit of magic right here, right now!” Green even says he’s donating 25 percent of profits to World Vision . He told The Local, a Swedish publication, “I know it’s a bit crazy but it’s a fun idea and it helps give some money to a charity that I think is deserving.” As for the price, he said he wants to make the business sustainable and must consider the costs of shipping the air worldwide. “And also don’t forget, it’s Swiss air! Everything in Switzerland is expensive.” When asked if anyone had been willing to purchase the air, he said, “It’s starting slowly, let’s put it like that!” + Mountain Air from Switzerland Via The Local Images via Wikimedia Commons and Mountain Air from Switzerland

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