German company steps in to help Puerto Rico with microgrid installations

October 3, 2017 by  
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As Puerto Rico assesses the full extent of hurricane damage and continues its long, challenging road to recovery, energy companies from around the world, such as Sonnen GmbH of Germany, are stepping in to assist. Sonnen is planning to install energy-storage systems known as microgrids at fifteen or more emergency relief centers in the American island territory. “Our smart energy storage system is uniquely positioned to serve as a critical resource during the emergency in Puerto Rico,” said Blake Richetta, the head of Sonnen’s U.S. unit. Sonnen’s systems were first delivered last week, with more arriving weekly as ports reopen. Pura Energia, a Puerto Rican solar installer, is working in collaboration with Sonnen to deliver the necessary systems and restore local power. The total knockout of Puerto Rico’s energy infrastructure, which could remain inoperable for months, has made microgrids (often paired with solar panels to restore power to essential buildings), particularly vital as Puerto Ricans struggle to secure basic needs. As Sonnen installs its microgrids on emergency relief centers, it expects local consumers to seek out their own microgrid systems. Profits from these sales will be donated to build additional microgrids throughout Puerto Rico. Related: Tesla is shipping hundreds of Powerwall battery systems to Puerto Rico Since 2016, Sonnen has installed over 20 storage systems, the most recent of which have been produced at its new factory in Atlanta . The first microgrids on Puerto Rico are expected to begin operation next month. In its support for the American Commonwealth, the company is clear in its broader mission to change the world. “It is our duty to stand firmly with the people of Puerto Rico and do everything possible to help start the rebuilding process,” said Sonnen CEO Christoph Ostermann. “There is a clear connection between our mission to support humanity during a climate disaster and our mission to fight climate change .” Via Bloomberg Images via Pew Charitable Trusts and Sonnen

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Tesla nears halfway mark on world’s largest battery installation in South Australia

October 2, 2017 by  
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Tesla just announced that the world’s largest battery installation is about halfway finished. The 100MW/129MWh utility-grade battery bank near the site of the 100MW Hornsdale Wind Farm in South Australia will be the largest system connected to an energy grid. This massive undertaking was inspired by a bet between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Australian software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, who could not believe that Tesla was able to install its grid-tied battery systems as quickly as it claimed. Musk, confident in his company’s work, promised to install the world’s largest battery bank in 100 days or the State of South Australia would receive it for free. The clock is now ticking. After accepting the challenge, Tesla participated in a competitive bidding process to unlock a $115 million renewable energy fund from the State of South Australia , which has suffered disruptive blackouts in recent summer seasons. After estimating that the world’s largest battery bank would cost $32.35 million, excluding labor costs and taxes, Tesla was awarded the contract in partnership with the French company Neoen, which owns the Hornsdale Wind Farm on which the battery bank is being built. Musk made clear that the negotiation phase did not count towards the 100 days deadline. The stakes are high; if Tesla fails to complete its task within 100 days, it could suffer a loss of $50 million or more. Related: Tesla is shipping hundreds of Powerwall battery systems to Puerto Rico Last Friday, Tesla officially announced the start of its 100-day challenge, though it would seem that the company gave itself a bit of a head start. The battery bank, which is being built at the Tesla/Panasonic Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada , is nearly halfway complete as is the installation of batteries into the bank. “To have that [construction] done in two months … you can’t remodel your kitchen in that period of time,” said Musk at a kickoff event, seeming to acknowledge the absurdity of the situation. If any company is up to this kind of challenge, one based on a bet between billionaires, it’s Tesla. Via Ars Technica Images via Tesla

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Tesla nears halfway mark on world’s largest battery installation in South Australia

This living hammock is an incredible seat made of soil-less plants

October 2, 2017 by  
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Ever imagine swinging from the trees in a hammock made of plants? Spanish artist Ainhoa Garmendia is making the fantasy into reality. Her Naturalise installation features a hammock made out of soil-less living plants woven into a sturdy fabric. The piece is a statement that calls to fight our contemporary throw-away culture in favor of something lasting and living. “We are very used to short-life objects. We were taught that recycling is good, when the real solution is just not to produce waste. We take advantage of plants’ benefits, while they have many structural and functional characteristics to be applied when they are still alive” said Ainhoa Garmendia in an interview with Inhabitat. “Naturalise is a verb, an action and a process of creating objects that keep growing and are alive” explained the artist added. To realize Naturalise Ainhoa Garmendia chose Tillandsia Usneoides (known also as a Spanish Moss), a plant that needs no soil to grow and requires little water. Its long, soft fibers are a perfect medium for the hand weaving realized by the artist herself. The Naturalise hammock can be seen as a metaphor. The suspended in-air object made of plants, a typical earthly material, embodies an idea of reconnection with nature, bringing the idea of sustainability and eco-awareness to a new level. Related: Asif Khan creates spectacular furniture with flowers The Naturalise living hammock was first showcased in Milan at “I see colors everywhere” exhibition at La Triennale di Milano curated by the clothing brand United Colors of Benetton and Fabrica communication research center fore Milan Fashion Week 2017. + Ainhoa Garmendia Images via Maria Novozhilova for Inhabitat

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Paris banned all cars for a day to highlight pollution issues

October 2, 2017 by  
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Pedestrians and cyclists cheered yesterday as Paris closed all of its streets to cars. The government held a Car Free Day and the streets filled with bikers, walkers, and roller-bladers instead of smog. Paris held a Car Free Day in 2015 and 2016 as well. But this was the first time they extended the boundaries to include the entire city . From 11 AM to 6 PM local time, cars were asked to stay off the streets – with exceptions made for emergency vehicles, taxis, and buses. The Paris City Council hosted Car Free Day, together with collective Paris Sans Voiture , or Paris Without Car, which is behind the city-wide car-free idea. Related: Activists Show What it Would Look Like if Bikes Took Up as Much Room as Cars Pollution from cars is often an issue in France’s capital – the Associated Press said mayor Anne Hidalgo was elected after promising to slash air pollution and cut traffic . The government’s statement on the day said one of the Car Free Day’s objectives was “to show that cities can and must invent concrete solutions to fight against pollution” coming from road traffic. They encouraged people to travel by scooters , skates, bikes , or walking . The symbolic event also brought results. The government said Airparif Association conducted independent measurements during the Car Free Day using sensors and a bicycle outfitted with measuring instruments. They saw “an increased decrease in nitrogen dioxide levels along major roads” and “access roads to the capital.” Meanwhile, the Bruitparif Observatory looked at noise with the help of 11 measurement stations. They saw sound energy decreased 20 percent on average, as compared against a regular Sunday. Via Paris and Associated Press/NBC News Images © Henri Garat – Mairie de Paris

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Tesla nears halfway mark with world’s largest battery installation in South Australia

October 2, 2017 by  
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Never one for small talk, Tesla announced that one of its most significant projects, apparently the world’s largest battery installation, is just about halfway finished. The 100MW/129MWh utility-grade battery bank near the site of the 100MW Hornsdale Wind Farm in South Australia will be the largest system connected to an energy grid. This massive undertaking was inspired by a bet between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Australian software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, who could not believe that Tesla was able to install its grid-tied battery systems as quickly as it claimed. Musk, confident in his company’s work, promised to install the world’s largest battery bank in 100 days or the State of South Australia would receive it for free. The clock is now ticking. After accepting the challenge, Tesla participated in a competitive bidding process to unlock a $115 million renewable energy fund from the State of South Australia , which has suffered disruptive blackouts in recent summer seasons. After estimating that the world’s largest battery bank would cost $32.35 million, excluding labor costs and taxes, Tesla was awarded the contract in partnership with the French company Neoen, which owns the Hornsdale Wind Farm on which the battery bank is being built. Musk made clear that the negotiation phase did not count towards the 100 days deadline. The stakes are high; if Tesla fails to complete its task within 100 days, it could suffer a loss of $50 million or more. Related: Tesla is shipping hundreds of Powerwall battery systems to Puerto Rico Last Friday, Tesla officially announced the start of its 100-day challenge, though it would seem that the company gave itself a bit of a head start. The battery bank, which is being built at the Tesla/Panasonic Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada , is nearly halfway complete as is the installation of batteries into the bank. “To have that [construction] done in two months … you can’t remodel your kitchen in that period of time,” said Musk at a kickoff event, seeming to acknowledge the absurdity of the situation. If any company is up to this kind of challenge, one based on a bet between billionaires, it’s Tesla. Via Ars Technica Images via Tesla

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Tesla nears halfway mark with world’s largest battery installation in South Australia

Dozens of Japanese cities and towns quietly go off-grid

September 19, 2017 by  
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Dozens of cities and towns in Japan have quietly shifted from traditional utility-based grid power system to a more local, resilient model of generating and storing energy where it is used. After significant damage caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, many Japanese municipalities rebuilt to be more equipped for the 21st century through the country’s National Resilience Program. The Program offers 3.72 trillion yen ($33.32 billion) in funding each fiscal year to be distributed to local communities seeking to become more self-reliant and locally empowered. “Since Fukushima , there has been a gradual elaboration of policies to realize that kind of local autonomy, local consumption paradigm,” said Andrew Dewit, a professor of energy policy at Rikkyo University in Tokyo. Although the Resilience Program was designed for recovering from and adapting to natural disasters, it has blossomed into a powerful tool in the fight against climate change . “At the time of the Great East Japan earthquake, we couldn’t secure power and had to go through incredible hardships,” said Yusuke Atsumi, a manager at HOPE, a utility created to service this new localized energy model. Under the old system, a “blackout at one area would lead to wide-scale power outages. But the independent distributed micro-grid can sustain power even if the surrounding area is having a blackout.” Related: Japan’s new mushroom solar farms produce sustainable energy and food In its recovery from the earthquake , which destroyed 75 percent of its homes and killed 1,100 of its residents, the city of Higashi Matsushima constructed micro-grids and decentralized renewable power generation that currently allows the city to produce 25 percent of its power needs without tapping into the main grid . Additionally, the city has installed batteries capable of storing enough energy to run the city for three days without access to the grid. “We are moving towards a day when we won’t be building large-scale power plants,” said Takao Kashiwagi, renewable energy luminary who serves as head of the New Energy Promotion Council and designed Japan’s first smart city . “Instead, we will have distributed power systems, where small power supply systems are in place near the consumption areas.” In light of the program’s success, the Japanese government seeks to increase funding for the Resilience Program by 24 percent in the next fiscal year. Via Reuters Images via Save the Children Canada/Wikimedia ,  DepositPhotos , and Pavel Ahmed/Flickr

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New rooftop cooling tech beams excess heat into outer space

September 5, 2017 by  
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Heat rises, and, with a little help from scientists, can soar as high as outer space. A team at Stanford University has created a roof-mounted system which cools buildings, without the need for electricity, by incorporating solar panel-like machines that beam heat into the cold expanse of space. This system, known as radiative sky cooling, is seen as an early step to developing a full strength system to cool buildings without the need for an external energy source. This could prove enormously beneficial in dealing with the impacts of climate change (a warmer planet) while reducing its causes (lowering emissions). Shanhui Fan, professor of electrical engineering at Stanford, and his team have been working on radiative sky cooling since 2013. Their recent research has demonstrated that the radiative sky cooling system is capable of lowering the temperature of flowing water to below that of the air around it. While Fan and his team have specifically harnessed radiative sky cooling for air conditioning purposes, this process is something that occurs naturally. “If you have something that is very cold – like space – and you can dissipate heat into it, then you can do cooling without any electricity or work. The heat just flows,” explained Fan. “For this reason, the amount of heat flow off the Earth that goes to the universe is enormous.” Related: Massive new data center to be built in chilly Norway to offset energy use The primary obstacle to achieving a net-temperature decrease through radiative sky cooling is the heat received from the sunlight. To solve this problem, the radiative sky cooling system at Stanford incorporates panels that are coated with a multilayer optical film, which has the ability to reflect up to 97 percent of the incoming sunlight . Using data gathered from small-scale testing, the Stanford team projected that a full-scale radiative sky cooling system would result in an 18 to 50 percent reduction in the amount of energy needed to cool a building. To further develop the concept, the team has started a company called SkyCool Systems and plans to incorporate their system into refrigeration and air conditioning models, with a particular focus on cooling massive data centers . Via New Atlas Images via  Norbert von der Groeben and Aaswath Raman

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Germany is electrifying part of the autobahn to cut freight emissions

August 18, 2017 by  
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We rely on trucks to get the goods we need from one place to another, but all of those semi trucks spew a lot of pollution. So Siemens and the German state of Hesse teamed up to create a 6-mile stretch of electric highway on the autobahn . Hybrid trucks can connect to overhead charging cables to drive on pure electricity, and then switch back to diesel power once they leave the eHighway. The Siemens eHighway initiative could double the energy efficiency of big rigs, compared to running on gas. Even better, the highway design enables any truck to be retrofitted, and it is constructed over existing road, integrating easily with existing infrastructure. Combined with the autonomous and electric trucks in the works, it could make a significant dent in semi truck emissions. Related: Sweden opens one of the world’s first electric roads Global freight is expected to increase 200 percent in the next 30 years, so it is essential that we tackle freight emissions if we want to slow down global warming. According to Siemens, the eHighway is a smart way to do this, because it still allows other drivers to use the road. The first eHighway system opened in Stockholm last year and Siemens is currently testing another in California. Via Treehugger Images via Siemens

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South Australia to build world’s biggest single-tower solar thermal plant

August 16, 2017 by  
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South Australia is going big again — as in world-beating big. Last month the state government signed a deal with Tesla to build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery storage facility. Now State Premier Jay Weatherill has announced plans to construct the world’s biggest single-tower solar thermal plant outside the city of Port Augusta — the 150 megawatt  Aurora Solar Energy Project . The AUD $650 million (US $512 million) plant will start construction in 2018 and be fully operational in 2020 — supplying 100 percent of the government’s energy needs. The project will deliver more than 700 jobs with local worker requirements. Related: Australia announces massive $1B solar farm with the world’s largest battery The 20-year contract to build and manage the Aurora plant was awarded to California-based  SolarReserve . The company’s $1 billion Crescent Dunes facility in Nevada was shut down for eight months due to structural fault. The Nevada facility was the first to use molten salt technology to store energy as heat — allowing for day and night operation. The South Australia facility will also use molten salt technology. “This will make a difference in the South Australia energy market,” said South Australian senator Nick Xenophon. “It will secure the grid and mean more baseload power than intermittent power.” + Aurora Solar Energy Project Via New Atlas Image via SolarReserve

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Kenyan activists are using human poop to make affordable cooking fuel

August 15, 2017 by  
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Resources are scarce in Kenya, and nearly half of the population lives below the poverty line , but they do have poop. Activists with Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company are providing clean fuel for local residents in the form of small balls of human feces. The group takes in truckloads of sewage from septic systems and pit latrines and transforms the waste into safe, economical briquettes that burn cleaner and longer than coal. And don’t worry: they are odor-free. Ordinarily, human feces can pose various health problems if left untreated or if disposed of improperly. Sometimes, it can even lead to cholera outbreaks or other sanitation -related diseases. However, because it is the most abundant and widely available human resource, Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company developed a method to turn it into an affordable, clean-burning fuel. To create the briquettes, the company slowly sun-dries the feces. Then, it treats it at a high temperature of 300 Celsius (572 Fahrenheit) in a kiln via a carbonizing process where sawdust is added to it. TreeHugger reports that the resulting product is then mixed with a small amount of molasses to act as a binder. It is then rolled into balls and dried. One kilo of the briquettes is said to cost just 50 cents USD — a very reasonable price for Kenyan citizens. John Irungu, the site manager at Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company, describes carbonization as “a process whereby we increase the carbon content of your materials.” He added, “In this case we are using the drum kiln whereby the sludge is fed, the drum has some holes at the bottom, these holes allow the oxygen to come in, in a controlled manner, that oxygen will only support combustion but to a certain level so that it doesn’t burn completely into ash. In this way, you are able to eliminate all the volatile matters, all the harmful gasses, and it is at this point that you ensure that your sludge doesn’t smell it is safe for handling when you are carrying out the other processes which is milling and briquette production.” Related: First-ever dog poop composting program in NYC comes to Brooklyn park It took some time to overcome the stigma that surrounds the use of human feces, but the company succeeded by informing residents that they could obtain a cleaner-burning cooking fuel for a fraction of the cost. (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = “//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.10”; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’)); Turning poop into fuel These Kenyan entrepreneurs built thousands of special toilets to turn poop into sustainable fuel. Posted by Al Jazeera English on Saturday, July 15, 2017 Every month, Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company produces about two tons of the human waste briquettes. By the end of the year, the goal is to produce 10 tons per month. This will occur once additional de-watering and carbonization equipment is procured, as it will scale up and optimize the present production methods. The company is also invested in the construction of more than 6,000 toilets that can collect waste. Someday, the company will expand its offerings elsewhere in Kenya, Africa. + Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company Via TreeHugger Images via  Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company

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