Scientists discover five new species of the beautiful Peacock spider

September 14, 2017 by  
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Even those who despise arachnids can’t help but admire the gorgeous peacock spider . And now there are even more of them to admire. Researchers from Australia have just announced the discovery of four new species and one subspecies, bringing the total number of peacock spider varieties to 65. Dr. Jurgen Otto in Western Australia has been studying peacock spiders for about a decade. Reportedly, four of the species are completely new to science and one is believed to a be a sub-species. “Each new species is a complete surprise — the patterns and colours of each species are so different and so unpredictable, you never know what the next one and its display and courtship dance will look like,” Otto told ABC News . Otto and Hill named 39 of the species and sub-species that have been discovered. Reportedly, the latest species were found in Western Australia , but the peacock spiders are more native to the southern part of the continent. Related: First spider-silk garment to hit the market is this necktie from Bolt Threads To help people easily identify the spiders, Otto has shared incredibly detailed photographs on his YouTube channel . “In most peacock spider species — and the new ones are no exception — the males are strikingly coloured, and the patterns and colours are very distinctive, making it easy to distinguish one from another,” said Otto. “Cristatus has a pattern on its back that resembles the Union Jack and in addition has eight plumes of white setae (hairs) at its back that no other peacock spider has.” “Electricus stands out by its striking pattern of parallel red lines that make it look like a circuit board, and trigonus can be easily recognised by the white crown at the tip of its abdomen that is not present in any known species ,” Otto added. “One could think that the novelty of this would all have worn off by now, but people still get excited when they see them.” These findings were published in the journal Peckhamia . + Peckhamia Via ABC News Images via Dr. Jurgen Otto

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Scientists discover five new species of the beautiful Peacock spider

SOLARKIOSK E-HUBBs put goods, services, and power back into Africa’s hands

September 14, 2017 by  
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The game-changing power of solar energy is a gift to all of the global community. Nations of the world, having recognized the absolute necessity to do so, are slowly shifting towards a clean energy economy while reaping the benefits. These benefits are being particularly felt in the developing economies of the Global South , where communities are making the transition from no electricity access to resilient, local power through solar energy. SOLARKIOSK, a Berlin-based social enterprise, is supporting this movement and empowering local communities by installing innovative multi-purpose structures called E-HUBBs that are powered by the sun and operated by members of the communities they serve. SOLARKIOSK has been selected as a semifinalist for the 2017 Buckminster Fuller Challenge – read on for a closer look at this world-changing initiative. Although similar in appearance to shipping container homes , the E-HUBB is emphatically much more – it’s “an energy-connectivity gateway.” With the energy generated through its solar panels, a single E-HUBB can provide power for phone and computer charging, a Wi-Fi hotspot, an LED TV, a refrigerator, a printer, interior and exterior lighting, and more. It also offers a display area and storage space, solar products and sustainable consumer goods. “SOLARKIOSK is continuously working on the design of the E-HUBB, in order to make it more efficient in terms of maintenance, implementation and transportation,” said Marija Makejeva, Business Development Manager at SOLARKIOSK. “Over time, the design has evolved across 3 different E-HUBB models from an aluminum to a steel structure, which is more cost-efficient and easier to source. Solar components and remote metering options have also undergone significant improvement as technology has evolved.” Related: Compact OffGridBox provides drinking water and power where it’s needed most E-HUBBs have proven their versatility by serving the needs of different communities. A last-mile distribution retail E-HUBB brings underserved populations much needed products and services across Sub-Saharan Africa. There’s also a Connected Solar Clinic operated by the Jordanian Ministry of Health, a banking kiosk that offers financial tools to off-grid populations in Nigeria , and a solar school unit for the displaced population at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan . In addition to the tangible impacts of power generation, commercial empowerment, and more, the E-HUBB also has the ability to positively impact and inspire younger generations who will one day inherit these changing communities. “The fascination always surfaces in the eyes of the kids as they gaze upon the site clearly delighted by the atmosphere emitted by SOLARKIOSK,” reads a statement by the company. “Being accepted and loved by the children is a great reassurance for our work directive and personal initiative; a true blessing.” Related: The Great Green Wall of Africa could fight desertification and poverty Each E-HUBB is uniquely fitted for the local community’s needs and is operated by members of the community, ninety percent of whom are women . “SOLARKIOSK sees great value in empowering women through job creation within the network of E-HUBBs,” said Makejeva. For its success in supporting localized community development, SOLARKIOSK has been nominated for the Buckminster Fuller Challenge. “The Fuller Challenge was established to draw attention to a ‘whole systems’ approach to addressing some of the complex problems facing the world,” said Founding Director Elizabeth Thompson. “Fuller’s hypothesis was that integrated solutions that focus on root cause, and are designed to be models for replication elsewhere, lead to long lasting, transformational change.” The prize winner receives $100,000 in funding as well as inclusion in the Challenge’s Catalyst Program, which offers support in expanding the winner’s work. “Our criteria have been distilled from Fuller’s voluminous writings and talks about the fundamental principles of what he called design science,” said Thompson. “The program set a very high bar for what we are looking for, so the projects selected as semi-finalists, finalists, and winners are truly exceptional examples!” If it were to receive this award, SOLARKIOSK would be well-positioned to scale up its operations in the coming years. While the economic empowerment gained in a local community through the support of SOLARKIOSK is exceptional, the mission and impact is more than that. An E-HUBB is a center for the community, a gathering place around which people can share stories, build strong relationships, and find inspiration for a brighter future. + SOLARKIOSK + Buckminster Fuller Challenge

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SOLARKIOSK E-HUBBs put goods, services, and power back into Africa’s hands

Australias first carbon-positive and zero-waste home is built of non-toxic materials

September 14, 2017 by  
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Australia’s first carbon positive and zero waste home to achieve a “10 Star” energy rating has popped up in Cape Paterson, Victoria. Designed in collaboration with Clare Cousin Architects , this impressive dwelling is one of the latest projects produced by The Sociable Weaver , an innovative design and build company that creates affordable, beautiful, and sustainable architect-designed homes for the masses. The coastal home, called the ’10 Star Home’ after its energy rating, is naturally heated and cooled thanks to passive solar strategies and maintains comfortable indoor temperatures year-round, even in mid-winter. Built in the green coastal development The Cape, the 10 Star Home is permanently open to the public as a display home to educate architects, builders, and students on sustainable architecture . The Sociable Weaver and Clare Cousin Architects considered all aspects of the home, from the building materials to the bedsheets, to achieve their stringent requirements for sustainability, affordability, and social responsibility. The architects even worked with suppliers to reduce packaging delivered to the construction site, and recycled and reused material wherever possible, such as composting plasterboard off-cuts in the garden. A five-kilowatt rooftop solar panel powers the home, which experiences minimal energy loss thanks to superior under-slab insulation, industrial concrete floors that improve thermal mass, and double-glazed windows. The hardwood used is FSC-certified . Non-toxic materials line the interiors, from natural sealants and paints for the floors, walls, and ceilings, to organic and sustainable furnishings like the organic cotton bedding. The display home is fully furnished and decorated with hand-selected products that are stylish and beautiful, yet meet high environmental standards. Related: A Tiny Timber Box in a Tiny Urban Flat Makes Room for a Couple’s First Child In addition to environmentally conscious building practices, the 10 Star Home is designed to inspire a more sustainable lifestyle. The architects followed Building Biology principles to create an edible garden where occupants are encouraged to compost and grow their own food. To keep the home healthy and non-toxic, the 10 Star Home is also equipped with a “green switch” that turns off all power to the home, except for the fridge, so that occupants can reduce the impact of electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) at night. “Through Life Cycle Analysis by eTool, modelling shows that over the lifetime of the home, the 10 Star Home will not only negate its carbon footprint but will positively exceed it,” said The Sociable Weaver, according to Dezeen . “This equates to 203 kilograms of carbon emissions saved per year per occupant, equivalent to planting 9.55 million trees or removing 48 million balloons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.” + The Sociable Weaver + Clare Cousin Architects Via Dezeen Images via The Sociable Weaver

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Australias first carbon-positive and zero-waste home is built of non-toxic materials

1-acre permaculture farm in Australia feeds 50 families

September 4, 2017 by  
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This family in Australia completely shifted the way they source their food – with remarkable success. When wife Nici suffered an illness, the Coopers decided to start growing their own produce at home in Newcastle, and now their one-acre Limestone Permaculture Farm supplies dozens of families with fresh food . They also offer permaculture education and internships, sharing what they’ve learned with the greater community . The Coopers have been farming at Limestone Permaculture Farm for close to a decade. They grow organic produce , and raise sheep, goats, and chickens. They also keep bees and build with recycled materials , and The farm is powered by energy from wood, water, and the sun – pretty much every greenie’s dream come true. TreeHugger said co-owner Brett suggested they can feed 50 families from the one-acre farm . Related: Man leaves rat race to grow dream permaculture farm – and it’s flourishing after 3 years Swales, a chicken tractor, and self-seeding edible ground cover are among the permaculture techniques the Coopers employ at Limestone Permaculture Farm. Brett discovered permaculture over a decade ago. He told the Newcastle Herald , “I was a builder and had done architectural drafting. When I found permaculture, it was less about one form and more about following nature’s design . It blew my mind.” The Coopers offer farm tours, workshops, internships, and a permaculture design certificate at their New South Wales farm. They still have jobs and only work the farm part-time, but are hoping to transition to permaculture farming full-time. “We feel there has been an awakening across our beautiful country, self-reliance is on the rise again; urban and rural homesteading has people taking their food and energy supply back into their own hands,” the Coopers say on their website. “With each passing day we are transitioning to a more wholesome life, creating a more fulfilling and positive future, not just for ourselves but also for our family, friends, and community.” + Limestone Permaculture Farm Via Happen Films and TreeHugger Images via Limestone Permaculture Farm Facebook

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Monumental inverted pyramid home in Spain will blow your mind

September 4, 2017 by  
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Just when you thought you’ve seen it all when it comes to home architecture, along comes one of the most imaginative homes yet. This inverted pyramid cutting into a hill in rural Spain is a mind-bending villa that offers epic views of the surrounding forest and the swimming pool below, in a shape that you wouldn’t expect.  The residence was designed as a thought-provoking way to reinvent how homes interact with their environment. Tokyo-based Makoto Takei + Chie Nabeshima /TNA designed the home to contrast the landscape, and to surprise and delight. Part of the Solo Houses project, which included design proposals from twelve architects, the pyramid volume houses a variety of spaces defined by several mezzanines and platforms that provide visual connections throughout the interior. A stairway leads to an outdoor swimming pool that was conceived as a huge volume embedded into the terrain. Related: Juan Carlos Ramos Unveils Amazing Pyramid House Worthy of a Pharaoh Large windows draw natural light into the interior and provide views of the forest. Three bedrooms occupy the top floor. These private quarters are connected to the main living areas via a lounge. Different heights and sloping exterior walls make the space feel more spacious and airy. This layout also allows the light from the windows to reach the furthers corners of the interior. + Makoto Takei + Chie Nabeshima TNA Via Fubiz

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Tesla begins production of solar roof tiles in Buffalo, New York

September 4, 2017 by  
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It’s official! Tesla has started producing solar roof tiles at its factory in Buffalo, New York. Several hundred employees and machines have been installed in the 1.2 million-square-foot factory, and they are now creating  tiles that can harness the sun’s energy without compromising the appearance of a roof. The company is already installing solar roofs but has been making them on a small scale near its vehicle factory in Fremont, California. Now that the factory in Buffalo is running, production is expected to increase substantially. Reportedly, traditional solar panels will also be produced in the factory. AP News reports that Tesla’s partner, Panasonic Corp ., will produce the photovoltaic cells while Tesla workers combine them into modules that fit into the solar tiles. Said JB Straubel, Tesla’s Chief Technical Officer, “By the end of this year we will have the ramp-up of solar roof modules started in a substantial way. This is an interim milestone that we’re pretty proud of.” SolarCity was acquired by Tesla last year for around $2 billion. It was run by cousins of Tesla CEO Elon Musk , who sat on the company’s board. Straubel said, “This factory, and the opportunity to build solar modules and cells in the U.S., was part of why this project made sense.” Related: Tesla and SolarCity power an entire island with nearly 100% solar According to Straubel, Tesla’s goal is to reach two gigawatts of cell production annually at the Buffalo plant — more than the initial target of one gigawatt by 2019. As The Washington Post reports, one gigawatt is equal to the annual output of a large nuclear or coal-fired power plant . “So it’s like we’re eliminating one of those every single year,” Straubel said. Tesla has not revealed how many customers have ordered the solar roof tiles. However, Straubel said demand is strong and that orders will keep the company occupied until the end of next year. Both he and Musk have the solar tiles installed on their roofs. Via AP News, The Washington Post Images via Tesla

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Solar-powered Tesla Tiny House hits the road in Australia

August 14, 2017 by  
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Tesla’s taking to the streets to demonstrate their clean technology . A Model X is pulling around a tiny house showcasing a solar power system and Powerwall , giving the curious a way to check out their renewable technology in action. Electrek shared some stunning images of Tesla’s Tiny House , which is serving as a mobile design studio in major Australian cities. The Tesla Tiny House is incredibly eye-catching: clad in sustainable, locally-sourced chemical-free timber , the rolling design studio gives locals an up-close look at Tesla’s renewable wares. The Tiny House measuring 20x7x13 feet is outfitted with a 2 kW photovoltaic system with six panels. There’s also a Tesla Powerwall on the home’s exterior. Related: Tesla’s new Solar Roof is actually cheaper than a normal roof Naturally, the Tiny House is entirely powered by renewable energy , and people can step inside to use a configurator to design a solar system with storage for their own homes. A tour with staff provides detailed information; Electrek quoted the company as saying: “The tour is designed to provide a one-on-one educational experience on how to integrate Powerwall and solar to seamlessly power an entire home 24/7, allowing Australian consumers to gain control and understanding of their power use.” According to Electrek, Australia is a key market for Tesla’s products: 1.5 million households in the country have solar for the highest per capita penetration of rooftop solar power in the world. Tesla plans to take their tiny house to Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane throughout August, September, and early October. But, the company says on their site that anyone in Australia can request a stop. They “want to bring the Tesla Tiny House to you, so you can fully experience what it means to be self-powered.” + Tesla Tiny House Via Electrek Images via Electrek/Tesla

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LAGI announces location for 2018 renewable energy design competition

July 18, 2017 by  
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Energy infrastructure of the past, like oil refineries and rigs, aren’t typically considered beautiful. But as the world transitions to more renewable sources of power, what if utility-scale energy installations could double as art ? That’s the dream pursued by the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI), which holds a design competition every two years to present visions for energy-generating art able to power hundreds of homes. 2016’s winners included ethereal sailboats that harvested wind for power and fog for water, and a whale-inspired design generating wind, solar , and wave energy . LAGI just announced the location for their 2018 competition: Melbourne , Australia. LAGI is being sponsored by the State of Victoria to bring their 2018 contest to Melbourne, a city which hopes to be net zero by 2020. Artists, scientists, engineers, designers, and other creatives from around the world will be invited to submit designs tailored to the area for large-scale installations that add to the beauty of the area while generating clean energy . Related: Land Art Generator Initiative Santa Monica winners address California’s energy needs and drought One goal for these designs is to show how renewable energy installations, like solar and wind, can be integrated into the nature and culture of a region. LAGI2018 is part of Victoria’s Renewable Energy Action Plan under Action 13, which calls for “supporting important artistic and cultural sustainability events.” 2016’s top three winners included teams from Japan, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. The last four competitions – Dubai/Abu Dhabi in 2010, New York City in 2012, Copenhagen in 2014, and Santa Monica in 2016 – garnered over 800 submissions from more than 60 countries. The competition will launch in around six months, in January 2018, with submissions due in May. Public exhibitions will introduce some of the ideas to the people of Melbourne and nearby cities. According to LAGI, “2018 will be a year to celebrate the beauty of our sustainable future!” + Land Art Generator Initiative Images via Wikimedia Commons and courtesy of the Land Art Generator Initiative

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LAGI announces location for 2018 renewable energy design competition

The world’s most efficient 5-seater car is powered entirely by the sun

June 27, 2017 by  
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A team of students at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) just unveiled an electric car that seats five and is completely powered by the sun. Called Stella Vie, the vehicle stands apart because it’s more efficient than all solar cars before it. Even with fewer solar panels on its roof, the car is capable of a range of about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) on a warm summer day. According to the students, Stella Vie is “the car of the future.” Charged by the sun, the solar-powered vehicle can reach speeds up to 130 km/h (80 mph) and it also contains new, smart technology such as a parking navigation system that takes into account the position of the sun when parking (so it can keep charging). Like a Tesla, Stella Vie also uses the latest technology to warn drivers of upcoming traffic events. This allows for safer and more efficient driving. According to TU/e, Stella Vie was designed to find the most efficient route and show how much energy can be saved compared to a standard, fossil fuel-powered car. Any surplus energy that is generated by the vehicle can be supplied back to a house or the electric grid . Additionally, the smart charging and discharging system keeps track of energy prices and daily use to find the best time to recharge and discharge. Related: Record-Breaking Solar Car Can Travel 98 Miles on 15 Cents Worth of Electricity All in all, 23 students worked together to develop the car which is competing to win TU/e’s third world title at the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge , which will take place this October in Australia . The competition requires the solar -powered cars to run 3,000 kilometers through the Australian outback. Stella Vie will compete in the Cruiser Class (for practical cars), where technical innovation, battery consumption and the number of occupants that can be transported are taken into account by judges. + TU/e Images via TU/e, Bart van Overbeeke

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Shocking investigation reveals 70,000 dogs in Bali murdered and served to tourists every year

June 19, 2017 by  
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Each year 70,000 dogs are brutally killed in Bali , Indonesia, according to an investigation spearheaded by Animals Australia (AA). The animals are strangled, bludgeoned, or poisoned and then fed to tourists who think they’re eating chicken meat. AA estimates seven times more dogs are killed in Bali yearly than in the Yulin Dog-Eating Festival in China. Evidence obtained by ABC’s 7.30 program revealed a huge dog meat trade in Bali. An AA undercover investigator spent four months posing as a documentary maker to uncover details about the trade. Known simply as ‘Luke,’ the investigator said he started by getting to know key players in the unregulated industry, and “eventually, they invited me to join them as their gangs stole, hunted, poisoned, and killed dogs.” Related: Dogs raised for meat in South Korea to get forever homes in the US AA campaign director Lyn White said, “Tourists will walk down a street, they’ll see a street store selling satay but what they are not realizing is the letters RW on the store mean it is dog meat being served. They’re just sitting down ordering satay have no idea that they’re eating dog.” And it’s not just street vendors selling the meat to tourists as chicken, but restaurants as well. The Bali Animal Welfare Association, an organization working to rescue the animals from dog traders, has discovered 70 restaurants serving dog meat. It’s not illegal to consume dog meat in Bali. But White said it is illegal to kill animals cruelly or to consume meat tainted with poison. Luke described aggressive methods and said although he’s trained himself to cope with cruelty, in one village where he saw dogs being caught, nothing had prepared him for the brutality. On one occasion he witnessed hunters catching dogs by laying out fish meat laced with cyanide. For the first time in his career, he switched off his camera as he watched a puppy die over agonizing minutes. He said, “I sat stroking him as he died and found myself apologizing for the cruelty of my fellow man.” According to ABC, while some local people think dog meat is healthy, the practice isn’t a long-held tradition. Hindu leader Gusti Ngurah Harta is among those working to end the trade – he said Bali Hindus consider dogs to be a holy animal and that it’s upsetting people are eating them. AA is willing to partner with the Bali government to end the trade and find a positive solution, which may include compensating those who make their living in the trade. You can sign their petition for the governor of Bali here . Via Animals Australia , ABC , and International Business Times Images via Pexels and Pixabay

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