Carpet Recycling in California Hits a Snag

September 19, 2017 by  
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When you think of recycling, the first image that probably … The post Carpet Recycling in California Hits a Snag appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Carpet Recycling in California Hits a Snag

Trump’s DOE invests $62 million in concentrated solar power

September 15, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump doesn’t usually mention solar power , unless it’s talk of covering his beloved border wall in solar panels . But his Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced a huge investment in concentrated solar power (CSP). Recently, the solar industry  reached the 2020 SunShot Initiative utility-scale solar cost goal, so the DOE is now looking into new priorities for investment. The DOE recently issued a press release stating they’ll invest up to $82 million in research: $62 million for CSP and $20 million in power electronics technologies, focusing on new technologies now that the average price for utility-scale solar is now six cents per kilowatt-hour. The MIT Technology Review suggested DOE officials think CSP could enhance grid stability more in the long term since CSP plants can store some power as heat, allowing them to keep producing electricity when there’s no sunshine. Related: Dubai to build the world’s biggest concentrated solar power plant But the energy CSP plants generate has been costlier than photovoltaics . And according to the MIT Technology Review, some people are suspicious the DOE may move to weaken support for photovoltaics. The Trump administration’s 2018 budget proposal slashed funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by almost 70 percent. That’s the same office that manages the SunShot Initiative. The DOE also announced a $50 million funding opportunity for large-scale pilot fossil fuel projects in late August. But CSP’s ability to store power is a strong advantage. Energy policy researcher David Victor of the University of California, San Diego did say investing in CSP makes sense, telling MIT Technology Review, “My general impression is that we have relatively over-invested in photovoltaics and under-invested in [concentrated solar].” Dan Reicher, executive director at Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, told MIT Technology Review, “[Concentrated solar power] today hasn’t been able to compete with photovoltaics, but there are some promising research areas. Given the climate challenge, we need to put eggs in many, many zero-carbon baskets.” Via MIT Technology Review and the Department of Energy Images via Bureau of Land Management on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Trump’s DOE invests $62 million in concentrated solar power

Startup is developing kelp farms in the open ocean to make carbon-neutral biofuel

September 1, 2017 by  
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Could a robotic kelp farm offer an alternative fuel for cars or jets? The founders behind Marine BioEnergy hope so. The startup will soon begin testing a prototype of their kelp elevator, a farm that can move up and down in the water with the help of drones to optimize access to sunlight and nutrients, near Catalina Island in California . They think biofuel made from the kelp could be cost-competitive with fossil fuels . Marine BioEnergy’s new kelp elevator grows seaweed on a long tube, and if tests go well, they hope to start farming in the open ocean between Hawaii and California. They’re working with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory , which has developed a way to transform kelp into biocrude. The kelp fuel should be carbon neutral since kelp absorbs around the same amount of carbon dioxide as would be emitted when the fuel is burned. Related: Breakthrough algae strain produces twice as much biofuel In 2015, the United States Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) gave a grant to Marine BioEnergy, which was started by wife and husband team Cindy and and Brian Wilcox, who works a day job in space robotics at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Marine BioEnergy has also been working with the University of Southern California’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on a proof-of-concept study. Kelp could provide a better biofuel: it has little cellulose or lignin, fibers that are hard to process. Grown in the ocean, kelp also wouldn’t require pesticides or irrigation as plants on land might. In optimal conditions, it can grow over a foot a day. And the kelp elevator could help the seaweed reach those conditions, even in the open ocean. Kelp grows best in shallow coastal waters, where it can anchor to the ocean floor and receive sunlight. But to scale up kelp production, Marine BioEnergy would need the space of the open ocean. Their robotic elevator could help kelp receive the sunlight, from near the ocean’s surface, and nutrients, from deeper waters, to thrive. Drones could also keep the kelp elevator avoid storms and stay out of the way of ships, and when the seaweed is ready, tow it to a ship. The team is trying to determine whether it might be more economical to make the biocrude right on the ship since a processing center could fit on a container ship powered by the fuel. + Marine BioEnergy Via Fast Company Images via USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies Facebook

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Startup is developing kelp farms in the open ocean to make carbon-neutral biofuel

Florence is the largest asteroid to pass Earth in a century

September 1, 2017 by  
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Though the American eclipse may have come and gone, the skies above Earth never cease to amaze with new interstellar events. Early this morning, according to NASA, Florence became the largest asteroid to approach our planet in over a century. The asteroid measures 2.7 miles (4.4 km) in diameter and passed by from the relative proximity of 4.4 million miles (7 million km) away from Earth, roughly 18 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon. Although other asteroids have traveled closer to Earth in the past, none were as massive as Florence, the largest near-Earth asteroid ever tracked by NASA. Florence, like all asteroids in our solar system , formed out of the debris left behind after the formation of the planets and the sun . It was originally discovered by Schelte “Bobby” Bus at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia in 1981 and named after Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing and pioneering statistician and social reformer. Florence’s trip near Earth, its closest since 1890, provided scientists with a unique opportunity to study the ancient asteroid. Related: Astrophysicist warns asteroid strike is not a matter of if, but when NASA researchers used deep space radar to study the size, shape, rotation, surface features, and determine the precise path of the asteroid. Amateur astronomers also observed the asteroid, which was relatively easy to spot since it reflects 20 percent of sunlight that reaches its surface, in contrast to only 12 percent reflection from the Moon . Scientists project that Florence will not come this close to Earth again until 2500. Via BBC Images via NASA (1) , (2)

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Florence is the largest asteroid to pass Earth in a century

Elon Musks Boring Company receives green light to dig a two-mile test tunnel

August 28, 2017 by  
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Progress is being made on Elon Musk’s version of the Hyperloop , a supersonic train that could potentially travel up to 700 mph. Last week, the City Council in Hawthorne, California voted four to one in favor of allowing Musk’s Boring Company to dig a two-mile-long underground test tunnel. The newly-approved extension will stretch beyond the company’s property line outside of Los Angeles and will run 44 feet below the public roads and utilities that surround SpaceX headquarters. Reportedly, consumers won’t even notice the construction. The test tunnel will allow Boring Company to test its own version of the supersonic train which Musk previously shared open plans for. As The Verge reports, the planned route doesn’t go under any privately-owned residential or commercial property, aside from that owned by SpaceX. When the test tunnel is completed, the city can request the company fill it with concrete or soil. Read more: Hyperloop One conducts first full-scale test of superfast transportation system Brett Horton, senior director of facilities and construction for SpaceX , assured the Council that people in the area won’t even notice the construction — or the testing. He said, “They won’t even know we’re there” even though digging will take place below their feet. To assuage concern, Horton added that the company thoroughly tests the soil and will deliver the results to the city on a daily basis. If the ground is found to move as little as half-an-inch in either direction, work will stop until a solution is found. If the public has concerns, they can contact the city or visit SpaceX headquarters, he added. “Our operations team is on site at the entrance shaft, so we’re easy to reach,” said Horton. Hawthorne’s Mayor Alex Vargas said, “This is groundbreaking, this is establishing a precedent, and I think we all agree that we want to make sure that this goes off without a hitch.” The Boring Company still needs to obtain an “encroachment permit” before it can dig the test tunnel. Because some are still wary of the proposed Hyperloop , the company might still run into challenges. Regardless, the City Council’s approval is an essential step for Musk’s latest project. + Boring Company Via The Verge Images via Boring Company , Optimist Daily

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Elon Musks Boring Company receives green light to dig a two-mile test tunnel

Audi’s new solar-roofed car expected by the end of 2017

August 24, 2017 by  
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The idea of a solar-powered car has been floating around for years, with many little-known companies promising to bring the concept to life. But now it may finally happen. Audi recently announced that it’s working on a solar-powered vehicle prototype that they expect to complete by the end of 2017. Audi has teamed up with Alta Devices, a division of the Chinese solar-cell specialist, Hanergy, to develop thin-film solar cells that can be integrated into a panoramic glass roof. The solar cells would then power the vehicle’s electrical systems, like the air-conditioning system or seat heaters, which would improve the range of an electric vehicle . The idea of solar-powered accessories isn’t entirely new: both Toyota and Nissan have also used the technology. Related: Sono Motors unveils the $18,000 SION solar-powered car The bigger news is that the two companies hope to improve the technology, so that the solar energy could directly charge an electric car’s battery. Audi hasn’t given a timetable for that capability, but the new solar cells have an efficiency of more than 25 percent. Audi also says the solar cells, which will be produced in California by Alta Devices , perform well in low light and high temperature conditions. “The range of electric cars plays a decisive role for our customers. Together with Hanergy, we plan to install innovative solar technology in our electric cars that will extend their range and is also sustainable,” stated Audi Board of Management Member for Procurement Dr. Bernd Martens. + Audi Images @Audi

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Audi’s new solar-roofed car expected by the end of 2017

These cyborg bacteria are better at photosynthesis than plants

August 24, 2017 by  
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Could cyborg bacteria generate clean power in the future? Researchers at UC Berkeley covered bacteria with small semiconductors that function like solar panels in order to see how much of the sun’s energy they could capture. The cyborg bacteria have a solar efficiency of 80% – which is four times greater than commercial solar panels and six times greater than the chlorophyll plants use in photosynthesis . Researchers in Peidong Yang’s laboratory gave the nonphotosynthetic bacterium Moorella thermoacetica cadmium, and the bacteria’s natural defense allowed it to produce cadmium sulfide crystals which accrued on the outside of their bodies and essentially acted as mini solar panels. The bacteria normally can produce acetic acid – which can be used for fuel, plastics, or pharmaceuticals – with carbon dioxide (CO2). But using their tiny solar panels, they were able to create acetic acid more efficiently with CO2, light, and water. Related: Cambridge scientists use light and plants to make cheap, clean hydrogen Kelsey Sakimoto of Harvard University , a past member of Yang’s group, told the BBC, “It’s shamefully simple, we’ve harnessed a natural ability of these bacteria that had never been looked at through this lens…You grow them in their liquid broth and you just add small aliquots of cadmium solution and you wait a couple of days and out pops these photosynthetic organisms. It’s all very simple, mix-in-a-pot chemistry .” Artificial photosynthesis techniques can be expensive, but big vats of liquid, in which the bacteria can be kept in sunlight, are really all that’s needed for this new process, so it could work well even in rural areas or developing countries . The self-replicating, self-regenerating bacteria offer a zero-waste technology, according to UC Berkeley. Sakimoto and Yang presented the research at the recent meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington, D.C. Via the BBC , The Verge , and the University of California, Berkeley Images via planetMitch aunger on Unsplash and Kelsey K. Sakimoto

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These cyborg bacteria are better at photosynthesis than plants

How a science museum is changing the culture of resiliency

August 24, 2017 by  
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Jonathan Foley, executive director of the California Academy of Sciences, shares the three pillars of wide-scale climate action.

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How a science museum is changing the culture of resiliency

First designed for Burning Man, foldable Shiftpods now shelter refugees around the world

August 22, 2017 by  
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The 70,000 people that venture each year to Burning Man in Black Rock Desert, Nevada need shelter that will protect them from the elements – and refugees around the world need them even more. Christian Weber, who has been going to the desert festival for over 20 years, decided there had to be a better way than the fragile old hexayurts that were hard to assemble. So he designed foldable Shiftpods that now provide warmth and safety for displaced people all over the world. Weber started by making his shelters for friends headed to Burning Man , not thinking he’d just started what would turn into a multimillion-dollar business. He ended up with 300 orders. So he launched his own company, Advanced Shelter Systems Inc (ASSI), in California, and from the beginning decided to donate one Shiftpod for every 20 sold. Related: Self-shaping shelters that could revolutionize emergency housing Weber designed a shelter that can fold up into one piece. Shiftpods are insulated and tall enough for most people to stand up inside. It also stands up to wind – in a recent test at John Brown University the shelter didn’t blow away until winds from a giant fan placed by the Shiftpod reached 109 miles per hour. ASSI recently started offering their Shiftpod 2.0, which weighs 64 pounds. When it’s popped open, it offers 12.5 feet by 12.5 feet by six feet and ten inches of space. Folded up, it’s 76 by 13 by 13 inches. It costs $1,499.99, but is currently on sale for $1,299. But Weber didn’t stop with festival shelters. He told Fast Company, “There’s 53.4 million forcibly displaced in the world right now because of wars and politics. A lot of them are living in shanty shacks with blue tarps, so we’re trying to create a low-cost, easy-to-ship, easy-to-set-up unit that people can live in for up to five years.” Now Shiftpods have popped up in Nepal, Japan, Ecuador, Haiti, and North Dakota, to name a few countries. ASSI now offers Shelterpods and Responsepods, both targeted for disaster relief . ASSI eventually aims to offer kits that offer more than just shelter. Every year at Burning Man, Weber’s group of campers transport their Shiftpods in a shipping container that then serves as an air-conditioned kitchen with fold-down tables. Weber’s goal “…is to set up kits for individuals to take with them that have a shelter, water filtration, and everything you need for a family of four to survive for 30 days. And to build systems for up to 1,600 people [that can be stored] in one container.” + Advanced Shelter Systems Inc. Via Fast Company Images via ASSI and Shiftpod Facebook

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First designed for Burning Man, foldable Shiftpods now shelter refugees around the world

San Diegans could get $20,000 off price of electric car

August 15, 2017 by  
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Elon Musk might have just ushered in the era of affordable electric vehicles with the first Tesla Model 3 cars rolling off the production line, but south of the Fremont factory in San Diego there is another great deal going on. Starting this month and running through the end of September, San Diego Gas & Electric customers can take advantage of a $10,000 discount off the purchase of a 2017 Nissan Leaf or a 2017 BMW i3. When the state of California’s $2,500 EV rebate and the $7,500 federal tax credit are added, SDG&E customers could potentially get $20,000 off the price of an electric car. The utility also offers an annual bill credit of up to $200 for driving an electric vehicle. Related: New lithium-ion battery from Japan could double electric vehicle range “All-electric cars have fewer parts which result in no oil changes and less maintenance costs,” the SDG&E website states. “Electric cars on freeways and neighborhood streets in the San Diego region reduces greenhouse gases and improves air quality. Moreover, when EVs plug into SDG&E’s grid they receive 43% renewable energy and no coal.” According to SDG&E, there are more than 1,100 public charging stations in the utility’s territory with plans to reach 3,500 charging stations. Charging infrastructure is increasing across the state — the California Energy Commission has awarded nearly $65 million to pay for more than 7,800 electric vehicle charging stations. + SDG&E Via The Verge Images via BMW and Nissan

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