Tesla aims to ramp up Solar Roof production in Buffalo next year

November 3, 2017 by  
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Tesla’s Solar Roof could be seen on more homes as the company plans to increase production in 2018. They said in a letter to shareholders they’ll be moving production from their Fremont, California factory to the Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo , New York. According to Inverse , Elon Musk provided for the first time a concrete timeframe for ramping up production, during a recent conference call, to allow for more customer installations. Tesla plans to start manufacturing more Solar Roofs soon. In a Wednesday conference call, chief technology officer JB Straubel said they are “on track to turn on most of the production line in Buffalo by the end of the year.” In the shareholder letter, Musk and chief financial officer Deepak Ahuja said as they move production to Buffalo, energy generation with the Solar Roofs will become a larger part of Tesla’s business in 2018. Related: A Tesla solar roof rotates to naturally cool this desert home in Iran Tesla has deployed less solar capacity in the third quarter than one year ago: 109 megawatts (MW) as opposed to 187 MW. In the letter, Musk and Ahuja said, “The lower developments are in large part a result of deliberately deemphasizing commercial and industrial solar energy projects with low profit and limited cash generation.” As they make the move from Fremont to Buffalo, they said in the letter Solar Roof installations will increase slowly at first, but “as we fine tune and standardize the production and installation process, we expect to ramp Solar Roof production considerably in 2018.” Musk and Ahuja affirmed Musk’s vision for pursuing renewable energy – over ten years ago, Musk said in his first master plan Tesla aimed to provide “ zero emission electric power generation options.” In this recent letter the two executives said sustainable energy – and storing it – are crucial components of the company’s mission “and will drive long-term revenue growth and profits.” Via The Buffalo News and Inverse Images via Tesla

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US govt scientist denied approval to discuss link between climate change and severe fires

November 1, 2017 by  
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Is the United States government blocking scientists from talking about climate change ? Forest Service research ecologist William Jolly was slated to give a presentation titled “Climate-Induced Variations in Global Severe Fire Weather Conditions” at the International Fire Congress – but was denied approval to go to the conference. And the Environmental Protection Agency recently reportedly blocked three scientists from talking about climate change at a Rhode Island event. Jolly, who works at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Montana, was going to give a 30-minute talk in Florida at the November 28 through December 2 conference hosted by the Association for Fire Ecology (AFE). According to Scientific American , critics are saying Donald Trump’s administration is suppressing the spread of science paid for by taxpayers. The Department of Agriculture , parent agency of the Forest Service, said regional managers mostly determine who will attend conferences based partly on available financial resources, and that political appointees do have the final word but don’t tend to weigh in on which people are chosen. Related: US DOI scientist claims he was reassigned for speaking up on climate change Spokesperson Mike Illenberg said in a statement, “Our front line supervisors and managers weigh a variety of factors including cost, frequency of employee travel, conference location, the number of other employees attending, among other factors in making our business decisions about conference attendance. Based on their recommendations and resource availability, Forest Service leadership gives final approval.” Researchers with the Rocky Mountain Research Station’s Human Dimensions Science Program were also denied travel authorizations – one was Karin Riley, AFE’s board of directors’ vice president, who researches the relationship between wildfires and climate. Three scientists from the United States Geological Survey scheduled to speak about climate change at the wildfire conference are still waiting for a response on their travel requests. Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology executive director Timothy Ingalsbee said, “While the number of acres burned, homes destroyed, civilians killed, and tax dollars spent on suppression are going way up, why is the number of Forest Service scientists and managers meeting at professional science conferences and technical training workshops going way down?” Via Scientific American Images via Bureau of Land Management California on Flickr and Depositphotos

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Stanford’s new accelerator on a chip could revolutionize medical care

October 31, 2017 by  
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Researchers at Stanford University are developing a linear accelerator that is the size of a chip — instead of two miles long — and it could herald a medical breakthrough. Linear accelerators are commonly used for external beam radiation treatments for patients with cancer . However, only a handful have been constructed as they are very expensive to build, maintain and operate. Stanford’s accelerator on a chip could provide every hospital with access to this life-saving technology. Standford’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory houses a linear accelerator that measures 3.2 kilometers in length. Because it emits radiation , it’s buried 25 feet under the hills of northern California. Dubbed LINAC, it relies on klystrons to generate high-energy electron beams. At one end of the line, electrons are generated. They are then accelerated to 99.99999 percent of the speed of light and zip down the 2-mile long instrument. The setup is expensive, however – which is why scientists in the same lab are working to create an accelerator small enough to fit in a large shoebox. After receiving a $13.5 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in 2015, the “accelerator on a chip” (ACHIP) project was born. When the project launched in 2013, SLAC physicist Joel England said: “Making them much smaller and cheaper would democratize accelerators , potentially making them available to millions of people. We can’t even imagine the creative applications they would find for this technology .” The minuscule device would work similarly to the LINAC. However instead of shooting electrons down a copper vacuum tube, they would be pushed along with microwaves. Engadget reports, “The AoaC will shove electrons through a precisely-engineered silica chip, smaller than a grain of rice, and excite them with laser beams.” Related: Japanese ‘mutant’ chickens are laying eggs with cancer-fighting drugs By adjusting the width of the ridges in the channel, with respect to the wavelength of the laser, the chip’s acceleration gradient could be tuned to a whopping 700 megavolts per meter (MeV/m). That’s ten times what the LINAC can generate. The inexpensive device could replace multimillion-dollar radiotherapy machines in hospitals – and it could be paired with a simple fiber laser power source to “burn out” tumors faster than traditional radiation therapy — and without the need for anesthesia. Said Joel England, SLAC’s lead researcher for this program, “Once you get into a million electron volts or more then you’re sort of in the regime of where you can have practical applications; where something like a medical accelerator is more viable. So typically for cancer treatment, you’re using particles with between one and 20 million electron volts of energy.” He explained in 2013, “We still have a number of challenges before this technology becomes practical for real-world use, but eventually it would substantially reduce the size and cost of future high-energy particle colliders for exploring the world of fundamental particles and forces.” + SLAC Via Engadget Images via Stanford University

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Medicine drum woman builds beautiful earth home village in Joshua Tree, California

October 31, 2017 by  
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If you’ve ever wanted to stay in an earthbag dome home , here’s your chance. When Lisa Starr first purchased land in Joshua Tree, California, she wasn’t thinking about vacation rentals. Instead, the artist and drum medicine woman sought a place not too far from the coast where she could build a sustainable life for herself. After deciding to build in accordance with the Iranian architect Nader Khalili’s affordable and disaster-resilient superadobe methodology, she recruited volunteers and CalEarth alumni to first work on a few practice domes that eventually evolved into the “village” that can be booked through Airbnb. This extra income comes as an unplanned perk, but her real dream – to pursue her work as an artist – required building a couple more domes. After completing the practice homes, Starr and her crew of interns, volunteers and CalEarth alumni worked on her personal space – a 1,360 square foot dome home two connecting hallways. The 18″ thick walls, comprised of 15 percent cement and 85 percent earth, provide the thermal mass to keep the buildings cool in the summer and warm in the winter, according to her Facebook page . Starr told Inhabitat she believes in sticking with “traditional Nader” – focusing on being creative with smaller structures rather than 20- to 30-foot domes. Khalili, who founded CalEarth to share his design and life philosophy with others, promoted sustainable homes that could be built with materials found on site. And that’s exactly what Starr was able to accomplish. She says she sourced 75 percent of the materials used in her dome structure from her own land. Related: Build your own disaster-proof home with materials of war While her home is private, guests have access to a “rustic yet luxurious camp-like experience” in the village. With expansive views and open skies day and night, “star gazing is a must,” says Starr. The village includes two 8-foot “Sleep Pod Earth Dome” structures with storage or a cave-like space for a child to sleep in. Each pod, which comes with a full size mattress, bedding and solar-powered ceiling light, can accommodate up to a family of four. In winter, tea light heaters keep the space warm at night. The communal area includes a shaded outdoor kitchen and kiva fire pits, along with a shower house and outhouse complete with a flushing toilet and sink. Guests are encouraged to bring their own bottles to refill with potable water available on site. Now Starr is working on building another 12-foot dome structure to use as a studio, honing in on her original intention. She has been living at Bonita Domes for four years now, and though it comes with its challenges, she says her dream has catapulted forward. + Bonita Domes on Facebook + Bonita Domes on Airbnb Images via Bonita Domes and Dylan Magaster

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How volcanic eruptions in Iceland and Alaska affected ancient Egyptians

October 24, 2017 by  
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Volcano eruptions could have helped precipitate unrest in ancient Egypt , according to a new study. An international team of researchers led by Joseph Manning of Yale University discovered volcanic eruptions in northern latitudes can impact the flow of the Nile River . Ancient peoples depended on Nile River flooding to irrigate crops, and if that flood didn’t happen, there could have been political or economic consequences. The researchers connected historical analysis with paleoclimatology – what Yale described as reconstruction of global climates in the past – to make the startling find. Volcanoes in Russia, Greenland, Iceland, or Alaska could have disrupted the daily lives of people in ancient Egypt. While volcanic eruptions weren’t the sole cause of unrest, the researchers think they did play a role. In years with volcanic eruptions, the Nile didn’t flood as much, which Manning said led to social stress. He told The Washington Post, “It’s a bizarre concept that Alaskan volcanoes were screwing up the Nile, but in fact that’s what happened.” Related: The world’s mightiest river is dying Manning and colleagues took an interdisciplinary approach, scrutinizing ancient papyri and inscriptions for descriptions of Nile flooding, and combining that historical information with climate modeling of big 20th century volcanic eruptions and yearly Nile summer flood height measurements between 622 and 1902. Manning told The Washington Post, “It’s an indirect response, but because of atmospheric circulation and energy budgets, we find that large volcanic eruptions cause droughts .” He described the Nile and Egypt as sensitive instruments for climate change , and said the research was important in today’s debate on climate change. The study offers new insight into how climatic shocks impacted societies in history. Manning said in a statement, “There hasn’t been a large eruption affecting the global climate system since Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991…Sooner or later we will experience a large volcanic eruption, and perhaps a cluster of them, that will act to exacerbate drought in sensitive parts of the world.” The journal Nature Communications published the study online this month. Five other researchers, from institutions in Ireland, California, and Switzerland, contributed to the work. Via Yale University and The Washington Post Images via Michael Gwyther-Jones on Flickr and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on Flickr

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Denmark fires up its Copenhill power plant, with ski slopes set to open next year

October 24, 2017 by  
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Six years ago, Bjarke Ingels Group unveiled plans for a ski slope power plant that could provide the city of Copenhagen with electricity, hot water, and a steady stream of recycled materials. It’s a wild design, and we never thought it’d see the light of day – but fast forward to 2017, and Copenhill is nearly complete. The waste-to-energy plant is currently operational, and by the end of next year it will be topped with 30 rooftop trees, the world’s tallest artificial climbing wall, and a 600-meter ski slope. Inhabitat recently traveled to Copenhagen for a first look inside this landmark building – hit the jump for our exclusive photos. When it officially opens next year, the Amager Bakken waste-to-energy plant will process 400,000 tons of waste annually to provide 160,000 homes with hot water and 62,500 homes with electricity. The new plant replaces the aging Amager Resource Center, and it’s able to produce 25% more energy while cutting CO2 emissions by 100,000 tons per year. Despite the fact that the plant effectively burns trash, its emissions are remarkably clean thanks to advanced filtration technology – the air in the plant’s vicinity is actually healthier than in Copenhagen’s city center. The plant will also enable the city to salvage 90% of the metals in its waste stream, and it will yield 100,000 metric tons of ash that will be reused as road material. Did we mention that it’s designed to blow enormous smoke rings? BIG Project Manager Jesper Boye Andersen told Inhabitat that “The completion date is after summer 2018, we are still pushing for the smoke rings, and we have proven that the technology works.” The building’s facade is made up of staggered metal planters that vary in size and shape to carefully control solar exposure. When it rains, each planter will drain into the one below it to sustain a flourishing vegetated wall. Copenhill’s roof will made from an artificial turf material, and it will be open to skiers and snowboarders all-year-round. In addition to the ski slope, the roof will feature a cafe, a running path, and the world’s largest artificial climbing wall, which will measure 86 meters tall by 10 meters wide. According to recent estimates, the total cost of the plant will be 4 billion DKK (about $632 million). It was financed by five nearby municipalities that will benefit from the energy, hot water, and other resources it produces. + BIG + Amager Resource Center Inhabitat was invited to Denmark by Visit Copenhagen , which paid for meals and lodging for 3 days

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Denmark fires up its Copenhill power plant, with ski slopes set to open next year

40% of China’s factories shuttered in pollution crackdown

October 24, 2017 by  
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Is China at last cracking down on factory pollution ? The country’s Ministry of Environment inspectors have charged, fined, or reprimanded officials from over 80,000 factories in 10 provinces in the last year, according to NPR. One estimate indicates around 40 percent of the country’s factories have been at least briefly shuttered. Whole industrial regions have been temporarily closed in China, while inspectors conduct surprise inspections. They’ve cut gas and electricity to discover which businesses are adhering to the country’s environmental laws, and which aren’t. Some companies have moved their entire supply chains over to Bangladesh or India to keep up with orders. Related: Beijing creates new environmental police force to crack down on smog Michael Crotty told NPR in his almost 20 years in China, he has never seen a crackdown like this. He’s the president of MKT & Associates, which exports textiles from the country. He said the crackdown reminds him of America post-Clean Water Act in the 1970’s. He told NPR, “At that time, we in the textile business saw many dyeing and printing houses shut down because they couldn’t comply with the regulations. We’re seeing a similar process taking place here in China, and it’s much, much bigger. The disruption is larger.” MKT & Associates general manager Archie Liu estimated 40 percent of factories have been at least briefly closed in the flurry of inspections. Shanghai-based environmental lawyer Peter Corne told NPR emissions are now watched in real time, and fees are slapped on factories when they discharge more than allowed by law. He said implementation will be different – accomplished not by the environment ministry, which will only be monitoring, but the tax bureau. This is key because according to Corne, the country’s tax bureaus are supported by rigorous laws that tend to be aggressively enforced. Crotty said Americans shopping during the holidays could see higher prices due to the pollution crackdown in China – but that’s a small price to pay for a cleaner environment . Via NPR Images via Depositphotos

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California becomes first state to require pet stores to sell rescue animals

October 17, 2017 by  
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In a move which is being applauded by animal rights activists, California is officially the first state to ban puppy mills. The revised measure AB485 requires pet stores to sell dogs, cats, and rabbits from animal shelters, rescue groups or adoption centers. The goal? To ensure better treatment of animals and to secure homes for some of the 1.5 million animals which are euthanized across the United States each year. On Friday, Governor Jerry Brown signed the legislation which will go into effect January 1, 2019. Stores could be fined up to $500 for the sale of an animal that is not a rescue . Before the measure was signed, 36 cities — including Los Angeles and San Francisco — passed similar bans on mass breeding operations. Related: South Korea’s President adopts rescue puppy, saving it from the dog meat trade Supporters of the legislation include The Humane Society  and the  American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals  (ASPCA). Both groups agree that the bill will ensure better treatment of animals, prevent unnecessary cruelty (which is prevalent among puppy mills) and promote more rescue adoptions. Not everyone is pleased with the development, however. Private pet store owners fear the puppy mill ban will hurt business and “limit consumer access to the most popular breeds,” reports Today . Animal rights activists argue that animal welfare is the number one priority and that the new mandate is a “win” for voiceless, defenseless pets . Supporters of California’s new law hope it will inspire other states to pass similar legislation. After all, puppy mills — from which 99 percent of pet store puppies are sourced — are notorious for being inhumane and unsanitary. As DoSomething reports, female dogs are bred at every opportunity, which exhausts them and results in premature deaths. Plus, puppies sourced from the facilities oftentimes have bleeding or swollen paws, severe tooth decay, ear infections, dehydration , and lesions. These are but a few reasons puppy mills should be banned nationwide, and why animal lovers are celebrating California’s new law. Via Today , DoSomething Images via Pixabay

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The entire world could be powered by one deep-sea wind farm

October 10, 2017 by  
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What if the world’s energy problems could be solved with one deep-sea wind farm ? A new study, conducted by the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University, California, suggests it could. Scientists determined that if a renewable energy project the size of India were to be constructed in the ocean, enough electricity could be generated to fulfill the energy needs of every nation on earth. In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doctors Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira wrote: “On an annual mean basis, the wind power available in the North Atlantic could be sufficient to power the world.” The duo noted that wind speeds are on average 70 percent higher over the Earth’s oceans than on land. In order to generate the equivalent of all energy used today, a deep-sea wind farm would need to span three million square kilometers. On land, the concept would never work. This is because when more wind turbines are added to a farm, the combined drag from the turning blades limits the amount of energy that can be obtained. As a result of this effect, electricity generation for large wind farms on land is limited to about 1.5 watts per square meter . In the North Atlantic, however, the limit would be much higher — more than six watts per square meter. Related: The world’s biggest offshore wind farm is being built in the UK The Independent reports that this is possible because more heat pours into the atmosphere above the North Atlantic Ocean. As a result, the problem of “ turbine drag” is essentially overcome. Said Possner, “We found that giant ocean-based wind farms are able to tap into the energy of the winds throughout much of the atmosphere whereas wind farms onshore remain constrained by the near-surface wind resources.” During the summer, the output from the vast North Atlantic wind farm would drop to one-fifth of the annual average. Despite this, enough energy would still be generated to meet the electricity demands of all countries in the European Union . The scientists added that a deep sea wind farm would have to operate in “remote and harsh conditions,” where waves heights often reach more than 3 meters. If these hurdles were overcome, political and economic challenges would need to be tackled next. + Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Via The Independent Images via Wikimedia Commons [1] , Wikimedia Commons [2] , Wikimedia Commons [3] and Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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This incredible floating tent is the stuff of camping dreams

October 10, 2017 by  
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This incredible floating tent is one of those things you never knew you needed. Ohio-based outdoor equipment company SmithFly has designed what they describe as the world’s first floating tent , the Shoal Tent . With it, according to SmithFly, “the world is your waterbed.” SmithFly’s floating tent looks like way too much fun. The base is an inflatable raft, covered by a tent topper. There are no tent poles necessary, according to the company, because the tent structure is inflatable. They also say when it is inflated, it can endure high winds. Naturally, the tent fabric is waterproof . And it seems the Shoal Tent would be a pretty cozy place to spend the night; the “six inch thick drop stitched” floor basically acts as an air mattress. Related: See-through dome lets you immerse yourself in nature and sleep beneath the stars “The tent topper sides all attach and detach using heavy duty hook and loop for the ability to use just the top and get in and out easily through the sides if the need arises suddenly,” the company said in their product description, and the floor inflates to 10 pounds per square inch (psi), while the tubes inflate to three psi. The floating tent is eight feet by eight feet, measured from outside to outside. Inside, a person 6’3″ tall can lay down or stand up in the middle. The tent weighs around 75 pounds, and can fold down to a burrito shape to fit inside a storage bag that’s around 60 by 24 by 18 inches. The company suggests camping on “your favorite farm pond, salt water flat, spring creek, or eddie on your favorite river .” SmithFly launched in 2010, the brainchild of designer and fly fisherman Ethan Smith, who aimed to create a better fly fishing vest pack. The company offers products manufactured in the United States and lists sustainability as one of their top priorities. They aim to make multi-generational products, with the hope customers “only buy one of our vests and that it lasts long enough that your great-grand kids can use it.” The Shoal Tent costs $1,499 and is available to pre-order online; SmithFly says they’re not in stock yet but the first batch will be going out in December or January. The tent kit comes with a storage bag, manual foot pump, and patch kit. + SmithFly Images via SmithFly

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