New Tesla Powerpack system to offer energy savings of 40-50%

August 28, 2017 by  
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Tesla has pioneered massive battery storage projects this year, such as a 396 Powerpack facility in Southern California. But a recent project in Queensland, Australia reveals installations don’t always need to be huge to make an impact. A system with a single Powerpack and commercial inverter was installed at The Cathedral College in Rockhampton to store solar energy that can help power the boarding school at night. GEM Energy Australia installed a 100 kilowatt solar system on rooftops at The Cathedral College, and some of that energy is stored in the Tesla Powerpack 1.5 during the day. At night, it can power the whole boys boarding house for five hours. The school expects the system will offer them an energy savings of 40 to 50 percent over 12 months, and GEM Energy estimates the school will see a payback in six to seven years. The company said the system cost $285,000 and will offset 40 metric tons of carbon every year. According to Electrek, the system covers 61 percent of the school’s energy , and came online earlier this year. Related: Tesla unveils massive solar battery plant to power the island of Kauai Tesla’s Powerpacks are targeted for commercial enterprises; usually smaller projects can use their Powerwall . But this installation of the one-Powerpack system at the Australian school – the first to have such a system installed – reveals the flexibility of energy storage products from Tesla, according to Electrek. The school system also uses a Tesla inverter; when the company put out their latest Powerpack generation, they also released a commercial inverter they developed drawing on their experience with car inverters. The school already seems pleased with the results; Cathedral College ICT Manager Aaron Nunn said in a Tesla video, “I think it definitely does impress upon our students we’re showing good stewardship and respecting the environment and its resources.” Via Electrek and GEM Energy Australia Images via GEM Energy Australia

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New Tesla Powerpack system to offer energy savings of 40-50%

7 of the best places to view autumn foliage around the world

August 28, 2017 by  
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It may not feel like it, sweaty and sticky as you may be, but if you are a resident of the Northern Hemisphere, autumn is right around the corner. As fun as it has been to soak up the summer sun, the crisp air, slower pace, and dazzling foliage of autumn sounds like heaven right about now. For those who wish to take advantage of the imminent seasonal beauty, we’ve compiled a list of locations across the Northern Hemisphere that will be bursting with autumnal splendor in the weeks to come. 1. Montreal, QC -> Burlington, VT I’m cheating a bit with this first one, but with less than two-hours in a car separating these two fine cities, it is highly recommended that appreciators of autumn pair both lovely spots. Montreal and Burlington are among the earliest major cities in Eastern North America to reach peak foliage, starting in mid-September and continuing into October. While in Montreal, visitors should hike or bike to the top of Mount Royal, or visit the elevated St. Joseph’s Oratory, for a view of the gorgeous patchwork of color along the St. Lawrence River. Autumn is short but sweet in the city, so enjoy the magic while it lasts. Related: Tiny Fern Forest Treehouse Provides a Cozy Vacation Hideaway in the Woods of Vermont While in Burlington , be sure to bike along the Island Line Rail Trail, from which you can catch breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, framed by Lake Champlain. Of particular interest is the causeway section, which connects Colchester and South Hero, where visitors can journey out into the lake itself, thanks to a narrow land bridge. 2. Fujigoko Region, Japan Due to its island location and varied elevation, Japan boasts an impressive diversity of climate zones, from subtropical to cold temperate continental. The fall foliage of Fujigoko, also known as the Fuji Five Lakes Region, benefits from its northern location and higher elevation. Underneath the towering Mount Fuji, the five lakes located in an arc to the north of Fuji provide an excellent contrast to the vivid fall foliage. After the sun has set and the cool air becomes cold, visitors should warm up with a bowl of Fujigoko’s famous udon noodles. 3. Prague, Czech Republic Prague seems to be at the top of many people’s list of favorite European locations, and for good reason. The gorgeous architecture, befitting a city founded in the 6th century, is well complemented by the seasonal changes of autumn. As the leaves change color and the sun retreats, Prague shines. The cool air complements the warm, hearty traditional Czech cuisine, which may be enjoyed on a heated patio if the weather cooperates. For breathtaking views of the foliage, take a trip to the top of Petrin Hill or walk through Kampa Island. Related: Imposing Communist-Era Television Tower Transformed Into a Unique Hotel in Prague 4. Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina/ Tennessee Although New England receives the lion’s share of praise as the American autumn experience, one would be unwise to ignore the majesty of fall in the South. Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the most visited in the United States, offers unparalleled views of a diverse, rich ecosystem that sheds its leaves in waves, from the top of the Appalachian balds down to the foothills. Related: Jimmy Carter built a new solar plant on his old peanut farm Beyond the park, there are endless spots to explore in the mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia . For those based in or traveling from Atlanta, Tallulah Gorge State Park is only a short drive for breathtaking views that may include whitewater rapids, depending on the weekend. 5. Huangshan, China Huangshan, or the Yellow Mountains, is a beautiful mountain range known for its hot springs, sunsets, unique jagged peaks, and top-down views of clouds. Understandably, it is a popular destination all year round, but it truly peaks in the autumn. Maple trees turn vivid red, various deciduous trees become golden, and the Huangshan pine trees provide an evergreen hue. Add in Huangshan’s unparalleled sunrises and your portrait of fall excellence is complete. 6. Highlands, Scotland Though the Scottish Highlands may be known for their plentiful pine trees, the golden aura of deciduous trees play well against this more traditional backdrop. Peak foliage in the Highlands tends to begin in late September and continue into October. Paired with Scotland’s numerous and famous lochs and the rolling mountains, the Scottish autumn is a must-see. After a hike through Cairngorms National Park, relax with a dram and seasonal produce, including wild game, fresh fruit, and oysters. 7. Michigan If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look no further than Michigan. Whether your fall travels takes you to Michigan’s breathtaking, extensive shoreline bounded by four of the Great Lakes or further inland in the Wolverine State, you are guaranteed to be dazzled by Michigan’s natural beauty. In autumn, all things apple are there in Michigan for your enjoyment; after all, the state produces over 900 million pounds of apples each year. If you seek true wilderness, check out Keweenaw National Historical Park for bold fall foliage, historic towns, and shoreline views. Lead image via Pixabay , others via Depositphotos 1 2 3 , Rob Taylor/Flickr , Justin Henry/Flickr , sunnywinds/Flickr , Andreas Manessinger/Flickr, Xiaojia He/Flickr , daveynin/Flickr , yue/Flickr , Robert Brown/Flickr , and Rachel Kramer/Flickr

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7 of the best places to view autumn foliage around the world

This carbon nanotube yarn generates power when pulled

August 28, 2017 by  
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Power-producing materials are the stuff of wearable inventors’ dreams. And scientists just created a yarn that generates electricity with a simple tug. The yarn, comprised of carbon nanotubes and submerged in an electrolyte gel, isn’t ideal for sweaters – but can harvest power from a wearer’s breathing. And there’s another surprising application: it could collect energy from ocean waves . An international team of 29 researchers devised the the yarn material, known as twistron harvesters, “by tying a carbon nanotube string into a tangled weave of carbon and submerging it into an electrolyte gel,” according to Science Magazine. When covered in gel and tugged, the yarn can illuminate a light-emitting diode with a small current. The yarn’s peak power generation – when strands are hooked together – is 250 watts per kilogram, and Ars Technica pointed out a professional cyclist’s peak exertions are only around 10 percent of that figure. Related: New type of fabric harvests energy from the sun and movement The researchers tested the yarn by sewing it in to a shirt, and saw it generated a tiny amount of electricity as the wearer breathed in and out. The researchers also connected the yarn to an artificial muscle – a polymer that contracts when warmed, according to Ars Technica – and were able to convert fluctuations in temperature into energy . A still more unexpected way the yarn could be used is in wave power . The material operates when it’s placed in saltwater similar to the ocean, and the motion of the waves moves the yarn, allowing it to generate power. Ars Technica notes the device does need a platinum electrode as seawater can be corrosive. The proof of concept yarn strands aren’t yet powerful enough to brighten a home, but the scientists say their technology is scalable. The journal Science published the research in late August. Scientists from institutions in South Korea, the United States, and China contributed to the study. Via Science Magazine and Ars Technica Images via The University of Texas at Dallas and screenshot

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This carbon nanotube yarn generates power when pulled

A lacy skin fills this Kenyan apartment building with sunlight and fresh air

August 28, 2017 by  
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This modern apartment building in Mombasa, Kenya is wrapped with a lacy structural skin that allows natural light to filter inside. Urko Sánchez Architects wrapped the building in two layers: the first acts as a barrier against excessive heat and sunlight. The second layer, comprised of handcrafted wood-lattice shutters , further manages light and provides privacy. The building occupies a narrow, sloping lot located on the waterfront of Tudor Creek, Mombasa. This privileged location offers stunning breathtaking panoramic views on the creek. In order to ensure optimal privacy, the architects designed a two-layer shell that provides natural ventilation and prevents heat gain . The facade is inspired by traditional Swahili design and redirects the tendency of local people to put bars on their windows. Related: Lace-like screen inspired by Portuguese tiles cover the rear facade of the charming Restelo House in Lisbon Vegetation is integrated in the patios and on the terraces , offering freshness and greenery. The patios allow natural ventilation via permeable wood lattices facing the water. They are accessible via lateral stairs that descend towards the creek, passing by an integrated gym at the bottom, and arriving to an infinity pool. Related: Ofis’ Colorful Lace Apartment Complex is Wrapped in a Sun-Shading Facade “The skin was rendered entirely structural thanks to the engineering team,” said the architects. “A novelty to Kenya, such structural skin was possible thanks to local and international engineers working hand by hand, and to the steel workers on-site who managed, by dedication and care, flawless bar bending work without access to any technology,” they added. + Urko Sánchez Architects Via World Architecture News Photos by Javier Callejas

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A lacy skin fills this Kenyan apartment building with sunlight and fresh air

Life-saving LifeArk snaps together like LEGO to provide emergency off-grid housing

August 28, 2017 by  
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Architect Charles Wee didn’t have grand plans to save the world—but that’s exactly what his incredible LifeArk could do. Designed for disaster relief, LifeArk is a prefabricated, modular building system for quickly deployable and affordable housing that can operate 100% off the grid . These self-sustainable life-saving homes, which can be scaled up into communities, can pop up virtually anywhere to float on water or be anchored on land. Thanks to its innovative HDPE materials and production methods, LifeArk clicks together like LEGOs in just a few hours and slashes the total design and construction time for prefabricated architecture in half. LifeArk was recently honored as a 2017 BFI Fuller Challenge Semifinalist . Charles Wee’s architectural career spans a start at AECOM to the founding of international firm GDS Architects . In recent years, however, he began thinking about changing his focus in architecture. “I was sick of conventional architecture,” Wee told Inhabitat in an interview. “Then I had a conversation with a family member that became a light bulb moment. Twelve years ago, my cousin moved to Santa Rosa Island in a part of the Amazon River near the borders of Brazil and Peru to work as a missionary. It’s an area of extreme poverty. I didn’t know much about his work until 2013, when my cousin came out to California and we talked about the way the community lives.” “Their entire existence revolves around fighting flooding. It can flood up to 8 meters high—that’s like 3 stories tall. For 8 months out of the year they must live above water in stilt houses but most of the time the water will come way above that. I saw that in person and understood it as a design and engineering problem. I began to think of floating architecture and buoyant solutions—trying to solve this problem is really what started LifeArk.” His meeting and visit with the people of Santa Rosa opened the doors for Wee to see the worldwide need for floating prefabricated housing. “I couldn’t believe the number,” he said. “There are hundreds of millions of people along floodplains around the world who live under threat.” Wee then assembled a team of experts and engineers to create a sustainable modular solution that could be mass-produced, easily deployable, and assembled. Their solution became LifeArk. The LifeArk components are prefabricated using rotational molding technology; their California factory is expected to stamp out 10 modules a day with around 20 components each. The 60-square-meter modules would then be sent to a second factory to be fitted with the fixed features, such as a kitchenette and off-grid elements like solar panels, before the components are packed into a shipping container for transit. Once onsite, each module can be quickly assembled using unskilled labor and standard tools in as little as 2 hours. Approximately 20 to 24 modules would be needed to construct a house, and the modular buildings can be scaled up and infinitely configured to form a community. Related: Peru plans to dam Amazon River’s main source and displace thousands “They’re like LEGOs,” explained Wee. “You just ‘click, click, click’ and you can bolt the parts together. They all fit together in a shipping container and can be transported to site. While manufacturing is being done we would prep the site, and then it’ll be say to bolt the module on top. All the machinery will be inside already so the only skilled labor needed on site is connections to sewers. But there’s also the option for 100% off-grid capability.” After four years of research and development, the LifeArk team is about ready to deploy their first prototype in March 2018. Three or four buildings will be prefabricated in California and installed on a lake near Dallas, Texas, along with an attached hydroponics farm. Wee also plans to sell LifeArk buildings to cities and organizations looking for affordable homeless housing . Profits will fund the construction and deployment of LifeArk buildings across the world for refugee housing, disaster relief, and other humanitarian purposes. LifeArk was selected as one of 17 proposals to advance in the semifinals for the 2017 Buckminster Fuller Challenge , an annual honor known as “socially responsible design’s highest award.” + LifeArk

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Life-saving LifeArk snaps together like LEGO to provide emergency off-grid housing

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