EPA cancels plan to clean up polluting Texas coal plants

October 6, 2017 by  
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Big Brown, a coal -fired Texas power plant, spews out sulfur dioxide at rates as much as 50 times higher than coal plants fitted with newer technology. Under President Barack Obama , the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aimed to clean up Big Brown and six other Texas plants in three to five years. But President Donald Trump’s EPA, headed by Scott Pruitt , just released a final rule that will enable these polluting plants to keep on pumping lung irritants into the air. Big Brown and the other six plants together generate more sulfur dioxide pollution than power stations from over 25 states combined, according to Sierra Club senior attorney Elena Saxonhouse. She wrote the former EPA had slated the stations for cleanup, “setting emission limits for sulfur dioxide consistent with modern scrubbers,” equipment that can yank out sulfur dioxide before it billows out of a plant’s smokestacks. The two boilers at Big Brown and nine other coal-fired boilers don’t have scrubbers at all. Four other boilers also part of the proposal do have scrubbers, but they’re from the 1970’s and don’t work as well as modern technology. Related: Trump administration halts study on health risks of living near coal mining sites But it seems Pruitt doesn’t care about harmful pollutants. He tossed out the proposed rule for a final rule Sierra Club described as a do-nothing plan, where Big Brown and the other plants can go on polluting as normal. Saxonhouse wrote in an article for Sierra Club, “Pruitt’s decision to scrap the proposed clean air protections fits a pattern of backward-looking decisions in this Administration , which has tied itself in knots trying to prop up the coal industry .” The cleanup plan would have implemented the Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze program. The proposed upgrades would have removed over 180,000 tons of sulfur dioxide pollution a year. One analysis found the proposal could have saved over 600 lives every single year. But the final rule means the coal plants can keep polluting, potentially leading to harmful health impacts for humans. According to Saxonhouse, “In making this about-face, EPA had to shove aside reams of technical and scientific data prepared by the previous administration, and ignore the legal framework of the Regional Haze program. And EPA failed to take any public comment on the new plan, despite the fact that thousands of citizens had written in to support the strong proposal.” Via Sierra Club Images via Larry D. Moore/Wikimedia Commons and Roy Luck on Flickr

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EPA cancels plan to clean up polluting Texas coal plants

Food-producing reACT home sustainably and intelligently adapts to your needs

October 6, 2017 by  
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The homes of the future will be smart, responsive, and even save us money. University of Maryland students let us take a peek into what the future may hold with reACT, a smart sustainable home that rethinks architecture as living organisms. Created as a “kit of parts,” this modular solar-powered dwelling is likened to a home-building kit that can be easily shipped out and readily adapted to different needs and environments. Most impressively, reACT —short for Resilient Adaptive Climate Technology—is self-sufficient and generates clean energy, recycles waste, self-regulates its building systems, and even produces clean water and grows nutrient-rich foods. UMD students designed and built reACT for a married couple living in Denver, Colorado, who are also members of the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin. The solar-powered home draws inspiration from the clients’ Native American roots to demonstrate how reACT’s innovative building system with off-grid capabilities can be customized to unique occupant needs. Thus, the reACT prototype incorporates Native American influences such as materials, patterns, and even ancestral farming practices, which can be found in the hydroponic garden, exterior vegetable garden, and movable living walls. The modular design allows the homeowners to expand or contract the house as needed. “Team Maryland created Resilient Adaptive Climate Technology to showcase how a sustainable future is more than just designing a better built home; it is a lifestyle system that incorporates a home with its surrounding environment, interacts with its occupants, and strives to give back more than it takes,” wrote the students. “This lifestyle system is supported by regeneratively mindful innovations that can be seen and explored throughout reACT communications. A modular ‘kit-of-parts’ home is the base of reACT as a lifestyle system. The ability to customize a home to adapt to the occupant’s unique needs is complimented by the technologies and innovations that increase energy efficiency , power generation, comfort, self-reliance, and overall enhance sustainable living.” Related: University of Maryland’s WaterShed Solar Decathlon House Takes First Place In Architecture! The modular reACT home is designed around a central courtyard with an operable glass roof and wall panels to bring light into the interior and serve as a solar heat collector. A solar electric photovoltaic array harnesses renewable energy and stores it in an on-site battery. Residents will have the option to sell energy back to the grid. The reACT home also produces clean water through rainwater and gray water collection and treatment systems. Indoor gardening creates the home’s green core where nutrient-rich foods are grown using organic waste gathered from the composting toilet. Self-regulating building systems, achieved through automation, program the home to become more energy efficient over time as the virtual house technology learns from its environment and the occupants’ lifestyles. The reACT home is the University of Maryland’s submission to this year’s Solar Decathlon competition. Once the competition is over, reACT will be shipped back to Maryland and installed next to Maryland’s Solar Decathlon 2007 second-place house in a sustainability park for further research and development. + Solar Decathlon Images via Mike Chino

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Food-producing reACT home sustainably and intelligently adapts to your needs

Breathtakingly beautiful tiny home is surprisingly luxurious inside

October 6, 2017 by  
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Meet “The Escher”—a stunning tiny home that’ll steal your breath away. Designed and built by New Frontier Tiny Homes , this gorgeous mobile home uses clever space-saving design, high-end materials, and craftsmanship to prove that living large is possible in small spaces. The Escher combines rustic appeal with contemporary design into a surprisingly luxurious and dreamy abode. The Escher model was designed and built as a full-time family home for a couple with a child. Although the clients originally wanted the firm’s flagship model, The Alpha, they later decided on a more spacious custom-build, The Escher, which was named after their child. Shou Sugi Ban cedar siding, Red Western Cedar siding, and Federal Blue Custom Metal Siding clad the 28-foot-long Escher, while mechanical seam metal tops the roof. The home achieves its spacious feel thanks largely to tall ceilings, ample insulated glazing (in particular the 8-foot-by-8-foot glass garage door), and recessed LEDs. Solid poplar shiplap is used for the interior siding and ceiling. Ebony-stained solid walnut hardwood lines the floors. Two bedrooms are placed on either end of the home—the master bedroom with a king-size bed located in the 7.5-foot-long gooseneck, while the child’s bedroom is placed in a spacious loft accessible via a custom solid oak ladder (made with only wooden joinery). In total, the home offers seven distinct spaces: two bedrooms, kitchen, office, bathroom, walk-in closet with storage, and a dining area. The dining/living area is located in a spacious area behind the giant glass garage door that opens up the home to the outdoors. Moveable and transformable furniture make up a custom dining table, two benches, four stools, and two coffee tables that can be stored beneath the kitchen floor and provide extra hidden storage. The gorgeous kitchen features a 33-inch porcelain farmhouse apron sink with a fridge, 36-inch gas cooktop with hood, dishwasher drawer, custom cabinetry and shelving, porcelain countertops, as well as a custom copper backsplash and accents. Custom shoji paper sliding doors separate the kitchen from the master bedroom that houses a king-sized bed on a hydraulic lift that allows for full floor storage underneath. Below the loft bedroom on the opposite side of the home is the office, walk-in closet, and bathroom. The office consists of a bifold walnut standing desk and windows that open up to an outdoor bar area. The bathroom includes a composting toilet , floating sink, washer/dryer, custom tiling, herringbone pattern flooring made of ebony stained walnut, and a beautiful shower that easily fits two people. Related: Tiny home clad in burnt wood packs a ton of luxury into just 240 square feet The stunning home’s space-saving design is impressive but we think it’s the craftsmanship and detailing that elevates The Escher high above the typical tiny home. In addition to high-end appliances, the home features custom stone and timber furnishings and detailing, as well as a one-of-a-kind mural wall by 1767 Designs. Pricing for The Escher starts at $139,000. The tiny home was recently unveiled on HGTV and DIY’s “Tiny House, Big Living” television series. + New Frontier Tiny Homes

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Breathtakingly beautiful tiny home is surprisingly luxurious inside

Debunking the 14 myths about why we should go nuclear

August 9, 2017 by  
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Awaiting the DOE study on baseload generation, here are the reasons why energy efficiency, grid flexibility and renewables enhance low-cost reliability.

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Debunking the 14 myths about why we should go nuclear

The rise and fall of an American utility

August 5, 2017 by  
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A utility CEO faces the crisis of his life: transform a 33-year-old electric utility and succeed in the fast-changing U.S. energy landscape.

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The rise and fall of an American utility

Trump approves new pipeline that will go right under the US-Mexico wall

June 30, 2017 by  
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As if President Trump’s promise to build a wall on the United States-Mexico border wasn’t controversial enough, he recently approved the construction of a new pipeline destined to go “right under” the dividing landmark. The New Burgos Pipeline will carry up to 108,000 barrels of refined petroleum products each day between McAllen, Texas and Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico. A joint venture between NuStar Energy LP and PMI, the project has, unsurprisingly, drawn plenty of criticism from environmental groups. According to The Hill , Trump remarked on the New Burgos Pipeline on Thursday at the Department of Energy’s “Unleashing American Energy” event. “[The pipeline] will further boost American energy exports, and that will go right under the wall, right?” said Trump, glancing at his cabinet for confirmation. “We have to dig down a little deeper under that section,” he added. President Mike Pence, Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke, Energy Sec. Rick Perry and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt also joined the President on stage. Though President Trump’s 17-minute speech focused on America’s “ energy dominance,” he failed to mention the rapidly growing renewable energy sector. Not even once did he mention his infamous “solar” border wall proposal . Rather, he paid homage to “clean, beautiful coal” and celebrated the newly approved pipeline. As EcoWatch points out, Trump also dismissed concerns about fossil fuels , calling them “a big beautiful myth.” In his speech, Trump also mentioned the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, falsely stating that no opposition exists to their development. Noticeably perturbed by the new development, David Turnbull, campaigns director at Oil Change International , said: “The ‘energy dominance’ tagline should be called out for what it is: another manifestation of the president’s misogynistic, hyper-masculine, abusive outlook on the world. It reveals an attitude toward our environment and energy policy that would destroy communities and our climate in order to feed his own desire to feel powerful over others.” “Want to know what Trump’s idea of energy dominance looks like? Look no further than his crony cabinet,” Turnbull continued. “Thanks to this administration, Washington is more dominated by Big Oil, Gas and Coal executives and their shills than ever—and they’re having their way with American democracy. Someone should put the leash back on Donald Trump, while the rest of us keep working to make America the leader it needs to be in renewable energy innovation and job creation.” Related: Trump actually wants to build a border wall covered in solar panels Tim Donaghy, Greenpeace USA’s senior research specialist, had similar sentiments. He said, “People in this country demanded that President Obama protect public lands and waters from offshore oil and gas development, and communities from Alaska to South Carolina will do it again. Research shows that expanding offshore oil drilling will lead to increased global greenhouse gas emissions and higher costs that will be borne by Americans for decades to come.” In response to the news, Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food & Water Watch , asked local governments to invest in clean energy development. She said, ”A better vision for American energy exists, but it isn’t coming from the White House. Climate leadership and the transition to renewable energy will come from the local and state level, and we must continue to pressure elected officials around the country to commit to a transition to a clean energy future, starting now.” Via The Hill , EcoWatch Images via Sky News , Pixabay

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Trump approves new pipeline that will go right under the US-Mexico wall

How a small tribe in Nevada shut down coal and built a solar farm

April 12, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump brags about bringing back coal jobs, but tends to gloss over the fuel’s negative health effects for workers and those who live nearby. The Moapa Band of Paiutes in Nevada know all about those harmful health effects. After years of campaigning against a coal plant near their land, they finally saw it close as they switched on the first utility-scale solar plant ever erected on tribal land. The Moapa Band of Paiutes resides in Nevada next to the coal-fired Reid Gardner Generating Station. The tribe has seen high rates of heart disease and asthma, and didn’t even benefit from the power plant – it neither powered their homes nor employed their people. But because the 311-person tribe is so small, it was difficult to conclusively establish their health issues were related to the plant. Related: Moapa Paiutes to Install 250 MW Solar Power Plant to Transition Away from Dirty Coal Still, the tribe persisted in their campaign to shutter the plant, which provided power for Las Vegas. They started writing letters, and then took legal action with the help of the Sierra Club. When Las Vegas residents learned their power came from a plant polluting the air for people who lived next door, many of them got involved in the campaign as well. The tribe lost the case in 2013 but that same year Senate Bill 123 became law – requiring certain utilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and replace some polluting power with renewable sources. The Reid Gardner Generating Station finally closed this year, last month. Its 40 employees didn’t even lose their jobs, since they were given new positions in the same company. And now the tribe is turning to solar . They’ve leased land for the 250-megawatt Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project; First Solar started operations and recently sold the plant to Capital Dynamics . The tribe will receive revenue and 115 of their members obtained construction jobs for the plant, which recently began operating under a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Two tribe members will be permanently employed as field technicians. Moapa Band of Paiutes Tribal Council chairman Darren Daboda said in a statement, “If our small tribe can accomplish this, then others can also. There are endless opportunities in renewable energy, and tribes across the nation have the perfect areas in which to build utility-scale projects.” Via Colorlines Images via Ken Lund on Flickr and ENERGY.GOV on Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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How a small tribe in Nevada shut down coal and built a solar farm

European electricity sector pledges no new coal plants after 2020

April 6, 2017 by  
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In another sign that the world is rapidly moving away from coal , the European electricity sector just announced a commitment to not invest in new coal-fired power plants after 2020. Every European Union country signed onto the initiative except for Poland and Greece. The Union of the Electricity Industry, otherwise known as Eurelectric , which represents 3,500 utilities with a combined value of over €200 billion, reiterated its commitment to decarbonize the EU economy in line with targets set in the Paris climate agreement . Europe’s power sector is aiming to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. “The power sector is determined to lead the energy transition and back our commitment to the low carbon economy with concrete action,” said Eurelectric President and CEO of the Portuguese energy group EDP, António Mexia. “With power supply becoming increasingly clean, electric technologies are an obvious choice for replacing fossil fuel based systems for instance in the transport sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Related: China calls America selfish amid Trump attempt to revive coal Coal is already in decline as Europe continues making massive investments in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Last year, European coal emissions fell by an impressive 11 percent , according to an analysis published by the European Commission. The decrease of coal emissions is part of a long-term trend — since 2010, European coal’s generation emissions fell by 16 percent and overall power sector emissions fell by 19 percent. Across the Atlantic, US President Donald Trump has pledged to revive coal. However, US utilities, similar to their European counterparts, are moving away from coal in favor of natural gas and renewables. News agency Reuters contacted 32 utilities and the vast majority said that Trump’s actions would not impact their investments away from coal. “I’m not going to build new coal plants in today’s environment,” Ben Fowke, CEO of Xcel Energy, told Reuters. “And if I’m not going to build new ones, eventually there won’t be any.” Via The Guardian Images via Flickr 1 , 2

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European electricity sector pledges no new coal plants after 2020

Stickbulb’s new Boom LED lamp is made of reclaimed wood from NYC water tanks

April 6, 2017 by  
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Almost five years have passed since New York-based design firm Rux Design unveiled their revolutionary StickBulb lighting system , which was inspired by destroyed buildings. Now, the innovative designers are back with a new, bolder LED lamp called Boom that’s made out of reclaimed Redwood from dismantled NYC water tanks. Rux’s new Boom lamps were officially unveiled this week at the Milan Furniture Fair . The series follows up on the designer’s quest to repurpose materials from architectural destruction. Boom is made of reclaimed wood taken from dismantled NYC water tanks. Years of exposure to the harsh NYC climate on one side and water on the other has given the wood a rich, unique coloring. Related: 15 brilliant green lamps for a brighter future The reclaimed wood pieces are shaped to fit linear LED bulbs that are then connected to an elegant brass core. The lighted sticks shoot out at different lengths and emit light from different directions, creating a sense of “exploding light.” According to Stickbulb Co-Founder and RUX Founder Russell Greenberg, the team’s lighting systems take a revolutionary approach to green design : “Our fixtures are literally born from the destruction of architecture. We celebrate this energy and history in the form and function of our designs.” Boom debuted in a temporary exhibit at Archiproducts Milano on April 4th during Milan Design Week . + Stickbulb + Rux Design

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Stickbulb’s new Boom LED lamp is made of reclaimed wood from NYC water tanks

Cute zen tiny house is a steal at $49K

April 6, 2017 by  
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The prolific tiny house designers at Escape Traveler are well-known for their impressively compact homes, but their latest model, simply called, One , stands out for its elegant Japanese-inspired design. The charred exterior was created using the ancient Shou-Sugi-Ban technique, which imbues the wood with an attractive patina and long-lasting durability. The interior draws upon Japanese design principles with simple materials and an open floor plan that give the home a quiet Zen-like feel. To top it all off, the beautifully finished 276 sq ft home is available for just $49,800. Drawing upon the Japanese term “ma,” which roughly translates to “gap,” the interior space was built out with flexibility in mind. Light wooden walls and a high ceiling give the 276-square-foot home a serene quality. The 11-foot-tall ceiling also creates enough room for a spacious sleeping loft on the second floor. LED lighting is installed throughout the home, but for the most part the interior is naturally illuminated by large windows and a glass door. Energy loss is reduced thanks to foam insulation made from recycled materials . Related: Amplified tiny house lets musician homeowner rock out in the great outdoors The interior layout is designed to be simple, with multiple space-saving features hidden throughout, providing utmost versatility for future homeowners. A walk-in closet and storage space is hidden under steps that lead to the second floor, and custom-made drawers were installed below the stairwell. The compact kitchen is another marvel in efficient use of space. The sink is hidden right under the stovetop, and hidden drawers blend into the interior when not in use. + Escape Traveler Via New Atlas Photos via Escape

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