Major utility company Xcel Energy commits to go carbon-free by 2050

December 13, 2018 by  
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A major utility company is making history. Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest utility company, has pledged to go completely carbon-free by 2050. The company serves eight states, and its ambitious new carbon reduction goal far exceeds its current target of a 60 percent reduction in Colorado by 2026. “Our biggest energy source in a few short years is going to be renewable energy . We’re going to absolutely integrate as much of that as we can into the grid,” said Xcel CEO Ben Fowke. The company said that it will be 80 percent carbon-free by 2030 before reaching the goal of 100 percent carbon reduction in 2050. These changes should mean more solar and wind energy  along with a reduction of coal. Fowke said that there will also be other technologies needed to meet the 100 percent carbon goal, including battery storage technology and maybe even carbon sequestration. Related: Blue dye could be the next key to harnessing renewable energy Xcel serves 3.6 million people in Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota. For years, those customers have been demanding that the company make some changes. The utility company said that it really does listen to its customers, and with citizens of cities all over Colorado deciding that they want 100 percent renewable energy, Xcel decided it would be in its best interest to give the customers what they have asked for. Xcel’s commitment is the latest in announcements by large utility companies regarding huge new carbon reduction goals. Indiana’s NIPSCO sped up the retirement of multiple coal plants in favor of renewable energy, and Midwestern Utility MidAmerican announced that it would reach its 100 percent renewable energy goal by 2020. With companies turning away from fossil fuels in favor of renewables like wind and solar, the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects America’s coal consumption to soon be at its lowest level in four decades. Via CPR Image via Laura Lee Dooley

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Major utility company Xcel Energy commits to go carbon-free by 2050

Take a trip to the shire in this tiny ‘Hobbit House’ on wheels

August 13, 2018 by  
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Not only have we found the cutest hobbit tiny home on wheels , but there’s a whole gaggle of these cute dwellings at the WeeCasa Tiny House Resort set in picturesque Colorado. Guests can choose from 22 tiny homes , but the Hobbit House is by far the most adorable, complete with a circular front door, ivy-clad roof and hand-crafted wood features. The WeeCasa Resort is located in Lyons, Colorado , just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. The resort’s tiny homes, which range in size between 135-400 square feet, are set up neighborhood-style to foster a sense of community among the guests. Visitors can enjoy a peaceful stroll around the neighborhood, a dip in the nearby river or a hiking or biking excursion through the beautiful surrounding landscape. Related: Spend the night in this magical Hobbit House tucked into the Washington shire Each tiny house in the resort is different, with its own distinctive charm and character. The 170-square-foot Hobbit House is one of the most popular choices by far. Built by Incredible Tiny Homes , this four-person guesthouse immediately gives off “shire” vibes, which are enhanced by the cedar shake siding and an ivy-covered roof. The entryway is through a large round door — of course — that opens up into a cozy, wood-clad interior. The fairytale structure has a spacious kitchen and living area punctuated with more circular windows. For sleepy hobbits, there is a queen-sized bed in the sleeping loft at the far end of the tiny home. The retreat even houses a small felt Frodo, who can often be found perched in the windows or lounging on the couch. An electric fireplace heater keeps the space nice and toasty while guests enjoy a nice warm cup of mead. + WeeCasa Tiny House Resort + Incredible Tiny Homes Via Tiny House Talk Images via WeeCasa Tiny House Resort

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Take a trip to the shire in this tiny ‘Hobbit House’ on wheels

Wildfires and drought cause national forest closures in New Mexico and Colorado

June 13, 2018 by  
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Blazes in Colorado closed the 1.8-million-acre San Juan National Forest this week. The 416 Fire is burning on 25,900 acres and is 15 percent contained, according to a June 13 Facebook post . Meanwhile, in New Mexico , the 1.6-million-acre Santa Fe National Forest was closed “due to extreme fire danger.”  NPR quoted San Juan National Forest Fire Staff Officer Richard Bustamante as saying fire risks are at “historic levels.” The San Juan National Forest spans across nine counties, and the last full closure was in 2002. The forest order , signed by forest supervisor Kara Chadwick, says the purpose “is to protect natural resources and public safety due to the impacts of the wildland fire.” Related: NASA map shows how climate change has set the world on fire Bustamante said, “Under current conditions, one abandoned campfire or spark could cause a catastrophic wildfire , and we are not willing to take that chance with the natural and cultural resources under our protection and care, or with human life and property.” The residents of more than 2,000 homes were told to evacuate; a June 12 night update said the evacuation order for San Juan County residents would lift this morning, although people would require Rapid Tag resident credentials to return. At the time of writing, no structures have been destroyed, and 1,029 people are working the fire. The Burro Fire is also burning in the San Juan National Forest on 2,684 acres (as of last night) and is zero percent contained. The cause for both fires is under investigation. In New Mexico, some districts of the Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands will be closed effective Friday. “The Cibola is a high-use forest, so this is not a decision that we made lightly,” said Fire Staff Officer Matt Rau. “The forest is tinder dry and the monsoons may still be a few weeks out. We need to take every action possible to reduce the risk of human-caused fires.” Via NPR Image via Depositphotos

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Wildfires and drought cause national forest closures in New Mexico and Colorado

Colorado meth lab transformed into a minimalist artist retreat with rammed earth walls

April 23, 2018 by  
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A former meth lab in North Boulder, Colorado has received a new lease on life as an artist retreat with a beautifully minimalist design. Denver-based tres birds workshop designed the Swoon Art House with a careful eye on environmental stewardship, using “100 percent renewable resources” including rammed earth walls and geothermal wells. Created as part of the Swoon/ Boulder Museum Contemporary Art International Artists Residency , the 7,000-square-foot Swoon Art House merges forward-thinking design and technology with ancient construction techniques. Designed like a sculpture in itself, the artist retreat features two long structures set at an angle to one another. Round metal roofs top the building and contrast with the 30-inch-thick rammed earth walls created using soil from the site. Four vertical geothermal wells power the building’s heating and cooling system. Related: Tattoo shop-turned-distillery renovated using materials reclaimed on-site The first building houses two lofted bedrooms with bathrooms and a full kitchen for artists in residency. A small glass-walled passageway leads to the second building, which serves as an art studio. Energy-conserving windows line the studio walls, while hidden storage spaces add to the clean, minimalist feel. “The structure, from the physical design to the flow of energy, is based on the circle,” the architecture firm said. “The circle holds particular significance in ancient and modern culture, symbolizing that which is without a beginning or an end.” + tres birds workshop

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Colorado meth lab transformed into a minimalist artist retreat with rammed earth walls

Even NASA isn’t quite sure how to explain these holes in the Arctic Sea’s ice

April 23, 2018 by  
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Can you identify the holes in the sea ice pictured above? If so, let NASA know. They recently posted the image, snapped over the Beaufort Sea, as the April 2018 Puzzler on their “Earth Matters” blog. They aren’t quite sure what caused them, although they ventured a few ideas, including heat, thin ice, and even rogue seals. NASA Operation IceBridge mission scientist John Sonntag captured the baffling image from a P-3 research plane soaring over the eastern Beaufort Sea. Sonntag had never seen holes like this before; writing from the field, he said, “We saw these sorta-circular features only for a few minutes today. I don’t recall seeing this sort of thing elsewhere.” Related: The first salty lakes discovered in the Arctic could hold the key to finding alien life Before the agency revealed that the photo was from the Arctic , Internet users offered plenty of guesses as to its location – from fires in Oklahoma to the surface of Mars. User Scott Stensland came close when he guessed the circles were open water holes in ice created by ocean mammals, such as seals . Indeed, that’s similar to one answer NASA has come up with: the holes bear a resemblance to photographs of breathing holes harp seals and ring seals have created. National Snow and Ice Data Center scientist Walt Meier told NASA, “The encircling features may be due to waves of water washing out over the snow and ice when the seals surface. Or it could be a sort of drainage feature that results from when the hole is made in the ice.” Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory sea ice scientist Chris Polashenski told NASA he’d glimpsed features like these holes in the past. Seals could offer one answer; another is convection. University of Maryland at Baltimore County glaciologist Chris Shuman, who’s based at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told NASA, “This is in pretty shallow water generally, so there is every chance this is just ‘warm springs’ or seeps of ground water flowing from the mountains inland that make their presence known in this particular area. The other possibility is that warmer water from Beaufort currents or out of the Mackenzie River is finding its way to the surface due to interacting with the bathymetry , just the way some polynyas form.” + NASA Earth Observatory + Curious Circles in Arctic Sea Ice Images via John Sonntag/Operation IceBridge/NASA and NASA/Joe MacGregor

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Even NASA isn’t quite sure how to explain these holes in the Arctic Sea’s ice

This house from Skylab Architecture mimics the appearance of the Rocky Mountains

April 16, 2018 by  
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Portland studio Skylab Architecture ‘s Owl Creek Residence is an angular retreat  that blends into Colorado ’s mountainous landscape while offering expansive views of the Rocky Mountains. The house’s rugged steel structure mimics the topography of the surrounding area, enhancing visual connections to the landscape and simultaneously drawing it inwards. The 4,200-square-foot (390-square-meter) house sits on a hillside near the town of Snowmass, a popular destination for winter sports . Its main lounge area mimics the natural slope of the site and features stepped seating that maximizes space within the stairwell. Related: Geothermal-powered Wildcat Ridge Residence boasts breathtaking views of Aspen, Colorado Five bedrooms occupy the lower level of the residence, along with other amenities such as a steam room and hot tub. A triangular spa with an elevated deck and an expansive outdoor terrace is located right off the kitchen. The choice of cladding materials and finishes – weathering steel , wood and stone – further allows the house to harmonize with nature. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls in the common areas form the tip of the triangular plan and offer expansive views of the surrounding landscape. Most of the upper level is reserved for entertaining and includes an open-concept living and dining room, a den, and a kitchen. + Skylab Architecture Via Dezeen Lead photo by Robert Reck

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This house from Skylab Architecture mimics the appearance of the Rocky Mountains

11 Steps to Encourage Water Conservation in Your Community

March 28, 2018 by  
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In 2009, the Cherry Creek 3 townhome community in Colorado used … The post 11 Steps to Encourage Water Conservation in Your Community appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Panasonic is building an incredible smart city outside of Denver

January 8, 2018 by  
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Panasonic is just about everywhere you look these days, from car batteries to airplanes, and now the company is building one of their most ambitious projects yet: an entire smart city . Called CityNow, the futuristic city is rising up outside of Denver and will be a living lab experiment for creating towns that can survive a disaster, run on clean, renewable power, and contain sustainable infrastructure that improves people’s lives. The development has been underway for the past two years in a desolate patch of land near the Denver airport. The 400-acre project will be a transit-oriented city, with light rail connecting it to Denver and the airport, smart roadways that are perfect for autonomous vehicles, parking management, and autonomous shuttle routes, which roll out this spring. Related: Bill Gates buys a huge chunk of land in Arizona to create a ‘smart city’ The city also has a bevy of sustainable features, like a solar panel microgrid that can power the city for days in the event of a disaster. Streets lights consist of power-saving LEDs and a carbon neutral district. “Since early 2016, when we started on Denver CityNow, we’ve vetted 11 technology suppliers, developed an open API, established a carbon-neutral district, got approval from the public utility and installed the first microgrid, with solar panels on Denver Airport property, in partnership with Xcel Energy, which can power this area for 72 hours in the event of a natural, or manmade, disaster,” Jarrett Wendt, EVP of Panasonic Enterprise Solutions told PC Magazine . Panasonic’s first foray into a sustainable smart town in Fujisawa, Japan, has resulted in a city with 70 percent less carbon dioxide than normal, a return of 30 percent back to the grid, an EV charging grid, and enough renewable energy to power the city for five days off-grid. Denver’s smart city is slated for completion in eight years, and Panasonic hopes to see the same, if not better, results. Via PC Magazine Images via Panasonic

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The worlds first ski-in/ski-out treehouse cabins open in Montana

January 8, 2018 by  
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As brutal weather continues to unload icy fury in the northeast, those looking to carve white powder in the Midwest may want to head to the world’s first ski-in/ski-out treehouses . Located in the winter wonderland that is Whitefish Mountain Resort, the newly opened Snow Bear Chalets let you ski straight up to the front doors, which are located 30 feet off the ground. The resort offers three magical treehouse chalets located on the Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort’s Hope Slope. The wooden structures are built 30 feet above the forest and offer stunning views of Glacier National Park. The ski-in/ski-out cabin are the first of their kind – and they’re the only lodgings located directly on the ski run just few steps from the ski lift. When ready to hit the slopes, guests can hop straight onto the white powder. When there’s no snow, nature lovers can get their fix either hiking or biking the mountain’s hundreds of miles of trails. Related: Green-roofed 2022 Winter Olympic center echoes the surrounding ski slopes The cabins offer the ultimate in a luxury hygge-filled getaway . Guests can spend days filled with downhill skiing in one of the most picturesque ski areas in the world, and nights by the fire with a steaming cup of hot chocolate. The treehouses offer extremely cozy interiors with fireplaces, large kitchens and large windows to enjoy the stunning views. The three cabins range in sizes, but are all equipped with large treetop decks and outdoor hot tubs, along with various luxurious features. And if you’re into stargazing, the cabins even come with turrets and ceilings covered in constellations made up of 600 fiber-optic stars. + Snow Bear Chalets Via Curbed Photography via Snow Bear Chalets

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The worlds first ski-in/ski-out treehouse cabins open in Montana

‘Great American Desert’ threatens to swallow eight US states as massive aquifer dries up

November 27, 2017 by  
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The Ogallala aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground bodies of water upon which many ecosystems and communities in the American West depend, is in rapid decline due to over-exploitation of its resources. According to the Denver Post , farmers in eight American states (Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming and South Dakota) are putting a particular strain on the aquifer by overdrawing water from beneath the soil they cultivate in a $35 billion dollar per year industry. If allowed to continue, this could threaten both the livelihood of farmers and the ecosystems of the West, which could be replaced by a ‘Great American Desert.’ Because of the region’s intensive farming practices , agricultural wells are extracting water from the Ogallala aquifer significantly faster than it is being replenished. This trend appears to have accelerated in recent years. Federal data indicates that the aquifer contracted twice as fast in the past six years as it had in the previous sixty, with a significant impact on everyday water use in the West. “Now I never know, from one minute to the next, when I turn on a faucet or hydrant, whether there will be water or not,” said Lois Scott, who lives on a family farm in Cope, Colorado , in an interview with the Denver Post . “The aquifer is being depleted. This will truly become the Great American Desert.” Related: Dead Sea salt reveals drought on a scale never recorded – and it could happen again As a result of the exploitation of the Ogallala, at least 358 miles of rivers and streams have dried up within a 200-square-mile area in Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska. If trends continued, an additional 177 miles of rivers and streams are expected to dry out by 2060. “We have almost completely changed the species of fish that can survive in those streams, compared with what was there historically,” said Keith Gido, author of a recent scientific report on the aquifer’s depletion, in an interview with the Denver Post . “We’re not living in as sustainable a fashion as we need to be. Much of the damage has been done.” The over-exploitation of the Ogallala aquifer and the plight of the American West is sadly not unique to the region. “It is happening all over the world in places such as Pakistan . It causes conflicts,” said Gido. “As human populations grow, the demand for water is going to be greater. Conflicts are going to increase—unless we become more efficient in using the water we have.” Via EcoWatch and the Denver Post Images via Depositphotos  and USGS/Flickr

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‘Great American Desert’ threatens to swallow eight US states as massive aquifer dries up

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