MIT researchers explore ancient firebrick technology to store energy

September 7, 2017 by  
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Firebricks – or bricks made with clay able to endure temperatures of 1,600 degrees Celsius – have been around for at least 3,000 years. Now Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers are revisiting this ancient technology to potentially help us transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy . The researchers worked out a scheme where excess electricity , generated when the wind is blowing or sun is shining, could be converted into heat and stored in the firebricks for later use. The firebricks technology has existed since the time of the Hittites, according to MIT researchers, who want to draw on this old technology to help make carbon-free power sources competitive with fossil fuels. Right now, with solar and wind power , electricity prices can collapse to near zero when there’s high wind or solar output, making those clean energy installations unprofitable unless companies can store power. Related: Google wants to solve renewable energy storage with salt and antifreeze Their system, called Firebrick Resistance-heated Energy Storage, or FIRES, costs between one-tenth and one-fortieth as much as pumped hydroelectric systems or batteries . It works like this: electric resistance heaters convert that excess electricity to heat, which would be stored in a large mass of firebricks. If the firebricks are inside an insulated casing, they can store that heat for long periods of time. The heat could either be utilized for industrial processes or converted back to electricity later. Regis Matzie, retired Westinghouse Electric Chief Technical Officer, wasn’t involved with the research but told MIT the way electricity prices are determined in America yields to a “skewed electricity market [that] produces low or even negative prices when a significant fraction of electrical energy on the grid is provided by renewables.” He said FIRES could offer an innovative solution, but a demonstration would probably be needed to see if the method is indeed economical. The Electricity Journal published the MIT research online the end of August. The next step will be setting up full-scale prototypes in the real world, which lead author Charles Forsberg said could occur in 2020. He said they’re looking for the right customers – one example would be an ethanol refinery, since they use a lot of heat, located near a large wind farm . Via MIT News Images via U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Gary J. Rihn/Released and courtesy of the researchers

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MIT researchers explore ancient firebrick technology to store energy

Three hurricanes form in the Atlantic for the first time since 2010

September 7, 2017 by  
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While Hurricane Irma barrels through the Caribbean towards the United States mainland, another two potentially powerful storms are waiting in the wings. Following closely behind Irma, one of the strongest hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic, are Tropical Storms Jose and Katia. The presence of these storms marks the first time since 2010 that three active hurricanes have formed in the Atlantic. In what may prove to be one of the most active on record , the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season has already demonstrated the unpredictable and explosive power of storms in the age of climate change . Jose, like Irma, is known as a Cape Verde hurricane for its origins in the far eastern Atlantic , near the island nation of Cape Verde off the coast of Africa . However, it is unlikely that Jose will follow Irma’s path nor will it likely be as powerful. Jose is expected to spin towards the open ocean and become a Category 3 hurricane, though it is not expected to travel over any land area. Related: Harvey forces National Weather Service to add new color to its rainfall map Katia is more closely related to Harvey, in that it too became a hurricane in the warm waters of the southern Gulf of Mexico. Despite its shared birthplace with the devastating hurricane that made landfall near Houston , Katia is expected to travel close to Mexico . It is currently nearly 200 miles northeast of Veracruz, Mexico, near which a small portion of the coast is currently under hurricane watch. Although three hurricanes active in the Atlantic at the same time is unusual, it is neither unprecedented nor unrivaled. During the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season, four hurricanes, including Hurricane Georges which caused major damage in Haiti and the Dominican Republic , were active during the same period. Via CNN Images via NOAA (1)

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Three hurricanes form in the Atlantic for the first time since 2010

People in Denmark are earning up to $1,530 just by parking their EVs

August 15, 2017 by  
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What if you could get cash for parking your electric car ? Vehicle owners in Denmark have been able to do just that, bringing in around 1,300 Euros, or around $1,530, a year by feeding excess power back into the grid. Nissan Motor Company conducted trials in the country with Italy’s utility company Enel SpA to show how EV batteries could help ease constraints on the electrical grid. Nissan has run trials with over 100 cars throughout Europe, but so far only owners in Denmark have been able to earn cash by parking their vehicle and sending power to the grid . Using two-way charge points, owners have been able to rake in $1,530 annually, according to Nissan Europe energy services director Francisco Carranza. Related: Tesla is doubling its Supercharger network by the end of the year to 10,000 chargers Electric car owners in the United Kingdom could be next to score a payday – due to restrictions on accessing the market, Nissan needs to get up to 150 cars before people can earn money. Carranza estimates they could hit that number later this year. He told Bloomberg, “It’s just a matter of finding the appropriate business model to deploy the business wide-scale.” Electric car demand, expected to grow around the world, could place a strain on local electrical grid operators trying to figure out ways to balance demand. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, power consumption from cars will climb from around six terawatt-hours today to 1,800 terawatt-hours in 2040. The scheme of using car batteries to balance supply and demand could help grid operators while potentially allowing car owners to earn some extra money with minimal effort. According to a July 2017 Business Insider article , the Danish government recently cut back subsidies for electric vehicles and sales fell – at that point in 2017 a mere 182 electric cars had been sold in the country. But Denmark also has more EV charging docks than petrol stations. Via Bloomberg Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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People in Denmark are earning up to $1,530 just by parking their EVs

Restorative Healing Gardens take over a concrete garage rooftop in L.A.

August 15, 2017 by  
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A healing green landscape has blossomed in the place of a former concrete plaza in Los Angeles. Local firm AHBE Landscape Architects transformed a concrete site atop a multi-level garage into the new Healing Gardens for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The unique, green roof -inspired system features four distinct gardens that promote healing, health, and well being for patients, hospital staff, and visitors. Since the site was located atop a building, AHBE had to develop a multi-layered landscape solution that would protect the existing building’s structural and mechanical integrity while accommodating four lushly planted gardens. “The Cedars-Sinai Healing Garden Plaza project presented several constraints that encouraged innovative thinking,” said Calvin Abe, FASLA, RLA, who led the project team. “The terraces had previously been unused for many years. We aimed to heal the epidermis of the complex by grafting a piece of living, breathing landscape above the existing parking decks.” The addition of the Healing Gardens is an extension of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s mission to prioritize quality patient care. Related: Light-filled Crown Sky Garden Offers Healing Properties at Children’s Hospital in Chicago The Healing Gardens comprise four distinct gardens with carefully crafted planting palettes. The Garden of Whimsy “lift[s] and energize[s] the human spirit” with undulating planters and a sculptural pavilion by Ball Nogues Studio as the focal point. In contrast to the more active Garden of Whimsy, the shaded Blue Garden is designed for quiet meditation and features private nooks and small circular reflecting pools. The open Plaza Garden accommodates a variety of events with moveable and convertible furniture ; the space is complemented with textural plants such as agaves and succulents. The Education Garden features “adaptive natives” from non-U.S. Mediterranean climates and includes space for outdoor lectures, health fairs, and informal meetings. + AHBE Landscape Architects Images by @heliphoto.net

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Restorative Healing Gardens take over a concrete garage rooftop in L.A.

Finnish scientists make food from electricity

July 28, 2017 by  
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A team of researchers from Finland might have solved world hunger. The scientists just produced a single-cell protein from electricity and carbon dioxide, and it can be further developed for use as food or animal feed. Renewable energy sources such as solar can be used to produce the protein. The final product is a nutritious mix of more than 50 percent protein and 25 percent carbohydrates with the rest consisting of fats and nucleic acids. “In practice, all the raw materials are available from the air. In the future, the technology can be transported to, for instance, deserts and other areas facing famine. One possible alternative is a home reactor, a type of domestic appliance that the consumer can use to produce the needed protein,” said Juha-Pekka Pitkänen, Principal Scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. The Food from Electricity project is a collaboration between VTT and Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT). Related: Vertical farming startup raises $200M from Alphabet, Jeff Bezos The next step for the researchers is pilot production to work on improving efficiency and to test scaling up for commercial use.  Currently, the production of one gram of protein takes around two weeks, using laboratory equipment that is about the size of a coffee cup. Pitkänen gives a 10-year timeframe for the product to become fully commercialized. “We are currently focusing on developing the technology: reactor concepts, technology, improving efficiency and controlling the process. Control of the process involves adjustment and modelling of renewable energy so as to enable the microbes to grow as well as possible. The idea is to develop the concept into a mass product, with a price that drops as the technology becomes more common. The schedule for commercialisation depends on the economy,” said Professor Jero Ahola of LUT. The technological breakthrough could in a decade not only provide plentiful cheap and nutritious food to people around the world, but also decrease global greenhouse gas emissions emitted from industrial livestock production. Producing animal feed could also free up land for other purposes such as forestry. + Protein produced from electricity to alleviate world hunger Via Futurism Images via LUT

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MIT researchers pioneer affordable way to turn waste heat into power

June 13, 2017 by  
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Steel and glass manufacturing generates large amounts of waste heat that’s not easy to capture – devices that do the job are either prohibitively expensive or don’t work in the requisite high temperatures. But a team of three Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have created a device that solves both issues at once. The high-temperature liquid thermoelectric device, which converts industrial waste heat into energy , could be a game-changer. Converting waste heat to electricity is often accomplished through solid-state thermoelectric devices, but at certain high temperatures they just don’t work, or are so expensive they can’t be used in much other than spaceships. In contrast, the MIT liquid thermoelectric device could pave the way for affordable conversion of waste heat into electricity. It includes a molten compound of tin and sulfur much cheaper than the solid-state bismuth telluride found in many commercial thermoelectric devices. That material is around 150 times more expensive than tin sulfide per cubic meter, according to MIT, and it only operates at temperatures of around 500 degrees Celsius. Related: Tiny thermophotovoltaic device harvests energy from infrared wavelengths The new MIT device, built by graduate student Youyang Zhao, operates at temperatures of 950 to 1,074 degrees Celsius. And as he changed the temperatures in which the device operated, he saw no significant performance drop. The researchers, however, don’t think most glass or steel plants would adopt the device simply to save the planet. But assistant professor of metallurgy Antoine Allanore, of whose research group Zhao is a part, said they might be interested if heat management could enable them to operate at even higher temperatures – allowing them to increase productivity or lengthen the lifespan of their equipment. According to MIT, thanks to the molten compounds in the new device, managing heat at high temperatures is now a possibility. The two scientists were joined by recent PhD graduate Charles Rinzler for a paper published by ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology . Via MIT News Images via Youyang Zhao and Denis Paiste/Materials Processing Center

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MIT researchers pioneer affordable way to turn waste heat into power

Australian home builder to include a Tesla Powerwall in every new home

April 4, 2017 by  
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An Australian home builder has announced plans to include a Tesla Powerwall in all new homes. Arden Homes says they will outfit all their new homes with the energy storage technology through a partnership with solar energy company and certified Tesla Powerwall reseller Bradford Solar . The move is expected to slash electricity costs for homeowners. Tesla Powerwalls will now be standard in Arden homes as part of the Bradford Solar ChargePack. Solar panels on home rooftops will gather energy, which can then “be used to power your appliances, fed back into the grid , or stored for later use,” according to an Arden brochure . The pack also includes cloud-based monitoring so people can track energy consumption right from their smartphones. Related: Solar homes with Tesla’s Powerwall 2.0 are already cost-competitive with the grid in Australia The Tesla Powerwall, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery , allows homes to run on renewable energy whether the sun is shining or not, and can even power homes during an outage. Powerwalls can also help homeowners slash electric bills by up to 92 percent; according to Tesla , the battery charges when electricity demand is low, and therefore rates are low, and discharges when electricity demand is higher and rates are more expensive. According to Arden’s brochure, families could save around $2,500 every year on electric costs, and their five kilowatt (kW) Bradford Solar ChargePack allows a family of four to attain 90 percent self-sufficiency a day. Their six kW pack allows an Australian family to live with little dependency on the grid. Arden Homes are also designed to allow plenty of natural light to brighten up their dwellings through sun courts and large picture windows. 15 percent of Australian households – or around 1.5 million homes – are utilizing solar energy, and information released late last year showed the electricity generated in Australian solar homes with a Tesla Powerwall 2 is cost-competitive with the grid. + Arden Homes + Bradford Solar Via Futurism Images via Bradford Solar Facebook and Arden Homes Facebook

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Wind energy supplied all of Denmark’s power needs one day last week

February 27, 2017 by  
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Renewable energy can generate enough power for entire countries–a fact Denmark can confirm. Last week on Wednesday, the nation met all of its power needs via wind energy , according to information from wind power trade organization WindEurope . The group said the energy Denmark produced from onshore and offshore wind was sufficient to power 10 million European Union (EU) households. Denmark produced 27 GWh via offshore wind and 70 gigawatt-hours (GWh) via onshore wind on February 23, according to WindEurope. This isn’t the first time wind power has achieved renewable energy feats in the country; 2015 saw several big days for wind energy. By the end of that year, 1,271 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind and 3,799 MW of onshore wind was installed in Denmark, amounting to a little over five gigawatts (GW) of wind energy. Related: Germany generated so much renewable energy last weekend electric prices went negative The industry did experience a slight slump in 2016, owing mainly to low winds. Before that year, Danish Wind Industry Association CEO Jan Hylleberg said since 2008 they’d “experienced continuous growth in the wind energy production and each year set a new world record.” Although the industry expected the trend wouldn’t continue in 2016, Hylleberg said the fact they didn’t maintain that upward movement was frustrating, but it appears 2017 is off to a soaring start. MHI Vestas Offshore Wind ‘s new nine MW wind turbine already smashed the record for energy generation in a 24 hour period during testing at a test field off Denmark’s coast. Hylleberg described Denmark as world champions at harnessing wind. But the Nordic country wasn’t the only nation to obtain a large amount of power via wind energy last week. WindEurope also reported Germany and Ireland respectively met 52 and 42 percent of their electricity needs with wind. According to the organization, “Wind power in the EU as a whole covered almost 19 percent of the bloc’s electricity needs.” Via CleanTechnica Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Wind energy supplied all of Denmark’s power needs one day last week

Green-roofed house for a pilot looks like a temporarily grounded aircraft

February 27, 2017 by  
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This unique home for a young pilot and his family in South Korea looks like an aircraft that has been grounded. Appropriately called the Flying House, it was designed by IROJE KHM Architects , who drew inspiration from traditional Korean architecture to create a delicate balance between sky and land. The architects combined the elements of yard, garden and rumaru, a traditional courtyard with a canopy , to create a space which connects the ground to the roof surface. The resulting sloped roof garden allows the house to coexist with nature, with a flowing design that establishes a strong connection to the ground. Related: IROJE KHM’s green-roofed house in Seoul blooms like a flower A limited budget influenced the choice of materials. By leaving the concrete framework surfaces exposed, the architects managed to utilize the structural material as the finishing material and lower the total construction cost of the building. + IROJE KHM Architects Via Archdaily Photos by Sergio Pirrone

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Green-roofed house for a pilot looks like a temporarily grounded aircraft

New solar canopy provides both shade and clean energy

February 16, 2017 by  
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In a beautiful marriage of form and function, architect and designer, Carlo Ratti has created a light-reflecting canopy that both creates shade and directs sunlight to a photovoltaic panel where it generates electricity. Called Sun&Shade , the canopy is built with mirrors that rotate automatically with the movement of the sun and reflect its rays to a solar PV panel “located a safe distance away.” Ratti just unveiled the Sun&Shade prototype at Dubai’s Museum of the Future , as part of an exhibit called “Reimagining Climate Change.” Check out the great video overview below. Ratti is no stranger to the world of functional eco art , with past projects that include: a “ supermarket of the future,”  his Paris “coolhouse,” and the New Holland pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo. Of his latest creation, Ratti says his inspiration came from the architectural traditions of the Middle East. “In developing Sun&Shade we were inspired by the Middle Eastern tradition of shadowing in architecture and public space,” Ratti explained in a press release. “Sun&Shade aims to bring this concept to the next level, allowing shadowing to be digitally controlled.” Related: MIT’s “supermarket of the future” reveals every product’s history https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gC7Z_3iye8 The position of each of Sun&Shade’s mirrors can be set independently, allowing them to be used to not only control shading and the generation of electricity , but also to create different patterns or even letters from the shadows they cast. + Carlo Ratti Associati Via Curbed Images via Carlo Ratti Associati

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