Switzerland votes to ban nuclear power and invest in renewable energy

May 22, 2017 by  
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Switzerland just passed a new energy law that promotes renewable energy and bans nuclear power plants. The landmark vote brings the nation closer to meeting its goal of generating 4,400 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of renewable energy by 2020, and 11,400 GWh by 2035. Over the weekend, approximately 42% of the population turned up to vote in the national referendum, which marks the eighth time in recent history Swiss citizens have voted on the issue. Though the Energy Strategy 2050 was approved by Parliament last year, the country’s right wing Swiss People’s Party challenged the reform to the referendum in an attempt prevent the move from taking place. The move to initiate the reform passed easily with a 58.2% vote, however, shutting down any talk of investment in nuclear energy . At a press conference, Swiss Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said “After six years of debate in parliament and at committee level, a new chapter in Switzerland’s energy policy can begin. But there is still a lot of work to do.” Related: Tunnel collapses at America’s most contaminated nuclear waste facility Energy Strategy 2050 mandates that general licenses provided for nuclear power plants (which presently provide 38% of the country’s energy) will no longer be sold, beginning in 2019. Additionally, when existing nuclear power plants reach the end of their lifespan, they will be closed and not replaced. The reform also aims to reduce per capita energy consumption by 16 percent within the next three years, and by 43 percent by 2035. Energy Strategy 2050 intends for electricity consumption to decline by 3 percent in 2020 and 13 percent in 2035. This will be managed by increasing the output of solar , wind, biomass, and geothermal energy. Supporters of the law say that investing in renewables will make Switzerland less dependent on energy imports. At the same time, the country will maintain its highly supply standard. Activists are also celebrating the fact that by phasing out investments in nuclear energy, the environment and future generations will undoubtedly benefit. Via Swiss Info Images via Pixabay

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Switzerland votes to ban nuclear power and invest in renewable energy

Architect designs solar-powered research center to save dying Lake Chad

May 22, 2017 by  
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Lake Chad in Africa spanned over 770,000 square miles in 50,000 B.C., according to Cameroon -based architecture firm Hermann Kamte & Associates (HKA). But over the centuries it has shrunk, dwindling to a mere 1,544 square miles in 2001. HKA hopes to use architecture to jumpstart regeneration of the dying lake in the form of a desalination and research center called The Forgotten – Dead or Alive. The center would begin a process that would eventually be handed over to nature . The first humans made their home near Lake Chad, according to HKA, but this body of water is in danger of disappearing forever. It could die out in this century if no steps are taken to preserve it. Lake Chad – bordered by Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, and Niger – is vital to the health of the region; HKA says its disappearance would impact over nine million people nearby, and indirectly, 30 million people in the region. Related: Green-roofed wooden tower in Lagos maximizes daylight and natural ventilation So they designed a center to help keep the lake alive. The self-sufficient Limnology Center would offer a location for researchers to study Lake Chad and the surrounding region. A desalination center onsite would actually connect the lake to the Atlantic Ocean via pipelines , which would transport water from the ocean. The desalination center would treat the saltwater so it could be reused as fresh water to help restore Lake Chad and provide a source of water for people in the region. HKA designed the center to have an amphibian-like form to blend in with the lake surroundings. They envision three stages to help revitalize the lake, beginning with the center and then slowly transitioning the job over to nature. Construction of the pipelines and lake research would take place between 2016 and 2026. In 2020 trees and vegetation will be planted around the lake. The greenery will eventually take over the job of regeneration; in 2080 pipelines will stop bringing in Atlantic Ocean water as natural regeneration takes over thanks to a thriving woodland. + Hermann Kamte & Associates Images courtesy of Hermann Kamte & Associates

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Architect designs solar-powered research center to save dying Lake Chad

Plants use sound to find water and survive, new research shows

May 22, 2017 by  
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Many people believe that playing music to plants makes them grow better , but scientists would say that’s absurd. New research from Australia might prove them wrong though. Monica Gagliano, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Western Australia, found that plants utilize the sounds of nature , from the buzzing of an insect to the sound of liquid rushing through a pipe, to find water and survive. In her recent study , Gagliano placed pea seedlings in a pot in the shape of an upside-down Y. Scientific American reports , “One arm of each pot was placed in either a tray of water or a coiled plastic tube through which water flowed; the other arm had only soil. The roots grew toward the arm of the pipe with the fluid, regardless of whether it was easily accessible or hidden inside the tubing.” According to Gagliano, the plants “just knew the water was there,” even though they could only detect the sound of the water flowing inside the pipe. When the seedlings were given a choice between the flowing tube and soil that was moistened, their roots chose the latter, however. The lead scientist says the plants use sound waves to detect water from far away, but follow moisture gradients to move in on their target when it is within reach. Related: Energy-generating ‘artificial plants’ turn greenhouse gases into clean air Gagliano’s discovery was published in the May 2017 issue of Oecologia, an international peer-reviewed journal. In the paper, titled “ Tuned in: plant roots use sound to locate water ,” she writes: Because water is essential to life, organisms have evolved a wide range of strategies to cope with water limitations, including actively searching for their preferred moisture levels to avoid dehydration . Plants use moisture gradients to direct their roots through the soil once a water source is detected, but how they first detect the source is unknown. We found that roots were able to locate a water source by sensing the vibrations generated by water moving inside pipes, even in the absence of substrate moisture. She added, “Our results also showed that the presence of noise affected the abilities of roots to perceive and respond correctly to the surrounding soundscape.” Considering the phenomena of “buzz pollination,” in which the sound of bees buzzing at a certain frequency stimulates the release of pollen in plants, has already been validated, it doesn’t seem too outlandish to propose that plants rely on sound vibrations to find water and thrive. Gagliano elaborates on her findings in the video below: Via Scientific American Images via Pixabay

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Plants use sound to find water and survive, new research shows

Solar prices in India dip below coal

May 19, 2017 by  
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Solar power is soaring in India as prices plummet. A recent auction for 500 megawatts (MW) of capacity at Bhadla solar park in Rajasthan saw a record-low tariff of 2.44 rupees per kilowatt-hour (kWh) – that’s around four cents in dollars. Solar tariffs have fallen by more than 25 percent in the past three months. But this isn’t all good news; some experts worry that as tariffs get so low, many solar projects in India could become unviable. The Government of India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy announced the incredibly low tariff in a May 12 press release , describing the moment as history in the making. The figure beats out coal prices: India’s biggest power company NTPC sells electricity from coal-fired plants at 3.20 rupees per kWh. The country is set to become the world’s third biggest solar market this year as capacity hits 8.8 gigawatts, which is a 76 percent increase over the year before. Consulting firm Ernst & Young said the country has the second best market on Earth for renewable energy investments. Related: India doubles down on solar power with huge park capacity increase But Quartz India said they aren’t all celebrating in the solar sector. The industry is seeing cutthroat competition; around 33 groups participated in an April auction for 750 MW of capacity at Bhadla. Such reverse auction processes – where sellers try to underbid each other for the work – lowers tariffs more. One problem with super low tariffs is at a certain point developers won’t make a profit. Quartz India spoke with Reliance Securities senior analyst Rupesh Sankhe who said if a developer hopes for a return on investment of 14 percent, solar tariffs should be between 4.5 and five rupees per kWh. He told Quartz India if the tariff dips below three rupees per kWh, “the return will be zero. No matter what they do, they won’t make profits.” Some companies may not be taking into account risks like grid curtailment, or times when power-generating units aren’t allowed to send electricity to the grid. And as more renewable energy goes on grid, in line with India’s goals, some companies may not end up making the money they expected. Via Quartz India Images via Wikimedia Commons and Ajay Tallam on Flickr

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China claims major energy breakthrough with ‘flammable ice’

May 19, 2017 by  
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China has claimed a major energy breakthrough, but its eco credentials are dubious at best. Researchers say they managed to extract gas from flammable ice in the South China Sea. A frozen mix of natural gas and water known as methane hydrates, the ‘breakthrough’ is expected to revolutionize the future of energy . We’re not sure that’s a good idea. Flammable ice could be our planet’s final great source of carbon-based fuel , according to the BBC. Vast deposits can be found under essentially every ocean. But it’s incredibly difficult to extract gas from flammable ice – in part because it catches fire so easily – a lighter held up next to the ice will do the trick. Related: Japan Successfully Taps ‘Flammable Ice’ as an Energy Source for the First Time Japan so far has led the way in working to mine the potential energy source, but China’s latest efforts could mark a milestone on the path to extracting gas from methane hydrates. Chinese media said the country had succeeded in extracting an average of 16,000 cubic meters of gas per day in the South China Sea. Scientist Praveen Linga of the National University of Singapore told the BBC, “Compared with the results we have seen from Japanese research, the Chinese scientists have managed to extract much more gas in their efforts. So in that sense it is indeed a major step towards making gas extraction from methane hydrates viable.” But Linga warns extraction must be done carefully. Methane could escape from the methane hydrates during extraction, which could harm the planet as methane holds greater potential to affect climate change than carbon dioxide, according to the BBC. It’s hard to tell if flammable ice extraction will fall into the pitfalls of the oil and gas industry, with greed taking precedence over our planet. The BBC also described flammable ice as a very energy intensive source of fuel. Linga says there’s still a long way to go, and he said realistic commercial options might be ready in 2025 at the earliest. Via the BBC Images via William Winters, USGS and U.S. Geological Survey on Flickr

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China claims major energy breakthrough with ‘flammable ice’

Scientists may have found evidence for a parallel universe

May 19, 2017 by  
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A parallel universe may not just be a quirk of science fiction anymore; scientists think they may have found evidence for the idea of a universe other than our own. It all has to do with a strange Cold Spot, which researchers haven’t had an easy time explaining; some even suggest it could actually be an optical illusion. But new research reveals something far more bizarre may be going on. NASA first discovered the baffling Cold Spot in 2004. The Cold Spot is 1.8 billion light years across and, as you may have guessed, colder than what surrounds it in the universe. Scientists thought perhaps it was colder because it had 10,000 less galaxies than other regions of similar size. They even thought perhaps the Cold Spot was just a trick of the light. Related: ‘Largest-ever’ new map of universe shows 1.2 million galaxies But now an international team of researchers think perhaps the Cold Spot could actually offer evidence for the concept of a multiverse. The Guardian explains an infinite number of universes make up a multiverse; each having its own reality different from ours. These scientists say they’ve ruled out the last-ditch optical illusion idea. Instead, they think our universe may have collided with another in what News.com.au described as something like a car crash; the impact could have pushed energy away from an area of space to result in the Cold Spot. Physicist Tom Shanks of the University of Durham said in a statement , “We can’t entirely rule out that the Spot is caused by an unlikely fluctuation explained by the standard model. But if that isn’t the answer, then there are more exotic explanations. Perhaps the most exciting of these is that the Cold Spot was caused by a collision between our universe and another bubble universe.” If more research backs up this new idea, “…then the Cold Spot might be taken as the first evidence for the multiverse – and billions of other universes may exist like our own.” Eight scientists from institutions in the United Kingdom, Chile, Spain, and the United States collaborated on a study recently published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society . Via The Independent , News.com.au , and The Guardian Images via Pexels and Pixabay

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Britain installs worlds biggest wind turbines near Liverpool

May 18, 2017 by  
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It’s official: Britain is now the world’s leader in wind turbine technology. Yesterday, Danish company Dong Energy finished installing 32 of the world’s biggest turbines in Liverpool Bay as part of the Burbo Bank extension. Standing 195-meters in length with blades longer than nine London buses, the turbines are now live and generating clean energy . Each of the new turbines stands taller than the Gherkin skyscraper and has more than twice the power capacity of those in a neighboring wind farm which was completed a decade ago, according to the Guardian. Said Benjamin Sykes, the country manager for Dong Energy UK, “That shows you something about the scale-up of the industry, the scale-up of the technology.” Sykes hailed the installation as a “very important milestones” for the renewable energy sector. The Guardian notes this is the first time 8MW turbines have been commercially used anywhere in the world. As a result, the UK can now boast that it has installed more offshore wind power than any other country. Subsidies, agreeable regulations, and a maritime past have made this monumental achievement possible. Related: Siemens Creates the World’s Largest Turbine Blades for New UK Wind Farm! Now, the UK has a capacity of 5.3GW, which means enough electricity can be generated to power 4.3 million homes. And, the sovereign state has no intention of slowing down. Eight more projects are already under construction, and they are expected to add more than half the capacity again. In Germany, Sykes recently received approval to build the world’s first subsidy-free offshore wind farm . By the time that project begins construction, he believes turbines as powerful as 13MW or 15MW will be on the market. “There’s every reason to think they will arrive,” said Sykes. Improved technology will also ensure those in the clean energy sector continue to receive taxpayer support in the UK, as ministers have made it clear cuts need to be made in the industry. “This and other projects have been crucial for driving costs down for the whole industry,” said Skyes, referring to the Burbo Bank extension. + Dong Energy Via The Guardian Images via Pixabay , Dong Energy

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Britain installs worlds biggest wind turbines near Liverpool

In surprise vote, Senate keeps Obamas methane rules in place

May 11, 2017 by  
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In a stunning win for environmental activists , the U.S. Senate voted against repealing the BLM methane rule (originally passed during the Obama administration) to limit methane pollution on public land. Overturned with a 51-49 vote , the deciding “No” was from Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona . Under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), lawmakers can overturn the rules of a previously instated administration within the first 60 days of their enactment. Because of this, Congress has voted 13 times to overturn a selection of Obama rules. Many of these relate to srteam protection, internet privacy and the shooting of hibernating bears, reports BuzzFeed. The outcome of Wednesday’s vote is being lauded as positive news, as the Obama-era rule requires gas drillers to limit leaking, venting or burning methane, which is responsible for fueling climate change . In present-day America, where the President believes climate change is a “hoax” and has ties to the oil industry, outcomes such as this one are rarely witnessed. Politicians including Sen. McCain, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina all voted against the repeal to prevent the government from drawing up any future rules that might restrict methane emissions. McCain said in a statement , “Passage of the resolution would have prevented the federal government , under any administration, from issuing a rule that is ‘similar’. I join the call for strong action to reduce pollution from venting, flaring and leaks associated with oil and gas production operations on public and Indian land.” McCaine added that the smarter thing the Trump administration could have done was to release an updated rule to improve the one passed during Obama’s time as President. Related: Senate Republicans could save methane rules from Trump Commenting on McCain’s surprising stance, Mark Brownstein of the Environmental Defense Fund said, “The oil and gas industry gets into power and the first thing they ask for is a repeal of pollution rules, it just doesn’t make people happy. Senator McCain once again demonstrated that he is a voice of common sense and reason.” According to the Bureau of Land Management , enough methane gas is wasted by drillers to supply 6.2 million homes a year. This, in turn, costs taxpayers $46 to $204 million in lost royalties. Considering solar technology is becoming more affordable and countries such as Germany and Costa Rica have already proven populations can thrive on renewable energy , it seems clear the future is green. Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute deemed the outcome “disappointing” and is calling for a review of the rule under a new executive order which was recently released by the White House. However, because of the short time limit on the CRA, it is now too late for another Congressional resolution to take place to repeal the BLM methane rule. Via The Washington Post , BuzzFeed Image via Colorado Politics , Newsmax.com

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SolarGaps’ new solar blinds shade windows and generate clean energy

May 11, 2017 by  
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What if your window blinds could power your home in addition to shading its rooms? That’s the idea behind SolarGaps’ new solar blinds. These smart blinds designed to track the sun can be controlled via an app , and the company says their product will slash energy bills by as much as 70 percent. SolarGaps’ smart solar blinds, created by Ukrainian inventor Yevgen Erik, could revolutionize how we live our lives indoors, and obtain the energy we consume in our homes. The company says the blinds are extremely efficient can generate 100 watts of power per 10 square feet of a window – enough energy for three MacBooks or 30 LED light bulbs, according to the company. Related: National laboratory scales up quantum-dot solar windows that can power entire buildings The company also says the installation process is simple enough for homeowners to do themselves using SolarGaps’ instructions – and after the blinds are plugged in, the renewable energy they generate begins to power home devices. Their app allows users to change the angle of the blinds, lower or raise them, or check out how much energy they are generating. The blinds are made with solar cells from SunPower and come with a 25 year lifespan. The outer part is made with Aluminum . SolarGaps says they’ll work in a wide variety of climates and temperatures, from negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit up to 176 degrees Fahrenheit. The company also markets their groundbreaking blinds as affordable, and able to generate more electricity than competing smart blinds currently on the market. They’re currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter; a XS Sized Set is $390, 50 percent off the retail price, and measures 36 by 36 inches, or 32 by 36 inches. SolarGaps is also offering small, medium, large, extra large, and extra extra large sizes, as well as two custom bundles. You can check out the campaign here . + SolarGaps Images via SolarGaps Facebook and SolarGaps

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Light-powered device can purify air and generate clean energy

May 10, 2017 by  
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5.5 million people died prematurely because of air pollution back in 2013 – and half of those people lived in India or China. Air pollution continues to plague people around the world today, but now researchers from KU Leuven and the University of Antwerp have found a way to transform that dirty air into energy . They designed an air purifying device able to fit in a person’s hand that only needs light to work. The groundbreaking device houses two small chambers divided by a membrane. In one chamber air is purified; in the other hydrogen gas is generated. Nanomaterials in the device act as catalysts to both break down pollution and produce the gas. Scientist Sammy Verbruggen of both institutions, who’s lead author on a study published recently about the device in ChemSusChem , said the hydrogen gas can be stored and used as fuel in the future. Related: 9-year-old girl sues Indian government for climate change inaction According to KU Leuven, the processes underlying the device are akin to the workings of solar panels: “The difference here is that electricity is not generated directly, but rather that air is purified while the generated power is stored as hydrogen gas.” The higher the concentration of pollutants in the air, the stronger the electrical currents, according to the researchers, which means cities like Los Angeles, Beijing, and Delhi could really benefit from the technology . Verbruggen emphasized to Mic their device is just first proof of the concept, but could open up options in the future. Verbruggen told Mic, “There’s still a lot of work to do to make this applicable to daily life. It’s not like we discovered the holy grail yet. But this is a new field of opportunities.” The scientists are working to scale up their device and improve their materials to draw on sunlight more efficiently to set off the reactions. Via Mic and KU Leuven Images © UAntwerpen and KU Leuven and via Pixabay

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Light-powered device can purify air and generate clean energy

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