Nissan to start selling rooftop solar panels and batteries

January 19, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Tesla’s model of selling electric cars and solar panels seems to appeal to other automakers too – now Nissan is getting in on the game with Nissan Energy Solar . The company recently launched the service to sell rooftop panels along with their battery storage product xStorage Home . Their press release says United Kingdom residents equipped with solar products could save as much as 66 percent on their power bills. Nissan describes Nissan Energy Solar as an all-in-one solution. They’re offering three different panel options: the competitively priced Value option, the most efficient Efficiency option, or the Design option, which boasts panels integrated on rooftops. Combine that with the xStorage Home battery storage product, and Nissan hopes it will be easier for UK residents to enjoy the benefits of renewable energy – although with Nissan Energy Solar homeowners can opt to buy just solar power , just storage, or both. Users can charge up a Nissan Leaf or e-NV200 with the system. Related: Nissan’s xStorage battery for the home rivals Tesla’s Powerwall Nissan makes the case for why a buyer should choose their products over another company’s on the Nissan Energy Solar website: “We have partnered with some of the world’s largest and most advanced energy companies to provide our customers with a fully integrated product range, seamless service, and genuine value. Our products are some of the most sustainable on the market, giving a second life to batteries from our electric vehicles and maximizing our use of recyclable materials .” The company will perform LiDAR remote analysis of rooftops to optimize solar panels, according to Motoring Research . A six-panel system costs £3,881, which is around $5,383, including installation. Full Solar and Storage systems start at £7,635, around $10,589. The company’s products are designed, per Motoring Research, to be more affordable than Tesla’s. The Nissan New Energy website says the systems will be on sale soon. + Nissan Energy Solar + Nissan UK Via Motoring Research Images via Nissan

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Nissan to start selling rooftop solar panels and batteries

NASA debuts KRUSTY nuclear reactor for future Mars residents

January 19, 2018 by  
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Researchers at NASA , Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Department of Energy announced they have successfully tested a small nuclear reactor that may someday provide power to human habitats on Mars and beyond. Called Kilopower, or KRUSTY (Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology), the reactor comes in several versions to meet certain power needs, from 1 kilowatt (enough to power a small kitchen appliance) to 10 kilowatts, four or five of which would be required to provide power for a habitat on Mars. “Kilopower’s compact size and robustness allows us to deliver multiple units on a single lander to the surface that provides tens of kilowatts of power,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, during a press conference on Thursday . Kilopower could support manned missions to Mars in several ways. “We would need power on Mars for two primary reasons,” said Patrick McClure, Project Lead for Reactor Development at Los Alamos, in the video above . “The first is that astronauts need power for their habitat, so that they can make oxygen , purify water, but prior to their arrival, we need to make liquid oxygen and propellant so that they can get off the Martian surface.” Kilopower provides a fairly straightforward solution, requiring a minimal number of parts and thus lightweight, for the power needs of any planet-bound mission. Related: MIT’s winning solar-powered dome tree habitats for Mars mimic earthly forests The system works by incorporating steam-pipe technology, in which a sealed tube in a heat pipe circulates fluid throughout the reactor while generating heat . The heated fluid then travels to a Stirling engine, where it pressurizes gas to power a piston connected to a motor that generates electricity . Combining these parts makes for a reliable, simple device for providing power for all kinds of space missions. As for next steps, the research team intends to conduct a full-power test of their device in March. If all goes well, the sky may well be the limit for this compact powerhouse. Via Engadget and Space.com Images via NASA (1)

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NASA debuts KRUSTY nuclear reactor for future Mars residents

Researchers develop self-healing concrete powered by fungus

January 19, 2018 by  
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Scientists at Binghamton University have developed the first application of fungi in self-healing concrete. In a paper recently published in the journal Construction and Building Materials , Binghamton University assistant professor Congrui Jin and her team outline the ways in which a special species of fungi,  Trichoderma reesei , may act as a sealing agent when mixed with concrete . “This idea was originally inspired by the miraculous ability of the human body to heal itself of cuts, bruises and broken bones,” said Jin in an interview at Binghampton . “For the damaged skins and tissues, the host will take in nutrients that can produce new substitutes to heal the damaged parts.” Jin and her team’s focus on concrete could not be more topical. In the United States , a crisis fueled by historic underinvestment in infrastructure has resulted in increasingly dangerous roads, bridges, and highways. While Washington struggles to fund the federal government and state governments lack the resources to tackle this multi-trillion dollar problem, citizens still want something to be done before a major collapse occurs. “Without proper treatment, cracks tend to progress further and eventually require costly repair,” said Jin . “If micro-cracks expand and reach the steel reinforcement, not only the concrete will be attacked, but also the reinforcement will be corroded, as it is exposed to water, oxygen, possibly CO2 and chlorides, leading to structural failure.” Related: How fungi made Earth’s atmosphere livable – new study If concrete were easier to repair, the cost of infrastructure maintenance would likely decrease. This is where T. reesei steps in. The fungus is mixed with concrete and lies dormant until the first crack in newly laid concrete appears. As water and oxygen permeate the crack, fungal spores will germinate, expand, and create calcium carbonate to fill the crack. While the technology is still in its early phase, its successful small-scale application demonstrates that fungal self-healing concrete may fit right in someday soon. Jin said , “In my opinion, further investigation in alternative microorganisms such as fungi and yeasts for the application of self-healing concrete becomes of great potential importance”. Via Binghamton University Images via Jonathan Cohen/Binghamton University and Congrui Jin/Binghamton University

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Water-based AC cools the air without using harmful chemicals

January 19, 2018 by  
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Our air conditioners still draw on principles that are around 100-years-old, sucking up power in the process. Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) are working on an alternative: water -based air conditioners. Their system doesn’t need energy -intensive compressors or harmful chemical refrigerants – and can cool air all the way down to 18 degrees Celsius, or 64.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Over 40 percent of the energy consumption of a building in the tropics goes to air conditioning, according to NUS associate professor Ernest Chua . He led a team to develop a new air conditioning system offering several advantages over conventional machines commonly found in buildings today. Related: This amazing Bangladeshi air cooler is made from plastic bottles and uses no electricity Water serves as the coolant in their air conditioner, and an innovative membrane technology sucks moisture out of humid air. The system uses up around 40 percent less electricity than compressor-based air conditioners, which NUS said translates to an over 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions . And the system doesn’t release hot air, instead discharging a less-humid cold air stream. For every liter of water used, as much as 15 liters of drinking water can be harvested, according to NUS – and the water the system harvests from the air is five times purer than Singapore tap water. Chua said in a statement, “Our cooling technology can be easily tailored for all types of weather conditions, from humid climate in the tropics to arid climate in the deserts. While it can be used for indoor living and commercial spaces, it can also be easily scaled up to provide air-conditioning for clusters of buildings in an energy-efficient manner.” NUS said it’s cost-effective to produce the system. Right now the team is further developing the design to boost user-friendliness, and aim to incorporate smart features like real-time tracking of energy efficiency or “pre-programmed thermal settings based on human occupancy.” They’re hoping to collaborate with industry partners on commercialization. Via National University of Singapore and Futurity Images via National University of Singapore and NUSLife on YouTube

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Water-based AC cools the air without using harmful chemicals

US CO2 emissions declined during Trump’s first year as president

January 16, 2018 by  
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What were United States carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions like in 2017, the first year President Donald Trump was in office? Based on preliminary estimates, the Rhodium Group said US emissions declined by just below one percent , thanks to changes in the energy sector. Electrek crunched the numbers and found 94.7 percent of net new electricity capacity came from renewables . But emissions from buildings , industry, and transportation increased – and America has a ways to go to meet Paris Agreement goals. Nearly 80 percent of reduction in American energy-related CO2 emissions between 2005 and 2016 are thanks to the electric power sector, according to the Rhodium Group. They said in an article, “Improved efficiency of buildings and appliances has helped flatten electricity demand, and coal has lost market share to lower-carbon natural gas and zero-carbon renewables. That trend continued in 2017.” Related: A ‘giant leap backward for humankind’ as CO2 emissions rise after years of stability The group said coal lost ground to other power sources. Solar , wind , and hydropower generation growth displaced coal and natural gas. Between January and October generation from the two more-polluting fuels fell by 138 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) compared against the same period the year before – and renewable generation increased by 75 million kWh. But energy-related CO2 emissions increased in other sectors – “offsetting more than one-quarter of the gains made in electric power,” according to the Rhodium Group. Even though Trump yanked America out of the Paris Accord , many states and cities said they’d stay in and work towards the United States’ goals. The Rhodium Group said, “Recent climate and clean energy policy developments at the state and city-level policy developments could potentially accelerate last year’s pace of emission reductions, while recent federal regulatory changes could slow that progress.” They said America seems to be on track to reach the 2009 Copenhagen Accord goal of 17 percent reduction under 2005 levels by 2020, as long as the country keeps up the one percent energy-related CO2 emissions decline and there are no big changes in other emissions. The Paris Agreement pledge was 26 to 28 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2025. America is not on track to achieve that – the country would need an average annual reduction of 1.7 to two percent in energy-related CO2 emissions over the upcoming eight years. Via the Rhodium Group , Electrek , and Engadget Images via Depositphotos and Thomas Richter on Unsplash

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US CO2 emissions declined during Trump’s first year as president

This highly insulated modular home is completely self-sustaining

January 16, 2018 by  
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Going off grid isn’t just for solo meditative retreats—nowadays you can comfortably bring the whole family along. Australian firm Modscape recently completed their latest custom modular build called Franklinford, an off-grid residence in Victoria, Australia. Shared between two families, this four-bedroom home is completely self-sustaining with its own solar system and 80,000-liter water tank. Set in an open farmland in Victoria’s Central Highlands, Franklinford takes design cues from nearby agricultural buildings with its no-nonsense metal and timber palette. Its east-facing facade seen from the approach is faced with radially sawn timber board-and-battern siding. Durable Colorbond steel clads the rest of the exterior that’s accented with Vitrabond aluminum. Oriented to capture winter sun, the low-lying rural retreat’s highly insulated shell is constructed from SIPs and thermally broken, low-e glazing to minimize temperature fluctuations. Related: Solar-Powered Modular Cabin Exists Completely Off-the-Grid in Australia The interior features whitewashed walls set against dark oak timber floors for a clean and minimalist effect. A large living wing forms the home’s focal point and is wrapped in floor-to-ceiling glazing that opens up to a north-facing L-shaped timber deck. The communal area leads to the four bedrooms via a long hallway. A nearby metal-clad shed houses the solar system and a large 80,000-liter water tank. + Modscape Images by John Madden

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This highly insulated modular home is completely self-sustaining

All-black solar panel from California achieves groundbreaking 19.4% efficiency

January 12, 2018 by  
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California -based Solaria has designed a sleek, all-black solar panel with more than just a pretty face. The company manufactures products with less space between the monocrystalline silicon solar cells for better efficiency than conventional solar panels, which tend to hit 15 to 17 percent, according to the company. In contrast, their black PowerXT solar panel boasts an efficiency of up to 19.4 percent. How is Solaria able to achieve better efficiency? Per a datasheet , they run a patented cell cutting and module assembly process and eliminate busbars and ribbon interconnections. On their website the company claims cells “are cut and overlaid without soldering which creates a highly reliable power unit assembly. The PowerXT module is electrically designed to reduce the power losses due to shadowing across the module by utilizing parallel connections between sets of sub-strings within each quadrant of the module.” Black backsheet and frames complete the look of the all-black panel Solaria describes as “one of the highest power modules in the residential solar market.” Related: Black butterfly wings provide inspiration for superior solar cells The Solaria PowerXT: Residential series panels offer a maximum power of 320 to 350 watt peak capacity. The company said the system would cost less because more efficient panels generate more energy per square meter, lowering installation costs and number of panels installed. Solaria’s datasheet didn’t offer a price for the module. But in a December press release on the PowerXT 350Wp, Auburn Solar owner Peggy Matson offered a hint, saying, “Solaria is great looking, highly efficient, and priced right so we can offer very competitive deals to our customers – often beating our competitors by thousands of dollars.” Solaria’s solar panels come with a 25-year warranty. This week, the company announced they’ve raised $23 million in funding to expand production. They also offer building integrated photovoltaics PowerView products – architectural glass that generates clean power on windows, facades, skylights, or other structures. + Solaria Via Electrek and Solaria ( 1 , 2 ) Images via Solaria

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All-black solar panel from California achieves groundbreaking 19.4% efficiency

6 places where soil-less farming is revolutionizing how we grow food

January 12, 2018 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

If it seems like “ hydroponics ” is everywhere, that’s because it is. Hydroponic farming is one efficient way to grow fruits and vegetables in small spaces without the use of soil. Instead of dirt, plants grow down into water to which farmers have added the necessary nutrients for plant growth. These are then absorbed, along with water, through a plant’s roots. Light is provided either by the sun or specially designed grow lights, with many sustainable systems powered from renewable energy sources. Aquaponic farming, also known as “ aquaponics ,” incorporates fish into the soil-less system, using the closed-loop nutrient cycle from fish digestion to their advantage. Some systems even feed nutrients to plants through the air! From water-less deserts to the sun-less underground, soil-less farming is offering new possibilities to feed an increasingly urban, growing global population in a more Earth-friendly way. 1. Stores With consumers increasingly conscious of their environmental impact, many stores have realized that going green is good for business. Big-box store Target began a series of trials in spring 2017 in which vertical, hydroponic gardens were installed in various Target locations to provide customers with the freshest possible produce. In collaboration with MIT Media Lab and Ideo, Target designed a system that is capable of growing leafy greens and herbs with minimal water usage. The company hopes to someday branch out into other crops, such as potatoes, zucchini and beets. MIT may even offer Target use of rare heirloom tomato seeds for its project. Meanwhile, IKEA has teamed up with Denmark-based SPACE10 to design high-tech hydroponics systems in-stores and in homes. 2. Deserts In preparation for a future dominated by climate change, in which oil becomes a lesser part of the world’s energy diet, Saudi Arabia has taken several major steps to build a more sustainable system in its challenging desert region. One such move is the rethinking of many traditional farming practices, especially focused on reducing water usage. A farm in the town of Jeddah uses neither water nor soil, rooting plants in mid-air while providing their nutrients through a mist. Designed by AeroFarms , the system is the first aeroponic farm in the Middle East and hopes to someday acquire all its water needs through capturing humidity in the air. Related: The future of food: how dry farming could save the world If a desert farm chooses to go hydroponic, there are ways to grow without draining freshwater supplies. In arid South Australia, SunDrops Farms grows 15% of the country’s tomato crop through a solar-powered hydroponic system. To eliminate the use of precious freshwater, SunDrops sources its water from the nearby saltwater gulf, which is then desalinated through the reflected heat of the sun. In a very different kind of desert, soil-less farming helps growers from the Arctic to Antarctica make the most of a short growing season. 3. Cities As the global population becomes more urban, cities are investing in more local food production systems that offer economic development opportunities and reduce a city’s carbon footprint. In a warehouse on the Near East Side of Indianapolis, Farm 360 are growing vegetables on a hydroponic system that is exclusively powered by renewable energy and uses 90 percent less water than traditional farming methods. The harvest is sold in local grocery stores while the farm supports dozens of living-wage jobs to residents of the neighborhood. In even the most isolated urban areas, soil-less farming finds a home. With its ability to receive vital supplies and support a functioning economy severely restricted by the Israeli blockade, Gaza has stepped out onto the rooftops to grow its own food. Beginning in 2010, a United Nations-funded urban agriculture program equipped over 200 female-headed households with fish tanks, equipment, and supplies to build and maintain an aquaponics growing system. This initial spark has encouraged others to create their own and to teach others of this valuable skill. 4. The Underground Farming without soil can often take place beneath the soil. In Paris, Cycloponics  runs La Caverne, a unique urban farm that grows mushrooms and vegetables in an underground, formerly abandoned parking garage . The farm’s hydroponics system uses special grow lights to ensure the vegetables have what they need to survive. The mushrooms grow in a special medium and, through their respiration, provide valuable CO2 for the plants to thrive. La Caverne may have found inspiration from Growing Underground , London’s first underground farm . On 2.5 acres of unused World War II-era tunnels, Growing Underground produces pea shoots, several varieties of radish, mustard, cilantro, Red Amaranth, celery, parsley, and arugula. Related: 7 agricultural innovations that could save the world Honorable mention: shipping container farms. Although these may be mobilized on the surface, they may as well be underground due to the closed roof of most shipping containers. The solar-powered hydroponicsLA-based Local Roots  can grow the same amount of vegetables, at cost parity, with 99 percent less water than traditional farming. 5. On the Water Some soil-less growing operations take it a step further, leaving the ground behind entirely and opting for a farm floating on water. Barcelona-based design group  Forward Thinking Architecture  has proposed a progressive solution to the decreasing availability of arable land by creating floating, solar-powered farms . Using modules that measure 200 meters by 350 meters, Forward Thinking’s design allows for expansion and custom configuration of farms. Each module has three levels: a desalinization and aquaculture level at the bottom, then a hydroponic farming level, topped off by a level of solar panels and rainwater collection. The company estimates that each module would produce 8,152 tons of vegetables a year and 1,703 tons of fish annually. Related: NexLoop unveils water management system inspired by spiders, fungi, bees and plants Greenwave takes an alternative approach to soil-less, floating farming by combining the cultivation of shellfish and seaweed , both profitable crops that also help to clean the aquatic environment and absorb greenhouse gases. The farm requires little external input, pulls carbon dioxide from the air and water, and consumes excess nitrogen that could otherwise result in algal blooms and dead zones. 6. Your Home Yes, you too could get in on the soil-less action. Whether you prefer to DIY or you’d rather something more straightforward , there are options for every style . Lead image via Depositphotos , others via MIT OpenAg , Sundrop Farms , Esther Boston ,  Cycloponics , GreenWave , and Urban Leaf

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Belize votes to indefinitely end all oil exploration in its waters

January 8, 2018 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

The small Central American nation of Belize has decided to indefinitely end all new oil exploration in its waters. Belize only produces 3,000 barrels of oil a day, in contrast to the 1.5 million barrels that the United States produces each day in the Gulf of Mexico. However, this small but significant action sends a message to other developing countries trying to balance economic development with conservation. Like many developing economies, Belize’s depends on the export of its natural resources. Despite the economic importance of oil exports, the government decided that the preservation of its coral reefs and pristine waters were more important in the long run than petrodollars today. Home to a bit less than 400,000 people, Belize also hosts the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. This and Belize’s other natural attractions, such as lush rain forests, attract tourists from around the world and generate $200 million annually, over 10 percent of the country’s GDP, in tourism revenue. Allowing oil exploration along the coast could seriously endanger the country’s tourism industry and ecological health. Environmental groups have been advocating for a ban on oil exploration since 2006, when Belize’s only oil company discovered new reserves. Related: Gorgeous Belize eco-resort will offer 100% carbon neutral villas The coral reef and its accompanying tourism supports the livelihoods of more than 190,000 people in Belize, so it is no surprise that the public is engaged in protecting the ecosystem . “Belize is a small country making a mighty commitment to putting the environment first,” said World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) reef scientist Nadia Bood, according to Quartz . Environmentalists hope that Belize will inspire similar action in other countries. “Ending oil activities will encourage other countries to follow suit and take the urgent action that is needed to protect our planet’s oceans ,” said WWF campaigner Chris Gee, according to Quartz . “Like the Belize Barrier Reef, nearly half of natural World Heritage sites worldwide are threatened by industrial pressures.” Via Quartz Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Belize votes to indefinitely end all oil exploration in its waters

Wind power supplied 43.6% of Denmark’s energy in 2017

January 5, 2018 by  
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Denmark set a new renewable energy record in 2017 by obtaining nearly half of its power from wind . The renewable source supplied 43.6 percent of electricity demand, beating the nation’s prior record of 42 percent in 2015 . In just a few years, the country could obtain 50 percent of its power from wind. Denmark’s wind turbines were particularly active in 2017, generating 14,700 gigawatt-hours in 12 months for a new production record, according to Renewables Now . Since 2001, installed wind energy capacity has doubled – even though there are around 20 percent fewer turbines. That’s because today’s turbines are larger and more efficient. The nation has installed 5.3 gigawatts of wind power on land and offshore – and most of the offshore turbines were installed after 2001. Related: Wind energy supplied all of Denmark’s power needs one day last week By 2020, Denmark could obtain around half of its electricity via wind. By then the nation should be able to generate 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources including biomass and solar power . One of the world’s biggest wind turbine companies, Vestas , is headquartered in Denmark, and Danish companies are selling their green technology around the world, according to prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s new year speech cited by Danish Energy. CEO Lars Aagaard said milestones like the 43.6 percent figure help put Danish solutions on the agenda. At the end of 2017, Vestas announced a 96 megawatt order for a wind farm in India. TreeHugger points out that as transportation is powered more by electricity, greener grids are good news. Electric cars and buses are traversing the streets, and electric planes could someday be flying the skies. According to TreeHugger, 52 percent of new car sales in nearby Norway were electric. And while Denmark has quite a ways to go before they hit that target, once they do, those electric cars could run on clean electricity from all the wind power generated in the country. Via Danish Energy , Renewables Now , and TreeHugger Images via Depositphotos and Pixabay

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Wind power supplied 43.6% of Denmark’s energy in 2017

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