Birds called ‘firehawk raptors’ are intentionally spreading fires in Australia

January 10, 2018 by  
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When you think of causes of fire in Australia , you might think of lightning or arsonists – but you probably don’t think of birds . But at least three birds of prey species spread wildfires in Australia, according to a new paper incorporating indigenous knowledge. Penn State University geographer and lead author Mark Bonta told National Geographic , “We’re not discovering anything. Most of the data that we’ve worked with is collaborative with Aboriginal peoples…They’ve known this for probably 40,000 years or more.” ‘Firehawk raptors’ – the Black Kite ( Milvus migrans ), Brown Falcon ( Falco berigora ), and Whistling Kite ( Haliastur sphenurus ) – spread fire by carrying burning sticks in their beaks or talons. They can transport fiery sticks up to around one kilometer, or 0.6 miles, away, staring fires where the flames haven’t yet burned. And while indigenous people have known about this behavior for a long time, this new study published in the Journal of Ethnobiology late last year documenting the knowledge and around six years of ethno-ornithological research could help overcome what the paper abstract described as “official skepticism about the reality of avian fire-spreading.” Related: Carnivorous marsupial alive and well after being presumed extinct for 100 years “Intentional Fire-Spreading by “Firehawk” Raptors in Northern Australia,” Bonta et al. Journal of Ethnobiology, 37(4) (abstract): https://t.co/JJVomc5zDy #ethnobiology #ethnoornithology #birds #fire pic.twitter.com/Bv4oSA6BpC — Bob Gosford (@bgosford) January 1, 2018 Why would these birds of prey set fires? According to National Geographic, the blazes could help them find food as small animals and insects attempt to escape the fire. Co-author Bob Gosford told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2016, “Black kites and brown falcons come to these fronts because it is just literally a killing frenzy. It’s a feeding frenzy, because out of these grasslands come small birds, lizards, insects, everything fleeing the front of the fire.” And it’s important to dispel skepticism so officials could better plan land management and restoration. The researchers hope their paper will help with fire ecology and fire management that takes into account these fire-spreading birds. Via ScienceAlert and National Geographic Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Birds called ‘firehawk raptors’ are intentionally spreading fires in Australia

South Australia to host world’s largest thermal solar plant

January 10, 2018 by  
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In South Australia , California-based SolarReserve is building what will be the world’s largest thermal solar plant. The $650 million, 150 megawatt solar plant has received state development approval and construction on the project will begin in 2018. “It’s fantastic that SolarReserve has received development approval to move forward with this world-leading project that will deliver clean, dispatchable renewable energy to supply our electrified rail, hospitals and schools,” South Australia’s acting energy minister Chris Picton told the Sydney Morning Herald . When fully operational, the plant will provide electricity for 90,000 homes and generate 500-gigawatts of energy each year. The South Australia solar thermal plant will feature a single tower that stands at the center of a vast field of solar mirrors, also known as heliostats. These mirrors reflect the sun’s rays onto the tower, which incorporates molten salt batteries to store the energy. This power can then be released as steam, which powers an electricity-generating turbine. When completed, the plant will mitigate the equivalent of 200,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Related: The world’s first 100% solar-powered train launches in Australia The plant will be located roughly 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of Port Augusta in South Australia, a region which has generated international headlines for its energy developments. In collaboration with Tesla , South Australia now hosts the world’s largest single-unit battery , which is capable of providing power to 30,000 homes. “The state has taken a series of positive steps towards greater energy independence which are really starting to pay off. And it has already met its target of 50 per cent renewable energy almost a decade early,” said Natalie Collard, Clean Energy Council executive general manager, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “South Australia is providing the rest of the country a glimpse of a renewable energy future. Our electricity system is rapidly moving towards one which will be smarter and cleaner, with a range of technologies providing high-tech, reliable, lower-cost power.” Via Sydney Morning Herald Images via Department of Energy

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South Australia to host world’s largest thermal solar plant

Tesla’s Buffalo Gigafactory is officially producing solar roof tiles

January 10, 2018 by  
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Tesla had planned to move Solar Roof tile production from their Fremont, California factory to the Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo , New York and it looks like they may have met that goal. The company confirmed in an email they began manufacturing the tiles in December. Tesla is producing its photovoltaic glass tiles in Buffalo. We don’t yet know how many they have made, according to The Buffalo News , but the Solar Roofs are slated to be installed on customer roofs in upcoming months. Over a dozen Tesla employees, including Elon Musk , had the product installed on their houses during a pilot program last year. Related: Tesla aims to ramp up Solar Roof production in Buffalo next year Tesla has said Solar Roofs could cost around 10 to 15 percent less than a regular roof equipped with traditional solar panels . Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Hugh Bromley isn’t so sure. He told Bloomberg he estimates a Tesla roof on a 2,000-square-foot house could cost around $57,000. Meanwhile terracotta tiles with a five-kilowatt solar panel system could cost around $41,000, according to Bromley, and an asphalt roof with solar panels would be around $22,000. Tesla began taking orders for their Solar Roofs in May, but didn’t disclose how many they’d received. The Buffalo News said the local region is counting on the Buffalo Gigafactory to bring in around 2,900 new jobs . Tesla said they’d create 1,460 jobs, and other suppliers and service providers could create 1,440 jobs in the region. Tesla says there are around 500 employees at the factory, but didn’t specify how many are working for them and how many for other companies like Panasonic , with whom Tesla is collaborating on solar products in Buffalo. According to The Buffalo News, Panasonic began manufacturing solar panels last summer at the site, and had said their workforce would top 300 there by the end of 2017, with plans to add 60 people during the spring. Via Bloomberg , The Buffalo News , and Reuters Images via Tesla

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Tesla’s Buffalo Gigafactory is officially producing solar roof tiles

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