Silicon Valley’s top firms are embracing diversity

September 30, 2017 by  
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Google, HP and Facebook echo the #YesWeCode mission by championing minorities and women in the workplace — but there’s still room for innovation.

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Silicon Valley’s top firms are embracing diversity

What’s the best way to buy renewable energy?

September 21, 2017 by  
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Etsy, Facebook, Google, REI, Starbucks share tales of progress at VERGE17.

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What’s the best way to buy renewable energy?

Dubai to expand massive solar park to include world’s tallest solar tower

September 19, 2017 by  
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There are 2.3 million photovoltaic panels at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park near Dubai . And now the massive solar farm is about to get a 700 megawatt (MW) extension, which will include the addition of an 853-foot solar tower , the world’s tallest. The first phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park became operational in 2013 with 13 MW. It now has a capacity of 200 MW, after the second phase was launched in March this year. But the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has big plans for the solar park : by 2020, they plan to increase capacity to 1,000 MW, with the aim to increase that number to 5,000 MW by 2030. The solar park is the world’s biggest single-site concentrated solar power (CSP) project. Related: Phase 3 of world’s largest solar park slated to begin this month DEWA recently awarded the 14.2 billion AED fourth phase of the solar park to a consortium including ACWA Power in Saudi Arabia and Shanghai Electric in China. They won the contract with a bid of 7.3 US cents per kilowatt-hour. DEWA CEO HE Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer said in a statement, “Our focus on renewable energy generation has led to a drop in prices worldwide and has lowered the price of solar power bids in Europe and the Middle East. This was evident today when we received the lowest CSP project cost in the world.” CSP has been more expensive than traditional solar power in the past, which is one of its downsides. But CSP projects also have the ability to store some of the power as heat for later use. In 2030, the solar park could cover 83 square miles, and slash carbon emissions by 6.5 million metric tons a year. Via New Atlas and Business Wire Images via AETOS Wire and Dubai Electricity and Water Authority – DEWA Facebook

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Dubai to expand massive solar park to include world’s tallest solar tower

5 brilliant designs that will change the world win the 2017 INDEX: Award

September 1, 2017 by  
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The world’s biggest design award was just bestowed upon five groundbreaking green designs that stand to improve life around the globe. The biennial INDEX: Award honors sustainable designs that address global challenges, and this year’s winners came from a pool of 1403 entries. From a floating farm that heals ocean ecosystems to a life-saving centrifuge that costs 25 cents, read on for a first look at this year’s winners – live from the INDEX: Award ceremony in Denmark. Zipline Delivering emergency medical supplies in developing nations can be difficult. On average, it takes four hours to send vaccines and blood transfusions from a central facility, but it can take much longer in the event of a natural disaster or infrastructural collapse. Enter Zipline – the world’s first commercial medical drone delivery system. Zipline uses a simple system to quickly and efficiently deliver critical medical supplies. Health workers text an order, and items are packaged at a distribution center. Then a drone is dispatched and the items are delivered by parachute with a high degree of precision. A single drone can carry a payload of 1.5 kilos for up to 150 kilometers – and it can make 500 deliveries in 24 hours in all weather conditions, for the equivalent cost per trip of a motorbike or ambulance delivery. Zipline began delivering blood to 21 transfusion facilities in western Rwanda in 2017, and it’s set to begin delivering blood and medicine in remote Maryland, Nevada and Washington over the next year. What3Words You might take your address for granted, but according to the UN, 4 billion people lack a way to reliably address their homes. This leads to myriad problems, as those without addresses are denied access to basic social and civic services – it’s difficult or impossible for them to open bank accounts, register births, or sign up for utilities like electricity and water. What3Words solves this problem by dividing the world into 57 trillion 3 meter x 3 meter squares, and assigning a unique combination of three words to each square. The resulting grid is more precise than street addresses, and it allows anyone to share their location quickly for emergency situations, census taking or even everyday mail delivery. GreenWave The world’s oceans are in trouble. 90% of large fish stocks are threatened by overfishing , the amount of carbon dioxide in our oceans is higher than at any point in the past 400,000 years, and nitrogen pollution from farms, factories and homes creates oxygen-depleted dead zones. Greenwave is a revolutionary ocean farm that addresses all of these issues while producing healthy local food, restoring ecosystems, and creating jobs for fishermen. The hurricane-proof floating farm grows shellfish and seaweed using “mussel socks,” oyster cages and nets. Each species is selected to address an environmental challenge – for instance, oysters naturally filter out excess nitrogen, and seaweed soaks up five times more CO2 than land-based plants. GreenWave also provides ocean farmers with grants, free outdoor gear, and training – and it promises to purchase 80% of new farmers’ crops over five years at triple the market rate. Paperfuge Every year, five million people are killed by three highly infectious diseases: malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis. Diagnosing and treating these illnesses is difficult in parts of the world with limited access to infrastructure, electricity and medical facilities. Centrifuges are critical tools that can isolate and detect infections – but they require electricity to function and can cost up to $1,000 per machine. The Paperfuge provides a brilliant alternative – it’s a simple device inspired by a five-thousand-year-old toy that can separate plasma from a blood sample in 90 seconds. The device weighs about 2 grams, it’s made from paper, string and plastic, and it only costs 25 cents to make – which makes it an accessible, low-cost “frugal design” with the potential to save millions of lives around the world. Ethereum Ethereum offers a way to validate your digital identity and make online transactions while keeping complete control over your personal information – instead of giving it over to a third party service like Facebook or Paypal. It’s a platform that provides developers with tools, custom blockchains and networks to build decentralized applications that can transform the way we interact with money, business, government and society. Since the applications use a blockchain, there’s no centralized server that can get hacked or shut down. + INDEX: Award + INDEX: Design to Improve Life

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5 brilliant designs that will change the world win the 2017 INDEX: Award

Startup is developing kelp farms in the open ocean to make carbon-neutral biofuel

September 1, 2017 by  
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Could a robotic kelp farm offer an alternative fuel for cars or jets? The founders behind Marine BioEnergy hope so. The startup will soon begin testing a prototype of their kelp elevator, a farm that can move up and down in the water with the help of drones to optimize access to sunlight and nutrients, near Catalina Island in California . They think biofuel made from the kelp could be cost-competitive with fossil fuels . Marine BioEnergy’s new kelp elevator grows seaweed on a long tube, and if tests go well, they hope to start farming in the open ocean between Hawaii and California. They’re working with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory , which has developed a way to transform kelp into biocrude. The kelp fuel should be carbon neutral since kelp absorbs around the same amount of carbon dioxide as would be emitted when the fuel is burned. Related: Breakthrough algae strain produces twice as much biofuel In 2015, the United States Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) gave a grant to Marine BioEnergy, which was started by wife and husband team Cindy and and Brian Wilcox, who works a day job in space robotics at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Marine BioEnergy has also been working with the University of Southern California’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on a proof-of-concept study. Kelp could provide a better biofuel: it has little cellulose or lignin, fibers that are hard to process. Grown in the ocean, kelp also wouldn’t require pesticides or irrigation as plants on land might. In optimal conditions, it can grow over a foot a day. And the kelp elevator could help the seaweed reach those conditions, even in the open ocean. Kelp grows best in shallow coastal waters, where it can anchor to the ocean floor and receive sunlight. But to scale up kelp production, Marine BioEnergy would need the space of the open ocean. Their robotic elevator could help kelp receive the sunlight, from near the ocean’s surface, and nutrients, from deeper waters, to thrive. Drones could also keep the kelp elevator avoid storms and stay out of the way of ships, and when the seaweed is ready, tow it to a ship. The team is trying to determine whether it might be more economical to make the biocrude right on the ship since a processing center could fit on a container ship powered by the fuel. + Marine BioEnergy Via Fast Company Images via USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies Facebook

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Startup is developing kelp farms in the open ocean to make carbon-neutral biofuel

Florence is the largest asteroid to pass Earth in a century

September 1, 2017 by  
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Though the American eclipse may have come and gone, the skies above Earth never cease to amaze with new interstellar events. Early this morning, according to NASA, Florence became the largest asteroid to approach our planet in over a century. The asteroid measures 2.7 miles (4.4 km) in diameter and passed by from the relative proximity of 4.4 million miles (7 million km) away from Earth, roughly 18 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon. Although other asteroids have traveled closer to Earth in the past, none were as massive as Florence, the largest near-Earth asteroid ever tracked by NASA. Florence, like all asteroids in our solar system , formed out of the debris left behind after the formation of the planets and the sun . It was originally discovered by Schelte “Bobby” Bus at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia in 1981 and named after Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing and pioneering statistician and social reformer. Florence’s trip near Earth, its closest since 1890, provided scientists with a unique opportunity to study the ancient asteroid. Related: Astrophysicist warns asteroid strike is not a matter of if, but when NASA researchers used deep space radar to study the size, shape, rotation, surface features, and determine the precise path of the asteroid. Amateur astronomers also observed the asteroid, which was relatively easy to spot since it reflects 20 percent of sunlight that reaches its surface, in contrast to only 12 percent reflection from the Moon . Scientists project that Florence will not come this close to Earth again until 2500. Via BBC Images via NASA (1) , (2)

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Florence is the largest asteroid to pass Earth in a century

First designed for Burning Man, foldable Shiftpods now shelter refugees around the world

August 22, 2017 by  
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The 70,000 people that venture each year to Burning Man in Black Rock Desert, Nevada need shelter that will protect them from the elements – and refugees around the world need them even more. Christian Weber, who has been going to the desert festival for over 20 years, decided there had to be a better way than the fragile old hexayurts that were hard to assemble. So he designed foldable Shiftpods that now provide warmth and safety for displaced people all over the world. Weber started by making his shelters for friends headed to Burning Man , not thinking he’d just started what would turn into a multimillion-dollar business. He ended up with 300 orders. So he launched his own company, Advanced Shelter Systems Inc (ASSI), in California, and from the beginning decided to donate one Shiftpod for every 20 sold. Related: Self-shaping shelters that could revolutionize emergency housing Weber designed a shelter that can fold up into one piece. Shiftpods are insulated and tall enough for most people to stand up inside. It also stands up to wind – in a recent test at John Brown University the shelter didn’t blow away until winds from a giant fan placed by the Shiftpod reached 109 miles per hour. ASSI recently started offering their Shiftpod 2.0, which weighs 64 pounds. When it’s popped open, it offers 12.5 feet by 12.5 feet by six feet and ten inches of space. Folded up, it’s 76 by 13 by 13 inches. It costs $1,499.99, but is currently on sale for $1,299. But Weber didn’t stop with festival shelters. He told Fast Company, “There’s 53.4 million forcibly displaced in the world right now because of wars and politics. A lot of them are living in shanty shacks with blue tarps, so we’re trying to create a low-cost, easy-to-ship, easy-to-set-up unit that people can live in for up to five years.” Now Shiftpods have popped up in Nepal, Japan, Ecuador, Haiti, and North Dakota, to name a few countries. ASSI now offers Shelterpods and Responsepods, both targeted for disaster relief . ASSI eventually aims to offer kits that offer more than just shelter. Every year at Burning Man, Weber’s group of campers transport their Shiftpods in a shipping container that then serves as an air-conditioned kitchen with fold-down tables. Weber’s goal “…is to set up kits for individuals to take with them that have a shelter, water filtration, and everything you need for a family of four to survive for 30 days. And to build systems for up to 1,600 people [that can be stored] in one container.” + Advanced Shelter Systems Inc. Via Fast Company Images via ASSI and Shiftpod Facebook

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First designed for Burning Man, foldable Shiftpods now shelter refugees around the world

Beautiful timber pavilion unfolds like origami

July 31, 2017 by  
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There’s something irresistibly charming about bringing the paper art of origami to life in large scale. Architects Manuel Bouzas Cavada, Manuel Bouzas Barcala and Clara Álvarez Garcí drew inspiration from folded paper in Origami, a temporary installation for the architecture and design festival Concéntrico 03 in Logroño, Spain. Built of timber panels, this ephemeral pavilion is a beautiful structure that glows from within and delicately unfolds to reveal a multifaceted interior. Selected as the winning proposal for the festival’s information kiosk, Origami is constructed from 39 folded wooden panels joined together with hinges. The Garnica panels are self-supporting and the installation is assembled without any supporting structures or sub-structures—gravity keeps the hinged components in place. Though simple in design, the pavilion is strikingly beautiful thanks to its intricate facade that resembles a bejeweled treasure chest. Related: Larger-than-life pineapple origami structure pops up on a historic UK landscape Gaps between the timber panels allow light to seep through, giving Origami the appearance of a glowing lantern at night. The jury wrote: “The project has been selected for its iconic character and singular geometry, and was highlighted as a landmark in the festival. Based on the concept of pattern and using the technique of origami, the pavilion opens up to its surroundings. Its disposition provokes new interpretations of space and activity in the plaza. The pavilion and its surrounding areas are transformed throughout the day and during the night with the differing light.” + Concéntrico 03 Via ArchDaily Images via Concéntrico 03 Facebook

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Beautiful timber pavilion unfolds like origami

Affordable home geothermal energy systems come to upstate New York

July 17, 2017 by  
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When you think of home renewable power systems, geothermal energy probably isn’t the first source that springs to mind. But new company Dandelion , which starts after time at Google’s moonshot factory X , aims to power houses with the clean , free source “right under our feet.” They’re offering their systems beginning in northeastern America. The Dandelion team launched their company independent of Alphabet this month, offering geothermal heating and cooling for homes. They come in and replace cooling, heating, and hot water equipment with their geothermal systems, including underground pipes and a heat pump, which gather energy from the earth. The company describes geothermal cooling and heating as the most efficient method of such climate control for the home. Related: St. Patrick’s Cathedral unveils state-of-the-art geothermal plant Affordability was one of Dandelion’s main goals. They say many homes haven’t yet adopted geothermal systems due to the hefty cost associated with setup. In contrast, Dandelion’s system costs $20,000. On their website they say they’ve partnered with a leading financing company to install the systems with zero costs upfront followed by low monthly payments. The company also designed a better drill to install the systems. In the past, geothermal systems were installed with a wide drill that was intended for water wells more than 1,000 feet into the ground. The Dandelion team designed a slender drill that can create one or two deep holes a few inches wide – with less waste. Their new drill lets them put in ground loops in under one day. Overall, putting in their geothermal systems takes two to three days. Dandelion’s heat pumps will last around 25 years, while the closed-loop piping can last for a minimum of 50. The system comes with a smart thermostat enabling homeowners to regulate the temperature inside. The team is starting with 11 counties in New York – they say regions with cold winters and hot summers are ideal for home geothermal systems. + Dandelion Via Kathy Hannun on Medium Images via Dandelion Facebook and Dandelion

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Affordable home geothermal energy systems come to upstate New York

Indian Railways launches first train with solar-powered coaches

July 17, 2017 by  
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Train travel in India just got a little greener. Last week Indian Railways rolled out their first train outfitted with rooftop solar panels – in the Delhi area notorious for its pollution . The solar panels will completely power fans, lighting, and display systems in the coaches. The government expects the move will save them around 5,547 gallons of diesel every single year. The train, a 1600 HP DEMU, is just the first of several more trains with solar-powered coaches to come. Indian Railways will install solar panels on 24 other trains in the upcoming six months. In the past, a diesel-fueled generator provided electricity for a train’s lighting and fans, but the new solar system includes a smart MPPT inverter so these features can be cleanly powered even during the night. According to Indian Railways, the solar panels will slash carbon dioxide generation by nine metric tons per coach per year. Related: Indian Railways installing rooftop solar panels on 250 trains 16 solar panels generating 300 watts each offer a 4.5 kilowatt peak capacity for each coach. The system can generate around 20 kilowatt-hours of clean power per day. A 120 AH battery system will store excess power generated during peak hours. Minister of Railways Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu said the railways are committed to conserving the environment and using more clean energy . The government’s press release on the trains pointed to other measures the railways have taken to become more environmentally friendly, such as the use of bio-toilets , biofuels, and wind energy. Jakson Engineers, under the guidance of the Indian Railways Organization for Alternative Fuels (IROAF), developed the new train solar system. Managing director Sundeep Gupta told Business Standard is was no easy feat to attach solar panels to trains that will move at speeds of 80 kilometers per hour, which is around 50 miles per hour. The train has a lifetime of around 25 years. Via Quartz India and Government of India Images via screenshot and Ministry of Railways on Twitter

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