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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SolarGaps’ new solar blinds shade windows and generate clean energy

Dakota Access pipeline springs first oil leak – before completion

May 11, 2017 by  
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Before the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was even completed, it suffered its first leak. On April 6, the $3.8 billion project spilled 84 gallons of crude oil at a South Dakota pump station, enraging members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and other activists who protested its development for nearly one year. The Guardian reports that the leak was quickly contained and cleaned. However, critics of the spill say that the environmental travesty could have been prevented had state officials listened to concerned members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and those who support them. The pipeline was in its final stages of preparing to transport oil when the leak occurred. Beginning in April of 2016, thousands of people gathered near Cannon Ball, ND, to protest the DAPL ’s development. The main concerns continue to be that its construction could contaminate the Missouri river and that a portion of land the DAPL runs through was promised to the Standing Rock Sioux in an 1851 treaty. Though the Obama administration halted the DAPL’s development in December of 2016, President Trump ordered it to resume shortly after his inauguration. Activists were forcibly removed from the protest grounds. Jan Hasselman, a lawyer for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, said, “They keep telling everybody that it is state of the art, that leaks won’t happen, that nothing can go wrong. It’s always been false. They haven’t even turned the thing on and it’s shown to be false.” “It doesn’t give us any pleasure to say, ‘I told you so.’ But we have said from the beginning that it’s not a matter of if, but when. Pipelines leak and they spill. It’s just what happens,” she added. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has fought Energy Transfer Partners and the U.S. government in court, argues that the project requires a full environmental study to assess the risks. Because President Trump has financial ties to the oil company, however, it is unlikely such an assessment will be conducted. Standing Rock Sioux tribe chairman Dave Archambault II said the spill is just one more sign the courts should intervene. “Our lawsuit challenging this dangerous project is ongoing, and it’s more important than ever for the court to step in and halt additional accidents before they happen – not just for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and our resources but for the 17 million people whose drinking water is at risk,” he said in a statement. Related: Major oil spill 150 miles from DAPL protest validates Standing Rock concerns Neither the company nor the state have made a public announcement about the spill . According to Brian Walsh, an environmental scientist with the South Dakota department of environment and natural resources, this is because the spill was relatively minor as it was caused by a mechanical failure at a surge pump. “It’s not uncommon to have a small release at a pump station,” said Walsh, adding that the company responded immediately and cleaned up the liquid petroleum. Via The Guardian

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Dakota Access pipeline springs first oil leak – before completion

Colorado appeals court sides with teenagers fighting oil and gas industry

March 27, 2017 by  
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Teenagers fighting environmental destruction at the hands of the oil and gas industry in Colorado just celebrated a victory. Last week the Colorado Court of Appeals sided with teenage activist and Earth Guardians director Xiuhtezcatl Martinez , who filed suit, and reversed a lower court ruling so the state could have to prioritize environmental protection before the interests of the fossil fuel industry . Back in 2013 Martinez and other teenagers approached the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), a state organization that according to their website is charged with promoting responsible development of fossil fuel resources in Colorado “in a manner consistent with the protection of public health , safety, and welfare, including the environment and wildlife resources.” But apparently the kids didn’t think they were doing such a great job with that mission – and they weren’t alone. According to The Denver Post, COGCC officials for over 10 years have interpreted their mission to balance fossil fuel industry interests against public health. Since the commission’s formation, over 50,000 oil wells have been drilled. Related: 16-year-old activist demands US gov end fossil fuel use by 2026 The kids asked the organization to not issue any new drilling permits “unless the best available science demonstrates, and an independent third party organization confirms, that drilling can occur in a manner that does not cumulatively, with other actions, impair Colorado’s atmosphere, water, wildlife, and land resources, does not adversely impact human health, and does not contribute to climate change .” COGCC refused after holding a hearing. The teenagers appealed, with the support of over a dozen advocacy groups. But the Denver District Court backed the COGCC. So the teenagers appealed again, and last week a three-judge appeals court panel sided with the teenagers. The fight isn’t over. The COGCC doesn’t have to now implement the teenagers’ rule. Instead the ruling means the organization illegally rejected the rule, and the case returns to district court. Via Business Insider and The Denver Post Images via Xiuhtezcatl Martinez on Facebook and Teja Jonnalagadda on Facebook

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Colorado appeals court sides with teenagers fighting oil and gas industry

Circular home boasts 360-degree views so owners can watch their dogs

March 27, 2017 by  
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The biggest motivation behind this circular home’s 360-degree views isn’t the beautiful landscape—it’s the homeowners’ dogs. Dutch architecture firm 123DV designed 360 Villa, a contemporary dwelling in the Netherlands that shows how architecture can be inclusive of humans and animals. Commissioned by a couple who own a pair of beautiful Alaskan Malamutes, the custom home is wrapped in glazing to allow the couple to stay in constant contact with their dogs both in and outside the home. Surrounded by a sloped lawn, the 85-square-meter 360 Villa offers ample space for the homeowners’ two Alaskan Malamutes to play and release their high energy. To give the dogs space and the constant contact they need with their owners, 123DV designed the home with a circular plan and wrapped it in a “continuous window” to provide visual contact between the dogs and couple. The roof extends over the edge of the home to create a wraparound canopy that provides shelter from the rain and sun. Related: This house has a special staircase designed just for dogs To preserve privacy, the architects built up the land into a hill on the street-facing side of the villa so that the owners can see their dogs without needing a full-height window . Despite the small footprint, the 360 Villa feels spacious thanks to the large windows and the open floor plan. The open-plan kitchen, dining room, and living area take up around two-thirds of the interior and open to an outdoor deck. The bedroom and bathroom can be closed off from the living room by sliding doors. A large circular skylight in the middle of the home lets in additional natural light. + 123DV Via ArchDaily Images © Hannah Anthonysz

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Circular home boasts 360-degree views so owners can watch their dogs

Trump administration could open door to geoengineering

March 27, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump’s main stance on climate change is usually denial, but if he does take action it could be with the controversial approach of geoengineering . Large-scale climate engineering didn’t receive much support under President Barack Obama, but now environmental organizations are saying in the new administration interest may be building for solar geoengineering, or spraying sulphate particles in the air with the hope of reflecting the sun’s radiation back into outer space to lower Earth’s temperature. Harvard University scientists David Keith and Frank Keutsch, who started the largest solar geoengineering research program in the world, may find support in the new administration. The two engineers hope to test spraying in 2018 in Arizona via a high-altitude balloon to obtain information of the practice’s impacts at a large scale. At a geoengineering forum last week, Keith seemed to indicate now might be the time to carry the research forward, saying he is ready for field testing. A briefing paper for the form stated the context for talking about solar geoengineering research “has changed substantially since we planned and funded this forum nearly one year ago.” Related: US Congress could fund geoengineering research for the first time Rex Tillerson , current Secretary of State, might also support geoengineering. The Guardian reported ExxonMobil scientists worked on geoengineering techniques like carbon dioxide removal while Tillerson was CEO, and at a 2015 ExxonMobil shareholder meeting Tillerson said “plan B has always been grounded in our beliefs around the continued evolution of technology and engineered solutions.” And one of the Trump Environmental Protection Agency transition architects, David Schnare, has lobbied American lawmakers and testified to the Senate in support of the controversial approach to climate change. Silvia Riberio of watchdog organization ETC Group told The Guardian, “Clearly parts of the Trump administration are very willing to open the door to reckless schemes like David Keith’s, and may well have quietly given the nod to open-air experiments. Worryingly, geoengineering may emerge as this administration’s preferred approach to global warming . In their view, building a big beautiful wall of sulphate in the sky could be a perfect excuse to allow uncontrolled fossil fuel extraction. We need to be focusing on radical emissions cuts, not dangerous and unjust technofixes.” Via The Guardian Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Trump administration could open door to geoengineering

"Piggy Bank," a turtle that swallowed 915 coins, has died

March 23, 2017 by  
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A venerated sea turtle who was fed hundreds of coins by supplicants seeking good fortune is dead . The 25-year-old animal was living in a pond in a town near the Gulf of Thailand in late February when rescuers found her close to drowning from the weight of her cache—about 11 pounds worth. After naming her Omsin, which is Thai for “piggy bank,” a team of veterinary surgeons operated on the turtle for seven hours. By the time they were finished, they had filled a bucket with 915 coins, in currencies both foreign and domestic. Omsin was expected to survive, if not thrive. By all accounts, her rehabilitation at Bangkok’s Veterinary Medical Aquatic Animals Research Center went smoothly. She received laser therapy on her belly incision. A large kiddie pool, coupled with physical therapy for a wonky flipper, helped her ease back into water. Following a liquid diet, Omsin returned to eating solid food. “She is getting stronger,” Nantarika Chansue, a veterinary scientist who tracked Omsin’s progress on Facebook, wrote on March 9. Just as her doctors began planning her release to the wild, Omsin’s condition suddenly deteriorated. They found her intestines in a tangle in the space where the coins once filled. An infection had developed, causing her abdomen to swell up with gas and fluid. Related: Sea turtle is rescued after being dragged onto a beach and beaten for selfies Despite rushing the turtle into intensive care on Sunday night, then emergency surgery on Monday, Omsin lapsed into a comma. On Tuesday, she died, a victim of ignorance and superstition. “At 10:10 a.m., she went with peace,” Nantarika said during a news conference. Visibly weeping, she called Omsin her “friend, teacher and patient.” Nantarika was comforted by just one thought. “She at least had the chance to swim freely and eat happily before she passed,” she said. Via the Washington Post Photos by Unsplash

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"Piggy Bank," a turtle that swallowed 915 coins, has died

Turn any bike into an e-bike with UrbanX’s drop-in wheel

March 20, 2017 by  
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Are you intrigued by electric bicycles but already own a regular bike? UrbanX created a drop-in wheel that can turn almost any old bicycle into a cool e-bike. The wheel only takes around one minute to install and boasts an impressive range of 30 miles on a single charge. The UrbanX bike wheel simplifies e-bikes: add their wheel and you’re good to go. The product adds an additional 15 pounds to a bike, which isn’t as heavy or clunky as some electric bikes can be. The company behind the product offers the wheel in six sizes; they say it will fit 99 percent of bikes. Their compact battery charges in an hour and a half. Related: Juicer electric bikes bridge dorky environmentalism and cool-guy style https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/934648866/urbanx-convert-any-bike-to-an-electric-bike-in-60/description The company offers a 240 watt motor and a 350 watt motor. The 240W motor’s top speed is 15 miles per hour (mph) while the 350W motor’s top speed is 20mph. Bikers can also pedal as normal; UrbanX includes a three level pedal assist system that can be switched via an app. UrbanX says their product “works smarter, not harder by using an algorithm to ensure 100 percent of motor output is utilized to power your ride.” They came up with their patent-pending Sinus Algorithm Controlling System to boost the battery and motor’s efficiency. UrbanX isn’t the first company to come out with such a product; GeoOrbital also recently unveiled a bike wheel that converts bicycles into e-bikes within 60 seconds. The look of the two wheels are quite different, and UrbanX’s 240W motor wheel is much less expensive than GeoOrbital’s wheel. To help bring their product to market, UrbanX also turned to crowdfunding . With over 30 days to go, they’ve raised more than double their initial goal of $50,000 on Kickstarter . The limited early bird prices for the tires start at $299. UrbanX ambitiously says they’ll be delivering the wheels this summer. Via TreeHugger Images via UrbanX Electric Wheel Facebook

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Turn any bike into an e-bike with UrbanX’s drop-in wheel

Beautiful P+R building can house hundreds of bicycles in the Netherlands

March 20, 2017 by  
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Park and ride buildings aren’t often beautiful, but this recently completed facility in Zutphen is a stunning exception. MoederscheimMoonen Architects created the stylish P+R facility near a railway station in the Netherlands’ Noorderhaven district. Built to reference the town’s industrial past, the contemporary building accommodates 375 parking spaces and has spots for over 600 bicycles . Located next to the town’s train station, the unique park and ride structure pays homage to the town’s historic warehouses and traditional industries through its design and choice of materials. One side of the building features a large gabled facade with wooden shutters to mimic the appearance of a factory warehouse. On the other side of the building are two helix-shaped ramps that hide the car’s vertical transport with a sculptural design. In a nod to the nearby steel bridge over the River IJssel, the structure is mounted on a series of “playfully positioned” galvanized columns. Related: Corridor-free high school in the Netherlands bathes students in natural light Ample natural light and ventilation passes through the building due to the slatted facade. The wooden slats were installed at different angles and combined with strips of red steel to create a playful and dynamic appearance. Vertical LED strips illuminate the building at night. + MoederscheimMoonen Architects Images by Harry Noback (HN) and Bart van Hoek (BvH)

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Beautiful P+R building can house hundreds of bicycles in the Netherlands

From now on all Smart cars in North America will be electric

February 14, 2017 by  
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Soon when you see Smart cars zipping by on the streets of North America, there’s a good chance they’ll be powered by electricity . Automotive company Daimler said in a letter they’ll stop selling gas-powered Smart cars in the United States and Canada, and instead will sell only electric versions of their micro cars in those countries. German publication Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung broke the news based on a letter they obtained, reviewed by Reuters. Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Dietmar Exler wrote the letter to car dealerships in North America informing them the car company will cease selling combustion engine Smart cars in the fall when the 2017 model year is finished. Related: Daimler Goes Smaller Than the Smart Car with Its Smart E-Bike The fortwo, fortwo cabrio, and forfour will all be offered as electric vehicles. A 17.6 kilowatt-hour battery will power the cars, which all have around 100 miles of range and a top speed of 80 miles per hour, according to the car company. The German prices for the cars are between $25,000 and $28,000, according to Electrek, although they note prices could vary slightly in the United States. Depending on the final prices, when electric vehicle incentives are accounted for, the sharp little electric cars could end up being quite affordable. Exler writes, “Developments within the micro-car segment present some challenges for the current smart product portfolio. A dedicated focus on the electric drive in the U.S. and Canada provides a logical step to support a sustainable, zero emissions future.” Markets outside of America and Canada will still have access to gas-powered cars. Mercedes-Benz USA sold just 6,211 Smart cars in 2016, while global sales totaled 144,479. Reuters points to Exler’s recent letter as the latest signal showing the small car market is struggling in America. Via Electrek and Reuters Images via Daimler and smart Facebook

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From now on all Smart cars in North America will be electric

Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan donate $3.6 million to stem SF housing crisis

February 9, 2017 by  
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Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook , and his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan, are donating millions of dollars to help to help mitigate the effects of San Francisco’s so-called “housing crisis.” The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative , the limited liability vehicle the duo established in 2015 for their philanthropic endeavors, is giving $3.1 million to the Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto , a nonprofit legal-aid group that works with evicted and displaced individuals and families of limited means. Another $500,000 will benefit the University of California, Berkley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation , which works to solve housing challenges through research and policy. “In the Bay Area, few challenges are greater than the need for affordable housing,” David Plouffe, president of policy and advocacy for the initiative, said in a statement. “[The grants] will support those working to help families in immediate crisis while supporting research into new ideas to find a long-term solution—a two-step strategy that will guide much of our policy and advocacy work moving forward.” CLSPEA says it will portion some of its grant, which will be doled out over three years, to grassroots partners such as Faith in Action-Bay Area and Youth United for Community Action . The money will help the organization serve an additional 2,500 residents, according to Daniel Saver, senior staff attorney for CLSEPA’s housing program. Most of them live in in East Palo Alto, Belle Haven, and North Fair Oaks, and many either risk displacement or live in unsafe conditions. Related: Mark Zuckerberg announces he will give 99% of his Facebook shares to charity “Housing is on the tip of everyone’s tongue in the Bay Area,” Saver told the Mercury News . “The crisis affects people all across the gamut: middle class and working class, teachers, nurses, service workers … and especially people of color are being written out of our communities by rising rents and unjust evictions. It’s not just a housing crisis that we have; we have a displacement disaster on our hands. We’re bleeding people out of our communities every single day.” Carol J. Galante, faculty director at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation, said Chan and Zuckerberg’s largesse will help her group “figure out how the Bay Area can get out of the difficult situation it’s in relative to such high costs of housing.” She is, at the moment, editing a paper about off-site construction and how the construction industry “ramp that up” in a way that not only lowers costs by 20 percent but also curtails building time by 40 percent. “A portion of the apartment that you’re building is prebuilt in a factory,” she explained. “Think of it as bringing in Legos and stacking them together on top of the foundation.” Via Mercury News Photos from Facebook

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