French company debuts hydrogen-powered bikes

January 17, 2018 by  
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Pragma Industries is now the first company to begin industrial production of hydrogen-powered bicycles for commercial and municipal purposes. Founded in 2004, Pragma has now turned its fuel-cell expertise to the development of hydrogen fuel-cell powered bikes. Based in Biarritz, France , the company has already secured 60 orders for the hydrogen bikes from French municipalities such as Saint Lo, Cherbourg, Chambery and Bayonne. While the bikes are currently too expensive for the commercial market, costs are expected to eventually drop from 7,500 euros to 5,000 euros; charging stations cost about 30,000 euros. While Pragma is not the only company interested in hydrogen-powered bicycles, they have taken production of such vehicles the farthest — so far. “Many others have made hydrogen bike prototypes, but we are the first to move to series production,” Pragma founder and chief executive Pierre Forte told Reuters . Pragma’s Alpha bike is able to travel a distance of 100 kilometers (62 miles) on a two-liter (0.5 gallon) tank of hydrogen . Although the range is similar to that of a typical electric bike , the recharge time is significantly reduced from hours for a traditional e-bike to merely minutes for the Alpha hydrogen-powered bike. Related: Floating solar rig from Columbia University harvests hydrogen fuel from seawater Pragma offers two types of recharging stations: one that uses hydrolysis of water to generate hydrogen fuel on-site, and another, more affordable station that relies on tanks of already prepared hydrogen fuel. Due to the high cost, Pragma is currently marketing its bikes to larger commercial and municipal operations such as bike-rental operators, delivery companies, and municipal or corporate bicycle fleets. After producing 100 such bikes last year, Pragma hopes to sell 150 this year to organizations in places such as Norway , the United States, Spain, Italy and Germany. In addition to developing a bike that is capable of turning water into fuel without the need of a charging station, the company plans to massively expand into the retail market within the next few years. Via Reuters Images via Pragma Industries

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Consumers in Germany were paid to use electricity this holiday season

December 26, 2017 by  
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The cost of electricity in Germany has decreased so dramatically in the past few days that major consumers have actually been paid to use power from the grid. While “negative pricing” is not an everyday occurrence in the country, it does occur from time to time, as it did this holiday weekend. This gift to energy consumers is the result of hundreds of billions of dollars invested in renewable energy over the past two decades. This most recent period of negative pricing was a result from warm weather, strong breezes, and the low demand typical of people gathering together to celebrate. Germany’s temporary energy surpluses are a result of both low demand and variably high supply. Wind power typically makes up 12 percent of Germany’s power consumption on a daily basis. However, on windy days, that percentage can easily multiply several times the average. The older segment of Germany’s energy portfolio, such as coal plants , are not able to lower output quickly enough. Thus, there is a glut of electricity. On Sunday, Christmas Eve, major energy consumers, such as factory owners, were being paid more than 50 euros (~$60) per megawatt-hour consumed. Related: First public ultra-fast EV charging station in Europe is now operational Germany is not the only country that has experienced negatively priced power. Belgium, France, the United Kingdom , the Netherlands and Switzerland have all had to face the fortunate problem of too much energy. European countries are often able to share excess power with each other through the grid, though the system is far from perfect. This challenge highlights the essential need for affordable battery storage technology. With battery storage, countries will be able to save excess power in an energy bank, ready to be deployed in an emergency or simply returned to citizens in the form of cheap or even free energy. Via the New York Times Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Consumers in Germany were paid to use electricity this holiday season

Macron offers 18 scientists the chance to "Make Our Planet Great Again"

December 12, 2017 by  
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France’s president Emmanuel Macron had an answer to President Donald Trump’s decision to tug America out of the Paris Agreement : invite scientists to research climate change solutions in his country instead. The Make Our Planet Great Again initiative now has its first class: 18 scientists from around the world. They’ll move from institutions like Princeton University, Stanford University, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to work in France. Macron announced the 18 grants with French research minister Frédérique Vidal right before the One Planet Summit , a meeting convened by Macron, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to work towards climate action . 12 of the 18 scientists were based at American research centers, laboratories, or universities. Others come from institutions in Canada, Spain, India, the United Kingdom, Poland, and Italy. Related: Macron and Schwarzenegger throw shade at Donald Trump in new climate video Thank you for your answer to this first call, your decision to move and come to Paris. Here you have a hub to do more. pic.twitter.com/TFoGRLG5J8 — Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) December 11, 2017 One of the scientists is University of Plymouth professor Camille Parmesan, who hails from Texas and was a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Prize awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for her work as a lead author. She said Make Our Planet Great Again is “absolutely fabulous, and a very appropriate response to Trump pulling out of the Paris accords.” Bravo à tous ceux qui ont répondu au projet #MakeOurPlanetGreatAgain . Vous allez nourrir la vitalité dont nous avons besoin ! pic.twitter.com/X9t0sXdFd4 — Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) December 11, 2017 The French government is offering three to five year grants of up to 1.5 million Euros, or around $1.7 million, each, with a goal of attracting around 50 climate researchers. Over 1,800 scientists expressed interest. Of those, 450 were considered eligible and 255 turned in applications. 90 were invited to offer proposals, working with a French institution, and 57 proposals were turned in to the French National Research Agency. An international panel comprised of nine members reviewed the proposals. France will go through a second round of proposal evaluations next year, with Germany, which joined the project and committed 15 million Euros, or around $17.6 million. You can see the full list of the 18 winning scientists here . Via Science Magazine Images via Emmanuel Macron Facebook and Depositphotos

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Macron offers 18 scientists the chance to "Make Our Planet Great Again"

Scientists find the Earth’s constant hum is best heard from the ocean floor

December 12, 2017 by  
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European scientists have determined that the Earth’s unceasing humming is best heard from the ocean floor , presenting opportunities to better understand this mysterious phenomenon. Although the sound is far below the human hearing threshold, the Earth is constantly humming. While scientists have been aware of the Earth’s humming since 1959, with more definitive research emerging in 1998, the source of the sounds remains a mystery. Nonetheless, recent research using ocean-bottom seismometer stations has provided scientists with a clearer picture of the phenomenon than ever before. “It’s like taking a piano and slamming all the keys at the same time,” said Spahr Webb of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, according to National Geographic . “Except they’re not nice harmonics. They’re oddball frequencies.” The researchers, who hail from various earth science institutes across Europe , searched through seismometer records gathered from an area that stretches more than 1,200 square miles to the east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean . Using this data, the team determined two high-quality seismometer stations from which it extracted the sound of a humming Earth. However, at 2.9 to 4.5 millihertz, the vibrations are nearly 10,000 times lower than the frequencies that humans can detect. From this data, scientists were able to determine that the loudness of the hum does not change over time, contradicting previous studies that documented a range of amplitude for the sound. Related: Everything we know about the Earth’s mantle is completely wrong A better understanding Earth’s humming may prove invaluable to creating a more comprehensive map of Earth’s interior, which is usually only able to be studied during earthquakes . Although the recent study has not definitely determined the source and nature of Earth’s humming, it has clarified the phenomenon and offered opportunities for further research. “To better understand where the signal comes from, we believe that observing oscillations from the ocean bottom can help,” said study co-author Martha Deen, according to National Geographic. The most recent study credits atmospheric turbulence and ocean waves with causing the sounds, though this is far from conclusive. Via National Geographic Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Suspicious radioactive cloud over Europe may have originated in Russia

November 16, 2017 by  
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A radioactive cloud of pollution sounds like a plot point out of a B movie – but that’s what multiple European monitoring stations recently detected. Official monitors in Germany and France detected ruthenium 106, a nuclide, in late September, and some people suggested it originated in Kazakhstan or southern Russia . Multiple European monitoring stations confirmed the presence of ruthenium 106, according to France’s Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety , in the atmosphere of the majority of countries in Europe. The cause for alarm appears to have drifted away for now: the institute said since October 13, they have not detected ruthenium 106 in France. They said in a recent statement , “The concentration levels of ruthenium 106 in the air that have been recorded in Europe and especially in France are of no consequence for human health and for the environment .” Related: UNEP chief: Polluters should pay for environmental destruction, not taxpayers But there is some question over how much ruthenium 106 leaked in the first place. The institute said the amounts at the source would have been significant. If such an accident had occurred in France, authorities would have had to implement measures to protect populations for a few kilometers around the point of release. Where did the ruthenium 106 come from? Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation Protection said on October 11 , “Recent analyses as to the source of the radioactive substance suggest a high probability of a radioactive release in the Southern Ural, although other areas in the South of Russia still cannot be ruled out.” Just a few days earlier, on October 8, they’d said in a statement “Russia must be assumed to be the region of origin” and called on Russian authorities to provide information. The German and French agencies did not think the ruthenium 106 came from a nuclear reactor accident, as other nuclides probably would have been detected in such an event. France’s institute said the source could have been “nuclear fuel-cycle facilities or radioactive source production.” French agency senior official Jean-Christophe Gariel said he talked to counterparts in Russia last week, and “they told us that our results were coherent and correct, but that they were not aware of any event that could have caused that.” Via The New York Times , the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety , and the Federal Office for Radiation Protection ( 1 , 2 ) Images via Depositphotos and Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety

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Suspicious radioactive cloud over Europe may have originated in Russia

Historic French building stuffed with plastic bags looks ready to explode

November 15, 2017 by  
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A shockingly large number of plastic bags appeared to fill a historic stone building to near bursting in Bordeaux last month. The eye-catching installation is the most recent work of Luzinterruptus , a design collective famous for raising environmental awareness with plastic art installations. Created for the FAB Festival de Bourdeaux, the temporary artwork, titled The Plastic We Live With, turned into a light installation at night evocative of illuminated stained glass. Inspired by France’s ban of single-use plastic bags passed last year, The Plastic We Live With draws attention to the staggering amount of plastic waste in the world. “The idea was to graphically visualize, in a way that could be understood by all, the plastic excess that is around us, a recurrent subject in our work and in life, since practically everything we consume is either made with this material or it is wrapped in it or we are eating it in small particles in the meat and the fish we ingest,” Luzinterruptus wrote. Related: PlasticWaste Labyrinth is a stunning look inside our plastic waste problem The team, aided by 30 volunteers from the Asociacion Bénévoles en Action, collected thousands of plastic bags and recycled plastic for months from the city stores and warehouses. The bags were assembled in the openings of the building’s facade and lit from behind at night. The installation was on view for four days, after which the plastic was taken down and recycled with the building returned to its original condition. + Luzinterruptus Images via Lola Martínez

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Iridescent Monet-inspired Mtropole building catches the light on the River Seine

October 30, 2017 by  
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Fish scale-like colored glass clads the iridescent headquarters of Métropole Rouen Normandie, a stunning new landmark for a “future eco-district” in France. Designed by Jacques Ferrier Architecture , the eye-catching building takes inspiration from the impressionist works of Claude Monet, who produced many paintings of the nearby Rouen Cathedral. More than just good looks, the multifaceted structure emphasizes smart energy consumption with passive thermal protection and rooftop solar panels . Located on the banks of the River Seine , this 8,300-square-meter headquarters manages its massive size by mirroring the landscape and built environment. Its shimmering facade reflects the changing sky and river, while its silhouette and oblique shapes reference nearby industrial buildings and the bows of passing ships. Its fish scale-like facade of subtly colored glass —inspired by Monet’s impressionist paintings—is treated with a layer of metal oxide that creates the colorful iridescent reflection seen on the outside; this effect is unseen in the interior. Related: Iridescent Dragon-Like Scales Wrap Around Avant Garde Office Campus in Paris Natural light fills the interior, while terraces, open to visitors, offer panoramic views over the city and river. The architects emphasized easy navigation in the building layout organized according to use. A double-skin facade enhances passive thermal insulation. “The transparency and depth of the double façade enhance the variations of light and prevent the building from appearing overbearing,” wrote the architects. “The building’s appearance transforms throughout the day. With the light shining through, it appears to float on the quay.” + Jacques Ferrier Architecture Images by Luc Boegly

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Iridescent Monet-inspired Mtropole building catches the light on the River Seine

Dunkirk, France offers free public transit to all

October 26, 2017 by  
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The small coastal city of Dunkirk in northern France is perhaps most famous, at the moment, for its portrayal in Christopher Nolan’s eponymous 2017 film, but it also deserves special attention for its decision to offer free public transit to all. In a move designed to reinforce economic fairness and establish Dunkirk as a sustainable, low-carbon community, Mayor Patrice Vergriete established the city’s inclusive transit policy, which will expand free public transit service to seven days a week starting in September 2018. The policy change, paid for with money that was originally allocated for the construction of a sports stadium, has been successful in increasing and diversifying ridership and could prove to be a powerful model for other cities looking to improve their quality of life and decrease their carbon footprint. When Vergriete first ran for mayor in 2014, he articulated his vision of a diverse, inclusive city that welcomes young people and families, supports the mobility of the elderly, and empowers people with limited economic means , according to CityLab . “I wanted to give back purchasing power to the families,” explained Vergriete on his initial motive. After launching free weekend services, ridership soared, up 30 percent on Saturday and 80 percent on Sunday. When free public transit is fully expanding to an all-week schedule, Dunkirk will be the largest city in France, though not the first, to offer this service. Related: Singapore is banning all new private vehicles from its roads Although the public transit services in Dunkirk may be free to riders, it is not a free ride for the local government, which must fund the service . Vergriete has observed that some are skeptical of the city’s ability to deliver these services without burdening taxpayers. “They think it’s like magic,” said Vergriete. “They think it’s not possible, that you are a liar. You cannot pay the salaries of the drivers, for the buses, with free transport.” In fact, only 10 percent of the public transit’s funding in Dunkirk was paid for with fares, a model that is similarly used in cities around the world , writes CityLab. Since rider fares are already such a small slice of the pie, “mayors should think about making it free,” said Vergriete. “It’s really a choice that we are making to charge.” In addition to support from the regional government’s general budget, the free transit service is primarily funded by a special transit tax on businesses, which was originally raised by Vergriete’s predecessor to pay for an expansion to a local sports arena. “It is a question of political priority ,” said Vergriete, whose administration chose to use that money set aside for a stadium to fund inclusive public transit instead. Via CityLab Images via  Vincent Desjardins/Flickr , Marco Chiesa/Flickr and Depositphotos

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Dunkirk, France offers free public transit to all

Paris banned all cars for a day to highlight pollution issues

October 2, 2017 by  
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Pedestrians and cyclists cheered yesterday as Paris closed all of its streets to cars. The government held a Car Free Day and the streets filled with bikers, walkers, and roller-bladers instead of smog. Paris held a Car Free Day in 2015 and 2016 as well. But this was the first time they extended the boundaries to include the entire city . From 11 AM to 6 PM local time, cars were asked to stay off the streets – with exceptions made for emergency vehicles, taxis, and buses. The Paris City Council hosted Car Free Day, together with collective Paris Sans Voiture , or Paris Without Car, which is behind the city-wide car-free idea. Related: Activists Show What it Would Look Like if Bikes Took Up as Much Room as Cars Pollution from cars is often an issue in France’s capital – the Associated Press said mayor Anne Hidalgo was elected after promising to slash air pollution and cut traffic . The government’s statement on the day said one of the Car Free Day’s objectives was “to show that cities can and must invent concrete solutions to fight against pollution” coming from road traffic. They encouraged people to travel by scooters , skates, bikes , or walking . The symbolic event also brought results. The government said Airparif Association conducted independent measurements during the Car Free Day using sensors and a bicycle outfitted with measuring instruments. They saw “an increased decrease in nitrogen dioxide levels along major roads” and “access roads to the capital.” Meanwhile, the Bruitparif Observatory looked at noise with the help of 11 measurement stations. They saw sound energy decreased 20 percent on average, as compared against a regular Sunday. Via Paris and Associated Press/NBC News Images © Henri Garat – Mairie de Paris

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San Francisco’s Wave Organ captures the sounds of the sea to make haunting music

September 29, 2017 by  
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A symphony of strange and haunting music made from the waves can be heard at the tip of a jetty in San Francisco. Part sculpture, part musical instrument, the Wave Organ is an unusual land art installation that harnesses the rhythms of the water. Created by Exploratorium artists Peter Richards and George Gonzalez, the wave-activated sound sculpture is set atop the salvaged remains of a demolished cemetery and is one of the city’s best hidden gems. Installed in 1986, the Wave Organ is a somewhat obscure landmark, often overlooked due to its hard-to-find location at the end of a jetty east of the St. Francis Yacht Club. Making the trek out there, however, is worth it. Surrounded by stunning 360-degree views of the San Francisco bay, the environmental artwork harnesses the pulse of the sea through 25 PVC and concrete pipes located at various elevations that transmit the sounds of crashing waves and gurgling water to elevated openings for listening. Related: Incredible ‘Sea Organ’ uses ocean waves to make beautiful music The Wave Organ is best heard during high tide, but can still be enjoyed at other times of the day though the gurgling rhythms will be much quieter. The music of the bay, which is made by waves slapping against and pushed through the pipes, is relatively subtle. Visitors will need to sit and let their ears attune to the environment to fully enjoy the performance. Carved granite and marble salvaged from the demolished crypts of the city’s former Laurel Hill Cemetery provide plenty of seating. Times for high tides can be checked here . + Exploratorium Images via Wikimedia , Shutterstock

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