Tesla inks deal to turn 50,000 Australian homes into solar power generators

February 5, 2018 by  
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50,000 homes in South Australia will soon receive solar panels and Tesla batteries as part of a groundbreaking plan to transform homes into grid-connected power generators. This latest collaboration between the state of South Australia and Tesla seeks to create an interconnected energy system in which homes can share energy through a smart-grid system. Select homes will receive solar panels and rechargeable batteries for free, while the project will be funded by the sale of excess energy produced by linked, energy-producing homes. The recently announced plan is only the latest renewable energy initiative in South Australia, which began its comprehensive efforts towards clean power after a state-wide blackout in 2016. “My government has already delivered the world’s biggest battery, now we will deliver the world’s largest virtual power plant,” said state Premier Jay Weatherill in a statement . “We will use people’s homes as a way to generate energy for the South Australian grid, with participating households benefiting with significant savings in their energy bills.” To be fair, South Australia’s big battery was a collaborative effort with Tesla, one that began with a bet in which Elon Musk offered to offer the battery for free if it was not built within 100 days. Related: South Australia to host world’s largest thermal solar plant Musk won that bet, but South Australia is reaping the victorious benefits of clean energy. The latest plan will begin with a trial phase in which 1,100 public housing projects will be equipped with a 5kW solar panel system Tesla battery. This will then be followed by similar installations at 24,000 public housing projects, with further accepted homes over the next four years. With up to 250 megawatts of solar energy and 650 megawatt hours of battery storage, the clean energy potential of the interlinked 50,000 homes will be invaluable as Australia seeks to turn away from coal, the country’s main energy source. Via Phys.org Images via Tesla

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Trump bewilders scientists, says ice caps are "setting records"

January 29, 2018 by  
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The president of the United States raised eyebrows once again over his thoughts on climate change . In an interview with British journalist Piers Morgan on United Kingdom television channel ITV, Donald Trump said ice caps are setting records – without offering data to back up his statement. Morgan asked Trump, “Do you believe in climate change? Do you think it exists?” Trump said, “There is a cooling and there is a heating and look, it used to not be climate change. It used to be global warming . Right? That wasn’t working too well. Because it was getting too cold all over the place. The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records, okay, they’re at a record level.” Related: This map shows how uninformed Trump’s global warming tweet is There are several errors in Trump’s statement, for which he failed to offer scientific evidence. Reuters spoke with a few scientists about Trump’s claims, and World Glacier Monitoring Service director Michael Zemp told them, “ Glaciers and ice caps are globally continuing to melt at an extreme rate…maybe [Trump] is referring to a different planet.” Trump also talked about the Paris Agreement in the interview, saying, “Would I go back in? Yeah, I’d go back in. I like, as you know, I like Emmanuel,” referring to the president of France Emmanuel Macron . “I would love to, but it’s got to be a good deal for the United States.” Bloomberg pointed out Trump made similar remarks following a meeting with Erna Solberg, prime minister of Norway. So what are some of Trump’s beliefs on the environment ? The president told Morgan, “I’ll tell you what I believe in. I believe in clean air, I believe in crystal clear, beautiful water, I believe in just having good cleanliness.” Via The Independent , Bloomberg , and Reuters Images via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and Pixabay

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2017 was the hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans

January 29, 2018 by  
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Last year was the hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans , according to two scientists at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IAP/CAS). The increase in ocean heat led to a 1.7-millimeter global sea level rise – and other consequences like “declining ocean oxygen, bleaching of coral reefs, and melting sea ice and ice shelves.” The ocean absorbs over 90 percent of the planet’s “residual heat related to global warming ,” according to the researchers, Lijing Cheng and Jiang Zhu, whose work recently came out as an early online release in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences . While they said the increase in ocean heat content for last year happened in most of the world’s regions, the Atlantic and Southern Oceans displayed more warming than the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Related: Rising ocean temperatures are cooking the Great Barrier Reef to death According to National Geographic , the two scrutinized ocean temperature data from multiple institutions, including the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Scientists started gathering the data during the 1950’s – and in the late 1990’s, ocean temperatures started to take off, per the publication. The IAP ocean analysis reveals “the last five years have been the five warmest years in the ocean.” National Geographic pointed out people visiting the beach probably wouldn’t notice the temperature rise, but a warming ocean could still have damaging impacts. Sea ice coverage and thickness have both taken a hit. And the window to save Earth’s coral reefs is closing quickly . The researchers said in their paper, “The global ocean heat content record robustly represents the signature of global warming…The human greenhouse gas footprint continues to impact the Earth system.” + Advances in Atmospheric Sciences Via Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences , The Guardian and National Geographic Images via Deposit Photos ,  Ant Rozetzky on Unsplash and Tim Lautensack on Unsplash

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2017 was the hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans

Dubai’s new self-sufficient floating villas can withstand rising seas

January 12, 2018 by  
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Millions of people will be displaced by rising sea levels – but these floating homes are designed to weather the storm. Waterstudio is building a community of 33 villas to float on top of the water so that they won’t be inundated by sea rise. Construction of the community – dubbed Amillarah – starts this month with developer Dutch Docklands off the coast of Dubai. Sea levels could rise 3 feet by 2100, which could flood a good portion of the United Arab Emirates. These buoyed homes are designed to float on top of the water, and they wouldn’t lack the luxuries of your typical villa. Each one will feature a swimming pool complete with patio, trees, and landscaping. Each artificial island will vary from 150,000 square feet to 450,000 square feet. Related: INHABITAT INTERVIEW: Koen Olthuis of WaterStudio.nl talks about design for a Water World Leave your car on land, because the only way to reach these homes is via seaplane or boat. If you want to take advantage of ocean-front property without the flooding risk, you’d better start saving your pennies, because they start at 23 million dollars each. Waterstudio says the concrete base of each villa is built to last 100 years and the bases can help create an underwater habitat for sea life. Buyers can design their own island, and each one is self-sufficient. Waterstudio is well-known for their floating architecture , which includes a floating neighborhood in Amsterdam and

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Substantial swaths of globe face desertification without climate action – new study

January 2, 2018 by  
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Limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels could reduce desertification of substantial swaths of Earth, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change . The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016 is theoretically designed to ensure temperatures reach “well below 2 degrees Celsius” — but the United States, a leading contributor to climate change , rescinded its participation last June under President Donald Trump. “Our research predicts that aridification would emerge over about 20-30 percent of the world’s land surface by the time the global mean temperature change reaches 2ºC,” Manoj Joshi, lead researcher from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, told The Washington Examiner . “But two-thirds of the affected regions could avoid significant aridification if warming is limited to 1.5ºC.” More than 20 percent of the world’s population would be affected by extreme drought without action, according to the report; Central America, Southeast Asia, Southern Europe, Southern Africa and Southern Australia would be hardest hit. The UN’s Green Climate Fund was established to ensure developed countries that spew the most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere contribute funds to help less developed countries, which are likely to suffer the most, adapt to and mitigate the effects of a warming world. Related: Stephen Hawking says Trump decision to leave Paris accord could induce irreversible climate change Before the Trump administration announced the US would stop making contributions to the fund, the country had committed to a contribution of less than $10 per person, according to the New York Times . Considering how much the US contributes to climate change, that sum pales in comparison to Sweden’s $59 per capita. But for Donald Trump, $10 per person was too steep a price to pay to slow down what leading scientists like Stephen Hawking warn is one of the gravest dangers humanity has ever faced. Here’s Trump in a recent tweet showing a cringeworthy lack of understanding of climate science: In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 29, 2017 Beyond being just plain wrong, Trump’s scientific illiteracy is dangerous; not only does he promote industries that send even more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, he encourages his base to adopt the kind of wrong-thinking that could derail the kind of climate action that could have life-saving results. “The world has already warmed by 1ºC. But by reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere in order to keep global warming under 1.5ºC or 2ºC could reduce the likelihood of significant aridification emerging in many parts of the world,” said Su-Jong Jeong from China’s Southern University of Science and Technology, and a participant in the study. Drought is nothing to scoff at. It could lead to water and food scarcity, disease and war, among countless other consequences. It behooves all of us to arrest its deadly advance. + Nature Climate Change Images via DepositPhotos – Kalahari Desert , Desert Dune

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Trump signs bill that recognizes climate change as a threat to the US

December 14, 2017 by  
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This past Tuesday, President Trump signed a bill into law that formally recognizes climate change as a national security threat to the United States . While the president has long railed against climate change and advocated for fossil fuels, the Trump Administration and a Republican-controlled Congress have taken a small but significant step towards formally recognizing climate change. Now that this stance has become codified law, the United States will be further pressured to act. The newly signed law is a hard-earned result of the bipartisan organizing done by the Climate Solutions Caucus. Established in February 2016, the caucus was founded by Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch and Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo “to educate members on economically-viable options to reduce climate risk and to explore bipartisan policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate.” Currently, there are 24 Democrats and 24 Republicans who serve as members of the caucus. The climate change provision reached the president’s desk as an amendment to the must-pass, annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Republican leadership attempted to remove the provision from the bill, but were defeated when 46 Republican representatives defected and voted to uphold the provision. Related: Trump signs directive to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars It requires the Pentagon to conduct a report on the specific vulnerabilities of American military assets to climate change over the next twenty years. In addition, the amendment formally recognizes what the scientific community  and the United States military has been saying for years. “Climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the United States,” reads the law, “and is impacting stability in areas of the world where the United States armed forces are operating today, and where strategic implications for future conflicts exist.” Since Trump made national security a key plank of his campaign platform, he will be under further pressure to act. Whether the president chooses to do so remains doubtful. Via EcoWatch Images via The White House (1)

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Laser-driven fusion energy leaves no radioactive waste – and it’s within reach

December 14, 2017 by  
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Dramatic advances in lasers could get us closer to fusion energy . An international team of 11 scientists is pursuing what was once thought to be impossible, according to the University of New South Wales (UNSW): fusion power with hydrogen-boron reactions. The researchers describe this in their recently published study as the ideal clean fusion process: the technique needs no radioactive fuel elements and doesn’t leave toxic radioactive waste. Could we be closer to better fusion energy? The world for decades has pursued igniting the heavy hydrogen isotopes deuterium (D) and tritium (T). But generated neutrons from DT fusion produce radioactive waste. The researchers in their paper suggest an alternative: fusing hydrogen with the boron isotope 11. And lasers could help make this hydrogen-boron fusion possible. Related: ‘We were blown away’ – researchers eliminate obstacle to fusion energy Instead of heating fuel to the Sun’s temperature with “massive, high-strength magnets to control superhot plasmas inside a doughnut-shaped toroidal chamber,” according to UNSW, scientists can reach hydrogen-boron fusion with rapid bursts from two powerful lasers. This process requires temperatures and densities 200 times hotter than the Sun’s core – but advances in laser technology may have reached the point where the two-laser approach actually could be viable. Study lead author Heinrich Hora of UNSW, who in the 1970s predicted it might be possible to fuse hydrogen and boron without needing thermal equilibrium, said in a statement, “I think this puts our approach ahead of all other fusion energy technologies.” HB11 Energy , a spin-off company in Australia, holds the patents. Managing director Warren McKenzie said in a statement, “From an engineering perspective, our approach will be a much simpler project because the fuels and waste are safe, the reactor won’t need a heat exchanger and steam turbine generator, and the lasers we need can be bought off the shelf…If the next few years of research don’t uncover any major engineering hurdles, we could have a prototype reactor within a decade.” The journal Laser and Particle Beams published the research online this week. Scientists at institutions in Israel, Spain, Germany, the United States, China, and Greece contributed. + HB11 Energy Via the University of New South Wales Images via Pixabay and HB11 Energy

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Laser-driven fusion energy leaves no radioactive waste – and it’s within reach

18-year-old invents cheaper CO2 capture tech to fight climate change

December 8, 2017 by  
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Even with quick-paced developments in renewable energy , the world still produces the vast majority of its power via fossil fuels : over 80 percent . 18-year-old Ethan Novek is working on technology that could allow us to burn fossil fuels without climate change-inducing emissions , giving us time to install more renewable energy. His carbon dioxide (CO2) capture technology stands out from the rest because it could capture CO2 at about $10 per metric ton – around 85 percent less than the industry standard. Novek made the discovery that would lead to his potentially game-changing technology in his high school chemistry laboratory. CO2 capture technology has traditionally drawn on a substance such as amine that selectively reacts with just CO2 as other gases escape. The substance is then heated to break the chemical bond for a release of the greenhouse gas that can be converted into products. But the amines used are expensive, and it takes a lot of heat to break that bond. Novek’s discovery could overcome these issues. Related: World’s first commercial carbon-sucking plant goes live in Zurich In his high school laboratory, Novek was hoping to utilize a technique known as salting out to cheaply produce urea, a nitrogen-based fertilizer. He realized he could actually use the process to separate out and capture CO2 after fossil fuels are burned. Here’s how it could work: at a fossil fuel plant, exhaust gases could be piped into a mix of water and ammonia. Inert gases like oxygen would escape as ammonia reacted with CO2, forming a salt. A solvent could break the salt back into CO2 and ammonia. Distillation could separate the ammonia and solvent mix so each component could be recycled. And the CO2 could be transformed into chemicals like acetic acid or synthetic gas. The CO2 capture process needs 75 percent less energy than others. Novek attracted the attention of Yale University professor Menachem Elimelech, and with other Yale researchers they wrote a study published last year in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters . Novek started a company, Innovator Energy , and is working on a pilot plant that could use waste gas from a chemical factory or power plant to capture 1,000 kilograms of carbon emissions per day. + Innovator Energy Via Quartz Images via Carbon XPRIZE and Depositphotos

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Venezuela’s last remaining glacier is melting away

December 6, 2017 by  
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Venezuela’s last remaining glacier will be completely gone within the next 10 to 20 years. Until as recently as 1991, five glaciers were found in the Sierra Nevada de Mérida mountain range in Venezuela . As climate change has accelerated, so too has the meltdown. Named for the nearby Pico Humboldt, Venezuela’s second highest peak at over 16,000 feet, the Humboldt Glacier is one-tenth of the size it was three decades ago. Scientists hope to study the glacial disappearing act so as to learn more about what other communities might expect in a warming world. “This is a tragedy that should be highlighted as one more consequence of irresponsible behavior in energy-intense economies,” said Walter Vergara, a forest and climate specialist at Global Restoration Initiative in Latin America , according to GlacierHub . Unfortunately, Venezuela’s current political and economic crises make an international scientific study very difficult. The Humboldt glacier was last studied by an international team in 2015. Even then, the data was limited; a research team from Westfield State University in Massachusetts was only able to conduct a GPS survey and gather basic observations. While some data, such as measurements of ice coverage and reflection of solar radiation, can be studied using satellites, they would be more accurate if more researchers were able to spend time at Humboldt. Related: Venezuelans are getting Fridays off to battle an energy crisis It is often difficult for Venezuelan scientists to find success at home due to the economic and political crises that has gripped their country in recent years. Despite the challenges, Venezuela is not without its environmental heroes.  “Venezuela’s Minister for Environment, Ramón Velásquez-Araguayán, is a smart and capable climate scientist who is very sensitive to climate change issues and environmental conservation ,” Ángel G. Muñoz, a postdoctoral research scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University, and Princeton University, told GlaicerHub. Still, it is likely that Venezuela will soon become the first country to lose all of its glaciers . Sadly, it is not likely to be the last. Via GlacierHub Images via Wikimedia and Serge Saint/Flickr

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Venezuela’s last remaining glacier is melting away

Spectacular wildflower roof grows atop a dreamy Texan cabana

December 6, 2017 by  
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You might not think a cabana could outshine a glistening blue pool—especially in the Texan heat—but this Pool House in Texas’ City of West Lake Hills is a scene-stealer. Murray Legge Architecture designed this dwelling topped with a flourishing wildflower green roof in a project that’s so beautiful we can’t help but wonder what the main residence looks like. The pool house project was also designed to minimize impervious surfaces and aid in management of stormwater runoff. A modernist beauty, the City of West Lake Hills Pool House and the surrounding area emphasize clean lines, steel framing, and glass. Light-colored stone stairs leading down to the pool are raised off the slope to allow water to pass through, while grasses grow in the space between treads. An innovative suspended and permeable stone terrace system surrounds the L-shaped pool. Stone also makes up much of the Pool House and are stacked in large blocks to give the exterior a beautifully textured appearance. Glazing wraps around the front of the building and opens up to create an indoor-outdoor dining area complemented by an outdoor wood stove and high-end residential kitchen. Timber is featured prominently in the Pool House, where it lines the interiors and is used for furnishing. The vaulted roof arches upwards, echoing the surrounding canyon hills, and gives the structure a more airy feel. Related: 42mm Architecture’s sculptural Pool House in India is wrapped in a curved concrete shell “Impervious cover and storm water run-off regulations within the city are very restrictive,” wrote the architects. “The City of West Lake Hills granted a variance to allow the construction of a garden roof and accepted it as permeable cover through a variance process. This variance was a first for the City of West Lake Hills and points to the city’s progressive environmental policies.” The architects also added that they stacked much of the project’s equipment and programs beneath the green roof to minimize impervious surfaces. + Murray Legge Architecture Images by Ryann Ford, Murray Legge, Whit Preston

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