You can now explore all 19 of South Africa’s National Parks on Google Maps

November 3, 2017 by  
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Have you ever wanted to walk in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela , track cheetahs on foot , or stroll with elephants — and other exotic creatures — in South Africa ? Well, here’s your chance. Thanks to the efforts of over 200 volunteers, now you can use Google Maps to explore 19 National Parks, 17 nature reserves, and many other sites of natural, cultural and historical significance in South Africa. More than 200 nature-loving South Africans volunteered to map out parts of the country they call home. Many of the helpers were rangers and guides with SANParks , CapeNature and KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife . Others were just good Samaritans, tech enthusiasts and avid hikers who want to make a difference. Over the span of twelve months, the volunteers trekked over 50,000km to establish 232 points of interest. Said Magdalena Filak, Program Manager for Google, “The hundreds of volunteers who helped along the way proved to be truly passionate about showing the best of South Africa through their participation in the loan program.” The Google Street View Camera Loan program encourages anyone to borrow the 360-degree camera technology to help the planet . Reportedly, this is the first time Google has partnered with a third-party for the program. Drive South Africa played a big role in coordinating the volunteers . Andre Van Kets, an outdoor enthusiast and the founder of the Cape Town -based company, explained the technology: “The Trekker camera is a 22kg custom-made backpack fitted with 15 cameras pointing in all directions. The on-board technology plots the camera’s exact location on the trail. While recording, the camera takes a 360-degree photo every two-seconds. It’s basically the off-road equivalent of Google’s Street View cars.” Kets added that he saw “potential in this technology to showcase South Africa to travellers around the globe” when he applied. Related: Thousands of plastic bottles transformed into an inspiring tower of hope in South Africa In addition to mapping over two hundred points of interest, volunteers mapped eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Users can also see Mapungubwe Hill , which is home to an ancient African civilization, the Richtersveld that is known for its incredible moonscapes, and iSimangaliso Wetland Park , South Africa’s oldest UNESCO site which serves as a critical habitat for many species . The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Dennis Wood of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife said, “As the proud conservation authority for KwaZulu-Natal, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife are excited to be partnered with Google’ new initiative in exposing our trails on this global platform that we believe will engage our prospective guests to “Take time to Discover” our province’s rich natural beauty and conservation wildlife heritage.” + Google Street View Loan Program Images via Google Maps

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You can now explore all 19 of South Africa’s National Parks on Google Maps

The Power of Business Advocacy to Accelerate a Clean Economy

October 2, 2017 by  
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How does public policy determine clean economy business outcomes?  Why is it imperative for business leaders to leverage their market power to truly accelerate clean energy, climate and sustainability innovations at the policymaking level — especially under this challenging federal administration? A Congressman, Google’s head of energy policy and market development, and a former White House Chief Sustainability Officer turned renewable energy finance entrepreneur share their stories and insights on the way forward.

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The Power of Business Advocacy to Accelerate a Clean Economy

The Power of Business Advocacy to Accelerate a Clean Economy

October 2, 2017 by  
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How does public policy determine clean economy business outcomes?  Why is it imperative for business leaders to leverage their market power to truly accelerate clean energy, climate and sustainability innovations at the policymaking level — especially under this challenging federal administration? A Congressman, Google’s head of energy policy and market development, and a former White House Chief Sustainability Officer turned renewable energy finance entrepreneur share their stories and insights on the way forward.

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The Power of Business Advocacy to Accelerate a Clean Economy

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?

New metal 3D printer is 100x faster, 10x cheaper than existing laser technologies

August 1, 2017 by  
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3D-metal printing could very easily become the go-to method for manufacturing around the world. Developed by Desktop Metal , it is reportedly faster, safer and cheaper than existing systems. Indeed, the company claims it can produce reliable metal printing up to 100 times faster than conventional manufacturing techniques with materials that cost 20 times less than existing laser technologies on the market. They also claim they can bring down costs to 10 times lower than normal. 3D printing has been a hot topic for years now, but the Massachusetts company is presenting something new — something capable of revolutionizing the manufacturing industry. Because of the new technology’s speed and efficiency, it’s even better than NASA and Boeing’s slow laser-melted metal printer and beats small design studios’ desktop 3D printers. Capable of using a variety of metal options — essentially, anything one can use in a Metal Injection Molding (MIM) system, it stands apart from other competitors. The engineering-driven startup was founded by several MIT professors and Emanuel Sachs, who holds patents in 3D printing dating back to 1989. Over the last few months, Desktop Metal raised more than $115 million (USD) and received backing from big players, including Google Ventures. Presently, the company is investing efforts in producing two systems: a studio system geared toward developing a rapid, cheap metal prototyping for engineering groups, and a production system for mass manufacture. According to New Atlas , the Studio printer “runs around and prints parts into layers of bound metal.” Then, the parts go into a “de-binding bath” that separates a substantial portion of the binding polymer. The parts then go into a sintering furnace. When the product is heated to just below the melting point, the binding agent burns off and a highly dense, sintered metal is produced. The system automatically manages the timing and temperature, depending on the design and the metals used. Support sections can be poked out with a screwdriver when the process is completed. Just don’t be surprised when the finished product is 15 percent smaller. The 3D-metal printer is 10 times cheaper than equivalent laser systems and is also less hazardous. Because there are no metal powders to deal with or dangerous lasers, they can easily — and safely — be installed in a home or office. In addition, it is very low-maintenance and does not require special support equipment or staff. All in all, the entire integrated system and the partnered software cost approximately $120,000 (USD). Though that price might seem steep, an equivalent laser system will run one more than $1 million (USD). And, that doesn’t take into account the safety and materials handling costs. The mass production system is built for speed and definitely delivers. It is faster than machining, casting, forging or other techniques, and each production printer can produce up to 500 cubic inches of complex parts per hour. As noted above, that is 100 times faster than a laser-based alternative — zero tools required. Related: MIT is 3D printing functional robots that could walk right off the printer To reach production speed with the mass system, a business would need four furnaces per printer. In contrast to the studio printer, the production machine uses powders which are bonded together during printing by spray-jetted droplets of a binder solution. They are low-cost in contrast to other systems (retail is estimated to be $360,000 USD) and are easily available — another advantage to the 3D-metal printing system. In fact, material costs are estimated to be 20 percent lower than other variations. As a result, printed metal parts may finally be economical enough to compete with traditional manufacturing processes. Though Desktop Metal is just getting started, many are predicting a 3D-metal printing revolution. The effects this technology will have on the economy will be revealed in time. + Desktop Metal Via New Atlas Images via Desktop Metal

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New metal 3D printer is 100x faster, 10x cheaper than existing laser technologies

Off-grid Tent House takes the roughing-it out of camping in New Zealand

August 1, 2017 by  
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For those that are looking to go  off-grid , but don’t want the fuss that comes with setting up camp, Architect Chris Tate ‘s Tent House is just the thing. Located on New Zealand’s remote Waiheke Island, the black A-Frame retreat was built into an area of undeveloped wetland on the island, letting guests get back to nature in contemporary style. The Auckland-based architect began to create the Tent House as personal studio for himself, but with a little tweaking of the design, the project developed into an unconventional space for anyone looking for an off-grid escape hidden deep in the forest. With all of the basic amenities of a swanky hotel, the space lets guests enjoy the beauty of nature without the hassle of setting up camp. Related: Tent cabin cluster blends perfectly into a Californian forest The A-frame structure is clad in black slats, blending it seamlessly into its natural surroundings. Inside, the one-bedroom, one-bathroom, 753-square-foot space is a beautiful minimalistic design. An all-glass entranceway leads into the open living area and the sleeping quarters are located on the mezzanine level. The glass facade floods the interior with natural light . In order to further connect the design into its surroundings, the front deck juts out into the vegetation. After the construction process was finished, the area around the house was carefully landscaped by planting hundreds of plants native to New Zealand. Since the project was completed, many native birds have returned to the area. The Tent House can be rented out for short-term rentals. + Tent House + Chris Tate Via Dwell Photography by Simon Devitt

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Off-grid Tent House takes the roughing-it out of camping in New Zealand

Score one of 4 solar-powered Voltaic Converter backpacks in Inhabitats Back to School Contest

August 1, 2017 by  
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With summer coming to a close, it’s back-to-school time for many students – but it doesn’t have to be a drag. We’ve teamed up with Voltaic to give four lucky readers an amazing solar backpack for their return to the studious life! Voltaic’s newly launched Converter backpack charges your phone and other USB devices using built-in solar panels , so you’ll never run out of juice between classes – and a single hour in the sun provides three hours of smartphone use. We’re giving away four backpacks over four weeks of August, so enter today! a Rafflecopter giveaway Voltaic is constantly reinventing itself with some of the coolest solar products out there, and this new backpack ranks high on their list of innovations. At a relatively low price point of $129, the Converter backpack is a great deal for what you’re getting. With a battery in your backpack, and a 5-watt solar panel that can fully charge a smartphone after three hours in the sun, you’ll never run out of juice again. The battery can also be charged via the grid, and the backpack is packed with even more useful features beyond its solar capability. Made of recycled PET , the Converter is large enough to accommodate a 15″ laptop and comes with a couple of extra pockets – including plenty of storage for all your cables and adapters. It’s waterproof, lightweight and UV resistant, and high-density padding in the shoulder straps and back make it super comfortable to wear – even for a day trip in the great outdoors. We’ll be announcing our winners in our newsletter on 8/11, 8/18, 8/25, and 9/1, so sign up now for your chance to take one of these beauties home! That said, we’re only shipping to US addresses, so please keep that in mind when you enter. Good luck! + Voltaic

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Score one of 4 solar-powered Voltaic Converter backpacks in Inhabitats Back to School Contest

Researchers turn recycled aluminum foil into cheaper, eco-friendlier biofuels

August 1, 2017 by  
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Don’t toss your bagel wrapper in the trash just yet; scientists at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland say they have discovered a way to turn used aluminum foil into a catalyst to create cheaper, eco-friendlier biofuels . Working with engineers from the university, Ahmed Osman, an early career researcher at the school of chemistry and chemical engineering, has developed a technique that extracts 100 percent pure single crystals of aluminum salts from contaminated foil, without creating harmful emissions or waste. The salts can be used to kickstart the preparation of alumina catalyst, which can then be used to produce dimethyl ether, a nontoxic, clean-burning fuel that is typically manufactured from plant-based biomass. This process has a couple of distinct advantages, Osman said. Current methods of creating this type of alumina involves bauxite ore, the mining of which causes appreciable environmental damage in countries such as West Africa, the West Indies, and Australia. Related: Breakthrough algae strain produces twice as much biofuel There’s also the abundance of aluminum foil packaging waste. Because grease in used foil can muck up recycling equipment, nearly 20,000 tons of the stuff—enough to reach the moon and back—is either landfilled or incinerated in the United Kingdom alone. Osman plans to fine-tune his research so he can explore opportunities for commercialization, whether for biofuel production or the use of the modified alumina catalyst in the catalytic converters of natural-gas vehicles. “This breakthrough is significant as not only is the alumina more pure than its commercial counterpart, it could also reduce the amount of aluminum foil going to landfill while also sidestepping the environmental damage associated with mining bauxite,” Osman said in a statement . + Queen’s University Belfast Via New Atlas Photo by blikss/Flickr

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Researchers turn recycled aluminum foil into cheaper, eco-friendlier biofuels

Google enters nuclear fusion clean-energy race

July 26, 2017 by  
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Nuclear fusion is the holy grail of sustainable energy — a potentially unlimited source of pollution-free energy that can power the world. No greenhouse gas emissions. Only helium and a neutron are produced. Now Google has jumped into the race to commercialize nuclear fusion technology, teaming up with California-based fusion company Tri Alpha Energy to develop a new computer algorithim that optimises plasma — an ionized gas that conducts electricity. “Google is always interested in solving complex engineering problems, and few are more complex than fusion,” wrote Ted Baltz, senior staff software engineer, Google Accelerated Science Team, on Google’s research blog . “Physicists have been trying since the 1950s to control the fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium, which is the same process that powers the Sun. The key to harnessing this power is to confine hydrogen plasmas for long enough to get more energy out from fusion reactions than was put in. This point is called ‘breakeven.’ If it works, it would represent a technological breakthrough, and could provide an abundant source of zero-carbon energy.” Related: These mini spherical reactors could help scale fusion energy by 2030 The research was published Tuesday in the journal Scientific Reports . The Optometrist Algorithm achieved a 50 percent reduction in the energy loss rate and an increase in ion temperature and total plasma energy. Other private and public entities are racing to become the first to bring nuclear fusion to scale. Experimental testing includes the Iter project in France, the Wendelstein 7-X (W7X) stellarator in Germany and the Tokamak ST40 reactor in the UK. General Fusion , a Canadian company, is also working to develop nuclear fusion technology. + Tri Alpha Energy + Achievement of Sustained Net Plasma Heating in a Fusion Experiment with the Optometrist Algorithm Via The Guardian Images via Tri Alpha Energy , Google Research Blog

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Google enters nuclear fusion clean-energy race

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

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