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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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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Indian Railways launches first train with solar-powered coaches

Google requested to label anti-fracking websites as fake news

May 9, 2017 by  
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Following the results of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election , search engine website Google rewrote its engine algorithm to bury “fake news.” They were consequently blamed for Hillary Clinton’s loss and the “propaganda” which supposedly defamed President Trump . Since then, the phrase “ fake news ” has been a readily-used one. And, members of the industry-funded Texans for Natural Gas are taking advantage of it by urging Google to include anti- fracking websites in its list of sources that lack integrity and accuracy. In an open letter to Google which was published on Monday, the group wrote , “We believe many of the most prominent anti- fracking websites have content that is misleading, false, or offensive – if not all three. As a result, we urge you to consider purging or demoting these websites from your algorithm, which in turn will encourage a more honest public discussion about hydraulic fracturing , and oil and natural gas development in general.” Bloomberg reported in April that due to immense pressure to eliminate fake news , or what the company calls “low-quality” content, Google raters now “assess search results — to flag web pages that host hoaxes, conspiracy theories and what the company calls ‘low-quality’ content.” The process in question is hydraulic fracturing ( fracking ), which involves injecting large amounts of water, mixed with sand and an assortment of chemicals, deep into the ground to unlock reserves of oil and natural gas . The drilling technique is responsible for igniting the energy boom, but many environmentalists view it as a threat to the planet. This is because the process may contaminate groundwater, pollute the air and threaten wildlands. Additionally, some scientists believe fracking causes earthquakes, as Inhabitat previously reported . Related: EPA finally admits fracking contaminates drinking water Though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did announce in 2015 that no widespread evidence was found proving that fracking contaminates groundwater, it later reversed its decision. In late 2016, the EPA concluded that there is evidence that fracking has contaminated drinking water in all stages of the process. Because of these findings, many citizens are adamant that they deserve the right to be skeptical of the process, especially considering the country’s reliance on fossil fuels is propelling climate change . Texans for Natural Gas believe otherwise, however. The group wrote to Google, “Claims made by the radical environmentalist campaign against hydraulic fracturing are protected by the First Amendment.” “Groups that wish to peddle misleading information about oil and natural gas are fully within their rights to do so. Many of the groups engaging in anti-fracking advocacy have devoted significant resources to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and as a result they receive significant web traffic,” they added. “But that is no reason for Google to reward such misinformation with its powerful search engine. We urge you consider adding these groups’ websites to your review of fake news and the kinds of content that you do not wish to promote.” Via The Daily Signal Images via Bloomberg

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Google requested to label anti-fracking websites as fake news

Germany just generated a record 85% of its energy from renewable sources

May 8, 2017 by  
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Germany has outdone itself yet again when it comes to clean energy . From April 30 through May 1, the country set a national record by generating 85% of all its energy needs using renewable wind, solar, biomass, and hydroelectric power. And this isn’t just an anomaly – experts believe that this will be the new normal for Germany by 2030. “Most of Germany’s coal-fired power stations were not even operating on Sunday, April 30th, with renewable sources accounting for 85 per cent of electricity across the country. Nuclear power sources, which are planned to be completely phased out by 2022, were also severely reduced,” said Patrick Graichen of Agora Energiewende Initiative . Related: Google’s Project Sunroof expands to 7 million homes in Germany Germany has worked hard to invest in clean energy sources under Angela Merkel , a vocal supporter of renewable energy. It has paid off. In addition to record-breaking weekends like the one on April 30, more and more energy is coming from renewables. In March, the country average 40% energy from green sources. via Clean Technica images via Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Germany just generated a record 85% of its energy from renewable sources

Iceland’s "Thor" volcano power plant can generate 10X more energy than oil or gas wells

May 5, 2017 by  
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Tapping into geothermal energy is nothing new, but Iceland is taking things majorly next level by drilling nearly 3 miles into a live volcano to tap liquid hot magma. The well is likely the hottest hole on the planet, reaching oozing magma that averages 800 °F. The hole was completed in January and energy production kicks off today. If successful, the clean energy source will be able to generate ten times more energy than conventional oil or gas wells. The project is nicknamed Thor after the Norse god. The geothermal well will tap into what is called “supercritical” fluid – neither gas nor liquid – to generate clean, renewable energy. It works by using the fluid to generate steam, which then causes turbines to move generating power. Related: Google Street View takes you inside the fiery depths of an active volcano As you’d imagine, volcano power is pretty potent stuff. To supply Iceland’s capitol Reykjavik (with a population of 212,000 people) with power, you’d need 30-35 conventional wells. But if Thor performs as expected, it would only take 3 – 5 wells. Via Phys.org Images via Statoil and Peterhartree Save

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Iceland’s "Thor" volcano power plant can generate 10X more energy than oil or gas wells

Google Street View takes you inside the fiery depths of an active volcano

March 20, 2017 by  
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Have you ever seen an active volcano up close? Most of us haven’t had the opportunity, but now thanks to Google Street View , you can glimpse the fiery depths of one the world’s largest boiling lava lakes. Two explorers repelled down into the Marum crater on the island on Ambrym in Vanuatu , a country of islands around 1000 miles away from Australia, to collect images of the lava lake for Google (and all of us). Forget the relatively tame imagery of city streets. Google went to new extremes to collect dramatic images of Ambrym, from volcanic beaches to a volcano itself. Explorers Geoff Mackley and Chris Horsley helped out by repelling around 1,312 feet down into the Marum crater to gather 360-degree imagery of the massive lava lake, which is about as big as two football fields, according to Google. Mackley said, “You only realize how insignificant humans are when you’re standing next to a giant lake of fiery boiling rock .” Related: Sheep enlisted to bring ‘Google Street View’ to remote Faroe Islands After repelling into the crater, Horsley said, “I hope that by putting this place on the map people will realize what a beautiful world we live in.” Over 7,000 people live on Ambrym. Chief Moses of Endu, a local village, welcomed Google in to share the incredible beauty of the area. Locals have been rebuilding after Cyclone Pam hit a few years past, and are ready to greet travelers again. According to Google, Chief Moses feels welcoming visitors to the region will help the island recover, help set up a sustainable economy, and preserve the island’s culture . Along with the volcano, Google Street View offers images of his village, a primary school, and a craft workshop on the island. Can’t hop on the next plane to trek to Vanuatu? You can also check out a jungle on Ambrym, more images of the Marum crater, and villagers harvesting coconuts on Google Street View. Via Google Images via screenshot ( 1 , 2 )

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Google Street View takes you inside the fiery depths of an active volcano

San Diego brewery unveils beer made from 100% recycled wastewater

March 20, 2017 by  
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San Diego is aiming to to become the most environmentally sustainable city in the United States. As part of its ambitious Climate Action Plan , last year the city council unanimously approved a $3 billion initiative to recycle wastewater for drinking. Now the city is demonstrating that the pure water program can be used for just about anything, even a cold beer, by partnering with Encinitas-based craft beer maker Stone Brewery to unveil Stone Full Circle Pale Ale — a beer made with 100 percent recycled wastewater from the city’s pure water program. “Just a great example of what this is gonna be like in terms of the future and Stone who’s a huge driver of not just the craft beer industry but sustainability, that’s what our pure water program is all about,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said at Stone’s Point Loma location last week, where city leaders gathered to sample the beer and talk up the pure water program. Related: San Diego to become largest U.S. city to run on 100% renewable energy The wastewater recycling plan puts purified water treated at the Point Loma Water Treatment Plant back into the freshwater system rather than the ocean — providing a steady source of potable water to protect the water supply from drought and disruptions to water imports. The pure water program is expected to deliver 30 million gallons of recycled water a day within five years and 83 million gallons of drinking water per day when fully implemented in 2035 — providing one-third of the city’s freshwater supply. Stone, the largest brewery in San Diego and ninth largest in the country, produced five barrels of the beer using water trucked in from the city’s pure water demonstration plant in Miramar. “We like trial and we like testing and if we can help others jump on the same bandwagon, we would love to do that because it’s a great thing for the City of San Diego,” said Stone Chief Operating Officer Pat Tiernan. + Stone Brewery + San Diego Water Sustainability Program Via UPI Images via Wikimedia  and Twitter

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San Diego brewery unveils beer made from 100% recycled wastewater

Artisanal clay pots from Egypt can water your plants for up to a month

March 20, 2017 by  
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Gardeners who travel will love these absorbent clay pots from Egypt. Modeled after the Olla, an ancient ceramic pot prevalent throughout North Africa, the small vessels are designed to water plants for weeks at a time–using nothing but gravity. Clayola founder Rami Halim says 20 liters (5 gallons) of water can sustain six to eight plants for up to a month. The Clayola pots, connected via a pipe to a water source placed at a slightly higher elevation, are pushed into the soil until the colorful tops are flush with the surface. A small siphoning pump gets the water flow going and then gravity takes over from there. The porous clay vessel acts like a sponge that slowly releases a small amount of water into the soil – just when it starts to become thirsty. “As water evaporates from a plant’s leaves, it draws water from the soil and as the soil dries up water is drawn from the Clayola to the soil,” Rami said. “In effect the plant extracts the water it needs from each clay pot.” “After a while,” he added, “a plant’s root system will find the source of water and literally hug the Clayola, allowing for maximum water use.” Related: Solar terracotta water filter distills 5 liters of water a day Rami says Clayolas are ideal for travelers. Unlike those of us who tend to either starve or drown plants, this system guarantees “each plant gets the exact amount of water it needs at no risk of over or under irrigation.” And it is said to be 80 percent more efficient than conventional irrigation techniques. Just 3 x 5 inches, the Crayola has a tapered shape that serves multiple functions. Not only does it maximize watering surface at the top, but it also makes it easier to penetrate the surface of the soil. The colorful glazed tops prevent evaporation and enhance the design’s playful aesthetic. There are two reasons Clayola favors employing skilled artisans in Cairo to make their products, according to Rami. “The handmade imperfections are absolutely beautiful,” he said, “and this old world craft is efficient, elegant and produces a surprisingly durable product.” A box of six costs less than $30, plus shipping. For more information, check out Clayola’s Facebook page . + Clayola Egypt

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Artisanal clay pots from Egypt can water your plants for up to a month

New images reveal Google’s plans for a futuristic solar-powered California headquarters

March 1, 2017 by  
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New images submitted to the City of Mountain View in January provide our best look at Google’s proposed 18.6-acre Charleston East campus – the first the technology giant is constructing from the ground up. The heart of the new space, according to plans drafted by the design teams of Bjarke Ingels Group and Heatherwick Studio , is a two-story, 595,000-square-foot building. It’s topped by an expansive tent-like canopy that conjures up images of Bonnaroo rather than stuffy business meetings. The roof is studded with photovoltaics, plus other enhancements designed to regulate indoor climate, air quality, and sound. There will be plenty of breathing space, both within and without. The building will enclose “flexible building components” that can be reconfigured on a whim, as well as indoor and outdoor green spaces, populated by native, drought-tolerant flora, to bolster biodiversity. Google , in collaboration with city biologists, has made special considerations for the burrowing owl, once one of California’s most common birds but now a species in decline due to habitat loss. “No plants will be installed that would provide perches for raptors or hiding places for feral cats, both of which prey on the owls,” the plans read. “Grasses, forbs, and small shrubs that provide habitat for insects will be targeted to support owl foraging.” Related: New tent-like HQ plan emerges from the ashes of Google’s original vision Google’s proposal also includes a detailed “landscape narrative” featuring the so-called Green Loop, a “linearly connected canvas of trees” that bridges the Charleston Basin and the main Googleplex headquarters by way of Charleston Park. Could this make up for the planned removal of 160 trees, 100 of which have been designated heritage? We can hope. More than a place of business, Google’s new campus will apparently serve as a “destination for the local community.” Myriad small green hubs scattered throughout the site will house pedestrian walkways, and bike paths will abound in the small green hubs scattered throughout. An open plaza could host al fresco seating, food trucks, small stalls, perhaps a seniors’ tai chi class or two. “Quieter and more intimate” spaces will support collaboration and private conversation. Pulling all this together would hardly be a modest endeavor. If approved by the city, construction on Charleston East will span roughly two-and-a-half years. + City of Mountain View Via 9to5google

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New images reveal Google’s plans for a futuristic solar-powered California headquarters

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