Dutch team Nuon wins world solar car challenge – again

October 13, 2017 by  
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The Dutch have done it once again. Nuon, the superstar team from the Netherlands , won its third straight championship in the World Solar Challenge, a 1,860-mile (3,000k) solar car race across Australia’s outback. Since 1987, the World Solar Challenge has driven the conversation about solar energy and its potential. In 2017, the race began in Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory, with its final destination in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia and the fifth largest city on the continent . At race’s end, a strong Dutch crowd, chanting “Nuna! Nuna!”, turned out to support the Nuna9 as it cruised to victory. The University Team came in second, followed by Belgium’s Punch Powertrain. The World Solar Challenge is one of the world’s most-watched innovation-based challenges. Past participants in the race include Google co-founder Larry Page and Tesla co-founder JB Straubel. Every vehicle in the race is powered by the sun, and most are funded by corporations or universities. With teams from the United States to Malaysia, from India to South Africa, the World challenge is truly a global affair. Related: How termites draw on solar power for climate control 2017 is the seventh win for Nuon, with a winning time of 37 hours, 10 minutes and 41 seconds. Although the Dutch team prevailed this year, its time fell from 2015, when the team completed the challenge in 33.03 hours. This year’s winning strategy involved a change in driving style to adjust for the weather conditions, which included strong winds. The solar car was setup in such a way as to take advantage of the wind like a sailing ship, which gave it a boost over the other contenders. “It’s such a weird feeling,” said Nuon Solar Team member Sarah Bennink Bolt, “we’ve doing this thing for one-and-a-half years, and all of a sudden it’s ending… you have to have a bit of luck [to win].” Via Phys.org Images via Phys.org

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Dutch team Nuon wins world solar car challenge – again

Evaporation energy could provide 2.85M megawatt hours of electricity each year

September 27, 2017 by  
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In a world where much energy is wasted, whether through food waste , poor insulation, or inefficient appliances, valuable renewable sources may be disappearing into thin air. Scientists at Columbia University and elsewhere seek to harness the potential power of energy generated from evaporating water. According to Ozgur Sahin of Columbia University, water evaporating from the United States (excluding the Great Lakes) could provide up to 2.85 million megawatt hours of electricity per year, enough energy to meet two-thirds of US electricity usage in 2015. Much as solar power potential differs from state-to-state, potential energy from evaporating water would exceed demand in 15 of the 47 states studied by researchers at Columbia. While the potential energy from evaporation is enormous, capturing this power remains an elusive challenge. Many potential designs for evaporation energy involve engines covering the surface of freshwater bodies, irrigated fields, greenhouses , or sheltered bays. The prototypes built by Sahin’s team at Columbia are all constructed of materials that shrink as they dry, including tape covered with bacterial spores. “They work like a muscle,” said Sahin. “They can push and pull with a lot of force.” The prototypes also take advantage of changes in humidity to achieve desired results. One prototype includes shutters on top, which close and shut based on the humidity within the engine. This system enables energy generation to occur even at night, when evaporation is naturally lower due to cooler temperatures. Related: Bowl-shaped roofs harvest rainwater and promote natural cooling in arid environments Renewable energy from evaporating water is still in the early stages of development and some scientists doubt that it can be cost effective. Evaporation energy would also have to contend with solar energy , which is much more advanced and increasingly affordable. However, Sahin suggests that evaporation energy engines could be constructed out of biological materials, which could be cheaper and more biodegradable than solar panels. Another factor to consider is the impact that a widespread application of evaporation engines might have; scientists at Columbia estimate that there would only be significant reduction of evaporation if an area of 250,000 square kilometers is covered by such engines. As some consider geoengineering as a potential response to climate change, evaporation energy engines may have some appeal. Via New Scientist Images via Xi Chen , Flickr , and Tim Geers

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Evaporation energy could provide 2.85M megawatt hours of electricity each year

Dyson the famous vacuum maker is building an electric car

September 27, 2017 by  
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Dyson is famous for its bagless vacuum cleaners and other unique household appliances, but founder and chief engineer James Dyson has some bigger plans for the company. James Dyson sent out an email yesterday to the company announcing his ambitions to introduce an electric car by 2020. With an investment of at least $2.7 billion and a staff of 400 people, Dyson is hopeful that it can get an electric car to market in the next three years. Dyson has already started hiring engineers from automotive companies to help launch the vehicle. Related: James Dyson on using his famous vacuum technology to suck garbage from rivers In his email, Dyson outlined how in 1988 a study from the the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that linked the exhaust from diesel engines to premature death in laboratory mice and rats, put the company on a path to improve air quality. Two years later, in March 1990, the Dyson team began work on a cyclonic filter that could be fitted on a vehicle’s exhaust system to trap particulates. Sadly, even though the prototypes were developed, automakers weren’t too interested. Now Dyson will do away with the need to reduce particulates by creating a zero emissions electric car. James Dyson hasn’t gone too far into the details, since competition in the electric car segment is incredibly strong right now. Several other startups are racing to bring their cars to market, like Lucid and Fisker, so it makes sense that Dyson would try to keep details about its technology under wraps. + Dyson Images @Dyson

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Australia now generates enough renewable energy to power 70% of homes

August 28, 2017 by  
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Renewable energy is taking over Australia . New figures reveal the sector generated enough electricity for 70 percent of Australian homes during the last financial year, according to Green Energy Markets . But even better than that, once 2016-2017 clean power projects are completed, renewable energy might actually be able to power 90 percent of homes. Green Energy Markets just launched their first Australian Renewable Energy Index this week, and the findings were thrilling for the renewable energy industry. Between July 2016 and June 2017, the country generated enough clean power for 7.1 million homes. Related: Australia announces massive $1B solar farm with the world’s largest battery At the end of 2016-2017, Green Energy Markets found 46 large-scale clean energy projects were under construction. They estimated these projects would employ 8,868 people full-time for a year. They also found nearly 150,000 rooftop solar systems had been installed, and could provide enough energy for more than 226,000 houses. From design to sales to installation, these rooftop systems supported 3,769 full-time jobs. They’ll provide about $1.6 billion in power bill savings during the next 10 years. Hydro-electricity offered the largest source of renewable energy at 40 percent; wind provided 31 percent while rooftop solar generated 18 percent. Renewable sources comprised 17.2 percent of all the electricity generated in the country, helping Australia avoid the same amount of carbon pollution as if 8.1 million cars, over half the cars in the country, were taken off roads. Tristan Edis, analyst at Green Energy Markets, said renewables have launched a “construction jobs and investment boom.” Advocacy group GetUp provided funding for the report, and the groups plan to publish a new Australian Renewable Energy Index each month. GetUp energy campaigns director Miriam Lyons said, “everyday Australians are voting with their rooftops” in a move heralding “the end of the era of big polluting energy companies dominating the market and manipulating prices to fill their own pockets.” Via The Guardian and Green Energy Markets Images via Lawrence Murray on Flickr and CSIRO/Wikimedia Commons

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Hydra-Light lantern doesn’t need a batteryjust saltwater

August 7, 2017 by  
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Hail, Hydra…Light? You too might be singing this portable lighting product’s praises if you find yourself off the grid without a battery to your name. Designed with campers, boaters, and outdoor revelers in mind, Hydra-Light’s range of flashlights, lanterns, and energy cells harness salt and water as its power source. Several models even come with a USB port, so you can juice up your cellphone or smart device at the same time. Each Hydra-Light features an energy cell that comprises a carbon-based membrane and a replaceable metal-alloy cylinder known as a PowerRod. When an electrolyte like saltwater—or just regular table salt and water—is added to the mix, the two elements react to generate a current. Related: Light-powered device can purify air and generate clean energy This reaction continues until the PowerRod is exhausted to a sliver, leaving only “harmless mineral sediment” behind, per the Australia-based manufacturer. “When the rod has become very thin, it is removed and a new one is inserted—which takes just seconds—making the cell like new and ready to continue generating power,” Hydra-Light said. “All that’s needed during the lifetime of each PowerRod is a periodic rinsing out of the mineral sediment and refilling with fresh saltwater. Unlike conventional batteries, the power output remains constant and does not decline over the lifetime of the rods.” Hydra-Light claims that a single PowerRod provides more than 250 hours of continuous power, which is equal to the output of about 85 standard AA batteries but at a “fraction of the cost.” (Each Hydra-Light product includes a preinstalled PowerRod.) It’s still salad days for the company yet, but the technology is nothing if not promising. For the 1.3 billion people around the world who live without electricity, Hydra-Light could prove life-changing. For the rest of us, it’s several more sets of single-use batteries we don’t have to toss out. Americans purchase—and presumably dispose of—more than 3 billion dry cell batteries every year to power our various gadgets and gizmos, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency . Hail, Hydra-Light indeed. + Hydra-Light [Via Digital Trends ]

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Hydra-Light lantern doesn’t need a batteryjust saltwater

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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London could be getting its first ultra-green, tidal-powered school

June 16, 2017 by  
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London-based Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture just unveiled plans for what could become London’s greenest building – a tidal powered school situated on the banks of the Thames River. The five-story building would be entirely powered by energy harvested from a series of large turbines built underneath the waterway. According to the proposal, the school’s location is key to the tidal power project. Currently, the proposed site is being used as a city trash collection center where boats pick up and transport the city’s refuse to a landfill outside of the city. However, this exact site happens to be located on the narrowest section of the Thames – the point in the river with the highest velocity of tidal surge. Related: Is tidal power finally coming of age? “As far west as Teddington, the power of the coastal tides is felt twice daily along the Thames, with a rise and fall of as much seven metres of water,” said Wayne Head, one of the studio’s two directors. “The movement of water due to tides represents an untapped source of power that it’s high time London harnessed for good,” he told Dezeen . “The site is located directly at the narrowest section of the Thames – meaning that the velocity of the tidal flow at this point will be the highest in the river. The plan is to capture this four-times daily energy through submerged tidal turbines as the primary means to supply the building with carbon neutral power.” The proposal, which will be built to meet the Passivhaus standard as well as the BEEAM Outstanding rating, calls for using the building’s natural environment of clean air and cooler temperatures to create a pleasant microclimate on the interior. The school would also be installed with a number of carbon monitoring systems that would help the occupants limit their carbon footprint as much as possible. Additionally, the various renewable materials used in the structure would be left exposed to serve as an example for future architecture projects. Although the proposal is at its very early stages, the architect envisions the carbon neutral project as not only the city’s greenest building, but also a beacon for future of sustainable architecture in the city, “The Thames Tidal Powered School is potentially London’s greenest public building,” he said. “The design is conceived as an exemplar of low embodied energy and carbon construction technologies, using natural and bio-renewable materials sourced through local supply chains.” + Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture Via Dezeen Renderings by Forbes Massie

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London could be getting its first ultra-green, tidal-powered school

Forward Labs’ new solar roof is 33% cheaper than Tesla’s – and it can be installed in half the time

May 26, 2017 by  
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Tesla gets all the attention lately when it comes to solar roofs , but start-up Forward Labs has been hammering away at their own solar roof technology – and not only is it 33% cheaper that Tesla’s offering, but it can be installed in half of the time. Forward Labs’ design blends right in with traditional roofs, and it’s made of monocrystalline solar cells with a higher density that other solar roofing options Whereas Tesla’s solar roof is made from individual shingles, Forward Labs’ standing-seam metal roof is made up of one large, layered piece. It has a tempered glass surface, with an “optimal chromatic cloaking” layer right below. The roof comes in 8 colors right now, but thanks to the chromatic layer, any color is technically possible. Related: Tesla’s groundbreaking solar roof just hit the market Because Forward Labs uses more cost-effective materials, it costs on average 33% less than the Tesla solar roof. According to the CEO, the solar roof will cost $8.50 per square foot, which works out to about $3.25 per watt. Installation can be done in just a few days – about half of the time as other solar roofs. The system is passively cooled via air gaps below the panels, and if a panel breaks, it can be popped out and replaced by a new one. The roof looks identical to other metal roofs, so it could easily pass a Home Owner’s Association’s muster, and each installation can provide decades of solar power. Taylor, Forward Labs CEO, told Green Tech Media that the company is aiming to do the right thing for the right reason. In contrast, he believes that Tesla’s design is the “wrong thing for the right reason.” “It’s wrong to devalue people’s houses with something that doesn’t look good. It’s wrong to put holes in roofs; it’s wrong to go to war with homeowner associations; and it’s wrong to try to ram something down people’s throats that they don’t want,” he said. The company is also working with conventional asphalt shingle companies to recycle removed roofing materials. Forward Labs are currently taking reservations with installation starting next year. + Forward Labs Via Treehugger and Green Tech Media

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Forward Labs’ new solar roof is 33% cheaper than Tesla’s – and it can be installed in half the time

Watch this groundbreaking new solar device open and move like a flower

May 9, 2017 by  
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The Smartflower is a groundbreaking solar panel that can’t—and won’t—sit still. Arriving Stateside this month, the portable all-in-one unit mimics the behavior of certain sun-tracking blooms by rotating its solar-module “petals” throughout the day. This format, according to Austria’s Smartflower Energy Technology, allows the system to be 40 to 50 percent more efficient than traditional photovoltaic arrays , which tend to be limited by their fixed tilt. The company claims that a single Smartflower can produce the equivalent of a 4 kilowatt rooftop system, which it hails as a breakthrough for a standalone solar product. You can tell that the Smartflower is designed for residential and small-business use. To add to its visual appeal, it’s available in a slew of colors with names like “berry,” “jungle,” and “porcelain.” The Smartflower’s day starts at sunrise when it deploys its panels, which are backed by brushes that slough off any dust and debris. Related: Tesla unveils discreet new rooftop solar panels Turning to face the sun at a 90-degree angle, it uses GPS-based dual axis tracking to calculate—and shift—its optimal angle as the day progresses. The modules fold up at night, or when sensors detect high winds that may cause them damage. The basic Smartflower model, which starts at around $16,000, can be used in a variety of “plug and play” settings, including juicing up an electric car. A pricier “Plus” version includes battery storage that lets you squirrel away harvested energy to tide you over cloudy days. About 1,000 Smartflowers have already been installed at sites across Europe, including the Botanical Gardens in Madrid and the University of Applied Sciences Kufstein in Austria. Related: Google’s Project Sunroof expands to 7 million homes in Germany Arnold Schwarzenegger , the actor and former governor of California, is apparently fan. “Even though I like size, sometimes something small is very effective, “ a brochure quotes him as saying. “And when it comes to photovoltaic solar there is nothing better than, for instance, the Smartflower. I mean what a brilliant idea, you put this in front of the house, you plug it in—no installation, nothing.” + Smartflower

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Watch this groundbreaking new solar device open and move like a flower

San Franciscos rapid transit to run on 100% renewable energy

May 9, 2017 by  
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Commuters in the San Francisco area can feel even better about taking public transport to lower their carbon footprints , as the Bay Area’s Rapid Transit (BART) system will soon be powered by 100 percent renewable energy . Days ago, the BART board of directors passed an electrical portfolio policy that requires 50 percent of the organization’s power to be sourced from renewables by 2025. By 2045, the electric train system is expected to run on 100 percent renewable energy . As Digital Trends reports , this move has far-reaching implications for the entire region since BART consumes roughly 400,000 megawatt-hours annually – the equivalent of a small city like Alameda. “Every day, BART takes cars off the road and helps drive down our greenhouse gas emissions,” said BART Director Nick Josefowitz. “But especially now, BART and the Bay Area must shoulder even more responsibility to combat climate change. Even though BART is not required to comply with the state’s renewable energy standards, we have committed to purchasing 100 percent renewable electricity and taking a leadership role in decarbonizing our transportation sector.” Related: San Francisco bike shop lets you trade in car for e-bike The train system already runs on a variety of renewable energy sources, including solar, wind and small hydroelectric facilities. Additionally, carbon emissions have been cut by lowering the number of single occupant automobiles sitting in traffic on the Bay Bridge each morning. Sustainability Director Holly Gordon said of the progressive initiative, “We’re doing this to advance clean energy, but we’re also doing this because we think it is cost effective. We feel as though we can purchase clean energy while maintaining low and stable costs for the district as well.” BART may very well be the first electrified public transit system to commit to running on 100 percent renewable energy – at least in the US.  Via Digital Trends

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