UK smashes days-old record, goes without coal for 76 hours

April 26, 2018 by  
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Just over a week ago, the United Kingdom set a new record: almost 55 hours without using coal . It didn’t take them long to shatter that record. CleanTechnica reported the country just went 76 hours without the polluting fuel — “for the first time since the 1880s,” according to a National Grid Twitter account . For the first time since the 1880s the UK electricity network has clocked up over 72 hours without the need for coal generation. This new record comes days after the first ever 48 hour period of no coal on the network. — National Grid Media (@Grid_Media) April 24, 2018 The country started their coal-free streak on Saturday, April 21, and went into Tuesday, April 24, ultimately going for 76 hours and 10 minutes, according to the UK Coal Twitter account . This may not be the last record the United Kingdom sets this year; Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit analyst Jonathan Marshall told The Guardian , “Ever rising renewable capacity in the UK will see these records fall more and more frequently, clearly showing progress made over the past decade or two.” The final length of this record #coal free run was 76 Hours 10 minutes. Coal units are now back generating. pic.twitter.com/OauJREXzxN — UK Coal (@UK_Coal) April 24, 2018 Related: The UK just went for a record 55 hours without using coal What did the UK run on in the absence of coal? The Guardian put out a graphic showing the electricity mix from April 21 at 10 AM to April 24 at 10 AM; during that time 30.3 percent of power came from gas , 24.9 percent from wind , 23.3 percent from nuclear , 15.3 percent from biomass or other sources, and 6.2 percent from solar . Electrical engineer Andrew Crossland, who operates MyGridGB , cautioned against replacing coal with gas, telling The Guardian, “Shifting to gas is likely to make our electricity market more volatile as our energy price becomes increasingly locked to international gas markets. That will only hurt consumers.” More coal stations are shuttering — two plant owners in the country have said they’ll close this year, according to The Guardian. What will happen to those brownfield sites? The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit explored that question in a recent blog post from Marshall, who said one old power station could be transformed into a cruise ship terminal, another into housing, and others as logistics centers. At the time of writing, the UK was on another streak and had already gone 39 continuous hours without coal — could another record be over the horizon? Via CleanTechnica and The Guardian Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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UK smashes days-old record, goes without coal for 76 hours

Load up on Tabasco while you can – because the island it comes from is being swallowed by the sea

April 4, 2018 by  
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If your idea of the perfect Bloody Mary involves a dash of Tabasco, better stock up while you can. Over one hundred miles west of New Orleans , Avery Island, the birthplace of Tabasco sauce, is disappearing as its land slowly washes away with the sea. As with much of the American Gulf Coast, Avery Island is plagued by rising sea levels, erosion, and human-caused environmental damage. Despite Avery Island’s relatively high elevation at 163 feet above sea level, the island is losing 30 feet of wetland per year due to saltwater encroaching via canals dug by the oil and gas industry. Meanwhile, the island’s elevation is shrinking by a third-of-an-inch each year. Tony Simmons is the latest in a long line of McIlhenny family members to lead the company that has produced Tabasco sauce for 150 years. Simmons’s ancestor Edmund McIlhenny first began making Tabasco sauce after discovering a particularly well-suited pepper plant growing behind a chicken coop on Avery Island, a long-time refuge now retreating. “It does worry us, and we are working hard to minimize the land loss,” Simmons told the Guardian . “We want to protect the marsh because the marsh protects us.” Related: This Louisiana craft beer pioneer ‘went green’ long before it was cool Technically, Tabasco isn’t going anywhere. If Avery Island continues to shrink, McIllhenny may someday have to consider relocating away from its historic homeland. “We don’t think it will come to that, but we are working to do everything we can to make sure it won’t happen to us,” said Simmons. “I mean, we could make Tabasco somewhere else. But this is more than a business: this is our home.” If the island experiences an additional sea level rise of two feet, which is widely expected to occur, only the highest points of the island will be safe. Despite the resilience of the people who live there, the future of Avery Island and similar communities in Louisiana looks stormy. “It is a ripped-up rug. It would take decades to put it back together, even without sea level rise ,” Oliver Houck, an expert in land loss at Tulane University, explained to the Guardian . “Avery Island is going to become an actual island, there won’t be much left. The state has decided to put all its eggs into restoring the eastern part of the state. I hate to use the words ‘written off’, but those coastal communities are on their own.” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos ( 2 ) and Paul Arps/Flickr

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Load up on Tabasco while you can – because the island it comes from is being swallowed by the sea

Incredible glass home stays comfortably snug even in extreme temperatures

March 6, 2018 by  
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OFIS Architects tackles the ultimate indoor-outdoor living experience with Glass Pavilion, a retreat with full-height glass structural walls that provides total comfort even in extreme desert conditions. Initiated by Guardian Glass , this thermally efficient prototype home will operate off-grid and offer lucky guests stunning and uninterrupted views of Spain’s Gorafe desert. Completed this year, the compact 215-square-foot Glass Pavilion is part of OFIS Architects’ ongoing collaboration with AKT II structural engineers , where the firms test the structural possibilities of glass and timber in extreme climates. “This project is a response to the local, desert climate conditions,” wrote OFIS Architects of Glass Pavilion. “Instead of focusing only in ‘a glass as a window element’ the concept explored its advanced potentials, e.g. transparent but shading element, a thin but thermally efficient envelope that is also the sole structural support.” Related: Exceptional prefab alpine shelter overlooks mind-boggling mountain views Triple-glazed walls create a thermally efficient envelope, while near-invisible coatings, operable shades, and roof overhangs protect the interior from solar gain . The Y-shaped interior is evenly split between a living area with a kitchenette, a bedroom with storage, and the bathroom. All three rooms open out to a wraparound terrace deck. “The Glass Pavilion will be the setting of a 1-week retreat for a single person or a couple,” added the architects. “The guests will be selected from different tourist sharing platforms.” + OFIS Architects Images @ Jose Navarrete

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Incredible glass home stays comfortably snug even in extreme temperatures

Illicit trade in jaguar fangs linked to Chinese construction projects

March 5, 2018 by  
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Wildlife experts are worried that the illicit trade in jaguars appears to be growing — and they’ve connected it to Chinese construction projects . According to the journal a rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank” href=”https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-02314-5″> Nature , crackdowns on smuggling tiger parts for use in Chinese traditional medicine could be increasing the market for jaguars. Researchers pointed to recent killings in South America , including a dead jaguar discovered in a Belize drainage canal mostly intact, but missing its fangs. Jaguars are in trouble, according to the World Wildlife Fund , imperiled by habitat loss from deforestation and hunting. And now traffickers may be turning to these big cats for Chinese traditional medicine. According to the Nature article, wildlife trafficking “often follows Chinese construction projects in other countries.” Related: Rhino horn auction website says legal sales “best way to save the rhino” Oxford Brookes University ecologist Vincent Nijman told Nature , “If there’s a demand [in China ] for large-cat parts, and that demand can be fulfilled by people living in parts of Africa, other parts of Asia, or South America, then someone will step in to fill that demand. It’s often Chinese-to-Chinese trade, but it’s turning global.” The Guardian said according to experts, Chinese rail, power plant, and road projects in developing countries are stimulants of illicit trade in body parts of endangered animals. The Guardian quoted Nijman as saying the projects “act like giant vacuum cleaners of wildlife that suck everything back to China.” Eight packages with 186 jaguar fangs were confiscated in Bolivia between August 2014 and February 2015, according to Nature , before they could make it to China. Chinese citizens residing in Bolivia had sent seven of the packages. Eight packages were reportedly intercepted in 2016, and then another in China with 120 fangs. Bolivian biologist Angela Núñez told Nature over 100 jaguars could have been killed for those packages, but it’s impossible to be certain. In Brazil, there were over 50 seizures of packages with jaguar parts last year, according to Oxford Brookes University wildlife researcher Thaís Morcatty, with most packages destined for China or Asia. Nijman said few wildlife trafficking cases around the world end with criminal sentences. “The deterrent is when somebody ends up in jail,” he said, but that doesn’t often occur “because society as a whole in most countries is not interested.” Via Nature and The Guardian Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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12,000 distribution boxes in Germany are being converted into EV charging stations

March 5, 2018 by  
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Deutsche Telekom just announced plans to convert distribution boxes in Germany into electric vehicle chargers – and the move will double the size of the nation’s charging infrastructure with 12,000 new stations. According to Electrek , there’s currently about 10,800 public electric car charging points in Germany – and that number stands to skyrocket in the near future. Deutsche Telekom is considering installing 500 100-kilowatt (kW) fast-charging stations, while the rest of the stations will be Level 2 charge points with charge rates up to 22 kW. Level 2 chargers can fill an 80-mile battery in around three and a half hours, and DC fast chargers can get an EV up to 80 percent in around half an hour, according to EV charging technology company ChargePoint . Related: First public ultra-fast EV charging station in Europe is now operational Telekom reportedly possesses two working prototypes, Electrek said. A spokesperson told German publication Automobilwoche they could begin the process of converting distribution boxes this summer. By 2020, all 12,000 charging stations could be in place. Automobilwoche said the EV charging station network in Germany is still patchy. Electrek said EV adoption in Germany has trailed behind other European countries. So a doubling of charging infrastructure could offer a boost the electric car industry needs in the country. In November 2017 CleanTechnica reported almost 40,000 plug-in electric vehicles had been sold in the country up to the end of September that year — around a 106 percent growth rate compared to the same nine-month period in 2016. This won’t be the first time a telecommunications company has utilized infrastructure in place for electric car charging; back in 2010 Inhabitat reported that an Austrian company, Telekom Austria, transformed phone booths into charging stations . Via Electrek and Automobilwoche Images via Wikimedia Commons and K?rlis Dambr?ns on Flickr

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12,000 distribution boxes in Germany are being converted into EV charging stations

Planting wildflower strips across crop fields could slash pesticide use

February 2, 2018 by  
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Could wildflowers help us cut our use of pesticides ? The Guardian reported that colorful strips of the flowers have been planted through 15 large arable fields in England – instead of just around them – as part of a Center for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) trial. The wildflowers could boost natural pest predators, potentially helping us reduce our reliance on environmentally damaging pesticides. Concern has mounted over how pesticides are harming our environment , even as we struggle to feed all 7.4 billion humans on the planet. Scientists in the UK are seeking sustainable ways to grow food, and wildflowers could help. The flower strips on 15 farms were planted last fall, where researchers will monitor them over the next five years. Related: How one Bay Area couple plans to save the bees by planting one billion wildflowers Stripes of wildflowers across farm fields could cut pesticide spraying https://t.co/L2l1tQJxdm by me @CEHScienceNews pic.twitter.com/kV4KavIjN5 — Damian Carrington (@dpcarrington) January 31, 2018 The Guardian pointed to research showing that use of wildflower margins to boost bugs like hoverflies, ground beetles, and parasitic wasps has cut pest numbers and even increased yields. But in the past, wildflowers were largely planted around fields instead of through them, making it harder for natural predators to get to the middle of large fields. GPS -guided harvesters now allow for crops to be reaped precisely, avoiding wildflower strips. Initial tests revealed planting stripes around 100 meters, or around 328 feet, apart, allowed predators to attack pests like aphids throughout a field. In the field trials, strips are around 20-feet-wide, and take up two percent of the total field area, The Guardian reports. Oxeye daisy, wild carrot, common knapweed, and red clover are among the flowers planted. Scientists will be watching to see if drawing insects into the middle of fields “does more harm than good.” CEH scientist Richard Pywell told The Guardian the ideal is that natural predators keep pests in check over the years so farmers would never have to spray pesticides. The Guardian said similar tests are happening in Switzerland, with flowers like dill, cornflowers, poppy, coriander, and buckwheat. Via The Guardian Images via Henry Be on Unsplash and Wikimedia Commons

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London to combat plastic waste with network of bottle refill points and fountains

January 24, 2018 by  
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London is taking a swing at plastic waste with moves that offer alternatives to plastic water bottles . Instead of buying another container that could end up in a landfill or the ocean , people in the city could use a drinking fountain or refill reusable bottles under a new scheme. The Guardian reports London aims to install 20 new drinking fountains and launch a bottle refill initiative. The Guardian said mayor Sadiq Khan hopes to tackle the plastic problem with a three-year, £750,000 (around $1,048,395) initiative slated to go before the budget committee of the London Assembly later this week. The drinking fountains and refill effort are part of the initiative, as is a move to stop offering plastic utensils, cups, and bottles at City Hall. Related: The world’s population buys one million plastic bottles every single minute The 20 drinking fountains will be put in place beginning this summer; locations haven’t yet been confirmed but deputy mayor for the environment Shirely Rodrigues told The Guardian that potential sites include bustling shopping areas like Oxford Street or Transport for London’s tube stations. More drinking fountains are also under consideration. The Guardian recently published an investigation revealing disparities in the provision of fountains in the city’s boroughs – some areas, like Barnet and Sutton, reportedly don’t have any at all. Under the bottle refill initiative, set to commence in five areas (yet to be announced) in February and March, businesses would make tap water available to the public. They will be able to locate places providing free tap water via window signs or an app. If the effort is successful, it could launch in the rest of London this summer. One movement working with the mayor is the Zoological Society of London-led #OneLess campaign . They will be supplying fountains and will scrutinize whether or not the moves do reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the environment. According to #OneLess, “Londoners are among the highest users of bottled water in the UK. The average London adult buys 3.37 plastic water bottles every week – that’s 175 every year per person, and over a billion per year on a city level. Sadly, many of these end up in the River Thames and flow out to the ocean.” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Bro Ole Scheeren completes art museum near Beijings Forbidden City

January 24, 2018 by  
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Büro Ole Scheeren recently completed Guardian Art Center, a contemporary art museum heralded as the “world’s first ever custom-built auction house.” Located close to Beijing’s historic Forbidden City, this hybrid cultural institution offers mixed-use programming from galleries and conservation facilities to a hotel, restaurants, events spaces, and even integrated public transport infrastructure. Designed to respect Beijing’s traditional urban fabric, Guardian Art Center comprises a series of nested gray basalt stone volumes at its base that echo the scale and materiality of the nearby hutong courtyard houses. The stone volumes are perforated with a varying circular pattern that lets in natural light and glows at night. A “floating glass ring” rests atop the stone base and is clad in a brick-patterned glass facade. “The Guardian Art Center is a lot more than just a museum ,” says Ole Scheeren, principal of Büro Ole Scheeren. “It’s not a hermetic institution, but rather an acknowledgement of the hybrid state of contemporary culture. It is a Chinese puzzle of interlocking cultural spaces and public functions that fuse art and culture with events and lifestyle.” Scheeren adds that the materials share symbolic value with the brick referring to the common people and adjacent hutongs, while the glass references the contemporary city. Related: Ole Scheeren unveils designs for a stunning “sky forest” in Vietnam The building occupies prime location at the intersection of Wangfujing, Beijing’s most famous shopping street, and Wusi Davie, and also sits opposite the National Art Museum of China. Given the site’s historical significance as the place where China’s New Cultural Movement originated, the designs for Guardian Art Center took two decades before passing approval by the Beijing planning bureau and preservation commission. In addition to its ties to both modern and historic design, the large structure can adapt to multiple uses thanks to moveable partitions and ceiling systems that allow for different interior configurations. + Büro Ole Scheeren Images by Buro OS and Iwan Baan

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Iceland supermarket commits to eliminating plastic within five years

January 17, 2018 by  
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Iceland Foods has committed to removing all plastic from its brand-name products within the next five years and replacing it with recyclable materials such as pulp and paper. The UK-based supermarket chain is the first major retailer in the country to commit to a complete elimination of plastic. “The world has woken up to the scourge of plastics. A truckload is entering our oceans every minute, causing untold damage to our marine environment and ultimately humanity – since we all depend on the oceans for our survival,” Iceland managing director Richard Walker told the Guardian . “The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to take a stand and deliver meaningful change.” Iceland acknowledges that it is now practical to make the switch to plastic-free products, thanks to technological advancements in alternative packaging . “There really is no excuse any more for excessive packaging that creates needless waste and damages our environment,” said Walker. The supermarket chain has already removed plastic straws from its stores and products and will soon switch to paper-based food trays. Related: Britain’s first zero-waste store is packaging-free and only sells ethical goods The move by Iceland has been praised by environmental activists like John Sauven, executive director for Greenpeace UK , who acknowledged the “bold pledge” while pressing “other retailers and food producers to respond to that challenge,” according to the Guardian . “Iceland’s commitment to go plastic-free by 2023 shows that powerful retailers can take decisive action to provide what their customers want, without the environment paying for it,” added Samantha Harding of the Campaign to Protect Rural England . Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has committed to eliminating all avoidable public waste within the next 25 years. May has also supported anti-plastic policies such as the expansion of a plastic bag tax, encouraging supermarkets to add plastic-free aisles, and funding research and development of plastic alternatives and support for developing countries as they seek to shift to away from plastic and its pollution . Via the Guardian Images via Iceland Foods

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Geothermal-powered Halifax home uses automation for energy savings

January 17, 2018 by  
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Omar Gandhi Architect completed a handsome luxury home in Halifax that’s both modern in appearance and in its use of energy-efficient technologies. Located in the south end of Halifax, Nova Scotia, the Syncline House is a two-story residence with a mezzanine set atop a rocky foundation that inspired the home’s name. Energy efficiency was a major feature of the new-build, from the ample natural lighting and triple-glazed windows to the use of geothermal and solar energy. Set atop a concrete base, Syncline House comprises two interconnected volumes connected via a light-filled atrium and clad in textured Fibre-C panels, a type of lightweight white fiber-cement panel that boasts fire resistance and long-term durability. The taller of the two volumes houses the communal areas like the open-plan living room, dining area, and kitchen on the main floor and a media room and gym on the ground floor. The second volume contains a master ensuite, office, and dressing room on the main floor and a garage on the ground floor. A guest bedroom is placed on the mezzanine level. Related: Artists’ Wooden Cabin Climbs Up a Hillside in Nova Scotia Full-height triple-glazed windows frame stunning views of Point Pleasant Park next door and the ocean waters of the North-West Arm beyond. The homeowners can also enjoy the view from west-facing walkout decks that extend from the living room and from the master bedroom. The airy and light-filled interior features wide white oak flooring, whitewashed walls, and floor-to-ceiling header-less doors. Rooftop solar panels and geothermal heat pumps power the home that uses automated blinds and recessed windows on the southwest facade for passive cooling. + Omar Gandhi Architect Via ArchDaily Images via Omar Gandhi Architect

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