Scotland’s latest wind farm will help fund 500 new affordable homes

April 20, 2017 by  
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Scotland’s Berwickshire Housing Association wants to capture the wind to boost their mission. By launching a new wind farm in the Scottish Borders, and selling the power to the National Grid, the charitable organization hopes to generate enough revenue to build 500 affordable homes over the next 25 years. Dubbed Fishermen Three, the 7.5-megawatt project at Hoprigshiels in Cockburnspath is a joint effort between BHA and the equally philanthropic Community Energy Scotland . The latter’s share of the revenue will enable it to help communities across Scotland leverage their own renewable energy initiatives. “The idea for the wind farm came when BHA realized that we had to be innovative in order to solve the dilemma of how to keep building new homes for social rental, which are so badly needed in this area, at a time when funding for new housing through traditional channels was in decline,” Helen Forsyth, chief executive of BHA, said in a statement. “The wind farm will provide BHA with a reliable, predictable, low-maintenance source of income that will allow us to build a steady stream of new affordable homes at a time when services are all too often being cut.” Related: 6 reasons the clean energy revolution doesn’t need Trump’s blessing Nicholas Gubbins, chief executive of CES, said that the United Kingdom’s energy system is shifting, but with changes come fresh opportunities. “We want to make sure that communities are at the forefront of the opportunities that this will create for new low-carbon energy developments,” he added. Scotland’s energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, agrees that renewables are the way of the future. He said, “Locally owned renewables in areas such as the Borders have the potential to help drive social, economic and environmental change at a local level.” Via the Guardian Photos by Unsplash

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Scientists discover Antarctica is covered in rivers

April 20, 2017 by  
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For decades, scientists have known that summertime brings liquid meltwater to Antarctica’s ice sheets. But until now, they’ve had no idea just how extensive the continent’s network of rivers, streams, ponds, and waterfalls really is. A new analysis by scientists at  Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has found that warmer months cause far more extensive melting than previously thought. That could be a problem as global temperatures continue to rise. Surface water can damage the ice shelves , weakening them and causing them to collapse into the ocean. Some of the channels identified in this survey allow meltwater to run harmlessly off into the sea, but in other areas, standing water can be a huge problem. In 2002, more than 2,000 lakes on the Larsen B ice shelf drained through the ice into the ocean below, causing the entire area to rapidly disintegrate. Related: Scientists warn rapidly-melting glacier in West Antarctica could cause serious global havoc The presence of water on the frozen continent does not yet appear to be the cause of widespread problems—but there’s also the possibility that warmer temperatures are causing sub-surface ice melt. Unfortunately, that phenomenon has been researched in far less detail, so it’s unclear exactly what effect it will have on the ice and rising sea levels in the future. Via Phys.org Images via NASA and Wikimedia Commons

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ExxonMobil wants a sanctions waiver for Russian oil project

April 20, 2017 by  
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The United States imposed sanctions on Russia back in 2014 after Moscow annexed Crimea. But it appears oil giant ExxonMobil would like an exception for their own profit. They’re seeking a sanctions waiver from the U.S. Treasury Department to pursue drilling in the Black Sea with Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft . It seems U.S. sanctions are just too inconvenient for ExxonMobil . Apparently they sent in their waiver application when Barack Obama was president, and did not drop it once Donald Trump entered office. The application didn’t come up during Senate hearings for former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson before he was confirmed as Secretary of State. Tillerson and other ExxonMobil officials then said they hadn’t lobbied against the sanctions on Russia. Related: Americans don’t trust climate change science because of fossil fuel industry’s disinformation Tillerson and the officials said ExxonMobil did receive a waiver to finish drilling an exploration well in Arctic waters near Russia. ExxonMobil officials also said they’d exhorted members of the Obama administration to align U.S. sanctions with European sanctions which allowed some flexibility for European companies to continue working on Russian projects. The Wall Street Journal first reported on ExxonMobil’s sanctions waiver request yesterday, and The New York Times confirmed the story with an oil industry official. An ExxonMobil spokesperson refused to comment to The New York Times on the waiver application. The application will go before the Trump administration at a tenuous time, as an inquiry into Russia’s potential influence on the American presidential election continues. At a 2014 Exxon annual meeting, Tillerson as CEO said, “We do not support sanctions, generally, because we don’t find them to be effective unless they are very well implemented comprehensively, and that’s a very hard thing to do.” But as Secretary of State he has not suggested sanctions be lifted. Rosneft and Exxon made a deal back in 2011 to invest $3.2 billion to explore the Black Sea and the Arctic Ocean, with the pledge to share in the findings if oil were discovered. Obama’s U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael A. McFaul, said on Twitter , “If the Trump administration approves this waiver, then all that tough talk last week about Russia was just that – talk.” Via The New York Times Images via Wikimedia Commons and President of Russia

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This amazing light-filled tiny house packs big style for just $35k

April 20, 2017 by  
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You don’t have to sacrifice style to live a minimal lifestyle. Case in point: this Tiny home may be ultra-compact at just 176-square-feet, but the interior is so sophisticated that its small size goes virtually unnoticed. The best part? It can be yours for just $35,000 This tiny home’s layout and design were optimized to create a comfortable living area. Space-saving features like hidden storage and custom cabinets keep the interior clutter-free. The large sliding glass door, along with plenty of windows, flood the interior with ample natural light . Related: Architecture graduate celebrates her first year living in a tiny home she built herself The compact home, which was designed and built by the owners, has almost everything found in a conventional home minus the extra space. A sleeping loft with enough room to accommodate a full size mattress is reached by a narrow staircase. The living area is spacious thanks to the high ceilings and minimal furniture. Even the kitchen’s small size is hardly noticeable thanks to custom-made cabinets and shelving. Via Tiny House Listings Photos via Tiny House Listings

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This futuristic metal-clad residence is segmented like a lobster tail

April 5, 2017 by  
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This futuristic residential building in Luxembourg has a segmented facade that resembles the tail of a lobster or an exotic insect. Design studio Metaform sought to eliminate some of the major problems that occur in multi-family housing projects – such as the lack of privacy, natural light , and open space. Metaform approached the project in an experimental way in order to respond to the steep topography and preserve the existing three-century-old trees located on the plot. These elements inspired the form of the building, which is split into six smaller, vertically shifted blocks. This allowed the designers to preserve the required density while providing residents with a sense of belonging, identity and human scale. Thanks to the resulting layout, the units receive ample amounts of natural light and have panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and the city. Related: Innovative Gap House in Seoul saves space with communal living areas The ventilated facade is clad in triangular aluminium panels . Passive house design features work together with a well-insulated facade and glass elements coated with anti-UV film that protects the interior from overheating. Solar panels and living roofs round out the home’s green building strategies, ensuring low-energy performance. Related: Belles Townhomes is SF’s First LEED Platinum Multi-Family Housing The design eliminates long, horizontal circulation routes, which can often be dark and acoustically problematic. Three vertical cores connect underground parking directly to the apartments–an element that allows the units to have three-sided orientations. Apart from offering privacy, the architects also wanted to give residents the possibility to meet and get to know each other in common shared indoor spaces like kitchens and living rooms. + Metaform Via v2 com Photos by Steve Troes Fotodesign

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This futuristic metal-clad residence is segmented like a lobster tail

Coming soon: NYC’s first community solar project

March 21, 2017 by  
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A company based in Toronto is bringing New York City its first community solar project. UGE International , one of the world’s leading renewable-energy contractors, will be partnering with Gotham Community Solar to develop a new array at a multi-tenant commercial facility between the Park Slope and Boerum Hill neighborhoods in Brooklyn. The project, which is scheduled to be completed in early summer, will have a rated peak capacity of roughly 100 kilowatts, according to UGE. The building abuts another UGE project: the Whole Foods Market at 214 3rd Street, colloquially known as “3rd and 3rd” by locals. “It’s been a privilege to work with ConEd , the Department of Buildings, and the project’s ownership group on developing this landmark project” Tim Woodcock, UGE’s Regional Director, said in a statement. Related: UGE is building a massive rooftop solar array atop this popular Brooklyn church Woodcock anticipates selling any surplus power to nearby residents at rates lower than those offered by their utility companies. The benefits would be twofold: cheaper electricity that also comes from a sustainable source. “The solar power generated by the project will be credited to numerous residential accounts, offering access to the benefits and low cost of solar energy to those previously excluded due to their housing situation,” he added. + UGE International

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German coal mine set to become "giant battery" for storing renewable energy

March 21, 2017 by  
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A German coal mine is about to become a massive battery for storing electricity from renewable energy sources. The Prosper-Haniel hard coal mine in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia that provided coal power to German industry since it opened in 1974 will soon be turned into a 200-megawatt pumped-storage hydroelectric reservoir. When completed, the nearly 2,000-foot-deep mine that is set to close in 2018 will essentially act as a giant battery that can store enough power for 400,000 homes. That’s a huge backup that’s much needed in one of the most progressive solar nations in the world. This “giant battery” stores energy by continually pumping water between two chambers, an upper and a lower connected via pipes with turbines. During periods of high electricity demand, power is produced by releasing the stored water from the upper chamber through the turbines and into the lower chamber. When demand decreases, pumps refill the upper chamber using the cheaper electricity available from the grid. Plants such as this tend to have a huge efficiency of about 80 percent, while also balancing the load in a larger power system. Related: Groundbreaking technology affordably captures C02 from fossil fuel plants As Bloomberg notes, creating this energy storage facility is a win, win for Germany—as it not only provides a much-needed place to store all that power it’s now producing through renewable energy initiatives , but it will also give a boost to the local economy in nearby Bottrop by providing jobs for many of the miners who would otherwise be out of work when the coal mine is shuttered next year. Via Bloomberg Images via Goseteufel , Wikimedia Commons and University of Duisburg-Essen

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EPA official accused of killing investigation into Monsanto weedkiller

March 21, 2017 by  
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An EPA official who was in charge of evaluating the cancer risk of Monsanto’s popular Roundup weedkiller has been accused of conspiring with the company to “kill” the study. Jess Rowland, the former manager of the agency’s pesticide division, is rapidly becoming an important figure in the more than 20 lawsuits that have piled up accusing the company of burying evidence that its herbicide can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, has come under fire in recent years for its potential links to cancer. After the World Health Organization declared glyphosate likely to be a carcinogen , a number of people who’ve been exposed to the weedkiller have stepped up and attempted to sue the company. As public pressure has grown, activists have begun calling on the US Environmental Protection Agency to ban the herbicide altogether. The agency, however, has been slow to act despite the public pressure that’s been steadily building – and a recent court case may have revealed exactly why. Last week, Federal Judge Vince Chhabria released a number of court documents detailing Monsanto’s internal communications and the company’s correspondence with the EPA. Related: Activists call on the EPA to ban glyphosate The records reveal that not only did Rowland go out of his way to try to bury research into the cancer-causing potential of glyphosate , but that Monsanto’s own employees had ghostwritten several papers on Roundup’s safety. These are the same reports, later attributed to various academic researchers, which the EPA used to declare Roundup safe for public use. While it’s possible the EPA wasn’t aware of Monsanto’s collaboration on the original studies, it does call into question the accuracy of the agency’s assessment. Monsanto is, naturally, denying the allegations, and claiming that the company’s internal communications have been taken out of context. On the other hand, it’s hard to see how else statements like “we would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and [the scientists] would just edit & sign their names so to speak” could be construed to mean anything else. The company has testified in court that this is merely a reference to minor edits made to the paper, rather than ghostwriting. If it’s true that academics publishing research on glyphosate’s safety are in bed with the company, and that EPA officials like Rowland are working off this biased data, the agency’s decision should be revisited as soon as possible. The WHO isn’t the only organization that’s found evidence of this herbicide’s risks – the International Journal of Cancer and the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine have both recently published research on the link between pesticide exposures and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as well. Roundup has already been banned in several countries following the burst of recent studies, and the US would be wise to follow suit. Via Bloomberg Markets Images via   Chafer Machinery ,   Mike Mozart

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Inflatable spiky pinecone-shaped roofs top this forest resort in Latvia

March 21, 2017 by  
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Spiky ETFE roofs  top this airy forest resort and spa in the historic region of Kurzeme, Latvia. 3GATTI Architecture Studio and OFL Architecture teamed up to design the Pinecones Resort using sustainable construction techniques and prefabrication , resulting in a fairytale-like woodland setting in harmony with its natural surroundings. The resort comprises cone-shaped units with inflatable roofs made from 100 percent recyclable ETFE that has a minimal carbon footprint . Lightweight and flexible, this material offers the possibility of creating dynamic building forms. The roofs will be inflated by a recyclable SPF sprayed eco foam with superior insulation and structural qualities. The laminated lightweight frames, made from locally-sourced wood, support the roof membrane and allows it to withstand snow loads. Related: Labyrinthine resort in Bangladesh lets nature take over The resort will focus on providing Blue Clay treatments based on organic and naturally abundant material. Different programs will be distributed across the site, with wooden bridges connecting the units housing winter tubs, saunas, therapy rooms and dining areas. In addition to the aforementioned sustainable features, the resort will also include a water filtration system, geothermal loops, and solar window technologies. + 3GATTI  + OFL Architecture Via Archdaily

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Inflatable spiky pinecone-shaped roofs top this forest resort in Latvia

Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan donate $3.6 million to stem SF housing crisis

February 9, 2017 by  
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Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook , and his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan, are donating millions of dollars to help to help mitigate the effects of San Francisco’s so-called “housing crisis.” The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative , the limited liability vehicle the duo established in 2015 for their philanthropic endeavors, is giving $3.1 million to the Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto , a nonprofit legal-aid group that works with evicted and displaced individuals and families of limited means. Another $500,000 will benefit the University of California, Berkley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation , which works to solve housing challenges through research and policy. “In the Bay Area, few challenges are greater than the need for affordable housing,” David Plouffe, president of policy and advocacy for the initiative, said in a statement. “[The grants] will support those working to help families in immediate crisis while supporting research into new ideas to find a long-term solution—a two-step strategy that will guide much of our policy and advocacy work moving forward.” CLSPEA says it will portion some of its grant, which will be doled out over three years, to grassroots partners such as Faith in Action-Bay Area and Youth United for Community Action . The money will help the organization serve an additional 2,500 residents, according to Daniel Saver, senior staff attorney for CLSEPA’s housing program. Most of them live in in East Palo Alto, Belle Haven, and North Fair Oaks, and many either risk displacement or live in unsafe conditions. Related: Mark Zuckerberg announces he will give 99% of his Facebook shares to charity “Housing is on the tip of everyone’s tongue in the Bay Area,” Saver told the Mercury News . “The crisis affects people all across the gamut: middle class and working class, teachers, nurses, service workers … and especially people of color are being written out of our communities by rising rents and unjust evictions. It’s not just a housing crisis that we have; we have a displacement disaster on our hands. We’re bleeding people out of our communities every single day.” Carol J. Galante, faculty director at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation, said Chan and Zuckerberg’s largesse will help her group “figure out how the Bay Area can get out of the difficult situation it’s in relative to such high costs of housing.” She is, at the moment, editing a paper about off-site construction and how the construction industry “ramp that up” in a way that not only lowers costs by 20 percent but also curtails building time by 40 percent. “A portion of the apartment that you’re building is prebuilt in a factory,” she explained. “Think of it as bringing in Legos and stacking them together on top of the foundation.” Via Mercury News Photos from Facebook

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