Google Street View cars will map air pollution in cities worldwide

September 13, 2018 by  
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Air quality sensors are coming to a Google Street View car near you. The tech giant just announced plans to introduce sensors from a San Francisco company called Aclima that test air quality in cities and towns all across the globe. The Google Street View cars take photographs and incorporate them into Google Maps. Aclima is installing the air quality sensors in Google vehicles based in Mexico City, Houston and Sydney. The sensors will detect amounts of carbon dioxide , nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide wherever the cars go. The goal is to map out where pollution is becoming a problem and inform users about which areas of towns and cities have the poorest air quality. Related: Google hits its incredible 100% renewable energy goal A few months ago, Aclima installed some air quality sensors in London to test whether or not they would work with Google’s vehicles. All of the company’s hard work paid off and directly led to the partnership and expansion. This is not the first time Aclima has worked with Google and its Street View division. In 2015, Aclima helped Google determine the air quality on the company’s campus in California . Aclima has also used the cars to test air quality around the Bay Area. Since collaborating with Aclima three years ago, Google’s cars have traveled about 100,000 miles in California. So far, the sensors have generated more than a billion points of data, a lot of which can be used to plan future urban development projects. For example, developers can use the data to pinpoint where pollution problems exist and build neighborhoods in places where the air quality is higher. Google plans to have the sensors installed in its fleet by the end of this fall. Google Earth Outreach manager Karin Bettman said, “These measurements can provide cities with new neighborhood-level insights to help accelerate efforts in their transition to smarter, healthier cities .” + Aclima + Google Via Tech Crunch , Fast Company Image via Aclima

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Google Street View cars will map air pollution in cities worldwide

Pipeline leaks 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into Indiana river

September 10, 2018 by  
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An oil company based out of Texas has confessed to a faulty pipeline leaking 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into an Indiana river. Buckeye Pipe Line, based out of Houston, admitted that it detected a pressure loss in its fuel line last week. A break in the line poured thousands of gallons of fuel into a river near Decatur, Indiana, a town with slightly less than 10,000 people. Buckeye Pipe Line closed its line as soon as it detected the leak. Unfortunately, the leak still dumped thousands of gallons of jet fuel into St. Marys River, which runs about 100 miles northeast of Indianapolis. Officials in Decatur installed booms in the river to help stop the spread of the fuel while workers skimmed it from the surface of the water with vacuums. Related: TransCanada natural gas pipeline explodes in West Virginia The mayor of Decatur, Kenneth L. Meyer, believes removing the fuel will take weeks. The Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) is monitoring the situation and checking fuel levels in businesses and homes close to the spill site. The EPA is also checking the quality of water at different spots further downstream to determine how far the spill has traveled. Residents of Decatur first learned about the spill late Friday night after the local police issued a warning. The Decatur Police Department told citizens to stay away from the river until the cleanup was over. Buckeye Pipe Line is not planning on re-opening the line until the pressure issue is dealt with and everything is safe to run. Although 8,000 gallons of jet fuel ended up in the river, the EPA does not believe the town’s water supply will be affected by the spill. Residents might, however, notice a change in air quality . Meanwhile, this spill offers environmentalists further evidence of the dangers of new oil and gas pipelines. Via Associated Press and EcoWatch Image via  Ray Bodden

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Pipeline leaks 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into Indiana river

World’s first zero-emissions fossil-fuel plant expected to go live in 2018

December 5, 2017 by  
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North Carolina-based NET Power is pioneering a novel approach to capturing carbon dioxide in its reportedly zero-emissions natural-gas pilot power plant in Houston, Texas . The company is investing $150 million in its innovative design, which is centered around turbine technology that is mostly unchanged since its invention over 150 years ago. The key difference is that NET Power’s turbine uses carbon dioxide , rather than a mixture of hot gases, to transfer heat, which is then converted into mechanical energy and, ultimately, electricity. NET Power hopes that its plant design will prove efficient enough to be mass marketed and installed at natural gas power plants around the world. The turbine technology used in NET Power’s demonstration plant is based on the Allam cycle , named after its creator Rodney Allam, who developed the system in collaboration with colleagues at 8 Rivers , an investment firm focused on innovative technology . “He did it old-school style—with just pen, paper, and a four-function calculator,” said Walker Dimmig, a principal at 8Rivers, according to Quartz . “We had to hire an engineering firm to redraw Rodney’s drawings on the computer, and verify whether what he claimed would be feasible.” The Allam cycle exploits the unusual qualities of carbon dioxide, which, under high pressure and temperature, becomes a “supercritical fluid,” a state of matter that shares characteristics of a liquid and a solid. In its supercritical fluid form, carbon dioxide has proven to be an efficient extractor of heat energy in a turbine . Related: World’s first ‘negative emissions’ power plant opens in Iceland In collaboration with Toshiba, NET Power modified turbines to be compatible with the Allam cycle. Because of their highly efficient design, NET Power’s turbines are one-tenth the size of normal turbines. After some final tests are conducted and minor problems are fixed, NET Power expects its plant to begin its operation in 2018. At full capacity, it will produce enough electricity to power 40,000 homes. NET Power plans to license its technology, rather than building its own plants, a practical move in response to a challenging market. However, if the natural gas boom is here to stay, NET Power hopes that its carbon capture technology may prove useful and popular as the world shifts towards a cleaner energy economy. Via Quartz Images via Depositphotos , NET Power via NPR , and NET Power

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World’s first zero-emissions fossil-fuel plant expected to go live in 2018

16 green holiday gifts for gardeners and backyard farmers

December 5, 2017 by  
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Gardening, backyard farming, and homesteading have become more popular than ever, and chances are you have at least one green thumb to shop for this holiday season. From monthly seed subscription boxes to eco-friendly gardening tools , terrarium kits , and even backyard beehive s, we’ve rounded up some fabulous gift ideas for plant lovers of all ages and abilities. Check out what we’ve found in this year’s Green Holiday Gift Guide! GIFTS FOR THE GREEN THUMB >

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16 green holiday gifts for gardeners and backyard farmers

Why thousands of snakes are invading Bangkok homes

December 5, 2017 by  
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A plunger won’t help you here—unless you have one hell of a swing. As the Times reports, Bangkok officials received 31,801 calls this year alone from frightened residents seeking help in removing snakes from their homes. The jump in calls is said to be in part due to an extra wet rainy season, but at the heart of the issue is something greater: urban sprawl . Indeed, as the city’s population has grown along the Chao Phraya River Delta, snakes have been forced from their natural habitats into the cozy, dry quarters of humans. Worst still, some (including the eight-foot-long variety)  are using the toilet as their primary point of ingress. Bangkok hosts more than 8.2 million inhabitants. The city is also built on more than 600 square miles of delta. The presence of snakes has always been significant, but as humans claim more land for new development, the snakes have no other choice than to try to take some of it back. In fact, most of the 31,801 calls have come from areas with new construction. “When people build houses in their habitat, of course they will seek a dry spot in people’s houses because they can’t go anywhere else,” Prayul Krongyos, the city’s fire department’s deputy director told the Times. Related: This modular orphanage in Thailand was built using local and recycled materials Indeed, calls have jumped from 29,919 in 2016, and 10,492 in 2012. The paper also points out that these figures don’t even include the brave residents who battle snakes on their own, which they says is likely in the thousands. “There’s no way we could survive if there were more fires than snakes,” said Krongyos. That day, his department fielded 173 calls about snakes and just five for fires. As for what happens to the snakes once caught, the punishment is far more humane than one might venture. Snakes captured by firefighters are brought to a wildlife center and later released in the wild. Other individuals have created snake-saving initiatives, including Nonn Panitvong, a leading expert in biodiversity. He set up “Snake at Home,” a message group that seeks to prevent snakes from being killed when discovered. Snake at Home allows those who find a snake in their home to snap a photo and send it to one of the group’s volunteers who can tell them if the snake they’ve found is venomous. The group has more than 29,000 followers. As the Times shares, “Thailand has more than 200 snake species , including about three dozen that are venomous. But most do not pose a threat to people…The reality, though, is that humans cause snakes much more harm than the other way around.” Snakes also keep rat and other vermin populations in check in the bustling city, and many folks consider crossing paths with one a sign of good luck. Via NYT Images via Pixbay and Wiki Commons

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Why thousands of snakes are invading Bangkok homes

$30M contract cancelled by FEMA after supplies to Puerto Rico fail to arrive

November 29, 2017 by  
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A recently formed Florida-based company was granted a $30 million contract to provide vital supplies to Puerto Rico in its recovery from Hurricane Maria , only to have the contract cancelled by FEMA after Bronze Star LLC failed to deliver emergency tarps and plastic sheeting for urgent repairs. While no payments were ever made to the company, the botched contract resulted in four weeks of inactivity, between when the contract was given and when it was cancelled, while Puerto Ricans went without the vital supplies they need to rebuild. This failure comes amidst a period of heavy rainstorms, during which emergency tarps would have been very helpful in protecting people — many of whom remain homeless in Puerto Rico. It is not known how thoroughly FEMA vetted Bronze Star before granting the contract, but there are certainly warning signs regarding the company’s seriousness. Formed in August 2017, Bronze Star had never delivered supplies or been awarded a government contract before. The company, founded by two brothers, was listed at an address in a single-family home in a residential subdivision in St. Cloud, Florida . Kayon Jones, co-founder of Bronze Star, claims that, prior to accepting the contract, manufacturers had promised him that tarps would be ready and fit for usage. Related: Tiny Montana company signs $300M contract to help restore power in Puerto Rico Jones also claims that the difficulty in acquiring the tarps was due to their being manufactured in Houston, Texas , which is recovering from Hurricane Harvey. “We were trying to help; it wasn’t about making money or anything like that,” said Jones in an interview with the Associated Press . Although more than half a dozen other businesses bid for the contract, FEMA has not disclosed details as to why the deal was ultimately granted to Bronze Star. Via Associated Press Images via United States Department of Agriculture (1)

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$30M contract cancelled by FEMA after supplies to Puerto Rico fail to arrive

Abandoned house transformed into a gorgeous sanctuary on a remote Chinese mountain

November 29, 2017 by  
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This rustic sanctuary nestled in a remote village in China combines modernity and vernacular design to extraordinary effect. Architecture studio RSAA approached the home renovation with a strong sense of respect for the history of the building and its stunning natural surroundings. The original house, nested on the top of a mountain in the north of Anhui Province, China , was uninhabited for years until the owner decided to renovate it into a modern residence. The design team introduced dramatic changed to the space, cutting, lowering and rebuilding parts of the house to facilitate optimal views of the surroundings and accommodate new functions. Related: Decrepit cave transformed into a beautiful modern home in China New and old coexist in the renovated house, with semi-private and semi-open areas creating a more complex spatial flow. At the core of the structure is an outdoor atrium that was once an indoor space. Here, the original gable has been transformed into a decorative wall that blocks vertical views of the living room and bedrooms. Old bricks were used to rebuild one of the original walls at the site. In the process of rebuilding the wall, many old bricks were cut into slices and used as traditional decoration to hide the steel structure inside. The architects emphasized the junction between different kinds of materials and employed local craftsmen who used traditional building techniques . + RSAA Via Archdaily Lead photo by SU Shengliang

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Cities and the private sector partner for high-power innovation

November 1, 2017 by  
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Cities such as Houston and Amsterdam are tackling current climate-related challenges and generating savings and economic opportunities.

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Cities and the private sector partner for high-power innovation

Designing the Tesla building

November 1, 2017 by  
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As DHL, IKEA, Volvo and General Motors go, the building industry follows?

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Designing the Tesla building

Garbage from Hurricane Irma will now help power Florida

September 18, 2017 by  
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Hurricane Irma left a mess of destruction in its wake. But in Florida , some of that trash will be put to good use – as electricity . Garbage will be burned in waste-to-energy plants that can produce enough power for around 30,000 homes. While Houston can send trash generated as a result of hurricane Harvey to 14 active landfills , Florida doesn’t have as much space for landfills. So they burn a lot of it, using the generated heat to run steam generators. In 2016, 10 waste-to-energy plants in the state burned 4.5 million tons of garbage , producing 3.5 million megawatt-hours of power. That was around two percent of Florida’s overall power. Incineration cuts the solid mass of garbage by as much as 90 percent, and then the ash can be put into landfills, taking up less space. Related: How Hurricane Irma changed the colors of these Caribbean islands Irma created more trash for burning. Before the hurricane struck, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection set up disaster-debris sites with local governments so trash could be collected for the waste-to-energy plants. According to Bloomberg, county authorities are already seeing spikes in the amount of solid waste. Hillsborough County solid waste director Kimberly Byer told Bloomberg, “We’ve seen about a 20 percent increase. That’s just an initial increase, and it’s only been a couple of days.” Florida burned 12 percent of its garbage in 2016. They dumped 44 percent into landfills and recycled 44 percent. Their waste-fueled power plants were constructed largely in the 1980s and 1990s. According to Bloomberg, pollution-control technologies were later retrofitted to get rid of mercury and dioxin – although The New York Times said some environmental activists say waste-to-energy plants, while cleaner than ones of the past, still do emit mercury, dioxins, or lead. Burning trash isn’t the cleanest method of generating power, especially since it generates carbon dioxide , a greenhouse gas that then enters the atmosphere. But according to Bloomberg, it may be better than dumping waste in landfills – eventual methane emissions from the same volume of trash would be worse for the atmosphere. Hillsborough County turns 565,000 tons of garbage into around 45 megawatts of power per year. Byer said their waste-to-energy plant pays for itself. Via Bloomberg Images via U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan and U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf

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Garbage from Hurricane Irma will now help power Florida

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