Dead Sea salt reveals drought on a scale never recorded – and it could happen again

March 29, 2017 by  
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Thick layers of Dead Sea salt found 1,000 feet below the sea bed holds clues to our planet’s past – and a warning. The salt reveals during warm periods in Earth’s history, the region – the Dead Sea is bordered by Palestine, Jordan, and Israel – suffered from drought with no known precedent. The salt, scrutinized by an international team of researchers led by Yael Kiro of Columbia University , doesn’t just offer a history lesson, but a caution climate change could seriously dry the region again in the future. Crystalline salt from beneath the Dead Sea reveals 120,000 and 10,000 years ago, rainfall in the area was a fifth of modern levels. These dry periods were naturally caused. But human-caused climate change today could potentially dry the region – which is already struggling – more than we realized. Right now the Middle East’s fresh water per capita availability is 10 times less than the world average, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Related: Dramatic Video Captures Rebirth of the River Zin in Israel’s Negev Desert Back in 2010, scientists drilled 1,500 feet into the Dead Sea bed’s deepest part. They obtained a cross-section that provided 200,000 years of climate history in the area. Alternating layers of salt and mud showed dry and wet times. Only recently, however, did scientists analyze the core in great detail. The region suffered from what Columbia University called epic dry periods. Kiro said in a statement, “All the observations show this region is one of those most affected by modern climate change, and it’s predicted to get dryer. What we showed is that even under natural conditions, it can become much drier than predicted by any of our models.” The journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters published the research in an early online edition . Six other scientists from institutions in Israel and Spain also contributed to the study. Via The Guardian and Columbia University Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Dead Sea salt reveals drought on a scale never recorded – and it could happen again

Michigan to replace thousands of Flint water lines in settlement

March 29, 2017 by  
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A judge approved a settlement with the state of Michigan today that will come as welcome news to thousands of residents: at least 18,000 homes in Flint will have their toxic water pipes replaced over the next three years. The state has committed $87 million to identify and replace any service lines containing lead or galvanized steel by 2020. The settlement marks the end of a lawsuit filed last year by Concerned Pastors for Social Action , the Natural Resources Defense Council , the American Civil Liberties Union and a resident of Flint, targeted at both city and state officials. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has praised the agreement. The $87 million used to replace the pipes will come from a variety of sources. The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which was passed by Congress last year, will provide up to $20 million in funds, with the state matching another $20 million. The state must also hold an extra $10 million in reserve, in case the repairs end up being more expensive than anticipated. The state will also cover the $895,000 the plaintiffs ran up in litigation costs. Related: 1,700 Flint residents sue the EPA over tainted water In the meantime , residents will have to either pick up bottled water from designated locations in the city, or they’ll have to install water filters on their taps. Though the filters have been shown to render the city’s water safe for human consumption, many residents are nervous and distrustful of anything that comes out of their taps (and with good reason). The lawsuit had asked that bottled water be delivered door to door throughout the city until pipe replacement was complete, but the judge shot down that request. Via Reuters Images via Pixabay and Paul Hudson

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Michigan to replace thousands of Flint water lines in settlement

Israel building world’s tallest solar tower to power 130,000 households

January 5, 2017 by  
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Three years after Israel first announced plans for an enormous solar power station, the project is progressing nicely. The 121 MW Ashalim Solar Thermal Power Station is under construction in the sunny Negev desert, and currently ranks as Israel’s largest renewable energy project to date. When it begins operating sometime in 2018, the power station will feature an 820-foot-tall solar tower, which will be the tallest in the world. This solar project , as well as others in development, will give Israel a huge push forward toward its goal of supplying 10 percent of its energy needs with renewables by 2020. Once completed, the project will power 130,000 households. The Ashalim solar project was initially projected for completion by the end of 2017, but a recent update shifts the timeline into 2018. The solar power station features a field of over 50,000 mirrors spanning 740 acres, which reflect the sun’s energy back to a centrally located tower. Concentrated solar power (CSP) systems like this one are fast becoming the trend in large-scale solar power projects, because of their high energy output. Once operational, the solar tower will generate around 310 megawatts of power, which equates to about 1.6 percent of the country’s energy needs, according to Israel’s Electricity Authority. Related: Israel Announces Plans for 121 MW Solar Power Station in the Negev Desert The Ashalim solar tower is backed by BrightSource Energy , General Electric (GE) and NOY Infrastructure & Energy Investment Fund, and it is just one of three plots that make up the power station. A second solar-thermal plot will store solar energy after sunset, and a third will house photovoltaic solar technology to produce even more energy. Despite it’s staggering height of 820 feet and designation as the world’s tallest CSP tower, the Ashalim solar power plant doesn’t come close to taking the title of “world’s largest,” which currently belongs to Dubai’s 1,000-MW CSP project . However, Israel’s largest renewable energy project does set the bar quite high by contributing toward the nation’s energy goal, which quadruples current clean energy production. Via Times of Israel Images via Brightsource Energy

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Upcycling studio in Tel Aviv gives former prostitutes a second chance at life

January 5, 2017 by  
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Modern slavery is all around us—even if we don’t always see it. Human trafficking for the sex industry is one of the most insidious crimes, but one group in Tel Aviv is fighting against it to save lives and the environment. A.I.R.—which stands for “Act, Inspire, Restore”—is an international social enterprise that combines social purpose with an eco-friendly upcycling business to spread awareness about the black market activity and to give former prostitutes the skills and supportive community they need for a second chance at life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyT7BS9V5Vs Founded by Swiss couple Tabea and Matthias Oppliger, A.I.R. turns reclaimed materials like pallets into custom wood furniture and other upcycled products. The social impact business is a branch of glowbalact , a Switzerland-based NGO aimed at ending modern-day slavery, particularly sex trafficking, in Switzerland and abroad. Tabea, a trained massage therapist, first got involved by offering free massages in Zurich brothels for three years to learn about the women working there, earn their trust, and give them a therapeutic experience. Her and her husband’s knowledge of the industry and desire to spread awareness eventually brought them to Tel Aviv, where an unexpected encounter with a woman who Tabea previously massaged in Zurich cemented their decision to start a social enterprise in Israel. Despite Israel’s mostly young and well-educated populace, the country is home to 12,000 women, men, and children who identify as sex workers. Over three-quarters of women surveyed by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice shared their desire to leave the sex industry but say they can’t due to lack of employable skills, financial debt, or coercion by pimps or former employees. The Oppligers founded A.I.R. two years ago and successfully launched their first workspace seven months ago in the city’s gritty but up-and-coming Florentine neighborhood. There, the couple is joined with a staff of social workers and business managers, and they currently work together with eight former sex workers who have signed on for a one-year training program to help them reintegrate into society. Related: Thailand’s $7.8 billion seafood industry is built on human trafficking and slave labor Created with the mission to restore people and materials, A.I.R. works primarily with turning discarded shipping pallets into stylish furniture, a process that Tabea says is very therapeutic. The Swiss-Israeli social enterprise creates custom furniture designs to generate a stable economic base and pays the women an hourly rate. Thus far, A.I.R. has installed their upcycled works in a variety of locations across the city including the rooftop patio of Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv, and recently won a contract to outfit the interior of a new coffee shop. The foam cushions are covered with recycled billboard canvas, which is sturdy, waterproof, and often colorful. Since the upcycled pallet furniture is heavy and is only sold in Israel, A.I.R. was asked by supporters to produce a second upcycled product that could be easily shipped abroad. Thus, the team has recently started collecting discarded kites donated by kite surfers. The reclaimed materials are repurposed into waterproof bags and bibs under the label Kite Pride. “We’re trying to make art not waste,” said Tabea to Inhabitat. “We love the idea of upcycling and recycling. It has to be unique and this very colorful stuff is very therapeutic for the girls. One of the girls said ‘I’m just happy looking at the colors.’ Our constant battle is between being socially minded and the pressure of trying to get a business up and running. It’s very challenging. We offer social impact holidays to Germans and Americans and other young business people so that they can come for two and three weeks here and help out at A.I.R. Our goal is to be a jumping board for the career these girls have always wanted. We just give them stability and a protected environment and teach them a few things.” A.I.R.’s Kite Pride products will soon be available for purchase on their website and their upcycled pallet furniture is available for purchase and commission in Israel. The sale of these products helps spread awareness and will produce more jobs around the country. To learn more about human trafficking, you can watch a new sex trafficking movie “She Has A Name,” proceeds of which help support glowbalact. + glowbalact + Vibe Israel Tour courtesy of Vibe Israel Images © Lucy Wang , image of Oppligers © Amit Shemesh

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Upcycling studio in Tel Aviv gives former prostitutes a second chance at life

Israel to test electric roads that wirelessly charge vehicles as they drive

January 4, 2017 by  
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Forget the charging port—the roads of the near future could power your electric car while you drive, eliminating the need to ever stop to recharge or refuel again. Israeli startup Electroad is working to pave the way towards a greener world with technology that retrofits existing roads with buried coils to inductively charge electric vehicles. The team has already performed successful tests of the technology, and will be demoing the electric roads on a larger scale with a public bus route in Tel Aviv . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkpcavw_vFI Founded with the goal of reducing global emissions, Electroad promises a more cost-effective, efficient, and cleaner way to travel. The startup uses technology that relies on electromagnetic induction —the basic principle behind wirelessly powering smartphones and rechargeable toothbrushes—to power electric cars with renewable energy while driving. Although other companies like Qualcomm and KAIST also work with wireless vehicle charging, Electroad’s CEO Oren Ezer says that while the concept is the same, the technology is different. “Our technology is flexible,” said Ezer. “Only copper and rubber is needed, and deployment is quick and easy. You can retrofit one kilometer of road in just half a day, from night to morning.” The installation process begins with an asphalt scraper that digs an 8-centimeter-deep trench. A second vehicle installs the wireless energy charging strips and fills the trench back up with asphalt. Smart inverters with real-time communication are installed on the sides of the road. A coil unit attached beneath the electric vehicle receives power transferred over a small 24-centimeter air gap. Radiation is minimized and locally shielded for driver and passenger safety. Related: KAIST Launches First Road-Charged OLEV Electric Buses in South Korea Electroad plans to focus on public transportation first before opening the platform up to private transit. The startup successfully tested their technology with an electric bus five months ago in Tel Aviv and opened 20 meters of retrofitted electric road outside their lab. Soon the company will test out the technology on a public electric bus with a set route in Tel Aviv. Since the bus will drive on electric roads, it won’t need to be recharged though it will have a small battery to allow the bus to drive up to five kilometers without an electric current. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQ-DzXirW08 “We remove the energy source,” said Ezer. “The electricity will come from renewable energy transferred to the road. This is a really sustainable solution. A battery for an electric bus can cost $300,000 and weigh 5 tons. If you remove the battery then the bus is much lighter and requires less energy. This technology is cost saving. If you compare it to diesel buses, it’s half the price. If you just start with public transportation it will save money and then you can open it up to taxis and trams. Payback is very fast.” Ezer has a dream to turn all of Israel’s transportation electric with inductive charging. Electroad received a research and innovation grant from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 and recently completed a program at Capital Nature , an accelerator that focuses on emerging renewable energy in Israel. The startup plans to test their technology on a public bus route in Tel Aviv next year. + Electroad + Vibe Israel Tour courtesy of Vibe Israel Images © Electroad , last image © Lucy Wang

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Off-grid village with game-changing green solutions blooms in the Middle East

January 3, 2017 by  
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An oasis for clean-tech solutions has bloomed in an unexpected place—the arid Negev desert. Located at Israel’s Kibbutz Ketura north of the Red Sea, the Off-Grid Demonstration Village is a hot bed for game-changing off-grid solutions that aim to improve the lives of people outside the grid and to provide a testing ground for eco-minded companies. Rapidly deployable housing, low-cost renewable energy systems, and experimental technologies flourish in this factory of ideas for a greener tomorrow. The availability of off-grid technologies has improved in recent years as the price of solar continues to fall and as research and development chugs along. But for the millions of people in developing and emerging countries who are disconnected from the national water and energy grids, the research has not yet kept up with demand. That’s why the non-profit Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative teamed up to launch the Off-Grid Demonstration Village (also known as the Eilat-Eilot Off Grid Hub) in 2014. The fairly remote and spartan desert with its temperature extremes provides a fitting environment for the village as a place of experimentation to test technologies designed for hard-to-reach, undeveloped areas around the world. “Living off-grid has a direct impact on quality of life and health and it is the most prominent indicator of the global injustice in the distribution of resources,” writes the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative. “In most of these cases, there is no future prospect of obtaining traditional grid connectivity. Consequently, there is a dire need to implement solid strategies and tools to deal with the implications of living off-grid.” The initiative and Arava Institute work directly with African communities and Bedouin communities in Israel to test out the viability and sustainability of these off-grid technologies. Individuals, companies, and governments from around the world visit the Off-Grid Demonstration Village to learn how they can bring these technologies back to their home country. Related: Israel’s greenest building produces more energy than it consumes The products and technologies currently showcased at the village fall under four main categories—buildings, energy, water, and food. The village currently comprises three demo buildings—a rural home, urban structure, and earthbag dome—each host to different off-grid products as well as large-scale technologies like the solar water desalination system by SunDwater ; more buildings are planned for the village in the future. Each building is based on existing building types found in off-grid communities and can be built inexpensively with locally found materials. The innovations lie in the easy-to-implement improvements to these types of houses, such as the addition or solar stoves or a biogas system to substitute fuel for cooking and heating to reduce pollution, risk of asthma, and the taxing labor of collecting wood for fuel. Rural Home Modeled on traditional and existing designs found in rural developing regions, the rural home is a round building topped with a thatched roof. The simple construction of grass, earth, and stone makes it easy and affordable to build. While the traditional rural structure is sufficient in providing shelter, the designer who worked on the project added a pagoda-shaped dome above the roof and inserted more openings to let in more natural light and improve ventilation for hot air and smoke to escape. Plastic bottles filled with purified water and bleach punctuate the thatched roof to serve as low-tech light bulbs that can reach up to 40 or even 60 watts. The backing of the rooftop solar panel was also removed to let in more natural light. A backyard biogas system, called HOMEBIOGAS, sits outside the home to convert household waste into energy and organic fertilizer. Urban Structure The urban structure is the largest of the three demonstration homes and is based on buildings found in informal urban settlements like slums. Built easily and inexpensively, this boxy communal building can suit a variety of needs such as a primary school building. The urban structure was built from plywood, a cheap and commonly found construction material, but the designers improved upon the traditional design by adding an insulating layer made from simple materials like straw or unprocessed sheep wool. Ventilation is also improved with the inclusion of a double roof: the first roof of palm leaves allows for natural ventilation and cooling, whereas the upper metal roof protects the structure from rain. The backyard includes an adjustable solar panel hooked up to a monitoring system so that users inside can adjust the position of the solar panel to maximize energy efficiency. A vacuum tube solar oven on display on the south side of the structure features insulated inner tubes that absorb solar energy to heat up food or water placed in the tubes to boiling temperatures. Earthbag Dome The earthbag dome house was constructed using methods developed by Iranian-born American architect Nader Khalili in the 1980s. The building was cheaply and quickly constructed with sacks of soil, called ‘earthbags,’ to create a stable and thermally balanced structure with no need for deep foundations. Since the roof was built as part of the dome, the builders don’t need to construct beams or a separate support system. To improve insulation, the designers built the earthbag dome with two layers: a thermal mass layer of compacted sacks of soil and an external insulating layer made from straw and soil. The Off-Grid Demonstration Village serves as a crucial step of validation between the research and development phase and implementation in developing countries. This testing ground encourages startups and larger companies to experiment with new ideas and gives them a space to demonstrate their products to potential investors, educators, and other innovators. Open to visitors, this inspiring village hidden away in an unlikely place in the desert is part of a greater aim to tackle world poverty by improving the quality of life for the millions who live off grid, one clean tech solution at a time. + Arava Institute + Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative + Vibe Israel Tour courtesy of Vibe Israel Images © Lucy Wang

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These 6 extraordinary cliffside homes will give you chills

January 3, 2017 by  
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If you’ve ever wanted to live life on the edge, you’ll love these adventurous cliffside homes . From a vertiginous Chilean home accessible only by boat to an unbelievable house-in-a-cliff with dizzying sea views, these daring homes make the most of their dramatic landscapes. Hit the jump to take a tour of homes perched high on cliffs, often in places where no buildings have ever been built before. Casa del Ancantilado by Gil Bartolomé Architects This crazy cliff house might look like something from a fantasy novel, but we assure you it’s totally real. Buried into a hillside in Salobreña, Spain, the Casa del Ancantilado was designed by Gil Bartolomé Architects to look like a dragon emerging from the steep slope with openings that overlook beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea. The curvaceous and cavernous dwelling is covered in metal mesh formwork to mimic the scales of a dragon. Till House by WMR Arquitectos Want to live in a home that’s hidden away from sight but still boasts spectacular vistas? WMR Arquitectos designed the Till House for a couple who wanted just that—a beautiful hidden home perched high on a cliff overlooking jaw-dropping Pacific Ocean views. Built from locally-sourced timber and powered by solar energy, the Till House was designed to disappear into the Chilean coast—it’s near impossible to spot from the road—and minimize impact on its cliff site where no buildings have ever been built before. Casa Brutale by OPA No list about cliffside homes would be complete without this incredible house-in-a-cliff project. This amazing concrete home—which is actually being built after the renderings went viral in 2015—is the work of OPA and would be set in a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea. The Bond villain-like lair will be built underground and topped with a roof-mounted swimming pool that spills over the edge to a full-height window with stunning views. Cliff House by MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects designed Cliff House, a Nova Scotia weekend retreat that was created to simulate the “experience of flying off [a] cliff.” Partly projected off a rocky slope, this minimalist cabin is wrapped in glazing to maximize natural light and views of the Atlantic coastline. The structure’s daring position adds drama to this unusual retreat and helps minimize site impact. House on Todos los Santos Lake by Apio Arquitectos This gorgeous cliffside home stands apart not just for its stunning volcano and lake views, but also for its remote and difficult-to-reach location. Only accessible via boat, this isolated cabin perched high on a cliff is set back inside a forested hillside and faces envy-inducing views of Chile’s blue-green Todos los Santos Lake ringed by snow-capped mountains. Designed by Apio Arquitectos , the home serves as a weekend retreat and was built largely from timber and water-resistant metal plates. Triangle Cliff House by Matthias Arndt German art expert Matthias Arndt designed the Triangle Cliff House, a design that’s only conceptual but is too eye-catching not to include in our roundup. In his renderings, the A-frame house straddles a misty cliff for amazing views from the lower level. Windows wrap around the home on three sides to offer views in almost all directions.

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These 6 extraordinary cliffside homes will give you chills

New photovoltaic solar technology boosts efficiency to 50%

November 23, 2016 by  
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Researchers at Technion Israel Institute of Technology recently made a breakthrough in solar cell technology that could boost efficiency of existing photovoltaics by 70 percent or more. The amount of sunlight solar cells can convert into usable energy is typically limited to around 30 percent, with many existing solar panels falling short of that due to less than optimal conditions. The Technion team developed new thermodynamic tools that work to capture energy currently lost, and convert it to electricity, thereby increasing a solar cell’s efficiency to as much as 50 percent . The university research team , based in Haifa, Israel, has been working to improve solar cell efficiency as a means to increase the benefits of clean, renewable sources of energy. They created a photoluminescence material that absorbs radiation from the sun, and converts the heat and light from the sun into an “ideal” radiation. That illuminates the photovoltaic cell and enables a higher conversion efficiency. The net result is a big boost: a conventional solar cell’s 30 percent efficiency rate is increased to 50 percent. Related: Masdar/MIT solar cell makes a grab for world record with 35% efficiency and lower cost “Solar radiation, on its way to the photovoltaic cells, hits a dedicated material that we developed for this purpose, the material is heated by the unused part of the spectrum,” said graduate student Assaf Manor, who led the study as part of his PhD work. “In addition, the solar radiation in the optimal spectrum is absorbed and re-emitted at a blue-shifted spectrum. This radiation is then harvested by the solar cell. This way both the heat and the light are converted to electricity.” The team continues to work on their innovation, and is targeting a commercial product release within the next five years. The results of the study were recently published in the journal Nature Communications. Via 3tags Images via Technion and Shutterstock

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New photovoltaic solar technology boosts efficiency to 50%

Gaza man’s DIY solar desalination machine can produce 2.6 gallons of fresh water every day

August 11, 2016 by  
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In the Gaza region, decades of Israeli-Palestinian conflict have resulted in a severe drinking water shortage, as some 90 percent of the water supply is unfit for human consumption. One local man has created a solar-powered desalination device that turns undrinkable water into healthy, fresh H2O. Fayez al-Hindi’s homemade distillation setup could help save Gaza, as residents are at risk for running out of water in a matter of months, according to some news reports. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ1NCW5eDNs “Sunshine is readily available in our country,” the inventor says of his homemade desalination tank. In an attempt to address the water shortage with a sustainable solution, al-Hindi built a simple distillation tank that separates clean water from pollutants and salt. The inventor’s system produces about 2.6 gallons of water daily, which is just enough for he and his family’s basic drinking and cooking needs. Related: New chemical-free desalination tech helps bring water surplus to Israel Of course, many folks were concerned about how safe al-Hindi’s distilled water could be, so the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility tested the water and found that his process is working. Lab technician Mohamed Abu Shamaleh called the results “fascinating” and applauded al-Hindi for finding a way to take an old water treatment method and make it new by using solar power . Now, al-Hindi is working to help other local residents build their own distillation systems, so that more people can have easy access to safe drinking water. It will be years or perhaps decades before the region’s infrastructure is repaired, so homemade water purification systems like this one may become essential to survival for thousands of people in Gaza. Via AJ+ Images via AJ+ via screenshot

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Gaza man’s DIY solar desalination machine can produce 2.6 gallons of fresh water every day

Elon Musk is developing a roof made entirely out of solar panels

August 11, 2016 by  
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While solar roofs are no longer an unusual sight in many parts of the country, on most houses they’ve definitely been added as an afterthought rather than worked into the design of the building. Elon Musk’s company SolarCity aims to change that with a new roof that will be made entirely out of solar cells and integrated with a Tesla backup battery pack to allow homeowners to use solar power even at night. The new product is aimed at customers with older rooftops who may be putting off a solar panel installation due to the time and cost needed for repairs. Instead of waiting for these customers to renovate their home, SolarCity would be able to offer them a completely new roof that’s even more durable than what they had before. While there’s not much information available about the specs yet, we’re eagerly awaiting more details. Related: Tesla and SolarCity just agreed on a $2.6 billion merger This announcement also hints at the new direction SolarCity is likely to take as it merges with Musk’s other company , Tesla . Two weeks ago, Musk explained that the new company would be focused on providing “end-to-end clean energy” solutions rather than simply offering solar panels and electric cars. This merger is not expected to impact Tesla’s plans for the upcoming Model 3 or the recently-opened Gigafactory . + SolarCity Via Engadget Images via Jon Callas and SDELC

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