The Netherlands plans 26,910-square-foot floating solar farm at sea

February 16, 2018 by  
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Around 26,910 square feet of floating solar panels could provide clean energy for the Netherlands . Six Dutch companies and institutions are developing the offshore solar plant, Project Solar-at-Sea, devised by Oceans of Energy . The pilot will have $1.48 million in government funding, Reuters reported. Utrecht University will conduct research – as the solar modules are expected to offer a power yield 15 percent greater than they would on land. Could an offshore solar farm provide renewable energy the Netherlands needs? Six Dutch organizations plan to find out. A pilot project of around 323 square feet of solar panels could be in place this summer, around nine miles from The Hague in the North Sea Farm, a testing zone, to scrutinize equipment, energy output, weather conditions, and the impact on the environment . Related: Dutch engineers unveil ‘floating island’ to combat rising sea levels There are significant challenges in an offshore solar project. Utrecht University solar power expert Wilfried van Sark said in the university’s press release that sometimes the solar panels will be underwater – “when the waves reach heights of ten meters, this is unavoidable. The panels will wobble a bit, too. The impact of those dynamic shifts in tilt angle hasn’t yet been studied, either.” Floating solar farms can be found on lakes around the world, but ones at sea are much rarer. But there are also benefits to operating a solar farm on the waves. Van Sark said seawater offers a cooling effect, so the yield of the solar panels is anticipated to be higher than on the ground. Oceans of Energy pointed out in their press release a solar farm at sea doesn’t use up valuable land space. Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN), Energy Research Center of the Netherlands (ECN), Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), and TAQA Energy are also part of the consortium. The team hopes to operate 26,910-square-feet of solar panels by 2021. Inhabitat reached out to Oceans of Energy for project images but they are still confidential; we hope to see them when the pilot project kicks off. + Oceans of Energy + Oceans of Energy press release + Utrecht University Via Reuters Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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The Netherlands plans 26,910-square-foot floating solar farm at sea

One of the last remaining communities still farming like the Aztecs

February 16, 2018 by  
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The village of San Gregorio Atlapulco is one of the only remaining communities that farms in the Aztec agricultural tradition. Located in Mexico City ’s Xochimilco municipality, San Gregorio Atlapulco is home to vast fields known as  chinampas , small islands which are connected by canals used for irrigation and transportation. Farmers cruise on boats through canals between fields to plant, cultivate, and harvest. Tenochtitlan, the Aztec island capital located in the middle of the Lake of Texcoco, was once fed by an integrated, complex system of chinampas. Though the Lake of Texcoco was drained and Tenochtitlan became Mexico City, echoes of Mexico ‘s agricultural past still exist, though they remain under threat. The region’s altitude, consistent sunlight, and abundant water makes for an ideal all-year growing environment. “We basically keep the fields producing all year. How [much we] harvest depends on what crops we put in,” José Alfredo Camacho, a farmer from San Gregorio, told CityLab . “Spinach will take a month and half, radishes one month. It depends on the crop rotation we decide on.” Chinampas are created with help from the huejote tree . “The huejote is the only tree which can resist this much moisture,” Gustavo Camacho told CityLab . “The roots keep the banks of the canals firm. To make a chinampa you first have to make an enclosure of branches and plant willow trees in the water. Then you fill the enclosure with mud and water lilies.” Related: Tired of red tape, indigenous leaders are creating their own climate fund While chinampas are fertile and bountiful, they are not especially profitable. “Nobody makes chinampas anymore,” said Camacho. As the ground beneath Mexico City has warped under the exploitation of underlying aquifers , low-laying chinampas have flooded while highland chinampas have dried out. Though the situation is not hopeless, change would require compromise. “We could solve the subsistence problem ourselves without asking anything of the government by making a system of cascading dikes like the rice paddies of China , but that would require a communal effort which is difficult to organize,” said Camacho. “Such a system of would cut some people off from their fields, which is why they disagree. But if things continue like this the chinampa economy will have disappeared completely in 20 years.” Via CityLab Images via  Serge Saint/Flickr (1) (2)

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One of the last remaining communities still farming like the Aztecs

Adventuring Naya becomes first wolf sighted in Belgium in a century

January 23, 2018 by  
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A female wolf originally from East Germany has traveled across Europe to arrive in Belgium , marking the country’s first sighting in at least 100 years. Farmers in Belgium’s Dutch-speaking Flanders region have been notified of Naya’s presence after she killed two sheep and injured one in the town of Meerhout. While it is unlikely they are thrilled by Naya’s adventurous spirit, her arrival is nonetheless an inspiring event for a continent that long ago hunted most of its wolves to near-extinction in most places. With the Belgian sighting in the books, wolves have now officially returned to every country in mainland Europe. The nearly two-year old Naya was first tagged with a tracking device by Technical University of Dresden when she was six-months-old. However, she did not depart from her pack rooted in rural Lübtheener Heide, a region between Hamburg and Berlin , until last autumn. She has since been living the dream of traveling through Europe , first traversing the Netherlands before arriving in Belgium. “She passed through four or five natural parks in the Netherlands but she left them all after one or two days showing that she was looking for something else,” Hugh Jansman, a researcher from the Wageningen University and research center, told the Guardian . Related: Wolves return to Rome’s periphery for the first time in 100 years Data gathered from her tracking device indicates that Naya has covered between 30 and 70 kilometers per night. “I followed the places where she stayed,” said Jansman . “We found leftover roe deer and hares, so she has been eating wild animals as well, as expected. And one thing we can tell is that she has totally avoided humans, and anything to do with humans.” Naya is part of a thriving movement of European wolves returning to live in their former habitats. “ Agricultural areas are being abandoned by people so they are re-wilding again, leaving lots of space for carnivores. The countryside is being abandoned by young people who are moving to the cities,” said Jansman. “This increase in wolves numbers and distribution area is going quite rapidly. So it is not a matter of if wolves are coming to the Netherlands , and probably Belgium, but how fast.” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Adventuring Naya becomes first wolf sighted in Belgium in a century

Peru passes legislation to let roads slice through remote Amazon area

January 23, 2018 by  
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Part of Peru’s Amazon rainforest could be under threat with a recently passed law. The move would allow roads to be constructed in Purus, a region The Guardian describes as the country’s most remote and pristine. It is also home to isolated indigenous groups. The law declares constructing roads in border areas as a “national priority and interest”. The area includes four national parks , and could impact five reserves for indigenous people The Guardian described as living in voluntary isolation. Related: Scientists warn Amazon jungle faces “death spiral” Lizardo Cauper, head of Aidesep , a Peruvian indigenous rights organization, told The Guardian, “These projects don’t benefit indigenous people. This is an area with isolated people who are extremely vulnerable. Roads bring outsiders who traffic our land, log our timber, as well as drug traffickers and illegal miners .” According to The Guardian, the law contravenes multiple international commitments Peru has made, including ones on climate change and trade. The publication also reported that Environmental Investigation Agency Peru director Julia Urrunaga said the new law contradicts a court ruling declaring the protection of the forest in Peru’s national interest. The roads could could open up paths for deforestation – Urrunaga said 95 percent of this occurs less than six kilometers, or around 3.7 miles, away from a road. The law was announced in the country’s official gazette mere hours after Pope Francis’ visit ended; during his trip he said Amazon’s indigenous peoples have “never been so threatened in their territories as they are now,” per The Guardian , and called for an end to exploitation of timber, gold, and gas in the region. In a Friday talk in Puerto Maldonado, the pope spoke out against “pressure being exerted by big business interests,” destroying this natural habitat important for the entire Earth. Laura Furones of Global Witness told The Guardian, “This law makes a mockery of Peru’s climate change commitments and the recent visit by the pope.” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Peru passes legislation to let roads slice through remote Amazon area

Cities in Scotland to start universal basic income trials

December 27, 2017 by  
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Select residents of  Glasgow , Edinburgh, Fife, and North Ayrshire will soon begin receiving unconditional monthly payments as part of a Scottish universal basic income experiment. Universal basic income (UBI) is a policy that offers direct unconditional income for all citizens to ensure that everyone benefits from a basic standard of living. UBI is currently being tested in Scotland, as well as countries like Canada and Finland, and has attracted £250,000 (~$334,500) in public funding for feasibility studies. The selected cities must submit their plans for locally implementing the basic income program by March 2018. Proponents of a basic income claim that it will be necessary to implement UBI in some form in order to compensate for the major economic disruption and potential job losses from increasing automation due to advanced artificial intelligence . While the idea is still controversial, it is being increasingly taken seriously in cities and countries around the world. “It might turn out not to be the answer, it might turn out not to be feasible,” said Scotland ‘s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. “But as work changes as rapidly as it is doing, I think its really important that we are prepared to be open-minded about the different ways that we can support individuals to participate fully in the new economy.” Related: Wind power supplied 124% of household electricity needs in Scotland from January through June Scotland is not alone in its endeavor to understand how UBI might feasibly function. California , the Netherlands, Ontario, India, Italy, and Uganda all took steps in 2017 towards someday being able to implement a UBI system. In California, this work is being supported by companies like Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s largest start-up accelerator. “In a world where technology eliminates jobs, it will mean that the cost of having a great life goes down a lot,” tweeted Sam Altman, president at Y Combinator. “But without something like basic income, I don’t think we can really have equality of opportunity.” Via ScienceAlert Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Cities in Scotland to start universal basic income trials

Historic White House tree to be chopped down

December 27, 2017 by  
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The Jackson Magnolia that has adorned the White House South Lawn since the 1800s is coming down. Brought by President Andrew Jackson from Tennessee, and said to be planted in memory of his wife Rachel who died not too long after his 1828 election, the tree is slated for removal later this week. According to CNN , First Lady Melania Trump made the call as the tree is reportedly too decayed to stay in place. The Jackson Magnolia is the oldest on White House grounds, reported CNN. There have been many efforts to preserve it over the years, such as a cabling system. United States National Arboretum specialists came in at the request of the White House to assess the tree, and CNN obtained documents that said, “The overall architecture and structure of the tree is greatly compromised and the tree is completely dependent on the artificial support. Without the extensive cabling system, the tree would have fallen years ago. Presently, and very concerning, the cabling system is failing on the east trunk, as a cable has pulled through the very thin layer of wood that remains. It is difficult to predict when and how many more will fail.” Related: Washington DC’s national monuments are getting slimed White House officials fear the tree could fall when President Donald Trump’s helicopter takes off nearby. The First Lady’s director of communications Stephanie Grisham told CNN, “After reviewing the reports, [Mrs. Trump] trusted that every effort had been made to preserve the historic tree and was concerned about the safety of visitors and members of the press who are often standing right in front of the tree during Marine One lifts,” adding the First Lady asked that wood from the Jackson Magnolia be preserved. CNN reported offshoots of the tree have grown to around eight to 10 feet tall at an undisclosed location nearby, and there are plans for a new Jackson Magnolia to be planted in place of the old. Via CNN Images via U.S. Pacific Command and achuertas on Flickr

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Historic White House tree to be chopped down

Scientists find surprising methane-based ecosystem in underwater Yucatan caves

December 12, 2017 by  
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Underwater caves have been described as one of Earth’s final unexplored frontiers. An international team recently delved into the flooded caves of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and found methane and dissolved organic carbon sustain the food web in these caves, with an ecosystem similar to that of deep ocean cold seeps. Mayan lore described the underwater caves in Mexico as a fantastical underworld. While the caves aren’t mythical, they did hold surprises for the 10 scientists who recently conducted what the United States Geological Survey (USGS) described as “the most detailed ecological study ever for a coastal cave ecosystem that is always underwater.” These researchers found methane and the bacteria that eat it serve as the linchpin for the ecosystem. Study lead author David Brankovits of Texas A&M University at Galveston said in a statement, “Finding that methane and other forms of mostly invisible dissolved organic matter are the foundation of the food web in these caves explains why cave-adapted animals are able to thrive in the water column in a habitat without visible evidence of food.” Related: Hundreds of massive seafloor craters are leaking methane They researched the Ox Bel Ha cave network, a subterranean estuary complex about the same size as Galveston Bay. Naturally-forming methane in these caves migrates downward, instead of upward as it normally would when formed in soils, so bacteria and microbes can feed on the methane. Prior studies posited that vegetation and detritus comprised the majority of organic material for microbe food in the caves, according to USGS, so the scientists were surprised to discover just how important methane is to the caves’ food web. There’s little surface debris to serve as food deep in the caves, so microbes depend on methane as well as other dissolved organics that filter down from the caves’ ceiling. One cave-adapted shrimp species receives around 21 percent of its nutrition via methane. The journal Nature Communications published the research online in late November. Scientists from institutions in the United States, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Mexico contributed to the work. Via the United States Geological Survey Images via © HP Hartmann and the United States Geological Survey

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Scientists find surprising methane-based ecosystem in underwater Yucatan caves

Black timber Villa S makes more energy than it consumes

December 4, 2017 by  
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Energy bills are a thing of the past at Villa S, a plus-energy home in the western Netherlands built to replace a former home from the 1960s. RAU architecten designed the new solar-powered home that embraces the surrounding dune and forest landscape through large windows. The architects’ focus on sustainability also extends to materials, which include FSC-certified timber and “emission-free materials.” Clad in black timber , Villa S is a boxy building punctuated by windows of various sizes. A beautiful pine forest to the northwest side of the property informed the placement of the windows and sequence of indoor spaces. “The transition to this forest is gradual, a gradual transition from private to public,” wrote the architects. “An important quality in the design is the successive sequences of different spaces, each with a surprising view of the beautiful surroundings. The forest is always present but is always experienced in a different way. In the house it feels like the forest is part of the garden. The differences in height in the garden are solved in new slopes so that the garden smoothly flows into the environment.” The ground floor is partly sunken and contains a sauna , office, guest room, and a garden room that opens up to the living room above via a staircase. The first floor also includes a dining room, kitchen, and playroom. Bedrooms are located on the second floor. The large windows take in ample natural light that bounces off of reflective light-colored walls and frame views of the pool, garden, and forest. Related: Green-Roofed Villa L Floats Upon a Daylit Glass Volume in the Netherlands In addition to solar panels , the home is equipped with a wood pellet stove for energy generation. A concrete slab beneath the ground level floor provides thermal comfort and is complemented by a low-temperature climate system. + RAU architecten Images by Marcel van der Burg

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Black timber Villa S makes more energy than it consumes

The zero-electricity Gentlewasher does the laundry in five minutes flat

November 29, 2017 by  
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We’ve all been there – you need to wash just a few clothing items but you don’t have nearly enough for a full load of laundry . The gentlewasher offers a solution, washing clothes in five minutes with less water than washing machines and zero electricity . The hand-powered device can wash up to 12 T-shirts or eight dresses at a time, and it uses around 4.7 gallons of water – compare that to 13 gallons for an Energy Star washing machine, or 40 gallons for an older model washing machine. Need to wash delicates in a hurry? The gentlewasher makes hand-washing clothes a breeze. It’s easy to use: attach a water hose, put in clothes and a teaspoon of detergent, and start turning. After a two-minute wash cycle and two-minute rinse cycle, the garments are ready to hang-dry. The ergonomic handle ensures you won’t get too tired during the process. Related: 14-year-old girl invents pedal-powered washing machine from bike parts The gentlewasher lives up to its name, and it can actually prolong the life of your garments with the help of patented honeycomb holes that create a protective water layer so garments won’t come into contact with the drum. The company says that their product is the most sustainable and gentlest washing device for apparel ever. The company, based in the Netherlands, says results are “as good as a front-loading machine.” The gentlewasher is designed for clothes that should be washed by hand, but it can be used for all types of garments. It’s especially useful for people on the road – such as those traveling in an RV or camping. And it could even come in handy in between laundry loads or for cutting down trips to the laundromat for those living in tiny city apartments. The company says their mission is to “develop an affordable washing device for people around the world,” as five billion people worldwide still don’t have access to washing machines and must spend hours washing clothes. You can buy a gentlewasher online for $269. + gentlewasher Images courtesy of gentlewasher

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The zero-electricity Gentlewasher does the laundry in five minutes flat

BIG and WeWork reveal plans for interactive WeGrow kindergarten in New York City

November 29, 2017 by  
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International startup WeWork is expanding beyond its co-working roots with a public  kindergarten in New York City called WeGrow. The innovative school will be designed in collaboration  BIG Architects  and will provide an environment for education in an interactive space that focuses on introspection, exploration, and discovery. WeGrow will be a public elementary school for kids ages three to nine that aims to function as an environment where youngsters can experience hands-on and experiential learning. The first images of the space show wooden play areas, large grey pods for climbing and sitting, and several modular classrooms and treehouses that facilitate interaction. Related: 10 brilliant communal designs helping people work and live together WeWork claims that the new kindergarten will “focus as much on the growth of our children’s spirits as we will their minds.” References to various natural phenomena, as well as an element of futurism, permeate the new WeGrow concept, set to open its first location in Chelsea next autumn. “The design starts from the premise of a school universe at the level of the child: a field of super-elliptic objects forms a learning landscape that’s dense and rational – yet free and fluid,” said the firm. + BIG Architects Via Dezeen

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BIG and WeWork reveal plans for interactive WeGrow kindergarten in New York City

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