Airbus’ flying electric taxi is on track to soar next year

October 9, 2017 by  
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Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicles are really taking off, and Airbus is set to launch a VTOL taxi by next year. The multi-passenger CityAirbus is powered by electric motors – and it’s designed to one day operate autonomously . The CityAirbus could allow commuters to escape traffic by turning to an affordable, environmentally friendly new mode of travel . Airbus announced they just finished their first full-scale testing for the CityAirbus’ propulsion system, describing the testing phase as successful. This means they’re on track for their first flight, scheduled for the end of next year. Related: Airbus and Italdesign unveil modular urban land and air transport system CityAirbus chief engineer Marius Bebesel said in a statement, “We now have a better understanding of the performance of CityAirbus’ innovative electric propulsion system, which we will continue to mature through rigorous testing while beginning the assembly of the full-scale CityAirbus flight demonstrator.” The CityAirbus boasts what Airbus describes as a four-ducted propeller configuration, which boosts safety and helps yield a low acoustic footprint. 100 kilowatt electric Siemens motors and four batteries help the CityAirbus get from point A to point B. As many as four people will be able to ride in a CityAirbus, which will cruise at a speed of 120 kilometers per hour, or around 75 miles per hour, along fixed routes. In the beginning a pilot will fly the VTOL, but Airbus plans for the vehicle to one day pilot itself. Airbus said there are benefits to adding a third dimension of travel to urban transportation , such as opening up accessibility for underserved or remote areas of a city . Self-piloted vehicles in particular can operate around three times faster than a typical road vehicle, and are energy efficient , running off electricity. Airbus said their VTOL method of travel will be quick and affordable. Via Airbus Images via Airbus ( 1 , 2 )

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Airbus’ flying electric taxi is on track to soar next year

Ole Scheeren’s modular office building looks like a giant Jenga tower

October 6, 2017 by  
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Architect Ole Scheeren unveiled images of his first project in Europe- a residential tower that will offer panoramic views of Frankfurt’s skyline. The designer will overhaul an entire 1970s office block to create 200 living units on the banks of the River Main. The modular apartments will be inserted into the framework of the building, with some recessed and others cantilevering out into space. The Riverpark Tower will be developed in cooperation with GEG, one of Germany ’s most prestigious real estate investment platforms. It will house 220 units on 23 floors, ranging in size from small apartment to four-room suites. Related: Thailand’s tallest building opens with new green spaces for Bangkok “This project is about the positive reinterpretation of an existing structure,” said the architect. “It’s quite a serious intervention, prompted by necessity not ambition,” he added. Modular , glass-fronted units will be inserted into the existing, free-spanning structural framework. They will cantilever out at some points, introducing an element of irregularity to the silhouette. New loft apartments will occupy the space at the four corners of the building which will be cut away at the top. + Buro Ole Scheeren Via Dezeen

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Ole Scheeren’s modular office building looks like a giant Jenga tower

Tesla nears halfway mark on world’s largest battery installation in South Australia

October 2, 2017 by  
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Tesla just announced that the world’s largest battery installation is about halfway finished. The 100MW/129MWh utility-grade battery bank near the site of the 100MW Hornsdale Wind Farm in South Australia will be the largest system connected to an energy grid. This massive undertaking was inspired by a bet between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Australian software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, who could not believe that Tesla was able to install its grid-tied battery systems as quickly as it claimed. Musk, confident in his company’s work, promised to install the world’s largest battery bank in 100 days or the State of South Australia would receive it for free. The clock is now ticking. After accepting the challenge, Tesla participated in a competitive bidding process to unlock a $115 million renewable energy fund from the State of South Australia , which has suffered disruptive blackouts in recent summer seasons. After estimating that the world’s largest battery bank would cost $32.35 million, excluding labor costs and taxes, Tesla was awarded the contract in partnership with the French company Neoen, which owns the Hornsdale Wind Farm on which the battery bank is being built. Musk made clear that the negotiation phase did not count towards the 100 days deadline. The stakes are high; if Tesla fails to complete its task within 100 days, it could suffer a loss of $50 million or more. Related: Tesla is shipping hundreds of Powerwall battery systems to Puerto Rico Last Friday, Tesla officially announced the start of its 100-day challenge, though it would seem that the company gave itself a bit of a head start. The battery bank, which is being built at the Tesla/Panasonic Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada , is nearly halfway complete as is the installation of batteries into the bank. “To have that [construction] done in two months … you can’t remodel your kitchen in that period of time,” said Musk at a kickoff event, seeming to acknowledge the absurdity of the situation. If any company is up to this kind of challenge, one based on a bet between billionaires, it’s Tesla. Via Ars Technica Images via Tesla

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Tesla nears halfway mark on world’s largest battery installation in South Australia

China is fighting desertification with a Great Green Wall of trees

August 31, 2017 by  
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In a major geoengineering effort to fight back against ever-encroaching desert, China is planting trees to create a “Great Green Wall” that may halt erosion, capture carbon, and provide economic benefits to the People’s Republic. By 2050, the nation of nearly 1.5 billion people aims to plant 88 million acres of woodland in an area that stretches 3,000 miles long and up to 900 miles wide. If successful, China’s reforestation project could serve as a guide for the countries of the 250 million people worldwide threatened by desertification . The vast arid land of China, which includes the historic Gobi Desert, encompasses up to 27 percent of the country’s land, and that number is growing. By 2006, nearly 1,000 square miles, an increase of 400 square miles since the 1950s, of usable land was being consumed by the desert . Desertification in China causes dust and sandstorms that contribute to poor health outcomes, the crippling of transportation routes, and economic losses, which are estimated to be in the billions of dollars every year. Related: The Great Green Wall of Africa could fight desertification and poverty The results of the project, which began in 1978, have been mixed. On the one hand, the project has provided financial stability to many previously impoverished communities located in the prospective Great Green Wall region. Government investment in infrastructure surrounding the project has also aided regional development. The Chinese government claims that the project has already yielded a decrease in sandstorms, stabilized acres of desert, and even increased precipitation . Others are more skeptical. “When it’s profitable, people tell lies,” said Cao Shixiong, a professor at Minzu University of China.  “I thought it was a very good way to combat desertification,” said Cao. However, in light of some estimates that up to 86 percent of the trees planted as part of the project have died, Cao changed his mind. “I realized it’s because of policy. We were choosing the wrong place to plant trees.” Researchers are also concerned that importing ill-suited trees into the fragile ecosystem may yield disastrous consequences in the future. “For the past 1,000 years, only shrubs and grass have grown in those areas. Why would they think planting trees would be successful?” said Sun Qingwei, a former Chinese Academy of Sciences desert researcher who now works for the National Geographic Society. “It’s not sustainable. Investing money in trees that are not supposed to be there is kind of crazy.” Time will tell if the Great Green Wall is as enduring as its stone-and-brick namesake. Via Mother Jones Lead image via Deposit photos , others via People’s Daily Online , Vaiz Ha/Flickr , and Christopher Michel/Flickr

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China is fighting desertification with a Great Green Wall of trees

Funky Gemma Observatory in New Hampshire is the perfect place for stargazing

August 31, 2017 by  
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The new Gemma Observatory in New Hampshire defies architectural tradition by rejecting the established dome form. Instead, this private astronomical observatory looks like it has been carved out of the rock on which it stands. Anmahian Winton Architects designed the building as a faceted volume that creates optimal conditions for sky observation. The building is located on a remote mountain summit in central New Hampshire. It sits on a granite outcropping, amidst a very “dark” landscape with minimal light pollution,  which would potentially obstruct views of the night sky. Related: X-Studio’s Lightweave Palm Observatory is Made Entirely From Palm Leaves Gemma’s faceted form reflects the surrounding terrain, while its zinc cladding makes it look like a single piece of stone. Its interior, on the other hand, provides warmth through the presence of fir plywood . It houses a research office, sleeping bunk, and warming room on the first floor, and an exterior observation deck accessible via a helical stair. One of the most important aspects of the design is the role its shape and cladding plays in facilitating its function. The outstanding heat transfer capability facilitates sky observation by minimizing temperature differential distortion. Furthermore, cuts in the zinc cladding create strategically placed openings oriented towards both geological and celestial landmarks. + Anmahian Winton Architects Via v2com

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Funky Gemma Observatory in New Hampshire is the perfect place for stargazing

Why Alaska’s vanishing permafrost worries researchers

August 24, 2017 by  
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Permafrost is losing in the battle against climate change . Even as we attempt to mitigate climate change by reducing fossil fuel use, researchers say thawing permafrost could make our atmosphere 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit hotter over the next few centuries. Parts of Alaska’s permafrost are especially vulnerable: the New York Times reports a large amount of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge’s permafrost could disappear by the middle of the century. Permafrost could contain around double the amount of carbon in our atmosphere right now. And it’s melting. Scientists from the Woods Hole Research Center , recently studying Alaska’s permafrost, think its fate could be the most urgent of the effects of climate change. As permafrost thaws, microbes convert some of its material into methane and carbon dioxide, which could lead to more warming. Related: Dramatic disintegration of Canadian permafrost threatens huge carbon release Woods Hole scientists set up a temporary field station in July in the wildlife refuge to drill permafrost cores to analyze for carbon content. Deputy director Max Holmes told The New York Times permafrost loss “has all kinds of consequences both locally for this region, for the animals and the people who live here, as well as globally.” Land can slump when permafrost melts, damaging infrastructure . The process of permafrost thawing can alter the landscape, prompting lakes to drain or leading to elevation changes that impact water flow through the land. Scientists haven’t pinned down an exact number of how much carbon is being released from permafrost, but one estimate puts it at 1.5 billion tons a year for emissions averaged during the rest of the century. That’s about the amount generated every year by burning fossil fuels in the United States right now. Scientists also aren’t decided on when – or how much – of Alaska’s permafrost will go. And it would likely take thousands of years for the full depth of permafrost to melt entirely. But University of Alaska researcher Vladimir Romanovsky told The New York Times recent work has revealed permafrost “is not as stable as people thought.” Via The New York Times Images via NPS Climate Change Response on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Chinese province runs entirely on renewable energy for 7 days

June 27, 2017 by  
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A province in China just showed it is indeed possible to obtain all of our electricity from renewable sources . Qinghai Province recently ran solely on solar , wind , and hydropower for around a week. The province, which is home to over five million people, used up the amount of electricity that 535,000 tons of coal could have generated in those seven days – without all the air-polluting carbon emissions . The State Grid Corporation of China ran the trial in the Qinghai Province to show fossil fuels aren’t a necessary component of our energy future. So between June 17 and midnight on June 23, the province got its power from only clean energy : 72.3 percent from hydropower and the rest from other sources like solar and wind. Related: Renewables will reign supreme by 2040, latest BNEF report shows During the week the people of Qinghai consumed 1.1 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity. The province is home to the Laxiwa hydropower station, which generates 10.2 billion kWh annually, and the Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, which as of February this year was the largest solar farm in the world . ScienceAlert pointed out the figures have not been independently confirmed, and the information comes from a state-run news agency . But if the numbers are verified it will help show an electrical grid can remain stable without gas or coal for base load energy. The province already obtains a large amount of power from renewables. All told Qinghai’s power grid has an installed capacity of 23.4 million kilowatts (kW) – and 82.8 percent is found in cleaner sources like hydropower, solar, and wind – though some environmentalists will take issue with the claim that hydropower is a ‘green’ energy source. Still, plans for more renewable sources are in the works – the province aims to boost wind and solar capacity to 35 million kW by 2020 and supply 110 billion kWh of clean power yearly to areas of eastern and central China. The government will reportedly invest around $370 billion in renewable energy over the next three years, creating over 13 million jobs . Via ScienceAlert and Xinhua Images via Ken Marshall on Flickr and Pixabay

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Chinese province runs entirely on renewable energy for 7 days

Set up camp anywhere with Latvia’s luxurious Camping Box

May 30, 2017 by  
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Camping just got a lot more glamorous with the Camping Box , a modular eco-friendly box that’s super easy to set up. InBoxLifestyle designed the creative tent or camper alternative, and their 97-square-foot box can house four people comfortably. The Latvia -based company says their Camping Box allows campers to escape into nature while feeling like they’re staying at a fancy hotel . The Camping Box is about what it sounds like: a box you can set up just about anywhere and sleep or cook inside while camping. But these innovative dwellings are designed to be a step up from your standard camper or tent; according to the company, they provide “high class hotel benefits in the middle of nowhere.” Related: Sublime tiny cabins in British Columbia that can be installed within hours The modular boxes are easy to maintain and move. They’re made of fiberglass , and are rain and snow resistant. They can also be popped up without project approval. They don’t take up a lot of space, so could be tucked into a corner of a backyard or forest. InBoxLifestyle says their Camping Boxes will last for years, and are nature friendly. The design of the company’s boxes is energy efficient thanks to what they describe as the latest generation ventilation and heating system. The boxes can be connected to the grid or water and sewage systems. But InBoxLifestyle does say on their website that boxes in remote locations can have an individual solution for water and sewage. InBoxLifestyle offers multiple floor plans for their Camping Box, including ones for two or four people, ones with kitchens, bathrooms, or showers, and even a sauna and Jacuzzi box. Prices for the four-person option start at $13,416.60. The company works with clients to design the interior according to what amenities a person wants inside their Camping Box. The Camping Box isn’t the only modular box setup InBoxLifestyle offers. They offer a Gym Box, Kitchen Box, and Office Box, to name a few. Check out more on their website . + InBoxLifestyle Images via InBoxLifestyle ( 1 , 2 ) and screenshots

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Marching for climate, justice, jobs and action

May 9, 2017 by  
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On the eve of the People’s Climate March, 100 women working in climate convened to show that gender justice, climate justice and jobs walk together.

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Marching for climate, justice, jobs and action

Utah plans $5 million wildlife bridge over deadly I-80 highway

May 2, 2017 by  
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13 miles along Utah’s Interstate 80 (I-80) is one of the most dangerous road spans for animals in the state. 122 mule deer, 13 moose, four elk, and three mountain lions died in the last two years. So now the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is proposing a $5 million bridge over I-80 that will provide wildlife a safe transit zone. Locals from Park City, Utah grew concerned over the high number of animal deaths on the nearby freeway, and in 2015 started the nonprofit Save People, Save Wildlife . Their first goal? Wildlife fencing. They raised around $50,000, and UDOT decided to match those funds. The department put in one mile of fencing on westbound I-80 in the fall of 2016. Related: Russia built a critical wildlife corridor to help save endangered big cats But the fences have only done so much to prevent wildlife deaths. The number of crashes in the area near the fencing fell but officials discovered many animals simply walked alongside the fence until it ended, and then tried to cross. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologist Matt Howard said the result was that collisions happened further down the road. Save People, Save Wildlife also calls for wildlife bridges , and it seems the Utah government is listening. At a recent public meeting officials announced plans to build the $5 million overpass. The design isn’t official yet, but the bridge could be 45 feet wide and 345 feet long, crossing I-80 west of the Parleys Summit interchange. Up for debate is whether vegetation should cover the bridge or whether it should be open so animals can see through to the other side. Construction could begin in 2018. UDOT project manager John Montoya told The Salt Lake Tribune, “The biggest thing that matters to us is to build a bridge that works, that the larger animals will use.” He said it could take a few years, and animals could at first congregate near fences, but then they’ll adapt and start traveling to the bridge. Via The Salt Lake Tribune Images via the Utah Department of Transportation

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Utah plans $5 million wildlife bridge over deadly I-80 highway

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