Researchers test seawater air conditioning as a renewable cooling alternative

October 20, 2020 by  
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A new study led by the International Institute of Applied System Analysis (IIASA) indicates that using seawater air conditioning is a greener alternative to conventional AC and could reduce cooling costs significantly. The study, which was published in the journal Energy Efficiency , was conducted to determine the pros and cons of seawater air conditioning (SWAC). The researchers behind the study say that there is a need to find renewable air conditioning alternatives to conventional options as global warming worsens . The study looks at the possibility of pumping deep seawater from 700-1,200 meters deep at the temperature of 3° to 5° Celsius to the coast, where it exchanges heat within a cooling system. The study now shows that just one cubic meter of seawater could provide cooling energy equivalent to that provided by 21 wind turbines. To better understand the pros and cons of SWAC systems, the researchers developed a computational model used to estimate the cost of cooling around the world. The model was also used in determining the possibility of using this approach in all parts of the world. Related: Cool ways to skip the air conditioning and still keep your home chill The results showed that while it is possible to use SWAC systems in many parts of the world, they would require heavy initial investments. But in comparison to conventional air conditioning, the research determined that SWAC would offer lower operational costs. Further, the study found that in some coastal cities and islands, the cooling costs would drop as much as 77% of the normal cooling costs via conventional AC. According to the study, the primary consumers of this technology would be airports, hotels and resorts among other establishments that consume high quantities of power. According to Julian Hunt, lead author of the study, SWAC systems have the potential of increasing efficiency over time. “We call this approach ‘High-Velocity Seawater Air-conditioning’,” Hunt explained. “This design configuration allows such projects to be built with an initial cooling load and expand the cooling load modularly through smaller additional capital costs.” While the study has established many positives of using seawater air conditioning, there are challenges that were identified. The systems would need to be handled and monitored carefully to preserve marine life and not disrupt the ecosystems. Hunt said, “While it does have its challenges, seawater air-conditioning is an innovative and sustainable technology that has great potential for expanding into a benchmark system for cooling in tropical locations close to the deep sea and will help fulfill our cooling needs in a warming world.” + IIASA Image via Dean Moriarty

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Birds are dying mid-air possibly due to climate crisis effects

September 17, 2020 by  
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The deaths of thousands of birds in the southwestern U.S. have sparked concern from scientists. This phenomenon has been described as a national tragedy by ornithologists, who suggest that it could be related to the climate crisis. The species of birds affected include flycatchers, warblers and swallows. Bird carcasses have been spotted in numerous places, including New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and Nebraska. According to Martha Desmond, a biology professor at New Mexico State University (NMSU), many of the cases show signs of starvation. The carcasses have little remaining fat reserves, and many of the birds appear to have nose-dived into the ground mid-flight. Related: Migratory birds triumph over Trump administration “I collected over a dozen in just a two-mile stretch in front of my house,” Desmond said. “To see this and to be picking up these carcasses and realizing how widespread this is, is personally devastating. To see this many individuals and species dying is a national tragedy.” Many of the birds belonged to a group of long-distance migrants that fly from Alaska and Canada to Central and South America. These birds travel long journeys and have to make several landings for food before they proceed. However, the recent fires across the western states might have made it difficult for the birds to follow their regular route. If the birds moved farther inland to the Chihuahuan desert, they likely struggled to find food and water, leading to starvation. At the same time, the southwestern states have experienced drier conditions than usual, which might have reduced the number of insects on which the birds could feed. Scientists have also discussed the possibility that the wildfires and their accompanying smoke may have harmed the birds’ lungs. “It could be a combination of things. It could be something that’s still completely unknown to us,” said Allison Salas, graduate student at NMSU. “The fact that we’re finding hundreds of these birds dying, just kind of falling out of the sky is extremely alarming. … The volume of carcasses that we have found has literally given me chills.” Via The Guardian Image via Florian Hahn

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The smooth handfish is declared extinct

September 3, 2020 by  
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The International Union for The Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has officially declared the smooth handfish extinct. This news makes the smooth handfish the first fish species to be declared extinct in modern history. The smooth handfish belongs to a family of fish that get their name from their fins, which are shaped like hands. As opposed to swimming, the smooth handfish crawled with its hand-shaped fins across the seafloor. The handfish is among the most unique types of fish. Besides their bright, multicolored bodies, their awkward movement on their hand-like fins makes them stand out from other fish. According to the IUCN, there used to be 14 species of handfish. But after the organization updated its list of endangered species, the smooth handfish has been listed as an extinct species. The smooth handfish has not been seen since the year 1802, despite searches being conducted around the world. Related: We are in the sixth mass extinction, and it is accelerating The IUCN’s announcement marks the first time a fish species has been declared extinct in modern history, according to National Geographic . The unfortunate news now shifts focus on the other species in the handfish family. Alarmingly, seven types of handfish have not been seen since 2000 or earlier. This might mean that these species are also on the verge of extinction . The handfish is a special family of fish that is characterized by isolation. They do not associate with other types of fish and are usually localized in one place. “They spend most of their time sitting on the seabed, with an occasional flap for a few meters if they’re disturbed,” Graham Edgar, marine ecologist, told Scientific American . “As they lack a larval stage, they are unable to disperse to new locations — and consequently, handfish populations are very localized and vulnerable to threats.” While the fish stay on the seafloor, they are faced with many threats. Some of the threats include industrial runoff that affects the quality of seawater. Further, fishing and dredging along the seabed also threaten many fish, including the handfish. Invasive species also pose a threat to these unique creatures. The recent news of the smooth handfish’s extinction opens our eyes to the possibility of losing more precious species if actions are not taken to protect biodiversity . + IUCN Via Mic , National Geographic and Scientific American Image via Kenneth Lu

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New green technology could harvest body heat as energy

September 2, 2020 by  
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Scientists have created thermocells, energy-efficient devices, that can harvest excess heat and convert it into renewable energy . They hope to create portable batteries that could be applied to many types of surfaces to harvest excess heat — including clothing to utilize heat from the human body as energy. The group of 11 scientists who worked on this project published their study in the journal Renewable Energy . They are affiliated with The National University of Science and Technology in Moscow [NUST MISIS]. Related: MIT moves toward greener, more sustainable artificial intelligence Thermoelectricity is the type of electricity that is generated by temperature differences, called temperature gradients. These are found everywhere, including around the human body. While this is an area of green energy with untapped potential, previously developed thermocells have a low output power. But the scientists may have solved this problem. “We have shown the possibility of using a nickel oxide electrode based on hollow nickel microspheres in a thermocell,” said Igor Burmistrov, one of the study’s authors. “A record for aqueous electrolytes hypothetical Seebeck coefficient has been reached. In addition, we have found a nonlinear change in current-voltage characteristics, which is not typical for thermocells , which ensures an increase in the device’s efficiency.” The new thermocell appears to potentially be a safe and cost-effective way to generate renewable energy. The scientists are exploring the possibility of one day using this technology to create a supercapacitator that would stay charged for a long period of time. Even non-chemists who have a hard time grasping the exact process of how the thermocell works will immediately begin to ponder its applications. What if our body heat could power air conditioners? Could we charge our phones with body heat while we go for a run? The possibilities for a greener future are endless. + NUST MISIS Via CleanTechnica Image via Melk Hagelslag

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New green technology could harvest body heat as energy

Michelin and GM are moving down the road with airless wheel prototype

June 21, 2019 by  
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The term, “Sustainable mobility” is likely to become increasingly more common as we work to identify ways for transportation to have less of an impact on the environment. This year, recognizable names Michelin and GM teamed up to deliver this message with the reveal of an airless wheel at the Movin’On summit for sustainable mobility. The Uptis prototype (Unique Punctureproof Tire System) is the product of a joint venture between the two companies with a common goal to introduce the airless wheels on passenger vehicles as early as 2024. To ensure long-term durability and safety, the product will endure intense testing starting with a fleet of test cars that will be monitored beginning later this year. The selection of Chevrolet Bolt EVs will hit the road in Michigan while being observed for performance. Related: These new airless 3D-printed bicycle tires never go flat The airless design eliminates the possibility of tire blowouts, which obviously adds a significant safety feature to vehicles on the road. In addition to safety, the simultaneous goal is to change the future of tire design for the sake of the planet. Currently, manufacturing and post-consumer waste from tires is a growing environmental concern. Michelin estimates that approximately 200 million tires worldwide are scrapped prematurely every year as a result of punctures, damage from road hazards or improper air pressure that cause uneven wear. However, this waste is diminished with a tire that doesn’t require air pressure and won’t go flat from a puncture. At the same Movin’On summit in 2017, the company outlined plans for the new design with four pillars of innovation: airless, connected, 3-D printed and sustainably made from renewable or bio-sourced materials. Two years later, the developed prototype is headed for the road. “Uptis demonstrates that Michelin’s vision for a future of sustainable mobility is clearly an achievable dream. Through work with strategic partners like GM, who share our ambitions for transforming mobility, we can seize the future today,” says Florent Menegaux, chief executive officer for Michelin Group. + Michelin Images via Michelin

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BIG unveils a sustainable floating city in response to rising sea levels

April 9, 2019 by  
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BIG and a coalition of partners have unveiled Oceanix City, a visionary proposal for the world’s first resilient and sustainable floating community for 10,000 people. Presented at the first UN high-level roundtable on Sustainable Floating Cities, the conceptual design was created as a potential solution to the perceived threat of climate change and rising sea levels. Conceived as a “modular maritime metropolis,” Oceanix City is engineered for self-sufficiency with features from net-zero energy and zero-waste systems to a sharing culture. According to UN-Habitat, 90 percent of the world’s largest cities will be exposed to rising seas by 2050. As part of UN-Habitat’s New Urban Agenda, BIG teamed up with MIT Center for Ocean Engineering, Mobility in Chain, Sherwood Design Engineers, Center for Zero Waste Design and other partners to propose Oceanix City. This is a 75-hectare floating city  that is meant to grow and adapt organically over time — from neighborhoods to cities — with the possibility of scaling indefinitely. To that end, Oceanix City uses a modular design with two-hectare modules serving mixed-use communities of up to 300 residents centered on communal farming. Larger 12-hectare villages comprise six neighborhood modules clustered around a protected central harbor accommodating social, recreational and commercial functions for up to 1,650 residents. For a city of 10,000 residents, six villages are connected around a larger protected harbor. Construction materials will be locally sourced whenever possible, and components would be prefabricated on shore and then towed to their final site to keep construction costs low and thus permit affordable housing. Related: How the world’s first floating city could restore the environment “The sea is our fate — it may also be our future,” Bjarke Ingels said. “The first sustainable and self-sustained floating community, Oceanix City, is designed as a human made ecosystem channeling circular flows of energy, water, food and waste. Oceanix City is a blueprint for a modular maritime metropolis anchored in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The additive architecture can grow, transform and adapt organically over time, evolving from a neighborhood of 300 residents to a city of 10,000 — with the possibility of scaling indefinitely to provide thriving nautical communities for people who care about each other and our planet.” + BIG Images via BIG

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Californias largest utility company plans massive sale of natural gas division

January 9, 2019 by  
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Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), California ’s largest utility, is exploring the possibility of selling off a major part of the company, according to a new report. Thanks to the massive liability costs that they could be facing for their possible culpability in recent deadly wildfires, PG&E has a strategic plan called “Project Falcon” to cover costs and avoid bankruptcy. This plan would involve the company selling its natural gas division and then using the proceeds to pay the potential millions of dollars in claims from the wildfires . Anonymous sources recently told NPR that PG&E is also looking at selling critical real estate assets— like the company’s San Francisco headquarters. Last Friday the utility announced that they would explore “structural options” to put the company in the best possible position to meet customer needs and operational demands. They also revealed that they are searching for new directors for the board to “augment its existing expertise in safety.” “Safety is and will continue to be our top priority as we work to determine the best path forward for all of our stakeholders. PG&E remains fully committed to helping our customers and the affected communities recover and rebuild — and to doing everything we can to reduce the risk of future wildfires,” said spokesman Andy Castagnola in a written statement. Back in June, Cal Fire (California’s fire agency) determined that PG&E power equipment sparked at least a dozen major wildfires in 2017. And now, the agency is looking into whether or not the company sparked the November 2018 fire that ended up being the deadliest and most destructive one in the state’s history. Related: Thousands of animals have been displaced by California wildfires If Cal Fire determines that PG&E caused that fire , it could result in the company having to pay billions from legal action against them. Insurance companies Allstate, State Farm, and USAA have already filed lawsuits against the utility, and some equity analysts project that the damages from the recent wildfire could exceed PG&E’s market value and its insurance coverage. The California Public Utilities Commission would have to approve PG&E’s plan of selling their natural gas division. The regulatory agency has already expressed their concern about the utility’s inferior safety record, as well as their lack of transparency and past efforts to pass liability costs onto their customers. State Sen. Bill Dodd, who originally supported shielding PG&E from liability costs related to the 2017 fires, has now switched gears. “PG&E has demonstrated a pattern of poor management and illegal conduct that has shattered lives across California,” Dodd said in a statement. He also called for “systemic change, which must include change on the board of directors and in the executive suite.” Via NPR Images via skeeze

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Californias largest utility company plans massive sale of natural gas division

New study finds glyphosate in kids’ cereals and snack bars

August 16, 2018 by  
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Bad news for anyone who likes to eat cereal, or granola bars, or anything that contains oats at all: a recent study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested 45 conventional oat products for the presence of glyphosate, and researchers found it in 43 of them.  And, of these 43 oat products, 31 had amounts of glyphosate that were far above the EWG’s Health Benchmark of safe ingestion amounts. The poisonous chemical may sound familiar since it’s the active ingredient in Roundup, the herbicide whose health risks Monsanto intentionally concealed from the public. Related: Court orders Monsanto to pay $289 million in cancer trial The World Health Organization has issued warnings about glyphosate in the past, stating as far back as 2015 that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” And yet, the majority of oat products tested for the study had glyphosate levels that exceeded 160 ppb, the maximum amount considered acceptable by the EWG. In fact, one popular brand of oats contained 1300 ppb. While organic oats did much better, 30 percent of samples using organic oats still tested positive for glyphosate, possibly due to Roundup drift from farms in the area or cross-contamination. Related: Beekeepers file a complaint against Bayer after glyphosate was discovered in honey Given the common use of oats in breakfast cereals, the study raises the possibility that millions of American children are being exposed to the dangerous chemical. “I grew up eating Cheerios and Quaker Oats long before they were tainted with glyphosate. No one wants to eat a weed killer for breakfast, and no one should have to do so,” commented Ken Cook, President of the EWG.  Calling for action on our part, he added, “it’s up to consumers to call on companies to rid their products of glyphosate.” + Environmental Working Group Via Treehugger

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New study finds glyphosate in kids’ cereals and snack bars

The cost of high-efficiency solar panels fell 37% in 2017

February 22, 2018 by  
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In 2017, the price for high-efficiency solar panels dropped from 72¢/W to 45¢/W, representing a 37 percent decline in cost. The falling price point is driven by several factors, including American consumer demand for higher solar efficiency to compensate for the higher-than-average energy consumption of the average American, as well as Chinese state investment in high-efficiency solar panel production. The shift is also a result of technological change as poly crystalline solar panels switch to mono crystalline, which are at least 10 percent more efficient while only 6 percent more expensive. Meanwhile, the price continues to drop. The primary difference between mono and poly solar panels is the structure by which silicon is shaped and molded into the panel. In mono crystalline solar panels, silicon is formed into bars, then cut into wafers, whereas poly crystalline solar panels are melted together to form wafers. The process to create mono solar panels was invented in 1918. As a result, the earliest solar panels were of the mono crystalline design. However, during an oil crisis-induced burst of solar energy research in the 1970s, an Exxon researcher discovered that poly panels could be manufactured more cheaply. Related: All-female high school team invents solar-powered tent for homeless As we are seeing in the greater efficiency and steady decline in cost for mono panels as of late, the cheap manufacturing of poly had its own hidden costs. As 2018 rolls along, some analysts are predicting that this may be the year in which mono crystalline solar panels make up the majority of solar panels manufactured worldwide. The rapidly declining cost of solar energy , even in the face of resistance by the United States government , demonstrates the possibility that a rapid transition to renewable energy may not be as far-fetched as current reality may make it seem. Via Electrek Images via Depositphotos and EIA

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The cost of high-efficiency solar panels fell 37% in 2017

The Seychelles creates debt-for-conservation deal with Leonardo DiCaprio

February 22, 2018 by  
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The Seychelles, an island nation in East Africa, recently announced the creation of two new Marine Protected Areas roughly as big as Great Britain. It’s part of what The Telegraph called a debt-for- nature swap: the island nation gets a $20 million debt relief plan backed by investors (including the foundation of our favorite eco hero Leonardo DiCaprio ), and in return it will place controls on fishing and tourism industries. In a debt-for- conservation deal designed by The Nature Conservancy , the Seychelles will protect areas covering 81,000 square miles. The move is not without controversy: fishing is limited in areas commercial fishermen and tour operators for years; in some places, like the Aldabra region, people won’t be allowed to fish at all. Tourism has been successful in the Seychelles in recent years, but The Telegraph said record numbers of visitors have taken their toll on the islands; commercial fishing has increased to meet demand. Biodiversity has eroded in the wake of two recent coral bleaching events. The Telegraph said debt restructuring will essentially send Seychelles repayments into a trust set to invest in plans to foster a sustainable blue economy. Related: Leonardo DiCaprio launches a new fund to save the lions Nature Conservancy said the Seychelles are among the nations most vulnerable to climate change because of their dependence on marine resources. They said the Marine Protected Areas will help the nation better prepare for the impacts of sea level rise , warming waters, and ocean acidification . “Without these Marine Protected Areas, activities like oil and gas exploration, deep-sea mining, dredging, and controversial fishing techniques could take place in one of the planet’s most biodiverse oceans with little or no restriction or direction,” the organization said. Today, Seychelles announced two new marine protected areas that equal the size of Great Britain. Join me and @nature_org in congratulating all those who made it happen. https://t.co/OygRCaKY37 — Leonardo DiCaprio (@LeoDiCaprio) February 21, 2018 DiCaprio tweeted the news, along with a link to a Nature Conservancy page where those in support can sign a letter congratulating the citizens of Seychelles. DiCaprio said, “This effort will help the people of Seychelles protect their ocean for future generations, and will serve as a model for future marine conservation projects worldwide. These protections mean that all species living in these waters or migrating through them are now far better shielded from overfishing , pollution, and climate change.” + Nature Conservancy + Congratulate the citizens of Seychelles Via The Telegraph Images via IIP Photo Archive on Flickr , Depositphotos , and Pixabay

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