Worlds tallest skyscraper design hangs off an orbiting asteroid

March 24, 2017 by  
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What if your daily commute involved parachuting down to earth rather than being stuck in vehicular traffic? That’s the vision in Clouds Architecture Office’s incredible proposal for a skyscraper suspended off an orbiting asteroid. The design, called Analemma, would be powered by space-based solar panels and capture water in a semi-closed loop system that draws from the moisture in clouds and rainwater. While some may write off Analemma as an early April Fools’ Day joke, we think the unusual design is a fun and unconventional thought experiment worth exploring, if only to get our creative juices flowing. The conceptual design begins with the placement of a large orbiting asteroid set on a figure-eight geosynchronous path that moves between the north and southern hemispheres on a predictable daily loop. The skyscraper , suspended from the asteroid via a high-strength cable, would allow residents to parachute down to work when the orbit slows down and gets closest to midtown Manhattan. The proposed building is split into four main areas: business activities at the lower end of the tower, sleeping quarters placed approximately two-thirds of the way up, prayer rooms at the very top of the building, and surface transfer points at the bottom. The tower would be prefabricated in Dubai —which the architects say is “a specialist in tall building construction at one-fifth the cost of New York City construction”—and the modules transported and assembled above earth. Related: This 3D-printed space igloo just won NASA’s Mars habitat competition “Analemma Tower is a proposal for the world’s tallest building ever,” writes CAO. “Harnessing the power of planetary design thinking, it taps into the desire for extreme height, seclusion and constant mobility. If the recent boom in residential towers proves that sales price per square foot rises with floor elevation, then Analemma Tower will command record prices, justifying its high cost of construction.” + Clouds Architecture Office Via Dezeen Images via Clouds Architecture Office

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European firms eye artificial island for North Sea wind and solar farm

March 15, 2017 by  
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Of all the opponents of wind turbines , few are as vociferous as the loose collective that planners and developers deride as “Nimby,” a term that derives from the acronym for “not in my backyard.” Driven to stake out real estate further offshore, a group of European companies have devised a plan almost breathtaking in its audacity: create a vast artificial island in the middle of the tumultuous North Sea, populate the area around it with thousands of spinning pylons, and drum up enough renewable energy for millions of Europeans by 2050. The venture, born of the 2050 goals laid out by the Paris agreement on climate change , is a collaboration between Denmark’s Energinet and the German and Dutch arms of electricity firm TenneT . To solidify the partnership, the companies will be meeting with Maroš Šef?ovi?, the European Commissioner for Energy, at the North Seas Energy Forum in Brussels next week to sign a trilateral agreement. If greenlit, the proposed 2.5-square-mile Power Link Island, also known as the North Sea Wind Power Hub, will boast its own harbor, air strip, solar farm, and artificial lake, along with homes for in-residence staff. Early estimates place the price of construction in the ball park of $1.3 billion. Dogger Bank, a large sandbank about 62 miles off the east coast of England, is thought to be the ideal location for the island because it’s centrally located, has waters shallow enough for turbines, and is buffeted by constant wind. Related: China is building artificial islands in disputed South China Sea territory Underwater transmission lines, coursing with energy, could potentially power the homes of 80 million people in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Belgium. By linking the energy markets of those countries, Power Link Island could facilitate international trading in electricity. It could even consolidate energy by serving as a connective hub for other, scattered wind farms or bud off smaller but similar enclaves. “This project can significantly contribute to a completely renewable supply of electricity in Northwest Europe,” said Mel Kroon, CEO of TenneT. There’s another upside: An island of significant scope could, through economies of scale, also whittle down costs. “Offshore wind has in recent years proved to be increasingly competitive and it is important to us to constantly focus on further reduction in prices of grid connections and interconnections,” said Peder Østermark Andreasen, CEO of Energinet. “We need innovative and large-scale projects so that offshore wind can play an even bigger part in our future energy supply.” + Energinet + TenneT Via The Next Web

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India triples solar power capacity in three years

March 14, 2017 by  
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India’s solar power capacity has exploded over the past three years, growing from just 3,000 megawatts in 2014 to an installed capacity of 10,000 MW in 2017. And that’s just the beginning of the country’s solar ambitions, with a renewable energy target of 175 gigawatts as soon as 2022. India’s government is working to further its ambitious goal already, with more than 14,000 MW worth of solar projects in the works, and another 6 GW set to go to auction soon. India expects to add a total of 8.8 GW of further solar capacity in 2017. As Swarahya reports, this investment in solar power is aimed at addressing a growing demand for electricity in India. Projections peg the country’s power consumption at three times its current rate by 2030. The government’s recent national electricity plan says those needs could reach as much as 360 GW of total generation by 2022. The plan says that by developing renewable technologies like solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectricity, the country can meet the growing demand while reducing environmental impacts. Related: New 2D perskovite cell could slash the cost of solar No doubt, reducing air pollution is also high in the minds of the Indian government. A report issued earlier this year showed that China and India are leading the way in deaths due to air pollution . The two countries experienced a combined 2.2 million deaths due to air pollution in 2015 . Via Swarahya Images via Pixabay and Flickr Creative Commons, jepoirrier

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Amazon to install large-scale solar systems on 50 facilities by 2020

March 3, 2017 by  
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Amazon just announced plans to install 41 megawatts worth of solar power on the roofs of its US facilities this year. The project is part of amazon’s larger initiative to install solar systems on 50 of its order fulfillment facilities around the globe by 2020. “As our fulfillment network continues to expand, we want to help generate more renewable energy at both existing and new facilities around the world in partnership with community and business leaders,” said Dave Clark, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations. “We are putting our scale and inventive culture to work on sustainability—this is good for the environment, our business and our customers. By diversifying our energy portfolio, we can keep business costs low and pass along further savings to customers. It’s a win-win.” The solar projects planned for this year will see a total of 41 megawatts installed on the rooftops of Amazon facilities in California, New Jersey, Maryland, Nevada and Delaware. Depending on various factors, the solar installations could provide the facilities with up to 80% of the energy needed to run. Related: Amazon’s new Prime Air delivery drone is part helicopter, part airplane https://youtu.be/R7tMiQcF9tY According to Amazon, the company is also working on other clean energy projects – including a wind farm in Texas and a network of wind and solar farms in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. It’s also possible some of this power could be used to energize other initiatives Amazon is working on – such as the eventual delivery of orders by drones , and the company’s plans to build a giant floating warehouse in the sky from which the drones would work. Via Businesswire Images via Amazon/Businesswire

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Portable solar unit fits into a steel drum for off-grid events

February 24, 2017 by  
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The Solar Charging Can fills the gap between large-scale residential photovoltaics and portable solar chargers for your smartphone. The unit unpacks quickly for camping, outdoor events, and other off-grid functions and is ready to use after just a half hour of assembly. In addition to recreational use, the unit can provide crucial power to mobile medical clinics, disaster relief areas, and refugee camps. Mobile Solar Chargers Ltd developed the Solar Charging Can to be an impressively versatile unit that is easy to put together in a pinch. The basic model includes a 180W/18v 5.5A solar panel , which is both flexible and waterproof, on a retractable telescoping pole, as well as two batteries, a voltage regulator, and all other necessary equipment for the unit to run smoothly. An included anchor secures the can to the ground, but the added sand bags provide an extra dose of security. Upgraded versions can be purchased to include a WiFi router, additional panels, a remote CCTV camera, and LED lighting . Related: Portable smartflower POP solar system produces 40% more energy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8yoDfVzWfU The entire unit can be assembled in a half hour by two people, according to the website. And they can be custom ordered to meet the needs of the event it will serve. This is especially helpful for organizations that provide disaster relief support or intend to power housing for refugees for an extended amount of time. One Solar Charging Can starts at about $2,235 (£1,795). + Mobile Solar Chargers Ltd Via Treehugger Images via Mobile Solar Chargers Ltd, YouTube (screenshot)

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Portable solar unit fits into a steel drum for off-grid events

Indonesian president gives forest management back to indigenous communities

February 23, 2017 by  
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After decades of conflict over the power to oversee Indonesia’s forests, President Joko Widodo gave management rights back to nine indigenous communities. According to the World Agroforestry Centre, millions of indigenous people cared for forests sustainably for centuries until the Dutch colonial government declared state ownership, and this moment marks an important milestone in the acknowledgement of indigenous rights . For years, indigenous communities have fought for recognition as their rights have been contested by the government – even after independence in 1945, according to the World Agroforestry Centre. There are thousands of distinct ethnic groups across the islands of Indonesia, and Widodo recently took what the center described as a highly symbolic step in formally granting forest management titles to the nine indigenous communities. In a speech on the occasion, Widodo said, “Recognition also means an appreciation of Indonesia’s original values and its identity as a nation.” Related: Indonesian president announces plan to halt palm oil industry expansion Widodo cited the Kajang people, one of the nine communities, in his speech as an example from which others could benefit. An earlier national government altered the Kajang’s forests’ management status from indigenous to “production forests with limited uses” so the government could control them and parcel some land out for rubber plantations. But the Kajang developed “a set of local regulations that affirm, recognize, and protect based on traditional management,” according to Andi Adriardi, a member of a non-governmental organization that helped the Kajang regain rights. They coordinated with the local government and organizations to reclaim the title. Adriardi said the government recognized their case as a “good lesson that approaches perfection” for a well-managed forest. Kajang leader Andi Buyung Saputra, pictured above with Widodo, said in his acceptance speech, “Our traditional wisdom has played an important role in managing and preserving our forests. This has contributed to keeping our Earth greener and reducing the negative impacts of climate change .” Via World Agroforestry Centre Images via World Agroforestry Centre and Wikimedia Commons

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New super-thin film acts like "air conditioner" for buildings

February 13, 2017 by  
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Engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a thin, artificially structured “metamaterial” that can cool objects without the use of water or energy. The film works to lower the temperature of the surface beneath it through a process known as “passive cooling,” meaning that it vents the object’s heat through thermal radiation while bouncing off any incoming solar energy that may negate those losses. As described last week in the journal Science , the glass-polymer hybrid material could provide an “eco-friendly means of supplementary cooling” for thermoelectric power plants, which require colossal amounts of water and electricity to keep their machinery chugging along at optimum temperatures. The film measures a lithe 50 micrometers thick, or just slightly more substantial than the aluminum foil you’d find in your kitchen. And, much like foil, researchers say it can be easily and economically manufactured by the roll for large-scale residential and commercial applications. “We feel that this low-cost manufacturing process will be transformative for real-world applications of this radiative cooling technology,” Xiaobo Yin, an assistant professor who co-directed the research, said in a statement. Buildings and power plants aren’t the only structures that could benefit, Yin said. The material could keep solar panels from overheating, allowing them to not only work longer, but harder, as well. Related: 3D-printed “Cool Brick” cools a room using only water “Just by applying this material to the surface of a solar panel, we can cool the panel and recover an additional one to two percent of solar efficiency,” said Yin. “That makes a big difference at scale.” Yin and his cohorts have applied for a patent as a prelude to exploring potential commercial applications. They also plan to create a 200-square-meter “cooling farm” prototype in Boulder sometime this year. “The key advantage of this technology is that it works 24/7 with no electricity or water usage,” said Ronggui Yang, a professor of mechanical engineering and a co-author of the paper. “We’re excited about the opportunity to explore potential uses in the power industry, aerospace, agriculture and more.” + University of Colorado Boulder Photo by Chris Eason

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Stanford researchers pioneer world’s first affordable urea battery

February 13, 2017 by  
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Stanford University researchers have designed a new battery that could revolutionize renewable energy storage . Using urea , an affordable, natural and readily available material found in mammal urine and fertilizers, their battery is notably more efficient than past iterations. The battery, developed by Stanford chemistry professor Honjie Dai and doctoral candidate Michael Angell, uses an electrolyte made from urea – a material already produced in mass industrial quantities for use in plant fertilizers. Non-flammable and made with electrodes from abundant materials like aluminum and graphite, the battery presents a low-cost way for storing energy from many sources – including renewables . “So essentially, what you have is a battery made with some of the cheapest and most abundant materials you can find on Earth. And it actually has good performance,” says Dai in a press release. “Who would have thought you could take graphite, aluminum, urea, and actually make a battery that can cycle for a pretty long time?” Dai and his team were the first to make a rechargeable aluminum battery in 2015, which charged in less than a minute, while lasting for thousands of charge-discharge cycles. And they’ve improved on both the performance and cost of their latest model, which is about 100 times cheaper than the 2015 battery, with a higher efficiency of 1,500 charge-discharge cycles and a charging time of 45 minutes. This is also the first time that urea has been used to make a battery. Related: MIT researchers invent ingestible battery powered by stomach acid Energy storage is a huge challenge for solar power and other renewables, as users need a reliable way to store power for when their systems aren’t producing energy. The batteries currently on the market, including lithium ion and lead-acid batteries tend to be quite costly and don’t last that long. But Dai and Angell believe their battery might be the solution to the conundrum of renewable energy storage. “It’s cheap. It’s efficient. Grid storage is the main goal,” says Angell. “I would feel safe if my backup battery in my house is made of urea with little chance of causing fire,” added Dai. The researchers have licensed their battery patents to AB Systems, a company founded by Dai, and a commercial version of the battery is on the way. They’re planning to work on increasing its life span down the road by further investigating its internal chemical processes. Via Stanford Images via Pexels , US Navy and Tea Horse Trade Guest House , Wikimedia Commons

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First Wattway solar road pilot in US pops up in rural Georgia

February 7, 2017 by  
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The first Wattway solar road pilot in America has popped up in rural west Georgia . The Ray C. Anderson Foundation , named for sustainable manufacturing pioneer Ray Anderson, is testing renewable technologies along an 18-mile stretch of road, and recently installed 538 square feet of Colas ‘ Wattway solar road system near the border between Georgia and Alabama. Part of Georgia’s Interstate 85 was named for Anderson, but as over five million tons of carbon dioxide are emitted yearly on that road portion alone, Anderson’s family felt placing his name there didn’t honor his legacy, and began to look into renewable technologies to clear the air – so to speak. Thus began The Ray , an 18-mile living laboratory for clean technologies, including not only the solar roads, but also a solar-powered electric vehicle charging station , and WheelRight , a system people can drive over to test their tire pressure, which could lead to improved fuel inefficiency. Related: France officially opens the world’s first solar panel road The first Wattway solar panel pilot is part of The Ray near a Georgia Visitor Information Center in West Point, Georgia. According to Wattway by Colas, the average expected output for the 538-square-meter pilot is anticipated to be 7,000 kilowatt-hours per year, which will help power the center. And these technologies are just the beginning. The foundation will also construct bioswales , or shallow drainage ditches filled with native Georgia plants to capture pollutants during rain. In a right-of-way space, they’ll build a one megawatt solar installation . They’re working with the Georgia Department of Transportation to bring such ideas to life along the 18-mile road stretch. Not only will several of their projects beautify the highway, but will generate clean energy and bring in money for investors. And other parts of the state have shown interest in building their own Wattway roads. The Ray executive director Allie Kelly dreams of a day when highways will “serve as a power grid for the future,” but she believes that day is coming sooner than we may think. She told Curbed, “We’re at a tipping point in transportation . In five to ten years, we won’t remember a time when we invested a dime in infrastructure spending for a road that only did one thing.” + The Ray + Wattway by Colas Via Curbed Images © Valerie Bennett and via The Ray

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Tiny TigerMoth Camper generates power while being towed

February 7, 2017 by  
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Taxa Outdoors’ tow camper, the TigerMoth , is a compact home on wheels geared towards traveling adventurers. The lightweight camper sleeps two, has LED lights, and even better, comes with a built-in electrical system that generates energy while being towed. The camper’s battery can store energy for at least seven days, making off-grid living easier than ever before. Although certainly compact, the camper sleeps two comfortably and thanks to its lightweight size of just 900 pounds, can be towed virtually anywhere. The unique side latch allows for easy access and the large window allows for amazing views and air circulation. Built with adventurers in mind, the small structure has a roof rack system for bikes or kayaks, a tongue-mounted toolbox, and a roof cargo deck for additional gear storage. Related: Traveling family renovates old school bus as both solar-powered home and hostel The camper’s tow vehicle connection recharges the battery while on the road, providing enough electricity for at least seven days of off-grid living . Although solar panels have to be ordered, the camper roof is pre-wired for installation. As far as the basic amenities go, the tiny camper can sleep two people comfortably and comes with LED lighting installed in the kitchen area and sleeping area. There is 5.5 square feet of countertop for food preparation or work space. Along with various hooks and bungees, two large cubbies provide extra storage space. + Taca Outdoors

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