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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Stanford researchers pioneer world’s first affordable urea battery

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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Bill Gates warns against climate-change denial

February 7, 2017 by  
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Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates recently spoke out against denying climate change during a student question-and-answer session at Columbia University in New York City earlier this month. Joined by voluntary tax-information sharer and fellow monied person Warren Buffett , the Microsoft founder also called for greater innovation in clean energy. He said, “Certain topics are so complicated like climate change that to really get a broad understanding is a bit difficult and particularly when people take that complexity and create uncertainty about it”. And Gates is more than happy to put his money where his mouth is. In December, he and a team of investors said they would pump more than $1 billion into Breakthrough Energy Ventures , a fund that invests in technologies that will curtail the planet’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Related: Bill Gates pledges $2 billion to renewable energy research We need to find energy that’s “reliable, cheap, and clean,” he said, before promising that “the innovations there will be profound.” He added, “There are many paths to get to where we need to go”. Perhaps another billionaire we know should pay attention? Photo by DFID Via U.S.A. Today

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Electric cars and solar power could freeze fossil fuel growth by 2020

February 3, 2017 by  
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Fossil fuels could officially be a thing of the past as early as 2020, according to a new report. The report shows the declining costs of electric vehicles and solar energy could put a stop to the growth in worldwide demand for oil and coal in less than three years time. According to the Guardian , a report by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative entitled “ Expect the Unexpected: The disruptive power of low-carbon technology,” polluting fuels could lost 10 percent of their market share to solar power and “clean cars” within a decade. To put it in perspective, a 10 percent market share loss was enough to cause the recent collapse in the U.S. coal industry , while the five major utilities in Europe collectively lost about $100 billion between 2008 and 2013 because they didn’t ready themselves for the 8 percent growth in renewable energy . Related: Ireland votes to be the world’s first country to fully divest from fossil fuels According to the study , “Big energy companies are seriously underestimating the low-carbon transition by sticking to their “business as usual” scenarios which expect continued growth of fossil fuels, and could see their assets “stranded.” The study also notes that solar photovoltaic power could supply 23 percent of global power generation by 2040, and as much as 29 percent by 2050. That’s enough to entirely phase out coal and leave natural gas with just a 1 percent market share. At the same time Exxon is predicting renewables will supply just 11 percent by 2040. The researchers also see electric vehicles making up about 35 percent of the road transport market by 2015, and as much as 67 percent by 2050. That growth trajectory will see EVs displace about two million barrels of oil per day in 2025, and grow to 25 million barrels per day by 2050. Via Guardian and Carbon Tracker Images via USAF and Ride_and_Drive , Wikimedia Commons

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Torontos 8 Winter Station winners to revive citys frozen beaches

February 3, 2017 by  
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Toronto’s freezing beaches will soon be a hotspot of activity. The third annual Winter Stations design competition recently unveiled this year’s eight winners, a series of temporary art installations that will take over the city’s east end beaches beginning February 20. These interactive pieces will be built atop ordinary lifeguard stands and offer designs ranging from a Japanese onsen-inspired installation to a modern lighthouse. The Toronto Winter Stations competition selected five professional and three student teams to create temporary sculptures for the Toronto beachfront created under the theme of “Catalyst.” The competition seeks visionary designs that reinvent the waterfront landscape into an inviting and memorable place during a time of year when the frozen beaches are normally deserted. “Winter Stations 2017 delivered, once again, gutsy and lyrical transformations of ordinary lifeguard stands,” said Lisa Rochon, Winter Stations Design Jury Chair. “Visitors will be able to touch and feel their way along the beach, experiencing luminous shelter from the wind, warming waters for their feet, and designs that celebrate the Canadian nation of immigrants.” Related: 7 Burning Man-style winter stations unveiled for Toronto’s snowy shores The winning entries in the professionals category include: Asuka Kono and Rachel Salmela’s I See You Ashiyu, an installation where visitors can dip their feet into a Japanese hot spring-inspired basin; studio PERCH’s North, a suspended forest of 41 trees hung upside down; Mario García and Andrea Govi’s Collective Memory built from recycled bottles in reference to a statistic that says nearly one-half of the Canadian population over the age of 15 will be foreign born or a child of a migrant parent by 2031; Dionisios Vriniotis, Rob Shostak, Dakota Wares-Tani and Julie Forand’s BuoyBuoyBuoy, a reflective sculpture mimicking the motion of multiple buoys; and Joao Araujo Sousa and Joanna Correia Silva’s modern interpretation of a lighthouse in The Beacon, which will also double as a drop-off location for non-perishable items like canned food or clothes. The selected student works include University of Waterloo’s Flotsam and Jetsam that speaks to the ills of plastic consumption; Humber College School of Media Studies & IT, School of Applied Technology’s the Illusory that uses mirrors to distort perspectives; and Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto’s Midwinter Fire, which immerses visitors in a miniature version of a Southern Ontario winter forest. + Winter Stations Via ArchDaily Images via Winter Stations

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Myron Ebell says Trump plans to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency

February 2, 2017 by  
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Climate change denier Myron Ebell recently hinted serious changes could be made to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Donald Trump administration. In a telling new interview, he said the agency could reopen a review of car fuel efficiency standards, and withdraw or change climate education information. Ebell called Trump’s campaign goal to scrap the agency an “aspirational goal”. The EPA won’t be gone tomorrow, but Ebell indicated its functions could be radically curtailed as Trump hopes to farm out many EPA roles to states instead. The agency has existed since 1970, to safeguard public health and the environment . But Trump reportedly thinks many of these duties would be better left to states. Related: Insider says Trump could pull America out of Paris deal within days Speaking to The Guardian, Ebell said, “To abolish an agency requires not only thought but time because you have to decide what to do with certain functions that Congress has assigned to that agency. President Trump said during the campaign that he would like to abolish the EPA or ‘leave a little bit.’ It is a goal he has and sometimes it takes a long time to achieve goals.” The Guardian noted Ebell does not speak for Trump. However, many of his statements echo those of new White House staff, including the president. As the leader of the Trump EPA transition team, Ebell worked on a method to withdraw from the Paris agreement and ditch President Obama’s Clean Power Plan . It’s up to whomever will lead the EPA now to follow through on those ideas, but as Trump’s pick is sue-happy Scott Pruitt , it’s not far-fetched to imagine he might follow up on Ebell’s environmentally damaging dreams should he be confirmed. In the past, Ebell said two-thirds of the EPA’s 15,000 scientists, engineers, and researchers could be cut. Such a move would be ironic for Trump, who’s staked many of his actions on the impression they create jobs . Ebell described himself on his Twitter page as the “number one enemy of climate change alarmism,” and directs the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which Greenpeace once slammed for a video of theirs that claimed carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant. Via The Guardian Images via screenshot and Competitive Enterprise Institute Facebook

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Bill McKibben on how to protect the earth from a Trumpocalypse

February 2, 2017 by  
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If you’re feeling overwhelmed in the face of President Donald Trump’s overtures to ignore climate science, resuscitate oil pipelines , and in general undo all of the environmental progress we have made so far, you’re not alone. But you can take action, and renowned climate activist and author Bill McKibben is here to tell you how. Bill McKibben knows a thing or two about activism. His landmark book The End of Nature came out in 1989 under Republican president Ronald Reagan. Since then he has penned several more books and been active in environmental fights under presidents from both major political parties. He’s protested the Keystone XL pipeline in front of the White House, for which he was arrested. And he helped bring attention to ExxonMobil’s deliberate suppression of climate change information , to name just a few of his global actions. Related: 8 ways to help the water protectors at the Standing Rock Reservation But, if you’re not Bill McKibben, activism under Donald Trump’s administration can be intimidating. When asked how he feels about people who are discouraged, McKibben told Inhabitat, “Me too. But people have faced big challenges before. And if Trumpism goes down, much will go down with it: climate denial, for instance. We don’t know whether Trump is going to be bad in a normal way or bad in an abnormal way. The first week makes it look like the latter. We don’t really know how to fight an authoritarian oaf, but we’re going to have to figure it out.” McKibben recommends getting involved with organizations fighting the good fight, including the organization he helped found, 350.org . “Find a local group connected to the big national and global fight: 350.org, Sierra Club , or your local environmental justice group,” he said. “That way you can work at every level, from projects nearby to big international fights. If DC is closed to us, we need to open new fronts.” McKibben imagines pipeline fights under Trump, for example, will still require a similar mix of mobilization and litigation as they did under President Obama. But he emphasizes there’s strength in numbers in the dawning resistance. “In the end, if there’s a big enough movement in enough places it’s harder for them to do their dirty work. Their currency is currency. Ours is passion, spirit, creativity – and bodies!” He also said it’s important to stand up for other issues too. “I’d make sure you’re also working with other causes and groups – immigrants facing deportation, for instance,” he said. “Solidarity has never been more important.” + Bill McKibben + 350.org Images via Lorie Shaull on Flickr ( 1 , 2 ), Mark Klotz on Flickr , Takver on Flickr , Fabrice Florin on Flickr , and Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Bill McKibben on how to protect the earth from a Trumpocalypse

New York approves nation’s largest offshore wind farm

January 26, 2017 by  
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It’s official – New York just gave the green light for the nation’s largest offshore wind farm. The new South Fork Wind Farm will generate 90 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity from 15 turbines — enough energy to power more than 50,000 homes. Offshore developer Deepwater Wind, fresh off its successful completion of the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island, won the contract to install the turbines 30 miles southeast of Montauk. The turbines will be connected to a substation in East Hampton by a 50-mile undersea cable. The Long Island Power Authority voted Wednesday to move forward with the state’s first commercial offshore wind development. The project is the second in the US after the 30-megawatt, 5-turbine Block Island Wind Farm – which began operating off the coast of Rhode Island six weeks ago. “New York leads the nation in pioneering clean energy innovation, and this bold action marks the next step in our unprecedented commitment to offshore wind, as well as our ambitious long-term energy goal of supplying half of all electricity from renewable sources by 2030,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement . “This project will not only provide a new, reliable source of clean energy, but will also create high-paying jobs, continue our efforts to combat climate change and help preserve our environment for current and future generations of New Yorkers.” Related: America’s first offshore wind farm is now powering 17,000 homes In his State of the State address in Albany earlier this month, the governor pledged to build 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030 – enough to power 1.25 million homes. The $740 million project on the eastern end of Long Island is the first step in developing the 256-square-mile area that could potentially contain as many as 200 wind turbines generating up to 1,000 megawatts of clean, renewable electricity. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is working on an Offshore Wind Master Plan to be released this year that will identify additional New York coastal areas where offshore wind can be developed. “Offshore wind needs to be a significant part of the energy mix. It is key to putting the Empire State on a path toward an economy powered entirely by renewable energy,” Heather Leibowitz, director of Environment New York, said in a statement. “The 90-megawatts of energy produced off east Montauk will get us one step closer to this goal.” + South Fork Wind Farm Via Environment New York Images via UK Department of Energy and Climate Change , Vattenfall

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New York approves nation’s largest offshore wind farm

Elon Musk supports former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State

January 26, 2017 by  
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Elon Musk is a well-known clean energy advocate – but he shocked many followers this week when he threw his support behind former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Acknowledging his support could be startling, Musk took to Twitter to say the oil mogul actually ” supports a carbon tax .” https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/824010489449431040 The Economist tweeted a December 2016 article titled ” Give Rex a chance ” on the occasion of Tillerson’s narrow approval as Secretary of State. Musk responded to the article, saying “This may sound surprising coming from me, but I agree with The Economist. Rex Tillerson has the potential to be an excellent Sec of State.” Related: Rex Tillerson says Trump is wrong about climate change Naturally Musk followers were quick to ask him why he’d support Tillerson, and he said , “Rex is an exceptionally competent executive, understands geopolitics and knows how to win for his team. His team is now the USA. I share The Economist’s opinion that he should be given the benefit of the doubt unless his actions prove otherwise.” Musk also pointed to statements from Tillerson’s confirmation hearing where Tillerson said the United States should “maintain its seat at the table in the conversation on how to address threats of climate change . They do require a global response.” https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/824149662366126087 Several hours after he sparked the conversation Musk tweeted , “Rex Tillerson supports a carbon tax. This is what is really needed to move the needle.” He included a link to a December 2016 Bloomberg article , which back then noted Musk and Tillerson agreed on a carbon tax as the “best tool for fighting climate change.” It remains to be seen if Musk’s backing will be justified and if Tillerson will follow through on a carbon tax. Images via NASA Kennedy on Flickr and Archive of the Official Site of the 2008-2012 Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin

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