The future of energy on islands

March 2, 2018 by  
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Islands are places of exceptional biodiversity and economic value, not to mention their great natural beauty. However, because of their isolation from the mainland, they are also difficult to power. This fact is particularly poignant as Puerto Rico , several months after Hurricane Maria, struggles to turn the lights back on. To prepare for a world in which climate change continues to energize super-storms and sea level rise, islands, on which 10 percent of the world’s population lives, must rethink their energy systems for future success. Read on for several solutions that will allow island communities to thrive in the 21st century. Islands currently receive most of their energy from fossil fuels , with some using imported oil, an expensive energy source, to power their electrical grid. With their costs dropping every year, solar and wind could provide cleaner, localized, cheaper energy. Since islands must contend with a limited amount of land, large-scale wind farms may be the preferred utility-scale option. However, neither option will be particularly effective without a battery storage system. To serve this need, Tesla is rolling out battery systems in Puerto Rico , Nantucket and other island communities in hopes that they may someday become ubiquitous. Related: The sinking island nation of Tuvalu is actually growing For islands with the appropriate natural resources, such as Iceland , geothermal power is an attractive energy option. New drilling technologies, such as those developed by  GA Drilling  and  AltaRock Energy , could enable geothermal prospectors to dig deeper and ultimately provide greater energy output. While it has drawn criticism from some environmentalists in the past, nuclear power may also be an effective energy source for island communities. The incredible energy density of nuclear fuel translates into a much more effectively shipped power source than fossil fuels, while the newest Gen IV nuclear reactors are passively safe . Nuclear power plants could even be established on ships, similar to nuclear-powered ships and submarines in the United States Navy, allowing power generation to be moved where it is most needed. Via World Economic Forum Images via Depositphotos   (1)

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The future of energy on islands

Scientist warns Elon Musk’s Starman could be a bio-threat to Mars

March 2, 2018 by  
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Starman, the “driver” of Elon Musk ‘s Tesla Roadster as it cruises through the cosmos, may be carrying the largest collection of terrestrial bacteria ever sent into space. “Even if they radiated the outside, the engine would be dirty,” scientist Jay Melosh said in a  statement . “Cars aren’t assembled clean. And even then, there’s a big difference between clean and sterile.” SpaceX has not yet commented on whether Starman and Musk’s Roadster were sterilized before being sent into space. Starman is not scheduled to land on a planet nor are most bacteria species able to survive in the extreme conditions of space. Nonetheless, life will find a way and, if certain circumstances arise, Starman may be the potential vehicle for bacterial colonization of Mars. When scientists send objects into space, they adhere to the most strict precautions to ensure that no terrestrial organisms could potentially stowaway onto another planet. NASA operates an  Office of Planetary Protection for this very purpose. Scientists are particularly concerned that Earth life could establish a foothold in Mars, then either colonize the planet or be mistaken for Martian life by researchers. “Would Earth’s organisms be better adapted, take over Mars and contaminate it so we don’t know what indigenous Mars was like, or would they be not as well adapted as the Martian organisms?” Melosh said. “We don’t know.” Related: NASA just unveiled a tiny nuclear reactor for future Mars residents While most terrestrial life would perish in the harsh environment of space, species like the tardigrade, which can survive in space and go up to 30 years without food or water . There is a very small chance that Starman and his Roadster will ever arrive on the Martian surface. Therefore, Starman is less an invasive Trojan Horse, more a curator of an interstellar museum of terrestrial life. “The load of bacteria on the Tesla could be considered a biothreat—or a backup copy of life on Earth ,” astronautics scientist Alina Alexeenko said in a statement. If life on Earth ever becomes extinct, there is a chance that Starman, crash-landing back on his home planet, could get the party started again. Via Motherboard Images via SpaceX and NASA

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Groundbreaking new energy storage device charges up in just 20 seconds

March 2, 2018 by  
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A new aqueous storage device can be fully charged in a mere 20 seconds. Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Kangwon National University scientists developed the device suited for portable electronics , with KAIST emphasizing in a statement that their device is both safe and environmentally friendly. Aqueous storage devices are less flammable than today’s lithium batteries , and could be cheaper too, according to ScienceAlert , but limitations have held scientists back. Cells comprising a battery transfer electrons between two materials, but aqueous solutions limit voltage range between the points, according to ScienceAlert. But scientists at institutions in South Korea , according to KAIST, “came up with new structures and materials to facilitate rapid speed in energy exchange on the surfaces of the electrodes and minimize the energy loss between the two electrodes.” They described their strategy for high-performance aqueous hybrid capacitors in the journal Advanced Energy Materials in January . ScienceAlert said hybrid capacitors like this one are basically a mixture of capacitor and battery. Related: Scientists just created a new type of battery inspired by electric eels Graphene to the rescue again: the scientists utilized graphene-based polymer chain materials for anodes. Graphene’s web-like structure afforded a high surface area, enabling higher capacitance, according to the institute. Metal oxide nanoparticles served as cathode materials. KAIST said, “This method realized higher energy density and faster energy exchange while minimizing energy loss.” The device they developed can charge up in 20 to 30 seconds via low-power charging systems like flexible solar cells or USB switching chargers. It boasts a power density 100 times greater than conventional aqueous batteries. And it can sustain capacity for more than 100,000 charges, according to ScienceAlert. KAIST professor Jeung Ku Kang said in the statement, “This eco-friendly technology can be easily manufactured and is highly applicable. In particular, its high capacity and high stability, compared to existing technologies, could contribute to the commercialization of aqueous capacitors.” + KAIST Via ScienceAlert Images via

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Groundbreaking new energy storage device charges up in just 20 seconds

FEMA contractor failed to deliver millions of emergency meals to Puerto Rico

February 8, 2018 by  
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Millions of meals never made their way to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria , according to Reuters . United States Democratic lawmakers recently said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded a contract of almost $156 million to a one-person company – which delivered 50,000 of an anticipated 30 million meals. The Atlanta-based FEMA contractor Tribute Contracting reneged on their commitment to deliver millions of meals to Puerto Rico after the island faced its “worst natural disaster in 90 years,” Reuters reported. House Oversight Committee Democrats referred to documents revealing the company delivered just thousands of meals. They were terminated for cause 20 days after they won the October 2017 contract from FEMA. This, the Democrats say, led to a “massive food shortage for weeks.” Related: $30M contract cancelled by FEMA after supplies to Puerto Rico fail to arrive Documents show Tribute had issues handling government contracts under $100,000 in the past and were barred from government work until 2019, according to Reuters. Elijah Cummings, representative for Maryland and top Democrat on the committee, and Stacey Plaskett, delegate for the United States Virgin Islands, wrote, “It is unclear why FEMA or any agency would have proceeded with a contract worth $156 million in light of this company’s poor contracting history and these explicit warnings.” Plaskett and Cummings sent a letter to chairman Trey Gowdy, Republican representative for South Carolina, asking him to subpoena FEMA for documents they say it has withheld for over three months regarding the failure to provide millions of emergency meals. They said in the letter their staff spoke with Tribute Contracting owner Tiffany Brown, who “explained that FEMA awarded the contract ‘because I was able to submit a proposal to supply 30 million meals at the cheapest cost.’ She stated that she ‘worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week to try and provide these emergency meals.’ She also explained FEMA knew she could not independently finance the production and delivery of this many meals in such a short time frame.” Gowdy spokesperson Amanda Gonzalez told Reuters although a subpoena was premature, they will continue to review hurricane recovery efforts. FEMA didn’t comment on Tribute but told Reuters when the contract was terminated, the distribution of food on the island “was not affected.” + House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Democrats + Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Letter Via Reuters Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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FEMA contractor failed to deliver millions of emergency meals to Puerto Rico

$30M contract cancelled by FEMA after supplies to Puerto Rico fail to arrive

November 29, 2017 by  
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A recently formed Florida-based company was granted a $30 million contract to provide vital supplies to Puerto Rico in its recovery from Hurricane Maria , only to have the contract cancelled by FEMA after Bronze Star LLC failed to deliver emergency tarps and plastic sheeting for urgent repairs. While no payments were ever made to the company, the botched contract resulted in four weeks of inactivity, between when the contract was given and when it was cancelled, while Puerto Ricans went without the vital supplies they need to rebuild. This failure comes amidst a period of heavy rainstorms, during which emergency tarps would have been very helpful in protecting people — many of whom remain homeless in Puerto Rico. It is not known how thoroughly FEMA vetted Bronze Star before granting the contract, but there are certainly warning signs regarding the company’s seriousness. Formed in August 2017, Bronze Star had never delivered supplies or been awarded a government contract before. The company, founded by two brothers, was listed at an address in a single-family home in a residential subdivision in St. Cloud, Florida . Kayon Jones, co-founder of Bronze Star, claims that, prior to accepting the contract, manufacturers had promised him that tarps would be ready and fit for usage. Related: Tiny Montana company signs $300M contract to help restore power in Puerto Rico Jones also claims that the difficulty in acquiring the tarps was due to their being manufactured in Houston, Texas , which is recovering from Hurricane Harvey. “We were trying to help; it wasn’t about making money or anything like that,” said Jones in an interview with the Associated Press . Although more than half a dozen other businesses bid for the contract, FEMA has not disclosed details as to why the deal was ultimately granted to Bronze Star. Via Associated Press Images via United States Department of Agriculture (1)

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$30M contract cancelled by FEMA after supplies to Puerto Rico fail to arrive

Richard Branson’s plan to help rebuild the Caribbean with clean energy

November 3, 2017 by  
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Renewable energy could help islands in the Caribbean be more resilient in the face of future hurricanes – and billionaire Richard Branson wants to make that happen. He’s spearheading a plan for recovery centering on renewable energy. Replacing fossil fuel power grids with clean energy sources like solar and wind could also promote economic development. Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Caribbean islands. Now, Branson aims to help them rebuild. He has spoken with lenders and foundations about a fund to pay for a Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan, a name that nods to the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe following World War 2. His efforts, which focus on renewable energy, could also include debt relief negotiations in which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) might be involved – Branson met with IMF managing director Christine Lagarde and said she was willing to facilitate meetings between creditors and Caribbean nations. He also said in a blog post he met recently with over 50 representatives from Caribbean governments and utility companies. Related: Puerto Rico electricity crisis sparks interest in renewable energy He told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “We want to move the Caribbean countries into clean energy and make them more sustainable, which will make dealing with hurricanes much easier. The Caribbean heads of state agree with one voice that this is a good idea.” Branson rode out Hurricane Irma in a cellar on Necker, his private island in the British Virgin Islands. The island’s solar-powered microgrid weathered the storm well, he said, with the solar panels running again just 24 hours after the hurricane. In a blog post, Branson said people interested in helping could donate to the BVI Community Support Appeal , which aims “to raise money for the long term reconstruction” of the British Virgin Islands. Via the Thomson Reuters Foundation and Richard Branson Images via Caribbean Buzz Helicopters/Virgin and Ricardo Rossello on Twitter

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Colorful Peoples Pavilion in Eindhoven is made from 100% borrowed materials

November 3, 2017 by  
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All the materials needed to build this temporary pavilion in the Netherlands are borrowed. bureau SLA and Overtreders W built the People’s Pavilion – a centerpiece of the Dutch Design Week (DDW) taking place in Eindhoven – using materials from suppliers and Eindhoven residents which will be returned after the event closes. The only exception is the faceted upper façade, which is made of plastic household waste materials collected by Eindhoven residents. The People’s Pavilion will function as the main pavilion of the World Design Event in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, which provides a platform for future makers from all over the world. It will also be used as a meeting place and hang-out for visitors and serves as a venue for music and theater. Related: Spectacular origami pavilion made of recycled plastic pops up in Columbus, Indiana The 269-square-foot (25-square-meter) building can accommodate 200 seated or 600 standing people. Its structure is based on 12 concrete foundation piles and 19 wooden frames, designed in collaboration with Arup. Steel straps hold together wooden beams , while concrete piles and frames are connected with 350 tensioning straps. The glass roof resembles those used in the greenhouse industry. Related: The Folkets House is an inclusive space where refugees can learn skills and find jobs Colorful plastic tiles cover the upper façade of the building and are made from recycled plastic household waste . Leftovers from a refurbishment of BOL.com’s headquarters were used for the glass portion of the façade on the ground floor and will be reused for a new office space after the Dutch Design Week concludes. All the materials, including concrete slabs used for the podium, lighting, heating and bar are borrowed. + bureau SLA + Overtreders W + Dutch Design Week 

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Colorful Peoples Pavilion in Eindhoven is made from 100% borrowed materials

Trump administration wants to end uranium mining ban near the Grand Canyon

November 3, 2017 by  
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The Grand Canyon is one of America’s most beloved national parks , attracting over four million visitors annually — but President Donald Trump’s administration doesn’t seem to care about that. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently proposed lifting a ban on new uranium mining near the national park, as part of a broader effort, according to Reuters, to do away with regulations hindering development after a March executive order from the president. The Forest Service , which is under the USDA and manages the land that could be re-opened to uranium mining , prepared a report in response to Trump’s Executive Order 13783 titled “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.” They proposed lifting the mining ban, put in place in 2012 to protect the watershed around the Grand Canyon. Related: Big Oil celebrates Trump’s goal to open up drilling in national parks Uranium mining pollutes water, and impacts animals and plants as it removes water sources, according to Earthjustice . The Center for Biological Diversity reports past uranium mining in the Grand Canyon area “has polluted soils, washes, aquifers, and drinking water.” They said that according to nonpartisan polls, 80 percent of Americans and 80 percent of Arizona voters back permanent protection in the Grand Canyon region from new uranium mining. According to Reuters, global demand and prices for uranium are weak. The new report even says uranium mining doesn’t generate revenue for America, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Havasupai Tribal Chairman Don Watahomigie said in a statement, “This is a dangerous industry that is motivated by profit and greed with a long history of significantly damaging lands and waters. They are now seeking new mines when this industry has yet to clean up the hundreds of existing mines all over the landscape that continue to damage our home. We should learn from the past, not ignore it.” Via Reuters , the Associated Press , Earthjustice , and the Center for Biological Diversity Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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Trump administration wants to end uranium mining ban near the Grand Canyon

Here’s your once-in-a-lifetime chance to stay in a life-size LEGO House

November 3, 2017 by  
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Get ready to live out your childhood dream! The LEGO House in Billund, Denmark has partnered with Airbnb to offer one family the chance to spend the night in a home made of 25 million bricks . This is an incredible opportunity, and the two-story residence has some amazing features – check them out after the break! The home is well-suited for children, as nearly everything inside is made from LEGO bricks – from the bed in the middle of a LEGO-filled pool to a pixellated “waterfall” and even a giant teddy bear. Other quirky objects on display include a brick newspaper and a breakfast tray for the morning. There’s even a brick-built alarm clock! If guests do feel as if they are missing something, there are plenty more bricks to build with – patrons can use the LEGO molding machine in the lobby to build extra amenities. Other attractions a family might enjoy include the “Tree of Creativity” (which is built from over 6 million bricks) and “Experience Zones” that allow you to direct your own movie , create robotic cars and even design entire cities. LEGO also showcases fan-made masterpieces from all around the world in the Masterpiece Gallery. Related: LEGO relaunches its beloved Taj Mahal model with almost 6,000 bricks Though the LEGO House is a popular tourist attraction in the Danish town, visitors aren’t normally allowed to stay the night. To enter the competition, a family needs to share the one thing they would build if they had an unlimited supply of LEGO bricks. The winners will get the opportunity to bring the object to life, thanks to the help of Master Builder Jamie Berard. Said Berard, the Design Manager Specialist at the LEGO Group: “I am so intrigued to see what people will imagine . We have unlimited bricks here, and in some ways it can be a bit challenging but it also liberates you to imagine something that is truly meaningful and expressive. The uniqueness of the opportunity to stay in the home of the LEGO brick should hopefully inspire everyone. That’s how I feel when I come here.” Added James McClure, Airbnb’s General Manager for the UK and Nordic countries, “This really is a dream come true for any family with a passion for LEGO and I doubt there will be much sleeping as there is so much to enjoy in this incredible space.” + LEGO House + Airbnb Via Mirror UK Images via Airbnb/LEGO Home

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Here’s your once-in-a-lifetime chance to stay in a life-size LEGO House

Can Elon Musk singlehandedly destroy the utility industry?

October 27, 2017 by  
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The Tesla CEO doesn’t have to bring power to Puerto Rico to spark revolutionary thinking.

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