Britain celebrates first week without coal power since 1882

May 9, 2019 by  
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England has officially gone seven days without using any coal-powered source of electricity for the first time in centuries. Britain was the cradle of the industrial revolution, opening the world’s first coal powered plant in 1882. In an attempt to transition to renewable energy , the country removed its last coal generator from the power grid on May 1 and has effectively survived a week without needing to tap into coal resources. According to the National Grid Electricity System Operator, which runs the electricity network serving England, Scotland and Wales, Britain still maintains backup coal-powered plants when high energy demands are needed. Otherwise, cleaner energy sources, including wind, solar and natural gas have been able to meet energy needs for the first week in May. Related: Renewable energy surpasses coal for first time in US history Coal plants emit nearly twice as much carbon dioxide as natural gas plants. In the 1950s, Britain moved the last coal plant out of major cities in order to improve air quality, however the damage to the environment continued. In 2015, Britain closed its last coal mine, an industry that used to employ 1.2 million people nationally. Now, the country relies on coal imports. Due to rising prices, the coal industry is no longer a lucrative competitor to renewable energy . High international prices have led to investment and interest in solar and wind technology. The U.K. government has pledged to phase out all coal powered plants by 2025. In 2017, the country celebrated its first coal-free day, proving that government commitments and investments in technology can make meaningful progress in a matter of years. “Just a few years ago we were told Britain couldn’t possibly keep the lights on without burning coal,” said Doug Parr of Greenpeace told Reuters. “Now coal is quickly becoming an irrelevance, much to the benefit of our climate and air quality, and we barely notice it.” Some British environmental advocates believe a more ambitious plan to achieve zero-carbon operation of the national grid through investments in offshore wind farms and household scale solar facilities is also possible by 2050. Via The Guardian , Reuters Image via  jwvein

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Britain celebrates first week without coal power since 1882

This Costa Rican treehouse is built entirely out of locally sourced teak wood

May 9, 2019 by  
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There’s a good reason why this beautiful, natural wood treehouse blends in perfectly to its surroundings on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica — the entire structure was built using the trees from the property site. Nestled in the jungle and complete with ocean views, the house, designed by Tom Kundig of Olson Kundig , was inspired by the owners’ love for surfing and environmentalism. There are three floors to the treehouse , with the top floor visible from above the tree canopy, and the bottom two levels hidden among the dense trees. Occupants are able to check the surf at nearby Playa Hermosa Beach from the comfort of the top floor. Related: A rustic, surfside home connects a young family to the beach Wood has the power to be a green, renewable resource when used with sustainability in mind. Nowadays, there are plenty of companies that offer certifiably sustainable wood that comes from forests that are responsibly managed to avoid things like erosion, pollutants and habitat loss. Locally harvested trees, like the ones used to build this surfer’s treehouse, can reduce the environmental impact of construction projects. Apart from contributing to social aspects of sustainability by utilizing local employment, green construction using locally harvested trees also helps to minimize carbon emissions from transportation. The designers took advantage of the natural sea breezes and tropic environment through the passive , open-air design of the structure. The lush vegetation is accessible from the bottom floor, which opens to a courtyard that helps blend the house into its setting. A double-screen shutter system, also made of teak wood, allows the two bottom floors to either open up to the elements, ventilation and natural light, or close to provide privacy. The treehouse is powered using a 3.5 kW solar array, and a rainwater collection system helps reduce the house’s  carbon footprint . In the evenings, the lights shine through the slatted walls to create an ethereal glow that shimmers through the thick leaves and trees that surround the property, making this unique treehouse an even more beautiful addition to the area. + Tom Kundig Photography by Nic Lehoux via Olson Kundig

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This Costa Rican treehouse is built entirely out of locally sourced teak wood

President Trump attacks wind turbines, claims the noise causes cancer

April 5, 2019 by  
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Speaking at an event for the National Republican Congressional Committee, President Trump took a shot at wind power as he continues his war against renewable energy. In a surprising statement, Trump claimed that having a wind turbine near your home will devalue the property and cause cancer. “If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75 percent in value,” Trump told his fellow Republicans. “And they say the noise causes cancer. You tell me that one, okay? Rerrrr rerrrr!” The allegation that wind turbines cause cancer is simply false. According to EcoWatch , some studies have looked into the issue but have found no link between wind turbines and health-related issues; this includes strokes and heart attacks. Simply put, the only real issue with wind turbines is that they might be a minor annoyance and create about as much noise as traffic. Trump also doubled down on his previous claims that wind power results in massive bird deaths. Although wind turbines do kill birds on an annual basis, they do so at a much lower rate than traditional energy sources. A study conducted in 2009 discovered that fossil fuel facilities kill almost 15 times the amount of birds as wind turbines. If wind turbines do not cause cancer or kill birds on a large scale, then why is Trump so against them? Turns out, Trump has a history with fighting wind turbines that dates back to 2006. At the time, Trump had purchased some land in Scotland that he intended to turn into a golf course. A nearby farm ruined those plans when it decided to put up a wind turbine. Trump sued the farmers but lost in court. Trump’s stance against wind power also sits nicely with the Republican party’s policy on energy. His administration has initiated plans to boost fossil fuel production in the United States and has made it clear that renewable energy is not high on its priority list. Exactly how this will affect the future of wind turbines in the United States is unclear. Via EcoWatch Image via Pixabay

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President Trump attacks wind turbines, claims the noise causes cancer

Sleep in this restored WWII air control tower full of historic charm

February 15, 2019 by  
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A unique Airbnb listing in Scotland is inviting guests to stay at an amazing restored WWII air traffic control tower. Located in the Scottish Highlands area of Tain, the HMS OWL Air Control Tower dates back to the second world war, when it was used as an airbase for planes coming in and out of the country. Now, the tower has been renovated into a vibrant guesthouse with design features that pay homage to its military past. The old air tower is located in Tain, a former WWII air base that sits adjacent to the North Coast 500 Scenic Route. The former military structure was bought by Justin Hooper and Charlotte Seddon, who converted it into their family home. The family lives on the first three floors, but the top floor of the building is available for rent starting around $100 per night. Related: Sleep hundreds of feet in the air in this renovated air traffic control tower The five-year renovation process was extensive, but the couple went to extreme lengths to retain the military character of the building. To blend the tower into the expansive grassy landscape, Justin and Charlotte painted the exterior a jet black. They also left the original steel-framed Crittal windows that let in optimal natural light into the property. On the interior, large concrete pillars and exposed brickwork gives the living atmosphere a chic,  industrial feel. Large leather sofas and chairs, along with a wood-burning stove, make the living space extra warm and inviting. The top floor’s  unique guest room sleeps up to two people in a comfortable king-sized bed and beautiful en suite. The room has plenty of large windows to let in natural light as well as to offer the stunning views of the Scottish countryside. + HMS OWL Air Control Tower Via Curbed Images via HMS OWL Air Control Tower

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Sleep in this restored WWII air control tower full of historic charm

Drone operators disturbing wildlife incur fines and jail time in Scotland

September 4, 2018 by  
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The number of cases in Scotland involving drone interference with animals on nature reserves has increased, causing police and wildlife experts to become “increasingly concerned” for the welfare of the protected animals. While nature reserve managers and wildlife specialists are encouraging outsiders to watch and enjoy the environment and animals in the sanctuaries, mounting numbers of injuries caused to the creatures by drones are leading Scottish lawmakers to impose fines on or even arrest individuals caught disturbing the peace. Drones are being flown inconsiderately according to Andy Turner, wildlife crime officer with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). “There have been several incidents involving drones disturbing seals at designated haul-out sites,” he said. Seals that have protective considerations during breeding season are having their pups crushed in these haul-out zones, where they tend to flee when scared into the water by drones. Related: Daan Roosegaarde reveals vision for air-purifying Smog Free Drones “Likewise, there have been anecdotal reports of drones being used to film seabird colonies and raptors,” Turner continued. “While the footage from drones in these circumstances can be very spectacular, the operator must be mindful of the effect on wildlife.” The interference with some birds , such as guillemots and razorbills, has “almost catastrophic” implications according to nature reserve coordinators RSPB Scotland . Drones that fly in too quickly cause birds to panic and dive headfirst into the cliffs or plummet into the sea. Ian Thompson, Head of Investigations at RSPB Scotland, had a message for wildlife observers. “Watch the animals. You will get a sign if you are causing them any stress, you’ll see from their behavior,” he warned. “You might see birds take flight or suddenly lift their heads and run off or walk off. If the birds start altering their behavior, that shows that you are disturbing them, and then it is time to move a drone away.” Fines for harassing wildlife in the nature reserves can cost disrespectful droners up to £5,000 (about $6,425 USD). Alternately, severe infractions can earn individuals up to a six-month sentence in a Scottish penitentiary. Officers of the U.K. National Wildlife Crime Unit are taking the disturbances very seriously, regardless of the perpetrator. “Irrespective of whether the offender is an egg collector, boat skipper or drone operator, the possible sentences are the same,” said PC Charlie Everitt of the crime unit. “It is therefore essential that drone operators understand the law, research the legal status and behavior of any wildlife they intend to film and obtain the necessary licences to keep on the right side of the law.” Via BBC Image via Joe Hayhurst

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Drone operators disturbing wildlife incur fines and jail time in Scotland

Energy-savvy art museum is anchored atop a historic Dutch dike

September 4, 2018 by  
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Rising out of a historic dike, the new Lisser Art Museum pays homage to the landscape’s context while offering a new contemporary cultural destination in Lisse, The Netherlands. Dutch architecture firm KVDK architecten headed the recently completed project and embraced smart, sustainable solutions from the optimization of natural daylighting to gray water collection systems. Wrapped in earth-colored Petersen bricks, the modest, light-filled building feels like an extension of the forest, and ample glazing provides connection with nature on all sides. Commissioned by the VandenBroek Foundation, the small-scale museum is located in the Keukenhof, a former country estate dating from the 17th century that had featured a terraced garden with an artificial dike — unique in the Netherlands at the time. The estate was later redesigned in 1860 by landscape architects J.D. and L.P. Zocher, who transformed it into a cultural park that has since achieved national heritage status. The recently completed museum was an addition in the Keukenhof cultural park masterplan drafted in 2010. “One ingenious but also complicated strategy involved placing the foundations in the historical dike core, thereby making the museum the pivot point between a landscaped approach, the historical terraced landscape, the open sandy area and the wooded dune ridge,” the architects explained. “Intensive consultation and careful dimensioning ensured that the plan for a museum on this sensitive spot was wholeheartedly embraced by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, the government body that oversees the register of national monuments.” Related: Daan Roosegaarde uses light art to breathe new life into an iconic Dutch dike The museum comprises two main volumes, the lower of which is set into the dike — glass curtain walls emphasize and embrace the land form — and supports the upper, cantilevered volume enclosed in brick . The interior is flexible with multipurpose spaces and follow the Guggenheim principle in which visitors experience all the exhibition spaces by winding down from the highest point. In addition to natural lighting, the museum is equipped with thermal energy storage, a green roof and a gray water system for toilets. The museum depot is located inside of the dike to take advantage of the earth’s natural cooling properties. + KVDK architecten Via ArchDaily Images by Sjaak Henselmans and Ronald Tilleman

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Energy-savvy art museum is anchored atop a historic Dutch dike

In the UK, wind energy provides more power than nuclear for the first time

May 18, 2018 by  
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For the first time, wind energy provided more power than nuclear energy to the United Kingdom grid. In the first three months of 2018, wind provided 18.8 percent of all power; only  natural gas was a larger energy source. This milestone may herald the arrival of an energy economy in which renewable energy is the most cost effective option. During the first three months of the year, there was even one point — the night of March 17 — when wind energy provided nearly half of the electricity used in the U.K. Even during extremely cold weather, the wind farms continued to provide energy. Meanwhile, two of the U.K.’s eight nuclear plants were nonoperational due to maintenance, while another was offline because seaweed was stuck in its cooling system. In the last three months of 2017, wind and solar combined had contributed more to the U.K. power supply than nuclear did. Now, wind is capable of outperforming nuclear all on its own. “There’s no sign of a limit to what we’re able to do with wind in the near future,” Dr. Rob Gross, co-author of a report on wind power’s recent success, told The Guardian . Wind energy received a major boost last December when a power cable between Scotland and northern Wales came online, allowing energy produced by Scotland’s wind farms to be shared across a wider range. “It is great news for everyone that rather than turning turbines off to manage our ageing grid, the new cable instead will make best use of wind energy,” RenewableUK executive director Emma Pinchbeck told The Guardian. Related: UK fracking measures could make exploratory drilling “as easy as building a garden wall” Even as the U.K. reaches new heights in its renewable energy production, it has faced a steep decline in renewable energy funding in recent years. Investment in renewable energy suffered a 56 percent decrease in 2017. “Billions of pounds of investment is needed in clean energy, transport, heating and industry to meet our carbon targets,” Mary Creagh, Labour Member of Parliament and chair of the environmental audit committee, said. “But a dramatic fall in investment is threatening the government’s ability to meet legally binding climate change targets.” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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In the UK, wind energy provides more power than nuclear for the first time

Underwater robots just discovered the world’s biggest dead zone

May 1, 2018 by  
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Underwater robots exploring off the coast of Oman made a devastating discovery this week: the largest dead zone in the world, covering at least the size of Scotland and possibly more. While scientists already knew that there was a dead zone in the Gulf of Oman, they had no idea just how bad it was–until now. Scientists from the  University of East Anglia and Oman’s Sultan Qaboos University launched undersea robots to explore the dead zone, and they published their findings in Geophysical Research Letters . “Our research shows that the situation is actually worse than feared – and that the area of dead zone is vast and growing,” said Dr Bastien Queste, who led the research. “The ocean is suffocating.” Related: Report: meat industry responsible for largest-ever ‘dead zone’ in Gulf of Mexico A dead zone is a place where oxygen is depleted because of climate change and/or chemical run-off from land. Sea life requires oxygen to live, and so, in these areas, nothing can survive. “It’s a real environmental problem, with dire consequences for humans, too, who rely on the oceans for food and employment,” said Queste. Robots ventured 1,000 meters underwater in the Gulf of Oman and spent eight months gathering data. The robots learned that the dead zone exists between a depth of 200 and 800 meters, occupies a zone larger than Scotland, and is continuing to grow. Unless we address the problem, it could have huge consequences for life both in and out of the sea. + Geophysical Research Letters Via IFLScience Images via Google Maps  and Deposit Photos

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Underwater robots just discovered the world’s biggest dead zone

This prefab cabin is designed to take you off grid in the Scottish Highlands

March 30, 2018 by  
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A new piece of prefab architecture will soon bring artists, researchers, and travelers closer to the spectacular Scottish Highlands. Artist Bobby Niven and architect Iain MacLeod designed the Artist Bothy, a multipurpose cabin prefabricated in Scotland from sustainable materials . Conceived as an artist residency space, the gabled hut promises a low-impact and off-grid immersion in nature. The Artist Bothy was born from the Bothy Project , a network of off-grid artist residency spaces that aims to support artist mobility and access to the Scottish landscape. To withstand the elements, the 178-square-foot cabin was constructed from cross-laminated timber panels clad in Corten corrugated metal and Scottish larch. Insulated with 100 millimeters of wood-fiber insulation, the gabled structure frames views through double-glazed windows. Surface water drainage is handled by concealed downpipes. Related: Solar-powered seaside cabin blends prefab design with traditional building techniques Each Artist Bothy can be installed on site in less than a day. While the structures were envisioned for off-grid use, they can also be connected to electricity and water services. The compact interior features a mostly wooden interior and a mezzanine level for sleeping. Optional extras for added functionality include a kitchenette, bench bed, shelving units, tables, a wood-burning stove , and outer decking. The Artist Bothy is available to purchase starting from £39,000 ($54,731 USD) . + Bothy Project Images by Johnny Barrington

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This prefab cabin is designed to take you off grid in the Scottish Highlands

The disturbing reason so many farmed salmon are partially deaf

February 2, 2018 by  
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Farmed salmon are “three times more likely to be partially deaf” than wild salmon, according to the University of Melbourne ‘s Pursuit publication. Roughly every second farmed salmon that humans consume has lost a great deal of its ability to hear. And last year, scientists figured out why. Rapid growth causes a deformity in a salmon’s ear, leading to partial deafness. The scientists scrutinized salmon farmed in Australia, Norway, Canada, Chile, and Scotland and discovered the impairment was widespread – and that the fastest-growing salmon were three times more likely to be impacted than the slowest-growing ones. Study lead author Tormey Reimer told Pursuit, “We also found that we could reduce the incidence of the deformity by reducing how fast a fish grew. Such a clear result was unprecedented.” Related: FDA approves genetically engineered salmon for human consumption The otoliths, small crystals in a salmon’s inner ear, are where the deformity happens. Normal otoliths are comprised of aragonite, but deformed ones are partly comprised of vaterite – and fish with deformed otoliths can lose as much as 50 percent of their hearing, per Pursuit. Diet, genetics, and longer daylight exposure – some fish farms expose the creatures to bright lights 24 hours every day – seem to cause vaterite. Growth rate was the one factor linking them, according to Pursuit. Since fish farms are noisy, it’s possible hearing loss could actually reduce stress, but even so, study co-author Tim Dempster said their research raises “serious questions about the welfare of farmed fish.” And it could shine light on the failures of some conservation methods. With wild salmon in decline in some regions, farmed ones have been released into spawning rivers. But fish in the wild might use their hearing for detecting prey and predators. Reimer said, “Future research may find ways to prevent the deformity without compromising growth rate. Our results provide hope of a solution.” The Journal of Experimental Biology published the research last year . The University of Melbourne led the research with scientists from institutions in Norway contributing. + Pursuit/University of Melbourne Images via Depositphotos and Pixabay

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The disturbing reason so many farmed salmon are partially deaf

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