First floating wind farm in the world begins generating power

October 18, 2017 by  
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Five massive wind turbines floating in the sea near Scotland have started sending energy to the grid. Statoil , a Norwegian power company, has been working on the 30 megawatt Hywind Scotland project for several years, and it’s now up and running. The wind farm can power around 20,000 homes. Hywind Scotland is around 15 miles from Peterhead in Aberdeenshire. As the farm’s wind turbines are floating , they can be placed in waters far deeper than those of conventional offshore wind farms. The Hywind Scotland turbines are in water depths of as much as 129 meters, or 423 feet – offshore wind turbines that are attached to the seabed are typically in depths of up to 50 meters, or 164 feet. Related: The world’s largest floating wind farm is planned for the California coast That figure is important because according to Statoil, 80 percent of potential offshore wind locations have water depths greater than 60 meters. And they think their floating turbines could work in even deeper waters than those of Hywind Scotland. Statoil New Energy Solutions executive vice president Irene Rummelhoff said in a statement, “Hywind can be used for water depths up to 800 meters, thus opening up areas that so far have been inaccessible for offshore wind. The learnings from Hywind Scotland will pave the way for new global market opportunities for floating offshore wind energy .” From blade tip to the surface of the sea, the wind turbines are 175 meters, or around 574 feet, large. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the project puts the country “at the forefront of this global race and positions Scotland as a world center for energy innovation.” Statoil and project partner Masdar are also working on an one megawatt-hour (MWh) battery storage project, called Batwind, that will store clean power generated from Hywind Scotland. Rummelhoff said Statoil plans to keep working on lowering costs of power from the wind farm, down to €40 to €60 per MWh by 2030. Via the BBC and Statoil Images via Øyvind Gravås/Woldcam/Statoil and Øyvind Gravås/Statoil

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7 of the best places to view autumn foliage around the world

August 28, 2017 by  
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It may not feel like it, sweaty and sticky as you may be, but if you are a resident of the Northern Hemisphere, autumn is right around the corner. As fun as it has been to soak up the summer sun, the crisp air, slower pace, and dazzling foliage of autumn sounds like heaven right about now. For those who wish to take advantage of the imminent seasonal beauty, we’ve compiled a list of locations across the Northern Hemisphere that will be bursting with autumnal splendor in the weeks to come. 1. Montreal, QC -> Burlington, VT I’m cheating a bit with this first one, but with less than two-hours in a car separating these two fine cities, it is highly recommended that appreciators of autumn pair both lovely spots. Montreal and Burlington are among the earliest major cities in Eastern North America to reach peak foliage, starting in mid-September and continuing into October. While in Montreal, visitors should hike or bike to the top of Mount Royal, or visit the elevated St. Joseph’s Oratory, for a view of the gorgeous patchwork of color along the St. Lawrence River. Autumn is short but sweet in the city, so enjoy the magic while it lasts. Related: Tiny Fern Forest Treehouse Provides a Cozy Vacation Hideaway in the Woods of Vermont While in Burlington , be sure to bike along the Island Line Rail Trail, from which you can catch breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, framed by Lake Champlain. Of particular interest is the causeway section, which connects Colchester and South Hero, where visitors can journey out into the lake itself, thanks to a narrow land bridge. 2. Fujigoko Region, Japan Due to its island location and varied elevation, Japan boasts an impressive diversity of climate zones, from subtropical to cold temperate continental. The fall foliage of Fujigoko, also known as the Fuji Five Lakes Region, benefits from its northern location and higher elevation. Underneath the towering Mount Fuji, the five lakes located in an arc to the north of Fuji provide an excellent contrast to the vivid fall foliage. After the sun has set and the cool air becomes cold, visitors should warm up with a bowl of Fujigoko’s famous udon noodles. 3. Prague, Czech Republic Prague seems to be at the top of many people’s list of favorite European locations, and for good reason. The gorgeous architecture, befitting a city founded in the 6th century, is well complemented by the seasonal changes of autumn. As the leaves change color and the sun retreats, Prague shines. The cool air complements the warm, hearty traditional Czech cuisine, which may be enjoyed on a heated patio if the weather cooperates. For breathtaking views of the foliage, take a trip to the top of Petrin Hill or walk through Kampa Island. Related: Imposing Communist-Era Television Tower Transformed Into a Unique Hotel in Prague 4. Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina/ Tennessee Although New England receives the lion’s share of praise as the American autumn experience, one would be unwise to ignore the majesty of fall in the South. Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the most visited in the United States, offers unparalleled views of a diverse, rich ecosystem that sheds its leaves in waves, from the top of the Appalachian balds down to the foothills. Related: Jimmy Carter built a new solar plant on his old peanut farm Beyond the park, there are endless spots to explore in the mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia . For those based in or traveling from Atlanta, Tallulah Gorge State Park is only a short drive for breathtaking views that may include whitewater rapids, depending on the weekend. 5. Huangshan, China Huangshan, or the Yellow Mountains, is a beautiful mountain range known for its hot springs, sunsets, unique jagged peaks, and top-down views of clouds. Understandably, it is a popular destination all year round, but it truly peaks in the autumn. Maple trees turn vivid red, various deciduous trees become golden, and the Huangshan pine trees provide an evergreen hue. Add in Huangshan’s unparalleled sunrises and your portrait of fall excellence is complete. 6. Highlands, Scotland Though the Scottish Highlands may be known for their plentiful pine trees, the golden aura of deciduous trees play well against this more traditional backdrop. Peak foliage in the Highlands tends to begin in late September and continue into October. Paired with Scotland’s numerous and famous lochs and the rolling mountains, the Scottish autumn is a must-see. After a hike through Cairngorms National Park, relax with a dram and seasonal produce, including wild game, fresh fruit, and oysters. 7. Michigan If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look no further than Michigan. Whether your fall travels takes you to Michigan’s breathtaking, extensive shoreline bounded by four of the Great Lakes or further inland in the Wolverine State, you are guaranteed to be dazzled by Michigan’s natural beauty. In autumn, all things apple are there in Michigan for your enjoyment; after all, the state produces over 900 million pounds of apples each year. If you seek true wilderness, check out Keweenaw National Historical Park for bold fall foliage, historic towns, and shoreline views. Lead image via Pixabay , others via Depositphotos 1 2 3 , Rob Taylor/Flickr , Justin Henry/Flickr , sunnywinds/Flickr , Andreas Manessinger/Flickr, Xiaojia He/Flickr , daveynin/Flickr , yue/Flickr , Robert Brown/Flickr , and Rachel Kramer/Flickr

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This carbon nanotube yarn generates power when pulled

August 28, 2017 by  
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Power-producing materials are the stuff of wearable inventors’ dreams. And scientists just created a yarn that generates electricity with a simple tug. The yarn, comprised of carbon nanotubes and submerged in an electrolyte gel, isn’t ideal for sweaters – but can harvest power from a wearer’s breathing. And there’s another surprising application: it could collect energy from ocean waves . An international team of 29 researchers devised the the yarn material, known as twistron harvesters, “by tying a carbon nanotube string into a tangled weave of carbon and submerging it into an electrolyte gel,” according to Science Magazine. When covered in gel and tugged, the yarn can illuminate a light-emitting diode with a small current. The yarn’s peak power generation – when strands are hooked together – is 250 watts per kilogram, and Ars Technica pointed out a professional cyclist’s peak exertions are only around 10 percent of that figure. Related: New type of fabric harvests energy from the sun and movement The researchers tested the yarn by sewing it in to a shirt, and saw it generated a tiny amount of electricity as the wearer breathed in and out. The researchers also connected the yarn to an artificial muscle – a polymer that contracts when warmed, according to Ars Technica – and were able to convert fluctuations in temperature into energy . A still more unexpected way the yarn could be used is in wave power . The material operates when it’s placed in saltwater similar to the ocean, and the motion of the waves moves the yarn, allowing it to generate power. Ars Technica notes the device does need a platinum electrode as seawater can be corrosive. The proof of concept yarn strands aren’t yet powerful enough to brighten a home, but the scientists say their technology is scalable. The journal Science published the research in late August. Scientists from institutions in South Korea, the United States, and China contributed to the study. Via Science Magazine and Ars Technica Images via The University of Texas at Dallas and screenshot

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This carbon nanotube yarn generates power when pulled

Unexpected giant spikes and other oddities take over a Scottish mansion grounds

July 27, 2017 by  
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A curious sight has taken over one of Scotland’s finest historic grounds. Environmental artist Steve Messam crafted XXX, a series of site-specific installations that add modern whimsy to the late 18th-century Mellerstain House & Gardens . Commissioned as the first works of the newly opened Borders Sculpture Park, the giant inflatable artworks create dialogue between the past and present, from the enormous roof of spikes atop a decrepit gatehouse to the floating white spheres on a lake. Messam’s XXX installation comprises three works, all of which are large-scale and made from inflated white fabric that reference the marble sculptures originally intended to decorate the Mellerstain grounds. Each site-specific intervention uses the element of surprise to disrupt the way viewers typically perceive the historic landscape. A fine day to be a punk cottage. ('Pointed' by Steve Messam) #mellerstain #art #environmentalart #scotland #cottage #punk #spikes #archifringe #installation #inflatables #scottishborders #scottishart #creativescotland #startups #borderssculpturepark @rougeit A post shared by Borders Sculpture Park (@borderssculpturepark) on Jul 22, 2017 at 12:19pm PDT ‘Scattered,’ which comprises two to four-meter-wide inflated white spheres that bob along a lake, can be immediately seen and explored up close in canoes. In contrast, ‘Pointed’ and ‘Towered’ are placed within hidden, partially ruined buildings and must be discovered on a walk through the grounds. In Pointed, 28 giant inflated white spikes make up the re-imagined roofline of a former gatehouse. In contrast, Towered takes the shape of column-like forms that emerge from atop an old laundry ruin. Related: Artist Steve Messam built a 16-foot paper bridge without glue or bolts A statement on Steve Messam’s website reads: “Messam’s fascinating site-specific works explore a sense of space, presence and place, each one working with the surrounding environment to disrupt and transform the way we perceive it. By integrating inflatable, fabric sculptures very directly into the buildings and landscape, the artist seeks to uncover some of the many layers of narrative bound up in this magnificent estate. Creating a true visual spectacle, the three works are joyful and uplifting. They are celebrations of form rather than being symbolic or having inherent meaning, and have to be directly experienced in the environment to be appreciated fully.” + Steve Messam Via Colossal Images via Borders Sculpture Park

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Surprisingly modern hut in the Scottish Highlands is insulated with heather, moss and stone

July 20, 2017 by  
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This small hut nestled in the Scottish Highlands combines the influences of Le Corbusier’s iconic Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut and those of the region’s vernacular architecture . The building, designed by Moxon Architects , is covered with heather, moss and stone gathered from local hillsides, which provide both camouflage and additional insulation. The Culardoch Shieling hut sits in the grounds of the client’s Highland estate in the mountains of Cairngorms National Park in Scotland . Its rectangular windows reference Le Corbusier’s famous Ronchamp cathedral, while its overall form and materials establish a connection with the area’s vernacular architecture, livestock holdings and Scottish farming crofts in particular. Related: A green-roofed Hobbit home anyone can build in just 3 days The choice of natural materials and construction technique reflects the client’s request that the building have minimal impact on the terrain. Exterior walls made from unprocessed larch wood envelop the interior lined in spruce. A large dining table and wood-burning stove dominate this cozy space and facilitate social gatherings. + Moxon Architects Via Dezeen

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Surprisingly modern hut in the Scottish Highlands is insulated with heather, moss and stone

You can now buy a village on the Isle of Skye heres how

June 19, 2017 by  
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If you’ve ever wanted to own a village, here’s your chance. Mary’s Cottages, located in Elgol on the Isle of Skye, is up for sale – and for the right person, it could be an enchanting getaway. Marketed as a “lifestyle business,” the village includes four traditional Scottish blackhouses that have been restored in addition to the owner’s modern five-bedroom house — complete with a pitched, tiled roof that blends in with the surroundings. In each of the traditional Scottish houses, you’ll find classically decorated interiors, vaulted ceilings, underfloor heating, oil stoves and Caithness slate floors. Each cottage has its own traditional built-in kingsize bed, in addition to a mezzanine area with single beds that can be tucked away. Related: Italy is giving away hundreds of historic castles and villas for free According to agents Strutt and Parker , views from all the abodes are breathtaking. Additionally, one doesn’t need to walk far from the collection of cottages to see fishermen going about their duties, and dolphins, otters, eagles, and sharks enjoy the nearby bay. In fact, The Scotsman describes the location as being “ideal for holidaymakers.” When a venture into the city is needed, Elgol is only 45 minutes away and a drive to Edinburgh is six hours. As you might expect, a village — particularly on the Isle of Skye — isn’t cheap. Right now, it’s on the market for £1.25 million. + Strutt and Parker Via The Independent Images via Strutt and Parker

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You can now buy a village on the Isle of Skye heres how

UK tests cheaper, longer-lasting roads made with recycled plastic

April 25, 2017 by  
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Around 24.8 million miles of roads crisscross the surface of Earth. And hundreds of millions of barrels of oil have been used for that development. Engineer Toby McCartney came up with a solution to that waste of natural resources and the growing plastic pollution problem. His company, Scotland-based MacRebur , lays roads that are as much as 60 percent stronger than regular asphalt roads and last around 10 times longer – and they’re made with recycled plastic. Our city roads require a lot of maintenance over time as weather deteriorates them and potholes open up. Meanwhile there are around five trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean. McCartney came up with an answer to both issues. He turns 100 percent recycled plastic into what he calls MR6 pellets, or small pellets of waste plastic, which replace bitumen , the material used to bind roads together (extracted from crude oil) and sold by oil companies like Shell. Related: Vancouver Becomes First City to Pave Its Streets With Recycled Plastic Normal roads are comprised of around 90 percent rock, sand, and limestone, with 10 percent bitumen. MacRebur’s process replaces most of the bitumen, using household waste plastic, farm waste, and commercial waste. Much of the trash would have otherwise ended up in a landfill . At asphalt plants the MR6 pellets are mixed with quarried rock and a bit of bitumen, and a plant worker told the BBC the process is actually the same “as mixing the conventional way with additions into a bitumen product.” McCartney was inspired to design plastic roads after his daughter’s teacher asked the class what lives in the ocean, and his daughter said, “Plastics.” He didn’t want her to grow up in a world where that was true. He’d also spent time in India, where he saw locals would fix holes in the road by putting waste plastic into the holes and then burning it. He started MacRebur with friends Nick Burnett and Gordon Reid. MacRebur’s first road was McCartney’s own driveway, and now the company’s roads have been laid in the county of Cumbria in the United Kingdom . + MacRebur Via the BBC Images via MacRebur Facebook

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UK tests cheaper, longer-lasting roads made with recycled plastic

World’s first mobile recycling plant turns trash into tiles

April 25, 2017 by  
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Waste management is a pressing problem all over the world, but it’s especially hard for isolated communities that lack access to recycling facilities. Taiwan-based architecture studio Miniwiz has come up with an environmentally friendly solution: TRASHPRESSO, a traveling solar-powered recycling plant that turns trash into tiles. Wherever it goes, TRASHPRESSO takes local waste and recycles it into tiles for use in architecture. The mobile recycling plant is in a 40-foot container platform that a trailer truck can transport, and Miniwiz says the plant opens up similar to how a satellite unpacks in orbit. It can recycle plastic and fabric waste, running on solar power . Garbage is “washed, shredded, melted, and molded” into architectural tiles, and the water to clean the trash is reused in the process. Related: Verti-Cult: Miniwiz Unveils Glowing Green Wall Made From Recycled Bottles The off-grid plant can pump out 10 square meters, or over 107 square feet, of the architectural tiles every 40 minutes. Each tile contains the equivalent of five plastic PET bottles . They can be utilized for exterior or interior floor finishes, according to Miniwiz, “or sold as raw material for further upcycling manufacturing processes like yarning, injection, and extrusion.” Miniwiz CEO and co-founder Arthur Huang said in a statement, “Until now, industrial grade recycling was limited to plants. The TRASHPRESSO overcomes the distance and energy barriers by showing that recycling is possible everywhere. Not only does it serve to transform trash on-site, it also serves as an educational tool in isolated communities.” The TRASHPRESSO will be deployed for the first time this summer to NianBao Yuze on the Tibetan Plateau. The natural beauty of the glacier region has been trashed by tourists who leave behind litter. From there TRASHPRESSO will travel to other remote areas where garbage gathers, such as beaches, lakes, reservoirs, or rivers. Miniwiz showed off the TRASHPRESSO recently in Shanghai to celebrate Earth Day . They’ll bring the recycling plant to NianBao Yuze in partnership with Jackie Chan’s Green Heroes documentary series on National Geographic . + Miniwiz Images courtesy of Miniwiz

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Scotland’s latest wind farm will help fund 500 new affordable homes

April 20, 2017 by  
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Scotland’s Berwickshire Housing Association wants to capture the wind to boost their mission. By launching a new wind farm in the Scottish Borders, and selling the power to the National Grid, the charitable organization hopes to generate enough revenue to build 500 affordable homes over the next 25 years. Dubbed Fishermen Three, the 7.5-megawatt project at Hoprigshiels in Cockburnspath is a joint effort between BHA and the equally philanthropic Community Energy Scotland . The latter’s share of the revenue will enable it to help communities across Scotland leverage their own renewable energy initiatives. “The idea for the wind farm came when BHA realized that we had to be innovative in order to solve the dilemma of how to keep building new homes for social rental, which are so badly needed in this area, at a time when funding for new housing through traditional channels was in decline,” Helen Forsyth, chief executive of BHA, said in a statement. “The wind farm will provide BHA with a reliable, predictable, low-maintenance source of income that will allow us to build a steady stream of new affordable homes at a time when services are all too often being cut.” Related: 6 reasons the clean energy revolution doesn’t need Trump’s blessing Nicholas Gubbins, chief executive of CES, said that the United Kingdom’s energy system is shifting, but with changes come fresh opportunities. “We want to make sure that communities are at the forefront of the opportunities that this will create for new low-carbon energy developments,” he added. Scotland’s energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, agrees that renewables are the way of the future. He said, “Locally owned renewables in areas such as the Borders have the potential to help drive social, economic and environmental change at a local level.” Via the Guardian Photos by Unsplash

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Scientists discover Antarctica is covered in rivers

April 20, 2017 by  
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For decades, scientists have known that summertime brings liquid meltwater to Antarctica’s ice sheets. But until now, they’ve had no idea just how extensive the continent’s network of rivers, streams, ponds, and waterfalls really is. A new analysis by scientists at  Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has found that warmer months cause far more extensive melting than previously thought. That could be a problem as global temperatures continue to rise. Surface water can damage the ice shelves , weakening them and causing them to collapse into the ocean. Some of the channels identified in this survey allow meltwater to run harmlessly off into the sea, but in other areas, standing water can be a huge problem. In 2002, more than 2,000 lakes on the Larsen B ice shelf drained through the ice into the ocean below, causing the entire area to rapidly disintegrate. Related: Scientists warn rapidly-melting glacier in West Antarctica could cause serious global havoc The presence of water on the frozen continent does not yet appear to be the cause of widespread problems—but there’s also the possibility that warmer temperatures are causing sub-surface ice melt. Unfortunately, that phenomenon has been researched in far less detail, so it’s unclear exactly what effect it will have on the ice and rising sea levels in the future. Via Phys.org Images via NASA and Wikimedia Commons

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