US renewables hit milestone in surpassing coal output

May 21, 2020 by  
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The  COVID-19  pandemic has disrupted nationwide  energy  supply-and-demand patterns. Stay-at-home social distancing measures have altered U.S. electricity consumption. Bulk electricity usage by commercial businesses and industrial manufacturing has given way to increased household electricity consumption as the general population isolates at home. In turn, this economic slowdown has shifted electricity generation to rely more on the renewable energy sector. Both the  US Energy Information Administration (EIA)  and the  Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysts (IEEFA)  have revealed that, from March 25th through May 3rd, utility-scale solar, wind and hydropower collectively generated more electricity than coal! This record 40-day timespan has edged over 2019’s run of 38 days when U.S.  renewables  first beat coal last year. Last year marked the first time renewables outpaced coal-fired electricity generation. This led to  IEEFA forecasts  of renewables eclipsing coal by 2021. Unexpectedly, this year’s COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated  renewable energy ‘s first-quarter performance in producing electricity. Hence,  EIA forecasts  expect electric power generated by coal “will fall by 25% in 2020.” Related:  COVID-19 and its effects on the environment Interestingly,  Forbes  notes that “The electric power sector consistently sees its lowest  coal  demand in April,” owing to seasonal temperature adjustments when winter transitions into springtime. Because of the change in season,  natural gas  and coal generators often “schedule routine maintenance for the spring…and many coal plants spen[d] part of April offline for planned, temporary outages.” This illustrates why wind generation is typically relied upon most in springtime. As for  hydropower , snowmelt often feeds rivers, thus accounting for increased electricity generation downstream each spring as well, Forbes explains. Last year’s forecasts showed trends at play within the energy industry. Not only have upgrades expanded  solar , wind and hydro infrastructure capacities, but coal plant closures have likewise been commonplace, hinting at the changing energy landscape. Several factors have quickened the demise of coal reliance. As the  EIA  has shared, both investor-owned and publicly-owned municipal electric utilities began decommissioning coal-fired power plants a decade ago at the behest of local and state government public utilities commissions. Secondly, costs to construct  wind farms  have slid over 40%, whereas solar costs have sunk by over 80%, making both more appealing. Naturally, the decline of coal-fired power plants has positive implications for the environment and  climate , since coal produces excess  greenhouse gas emissions .  But another concern is alleviated, too. Back in 2008, a joint Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP) and University of Minnesota  research report  raised alarms on critical infrastructure planning. This report warned that pandemics could adversely affect coal supply chains and thereby prompt shortages in generating electricity to the Midwest, a region that relied on coal for 75% of its power generation, as opposed to only 5% on the West Coast. Transitioning away from coal-generated electricity these past 12 years following this report has mitigated the risk of wide swathes of Middle America losing electricity during the 2020 pandemic. + US Energy Information Administration (EIA) + Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysts (IEEFA) Images via Pexels

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US renewables hit milestone in surpassing coal output

Designers build a frozen igloo shelter in a geodesic dome shape

March 29, 2019 by  
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Using a simple triangular frame, a few shovels packed with snow and ice and a deep respect for traditional building methods, New York-based artist and designer Nikolas Bentel manged to construct an  igloo in the form of a geodesic dome. The Geodesic Igloo project was an attempt by Nikolas and his brother,  Lukas Bentel , to prove that durable shelters can be built using basic construction methods in the most extreme and inhospitable climates. According to Nikolas, the Geodesic Igloo project is an “architectural exploration blending traditional igloo construction with the modernist tradition of geodesic domes.” The ultimate goal was to prove that using a blend of traditional building techniques and modern forms, durable shelters can be built in the most extreme climates. Related: The North Face unveils a geodesic tent that can withstand 60 mph winds To start, the designers headed to the snowy landscape of Adirondacks in the dead of winter. Considering that a geodesic dome requires only one triangle shape repeated 15 times, the only material that they brought with them to the building site was a frame made up of equilateral triangle forms. Using the frame to cast the individual triangles, the designers filled the molds with buckets of water. When they were sufficiently frozen, the panels were then fitted together to create a cohesive domed structure. All in all, the frozen structure took just four hours to construct and lasted for almost two months. According to Bentel, the geodesic igloo, which comfortably houses two people, used a fraction of the snow needed to build a traditional igloo. In fact, using thin sheets of ice enabled the structure to be almost completely transparent, allowing natural light to penetrate the interior during the day. At night, it became illuminated beautifully thanks to a warm fire. + Nikolas Bentel + Lukas Bentel Images via Nikolas Bentel

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Designers build a frozen igloo shelter in a geodesic dome shape

Striking yellow PVC-clad pavilion is a sustainable shelter designed for the end times

August 10, 2018 by  
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Studio Morison has unveiled a stunning round shelter clad in a membrane of yellow PVC and aluminum mesh – and it just might help see you through the apocalypse. The artists behind the Escape Vehicle #9 shelter, Heather and Ivan Morison, explain that its design was inspired by their vision of a future world where nature has reclaimed the planet. The glowing pavilion has been installed in Holtingerveld, one of the darkest places in the Netherlands, as part of the Into Nature: Out of Darkness art festival, and it invites guest to spend the night in its metallic “existence chamber.” The sustainable shelter is a lightweight, compact structure made up of minimal materials, making it fully demountable. The circular wall consists of a membrane of yellow PVC, which is clad in a custom aluminum expanded mesh. Four Spirafix screw anchors connect the structure’s aluminum legs to the ground, ensuring that the building leaves little to no impact on the landscape. Related: Nomad Pavilion is a woven goat hair desert shelter that collects its own water As far as the design inspiration, Ivan says that he envisioned a future when nature reclaims the planet, when humans will have to “tread quickly and lightly on the land they occupy.” He further explains, “When first imagining Escape Vehicle #9 I had a vision of a flight into the future. I saw a lightness from that future within the darkness of the present, and this is where the Escape Vehicle can take us towards.” His vision of light and darkness can be seen firsthand in the shelter’s interior. Visitors enter the  shelter  through a ladder on the ground, which leads into a circular “existence chamber” with metallic flooring and a ceiling clad in a quilted foil insulation to help maintain the temperature. The chamber is compact, but spacious enough for two people. A double bed sits at the center, directly under a conical “navigational buoy” made from bent sheets of aluminum. A hatch in the metallic ceiling provides access to the rooftop deck , where visitors can enjoy beautiful, peaceful views of the surrounding nature. The yellow structure stands out in the vast greenery during the day, but it converts into a glowing beacon at night. Inside the shelter , the intensity of the yellow increases as the sun rises, creating a glowing light meant to have a calming effect on the inhabitants. The Into Nature: Out of Darkness event runs until September 16th. The shelter is part of the biennial event’s art route, which is also featuring works by Olafur Eliasson , Adrián Villar Rojas and Susan Philipsz this year. Guests can make reservations to sleep in the Escape Vehicle #9 for a unique, off-grid experience. + Studio Morrison Via Dezeen Photography via Studio Morison

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Striking yellow PVC-clad pavilion is a sustainable shelter designed for the end times

This riverfront pier is revitalized after Cyclone Maria ravaged Rockhampton

August 10, 2018 by  
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When Cyclone Maria hit Rockhampton,  Queensland in 2015, the whole community quickly joined forces to repair and rebuild local homes and businesses. Now, one of the most prized assets of the community, the Rockhampton Riverside Precinct, is getting a major makeover — led by Woods Bagot — that everyone can enjoy. The massive riverfront pier site suffered from neglect even before the cyclone hit, but its potential was steadfast. Architectural firm Woods Bagot is at the forefront of the renovation of the pier and adjacent structures and is intent to restore the two-story landmark back to the community hub it once was. Not only will the pier be overhauled and upgraded, the site will be designed to offer something for everyone, from kids to adults. The plans include interactive water attractions, galleries of local artwork, lush terraced landscaping, a playground and plenty of open space for mulling around or just taking in the picturesque surroundings. Local businesses, including a new restaurant celebrating the region’s fresh produce and seafood, will round out the attractions at the Rockhampton Riverside Precinct. Related: Australia’s cyclone-resistant home The rich auburn exterior of Corten steel will include embellishments of silver, gold and copper, homage to the region’s history of ore mining. Green aspects of the project include solar roof tiles that produce electricity for the project’s power grid, plenty of charging stations for electric cars  and sites for bicycle maintenance and minor repairs to encourage green transportation . Instead of energy-hungry cooling systems, the complex largely depends on keeping the atmosphere comfortable with huge roof overhangs and fresh breezes off the water wafting through the open hallways and deck. Images of ancient ship masts come to mind as the winds whip through the structure, impatiently changing direction as nature dictates. “Rockhampton Riverside Precinct has become a destination for everyone to visit, occupy and enjoy,” said Mark Damant, principal of Woods Bagot. “The vision of restoring the energy from the gold period has been realized along with the aim to provide the people of Rockhampton with a world-class civic and recreational space.” + Woods Bagot Images via Florian Groehn

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This riverfront pier is revitalized after Cyclone Maria ravaged Rockhampton

The Monade Capsule is a private hideaway that hangs from city rooftops

November 24, 2017 by  
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Have you ever wished for a hidden oasis where you can go to relax? Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Alice Bleton has created an amazing rooftop hideaway that provides stressed city dwellers with the ultimate place to disconnect. The Monade Capsule is built with an L-shaped cut-out that allows the pod to hang on the edge of any building. Bleton’s Monade Capsule is made from 21 pieces of fiberglass with transparent sections that provide clear views and let natural light into the interior. The load-bearing base anchors it tightly to the rooftop and facade. Whether hanging off a skyscraper or a rugged mountain cliff, the off-grid capsule can support up to five people inside. Related: London Eye capsule transformed into rainforest-inspired tiny home The capsule’s design was inspired by shelters that can withstand extreme conditions – like emergency bunkers, submarines, and mountain huts , “At the top of the mountain, and in the hardest reachable places, people created cabins and refuges to spend the night. These temporary shelters offer minimal comfort to the hikers. It’s a shared space where people gather to protect themselves from the outside climate.” + Alice Bleton Via Dezeen Images via Alice Bleton

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The Monade Capsule is a private hideaway that hangs from city rooftops

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