Solar-powered ‘ecotopia’ proposed as alternative to Trump’s border wall

April 7, 2017 by  
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In response to Trump’s maddening determination to build a wall along the US and Mexico border , one group of fed-up designers has proposed an entire new territory, called Otra Nation , that would be open to citizens of both Mexico and the United States. The high-tech ecotopia designed by Made Collective (Mexican & American Designers & Engineers) is a new country that spans 1,200 miles across the border, powered by massive solar farms and connected with a hyperloop transportation system. The ambitious proposal is being called a “shared co-nation.” The territory would stretch for over 1,200 miles and encompass 12 miles on each side of the border, effectively joining Tijuana, El Paso, and San Diego. The land would be considered unincorporated territory, with an independent local government and non-voting representatives. Otra Nation residents would retain their natural-born citizenship, but would be granted a new ID microchip for identification purposes, giving them access to the independent health care and education systems . Related: Donald Trump would probably hate this crossable border wall The plan also depicts Otra Nation as a sustainable community , generating energy from 90,000 square kilometers of solar panels that would meet the demands of the new territory and then some. Watersheds and local ecosystems on both side of the current border would also be restored. Under the plan, an intercity hyperloop would be used for clean transportation. As far as the economic structure, companies built on “sharing principles” would be encouraged, but any company or service looking to “minimize human employment with autonomous vehicles and drone technologies” would be prohibited. According to Made Collective, the project would be focused on bringing communities together versus creating divisions, “The 19th century brought us boundaries, the 20th century we built walls, the next we will bridge nations by creating communities based on shared principles of economic resiliency, energy independence and a trust based social contract.” In an interview with The Verge , members from the Made Collection admit that, although they have formally applied for a US government contract, there’s little possibility that the US and Mexican governments will take their proposal seriously. Although, they are still holding out hope that their idea might make it to a popular referendum so that, as collective member Marina Muñoz puts it, “We can really make the complete American continent great again.” + Otra Nation Via The Verge Images via Otra Nation  

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Solar-powered ‘ecotopia’ proposed as alternative to Trump’s border wall

This German village generates 500% more energy than it needs

April 5, 2017 by  
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Wildpoldsried , a Bavarian village of about 2,600 residents, is leading the way in Germany’s extraordinary renewable energy transformation . Over the past 18 years, the village has invested in a holistic range of renewable energy projects that include 4,983 kWp of photovoltaics , five biogas facilities, 11 wind turbines and a hydropower system. As a result, the village has gone beyond energy independence – and it now produces 500% more energy than it needs and profits from sales of the surplus power back to the grid. Renewable energy projects in Germany have gained enormous traction in recent years, propelled by government subsidies that are designed to lower costs, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and move the nation entirely away from nuclear power; this transformation is known as the Energiewende . As a result, Germans will soon be getting 30 percent of their power from renewable sources—that’s twice as much as U.S. households receive. On a local level, Wildpoldsried has far exceeded the successes seen across Germany. The villages’s commitment to renewable energy began in 1999, when the city council crafted a document titled “Wildpoldsried Innovativ Richtungsweisend” (WIR-2020, or Wildpoldsried Innovative Leadership). The document looked at how the town might encourage growth and invest in new community facilities without incurring debt. As Biocycle explains, the WIR-2020 contained three main areas of focus: “1) Renewable Energy and Saving Energy; 2) Ecological Construction of Buildings Using Ecological Building Materials (mainly wood-based); and 3) Protection of Water and Water Resources (both above and below ground) and Ecological Disposal of Wastewater.” Related: Renewables Recently Provided 74% of Germany’s Energy Demand Through these three areas of focus, Wildpoldsried sought to produce 100 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. But in a relatively small, engaged community where, as one resident explained , there is a notion of “thriftiness… I don’t need to buy what I can make,” the projects advanced much faster than anyone might have expected. By 2011, the village was producing 321 percent of the electricity it needed, and was receiving $5.7 million in payments for the surplus. The entire list of Wildpoldsreid’s projects is pretty remarkable: in addition to the five biogas plants, 4,983 kWp of photovoltaics, 11 wind turbines and the hydropower system, the town is also home to several municipal and residential biomass heating systems and 2,100 m² of solar thermal systems. Five private residences are heated by geothermal systems and passivhaus techniques have been used in some new construction. One is also likely to see a fair number of electric cars dotting about. Related: German State to Receive 100% Renewable Power This Year With such a diversity of renewable energy sources, the town operates a smart grid that, as Siemens explains “maintains the balance between energy production and consumption and keeps the power grid stable.” As Windpoldsreid’s Deputy Mayor, Günter Mögele, explained to the Financial Times : “I think people were surprised that the Energiewende is happening so fast,” and certainly it is not without it’s headaches for those looking at the issue on a national level. But Windpoldsried is a spectacular example of what can happen on a local level when residents and municipalities take matters into their own hands. + Windspoldried Lead image via Shutterstock

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This German village generates 500% more energy than it needs

New solar-powered mini lamp produces 2 types of light for 4 hours

April 5, 2017 by  
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Olafur Eliasson is renowned for creating solar-powered lamps that help people living without reliable energy, and now he’s got a new mini lamp lighting the way. With Little Sun Diamond, the designer builds on his previous solar lamps with a more sophisticated diamond-esque variety that can produce two types of solar powered light for up to four hours – after just five hours of charging. Unveiled at a recent Design Indaba event in Cape Town, the artist’s follow-up lamp is elegant and minimalist, distinguishing it from the original Little Sun , which had a thick yellow frame. The subsequent Little Sun Charge was similar in style to the original, but doubled as a charger. However, feedback from these two lamps suggested that they were too similar to a child’s toy. Related: Olafur Eliasson’s Solar “Little Sun” LED Lamp Lights Up Lives Around the World Shooting for a more mature look, the artist has given the Little Sun Diamond version a sleek metal frame. Still compact enough to fit into a pocket, the diamond-like solar lamp can now provide two types of light, a reading light and a “magical, sparking glow” similar to a disco ball. Although the lamps are small, so far, their impact has been great. Aside from providing the basic necessity of light, the solar lamps also provide an alternative to petroleum-based services. According to Eliasson, “[Because of Little Sun] $55 million was released for things other than petroleum. So this is such a small lamp. And yet it is the biggest project I’ve started on.” + Olafur Eliasson Via Dezeen

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New solar-powered mini lamp produces 2 types of light for 4 hours

Mark your calendars for a chance to score an organic mattress from My Green Mattress

April 5, 2017 by  
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Avoiding toxic chemicals in food, bath products, and home cleaning supplies is a good start for personal health, but toxins might be lurking where you least expect them: in your mattress. The scary reality is conventional mattresses are doused with flame-retardants containing VOCs (volatile organic compounds) such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers , which are linked to thyroid problems, allergies, asthma, hormone disruption , and even cancer. We spend a third of our lives sleeping, with our faces, nostrils, and lungs just above our mattresses, so exposure to harmful chemicals that off-gas fumes while you sleep is no joke. Fortunately, for those of you looking for a new mattress, we are giving you the chance to win an organic, USA-made, non-toxic Natural Escape mattress, courtesy of My Green Mattress . Read on for a chance to win the healthiest sleep of your life. HOW TO ENTER: Want to throw your name in the hat for a chance at winning your own Natural Escape mattress ? Here’s what you need to do: 1. Follow Inhabitat on Facebook 2. Put the date on your calendar and RSVP for the LIVE event 3. Tune into our LIVE Facebook event on April 24th at 11am PST / 2pm EST. Follow along as we live stream the details of the giveaway on our Facebook page and remember to share or comment on the live video in order to enter. The Natural Escape Mattress Designed to offer contouring support and a springy bounce, the Natural Escape mattress is made with a layer of 100% all-natural Oeko-Tex Certified Dunlop latex foam, topping GOTS certified organic cotton batting, and a natural wool quilted cover surrounding the mattress. Natural Latex boasts a range of benefits- from its anti-microbial properties that repel dust mites, mold, and mildew, to it breathability in all seasons. In addition to keeping you warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, latex offers optimal support and relieves pressure, stiffness, and pain. The wool quilting acts as a natural flame barrier so you can sleep soundly, knowing that your mattress has passed all of the required flame tests without

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Mark your calendars for a chance to score an organic mattress from My Green Mattress

The 10,000-year-old East Coast Grand Canyon 100 miles from NYC

April 5, 2017 by  
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The East Coast has its own Grand Canyon -like natural wonder – just 100 miles southeast of Lady Liberty in New York City. And the mile-deep Hudson Canyon brims with biodiversity , but it is at risk of being exploited for oil and gas exploration. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)’s New York Aquarium recently nominated the canyon as a National Marine Sanctuary in a bid to protect endangered creatures dwelling there from the fossil fuel industry. The Hudson Canyon formed around 10,000 years ago during the last ice age, but few New Yorkers or East Coast residents know it exists. It’s under around 60 feet of water on the continental margin, or ocean floor zone separating thin oceanic crust from thick continental crust, at the Hudson River’s outlet. Scientists don’t even know a lot about what is at the bottom of the canyon, which is the East Coast’s largest submarine canyon , but they do know it’s home to endangered whales , sea turtles , sharks , and hundreds of plankton species. Related: Leonardo DiCaprio gives Seychelles $1 million for monumental marine sanctuary New York Aquarium visitors will get a glimpse into the canyon in the upcoming 57,000-square-foot exhibit “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” set to open in 2018. The exhibit will include Canyon’s Edge, a recreation of the experience of sitting on or standing just below the edge of Hudson Canyon. WCS wants to preserve the Hudson Canyon from fossil fuel exploration and extraction through nominating the site as a National Marine Sanctuary. They say such a designation will also sustain recreational and commercial fisheries and whale and bird cruises. WCS vice president Jon Forrest Dohlin also told NYMetro a sanctuary designation could also help scientists obtain resources necessary to explore the canyon further. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) did determine the Hudson Canyon meets criteria necessary to be “an ecological site of national significance worthy of protection,” according to WCS, and they have a petition going asking NOAA to rapidly start the designation process. You can sign the petition here . Via 6sqft and NY Metro Images courtesy of Deepwater Canyons 2013 – Pathways to the Abyss, NOAA-OER/BOEM/USGS and Dominic Sherony on Flickr

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The 10,000-year-old East Coast Grand Canyon 100 miles from NYC

Off-grid shipping container cabin has a warm wooden interior

March 31, 2017 by  
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Shipping container residences can be elaborate and complex, but sometimes bringing it back to basics is the key to good living. At the request of their client, San Francisco-based architects  YAMAMAR  created a simple, off-grid container cabin getaway out of two  repurposed shipping containers tucked into a pristine natural forest in North California’s Mount Lassen area. The container cabin is located on 1,000 acres of pristine wilderness. The idyllic location is next to an old creek bed with amazing sunset views of the surroundings. At the request of the property owner, who had been previously using an old Fleetwood trailer to sleep on site, the new structure had to fit into this natural area by operating completely off-grid . Working within the restrictions set by the local nature conservancy for permanent structures, the team began by customizing two shipping containers off site. This reduced the project’s overall footprint and production costs. Related: A glazed container cabin that reflects the Colorado sky Once fused together, the new cabin was built out with simple materials such as  reclaimed Douglas fir panels on the flooring and walls. To generate power, a solar array was installed on the roof, but the home uses propane for most of its lighting and heating needs. The adjacent creek is the home’s natural source for fresh water. In contrast to some luxury dwellings found in the world of shipping container design, this off-grid cabin was meant to offer the basics and keep the focus on the amazing setting. The compact interior is equipped with a small kitchen and one bedroom with a large window that offers incredible views. Two sliding doors on either side of the home roll open on castors and can be locked up tight when not in use. + YAMAMAR Design Via  Dwell Photography by Bruce Damonte

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Off-grid shipping container cabin has a warm wooden interior

6 groundbreaking examples of tech innovations inspired by biomimicry

March 29, 2017 by  
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Da Vinci was definitely on to something when he observed birds and copied their forms to create his own wings for flight. Although biomimicry wasn’t ultimately successful in helping Da Vinci achieve flight , it has a solid track record for getting engineers, thinkers, and inventors to approach problems in design and technology by returning to nature and its processes. Here are six examples of how observing and imitating nature lead to designs that can improve issues in the modern world. Wind turbine with hummingbird wings Wind turbines typically incorporate a pinwheel shape, but a breakthrough design from Tyer Wind has cleverly tapped into the gravity-defying hovering abilities of hummingbirds . While it may look like these feather-light birds are furiously flapping their wings in a linear fashion, they actually use a figure eight configuration. The design for this new turbine uses wings instead of traditional rotating blades to turn energy from wind into green electricity through 3-D Aouinian Kinematics . Cactus water collector After observing certain cacti ’s ability to collect and store water particles from fog, students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago were inspired to create Dewpoint , a design with real-world applications beyond the desert. By recreating a cactus’s prong-like spines and attaching them to a panel that can absorb, collect, and efficiently save water, the team is beginning to explore water security possibilities for a world that is increasingly facing drought, desertification, and disappearing water sources. Stable and durable bridge Anyone who has ever watched a little leaf on a tree take hit after hit from wind or pelting rain (or perhaps a child with a stick) and still persist knows that surprising hidden strength can be found in many of Mother Nature’s designs. Wanda Lewis has been studying that idea for 25 years, looking specifically at how examining the ways that fragile elements in nature respond to external forces and stress can benefit the structure of a modern, man-made bridge . Lewis developed a mathematical model for bridge design that would take into consideration modern stressors such as traffic and extreme weather conditions. Lewis’s “form-finding” would enable the creation of bridges that are safer, more durable, and long-lasting  by using a previously elusive optimal arch. Related: Biomimicry keeps hope alive despite the new regime Light-sensitive robot caterpillar What may look like a tiny piece of wavy plastic (or perhaps a miniaturized piece of bacon) is actually a robot that can carry loads up to 10 times larger than itself . With caterpillars as inspiration, physics researchers in Poland created this 15 millimeter long critter which is crafted from light-sensitive Liquid Crystalline Elastomers. Mimicking the wave-like motions of a moving caterpillar, this soft robot can also go up a slope or squeeze into a small space. Watch this little robot move in a surprisingly meditative video. Artificial leaf Artificial photosynthesis has been around for over a century, but Caltech’s Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis has found a way to mimic the natural process and safely, effectively, and affordably produce and store energy using the sun . The group’s artificial leaf consists of two electrodes (one that generates hydrogen gas, the other that generates oxygen gas), as well as a plastic membrane that keeps the collected gases separate. The Caltech crew is working on scaling up the design, but their innovation shows promise for creating a system that uses only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to produce hydrogen fuels that can be utilized as needed. Avian-inspired train It’s a bird…it’s a train…it’s kind of both: a bullet train  whose design was partially inspired by features of an owl and a kingfisher . Engineer, general manager of the tech development department for Japan’s bullet trains , and avid bird-watcher Eiji Nakatsu wanted to make his trains both faster and quieter . He first employed his observations about the noise-dampening feather parts of an owl to reduce the sound effects of the trains as they whizzed through neighborhoods and tunnels. Later, he observed that the streamlined shape of the kingfisher’s bill could be used in a new train design to further reduce noise (including a persistent sonic boom effect) and decrease necessary fuel amounts, all while reducing travel time.

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6 groundbreaking examples of tech innovations inspired by biomimicry

Tesla to start taking solar roof orders in April

March 28, 2017 by  
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk is continuing in his quest to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy by announcing via Twitter on Friday that the electric carmaker and clean energy storage company will start taking orders for its solar roof shingles in April. The solar roof shingle product will be offered by Tesla’s SolarCity division. Tesla aquired the solar panel maker last November. Musk’s vision of a Tesla-powered home includes the solar roof turning sunlight into renewable electricity used for immediate use or storage in a Powerwall battery used to charge a Tesla electric vehicle in the garage and provide residential power when the sun sets. The solar tiles integrated into the roof include three layers — the color louver film in the middle that makes the solar tiles invisible from the street level but fully able to take advantage of the sun from above; the tempered glass on top that is durable and impact resistant; and of course on the bottom layer the high efficiency solar cell . The glass comes in four tile styles — tuscan glass, slate glass, textured glass and smooth glass. Related: Elon Musk says Tesla’s solar roof will be cheaper than ordinary roofs “The base of the proposition would be, would you like a roof that looks better than the normal roof, lasts twice as long, costs less, and by the way, generates electricity?” Musk told investors in November. “It’s like why would you get anything else? Maybe there’s a reason. I’m not sure why.” According to an estimate in Consumer Reports , an installed textured glass tile solar roof should cost around $73,500. However, Consumer Reports added $2,000 a year to the value of the roof from the free electricity generated with solar. Over the 30-year solar roof lifespan, that is a $60,000 value, significantly offsetting the upfront costs. + Tesla Solar Via Greentech Media Images via Tesla

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Tesla to start taking solar roof orders in April

4 Disadvantages of Solar Energy

March 24, 2017 by  
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Many news outlets have extensively covered the advantages of solar energy, and there are plenty. But very few things in life come with zero downside. Although the cost of solar energy has fallen dramatically in recent years and the technology has…

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4 Disadvantages of Solar Energy

Flexible new solar panel is almost 80% lighter than traditional panels

March 22, 2017 by  
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Solar panels just got a lot slimmer. Zhengrong Shi, a.k.a. the Sun King, is now marketing eArche, a super flexible, ultrathin solar panel that could stretch along building facades, atop buses, or on top of carports to charge electric cars. According to Shi, the groundbreaking panel has unlimited potential, and 40 kilowatts (kW) of the new technology has already been installed in three locations throughout Australia . eArche draws on a composite material like that utilized in airplane windows that is almost 80 percent lighter than conventional photovoltaic panels, according to RenewEconomy. Shi is distributing his new products through Australian company Energus and Hong Kong company SunMan , and believes eArche is the biggest innovation in over 10 years in the solar industry . He told RenewEconomy, “Most of the cost reductions we have seen come from manufacturing, growing efficiency, and supply chain. There has been very little innovation on products and applications, so we have decided to focus on the panel itself, which has been very rigid and heavy.” Related: SolarWindow unveils new energy-generating glass that bends Some companies haven’t been able to install solar because panels are too heavy for their buildings’ roofs, but Shi’s technology could remove that issue. Rooftop solar systems typically weigh around eight metric tons for a 100 kW array, according to The Daily Advertiser, but eArche weighs just around two metric tons for 100 kW. Shi said eArche can be custom-shaped for building roofs or walls. He told RenewEconomy, “We think governments should require all new buildings to have solar panels integrated into their structure. With this panel, it is easy to do.” SunMan also envisions the technology on RVs, yachts, vending machines, and more. Time will tell if eArche is as revolutionary as Shi thinks. The technology stands in contrast to Tesla’s proposed solar tiles , which Shi said is “the wrong way of doing it” largely due to expense and weight. Via RenewEconomy and The Daily Advertiser Images via Sunman Energy Facebook

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Flexible new solar panel is almost 80% lighter than traditional panels

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