Tips for ensuring governments are truly switched on to the energy transition

March 27, 2018 by  
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Policy decisions today on issues of innovation and access will determine whether the system of the future can deliver.

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Tips for ensuring governments are truly switched on to the energy transition

Intel, Arizona Diamondbacks put water solutions on tap

March 27, 2018 by  
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More businesses are collaborating to tackle drought and other unique challenges.

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Intel, Arizona Diamondbacks put water solutions on tap

Platio unveils next-gen solar sidewalk that can charge electric vehicles

February 14, 2018 by  
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The sidewalks of the future could be paved with solar panels – and the clean energy they generate could power electric cars . Hungarian startup Platio recently installed a 50-square-foot solar sidewalk made of recycled plastic at an EV charging station in Budapest. Platio installed a 720 watt peak capacity (Wp) system on a sidewalk at one of the facilities of the logistics real estate company Prologis . Platio co-founder Miklós Ilyés said a team set up the system in a single day. When the clean energy from the paving system isn’t being utilized to charge cars, it helps power an office building nearby. Related: Recycled plastic paving company Platio installs first 3 solar systems Ilyés said , “As e-mobility rapidly emerges, the demand for more energy will grow soon as well. Local, independent renewable energy sources can supplement or even decentralize the utility grid .” Platio’s Solar Pavers integrate solar cells into paving elements comprised of recycled plastic. People can walk on Platio’s pavers, so the system integrates unobtrusively into the charging station. The company says their product doesn’t need a special foundation, and it can be upgraded with many smart functions. The company manufactures their power-generating systems in addition to installing and monitoring them. In a press statement, the company said: “The developers of Platio wanted to demonstrate that by turning energy-absorbing paved areas into huge walkable solar arrays , energy production can be achieved at large scale without taking up useful space or altering the cityscape.” Inhabitat has covered Platio in the past – when they installed their systems on a sidewalk in Kazakhstan, pontoons in Sweden, and smart benches where people can charge their phones in Budapest. + Platio Images courtesy of Platio

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Platio unveils next-gen solar sidewalk that can charge electric vehicles

Plants appear to lose consciousness when sedated

February 14, 2018 by  
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Are plants conscious? Based on a new study, our anesthetics work on flora – but just what are they working on? University of Bonn plant cell biologist Frantisek Baluska told The New York Times , “Plants are not just robotic, stimulus-response devices. They’re living organisms which have their own problems, maybe something like humans feeling pain or joy. In order to navigate this complex life, they must have some compass.” Plants can be frozen with anesthetics, researchers discovered, including the medicines used on humans during surgery. The researchers’ findings could help us learn more about anesthesia – and plants. A team of scientists from institutions in Germany, Japan, the Czech Republic, and Italy exposed several different plants to substances like ether and lidocaine. They found, for example, that pea plants exposed to diethyl ether vapor stop moving and their tendrils curl. A Venus flytrap didn’t respond to stimulus similar to an insect that moved across it – its cells actually stopped firing, according to The New York Times. Related: German forester says trees are social beings with friends and personalities The plants seemed to return to life when the anesthesia wore off – almost as if they had regained consciousness. Baluska told The New York Times, “How organisms are perceiving the environment or responding or adapting are based on some very similar principles.” Cell membranes change under anesthesia, growing more flexible. Membranes of some of the plant root cells under anesthesia had difficulty performing tasks they normally would. Membranes are also key for transferring messages from one cell to another via electricity , and some scientists think electrical activity across neurons contributes to consciousness in humans. But when asked if plants are indeed conscious or not, Baluska said, “No one can answer this because you cannot ask them.” The journal Annals of Botany published the research in December. Via The New York Times Images via Sushobhan Badhai on Unsplash and Jeffery Wong on Unsplash

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Plants appear to lose consciousness when sedated

Gravitricity is turning old mine shafts into power generators using giant weights

February 8, 2018 by  
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The coal mining industry is dying (despite what some people would have you think ), and it isn’t coming back. But a new startup is breathing life into mining communities with an ingenious design that uses old mine shafts to generate energy. Gravitricity has devised a giant weight system that drops down into disused mine shafts to create power on demand using gravity. Here’s how it works: “Our patented technology is based on a simple principle: raising and lowering a heavy weight to store energy.” It’s sort of the same principle used to run pendulum clocks, with a weight acting as a power generator to keep the clock running. A weight up to 3,000 tons is suspended in a mine shaft, and energy is generated or expended by lowering and raising the weight. The system is capable of generating up to 20 MW of power in shafts varying from 500 feet to 5,000 feet. It can last 50 years without degradation, and it’s cost-effective because it uses existing infrastructure. In areas where mine shafts don’t exist and solar or wind isn’t effective, a hole could be dug for the system. Related: German coal mine set to become “giant battery” for storing renewable energy Part of what makes Gravitricity’s design so great is that it doesn’t rely on sun or wind, which can be unpredictable. When you need energy, the weight can drop in a second for power on-tap, or be released slowly for sustained energy. And because it doesn’t use a battery for energy storage, you don’t have the problems of disposal and degradation inherent in batteries. Gravitricity is still in the development phase, but the startup just received nearly a million dollars from a grant from Innovate UK. If the system takes off, it could mean jobs and money – along with clean energy – for communities that are struggling as coal mines decline. + Gravitricity Via WAN Images via Gravitricity and Deposit Photos

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Gravitricity is turning old mine shafts into power generators using giant weights

Etsy hacked an app to track waste — one you can use, too

April 13, 2017 by  
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The only publicly tech company to be certified under the Living Building Challenge is open-sourcing the system it uses to measure what’s leaving its offices.

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Etsy hacked an app to track waste — one you can use, too

3 ways to embed sustainability in public-private partnerships

April 13, 2017 by  
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Sustainability considerations should be prominent in the design, development and operational phases of the PPP process.

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3 ways to embed sustainability in public-private partnerships

Bipartisan group of former federal CSOs has some advice for President Trump

April 13, 2017 by  
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With the fate of federal sustainability initiatives up in the air, former advisers to Presidents Clinton, G.W. Bush and Obama offer their perspective on why the new administration should build on decades of progress.

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Bipartisan group of former federal CSOs has some advice for President Trump

Tiny power plant sucks CO2 from the air and turns it into fuel

November 11, 2016 by  
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Ineratec , an offshoot of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), has devised a creative solution to the excess carbon dioxide (CO2) soaking the atmosphere. The company developed a small power plant that sucks CO2 out of the air and turns it into fuel . Researchers aim to switch on a pilot plant, called the Soletair Project, at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland later this year. Ineratec’s mini power plant is so small it can fit inside a shipping container . KIT says there are three parts to the system: a microstructured reactor, a direct air capture unit created by VIT, and an electrolysis unit which runs on solar power created by Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT). The direct air capture unit extracts CO2 out of the air and then the reactor converts the CO2 and regenerative hydrogen via the electrolysis unit into fuel. The Ineratec founders say the system can produce gasoline, kerosene, or diesel. Related: Cutting-edge MIT research converts carbon emissions into usable liquid fuel Ineratec founder Tim Böltken told New Atlas, “We supply an entirely new, modular technology that is a real alternative to the costly large chemical facilities used for the conventional gas-to-liquid process.” Böltken said there are many other possible applications for the plant, including gathering fuel from sewage treatment facilities. He also suggested organic farmers might be able to use the system to generate energy. VTT Principal Scientist Pekka Simell said in a statement , “The project will produce expertise for enterprises in various fields, and it will result in a multidisciplinary industrial integration that no one company can achieve on its own.” VTT and LUT will build a demonstration plant set to being operating this year, and in 2017 LUT plans to continue testing. According to KIT, Ineratec is planning to commercialize the compact plant, which could hit the market in 2018. Via New Atlas Images via Ineratec and KIT

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Tiny power plant sucks CO2 from the air and turns it into fuel

INTERVIEW: Paul Beckwith on the jetstream crossing and global climate emergency

August 16, 2016 by  
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Climate system scientist Paul Beckwith  recently set off a media firestorm after posting a video of the jet stream in the Northern Hemisphere crossing the equator and mixing with the jet stream in the Southern Hemisphere. Originally calling the event unprecedented , Beckwith later modified the word with a question mark in the YouTube title and on his website. He also wrote that “we must declare a global climate emergency.”  The Washington Post took the pre-question mark assertion and published a scathing rebuke , including comments from climate scientists pushing back hard on Beckwith’s original assertion. Later, the Post published Beckwith’s response to the criticism. We wanted to delve deeper in the controversy, so Inhabitat got on the phone with Beckwith, who is based in Canada as a part time professor at the University of Ottawa – read on for our interview.

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INTERVIEW: Paul Beckwith on the jetstream crossing and global climate emergency

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