LAVA breaks ground on sustainable energy tower in Heidelberg

August 4, 2017 by  
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A dynamic new icon of sustainable energy is rising in Heidelberg, Germany. Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA) just broke ground on a new energy storage tower for Stadtwerke Heidelberg (SWH) that will be the Heidelberg’s tallest building and symbolize the city’s transition towards renewables . Designed to replace an existing gas tank, the new tower will be wrapped in a dynamic multi-layered facade made up of “energy loops” to render renewable energy visible to the public. The 56-meter-tall energy storage center with 19,500-cubic-meter capacity will be accompanied with a 10,000-square-meter park, both of which are slated for completion in mid-2019. Solar and wind energy will be harnessed and used to heat up the water and sold as heat energy. “This ‘knowledge store’ will replace a previous gas tank, a symbol of energy policy in the 1950s,” said Tobias Wallisser, director of LAVA. “Formally and geometrically the new water tank will not be much different from its predecessor. So this raised the challenge for us: How can the parameters of energy regeneration, decentrality, networking, flexibility and adaptivity be made visible in the design of the outer shell? How can an adaptive, dynamic system be produced without extreme technical control? Our task was to transform a big heavy industrial tank into a dynamic object.” Related: Futuristic green city design runs like a real rainforest in Malaysia The renovated tower is made up of a multi-layered facade with a spiral helix staircase that wraps around an insulating inner layer of mineral wool panels painted varying shades of blue. A cable network fitted between the annular supports creates the outer facade. Around 11,000 diamond-shaped stainless steel plates—the same number of households supplied with energy by the network—also clad the structure and can rotate up to 45 degrees horizontally in the wind. At night, the tower’s inner envelope is illuminated by LEDs that glow blue, green, and white that signify the filling up or emptying of the water storage tank. The publicly accessible tower features two elevators and roof-level event spaces, bistro, and viewing terraces. + Laboratory for Visionary Architecture

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LAVA breaks ground on sustainable energy tower in Heidelberg

Raku Inoue crafts delicate insect sculptures from colorful flowers

August 4, 2017 by  
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Even those scared of bugs won’t be able to resist the exquisite beauty of Raku Inoue’s insect sculptures. Crafted from delicate flower petals and leaves, ‘Natura Insects’ is a beautiful series of miniature flower arrangements pieced together to look like stag beetles, butterflies, and other insects. The Montreal-based Japanese artist draws from traditional Japanese arts such as ink painting (“sumi-e”) and flower arrangement (“ikebana”) and gives the art forms a new, modern twist. The Natura Insects series was completed as part of Raku Inoue’s ‘Challenge of the 9,’ in which he creates different art collections—each with nine works—that push his artistic boundaries. In Natura Insects, Inoue created nine insect sculptures out of leaves and flowers. He sets each creation against textured white paper and photographs them with his seal for Instagram . Related: Red Hong Yi Transforms Colorful Flower Petals into Exotic Birds The delicate creations are thoughtful compositions of texture, color, and pattern. The butterfly , for instance, comprises vibrantly colored petals of varying shapes with rounded petals at the center and long, skinny petals at the edges. In contrast, the less colorful moth features a pair of white flowers for antennae and a highly textured mix of green foliage for the body and wings. The series also includes a spider, a dragonfly, firefly, ladybug, and a variety of beetle types. You can follow Inoue’s prolific and experimental artworks and his ongoing Challenge of the 9 on Instagram or explore his clothing line at Reikan Apparel . + Raku Inoue Via Colossal Images via Raku Inoue

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Raku Inoue crafts delicate insect sculptures from colorful flowers

Conservative billionaire to build America’s largest wind farm

July 25, 2017 by  
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Carbon County, Wyoming could soon be home to the United States’ biggest wind farm , complete with 1,000 turbines . Conservative billionaire Philip Anschutz, who got his start in his father’s oil business, is behind the massive wind farm, which will be large enough to power every single home in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. But wind power in Wyoming could face an uphill battle as legislators angle to increase the tax on the renewable energy . Wyoming is currently the only state in America to tax wind energy , but some lawmakers have attempted to raise that tax even higher – from $1 per megawatt hour to $3 or $5. So far, neither tax increase made it past committee – Anschutz’s business helped fight the hikes – but legislators are trying to fill out the state budget as the state lacks income tax and used to make money off coal , which is in its downward spiral. Related: The wind turbine manufacturer putting unemployed coal miners to work In 2015, the state produced more coal than West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, and Pennsylvania combined, but coal consumption is declining. Meanwhile the state sees some of the continent’s strongest winds, which rival strong ocean gales. According to NexusMedia, wind power comprises a multi-billion opportunity for the state – Anschutz’s massive wind farm and a new 700-mile transmission line are priced at $8 billion, and there are two other $3 billion wind projects in the works. Experts say it might be a bad idea to raise the tax right as the state is trying to drum up new jobs. Economist Robert Godby at the University of Wyoming told NexusMedia, “Wyoming is perceived by many wind developers to be kind of anti-wind. Suddenly the state is suggesting that we might raise the tax by four or five times? That’s not conducive to economic development. Tax uncertainty is almost as bad as having high taxes.” Instead, Godby suggested a tax break for developers who will manufacture components and build wind farms in the state to attract projects, creating jobs and generating tax revenue. He described wind energy as “the biggest opportunity presenting itself to the state.” Via NexusMedia Images via Penny Higgins on Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Conservative billionaire to build America’s largest wind farm

Self-sufficient hydrogen boat embarks on 6-year journey around the world

July 17, 2017 by  
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The world watched in anticipation as the groundbreaking Solar Impulse 2 plane circumnavigated the globe last year. Now, the “Solar Impulse of the Seas” has set sail, aiming to demonstrate in a fresh way that clean energy can power our world. Dubbed Energy Observer , the solar- , wind- , and hydrogen -powered catamaran will sail to 50 countries over the course of six years. Solar panels line the top of the Energy Observer, and two vertical axis wind turbines harness the power of the wind, but those aren’t the only energy sources that make this vessel self-sufficient . The boat is able to generate hydrogen from seawater thanks to an electrolysis system. That hydrogen, stored in tanks, will help the Energy Observer glide through the waves emissions-free. The project was started by French offshore racer Victorien Erussard, accompanied by French explorer and filmmaker Jérôme Delafosse. Related: Energy Observer to sail around the world using only solar, wind, and hydrogen fuel The Energy Observer is equipped with technologies like electric motors, lithium-ion batteries , and a hydrogen fuel cell . It’s around 100 feet long and 42 feet wide, with solar panels covering 1,400 square feet atop the catamaran. Built in 1983, the Energy Observer has already had a long career as a racing boat, but was recently christened earlier this month by France’s environment minister Nicolas Hulot. Energy Observer left Paris this past weekend with mayor Anne Hidalgo aboard. Erussard said on the boat’s website, “There is not one miracle solution to combat climate change : there are solutions which we must learn to operate together. That’s what we are doing with Energy Observer: allowing nature’s energies, as well as those of our society, to collaborate.” And though the boat draws on different technologies than the Solar Impulse 2, it apparently has the approval of pilot Bertrand Piccard , who was present at the christening ceremony. He said, “Energy Observer, just like Solar Impulse, makes exploration work for a better quality of life. We need to lead people towards the future by showing them solutions instead of depressing them.” You can track where the Energy Observer is here and find out more here . + Energy Observer Via ScienceAlert Images via Energy Observer ( 1 , 2 )

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Self-sufficient hydrogen boat embarks on 6-year journey around the world

Renewables will reign supreme by 2040, latest BNEF report shows

June 21, 2017 by  
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Renewable energy is on track to take over the world, if Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF)’s predictions are correct. This month they released their annual New Energy Outlook (NEO) report, which reveals 51 percent of the world’s power generation could come from renewables by 2040. During the next 23 years, 72 percent of the $10.2 trillion spent on new power generation will go into solar power and wind power . The future sure looks bright for renewable energy. NEO 2017 lead author Seb Henbest said their report indicates “the greening of the world’s electricity system is unstoppable” as costs for wind and solar continue to plummet. Batteries will also play a role in the shift of the world from polluting fuels to clean ones. Related: Dropping costs in renewable tech spurs rapid shift to clean energy Coal is on its way out, if the NEO 2017 predictions are correct. The BNEF team wrote in Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia, and the United States, solar is at least as cheap as coal, and in just a few years – by 2021 – it will be less expensive than coal in Mexico, Brazil, the United Kingdom, China, and India. And while the report suggests 51 percent of the world’s power could come from renewables in 2040, Greentech Media pointed out that’s an average. Some countries could get more than 51 percent energy from renewables – countries like Mexico, Italy, Brazil, and Chile could get as much as 80 percent of their energy from clean sources. Wind and solar on their own will account for more than 50 percent of power in Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Mexico. Green technology adoption – like rooftop solar – will be on the rise. Electric vehicles will “bolster electricity use and help balance the grid .” Henbest told Greentech Media, “The cost declines that we are seeing with these technologies are so steep that it becomes a matter of time as to when they start crossing over and becoming competitive in different ways. These things are getting cheaper faster than we thought even a year ago.” Via Bloomberg New Energy Finance ( 1 , 2 ) and Greentech Media Images via Pixabay ( 1 , 2 )

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Renewables will reign supreme by 2040, latest BNEF report shows

Seattle’s beloved Space Needle slated for much-needed makeover

June 21, 2017 by  
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Seattle ‘s famed Space Needle – a 55 year-old icon – is finally getting a much-needed makeover. Helmed by local architect Olson Kundig , the ambitious project will update the structure’s physical systems while renovating the restaurant with a rotating glass floor. In addition, a slanted, all-glass enclosure will be installed around the observation deck to enhance the already stellar views. Space Needle Chairman Jeff Wright, whose family owns the building, hailed the project as a necessity to keep the famed landmark up-to-date: “I believe we’ll look back at this as a pivotal moment in the history of the Space Needle. This project both connects us back to our roots, to the vision that my father and his partners had when they built the Space Needle in 1962, and guides us forward into the future for generations to enjoy.” Related: Olson Kundig Designs Office Made From Wind Turbine Parts In addition to renovated structural elements and more elevators, the proposal calls for adding lots more glass to the beloved structure. The walls surrounding the observation deck, which currently has a cage-like enclosure, will be replaced with massive floor-to-ceiling glass panels to provide uninhibited views of the Puget Sound . A rotating, all-glass floor in the restaurant will give visitors a view of Seattle from above. Although there is no specific time frame for the project, the privately-funded renovation will most likely take years. However, the revamped restaurant and observation deck are slated to be opened by summer of 2018. + Olson Kundig Via Fast Company Images via Olson Kundig and video via Brooklyn Digital Foundry

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Seattle’s beloved Space Needle slated for much-needed makeover

This gigantic floating Manta Ray could naturally purify Seouls river

June 12, 2017 by  
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What if our city infrastructure could also repair the damage we’ve done to nature? Vincent Callebaut’s Manta Ray is an experimental landscape design that aims to sustainably restore the natural environment in Seoul . Developed for an international competition, Manta Ray is a floating ferry terminal proposal that uses marshland plants to naturally purify the Han River and produces 100% of its energy needs through renewable sources. The Manta Ray is the latest design in Vincent Callebaut Architectures’ extensive portfolio of green utopian designs. His striking proposal for Seoul takes a multilayered approach to the landscape , beginning with the transformation of the existing Yeouido Park on the banks of the Han River into a “genuine cultural hub” reinforced with resilient design principals. A forest of willow trees is proposed for the park, as are marsh-like filtering strips to protect the banks against flooding . Pedestrian paths, large terraces, bicycle lanes, and an amphitheater would be added along the river. The Yeoui-Naru floating three-level ferry terminal juts out of the park and would be suspended above a marina and gardens. On the lower docks is a marina comprising linked steel dikes integrated with equipment to charge boats with water, electricity, and biofuels. Atop the marina is a flared, manta ray-shaped structure that houses the reception, leisure areas, food courts, exhibition space, and educational spaces. Tree-shaped structures made from cross-laminated timber sourced from “eco-responsible Korean forests” crown the building. The top-most level also includes an observation deck with views towards Ban island, as well as a rooftop orchard. Related: How the Cheonggyecheon River Urban Design Restored the Green Heart of Seoul The Manta Ray would produce all of its energy needs from a mix of renewable energy sources. The first includes solar energy harvested from 49,000 square feet of rooftop solar cells installed on the laminated glass facade, as well as 37,300 square feet of opaque photothermal panels. The 52 CLT trees are topped with wind turbines . Organic and biodegradable waste from Yeouido Park would be collected for use at a biomethanation plant to provide energy for Manta Ray, while oscillating-foils hydrokinetic turbines (HAO) would be integrated along the hull of the large floating barrier encircling the marina. “Seoul is finding new ways to invest in this kind of soft infrastructure, helping to foster social cohesion with a greater sense of community among diverse socio-economic groups,” writes Vincent Callebaut Architectures. “With an eye toward increasing equitable access for everyone to these new facilities, this floating vessel is an example of biophilic and resilient architecture, demonstrating that it is possible to build with nature rather than against it, by respecting the life of the river and allowing the local fauna and flora to flourish. The “Manta Ray” project promotes the permeability and renaturalization of river banks in cities with rivers running through them. The banks become new playgrounds for social innovation, and for urban “consumers-actors” seeking to promote urban farming, agroforestry and permaculture. The goal is to make them less vulnerable to climate change, and to the subsequent dramatic flood and urban heat island events witnessed over the past decades.” + Vincent Callebaut

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This gigantic floating Manta Ray could naturally purify Seouls river

Bio-inspired wind turbines with flexible blades 35% more efficient

June 8, 2017 by  
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Wind energy already yields four percent of Earth’s power, but five researchers at French institutions recently drew inspiration from nature to make wind turbines even better. Inspired by creatures like dragonflies, they found flexible blades on wind turbines make the machines much more efficient. Wind turbines today work best under optimal wind speeds, but the new bio-inspired design could offer a way around that fact, making wind power even more accessible. Wind speeds impact the functioning of a wind turbine. If the wind is too slow, the turbine won’t turn and generate energy; if the wind is too fast it could damage the turbine. Wind also must hit the turbines at the correct pitch angle to apply the correct amount of torque to the generator, according to Science. The new research from scientists at Sorbonne University and École Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Métiers-ParisTech fixes these issues with flexible blades much like insect wings. Related: Revolutionary flapping wind turbine mimics hummingbirds to produce clean energy The researchers constructed prototypes with regular hard turbine blades, slightly flexible turbine blades, and very flexible turbine blades. The last design turned out to be too floppy, but the slightly flexible blades outperformed the rigid ones, offering as much as 35 percent more power . They also continued to work in lower wind conditions and weren’t as susceptible to damage in high winds. The journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A published the research online in February. But the scientists’ work isn’t yet done: they now need to search for the right material that’s “flexible, but not too flexible,” according to lead author Vincent Cognet, to scale up the findings. Engineer Asfaw Beyene of San Diego State University, who was not part of this study, told Science, “The fluid mechanics and the physics make absolute sense. There’s no reason why we cannot make morphing blades that will adapt to wind conditions.” Via Science and Tech Xplore Images via Joi Ito on Flickr and Pexels

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Bio-inspired wind turbines with flexible blades 35% more efficient

Dilapidated 1800s dairy barn resurrected into a stunning home in Wyoming

June 8, 2017 by  
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Architecture firm JLF Design Build has breathed new life into a dilapidated 1800s dairy barn by transforming it into a stunning new home. “The Creamery” was built using materials salvaged from an abandoned dairy farm in Montana and reconstructed just outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. According to the architects, the ambitious project focused on retaining the same “authentic craftsmanship and rugged austerity” of the original stone building, while converting it into a contemporary living space. According to the creamery’s history, the original structure was built by anonymous Scottish stonemasons who laid two-foot-thick walls that lasted centuries. However, left empty and and unprotected for decades, the structure fell into severe disrepair. After convincing their antique-loving clients to acquire the original barn as “the ultimate antique”, the team used painstaking care to gather and transport as much of the old building’s materials as possible to Wyoming where they rebuilt a stunning new home in an idyllic setting. Related: 6 barns converted into beautiful new homes The home’s stone structure pays a beautiful homage to its original design, both on the outside as well as the inside. The interior decoration is pure rustic sophistication, with beautiful stone walls, exposed wooden trusses on the ceiling and large reclaimed wood planks as flooring. The structure is now home to a family who appreciates the timeless architecture of the design, “The relic itself inspired a sense of responsibility to its origins,” says JLF Design Build principal Paul Bertelli. “This building in its existing form, with its scale and proportion, was much purer than any contemporary architectural solution we could have applied. Ultimately doing nothing at all was the genius of the architecture in this project.” + JLF Design Build Photography by Audrey Hall

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Dilapidated 1800s dairy barn resurrected into a stunning home in Wyoming

Scientists discover plants have ‘brains’ that decide when to sprout

June 8, 2017 by  
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Researchers are quickly learning that plants are far more complex than once thought. Not only has it been determined that plants are capable of sensing and preparing for drought conditions, a team from the University of Birmingham recently learned that a cluster of cells in seeds act like a brain that decide when they should germinate. As a result of this finding, crop yields may be improved. The study, published in the journal  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) , explains that the researchers worked with a species called thale cress to determine whether or not plants have human-like “brains.” After locating the group of cells in the seed that are responsible for controlling decision-making processes, they discovered something interesting. Reportedly, the group of cells is made up of two competing types: one promotes germination and the other promotes dormancy. The scientists describe the relationship as a “tug of war” match, as hormones are swapped back and forth in a process that’s very similar to mechanisms in the human brain when someone decides whether or not to move. The team says the separate competing cells are key to the decision-making process in both humans and plants . The mechanism serves an important purpose in vegetation, because germinating too early may result in death due to frost. Alternatively, germinating too late will result in growing complications due to the wrong climate conditions. Said George Bassel, lead author of the study, “Our work reveals a crucial separation between the components within a plant decision-making center. In the human brain , this separation is thought to introduce a time delay, smoothing out noisy signals from the environment and increasing the accuracy with which we make decisions. The separation of these parts in the seed ‘brain’ also appears to be central to how it functions.” Related: Seed-Planting Tumbleweed Robot Draws From Nature to Fight Desertification After creating a mathematical model of how the separate cells work to control how sensitive the plant is to its environment , the researchers concluded that the more variation there is in environmental conditions, the more seeds will sprout. This sounds counter-intuitive, but the results were confirmed when the team tested it in a laboratory. “Our work has important implications for understanding how crops and weeds grow,” said Bassel. “There is now potential to apply this knowledge to commercial plants in order to enhance and synchronize germination, increasing crop yields and decreasing herbicide use.” + Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Via New Atlas Images via Pixabay

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Scientists discover plants have ‘brains’ that decide when to sprout

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