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Induction, 'Cathode Ray' Bulbs Set For Launch

Induction, 'Cathode Ray' Bulbs Set For Launch | Digital Sustainability |

The lighting market is about to welcome the Vu1 and Finally – products that use two very different energy-efficient bulb technologies in a bid to end consumers’ obsession with incandescent lighting , reports The New York Times. Finally creates light through induction – a technology that is used in appliance electric motors and construction cranes.   ...Continue Reading

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The lighting market is about to welcome the Vu1 and Finally – products that use two very different energy-efficient bulb technologies in a bid to end consumers’ obsession with incandescent lighting , reports The New York Times.

Finally creates light through induction – a technology that is used in appliance electric motors and construction cranes. The technology has not yet been used in lighting as it was difficult to fit the necessary electronics inside a bulb, the Times reports.

However, with the creation of smaller transistors and other technological advances, researchers have reduced the apparatus to a three-inch antenna wrapped in a copper wire. The assembly creates a magnetic field that “prods” mercury to create ultra violet light. The UV light, in turn creates visible light after interacting with a phosphor coating the bulb’s surface. The 14.5-watt bulb, which can be dissolved of in landfills, should sell for $8 – making it directly competitive with some of the cheaperLEDs available, the paper reports.

The mercury-free Vu1 (pictured) aims to use technology similar to cathode ray tubes used in old televisions in which electrons hit phosphors on the glass and subsequently glow. The Vu1 uses less than a third of an equivalent 65-watt incandescent bulb, its makers say. It was previously available on home improvement retailer Lowe’s website but production problems led to its withdrawal, according to the Times.

Other technology set for a launch into the market place include plasma and “organic LEDs” the paper reports.

Lighting installers expect to furnish more LEDs than fluorescent fixtures over the coming year for the first time, according to the Precision-Paragon report released earlier this month.

LEDs were selected as the preferred product by 49 percent of responding installers, while fluorescents were chosen by 46 percent. LED’s share almost doubled from the 26 percent that chose it as the leading technology a year ago.

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Top 10 Green Buildings in U.S.

Top 10 Green Buildings in U.S. | Digital Sustainability |

Each year, the American Institute of Architects’ Committee on the Environment (AIA/COTE) awards the Top Ten Green Projects. Based on ten judging criteria, they select the 10 most sustainable new buildings here in the US. According to the AIA, the COTE Top Ten Green Projects program “celebrates structures that use a thoroughly integrated approach toRead More

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The World's Best Sustainability Ideas

The World's Best Sustainability Ideas | Digital Sustainability |
see photosWebsite screenshotClick for full photo gallery: The World's Best Sustainability Ideas Update: On April 10, Katerva announced its 2014 winners. MBA Polymers, the Richmond, CA recycler that processes garbage that other companies won't touch, from cast-off computers to broken-down cars, took the top prize. Then there were two "People's Choice" [...]
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On April 10, Katerva announced its 2014 winners. MBA Polymers, the Richmond,CA CA -0.63% recycler that processes garbage that other companies won’t touch, from cast-off computers to broken-down cars, took the top prize. Then there were two “People’s Choice” award winners, who got the greatest number of online votes: The 50 Million Missing Campaign, a grassroots group founded in 2006 that fights female genocide in India, and HealthPhone, a nonprofit that produces health and nutrition videos and sells a $3 memory stick that can be loaded onto mobile phones.

Katerva, a five-year-old nonprofit set up to recognize and support stand-out sustainability efforts around the world, has announced its third-annual awards in a competition that has been described as a kind of Nobel Prize in the broad and somewhat amorphous field of sustainability. Among this year’s eclectic choices: a Brazilian business that produces solar-powered hearing aids, a Berkeley, CA nonprofit that delivers solar-powered lighting kits to off-the-grid maternity clinics and a British nonprofit that has designed a dirt-cheap refrigerator made out of a clay pot.

Based in London, Katerva is the brainchilid of Terry Waghorn, an author and former consultant at KPMG who wanted to find a way to bolster efforts of both non-profits and for-profit businesses trying to come up with sustainable solutions to everyday problems. (The word Katerva comes from the Latin word Caterva, which means “crowd.”) So far the project has gotten only a trickle of funding. It relies on an army of panelists, a small staff and support from “Terry Waghorn’s bank account,” he says. Victoria Kamsler, a former lecturer at Princeton on environmental ethics and a clean-tech entrepreneur, runs the awards and evaluation process. “I can hardly believe the extraordinary generosity of all of our experts,” she says. At this point, neither staff nor panelists get paid.

The nominees went through four different filtering phases that included reviews by more than 300 academics, corporate executives, scientists, social scientists and consultants. Among the very long list of panelists: Microsoft executive Darnee A. Phipps, Renmin University of China professor Manhong (Mannie) Liu, Bjorn von Euler, head of corporate philanthropy at ITT. Ten sets of between five and 10 panelists each voted for nominees in one of four different categories:  “validity,”  “scalability,” “policy” and “impact.” The multiple reviews took more than a year and yielded five finalists, including one winner, in each of the 10 sectors: Behavioral Change, Economy, Ecosystem Conservation, Energy and Power, Food Security, Gender Equality, Human Development, Materials and Resources, Transportation, and Urban Design.

The range of winners is striking. Some are nonprofits that are only a handful of years old, like We Care Solar, which delivers the light kits to maternity clinics in developing countries, and others are established commercial ventures, like MBA Polymers, a 22-year-old plastics recycler based in Richmond, CA that has more than $50 million in revenues. MBA Polymers specializes in recovering plastic from garbage that would otherwise languish in landfills, like cast-off computers and junked cars, and transforming it into new materials for electronics, cars, and office and garden products. The company has already won numerous awards, including a tech pioneer award to founder Michael Biddle from the World Economic Forum back in 2006.

Though Katerva still operates on a shoestring, it’s pulled together some nice prizes for this year’s winners. All 50 finalists are getting fast-track access to TrustLaw Connect, a Thomson Reuters Foundation program that connects NGOs and social enterprises with law firms willing to offer their services free of charge. The 10 winners also get 12 weeks of free business consulting from a team of up to five MBA students from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. Plus the winners are entitled to have a video made by Ecodeo, the digital media company founded by Liz Rubin, director of photography for President Obama’s 2012 campaign.

To select the overall winner, Katerva submits the 10 category winners to its 17-member Awards Council, which includes human genome sequencer J. Craig Venter, environmentalist and educator Jean Michel Cousteau and former president of Ireland Mary Robinson. The Council will single out a winner by the end of March. Starting March 7, Katerva will also open up voting on its site for a “People’s Choice” award.

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Solar co-ops bring affordable green power to the people

Solar co-ops bring affordable green power to the people | Digital Sustainability |
From California to Washington, D.C., cooperative models are helping more people join the solar revolution.
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While many people associate cooperatives with a place for hippies to buy organic food, the cooperative movement actually has grown far and wide, creating sustainable enterprises that generate jobs and strengthen local economies. Today, nearly 30,000 cooperatives are in the United States, with more than 100 million members. From day care centers to hardware stores, cooperatives seem to be permeating every sector of society. So it's no surprise that cooperatives are making their way into the renewable energy field as well.

A cooperative is a group of people acting together to meet the common needs and aspirations of its members, sharing ownership and making decisions democratically. Co-ops can be owned by workers, residents, consumers, farmers, the community or any combination of the above. What they have in common is that they are not about making big profits for shareholders, but rather circulating the benefits back to their member-owners, and these benefits ripple out to the broader community.

Solar cooperatives are helping independently owned solar integrators share best practices, allowing homeowners to install PV systems more economically and giving renters or people living in apartments a simple way to join the solar revolution....

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Brazil strips protections from 5.2 million hectares of land

Brazil strips protections from 5.2 million hectares of land | Digital Sustainability |
Brazil might be falling back into land use policies that sacrifice the long-term benefits of forests for the immediate gains of industry.
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Since facing a deforestation crisis in the second half of the 20th century and into the beginning of the 21st, Brazil has staged a comeback by limiting forest destruction and advancing an admirable conservation record.

Now a new study shows that Brazil might be falling back into land use policies that sacrifice the long-term benefits of forests for the immediate gains of industry.

Research published in the journal Conservation Biology shows that Brazil has stripped protected status from 5.2 million hectares of publicly owned land—an area roughly the size of Costa Rica—with 74% of these changes occurring between 2008-2012.

Despite leading the world in establishing new protected areas, Brazil’s decisions to revoke protected status raises concerns about the country’s priorities.

According to the study, most of these changes were related to energy generation and transmission in the Amazon. Between 2010 and 2012 alone, 19 protected parcels of land were reduced in size in order to make room for energy infrastructure.

The changes throw into doubt whether newly protected lands will remain off limits to development in the coming years as Brazil looks to increase its domestic power generation.

Brazil, which relies heavily on hydroelectric power, is planning a slew of new projects including the Belo Monte plant, which is projected to be the world’s third largest hydroelectric plant upon completion. Hesitant to rely exclusively on hydroelectric power, Brazil is also expected to increase its use of natural gas for electricity generation in the near term.

The authors of the study indicted Brazil’s government for failing to fully appreciate the benefits of undisturbed forestland. They said:

 If parks and reserves are to maintain their integrity, there will need to be investments in Brazilian protected areas and a better understanding of the benefits protected areas provide.

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11 innovative companies giving energy storage a jolt

11 innovative companies giving energy storage a jolt | Digital Sustainability |
Tackling problems from every angle, these diverse and forward-thinking companies are planning a future with plentiful energy.
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1. Aquion Energy: A cleaner chemistry

A spin-off of Carnegie Mellon University, Aquion Energy has raised more than $100 million from high-profile investors such as Bill Gates to support its planned 2014 commercial launch of its Aqueous Hybrid Ion batteries and storage systems. Aquion is targeting small- to medium-scale applications, including off-grid and microgrid installations, buildings and grid-scale storage.

Aquion's saltwater battery technology offers some unique advantages over today's commercially dominant products.The company's nontoxic, saltwater-based batteries are designed to deliver high-performance storage while avoiding the expensive maintenance of competing chemistries, such as lead-acid.

This year, Aquion is ramping up commercial production at its manufacturing facility in western Pennsylvania. Pre-commercial products have been developed in partnership with leading inverter and electronics suppliers such as ABB,Outback Power Systems and Siemens. It will be interesting to see what role these partners play in Aquion's commercial rollout.

2. General Electric: A storage giant awakens

As one of the world's biggest providers of power generation equipment, General Electric is positioned to become one of the world's most important players in energy storage as well.

Since investing more than $100 million into its sodium-nickel-chloride battery plant in Schenectady, N.Y., which opened two years ago, GE has begun offering its Durathon Energy Storage Solutions for applications such as charge-discharge-cycling at telecommunications sites, firming and time-shifting for solar or wind generation, grid stabilization for network operators and building energy management for facility owners.

This month, GE announced a new microgrid demonstration project with PowerSteam Inc. in Canada's Ontario province. The project combines wind, natural gas and solar generation with battery storage and electric-vehicle charging. GE's microgrid control system determines when it's most economical to rely on resources within the microgrid and when it's better to buy power from the grid.

GE also supports storage startups such as California-based Stem and England's Highview Power.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy's Global Energy Storage Database, GE is involved in about a dozen battery storage projects ranging from 100 kilowatts to 10 megawatts, totaling about 16 megawatts of capacity.

GE is targeting $1 billion in annual battery sales by the end of the decade.

3. Green Charge Networks: Power efficiency

Over the past decade, energy costs for commercial and industrial businesses in California have fallen by about 4 percent per year. So why did their electricity bills keep rising?

Green Charge Networks claims a five-year payback in most GreenStation installations.Because "power is where the pain lies," as a recently published white paper from Santa Clara, Calif.-based start-up Green Charge Networks articulates. In other words, while the cost of energy per kilowatt-hour has fallen, the cost of power per kilowatt — so-called demand charges — has more than offset that decline.

Green Charge has developed a way to reduce these demand charges with its no-money-down lithium-ion battery-based GreenStation energy storage solution for behind-the-meter projects up to 500 kilowatts. It is designed to complement onsite solar, electric vehicle charging and energy efficiency.

"We are an ESCO [energy services company] providing kilowatts instead of kilowatt-hours for the sole purpose of demand charge reduction," explained CEO Vic Shao in an interview. "Our core competency is providing software and services; we let the experts handle the hardware," he added in reference to the company's major lithium-ion battery and inverter suppliers.

Founded in 2009, Green Charge supplied its first GreenStation system to a 7-Elevenretail store in Queens, N.Y., the first retailer with distributed energy storage in the U.S. Other customers include UPS, and the California cities of Lancaster and Redwood City.

"We are no longer in a pilot phase. It's all about commercial deployments," Shao told GreenBiz. "Right now we are signing a contract every week. We have more than 20 installations lined up in California and New York in the next four months with more contracts underway."

4. LG Chem: Leading lithium-ion battery maker

LG Chem, a subsidiary of South Korea's LG Corp., stands apart from most other manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries for stationary applications. Navigant Research ranks the company as the world's No. 1 lithium-ion stationary battery vendor.

Given this primacy, it's not surprising that many leading developers of stationary storage systems are partnering with LG Chem. Building on its experience supplying lithium-ion batteries for electric cars, LG Chem is providing residential, commercial and industrial stationary batteries as well. For example, leading solar inverter manufacturer SMA Technology AG this year plans to launch its new Sunny Boy Smart Energy Home Manager, with LG Chem's lithium-ion batteries at the heart of the system.

The company also is supplying large-scale storage systems to the U.S. market to companies such as AES Energy Storage, Southern California Edison and the Snohomish County Public Utility District.

In addition to LG Chem, numerous other big lithium-ion battery producers — such as BYD, Johnson Controls,Panasonic, Samsung and Sony — also are partnering with solar installers, inverter manufacturers and innovative product integrators.

5. NEC Corporation: Global grid-scale storage

With its acquisition of A123 Energy Solutions — the storage business of A123 Systems — for approximately $100 million, NEC Corp. of Japan claims to be the world's leading supplier of lithium-ion battery storage systems. A global Fortune 500 company, NEC also has the resources to grow its energy storage business geographically across all storage market segments.

To date, U.S.-based A123 Energy Solutions has deployed more than 110 megawatts of its grid-scale storage systems for electric utility, power generation and industrial battery customers such as AES Corp, Maui Electric, Sempra Energy, Southern California Edison and Vestas.

The newly formed company — to be called NEC Energy Solutions — will begin operation in June.

6. NRG Energy: From V2G to 'post-grid future'

NRG Energy's battery storage activities are as diversified as its power generation and retail electricity businesses.

NRG Energy's Necker Island microgrid uses lithium-ion batteries and (surprise) solar energy.Battery-backed renewable energy will play a key role in the "post-grid future," NRG Energy's chief executive David Crane recently wrote in a letter to shareholders. "We are just getting started in this area with, among other projects, our ground-breaking Necker Island announcement, but we expect to be a leader in the area of renewables-driven ecosystems," wrote Crane.

On Necker Island, part of the British Virgin Islands, NRG is replacing diesel generators with a microgrid that includes photovoltaic (PV) panels and lithium-ion batteries. The project is a partnership withbusiness icon Richard Branson, who owns the island.

It's not the company's first battery-backed solar project in the Caribbean. Last summer, NRG and Sunora Energy Systems — its joint venture with PV wafer producer GCL-Poly — delivered a 100-kilowatt solar array with battery backup at a hospital in Haiti.

The company also is exploring vehicle-to-grid (V2G) applications, for example, through the Grid on Wheels project in Delaware. The project features 30 electric BMW MINIs and V2G aggregation software from the University of Delaware that NRG Energy plans to drive into the marketplace through a joint venture with the university calledeV2g.

In addition, NRG is involved in large-scale storage through its investment in Eos Energy Storage, a startup developing a zinc-hybrid-cathode battery technology it calls "Zynth."

7. Princeton Power: Grid-tied storage

Princeton Power's inverters are designed for operation with a variety of battery chemistries and the company offers its own turnkey systems for microgrids, backup power, grid frequency regulation and other applications.

Earlier this year, Princeton launched a partnership with lithium-ion storage company Coda Energy Holdings to supply inverters and energy storage systems to commercial building operators in the Northeast and California. Their aim is to help reduce demand charges for commercial buildings.

According to the DOE's energy storage database, Princeton Power's inverters are being used in at least two dozen grid-tied battery storage projects around the U.S., including projects with Coda Energy, GE, Solar Grid Storage, SolarCity and Tesla.

8. Solar Grid Storage: A match made in the heavens

Pennsylvania-based Solar Grid Storage stores sunlight to provide backup power, demand-charge reduction and peak shaving for commercial and industrial applications.

PowerFactor is part of GridSTAR, a demonstration smartgrid project deployed at the Philadephia Navy Yard.The company targets projects in the range of 150 kilowatts to 10 megawatts with its PowerFactor system, which includes lithium ion batteries and power inverters. The company's standard financing offer is to own and service the system on behalf of customers, including solar installers such as Advanced Solar Products, groSolar, Standard Solar, Solaire Generation and Solis Partners.

According to the DOE's global energy storage database, Solar Grid Storage has five 250-kilowatt projects operating within the PJM Interconnection.


9 and 10. SolarCity and Tesla: A dynamic duo

SolarCity, the largest residential PV installer in the U.S., is rolling out storage systems in California that rely on lithium ion batteries supplied by electric carmaker Tesla — whose CEO and founder, Elon Musk, is also SolarCity's chairman. The duo's entry into stationary energy storage is another signal that solar-plus-storage is gaining traction.

Between the EVs and the Giga Factory, Tesla Motors shows promise. Rainbows not guaranteed.In residential applications, SolarCity's system is used only to back-up critical loads. SolarCity hopes to offer its solution to enable residential customers to take advantage of time-of-use rates, ancillary services and PV system interaction — but California regulators currently do not allow it.

SolarCity also is spearheading a 200-kilowatt project to store energy from rooftop solar arrays at Tesla's factory in Fremont, Calif., with the aim of helping Tesla offset millions of dollars in demand charges.

The bigger impact on energy storage could come from Tesla, which recently announced plans to launch a massive factory for U.S.-based lithium ion battery production, the so-called Giga Factory.

11. Sonnenbatterie: From Europe with love

Already with thousands of units deployed in Europe through major utilities such as RWE and E.ON, German company Sonnenbatterie recently announced a partnership with Los Angeles-based SK Solar USA to launch its lithium-iron-phosphate battery system in the U.S.

Sonnenbatterie plans to target regions with peak demand charges for on-grid commercial and residential customers.

According to Boris von Bormann, country manager of Sonnenbatterie North America, the company plans to launch its residential system in the U.S. later this year and its commercial system in 2015.

Sonnenbatterie could be the first of several German storage integrators expanding into North America.

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Thomas Heatherwick unveils "sunken oasis" for Abu Dhabi

Thomas Heatherwick unveils "sunken oasis" for Abu Dhabi | Digital Sustainability |
Thomas Heatherwick has revealed plansfor a cavernous park in Abu Dhabi beneath a fragmented canopy resembling the cracked surface of the Arabian desert.
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British designer Thomas Heatherwick has revealed plans to create a cavernous public park in Abu Dhabi beneath a fragmented canopy resembling the cracked surface of the Arabian desert.

Occupying a 125,000 square-metre site, Thomas Heatherwick's Al Fayah Park will provide play areas, picnic areas, vegetable gardens and cafes, interspersed with a variety of plants and flowers native to the Gulf.

A series of columns will support the floating roof canopy, beneath which the designer will also add a public library, a mosque, an outdoor cinema, and indoor and outdoor performance spaces that can be used for live music, festivals and community events.

"Al Fayah Park incorporates a series of very special column structures, like the cracked pieces of a desert surface, which gently raise to form a three-dimensional landscape across the site," said Heatherwick. "These elevated pieces create a perforated canopy of partial shade under which a lush garden can grow, protected from the hot desert sun."

He continued: "This sunken oasis becomes a landscape of plants, mature trees and a cluster of public recreational spaces. The 20-metre-high shaded garden is conceived as a place for families to gather and picnic, as well as a place for learning and festivals."

"By creating partial shade for plants, the canopy reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation, improving the park's energy efficiency and sustainability. Whilst providing shade in the daytime, the elevated plates also become a network of unique meeting places in the cooler evening hours."

Maquete Eletrônica's curator insight, April 23, 9:59 AM



Ocupando um local de 125 mil metros quadrados, Al Fayah Park de Thomas Heatherwick irá proporcionar áreas de lazer, áreas para piquenique, hortas e cafés, intercaladas com uma variedade de plantas e flores nativas do Golfo.
Uma série de colunas apoiará o dossel teto flutuante, sob o qual o designer também irá adicionar uma biblioteca pública, uma mesquita, um cinema ao ar livre e indoor e outdoor"

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Electronics Recycling Sets Record

Electronics Recycling Sets Record | Digital Sustainability |

Environmental Leader

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The consumer electronics industry recycled a record 620 million pounds of electronics in the United States in 2013.

The amount is more than double the total of three years ago, as reported in the Third Annual Report of the eCycling Leadership Initiative, released by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

The 2013 US E-cycling total is an increase of 35 million poundsover the 2012 level (585 million pounds) and more than twice the amount recycled in 2010 (300 million pounds).

The eCycling Leadership Initiative has a goal to increase the amount of recycled to one billion pounds annually by 2016, its Billion Pound Challenge

The report also said:

Apple, Best Buy, Dell, and DIRECTV each recycled more than 125 percent of the consumer hardware recycling goals set by CEA for 2013;By the end of last year, more than 99 percent recycling by eCycling Leadership Initiative participants was conducted in third-party certified recycling facilities;More than 8,000 responsible recycling locations are now available to consumers throughout the continental US, Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.  
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Apple Now 73% Powered By Clean Energy, 100% Of Data Centers

Apple Now 73% Powered By Clean Energy, 100% Of Data Centers | Digital Sustainability |
Apple has released a new video, ‘Better’, revealing its current sustainability efforts.
Digital Sustainability's insight:

On the eve of Earth Day 2014, Apple has uncharacteristically released a new video,‘Better’, promoting (and it does comes across like one of its ads) the tech giant’s current sustainability efforts. Apple CEO Tim Cook narrates the new video, highlighting the company’s renewable energy, recycling, and energy efficiency initiatives. In addition, the company has issued progress reports in relation to its sustainability results.

Oh how times have changed. Not long ago Apple, along with other tech companies, was a Greenpeace target. Back in 2011 Apple was even labeled the least green tech company, based on its heavy reliance on coal-fired power. Now, just 3 years later, Apple can boast that 73% of the energy for all of the company’s facilities is clean, including 86% of its corporate campuses and 100% of its data centers.

Apple also reports that 120 of its retail stores in the US are now powered with renewable energy, with 135 to go. As Tim Cook says, “We have a long way to go, and a lot to learn”, but progress has certainly been made on a number of sustainability fronts. Lately, some competition seems to have developed between some of the tech giants to see which company can be the “greenest”. This can only be a good thing.

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Farmers Seeking Heat Relief Signal Brazil Climate Peril

Farmers Seeking Heat Relief Signal Brazil Climate Peril | Digital Sustainability |

Brazil may see a mass migration of crops and farm workers from huge swaths of currently tillable lands to more temperate zones as global warming takes hold, according to leading climate experts in the country.

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Brazil may see a mass migration of crops and farm workers from huge swaths of currently tillable lands to more temperate zones as global warming takes hold, according to leading climate experts in the country.

Longtime Brazilian climate researcher Hilton Silveira Pinto points to the drought that’s cutting grain and coffee output this year as an indicator that rising global temperatures may already be impacting the country’s crops.

“This is a taste of what is to come in the future,” said Pinto, a professor at the Center for Meteorological and Climate Research Applied to Agriculture at the University of Campinas.

A study co-authored by Pinto that looks at projected warming trends shows Brazil’s soybean production may drop by as much as 24 percent and wheat output as much as 41 percent by 2020 as climate change reduces areas where the crops can grow.

Because Brazil is increasingly helping to feed the world, the import of that isn’t just Brazil’s problem. The nation last year dethroned the U.S. as the world’s top soybean exporter -- it sold 41.9 million tons to Asia, Europe and the Middle East last season -- and has led the world in sugar and coffee production for more than a century. It also exports more beef and orange juice than any other nation on earth.

Agriculture accounts for 25 percent of Brazil’s gross domestic product and more than one third of its annual exports. With its ample water resources and year-round temperate climate, Brazil has also attracted billions of dollars in agribusiness investments by opening vast tracts of tropical hinterland to farming and applying state-of-the-art technology to expand yields across all manner of crops.

Crop Losses

While the connection of warming to droughts and extreme weather is still being studied, there’s no doubt that warmer temperatures are affecting global crop output -- worldwide wheat yields are declining by about 2 percent a decade and those for maize by 1 percent, the United Nations said in a March 31 report.

Major grain producers in cooler climates such as Canada and Russia may fare better than Brazil as much of its tropical agriculture already operates at the upper limit of heat tolerance, said Eduardo Assad, a researcher at the government’s Embrapa agricultural technology agency who co-authored the study with Pinto.

In Brazil, heat and drought are already taking their toll. The worst dry spell in six decades is erasing an estimated 5 million metric tons from Brazil’s grain harvest this year, about the size ofEgypt’s annual corn crop.

Unprecedented Temperatures

Hotter weather is already chasing some coffee production up to higher altitudes. Coffee growers in Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais states have been the hardest hit so far by drought and heat waves.

“If the unprecedented high temperatures we saw repeat themselves, we’d have a serious problem,” said Mauricio Miarelli, head of the Franca, Brazil-based growers associationCocapec.

Crop shifts may cause a mass migration of millions of rural workers, requiring major investments in infrastructure and logistics to accommodate them, according to Assad.

“Brazil’s agriculture will be rearranged,” he said. “Climate change is on our heels.”

‘Longer Droughts’

In the northeastern state of Bahia, three consecutive years of unusually intense drought that cut soybean output 16 percent in 2013 have triggered concern even among hardened farmers used to the harsh, semi-arid climate, said Jairo Vaz, the state agriculture secretary’s cabinet chief.

“Undeniably the droughts have become longer, more pronounced and temperatures have risen -- that hit our farmers hard,” Vaz said. The state’s 670,000 family farmers have lost roughly half of their livestock over the three years, he said.

Soybeans in Chicago extended gains to a 10-month high today, rising as much 0.8 percent to $15.21 a bushel and corn climbed 0.4 percent to $5.0525 a bushel.

About a dozen new varieties of beans and corn that are more resistant to extreme heat and dryness have shown promising results, Embrapa’s Assad said. Still, with Brazil growing 800 to 900 crops, progress in research and development has been too slow and investments too small, he said.

Other measures pursued by the government include promoting an integration of farming and forestry where shade from trees reduces temperatures and maintains humidity.

The technique known as agro-forestry lacks the scale to quickly transform the way soybeans and corn are grown in areas like Mato Grosso, a state twice the size of Germany covered with crops that stretch beyond the horizon.

Financial Interest

“You can’t apply this technology overnight,” Caio Rocha, Brazil’s secretary for agriculture policies, said in a phone interview. “We’ll have to show farmers that it’s in their financial interest to do so.”

The impact of global warming on Brazil’s agriculture is far from consensus. Donald Keeney, a meteorologist at MDA Weather Services in Gaithersburg, Maryland, is among meteorologists who expect precipitation in central and northeastern Brazil to decline, paring agricultural output -- while production should increase in areas closer to the poles.

Scott Yuknis, the lead forecaster with Climate Impact Co. in Middleboro, Massachusetts, doesn’t agree. He ascribes the drought in Brazil this year as part of the ocean temperature changes that induce cycles that last several decades.

While experts like Assad and Pinto agree with Secretary Rocha that Brazil may be able to offset part of climate change with new technology, they argue progress has been too slow and assumes temperatures will not rise more than 2 degrees on average by the end of this century.

“The world is failing to slow emissions, meaning temperatures may rise more than 2 degrees,” said Assad. “If that happens, science has no answers for impact mitigation, we’ll be in uncharted territory.”

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How enlightened self-interest in sustainable water helps business

How enlightened self-interest in sustainable water helps business | Digital Sustainability |
As water becomes scarce, managing it becomes a bigger piece of the business profit puzzle. A recent PI and VOX Global study examines the trends.
Digital Sustainability's insight:

Water challenges are not just an issue for companies with operations and/or suppliers in developing countries. They are confronting businesses here and now in the United States. And while the current drought in California and the Southwest or last year's Midwestern one get considerable attention, many regions in the U.S. face a chronic imbalance between water supply and demand. These regional imbalances, coupled with a variety of other water-related concerns nationally, present current and future water risks for U.S. business.

This is of one of the key findings of a new study released by the Pacific Institute and VOX Global, "Bridging Concern and Action: Are US Companies Prepared for Looming Water Challenges?" Based on a survey of over 50 companies, it reveals that most participating companies believe water challenges significantly will worsen in the next five years. More specifically, 60 percent of companies indicate water is poised to affect business growth and profitability within five years, and more than 80 percent say it will affect their decisions on where to locate facilities.


This is a stark increase from only five years ago, when water issues affected business growth and profitability for less than 20 percent of the responding companies.

However, most companies surveyed do not appear to be planning corollary increases in the breadth and scale of their water risk management practices. In fact, nearly 70 percent of responding companies said their current level of investment in water management is sufficient.

For this reason, the study's authors question whether many companies are adequately prepared for the growing number of water risks and challenges they will face. Businesses participating in the study identified two significant internal obstacles that hinder greater companywide action on water: lack of time to raise awareness and buy-in, and that other risks ranked as a higher and more immediate priority.

Low water levels affect the bottom line

That said, the acknowledgement among major U.S. corporations that water is becoming a major business issue is a notable finding in and of itself. There is growing recognition that in addition to being a significant societal problem, water also creates critical challenges for businesses specifically. Insufficient or contaminated water supply, or a lack of infrastructure to reliably deliver that supply, can mean companies may not be able to maintain the volume and quality of their production.



This new reality necessitates that companies' senior management better understand the many ways that water affects their bottom line and that they pursue water stewardship strategies that adequately address these emerging water-related challenges.

The Pacific Institute long has held that sustainable water management is the most viable long-term water risk mitigation strategy that businesses can pursue. There's a business case for bringing long-term water demand into alignment with renewable supply, and for engaging in democratic water governance processes geared toward ensuring that societal needs are equitably met and that aquatic ecosystems continue to function and thrive. It would be great to have more allies from the business community that share an interest in progressing toward the aspirational objective of sustainable water management here in the United States.

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Nestlé, General Mills Join Global Alliance for Water Stewardship

Nestlé, General Mills Join Global Alliance for Water Stewardship | Digital Sustainability |
This week, Nestlé, General Mills and other global brands committed to the Alliance for Water Stewardship, along with 27 other organizations including FEMSA Foundation, Water Footprint Network, Water Aid, World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy, to promote a global framework for sustainable use of the world's limited freshwater resources.
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This week, Nestlé, General Mills and other global brands committed to the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), along with 27 other organizations including FEMSA Foundation, Water Footprint Network, Water Aid, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Nature Conservancy, to promote a global framework for sustainable use of the world's limited freshwater resources.

The announcement came with AWS' release of the first International Water Stewardship Standard, which defines criteria for good water stewardship, aligns with other sustainability initiatives and supports independent certification.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to help private- and public-sector water users and managers become responsible water stewards, who protect and enhance freshwater resources for people and nature," said Alexis Morgan, director of the Global Water Roundtable at WWF.

According to a press release by AWS, it was developed through “a four-year, multi-stakeholder, global water roundtable process that included a diversity of business, public sector and civil society interests from around the world, as well as pilot projects held in seven countries.”

Pilot projects in pulp and paper, mining, chemicals, oil and gas, water service provision and agriculture applied the standard to test its feasibility, applicability and helped define targets in water governance, water balance and water quality. AWS offers companies various ways to “improve, incentivize and recognize responsible water use, including helping members engage key stakeholders within their watershed and supply chain.” AWS is also launching a capacity-development program and offering membership opportunities through which companies can learn what they can do to help protect shared resources, as well as shape the future of water stewardship.

General Mills’ VP and Chief Sustainability Officer, Jerry Lynch, said that as a global food company, water is critical to General Mills' business.

"We have an interest and a responsibility to protect the quality and supply of water upon which our business depends, and actively look for ways to collaborate with others to benefit our growers, the community and the environment," he added.

Carlo Galli, Water Resources, Technical & Strategic Advisor at Nestlé, said that the company "supports the efforts of AWS to promote water stewardship internationally and assist companies to manage water-related risk at a site and catchment level. The AWS Standard will enable companies to better assess their performance against a defined set of principles, identify opportunities for improvement and take collaborative steps to improve their water use."

"We are delighted to be able to launch the Standard here in Peru, a country that in many ways epitomizes the challenges of managing water wisely in a world where social, economic and environmental pressures collide," said Adrian Sym, Executive Director of AWS. "The work we have done in the asparagus sector here highlights how international demand for more and different foods can threaten the water resources that communities and companies depend on, and the need to work collectively to safeguard these resources and the livelihoods they support."....

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IPCC: Key messages from WG3III

IPCC: Key messages from WG3III | Digital Sustainability |
The final in the IPCC's trilogy of climate science reports examines the mitigation options and the potential for global temperature rise to stay below 2°C.
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After two reports setting out the scale of the climate challenge, this week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) turned their attention to what action must be taken to hold global temperature rise below 2°C.

Over the course of its Fifth Assessment Report, the IPCC has painted a disturbing picture of our warming world. In September last year, it warned that climate change is real, caused by humans, and requires urgent action.

This was followed last month with a strong warning that climate impacts are already having sweeping effects on every continent across the globe and throughout the world’s oceans.

It warned that impacts are already far more immediate and local than once thought and that bigger risks were to come if greenhouse gas emissions continued unabated.

In it’s Working Group III report, the IPCC moved forward from the stark warnings of climate impacts to examine the likelihood that the world could still avoid the devastating impacts laid out in its earlier analysis.

2°C is still possible

Temperatures have already risen by about 0.8°C since the Industrial Revolution, and IPCC scenarios show that without further action, temperatures could increase by as much as 4°C to 5°C – reaping devastating impacts on the planet.

The report warns that greenhouse gas emissions over the past decade were the “highest in human history.”


But while urgent action is needed – the IPCC warns that emissions must peak soon and fall by between 40-70% from 2010 levels by 2050 and reach almost zero by 2100 – such action could be temperature rise is kept below the internationally agreed danger threshold of 2°C.

The latest report did not even rule out the possibility of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C.

Urgent action is required

To stay within this 2°C limit, the IPCC warns that concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere should never rise above 530ppm CO2 equivalent (CO2eq) and should stabilise at 430-480ppm in 2100.

At current rates, the levels of greenhouse gas concentrations by 2100 would be between 750 and 1300ppm CO2eq by the end of the century.

Current government policies – those agreed under countries’ Cancun Pledges – are inconsistent with a 2°C and would leave the world on path to a 3°C, if all the pledges were implemented fully.

As governments work towards a new global climate treaty – to be agreed in December 2015 – the IPCC report should be a warning of the level of action that is needed.

Climate action is affordable

Not only is climate action at the levels needed feasible but it is also affordable, according to the latest report.

Under business-as-usual scenarios, consumption grows by 1.6% to 3% per year. Under an ambitious mitigation scenario, this growth would only be reduced by around 0.06% per year.

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Sharp rise in environmental killings as pressure for resources grows

Sharp rise in environmental killings as pressure for resources grows | Digital Sustainability |
New report from London based Global Witness that as competition for natural resources intensifies so do the threats of those people trying to protect them.
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Report warns that environmental killings are on the rise as pressure on natural resources grows. Courtesy of: Global Witness, 2014

“Never has it been more important to protect the environment and never has it been so deadly.”

That’s the key finding of a new report (pdf) from London based Global Witness that as competition for natural resources intensifies so do the threats of those people trying to protect them.

It found killings of people protecting the environment and rights to land increased sharply over the last decade – with three times as many deaths in 2012 than 10 years previously.

At least 908 people were killed in 35 countries between 2002 and 2013, because of their work on environment and land issues. 11 other have been forcibly disappeared and are presumed dead.

Beyond these killings lie a wide range of non-fatal threats including intimidation, violence and others, not recorded in the report.

Global Witness found an environment and land activist had been killed on average at least once a week during this time period, while in the last four years this has doubled to an average two a week.

No fortnight has passed without a fatality...

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University experts help create first mobile-connected smart city ranking

University experts help create first mobile-connected smart city ranking | Digital Sustainability |
A global initiative to encourage the world's leading cities to become 'smart' has received a significant boost from information specialists at the University of Sheffield, who have helped develop the first global smart city ranking.
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Mobile-connected smart cities is a concept being led by GSMA, the association of mobile operators and related companies, to help major urban centres around the world utilise information and communication technologies to improve the lives and well-being of their citizens.

It's their vision that 'smart cities' will use advances in communication technologies including mobile networks to provide citizens with better access to information about city services, move around easily, and improve the efficiency of city operations.

By taking advantage of existing ICT infrastructures, and utilising the innovations that are currently taking place in the sector, the smart cities initiative also presents the opportunity for major urban centres to enhance security, fuel economic activity and increase their resilience to natural disasters.

Dr G.C. Alex Peng from the University of Sheffield's Information School, said: "A future smart city will contain a series of highly innovative and intelligent technologies that will affect every single aspect of our lives, ranging from home facilities, to transportation, to education, to healthcare, to energy and many more."

At the moment the concept of a smart city is increasingly topical across the globe with no clear benchmarks or common agreement of what a smart city is and how it can be measured. In light of this, Dr Peng and his interdisciplinary research team (involving also Professor Tim O'Farrell and Dr Mariam Kiran) from the University of Sheffield, are working with GSMA to help them develop a common index for measuring smart cities, the first global smart city ranking available.

Dr Peng added: "The GSMA initially developed a common set of 31 indicators for measuring economics, infrastructure and social benefits of mobile connected smart cities. In Sheffield, we've been helping the GSMA to enhance their Smart Cities Index by collecting opinions from global experts in these fields to determine the weights of the 31 indicators.

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A bacterium may absorb gases before being issued and the solution against global warming

A bacterium may absorb gases before being issued and the solution against global warming | Digital Sustainability |
Los resultados, publicados este lunes en 'Nature', muestran cómo una única cepa bacteriana, 'Methylocella silvestris', que se encuentra en el suelo y otros entornos en todo el mundo puede crecer tanto en el metano como el propano del gas natural.
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The bacteria could absorb gas emissions and natural manmade before being released into the atmosphere and cause global warming , according to new research from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, Norfolk, England.

   The findings, published Monday in the journal Nature , shows how a single bacterial strain, 'Methylocella silvestris ', found in soil and other environments where everyone can grow both methane and propane gas.

   Originally, it was thought that the ability to metabolize methane and other gaseous alkanes such as propane made her different groups of bacteria, so this new finding is important because it means a type of bacteria that can clean the components of natural gas so very efficient and reduce pollution.

  The finding could help mitigate the effects of the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere so much natural gas that seeps from the environment as arising from human activity, such as hydraulic fracturing for unconventional gas extraction or oil spills.

   The researchers studied the bacterium Methylocella 'normally found in peat, tundra and forest soils in northern Europe, and has been found between the microbial community after the oil spill Deepwater Horizon in 2010 . authors of this study measured their ability to grow on methane and other gases.

   Lead researcher Professor Colin Murrell , School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, said:. "Natural gas contains methane from geological sources and large amounts of ethane, propane and butane have shown that a microbe can grow both methane and propane at a similar rate. This is because it contains two fascinating enzyme systems using gas to get both at once. "

   According to this researcher, this is very important for environments exposed to natural gas, either naturally, as human activity, since these microbes may play an important role in mitigating the effects of methane and other gases before reaching the atmosphere.

   " Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is released from natural sources such as wetlands and human activities , including managing waste, oil & gas, production of rice and livestock. A Worldwide, it is estimated that more than half of methane emissions are artificial "alert.

   " Molecule for molecule, the effect of methane on global warming is over 20 times that of carbon dioxide over a period of a hundred years.'s why it is very important to understand how you can eliminate biologically in the environment before it is released to the atmosphere, "he concludes.

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Recycled construction waste serves as ‘ink’ for 3D printer-made houses

Recycled construction waste serves as ‘ink’ for 3D printer-made houses | Digital Sustainability |
Add this to China's mass manufacturing ability: a 3D printer in Suzhou can build 10 houses within 24 hours by repurposing China's 1.5 billion tonnes of...
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WinSun Decoration Design Engineering is putting tonnes of construction waste into better use by converting the discarded material into ‘inks’ for their 32-metre-long 3D printers.

By mixing the construction and industrial waste with cement, WinSun has built ten single-storey houses in less than 24 hours using the 3D printer, the Shanghai-based company revealed recently.

Currently, building construction and demolition in China generates about 1.5 billion tonnes of waste annually, of which only up to five per cent is recycled and reused, according to non-profit organisation The Climate Group.

“Finding effective and low carbon methods of recycling and reusing this waste could make a significant impact in China’s carbon emissions,” said the group, following the release of their report on construction waste recycling early this year.

Ma Yihe, WinSun’s CEO and inventor of the printers, reportedly noted how this new type of housing is designed to be environment-friendly and cost-effective. Ma’s company plans to build 100 recycling facilities to meet the growing demand for the 3D structure, since the cost of each house goes for only less than US$5,000.

3D printing technologies are not entirely new, Ma admitted. He has been making 3D printers for 12 years, building and assembling these printers from parts purchased abroad. “We recycle mine tailings into usable materials. And we can print buildings with any digital design our customers bring us. It’s fast and cheap,” Ma explained to Xinhua news agency.

The company eventually hopes to build skyscrapers made of these repurposed waste in the future.

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World Cup Power Cut Fears Spur Record Brazil LNG Buying

World Cup Power Cut Fears Spur Record Brazil LNG Buying | Digital Sustainability |
Miguel Abitbol spent almost $4,000 on television equipment to show World Cup soccer matches at his bar and restaurant in Rio de Janeiro. He’s praying there will be enough electricity to power it.
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Miguel Abitbol spent almost $4,000 on television equipment to show World Cupsoccer matches at his bar and restaurant in Rio de Janeiro. He’s praying there will be enough electricity to power it.

Abitbol’s 48-inch (122-centimeter) set is one of 16 million expected to be sold inBrazil this year as it hosts the world’s most-watched sporting event. The kick off in June is looming as the nation contends with a drought that reduced water supply needed for hydro power to near-critical levels. A blackout in February cut electricity to 6 million people.

Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR3), the state-owned energy company, is buying record amounts of liquefied natural gas in the spot market to run gas-fired power plants at full capacity and preserve water reserves. Increased competition for the fuel is narrowing the discount of Latin American prices to those inAsia, the costliest, to the lowest since September.

“Thank God we haven’t had power outages so far, but if this happens in the middle of a Brazil match, I’ll have wasted my money,” said Abitbol, 27, who also bought two 120-inch projector screens to show matches from the monthlong event. “I’m expecting a full house and a big party.”

LNG prices in South America may surpass those in Asia in the next several months as Brazil accelerates imports and the southern hemisphere’s winter begins, according to Bentek Energy LLC, an industry consultant based in Denver. Latin America’s biggest economy typically meets 70 percent of power demand from hydroelectric supplies.

‘Maximum Capacity’

“They’re running gas plants at maximum capacity now, buying time for rains to help replenish water reservoirs,” said Javier Diaz, an analyst at Bentek. “It’s a smart move, otherwise it would be a disaster if they suffer with power outages during the World Cup.”

In Argentina, South America’s biggest LNG importer, the fuel cost 17 cents less per million British thermal units than in Japan last month, according to Energy Aspects Ltd. in London. That compares with a $1.65 discount in February. Petrobras bought spot LNG at $18 to $19 in February and is paying $15 to $16 now, said Marco Tavares, the chairman of Gas Energy, a Rio de Janeiro-based research company.

LNG cargoes for delivery in four to eight weeks rose to a record $19.70 in northeast Asia on Feb. 3 and fell to $14.70 on April 21 as more supply became available, according to assessments by New York-based World Gas Intelligence.

Rising Imports

Brazil, which received its first LNG shipment in 2009, boosted imports last year by 54 percent to 4.2 million metric tons, helping make Latin America the world’s fastest-growing importing region, according to the Paris-based International Group of LNG Importers. The nation received an unprecedented 637,289 tons in March, 76 percent more than a year earlier, according to Bentek.

Petrobras may boost imports by 31 percent to 21 million cubic meters a day of gas this year, equal to annual purchases of about 5.7 million tons of LNG, Tavares of Gas Energy said on April 23. The nation’s three terminals can handle 41 million cubic meters a day, data from Petrobras show. The company is considering building a fourth with Mitsui & Co.

Petrobras declined to comment on the outlook for LNG imports.

Global LNG supplies are estimated to expand 8 percent a year through 2020 as Australia is set to overtake Qatar as the world’s largest producer, Caroline Bain, a senior economist at research firm Capital Economics, said in an April 22 report.

Backup Supply

The soccer governing body FIFA says that during games the essential areas will run on generators and have backup electricity supply to prevent interruptions.

“Any use of energy also takes place by means of redundancy,” it said in an e-mailed statement. “Thus, if there’s failure at some point, another system is always ready to replace the original.”

Brazil’s grid will be able to cope during the World Cup because the weather will cool and with it demand, Deputy Energy Minister Marcio Zimmermann said Feb. 6. The nation’s system has enough thermal capacity to complement hydroelectric generation, Brazil’s Energy Minister Edison Lobao said April 2, after the last monthly meeting of its electricity sector monitoring committee.

Water reservoirs may get a boost from El Nino, a warming of the Pacific Ocean that brings more rain to Brazil, said Celso Oliveira, a meteorologist at Somar Meteorologia in Sao Paulo. The U.S. Climate Prediction Center says there’s a 65 percent chance the weather pattern will develop after August.

Water Shortage

While rain in the next several months will be above normal, it probably won’t be enough to restore water levels in dams, Oliveira said. Brazil is likely to import and burn as much LNG as possible to avoid blackouts and power rationing, Bank of America Corp. said in a March 14 report.

“The government will probably keep the gas plants running throughout the year,” Tavares said by phone from Porto Alegre, Brazil, on April 23. “Levels at water reservoirs inspire concern and in power supply, better safe than sorry.”

The drought drove spot power prices to records, leading President Dilma Rousseff to announce a 12 billion-real ($5.4 billion) aid package for utilities last month. Rousseff is running for re-election in October and it would be “politically painful” to introduce significant power rationing before then, Citigroup Inc. analysts including Marcelo Britto wrote in a report last month.

Utilities Prepare

Utilities are preparing for the peaks in demand that happen around matches, an official at Operador Nacional do Sistema Eletrico said, asking not to be identified in line with policy. Brazil is expecting 600,000 foreign tourists during the World Cup, according to the country’s tourist agency.

The grid operator, based in Rio de Janeiro, has dealt with comparable surges. In 2012, it took measures to prevent a power outage when 80 million people tuned into the final episode of soap opera Avenida Brasil. That compares with 14.6 million viewers that watched Jay Leno’s farewell show.

Brazil will most likely accelerate LNG buying next month to boost storage levels as a precaution, said Trevor Sikorski, the head of natural gas, coal and carbon at Energy Aspects.

“Argentine imports typically peak at the time when Brazil will be holding the World Cup,” Diaz from Bentek said April 7. “That’s an unfortunate combo.”

Abitbol is not alone in worrying about blackouts. Rodrigo Correia bought seven 32-inch sets for his two Rio de Janeiro restaurants, about two kilometers (1.2 miles) away from the Maracana stadium, where the final will be played on July 13.

“If Brazil makes it to the final, we will see a good increase in the number of customers, probably 20 percent more,” the 32-year-old Correia said. “If we lose the sales for that day, it will be horrible.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Isis Almeida in London at; Lucia Kassai in Houston at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Dan Stets at CharlottePorter, Bill Banker

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Google teams with SunPower on US$250 million solar home programme

Google teams with SunPower on US$250 million solar home programme | Digital Sustainability |
The number one source for in-depth and up-to-the-minute news, technical articles, blogs and reviews on the international solar PV supply chain.
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nternet giant Google and PV energy provider SunPower are to jointly finance a new US$250 million residential solar lease programme in the US.

In a joint statement today, the companies said the programme would enable “thousands” of homeowners to benefit from solar systems, on top of the 20,000 already leasing under SunPower’s residential programme.

Google has committed US$100 million into the initiative andSunPower the remaining US$150 million.

“We're pleased to team with SunPower to make solar power accessible to more homeowners, and offer families a more effective way to reduce their carbon footprint," said Kojo Ako-Asare, head of corporate finance at Google. "Our partnership withSunPower makes good business sense and supports our goals for a clean energy future."

Google is becoming an increasingly active player in renewable energy, having already invested in two other residential rooftop solar programmes – with SolarCity and Clean Power Finance – and bought into other initiatives worldwide, such as the solar element of South Africa’s national renewable energy programme. The company said this programme with SunPower marked its sixteenth renewable energy investment.

SunPower CFO Chuck Boynton said: "With the increased and growing interest in reliable, cost-effective solar from businesses and homeowners alike, Google's leadership is helping take solar mainstream."

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The MatHero Project: Greener Organic Solar Cells

The MatHero Project: Greener Organic Solar Cells | Digital Sustainability |
A new project coordinated by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), called “MatHero”, aims at making organic photovoltaics competitive to their inorganic counterparts by enhancing the efficiency of organic solar cells, reducing their production costs and increasing their life-time. “Green” processes for materials synthesis and coating play a key role. To reach these objectives, the European project … Read more
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A new project coordinated by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), called “MatHero”, aims at making organic photovoltaics competitive to their inorganic counterparts by enhancing the efficiency of organic solar cells, reducing their production costs and increasing their life-time. “Green” processes for materials synthesis and coating play a key role.

To reach these objectives, the European project consortium of “MatHero” studies environmentallycompatible processes for materials synthesis, coating and printing. All novel printable materials are formulated using non-chlorinated solvents. “The use of environmentally compatible solvents is a major prerequisite for cost reduction, as complex safety measures on the industrial scale will no longer be required,” Dr. Alexander Colsmann of KIT’s Light Technology Institute (LTI) explains. Together with Christian Sprau, Colsmann coordinates the project.

“MatHero—New materials for highly efficient and reliable organic solar cells” covers the complete value chain of organic solar cell fabrication: From the design and synthesis of the polymers used to assemble the solar cells to the fabrication and characterization of the modules to the assessment of device stability. The project goal is an environmentally compatible printed organic solar module initially for off-grid applications. In the consortium, physicists, chemists, materials scientists, and engineers cooperate in an interdisciplinary project team in order to study fundamental scientific and product development aspects. The KIT scientists develop new solar cell architectures and analyze process up-scaling, focusing on enhancing solar cell efficiencies as well as on using environmentally compatible solvents.

“MatHero” is funded by the European Commission with an amount of €3.5 million ($4.85 million). Besides KIT, the research institutions Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research (IAP), Potsdam, the Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique et aux Énergies Alternatives (CEA) in France, and Acondicionamiento Tarrasense (LEITAT) in Spainparticipating in the project. The industry partners are Advent Technologies SA (Greece), and Arkema (France) and Eight19 Ltd (UK). The project started in early 2014 and is scheduled for a duration of three years.

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Recyclebank Launches One Twine - A Marketplace for the Conscious Consumer

Recyclebank Launches One Twine - A Marketplace for the Conscious Consumer | Digital Sustainability |
Recyclebank has launched One Twine, a new online shop that features a carefully curated collection of socially and environmentally conscious goods. Each product is reviewed through Recyclebank’s Impact Lens, which examines how it’s made, how it’s used and how it can be disposed.
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Today, in honor of Earth Day, Recyclebank — which inspires and rewards more conscious consumer actions and purchasing decisions — is launching One Twine, a new online shop that features a carefully curated collection of socially and environmentally conscious goods. Each product is reviewed through Recyclebank’s Impact Lens, which examines how it’s made, how it’s used and how it can be disposed. Recyclebank members can apply the points they’ve earned for buying and acting more sustainably toward purchases on One Twine.

“Recyclebank’s mission is, and always has been, to inspire people to live more sustainably,” said Recyclebank CEO Javier Flaim. “We started with recycling and have since added other ways for people to easily incorporate sustainability into their daily lives. It is a natural step for Recyclebank to extend that experience to the products our employees believe in with the launch of One Twine.

“People want products that are gentle on the planet and healthy for their families, but it is easy to get lost among labels, certifications, and marketing messages. We’re taking the guess work out of finding products that consider their total impact on our planet, and in the process giving people another way to incorporate sustainability into their lives.”

Recyclebank’s Impact Lens includes nine criteria that consider the product’s total environmental impact:

One Twine’s Impact Lens considers the following criteria for each product:

Renewable — Made from recycled materials or renewable resourcesGentle Impact — Ingredients and by-products are free of hard chemicals that are bad for health or the environmentFair — Makers of this product were treated fairlySustainably Made — Manufactured with a minimal environmental impactEfficient — Product efficiently uses resources and/or helps reduce pollutionPromotes Sustainability — This product makes it easier and more convenient to lead a more eco-friendly lifeReclaimable — This product itself is recyclable, reusable and/or biodegradableSmart Packaging — Packaging materials are minimal and/or made from recyclable, reusable or biodegradable materialsMerchant Buy Back — This product can be re-sold or given back to the manufacturer

To help people make more informed choices, One Twine clearly displays icons next to each product that highlight which criteria it meets, and includes insightful content related to those principles.

At launch, One Twine features more than 400 products from 30 new and established brands across household, health and beauty, children, pets, gear and gadgets categories, including:

3B BagsAlba BotanicaAvalon OrganicsBabo BotanicalsBambuBetter LifeBorn FreeCitrus MagicClean WellDancing PawsDesert EssenceECO LunchboxEO


Green'N'PackGreensproutsGreen ToysIf You CareJ.R. WatkinsMrs. MeyersNubian HeritageSusty PartyTom’s of MaineVersWeledaWeWoodZuke’s

Since 2004, Recyclebank has used a mix of education, rewards and impact metrics to help people live more sustainable lifestyles. Through online engagement and recycling incentive programs, the company has increased recycling rates in more than 300 communities, partnered to recycle nearly 3.8 billion pounds of waste, and helped move people toward a more sustainable future. Its 4.5 million members earn hundreds of points a year from learning how to live more sustainably and taking small actions to achieve real impact.

In other recent Recyclebank news, the company was a key partner in J&J’s Care to Recycle campaign, which encourages and reminds consumers to recycle in the bathroom. And in January, Recyclebank announced the schools selected for its 2014 Green Schools Program, which each year grants money to schools to enable unique projects that will lead to greater sustainability in their classroom and community.

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10 major cities form City Energy Project

10 major cities form City Energy Project | Digital Sustainability |
From Boston to Salt Lake City, cities are banding together to combat the biggest demand for energy and source of carbon emissions.
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Mayors from 10 major U.S. cities are working together under the City Energy Project to significantly increase energy efficiency in buildings — their biggest source of energy demand and carbon pollution.

Funded by a partnership between Bloomberg Philanthropies, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, it is being managed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Institute for Market Transformation.

The 10 cities, with more to follow, are Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Orlando, Chicago, Kansas City, Houston, Denver, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles.

"We have the skills and technology to make buildings more efficient, but we need a coordinated effort by major cities and the private sector to make it happen," said Cliff Majersik, executive director of the Institute for Market Transformation.

Each city will receive funds to hire a full-time consultant (for three years) that crafts and helps the city implement a customized efficiency plan that builds on programs already underway. The consultant also will facilitate interaction between cities to share best practices.

"There are a lot of models out there — we'll be helping walk some of the cities through the options," Laurie Kerr of NRDC told Midwestern News. "There are a mixture of options cities are looking at — some are ordinances, some are policies or programs, ways of providing financing, working with a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE)program or creating an energy efficiency financing entity."

Key strategies:

• Provide information about building energy use that will help
owners and managers cut waste

• Align financial incentives for energy efficiency

• Ensure that building systems function optimally

• Encourage leadership from universities, hospitals and other major stakeholders.

"With U.S. buildings consuming more primary energy than countries like Russia and India, the scale of the opportunity to optimize building energy performance is significant," said John Mandyck, chief sustainability officer of UTC Building & Industrial Systems. "Cities collaborating and implementing creative, practical energy efficiency policies can go a long way to reducing America's $450 billion annual energy bill and carbon emissions."

Largely due to electricity consumption, buildings emit 40 percent of U.S. carbon pollution, the largest single source in the United States. At the city level, over half of carbon emissions come from buildings and can be as high as 75 percent. Worst of all, much of that energy is wasted.

In Chicago, for example, its tall buildings produce 71 percent of the city's greenhouse gas emissions and require some $3 billion a year for operations. In NYC, 75 to 80 percent of emissions come from large buildings.

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Eerie glow-in-the-dark roads replace streetlights in Netherlands to save money, energy

Eerie glow-in-the-dark roads replace streetlights in Netherlands to save money, energy | Digital Sustainability |
In an effort to save the massive amount of energy standard streetlights consume and present drivers with more information on the road, design lab Studio Roosegaarde has transformed a highway in the Netherlands into an eerie glow-in-the-dark smart highway.
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In an effort to save the massive amount of energy standard streetlights consume, and to present drivers with more information on the road, a Dutch company has transformed a highway in the Netherlands into an eerie glow-in-the-dark smart highway.

A couple of years ago, Dan Roosegaarde said he was sitting in his car in the Netherlands and realized that millions are spent on roads, but no one seems to care how they look or act. Then, while speaking to the BBC last year, Roosegaarde noted that the government is shutting down streetlights late at night in order to conserve energy and save money. Roosegaarde felt it was strange than we spend billions of dollars on designing and developing cars, but the things on which they’re used aren’t involved in that budget or process. So, his company — Studio Roosegaarde — teamed up with Heijmans, a Dutch civil engineering firm, to create a paint that can glow brightly enough in the dark — and under outdoor conditions — in order to light the way for drivers.

The team developed a photo-luminescent powder that, when mixed with road paint, can glow in the dark for up to 10 hours after charging up from the daytime sunlight. The paint was placed on a 0.3-mile stretch of highway N329, about 62 miles southeast of Amsterdam in the city of Oss. Studio Roosegaarde also aimed to add glowing weather symbols that would activate when the symbol’s corresponding weather conditions took place; for example, snowflake glyphs would appear on the road to indicate that the road is slippery and caution is advised. However, for now, only the glowing street lines have been implemented.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that, back in 2011, England’s Highway Agency shut off a significant amount of the country’s streetlights overnight in order to meet a carbon emissions goal. The mass turn-off ended up saving the agency about $668,000 (or £400,000). Another of the country’s councils estimated that setting one-third of England’s streetlights to either turn off during a certain period of time, or allowing them to be dimmed, would save around $1,337,000 (or £800,000) per year.

Anyone who had their own room in middle school knows from the staggering amount of glowing stars they pasted onto their ceiling that glow-in-the-dark fixtures don’t illuminate their surroundings. They light up themselves, but nothing around it. However, Roosegaarde said the team managed to get the paint to glow so bright that it seems radioactive — definitely a better level of brightness than the glowing stars you stuck to your ceiling fan before your first sleepover.

The team wants to take the glowing paint further, but so far they have not received new contracts. The paint has not yet been thoroughly tested by the rigors of time, so perhaps we’ll begin to see eerily glowing roads popping up around the world once the paint has shown to last through weather and time.

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Crowdfunding Hit — Solar Charger For Tablets

Crowdfunding Hit — Solar Charger For Tablets | Digital Sustainability |
Originally published on Ecopreneurist.

Solar power for mobile devices is the wave of the future, but many of the small portable solar chargers on the market aren’t big enough to efficiently power tablets and other gadgets that have a larger battery capacity, and they don’t often include an onboard battery pack for charging devices after the sun
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Solar power for mobile devices is the wave of the future, but many of the small portable solar chargers on the market aren’t big enough to efficiently power tablets and other gadgets that have a larger battery capacity, and they don’t often include an onboard battery pack for charging devices after the sun goes down.

However, a new entry to the portable solar charger market aims to fix that, by offering a small yet powerful system to both harvest and store solar energy for all of your mobile gadgets.

The Solartab measures about the same size as an iPad, comes with a combination cover/stand, includes a 13,000 mAh lithium-ion battery and two USB ports for charging devices from. The device can also be charged from a wall outlet, so you can start your day with a full charge.


The Solartab is currently in a crowdfunding phase, and the startup’s Kickstarter campaign is already over 2/3 of the way to its goal, with 20 more days to run. Backers of the project at the $99 level will be the first to get one of these solar chargers (a value of about $149), or for $139, a special limited edition Kickstarter model.

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Dossier écoconception logicielle : genèse

Dossier écoconception logicielle : genèse | Digital Sustainability |
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Le coût du gras numérique
Le nombre de calculs par joule double tous les 2 ans. C’est ce que démontre la loi de Koomey. Autrement dit, l’efficience énergétique des microprocesseurs suit la loi de Moore ! En parallèle, les fabricants font de réels progrès en terme d’écoconception depuis quelques années. Un desktop haut de gamme destiné aux professionnels fonctionne sans problème pendant 10 ans.

Malheureusement, une étude que nous avons menée avec Frédéric Lohier en 2010, et qui a lancé le mouvement de l’écoconception logicielle en France, montre que l’empreinte ressources d’un logiciel, c’est-à-dire la quantité de cycles CPU, de mémoire vive, de bande passante, etc. nécessaire à son fonctionnement, double en moyenne tous les 2 à 3 ans. Il faut ainsi 114 fois plus de mémoire vive entre les couples Windows 98 - Office 97 et Windows 8 – Office 2013 pour écrire le même texte, effectuer le même calcul ou envoyer le même e-mail.

Ce phénomène d’obésiciel (contraction des termes « obèse » et « logiciel ») n’est pas propre à Microsoft : il touche tous les éditeurs et tous les développements sur mesure. La loi de With le décrit depuis 1991 : « le logiciel ralentit plus vite que le matériel n’accélère ».

De la performance à l’efficience
Jusqu’à présent, on absorbait les effets de ce « gras numérique » en rajoutant toujours plus de serveurs, bande passante, de mémoire vive, etc. Mais cette inflation de ressources finit par coûter cher, par poser des problèmes techniques, et par avoir des impacts environnementaux conséquents. Un gros data center consomme par exemple autant d’énergie qu’une ville de 200 000 habitants. Et le coût de la dette technique (notamment coût de maintenance évolutive et corrective) des logiciels devrait doubler entre 2010 et 2015, passant de 500 à 1000 milliards de dollars, selon le cabinet Gartner.

Depuis quelques années, de nombreux éditeurs, entreprises et administrations, cherchent à réduire l’empreinte ressources de leurs logiciels. Les mêmes acteurs mènent en parallèle des démarches pour rendre leurs logiciels et sites web plus accessibles, notamment aux personnes en situation de handicap visuel (mais pas que). C’est la dimension sociale. Nous arrivons à un moment de l’histoire informatique où ces deux démarches – économique et environnementale pour la première, et sociale pour la seconde - convergent pour n’en former plus qu’une : l’écoconception logicielle.

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