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Novel materials shake ship scum | ScienceDaily.com

Novel materials shake ship scum | ScienceDaily.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Just as horses shake off pesky flies by twitching their skin, ships may soon be able to shed the unwanted accumulation of bacteria and other marine growth with the flick of a switch.

 

Duke University engineers have developed a material that can be applied like paint to the hull of a ship and will literally be able to dislodge bacteria, keeping it from accumulating on the ship's surface. This buildup on ships increases drag and reduces the energy efficiency of the vessel, as well as blocking or clogging undersea sensors.

 

The material works by physically moving at the microscopic level, knocking the bacteria away. This avoids the use of bacteria-killing paints, which can contain heavy metals or other toxic chemicals that might accumulate in the environment and unintentionally harm fish or other marine organisms.

 

The Duke researchers also say that similar types of materials could be used in other settings where the buildup of bacteria -- known as biofilms -- presents problems, such as on the surfaces of artificial joint implants or water purification membranes.

 

"We have developed a material that 'wrinkles,' or changes it surface in response to a stimulus, such as stretching or pressure or electricity," said Duke engineer Xuanhe Zhao, assistant professor in Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. "This deformation can effectively detach biofilms and other organisms that have accumulated on the surface."

 

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Our Global Future in the 21st Century is based on "The Third Industrial Revolution" which finally connects our new ICT infrastructure with distributed energy sources that are both renewable and sustainable
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World’s first climate-positive data center being built in Sweden | Chris Wood | GizMag.com

World’s first climate-positive data center being built in Sweden | Chris Wood | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Information and communications technology consumes a full 10 percent of the world’s electricity, meaning that whenever a new data center is designed, its efficiency is of paramount concern. A new project, known as EcoDataCenter, will be the world’s first-climate positive data center, utilizing various techniques and technologies to ensure a positive impact on the wider world.

There are currently in excess of three million data centers in operation around the world, many of which have a significant negative impact on the environment, releasing heat into the atmosphere and contributing to global warming.

Sweden’s cold climate is well-suited to hosting data centers, with the region’s low average temperature – just 5°C (41°F) – helping to keep equipment cool. Energy prices in Sweden are also lower than many other parts of the world – approximately 40-50 percent lower than in the UK, according to statistics from Business Swede, Nord Pool Spot.

The EcoDataCenter, under constructed in the city of Falun, will draw power from the local energy grid, which is itself one of the most efficient in the world, but will also make use of its own excess heat and energy, using it to heat buildings in the district. The electricity drawn to power the center in the first place comes solely from renewable sources such as solar, water and wind power, as well as a local cogeneration plant.


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Eyes inspire more efficient solar cell architecture | Richard Moss | GizMag.com

Eyes inspire more efficient solar cell architecture | Richard Moss | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Solar cells don't at first glance have any relation to a tiny structure in the eye that makes our central vision sharp, but that tiny structure – called the fovea centralis – may be the key to a huge boost in solar cell efficiency. A team of scientists at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light took the underlying mechanisms that guide the fovea and adapted them to silicon as a surface for collecting light in solar cells.

The fovea centralis – so called because it is a pit in the center of the macula of the retina – contains a number of closely-packed funnel-like inverted cones that connect directly to nerve cells and provide the visual detail that allows us to read or watch TV.

The researchers noted how the cones trap large amounts of light in well-lit environments and thought to try the same approach in collecting and conducting light for photovoltaics. The experiment worked: their silicon version of the fovea increased light absorption by around 65 percent in a thin-film solar cell, compared with a conventional silicon film. Power conversion efficiencies saw a similar improvement, at 60 percent higher than in optimized nanowire arrays of the same thickness.


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Modular biobattery plant turns a wide range of biomass into energy | Dario Borghino | GizMag.com

Modular biobattery plant turns a wide range of biomass into energy | Dario Borghino | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Energy and Safety Technology have developed a "biobattery" in the form of a highly efficient biogas plant that can turn raw materials like straw, scrap wood and sludge into a variety of useful energy sources including electricity, purified gas and engine oil. The new plant design, currently being put to the test in a prototype plant in Germany, is said to be highly modular and economically viable even at the small scale.

The production of biogas  –  gas created by the breakdown of organic matter, by fermentation or through the action of anaerobic bacteria  –  is an interesting complement to other sources of renewable energy since it can not only generate electricity at little cost to the environment, but also create biofuel, fertilizer and engine oil. One issue, however, is that these plants only accept few organic substances as raw materials.

A new biogas plant developed at the Fraunhofer Institute could solve this problem by taking a number of materials that would normally have to be disposed of at great cost (like industrial biomass waste, sewage sludge, straw, scrap wood or manure) and process them with high efficiency into a more useful output, all through a highly modular, flexible design.


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New electrolyte promises to rid lithium batteries of short-circuiting dendrites | Colin Jeffrey | GizMag.com

New electrolyte promises to rid lithium batteries of short-circuiting dendrites | Colin Jeffrey | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Dendrites – thin conductive filaments that form inside lithium batteries – reduce the life of these cells and are often responsible for them catching fire. Scientists working at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) of the US Department of Energy claim to have produced a new electrolyte for lithium batteries that not only completely eliminates dendrites, but also promises to increase battery efficiency and vastly improve current carrying capacity.

Many of the rechargeable batteries used in portable devices today are of the lithium-ion (Li-ion) type, composed of two electrodes in a recharging battery (a positive one made of lithium and a negative one created from graphite) and a chemical electrolyte. Basically, the electrolyte chemically contains the electric charge and also acts as the medium through which the current flows between electrodes when the battery is connected in a circuit.

Unfortunately, as the electrolyte in a Li-ion battery also contains a solution of lithium, the lithium electrode tends to react with this medium, causing dendrites to form.

When these fibers snake their way out from the electrode and into the electrolyte, they tend to break down the controlled path that the electrons generally take by producing conductive paths haphazardly throughout the structure. As a result, there is often a sudden and rapid discharge that allows excess current to flow. At best, this causes the battery to fail prematurely. At worst, this heats up the battery to such an extent that it can set fire to its own packaging or even the device in which it is contained.

In an attempt to counteract this dendrite formation, some researchers have tried such things as coating the anode of Li-ion batteries with carbon nanospheres or tweaking the formula of the electrolyte with additives. Others have even added Kevlar to the mix, but this doesn’t stop the dendrites growing, it merely stops them from expanding too far into the electrolyte.

The new electrolyte developed by the PNNL researchers, however, aims to completely replace the electrolyte with one that does not promote the growth of dendrites at all. And, as a fortunate aside, it also ups the capacity and efficiency of the battery too.


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CA: Fractivists Bust Up Aquifer Exemption Workshop: Anatomy of an Action | Lauren Steiner | LAProgressive.com

CA: Fractivists Bust Up Aquifer Exemption Workshop: Anatomy of an Action | Lauren Steiner | LAProgressive.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

We were twenty minutes into one of the most boring PowerPoint presentations I have ever seen. While we looked at “shaded areas of cross-sections of multiple productive zones of oil fields,” the regulator was droning on and on. You’d think I’d be nodding off. But no, my heart was beating and my palms were sweating. I was about to do one of the boldest actions I have done since becoming an activist three and a half years ago.

Professionally dressed in a sedate gray dress and heels, I was seconds away from disrupting something called an “aquifer exemption workshop” led by DOOGR — the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Regulation –the very state agency that recently had been exposed for illegally allowing oil companies to inject toxic fracking wastewater into 2500 wells near California aquifers.

Since learning about the horrific practice of hydro-fracturing, commonly known as fracking three years ago, I have signed petitions, lobbied legislators, attended and organized rallies and spoken at conferences and on the radio. I even led a statewide petition campaign in 2013 that garnered 20,000 signatures. It asked a state senator to withdraw her weak fracking regulatory bill and fight for a ban instead. I wrote about it earlier here. The senator did not listen; and a year after the legislation was passed, as predicted, it was being ignored.

We found out about this “aquifer exemption workshop” where the regulators would outline “the data requirements and process for requesting an aquifer exemption under the Safe Drinking Water Act,” so Big Oil could continue to pollute our drinking water. Californians Against Fracking, a coalition of over 200 organizations in the state, was planning to do a demonstration outside the workshop. But some of us wanted to go one step further and actually disrupt the meeting.


I have been inspired by the work of Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, from PopularResistance.org, who have been disrupting governmental hearings in the nation’s capital ever since 2009 when Margaret was arrested in the Senate Finance Committee hearing on healthcare after she stood up to condemn the chairman for not having any single-payer advocates in the room. Their recent work to preserve Net neutrality and fight the Trans-Pacific Partnership  has been particularly creative.


I have also long admired the work of Medea Benjamin and the fearless activists of Code Pink. Last month they got inches away from putting handcuffs on war criminal Dick Cheney at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. While I had pointed my finger into the nose of an LAPD officer who stopped me from leading a Net neutrality march two blocks from the site of an Obama fundraiser last year, I had never done anything that bold. So it didn’t take me too long to tell the group that I was on board.


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Globally, this was the hottest winter on record, with the smallest measured Arctic sea ice maximum | Laurence Lewis | Daily Kos

Globally, this was the hottest winter on record, with the smallest measured Arctic sea ice maximum | Laurence Lewis | Daily Kos | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The National Climatic Data Center is terse and to the point:

The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for February 2015 was the second highest since record keeping began in 1880. Both the year-to-date (January–February) and seasonal (December–February) globally averaged temperatures were record high.

Which continues the trend that made 2014 the hottest year on record. And given these continuing records, Thursday's report from the National Snow & Ice Data Center was no surprise:


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Mexico Pledges to Cut Emissions 25% in Climate-Change Milestone | Alex Nussbaum & Eric Martin | Bloomberg.com

Mexico has become the first developing nation to formally promise to cut its global-warming pollution, a potential milestone in efforts to reach a worldwide agreement on tackling climate change.

Mexico expects greenhouse-gas emissions to peak by 2026 and then decline, Environment Minister Juan Jose Guerra Abud said at a news conference in Mexico City Friday. The nation has pledged to curb the growth of pollutants 25 percent from its current trajectory by 2030.

The United Nations is encouraging more than 190 countries to submit by March 31 formal plans detailing how they will curb greenhouse-gas emissions. These documents are a key step leading up to a December meeting in Paris where negotiators expect to complete a global climate-change agreement, and most nations are going to miss the deadline. Mexico’s plan is only the fourth submission, after the European Union, Switzerland and Norway.

“It’s obvious that global warming is already a reality,” Guerra said. “It’s without a doubt the principal challenge for humanity in the 21st century.”

Mexico’s pledge has two components. It will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 22 percent and will halve the production of so-called black carbon -- particles created by burning wood, diesel and other fuels. The net effect will reduce by 25 percent the generation of air pollution that’s causing global warming.

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Australia: WikiLeaks reveals local health and environment rules under threat | Philip Dorling | Sydney Morning Herald

Australia: WikiLeaks reveals local health and environment rules under threat | Philip Dorling | Sydney Morning Herald | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Australian health, environment and public welfare regulation, including plain tobacco packaging legislation, will be open for challenge from largely US-based corporations, if a new deal that is part of the Trans Pacific Partnership goes through.

WikiLeaks has revealed that the Australian government is close to agreement on a wide-ranging trade deal that could allow multinational corporations to challenge these regulations as well as local food safety standards. The new TPP free trade agreement will cover approximately 40 per cent of the world economy.

Intellectual property law expert, Australian National University Associate Professor Matthew Rimmer says the WikiLeaks publication is "a bombshell" that will "galvanise resistance and opposition to fast-tracking of this mega trade deal".

"The investment chapter serves to boost the corporate rights and powers of multinational companies … at the expense of democratic governments and domestic courts," Dr Rimmer said.

A secret draft chapter of the TPP free trade agreement, published by WikiLeaks on Thursday, shows that the Abbott government is prepared to accept a controversial Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process if "certain conditions" are met in a broad agreement that it hopes will enhance Australian access to US and Japanese agricultural markets.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb says the TPP negotiations are at "a make-or-break point" over the next month, with potentially huge trade benefits at stake as well as major strategic interests in relation to the United States "pivot to Asia".


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Eyes in the sky see seas rising alarmingly faster | Paul Brown | Climate News Network

Eyes in the sky see seas rising alarmingly faster | Paul Brown | Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Satellite observations show that sea level rise may have been underestimated, and that annual rises are increasing.

A collaborative effort between maritime organisations and space agencies in measuring sea level rise has come to the conclusion that it has been increasing by 3.1 millimetres a year since 1993 – higher than previous estimates.

The evidence is growing from a number of recent studies of the ice caps that sea level rise is accelerating, posing a threat to many of the world’s largest and most wealthy cities − most of which are also important ports.

Many of these in the developing world have little or no protection against rising sea levels. Some in Europe – such as London and Rotterdam − already have flood barriers to protect areas below high tide or storm surge level, but these will need to be replaced and raised in the next 30 years.

Delta areas in Egypt, Vietnam, Bangladesh and China – vital to each of the nation’s food supply – are already losing land to the sea.


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World's Biggest PR Firm Quits American Oil Lobby | Connor Gibson of Greenpeace | EcoWatch.com

World's Biggest PR Firm Quits American Oil Lobby | Connor Gibson of Greenpeace | EcoWatch.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

For years, Edelman has managed multi-million dollar contracts with the API, using its Blue Advertising subsidiary to help API run commercials selling fantasies to people: that oil and gas are our only viable, plentiful, “AMERICAN” sources of energy.

In the saga that led Edelman to dump the lobbyists at API, Greenpeace had a small role to play: we infiltrated a commercial shoot, run by Edelman’s Blue advertising arm for API. The commercials were to be called “Vote 4 Energy,” casting the illusion of mass popular demand for more oil and gas drilling (and more pollution, more climate change, and more government giveaways to prop it all up).

After being dressed up in a button-down, plaid orange shirt—I’m not sure what look they had in mind for me—I was put in front of the camera and told to repeat lines back. This despite the casting call for “real people, not actors.” Huh.

Instead of telling them “I Vote” for oil and gas, I ran off script and demanded a prioritization of clean energy, not continued pandering to oil lobbyists at API. As I was ushered off set, the person I appealed to for a clean energy future was Robert McKernan, president of Blue Advertising, the company that Edelman is ditching. He was the last person I saw before being booted out of the studio rooms, and as we locked eyes, I appealed directly to him: “we need clean sources of energy, like wind and solar.” Here’s a transcribed recording of that on-set disruption:


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India: 10% of Indian villages have no mobile coverage | TeleGeography.com

Just under 10% of Indian villages remain unserved by mobile networks, the Economic Times writes, citing the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT).


55,669 of India’s 597,608 inhabited villages currently have no mobile coverage from any of the nation’s eleven cellcos. Odissha has the highest number of unserved villages with 10,398 (of 47,675 in the state), although Arunachal Pradesh has a higher proportion of uncovered settlements, with 2,886 of its 5,258 villages still outside of cellular coverage areas.


Elsewhere, Jharkhand (5,949), Madhya Pradesh (5,926), Maharashtra (4,792) and Chhattisgarh (4,041) also have high numbers of unserved villages.

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Sweden: Wooden high-rise planned for Stockholm | Adam Williams | GizMag.com

Sweden: Wooden high-rise planned for Stockholm | Adam Williams | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Stockholm's Tham & Videgård Arkitekter has proposed four interconnected high-rise apartment blocks constructed from wood. Still in the planning stage at present, if the project goes ahead it will rise to a height of 20 stories and include 240 apartments that overlook the sea in Loudden, a former busy international harbor in Stockholm that's currently under redevelopment.

The firm designed the unnamed residential development, which comprises a total floorspace of 24,700 sq m (265,868 sq ft), as four separate towers with significant gaps in-between each tower rather than a large block so as to not completely block the view toward the sea for other nearby buildings. This also enables sunlight to reach a nearby quay promenade. Each tower is connected by a three-story base that's angled to create sheltered exterior spaces suitable for outdoor activities and features sedum plants to reduce stormwater runoff.


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Pamela Hills's curator insight, March 28, 1:02 PM

 Very 21st Century and beyond and looks so different from anything ever built before

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Solar-assisted, volcanic-composite sailing yacht navigating world's toughest waters | C. C. Weiss | GizMag.com

Solar-assisted, volcanic-composite sailing yacht navigating world's toughest waters | C. C. Weiss | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Carbon fiber has established itself as a wonder material in vehicle construction, with its mix of low weight and high strength being prized for many of the world's most advanced vehicles of land, sea and air. Austrian company Fipofix believes that it's identified a material better-suited to the high seas, saying that its specially processed volcanic fiber-based composite, more commonly known as basalt fiber, offers a better performance-price ratio than carbon fiber or fiberglass and can be recycled after use. The company is in the process of testing the material in some of the world's most extreme marine conditions.

Though basalt fiber isn't a household term like fiberglass or carbon fiber, it's not a new composite, either. According to a 2006 article published on CompositesWorld.com, basalt fiber was originally patented in the US in 1923. Toward the middle of the 20th century, it was given serious attention for military applications in the US and Soviet Union, but it wasn't until the breakup of the Soviet Union that it started seeing more use in non-military applications. Today, its production and use is concentrated largely in Eastern Europe and China. We don't see it often, but we did see it featured prominently in the interior of last year's Peugeot EXALT concept.


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High-performance flow battery could rival lithium-ions for EVs and grid storage | Dario Borghino | GizMag.com

High-performance flow battery could rival lithium-ions for EVs and grid storage | Dario Borghino | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A new redox flow battery designed at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) more than doubles the amount of energy that this type of cell can pack in a given volume, approaching the numbers of lithium-ion batteries. If the device reaches mass production, it could find use in fast-charging transportation, portable electronics and grid storage.

A flow battery is formed by two liquids with opposite charge (electrolytes) which turn chemical energy into electricity by exchanging ions through a membrane. The electrolytes are stored in two external tanks and this makes the system easy to scale up, potentially very quick to charge (the electrolytes can simply be replaced) and resistant to extreme temperatures. These perks have already inspired some radical concept car designs but if these dreams are going to come to fruition, flow batteries will need to get over one big hump: currently, the best flow cell out there only packs less than a third of the energy per unit volume as a lithium-ion battery.

Because of this, flow cells are mainly used where space is not at a premium, such as to store large amounts of energy from renewable sources in open spaces. Still, even in this arena, a more energy-dense flow cell could turn out to be very useful, improving the reliability of the electric grid in a tight urban setting, and perhaps even challenging the upcoming lithium-ion home batteries announced by Tesla.


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Royal Navy subs provide insights for Arctic science | David Szondy | GizMag.com

Royal Navy subs provide insights for Arctic science | David Szondy | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The National Oceanography Centre in the UK has used data on the Arctic Ocean gathered by Royal Navy submarines to study the effects of a possible future shrinking of the ice cap. This meeting of oceanography and military intelligence has seen declassified data from the 1990s analyzed to gain insights into how diminished ice cover affects turbulence in arctic waters.

One of the concerns presented by climate change models is a steady decrease in summer sea ice in the Arctic. If this occurs, it poses the question how will it affect the composition and circulation of the waters, which can have an impact on the chemistry and biology of the sea. Previous thinking put a lot of emphasis on the role of the ice, regarding it as a seal that protected the waters beneath from wind. The idea was that an ice-free Arctic would be stirred up by the winds and become more turbulent, which can cause effects like the mixing of cold, fresh water layers with warmer, saltier ones and accelerate ice melts.

But the Arctic Ocean isn't a simple sealed basin. There are all sorts of currents, eddies, internal waves, and other factors, so to understand the future of the Arctic, it's necessary to have a better understanding of how it behaves under the ice as well as in ice-free regions.


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How drones are poised to help build the cities of tomorrow | Nick Lavars | GizMag.com

How drones are poised to help build the cities of tomorrow | Nick Lavars | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Over time we have gotten used to machines assuming certain roles in society, but even at the dawn of the the age of robotics, some types of skilled labor still seem beyond their reach. After all, how does a machine wield a hammer and overcome the perpetual problem-solving involved in putting together a house or a high-rise? While we might be some ways off from watching buildings sprout out of the ground at the push of a button, flying robots are already carrying out surveying and mapping tasks on construction sites from the US to Japan. But leading researchers are adamant that when it comes to automating the building industry, these machines have more to offer.

The value of drones in construction, at least for the time being, is more or less tied to their ability to venture where humans and heavy machinery cannot. This dictates that the vehicles remain small, agile and with minimal payload, zipping around with onboard high-res cameras and relaying progress shots and aerial surveys to construction teams on the ground. This might sound like little more than a negligible cost-cutting, but drones are already forming an integral part of business operations for innovative construction firms the world over.

In Japan, an aging population has the construction industry turning to new technology to help build the infrastructure of the future. Leading the charge is the multinational machinery maker Komatsu which has just announced the launch of a new service called Smart Construction, aimed at helping fill Japan's void of a fit young workforce with cutting edge information and communication technologies. The service includes a a platform called KomConnect that will connect machinery and workers to the cloud to improve overall efficiency, artificial intelligence-assisted control for operating machinery and, of course, drones.


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CA: Plans unveiled for Google's new Mountain View headquarters | Adam Williams | GizMag.com

CA: Plans unveiled for Google's new Mountain View headquarters | Adam Williams | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Google has released renders and preliminary information regarding its planned new headquarters in Mountain View, California. Finer details are unavailable at this stage, but the firm has commissioned top-tier architects Bjarke Ingels (of BIG) and Thomas Heatherwick to handle the design, and what information we do have points toward a sustainable, flexible, and future-proof headquarters for the company.

In contrast with the forbidding closed loop design of Apple's sustainable Cupertino campus by Norman Foster, Google's new digs appear more fragmented, open, and accessible.

"We're really making sure that we make spaces very open and accessible, so it's not just for Googlers but for anyone in the area to come by," says David Radcliffe, the firm's Vice President of Real Estate.


Intended for the North Bay Shore area of Mountain View, the renders evoke more of a futuristic college campus feel than that of a secretive technology center, and it comprises a number of buildings with large transparent roofs that allow plenty of natural light. The renders also show a mash-up of both Ingels' and Heatherwick's style in places (such as the above image, for example), and it will be interesting to see if the end result will be a clash of egos or that of two "starchitects" complimenting each other's strengths.


The proposal features bike paths, lakes, and greenery, and cyclists are offered shelter from the rain in some areas with large solar canopies. Google says a significant portion of the HQ's energy needs will be met sustainably, but we've no word on how much yet, nor of any other sustainable tech in the works. Car parks are hidden from sight underground, and the renders show a focus on landscaping in a concerted effort to offer visitors and staff a greater connection with nature.


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Pope Francis: Earth's water must be protected, available to everyone | WashPost

Pope Francis: Earth's water must be protected, available to everyone | WashPost | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Pope Francis is encouraging the world to ensure its water supplies are protected and available to all.

Francis noted the United Nations was marking Sunday as an occasion to draw attention to water’s importance.

He quoted St. Francis of Assisi, who inspired his choice of name as pope, in praising water for its usefulness and purity.

Francis intends to detail his views on the environment soon in an encyclical, a Vatican position paper reserved for important matters.

Speaking to the public in St. Peter’s Square, the pope called water “the most essential element for life” and said “humanity’s future depends on our ability to care for it and share it.”

He encouraged governments to ensure that water supplies are protected and accessible to all.

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PA: Constitution Pipeline crisis: Landowners facing condemnation | John Roby | Pressconnects.com

PA: Constitution Pipeline crisis: Landowners facing condemnation | John Roby | Pressconnects.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The first sign that something unexpected is happening in the spreading, metal-roofed outbuilding on Cathy and Tom Holleran's property here comes from the steam pumping out of twin stacks on a frosty afternoon in early March.

Inside, the air is thick and sweet and glasses-fogging warm. A shiny metal evaporator holds gallons of sap tapped from the Hollerans' maple trees, with a raging wood fire fueling the boil.

Tom Holleran offers a tour of the evaporator, a tour he loves to give. He explains the smoke and steam stacks, the chambers, the front and back pans and floats, and points proudly to a bubbling channel of sap flowing the length of the contraption.

"That's actually running a little cool right now, but it's not bad, it's evaporating," he said. "I'm getting one percent syrup right now."

The Hollerans have been making maple syrup for about five years, Cathy said, and selling some of it locally under the label North Harford Maple.

Last year, the yield was 50 gallons. This year it will be less, and possibly every year from now on. The Hollerans' other property to the northwest, where Cathy grew up and her sister still lives, is on the route of the proposed Constitution Pipeline. The family, along with six other landowners in Susquehanna County, has refused to sell the easements the company has requested. On March 17, a U.S. district court judge granted Constitution the power to condemn the land along the route.

"The fact is, it's our property. We pay taxes every year," Cathy Holleran said. "[Constitution] impacts all this property our kids are going to inherit. I feel like it's not fair for us to just sign and say we're going to take your money and leave that pipeline for them. When we're dead and gone, that pipeline's going to be there forever."

The Constitution Pipeline would transport enough natural gas to serve about 3 million homes per day, according to the company, through a 30-inch pipe from Susquehanna County across nearly 100 miles of New York, including 17 miles in the Town of Sanford. It would also cross parts of Chenango and Delaware counties to a station in Schoharie County. Federal guidelines require the pipeline to be buried beneath two to four feet of cover, depending on soil conditions.

The gas would come from Marcellus shale fields, which currently have no direct pathway to Northeastern markets.


Christopher Stockton, a Houston-based spokesman, said benefits will extend to municipalities through which the pipeline passes.


Stockton said the use of eminent domain was a last resort following nearly three years of negotiations, and was brought on by the need to complete environmental assessments mandated by FERC. He said landowners will still be paid "the fair value" for easements the company obtains.


"We are not taking fee ownership of the land, we are executing an easement agreement which gives us the right to survey and then install and operate the pipe," he said. "The landowner still retains ownership of the property and can still use it for farming and other activities, with some restrictions."


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CA: Funds for pipeline safety went to utility execs' pay instead, PUC president says | Marc Lifsher | LATimes.com

CA: Funds for pipeline safety went to utility execs' pay instead, PUC president says | Marc Lifsher | LATimes.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Money collected from ratepayers and earmarked for pipeline safety was instead spent on executive pay raises by the state's largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., in the months before a deadly pipeline explosion in 2010, lawmakers were told Wednesday.

“In some cases, the utility did divert dollars we approved for safety purposes for executive compensation,” the new president of the Public Utilities Commission complained to members of the state Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee at an oversight hearing.


After the two-hour hearing, Michael Picker told The Times that he's gathering additional documentation that PG&E put off safety and maintenance work to boost its profits and provide top executives with bonuses.


“This is one of my outstanding beefs,” he said.


The issue of the bonuses first was raised in a January 2012 independent audit for the PUC and an accompanying commission staff report.


But Picker's testimony “was the first time that I ever heard a PUC official admit that or state that as a fact,” said state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo). Hill represents the Bay Area community of San Bruno, where the PG&E pipeline blast killed eight people, injured 66 others and destroyed 38 homes.


Records released a few days after the explosion showed that PG&E received approval in 2007 to spend $5 million of ratepayer money to replace a high-risk section of the 30-inch pipeline north of the San Bruno blast site.


The work on the 1950s-era pipe was never performed. And in 2010, the utility asked for another $5 million to do the same job, according to PG&E documents submitted to the PUC.


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Solar sails set course for a new journey into renewable energy | Shane Hickey | The Guardian

Solar sails set course for a new journey into renewable energy | Shane Hickey | The Guardian | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

It was as the moon hit the sails of his yacht in the Atlantic Ocean that the thought struck Perry Carroll.

“You’ve got a sail and you have got some sun, you must be able to find a way to put those solar sails on that fabric,” he said.
Little over a decade later and that idea – which first hit Carroll during a 635–mile race between Rhode Island and Bermuda – has developed into a business aiming to generate solar energy from awnings over car parks and on the tops of buildings where conventional rigid panels cannot go.

Carroll’s Cambridge-based Solar Cloth Company makes lightweight, flexible solar panels which can be rolled and fitted onto curved and flexible structures such as domes or coverings for agricultural land, as well as on the roofs of buildings unable to sustain the weight of glass panels.

“Solar is moving from being a hard, inflexible and one-colour product to being soft lightweight, flexible, and maybe even multicoloured,” he said. “In solar everybody only knows those glass panels going on roofs and on farmland, fields, solar farms. Why can’t solar be everywhere in all different types of aspects?

Why can’t it be so that when you pull your car into your driveway that there is a canopy that charges the thing?”

Carroll has been developing the panels since that lightbulb moment on the water, eventually bringing him to the bespoke products his company produces today.

The company uses thin film photovoltaics (TFPV), which are viewed as the second generation of solar technology. TFPV is light enough to be placed on plastics and weighs substantially less than conventional glass panels.


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Water Use for Fracking Has Skyrocketed, USGS Data Show | Christina Nunez | National Geographic

Water Use for Fracking Has Skyrocketed, USGS Data Show | Christina Nunez | National Geographic | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

As a concept, hydraulic fracturing has changed very little since the first wells were drilled in the late 1940s. In practice, however, what most people now know as fracking has undergone a transformation.

Then, as now, a well is drilled into a shale rock formation, and then fluid is pumped in at high pressure, opening cracks that release oil, gas, or both.

The combination of this technique with horizontal drilling and other advances has brought both the boom and the controversy now associated with fracking.

The evolution of hydraulic fracturing—and its demand on water supplies—can be seen in historical data covering nearly one million wells drilled over 63 years. An analysis from the U.S. Geological Survey, released in late January, notes that water-intensive horizontal or directional drilling increased dramatically between 2000 and 2010.

Water impacts are a central issue addressed in new rules for fracking on U.S. public land. The Bureau of Land Management tightened requirements for well construction and for the storage of wastewater.


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Germany: Kabel Deutschland’s VoD footprint reaches 5.5m homes | TeleGeography.com

Kabel Deutschland, the German cableco owned by Vodafone Group, has expanded the coverage of its video on demand (VoD) service to a number of new towns and cities, including Bayreuth, Buxtehude, Erlangen, Gera, Jever, Michendorf, Muhlhausen, Nordhorn, Potsdam, Sonthofen and Uelzen.


An additional 300,000 households are now able to access Select Video’s content library of more than 11,000 television programmes and films, raising total coverage to 5.5 million homes in over 140 towns and cities.


The service was first launched in March 2011. Kabel Deutschland operates cable networks in 13 federal states in Germany and supplies approximately 8.3 million connected households.

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Study says climate change is messing with the ocean's circulation. That's not good. | Brian Palmer | onEarth.org

Study says climate change is messing with the ocean's circulation. That's not good. | Brian Palmer | onEarth.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Thermohaline circulation (n.): deep ocean current driven by variations in salinity and temperature.

I used to love watching the weather forecast when I was a kid, because I thought it was a cartoon. There were lots of colorful arrows going every which way and a man waving his arms like a snake charmer. I had no idea what any of it meant.

Suddenly, I know more than I ever wanted to. A major study released in the journal Nature Climate Change warned that those arrows, and the ocean currents they represent, might be changing rapidly—with the potential to alter regional climates faster than anyone expected.

The story begins with a stream of water called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), which runs from the tropics south of the equator to the North Atlantic. Oceanographers describe it as a conveyor belt because of the looping pattern in which the water flows. Warm tropical water stays near the surface as it heads north because warm water is, generally speaking, less dense than cold water. When it reaches the North Atlantic, the water gets cold and some of it freezes. Very little of the salt winds up in the sea ice, causing the surrounding water to become more saline. Both processes—the cooling and intensified saltiness—increase the water's density. The cold, salty water then sinks toward the bottom and eventually moves southward along the lower rung of the conveyor belt.

Since variations in temperature and salinity are responsible for the difference in density that powers the conveyor belt, scientists refer to the AMOC and similar currents as thermo- (heat) haline (salt).


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Pamela Hills's curator insight, March 28, 1:06 PM

 The seas are rising and changing, The sun is showing off enormous solar flares. Tides are higher than ever seen before. Storms are more severe, Snow falls and record cold. Whether you believe in climate change or not is beside point. The earth we all live on is in definite transformation and what lies ahead for all of us on this big blue marble remains to be seen .

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Facebook successfully tests its internet-beaming drones | Nick Lavars | GizMag.com

Facebook successfully tests its internet-beaming drones | Nick Lavars | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Mark Zuckerberg's plans to use unmanned drones to provide internet connections appear one step closer to reality. The Facebook CEO today revealed that his Internet.org initiative has put the aircraft to the test for the first time, describing the operation as a success.

Zuckerberg first unveiled his vision for flying wireless internet access points in March last year. The aim of Internet.org is to use solar-powered, internet-beaming aircraft flying over remote communities to connect parts of the global population that don't currently have internet access.

In a Facebook post this morning, Zuckerberg revealed that the Internet.org aircraft have been successfully tested in the UK. Indicating that it is still under development, he says the finished aircraft will have a wingspan greater than a Boeing 737, but still weigh less than a car. It will be capable of flying at an altitude of 60,000 ft (18,288 m) for months at a time.

"Aircraft like these will help connect the whole world because they can affordably serve the 10% of the world's population that live in remote communities without existing internet infrastructure," Zuckerberg writes.


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Pamela Hills's curator insight, March 28, 1:10 PM

 Face Book is soaring to new heights with use of drones. This is news had not heard of till now. Connecting the world   this is an amazing story !  Stay tuned to see what happens because Oh Boy Howdy it is not done yet !