A new technique can grow wood-like plant material in the lab, allowing for tuning of properties like weight/strength…you can “grow” the materials in exactly the shape that you need, so you don’t need to do any subtractive manufacturing after the fact.
This article reads like a Google marketing press release, but the design is pretty cool and is cutting edge in terms of some of these design aspects, especially the way the solar is arrayed to capture early morning and early evening sun to avoid the standard peak of solar panels at noon.
– At Google’s newly opened campus in Mountain View, California, it isn’t immediately obvious that the roofs are covered in solar panels. But the sprawling canopies on each building—looking a little like futuristic circus tents—are covered in 50,000 small, silver-colored “dragonscale” photovoltaic panels, shaped to optimize the times they can generate solar power throughout the day
– It’s part of an approach that the company, along with architects from Bjarke Ingels Group and Heatherwick Studio, took to making the new campus, which covers more than a million square feet, as sustainable as possible. In an area currently undergoing a severe drought, it’s designed to save water. A massive geothermal system, the largest in North America, makes it possible to heat and cool the buildings without fossil fuels. The landscaping helps support biodiversity. The buildings’ solar skins, along with local wind power, will help the campus work toward Google’s goal of running on 100% renewable power, 24-7, by the end of the decade. (Right now, it runs on 90% renewable power.)
– Typical solar panels generate power in the middle of the day, and as the amount of solar power in California has grown, the state has struggled to deal with the mismatch between the time that power is generated and the time that it’s used. “Every year, clean energy from solar plants gets curtailed in the middle of the day because it’s too much, and there isn’t enough load,” Tahir says. Because the solar panels sit on the new roofs facing different angles, some catch more light early in the morning and others get more afternoon light, both times when the larger electric grid has less renewable energy.
– The team also focused on the aesthetics of the panels. “We went deep into understanding the solar supply chain, how panels are manufactured, figuring out where we might have the ability to change components, elements, and all that you need—that vision,” he says. “So that in this case, the goal was really to show that it can be beautiful and efficient at the same time.”
– Underground, a geothermal field taps into the steady temperature below the surface to pump heat back and forth for heating and cooling. The geothermal system helps cut carbon emissions on the site in half. It also shrinks the huge amount of water that would have been used in a standard cooling tower, eliminating the use of around five million gallons of water a year.
-What really allowed us to become ‘net positive,’ generating more reclaimed water than we’re using, was reducing demand,” says Tahir. The campus also recycles any water that’s used, so it can be used again to flush toilets and irrigate the landscape. Rain is collected in above-ground pools and also combined with the recycled water.
– The grounds, restored to bring back native habitat, connect to a public trail with native plants next to a stream that’s home to wildlife
"Offshore wind power needs energy storage and power regulation, and Ocean Grazer has invented an offshore energy storage system that will sit at the bottom of the sea and manage the flow of electricity through the power grid.
Ocean Battery is based on hydro dam technology that can be deployed at the source of power generation. Excess wind power is routed toward the Ocean Battery that pumps water from its underground reservoirs into the flexible bladders installed at the seabed. Whenever there is a demand for power, water is routed through hydro turbines to generate electricity back into the underground reservoirs.
Ocean Grazer claims that Ocean Battery has an efficiency of around 80% and that it should be able to run unlimited cycles for more than 20 years. The company, which announced on January 6 that it has closed a deal with an angel investor, will deploy an onshore Ocean Battery in the Netherlands by 2023 and aims to have an offshore system in place by 2025."
This is dumb:
"The airline company Lufthansa will operate 18,000 “empty, unnecessary” flights this winter that would have otherwise been cancelled due to lack of passengers.
The empty flights will run because of rules imposed by the European Union which mean that airlines must use 80 percent of their airport slots. If they don’t, they risk losing their take-off and landing rights to rival carriers.
Brussels Airlines, one of Lufthansa’s subsidiaries, expects 3,000 passenger-less flights by the end of March.
The flights are “empty, unnecessary flights just to secure our landing and take-off rights” according to Carsten Spohr, Lufthansa’s chief executive.
Belgium’s mobility minister, Georges Gilkinet, has written to the European Commission to demand a law change to stop flights that are “environmental, economic and social nonsense”.
"More than 400 weather stations around the world beat their all-time highest temperature records in 2021, according to a climatologist who has been compiling weather records for over 30 years.
A few continental and planetary records fell too: Africa had its warmest June and September ever. August brought 48.8C (119.8F) in Syracuse, Italy, the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe. July had already brought 54.4C (130F) in Furnace Creek in the US’s Death Valley – the highest reliably recorded temperature on Earth. (A temperature recorded as 129.9F in 2020 was also rounded up to 130F.)
But there were a few specific events that particularly stood out for experts. For meteorologist Patricia Nying’uro, a co-founder of Climate Without Borders and based at the Kenyan Meteorological Department, the two consecutive failed rain seasons in Kenya were unusual, and forced the government to organise for food aid for the first time in many years.
China experienced its hottest ever year, according to the China Meteorological Administration. But it was the rain that hit the central province of Henan that really shocked: the region was hit by more rain in three days than it normally receives in an entire year. Hundreds died, crops and homes were destroyed, and the cleanup continues.
Other key unusual weather events last year were the Siberian heatwave in the summer, and the deep freeze in Texas in February. Nearly 200 people died, millions of homes were without power, and the fallout led to huge political rows.
But the key event of 2021 for the meteorological and climatological community was the extreme heatwave that struck the west coast of the US in June/July, led to a heat dome and broke records by up to 5C in some places. At the time, Geert Jan van Oldenborgh (who died in October 2021) of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute called it “way beyond the upper bound” and “surprising and shaking”.
“Of course 2021 was full of extreme events,” said Herrera. “But if I have to name one, I’ll name what struck every single climatologist and meteorologist in the world.” Herrera nicknamed the event “the mother of all heatwaves”.
“I confess, I would have never believed this to be even physically impossible. The magnitude of this event surpassed anything I have seen after a life of researching extreme events in all modern world climatic history in the past couple of centuries.”
Good pop science article on next steps to find out what is going on with Thwaites:
"The team is part of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, which has spent the past few years documenting what’s going there. Their findings have been, to put it lightly, pretty unnerving. Poking and prodding the glacier and ice shelf that extends over the Amundsen Sea have revealed warm water rapidly carving channels deep into the ice and pushing farther inland. In a summary of their findings given late last year, researchers revealed that parts of the ice shelf are receding as fast as 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) per year, and the glacier could become completely unmoored from the bedrock it sits on by the time we’re ringing in the new year in 2030.
“Before we get more data, what we only know is that the ocean is melting the ice shelves,” Rob Hall and Yxi Xheng, scientists at the University of East Anglia, and Rob Larter, a researcher with the British Antarctic Survey, wrote in a joint email while en route to Thwaites. “So we’re expecting to find signal[s] of meltwater discharge from the base of ice shelves. But how much and how fast the ice shelves are melting are still uncertain. We want to get more data showing how much heat is transported toward the glaciers, and at the same time to get data showing how the ocean conditions are changing due to the melting glaciers.”
All this effort will help us understand what’s going on with Thwaites Glacier and refine projections of sea level rise. The fate of humanity really is in Thwaites’ icy hands. The glacier is a key buttress against West Antarctica, a region that contains enough ice to raise sea 10 feet (3 meters) globally. While all that ice wouldn’t immediately pour into the ocean if Thwaites disappeared, it would certainly speed up the transition from the “fucking around” to the “finding out” phase of climate change.
"The contributions of single greenhouse gas emitters to country-level climate change are generally not disentangled, despite their relevance for climate policy and litigation. Here, we quantify the contributions of the five largest emitters (China, US, EU-27, India, and Russia) to projected 2030 country-level warming and extreme hot years with respect to pre-industrial climate using an innovative suite of Earth System Model emulators. We find that under current pledges, their cumulated 1991–2030 emissions are expected to result in extreme hot years every second year by 2030 in twice as many countries (92%) as without their influence (46%). If all world nations shared the same fossil CO2 per capita emissions as projected for the US from 2016–2030, global warming in 2030 would be 0.4 °C higher than under actual current pledges, and 75% of all countries would exceed 2 °C of regional warming instead of 11%. Our results highlight the responsibility of individual emitters in driving regional climate change and provide additional angles for the climate policy discourse."
"One of the key problems with lithium-ion batteries is that, over time, they do lose some of their battery life. This is why recycling them is so important. But what if there was a way to bring them back to life? And by this, I mean make them as good as new without recycling them. What if you could not only bring them back to life but extend the battery’s life by up to 30%?
As lithium batteries cycle, they collect these little pockets or islands of inactive lithium that are cut off from the electrodes. This decreases the battery’s capacity to store charge. Think of this as dead lithium. The research team found that they could make the dead lithium practically creep forward like a worm toward one of the electrodes until it reconnects. Kind of like creating a zombie, but without all of the blood and gore, yet with the added benefit of partially reversing an unwanted process.
When an island of dead lithium metal travels to the anode of a battery and reconnects, it is brought back to life and adds electrons to the battery’s current flow and lithium ions for storing charge. Researchers were able to get the island to move by adding lithium metal at one end and dissolving it at the other end, essentially driving the island’s growth in the direction of the anode by adding a short, high-current discharging step just after the battery charges. They found that adding this extra step slowed the degradation of their test battery while increasing its lifetime by almost 30%."
"The accelerating melting of the Himalayan glaciers threatens the water supply of millions of people in Asia, new research warns. The study concludes that over recent decades the Himalayan glaciers have lost ice ten times more quickly over the last few decades than on average since the last major glacier expansion 400-700 years ago"
"A new solar technology introduced yesterday at CES could bring power-producing roofs mainstream by relying on an old building material—nails.
For years, homeowners who wanted solar power have stripped their old roofs of shingles, added new ones, and then slapped large solar panels on top using sturdy frames. It’s a model that works well, but it also creates a two-step process that engineers have been striving to simplify.
Plenty of companies have offered their own take on solar roofs, but so far, they’ve remained niche products. GAF Energy is hoping to change that with the Timberline Solar Energy Shingle that looks strikingly like typical asphalt shingles. But their key feature isn’t so much that they emulate the look of asphalt shingles, but that they’re installed in nearly the same way. Roofers can slap the flexible sheets down and nail the top strip to the roof, just like they do for traditional roofs.
By relying on the shingle installation process, GAF Energy is counting on the scale of the roofing industry to make solar more accessible. “The roofing ecosystem is 20–30 times larger than solar. In the United States, 200,000–300,000 people get a new solar system each year. Over 5 million get a new roof,” Martin DeBono, CEO of GAF Energy, told Ars. “Our innovation is you now have a nailable solar roof, which fits the way that the majority of roofs are installed."
Engineers changed the wiring layout based on the company’s experience with previous generations of solar roof. “With our current product, Decotech, the wires are underneath,” DeBono said. “It’s a bear when the inspector wants to see the wiring—you’re taking off flashing. And similarly for other built-in photovoltaic roofs if the inspector says, ‘I want to see all the connections are made,’ you’re going to be popping up the waterproof layer to show them.” With the new top-mounted system, installers just have to pop off a waterproof cover. It’s an approach that should also make troubleshooting and repairs simpler.
“A homeowner won’t pay any more for a GAF solar roof than they would if they were to get a new roof and have someone put solar on it. That’s our benchmark,” he said. “We’re half the cost of a Tesla solar roof in any given market right now.”
“What we say,” he said, “is that with this roof, mister and misses customer, you can generate enough electricity that it will not only pay for the solar system, but also pay for the roof itself. And that’s a very compelling value proposition.”