Earth Atmosphere Exceeds 400 ppm of Co2

May 25, 2013 - 10:24:43 PM

Carbon Concentration

Source: SustainableBusiness.com

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere could rise above 400 parts per million (ppm) for sustained lengths of time throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere as soon as mid-May.

Today, measurements at the Hawaii station show concentrations of 399.50 ppm ... pretty darn close to 400, according to scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California/ San Diego.

If you'll remember, 350 ppm is the level the entire world has agreed not to exceed because that's when feedback loops and uncontrollable climate change is likely to kick in (as we've begun to see with vastly more wildfires, droughts, floods and storms).

"I wish it weren't true, but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400-ppm level without losing a beat," says Ralph Keeling, whose has taken over for his father who created the "Keeling Curve" to track daily carbon levels. 

It's hard to comprehend, but last time there was 400 ppm of carbon in the atmosphere was 3.2 million to 5 million years ago, during the Pliocene period.

Carbon levels reached about 415 ppm during the Pliocene, with global average temperatures 3-4 degrees C (5.4-7.2 degrees F) higher than today and as much as 10 degrees C (18 degrees F) warmer at the poles. Sea level ranged between 16-131 feet higher than today, according to Scripps.

"At this pace we'll hit 450 ppm within a few decades," warns Keeling. 

Prior to the Industrial Revolution carbon levels were 280 ppm and rose gradually to 316 ppm by 1958 when Keeling's father began daily measurements. The rate of rise of CO2 over the past century is unprecedented; there is no known period in geologic history when such high rates have been found. The continuous rise is a direct consequence of society's heavy reliance on fossil fuels for energy, Keeling says. 

You can track daily levels of carbon here or on Twitter.

Website: http://keelingcurve.ucsd.edu/


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Solar Impulse: Around the World in a Solar Air Plane

May 25, 2013 - 10:04:44 PM

 

Source: SustainableBusiness.com News

Solar Impulse, an airplane powered solely by solar energy, began its flight across the US on May 3rd 2013.

It took off at 6:15AM PST from Moffett Field in south San Francisco, a civil-military airport, and is headed to Phoenix first. That leg of the trip took 15-20 hours.

After that it stopped in Dallas, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. and finally ended up at JFK in New York. The whole trip will take about two months, flying day and night, depending on the weather. It can't fly in cloudy or rainy conditions or in strong wind or fog.

The plane was initially meant to demonstrate it could fly during both day and night, but just for 24 hours. But it has performed so well that it's flown across Europe and Africa (separate trips) and now it will fly across the US.

It doesn't have the technology needed for its ultimate goal - to fly around the world in 2015. A more advanced version is being developed for that.

"Our future depends on our ability to convert rapidly to the use of renewable energies. Solar Impulse is intended to demonstrate what can be done already today by using these energies and applying new technologies that can save natural resources," says Bertrand Piccard, who co-founder and co-pilot with Andre Borschberg.

The Airplane

The plane gets its power from 207-foot wings - the wingspan of a jumbo jet - covered with 12,000 solar cells.

The solar cells keep four large batteries charged that are under the wings, storing about as much energy as Tesla's electric car. Also on the bottom of the wings are tiny motors, which provide about 25% of its torque.

It is very light - about the weight of a small car - because it's made from carbon fiber. And it travels at about 43 miles per hour.   

In 2010, Impulse completed a 24-hour test flight  that demonstrated its ability to fly through the night with power stored during daylight hours. Last June, it flew the first intercontinental flight, from Spain to Morocco. 

The project has $112 million in backing with various manufacturers involved in the technology that are using it as a way to test new materials and gain brand recognition. 

A similar effort is underway but using a solar-powered boat, MS Tûranor PlanetSolar. It completed its first trip around the world last May using SunPower solar panels. 

Learn more about Solar Impulse: 

Website: www.solarimpulse.com/en/


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Biggest Solar Project in the World is Under Construction

May 25, 2013 - 09:03:22 PM

Antelope Valley Solar Project

SustainableBusiness.com News

Construction has begun on Antelope Valley Solar Project, the largest solar PV project in the world - at 579 megawatts.

Buffet's MidAmerican Solar bought the project from SunPower for $2 billion in January, and SunPower is developing it using its own panels. 650 people will be employed to build the project on 3200 acres, and in 2015 it will begin providing power to 400,000 homes.

It is one of several large solar projects being built in the area of Lancaster, the first city to require solar on all new homes.

Unlike some solar projects which have been given the go-ahead even though they are on sensitive lands, the Sierra Club praises this one for environmentally responsible development. From the outset, it was planned and sited in a way that protects native  plants and wildlife, they say.

Antelope is being built on former agricultural lands that were planted with alfalfa and other crops that require heavy irrigation. Since it is located on disturbed land there are no threatened or endangered species.

Because it is near existing transmission lines, including a major
substation, no new infrastructure is necessary.

"The developers listened to our concerns about the local lands and wildlife in the Antelope Valley and incorporated them into the planning and siting for the project," says Georgette Theotig of 
the Sierra Club Kern-Kaweah Chapter. "The proposal came out stronger for it, and we were proud to endorse the project and testify on its behalf during the approval process. Solar projects like this show it's possible to move forward with larger clean energy projects and respect conservation values at the same time." 

Some locals have criticized the project however because it creates a feeling of industrialization in the rural area. 

SunPower's Oasis® Power Plant is a modular solar technology that can be rapidly deployed for utility-scale projects that also  minimizes land use. Its high-efficiency solar panels are mounted on trackers that follow the sun during the day, increasing energy capture up to 25%.

In January, MidAmerican Solar purchased the project for $2 billion. It also owns the world's second-biggest solar plant - the 550 MW Topaz Solar Farm under development in California. And it has a 49% stake in the 290 MW Agua Caliente solar project in Arizona.  

Since it began acquiring renewable energy projects last year, MidAmerican Renewables has quickly grown to an 1830 megawatt (MW) portfolio in wind, geothermal, solar and hydro. When current wind projects are completed, it will have 2284 MW in that sector alone, making it the largest owner of US wind farms by an investor-owned utility. The utility also recently agreed to retire  seven old coal plants.  

Dust Is An Issue          

Antelope Valley also has an approved re-vegetation plan to control dust, which is an emerging concern.

Antelope Valley Solar Project is different from another nearby - Antelope Valley Solar Ranch, under construction by First Solar. Los Angeles County recently halted the project because of health issues caused by dust.

Building a solar plant in the desert requires considerable scraping and clearing to make way for thousands of acres of solar panels. That kicks up dust, which can cause "Valley fever" when people working at the site or living nearby breathe in fungal spores that are released when desert soils are disturbed.

Agricultural workers have long contracted this illness when working in the desert, but the risk is rising with the enormous solar projects being built now. About half the people that get infected develop flu-like symptoms. Wearing a respirator can prevent it, but workers often take it off when working in such hot conditions.

 


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First Building in the World Covered in Algae

May 25, 2013 - 08:58:54 PM
Algae-covered building BIQ

Source: SustainableBusiness.com News

An apartment building in Hamburg, Germany is giving us a peek into the future - it is covered with algae.

Not that algae is hanging on the façade, it's inside glass panels that also function as solar hot water collectors.

The 5-story Bio Intelligent Quotient (B.I.Q.) building, constructed to Passive House standards, gets all its energy from renewables. The addition of algae on the outside walls will be used to create biofuels to heat the building and also to provide shade and muffle street noise. 

The technology is "an outstanding and important development in the use of renewable resources in building technology," comparable to advances in the space program, Lukas Verlage, managing director of the Colt Group, part of the consortium that designed it, told the NY Times.

"Using algae as an in-house energy source might sound futuristic now, but probably will be established in 10 years," Rainer Müller told the NY Times. He's press officer for the International Building Exhibition, which introduced a competition in 2009 that led to the creation of the B.I.Q. house.

Entrants to the competition were asked to develop "systems and products that behave dynamically, unlike conventional building materials, which are static." 

Micro-algae - tiny plants about the size of bacteria - are inside 129 bioreactors. They are continuously fed liquid nutrients and carbon dioxide and scrubbers inside the panels keep the glass clean. They double as solar hot water collectors, costing $6.58 million to build the façade.

Sunlight that's not absorbed by the algae is converted into heat. It can be used for hot water or stored in the geothermal system underground. 

Periodically, the algae will be collected from the tanks and transported to a nearby biogas plant where it will produce electricity from the resulting methane gas.

Next year US-based Grow Energy plans to accept preorders for its Verde system, and hopes to get it to homeowners by 2015.

The system, which cultivates algae, can be mounted on the roof on wall of a home. It automatically dries and burns the algae to generate about 35% of a home's electricity for about $12,000.  

Another "living" building is in Mexico, where the façade neutralizes surrounding air pollution.

Learn more about the Bio Intelligent Quotient (B.I.Q.) building:

Website: www.iba-hamburg.de/en/themes-projects/the-building-exhibition-within-the-building-exhibition/smart-material-houses/biq/projekt/biq.html


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FUTURE OF FISH is 2012 Runner Up to the Presitigous Buckminster Fuller Challenge

July 20, 2012 - 11:58:59 PM

What Cheryl Dahle, Founder and Executive Director of Future of Fish (FoF), is solving:

Wild Fish

Of the 145 million metric tons of fish harvested annually worldwide, nearly 80 million metric tons come from the oceans. Today, marine fish populations are in serious trouble due to overfishing, ecosystem degradation, and inept fisheries management. Unless significant changes are made to how we harvest and consume seafood, many popular fish species could be commercially extinct by mid-century (FAO, 2010).

Overfishing
According to leading marine fisheries researchers, upward of 85 percent of the world’s wild fisheries either are being fished at the maximum rate that would allow for replenishment, or are already overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion (FAO, 2010).

Overcapacity
The FAO suggests that “peak fish”—the maximum wild capture fisheries potential from the world’s oceans—was reached in 1996. In short, there are too many boats on the water and too many people going after the same fish. Some estimates place the worldwide fishing fleet at 200-300 percent of current ocean capacity. This overcapacity is difficult to resolve simply, as removing subsidies and revoking fishing rights can result in vast numbers of unemployed fishers with little ability (or local economic opportunities) to switch careers (World Bank, 2008).

Loss of Biodiversity
Overfishing, destructive fishing methods, coastal development, climate change (ocean warming and acidification), and pollution from agricultural and industrial run-off can severely impact ocean habitats and biodiversity. More than 100 species of fish are currently listed as threatened species. Ecosystems with higher naturally occurring biodiversity (i.e., species richness) are more stable and are less likely to experience collapses of commercially important fisheries (UNEP, 2010 [pdf]).

Bycatch
Non-selective fishing gear, like trawlers, gillnets, and some longlines, can result in huge amounts of bycatch—the harvest of untargeted species, including birds, dolphins, sea turtles, and other edible fish. Depending on how and where it is caught, harvesting one pound of shrimp, for example, can result in as much as 62 pounds of non-shrimp bycatch. Estimates of annual bycatch worldwide vary depending on the methodology, but are between 7 million and 38 million metric tons. Not only is this collateral damage a further threat to already vulnerable wild fish populations, but nearly all bycatch goes to waste (Marine Policy, 2009; FAO, 2005).

IUU Fishing
Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a significant environmental and economic problem. Especially on the high seas and in the developing world where regulation and enforcement are non-existent or where fisheries governance is weak and underfunded, IUU fishing threatens both the sustainable management of marine resources and the livelihoods of local fishing households. The true costs of these illicit practices are unknowable, but estimates are that between $10 billion and $24 billion worth of IUU fish are caught worldwide per year (FAO, 2010). 

Cheryl Dahle's Breakthrough Approach and Strategy for Addressing this Crisis:

"The Future of Fish incubator has been operational for 15 months. We support 15 entrepreneurs and have six active projects that cover industry stuck points ranging from traceability technology to supply chain re-design using forward contracts and cost-plus pricing, strategies that bring stability to other commodity markets. Our work is informed by an analysis of the complex, systemic problem of overfishing that surfaced the "holes" in our collective efforts to solve it. That research included sending anthropologists into the supply chain to identify where change was getting stuck. We visited 8 sites on 4 continents, observing processing facilities in China, fish farms in Canada, and distribution centers in the United States.

Our insights led us to tackle the hurdles that prevent the middle of the supply chain from becoming part of the solution to overfishing, including a lack of perceived incentives to innovate, a culture that inhibits long-term vision, a value proposition that is at odds with the reality of seafood scarcity, and inadequate inventory tracking and warehousing technology that result in between 30 and 70 percent of fish being mislabeled in the marketplace. We believe that by launching and supporting a group of networked entrepreneurs whose ideas, technology and practices re-set standards for the supply chain, we can drive the market to adopt more responsible approaches to profitmaking. By connecting entrepreneurs at different levels of the supply chain, we foster a cooperative network whose ability to partner makes its impact more than the sum of its parts.

What the Buckminster Fuller Challenge Review Team said about this year's Runner Up:

Founded in 2010, Future of Fish (FoF) brings to light the power of combining rigorous design thinking with a comprehensive systems view of a given problem space. Cheryl Dahle, founder of FoF, is applying this approach to the massive crisis of overharvesting that threatens the world’s wild marine fisheries with collapse. She has developed pragmatic processes for understanding this complex system and is incubating innovative market based models that are designed to drive second order change in the sector.

The FoF team has broad experience working at the intersection of business and social change. Before launching FoF, Dahle was a director at Ashoka, where she distilled knowledge from the organization’s network of 2,500 fellows in order to provide strategic insight to foundations and corporations. Dahle spent more than a decade writing about social entrepreneurship. She founded and led Fast Company’s Social Capitalist awards, a competition to surface top social entrepreneurs. As the project manager, she helped design an evaluation methodology to measure compelling models for change.

FoF was born out of a research partnership led by Cheryl Dahle which included The David and Lucile Packard Foundation (currently FoF’s primary funder), Ashoka Change Makers, and Central, a design strategy firm. Through this process Dahle learned that over the last decade funding and policy change was directed, almost exclusively, toward two areas: adoption of sustainable fishing practices and reducing consumption of overharvested fish at the retail level. She also discovered that the middle of the supply chain, namely fish processing and distribution, was a largely ignored stuck point at the heart of the fisheries crisis.

So Dahle decided to put her extensive knowledge of social entrepreneurship to work by incubating a “cohort” of “co–entrepreneurs” consisting of industry pioneers and innovators, (16 so far with more on the waiting list), that were selected for their ability to transform this neglected part of the supply chain. Instead of just supporting each entrepreneur on an individual basis in growing their own business, as is typical in most incubators, FoF leads its cohort, representing all levels of the supply chain, through processes that amplify the success of others in the group. This gives FoF the ability to foster greater industry change than any one business could accomplish alone.

The clarity and strength of the FoF strategy, its pioneering quality, its counterintuitive, out-of-the- box insights, its holistic methodology, its applicability to other sectors, all adds up to FoF having the potential to be a critical trim tab in transforming the multi-billion dollar fishing industry and desitined to be an important model for 21st century social enterprise and impact investing.

 Learn More:

http://www.futureoffish.org/

Future of Fish Executive Summary

Future of Fish Full Report

The Buckminster Fuller Challenge

 

 

   READ MORE »


A Network of Farmers, Engineers, & Supporters Building the Global Village Construction Set

November 17, 2011 - 10:00:49 PM

The Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) is an open technological platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small civilization with modern comforts.  (Website)

A modern, comfortable lifestyle relies on a variety of efficient Industrial Machines. If you eat bread, you rely on an Agricultural Combine. If you live in a wood house, you rely on a Sawmill. Each of these machines relies on other machines in order for it to exist. If you distill this complex web of interdependent machines into a reproduceable, simple, closed-loop system, you get these Key Features:

  • Open Source - we freely publish our 3d designs, schematics, instructional videos, budgets, and product manuals on our open source wiki and we harness open collaboration with technical contributors.
  • Low-Cost - The cost of making or buying our machines are, on average, 8x cheaper than buying from an Industrial Manufacturer, including an average labor cost of hour for a GVCS fabricator.
  • Modular - Motors, parts, assemblies, and power units can interchange, where units can be grouped together to diversify the functionality that is achievable from a small set of units.
  • User-Serviceable - Design-for-disassembly allows the user to take apart, maintain, and fix tools readily without the need to rely on expensive repairmen.
  • DIY - (do-it-yourself) The user gains control of designing, producing, and modifying the GVCS tool set.
  • Closed Loop Manufacturing - Metal is an essential component of advanced civilization, and our platform allows for recycling metal into virgin feedstock for producing further GVCS technologies - thereby allowing for cradle-to-cradle manufacturing cycles
  • High Performance - Performance standards must match or exceed those of industrial counterparts for the GVCS to be viable.
  • Flexible Fabrication - It has been demonstrated that the flexible use of generalized machinery in appropriate-scale production is a viable alternative to centralized production.
  • Distributive Economics - We encourage the replication of enterprises that derive from the GVCS platform as a route to truly free enterprise - along the ideals of Jeffersonian democracy.
  • Industrial Efficiency - In order to provide a viable choice for a resilient lifestyle, the GVCS platform matches or exceeds productivity standards of industrial counterparts.