November 18, 2014

Why Private Companies Grow Fast in Socialist China

by @ 6:30 am. Filed under Capitalism, China, Socialism

 

By John Ross

SolidarityEconomy.net via China.org.cn

Nov 16, 2013 - This structure explains why China, a socialist country, has the world's most rapidly growing private sector. China affirms the dominance of its state sector, but whereas in the West state and private companies are seen as counterposed, in China, for the structural reasons given, they are seen as complementary.

The economic structure of China has produced the greatest economic growth in world history. As Nicholas Lardy, one of the chief U.S. writers on China's economy, recently summarized: "China's growth since economic reform began in the late 1970s is unprecedented in global economic history. No other country has grown as rapidly for as long."

China's economic structure reinforces the world's most dynamic private sector. While the state should not own companies in sectors dominated by small scale competition, and in China it does not, this does not mean such companies do not require the state. Economic theory shows an efficient competitive market requires preconditions - perfect knowledge of market conditions, simultaneous price adjustments, and minimal or zero transport costs.

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November 16, 2014

Radical New Economic System Will Emerge from Collapse of Capitalism

Domino effect

Current economic system is headed for collapse says Jeremy Rifkin. Photograph: Linda Nylind/Linda

Political adviser and author Jeremy Rifkin believes that the creation of a super internet heralds new economic system that could solve society’s sustainability challenges

By Jo Confino

SolidarityEconomy.net via The Guardian, UK

Nov. 7, 2014 - At the very moment of its ultimate triumph, capitalism will experience the most exquisite of deaths.

This is the belief of political adviser and author Jeremy Rifkin, who argues the current economic system has become so successful at lowering the costs of production that it has created the very conditions for the destruction of the traditional vertically integrated corporation.

Rifkin, who has advised the European Commission, the European Parliament and heads of state, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, says:

No one in their wildest imagination, including economists and business people, ever imagined the possibility of a technology revolution so extreme in its productivity that it could actually reduce marginal costs to near zero, making products nearly free, abundant and absolutely no longer subject to market forces.

With many manufacturing companies surviving only on razor thin margins, they will buckle under competition from small operators with virtually no fixed costs.

“We are seeing the final triumph of capitalism followed by its exit off the world stage and the entrance of the collaborative commons,” Rifkin predicts.

The creation of the collaborative commons

From the ashes of the current economic system, he believes, will emerge a radical new model powered by the extraordinary pace of innovation in energy, communication and transport.

“This is the first new economic system since the advent of capitalism and socialism in the early 19th century so it’s a remarkable historical event and it’s going to transform our way of life fundamentally over the coming years,” Rifkin says. “It already is; we just haven’t framed it.”

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November 13, 2014

US-China Climate Deal a Turning Point

by @ 10:34 am. Filed under China, Climate, Green Energy

Thank You, John Podesta!

President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China at a joint news conference Wednesday in Beijing, China. (Photo: Feng Li/Getty Images)

By Tom Hayden

SolidarityEconomy.net via TomHayden.com

Nov. 12, 2014 - Top presidential aide, John Podesta, slipped off to Beijing last month to secretly negotiate the US-China climate agreement announced this week. One might say, borrowing from Naomi Klein, that "this changes everything." Podesta simply notes, "It's a big deal."

The climate strategy based on diplomacy with China has been pursued by President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, California Governor Jerry Brown and environmental groups including NRDC, which has a staff of thirty there. The new announcement opens the path for a growing Green Bloc of regions building clean energy economies while waiting and wondering about the commitments of the greatest power emitters. Between them, China and the US are responsible for 40 percent of carbon emissions.

Regional grass-roots strategies have been the catalysts. In China, the angry residents of cities like Beijing are challenging the state over deadly smog. In the US, environmentalists and social justice activists have built constituencies in many states, led by California. Three Chinese provinces already are working on collaborative clean energy programs with California.

The US-China agreement overnight supercharges the quest for a global agreement by 2015 in Paris. It will raise expectations for the drafting meeting scheduled to begin in Lima December 1. It breathes new life into California's effort to find partners. California is being urged by environmentalists to at least double its pace on the road to a 100 percent renewable energy economy by mid-century.

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November 12, 2014

Tapping Our Local Fusion Energy Reactor, Since Every Solar System Has One

by @ 2:51 pm. Filed under China, Green Energy, Green Industry, Solar

Looking Forward: the Sun Could Be the World's Top Source of Energy in 2050

The International Energy Agency predicts solar power will supply nearly 30 percent of the world's electricity.

By Kristine Wong

SolidarityEconomy.net via TakePart.com

Sept 30, 2014 - If the International Energy Agency is right, you just might want to invest in solar company stocks: According to the IEA, the sun could be the world’s No. 1 source of energy by 2050.

The agency predicts in two new reports that solar will meet nearly a third of the world’s electricity demand, with photovoltaic panels like those found on residential rooftops generating 16 percent of the planet’s power. Solar thermal power plants, which use the sun’s heat to create steam that drives a turbine, will supply another 11 percent.

Replacing fossil fuels with all that solar energy would avoid the release of 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide by mid-century. That’s nearly equivalent to the carbon emissions of all planes, trains, and automobiles worldwide, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a Washington, D.C.–based trade group.

“This report reiterates what we already know: Clean, renewable solar energy is poised to meet our electricity needs,” SEIA spokesperson Ken Johnson said in an email.

What’s driving the solar boom?

China, largely. The country is expected to account for 37 percent of the world’s solar capacity by 2050. The rapid expansion of the Chinese photovoltaic panel industry has helped make solar electricity increasingly affordable and competitive with fossil fuels. Solar panel prices, for instance, have fallen 80 percent in recent years, and by 2050, the IEA predicts the retail cost of solar electricity will drop by 65 percent.

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November 6, 2014

Millionaire Grocery Clerks: The Amazing WinCo Foods Story

by @ 4:20 pm. Filed under Economic Democracy, Solidarity Economy

Customers bag their own groceries at a WinCo foods location (Credit: Joe Jaszewski/AP)

By Mary Josephs

SolidarityEconomy.net via Forbes

In Corvallis, Oregon, a couple miles north of the Oregon State University campus, sits a WinCo Foods discount supermarket and, unless you’re in need of groceries, you might drive by without noticing it. I assure you, however, it’s an extraordinary building, a laboratory of capitalism worthy of pilgrimages by the world’s great business schools.

Inside the store labor 130 employees of WinCo – grocery clerks, shelf stockers, display builders, bakery workers – and their combined retirement savings roughly comes to an astounding $100 million. And that figure is growing rapidly, such that in a few years the average wealth of these employees could easily exceed $1 million. Quite a few individual workers already have account balances above that level.

Outside of Wall Street and Silicon Valley, the WinCo store represents an unusually concentrated – and unlikely — grouping of millionaires. The secret to their wealth is employee ownership. Since 1985, WinCo, which operates 98 stores across eight states from its headquarters in Boise , Idaho, has been employee owned, with an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or ESOP, as the vehicle for its workers’ main retirement savings. (WinCo also has a 401k and about 70% of workers participate.)

The company is by all indications well managed, grows steadily and provides its clientele of families on a budget a combination of low prices, wide selection and efficient and friendly service. Sales for fiscal 2015 are expected at about $6 billion. Same store sales growth and expansion into new markets have propelled WinCo’s profits and thus its ESOP stock past competitors and, indeed, past most growth stocks. The shares have risen at a compounded annual rate of about 20% since 1986. Purchased for $10 million from its former owners in 1985, company workers today hold shares valued at close to $3 billion.

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November 4, 2014

Chinese-led Consortium Wins Mexican High-Speed Rail contract

by @ 6:57 am. Filed under China, Green Industry, High Design, High-Speed Rail
Alternately, Why the US Is Crippled by Lack of a Green Industrial Policy

Chinese-led consortium wins Mexican rail contract

CRH380 (China Railway High-speed) Harmony bullet trains are seen at a high-speed train maintenance base in Wuhan, Hubei province, early Dec 25, 2012. (Photo / Agencies)

By Xinhua

Nov. 4, 2014 - MEXICO CITY - A Chinese-led consortium has won the bid to build Mexico's first high-speed train project, local media reported Monday.

Mexico's Ministry of Communications and Transport (SCT) announced at a press conference that the group, which includes the China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) and a handful of Mexican construction firms had been granted the contract.

The 50.8-billion-pesos (about US$3.7 billion) project involves building a bullet train line to connect the national capital of Mexico City with the growing industrial hub of Queretaro to the north by 2017. It is expected to shorten travel times from about 2 hours to less than one hour. 

"Today the results of the bidding on the Mex-Qro High-Speed Train were released (and) the winner is China's CRCC company," SCT head Gerardo Ruiz Esparza said via Twitter.

The SCT's director of Rail Transport, Pablo Suarez Coello, told reporters that "China's Exim Bank will finance 85 percent of the project," the daily Excelsior said.

A second high-speed train is being considered to link Mexico City with Toluca, the capital of the industrial central State of Mexico.



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October 29, 2014

Methane Clouds: Yet Another Reason to Transition to Green Renewables

by @ 6:14 am. Filed under Environment, Green Energy

NASA Confirms A 2,500-Square-Mile Cloud Of Methane Floating Over US Southwest

By Mike G

SolidarityEconomy.net via desmogblog,com

When NASA researchers first saw data indicating a massive cloud of methane floating over the American Southwest, they found it so incredible that they dismissed it as an instrument error.
But as they continued analyzing data from the European Space Agency’s Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Chartography instrument from 2002 to 2012, the “atmospheric hot spot” kept appearing.


The team at NASA was finally able to take a closer look, and have now concluded that there is in fact a 2,500-square-mile cloud of methane—roughly the size of Delaware—floating over the Four Corners region, where the borders of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah all intersect.


A report published by the NASA researchers in the journal Geophysical Research Letters concludes that “the source is likely from established gas, coal, and coalbed methane mining and processing.” Indeed, the hot spot happens to be above New Mexico's San Juan Basin, the most productive coalbed methane basin in North America.

Methane is 20-times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, and has been the focus of an increasing amount of attention, especially in regards to methane leaks from fracking for oil and natural gas. Pockets of natural gas, which is 95-98% methane, are often found along with oil and simply burned off in a very visible process called “flaring.” But scientists are starting to realize that far more methane is being released by the fracking boom than previously thought.


Earlier this year, Cornell environmental engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea released the results of a study of 41,000 oil and gas wells that were drilled in Pennsylvania between 2000 and 2012, and found newer wells using fracking and horizontal drilling methods were far more likely to be responsible for fugitive emissions of methane.


According to the NASA researchers, the region of the American Southwest over which the 2,500-square-mile methane cloud is floating emitted 590,000 metric tons of methane every year between 2002 and 2012—almost 3.5 times the widely used estimates in the European Union’s Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research—and none of it was from fracking.
That should prompt a hard look at the entire fossil fuel sector, not just fracking, according to University of Michigan Professor Eric Kort, the lead researcher on the study:


“While fracking has become a focal point in conversations about methane emissions, it certainly appears from this and other studies that in the US, fossil fuel extraction activities across the board likely emit higher than inventory estimates.”



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October 28, 2014

A Job Builder Worth Fighting For: City-Owned SuperFast and LowCost WiFi

Brad Shirley installs a wireless mesh access point in Foxwood Heights at the intersection of Peggy Lane and Line Street in  Chattanooga

32 US Cities Commit to Community-owned Broadband Internet Access

By Cat Johnson

SolidarityEconomy.net via Sharable

Oct 21, 2014 - This past Monday, a coalition of representatives from 32 cities across the U.S. joined together to address the pressing need for fast, reliable and affordable high-speed Internet. Organized by Next Century Cities, the bipartisan initiative is designed to help cities create their own community broadband networks because big telecom companies don’t provide broadband to all areas of the country.

Among the challenges facing city leaders trying to implement community broadband service are cost, infrastructure issues, and the reality that in many places there are laws that prohibit community broadband. As Jason Koebler, staff writer at Motherboard reports, “Throughout the country, companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, CenturyLink, and Verizon have signed agreements with cities that prohibit local governments from becoming internet service providers and prohibit municipalities from selling or leasing their fiber to local startups who would compete with these huge corporations.”

The Next Century Cities coalition will work together to bring competitive, gigabit speed Internet to their cities as a way to create jobs, improve health care and education, offer residents vital infrastructure and attract business. Two of the member cities, Wilson, North Carolina, and Chattanooga, Tennessee already have gigabit service and Austin, Texas has Google fiber. Their experience will be vital in helping other cities challenge big telecom business for the right to create community broadband.

In a statement, Deb Socia, Executive Director of Next Century Cities said that the mayors are "rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done and that Next Century Cities will be there to support their goals."

“Across the country, city leaders are hungry to deploy high-speed Internet," she says, "to transform their communities and connect residents to better jobs, better health care, and better education for their children."

The plan for Next Century Cities is to “engage with and assist communities in developing and deploying next-generation broadband Internet.” In sharing best practices, information and strategies, participating cities will learn from each other and raise awareness of the fact that high-speed Internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessary utility.



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October 22, 2014

Why It Matters if You Have a Green Industrial Policy vs. a Military-Industrial Policy

China’s High-Speed Bid for California

ShanghaiDaily.com

Oct.  22, 2014 - STATE-BACKED China CNR Corporation is making a pitch to sell its high-speed trains to California, signaling China’s growing export ambitions for such technology after building the world’s longest network in just seven years.

It marks the first concrete attempt by China to sell high-speed locomotives abroad and establish itself as a credible rival to sector leaders such as Germany’s Siemens, Canada’s Bombardier and Japan’s Kawasaki.

CNR, its unit Tangshan Railway and US-based SunGroup USA are submitting an expression of interest to California’s US$68 billion high-speed rail project for a contract to supply up to 95 trains that can travel up to 354 kilometres per hour, SunGroup said.

“We believe that high-speed rail is something that China does very well, and it’s a product that we can export across the world,” SunGroup spokesman Jonathan Sun said, adding that SunGroup, CNR and Tangshan Railway had been working together for four years.

Manufacturers are expected to send in expressions of interest by today’s deadline to the California High Speed Railway Authority, which will later issue formal requests for proposals. About a dozen firms from places such as Japan and Spain are expected to compete, it said.

California has been candid about its desire for Chinese investment in the 1,287-kilometer line from Los Angeles to San Francisco. US media reports said governor Jerry Brown met Chinese rail officials in April last year, including those from Tangshan Railway, to discuss the project.

No estimates for the contract’s value have been published, but in its 2014 business plan the California High Speed Railway Authority estimated each trainset would cost US$45 million, based on a purchase of 70 vehicles.

“We haven’t officially gone out to bid yet. This is us saying to the industry that we need trainsets. They have to meet these standards,” said Lisa Marie Alley, deputy director of public affairs at the High-Speed Rail Authority.

She added: “We’re asking: ‘Are you interested in learning more, and do you think you could do this for us?’”

China has made no secret of its desire to export its high-speed technology abroad, having built over 12,000 kilometers of track at home in less than a decade. CNR and CSR Corp are China’s largest locomotive makers, while China Railway Construction and China Railway Group build track.

The country has helped or indicated its interest to build thousands of kilometers of high-speed track in countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, though it has yet to sell a high-speed train abroad. Premier Li Keqiang has led a drive to promote the technology in Thailand, Britain, Russia and India.

A Chinese consortium was the only competitor to present a bid for a tender to build a 210-kilometer high-speed line in Mexico, the Mexican government said last week.

Project details published on SunGroup’s website show the consortium is putting forward the CRH380BL train, a model used on the Shanghai-Beijing line, which can travel as fast as 380kph.

Sun said an initial order would probably be about 18-20 trains and that they would open a factory to make the trains in California if they won the bid, as required by US law.



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October 15, 2014

Robotics: How Capitalism Is Making Conditions for Its Own Demise

by @ 10:52 am. Tags:
Filed under Capitalism, Cybernation, Technology, Unemployment
For as Little $20,000, Machines Handle the Tedious—With No Lunch Breaks; 'Fred, Hand Me That Wrench'

Robots Working Their Way Into Small Factories 

Photo By Taylor Glascock, WSJ

By Timothy Aeppel

SolidarityEconomy.net via The Wall Street Journal

Sept. 17, 2014 - Robots aren't just for the big guys anymore.

A new breed of so-called collaborative machines—designed to work alongside people in close settings—is changing the way some of America's smaller manufacturers do their jobs.

The machines, priced as low as $20,000, provide such companies—small jewelry makers and toy makers among them—with new incentives to automate to increase overall productivity and lower labor costs.

At Panek Precision Inc., a Northbrook, Ill., machine shop, 21 shiny new robots hum as they place metal parts into cutting machines and remove the parts after they are done. It's a tedious and oily task once handled by machine operators who earn about $16.50 an hour.

One new robot doubled the output from a machine that was previously operated by a worker "because robots work overnight and don't take lunch breaks and they just keep going," says Gregg Panek, the company's president. In some cases, the robots, which are single articulated arms, can even hold a part while it's getting cut since there is no danger of injury.

Robots have been on factory floors for decades. But they were mostly big machines that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and had to be caged off to keep them from smashing into humans. Such machines could only do one thing over and over, albeit extremely fast and precisely. As a result, they were neither affordable nor practical for small businesses.

Collaborative robots can be set to do one task one day—such as picking pieces off an assembly line and putting them in a box—and a different task the next.

Some are mobile and able to range freely inside a factory. The use of advanced sensors means they stop or reposition themselves when a person gets in their way, solving a safety issue that long kept robots out of smaller factories.

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October 8, 2014

In the Works: Totally Transparent Solar Cells Could Turn Our Windows Into Solar Panels

by @ 10:09 am. Filed under Green Energy, High Design, Solar

‘Ultimately, we want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there.’

By Ben Shiller

SolidarityEconomy.net via Fast CoExist 

In the future, you'll be able to charge your phone just by placing it in the sun, and you'll generate electricity through your windows, not just from the panels on the roof. How? By covering glass in a material that captures energy from the invisible parts of the light spectrum, but still lets in visible light. In other words: translucent solar cells.

"When you look at tall buildings, there is a tremendous amount of surface area. They can act as efficient collectors throughout the day," says Richard Lunt, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Michigan State University. "In many buildings, we are already installing films to reject infrared light to reduce [heating and cooling] costs. We aim to do something similar while also generating power."

Molecules in the film absorb energy and "glow." The glowing infrared light is then pushed to the sides, where it's converted to electricity using edge-mounted strips of solar cells.

Lunt has co-founded a company, Ubiquitous Energy, to commercialize his team's work. He reckons we could see the first applications within five years.

It's likely the films won't be as efficient as solar panels, even today's relatively inefficient versions. At the moment, they convert only about 1% of incoming energy, compared to a typical rate of 20% for today solar panels. But the films could be cost-effective if spread over large areas--say on the side of skyscrapers. They could also be a useful addition to tablets and smartphones.

"Ultimately we want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there," Lunt says.

Ben Schiller is a New York-based staff writer for Co.Exist, and also contributes to the FT and Yale e360. He used to edit a European management magazine, and worked as a reporter in San Francisco, Prague and Brussels



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October 1, 2014

High Design: Breakthrough in Storage Makes Wind and Solar More Affordable

by @ 10:39 am. Filed under Green Energy, Green Industry, High Design

Led by Professor Donal Sadoway, the team at MIT has produced a new all-liquid battery with improved life and a lower cost than previous versions (Photo: M. Scott Brauer)

MIT's improved all-liquid battery could make renewable energy more competitive

By Nick Lavars

SolidarityEconomy.net via Nature

Sept 24, 2014 - By playing around with materials, researchers have reduced the operating temperature of an all-liquid battery to 450-500° C (842-932° F) (Image: Felice Frankel)

By playing around with materials, researchers have reduced the operating temperature of an...

Our ability to store energy has proven a big hurdle in the adoption of renewable energies. But now a team of researchers from MIT has developed a new all-liquid battery system that extends the life of such devices while also costing less to make, a development they say could make wind and solar energy more competitive with traditional sources of power.

Donald Sadoway, a professor of Materials Chemistry at MIT, has been exploring the potential of electrical-grid-scale liquid batteries for some time. These batteries comprise layers of molten material, the varying densities of which cause the layers to separate naturally, much like oil and water.

With magnesium used for one electrode, antimony for another and molten salt serving as the electrolyte, these systems needs to be heated to 700° C (1,292° F) to operate. But the researchers found that exchanging some of the materials, using one electrode made from lithium and another from a combination of lead and antimony, reduces the operating temperature to 450-500° C (842-932° F).

What truly surprised the researchers was the benefits of both the antimony and lead when mixed together to create the electrode. They had anticipated that the higher voltage of the antimony would be compromised by the lead, and the lead's lower melting point would be compromised by the addition of the antimony. Rather, they found that, while the combined melting point lay in between that of the individual materials, the hybrid metal retained the higher voltage of the antimony.

"We hoped (the characteristics of the two metals) would be nonlinear,” Sadoway says. “They proved to be (nonlinear), but beyond our imagination. There was no decline in the voltage. That was a stunner for us.”

Because the new version of the battery can operate at a lower temperature, the researchers say it will be easier to design and have a longer life, in addition to a lower overall cost. In testing, they found that after 10 years of daily charging and discharging, the battery should maintain about 85 percent of its initial efficiency. They claim this initial efficiency to be around 70 percent, a similar level to pumped-hydro systems which require both large water masses and hillsides to function.

"The fact that we don’t need a mountain, and we don’t need lots of water, could give us a decisive advantage,” says Sadoway.

He and his team will explore the effects of other metals on the battery system and are hopeful of further reducing its cost and operating temperature and improving overall performance.

The team's research was published in the journal Nature.



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September 27, 2014

High Design: How to Make Stronger, ‘Greener’ Cement

by @ 5:51 am. Filed under Environment, Green Industry, High Design

Analysis of material's molecular structure leads to a new formula that could cut greenhouse-gas emissions

By David L. Chandler

MIT News Office

Sept 25, 2014 - Concrete is the world’s most-used construction material, and a leading contributor to global warming, producing as much as one-tenth of industry-generated greenhouse-gas emissions. Now a new study suggests a way in which those emissions could be reduced by more than half — and the result would be a stronger, more durable material.

The findings come from the most detailed molecular analysis yet of the complex structure of concrete, which is a mixture of sand, gravel, water, and cement. Cement is made by cooking calcium-rich material, usually limestone, with silica-rich material — typically clay — at temperatures of 1,500 degrees Celsius, yielding a hard mass called “clinker.” This is then ground up into a powder. The decarbonation of limestone, and the heating of cement, are responsible for most of the material’s greenhouse-gas output.

The new analysis suggests that reducing the ratio of calcium to silicate would not only cut those emissions, but would actually produce better, stronger concrete. These findings are described in the journal Nature Communications by MIT senior research scientist Roland Pellenq; professors Krystyn Van Vliet, Franz-Josef Ulm, Sidney Yip, and Markus Buehler; and eight co-authors at MIT and at CNRS in Marseille, France.

“Cement is the most-used material on the planet,” Pellenq says, noting that its present usage is estimated to be three times that of steel. “There’s no other solution to sheltering mankind in a durable way — turning liquid into stone in 10 hours, easily, at room temperature. That’s the magic of cement.”

In conventional cements, Pellenq explains, the calcium-to-silica ratio ranges anywhere from about 1.2 to 2.2, with 1.7 accepted as the standard. But the resulting molecular structures have never been compared in detail. Pellenq and his colleagues built a database of all these chemical formulations, finding that the optimum mixture was not the one typically used today, but rather a ratio of about 1.5.

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September 17, 2014

High Design Solves Solar Power Problem

by @ 5:51 pm. Filed under Green Energy, High Design, Solar

Scrobby: The autonomous solar panel-scrubbing robot

Scrobby is an autonomous robot prototype designed to keep domestic solar panels clean and ...

Scrobby is an autonomous robot prototype designed to keep domestic solar panels clean and clear

 

By Colin Jeffrey

SolidarityEconomy.net via gizmag.org

Sept 16, 2014 - Solar panels need regular cleaning to ensure they are working at their optimum efficiency, and spraying them with the hose from the ground or relying on a heavy downpour won't necessarily get the job done. Like the windows on your house, they need to be scrubbed and polished for maximum effect. Enter Scrobby, a solar-powered, autonomous robot prototype designed to keep domestic solar panels clean and clear.

Designed to wash and scrub solar panels positioned at angles of up to 75 degrees, just one Scrobby is purported to be able to clean a solar array measuring up to 10 x 20 m (32.5 x 65 ft) – and this is only because its wire tether will only stretch that far.

The wire tether, however, is only for safety so that Scrobby has no chance of falling off the roof and destroying itself or, worse, hitting some unsuspecting passer-by on the head. Scrobby actually takes user commands from an app contained on a smartphone or tablet and also sends details of its schedule to the same app via Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity.

(more...)

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September 16, 2014

Vermont’s Largest City Now Using 100% Renewable Energy Sources

by @ 7:28 am. Filed under Green Energy, Solar, Urban Problems, Wind Power

by Jen Hayden

SolidarityEconomy.net via DailyKOS

This is awesome:

    Vermont’s largest city has a new success to add to its list of socially conscious achievements: 100 percent of its electricity now comes from renewable sources such as wind, water and biomass.

    With little fanfare, the Burlington Electric Department crossed the threshold this month with the purchase of the 7.4-megawatt Winooski 1 hydroelectric project on the Winooski River at the city’s edge.

The system isn't without a few hitches, like occasionally buying power from other areas, but they often generate more than they need and sell to other areas, so the two offset each other.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic ocean, Germany is going all-in on renewable energy:

    Of all the developed nations, few have pushed harder than Germany to find a solution to global warming. And towering symbols of that drive are appearing in the middle of the North Sea.

    They are wind turbines, standing as far as 60 miles from the mainland, stretching as high as 60-story buildings and costing up to $30 million apiece. On some of these giant machines, a single blade roughly equals the wingspan of the largest airliner in the sky, the Airbus A380. By year’s end, scores of new turbines will be sending low-emission electricity to German cities hundreds of miles to the south.

    It will be another milestone in Germany’s costly attempt to remake its electricity system, an ambitious project that has already produced striking results: Germans will soon be getting 30 percent of their power from renewable energy sources. Many smaller countries are beating that, but Germany is by far the largest industrial power to reach that level in the modern era. It is more than twice the percentage in the United States.

Come on, America! It's time to get on the ball and tap into our renewable energy power—from sea to shining sea.



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