October 11, 2015

High Design: Get Your Fresh Veggies from Farmerless Farms

by @ 2:46 pm. Filed under Green Industry, High Design, Technology

This Robot-Run Indoor Farm Can Grow 10 Million Heads Of Lettuce A Year

This massive Japanese vegetable factory saves water and energy—along with human labor.

By Adele Peters

Solidarityeconomy.net via Fast Comany

When a sprawling new "vegetable factory" opens near Kyoto, Japan in 2017, it will be the first farm with no farmers. Robots will plant lettuce seeds, transplant them, raise the vegetables, and automatically carry the fully-grown lettuce heads to a packing line, where they can get ready to be sent to local grocery stores.

In a single day, the farm can harvest 30,000 heads of lettuce. On a traditional farm, a field of the same size can grow about 26,000 plants—but only harvest two or four crops a season.

Spread, the Japanese company planning the factory, opened its first indoor farm in 2006, and already supplies lettuce to 2,000 stores around Tokyo. But it saw the opportunity to make its process even more efficient. It sees the new farm as a model for the future of farming.

"There are several reasons vegetable factories will be needed in the future in order to create a sustainable society," says Kiyoka Morita from Spread. Like other indoor farms, Spread's new factory uses far less water than traditional agriculture; the factory's new technology also allows them to recycle 98% of that water. Because the factory is sealed, there's no need for pesticides or herbicides. The ultra-efficient lighting system can run on renewable energy. Japan imports about 60% of its food each year, but the factory can supply it locally.



October 8, 2015

High Design: Meet The Electric Bus That Could Push Every Other Polluting Bus Off The Road

by @ 4:59 pm. Filed under Green Industry, High Design, Mass Transit

On a single charge it can already travel farther than a typical city bus does in a day.

By Adele Peters

Solidarityeconomy.net via Fast Company

Electric cars might be sexier. But Ryan Popple, who was an early employee at Tesla, is now convinced that electric buses are more interesting.

Proterra, the startup Popple runs, designed a sleek new electric bus that drove 258 miles on a single charge in a recent test. That's farther than most tiny electric cars can go and also farther than a daily city bus route.

That means it's ready to start to replace the hundreds of thousands of diesel buses in the country, most of which average less than five miles to the gallon and pump out carbon pollution, soot, and carcinogens like arsenic.

Because the bus saves on fuel, it's actually cheaper over a lifetime of use than alternatives, including hybrid-diesel buses or those running on natural gas. And it's something that anyone can use, democratizing the most advanced alternative transportation technology.

"We're taking a technology that's used to power $100,000 sports cars, and we're putting it into the absolute most accessible transportation asset in the country," says Popple.

Like Tesla, Proterra designed its vehicle from scratch. "I think it's important to cut ties with the legacy technology," he says. "If you tell your engineering group one of the rules they have to stick by is they have to use all the old parts from the parts bin, you're going to end up with a terrible product."

Because electric vehicles work in a fundamentally different way than something that runs on gas or diesel, the old designs don't make sense. The engine is no longer the heaviest part, and you don't have to worry about exhaust or a tank of flammable liquid. New parts—like battery packs—need to go in different places.

Some parts of the new design that were optimized for electricity also have other advantages. The bus is made from carbon fiber so it's ultra-lightweight, so the battery system doesn't have to be as big. But because it isn't made of metal, it also doesn't rust and lasts longer on the road. The weight is distributed more evenly than on a regular bus, so it's also better at acceleration and turning.

It's even easier to manufacture. "Long term, we have a huge advantage over steel bus manufacturers," Popple says. "They're building buses like you'd build a house. They build a steel frame, they rivet things onto it. At our factory, we take in a composite body just like an aircraft fuselage."



October 7, 2015

Radical New Economic System Will Emerge from Collapse of Capitalism

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.”

Some sectors, such as music and media, have already been disrupted as a result of the internet’s ability to let individuals and small groups compete with the major established players. Meanwhile, the mainstreaming of 3D printing and tech advances in logistics – such as the installation of billions of intelligent sensors across supply chains – means this phenomenon is now spreading from the virtual to the physical world, Rifkin says.

Climate change

The creation of a new economic system, Rifkin argues, will help alleviate key sustainability challenges, such as climate change and resource scarcity, and take pressure off the natural world. That’s because it will need only a minimum amount of energy, materials, labour and capital.

He says few people are aware of the scale of danger the human race is facing, particularly the growing levels of precipitation in the atmosphere, which is leading to extreme weather.

“Ecosystems can’t catch up with the shift in the planet’s water cycle and we’re in the sixth extinction pattern,” he warns. “We could lose 70% of our species by the end of this century and may be imperilling our ability to survive on this planet.”

Convergence of communication, energy and transport

Every economy in history has relied for its success on the three pillars of communication, energy, and transportation, but what Rifkin says makes this age unique is that we are seeing them converge to create a super internet.



October 5, 2015

Why Nuclear Power Is a Bad Idea: A Case in Point

by @ 8:08 am. Filed under Green Energy

Fukushima Four Years After The Nuclear Disaster Is A Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland

In these amazing photos, a photographer gets rare access to document the both extraordinary and mundane images of the Fukushima cleanup.Seven years ago, photographer and filmmaker Arkadiusz Podniesi?ski visited Chernobyl. This year, four years after the nuclear disaster in Japan, he took his camera to Fukushima to document the similarities between the two post-nuclear-disaster sites, and see how the cleanup was progressing.

Fukushima is divided into three zones: red, orange, and green. In the green zone, the cleanup has almost been finished. The topsoil has been removed and cleaned. Homes have been decontaminated, and soon residents will be allowed to return.

But Podniesi?ski was more interested in the orange and red zones. In the orange zone, where residents can visit but not stay overnight, he found farmer Naoto Matsumura, who returned illegally to live because "he could not bear to see whole herds of cattle wandering aimlessly in the empty streets when their owners had fled the radiation."

The red zone is deserted, but for the police who regularly checked Podniesi?ski’s difficult-to-secure permits. The place is eerie and peaceful. The earthquake and the tsunami that sent the nuclear plant into meltdown didn’t damage the entire town, so many deserted buildings stand intact. An abandoned motorbike stands tangled in weeds that have grown up through cracks in the concrete floor, and dumped cars are hidden in overgrowth.

Stopped clocks in a primary school still show the time they stood when the tsunami cut power to the region. Inside the school, computers remain on desks, while trophies are piled haphazardly inside glass-fronted cabinets after the earthquake shook them off their shelves. The gymnasium remains almost untouched, perfect except for deep hollows where the floors collapsed into the earth below. (Continued)



September 24, 2015

Dublin Considers Modular Homes for the Homeless

by @ 1:24 pm. Filed under Economic Democracy, Urban Problems


The DRHE is part of Dublin City Council and is responsible for tackling homelessness across the ... 

The DRHE is part of Dublin City Council and is responsible for tackling homelessness across the city's four local authorities (Credit: DRHE)

Image Gallery (23 images)


By Stu Robarts

Solidarityeconomy.net via Gizmag 

According to the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), there were 607 families in emergency accommodation in Dublin during August this year. One means of reducing this, it says, could be the use of modular housing. It can be built quickly and inexpensively to house homeless families temporarily.

Modular housing is already being used to accommodate the homeless elsewhere. Only recently, for example, the Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners-designed Y:Cube was opened in London, having been developed by the YMCA charity. As is the case with Y:Cube, the DRHE hopes that modular housing could provide an interim solution between people being homeless and getting back into the housing market proper.

The DRHE is part of Dublin City Council and is responsible for tackling homelessness across the city's four local authorities. As part of a conversation about how to get families in homeless accommodation back into normal housing, it has produced a demonstration development of six modular houses.

The scheme is aimed at showing what modular homes look like and how they are designed. Its purpose is to inform the discussion about the viability of modular housing as a solution to homelessness.



September 21, 2015

Montana: Free Transit Attracts Riders, Helps Communities in More Ways Than One


By Monique Wahba

Mobility Lab via Solidarityeconomy.net

Sept 16, 2015 -In January, Missoula, Montana’s transit agency, Mountain Line, began a three-year, “zero-fare” demonstration project on its fixed-route and door-to-door services, meaning boarding passengers no longer pay to use the bus.

Implementing a zero-fare system was part of a larger transit improvement package that includes late-night service on its four most popular routes, increased frequency on key routes, and more door-to-door service to help senior and disabled residents.

The demonstration project costs $460,000 per year to operate. The University of Missoula and the city are its biggest funders, annually contributing $205,000 and $100,000, respectively. The balance is made up of 12 other community partners, including Missoula County, the metropolitan planning organization, hospitals and medical centers, public schools, the department for aging, downtown and parking associations, a shopping mall, and an affordable-housing provider.

According to a 2012 Transportation Research Board (TRB) report, Missoula is one of more than 35 communities in the United States that have implemented fare-free public transit systems. Mountain Line cites its inspiration as Corvallis, Oregon, where the Corvallis Transit System ridership grew by 37.9 percent in its first year of fare-less operation.

Mountain Line is aiming a bit higher. It serves just under one million bus riders each year and hopes to grow its ridership by 45 percent within three years. This would be an annual ridership increase of 400,000 or 1.4 million riders by the end of three years.

According to Bill Pfeiffer, Mountain Line’s community outreach coordinator, “In June 2015, just our 6th month of zero-fare service, we gave 50 percent more rides than in June of 2014. Before this February, Mountain Line had never broken the 100,000 ride barrier. We’ve broken 100,000 rides every month since, setting ridership records in every month of 2015. As of July 31st, overall ridership has already increased 26 percent from the previous year, and for the first time ever, our ridership increased during the summer months.”

Overall, throughout the country, zero-fare systems have resulted in many benefits, including:

   Lower administrative costs: The costs associated with charging and collecting fares, like acquiring fare boxes, issuing various tickets (transfer passes and monthly passes, for example) and enforcing the payment of  fares.

    Savings in travel time : With no fares to collect, passengers can board more quickly. Less time spent at the stops (known in planning lingo as “dwell time”), in turn, helps reduce travel time.
    Fuller buses: As current customers ride more often, ridership in the off-peak hours increases.

    Improved quality of life: Reductions in traffic yield less pollution and congestion, improving overall health and quality of life

    Enhanced community pride: More than just an amenity, having fare-free transit service is a source of community pride. It has even helped communities earn recognition, like state and national awards as “best places to live.” Missoula Mayor John Engen called the fare-free service “a feather in the community’s cap.”

   Modal shift: Up to 30 percent of the additional trips generated from operating with no fares come from people switching from other motorized modes. This is really significant because in my experience, transportation planners seem to always be talking about attracting “choice riders,” that is, riders who can afford to drive but choose to use other modes like transit. Typical suggestions center around providing nicer buses or more amenities at transit stops, but I’ve never heard anyone suggest offering reduced fares, let alone free ones. Isn’t it ironic that the way to entice those who have money to use transit is to offer them free service?

    Transit equity: By removing the fare requirement, transit service becomes accessible to everyone, regardless of income. I have heard of transit systems providing reduced fares for their low-income residents. To qualify, a person must submit documentation to prove their income falls below the stated threshold and must provide verification of income periodically to remain eligible for the subsidy. Just think about the bureaucracy this generates and the humiliation for the recipient. A fare-free system disposes of all of this.

    Improved transit image: According to Mountain Line, “When zero-fare community bus services are properly funded and maintained, the image of the buses changes from being the clunky transportation choice of last resort to the service that connects all elements of the community and provides equal opportunity to access all that a community offers.”

    Increased productivity of public investment: With zero-fare, the funding per passenger drops significantly and the effectiveness and productivity of public investments in transit are enhanced.

    Increased support from bus operators : Bus operators are reportedly very supportive of zero-fare policies in almost all locations where such service exists. Not having to collect and enforce fares frees them to answer passengers’ questions and focus on safe bus operation.

So with all these benefits, why don’t all transit agencies operate fare free? According to the TRB, fare-free public transit makes the most sense for systems in which the percentage of fare-box revenue-to-operating expenses is low.



September 17, 2015

‘Greener’ Plastic Recycling Uses No Water and Only Half the Energy

by @ 12:53 pm. Filed under Green Industry, High Design

Discarded plastic items await recycling (Photo: Shutterstock)

By Dario Borghino

Sept, 2015 - Mexican startup Ak Inovex has developed a new method of recycling plastic that does away with water and only consumes half the energy of previous systems. At the same time, it produces plastic pellets of equal or better quality, ?resulting in an environmentally friendlier process that also promises to be significantly cheaper.

Plastic recycling can turn discarded bottles and other scrap into a myriad of useful objects, helping produce anything from polyester clothes to 3D printing filaments and even diesel. However, it is a long, laborious affair that consumes plenty of resources? – ?especially water. Among other things, the plastic needs to be thoroughly washed to get rid of impurities, carefully dehydrated inside an oven, and then water-cooled once again as the newly-formed plastic filaments are cut into small pellets.

According to Marco Adame, the new method that his startup has come up with can produce pellets of equal or better quality using just half of the energy by getting rid of the need for these temperature extremes, while also doing away with the need for water altogether. The system uses special walls that, on contact, are able to both mold the plastic into the desired pellet shape and cool those pellets at the same time. (Continued)



September 3, 2015

Study Shows How the US Could Achieve 100% Renewable Energy by 2050

by @ 9:23 am. Filed under Green Energy, Solar, Wind Power


A study points the way to a renewable energy reliant United States in just 35 years

A study points the way to a renewable energy reliant United States in just 35 years (Credit: Shutterstock)


By Chris Wood


A team of researchers led by Stanford University's professor Mark Z. Jacobson has produced an ambitious roadmap for converting the energy infrastructure of the US to run entirely on renewable energy in just 35 years. The study focuses on the wide-scale implementation of existing technologies such as wind, solar and geothermal solutions, claiming that the transition is both economically and technically possible within the given timeframe.

As a starting point, the researchers looked at current energy demands on a state-by-state basis, before calculating how those demands are likely to evolve over the next three and a half decades. Splitting the energy use into residential, commercial, industrial and transportation categories, the team then calculated fuel demands if current generation methods – oil, gas, coal, nuclear and renewables – were replaced with electricity.

That already sounds like a mammoth task, but its true complexity comes to light when you consider that for the purposes of the study, absolutely everything has to run on electricity. That means everything from homes and factories to every vehicle on the road.

As it turns out, while the calculations might be complex, the results are extremely promising.

"When we did this across all 50 states, we saw a 39 percent reduction in total end-use power demand by the year 2050," said Jacobson. "About 6 percentage points of that is gained through efficiency improvements to infrastructure, but the bulk is the result of replacing current sources and uses of combustion energy with electricity."

In order for each state to make the transition, it would focus on the use of the most easily available renewable sources. For example, some states get a lot more sunlight than others, some have a greater number of south-facing rooftops, while coastal states can make use of offshore wind farms, and for others geothermal energy is a good option.

Interestingly, the plan doesn't involve the construction of new hydroelectric dams, but does call for improved efficiency of existing facilities. It would also only require a maximum of 0.5 percent of any one state's land to be covered in wind turbines or solar panels.



August 18, 2015

Australia’s Vast Geothermal Energy Resources Represent Thousands of Years Worth of Untapped Power

by @ 12:09 pm. Filed under Green Energy

Temperature readings taken in existing oil and gas bore holes indicate a huge amount of geothermal energy below the surface of Australia.

By Loz Blain

Solidarityeconomy.net via Gizmag

July, 5 2015 - Temperature readings taken in existing oil and gas bore holes indicate a huge amount of geothermal energy below the surface of Australia. (Credit: Australian Geothermal Energy Association)

Australia is sitting on top of some of the world's most potent geothermal energy sources, according to government estimates. Just one percent of the hot rock energy less than 5 km under the surface would be enough to meet the whole country's entire power needs for 26,000 years if it was tapped. So why aren't we seeing more movement on it?

Geothermal energy is a very handy, virtually inexhaustible clean energy source for those areas lucky enough to find themselves on top of it. Massive amounts of hot rock just below the Earth's surface can be used to heat water and drive steam turbines for reliable electricity generation with virtually no emissions or environmental impact.

Where wind and solar tend to generate power at inconvenient or uncontrollable times, geothermal can be easily regulated and is ready to go 24/7. Surveys testing the available heat in existing bore holes down to a depth of 5 km (3 miles) below the surface indicate that Australia is sitting on some seriously large hot rock resources, as shown in our lead image.

So why is this enormous resource apparently so underdeveloped?

Part of the answer is geographic. Much of Australia's hot rock is simply not conveniently located close to major cities. The big red splotch of prime red geothermal activity to the centre right of the map is more or less on top of a large, barren desert area several hundred kilometres from Sydney or Adelaide, and large scale power transmission can be an expensive proposition.

Another part is geological. Australia has a ton of hot rock, but not a lot of the highly porous rock that makes for easy power extraction. To generate power, you need to be able to pump large amounts of water into a deep rock hole and let the water filter through pores and cracks in the rock, picking up heat as it goes, and then pump the heated water back to the surface on the other side.



July 1, 2015

Brick-Laying Robot Can Build a Full-sized House in Two Days

by @ 5:54 am. Filed under Cybernation, High Design

The Hadrian robot can lay up to 1,000 bricks per hour

High Design Revolutionizing Productive Forces in Construction

By David Nield
Solidarityeconomy.net via Gizmag

June 30, 2015 - As robots get smarter, cheaper and more versatile, they're taking on a growing number of challenges – and bricklaying can now be added to the list. Engineers in Perth, Australia, have created a fully working house-building machine that can create the brick framework of a property in just two days, working about 20 times faster than a human bricklayer.

    Hadrian is expected to go into action next year
    The boom is auto-corrected 1,000 times per second
    The robotic arm will eventually sit on a truck

Named Hadrian (after Hadrian's Wall in the UK), the robot has a top laying speed of 1,000 bricks per hour, which works out as the equivalent of about 150 homes a year. Of course there's no need for the machine to sleep, eat or take tea breaks either, giving it another advantage over manual laborers.

At the heart of Hadrian is a 28 m (92 ft) articulated telescopic boom. Though mounted on an excavator in the photo below, the finished version will sit on a truck, allowing it easier movement from place to place. The robot brick-layer uses information fed from a 3D CAD representation of the home for brick placement, with mortar or adhesive delivered under pressure to the head of the boom.

The boom auto-corrects itself 1,000 times per second to prevent interference from vibrations or sway. The concept is similar to the additive manufacturing process used by 3D printers, and it's several steps up from the Tiger Stone paver we've featured in the past, which is able to lay out a pattern of bricks on a flat road.



June 20, 2015

China to Design New Russian High-Speed Railway

by @ 1:13 pm. Filed under China, High-Speed Rail, Mass Transit


An employee works on a high speed train model RH380B at a final assembly line of China CNR's Tangshan Railway Vehicle's factory in Tangshan, China. China is in talks with 28 countries including the United States, Russia and Brazil about high-speed rail projects. Photo: KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS

Russia forced to look east for development knowhow after fallout with West

By Paul Sonne
Wall St Journal

June 19, 2015 - ST. PETERSBURG, Russia—China has signed up to design a high-speed railway between the Russian cities of Moscow and Kazan, one of the first concrete examples of the new business with China that Russian officials have been pursuing with renewed vigor since falling out with the West.

A unit of Russia’s state-owned JSC Russian Railways signed a contract Thursday with the design unit of China’s state-controlled China Railway Group to come up with the plans for a 770 kilometer high-speed rail between the two Russian cities. The Chinese firm will work alongside two Russian companies for on the designs for a total cost of 20.8 billion rubles ($383 million) over the next two years, according to Russian Railways.

Once the designs are developed, a separate tender will be held for the actual construction of the rail link, which Russian Railways expects to cost 1.06 trillion rubles ($19.5 billion). It is “likely” China’s rail developers will land that massive contract as well, but it isn’t guaranteed, Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin said in an interview Friday at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum.

“It is quite likely,” Mr. Yakunin said. “Of course the one who is participating in the planning has an advantage. This is obvious.”

Still, he said the final decision will be based not on who participates in the design stage but rather on what kind of financing, loans and other guarantees are on offer from the bidders. He said the tender would take place once the design is done.

Since falling out with the West over the crisis in Ukraine, the Kremlin has fostered a new era of close relations with China, turning to the east in search of finance, energy and infrastructure investment amid crimped options in Europe and the U.S.



June 9, 2015

Why the Military-Industrial Complex is Bad for the Working Class

by @ 5:26 pm. Filed under militarism, Unemployment

They Are All Implicated: In the Grip of a Permanent War Economy

By Seymour Melman
SolidarityEconomy.net via Counterpunch

March 15, 2003 - Now, at the start of the twenty-first century, every major aspect of American life is being shaped by our Permanent War Economy.

Civilian manufacturing industries are being swept away as a war-focused White House and a compliant Congress sponsor deindustrialization of the U.S. (1) They favor production--in Mexico and China, where government powers bar independent unions. As production of both consumer goods and capital goods is moved out of America, unions and whole communities are decimated. Ghost towns are created across the country. That process is far along in industries that once invented machine tools, radios, and even TV's. Now the decay proceeds in "new economy" industries like computers and "Palm" type devices. The U.S. firms that sell such equipment typically assemble components that are manufactured elsewhere.

Capital goods have special importance in all this, for those are the tools and machines used to produce everything else. Jon Rynn has calculated that by 2004, 50% of all the production equipment required in the United States will have to be imported, mainly from Germany and Japan. (2)

Meanwhile, government financing is lavished without stint to promote every kind of war industry, and foreign investing by U.S. firms. The war priorities have depleted medical and education staffs. U.S. medical planning now includes programs to recruit large numbers of nurses from India. (3) Shortages of housing have caused a swelling of the homeless population in every major city. State and city governments across the country have become trained to bend to the needs of the military--giving automatic approvals to its spending without limit. The same officials cannot find money for affordable housing.

The Permanent War Economy of the United States has endured since the end of World War II in 1945. Since then the U.S. has been at war--somewhere--every year, in Korea, Nicaragua, Vietnam, the Balkans, Afghanistan--all this to the accompaniment of shorter military forays in Africa, Chile, Grenada, Panama.

So it should come as no surprise that there is no public "space" for dialogue on how to improve the quality of our lives. Such topics are subordinate to "how to make war". Congress under both Republican and Democratic control has voted the same war priorities into the federal budget.



May 4, 2015

Seeds of Real Communism: Workerless Factories

Robots with intelligent sensors is examining the products. (Photo/Gov.cn)

Manufacturing hub starts work on first zero-labor factory

China Daily
May 04, 2015

A manufacturing hub in South China's Guangdong province has begun constructing the city's first zero-labor factory, a signal that the local authorities are bringing into effect its "robot assembling line" strategy.

Dongguan-based private company Everwin Precision Technology Ltd is pushing toward putting 1,000 robots in use in its first phase of the zero-labor project, China National Radio reported. It said the company has already put first 100 robots on the assembly line.

"The 'zero-labor factory' does not mean we will not employ any humans, but what it means is that we will scale down the size of workers by up to 90 percent," said Chen Qixing, the company's board chairman.

After the work on smart factory started, Chen predicted that instead of 2,000 workers, the current strength of the workforce, the company will require only 200 to operate software system and backstage management.

Under the current pressure of labor shortage, calls to use smart robots in cities around the Pearl River Delta (PRD), including Foshan and Dongguan, are becoming louder.

"It is necessary to replace human workers with robots, given the severe labor shortage and mounting labor costs," said Di Suoling, head of Dongguan-based Taiwan Business Association.



April 23, 2015

Steal This Idea: City Water Generating Green Power

by @ 9:43 am. Filed under Green Energy, High Design

A previous LucidPipe installation, with one of the turbines visible inside the pipe (Photo: Lucid Energy)

Portland to Generate Electricity Within Its Own Water Pipes 

By Ben Coxworth
SolidarityEconomy.net via Gizmag

Feb17, 2015 - There's a lot of water constantly moving through the municipal pipelines of most major cities. While the water itself is already destined for various uses, why not harness its flow to produce hydroelectric power? Well, that's exactly what Lucid Energy's LucidPipe Power System does, and Portland, Oregon has just become the latest city to adopt it.

LucidPipe simply replaces a stretch of existing gravity-fed conventional pipeline, that's used for transporting potable water. As the water flows through, it spins four 42-inch (107-cm) turbines, each one of which is hooked up to a generator on the outside of the pipe. The presence of the turbines reportedly doesn't slow the water's flow rate significantly, so there's virtually no impact on pipeline efficiency.

A diagram of the system (Image: Lucid Energy)

The 200-kW Portland system was privately financed by Harbourton Alternative Energy, and its installation was completed late last December. It's now undergoing reliability and efficiency testing, which includes checking that its sensors and smart control system are working properly. It's scheduled to begin full capacity power generation by March.



April 16, 2015

Call the Midwife: A Green New Deal Struggles To Be Born

by @ 10:28 am. Filed under Climate, Green Energy

Is the Age of Renewable Energy Already Upon Us?

By Michael Klare
SolidarityEconomy.net via TomDispatch.com

April 16, 2015 - Consider the extremes of our present climate moment by the numbers. Recently, Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the former chief economist of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, did a little calculating. He was curious to find out just how much the planet’s temperature might rise if we managed to burn all the fossil fuel reserves that “can be extracted with today’s technology.”

Without beating around the (burning) bush, the answer he came up with was a staggering 16.2 degrees Fahrenheit. To put that in perspective, climate science suggests that unless we keep the temperature rise from the burning of fossil fuels under 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) catastrophic changes are likely to occur, including, as Greenstone points out, the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which will reshape human life on this planet in grim ways. And even that 3.6-degree mark might be too high. Add in another nearly 13 degrees of warming and you could have the definition of an uninhabitable planet (at least by humans).

It should give us all the chills -- or more appropriately, leave us with fever dreams of a future in which humanity was incapable of getting itself together, dealing with entrenched fossil fuel interests, and saving a planet that had for so many tens of thousands of years been the rather habitable home of our species.

On the other hand, look at Spain: as Juan Cole reported recently at his Informed Comment website, that country is now getting almost 70% of its electricity in ways that do not generate carbon dioxide. That’s little short of extraordinary. It’s possible that somewhere down the line that country could even become “the first net-carbon-zero G-20 state”! As of this March, it received 22.5% of its electricity from wind power (with solar trailing badly behind), 17.5% from hydro power, and 23.8% from nuclear power (which will make some environmentalists uneasy). And the country hopes to almost double its wind power contribution to 40% in the next five years.

In other words, depending on what you care to look at, this planet offers a grim vision of humanity preparing to scourge and flood its own home or -- and this is a new development -- a more hopeful one. In that, humanity, under pressure and moving too slowly by half, is nonetheless beginning to reshape our world yet again in unexpected ways, using new technology that is quickly becoming ever cheaper and easier to employ.

TomDispatch energy expert Michael Klare suggests today that while nothing may be settled, damage is clearly being done, and the fossil fuel machine remains deeply entrenched and determined, there are nonetheless unexpected signs that we, like the cavalry of movie fame, may finally be saddling up to ride to our own rescue. This is the sort of news that should stir the blood and soul in all of us. It should leave us thankful for the years of toil in the wilderness by climate activists like those at 350.org who have worked so hard to bring us to awareness of the dangers ahead, and of activists like those in the fossil fuel divestment movement who want to shake what may be the most profitable industry in history to its core. –Tom

Here’s Klare..

Don’t hold your breath, but future historians may look back on 2015 as the year that the renewable energy ascendancy began, the moment when the world started to move decisively away from its reliance on fossil fuels. Those fuels -- oil, natural gas, and coal -- will, of course, continue to dominate the energy landscape for years to come, adding billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon to the atmosphere.  For the first time, however, it appears that a shift to renewable energy sources is gaining momentum.  If sustained, it will have momentous implications for the world economy -- as profound as the shift from wood to coal or coal to oil in previous centuries. (Continued)



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