teslaA cryptic tweet from Tesla boss Elon Musk has got everyone talking about a potential new utility scale battery. So far, specific details are thin on the new battery designed for home use that Tesla’s announcing next week. But just based on what we do know, it’s a pretty big deal. The quest for a good battery that can store home-generated power is kind of like the holy grail for a renewable energy future. This one product might change everything. A New York Times article published earlier this week essentially sets up the problem that Tesla’s battery will solve. In Hawaii, 12 percent of homes have some kind of solar energy, by far the highest rate for any place in the US at the moment. In fact, that rate is growing too quickly—solar customers are dumping so much energy back onto the grid that they’re taxing the delicate and often aging infrastructure that was only designed to deliver power to homes. What’s happening in Hawaii is actually indicative of what’s going to be an issue everywhere as many cities start to see an increase in large-scale solar implementation: There’s going to be too much energy generated, and nowhere to put it. More on Gizmodo and the Times tells us that the wall mounted battery called the Powerall will be able to store 7 kilowatt hours on a daily cycle and will cost $3000 – a further 10 kWh storage capacity will be available for $3,500. A single run of a washing machine uses about 2.3 kWh, a refrigerator uses 0.2 kWh per day and flat screen TV 0.1 kWh per day.

short-haired_bee_masterFrom Friends of the Earth comes an important message from nature campaigner Sandra Bell who says “Laws protecting our most important nature sites, from Dartmoor to the North Yorkshire Moors, are at risk right now. Because of a review by the European Commission happening at the moment there’s a real danger these critical laws could be weakened. But if thousands of us say we want to defend these nature laws, the European Commission will have to protect them and make sure they are enforced. Please read my blog on why these laws matter and tell me your own reasons for protecting nature. As part of its review the European Commission has just launched a public consultation. The consultation asks why we want these laws, known as the Nature Directives. I’ve been working with partners across Europe on how to make it easy for all of us to respond. Please leave a comment on my blog saying why nature is important to you. It’s critical we stand up for existing nature laws. My blog gives plenty of reasons to defend them. But it’s not just about protecting our most important nature sites and species. Experts say we need to connect these sites by restoring nature across the country.  We all have personal connections to nature. We need to make sure everyone has access to thriving nature everywhere.  I’m looking forward to us all working together to achieve that. Thanks for stepping up for nature.”

The UK is in breach of European air quality standards and must draw up plans to reduce the amount of nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere, the Supreme Court has ruled.  The decision marks a major victory for environmental NGO ClientEarth, who brought the case to court in an effort to force Government to act. Nitrogen dioxide is mainly produced by diesel vehicles and can cause breathing difficulties for children, older people and asthmatics. The five Supreme Court judges ruled unanimously that “the Government must prepare and consult on new air quality plans for submission to the European Commission … no later than December 31 2015”.

The financial cost of air pollution in Europe stands at more than $1.6tn (£1.5tn) a year, a study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has found, equating to about a tenth of the GDP of the continent. While air pollution has long been known to be a major environmental burden, the costs in human and economic terms have not been categorised before. The costs come in the form of 600,000 premature deaths each year, and the sickness caused to hundreds of thousands of other people from preventable causes, such as pollution from small particles that come from the exhausts of diesel vehicles, and nitrogen dioxide, a gas that can inhibit breathing in vulnerable people.

Air pollution causes babies to be born smaller, according to a study of babies born just after the Beijing Olympics. The  Guardian tells us that the research surveyed the birth weights of 83,672 babies born in Beijing around the time of the 2008 Olympics, when the government closed down industry, raised vehicle emissions standards, stopped construction and introduced a license plate rotation to slash the number of vehicles on the road. The massive state intervention created a one-off natural laboratory in which air pollution levels in one of the most choked cities on Earth reduced by between 18% and 59% during the summer of 2008. Birth weights were an average of 23g higher for babies who were in the eight month of pregnancy during the summer of the Games than during the same period in 2007 and 2009 .

Orangutan3The winner of a major conservation prize has called on the Indonesian government to halt a road-building plan that threatens the last place on Earth where elephants, rhinoceros, tigers and orangutans live together. The plan for the Ladia Galaska road network has been approved by the Aceh government, but requires consent from the central minister for home affairs to go ahead. Panut Hadisiswoyo, who won a £35,000 Whitley Award on Wednesday for engaging north Sumatran communities on orangutan conservation, said the development would be a disaster for the densest remaining population of Sumatran orangutans. “The spatial plan must be cancelled and must be revised to include the Leuser ecosystem so that development is in line with the conservation goals in Sumatra,” said Hadisiswoyo. The plan currently makes no mention of the precious ecosystem it threatens.

A new report has revealed that the UK’s onshore wind industry contributed £906m to the UK economy last year, of which almost 30% directly benefits local areas.  The report, undertaken by BiGGAR Economics for RenewableUK, shows the industry’s contribution to the UK economy is increasing, having risen by 65% (£358mn) since 2012. It also shows that each megawatt of installed onshore wind has brought more than £2m to the UK over its lifetime, of which 69% is remaining in the UK.

Humpback_Whale_underwater_shotMany species of whales and dolphins are facing extinction – and are far more likely to die out than other marine creatures – regardless of human intervention by hunting. Ocean mammals are ten times more likely to die out than bivalves such as mussels and clams. The new research looked at the skeletal fossil records of sharks, whales, corals, molluscs and other animals .  And one in six of the planet’s species will be lost forever to extinction if world leaders fail to take action on climate change, according to a new analysis. The stark warning on the scale of global warming’s impact on animals and plants comes just months before nearly 200 governments meet for UN climate talks in Paris in an attempt to forge a global deal on cutting carbon emissions. Conservationists said such a large loss would be a tragedy with serious ramifications for people as well as ecosystems.

After sweltering through its hottest year on record in 2014, England is likely to feel the effects of more human-induced climate change in the future, an Australian-led research team has discovered. In a new study published in the journal ‘Environmental Research Letters‘, the international team led by the University of Melbourne’s Dr Andrew King discovered that England could be up to 13 times more likely to experience temperatures that contribute to warmer-than-average years. King, from the university’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, said that a high concentration of human activity in such a small area has contributed to England being more susceptible than other countries to anthropogenic, or human- induced, climate change. He said his team analyzed data from the Central England Temperature record (CET), dating back to the 17th century, to show that human activity will only continue to impact climate in the area. Dr Geert Jan van Oldenborgh from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, who co-authored the study, said climate change had become so influential on the world’s weather that its effects could be modelled at increasingly local levels.“Climate change has become so strong over the last 10 to 15 years that you can really sense it now on the local level. Fifteen years ago you could only really see it if you looked at the global mean temperature. And now any old thermometer can show you that the temperatures are increasing,” he said. Environmental Research Letters is a quarterly, open-access, electronic-only, peer-reviewed, scientific journal covering research in all aspects of environmental science. It is produced by IOP Publishing.

Edie.net reports that after more than 10 years of debate, the European Parliament has agreed new laws to limit the use of crop-based biofuels across the continent. The new rules effectively limit the use of biofuels in the transport sector at 7%, which count towards the 10% renewable energy target in transport by 2020. The decision will prevent up to 320 million tonnes of CO2 – equal to Poland’s total carbon emissions in 2012 – from entering the atmosphere. It has dually been welcomed by green groups and industry bodies alike.

skeltonThe European Space Agency (ESA) has chosen a new energy storage technology for possible orbit in 2018 which is expected to cut mission costs and improve energy efficiency.  The chosen ultracapacitor technology is also beginning to be used within the automotive and renewable energy markets to provide green and cost-effective energy storage. Developers Skeleton Technologies have developed an energy storage method that stores energy in an electric field using ‘curved graphene’. The ESA will use the energy storage in space to provide surges of power on satellites and other spacecraft, and provide a continuation of energy when spacecraft are unable to harvest energy with solar cells from the sun.

Renewable energy sources accounted for more than three quarters of new capacity installed in the US in the first quarter of 2015. According to a federal report ,”Energy Infrastructure Update”, 900MW of wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower was installed in the US, compared to 300MW of natural gas. Wind power was the leading technology, with more than 600MW of new capacity added.

And if you wondered what Al Gore, former  Vice President of the United States and chairman of The Climate Reality Project, said in his talk: Reality of the Climate Crisis and Road Forward for Humanity.  Wonder no more. Its all on YOUTUBE here. The event is part of the Haas School of Business’ Dean’s Speaker Series and is co-sponsored by the Institute for Business & Social Impact at Berkeley-Haas.

Edie.net reports that the rapid expansion in the anaerobic digestion (AD) industry over the past year has taken it from an ’emerging, niche waste treatment industry’ to one providing a significant contribution to the UK’s electricity production.  That’s according to the National Non-Food Crops Centre (NNFCC) speaking at Sustainability Live as it launched its second annual AD deployment report. But further development of the industry is expected to be hampered by supply chain security, especially food waste contracts, and a ‘perverse’ cost control mechanism.

A sewage-filled Rio de Janeiro beach has been removed from the list of venues for a surfing competition in the city in May, the World Surf League said on Wednesday. A spokesman, Dave Prodan, said São Conrado beach had to be removed as a competition site “due to pollution issues”. São Conrado had been a backup for the Rio Pro event scheduled for 11 to 22 May, to be used in case of sub-par waves or other problems at the primary venue, nearby Barra da Tijuca beach. More here.


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