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World’s First Wind-Hydro Farm Supplies Power Even When There’s No Wind

wind-farm-compressed

By Lorraine Chow | EcoWatch

Germany will soon be home to a groundbreaking wind farm that solves a big problem with wind power: What happens when the wind isn’t blowing?

General Electric’s (GE) renewable energy arm has signed a turbine-supply agreement with German construction company Max Bögl to develop the world’s first wind farm with an integratedhydropower plant capable of generating power even when there’s no breeze.

Related Article: Trees Outfitted With Tiny, Vertical Wind Turbines Generate Clean Energy [Watch]

According to GE Reports, project “Gaildorf” consists of four wind turbines scattered along a hill in the Swabian-Franconian Forest. These towers are unique in two ways. First, they will stand at a record-breaking height of 584 feet once built. Second, at the base of each tower is a water reservoir containing 1.6 million gallons of water. The four towers are daisy chained by a channel that takes water down a valley to a 16-megawatt pump/generator hydropower plant. The site will house another reservoir holding 9 million gallons of water for additional water storage.

Here’s how it all works, as GE Reports simply explains:

“The big idea here is that the wind will generate electricity when it’s, well, windy, and the water will act as a giant battery that will discharge and modulate output when it stops blowing.

“When electricity is needed, water flowing downhill from the reservoirs will power the hydro plant. When the energy supply is high, the hydro plant will pump the water back up the hill to the reservoirs and will act as the giant battery.”

Related Article: Costa Rica Has Been Running Solely On Renewable Electricity Again … For 80 Days

The four wind turbines are connected by a channel that takes the water down to a hydro plant. GE Reports

The beauty of this project is that stored hydropower can offset the unpredictability of wind power.

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Sales of Electric Cars Surge Globally – Guess Which Country Is Driving the Trend

Video Source: Wall Street Journal

By Lorraine Chow | EcoWatch

Electric vehicles (EVs) continue to gain momentum on the world market.

Global sales of electric and hybrid cars are 63 percent higher than the same quarter last year, and up 23 percent from the second quarter, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report.

China is the top market for EVs, accounting for roughly half of global sales in the third quarter. Europe and North American were the second- and third-biggest markets, respectively.

China offers incentives to help increase the number of low-emission cars on the road.

“The Chinese government is very focused on pushing up EV sales,” said Aleksandra O’Donovan, BNEF advanced transport analyst and one of the authors of the report. “One reason for that is the local pollution levels in the cities, and a second is for China to build domestic heroes to compete internationally in this market.”

Electric vehicle sales are poised to surge worldwide as an increasing number of countries such as China, Scotland, France and India announced intentions to ban diesel and gasoline cars in order to cut emissions.

Notably, global EV sales are expected to exceed one million units this year for the first time, BNEF said in its report.

Many major car brands have hopped onto the electric bandwagon. Volvo Cars announced in July that every car it launches from 2019 will have an electric motor, marking a “historic end” to the internal combustion engine. Then in September, Volkswagen Group, the world’s biggest automaker, announced plans to offer an electric version across the company’s 300 models by 2030, and to roll out 80 new electric cars under its multiple brands by 2025. The German company, which is trying to rebound after its emissions-cheating scandal, is investing more than 20 billion euros ($24 billion) in zero-emission vehicles to challenge Tesla.

In an earlier analysis, BNEF predicted that electric cars will outsell fossil-fuel powered vehicles within two decades largely due to plunging battery prices.

The growth of clean transportation is great news for the environment, as the Environmental Defense Fund wrote in a blog post:

“Cars, buses and trucks are the second biggest source of pollution in the U.S. after electricity production. They are responsible for more than 26 percent of emissions that adversely affect the health and well-being of the population and put communities located close to highways and other major thoroughfares at risk. These communities, typically low-income, are often plagued by elevated asthma rates and other pollution-induced health conditions.”

When thinking about ways to reduce pollution, EVs can make a world of difference. And, when charged using renewable energy sources, they produce no emissions and can be much cheaper to operate than traditional, internal combustion vehicles.

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NYC Crushes $8 Million in Confiscated Ivory in Central Park to Show Ivory Ban is Here to Stay

New York City’s Ivory Crush. NRDC

By Lorraine Chow | EcoWatch

Nearly two tons of ivory was destroyed by a rock crusher in New York City’s Central Park on Thursday, marking the state’s efforts to stop the illegal ivory trade.

he statues, trinkets and jewelry represented the tusks of at least 100 slaughtered elephants and held a reported market value of more than $8 million dollars.

“These crushes raise awareness,” John Calvelli, a spokesman for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which runs the city’s zoos, told New York Daily News. “Crushing the ivory shows that the ivory has no value, so people can stop killing the elephants.”

The New York Daily News noted that there are only 400,000 African elephants left in the wild. If poaching continues at the same rate, experts predict that the species will be extinct by 2025.

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Homeland Security Exempts Itself From Environmental Laws to Rush Border Wall Construction

A section of the existing border fence between Arizona and Mexico. Gary Goodenough, Flickr

By Lorraine Chow | EcoWatch

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Tuesday it will exempt itself from having to comply with environmental and other laws to “ensure the expeditious construction of barriers and roads” near the U.S.-Mexico border south of San Diego, despite vehement objections from environmental groups that President Trump’s proposed project could endanger critical habitats and ignores public input.

DHS said it will publish the waiver in “the coming days” in the Federal Register. The waiver focuses on an approximately 15-mile segment of the border within the San Diego Sector and exempts the government from the National Environmental Protection Act—a critical mandate for any federal department or agency to properly consider the environment prior to undertaking any major federal action that significantly affects the environment.

“The sector remains an area of high illegal entry for which there is an immediate need to improve current infrastructure and construct additional border barriers and roads,” the agency said. “To begin to meet the need for additional border infrastructure in this area, DHS will implement various border infrastructure projects.”

Associated Press noted that this is the sixth time DHS has exercised this authority since 2005 and the first time since 2008.

“A law passed in 2005 gave Homeland Security broad authority to waive ‘all legal requirements’ to build border barriers following years of ultimately unsuccessful court challenges to border wall construction in San Diego on grounds that it violated environmental laws,” according to the AP.

The Center for Biological Diversity—which sued the Trump administration in April for failing to perform any environmental impact studies or release any information about the project—stressed that the waiver would speed construction of replacement walls, 30-foot-high prototypes, roads, lighting and other infrastructure without any analysis of the environmental impacts.

“The area of south San Diego is surrounded by hundreds of communities and contains critical habitat for several endangered species,” the group explained.

A May 2017 study from the Center for Biological Diversity found that that the border wall threatens 93 endangered and threatened species, including jaguars, ocelots, Mexican gray wolves and cactus ferruginous pygmy owls. The study also found that 25 threatened or endangered species have designated “critical habitat” on the border, including more than 2 million acres within 50 miles of the border.

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Massive Iceberg Finally Breaks Off: Antarctic Landscape ‘Changed Forever’ – EcoWatch

By Lorraine Chow | EcoWatch

One of the biggest icebergs ever recorded has “finally” broken away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, researchers studying the event announced.

The iceberg, which will likely be dubbed A68, weighs more than a trillion tonnes, has a volume twice that of Lake Erie, and is about 5,800 square kilometers in size—roughly the size of Delaware.

According to Project MIDAS, the UK-based Antarctic researchers observing the ice shelf, the calving occurred sometime between Monday and Wednesday.

The landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula has been “changed forever,” the researchers said. The calving leaves the Larsen C Ice Shelf reduced in area by more than 12 percent, its smallest size ever recorded.

The widening crack had been developing over the past year. Project MIDAS said last week that the massive iceberg was hanging onto the main shelf by just a 3-mile thread. “Multiple rift tips” had also formed, meaning a number of smaller icebergs could also splinter off.

“We have been anticipating this event for months, and have been surprised how long it took for the rift to break through the final few kilometers of ice. We will continue to monitor both the impact of this calving event on the Larsen C Ice Shelf, and the fate of this huge iceberg,” Professor Adrian Luckman of Swansea University and lead investigator of the project said.

“The iceberg is one of the largest recorded and its future progress is difficult to predict. It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments. Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters,” Luckman added.

The new configuration of Larsen C could potentially make it less stable. There’s a chance it could follow the example of its neighbor, Larsen B, which rapidly broke apart in 2002 after a similar rift-induced calving event in 1995, the researchers said.

“In the ensuing months and years, the ice shelf could either gradually regrow, or may suffer further calving events which may eventually lead to collapse—opinions in the scientific community are divided. Our models say it will be less stable, but any future collapse remains years or decades away,” Luckman said.

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The Sad Truth: The Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinction Is Already Underway

Africa’s giraffe population has plunged almost 40 percent in the past 30 years. Photo credit: Center for Biological Diversity

By Lorraine Chow | EcoWatch

Scientists warn in a new study that Earth is undergoing a sixth mass extinction that is “more severe than perceived.”

Not only that, human activity—including pollution, deforestation, overpopulation, poaching, warming oceans and extreme weather events tied to climate change—is to blame for this massive loss in biodiversity, according to an analysis published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For the study, researchers from Stanford University and the National Autonomous University of Mexico analyzed data on 27,600 species of birds, amphibians, mammals and reptiles, comprising nearly half of known terrestrial vertebrates.

The results were shocking—about one-third of the species decreased in population size and range. Even common species are in decline.

“We find that the rate of population loss in terrestrial vertebrates is extremely high—even in ‘species of low concern,'” the authors wrote.

Ecologist Gerardo Ceballos, an author in of the study, explained to the Atlantic how barn swallows, for instance, still number in the millions but are declining in many parts of their range.

“Even these common species are declining,” Ceballos said. “Eventually, they’ll become endangered, and eventually they’ll be extinct.”

Furthermore, in a detailed study of 177 mammals, the scientists found that all of the mammals have lost at least 30 percent of their geographic ranges between 1900 and 2015. More than 40 percent of those mammals—including rhinos, orangutans, gorillas and many big cats—have seen the land they once roamed shrink by more than 80 percent.

Without mincing words, the scientists described Earth’s ongoing loss of wildlife as “biological annihilation” that will have “negative cascading consequences on ecosystem functioning and services vital to sustaining civilization.”

Earth has witnessed five mass extinctions in its geological past during which the majority of living species were wiped from existence. The most well-known and recent extinction killed the dinosaurs. But instead of a massive asteroid, volcanic activity or other natural causes kicking off such an event, researchers in the new study argue that humans are to blame.

“In the last few decades, habitat loss, overexploitation, invasive organisms, pollution, toxification, and more recently climate disruption, as well as the interactions among these factors, have led to the catastrophic declines in both the numbers and sizes of populations of both common and rare vertebrate species,” the study stated.

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Man Who Made Billions from Offshore Drilling Gives Away His Fortune to Save the Ocean

By Lorraine Chow | EcoWatch

Norwegian businessman Kjell Inge Røkke is not someone usually admired for environmental stewardship. Described by Forbes as a “ruthless corporate raider,” Røkke made his billions as the majority stakeholder in shipping and offshore drilling conglomerate, Aker.

The twist to this story? Røkke has decided to give “the lion’s share” of his estimated $2.7 billion fortune towards building a 596-foot marine research vessel, the Research Expedition Vessel (REV), that’s also designed to scoop up a major oceanic threat—plastic pollution.

The REV, a collaboration with Norway’s World Wildlife Fund (WWF), will be able to suck up to 5 tons of plastic a day from the waters and melt it down, Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper reported.

“I want to give back to society the bulk of what I’ve earned,” Røkke told the publication. “This ship is a part of that.”

According to Business Insider, the mega-yacht—which will be the world’s largest once built—can carry 60 scientists and 40 crew. The REV will be equipped with modern laboratories, an auditorium, two helipads, a hangar for a remote operated vehicle, an autonomous underwater vehicle as a multifunctional cargo deck aft of the ship, and high-tech equipment for monitoring and surveying marine areas. It is also available for private charters for up to 36 guests and 54 crew, which will help generate extra funding for research.

Røkke, a former fisherman, said the oceans “have provided significant value for society” and directly to him and his family.

“However,” he noted, “the oceans are also under greater pressure than ever before from overfishing, coastal pollution, habitat destruction, climate change and ocean acidification, and one of the most pressing challenges of all, plasticization of the ocean. The need for knowledge and solutions is pressing.”

While onboard, the researchers will attempt to answer some of the most pressing questions facing our seas:

• What impact does CO2 emissions have on the oceans and ocean acidification, and what can we do to reduce the effects?

• How can we overcome plastic pollution, which is causing extensive damage throughout the marine food chain?

• What can we do to save endangered species?

• How can we reduce bycatch and make harvesting of marine resources more sustainable?

• Are there untapped resources in the oceans, which through sustainable harvest could provide new sources of food or energy for future generations?

“The REV will be a platform for gathering knowledge,” Røkke told Business Insider. “I would like to welcome researchers, environmental groups, and other institutions on board, to acquire new skills to evolve innovative solutions to address challenges and opportunities connected to the seas.”

Yachts, especially one of this size, of course have some environmental drawbacks but here are some of the ship’s green credentials:

• Diesel electric with additional 3MW lithium ion battery pack for peak shaving ensuring optimum efficiency, with silent running under batteries alone for limited periods of time at biomass sampling speeds 2 kts during research missions.

• Medium speed generators compiling with the latest Marpol Tier III regulation with additional DPF (Diesel Particulate Filters)

• High efficiency frequency controlled research winch package with energy recovery system, so that power can be harvested on winch release and re-directed into battery pack

• Heat recovery on all main generators and incinerator for feeding back into hot water circuits and HVAC, reducing power demands from generators. Heat recovery system used for generating free fresh water through evaporator plant 30 m3/24 hrs

• “Free cool” system for air conditioning system in sea water temperature below 10 degrees, reducing power consumption.

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Farmed Salmon Industry Causing Global Sea Lice Crisis

By Lorraine Chow | EcoWatch

Farmed Salmon Industry Causing Global Sea Lice Crisis

A tiny bug is behind a major problem in the global farmed salmon industry.

The sea louse, or salmon louse, is eating into farmed Atlantic salmon supplies in Scotland, Norway, Iceland and Canada, driving salmon prices higher and creating a “chemical arms race in the seas,” theGuardian reports.

Salmon companies around the world are spending an estimated $1.25 billion a year combined to tackle such outbreaks, the publication notes.

Salmon lice attach themselves onto wild or farmed salmon, living off the host fish’s blood and skin and leaving it vulnerable to infections. As EcoWatch explained previously, crowded conditions in pens used for raising salmon can provide an ideal breeding ground for sea lice. In farms in some parts of the world, a pesticide is used to combat sea lice that is toxic to marine life and banned by both the European Union and U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“What we are seeing now is a chemical arms race in the seas, just like on the land farms, where the resistance of plants to chemicals is growing,” Don Staniford, head of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture, told the Guardian. “In fish farms, the parasites are increasing resistance to chemicals and antibiotics. There has been a 10-fold increase in the use of some chemicals in the past 18 months.”

Chemicals used to control salmon lice rose 932 percent on Scottish farms in the last decade, even though farmed salmon production only increased by 35 percent. Norway has ramped up its usage of hydrogen peroxide baths surged as well.

But like superweeds, salmon lice are growing resistant to such chemicals and antibiotics, leading some salmon farms to resort to potentially risky methods to beat back the parasite.

Staniford also described how some farms are using mechanical ways to remove the lice.

“They are using hydro-dousers, like huge carwashes, and thermal lousing, which heats them up,” he said.

In Scotland, fish farming giant Marine Harvest used such a warming device called a thermolicer to delouse its caged salmon, but ended up accidentally killing 95,000 fish.

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These 25 U.S. Cities Are Now Committed to 100% Renewable Energy

Illustration by Aaron Goodman

By Lorraine Chow | EcoWatch

Madison, Wisconsin and Abita Springs, Louisiana are transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy following respective city council votes on Tuesday.

Madison and Abita Springs are the first cities in Wisconsin and Louisiana to make this commitment. They join 23 other cities across the United States—from large ones like San Diego, California and Salt Lake City, Utah to smaller ones like Georgetown, Texas and Greensburg, Kansas—that have declared similar goals.

Madison is the biggest city in the Midwest to establish 100 percent renewable energy and net-zero carbon emissions. The Madison Common Council unanimously approved a resolution to allocate $250,000 to develop a plan by January 18, 2018 that includes target dates for reaching these goals, interim milestones, budget estimates and estimated financial impacts.

Madison Common Council Alder Zach Wood said that his city is determined to “lead the way in moving beyond fossil fuels that threaten our health and environment.”

After a unanimous vote, Abita Springs is aiming to derive 100 percent of the town’s electricity from renewable energy sources by December 31, 2030.

The Sierra Club noted that Tuesday’s votes from the politically polar municipalities reflect the growing bipartisan support for alternative energy development. To illustrate, during the November election, more than 70 percent of Madison voters supported Hillary Clinton versus the 75 percent of voters in St. Tammany Parish, where Abita Springs is located, who supported Donald Trump.But as Abita Springs’ Republican mayor Greg Lemons said, “Transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy is a practical decision we’re making for our environment, our economy and for what our constituents want in Abita Springs.”

“Politics has nothing to do with it for me. Clean energy just makes good economic sense,” Lemons added.

LeAnn Pinniger Magee, chair of Abita Committee for Energy Sustainability, had similar remarks.

“In a state dominated by oil interests, Abita Springs is a unique community that can be a leader on the path to renewable energy,” she said. “Our town already boasts the solar-powered Abita Brewery and we can see first-hand how clean energy benefits our businesses and our entire community. By transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy, we will save money on our utility bills and protect our legendary water and clean air in the process.”

Last year’s Gallup poll indicated for the first time that a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents prefer an alternative energy strategy. Fifty-one percent of Republicans favor alternative energy, up from the previous high of 46 percent in 2011.

“Whether you’re Republican or a Democrat, from a liberal college city or a rural Louisiana town, clean energy is putting America back to work and benefiting communities across the country,” Jodie Van Horn, director of the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, said. “That’s why Madison, Wisconsin and Abita Springs, Louisiana, today join the ranks of 23 other cities and towns across the United States that are going all-in on clean, renewable energy.”

Van Horn noted that local leaders and governments will be increasingly tasked to curb President Trump’s pro-fossil fuel policies and gutting of environmental regulations.

“As the Trump Administration turns its back on clean air and clean water, cities and local leaders will continue to step up to lead the transition towards healthy communities and a more vibrant economy powered by renewable energy,” she said.

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‘The Science Guy’ Returns to TV with Netflix’s New ‘Bill Nye Saves the World’

Video Source: Netflix US & Canada

By Lorraine Chow: EcoWatch

With a rough 2016 officially behind us, and a foreboding 2017 ahead, maybe we all need a good dose of 1990’s nostalgia. This Spring, Bill Nye will make his long-awaited return to our screens with his new Netflix show, Bill Nye Saves the World.

The Science Guy and his band of correspondents—model Karlie Kloss, Xploration Outer Space host Emily Calandrelli, comedians Joanna Hausmannm and Nazeem Hussain, and Veritasium host Derek Muller—will explore some of the most complex scientific topics of the day, from climate change, vaccines and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

While Netflix first announced the show in late August, Nye’s comeback seems all the more fitting with Donald Trump‘s presidential inauguration this Jan. 20.

“Each episode will tackle a topic from a scientific point of view, dispelling myths, and refuting anti-scientific claims that may be espoused by politicians, religious leaders or titans of industry,” Netflix stated in a press release.

Trump, as any EcoWatch reader knows, is just about as anti-science as it gets. The president-elect has plans to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, undo President Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan and other environmental initiatives, and has nominated an entire cabinet of fossil fuel “puppets” and executives.

Nye came to fame in the 1990s as the host and creator of Bill Nye the Science Guy. The bowtie-wearing educator taught his young audience about the joys and importance of science and engineering.

We doubt that Trump will be streaming the new show, but Nye does intend to appeal to a wide audience.

“Since the start of the Science Guy show, I’ve been on a mission to change the world by getting people everywhere excited about the fundamental ideas in science,” he said in the press release.

“Today, I’m excited to be working with Netflix on a new show, where we’ll discuss the complex scientific issues facing us today, with episodes on vaccinations, genetically modified foods and climate change,” he added. “With the right science and good writing, we’ll do our best to enlighten and entertain our audience. And, perhaps we’ll change the world a little.”

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/428418323660165120?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Since Science Guy came off the air in 1998 after five seasons, Nye has made numerous appearances on television shows and online videos as a science commentator and outspoken environmental advocate.

Earlier this year, the educational icon famously bet climate change denier Marc Morano $20,000 that 2016 will be among the hottest on record and that this decade will be record hot. Morano turned down the bet, claiming that it’s “obvious” that scientific data will show warming, implying that the data would be doctored.

2016, of course, is officially the hottest year ever recorded, scientists have determined.

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Norway’s Biggest Oil Company to Build Huge Wind Farm Off New York Coast

By Lorraine Chow | EcoWatch

If everything goes to plan, New York City and Long Island will be harnessing the Atlantic Ocean’s strong and dependable winds as a source of renewable energy.

Norway’s biggest oil company will be developing an offshore wind farm outside of New York. Statoil submitted the winning bid of $42.5 million to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management last Friday to lease nearly 80,000 acres of federal waters roughly 14 miles off the coast of Long Island, the Huffington Post reported.

The company estimates that the leased area could host a 1,000-megawatt offshore wind farm, with the first phase of development expected to begin with 400 to 600 megawatts. The first plan of action is to survey seabed conditions which can be as deep as 131 feet, grid connection options and wind resources at the site.

“We now look forward to working with New York’s state agencies and contribute to New York meeting its future energy needs by applying our offshore experience and engineering expertise,” Irene Rummelhoff, Statoil’s executive vice president for Statoil’s renewable energy branch, New Energy Solutions, said in a statement.

New York state aims to generate 50 percent of its electricity needs from renewable resources by 2030 and is betting big on offshore wind to help meet that goal. The Long Island Power Authority, with the support of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is slated to approve a contract for a 90-megawatt offshore wind project 30 miles northeast of Montauk.

Offshore wind is resource begging to be tapped in the U.S., which has a projected 4,223 gigawatts of electric generating potential, LEEDCo estimated.

“The U.S. is a key emerging market for offshore wind—both bottom-fixed and floating—with significant potential along both the east and west coasts,” Statoil’s Rummelhoff said.

Still, the U.S. lags behind other countries in utilizing this form of emissions-free electricity. U.S. offshore wind development has faced a number of stumbling blocks, such as the embattled Cape Wind Project in Massachusetts that has stalled for more than a decade.

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