e360 digest
Business & Innovation


How High Tech Is Helping
Bring Clean Water to Rural India

Social entrepreneur Anand Shah runs Sarvajal, a company that seeks to bring clean water to remote villages in India by deploying solar-powered “water
Anand Shah interview
Anand Shah
ATMs,” which dispense water to residents with the swipe of a prepaid smart card. Sarvajal, launched in 2008, currently serves more than 110,000 rural customers and is now is moving into India’s urban slums, where people often spend hours a day waiting for trucks to deliver clean water. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Shah talks about the challenges of expanding access to clean water in India and the lessons his company has learned from its first five years of operation. “The solutions came from what we actually saw in the field, rather than being invented elsewhere,” he says, “and that’s what makes it work.”
Read the interview.
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16 Aug 2013: Ecuador Abandons Moratorium
On Oil Drilling in Biodiverse Yasuni Park

The Ecuadorian government has abandoned its moratorium on oil drilling in Yasuni National Park as a proposal to protect the park with the help of international donations fell apart. In a nationally televised speech, President Rafael Correa blamed the failure of the ambitious conservation plan on a lack of funds, saying that a UN-administered trust fund had raised only $13 million of the $3.6 billion target. Located in eastern Ecuador, where the Amazon basin ascends into the Andes, Yasuni is home to an unprecedented number of animal and plant species. According to a 2010 study, one section of the park held at least 200 species of mammals, 247 amphibian and reptile species, and 550 species of birds. But Yasuni also sits atop an estimated 1 billion barrels of oil. Correa had said Ecuador would forego oil income and protect the park if foreign donors would contribute billions of dollars to compensate for the loss of oil revenue.
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08 Aug 2013: Conventional Hybrids Better
For Climate than EVs in Most U.S. States

Conventional gas-powered hybrid vehicles are still better for the climate than all-electric cars in most U.S. states, in part because these states still rely heavily on fossil fuels to produce electricity, according to a new report. In 39 states, high-efficiency hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius, produce fewer carbon emissions during their lifecycle than the least-polluting electric cars, an analysis by Climate Central found. Although an increased reliance on cleaner energy sources in some parts of the country doubled the number of states (32) where driving electric cars would be more environmentally friendly, that advantage disappeared when analysts also considered the high emissions associated with building the batteries and other components for the EVs. In 11 states, the best all-electric cars are better for the environment than gas-powered hybrids, even when manufacturing is taken into account. In 26 states, plug-in hybrid cars are the most climate-friendly vehicles, the analysis found.
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07 Aug 2013: Mimicking Cactus Design,
Scientists Devise Oil Spill Cleanup Method

Chinese researchers have developed a method of removing oil from polluted water using tiny barbed spikes that mimic the natural design of a cactus.
Cactus pollution cleanup
Wikimedia Commons
The cactus opuntia microdasys
Writing in the journal Nature Communications, the Beijing-based researchers describe how arrays of tiny copper spikes, similar to the cone-shaped spikes of a type of cactus known as Opuntia microdasys, are able to collect micron-sized oil droplets that might otherwise be difficult to remove from water. The copper spikes are extremely thin at their point but get wider as they get closer to the base, creating a pressure difference that pulls droplets of oil toward the artificial skin-like surface. The oil then coalesces at the base of the cone, which can then be removed from the water. “Each conical needle in the array is a little oil collection device,” said Lei Jiang, lead author of the report. In tests, the researchers found that the needle arrays were able to remove about 99 percent of oil content from water, suggesting that the design could lead to new methods of cleaning up oil spills.
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06 Aug 2013: Timelapse Map Illustrates
Steep Growth of U.S. Wind Energy

The U.S. installed more than 13 gigawatts of new wind energy capacity in 2012, nearly doubling the amount of wind power installations added in 2011 and pushing the

Click to enlarge
Department of Energy Wind US

Department of Energy
Wind energy projects in the U.S., 1992-2012
total capacity connected to the grid nationally to 60 gigawatts, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). That capacity represents enough electricity to power 15 million homes annually, officials say, adding that for the first time wind energy has become the top source of new electricity generation in the U.S. To coincide with the report, the DOE published an interactive map illustrating the steep growth in wind projects nationwide, particularly in the last decade. The map shows that until the mid-1990s, only a few dozen wind projects existed, all in California. But by 2000, projects started appearing in states nationwide, particularly in Texas and Iowa. In the past two decades the number of wind energy projects has increased from 49 to 815, the DOE said.
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05 Aug 2013: New Deep-Rooted Rice
Shows Greater Resistance to Drought

Japanese scientists say they have developed a rice plant with deeper roots that could yield a more drought-resistant variety of rice. Writing in the journal Nature Genetics, a team of scientists describes the discovery of gene that causes a rice strain known as Kinandang Patong, grown in the dry upland of the Philippines, to send longer roots into the soil, allowing the plant to extract water from deeper soil layers. After splicing the gene with a commonly grown rice strain, called IR64, the scientists found that the maximum root depths were more than twice those of the typical plants. After exposing both strains to moderate and severe drought conditions, the researchers found that yields of the standard variety fell significantly in moderate drought conditions and collapsed altogether in severe drought, while the modified strains were not affected by moderate drought and yields declined only 30 percent in severe drought.
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31 Jul 2013: Desert Tree Plantings
Could Lower Atmospheric CO2 Levels

The large-scale planting of jatropha trees in the world’s arid regions could help reduce atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, a new study says. Using computer models and data from plantations in Egypt, India, and
Jatropha
Jatropha.org
Jatropha tree
Madagascar, a team of German scientists calculated that plantations of the durable, scrubby jatropha — which can also be used as a biofuel — could capture 17 to 25 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare annually. Jatropha is particularly suited for so-called “carbon farming” because it can grow in hot, dry regions where the soil is unsuitable for food crops, according to the study, published in the journal Earth System Dynamics. In addition, the researchers estimate that there are about 1 billion hectares of “unused and marginal” land suitable for cultivating such tree plantations. Since jatropha trees do require some water, the authors suggest they should be planted near coastal regions where desalinated seawater could be accessible.
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In Vermont Boat Project, A New
Model for Carbon-Free Shipping

A new sailing barge was launched last month that its backers hope will soon be in the vanguard of a new carbon-neutral shipping alternative. The Vermont Sail Freight Projecthopes to prove that carbon-neutral boats
Vermont Sail Freight Project
Vermont Sail Freight Project
The Ceres will haul produce to New York.
can be a viable shipping method for the 21st century, connecting small-scale farmers in Vermont and upstate New York with customers along the Hudson River south to New York City — all while reducing the substantial greenhouse gas emissions that come from conventional shipping of produce by trucks. If all goes as planned, the 39-foot Ceres sailing vessel will this fall begin its 300-mile voyage to New York, delivering pre-ordered produce to customers along the route. This project is one of a growing number of efforts to revive sail-powered transport in connection with sustainable agriculture in the U.S. and Europe.
Read more
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25 Jul 2013: Mapping of Oil Palm Genome
Could Boost Productivity of Key Crop

Scientists say they have identified the gene responsible for the yield of oil palm crops, a discovery that could boost the productivity of the world’s top source of

Click to enlarge
Malaysian Palm Oil Board

Malaysian Palm Oil Board
Two varieties of palm oil fruit.
vegetable oil and help reduce the size of oil palm plantations in the world’s tropical regions. Writing in the journal Nature, Malaysian and U.S. researchers describe the mapping of the genome of the oil palm, whose products are used in everything from food to cosmetics to biofuels. According to the scientists, the so-called “shell gene” controls “how the thickness of its shell correlates to fruit size and oil yield.” The fruit of the African palm oil tree comes in three varieties: a thick-shelled dura, a shell-less pisifera, and a thin-shelled tenera, which produces a greater oil yield. According to scientists, the shell gene plays a key role in a mutation that produces the more commercially productive tenera variety.
PERMALINK

 

22 Jul 2013: ‘Demand Response’ Programs
Saved Crucial Electricity During Heat Wave

As electricity producers struggled to supply power during last week’s heat wave along the U.S. East Coast, so-called “demand response” programs — which enable utilities to remotely reduce power usage in participating businesses and homes — were vital in avoiding blackouts, utility officials said. The Wall Street Journal reports that as electricity usage in New York state set a record on Friday, demand response programs produced energy savings equivalent to the output of two large power plants, just as the state was running dangerously low on power. Demand response programs enable utilities to dim lights, turn down air conditioners, and delay freezer-defrost cycles in the freezer cases of stores. Participating businesses and individuals get credits on their utility bills. Numerous states have demand response programs, and federal officials say these programs are capable of cutting peak U.S. electricity demand by 72,000 megawatts, or 9.2 percent.
PERMALINK

 

12 Jul 2013: Europe’s Offshore Wind Sector
Is Growing, But Troubles Lie Ahead

European nations installed a record number of offshore wind turbines during the first half of 2013, adding more than twice the capacity installed during the same period in 2012, according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), an industry group. A total of 277 new turbines in seven wind farms were fully connected to the grid during the six-month period, adding 1,045 megawatts of capacity, with another 130 turbines installed but awaiting connection, the group says in a new report. Although the new turbines bumped Europe’s total offshore wind energy capacity to 6,040 megawatts, officials say the sector’s growth is already slowing as a result of regulatory uncertainty in key countries. While European nations such as Germany and the UK have relied on large-scale wind projects to achieve renewable energy targets by 2020, the lack of a binding target for 2030 will cause growth to stall, said Justin Wilkes, EWEA’s policy director. “Financing of new projects has slowed down with only one project reaching financial close so far this year,” he said.
PERMALINK

 

11 Jul 2013: ‘Peak Oil’ Concerns Overstated
As Demand Will Fall, Study Predicts

Researchers say concerns that humanity will inevitably reach a moment of “peak oil,” which would be followed by a crippling decline in supplies, are unwarranted

Click to enlarge
Peak Oil Demand

Stanford University
Oil demand, 1990-2100
because global demand for oil is approaching its own peak. Writing in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, researchers from Stanford University and the University of California-Santa Cruz (UCSC) say that dire projections of peak oil mistakenly assume that an increasingly wealthy planet will continue to rely heavily on oil. On the contrary, they say, the link between economic growth and oil is breaking down as a result of increased energy efficiency, lower prices for alternative fuel sources, urbanization, and limits on consumption by the wealthy. While the researchers project surging global demand for airline travel and various forms of freight transportation, there will be less reliance on oil, with conventional oil demand declining after 2035.
PERMALINK

 

08 Jul 2013: Crowdsourcing Project Targets
Open-Source Tool for Ocean Research

A team of marine researchers is developing a blueprint for an inexpensive tool to collect oceanographic data, a venture they hope will make ocean science more accessible to other scientists, educators, and marine enthusiasts. Using an open-access model, the researchers hope to build their own CTD, a widely used oceanographic instrument that collects information on ocean temperature, depth, salinity, and density. While CTDs are vital to marine research, the technology can be prohibitively expensive for some “citizen scientists,” with costs running $5,000 to $25,000 per instrument. Traditional CTDs are small, cylindrical instruments that are dropped from boats and relay data back to shipboard computers. Using a crowdsourcing website, organizers of the so-called OpenCTD project are raising funds to design a CTD capable of collecting ocean data down to 200 meters at a cost of about $200.
PERMALINK

 

05 Jul 2013: Largest Offshore Wind Farm
Opened in North Sea Off British Coast

British Prime Minister David Cameron has inaugurated the world’s largest offshore wind farm, a 630-megawatt project capable of producing enough electricity to power 500,000 homes. The $2.3 billion project — located 12 miles offshore in the North Sea, east of London — is being operated by an international consortium that includes China’s Dong Energy, German’s E.ON, and Abu Dhabi’s Masdar. The so-called London Array project, which contains 175 turbines, began producing energy in April but was officially inaugurated yesterday by Cameron. The project’s opening solidifies the UK’s position as a global leader in offshore wind energy. The country currently produces 3 gigawatts of power from wind energy and by 2020 aims to develop 18 gigawatts, much of it from offshore wind power installations.
PERMALINK

 

03 Jul 2013: Flexible Glass Solar Cells
Could Boost Effectiveness of Solar Shingles

U.S. researchers have developed a solar shingle made of flexible glass that could emerge as an alternative to conventional roof shingles and drive down the costs of
Corning Willow Glass
Corning
Corning’s Willow Glass
rooftop solar energy systems. Unlike conventional solar panels, which are bulky and breakable, the new solar cell built by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is durable enough to last for decades, according to MIT’s Technology Review. While typical panels must be mounted on top of asphalt shingles, the glass solar shingles can be nailed directly onto a roof instead of conventional shingles. The cells are made of a pliable material called Willow Glass, which was developed by Corning, the company that also makes the so-called Gorilla glass for iPhone screens. According to researchers, the glass can also utilize cadmium telluride — which can compete on a cost basis with more widely used silicon solar cells — as the solar cell material.
PERMALINK

 

02 Jul 2013: Drought Tolerance in Plants
Boosted by New Synthetic Chemical

Scientists have identified a chemical that helps plants better tolerate drought conditions, a discovery they say could help boost crop production as extreme weather

Click to enlarge
Drought tolerance crops quinabactin

Cutler Lab/UC Riverside
Soybean plant, right, treated with quinabactin
conditions become more common. After testing thousands of different molecules, researchers at the University of California, Riverside found and named a chemical, quinabactin, that caused the pores, or stomata, in Arabidopsis plants to close firmly, thus preventing water loss. The action is similar to the way a naturally occurring stress hormone, known as abscisic acid (ABA), performs in drought-tolerant plant varieties. While it was previously known that ABA triggers the closing of stomata pores during dry periods, the hormone is far too expensive to apply in agricultural fields, scientists say. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers report that the synthetic chemical mimics the effects of ABA but is much simpler chemically and cheaper to produce.
PERMALINK

 

18 Jun 2013: Low-Cost Deals and Incentives
Drive Record Sales of Electric Cars

After years of sluggish sales, the market for electric vehicles has surged in recent months in response to an escalating price war among automakers that has helped reduce the high up-front costs that have slowed the emerging EV sector. Since Nissan reduced the price of its electric Leaf by $6,400 to $19,000 earlier this year — a move that tripled sales of the car compared with the same time period last year — competitors such as Chevy, Fiat, Mitsubishi, Honda, and Toyota have responded with similar low-cost deals and buyer incentives, Time magazine reports. Within days of cutting the lease price for its Fit EV from $389 per month to $259 per month, Honda dealerships in California sold every model of the EV, forcing the automaker to apologize to customers who were then placed on a waiting list. But while the price war is driving EV sales and boosting consumer interest in the emerging green technologies, it is unclear whether it will be good for business in the long term. Chrysler, which owns Fiat, reported earlier this year that the company loses $10,000 for each Fiat 500e EV it sells.
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14 Jun 2013: Nicaragua Approves New Canal
Linking Atlantic and Pacific Oceans

Nicaragua has approved plans to build a $40 billion cross-country canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, a project that would rival the Panama Canal but is raising major concerns about impacts on regional

Click to enlarge
Nicaragua Canal Feasibility Study Routes

Gran Canal Interoceánico por Nicaragua
Possible canal routes
water supplies and the environment. Lawmakers yesterday granted Hong-Kong-based HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. a 50-year concession to study, and possibly construct, a 180-mile canal that advocates say would better accommodate the massive cargo ships and supertankers needed to handle the increased trade between Asia and the Americas. Major questions remain, however, about whether the canal will ever be built. Environmental advocates warn that water needed to operate the massive infrastructure project would deplete the region’s freshwater supplies.
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11 Jun 2013: Growing Number of Pests
Developing Resistance to GM Crops

An increasing number of pest species are developing resistance to crops genetically engineered to be toxic to insects, according to new research. In an analysis of 77 studies conducted in eight countries, a team of U.S. and French scientists found that five of 13 major pest species had become resistant to so-called Bt cotton or corn plants, which are genetically modified to exude a bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, that is toxic to insects. While researchers say all insects inevitably adapt to threats such as pesticides, the study found that farmers who planted non-Bt crops in nearby “refuges” were more likely to slow that resistance. “Either take more stringent measures to delay resistance, such as requiring larger refuges, or this pest will probably evolve resistance quickly,” said Bruce Tabashnik, a professor at the University of Arizona and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Biotechnology. The total land area planted annually with Bt crops has increased from 1.1 million hectares in 1996 to more than 66 million hectares in 2011.
PERMALINK

 

Interview: How Detergent Became
A Catalyst for Green Innovation

Adam Lowry is the co-founder and “chief greenskeeper” of Method, a small but rapidly growing company that has been a leader in the field of manufacturing
Adam Lowry
Adam Lowry
environmentally friendly cleaning and personal care products. Indeed, it was Method that pioneered the use of concentrated laundry detergent, an environmentally beneficial innovation that has been embraced by all the giant brands. Lowry and his partner, Eric Ryan, founded Method in 2001 and today the firm has more than $100 million in revenues and sells its products in retailers like Target and Whole Foods. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Lowry discusses how his company has managed to profit from sustainability, why major corporations have been slow to embrace environmental innovations, and how plastic trash in the Pacific Ocean made its way into Method’s bottles of hand soap. Early on, says Lowry, “we recognized that our little business had the ability to catalyze much bigger change.”
Read the interview
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04 Jun 2013: Nanofilter System Can Deliver
Clean Water to Rural Families for $2.50

Indian scientists have developed a filter system they say can provide clean water to rural families for less than $2.50 per year and help reduce incidences of diarrhea that cause tens of thousands of deaths in the developing world annually. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM) describe the filter, which contains a composite of nanoparticles, held within a sieve, that emit a stream of silver ions that eradicate water-based microbes. In producing the filter, the team used a material called aluminium oxyhydroxide-chitosan, which, because of its structure and the diameter of the silver nanoparticles, is optimal for releasing the silver ions at temperatures of between five to 35 degrees C. In addition, the material is widely available, and environmentally friendly, and it keeps concentrations of the silver ions below safe drinking water standards, lead author Thalappil Pradeep told ScieDev.Net. So far, the scientists have installed the filters in water treatment plants in West Bengal, but are now seeking a company to produce the devices for widespread use.
PERMALINK

 

03 Jun 2013: Genetic Study Reveals Cheaper
Process to Convert Sawdust to Biofuel

A team of genetic engineers reports it has developed an inexpensive process that uses fungus to convert raw materials such as straw and sawdust into a productive biofuel. While it was previously known that the Trichoderma fungus produces the enzymes needed to break down such lignocellulosic wastes into a form of biofuel, the process was prohibitively expensive since the molecular switch required stimulation from a pure substance known as disaccharide sophorose, which is worth 60 times more than gold. Through genetic analysis, scientists from the Vienna University of Technology identified the specific gene that triggers the process — as well as the protein that the gene mutation affects — enabling them to mimic the same mutation in other strains of fungus. “We have understood the mechanism of this molecular switch and, consequently, many wonderful possibilities are opening up for us,” said Astrid Mach-Aigner, leader of the study published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels.
PERMALINK

 

30 May 2013: Nuclear Power Has Prevented
1.84 Million Premature Deaths, Study Says

The use of nuclear power from 1971 to 2009 prevented more than 1.8 million premature deaths related to air pollution and 64 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, a new study says. Using historical production data and estimates of mortality per unit of electricity generated, scientists from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University calculated that replacing nuclear energy sources with fossil fuel-burning sources during that period would have caused about 1.84 million premature deaths. By midcentury, they project, nuclear power could prevent an additional 420,000 to 7 million deaths, depending on which fossil fuels it replaces, and 80 to 240 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions. “By contrast, we assess that large-scale expansion of unconstrained natural gas use would not mitigate the climate problem and would cause far more deaths than the expansion of nuclear power,” said Pushker A. Kharecha, who, along with NASA’s James Hansen, co-authored the study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The study calculated that nuclear power plant accidents caused about 4,900 deaths during the same period.
PERMALINK

 

29 May 2013: Genetically Modified Salmon
Can Breed with Wild Fish and Thrive

Fast-growing, genetically modified salmon can interbreed with wild brown trout and produce offspring that grow rapidly and out-compete other wild salmon in streams, according to a new study. Researchers from Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada, found that so-called “Frankenfish” — which are close to being approved for sale in the United States — can easily interbreed with brown trout in the wild, creating offspring that aggressively compete for food with salmon. In settings that simulated real streams, the offspring of the genetically modified (GM) salmon and brown trout were so aggressive that they suppressed the growth of GM salmon by 82 percent and wild salmon by 54 percent. “These findings suggest that complex competitive interactions associated with transgenesis and hybridization could have substantial ecological consequences for wild Atlantic salmon should they ever come into contact [with GM salmon] in nature,” the researchers wrote in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The creator of the GM salmon, Aqua Bounty, said the risks were minimal since all the GM salmon will be female, sterile, and produced in tanks on land.
PERMALINK

 

28 May 2013: Electricity Availability Growth
Must Double to Achieve Global Access

The rate of expansion of access to electricity will have to double over the next 17 years if the world's population is to achieve 100 percent access to modern energy, a new report says. While about 1.7 billion people became connected to electricity sources worldwide between 1990 and 2010, that increase barely outpaced population growth during that period, according to Sustainable Energy for All, a group lead by the World Bank and the United Nations. More than 1.2 billion people still do not have access to electricity, and 2.8 billion still rely on burning wood or other biomass for household fuel, a source of pollution that causes about 4 million premature deaths annually. Achieving universal access to modern energy will require investments of $45 billion annually, which is five times the current levels. If combined with an expansion of renewable energy sources and improved efficiencies, however, achieving this growth in energy access would increase CO2 emissions by less than 1 percent, the report says.
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23 May 2013: China Poised to Launch
Much-Anticipated Carbon-Trading Project

China has revealed details of a carbon cap-and-trade pilot project that will be launched next month, a much-anticipated market attempt to rein in carbon dioxide emissions by the world’s biggest emitter. The first phase of the program, which will be implemented in the southern city of Shenzhen, will cover 638 companies that produce 38 percent of the city’s carbon emissions, according to the city branch of the government’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). The system will impose caps on the companies’ CO2 emissions and establish a market for the buying and selling of emissions permits. Eventually, the program will be expanded to include the transportation, manufacturing, and construction sectors, the Guardian reports. By 2014, the experimental scheme will be expanded into six other designated cities and provinces, including Beijing and Shanghai. Earlier this week, the Chinese newspaper 21st Century Business Herald reported that the NDRC is contemplating a nationwide system to control CO2 emissions by 2020.
PERMALINK

 

21 May 2013: Large Majority of Americans
Believe Global Warming Should be a Priority

Roughly 70 percent of Americans say global warming should be a priority for President Obama and Congress and 61 percent support requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax that would be used to help reduce the national debt, according to a new survey by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. In a national survey conducted in April, 87 percent of respondents said that the president and Congress should make developing clean sources of energy a priority, 68 percent favored regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and 71 percent supported providing tax rebates for people who buy solar panels and energy-efficient vehicles. Seventy percent said global warming should be at least a “medium” priority, while 28 percent said it should be a low priority. The poll showed that 7 in 10 Americans support funding more research into green energy sources.
PERMALINK

 

Interview: For Solar Sisters,
Off-Grid Electricity is Power

For Katherine Lucey, the lack of electricity in many parts of the developing world is not just an economic issue, it is a gender issue. A former investment banker,
Solar Sister Africa
Solar Sister
Mother in Uganda with a solar lamp.
Lucey is the founder and CEO of Solar Sister, a nonprofit that uses a market-based approach to provide solar power to communities in sub-Saharan Africa through a network of women entrepreneurs. Access to energy is critical to alleviating poverty, and women must be at the heart of any solution, says Lacey, since they are the family’s “energy managers,” responsible for cooking and heating needs. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Lucey explains how Solar Sister’s operations rely on selling inexpensive solar energy systems to households to power lamps and recharge cell phones. Since 2010, Solar Sister has created a network of 401 businesswomen in three countries that has provided electricity to 54,000 people. Lucey says the model can be rapidly expanded and can transform lives. “We’ve got to find a way to tap into market resources and let people in their own communities solve their own problems," she says.
Read the interview
PERMALINK

 

20 May 2013: System Converts Pig Waste
Into Biogas at Chinese Pig Farms

An international team of researchers has developed a system that will help Chinese farmers convert massive amounts of pig waste into a renewable source of energy
Pig Waste Biogas
Getty Images
and fertilizer. The project, led by Australia-based Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE), uses a two-step anaerobic biodigester that is able to treat 73,000 tons of waste annually, producing 380 cubic meters of biogas daily and about 5,600 tons of fertilizer per year. According to its developers, it will also provide a solution to a growing waste disposal challenge in China, where pigs generate more than 1.4 million tons of excrement annually. “Only 10 percent of this waste is currently treated, posing a considerable disposal headache, as well as health and water quality risks,” said Ravi Naidu, managing director of CRC CARE. While the system is being introduced at pig farms across China, Naidu says the technology could eventually help solve critical waste management challenges worldwide and make the pork industry more sustainable.
PERMALINK

 

17 May 2013: ‘Artificial Forest’ Nanosystem
Mimics Photosynthesis, Researchers Say

U.S. scientists have developed what they say is the first integrated nanosystem capable of replicating the process of photosynthesis, a sort of “artificial forest” that could one day lead to the production of hydrogen that could be used to power fuel cells. Composed of nanowire structures — including silicon “trunks” and titanium oxide “branches” — the system mimics the role played by chloroplasts in promoting photosynthesis in green plants. By assembling the “trees” in a dense array, resembling a miniature forest, the network lowers sunlight reflection and provides more surface area for hydrogen-producing reactions, the scientists say. “We’ve integrated our nanowire nanoscale heterostructure into a functional system that mimics the integration in chloroplasts and provides a conceptual blueprint for better solar-to-fuel conversion efficiencies in the future,” said Peidong Yang, a chemist with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and co-author of the study, published in the journal NANO Letters. The lab of Daniel Nocera at Harvard University is doing related research into so-called artificial leaves.
PERMALINK

 

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