14 Mar 2012:
China’s Wind Energy Capacity
Reached Record Levels in 2011
China installed a record 18,000 megawatts of new wind energy in 2011
, boosting its total capacity to nearly 63,000 megawatts and widening its lead in the global wind energy sector, according to the Earth Policy Institute (EPI). The U.S., which was passed by China for total wind capacity, installed about 6,800 megawatts, increasing its total capacity to 47,000 megawatts, or enough to power 10 million homes. Worldwide, energy developers installed 41,000 megawatts of capacity during the year, increasing the global total to 283,000 megawatts — enough to provide electricity to 380 million people at European levels of consumption. China is expected to widen its lead as the global leader in wind energy, with a series of mega-complexes planned in the nation’s northern provinces that could boost total capacity to 140,000 megawatts by 2020, which would surpass the total global capacity at the end of 2008. However, many turbines now stand idle in remote parts of the country as upgrades to the electric grid and transmission lines lag behind turbine construction, according to EPI. As a result, Chinese regulators have capped the allowed new wind capacity at 15,000 to 20,000 megawatts.
13 Mar 2012:
Thinner Silicon Wafers
Could Cut Solar Cell Costs in Half
A U.S. company has developed a new manufacturing technique that it says could cut the cost of producing solar cells in half by producing silicon wafers that are about one-tenth as thick as conventional wafers. Twin Creeks Technologies
, a San Jose-based company, says it can produce crystalline silicon wafers that are only 20 microns thin — or about one-fifth the thickness of a layer of paint
— compared with the 200-micron wafers commonly used in solar cells. While the conventional technologies use diamond saws to cut blocks of silicon — a process that wastes about half of the silicon — the new process essentially embeds protons at a desired depth within a block of silicon and heats the protons so that they occupy more space. Eventually the company is able to crack off the thin, 20-micron wafers, after which they are affixed to a thin metal backing
that makes them durable enough to withstand the rest of the production process. The company has raised $93 million in venture capital, some of which will be used to build a solar factory in Mississippi.
12 Mar 2012:
Scientists Use Ancient Gene
To Create Salt-Tolerant Wheat Variety
Australian scientists have crossed a popular variety of wheat with an ancient species, producing a salt-tolerant variety they say could help reduce food shortages
in the world’s arid and semi-arid regions. Using a genetic variation that had been lost in plants due to domestication before it was rediscovered a decade ago, the researchers say they were able to boost yields of durum wheat by 25 percent in salty soils. The gene, which was isolated from an ancestral cousin of modern-day wheat, Triticum monococcum
, is believed to help prevent salt from traveling up the plant’s shoots, where it can cause damage, lead researcher Matthew Gilliham of the University of Adelaide
, told Reuters
. “Salty soils are a major problem because if soldium starts to build up in the leaves it will affect important processes such as photosynthesis,” he said. The findings could have an important impact on wheat yields worldwide, where salinity already affects more than 20 percent of soils, Gilliham said. The study was published in the journal Nature Biotechnology
22 Feb 2012:
Amazon Subsidiary Selling
Meat of Protected Whales, Probe Finds
Amazon Japan, a wholly owned subsidiary of Internet giant Amazon Inc., is offering for sale roughly 150 food products derived from whales, dolphins, and porpoises
, including canned whale meat, whale jerky, and whale stew, according to a new report. In a survey of the Amazon Japan website in December, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) found 147 different products for sale, including from fin, sei, minke, and Bryde’s whales — species protected by the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on commercial whaling and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Japanese fishermen hunt whales under the guise of conducting scientific research, and then sell whale meat widely in Japan, conservation groups contend. The EIA urged Amazon.com President Jeff Bezos to enforce company policy not to trade in endangered species and to pull the whale products from the site of Amazon Japan.
17 Feb 2012:
Dutch Scientists Report
Conversion of Plants into Plastics
Dutch scientists say they have developed a process that uses nanotechnology to convert plant matter into the basic components of plastics
, an innovation that could ultimately provide an alternative to oil-based plastics in the manufacture of thousands of everyday products. Using a catalyst made of nanoparticles, researchers from Utrecht University and Dow Chemical Co. say they were able to produce ethylene and propylene, the precursors of materials found in everything from compact discs to carpeting. While existing bioplastics from crops such as corn and sugar are not exact duplicates of oil-based products, researchers say this process has the potential to produce chemicals like those currently used by plastics manufacturers. The researchers envision using non-food crops — such as fast-growing trees or grasses — rather than traditional food crops. According to the study, published in the journal Science
, the research is still at an early stage and is at least several years from large-scale production.
17 Feb 2012:
Large Area of New Guinea
Stripped of Protection for Agribusiness
More than 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) of land in Indonesian New Guinea — including 350,000 hectares of carbon-storing peatland — was stripped of its protected status
to facilitate the expansion of a
government-based agribusiness project, according to a new report. In an analysis of revisions to Indonesia’s moratorium
on new forest concessions — including a comparison of maps from when the moratorium was published in May 2011 and after revisions were adopted in November 2011 — the Jakarta-based NGO Greenomics-Indonesia found that 406,718 hectares of previously protected land have been excised for use by The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), a massive agricultural project in southwestern New Guinea. While government officials say the project will ensure the nation’s food and energy security, critics say the revised moratorium will mostly benefit agribusiness developers.
14 Feb 2012:
‘Virtual Water’ Reliance
Puts Nations at Risk, Study Says
A new study calculates that about one-fifth of all water goes toward the production of crops and commodities for export
, part of a global phenomenon known as “virtual water” that researchers say could place pressure on finite water supplies in some nations. Using
Click to enlarge
Arjen Hoekstra and Mesfin Mekonnen, PNAS
The virtual water balance, per country
worldwide trade indicators, demographic data, and statistics on water use, researchers from the University of Twente in the Netherlands mapped the world’s water footprint, including patterns of trade they say are creating disparities in water use. According to the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, many desert and island nations are becoming increasingly dependent on water from other countries, as they import not just food products but the water needed to produce it
. Some of the most water-rich nations — including the U.S. and Japan — are also among the biggest importers because the products they import require so much water to produce.
13 Feb 2012:
Student Push for Ban on
Plastic Water Bottles Irks Industry
Student groups on some college campuses are pushing their schools to ban the sale of plastic water bottles
, a campaign that so far has prompted more than 20 colleges and universities to impose partial or complete bans. The bottled water industry has responded with a sarcastic video criticizing the campaign. Student groups, citing environmental and health concerns of one-time bottle use, have worked with nonprofit groups like Ban the Bottle
to have bottled water removed from vending machines and cafeterias and to push for more reusable bottle handouts and the use of water fountains. In recent months, Macalester College in Minnesota and Humboldt State University in California have imposed campus-wide bans, and the University of Vermont says it will end its contract with Dasani bottler Coca-Cola this year. In response, the International Bottled Water Association has released a video belittling the students’ cause
and maintaining that a bottled water ban would leave consumers with fewer healthy beverage options.
07 Feb 2012:
Nearly Half of Electricity
At UK Businesses Wasted During Off Hours
A UK report says that nearly half of the electricity consumed by British businesses is wasted when employees are not at work
. In an analysis of more than 6,000 smart meters, British Gas found that 46 percent
of electricity use occurs from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m., when most businesses are typically closed. Common examples of unnecessary electricity use include the lighting of parking areas on weekends, keeping the lights on at retail stores after shopping centers are closed, and running vending machines around the clock. The UK utility also released a series of thermal images illustrating how much energy is lost from energy-inefficient buildings in London, Manchester, and Liverpool during evening hours. According to British Gas, the average business could save £1,200 ($1,900) on its annual electricity bill by simply switching off lights at parking lots on weekends.
02 Feb 2012:
Road-based Charging Network
Could Charge EVs While They Drive
U.S. researchers have designed a wireless charging system for electric vehicles
they say could ultimately lead to all-electric highways capable of charging cars and
Click to enlarge
Sven Beiker/CARS/Stanford University
Wireless electric car charger
trucks as they drive down the road. The system, developed by a team at Stanford University, uses magnetic fields to transmit large electric currents between metal coils embedded a few feet apart under the surface of the road. Based on magnetic resonance coupling technology, the process involves one coil that is connected to an electric current, which generates a magnetic field that causes the second coil to resonate, triggering an invisible transfer of electrical energy. The developers say there is a potential to eventually create a wireless network across highway systems, a step that would drastically increase the range of electric vehicles since they would theoretically never have to plug into a charging station. “You could actually have more energy stored in your battery at the end of your trip than you started with,” said Richard Sassoon, managing director of the Stanford Global Climate and Energy Project and co-author of the study published in the journal Applied Physics Letters
30 Jan 2012:
Wheat Yields in India
May Drop as Region Warms, Study Says
An analysis of satellite images has revealed that extreme temperatures are cutting wheat yields in northern India
, indicating that the adverse impacts of rising temperatures on wheat production in warmer climes may be more severe than previously believed. Using nine years of imagery of India’s fertile Ganges plain, Stanford University researcher David Lobell found that wheat turned from green to brown earlier when average temperatures were higher, an indication that the warmer conditions are causing the crops to age prematurely. The effects were particularly strong when temperatures exceeded 34 degrees C (93 degrees F), Lobell found. He calculated that an average temperature increase of 2 degrees C could trigger a 50 percent greater yield loss than existing models suggest. Earlier studies calculated that wheat-growing areas could see yield drops of 5 percent for every 1 degree C that the average temperature rises above 14 degrees C. Wheat is the world’s second-biggest crop and provides about one-fifth of the world’s protein.
26 Jan 2012:
California ‘Clean’ Car Rules
Mandate Boost in Electric Vehicle Sales
California regulators are expected to pass new rules today requiring that 15 percent of all new cars sold by 2025 be powered by electricity, hydrogen, or other reduced-emission sources
. The new rules proposed by the California Air Resources Board would also require a 75-percent reduction in smog-creating emissions from new cars, SUVS, pickups and minivans, and a 50-percent reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 2025. According to the board, the initiative would put about 1.4 million low-emission vehicles on California roads by 2025, compared with current levels of about 10,000. They predict the new rules will add about $1,900 to the price of a new car, but will save about $5,900 in fuel costs during the life of the vehicle. “This is a really large step. It’s transformational,” Tom Cackette, the board's chief deputy director, told the San Jose Mercury News
. “Ten years from now the market is going to look quite a bit different.” The new standards will be introduced in 2018 and strengthened over the next seven years.
25 Jan 2012:
South Pacific ‘Free-for-All’
Decimating Fish Stocks, Report Says
Years of lax oversight, corruption, and political rivalry have allowed industrial fishing fleets from Asia, Europe, and Latin America to decimate fish stocks across the southern Pacific
, a “free-for-all” that has pushed one
A Peruvian fishmeal factory
critical species to the brink, according to a new report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). With governments ignoring the threat of overfishing and heavily subsidizing the fishing industry, fleets have plundered the waters off Chile and Peru and have fished heavily right up to protected Antarctic waters. Stocks of jack mackerel — an oily fish that is a staple in Africa and a vital component in fishmeal for aquaculture — have declined by more than 90 percent, from an estimated 30 million metric tons to less than 3 million metric tons, in just two decades. According to Daniel Pauly, an oceanographer at the University of British Columbia, the jack mackerel decline could portend a collapse in fisheries worldwide.
24 Jan 2012:
Real-Time Fisheries Information
Could Reduce Waste, Company Says
A Japanese fisheries company has equipped some of its boats with technology that enables crews to publish details of catches online in real time
, an innovation they say could significantly reduce waste and allow for more sustainable management of fish stocks. Using webcams and laptop computers on four fishing boats, the company, Sanriku Toretate Ichiba, allows fishermen to match their catch to consumer demand, and enables customers to buy fish before it even reaches port. The system could also allow fishing crews to dump live fish back into the sea if there is not ample demand on shore, the company says. “The hard reality is most caught produce goes to waste and in extreme cases this results in fishermen increasing their catch to compensate for lost revenues,” said Kenichiro Yagi, the company president. Some experts question whether such technologies are feasible at industry scale, particularly in the case of large trawlers, whose harvesting processes are often lethal to fish as soon as they’re caught.
20 Jan 2012:
Value of Conserving Habitats
Could be Worth $500B to World’s Poor
A new study says that compensating the world’s poorest communities for helping conserve the planet’s most vital habitats would help solve two major challenges: biodiversity loss and poverty. In fact, if global leaders were to put an economic value on the preservation of the world’s biodiversity hotspots
— including such benefits as providing food and water and absorbing carbon emissions — it could be worth more than $500 billion annually for 330 million of the world’s poorest people. Since the people who live near these resources typically don’t have the means to protect them, the urgency for such economic mechanisms becomes increasingly critical, according to the study, published in the journal BioScience
. “Developed and developing economies cannot continue to ask the world’s poor to shoulder the burden of protecting these globally important ecosystem services for the world’s benefit,” said Will Turner, vice president of Conservation International and lead author of the study.
18 Jan 2012:
Natural Gas Boom to Slow
Growth of U.S. Renewables, Report Says
The sheer abundance of recently discovered natural gas resources in the U.S. could drive down gas and electricity prices
in the next few decades, yield an overall increase in energy use, and stunt the nation’s still-emerging renewable energy sector, a new report says. Using economic modeling, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that relatively cheap natural gas — much of it to be extracted from underground shale formations — could represent an increasingly large share of U.S. electricity use, particularly in the face of a weak national climate policy. By 2050, the report says, this growth could cause national energy use to increase, possibly leading to a jump in greenhouse gas emissions of 13 percent above 2005 levels. Absent this supply of natural gas — which has become increasingly available as a result of improved drilling methods, including the emergence of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” — the U.S. could have expected emissions to decline 2 percent, the report says. The ascendance of natural gas could also retard the development of carbon capture technology, the report says.
10 Jan 2012:
Brazil Gains in Food Production
Coincided With Drop in Deforestation
A new study of land use in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso shows that deforestation rates decreased significantly from 2006 to 2010 even as agricultural production in the region reached an all-time high
. The study found that growers in Mato Grosso, where more than a third of forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon occurred in the 1980s, have increasingly used previously cleared pasture land. Using satellite data and government statistics on deforestation and production, researchers from Columbia University calculated that 26 percent of the increase in soy production within Mato Grosso from 2001 to 2005 was the result of cropland expansion into forested areas, accounting for 10 percent of total deforestation; during the second half of the decade, however, soy expansion accounted for just 2 percent of total deforestation. According to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, this shift coincided with a drop in commodity markets, as well as a series of high-profile policy initiatives to reduce deforestation and improved methods in monitoring illegal clearing, including satellite-based tracking systems.
09 Jan 2012:
U.S. Imposes Catch Limits
On All Managed Fisheries For First Time
For the first time ever, the U.S. this year will impose catch limits for all 528 federally managed species
, a new policy one official said will become an “international guidepost
” for sustainable fisheries practices. After years of political wrangling, a coalition of lawmakers, environmental groups, fishing groups, and scientists were able to insert language into a reauthorized version of the Magnuson-Stevens Act — which governs all U.S. fishing — that will include annual limits on all fish stocks by the time the 2012 fishing year begins for all species. Some species, including mahi-mahi and wahoo, will have catch limits for the first time. “This simple but enormously powerful provision has eluded lawmakers for years and is probably the most important conservation statute ever enacted into America’s fisheries law,” Joshua Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group, told The Washington Post
. Because the new limits were achieved in cooperation with regional fisheries councils, advocates predict a greater probability of success.
Interview: Putting a Price
On the Real Value of Nature
How do you put a price on the value of nature? That’s the question Indian banker Pavan Sukhdev and
his colleagues are seeking to answer in their international project on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), which published its latest report last month
. The challenge, as Sukhdev sees it, is how to address the “economic invisibility of nature.” In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, he cited crucial benefits from nature that are often overlooked, including the capacity of wetlands for filtering water, the role of forests in preventing erosion and flooding, and the importance of bees in pollinating crops. “When did the bees last send you an invoice for pollination?” he asks.
Read the interview
29 Dec 2011:
New Innovation System
Urged for Developing Renewable Energy
Two U.S. energy experts are calling for a new strategy to develop renewable energy
, including the creation of regional programs to drive innovation of new technologies. Richard Lester of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and David Hart of George Mason University say that current strategies — which have failed to create broad public support for bold action — should be replaced with programs that highlight the benefits of energy innovation to individuals and the nation. In a new book, Unlocking Energy Innovation
, the two men call for a bottom-up approach to energy innovation that begins with an emphasis on energy efficiency and improving gas mileage, moves to a mid-range strategy of reducing the costs and risks of developing low-carbon sources of energy and better electricity-storage technologies, and then ends in several decades with the deployment of fundamentally new energy technologies based on advances in fields such as materials science and catalysis. The pair recommends that a regional, rather than a federal, approach be taken to manage and finance this three-stage process of innovation.
Read the interview
28 Dec 2011:
Map Projects When U.S. Cities
Will Achieve Grid Parity for Solar
If energy cost trends remain consistent — with the price of retail electricity rising and solar power falling — solar energy could become cheaper than power from the grid
in most major U.S. metropolitan areas by 2027,
according to a recent projection. In a new map published on the Energy Self-Reliant States website
, energy policy analyst John Farrell has predicted which U.S. cities will achieve so-called “grid parity” first — and the order in which other cities will follow through 2027. Farrell, a researcher with the group, Local Self-Reliance, based his projections on recent regional retail rates for electricity, which have seen the cost of solar energy decline by an average of 7 percent per year and the cost of retail electricity increase by 2 percent annually. If that trend holds, Farrell predicts that San Diego will become the first city to achieve grid parity, in 2013, followed by New York in 2015. By 2020, 17 metropolitan areas nationwide will have reached grid parity; the number will jump to more than 40 by 2027, he projects.
22 Dec 2011:
The Top Ten Trends
In Clean Technology for 2011
The Web site, earth2tech, has named the top clean-tech trends of the year, with the plummeting cost of solar panels topping the list
, followed by India’s emergence as a renewable energy powerhouse. Earth2tech reports that the price of solar panels dropped 40 percent in 2011, in large part because Chinese manufacturers flooded the market with low-cost solar panels. That should help spur the installation of more solar panels on rooftops, and also means that some solar power developers are foregoing large solar-thermal power projects in favor of residential solar. Other top trends include a sharp slowdown in initial public offerings (IPOs) for clean-tech companies, with the exception of biofuel companies, which offered some IPOs. The Web site said that sales of electric vehicles were slow, and that battery technology for EVs continued to be a drag on development and sales of electric cars. Earth2tech also noted that investors and start-ups were becoming increasingly interested in the “cleanweb” — mobile device and Web applications to manage energy use and other resources.
Interview: Development Expert
Relies On Resilience of Villagers
Geographer Edward Carr has spent much of his time working in sub-Saharan Africa, where climate change and other environmental threats present a growing
challenge to the local people. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, he describes how his experience in Ghana taught him that villagers were “repositories of information about how to improve the human condition cheaply and with minimal environmental impact.” Carr contends that any outside aid, including funds for adapting to a warming world, must build on this inherent resilience. “One of the most important and fascinating things that comes out of my experience,” says Carr, “is that people are enormously capable with access to very limited resources, while managing serious economic and environmental instability.”
Read the interview
20 Dec 2011:
Mexico City Closes Dump
In Push to Boost Recycling and Reuse
Mexico City has announced plans to close one of the world’s largest open-air garbage dumps
as part of an initiative to convert more of the city’s waste into reusable materials or energy. By the end of the year, garbage trucks will no longer be allowed to drop trash at the Bordo Poniente, a massive dump that has received more than 76 million tons of trash since it opened after the devastating 1985 earthquake. At its peak, the dump received about 12,700 tons of garbage daily. A recycling separation facility and composting plant will remain open at the site. According to a plan announced by city officials, a large concrete company, Cemex SAB, will buy 3,000 tons of trash daily to convert into energy. Mexico City is searching for other dump sites to use until a new recycling program is instituted in 2012. Meanwhile, Seattle became the latest U.S. city to ban plastic grocery bags
and also passed a 5-cent fee on paper bags in an attempt to reduce its waste stream.
12 Dec 2011:
Increased Bicycling Will Help
EU Meet Climate Targets, Report Says
If all Europeans bicycled as much as the people of Denmark, the European Union could achieve up to one-quarter of its target for carbon emissions reductions
in the transportation sector by 2050, a new report says. According to the European Cyclists’ Federation, the average Dane cycles about 2.6 kilometers a day. If that rate were achieved across the EU, it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 55 million to 120 million tons annually, or 5 to 11 percent of the EU’s overall emissions target, by 2020. (By 2020, the EU has vowed to reduce emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels). By 2050, a large-scale shift to cycling would represent a cut in C02 emissions of 63 million to 142 million tons, or 12 to 26 percent of the target reduction for the transportation sector. Since the EU is unlikely to meet its targets with more efficient technology alone, the report says that a shift away from cars is critical.
09 Dec 2011:
Major Shift to Greener Vehicles
A new report from ExxonMobil predicts that nearly half of the world’s cars will either be hybrids or powered by alternative fuels
by 2040. While hybrids now account for just about 1 percent of all vehicles worldwide, the oil giant forecasts that hybrids and alternative energy vehicles will move to the mainstream as governments increasingly push for better fuel efficiency. The ExxonMobil report, “The Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040
,” predicts that overall energy demand will remain flat in developed nations over the next three decades, but demand in developing nations such as China and India will increase nearly 60 percent from 2010 to 2040. The report also predicts a worldwide boom in shale gas production and forecasts that 30 percent of the world’s electricity will be produced from natural gas, while demand for coal will peak before seeing “its first long-term decline in modern history.”
Interview: Exploring Humanity's
Place in the Journey of the Universe
As a pioneer in the field of religion and ecology, Mary Evelyn Tucker has long believed that science and policy alone are not enough to deal with the Earth’s most pressing environmental challenges. What’s also needed,
Mary Evelyn Tucker
she says, is a spiritual or religious framework for valuing the natural world, a sense that “there is something here that’s larger than us, something that’s given birth to all life forms and sustains us.” That is the essence of a new film she co-produced, Journey of the Universe
, which is premiering on PBS. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Tucker describes the evolution of her work and how it is brought together in Journey of the Universe
. While the film does not include any overt religious references, it seeks to evoke a sense of what she calls “wonder and awe.” Says Tucker, “There is a broad spiritual sensibility, which many environmentalists share, but often don’t talk about or want to name.”
Read the interview
29 Nov 2011:
Map Shows Population Density
As Planet Reaches 7 Billion People
With the world’s population now surpassing 7 billion
, a Boston-based design firm has published a map illustrating the planet’s population density, including
detailed visualizations of the most densely populated cities. Dencity, created by Fathom Information Design
, uses circles of various sizes and hues to represent population density, with larger, darker circles showing areas with fewer people, and smaller, lighter circles representing the world’s most crowded cities and regions. China, home to eight of the world’s 20 most populated cities, contains a series of tightly packed orange and yellow dots. Likewise, the populous nations of India and Pakistan are almost uniformly dense until they reach political boundaries or geographic features, such as the Himalayas. Meanwhile, the larger, darkly hued dots illustrate less populated regions, including Saharan Africa and Siberia.
16 Nov 2011:
Major Investment Needed
To Avert Food Crisis, Study Says
An international commission says billions of dollars must be invested in agriculture and food distribution
to avoid a catastrophic increase in hunger worldwide in the coming years. In a new study, the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change said a coordinated series of responses is needed
to feed a growing world population in the face of climate change, ecosystem degradation, and rising food prices. By significantly increasing sustainable agriculture, the group says, the world can use farming as a tool to fight climate change since healthy soils could absorb carbon dioxide rather than releasing it. Other recommendations include intensifying agricultural production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions; targeting populations that are most vulnerable; improving access to nutritional foods; and improved efficiencies to reduce loss and waste in food production.
11 Nov 2011:
New Irrigation Device Pulls
Water From the Air in Driest Conditions
A student at Australia’s Swinburne University this week received the James Dyson Award
for a device he says is capable of harvesting moisture from the air for use in
James Dyson Award
irrigation, even in the world’s driest places. Developed by Edward Linnacre, the Airdrop
is a wind- or solar-powered device that sucks air underground through a coiled metal pipe, where the cooler temperature of the surrounding soil slowly causes it to condense. The device ultimately collects the water in an underground tank before it is pumped back to the roots of nearby crops via a sub-surface drip irrigation system. According to Linnacre, a prototype that he developed in his mother’s backyard was able to produce about one liter of water per day. He hopes the technology can be used for agriculture in even the driest conditions. “There are water-harvesting technologies out there, but there’s very few low-tech solutions,” he said. “A low-tech solution is perfect for rural farmers, something that they can install, something that they can maintain themselves.”