Underwater Balloons Function as Batteries

One criticism of renewable energy systems is that they do not function on demand. You need the sun to shine, the wind to blow, or another natural system to kick into effect. This means that energy will be created when it isn’t needed.

The solution is to take that surplus energy and convert into a storage system that can be turned on when it is demanded. In Toronto, there is presently a pilot project by Hydrostor that is converting that stored energy into compressed air. The air stays compressed thanks to the giant lake that sits on top of the balloon holding the air.

“Most of the world is saying we have to get off fossil fuels,” he said. “To do that, you need lots of energy storage.”
In the same way an everyday battery banks energy using chemicals, Hydrostor relies on compressed, bottled air. And because it produces zero emissions, the system can help Toronto adjust to a healthier low-carbon diet.
It works by stockpiling surplus energy generated during off-peak periods and converting it into compressed air. This air is then sent underwater, stored in balloons and saved, literally in some cases, for a rainy day.

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Vertical Kelp Farming

Farming the Sea: why eating kelp is good for you and good for the environment from Patrick Mustain on Vimeo.

GreenWave is a new non-profit that wants to improve our food sources while cleaning the seas. Kelp usually grows on the ground or sides of anything inorganic underwater, what GreenWave has done is to build an efficient way to harvest kelp from these sources. A benefit of this is that kelp naturally cleans the water around it so now we can get kelp in a faster way while cleaning the water.

As a result of their approach, GreenWave has won the Buckminster Fuller 2015 challenge.

This new approach moves us from growing vulnerable monocultures to creating vibrant ecosystems, which work to rebuild biodiversity and produce higher yields. The infrastructure is simple: seaweed, scallops and mussels grow on floating ropes, stacked above oyster and clam cages below. From these crops ocean farmers can produce food, fertilizers, animal feeds, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, biofuels and much more. The farms are designed to restore, rather than deplete our ecosystems. A single acre filters millions of gallons of ocean water every day, creates homes for hundreds of wild marine and bird species and absorbs the overabundance of nitrogen and carbon (with kelp sequestering 5x more carbon than land based-plants) that are killing billions of organisms. The design requires zero-inputs—there is no need for fresh water.

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Human Waste as an Energy Source

Human waste is a problem for every place humans live and throughout history it has been dealt with in various ways. Instead of treating human waste as a problem that needs to be removed from our towns we may want to think about it as an energy source. That’s right: turn our poo into electricity.

Anaerobic digestion of human waste can be done to convert the waste into gas. The UN University has successfully done this in Uganda and ready to take it elsewhere.

Biogas from human waste, safely obtained under controlled circumstances using innovative technologies, is a potential fuel source great enough in theory to generate electricity for up to 138 million households – the number of households in Indonesia, Brazil, and Ethiopia combined.

A report today from UN University’s Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health estimates that biogas potentially available from human waste worldwide would have a value of up to US$ 9.5 billion in natural gas equivalent.

And the residue, dried and charred, could produce 2 million tonnes of charcoal-equivalent fuel, curbing the destruction of trees.

Finally, experts say, the large energy value would prove small relative to that of the global health and environmental benefits that would accrue from the proper universal treatment of human waste.

“Rather than treating our waste as a major liability, with proper controls in place we can use it in several circumstances to build innovative and sustained financing for development while protecting health and improving our environment in the process,” according to the report, “Valuing Human Waste as an Energy Resource.”

Check out their work.

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Boycott Bottled Water for a Better World

Bottle water is a sham and you all know this. The problem is that a lot of people don’t and that our society permits these individuals to continue their unwarranted consumption.

Water is the oil of the 21st century in terms of politics and conflict. It’s best not to make the situation worse by engaging in a system which denies people access to their local water while massive corporations make huge profits from water.

What’s more is that the water from your taps (in the developed world at least) is cleaner and safer than bottled water.

The reason you should boycott bottled water is because it enables a bullshit, backwards vision for society.

Boycotting bottled water means you support the idea that public access to clean, safe water is not only a basic human right, but that it’s a goddamn technological triumph worth protecting. It means you believe that ensuring public access to this resource is the only way to guarantee it will be around in a few more years.

Clean, safe drinking water that flows freely out of our faucets is a feat of engineering that humans have been been perfecting for two millennia. It is a cornerstone of civilization. It is what our cities are built upon. And over the years the scientists and hydrologists and technicians who help get water to our houses have also become our environmental stewards, our infrastructural watchdogs, our urban visionaries. Drinking the water these people supply to our homes is the best possible way to protect future access to water worldwide.

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Energy From Drinking Water

Drinkable water right from a tap in your home is a relatively new and amazing thing. Just when you thought water delivery systems couldn’t get any better a company has converted pipes into energy generators. Their new pipes can capture energy from water as it flows to its destination to provide a small amount of energy for communities.

“We have a project in Riverside, California, where they’re using it to power streetlights at night,” Semler says. “During the day, when electricity prices are high, they can use it to offset some of their operating costs.”

In Portland, one of the city’s main pipelines now uses Lucid’s pipes to make power that’s sent into the grid. Though the system can’t generate enough energy for an entire city, the pipes can power individual buildings like a school or library, or help offset a city’s total energy bill. Unlike wind or solar power, the system can generate electricity at any time of day, regardless of weather, since the pipes always have water flowing through them.

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