Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Doing Van Gogh Proud with a Solar-Powered Bike Trail

Dutch cyclists on nighttime journeys through the province of North Brabant get to experience some of the magic from Vincent Van Gogh's well-known painting, The Starry Night, with their course illuminated by thousands of glittering stones. Van Gogh painted in Nuenen, adjacent to the path, and the bike path designer, Daan Roosegaarde, wanted to create a tribute to him.      

In a press release, Roosegaarde, commented: 

I wanted to create a place that people will experience in a special way, the technical combined with experience, that's what techno-poetry means to me. 
As noted in this Slate article:
The path is coated in photoluminescent paint that's also embedded with small LEDs powered by nearby solar panels. The path essentially charges all day so that it can glow during the night and it also has backup power in case it's overcast.  
Van Gogh went from total obscurity to become one of the most recognized, popular artists of all time. During an interview about his biography, Van Gogh: The Life, author Steven Naifeh explains the artist's popularity:

There’s an overwhelming genuineness to his paintings. Even if people know that he cut his ear off and was an unhappy person, he was able to extract jubilant images from the deep well of sorrow that was his life. One of Vincent’s favorite readings was Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “Sorrowful but always rejoicing.” That is what his paintings do.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Trike That Thinks Its an Electric Car

This entertaining hybrid, part three-wheeler, part bike, part electric car, goes by the nickname ELF. There's something intrinsically appealing about this little vehicle.

Grist did a quick profile on it and, if you're interested, a 7-minute video follows as well. A bit pricey ($5,495), but about as low impact as travel can be.

Specs in a nutshell:
The ELF can go up to 30 mph and carry up to 350 pounds, but doesn’t need any of that pesky car stuff like a license plate, insurance, or actual gasoline. The battery’ll charge in 90 minutes when plugged in, carrying you up to 14 miles — farther if you put your thighs to work.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

New Energy Strategy for Minnesota Evaluates Renewables

A new article in the RMI Outlet looks at a comprehensive evaluation in Minnesota to assess the value and potential of renewable energy resources to replace the infrastructure heavily dependent on fossil fuels. The move has elicited some corresponding excitement from businesses in the state.
And it is not just Minnesota’s government building momentum around an alternative energy future. The state’s Fortune 100 companies, such as Target and Best Buy, have set significant GHG reduction goals. Its power companies continue to expand renewable generation, including both solar and wind. And Minnesota’s civil society, pillared by organizations such as Great Plains Institute and Center for Energy and Environment, helps facilitate change and drive innovation in the energy and efficiency sector. That is why RMI was excited to support the Minnesota Department of Commerce in the development of a comprehensive guide to conducting an energy future study for Minnesota.
You can imagine that somewhere in the faraway, fictional land of Lake Wobegon, solar panels are appearing atop barn roofs and wind turbines are gracing ridge lines.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

NASA Study Points to Collapse of Civilization

A new study funded by NASA suggests that we're facing the collapse of industrial civilization within decades due to a combination of factors evaluated using a cross-disciplinary model, HANDY (Human And Nature DYnamical). Factors that were weighed in the study include: population, climate, water, agriculture, and Energy. Rather than being a rare occurrence, the study points to earlier historical precedents that show that "precipitous collapse" has been common in human history and the results often last centuries. The study has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics

In evaluating the factors using the HANDY methodology, the study noted:
These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity"; and "the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or "Commoners") [poor]" These social phenomena have played "a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse," in all such cases over "the last five thousand years."
Will technology save us? The authors were skeptical:
"Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use."
The conclusion: our "business as usual" approach cannot be sustained and governments, corporations, and consumers need to adapt and change to keep our worldwide civilization intact and functioning.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Energy Solutions—Amory Lovins Speaks at Bioneers

The annual Bioneers conference is often a revelation to attendees, offering fresh, pragmatic, sustainable solutions to the social, cultural, and environmental problems of our age. The last conference included a keynote address from Amory Lovins, the cofounder, chief scientist, and chairman emeritus of the Rocky Mountain Institute. It's worth viewing—the talk summarizes many of the key ideas of Reinventing Fire, Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era.

Watch for a YouTube posting of Lovins' talk at TED2014: The Next Chapter, to be held in Vancouver, BC, Canada this next week.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Brighter Streetlights, Less Energy

As reported by the Earth Island Journal, a shift from traditional streetlights to light-emitting diodes bulbs is being instituted by cities in locales around the country, from San Antonio to San Francisco. 
Energy savings from this conversion are already showing benefits. Quoting from the article:
In terms of the environment, LEDs definitely bring some benefits, the biggest of which is energy savings. The Oakland Streetlight Conversion Project will save the city nearly $20,000 per year in energy costs, and will reduce city greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 40 percent (or 80,000 pounds) per year. “The overall goal of this whole project was to have better light in our city streets,” says Kristine Shaff, a public information officer with the City of Oakland. “And the energy savings are tremendous.”
One catch, noted in the article, blue-rich LEDs have the potential to disrupt circadian rhythms in animals and humans, so municipalities are encouraged to install yellow-rich LEDs to eliminate the concern.

Streetlight photo by flickr user meltedplastic