Climate change has become firmly established as an accelerant to many of the factors which have put one in eight of the world’s birds at risk of extinction, 2008 IUCN Bird Red List warns that long-term droughts and extreme weather puts additional stress on key habitats. The assessment lists 1,226 species as threatened with extinction – one-in-eight of all bird species. In the revised Red List, eight species have been added to the “critically endangered” category. One of them is the Floreana mockingbird (Nesomimus trifasciatus), which is confined to two islets in the Galapagos Islands has reduced from 150 in 1960 to less than 60 today. Another example of a species being affected by shifts in the climate was the akekee (Loxops caeruleirostris), a Hawaiian honey-creeper. It’s being negatively impacted by prolonged heavy rain causing nesting failures, but they are extremely threatened by introduced diseases, which are carried by invasive mosquitoes. The mosquitoes have been restricted to lower altitudes, so the birds do best at heights above which the mosquitoes can go and pass on avian malaria. But because of climate change, the temperature zones are shifting. It is getting warmer at higher altitudes, so the mosquitoes can now move higher. This is eliminating the mosquito-free zone that the birds used to occupy.
For those who still think that electric powered vehicles have a long way to go, think again. The Vectrix is a very powerful electric powered scooter that accelerates faster than cars at stop signs and claims to go upto 68mph at top speed. The Vectrix is powered by a low-mounted, 3.7 kilowatt NiMH battery pack that re-charges to 80 or 90 percent of capacity in two hours. Three hours is usually enough for a full charge, four if you start from flat empty.
While most of us are happy having a solar cell in our calculators and often dream of owning enough solar cells to power our home, a small village in Korea has already done it. The village Donggwang gets 100% of its power from the sun. The village is located on the semi-tropical island of Jeju-do. Near the village, Halla Mountain, a volcano and the tallest mountain in South Korea, rises from the island’s center amidst a patchwork of small farms. The village’s forty houses and the school all have large solar panels covering their roofs. A typical roof will have a two kilowatt solar installation. In 2004, the government subsidized the solar systems in Donggwang, paying 70% of the installation fees. Now if only our govt realizes the harm to the environment the older forms of energy production make and lose its selfish obsession with making money providing the most basic of energy requirements.
Alternate energy is the coolest rage today, but not everybody has the capacity to make money out of it. Unless of course you are Google! Google is now planning into the energy business, and as any of its previous ventures its going to do it in a big way. It already has a history of investing in renewable energy, with its Mountain View, Calif. headquarters already being powered, in part, by one of the largest solar electric installations in the United States. It now plans to go big with its philanthropic arm, Google.org, and invest $20 million in the next year alone toward renewable energy research. This will include the cost of hiring between 20 and 30 new employees, including renewable energy experts. Google aims to find a way to significantly reduce the cost of renewable energy generation to bring it more on par with the cost of coal.
Komatsu PC200-8 Hybrid hydraulic excavator combines a capacitor and a diesel engine. While construction machines normally use hydraulic motors to turn their upper structures, Komatsu’s new Hybrid model uses an electric motor for this movement. The electric motor collects energy generated when the upper structure of the excavator slows down while turning. The energy collected is converted into electric energy to be stored in the capacitor. The stored electricity is utilized via a dynamo-electric motor to assist the engine when it is accelerating. As a result, the engine can be used in a low-rotation zone with high-efficiency combustion. In addition, the rotation can be maintained at 700rpm when the engine runs idle (during deceleration), thereby reducing the fuel consumption.
Toyota has announced today that worldwide cumulative sales of the Toyota Prius have passed the 1 million mark, with approximately 1,028,000 units sold as of the end of April this year. The Prius was launched in Japan in 1997 and began selling in Europe, North America and other markets in 2000. In 2005, Toyota began first overseas production of the Prius in Changchun, China, and sales of Prius vehicles in South Korea are expected to begin in the latter half of 2009. Based on sales figures and a lot may complex calculations Toyota claims Prius’s have led to a reduction in CO2 emissions (considered a cause of global warming) by producing approximately 4.5 million tons less CO2 when compared with gasoline-powered vehicles in the same class and of similar size and driving performance.
What do you think are the big internet companies doing when they say they are going green? One single Google search query consumes 2 to 8 watt-hours of energy. To put this on a scale, Google processes petabytes of information on a daily basis while indexing the web and doing other various things. If we average this out to 4.5 watt hours per query, and consider Google is easily handling 400 million queries a day based on comScore metrics, then we can see 1,800,000,000 (1.8 billion) watt-hours of energy being used daily just for basic search queries. When a big company like Intel or Google refers to “greening” or “going green” with their server technologies the first step is finding a renewable or more efficient power source. Generally wind-power and biomass come to mind, but we’re going to need more than that to power the web as you can already see. You have to remember that a website like Youtube doesnt just rely on some hard disks spinning in some guys dorm. The amount of heat produced by these data centers is another intimidating issue we have to face… With the currently technology available we’re forced to use AC units and massive cooling centers to keep all of the servers at around 70 degrees or less. The hot air gets pumped out of the centers and usually outside, although some companies are finally using this excess heat to power office buildings and heat up pools in surrounding areas.
Triumph International a leading lingerie manufacturer from Japan has produced the Solar Brasserie. The Bra has a solar panel which generates electricity and is in turned wired to a mini electric bulletin board for displaying messages. In addition to this the bra padding can be used to store water or vodka and to drink it a straw needs to be inserted into the brasserie cup. The brasseries is made using organic cloth (cotton grown without fertilizers and pesticides). Triumph International will not be selling this product anytime soon, thankfully.
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Volkswagen AG along with Japan’s Sanyo Electric is in the process of developing a lithium-ion battery, a key component of hybrid and electric cars. Sanyo is going through a restructuring and believes its battery business is key to its turnaround. Sanyo is currently manufacturing nickel-hydrogen batteries that can be recharged repeatedly and supplying them to Honda Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co. Volkswagen and subsidiary Audi AG will also adopt Sanyo-made nickel-hydrogen batteries for use in the Volkswagen group’s first hybrid model, to be rolled out as early as next year. Toyota, which has enjoyed enormous successes with Prius hybrid model, has worked with Matsushita Electric Industrial, known for its Panasonic brand, to start mass-production of a lithium-ion battery for use in Toyota’s hybrid models by 2010.
Finding an ethanol gas station may become a thing of the past since most of us can easily make it in our back yards. E-Fuel founder and CEO Thomas Quinn thinks that such a day is soon to be. It looks like a cross between a gas pump and an old-fashioned refrigerator, but in reality it’s a home ethanol refinery. Connect it to a power source and a water source, add sugar “feedstock” and yeast or discarded alcohol (yes, that could mean last week’s tequila) and in a week it can produce 35 gallons of ethanol that Quinn said any car can run on.