The storage system, looking something like a refrigerator with the Tesla logo emblazoned on it, contains hundreds of the same lithium ion batteries that go into Tesla’s Model S sedan. “If you go to the end of the manufacturing line at the Tesla factory where they put the battery pack on, you will see these storage systems being assembled,” says Peter Rive, SolarCity’s co-founder and chief technology officer. SolarCity now sells the industrial version alongside a smaller, wall-mounted system that’s been installed in about 500 homes so far. The commercial unit has been in beta tests for months and is selling in limited quantities so far.
SolarCity's innovation wasn't technological but financial. Instead of selling solar systems outright, which can cost $20,000 or more, SolarCity would install them for free and then sell the electricity the panels generated to customers at a fixed rate over the life of a 20-year contract.
Given that utility rates are expected to rise, customers taking advantage of so-called power-purchase-agreement contracts are able to avoid the prohibitive up-front cost of solar and save money over the life of their contract. SolarCity also offered solar leases, not unlike car leases, in which customers pay a fixed monthly price for their systems. "With a lease, you immediately start saving, and from Day One you pay less for electricity than you were before," says Shayle Kann, vice president for research at Greentech Media. The model--now used by most solar installers--opened a huge new market.
Of course, subsidies help. The federal government offers a 30% tax credit on solar systems, and states provide additional incentives. Some states also have net-metering laws, which require utilities to pay solar-system owners for any excess electricity they feed back into the grid. That's what has some utilities concerned about distributed solar. If solar can keep growing, a significant percentage of utility customers will begin producing more and more of their own energy--and paying less to utilities. Rhone Resch, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, argues that if utilities don't evolve, SolarCity will become a threat.
As opposition to genetically modified crops has spread across Europe and the world, leading chemical companies including BASF and DuPont have turned to mutagenesis—a technique that mimics the sun’s irradiation of plants—to create herbicide-resistant crops. The process, which faces almost no regulation, creates opportunities for companies to grab a bigger share of the $34 billion global commercial seed market. But some scientists say mutant crops are more likely to pose health risks than genetically modified ones.
Mutagenesis isn’t new: Breeders have relied on it for decades to produce thousands of varieties of lettuce, oats, rice, and other crops. BASF today licenses its technologies to 40 of the world’s biggest seed companies, including DuPont and Switzerland’s Syngenta (graph has some of its seed brands) which in turn sell high volumes of mutant breeds, ranging from wheat to sunflowers, in markets that reject genetically engineered seeds.
USA Today on technology to improve auto fuel efficiency
“Perhaps the most obvious place to look for efficiency gains is under the hood. That's why Honda, Chrysler, and GM offer engines that shut off cylinders when not in use. At highway speeds, a V8 can turn into a four-cylinder to conserve fuel, but on the on-ramp the whole engine will come to life.
Going a step further, a number of automakers offer engines that shut off entirely when the car isn't moving. Known as Auto Start-Stop, the technology keeps engines from wasting fuel while idling at stoplights. Ford estimates that its Auto Start-Stop feature can boost fuel economy by four to 10%.
There's even efficiency to be gained when slowing for those stoplights. The latest Mazda 6 offers an optional regenerative braking system called i-ELOOP (in graph). It recovers energy from braking that otherwise would've been wasted as heat, and stores it to power other vehicle functions.”
Beyond Meat, which is being rolled out nationally this fall, aims to be better for you and, eventually, cheaper than real chicken. "If our product is higher quality than meat at a much lower cost, imagine how much can we disrupt the market," Brown says. It's delivered in boxes of rough-edged, rectangular, chicken-free strips that are made from soy protein isolate, pea protein isolate, and amaranth, with plant-derived chicken flavoring by Givaudan, the world's largest manufacturer of fragrances. Beyond Meat has been precisely engineered to look like chicken, taste like chicken, and especially to feel like chicken when you take a bite. "We are obsessed," Brown says. "We call it OCD. Obsessive Chicken Disorder. It has to be exactly like chicken."
For Brown, 41, an animal lover who grew up on a dairy farm in western Maryland, Beyond Meat is a cause as well as a business; he's a vegan who supports animal welfare groups like Farm Sanctuary, which rescues chickens, pigs, and cows from farms and zoos. "Why do you have to eat protein from animals when you can get it from plants?" he asks.
The boat, loaded with 15 tons of cargo from 30 farms, is about to complete its maiden voyage down the Hudson. The crew has been hosting daily dockside markets at port towns from Hudson to Yonkers, selling pantry staples, like wild birch syrup, heirloom beans and Atlantic-harvested seaweed, and fresh produce, like blue fingerling potatoes from Juniper Hill Farm in Wadhams, N.Y., and shiso from Grange Co-Packer Cooperative in Essex, N.Y., which von Tscharner Fleming co-founded.
“Nine million people live within walking distance of the boat’s markets,” she said. “Frankly, it shouldn’t be a luxury to eat regional food. We’re allowing ourselves to imagine what it might mean to reshuffle the system and move toward a compelling, regionally appropriate, affordable, satisfying diet.”
On a day like today with so much food everywhere, good to see this
"The 28-year-old former Fulbright scholar, cooking instructor and Community Coordinator for Bi-Rite is on a mission this morning: to give away 115 pounds of organic gold apricots and black seedless grapes to a local hunger-relief charity. Fifteen minutes later, a tweet alerts Simley that a volunteer from Food Runners is on his way to claim the fresh fruits which will be distributed within 24 hours to low-income residents in San Francisco.
It's a stunningly effective demonstration of how the battle against food waste has shifted online, where Facebook, Twitter and startups (like CropMobster) are helping to nimbly crowdsource surplus food that would otherwise end up composted or worse – end up rotting in a landfill."
As Alcoa celebrates its 125th birthday, it highlights its history and some of the remarkable contributions bauxite and aluminum have made to make our lives richer
“Its properties are simply amazing: lightweight and ideal for promoting fuel efficiency in autos; strong enough to withstand deep ocean drilling and space travel; non-corrosive, making it perfect for use on the façade of buildings; and, of course, it is infinitely recyclable. No other material has all of these properties.”
“No other metal has aluminum’s sustainability advantage. Nearly 75 percent of the aluminum ever produced is still in use today. When an aluminum can is recycled, it can be back on the shelf in 60 days. Alcoa saves 95 percent of the energy it takes to make a can from new metal, which lowers the carbon footprint of an aluminum can.”