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At Google’s new campus, ‘dragonscale’ solar panels capture sunlight from all different angles

At Google’s new campus, ‘dragonscale’ solar panels capture sunlight from all different angles

The company’s Mountain View, California, offices feature curved roofs and textured solar panels that optimize the hours they can generate electricity. It’s just one sustainability feature of the more-than-a-million-square-foot campus.

At Google’s newly opened campus in Mountain View, California, it isn’t immediately obvious that the roofs are covered in solar panels. But the sprawling canopies on each building—looking a little like futuristic circus tents—are covered in 50,000 small, silver-colored “dragonscale” photovoltaic panels, shaped to optimize the times they can generate solar power throughout the day.

[Photo: Iwan Baan/courtesy Google]

It’s part of an approach that the company, along with architects from Bjarke Ingels Group and Heatherwick Studio, took to making the new campus, which covers more than a million square feet, as sustainable as possible. In an area currently undergoing a severe drought, it’s designed to save water. A massive geothermal system, the largest in North America, makes it possible to heat and cool the buildings without fossil fuels. The landscaping helps support biodiversity. The buildings’ solar skins, along with local wind power, will help the campus work toward Google’s goal of running on 100% renewable power, 24-7, by the end of the decade. (Right now, it runs on 90% renewable power.)

[Photo: Iwan Baan/courtesy Google]

“We started out really looking at how to solve problems holistically,” says Asim Tahir, who leads district and renewable energy strategy for Google’s campus development projects. “Typical design processes have optimized for solving problems in silos.” The canopy-like roofs, for example, are designed to serve multiple functions—protecting the space inside, letting in light through clerestory windows that give employees views of nature from their desks, and maximizing the amount of water that can be captured and stored when it rains for later use in irrigation. The curved shape also helps capture sunlight on solar panels.

[Photo: Iwan Baan/courtesy Google]

Typical solar panels generate power in the middle of the day, and as the amount of solar power in California has grown, the state has struggled to deal with the mismatch between the time that power is generated and the time that it’s used. “Every year, clean energy from solar plants gets curtailed in the middle of the day because it’s too much, and there isn’t enough load,” Tahir says. Because the solar panels sit on the new roofs facing different angles, some catch more light early in the morning and others get more afternoon light, both times when the larger electric grid has less renewable energy. The texture of the glass in the panels also helps capture light from different angles. “You can imagine a lot of little prisms that are connected together in a sheet of glass,” he says.

[Photo: Iwan Baan/courtesy Google]

The team also focused on the aesthetics of the panels. “We went deep into understanding the solar supply chain, how panels are manufactured, figuring out where we might have the ability to change components, elements, and all that you need—that vision,” he says. “So that in this case, the goal was really to show that it can be beautiful and efficient at the same time.”

[Photo: Iwan Baan/courtesy Google]

Underground, a geothermal field taps into the steady temperature below the surface to pump heat back and forth for heating and cooling. The geothermal system helps cut carbon emissions on the site in half. It also shrinks the huge amount of water that would have been used in a standard cooling tower, eliminating the use of around five million gallons of water a year.

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[Photo: ©Adrià Goula/courtesy IAAC/Pati Nunez Agency]


Buildings should be more productive, and it starts with growing food on our roofs.

Solar trees in Super Tree Grove at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. Coleen Rivas / Unsplash


At first glance, solar trees might seem impractical — more art than function when compared to the best solar panels. But solar trees offer a few surprising benefits over their ground-mounted counterparts

[Photo: Iwan Baan/courtesy Google]

“What really allowed us to become ‘net positive,’ generating more reclaimed water than we’re using, was reducing demand,” says Tahir. The campus also recycles any water that’s used, so it can be used again to flush toilets and irrigate the landscape. Rain is collected in above-ground pools and also combined with the recycled water.

[Photo: Iwan Baan/courtesy Google]

The grounds, restored to bring back native habitat, connect to a public trail with native plants next to a stream that’s home to wildlife (on a walk by, I saw a heron and frogs in the water).”We said, okay, as we are laying out the site, what more can we do besides just the building efficiency? What can we do to restore the ecology, provide habitat, use native plants, and almost make it look seamless with some of the natural surroundings?” Tahir says. The path also gives employees another way to commute: If they live in certain areas, it’s possible to use the trail to bike to work.


Adele Peters at Fast Company

Germany, Denmark, Netherlands and Belgium sign €135 billion offshore wind pact

Germany, Denmark, Netherlands and Belgium sign €135 billion offshore wind pact

Heads of government from the North Sea countries met in the Danish town of Esbjerg on Wednesday (18 May) to sign a cooperation agreement on offshore wind development and green hydrogen. They will target at least 65 GW by 2030 and 150 GW by 2050.

In a joint declaration, the North Sea countries state their intention of becoming the “Green Power Plant of Europe”.

The North Sea’s reliable winds, shallow waters, and proximity to industrial centres that are big consumers of electricity, makes it a perfect fit for the installation of offshore wind farms.

“Today’s agreement by the energy ministers is an important milestone in cross-border cooperation. It is the basis for the first real European power plants that also generate electricity from renewable energies,” explained Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck.

“Together with our partner countries, we can expand offshore wind energy in the North Sea region even faster and more efficiently and tap new potential for green hydrogen,” he said, adding that this would “further reduce our dependence on gas imports.”

The agreement aims for a tenfold increase in offshore wind power capacity in the region, with total investments from the private sector expected to reach €135 billion. In the end, this figure could be even higher, as the European Commission estimated a total of €800 billion in offshore energy investment was necessary to reach the EU’s 2050 target.

“Using the wind, using the North Sea has a long tradition in our countries,” stated Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is former mayor of Hamburg, a North Sea shipping hub.

Offshore wind no longer rely on subsidies and are getting “cheaper and cheaper,” he added, saying that now is the “time for industrialisation”.

The ability to build these projects without public support makes them particularly attractive to policymakers. “I’m so happy that some of these wind farms are now being developed without public money being involved,” highlighted Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister.

“We are writing European history!” tweeted Brian Vad Mathiesen, a renewable energy researcher at Denmark’s Aalborg University. The agreement, he added, will provide power for more than 200 million households.

At the same time, the four countries want to intensify cooperation in the production of “green” hydrogen from renewable electricity, with plans to expand related infrastructure in the region.

Green hydrogen, a rare premium commodity, is highly coveted by steelmakers looking to produce carbon-neutral steel. “There is a real boom in demand for green hydrogen in industry,” said Habeck’s economy and climate ministry on Tuesday (17 May). 

The North Sea wind farms should play a major role in supplying sufficient hydrogen, policymakers says.

“By harvesting the abundant offshore wind resources of the North Sea, we can also pave the way for the hydrogen economy. Offshore wind power frequently generates more electricity than is needed,” wrote Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson and Danish Energy Minister Dan Jørgensen in an op-ed for EURACTIV.

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America's billion-dollar Crescent Dunes spans acres of Nevada desertGetty


New capacity for generating electricity from solar, wind and other renewables increased to a record level worldwide in 2021 and will grow further this year as governments increasingly seek to take advantage of renewables’ energy security and climate benefits, according to the International Energy Agency.

Middelgruden Offshore Wind Farm in Denmark. Image credit: UN.


They would serve as a hub for offshore wind farms along the coast.

Speeding up the renewable rollout

The four countries also highlighted the importance of “speeding up” permitting procedures at EU level, in line with the European Commission’s ‘REPowerEU’ plan presented yesterday.

To accelerate deployment, the EU executive wants to make permitting procedures simpler, with new wind and solar projects being declared a matter of “overriding public interest”, and ‘go-to’ areas introduced at the national level in zones with low environmental risk.

With Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium throwing their weight behind faster permitting, the North Sea looks like an ideal candidate to become the EU’s first “go-to” zone for renewables.

“Nowadays we have permitting times between six and nine years,” explained Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during the meeting in Esbjerg. In “go-to” areas, those would be shortened to one year.

“This would be one here, in Denmark” and it would be “of utmost importance to the industry,” she added.


Nikolaus J. Kurmayer via Euractiv

Renewable power is set to break another global record in 2022 despite higher costs and supply chain bottlenecks

Renewable power is set to break another global record in 2022 despite higher costs and supply chain bottlenecks

New capacity for generating electricity from solar, wind and other renewables increased to a record level worldwide in 2021 and will grow further this year as governments increasingly seek to take advantage of renewables’ energy security and climate benefits, according to the International Energy Agency.

The world added a record 295 gigawatts of new renewable power capacity in 2021, overcoming supply chain challenges, construction delays and high raw material prices, according to the IEA’s latest Renewable Energy Market Update. Global capacity additions are expected to rise this year to 320 gigawatts—equivalent to an amount that would come close to meeting the entire electricity demand of Germany or matching the European Union’s total electricity generation from natural gas. Solar PV is on course to account for 60% of global renewable power growth in 2022, followed by wind and hydropower.

In the European Union, annual additions jumped by almost 30% to 36 gigawatts in 2021, finally exceeding the bloc’s previous record of 35 gigawatts set a decade ago. The additional renewables capacity commissioned for 2022 and 2023 has the potential to significantly reduce the European Union’s dependence on Russian gas in the power sector. However, the actual contribution will depend on the success of parallel energy efficiency measures to keep the region’s energy demand in check.

“Energy market developments in recent months—especially in Europe—have proven once again the essential role of renewables in improving energy security, in addition to their well-established effectiveness at reducing emissions,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “Cutting red tape, accelerating permitting and providing the right incentives for faster deployment of renewables are some of the most important actions governments can take to address today’s energy security and market challenges, while keeping alive the possibility of reaching our international climate goals.”

Renewables’ growth so far this year is much faster than initially expected, driven by strong policy support in China, the European Union and Latin America, which are more than compensating for slower than anticipated growth in the United States. The US outlook is clouded by uncertainty over new incentives for wind and solar and by trade actions against solar PV imports from China and Southeast Asia.

Based on today’s policy settings, however, renewable power’s global growth is set to lose momentum next year. In the absence of stronger policies, the amount of renewable power capacity added worldwide is expected to plateau in 2023, as continued progress for solar is offset by a 40% decline in hydropower expansion and little change in wind additions.

While energy markets face a wide range of uncertainties, the strengthened focus by governments on energy security and affordability—particularly in Europe—is building new momentum behind efforts to accelerate the deployment of energy efficiency solutions and renewable energy technologies. The outlook for renewables for 2023 and beyond will therefore depend to a large extent on whether new and stronger policies are introduced and implemented over the next six months.

Offshore windfarm (Image courtesy: iStock/ssuaphoto)

The current growth in renewable power capacity would be even faster without the current supply chain and logistical challenges. The cost of installing solar PV and wind plants is expected to remain higher than pre-pandemic levels throughout 2022 and 2023 because of elevated commodity and freight prices, reversing a decade of declining costs. However, they remain competitive because prices for natural gas and other fossil fuel alternatives have risen much faster.

Global additions of solar PV capacity are on course to break new records in both this year and next, with the annual market reaching 200 GW in 2023. Solar’s growth in China and India is accelerating, driven by strong policy support for large-scale projects, which can be completed at lower costs than fossil fuel alternatives. In the European Union, rooftop solar installations by households and companies are expected to help consumers save money as electricity bills rise.

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“Each of our drones can plant over 40,000 seed pods per day and they fly autonomously,” says Andrew Walker, CEO and co-founder of AirSeed Technologies.


A fast-spreading bacteria could cause an olive-oil apocalypse.

Policy uncertainties, as well as long and complex permitting regulations, are preventing much faster growth for the wind industry. Having plunged 32% in 2021 after exceptionally high installations in 2020, additions of new onshore wind capacity are expected to recover slightly this year and next.

New additions of offshore wind capacity are set to drop 40% globally in 2022 after having been buoyed last year by a huge jump in China as developers rushed to meet a subsidy deadline. But global additions are still on course to be over 80% higher this year than in 2020. Even with its slower expansion this year, China will surpass Europe at the end of 2022 to become the market with the largest total offshore wind capacity in the world.

Biofuel demand recovered in 2021 from its pandemic lows to reach more than 155 billion liters—near 2019 levels. Demand is expected to keep rising—by 5% in 2022 and 3% in 2023. However, the impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have contributed to a 20% downward revision of our previous forecast for biofuel growth in 2022. Since biofuels are blended with gasoline and diesel, much of the downward revision stems from slowing demand for transport, which has been depressed by a combination of factors including growing inflationary pressures, weaker global economic growth and COVID-related mobility restrictions in China.


International Energy Agency via techxplore

UN says ‘imminent’ Yemen oil spill would cost $20 bn to clean up

UN says ‘imminent’ Yemen oil spill would cost $20 bn to clean up

The United Nations warned Monday that it would cost $20 billion to clean up an oil spill in the event of the “imminent” break-up of an oil tanker abandoned off Yemen.

“Our recent visit to (the FSO Safer) with technical experts indicates that the vessel is imminently going to break up,” the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, David Gressly, said ahead of a conference, hosted by the UN and The Netherlands, to raise funds for an emergency operation to prevent an oil spill.

The 45-year-old FSO Safer, long used as a floating oil storage platform with 1.1 million barrels of crude on board, has been moored off the rebel-held Yemeni port of Hodeida since 2015, without being serviced.

“The impact of a spill will be catastrophic,” Gressly continued at a briefing in Amman. “The effect on the environment would be tremendous… our estimate is that $20 billion would be spent just to clean the oil spill.”

The UN official had earlier announced on Twitter that the Netherlands would host on Wednesday a pledging conference for the international body’s plan to avert the crisis.

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“Each of our drones can plant over 40,000 seed pods per day and they fly autonomously,” says Andrew Walker, CEO and co-founder of AirSeed Technologies.


A fast-spreading bacteria could cause an olive-oil apocalypse.

Last month, the UN said it was seeking nearly $80 million for its operation. It warned of “a humanitarian and ecological catastrophe centred on a country already decimated by more than seven years of war”.

It said that the emergency part of a two-stage operation would see the toxic cargo pumped from the storage platform to a temporary replacement vessel at a cost of $79.6 million.

Gressly estimated that a total of $144 million would be needed for the full operation, reiterating that $80 million was needed “to secure the oil safely in the initial phase”.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed directly or indirectly in Yemen’s seven-year war, while millions have been displaced in what the UN calls the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.


AFP via France24

Denmark wants to build two energy islands to supply more renewable energy to Europe

Denmark wants to build two energy islands to supply more renewable energy to Europe

They would serve as a hub for offshore wind farms along the coast.

Thirty years after becoming a pioneer in offshore wind farming, Denmark now wants to expand the repertoire of renewables again – this time with the world’s first “energy islands.” The plans have long been discussed in the country but have now been accelerated amid the disruption to the global energy market caused by Russia’s Ukraine invasion, which Denmark hopes to address by providing more renewable energy to the mainland.

In a statement, Denmark’s Minister of Climate, Energy, and Utilities Dan Jørgensen said Denmark and Europe “must be free of Russian fossil fuels as fast as possible.” To achieve this, the country will move forward with its energy transition by “massively increasing” the deployment of renewable energy on land and at sea, Jørgensen said.

Denmark’s power mix is largely shaped by wind energy. In 2021, wind power accounted for almost 50% of total electricity generation in the country, followed by bioenergy and fossil fuels – partly imported from Russia. But the government has already said earlier this year it hopes to stop Russian fossil fuel imports “as soon as possible”.

This is where the energy islands come in. Today, Denmark gets the energy from ocean winds via isolated offshore wind farms that supply electricity directly to the grid. With the energy islands, the wind turbines can be located farther away from the coast and distribute the power they generate between several countries more efficiently.

The islands will act as hubs that collect electricity from surrounding offshore wind farms and then distribute it to the grid in Denmark as well as directly to other countries. This allows electricity from an area with large wind resources to be more easily routed to areas that need it most, achieving a higher level of energy efficiency.

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A power-generating windmill turbine is seen at the Eneco Luchterduinen offshore wind farm near Amsterdam, Netherlands September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman


Solar and wind power can grow enough to limit global warming to 1.5C if the 10-year average compound growth rate of 20% can be maintained to 2030, independent climate think tank Ember said in a report on Wednesday.


In recent reports, Siemens Gamesa launched RecyclableBlade for wind turbines.  The technology, a world’s first of its kind, is commercially ready for offshore use.

The way forward

The plan includes building two islands. One will be located in the North Sea, first serving facilities for 3GW of offshore wind farms and then will be expanded to 10GW. The offshore turbines that will supply power to the island will be larger than current turbines and will be located further out at sea than before.

The second island will be located in the Baltic Sea, specifically on the island of Bornholm, where electricity from offshore wind farms will be routed to electricity grids in Denmark and neighboring countries. It will have a capacity of 2GW, corresponding to two million households. Wind farms will be established about 20km from the coast.

The Danish system operator of the transmission network, Energinet, has already commissioned preliminary studies on the seabed around Bornholm and the area in the North Sea. These will ensure that both the offshore wind farms and the artificial island are placed in areas that are suited for construction, with the least possible impact.

Denmark has a long history of exploiting the strong winds from the sea to produce electricity, with the first offshore wind farm set up in 1991. Now, the country hopes to take another big step with the construction of these two big energy islands, expanding further its renewable energy and hoping to leave behind its reliance on fossil fuels.


Fermin Koop at ZME Science

Formula E and FIA Reveal All-Electric GEN3 Race Car in Monaco

Formula E and FIA Reveal All-Electric GEN3 Race Car in Monaco

The future of all-electric high-performance motorsport has been revealed by Formula E and the Fedration Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) at the Yacht Club de Monaco where the third-generation Formula E race car was officially unveiled to the public.

The Gen3 is the world’s first race car designed and optimised specifically for street racing. It will debut in Season 9 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, where some of the world’s greatest manufacturers race wheel-to-wheel on the streets of iconic global cities.

GALLERY: Gen3 from every angle

Developed by engineers and sustainability experts at the FIA and Formula E, the Gen3 is the pinnacle of high performance, efficiency and sustainability. Designed to show the world that high performance and sustainability can powerfully co-exist without compromise, the Gen3 pioneers cutting-edge technologies that will make the transfer from race to road.

While aerodynamic development programs have been central to driving incremental improvement in motorsport for decades, the launch of the Gen3 propels software engineering forwards as a new battleground for motorsport innovation and competition. Performance upgrades to the Gen3 will be delivered as software updates directly to the advanced operating system built into the car.

Seven of the world’s leading automotive manufacturers have registered with the FIA to race the new Gen3 in Season 9 of the ABB FIA World Championship with pre-season testing this winter. They are: DS Automobiles, France; Jaguar, UK; Mahindra Racing, India; Maserati, Italy; NIO 333, UK and China; Nissan, Japan;Porsche AG, Germany.

Design, engineering and production innovations for the Gen3 race car include:


  • Fastest Formula E car yet with a top speed over 322 kph / 200 mph.
  • Most efficient formula racing car ever with more than 40% of the energy used within a race produced by regenerative braking.
  • Around 95% power efficiency from an electric motor delivering up to 350kW of power (470BHP), compared to approximately 40% for an internal combustion engine.
  • First-ever formula car with both front and rear powertrains. A new front powertrain adds 250kW to the 350kW at the rear, more than doubling the regenerative capability of the current Gen2 to a total of 600kW.
  • Ultra-high speed charging capability of 600kW for additional energy during a race, almost double the power of the most advanced commercial chargers in the world.
  • The first formula car that will not feature rear hydraulic brakes with the addition of the front powertrain and its regenerative capability.

Every aspect of Gen3 production has been rethought, redesigned and rebuilt to ensure the car sets the benchmark for high-performance, sustainable racing without compromise. For example, natural materials have been introduced to tyres, batteries and bodywork construction with life cycle thinking at the core.


  • Gen3 batteries are among the most advanced, sustainable batteries ever made consisting of sustainably-sourced minerals while battery cells will be reused and recycled at end of life.
  • Linen and recycled carbon fibre will be used in bodywork construction for the first time in a formula car featuring recycled carbon fibre from retired Gen2 cars and reducing the overall amount of virgin carbon fibre used. This will reduce the carbon footprint of the production of the Gen3 bodywork more than 10%. All waste carbon fibre will be reused for new applications through adoption of an innovative process from the aviation industry.
  • Natural rubber and recycled fibres will make up 26% of new Gen3 tyres and all tyres will be fully recycled after racing.
  • The carbon footprint of the Gen3 has been measured from the design phase to inform all reduction measures taken to reduce environmental impact, while all unavoidable emissions will be offset as part of Formula E’s net zero carbon commitment.
  • All Gen3 suppliers will operate in line with top international standards to reduce environmental impacts of manufacturing (ISO 14001) and be FIA Environmental Accreditation 3-Star rated.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, FIA President said: “Both technologically and environmentally, Gen3 sets new standards in the sport. The FIA and Formula E development teams have done a superb job, and I thank them for their hard work on this project. I am delighted to see so many leading manufacturers already signed up to the championship’s next era and await Gen3’s competitive debut in Season 9 with great anticipation.”

Jamie Reigle, Chief Executive Officer, Formula E said: “Monaco is the spiritual home of motorsport and there is nowhere more fitting to unveil our Gen3 race car. The Gen3 disrupts and challenges the conventions of motorsport, setting the benchmark for performance, efficiency and sustainability without compromise.

“Together with the FIA, we are proud to reveal the Gen3 to Formula E fans and demonstrate to the wider sports industry how elite sport, high performance and sustainability can successfully co-exist in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. We cannot wait to see how our teams and drivers push the car to its limit in 2023.”

Alejandro Agag, Founder and Chairman, Formula E said: “The Gen3 represents the ambitious third age of Formula E and the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. With every generation of race car we push the boundaries of possibility in EV technology further and the Gen3 is our most ambitious project to date. The eyes of the world are on the Principality for the Monaco E-Prix and we are proud to reveal a car that been two years in the making in the historic home of motorsport. My thanks go to the great team behind it at Formula E and the FIA – the future of all electric racing is bright.”


FIA Formula E

‘Oil Fuels War’: Greenpeace Campaigners Block Russian Tanker in Norway

‘Oil Fuels War’: Greenpeace Campaigners Block Russian Tanker in Norway

“The fact that our government still allows the import of Russian fossil fuels in the current situation is unfathomable,” said one activist.

Campaigners with the international group Greenpeace risked arrest Monday when they blocked a Russian tanker from delivering 95,000 tons of fuel near Oslo, Norway, calling for a ban on tthe import of fossil fuels from the country that is waging war in Ukraine.

Several of the climate advocates unfurled banners reading “Oil fuels war” and “Stop fueling the war” as others pulled a small boat up to the tanker and chained themselves to the vessel, which was leased by Russian oil company Novatek.

The Ust Luga tanker was on its way to deliver $116 million worth of jet kerosene to the Slagentangen oil port controlled by Esso, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil.

“Oil is not only at the root of the climate crisis, but also of wars and conflicts,” said Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway, which organized the action. “I am shocked that Norway operates as a free port for Russian oil, which we know finances Putin’s warfare.”

Norwegian police said Monday that they had arrested 20 campaigners who staged the protest.

Greenpeace noted in a statement that Novatek’s largest shareholder is Leonid Mikhelson, a Russian oligarch with close ties to President Vladimir Putin.

“Putin’s sources of revenue must be dried out immediately and banning oil import is a very good place to start,” said Pleym. “We need to make this war stop.”

The protest came as Oleg Ustenko, an economic adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, condemned countries that are still importing gas and oil from Russia, accusing them of being complicit in war crimes.

If Russians are committing war crimes, even genocide, whoever is supplying Russia with this bloody money is guilty of the same war crime.

Oleg Ustenko

Russian forces in recent weeks have been accused of a “deliberate massacre” of civilians in the town of Bucha, of raping Ukrainian women before killing them, and of using cluster munitions on Ukrainian targets dozens of times, posing a risk of creating de facto landmines in civilian areas.

“During these two months of Russia’s war of aggression, we have seen horrific images and know the unimaginable suffering of the innocent civilian population of Ukraine,” said Pleym. “The fact that our government still allows the import of Russian fossil fuels in the current situation is unfathomable.”

European countries buy nearly three-quarters of Russia’s oil exports, and one-third of the country’s income is derived from oil.

Major importers of Russian oil in Europe include Germany, Italy, France, and Poland.


Julia Conley at Common Dreams

Scientists Turn Nuclear Waste Into Diamond Batteries That Could Last For Thousands Of Years

Scientists Turn Nuclear Waste Into Diamond Batteries That Could Last For Thousands Of Years

We have an unquenchable energy need. When we need to run anything that cannot be plugged in, electricity will have to come from a battery, and the quest for a better battery is being launched in laboratories around the globe. Hold that thought for a moment.

Nuclear waste is radioactive waste generated by nuclear power plants that no one wants to be kept near their houses or even carried through their communities. The ugly substance is poisonous and deadly, takes thousands of years to disintegrate completely, and we continue to produce more of it.

Now, a California-based business, NDB, says it can resolve both of these issues. They claim to have built a self-powered battery made entirely of radioactive waste that has a life expectancy of 28,000 years, making it ideal for your future electric car or iPhone 1.6 x 104. 

Rather than storing energy generated elsewhere, the battery generates its own charge. It is constructed of two kinds of nano-diamonds, which makes it almost crash-proof when used in vehicles or other moving things. Additionally, the business claims that its battery is safe since it emits less radiation than the human body.

NDB has already created a proof of concept and intends to construct its first commercial prototype once its laboratories restart operations after the COVID outbreak(which should be soon).

The nuclear waste from which NDB intends to manufacture its batteries consists of reactor components that have become radioactive as a result of exposure to nuclear power plant fuel rods. 

While this is not considered high-grade nuclear waste—that would be spent fuel—it is nonetheless very poisonous, and a nuclear plant generates a lot of it. The International Atomic Energy Agency estimates that the “core of a typical graphite-moderated reactor” may contain up to 2000 tonnes of graphite. (A tonne is equal to one metric tonne, or about 2,205 pounds.)

Carbon-14 is a radioisotope found in graphite. It is the same radioisotope used by archaeologists for carbon dating. It has a half-life of 5,730 years and ultimately decays into nitrogen 14, an anti-neutrino, and a beta decay electron, the charge of which piqued NDB’s curiosity as a possible source of electricity.

NDB cleanses graphite and then converts it to microscopic diamonds. The business claims that by using current technology, they’ve engineered their little carbon-14 diamonds to generate a large quantity of electricity. Diamonds also operate as a semiconductor, absorbing energy and dispersing it via a heat sink. 

However, since they are still radioactive, NDB encases the miniature nuclear power plants in other low-cost, non-radioactive carbon-12 diamonds. These glistening lab-created shells provide diamond-hard protection while also containing the carbon-14 diamonds’ radiation.

NDA intends to manufacture batteries in a variety of common and unique sizes, including AA, AAA, 18650, and 2170. Each battery will feature many stacked diamond layers, as well as a tiny circuit board and a supercapacitor for energy collection, storage, and discharge. The ultimate result, the business claims, is a battery that will last an extremely long period.

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Reducing the use of scarce metals — and recycling them — will be key to the world’s transition to electric vehicles.


The nascent recycling industry needs to economically deconstruct lots of formats.

According to NDB, a battery may live up to 28,000 years when utilized in a low-power setting, such as a satellite sensor. They predict a usable life of 90 years as a car battery, much longer than anyone vehicle would last—the business believes that one battery could theoretically power one pair of wheels after another. For consumer gadgets like phones and tablets, the firm estimates that a battery will last around nine years.

“Think of it in an iPhone,” NDB’s Neel Naicker tells New Atlas. “With the same size battery, it would charge it five times an hour from zero to full. Imagine that. Imagine a world where you wouldn’t have to charge your battery at all for the day. Now imagine for the week, for the month… How about for decades? That’s what we’re able to do with this technology.”

NDB expects commercialising a low-power version in a few of years, followed by a high-power version in roughly five years. If all goes according to plan, NDB’s technology will represent a significant step forward in terms of delivering low-cost, long-term energy to the world’s electronics and cars.

The company says, “We can start at the nanoscale and go up to power satellites, locomotives.”

Additionally, the business anticipates that its batteries will be comparably priced to existing batteries, including lithium-ion, and maybe much cheaper after they are produced of nuclear waste may even pay the company to take care of their poisonous issue.

The garbage of one enterprise becomes the diamonds of another.


Mirza Newton at physics-astronomy.com

Lithium costs a lot of money—so why aren’t we recycling lithium batteries?

Lithium costs a lot of money—so why aren’t we recycling lithium batteries?

The nascent recycling industry needs to economically deconstruct lots of formats.

Electric vehicles, power tools, smartwatches—Lithium-ion batteries are everywhere now. However, the materials to make them are finite, and sourcing them has environmental, humanitarian, and economic implications. Recycling is key to addressing those, but a recent study shows most Lithium-ion batteries never get recycled.

Lithium and several other metals that make up these batteries are incredibly valuable. The cost of raw lithium is roughly seven times what you’d pay for the same weight in lead, but unlike lithium batteries, almost all lead-acid batteries get recycled. So there’s something beyond pure economics at play.

It turns out that there are good reasons why lithium battery recycling hasn’t happened yet. But some companies expect to change that, which is a good thing since recycling lithium batteries will be an essential part of the renewable energy transition.

Lead-acid lessons

How extreme is the disparity between lithium and lead batteries? In 2021, the average price of one metric ton of battery-grade lithium carbonate was $17,000 compared to $2,425 for lead North American markets, and raw materials now account for over half of battery cost, according to a 2021 report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The imbalance of recycling is counterintuitive in terms of fresh material supply as well. Global sources of lithium amount to 89 million tons, most of which originate in South America, according to a recent United States Geological Survey report. In contrast, the global lead supply at 2 billion tons was 22 times higher than lithium.

Despite the smaller supply of lithium, a study earlier this year in the Journal of the Indian Institute of Science found that less than 1 percent of Lithium-ion batteries get recycled in the US and EU compared to 99 percent of lead-acid batteries, which are most often used in gas vehicles and power grids. According to the study, recycling challenges range from the constantly evolving battery technology to costly shipping of dangerous materials to inadequate government regulation.

Emma Nehrenheim, chief environmental officer at Northvolt batteries, said everyone expected lead to be phased out by now, but she attributes its continued economic success to high recycling rates.

“Every time you buy a battery for your car, you have to give the whole battery back, and then it goes into the recycling chain,” said Nikhil Gupta, lead author of the study and a professor of mechanical engineering at the Tandon School of Engineering at New York University. This hasn’t worked for lithium batteries, partly because so many formats exist. “These batteries are all over the place in different sizes,” he said. A related challenge is that the technology for lithium batteries changes rapidly — every one to two years, he said.

But overcoming these recycling challenges is a must. Lithium-based batteries hold more energy in a smaller package when compared to lead-acid batteries. They’re crucial for decarbonizing transportation and enabling a widespread transition to renewable energy by helping ensure a predictable supply of power from otherwise intermittent wind and solar. Achieving these transitions on a global scale is a massive undertaking. “That would require us to make major advancements in battery technology,” Gupta said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

Accordingly, global lithium consumption has increased 33 percent since 2020. If renewable energy goals sufficient to stop climate change are to be reached, then the demand for lithium is expected to grow 43-fold, according to the IEA. “What happens if we don’t have a lithium supply?” Gupta said. “There’s no good answer yet.”

Lithium isn’t the only material that may limit the use of these batteries. The anode and cathode of the batteries contain materials that are also subject to potential supply crunches, like cobalt and nickel. So, recycling could help solve multiple supply issues. “If you want to build a battery, an old battery contains exactly the same components,” Nehrenheim said.

A battery recycling boom

The USGS report noted that about two dozen companies in North America and Europe are recycling lithium batteries or have plans to—up from a single facility just a few years ago.

For the few facilities that can recover materials from lithium-ion batteries, traditional processes aren’t efficient enough to recover high-grade lithium to be used in remaking batteries. The pyrometallurgy method, for example, is easy to scale and works with any battery format, but it involves an energy-intensive process using high heat to incinerate the battery. While the ash will contain useful materials, pyrometallurgy can produce toxic fumes and limits the recovery of other valuable components. Other methods involve shredding the battery and then extracting materials using lengthy, complex chemical processes that vary depending on the battery technology used.

The routes to recycling battery materials have different challenges, and return the materials to different steps in the manufacturing process.

Direct recycling is an alternative that basically deconstructs the battery and retains the cathode and anode materials to be reconditioned. This method is in its early days, but it has the potential to be cheaper, safer, and more efficient. The process is made difficult by the need to manually break down a huge range of battery formats. A lithium battery pack contains modules that contain cells, and these cells are where the valuable metals are found. Manually getting to these cells is doable but tedious, and automation is needed to process high volumes.

“It’s a bit more challenging to recycle these kinds of materials,” said Northvolt’s Nehrenheim. The Swedish battery manufacturer has multiple programs through an initiative it’s calling Revolt, including a pilot recycling plant that has been operating since late 2020. They are also in the process of developing Revolt Ett—Swedish for “one”—a full-scale recycling plant aiming for the capacity to recycle 125,000 tons of batteries per year, beginning in 2023.

Like most companies, Northvolt’s process is not direct recycling. However, it dismantles the batteries down to the level of modules before beginning any crushing, shredding, or chemical processes. Last fall, Northvolt produced its first battery from using only recycled material. Northvolt has a robot it is fine-tuning at its pilot facility, and the company hopes to heavily automate most of the dismantling process in the future.

Part of the company’s plan for recycling success also involves calibration of the market, Nehrenheim said, to make sure that recycling is systemically integrated, which is supported by clear regulation. “If you build a recycling plant under UN or Scandinavian or European regulation right now, it’s highly regulated,” she said. “You can get great support from the authorities and how to define a safe operation.”


In 2015, Ryan Melsert went to work for Tesla just before development began on its Gigafactory outside of Reno, Nevada. While there, he and a small team worked to design the building, batteries, equipment, and every other element needed for the facility. Now, as CEO of American Battery Technology Company (ABTC), Melsert and his crew are working to do the opposite. “It really gave the fundamental understanding and learning of all of those individual manufacturing steps that is hard to gain otherwise.”

Their experience developing a lithium-ion car battery from start to finish, he said, helped him and his team intimately understand what would be needed to reverse the process to recycle effectively. A defect or end-of-life battery, he said, is just another resource that contains valuable metals.

“Much of recycling technologies today take the entire battery and simply drop it in a furnace and melt it or they drop it in a shredder and grind it,” he said. “What we do is back out and reverse order many of the manufacturing steps that we designed at Gigafactory to really remove the material in a much more strategic fashion to both lower costs and to increase recovery rates.” This automated “demanufacturing” makes the actual chemical extraction easier, he said.

Their two-part recycling process involves this disassembly, followed by a hydrometallurgical, or chemical, process. ABTC is currently building its first facility in northern Nevada, which has the potential, it says, to recover battery-grade materials in under three hours. The company expects it to be completed by the end of 2022 and have the ability to intake 20,000 metric tons of recyclable material per year. If achieved, that would amount to about a fifth of the total weight of raw lithium produced in 2021.

Despite rapid technology changes, the longer life span of lithium batteries provides room for recycling facilities to adjust. Most lithium batteries are in use for years before needing replacement, which can help companies like ABTC prepare for the next iteration in recycling. “There’s that latency,” Meslert said. “We’re able to see what’s in the field long before it comes back.”

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Building a circular battery economy

One way to make recycling ubiquitous is to get manufacturers to think about recyclability from the start. The idea has gained traction in recent years: manufacturers and recyclers work together to profit while creating as little waste as possible. In a linear economy, when a battery runs out of charge, it ends up in a landfill. In a circular economy, instead of going to waste, batteries start their life over as raw materials and go right back into the manufacturing chain. “Once these metals are mined once, you can essentially keep them in that loop indefinitely,” Melsert said. This means, in theory, all the companies involved could profit indefinitely while wasting little or no material.

But for a circular battery economy to work, recycling plants have to match the output of manufacturing plants. “The manufacturing side is growing extremely quickly, and there are still zero commercial scale recycling plants,” Melsert said.

This would ensure a consistent supply, reduce costs and possibly lower the environmental footprint compared to mining. Melsert thinks to achieve this goal, it’s key to develop partnerships at all points in the supply chain, from refineries to vehicle manufacturers to battery recyclers. To help this effort, ABTC won a $2 million contract last year from the United States Advanced Battery Consortium—made up of General Motors, Ford, Stellantis, and the Department of Energy. The award provides more than two years of funding to demonstrate that producing batteries from recycled materials is better for the environment and the economy. It also means ABTC will be working with a cathode producer and battery recycler, as well as a cell technology developer.

Of lessons to be learned from lead-acid batteries, Melsert said, “Anywhere you can buy one, you can return one.” Making the right choice the easiest choice has proven effective for lead-acid batteries, and something similar needs to follow for Lithium-ion.

Innovation for Lithium-ion batteries is still in its adolescence, with major developments happening in little more than the last decade, compared to half a century ago for lead-acid. While ABTC has an ambitious time frame, Gupta said it could be another decade before solutions truly meet the needed scale. Still, he is optimistic. “As a scientist, I would say we will always find solutions.”


Shel Evergreen at Ars Technica

‘Green steel’ heating up in Sweden’s frozen north

‘Green steel’ heating up in Sweden’s frozen north

For hundreds of years, raging blast furnaces — fed with coking coal — have forged steel used in cars, railways, bridges and skyscrapers.

But the puffs of coal-fired smoke are a big source of carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping gas that’s driving climate change.

According to the World Steel Association, every metric ton of steel produced in 2020 emitted almost twice that much carbon dioxide (1.8 tons) into the atmosphere. Total direct emissions from making steel were about 2.6 billion tons in 2020, representing around 7% of global CO2 emissions.

In Sweden, a single company, steel giant SSAB, accounts for about 10% of the country’s emissions due to the furnaces it operates at mills like the one in the northern town of Lulea.

But not far away, a high-tech pilot plant is seeking to significantly reduce the carbon emissions involved in steel production by switching some of that process away from burning coking coal to burning hydrogen that itself was produced with renewable energy.

HYBRIT — or Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology — is a joint venture between SSAB, mining company LKAB and Swedish state-owned power firm Vattenfall launched in 2016.

Susanne Rostmark, research leader, LKAB, holds a piece of hot briquetted iron ore made using the HYBRIT process nearby the venture’s pilot plant in Lulea, Sweden on Feb. 17, 2022. The steel-making industry is coming under increasing pressure to curb its environmental impact and contribute to the Paris climate accord, which aims to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (James Brooks via AP)

“The cost of renewable energy, fossil-free energy, had come down dramatically and at the same time, you had a rising awareness and the Paris Agreement” in 2015 to reduce global emissions, said Mikael Nordlander, Vattenfall’s head of industry decarbonization.

“We realized that we might have a chance now to outcompete the direct use of fossil fuels in industry with this electricity coming from fossil-free sources,” he added.

Last year, the plant made its first commercial delivery. European carmakers that have committed to dramatically reducing their emissions need cleaner steel. Chinese-owned Volvo Group became the first carmaker to partner with HYBRIT. Head of procurement Kerstin Enochsson said steel is a “major contributor” to their cars’ carbon footprint, between 20 and 35%.

“Tackling only the tailpipe emissions by being an electric company is not enough. We need to focus on the car itself, as well,” she said.

Demand from other companies, including Volkswagen, is also sending a signal that there is demand for green steel. Steelmakers in Europe have announced plans to scale up production of steel made without coal.

The HYBRIT process aims to replace the coking coal that’s traditionally used for ore-based steel making with hydrogen and renewable electricity.

It begins with brown-tinged iron ore pellets that react with the hydrogen gas and are reduced to ball-shaped “sponge iron,” which takes it name due to pores left behind following the removal of oxygen. This is then melted in an electric furnace.

If the hydrogen is made using renewable energy, too, the process produces no CO2.

“We get iron, and then we get water vapor instead,” said SSAB’s chief technology officer Martin Pei. “Water vapor can be condensed, recirculated, reused in the process.

“We really solve the root cause of carbon dioxide emissions from steel making,” he said.

Steel is a recyclable material, but demand for the alloy is expected to grow in the coming years, amid a push to transform society and build wind turbines, solar plants, power transmission lines and new electric vehicles.

“Steel is a superb construction material. It is also possible to recycle steel again and again,” said Pei. “You can reuse steel as many times as possible.

“The only problem today is the current way of making steel from iron ore emits too much CO2,” he said.

By the end of this decade, the European Union is attempting to cut overall CO2 emissions in the 27-nation bloc by 55% compared to 1990 levels. Part of that effort includes making companies pay for their C02 emissions and encourage the switch to low-carbon alternatives.

Sweden’s steel industry has set out plans to achieve “fossil-free” operations by 2045. SSAB in January brought forward its own plans to largely eliminate carbon dioxide emissions in its steel-making processes by the end of the decade.

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“The companies are well aware of their possibilities and limitations in the current processes and that they have to do something about it,” said Helen Axelsson, director of energy and environment at Jernkontoret, the Swedish steel producers’ association.

But according to the World Steel Association, over 70% of global steel production takes place in Asia, where steel producers don’t have access to the same quantities of old scrap steel as countries that have been industrialized for a longer time. That’s another reason why average emissions per ton of steel are higher in the global south.

Filip Johnsson, a professor in energy technology at Gothenburg’s Chalmers University, said the vast amounts of renewable electricity necessary to make hydrogen and cleaner steel could make rolling out the HYBRIT process difficult in other parts of the world.

“I would say that the major challenge is to get loads of electricity and also to provide it sort of constantly,” he said.

The small Lulea pilot plant is still a research facility, and has so far produced just a couple of hundred tons. There are plans to construct a larger demonstration plant and begin commercial deliveries by 2026.


James Brooks via Associated Press