Inhabitat's Week in Green: Toyota's new Prius, and more!


In clean energy news, General Electric just announced that America's first offshore wind farm will be completed by the end of this year. China kicked its environmental initiatives up a notch with plans to triple its solar power capacity by the year 2020. Tesla has discontinued its 10kWh Powerwall home battery as it prepares to launch a new model this summer. A tiny house village for the homeless in Oregon received a solar energy upgrade, and we spotted a handy photovoltaic "Lifepack" that keeps your gadgets powered on the go. Producing water from thin air sounds like a magic trick, but that's exactly what the Warka Water Tower does, and this week the project took home a World Design Impact Prize.

Purifying the Goddess

The New Yorker

The Ganges River begins in the Himalayas, roughly three hundred miles north of Delhi and five miles south of India's border with Tibet, where it emerges from an ice cave called Gaumukh (the Cow's Mouth) and is known as the Bhagirathi. Eleven miles downstream, gray-blue with glacial silt, it reaches the small temple town of Gangotri. Some swallow mouthfuls of the icy water, which they call amrit--nectar. Women in bright saris wade out into the water, filling small plastic flasks to take home. Indians living abroad can buy a bottle of it on Amazon or on eBay for 9.99. To hundreds of millions of Hindus, in India and around the world, the Ganges is not just a river but also a goddess, Ganga, who was brought down to Earth from her home in the Milky Way by Lord Shiva, flowing through his dreadlocks to break the force of her fall. The sixteenth-century Mogul emperor Akbar called it "the water of immortality," and insisted on serving it at court. In 1615, Nicholas Withington, one of the earliest English travellers in India, wrote that water from the Ganges "will never stinke, though kepte never so longe, neyther will anye wormes or vermine breede therein." The myth persists that the river has a self-purifying quality--sometimes ascribed to sulfur springs, or to high levels of natural radioactivity in the Himalayan headwaters, or to the presence of bacteriophages, viruses that can destroy bacteria. Below Gangotri, the river's path is one of increasing degradation. Its banks are disfigured by small hydropower stations, some half built, and by diversion tunnels, blasted out of solid rock, that leave miles of the riverbed dry. The towering hydroelectric dam at Tehri, which began operating in 2006, releases a flood or a dribble or nothing at all, depending on the vagaries of the season and the fluctuating demands of the power grid. The first significant human pollution begins at Uttarkashi, seventy miles or so from the source of the river.

Falling green energy costs 'to stop' fossil fuel growth

Al Jazeera

Falling costs of renewable energy technologies could lead to a halt in the growth of global demand for environmentally harmful fossil fuels, according to a new report. Released on Thursday, the report - co-authored by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the UK-based think tank Carbon Tracker Initiative, showed that cheaper electric vehicles and solar technology, and their increasing use globally could stop growth in demand for oil and coal by 2020. The study said that growth in electric vehicles (EVs) alone could lead to two million barrels of oil per day (mbd) being displaced by 2025, which is the same volume that caused the oil price collapse in 2014-15. "This scenario sees 16 mbd of oil demand displaced by 2040 and 25 mbd by 2050, in contrast to the continuous growth in oil demand expected by industry," it added. READ MORE: India unveils the world's largest solar power plant By 2035, electric vehicles could make up 35 percent of the road transport market, and two-thirds by 2050, when it could displace 25m barrels of oil per day, according to the research.

Could ethanol power the future for electric cars?

BBC News

The automotive industry is rushing to produce electric vehicles (EVs) as the world tries to move away from polluting hydrocarbons to greener, cleaner fuels. But EVs still only account for 1% of the total market. Some companies are betting that hydrogen fuel cells will be the power source of the future, but Nissan believes bio-ethanol produced from sugar cane or corn could also produce zero-emission electric energy. Nissan recently unveiled its prototype solid-oxide fuel cell vehicle in Brazil, where ethanol is readily available in all gas stations - in marked contrast to hydrogen pumps. But Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn says the success of the concept will largely depend on political support.

Solar-powered electric tricycle unveiled at CES 2020 can squeeze into tight parking spots

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Samsung has shown off an 8K QKED bezel-less TV that is 99 per cent screen and ultra-thin – only 15mm. Fellow South Korean rival LG has its own set of OLED TVs that double as'a piece of art' thanks to an outer edge that mimics a picture frame and the ability to display HD art pieces when not in use. Sony unveiled a concept connected car loaded with sensors and technology from its audio/visual business as part of its own push into mobility. Panasonic had as part of its CES showcase a miniature, battery-powered prototype fire engine that can transport the same level of equipment as a full-sized fire engine but at a fraction of the cost and energy. Lenovo has showcased its foldable PC with a 13.3-inch screen that it says is more durable than Samsung's Galaxy Fold.