Elon Musk’s New Solar Project: ‘It’s Not a Thing on the Roof. It is the Roof’

Elon Musk’s New Solar Project: ‘It’s Not a Thing on the Roof. It is the Roof’

With Tesla’s historic acquisition of SolarCity now pending, Elon Musk has announced two new solar products, including one that could disrupt the roofing industry.

Tesla and SolarCity could change the roofing industry Credit: SolarCity Twitter

Tesla and SolarCity could change the roofing industry
Credit: SolarCity Twitter

As Electrek reported, during a conference call with investors Tuesday, Musk and SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said they were working on creating a roof made entirely of solar panels—solar shingles, if you will. Instead of tacking on solar panels onto an existing roof, the whole roof itself will be integrated with photovoltaic material.

“I think this is really a fundamental part of achieving differentiated product strategy, where you have a beautiful roof,” Musk said. “It’s not a thing on the roof. It is the roof.”

Rive confirmed the project. According to Electrek, “Rive added that there are 5 million new roofs installed every year in the U.S. and if your roof is about to need to be replaced, you don’t want to invest in solar panels to install on it since you are about to take it down, but if the solar panels are the roof and you need to redo it anyway, there’s no reason not to go with a power-generating roof.”

Roofs certainly don’t last forever. As U.S. News explained, depending on the material, roofs can last more than 50 years but homeowners with roofs made of fiber cement shingles or asphalt shingle/composition roofs can expect a lifespan of 20-25 years. Inclement weather—snow, hail and hurricanes—can cut a roof’s lifespan even shorter.

Asphalt roofs—which are by far the most common in the U.S.—also happen to create about 11 million tons of waste each year. Though inexpensive, asphalt shingles are also a petroleum-basedproduct which carries major environmental impacts. So if a homeowner needed to re-shingle the roof anyway, why not go with shingles that could double as an electricity generator instead and might be better for the environment?

Musk, who is the chairman and largest shareholder of Tesla and SolarCity, said there’s a “huge” market for roofs at the end of their lifespan.

He also said, according to Bloomberg, “If you need to replace your roof in the next five years, you’re not going to get solar. What if your roof looks better and last longer?”

Musk and Rive did not provide exact details on the solar roof, but they are not inventing something brand new if they are proposing to produce solar shingles. Dow’s Powerhouse was the biggest name to forge this path around 2009, but the technology was possibly too expensive and perhaps impractical to take off. The company decided to stop selling this product just this past June.

Electrek deduced that the other new Tesla/SolarCity solar product will be for existing roofs. The two products are expected be unveiled by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Tesla’s $2.6 billion stock offer for SolarCity awaits shareholder approval. In announcing its decision to combine with SolarCity, Tesla said it has a vision of “creating the world’s only vertically integrated sustainable energy company.”

This article was written by:  and first appeared on: ecowatch.com

Sperm Whales Found Dead In Germany, Stomachs FULL Of Plastic And Car Parts

Sperm Whales Found Dead In Germany, Stomachs FULL Of Plastic And Car Parts

The whales’ deaths are symbolic of humanity’s shocking disregard for marine life.

13062168_848907798547635_7223556516925329752_n-768x513In January, 29 sperm whales were found stranded on shores around the North Sea, an area that is too shallow for the marine wildlife. Only recently were details of the animals’ necropsy released. However, scientists were deeply disturbed by what they found in the animals’ stomachs.

According to a press release from Wadden Sea National Park in Schleswig-Holstein, many of the whales had stomachs FULL of plastic debris, including a 13-meter-long fishing net, a 70 cm piece of plastic from a car and other pieces of plastic litter.

Some suggest that the animals thought the items were food, such as squid, which is their main staple. Others, however, believe that the travesty is largely a result of humanity’s shocking disregard for marine life, which has resulted in an overabundance of plastic in the oceans.

Said Robert Habeck, environment minister for the state of Schleswig-Holstein:

“These findings show us the results of our plastic-oriented society. Animals inadvertently consume plastic and plastic waste, which causes them to suffer, and at worst, causes them to starve with full stomachs.”

Nicola Hodgkins of Whale and Dolphin Conservation echoed that statement. She stated:

“Although the large pieces will cause obvious problems and block the gut, we shouldn’t dismiss the smaller bits that could cause a more chronic problem for all species of cetacean – not just those who suction feed.”

This isn’t the first time a sperm whale has been found dead with innards full of inedible contents. In 2011, a young whale was found floating dead off the Greek island of Mykonos. Its stomach was so distended, biologists thought the animal swallowed a giant squid. However, when its four stomachs were dissected, nearly 100 plastic bags and other pieces of debris were found.

It should be noted that the plastic is not what killed the young male sperm whales. According to National Geographic, they died of heart failure. This was a result of mistakenly swimming into the North Sea, likely in search of squid, and then not being able to support their own body weights in the shallow water. As a result, their internal organs collapsed.

Regardless, the fact that many of their stomachs were full of pollution is a horrible indictment of humans. As has been reported in the past, 80% of the plastic which is discarded on land ends up in the oceans, where it is consumed by wildlife or swirls for years in great garbage patches. The fact that mankind – a species with a smaller brain than a whale – is responsible for such a travesty is ironic and saddening.

Until humans learn the value of living sustainably while respecting all life forms, travesties such as this one will continue to take place.

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7 Bees Facing Extinction Added to Endangered Species List for First Time

7 Bees Facing Extinction Added to Endangered Species List for First Time

Cantankerous Yellow-faced Bee photographed in Hawai'i County, Hawaii. SteveMlodinow / Flickr

Cantankerous Yellow-faced Bee photographed in Hawai’i County, Hawaii. Steve Mlodinow / Flickr

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) has added seven bee species to the endangered species list, a first for bees. Native to Hawaii, these yellow-faced bees are facing extinction due to habitat loss, wildfires and invasive species.

The tiny, solitary bees were once abundant in Hawaii, but surveys in the late 1990s found that many of its traditional sites had been urbanized or colonized by non-native plants. In March 2009, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation petitioned the USFWS to list these bee species as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

“The USFWS decision is excellent news for these bees, but there is much work that needs to be done to ensure that Hawaii’s bees thrive,” wrote Matthew Shepherd, communications director for Xerces, in a blog post responding to the announcement.

Yellow-faced bees are the most important pollinators for many key trees and shrubs in Hawaii. They once populated the island from the coast up to 10,000 feet on Mauna Kea and Haleakalā. They get their name from yellow-to-white facial markings, and they are often mistaken for wasps.

According to Karl Magnacca, an entomologist with the O’ahu Army Natural Resources Program, the bees evolved in an isolated environment and were unprepared for the changes brought by humans. These included new plants, domestic animals such as cattle and goats, as well as ants and other bees that compete with the native Hawaiian bees.

One of the seven species, Hylaeus anthracites, is now found in just 15 locations on Hawaii, Maui, Kahoolawe, Molokai and Oahu. Protection of these areas could be a start to aid the bees.

“Unfortunately, the USFWS has not designated any ‘critical habitat,’ areas of land of particular importance for the endangered bees,” wrote Shepherd.

The listing comes just a week after the USFWS proposed listing another bee, the rusty patchedbumble bee, to the endangered species list. During the past 50 years, about 30 percent of beehives in the U.S. have collapsed, according to the the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On Sept. 9, a new study published in the journal, Scientific Reports, found that the world’s most commonly used insecticide, neonicotinoids, caused queen bees to lay fewer eggs and worker bees to be less productive. A Greenpeace investigation of internal studies conducted by chemical makers Bayer and Syngenta showed that these chemicals can harm honeybee colonies when exposed to high concentrations. In January, the EPA found that one of these neonicotinoids, imidacloprid, can be harmful to bees.

The National Pesticide Information Center states unequivocally, “Imidacloprid is very toxic to honeybees and other beneficial insects.” The EPA has proposed prohibiting the use of neonicotinoids in the presence of bees.

The USFWS ruling protecting Hawaii’s yellow-faced bees becomes effective Oct. 31.

Source: EcoWatch

Researchers Just Accidentally Discovered A Process That Turns CO2 Directly Into Ethanol

Researchers Just Accidentally Discovered A Process That Turns CO2 Directly Into Ethanol

In a new twist to waste-to-fuel technology, scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed an electrochemical process that uses tiny spikes of carbon and copper to turn carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into ethanol. Their finding, which involves nanofabrication and catalysis science, was serendipitous.

It’s Official: Injection of Fracking Wastewater Caused Kansas’ Biggest Earthquake

It’s Official: Injection of Fracking Wastewater Caused Kansas’ Biggest Earthquake

kansas-earthquake

The largest earthquake ever recorded in Kansas—a 4.9 magnitude temblor that struck northeast of Milan on Nov. 12, 2014—has been officially linked to wastewater injection into deep underground wells, according to new research from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The epicenter of that extremely rare earthquake struck near a known fracking operation.

The Wichita Eagle noted from the study that this man-made quake, which hit 40 miles southwest of Wichita and felt as far away as Memphis, likely came from just one or two nearby wells. The publication ominously noted that, “one of those two wells, operated by SandRidge Energy, is still injecting water at the same level as when the earthquake occurred two years ago.”

The USGS scientists believe that the 4.9-magnitude earthquake was triggered by wastewater injection for the following reasons:

  • There had not previously been similar earthquakes in the area.
  • There were waste-water injection wells nearby.
  • The earthquake activity started after the amount of water injected in the wells increased.
  • There’s a piece of earth that could be activated by changes in pressure.

Kansas has had a long history with fracking. In fact, the first well ever fracked in the United States happened in 1947 in the Sunflower state. The process is now used for nearly all of the 5,000 conventional wells drilled in Kansas every year.

But just like Oklahoma, Kansas is seeing an alarming uptick of “induced” earthquakes connected to the underground disposal of wastewater from the fracking process. Kansas is a region previously devoid of significant seismic activity, however, the number of earthquakes in the state jumped from only four in 2013 to 817 in 2014, The Washington Post reported.

According to an August report from The Wichita Eagle, Kansas has seen fewer and weaker earthquakes following the Kansas Corporation Commission’s recommendations to reduce underground injection of oilfield wastewater.

Incidentally, the Milan quake and the record-breaking 5.8 earthquake that struck Pawnee, Oklahoma last month occurred on faults that scientists did not previously know existed.

“If the well is in the right place next to a fault and the fault is oriented the right way, a little change in stress could cause (an earthquake) to occur,” USGS geologist George Choy, the study’s lead author, told The Wichita Eagle.

The study will be published in Seismological Research Letters next month.

“The source parameters and behavior of the Milan earthquake and foreshock–aftershock sequence are similar to characteristics of other earthquakes induced by wastewater injection into permeable formations overlying crystalline basement,” the study abstract states.

SandRidge Energy is the largest oil producer in Kansas and the largest disposer of wastewater in Oklahoma. In January, the Oklahoma-based company refused to abide by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s recommendations to shut down or decrease wastewater injection in order to prevent more earthquakes. The company agreed to shut down wells and reduce wastewater volumes months later.

Source: ecowatch.com