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March 27, 2014

Government buys into harnessing electricity from plants

Filed under: Nature,Sustainability,Technology by Orangemaster @ 10:58 am

Chargers

Plant-e , founded by David Strik and Marjolein Helder in 2009, is a spin-off company of the Environmental Technology of Wageningen University. After obtaining her PhD in November 2012 Helder became the CEO of Plant-e, while Strik works as an assistant professor at the university, supporting Plant-e’s research and development one day a week.

On March 12, coinciding with Dutch Arbour Day (‘Nationale Boomfeestdag’), Plant-e signed a deal with the Dutch government to build a plant-driven power plant. The plants will be grown on the Hembrug military terrain in Zaandam, North Holland and will be used for outdoor lighting and charging mobile phones.

Thanks to photosynthesis, a bioenergetic process used by plants to convert light into energy, plants create organic material. The roots of these plants contain bacteria that breaks down organic material, giving off electrons. Plant-e has created technology that captures these electrons as carbon electrons, which can be used directly as electricity.

Just this month we told you about a table that uses plant energy to charge mobile phones.

Watch the promo video (in English):

(Link: www.plant-e.com, Photo of Charging station by Katja Linders, some rights reserved)

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January 10, 2014

Amsterdam district bans disposable plastic bags

Filed under: Sustainability by Branko Collin @ 2:17 pm

plastic-bag-kate-ter-haarThe vendors of the market on Plein ’40-’45 in Amsterdam (district of Nieuw-West) have stopped handing out free plastic bags in an effort to stem litter.

Shoppers are requested to bring their own bag. The district says on its website:

Thousands of bags a day were handed out at the market. Most of these bags ended up in the garbage having been used only once and many bags blew away and littered the neighbourhood.

In 2011 the market in Dordrecht started an awareness campaign with the same goal. Vendors were asked to display signs asking shoppers to bring their own bags. According to the campaign website, one vendor, a baker called Kanters, has seen the amount of plastic bags he handed out for free drop by as much as 90%. He has since started charging 10 cent a bag from the remaining die-hards among his customers.

(Photo by Kate ter Haar, some rights reserved)

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December 6, 2013

Nothing tops Groningen as a cyclist’s paradise

Filed under: Bicycles,History,Sustainability by Orangemaster @ 7:00 am

Bikes-Grunn

Groningen, a city in the North of the Netherlands whose slogan is ‘Er gaat niets boven Groningen’ (‘Nothing tops Groningen’) has some 196,000 residents, a quarter of which are students and where half of the population, if not more, gets around by bicycle. The film by Clarence Eckerson Jr., an American who was inspired by what he saw, tells the story of how cycling took over Groningen.

Travel times by car are longer (see screenshot) and cycling is faster because cars need to go around the city center to get from one part of town to another, while bikes can go anywhere. At about 9:00 into the film, you can see that even IKEA, apparently a very big one, has serious accommodations for cyclists. The one downside of this film is that it’s not bright and sunny like that very often, but again, when it is, you have a great excuse to get out on your bike.

Watch the whole film and get a feel for Groningen, always a lovely place to visit and a city we like, too:

Lou Reed’s Perfect Day rings out in Groningen

University of Groningen gaining popularity with Brits

Groningen students build world’s largest touch screen

Watch the film, it’s in English (and some Dunglish):

Groningen: The World’s Cycling City from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

If you want more, there’s always Bicycle anecdotes from Amsterdam, which has a friend of 24oranges nicely waiting for a tram to go by.

(Image: Screenshot of Groningen: The World’s Cycling City)

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November 3, 2013

Dave Hakkens partners with Motorola for Phonebloks

Filed under: Design,Sustainability,Technology by Branko Collin @ 12:01 am

Mobile phone manufacturer Motorola has announced it will be working with Dave Hakkens on his modular phone project Phonebloks.

More precisely, Motorola has been working on its own modular system in the past year called Project Ara, which is designed to be “a free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones. We want to do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software: create a vibrant third-party developer ecosystem, lower the barriers to entry, increase the pace of innovation, and substantially compress development timelines.”

The manufacturer will now be “engaging with the Phonebloks community throughout [Project Ara's] development process.” The idea behind Phonebloks is to create a modular phone to combat electronic waste—instead of throwing out an entire phone because a component is broken, you swap out the broken component instead. Phonebloks is looking for manufacturers who want to work in their ecosystem.

Motorola was once a major player on the mobile phone market. It was recently acquired by Google. Dave Hakkens is a 2013 graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven.

(Via The Verge)

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October 16, 2013

Eindhoven nails first place in cruiser class at World Solar Challenge

Filed under: Automobiles,Sustainability by Orangemaster @ 5:54 pm

This week a solar-powered street legal car named Stella, built by students from the Eindhoven University of Technology, was entered into the World Solar Challenge in Australia and won first place (PDF) in the new cruiser class.

While earlier this week students from the Delft University of Technology won for speed, the Eindhoven crew won for practicality, “with the ultimate goal of an entrant being able to meet the requirements for road registration in the country of origin.”

Why would a rainy country like the Netherlands even want to become a heavy hitter in solar-powered cars, you may wonder. “The Netherlands has enough sunlight to drive about 70 kilometres a day, given that the average drive only drives about 38 km/h. If you charge up the battery, you can drive 430 kilometres, which is a lot,” says Van Loon, one of the Eindhoven students.

(Link: www.kennislink.nl, Photo of Nuna7 and Stella by Jorrit Lousberg, some rights reserved)

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October 11, 2013

Nuna7 nabs World Solar Challenge title in Australia

Filed under: Automobiles,Science,Sustainability by Orangemaster @ 3:30 pm

The Delft University of Technology won its fourth title back in 2007 with its solar powered car Nuna4, but this year with Nuna7 it picked up its fifth title in Adelaide, Australia yesterday.

The Dutch beat their archrivals of Tokai University, Japan who had won the last two editions.

There were obstacles on the way to the finish line: temperatures of almost 50 celsius in the cockpit, taking big chances with specially designed lenses to soak up solar rays, and a grasshopper that bounced around the cockpit.

(Link: www.kennislink.nl, Photo of Nuna7 by Nuon, some rights reserved)

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September 30, 2013

Dutch law turns solar panel owners into entrepreneurs

Filed under: Sustainability by Branko Collin @ 8:08 pm

It sounds like a win-win plan for everybody: the government subsidizes the purchase of solar panels for private families who use the panels to generate clean energy and sell any left over electricity to the public utilities.

Strictly speaking, selling electricity is a commercial transaction over which value added tax must be paid. The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed this in a ruling in an Austrian case earlier this year. Dutch junior minister Frans Weekers confirmed last week that the ruling also applies to the Netherlands, Z24 reports. Owning a solar panel and selling electricity to the public utilities automatically makes it impossible, the minister told parliament, “to deny one’s status as an entrepreneur” where value added tax is concerned.

This is problematic for a couple of reasons. Solar panel owners rarely get to see how much they have sold back; the utilities just charge them for the balance. Paying VAT also means you have to start bookkeeping. You can ask for an exemption if you expect to pay less than 1,345 euro a year which also releases you from the obligation of bookkeeping.
According to Vereniging Eigen Huis, minister Weekers considers the judgement undesirable and will ask the European Union for a change in the regulations. In the meantime he will initiate talks with the utilities.

I remember when I started freelancing. I made so little money that the people from the tax office laughed at me when I told them I wanted to register for paying added value tax. The difference between me and solar panel owners was of course that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and saw keeping accounts as part of the cost of entry.

According to Dutchnews earlier this year, “solar panels in the Netherlands produce some 100 million kilowatt hours of power” whereas “Dutch solar panel makers had a turnover of over € 490m in 2010″. A quick calculation using the rates of a local supplier shows that solar panel using home owners lowered their electricity bills by 6.5 million euro in 2012, making the solar panel manufacturers the big winners.

(Photo by Mhassan Abdollahi, some rights reserved)

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September 14, 2013

Phonebloks, a modular open mobile phone platform in search of manufacturers

Filed under: Design,Gadgets,Sustainability,Technology by Branko Collin @ 11:43 am

Eindhoven-based inventor and designer Dave Hakkens is a man of ideas and his latest idea, a mobile phone of which you can swap out parts when they break down or get too old, is getting a lot of attention on the Internet.

The idea behind Phonebloks is to commoditize the hardware behind the mobile phone in such a way that not manufacturers but consumers get to swap out parts—a sort of Lego for mobile phones. There would have to be a ‘Blok-store’ where you could order the parts you want (at a suitable mark-up of course) all the while feeling good about yourself for not throwing out your entire mobile phone when you get tired of parts of it.

Hakkens seems to have learned from a previous project, a power strip called Plugbook, which he ran on Kickstarter but which failed to reach its target. In order to show your interest in Phonebloks you do not have to pledge your own money. Instead you voice your support via Thunderclap in the hope that manufacturers and investors will sit up and take notice.

(Via my Facebook page where people were ‘liking’ the damn thing by the boatloads. Illustration: crop from Dave Hakkens’ video.)

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August 17, 2013

Solar car from Eindhoven rated street legal

Filed under: Automobiles,Sustainability by Branko Collin @ 10:05 pm

A team of students from the Eindhoven University of Technology has created a solar powered family car that is street legal, Telegraaf reported last Tuesday.

The car called Stella was created by Solar Team Eindhoven in a bid to win the Cruiser Class of the World Solar Challenge in Australia this October. Stella is 4.5 metres long, 1.65 metres wide and seats four. It can go 430 kilometres on a single charge. The solar panel has only got an efficiency rating of 22%. Spokesperson Wouter van Loon told Bright last month that this was a conscious decision: “We could have opted for a space-grade panel, but this way we keep the car affordable.”

The car’s top speed is only 120 km/h because the special low-friction tires cannot handle more. In the past teams of the universities of Twente and Delft also participated in the World Solar Challenge. Delft’s car Nuna, shown here, won the race 4 times out of the 7 it entered, and in 2011 it finished second after Japan’s Tokai Challenger.

(Photo of Nuna5 by Nuon Solar Team, some rights reserved)

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August 9, 2013

Solar-powered bicycle lights made in The Netherlands

Filed under: Bicycles,Design,Sustainability by Orangemaster @ 8:00 am

The Pixio bike light has a built-in solar panel with a battery that charges up during sunny days when a bike is parked outside. Five days is enough for two years of biking with the lights on and the Pixio is already good to go for two years of biking with the lights on when you buy it. It comes in a range of colours, and a set of Pixios (back and front, as the law requires) will set you back 55 euro, but then those cheap bike lights and their batteries will run you a lot as well in the long run, never mind the stress they cause. It even has a locking mechanism so you can actually leave it on your bike, as long as your entire bike doesn’t get stolen or removed.

One obviously drawback is if you leave the lights on by mistake, but then that goes for battery-powered lights as well. Raise your hand if you’ve turned off someone else’s bike lights off as a courtesy. Parking your bike indoors like many people do won’t charge your light up, but then if you’re good to go for two years, you can cross that bridge when you get to it.

(Link: www.bright.nl, Screenshot: Rydon.eu)

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