New US Solar capacity grows faster than fossil fuels

The solar industry added more new generating capacity this past quarter than coal, natural gas, and nuclear power combined, according to the U.S. Solar Market Insight report…

With 1,665 megawatts brought online in the first quarter of 2016, solar accounted for 64 percent of all new electric generating capacity, the Solar Energy Industries Association report said…According to the report, there are now more than a million operating solar photovoltaic installations across the country, representing 27.5 gigawatts of operating capacity. Just one gigawatt is enough electricity to power about 700,000 average homes.

Renewable energy in general has begun to beat fossil fuels in new installed capacity on a more and more regular basis. Solar grows by leaps and bounds. Residential solar and utility PV both beat natural gas in the first quarter of 2015 in terms of new capacity. In the first quarter of 2014, solar installations accounted for 74 percent of all new U.S. electric capacity…

❝ “While it took us 40 years to hit 1 million U.S. solar installations, we’re expected to hit 2 million within the next two years,” said Tom Kimbis, SEIA’s interim president, in a statement.The solar industry is growing at warp speed, driven by the fact that solar is one of the lowest cost options for electricity and it’s being embraced by people who both care about the environment and want access to affordable and reliable electricity.”

Say “Amen”.

Heartless basketball player — Really!

A 25-year-old has just received a full heart transplant… but not before surviving for more than a year without a human heart inside his body.

Instead, Stan Larkin wore an ‘artificial heart’ in a backpack 24/7 for 555 days, which pumped blood around his body and kept him alive. The success of the procedure suggests that the device could be used to sustain other patients with total heart failure while they’re waiting for a donor.

Back in 2014, Stan became the first patient in Michigan to be discharged with the artificial heart device, which is known as a ‘Syncardia’.

He and his brother Dominique had both been diagnosed as teenagers with familial cardiomyopathy, which is a genetic heart condition that can cause heart failure without any warning – it’s one of the leading causes of death in athletes.

After years on the donor waiting list, Stan – and eventually his younger brother Dominique – had their hearts removed and were fitted with the Syncardia device…

Dominique only needed to use the technology for a few weeks before receiving a full heart transplant. But Stan had to wait more than a year, and instead of staying in hospital, he was fitted with the Freedom® portable driver so he could go home in the meantime.

At the time, no one knew how much he’d be able to do with it. The portable device comes in the form of a 13.5 pound backpack that’s connected to the patient’s vascular system, to keep oxygenated blood pumping around the body…But he did manage to continue playing basketball – a total surprise to his doctors.

This wasn’t made for pick-up basketball,” said Dr. Jonathan Haft. “Stan pushed the envelope with this technology … He really thrived on the device.”

Stan received his donor heart on 9 May 2016, and has now fully recovered from the procedure. He’s shared his story, which he calls an “emotional rollercoaster” with the press to raise awareness about the 5.7 million other Americans living with heart failure, and the need for heart donors.

Kudos to the doctors and Stan. And the designers of the Freedom Syncardia device.

NASA study displays Arctic greening

Click to enlargeNASA/Cindy Starr

The northern reaches of North America are getting greener, according to a NASA study that provides the most detailed look yet at plant life across Alaska and Canada. In a changing climate, almost a third of the land cover – much of it Arctic tundra – is looking more like landscapes found in warmer ecosystems.

With 87,000 images taken from Landsat satellites, converted into data that reflects the amount of healthy vegetation on the ground, the researchers found that western Alaska, Quebec and other regions became greener between 1984 and 2012. The new Landsat study further supports previous work that has shown changing vegetation in Arctic and boreal North America…

“It shows the climate impact on vegetation in the high latitudes,” said Jeffrey Masek, a researcher who worked on the study and the Landsat 9 project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center…Temperatures are warming faster in the Arctic than elsewhere, which has led to longer seasons for plants to grow in and changes to the soils. Scientists have observed grassy tundras changing to shrublands, and shrubs growing bigger and denser – changes that could have impacts on regional water, energy and carbon cycles

With the higher resolution Landsat data, the researchers also found a lot of differences within areas – one pixel would be brown, and its neighbors green, noted Ju. “It’s very localized,” he said. “The vegetation is responding to the microclimates. That’s the benefit of using Landsat data, is that we can reveal this spatial variation over very short distances.”

With the large map complete, researchers will focus on these short distances – looking at the smaller scale to see what might control the greening patterns, whether it’s local topography, nearby water sources, or particular types of habitat. They also plan to investigate forested areas, particularly in the greening Quebec.

❝ “One of the big questions is, ‘Will forest biomes migrate with warming climate?’ There hasn’t been much evidence of it to date,” Masek said. “But we can zoom in and see if it’s changing.”

At this point you really can’t predict gains or losses. The dramatic changes only point out how quickly climate change is affecting some regions unchanged for tens of thousands of years.

RTFA for technical details how NASA scientists did the observational work.

BMW wins the bid to supply LAPD with 100 electric cop cars

BMW announced…that it has won a contract with the Los Angeles Police Department to supply 100 of its compact i3 electric cars. The initiative is a part of LA’s “Sustainable City pLAn,” which includes a commitment to make half of its light-duty vehicle purchases fully electric by 2017. The i3s will be used in a “non-emergency” capacity — in other words, you won’t likely see them engaged in high-speed police chases, but rather for basic department transportation needs and community outreach.

LAPD’s move comes after a trial period where it pitted an i3 against a Tesla Model S P85D. The P85D is larger and much quicker, but overall cost may have factored into the decision — i3s start at just over $42,000, while the P90D (the P85D has since been discontinued) has a base price over $100,000. BMW cites the i3’s efficiency, reliability, connected car capabilities…and its network of service centers as reasons for securing the winning bid, but it’s also possible that BMW gave the department a nice fleet discount…

Of course, when you deploy a fleet of EVs, you need a way to charge them. LAPD is working with EV charger management company Greenlots to make that happen, installing 100 Level 2 chargers and four DC Fast Charge stations, which can charge a depleted i3 to 80 percent in half an hour or less.

The way the press release reads, folks in LA may start seeing the zero-emissions cop cars real soon now.