Calculating your renewable energy potential? There’s an app for that

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Businesses and individuals can make use of a free smartphone app to calculate the renewable energy generation potential of a given location.

The Global Atlas pocket was launched Tuesday by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and is designed to allow renewable energy “prospectors” and investors to comprehensively research projects before making early investment decisions.

The app draws on data from 1,000 maps provided by 67 governments and 50 data centers, and is designed to provide detailed information on whether a region or site represents a good prospect for renewable energy generation.

Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA’s director-general, said the app will help make it is easier for renewable energy firms to identify viable projects, curbing some costs of development.

The Business Of Reuse: Tech Entrepreneur Diverts E-Waste, Teaches Future IT Experts

Read the full story from WUNC.

Computers, smart phones and other electronics often end up in landfills just a couple years after they’re manufactured. The United Nations says electronic waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in developed developing countries alike, and it can be hazardous.

Triangle Ecycling is a company in Durham that refurbishes used computers and other electronics, and sells them at up to 60-percent off their original price. It collects the computers local companies, like those in the research Triangle Park, and local agencies.

Redefining scope: the true environmental impact of smartphones?


Think Progress has a summary of the article here.

James Suckling, Jacquetta Lee(2015). “Redefining scope: the true environmental impact of smartphones?” The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, Online ahead of print. Open access.


The aim of this study is to explore the literature surrounding the environmental impact of mobile phones and the implications of moving from the current business model of selling, using and discarding phones to a product service system based upon a cloud service. The exploration of the impacts relating to this shift and subsequent change in scope is explored in relation to the life cycle profile of a typical smartphone.

A literature study is conducted into the existing literature in order to define the characteristics of a “typical” smartphone. Focus is given to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in different life cycle phases in line with that reported in the majority of literature. Usage patterns from literature are presented in order to show how a smartphone is increasingly responsible for not only data consumption but also data generation. The subsequent consequences of this for the balance of the life cycle phases are explored with the inclusion of wider elements in the potential expanded mobile infrastructure, such as servers and the network.

Results and discussion
From the available literature, the manufacturing phase is shown to dominate the life cycle of a “typical” smartphone for GHG emissions. Smartphone users are shown to be increasingly reliant upon the internet for provision of their communications. Adding a server into the scope of a smartphone is shown to increase the use phase impact from 8.5 to 18.0 kg CO2-eq, other phases are less affected. Addition of the network increases the use phase by another 24.7 kg CO2-eq. In addition, it is shown that take-back of mobile phones is not effective at present and that prompt return of the phones could result in reduction in impact by best reuse potential and further reduction in toxic emissions through inappropriate disposal.

The way in which consumers interact with their phones is changing, leading to a system which is far more integrated with the internet. A product service system based upon a cloud service highlights the need for improved energy efficiency to make greatest reduction in GHG emissions in the use phase, and gives a mechanism to exploit residual value of the handsets by timely return of the phones, their components and recovery of materials.

Amazon data centers and the Ohio energy conundrum

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

There’s a lot of news swirling around Amazon’s decision to locate a data center in Ohio. While it’s undoubtedly a great economic opportunity for Ohio, given Amazon’s commitment to use renewable energy to power its facilities, one wonders how the company will make that happen under Ohio’s current energy policy.

Saving Money and the Environment with 3-D Printing

Read the full story from Northwestern University.

A Northwestern University team has confirmed a new way to help the airline industry save dollars while also saving the environment. And the solution comes in three dimensions. By manufacturing aircrafts’ metal parts with 3-D printing, airlines could save a significant amount of fuel, materials, and other resources.

Led by Eric Masanet, the team used aircraft industry data to complete a case study of the life-cycle environmental effects of using 3-D printing for select metal aircraft parts, a technique that is already being adopted by the industry. The team concluded that 3-D printing the lighter and higher performance parts could significantly reduce both manufacturing waste and the weight of the airplane, thus saving fuel and money and decreasing carbon emissions.

Funded by the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, the case study is described in a paper published in the May issue of the Journal of Cleaner Production. Runze Huang, a graduate student in Masanet’s lab, is first author of the paper. Other authors include Matthew Riddle and Diane Graziano from Argonne National Laboratory.

Smart Phone Apps Series to Help Maximize Land’s Productivity, Protect Resources

Read the full story from the Agricultural Research Service.

What do “cloud computing” and “terra firma” have in common? A suite of mobile phone applications (“apps”) that, once all are released, will connect agricultural producers around the world and provide them with shared knowledge on ways to maximize the land’s productivity while protecting its resources for future generations.

The first two apps, dubbed “LandInfo” and “LandCover,” were released this month and will allow anyone using the mobile phone technology to collect and share soil and land-cover information as well as gain access to global climate data, said Jeff Herrick, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist. He and cooperators developed the apps as part of a five-year, multi-organization project called the “Land Potential Knowledge System” (LandPKS).

A new kind of wood chip: collaboration could lead to biodegradable computer chips

Read the full story from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Portable electronics — typically made of non-renewable, non-biodegradable and potentially toxic materials — are discarded at an alarming rate in consumers’ pursuit of the next best electronic gadget.

In an effort to alleviate the environmental burden of electronic devices, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers has collaborated with researchers in the Madison-based U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) to develop a surprising solution: a semiconductor chip made almost entirely of wood.

The research team, led by UW-Madison electrical and computer engineering professor Zhenqiang “Jack” Ma, described the new device in a paper published today (May 26, 2015) by the journal Nature Communications. The paper demonstrates the feasibility of replacing the substrate, or support layer, of a computer chip, with cellulose nanofibril (CNF), a flexible, biodegradable material made from wood.