A solar-powered purification system could slake the thirsts of rural India with clean drinking water for the first time. This would be no ordinary feat. Tens of millions of people in India lack access to potable water, and roughly 600,000 Indian children die every year from water- and sanitation-related diseases like diarrhea or pneumonia, according to UNICEF. In the country’s most far-flung regions, where 70 percent of India’s population lives, toxic bacteria routinely fouls at least half of the water supply. But while the Indian government has focused its efforts on treating surface water in rivers and streams, researchers from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland want to attack the source of contamination: sewage.
They’ve developed a system that uses sunlight to induce high-energy particles within a photocatalytic material, which uses light to generate a chemical reaction. These, in turn, activate molecules of oxygen, mobilizing them to destroy bacteria and other organic matter.
Because the materials require no power source, an off-grid system requires little more than attaching the photocatalyst to containers of contaminated water and angling them toward the sun until they’re safe to drink. If necessary, the system could be used in tandem with a filter to catch larger particles.
The researchers are now working with the Indian Institute of Science Education & Research to scale up the technologies they honed during a five-month pilot project.
“Working closely with our Indian partners, we aim to harness the sun’s energy to tackle a huge problem that affects many people around the world,” Neil Robertson, a professor from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Chemistry, said in a statement.
South Africa’s George Airport has become the first in the country to be partly powered by solar energy as part of plans to expand investments in renewables, the government has announced.
Environmental affairs minister Edna Molewa minister said the launch of the “first solar-powered airport on the African continent” would lead to similar projects at other airports in the country.
George Airport, which lies halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth on South Africa’s ‘Garden Route’, aims to generate around 40% of its electricity needs from solar power during the first phase of the project, Molewa said.
According to Molewa, 750 kilowatts of electricity will be generated from the 200 square metre solar plant during the first phase of the project, which she said would be sufficient to meet the daily needs of the airport which serves more than 600,000 passengers annually.
“Investment such as at George Airport must give momentum to other private and public sector entities to reconfigure and retrofit their existing infrastructure in support of more sustainable energy consumption patterns,” Molewa said.
Airport manager Brenda Vorster told iafrica.com: “It’s a stepping stone. At night we go on to the grid, but during the day we are on green.”
Any surplus electricity generated by the airport’s solar plant “will likely be sold” to South Africa’s national utility Eskom, according to the region’s Eden District Municipality.
Work on the solar project began last March and took six months to build at a reported cost of 16 million rand (ZAR) ($1m). The chairman of the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) Skhumbuzo Macozoma said ACSA planned to extend renewable power generation to all of its airports under its 2025-2030 blueprint towards achieving carbon neutrality in energy consumption.
Macozoma said: “Harnessing solar power is a viable cleaner energy source which contributes towards diversifying the energy mix. This plant will ensure that the airport is self-sustaining in terms of its power needs and will eventually extend to the broader community within the George municipality.”
South Africa’s finance minister Pravin Gordhan said in his 2016 budget, presented to parliament last month, that the government proposed investing a total of 870 billion rand (ZAR) ($55bn) in a public sector infrastructure programme over the next three years covering sectors including energy, transport, health and education.
Pravin said the government planned to “build on the success” of projects under its existing renewable energy investment scheme and would extend itsindependent power producer procurement programme “to include coal and gas power projects”.
Four large scale solar plants went online in South Africa in the first-half of 2014. A study published in 2015 by the South African government-owned Council for Scientific and Industrial Research said renewable energy from South Africa’s first wind and solar plants generated a “net financial benefit” of around $702,000 for the country in 2014.
Last June, energy minister Tina Joemat-Petterson said 13 preferred bidders had been selected under the national renewable energy programme to work on projects “tipped to supply an additional 1,084 megawatts of electricity to the national grid”.
South Africa has opened the continent’s first solar-powered airport in Western Cape. George Airport which serves over 600,000 passengers annually, has launched a clean energy project which, during its first phase, will contribute around 40% of the airport’s electricity needs. Once completed, the airport is expected to be totally independent of the national grid.
“After the launch of the Kiira EV — an electric car and Kiira EV SMACK — East Africa’s first hybrid vehicle, Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC) on Sunday did the first test drive of its solar-powered bus at Mandela Stadium in Wakiso.
The bus, code-named ‘Kayoola’, is a 35-passenger bus with power banks, which give it a range of 80km when fully charged. It also has solar panels on its roof, which give it a daily range extension of 12km.
“This is typical for the Ntinda, Bukoto, Kampala Road and Nakawa Ring Road, and it can be done for eight rounds a day,” said Paul Musasizi, the KMC chief executive officer.
Musasizi said the project which started in 2011, was initiated to explore the possibilities of using solar technology to support the mass transportation that Ugandans commonly use.
“We wanted to investigate those opportunities, particularly because Uganda being one of the 13 countries positioned along the Equator, gives us about eight hours of significant solar energy that can be harvested.
“Interestingly, these 13 countries along the Equator do not include the US, China, Germany, UK or South Africa that are the major car manufacturers in the world,” Musasizi noted.
It is against this background that the Kayoola solar bus project was meticulously executed.
The chassis is made of steel, its aisle of sheet metal and it also has pipe elements and square sections. Its seats are also made of steel and covered in cream leather.
Musasizi said 90% of the material was from Roofings Uganda Ltd, except for the synthetic leather, tyres, the steering wheel and software that were imported. All white, the bus has a crested crane emblem at the front.
“The development of the Kayoola Solar Bus represents our commitment to championing the progressive development of local capacity for vehicle technology innovation, a key ingredient for institutionalising a sustainable vehicle manufacturing industry in Uganda,” said Prof. Tickodri Togboa, the Minister of State for Higher Education, Science and Technology, while officiating at the inaugural media expo.
He said the vehicle, now an indispensable element of our daily lives, will provide an alternative locally-sourced, eco-friendly public transport solution.
“A regional standard has been raised in technological environmental sustainability. The Kayoola sets a precedent and inspirational trend for the technological future of urban mobility for the East and Central African region,” said Togboa.
At a glance
The Kiira Motors project is an industrial development intervention supported through the Presidential initiative for Science and Technology Innovations.
The project is aimed at establishing vehicle manufacturing capabilities in Uganda for pickups, SUVs, sedans, light and medium duty trucks and buses. This is expected to transform Uganda into a middle-income economy by 2040 through providing a platform with high intellectual convergence of disciplines.
Its official launch shall take place on February 16 at Kampala Serena Hotel and it will be presided over by President Yoweri Museveni.
Musasizi said the first 305 cars from KMC are expected to be rolled off the assembly line by 2018, if all the necessary infrastructure and human resources are put in place. Fifty thousand more units will be produced by 2039. On May 15 2014, the Kiira EV project received 100 acres of land at the Jinja industrial and business park and its capacity is 60,000 units.Many people took to social media to celebrate the innovation.
Asuman Balaba said it was a good initiative and hoped it would be affordable for Ugandans to buy.
Ronald Kiwalabye said: “This is amazing. You have done Uganda proud.”
Enos Shakoma said much as the bus looks good, he wondered whether it could stand the poor roads in some parts of the country.
On the other hand, Ian Ken was pleased with the neutral colour of the bus.
If you’re a fan of glamping, you’ll love this eco-friendly passive home nestled in the Australian outback. Archterra Architects designed the Bush House, a solar-powered abode that blends environmental sustainability with contemporary luxury. Located near Margaret River in western Australia, this low-profile house is topped with a single-pitched roof to “distill into built form, the feelings of camping under a simple sheltering tarp.”
Built for minimal maintenance, the 168-square-meter Bush Home was constructed with prefab steel frames and clad in zincalume steel and large windows. The galvanized steel framing, which is also used in the interior, will develop a mottled patina over time. A large single-pitched roof with large overhanging eaves protects the home from unwanted solar heat gain.
The home is arranged in a simple rectangular plan bisected by a thick rammed-earth wall that separates the interior into its two main parts: the sleeping quarters on the west and the living zone to the east. The seamless indoor-outdoor experience is strengthened by the large cedar-frame windows that opens the home up to views and natural light, as well as the use of wood, that continues from the recycled jarrah wood planks used on the outdoor decking into the interior, where Australian Hoop pine lines the ceilings.
The Bush House follows passive solar strategies to minimize energy use, such as northern orientation, the promotion of cooling cross-flow ventilation, and solar shading. Two rammed earth walls and a concrete floor slab help retain thermal mass. The house is also equipped with a 3kW ground-mounted solar array, rooftop solar hot water heater, and a worm-farm blackwater treatment system that irrigates the garden with recycled, nutrient-rich water.
Kristof Retezár has designed a clever way for cyclists to stay hydrated while they ride. Thanks to Fontus, a new device that pulls water from the air, we may never have to worry about refills ever again. The solar-powered device harvests water using a Peltier Element – a two-chambered cooler designed to encourage condensation. As air moves through the upper chamber, it is slowed by several barriers. The decrease in airflow speed allows for the release of water molecules, which are pulled from the air and then stored in a bottle for the cyclist’s consumption.
It is essential, for good times and good health, that cyclists stay hydrated while enjoying the mid-summer weather. In the heat of it all, even the most conscious biker can forget to refill their water bottle, putting them in a precarious position. Kristof envisioned the Fontus to be practical and resilient. “My goal was to create a small, compact and self-sufficient device able to absorb humid air, separate water molecules from air molecules and store water in liquid form in a bottle,” says Retezár.
After over 30 experiments, Retezár was able to calibrate Fontus to achieve a steady output of one drop of condensed water per minute. That adds up to about a half liter captured per hour. Although this is an impressive achievement, it is not sufficient for a hot, humid day. The Fontus is also ineffective in urban areas, where pollution contaminates water molecules pulled from city air.
Fontus joins many promising projects in the quest to harvest water from air. In 2013, MIT scientists created a special mesh material that pulls water from fog and the results so far have been encouraging. Perhaps the professors could stitch an on-campus water-capturing web that might spare Boston of its wicked humidity. More importantly, these technologies could allow for a substantial decrease in water insecurity, which could alleviate poverty and serve as a resilient climate change adaptation.
Los Angeles – A solar-powered aircraft flying from Japan to Hawaii on the most perilous leg of a round-the-globe bid has beaten the record for the longest solo flight, organizers said on Thursday.
But they admitted that veteran Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg is absolutely exhausted after nearly four days’ continuous flying, making the final 24 hours or so of flight particularly challenging.
“UPDATE #PACIFIC: @andreborschberg is tired. W/ turbulence at 8’000 feet & a cold front close, SITUATION IS DIFFICULT,” said the latest tweeted update from the mission control centre (MCC) of the pioneering Solar Impulse 2 aircraft.
“#MCC #solarTEAM is working hard to assess the situation & help @andreborschberg during this stressful period.”
By 16:30 GMT Thursday Solar Impulse 2 had travelled 84% of the way to the tropical US state, having flown 6 921km) with 1250 km more to go, according to the project.
So far Borschberg has flown more than 94 hours – easily beating the previous longest solo endurance flight, by Steve Fossett who flew for 76 hours and 45 minutes in 2006. The whole trip from Japan to Hawaii was expected to take 120 hours.
The Swiss aviator is napping for only 20 minutes at a time to maintain control of the pioneering plane. He is equipped with a parachute and life raft, in case he needs to ditch in the Pacific.
The experimental solar-powered aircraft left Japan around 18:00 GMT Sunday – the early hours of Monday local time – after spending a month in the central city of Nagoya.
The propeller-driven plane was originally scheduled to fly directly from Nanjing in China to Hawaii, but bad weather along the way forced a diversion to Japan that stretched to a month.
Borschberg is alone and entirely self-reliant in the 3.8-cubic-meter unpressurized cockpit.
Travelling at altitudes of more than 9 000 meters, he has to use oxygen tanks to breathe and experiences huge swings in temperature throughout the day.
Solar Impulse 2 set off from Abu Dhabi earlier this year in a multi-leg attempt to fly around the world without a single drop of fuel.
It has 17 000 solar cells and on-board rechargeable lithium batteries, allowing it to fly through the night.
Its wingspan is longer than that of a jumbo jet but it weighs only 2.3 tons – about the same as a car.
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