Renewable Energy
By Lorraine ChowEnergy  01:00PM EST
World's Hottest Hole: Iceland to Harness Molten Magma for Electricity, Could Power 50,000 Homes

Earth's abundant inner heat, or geothermal energy, has incredible potential as a renewable energy source. For traditional geothermal projects, hot rocks produce steam for turbines. Over in Iceland, however, a consortium of researchers and companies want to dig much, much deeper into Earth's crust in order to explore the renewable energy potential of molten magma.

Iceland is drilling the world's hottest hole to harness energy from molten magmaFlickr

The Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) is drilling a 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) hole into old lava flows in the Reykjanes, a region in southwest Iceland filled with geothermal sites. Once drilling is complete by the end of 2016, the Nordic nation will be home to the hottest hole in the world with temperatures between 400 and 1,000 degrees Celsius (or 752-1,832 degrees Fahrenheit), according to New Scientist.

This effort is being led by Icelandic energy companies such as Hitaveita Sudurnesja, Landsvirkjun and Orkuveita Reykjavíkur, as well as the National Energy Authority of Iceland.

Since Aug. 12, the IDDP's rig—actually named "Thor"—has been drilling deep into a landward extension of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater mountain range that extends above sea level through the center of Iceland.

"People have drilled into hard rock at this depth, but never before into a fluid system like this," Albert Albertsson, assistant director of a geothermal energy company involved in the project, explained to New Scientist.

At this depth, seawater that has penetrated the ocean bed has not only been superheated by magma, it's also highly pressurized (more than 200 times atmospheric air pressure). The team expects to find water in the form of "supercritical steam," aka "dragon water," which is neither liquid nor steam but holds more heat energy than both.

Albertsson said that a well capable of harnessing this steam has an energy capacity of 50 megawatts, about 10 times more than a conventional geothermal well. Theoretically, IDDP's new well could power 50,000 homes compared to the 5,000 homes powered by a single geothermal well.

"If they can get supercritical steam in deep boreholes, that will make an order of magnitude difference to the amount of geothermal energy the wells can produce," Arnar Guðmundsson from Invest in Iceland, a government agency that promotes energy development, told New Scientist.

If this project this sounds a little dicey, as Motherboard explained, this isn't the first time IDDP has tapped into Icelandic lava power:

"In 2009, an IDDP rig located in Krafla, northeast Iceland, accidentally struck a magma reservoir just over a mile underground. Excited about the prospects of new geothermal energy, the project partnered with Iceland's National Power Company, and installed a perforated steel casing at the bottom of the well. This successfully allowed the flow of magma to create superheated, extremely pressurized steam at temperatures exceeding 800°F—at the time, a world record for geothermal heat.

"Power created by the Krafla borehole was never fed back into the grid, and the project was shuttered in 2012 after a critical valve needed repairing."

"In the future, the success of this drilling and research project could lead to a revolution in the energy efficiency of high-temperature geothermal areas worldwide," said Wilfred Elders, a professor emeritus of geology at the University of California, Riverside who was involved in an earlier IDDP project.

According to DeSmogBlog, New Zealand, Indonesia, the Philippines, the U.S. and Mexico already have commercial geothermal plants.

Iceland, known for its numerous bubbling hot springs and geysers, already heats up to 90 percent of its homes and supplies about a third of its electricity with geothermal.

By Kristin FalzonEnergy  10:02AM EST
13-Year-Old Wins Top Prize: Makes Wind Energy Device That Costs Just $5

A 13-year-old student from Ohio won the top prize at the 2016 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge Tuesday for developing a cost-effective device that uses solar and wind power to create energy.

Grand prize winner Maanasa Mendu with 3M scientist mentor Margaux Mitera at the 2016 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge in St. Paul, MN.Discovery Education

Maanasa Mendu, a ninth grader at William Mason High School in Ohio, said she was inspired by a visit to India where she discovered many people lacked basic life necessities such as clean water and lighting.

Mendu's initial idea harnessed only wind energy when she entered the competition. According to Business Insider, the leaves cost roughly $5 to make.

During the past three months, Mendu worked with Margaux Mitera, a 3M senior product development engineer, to develop a more advanced system that was inspired by how plants function. Mendu decided to create "solar leaves" that harnessed vibrational energy. Her "leaves" get energy from rain, wind and the sun, using a solar cell and piezoelectric material—the part of the leaf that picks up on the vibrations—and transforms it into usable energy, Business Insider said.

Besides being named "America's Top Young Scientist," Mendu won $25,000 for her invention.

"Each year, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge reminds us of the inspiring ingenuity that results when we empower our youngest generation to apply science, critical-thinking and creativity to solve real-world problems," said Bill Goodwyn, president and CEO, Discovery Education.

The second, third and fourth place winners each received a $1,000 prize and a trip to a taping of a show on Discovery's family of networks for their inventions:

  • Rohan Wagh from Portland, Oregon, a ninth grader at Sunset High School in Beaverton School District, received second place for his innovation that utilizes the natural metabolism of bacteria to create energy.
  • Kaien Yang from Chantilly, Virginia, an eighth grader at Nysmith School for the Gifted, received third place for his innovation that uses pumpkin seed oil to create both a biodiesel and bioplastic that reduces emissions and pollution from plastic.
  • Amelia Day from Sumner, Washington, a ninth grader at Sumner High School in Sumner School District, received fourth place for her invention that uses sensory feedback to help rebuild neural connections inside of the brain during rehabilitation.
By Carbon BriefClimate  09:13AM EST
7 Key Scenes in Leonardo DiCaprio's Climate Film 'Before the Flood'

By Leo Hickman

Before the Flood, a new feature-length documentary presented and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, is released in cinemas today.

The Oscar-winning actor and environmentalist has spent the past three years asking a wide variety of people around the world about climate change. His collection of interviews in the film—ranging from President Obama and the Pope through to Elon Musk and Piers Sellars—cover the science, impacts, vested interests, politics and possible solutions.

Leonardo DiCaprio visits the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Space Flight Center to discuss Earth science with Piers Sellers.NASA / Goddard/ Rebecca Roth

Carbon Brief was invited to the European premiere of Before the Flood last weekend. Before the screening in London began, DiCaprio took to the stage to introduce the film. He said:

"Before The Flood is the product of an incredible three-year journey that took place with my co-creator and director Fisher Stevens. We went to every corner of the globe to document the devastating impacts of climate change and questioned humanity's ability to reverse what maybe the most catastrophic problem mankind has ever faced. There was a lot to take on. All that we witnessed on this journey shows us that our world's climate is incredibly interconnected and that it is at urgent breaking point.

"I've been incredibly moved by so many climate change documentaries in the past, but I never felt that I saw one that articulated the science clearly to the public. I think people grasp it, but it seems something distant, far off, intangible and almost otherworldly. An individual doesn't feel like they can make an impact. The journey for me was to try and make a modern-day film about climate change. I've been studying this issue for the past 15 years, I've been watching it very closely. What's incredibly terrifying is that things are happening way ahead of the scientific projections, 15 or 20 years ago.

"We wanted to create a film that gave people a sense of urgency, that made them understand what particular things are going to solve this problem. We bring up the issue of a carbon tax, for example, which I haven't seen in a lot of documentaries. Basically, sway a capitalist economy to try to invest in renewables, to bring less money and subsidies out of oil companies. These are the things that are really going to make a massive difference. It's gone beyond, as we talk about in the film, simple, individual actions. We need to use our vote ... We cannot afford to have political leaders out there that do not believe in modern science or the scientific method or empirical truths … We cannot afford to waste time having people in power that choose to believe in the 2 percent of the scientific community that is basically bought off by lobbyists and oil companies. They are living in the stone ages. They are living in the dark ages. We need to live in the future."

Here, Leo Hickman, Carbon Brief's editor, identifies seven key scenes in Before the Flood

1. Prof. Jason Box

2. Prof. Michael E. Mann

3. Dr. Sunita Narain

4. Prof. Gidon Eshel

5. Elon Musk

6. President Obama

7. Dr. Piers Sellers

Setting the Scene

In terms of box-office draw alone, Before the Flood is the most significant film about climate change since Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth was released a decade ago. DiCaprio has made maximum use of his global star power to bring together some of the world's leading voices and experts on climate change and package them up into 90-minute narrative which drips with urgency, insights and emotion.

It opens with a surprisingly personal monologue by DiCaprio in which he talks about the "nightmarish" painting which hung over his crib as a child.

"I would stare at it before I went to sleep," he explained, noting some of its themes—"over-population, debauchery, exodus."

Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights was painted more than 500 years ago, but it speaks to today, he said, with its "twisted, decayed, burnt landscape." DiCaprio said the triptych's final panel shows a "paradise that's been degraded and destroyed."

The film is named after the middle panel—Humankind before the Flood—which, he said, acts as an allegorical warning to the world of what could come next, if it fails to act on climate change.

DiCaprio then sets off around the world on his quest for answers: "I want to see exactly what is going on and how to solve it." But self-doubt looms large from the off, even after he is named by Ban Ki-moon as the UN messenger of peace on climate change.

"Try to talk to anyone about climate change and people just tune out. They might have picked the wrong guy." As DiCaprio said this, a montage plays of clips showing his media critics, such as Fox News' Sean Hannity, attacking him for his lack of scientific credentials and celebrity lifestyle.

However, DiCaprio is frank about how his fame has afforded him such a privileged perspective: "First time I heard of global warming was when I sat down one-to-one with Al Gore [in the early 2000s]. This is most important issue of our time, he said. I had no idea what he was talking about."

After viewing tar sands in Canada by helicopter—"kinda looks like Mordor"—and narwhal whales in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, DiCaprio explained what, in his view, has changed in the time since he received Gore's climate lesson.

"Everyone was focused on small individual actions [back then]. Boiled down to simple solutions such as changing a light bulb. It's pretty clear that we are way beyond that now. Things have taken a massive turn for the worse."

The Garden of Earthly Delights, a painting by Hieronymus Bosch from 1485.Damian Michaels / Flickr

1. Prof. Jason Box

DiCaprio is helicoptered onto the Greenland ice sheet, where he meets with Jason Box, a professor at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. Box has spent many Arctic summers monitoring the stability of the ice sheet, as well as, in more recent years, the way soot from forest fires and the burning of fossil fuels has darkened the snow and, hence, the ice's reflectivity or albedo. As they both stare at a torrent of water rushing down into a moulin, Box's concern about the long-term melting trend is palpable:

"We keep finding things that aren't in the climate models. That tells me that the projections for the future are really conservative. If the climate stays at the temperature that it's been in in the last decade, Greenland is going away."

DiCaprio gently mocked Box's equipment for measuring the ice.

"This is a climate station? I was imagining a massive igloo with all kinds of scientists and experiments. It really does look like broken down pool equipment."

Then he questioned why there is a long spiral of plastic hose laying on the ice. Box explained:

"The hose went down 30 feet, but [the ice] has now melted out. Five years of melt. Hundreds of cubic kilometres of ice stored on land that has now gone into the sea."

2. Prof. Michael E. Mann

No movie is complete without the bad guys. And DiCaprio is keen to stress the role that "corporate interests" have played in spreading "disinformation" about climate change.

A cast of villains is introduced ranging from right-wing newspapers and TV networks in the U.S. through to politicians and "front groups." All seek to cast doubt on the science and, in doing so, attack climate scientists.

No scientist has been more in the crosshairs than Michael E Mann, the director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center who is best known for his famous hockey stick graph showing a recent spike in global temperatures.

Publishing that graph proved to be a huge turning point, Mann told DiCaprio:

"I set myself up for a completely different life … I was vilified … I was called a fraud. I was being attacked by Congressmen. I had death threats, which were actionable enough that the FBI had to come to my office to look at an envelope that had white powder [in it]. I've had threats made against my family. These folks know they don't have to win a legitimate scientific debate. They just need to divide the public. All of that hatred and fear is organized and funded by just a few players. Fossil fuel interests … finance a very large echo chamber of climate change denialism. They find people with very impressive looking credentials who are willing to sell those credentials to fossil fuel interests. Front groups funded by corporate interests."

DiCaprio's frustration was clear: "If I were a scientist, I would be absolutely pissed every day of my life."

Footage from Frank Capra's 1958 short film for Bell Labs, The Unchained Goddess, which explains what impact burning fossil fuels will have on the climate, plays in the background.

"We've know about this problem for decades and decades," lamented DiCaprio. "Imagine the world right now if we'd taken the science of climate change seriously back then. Since then our population has grown by five billion people and counting. The problem has become more difficult to solve."

3. Dr. Sunita Narain

After a trip to Beijing to witness the smog and speak to experts about how releasing pollution data to citizens has helped to change public attitudes, DiCaprio arrives in India.

His meeting with Sunita Narain, director of the Centre for Science and Environment, provides, arguably, the key scene of the whole film. They discuss the sweetspot of the climate conundrum: How do developing nations with fast-rising populations raise standards of living for all without emitting vast volumes of greenhouse gases?

"We are a country where energy access is as much a challenge as climate change," said Narain. "We need to make sure that every Indian has access to energy."

DiCaprio mulled on that: "From what I understand, there are 300 million people without power in India. That's equivalent to the entire population of the United States."

As footage shows women in the village of Kheladi in Haryana burning uplas (cowdung cakes), Narain passionately lays out India's predicament:

Sunita Narain: Coal is cheap, whether you or I like it or not. You have to think of it from this point of view. You created the problem in the past. We will create it in the future. We have 700m household using biomass to cook. If those households move to coal, there'll be that much more use of fossil fuels. Then the entire world is fried. If anyone tells you that the world's poor should move to solar and why do they have to make the mistakes we have made … I hear this from American NGOs all the time. I'm like, wow. I mean, if it was that easy, I would really have liked the U.S. to move to solar. But you haven't. Let's put our money where our mouth is.

Leonardo DiCaprio: We have to practice what we preach. Absolutely.

Sunita Narain: I'm sorry to say this and I know you're American, so please don't take this the wrong way, but your consumption is really going to put a hole in the planet. I think that's the conversation we need to have. I'll show you charts from this perspective. [Shows page from a book]. Electricity consumed by one American at home is equivalent to 1.5 citizens of France, 2.2 citizens of Japan and 10 citizens of China, 34 of India and 61 of Nigeria. Why? Because you're building bigger, you're building more and using much more than before. The fact is we need to put the issue of lifestyle and consumption at the centre of climate negotiations.

Leonardo DiCaprio: Look, there's no way I don't agree with you. Absolutely correct. Yes, it's a very difficult argument to present to Americans that we need to change our lifestyle and I would probably argue that it's not going to happen. If we want to solve the climate crisis on, hopefully, that renewables like solar and wind will become cheaper and cheaper as more money is funneled into them and we invest into them, and, ultimately, we will solve that problem. But I … [Narain shakes her head]. You are shaking your head, obviously…

Sunita Narain: I'm shaking my head Indian style, which means "no." Who will invest? Let's be real about this. Who will invest? And how will they invest? We are doing more investment into solar today. China is doing much more investment in solar today than the U.S. is. What is the U.S. doing which the rest of the world can learn from? You are a fossil-addicted country, but if you are seriously disengaging, that's something for us to learn from. And it's leadership that we can hold up to our government and say if the U.S. is doing—and the U.S. is doing it—then, despite all the pressures, then we can do it as well … But it's just not happening. People like us, we are rich enough to withstand the first hit of climate change. But it's the poor of India, it's the poor of Africa, the poor of Bangladesh, who are impacted today in what I believe are the first tides of climate change … We need countries to believe that climate change is real and it is urgent. It's not a figment of their imagination

The scene concludes with DiCaprio musing on his conversation with Narain:

"There's no doubt we have all benefitted from fossil fuels. I know I have. My footprint is probably a lot bigger than most people's. And there are times when I question what is the right thing to do. What actions should we be taking? There are over a billion people out there without electricity. They want lights. They want heat. They want the lifestyle that we've had in the United States for the last hundred years. If we are going to solve this problem, we all have a responsibility to set an example. And, more than that, help the developing world to transition before it's too late."

4. Prof. Gidon Eshel

It is well known that DiCaprio has donated a significant proportion of his wealth and time to various habitat conservation projects, notably focused on oceans and tropical forests. So it isn't a surprise that he visits such locations in Before the Flood.

He views dead coral with marine biologist Jeremy Jackson. ("We're pushing this system really hard"). He flies over Sumatran forests being cleared by palm oil plantations with HAkA's Farwiza Farhan. ("I've never seen anything like this"). He feeds baby orangutans at a rescue center in the Mount Leuser National Park with Dr. Ian Singleton. ("They are refugees from the burning forest").

The message is clear. Lifestyle choices are damaging these carbon-absorbing habitats. Boycott companies which use palm oil to make their products, urges DiCaprio. Switch from eating beef to chicken.

This particular suggestion is put forward by the next person DiCaprio visits. Gidon Eshel, a professor of environmental science and physics at Bard College in New York, was the lead author of a study published in 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It made headlines around the world and found that beef is about 10 times more damaging to the environment than any other form of livestock. Eshel said:

"Of all the reasons for tropical deforestation, the foremost is beef. Beef is one of the most inefficient use of resources on the planet. In the U.S., 47 percent of land is used for food production and, of that, the lion's share is just to grow feed for cattle. The things that we actually eat—fruit, vegetables, nuts—it's a percent. Most importantly, cows produce methane. And methane is a powerful greenhouse gas … About 10-12 percent of total U.S. emissions is due to beef. It's staggering … Maybe not everyone is ready to eat tofu 24/7. I get that. But even if you just have to have some flesh between your teeth, if you switch to chicken, you will have eliminated 80 percent of what you emit, depending on where you are coming from."

5. Elon Musk

DiCaprio in now looking out across Los Angeles from a vantage point up in the Hollywood hills.

"Every single light that you see has to be completely different—has to come from a new power source. We need to build all those things differently. All the cars that are on the road need to be different. This is one city. If you zoom out to a map of the world at night, you see electrification all over the world. And we're fighting powerful fossil fuel interests who basically want to keep doing business as usual. How are we possibly going to turn all this around?"

Next he is in the Nevadan desert visiting the "gigafactory," the latest project of Tesla founder Elon Musk. Once at full operation by 2020, the vast factory aims to be producing annually 500,000 electric vehicles and batteries/cells equal to 85 GWh/yr. Musk explains why this could be a game-changer:

Elon Musk: What would it take to transition the whole world to sustainable energy? What kind of throughput would you actually need? You need a hundred gigafactories.

Leonardo DiCaprio: A hundred of these?

Elon Musk: A hundred. Yes.

Leonardo DiCaprio: That would make the United States…

Elon Musk: No, the whole world.

Leonardo DiCaprio: The whole world?!

Elon Musk: The whole world.

Leonardo DiCaprio: That's it?! That sounds manageable.

Elon Musk: If all the big companies do this then we can accelerate the transition and if governments can set the rules in favour of sustainable energy, then we can get there really quickly. But it's really fundamental: unless they put a price on carbon…

Leonardo DiCaprio: … Then we are never going to be able to make the transition in time, right?

Elon Musk: Only way to do that is through a carbon tax.

[Carbon Brief has asked Tesla to explain how Musk arrived at this "100 gigafactory" claim. This article will be updated, if a reply is received].

To drive this point home, DiCaprio then speaks to Gregory Mankiw, a Harvard economics professor, who has long argued for a carbon tax. ("Let me get this straight, you're a Republican who wants more taxes?") During a "call to action" segment at the end of the film before the credits roll, a link to is shown.

6. Barack Obama

When you're Leonardo DiCaprio you can request a meeting with anyone on the planet. Which other filmmaker could include personal conversations with the U.S. president, the Pope and the UN secretary general in one film?

However, given the imminent entry into force of the Paris agreement on climate change, it is DiCaprio's exchange with Barack Obama at the White House which provides the most insight.

Barack Obama: [Paris] creates the architecture. I was happy with that. The targets set in Paris are nowhere near enough, compared to what the scientists tell us we need to solve this problem. But if we can use the next 20 years to apply existing technologies to reduce carbon emissions and then start slowly turning up the dials as new technologies come online and we have more and more ambitious targets each year, then we're not going to completely reverse the warming that now is inevitable, but we could stop it before it becomes catastrophic … Even if someone came in [to the White House] denying climate science, reality has a way of hitting you on the nose if you're not paying attention and I think the public is starting to realize the science, in part because it is indisputable.

Leonardo DiCaprio: You have access to information. What makes you terrified?

Barack Obama: A huge proportion of the world's population lives near oceans. If they start moving, then you start seeing scarce resources are subject to competition between populations. This is the reason the Pentagon has said this is a national security issue. And this is in addition to the sadness I would feel if my kids could never see a glacier the way that I did when I went up to Alaska. I want them to see the same things that I saw when I was growing up.

7. Dr. Piers Sellers

There are very few people who can say they've had the privilege of being able to look down at the Earth from space. Piers Sellers, the British-born astronaut, spent a total of 35 days in orbit in the 1990s on three separate flights aboard the space shuttle. But back on Earth, he has spent much of his professional life modeling the climate system at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Earlier this year, he wrote in theNew York Times about how being diagnosed with terminal cancer has sharpened his thinking on climate change.

Sitting in front of a huge screen showing NASA visualizations of the Earth's climate in motion, Sellers explains to DiCaprio how he views the current changes to the climate as a scientist.

Dr. Piers Sellers: I realized that, as the science community, we have not done the best job, frankly, of communicating this threat to the public. When you go up there and see it with your own eye, you see how thin the world's atmosphere is. Tiny little onion skin around the Earth … [Sellers shows a visualization]. Here's an example of one thing we can see—ocean surface temperature, as measured from space. You can see the poles melting.

Leonardo DiCaprio: Wow.

Dr. Piers Sellers: This is the way to do it, man. This is the way to really see what's going on. This is the Gulf Stream. Look at this. This is the motion of the ocean.

Leonardo DiCaprio: This is like a great piece of art.

Dr. Piers Sellers: It is, isn't it? The biggest impact will be here. [Sellers points].

Leonardo DiCaprio: In the Gulf Stream.

Dr. Piers Sellers: This current … the dumping of ice off Greenland could stop this conveyor belt and the Gulf Stream would slow down and stop its transport of heat from here to there and then Europe would get cold toes because there is a lot of heat transport from across the tropics, across the north Atlantic that keeps Europe warm.

Leonardo DiCaprio: Europe would get colder? A big misconception with climate change is that everything gets warmer.

Dr. Piers Sellers: And here's the most advanced precipitation satellite in the world. It's very important, because we think the biggest impact from climate change is the moving of the precipitation belts from the equator to further out. We're already seeing more persistent drought

Leonardo DiCaprio: …more drought in places that are already too hot?

Dr. Piers Sellers: Yes. And there are a lot of papers written in the States and elsewhere about how that same drought has help to fuel conflict in the Syrian civil war, Darfur, Sudan, all these places that are short of water and short of food.

Leonardo DiCaprio: Is just here or across the whole planet?

Dr. Piers Sellers: We are expecting elsewhere. Bits of India. In the U.S., in Oklahoma, the Dust Bowl region, we expect that to be much, much drier over the next few decades.

Leonardo DiCaprio: Oh my god. And what about my home state of California?

Dr. Piers Sellers: Not looking great, I'm afraid. Our models predicted persistent drought in the Dust Bowl and here 50 years from now. But we're just seeing the worst drought in 900 years here right now, so it's coming a bit earlier than we thought. We're talking about this happening over the period of a few decades…

Leonardo DiCaprio: This is not great news.

Dr. Piers Sellers: People get confused about the issue, but the facts are crystal clear—the ice is melting, the Earth is warming, the sea level is rising—those are facts. Rather than being, "Oh my god, this is helpless", say, "Ok, this is the problem, let's be realistic and let's find a way out of it". And there are ways out of it. If we stopped burning fossil fuels right now, the planet would still keep warming for a little while before cooling off again.

Leonardo DiCaprio: Would that Arctic ice start to then increase again?

Dr. Piers Sellers: Once the cooling started, yeah.

Leonardo DiCaprio: So there really is a possibility to repair this trajectory that we're on? Interesting.

Dr. Piers Sellers: Yeah. There's hope … I'm basically an optimistic person. I really do have faith in people. And I think once people come out of the fog of confusion on this issue and the uncertainty on this issue and realistically appreciate it on some level as a threat, and are informed on some level on what the best action is to do to deal with it, they'll get on and do it and what seemed almost impossible to deal with becomes possible.

Before the Flood opens in cinemas on Oct. 21 and will be broadcast on the National Geographic Channel on Oct. 30.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief.

By Kristin FalzonEnergy  08:43AM EST
World's Most Remote Village Is About to Become Self-Sufficient

The most remote village on Earth, located on Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic Ocean, is about to get a 21st century upgrade thanks to an international design competition aimed at creating a more sustainable future for the farming and fishing community.

Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, Tristan da Cunha, South Atlantic Oceanmichael clarke stuff / Wikipedia

RIBA Competitions launched the competition in March 2015 on behalf of the Tristan da Cunha government and narrowed down the 37 anonymous entries from around the world to five teams. A little over a year later, the team led by Brock Carmichael Architects was identified as the winner of the competition because of its "practical approach and in-depth understanding of the issues."

A wind farm, modernized buildings with heated floors and insulated roofs, greenhouses in backyards, communal kitchen gardens, community composting and a waste to energy incinerator are some of the improvements in the team's initial plans for the 265-member community.

Rendering of community garden, island store, kitchen garden and fisheries.Brock Carmichael Architects

However, creating this sustainable community will be a challenge.

The island—located 1,750 miles (7 to 10 sailing days) southwest of Cape Town, South Africa—can only be accessed by sea on a passenger or cargo ship eight times a year due to the severity of the ocean swells and limitations of the harbor facility.

German research vessel Maria S. Merian in front of the island Tristan da Cunha. In the background is the settlement Edinburgh of the Seven Seas.Mison / Wikipedia Commons

With the village so isolated, the main goal of this project is help create a self-sufficient community that future generations can manage themselves.

"Over a course of time, key people would be trained in any areas of expertise required to deliver these design proposals and acquire the knowledge and skills that can be passed down to generations to come," Martin Watson, director of operations for Brock Carmichael Architects, said.

The main way Brock Carmichael Architects propose getting this done is to prototype materials and products found on the island—such as sheep wool, basaltic blocks and seaweed—to assess its performance in the exposed marine environment and build-ability using locally-trained labor.

Along the way, the Island Council will have the final say in what will be added to the final plans, and their goals are ambitious, wanting to produce 30 to 40 percent of their own energy within the next five years.

Brock Carmichael architects will head out to the island in summer 2017 to inspect the island before fleshing out more details in their designs.

By Lorraine ChowEnergy  12:13PM EST
World's First Wind-Hydro Farm Supplies Power Even When There's No Wind

Germany will soon be home to a groundbreaking wind farm that solves a big problem with wind power: What happens when the wind isn't blowing?

Max Bögl Facebook

General Electric's (GE) renewable energy arm has signed a turbine-supply agreement with German construction company Max Bögl to develop the world's first wind farm with an integrated hydropower plant capable of generating power even when there's no breeze.

According to GE Reports, project "Gaildorf" consists of four wind turbines scattered along a hill in the Swabian-Franconian Forest. These towers are unique in two ways. First, they will stand at a record-breaking height of 584 feet once built. Second, at the base of each tower is a water reservoir containing 1.6 million gallons of water. The four towers are daisy chained by a channel that takes water down a valley to a 16-megawatt pump/generator hydropower plant. The site will house another reservoir holding 9 million gallons of water for additional water storage.

Here's how it all works, as GE Reports simply explains:

"The big idea here is that the wind will generate electricity when it's, well, windy, and the water will act as a giant battery that will discharge and modulate output when it stops blowing.

"When electricity is needed, water flowing downhill from the reservoirs will power the hydro plant. When the energy supply is high, the hydro plant will pump the water back up the hill to the reservoirs and will act as the giant battery."

The four wind turbines are connected by a channel that takes water down to a hydro plant.GE Reports

The beauty of this project is that stored hydropower can offset the unpredictability of wind power.

"The Gaildorf project marks a major step forward in balancing power demand and supply fluctuations using renewable energy sources," GE said in a statement. "The combined wind and hydropower plant will provide balancing power for fast-response stabilization of the grid, maintaining a low cost of electricity for residents in Germany."

The wind farm alone will generate 13.6 megawatts of energy while the hydropower plant can generate 16 megawatts. The turbines are scheduled to be commissioned by the end of 2017. The Gaildorf project is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2018.

“We are very excited to collaborate with Max Bögl on this pilot project; a first for the industry," Anne McEntee, president and CEO of GE's Onshore Wind business, said. "We are committed to exploring innovative renewable energy technologies that have the potential to improve grid flexibility in Europe and around the world."

As GE Reports noted, this innovative plant will help Germany move toward its goal of generating at least 45 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030.

By Climate NexusClimate  08:13AM EST
0-3: Future Generations Lose Again at Third Presidential Debate

Debate moderator Chris Wallace failed to ask a question on climate change or energy policy in the final presidential debate.

The issue got two seconds of airtime when Hillary Clinton mentioned her plan for new clean energy jobs to fight climate change.

"We had one last chance to hear the candidates' plans to tackle what President Obama calls the greatest threat facing our generation," Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard said.

"While Secretary Clinton brought up clean energy jobs and climate change during the topic of the economy, Donald Trump choked. Climate change is a major factor when talking about immigration, the economy, foreign hot spots, the national debt, and the Supreme Court. The fact that it received seconds of attention from only one candidate is offensive to the American people, particularly those already dealing with the devastating impacts."

Only two percent of the total time in the three debates was spent on climate and energy policy, due mostly to an audience question in the second debate—not a single moderator asked a climate question.

"It is a tragic failure that a question about the most pressing crisis we face on this planet was never asked," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said.

"Yet, the fact that Hillary Clinton proactively recognized the climate crisis and the need to grow the clean energy economy in each and every debate underlines exactly how clear the choice is this election. Only Hillary Clinton has a plan to tackle the climate crisis and only Hillary Clinton will defend and strengthen our clean air, clean water, and climate safeguards. Meanwhile, we learned that Donald Trump's opinion about the integrity of our elections is the same as his opinion of climate science: he will deny reality, come hell or high water."

For a deeper dive:

Vox, Brad Plumer column; New York Times, Paul Krugman column; Grist, Emma Foehringer Merchant column; Mashable, Andrew Freedman column; Huffington Post, Kate Sheppard column; Guardian, Oliver Milman analysis; New York Times, David Leonhardt column; ThinkProgress, Joe Romm column; Discover, Tom Yulsman column; Fusion, Ari Phillips column; USA Today editorial; Engadget, Mat Smith column; Bustle, Cheyna Roth column

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

By Lorraine ChowBusiness  01:28PM EST
SolarCity Will Pay Airbnb Hosts $1,000 to Go Solar

Airbnb hosts now have a major incentive to go solar. The home-sharing giant and SolarCity announced a new promotion today that will offer hosts up to $1,000 cash back if they install the solar company's panels.


The rebate is available to Airbnb hosts in the 19 states where SolarCity currently operates. Homeowners can choose the solar option that works best for their homes. The $1,000 offer is valid through March 31, 2017, after which it drops to $750 for the rest of the calendar year.

It was also announced today that new and current SolarCity customers who become Airbnb hosts will also get a $100 credit for a stay at an Airbnb property when they travel.

"Since 1998 we have had 15 of the 16 hottest years recorded and climate change is changing the way we make decisions—everyone is thinking about making better use of what we have," said Chris Lehane, Airbnb's head of global public policy and communications. "Travelers, especially millennials, want a more sustainable choice and homeowners want to make better use of the 13 million empty houses and 36 million empty bedrooms in the United States alone."

Travel can be an extremely carbon- and energy-intensive activity. Airbnb believes that staying at one of their rentals is better for the environment than staying at a typical hotel.

"Cleantech Group estimated that the average Airbnb guest night results in 61 percent less CO2 emissions as compared to a night in a hotel," Lehane said. The group also found that Airbnb travelers in the U.S. have saved 4.2 billions liters of water and cut back on greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to keeping 560,000 cars off the road for a year.

"At the same time, Airbnb is an economic empowerment tool for hosts who can use their homes—typically their greatest expense—to share space and generate a little extra money to pay the bills," Lehane added.

Lehane explained on a press call today that the partnership makes sense because both SolarCity customers and Airbnb users tend to look for ways to lower their environmental footprint, TechCrunch reported.

Toby Corey, president of global sales and customer experience at SolarCity, said that the new partnership "will create the first opportunity for many Airbnb guests to stay in a solar-powered home, and allow them to experience first-hand how easy it is to use clean energy to contribute to a cleaner, healthier society."

SolarCity says that its solar systems offset an estimated 150 metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution over its lifetime.

According to TechCrunch, Corey explained that since most of SolarCity's customers opt for the zero money down financing plan for installations, the $1,000 credit will be applied to their payback, reducing the overall repayment period.

The new partnership comes right before a shareholder vote on SolarCity's multibillion dollar merger with electric car company Tesla.

Tesla CEO and SolarCity chairman Elon Musk has an ambitious plan, dubbed Master Plan, Part Deux, of vertically integrating his two companies to seamlessly sell SolarCity's rooftop solar systems with Tesla's batteries.

By Lorraine ChowEnergy  08:41AM EST
Kansas Town Decimated by Tornado Now Runs on 100% Renewable Energy, Should Be Model for Frack-Happy State

A little more than nine years ago, an EF-5 tornado ripped through Greensburg, Kansas. The massive, May 4, 2007 twister leveled the small town, and half of the town's population of 1,500 residents escaped and never came back.

Greensburg, Kansas is the second city in the U.S. to convert to 100 percent renewable energy after it was devastated by a powerful tornado in 2007.Wikimedia Commons

But from the rubble, opportunity emerged. Greensburg is now one of the greenest towns in the U.S. and serves as an actual role model for renewable energy and sustainable development. Greensburg could also teach its frack-happy, earthquake-riddled home state a lesson or two about better energy choices.

Greensburg—the second U.S. city to go 100 percent renewable after Burlington, Vermont—has an impressive list of green bonafides thanks to its master sustainability plan. After the tornado struck, the city picked itself up and rebuilt every building to LEED-platinum standards and converted every streetlight to LEDs, the first in the nation to do both.

The city has curbside recycling and conserves water with low flow fixtures and collects rainwater for irrigation and grey water in toilets. This town, located right in America's heartland, is even home to the world's largest hand-dug well.

A hospital turbine in Greensburg, Kansas.The City of Greensburg

Notably, the wind that destroyed the city is also what's powering it today. The 12.5-megawatt community Greensburg Wind Farm produces enough electricity to power every home business, and municipal building in the town and surrounding area, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

In fact, the city's wind turbines, located just south of town, produces more energy than the city consumes, according to Newsy.

"The upflow on the elevation from Oklahoma into south-central Kansas is some of the best consistent, year-round wind in the United States," Mayor Bob Dixson told the publication.

As it happens, Kansas offers the third highest potential for wind energy in the U.S. and is a clean energy alternative definitely worth exploring.

EcoWatch reported last week that 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.

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.

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.

Mayor Dixson told Go 100% that the town also uses solar and geothermal energy sources to compliment the wind power.

While Greensburg's population is still roughly half of what it was before the tornado hit nine years ago, Dixson explained to USA TODAY that Greensburg is doing its best to rise from the destruction.

"You have to do the best you can with the resources you have," he said. "We learned that the only true green and sustainable things in life are how we treat each other."

The town's resurrection as a green utopia has been the subject of books and TV shows, including a Planet Green reality series called Greensburg narrated by actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio. Even President Obama praised the city in his first address to a joint session of Congress.

"Greensburg … is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community—how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. 'The tragedy was terrible,' said one of the men who helped them rebuild. 'But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity,'" Obama said.

By NextGen Climate AmericaClimate  02:05PM EST
Natalie Portman Urges Millennials to Vote

NextGen Climate released a new video today starring Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman that urges millennials to exercise their vote on behalf of candidates who have concrete plans to address the climate crisis and transition our country to a clean energy economy. Watch here:

The video is backed by a six-figure ad buy and will run in battleground states to engage with millennials and encourage them to turn out and vote on Election Day.

"We already have the tools to stop climate change—not tomorrow, not in 10 years, right now. We can power our country with 100 percent clean energy, creating millions of new jobs, keeping carbon pollution out of our climate," said Portman in the new ad. "It all starts with your vote … I'll see you at the polls on November 8th."

With this new digital video, NextGen Climate is engaging millennials on and off campus to get them to turnout on Election Day. NextGen Climate's #WHYWEVOTE campaign is a series of targeted digital ads to engage millennials—a demographic that has historically been difficult for campaigns to reach—by meeting them where they are: online and on their phones. This campaign complements NextGen Climate's data-driven field program on more than 300 campuses across 13 battleground states.

"The Millennial Generation is a great generation—one that's very passionate about issues that impact their lives, like climate change—and it's critical that millennials make their voices heard at the ballot box this November," said NextGen Climate President Tom Steyer.

"Elections are about choices and this year we have the choice to elect candidates to the White House and Senate who will enact policies to fight climate change and transition to clean energy or we could elect candidates who would take our country backwards and put our health, safety and economy at risk"

NextGen Climate is running the largest campus initiative in the country. On 300 campuses in 13 battleground states, NextGen Climate is registering millennials to vote, educating them about where the candidates stand on key issues and getting them to the polls on Nov. 8 for climate champions.