By Owen Agnew
Rod Read, an engineer and stay-at-home dad, lives on the remote Isle of Lewis in Scotland. For the past seven years, he's been designing a kite that he thinks could revolutionize wind power.
His prototype, a series of spinning rainbow-colored rings, stands out against the gray Scottish sky. On a good day, the kite generates more than 450 watts. It's just a small model, but Read thinks the technology could be scaled up to the utility level. His model still needs more testing, but kites have a number of advantages over traditional turbines and several companies are developing kite-based generating systems.
Traditional wind turbines require a lot of concrete and steel, which makes them heavy and expensive to build. Kites are much lighter and cheaper. They can reach powerful winds at high altitudes that are inaccessible to fixed turbines.
The challenge is getting all that power back down to the ground. Read's solution is a series of spinning kites, which transfer their motion downwards via a rotating column of tensioned tethers. He links his small-model kite to the drive train of his electric bicycle, which he stakes down to the thick Hebridean turf. With his kite spinning above him, he can charge the bike's battery. His kite model looks flimsy, but it uses tension to its advantage, much like a suspension bridge.
Read grew up on the Isle of Lewis and said that island life lends itself to making and tinkering. "Everyones got their own ideas of self-reliance and self-sustainability," he explained. "You've got to be a bit of a jack of all trades to survive on an island."
Read imagines a big future for his invention. He's created computer models of large arrays of connected kites, all generating power in unison. A network of kites, Read said, is safer and stronger than a single kite. If one kite fails, it is held aloft by the others. Read has published several of his designs on his website for anyone to use. More testing is needed to show the design can be scaled up, and Read is raising funds to help a PhD student at the nearby Strathclyde University test the design.
There are other kite-driven turbine designs in various stages of development around the world, including the Google-funded Makani Power in California. Scottish Kite Power Systems is building the UK's first kite-driven power station this year.
Whether kite power takes off on the utility level remains yet to be seen. For Read, his next goal is to build a kite large enough to charge his electric car.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
- San Antonio, Texas Unveils Largest Highway Crossing for Wildlife in ... ›
- Wildlife Crossings a Huge Success - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- Climate Change Will Be Sudden and Cataclysmic Unless We Act Now ›
- There's a Heatwave at the Arctic 'Doomsday Vault' - EcoWatch ›
- Marine Heatwaves Destroy Ocean Ecosystems Like Wildfires ... ›
By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
- Biden Reaffirms Commitment to Rejoining Paris Agreement ... ›
- Biden Likely Plans to Cancel Keystone XL Pipeline on Day One ... ›
- Joe Biden Appoints Climate Crisis Team - EcoWatch ›