China Is Now Home to a Panda-Shaped Solar Farm


China is famous for its pandas, and infamous for its pollution. To celebrate the country’s national animal while also combating greenhouse gas emissions, Business Insider reports that a solar power plant investor and operator has unveiled a brand-new panda-shaped plant in Datong, China.

A panda-shaped solar farm in China, built by company Panda Green Energy
Panda Green Energy

China Merchants New Energy Group (CMNE) teamed up with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to plan the 248-acre farm, which was built by Panda Green Energy Group, a global eco-development solutions provider that’s partly owned by CMNE. Their solar-panel bear is enormous, but it's only the first stage of construction for the new Panda Power Plant.

The plant currently contains one 50-megawatt plant. Later in 2017, CMNE plans to construct a second solar panda. When fully connected, the Panda Power Plant will measure 1500 acres and have a capacity of 100 megawatts. In the next 25 years, CMNE claims, the Panda Power Plant will produce 3.2 billion kilowatt-hours of solar energy, thus reducing China’s dependence on coal and carbon emissions by 2.74 million tons.

A panda-shaped solar farm in China, built by company Panda Green Energy
Panda Green Energy

As for the pandas themselves, Mashable reports that their black-and-white features are rendered using two types of solar panels: white thin film photovoltaic (PV) cells and black monocrystalline silicon PV cells. The whimsical designs are intended to promote awareness about clean energy among young people.

“Designing the plant in the shape of a panda could inspire young people and get them interest in the applications of solar power,” Panda Green Energy’s CEO, Li Yuan, said in May 2016.

Chinese youth will be recruited to attend summer camps at the Panda Power Plant to learn more about green energy production. Panda Green Energy also plans to construct panda-themed power stations in Fiji and the Philippines, with the goal of constructing 100 panda plants around the world over the next five years.

"I believe that the panda solar power plants will become a tourist hotspot, and in future we'll export these panda power plants to other parts of the world," Yuan said.

[h/t Business Insider]

How to Build an Igloo, According to a Canadian Film From 1949

Centuries before you started building snow forts in your backyard, the Inuit had mastered using snow as construction material. This 1949 video, produced by the National Film Board of Canada (and with narration that uses some outdated terminology), illustrates how exactly people native to the Arctic can erect warm, temporary homes using nothing but a knife and the snow beneath their feet. The artifact was spotted by The Kid Should See This.

The igloo (or iglu in Inuktitut) in this footage takes around 90 minutes to erect, but a similar structure can be built by a skilled person in as little as 40 minutes. To put together the shelter, the two men carve up firm, packed snow into blocks that are about 2 feet tall, 3 feet wide, and 4 inches thick.

After the first row of blocks is placed in a circle on the ground, the builder slices a section of the blocks to create a slope. Each row that's placed on this foundation will spiral upward, creating a shape in which the blocks support their own weight. By the time the keystone block is fitted into the top, the igloo is strong enough to support the weight of a man.

The final steps are carving a doorway out of the bottom of the structure and plugging up the cracks with additional snow from outside. Even on a frigid Arctic night, the temperature of a well-insulated igloo can reach 40 degrees above the temperature outside. And the warmer the igloo gets over time, the stronger it becomes: The heat from the Sun and the bodies of the inhabitants melt the outer layers of the blocks, and that water eventually freezes to ice, giving the home more insulation and structural integrity.

If you aren't ready to build an igloo, here are some less intimidating snow projects to tackle this winter.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

Charge Your Gadgets Anywhere With This Pocket-Sized Folding Solar Panel

Solar Cru, YouTube
Solar Cru, YouTube

Portable power banks are great for charging your phone when you’re out and about all day, but even they need to be charged via an electrical outlet. There's only so much a power bank can do when you’re out hiking the Appalachian Trail or roughing it in the woods during a camping trip.

Enter the SolarCru—a lightweight, foldable solar panel now available on Kickstarter. It charges your phone and other electronic devices just by soaking up the sunshine. Strap it to your backpack or drape it over your tent to let the solar panel’s external battery charge during the day. Then, right before you go to bed, you can plug your electronic device into the panel's USB port to let it charge overnight.

It's capable of charging a tablet, GPS, speaker, headphones, camera, or other small wattage devices. “A built-in intelligent chip identifies each device plugged in and automatically adjusts the energy output to provide the right amount of power,” according to the SolarCru Kickstarter page.

A single panel is good “for small charging tasks,” according to the product page, but you can connect up to three panels together to nearly triple the electrical output. It takes roughly three hours and 45 minutes to charge a phone using a single panel, for instance, or about one hour if you’re using three panels at once. The amount of daylight time it takes to harvest enough energy for charging will depend on weather conditions, but it will still work on cloudy days, albeit more slowly.

The foldable panel weighs less than a pound and rolls up into a compact case that it can easily be tucked away in your backpack or jacket pocket. It’s also made from a scratch- and water-resistant material, so if you get rained out while camping, it won't destroy your only source of power.

You can pre-order a single SolarCru panel on Kickstarter for $34 (less than some power banks), or a pack of five for $145. Orders are scheduled to be delivered in March.