Solar Tree Generates Enough Energy to Light Five Houses

For India’s new innovation in solar technology, scientists turned to one of nature’s best sunlight-harvesters: the tree. The Solar Power Tree produces amounts of energy comparable to much larger set-ups in a fraction of the area, Inhabitat reports.

According to India’s Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, about 3.5 acres of land is typically required to generate a single megawatt of solar power. But the Solar Power tree—developed by scientists at the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute and launched by Dr. Harsh Vardhan in New Delhi this summer—only takes up about 4 square feet of space.

The invention consists of structures supporting photovoltaic panels branching out from a central pole and generates up to 5 kilowatts, which is enough energy to light five houses. A traditional solar panel layout would require 400 square feet of land to produce the same amount of power.

Because the solar panels on the tree are positioned high off the ground, they’re more efficient than traditional rigs. One solar tree is capable of gathering 10 to 15 percent more energy than the ground-based alternative. It also comes with a built-in battery backup system so it can keep providing energy for up to two hours after the sun goes down.

The solar tree’s compact package makes it an appealing option for urban areas and rural regions with limited free space. It’s already completed successful trial runs in three locations in India, a country where roughly 300 million people don’t have access to electricity.

[h/t Inhabitat]

All images: Dr. Harsh Vardhan/Twitter

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LEGO Is Rolling Out Its First Sustainable, Plant-Based Blocks

LEGO produces roughly 19 billion elements each year [PDF], and until recently, most of those bricks, minifigures, and accessories were made using oil. Now, the toy company has announced that it's experimenting with more sustainable production methods for certain items. As Mashable reports, the company will start selling 'botanical' pieces made from real plants this year.

To craft the new type of material, LEGO is sourcing sugarcane from Brazil. The crops are grown on agricultural land rather than former rainforests, and the sourcing has received the stamp of approval from the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance, an organization that encourages corporations to make sustainable, plant-based plastics.

Making LEGO parts from sugarcane results in a softer plastic, so the new method will only be used to make plant pieces like leaves, bushes, and trees for now. The bioplastic botanicals will start appearing in LEGO boxes this year and become standard by the end of 2018.

“The LEGO Group’s decision to pursue sustainably sourced bio-based plastics represents an incredible opportunity to reduce dependence on finite resources," Alix Grabowski, a senior program officer at the World Wildlife Fund, said in a release from LEGO.

Though the switch will reduce the company's carbon footprint, the bioplastic botanicals still only make up of a small fraction of their total product line. LEGO says the change represents one step in its mission to use sustainable materials in core products and packaging by 2030.

[h/t Mashable]

Joe Raedle, Getty Images
Why Scientists Are Hunting Down Iguanas in Florida
Joe Raedle, Getty Images
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

In South Florida, iguanas had better watch their backs. That's because scientists are on an unusual hunt to kill them, with the help of captive bolt guns and a $63,000 research grant, according to the Sun Sentinel.

It's not as cruel as it might seem at first glance. The green iguana, native to Central and South America, is an invasive species in Florida. The large lizards—which can grow up to 6 feet long—first made it to Florida in the 1960s, and as their population has exploded, they have expanded farther north. The reptiles damage roads, sidewalks, sea walls, and flood-control canals with their burrows; chomp their way through landscaping; spread Salmonella, largely by pooping in people's backyard pools; and compete with the endangered Miami blue butterfly for precious food resources.

The population boom has caused an uptick in complaints from residents, Florida Fish and Wildlife's Sarah Funck told the Sun Sentinel in 2017, pushing the state to find new strategies to deal with the reptiles. One approach? Hire scientists to hunt them down and kill them.

As part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife research project, 15 University of Florida biologists have been tasked with executing as many iguanas as possible in Broward County (home to Fort Lauderdale and parts of the Miami metropolitan area), setting out in teams of two at night. Armed with flashlights and captive bolt guns—which are often used on animals in slaughterhouses and are considered a humane way of killing an animal instantly and painlessly—the researchers attempt to sneak up on sleeping lizards and shoot them before they can scurry away. They also sometimes dispatch the iguanas by smashing their heads against a hard surface, including the side of a truck or a boat.

They've exterminated 249 lizards so far. They take the dead animals back to the lab to be weighed and measured for their dataset, then deposit the carcasses in a landfill. The iguana killing spree is expected to last into May.

While they have tried trapping the iguanas in county parks, they haven't succeeded in capturing any with that method.

As part of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's iguana-eradicating efforts, the agency has also been hosting public workshops on how to deter and trap iguanas and has hired a dedicated trapper to control populations on public lands in the Florida Keys. 

[h/t Sun Sentinel]


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