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This wind turbine has no blades — and that’s why it’s better. What do you get if you take the blades off a wind turbine?

This wind turbine has no blades — and that’s why it’s better

A better wind turbine. That sounds like a joke, but that’s actually more or less the model of a new wind turbine prototype. Instead of blades that turn in the breeze, the turbine is just a hollow straw that sticks up 40 feet from the ground and vibrates like a guitar string when the wind thrums by. The Spanish engineers who founded Vortex Bladeless in 2010 said they were inspired by the Tacoma Narrows Bridge disaster (maybe not the best pitch for clean energy to a disaster-wary public, but I’ll leave that to their marketing department). Here’s how it actually works, from Wired: Instead of capturing energy via the circular motion of a propeller, the Vortex takes advantage of what’s known as vorticity, an aerodynamic effect that produces a pattern of spinning vortices. Plus, the turbine has no gears or moving parts; theoretically maintenance could be much easier than a traditional bells-and-whistles spinning one.

How one building is changing the world. It used to be that the Bullitt Foundation “saved the planet” the old-fashioned way, putting its money behind campaigns to spare old-growth forests, stop mines in Alaska, and clean up toxic waste.

How one building is changing the world

Not anymore. The Seattle-based foundation, started by local media magnate Dorothy Bullitt, has turned its attention to cities, funding projects in urban ecology, clean energy, and technology. And recently, Bullitt tried a new tack for changing the world: It built something. Not just any something: It’s what the foundation’s CEO, Denis Hayes, calls “the most efficient office building in the world, and likely the most efficient building in the world, period.” And roughly a year and a half after it opened for business, the building is making waves as effectively as any grant could have done. Just ask chemist Tom Schneider, director of product development at the Portland, Ore. It wasn’t good enough for Bullitt. The Bullitt Center’s impacts go beyond weather sealants. Bullitt isn’t stopping there. WHAT’S POSSIBLE: UN Climate Summit Opening Film. Amory Lovins’ high-tech home skimps on energy but not on comfort.

For most of its history, environmentalism has been associated with a back-to-the-land lifestyle: being one with nature, living in the woods, wearing sandals, maybe driving a Volkswagen.

Amory Lovins’ high-tech home skimps on energy but not on comfort

Over the last decade, a counter-narrative has taken over. Cities are in. As climate change has become the dominant environmental issue, a low-carbon lifestyle has become the priority. Denser living is heralded for its energy efficiency, as are walking, biking and taking transit instead of driving. All other things being equal, walkable urbanism beats sprawl. Amory Lovins, the owner of the house, is exactly the guy you’d expect to live here. Lovins instructs visitors to drink water, because the house’s high elevation, around 8,000 feet, causes dehydration, and he throws on a goofy fisherman’s hat to protect his bald head when going outside. The primary challenge to building a super-efficient home in the mountains is heating. In an arid mountainous area, the sun is strong during the day.

KQED Public Media for Northern CA. Bring science to life at the touch of a fingertip.

KQED Public Media for Northern CA

Download the latest iBooks Textbooks from KQED! Explore STEM topics and careers through real-world examples. Designed to engage learners through a blend of high-quality media, interactive elements and informative text, the books and accompanying iTunes U courses offer rich learning experiences both in and out of the classroom. Examine the science of energy, from what it is to where it comes from. Explore how humans use energy — from generating electricity to developing energy-efficient technologies. Explore the basics of biotechnology, how developments in the field impact our lives and our health, careers within the industry and future innovations. Dive into the diverse ecosystem of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, its dramatic evolution and the issues around California’s water supply. Explore what earthquakes are, how they move continents, form our landscape and fit into the larger story of plate tectonics. Energy Sources.

ElectroCity. Synthesized 'solar' jet fuel: Renewable kerosene from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. With the first ever production of synthesized "solar" jet fuel, the EU-funded SOLAR-JET project has successfully demonstrated the entire production chain for renewable kerosene obtained directly from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide (CO2), therein potentially revolutionizing the future of aviation.

Synthesized 'solar' jet fuel: Renewable kerosene from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide

This process has also the potential to produce any other type of fuel for transport applications, such as diesel, gasoline or pure hydrogen in a more sustainable way. Several notable research organizations from academia through to industry (ETH Zürich, Bauhaus Luftfahrt, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), ARTTIC and Shell Global Solutions) have explored a thermochemical pathway driven by concentrated solar energy. A new solar reactor technology has been pioneered to produce liquid hydrocarbon fuels suitable for more sustainable transportation.