Shiny quantum dots brighten future of solar cells

Read the full story from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

A house window that doubles as a solar panel could be on the horizon, thanks to recent quantum-dot work by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers in collaboration with scientists from University of Milano-Bicocca (UNIMIB), Italy. Their project demonstrates that superior light-emitting properties of quantum dots can be applied in solar energy by helping more efficiently harvest sunlight.
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Solar


National Environmental Policy Act: Little Information Exists on NEPA Analyses

Download the document.

Governmentwide data on the number and type of most National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analyses are not readily available, as data collection efforts vary by agency…

Little information exists on the costs and benefits of completing NEPA analyses. Agencies do not routinely track the cost of completing NEPA analyses, and there is no governmentwide mechanism to do so, according to officials from CEQ, EPA, and other agencies GAO reviewed…

Some information is available on the frequency and outcome of NEPA litigation. Agency data, interviews with agency officials, and available studies show that most NEPA analyses do not result in litigation, although the impact of litigation could be substantial if a single lawsuit affects numerous federal decisions or actions in several states…

NEPA requires all federal agencies to evaluate the potential environmental effects of proposed projects–such as roads or bridges–on the human environment. Agencies prepare an EIS when a project will have a potentially significant impact on the environment. They may prepare an EA to determine whether a project will have a significant potential impact. If a project fits within a category of activities determined to have no significant impact–a CE–then an EA or an EIS is generally not necessary. The adequacy of these analyses has been a focus of litigation.

GAO was asked to review various issues associated with completing NEPA analyses. This report describes information on the (1) number and type of NEPA analyses, (2) costs and benefits of completing those analyses, and (3) frequency and outcomes of related litigation. GAO included available information on both costs and benefits to be consistent with standard economic principles for evaluating federal programs, and selected the Departments of Defense, Energy, the Interior, and Transportation, and the USDA Forest Service for analysis because they generally complete the most NEPA analyses. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed individuals from federal agencies, academia, and professional groups with expertise in NEPA analyses and litigation. GAO’s findings are not generalizeable to agencies other than those selected.

This report has no recommendations. GAO provided a draft to CEQ and agency officials for review and comment, and they generally agreed with GAO’s findings.


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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Environmental law, Publications


In a Host of Small Sources, Scientists See Energy Windfall

Read the full story at Yale Environment 360.

The emerging field of “energy scavenging” is drawing on a wide array of untapped energy sources­ — including radio waves, vibrations created by moving objects, and waste heat from computers or car exhaust systems — to generate electricity and boost efficiency.

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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Energy


How to hold your own personal BioBlitz

Read the full story at Mother Nature Network.

National Geographic’s BioBlitz 2014 was a roaring success, but you don’t have to wait until next year or travel out of your way to enjoy the fun of a BioBlitz. Here’s how to have a one-person blitz.

E360 Announces Contest For Best Environmental Videos

Yale Environment 360 is holding a contest to honor the best environmental videos. Entries must be videos that focus on an environmental issue or theme, have not been widely viewed online, and are a maximum of 15 minutes in length. The first-place winner will receive $2,000, and two runners-up will each receive $500. The winning entries will be posted on Yale Environment 360. The deadline for entries is June 6, 2014. Read further contest information.

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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Awards & contests, Video


Conventional farmers drop their plows in favor of conservation

Read the full story at Grist.

The Michael and Adam Crowell duo works this way: Michael handles the crops, and Adam handles the dairy cows; Michael is the colorful wisecracker, and Adam is the straight man; Michael casts about for a word when his tongue outpaces his memory, and Adam fills it in; Michael is the father, and Adam is the son.

I visited their dairy farm near Turlock, in California’s Central Valley, to get a look at the growing trend of conventional farmers adopting ecologically friendly techniques. In the Midwest, where farmers grow a small number of grain crops, this transformation has led to a new normal, with the majority of farmland under some form of conservation management.

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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Agriculture


Walkability and the risk of mortgage default

Read the full post from Community Builders.

We’ve been thinking a lot about walkability at Community Builders lately (see posts HERE and HERE), but a recent study from University of Arizona professor Gary Pivo takes the discussion one step (ha!) further, and strengthens the economic case for walkable communities (view the pdf of the study here).

Pivo looked at the relationship between mortgage default and walk scores for multifamily housing. He found a strong inverse relationship: low walk scores were associated with high risk of mortgage default, and high walk scores were associated with low risk of mortgage default. The relationship was strongest at the extremes:

“Where walk score was 80 or more (out of 100), the relative risk of default is 60 percent lower than where walk score is less than 80. Where walk score is 8 or less, default risk is 121 percent higher.”


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