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Exploring the Fourth Wave of Environmental Innovation
Header banner - Innovation and the Environment by EDF
October 24, 2019
The transition from internal combustion engines to EVs is a critical part of the path to a 100% clean economy. So it was great news when Tesla announced it will start making its electric cars in China. You may have read reports about electric vehicle sales in China slipping the last few months, but Tesla’s planned $2 billion factory in Shanghai, its first car manufacturing site overseas, suggests confidence that the country will continue to be a global leader in the sector. As Akshat Rathi points out, more electric cars were sold in China last year than in the rest of the world combined.
 
And some exciting news in the ‘space’ space: Ball Aerospace won the competition to design and build the advanced spectrometers at the heart of MethaneSAT, the satellite being developed by an affiliate of EDF. MethaneSAT will locate and measure emissions of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, with exacting precision — almost anywhere on Earth. Ball Aerospace brings more than six decades of experience providing leading-edge imaging systems, delivering instruments that span the electromagnetic spectrum for a wide range of government and commercial applications.
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Listening devices and AI in conservation
Topher White installing a guardian in the rainforest. Photo credit: Ben Von Vong

Every year the destruction of the rainforests releases more CO2 into the air than all the world’s transportation combined. That’s why Silicon Valley entrepreneur Topher White built an AI system that can be trained to identify the sounds associated with illegal logging. The New York Times caught up with Topher in Indonesia, and the result is a fascinating and well-photographed look at how used cellphones powered by solar panels could change the fight against deforestation.
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The challenge of counting forest elephants also offers opportunities for AI applications. Researchers with Cornell’s Elephant Listening Project placed audio recorders in a grid of central African rainforest so dense that it makes spotting the enormous animals by sight nearly impossible. They then turned the audio recordings into spectrograms (pictures of the sound waves) to feed into a neural network for analysis, layer by layer. This NPR story is an entertaining and informative read, and an even better listen. 
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WATCH: 2 mins on how to remove carbon from the sky
The National Academy of Sciences has said removing carbon from the atmosphere, naturally and potentially even with machines, will be an important element for meeting our climate goals. While it's not clear direct air capture tech will ever be inexpensive enough, it was great to moderate a panel with entrepreneurs dedicated to bringing the costs down. Getting to net negative emissions is essential if we’re to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. This summary video shares a quick survey of some challenges and opportunities.
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"Nothing standing in the way of energy storage's 'explosive growth'"
Investments in energy storage systems continue to rise, as do deployments, and Navigant Research only sees this trend expanding. That’s good news for a world transitioning to a more sustainable electric grid. When it comes to energy storage, “the biggest driver of growth going forward — outside of cost — is likely to be the development of new market opportunities and value streams that are opened up by favorable federal and state regulations,” says Navigant’s Ricardo Rodriguez.
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I look forward to sharing more news from the frontiers of environmental innovation. Please send me your thoughts and suggestions at  innovation@edf.org.

Fred
 

Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn, and join the Fourth Wave of environmental innovation conversation on Medium.

 


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