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Air Pollution Casts Shadow over Solar Energy Production
June 26, 2017 04:09 PM - Ken Kingery via Duke University

Global solar energy production is taking a major hit due to air pollution and dust.

According to a new study, airborne particles and their accumulation on solar cells are cutting energy output by more than 25 percent in certain parts of the world. The regions hardest hit are also those investing the most in solar energy installations: China, India and the Arabian Peninsula.

The study appears online June 23 in Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

"My colleagues in India were showing off some of their rooftop solar installations, and I was blown away by how dirty the panels were," said Michael Bergin, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke University and lead author of the study. "I thought the dirt had to affect their efficiencies, but there weren't any studies out there estimating the losses. So we put together a comprehensive model to do just that."

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Are Bidets More Environmentally Friendly Than Toilet Paper?
May 31, 2017 07:23 AM - s.e. smith, Care2

While bidets remain unpopular in America, they’re a familiar fixture in bathrooms all over the world. And they raise an inevitable question: Is it better for the environment if you wipe, or should you wash instead?

The answer may surprise you — and could lead you to rethink your next bathroom remodel.

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SPOTLIGHT

Why the World's Rivers Are Losing Sediment and Why It Matters

Jim Robbins, YaleEnvironment360

Vast amounts of river-borne sediment are trapped behind the world’s large dams, depriving areas downstream of material that is badly needed to build up the marshes and wetlands that act as a buffer against rising seas.

In September 2011, after 20 years of planning, workers began dismantling the Elwha and Glines dams on the Elwha River in northwestern Washington state. At the time, it was the largest dam removal project in U.S. history, and it took nearly three years for both barriers to be dismantled and for the river to once again flow freely. 

Over the course of their nearly century-long lives, the two dams collected more than 24 million cubic yards of sediment behind them, enough to fill the Seattle Seahawks football stadium eight times. And since their removal, the Elwha has taken back the trapped sediment and distributed it downstream, causing the riverine ecosystem to be rebuilt and transformed. Massive quantities of silt, sand, and gravel have been carried to the coast, resurrecting a wetlands ecosystem long deprived of sediment.

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