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Germany

Maxing Out Energy Self-Sufficiency: Houses That Fuel Themselves

Against the backdrop of skyrocketing electricity and gas prices, the idea of houses that produce their own energy is more attractive than ever.

People gather in the garden of Hof 8, a self-sufficient home.

The Hof 8 houses in Germany produce more energy than they use.

Jan Schulte

WEIKERSHEIM — This corner of the state of Baden-Württemberg, in southwest Germany, is a popular tourist destination, boasting a Renaissance-era castle and the pretty old town center. But recently, Weikersheim has gained a new attraction for visitors interested in modern architecture and energy efficiency.

Walk down Bachgasse in the Schäftersheim quarter and you’ll find Hof 8, an award-winning development that has been praised not only for its modern conversion of the old farm buildings but also because the houses produce more energy than they use.

The renovated 19th-century farm has solar panels on every roof, innovative wind-energy installations, a groundwater pump and, of course, heavily insulated walls. An ingenious heating and energy storage system ensures the buildings are completely self-sufficient.

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Ideas

Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Image of the small satellite NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite deployed into space by the ISS

Thomas Lewton

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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