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Inhabitat's Week in Green: futuristic automation, underwater kites and a floating nuclear power plant


Each week our friends at Inhabitat recap the week's most interesting green developments and clean tech news for us -- it's the Week in Green.

Twitter's stock market debut was the big story this week, but it wasn't the only news out of Silicon Valley. Facebook just announced that starchitect Frank Gehry will design the company's London and Dublin offices. Gehry is already working on designing Facebook's Menlo Park headquarters. In other tech news, Apple is opening a new manufacturing plant in Mesa, Ariz., that will be entirely powered by the sun, and the company filed a patent for a futuristic automation system that could remote control your house. Meanwhile, electric carmaker Tesla is contemplating building the largest battery factory in the world to keep pace with booming EV sales. And on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, Kyocera Corporation just launched Japan's largest offshore solar power plant. The new plant will provide enough energy to power 22,000 households.

We've heard of energy-generating kites, and we're familiar with underwater turbines, but can the two be married? Mechanical engineer David Olinger says they can. He suggests that "underwater kites" could harvest 64 times more energy than conventional undersea turbines. Elsewhere on the renewable energy front, Australian scientists found that old technology could be used to solve a very modern problem: Steam engine technology could be used to build a better, cheaper solar energy storage system. New research also showed that playing pop and rock music around photovoltaic arrays makes solar cells more efficient. And despite ongoing struggles at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant in Japan, Russia is planning to launch the world's first floating nuclear power plant in 2019.

Buses are often the greenest way to transport kids to school, but they're about to get even greener in California's Central Valley as Kings Canyon Unified School District launches the country's first all-electric school bus next year. The bus is expected to save the school district $11,000 per year in fuel costs. In other green transportation news, Northeast Maglev unveiled plans for a 300MPH supertrain that could carry passengers from Washington D.C. to New York City in 60 minutes, and Toyota debuted a new fuel cell concept car that can produce enough electricity to power most Japanese homes for a week. Milton Keynes, a small city north of London, just announced plans to install 100 self-driving "pod cars" to connect the city's downtown to its central train station. And Inhabitat drooled over the new Icon E-Flyer Electric Bike, a gorgeous vintage-inspired cycle with a 3,500-Watt electric motor.

In other green tech and design news, ZTE Corporation unveiled a modular phone that lets you upgrade without throwing your old cell away. "Biohacker" Tim Cannon implanted a large monitoring device into his arm that will collect his biometric data, and the 2013 Dyson Award was granted to the bionic Titan arm, which gives anyone 40 extra pounds of lifting power. A team of researchers from the University of Twente developed a new type of hard drive that can store data for more than 1 million years. Inventors Scott and Zachary Vader created a revolutionary 3D printer that can create designs out of molten metal. SAA Architects released plans for a new lush, garden-filled terminal at Singapore's Changi Airport. And Inhabitots rounded up 14 amazing Hobbit Hole homes that bring a bit of Middle Earth to any backyard.

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