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Brazil Tests World's Largest Environmental Monitoring System

But some question how well it will protect the Amazon's endangered ecosystems and peoples

6 min read

Illegal loggers forged into the sweltering depths of Brazil's Amazonian rain forest, near the Bolivian border, carving out new roads to smuggle precious hardwoods. In the wild, lawless region, there seemed little chance that they would be caught, and their new road system could have let them clear a lucrative 1500 km2 of forest.

But not this time. Far overhead, a satellite that feeds information into what's referred to as Sivam, the world's largest environmental monitoring system, gathered images that revealed deforestation in the region. Officials watching data flow into a regional data center in the distant Brazilian city of Manaus sent a plane to investigate. Equipped with multispectral sensors that can detect road-clearing equipment through tree cover, the plane let law enforcement officials collect enough evidence to arrest the loggers. ”We prevented a huge area from being deforested,” Augusto Queiroz, the executive director of the Manaus regional surveillance center, announced proudly the day after the arrests, in mid-June.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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