How would life have been for you if: Your parents could only afford to choose one member among your siblings to enroll in school The school was 10km away and When you get there teachers are unprepared or unable to attend due to the large number of children. It’s difficult to imagine, isn’t it? However; …
Rethink Your Toothbrush When you take the first steps to living a more eco-friendly lifestyle, it can be overwhelming as your research reveals the true impact we, as a society, are making on the environment. Most of which… isn’t good. A red flag that first arose for me was the fact 8,000,000 metric tons of …
Ugandan engineers have built a solar-powered electric bus that they say is a first of its kind in East Africa and think it will revolutionize the automotive market in the region. The Kayoola, as its called, is a 35-seater that can run for up to 80 kilometers on two power banks that can also be recharged by solar panels installed on the roof of the bus.
Paul Musasizi, chief executive officer of Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC), the state-funded company behind the vehicle, says with the potential for solar power in Uganda, it only made sense that engineers started to leverage the energy source for cars.
“The bus is purely electric and our idea is to test the strength of solar energy in enabling people to move,” he told a local newspaper.
The company built the prototype with funds from the Ugandan government. But KMC is hoping to attract investors to the project to start producing the buses for the mass market by 2018 at a retail price of $58,000. Typically, 35-seater buses retail between $35,000 to $50,000.
“As we continue with developing concepts, we are also studying the market,” Doreen Orishaba, one of the engineers in the project, told Uganda’s Observer newspaper. “We want to see that we don’t make vehicles for stocking but for production on orders.”
This is not KMC’s first foray into energy efficient car-making. Last year, the company introduced the Kiira Smack, a petrol-electric hybrid that it said would come into the market by 2018 as well for a $20,000 price. But analysts were doubtful at the time of the project’s commercial viability. The price could prove prohibitive, they argued, in a market that sells an estimated 20,000 cars a year. Additionally, in a part of the world where electricity is not a widely available commodity, electric dependent cars could put undue pressure on national grids.
But by using solar as a power source for the Kayoola, KMC may have found a way to overcome that challenge in this instance.
“Uganda being one of the 13 countries positioned along the equator, gives us about eight hours of significant solar energy that can be harvested,” Musasizi says.
It happens to us all. We are doing our daily commute to work or school and we switch on the backlight of our smartphones to shop around. What have the creatives made this week? What new ingenious application can improve my life? – But, hold on, what if your next favourite app can not only improve your life, but simultaneously …
What happens when a country wants to boost their generation of solar power, but doesn’t have enough land for the number of panels needed? Well, the Japanese, among a few others, have been developing a novel solution: float them on large reservoirs. This week saw the country begin construction of the largest floating solar farm in the world, in which panels will eventually cover a 180,000 square meter area (2 million square feet), and with an aim of producing enough electricity to power 5,000 local homes.
When it reaches completion in 2018, the Yamakura dam floating power plant will have a total output of 13.7 megawatts (MW) from 51,000 panels. Despite breaking records on water, this figure falls way short of the record for land-based photovoltaics, with the current record breaker there being the Solar Star power station in California, churning out an impressive 579 MW, powered by 13 square kilometers (5 square miles) of solar panels.
Japan has seen a recent rise in the use of renewable energy sources, after the Fukushima disaster in 2011 meant all nuclear power plants were shut down. This led to a massive increase in the burning of fossil fuels to meet the nation’s electricity demand, heavily impacting Japan’s climate and carbon output commitments. In the face of this, there has been an increased interest in green energy.
This isn’t the first floating solar farm in Japan, as there are currently several others already up and running in the mountainous, space-starved country. The technology used is not anything new, it is readily available and accessible, so whether it will catch on in other countries remains to be seen. While it is still cheaper to build them on land, this is not always an option for those with limited space to do so.
In March, EcoWatch reported that Costa Rica powered the first 82 days of the year solely with renewable energy. Now that we’re closing in on the end of the year, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) announced that the country ran entirely on renewables for 285 days between Jan. 1 and Dec. 17.
“We close 2015 with 99 percent clean energy!” ICE wrote on Facebook, saying that “the energy produced … in 2015 reaches 98.95 percent with renewable sources as of December 17.”
“We are closing 2015 with renewable electricity milestones that have put us in the global spotlight,” ICE electricity division chief Luis Pacheco told AFP.
The majority of the country’s energy (75 percent) comes from hydropower, thanks to a vast river system and abundant rainfall, and the rest of its renewables come from geothermal, biomass, wind and solar. Despite a very dry year, ICE said it was ahead of its renewable energy targets and Pacheco predicted that 2016 would be an even better year because a new $2.3 billion hydroelectric plant will be coming online.
The country reportedly wants to move away from its dependency on hydropower, though, and harness more of its electricity needs from geothermal and wind. It plans to retire its heavy fuel oil-powered Moin plant in 2017 and wants to move its transportation sector away from fossil fuels. The country has made all this progress, while reducing overall energy costs, which fell by 12 percent this year and the ICE expects costs to keep falling.
“The government has pledged to build an electric train which will be integrated with public buses,” Gabriel Goldschmidt, regional head of infrastructure for Latin America and Caribbean at the International Finance Corporation, which is part of the World Bank, told the Huffington Post. “There is also a proposal to start replacing oil-powered cars with electric cars as part of a new bill in congress that aims to offer consumer incentives to lower the prices of these cars. This would have multiple benefits including better air quality.”
Costa Rica’s heavy reliance on hydropower has been criticized by some. Gary Wockner of Save the Colorado argues that hydropower is actually “one of the biggest environmental problemsour planet faces” and a ” false solution” for addressing climate change.
“Hydropower has been called a ‘methane factory’ and ‘methane bomb’ that is just beginning to rear its ugly head as a major source of greenhouse gas emissions that have so-far been unaccounted for in climate change discussions and analyses,” Wockner said last month.
Still, the country is among the vanguard of nations around the world moving towards a 100 percent renewable energy future. Several countries have hit impressive benchmarks for renewables in just a few short years. And many places have already made the transition to fossil-fuel-free electricity. Samso in Denmark became the world’s first island to go all in on renewables several years ago. Most recently, Uruguay, three U.S. cities– Burlington, Vermont; Aspen, Colorado; and Greensburg, Kansas-along with Kodiak Island, Alaska, have all made the transition.
San Diego, Vancouver, Las Vegas and other major cities around the world have pledged to go 100 percent renewable. Sweden made headlines earlier this year when it pledged to be among the first countries to go fossil free. Hawaii pledged to do so by 2045-the most ambitious standard set by a U.S. state thus far. Several other islands, including Aruba, Belize, St. Lucia, Grenada, the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and San Andres and Providencia have pledged to go 100 percent renewable, through the Ten Island Challenge, created by Richard Branson’s climate group the Carbon War Room.
Greenpeace and researchers at Stanford and UC Berkeley have laid out plans for every state in the U.S. to adopt 100 percent renewables and a Greenpeace report published in September posits the world can achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Mark Jacobson, one of the researchers from Stanford, said the barriers to 100 percent clean energy are social and political, not technical or economic.
Just last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in an interview that “You could take a corner of Utah or Nevada and power the entire United States with solar power.”
And, it looks as if the Paris climate conference earlier this month helped create market certainty in renewables, as fossil fuel stocks tumbled and renewable energy stocks soared. After the landmark Paris agreement was reached, the coal industry’s European lobbying association feared that the deal meant the sector “will be hated and vilified, in the same way that slave traders were once hated and vilified.”
Photo Credit: Brandon Watson
Most great inventions fundamentally change the society in which they exist. Since the people at the top of the social structure have more to gain by reinforcing the status quo, they suppress revolutionary technologies favourable to the world but dangerous to their existence. Engineering genius Nikola Tesla was no exception. Here are some of those technologies, ‘they’ don’t want you to know about Nikola Tesla:
Nikola Tesla claimed to have invented a ” death beam” which he called Teleforce in the 1930s. The device was capable of generating an intense targeted beam of energy “that could be used to dispose of enemy warplanes, foreign armies, or anything else you’d rather didn’t exist”. The so-called “death ray” was never constructed because he believed it would become too easy for counties to destroy each other. Tesla proposed that a nation could ” destroy anything approaching within 200 miles … [and] will provide a wall of power” in order to “make any country, large or small, impregnable against armies, airplanes, and other means for attack”. He said that efforts had been made to steal the invention. His room had been entered and his papers had been scrutinized, but the thieves, or spies, left empty-handed.
In 1898, Tesla claimed he had built and deployed a small oscillating device that, when attached to his office and operating, nearly shook down the building and everything around it. In other words, the device could allegedly simulate earthquakes. Realizing the potential terrors such a device could create, “Tesla said he took a hammer to the oscillator to disable it, instructing his employees to claim ignorance to the cause of the tremors if asked”. Some theorists believe the government continues to use Tesla’s research in places like the HAARP facility in Alaska.
Free Electricity System
With funding from JP Morgan, Tesla designed and built Wardenclyffe Tower, a gigantic wireless transmission station, in New York in 1901-1902. Morgan thought the Wardenclyffe Tower could provide wireless communication across the world. However, Tesla had other plans.
Tesla intended to transmit messages, telephony and even facsimile images across the Atlantic to England and to ships at sea based on his theories of using the Earth to conduct the signals. If the project worked, anyone could have electricity by simply sticking a rode into the ground. Unfortunately, free electricity is not profitable. And this system could be incredibly dangerous for the global elite because it could profoundly change the energy industry. Imagine how different the world would be if society didn’t need oil and coal to function? Could the great world powers maintain control? Morgan refused to fund the changes. The project was abandoned in 1906 and never became operational.
The Flying Saucer
In 1911, Nikola Tesla told The New York Herald that he was working on an anti gravity “flying machine”.
“My flying machine will have neither wings nor propellers. You might see it on the ground and you would never guess that it was a flying machine. Yet it will be able to move at will through the air in any direction with perfect safety, at higher speeds than have yet been reached, regardless of weather and oblivious of “holes in the air” or downward currents. It will ascend in such currents if desired. It can remain absolutely stationary in the air, even in a wind, for great length of time. Its lifting power will not depend upon any such delicate devices as the bird has to employ, but upon positive mechanical action.”
Tesla’s flying saucer was powered by free energy system at a time when the fledgling aviation and motor car industry depended on oil and petroleum. His invention met the same fate as his free energy system.
Tesla proposed that electrically-powered airships would transport passengers from New York to London in three hours, traveling eight miles above the ground. He also imagined that airships might draw their power from the very atmosphere, never needing to stop for refueling. Unmanned airships might even be used to transport passengers to a preselected destination or for a remote aerial strike. He was never given credit for his invention. However, today, we have unmanned drones carrying out combat missions, supersonic airplanes that fly at amazing speeds and space shuttle technology that can circle the Earth in the upper atmosphere.
It was long suspected that the FBI literally stole all of his work, research, and inventions that he had in his possession when he died. This rumor has now been confirmed by recent, heavily redacted Freedom of Information Act requests released by the FBI.
We’re all looking for stories of hope – that the world can be changed, that we are not limited by our culture, our backgrounds, our histories. Lucy Naipanoi, a grandmother of the Maasai in Kenya, one of the last hunter gatherer tribes left on the planet, represents the potential for evolution and advancement that has …
Contribute to the global effort to restore soil functions which have been destroyed CLICK HERE Healthy, fully functioning soils will: 1. Provide highly nutritious food without the use of chemical inputs. 2. Solve the health crisis through strengthening the human biome. 3. Hold huge amounts of water and so prevent the flooding …
We’ve all heard of climate change. It is a natural phenomenon for climates to fluctuate and change, however, as most of us know, human caused atmospheric pollution is exacerbating the issue, accelerating the rate of change, making it’s impacts more abrupt and extreme. Climate scientists agree that if we surpass a 1.5 degree (the UN …
Solar panels are pictured on the roof of the Protestant Reformed Church in Vienna April 9, 2013. Many religions have been wary of moving to install renewable energy sources on their places of worship, from cathedrals to mosques – or of taking a strong stand on climate change in general – despite teachings that people should be custodians of nature. But slowly, that may be changing, thanks to new religious leaders including Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
One of Austria’s largest states publicized that it will run on 100 percent generated electricity coming from renewable energy resources. Lower Austria will be producing power coming from hydroelectric mechanisms, wind farms, biomass, and solar panels.
Lower Austria, one of the nine states of Austria, will be generating electricity coming from renewable resources. One of the region’s main power sources will be coming from hydroelectric power plants on the Danube River.
The Danube River is Europe’s second largest river. The river has aided claims of Lower Austria’s 63 percent generated electricity, which comes from hydroelectric resources. The region’s electric production is categorized as hydroelectricity, 26 percent that comes from wind energy, 9 percent from biomass, and 2 percent from solar energy.
“We have invested heavily to boost energy efficiency and to expand renewables,” Erwin Proell said, premier of Lower Austria. “Since 2002 we have invested 2.8 billion euros (US$3 billion) in eco-electricity, from solar parks to renewing (hydroelectric) stations on the Danube.”
This achievement of Lower Austria is an inspiration of hope amidst grim environmental news. This is also an evidence of how much the state has exerted to producing clean energy and diminishing carbon emissions.
As for Austria’s rest, 75 percent will be coming from renewable energy resources and 25 percent will be coming from fossil fuels. On the employment part, the country’s lower region claims to create 38,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector. The country as a whole aims to increase the total number of ‘green jobs’ by 2030 to 50,000.
Austria has been in the lead in the European region when it comes to generating electricity from renewable energy resources. Following behind are Denmark, Latvia, Portugal, and Sweden.
As part of a European clean energy ecosystem, Sweden has announced its aims of becoming the world’s first fossil fuel-free country. On the other hand, Denmark is enjoying its success in generating renewables through wind energy. Elsewhere, Norway is banning cars from its capital city to reduce carbon emissions in half.
Can we do it? Is it already too late? Many of us are wondering how we can possibly turn the juggernaut of limited industrial profit-based materialism around. Time to stop wondering and worrying—yes it is possible—and we are already doing it. Although the statement “the answer lies in the soil” seems too simplistic, this time …
But even though Singapore has no aquifers or lakes, it’s unlikely that nation’s 5.5 million residents will be among the world’s thirsty.
That’s because the small island nation, which consumes 400 million gallons daily, has a water strategy that is arguably one of the most successful in the world.
“We have four national taps,” George Madhavan, the spokesperson for Public Utility Board (PUB), Singapore’s government agency in charge of water quality, conservation, and supply, said during a recent Meeting of the Minds urban sustainability conference in California.
The “taps” flow from desalinated seawater, recycled wastewater, water collected from rainfall, and an imported supply from neighboring Malaysia.
Having a reliable source of water has always been on the government’s agenda, Madhavan said.
“Without secure and reliable access to water in Singapore, business will not come,” he said. “So that’s a top priority to get a bigger piece of the pie.”
The push to develop a mostly self-sufficient water supply has been credited to Lee Kuan Kew, the country’s first prime minister, who took on the task in response to water shortages in the 1960s and ’70s.
But it wasn’t a quick fix. It took 30 years to put the system into place.
The PUB water agency says its “jewel” is the ability to recycle used water, or wastewater from sinks and toilets, into what it calls NEWater. The NEWater purification process, which Singapore launched in 2003 (after getting tips from the Orange County Water District’s wastewater recycling plant in Southern California), meets 30 percent of daily water demand. While the recycled water is mainly used for industrial purposes, it also replenishes the country’s 17 reservoirs.
But recycled water can also supply water for drinking and cooking. According to PUB, NEWater has passed 130,000 scientific tests and exceeds the drinking water standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and guidelines issued from the World Health Organization.
Here’s what happens: The wastewater travels through a network of deep tunnel sewer pipes, then goes through conventional treatment at a sewage treatment plant. It’s then either returned to the sea or sent to one of the country’s four NEWater plants for further purification, depending on demand.
The NEWater plants follow a three-step process. First, membranes filter out small particles such as solids and bacteria. Next, reverse osmosis takes out larger-sized contaminants. Lastly, the water is disinfected with ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide.
But Madhavan said the government knew that a large part of successfully integrating recycled wastewater to its supply hinged on whether Singaporeans would want to drink it in the first place.
“The difficult part isn’t the technology,” he said. “It’s getting the community to embrace recycled water.”
To do that, the country had to get rid of the “yuck” factor. For its NEWater branding campaign, it bottled the recycled water with a label featuring a cartoon water drop with a gigantic grin-and constructed a slick visitor center showing how the purification process works via games and interactive exhibits. The agency also brought reporters to a Southern California wastewater recycling plant, as well as to one in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Another quarter of Singapore’s daily demand is met by its two desalination plants, which together can process 100 million gallons a day. Since the plants are energy-intensive, the country is experimenting with electrodeionization, a process that consumes less power.
The third tap comes from rainwater collected from drains, canals, rivers, and storm water collection ponds. (Residents aren’t allowed to harvest water without the government’s permission). Combined with water imports from Malaysia, the two sources fulfill the remaining 45 percent of Singapore’s daily water needs.
The PUB water agency is preparing now for a projected doubling in demand by 2060. (Singapore’s water agreement with Malaysia is set to expire in 2061). The agency says it’s on track to triple its NEWater production and build two new desalination plants that together will meet 80 percent of demand in 2060.
Madhavan said Singapore thinks about water in a different way.
“You don’t want to drain it, you want to collect it,” he said.
What a difference a year can make. Even before the last weeks tick away, 2015 stands out as a remarkable and dynamic year for climate and energy in the United States.
Read on for five bold trends that are beginning to reshape our economy – and our national discourse on climate change. 1. Investments in renewables soar
I admit it: For years, I thought renewable energy was more hype than reality. I’m happy to report that recent data proves me wrong.
In just five years, solar panel prices have fallen 80 percent, and solar capacity installed worldwide grew more than six-fold. The overall cost of solar per kilowatt-hour, meanwhile, plummeted 50 percent.
For the first time in history, energy from the sun is as cheap as traditional energy in states such as Arizona, California and Texas.
The proof is in the pudding. Apple, for example, recently signed an $848-million power agreement with a solar provider – bypassing the electric grid. A deal of this magnitude shows where solar is today, and where it is headed.
2. Energy storage bursts onto the scene
If price has been the main barrier to clean energy adoption at vast scale, variability remains a second obstacle – though likely not for much longer.
Because the sun shines when people are at work, and goes down before they get home and fire up air conditioners, furnaces and electronics, there is a mismatch between when most solar energy is produced and most is needed. The key to unlocking a match is energy storage – what Deutsche Bank calls “the missing link of solar adoption.”
This was the year that breakthroughs in energy storage became inevitable with Tesla first out of the gate and other companies following close behind. With firms such as GE and Lockheed Martin now part of the contest, hundreds of millions of dollars of capital is flowing toward research, development and commercialization.
In fact, Deutsche Bank predicts energy storage is headed toward market readiness, with incremental storage costs likely to drop from about 14 cents per kilowatt-hour to about 2 cents within the next five years.
3. Clean Power Plan enjoys a head-start
The recently finalized Clean Power Plan puts long-overdue limits on carbon pollution from America’s power plants and will cut emissions by more than 30 percent by 2030, while preventing 90,000 childhood asthma attacks annually.
The interesting trend here is that while compliance is not required until 2022, many states are earning a big head start. Just look at Texas. While some politicians in Austin were quick to denounce the pollution limits as unaffordable, the facts paint a very different story.
The sky is not falling, it turns out. The sky is generating wind power.
Thanks in part to West Texas wind, current trends alone can carry the state to 88 percent of its 2030 power plant pollution reduction goal, while generating clean energy jobs and economic growth.
4. Fossil fuel scrutiny ramps up
While trends suggest a bright future for renewable energy, fossil fuels continue to produce two-thirds of the energy we use. But scrutiny is growing from the public, investors and the media.
2015 was the year methane popped on the national energy policy agenda. It’s a key issue because every ounce of methane emissions undermines the potential climate benefits of natural gas relative to other traditional fuels. New federal methane rules are a first step to meeting scrutiny with solutions and mark a needed trend toward regulating this potent greenhouse gas.
As New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer recently put it, “As long-term investors, we understand that strong methane emissions regulations will help to stimulate capital investment in the energy sector, reduce reputational risk and improve performance.”
5. Corporate climate action goes mainstream
General Motors. Walmart. Goldman Sachs. IKEA. These are just a few of the 81 companies that are already supporting the White House’s climate initiative in the run-up to the United Nations-led climate talks in Paris this fall. All signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.
This outpouring of corporate support shows that climate action has finally gone mainstream. And it’s no wonder. With Americans acknowledging the reality of climate change by increasing margins, and supporting action to cut fossil fuel pollution by a clear majority, the signal to business leaders is unequivocal.
And because getting ahead of climate can unlock new business models, energy savings and lesser risk, the business case is a stool with many solid legs.
2015 is the year when we can truly say that our national energy landscape began to change in tandem with climate awareness. So much so that even some lawmakers who resisted change may now be reaching a tipping point.
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The global economy is slowing, productivity is waning in every region of the world and unemployment remains stubbornly high in every country. At the same time, economic inequality between the rich and the poor is at the highest point in human history. In 2010 the combined wealth of the 388 richest people in the world equaled the combined wealth of the poorest half of the human race. By 2014 the wealth of the 80 richest individuals in the world equaled the combined wealth of the poorest half of the human race.
This dire economic reality is now compounded by the rapid acceleration of climate change brought on by the increasing emissions of industry-induced global warming gases. Climate scientists report that the global atmospheric concentration of carbon, which ranged from about 180 to 300 parts per million for the past 650,000 years, has risen from 280 ppm just before the outset of the industrial era to 400 ppm in 2013. The atmospheric concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide, the other two powerful global warming gases, are showing similar steep trajectories.
At the Copenhagen global climate summit in December 2009, the European Union proposed that the nations of the world limit the rise in Earth’s temperature to 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius). Even a 3.5 degree rise, however, would take us back to the temperature on Earth several million years ago, in the Pliocene epoch, with devastating consequences to ecosystems and human life.
The EU proposal went ignored. Now, six years later, the sharp rise in the use of carbon-based fuels has pushed up the atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide far more quickly than earlier models had projected, making it likely that the temperature on Earth will rush past the 3.5 degree target and could top off at 8.6 degrees Fahrenheit (4.8 degrees Celsius) by 2100 — temperatures not seen on Earth for millions of years. (Remember, anatomically modern human beings — the youngest species — have only inhabited the planet for 195,000 years or so.)
What makes these dramatic spikes in the Earth’s temperature so terrifying is that the increase in heat radically shifts the planet’s hydrological cycle. Ours is a watery planet. The Earth’s diverse ecosystems have evolved over geological time in direct relationship to precipitation patterns. Each rise in temperature of 1 degree Celsius results in a 7 percent increase in the moisture-holding capacity of the atmosphere. This causes a radical change in the way water is distributed, with more intense precipitation but a reduction in duration and frequency. The consequences are already being felt in ecosystems around the world. We are experiencing more bitter winter snows, more dramatic spring storms and floods, more prolonged summer droughts, more wildfires, more intense hurricanes (category 3, 4 and 5), a melting of the ice caps on the great mountain ranges and a rise in sea levels.
Typhoon Haiyan survivors make camp in the ruins of their neighborhood on the outskirts of Tacloban, central Philippines. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, File)
The Earth’s ecosystems cannot readjust to a disruptive change in the planet’s water cycle in such a brief moment in time and are under increasing stress, with some on the verge of collapse. The destabilization of ecosystem dynamics around the world has now pushed the biosphere into the sixth extinction event of the past 450 million years of life on Earth. In each of the five previous extinctions, Earth’s climate reached a critical tipping point, throwing the ecosystems into a positive feedback loop, leading to a quick wipeout of the planet’s biodiversity. On average, it took upward of 10 million years to recover the lost biodiversity. Biologists tell us that we could see the extinction of half the Earth’s species by the end of the current century, resulting in a barren new era that could last for millions of years. James Hansen, the former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, forecasts a rise in the Earth’s temperature of 4 degrees Celsius between now and the turn of the century — and with it, the end of human civilization as we’ve come to know it. The only hope, according to Hansen, is to reduce the current concentration of carbon in the atmosphere from 400 ppm to 350 ppm or less.
Now, a new economic paradigm is emerging that is going to dramatically change the way we organize economic life on the planet. The European Union is embarking on a bold new course to create a high-tech 21st century smart green digital economy, making Europe potentially the most productive commercial space in the world and the most ecologically sustainable society on Earth. The plan is called Digital Europe. The EU vision of a green digital economy is now being embraced by China and other developing nations around the world.
The digitalization of Europe involves much more than providing universal broadband, free Wi-Fi and a flow of big data. The digital economy will revolutionize every commercial sector, disrupt the workings of virtually every industry, bring with it unprecedented new economic opportunities, put millions of people back to work, democratize economic life and create a more sustainable low-carbon society to mitigate climate change. Equally important, this new economic narrative is being accompanied by a new biosphere consciousness, as the human race begins to perceive the Earth as its indivisible community. We are each beginning to take on our responsibilities as stewards of the planetary ecosystems that sustain all of life.
To grasp the enormity of the economic change taking place, we need to understand the technological forces that have given rise to new economic systems throughout history. Every great economic paradigm requires three elements, each of which interacts with the other to enable the system to operate as a whole: new communication technologies to more efficiently manage economic activity; new sources of energy to more efficiently power economic activity; and new modes of transportation to more efficiently move economic activity.
In the 19th century, steam-powered printing and the telegraph, abundant coal and locomotives on national rail systems gave rise to the First Industrial Revolution. In the 20th century, centralized electricity, the telephone, radio and television, cheap oil and internal combustion vehicles on national road systems converged to create an infrastructure for the Second Industrial Revolution.
The Third Industrial Revolution
The EMC earth station at Raisting in Germany provides satellite-based communications for aid organizations, the United Nations and emerging markets. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Today, Europe is laying the ground work for the Third Industrial Revolution. The digitalized communication Internet is converging with a digitalized, renewable “Energy Internet” and a digitalized, automated “Transportation and Logistics Internet” to create a super “Internet of Things” infrastructure. In the Internet of Things era, sensors will be embedded into every device and appliance, allowing them to communicate with each other and Internet users, providing up-to-the-moment data on the managing, powering and moving of economic activity in a smart Digital Europe. Currently, billions of sensors are attached to resource flows, warehouses, road systems, factory production lines, the electricity transmission grid, offices, homes, stores and vehicles, continually monitoring their status and performance and feeding big data back to the Communication Internet, Energy Internet and Transportation and Logistics Internet. By 2030, it is estimated there will be more than 100 trillion sensors connecting the human and natural environment in a global distributed intelligent network. For the first time in history, the entire human race can collaborate directly with one another, democratizing economic life.
The digitalization of communication, energy and transportation also raises risks and challenges, not the least of which are guaranteeing network neutrality, preventing the creation of new corporate monopolies, protecting personal privacy, ensuring data security and thwarting cybercrime and cyber terrorism. The European Commission has already begun to address these issues by establishing the broad principle that “privacy, data protection, and information security are complementary requirements for Internet of Things services.”
In this expanded digital economy, private enterprises connected to the Internet of Things can use Big Data and analytics to develop algorithms that speed efficiency, increase productivity and dramatically lower the marginal cost of producing and distributing goods and services, making European businesses more competitive in an emerging post-carbon global marketplace. (Marginal cost is the cost of producing an additional unit of a good or service, after fixed costs have been absorbed.)
The marginal cost of some goods and services in a Digital Europe will even approach zero, allowing millions of connected to the Internet of Things to produce and exchange things with one another for nearly free in the growing Sharing Economy. Already, a digital generation is producing and sharing music, videos, news blogs, social media, free e-books, massive open online college courses and other virtual goods at near zero marginal cost. The near zero marginal cost phenomenon brought the music industry to its knees, shook the television industry, forced newspapers and magazines out of business and crippled the book publishing market.
While many traditional industries suffered, the zero marginal cost phenomenon also gave rise to a spate of new entrepreneurial enterprises including Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and thousands of other Internet companies, which reaped profits by creating new applications and establishing the networks that allow the Sharing Economy to flourish.
Jeremy Rifkin is the author of “The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism.” Rifkin is an advisor to the European Union and to heads of state around the world, and is the president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, D.C.. For more information, please visit The Zero Marginal Cost Society.
Economists acknowledge the powerful impact the near zero marginal cost has had on the information goods industries. But, until recently, they have argued that the productivity advances of the digital economy would not pass across the firewall from the virtual world to the brick-and-mortar economy of energy, and physical goods and services. That firewall has now been breached. The evolving Internet of Things will allow conventional businesses enterprises, as well as millions of prosumers, to make and distribute their own renewable energy, use driverless electric and fuel-cell vehicles in automated car-sharing services and manufacture an increasing array of 3-D-printed physical products and other goods at very low marginal cost in the market exchange economy, or at near zero marginal cost in the Sharing Economy, just as they now do with information goods.
As Latin America’s largest economy and the host of the 2016 Olympic Games, Brazil is a regular fixture in international news. It’s also widely recognized for its agenda on sustainable development issues, especially for reducing deforestation and pioneering clean energy. However, progress remains uneven as the country is struggling to come to terms with one of the worst droughts in history, a chain of corruption scandals and continuing dependence on fossil fuels.
SustainAbility recently met with Álvaro Almeida and Rúbia Piancastelli of report:sustentabilidade, Brazil-based sustainability advisory firm and organizer of Sustainable Brands Rio, to talk about the country’s changing sustainability landscape.
Aiste Brackley: How would you describe the current corporate sustainability landscape in Brazil? What were the dominant themes at this year’s conference?
report:sustentabilidade: With our conference, we seek to push the boundaries of conversation about corporate sustainability in Brazil, challenging ourselves and businesses to imagine what is possible. This year we decided that it was the right time to explore the topics of circular economy and innovation. While many Brazilian companies are working on reducing waste, their thinking predominantly remains embedded in linear models. We would like to challenge companies to think how the circular approach could be integrated into a business model from the very beginning. It is an entirely new way of thinking about design and production.
We also think that Brazilian businesses are ready for a more rigorous conversation about the sharing economy and business model innovation in large companies. This question is especially relevant in the context of the increasingly vibrant social innovation scene. The start-up scene is burgeoning in Brazil with many of them offering innovative solutions that large companies could potentially adopt and scale.
Could you share some examples of innovative corporate sustainability strategies by local companies?
Probably the most widely known example is that of the local beauty products manufacturer Natura. It is leading the field by setting ambitious net positive goals and planning its sustainability strategy as far as 2050. Coca-Cola and Natura are now jointly working with local açai growers in the Amazon to improve their livelihoods and reduce deforestation, a great example of collaboration between large companies.
Another interesting case is , Brazil’s largest retailer, which has also been a leader on sustainability issues. GPA has pioneered a progressive model of working with communities in the Rio de Janeiro and San Paolo neighborhoods, where its supermarkets are located.
In a way, many sustainability leadership examples in Brazil point to collaboration. Getting companies to unite their efforts, seeking synergies and common ground between parallel initiatives will be key to achieving impact.
Our surveys show that Latin America is one of the few regions where local companies dominate sustainability leadership rankings. In many other parts of the world, Unilever and Patagonia are universally seen as dominant players.
Yes, we also see that trend. We ran a survey of conference participants and Natura was overwhelmingly regarded to be the front-runner, with Itaú Unibanco and Unilever taking the second and third spots, respectively.
While we are seeing a lot of progress, for many businesses integrating sustainability into core operations remains to be a major challenge. It is often coupled with lack of a long-term vision and a focus on immediate, short-term issues.
To what extent is this absence of long-term perspective a result of relatively nascent corporate sustainability agendas? Or is it rather a consequence of the current political and economic climate?
Economic and political climate is very important but many Brazilian companies are also facing a challenge of progressing from the very basic understanding of sustainability as simply mitigating negative effects to actually creating net positive impact. I believe this transition is the next big mission for Brazilian companies.
The current economic crisis and corruption scandals have a big impact on business and especially on local companies that primarily rely on the Brazilian market. While global companies are also impacted, they are more resilient to these fluctuations. In their sustainability strategy, most multilateral corporations including Dow Chemical, Unilever, L’Oréal, rely heavily on guidance from corporate headquarters. However, in the past couple of years we have seen the Brazilian branches of some large international companies adopt sustainability strategies that are uniquely designed to address local challenges in Brazil, and that is a very welcome development.
What other sustainability issues are now top-of-mind for companies in Brazil?
Recent corruption scandals have had an effect on many aspects of life in Brazil, including business. Just like in so many other parts of the world, water scarcity is a major concern. The current water crisis is increasingly being linked by scientists to deforestation in the Amazon, another major challenge facing the country. Reducing waste is also a major issue on the corporate sustainability agenda. New environmental regulations, introduced a few years ago, are forcing companies to introduce new measures to reduce waste and rethink packaging. There is also a lot of interest by Brazilian companies in Sustainable Development Goals, with many pursuing partnerships through the UN Global Compact.
And while the Brazilian government is heavily invested in lead-up negotiations to the UN climate change conference in Paris (COP21), for most companies, the energy conversation is first and foremost about efficiency. Our economy remains to be heavily reliant on fossil fuels and hydropower and regulatory incentives are still lacking to advance other forms of renewable energy.
What is the next frontier for Brazilian companies?
Brazilian companies understand well the relevance of CSR and in the last 15 years have made a lot of progress improving sustainability management and embedding it in their governance. But I believe that the understanding of corporate responsibility remains limited. The next step for companies is to create solutions to the challenges that our society faces today and transform those challenges into business opportunities. This is the next big frontier and we are already seeing many promising examples that this transformation is under the way.
This is the third installment in a series of four blogs about Latin America. To find out more about sustainability issues shaping the debate in Latin America, view the presentation deck and listen to the recording of our mid-year Trends webinar. And, you can read our first and second installments of the series, too. For over 25 years SustainAbility has provided companies with timely intelligence and interpretation of emerging sustainability issues and trends. For more information about our bespoke trends service and how your company can benefit from it, please contact Aiste Brackley.
In the 1980s, leading consultants were skeptical about cellular phones. McKinsey & Company noted that the handsets were heavy, batteries didn’t last long, coverage was patchy, and the cost per minute was exorbitant. It predicted that in 20 years the total market size would be about 900,000 units, and advised AT&T to pull out. McKinsey was wrong, of course. There were more than 100 million cellular phones in use in 2000; there are billions now. Costs have fallen so far that even the poor – all over world – can afford a cellular phone.
The experts are saying the same about solar energy now. They note that after decades of development, solar power hardly supplies 1 percent of the world’s energy needs. They say that solar is inefficient, too expensive to install, and unreliable, and will fail without government subsidies. They too are wrong. Solar will be as ubiquitous as cellular phones are.
Futurist Ray Kurzweil notes that solar power has been doubling every two years for the past 30 years – as costs have been dropping. He says solar energy is only six doublings – or less than 14 years – away from meeting 100 percent of today’s energy needs. Energy usage will keep increasing, so this is a moving target. But, by Kurzweil’s estimates, inexpensive renewable sources will provide more energy than the world needs in less than 20 years. Even then, we will be using only one part in 10,000 of the sunlight that falls on the Earth.
In places such as Germany, Spain, Portugal, Australia, and the Southwest United States, residential-scale solar production has already reached ” grid parity ” with average residential electricity prices. In other words, it costs no more in the long term to install solar panels than to buy electricity from utility companies. The prices of solar panels have fallen 75 percent in the past five years alone and will fall much further as the technologies to create them improve and scale of production increases. By 2020, solar energy will be price-competitive with energy generated from fossil fuels on an unsubsidized basis in most parts of the world. Within the next decade, it will cost a fraction of what fossil-fuel-based alternatives do.
It isn’t just solar production that is advancing at a rapid rate; there are also technologies to harness the power of wind, biomass, thermal, tidal, and waste-breakdown energy, and research projects all over the world are working on improving their efficiency and effectiveness. Wind power, for example, has also come down sharply in price and is now competitive with the cost of new coal-burning power plants in the United States. It will, without doubt, give solar energy a run for its money. There will be breakthroughs in many different technologies, and these will accelerate overall progress.
Despite the skepticism of experts and criticism by naysayers, there is little doubt that we are heading into an era of unlimited and almost free clean energy. This has profound implications.
First, there will be disruption of the entire fossil-fuel industry, starting with utility companies – which will face declining demand and then bankruptcy. Several of them see the writing on the wall. The smart ones are embracing solar and wind power. Others are lobbying to stop the progress of solar power – at all costs. Witness how groups in Oklahoma persuaded lawmakers to approve a surcharge on solar installations; the limited victory that groups backed by the Koch brothers won in Arizona to impose a $5 per month surcharge; and the battles being waged in other states. They are fighting a losing battle, however, because the advances aren’t confined to the United States. Countries such as Germany, China, and Japan are leading the charge in the adoption of clean energies. Solar installations still depend on other power sources to supply energy when the sun isn’t shining, but battery-storage technologies will improve so much over the next two decades that homes won’t be dependent on the utility companies. We will go from debating incentives for installing clean energies to debating subsidies for utility companies to keep their operations going.
The environment will surely benefit from the elimination of fossil fuels, which will also boost most sectors of the economy. Electric cars will become cheaper to operate than fossil-fuel-burning ones, for example. We will be able to create unlimited clean water – by boiling ocean water and condensing it. With inexpensive energy, our farmers can also grow hydroponic fruits and vegetables in vertical farms located near consumers. Imagine skyscrapers located in cities that grow food in glass buildings without the need for pesticides, and that recycle nutrients and materials to ensure there is no ecological impact. We will have the energy needed to 3D-print our everyday goods and to heat our homes.
We are surely heading into the era of abundance that Peter Diamandis has written about – the era when the basic needs of humanity are met through advancing technologies. The challenge for mankind will be to share this abundance, ensuring that these technologies make the world a better place.
Information and Numbers sourced from www.leonics.com
There are many types of solar systems, such as solar water heaters, solar convection fans, and passive solar systems; the main focus of this post is the Solar Photovoltaic system. This system provides a renewable source of power by converting the energy from photons that collide with the solar cells into usable energy that our appliances use.
The components of the system include the panel, the charge controller, the inverter, batteries, all of your appliances, and any auxiliary power source.
- The panels convert sunlight to energy, although due to constraints of current technology and the laws of thermodynamics, the average efficiency of panels in the best conditions are about 15%-25%.
- The charge controller will protect your batteries by not allowing them to overcharge which will ruin your battery.
- The inverter converts the power from the panels from DC to AC, which is what all of our appliances, computers, phones, TVs use.
- The battery stores the power from the panels; it is important to get a deep cycle battery that can be recharged and discharged over and over. Car batteries are the wrong kind of battery, especially if powering a house.
To get the most efficient system in terms of cost and power, one needs to first figure out how much power is used during a day.
- Determine your power consumption demands by doing two things. First calculate the watt-hours used by each appliance per day. Most appliances will list the watt-hours somewhere, and you just multiply that by the hours it is used. Next, all the watt-hours from all your appliances are added up, and this becomes your total watt-hours for your house. Finally you should take this number and multiply it by 1.3. This will be the amount of power your panels need to gather each day as a minimum. It is also good to overshoot this number to be sure you can gather as much as possible in the event of bad weather.
- Sizing up the PV system is the next part. This involves the determination of your areas Insolation, or hours of good sunlight, and the rated efficiency and watt output of your panels. In Durham, as well as most of North Carolina, we have an Insolation of about 5. This means that we take our watt-hours we determined we needed and divide it by the Insolation to determine the amount of watt-hours needed by each panel. This number is then divided by the rated output of the panels you have available, which will give you the number of panels needed. It is important to note that this number is the minimum and to prolong the life of your systems and batteries, as well as achieving better performance, extra panels should be installed.
- The inverter should be chosen based on the total wattage of your house. It should be rated to handle 25-30 percent more wattage than all your appliances can use at once. This will make sure that you don’t overload and bust your inverter, which can be expensive. In a grid-tied system, the inverter should be rated to the output of the PV panels.
- The batteries should be sized next. Take the total watt-hours per day used by the appliances and divides by 0.85 to account for battery loss. Divide this answer by 0.6 for depth of discharge, as the battery should never be discharged below 60% of its capacity. Divide this number the voltage of the battery and then multiply this number by the days of autonomy, or days you need to operate without input from the panels, and this will give you the Amp-hours of your system, or the batter capacity needed.
- The charge controller should match the voltage of both the panels and batteries, and should be able to handle a shirt circuit of the system.
Some basic calculations would like this:
- Determine Appliance Use = (18 W * 4 hours) +(60 W * 2 Hours) + (75 W *24 *0.5 hours) = 1092 Wh/day
- Total PV panels energy needed = 1092 *1.3 = 1419.6 Wh/day
- Total Wp of PV Panel capacity needed = 1419.6 / 5 = 283.92 Wp
- Number of panels Needed = 283.92 / 110 = 2.58 panels or 3 panels (4 panels for wiring simplicity)
- Inverter Sizing = 18 + 60 + 75 = 153 W * 1.25 = 191 W atleast
- Battery Capacity = ([(18 W * 4 Hrs) = (60 W * 2 Hrs) + (75 W * 24 Hrs * 0.5)] * 3 Days of Autonomy) / ( 0.85 * 0.6 * 12) = 535.29 Ah — So Battery should be rated 12 V 600 Ah for 3 days of autonomy
This is just the basics and a knowledge of basic electronics and the terms will come in handy.
D.C., the American city most full of shit, is now powered by it.
The Washington Post reports that utility D.C. Water recently started using a Norwegian thermal hydrolysis system to turn sewage into clean energy. From the Post:
Here’s how it works: When you flush or send soapsuds down the drain, the contents travel through miles of pipe and ultimately reach [the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant], off Interstate 295 in Southwest Washington. There, what looks like brown, murky water flows through screens that remove debris and then sits to allow solids to settle. Then, enormous centrifuges spin off the water and concentrate the remaining solids. (Don’t think too long about that part.)
The liquid is sent off to be treated and then returned to the Potomac River, and the concentrated sludge is pumped into large steel Cambi reactors, named for the Norwegian manufacturer. The reactors function like pressure cookers, using 338-degree steam and pressure to cook the sludge. Then it gets pumped to another tank. …
The sludge is then sent into one of four “digesters” – concrete cylinder tanks as tall as eight-story buildings – that each hold 3.8 million gallons. There, it spends about three weeks as microbial bugs nibble at it. The bugs convert the organic matter into methane gas, which is cleaned and sent to a nearby building, where turbines burn the methane gas and produce electricity. The entire system covers about five acres.
It seems gross – and probably smells like a porta-potty at a NASCAR rally in August – but the Post reports that the system will produce enough electricity to power about 10,500 homes. Plus, there’s the savings. D.C. Water says the system will save $13 million annually, and it will eventually be able to sell the byproducts as compost. This might be the least shitty thing to come out of D.C. since, well, ever.