Major Climate Announcement Coming from President Obama

obama-announcement

President Obama has taken to Twitter to announce that he will be making a major address on climate change this week on Tuesday, June 25.

The tweet links to a short video in which the President talks about  why it is important to discuss and address climate change.

“In my inaugural address, I pledged that America would respond to the growing threat of climate change for the sake of our children and future generations,” said President Obama. “This Tuesday, at Georgetown University, I’ll lay out my vision for where I believe we need to go: a national plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare our country for the impacts of climate change, and lead global efforts to fight it.”

“This is a serious challenge,” added the President. “But it is one uniquely suited to America’s strengths. We’ll need scientists to design new fuels, farmers to grow them, we’ll need engineers to devise new sources of energy, and businesses to make and sell them. We’ll need workers to build the foundation for a clean energy economy. And we’ll need all of our citizens to do our part to preserve God’s creation for future generations. Our forests and our waterways, our croplands and snowcapped peaks.”

“There’s no single step that can reverse the effects of climate change. But when it comes to the world we leave our children, we owe it to them to do what we can,” states the President. “So I hope you’ll share this message with your friends because this is a challenge that effects everyone. And we all have a stake in solving it together.”

The short video was paired with instrumental music and images of disasters and the beautiful American environment alike. The President managed to tie in that making a greener society would also create more jobs.

Image source

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

China’s New Strategy: Outsourcing Carbon Emissions

China Climate Change

China has long been one of the most controversial nations on Earth, for a variety of reasons ranging from the one child rule to human rights.  Their recent presence in the Western media, however, has been dominated by their approach to reducing carbon emissions.

A recent study conducted by prominent scientists indicated that China is ‘outsourcing’ carbon emissions.

How do you Outsource Emissions?

This sounds like something of a strange practice to most people. They understand how you can outsource something like a web development project or some copywriting work, but not carbon emissions.

In fact, the process is basically the same. Recent months have seen various warnings issued to residents in Beijing, China’s capital city, and in Shanghai, its business center, warning that it is unsafe to go outside. Clearly, this is an area for concern, as it everyone was to stay indoors you’d be looking at the breakdown of society!

To get around this, China’s latest initiative is to move production out of the cities and into poorer areas of the country. While it sounds a sensible enough plan, there has understandably been controversy at an initiative that is essentially saying, “You make our luxury goods, and in return we’ll give you air that is dangerous to breathe.”

Emissions Targets

In doing this, China is following a classic management practice; instead of dealing with the problem at hand – carbon emissions and air pollution – they’re simply moving it somewhere else. The trouble is that whether emissions are in Beijing or on the Mongolian border, they’re still in China.

Controversy has arisen because although authorities in the cities could easily take action, they’ve chosen this option purely because it is cheaper. Understandably, global governments and environmental agencies are increasingly concerned that China is going to be unable to meet its emissions reduction targets. The timing of the release of this research couldn’t be worse, given that President Xi met with Barack Obama last weekend and apparently agreed on some actions China would take.

China’s Way Forward

There has also been suggestions from within the Chinese government that they have even planned to outsource emissions to other countries. Imagine that. Global companies look to Chinese companies for cheap manufacturing, who then outsource it to Uzbekistan, for example, to have it produced even cheaper.

Perhaps the only thing to stop China following this path will be when companies start approaching the countries that China is outsourcing to.

Alternatives to Outsourcing

In reality, the only solution to the problem is for China to explore real world alternatives that can reduce carbon emissions. Vector Foiltec are one company that already has a presence in China, and their environmentally friendly building designs and green construction practices could, and should, be followed in a country where the infrastructure is still growing at pace.

Money will need to be spent, too, so that the problem is dealt with rather than shifted elsewhere. China will meet with nothing but ridicule if they start saying they’ve met their emissions reductions targets, but look at how much carbon Uzbekistan is now pumping into the atmosphere. Demand for power and energy isn’t going to decrease, either, and it is unlikely outsourcing power stations emissions will be practical or cost effective.

Moving Forward

Although China is the world’s foremost economy, they have a number of challenges to deal with throughout the rest of the decade. In terms of the global interest, the environment will need to be at the top of Beijing’s agenda, for they will not be able to outsource the answers to the difficult questions that could be heading in their direction.


Teo Alvin is a science and environment journalist who travels around the world speaking to leading authorities on a variety of subjects. One of Teo’s passions is environmental conservation, a subject he studies further in his spare time. Image source.

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

1 Million EVs in Germany? Seriously?

ev-plug

When it comes to road-worthy production model electric vehicles (EVs), Germany’s auto brands don’t come to mind first. I mean, the EV market belongs to Nissan, Chevy and now Ford, not Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi or even Volkswagen. So, how is it that German Chancellor Angela Merkel can claim she can get one million EVs on the road by 2020? That’s in just six car model years away and, in the car world, that’s like the blink of an eye in production years.

I’m not sure whether to hate or love Merkel at this point. She’s obviously part of the financial elite system of keeping the petro dollar alive and well and yet with this announcement she is giving this EV enthusiast and Mother Nature worshipper some hope.

What has given me hope about Germany all along, however, is the country’s surprising investment in solar power. It is perhaps this fact that makes me think Merkel is truly looking to the future of electric energy and is finally encouraging German auto makers to take EVs seriously.

According to Wikipedia, “Germany is the world’s top photovoltaics (solar panels or PV) installer, with a solar PV capacity as of December 2012 of more than 32.3 gigawatts (GW).” Wikipedia also goes on to claim new solar installations increased by about 7.6 GW in 2012 or about 3 percent of the country’s total electricity. And, Germany has a goal of “producing 35% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and 100% by 2050,” so continues Wikipedia.

And did you know about this fun “new energy” fact? “Germany set a world record for solar power production with 22 GW produced at midday on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 May 2012. This was a third of peak electricity needs on Friday and almost half on Saturday.” — Wikipedia

With such an investment and commitment to solar and sustainable energy, it just seems natural German auto makers would be busy churning out the world’s top EVs, right?

But that’s hardly the case. Mercedes-Benz doesn’t even have a road-worthy production car. MB’s F-cell is a hydrogen vehicle. MB subsidiary Smart has perhaps the most green and economical EV on the roads today with its 2013 smart electric drive. With just two seats, however, smart electric drive isn’t going to replace the family sedan.

And what about Audi, Volkswagen, Porsche and even Renault, which has a surprisingly aggressive EV program? (Let’s explore these EV models such as VW’s new e-up! and e-Golf another time, shall we?)

Only BMW has produced a true all-electric family sedan in its Active E (a concept model made into a demonstration car after the BMW’s MINI E) although it only seats four passengers. BMW is field testing 700 Active E vehicles in the USA and another 400 around the world.

I mean, one million EVs on the road by 2020, Merkel? Seriously? It’s like she just threw the “one million” number out there either just for shock value or because it made for eye-catching headlines. Who knows and who cares? What we green activists do know is that we need to curb carbon emissions quickly and for all time if we humans have any chance of surviving increasingly devastating climate change. Does Merkel truly see that too or is this just some financial game?

Whatever it is, we also know is this could be the turning point for that famed German engineering, which up until now has been pure ICE (internal combustion engine). Will the Germans finally take up the electric charge like Nissan, GM and Ford have done? Will they really spend their R&D and manufacturing dollars on true EVs to make Merkel’s one million mark come true by 2020?

Actually, the question is: Can it even be done? Let’s say this new government-backed EV production effort goes into effect by this winter 2014. For the next six years, that means German auto companies would have to build and sell around 166,666 electric vehicles each year (unless they import a whole lot of Nissan Leafs, Chevy Volts, Chevy Spark EVs and Ford’s lineup of EVs).

That’s quite a leap for a country that bought only 3,000 EVs last year. (Germany sells around three million vehicles annually.) And, studies have shown that nearly half of all Germans are not interested in paying a higher price for alternative energy vehicles, including hybrids.

Matthias Wissman, who is president of German Association of the Automotive Industry (known as VDA), made his own proclamation at the conference. “Driving electrically is no vision anymore, it’s a reality,” he said.

Wissman also noted the German auto industry has plans to invest around $15.5 billion to engineer and produce “alternative” powertrains and battery-powered electric cars in the next three to four years.

Nissan Leaf

No Incentives Equals Little Interest

Unfortunately, Germany’s Economy Minister Philipp Roesler may have quashed the “one million EVs by 2020” idea by refusing to offer government subsidies to those who purchase EVs (such as the $7,500 U.S. federal tax plus possible state and local credits and perks to which American can take advantage for every production model EV). Incentives seem to be the best chance of Germany’s EV movement to catch on, especially as frugal Germans are reluctant to spend more on a green car despite their chancellor’s urging.

Still, did you know GM has sold 5,300 Ampera cars (an EV from the Opel brand) in Europe in 2012? Ampera is actually the best-selling EV in Europe, so says GM.

And then there’s Norway.  Germany’s even more frugal Scandinavian neighbor Norway is the leader in EV purchases. Since Nissan introduced its Leaf in late 2011, the company has sold more than 3,300 Leafs in Norway. With so much interest in EVs, Norway is rapidly building a quick-charging infrastructure around the country.

Has Norway inspired Germany? And how will the four three top German car brands – Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and Volkswagen – react to Merkel’s one million EV proclamation? EV enthusiasts around the world await the answer.

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

How Solar Can Improve Natural Gas Plants

solar-cell-technology

Solar technology has incredible potential and it’s being applied in a diversity based manner by a Department of Energy Laboratory. In this venture, natural gas power stations are being converted to hybrid solar plants. Similar to the solar shingles technology, this is worthwhile innovation.

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is working on a device which has dimensions nearly four feet in length and two feet in width. Apart from that, it also features a chemical reactor in combination with heat exchangers.

The principle behind this is that when sunlight is focused to form a concentrated beam, this concentrated beam is used to heat the reactor’s channels. Within these channels, natural gas is flowing and it has a catalyst to turn the conventional gas into ‘syngas’. The advantage of syngas is that it’s more efficient in terms of energy.

The feasibility of such a system stands corrected on the account that it could produce 20 to 25% more efficiency. The solar panels generate steam to a temperature of 700oC.

This means that if more energy could be harnessed by the natural gas content, there would be less natural gas required for production. The overall impact would result in the reduction of carbon footprint. The level of CO2 production is reduced by 20% and in the same way, 20% less methane would be required.

This project that is being led by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory would carry out practical demonstrations in the South West area of US on the account that the weather is hot over there.

A related goal of the project is to bring hybrid solar gas power plant in competition with the conventional fossil fuel plants so their applicability is enhanced.

Contracts related to commercialization of solar energy are complicated in nature. There are a number of legal as well as management based modalities involved, but new tools like contract management are helping to streamline the process. As a result of a variety of new infrastructure changes like this, scientists have also expressed hope that the ‘syngas’ project would be commercialized within a three year span.

Long term applications would move towards the chemical industry as well. The important property of syngas is that it can be used to make synthetic crude oil. This oil can further be refined to produce transportation fuels, enhancing the use.

For producing 500 Mw, nearly 300 dishes that include the device would be needed. The economic advantage would be available if the production process goes underway at a low cost. Since the process produces more efficiency from fuel, it has one end covered.

The first field tests for the device are expected to be carried in the coming months in Richland, Washington. Previous experiments have shown that the prototype device could convert 60% incident solar energy to chemical energy. It was used to produce syngas.

A lot of research is now being done as to how solar energy can be used in combination with other technology. Recently, there have been experiments related to the use of nanotechnology to make solar panels that can absorb all wavelengths from sunlight. This technology has already been tested out on high speed communications with good results.

The solar-gas hybrid plant is a worthwhile venture which is better placed in the commercialization of renewable fuels. The interest from the military side is also driving the government labs to do the possible research for solar energy.

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

Reduce Your Global Footprint and Energy Consumption

reduce-global-footprint

Current methods of electrical energy generation consume large amounts of non-renewable resources and emit considerable pollution into our environment. Consequently, there has been a recent increase in the public interest in reducing our individual and collective “global footprint,” or demand on scarce ecological resources.

How America stacks up

Roughly four fifths of the world’s population currently has access to electricity. This figure represents a considerable increase than comparable figures of just a decade ago. Despite this increased global electricity access, usage patterns and levels vary widely from nation to nation, however.For instance, the World Energy Council recently found that the average Canadian and American household consumed about twenty times the amount of electricity than a typical Nigerian household and 2 to 3 times as much as a typical European household. Several factors contribute to these broad differentials. These include physical housing size, relative living standards, and availability of alternative cooking and cooling fuels.

How much electricity does the average American household consume?

Per a 2011 survey by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (“EIA”), the average residential utility customer consumed 11,280 kilowatts of electricity. This represents an average of 940 kilowatt hours per month. The State of Maine had the lowest consumption level at 6,252 kilowatts per year, while Louisiana had the highest consumption level of 16,176 kilowatts.Per a 2008 survey of the U.S. Department of Energy, the average U.S. household’s yearly energy usage was comprised as follows:

  • Heating and cooling – 13,200 kilowatt hours
  • Lighting – 1,200 kilowatt hours
  • Cooking – 1,000 kilowatt hours
  • Washing/Drying – 1,000 kilowatt hours
  • Miscellaneous electric
  • loads – 600 kilowatt hours

The above figures represent an average monthly energy consumption rate of about 1400 kilowatt hours for an American family of four. At an average cost of 12 cents per kilowatt hours, this translates into about $170 USD per month.

Indoor Temperature Control

The above data makes it apparent that the vast majority of U.S. energy consumption is expended on heating and cooling. Thus, those concerned about reducing their global footprint and saving on energy costs must concentrate their efforts in this area.Making wise choices about your home’s heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (“HVAC”) systems have a tremendous impact on your utility bills, comfort, and overall electric energy consumption. Following are some tips to increase your HVAC system’s efficiency:

Change Air Filters Frequently

Regardless of whether you have a window, split, or central air conditioning unit, check the filters at least monthly. Change the filter at least every three months. Dirty or clogged filters obstruct airflow and cause the unit to use up more energy to keep you cool or warm. You also prevent dirt and dust particles from accumulating in the system by regular air filter changes, thereby avoiding costly maintenance bills and premature system failure.

Tune up HVAC Systems Annually

Most people know that regular auto tune-ups help increase gas mileage considerably. Likewise, annual heat and air conditioning system tune-ups help enhance equipment efficiency.

Programmable Thermostat Installation

Programmable thermostats are perfect for those who spend significant time away from home on a regular basis. Wise use of preprogrammed settings can save you about $15 USD per month in electric bills.

Seal Heat and Cooling Ducts

Heat pumps and ducts that convey air to and away from forced air furnaces are typically huge energy wasters. Insulating and sealing ducts help increase HVAC system efficiency by up to 20 percent or more.

Consider Installing Energy Star Equipment

If your HVAC system is over ten years old or no longer keeps your home comfortable, seek an expert evaluation by a licensed HVAC professional. If your unit is inefficient or needs upgrading, replace it with one that has earned the Energy Star seal. Energy Star-certified equipment can reduce your yearly energy costs by $200 USD or more.

Proper Installation is Crucial

Although outdated HVAC system replacement with more modern, efficient models is an excellent starting point, be sure that it is properly installed in order to ensure best performance. Indeed, statistics reveal that incompetent installation can cut equipment efficiency by nearly one-third or more – thereby defeating the purpose of its acquisition.


Rachel is a blogger for Trademark Home Services, a plumbing, hvac, and electrical company in Richmon, TX that specializes in insulation, duct cleaning, and ac repair. Image source.

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

In Focus: Green Engineering Advancements

green-engineering-advances

As social interest increases worldwide on the path towards more environmentally friendly and green options, the next big challenge in the field of engineering is to concoct green alternatives to the fundamentals of daily life. Governments are getting in on the act as well as they push for more environmentally friendly legislation and increase support for development in green engineering. After all, what company can resist the value of a huge government tax break by investing in going green?

Green engineering is about designing, developing and manufacturing products and process that serve our natural resources and reduce our impact on the world around us, whilst also pushing forward with new and more efficient products. This type of engineering embraces the concept of protecting human health and the environment above all else, and rejects the idea that this damages cost-effectiveness or productivity. In recent years, we have seen an increasing interest in this type of development, resulting in numerous impressive advances in green engineering.

Wind Farm Development

Wind energy is considered to be one of the more powerful green energy sources of the future. When it comes to wind farms, to take full advantage of the natural weather, we need numbers and huge ones at that. Ausenco reviews praised the company for its ability to construct the massive, five-phase 1,750 MW NaiKun Wind Farm.

The farm itself can generate enough power to support 600,000 homes! It’s located just off the coast of the Hecate Straite, British Columbia, ensuring that its population is not negatively affected as it does not take up any on-shore land. This massive development is the second biggest offshore wind farm in the world.

Thanks in part to Ausenco, and through detailed design and careful deployment, a large part of Canada has managed to remove its complete reliance on non-renewable power sources like fuel, natural gas, and coal.

Flexible Fuel Vehicles

Flexible fuel vehicles aren’t a new example of green engineering. What’s changed in the Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV) is the development towards creating an affordable vehicle. It uses a single common fuel tank and is a combination of normal fuel with ethanol or methanol. It’s not a permanent solution to emissions from cars, but it significantly reduces the amount of carbon produced by each vehicle.

It’s hard to believe but this projected started 100 years ago, in the early 1900s when the Ford Model T was adapted to become a system that could support multiple fuel types. After research by companies like Volkswagen in the 90s, and the invention of other emission-reducing technologies, such as Ford’s EcoBoost engine, FFVs are now an affordable alternative to the gas-guzzlers of today.

According to the Open Fuel Standard Act in the US, by 2017 most vehicles will be FFVs and could run on ethanol, methanol, electricity, and hydrogen.

Ultra Diesel 

LS9 Inc. developed the fuel Ultra Diesel over the past few years and is now implementing it in countries like Brazil. By managing to develop microbes produced from biomass, the company created a cleaner type of fuel. The fuel completely eliminates benzene, sulphur, and other metals found in petroleum. This enables a drastic reduction in the toxicity of common fuels!

 

Greenwalls

Greenwalls started many centuries ago, with the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Obviously, their gardening was mostly for aesthetic reasons, rather than to reap the environmental benefits. It’s only in the past few years that the world has awoken to the advantages of having Greenwalls in urban environments.

Through careful planning and engineering, companies have developed greenwalls that use specific plants to reduce heating and cooling costs by trapping heat and cold air inside. They also increase air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and generally protect from solar radiation. These walls of plants have been developed in a way that doesn’t require much, if any, maintenance. Water can be automatically routed from regular use water such as from sinks, washing machines and bathing, making this process even more environmentally-friendly.

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

New Renewable Energy Projects Approved by Obama Adminstration

obama-solar

In a June press release issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior, new Interior Secretary Sally Jewel announced the Obama administration’s latest steps in its “all-of-the-above” energy strategy. The release announced the approval of three renewable energy projects and a crucial first step in development of the massive potential of U.S. offshore wind power.

The Department of Energy (DOE) generally funds development of new renewable energy technologies. However, the Department of the Interior (DOI) may be a significantly bigger player in the expansion of renewable energy production by opening the country’s public lands and coastal waters to competitive proposals for responsible domestic energy production. In fact, since 2009, the DOI has approved a combined 45 utility-scale solar facilities, wind farms and geothermal plants that will ultimately provide enough electricity to power 4.4 million homes.

These latest DOI approvals include solar farms located in Arizona and Nevada and a geothermal power plant in Nevada. The solar energy projects are Boulder Solar Power’s Midland Solar Project and SolarReserve’s Quartzsite Solar Project. TerraGen Power will build the New York Canyon Geothermal project.

Midland Solar Project

Proposed by Boulder Solar Power, LLC, the Midland Solar Project will be built on private land southwest of Boulder City, Arizona. However, electricity from the 350-megawatt photovoltaic facility will pass across a 76-acre corridor of federal land. The project will energize about 105,000 homes. In addition, the local economy will benefit from a peak work force of 350 and 10 permanent positions.

Close cooperation between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nevada Department of Wildlife and Boulder Solar Power allowed inclusion of conservation measures to avoid or minimize environmental impact. For example, less than 7 acres of native habitat will be affected by infrastructure. Water will come from existing Boulder City supplies, leaving surface waters undisturbed.

Quartzsite Solar Project

Quartzsite Solar Energy, LLC – a subsidiary of SolarReserve, LLC – proposed this 100-megawatt project to be located on 1,600 acres of BLM lands about 10 miles north of Quartzsite, Arizona. The Quartzsite Solar Project will employ SolarReserve’s non-photovoltaic, solar power concentrating technology combined with thermal energy storage technology.

In this technology, the sun’s thermal energy from the solar field is collected and concentrated with heliostats – a collection of mirrors – directed toward a 653-foot central tower. Liquid molten salt captures and stores this energy to generate steam that will drive traditional steam turbine generators. A peak work force of 450 and 47 permanent positions will be generated. Plant output should power about 30,000 homes.

New York Canyon Geothermal Project

To be constructed 25 miles east of Lovelock, Nevada, the New York Canyon Geothermal Plant and transmission lines will cover over 15,000 acres of BLM-managed land. TGP Dixie Development Company, LLC – a subsidiary of TerraGen Power, LLC – will build the 70-megawatt project. Construction will require about 150 peak construction jobs and 16 operational positions. The power will supply about 60,000 homes. Environmental impact will be minimal, and no endangered or threatened species will be affected.

Offshore Wind Projects

Secretary Jewel has announced the first project proposals for offshore wind leases of coastal U.S. waters. The first-ever competition will involve 164,750 acres along Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has approved nine companies to submit proposals. Winners will have the right to develop the nation’s first offshore wind farms. Although, wind power energy development will probably take longer to reach fruition, the potential impact could be enormous with a potential 3.4 GW of wind energy available to power one million homes.


Peter Wendt is a writer, researcher and green energy enthusiast from Austin, TX. For his readers looking to go green at home, Wendt recommends speaking with the renewable energy professionals at Native

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

Renewable Energy Funding in South Africa

south-africa-renewable-energy

A vital issue in making the country’s energy supply more sustainable is funding. Financing gets new, potentially useful green technologies out of the development phase and into the market place. Further, they fund the improvement of technologies to make them more efficient and economically viable.

Some funding avenues in South Africa include government projects, natural market forces, and personal equity.

SA Renewable Energy Programme

One significant program to keep an eye out for in South Africa right now is the government’s Renewable Energy Programme for Independent Power Producers (IPPs). The large program was initiated in 2011 to select contractors, both local and international, to contribute 3 725 megawatts (MW) to the energy grid over the next few years, generated from renewable energy sources, mostly from solar and wind energy. There are already some massive projects in place, and when all is said in done, they’ll all come up to R100 billion.

For instance, a consortium led by Solar Reserve has procured funding for three projects, which will total 238 MW altogether, and account for a whopping 20 percent share of the country’s solar energy market.

The cycle of market forces

Market forces are one way of naturally funding the research and development for new sustainable technology. Technology gets better and cheaper to manufacture, thus becomes more in demand, therefore more economically viable, and as such evokes more funding. For instance, the costs of solar technology has just about halved in the last two years, and has become more efficient. More people therefore are open to utilising solar panels, making them more in demand and more profitable, and as such more economically viable to invest in. And so technology will improve even more.

The problem is getting technology developed to the point that it is marketable and can be commercialised. And so market forces by themselves are not enough to drive green industry forward.

Personal equity

Funding from the private sector may be what we need to kick the renewable energy industry in high gear. However, because this industry is generally perceived as a more risky investment, and is typically less competitive than conventional energies, we also need government subsidy or regulatory incentives in place to generate funding from the private sector.

Thankfully, there does seem to be a trend towards this. The lack of sufficient energy infrastructure and the move by policymakers and regulators towards alternative energy sources have created a compelling opportunity for South African private equity to invest in renewable energy. More and more, business or personal loans in South Africa go towards funding a greener energy supply grid.

However, more factors need to be taken into account. Personal funding is not simply a matter of taking out business or personal loans in South Africa. There are certain additional attributes that require additional analysis and investigation. Such as the influence of policy and regulation on the feasibility of an investment, like the legal basis and durability of any grants, subsidies, credit enhancement programmes, and carbon or tax credits.


Queenie Bates is an avid writer and researcher, with a particular interest in the area of sustainability. She tries to stay up to date by researching energy videos and whitepapers, and anything else interesting she can find on the Internet. Image source

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

In Focus: How Green are Electric Vehicles?

electric-vehicle-tesla-model-s

For many years, the electric car has been the face of eco-friendly alternative energy. The cars operate on rechargeable batteries as opposed to gasoline, and are thus perceived as an ideal way of going green, since they do not deplete fossil fuels or release emissions harmful to the environment. Recently, however, the electric car has been the subject of scrutiny, with some critics claiming that these vehicles are not, in fact, as eco-friendly as the purport to be.

Cause for Concern

Electric cars have come under fire for two main reasons. First of all, some critics are concerned that the batteries used to power the cars are not produced in an environmentally friendly fashion. Secondly, some have pointed out the electricity that is used to charge the car battery is not generated via green technology. Both concerns suggest that while there might be some environmental benefits gained from eliminating the use of gasoline, these pros are cancelled out by the irresponsible ways they are manufactured.

Norwegian Study

The study that has brought the most publicity to this issue, and which has provided the best support for these criticisms, was conducted at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Researchers at the university studied the overall impact of the electric car on the environment, and determined that ultimately, the production of these vehicles is just as harmful to the environment as that of a regular car. In fact, some evidence from the study suggests that electric cars may even have a greater negative impact than a more “traditional” car.

The Reasoning

The main evidence for these findings lies with the materials used to manufacture the vehicle. Researchers point out that purchasing a used vehicle would be a more environmentally responsible choice than purchasing a brand new electric car, which requires energy and raw material to build. They are particularly concerned about the ways that the batteries are both produced and disposed of, which they argue does more harm than good. Analysts involved in the study also noted that the electricity used to power the cars is typically produced by coal, a factor that seems to undermine the claim that electric cars eliminate the need for fossil fuels.

The Response

Experts both within and outside of the electric vehicle industry, however, have been quick to denounce the claims put forth by the Norwegian study. These individuals concede that the production of any vehicle will require the use of energy, but also note that the long-term benefits of electric cars outweigh the environmental costs levied during their production. They also note that when charged from an electric grid, these cars are infinitely more environmentally responsible even than hybrid vehicles.

In light of recent research, the overall verdict seems to be that electric cars are eco-friendly—but perhaps not as eco-friendly as the marketing would suggest. Ultimately, the individual who purchases and drives an electric car must also do his or her part to ensure that the electricity used to charge the car battery comes from a sustainable source, so as not to negate the positive effects of the vehicle.


Steve Hood is a reader, researcher and a freelance writer who like to share his passion about eco-friendly technologies that can change our world in a better one. Currently he writes for SellYourCarFast.com.au

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

Singapore’s Ground-Breaking Green Library

library-dr-suess-books

A project completed in conjunction with City Developments Limited and The National Library Board, “My Tree House” is a “green” children’s library in Singapore. It is the first of its kind, educating children on a number of environmental topics, including recycling and energy conservation. While there are thousands of books for children to look through, there are also interactive exhibits that kids can touch and learn from as they explore environmental themes.

The Construction Phase

Throughout the entire building process, “My Tree House” remained committed to its green ideals. Refurbished bookshelves were used in the space and energy-efficient LED bulbs were installed to provide lighting. Even the tree house theme was meant to keep young minds focused on the outdoors. The large tree built in the center of the library was constructed using thousands of recycled bottles and other environmentally friendly materials.

Library Features

Naturally, “My Tree House” contains children’s books about the environment. With more than 40,000 written works contained within its walls, there is no shortage of reading material. More than 25 percent of the books center on a green theme, like recycling, water resources or nature. The rest are fiction and all tie into the enchanted forest theme. However, the library is more than just a collection of books.

A shadow play wall, called “The Knowledge Tree,” helps children find out more about the world around them through a hands-on learning experience. There is also a weather station, made to look like a tree stump, which encourages children to learn more about current temperatures, wind speed and rainfall in Singapore. Finally, eReading kiosks give little ones the opportunity to look through green e-books and even play games with environmental themes.

Library visitors will also have the opportunity to take part in programs about the environment. Crafts, games and storytelling are all planned, and some of My Tree House’s partners include the National Parks Board and the National Environment Agency. Plans are in the works to set up tours for school groups as well.

Awards and Honors

My Tree House is already receiving recognition, even though it just officially opened its doors. The BCA Green Mark Platinum Award, which is only bestowed upon the most eco-friendly buildings in Singapore, was given to the library. In addition, the children’s collection is housed within the National Library Building, which received both the Green Mark Platinum Award and first place in the ASEAN Energy Efficiency Awards.

People around the world are making an effort to live a greener life. From carpooling and using public transportation to hiring the most eco-friendly pest control Temecula has to offer, there is a renewed focus on the environment. Singapore’s library is just one step toward making sure the younger generation appreciates nature and remains committed to taking care of the Earth.



Image Credit: Some rights reserved by EvelynGiggles

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

Why We Need Green Roofs

green-roof-chicago

More and more businesses, apartment owners, and homeowners are looking to create green spaces throughout their properties, including on their roof. There are many reasons why owners are regarding this as a good long-term investment opportunity. In addition to raising the value of their properties, they are also offering value to the surrounding environment.

What is a green roof?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines a green roof as follows,

“A green roof, or rooftop garden, is a vegetative layer grown on a rooftop. Green roofs provide shade and remove heat from the air through evapotranspiration, reducing temperatures of the roof surface and the surrounding air.”

Some also define a green roof as one that has garden elements where seating and other park elements such as benches, picnic tables, and pathways are available. That way, in addition to being an environmentally friendly installation, the space is also an extension for the building’s living and casual recreation spaces. This is of particular interest to apartment building owners with properties surrounded by concrete.

 

Is it difficult to create a green roof?

According to National Geographic,

“Waterproof membranes now make it easier to design green-roof systems that capture water for irrigation, allow drainage, support the growing medium, and resist the invasion of roots.”

Therefore, and experienced do-it-yourselfer could tackle this project over the course of several weekends. However, for those who are not comfortable with working on these types of projects, hiring a contractor is another option.

Roofing companies geared specifically toward the creation and development of green roofing are popping up everywhere. Just as someone would interview and request a portfolio from traditional roofing contractors, the same care should be taken when selecting a company to install a green roof. Property owners should interview and gather estimates from at least three contractors, evaluate the projected work, contact references, and scrutinize portfolios prior to making a final hiring decision.

Why are some owners uncertain about green roofing?

Green roofs date back to when sod and thatch roofing was a popular material to build roofs. Yet despite that history, property owners are still hesitant about installing one. Certainly reports like this one in Scientific American do little to encourage property owners. This article reveals that the green roofing used in Manhattan, New York leaves little to be desired and is in need of some serious reexamination.

According to the reporter, Amy Kraft,

“Rooftop gardens have the potential of lowering energy usage for heating and air-conditioning as well as reducing rainwater runoff, but their effectiveness is not well established.”

The problem lies in that the wrong plants are being used, so they are not holding up to high winds and the penetrating sun found on many city rooftops.

Do the research

The bottom line is, before making any type of large-scale decision such as a green roof, do the research. Talk to others who have a green roof to address all the pro’s and con’s of the finished project. When talking to the contractor’s references, ask them what they would have done to change anything about the project. Additional research includes learning what the best plants are for the structure’s area, how much material should be used on the roof, and how much maintenance is required when the green roof is complete.


Jennifer Greenleaf is a freelance writer who knows a thing or two about Roofing companies. She ghostwrote a book about home-building which included chapters focused on green building. Learn more about Jennifer on Google+. Image source.

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

The Waka Waka Solar Mobile Phone Charger

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It’s not uncommon to find yourself with a drained mobile phone battery. And if your life and occupation rely on being connected through your phone, it can be more than an inconvenience when you’re away from a power outlet. Luckily, the continuous development of solar technology allows for products like the Waka Waka solar powered lamp / mobile phone charger to help those who are on the go and need a boost to their mobile phone battery.

What it does

The handheld device is discrete: a solar panel on one side, and a foldable stand, power button and LED lights on the other. It can easily be carried in a pocket without a hassle, and if you didn’t know any better you might confuse it for a phone itself. It has a stylish and compact design that makes it easy to bring along when you’re on ventures that leave you away from power outlets.

The charger is able to store enough power to boost your phone from 0-100% in the same amount of time as if you had plugged it into the wall. And if you’re outside, it continues to generate or store power even when it’s in use.

Pros

If you’re in a scenario where you’re disconnected from traditional sources of electricity, the Waka Waka solar charger is a key device to have with you. It not only ensures your phone will have enough power to make calls, but it also provides light via its flashlight functionality.

However, when I tested the device I wasn’t in that type of situation – I wasn’t camping, on a boat or anywhere remote enough to warrant using it as a backup safety device. Yet its function in an everyday setting made me realize it’s even more useful than expected.

I started using the Waka Waka charger when my battery was almost drained, but I was indoors and not conveniently near an outlet. This situation revealed to me how useful the solar powered mobile charger is, even in scenarios where you don’t absolutely need it.

The solar panel had been in the sun all day and the device had a full charge, so I plugged my phone in and carried the charger with me as I was using my phone. It started charging immediately as if it were plugged into the wall, yet I had complete mobility.

Added bonus: you can hold down the power button for 2 seconds and the lights emit morse code signal for S.O.S.

Cons

The only con is the time it takes for the solar panel to generate energy – but that has nothing to do with the device, it’s rather a comment on the state of current solar technology. It takes about 8 hours in the sun to fill the battery, which can be difficult to achieve on an overcast day. But a full charge isn’t required in order to use it either as a charger or a flashlight, so it’s actually rather unimportant.

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Conclusion

The Waka Waka solar charger is an ideal companion for those who find themselves away from traditional power sources for extended periods of time. But also, as I learned myself, it’s a great device for those who are seeking mobility and charging on the go. Even if you’re indoors, the Waka Waka charger acts as a backup battery to boost your phone’s battery life.

Beyond personal use, the charger provides an incredible value to areas of the world where standard electricity is hard to come by. As rural areas develop, and its residents begin adopting mobile phones and tablets, devices like the Waka Waka solar charger will play a key role in ensuring people have power for their tech regardless of where they are in the world, or their situation.

Find out more about the Waka Waka charger at their official website: Waka Waka

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

Solar Lighting: 5 Issues

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Solar lights are very practical items to get to grips with; however there are a few things that you should know to ensure that you get the most from them. High quality solar products offer plenty of light once treated correctly and set up properly.

Of course, it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to set up a successful system and there are only a few things that need to be watched out for. By following the tips below you are ensuring that the solar lights are working to their best and for as long of period as possible.

Face

Placing the solar panels in a south facing orientation ensures that they get the most possible light and that they work to the best of their ability. This is the case for all Northern Hemisphere countries, though is the opposite in the Southern areas.

In most cases, UK gardens are positioned in a southern angle and so this means that this will occur naturally in the case of most homes. This increases the amount of sun they receive and the panel’s efficiency.

If you’re not 100% sure which way your house faces, or which area is south, then check Google maps and you will be able to see the orientation of your home upon finding your house in the software.

Obstructions

Obstruction is the biggest issue for solar panels aside from southern orientation. Even if a solar light is facing south, an obstruction will cause issues that can’t be remedied. So, avoid placing the items in front of buildings, trees or other areas as this will only cause significant issues for the solar lights.

Glass

A lot of people tend to try and charge the lights behind glass, however this doesn’t really work and will reduce the amount of potential for charging by around 90% in most cases. Solar panels indoors will take a lot longer to charge or maybe won’t even charge at all. So, try and ensure that when charging, you do so outside in the openness of day.

Artificial Lights

You’d be surprised at how many people try and charge a solar product under artificial light without realising it’s a waste of time. Charging under solar light is the only way to re-charge a panel and anything else is a waste of time and also of fossil fuels.

Cleaning

A clean solar panel will be significantly more efficient at charging than a dirty one and by reducing the amount of daylight via dirt, the panel takes longer to charge. Clean your panels once a month or more depending on how dirty the area is. They need a wipe down every so often to ensure there are no significant issues regarding lighting.

Solar lighting is generally quite easy to use and a lot easier than conventional lighting in a number of ways. So, by following our tips you get to grips with a lot of the issues at hand and shouldn’t have many problems using the sun as a light resource.


Jo Ryan is a lover of solar power and other green technologies and regularly adds to her garden with https://www.worldofsolar.com/solar-fairy-lights/ and other similar businesses. Image source.

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

FUTUREWATCH: Block Copolymer Solar Cells

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A small team of researchers at the Rice and Pennsylvania State universities has developed a new solar cell that is based on organic block copolymers. The research and the new solar cell have led to the possibility of an entirely new class of solar panels.

The organic block copolymers are compounds that self-arrange into certain layers that are effective at absorbing sunlight, and are significantly better at doing so than other substances that uses polymer as their main ingredient.

Depending on which solar panel type (mono-, polycrystalline or thin-film), the best solar panels usually range between 15-20%. Individual solar cell efficiencies are usually a bit higher than this. Researchers have actually pushed cell-efficiencies up to 43.5%.

The research team at the Rice and Pennsylvania State universities has so far not achieved an efficiency rating higher than 3%, but the exciting part is that the organic block copolymers are cheap, which in the long run could mean a new type of solar panel that can compete on the market.

The new solar cell consists of a block copolymer that arranges itself into bands with a thickness of about 16 nanometers. A layer of aluminum is put on the other side. Electrodes at the top and bottom enable current to flow through the device.

“On paper, block copolymers are excellent candidates for organic solar cells, but no one has been able to get very good photovoltaic performance using block copolymers. We didn’t give up on the idea of block copolymers because there’s really only been a handful of these types of solar cells previously tested. We thought getting good performance using block copolymers was possible if we designed the right materials and fabricated the solar cells under the right conditions.” Says project leader and Rice chemical engineer Rafael Verduzco.

Researchers were already experimenting with using polymer components for solar cells back in the 1980s, but so far we have yet to see any breakthroughs come out of the research. It will be interesting to follow the research of block copolymer solar cells in the coming months and years. If you take a look at a comparison of solar panel efficiencies in 2013, a cell efficiency of 3% is far from exciting news. On the other hand,  a cell based on an organic polymer would be significantly cheaper than one that is silicon-based. Maybe they`re actually onto something?

Original Article on Greener.Ideal