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In France All New Commercial Buildings Must Install Green Roofs or Solar Panels

26 Jun

France has introduced a new building requirement in its commercial zones. It calls for all roofs to be partially covered in either solar panels or plants. This is just a recent green headline to come from France following the Eiffel Tower wind turbines and the tree shaped wind turbines that are being installed in the capital.

Green roofs have been around for centuries in different corners of the world. We have seen an increase in green roof interest due to growing concerns surrounding climate change, carbon footprints and sustainability. It is not only roof’s that can be covered; walls can also have a green makeover. They offer many advantages to the public and private sectors ranging from waste diversion to energy efficiency.

A further benefit of a green roof is its isolating effect which allows buildings to better retain their heat during the winter months while reflecting and absorbing solar radiation during the summer months, allowing buildings to remain cooler.

They can help reduce the distribution of dust and particle matter through cities to combat the smog issue. They play a huge role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and help adapt urban areas to predicted future climates with warmer summers.

Green roofs also have the ability to reduce sound from outside by up to 40 decibels. They have excellent noise reduction, especially for low frequency sounds.

Originally, French environmental activists had asked for all rooftops to be 100% green. The Socialist government convinced activists to limit the scope of the law to just commercial buildings.

By giving businesses the option to install solar panels rather than green roofs, France could catch up some with its neighbours when it comes to solar energy.

Germany currently has the highest installed capacity of solar and shows no signs of slowing down. Think Progress recently reported that France had only five gigawatts of photovoltaics implemented as of last summer, accounting for only one percent of all energy production.

Since 2009, Toronto Canada has had a similar mandatory green roof law in place, requiring green roofs on new buildings. Preliminary studies suggested that the city could save hundreds of millions of dollars in energy costs. France is making an investment in energy independence, efficiency, and stability.

Maybe we should all be looking at green roofs in our cities?




Indian Railway Tests Solar Powered Trains To Help Cut Fuel Bills And Pollution

16 Jun

India has one of the largest railway networks in the world carrying an estimated 23 million passengers daily on approximately 12,000 trains. In a huge move Indian Railways could soon be running its trains via solar power which would be a momentous move for the countries environmental conservation. The railway also transports around 3 million tonnes of freight daily which requires an enormous amount of energy.

At the forefront of the operation, Indian Railways plans to tackle the railways current fuel bill which currently constitutes as the second largest part of its expenditure, the first being its employee salaries. In 2012, Indian Railways consumed nearly 3 million kilolitres of diesel oil and about 14 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.

Diesel alone is costing Rs30,000 crore (£3.02 billion) and overtime has been chomping away at the bank balance for Indian Railways.

The potential for solar energy in India is massive. Harnessing it will not only control diesel consumption (by up to 90,000 litres per year) and reduce carbon dioxide emissions (by over 200 tonnes), but also prove extremely cost-effective.

A prototype of a solar powered non air conditioned coach is currently undertaking trials, and soon the entire train will be fitted with solar panels, officials have said. At present, nearly 17 units of electricity are being generated from the solar powered coach. The cost of installing the panels on each coach, according to the Economic Times, is about Rs3.9 lakh (£3,905), and these are expected to result in savings of Rs1.24 lakh (£1,241) per year.

By 2020, Indian Railways plans for renewable energy to create at least 10% of its total energy consumption. The primary action is to implement solar-powered lighting via panels mounted on the roofs of trains.

As per the plan, the train would be pulled by conventional diesel-run engines while solar panels will provide all the internal electricity needs for lights and fans on both air conditioned and no air conditioned coaches.

The solar panelled coach will be tested in an assortment of conditions in the upcoming weeks by the Indian Institute of Science and the coach makers themselves, Integral Coach Factory.

Indian Railways also propose to harness solar energy in their train stations by implementing solar panels to the buildings roofs. The rail network plans 1,000 megawatts of solar-power projects in the next five years, Minister Suresh Prabhu said in parliament. Developers can use the railway land and buildings to set up solar panels.  The solar power will be used to light up stations and office buildings.

The worlds largest wind farm approved for the Yorkshire coast

27 Feb

Ahhhh Great Britain…home to the Queen, tea-lovers, James Bond and the rain. Soon to be added to this impressive list is only the world’s largest offshore wind farm. It has been announced that the UK energy secretary has just approved an array of 400 turbines to be constructed around 80 miles off the Yorkshire coast in northern England.

The wind farm will be more than twice the size of the UK’s current biggest offshore wind farm and could satisfy 2.5% of the UK’s electricity needs. This is enough to power around two million homes. Smashing.

The project has been named ‘The Dogger Bank Creyke Beck Project’ due to its location being the Dogger Bank. It will cover around 430 square miles and cost £6bn to £8bn to build. A huge positive to the project is that it could support an estimated 900 new jobs in Yorkshire and Humberside.

The location of the project is ideal due to it having a shallow seabed, only around 30 meters deep. This will make it easier to set foundations and install the large turbines. Though there has been little exploration that could confirm this officially. If built at this location, the turbines will be the furthest offshore that has ever been attempted.

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat energy and climate change secretary, states: “Making the most of Britain’s home-grown energy is creating jobs and businesses in the UK, getting the best deal for consumers and reducing our reliance on foreign imports. Wind power is vital to this plan, with £14.5bn invested since 2010 into an industry which supports 35,400 jobs.”

We do not manufacture the large wind turbines here in the UK, but the Department of Energy and Climate have said half the costs connected with building a wind farm are spent with UK businesses for their products and services. Construction of the first turbines could still be years away.

The last big offshore wind farm in the UK was the London Array. Sadly the project had some issues between 2005 and 2007 after gaining the government’s green light in a drawn out process. It led to investors withdrawing and the costs escalating. Nonetheless, the London Array came through strong with its 175 turbines and was installed in 2013.

Currently in the UK we have around 1,200 offshore wind turbines generating a total capacity of about 4GW. Impressive when you think of how tiny we are in this huge world.





The UK’s largest solar farm is switched online

9 Jan

The largest solar farm in the UK has been turned on capable of powering up to 14,000 homes. The farm in Landmead has been connected to the national grid in Oxfordshire. The solar farm sports an impressive 46-megawatt capacity and has been implemented on land which is currently being used to graze sheep. The sheep will remain on the site along with new wildflowers to be planted as part of efforts to improve the site’s biodiversity.

The land also provides habitat for bee’s which has been encouraged by the UK’s environment secretary, Liz Truss. Although, the Landmead solar farm faced disapproval from Truss who claimed that solar projects obstruct food production amongst UK farms. It was also announced that farmers would lose agricultural subsidies if they allowed solar panels on their farmland.

Landmead Solar Farm

The Department of Energy and Climate Change plan to bring forward the end of the current subsidy regime for large solar farms, with ministers saying they wanted to see more solar on building rooftops and less mounted on the ground.

Landmead with First Solar is co-owned by Beletric whose chief executive has announced that the changes would not affect them. Toddlington Harper went on to say;

 “I think the changes to the subsidy scheme have certainly made life more difficult. Having said that, though they have changed the ROC scheme [Renewable Obligation Certificates, the subsidies being phased out], within the Contracts for Difference [the new subsidy scheme], there is still an opportunity to deliver projects like this for the UK,”

In part of Harpers defence he pointed to a Department of Energy and climate change survey which showed the popularity of solar with the general public. Around 200 people were employed during the construction phase of the project.

Belectric currently have 10 solar farms established in the UK with enough potential to power 40,000 homes per year. They have a further ten smaller projects in the pipeline.

Landmead has a grade three ranking on a scale of 1-5 when it comes to the quality of the soil. It has been argued the land has a history of not draining well and thus is not very effective for growing crops.

Landmead won’t be the largest solar farm in the UK for much longer: a new farm is planned at an old RAF site in Norfolk and will generate 49.9 megawatts. Construction will begin this year.

Landmead Solar Farm



Iceland plans to get hot and steamy…

28 Feb

The Earths centre is around 6000 degrees Celsius and is hot enough to melt rock. At just a few kilometres down, the temperature can be over 250 degrees Celsius if the Earth’s crust is thin.

Geothermal energy works as follows; Hot rocks underground heat water to produce steam. We then drill holes down to the hot region; steam comes up, is purified and used to drive turbines, which drive electric generators. Walla we have energy.

Geothermal energy is not a recent development; it has been used for thousands of years. In some countries, they used this form of energy for cooking and heating. The name “geothermal” comes from two Greek words: “geo” means “Earth” and “thermal” means “heat”.

Iceland has decided to break records by becoming the first country to utilise the world’s magma as a source of power. The country has built a geothermal energy system to take advantage of the Earths heat to generate electricity.

Geothermal systems are currently well established in science which involves pumping water deep below the ground, which boils, turns to steam and pushes a turbine as it returns back to the surface. But Iceland has gone the extra mile. They have created a system which produces steam in a region of molten, rather than solid rock.

In Iceland the researchers fitted a valve where superheated steam could flow through in sufficient quantities to generate 36 megawatts of power. This will mark the second time researchers have effectively drilled into a magma bubble. The only country before this was Hawaii, who created a plug and installed it to the bottom of the hole for protection.

Iceland made precautions to connect the steam output to a nearby electrical plant in Krafla (Northeast Iceland), but the valve failed resulting in the hole needing to be closed. Regardless of this, the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) has confidence in that it can reopen the hole, 2.1 kilometres below the surface.

They also intend to drill an additional borehole in the Reykjanes peninsula in the southwest of the country. The IDDP said;

“The experiment at Krafla suffered various setbacks and tried personnel and equipment throughout. However, the process itself was very instructive, and… comprehensive reports on practical lessons learned are nearing completion.”

“The success of this drilling and research is amazing to say the least, and could in the near future lead to a revolution in energy efficiency in high-temperature geothermal areas of the world”

A major problem with geothermal energy is the cost of test drilling as approximately 50% of test drilling produces negative results with zero geothermal activity. This becomes difficult when commercial banks are involved as it is simply too high a risk to fund. Thus, countries must be confident on where this type of technology can and should be installed.

A number of countries around the world have some confidence when it comes to geothermal energy as they are located on what is known as ‘The ring of fire’.  This is an area where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in the basin of the Pacific Ocean. In a 40,000 km (25,000 mi) horseshoe shape, it is associated with a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and/or plate movements. It has 452 volcanoes and is home to over 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes.

So, while all eyes are currently on Iceland…if successful we could see a huge jump in geothermal, utilising the natural resources the Earth has to offer.

In a galaxy far far away…A drone beamed energy back down to earth!

29 Nov

A company called ‘New Wave Energy UK’ has a new technological goal for gathering solar, wind and heat energy. With ideas such as having solar panels in space, or wind turbines flying at high altitude, New Wave Energy UK intends to develop something new. By using drones they intend to harvest energy from 50,000 feet above the surface of the earth, and then beam it back down to us. Move over solar space power plants and bring on the drones.

The drones created by New Wave Energy UK are very clever in that they each harvest enough energy to power themselves, and send the remainder to the planet to power our homes, offices and devices. The company have a unique selling point in which they focus on the fact there is little biodiversity or air traffic at that height meaning one drone could harvest energy from several sources.

First of all, the company are going to test out the new drones on a much smaller scale. They will be used to help in natural disasters by providing energy to search and rescue missions, along with other emergency services. Then it will be referred to remote or developing regions which have no connection to an energy grid. If no problems are met then the ultimate step will be to scale up the generating capacity of the units and the volume in order to provide power to an entire country!

In a recent press release, New Wave Energy UK said;

“The technology is a wireless solution which will incorporate wireless power transmission from the drones (and their wireless network) to the Earth’s surface, another new technology developed by multiple bodies in the USA and Japan for energy production using solar satellites. Aerial energy harvesting is in its infancy however does show great promise.”

According to Gizmag, “Each drone will have four rotors, multiple wind turbines and a flat base for generating solar power. It’ll be able to power itself with the harvested energy and generate an additional 50 kW that can be transmitted wirelessly to the ground. Rectenna arrays installed inland or on offshore installations would receive the electromagnetic waves and convert them into usable power.”

One concern faced is the reliability of the technology, with being 50,000ft above the planet, there is little room for error, as each drone contains many components each with the potential to break. Therefore, the company have been working hard to develop a drone that could easily be updated.

How do you feel about these drones? Brilliant idea or a bit too terminator 2 for your liking? We would love to hear your suggestions below!

The true cost of fossil fuels

18 Oct

A new study carried out in America has shown that a switch to renewables by the U.S would benefit them financially and also be good for the planet. The study aims for a more holistic count on energy costs. At face value producing electricity from fossil fuels such as coal would seem the cheaper option, but it fails to take into account the bigger picture.

At present so many different departments are combating their rising carbon footprints whether it is public health, environmental or social – the costs of all polluting energy resources are factored in. The argument is that renewables like wind and solar would actually be cheaper when everything is taken into account.

The highest pollution levels generated in America come from coal-fired power plants which account for 40% of the country’s carbon footprint. Burning coal in the modern day leads to uncountable and unintentional pricey consequences such as an increase in respiratory illnesses, heart disease, environmental impacts (climate change), and premature death.

The Department of Energy currently use a metric they call the “social cost of carbon”. This basically argues that for every ton of carbon emitted by the plants, a cost of $33 dollars is taxed to society in indirect costs.

Dr Laurie Johnson, the chief economist in the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defence Council states. “There are no federal limits on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants may release. That’s wrong. It doesn’t make sense. It’s putting our future at risk. We limit the amount of mercury, arsenic, soot, and other harmful pollution from these plants. It’s time to cut this carbon pollution.”

Whether you believe in climate change or not, we cannot argue with the recent extreme weather events taking place. Johnson has estimated that $100 Billion USD tax dollars were spent last year alone due to events linked to climate change. Thus, in addition to the added health costs from carbon pollution – the effect it is having on the environment alone is a huge economic problem.

“Already, climate change is contributing to record heat waves, floods, drought, wildfires and severe storms,” says Johnson. “These damages are only likely to increase if nothing is done to reduce carbon pollution.”

All is not lost though…according to the study replacing coal plants with renewable energy sources would save the U.S plenty of money. A cheaper way would be to replace a typical existing coal-fired power plant with a wind turbine and any electricity generation from wind could be more economically efficient than natural gas.

The study has shown that by implementing cleaner options such as wind, solar and natural gas the country can cut carbon pollution from power plants in a cost effective way. “Burning coal is a very costly way to make electricity,” Johnson concludes. “There are more efficient and sustainable ways to get power.”


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