It’s no surprise when I tell you significant data is proving the damaging nature of greenhouse gases (GHGs). But what if I told you climate change is the most pressing threat to the modern world? How would you respond?
Isn’t it war? Hunger? A lack of clean water?
Source: GHG Fast Facts.
The answer? Though of dire importance, all the above epidemics hang under the umbrella of climate change and GHGs. The increasing amount of GHGs in the atmosphere is evident all over the world, seen in severe droughts, extreme fires, record-breaking hurricanes, floods, and heat waves. And with these frightening events, unfortunately, on the rise, the real problems of climate change emerge. They will:
So what can we do to advance the reversal of climate change?
Let’s take a look at the history of global participation in the quest to defeat climate change. Here’s a brief timeline.
Source: US EPA.
What can be taken from these summits? A low carbon society is essential in curbing the devasting effects of climate change. So what’s the chief proponent that will transition the world from decline to rebirth?
You guessed it! Renewable energy. Here are some of the reasons why this industry will propel all countries into a clean, sustainable future:
Climate change brings new opportunities for the rapid development of technologies and global rural development. In moving forward, policymakers need to require clear guidance on implementation, promote motivation for these policies, and establish explicit checks and balances to minimize the potential for market abuse.
As we transition from fossil fuel to a low carbon economy, the success of our efforts rest on the capacity of the renewable energy systems to reduce overall costs while boosting the integration of these energy sources into the main power grid.
The world is slowly waking up, realizing the potential of renewable energy sources, and noting the direct correlation between these resources and the fate of our planet.
Renewable energy is more than just a fight against fossil fuels; it is a gift from the Universe, available for harvest, at any time.
So let’s be responsible. Let’s be ethical. Let’s be respectful.
We don’t own Mother Earth, and she won’t put up with our vandalism much longer.
It’s time everyone did his or her part. It’s time to step up to the plate. How? Volunteer with a local environmental organization. Participate in a beach clean up. Vote!
There are myriad ways to get involved in this historic transition. Be part of the solution and together let’s sustain this Earth today, so it’s here for tomorrow.
You hear the word “sustainable”, and myriad thoughts flood your mind. But then, lost down the mind’s meandering path of mindless chatter, you stop.
You ask yourself, “What is the actual definition of ‘sustainable’?”
According to Dictionary.com, there are many definitions. I think there are two that, together, really hit the nail on the head.
So why is important to go back to the basics? Because today I am going to explain the SDGs, or Sustainable Development Goals, created to replace the Millenial Development Goals that expired in 2015.
Note: Although these goals were created by the United Nations and intended to be adopted by political groups, the foundation or substance behind each of the 17 Goals is universal to the betterment of all mankind.
Let’s define SDGs: a new, universal set of goals, targets, and indicators that the UN Member States will adopt into their political agendas until 2030.
Okay. Great. You may be asking, “Why is this important?”
An in-depth look at each of the 17 Goals generates a call for action, to be an active participant, and to do your civic duty not only as a citizen but as a human being.
Here is a list of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, explained in greater detail below:
End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation.
Reduce inequality within and among countries.
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (taking note of agreements made by the UNFCCC forum).
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss.
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build efficient, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.
For more information on each of the Goals, check out this link from the UN: SDGs Explained.
I know what you’re thinking… “These problems seem so big and complex. I’m only one person. How can I possibly make a difference?”
I hear this all too often. And you know what, there are ways of being more sustainable in everyday life, even from the comfort of your own sofa! Let me fill you in on some easy, energy saving tips you can use daily. Every person counts; the more people who consciously make the decision to be mindful of their choices contribute to the movement. And believe me, the momentum is unstoppable!
Remember: ever conscious choice to make a sustainable decision fuels the flame of change and progress.
So, how can you be more sustainable at home?
Here’s a brief list:
For a comprehensive list of recommendations, visit the following:
There you have it! The SDGs explained, with examples of how you can start small and gradually increase your sphere of action to be the vital change needed in the current storm of political unrest.
Now go! See how you can make 1 thing in your room or house more sustainable.
I dare you!
It’s a topic that has been newsworthy for years now but hasn’t entirely picked up enough momentum to gain universal appeal. Why is that?
When looking at biofuels or biomass, think about what’s been done – hydrogen fuel cells, natural gas, even running your neighbor’s 1993 Volvo station wagon on vegetable oil.
The problem seems to be that you still need to create something to generate the fuel. That involves processing, manufacturing, more products, more energy used and even more waste.
What if your “ingredients” were already made, just floating in the air around you?
This is where CRI – Carbon Recycling International – comes in.
Based in Grindavik, Iceland, CRI leads the world in power to methanol technology. Their process, known as “Emissions to Liquids” (ETL), utilizes resources already generated to convert greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) with electricity to produce a viable, renewable methanol for energy storage, fuel purposes, and energy enhancements.
How do they do this? Simple.
CRI captures CO2 emissions from the air and combines them with byproduct hydrogen H2 molecules provided by renewable energy sources (geothermal, hydro, wind, or solar). Then, an electrochemical reaction and distillation process coveted by CRI’s ETL technology begins a low pressure and low-temperature production process to convert GHG into a renewable fuel source.
So why is this so important?
In an age where, unfortunately, fossil fuels are still prevalent, and the threat of global warming increases every day, ETL and technologies like it are needed now more than ever.
Think about the how much it takes to produce synthetic fuels and then let me enlighten you.
Conventional synthetic fuels high-temperature, high pressure thermochemical (heat reaction) processes. These processes are both capital and fossil energy exhaustive. The sources to produce these fuels are coal and gas, which both need to be mined off-site and transported over long distances to processing plants. Thus, the entire chain of production increases CO2 emissions and can be uneconomical.
Their answer? Vulcanol.
Let me give you a brief list of some of the benefits of the production and use of Vulcanol:
All in all, the benefits of Vulcanol or renewable methanol do not require fertile land, produces no GHG in the production cycle, and consciously uses renewable energy with a known, fixed cost and minimal environmental destruction.
Hats off, CRI and the Icelandic model of a renewable existence!
Your technology and commitment to clean energy and fuels burn hope for a brighter, cleaner world.a
Now that we know some of the basics, let us dive deeper into geothermal and look at how steam and/or hot water generates electricity in 3 types of power plants:
These plants use the same hydrothermal resources (“hydro” = water & “thermal” = heat) and require the temperature of the resource to be between 300°F to 700°F. These resources can be geothermal reservoirs, hot water wells, or ground temperature.
Let’s now examine each of these power plants more closely.
Sources: U.S. Department of Energy.
On a smaller scale, say to power a building, one can implement a geothermal heat pump. The heat pump uses the fact that about 10 feet under the ground surface, the Earth is consistently between 50°F and 60°F. This means that in winter the ground is warmer than the air and in summer the ground is cooler than the air. The pump transfers the heat from the ground in the winter and reverses the process in the summer. This is a great way of keeping a constant temperature in a building year-round.
Per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), geothermal heat pumps are the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective systems for heating/cooling structures of any kind.
So how do these plants work exactly? They all use heated water or working liquid and when the steam passes through the turbine, the heat is converted to electricity in a generator through electromagnetic induction (a process where a conductor is placed in a changing magnetic field and that field flux produces a voltage across the conductor).
This electricity is then distributed through the grid to various access points (houses, schools, hospitals, etc.). For every one unit of energy used to power the system, three to four units are produced (since energy is conserved by not burning fossil fuels for heat).
For a quick visualization of this process, watch the brief video below!
As we embark to adopt renewables as the norm, geothermal provides us with the an exceptional, reliable form of energy. If you have the option of getting some of your power through geothermal energy, do it! Start the revolution by asking your power provider for alternative energy. With such a clean, low-cost, and highly efficient system, it brings hope to the future of the power grid.
Unlike the other categories, geothermal may be the most mysterious in its application. So… here are some of the basics.
Geothermal energy comes from the Greek words “geo” = Earth & “therme” = heat. The term “Earth heat” describes the energy released from the Earth as both warmth and power.
Great. But how does it get to be useable? How does it get from the core to the surface? The answer is simple: conduction & convection.
Conduction occurs when the heat flows out from the core and transfers onto the cooler, adjacent mantle (a layer of rock). As the heat reaches the surface of the mantle, some of the rock gets too hot and becomes magma, slowly rising (convection) with the heat from the Earth’s core. The heat then either heats up pools of rainwater formed below ground (known as geothermal reservoirs) or erupts from cracks in the surface as geysers or hot springs.
Source: Geothermal Energy Association
These methods of heat transfer have been harvested by humans dating back 10,000 years ago to Native Americans using them for medicine and cooking, while later on Romans for baths and heating buildings. Ever since the early 1900s, engineers and scientists have been drilling production wells, or wells tapping into the geothermal pockets of water. When the hot water and/or steam rises to the surface, it can be used to push turbines that in turn generate electricity. Once the water has passed the turbine, it is much cooler and the cooler water returns to the reservoir by an injection well, which stabilizes the pressure, reheats the water, and sustains the reservoir.
What are some of the advantages of geothermal energy? Here’s a list:
And what about some of the byproducts? You may be familiar with some:
So when all is said and done, isn’t geothermal tons of fun?!
The uses of geothermal power are the gifts of Earth’s core. As we begin transitioning into more of its applications, I imagine quite a different world – a world that is more relaxed, more at ease, more in tune with the Earth and her powers, and more loving as a result.
Featured Image Source: Smithsonian
The future of wind energy may end up surprising you if Vortex Bladeless gains enough momentum with its crowdfunding capabilities. Though in its preliminary stages of design, implementation, and data collection, Vortex offers a unique solution to the age-old problem of a concept designers and engineers have come to know and despise – vorticity.
Vorticity is a vector quantity (it has both magnitude AND applied direction), meaning it is the rate of change or curl of a flow field. In other words, vorticity is the measure of circulation of a fluid. For our purposes, this fluid is air and can be visualized as whirlpools of wind.
So, why have engineers and designers avoided vorticity in the design process? Simple. When there is enough wind energy, vorticity can cause oscillation in structures. In extreme cases, like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, vorticity can lead to the failure and collapse of an entire system!
OK. Great. But how does this all factor into the next generation of wind turbines? Here’s where the science gets innovative and intriguing. The founders of the Spanish company Vortex Bladeless (David Suriol, David Yáñez, and Raul Martín) use a different approach altogether for capturing the potential of the wind and converting it to electricity. Instead of working against the natural ebbs inherent in wind, these designers created a prototype that uses the vortices of the wind (the circulation around a fixed point) acting along the axis of the “mast”. The mast is made out of a combination of fiberglass and carbon-fiber, allowing the mast to vibrate as much as possible. As the wind disrupts the stationary position of the mast, the mast vibrates back and forth. At its base, two repelling magnetic rings enhance the movement of the mast, amplifying the kinetic energy of the system that is then converted to electricity via an alternator.
Source: Vortex Bladeless
Pretty cool, huh? This self-perpetuating system offers more advantages that really ignite interest from investors. There are no gears, no mechanically moving parts, or bolts. This reduces manufacturing costs by 53%, operating costs by 51%, operational expenditures by 80%, global power generation reduction by 40%, and carbon footprint reduction by 40%! With all this said, it almost sounds too good to be true.
After some research and analysis of test areas using the Vortex Bladeless technology, it shows that it captures about 30% less energy from the wind; however, what it lacks in overall energy collection, it makes up for in that you can install double the amount of Vortex turbines into the same space as one traditional wind turbine.
So what’s next for this prototype? Measures are already underway for two new innovations: the Vortex Atlantis (rating of 100W) and the Vortex Mini (rating of 4KW). The Vortex Atlantis means to harness the wind energy of a small, distributed grid system (i.e. a household for consumer needs) and intended for use in combination with solar or PV grid systems. The Vortex Mini means to utilize wind on the industrial and commercial-scale by using this concept by way of a centralized energy grid.
Source: Vortex Bladeless
Compelling in its attitude to shift the paradigm away from blade-driven turbines, Vortex Bladeless caught onto the inherent gift of vortices in wind and saw inspiration where others saw fear. By stepping back and examining the problem with different lenses, opportunity arises in the unlikeliest of places.
You may be asking yourself… what does “Energiewende” mean and why is it creating a buzz in the world of renewable energy?
Because of German innovation and engineering. It is revolutionizing the way engineers view energy systems and their relationship to the natural environment.
“Energiewende“, or energy transition, is the process Germany is undertaking to adhere to its pledge of 100% renewable energy production by 2050. In doing so, German engineers at Max Bögl Wind AG are pairing up with GE Renewable Energy to produce the world’s first hybrid renewable energy plant, located in the Swabian-Franconian forest. This project is an experiment in combining hydropower and wind to create a hybrid prototype power plant.
Wind farms are cheap, effective ways of capturing energy from the air, but there is one problem: what happens when the wind stops blowing? To create a steady, reliable flow of energy from these farms, German engineers created the world’s first wind-hydro turbines to generate power when there is no breeze!
How are they doing this?
To better understand how this system works, we first need a brief look at the local geography. The map below shows how engineers analyzed the forest’s hills, valleys & the Kochner River to develop an integrated, close-looped hybrid system.
Now let’s take a look at the details.
Each turbine stands 809 feet tall (the largest in the world) and contains a 1.6 million gallon reservoir at its base, with an additional 9 million gallon reservoir in the surrounding area. When the wind blows, it stores energy from the spinning blades by pumping water 100 feet up inside the turbine’s tower. When the wind stops blowing, water flows downhill from Wind turbine 2 to the lower reservoir, producing hydroelectric power. The water is collected in the lower reservoir and pumped back up the system when energy is not needed. Any excess energy produced goes directly to the connected power grid. Photovoltaic panels on the roofs of structures in nearby towns like Münster use its excess energy to aid powering the pumped storage power plant that sends the water uphill. Then, when the the wind returns, the water is stored in each turbine like a giant battery and the blades resume powering the grid.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
And there you have it! A reliable hybrid power plant. Pretty cool, huh?
At full capacity, it estimates producing 13.6 megawatts, along with another 16 megawatts from the hydroelectric plant. That’s enough energy to power roughly 22,200 residential homes!
The four wind turbines are scheduled to connect to the grid this year, with the hydropower plant completed in 2018. GE Renewable Energy onshore wind general manager Cliff Harris said this about the project:
“Germans in this area are known as tinkerers and inventors. So the mentality of this technology really fits with the population. It’s a bit risky, and it can’t work everywhere. But the plant will run for several decades, and we expect the benefits will be felt over that time.”
And so as Germany transitions from fossil fuels to renewable energy, prototypes such as the wind-hydro power plant are just the tip of the iceberg. Inspiring and fascinatingly simple, this hybrid process serves as a laudable example for power plants where geography permits.
Look out for more projects using this innovative approach popping up all over the globe. It just goes to show what is possible when leaders join forces to increase the efficacy of current renewable energy solutions.
Vielen Dank, Germany!