Smart Grid Overview
It often seems like smaller countries are doing the most to tackle climate change; nations like Switzerland and Austria have some of the best recycling systems in the world, while the likes of Bhutan and Costa Rica are doing more than anyone to become carbon neutral nations. However, there are some major Western European nations that are making interesting attempts to improve their carbon footprints.
In 2015, France made it a legal requirement for all new buildings in commercial zones to cover part of their rooftops in plants or solar panels. This helps reduce the amount of energy it takes for these buildings to be heated in the winter, or cooled in the summer. The law could have gone further, and was watered down from original plans to cover the whole roofs of every new buildings in such a fashion, but this is still an inventive and hugely productive way to make buildings more energy efficient.
The United Kingdom has made a legally binding commitment to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% come 2050. Currently, the UK Green Building Council is running an exciting project to refurbish its office in a creative, clever, and environmentally friendly fashion.
It hopes this office will have the lowest measured fit-out carbon footprint in the UK, as well as to use 98% recycled materials over the course of the redesign. They have also worked to encourage major cities in the UK to take on environmental challenges, helping places like Manchester and Birmingham embrace innovative, refreshing green design.
Some of the most impressive green buildings in the world are to be found in Germany. The city of Freiburg boasts several of them, including the Solarsiedlung (Solar Settlement) and the Sonnenschiff (Sun Ship), which is a small, vibrant community powered entirely by solar energy in the city district of Vauban.
What's particularly impressive is just how energy efficient the Reichstag (Germany's parliament) is- the building generates 80% of the energy it uses itself, and there is a special insulation system to prevent unnecessary heat loss. It all comes together to make the Reichstag one of the world's most energy efficient major buildings.
Stefano Boeri's jaw dropping 'Bosco Verticale,' or 'Vertical Forest,' consists of two skyscrapers with trees planted on special platforms. These skyscrapers are tall enough to sustain more trees than an entire hectare of forest could. On a bright, sunny day, the Bosco Verticale really is one of the most stunning things in Milan, as lush vegetation springs confidently forth from the skyscrapers, turning the skyline a delightfully vivid green.
Of course, there is a practical purpose to this as well, as the extra trees guzzle up CO2 and dust particles and emit clean oxygen, as well as bringing natural warmth to the building, and protecting people and houses from sustained exposure to harmful sun rays. Gutsy projects like this may make all the difference in the future in ensuring our cities remain appealing places to live.
In September of 2016, the Kamuthi solar plant in Tamil Nadu, India was revealed. As a result, India is now number three in the world for solar utility systems, behind only the United States and China. To reach the third spot, India had to gain on the United Kingdom, and this solar farm gave them just enough edge.
This plant was built and funded by Adani power, which was founded on August 22, 1996, as an energy trading company. They took their first step into power generation with a massive coal power project in Mundra. On October 2, 2011, it became the largest thermal power generating company.This huge solar energy plant appears to be Adani’s first venture into massive solar projects.
Who Had the Record Prior?
The previous record for largest solar plant belonged to The Topaz Solar Plant in California, which has a total capacity of 550 megawatts. The Kamuthi plant, by comparison, has a capacity of 648 megawatts. The facility occupies 2,500 acres and can supply energy for hundreds of thousands of homes.
How Green is India?
The first country to set up a ministry of non-conventional energy resources, India has been working towards more sustainable energy sources since the early 1980s. Taking into account this new solar power plant, India has a total of 44.34 gigawatts of capacity attached to renewable sources of energy. The Ministry of Renewable Energy, whose mission statement is to “increase the share of clean power, increase the availability of energy and improve its access, improve energy affordability, and maximize energy equity,” plans to increase this number to 175 gigawatts by the year 2022, and to generate 40% of the country’s electricity from renewable resources by 2030, and this solar power plant shows just how dedicated they are.
How Long Did it Take to Build?
This massive structure was built in only eight months. This feat was accomplished through the dedication of 8,500 team members, who worked 24 hours a day to complete the project. Perhaps as a result of the quick and efficient build, this project cost only $679 million, which dwarfs the smaller Topaz Farm budget, which was around $2.5 billion.
What Plans Does India Have for More Plants?
India has plans to build approximately 25 more large solar power stations, with capacities between 500 and 1000 megawatts. India is also focusing on bringing clean electricity to remote villages and is taking on many other environmental initiatives. If they are successful in this goal, it would mean the world’s new largest solar power plant will soon be replaced by another super capacity power plant in the same country. India, along with China, has an incredible population, and for both of these countries to be working to decrease their impact on the environment so rigorously will have a substantial, positive impact on environmental health.
How important is clean drinking and potable water for household use? 1/3 of the world’s population doesn’t have access to clean drinking water. The water used for cooking, cleaning and bathing must also be clean, as many diseases (especially in developing countries) are water-borne diseases, from bacteria or other microorganisms in unclean water (see: http://globalhydration.com/resources/waterbone-disease). In fact, over 10% of the world’s population doesn’t even have access to clean potable water. Meanwhile, over 70% of the earth is covered in water.
1(a). The most immediate way to help the world water crisis is to provide filters to people who lack clean water, primarily to the 3rd world and low-income people of the world. This takes relief funds, both established by governments and private charities. There are many promising and emerging water purification technologies such as LifeStraw. "LifeStraw technology was originally introduced in 2005 as an emergency response tool to filter water..." (http://lifestraw.com)
(more clean water technologies are described here)- http://www.cleverism.com/water-purification-new-technologies-change-world/
Established, available filter technologies also range from: activated charcoal (or other carbon-based materials) to new nanotechnologies which use materials such as graphene, silver and titanium which are made into microscopic filtration membranes. There are a variety of very promising uses of graphene in newly designed and developed filters -(https://agenda.weforum.org/2015/07/can-graphene-make-the-worlds-water-clean/).
More media on nanotechnologies (including graphene materials used in combination with other nanomaterials):
Another great example of the use of graphene in water filters and water systems comes from the company G2O: http://g2o.co/
“G2O’s graphene filter technology addresses a $2Bn market and reducing energy costs by up to 97%. In addition to use in filter technologies, this company sees applications for its graphene technology in:
- Environmental maritime applications in aquaculture and oil & gas production
- Drain water and waste water management
- Desalination of seawater”
1(b). Develop more water treatment (storm water, river/ stream/ lake water, industrial use water, sewage) plants (http://www.waterworld.com/waste-water/treatment.html)
2. Improve and create new rainwater collection systems such as the ones found here: http://www.rainharvest.com/
3. Water reclamation:
- http://tinyurl.com/j2wsbv8 - "To effectively capture and prepare water for reuse will require a greater level of coordination between municipal agencies (water/wastewater), an understanding of the economic drivers influencing treatment or reuse, and the means of paying for the required infrastructure."
4. Develop more desalination plants...(please check the desalination article on our website: http://www.greencitytimes.com/Sustainability-News/water-desalination-clean-water-for-a-thirsty-world.html" style="color: rgb(33, 117, 155); outline: none;">desalination-clean-water-for-a-thirsty-world and also http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/may/27/desalination-quest-quench-worlds-thirst-water
5. Improve water infrastructure (reservoirs, aqueducts, piping networks…) and 6. Utilities (especially in 3rd world countries) to further develop the use of micro-payments via mobile/ smart phones (also great for solar electricity, in addition to water)
Individuals and governments the world over are beginning to understand that if we don’t act now, as a global community, the environment is in grave peril. One major step many communities of the world have taken is educating about, and enforcing, recycling standards. Increased wealth and population, extreme consumerism, and lifestyle changes, have led to increased waste. Recycling reduces toxins released into the atmosphere from landfills and reduces the pollution generated in manufacturing more (fully recyclable) packaging of products.
Which countries recycle the most?
The top five countries for recycling are Germany, South Korea, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland. Germany gained number one status by implementing what is called the green dot initiative. In order to get a green dot on the package, manufacturers have to pay a fee based on the size of the packaging, which is used for recycling. Manufacturers have thereby been encouraged to reduce the volume of packaging, and to make packaging more easily recyclable. This encourages companies to produce more minimalistic and innovative packaging. They also came up with an intricate system of domestic and commercial sorting to make sure every material is able to be recycled properly. The Green Dot system started in Germany in 1991, and now has spread to 26 countries on the European continent. The following European (and 1 Asian) nations are the best at recycling in the world today:
5) SWITZERLAND: The Swiss national character places a high value on order and cleanliness- you can spend a couple of nights in jail simply for taking the recycling out on the wrong day- so it's no surprise they are among the best recyclers in the world. It actually costs a Euro to simply throw your trash away rather than recycle it. The government don't just bribe and coerce people to recycle though; there are also bottle banks at every supermarket, and free paper collections once a month. Switzerland are busy creating a culture where it is actively unusual not to recycle.
4) AUSTRIA: Austria has taken a comprehensive approach to encouraging its citizens to recycle. The combination of economic incentives, the successful implementation of education and training programs, and memorable advertising campaigns have thoroughly convinced Austrian citizens of the value recycling, and helped turn Austria into the fourth biggest recycler in the world.
3) BELGIUM-Some people consider Belgium's recycling program to be the best in Europe. The Flemish part of Belgium has the highest waste diversion rate on the continent, with nearly three-quarters of its waste getting recycled or composted. What's more, the Flemish economy has grown significantly since 2000, yet the level of waste generation has remained consistently low; usually economic growth goes hand in hand with a rise in the production of waste. Switzerland, Austria and Belgium are three relatively small central European nations who continuously outperform much larger nations when it comes to recycling.
2) SOUTH KOREA: South Korea spends 2% of its GDP on a Green Growth Plan, hoping to deliver environmentally friendly economic prosperity. Its recycling industry is booming, and major companies are on board. Each apartment block has a fastidious recycling system similar to the Swiss model, where recycling is free but merely throwing items in the trash costs you a small amount of money. Wherever you are in the world, it seems economic incentives are an effective way of convincing people to care about recycling.
The #1 country in the world for recycling is Germany!
Who Recycles the Worst?
The worst countries worldwide for recycling are Turkey and Chile. Turkey recycles a mere 1% of its total waste. The government places little to no importance on the recycling issue. Chile is known for having bad infrastructure for waste management, and so a lot of illegal dumping occurs.
How Can We Improve Recycling Rates?
In order to improve recycling rates, it is important to make recycling receptacles ubiquitously available. This means both installing public receptacles, and providing recycling services free of charge to residential areas. Most people will choose to recycle when it presents no apparent added effort.
When people have to think too hard about which item goes in which bin, they tend to give up and either throw it in a random bin, or just throw it in the trash. Unless zero-sort recycling infrastructure is already in place, incorrectly recycled items create increased cost in the recycling process. In fact, zero-sort facilities are a great way to avoid the apparent added effort of having to think. Most people know that, in general, glass, paper, and plastic are recyclable, and everything else is landfill material. With zero-sort receptacles, there is no added thought required.
Creating a penalty for not recycling is also a tool that can be implemented for increased community recycling. It actually costs you to not recycle, and throw out your trash is a special plastic bag, in Switzerland. In Denmark, trash disposal is closely monitored and regulated in order to ensure the maximal recycling is done correctly.Germany issues each household 5 different colors/ categories of recycling bins. Examples of cities where you can be fined if you don't recycle, include Burlington, VT; Dayton, OH; San Francisco, CA and Cardiff, Wales.
Most importantly, city officials need to evaluate the needs of their city. If it is particularly windy, they may need to provide covered bins for residence; if there is constant illegal dumping, they may need to provide more accessible recycling and trash centers. The needs of each community vary so widely that it is impossible to prescribe one generic solution. The important take away is that we all need to be doing something as a global community, to increase environmental welfare.
For information on an innovative recycling program starting now in the UK, please see: http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/food-waste-recycling-action-plan
The two desalination plants featured in this article, one in San Diego, California, and one in Tel Aviv, Israel, represent the two largest desalination plants using reverse osmosis in the world. Desalination represents a part of the solution to the world water crisis, along with wastewater treatment, and distributing water filters to the poor, especially in 3rd world areas. Worldwide, only 1 in 9 people have access to clean drinking water, Although Carlsbad and Tel Aviv don’t represent the struggles with water scarcity in the third world, they do represent solutions to the growing need for clean water in the world, as a whole. Both plants use a technology called reverse osmosis as part of the process.
"The largest ocean desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere is open in Carlsbad, San Diego, heralding what may be a new era in U.S. water use."
[Carlsbad desal plant]
"Global desalination output has tripled since 2000: 16,000 plants are up and running around the world, and the pace of construction is expected to increase while the technology continues to improve. Desalination is ripe for technological improvement. A combination of sensor-driven optimization and automation, energy-efficient technology that is said to nearly halve energy consumption, plus new types of membranes, could eventually allow for desalination plants that are half the size and use commensurately less energy. Among other benefits, small, mobile desalination units could be used in agricultural regions hundreds of miles away from the ocean, where demand for water is great and growing. Already, some 700 million people worldwide suffer from water scarcity, but that number is expected to swell to 1.8 billion in just 10 years. Some countries, like Israel, already rely heavily on desalination; more will follow suit."
"10 miles south of Tel Aviv, Israel, a vast new industrial facility hums around the clock. It is the world’s largest (larger than the Carlsbad plant) modern seawater desalination plant, providing 20 percent of the water consumed by the country’s households. Thanks to a series of engineering and materials advances, however, it produces clean water from the sea cheaply and at a scale never before achieved, demonstrating that seawater desalination can cost-effectively provide a substantial portion of a nation’s water supply."
[Tel Aviv desal plant]