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Vauban, Germany is a sustainable town for every other city in the world to emulate. Vauban is a “zero-emission” district in Freiburg, Germany.
The town is not completely carbon neutral, as cars are actually allowed, if you pay at least $23,000 USD for a parking spot on the outskirts of town. Thus, the majority of residents don’t own a car, choosing instead to use the tram, cycle or simply walk. Most streets don’t even have parking spaces.
The radical culture of Vauban has roots in its dramatic history. Ironically, Vauban was a military town through WWII and into the early 90’s. When the military left, the vacant buildings were inhabited by squatters. These vagabonds eventually organized Forum Vauban, organizing a revolutionary eco-community. Today, Vauban is modern, beautiful and represents the very cutting edge of sustainable living.
Careful urban planning helped to create a city layout which lends itself to cycling as the primary mode of transit. The terms “filtered permeability” and ”fused grid” refer to a plan that ultimately means connected streets throughout the town, as well as plenty of pedestrian and bike paths. Residents primarily live in co-op buildings, such as the “solar ship”, a large area of co-op buildings that run strictly on renewable energy…
Over the last several years, climate change science has witnessed a complete overhaul in acceptance. Scientists were once attempting to explain the impact of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide on the planet to an unwilling public, and now climate change is largely regarded as not only a fact, but the potentially devastating catastrophe that it is. World governments are reacting to public urging with attempts to diminish the long term effects energy production has on the planet, all in an effort to curtail climate change and, hopefully, repair some of the damage already caused.
Many countries, including the US, Germany and the member states of the European Union, have turned to government mandates as first steps to battling climate change. In addition to helping reduce the carbon footprints of the countries adopting these mandates, the programs are also paving the way for other countries to implement renewable energy technology.
USA Climate Action Plan
First established in 2008 by President Barack Obama and members of his cabinet and staff, the USA’s Climate Action Plan is updated every two years to incorporate new ideas and goals as well as integrate new research. Essentially, the program is geared towards reducing carbon dioxide emissions, responsible foresting, increasing the study of and funding for climate change, and encouraging the use of alternative fuel sources.
The plan aims to leave US children a cleaner, healthier planet and diminish the already-apparent effects of climate change, such as increased allergies and extreme weather, including dangerous heat waves, chilling winter temps and severe flooding. Plan directives include empowering the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to work with new and existing power plants to cut carbon pollution, setting aside $8 billion in loan funds for advanced fossil energy and efficiency projects, and setting benchmarks for renewable energy projects; by 2020, the plan allows for 6 million US homes to receive power from wind and solar energy and improve energy efficiency in all homes by 20-percent. The plan also includes a goal to reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons by 2030, essentially cutting the US energy sector’s pollution levels in half.
Germany Renewable Energy Act
The starting point for Germany’s exceptional advances in renewable energy projects, the German Renewable Energy Act was instigated in 2000, and has had a dramatic impact on the amount of carbon pollution emitted by the country’s private and commercial sectors.
The Act was founded by the then German Federal Minister of the Environment Klaus Topfer as well as other high-level German politicians and leaders in private and commercial companies. So far, the plan has increased Germany’s electricity production from only 10% being generated by renewable sources in 2012 to 28% in 2014. The Act has also created 268,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector. As a whole, this government mandate works to protect investment into renewable energy through guaranteed feed-in tariffs and connection requirements, creating a strong incentive for residential and commercial properties to invest in renewable energy sources. In a similar vein, the Act also provides a deterrent to overuse of electricity, creating an EEG rate that goes up with the more electricity consumed.
All in all, the dramatic success of Germany’s program has made the Act a source of inspiration for similar programs around the world.
European Union Renewable Energy Directive
First published in 2009, this directive requires that at least 20-percent of the energy consumed in member states is from renewable sources by 2020. Despite the union-wide 20-percent goal, each member state has a slightly different percentage goal to reach by 2020. For example, Belgium is only expected to hit 13-percent, Greece 18-percent and Poland 15-percent. On the other hand, some member states are setting loftier goals, with France vying for 23-percent, Austria 34-percent and Sweden 49-percent. When combined, the expected average percentage of energy produced by renewable sources is set to meet or exceed the 20-percent benchmark.
Each member state is required to send regular progress reports detailing how they’re implementing new ideas and technologies to meet this directive, including how they’ve increased their use of the EU’s approved renewable energy sources, which include wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal energy, biomass and harnessing tidal power. At its core, the directive is aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions; however, it has the added benefit of encouraging innovation and increasing employment opportunities across Europe.
As of 2014, member states have made impressive progress towards the 2020 goal, with nearly 13-percent of member state energy production being created with wind, solar and other environmentally-friendly technologies.
Although the plans and directives being implemented by the United States, Germany and the European Union are fantastic first steps towards combating climate change, true success will only be had when all countries implement similar plans and vow to lower carbon dioxide emissions further after the initial goals are met.
Breakthroughs in wind technology have everything from lasers pinpointing the direction of the wind, so that turbine blades can optimize their productive capacity by automatically adjusting their position, to advancements in blade design that increase flow and decrease drag. 2014 saw the increased use of strong, light corrosion resistant composite materials for tower and foundation structures. In addition, the latest trends in global wind turbine technology include augmenting wind power with energy storage, integrating smart grid technology into turbine operation and moving wind farms offshore.
Recent breakthroughs in wind turbine technology drive down the costs of building wind farms and help to put this renewable energy technology on a stronger economic footing to compete with coal and natural gas. Two types of technologies in particular address storage and intermittency concerns, factors which have held wind back from achieving grid parity with fossil fuels until 2013-2014. An industrial smart system sends data to operators, predicting wind strength and optimal position for turbines based on the forecasted wind speed and direction. In addition, renewable energy storage technologies store excess electricity when more energy is produced by the wind than what is needed, and feeds it back into the grid when the wind slows down, or stops blowing.
As of 2014, the number of countries with more than 1 GW of installed capacity for wind energy…
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Recently, there have been dramatic breakthroughs in solar energy that will help further the mainstream use of photovoltaic (PV) technology, bringing solar closer to cost parity with fossil fuels as a viable energy source to power the grid. A key development that will enable the widespread use of solar is the production of cells using less expensive, and readily available materials. Silicon has traditionally been the preferred material for PV, however cadmium telluride, copper and selenium (among other materials) are now also used to produce PV cells. These materials are used to produce highly efficient, low cost cells.
Nano PV cells result in much more compact, thinner, more efficient solar units. Nano technologies in PV with from 4 to 7 times (or more) the efficiency of standard photovoltaic cells are in the R&D phase today, with limited commercial availability. There are nano and alternative material PV cells with substantially higher efficiency than the standard (double to triple the standard 12-15% efficiency) in use today. The solar arrays now being produced could be exponentially improved with the development, refinement and implementation of nano technology.
In addition to advancements in traditional photovoltaic technology, there have been exponential advancements in the field of solar thermal energy. Instead of simply converting energy from the sun into electricity, with solar thermal technology, solar energy heats water, molten salt, or another working fluid, and then steam is used to drive generators. Solar thermal represents an advancement in solar energy with 4 to 5 times the power density of PV. However, reductions in the cost of this technology have been difficult to realize, preventing it from really taking off.
One commercially successful application of solar power is the solar powered water heater. Solar powered water heaters are mandatory in new construction in the entire country of Israel, and now, in the state of Hawaii. Some of the other applications of solar energy include power generation and heating even in remotely situated buildings, in industrial buildings, schools, hospitals, etc…
Both types of solar energy (PV and solar thermal) will continue to steadily lessen in cost as technological advancements are made. However, photovoltaic is projected to remain ahead of thermal in terms of cost of production and utilization. Solar thermal does have a couple of advantages which compensate for the higher cost. Solar thermal energy is produced consistently throughout the day, not relying on weather conditions. relatedThe turbine will run on natural gas if there is no sun for an extended period of time. Solar thermal units fit easily with power storage systems and will continue to produce energy at night, using energy harnessed during the day.
The most promising new technologies in the world of solar power are CSP and HCPV…
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Jointly owned by NRG Energy, Google, and BrightSource Energy, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) sprawls across the California and Nevada border in the Mojave Desert. This 377 to 400 megawatt solar complex is revolutionizing the solar energy industry, proving that large scale renewable energy projects are not only possible, but can both thrive and surpass expectations. With just three plants, the ISEGS produces enough clean, renewable electricity to power 140,000 homes during peak hours, and double that amount during off hours. In fact, ISEGS produces double the amount of commercial solar thermal energy than any other plant in the United States.
ISEGS officially broke ground on October 27, 2010 and opened for business in February of 2014. Despite being one large complex, the project was actually broken down into three separate plants, each with their own 400-plus foot tower affixed with water filled receivers / boilers. The specific technology used is known as Luz Power Tower 550, which was developed by BrightSource Energy with the goal of creating a unique take on traditional energy generation that harnessed and increased the power of the sun. Stretching across 3,500 acres, each plant relies on solar receivers filled with water nestled atop the towers. By using 300,000 mirrors, known as heliostats, to increase the sun’s energy and reflect the light directly onto the solar receivers at strategic angles, the water in the receivers is heated to such high temperatures that it dissolves into steam…
Please see http://www.greencitytimes.com/Sustainability-News/ivanpah-solar-electric-generating-system.html for the whole article.
Vancouver is attempting to become the world’s greenest city by 2020. In order to achieve this, the city formed GCAT (Greenest City Action Team) from their city staff. The goals for GCAT are:
· by 2020, create 20,000 new green jobs and become a center for green business
· by 2020, reduce carbon emissions by 33% compared to 2007, and become a leading city in fighting climate change
· by 2020, increase the use of renewable energy, and reduce the demand for energy (over 90% of the city’s energy already is r.e., mostly hydroelectricity)
· by 2020, all new industrial/ municipal construction to be carbon-neutral, improve efficiency of existing buildings by 20%
· by 2020, over 50% of commutes by walking, biking or public transport
· by 2020, reduce waste heading to landfills or incinerator by 40%
· by 2020, plant an additional 150,000 trees so every resident lives within 5 minutes of a beach, park, greenbelt or other open space
· by 2020, reduce per-capita ecological footprint by 33%
· by 2020, beat WHO’s (World Health Organization) drinking water standards
· by 2020, beat WHO’s clean air standards
· by 2020, reduce carbon footprint of food production by 33% – focus on organic, local food production
· Wind and solar farms also are energy sources to be used in the plan – through clean energy, greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 1/3 by 2020
The priorities for implementing what are termed as “quick start actions” (initial actions to ensure Vancouver reaches the “greenest city” goal) are to reduce fossil fuel dependency and to create green jobs. Vancouver’s greenhouse gas emission targets are to get to 33% below 2007 by 2020 and 80% below 1990 by 2050. GCAT has begun to create their Green Economic Development Strategy (GEDS), implement a green jobs pilot project and begun to seek funding from the federal government and provincial governments for the new green economy…
Please see http://www.greencitytimes.com/Sustainability-News/vancouver-greenest-city-2020.html for the whole article.
World leaders gather every year for the United Nations Framework Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) to assess progress in dealing with climate change and negotiate protocols and treaties between countries to further address the plethora of issues. This includes plans for sustainability, funding and implementing renewable energy sources, and updating urban planning ideas and guidelines with energy efficiency and green building in mind; all of which is intended to meet the goal of dramatically reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
In 2015, the United Nations Climate Change Conference will meet again in Le Bourget, a northeastern suburb of Paris, France. Running from November 30th to December 11th, the 2015 meeting will be the 21st yearly session and focus on developing and funding the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and setting carbon pricing.
The GCF will transfer money from developed countries to underdeveloped countries, aiding them in investing in renewable energy, sustainable mass transportation, and green building projects. Perhaps the most contentious topic to be discussed is carbon pricing, where countries will be charged for their carbon dioxide emissions. The UNFCCC will decide on pricing as well as the inner-workings of the system, including whether the GCF will function as a tax or a cap-and-trade.
Any agreement reached will go into effect in 2020, leaving the conference time over the 5 years in between to finalize the details. The agreement will detail a list of protocols that all parties agree to be bound by, acting as an updated agreement to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which sets a binding emission reduction target for industrialized countries…
Please see http://www.greencitytimes.com/Sustainability-News/the-united-nations-framework-climate-change-conference-2015.html for the whole article.