In recent years, there have been multiple known alternatives to using fossil fuels, and some countries have already began using them and lobbying for them. I dare say it’s now a matter of legislation and execution in various institutions so that they may all follow suit in this turn to renewable power. For instance, solar energy powers schools in Denmark, villages for the homeless in the Netherlands, and the entirety of Diu in India. Meanwhile, wind energy is to run millions of homes in the UK, some states in America, and about 70% of Australia.
And now, Costa Rica announced a pledge to become the first entirely decarbonized country in the world by 2021.
Carlos Alvarado, [Costa Rica’s new president and] a 38-year-old former journalist, made the announcement to a crowd of thousands during his inauguration on Wednesday.
“Decarbonization is the great task of our generation and Costa Rica must be one of the first countries in the world to accomplish it, if not the first,” Mr. Alvarado said. “We have the titanic and beautiful task of abolishing the use of fossil fuels in our economy to make way for the use of clean and renewable energies.”
The president even seems to live consistently to his words, arriving at the ceremony aboard a hydrogen-fuelled vehicle. In addition to decarbonization, the country has previously declared plans to entirely eliminate single-use plastics by the same year. That’s right — Costa Rica wants to lead a lot of environmental endeavors by 2021.
But what’s so special about the target date?
“When we reach 200 years of independent life we will take Costa Rica forward and celebrate … that we’ve removed gasoline and diesel from our transportation,” [Mr. Alvarado] promised during a victory speech.
Right. By that time, Costa Rica will have celebrated its 200th year of independence. I suppose it’s part of the same push and momentum that they were able to gain a record in 2017 for producing more than 99% of the country’s electricity using only renewable sources.
Perhaps acknowledging that the history of the people is also the history of their land, Costa Rica wants to celebrate the anniversary of their independence with a healthier, greener, and cleaner environment.
Corporate giants like McDonalds (along with other fast food chains) and Google (along with other tech companies) have been participating in the global venture towards turning green. Recently, another giant techie has joined the cause: Apple has announced that its operations are now completely powered by renewable energy. The company claims that all of its shops, offices, and data centers across 43 different countries are part of the program.
“We’re committed to leaving the world better than we found it. After years of hard work we’re proud to have reached this significant milestone,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.
“We’re going to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the materials in our products, the way we recycle them, our facilities and our work with suppliers to establish new creative and forward looking sources of renewable energy because we know the future depends on it.”
In a similar vein, Apple has also built an Apple Park campus completely powered by solar energy, as well as other wind and solar projects in China to help counteract its manufacturing wastes. However, Apple products still come from suppliers that the Apple company does not have complete control over. In response to this, the giant has been active in encouraging its suppliers to improve their standards, inclusive of labor conditions and environmental work.
It has encouraged suppliers to follow its lead in using renewable energy, it said, and now 23 of them are committed to working on green power.
If corporate competition between biggies in various industries like food and tech keep happening on the green stage, then one victor would always emerge for sure: our environment. Let’s just hope the battle continues.
Coffee: it’s every workaholic’s go-to beverage and, astoundingly, perfect for manufacturing sportswear. Nowadays, it isn’t just perfect for a pick-me-up — it’s potentially fueling London’s signature double-decker buses.
“Instead of sending a tonne of waste coffee grounds to landfill where it degrades and releases methane and CO2, we collect it, recycle it and turn it into a renewable fuel which is then used to replace further conventional fuels – so it’s a double saving”, [said] Bio-bean founder Arthur Kay.
Among the heaviest Americano consumers, Londoners contribute up to 200,000 tons of coffee waste annually. To make the most out of discarded grounds, Bio-bean is extracting 6,000 liters of oil to mix into fuel. The final blend is of 20% biofuel, which will also help to reduce carbon emissions.
“We’re not saying that it’s going to totally replace fossil fuels overnight,” Kay said.
“The amount of diesel produced globally is always going to be more than the amount of coffee.”
Considering London buses run nearly 2 billion trips a year, Bio-bean’s initiative could encourage alternative energy use. Perhaps a beer fuel may even be in talks.
With a rising number of electric buses and taxis headed for the streets, roads are having to undergo adjustments, too. Los Angeles is home to an excess of both trucks and smog. To revamp the deadly duo into something more eco-friendly, Siemens has installed its first electric highway where trucks can charge on-the-go.
“To have the road electrified and have these heavy trucks electrified is just far more efficient from the perspective that you don’t waste fuel, you save energy because the electric motor is far more efficient than the gas motor, and you have no emissions at all,” says Andreas Thon, the head of turnkey projects and electrification in North America.
The trucks are rigged onto overhead wires that run the entire length of the highway. The trucks themselves are cost-efficient, requiring significantly less maintenance than diesel motors. The highway also alleviates battery problems, as they don’t generate enough energy for heavy loads.
Thon says, “With this technology, you permanently feed energy into the truck.”
Siemens also hopes to install charging technology beneath road surfaces — but that will have to wait. After all, it does require a lot more science and a lot more money.
Rarely does a community experience a surplus of energy — much less clean energy. In fact, rural areas are still depending solely on whatever they can gather from eco-boxes. Germany, on the other hand, may be the first to boast an energy overflow. As it happens, in a single weekend, the country produced enough wind energy to provide households with extra — for free!
[Bloomberg], which tracks daily wind power in Europe, said that over 24 per cent of the EU’s electricity demand was powered by wind on Saturday, the highest per cent ever recorded.
Wind farms amassed an impressive output of 39,409 megawatts altogether. That’s almost equally as shocking as electricity itself. But considering much of Germany’s power grid is wind-generated, everything falls perfectly into place.
Offshore wind accounted for 2.8 per cent of the EU’s electricity demand while onshore wind accounted for 21.8 per cent. Wind represented 61 per cent of electricity demand in Germany.
Good weather may have played a hand in helping Germany strike gold (or air) — but its eco-initiatives surely take the cake.
Following the success of solar power, developers have been harvesting clean energy from other sources. Now that we can accumulate electricity through passing vehicles and even cow excrement, nothing else seems far-fetched. Wind power may be nothing new, but these floating offshore turbines are the first of their kind.
The 30MW installation… will demonstrate that offshore wind energy can be harvested in deep waters… where installing giant turbines was once impractical or impossible. At peak capacity, the wind farm will produce enough electricity to power 20,000 Scottish homes.
The irony behind the nautical wind farm is its contractor — Statoil. The company is a corporate giant notorious for oil drilling. It’s somewhat of a paradox, but I’m a fan. Statoil claims that the wind farm’s offshore location is also beneficial.
The farther out you can place offshore turbines, the steadier and faster the wind is. It also comes with the added benefit of avoiding any community arguments over clean ocean views… [also] unimaginably large rotor components can be delivered by sea rather than by land, where roads have weight limits.
In the end, Statoil is living proof that you can easily give back what you take from nature. While we’d rather leave Mother Nature alone entirely, compensation is better than nothing.
Considering the number of annual deaths caused by pollution, it not only makes sense to cut emissions but to also improve air quality. All over the world, groups are working to make the atmosphere as breathable as possible. Bogota is erecting vertical gardens while China is manufacturing air-purifying bicycles. Not to be outdone, Iceland has set up the world’s first negative emissions power plant.
Climate startup Climeworks refitted a geothermal plant in Iceland to remove carbon dioxide from the air while also generating power for thousands of homes. This carbon dioxide is safely embedded in rock, where it will remain for millions of years.
The storage process, called carbon capture and storage, is keeping temperatures from rising to extreme levels. The facility is projected to remove 50 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually. It isn’t much — but it’s something! The procedure is also fairly straightforward.
Climeworks uses… [the] plant’s waste heat to run their own carbon capture tech, pulling carbon dioxide directly out of the air and feeding it into the existing Carbfix infrastructure, which deposits it in underground basalt. There, the carbon dioxide forms crystals within two years, and remains stable underground for millennia.
Limited to information from my high school physics class, I hardly knew trapping CO2 was possible. Either way, we should be over the moon to have chemical engineers.
From powering homes to treating cancer, the simple battery has come a long way. To up the ante of renewable energy sources, MIT has developed an air-breathing battery that stores energy at zero emissions.
“This battery literally inhales and exhales air, but it doesn’t exhale carbon dioxide, like humans — it exhales oxygen,” says Yet-Ming Chiang, the Kyocera Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT.
Cost of production is 1/30th that of regular lithium-ion batteries. Over five years, researchers experimented with various materials such as sulfur and potassium permanganate. While its impact was a priority, pricing was also heavily considered.
“It’s a creative and interesting new concept that could potentially be an ultra-low-cost solution for grid storage,”
In the end, the battery is definitely the first of its kind and is not only unique, but highly efficient.
Carbon calculators, among other methods, are helping individuals reduce harmful footprints on the planet. But due to the Trump administration’s motion to save hazardous coal plants, our own actions are becoming futile. As time goes by, more organized acts from influential players and institutions become necessary to address the apparent regression caused by important global figures such as Trump.
Of most concern are the political issues that have to do with the environment. In retaliation to the retraction of Obama-era environmental campaigns, for instance, Bloomberg has been fighting to retire coal factories since last year.
“The war on coal has never been led by Washington. It has been led by market forces that are providing cleaner and cheaper sources of energy,” Bloomberg told reporters… “The war on coal is saving tens of thousands of lives, and we won’t stop fighting until we save every last one.”
It seems the Clean Power Plan, which has worked towards regulating harmful substances, may be coming to an end. To say environmental groups are infuriated may be an understatement.
“Coal jobs aren’t coming back,” Bloomberg said. “Trying to force taxpayers to subsidize them back into existence will only lead to more death and disease.”
In the hopes of retiring 259 U.S. coal plants, Bloomberg is contributing $64 million to activist group the Sierra Club. In total, the company has provided $100 million to assist the country in finding carbon-free sources. Plus, nowadays, it’s hard not to find inspiration when alternative eco-friendly options like solar power and wind energy are becoming more widespread and accessible.
Cheap labor or breathable air? I think I’ll take the latter.
With Alphabet and Tesla taking over damage control on Puerto Rico, the Caribbean islands are waiting patiently in the wings. Struck by two category 5 hurricanes in the span of a few months, the territory is a war-zone. Stepping in to rebuild a more sustainable paradise is British billionaire Richard Branson.
“Another storm could strike within the coming weeks,” Branson told a meeting of leaders in Washington earlier this month. “The Caribbean must seize the opportunity and take the leap from 20th-century technology to 21st-century innovation.”
The project, dubbed the “Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan” hopes to bring clean energy into the country. So far, it’s best bet is to invest in wind and solar. Comparing the damage to that caused by a nuclear blast, Branson hopes not only to help the islands recover, but transform.
“We want to move the Caribbean countries into clean energy and make them more sustainable, which will make dealing with hurricanes much easier,” he said. “The Caribbean Heads of State agree with one voice that this is a good idea.”
As with any disaster, finding an efficient way to recuperate takes priority. But future prevention is by far the closest second.