Content on this page:
→ Introduction: Good news come from buttom-up
→ Clippings from the news stream
→ Impressions and trends
→ Hope for scientific or technological break-through
→ Nuclear fusion
→ Decarbonising the atmosphere
→ Energy storage
→ Solar energy
→ Wind energy
→ Bio energy
→ New, alternative and innovative ideas
Good news come from bottom-up
64 percent of Spain’s electricity was being generated by wind power at one point in September 2012.
In Uruguay, hydroelectric plants produce about 80 percent of the nation’s electricity.
In 2012, more wind turbines were erected than ever before worldwide.
Wind energy represented 26 percent of all new EU power capacity installed in 2012, and in 2013 it is meeting 7 percent of Europe’s electricity demand.
Today, 25 percent is and by 2020, half of Denmark’s electricity will be provided by wind mills.
In India, while the government remains fully committed to an unaffordably coal-heavy future, communities are fighting back, and 50 percent of the coal projects challenged in India’s courts are being stopped. Indian private equity companies will no longer lend to coal power plants.
On 21 December 2012, The UN General Assembly declared 2014-2024 a ‘Decade for Sustainable Energy for All’.
In short: Good things are happening. Things are changing.
Below is a little compilation of links to show you.
Furthermore, I’ve bookmarked a number of knowledge-sharing initatives here.
Some of the best news, I think, is that there are thousands of communities out there who ARE deeply engaged with becoming carbon-neutral communities. People who have understood that change is coming, and whose choice is action, action which brings about a transformation towards zero-carbon lifestyles, zero-carbon schools and universities, zero-carbon communities.
Watch the three minutes trailer above to get an impression about the ‘Transition’ movement, which started in the United Kingdom and now has spread all over the planet. And to get the background from one of the founders of the Transition movement, see this TEDx presentation:
Should you want to know more about it, then lean back and watch ‘In Transition 1.0’ (50 minutes) here:
…and then you can continue afterwards with this follow-up material: intransitionmovie.com
The Critical Decade: Global Action Building on Climate Change
The Australian Climate Commission’s report ‘The Critical Decade: Global Action Building on Climate Change’ presents an overview of progress in international action on climate change August 2012 and April 2013, with a particular focus on China and the US. There has been significant progress in many countries across the globe, they write.
The energy giants China and the United States are accelerating action:
- China’s efforts demonstrate accelerating global leadership in tackling climate change.
- The United States has made a new commitment to lead.
- Global momentum to tackle climate change is growing. Every major economy is tackling climate change, setting in place policies to drive down emissions and increase investment and capacity of renewable energy.
- 98 countries have committed to limit their greenhouse gas emissions.
- The number of countries pricing carbon is increasing, with four new schemes starting so far this year. Emissions trading schemes are now operating in 35 countries and 13 states, provinces and cities. These 48 schemes, together with the 7 Chinese schemes, are expected to involve 880 million people and about 20% of global emissions.
- Global renewable energy capacity is growing quickly; in 2012 alone capacity rose 15%. The capacity of solar photovoltaic panels increased by 42% and wind capacity 21%. Total global renewable energy power generation is expected to increase by more than 40% from 2011 to 2017.
- Policy support has been central to driving investment and growth in installed renewable energy capacity in many countries. Conversely, declining support, or policy uncertainty, has stifled investment in other countries.
- The global pressure to reduce emissions is only likely to increase as the climate shifts and global action accelerates.
Download the full report
Download the Key Findings from the report
Download the Images from the report
Clippings from the news stream
There is strong support for policy action
Roger Pielke Jr. is professor of environmental studies in the Centre for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado. In May 2013, he wrote an interesting article about climate campaigners and climate sceptics in the British newspaper The Guardian where he noted that:
“Data on public opinion on climate change has been collected, in some cases for several decades, in countries around the world. What it shows is remarkably strong support for the so-called scientific consensus, as well as strong support for policy action. Even in the notoriously climate sceptical United States, Gallup finds: ‘trends throughout the past decade – and some stretching back to 1989 – have shown generally consistent majority support for the idea that global warming is real, that human activities cause it, and that news reports on it are correct, if not underestimated.’
Another Gallup poll of 128 countries in 2007 and 2008 found strong majorities in most countries – including most large emitters of carbon dioxide – believe that global warming is a result of human activities. Public opinion does vary a great deal, often literally with the weather, but it has overall been remarkably consistent over many years in support of action. Far from being an obstacle to action on climate change, public opinion is in fact a resource to be capitalized upon.”
“Make no mistake, fighting sceptics has its benefits – it reinforces a simplistic good versus evil view of the world, it gives a sense of doing something, and privileges scientific expertise in policy debates. However, one thing that it does not do is contribute towards effective action on climate change. The battle over public opinion on climate change has long been won, and not by the sceptics. But simply by virtue of their continued existence, the climate sceptics may have the last laugh, because many climate campaigners seem to be able to see nothing else in the debate. Climate sceptics are not all powerful and may not even be much relevant to efforts to decarbonise the global economy. They have, however, cast a spell upon their opponents.”
Continue reading here:
The Guardian – 24 May 2013:
Have the climate sceptics really won?
Despite recent fears of sceptics winning public debates, they are not all powerful, but have cast a spell upon their opponents. Roger Pielke Jr
Think Progress – 14 April 2013:
Is 70 Percent Renewable Power Possible? Portugal Just Did It For 3 Months
Portugal’s electricity network operator announced that renewable energy supplied 70 percent of total consumption in the first quarter of this year. By Ryan Koronowski
“Climate movement on the verge of victory”
“That is the reality of the climate movement — it is massive, global, powerful, and on the right side of history.”
Author Paul Gilding wrote on 20 March 2013:
“There are signs the climate movement could be on the verge of a remarkable and surprising victory. (…)
it is winning the battle from within: Its core arguments and ideas are clearly right; being endorsed by the world’s top science bodies and any significant organisation that has examined them.
Far from being at society’s margins it has the support, to various degrees, of virtually all governments, and many of the world’s most powerful political leaders, including the heads of state of the USA, China and other leading economies. It counts the CEO’s of many global companies and many of the world’s wealthiest people as active supporters — who between them direct hundreds of billions of dollars of capital every year towards practical climate action. And of course, this comes on top of one of the most global, best funded, broadly based and bottom up community campaigns we have ever seen.”
Read more: paulgilding.com
Internal Carbon Prices
Where governments and the EU have failed to act, some big firms have taken matters into their own hands.
A handful of global companies, including Microsoft and Shell, have chosen to act on their own. They have established internal carbon prices in an effort to reduce emissions, promote energy efficiency and encourage the use of cleaner sources of power, just as a government tax or cap-and-trade program would.
Disney has created what it calls a climate solutions fund, where monies from its carbon tax are deposited. The tax, the price of which depends upon the costs of offsets and the volume needed by Disney to reach its emissions targets, has been set at between $10and $20 a ton and has raised about $35m so far. That has enabled Disney to invest in a variety of certified forest-carbon projects in Inner Mongolia, China, Peru, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as in Virginia, Mississippi and its home state of California. Taking those carbon offsets into account, Disney’s 2012 emissions have been cut in half from a 2006 baseline. The company has set a long-term goal of zero net emissions.
The Guardian – 26 March 2013:
Disney, Microsoft and Shell opt for self-imposed carbon emissions taxes
Where governments have failed to act, some big firms have taken matters into their own hands. By Marc Gunther
UN: “Climate disaster can be avoided”
Climate disaster can be avoided for less than what is currently spent on public subsidies to the fossil-fuel industry, says UN analysis.
To bring universal access to modern energy, doubling the share of renewable energy globally, and doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 would cost far less than the public subsidies the fossil-fuel industry currently receives, according to an analysis by the United Nations’ Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, SE4All.
And if those targets are met and similar efforts undertaken to reduce deforestation, then climate disaster can be avoided, said Joeri Rogelj of the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zürich, Schwitzerland, who headed the analysis which was published in February 2013 in the journal Nature Climate Change.
“Poverty eradication, sustainable development and the transition away from fossil-fuel energy go hand in hand,” Joeri Rogelj told Inter Press Service.
The SE4All initiative is ambitious, but brings a wide range of benefits — including improvements in health, less air pollution and makes the all-important break from increasing fossil-fuel energy use. At the Rio+20 Conference last year, the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative received over USD50 billion in commitments towards actions under the initiative.
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, fashion icon Gisele Bundchen, and Kandeh K. Yumkella, the Director General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), voice their support for the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative launched by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a message being aired on CNN from 25 February to 24 March 2013.
Business Mirror – 2 March 2013:
‘Green’ energy solves dual crises of poverty and climate
Ars Technica – 4 April 2013:
Climate change may be irreversible, but we control the future trajectory
A Perspective in Science says we have more control over our future than we think. By Allie Wilkinson
USA: No more coal in Los Angeles by 2025
Los Angeles will stop using coal fired power by 2025 and replace it with cleaner energy sources. Once in place, it will be the first large city in the United States to have carbon-free energy.
NRDC Switchboard – 23 March 2013:
No more coal in Los Angeles by 2025: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s impressive environmental leadership
Australia: Melbourne certified carbon neutral
The City of Melbourne has been certified carbon neutral as part of its undertaking to become one of the world’s most sustainable cities.
Low Carbon Australia – 19 March 2013:
City of Melbourne’s carbon neutrality marks major sustainability milestone
Low Carbon Australia’s CEO Meg McDonald said City of Melbourne’s carbon neutrality demonstrated a remarkable milestone in its journey towards sustainability and she looked forward to witnessing it achieve its aspirational target of Zero Net Emissions by 2020.
Way to go: Crowdfunding renewable energy
In January 2013, an American company called Mosaic made a splash in the renewable energy world when it introduced a crowd-funding platform that makes it possible for small, non-accredited investors to earn interest financing clean energy projects.
When Mosaic posted its first four investments online — solar projects offering 4.5 percent returns to investors who could participate with loans as small as US$ 25 — the company’s co-founder, Billy Parish, thought it would take a month to raise the $313,000 required. Within 24 hours, 435 people had invested and the projects were sold out. The company had spent just $1,000 on marketing. On 6 March 2013, Mosaic had raised $1.1 million for a dozen solar projects.
The New York Times – 6 March 2013:
Crowdfunding Clean Energy
Uruguay: Rock-bottom renewable energy prices
Uruguay is at the forefront of offering rock-bottom renewable energy prices. Hydroelectric plants produce about 80 percent of the nation’s electricity with costs averaging US$ 80 per MWh. In March 2013, Uruguay announced that the government is about to offer contracts to buy power from 200 megawatts of solar farms at US$ 90 per MWh, which is barely half the cost of power in China and Germany.
Just to compare, an average Danish consumer pays US$ 350 per MWh.
Electricity consumption is measured in kWh, and in a country like Denmark, you pay approximately US$ 0.35 per kWh. An average Danish consumer uses 1,600 kWh (1.6 MWh) of electricity per year, which currently adds up to an annual electricity bill of around US$ 560.
When you look at the reality of these figures and what they could mean to your private household economy in plain cash – can anyone out there please explain to me why it is that we haven’t all switched over to solar, wind and hydroelectric plants long, long ago?
Renewable Energy World – 7 March 2013:
Home of the World’s Cheapest Solar Energy
Uruguay is about to offer contracts to buy power from 200 megawatts of solar farms at $90/MWh, which is barely half the cost of power in China and Germany.
Universities are going green
A green revolution is taking place with schools, colleges and universities all around the world, reported sustainablefutures.info on 7 March 2013.
UN launches Climate Technology Centre
The good news: A new facility to focus on the role of technology and research in tackling climate change was (finally!) launched by the United Nations on 1 March 2013: The Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN). It aims to speed up the transfer of climate-related technology and expertise to developing countries in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — from the latest technical developments in renewable energy to innovative cropping techniques.
The bad news: It will still take forever before they get started. The CTCN advisory board will have its first meeting on 28 March 2013 in Bonn, where it will determine rules and elect a Chair and Vice-Chair. With a final decision over procedures scheduled to take place at the COP19 UN climate talks in Poland in November 2013, it appears unlikely the new UN centre will be operational until mid-2014 at the earliest.
Clean energy now cheaper than traditional fuels
Unsubsidised clean energy now costs less than fossil fuels to generate electricity in Australia, according to a new report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. BNEF’s analysts conclude that by 2030, dispatchable renewable generating technologies like biomass and solar thermal can become cost-competitive, suggesting that the Australian economy could be largely powered by clean energy in the future.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance – 7 February 2013:
Renewable energy now cheaper than new fossil fuels in Australia
Australia wind beats new coal in the world’s second-largest coal exporter. Unsubsidised renewable energy is now cheaper than electricity from new-build coal- and gas-fired power stations in Australia, according to new analysis from research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
PV Magazine – 26 February 2013:
Deutsche Bank forecasts a solar market transition from subsidized to sustainable in 2014
Thinkprogress.org – 10 February 2013:
In Australia, Wind Power Is Already Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels, And Solar Is Right Behind
TheCleanRevolution.org – 8 February 2013:
Clean energy now cheaper than traditional fuels in Australia
“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.”
USA’s president Barack Obama in his Inauguration Speech on 21 January 2013
See it on video.
58 percent of Danes feel responsible for climate-changes
And two out of three Danes would like to change their behavior to take better care of the environment. This was revealed in a new study of Danish attitudes to climate change, conducted by the research institute InsightGroup for WWF and the insurance company Codan.
“We can not wait any longer for the world leaders to agree. We have to act on our own if we are to stop climate change,” said Gitte Seeberg, Secretary General of WWF, which on 7 February launched a campaign to motivate Danes to emit less CO2, called the WWF Earth Hour 2013.
The study shows that significantly more men buy shares in green energy production, (men: 10 percent versus women: 4 percent) and get an energy certification in the home (men: 19 percent versus women: 13 percent). However, according to the survey, women are most concerned about the climate-changes.
» The full study (in Danish language) can be found here (PDF)
Greenpeace – 10 April 2013:
Winning the fight for the climate, one community at a time
The unwillingness of governments to commit to action has given those of us concerned about the future a reason for pessimism. However, a series of new recent victories might give reason to rethink what progress on climate looks like. By Lauri Myllyvirta
The Guardian – 4 February 2013:
Windfarms break energy record in Spain
Past three months saw windfarms produce more electricity than any other source for first time, trade body says
Caixin Online – 24 December 2012:
‘Zero-Carbon’ Homes Go on Sale
A design company in Shanghai plans to target tourism industry with launch of green homes that can operate without connection to power grid. By Wang Huan
Success stories compiled
In January 2013, a knowledge base was launched which specially is looking for success stories
The list of positive news stories is growing on the webportal ‘Knowledge x-change on Sustainable Development’, KxSD, filed in the category Success stories
Impressions and trends
It is encouraging to see how ‘thinking green’ is becoming the new cool thing in emerging countries such as India…
…including a visible part of the booming Indian building industry
…as well as the Indian fashion industry
Meanwhile, in many smaller countries, such as the Nordic countries, better construction methods, renewable energy and advanced technologies is beginning to turn houses into energy producers..
Copenhagen is striving to become the first carbon-neutral capital in the world in 2025, and Denmark has the most climate-friendly policies in the world, showed The Climate Change Performance Index 2013.
According to co.exist and Smart Planet, Copenhagen is nothing less than simply “the greenest city on the planet”.
You can read much more about what Denmark is doing in this field here.
In Australia, the cities of Melbourne and Geelong are working to become among the world’s most sustainable cities as well.
- You can read more about what Melbourne is doing in this field here.
- Since May 2011, Geelong has worked to become nationally and internationally recognised as “a city demonstrating sustainability leadership”, and has an ambitious vision that in 20 years time, this city will be “internationally recognised as one of the world’s most sustainable cities.”.
Australia’s largest eco-event, the Sustainable Living Festival took place for the 14th time in Melbourne and Geelong in February 2013.
100% electric Nissan Leaf. Admittedly, I am not a car-fan. But when beginning to see ads for electric cars in the airport, like this one in Kuala Lumpur, it makes me smile and think of it as really good news: Finally, they are rolling them out.
In Germany, BMW has come far with developing new types of cars which – as they say – “will make sustainability fun”. BMW Manufacturing gets an impressive 38 percent of the electricity it needs from on-site renewable generation.
In France, Renault is rolling out the all-electric Renault Z.E. – where Z.E. stands for Zero Emission. renault-ze.com
Hope for a technological break-through
BBC News – 7 October 2013:
Nuclear fusion milestone passed at US lab
Researchers at a US lab have passed a crucial milestone on the way to their ultimate goal of achieving self-sustaining nuclear fusion. The achievement is the first of its kind anywhere in the world. By Paul Rincon, Science Editor
France: An unlimited and clean source of energy
The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in France is under construction and due to be operational in 2019 at a cost of 13 billion euro.
All nuclear reactors of today exploit nuclear fission whereby uranium is bombarded by neutron particles, causing them to split apart and liberate energy. ITER, on the other hand, will be a nuclear fusion reactor. By the use of large-scale magnetic fields it bonds together atoms of hydrogen with extra neutron particles – the same power source that makes the sun shine.
Fusion is safer than fission because there is no chain reaction, it produces no long-life radioactive waste, and there is abundant amounts of hydrogen available in the seawater.
Scientist in the US are tying to adopt another approach than ITER’s use of magnetic fields. The National Ignition Facility, NIF, is one of several experimental facilities to use very high-energy optical lasers to achieve the same end. In January 2012, a team of researchers at the US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California carried out experiments using rapid-fire laser to heat solid matter to two million degrees Celsius. Their breakthrough helps understand – and hopefully one day recreate – nuclear fusion.
American film director Robert Stone recently made a film about this, ‘Pandora’s Promise’, addressing the fears of nuclear power, including the risk of accidents. You can read more about the film here.
TED presentation in February 2013: Taylor Wilson: My radical plan for small nuclear fission reactors
Decarbonizing the atmosphere
Carbon sequestration – Carbon engineering
Two steel plants in China are converting carbon dioxide into ethanol; a business has invested millions in making methanol from waste CO2 in Iceland; and there are programmes in both Germany and Japan to use renewable energy to convert the greenhouse gas into methane as a form of energy storage. It is an opportunity for a new industrial revolution.
Jacques Amouroux, a chemical engineer at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, quoted by Climate News Network
Canada: Building machines to suck carbon from the atmosphere
A Canadian company is figuring out how to chemically extract the harmful greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
In Calgary in Canada, the company Carbon Engineering is constructing devices that can suck in air and pass it through a hydroxide solution from which the carbon dioxide can be precipitated out as a solid carbonate residue.
Each of their units is supposed to be able to remove one million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere per year. Now, some quick maths on this: human civilisation gives off around 30 billion tonnes of CO2 annually, so it will require 30,000 units to completely counteract mankind’s influence.
The company carried out their first trials in November 2011, and as you can see in the video below, their research continues on a budget of six million US dollars. It is funded by Bill Gates and a Canadian businessman, and a commercial pilot scheme is supposed to be ready this year, 2013.
“Bamboo is a climate change hero”
In this video, Charlotte O’Brien, director of Bio Bamboo and CO2 Drawdown Solutions, explains how to significantly draw down carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it as a bio-char soil conditioner using bamboo to fuel pyrolysis. An exponential carbon draw down.
Uploaded on Youtube.com on 4 February 2012.
» More information on: www.co2drawdownsolutions.com
IEEE Spectrum – 25 September 2013:
Inside the World’s Largest Carbon-Capture Test Facility
Norwegian site lets companies qualify their carbon-cleaning tech for commercial use. Capturing carbon sacrifices a lot of energy—up to 25 percent of that produced in a coal plant. By Lucas Laursen
The Guardian – 17 September 2013:
‘Super grass’ could vastly reduce agriculture emissions, say scientists
Brachiaria grasses inhibit the release of nitrous oxide, which has a more powerful warming effect than carbon dioxide or methane
Csmonitor.com – 22 April 2013:
A way to curb global warming: Suck carbon emissions right out of the air?
Most efforts to address carbon emissions focus on preventing them from entering the atmosphere in the first place. But how to get rid of CO2 already there? Start-ups are developing prototype air-capture systems. By Pete Spotts
Turning Carbon Dioxide into baking soda
Austin-based Skyonic aims to transform troubled global efforts to capture greenhouse gas emissions. The company has received a grant of 25 million US dollar from the US Department of Energy for trying to convert captured carbon dioxide from a threat to the climate to an economically viable commodity. The United Kingdom’s BP and ConocoPhillips of the US are also supporting the 125 million US dollar project.
“This is leaping the chasm,” said Joe Jones, founder of Skyonic company that has developed a patented process to turn carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas produced by human activities, into solid materials such as sodium bicarbonate, better known as baking soda.
NPR – 27 June 2013:
This Climate Fix Might Be Decades Ahead Of Its Time
Every year, people add 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the air, mostly by burning fossil fuels. That’s contributing to climate change. A few scientists have been dreaming about ways to pull some of that CO2 out of the air, but face stiff skepticism and major hurdles. This is the story of one scientist who’s pressing ahead. By Richard Harris
Financial Times – 31 March 2013:
Skyonic to build carbon-capture plant
A Texas company backed by some of the world’s biggest energy groups says it is ready to start building a plant that will make money by turning one of the main drivers of climate change into products as harmless as baking soda. By Pilita Clark, Environment Correspondent
The Energy Collective – 18 September 2012:
Webcast Replay: Carbon Capture and the Climate Crisis
Listen to a panel of experts exploring the potential of carbon capture.
Converting carbon smoke into nanotubes
In India, a young company is developing a technology that transforms harmful carbon emissions from smoke emitting industries into carbon nanotubes — one of the strongest material known to man. Their equipment is installed on smoke emitting chimneys in order to capture the waste product and convert it into usable carbon nanotubes.
According to CEO Vivek Nair, 24, and his company Damascus Fortune, their patented technology “will change the dynamics of climate change globally as it creates a mad rush for emissions to convert them into useful products.” The mission of the company is “to reduce the escalation of the environmental crises,” and the new technology promises to make carbon sequestering profitable and set a new precedent for reducing carbon emissions.
» Home page: damascusfortune.com
Microalgae can offer to capture CO2
The good news is that researchers have found that algae is not only a great source of alternative of natural bio energy but it also has the ability to capture CO2. The bad news is how long time it will still take before any algae production will start. The intention is for the first algae reactor to be operated and tested in the summer of 2014.
Using atmospheric carbon dioxide as biofuel
Researchers have taken a step closer to using atmospheric carbon dioxide as a biofuel, potentially helping mitigate climate change while at the same time meeting rising energy demand, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Scientists at the University of Georgia and the North Carolina State University are working with the bacteria Pyrococcus furiosus to convert CO2 directly into biofuels.
Study co-author Michael Adams of the the University of Georgia called the development “an important first step that has great promise as an efficient and cost-effective method of producing fuels. In the future we will refine the process and begin testing it on larger scales.”
The study did not evaluate the economic viability of the approach. It was published in PNAS Online Early Edition for the week of 25-29 March 2013.
Science Daily – 8 April 2013:
Carbon Dioxide Released from Burning Fuel Today Goes Back Into New Fuels Tomorrow
The search for ways to use megatons of carbon dioxide that may be removed from industrial smokestacks during efforts to curb global warming has led to a process for converting that major greenhouse gas back into the fuel that released it in the first place.
Science Daily – 26 March 2013:
Discovery May Allow Scientists to Make Fuel from Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere
Excess carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere created by the widespread burning of fossil fuels is the major driving force of global climate change, and researchers the world over are looking for new ways to generate power that leaves a smaller carbon footprint. By James Hataway
Mongabay.com – 29 March 2013:
Scientists a step closer toward creating biofuels directly from atmospheric CO2
Voice of America – 28 March 2013:
Scientists Coax Microbe to Produce Biofuel from CO2
Scientists say they have found a way to convert carbon dioxide or CO2 – a greenhouse gas that’s a primary driver of global warming – directly into a biofuel that might someday provide an alternative to climate-changing fossil fuels. Researchers say the conversion relies on an unusual microbe. By Jessica Berman
PNAS – 31 May 2005:
Electrocatalytic hydrogen oxidation by an enzyme at high carbon monoxide or oxygen levels
Article describing the microbial conversion of carbon dioxide into biofuel
Neutralize ocean acidification
A new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, outlines a way to produce hydrogen while also capturing carbon dioxide and producing a base that could be used to offset or neutralize ocean acidification. Hydrogen is an ideal fuel source since its only byproduct is water.
TakePart.com – 30 May 2013:
Scientists Invent Super-Clean Hydrogen Fuel Technique That Could Save Us All
Could researchers possibly have stumbled upon the solution to our acidified oceans? By Douglas Main
Accelerated carbon mineralization
Drs. Greg Dipple of the University of British Columbia, and Guy Mercier of the Institut national de la recherche scientifique, both in Canada, are developing ways to enhance the carbon mineralization process using waste rock and tailings from mines. Dipple’s team is using an enzyme, carbonic anhydrase, to catalyse the hydration of aqueous CO2 to a form that can be mineralized. Dipple’s process could lead to mines that act as net carbon sinks – with mines removing more CO2 from the atmosphere than they emit.
Dr. Mercier is working with an international team of researchers to develop a process that would see steel, coal and cement plants, as well as oil and gas facilities, remove most of the carbon dioxide (CO2) from their emissions through chemical reactions with various types of crushed rocks in the stacks. Waste material, such as rock, concrete or mine tailings, is crushed into a powder form and then released into a plant’s flue gas stream. The resulting chemical reaction removes about 80% of the CO2.
Taking Mother Nature’s lead, researchers have sought new methods and materials capable of mimicking photosynthesis. Now the day when artificial photosynthesis proves useful/practical for energy gathering/storing uses isn’t far off, according to researchers at Boston College in the United States. They have made an important breakthrough in the development of an economical means of harnessing artificial photosynthesis.
Cleantechnica.com – 18 October 2013:
Rust Boosts Artificial Photosynthesis, Research Finds — Brings Economical Artificial Photosynthesis One Step Closer
France24 – 30 March 2013:
Canadian researchers develop energy storage system
Canadian researchers have developed a ground-breaking method which may ultimately enable excess energy created by wind turbines and solar panels to be stored for later use.
Water-based battery technology
An innovative new water-based battery technology promises to store power generated by intermittent renewable energy projects such as wind and solar farms. Aquion Energy confirmed this week it has raised 35 million US dollars in a new funding round for its Aqueious Hybrid Ion batteries and energy storage systems, including an undisclosed sum from the billionaire Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.
The company claims that its batteries are an environmentally benign and cost-effective alternative to existing energy storage technologies that use salt water as an electrolyte rather than costly and hazardous chemicals.
GreenBiz – 5 April 2013:
Bill Gates helps power up green battery maker Aquion Energy
SciTech Daily – 11 October 2013:
New Device Produces Hydrogen Fuel from Sunlight and Wastewater
By combining a microbial fuel cell and a type of solar cell called a photoelectrochemical cell, researchers from UC Santa Cruz have developed a hybrid device that produces hydrogen gas from wastewater and sunlight.
CleanTechnica – 16 May 2013:
Caution: Wet solar power (a breakthrough in solar paint research)
The concept of a liquid, paint-on solar cell is old news these days, but a research team from the University at Buffalo in New York has come up with an interesting new angle. The team is working on a paintable solar material enhanced with nanoparticles of metal, in order to achieve a cost competitve level of efficiency. By Tina Casey
Sydney Morning Herald – 6 May 2013:
Breakthrough in solar efficiency by UNSW team ahead of its time
Australian scientists have found a way of hugely increasing the efficiency of solar panels while substantially reducing their cost. The University of NSW researchers have come up with improvements in photovoltaic panel design that had not been expected for another decade. By Peter Hannam, Carbon economy editor
Forbes – 9 April 2013:
A Swedish Solar Startup’s Nanowires Promise To Deliver A Big Energy Boost
A Swedish startup has figured out a way to increase the energy production of solar panels by 25% by using tiny wires made with gallium arsenide, an expensive material that excels at converting a greater amount of sunlight into electricity. By Ucilia Wang
Revolutionary solar cell
Unlike standard photovoltaic cells, which only capture light energy, Stanford’s new device captures both light and heat, potentially boosting solar cell efficiency towards 60 percent.
Extreme Tech – 20 March 2013:
Stanford’s solar cell turbocharger could boost solar power output by 50%
Scientists at Stanford University have improved the efficiency of a revolutionary solar cell by around 100 times. By Sebastian Anthony
Solar power cheaper than coal: One company says it’s cracked the code
A new solar technology, V3Solar’s Spin Cell, claims to be able to produce power with a levelised cost of energy of 8 cents per kWh. That is mind-boggling, “two-thirds the price of retail electricity and over three times cheaper than current solar technology.” If the claim proves to be true (and a lot can happen between prototype and mass manufacturing), it could revolutionise the solar industry.
Business Insider – 11 August 2012:
This Concentrated Solar Cell Could Be Powering Cities ‘Within Years’
CleanTechnica Exclusive – 24 January 2013:
V3Solar Spin Cell = 8 Cents/kWh?
Grist – 25 January 2013:
Solar power cheaper than coal: One company says it’s cracked the code
By David Roberts
Rust — a solar energy storage solution?
Ways to store excess energy so it can be used when the sun is not shining are urgently needed. Storing solar energy by making hydrogen could become an efficient solution, and “humble flakes of rust might be the way around one of the most intractable problems plaguing solar power — the night,” suggests Naomi Lubick, a writer based in Sweden, in her article in New Scientist.
New Scientist – 26 January 2013:
Solar power could run all night with a little help from an unlikely source. By Naomi Lubick
Solar Cell Power Breakthrough
Scientists from the Nano-Science Center at the Niels Bohr Institut in Denmark, and the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, have shown that a single nanowire can concentrate the sunlight up to 15 times of the normal sun light intensity. “The results are surprising and the potential for developing a new type of highly efficient solar cells is great,” reported Environmental News Network in March 2013.
“These results demonstrate the great potential of development of nanowire-based solar cells,” told PhD Peter Krogstrup on the surprising discovery that is described in the journal Nature Photonics.
Environmental News Network – 25 March 2013:
Solar Cell Power Breakthrough
A bladeless wind turbine
The prototype of the Electrostatic Wind Energy Converter has the potential to change the use of wind technology. The technology uses the movement of electrically charged water droplets to generate power.
The EWICON absorbs little wear and tear, requires hardly any maintenance, but most importantly, it makes no noise and casts no moving shadows, two of the principal complaints that hinder wind turbine installation in the United States.
Grist – 1 April 2013:
Invention of the day: A bladeless wind turbine
By Henry Grabar
Biomass turned to energy without carbon emissions
Jim Mason, California, USA
Is Jim Mason one of the world’s ‘climate heroes’ with a company and an ‘gasifier’ invention that we all should know much more about and help to promote and develop?
Jim Mason’s company has so far produced 500 machines which can use walnut shells, corn husks or wood chips to create clean, sustainable and cheap energy without polluting the atmosphere.
You feed the walnut shells or wood chips into these Californian machines from All Power Labs, and you get fully clean energy at less than 10 cents a kilowatt hour out at the other end. This is not a new invention. Already during World War II, one million vehicles made use of this ‘gasification’ technology.
After the gasification, the carbon can be buried, so when you include in the process the carbon which is absorbed by the plant during it’s life, the process comes out as ‘carbon negative’. The carbon returned to the ground can then be used as fertilizer or burned again another day.
This is great, since the global climate change is a result of too much carbon being put into the sky, and so far energy sources based on biomass have been contributing to the problem because burning the biomass releases the carbon back into the atmosphere.
On 19 October 2013, c|net published an article about All Power Labs. Daniel Terdiman wrote:
“By comparison, because there’s no combustion in All Power Labs’ gasification process, the carbon isn’t released into the air. Rather, it is pulled from the biomass and converted into charcoal. Thanks to gasification and the fact that that charcoal can be put back into the ground, the process of releasing carbon is reversed.”
All Power Labs is turning out a machine a day at a price of US$ 27,000, and they have already sold 500 of them.
“And slowly but surely building a business that it hopes will one day contribute to the reversal of global warming. That may well be overly ambitious, but at the very least, the company has carved out an impressive niche for itself in the power business,” wrote Daniel Terdiman.
But hey…. why “slowly but surely”? Should this sort of idea only be promoted and produced by one single company in California? What is holding the world’s investors back from chipping in here and quickly help taking Jim Mason’s adventure to the next level?
c|net - 19 October 2013:
Carbon-negative energy, a reality at last — and cheap, too
In Berkeley, California, All Power Labs is turning out machines that convert cheap and abundant biomass into clean energy and rich, efficient charcoal fertilizer. By Daniel Terdiman
» Tip: Right-click on this direct link if you’d like to download a video about All Power Labs’ gasification process to your harddisk
A team of Virginia Tech researchers has discovered a way to extract large quantities of hydrogen from any plant, a breakthrough that has the potential to bring a low-cost, environmentally friendly fuel source to the world, the researchers say.
“Our new process could help end our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering.
“Hydrogen is one of the most important biofuels of the future.”
Kurzweil – 9 April 2013:
Breakthrough in hydrogen fuel production could ‘revolutionize alternative energy market’
Environmental Media Association – 16 May 2013:
Digestive Machine Turns Uneaten Food Into Energy
The anaerobic digester is currently being utilized to turn 40% of unusable food from supermarkets into energy. The system is also helping to cut waste by 150 tons a day, thereby reducing grocery stores’ overall environmental footprint.
Get rid of some cirrus clouds with powder
A radical way to stop climate change could be to get rid of some cirrus clouds.
Throwing 140 tonnes of powdered bismuth triiodide into the layer of the atmosphere in which the cirrus clouds form, at a cost of $19 million, has been estimated to have a powerful cooling effect, enough to counteract 0.8°C of warming caused by all the greenhouse gases released by humans.
But… there is a risky ‘but’: If you get the powder concentrations wrong, you could get the opposite of what you want, and currently experts are not sure what would be the safe amounts of bismuth triiodide.
New Scientist – 26 January 2013:
Get cirrus in the fight against climate change
Found at high-altitude and made of small ice crystals, feathery cirrus clouds trap heat – so more cirrus means a warmer world. Now it seems that, by destroying cirrus, we could reverse all the warming Earth has experienced so far. By Michael Marshall
The Guardian – 13 September 2010:
The powerful coalition that wants to engineer the world’s climate
Businessmen, scientists and right-wing thinktanks are joining forces to promote ‘geo-engineering’ ideas to cool the planet’s climate, writes Clive Hamilton, OurWorld 2.0
Clean Technica – 7 October 2013:
Jumping Water Droplets — Charged Droplets Discovery May Lead To New Power Generation Methods, And More Efficient Power Plants
In a new — and rather unexpected — finding, researchers at MIT have made a discovery which they think can be utilised to improve the efficiency of conventional power plants, and also to develop entirely new ways of harnessing energy from the atmosphere.
New, alternative and innovative ideas
This is great reading. Check Sustainia 100′s 2013 edition which is full of the kind of innovation stories we simply can’t hear too much about at the moment. Highly recommendable publication.
Download PDF (50 MB)
Climate News Network – 3 August 2013:
New technologies boost renewables
Finnish researchers say they have found how to produce biofuel cheaply, while a US team says it can make hydrogen from water at less cost than conventional methods.
The artificial leaf
100 watts of electricity 24 hours a day with just a quart of water. The so-called “artificial leaf,” a solar cell being developed by MIT and Harvard scientists to produce low-cost electricity, is now capable of “self healing” the damage that occurs during energy production, clearing a hurdle to deploying the device in the developing world, scientists say. When dipped into water, the leaf — which is actually a catalyst-coated wafer of silicon about the size of a playing card — is able to split water into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, which can then be collected and used as fuel to power a fuel cell.
“Surprisingly, some of the catalysts we’ve developed for use in the artificial leaf device actually heal themselves,” Daniel Nocera of Harvard, the leader of the research team, told a meeting of the American Chemical Society. While earlier versions of the device required pure water, the self-healing properties enable users to operate the leaf using impure, bacteria-contaminated water. “We figured out a way to tweak the conditions so that part of the catalyst falls apart, denying bacteria the smooth surface needed to form a biofilm,” Nocera said. “Then the catalyst can heal and re-assemble.” According to the researchers, the leaf is now able to generate 100 watts of electricity 24 hours a day with just a quart of water.
Yale Environment 360 – 9 April 2013:
Artificial leaf’s ‘self healing’ could expand its practical use globally
Alternative Sources for innovation and discoveries
» From time to time, Discovery Communications — “the number-one nonfiction media company” — run a story on Alternative Power Sources.
» Thehugger’s list of Solar gadgets
» Scientific American’s articles about Energy and Sustainability
» Engadget’s articles about greener gadgets (2007-2010)
Climate News Network – 3 August 2013:
New technologies boost renewables
Finnish researchers say they have found how to produce biofuel cheaply, while a US team says it can make hydrogen from water at less cost than conventional methods.
Eco-imagination and Innovation presented by GE
“Leadership in shaping sustainable practices across industries. Ecomagination is GE’s commitment to imagine and build innovative solutions to today’s environmental challenges while driving economic growth.”
See lots of innocative ideas presented on ecomagination.com/innovation
Can innovation save the climate?
See the videos on sustainabilityhub.com/innovation
Sometimes you will hear about it first on twitter.com/search?q=#greeninnovation
This is a story of things going right. 10:10 collects examples of the shift to a low-carbon world, and they want to see how #itshappening where you are. Next time someone tells you we can’t solve climate change, show them @1010′s #itshappening gallery. Inspiring stuff!
Scientific American – 20 April 2013:
Energy-harvesting street tiles generate power from pavement pounder
Power for the people takes on a whole new meaning, as the largest installation of Pavegen energy-harvesting tiles to date produces 4.7 kilowatt-hours of energy during the Paris marathon, enough to power a laptop for more than two days. The power generated can be used to run low-voltage equipment such as streetlights and vending machines. By Dhananjay Khadilkar
Scientific American – 28 March 2013:
This solar-powered plane is driving amazing technological breakthroughs (plus, flying with no fuel)
The Solar Impulse is getting ready for a promotional cross-country flight before embarking on a trip around the world. By Ariel Schwartz
Mashable – 5 May 2013:
Kinetic Floor Generates Energy From People Dancing
A company in Rotterdam in the Netherlands has created a modular dance floor system that collects kinetic energy from dancers’ movements and converts it into electricity.
EU’s ‘A World You Like in a Climate You Like’
Around Europe, lots of innovative initiatives and projects are being carried out. EU’s Climate Commission has collected a series of success stories, such as:
• How a body’s natural heat can be used as a building’s energy source
Transferring surplus energy from one building to another in Sweden. Large groups of people generate a considerable amount of heat. Such energy shouldn’t be wasted.
• A taxi service that provides the highest levels of comfort and the lowest levels of emissions
In Warsaw, Poland, you can now get around the green way thanks to Green Capital City’s new fleet of environmentally-friendly taxis.
» See much more here
TED: Talking sustainable transport…
Read more good news on this Benchmarking page
Who are the climate safety heroes?