Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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Belize: Creating Healthy Coral Reefs

coral reef

Flying into Belize

“Coral nurseries use several methods of growing and attaching the newly grown coral to the bleached reef.”

By Linn Smith
May 13, 2018—–My daughter recently returned from Belize where she snorkeled among the fish of the Belize Barrier Reef, which runs along the coast for 190 miles. It’s part of the Mesoamerican Barrier reef, which is continuous from Cancun to Honduras… 560 miles. Belize has passed an ordinance prohibiting snorkelers from wearing sunscreen, but this tiny country is doing so much more to ensure the health of their reef and reefs around the world.

Bleaching of a Coral Reef

Coral reefs help protect our shorelines. They also provide food for many species of fish, which, in turn, provides food for the human population. Fishing is a major part of the economy in Belize, providing jobs, recreation and tourism. 

Coral reefs cover less than 1% of our ocean floor but support more than 25% of marine life. Due to global warming, hurricanes, diseases, overfishing, and the warming and acidification of the seas, coral bleaching is happening 4 times the rate of bleaching 40 years ago. Bleaching of a reef looks just like what the word bleaching implies…the reef turns white!

climate change

Bleaching occurs when the reef is under stress.

According to Wikipedia corals are, “A colony of genetically identical polyps, each polyp being a sac-like animal only a few millimeters in diameter, with a set of tentacles surrounding a central mouth opening.”

Corals get their color from the tiny algae that live on them, providing food for marine life. When it gets too hot or the corals get diseased or stressed, they dispel the algae, which is known as bleaching. Bleached corals are more vulnerable to diseases, which spread to surrounding healthy corals and makes it difficult for the reef to recover.

Fragments of Hope

A nonprofit organization, Fragments of Hope, is restoring the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef through transplanting coral from coral nurseries. Lisa Carne, a Marine Biologist, visited Belize after a devastating hurricane in 2001. She noticed fragments of living coral from the reef floating in the sea and asked herself if these could somehow be transplanted back onto the reef. After moving to Belize, Lisa received a research grant to study coral transplanting, thus the creation of Fragments of Hope.

Fragments of Hope

Building a healthy coral reef.

Fragments of Hope has transplanted almost 100,000, more temperature tolerant, coral fragments along the Mesoamerican Reef. With constant documentation and observation, only 7 of the the original 19 Elkhorn fragments transplanted in 2006 were lost. Not only are 12 of the original still surviving, they have also created satellite colonies! Fragments of Hope has created 28 gene bank nurseries of threatened coral species as of 2018.

Fragments of Hope

Restoring our reefs through attaching healthy coral.

Coral Nurseries

Coral nurseries use several methods of growing and attaching the newly grown coral to the bleached reef. A rope method uses a long strand of rope strung between a steel frame which is buried on the bottom of the sea floor. The rope is twisted slightly apart to insert the corals between the rope strands. When the coral is mature the entire strand of rope is attached to the bleached-out reef.
Several other methods use a cement mixture to attach fragments of coral to the reef or transplant coral plugs into the reef. The average growing time to create a healthy transplant is about a year.

Fragments of Hope has successfully trained 30 women for the diver roles over the past several years, a role that has previously been dominated by males. Women who successfully train can earn 3 times the minimum wage of Belize.

Fragments of Hope

Creating healthy coral reefs

United Nations Lighthouse Awards

Fragments of Hope has also expanded to other countries, including Jamaica, Colombia and St. Barth. Fragments of Hope offers training for others through manuals, videos and a precise curriculum to guide them towards success in saving the world’s coral reefs.

Fragments of Hope is a 2017 winner of the Lighthouse Awards, an award given by the United Nations to people and organizations that, “Shine a light on the activities underway across the globe that are moving the world toward a resilient, innovative and transformative solutions that address climate change, the economy and social and environmental challenges. The winners also address some of the most practical and replicable examples of what people are doing to tackle climate change.” The United Nations has been recognizing winners since 2011. There were 19 winners in 2017.

Anyone leading a results-driven project that is successfully addressing climate change may apply for the Lighthouse Momentum for Change Award. The next applications will be taken between February-April 2019. More information is at http://www.momentum.unfccc.in 

Also the Coral Reef Replenishment Manual can be downloaded from Google

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The Impact of Fossil Fuels on our Planet

“The gases from fossil fuels trap heat in our atmosphere leading to the greenhouse effect.”

By Linn Smith
April 21, 2018—Most people by now know the impact of fossil fuels on our environment. Ten years ago this wasn’t true, but today it’s common knowledge. Even with this knowledge and scientific data to confirm it, there are still some naysayers out there. As I have said many times in my articles, some people won’t believe in global warming until it’s in their own backyard, or as Bill Wilson put it….”Even then he may be like the farmer that looked out from his cellar to find his home ruined, saying, ‘Don’t see anything the matter here, Ma. Ain’t it grand the wind stopped blowin’?’”

Are Fossil Fuels the Cause of Global Warming?

How do we know fossil fuels are causing global warming? According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the molecules of carbon dioxide (the main culprit in global warming) contain information about their source of origin. Carbon in atmospheric molecules have a distinctly different “signature,” so scientists can analyze these variations. Also, when using just the data that would show normal changes in our climate (such as from forces of the sun), our changing climate can’t be explained. When the carbon molecules are factored in, global warming can be explained accurately.

Coal and Its Negative Impact on Our Environment

Burning coal causes the chemical bonds that hold its carbon atoms together to break. This releases the energy from coal, which we use to heat our houses. But breaking down these chemical bonds that make up coal also releases pollutants and heavy metals into our atmosphere. Carbon Dioxide is the main byproduct of burning coal and coal powered plants are the main culprits of CO2 emissions, contributing 24% of all energy related emissions in 2016.

fossil fuels and the environment

One of Colorado’s many oil wells.

Petroleum and its Negative Impact on Our Environment

Petroleum is usually found as small pockets of liquid trapped in layers of rock below the surface of the earth. Burning petroleum products (fuel oil and gasoline) also releases CO2 into our atmosphere. According to http://www.eia.gov, almost 20 pounds of CO2 is produced from burning a gallon of gas that does not contain ethanol. As with coal, many other hazardous byproducts are also released, but the release of CO2 from burning petroleum products is a main contributor to global warming.

Natural Gas and its Impact on Our Environment

Natural gas is a mixture of hydrocarbons, including methane, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. It is often found beneath the earth’s surface near pockets of coal or petroleum and is often extracted at the same time. Even though it burns cleaner than the other fossil fuels (it produces about ½ the CO2 emissions per unit of coal), it still contributes CO2 to our atmosphere. The demand for natural gas has increased greatly in the past decade, requiring drilling for natural gas separately from petroleum. This is called fracking.

Fracking contributes to other environmental hazards besides global warming. Earthquakes, created by disturbing ancient fault lines deep under our earth’s crust, can be a result of drilling for natural gas. As with coal byproducts, the gases from fracking can seep into our water ways, contaminating our drinking water and surrounding soil.

fossil fuels vs renewable energy

House explosion caused by fracking

Hazards of Fracking

In 2017, in Firestone, Colorado, fracking caused a house explosion which killed 2 and seriously injured another. The wells were drilled in the area years before the housing development appeared. The house that exploded was built in 2014. The COGCC (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) does not regulate the distance of houses from wells, allowing fracking companies in Colorado to have 129,000 underground oil and gas pipelines within 1000 feet of occupied buildings.

fossil fuels vs clean energy

Gas well showing lines extending out.

Anadarko Petroleum, owners of the nearby well which caused the explosion, allowed toxic gases from an uncapped line to seep into the soil around the house, and to eventually seep into the house. A gas well was 170 feet from the home that exploded, with a gas line 7 feet underground. The gas line, which ran within 10 feet of the house, appeared to be severed at some point, possibly from housing construction. In the past the gas line had run from the well to nearby storage tanks. The tanks had long been removed, but the line that caused the house explosion was still connected to a valve at the well that was left in the “on” position. This allowed a mixture of propane, methane and other gases to seep into the surrounding soil and into the home through drains and a sump pit in the basement. The explosion occurred when the family was trying to light a new hot water heater in the basement. 

Who takes responsibility to prevent these events from happening? In Colorado it’s a constant fight between communities and the owners of wells, such as Anadarko Petroleum.

Eliminating Fossil Fuels

The gases from fossil fuels trap heat in our atmosphere leading to the greenhouse effect—the heating of our earth which causes stronger, more frequent extreme weather patterns, rising and warming seas, and extinction of wildlife and their habitats.

Renewables produce little to no effect on weather patterns. Renewables lead to a healthier planet, healthier waterways, less erosion……the list goes on and on! If we support clean energy, we support a healthy planet!

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 Biophilic Design: Creating a Healthy Environment

biophilic design

Biophilic design accelerates the healing process of patients.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks!”

By Linn Smith

February 18, 2018——-Growing up in rural America I was always connected to nature. I knew from an early age that I could find peace somewhere out of doors, sometimes laying back on my saddleless horse pondering the clouds or walking the farm fields with my dog. Peace in nature was always close at hand. John Muir said it best, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks!” Biophilic design recognizes this.

What is Biophilic Design

Biophilic is derived from the term, “biophilia,” meaning “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life.” 

Biophilic design in architecture creates environmentally friendly, energy-efficient buildings and developments by effectively managing natural resources. It recognizes the human need to be close to nature by replicating it in architectural design. It seeks a healthier, happier way of life through creating sustainable buildings and cities.

“Passive biophilic architecture produces buildings that use less energy to operate because they feature efficient designs, materials and systems. The majority of biophilic architectures have highly competent heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting systems, and appliances. In addition, these biophilic restructures are built of energy-efficient materials. Green building elements contribute to a better microclimate through evaporation, filtering of dust from the air and reducing the temperatures at the rooftop,” as stated in the article “Towards a New Potential of Healthy Architecture”

Examples of Biophilic Design

Biophilic Design

Live oak trees extend through the deck of an internal courtyard. Natural bark lines the back walls

WHR Architects, Inc

Christus St Michael Health Care Center in Texarkana, Texas where nearly every hospital room looks out on trees or other elements of nature.

The impact of these designs? Studies show that Biophilic designs have a positive effect on our health and well being. Also, using sustainable materials in the construction of biophilic designed buildings has a positive effect on our environment. Biiphilic design provides another example of creating a healthier planet for future generations. 

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 Agrivoltaics: Growing Food for the Future

Agrivoltaics

Agrivoltaics: Food and Solar

“Agrivoltaics combines agriculture with energy efficiency while growing plants beneath solar panels.”

By Linn Smith

January 28, 2018—- Co-location means two or more groups, sharing the same place. Agrivoltaics, also known as Agrophotovoltaics, means using the same piece of land for solar power plus agriculture. Agrivoltaics, or solar farming, is a new way of growing plants, combining agriculture with energy efficiency while growing plants beneath solar panels.

Agrivoltaics: Dual Use of Land

In 1981, Adolf Goetzberger and Armin Zastrow developed the idea to improve overall production of crops. Dr. Goetzberger founded the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Germany. His work involved making solar an alternative to fossil fuels. In 1981, he published a paper titled, “Potatoes under the Collector,” which proposed a setup for solar energy systems in combination with agricultural land use.

agrivoltaics

Growing food with solar

Dr. Eicke Weber, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute stated, “In view of the dynamic worldwide growth of solar installations of the last decade and the increase in land usage resulting from solar installation systems, innovative concepts, like agrophotovoltaics (agrivoltaics) which facilitates the dual usage of agricultural land, help to further and accelerate the transformation of the global energy system.”

Dr. Goetzberger used the term Agrophotovoltaics or APV, as a method of harvesting the sun for both power and production of crops. APV is currently an ongoing project in Germany which demonstrates that land for both growing crops and solar electricity are compatible. Dual use of the land is resource efficient, reduces competition for land and opens up a new source of income for farmers.

The APV System

The APV system was installed on organic farmland in Germany in 2015. Approximately seven acres were used to produce crops under the ground-mounted solar panels, which were built about 5 yards off the ground. Four different crops were planted. The land in use not only generates electricity from the solar panels but is also growing food. The solar panels provide a uniform light distribution on the crops using reflection. To prove their theory, they also planted a control plot nearby using the same 4 crops, excluding the solar panels. The scientists wanted to determine which crops would grow best. Result: The crops under the APV system produced about 80% of that of the control crop. This experiment is ongoing and data will be analyzed in 2018.

agrivoltaics

Agrivoltaics: Growing food to feed the planet.

Agrivoltaics and Biosphere2

A similar experiment was being conducted at Biosphere2 when I visited several weeks ago. This research, headed by Barron-Gafford, Assistant Professor, revealed that the solar system above the crops created a warmer environment than normal when no plants were beneath , similar to the heat-island effect that happens in cities surrounded by cement and asphalt. He stated, “So think about it, if you get rid of all the plants when you put in renewables energy, you’ve gotten rid of that cooling potential… plants under the panels would allow the air to circulate and would take up carbon for photosynthesis by opening up their pores, or stomata, while letting water escape from their leaves and you get a warmer environment. We wanted to see if you put the cooling effect back into the system by growing plants beneath the solar panels, you can actually cool those panels back down and mitigate that heat island effect.”

When solar panels get too warm they start to lose their efficiency. By growing plants beneath the panels they can cool down and retain that efficiency, which makes for more renewable energy per parcel of land. The panels also shade the plants, reduce evaporation and the crops require less water to grow underneath.

agrivoltaics

Agrivoltaics

In the future, as world population grows, solar and land for food must not be in competition. The world population today is approximately 7.6 billion. Two hundred years ago it was 1 billion. At the close of the 21st century the population will be more than 11 billion. The question remains…will we be able to feed our planet’s population and meet the demand for clean energy?

Agrivoltaics and Clean Energy

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Recent Events of Note—January, 2018

Sierra Club

Sierra Club for Clean Air

“Jerry Brown led the planning for a Climate Action Summit to be held in September 2018.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

The Politics of Climate Change

President Trump stated campaigning that he would take the United States out of the Paris Agreement of December 2016. He began the process soon after elected. As a result, two things happened. It rallied the rest of the world governments to act more decidedly to curb greenhouse gas emissions. In the summer meeting of the G20 countries, all except the United States confirmed their commitments to the Paris Agreement. The country of Sweden has committed to carbon neutrality by 2045. Germany has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

The second thing that happened as a result of the U.S. backing out of the Paris Agreement…..it united many cities, states, and people to join the forces to slow global warming and climate change. It also lead to the formation of new non-governmental organizations pledge to fight climate change. In the United States new groups include America’s Pledge and We are still in. A recently formed group known as the Global Covenant of Mayors has more than 7000 members worldwide. In the summer of 2017 governor Jerry Brown led the planning for a Climate Action Summit to be held in September 2018.

building green

Cities, states and individuals must do their part in preventing climate change.

Climate Events of Note

A number of environmental events occurred recently that made climate change real to many who had questioned it. They include unusually high temperatures. Evidence indicates the earth is now the warmest it has been in the last 650,000 years. The winter of 2016-2017 was unusually warm. Temperatures were as much as 35°F (19.5°C) above the 30 year average. Record high temperatures occurred in many countries including the United States. In 2017 a record high of 129 °F (60°C) was recorded in the city of Ahvas, Iran.

In the past several decades the temperature in Phoenix, Arizona at the metropolitan airport has reached such high temperatures that air traffic has been curtailed or stopped for some hours. The reason is that the air over the runway became too thin for large aircraft to get enough lift to ensure becoming airborne. In the summer of 2017 such an event took place. The temperature at the airport weather station reached 119°F (84°C).

I experienced a similar incident that occurred at the airport in Lagos, Nigeria many years ago. The asphalt on the field became so warm and soft on a hot day that the wheels of a large cargo plane sank through the tarmac.

The last climate event to note…..the 2017 tropical storm season was marked by severe storms in several regions. Category four or five storms occurred in the North Atlantic region and in the Northwest Pacific region. Two category four hurricanes reached the United States. It is the first time two storms of this severity have reached the U.S in a single hurricane season!


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Tesla: What’s New?

Model Y Tesla

Model Y, Tesla’s car of the future.

“Elon Musk is still at the forefront as a founding father of the rapidly changing electric car industry.”

By Linn Smith
November 26, 2017—-When I happen upon a Tesla owner charging their car at a charging station, as I did recently in Trinidad, Colorado, I usually linger long enough to ask the owner his opinion of the Tesla. The responses are always similar, “Best car I ever owned,” or “Most fun car I ever had.” The people who own the Teslas are the best advertisement for these all electric vehicles. Some of the reviews I have read on line are mixed, but testaments “straight from the owner’s mouth,” have been strongly positive!

Tesla: A Review

The Tesla Model S was introduced in 2012. Several revisions in 2017 have improved the driving range per charge to between 270-335 miles. The 40-amp charger of earlier models was replaced in 2017 with a 48-amp charger, which enables a quicker charge and about 30 miles drivable time per hour of charge.

Tesla electric cars

Charging up at a station

What’s New for Tesla in 2018?

*The Model S 100D has a range of 335 miles with the ability to hit 60mph in 2.5 seconds (if you’re into speed).

The Model 3, with a base price of about $35,000, reportedly is, “Adopting a controversial plan to forgo prototype tooling (a test model design) in an effort to accelerate the launch of the Model 3.” Test drivers, journalists and financial analysts were given hands on demonstrations of the car and loved it! 

AllianceBernstein says, “We found the Model 3 to be a compelling offering, and believe it is likely to further galvanize the overall Electric Vehicle category.”

Though Tesla has struggled getting the Model 3 available to the public, it promises to be available soon. Tesla’s target of producing 5,000 Model S’s by the end of December has been pushed to March of 2018.

Tesla

All electric semi will change the way cargo is hauled across country.

The Tesla Semi

In the meantime, Musk has unveiled his electric semi-truck and Roadster sports car this week, and may unveil an SUV, Model Y soon.

Tesla will be the first user of their semi-trucks, hauling cargo between its California factory to one in Nevada. “Tesla will be the first customer for the semi. We will use our own truck to carry cargo in the U.S. between our different facilities. We have an assembly facility in California, the Gigafactory in Nevada, so we will use our trucks to carry things in-between.” This electric semi has a range of 500 miles on one charge, which is approximately the round-trip mileage of 80% of the trucking market. The price of the electric semi would compete with the sale of regular gas semis.

The Model Y (Unofficial name) will be a small SUV, which was going to be built on the Model 3 platform but is now back to the original plan in building it separate in order to bring it to market sooner. It will be a more automated production line, bringing it to market faster, as SUV’s are one of the fastest growing vehicles.

So, Elon Musk is still at the forefront as a founding father of the rapidly changing electric auto industry, with the other car manufacturers scurrying to keep pace with his Tesla company! Tesla has confronted many obstacles, but still moves ahead to combat our warming climate.

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Climate Change Over Geological Time

Glacial Ages and Climate

Climate Change Over Time

“Climate change at the present is of great consequence to most species including humans.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

November 15, 2017—-Planet Earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago. Geologists have divided this long history of the planet into several pieces called eras. They are the Precambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic.

The Precambrian is the longest and each of the other three are shorter than the previous one. When considering climate change through geologic time, two aspects stand out. The first is that for most of geologic time Earth has been warmer than it is at present. How much warmer varied through time. The second feature that stands out is the intermittent ice ages when large portions of the earth were covered with ice.

Major Ice Ages

Relatively little is known about the long period of Precambrian time. Basically it was the period during which the earth cooled from its initial very hot state. The Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic eras encompass the rest of geologic time, about 570 million years. More evidence, and a greater variety of
evidence, is available about the environment during these eras. The climate of Earth varied widely during this time. However, it has been established that there were three known periods of glaciation in Precambrian time. They were:

Archeozoic 2250 million years ago (mya)
Early Precambrian: 950 million years ago
Late Precambrian: 750 million years ago

There were four major glaciations following that of the Precambrian era. They were:

Early Cambrian: 650 mya
Ordovician: 450 mya
Permo-Carboniferous: 350-250 mya
Pleistocene: 1.8 mya until recent time

Following the ice age at the end of the Precambrian, the earth rapidly warmed. For the remainder of the history of the earth, temperatures have averaged 5 degrees C (9°F) higher than at the present. These warmer conditions existed probably 90 percent of the time over the past 570 million years.

The Permo-carboniferous Ice Age

An ice age, called the Permo-carboniferous, began at the end of the Paleozoic Era. It began about 325 million years ago and lasted until about 250 million years ago. The South Pole was in the midst of the large land mass called Gondwanaland. Ice sheets moved over about half of this large land mass. What is now Antarctica and parts of Australia, India, Africa, and South America were covered with ice. The glaciation of each of these areas did not take place at precisely the same time, but they were all affected by the same climatic cooling. The Southern Hemisphere suffered widespread glaciation, but the Northern Hemisphere remained warm. The most appealing explanation for this situation is a different relative location of the land masses. The northern continents were nearer the equator and the southern land masses nearer the poles.

Climate Change

Climate Change over time.

The Warming of the Earth

After the glaciation in the Permo-Carboniferous ice age, the earth again entered a long period of warm conditions. The period of warmth continued through most of the Mesozoic Era and the earth was free of glaciation. Temperatures were warm and rainfall was abundant on the land masses. Even the polar regions experienced mild weather. Initially, the warmer conditions resulted from the slow migrations of the large southern hemisphere land mass to the north. This carried areas that had been glaciated into warmer climates.

The Pleistocene Ice Age

The most important single environmental event since the human species has been on earth has been the oscillation between glaciation and interglacials during the Pleistocene Epoch. The epoch represents a large change from much of the last 570 million years. This ice age is the most recent of the major cold periods to occur over the history of the planet. During the time when the ice was most extensive over Earth, temperatures averaged about 4°C (7°F ) lower than those of the present. In the northern hemisphere it was perhaps 8 to 12 °C ( 14 to 22°F) lower than current temperatures. 

There is no question but what the climate of planet earth has changed frequently, and sometimes drastically, over geologic time.

Climate Change Today

Climate change at the present is of great consequence to most species including humans. There is really no way of knowing how much change will take place in the foreseeable future nor how much is due to the activity of our species. What is known is the earth is warming rapidly at this time and that all evidence points to human activity as bearing the responsibility.

Now is the time to take international action and not only support the Paris Agreement, but take even more drastic measures to curtain the warming!

Climate Change

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Puerto Rico: Rebuilding Sustainably

Renewable Resources

 

“Building sustainably in Puerto Rico can take many different forms.” 

By Linn Smith

October 19, 2017—Even though Puerto Rico is going through a devastating time after the hurricane, it is essential that we not only meet the current needs of the people, but also think about its future….rebuilding sustainably. Areas devastated by wind and flooding must not only think about immediate needs, but consider the future way climate change may threaten vulnerable coastal areas. 

There is an agreement among scientists that our warming climate is producing larger, more aggressive hurricanes, and rising oceans are leading to stronger storm surges, destroying and flooding inland areas.

Puerto Rico: Sources of Energy

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Puerto Rico has some renewable solar, wind, hydropower and biomass resources, but relies primarily on imported fossil fuels to meet its energy needs, importing mostly from the U.S.

In 2016, Puerto Ricans paid more for their power than people in any other state except Hawaii, with 47% of electricity coming from petroleum, 34% from natural gas, 17% from coal and only 2% from renewable energy.

The Future of Energy in Puerto Rico

Now is the time to make decisions about Puerto Rico’s future energy needs. How will Puerto Rico get its power in the future? PREPA, the Puerto Rico Electric and Power Company, Puerto Rico’s only utility company, is mismanaged and highly in need of upgrading according to some sources. According to http://www.commondreams.org, it would be a waste to pour more money into this system. Instead, we need to invest funds into local renewables and energy efficient transportation, such as streetcars and light rail trains. 

Richard Heinberg in the article “Disaster in Puerto Rico” stated, “This is a chance to build back sustainably. People tend to maintain their status quo as long as it’s viable, but when in dire straits, they’re more likely to listen and when denial is no longer possible, people are more likely to face reality.”

Eigg renewables

Eigg uses 99% Renewable Energy

Eigg, Scottland: 99% Renewable

According to an article by David Nield, March 2017, http://www.sciencealert.com, researchers from around our planet are visiting the tiny, Scottish island of Eigg, which is using wind, solar and hydo to obtain the island’s power. This system, owned and operated by the island’s residents, has been using sustainable energy since 2009. Eigg Electric uses a combination of sustainable resources to ensure there is always energy. When back-up energy is needed, it’s supplied by several diesel generators with cables linking all the sources of energy together. Renewable energy is used 95% of the time and excess energy is stored in a bank of 100 batteries. When these batteries are full, electric heaters automatically switch on in the church and community hall so nothing is wasted. Eigg’s population has doubled since this system has been in place, but the system is still meeting the needs of the residents. The drawback is that citizens are limited to the amount of power they can use daily from the public utilities
.
Ta’u, a small island in Samoa, is also changing from diesel to renewables. Today it’s powered by 5,000 Solar City solar panels and 60 Tesla Powerpack battery storage units. The Powerpack is a massive battery, 16 Powerwall battery pods encased in a weatherproof box, that can store electricity during the day when supply is abundant and discharge it when demand goes up after the sun goes down. This system provides the island with about 99% of its needs.

Tesla solar project in Hawaii.

Tesla and the Powerpack Battery

Tesla has also built a huge solar energy plant on the island of Kauai, one of Hawaii’s main islands. This project will reduce fossil fuel by 1.6 million gallons per year. The island signed a 20 year contract with Tesla to buy solar generated electricity from solar panels installed on the island for 13.9 cents per kilowatt hour. The average price of electricity in Hawaii is 37.34 cents per kwh, the highest rate in the nation. Kauai is the first major solar/storage project for Tesla. Tesla states, “We will work with energy providers around the world seeking to overcome barriers in the way of building a sustainable, renewable energy grid of their own.”

Tesla is also in the process of shipping battery packs to Puerto Rico, but details of the project have not yet been made available. Building sustainably in Puerto Rico can take many different forms and accepting help from Tesla could be a starter.

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Puerto Rico: Build Sustainably


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Conventional, Hybrid and Electrical Vehicles: What’s the Difference?

hybrid cars

Hybrid cars are better for our environmentl

“Things are slowly changing and, as our power grid across the U.S. changes, so will the energy available to the cars.”

By Linn Smith

September 6, 2017—-I drive a hybrid car and have been asked many times if I have to put gas in it. The answer is yes. The term, hybrid, has gotten more complicated in the past several years, as now there are hybrid gas-electric no plug-ins, gas-electric plug-ins and all electric vehicles. Conventional cars, which burn gas and diesel, release toxic fumes into our atmosphere, exacerbating illnesses such as asthma.
Though hybrids may still leave a carbon footprint in the manufacturing process, and with the source of electricity used to energize the electric engine, they still have a future of burning clean. As solar replaces the conventional sources of power in the production of these vehicles and clean energy is produced for our power plants, the carbon footprint decreases.

Hybrid cars

Hybrid vs Electric

Types of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles

Here is the breakdown in types of hybrids and electrical cars:

1. Conventional Vehicles: Use gas or diesel fuel.

2. Hybrid no plug-in vehicles: A hybrid is a car that draws energy from 2 or more sources. These cars have a regular combustion engine and battery just like a conventional car, but they also have an electric motor and battery. They are never plugged in to outlets. According to itstillruns.com, “The Prius uses an advanced charging system that allows the battery to tap into power from the Prius’ gasoline engine while using kinetic force from braking to generate additional electricity.” The electrical engine is powered by the gas engine, plus the braking system, and kicks in when driving slowly or idling, which makes it fuel efficient and reduces emissions. These cars aren’t considered electric cars, as they rely on gas for their energy. I average about 48 mpg with mine.

3. Plug-in hybrids: These cars are considered electric hybrid cars, as they rely on a conventional outlet for power plus gas. They combine a gas engine with an electric motor and a plugin rechargeable battery. They can be plugged in to a regular 12 volt outlet, allowing then to drive miles on the energy from that outlet. When the electric battery is depleted then the conventional engine kicks in, operating on gas.

Tesla Model X

Tesla All Electric cars

4. All Electric vehicles: The batteries of these cars are charged using grid electricity. They can use a 12 volt outlet or a charging unit, like the units Tesla has installed across the U.S. They are powered entirely by electricity. The gasoline engine is replaced by an electric motor which gets its power from a controller which is powered by the rechargeable battery. The controller takes in 300 volts DC and converts it into a maximum of 240 volts AC to send to the motor.

The Environmental Impact of Cars

Many people will argue that electric cars are beneficial to the environment only if the electrical source is from renewable energy. This is true, but things are slowly changing and, as our power grid across the U.S. changes, so will the energy available to the cars. Keep fossil fuels in the ground!

Hybrids and Electric Cars

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The Carbon Footprint of Air Conditioners

“The world’s supply of A/C units could increase from about 900 million in 2015 to roughly 1.6 billion by 2030.”

By Linn Smith

August 20, 2017—-If solar airplanes can fly, then maybe it’s time we look at solar for our air conditioning. According to a 2016 study at Berkeley National Laboratory, nations with emerging economies and spiking populations, including heavily populated India, are seeing air conditioner sales grow 10 to 15 percent a year.

What does the increase in air conditioning mean for our warming planet? The world’s supply of A/C units could increase from about 900 million in 2015 to roughly 1.6 billion by 2030. The Berkeley study says new technologies must take the place of hydroflourocarbons, (HFCs), found in most air conditioners. HFCs are growing rapidly in our atmosphere with a potential to increase the greenhouse effect faster than carbon dioxide, because they trap heat in our atmosphere at levels 1000 times greater than CO2.

Sierra Club

Sierra Club for Clean Air

Rwanda Climate Conference

In 2016, 200 nations gathered for the United Nations summit meeting on climate change. Negotiators created a deal to ban the use of HFCs in air conditioners and refrigerators, with finalization at the Kigali, Rwanda climate conference a few months later. 170 countries successfully negotiated an amendment to the Montreal protocol treaty to get rid of 90% of the HFCs. Developed counties will begin phasing out HFCs in 2019, China in 2024, and India and other counties in 2028.

Nearly all HFCs are made by a few giant western chemical companies, including Flame Guard USA in Illinois, GMC Aircon in South Africa, and OB-1 Air Analyses, Inc. in California.

building green

Cities, states and individuals must do their part in preventing climate change.

Reducing HFCs

The search is on for clean technologies to take the place of HFCs. In Australia, the Solar Hybrid Air Conditioner is offered by the company, EcoWorld. EcoWorld claims you can stay cool without the huge energy bill. This unit costs about $2700AU or $2000 U.S. dollars. You can see it at http://www.ecoworld.com.

They state:

1. Hands down this is the cheapest-to-run 3.5kW Split System Air Conditioner you can buy.
2. Stay Cool or Warm without the huge energy bills. Use it more often without regrets.
3. Pays for itself, in energy savings alone, within 7 months of running time.
4. Runs automatically between both Solar DC Power and 240V AC Mains.
5. 12000 BTU Performance without costing the earth.
6. As the sun goes down it transitions over to the mains power supply.
7. Comes with a 6 Year Australian Warranty when installed by a certified air conditioner installer.
8. Rated to cool or heat around 30-40 square meters.
9. Filters pollen particles from the air and can also dehumidify your space.
10. Helps to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions back at the power station.
11. Highly efficient and feature packed 3.5kW split system inverter air conditioner.
12. Uses 1kW of solar panels (typically 4 x 250W panels in series).
13. When running together with the solar panels it uses as little as 30W of 240V AC mains power which is virtually nothing compared to standard air conditioners.

Can we wait until 2019, 2024 or 2028 to cut HFCs? Will it be too late? Now is the time to take a step towards saving our planet! New technologies must replace fossil fuels and chemicals, such as HFCs, that contaminate our atmosphere!

Reduce HFCs in our atmosphere.

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