Planet Earth Weekly

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


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Why Coastal Cities Must Build Sustainably

Soft shoreline vs. Hardshoreline

Soft shorelines create spaces for the water to go.

Obama Presidential Adviser, John Holdren, said of the challenge of climate change, “We will end up with a mix of prevention, adaptation and suffering. It is for us to determine the ratio.”

By Linn Smith

September 18, 2017 ——With the recent flooding in Texas and Florida, it is evident that the rising seas from climate change will affect us by chronic flooding, which will become more frequent. There will be continued flooding and devastation from weather as our climate and seas warm up.
The Union of Concerned Scientists ask the question, “If flooding continues, how many times does it have to happen before you stop thinking of rebuilding and start thinking of relocation? Each community has a threshold for sea level rise and chronic flooding beyond which sustaining normal routines becomes impossible.”

climate change

Mitigation Vs. Prevention

Mitigation or Prevention

Scientist have worried for years that melting sea ice and ocean warming would cause a rise in sea levels, extreme weather and more severe and frequent hurricanes. What is our government’s responsibility? Do we continue to spend our tax dollars on mitigation, cleaning up the aftermath of the increasingly destructive power of storms? Do we continue to rebuild coastal areas that are vulnerable to climate change or do we have a responsibility to reconstruct cities and coastal areas against the coming vulnerability of our changing climate?

William V. Sweet, Scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated, “Once impacts become noticeable, heavy rains and extensive flooding are going to be upon us quickly. It’s not 100 years off anymore.” Higher seas mean higher storm surges. As seas rise in an area, the coastal creeks and marshes will rise and bring salt water inland. Many coastal trees will be affected by the saltwater rise.

Storm Surges

Protection from Storm Surges

Reducing the Impact of Rising Seas

What are our choices? Keep spending tax dollars on rebuilding coastal properties or rebuild naturally to reduce the impact of rising seas. A soft shoreline maintains the natural dynamics of the shoreline, with a healthy movement of the sand and improving habitats of sea life. It allows the coastline to do what it does naturally, without the build-up of asphalt and man-made dwellings. A living coastline has natural barriers, vegetation and salt marshes that make it a stronger buffer, against flooding, but also moves and changes as any undeveloped shoreline would.

Obama Presidential Adviser, John Holdren, said of the challenge of climate change, “We will end up with a mix of prevention, adaptation and suffering. It is for us to determine the ration.” There are consequences of inaction!

Hard Structures vs. Soft Defenses Against Wave Energy

What we’ve done with much of our coastal lines to deter flooding is to construct impervious surfaces and blockages to dissipate the wave energy. But there are natural designs that absorb water from storms and channel it back into nature, creating spaces that navagate the water naturally.
The current method of deterring sea wave energy are hard structures. Hard structures, such as sea walls, deflect the wave energy to adjacent areas, redirecting the wave to a neighboring property. These properties witness a greater destructive energy than the original destination of the wave. Walls can fail and waves can erode sand at the base of the seawalls. Walls can also be destructive to the surrounding flora and fauna, which may be preventing a more serious flooding disaster. Hard structures won’t save our cities from rising seas!

The better approach according to Rachel Gittman, Ecologist, is to create living shorelines. A living shoreline is site specific according to the natural habitat of the location. She states that for calmer waters, build water absorbing marshes with sill-like ledges made of rocks, oyster shells or coconut fiber logs. A shoreline may also benefit from planting mangroves, which firmly anchor the shoreline in place.

Rising Seas

Cities affected by the rising waters.

Natural Barriers of Wave Energy

Steven Scyphers, Coastal Scientist, states, “It starts with a good understanding of what the natural conditions along the shoreline once were. It could mean restoring what existed on the shore, whether oyster reefs, coral reefs or other living breakers that can dissipate the wave energy. These natural barriers become more suitable over time as the plants, roots and reefs grow.”

By 2100, 490 communities could be chronically flooded including Boston, L.A. and most of NYC. Communities will have to decide what will be best for them, flood walls, living shorelines, elevating structures or to retreat. Cities that are below sea level probably won’t be benefited from natural shorelines.

In the meantime we need to change our behaviors to slow down climate change!

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The Galapagos UNESCO Heritage Site in Danger

Galapagos islands at risk from climate change

Home to many rare species of plants and animals

“In 2007 UNESCO listed the Galapagos as threatened, as a number of the most unusual creatures found on the islands were in decline.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

August 11, 2017—-The Galapagos Islands are located about 600 miles west of the coast of Ecuador. There are 13 major islands in the group, in addition to dozens of smaller rock outcrops. They were discovered in 1535 by sailors engaged in exploration. These islands are a unique treasure on our Planet.

The Galapagos Islands have been designated a UNESCO Heritage Site. When explorers first described the islands to people on returning to their home ports, most people did not believe the stories that were told.

The Galapagos Islands are significant for a variety of reasons. First, there is no other island ecosystem like it. They are home to many species of plants and animals not found anyplace else on the planet. The animals include blue footed boobies and marine iguanas. Second, it is the setting for the work of Charles Darwin in formulating the theory of evolution that was published as The Origin of Species. Charles Darwin visited the islands in the year 1835. At the time, the islands were known as Las Encantatas or the enchanted ones.

Galapagos Islands and climate change

Galapagos animals and plants are at risk due to global warming.

Climate Change is Altering Life on the Islands

Global warming has already raised the temperatures over the islands. The islands generally receive little rainfall. Parts of the islands depend on cool season fog to provide condensation for plants. Additional warming may eliminate this weather pattern which is the only source of moisture for vegetation is some areas. Increased rainfall that may come with a changing climate may also lead to the decline in many species of plants.

The warmer conditions are causing vegetation zones to move to higher elevations. The rising temperature is also affecting the ratio of males to females in some turtles. Warmer temperatures tend to produce more female offspring, a phenomenon that has been observed at different locations around the world.

The mean temperature of the surrounding ocean of the islands is rising. Like other regions that lie astride the equator, coral bleaching has now been observed to occur in the reefs around the islands. The bleaching is an indication of not only global warming of the atmosphere, but of the warming of the tropical oceans. While corals live in warm water they will not live in water that is even a few degrees above their optimum temperature range. As the ocean warms they are also expected to become more acidic. This will increase the rate at which minerals are dissolved from the reefs.

Sea level has been rising and is expected to rise even more. The only question is how much more it will rise. Estimates of sea level rise by 2100 vary  with the highest estimates rising 30 inches. Rising sea level may destroy many of the mangrove forests which are home to some unique species of birds including some species of finch.

Galapagos Islands and climate

Galapagos Islands are at risk due to climate change

Invasive Species

There is a second problem which may be a greater threat than climate change to the uniqueness of the islands. This is the introduction of plants and animals not native to the islands. It is believed there are now more than 1400 introduced species on the islands of which more than half are plants.

Many of the introduce species have been accidentally introduced. Probably among the first were rats, which jumped ship over the years. The rats thrived and the population grew rapidly. Many other species of insects and plants were probably introduced at the same time. The accidental introduction continues as other species of plants and animals come to the islands along with the importing of merchandise.

Other species of plants and animals have been deliberately introduced. Among the first were domestic goats. They were often kept aboard ship for the purpose of supplying meat and milk for a ship’s crew. On the Galapagos some of the goats escaped to become wild. Their numbers increased and they began devastating the natural vegetation. In recent years major programs to eliminate the goats have been initiated, especially on the smaller islands. In 2006, for example, a massive effort was mounted to eliminate some introduced species from several islands.

Largely due to problems related to the invasion of species, in 2007 UNESCO listed the Galapagos as threatened, as a number of the most unusual creatures found on the islands were in decline. This includes sea lions which depend on a declining food supply off shore. The changing of the plant communities is a threat to many native birds. Some of the very species of finches which were the foundation of Darwin’s theory of evolution are in danger of becoming extinct.

On the plus side, most native species are expected to survive if invasive species can be controlled. But again, additional climate warming may eliminate the weather pattern necessary for plant and animal survival!

The Galapagos Islands

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Gothenburg Sweden: Providing Sustainability through Green Bonds

Gothenburg, Sweden

Build sustainably with green bonds.

“Local governments wield significant influence and authority that can drive environmental sustainability within their jurisdictions.”

By Linn Smith

August 6, 2017—–In the late 19th century Gothenburg developed into an industrial city. In 1987 the Minister of the Environment called parts of the city, “hell’s waiting room” which described the environment for the industrial part of the city, dirty and polluted. Chemicals were escaping into the environment and appearing in animals, fish and mother’s milk, increasing cancer risks and lowering the immune system of infants. This was the Gothenburg of yesterday!

From Industrial City to Climate Leader

Today, Gothenburg has transitioned from industrial city to a world climate leader. In 2013, it became one of the first cities in the world to issue Green Bonds. 

Bonds allow the public to invest sums of money. When a person purchases a bond they lend money to the issuer of the bond, in this case, the city of Gothenburg. In return investors are paid a specific interest rate. 

Green bonds are linked to solving our climate change disaster by providing the money necessary for a community to build sustainably. They are earmarked for environmental projects.

Gothenburg, Sweden

Go Green with Green Bonds

Building Sustainably with Green Bonds

Gothenburg offers Green Bonds to the public, which allows the city to borrow money from investors. With this money the city creates climate change projects that allow a transition from a polluted city to one of low carbon emissions and climate-resilient growth. Without the Green Bonds Gothenburg would have struggled with decisions on funding schools and daycare or moving the city toward sustainability.

Gothenburg, Sweden

Gothenburg goes green with Green Bonds

Projects Funded by Green Bonds

Some of the projects funded by Green Bonds are:

• Large scale production of biogas, providing high efficiency in production and recycling of waste heat for district heating and electricity.
• Electric cars for city and companies, with 100% electric cars in the city fleet.
• Energy efficient traffic lights
• Sustainable housing. These buildings use green electricity. Estimation shows that the sustainable housing built so far will avoid 50-60 tons of Co2
emissions in the atmosphere annually.
• Tree planting. 1710 trees have been planted since the projects funded by Green Bonds started, with a focus on a green cityscape, which effects the
urban air quality and temperatures of nearby buildings.(See https://planetearth5.com/tag/heat-islands/)
• Sustainable transportation. Improvements to the city’s bicycle infrastructure. The city offers 1,000 bikes with 69 stations in the city to leave
your bike. You can pick up a bike, ride it to your destination and drop it off at the nearest station.
• A sustainable airport. All energy at the Gothenburg airport comes from renewable sources. Heat is generated by biomass boilers. There are also
charging stations for electric cars. Take off fees for airplanes are reduced for those with lower emissions of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons. 75%
of the airport shuttle buses run on RME, a biofuel made from rapeseed (related to canola oil.)
• The city’s SJ trains run entirely on renewable electricity from wind and hydro power.
• A sustainable port. Gothenburg is a coastal city. Ferries and ships which are docked in Gothenburg are encouraged to connect to an onshore power
supply, which is a source of clean energy. “Providing an onshore power supply for vessels at berth can result in significant environmental gains.
Carbon dioxide emission decrease substantially and emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitric oxide are reduced to a minimum. Onshore connections also
provide a quieter environment and cleaner working conditions.”
• The largest ultrafilter built in Scandinavia. City water is treated by ultrafilter to assure the highest quality of drinking water for its citizens.

Linking Investments to Green Projects

Green Bond investing has led to greater interest by citizens in the environment, plus it creates a link between investments and speeding up green projects. 

Other cities are following suit. Toronto issued Green Bonds to finance a heat, power and cooling solar plant. Johannesburg just issued green bonds to finance green projects that will reduce greenhouse emissions and contribute to a sustainable city.

The California Sustainability Alliance said it well. “Local governments wield significant influence and authority that can drive environmental sustainability within their jurisdictions” and further influence the global greening of our planet!

Gothenburg-Green Bonds

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Solar Uses in the West: Monitoring the Irrigation Ditch

solar water monitor

Solar monitors the flow of water.

“It’s predicted that in the future, solar will be the main source for controlling our water systems in the West.”

By Linn Smith

June 23, 2017—In the eastern section of the U.S., water is easily obtainable. In the west, where dry land prevails, water rights are taken seriously.

How is water diverted to arid land? Irrigation ditches are man made channels that deliver water to homes, farms or industries. They have head gates on creeks and water sources to divert water to these arid regions.

solar monitor

Monitor water flow through solar

Water Rights

In the West and Southwest U.S., a person diverting water through a canal needs legal rights, because there are many demands on the water between individuals, industries and cities. In the 1800’s miners depended on water rights for mining of gold and other minerals, and pioneers depended on water rights to irrigate crops far away from the stream.

Colorado developed the Prior Appropriation Doctrine which is still in use today. It states that, “The first person to divert water and apply it to a beneficial use has a prior or senior right to the water over any other user who seeks to use water at a later time.” This secures the amount and date of senior users. Water rights in Colorado are property rights and can be bought, sold or rented apart from the land through which they run, if the water is put to beneficial use.

In New Mexico a person needs to obtain a permit through the State Engineer Office. The office will evaluate and determine if water is available and would not impair existing water rights.

Solar

Solar monitors the flow of water in irrigation ditch

Irrigating

In New Mexico I helped surface irrigate (flood irrigate) a friend’s ranch from an irrigation canal, which ran above ground. Irrigating consisted of opening the irrigation gate by hand and allowing water from the canal to run over the horse pasture. We were able to control the amount of water on the pasture by sliding the gate down when the water was sufficient for healthy pasture growth. This has been the most common type of irrigation in most parts of the world.

solar for irrigation

The irrigation ditch runs through this horse pasture to keep it green and usable.

Solar Powered Water Moniters

Recently a solar monitor was added to an irrigation ditch nearby, which runs through farmland and continues to a large lake. The gate of the irrigation ditch was previously open and closed by hand, but now a solar monitor opens and closes the gate to prevent flooding from unused water in the ditch.

solar

Solar to monitor irrigation ditch

In an article, Solar-Powered Automation on Irrigation Delivery Systems, it states, “The most popular do it yourself solar automation model consists of a 1/16 inch horsepower gear motor, a bicycle-type lift apparatus, (chain and sprocket) and a cover over the gate stem which contains a gate position sensor and limit switches. The gate system is usually powered by 1 or 2 deep-cycle batteries which are charged by a 20-40 watt solar panel. The gear is attached to the 12 volt DC gear motor with an industrial chain.”

irrigation ditch

Water flows through irrigation ditch to lake

It’s predicted that in the future, solar will be the main source for controlling our water systems in the West, from pumping up groundwater for cattle to monitoring the amount of water in irrigation ditches. Again, sunshine prevails!

Solar!


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Another Pragmatic Use for Solar–The Solar Bus!

The solar bus!

A prototype of what is to come in Uganda–the solar bus!

“It’s environmentally friendly, green and clean—the solar bus!”

By Linn Smith

July 3, 2016—In February of this year, Africa’s first solar bus, a prototype, hit its highways thanks to engineer, Paul Isaac Musasizi, CEO of Kiira Motors. The Kayoola Bus, as it is called in Africa, is an environmentally friendly, green and clean, 34 seat alternative to current buses. The system consists of two batteries charged by solar panels on the roof.

Creating Jobs for Uganda

When manufacturing of the bus is in place the company hopes to create 7,000 jobs, and by 2039, be able to manufacture all the parts for the bus in Uganda. Pricing the bus at $58,000, Musaisizi currently has some government funding, but is still looking for investors to get his project off the ground.

The solar bus

The Solar Bus–ride free!

Australia’s Tindo

Uganda does not boast the first solar bus. Australia has what they call the Tindo, powered 100% by solar! The Tindo was created by a New Zealand company called Designline International which “leads the world in vehicle design, hybrid propulsion systems and electric drive systems,” striving to keep New Zealand green through being environmentally conscious. The batteries of the Tindo are charged by a solar system on the roof at the city bus station instead of panels on top of the bus. This bus has been in operation since 2007 and accommodates 40 passengers–and cost to ride? Totally free!

China's hybrid bus

China’s hybrid bus–keeping in green!

China’s Hybrid Buses

China put solar hybrid buses into operation in 2012. These buses have solar panels installed on the roof which power lithium-ion batteries.

Solar Bus

Austria’s Solar Bus

And Solar for Austria

In Austria the first solar bus was put into operation in 2011. This is a bus developed to transport students between the university campuses.

“Solar buses—solar energy applied in another pragmatic way!”


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Fun in the Sun: Camping with Renewables

Earth Day

Clean Energy: Make It a Priority!

“These are just a very few of the many renewable accessories available for camping–and you can’t beat a free charge using the sun!”

By Linn Smith

June 3, 2016—-Now that nice weather is upon us, many think about taking tents and equipment into the peacefulness of the wilderness, sitting by a stream with a fishing pole, hiking the path along the scenic terrain and getting out of the city into nature.

Replace Those Batteries with Sun Power!

Have you thought about replacing those battery driven gadgets used for camping with solar ones? There are many products now on the market that are environmentally friendly, many using the free energy of the sun! I have had the same solar flashlight for about 10 years–and it never fails me, even if it has been in the glove compartment for weeks! We have had solar panels for our travel trailer for about 5 years–which keep our DC lights lighting up just fine! (In the article, “Solar Powering Your RV” on our Planet Earth Weekly website, I covered how to set up your RV using Solar.)

Renewable Camping

Every year there are more solar and renewable camping accessories to choose from. Here are just a few that are on the market:

Solar Radio

Know the weather when your camping.

1. Eton Scorpion Multi-Purpose Solar Powered Digital Weather Radio–It retails for about $70. It’s a flashlight, radio, USB cell phone charger, and gives you weather alerts. Reviews say it’s good for short interval uses.

Biolite kettle Charger

Charge phone as you boil water.

2. Biolite KettleCharger–This gadget charges your phone or tablet while you boil water. It retails for about $150 from http://www.BioLite.com and provides 10W On-Demand power, with a charge the strength of a wall outlet. It also stores power for “a quick recharge with no heat or water.” This gadget packs flat, creating power while you boil water for cooking, drinking or cleaning. You can use it on your camp stove, boiling water as your battery stores power. This has excellent reviews.

LuminaAid

Solar Lantern that is waterproof.

3. LuminaAid Packlight Spectra–This is a color changing solar light that inflates into a handy lantern and retails at Luminaid.com for about $25. It recharges in about 7 hours direct sunlight and gives 12 hours of LED light. It weights about 3.5 oz and is waterproof up to 1 meter deep and can float. This has excellent reviews.

GoSun camping stove.

Cook with Solar!

4. GoSun Stove–This retails for about $280. It’s a portable stove that cooks a meal in less than 20 minutes and uses no fuel, only the sun! It weighs about 3.5 pds (1.5 kg), but will cook up to 31 lbs of food at a time. It retains about 80% of it’s sun intake, can bake, boil or fry and collapses to carry. This has excellent reviews.

Yeti Solar Generator

Camp with a Solar Generator

5. Goal Zero Yeti 150 Solar Generator–Available at http://www.REI.com for about $230. It’s gas free and fume free, cranking out portable power from sunlight to power lights, phones and laptops. It’s quiet and lasts about 7 hrs on a full charge. The output is 12V, AC, and USB. It weighs about 12 lbs and is rechargeable by solar, AC or 12V. It can be plugged into a Boulder 30 panel for recharging.

scrubbabag: Clothes washing for camping trips

Wash your clothes when camping!

6. Scrubba Wash Bag–Pick it up at REI for around $50. It weighs less than 5 oz, volume of the bag is about 3 gallons. You fill it with water, clothes and soap, your rub it with your hands to wash. Inside it has hundreds of internal Scrubba nodules that clean your clothes quickly and it folds down to pocket size. It has a transparent window so you can see the dirt escaping your clothes! And you can just keep dirty clothes in it until your ready to do your wash. This has very good reviews.

These are just a very few of the many renewable accessories available for camping–and you can’t beat a free charge using the sun! Have a fun summer! And remember—do what you can, when you can, where you can to create a healthier planet!

Clean It and Green It


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2016: Climate Change, Renewable Energy and Other Things

Earth Day

Clean Energy: Make It a Priority!

“Driving down the demand for oil as renewable energy sources are becoming less expensive.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

Earth Day was a True Global Success for Climate Change

May 7, 2016—In December of 2015 a conference was held in a suburb of Paris, France to discuss the necessary action to slow global warming. More heads of state attended that conference than had ever attended a single conference. There were 195 leaders attending, which is virtually every nation recognized by the United Nations. The outcome was that nearly all of the countries presented plans to reduce greenhouse gases in the near future. The date for signing the agreement was set for Earth Day, April 22, 2016. On that date representatives of 175 governments came together again in a special ceremony to confirm the commitments they made in Paris by signing the agreement. The two largest greenhouse gas emitters, the United States and China, were among those that signed. The remaining countries have until Earth Day 2017 to sign. What remains is for the individual countries to ratify the agreement. Enacting this agreement would be a huge step forward in slowing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. The agreement was that the plans presented at the Paris conference would be in place by 2020. Many, if not most of the signers, expect to have their plans implemented before then.

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

Saudi Arabia Cuts Dependence on Oil

Saudi Arabia has changed direction on oil after nearly a century of dependence on the mining of oil to finance the nation. A number of problems have led to this major change in economic policy. Among them are the collapse of the price of oil on the international market and growing unemployment for younger people entering the job market. The sale of oil produced more than 70% of the state income in 2015. Saudi Arabia experienced close to $100 billion dollar national deficit in 2015 and is projecting an 85 billion dollar deficit in 2016. The rapid transition away from coal and oil as energy sources, and the greenhouse gasses they emit, is driving down the demand for oil as renewable energy sources are becoming less expensive.

The government has developed a new plan known as Vision 2030 that would diversify the Saudi economy. The plan would set up the largest government investment firm in the world. It includes selling a small stake in Aramco, the national oil company. The current estimated value of the company is three trillion dollars. It also eliminates 61 billion dollars worth of energy related subsidies to individuals, which have been used to support the royal family.

Sustainable living on a sustainable planet!

Let’s hand our children a healthy planet!

The Year Without a Summer

The Little Ice age was the coldest period in historic times. It occurred from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries and much of the earth experienced cooling. This past winter was the warmest winter on record in North America. Just 200 years ago during the Little Ice Age the colonies experienced the coldest summer on record. The year 1816 is known as “the year without a summer.” The year began with excessively low temperatures across much of the eastern seaboard. As spring came, the weather seemed to be cool, but not excessively so. In May however, the temperatures plunged. In New England, frost occurred every month. In Indiana, in the interior U.S., there was snow or sleet for 17 days which killed off seedlings before they had a chance to grow. The cold weather continued into June, when snow again fell, totally devastating any remaining crops. No crops grew north of a line between the Ohio and Potomac Rivers, and crop yields were scanty south of this line. In the pioneer areas of Indiana and Illinois, the lack of crops meant the settlers had to rely on hunting and fishing for their food. Reports suggest that raccoons, groundhogs, and the easily trapped passenger pigeons were a major source of food. The settlers also collected many edible plants which proved hardier than cultivated crops.

The cold hit Europe also. Alpine glaciers grew in size and advanced to lower elevations. The Thames River in England froze over many times. It has not frozen over since the winter of 1813-1814.

Alaskan Aquarium Innovation Cuts Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Many technological innovations are cutting greenhouse gas emissions. One such innovation is used by the Sea Life Center in Seward, Alaska. The Alaskan aquarium now draws 98% of its energy for heating and cooling from the sea. The center is getting heat energy from Resurrection Bay using a heat exchange system. Sea water contains a great deal of heat energy. The bay is about 900 feet (273m) deep, absorbing heat from the sun during the summer and retaining heat through the winter deep below the surface. A complex system of pipes carries heat from the bay into the Sea Life center, which can also be used for cooling. The center uses only a very small amount of energy from other sources, (2%)% and so has drastically cut the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

2016: Moving towards renewable resources!


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The Solar Airplane

Solar airplane

Powered only by solar energy.

“Clean Technology can accomplish amazing things!”

By Linn Smith

April 26, 2016: Following is an article I wrote in 2013 about the solar airplane and the Solar Impulse. The Solar Impulse 2 is on its around-the-world flight and just finished its 10th leg of its tour, landing in California. It started in Abu Dhubi, in the United Arab Emirates, where it will also end, taking 2 years to complete. It will travel a distance of 35,000 miles on solar only, with cruising speeds between 28mph-56mph.

June 21, 2013—–Photovoltaic (PV) technology, or the solar cell, is a power supply that produces electricity from the sun’s rays. In 1954, Bell Telephone Labs developed the first Photovoltaic Cell capable of powering everyday electrical equipment, but with only 4% efficiency. The solar cell has quickly achieved greater efficiency over the decades, as people seek free energy from the sun and express their concern about CO2 and global warming.

When a solar cell is exposed to light, it can generate an electrical current without being attached to a voltage source. Photovoltaic–the term “photo” is derived from the greek word meaning “light” and “Volt” is from Alessandro Volta, inventor of first battery in 1800. Therefore, photovoltaic cells produce energy from light, which is a sustainable energy source. If something is “sustainable” it has been “developed to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” Sustainability also meets the needs of our planet, maintaining a healthy environment in which life can survive and flourish.

Project Sunrise, 1974

The first solar airplane to fly was an unmanned craft , Project Sunrise, in 1974 by Roland Boucher, an engineer for Hughes Aircraft. Boucher developed an aircraft powered only by solar panels on its wings. The Sunrise had a total weight of 22 lbs., could soar to a height of 8,000 ft., and made 28 flights before being destroyed in turbulant weather. Boucher’s invention had enough success to “demonstrate the feasibility of solar powered flight at extreme altitudes,” and opened the door for solar innovators to take to the sky!

The Solar Airplane

The Solar Airplane: 17,000 Solar Cells attached to the wing

Flying Around the World with Solar

Jump ahead to 2013, a solar airplane that can fly forever without landing, developed by a company called Solar Impulse which was founded by Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg. Piccard came up with the idea of flying a solar aircraft after circling the earth in a hot air balloon. He stated, “After using almost three tons of fuel during my balloon trip, I knew I wanted to try to create a cleaner way of traveling. The balloon trip was almost a failure due to the dependency on fuel. On that day, I made a promise that the next time I would fly around the world, it would be with no fuel at all.

The Solar Airplane

The Solar Airplane: Around-the-World-Tour.

The solar Impulse Company

“Our company, Solar Impulse, has a goal—to prove that progress is possible using clean forms of energy.” The Solar Impulse aircraft is a one man airplane, can fly night or day, uses 12,000 solar cells mounted on its wings and stores the sun’s power in batteries–no fuel used! It flies approximately 45mph, uses the latest technology in advanced batteries to store the power of the sun and enables the aircraft to fly round-the-clock. It has the wingspan equal to a 747 jet, but weighs no more than a car.

Piccard and Borschberg piloted the Solar Impulse aircraft, alternatively, beginning May 3, 2013, making city-to-city jaunts starting in San Francisco and landing in Washington D.C. 45 days later. This transcontinental flight has prepared the way for Solar Impulse’s second generation of aircraft which will fly around the world in 2015. The improved version will have a larger cockpit and everything necessary for the pilot to survive in the air for 5 or 6 days.

The Future of Solar Technology

Finally, I will leave you with a question asked to Piccard in the June issue of “Popular Mechanics” Magazine:

Question:”What are the future applications of solar airplane technology?”

Answer: “The technologies we carry on board Solar Impulse, if they were massively used everywhere in the world, would allow people to cut in half the energy consumption of our world and produce half of the rest with renewable sources. We have the best electrical engines, the best batteries, the lightest materials for our solar structure, the best insulation materials, the most efficient lighting system, and all this can be used to build houses and cars, and for lighting, cooling and heating systems everywhere. The problem is the resistance of people against changes. Too many people are afraid of losing their habits and beliefs, so the introduction of clean technologies on the consumer market is taking far too long.”


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Peabody Coal: The Facts

Peabody Coal: End of Fossil Fuels

Peabody filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

By Linn Smith

“Keep Coal in the Ground”

April 17, 2016—Peabody Coal is back in the news again—filing for bankruptcy. In 2013 Peabody Coal shifted some of its assets into a new company and called it Patriot Coal to keep from paying its workers benefits. Patriot Coal declared bankruptcy! This is corruption within the law and “An unjust law is no law at all!”

Following is an article I wrote in 2013 about Peabody Coal:

April 14, 2013—The United States is using less coal, resulting in less CO2 emissions being released by the U.S., but to keep profits flowing Peabody Energy is exporting their coal to other countries. Peabody Energy (previously Peabody Coal) is the largest private coal company in the U.S., and its exports to China and India are set to increase from 1 billion to 5 billion tons by 2015. Though Peabody has made a small effort to invest in the development of clean air technologies, it exports coal to over 23 countries worldwide, where coal environmental regulations aren’t as stringent as in the United States. Newsweek Magazine has ranked Peabody Coal the least eco-friendly company in the United States.

Patriot Coal declared bankruptcy

Peabody Coal changed assets to Patriot Coal.

Protests Against Peabody Coal

In April 2013, protesters converged on a Peabody CEO meeting in St. Louis to protest environmental and worker contract issues saying, “Peabody attacks pensions, lands, and climate.” They also protested the impact on health, land, and water resources of the Black Mesa section of the Navajo/Hopi Reservations where Peabody has strip mines.

The Navajo/Hope Reservation: The Black Mesa Devastation

In the 1960′s, Peabody Coal contracted mineral and water rights on a section of the Navajo/Hopi Reservations called Black Mesa. The contract was negotiated by a lawyer, John Boyden, who claimed to represent the Hopi and Navajo people, but was, reportedly, on Peabody Coal Company’s payroll. The lease agreement was for 14 million tons of coal per year to provide electricity for southern California, Nevada, and central Arizona.

Today, the water and air are polluted in the Black Mesa section of the Navajo/Hopi land. Following is part of a letter written January, 2013, by Navajo/Hopi elders to Peabody Executives, requesting a meeting:

“The 46 year strip-mining on Black Mesa is devastating for our people. Our people are facing forced relocation because of Peabody Western Coal Co. The coal mine does not effectively extinguish coal fires to prevent the toxic gases from being emitted. The gaseous pollution endangers the health of our people….before Peabody, there were natural springs and wildlife. The natural springs are extinct now and the water is polluted. Black Mesa residents now face hauling water 30 or 40 miles to their homes and livestock….the pristine Navajo Aquifer is irreversibly damaged….the healing process can begin with Peabody Energy ceasing further coal strip mining and putting profits into solar and allowing the residents of Black Mesa to return to their way of life….the Black Mesa people have endured physical, emotional, and spiritual losses, the people struggle to survive, as the southwest cities benefit from the cheap resources of our land…tens of thousands of our people were forced to leave their land to make room for your mine, making this the biggest forced relocation of Native people since the Trail of Tears.”

Transitioning our Energy to Renewable Resouces

Keep Coal in the Ground!

The Creation of Patriot Coal

Not only is Peabody Energy a polluter without a conscience, they have refused to honor their contract with their coal miners, many having poor health conditions, including Black Lung. Here’s what big corporations can get away with! Peabody has recently shifted some of their assets to a new dummy company, “Patriot Coal”, in order to keep from paying “legacy costs” to miners. “Legacy costs” are increased healthcare fees and other benefit-related costs payed to a company’s workers and retirees. “Patriot Coal” (Peabody Coal) is now in federal court declaring bankruptcy. They expect their debt of one billion dollars owed to their miners will be “forgiven”.

Keep Coal in the Ground

Jim Hayes, of the Sierra Club, writes, “Peabody’s profits have increased in recent years, as it carries out more uncontrolled pollution mining and expands its trade worldwide, especially to China.” The only way fossil fuels will stop polluting our atmosphere is if they stay in the ground. It’s senseless for one country to make an effort to move towards renewable resources but move the culprit, coal, to countries with no regulations. It’s all the same world, and our atmosphere doesn’t know the difference. The pollution is only entering the atmosphere from a different location on our planet.

As John Prine sang in his song, Paradise, “Then the coal company came, with the world’s largest shovel, and they tortured the timber and stripped all the land. Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken, then they wrote it all down as the progress of man. Mr. Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away.”

Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet For Future Generations


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What’s New in 2016 for Clean Energy?

Electric Cars

Pre-Orders 230,000 and Rising

“Clean Energy: Leaving a healthy planet for future generations!”

By Linn Smith

April 9, 2016–Things are going very well in the Clean Energy field for 2016. According to a Bloomberg News article titled, “Solar and Wind Just Did the Unthinkable,” the unpredictable happened last year–oil, coal and gas bottomed out. Even though Europe had its smallest investment in renewables in nine years, one half of the world’s annual investments in clean energy came from emerging clean energy markets, “The world is now adding more power capacity from renewables every year than from coal, natural gas and oil combined…..as fossil fuel prices crash.” It’s predicted by the International Energy Agency that renewables will lead the world’s energy market by 2020.

cop21

A promising outlook for the future

Investment in Fossil Fuel Exploration Declines

According to the NY Times, one of the reasons for the crash of the fossil fuel industry and rise of clean energy is the fact that investment in exploration for fossil fuels has dropped dramatically. Mining and exploration in the U.S. dropped from $135 billion in 2014 to $88 billion in 2015 and the drop will continue in 2016. It boils down to supply and demand, which is partially driven by more energy efficient-cars.

Tesla Model 3

Public interest in electric cars is on the rise, as witnessed this past week by Tesla’s Model 3, with pre-orders hitting 325,000 in the first week–and pre-orders are rapidly growing. The cost of the Tesla is about half of the previous models, costing around $35,000 for the basic Model 3.

In 2015 a poll showed that 48% of Americans said they would consider a hybrid car, while interest was at 21% for electric cars. The biggest concern for most people has been the price. With the unveiling of Tesla’s Model 3 recently, this concern has been met by an affordable electric car. The price has been cut, making it not only affordable but competitive with gas models causing people to line up at Tesla dealerships across the country.

Electric Cars and the Oil Crisis

A Bloomberg article titled, “Here’s How Electric Cars Will Cause the Next Oil Crises” states, “With all good technologies, there comes a time when buying the alternative no longer makes sense,”—as happened with smartphones, TVs, ect. The reason electric cars now make sense—price drop, less expensive batteries and better performance–plus the charging infrastructure is in place. When you travel the country you will see charging stations every couple hundred miles along major highways. Prediction of electric car growth? Tesla estimates the growth rate will be at least 60% through 2020, cutting approximately 2 million barrels a day of oil demand! (The same growth rate that pushed the Ford Model T past the horse and buggy in 1910!) Tesla, Chevy and Nissan all plan to sell electric cars for under $30,000 in the next several years!

Electric Cars: Less Pollution

But there is still the fact that electric cars aren’t any cleaner than the energy used to create the electricity that provides their charge. The Sierra Club’s article “Electric Vehicles: Myth Vs.Reality” dispels many of the arguments against electric cars. They state, “According to a range of studies, an electric car leads to significantly less carbon dioxide pollution from electricity than the CO2 pollution from oil of a conventional car.” As we retire more coal plants and provide cleaner sources of power, the carbon footprint of an electric car drops even further.

If you have solar panels for your house, the panels not only provide electricity but will recharge your electric car. Www.solarchargedDriving.org says you will need about 7-10kw of power on your roof for both your electricity and car charge. Also you can find out if there is a green option through your local utilities company.

So should you divest in oil and reinvest in renewables? Now might be the time to do it. Warren Buffet, an advocate for clean energy, offers investment bonds at 5.4% interest through his company, MidAmerican Energy. There is also a site that offers a direct buy into crowdsourcing solar startups through http://www.joinmosaic.com at a 4.5-6% interest rate. This company has a very good reputation.

So—2016 looks like a great year for clean energy!

“Clean Energy: Leaving a healthy planet for future generations!”