Tag Archives: renewable

Samso landscape with wind turbines. Not my image.

Renewable Island

Samso landscape with wind turbines. Not my image.

Samso landscape with wind turbines. Not my image.

Samso is a small Danish island with about 4,300 residents.
What’s remarkable about this place? It’s 100% powered by renewable energy.

That’s one hundred percent! What a fantastic achievement!

With a combination of off-shore and on-shore wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal pumps and locally grown biofuels, they’ve managed to secure full energy sufficiency from sustainable sources. They do use some fossil-fuel powered cars, but the whole island’s still carbon neutral because they sell excess wind energy to mainland Denmark, effectively offsetting their remaining emissions. They’re actually implementing electric cars as we speak, and they plan to be completely independent from fossil fuels by 2030. If that includes the carbon involved in agriculture and consumer goods, then it’s an ambitious goal – but definitely achievable.

Samso Energy Academy is a visitor attraction, education centre and conference suite where politicians, scientists and businesspeople can meet to discuss renewable energy.  I’m sure anyone that has the pleasure of visiting this centre would be bowled over by the success of the energy projects undertaken on the island.

They have a smart grid, connected to the mainland. Denmark itself is light years ahead of my country when it comes to renewables. Roughly 28% of their current energy is from renewable sources and they’re at the forefront of intelligent grid technologies. These smart grids have an interactive digitised system which allows the fluctuating supply characteristic of renewables to be balanced with the rising demand of our times. Denmark’s grid is connected to nearby countries so they can export when there is a surplus and import when production dips.

I’ve always thought localised energy systems are much more robust than centralised ones. I think this is especially true with renewables because wind, sun and wave energy production is most efficient with many small generation plants rather than a few massive ones. Also diversity between the many different forms of renewables energy is paramount to avoid shortages. But having localised energy generation does not have to mean you can’t also have a smart inter-regional and even international grid – think of it as a vast web with thousands of nodes, all connected but not relying on any centralised system.

I’m incredibly impressed by Samso. The projects were actually instigated by the residents, which makes it even more impressive than if it was the Danish government forcing clean energy on unsuspecting islanders! Here are people that are truly forward thinking, proactive and inspirational. Although the island only has a 4,300 residents, I see no reason why their successes couldn’t be scaled up for larger communities. We’ve all got a lot to learn here.

Here’s some more information about the island. This lovely image is created by www.infographs.org. I’m sorry it’s kind of too small, but I can’t figure out how to enlarge it any further.

For more information about how Denmark’s getting ahead of the energy game, check out State of Green.

Not my photo. Belongs to © Solar Impulse / Jean Revillard.

Solar Aeroplane!

Not my photo. Belongs to © Solar Impulse / Jean Revillard.

Not my photo. Belongs to © Solar Impulse / Jean Revillard.

I have good news today!

Yesterday I read about Solar Impulse, the American-owned solar aeroplane that can fly all the way through day and night powered purely by the sun’s rays. It flew from one side of the USA to the other yesterday, and the next big challenge is to fly all around the world in 2015. It converts 20% of the sun’s incoming rays into clean electricity, from the solar cells which cover it’s entire wingspan. The Solar Impulse website says it’s not the first aeroplane to employ solar technology, but it’s certainly the most ambitious to date, and the first to be able to fly through the night. This is possible because the energy generated in the day is able to be stored, a technology which wasn’t available not so long ago.

I’ve often thought we need to sort out a new aviation fuel, as the standard one is hugely carbon-heavy and won’t help us meet our carbon-reduction targets any time soon. I wondered about biofuel, but I generally don’t think biofuel’s a great idea. It just seems counter-productive to use loads of land growing crops to turn into ethanol when the space could be used to feed the millions of malnourished people in the world. I also considered electric planes that could be charged up with renewable energy generated on land… But I for some reason I never thought of a plane that generated it’s power as it flies.

I have no idea why I didn’t think solar-powered aeroplanes were a realistic possibility. But it makes perfect sense doesn’t it? Planes usually fly above the clouds so you’re pretty much guaranteed sunlight, and at a higher intensity than the ground receives even on a clear day. It’s perfect!

This has made me really really happy because it basically solves a dilemma I’ve been having. On the one hand, I’m desperate to travel the world, learn about loads of crazy different places and cultures and even travel for work; carving out a career in green media. On the other hand, I don’t want to fly because I can’t justify the huge amounts of pollution caused by aviation. How could I fly around the world writing about environmental issues? What a stupid hypocritical paradox?

Well, thanks to Solar Impulse it looks like I might be able to have my cake and eat it after all.

Bring on the renewable revolution! Bring on the post-carbon future!

~

More information:

Treehugger: http://www.treehugger.com/aviation/solar-impulse-flying-san-francisco-new-york-city-solar-plane.html
Solar Impulse: http://www.solarimpulse.com/en/
The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/video/2013/may/04/solar-powered-aeroplane-lands-phoenix-video

Kent hosts largest offshore wind farm in the world

The Thanet Offshore Wind Farm on the Eastern most point of Kent, is the largest such project in the whole world. It is comprised of 100 wind turbines, generating 300 MW of clean electricity. This is estimated to be enough to power 200,000 homes per year. Quite something!

The project was begun in 2008, and construction finished last year. Now Keith Taylor, the Green MEP for Kent and the South East, has secured £150 million  from the European Investment Bank to help fund the wind farm.

Apparently this large-scale project has helped the UK to achieve the EU’s target of 15% of electricity being generated by renewable’s by 2020. Although of course it’s brilliant that we’ve hit this target, it strikes me that it was not high enough if it could be reached this easily with 9 years to spare. 15% is after all not that much. I like to hope we’ll have reached at least double that by 2020, personally.

However this is nonetheless fantastic news. The company responsible for the farm, Vattenfall, is not a predominately green company. They are a corporate energy company generating with nuclear, gas and coal as well as wind, hydroelectric and biomass. I know you won’t be expecting me to celebrate the combustion of scarce and dirty fossil fuels, but this fact does at least show that renewable power is now an economically sound option. An option that is sensibly taken by run-of-the-mill companies just searching for a profit margin, not trying to save the world while accidentally going bankrupt.

We’re getting there, if a bit too slowly.

~

Credits

http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/green-mep-welcomes-funding-for-off-shore-kent-wind-farm.html

http://www.vattenfall.co.uk/en/thanet-offshore-wind-farm.htm

Image is from Google Images and does not depict the wind farm in question.