Tag Archives: technology

Twisted Tory energy policy but good news from China and India

The UK is seriously behind the curve on energy policy.

The Tories have just announced they’re going to make true on their manifesto commitment and axe the subsidy for onshore wind turbines a year ahead of schedule, in 2016. And of course they have also cemented their full support for fracking the country to pieces.

This is such a twisted energy policy for 2015, the year of the historic make-or-break climate summit in Paris, that I kind of want to hide under my bed for the next few decades.

Wind turbines in Iowa. Photography by Samir Luther, Creative Commons Licensing.

Wind turbines in Iowa. Photography by Samir Luther, Creative Commons Licensing.

We’re also likely to miss our binding EU target of 20% renewable energy by 2020, which isn’t going to get any better by cutting off public investment for onshore wind energy, one of the cheapest renewable technologies. Never mind our own domestic 2008 Climate Act, which requires an 80% cut to emissions by 2050.

Happily though, our dismal set-back is shown up by really promising progress in the emerging economies. Here’s some good news from China and India.  Continue reading

Energy Democracy

Here’s a really cool short video I found on Films for Action about the energy revolution we so desperately need and deserve – a democratised renewable energy system designed to meet all our energy needs sustainably rather than just make a few corporations obscenely rich. And that includes the billion people currently living without power. Give it a watch!

Also – I apologise for my lack of posting recently. I’m two and half months away from finishing my degree, I’m working voluntarily for the Post Growth Institute and the UK’s Green Party and I have a job as a waitress as well. I’m just a bit busy basically. I have loads of ideas I’m dying to put into words though. Come June I’ll be back on to regular blogging.

Much love!

Skeptical of Solar Roadways?

Yesterday I excitedly posted an article waxing lyrical about a new project to turn roads into solar-panel-covered roads that could generate all the clean energy the US needs if replicated nation-wide.

Solar cycle lane. Artists rendition by Katherine Simons.

Solar cycle lane. Artist’s rendition by Katherine Simons.

Apologising for being cynical, one of my lovely environmentally-conscious friends commented that he didn’t think it was a practical idea, and directed me to this article that dismisses solar roadways as a wild fancy. Well, I think they have a couple of fair points, and a fair few not-so-valid points. Let’s walk through them.  Continue reading

Artists rendition of what the solar roadways would look like with their programmable LED lights. Art by Sam Cornett.

SOLAR ROADWAYS

This is just about the best idea I’ve heard of in a very long time.

Solar Roadways are pretty much what they say on the tin: solar panels that cover the roads, generating clean electricity. They can also cover car parks, pavements, cycle lanes and any other impenetrable surface. The solar panels are encased in modular, hexagon-shaped tiles that can be replaced individually and are topped with a special kind of glass which can withstand even the heaviest trucks driving over it. The tiles are partly made with recycled materials, and they heat up slightly so as to melt snow and ice – meaning less snow-clearing costs, safer winter roads and of course year round functionality of the solar panels.

And the best bit?
How much energy these things could actually generate. The calculations, which use conservative estimates based on one of the least sunny states, show that if all roads in the USA were solar roads,each year they would generate three times the power the whole country  used in 2009.

Let that sink in for a minute. Three times the amount.  Continue reading

Image from the front cover of Prosperity Without Growth

‘Prosperity Without Growth’ by Tim Jackson

I’ve just finished reading Prosperity Without Growth by Tim Jackson (2009) for the second time. I got it from my university library and I haven’t been able to bring myself to relinquish it – I’ve renewed this little volume three times now. It’s one of the best factual books I’ve ever read, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone remotely interested in sustainability, the environment, economics or well-being.  Continue reading

Not my image.

Soaring Energy Prices

Have you noticed the rise in energy prices?

I topped up my electricity key just a few days ago, but I’m already in the emergency.

Not my image.

Not my image.

If it hasn’t hit you on a practical level yet, you’ve probably at least heard about it on the news. Four of the Big Six energy companies have already raised their prices, by an average of 9.1%, and the other two are going to do it soon as well. Continue reading

The vertical urban farm uses a hydraulic system. Not my image.

Urban Farming

For the first time in human history, over half of the global population live in cities*. This urbanization trend is continuing, with estimates that by 2030 the urban population could be five billion**. The staggering seven billion milestone we hit two years ago is just the start… The UN thinks we’ll reach at least nine billion before the global population starts to level out. Cities are currently grossly unsustainable and their resilience to shocks in the energy market, transport and logistics system is poor. A good way of dealing with these challenges is for cities to start producing some (and eventually most) of their own food. Where space is a scarce resource, we tend to build up into the sky. And that’s exactly what innovative company Sky Greens is doing in Singapore. Have a look at this video:

The vertical urban farm uses a hydraulic system. Not my image.

The vertical urban farm uses a hydraulic system. Not my image.

Resources:
http://www.who.int/gho/urban_health/situation_trends/urban_population_growth_text/en/
**http://www.unfpa.org/pds/urbanization.htm

Phonebloks – Sustainable Design

Phonebloks is conceptual company that want to make mobile phones more sustainable, customizable and user-friendly.

Currently, phones tend to break within a couple of years or at least seem obsolete due to planned obsolescence and the fast-paced development of all things digital. This means that we throw away a shocking tonnage of mobiles and other devices like cameras and mp3 players. Electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world, and most of it ends up in landfill – which is crazy because it contains diminishing finite metals. All e-waste produced in the UK is by law required to be recycled within the national borders, but I’ve watched a documentary exposing the fact that many companies try to skip this costly responsibility by illegally exporting the waste to developing countries. They tend not to have high-tech waste separation facilities so it is ‘recycled’ by people (and kids) sorting through it by hand, with bare feet, using small fires to separate the materials and contracting horrible illnesses from the toxins in the heavy metals and plastics.

So, electronic waste is a problem, and mobile phones are a big part of that.

What Phonebloks envisions is a ”phone worth keeping”. They rightly point out that when a phone breaks or becomes slow or doesn’t have a swanky new feature that we’re after, it’s generally just one small component of the phone that has the issue. But because they’re not designed to be repaired or upgraded, (planned obsolescence), we chuck the whole handset away. Their solution is a modular phone, where each component (battery, speaker, WIFI, camera, SIM card etc) is encapsulated in a handy ‘blok’ which can be removed and replaced with a new one. The ‘bloks’ would be developed by partner companies and sold similarly to apps.

Here’s their promotional video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDAw7vW7H0c

They’ve got a great idea, but they can’t start production until they’ve got investors and partners, and those moneybags won’t get involved unless there’s proof that such a phone would be popular. If you think it sounds great, then you should check out their website, like them on facebook and most importantly, join their ‘thunderclap‘. That means you agree to send a message via facebook, twitter or another online platform – automatically – at the same time on the same date as all the other people that have signed up. So far 302,917,930 people have added their voice.

Speak up now if you want this super cool, affordable, sustainable and customizable phone.
Eco design is the future of technology!