Tag Archives: technology

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

The Cleantech Future

I just watched this really interesting 50 minute documentary about clean technology and what it means for our future. Have a look:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=9noGsz_HVcI#!]

I found the founder of Cleantech Group slightly over optimistic, but nevertheless the examples of current new technologies fascinating. Particularly impressive was the Solar Bag, which purifies water with nano technology and sunlight. Top Documentary Film described the documentary like this:

What if we could live in a clean world? A world in which energy would be 100% renewable, water no longer polluted, transportation truly green and production methods clean and regenerative?

It’s great to see examples of a future we can be excited about, and I hope they’re optimism is realized soon!

Fresh young innovation and electricity-free fridges

Hey. Good morning!

Today I came across this brilliant article by Permaculture magazine… Take a look:

http://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/meet-inventor-electricity-free-fridge-powered-dirty-water

It’s about this young sustainable designer called Emily Cummins (link to her website) who has come up with the design for a fridge that doesn’t require electricity but instead runs off of the evaporation of dirty water. (See the article for more details on how it works).

Emily and her fridge. Image from www.permaculture.co.uk - I claim no ownership or anything like that.

At just 24, Emily is the youngest ever winner of a Sustainable Design Award. That’s just one among many achievements though – her lengthy list of awards can be viewed on her website. She says her interest in design began in early childhood, when her granddad taught her to make toys out of random scraps from her household. It became a lifelong interest, and since she graduated with a first class honours degree two years ago, she has been involved in many inspiring projects. She says sustainability is paramount to her design process. In the above article she enthuses: ”I see it as something that should be considered for all products. All products should be as economically, environmentally and socially sustainable as possible.’‘ She also thinks that: ‘…the government should put legislation in place to stop businesses producing things that aren’t environmentally sustainable. If businesses only produce products that are environmentally sustainable, then people will have to buy them. It’s easier not to give consumers a choice.’‘ In most cases I’m all for choice, but in this respect I think she’s right… People buy what’s in the shops, and industrial claims of ‘it’s up to the consumer! We just make what they demand! It’s all in the hands of the consumer!’ are just my-hands-are-tied rubbish in my opinion. I’ll be writing a post about that soon, but for now let’s get back to this sustainable fridge…

It’s main relevance is really in the third world, where electricity isn’t in plentiful supply like it is in the Western world. It can be made from local and recycled materials, and is already being made and used in townships in Africa since Emily gave her plans to the people there in her gap year. Of course it can also be used in the developed world. In the near future we’ll have no choice but to become very frugal and efficient with energy, and even when it comes to renewable energy, it’s still useful to have an appliance that doesn’t require any as it frees up more for other things.

It’s really inspiring to see an inventor working with sustainable design in this way… As well as this fridge design, she’s also worked on an efficient and easily made water carrier for use in the Third World where women and children travel miles for just a bucket or two of water. Her wheeled water carrier makes such a trip more productive as five buckets can be pulled along by one person.

I truly hope to see more simple and ethically-driven innovations like this as the younger generation graduates from education and starts to make their mark on the world….

Here’s to the future!

Sweet, sweet rainwater

Wouldn't it be great if a multi-purpose, vital and increasingly scarce resource happened to fall on your house every other night...

In the world today, we have a water problem. Every living person needs clean water to drink. We also need water to bathe in, to wash our clothes, dinner plates and homes, and we need huge amounts of water in every industry, to grow food and produce every product we globally enjoy. But because there are so many more of us than there used to be, and because we’re more wasteful, there’s not enough fresh water to go round. 884 million people around the world already go thirsty everyday, and as if that isn’t a crisis enough, drinking water could soon become a scarce commodity for the Western world as well.

Luckily, we can easily lessen our water consumption. I recently read in Inspired Times that as much as 50% of our domestic tap water usage could be saved if we simply used rain water for toilets, washing machines and gardens. That’s such a huge gain for such a surprisingly small effort that I wanted to shout about it.

So, get a rainwater harvesting system as soon as possible. You can get all sorts of state-of-the-art systems which are brilliant. However, if the research and possible cost will hold you back, I’d highly recommend installing any type of basic drain-to-waterbutt set-up.

Keeping things simple...

When it rains, the water that falls on your roof will just be collected in water butts for you to use- for watering the garden or washing your car. More professional (but still simple and affordable) systems are available to link in to your water storage tanks and can be used by appliances inside your house. (E.g. for flushing the toilet and washing clothes).

I think our whole water system is ridiculous to be honest. Why use drinking water for everything? For most water uses rainwater would be totally adequate. Also flushing toilets are incredibly wasteful. I wish composting toilets were the norm everywhere. Even the natural processes of water recycling are disrupted by the fact we have concrete and drains everywhere. Fresh water is lost when it rains heavily inland and the excess water is directed to the sea by pipes…

I digress. What I mean to say is; whenever it rains, instead of thinking about how annoying it is, think about how much free water you can gather!