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Weird Ideas that are Actually Really Environmentally Friendly

Weird Ideas that are Actually Really Environmentally Friendly

Europe has long led the way in climate change research, environmental impact studies, and most importantly, environmentally friendly technology advances that cut carbon emissions, save valuable energy resources, and prevent humans from permanently altering Earth’s biosphere in a way that’s bad for it, for the creatures that inhabit it, and for us.

Sometimes, however, this enthusiasm for green technology gets a little… weird. Some Europeans, it seems, are willing to try just about anything to save a little energy here and there, cut reliance on coal and gas, and save the environment a little bit.

Body Heat

For example, there is a firm based in Stockholm, Sweden that plans to harness the body heat of daily commuters (there are almost a quarter of a million of them daily) to lower the energy cost of heating a large nearby office building. The technology seems viable, and the firm plans to replicate it elsewhere, if it can find the buyers.

Let's Go Fly a Kite

Let’s Go Fly a Kite

A 10,000 ton freighter in Bremerhaven, a port on the German coast, needed to be towed out to see where it could take over and move on its own power. Normally, this task is accomplished almost entirely by gas-burning tugboats. In this instance, however, the crew got creative, and rigged a giant kite to harness the wind and help pull the ship out of the harbor and into the sea. That’s not to say that the tugboats were entirely unnecessary, but it just goes to show how far Europeans will go to save a little energy here and there.

A Funeral – For Waste

Sometimes, that obsession with energy savings can turn a little macabre. A funeral home in England proposed back in 2008 to recycle heat from the furnaces in the basement–yes, the ones used in the cremation of your deceased relatives–to warm the chapel on the premises of the funeral home. They actually got the go-ahead from sixteen local officials, and the plan has so far worked out–though it has no doubt been the subject of some significant controversy. But I guess that’s just to be expected.

A Culture of Creativity

A Culture of Creativity

Karl Sudnholm of Jernhusen, the Swedish company harnessing the body heat of commuters, made a telling point when he said that they were sitting around trying to come up with ways to save energy. When they hit upon the body heat idea, the board of directors said ‘go ahead. Why not?’ This in contrast to boards of directors elsewhere in the world, who are wary of the profitability of such ventures. But Europe is determined to go green, whatever it takes–even if it doesn’t make quite as many euros as dirty energy does.

Dung Generator

No, a ‘dung generator’ is not a cow–though they do generate quite a bit of dung. On the contrary, this dung generator is the brainchild of a Welsh farmer, who is currently fundraising the $2 million he needs to make his dream a reality.

The dung generator would power not only his farm, but also several hundred homes in a town not far from where he lives and works. The farmer owns over 500 cows, and he plans to use their dung to power the generator. That’s certainly plenty of fuel–but I’d be worried about the smell. Hopefully you’re not downwind of the power plant.

Conclusion

All great ideas seem a little weird when they’re first conceived. But Europe has proven time and time again that they are willing to embrace those weird ideas, on the off chance that they might be the next big thing. But we’re still waiting to see what that next big thing will be. Hopefully it will be a little more inspiring than a generator run on cow poop.

The Future of Solar Power in Europe

The Future of Solar Power in Europe

As people around the world become more conscious of the fact that our actions as a species have a profound impact on the world around us, green, clean, renewable energy sources become ever more important to governments, corporations, and individual people alike.

Perhaps nowhere is this phenomenon more pronounced than in the hyper-developed nations of western Europe. Germany, England, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, and France have all made major strides towards breaking their addiction to fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy sources that keep their air clean and the environment around them healthy.

One of the main renewable sources of energy–one that quickly comes to mind when you think of green technology–is the solar panel. Just a few decades ago, solar power was clunky and impractical. You might see hippies or woods-dwelling survivalists using them, but by and large it was believed that you simply could not capture enough of the sun’s energy for it to store much power.

Additionally, there was no good way to store the power once it was captured. Solar panels are great for daytime needs, but they tend to work poorly in the moonlight. There needed to be a way to make sure that the extra power accumulated could be saved–quite literally, for a rainy day.

But no longer is that the case. Solar power has advanced by leaps and bounds, and is now one of the primary ways in which energy-conscious countries like those of the European Union acquire the energy they need to run their daily lives, without burning massive amounts of coal and gas–dirty, fossil-based fuels.

Germany Leads the Way

Germany Leads the Way

Germany, as might be expected, leads the way in this trend. But not because the country is particularly sunny. On the contrary, Germany is such an excellent testing ground for solar panels because it typically experiences so much cloudy weather. So if you can get solar panels working there, then when your company expands to sunny Los Angeles, California, for example, you know you’ve got a winner.

Germany does, however, have a government that is extremely enthusiastic about making green energy a priority. Getting solar panels installed on your roof costs you a few pieces of paperwork and couple thousand dollars. If you capture more solar energy than your house uses, you can sell that power back to the power company, and your energy bill at the end of the month will show a credit–you make money on your electric bill each month. Solar panels in Germany will, eventually, literally pay for themselves.

And it’s paying off–Germany reports that a full third of its total energy consumption comes from photovoltaic (that is, solar) panel cells. Compare that with a whopping 10% in the United States. The U.S. has some serious catching up to do–especially considering that, dollar for dollar, it outspends Germany by a lot when it comes to investing in green energy sources.

France Struggles to Keep Up

France, though a leader in other renewable energy sources, has struggled to find a place for solar energy in its assortment of places to turn for electricity. The infrastructure simply isn’t there, and unlike the German government, the French government has been unwilling to offer the kinds of incentives that have made solar power so effective in Germany.

One thing is for sure, however: solar panels are now a cheaper source of energy than wind turbines, and are far cheaper than expensive nuclear energy. This is reflected in the steady growth of solar panel usage across the country in recent years. Investors are figuring out where their bread is buttered after all.

European Countries Leading the Way in Green Energy

European Countries Leading the Way in Green Energy

Green energy is all over the news, all over the media–it’s even finding its way into books, TV shows, and movies. Europe is known as probably the most energy-conscious continent on the planet, but even they have struggled in recent years.

For a number of complex and overlapping reasons, the last few years have seen a slump in dollars devoted to generating energy from non-fossil fuel sources. It was not until 2014 that this slump began to end. Certain countries–primarily European ones–again started taking major strides towards being 100% green and fossil-fuel free. China led the way in total dollars invested in green energy, with the U.S. in second place. But to find the real achievements, you have to look elsewhere–apparently the United States and China aren’t quite as efficient with their dollars, either.

Here are some of the countries that have done the most in the last few years to prove themselves the vanguard in this march to energy freedom.

2009-07-12T16-01-37 -- DSC_0283

Denmark’s Windy Triumph

Denmark has long been a pioneer in wind energy. They first installed turbines in their country in the mid-1970s (unless you count their iconic windmills–if you do, then they’ve used wind power since medieval times), and in recent years, they’ve set world records for the highest percentage of the country’s energy derived from renewable wind sources.

In 2014, Denmark reported an astounding 40% of its total energy consumption came from its vast network of windmills. But they’re hardly resting on their laurels, and they’ve set their sights high, indeed. They’ve announced that they intend to get 50% of all their energy from renewable sources by 2020, and to be a 100% renewable-energy country by 2050. Lofty goals? Perhaps, but they seem like they’re on track to make it in time.

Britain Catches Up

Britain isn’t quite as well known for those iconic windmills as are the Netherlands and Denmark, but the UK has nonetheless outdone itself in recent years when it comes to relying on wind power. While on 10% of the country’s total energy consumption comes from wind power, they’ve set world records in growth–15 percent in one year. That’s the highest of any country, ever.

So watch out, Denmark–England is giving you a run for your money. They’re already powering almost seven million homes with their windmills, and they intend to do much more in the coming years.

German Precision

German Precision

Germany truly leads the way, as it so often has, in terms of using renewable energy efficiently. The largest contributor to its overall energy consumption was renewable sources. This is eight times what it was two and a half decades ago, putting Germany in the front lines in terms of both overall usage and growth. Germany has in recent years been a sign of which way the wind is blowing in Europe, with the largest economy and some of the most advanced technology in the world. If this is still the case, then we can expect continued leadership from the European Union on questions of cleaning up our energy.

Conclusion

These are hardly all of the countries that have made major–even massive–strides towards relying only on clean, renewable sources of energy. Solar panels have become smaller, more efficient, and even flexible in recent decades. What was once an unthinkably clumsy and crude technology now seems slim and elegant–we can only imagine what it’ll look like in another twenty years.

The rest of the world must look to Europe’s example. Not only are they leading the way in clean energy, but they are finding it profitable and easy to do so. All the rest of us need to do is commit to it, and we can enjoy all of those benefits as well.

Europe’s Entrepreneurs are Ushering in a Greener Future

Europe's Entrepreneurs are Ushering in a Greener Future

“Going green” is a serious buzzword these days. You see it on everything from bumper stickers to corporate websites to designer handbags. Some large chain coffee shops have even made environmental friendliness a cornerstone of their brand image.

But perhaps nowhere in the world quite matches what the developed countries of Europe are doing to lessen their dependence on fossil fuels, and switch instead to total reliance on alternative, renewable sources of energy that don’t permanently alter the Earth’s natural ecosystems in a way that is damaging to the plants and animals that live in them.

Miniature Solar Panels

Miniature Solar Panels

Wales has traditionally gotten its power from coal plants, making it the least ‘green’ of the European Union nations. But not so anymore–the government of Wales has set a target for a 20 percent reduction in fossil fuel use by 2020, and entrepreneurs are stepping forward with bold new ideas, some of which were unthinkable even a few years ago.

Like solar panels. If your solar panel works in Wales, Europe’s cloudiest country, it’s sure to work everywhere else, right? That’s the bet that Robert Hertzberg is making. He’s designing miniature solar panels that could fit onto Smartphone and laptops, allowing them to run forever, in just about any environment.

A Crematorium that Recycles

A Crematorium that Recycles

In a controversial move, a crematorium in Manchester, England proposed using the heat from its furnaces–yes, the ones that cremate the dead people–to warm the inside of its chapel. Surprisingly, there was little blowback from the community.

People in Europe are extremely green-minded, it seems, and they’re willing to try lots of alternative ideas that people in other countries aren’t as motivated to hop on board with.

Geothermal Heat

Geothermal Heat

The inside of the Earth is hot–so hot, in fact, that even solid rock melts into a gooey glowing red liquid called magma. This magma regularly appears on the surface of the earth in the form of volcanoes and the volcanic rock that they spew. Geysers, too, are a function of internal pressures deep within the earth’s crust.

Entrepreneurs have long tried to figure out how to harness this energy to maximum effect–but have always come up short in the past. Europeans have, however, figured out one or two ways to use this energy–though it can no doubt be harnessed in a variety of other ways, once the technology is perfected.

The most noticeable thing about all of this sub-crust activity is the heat. Everything that comes out of the earth is hot. Some countries–particularly those like Norway, where the presence of hot springs and geysers, and a culture open to green innovation–are now using these natural phenomena to heat office buildings and apartments, and as a source of steam for industries that use a lot of it. It’s like having a faucet that’s free, and spouts the cleanest water you’ve ever seen, straight from the belly of the Earth.

Sharing the Burden

While entrepreneurs all over the continent are finding ways to make their businesses cleaner and more energy-efficient, reports from Eastern Europe are not so convincing. Repeated calls have come out in recent years for countries on the eastern side of the EU to refurbish old buildings, reduce their reliance on coal and other fossil fuels, and in general start taking a little bit more seriously the issues of resource depletion and climate change, which virtually all EU leaders agree poses a threat to the environment, and thus, by proxy, to us as well.

Clean Energy in EU – How European Union wants its Countries to Switch to Green Energy

EU-renewables

In recent years, the Renewable Energy Sources have grown in importance in the energy system of the European Union and in the world; it is expected they will grow more and more in importance in the near future. Renewable Energy Sources, also known as Green Energy Sources can be divided into wind energy, solar energy, hydroelectric power etc.

Introduction of Incentives by EU to promote Renewable Energy Sources

In order to promote the use of these green energy sources, all EU countries have introduced incentives to stimulate the market. However, every reality has its own rigidity and its structure, for which the incentives must be able to adapt and be efficient in often very different contexts. The governments of the EU countries use a variety of instruments to promote the adoption of RES.

Economic incentives given by European Union to its member countries for switching over to the green energies may vary between EU member states. For instance, in Germany, the main program of support for electricity is represented by an incentive based on price, i.e., the feed-in tariff scheme.

The law states that tariffs do not depend on the market price of energy but are defined in the law and that the rates are different for wind energy, biomass, photovoltaic, etc. Moreover, these rates decreased over time in order to take account of the technological learning curves and then improvements.

The UK has been the first European country to pursue liberalization of the electricity market. In the UK, the production of energy from RES is supported by strategies based on quantity. Since 1999, the system has adopted a quota system with tradable green certificates bond. The objective is that obligation increases over years, and power companies that do not comply with the obligation have to pay penalties.

GSR2015_Figure5

Setting up the Targets

RES technologies like solar and wind have been greatly financed while the EU put a goal in 2008 of providing more than 18% energy from RES by 2020. Reviewers declare this has directed to marketplace deformation in the energy market which have increased cost, particularly in Germany. The difference between the market price for electricity and the higher fixed price for RES is passed on to consumers, whose bills have been rising for years. Domestic power costs have risen nearly 5% a year among 2008 and 2012 as a consequence of taxes and dues associated to RES, according to the European Commission.

Wind energy is one of the most competitive technologies among RES and in countries characterized by the massive presence of wind, it is even able to compete with fossil fuels based technologies. In Europe, the most competitive regions for the presence of wind are the north and west coasts of Scandinavia, the UK, and some parts of the Mediterranean

Today, the European Union has sponsored numerous programs designed to promote environmentally-conscious business and government practices. Though the European Union is comprised of many governments, who often have trouble agreeing with each other, they have come together on the issue of alternative energies as on few other issues in the past. You could almost say it stands as the primary unifying issue–the issue on which everyone agrees. But the process of moving to a completely clean and sustainable economy is not an easy one–it will take years, probably decades, before that dream can become a practical reality.

3 Myths about Green Energy

There is no way renewable energy can be produced around the clock.

The world isn’t free of pollution, fossil fuel and nuclear waste, oil accidents, greenhouse gases and global warming. The EU countries are encouraged to use renewable energy sources in order to save the planet from pollution and create a more environment-friendly, “green” environment. This idea is not something that is impossible to achieve; on the contrary, green energy is real and is widely used already. Let me tell you some truths and myths about green energy. I will list you the myths I know and explain what in fact is going on there.

MYTH 1: Green energy is bad for the environment.

Green energy is bad for the environment.

Why is this not true? Well, when we think about the river dams needed in order to use the hydroelectric plants; when we think about the windmills that change the natural habitat of animals; and when we think of the carbon dioxide emissions produced from the back-up energy generators, this does not seem like a myth really.

However, with certain precautions even those negativities can be avoided. For example, the wind plants that destroy the natural habitats of the birds, sometimes even killing them, can be safe for the birds if the patterns of bird migration are all well-researched before the construction of the plants or windmills. There is just effort needed to be put in the research, and the safety of the living creatures will not be in danger anymore.

Some people who live near windmills or plants can complain about the noise they produce. They do not. Some people just do not want to see them near their houses. The problem is in their aesthetical needs, and not in the noise in most often cases. Also, the wind mills and plants do not damage the land they are built on, which means it can be used for farms and plantations without any concern. The animals are not affected by the presence of the plants either.

MYTH 2:The plants are way too expensive to build and operate.

The plants are way too expensive to build and operate

This might have been true long time ago, when the renewable energy had not been explored yet. However, by this point, there has been substantial research done and implemented that for the countries with sufficient resources those types of energy generation prove to be the most economic.

Compared to the coal and nuclear plant, wind or solar plant do not pollute air or water, do not impact health of living creatures, and, as it is said, do not affect climate change. There are technically also no costs to buy the resources for the wind or solar plant. Can you buy sunlight or wind blows? There are no input costs. For consumers of the electricity that those plant produce, it is also a good deal, because the costs of this kind of electricity are lower, due to no input costs.

MYTH 3: There is no way renewable energy can be produced round the clock.

There is no way renewable energy can be produced around the clock.

This is not entirely true, but you need to be smart to implement and maintain it. The key to have the renewable energy sources produce electricity round the clock is in having different types of plants across the country. If you use solar and wind power during the day, at night you can use biogas, biomass and geothermal energy. This way you get 24 hours covered.

If a state implements intelligent technologies, they can help determining energy use patterns and ensure the flexibility of the power and the ability to supply electricity the whole day. There is also a way using intelligent technologies to form virtual power plants, which is not yet discovered, but might be any time.

The Negative Effects of Renewable Energy for the EU

wind and solar energy are not consistent enough

According to many ecologists, economists, and pretty much a lot of people from all sorts of disciplines, renewable energy is our way to solve economic and natural resource problems. It is a hot topic nowadays in discussions on multiple levels of influence. The green energy seems the best solution, promising to reduce dependency on oil and natural resources, clean the environment from pollution, and even fight unemployment. However, there are some things about it that are not as joyful as they seem.

Problem #1: technology used for the wind and solar power generation matters.

technology used for the wind and solar power generation matters

Even though wind and solar power promise to be playing very important roles in the nearest future, since they are the most researched and developed sources of renewable energy use, it is extremely important to understand what kind of technology is used to generate them. When you know the technology, you know the downsides.

The technology responsible for the generation of energy through wind and solar power depends on the rare elements lanthanides. Since those elements are rare, the geographical location of the countries means a lot for their opportunities to generate the energy. At the moment, China is in control of about 90% of lanthanides on the market. Which brings me to the next problem,

Problem #2: renewable energy will increase the interdependency of the countries upon each other.

renewable energy will increase the interdependency of the countries upon each other

Renewable energy is supposed to make countries in the world independent from one another. When we think of the distribution of oil and gas, we know which countries have giant resources of those and which have merely enough to support their economy. When we think of wind and sun, we realize that everyone has them, thus everyone can utilize them. No country will have to buy wind or sun from the other. However, once you think about the technologies that produce the energy out of those wind and sun, it becomes clear that countries WILL have to buy resources from each other. And those countries that have more, will be giants on the market. So, if EU utilized solar and wind energy to the highest extent, it has a risk to depend on China.

Problem #3: wind and solar energy are not consistent enough.

wind and solar energy are not consistent enough

With the lifestyle that we have these days, especially in the EU, we always need access to power and electricity. Solar panels can only generate the energy during the daytime because the sun has to fall onto the panels, which means there will be no electricity produced at night. The wind does not blow constantly. Sometimes it blows stronger, sometimes weaker, and sometimes almost not at all. If the EU uses the renewable energy as a primary source of energy in the future, it needs to improve the storage technologies, such as batteries. This, however, brings the EU back to the problem #3: there is a monopoly of a few countries on lithium, which is used to produce high capacity batteries.

Problem #4: does the generation of electricity contribute to global warming?

There is no certain proof that generating energy with a wind or solar power plant reduces the emissions of greenhouse gases. The inability of constantly producing the energy requires building up back-up generators. In order for those generators to produce needed levels of electricity at all times, they have to be operating round the clock, which will in a long run only produce more greenhouse gas emissions.

Those problems are something to consider for the EU members before switching completely to the renewable energy sources. They might not be as ideal as they promise.

What do you think? Comment below.

Types of “Green Energy” for the EU

Geothermal energy, #10

Renewable sources of energy and green energy solutions promise a lot to the future of resources on our planet. There is a possibility for us to reduce the needs for energy by as much as one third by the year 2050, if companies and individuals switch to green or renewable sources of energy. So here, I provided the examples of renewable energy sources that the EU should be utilizing on a larger scale to save the planet.

Solar power

·        Solar power

Sun will continue shining for billions more years without the help of human. Thus, it should be utilized as a green source of energy. Solar cells or panels take the sunlight and use it to convert it into the power, energy. There are also solar thermal systems, which basically use the heat from the sun to heat the water in our houses. The technology for utilizing the sun’s energy is developed well enough: there are solar panels, collectors and sheeting. You just turn sunlight into electricity. No pollution involved.

Wind power

·        Wind power

Have you ever seen a windmill? If yes, there is no need to explain what wind power is. Wind blows. It drives turbines. Turbines generate electricity. The process does not involve pollution, and it is cheap, compared to the other types of renewable energy sources. The only problem is that some people might not like how windmills look. Well, the Netherlands can give some advice on that.

·        Biomass

Biomass is the plant and animal waste used to create electricity. It is gross, but it is working. Biomass can be obtained from plants, or from waste in your house or in your business. It gives very little pollution and is considered a low-carbon energy source. It is still expensive, because it has not been explored as much as solar or wind energy.

Anaerobic digestion

·        Anaerobic digestion

Anaerobic digestion suggests the use of microorganisms that will be destroying organic material without oxygen to produce biogas, which includes sufficient quantities of methane and carbon dioxide to be burnt into energy. There are no harmful effects from this energy production method, as it looks like at the moment. Also, whatever remains after the digestion process is over, can be used as fertilizer for crops.

·        Hydroelectric power

Explaining this process will be similar to the wind power. Water creates waves. Waves move turbines. Turbines generate electricity. The force of the water in this case is converted into power. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, about 20% of world’s energy is generated using hydroelectricity. The rivers have to be dammed in order to use the power, and this is not so good for the living creatures in the habitat.

Geothermal energy, #10

·        Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy implies usage of steam and water evaporated by the earth, in order to run power stations. The evaporated steam is used to generate electricity. Not all the countries around the world have the opportunity to use geothermal energy for generating electricity, because the location has to be geothermally active to produce good results. The plants of such kind are also expensive to build and operate, which, again, limits the number of countries able to use them.

·        Combined heat and power

Combined heat and power is the process when heat and power are generated at the same time. During the operation of a regular power plant, there is a lot of heat wasted in the process. This heat is not wasted in the combined plant, but rather used to deliver heat to homes. This makes the plants more than 90% more efficient than the regular plants and allows to save resources that otherwise would have been wasted.