Category: Solutions

Photo of the week: NASA’s SMAP satellite launched succesfully

NASA succesfully launched it SMAP satellite last Saturday

Last Saturday January the 31th, NASA successfully launched its first of five Earth satellites.  SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) will give new insights about what is happening in the top layer of Earth’s soil. For the next three years it will be scanning the top 5cm of the ground below our feet to produce global maps of soil moisture with an unseen detail. This will give scientists new insights in how the Earth’s water, energy and carbon cycles are connected. This enables scientist to forecast droughts, floods and crop yields better. It will also improve weather forecasts. “SMAP will improve the daily lives of people around the world,” said Simon Yueh, SMAP project scientist at JPL.
Find out more on NASA’s website.

A model of the SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) satellite which will scan the Earth's top soil (photo: NASA)

A model of the SMAP (Soil Moisture Active Passive) satellite which will scan the Earth’s top soil (photo: NASA)




Photo of the week: The Desolenator

The Desolenator turns dirty water into clean drinking water solely by solar energy (photo: Desolenator)

Desalination of water usually is an energy-intensive and expensive process. The Desolenator is aiming to change that: it’s a cheap and easy-to-use solution to produce clean drinking water in regions where water scarcity is a problem. With the sun as only driving force, this piece of engineering is able to produce up to 15litres of clean water a day – enough for cooking and drinking of a small family. Not only salt water but also contaminated and dirty water can be transformed. The contaminated water is first heated up by the sun until it reaches boiling temperature, then electricity generated by the soler panel is used to boil it further and to vaporize the water. The condensed vapor is safe to drink. The Desolelanor has a price tag of 450$ but the team is working hard to get the price down so it becomes affordable for families who lack access to clean water. CEO Janssen: “… [water scarity, red.] will get worse—by 2025, close to 3 billion people will deal with water scarcity daily. We want to give them something that’s an affordable, family-sized device.”

Find out more:




Lima climate deal: business as usual or step forward?

Sunday 15th of December the yearly UN Climate Conference in Lima finished, two days late, with a deal between all 194 represented nations. For the first time in history, an agreement has been reached that commits every nation to reducing its rate of greenhouse gas emissions. The deal outlines the framework which will be the core of the necessary deal to take serious global action, to be agreed upon during the climate top in Paris in December 2015.



Photo of the week: Solar Power bike road

The test bike lane was opened the 12th of November in Krommenie, The Netherlands (photo: SolaRoad)

This week, SolaRoad opened its first solar powered bike road in the Netherlands. The test lane is about 100 meters long and will give useful information about the efficiency of the solar panels build into the concrete lane, covered with a thick glass sheet to protect the panels. An interesting experiment, yet there are many objections to make. Why lay solar panels on the ground, where they will rapidly get covered with mud and dirt? SolaRoad says it solves this problem by tilting the bike lanes slightly. The test project will show if this is sufficient. Another important objection is that the panels aren’t tilted properly to catch as much solar power as possible. According to The Guardian this could mean a decrease of 30% electricity. It is very unlikely solar panel roads will be powering street lightning, let alone electric vehicles passing over it.





Europe’s recent action on climate change: is it enough?

On the morning of the 25th of October, the world received the news European leaders reached a long-awaited deal on how to tackle climate change after 2020. By now, most people have heard about the 20-20-20 strategy outlined in the climate and energy package in 2009. The three key points of this package are (all to be reached by 2020):

  • A 20% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels;
  • Raising the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources to 20%;
  • A 20% improvement in the EU’s energy efficiency.

So far, many European countries are doing quite some efforts to reach this goals and many of them will reach this targets well in time. But it was time to think about the next step, and that’s what the recent European top in Brussels was all about. This time, new goals for the decade following 2020 were on the table. The new key points are bolder:

  • 27% energy efficiency,
  • 27% renewables
  • 40% reduction of greenhouse gases



Photo of the week: Solar power in Spain

The Andasol-1 solar thermal collector is visible from space

In March 2009, the Andasol-1 solar thermal collector opened in Spain, the first of its kind in Europe. Later that year Andasol-2 was opened and in 2011 another Andasol collector became reality. In contrast to the common photovoltaic systems we see on rooftops, the thermal collectors store the sun’s heat in a big heat reservoir of molten salt, by reflecting the sunlight with parabolic mirrors pointed at the reservoir. Via thermal turbines this heat is be transformed into electricity, enough for up to 200 000 people.