Photo of the week: Australia’s dry season has begun

Northern Australia hosts the perfect conditions for wildfires. The wet season makes grasses grow thick and abundant, the dry season turns them in one of the best fuels for a good fire. The dry season normally begins in May, but wildfires have already been reported in Western Australia and Northern Territory, the pillars of smoke captured on photo. The fires are indicated with red marks (click on the photo to enlarge). This could be the beginning of a long and intense wildfire season, since Australia is experiencing an ongoing increase in temperatures and droughts. The photo was taken by NASA’s Aqua satellite which is equipped with six instruments monitoring all kinds of Earth’s water, temperature and energy fluxes.

Pillars of smoke rise from wildfires in Northern Territory and Western Australia (photo: NASA)

Pillars of smoke rise from wildfires in Northern Territory and Western Australia (photo: NASA)

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NASA

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Photo of the week: tracing back shipping lanes… with CO2!

When you were asked to point the places with most carbon dioxide in the atmosphere on earth, you probably would think of China, Western Europe and the US coastlines. A mapping of carbon dioxide pollution matches very well with population density indeed. That’s not a big surprise, since mankind is a very large contributor to CO2 emissions. But something you maybe wouldn’t have tought about, is the shipping lanes used by hundreds of cargo ships carrying goods from oil over coal to bananas from one side of the globe to the other. This enormous ships burn what is called bunker oil, a sulfur rich fuel oil. At least 4% of the global greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to be emitted by shipping. Since the amount of goods shipped oversea is still on the rise, it’s definitely worth spending some more time and money improving ships’ efficiency and pollution.

 

A mapping of the carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere reveals cargo ships' routes (map: Kennedy Elliott)

A mapping of the carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere reveals cargo ships’ routes (map: Kennedy Elliott)

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WashingtonPost
Wikipedia

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Photo of the week: Dubai fell in love with a new kind of oil

Yes, we all now the United Arab Emirates love oil. Dubai is not different. Or is it? Recently it let fall its eye on another kind of oil: waste cooking oil. This February, Neutral Fuels LLC made a deal with the municipality to deliver 100% bio-fuel for the municipality vehicles. Waste cooking oil is treated to be used in vehicles without any changes to the engines and it will cost no more than conventional diesel. Using biofuels made from waste oil results in a lower carbon footprint of driving the vehicles. For Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, it is one way to reach his own ambitious plans to make Dubai a sustainable city. Yet, it is not the ideal solution. If they want truly sustainable transportation, they better rethink the transportation system drastically instead of feeding their cars with just another type of oil.

Neutral fuels LLC made a deal to replace diesel with its biofuel based on waste oil in the municipality vehicles (photo: automiddleeast.com)

Neutral fuels LLC made a deal to replace diesel with its biofuel based on waste oil in the municipality vehicles (photo: automiddleeast.com)

Source:

BusinessInsider

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Photo of the week: Solar eclipse challenges Germany’s grid

Seen as a bad omen by old cultures, the solar eclipse last Friday was enough reason to make some people worrying. Germany, highly reliable on solar energy generation, faced a serious challenge. The country has around 37gigawatts installed photovoltaic capacity -a typical nuclear reactor is 1gigawatt. In a timespan of 75 minutes, solar power output of 21.7 gigawatts dropped to a low point of 6.2 gigawatts. When the eclipse was over its apec, the output increased again with 15 gigawatts, according to TenneT (one of the four transmission net operators in Germany) this is triple the usual rate. This effect was enlarged because the eclipse started in the morning when insolation (amount of sun rays falling on earth’s surface) was not so high, but ended around 11:30 AM when insolation is much higher. The whole effect was amplified because of the bright weather that day. Thanks to careful preparations, the German grid didn’t experience any problems. They put alternative power sources including coal, gas, biogas, nuclear and hydroelectric energy pumped from storage in action to fill in the gap. Some big industrial facilities such as aluminium plants, which are very energy intensive, temporarily lowered their demand. The solar eclipse was a unique test which is relevant for all of us, since we’re going towards more sustainable energy generation which make us more vulnerable to changes in nature. But there’s nothing to worry about -the German engineers have shown we can handle it.

The solar eclipse on March 20th posed a serious challenge to the German electricity grid (graph: Opower)

The solar eclipse on March 20th posed a serious challenge to the German electricity grid (graph: Opower)

Sources

DW
GreentechMedia

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The climate debate is gaining momentum

Obama during his visit at the Energy Department, where he announced his plans to cut government emissions (photo: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Back in September 2014, many were skeptical about the People’s Climate March in New York. Could a mass demonstration really change the tone in climate policy when it has been stuck in never ending discussions for the last twenty-five years? The 311 000 protesters from over the whole world believed they could indeed.

We don’t know if the march had an hand in it, but we do know a lot started to change in the fall of 2014. The climate debate was steadily gaining momentum and impact. We saw a historical pledge of the US and China to reduce their emissions. For the first time we got an agreement with all countries present on the COP in Lima. The EU announced its new emissions reduction goals for 2030.

The new year had not long taken its start before we saw another big event in the climate debate. On fossil fuel divestment day, people all over the world organised parades and flashmobs to ask banks, universities and public institutions to divest from fossil fuels.

Obama during his visit at the Energy Department, where he announced his plans to cut government emissions (photo: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Obama during his visit at the Energy Department, where he announced his plans to cut government emissions (photo: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Not much later, Barack Obama vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline. The project would have brought millions of barrels of dirty tar sands oil all the way from Alberta (Canada) to Texas. Years of activism of a coalition between indigenous people in Canada and ranchers in the US finally showed off. It seems that Obama is warming up and finally putting all his energy in his promises regarding climate change.

And it doesn’t stop there. Last week, the president of the United States signed an executive order to reduce U.S. Government greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2025. Although the government accounts for only 0.7% of the US emissions, it is still the single largest emitter in the States.

And it is not so much about the numbers than it is about the move. To say it with Obama’s own words: it is leading by example. And it seems to work. Big firms like HP, IBM and General Electric all committed to cut their emissions drastically over the next decade.

In France, a new law was approved by parliament which decrees new rooftops of commercial buildings should be covered in plants or solar panels. Rooftops plants have many benefits. They are an extra layer of insulation during winter and summer, retain rain water for some time reducing the risk of flooding during periods of heavy rains. The natural rooftops also favors biodiversity in urban areas.

Yet, not everything is going as one would want. Despite the efforts of Barack Obama to let the US play a prominent role in the action on climate change, some republican states are going the opposite direction.

In California, the term “Climate Change” was banned from all official communication lately. How ironical for a state so vulnerable for its effects. As if banning the word is going to stop the planet from warming up. Bart Bibles, a state land management plan coordinator, was even suspended from work after he wrote a report and didn’t want to remove the words climate change. He was told to get a mental check-up, as if he is the one with some serious problems.

The 28  heads of state approved the proposal for a European Energy Union last Thursday (photo: European Union)

The 28 heads of state approved the proposal for a European Energy Union last Thursday (photo: European Union)

It can get even worse. The European Union is playing a leading role in progressive climate policies, yet last week the 28 heads of state accepted the the Energy Union proposal of the European Comission. This energy union is a logical next step in Europe with its free transport of people and goods. The Energy Union is intended to make the European electricity network more robust and less dependent of Russian gas. Most Europeans can only applaud this motives.

But the  EU miss an enormous opportunity in the way they now plan to fulfill this objectives. This is the ideal moment to fully prioritize renewables and efficiency targets. But the energy union seems to put gas on the first place. As the tension with Russia grows, the European Comission looks for European gas resources, instead of turning away from more gas instead. It is true: the burning of natural gas is up to 50% cleaner than conventional oil, but the production can be much more devastating. The whole plan doesn’t seem to match the spirit of the European goals on higher energy efficiency and renewable energy generation. As Brook Riley of Friends of the Earth Europe said:

It’s baffling to see governments putting gas in prime position when these plans were born out of a desire to end gas import dependency. Heads of state seem to have fallen for gas industry propaganda. Saying gas is a clean fossil fuel is like saying filter cigarettes will prevent lung cancer.

With nine months left until the Climate Summit in Paris, politicians seem to start feeling the hot breath of the climate movement. But they way they’re reacting to it is not always what wise leaders should do -we’ve still a long way to go.

Sources:
The Washington Post
Reuters
TheGuardian
Friends of the Earth

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Photo of the week: solar panel parking

Solar carports have a double benefit: generating renewable energy and reducing the island heat effect (photo: CleanTechnica)

We talked about the booming solar panel industry in an earlier post. One mostly thinks about solar panels installed on rooftops, but the Dutchmen showed that you can also put them, for instance, in a bike road (see this photo of the week). In Los Angeles, where car parking lots are more abundant than bike roads, they’ve come up with another cool idea: solar panel carports. This has a double advantage: generating lots of clean energy and keeping the cars cool. Knowing that 40% percent of the American pavement is parking, this is a huge area to fill up with solar panels. They also decrease the urban heat island effect, the phenomenon that cities become significantly hotter in summer than the surrounding country because asphalt absorbs more heat and retains it better than soil. In the hotter heat seasons expected in the future, this could be an important factor to keep cities enjoyable in summer days. Today, this solution is not yet widely applied because of its relatively high cost. The construction uses more construction steel than, say, rooftop solar panels. The installation costs are also higher. In 2014 up to 600MW was installed in the US, mostly in California. Since solar panel prices are still going downwards, the solar carports could soon become economically viable in many US states and other countries.

Solar carports have a double benefit: generating renewable energy and reducing the island heat effect (photo: CleanTechnica)

Solar carports have a double benefit: generating renewable energy and reducing the island heat effect (photo: CleanTechnica)

Source

The Washington Post

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