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Energy Your Home

181: Greener personal desktop computing

Problem:

Internets cause global warming. Blog servers might have more than 10,000 PCs occupying an area of more than 40, 0000 sq. ft that generate huge amount of heat while running.

Each click of the keyboard engenders heat in a computer or laptop and processing of information data causes a minuscule rise in environmental temperature. Single internet search, depending upon the initial data, might consume enough electricity to run an 11 watt energy saving light bulb few minutes to an hour.

With about more than 5.6 billion searches internet searches estimated globally daily, the power consumption and GHG emissions generated by internet and computers is alarming. Google processes over 3.5 billion searches per day (Internetlivestats, 2019). If you break this statistic down, it means that Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second on average.

Solution:

Greener computing.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star program has set up green computing criteria, and compliance with these requirements earns systems the Energy Star label.

To gain Energy Star compliance, computers must use an energy-efficient power supply, operate efficiently in power saving modes (standby/off, sleep and idle modes), and also provide power management features (along with information about how to use those features).

If all the computers that are sold in the United States met Energy Star requirements, greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by the equivalent of 2 million cars and save about $2 billion annually on energy costs

In addition to the Energy Star label, EPEAT (Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool), run by the Green Electronics Council, rates computers based on more than 50 energy-efficient criteria including everything from what materials were used in the system and its packaging to its energy conservation and end-of-life management.

This is a three-tiered rating system — gold, silver and bronze — and computers ranked by EPEAT are also Energy Star compliant.

In June 2007, Dell of Round Rock, Texas, set a goal of becoming the greenest technology company on Earth for the long term. The company launched a zero-carbon initiative that included partnering with customers to build the “greenest PC on the planet”.

Called the Studio Hybrid, its 87% efficient power supply meets Energy Star’s 4.0 green computing standards, and EPEAT gives the system its highest rating, gold.

The Studio Hybrid is 80% smaller than a typical desktop computer while its packaging is made from 95-percent-recyclable materials and comes with less printed documentation – 75 % less by weight (all documentation is made available online instead)

For an additional charge, owner-users can personalize it with a bamboo sleeve. And when they are ready to upgrade, the Studio Hybrid comes with its own system recycling kit.

Alongside Dell, other PC manufacturers have come up with solutions, including Lenovo’s ThinkCentre M57p, the Apple Mac mini, the Zonbu Desktop Mini, the Acer TravelMate TimelineX, the Asus Bamboo Series, the CherryPal etc.

What you can do: Shutdown and unplug your computer when not in use. Using your system’s power settings (for instance, programming a sleep mode or turning the machine off and unplugging it) is a smart way to conserve energy. But when it’s time to upgrade your system, consider going green. And don’t forget to recycle your outdated system.

Discover Solution 181: An app to help clean up rubbish

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Energy

168: Geothermal energy

Problem:

Consuming fossil fuels above the earth to heat buildings is very energy-consuming.

Solution:

Binary below-earth or geothermal power plants emit close to no GHGs in the world’s atmosphere and are extremely eco-friendly. Geothermal energy is ranked among some of the most efficient in cooling and heating systems available today. It uses a relatively low amount of power due to their low electricity requirement.


As of 2004, there were over a million units installed worldwide providing 12 GW of thermal capacity. Each year, about 80,000 units are installed in the US (geothermal energy is used in all 50 U.S. states today, with great potential for near-term market growth and savings) and 27,000 in Sweden.

In Finland, a geothermal heat pump was the most common heating system choice for new detached houses between 2006 and 2011 with market share exceeding 40%.

The International Geothermal Association (IGA) has reported that 10,715 MWs (MW) of geothermal power in 24 countries is online, reaching 13.33 GW of electricity in 2018.

One solution for geothermal energy is to use a groundwater heat pump system, which works by recovering heat stored naturally in groundwater or aquifers. The water passes through heat pumps to yield its low grade heat before being returned to the aquifer at a lower temperature.

Between 2015 and 2018, researchers of British Geological Survey (BGS) gathered data from a natural ground-water network of 61 bore-holes below the city of Cardiff, Wales to examine whether similar systems might be created across the UK and provide new and alternative energy supplies in the subsurface.

The study concludes that large parts of the aquifer can sustain shallow open loop ground source heat pump systems, as long as the local ground conditions support the required groundwater abstraction and re-injection rates.

Discover Solution 169: Glacial engineering

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Energy

167: Geomechanical pumped Storage

Problem:

In the desperate search to find oil and gas, fracking is the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, etc. so as to force open existing fissures. Fracking not also increases the potential for oil spills, which can harm the soil and surrounding vegetation but can cause earthquakes due to the high pressure used to extract oil and gas from rock and the storage of excess wastewater on site.

Solution:

Geomechanical pumped storage employs no chemical, does not trigger seismic activity and does not produce pollutants that require disposal and clean-up.


Aaron H. Mandell obtained a BSc and an MSc in environmental engineering from the from the University of Vermont, where he focused on numerical modeling and groundwater hydrology, continuing to work in the energy and water industries, establishing a succession of 4 start-ups. The limitation of pumped hydro electricity storage is that because it is dependent on mountains, lakes, or pre-existing underground caverns, it had not been widely implemented.

But in 2012 Mandell and petroleum engineer Howard K. Schmidt innovated a different approach: hydraulic geofracture energy storage system with desalinization or geomechanical pumped storage.

Energy is stored by injecting fluid at 600 lb psi into a hydraulic fracture in the earth and producing the fluid back while recovering power and/or desalinating water. When the pressurized water is released, it acts like a spring as it races through a turbine-generator above ground, powering it to produce electricity.

Electricity generated by renewables is used to compress and pump water underground, when demand is low and power is cheap. That pressurized water is released when new generation cannot match high demand, at night when the sun is not shining, or when the wind is not blowing.

The hydraulic fracture may be formed and treated with resin so as to limit fluid loss and to increase propagation pressure. The fluid may be water containing a dissolved salt or fresh water and a portion or all of the water may be desalinated using pressure in the water when it is produced.

Particularly adapted to storage of large amounts of energy such as in grid-scale electric energy systems, the technology could reduce the cost of most advanced batteries by 90 %.

In 2015 Mandell and Schmidt and set up Quidnet Energy and built a small-scale prototype at an abandoned natural gas well in in Erath County, about 80 mi. (130 km) west of Fort Worth, where the fledgling company has leased a 5,000 ft (1,500 m.) – deep well.

The test well held 5,000 barrels of water (about 215,000 gallons – 814,000 liters) and was designed to charge and discharge in blocks of four to eight hours.

Encouraged by the results, Quidnet ran another larger-scale pilot project, this time at an old geothermal well at the Blue Mountain Geothermal Area in northern Nevada.

The well was 14 in. (36 cm.) in diameter, larger than a typical oil and gas well, making it possible to inject a higher volume of water – and generating more power faster – at any time. The reservoir can hold up to 85k barrels of water, and produce 10 hours of electricity following a 14-hour charge.

In 2018, Quidnet received US$6.4 million in investment from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, itself backed by high-profile billionaires including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma.

Discover Solution 168: Geothermal energy

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Energy

166: Water- based fuel

Problem:

While fossil fuels were formed millions of years ago, we have only been using them for fuel for a fairly short period of time – just over 200 years. If we keep burning fossil fuels at our current rate, it is estimated that all our fossil fuels will be depleted by 2060.

Solution:

Electriq-Fuel


An Australian-Israeli startup has innovated a water-based fuel it claims will offer zero emissions with a lower cost and greater range than current battery or fuel cell tech. Electriq-Fuel is 60 % water, and releases hydrogen when it reacts with an onboard catalyst.

The fuel cost is as low as 50% of other fuel types, and Fuel-Cell Electric Vehicles total-cost-of-ownership is reduced by ~30% compared to other clean vehicles. Spent fuel is recaptured and taken to a plant for recycling.

Electriq-Global (formerly Terragenic), based in Tirat Carmel, Israel is claiming that their potentially revolutionary hydrogen on-demand technology enables fifteen-times the energy density of standard automotive batteries and with only few minutes refueling time.

Liquid-stable, non-flammable, non-explosive and safe at ambient pressure and temperature, refueling would be done at a pump, much such as a car powered by fossil fuels or conventional gaseous hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles.

The technology includes a patented hydrogen liquid carrier type fuel (T-Fuel™), a process for producing and recycling the fuel (T-Pot™), and a catalyst that allows hydrogen to be extracted on demand (T-Cat™).

Its inventor, Dr. Alex Silberman, having studied electrochemistry in the Ural, moved to Israel, where in 2006 he started his applied research on borohydride. Three years later, he had cracked the kinetics (fast release of hydrogen) process, the stability of the solution and the recycling of the spent fuel.

He patented the controlled generation, storage and transportation of hydrogen for mobility in 2009. He also patented the catalyst that released the hydrogen from the solution quickly enough. Silberman added another patent for the second-generation hydrogen solution with double the energy content.

Electriq are now searching for a system that can reverse the process by electrolysis, the spent solution will have to be sent for industrial reprocessing and probably the overall efficiency will be much lower than that of a battery. The advantages and disadvantages of the system are similar to those of the zinc-air battery.

Electriq-Global first tested its Electriq~Fuel technology with a hydrogen e-bike. The fuel cell was mounted on the rear. But there was no pressure tank for the hydrogen. Instead, the e-bike had a small plastic fuel tank and a metal vessel that generated hydro, gen from the liquid.

Additional studies the company conducted showed a transport bus covered 621 mi. (1,000 km) on a single tank compared to an electric bus’ 155 mi (250 km) range.

In November, 2018 the company attended the 2018 Zero Emissions Conference in Cologne where they announced that they would be taking an active role in promoting ZE buses. The company was planning to commission its first fuel recycling plant in Israel 2019.

In April 2019, it plans for samples of its next-generation of the fuel. Electriq~Global has also announced a partnership with Dutch startup Eleqtec to launch its water-based fuel technology in the Netherlands, including Electriq~Fuel’s recycling plants and mobility applications for trucks, barges and mobile generators.

In 2021, Electriq Global linked up with BOOT10 Amsterdam BV, an operator of passenger canal boats, announced today their collaboration plans to equip the Staets boats with an Electriq PowerPack using Electriq Fuel.

The technology will be demonstrated in 2021 on the Staets-I boat.

At the same time, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) has signed a long-term collaboration with AC2T research GmbH, the Austrian Excellence Centre for Tribology and industrial partner Electriq Global Ltd. in the area of new materials for clean energy.

Discover Solution 167: Geomechanical pumped storage

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Energy Planet Care

158: Global cooling using floating solar farms

Problem:

Greenhouse Global warming is increasing at an exponential and alarming rate.

Solution:

Scientists from Norway and Switzerland are proposing that a network of millions of floating offshore solar farms could be used to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into renewable energy.


Their concept is clusters of marine-based floating islands, on which PV cells convert sunlight into electrical energy to produce H2 and to extract CO₂ from seawater, where it is in equilibrium with the atmosphere.

These gases are then reacted to form the energy carrier methanol, which is conveniently shipped to the end consumer. Co-author Swiss scientist Andreas Borgschulte explained the idea for the solar islands was conceived when the Norwegian researchers were assigned the task of pushing fish farms out to open sea that would require their own energy.

The researchers determined that 70 of these artificial islands could make up a single facility that covers an area of about 0.4 square mi. (10 km²). The experts identified locations across the globe where conditions are suitable to properly manage the facilities. The coasts of South America, Australia, and Southeast Asia were found to be ideal sites for the solar farms. The team is now working to build prototypes of the floating islands.

Discover Solution 159: flood barriers

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Energy

157: Floating solar farms

Problem:

Land-based solar farms take up space which can otherwise be used for precision agriculture, industry and housing.

Solution:

Putting them on water makes floating solar panels up to 16 % more efficient and longer lasting. The lack of dust means it can stay clean longer while water can be used to clean the panels.


Since 2017, the Sungrow Huainan Solar Farm is located 5 km southwest of Nihe Town, Huainan city in China’s Anhui province. The array consisting of 166,000 panels, built by Sungrow Power Supply floats on an artificial lake on the site of a former coal mine.

Its capacity of 40 MW produces enough energy to power 15,000 homes. According to The Japan Times, the Sungrow Huainan Solar Farm is ‘part of Beijing’s effort to wean itself off a fossil fuel dependency.

In France, in 2007, IT engineer Eric Scott founded Akuo Energy which has since become France’s leading renewable energy producer such as wind, sun, water, and bio-gas, present in thirty countries, via 17 subsidiaries.

From 2014 Akuo planned a floating solar farm project Hydrelio by Ciel and Terre floats for installation in town of Piolenc, in the department of Vaucluse. The site chosen to be filled with water was a former aggregate quarry in nearby Curbans.

Akuo Energy and the quarry operator worked together with Bouygues Energies Services in the restoration of the site with the solar farm to allow the transition from one activity to another and the ecological rehabilitation of the site.

Covering 42 ac (17 ha), 47,040 PV panels placed on 52,000 floats themselves anchored by 350 anchors at the bottom of the lake of 23 ha. The largest solar farm in Europe, the 16 MW from O’Mega officially launched in March 2019 is providing electricity for over 4,733 households and avoiding the emission of 1,208 tons (1,096 tonnes) of CO₂.

In 2019, Thailand’s state utility, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), has drawn up ambitious plans to construct 16 floating solar farms with a combined capacity of more than 2.7 gigawatts at nine hydropower reservoirs across the country by 2037.

SCG Chemicals is undertaking research and development at its factory at Rayong, 106 mi (170 km) from the capital Bangkok. The first floating solar farm is planned for the Sirindhorn Dam at Ubon Ratchathani in east Thailand. (egat.co.th)

Elsewhere, in South Korea there is a rotating floating solar powerplant with 16 modules installed on a floating deck. There is one beside the Banasura Sagar Dam, in Kerala, India. Another is located on the Yamakura Dam reservoir in Japan, and another at Tengeh Reservoir in Singapore. South Korea will build a 2.1 gigawatt (GW) floating solar farm on a lake next to Saemangeum, a reclaimed area on the west coast

The plant will cover 11.6 mi.² (30 km²) of the lake, which is adjacent to a site where an international airport will be built. It is expected to produce enough electricity for 1 million households.

The project is expected to bring the government closer to the goal of its renewable energy initiative, which aims to nearly triple the portion of renewable energy to 20 % by 2030. The planned solar power farm is expected to require more than 5 million solar power modules and create 1.60 million jobs a year. Work on the solar farm is expected to start in the latter half of 2020.

In 2017, researchers at University of California, Riverside identified equivalent of 183,000 football fields of non-agricultural land in California’s Central Valley for future solar farms. (ucr.edu) At the beginning of 2018, some 60 floating solar farms of over 1 MW had been installed around the world.

Their combined capacity is still very small, totalling less than 200 MW (the equivalent of a large land-based solar farm – enough to provide energy to around 200,000 people.

Solarplaza’s Top 200 floating solar plants shows that China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea are leading the pack, however, with many projects under development in countries such as India, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, the Netherlands, France, and the United States, deployment is accelerating globally.

A team from Michigan State University believes that the creation of floating solar farms on existing reservoirs in Brazil would make up for the underproduction of the existing hydropower systems on the Amazon River and even the construction of new ones.

The Colorado River’s two great reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are in retreat. Multi-year droughts and chronic overuse have taken their toll, to be sure, but vast quantities of water are also lost to evaporation. What if the same scorching sun that causes so much of this water loss were harnessed for electric power?

Installing floating solar PV arrays, sometimes called “floatovoltaics,” on a portion of these two reservoirs in the southwestern United States could produce clean, renewable energy while shielding significant expanses of water from the hot desert sun.

Discover Solution 158: Solar farms and global cooling

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Energy

136: Gravity-based energy storage system

Problem:

The energy provided by sun and wind is intermittent and often needs a back-up system;

Solution:

The gravity-based energy storage system


One of these is the Energy Vault. When a solar farm produces extra electricity during the day, giant robotic cranes use that energy to lift and stack thousands of 38.5 ton (35 tonne) blocks into a tower as high as 500 ft. (152 m) the bricks storing energy through the elevation gain.

When the sun isn’t shining or the wind is not blowing, software tells the system to lower the bricks, the weight of which will drive generators as the crane plucks them off the tower and lowers them to the ground, so sending electricity back into the grid. The system can respond within a millisecond.


The development of this technology took place at Idealab, the Pasadena, California-based startup incubator, then was handed to Energy Vault, to commercialize the technology.

In partnership with Italian energy company ENEL, a tenth the size of a full-scale operation was built and trialled in Biasca, Switzerland, north of Milan, Italy. A Swiss subsidiary of Mexico-based CEMEX Ventures provided venture capital, concrete and other composite material technology.

The unit, from proposition to working prototype, took about nine months and less than US$2 million to accomplish. The Energy Vault team was led by Andrea Pedretti, inventor with more than 25 patents worldwide for a variety of civil engineering and energy applications.

Having earned his M.Sc. in structural engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, Pedretti worked with Airlight Energy, a Swiss cleantech provider focusing on unique solutions for concentrated solar power.

The Energy Vault system could deliver as much as 80 MW-hours of power, enough to cover about 60,000 homes for up to 16 hours The system is modular and flexible with each plant having a capacity of between 10 and 35MWh and a power output of between 2 and 5MW.

Each tower can be erected quickly; the cranes can be delivered within months and erected within weeks, without the huge investment of a battery factory.

The bricks themselves can be made on-site from materials such as soil concrete construction debris which would otherwise go to a landfill. At a coal plant that plans to close and reopen renewable energy on-site, the bricks could be made from coal ash.

India’s Tata Power is the company’s first announced customer, with a tower that will be constructed in 2021. But Energy Vault is in talks with other customers about more than 1,200 potential towers.

In August 2019, Energy Vault raised US$110 million from SoftBank Vision Fund to take its next steps in the world. One place where the Energy Vault technology could be used to advantage is around desalination plants in places such as sub-Saharan Africa or desert areas.

In Scotland , Peter Fraenkel at Gravitricity is working with the Edinburgh University Institute for Energy Systems and Dutch winch and offshore manufacturer Huisman Equipment BV on a solution in the 1MW to 20 MW power range which suspends weights of 500 – 5000 tonnes in a deep shaft by a number of cables, each of which is engaged with a winch capable of lifting its share of the weight.

The pilot plant, involving a 16m high rig is being assembled at a grid-connected site at the port of Leith for testing to begin in spring 2021.

What you can do: Tell electricity supply companies and town planners about gravity-based energy storage systems

Discover Solution 137: mRNA vaccine

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Energy

135: Honeybee-inspired energy reduction

Problem:

Energy over-consumption in big commercial buildings makes a massive drain on electrical energy

Solution:

Inspired by biomimicry, In 2005, Mark Kerbel and Roman Kulyk of Toronto, Canada studied the way bees communicate with each other.


There is no “topdown” management in a hive. They realized the ideal concept for their technology when they read Steven Johnson’s “Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software”. Emergence is how bees are able to operate an adaptive colonial group, despite lacking top-down management or “intelligence” in the human sense of the word. Using simple rules and communicating constantly with pheromone trails, each individual bee contributes to the hive-level goal of survival.

The phenomenon is called “emergence” because a complex system of communication and decision-making emerges from a large number of much simpler interactions.

Kerbel and Kulyk developed an algorithm called Swarm Logic that allows all pieces of building equipment to simultaneously detect each other, to red-flag unnecessary power consumption. Air conditioners, compressors, pumps and other building appliances constantly cycle on and off. The problem arises when they are ignorant of each other and turn on at the same time.

Co-founding Regen Energy, they developed the EnviroGrid Controller to connect to the control box on each piece of equipment, to function as a smart power switch. EnviroGrid Controllers could be installed on any electrical heating, cooling, or discretionary electrical load in approximately 30 minutes, resulting in minimal operational disruption.

Each device monitors its appliance’s energy use every two minutes and broadcasts its reading to all the other controllers in the system. Once several controllers have been activated, they learn the power cycles of each appliance and use a networking standard called Zigbee to communally negotiate the best times to turn equipment on and off.

Every node connected to the “hive” thinks for itself. Before making a decision, a node considers the circumstances of other nodes in the network. For example, if an HVAC unit needs to cycle on to maintain a minimum temperature, a node connected to another HVAC unit will stay off for an extra 15 minutes to maintain power use below a certain threshold. This results in up to 20% reductions in HVAC kW, KWh, and CO₂,

Following their 2005 start, Kerbel and Kulyk negotiated with both other California and Texas utilities to increase their presence in both regions. Their name changed to Encycle in 2013, Swarm Logic can now be connected via the cloud to an existing building control system, building automation system (BAS), connected thermostats, or IoT platform.

Swarm Logic dynamically synchronizes HVAC rooftop units (RTUs), transforming the RTUs into smart, networked, energy-responsive assets. Newer versions of the system focus almost exclusively on rooftop HVAC systems installed in medium-sized buildings. A typical building might have between 10 and 40 controllers working together to mimic the communications in a beehive, and the more nodes are linked to the system, the better it works.

Encycle has integrated Honeywell thermostats into its EASE (Energy as a Service by Encycle™) solution for a nationwide restaurant and entertainment business. With customer satisfaction being a top priority, it was crucial that Encycle’s solution lower electricity costs while ensuring patrons’ comfort.

What started out as a 6-site pilot program has now developed into a 17-site portfolio with over 300 thermostats. Encycle’s Swarm Logic technology is already in facilities in North America, including retail stores, grocery stores, shopping centers, restaurants, entertainment venues, offices, schools, distribution centers, and light/medium manufacturing buildings.

From August 2018 Encycle partnered with Lightstat of Barkhamsted, Connecticut to bring IoT-enabled thermostatic control into a networked, cloud-based system that allows commercial and industrial building energy managers to reduce their HVAC energy consumption and costs by 10-20%. They also partnered with Carrier Connect, makers of Wi-Fi thermostats.

What you can do: Tell local architects and builders about Swarm Logic

Discover Solution 136: Gravity based energy storage system

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Energy Mobility

134: Energy roads


Problem:

Highways and roads only use up energy to build and to maintain.

Solution:

Engineers from Lancaster University, UK, are working on ‘piezolectric’ ceramics that when embedded in road surfaces would be able to harvest and convert vehicle vibration into electrical energy. The research project, led by Professor Mohamed Saafi, will design and optimise energy recovery of around one to two kWs per kilometre under ‘normal’ traffic volumes—which is around 2,000 to 3,000 cars an hour. The system developed will then convert this mechanical energy into electric energy to power things such as street lamps, traffic lights and electric car charging points.


In Portugal, an energy road system called ESPHERA has been financed by the Centre for the Innovation of Smart Infrastructures, founded by Ferrovial, the Castile-La Mancha regional government and the University of Alcalá. Ferrovial is also in charge of technical coordination for ESPHERA, which has benefitted from the collaboration of Cintra (the motorway subsidiary company of Ferrovial) and the Aravía Company, who hold the concession for the maintenance of the section of the A-2 motorway between Zaragoza and Calatayud. (ferrovial.com)

In 2016 the California Energy Commission (CEC) approved a pilot program in which piezoelectric crystals were installed on several freeways.

Scientists estimate the energy generated from piezoelectric crystals on a 10 mi (16 km) stretch of freeway could provide power for the entire city of Burbank (population: more than 105,000). Italy signed a contract to install this technology in a portion of the Venice-to-Trieste Autostrada.

China’s first solar highway was built by Pavenergy and Qilu Transportation in eastern China’s Shandong province on a section of one of the most highly-trafficked areas, the Jinan City Expressway ring road, stretching for 1.2 mi. (2.4 km) with an area of 63,234 ft² ( 5,875 m²).. The test section proved capable of holding middle size vans with strong friction. Engineers then added wireless vehicle charging into the panels. It opened in December 2017.

In 2019, engineers from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) found a way to 3D print piezoelectric materials, so tailoring the architecture to make them more flexible able to wrap them around any arbitrary curvature.

What you can do: Drive along energy roads once they have been installed

Discover Solution 135: Honeybee inspired energy reduction

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Energy Mobility

133: Energy paths

Problem:

With the transition from fossil fuel to electrical energy, the exponential demand will need the widest variety of sources.

Solution:

Another clean system for generating electricity makes use of piezo materials (usually in the form of the mineral quartz, topaz, or lead zirconate titanate), where the simple act of walking or jumping or driving a vehicle over a surface can generate electricity.


This challenge has been taken on by Laurence Kemball-Cook, an undergraduate studying Industrial Design and Technology at Loughborough University, England. Following the publicity generated by a short demonstration film of his PaveGen tiles posted on his website Kemball-Cook, was awarded US$ 13,000 prize and struck a US$ 250,000 deal with one of the largest urban shopping centers in Europe, Westfield in London. PaveGen received orders from at Heathrow Airport”s Terminal Three and entered into collaboration with the US government.

In Lagos, Nigeria, the tiles have been installed under a soccer field, enabling players to light up the entire field during a match. A second generation of PavGen tiles is triangular in shape, with a generator in each corner to maximize energy output. In addition to power generation, PaveGen can use Bluetooth to connect to smartphone applications and the system can also communicate with building management systems.

Caveat to this solution is that when the PaveGen is not being walked on it does not generate energy, this problem occurs if the tile is placed somewhere that is crowded but at times does not receive any people on it which causes it to not generate energy. But this problem can be largely avoided by just placing the tiles in places that always receive people such as the subway stations of New York or other similarly crowded cities.

At the NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Complex at Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2017, Ilan Stern, a senior research scientist with the Georgia Tech Research Institute, and colleagues, collaborated on a project supported by NASA contractor Delaware North Corporation to build a 40,000 ft² (3,700 m²) lighted outdoor piezoelectric footpath.

What you can do: Tell town councils near you about energy paths, wand walk along them whenever possible

Discover Solution 134: Energy roads

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Energy Your Home

132: Energy communities

Problem:

Sustainable energy limited to individual domestic use may not be the most beneficially efficient solution.

Solution:

Energy sharing is a model where citizens can exchange locally produced power with one another (peer-to-peer) — or external markets.


The EU Directive 2018/2001 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources defines peer-to-peer trading of renewable energy as: “The sale of renewable energy between market participants by means of a contract with pre-determined conditions governing the automated execution and settlement of the transaction, either directly between market participants or indirectly through a certified third-party market participant, such as an aggregator.”

The Energy Community, also referred to in the past as the Energy Community of South East Europe is an international organisation established between the European Union and a number of third countries to extend the EU internal energy market to Southeast Europe and beyond.

One example, Decidim is a collaborative project which encourages citizens of Barcelona to use a digital, open-source participatory platform to suggest, debate, comment and back new proposals for the city. The platform is a concrete output of the 2015-2019 municipal plan called “73 neighbourhoods, one Barcelona, Towards the city of rights and opportunities” and which gathered the input of some 40,000 people.

Catalonia’s first renewable energy cooperative, Som Energia, has used the Decidim platform to host its 2018 General Assembly and various debates with cooperative

What you can do: Check out whether you can become part of an energy community.

Discover Solution 133: Electricity from sidewalks

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Energy Planet Care

127: Electroculture

Problem:

Chemical fertilisers and weed killers such as Monsanto’s glyphosate have been legally proved to be lethally harmful to both Nature and to human beings.

Solution:

Since the beginnings of electricity in the 1780s, experiments have been made to use electro-magnetic energy to increase the crop yield of fruits and vegetables.


In 1923 independent researcher Justin Etienne Christofleau of La Queue-les-Yvelines, France published “Augmentation des récoltes et sauvetage des arbres malades per l’électroculture” and obtained patents concerning his Electro-Magnétique Terro Celeste. His system made use of “lightning rod” antenna, but with a buried antenna connected to buried north-south wires. Christofleau explained that it is not electricity as we know it but a breath of energy between heaven and earth, which stimulates and increases the fertility of the place.

For the next twenty years, the Frenchman was persecuted for his inventions by lobbyists from the agrochemical industry who even attempted to have the word electroculture deleted from national dictionaries and encyclopaedias. In spite of this, Christofleau’s system was adopted by farmers all over, in Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and even China.

He was not alone. In the August 1935 issue of Popular Science, an article entitled “Electricity Controls Tree Growth” reported on the experiments of reputed French nurseryman Georges Truffaut at his Laboratories in Versailles. He planned to invent the orchard of the future where it would be possible to control (advance or delay) the growth of trees and fruits.

Seventy years later, electroculture has finally been validated.

Since the 1990s, Chinese scientists have been developing electroculture. In 2019, The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and other government research institutes released the findings of nearly three decades of study in areas with different climate, soil conditions and plantation habits. They hailed the results as a breakthrough.

Across the country, from Xinjiang’s remote Gobi Desert to the developed coastal areas facing the Pacific Ocean, vegetable greenhouse farms with a combined area of more than 3,600 ha (8,895 ac) have been taking part in an electroculture programme. The technique has boosted vegetable output by 20 to 30 %. Pesticide use has decreased 70 to 100 %. while fertiliser consumption has dropped more than 20 %.

In a series of large greenhouses, with a combined area of 3,600 has (8,895 ac), the vegetables grow under bare copper wires, set about 10 ft (3 m) above ground level and stretching end to end under the greenhouse roof. The wires are capable of generating rapid, positive charges as high as 50,000 volts, or more than 400 times the standard residential voltage in the US.

The cables run the full length of the greenhouses and carry rapid pulses of positive charge, up to 50,000 volts. These high-voltage bursts kill bacteria and viral plant diseases both in the air and the soil. They also affect the surface tension of any water droplets on the leaves of plants, accelerating vaporization.

What you can do: Tell local farmers about electroculture

Tomorrow’s solution: Lower-cost electrolysis

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Energy

126: Electricity from bacterial nano-wires

Solution:

Bacterial power plants.


In the late 1980s, microbiologists led by Derek Lovley at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, discovered electrically conducting microfilaments or “nanowires” in the rod-shaped microbe Geobacter sulfurreducens, part of a group referred to as “electrigens” for their known ability to generate an electrical charge.

Jim Yao and another team at the University have succeeded in producing electricity using a bacterial nanowire, measuring seven micrometers thick film positioned between two electrodes and exposed to the air.

This nanowire film, produced by G. sulfurreducens, absorbs water vapor present in the atmosphere, thus creating a small electrical charge through the diffusion of protons in the material.

In order to better understand this electron transfer process for energy production, Geobacter sulfurreducens was inoculated into chambers in which a graphite electrode served as the sole electron acceptor and acetate or hydrogen was the electron, or in short a microbial fuel cell

Called Air-gen, the system produces a sustained voltage of 0.5 volts at 17 micro amperes per square centimetre, generating clean energy 24/7. The system produces no waste and could (theoretically at least) work in places like the Sahara Desert which is why the team are looking to scale up to industrial-sized systems as soon as possible.

One issue is the limited amount of protein nanowire that can currently be produced by G. sulfurreducens, however, there may already be a novel solution: get genetically engineered E. coli to mass produce the nanowire.

Discover Solution 127: Protecting and feeding plants with an electric current.

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Carbon Capture Energy

118: e-crude

Problem:

Regular hydrocarbon diesel pollutes.

Solution:

Oil created from recycled carbon dioxide, water, and electricity with a process powered by renewable energy sources.


E-diesel is considered to be a carbon-neutral fuel as it does not extract new carbon and the energy sources to drive the process are from carbon-neutral sources

From the early 2000s, Nils Aldag, Carl Berninghausen and Christian von Olshausen began to research into sustainable diesel. Electrolysers are energy converters that turn clean electrons into hydrogen.

They founded Sunfire GmbH in Dresden in 2009. Inspired by photosynthesis, Sunfire’s proprietary technology can be used to turn hydrogen efficiently into liquid hydrocarbons such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel or waxes for the chemical industry (power-to-products). Alternatively, hydrogen can be used in the industry or H2-mobility.

Sunfire achieved the technological breakthrough within the framework of the Kopernikus project Power-to-X, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), in conjunction with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

A co-electrolysis plant (10 kilowatts DC, up to 4 Nm³/h synthesis gas) was delivered to Karlsruhe, where it was combined with technologies from Climeworks (Direct Air Capture), INERATEC (Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis) and KIT (Hydrocracking) in a container to produce a self-sufficient facility.

The target was to demonstrate the integrated production of e-Crude by the end of August 2019. Already by 2017 Sunfire had produced 3 tons (2.7 tonnes) of Blue Crude.

Concept proved, Sunfire began the process of scaling-up the high-temperature co-electrolysis process to an industrial scale—initially with an input power of 150 kW (DC)—as part of the “SynLink” project funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy.

The plant was built in Norway for use by Nordic Blue Crude, the Norwegian project partner. By 2020, using 20 MW of input power, it will be producing 2.6 million gallons (10 million liters) or 8,800 tons (8,000 tonnes) of the synthetic crude oil substitute e-Crude annually on the basis of 20 MWs of input power.

The Bavarian car firm Audi and the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, Boeing, are both project partners. Prominent investors include the French oil company Total, the Czech energy company ČEZ and the investment funds Electranova Capital and Bilfinger Venture Capital; insurance giant Allianz and automobile maker PSA are also sponsors.

The plant would avoid emissions of around 21,000 t/y of CO₂ by using waste industrial heat and renewable energy. Sunfire has been able to attract prominent investors such as Total Energy Ventures, Electranova Capital, IdInvest and KfW Bank. (sunfire.de)

Tomorrow’s solution: Edible cutlery

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Energy Materials

113: Ecocapsule

Problem:

Most homes are dependent on an external supply of electricity, even most caravans and mobile homes which are limited to a campsite. Tents also have their limitations.

Solution:

The ECOCAPUSLE off-grid-no-footprint microhome.


Soňa Pohlová obtained a Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) focused in architecture and urbanism from Slovak Technical University, Bratislava, Slovakia and Arquitectura La Salle, Barcelona. With Tomáš Zácek, Soňa co-founded Nice Architects in Bratislava.

In 2009 they submitted a bid for a competition to design a luxurious mobile home that could operate off-grid and leave no trace. During the next five years, Nice Architects were working on the technological and product design of the Ecocapsule in order to bring the best possible product.

By 2014, the development of technology for the Ecocapsule was ready. It is designed to produce more energy than it consumes, as long as the external temperature remains between 4 °F (−16 °C) and 104 °F (40 °C).

Energy for the pod is renewable, sourced through an 880-watt (1.18 hp) solar cell array and a silent 750-watt wind turbine, which is then stored in a 9,744-watt-hour (35,080 kJ) battery that can hold four days worth of electrical charge batteries for later use.

With this energy, the pod can be off-grid all-year-round, and can even charge an electric car. Other energy-conservation features of the dwelling are its high-efficiency climate control system and a heat exchanger that uses exhaust air to warm fresh incoming air.

The Ecocapsule also harnesses rainwater with its 25.3-US-gallon (96 liter) reservoir, which is located beneath the dwelling’s floor. The water is cleaned via a pre-filtration system and two UV LED lamps.

Drinking water is also provided by filters installed on the faucets. The Ecocapsule also features a waterless separating toilet. The Ecocapsule has a central computer that monitors its electricity and water levels, and can be controlled via a mobile app.

The Ecocapsule should allow its occupants to live off the grid for several weeks to several months

On May 28, 2015, nice&wise (ex-Nice Architects) publically unveiled their Ecocapsule at Vienna’s Pioneers Festival after six years of development.

Limited to 50 customers from the USA, Japan, Australia and EU, at a price of US$98,000, the patented Ecocapsule is a luxury item for one to two people, but other potential applications include a disaster-relief shelter or a scientific research station.

By July 2015, thousands of pre-orders had already been made and interest generated among celebrities such as Susan Sarandon.

In January 2018, the company launched production of the First Series Ecocapsules, limited to 50 pieces. The first micro-home is available for rent to the general public in Bratislava, positioned on a footbridge in the Zuckermandel district, with a beautiful view overlooking the Danube river.

A second Ecocapsule was set up in the Netherlands. The company is now working the the Second Series Ecocapsule.

What you can do: If you enjoy camping, make it as eco-friendly as possible.

Tomorrow’s solution: Auroville in India

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Energy

106: Dye-Sensitized Solar Cell

Problem:

Although multi-junction silicon solar cells have achieved astounding efficiencies of over 40%, they still require sunlight.

Solution:

Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC) only require daylight.


This is because they mimic the ability of plants to capture photons of light and turn them into electricity. This is achieved by using special dyes to capture the energy in light at different wavelengths, just like chlorophyll pigments in plants.

As compared to conventional silicon solar cells, DSSCs have the ability to capture ambient diffuse daylight and weaker sunlight. They can also be integrated into liquids and gels, hence allowing solar cells to be tinted and installed on window panels.

Over the past two decades, conversion efficiencies have reached 16 % and excellent stability has been attained, rendering the DSSC a credible alternative to conventional p-n junction PV converters.

When they were developed in the early 1990s by Michael Grätzel of Switzerland and Brian O’Regan of the University of California at Berkeley, DSSCs had an efficiency of 7 %, since increased to 16 % by using new pigments as light harvesters in particular metal perovskites.

In 2008 G24 Power, a company in Newport, Wales went into mass production of DSSCs, trade-named GCells. One machine creates rolls of cells up to 1,640 ft. (500 m) long and 6 in. 15 cm) wide. A secondary DSSC manufacturing process customizes and finishes the GCell into a module to suit the size requirements of the customer.

An interconnect between the GCell module and the product mating printed circuit board (PCB) is added, and finally the GCell module is encapsulated to provide environmental protection. A 106,000 sq. yard ( 89,000 m²) factory can produce more than 550,000 yards (503,000 m) of lightweight flexible large GCell modules per year.

They are employed in back packs to provide power for portable electronics (computers, cell phones, tablets etc.) Using DSSC, Pro12 rugby league installed iBeacon technology in their home stadium, BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park, Wales. Manufacturer G24, a beacon and energy innovation company, installed all of the parts in the stadium, crafting a low-power and sustainable option for the rugby team.

G24 is supported by its R&D laboratory at the EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), Switzerland plus a product development and integration team in Dongguan, China.

Various approaches have been used to prevent electrolytic leaking with DSCCs by using H2-reduced carbon, ionic liquid or wet-laid PET membrane electrolytes.

Sony has developed DSSC panels for car battery charging. The production is presently scaled up at SICCAS, a research-based enterprise wholly financed by the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, in China.

Eunkyoung Kim and colleagues have paired a DSSC with polymer films to make an even more efficient hybrid which, although it is a great deal more expensive than others, has an increased solar energy production that far outweighs the higher cost.

The conductive polymer known as PEDOT is layered with a DSSC, then placed atop a pyroelectric thin film and a thermoelectric device, both of which can convert heat into electricity.

The result is a contraption that harnesses solar energy at a rate of more than 20 % higher than the solar cell on its own. This is made possible because the hybrid cell can generate electricity from the sun’s heat as well as light.

What you can do: If your locality gets mediochre sunlight, use DSSCs.

Discover solution 107: No soap dishwashing

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Energy

105: Dual chemical energy storage system

Problem:

How to electrochemically store sustainable energy?

Solution:

Customised containers.


Yuasa Battery Europe has helped to develop and build the world’s first container-based energy storage platform where lead acid and lithium-ion batteries are combined to feed a power conversion system. The ground-breaking unit will store and control the release of locally generated renewable energy back into the grid.

GS Yuasa partnered with Infinite Group, the University of Sheffield and Innovate UK to develop the platform, called ADEPT (Advanced multi-Energy management and oPTtimisation time shifting platform) which has been constructed at their battery manufacturing facility on the Rassau Industrial Estate in Ebbw Vale.

ADEPT is unique and completely self-contained within a 20 ft weatherproof shipping container, allowing it to be integrated rapidly into any renewable energy micro-grid configuration and avoiding the need for internal space.

The platform features two GS Yuasa battery systems; a 75Kw hour lithium-ion battery system of 36 GS Yuasa LIM50 modules alongside a 250 Kw hour Valve Regulated Lead Acid battery system of 240 Yuasa SLR500 cells. The two systems are connected to a 100Kw bi-direction power conversion unit as well as full monitoring and battery management systems.

ADEPT uses the GS Yuasa dual chemistry battery system, which stores the energy generated by wind turbines on the industrial estate and solar panels on the roof of the container. An ADEPT container can thus re-charge four mid-range electric cars simultaneously.

Discover solution 106: Solar energy from daylight

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Carbon Capture Energy Human Effort Materials Mobility Planet Care Your Home

Solution 100

Solution:

100 days ago, on September, 1, 2020,  we began publishing one solution per day about cleaning up, repairing and protecting our Planet, with the bottom line of “What you can do!” If you look at our growing Encouragements page, you will see several approving comments for our simple approach. We welcome comments for all who visit our pages, not only on this website, but also your “likes” on our dedicated Facebook page, and you can also find us on Instagram and Twitter.

Onwards to 200 solutions!
Kevin, Jeff, Helen and Josh

What you can do: Follow and share 366solutions and tell your friends about ways we all can clean up, repair and protect our planet!

Discover solution 101: Documentary films to make us aware

 

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Energy

93: Cryogenic energy storage (CES)

Problem:

What to do with excess energy from thermal generation plants, steel mills and LNG terminals.

Solution:

A CRYOBattery


Cryogenic energy storage makes use of excess energy, such as that generated by renewable sources, which cannot be sent immediately to the grid to liquefy air and store the liquid until the electricity is needed and can be distributed. At this point, the liquid air is allowed to evaporate and expand through a turbine, where its latent energy of vaporisation is converted into electric current.

Connecting to thermal generation plants, steel mills and LNG terminals can further boost the system’s efficiency and diversify its offering.

In 2011, a 300 kW, 2.5 MWh storage capacity pilot cryogenic energy system was developed by researchers at the University of Leeds and Highview Power that used liquid air (with the CO2 and water removed as they would turn solid at the storage temperature) as the energy store, and low-grade waste heat to boost the thermal re-expansion of the air.

In April 2014 the UK government announced it had given £8 million to Viridor and Highview Power to fund the next stage of the demonstration. The resulting grid-scale demonstrator plant at Pilsworth Landfill facility in Bury, Greater Manchester, UK, started operation in April 2018.

This was based on research by the Birmingham Centre for Cryogenic Energy Storage (BCCES) associated with the University of Birmingham, and had storage for up to 15 MWh, with a peak supply of 5 MW (so when fully charged lasts for three hours at maximum output) and is designed for an operational life of 40 years.

With Highview Power’s Potentially CRYOBattery is able to deliver anywhere from 20 MW/80 MWh to more than 200 MW/1.2 GWh of energy to power up to 200,000 homes for a whole day.

In June 2020, Highview, teamed up with Carlton Power and announced construction of the world’s biggest liquid air battery with a capacity of 50 MW/250 MWh at a the Trafford Energy Park, a decommissioned thermal power station site in the North of England. With the first system scheduled to go into operation by 2022, another four will be set up in the UK, able to deliver a total of over 1GWh.

Discover Solution 94: Bringing extinct animals back to life.

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Energy Planet Care

75: Cloud-seeding rain-making chain

Problem:

China has to feed nearly 1.4 billion people, despite 40 % of its arable land suffering from degradation.

Solution:

Cloud-seeding rain-making chain of chambers.


The largest-ever weather modification program worldwide is named Tianhe and located across the Tibetan Plateau in China.

The name Tianhe originates from the ancient Chinese name for the Milky Way, which was the sky river that separated Niulang and Zhinyu in the folk tale “The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl”.

The project, developed by researchers in 2016 at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, is covering an area larger than Alaska and three times the size of Spain with tens of thousands of fuel-burning chambers for cloud seeding to channel large amounts of additional artificial rainfall into China’s arid northern regions.

In 2018, the installation of hundreds of burning chambers on alpine slopes in Tibet, Xinjiang and neighbouring areas started, with a deadline of 2022.

Throughout the past months the program has been increasingly questioned and criticized, internationally and nationally: the Tibetan plateau feeds most of Asia’s major rivers, including Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween and Brahmaputra.

These streams serve as lifelines for a considerable proportion of the world population. The local and transnational implications of the Tianhe project, not only in terms of water supply, are as yet unknown.

Discover Solution 76: planting trees in arid land

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Your Home Energy

73: Detergent-free clothes-washing machine

Problem:

Water is an increasingly precious commodity and many washing machines still require large amounts for washing/rinsing as well as  the use of chemicals harmful to the environment.

Solution:

Detergent-free clothes-washing machine.


In 1924, when firms such as the Savage Arms Corporation of New York presented the electrically-powered wash/spin-dry clothes washing machine to the world, neither its energy and water consumption, nor the harmful effects of chemical detergents on the ecosystem, were taken into account. Today, the eco-efficient bio washing machine has become of primary importance.

There have been many developments. Japan Ace, based on research at Nihon University produced a detergentless, ultrasonic bubble-cleansing domestic washing machine in 1985, but the main breakthrough was made by Stephen Burkinshaw at the University of Leeds focusing on the structure of nylon polymer beads.

He discovered that nylon was the best material for absorbing tiny particles, and together with his team of researchers came up with the concept of using nylon polymer beads to remove stains from clothes.

When the wash cycle is completed, the beads automatically return to a holding area inside the machine and are ready to be used again for the next wash. These beads can be used for up to a thousand washes and are then collected to be recycled and exchanged for new one.

From 2009, Burkinshaw and his team collaborated with Stephen Jenkins and William Westwater at Xeros Technologies in Catcliffe, South Yorkshire, England to commercially produce the beads which they called XOrb and a 55 lb (25 kg) capacity waterless washing machine by the end of 2011.

According to Xeros, its technology uses 90% less water than the conventional washing machine. While a conventional front-loading washer uses about 20-25 gallons (75-95 liters) of water, the Xeros Washing Machine is estimated to use as little as one gallon of water.

The machine is also projected to save consumers up to 30% for operating costs in electricity and water. Xeros then presented their XDrum technology to other washing machine manufacturers. Hotel groups such Hilton, Hyatt, or Hampton Inn acquired Xeros to wash their laundry.

In March 2018, Xeros acquired Gloves Inc., providing personal protection equipment cleaning, inspection and repair services in the Miami metro areas.

At CES 2018, Xeros unveiled XFiltra to go with XOrb and XDrum technologies XFiltra is designed to help capture the synthetic fibers from fleece and other clothing that are making their way from the wash into oceans. Appliance makers would still have to design around the pump and filter.

The biggest commercial washing manufacturers in China and India both signed up, while Dongguan Crystal Knitting and Garment, a subsidiary of Crystal International Group, the world’s largest apparel maker by volume, are trialling the technology.

In 2019 Xeros signed up with Indian home appliance manufacturer IFB Industries Ltd. in Kolkata to make and sell X technology in India by from 2020-2021. Xeros, a platform technology company that works on reinventing water intensive industrial and commercial processes, believes the reason the Indian market is important for its water-saving technology is that the country is under extreme water stress.

According to the NITI Aayog, more than 600 million Indians face acute water shortages. The Xeros tech can also save water in the tanning industry and, having entered the market itself, Xeros signed a deal which will see at least one Mexican producer convert its re-tanning operations.

What you can do: When you replace your washing machine, check out the Xeros range.

Discover Solution 74: clothing from recycled plastic bottles

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Energy Your Home

70: Better baseboard heating

Problem:

Traditional domestic heating systems, burning fossil fuels, using heat pumps and/or solar energy are using the most inefficient heat distribution systems in the real consumption place, the room.

By creating an unbalanced distribution of hot and cold air, this in turn is detrimental to human health and is giving the highest energy consumption in the room and hereby the highest loss in the transportation of the heat to the room.

Solution:

Baseboard or skirting board central heating system.


In 1974, Erik Christian Vilhelm Keldmann, a mechanical engineer from Odense, Denmark improved the efficiency and energy consumption of central heating and air conditioning systems.

His ‘’heat embracement’’ skirting board systems he called Elpan for an electrical system and Wanpan for a hot water-heated system.

Both systems involve interconnecting module elements in such a way that the apparatus can extend along all the walls of the room.

The key in his invention is the balance in each module between heat delivered by radiation and convection. The created even comfort temperature, all over the living zone of the room, is created by the all embracing system by about 65 – 75 % radiation and approximately 25 – 35 % convection (circulating air ).

This created the experienced comfort temperature constant from floor to ceiling, which is the condition for having the highest thermal comfort for the lowest energy consumption.

Keldmann’s Elpan/Wanpan system which he patented in 1978, could be easily mounted by persons without special education.

It is today, after 45 years, still an elegant timeless designed product, the world’s smallest heating system giving freedom in furnishing even small rooms.

Keldmann also innovated an eco-friendly silent cooling system he called Norpan, where panels hung from the ceiling, over the office desks, with chilled water circulating in and out of the panel.

The human body radiates heat up to the panel and the panel sends back chilled air to cool the body. This is cooling for human beings at the lowest energy consumption.

Keldmann’s innovations threatened to disrupt the steel-based traditional radiator industry.

The Elpan – Wanpan systems proved the basis for disruption in a two year comparable test in four homes made by the biggest Danish newspaper “Berlingske Tidende – Boligen”, proving energy savings of 20 – 37 %., the system was then accepted.

But despite the world’s need for heat-saving systems, Elpan-Wanpan has not yet disrupted old fashioned traditional heating systems.

Erik Keldmann is still the president and owner of Keldmann Innovation A/S. With his son and partner Troels, they are now workings on new inventions to add value to Elpan/Wanpan all embracing heating systems.

Discover Solution 71: the French connection

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Energy Planet Care

59: Solar farms on canals reduce evaporation and generate power

Problem:

In Gujarat, India, some 9,000,000 litres (2,000,000 imperial gallons; 2,400,000 US gallons) of water would evaporate annually from the Narmada canal network while many of the villages alongside did not have access to electricity.

Solution:

Use the State’s 19,000 km (12,000 mi) long network of Narmada canals across the state for setting up solar panels to generate electricity.


In April 2012, Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat, inaugurated a 1 Megawatt (MW) pilot project to be built on the Narmada branch canal near Chandrasan village of Kadi taluka in Mehsana district by SunEdison India.

The project virtually eliminated the requirement to acquire vast tracts of land, limited evaporation of water from the 750 metres (2,460 ft) long canal and providing electricity to a small village of 40 homes with thatched walls and tin roofs.

The system was called canal-top solar.

Its success led to the first large-scale canal-top solar power plant in the Vadodara district of Gujarat in 2015, at a cost of $18.3 million.

Since the first solar canal project, a number of others have been commissioned in India, including a 100MW canal-top solar power project atop the branch canals off the Narmada River, stretching for a distance of 40km, at an estimated cost of 1bn Indian rupees.

Overall, Gujarat has more than 80,000km of canals meandering through the state. According to Gujarat State Electricity Corporation, if 30% of this were converted to canal top solar, 18,000MW of power could be produced, saving 90,000 acres of land.

What you can do: Share this solution in other countries suffering from aridity.

Discover Solution 60: Calculate your carbon footprint

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Energy Planet Care

58: Prickly pear ‘petroleum’

Problem:

Crops such as corn, sugar cane, soybean and palm oil, which make up 97% of biofuels worldwide, are often grown in large monocultures. This takes up land that could otherwise be used to produce food, destroys habitats and leads to less balanced ecosystems. It also leads to intense pressure on water resources, and has been linked to drought.

Solution:

Use nopal cactus (prickly pear) as the biomass


Wayland Morales, head of Elqui Global Energy in Santiago, Chile argues that ‘an acre of cactus produces 43,200 m3 of biogas or the equivalent in energy terms to 25,000 liters of diesel.

In the year 2000, Elqui Global built the first biogas plant using nopal cactus (prickly pear) as the biomass. Nine years later, in the Naucalpan de Juárez Area of Mexico, Rogelio Sosa Lopez who had already succeeded in the corn-made tortilla industry, teamed up with Miguel Angel Ake who had been experimenting with Nopal cactus as biofuel to found Nopalimex.

Nopal crops produce between 330 and 440 tons (300 and 400 tonnes) of biomass per hectare in less fertile lands, and up to 880 – 1,100 tons (800-1,000 tonnes) in richer soils. Nopal also requires minimum water consumption and its waste, if properly processed, can be turned into biofuel.

First, the cacti are cut and processed to extract flour, which is used to make tortilla chips. The remaining inedible scraps of the plant are mixed with cow dung in a bio-processor, a fermentation tank that heats the wasted cactus pulp. Then the fuel is distilled from the remaining liquid and collected via tubes and into a tank.

While Nopal biofuel produces enough fuel for the buildings that process all parts of the nopal plant in a sustainable way, a commitment has been signed with the local government of Zitácuaro, in the state of Michoacan, to provide official vehicles, from police cars to ambulances, with cactus-based fuel with world’s first cactus-based biogas refueling station selling at 2 pesos (US$ 0.61) per liter since March 2018.

With the amount of Nopal growing in Mexico, this biofuel could eventually replace the traditional use of gas and fuel of non-renewable sources.

Discover solution 59: Solar farms built on top of canals

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Materials Energy

56: Buildings made of organic materials

Problem:

The vast majority of large buildings in the world are still made with energy intensive, inorganic single-use concrete and steel.

Solution:

Buildings incorporating algae and other nature-sourced materials.


In 2012, one of the world’s largest engineering/development/construction companies, Arup, teamed up with Splitterwerk Architects of Graz, Austria, Colt, and Strategic Science Consult to design and build a five-storey 15-apartment residential building in Hamburg, covered by panels filled with algae, a fast-growing form of biomass.

The panels are on the  two south-facing sides to help provide internal shading, and the micro-algae growing in the glass louvers provide a clean source of renewable energy.

Called Solar Leaf, the building pumps water, nutrients, and compressed CO₂ between 129 “bioreactors.” These bioreactors have four glass layers. The two inner panes have a 6 gall (24-li) capacity cavity for circulating the growing medium.

Either side of these panes, insulating argon-filled cavities help to minimise heat loss. The front glass panel consists of white anti-reflective glass, while the glass on the back can integrate decorative glass treatments.

Compressed air is introduced to the bottom of each bioreactor at intervals. The gas emerges as large air bubbles and generates an upstream water flow and turbulence to stimulate the algae to take in CO₂ and light. At the same time, a mixture of water, air and small plastic scrubbers washes the inner surfaces of the panels.

SolarLeaf integrates all servicing pipes for the inflow and outflow of the culture medium and the air into the frames of its elements.

When the sun shines, the algae multiply as a result of photosynthesis. The system collects the residue, then converts it to biogas, which is burned in a boiler. Together with a heat recovery system and solar panels on the roof, the building is completely energy independent.

The system can be operated all year round. The efficiency of the conversion of light to biomass is currently 10% and light to heat is 38%. For comparison, PV systems have an efficiency of 12-15% and solar thermal systems 60-65%.

The flat photo-bioreactors are highly efficient for algal growth and need minimal maintenance. The building, also called BIK, completed in 2013, was part of Hamburg’s International Building Exhibition. (arup.com)

In 2015, Guglielmo Carra of Arup Berlin working with Kasper Jørgensen of GXN Innovation in Copenhagen, developed BioBuild, the first self-supporting façade panel made out of bio-composite materials.

Developed as part of the €7.7 million EU-funded BioBuild program, the design reduces the embodied energy of facade systems by 50% compared to traditional systems with no extra cost in construction.

The 13 ft x 7.5 ft (4m x 2.3 m) panel is made from natural flax fabric and bio-derived resin from agricultural processing of corn, sugar cane and other crops.

Intended primarily for commercial offices, the glazing unit features a parametrically-derived faceted design, and comes prefabricated ready for installation. The panel is also designed to be easy to disassemble, making it simple to recycle at the end of its life.

The panel won the JEC Award 2015 for the best composites innovation in the construction field. (gxn.3xn.com)

In 2017, Arup published a report entitled “The Urban Bio-Loop: Growing, Making and Regenerating” in which it demonstrates that a different paradigm for materials in construction is possible. The report highlights the following organic matter products already available: peanut, rice, banana and potato.

What you can do: Tell local architects and builders about the Arup Bio-Loop

Discover Solution 57: The extraordinary tale of 80 thousand silent buses.

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Energy Human Effort Materials

54: Turning beer bottles into building sand

Problem:

Bottles thrown away can end up in landfills or in Nature.

Solution:

In 2017, DB Breweries in New Zealand built a machine which pulverizes glass bottles then turns them into fine-grain substitute building sand in just 5 seconds.


Two thirds of the world’s beaches are retreating as people across the world use non-renewable beach sand for construction, roading and other uses. There were even some beaches in New Zealand where they were taking the sand off one beach and putting it on another beach, which seemed crazy to DB.

All a drinker needs to do is deposit his or her bottle in the machine, a laser triggers a wheel of small steel hammers spinning at 2,800 rpm to crush it into 7 oz. (200 gm.) of sand in only five seconds. After extracting the plastic labels and silica with two vacuum systems, the sand is then processed through a screener which sorts it into a fine grades between 1.1 – 0.4mm particle sizes.

In several months, a fleet of these machines recycled 100 tons of sand, which is the equivalent of 500,000 DB Export Bottles. Until recently about 11,000 ton (10,000 tonnes)of glass at Visy Recycling in Auckland could not be recycled, so, rather than have it diverted to landfill, it now goes into the industrial beer bottle sand machine.

The resulting sand substitute was then given to their construction and retail partners to use in place of beach sand. Finding partners for the program was a critical step in achieving scale for the project.

The brewer has finalized a two-year deal to supply Solution 54 in a 1-a-day series of 366 creative, hopeful ideas to clean up, repair, protect our planet: the company now delivers DB Export Beer Bottle Sand to #DryMix to make a super easy eco concrete Solution 54 in a 1-a-day series of 366 creative, hopeful ideas to clean up, repair, protect our planet: the company now delivers DB Export Beer Bottle Sand to #DryMix to make a super easy eco concrete , leading to a new brand of eco-concrete, sold to consumers through the country’s biggest home improvement chain.

Beer Bottle sand is now used by Downer in road-making projects, commercial and residential construction, and even golf bunkers and resurfacing projects, and Drymix, which has created a ‘‘super easy eco concrete’’, available through Mitre10.

In 2018, DB Export’s beer bottle sand was combined with recycled ink toner cartridges to make an aggregate for resurfacing the 430,000 ft² (40,000m²) Queenstown Airport apron, the first project of its kind. Requests for machines arrived from as far away as Dubai, with scoping to supply 500 machines currently underway. DB’s trucks carry the slogan “Drink DB Export. Save Our Beaches.” (db.co.nz)

Norway

From May 1999, Norsk Resirk launched a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and aluminum beverage cans which has led to 97% of all plastic drinks bottles in Norway being recycled, 92% to such a high standard that they are turned back into drinks bottles.

Norway’s model is based on a loan scheme, which means when a consumer buys a plastic bottle, they are charged a small additional fee equivalent to about 13 to 30 US cents.

The scheme is open to all consumers who can either take a bottle or can to a reverse vending machine which returns the money after scanning the verifiable barcode of the deposited bottle, or they can return it to various small shops and gas stations for cash or store credit.

These shop owners also receive a small fee for each bottle they recycle, and some argue it has even increased their business.

Three processing plants were opened to receive the bottles, one in Fetsund outside Oslo to handle approximately 80% of what is collected in Norway.

First step in the process is sorting out the aluminum and steel cans. Next step is sorting out clear and light blue bottles. Then follow the colored bottles. Some of the material has been recycled more than 50 times.

The company is now called Infinitum. All the materials are then structured into ballots and sent further for recycling: metals go to the company Norsk Hydro in Holmestrand, Norway; PET bottles are sent to Cleanaway AB in Sweden.

Nevertheless, even in Norway, there is still room for improvement. During the year, Infinitum estimates that 150,000 bottles will not be returned, and if they had, it would have saved enough energy to power 5,600 households for the year.

The same system is now being used in neighbouring Sweden, Denmark, and Germany and a number of US and Canadian states.

There are ten states in the United States with container deposit legislation, popularly called “bottle bills” after the Oregon Bottle Bill (established since 1971), the first such legislation that was passed. Container deposit legislation (CDL) also known as a Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) was first implemented in South Australia in 1977 and has since been extended all over that continent.

Tomorrow’s solution: Kaisei, the ship that goes plastic fishing

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Materials Energy

30: Batteries made of seawater

Problem:

Many battery materials, including metals such as nickel and cobalt, pose tremendous environmental and humanitarian risks.

Cobalt in particular, which is largely mined in central Africa, has come under fire for careless and exploitative extraction practices.

Solution:

Batteries made from seawater.

IBM Research has joined with Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America, Central Glass, one of the top battery electrolyte suppliers in the world, and Sidus Energy, a Silicon Valley battery startup to create a new next-generation battery development ecosystem.

In December 2019, a team led by Young-Hye Na at IBM Research Center in Almaden in San José, California, USA announced the development of a new battery built from minerals and compounds found in seawater (magnesium, potassium, boron, strontium, fluoride etc.).

It uses a cobalt and nickel-free cathode material, as well as a safe liquid electrolyte with a high flash point, thereby reducing flammability, which is widely considered a significant drawback for the use of lithium metal as an anode material.

When optimized for this factor, this new battery design will exceed 10,000 Watt per Litre (W/L), outperforming the most powerful li-ion batteries available. Additionally, tests have shown this battery can be designed for a long cycle-life, making it an option for smart power grid applications and new energy infrastructures where longevity and stability are key.

Moving forward, the team has also implemented an AI technique called semantic enrichment to further improve battery performance by identifying safer and higher performance materials.

Using machine learning techniques to give human researchers access to insights from millions of data points to inform their hypothesis and next steps, researchers can speed up the pace of innovation in this important field of study. (www.research.ibm.com)

Discover solution 31: mechanical beach cleaners

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Energy Materials

29: Nuclear waste to diamond batteries

Problem:

Waste from a nuclear fission generating plant can remain radioactive for 250,000 years.

Solution:

Recycle the nuclear waste for diamond battery power.

A team of physicists and chemists led jointly by Professor Tom Scott and Dr Neil Fox at the University of Bristol have grown a man-made diamond that, when placed in a radioactive field, is able to generate a small electrical current in a nuclear-powered battery.

Unlike the majority of electricity-generation technologies, which use mechanical energy to move a magnet through a coil of wire to generate a current, the man-made diamond is able to produce a charge simply by being placed in close proximity to a radioactive source.

The Bristol team have demonstrated a prototype ‘diamond battery’ using Nickel-63 as the radiation source.

They are now working to significantly improve micropower battery efficiency by utilising carbon-14 incorporated within the diamond battery.

One available source of this radioactive version of carbon, is found in decommissioned nuclear reactors where it is generated in graphite blocks used to moderate the reaction in nuclear power plants.

Extracted from waste at the Berkeley power station in Gloucestershire, Carbon-14 was chosen as a source material because it ​is a pure beta emitter, which is quickly absorbed by any solid material. ​

Carbon 14 is naturally present in the ecosystem at a background level as it is easily taken up by living matter. This would only make it dangerous to ingest or touch with your naked skin if present in unnaturally large quantities, but safely held within a diamond, no short-range radiation can escape.

Neutron irradiated (Magnox) reactor graphite blocks form the bulk of the existing legacy feedstock. Each block contains machined ‘through-hole’ channels for accommodating fuel rods and gas cooling.

The wall surfaces of these channels contain the bulk of the carbon 14 carbon which can be harvested by robots and converted into gas such as carbon dioxide and into methane. Gas centrifuges will be used to purify C14 methane and there are techniques to efficiently separate light  isotopes.

The UK currently holds almost 105,000 tons (95,000 tonnes) of graphite blocks and by extracting carbon-14 from them, their radioactivity decreases, reducing the cost and challenge of safely storing this nuclear waste.

Radioactive material from a nuclear power plant being decommissioned in the U.K. could soon be used to create “ultra-long-lasting” power sources. Using carbon-14 the battery would take 5,730 years to reach 50% power, which is about as long as human civilization has existed.

Neil A. Fox et al., “A theoretical study of substitutional boron-nitrogen clusters in diamond” Journal of Physics Condensed Matter 30(42) · August 2018

Discover solution 30: A battery made from seawater

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Energy

20: Solar panels triggered by rain

Problem:

Systems that rely on electricity from solar panels can encounter problems during extended periods of rain and cloud and require draining power from batteries.

Solution:

Researchers from the Ocean University of China in Qingdao and Yunnan Normal University in Kunming have invented a type of solar cell that also works on rainy days.

Rain water contains ammonium, calcium and sodium, which become electrically charged ions when in solution.

This new kind of solar cell takes advantage of that . It is coated in graphene, a highly conductive material made up of layers of carbon just one atom thick that allows electrons to move freely across its surface.

When rain and water sit on top of a layer of graphene, those ions create spots of unbalanced charges. The free running electrons in the graphene bind with positively charged ions in the rain water, and generate an electric current.

A typical solar panel averages 15-20% efficiency in full sun conditions, while these  proof-of-concept panels have been able to achieve about a 6.5% efficiency in the rain.

Other scientists led by Professor Baoquan Sun at Soochow University in Suzhou, Jiangsu, China, have overcome a design flaw of solar panels by allowing them to collect energy in both the rain and sun.

Now, almost any home can install solar panels. So even if you live in a rainy area, you can use solar panels to produce electricity for your home. This innovation could change renewable energy completely. Currently, these hybrid solar panel designs are not ready for home and business use.

Researchers still need to find ways to increase the efficiency from rain and sun.

However, the efficiency of the Soochow University design was 13%, which makes it a viable alternative to standard solar panels. Comparatively, current solar panel designs convert 15 to 20 % of the sun’s energy into electricity.

Thus, the new design is a viable solar panel solution. Collecting energy from rain is something the team would like to develop further. Electricity efficiency from its triboelectric nanogenerators was not reported and again the graphene model had an efficiency from rain of around 6.5%. There is still much work to do.

Financed by the Beijing Natural Science Foundation, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, External Cooperation Program of BIC, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the 2015 Annual Beijing Talents Fund and China’s Thousand Talents Program, researchers NanoYa Yang, Zhong Lin Wang and colleagues integrated two energy-harvesting technologies in one: a silicon solar cell and a nanogenerator that can convert wind energy into electrical output.

The solar cell component of the system delivers 8 milliWatts of power output (1 milliWatt can light up 100 small LEDs). The wind-harvesting component delivers up to 26 milliWatts.

Together, under simulated sun and wind conditions, four devices on the roof of a model home could turn on the LEDs inside and power a temperature-humidity sensor. Installed in large numbers on real rooftops, the hybrid device could help enable smart cities.

Megan Ray Nichols, “Scientists design new solarcells to capture energy from rain” EuroScientist, May 21, 2018;

Discover solution 21: The artificial leaf

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Energy Materials

16: Electrical energy from animal dung

Problem:

As all transport transitions to electric propulsion, the increase in the demand for electrical energy will call on a diversity of sources.

Solution:

Anaerobic digesters that convert the dung of horses, cattle, pigs and other livestock to electricity.

Anaerobic digestion is a sequence of processes by which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen and create and capture biogas – a flammable fuel with high methane content which  can be used to run turbines and create electricity.

In the Fall of 1998 two ex-Aachen University students from farming families, Hendrik Becker and Jörg Meyer zu Strohe, built an anaerobic digester at a prototype biogas plant feed facility in Münsterland, north-west Westfalen.

Unlike other biogas technology, their innovative solids injection process can operate using  100 percent manure or manure mixed with difficult to process substrates such as straw and grass.

They started a company, PlanET, to manufacture their green dome-shape digesters for use in rural areas.

During the past two decades, PlanET has sold and implemented nearly 480 biogas plants of between 40 kW and several MW to France, the UK, the USA and Canada.

The total electric power of PlanET installations currently in operation is 142,000 kWel. The plant also processes other waste such as that of cereal farmers (the unusable part of the harvest).

Finland

In 2015, Finland’s state energy company, Fortum, led by Anssi Paalanen, also looked at anaerobic digesters as a fuel source and began trials at Lake Järvenpää, gathering raw materials from four stables from Espoo and Kirkkonummi for their units.

They found that the manure and bedding of three horses could provide heat and light for a single-family Finnish home in a colder climate.

Finland has 70,000 horses, enough to provide heat and electricity for up to 23,000 homes. Fortum began with a small plant, with the manure forming just 10% of the wood-shaving mix used for burning.

By autumn, with more stables taking part, the manure proportion was raised to 20%. The number of horses in society is increasing.

According to Statistics Sweden, there are more than 360,000 horses in Sweden, of which three-quarters are situated in urban or near-urban environments. With a dry matter manure content of 40%, this equates to a quantity of 1,500 tons (1,360 tonnes) of horse manure per annum and corresponds to an annual biogas production of 641 GWh.

In 2016, Finland banned the disposal of manure in landfill sites, along with many other organic, biodegradable materials. This meant that stables risked being stuck with a pile of ordure they could not shift.

The manure can be given to farmers for use as fertilizer, but in the EU this is now permitted only on flat fields because of the risk that exists on sloping fields that the manure will leach into water courses. Flat fields are still fair game for muck-spreaders, but the E.U. bans the strewing of horse manure on any sloping site, as a sensible precaution against equine faeces leaching into the water system.

This means that Finland’s manure does not have many places to go, making the manure biomass plan a double win. The Fortum solution, which they called quite simply “HorsePower”, seemed the most logical.

From August 2017, Fortum set up a pilot project in Bergslagen, southern Sweden, requesting manure from the 400-500 horses in the region, the electricity produced going to households in the town of Hällefors.

Fortum was looking for local suppliers and asked that there are at least 10-20 horses in the stable in order to cover transport costs. By the end of the year 3,000 horses were producing energy.

If Fortum could process the manure mix from 280,000 of Sweden’s horses it would be enough to heat all of the houses in Östergötland and Gotland.

Following the 2017 FEI European Equestrian Championships held in the city of Gothenburg in August, Renova, the municipal waste management, created around 360 000 kWh of district heating and 60 000 kWh of electricity, from the estimated 330 tons (300 tonnes) of horse manure and straw left by the 600 horses participating in the competition.

Two months later, Finland’s Horse Show in Helsinki Ice Hall followed suit. During the event, HorsePower delivered wood-based bedding for the 250 or so horses that stayed in temporary stalls, their dung at Fortum’s Järvenpää power plant anaerobically generating 140 kW to meet all of the electricity needs of the event from lighting to scoreboards to support infrastructure. (fortum.com)

According to a report compiled in 2006 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAOSTAT), there are an estimated 58 million horses in the world.

In terms of HorsePower potential, one is therefore talking about gigawatts of electricity. If the manure of the world’s horse population were put to work, this would provide electricity for 19.5 million homes or two New York cities, not to mention electric vehicles.

At the beginning of 2016, the global number of four-wheeled electric vehicles in use came to around 13 million units: 6.18 million electrified power trains will be produced by 2020. This does not take in the hundreds of millions of two- and three-wheeled vehicles, particularly in China.

With such a demand for electrical energy, it is inevitable that horse manure – not to mention manure from cattle, pigs and other livestock – will play its part alongside other sustainable energy sources.

Discover solution 17: the new antibiotics.

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