Monthly Archives: February 2017

Red Lake Band to Go Fully Solar Within Five Years

Photo: Michael Meuers

Artist rendition of rooftop solar panels to be installed on Red Lake Nation’s major buildings.

This is the kind of stuff that I’m talking about!! The vision I’ve had for my community for years! Inspiring article I just wanted to share. Here is a great quote I got from the article:

“Renewable energy harnesses the natural forces of life, of nature, which provides the foundation for who we are as Native People,” McArthur said. “At the end of the day, our language, our songs, our cultural traditions are all based on the great gift of heat and light from Gimishoomisinaan Giizis (Grandfather Sun) and the many gifts of Gimaamaanaan Aki (Mother Earth). And as we move forward, we strive to utilize the many blessings from nature, with the utmost respect and adherence to the processes which preserve and conserve these precious gifts.”

Mothers, Babies on Navajo Nation Exposed to High Levels of Uranium

A child watches as 18 inches of contaminated soil is removed from the community in which he lives. The gray pile in the distance is mine waste from the Northeast Church Rock Mine, the largest underground uranium mine in the United States.

Check out this article about the high uranium levels that children are exposed to on the Navajo Nation. It’s an older article, but still goes to show how these mines were left many years ago, and the effects still remain.

Here’s a excerpt from the article:

This study is the first to look at what chronic, long-term exposure from all possible sources of uranium contamination—air, water, plants, wildlife, livestock and land—does down through the generations in a Native American community.

Since the study began in 2012, over 750 families have enrolled and 600 babies have been born to those families, said Dr. Johnnye Lewis, director of the Community Environmental Health Program & Center for Native Environmental Health Equity Research at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and NBCS principal investigator.

“We’re collecting a huge amount of data,” Lewis said. “At this point … all of our results are preliminary, [but] what we do know is that if we look at uranium in urine in the Navajo participants we see higher concentrations than we would expect based on the U.S. population as a whole… [In babies,] we are seeing a trend that uranium levels in urine increase over the first year.”

The Navajo Nation overlies some of the largest uranium deposits in the U.S. Between 1944 and 1986, miners extracted nearly 30 million tons of uranium from Navajo Nation lands. Navajo miners did not have protective suits or masks; they took their work clothes home for laundering; they and other community members used rocks from the mines to build their homes.

Daily Iowan: “UI Ready to Shun Coal”

Earlier this week, the Daily Iowan published an article detailing University of Iowa’s President Bruce Herrald’s announcement that UI will be coal free by 2025.

Here’s a bit of the article:

“University of Iowa President, Bruce Harreld, announced on Feb. 20 the UI will be coal-free by 2025.

According to a press release, Harreld said, ‘It’s the right choice for our students and our campus, and it’s the surest path to an energy-secure future.

‘In 2025, we expect to have diminished our reliance on coal to the point it is no longer included in our fuel portfolio.’

The UI will continue its efforts to advance energy programs to ensure there is ‘an abundant supply’ of alternative-energy sources, he said.

The UI has taken steps to reduce its dependence on coal — in 2008, the university established seven ‘sustainability targets’ to be achieved by 2020, according to the press release.

Since the 2020 vision’s inception, the UI has managed to reduce its use of coal by 60 percent.

This correlates with one of the sustainability targets, which seeks to derive 40 percent of the UI’s energy from renewable resources — a far cry from a university once dependent on fossil fuels, according to the UI sustainability website.”

The coal industry’s destructive tendencies towards global climate is well known, and this plan to shift away from using the energy source as a means of powering our university remains to be small, but important step in combating climate change.

Ideally, given Iowa’s inclination towards wind energy, we’ll see more institutions making the shift away from dirty fossil fuel.

Walkability: Jeff Speck on 4 Ways for the City

Urbanist and author Jeff Speck on how to get people out of their cars, and a-walking the city

In the American city, the typical American city — the typical American city is not Washington, DC, or New York, or San Francisco; it’s Grand Rapids or Cedar Rapids or Memphis — in the typical American city in which most people own cars and the temptation is to drive them all the time, if you’re going to get them to walk, then you have to offer a walk that’s as good as a drive or better. What does that mean? It means you need to offer four things simultaneously: there needs to be a proper reason to walk, the walk has to be safe and feel safe, the walk has to be comfortable and the walk has to be interesting. You need to do all four of these things simultaneously, and that’s the structure of my talk today, to take you through each of those.

“What Japan Can Teach America About Sustainable Transportation”

Check out this article about how Japan took a Western-inspired transportation system fed by coal and turned it into a dependable, sustainable system.

Here’s a snippet from the article:

In the 1850s, when the infamous United States Navy “black ships” forced the then-isolated nation of Japan to open up to the world, one of the gifts the U.S. gave in return was a state-of-the-art, steam-powered train. In fact, one of the enduring images of that encounter is the sight of Samurai riding on the mini train, the likes of which no one in Japan had ever seen before.

At that time, it was the U.S. that had the world’s most advanced and high-tech rail system. Fast forward a century and a half, and the tables have completely turned.

While America still uses diesel engines and tracks laid in the 19th century, Japan took our gift and ran with it. The island nation now has the world’s best urban rail network and the busiest high-speed rail lines in the world. Nearly all are electric, and they are the chief reason that Japan’s per-capita GHG emissions are less than half of America’s.

As U.S. states and cities look to build more sustainable transportation in order to meet set climate goals, there are a lot of things we could learn from Japan.

How a German Startup Is Making the ‘Magic of Light’ Affordable in Developing Countries

An interesting post from Sustainable Brands looks at how a German Startup called Mobisol, is helping poor people in developing countries, have affordable and renewable energy. This is already changing people’s life, like Beatrice Akyoo and her children’s life.

Here is a short clip:

Beatrice Akyoo doesn’t need to spend as much money lighting her home, and her children have more time for homework without inhaling the nasty fumes from kerosene lamps. She also earns extra income by charging her neighbors’ mobile phones.

“I am proud to own my personal electricity source,” she says. “At night, my family now has clean and bright lights – and we can even power a refrigerator.”

It may not sound like much to those in the West, but some two billion people around the world don’t have a reliable electricity source to meet their daily energy needs. In the 90 percent of households in rural Tanzania, Kenya or Rwanda that don’t have electricity, they use kerosene lamps, batteries or – if they’re very wealthy – a generator.

 

Kinetic Energy: Tiles That Generate Energy When People Walk Over Them

From generating light for soccer fields in Brazil and Nigeria, Heathrow Airport or offices and shopping centers in London, British company Pavelen is transforming the energy from kinetic tiles. Here’s a clip from an article in HuffPost:

“We’re not trying to make Pavegen the sole energy source to power every city in the future,” he told Radio France Internationale. “We believe it’s going to be one of the key constituents of the energy mix of the future.”

David Horsley, a mechanical and aerospace engineer at UC Davis, told Wired that the tiles could have a place in our everyday lives.

“You’re not going to get very much for a step, considering you can get 100 watts from a square meter of solar paneling,” he explained. “But for small wearable electronics like watches, or maybe even your phone, this kind of energy harvesting makes sense.”

France Launches Solar Roadway Project

The world’s first solar highway has been opened in France, in the not-very-sunny village of Tourouvre au Perche in Normandy. The roadway is just one kilometre (0.6mi) long, but that still works out at 2,800 square metres of photovoltaic cells—enough, hopefully, to power the village’s street lights.

The road was built by Colas, a large Anglo-French construction company. Colas has apparently been working on its own solar road tech, called Wattway, for at least five years. Wattway has been tested in car parks, but this is the first time it has been used on an active road. There will now be a two-year test period, to see if Wattway can withstand the rigour of being pounded by thousands of cars and trucks per day, and whether it can actually provide a useful amount of electricity.

One of the Wattway panels up close.
Enlarge / One of the Wattway panels up close.
Usefulness aside, the main problem with constructing solar roads is their crippling cost. One of the main selling points of Wattway, according to Colas, is that each panel is just a few millimetres thick, and can thus be installed on top of an existing road, which in turn massively reduces construction costs. Having said that, the 1km road in Normandy cost €5 million (£4.3m) to build. And that’s for a single lane of a two-lane highway!

Expanding that out to €10m per kilometre for a two-lane solar road, you’re looking at a total cost measured in billions or even trillions of pounds to cover a sizeable portion of a country’s roads with solar panels. France has over a million kilometres of roads; the US has over 6 million. And that’s not counting the larger highways with more than two lanes…

Fortunately, Ségolène Royal, France’s ecology minister, has a much more reasonable goal in mind: she would like to see solar roadways replace one kilometre of every 1000 in France. Again, assuming she means two-lane solar roads at around €10 million per kilometre, the total cost would be €10 billion—not bad, assuming the panels (and the accompany electrical system) don’t need regular maintenance, and that they produce enough electricity to be worth the much higher initial outlay.

Should Cities Ban Internal Combustion Cars?

An interesting post at Green Tech Media looks at the role of cities and countries in transitioning away from internal combustion cars. Countries include Germany, Holland and Norway, as well as India.

Here’s a clip:

“The Netherlands, which has an electric vehicle penetration level of around 10 percent, voted to ban all new petrol and diesel car sales by 2025 in a motion passed in April. The move, approved by the lower house of parliament, was due to be debated by the senate last month.

Instead, the country announced plans to become “one huge Living Lab for Smart Charging of electric vehicles,” according to a press release.

The Living Lab program is light on targets and timeframes. But with a nationwide network of charging stations already in place, the Netherlands remains a major contender to become the first country banning fossil-fuel cars altogether.”

Copenhagen has more bikes than cars

As the Guardian reports, last year in Copenhagen, 265,700 bikes took to the road compared to 252,600 cars. This phenomenon is part of a long-time redesign and investment in bike infrastructure in the city.

Here’s a clip from the Guardian:

Copenhagen’s efforts to create a cycling city have paid off: bicycle traffic has risen by 68% in the last 20 years. “What really helped was a very strong political leadership; that was mainly Ritt Bjerregaard [the former lord mayor], who had a dedicated and authentic interest in cycling,” says Klaus Bondam, who was technical and environmental mayor from 2006 to 2009 and is now head of the Danish Cycling Federation. “Plus, a new focus on urbanism and the new sustainability agenda broke the glass roof when it came to cycling.”

And check out this video on the Copenhagen bike lanes: