Tag Archives: Green

Smart Batteries may be the solution for a sustainable The Hague

Do you want to reduce your annual energy bill while you’re helping The Hague become future proof? Many steps have to be taken to minimize and eventually completely eliminate our carbon footprint. Using green energy in our houses, workplaces, school and other buildings is a clean and easy way to do our share for the environment. A company based in California, Green Charge Networks, might have developed the golden trick to facilitate this process, namely Smart batteries. This allows solar energy to be stored for later consumption. The company is specialized in creating predictive software and energy-storages, enabling households and local enterprises to lower their energy demand during peak hours. The project’s main goal is to promote energy-efficiency and in the meantime encourage more households, local businesses and public organisations to go solar.

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A picture of the smart lithium-ion batteries released by Sustainia. http://solutions.sustainia.me/solutions/smart-batteries-reducing-peak-power-consumption/

How does it work? The corporation provides lithium-ion batteries accompanied by big analytical data software. When solar energy is affluent during the day and the grid demand is low, the installed lithium power cube will automatically store the surplus energy. This technology, doubtlessly user-friendly, enables us to use green and free energy when the demand is high and the prices increase.

This video posted on Youtube by the company gives a short and clear visualization of the installation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVE0qazg8qM

 

A “two birds with one stone” solution. In addition to financial benefits, this innovation also empowers the use of locally produced green energy allowing cities to make big steps towards the carbon neutral goal. Currently, many cities are thriving in becoming fully green and carbon neutral before reaching half way the 21st century. The Hague makes no exception here. Reducing energy generated by non-renewable sources such as coals, oil and gas will definitely help us achieve this sustainable goal. Considering the current expansion of households, corporations and public organisations are eager to invest in green energy. Bearing in mind that in 2016 only 5,9% of the Dutch electricity bill was generated from renewable sources. The installation of smart lithium batteries in The Hague will be the golden opportunity to upscale the green energy consumption and to decouple the demand from the supply chain. Enabling other futuristic and green energy-efficient innovations to progress. Another unneglectable green aspect induced by this modernization is the fact that solar panels will account for higher production levels than ever before, meaning that raw materials are better invested. On the long run, this could also mean that less raw materials will have to be extracted for the production of solar panels. The only downside to this is that the amount of raw materials needed for the batteries will increase.

We-share-solar.jpgBe cool and share. The lithium-ion energy storages could form the base to new social projects. For example Solar share, allowing the extractionof energy stored by different consumers. Meaning, you could use green energy produced by your neighbour’s solar panels when he or she is not home. This share of renewable energy is already set in place in different municipalities in Australia and in the United States. Green Energy Cooperative, an association developing and financing different energy-efficiency projects that involve local communities, claims that inducing full engagement and responsibility of citizens in energy production is the key to a sustainable future.

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Visualization of energy share.

I agree that much more will have to be done if we want to fight back climate change fully.  Yet I do believe this modern installation could be an easy way to facilitate the transition to green energy, as it brings along a broad range of benefits and opportunities. I especially like the fact that it could makes individuals more independent, seeing as they would not have to fully rely on the volatile prices of energy. It also strengthens local communities.

 

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Don’t Paint the Town Red, Plant the City Green!

The urban heat island (UHI) effect impacts every single person who lives within an urban area and currently 54% of the total world population live within urban areas meaning this is a major issue! However not that many people may understand how the effect works, so here is a video to catch you up to speed on the science behind it as well as show you how it impacts people:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHXw_eZLhII

The UHI effect does not just make heatwaves worse in urban areas of faraway countries like South Korea but in every country. For example my home country of England was hit hard by the 2006 European heatwave, with research from the West Midlands region showing UHI contributed to 21% of heat mortalities. The Netherlands, the country I’m currently living in, suffered in this heatwave as well with an extra >1,000 deaths being recorded, this shows the effects of UHI hit close to home as well as far away. This got me wondering about how the current city that I am living in The Hague could be protected from the UHI effect.

Is the answer to knock down our concrete jungles and go back to actual jungles? No, that’s a tad dramatic, what we need to do is just bring nature back into the city…

One example of doing this is shown by the Mobile Green Living Room, which was created to tour Europe in 2016 to show off the potential of green wall technology. This living wall creates its own cooler microclimate at the street level, fighting the UHI effect and purifying the air at the same time. This “green comfort zone” can be easily implemented in high-density urban areas, I was thinking that wouldn’t tram and bus stops in The Hague be much more beneficial if they were all like this wall, cooling citizens as they wait and cooling the city as a whole too!

Green mobile living room

Another example The Hague could take inspiration from is a massive flagship project built in Milan in 2014, Bosco Verticale, translated into English this means “vertical forests”. I think that’s a fitting name for these two towers, as they hold the equivalent of 20,000 m2 of forest and undergrowth but up into the air. Having one major green construction does not only fight UHI by itself, but works as inspiration for the rest of the city, staring a trend towards more buildings adopting a more eco based form of architecture. With every new green wall or roof a change will take hold of the city and so the UHI effect on the city will begin to decrease as more vegetation enters the urban area, increasing evapotranspiration  and reducing albedo, leading to one cooler city.

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So there are two examples of how The Hague can fight the UHI effect, but one project is more small scale at the street level and the other is a major build. Which example do you think The Hague needs to follow, or is it a mix of the two ideas? Leave what you think in the comments below!

 

References/ Extra Reading:

http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/world-urbanization-prospects-2014.html

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412017315477

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5211592.stm

https://repository.tudelft.nl/islandora/object/uuid%3Abbfc586f-7869-4f0d-98fe-0a5431ca8064

https://inhabitat.com/plant-covered-mobile-green-living-room-travels-through-europe/

http://www.urbantrack.eu/images/site/publications/FinalConference/presentations/07_ASP_Grassed%20Track.pdf

Image 1: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/turas-mobile-green-living-room-marcus-collier

Image 2: https://www.archdaily.com/777498/bosco-verticale-stefano-boeri-architetti

Live with water, don’t fight it

In 1953, the dykes broke. One of the biggest disasters the Netherlands has ever suffered. Since then, we managed to set up one of the most extensive flood protection projects in the world. Our feet have been dry ever since.  But, the tide may be changing. The Netherlands will get hotter, drier and wetter. According the Climate scenarios from the KNMI we will see more and more extreme rainfall towards 2085. Next to that, in between these extreme events, there will be dry periods. Whether you like this or not, it raises the question: ‘’Are our cities ready for the future?’’

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Flooding in ‘de Kooi’, Leiden

It is not just a future scenario. It is happening already. Extreme showers will happen more frequently and will be heavier. This leads to certain problems. For example, in cities like Leiden, the sewage system isn’t able to cope with the extreme amounts of rain that will fall during short periods of time. This will result in flooding in streets and houses, which leads to lots of damages. Already this has happened in Leiden.

Cities are most vulnerable because of increasing urbanization. This causes problems with increased flash flooding after sudden rain. As areas of vegetation are replaced by concrete, asphalt, or roofed structures, the area loses its ability to absorb rainwater. This rain is instead directed into the city sewage system, often overloading it and causing floods.

Example of a wide ditch

Municipalities can take measures to prevent the streets from turning into rivers. Some more natural examples include, more green and wide ditches/ponds  in suburbs to allow the ground to take up more water. On the other hand, a more mechanical solution is building surface water drainage systems to relief the sewage systems by transporting rain water to rivers or basins.

The solutions named above may not always be possible. For example, there might not be enough space for creating green areas, which is the case in Noorderkwartier, a district in Leiden. I think especially in those areas it is vital to let the citizens know what problems the council is facing in protecting them. With the right incentives, communities can transform their own neighbourhoods in flood save and sustainable places to live. Below are some solutions people can take to achieve this:

  • Green open gardens. Paved gardens direct water straigt into the sewage system. Green gardens on the other hand, absorb water and also look more attractive.
  • Installing water butts. Green gardens need water. Instead of tapping fresh water, a more sustainable way is to collect rain water. If all houses in a neighbourhood have one, it might just be enough to take up the first beating of a heavy shower. A more advanced idea is the collection of rainwater in large tanks and use that water in a so called ‘grey water system’ (see picture below).

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  • Green roofs. This is a more challenging solution. Roofs are large surfaces, which potentially can take up a lot of water if planted with grass. However, roofs must be able to support the weight of them.

Let’s embrace these solutions and turn our paved surroundings into green sustainable neighbourhoods where rain is welcome.

After us a garden

 

Après nous le déluge’ was alledgedly said by Madame de Pompadour a French aristocrat from the 18th century and mistress to King Louis XV of France. ‘Après nous la deluge’ or ‘after us, the deluge’ roughly means ‘I do not care what happens after we are gone’. However, I am glad to say that a lot has changed since that statement was made, but a different threat looms over us.

By now the majority of the population is aware of climate change and cares about the state in which we leave the world to future generations. Furthermore, we ensured that chances of heavy flooding are as slim as the chance of experiencing a guillotine induced death. But there is a different water-based threat to suburban life and it arrives in the form of heavy rain fall. Spells of rain will become short and severe, instead of long-lasting and drizzly, this is caused by climate change. Therefore, we need to make sure that our inner-city drainage can handle a lot of water in a short period of time.

I personally live on the outskirts of Leiden in a neighbourhood with a lot of space for plants and trees to grow. After the rain, I can see puddles but after a night or a part of the day I notice that all the water is gone. When travelling to the city centre the predominantly green environment changes into brownish manmade surroundings with more Apple-stores than apple trees, and more Lush-soap shops than lush vegetation. After a spell of rain, you can still see puddles for a long time. Heavy rainfall already causes problems in certain parts of the city, where rainwater can reach over the thresholds of waters and flood into people’s homes. It seems to me quite an inconvenience when a whole neighbourhood collectively shudders and frantically reaches for the hosing-bucket at the sight of a low hanging dark cloud!

Clearly a solution is needed for the watery threat from above, rather sooner than later I would like to add. I personally think that where possible green spaces must be created. So-called raingardens or Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS) can be offer a pretty solution to an ugly problem. Raingardens aide in the capture of water in a natural manner, and making plants and flowers grow and bloom creating small bits of green or parks. Plants and flower store water in their roots, but their roots also bind the soil protecting against soil subsistence. Raingardens make the underground struggle against excess water visible and part of our day-to-day lives. The presence of nature in the form of flowers and plants also have an effect on the psychological wellbeing of people. A certain quote from Ladybird Johnson comes to mind when writing about raingardens ‘Where flowers bloom, so does hope’. For the inhabitants of regularly flooded neighbourhoods this might be the hope of permanently keeping their feet dry. Let us leave a garden for future generations to enjoy!

Awareness is created by explaining what  raingardens do, but the benefits are mostly noticeable by the absence of flooding after heavy rainfall. If you are interested in raingardens or other forms of Sustainable urban drainage systems I would recommend reading the following articles.

http://www.susdrain.org/delivering-suds/using-suds/background/sustainable-drainage.html

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195925500000457

The end is nigh! The end is nigh!..

The more I learn about climate change, the more I feel like walking the streets, wearing a sign that says:”The ending of times cometh. Repent!” I want to ring doorbells to ask people if they heard about our Lord and Savior; Geo-engineering. I want to spread pamphlets that show failed harvests, forest fires and drowned polar bears.

But this is the 21st century. So I will do what everyone with an opinion does these days:                     put it on-line.

Even though climate change has become a fact instead of a believe, we still need to preach the gospel of the greenhouse effect and the effect it has on our lives.

Thereby preventing further damage to the planet and start protecting ourselves against the consequences. Because a change in climate means a change in local weather. For the Netherlands this means that the temperature will increase a few degrees and that we’ll have problems with water. (Because the Netherlands will always have problems with water.)

First, the intensity of rainfalls will increase, overflowing the rivers, sewers and eventually your basements and ground floors with heavily polluted water.

After the rain come long periods of drought. A drought that causes a shortage in clean drinking water and dry land. All local nature that is not well adjusted to dryer circumstances will have a hard time surviving. Depending on the soil, buildings have a higher risk of collapsing due to the sinking of dry ground and rotting wooden fundaments.

…So let’s build an arc.

As the surface of the earth becomes increasingly covered in stone and concrete, water has nowhere to go but to the sewage. There rainwater mixes with waste water and will need to be purified. It also has the potential to exceed the sewers capacity, causing flooding.

There are many ways to collect as much water as possible before it reaches the sewer.      So, here are some Doomsday-Prepping-tips to deal with this liquid inconvenience.

By growing plants instead of stones in your backyard you increase the amount of water that the ground can hold. Green roofs also store water and work great as house isolation. (Saving both the environment and your wallet!)rain-garden-how-to

Rain barrels and ponds can collect a large amount of rainwater.even-better

Hydroblocks do that as well, but they have the advantage of being underground and slowly releasing the water.hydroblock

Where flood prevention only works if it is done communally, water storage has an immediate personal benefit. As the dry period begins, there will now be a large amount of collected water available. The greenery will maintain itself and local wildlife for a period that increases with size and create a more pleasant local climate. All collected water can for example be used for washing machines and toilets and around the house when tap water becomes scarcer and more expensive.

Hydroblocks will slowly release water into the dry ground, preventing the sinking of houses and roads and the rotting of fundaments.

So, be prepared! The end is nigh! (Or, at least, wet feet are.)

Continue reading The end is nigh! The end is nigh!..

Fossil to turbine, turbine to kite

 

Planete energies defines energy transition as “the shift from current energy production and consumption systems, which rely primarily on non-renewable sources such as oil, natural gas and coal, to a more efficient, lower-carbon energy mix.1” This is a lot easier said than done, especially with lots of discrepancy amongst scientists on various approaches and unforeseen problems. However, they do agree on one concept known as the energy trilemma:

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The energy trilemma looks at how policies made need to balance three different aspects: security, sustainability, and affordability. The easiest way for change to be made is for innovative technological breakthroughs. These would hopefully raise energy efficiency, lower the cost, and not harm the environment, thus solving the trilemma.

One particular solution was a concept brought up many years ago but never fully took off. Saul Griffith talks in his short Ted talk about the efficiency and usefulness of kites to capture wind energy. Griffith explained how turbines are limited in how much taller they can be, however kites can go significantly higher, which is where more wind is.3

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You can watch his 5 minute Ted talk here

Griffiths isn’t the only one who is advocating for kite energy. Several other companies around the world are hopping on this bandwagon:

Kitenrg, an Italian company, is working on making kites that reach up into the troposphere where there is significantly more wind, thus creating more energy. It is harnessed to the ground with two cables as well as an electric generator.5

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Kite Power Systems of the UK explain the added benefits of low cost that government subsidies won’t be needed and that unlike windturbines, these can go places the turbines can’t. They have already set up a small station in Essex as well as a 500-killowatt system near Stranraer in Scotland.6

Makani, a company bought by Google, focuses on making wind energy more affordable and efficient which will ultimately eliminate fossil fuels. This kite is slightly different than the previous two examples. The kite is launched from a station on the ground and reaches heights of 800 feet with the help of rotors acting as helicopter blades. Power is generated by flying in circles higher up in the air.7

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As shown above, wind kites come in a variety of shapes and sizes with several different companies from around the world trying to propel this solution everywhere. Kites could be a key concept to help Leiden transition from a city of fossil fuels to a city of renewables. This is relatively cheaper and simpler than current wind turbines. Additionally, since it is not feasible for Leiden to rely heavily on wind turbines as an option for renewable energy, this could be a key solution.

Wind kites have the potential to be the technological breakthrough that solves the energy trilemma for renewable energy.

 

 

 

References:

  1. http://www.planete-energies.com/en/medias/close/challenges-energy-transition
  2. Picture: http://www.arup.com/low_carbon_energy_the_future_is_now
  3. http://www.ted.com/talks/saul_griffith_on_kites_as_the_future_of_renewable_energy/transcript?language=en
  4. Picture: https://www.faulhaber.com/global/markets/environmental-safety/energy-kites/
  5. Picture and Website: http://www.kitenergy.net/technology-2/key-points/
  6. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/kite-power-station-scotland-wind-turbine-plant-electricity-a7348576.html
  7. Picture and Website: http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/makani-energy-kite/

From leftover to luscious meal

Leiden: the city of students, which are the future of our planet. Leiden is also a possible frontrunner in sustainability. These two aspects are opportunities to make Leiden a sustainable city, like the municipality wishes for by 2030. In a city with an abundance of students, loads of food is eaten. Because without food, there won’t be any nutrition for the brain to study. And let a diet just be where there is a lot is to gain in sustainability.

 

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Of all the food produced, the percentage of food that is thrown away is estimated between one-third and one-half. That just makes your stomach turn, right? Certainly when you think of it this way: most of the food that is thrown away is still good and edible. It is lost in production, during transport or in our own houses. A movement towards a circular economy would be a more efficient way to use food. In a circular economy, raw materials are optimally used. Reduce, reuse and recycling are keywords for this system: reduce the amount of needed raw materials; reuse products instead of buying new ones; and recycle as much as possible. A circular economy can for example include the use of leftovers.

In Utrecht, Amsterdam and The Hague special pop-up restaurants have popped up for leftover food, called Instock. Leftover doesn’t sound very delicious, but it really can be. Products with today’s date from supermarkets cannot be sold anymore, but can still be very tasty. Other examples of thrown away food are ‘ugly’ vegetables.

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‘Ugly’ vegetables

Producers think the products need to look good for the consumers, but when the food is on your plate, you will not taste the difference between a round pepper and one with a bump on it. In the United States of America is even a business in ugly vegetables! And when an apple is beginning to bruise, they can still make apple pie out of it. But, the stores cannot use products out of date, because that’s not in line with the law.

Of course, this is not a fully circular economy. It will not be feasible to create a complete full circle of the food web, because there will always be a percentage of produced food that’s simply not tasty anymore. You also have products that do not expire quickly that always needs to be bought in pop-up stores like these. In Instock, it’s about 20 % of the dinner that must be bought, like oil and dairy. The leftovers of the leftovers – products out of date or bruised – can be used as fuel (bio-gas) or fed to the animals in the petting zoo. In this way, even these leftovers can be used well. It is a good start into sustainability.

For Leiden, a pop-up store like Instock can be an opportunity. As a student, I like to eat out. In this restaurant, you will get a prepared three-course meal for little money. There are enough supermarkets to provide the restaurants in their needs and enough students as customers. I would definitely eat there!