Hydropower demand is damaging Indigenous lands

June 23, 2020 by  
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Many U.S. states are setting renewable energy goals, turning to hydropower as a cheap source of cleaner energy. But for Inuit hunters in far eastern Canada , Americans’ demand for cheap, renewable energy, particularly in the form of hydropower, is ruining traditional hunting grounds. The remote community of Rigolet on the northern coast of Labrador is downstream from Muskrat Falls, a dam on the Churchill River and an important drainage point for the province’s biggest watershed. The state-owned company Nalcor built the dam and has another — which would produce thrice the electricity — in the works. Most of the energy is exported to the U.S. Related: Fish-friendly whirlpool turbine makes hydropower green again But the Nunatsiavut government, which represents the area’s 2,700 Inuit people, said the dams disrupt ecosystems and expose residents to increased amounts of naturally occurring mercury. Flooding land unlocks mercury from the ground. Once it gets into the water, bacteria transforms it into methylmercury, a neurotoxin that gets into fish, waterbirds and seals as well as the people who eat these animals. The Inuit community living in Labrador already have higher methylmercury concentrations than non-Indigenous Canadians. “When they poison the water , they poison us,” said David Wolfrey, Rigolet conservation officer. These issues are all too common among First Nations people in Canada. A 2016 survey found that of 22 planned Canadian hydropower projects, all were within 60 miles of one or more Indigenous communities. Many U.S. states have announced ambitious energy goals in the last few years, including Maine, Vermont, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island and California. Lacking ways to generate this much energy locally, they’ve turned their gaze toward Canada. The northern neighbor of the U.S. is second only to China in hydropower production. Canada already has 900 large-scale dams which supply about 60% of Canada’s domestic energy needs, and the country has big plans for tripling output and damming the last wild rivers. Nalcor and other dam-building companies have offered Indigenous populations money and support for local community initiatives. But residents are divided, and many will never be won over, such as Alex Saunders, an Inuit citizen who has been treated for methylmercury poisoning. “Think about what you’re buying here,” he said, as reported in The Guardian. “You’re buying the misery from the local people of northern Canada. That’s not a good thing.” Via The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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Taming plastic waste with silica plastic blocks

June 23, 2020 by  
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In a bid to curb plastic waste pollution, India-based company Rhino Machines has invented a way of using plastic to make construction blocks. The silica plastic blocks (SPBs) are strong enough to build a house and can be useful in reducing world pollution problems. As the company behind this new technology, Rhino Machines experimented to determine the viability of making construction bricks from waste plastic and foundry dust. According to the company, they conducted experiments in collaboration with R+D Labs to prove that SPBs can be used to replace traditional construction blocks. Why recycle plastic waste? This experiment came from the need to find a permanent solution to India’s growing plastic waste problem. According to 2012 estimations by the Central Pollution Control Board of India (CPCB), India generates close to 26,000 tons of plastic a day. Additionally, as  The Economic Times  reports, over 10,000 tons of plastic waste go uncollected each day. This plastic waste litters streets, landfills and the seas. Furthermore, as non-biodegradable waste, the plastic ends up polluting rivers, agricultural land and even estates. The plastic waste pollution problem is not limited to India. According to a 2017  National Geographic  publication, over 91% of the plastic waste produced globally is not recycled. The same publication points out that as of 2018, the world has generated over 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic since plastic began being mass-produced. About 6.3 billion metric tons of this waste ends up as waste in landfills , oceans and rivers. National Geographic also points out that if the global community doesn’t contain the current trend of plastic waste pollution, landfills will house 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste by 2050. All the problems caused by plastic waste are now pushing scientists and innovators to look for solutions that will create a sustainable world. Although some countries have banned single-use plastics , the current amount of plastic waste still takes an enormous toll on the environment. Technologies such as SPBs can help significantly reduce this waste. The convergence of plastic waste pollution problems and a need for urban housing developments also presents a unique opportunity for SPBs. According to the United Nations,  55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas . In urban areas, high population density leads to exacerbated plastic waste problems. The U.N. further estimates that about 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. By using available plastic waste to build housing for the growing urban population, SPBs could help reduce world plastic pollution.  How are SPBs made? When Rhino Machines started the SPB project, its objective was to attain zero waste through the reclamation of foundry waste . Initially, the experiment tested using foundry dust with cement to make bricks. This experiment resulted in 7-10% waste recycled for cement bricks and 15% waste recycled for clay bricks. The company realized the experiment required using resources such as cement , soil and water, which was not justified by the waste recycled. Further research led the team to use foundry dust with plastic waste to boost the project’s sustainability. Using plastic waste as a bonding agent eliminated the need for water and cement during mixing. Why SPBs? Building with SPBs contributes to the environment in two ways. Producing the blocks requires a mixture of about 80% foundry dust with about 20% plastic. Consequently, the project does not need water or cement. This means that the blocks use less natural resources while also reducing inorganic waste. The experiment to produce SPBs also uncovered additional positive revelations. Apart from the fact that these blocks are sustainable, they also offer the construction industry a strong building alternative. According to  Technology Times , SPBs are 2.5 times stronger than normal red clay blocks. Additionally, as SPBs are made from waste, “the cost of production can easily compete with the commonly available red clay brick or the CMU (concrete masonry unit).” Rhino Machines approached several organizations including hospitals, schools and local municipal corporations to collect clean plastic for the project. In about four months, the company collected over six tons of plastic waste and 15 tons of foundry dust. This collection helps demonstrate just how much plastic waste is available to be used in the production of SPBs. Furthermore, the company is “preparing to come up with an ecosystem solution so that the foundries across the country can develop and distribute” SPBs. As described in a statement from Rhino Machines, this is part of an effort to bring SPBs to impact zones that are part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), “a Government of India initiative for businesses to undertake philanthropic causes and give back to the community.” As the research and experimentation shows, SPBs have the potential to relieve plastic waste concerns not only in India but all over the world. If industries can adopt this new building technology , we may have hope for a future with less plastic pollution. Images via R+D Studio

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Arrivals zero-emissions buses are designed for social distancing

June 23, 2020 by  
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U.K. startup Arrival has unveiled the Arrival Bus, an eye-catching electric bus crafted to not only improve public perception of public transportation but to also respond to health concerns in the coronavirus era. Engineered for flexibility and worldwide adoption, the Arrival Bus features wraparound digital screens for easy identification and flexible seating so that passenger capacity can be controlled to follow social distancing rules. The sleek design concept also allows for the installation of plexiglass dividers between passengers and no-touch stop requests via a smartphone app. Founded in 2015, Arrival champions itself as a producer of electric commercial vehicles designed to help cities meet their net-zero emissions targets worldwide. In addition to the new Arrival Bus design, the startup recently unveiled designs for its electric delivery vans. Although there are no Arrival products currently on the road yet, the company plans to deploy 1,000 Microfactories — low-footprint automotive production facilities with Arrival assembly technology — around the world by 2026 to build all of the electric vehicles in its portfolio.  Related: Designers propose sustainable housing in response to COVID-19 lifestyle changes “We are very excited to bring the Arrival Bus to markets around the world and make the passenger experience of bus travel a positive one,” said Ben Jardine, chief of product for Arrival Bus. “By working in partnership with businesses to develop the entire ecosystem around our vehicles, we are supporting their goals of making public transport appealing whilst achieving carbon neutrality.” Arrival plans to create an integrated public transportation ecosystem that not only includes buses but also cars for sharing, taxis, delivery robots and charging infrastructure. Arrival expects to deploy the Arrival Bus in upcoming months. The electric vehicles will be built in local Microfactories using modular construction for flexibility. The use of an aluminum chassis with integrated mechanical parts will also streamline the production process, while the minimalist interior design will make the vehicle easy to clean. + Arrival Images via Arrival

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Arrivals zero-emissions buses are designed for social distancing

Corporate renewable energy in the age of COVID-19

March 27, 2020 by  
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Corporations have been driving the uptake of renewables across the United States for years. Hundreds of companies have made voluntary commitments to transition to 100 percent clean energy, and companies of all sizes have spearheaded renewable procurement deals, adding clean energy capacity to the grid. 

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Coronavirus dampens 2020 outlook for clean energy and electric vehicles

March 17, 2020 by  
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The immediate crisis could undermine long-term strategy.

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Coronavirus dampens 2020 outlook for clean energy and electric vehicles

Mine waste dams threaten the environment, even when they don’t fail

March 17, 2020 by  
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The environmental damage and human health hazards that these activities create may be both severe and irreversible.

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How long will the slowdown in renewables last?

March 3, 2020 by  
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There was impressive growth in renewables during the last decade, with about $2.6 trillion of clean energy investments. But the market seems poised to transition from a sprint to a long-distance event.

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Could Dubai’s $350 million sustainable supercity work in New York?

February 25, 2020 by  
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Dreaming of what’s possible in the Big Apple.

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Learning from Aloha: Hawaii’s energy transformation

February 20, 2020 by  
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The island is leaving fossil fuels and forging a path to a 100 percent clean energy economy.

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Global search uncovers proven innovations in clean energy, climate solutions

February 20, 2020 by  
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Inspiration from the longlist of finalists for this year’s Ashden Awards.

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