Downtown Sydney is Now Powered By 100% Renewable Energy Thanks to Historic Deal

In the middle of Australia’s largest city the downtown business borough is now officially powered by 100% green energy thanks to the “largest standalone renewables agreement for an Australian council to date.”

The City of Sydney, which is home to a quarter-million people, has begun sourcing all of its energy from two solar farms and the largest wind farm in all of New South Wales.

The transition was facilitated through a power purchase agreement (PPA) with electricity retailer Flow Power. Although the historic deal costs AU$60 million, the initiative is expected to save AU$500,000 every year, according to Euronews.

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The initiative is also expected to purge roughly 20,000 tons of CO2 from the city’s carbon footprint—roughly 70% of its total output—before 2024, which is several years earlier than its original goal.

“Cities are responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, so it is critical that we take effective and evidence-based climate actions,” said Sydney Mayor Clover Moore.

“The City of Sydney became carbon neutral in 2007, and were the first government in Australia to be certified carbon neutral in 2011,” she added. “This ground-breaking $60 million renewable electricity deal will also save our ratepayers money and support regional jobs in wind and solar farms in Glen Innes, Wagga Wagga, and the Shoalhaven.”

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Countries Hit Hardest By COVID-19 Are Starting to Lift Social Restrictions After Encouraging New Recovery Rates

As the world continues its fight to curb the novel coronavirus outbreaks, several countries have announced significant recoveries this week.

France, Italy, and Spain—the countries with the highest numbers of confirmed cases outside of the US—outlined their plans for slowly lifting their various social restrictions as rates of infection and fatality continue to fall.

In light of Italy recording their lowest number of new cases since March 10th, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte says that the country will begin reopening the economy on May 4th. Although schools will not reopen until September, small businesses and restaurants will soon be allowed to reopen so long as customers are limited to takeout options and social distancing guidelines. Factories will also be reopened for manufacturing and people will be allowed to visit their relatives in small numbers.

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Meanwhile, Spain celebrated a significant decline in coronavirus-related deaths, with daily counts falling below 300 for the first time since March 20th. Government officials say that they will be slow to reopen the economy; however, they will start to lift social restrictions by allowing children to play outside for one hour per day—a first for the nation’s youth after spending six weeks in isolation.

Al Jazeera reports that France also hailed their largest single-day drop in COVID-19 deaths after it fell by more than 33% in just 24 hours. The country also recorded their lowest number of in-hospital deaths in 5 weeks.

New Zealand was quick to enact some of the world’s strictest social restrictions after confirming just a few cases of the virus back in March. Now, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that the nation’s pre-emptive shutdowns has succeeded in eliminating community transmission of COVID-19 this week. This means that while there will still most likely be new cases of the virus, healthcare officials will know where it is being transmitted.

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Although New Zealand has had 1,500 confirmed or probable cases of novel coronavirus over the course of the last two months, government officials report that they will still be cautious in gradually lifting social restrictions, starting with some non-essential businesses.

South Australia also announced that they are considering easing travel restrictions after the nation made it 7 days without a new recorded case. This accomplishment is largely credited to the province testing more than 15,000 people within a two-week period. There are now currently only 14 active cases.

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Taiwan has been celebrating its own milestone of 17 straight days without any new local cases as well as its first 4-day streak without any new domestic or imported COVID-19 cases.

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

Representative photo by Airman 1st Class Elora J. Martinez

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Scorched Australia is Getting Power Back Thanks to New Solar Grids Funded by Philanthropist Couple

Since the bushfires and flooding across southern Australia have left dozens of communities without power, several tech companies have begun installing solar panels and electrical grids with astonishing speed thanks to a philanthropist couple.

Mike and Annie Cannon-Brookes have donated $12 million towards the creation of the Resilient Energy Collective—a coalition dedicated to setting up sustainable microgrids across Australia.

The collective, which utilizes electrical batteries from Tesla and solar systems from 5B, has already deployed two clean energy grids for rural sites in New South Wales and Victoria. Prior to their installation, firefighters and locals had been depending on diesel generators for electricity during the bushfire season. In addition to these generators being particularly costly and high-maintenance, they also emit large amounts of pollutants.

The collective is now working with energy providers across the country to prioritize 100 more sites for microgrid installation.

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The initiative is similar to how Tesla used solar-powered grids to restore electricity across Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017. Now, Mr. Cannon-Brookes—who is also the co-founder and CEO of the Atlassian tech company—says that the coalition has been installing their own microgrids in as little as two days.

“In three weeks we’ve come together, found the technology, adapted it, put it on trucks and right now, it’s operating, generating electricity,” Cannon-Brookes told Eco Generation in a statement.

“That’s what this collective is all about; getting the best tech and the best ingenuity together to solve a massive problem, in days, not months or years.”

Photos by Resilient Energy Collective

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All Australian Bushfires in NSW Have Officially Been Contained Thanks to Week of Heavy Rain

Photo by Pablo Anwandter / NSW Rural Fire Service

After months of bushfires raging across the Australian coast, elated firefighters have just announced that they have managed to contain all of the fires.

The exciting news comes after a week of historic rainfall in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. Although there are still 24 active fires burning in the region, they are small enough for firefighters to manage accordingly.

“After what’s been a truly devastating fire season for both firefighters and residents who have suffered through so much this season, all fires are now contained in NSW, which is great news,” said Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers.

“Not all fires are out, there’s still some fire activity in the far south of the state, but all fires are contained so we can really focus on helping people rebuild.”

LOOK: Australian Soldiers Are Using Their Time Off to Care for Koalas Displaced by the Fires

Prior to the start of the downpour last week, there were 61 active fires, roughly 20 of which were uncontained.

Many of the bushfires have been fueled by the drought conditions that have plagued eastern Australia for the last three years.

Thanks to the rain, however, Sydney—which is the largest city in Australia—enjoyed their wettest day on record in about 15 months.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the welcomed rainfall has also helped to refill Sydney’s reservoirs to their highest levels since the drought began in November 2018, with the state dams reporting an average of 75% capacity.

(WATCH the announcement video below)

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Australian Soldiers Are Using Their Time Off to Care for Koalas Displaced by the Fires

As rainfall continues to extinguish the bushfires still burning across Australia, this brigade of soldiers has been doing their part to help recovering wildlife by using their rest periods to help injured koalas.

The 9th Brigade of the Australian Army recently posted a photo of their soldiers from the 16 Regiment Emergency Support Force bottle-feeding koalas at the Cleland Wildlife Park in the Adelaide Hills.

According to the Brigade’s Facebook post, the soldiers have been using their time off from bushfire relief work to care for the koalas and build climbing structures for all the recovering marsupials.

Since the photos were posted to social media a few weeks ago, they have been shared more than 45,000 times.

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Not only have the soldiers been offering a helping hand to the wildlife center, they have also been helping to clear away burnt debris, hosting community benefits, offering emotional support to affected Australians, and tidying up residential properties.

Thankfully, the torrential rainfall across New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory has extinguished more than 30 of the region’s the active bushfires—and officials say the downpour could put out the rest of the fires by the end of the week.

Although the downpour has resulted in some flooding across the provinces, the NSW Rural Fire Service says they are “over the moon” to see the rainfall aiding them in their fight against the bushfires.

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Australia Rejoices As Rainfall Extinguishes One-Third of All Bushfires in a Single Day

Firefighters across the fire-stricken provinces of Australia are rejoicing over the arrival of some much-needed rain.

In just one single day, torrential rainfall across New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory extinguished about one-third of the active bushfires—and officials say the downpour could put out even more of the fires during the days to come.

Collectively, the rainfall has extinguished 20 of the active fires, leaving 42 fires still blazing across the coast. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, only two of those fires are above the “low-moderate” safety rating.

This is also the largest single-day drop in active wildfires since the fire season began.

Although the downpour has resulted in some flooding across the provinces, the NSW Rural Fire Service says they are “over the moon” to see the rainfall aiding them in their fight against the bushfires.

Many of the bushfires have been fueled by the drought conditions that have plagued eastern Australia for the last three years.

Thanks to the rain, however, Sydney—which is the largest city in Australia—enjoyed their wettest day on record in about 15 months, and weather services are calling for another 350 millimeters of rain this weekend.

According to The Guardian, the last time the city received more than 100 millimeters of rain in a day was back in November 2018.

“It was fantastic to wake up to much-needed rain this morning!” says Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. “Today has already been the wettest Sydney day in 15 months, and thankfully it’s raining across NSW where we need it most.”

The NSW Rural Fire Service says that more than 1,200 firefighters are currently taking advantage of the weather conditions to continue containing the fires while their division simultaneously prepares for the upcoming flood warnings.

Be Sure And Share The Good News With Your Friends On Social Media – File photo by Ed Yourdon, CC

World’s Last Known ‘Dinosaur Trees’ Saved From Australian Bushfires Thanks to Determined Firefighters

Conservationists are celebrating the success of a mission to save the world’s last remaining “dinosaur trees” from the Australian bushfires.

The ancient Wollemi Pine was thought to be extinct until a small grouping of the prehistoric trees was discovered in the mountains roughly 124 miles northwest (200 kilometers) of Sydney back in 1996.

Fossil records show that the pines existed as far back as 200 million years ago—and since these 200 trees are the only known Wollemi Pines left in the wild, their location has remained a closely-kept secret in order to ensure their protection.

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When Australian legislators heard that the bushfires—which have been raging across New South Wales since September—were edging closer to the Wollemi grove, a team of specialized firefighters was airlifted onto the scene.

“These pines outlived the dinosaurs, so when we saw the fire approaching we realized we had to do everything we could to save them,” said New South Wales state Environment Minister Matt Kean.

Just one week before the fires hit the surrounding forests, the firefighters sprayed the trees with fire retardant and installed an irrigation system to keep the area moist. As the fire drew closer, air tankers dumped water around the perimeter of the grove and kept the flames at bay.

LOOK: Thousands of Aussies Are Heartened by Photos of Charred Landscapes Already Recovering From Bushfires

Although a few of the dinosaur trees were lightly singed by the blaze, the safety measures successfully protected the grove—and the surrounding fires were reportedly contained earlier this week.

Richard Kingsford, director of the Center for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW, hailed the firefighting success to The Sydney Morning Herald: “This is such a remarkable species in terms of ecology and evolution … and only found in Australia.”

“It’s something like the Opera House of the natural world,” he added. “Losing it would have added to the catastrophe we have seen elsewhere.”

(WATCH the AFP news coverage below) – Photo by AFP News Agency

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Thousands of Aussies Are Heartened by Photos of Charred Landscapes Already Recovering From Bushfires

Thousands of Australians are being heartened by these striking photos of greenery and plant life growing out of an area that was left charred and blackened by the bushfires last month.

The pictures were taken by Australian photographer Murray Lowe in the Kulnura area of the Central Coast in New South Wales.

“Ventured out into the fire grounds today to capture some images of how the Aussie bush responds to fire, and the way it regenerates itself and comes back to life,” Lowe wrote in a Facebook post. “Even without any rain, life bursts through the burnt bark from the heart of the trees and the life cycle begins again.

“It’s so heartening to see the bush coming back to life again,” he added.

RELATED: Here Are a Dozen Different Ways the World Has Rallied Behind Australia During the Bushfires

One Facebook user thanked Lowe for the photos, saying: “I think everyone is so happy to see your beautiful photos showing something positive after weeks of heartache—it gives us hope.”

Another commenter wrote: “Thank you for sharing these Mr Lowe! It’s so nice after all the tragedy to see the new growth in our bush.”

Since Lowe posted the photos to social media earlier this week, they have been shared more than 39,000 times.

Lowe is now selling prints of the photos so he can donate all of the proceeds to wildfire relief.

“I did not, in my wildest dreams, anticipate the overwhelming response to my photos that I’ve seen,” he wrote in an update. “It’s both humbling, and heart-warming.”

Lowe is not the only one shining a light on the landscape’s recovery; Koala Hospital Port Macquarie posted their own pictures of the steadily returning greenery in Port Macquarie, New South Wales.

Other social media users have posted additional photo updates on the region’s recovery while international groups and activists rally behind the Australian provinces still battling the bushfires.

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More Than 200 Volunteer Firefighters From US and Canada Have Deployed to Help With Australian Bushfires

Back in 2018 when wildfires were raging through California, 138 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand flew into the United States so they could help combat the blazes.

According to the National Park Service, “the Australian and New Zealand personnel filled critical needs during the peak of the western fire season for mid-level fireline management, heavy equipment, helicopter operations, and structure protection”—and now, the US is repaying the favor.

For the first time since 2010, the US federal government has deployed a team of 100 American firefighters to help with the emergency response crews in Australia—and they are deploying several dozen more volunteer firefighters this week, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Due to extended drought combined with hot and dry weather conditions, Australia has been experiencing devastating bushfires—particularly in the states of New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria—since August.

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The US firefighters—many of whom were part of the firefighting teams in California— have been deployed in several separate teams over the course of the last 30 days. The international relief mission is part of the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), the nation’s support center for wildland firefighting. Based out of Boise, the coalition is made up of eight different agencies and organizations including, the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Weather Service, U.S. Fire Administration, and the National Association of State Foresters.

“We’re sending a contingent from several federal agencies that reflects decades of fire management experience,” said U.S. Forest Service Fire Director Shawna Legarza. “We face many of the same firefighting challenges in each country. We’ve utilized their expertise in the past and welcome the opportunity to reciprocate.”

The US is not the only country sending aid to Australia, either—Canada has also sent several teams of wildfire specialists as well, bringing their total amount of volunteers to 87.

According to CBC, this is the first time that Canada has deployed firefighting assistance to Australia, although Canada also benefitted from the firefighting teams of Down Under during the devastating British Columbian wildfires in 2017 and 2018.

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