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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How an Indian Architect is Sucking Carbon Emissions Out of the Air and Turning it into Stylish Tiles

An Indian architect has developed a revolutionary new way to serve the housing needs of a population, while also fighting air pollution.

Tejas Sidnal is the mastermind behind Carbon Craft Design: a Mumbai-based startup that specializes in capturing carbon emissions from the air and turning it into stylish tile.

Using a device called the AIR-INK, the company is able to draw CO2 out of the polluted city air, combine it with a mixture of marble chips and powder, and then press it into elegantly-designed tiles.

Since Sidnal says that India is in need of maintaining the world’s third largest housing industry, his sustainable tile recipe can help meet the industry demand for building materials in an eco-friendly way.

(WATCH the Great Big Story video below)

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Hundreds of Cities Worldwide Make Streets into Cycling and Pedestrian Walkways—With Plans to Stay That Way

With greenhouse gas emissions set to decline a record-breaking 8% this year, a happy accident of the novel coronavirus pandemic has been its positive impact on cities.

The World Health Organization says walking and cycling are considered the safest means of transport to reduce exposure to COVID-19. So cities around the world have been building new cycling paths and scaling up their car-free street initiatives.

Now, it looks like many of these environmentally-friendly changes will be permanent

Bogotá, Colombia had a head start when the virus began to spread in the city in mid-March. The city had an existing tradition, called la Ciclovía, where it closed its main roads to cars every Sunday. Mayor Claudia López decided to scale the program up, and according to one report, “within days, Bogotá opened nearly 47 miles of new temporary bike routes, adding to 340 miles of paved protected paths, and converted almost 17 miles of automobile lanes to bike routes overnight.”

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For years, Paris has been a leader in the car-free streets movement. Now the capital city is building 650 kilometers (about 400 miles) of new “corona cycleways.” Mayor Ann Hidalgo has said many of these will be made permanent as part of the city’s larger mobility plan. Among other initiatives, the city has accelerated construction of dedicated cycle highways in response to the pandemic, according to the BBC.

In Italy, the city of Milan has announced that over 20 miles of newly installed cycling infrastructure will be kept in place after the quarantine has been lifted. Former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Saik-Kahn, who is working with the Italian city on the transition, told the British news outlet, “The pandemic challenges us, but it also offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to change course and repair the damage from a century of car-focused streets.”

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The city of Budapest, Hungary has also constructed temporary cycle lanes. Though they are currently due to last until September, the city has signaled a preference to leave them in place. “We are constantly monitoring the use of the temporary bike lanes, and we are hoping that a good many of them could remain in place,” the mayor’s chief of staff Samu Balogh added. “In the long term, we are working towards implementing traffic-calming measures and new bike lanes so we can create a more inviting environment for cycling and walking.”

In France, it’s not just Paris that is focusing on two wheels. The country’s Minister of Ecological Transition also announced a $22 million plan to support cyclists nationwide. Under the plan, all French citizens will be entitled to 50 euros ($55) in free bicycle repairs, paid for by the government. The program will also fund plans by cities to build more permanent bike racks, bike lanes, and cycling classes.

These initiatives, and many more eco-silver linings, have given hope to those who have seen the pandemic as an opportunity to make lasting changes to the way humans relate to the natural environment.

“We must act decisively to protect our planet from both the coronavirus and the existential threat of climate disruption,” UN Secretary General António Guterres said on Earth Day. “We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future,” noting that—like the coronavirus—climate change knows no national borders.

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These New Solar-Pavement Driveways Made of Plastic Bottles Can Power the Average Household

Photo by Platio Solar

Solar panel driveways may soon be powering all our households with clean electricity thanks to this Budapest-based startup.

For the last five years, Platio Solar has been developing new ways of implementing solar technology into urban spaces—and one of their latest developments is a residential solar paneled driveway made out of recycled plastic bottles.

According to a video that was published by the company last week, the solar system is the first to generate power from the pavement of a residential household.

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Each “Platio Solar Paver” is made from 400 polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles—one of the most common forms of consumer plastic. Compressed into pavers, the material becomes more durable than concrete while still being non-slip and sustainable.

The system can either be used to generate electricity for a residential household or power an electric car. According to the company’s website, a 20-square-meter (215-square-foot) Platio driveway system has the capacity to cover the yearly energy consumption of an average household.

The company is now offering resell opportunities and installation quotes for their driveway systems available in brown, blue, red, and green designs.

(WATCH the demonstration video below)

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Amsterdam is Enjoying Quieter Canals as Boats Go Electric Years Ahead of Diesel Ban

The buzz and rumble of boats passing through Amsterdam’s famous canal system is one of the most iconic traits of the Dutch city.

However, a newly-elected Green Party mayor is pushing to transform the second-most popular form of transportation in the city into an all-electric powered force for a cleaner Amsterdam.

Soon, the sound of diesel-powered boat engines could be consigned to history since the city is now planning to ban the diesel engine before 2025.

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The city’s commercial fleet is already close to achieving that goal since 75% of the city’s 550 commercial vessels are already meeting the planned emissions-free regulation, according to Reuters.

The news outlet goes on to say that contractors are expected to install 100 more boat charging stations by the end of 2021. Furthermore, startup Skoon Energy will be launching a floating charging station this week to help with grid balancing.

Although there are still several thousand recreational vessels that are still in need of emission-free upgrades, the canal’s new infrastructure is expected to quicken the city’s transition to cleaner waterways.

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Designer Works to Erect First Modern Village to Generate its Own Electricity–and Food–in 100% Sustainable Loop

An American architect has put his own money and years of struggle on the line to begin building a modern neighborhood that would generate its own power using a closed loop system that would also recycle all the waste and generate all the food.

Officials in the Netherlands have given James Ehrlich an initial green light to construct at least one eco-village 30 minutes outside of Amsterdam, and he hopes to break ground on the project sometime this year.

Ehrlich founded ReGen Villages in 2016 as a startup company intending to disrupt the way the world thinks about housing, development and transportation, and how these CO2-heavy sectors can be overhauled to create a green, self-sustaining lifestyle.

The master plan is for 200-300 homes in the town of Almere where infrastructure permits were approved in 2018.

The vision is a grand one: While incorporating entirely self-sustainable systems for waste management, water treatment, and food production, electricity would be generated through solar, biogas from food and animal waste, and geothermal sources.

Special aquaponic gardens would combine fish farming with aquatic agriculture that allow residents to cultivate a sustainable micro-ecosystem to produce fish and produce.

Rendering by ReGen Villages

Human waste would be composted to feed the ecosystems, with the fish waste providing a critical source of fertilizer for the gardens.

But there are two bigger issues for ReGen Villages: “The two greatest challenges we face are financial support and political will,” the founder told the New York Times.

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Design rendering by ReGen Villages

The company is trying to wrap up a funding round of €16 million in private equity investment for operating expenses needed for the first village and for “master planning the next couple of concurrent developments.”

The homes, to be situated on at least 61 acres of land in the Oosterwold District, would cost according to DutchReview magazine between €200,000 to €850,000 ($216,000–$918,000) depending on the size and luxury of the house.

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Continuing the closed-loop ecosystem model, each family home will have a greenhouse attached to it for growing personal crops, and rainwater catch-and-filter systems. The energy and food systems would be managed by ReGen’s staff, but residents could also work in the communal farming systems to reduce the monthly cost of their food and energy fees, which would be charged along with their mortgages.

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British Carbon Tax Leads to Whopping 93% Drop in Coal-Fired Electricity

A tax on carbon dioxide emissions in Great Britain, introduced in 2013, has led to the proportion of electricity generated from coal falling from 40% to 3% over six years, according to research led by University College London (UCL).

British electricity generated from coal fell from 13.1 TWh (terawatt hours) in 2013 to 0.97 TWh in September 2019, and was replaced by other less emission-heavy forms of generation such as gas. The decline in coal generation accelerated substantially after the tax was increased in 2015.

In the report, ‘The Value of International Electricity Trading’, researchers from UCL and the University of Cambridge also showed that the tax—called Carbon Price Support —added on average £39 to British household electricity bills, collecting around £740m for the Treasury, in 2018.

Academics researched how the tax affected electricity flows to connected countries and interconnector (the large cables connecting the countries) revenue between 2015—when the tax was increased to £18 per tonne of carbon dioxide—and 2018. Following this increase, the share of coal-fired electricity generation fell from 28% in 2015 to 5% in 2018, reaching 3% by September 2019.

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Increased electricity imports from the continent reduced the price impact in the UK, and meant that some of the cost was paid through a slight increase in continental electricity prices (mainly in France and the Netherlands).

Project lead Dr Giorgio Castagneto Gissey (Bartlett Institute for Sustainable Resources, UCL) said: “Should EU countries also adopt a high carbon tax, we would likely see huge carbon emission reductions throughout the Continent, as we’ve seen in Great Britain over the last few years.”

Lead author, Professor David Newbery (University of Cambridge), said: “The Carbon Price Support provides a clear signal to our neighbors of its efficacy at reducing CO2 emissions.”

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The Carbon Price Support was introduced in England, Scotland and Wales at a rate of £4.94 per tonne of carbon dioxide-equivalent and is now capped at £18 until 2021.The tax is one part of the Total Carbon Price, which also includes the price of EU Emissions Trading System permits.

Report co-author Bowei Guo (University of Cambridge) said: “The Carbon Price Support has been instrumental in driving coal off the grid, but we show how it also creates distortions to cross-border trade, making a case for EU-wide adoption.”

Professor Michael Grubb (Bartlett Institute for Sustainable Resources, UCL) said: “Great Britain’s electricity transition is a monumental achievement of global interest, and has also demonstrated the power of an effective carbon price in lowering dependence on electricity generated from coal.”

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The overall report on electricity trading also covers the value of EU interconnectors to Great Britain, measures the efficiency of cross-border electricity trading and considers the value of post-Brexit decoupling from EU electricity markets.

The report annex focusing on the Carbon Price Support was produced by UCL to focus on the impact of the tax on British energy bills.

The findings from UCL and the University of Cambridge were part of wider research to examine cross-border electricity trading between Great Britain and connected EU markets, commissioned by energy regulator Ofgem to inform its annual flagship State of the Energy Market report.

Reprinted from University of College London – Photo by Matthew Black, CC

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Students Are Returning to Indian School After It Transformed Two Old Train Cars into Vibrant Classrooms

SWNS

This school is being hailed as one of the first in the world to start improving attendance rates by transforming old train cars into classrooms.

SWNS

The government-run Ashokapuram Primary School noticed student numbers were dropping, and they suspected it was due to a lack of properly permanent school buildings.

SWNS

The school then teamed up with the South Western Railways company to begin using two old train carriages deemed unfit for railway usage.

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The vibrant carriages now have stairways, brightly painted exteriors, desks, fans, lights, and colorful drawings on the walls.

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“The coaches, which were officially declared unfit for railway use, were renovated. At present, the school has 60 students from standard 1st [grade] to 7th,” said a spokesman for South Western Railways. “Many come from families below the poverty line.

SWNS

The new classrooms have managed to attract a new batch of students to attend regular classes—and teachers in Mysore in Karnataka, India, said student attendance numbers are now up again thanks to the quirky new classrooms, which cost just £700 ($915) for the pair.

SWNS

(WATCH the classrooms in action in the video below)

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Disaster Breeds Invention: Philippine Residents Use Volcanic Ash to Repair Damaged Buildings

While a volcanic eruption doesn’t conjure many reasons for celebration, residents of Binan, Philippines have utilized the immense destructive power of nature and turned it into an unorthodox opportunity.

Tens of thousands of grey bricks, produced with the very ash from the recent eruption as well as cement and discarded plastic have been made for the purpose of repairing the parts of the city damaged by the eruption on January 12th, providing a short economic stimulus, and even reducing amounts of plastic in the city’s landfills.

After the Taal volcano erupted last week on the island of Luzon, the mayor of the city of Binan asked residents to collect the fine grey ash deposited all around the city by Taal and place it in sacks to be sent to a state-owned factory.

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“Instead of just piling up the ashfall somewhere, we are able to turn it into something useful. And it includes plastics, too,” said city environmental officer Rodelio Lee, according to DW.

So far, 5,000 bricks are being produced per day, all of which contain some plastic waste in addition to the ash. In the midst of a natural disaster, Binan has essentially created a massive recycling opportunity.

“When the ash came, we thought we’d exchange the white sand which we mix with plastics to be converted into bricks with ash. We did it and they came out sturdy,” city Mayor Walfredo Dimaguila told Reuters.

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“What we plan is to turn them into hollow blocks and bricks and sell them to interested companies,” he said, adding that the proceeds would be donated to residents affected by the volcano.

Positioned on the Pacific Ring of Fire, communities in the Philippines are often under threat from erupting volcanoes, with Taal being one of the most formidable in the region.

(WATCH the news coverage below) – Photo by Reuters

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Company Collects 80% of City’s Recyclable Plastics and Turns It All into Lumber

Photos by Mike Chassie

This trailblazing Canadian company is building a new standard for sustainability since they started recycling the bulk of their municipal plastic waste into lumber.

Roughly 80% of the plastic recyclables collected throughout Halifax, Nova Scotia are now being processed by Goodwood Plastic Products Ltd so they can be turned into building blocks.

The plastic lumber can be drilled, nailed, glued, and handled the same way as wooden lumber—but without any of the same deterioration.

The other 20% of municipal plastics are reportedly being sent to other Canadian recycling markets, but Halifax Solid Waste Division Manager Andrew Philopoulos says that provincial legislators are particularly grateful for Goodwood’s initiative.

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“We are very, very fortunate here in Nova Scotia to have that local company taking the material,” he told CBC’s Information Morning. “Without them, I think we would find it challenging to find a market for a lot of the plastic packaging that we are collecting.”

Goodwood also made a name for themselves back in December when they partnered with a Sobeys grocery store in order to create one of the nation’s first parking lots made entirely out of post-consumer plastics saved from local landfills.

Although the bulk of Goodwood’s recycled plastic comes from single-use bags, they also process food jars and other common consumer packaging.

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Thus far, CBC says that the lumber has been used to make everything from picnic tables and park benches to agricultural posting and guardrail structures—and Goodwood vice president Mike Chassie says he hopes their business model will inspire other regions to launch similar ventures.

“We can take this business—the knowledge and our skills—and we can export it and take it to other places,” he told the news outlet. “Post-consumer plastic is not going away, so we need to continue to find ways to give it a new life so it becomes a resource, instead of a waste.”

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Oil-Dependent Canadian Province Launching New Solar Farm Next Year—One of the Largest in the World

Canada will soon be welcoming the largest operating solar energy project in the country—and it is also being hailed as “one of the largest in the world”.

Back in August, Greengate Power Corporation received approval from the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to construct and operate its $500 million Travers Solar project with a total generating capacity of 400 MW.

The company now expects to begin construction of the project sometime during the first half of 2020, with full commercial operations targeted for 2021.

Greengate is an industry leading, privately-held Canadian renewable energy company based out of Calgary. Since 2007, Greengate has successfully developed close to 600 MW of operating—or near-operating—wind energy projects in Alberta and Ontario, including the 300 MW Blackspring Ridge Wind Project, which is currently the largest operating wind energy project in Canada.

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These projects represent well over $1 billion of investment and provide a clean source of power to more than 250,000 homes. Greengate is currently pursuing the development of close to 1,000 MW of new solar and wind energy projects as it continues to grow as an industry leading producer of clean renewable energy.

For perspective, the two biggest solar power facilities currently operating in Canada maintain a capacity of about 100MW. Since Alberta averages about 300 days of sunlight per year, the Travers Solar project is expected to power as many as 110,000 homes and offset 472 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year.

The project will utilize about 2.5 million PV modules across 4,700 acres (1,900 hectares) of land in Vulcan County, Alberta.

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The AUC conducted an extensive review of the project and found that its approval is in the public interest considering its social, economic, and environmental effects, particularly in accordance with the Alberta Hydro and Electric Act.

“We are very pleased to have received approval for what we expect will be Canada’s largest solar energy project and one of the largest in the world,” said Dan Balaban, President and CEO of Greengate. “This continues our successful track record, having already developed some of the largest renewable energy projects in the country. We anticipate that Travers Solar will bring significant investment, employment and clean renewable energy to Alberta while strengthening the province’s position as a global energy and environmental leader.”

Power Up With Positivity By Sharing The Good News With Your Friends On Social MediaFile photo by Intel Free Press, CC