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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During Lockdown a Ghanaian Shoemaker Invented a Solar-Powered Hand-washing Basin to Encourage Sanitary Habits

Ghana, a country the size of Utah but with 31 million inhabitants, is benefitting from good old-fashion ingenuity in its fight against COVID-19.

In Kumasi, the cultural capital of the country located in the Ashanti region, a 2-week lockdown to control the spread inspired a man to a wonderful invention.

In less than 48 hours, 32-year old shoemaker Richard Kwarteng and his brother Jude Osei managed to gather all the necessary supplies to turn an old recycled metal barrel into a solar-powered hand-washing basin to encourage sanitation habits among the neighborhood.

Set to run on a 25-second timer, in correspondence with the CDC guidelines for handwashing duration, it would need not only elements of plumbing, but also electrical engineering like sensors, alarms, and a motherboard, yet be able to work like a normal hands-free sink.

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Fortunately the street markets of Ghanaian cities carry every component under the sun, and with the help of a friend who worked as an electrician and was able to handle the computer element, Kwarteng finished his invention in just five days.

Osei recorded a video of Kwarteng demonstrating how to use the device and posted it on social media. It immediately went viral. “It was amazing to see the shares and likes,” Kwarteng told CNN. “We started getting calls left and right. We were so proud of ourselves,” he added.

Just two days after the video went viral, Ghanaian government workers contacted the brothers to see if more machines could be constructed for placement around cities throughout the country.

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“I pray this pandemic will go away and there are better days ahead,” he said. “We hope this will help people to practice normal hand-washing etiquette and we are very grateful for everyone’s support.”

WATCH the video below…

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Need more positive stories and updates coming out of the COVID-19 challenge? For more uplifting coverage, click here.

India’s Annual Carbon Emissions Fall for the First Time in Four Decades

With a population of 1.2 billion people, any news of renewable energy success in India is a cause for celebration. One would undoubtedly expect to see decreasing carbon emissions due to widespread travel reductions due to COVID-19 prevention measures, but a further analysis shows us that coronavirus doesn’t get to take all the credit, and the unholy trinity of oil, coal and gas seems to be on the downward slide.

In a report from carbonbrief.org, daily statistics on energy consumption and power plant activities demonstrate that India’s total year–over–year emissions has, for the first time in 4 decades, fallen.

The country’s CO2 emissions fell by 15% in March, and 30% in April, in what could primarily be attributed to COVID-19 measures. However for 12 months, the rate at which Indians were demanding more power slowed drastically, and it was the March shutdowns that capped the new growth of power generation from oil, coal and gas below zero for the first 12-month period in 30 years (falling 1%).

Moreover, in March, when coal-fired power generation fell by 15% it was married with a 6.7% increase in use of renewable energy. These were also joined by a year-by-year fall in total coal deliveries, both imported and domestic—the first of such demand drops in 20 years.

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This was despite the fact that more coal was mined in India this fiscal year than last year, indicating that the slowdown is not due to limited supply but a milder demand for coal as an energy source.

Production for other fossil fuel energy sources is also falling, with fiscal year 2019-20 seeing a drop in crude oil production of 5.9% and natural gas of 5.2%.

Twilight of Indian Coal?

Good News Network has reported extensively already this year about such market forces pushing coal use, and in some cases oil use, to the point of complete and total unprofitability—not just in countries like Sweden, but in the U.S. India, and China.

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Coal is becoming less and less profitable in India, and a recent energy contract auction—used by public sector planners to encourage private energy development, investment, and production—secured 2,000 megawatts per hour of solar energy at a price of $34 per hour. In contrast, oil over the same time period, when the contract was awarded, was costing $45 per hour.

According to a report from Carbon Tracker entitled “How to Waste Half a Trillion Dollars” economists warn that half a trillion in coal-plant investments around the world are at risk of becoming so unprofitable in the future as to totally impair the repayment of any investment dollars, as it is already 50% more expensive to operate an Indian coal-fired power plant than renewable sources. This number will rise to 100% by 2030.

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India recently began setting records for cleaner air, and now it seems the country is leaping on the opportunity to keep it going.

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

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Portugal Preparing Several Billion-dollar Clean Energy Projects for Post-Coronavirus Future

Spared from the ravages of COVID-19 suffered by her neighbor Spain, Portugal is aiming to leap, rather than tip-toe, out of their lockdown initiatives by launching a series of clean energy projects that could generate 5.5 billion euro in European energy investment.

The new solar-powered hydrogen plant near the port of Sines is a modern “green” hydro-electric project that generates electricity through a process called electrolysis, and it could contribute 1 gigawatt of power by 2023 if investment arrives.

“The economy cannot grow along the lines of the past and our post-coronavirus vision is to create wealth from projects that reduce carbon emissions and promote energy transition and sustainable mobility,” Portugal’s Minister of Environment and Energy Transition, Joao Matos Fernandes, told Reuters.

Fernandes detailed that both Portuguese energy firms, and Dutch firms are already showing interest in the hydrogen plant, and it is shaping up to be one of the biggest industrial projects and opportunities in the country.

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Matos also said that Portugal will be launching a solar energy licensing auction, where international energy firms will have a chance to bid for prime solar real estate, as Portugal is one of Europe’s sunniest nations.

Initially scheduled to kick off in April, the auctions were delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has taken the lives of fewer than 1,000 Portuguese, out of 24,500 confirmed cases according to Reuters. Up for bidding are 16 sites worth a combined total of 700 megawatts of solar capacity in the southern regions of Algarve and Alentejo.

Portugal has had previous success with energy licensing auctions before, like last June when she sold 1,150 MW of solar energy capacity at a record-low price of 14.8 megawatts per hour—mainly to international energy investors from Britain, Spain, France, and Germany.

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Already in 2016, 28% of nationwide power came from renewables. During that year they set a European record for entirely powering the country with renewables for four straight days.

Though just 11 years ago, Portugal was generating more CO2 than Bangladesh, despite having one-sixteenth the population density, their plans for 2030 are to be producing 7,000 MW per hour of clean energy and close to all their remaining coal plants.

Meanwhile, in Germany a string of recent sunny days in April led to record-setting clean-energy production. The solar power was generating around 40% nationwide, with all their renewables together accounting for a whopping 78%—while coal and nuclear less than a quarter.

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Record-Breaking Amounts of Solar Electricity Generated in Germany After String of Sunny Days

Good News Network recently explained how traditional consumer-driven supply and demand market forces are pushing coal further and further to the edge of the bed (and economic ruin), like a sprawling spouse kicking the blankets toward the cold tile floor.

A recent string of cloudless days in Germany saw the country’s solar energy production climb above 32,000 megawatts in a single day last week—smashing the previous record set on March 23rd, according to a report from Bloomberg News.

The sunny days are slated to continue, according to the German weather service DWD.

These sunny days mean that solar power is generating around 40% of the total baseline in Germany, with all their renewables together accounted for 78%, while coal and nuclear power trailed behind with only 22%.

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By 2038, renewables are predicted by the German government to make up 80% of total grid production. And owners of coal plants understand that it could become completely unsustainable to continue financing operations many years before that milestone is achieved.

A Death Rattle for Coal

In Europe, it’s already 100% more expensive to finance, supply, staff, and operate a coal-fired power plant compared to a renewable facility, while in historically coal-glutted nations like the U.S., India, and China, it’s already 50-60% more costly.

The recent lockdown orders for COVID-19 in Germany could have had a measurable effect on the sunny days as well, as the reduction in air pollution from things like car exhaust has already been recorded as significant in countries like India, where residents have been able able to see the Himalayas on the horizon for the first time in 30 years.

File photo by Nathan Dumlao, CC

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Not only are the shutdowns rewarding the solar market with clearer skies, but the already lagging coal market is taking further body blows as demand plummets from the shutdown of stores and office buildings. In Germany, renewable sources are the first to enter grid circulation, and since the decrease in energy demand, consumers are actually using less power than is available, meaning the electricity generated from a coal plant might be not only unutilized—but unpaid for.

The services desired by consumers are simply being fulfilled by those most readily capable of fulfilling them.

This not only applies to Jane and John Smith turning on the lights in their house, but buyers and sellers in the energy sector. The simple explanation is as follows. Johan runs an energy investment firm, and when looking to buy shares of a power producer, his maximum price for carbon-based power is 5,000 euro per share, and for renewable power, 8,000 euro per share. He can afford to pay more for renewables because he stands to make more money from those shares.

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Jurgen, who runs a carbon-based power source, can only afford to sell at 10,000 euro per share, because of current market demands for renewables. This difference of valuation of 5,000 euro between Jurgen and Johan prevent a sale from being made, and so Jurgen must either find a willing buyer, a way to reduce operating costs, or another energy project.

Whether catalyzed from climate activism, science, or whichever technology costs the least to operate, these simple supply and demand forces are causing people to put their money in renewables—and money-talks.

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Exciting New Data Says Renewables Accounted for Almost Three Quarters of New Energy Capacity in 2019

In an exciting reported victory for sustainability, new renewable power accounted for a whopping 72% of all global power expansion in 2019.

According to new data released last week by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the renewable energy sector added 176 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity globally in 2019, although this was notably lower than the (revised) 179 GW added in 2018.

However, IRENA’s annual Renewable Capacity Statistics 2020 shows that renewables expanded by 7.6% last year with Asia dominating growth and accounting for 54% of total additions. While expansion of renewables slowed last year, total renewable power growth outpaced fossil fuel growth by a factor of 2.6, continuing the dominance of renewables in power expansion first established in 2012. Solar and wind contributed 90% of total renewable capacity added in 2019.

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“Renewable energy is a cost-effective source of new power that insulates power markets and consumers from volatility, supports economic stability and stimulates sustainable growth,” said IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. “With renewable additions providing the majority of new capacity last year, it is clear that many countries and regions recognize the degree to which the energy transition can deliver positive outcomes.

“While the trajectory is positive, more is required to put global energy on a path with sustainable development and climate mitigation—both of which offer significant economic benefits,” continued Mr. La Camera. “At this challenging time, we are reminded of the importance of building resilience into our economies. In what must be the decade of action, enabling policies are needed to increase investments and accelerate renewables adoption.”

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Renewables accounted for at least 70% of total capacity expansion in almost all regions in 2019, other than in Africa and the Middle East, where they represented 52% and 26% of net additions respectively.

The additions took the renewable share of all global power capacity to 34.7%, up from 33.3% at the end of 2018. Non-renewable capacity expansion globally followed long-term trends in 2019, with net growth in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and net decommissioning in Europe and North America.

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Solar added 98 GW in 2019, 60% of which was in Asia. Wind energy expanded by close to 60 GW led by growth in China (26 GW) and the United States (9 GW). The two technologies now generate 623 GW and 586 GW respectively—close to half of global renewable capacity. Hydropower, bioenergy, geothermal and marine energy displayed modest year on year expansion of 12 GW, 6 GW, 700 MW, and 500 MW respectively.

Asia was responsible for over half of new installations despite expanding at a slightly slower pace than in 2018. Growth in Europe and North America increased year on year. Africa added 2 GW of renewable capacity in 2019, half of the 4 GW it installed in 2018.

Want to learn more? Read the “Highlights of the key findings” or the full IRENA report.

Reprinted from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)

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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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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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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