Thursday, November 26, 2015

139 Countries Could Be Totally Powered by Renewables

139 Countries Could Get All of their Power from Renewable Sources

Energy from wind, water and sun would eliminate nuclear and fossil fuels

Courtesy of The Solutions Project
Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi have done it again. This time they’ve spelled out how 139 countries can each generate all the energy needed for homes, businesses, industry, transportation, agriculture—everything—from wind, solar and water power technologies, by 2050. Their national blueprints, released Nov. 18, follow similar plans they have published in the past few years to run each of the 50 U.S. states on renewables, as well as the entire world. (Have a look for yourself, at your country, using the interactive map below.)

The plans, which list exact numbers of wind turbines, solar farms, hydroelectric dams and such, have been heralded as transformational, and criticized as starry eyed or even nutty.

Determined, Jacobson will take his case to leaders of the 195 nations that will meet at the U.N. climate talks, known as COP 21, which begin in Paris on Nov. 29. His point to them: Although international agreements to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are worthwhile, they would not even be needed if countries switched wholesale to renewable energy, ending the combustion of coal, natural gas and oil that creates the vast majority of those emissions, and without any nuclear power. “The people there are just not aware of what’s possible,” says Jacobson, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Stanford University and director of the school’s Atmosphere and Energy Program. He is already scheduled to speak twice at the meeting, and will spend the rest of his time trying to talk one on one with national leaders and their aids.

Jacobson thinks the 139 national plans will get traction not only because they offer a path to lower emissions, but because in total, they would create 24 million construction jobs and 26.5 million operational jobs, all spanning 35 years, offsetting 28.4 million jobs lost in the fossil fuel industries. That would leave a net gain of about 22 million jobs. Going 100 percent renewable would also prevent 3.3 to 4.6 million premature deaths a year through 2050 that would have happened because of air pollution from those fossil fuels. “These numbers are what gets people’s attention,” Jacobson says.

Jacobson and Delucchi, a research scientist at the University of California at Davis,  presented their “100 percent renewables” construct to the public for the first time in a 2009 feature article in Scientific American. It explained how the world could derive all of its power, including for transportation, from 1.7 billion rooftop solar systems, 40,000 photovoltaic power plants, 3.8 million wind turbines, 900 hydroelectric plants, 490,000 tidal turbines and so on. “The whole idea originated with the Scientific American article,” Jacobson says. “Now there are five or six nonprofit organizations that use ‘100 percent’ in their name. Walmart, Google and Starbucks have said they want to go to 100 percent renewable energy. So have a number of cities. The goal of our plans for U.S. states and the 139 countries is to have places set their own ‘100 percent’ goals.”

Energy demand across the 139 nations by 2050 would be met with a broad set of wind, water and solar technologies: 19.4 percent onshore wind farms, 12.9 percent offshore wind farms, 42.2 percent utility-scale photovoltaic arrays, 5.6 percent rooftop solar panels, 6.0 percent commercial rooftop solar panels, 7.7 percent concentrated solar power arrays, 4.8 percent hydroelectricity, and 1.47 percent geothermal, wave and tidal power. Jacobson, Delucchi and more than a dozen colleagues from around the world have posted the details, country by country, in a self-published paper they released online. Hoping to make it available for COP, they have yet to publish it in a journal, but they intend to, Jacobson says. The previous plans have all been published.

The big knock against renewables such as wind and solar is that they are intermittent; the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine. That means large amounts of energy storage are needed to save up excess power generated when these technologies are going full bore, which can then be tapped when they are low. Storage adds substantial cost and complexity to a renewable energy system.  

But Jacobson has an answer. By using a smart mix of technologies that complement one another during different parts of the day and different weather conditions, storage can be kept to a minimum. He, Delucchi and two colleagues explain how this can work across the U.S. in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that will be published Nov. 23.

The engineering detail in all these papers and plans is staggering. The document released for the 139 countries provides an itemized mix of technologies and costs for every nation, as well as how much land and rooftop area would be required. Since 2009 the two researchers, working with many others, have honed the numbers again and again. Now what is needed most, Jacobson says, is exposure. “We have talked to hundreds of expert and politicians. Now we need to reach hundreds of millions of people,” in hopes that they will see the possibilities and begin to call for them. 

That's why Jacobson and several high-profile businesspeople and entertainers started the Solutions Project to educate the public, business owners and policy makers about the roadmaps. Support comes from the Elon Musk Foundation, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and others. “We are tying to find a way to combine business and culture and science to get the information out—to engage, to tell stories,” Jacobson says. 

He himself scored a spot on David Letterman’s Late Night show in 2013. He says DiCaprio is planning to visit COP 21 while he is there. “We want to translate the benefits of the plans for people everywhere,” Jacobson says. “That's when good things will happen.”


This was published online by Scientific American on 26 November 2015.

It is not pie in the sky stuff but well thought out engineering proposals.  Lets see if it gains some traction over the next few weeks in Paris.

Do your bit.........circulate it.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Bees Decline and Insecticides - Missing Link Discovered?

Bees and pesticides 'missing link' found

BeeImage copyright PA
Image caption Some scientific studies show that pesticides harm bees

Scientists say they have found the "missing link" in the debate over the risk of pesticides to bees.

French researchers say neonicotinoid pesticides harm individual honeybees, but whole colonies are able to recover in the wild.

This accounts for discrepancies between lab and field studies, they report in Royal Society journal Proceedings B.

A Europe-wide ban on neonicotinoid use on flowering crops is due to be reviewed at the end of the year.  It was introduced two years ago.
The debate over the use of neonics has centred on discrepancies between toxicity assessments in the laboratory, where bees are dosed artificially with insecticide, and the findings of field trials in the countryside.

The big unanswered question is whether harmful effects seen in lab studies occur in real-life conditions and cause population declines.

The new research provides an explanation for the "missing link", say French researchers.

Their monitoring of tagged honeybees in the wild suggests bees foraging around treated crops die off at a faster rate than normal.  However, colonies are able to make up for those dying off by boosting the number of worker bees in the hive.

Lead researcher Dr Mickael Henry of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, INRA, in Avignon, said the average life expectancy for an individual honeybee foraging on crops treated with neonics is lower than expected.

He told BBC News: "We could find evidence of troubles at the individual scale in the field but these troubles were compensated for by the colonies.  "The population inside the hive was able to compensate for the increased loss of worker honeybees by increasing brood production."

A field study found harmful effects on the solitary beeImage copyright Morgan Boch
Image caption A field study found harmful effects on the solitary bee
dead beesImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption The decline of bees around the world has increased focus on neonicotinoid chemicals
Dr Scott Hayward of the University of Birmingham, who was not connected with the study, said the work "re-ignites arguments to ban neonics", and similar studies are now needed on other pollinator species.

His comments were echoed by Dr Christopher Connolly of the University of Dundee.  "It is important to remember that all other insect pollinators do not possess the enormous buffering capacity of honeybees and are therefore more acutely at risk to the impact of pesticides," he said.

Dr Peter Campbell of the pesticide manufacturer Syngenta said while the study raised unanswered questions "reassuringly... there were still no effects reported at the colony level".
And Dr Alan Dewar of Dewar Crop Protection Ltd, added: "The conclusions from this work, which are very simple in contrast to the study itself, show that bees, or at least honey bees, can compensate for adverse effects of pesticides in their environment."

Emergency lifting

Bees are in decline in Europe and North America due to a number of factors, including pesticides, habitat loss and diseases.

Neonicotinoids contain synthetic chemicals similar to nicotine, which as a plant toxin is damaging to insects.  In the UK, the government has temporarily lifted a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides in parts of England.  Two neonicotinoid pesticides can be used in four counties on oilseed rape crops following an emergency application by the National Farmers Union.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the EU Commission had introduced precautionary restrictions on neonicotinoids from December 2013, which the UK had fully implemented.

A spokesman added: "The Government makes decisions on pesticides based on the recommendations of senior scientists and independent experts who have looked at the best available scientific evidence.  "The Commission has now begun a review of the science relating to neonicotinoids and bees, and the UK will contribute fully to this review."

This work has certainly shed some real science on how these chemicals interact with bees, but the issue with other pollinators still remains.

I have seen nothing from Australian sources.  Those comments will place some local context on this important issue of bee health.

[ partially sourced from BBC sources on 20 November 2015.]

Thursday, November 19, 2015

UN World Toilet Day

The 19th of November marks the third annual UN World Toilet Day, an important opportunity to promote global efforts to achieve universal access to sanitation by 2030. 

This year, World Toilet Day is focusing on the link between sanitation and nutrition, drawing the world’s attention to the importance of toilets in supporting better nutrition and improved health. 

Lack of access to clean drinking water and sanitation, along with the absence of good hygiene practices, are among the underlying causes of poor nutrition.

It is okay if in the developed world.........we take toilets for granted.  They are not so ubiquitous in the developing world, but vital, especially more so for women and children.

Toilets have a significant effect on children’s health and nutrition; access to toilets can help children reach their full physical and mental potential. The inverse, however, is also true and the absence of a toilet can have profound implications. 

Consider the life of a child who lives in a village with poor sanitation. They go outside; they play in the same field where people defecate; they put their fingers in their mouths. They might not be aware of what contaminants are on their fingers.

Considering such things is not the job of a young child but it is important for his/her family, village, governments and the development community. 

We have a growing body of knowledge of the multi-generational and cyclical effects of what happens when a child’s environment is contaminated with feces. 

The UN estimates that 2.4 billion people still lack access to improved sanitation facilities, nearly 1 billion of which practice open defecation......think........toilets - are vital.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Smarter Irrigation

turf irrigation
With Australia set to face a severe El NiƱo summer, with predicted droughts and bushfires across the country, and the north to have a later monsoon season start, Reece Irrigation has declared November 2015 to be the inaugural ‘Smart Irrigation Month’. 

The initiative aims to create awareness about water waste outdoors and encourage Australians to practise efficient water use by making small adjustments when watering gardens or lawns.

According to Reece Irrigation Business Development Manager Eric Barsky, “While most people understand how to save water inside, we still have a long way to go in educating people on saving water outside.” 

With this in mind, Reece has come up with a few simple tips to avoid overwatering, save money and protect our national water supply:
  1. Water early [ or late], and don’t bother when it’s windy. Watering the garden and lawn in the morning reduces water loss to evaporation. Watering when it’s windy is a waste of time.
  2. Choose the right plants for the Australian climate. Select plants that are drought tolerant and tropically adapted over plants that are thirsty, resulting in less watering and a healthy garden all year round.
  3. Group plants with similar moisture needs in the same area, making it easier to ensure they get the water they need without overwatering.
  4. Install a smart irrigation system. Smart irrigation systems minimise overwatering by adjusting to account for rain and cooler days. They will also reduce evaporation, run-off and weed growth especially pesky sedges - a sure sign of overwatering, thus promoting overall plant health.
  5. Maintain and upgrade automated irrigation systems to ensure they are working. Did you know a leaky sprinkler can waste up to 24,000 litres of water per month? Get an irrigation specialist in to check your watering systems for clogged or broken sprinkler heads.
  6. Use water efficient sprinkler heads where ever possible, and even if you do not have an automated system, efficient sprinkler heads improve water use efficiency.
These are sound ideas and with November weather here in the Top End - hot, windy and dry - all are worth implementing.

If you do not have automated "rain stop systems", most irrigation controllers have a switch - known as a rain stop switch.  Use it - especially after a decent storm.  You might not need to restart irrigation for 4-7 days after a good storm.  That can save a lot of water.

Save water and save money.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Orange Poinciana - Full Flowering

Red poinciana trees are absolutely a characteristic of Darwin at this time of year.  They are a standout sight in open space areas as well as in yards.

The red display while flowering is magnificent.

There is a hidden treasure though, in my opinion, that is even more spectacular........the much less common, orange form of the poinciana [Delonix regia].

While there are / were some small insignificant specimens at the edge of Tiger Brennan Drive and the intersection with Gothenburg Crescent close to the CBD, they seem to struggle to grow in that location.

Not so near the overpass on Trower Road in Rapid Creek.  The tree is a fantastic, well grown specimen and now in November is in full flower.  Definitely it is worth a look.

There are a few others around the city but I think this one is the prize specimen.

orange poinciana near Rapid Creek in full flower, November.

Orange poinciana  - near Rapid Creek

Closer view of flowers - orange form of  Poinciana

Flower display - orange Poinciana near Rapid Creek

The display of flowering of poincianas is a characteristic in a number of cities around Australia, with Brisbane in November - December also having many red flowered trees in flower.  Cairns is also known for the same flowering display of poincianas, and I am aware of at least one orange flowered tree there as well.  But the hot weather and mostly dry conditions help with the magnificent displays seen around Darwin in November each year. 

Red poinciana in Brisbane, late November 2014

Monday, November 09, 2015

It is Hot - BUT ......Reduce Your Water Footprint

How to Reduce Your Water Footprint (Infographic)

How to Reduce Your Water Footprint (Infographic)

It’s no secret that we use a lot of water in our day-to-day lives. However, eating locally and choosing to drink the local water rather than bottle water can help reduce your water usage and footprint. While there are some places where bottled water is certainly the safer option eg Bali, in most developed countries [ Europe, USA, NZ, Australia]  the tap water must pass rigorous testing. This infographic from Wheels for Wishes  details some ways to reduce your water footprint as well as some details on how much water we actually use.

Infographic via Wheels for Wishes

Read more:

The past few days in Darwin have been VERY UNCOMFORTABLY HOT HOT HOT. 

Near record maximum temperatures and high humidity plus near record high minimums as well.  And likely to continue for some time.

Water drinking weather, as well as the time to cool off in the air conditioning when you can [ even the pool might be too warm].

While the inforgraphic is based around US data, it would be similar here in Australia.

Simple changes will reduce your water footprint.........with the fundemental one - BYOW, yes, Bring Your Own Water - it comes from the tap at home or at work, and if preferred cold, store a bottle in the fridge for regular use!  And use a reusable container.  

There are plenty of options.  None include buying water except in dire need, and even then most places will allow use of a tap to refill a container.

Remember that purchased water in a bottle is one of the the MOST expensive liquids........even more expansive in many places than exclusive champagne or even petrol!

[ partially purloined from Wheels for Wishes........but a necessary reminder for hot weather]

Monday, November 02, 2015

Growing Zoysia from Seed in Melbourne

Australians generally are conditioned to having a green turf area in the winter months.  In many other parts of the world you may have a green lawn in the warmer months, but a dry and brown barren area in winter, or possibly the opposite with a green area in the cool winter and dry and brown in warmer summer weather.

It is often possible in most parts of Australia with careful choice of turf species as well as a suitable variety, to have green turf year round.  But there are compromises as often either winter or summer is a bit of a stress time.

There are exceptions with turf adapted to altitude in the tropics often able to handle the winter and summer satisfactorily in Australia, or at least in much of the country, for example - kikuyu grass used as a turf, as well as some varieties of couch eg wintergreen, with both coping with both cool and hot weather.

While zoysia is a great turf from spring through autumn, it may not be ideal where there are cold winters.  It usually turns a lovely straw colour.  It is possible to oversow a winter active grass such as rye or fescue to meet your needs if a green turf is absolutely needed. but leaving it natural is also okay.  It is a relatively short period of several months, and often the weather is not ideal for being outside anyway.

In large cities there are often areas with varying conditions - and cities do tend to be a little warmer than nearby areas outside of the urban conditions, so picking areas where zoysia may remain green or discolour is not always easy.

In late 2014 a modest area was sown to Compadre zoysia in suburban Melbourne.

It did wonderfully well, and by late summer it was thriving.  Come went a golden straw colour, and is now - springtime in 2015 - rapidly regreening and is expected to once again thrive in the warmer months providing a low maintenance but very functional turf area with low mowing requirements.
Compadre Zoysia turf in Melbourne - Sown late 2014 - photo from 2 March 2015

Sown late 2014, photo in mid October 2015 about 1 year from sowing after 1st winter 

This is exactly what the zoysia areas in China and Korea where the grass is naturalised, do each year -   green up in the warm months yet go dormant in winter.  It works very well.  Summer in both areas is very hot and humid, while winters are cold to very cold.

So remember that zoysia - think Compadre as more suitable, but Zenith is okay too - will be able to grow in Melbourne, but may not be green in winter.  Also remember that winter 2014 was cold, and not all winters are that cold.

[ photo credit - G Speers, Melbourne]