Global Solar Power Shines Bright

It looks like there’s a new player in the realms of world power…

Results of an audit conducted by the International Energy Agency have revealed that Solar Power has become one of the most frequently adopted forms of energy production in the world.

Combined numbers from China, the US and even the UK, have contributed towards making 2016 a record-breaking year for renewable energies, with two thirds of the world’s new power sources coming from green renewables.

Despite the common belief that coal energy was the biggest source of new power (the black stuff had held the top spot before being deposed this year) there has been an unprecedented level of support in developing countries like China, who have upset predictions from authorities in the field by investing millions into new solar farms across the country. The IEA have attributed falling material prices and shifting governmental policies to the record-breaking year for solar; China’s solar installations accounted for nearly half of new solar farms in the world.

With this information in mind, new predictions have been made by the Paris-based institution.

They now believe that in as little as five years’ time global solar capacity will be greater than India and Japan’s current combined output. India, much like China, have surprised the IEA by investing huge quantities of cash and man power into their own solar farms, leading the IEA to predict that, if the rate of construction continues, there’ll be a third more solar power in both countries within five years time.

It’s just the beginning for India, in terms of renewable energy, as their production levels across all formats are predicted to double within the next five years, bringing them in spitting distance of the second-fastest growing renewable market: the USA.

Whilst the Trump administration has been dismissive of key climate issues from the out, this hasn’t stopped the country from investing heavily in multiple forms of renewables, however this might change should the President follow through with his previously stated intentions of bringing back US coal. Either way, American-based companies producing industrial electronics such as AC to DC converters and other key components are sure to see benefits from the US’ continued interest in the power industry.

Conversely, despite a strong start to the year for Scotland’s wind power, Britain as a whole is not predicted to invest as much into solar energy.

The IEA predicted that the total amount of solar panels to installed in Britain by 2022 will amount to just a fifth of what has been built over the last five years – offshore wind farms will be a more popular option, but investment in green energy will, overall, be diminished.

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Hurricane-proof Homes and Australian Green Politics

A concrete house causes a stir in Denver whilst Energy investors swerve Australia…

A Washington-based college team has impressed at an American environmental competition this year by exhibiting their hurricane-proof, solar-powered home. 

The dubiously named, Solar Decathalon, kicked off this October with 9 teams from American colleges (and two from Europe) looking to impress with the their full-size constructions of their solar-powered house, which they have designed and built themselves. This is the fifteenth year of the biennial competition, which sees the competition wing its way to Denver Colorado from the 5th-15th October and this year plays host to teams from as far as the Netherlands and Switzerland.

CRETE house, the name given to the Washington University-St. Louis team have caused a stir by exhibiting their storm-ready house, a concrete built home built with sustainability and resilience in mind. Construction manager Ethan Miller said that “it’s going to be withstand any disaster, even up to tornado force winds.” With large parts of the US and Puerto Rico still reeling from the effects of the recent storms, this example of sturdier building could not have come at more poignant time.

The competition was originally conceived as not just a competition, but an opportunity for students to learn valuable lessons in the applications of clean-energy technologies, efficient design and sustainability. Each team is tasked with developing a completely original design from the ground up and forces young students to work at a highly professional level, providing them with valuable experience in project development. The Decathlon has so far impacted over 18,000 participants which has also been held in other parts of the world, such as Spain Colombia and Dubai – Solar Decathalon Africa is planned for 2019 in Morocco.

Australia faces uphill energy battle, as politics gets in the way of investment

Although many envy the famous ‘Australian lifestyle’ of glorious sunshine, beers on the beach and massive BBQs, the country is still struggling to keep up in one important area: energy.

The country is one that has survived for a long time on a small number of coal plants, however many of these industrial sites are reaching the end of their 50 year life spans. Despite the growing pressure to solve Australia’s impending energy problems, the current government has failed to push through any decisive policies regarding the support of new renewable energy builds.

At a time when Australia should be an ideal point of investment for some of the biggest power firms in the world, the country sits in a murky political quagmire which has made potential investors uneasy over dipping the initial toe. Reports from both the Climate Council and law firm Pinsent Masons have confirmed that 90% of energy companies internationally are seeking new projects with companies that use smart green tech, like advanced vehicle-to-grid technology and smart meters. The refusal to push through any affirmative legislation in the Australian government has lead to uncertainty which has led these companies to invest their money elsewhere: Nordic countries have proven to be the most attractive prospects, thanks to their clear open policy on energy

If Australia hope to keep the lights on for the next 50 years, then they will need to find a way of changing the political response to these issues and lure back investors that have been put off with their cloudy stance on renewables. 

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An Environmentally Friendly Porsche?

For decades, the last thing the motor sport industry has been concerned with is environmental friendliness.

The average owner of a high-performance vehicle has fit a certain demographic which has, by and large, stayed the same since the concept of driving cars very fast was invented.

Taking their lead from the world-famous racers and wonderfully rich movie stars, you’ll be hard pressed to find a man in his forties who doesn’t have his eye on a sports car.

Whether its a matter of them going through a mid-life crisis, or simply a case of them reaching for a goal that they have harboured for most of their adult life; statistics shows that men are more likely to purchase their first sports car when they hit the age of 52.

But this image of an older man zooming down a motorway at 90 mph doesn’t exactly chime with the demographic of an environmentalist. So why is it that one of the leading sports car manufacturers in the world, Porsche, has just piled millions of pounds into a brand new hybrid car?

Before we make any more sweeping statements about middle-aged men and sports cars (further alienating our own audience in the process!) lets take a closer look at Porsche and see if this is something that falls in line with their usual MO.

The first Porsche car was produced in 1931, the Mk 60K10 had a top speed of 99 mph, its engine producing 50 bhp. Only three models of the car were ever produced, with two of them being destroyed in the process of World War II. During this time Porsche, designed the world-famous Beetle, in addition to the Kubelwagen (the militarised version of their iconic economy car).

Once the motor sport scene started to truly get going, after World War II, Porsche were more than ready to compete with a string of highly competitive vehicles that would go on to win multiple titles.

With such an historic reputation to uphold in terms of performance and competitions, why are they now entering into the world of hybrid vehicles?

In 2014, over 80 years after the company’s inception, the Stuttgart-based company released its first ever sustainability report.

Within this booklet the company detailed its goals in regards to how they were aiming to reduce their emissions and even reduce the amount of raw materials that were using to manufacture their parts for Porsche cars.

So it came as no surprise when, in 2016, they released the third incarnation of this report, along with the announcement that every new model of Porsche car would reduce fuel consumption and emissions by 10%, compared to the previous model.

With this year’s of their 918 Spyder, a high-powered performance vehicle that runs on both electricity and petrol, Porsche have put a firm foot into the waters of environmentally friendly driving. The question is will their efforts be rewarded by sales?

Will the middle aged men of today be interested in a car that was designed to save the planet rather than tear up the tarmac?

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Thames Water Pay Up & The Vandace Returns

Sometimes it can feel like there’s never any good news to share regarding the waterways of Great Britain…

…thankfully this month we have a couple of pieces, as well as some general bits of housekeeping for any anglers out there.

For those still hoping to get some fishing done, in this particularly pleasant run of nice weather that we’ve been having, you’ll have to be careful what you catch. For another 10 weeks or so, the catching of coarse fish is strictly off-limits for any would-be fishermen. Coarse Fish, such as the barbel or the chub, are always at the risk of over-fishing. Every year, the UK government enforces a strict ‘close season’ on these fish, in order to give them a chance to recover and breed.

In this down time, members of the Environment Agency will be aiding fish in distress, improving habitats around the country and helping to restock the rivers – with the aim of repopulating the rivers by 450,000 fish. Enforcement teams have been in operation since the embargo began on March 15th, checking the licenses of fishers (available here at £30 for the year) and carrying out up to 380 targeted patrols. 70 individuals have been found fishing on off-limits grounds – a little late getting the memo, apparently…

The Environment Agency has been busy this month, not only have they been halting illegal fishing, but they’ve also settled the biggest case of pollution in their history.

Thames Water Utilities were found to be negligently polluting the water, leading to death of wildlife and distress to the public. The Utilities company will be fined over £20.3m, the largest number in UK history, in response to their repeated illegal discharge of sewage into the Thames.

Throughout a period from 2012 to 2014, the prosecution examined 6 cases of negligent pollution that severely affected the wildlife and water quality throughout the River Thames. Wastewater sites in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire repeatedly discharged poorly treated raw sewage as well as untreated waters directly into rivers. Members of staff raised their concerns but were ignored and thousands of high priority alarms were disregarded.

The Environment Agency spent months investigating this particular case, with dozens of officers working around the clock in order to respond to reports of pollution as well as clean up the waters. Several methods of investigation, including intelligence gathering, interviewing and in depth analysis were used in order to supply the court with the requisite information to reach the conclusion that it did.

Finally, one last piece of news that is truly good news…

The Vendace (otherwise known as coregonus albula) has made a welcome return to the UK’s freshwater systems. The fish, one of the rarest of its kinds in the UK, is known for being a relic of the ice age, with fossils of its remains being discovered to be more or less the same as its current incarnation. Populations of the animal were noted to have all but disappeared during the 1990s, this drop in numbers was largely blamed on the introduction of new species as well as industrial pollution.

The spotting was caught on camera by the Environment Agency who were happy to report that England’s rivers are the healthiest that they’ve been in 20 years. Salmon, sea trout and other species have slowly been returning to the waters of Great Britain as the waters have cleared significantly since the grim times of the Industrial Revolution.

Don’t forget, you’ll have to wait until June 15th to fish for those lovely coarse fish!

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The Orangery: A New Kind of Extension

There’s a new kind of building fad on the rise in the North of England…

They’re attractive, environmentally friendly and a little archaic but window companies in the North West are receiving more orders for them than ever before.

Inspired by Victorian aesthetics and now more environmentally friendly than ever, traditional orangeries are popping up all over the North, bringing a new level of class and distinction to areas that are in dire need of it. So many questions have arisen from this discovery.

Why are these companies busier than ever? Why are there now so many orangeries in Manchester? And just where did this trend begin?

The North of England has been home to a number of traditional Orangeries for decades. These visually arresting buildings were, more than often, attached to stately homes, providing their rich owners with space to store plants and trees that were susceptible to the cold. They also gave eager horticulturalists the opportunity to cultivate fruits that would not usually survive in the North’s chillier climate.

Great examples of orangeries that have survived into the modern age can be seen across the North, tucked away in the corners of grand parks and attached to manor houses.

Despite their fragile nature, they have been maintained throughout the years so that the Great British public can continue to enjoy them. In Liverpool’s Sefton Park, the Palm House plays host to weddings, late-night dance raves and school proms. During the day, all is peaceful as visitors to the park can wander through and explore the wide range of exotic plants that grow in there.

Over in Barnsley, Wentworth Castle is home to a quintessential example of Victorian orangery. Ornate iron framework and fine detailing make this a must-see piece of architecture, even without the broad range of plant life inside. Taking one and a half years to restore, the £3.5 million project returned the 130-year old building to its former glory and showed the people of the North how grand an Orangery could really be.

A modern orangery, built with the finest of modern materials has several advantages over its older counterparts, making it an ideal addition to any home (as long as there is space to build it). Instead of single pane glass and iron frames, windows now come double glazed with high-tech PVC for extra insulation. Ultra-modern designs allow orangeries to be built in almost any style that the customer desires and lightweight materials make the build much quicker than a traditional extension.

Perhaps the reason why orangeries have seen a significant spike in popularity in the last few months is their eco-friendly nature.

Ethically sourced PVC, combined with thick double-glazing, means that homeowners can benefit from extra space in their rooms whilst saving money on their energy bills and helping out the environment. Of course, should they so wish, exotic plants and fruits can even be grown, leaving the homeowner with endless growing opportunities.

As more and more of these buildings come into fashion, we’ll no doubt see a return to prominence of more Victorian styles. Who knows what the next archaic design concept will be to receive a modern update? An anti-gravity grandfather clock? A solar-powered rocking chair?

The sky’s the limit. 

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