Formula E team up with UN Environment in race to improve inner-city air quality

Formula E, the world’s first fully-electric single-seater racing series, has joined forces with UN Environment to launch a global partnership in the fight to improve inner-city air quality – continuing to boost the profile of alternative energy solutions and the increased uptake of electric vehicles.

The multi-year partnership will focus on raising awareness of the benefits of electric vehicles among younger generations and motorsport fans globally – educating future consumers of electric cars, and challenging major cities and governments to take action to tackle pollution.

The new partnership will leverage the popularity of the FIA Formula E Championship, who bring electrifying motorsport to some of the world’s leading cities, including Hong Kong, Marrakesh, Buenos Aires, Paris, New York and Montreal.

Racing has always been a laboratory for the development of technology in the motor industry, previously with combustion-engine cars and now with electric vehicles. Formula E wants to play a role in providing a solution – to help more people buy and drive electric cars.

“Formula E puts a fresh spotlight on electric vehicles and is an exciting glimpse of what is to come – the age of clean, viable transport,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “Formula E and UN Environment share the aim to usher in this era and speed up acceptance of these technologies to combat air pollution. Air pollution has taken centre-stage this year as a serious public health threat, and with good reason.”

The 40 fully-electric Formula E cars are powered by generators using zero-emissions glycerine. The generators are based on standard production diesel engines that have been adapted with Aquafuel’s patented technology to run on glycerine. The fuel itself is a by-product of the bio-diesel production process, and it’s so clean you can drink it.

“Formula E puts a fresh spotlight on electric vehicles and is an exciting glimpse of what is to come –  the age of clean, viable transport,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “Formula E and UN Environment share the aim to usher in this era and speed up acceptance of these technologies to combat air pollution. Air pollution has taken centre-stage this year as a serious public health threat, and with good reason.”

Alejandro Agag, Founder & CEO of Formula E, said: “We face big challenges ahead of us – climate change, inner-city pollution and producing energy in a sustainable way all around the world. That’s why we’ve teamed up with UN Environment to help continue the education process. Formula E and the FIA aim to make the switch to electric cars make sense for consumers – more efficient and more affordable.”

Jean Todt, FIA President, said: “We welcome the partnership between UN Environment and the FIA Formula E Championship and I look forward to see this relationship growing. When we created Formula E, one of our main goals was to raise awareness of issues of environmental sustainability and drive the development of technology which will be beneficial to our future and that of our planet. As we go racing with fully-electric vehicles in some of the greatest cities around the world we are spreading this message, and this collaboration with UN Environment will help us to reach
even more people.”

Formula E currently works in collaboration with Enel – Official Power Partner of the FIA Formula E Championship – to promote the advancement of the championship’s power technology infrastructure, through optimising clean energy generation, distribution and management, and showcasing advanced energy solutions. Enel is designing a fully-digitised energy mini-grid for Formula E, using the company’s smart metering technology to monitor power usage and give fans the chance to interact with an advanced energy system in real time.

The 40 fully-electric Formula E cars are charged by generators using zero-emissions glycerine. The generators use Aquafuel’s patented technology to run on glycerine. The fuel itself is a by-product of the bio-diesel production process, and it’s so clean you can drink it.

The World Health Organization estimates that 6.5 million people die prematurely each year from air pollution-related diseases, and 80 per cent of urban residents worldwide breathe polluted air –  with a whole host of detrimental short and long-term health effects. Transport contributes one-quarter of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions today.

UN Environment sees electric transportation as one of the essential components of achieving more sustainable and cleaner cities. Its Electric Mobility Programme works in 50 developing and transitioning countries to support their move from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles. UN Environment is a founding partner of the Breathe Life campaign, the UN’s biggest-ever campaign on air quality, which aims to raise awareness of global and local impacts of air pollution and the broad range of viable solutions for cities and governments to improve air quality.

About the FIA Formula E Championship:
The FIA Formula E Championship is the world’s first fully-electric single-seater racing series, competing on the streets against the backdrop of some of the most iconic cities – including Hong Kong, Marrakesh, Buenos Aires, Monaco, Paris, New York and Montreal. The championship represents a vision for the future of the motor industry, serving as a platform to showcase the latest innovations in electric vehicle technology and alternative energy solutions. Future seasons will see the regulations open up further allowing manufacturers to focus on the development of motor and battery components, which in turn will filter down to everyday contemporary electric road vehicles.

The 2016/17 FIA Formula E Championship sees 10 teams and 20 drivers go wheel-to-wheel in nine cities spanning five continents in the fight to be crowned Formula E champion. The inaugural season of Formula E sparked into life in September 2014 around the grounds of the Olympic Park in Beijing. The third season of the electric street racing series started on October 9 in Hong Kong, with the season finale double-header taking place in Montreal on July 29 & 30.

About FIA & Michelin – Today’s partners for tomorrow’s mobility:
As well as being the official Formula E tyre supplier, Michelin is an official partner, at the international level, of the FIA Action for Road Safety campaign. The programme is designed to support the Decade of Action for Road Safety initiated by the UN, the aim of which is to save five million lives over the next 10 years. This programme is set-up to educate and advocate for safer roads, vehicles and behaviours around the globe.

UK Breaks Solar Record; Generates 24 Percent of Power from Solar

On Friday, May 26, on what was expected to be one of the hottest days of the year, solar panels in the UK generated a record amount of power, enough to meet almost 25 percent of demand. This is according to data compiled by National Grid Plc and Sheffield University.

At noon London-time, 8.75 GW of power was being generated by the solar PV, breaking a previous record of 8.49 GW, overtaking nuclear power in the country.

The CEO of the UK Solar Trade Association (STA), Paul Barwell, said in a statement that the organization was “delighted that at around midday today 8.75 GW was generated by solar, supplying nearly 25 percent of the UK’s total demand.” He added: “This is the first time that solar has generated more than nuclear, second only to gas.”

According to the STA there are 12.1 GW of solar capacity installed throughout the UK.

“This is a colossal achievement in just 5 years, and sends a very positive message to the UK that solar has a strong place in the decarbonisation of the UK energy sector.”

 

Mercedes-Benz Energy, Vivint Collaborate on Energy Storage for US Residential Solar Market

Mercedes-Benz Energy and Vivint Solar have announced an exclusive strategic collaboration to bring the Mercedes-Benz customizable home energy storage system to the U.S. The two companies will introduce a joint offering that will provide customers with the German engineering and performance of Mercedes-Benz batteries coupled with Vivint Solar’s expertise in designing, installing and servicing solar energy systems.

For Vivint Solar, which has installed solar energy systems in more than 100,000 homes across the U.S., this is the first collaboration to integrate batteries with its offering. This will also be Mercedes-Benz Energy’s first collaboration with a U.S. solar provider, bringing its premium, high-performance, road-tested technology for home use to the residential battery market. These storage systems are made to Mercedes-Benz quality standards and based on the same automotive-grade battery technology used in its electric and hybrid vehicles.

“As Mercedes-Benz electrifies its vehicle fleet, solar plus storage is essential to enable those vehicles to be powered by clean energy,” said Boris von Bormann, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas, LLC. “With batteries featuring the best in automotive engineering from Mercedes-Benz, and high-quality solar energy systems from Vivint Solar, our solution allows customers to take the next step toward a sustainable energy future. The launch of our home battery system in Europe has been successful and we are thrilled to be working with Vivint Solar to bring a reliable and compelling solar plus storage offering to American homes.”

 

Building it Better: How Wind EPCs Are Driving Down Wind Energy Cost

While the all-in cost to build a wind farm has fallen dramatically over the years, due in part to larger and more powerful turbines that can harness more wind energy for less money, the cost of building the projects themselves has also fallen but still has a ways to go.

“Driving out waste in our industry is always at the forefront of our minds,” said Tim Maag, the Vice President and general manager of wind for Mortenson Construction, one of the top wind EPCs in the United States. Maag acknowledges that collectively the wind industry has made a lot of progress in bringing down costs but said that type of work is never done.

“Driving out waste is something that you never stop working on.”

First Standardize, Then Improve

Maag said that early on Mortenson developed standard work instructions for all of the work it does building a wind farm but that is only the first step. Once the standard is in place, Mortenson challenges all of its workers to improve it and offers them incentives like gift cards or jackets as rewards for good ideas.

“We know if we engage the craft workers, the people doing the work, the people that are closest to it, and challenge them to come up with a better way of doing it, that the sky is the limit,” he said.

For example, Maag said that sometimes making a tweak to a process might mean that a crew of five can now do the work with only four people and the fifth team member can be assigned to a different task. A tweak could be in the form of the way a certain tool is used in the build process or a more efficient sequence for getting the work done, said Maag.

One innovation that Mortenson is in the process of creating is the ability to use an algorithm to define the best energy output with the least cost of construction. The company is working with Stanford University to perfect the system, which looks at the placement of turbines, the output they will generate and then factors in construction costs. The algorithm might show that moving a turbine a bit further a bit to the left or a bit to the right could reduce the cost of construction significantly but keep the wind resource the same.

“So the algorithm will go in and automatically relocate the turbines looking for the best energy output and the least cost of construction to get them put there,” he said.

Software for Operation Efficiencies

In addition to algorithms like the one that Mortenson is using in partnership with Stanford, Maag said the company uses 3D design software for all of its builds and that it can layer the schedule on top of the design (the forth dimension) to give workers an understanding of where the project needs to be at any point in the future.

“So using virtual design has been pretty cool,” said Maag, adding, “of course that helps us sequence the work and look for the most efficient way of building the project.”

Vestas, one the largest turbine manufacturers in the world (but not an EPC), also recently announced that it uses operational efficiency software from SirionLabs to help drive costs out of its organization on the IT level. Sirion’s enterprise software platform uses automation and advanced analytics to help buyers and suppliers create higher value and more successful relationships, while enabling effective management of cost and risk in complex services engagements, said the company.

Vestas adopted Sirion’s solution to give it better visibility and control over the performance of its IT suppliers. The platform helps to minimize financial losses and risk in contracts. SirionLabs said in a press release that in addition to the significant hard Euro savings achieved through Sirion’s comprehensive 3-way invoice validation, the ability to monitor supplier performance at a granular level helps give Vestas more control of its supplier engagements.

“We realized cost-savings equating to 300 percent return on investment in Sirion during the first year as it enabled us to identify discrepancies in our supplier invoices which would otherwise go unnoticed,” said Henrik Stefansen, Senior Director, Global IT Sourcing at Vestas in the release.

Innovating with Partners and on the Job

Ken Hilgert is Business Development Director for Blattner Energy, another major EPC provider for wind farms. He said in an email that Blattner looks for innovative solutions to reduce cost from its projects and finds those cost-saving opportunities by integrating early with its clients.

Indeed, working with clients and partners is another key to finding innovative ways to cuts costs and/or improve processes. Mortenson’s Maag gave an example of how logistics companies must be able to deliver taller cranes in order to accommodate the taller turbine towers that have larger nacelles.

“We have to work very closely with the crane companies to make sure that there are going to be machines big enough to get to those elevations,” he said.

Equipment company Ampelmann manufactures people and cargo transfer solutions for the offshore wind industry in Europe. Friso Talsma, Business Development Manager with the company explained that its fully motion compensated gangways exist to “make sure people can safely get to work on an oil and gas platform or an offshore wind platform.” Because they are motion-compensated, the gangways remain stable in harsh marine environments and are not affected by wind, waves or currents.

The company recently announced that its E1000 motion compensated access system, with a gangway that transforms into a crane boom, had performed more than 12,000 people transfers and 7,000 cargo transfers safely between an offshore support vessel and wind turbines over a ten-month period. That increase in operational man-hours on the maintenance program for the wind farm resulted in Ampelmann’s contract being extended by Siem Offshore Contractors.

Steven Vis, Operations Engineer at Ampelmann explained that the company was able to find a more productive solution on the job.

“During this project, we came up with a solution to further increase operational efficiencies. The manual pins were replaced by hydraulic pin pushers, which reduced the change-over time from people to cargo mode from ten to five minutes. The E1000 was then able to transfer both people and cargo within 20 minutes,” he said.

Even though a five-minute reduction in the time it takes to perform an activity doesn’t seem like a huge innovation, reducing the time involved in performing a complicated process by 50 percent no doubt adds up over time.

Thinking Big, Really Big

Talsma said that Ampelmann has now formed an internal team devoted to solving problems or creating more efficiencies within the wind industry.

“With that team we are developing innovations based on systems we already have or on new systems specially designed for the wind industry,” he said.

Mortenson has also formed several internal teams that are focused on innovation, said Maag. The “innovation challenge” asks teams of construction professionals to come up with “some of the boldest and the best ideas to tackle a problem within our industry,” he said.

There are seven teams working on the wind industry and each one will come up with three ideas. Those three ideas will then be narrowed down to one idea per team and each one will be presented to upper management at the end of 2017. Mortenson’s upper management will then choose which ideas to pursue for further development, potentially investing hundreds of thousands of dollars to advance them, Maag explained.

“It’s really amazing to see the creativity of our team members when you unleash them to think freely and to come up with ideas like that,” he said.

“I’m excited for the ideas I’m hearing about already.”

WINDPOWER 2017 Has “A Brand-new Attitude”

Wind energy professionals are gathering in California this week to showcase new products and services, network and discuss the issues relevant to the growth of wind energy at the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA’s) annual WINDPOWER 2017 event.

Renewable Energy World asked exhibitors and companies attending the event to tell us what they will be showing on the tradeshow floor. Here are just some of the announcements we received.

Celebrating its 100th anniversary, Parker Hannifin is showcasing its pitch actuator, which it says combines the benefits of electromechanical and hydraulic actuation and offers higher efficiency than conventional hydraulic pitch systems, while eliminating coolers and is delivered in two ready-mounted packages per blade. The company has solutions for bearing lubrication, ventilation and condition monitoring.

Bearing manufacturer Timken is showing how its bearings can increase time between maintenance events. For instance, the company said that its Tapered Double Inner (TDI) roller mainshaft bearing can improve bearing life and system performance in three-point mount turbines by reducing axial thrust by as much as 67 percent before it reaches the gearbox.

DNV GL is launching Forecaster NOW, a forecast on-demand web portal with e-commerce enabled transactions that the company says is a first for the industry. Forecaster NOW provides users with on-demand forecasts of select power markets with hourly resolution to seven days and immediate estimates of future wind and solar plant energy production for energy traders, plant operators and other stakeholders. DNV GL will be doing live demonstrations at the company’s booth.

Technology solutions provider ABB will be showcasing a wide range of innovative products, systems, service and software solutions for the wind industry this week, including the ABB Ability digital portfolio. The company said that these tailored digital solutions span the breadth from individual devices to solutions and services for the wind and renewables markets and demonstrate how new wind generation technologies beyond the turbine — including maintenance, controls systems, analytics and substations — can improve reliability and decision making.

The Country of Denmark is exhibiting at the show – bringing some 28 companies from the world leader in wind power to the show. Denmark has shown that wind power can cover 40 percent of the country’s annual electricity consumption virtually without blackouts, By 2021, that number is expected to jump to 50 percent. Danish manufacturers and experts will be at WINDPOWER 2017 to inspire American wind energy professionals and share knowledge to strengthen the advancing wind energy sector in the U.S. The Danish pavilion is hosted by the Danish Wind Export Association (DWEA) in partnership with the Danish Wind Industry Association and State of Green, a public-private partnership founded by the Danish government and others.

Eldec LLC is showing its hoistable induction generator system that makes brazing or welding high above the ground easier.

Though it won’t be showing these at WINDPOWER 2017, ExxonMobil just launched its new educational video series for industrial operators. “The Grease Experts” features in-house grease experts Chris Decker and Toby Hlade answering questions sourced from real operators.

V-Bar and Chinook Wind, having just finalized their merger, are rolling out the company’s new name: ArcVera Renewables. The merger brings together diverse technical skill sets in atmospheric science and engineering.

CFD software company meteodyn is releasing the next version of its WT software. meteodyn WT6 has a more intuitive and user-friendly interface, said the company. In addition, visualizations have been optimized, as well as displays, categories and modules such as turbines management and climatology management.

In related news, the Board of the AWEA elected Tristan Grimbert of EDF Renewable Energy its chair.

“As we return to California, birthplace of utility-scale wind power, we’re bringing a brand-new attitude,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “Big brand names are stampeding to buy wind to supply their stores and factories. With a stable national policy in place, and critical power line infrastructure on the way, we’re delivering on our promises to keep cutting costs. Wind is on track to supply 10 percent of U.S. electricity by the end of the decade.”

Kiernan hailed wind’s emergence this year as America’s No. 1 renewable energy resource in generating capacity. In the first quarter, the U.S. industry installed a new turbine every 2.4 hours on average.

This is our future’ – Kenya’s croton tree touted as new biofuels crop

all, spindly and grey, croton trees grow everywhere in Kenya. Although they tend to be used for little more than firewood or shade, their nuts turn out to be an excellent source of biofuel. This overlooked plant could be the answer to Africa’s growing demand for cheap, low-carbon energy.

At least that is what Eco Fuels Kenya hopes. Founded in 2012, this small company based in Nanyuki, in the foothills of Mount Kenya, is pioneering the use of croton oil as a replacement for diesel and hopes others will soon follow suit. The startup wants to use the tens of thousands of croton trees already growing wild across the nation to improve livelihoods and protect the environment.

The croton industry is still in its infancy but, if the biofuel performs as promised, this macadamia-sized nut could help Africa meet several sustainable development goals, including clean energy, climate action and poverty reduction.

Biofuel’s troubled legacy

Kenya currently imports all of its oil and, while some rural communities can barely afford to buy diesel for their water pumps, car exhausts in the capital Nairobi are causing dangerous levels of air pollution. “Croton has a lot of potential as a sustainable fuel,” says Michael Jacobson, chair of the forest ecosystem management programme at Penn State University.

This is not the first time Kenya has been promised a biofuel revolution. In 2000, jatropha, a plant native to Central America, was introduced, billed as the next big biofuel crop. The Kenyan government took away farmers’ land to make space for thousands of acres of monoculture.

At the peak of the jatropha hype there were thousands of farmers in Kenya helping to grow the plant. But yields were “dismal” and because 90% of the jatropha plantations were established on former agricultural land, when some of these companies left, they kept their land titles. This meant hundreds of farmers were left with no jobs and no place to grow their crops.

Myles Katz, the managing director of Eco Fuels Kenya, says his team has learned from jatropha’s failure and purposefully pursued a different business model.

“Instead of going the way of monoculture, we have decided to collaborate with small-scale holders and minimise the risk for everyone involved,” says Katz. His company currently buys nuts from 5,000 farmers in the Mount Kenya and Rift Valley regions.

Croton oil generates 78% (pdf) less carbon dioxide emissions than diesel and has one big advantage over other common biofuels: food security. The fact that croton nuts are inedible means they can replace the need to make fuel from ingredients that could otherwise be food for humans. Croton trees are also already growing all over the region so there is (in EFK’s model) no need to create massive mono-cultures that could potentially displace other food crops.

Unlike palm oil, croton trees are native to east Africa, which means that monetising their fruit may also incentivise locals to fight deforestation.

While the oil needs to be processed before it can be used in cars, it can go directly into diesel generators, water pumps or tractor engines. The company sells the oil to safari lodges in the Masai Mara. The price fluctuates but it is usually about 10% cheaper than diesel, which is currently about $0.90 (£0.73) a litre in Kenya.

Eco Fuels Kenya also sells the byproducts of the fuel production. The seedcake paste left from pressing the croton nuts is a protein-rich feed for poultry and the grounded husks are sold as an organic fertiliser for depleted soil. “We are constantly discovering new uses for croton,” says Katz.

A cash crop to replace coffee?

Croton nuts could also help bring many Kenyans out of poverty. The trees don’t require any investment in terms of water or fertiliser and harvest time can last up to six months a year, which makes it a steady source of income. What’s more, sellers get paid on delivery while coffee farmers often have to wait months for their money.

This is why, after years as a coffee grower, Martin Kamai is moving into croton. This young farmer and his wife have planted 500 croton trees on their property in Nyeri County, central Kenya, and plan to add even more next year. “Croton pays better than any other crop,” he says, “this is our future.”

Still, there are many challenges in the way of croton taking over the biofuel industry. The failure of jatropha is likely to make foreign investors, local farmers and Kenyan government officials more reluctant to put their weight behind another experimental biofuel solution.

Lack of marketing awareness and knowledge about best growing methods for croton will also make it hard for the business to scale up. “Investors won’t see much gain in small-scale, local projects, and the low price of oil is probably dampening their interest in energy alternatives,” warns Carol Hunsberger, an assistant professor at Western University who researches biofuels in Africa.

Despite the hurdles, Eco Fuels Kenya continues to grow. In 2016, it processed about 1,000 tonnes of nuts (twice as much as the previous year) and helped local farmers plant 100,000 croton trees in regions where they plan to expand their operations.

Next year, it will open its second processing plant in the lake town of Naivasha. The startup wants to set up five plants in Kenya before branching out to neighbouring Tanzania and Rwanda. The company declined to share any figures on the investment and its profit.

Will croton ever become a global biofuel? It’s doubtful, says Jacobson. But he adds that if local entrepreneurs persevere and oil prices go up again, this unlikely cash crop could make a real dent in east Africa’s energy supply, “which alone is good enough”.

Does buying woodland instead of property make financial sense?

There is a frightful interval between the seed and the timber.” So said the 18th-century wit and writer Samuel Johnson, but wait patiently for your forest to flourish and you could see a significant return on your investment. Forestry has been the top-performing asset class in the UK over the past three years, with total returns of 14.7 percent, according to the market, beating returns on commercial property, homes, equities, and bonds. As investments go, though, is it a little unsexy? “It’s an asset you can enjoy.” People looking for shooting estates, for example, or may want to invest in one with a portion of commercial woodland. For Richard Davidson, investing in woodland is about the bottom line. He bought a 740-acre forest in Scotland in 2004. “At the time, the cost was the same as a two-bedroom flat in West London, so it didn’t feel like a huge expense,” he says. Thirteen years later, he owns forestry across southern Scotland and Aberdeenshire, all of which has been commercially planted with Sitka spruce, the species that dominates the forestry industry in the UK. Sitka spruce is a large, coniferous evergreen, originating from the US. It produces the most sought-after timber, because, as well as being a species that grows quickly and in poor soil — it reaches maturity in a relatively rapid 35 to 55 years — it has few branches, meaning few knots. Then there is Douglas fir, which was brought to the UK in 1827 by David Douglas, and Scots pine, the only native softwood. Scots pine can take more than 70 years to reach maturity but its distinctive shape and ability to attract wildlife make it an attractive choice for those who care about enjoyment as well as the commercial benefits of the forest.

Plantations in Argyll and Aberdeenshire, southern Scotland, upland areas of Wales and the north of England are considered prime, especially for spruce trees. The reason is not just the quality of the woodland but how near they are to sawmills. With sawmills in Aberdeen, Inverness and nearby Huntly, the lot is well located for getting timber to the point of sale. After two years commercial forests are entitled to 100 per cent business property relief, no capital gains, and relief from inheritance tax. Anyone looking to preserve capital that way may want to leave the trees in the ground. Excess profit from timber sales is essentially recreating taxable cash. Yet, with Brexit on the horizon, many forestry investors have a new spring in their step. The UK imports 80 per cent of the wood it consumes, according to Confor, the forestry trading association.

With sterling weakening, countries that were selling their timber to the UK are looking elsewhere. “Less imported supply has boosted domestic timber prices.” What is more, the Forestry Commission forecasts a 30 per cent decline in timber availability, mainly due to the budget of 1988, when Nigel Lawson was Chancellor, which effectively ended the tax incentives associated with planting. This has led to forestry aged 21 to 30 years increasing in value by about £800 an acre over the past two years. Also, reports renewed interest in land suitable for forests of spruce and Douglas fir. With most global prime property markets showing only meagre growth or decline, according to the market perhaps UK forestry is a more exciting prospect than first thought.

How forests help pension funds shelter from market storms

Dozens of mythologies and religions around the world consider trees sacred. Buddha, after achieving enlightenment, sat under a banyan tree for seven days. In the Garden of Eden, the two most important plants were the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In Celtic mythology, trees were of vital importance to Druids, for whom the oak was one of the most sacred objects.

Nowadays, trees have largely lost their spiritual value, gaining a financial one instead. Apart from their long-established importance to several industries, trees and farmlands have emerged as an interesting way for institutional investors to tap uncorrelated returns.

The Sitka spruce grows quickly compared with other trees: a full-cycle takes 35-40 years. Its financial appeal is now so large that today one out of every two trees that grow in the UK are the Alaskan-native conifers. 200 years ago, there were none.

The good thing about timber is that it’s not like wheat or barley or any other agricultural crop, meaning you don’t have to harvest it at a certain time. The tree just continues to grow for up to 200 years. So if you don’t like the price today, and you’ve got enough cash to pay the bills, then you can leave the trees to grow for another year or two.

When you do come to harvest, there’s more timber there. Because the trees just get taller and broader every year.

Giant Dutch Offshore Wind Farm Delivers Clean Energy to 1.5 Million People

Giant Dutch Offshore Wind Farm Delivers Clean Energy to 1.5 Million People

Windmills have powered the Netherlands for hundreds of years and now the age-old technology will help power its future.

The country has officially opened its new 600-megawatt offshore wind park under schedule and under budget, according to its developer Gemini.

The wind farm will deliver 600 megawatts of renewable electricity to the Dutch grid and eventually generate enough power to meet the electricity needs of around 1.5 million people, or around 785,000 households.

The $3 billion project consists of 150 Siemens wind turbines spread across 26 square miles in the North Sea, about 53 miles off the country’s northern coast.

Gemini is the second largest offshore wind farm in the world, slightly smaller than the 630-megawatt London Array.

“Now fully operational, Gemini will produce 2.6 TWh of sustainable energy every year, reducing the Netherlands’ CO2 emissions by 1.25 million tonnes,” the company’s managing director Matthias Haag said. “We are proud to make this contribution to the realization of the Netherlands’ sustainability targets.”

Fossil fuels still make up about 95 percent of The Netherlands’ energy supply, but the Dutch government is looking to ramp up the nation’s share of renewable energy from 4 percent in 2014 to 16 percent in 2023, with the eventual aim of being carbon neutral by 2050.

The AFP reported that over the next 15 years, the wind park will be able to generate about 13 percent of the country’s total renewable energy supply, and about 25 percent of its wind power.

Gemini “is seen as a stepping stone” in The Netherlands, and has “shown that a very large project can be built on time, and in a very safe environment,” Haag said.

New research unlocks forests’ potential in climate change mitigation

For the first time, scientists have created a global map measuring the cooling effect forests generate by regulating the exchange of water and energy between Earth’s surface and the atmosphere. In many locations, this cooling effect works in concert with forests’ absorption of carbon dioxide. By coupling information from satellites with local data from sensors mounted to research towers extending high above tree canopies, O’Halloran and his collaborators throughout the world have given a much more complete, diagnostic view of the roles forests play in regulating climate.

Their findings have important implications for how and where different types of land cover can be used to mitigate climate change with forest protection programs and data-driven land-use policies. Results of their study were recently published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“It’s our hope that such global maps can be used to optimize biophysics in addition to carbon when planning land-use climate change mitigation projects,” said O’Halloran, assistant professor of Forestry and Environmental Conservation at Clemson’s Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science in Georgetown.

Previously, scientists measured vegetation’s impact on local land temperatures using satellite imagery, which is limited to only clear-sky days and few measurements per day, or they used local stations, which are limited in their reach. Integrating data from towers extending more than 100 feet in the air with satellite measurements allows for a more advanced view of the variables impacting surface temperature. The research team found that forests’ cooling effect was greater than thought and most pronounced in mid- and low-latitude regions.

This new statistical model of analyzing forests’ impact on local temperature will allow communities around the world to pinpoint ideal locations for forest protection or reforestation efforts.

“We wanted every country in the world to have some estimation of the cooling effects of forests and vegetation,” O’Halloran said. “It’s about optimizing the benefit of land management for climate change mitigation.”

A tower similar to those used for this study is under construction at Baruch in collaboration with the University of South Carolina to help provide greater analysis of local climate, he said.

“The towers will really help us understand how ecosystems respond to change,” O’Halloran said. “In South Carolina, we’ve had a lot of extreme weather events, droughts, flood and hurricanes. This will help us understand the resilience of local ecosystems to those types of events.”

O’Halloran co-authored the article in Nature Climate Change with lead author Ryan Bright of The Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research in Norway and several additional collaborators throughout Europe and the United States.

Unlike local climate changes owed to global emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, local climate changes linked to land-related activities are unique in that they are only influenced by the local land-use policies that are in place, Bright said.

“The results of our study now make it easier for individual nations or regions to begin measuring and enforcing climate policies resulting in tangible mitigation or adaptation benefits at the local scale,” says Bright. “This is especially critical moving forward in a world facing increasing competition for land resources.”