About Emily Folk

Emily Folk is freelance writer and blogger on topics of renewable energy, environment and conservation. You may read more of her work on http://www.conservationfolks.com. Follow her on Twitter @EmilySFolk

The Impact of Machine Learning on Renewable Energy

Machine learning, as well as its endgame, artificial intelligence, is proving its value in a wide variety of industries. Renewable energy is yet another sector that can benefit from machine learning’s smart data analysis, pattern recognition and other abilities. Here’s a look at why the two are a perfect match.

Predicting and Fine-Tuning Energy Production

One of the biggest misconceptions about solar power is that it’s only realistic in parts of the world known for year-round heat and intense sunshine. According to Google, around 80% of rooftops they’ve analyzed through their Sunroof mapping system “are technically viable for solar.” They define “viable” as having “enough unshaded area for solar panels.”

Even with this widespread viability, it’s useful to be able to predict and model the energy yield of a renewable energy project before work begins. This is where machine learning enters the equation.

Based on the season and time of day, machine learning can produce realistic and useful predictions for when a residence or building will be able to generate power and when it will have to draw power from the grid. This may prove even more useful over time as a budgeting tool as accuracy improves further. IBM says their forecasting system, powered by deep learning, can predict solar and wind yield up to 30 days in advance.

Machine learning also helps in the creation of solar installations with physical tracking systems, which intelligently follow the sun and angle the solar panels in order to maximize the amount of power they generate throughout the day.

Balancing the Smart Energy Grid

Predicting production is the first step in realizing other advantages of machine learning in clean energy. Next comes the construction of smart grids. A smart grid is a power delivery network that:

  • Is fully automated and requires little human intervention over time
  • Monitors the energy generation of every node and the flow of power to each client
  • Provides two-way energy and data mobility between energy producers and clients

A smart grid isn’t a “nice to have” — it’s necessary. The “traditional” approach to building energy grids doesn’t take into account the diversification of modern energy generation sources, including geothermal, wind, solar and hydroelectric. Tomorrow’s electric grid will feature thousands and millions of individual energy-generating nodes like solar-equipped homes and buildings. It will also, at least for a while, contain coal and natural gas power plants and homes powered by heating oil.

Machine learning provides an “intelligence” to sit at the heart of this diversified energy grid to balance supply and demand. In a smart grid, each energy producer and client is a node in the network, and each one produces a wealth of data that can help the entire system work together more harmoniously.

Together with energy yield predictions, machine learning can determine:

  • Where energy is needed most and where it is not
  • Where supply is booming and where it’s likely to fall short
  • Where blackouts are happening and where they are likely
  • When to supplement supplies by activating additional energy-generating infrastructure

Putting machine learning in the mix can also yield insights and actionable takeaways based on a client’s energy usage. Advanced metering tools help pinpoint which processes or appliances are drawing more power than they should. This helps energy clients make equipment upgrades and other changes to improve their own energy efficiency and further balance demand across the grid.

Automating Commercial and Residential Systems

The ability to re-balance the energy grid and respond more quickly to blackouts cannot be undersold. But machine learning is an ideal companion to renewable energy on the individual level as well. Machine learning is the underlying technology behind smart thermostats and automated climate control and lighting systems.

Achieving a sustainable future means we have to electrify everything and cut the fossil fuels cord once and for all. Electrifying everything means we need to make renewable energy products more accessible. More accessible renewable energy products means we need to make commercial and residential locations more energy-efficient than ever.

Machine learning gives us thermostats, lighting, and other products that learn from user preferences and patterns and fine-tune their own operation automatically. Smart home and automation products like these might seem like gimmicks at first, but they’re actually an incredibly important part of our renewable future. They help ensure we’re not burning through our generated power, renewable or otherwise, when we don’t need to be.

Bottom Line

To summarize all this, machine learning offers a way to analyze and draw actionable conclusions from energy sector data. It brings other gifts, too. Inspections powered by machine learning are substantially more accurate than inspections performed by hand, which is critical for timely maintenance and avoiding downtime at power-generating facilities.

Machine learning also helps us predict and identify factors that could result in blackouts and respond more quickly (and with pinpoint accuracy) to storm damage.

Given that the demand for energy is only expected to rise across the globe in the coming years, now is an ideal time to use every tool at our disposal to make our energy grids more resilient, productive and cost-effective. Machine learning provides the means to do it.

3 Ways to Reuse Water Using Renewable Energy

Water is essential to life, making it one of the most valuable resources on the planet. We drink it, use it to grow food and stay clean. However, water is of increasingly short supply and the Earth’s population only continues to expand. Many of the countries with the largest populations are also ones that use the most water. For instance, in the United States, the average person uses 110 gallons of water each day. Meanwhile, three-fourths of those living in Africa don’t have access to clean water.

To ensure we have enough water to survive — and share with those in need — the best approach is to conserve this resource and find sustainable ways of recycling it. Currently, conventional methods or water purification use about three percent of the world’s energy supply. This isn’t sustainable long-term and can have adverse effects on the environment.

Recently, however, major steps have been made to reduce both the collective water and carbon footprint. Now, there are multiple, sustainable ways to both save energy and reuse water using renewable energy.

1. Anaerobic Digestion

Anaerobic digestion — or AD — is the natural process in which microorganisms break down organic materials like industrial residuals, animal manure and sewage sludge. This process takes place in spaces where there is no oxygen, making it an ideal system for cleaning and reusing wastewater. This recycled water can provide nutrients for forest plantations and farmland alike.

For example, in Yucatan, Mexico, the successful implementation of AD systems has provided water to promote reforestation efforts. This system has also helped accelerate the search for a sustainable solution to water-sanitation issues in rural Latin American communities.

Additionally, anaerobic digestion also reduces adverse environmental impacts. As the system filters water, it creates two byproducts — biogas and sludge. The biogas can be used as energy to supply electricity or even fuel vehicles. And the sludge is used as fertilizers and bedding for livestock. In poor countries, like Peru, 14 percent of primary energy comes from biogas, providing heat for food preparation and electricity to homes that would not have access to it otherwise.

2. Vapor Compression Distillation

In this process, the vapor produced by evaporating water is compressed, increasing pressure and temperature. This vapor is then condensed to water for injection — highly purified water that can be used to make pharmaceutical-grade solutions.

Vapor compression distillation is incredibly sustainable because it can produce pure water on combustible fuel sources like cow dung — no chemicals, filters or electricity necessary. This makes it water accessible to even the most rural communities.

The system only needs enough energy to start the first boil and a small amount to power the compressor. This energy can be easily supplied by a solar panel, producing roughly 30 liters of water an hour using no more energy than that of a handheld hairdryer.

3. Solar Distillation

Utilizing solar energy for water treatment may be one of the most sustainable solutions to the water crisis, without sacrificing the environment or non-renewable resources. Between 80 and 90 percent of all energy collected through commercial solar panels is wasted, shed into the atmosphere as heat. However, recent advancements in technology have allowed scientists to capture this heat and use it to generate clean, recycled water.

By integrating a solar PV panel-membrane distillation device behind solar panels, researchers were able to utilize heat to drive water distillation. This panel also increases solar to electricity efficiency. This device can even be used to desalinate seawater, providing a sustainable solution to generating freshwater from saltwater.

Environmental and Economic Benefits

Finding sustainable methods of recycling water is essential to reducing energy consumption and helping the planet, and all those dependent upon it, thrive. Using methods like anaerobic digestion and environmentally-friendly distillation processes can reduce toxic emissions and provide purified, recycled water to those who need it most.

Sustainable reuse of water can also benefit the economy. The financial costs of constructing and operating desalination and purification systems are often high compared to the above solutions. Furthermore, using recycled water that is of lower quality for agricultural and reforestation purposes saves money by reducing treatment requirements.

Why Should Your Company Commit to Renewable Power?

Roughly one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from burning fossil fuels to create electricity, according to Climate Collaborative. Using non-renewable gas, oil and coal adds to a rapidly growing carbon footprint, increases global warming and spells disaster for our fragile planet’s future. Companies and large corporations have the ability to make a positive environmental change by committing to transition to renewable energy in the coming months and years. Not only will this benefit our planet, but it also promises success for companies who choose to commit to it.

Reduce energy costs by producing your own energy

Utility bills are a huge expense for businesses, many of which are at the mercy of utility companies that could raise their rates at any moment. Renewable energy is an attractive alternative to electricity and the bills that come with it. Wind installations are one option, but solar panels are even better as they are more predictable, efficient and affordable.

In fact, the cost of renewable energy is dropping at an incredibly rapid rate. The total cost of developing wind power has dropped 55% in the last five years while solar energy has dropped a shocking 74%. These low prices stem from massive global investment and rapid technological advancement. And major corporations that are already using clean energy are only looking to buy more in the coming months.

renewables-investment-trends

Boosting public relations

An increasing number of companies are committing to renewable power to boost public image. Smart businesses know that, in today’s world, renewable power is a source of competitive advantage. Social pressure to reduce emissions continues to rise as consumers look for ways to be involved in saving the planet. This green movement has driven a demand for green products. And companies that can sustainably create these products are winners in the public eye.

Renewable power is also reliable and predictable

Unlike coal or oil, we’ll never run out of wind or sun. This makes the cost and savings of wind and solar power quite stable. Solar panels installed on top of business structures will produce a consistent amount of energy year after year as long as they are properly maintained. This strong reliability makes budgeting easier and ensures a less volatile bottom line.

Reducing carbon emissions

Every one killowatt-hour of energy produced keeps 300 pounds of carbon out of the atmosphere. So, replacing non-renewable energy with renewable resources naturally decreases global warming emissions. And that’s good news for everyone on earth because if we’re left with more carbon than oxygen, it’s going to be a little difficult to breathe.

How Can You Commit to Renewable Power?

The first step in committing to renewable power is shifting your perspective. Take time to personally research these benefits of renewable power. Once you decide sustainable energy is worth implementing, on both an individual and global scale, you can begin to look for ways to create your own strategy.

The best way to brainstorm and execute strategy is to develop a team with specific goals in mind. This team should include members from different departments such as legal, financial, environmental, sustainability and operations. Once there is a team in place, you can begin to integrate energy into the company’s vision and operations.

The team should begin by assessing current energy impacts and how they might change them. Analyzing impact and comparing your own to competitors’ will reveal performance opportunities and gaps. The team can then develop a plan of action. Aggressive targets should reflect the degree and pace of emission reductions necessary to mitigate climate change.

Once goals are outlined, the team must create incentives for employees and consumers alike to make energy an actionable priority. From there, they can measure and manage energy usage as the company transitions from non-renewable to renewable energy sources.

Biogas Prospects in Rural Areas: Perspectives

Biogas, sometimes called renewable natural gas, could be part of the solution for providing people in rural areas with reliable, clean and cheap energy. In fact, it could provide various benefits beyond clean fuel as well, including improved sanitation, health and environmental sustainability.

What is Biogas?

Biogas is the high calorific value gas produced by anaerobic decomposition of organic wastes. Biogas can come from a variety of sources including organic fraction of MSW, animal wastes, poultry litter, crop residues, food waste, sewage and organic industrial effluents. Biogas can be used to produce electricity, for heating, for lighting and to power vehicles.

Using manure for energy might seem unappealing, but you don’t burn the organic matter directly. Instead, you burn the methane gas it produces, which is odorless and clean burning.

Biogas Prospects in Rural Areas

Biogas finds wide application in all parts of the world, but it could be especially useful to developing countries, especially in rural areas. People that live in these places likely already use a form of biomass energy — burning wood. Using wood fires for heat, light and cooking releases large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The smoke they release also has harmful health impacts, particularly when used indoors. You also need a lot to burn a lot of wood when it’s your primary energy source. Collecting this wood is a time-consuming and sometimes difficult as well as dangerous task.

Many of these same communities that rely on wood fires, however, also have an abundant supply of another fuel source. They just need the tools to capture and use it. Many of these have a lot of dung from livestock and lack sanitation equipment. This lack of sanitation creates health hazards.

Turning that waste into biogas could solve both the energy problem and the sanitation problem. Creating a biogas system for a rural home is much simpler than building other types of systems. It requires an airtight pit lined and covered with concrete and a way to feed waste from animals and latrines into the pit. Because the pit is sealed, the waste will decompose quickly, releasing methane.

This methane flows through a PCV pipe to the home where you can turn it on and light on when you need to use it. This system also produces manure that is free of pathogens, which farmers can use as fertilizer.

A similar but larger setup using rural small town business idea can provide similar benefits for urban areas in developing countries and elsewhere.

Benefits of Biogas for Rural Areas

Anaerobic digestion systems are beneficial to developing countries because they are low-cost compared to other technologies, low-tech, low-maintenance and safe. They provide reliable fuel as well as improved public health and sanitation. Also, they save people the labor of collecting large amounts of firewood, freeing them up to do other activities. Thus, biomass-based energy systems can help in rural development.

Biogas for rural areas also has environmental benefits. It reduces the need to burn wood fires, which helps to slow deforestation and eliminates the emissions those fires would have produced. On average, a single home biogas system can replace approximately 4.5 tons of firewood annually and eliminate the associated four tons of annual greenhouse gas emissions, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Biogas is also a clean, renewable energy source and reduces the need for fossil fuels. Chemically, biogas is the same as natural gas. Biogas, however, is a renewable fuel source, while natural gas is a fossil fuel. The methane in organic wastes would release into the atmosphere through natural processes if left alone, while the greenhouse gases in natural gas would stay trapped underground. Using biogas as a fuel source reduces the amount of methane released by matter decomposing out in the open.

What Can We Do?

Although biogas systems cost less than some other technologies, affording them is often still a challenge for low-income families in developing countries, especially in villages. Many of these families need financial and technical assistance to build them. Both governments and non-governmental organizations can step in to help in this area.

Once people do have biogas systems in place though, with minimal maintenance of the system, they can live healthier, more comfortable lives, while also reducing their impacts on the environment.

Sustainable Innovations in Train Stations

The growing urgency around climate change and energy consumption has prompted a significant response from the rail industry over the past decade. It has responded with major initiatives around the globe. For example, in Germany, national rail company Deutsche Bahn has replaced tens of thousands of incandescent lights with LEDs. In the United Kingdom, rail managers have upgraded existing lines, like the HS1, to run entirely on renewable energy.

Another major change is that train stations themselves are becoming more eco-friendly and energy-efficient. These are some of the most significant changes transit authorities have made to reduce the environmental impact of train stations and cut down on emissions caused by rail travel and freight.

Green Innovations at a New Bay Area Rapid Transit Station

In 2017, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officially opened a new station in Fremont, in California’s East Bay. The new Warm Springs/South Fremont Station was billed as BART’s most sustainable station yet, built with several eco-friendly features “baked in” to the station design.

Among other features, the new Fremont station includes solar panels on the station’s roof, charging stations for electric vehicles and biological water filtration systems called “bioswales.”

Bioswales are stormwater runoff management systems made out of native grasses, pebbles, shrubs, swan hill oak trees and similar landscaping elements. These systems pull in and filter rainwater that would typically run off roofs and paved surfaces, carrying pollutants with them to local waterways.

green-train-station

At the new station, rainwater is captured in an underground surge basin after being filtered through the bioswale system. The water there can then be used in the station itself or slowly released in a way that won’t overwhelm local drainage areas.

The station isn’t the only BART initiative that aims to improve the eco-friendliness of Bay Area transit. In 2013, the system announced that it would use more than 1,300 tons of recycled waste tires to reduce vibration on an extension project near Fremont.

The project, which used shredded tires in place of gravel, is one recent example of how used car parts can be recycled and put to use.

Hong Kong Rail Station Features Garden Roof

Other, more recent projects have also used landscaping and natural design elements to improve sustainability.

For example, the new Hong Kong West Kowloon railway station, which opened in September 2018, features a curved “green roof” dotted with more than 700 trees.

Built to function as both a public space and transit hub, the station is also remarkably sustainable. The green roofscape, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing, also captures and filters rainwater, much like the Fremont station in California.

Deutsche Bahn’s “Green Station” Initiative

Germany has been a world leader in the adoption of green tech and transportation practices. One of the best examples of this has been the “Green Station” initiative led by Deutsche Bahn, the private railway company owned by the German federal government.

The project made headlines in the mid-2010s when the company produced the world’s first zero-carbon train station in Kerpen-Horrem, in western Germany.

This was an early example of how modern stations are compatible with eco-friendly design decisions. For example, the station in Kerpen-Horrem has an energy-efficient lighting system that uses a combination of LEDs, natural light and light-reflecting architecture to provide consistent illumination to the station with minimal energy consumption.

deutsche-bahn-energy-efficiencyEntlang eines Solarparks in Baiersdorf – ein Zug der Baureihe ET 442 unterwegs als S-Bahn

Since then, Deutsche Bahn has continued to make major strides in sustainable railway management and design, powering 33 of the company’s stations with entirely renewable energy and aiming for a companywide target of 100% carbon neutrality by 2050.

Reinventing Train Stations to Improve Sustainability

These new train stations show how transit providers are rethinking design to improve sustainability. Innovations like solar power arrays, electric charging stations and biofilters can all make a structure significantly more sustainable — and they’re becoming more common in station design.

Will Solar Roadways Ever Be Possible?

In the United States, the primary mode of transport is cars — and when you have many people driving, you need a lot of road. In total, there are around four million miles of paved road in the United States. According to one estimate, that’s more than 13,000 square miles of paved land.

These roads have a big impact on their local environment before, during and after construction. First, there’s a carbon cost to laying asphalt. After construction, when it rains, the impervious surface of the road can carry polluted rainwater directly to storm drains — where the water will run off into the environment.

There’s also evidence that expanding roads encourages people to drive more often, increasing emissions over time.

Without a major shift in the U.S., these roads are likely to stick around well into the future. As a result, environmentalists and engineers want to find ways to take advantage of all that open space and offset some of the environmental cost of roads.

solar-highway

Solar roadways — roads outfitted with special solar panels — have arisen as one possible solution to reduce the environmental impact of roads. If you outfit all these roads with solar energy, you can use that paved land to generate energy. At first glance, it looks like a good idea — but would it work in practice?

Why People Are Interested in Solar Roadways

While solar roadway technology has been theoretically possible for a while, interest in the idea has grown significantly over the past decade. This new interest is likely due in part to the growing availability of new solar technology like home solar systems and batteries.

Changes in road materials may have also made the idea seem more practical. In recent years, rising asphalt prices have many cities turning to concrete for their roads. Concrete is somewhat tougher and more durable than asphalt, meaning concrete roads may be a better candidate for projects like solar roadways, where damage to the road could loosen or destroy embedded solar panels.

Growing knowledge about the environmental impact of travel by car may have also inspired recent interest in solar road projects. After all, if we can find a way to make roads eco-friendly, we won’t need to worry as much about their potential long-term effects on the climate and the environment.

The Challenges to Overcome

No one has attempted a large-scale solar roadway yet — but the first few experimental applications of the technology have not yielded encouraging results.

The Wattway solar road project, built in the Normandy region of France in 2016, lined a full kilometer (0.62 miles) of road with 2,800 photovoltaic solar panels. The project engineers designed panels coated with a special resin containing silicone. The company behind Wattway said the resin was strong enough to protect the panels from the weight of an eighteen-wheeler.

While sound in theory, the project was a disaster in practice. The resin was able to mostly protect the panels from traffic at first, but the sound created by cars passing over the panels was so loud that the village had to limit local speed limits to just over 40 miles per hour.

Three years after installation, there are solar panels peeling off the road and the protective resin is splintered and shattered in many places.

In terms of energy production, the project was also a bust. While solar panels are decent energy sources in well-lit regions of the world, Normandy only sees around 44 days of full sunlight every year. The region’s strong weather, in addition to potentially damaging the panels, further limited the power the panels could collect.

wattway-solar-road-project

On one hand, the Wattway project may seem like a failure of planning. The choice of region, road and materials were all suboptimal. The combination of these mistakes could easily have been enough to sink the project.

However, the Wattway project also shows the serious challenges that engineers will overcome to make solar roadways and other “solar surfaces” workable. To start with, designers will need to use panel materials that are strong, resilient to traffic without generating too much noise and easy to maintain. Project planners will also have to select the right region for the roadway and find a road with the right angle towards the sun for maximum energy production.

What Will Future Solar Technology Look Like?

Growing demand for clean sources of energy will prompt engineers and designers to continue searching for new applications for solar panels. Solar roadways, however, seem likely to remain theoretical in the near future. The challenges of road-ready solar panels and the limited amount of suitable area will probably mean that solar engineers will look elsewhere before turning to projects like a solar panel highway.

Things to Know About Backup Batteries for Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is a force that can help combat climate change. However, without the right proactive steps, there can be pitfalls. For instance, solar power is becoming more widely available but can use some improvements. Solar backup batteries are a critical solution when renewable energy fails.

solar-battery-storage

The Need for Renewability

Renewability is one of the keys to stopping and reversing the climate crisis. It’s time to phase out fossil fuels and harmful environmental practices and focus on sustainable energy sources. There are various deadlines when people must act, and stopping climate change becomes more pressing every day.

However, while renewable energy is a solution, these sources may need a backup system. Often, resources like solar and wind energy are durable and hold up through harsh weather and high demands. When they fail, though, it can leave millions without power. A full renewable system requires constant clean energy.

During the 2020 California wildfires, residents reported their photovoltaic (PV) panels were no longer working, and they were losing power. The ash from the fires was covering the panels, and the smog in the sky was disrupting the transfer of sunlight. During instances like these, a backup plan is necessary.

Battery power is the solution. If solar fails, then the backup system can kick in and keep residents’ homes, schools and companies running.

Integrating Backup Batteries

A backup battery system will most prominently help solar energy setups. While PV panels are versatile, they can nevertheless use assistance. Microgrids will especially benefit from solar backup batteries. The ultimate goal is to keep emissions low at all times — but people will still need power. If a solar system fails, like those in California during the wildfires, then it’s not operating on a fully renewable level.

Experts can integrate batteries into the electrical setup with the proper enclosing tools to prevent surges and stalling. They’ll connect to the lights, HVAC system and other necessities of the building. For schools, internet access may be required to contact parents during blackouts. Businesses may need to keep computers running to prevent data loss.

solar-microgrid

Each system will depend on the supply demands of the location. A smaller home may not need a large network. However, if a solar microgrid powers a university, then the backup battery system will need to account for that demand. Experts must consider the power level of the PV panels, too. That is what will bring solar backup batteries to the next level.

Battery systems can generate power when renewables can’t. It maintains a sustainable impact while still providing people with electricity at all times.

Why It Matters

Renewable energy is groundbreaking. It shows the way forward with no carbon emissions, lower pollution and benefits for public health as well as the environment. While there can be power outages and mishaps with fossil fuels, renewable energy can draw more people in with foolproof generation.

Batteries don’t produce any emissions, so the renewability continues — as does the consistent supply of power. Outages and surges can become less common and not as much of a setback if they do happen.

The partnership of batteries and renewable energy opens up the future. From here, experts will want to work on scalability. Microgrids are a prime area for integrating backup batteries with renewable energy. On larger scales, though, the possibilities could be endless.

Better system setups mean bigger solar and wind farms could also use battery power. While these operations have less chance of failure due to the amount of energy going into them, batteries could still facilitate optimal energy flows and provide backup assistance.

In Development

With energy companies expanding their renewable energy services and integration, every step must receive a backup. Batteries are long-lasting and durable. Adding them to renewable energy setups will create a more foolproof dynamic — one that’s sustainable and always providing power.

How to Reduce Your Digital Carbon Footprint?

Roughly 2.5 billion people around the globe use the internet. Experts predict the energy used to power the internet — as well as the number of greenhouse gases produced — will soon exceed air travel. Your digital carbon footprint is comprised of a number of activities, not just checking email.

Digital activities that have an impact on the environment include:

  • Streaming music
  • Watching Netflix
  • Posting on Twitter
  • Buying an e-book
  • Reading online news

Today’s eco-conscious consumers and businesses are looking for ways to reduce their digital carbon footprints and implement sustainable practices.

1. Reach Out to Tech Companies

Tech companies like YouTube can reduce their digital carbon footprint by changing how their design. In 2016, people streamed about 1 billion hours of YouTube videos each day, producing 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) — the same as the City of Glasgow.

For users who only listen to YouTube for the audio, the option to turn off the video could save 100 to 500 Kilotons of CO2e each year — comparable to the carbon footprint of 30,000 homes in the U.K. For consumers, it’s imperative to reach out to your favorite brands and request eco-conscious features.

2. Unsubscribe from Unwanted Emails

In 2018, more than 281 billion emails were sent and received each day, a number that’s expected to grow to more than 347 billion by 2022. Like anyone else, you probably have multiple brands who send you unwanted emails. To reduce your carbon footprint, make use of the unsubscribe button.

Look through your inbox for any unwanted emails you’ve yet to delete. You should also go through your promotions and spam folder. The unsubscribe button is typically at the very bottom of the email. Some brands attempt to hide it by making the text a similar color as the background.

3. Optimize Your Charging Routine

How many digital devices do you charge? There’s the laptop, cellphone, tablet and smartwatch. To reduce your carbon footprint, optimize your charging routine. Once a device is fully charged, unplug the power supply. Not only can you reduce your energy consumption, but you’ll also improve the lifetime of your battery.

Reduce your reliance on fossil fuels by investing in a solar charger. There are many solar charging stations available that range in capability and price. You can find a quality set-up under $50 for a smartphone, tablet and watch. If you want to power heavy-duty devices like laptops and film equipment, you’ll want to research options $75 and above.

4. Hang Onto Your Old Device

In the U.S., 44% of smartphone users said they replace or upgrade their phone as often as their provider allows, typically every two years. Many of these working devices end up cluttering landfills, while others are broken down into usable materials. Consumers and businesses alike can reduce their digital footprint by holding onto devices longer.

If you have a cracked screen, look into DIY tools online, or visit a local shop. The cost is remarkably affordable compared to the latest phone model. If your device is running slow, delete unused or unwanted apps, photos, videos, files and more. Most smartphones have a built-in storage cleaner that can free up space.

5. Download Instead of Stream

Video streaming makes up a large chunk of internet traffic. Data centers that host streaming sites like Netflix, YouTube and Facebook consume around 1% of the world’s electricity each year, a number that’s expected to grow. More demand for this type of technology means more consumed energy.

To minimize carbon output, data centers need to be fed by renewable energy sources, such as solar, hydroelectric or nuclear power. As a consumer, you can reduce the amount of time you spend streaming videos and music each day. Try to download content ahead of time, which puts less strain on networks. If you do stream video, connect to Wi-Fi instead of 4G to consume less energy.

Most of the resources we rely on are finite. It’s crucial to make sustainable choices and reduce your carbon footprint. Reach out to your favorite tech companies and request eco-friendly alternatives. Pare down your inbox and delete any offers for a phone upgrade. You can also invest in a solar charger and reduce your streaming time.

For most of us, it’s impossible to cut out internet use entirely. However, it’s still possible to make eco-friendly decisions.

Progress of Waste-to-Energy in the USA

Rising rates of consumption necessitate an improved approach to resource management. Around the world, from Europe to Asia, governments have adapted their practices and policies to reflect renewability. They’ve invested in facilities that repurpose waste as source of energy, affording them a reliable and cheap source of energy.

This seems like progress, given the impracticality of older methods. Traditional sources of energy like fossil fuels are no longer a realistic option moving forward, not only for their finite nature but also within the context of the planet’s continued health. That said, the waste-to-energy sector is subject to scrutiny.

We’ll detail the reasons for this scrutiny, the waste-to-energy sector’s current status within the United States and speculations for the future. Through a concise analysis of obstacles and opportunities, we’ll provide a holistic perspective of the waste-to-energy progress, with a summation of its positive and negative attributes.

Status of Waste-to-Energy Sector

The U.S. currently employs 86 municipal waste-to-energy facilities across 25 states for the purpose of energy recovery. While several have expanded to manage additional waste, the last new facility opened in 1995. To understand this apparent lack of progress in the area of thermochemical treatment of MSW, budget represents a serious barrier.

One of the primary reasons behind the shortage of waste-to-energy facilities in the USA is their cost. The cost of construction on a new plant often exceeds $100 million, and larger plants require double or triple that figure to build. In addition to that, the economic benefits of the investment aren’t immediately noticeable.

The Palm Beach County Renewable Energy Facility is a RDF-based waste-to-energy (WTE) facility.

The U.S. also has a surplus of available land. Where smaller countries like Japan have limited space to work within, the U.S. can choose to pursue more financially viable options such as landfills. The expenses associated with a landfill are far less significant than those associated with a waste-to-energy facility.

Presently, the U.S. processes 14 percent of its trash in waste-to-energy (WTE) plants, which is still a substantial amount of refuse given today’s rate of consumption. On a larger scale, North America ranks third in the world in the waste-to-energy movement, behind the European nations and the Asia Pacific region.

Future of WTE Sector

Certain factors influence the framework of an energy policy. Government officials have to consider the projected increase in energy demand, concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, space-constrained or preferred land use, fuel availability and potential disruptions to the supply chain.

A waste-to-energy facility accounts for several of these factors, such as space constraints and fuel availability, but pollution remains an issue. Many argue that the incineration of trash isn’t an effective means of reducing waste or protecting the environment, and they have evidence to support this.

The waste-to-energy sector extends beyond MSW facilities, however. It also encompasses biofuel, which has seen an increase in popularity. The aviation industry has shown a growing dedication to biofuel, with United Airlines investing $30 million in the largest producer of aviation biofuel.

If the interest of United Airlines and other companies is any indication, the waste-to-energy sector will continue to expand. Though negative press and the high cost of waste-to-energy facilities may impede its progress, advances in technology promise to improve efficiency and reduce expenses.

Positives and Negatives

The waste-to-energy sector provides many benefits, allowing communities a method of repurposing their waste. It has negative aspects that are also important to note, like the potential for pollution. While the sector offers solutions, some of them come at a cost.

It’s true that resource management is essential, and adapting practices to meet high standards of renewability is critical to the planet’s health. However, it’s also necessary to recognize risk, and the waste-to-energy sector is not without its flaws. How those flaws will affect the sector moving forward is critical to consider.

Share of Renewables in the UK Energy Mix

The Earth is facing a climate crisis, as the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity and power our cars overloads the atmosphere with carbon dioxide, causing a dangerous atmospheric imbalance that’s raising global temperatures.

A report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released earlier this month cautioned that the planet has just 12 years to dramatically curb greenhouse gas emissions, by overhauling our energy systems and economies and likely, our societies and political systems. Even a half degree rise beyond that would cause catastrophic sea level rises, droughts, heat, hunger, and poverty, spelling disaster for our species.

UK’s Commitment to Climate Change Mitigation

The UK government has committed to reducing carbon emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050, a process that will involve overhauling our energy supply, which is responsible for 25% of greenhouse emissions in the country, just behind transport (26% of all emissions). But it may be too little too late. The government has already said it is reviewing these targets in light of the IPCC report and in the spring began consulting on a net-zero carbon emissions target for 2050.

But despite these dire prognoses and the enormity of the task facing us as a species, there’s reason to be optimistic. The UK has already managed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 43% on 1990 levels, with much of the reduction coming from a 57% decline in emissions from energy generation. This is in part thanks to several providers offering you the chance to have a 100% renewable domestic energy supply.

Reduction in Coal Usage

The use of coal has plunged nearly overnight in the UK. In 2012, 42% of the UK’s electricity demand was met by coal. Just six years later, in the second quarter of 2018, that figure had fallen to just 1.6%. Emissions from coal-fired power stations fell from 129 million tonnes of CO2 to just 19 million tonnes over the same period.

A coal-free Britain is already on the horizon. In April 2017, the UK logged its first coal-free day since the Industrial Revolution; this past April we extended the run to 76 consecutive hours. In fact, in the second quarter of 2018, all the UK’s coal power stations were offline for a total of 812 hours, or 37% of the time. That’s more coal free hours than were recorded in 2016 and 2017 combined and in just three months.

When the UK does rely on coal power, it’s primarily to balance supplies and to meet demand overnight and during cold snaps, such as during the Beast from the East storm in March. The UK is so certain that coal is a technology of the past, that the government has plans to mothball all seven remaining coal-fired power stations by 2025.

Share of Renewables in Energy Supply

The decline in coal has been matched by an explosion in renewable energy, particularly in wind power. In the second quarter of 2018, renewables generated 31.7% of the UK’s electricity, up from under 9% in 2011. Of those, wind power produced 13.3% of all electricity (7.1% from onshore turbines farms and 6.2% from offshore wind farms), biomass energy contributed another 11% of the UK’s electricity, solar generated 6% and hydro power made up the rest of renewables’ pie share.

The UK’s total installed renewables capacity has exploded, hitting 42.2GW in the second quarter of 2018, up from under 10GW in 2010. That includes 13.7GW of onshore wind capacity and 7.8GW of offshore wind capacity—a figure which will get a boost with the opening in September of the world’s largest wind farm, the Walney Extension, off the coast of Cumbria, itself with a capacity of nearly 0.7GW. Solar panels contributed another 13GW of renewable capacity, and installed plant biomass infrastructure reaching 3.3GW.

However, while renewables are transforming electricity generation in the UK, our energy system consists of more than simply electricity. We also have to account for natural gas and the use of fuel in transport, and renewables have made fewer in roads in those sectors.

The UK is meeting just 9.3% of its total energy needs from renewable sources, short of the 15% it has earmarked for 2020 and far behind its peers in the EU, where Sweden is already running on 53.8% renewable energy.

Conclusion

Emissions are dropping overall in the UK, largely due to an ongoing revolution in electricity generation and a decisive move away from coal. But these reductions have concealed stagnant and even increasing levels of greenhouse gas emissions from other sectors, including transport and agriculture.

Our transition to a sustainable economy has begun but will require more than wind farms and the shuttering of coal-fired power stations. It must encompass electric vehicles, transformed industries, and ultimately changing attitudes toward energy and the environment and our responsibility toward it.