6 Common Reasons Why Sidewalks Are Seldom Used

One of the common neighborhood problems is how people walk on the streets instead of sidewalks. Going to and from work or school, they find it more convenient to walk on the streets because it is free from obstruction. At the same time, the space is wider compared to the human traffic experienced in walking on sidewalks. Sidewalks are often dominated by vehicles limiting the volume of people they can cater to.

Not using the sidewalks may provide convenience at some point but it compromises the safety of the people. In building a community, one of the most important considerations is easy and safe means of transport. Allow the sidewalks to give the people a reason to walk instead of hopping on a bus or taking a cab. These 6 reasons will give you a clearer view on why people seldom use sidewalks.

(Image Source: https://www.citylab.com/life/2016/04/las-vegas-gamble-with-pedestrian-powered-streetlights-solar-kinetic-energy/476292/)

The Lighting Design is Poor

Lighting design is one of the considerations in order to maximize the utilization of sidewalks even at night. This does not just make them visible at night. Lighting also helps in making the people feel more secured. There are a lot of people who walk home at night. Walking in a dark sidewalk makes a person more cautious about the surroundings. There is the feeling of worry about how walking in a dark sidewalk alone will compromise their safety.

Most urban designers think highly of the lighting design of the streets. Apart from the fact that it compromises safety, this is the most common reason why few people choose to walk on sidewalks at night. There are a lot of all-in-one solar street lights with an innovational design that brings out the essence of well-lit sidewalks. Apart from the fact that it is energy-efficient, these street lights are also providing direct and vibrant light on the streets.

The Vehicles Dominate the Sidewalk

Instead of being able to pass through smoothly, small vehicles are parked on the streets. Being able to dominate the sidewalk limits the space where people can pass through. Spaces designated for small vehicles should be provided for the people to maximize the space designated for them. Most people park their bikes and motorcycles on sidewalks because there are limited spaces for them. This may seem like a small issue but it constitutes to why people choose not to walk on sidewalks.

The Space is Limited

In planning urban or rural sidewalks, the designated space depends on the volume of people. This is the primary consideration making it possible for the sidewalk to cater to the population. Know that not all have the means of transporting through bus or cab. Most people choose to walk block by block. When the space is limited, it will take time to walk from one block to another because you keep bumping on people.

Sidewalks with limited space are more likely not to be prioritized by people. This is one of the urban and rural issues which should be provided with a long term solution. Most people choose to walk on the side streets. Apart from the fact that it’s convenient, the human traffic is manageable compared to the ones in the sidewalk. Convenience and walkability feature is what the sidewalk should feature.

The Obstructions Affect Human Traffic

One of the best examples of sidewalk obstruction are trees that are too big for the sidewalks. With the limited space provided for the sidewalk, the growth of trees become uncontrollable. In choosing the landscapes for the sidewalks, the space it should be consuming ten to twenty years from now should be taken into consideration. Most landscape architects and designers choose large-scaled landscapes not for aesthetic purposes but for the natural sun-shading feature it provides.

The Sidewalks are Poorly Planned

When a sidewalk is highly utilized, they are more likely to undergo several planning and research for development. Not because there is a space designated for a sidewalk doesn’t stop the responsibilities of the planners. They have a lot of design considerations for sidewalks to consider before building, designing, and landscaping. These sidewalks are a life-long solution to people violating the rules and regulations.

The Sidewalks are Unfriendly for Pedestrians

Unfriendly sidewalks result to poor utilization. They are not used based on their fundamental function. Instead, they are used as an alternative designated for parking, portable toilets, alfresco for restaurants, and other means. When pedestrians find sidewalks friendly, they tend to maximize its utilization. They should be designated for people and not for any other purpose. This will not just manage the human traffic but most people will comply with pedestrian rules and regulations.

Conclusion

In order to come up with a walkable sidewalk, they should be designed according to what the users need. They need convenience and assurance that these are safe for utilization at any time of the day. Sidewalks should be friendly for people for them to consider walking instead of using public transportation. Moreover, a highly utilized sidewalk will constitute to less vehicular and human traffic.

Benefits of Using Used Cooking Oil as a Biofuel

Used cooking oil is one of the major sources of biofuel. As the push for alternative sources of energy is enhanced, biofuel production has also gone into high gear. As such, it has moved from the unsustainable food sources to more sustainable sources such as used cooking oil.

used-cooking-oil

With the adoption of used cooking oil as a source of biofuel, producers have gained numerous benefits. Here are a few.

Cheap to procure

One of the major benefits of used cooking oil as a source of biofuels is that it is cheap to procure. Sources of used cooking oil abound, and they are happy to have it offloaded off their homes and their premises.

Most times, you will find that those that have the used cooking oil will pay to have it taken away from them. As such, hotels and restaurants and even households pay biofuel companies to collect it from their premises.

This makes the process of collecting used cooking oil efficient and affordable. This is a huge first step in the recycling of used cooking oil into biofuel.

Easy to process

Once the used cooking oil arrives at the processing center, it passes through a chemical process that converts the used cooking oil to biofuel.

The process is easy and uses easily available reagents. This process eliminates all the impurities within the used cooking oil. It is a five-stage chemical process that culminates in the conversion of used cooking oil into a useful biofuel.

Environmentally friendly

Another benefit derived from used cooking oil as a biofuel, is the fact that it is environmentally friendly. Biofuels produced from used cooking oil can replace fossil fuel diesel in a world ravaged by global warming. It burns efficiently and thus has almost zero emissions that can be harmful to the environment.

biofuel-UCO

Further, converting the used cooking oil into biodiesel goes a long way in ensuring that the environment is clean. When poorly disposed of, used cooking oil cause untold harm to the environment and drainage infrastructure.

Used in a myriad of diesel machines

Biofuel from used cooking oil can easily replace diesel in vehicles and plant machinery. After processing, the resulting biofuel can easily replace diesel in numerous existing machines and vehicles. Many of these machines will not need any re calibration for them to use this fuel.

The use of used cooking oil biofuel will thus save money for the users and also help them reduce their impact on the environment. Company trucks and plant machinery that use diesel can easily switch to biofuels and companies will see a significant savings in their fuel expense as well.

Can be used to manufacture diverse products

Used cooking oil when recycled is not limited only to the production of biofuels. Rather, it can be used to produce a range of other products and materials that could be a significant business unit.

Used cooking oil can be processed into raw materials for animal and pet feeds. Used cooking oil contains high amounts of protein that will beneficial in animal feed.

Further, used cooking oil can be used to make soap, lubricants and many other useful products.

With these other products, companies that process used cooking oil have a range of products to get to the market to ensure that they remain afloat profitably.

Alternative source of energy for small businesses

Many small businesses have adopted the use of biofuel that is produced from recycled used cooking oil. This helps them save on high energy costs by using it to power some of the processes that use electricity and other expensive sources of energy.

Conclusion

There are many biofuel producing companies that use used cooking oil as part of their raw materials. I have outlined why it is beneficial not only to biofuel producers, but also to the end users of the biofuel that comes from it.

What is a Power Inverter and Why do I Need One?

Are you the owner of an RV, SUV, car, boat or other vehicle, and want to be able to watch TV, cook, or power a laptop onboard? If yes, you’ll be needing a power inverter. But what are they, and what do they do? Read on to find out why you’ll need one to power your gadgets on the road…

power-inverter-car

What is a Power Inverter?

Basically, they are devices that turn your vehicle battery’s direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) – the kind of electricity you have in outlets in your house, that are connected to the energy grid.

Having a power converter means you can plug in your appliances and devices, and power them like you would through an electricity outlet in a house.

In your car, you can get USB adaptors for your cigarette lighter so that you can charge your phone or plug in your satnav. But for larger gadgets and electronics with proper plugs, you’ll need an inverter.

Working of a Power Inverter

Like we said, they convert currents to a type safe for use in vehicles. Your vehicle’s battery voltage provides a current that powers its internal workings – you’ll need to know which voltage your vehicle’s battery uses to choose the correct inverter.

The current supplied by a battery sticks on one circuit, in one direction – where the name ‘direct current’ comes from.

However, to power your gadgets, you’ll need alternating current, as those electronics need more power to function than the DC can provide. They’re made to function with the high-voltage AC current supplied in homes.

Power inverters increase the DC voltage, change it to AC, then use it to power your devices. They amp up your battery’s voltage so you can play video games and use a kettle in your RV. Cool, huh?

Size Selection

These babies come in a variety of sizes – most commonly 1000, 3000 or 5000 watts.

It’s recommended that a 3000 watt inverter is the happy medium between inverter sizes and best choice to get. They’re not too small like the 1000, or too powerful and overcharged like the 5000. If you need a little extra boost, there are 3500 watt capacities available.

Find the best 3000 watt inverter for your vehicle by checking out the useful comparison guide by Solar Know How.

Modified or Pure Sine Wave Inverter?

Besides the sizing, there are two main types of inverter – the modified sine wave, and the pure sine wave.

So, what’s the difference, and which one will you need?

  • Modified Sine Wave: These tend to be cheaper, and less powerful. However, they’re good for most everyday electronics you will want to use, just not very large ones.
  • Pure Sine Wave: These are compatible with pretty much all electronics, gadgets, and appliances, and produce a powerful current most like the one supplied by the electric grid. These are the most common choice, because they’re more likely to be compatible with anything you need to plug in.

Power inverters are useful for charging on the road without having to cart around adaptors and large plugs

Other Features and Tips

  • Power inverters are especially useful if you are setting up a solar power system – they convert energy from the sun into electricity you can use to power your gadgets within your vehicle. This is renewable energy that isn’t a drain on your best car battery.
  • Power inverters aren’t just for vehicles – if you have a small cottage or outhouse, they’re very useful for setting up a small power source there.
  • Many (but not all) power inverters come with USB outlets, useful for charging on the road without having to cart around adaptors and large plugs. For ease of use, get one compatible with USB.
  • The best inverters have digital screens which show you how much energy has been consumed and information about battery voltage. It’s useful to know these things at a glance, so consider getting one that has a screen.
  • Modern inverters have been made to be extra-quiet, so you won’t be woken up by a noisy machine while trying to simultaneously get some sleep and charge your phone in your RV.

Biomethane – The Green Gas

Biomethane, also known as the green gas, is a well-known and well-proven source of clean energy, and is witnessing increasing demand worldwide, especially in European countries, as it is one of the most cost-effective and eco-friendly replacement for natural gas and diesel.

Advantages of Biomethane

The key advantage of biomethane is that it is less corrosive than biogas which makes it more flexible in its application than raw biogas. It can be injected directly into the existing natural gas grid leading to energy-efficient and cost-effective transport, besides allowing natural gas grid operators to persuade consumers to make a smooth transition to a renewable source of natural gas.

Biogas can be upgraded to biomethane and injected into the natural gas grid to substitute natural gas or can be compressed and fuelled via a pumping station at the place of production. Biomethane can be injected and distributed through the natural gas grid, after it has been compressed to the pipeline pressure.

The injected biomethane can be used at any ratio with natural gas as vehicle fuel. In many EU countries, the access to the gas grid is guaranteed for all biogas suppliers.

A major advantage of using natural gas grid for biomethane distribution is that the grid connects the production site of biomethane, which is usually in rural areas, with more densely populated areas. This enables biogas to reach new customers.

Storage of Biomethane

Biomethane can be converted either into liquefied biomethane (LBM) or compressed biomethane (CBM) in order to facilitate its long-term storage and transportation. LBM can be transported relatively easily and can be dispensed through LNG vehicles or CNG vehicles. Liquid biomethane is transported in the same manner as LNG, that is, via insulated tanker trucks designed for transportation of cryogenic liquids.

Biomethane can be stored as CBM to save space. The gas is stored in steel cylinders such as those typically used for storage of other commercial gases.

Applications of Biomethane

Biomethane can be used to generate electricity and heating from within smaller decentralized, or large centrally-located combined heat and power plants. It can be used by heating systems with a highly efficient fuel value, and employed as a regenerative power source in gas-powered vehicles.

Biomethane, as a transportation fuel, is most suitable for vehicles having engines that are based on natural gas (CNG or LNG). Once biogas is cleaned and upgraded to biomethane, it is virtually the same as natural gas.

Because biomethane has a lower energy density than NG, due to the high CO2 content, in some circumstances, changes to natural gas-based vehicle’s fuel injection system are required to use the biomethane effectively.

Biomethane Industry in Europe

Biomethane is a well-known and well-proven source of clean energy, and is witnessing increasing demand worldwide, especially in European countries. Between 2012 and 2016, more than 500 biomethane production plants were built across Europe which indicates a steep rise of 165 percent. The main reasons behind the growth of biomethane industry in Europe is increasing interest in industrial waste-derived biogas sector and public interest in biogas.  Another important reason has been the guaranteed access to gas grid for all biomethane suppliers.

Biomethane production in Europe has swiftly increased from 752 GWh in 2011 to 17,264 GWh in 2016 with Germany being the market leader with 195 biomethane production plants, followed by United Kingdom with 92 facilities. Biogas generation across Europe also witnessed a rapid growth of 59% during the year 2011 and 2016. In terms of plant capacities, the regional trend is to establish large-scale biomethane plants.

Sources of Biomethane in Europe

Landfill gas and AD plants (based on energy crops, agricultural residues, food waste, industrial waste and sewage sludge) are the major resources for biomethane production in Europe, with the predominant source being agricultural crops (such as maize) and dedicated energy crops (like miscanthus). In countries, like Germany, Austria and Denmark, energy crops, agricultural by-products, sewage sludge and animal manure are the major feedstock for biomethane production. On the other hand, France, UK, Spain and Italy rely more on landfill gas to generate biomethane.

A large number of biogas plants in Europe are located in agricultural areas having abundant availability of organic wastes, such as grass silage and green waste, which are cheaper than crops. Maize is the most cost-effective raw material for biomethane production. In many parts of Europe, the practice of co-digestion is practised whereby energy crops are used in combination with animal manure as a substrate. After agricultural biogas plants, sewage sludge is one of the most popular substrates for biomethane production in Europe.

Biomethane Utilization Trends in Europe

Biomethane has a wide range of applications in the clean energy sector. In Europe, the main uses of biomethane include the following:

  1. Production of heat and/or steam
  2. Power generation and combined heat and power production(CHP)
  3. Replacement for natural gas (gas grid injection)
  4. Replacement for compressed natural gas & diesel – (bio-CNG for use as transport fuel)
  5. Replacement for liquid natural gas – (bio-LNG for use as transport fuel)

Prior to practically all utilization options, the biogas has to be dried (usually through application of a cooling/condensation step). Furthermore, elements such as hydrogen sulphide and other harmful trace elements must be removed (usually trough application of an activated carbon filter) to prevent adverse effects on downstream processing equipment (such as compressors, piping, boilers and CHP systems).

biomethane-transport

Biomethane is getting popularity as a clean vehicle fuel in Europe. For example, Germany has more than 900 CNG filling stations, with a fleet of around 100,000 gas-powered vehicles including cars, buses and trucks. Around 170 CNG filling stations in Germany sell a blend mixture of natural gas and biomethane while about 125 filling stations sell 100% biomethane from AD plants.

Barriers to Overcome

The fact that energy crops can put extra pressure on land availability for cultivation of food crops has led many European countries to initiate measures to reduce or restrict biogas production from energy crops. As far as waste-derived biomethane is concerned, most of the EU nations are phasing out landfill-based waste management systems which may lead to rapid decline in landfill gas production thus putting the onus of biomethane production largely on anaerobic digestion of food waste, sewage sludge, industrial waste and agricultural residues.

The high costs of biogas upgradation and natural gas grid connection is a major hurdle in the development of biomethane sector in Eastern European nations. The injection of biomethane is also limited by location of suitable biomethane production facilities, which should ideally be located close to the natural gas grid.  Several European nations have introduced industry standards for injecting biogas into the natural gas grid but these standards differ considerably with each other.

Another important issue is the insufficient number of biomethane filling stations and biomethane-powered vehicles in Europe. A large section of the population is still not aware about the benefits of biomethane as a vehicle fuel. Strong political backing and infrastructural support will provide greater thrust to biomethane industry in Europe.

The Role of Biofuel in Low-Carbon Transport

Biofuels offer a solution to climate change that shouldn’t go ignored. In fact, the amount of biofuel used in transport has to increase by a factor of seven in order to prevent climate catastrophe, a recent report on 1.5C warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states. The report also places biofuels in the same league of importance as electric vehicles when it comes to replacing unsustainable fossil fuels by 2050.

Biofuels are increasingly being used to power vehicles around the world

Electric cars: benefits and limitations

A typical gas-powered car emits roughly one pound of carbon dioxide per mile traveled. On the other hand, electric cars release zero tailpipe emissions. However, light-duty passenger vehicles represent only 50% of the energy demand in the transportation sector worldwide.

Heavy road vehicles and air, sea, and rail transport make up the rest — electrification of this remaining 50% would be an expensive task. Additionally, demand for transport is expected to increase in the future. Vehicles will need to use even less energy by 2050 to ensure the global transport sector’s total energy demand rises no higher than current levels (100 exajoules).

Biofuel: a necessary solution

Several sustainable, carbon-neutral synthetic fuels are currently in developmental and demonstration stages. For example, synfuels can be produced from carbon dioxide and water via low-carbon electricity. However, this also requires cheap and low-carbon power systems (similar to the ones already running in Quebec and Iceland).

Biodiesel

In 2013, Audi was the first automaker to establish an electrofuel plant — it cost €20M and produces 3.2 MW of synthetic methane from 6 MW of electricity. Additionally, synthetic biofuels can be made from woody residues and crop wastes, which has a lighter environmental footprint than biofuels made from agricultural crops.

Examples of eco-friendly cars

While biofuels continue to be developed, there are plenty of electric cars on the market right now — all of which can help us reduce our individual carbon footprints. For example, the Hyundai Kona Electric is an impressive electric car. This vehicle offers sleek exterior styling, plenty of modern tech features, and has an impressive range of 258 miles in between charges. The price starts at $36,950. Alternatively, the Nissan LEAF is another eco-friendly model priced from $29,990. It’s powered by an 80kW electric motor and runs for 100 miles per charge.

Electric cars and synthetic biofuels are both valuable technological changes. Focusing on developing both of these sustainable options should take utmost priority in the fight against climate change.