Solar energy is clean, reliable, abundant and an affordable alternative to fossil fuels. Solar energy is also really cool. Check out our selection of the most amazing solar plants from around the world.
1. The sunflower solar panel
This new piece of solar technology from IBM, set to launch in 2017, would not only provide electricity—it can also desalinate water for sanitation and drinking. A group of several solar generators could provide enough fresh water for an entire town. The sunflower operates by tracking the sun, so that it always points in the best direction for collecting the rays—just like a real sunflower!
2. The loveliest solar plant, ever
This heart-shaped solar power plant is to be built on the Pacific Island of New Caledonia at the beginning of next year, and will generate enough electricity to supply 750 homes. The unique design was inspired by the "Heart of Voh;" an area of nearby wild mangrove vegetation that has naturally taken the shape of a heart. It gained worldwide recognition thanks to the Yann Arthus-Bertrand best-selling book The Earth from Above. Pacific Islands are among the most vulnerable to climate change, and would derive the most benefit from a global switch to renewable energy sources.
3. The most scenic solar farm
The Kagoshima mega solar island is the largest solar power plant in Japan. Not only does it generate enough power to supply roughly 22,000 average Japanese households, it also doubles as a tourist destination. Boasting grand views of the Sakurajima volcano, the plant's own learning centre highlights environmental issues and the science behind photovoltaic energy generation. Japan's' recent solar growth is truly massive. In 2013, Japan came in second worldwide for installing solar PV (only China installed more). A rapid expansion indeed!
4. The plant that can generate power at night
This Gemasolar tower plant located in Sevilla, Spain, can deliver power around the clock—even at night. All thanks to the pioneering molten salt technology, which allows it to receive and store energy for up to 15 hours. In 2013, renewable energy provided 42 percent of Spain's power demand. The future is here!
5. The largest solar plant
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is the world's largest solar thermal plant. Located in a sunny Californian desert, and owned by Google, among others, the plant began producing electricity earlier this year. The plant comprises 173,000 heliostats (solar-speak for mirrors), and produces enough electricity to supply 140,000 Californian households with clean and reliable solar energy.
6. Britain's first floating solar plant
Britain's first ever floating solar panel project was built in Berkshire last month. The 800-panel plant, situated on a farm water reservoir, avoids covering valuable farm land with a solar array, providing additional cost benefit over solar farms on fields. Because of climate change, in the future we can expect to see more extreme weather events such as last year's flooding in Britain. Innovative renewable energy solutions could be Britain's answer to climate change.
7. The solar plant covering a network of canals
This solar pilot project in India provides both energy and water security. A network of 15-meter-wide irrigation canals covered with a total of 3,600 solar panels produces power for hard to reach villages. Shading from panels also prevents around 9m litres of water from evaporating each year, and water, in turn, provides cooling effect for the panels, improving electricity output. It's a win-win!
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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