How Goats Are Preventing Wildfires in California
The city of Anaheim near Los Angeles has renewed a contract with the company Environmental Land Management to keep goats munching on fire-fuel year round, NPR reported Sunday.
Goats are ideal fire-preventers for two reasons: They can navigate steep hillsides and they tend to eat more flammable non-native grasses and leave native plants alone.
"It would be almost impossible for a human to sit there or walk up and down with a weed whacker or a Weed Eater, so that's why we use the goats," Anaheim Fire Marshall Allen Hogue told NPR.
A November 2019 study found that non-native grasses were one of the factors increasing the risk of wildfires, making them two to three times more likely, NPR reported. Researchers have also found that these grasses tend to spread more easily because of the climate crisis.
That's where goats come in.
"Goats are really good at eating stuff, right?" UMass Amherst environmental conservation professor and study co-author Bethany Bradley told NPR. "The challenge with them though, is that you can't just do it once. They need to go back time and time again in order to keep controlling that biomass."
Which is why it makes sense that Anaheim has decided to keep its goats. Around 400 of them began grazing its Deer Canyon Park in July 2019.
Anaheim isn't the only California city to turn to goats. It's common practice throughout the state, The Sacramento Bee reported.
The practice gained national attention in October 2019 when a herd of 500 helped save the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library from the Easy Fire by eating flammable grass.
"One of the firefighters mentioned that they do believe the goats' fire line helped them fight this fire," library spokeswoman Melissa Giller said, as CNN reported at the time. "They just proved today how useful they really are."
Other states are also waking up to the value of goats, The Guardian reported in July 2019. Last summer, they were also used in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Nevada.
And demand is rising.
"It's not an underestimation to say that we got over 100 calls a month from private individuals with smaller parcels, little lots or things from an acre, 2 acres requesting the goats," Environmental Land Management operations manager Johnny Gonzales told NPR. "And unfortunately, as a commercial herd, I can't take on all these private lots."
Mike Canaday, who has been providing goats to coastal California for more than 15 years, told The Guardian that demand in 2019 was "huge, just crazy."
"If people want goats, the sooner they can get on somebody's waiting list, the better," he said.
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A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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