Rooftop Farm in New York City Grows 50,000 Pounds of Organic Produce Per Year
“That view behind me is not a painted backdrop!” said Geoff Lawton to the camera. But the view looked great from where I was standing. Brooklyn Grange is a rooftop farm with a magnificent view looking over the Manhattan skyline.
Sitting on a concrete roof, totaling 2.5 acres and producing more than 50,000 pounds of organically-grown vegetables each year, you need to walk its length to appreciate how vast this rooftop garden truly is in scale.
We had been given one hour to film this place. The sun was setting. We were in the “magic hour” to film and needed to hurry. There was a lot to do.
Geoff walked down the narrow lanes of planted vegetables. Four to six inches of dirt was all the plants were allowed to grow in—very well drained dirt that resembled sharp river sand. It didn’t look like a normal loamy soil to my untrained eye.
The whole system looked very well managed with clean straight lines but with a diversity of plants. Lettuce, broccoli, kale, pepper, tomato and flowers—lots of flowers—interspersed with a bee hive along the path. In one corner was a small chicken coop and a few hens. I wasn’t sure the manure from these chickens could sustain this farm? There had to be inputs. But from where?
Geoff explained the system to camera, but then noticed the derelict buildings standing next to us. Pigeons and small birds had made their homes in the abandoned niches. Their droppings over the years had deposited seeds that had taken root and small trees had established themselves, waving to us in the breeze. Geoff Lawton, immediately noticed this and wove it into the story. A wonderful story on the food that could be grown in the city with access to sunlight and water. But also a reminder that Nature is never far from the surface, retaking back what is always hers. If the city did stop beating, how long before Manhattan would be covered in a canopy of forest?
Geoff’s full video of around 10 minutes is worth a look. He has a great insight into why a particular sort of weed was growing in this rooftop soil. Does Nature have a cunning plan up her sleeve?
We finish filming and as I’m packing up the gear, Geoff turns to me and says, “Frank, do you know what that thing over there is?”
I said, “Yes, it’s a wheelbarrow!”
Geoff proceeded to demonstrate.
“Everything in life, should have more than one purpose.” he said, turning it into a chair.
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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