By Victoria Masterson
- English soccer club Manchester City is trialing an edible coffee cup made from leak-proof wafer.
- Another English team, Forest Green Rovers, has tried sustainable shirts made from recycled coffee beans and plastic bottles on for size.
- FIFA is aiming for Qatar 2022 to be the first carbon-neutral World Cup.
The pitches may be green – but how sustainable is soccer?
Next year, we are being promised the world's first carbon-neutral FIFA World Cup. Pulling this off will be no mean feat – from construction to travel and accommodation, Qatar 2022 is expected to produce up to 3.6 million tonnes of CO2.
The event plans to tackle its emissions through a variety of measures including offsetting, reusing construction waste, and building a stadium from recycled shipping containers.
And across the sport, there are many other examples of small changes that could have a big impact if widely adopted. Here are some of them.
Coffee Cups You Can Eat
In England's Premier League, Manchester City Football Club is trialing a sustainable coffee cup that you can eat.
Manchester City Football Club is trialing edible coffee cups. BioBite
If successful, they could provide a solution to a sizeable problem: an estimated 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are used in the UK every year – the majority of which are not recycled, according to a House of Commons report.
Forest Green Rovers, a football club based in Gloucestershire, England, is trialling a sustainable soccer kit made from recycled coffee bean waste.
Each shirt is made from three cups of used beans and five plastic bottles. And they are not the only way Forest Green is living up to its name.
The team, dubbed "the world's greenest football club", became the first to be certified carbon neutral by the United Nations in 2017. It is owned by Dale Vince, the founder of green energy company Ecotricity.
Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam, the home of Dutch football club Ajax, claims to be one of the most sustainable stadiums in the world.
Its approach ranges from big investments in green energy to creative ways to use waste. The stadium is powered by 4,200 solar panels on the roof and a wind turbine. Grass mown from the pitch, meanwhile, is taken to a local farm to feed goats whose milk is turned into cheese – which is then sold in the stadium.
Reposted with permission from the World Economic Forum.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) estimated that a median average of 234,012 birds were killed by land-based wind turbines a year as of 2017. While that number is far fewer than the 599 million killed by glass buildings and the 2.4 billion killed by cats, it is not nothing. Further, the American Bird Conservancy warns it could climb to five million a year if wind power increases to provide 35 percent of U.S. electricity.
Now, at least one wind energy company is trying to compensate for the damage it might cause. Avangrid Renewables is working with federal wildlife officials and the Oregon Zoo to breed endangered California condors to replace any that might be killed by its turbines, The Associated Press reported Monday.
"We see this as a win for condors," Amy Parsons, Avangrid's operations wildlife compliance manager, told The Guardian.
Specifically, Avangrid seeks to offset any damage done by its Manzana wind power project, a 126-turbine wind farm in the Tehachapi mountains northeast of Los Angeles. The turbines have 252-foot diameter blades, which might pose a threat to the birds that have a 9.5 foot wingspan.
The farm has been open since 2012, and since that time there are no records of any condors being killed there. However, the company estimates that as many as two adult condors with two chicks or eggs each may be killed by the turbines in the next 30 years, according to The Associated Press.
To offset this, the company will provide more than $500,000 in funding to breed six condors over three years at the Oregon Zoo's Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation.
"We're prepared to start this condor mitigation effort as early as this spring," Oregon Zoo condor recovery lead Kelly Flaminio told The Associated Press. "Our zoo already nurtures the second-largest breeding population of condors in the nation."
Once raised, the condors will then be released into the wild. California condors were nearly driven to extinction by the 1980s because of hunting, habitat loss and poisoning from lead bullets left in the animals they scavenged from, as EcoWatch reported previously. A breeding program has helped their populations to recover, however, and there are now more than 300 in the wild and 500 worldwide.
If no condors are killed by Avangrid's turbines, then the wild population will simply increase by six, Flaminio told The Associated Press. However, some conservationists argue that the company's plans do not go far enough.
The plan "should provide funding to raise a minimum of 30 condors to 1.5 years of age when they are released into the wild." the Center for Biological Diversity wrote in comments to the FWS.
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See how you can save money on solar panels in Florida.
Florida is well-known as the Sunshine State because of its year-round sunny weather that draws millions of tourists each year, but historically, Florida hasn't actually been a national leader when it comes to solar energy generation. That said, financial incentives like Florida solar tax credit and rebate opportunities have played a huge part in its rise to become one of the top states for solar energy.
To the glee of clean energy advocates across the state, various Florida solar incentives have succeeded in bringing solar power throughout the state. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, in 2020, Florida ranked third in the nation for solar energy capacity, and it had the second-most installations during the second quarter of 2021.
This progress in the solar field comes from many different sources, not the least of which is Florida solar incentives. For any homes or businesses feeling left behind while the rest of the state goes solar, these types of solar tax credits are still widely available across Florida, which will be discussed in this article.
For most homeowners, the decision to go solar comes down to cost. To see how much you'd pay for a home solar system (and how much you can shave off that price with Florida solar tax credit and incentive opportunities), you can get a free quote from a top solar company near you by using this tool or filling out the form below.
Florida Solar Tax Credits and Solar Rebates
As much as transitioning to clean energy is the best thing for the environment and the fight against climate change, the reality has always been that such changes would be slow to happen (if they happened at all) unless they made sense financially. When solar energy systems are proven to save money for those who pay the high upfront costs to install them, those purchases are better considered a worthy investment.
As such, some of the most effective policies encouraging solar installations have been those making the decision a no-brainer from the budgetary perspective. Let's take a look at some of the top Florida solar incentives.
|Florida Solar Incentive||Program Overview|
|Florida Net Metering Programs||Credits homeowners when their solar panels produce extra electricity and it is exported to the local power grid|
|Florida Tax Exemptions||Property tax exemptions and sales tax exemptions for solar and other renewable energy equipment|
|Local Incentives||Incentives, rebates and low-interest financing programs at the town, city, and county level that encourage local solar installations|
Florida Net Metering Programs
Regardless of the state, one of the most critical types of energy policy for solar panels is known as net metering. Through net metering, homeowners can feed excess electricity produced by their solar panels into the power grid in exchange for utility credits. These credits can be used to pay for the energy a home uses when panels aren't producing (such as at night).
Net metering tends to be a state-by-state policy, as there is no federal policy regarding net metering. Florida is one of the states where there is, in fact, a statewide net metering program, applicable for homeowners regardless of which utility serves their area.
The specific net metering provision covers up to 2 megawatts (MW) of capacity for any customers who generate electricity with a renewable energy source. Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy have the largest net metering programs in the state.
The availability of such net metering serves as an incentive for Floridians to install solar panels on their property. Not only do they benefit by reducing their power bills from pulling energy from the grid less often, but they can even profit when the utility pays them for generating more power than they consume, bringing their solar payback period down.
Florida Solar Tax Exemptions
Another financial mechanism that the Florida state government offers to solar system owners is solar tax exemptions. To start, Florida doesn't want to make the upfront cost to purchase and install solar equipment to be any higher than the open market says it should be, so since 1997, all solar energy systems have been completely exempt from Florida's sales and use tax.
Once a solar photovoltaic system is purchased and installed, there is a statewide property tax abatement that further helps homeowners avoid paying taxes on it. Most home additions, such as a new shed or outdoor patio built in a home's backyard, would be appraised to determine the value it added to the property and thus increase the overall property tax. However, the added home value of solar panels is excluded from the property's taxable value.
Florida is also a large, diverse state, so in addition to the state solar incentives, many local jurisdictions enact their own policies to encourage and support installation of solar energy systems. At the town, city or county level, Floridians will commonly find low-interesting solar financing options, specific solar incentives or rebates, and more.
You can determine whether your locality offers such incentives by investigating your local government websites or talking to utility company representatives. When you do, you may come across such successful programs as Jacksonville's $2,000 rebate for solar battery installations, Boynton Beach's Energy Edge Rebate Program, or the Solar Energy Rebate Grant Program offered by Dunedin.
Federal Solar Tax Credit
Floridians, of course, can also benefit from all the tax incentives, rebates and credits that are offered at the federal level. Over the past two decades, the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) has attributed largely to the rapid growth in solar energy across business sectors, geographies and customer types.
For systems installed and operational before the end of 2022, the federal solar tax credit is equal to 26% of the value of the installation, dropping to 22% for systems installed in 2023. It is currently set to expire afterward, though the idea of extending the ITC beyond its current expiration date, as has been done in the past, has been a part of active clean energy policy debates.
FAQ: Florida Solar Incentives
Does Florida have a solar tax credit?
State-wide, there is no specific Florida solar tax credit. However, all utilities in the state of Florida do offer customers the ability to utilize net metering, Florida solar homeowners are eligible for the federal solar tax credit, and some local jurisdictions in Florida may offer their own tax credits.
Is solar tax exempt in Florida?
In Florida, the purchase and installation of a home solar system is exempt from all sales tax, and the value of renewable systems are excluded from 100% of residential property taxes.
How much is the solar tax credit for 2022?
For any solar panel system installed before the end of 2022, the federal solar investment tax credit is equal to 26% of the value of the system.
Is Florida a good state for solar?
Florida is a great state for solar from the perspective of having year-round sunny weather, higher-than-average solar irradiance and a policy landscape conducive to solar installations. Because of these factors, Florida ranked third among all states in terms of solar capacity installed in 2020 (rising to second when looking at the third quarter of 2021), per the SEIA.
How much do solar panels cost in Florida?
Based on market research and data from top solar companies, we've found the average cost of solar panels in Florida is $2.53 per watt. However, this is only an average, and prices can vary widely depending on where you live, the number of solar panels you need and more.
To get a free estimate for your own home solar system, you can get connected with a pre-screened local installer by using this tool or entering your home's information below.
This week, a relentless winter storm pummeled through parts of the southern and central U.S., causing people to crank their electric heating systems. In Texas, the energy demand became too high for its electric grid, forcing the state to begin rolling blackouts on Monday, leaving more than four million Texans in the cold and dark, The New York Times reported.
So far, analysts say the grid system failed due to high electricity demand, pushing grid operators into worst-case scenarios, The New York Times reported. Other causes for the failed grid included fuel shortages as gas-fired power plants went offline while demand increased, and frozen wind turbines.
Yet while some experts used the dire conditions to urge the state to adopt more climate-resilient energy systems, a few conservative commentators used the example of frozen wind turbines to encourage distrust of renewable energy systems in a state largely dependent on natural gas.
"Texas is frozen solid as folks are left w/ no power to stay safe & warm," Steve Daines, a Republican U.S. Senator from Montana, tweeted Tuesday. "This is a perfect example of the need for reliable energy sources like natural gas & coal."
Texas is frozen solid as folks are left w/ no power to stay safe & warm. This is a perfect example of the need fo… https://t.co/Tktn0F89t4— Steve Daines (@Steve Daines) 1613492364.0
According to The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which represents 90 percent of the state's electric load, wind turbine outages were responsible for less than 13 percent of Texas' lost generation. The majority of the power outages can instead be attributed to coal and gas, a local news outlet reported.
The Montana senator's tweet included a viral image of a helicopter spraying liquid to defrost a frozen wind turbine. According to the image's caption, fossil fuels powered the helicopter while the liquid it sprayed contained them. "Keep that in mind when thinking how 'green' windmills are," Rep. Lauren Boebert from Colorado tweeted, gaining thousands of retweets, Earther reported. This same image has been shared by Luke Legate, a prominent oil and gas consultant, Earther added, although it is misleading.
While helicopters are used to defrost wind turbines, the image is from Sweden in 2014, not present-day Texas, said Brian Kahn, managing editor of Earther. The photo is originally from a Swedish study on de-icing wind turbines using hot water. Now the image is being used "to argue against clean energy in the U.S," Kahn wrote. "It's a rather silly claim."
Wind turbines in Texas did indeed fail during the frigid winter temperatures, losing about 4.5 gigawatts of capacity according to The New York Times. But as of Monday afternoon, 26 of the 34 gigawatts of ERCOT's grid that went offline were from thermal sources such as gas and coal, The New Republic reported.
Cold temperatures are becoming less common due to climate change. But research suggests that as the Arctic warms, the jet stream will weaken, sending cold temperatures farther south, The New York Times reported. As a result, Texans are asking how their energy system can be more resilient to a changing climate.
Solutions include heaters that can help turbines operate in winter storms, on-site oil storage for gas plants and backup power plants for emergencies. These strategies could make Texas' electric grid more resilient to severe weather caused by climate change, The New York Times reported. But baseless skepticism toward renewable energy will not make the transition any easier.
"That type of work and serious conversations about how to end our grids' reliance on fossil fuels — which, just to be clear, are severely underperforming during the Texas blackout — are vital moving forward," Kahn wrote in Earther. "Misinformation and whataboutism to score lazy political points as a humanitarian emergency unfolds are not."
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By Andrea Germanos
Climate action groups and ocean defenders issued strong praise Monday after the Biden administration announced its intention to boost the nation's offshore wind capacity with a number of steps including preparing forfede leases in an area off the coasts of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
"Today's announcement marks a revolutionary moment for offshore wind. This powerful renewable resource has been waiting in the wings of our energy system for too long, and now it can finally take center stage," Hannah Read, an associate with Environment America's Go Big on Offshore Wind campaign, told Common Dreams.
Taken together, the initiatives will create 77,000 jobs, generate enough electricity to power over 10 million homes for a year, and avoid 78 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, according to the administration.
The plan would general 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2030—a capacity that would surpass the roughly 19 GW predicted in 2019 by some industry analysts. As NBC News noted, the nation's offshore wind capacity is largely untapped:
[W]hile on-land wind farms have flourished in recent years, offshore wind has yet to take off in a significant way, in part due to bureaucratic and permitting hurdles that were a source of major frustration for renewable energy companies during the Trump administration. As of now, the U.S. has only one operational offshore commercial wind farm, with just five turbines.
According to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, making up for such inaction is urgent.
"For generations," Haaland said in a statement, "we've put off the transition to clean energy and now we're facing a climate crisis."
Although "every community is facing more extreme weather and the costs associated with that," Haaland said that "not every community has the resources to rebuild, or even get up and relocate when a climate event happens in their backyards." She noted that the "climate crisis disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income families."
"As our country faces the interlocking challenges of a global pandemic, economic downturn, racial injustice, and the climate crisis, we must transition to a brighter future for everyone," said Haaland.
Among steps announced by the Interior, Commerce, and Energy departments were a data sharing agreement between NOAA and offshore wind development company Ørsted Wind Power North America to help development of infrastructure; the identification of nearly 800,000 acres in the shallow ocean triangle known as the New York Bight to be "Wind Energy Areas"; $8 million for 15 new offshore wind research and development projects; and notice that BOEM would launch an Environmental Impact Statement for Ocean Wind's proposed 1,100 megawatt facility off the coast of New Jersey.
"The ocean energy bureau said it will push to sell commercial leases in the area in late 2021 or early 2022," the Associated Press reported.
@SecDebHaaland @SecGranholm @SecRaimondo @SecretaryPete @ginamccarthy46 It’s a bit buried, but here’s the final map… https://t.co/TBdHTFQOdl— Brett Edkins (@Brett Edkins) 1617040318.0
Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.)—who's previously introduced legislation to incentivize offshore wind—framed the development as "a sea change in American energy policy and a new day in the fight against climate change."
"This is a down-payment on our national future for our children and their children after them," Pascrell tweeted.
Read, with Environment America, said the administration's announcement could serve as a major catalyst.
"The potential to power our country using clean, renewable energy off our coasts is immense, and the Biden administration's commitment forges a path to take full advantage of offshore wind. This federal leadership should give states the confidence to continue making bold commitments to go big on offshore wind. Now that the executive branch is throwing its weight behind timely and ambitious development, it's full-steam ahead," she said.
The news also drew praise from climate group 350.org, which, like Haaland, put the announcement in the context of the multiple crises gripping the nation.
"This is the type of climate action we need from the Biden administration: major investment in renewable energy that creates thousands of good-paying union jobs," the group's U.S. communications director Thanu Yakupitiyage said in a statement.
"In this moment of compounding health, economic, racial, and climate crises," Yakupitiyage continued, "it's beyond time to get our country off fossil fuels and on track towards a renewable future that centers the working class and communities of color."
For Oceana, the administration's good news for offshore wind must be matched with an equally important element—a forceful departure from dirty energy.
"We applaud the Biden-Harris administration helping to make offshore wind a reality in the United States—a necessary step in our climate strategy," said Jacqueline Savitz, chief policy officer with the group, adding that it must also have "strong protections for ocean habitat, especially for the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale."
But for "the U.S. to successfully take full advantage of this unlimited resource that can help solve our climate and energy challenges, Oceana is calling for permanent protections from dirty and dangerous offshore drilling as well," Savitz added.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Solar energy has been among the fastest-growing sources of power generation in the U.S. in recent years, catapulting from 1.2 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of generation in 2010 to over 90.1 billion kWh in 2020. While that's still just a small slice of the overall energy mix (2% of all U.S. electricity in 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration), the rate of growth is accelerating. The EIA forecasts that by 2022, solar capacity installations will outpace wind capacity installations for the first time on record after wind turbines had a huge head start.
The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic downturn of 2020 led to equipment shortages and other hardships for the solar industry. However, forecasts show the industry is primed for a resurgence in 2021 and beyond. In the first quarter of 2021 alone, solar companies are ramping up installations at a record pace and experienced a 46% year-over-year increase compared with the first quarter of 2020.
As 2021 continues to look like a prime year for solar power in the United States, which states are leading the charge? We can look to the recently released U.S. Solar Market Insight Report® from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) for some answers.
Top 10 States for Solar Energy
The Solar Market Insight Report included a ranking of the top states across the country based on the total amount of solar electric capacity installed and in operation as of the end of the first quarter of 2021. To put it into context, SEIA figures also include the equivalent number of homes that can be powered by that solar capacity in the individual state.
Here are the current leaders for solar power in the U.S.:
|State||Cumulative Solar Capacity (Megawatts)||Equivalent Number of Homes Supplied by Solar Energy|
On this leaderboard, some states show up that would be expected — California has long been the solar king, and they don't call Florida the Sunshine State for nothing — while other states represent surprising emerging solar hotbeds. For example, you may be surprised to see some smaller, northeastern states like Massachusetts and New Jersey beating out the field. But these results go to show it's not just about land space and the natural sunshine; the policies and economics driving these installations are just as impactful.
2021 Top States for New Solar Installation
With the solar market really exploding in recent years, traditional solar stalwarts like Arizona and Nevada are being actively challenged by some emerging contenders.
Specifically looking at where solar installations were most active during the first quarter of 2021, the SEIA report finds the following were the top states for solar installations from January through March:
On top, Texas added 1,525 megawatts (MW) of capacity, which is equivalent to 45% of the capacity installed in the state during all of 2020 and represents 16% of the state's cumulative capacity to date. California added 563 MW of capacity, equivalent to 14% of the capacity installed in 2020 and 2% of the state's cumulative capacity. Florida added 525 MW of capacity, which is 19% of the capacity installed during 2020 and 7% of the state's total capacity.
Compare the above list with the top 5 states for solar installations for all of 2020:
- North Carolina
A few compelling trends become evident when looking at the above numbers. First, it's never too late to become a solar leader. While Florida is in the top five of cumulative capacity today, and given its sunny reputation that result may not seem surprising, the truth is that 47% of that capacity has been added since the beginning of 2020. In just over a years' time, Florida nearly doubled its total solar capacity.
Another important trend to recognize is that geography alone doesn't decide whether a state will be a solar leader. Mid-Atlantic states like Virginia and North Carolina or Midwestern states like Indiana wouldn't necessarily be the first most would guess as being solar powerhouses, but thanks to policies like North Carolina's generous Solar Property Tax Exemption, Virginia's allowance for net metering and Indiana's solar easement laws, residents of these states are enjoying solar power on their homes in record numbers.
Where Does Your State Rank for New Solar Installation?
So, are you living in a state that's leading the way on solar or one that has some ground to make up? Factors to consider when looking at why some states are making more progress than others will include the types of policies in place, the availability of rooftops on which solar can be installed, the appetite for new energy generation and even the state's seasonal solar irradiance.
Taking all of those factors into account, here's where each state stands in SEIA's recently published rankings:
Here's how each state's Q1 2021 ranking compares to how it ranked for total solar installations in 2020:
for Q1 2021
for Total 2020
|Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories||25||33|
Seeing some states jump up or down the list from one year to the next may seem drastic, but keep in mind that certain tax incentives expire, new policies come into play and other market forces affect local solar industries. That reality underscores the point that being a solar-leading state takes continued commitment, and doing so can happen at any point state leaders decide to truly embrace the solar industry.
The Future of Residential Solar
As the Solar Market Insight Report indicates, solar energy is a hot and growing market. To date, though, solar still only provides a fraction of the total energy generated in the U.S. While some customers, buildings and regions see much higher penetration of solar into their power mix on a micro level, there's much improvement still on the way, especially as dirtier energy sources like coal continue to retire.
The recent SEIA report shows that it's a constant push and pull as well, as residential solar installations in the second quarter of 2021 were down 8% from the fourth quarter of 2020 but up 11% from the first quarter of 2020. The fact remains, though, that residential solar had its largest first quarter on record and its second-largest quarter of all at the beginning of 2021. These results signal a growing solar market, especially in states like Florida, Arizona and Texas.
Additionally, customer appetite for residential solar is as strong as ever: 19% year-over-year growth is expected to get the residential market to a total of 3.8 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity by the end of 2021, a sum that would have been unthinkable just 10 years ago. Indeed, the future remains bright for residential solar.
If you're interested in becoming one of the millions of Americans who have made the switch to solar panels, fill out the form below to get a free installation quote from a top solar company near you.
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Kids are the ones that will be inheriting the world from us. Getting them invested early in protecting the environment will ensure that their curiosity and interest will live on once they become adults.
Figuring out how to introduce the concept of renewable energy to kids can be tricky. The more significant challenge comes down to getting kids interested and excited versus putting them on the receiving end of another lecture.
It will take a bit of planning and creativity, but there are ways to get children interested in renewable energy even at a young age.
What to Explain
The concepts you plan on teaching children should be age-appropriate. An elementary schooler doesn't need to know the inner complexities of thermodynamics. Start small and slowly build into the topics you want to cover.
Start With Sustainability
Leaping straight into renewable energy is a quick way to lose a kid's interest. If you start throwing around terms they don't understand, they will quickly tune out. Depending on their age, you may even get an eye roll.
Sustainability means something can continue to exist for an indefinite amount of time. Gardening is an easy example to present to children for this concept. If a tomato is grown, that tomato contains seeds. Those seeds can be replanted, and the cycle will continue.
Once they understand the concept of sustainability, you can move on to the next step.
Continue With Energy Sustainability
Now that sustainability is a familiar concept, start leading them into how it applies to energy.
Most, if not all, children today know the basics of electricity as it applies to charging items they interact with, like tablets or even smartphones. Explaining to them that energy is where electricity comes from shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes.
If you want to continue the gardening analogy for continuity's sake, it's adaptable. Using energy sources like natural gas, fossil fuels, and oil, you will still get tomatoes. However, these tomatoes don't have seeds. Eventually, you won't even be able to grow tomatoes due to a lack of seeds.
Other ways of explaining it may be easier depending on the children. The key factor they need to learn is that the current energy sources are not sustainable.
End With the Types of Renewable Energy
There are five primary renewable energy types, but you don't want to introduce them all to kids in one go. Be sure to fully explore all of them so the kids can grasp how and why each one is an option.
The primary types of renewable energy to include in your discussion include:
- Solar - solar energy is one of the most popular forms of renewable energy and one of the easiest to teach kids about. Turning the sun's rays into electricity is sure to catch their interest. Teach them about how solar panels capture the heat and light (even on cloudy days) and convert all of that into usable energy. You can even describe how astronauts in space rely on solar energy on the International Space Station.
- Hydro - this is another easy renewable energy to explain. It's a rare child that hasn't interacted with a creek or river at some point. Explain that the constant movement of the water from the current can be converted into usable energy.
- Wind - show a child a picture of those massive wind turbines and they're bound to be curious. The wind turns the blades of the fan, much like a pinwheel, which then creates energy that we can use. Really get them thinking about the world around them and how something as simple as the wind can be turned into energy. Some states that allow you to pick your energy provider, also allow you to pick renewable plans that include wind.
- Geothermal - geothermal energy may require a bit of extra explanation if the children haven't learned about the earth's core and how hot it is. If they already know about that, then you can show them how pipes that go deep into the ground run steam from this heat up into plants that turn it into electricity.
- Biomass - biomass renewable energy is as simple as burning a source of fuel, so most of this explanation will be what they set on fire and how do they get it. The fuel for these fires comes from byproducts of plants and animals. Manure, crops, and other waste can all apply here.
How to Explain It
Stanislaw Pytel / Stone / Getty Images
Now that you know the basics, it's time to pass that on to the kids. The big question is, how are you supposed to make all of this sound cool enough to get the kids interested in renewable energy?
Kids tend to be more into visual learning, so just telling them about these concepts isn't going to make anything stick.
There are a plethora of options online that can help teach children about renewable energy. Educational games are a great pick to get them interacting with the information, but YouTube videos or simple animations can do the trick as well.
You can use these resources to help kids understand the big picture. Or, you can find videos and games revolving around specific steps like how exactly river currents can provide energy or why fossil fuels aren't sustainable.
This is one of the best options you can choose to teach kids about renewable energy. Helping them create a science project to test out an aspect of renewable energy will be sure to hold their interest. A hands-on approach always helps with getting the information to stick.
Try these projects for an immersive adventure in alternative energy:
- Build a mini water wheel - the water wheel has been used throughout history, and having kids build their own is a great way to teach how hydropower is created. It can be as simple or as complex as you want, but used popsicle sticks can be turned into a wheel in a pinch. Having a nearby creek or river will be the most immersive way to test this project, but using the water in your sink will get the job done.
- Purify water - this is an effortless multi-day project to set up and will help you explain how versatile the heat from solar energy is. All you need is two containers (one smaller than the other), some water, food coloring, plastic wrap, and a rock. Long story short, the sun's heat will cause condensation and create a container of purified water. Bonus points if you can show the same results with your stove to show that the energy used naturally is more sustainable.
- Build a wind turbine - while you won't be able to make it as large as actual wind turbines, this is still a sure way to show how efficient it is to harness the wind's power. The items you use to build this can vary greatly but cut-up plastic water bottles tend to make solid fan blades. Once you and the kids have created the wind turbine just take it outside and watch the wind spin it around! A pinwheel works if you'd just rather explain with an example, but the act of building the wind turbine will work wonders.
- Cook using a campfire - this may sound more like a leisurely activity than a science experiment, but that was before you told the kids about using biomass for renewable energy. Unless you have casual access to manure, the fuel can just be dead branches and leaves you might find lying around. As you use the fire's heat to cook (something that requires electricity with the stove) you can show that the fuel to provide the heat came from dead plants that will eventually regrow the lost leaves and branches used. However, be sure to point out the smoke caused by the fire and how any fuel source that creates too much of that can be harmful to people and the planet.
Take a Field Trip
Field trips don't just have to be school-organized. See if you can find a day to take your child (or students) to a nearby renewable energy plant. Many of these locations are willing to give tours or educate interested people about what they do there.
This is also an excellent way to get free knowledge directly from the experts. They can answer any questions your kids may have that you would need some extensive researching to answer. It's also engaging for the children to directly see the process that they've been learning about.
Show the Impact of Non-Renewable Energy
This is far more effective when the children in question love animals and nature, but it can be useful regardless. Showing them videos of how things like pollution and global warming negatively impact nature can inspire them to start learning about renewable energy to help prevent it.
Be a Role Model
Kids do quite a bit of learning just from observing what the adults in their lives do. How you utilize energy in your day-to-day life can greatly help or hinder the learning process for the kids around you.
It's not an option for everyone, but many people are beginning to have solar panels installed on the roof of their house. Explaining to kids that their phones charge by way of the power of the sun is sure to get them interested in the overall process.
One way anyone can be a role model is to conserve energy where they can. Once your children know that most energy comes from non-renewable sources, they will realize why you always want lights off when not in use or when you try to keep your energy bills low (besides money).
How to Keep Them Interested
JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Images
Now that you have the children interested in renewable energy, you'll have to make sure that interest continues to grow as time goes on. Unless they completely fell in love with the concept, they may start to forget important information if you don't keep them engaged.
Have a Weekly Theme
This has the dual purpose of keeping children interested and getting them to look forward to learning.
Give each week a theme that you can base activities and games around. Wind Week could involve some time at the park messing around with kites, or Hydro Week could be learning new aspects of hydroelectricity like how the tides can be used as well.
Home Improvement Projects
You shouldn't trust a group of young ones to go and install solar panels on the roof, but there are smaller projects around the house or classroom that you can do with them so that they feel they are directly contributing to using clean energy.
These projects don't even have to be big ones. It could be as simple as swapping out your current light bulbs for more energy-efficient ones. The key is to make children feel involved in the process and let them know exactly how these projects are helping.
One of the best ways to get children interested in anything is to make a game of it.
Whether it's at home or in the classroom, a game will get them involved in an activity that could continue to teach them about renewable energy. It could be as simple as a made-up card game or as complex as setting up stations around the yard and have them decide which energy would work best at each station.
Some kids also enjoy incentives, so don't be afraid to offer some sort of prize or reward if they do well in the games.
Keep Your Kids Invested in Clean Energy
It can be a challenge teaching complex concepts to kids, especially if you want them to take an interest in it. Start by breaking down the basic concepts so that you can have good conversations with them about renewable energy.
Kids learn best from visuals and by hands-on learning. Showing them videos, designing and creating projects, and even taking them to a renewable energy plant are all great ways for them to learn. Just remember, they also need a role model to look up to if they are going to take a true interest.
They may stay interested on their own, but there are ways that you as a parent or teacher can help that along. Creating fun ways to bring the subject back around like setting up games, projects, or weekly topics can go a long way towards keeping them interested and invested in renewable energy.
Denmark approved plans on Thursday to construct an artificial island in the North Sea and use it as clean energy hub.
When built, the island will supply both clean power to homes and green hydrogen for use in shipping, aviation, industry and heavy transport.
The decision came as the EU unveiled plans to transform the bloc's electricity supply. The bloc aims to rely mostly on renewable energy within a decade while increasing offshore wind energy capacity roughly 25-fold by mid-century.
Tapping Into 'Enormous Potential' of Wind Power
The planned island, which will be located 80 kilometers off Denmark's west coast, will initially be 120,000 square meters in size, bigger than 18 standard football fields.
"The energy hub in the North Sea will be the largest construction project in Danish history," Climate Minister Dan Joergensen told a press briefing.
"It will make a big contribution to the realization of the enormous potential for European offshore wind,'' he continued.
Authorities hope to have the hub operable by 2033. The first phase of the project is expected to cost around 210 billion Danish crowns ($33.87 billion).
Big Step for Global Green Transition
The surrounding wind turbines will have a capacity of at least 3 gigawatts, ramping up to 10 gigawatts over time.
"This is truly a great moment for Denmark and for the global green transition," continued Jorgensen.
The energy island is an important part of country's legally binding target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 70% of the 1990 levels by 2030.
"Only by inspiring others and developing new green solutions they also want to use, can we really do something to combat climate change,'' Joergensen added.
Decades of Wind Power
The Nordic country, with its favorable wind speeds, was a pioneer in both onshore and offshore wind, building the world's first offshore wind farm almost 30 years ago.
Bloomberg Green reports Denmark gets 40% of its electricity from wind power. The nation is also home to the world's largest wind turbine producer, Vesta Wind Systems and the world's top developer of offshore wind, Orsted AS.
In December, the government decided to halt the search for oil and gas in the Danish part of the North Sea.
No date has yet been set to begin construction of the island, which will be controlled by the Danish government.
The state also has plans for a second energy island in the Baltic Sea.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
By Tatiana Kondratenko
Dressed in a futuristic wetsuit that enables her to stay submerged for hours, diver and scientist Mirai is trying to discover secrets of the deep in the Western Pacific.
Mirai is the animated protagonist in Beyond Blue, an ocean adventure video game set in the near future. Inspired by the BBC Blue Planet II nature documentary, and using some footage from the British broadcaster, the game is designed to make players care about the marine world.
Both Mirai and the deep she is exploring are based on insights from three real-life experts active in the field of marine biology, oceanography and ocean exploration.
Alan Gershenfeld, a co-founder of E-Line Media, the U.S. game publisher and developer behind Beyond Blue, said he wanted to create a strong protagonist who would serve as a role model for players to connect with and look up to.
"The more gamers care about the ocean, the more they want to explore the ocean, avocational or as a career," he told DW. "I believe, that's a key step towards ocean preservation."
According to a UN report, environmental video games like this one might be the next step in raising environmental awareness. Around 2.6 billion people, or one in three across the globe, play video games. And the industry generates annual revenue of over $140 billion (€116 billion) — more than Bollywood, Hollywood and recorded music sales combined.
The report describes the reach, creativity and problem-solving ethos of the gaming industry as an "untapped resource for encouraging engagement in environmental issues."
Environmental Issues in Mainstream Games
While nature has long featured in virtual landscapes, game design is now shifting towards specific environmental issues.
In Bee Simulator, for example, players become bees, buzzing through the microworld of their declining population — the fate of the family lies on the player's wings when people decide to destroy the tree that holds the hive. The survival game Endling, coming out later this year, is told through the eyes of Earth's last remaining mother fox, trying to protect her cubs in a world destroyed by humans.
Likewise Minecraft — which has sold 200 million times in all formats — has a Climate Hope City map that invites players to explore real-world green solutions like vertical farms and an energy generator that can produce different types of green energy.
More recently, Sims, the life simulation game that first emerged in 2000, has released an Eco Lifestyle expansion pack where players can run a clean-water and recycling project or build wind turbines on rooftops to decrease their carbon footprint. True eco-warriors can even go dumpster diving.
Alenda Chang, author of the book "Playing Nature: Ecology in Video Games" says players can learn about the human impact on the environment by witnessing different scenarios of how their actions impact their world.
"Games force us to interact with the system, and they produce feelings," Chang said. "Players do things and can feel guilty because of their choices. Or they can feel the flash of success when things work out in the game."
Gen Z Levels Up the Game
Chang attributes the trend toward more eco-based storylines to both the needs of younger players and the priorities of new designers.
"Young people see climate change as something that informs who they are as individuals," she said. "Organically what's happening is that this new wave of game designers is bringing these interests with them."
The virtual environmental experience can inspire, and appears to have already inspired, players to be more active in their real lives. When the American software development firm Niantic, Inc — which developed and published Pokemon Go — called on players to collect waste on Earth Day in 2019, more than 17,000 people in 41 countries showed up. Together, they picked up more than 145 tons of trash.
@NianticLabs Earth Day Cleanup event at Algés - Portugal by our local #PokemonGO community (10 attendees)… https://t.co/y5VwykHyol— Luís Oliveira (@Luís Oliveira) 1555182867.0
And in China, the Alipay payment app introduced Ant Forest in 2016, a mini-game featuring a virtual tree that grows when users earn points by reducing their CO2 emissions. For each virtual tree, Alipay plants a real one; 220 million trees have been planted in arid areas in China in five years.
In 2019, 21 companies, including giants like Sony Interactive, Microsoft and Google, formed Playing For The Planet Alliance — convened by the UN Environment Programme — to unlock the potential of gaming to tackle environmental issues.
"We want to inspire the gaming community to think what role they can play in tackling the climate crisis," said Sam Barratt, chief of the Youth, Education and Advocacy Unit in UNEP's Ecosystems Division and co-founder of the alliance. "We also want to get the industry to hit net-zero emissions as soon as possible."
Gaming's Green Image Problem
Gaming itself generates its own environmental problems, though, whether as e-waste or as contributing to a country's carbon footprint.
It's hard to estimate how much electricity gamers consume since it varies based on how often a gamer plays, what platforms they use and how energy efficient their devices are.
In 2012, for example, the University of California's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that gamers with personal computers consumed around 75 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity globally.
In a further study, gamers with a high-end desktop computer and external display were shown to use up to 1250 kilowatt-hour a year.
And when it comes to the world's trash problem, gaming consoles in 2019 contributed to the 4.7 million tons of e-waste generated by Small IT products, including mobile phones and personal contributors, or about 9% of the total e-waste generated worldwide, according to the UN's Global E-waste Monitor.
What Gaming in 4k and Eating Beef Have in Common
Then, there's a question of distribution. While sales of physical copies of games are dropping, another obvious package-free alternative is growing: downloads. However, a 2014 study of Play Station 3 in the UK found it to be a more CO2-intensive practice than the use of Blu-ray Discs (BDs). Downloads only have a lower carbon footprint than BDs for games smaller than 1.3 GB while the average size of modern titles is 20 GB.
But this comes with extra pressure on data centers and network infrastructure. Lancaster University in northern England estimated that if gamers moved to streaming by 2030, carbon emissions could increase by 30%. And that's before taking into account streaming in higher resolutions, such as 4k.
"We already more or less have a connection in our heads that eating meat is bad for the environment. But we don't have the same thinking for a game stream in 4k," Chang said. "This mindset needs to be translated over to gaming, too."
With more advanced graphics and new devices for VR and AR games, the pressure is on for companies with climate ambitions to look at the whole value chain of their products.
Truly green gaming will mean winning on all those fronts.
Reposted with permission from DW.
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By Tara Lohan
A key part of the United States' clean energy transition has started to take shape, but you may need to squint to see it. About 2,000 wind turbines could be built far offshore, in federal waters off the Atlantic Coast, in the next 10 years. And more are expected.
East Coast states from Maine to North Carolina are working to procure nearly 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2035 — a huge leap from the five turbines currently generating 30 megawatts in Rhode Island waters. If a regulatory backlog of projects awaiting approval from the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is finally unstuck — as experts hope will happen this year — the buildout of offshore wind will arrive during a crucial decade for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Spinning turbine blades on the watery horizon may be a welcome sight in the fight against climate change, but they still come with potential threats to marine wildlife. Many environmental groups believe the challenges aren't insurmountable if scientific study can help inform regulatory action and if we can learn — and adapt our practices — as we go.
"We believe that offshore wind can absolutely be developed in an environmentally responsible manner," says Francine Kershaw, a staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "But that has to be incorporated throughout the whole process — from site assessment through development, construction and operations."
Threats to Birds
One of the gravest threats facing birds is climate change, according to Audubon, which found that rising temperatures threaten nearly two-thirds of North America's bird species. That's why the impending development of offshore wind is a good thing, says Shilo Felton, a field manager in the organization's Clean Energy Initiative, but it also comes with dangers to birds that need to be better studied and mitigated.
The most obvious risk comes from birds colliding with spinning turbine blades. But offshore wind developments can also displace birds from foraging or roost sites, as well as migratory pathways.
Along the Atlantic Coast four imperiled species are of top concern to conservationists: the endangered piping plover, red knot, roseate tern and black-capped petrel, which is being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
"Those four species are of utmost importance to make sure that we understand the impacts," says Felton. "But beyond that there are many species that are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act that could potentially see more impacts from offshore wind."
Northern gannets, for example, are at risk not just for collision but habitat displacement.
A northern gannet flying along Cape May, N.J. Ann Marie Morrison / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
"There's some evidence that they just won't use areas where turbines are, but that also excludes them from key foraging areas," says Felton. Researchers are still studying what this may mean for the birds. But a study published in December 2020 conducted at Bass Rock, Scotland — home to the world's largest northern gannet colony — found that wind developments could reduce their growth rate, though not enough to cause a population decline.
Other birds, such as great cormorants and European shags, are attracted to wind developments and use the infrastructure to rest while opening up new foraging areas farther from shore.
"There's plenty of potential for a bird to use a wind farm and still to avoid the turbines themselves," says Felton.
Birds like pelicans, however, are less versatile in their movements and are at particular risk of collision because of their flight pattern, she says.
But how disruptive or dangerous offshore turbines will be along the East Coast isn't yet known.
Federal and state agencies, along with nongovernmental organizations, says Felton, have done good research to try to better understand those potential impacts. "But these are all theoretical, because we don't have a lot of offshore wind yet in the United States."
Threats to Ocean Life
Birds aren't the only wildlife of concern. More development in ocean waters could affect a litany of marine species, some of which are already facing other pressures from overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction and climate change.
Scientists have found that marine mammals like whales and dolphins could be disturbed by the jarring sounds of construction, especially if pile driving is used to hammer the steel turbine platform into the seafloor.
The noises, though short-lived, could impede communication between animals, divert them from migration routes or cause them to seek less suitable areas for feeding or breeding. Research from Europe found that harbor porpoises, seals and dolphins may avoid development areas during construction. In most, but not all cases, the animals were believed to have returned to the area following construction.
The biggest concern for conservation groups in the United States is the critically endangered North American right whale. There are fewer than 400 remaining, and the species' habitat overlaps with a number of planned wind development areas along the East Coast.
"Offshore wind is in no way the cause of the challenges the whales face, but it's going to be another pressure point," says John Rogers, senior energy analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Researchers aren't sure how right whales will respond to the noise from pile driving.
"But we are concerned, based on what we know about how whales react to other noise sources, that they may avoid [wind development] areas," says Kershaw.
And if that displacement causes them to miss out on important food resources, it could be dangerous for a species already on the brink.
There are a few other potential threats, too.
Ships associated with the development — more plentiful during construction — also pose a danger. In the past few years cargo ships, fishing boats and other vessels have caused half of all deaths of North Atlantic right whales.
A juvenile right whale breaches against the backdrop of a ship near the St. Johns River entrance. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission / NOAA Research Permit #775-1600-10
And after construction, the noise from the spinning turbines will be present in the water at low decibels. "We don't quite know how the great whales will react to those sounds," says Jeremy Firestone, the director of the Center for Research in Wind at the University of Delaware.
Other marine mammals may also perceive the noise, but at low decibels it's unlikely to be an impediment, research has found.
And it's possible that wind development could help some ocean life. Turbine foundations can attract fish and invertebrates for whom hard substrates create habitat complexity — known as the "reef effect," according to researchers from the University of Rhode Island's Discovery of Sound in the Sea program. Exclusion of commercial fishing nearby may also help shelter fish and protect marine mammals from entanglements in fishing gear.
Ensuring Safe Development
Despite the potential dangers, researchers have gathered a few best practices to help diminish and possibly eliminate some risks.
When it comes to ship strikes, the easiest thing is to slow boats down, mandating a speed of 10 knots in wind development areas, and using visual and acoustic monitoring for whales.
Adjusting operations to reduce boat trips between the shore and the wind development will also help. A new series of service operating vessels can allow maintenance staff to spent multiple days onsite, says Kershaw, cutting down on boat traffic.
For construction noise concerns, developers can avoid pile driving during times of the year when whales are present. And, depending on the marine environment, developers could use "quiet foundations" that don't require pile driving. These include gravity-based or suction caisson platforms.
Floating turbines are also used in deep water, where they're effectively anchored in place — although that poses its own potential danger. "We have concerns that marine debris could potentially become entangled around the mooring cables of the floating arrays and pose a secondarily entanglement risk to some species," says Felton, who thinks more research should be conducted before those become operational in U.S. waters — a process that's already underway in Maine, where a demonstration project is being built.
If loud noises are unavoidable during construction, noise-reducing technologies such as bubble curtains can help dampen the sound. And scheduling adjacent projects to conduct similar work at the same time could limit the duration of disturbances.
The foundation installation of the off shore wind farm Sandbank using a bubble curtain. Vattenfall / Ulrich Wirrwa / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Once turbines become operational, reducing the amount of light on wind platforms or using flashing lights could help deter some seabirds, NRDC researchers reported. And scientists are exploring using ultrasonic noises and ultraviolet lighting to keep bats away. "Feathering," or shutting down the turbine blades during key migration times, could also help prevent fatalities.
"We need to make sure that offshore wind is the best steward it can be of the marine ecosystem, because we want and expect it to be a significant part of the clean energy picture in some parts of the country," says Rogers. "We also have to recognize that we're going to learn by doing, and that some of these things we're going to figure out best once we have more turbines in the water."
That's why environmental groups say it's important to establish baseline information on species before projects begin, and then require developers to conduct monitoring during construction and for years after projects are operational.
Employing an "adaptive management framework" will ensure that developers can adjust their management practices as they go when new information becomes available, and that those best practices are incorporated into the requirements for future projects.
Putting Research Into Action
Advancing these conversations at the federal level during the Trump administration, though, has been slow going.
"We didn't really have any productive discussions with the administration in the last four years," says Kershaw.
And when it comes to birds, Felton says the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's recently completed "draft cumulative environmental impact statement" covering offshore wind developments had a lot of good environmental research, but little focus on birds.
"Part of that comes from the current administration's interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act," she says.
President Trump has been hostile to both wind energy and birds, and finished gutting the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in his administration's the final days, removing penalties for companies whose operations kill migratory birds.
There's hope that the Biden administration will take a different approach. But where the federal government has been lacking lately, Kershaw says, they've seen states step up.
New York, for example, has established an Environmental Technical Working Group composed of stakeholders to advise on environmentally responsible development of offshore wind.
The group is led by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, but it isn't limited to the Empire State. It's regional in focus and includes representatives from wind developers with leases between Massachusetts and North Carolina; state agencies from Massachusetts to Virginia; federal agencies; and science-based environmental NGOs.
New York's latest solicitation for clean energy projects includes up to 2,500 megawatts of offshore wind and requires developers to contribute at least $10,000 per megawatt for regional monitoring of fisheries and other wildlife.
Environmental groups have also worked directly with developers, including an agreement with Vineyard Wind — an 800-megawatt project off the Massachusetts coast that could be the first utility-scale wind development in federal waters — to help protect North Atlantic right whales.
The agreement includes no pile driving from Jan. 1 to April 30, ceasing activities at other times when whales are visually or acoustically identified in the area, speed restrictions on vessels, and the use of noise reduction technology, such as a bubble curtain during pile driving.
"The developers signed the agreement with us, and then they incorporated, most, if not all of those measures into the federal permitting documents," says Kershaw. "The developers really did a lot of bottom up work to make sure that they were being very protective of right whales."
Environmental groups are in talks with other developers on agreements too, but Felton wants to see best practices being mandated at the federal level.
"It's the sort of a role that should be being played by the federal government, and without that it makes the permitting and regulation process less stable and less transparent," she says." And that in turn slows down the build out of projects, which is also bad for birds because it doesn't help us address and mitigate for climate change."
Kershaw agrees there's a lot more work to be done, especially at the federal level, but thinks we're moving in the right direction.
"I think the work that's been done so far in the United States has really laid the groundwork for advancing this in the right way and in a way that's protective of species and the environment," she says. "At the same time, it's important that offshore wind does advance quickly. We really need it to help us combat the worst effects of climate change."
Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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Few structures are as synonymous with modern civilization as the skyscraper. The grandeur of these tall structures comes at a cost—buildings account for close to 40 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
While our tallest buildings take a heavy toll on the environment, they also offer opportunities for improvement. Today, green skyscrapers are transforming how cities worldwide address their ecological footprint. In many ways, they show our collective capability to adjust modern life for a more sustainable future. Here's a closer look at what makes a "green skyscraper" and why that matters in the world today.
What Makes a Skyscraper Green?
Skyscrapers are typically defined as buildings with multiple levels that reach at least 100-150 meters tall (usually with a minimum of 40-50 stories).
At first glance, "green" and "skyscraper" seem like an oxymoron. These gargantuan glass-sided buildings require immense amounts of resources for both construction and daily operation. The environmental cost of keeping them comfortable is significant alone, as air conditioning accounts for 14 percent of global energy use.
Green skyscrapers, in contrast, make environmental sustainability a defining priority. There's no set standard for what makes skyscrapers green, but rather dozens of steps architects and building managers can take to make the structure as resource-efficient as possible.
In this way, green skyscrapers utilize sustainable design, construction, and operation principles to produce a better indoor space for both people and the broader world.
Many generate their own renewable energy through solar panels or wind turbines, while others focus on reducing water usage with ultra-efficient fixtures. Some even transform the building's exterior into a verdant green space filled with plants that pull in CO2 from the air and convert it into oxygen.
Are Green Skyscrapers Better Than Green Buildings?
Considering how resource-intensive skyscrapers are to begin with, is attempting to make them more eco-friendly a waste of effort? After all, it will always take tremendous amounts of energy to get hot water up 80 stories to a penthouse apartment. Some may argue society's time would be better spent investing in smaller-scale structures instead.
However, comparing a green skyscraper to other forms of green buildings is flawed logic. Living in an environmentally efficient single-family home may be a sustainable choice, but only at the scale of the individual. When it comes to housing millions of people, a city of skyscrapers wins out over smaller dwellings.
That's because skyscrapers offer some of the most energy-efficient spaces in cities by concentrating people and resources in one place. Not only does this reduce transportation distances and encourage people to walk or take public transit instead of drive, but it slows down suburban sprawl and keeps untouched land out of development.
What are the Benefits of Green Skyscrapers?
Far beyond generating positive press for their architects, green skyscrapers offer real benefits for humans and the natural world. Here's what they offer.
May Increase Greenspace
Skyscrapers typically exist in places with minimal greenspace. An emerging trend is to bring the natural world back to the city by creating vertical forests on the sides of buildings. Today, some structures are home to hundreds of plant species that grow along the exterior, supporting biodiversity by providing homes for birds and insects.
Reduces CO2 Emissions
Buildings generate a disproportionate amount of the world's greenhouse gasses, and sustainable construction and operation can reduce emissions considerably. The UNEP Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative predicts that the building sector has the potential to more than halve these emissions in skyscrapers by 2050 through greater energy efficiency and the switch to renewable energy.
For example, Australian buildings that achieve Green Star certification produce 62 percent fewer emissions and require 51 percent less potable water than comparable structures. Similarly certified buildings in India, South Africa, and the United States also achieve emissions reductions approaching 25-50 percent by investing in green technologies for skyscrapers.
Lowers Energy Expenditure for Tenants
Living or working in a green skyscraper can reduce your personal energy expenditure. One Chicago-based study found that those living in suburban areas close to commuter rail lines and the subway system used 27 percent more energy per person than those who lived in green architecture high-rise buildings in a walkable downtown environment.
Reduces Need for Heating and Cooling
The EPA states that heating and cooling accounts for over 43 percent of all energy use in America, which makes maintaining comfortable temperatures in indoor spaces a serious cause of climate change.
By utilizing more energy-efficient windows, optimizing cooling systems, and even planting shade plants along the exterior and around windows, green skyscrapers can bring their heating and air conditioning use down to a minimum.
Provides Physical and Mental Health Benefits for Tenants
Living and working in green buildings can have real impacts on your health, thanks to better air quality. Research shows that green buildings reduce asthma, respiratory allergies, stress, and even depression among employees and lead to improvements in productivity.
Further data indicates that better indoor air quality can lead to performance improvements up to eight percent and that workers in well-ventilated apartments received better scores on cognitive tests.
Lower Maintenance Costs
Building a green skyscraper might cost more upfront, but the sustainability measures usually pay for themselves.
LEED-certified buildings tend to achieve 20 percent lower maintenance costs than comparable buildings. These green retrofits usually decrease operating costs by ten percent each year and pay for themselves within seven.
That's even better news for landlords, as rents in LEED-certified buildings often average 30 percent higher.
Less Use of Natural Resources
Green buildings are efficient by design. This means they use less water, energy, and other resources than comparable buildings.
These savings add up fast, as buildings account for 12 percent of the total water consumed in the United States. Research shows that LEED-certified facilities use 25 percent less energy on average and divert more than 80 million tons of waste from landfills every year.
Are Green Skyscrapers Too Good To Be True?
Despite these benefits, green skyscrapers aren't a panacea for our planet's environmental crisis. Even the best-designed structures today still have drawbacks.
To start, clusters of tall towers produce enormous shadows that shade out the streets below and trap heat and pollution at ground level. Not only does this reduce the quality of life for those living below the top suites, but it can increase the amount of air conditioning and electric lighting used at lower levels.
Likewise, some reports indicate that green building certifications aren't as stellar as they seem. For example, many argue that LEED criteria over-emphasizes construction choices and fails to fully account for how a building is used in the long run. This can reward flashier projects without putting the spotlight on the structures that make more of a difference for the planet on a day-to-day basis.
Even so, the benefits of learning how to make skyscrapers green seem to far outweigh the drawbacks, and they remain a smart solution for building more sustainable cities.
Green Skyscrapers Worldwide
Globally, green skyscrapers are taking off. Here's a closer look at some of the standout sustainable structures around the world today.
Green Skyscrapers in China
In past decades, China wouldn't come to mind as an emblem of sustainability. The country burns close to half the world's coal supply and is home to some of the most polluted air on the planet. By some estimates, it kills up to 4,000 citizens a day.
Today, the country is transforming this legacy and constructing some of the world's greenest skyscrapers.
The International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong is one worthy of attention. Constructed in 2010, the 108-story tall structure has LEED gold certification, earning it a place in the top 3 percent of green buildings worldwide.
The building boasts a network of sensors that wirelessly monitor the building's lighting, elevators, air conditioning units, and more to provide massive amounts of data for optimizing its energy use in real-time. This makes it possible to shut down unused facilities at a moment's notice to prevent any unnecessary energy expenditures.
From a construction standpoint, the ICC is oriented to maximize natural light retention while minimizing solar heat gain and lowering noise levels for occupants. By some estimates, the green building tower has conserved 15 million kWh of energy since 2012, equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 4,500 three-member households in China.
The Jin Mao Tower of Shanghai is another green skyscraper that's achieved LEED Gold certification. It has committed to reusing or recycling at least 70 percent of all the waste generated over its 88 stories. Likewise, the Kingkey 100 Tower of Shenzhen reclaims its resource use by halving the amount of wastewater it generates and by using 100 percent of its used potable water for landscaping.
Not to be forgotten is the Shanghai Tower, which boasts being both the tallest building in China (the second tallest worldwide) and of achieving LEED Platinum status, the highest green building certification level possible.
Bosco Verticale of Milan
Perhaps no building better emulates the ideal of a green skyscraper than the Bosco Verticale of Milan. Translating to "vertical forest" in Italian, these twin buildings' exteriors are home to more than 800 trees and 14,000 plants growing along their balconies to create a vertical forest.
Not only are these plants beautiful to look at, but they consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen in its place while acting as a natural temperature regulator and noise buffer for those within the building. In total, the skyscrapers provide ten times the plant habitat space that would be possible at ground level.
Today, the Bosco Verticale is fast becoming the poster child for green buildings and has inspired numerous imitations worldwide.
Vertical Farming and Green Skyscrapers
Beyond better resource use, some of the most significant potential for sustainable skyscrapers is through food production.
As things stand now, the world's farmers have over seven billion mouths to feed. The UN estimates that the planet's population will approach ten billion by 2050, close to 80 percent of whom will live in urban areas. To keep up with these caloric needs, global food production must increase by an estimated 70 percent.
One way to meet this deficit is by growing food where the people are—in the middle of cities. Vertical farming is the practice of growing food indoors in vertically stacked layers, rather than in fields. Most utilize a hydroponic system where plants grow soil-less and within a continuously circulating nutrient-rich water.
These indoor growing systems make it possible to control every variable for plant growth, including temperature, light exposure, moisture level, and more. By optimizing growing conditions, producers can generate large yields with less water, minimal amounts of amendments, and in far less space than traditional growing systems.
The goal is to grow as much food as possible within a small space, ideally keeping it close to the people who will consume it. This eliminates the risk that erratic weather poses for traditional farmers, makes it possible to grow out of season, and can reduce fuel use for transportation.
However, vertical farms are costly to develop and don't account for some agriculture factors like pollination. Likewise, the food they produce requires 24/7 access to technology—an unexpected power outage can spell disaster.
Despite these drawbacks, the vertical farming industry is starting to take off in the United States. Many skyscrapers incorporate these farms into their overall green scheme, as food production pairs well with renewable energy generation and water conservation measures.
In 2009, the world reached a critical milestone. For the first time in history, more people made a city their home than a rural space. This trend towards urbanization shows no sign of slowing down, so it's never been more critical to increase the sustainability of our cities. Green skyscrapers are poised to address an important component of this equation.
When set up correctly, they offer one of the lowest per-capita carbon footprints possible for a large population. Looking ahead, there's more reason than ever to invest in sustainable housing and office space within dense urban environments.
By finding ways to make the places we live and work lighter on the environment, we are more likely to maintain a planet worth passing down to future generations.
Lydia Noyes is a freelance writer specializing in health and wellness, food and farming, and environmental topics. When not working against a writing deadline, you can find Lydia outdoors where she attempts to bring order to her 33-acre hobby farm filled with fruit trees, heritage breed pigs, too many chickens to count, and an organic garden that somehow gets bigger every year.
In 2017 the Trump administration altered the interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) arguing that it only prohibited the direct hunting or killing of birds, not unintended deaths from wind turbines or oil spills, for example, EcoWatch reported at the time.
The change "overturned decades of bipartisan and international consensus and allowed industry to kill birds with impunity," Interior Spokesperson Tyler Cherry told The Associated Press.
Obama U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe warned that the change could lead to billions of bird deaths in subsequent decades, The Associated Press reported at the time.
Before Monday's reversal of this interpretation by Biden's Department of the Interior, the Trump ruling had already encountered legal challenges. In August, a New York federal judge deemed the new interpretation to be invalid.
"It is not only a sin to kill a mockingbird, it is also a crime," U.S. District Judge Valorie Caproni wrote in her decision. "That has been the letter of the law for the past century. But if the Department of the Interior has its way, many mockingbirds and other migratory birds that delight people and support ecosystems throughout the country will be killed without legal consequence."
The Trump administration moved forward despite the decision, and finalized the rollback during its last weeks in power.
However, Biden's administration delayed the new rule from taking effect and reopened it for public comments, HuffPost reported. Now that it has been jettisoned, Cherry said a replacement rule would be forthcoming.
"The department will also reconsider its interpretation of the MBTA to develop common-sense standards that can protect migratory birds and provide certainty to industry," Cherry told Courthouse News Service.
The 1918 MBTA resulted from overhunting and poaching of migratory birds, The Associated Press reported. The policy makes it illegal to pursue, hunt, kill, capture or possess migratory birds or their parts without a permit, HuffPost explained. Since the 1970s, the act has also been used to penalize companies when their actions accidentally harm birds.
For example, the act helped win a $100 million settlement from BP after the company's 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico killed about 100,000 birds, The Associated Press reported.
It's estimated that around 460 million to 1.4 billion birds die every year from human-made causes, including oil pits and glass buildings. Between 2010 and 2018, civil and criminal enforcement cases against companies led to $5.8 million in fines, excluding the BP settlement. However, most of those cases did not lead to criminal prosecutions since many companies were willing to implement bird protections.
While industry groups backed the Trump rollback, they also did not oppose the Biden reversal.
"We are committed to working with the Biden administration throughout their rulemaking process in support of policies that support environmental protection while providing regulatory certainty," Amy Emmert, American Petroleum Institute senior policy advisor, told Courthouse News Service.
Conservation groups said this general atmosphere of cooperation made the Trump rollback unwarranted.
"There really had been a lot of collaboration and a fair amount of consensus about what best management practices looked like for most major industries," Sarah Greenberger, senior vice president with the Audubon Society, told The Associated Press. "There was a lot of common ground, which is why the moves from the last administration were so unnecessary."
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By Rich Collett-White and Rachel Sherrington
Fossil fuel companies could face legal challenges over their misleading advertising, after a DeSmog investigation uncovered the extent of their "greenwashing."
Environmental lawyers ClientEarth have put companies on notice with the publication of the Greenwashing Files. The analyses, which use DeSmog's research, show how adverts of major fossil fuel companies and energy producers continue to overemphasize their green credentials, giving the public a misleading impression of their businesses.
DeSmog analyzed the advertising output of Aramco, Chevron, Drax, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Ineos, RWE, Shell and Total, and compared this with the reality of the companies' current and future business activities.
ClientEarth submitted a complaint against BP's advertising in 2019, before the company decided to withdraw its "Possibilities Everywhere" campaign. The lawyers say other fossil fuel companies could face similar challenges if they mislead the public through their advertising. The group is calling for tobacco-style advertising bans and health warnings to counter fossil fuel companies' "deceptive" marketing.
DeSmog's investigation found messaging that touts companies' climate pledges without being transparent about their large emissions contributions is widespread across advertising campaigns and social media promotions.
The adverts regularly highlight the companies' preferred solutions to climate change — from carbon capture and storage, to experimental algae biofuels, and investment in renewable energy sources — without being open about the small percentage of overall investment allocated to these technologies, nor their various limitations.
The Greenwashing Files lay bare the contrast between the public image these adverts create, and the reality of the fossil fuel companies' activities.
All companies featured in this article were contacted for comment.
ExxonMobil – 'Powering Progress'
"We're working on ways to provide energy while addressing the risks of climate change, producing clean-burning natural gas to reduce emissions from power plants, capturing CO2 before it reaches the atmosphere, and exploring unexpected energy sources like biofuels made from algae," a reassuring voice tells us in Exxon's "Powering Progress" advert – one of several released in recent years that present the US oil giant as a leader in green technologies.
But while the ad shows Exxon scientists hard at work developing "algae farms" and technology designed to suck carbon dioxide from the air, its business activities tell a different story.
Exxon is increasingly an outlier among fossil fuel companies and other major emitters, having refused to set an absolute emissions reduction target, opting instead for gradual "carbon intensity" reductions which still allow for overall emissions to increase. It has no plans to cut oil and gas production, which energy analysts say is urgently needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
While Exxon remains responsible for a significant portion of global emissions – with documents in 2019 revealing a total annual output roughly equivalent to that of Canada – its spending on clean energies has been a tiny fraction of its investments, with just 0.2 percent of its investment in new projects going to low carbon sources between 2010 and 2018.
And while "Powering Progress" and other ads put Exxon's investments in algae biofuels at the fore, it has spent just $300 million on the technology in a decade, compared with yearly capital investment of around $20 billion. Experts doubt whether the technology will ever be commercially viable or usable at scale.
RWE – 'We are the new RWE'
A video by German energy giant RWE takes the viewer through landmark inventions that have spurred on human civilisation since the industrial revolution – the light bulb, the radio, mass transport – before arriving at the present day. "Every time has its energy," the ad tells us, adding that "times are changing. Society is changing. Companies are changing, and we are changing too."
The images cut to wind turbines, and the forces of nature that are powering what we are told is today's "renewable age." The company positions itself at the heart of this transition, telling the viewer it is "focusing on renewable energies and storage, for a sustainable world," and that it is providing "clean, reliable and affordable" energy as part of its transition to "the new RWE."
The campaign accompanies pledges to become "carbon neutral" by 2040 and oversee a significant expansion into wind and solar energy.
But the growth of RWE's low-carbon activities has not been matched by an exit from fossil fuels. RWE remains the largest emitter in Europe, according to a recent study by Greenpeace, and its three major lignite coal-fired power stations all feature in the EU's top five highest-emitting plants. Under current plans, it will continue to generate coal-fired electricity until the end of 2038, almost a decade after the deadline recommended for OECD countries by climate experts, at the same time as expanding its already significant fossil gas business.
Despite its claims to focus on clean energy, 80 percent of the company's energy still comes from non-renewable sources, mostly highly-polluting brown coal, hard coal and gas. The company also counts controversial and carbon-intensive biomass amongst its "renewable" energy sources despite warnings from scientists over its use.
Drax – 'Beyond Coal'
Drax, another energy company that now relies heavily on biomass and operates the UK's largest power station in North Yorkshire, has worked hard to bolster its green credentials in recent years, positioning itself as an ally in the fight against climate change.
Last year, it released an advert celebrating the company's shift away from coal-fired energy production, which it completed in March. Set to an uplifting soundtrack, the video calls the move a "major step towards Drax's ambition to become carbon negative by 2030," while touting a new "Zero Carbon Skills Taskforce" to ensure the surrounding area "isn't defined by its past, but by its future."
A 2020 year-in-review video meanwhile describes Drax as "among Europe's lowest carbon intensity power generators," producing "77 percent renewable electricity."
But the company's claims about the climate-friendliness of biomass, which has now taken over from coal as the principal source of energy at its power station thanks to generous government subsidies, have been widely disputed. Burning wood pellets has been found to be more carbon-intensive than fossil fuels in most circumstances, while experts doubt that trees planted in their place can re-absorb the carbon dioxide emitted, on a meaningful timescale.
Carbon capture and storage – another key plank of Drax's low-carbon strategy – remains uneconomical at scale, with the company's own use of the technology still in the pilot phase.
In response to questions from DeSmog, Drax said emissions from biomass energy are "already accounted for in the land-use sector and therefore considered carbon neutral at the point of combustion," in line with "established global best practice" set out by the UN IPCC.
It also said biomass should be considered renewable "because the forests we source from are growing and storing more carbon" and pointed to its plans for a bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) unit by 2027, "creating tens of thousands of jobs" and "permanently removing millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year."
Aramco – 'The Moment is Now'
The Saudi Arabian state-owned oil and gas giant, Aramco, became the most valuable listed company in history when it floated on the stock market at the end of 2019. But the fossil fuel behemoth is at pains to assure viewers it is concerned about more than just its bottom line.
In an advert titled "The Moment is Now," an Aramco employee tells a lecture theatre full of colleagues that "as we open up to the world, we know more than ever before that we must continue towards a sustainable future."
"We value the natural resources we discover but never forget it is our human energy that drives us to create a better world," she says to the audience, who reward her presentation with a standing ovation.
Elsewhere, the company insists it is driven by a "commitment to preserving the environment because protecting our planet is one of our most important values."
That's despite the company being the world's largest corporate greenhouse gas emitter, responsible for an estimated four percent of all global emissions since 1965.
Aramco's oil and gas reserves total more than those of ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP and Total combined, while the company refuses to disclose its full emissions. Its majority shareholder, the Saudi Arabian government, has been at the forefront of efforts to stall international action on climate change for decades. At the last UN climate talks in Madrid, over a third of Saudi Arabia's representatives were associated with the oil and gas industry, many with Aramco.
Equinor – 'This is what changed us.'
Previously trading under the name Statoil, the Norwegian state-owned oil and gas company Equinor rebranded in 2018, with the hope of highlighting its transformation into a "broad energy company" and its growing low-carbon energy division.
Equinor explained its reasons for the name change in an advert called "Equinor. This is what changed us." Scenes of raging storms and melting ice caps are displayed while the narrator says: "Some changes are so profound that they transcend everything. Changes that require us to find a new balance."
In a more recent ad, the company insists that "emissions must come down and it must happen fast."
Equinor is certainly taking steps to increase its investments in low-carbon technologies, with plans to up its renewable energy capacity to 4-6 gigawatts by 2026, and has set a "net zero" emissions target for 2050.
But this shift is largely in addition to, rather than in place of, its core oil and gas business. The company is still exploring for more oil and gas reserves and does not intend to start reducing its fossil fuel production before 2030. Last year, it opened the largest oil field in Western Europe and is heavily involved in ventures in the Arctic.
Equinor promotes natural gas as the "perfect fuel to balance renewable energy" and was given a warning two years ago by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority for claiming the fuel was a "low-carbon" energy source.
Another technology the company touts is carbon capture and storage (CCS), but all of the projects it is involved in currently amount to less than three percent of its overall emissions.
ClientEarth lawyer Johnny White said the collection of adverts showed the fossil fuel companies were involved in a "great deception."
"We need to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. But instead of leading a low-carbon transition, these companies are putting out advertising which distracts the public and launders their image," he said.
"These adverts are misrepresenting the true nature of companies' businesses, of their contribution to climate change, and of their transition plans," he added, saying that "we cannot underestimate the real world impact this advertising has on the pace of change."
You can find the full set of adverts and analyses here.
Additional research by Michaela Herrmann. Edited by Mat Hope.
Disclaimer: ClientEarth lawyer Sophie Marjanac sits on the board of DeSmog UK Ltd.
Reposted with permission from DeSmog.