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Green Technology

RiverWatch Technology Provides Solution for Polluted Water

September 25, 2017
RiverWatch Technology

To efficiently combat water pollution, scientists, environmental groups, governments and citizens need access to accurate information about water quality. Unfortunately, this data has historically been hard to come by — especially for citizens. The reason is simple: modern technology is expensive and complex. Because of this, water quality isn’t regularly tested in many areas throughout the world.

Here’s the good news: a project out of New Zealand — where water quality data is available for less than 10 percent of the waterways — is seeking to change that with a new device known as RiverWatch.

What is RiverWatch Technology? 

A group called Water Action Initiative (WAI) along with students from Victoria University developed a device that measures water quality and makes the data available to the public.

The device, called RiverWatch, is designed for placement in waterways either on a temporary or permanent basis. It measures pH levels, chemical composition, temperature, conductivity, turbidity and discoloration. WAI then uploads that information to its website and makes it available on a phone app.

The solar-powered RiverWatch device is designed to be cost-effective and easy to use. The base unit can be built for one-tenth the price of current monitoring technology, the company claims. Each unit costs around $2,000. And since WAI is a non-profit organization, its income goes back into conservation efforts.

RiverWatch won the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) 2016 Conservation Innovation Award and is a finalist in the 2017 Wellington Gold Awards. The organization plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign soon to start producing the device.

The Importance of Water Quality

Water analysis technology has seen rapid growth in recent years thanks to major advances in optical sensors and biosensors. These new technologies have enabled remote sensing and the use of smart technologies that provide real-time information and insights. Robotic fish equipped with small sensors have even been used to locate sources of hazardous pollution.

Water quality also has significant impacts on human health, the economy and the environment, and over the next 100 years, clean water will become increasingly scarce. Unsafe or insufficient water, hygiene and sanitation lead to an estimated 3.1 percent of all deaths worldwide and a number of health conditions.

Water pollution also harms the livelihoods of people who depend on water to make a living, including fishermen and some of those in the tourism industry. Although monitoring and improving water quality can be expensive, the economic impacts make these efforts worthwhile. It’s estimated that every dollar invested in sanitation and drinking water results in $3 to $34 in economic development.

The founders of RiverWatch hope their device will provide more people with the information they need to fix water pollution problems by providing efficient monitoring at an affordable cost. By making this information available to more people, water quality may rise around the world, leading to improved environmental, human and economic health.

Green Technology

Can Solar Energy Reduce Global Temperatures by Harnessing Sunlight?

September 11, 2017
Solar Energy

Solar energy does have the potential to reduce global temperatures, though, in order to make any impact, it would need to be used more frequently and replace the use of traditional fossil fuels.

In 2011, 0.5 percent of the world’s energy came from solar energy, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. By comparison, in 2013, the World Energy Council reported 80 percent of the world’s energy came from fossil fuels.

Global Temperature Rise

When fossil fuels are burned, carbon dioxide releases into the atmosphere. Though carbon dioxide has the ability to escape the atmosphere, it happens at a slower rate than it is reintroduced through the burning of fossil fuels. The growing global population has led to an increased energy demand, which will lead to an increase in energy consumption and will inevitably lead to an increase in global temperatures.

If solar energy were used in place of fossil fuels, carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by up to 90 percent. Unlike fossil fuel, solar energy doesn’t release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and therefore, doesn’t contribute to the global temperature rise. Global temperatures could actually decline as more carbon dioxide may leave the atmosphere through plants and outer-space than was generated through energy consumption.

Urban Heat Index

The Urban Heat Index (UHI), or the heat island phenomenon, is the increased temperature in urban areas caused by human activities. Primarily, the UHI is caused by changes in land usage. The secondary cause of UHI is the generation of waste heat by electricity usage. The UHI effect can range anywhere from one to six degrees higher from neighboring rural areas in the daytime, and can hit 22 degrees higher during the night.

Solar energy can reduce the effects of the UHI by blocking the amount of heat absorbed by a building and the other materials in urban landscapes. This can cause an increased need for additional energy consumption during the winter, but in turn, reduces the need for air conditioning in the summer. Global climates that experience mild winters and hotter summers may benefit the most from the installation of solar energy technologies.

Current Solar Energy Technology

Three types of solar energy technology are presently utilized, including concentrated solar energy (CSE), solar thermal energy and photovoltaic systems, more commonly known as solar panels. Concentrated solar energy and solar thermal energy both use mirrors to direct the sun’s energy onto a receiver, which then transfers the energy to a carrier medium, which is heated, and then drives a steam turbine. Solar panels generate electricity when particles of light, known as photons, remove electrons from the atoms on the photovoltaic cells in the solar panels.

All three types of solar energy technology are produced using heavy metals and fossil fuels during the manufacturing process, which negatively impact the global temperature rise.

Drawbacks

Global climates with high levels of annual precipitation or those subject to overcast conditions could lack the ability to generate enough solar energy to meet their needs, which would require them to rely on fossil fuels or an alternate energy source to make up the difference.

Solar energy can’t be generated at night. Countries at higher latitudes with less sunlight in the winter may not be viable candidates for solar power year-round and need to investigate alternatives.

As a whole, the components used to generate solar energy are more expensive than those used to generate energy from fossil fuels.

Ultimately, though solar energy has the potential to reduce the overall global temperature, it isn’t likely enough countries could afford to convert from burning fossil fuels to make a large enough impact.

Green Technology

What Is the Future of Gas and Oil Companies?

September 1, 2017
Future of gas and oil

The future of gas and oil companies seems to have drastically altered in the past few years. It’s shaped economies and political landscapes. We use oil and gas to get much of our energy and the heat for our homes. We use gasoline to fuel our vehicles.

Oil and gas companies, however, typically don’t have the best reputation. Many people consider them money-hungry and get lots of press coverage for oil spills and other accidents.

This, as well as the emissions they release, makes them less than popular with environmentally minded folks. While more eco-friendly than coal, they aren’t as green as renewables like hydro, solar and wind, which have no emissions, so what does this mean for the future of gas and oil companies?

Changes in the Market

Oil and natural gas changed the electricity market dramatically, and it’s still going through changes. In a recent Department of Energy report, which Energy Secretary Rick Perry ordered, researchers cited the economic advantages of natural gas as the main reason for the closure of a number of coal and nuclear plants.

They also named the increasing popularity of renewables as a secondary reason for the shutdowns. Over the last decade, the percentage of energy demand met by renewables in the U.S. almost doubled, driven by solar and wind. People have been increasingly installing solar panels on their rooftops and opting for electric cars as well.

Green Initiatives

In response to these changes, oil and gas companies have been either continuing with their usual practices or starting, perhaps hesitantly, to make their businesses a little bit greener.

Oil companies have in the past funded research into new energy resources or low-carbon technologies. Exxon Mobil, for example, funded algae biofuel research in 2009 to the tune of $100 billion. It canceled the project due to a lack of economic feasibility.

Some activists claimed the project was a scam meant to show that alternatives to oil aren’t viable. Other oil companies, too, have started and then stopped green initiatives.

Cleaner Oil and Gas?

New technologies aimed at making oil and gas — as well as other emissions-heavy technologies — cleaner are also now making their way to the forefront of energy industry discussions. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) have the potential to capture up to 90 percent of carbon emissions before they’re released into the atmosphere.

Those captured emissions may then be stored underground or used for other purposes. These technologies are currently being researched and developed, but if they make it to implementation, they may make natural gas and oil greener resources.

Investing in Renewables

The renewable energy market is still much smaller than that of the oil and gas industry, but it’s growing at a rate that makes it impossible for oil and gas companies to ignore. They’ve shown some interest in investing in renewables, but it’s difficult to say how exactly that will transpire. Oil companies have invested in renewables before but eventually backed off.

Oil companies have realized that renewables are a potential threat to their business. Shell even released a report that found solar could become the dominant energy source by the end of this century.

Because of the growth of renewable resources and the technological momentum behind that growth, oil and gas companies are starting to invest in solar, wind, battery technologies and more. Oil companies in Europe especially are getting in on the renewables market to protect the future of their business.

The energy market is undergoing significant shifts due to technological, regulatory, economic and other changes. While the oil and gas industry is still strong now, things may change in the future. What the future of gas and oil companies looks like depends on how they adapt to market demands.

Green Technology

How to Be More Eco-Friendly Even If You Drive Everywhere

August 21, 2017
Eco-Friendly even if You Drive

“Go green” is a battle cry we hear now in every part of our lives. It’s a call to reduce our energy use and to use our resources more wisely. It challenges us to look inward and see where we can make changes to live a “greener” lifestyle. Some of our energy-wasting habits need only minor tweaks to make a difference.

But let’s face it — there are certain things you can’t change. If you live in New York and you have to go to a wedding in California, riding your bike there is probably out of the question. The easiest way to get there is by an energy-guzzling airplane.

How far you live from work will dictate your commute. There are limitations to how far you can realistically walk each day, and some routes aren’t navigable by bicycle. If you don’t live in a walkable, bikeable area, you may be forced to drive your car wherever you go — even if you are environmentally conscious. What are some things you can do to be more ecologically friendly, even if burning fossil fuel is a necessity for you?

Work from Home

The simplest solution — and the best way to save energy — is to not drive as often. See if your employers will allow you to work from home one day per week or more, as schedules and commitments allow. That saves trips to and from the office. Figure out how much gas you use each trip, and do the math. You will save energy, money and wear on your vehicle.

Share the Commute

Whether working from home is feasible or not, you can also save energy by carpooling with like-minded, energy-conscious coworkers. Minus the extra travel to each other’s homes, you’ll reduce energy use by one vehicle per person. This will give you extra time to strategize over work issues — or just gripe about them. It’s a great coworker bonding experience, as well.

Maintain Your Vehicle

No one likes to bring their vehicle into the dealership or service station if there is nothing wrong with it. Too often, it can feel like they are looking to “fix” things that aren’t broken, and you can almost feel their hands reaching into your wallet. But just like it’s best to see your doctor regularly before you are ill, it’s wise to have your vehicle regularly inspected.

Oil leaks pollute the environment. Inefficient engines waste gasoline. Your vehicle’s exhaust system cleans and minimizes the amount of harmful fumes entering our air. Some states require regular inspections to make sure they comply. The good news is, newer vehicles are equipped with warning lights to alert you of almost every problem you could be having.

But regular maintenance can mean catching those problems before a light goes on. There are also a few things you can do yourself — such as oil changes — which do not require a mechanic and a hefty service fee.

Maintain Adequate Tire Pressure

Tire pressure

You might not think too much about your tires, but everything rests on top of them! Tires need to be inflated to their proper pressure. This number is usually posted on a sticker inside the driver’s-side door. A typical commuter vehicle tire pressure is 30 to 35 pounds per square inch (PSI).

Invest in a tire pressure gauge, which should be easy to find at an auto supply store or any department or grocery store with an automotive section. Tires might look properly inflated, but don’t rely on eyeballing them — take a few minutes to check them weekly. Most vehicles have a tire pressure warning light that illuminates when the tire pressure is low. However, that light doesn’t come on until they are well below their required pressure.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, an underinflated tire will reduce gas mileage 0.4 percent for every one PSI. Again, do the math. It’s easy to waste gas without knowing, and even easier to prevent it. In addition to a tire gauge, it’s a good idea to invest in an electric air pump. They can be used remotely, powered by your vehicle’s auxiliary outlet and often come with gauges built in.

Be particularly careful in the winter, when colder temperatures can reduce tire pressure. In addition to underinflated tires lowering your vehicle’s MPG, they will also affect your ability to steer and brake in harsher driving conditions.

Drive Green

  • Plan your routes to conserve energy and save time. Combine errands into one efficient trip.
  • Don’t use the air conditioning without thinking about it. The AC takes a lot of extra energy and strains your engine. Listen to the sound when it’s on. That’s your engine making the extra effort to cool you down. Don’t suffer, but use it consciously.
  • Don’t speed excessively. The faster you drive, the more energy you use. It’s best to stay within the posted speed limit.
  • When approaching a red light, take your foot off the gas and decelerate gradually, rather than braking hard at the last moment. This conserves energy.
  • Don’t rapidly accelerate from a traffic light. It takes more power — and, therefore, more fuel — to move your vehicle that quickly.
  • Use cruise control to maintain a constant speed and make your drive more efficient.
  • If you are off the road and will be stopped for a long time, shut the engine off rather than leaving it running. Anything over a minute or two is wasting gasoline.

For most working people, a car is a realistic must, not a choice. No one wants to pollute the environment, but we need to drive to work to make money and support our families. We can control, limit and reduce our energy use, but we can’t stop it. If you must drive everywhere, do so as eco-consciously as possible, and spread the advice to your family, friends and coworkers.

Green Technology

Looking for a New Car? Here Are Some Green Car Options

July 14, 2017

Twenty years ago, finding something “environmentally friendly” to drive meant relegating yourself to a three-cylinder Geo or a moped. Technology has come a long, long way since the 90’s. With new restrictions from the EPA, and other groups forcing manufacturers to consider emissions in every model they produce, people are getting environmentally friendly cars they want to drive.

So now that you’ve got all these great choices, which one should you choose? Good question, depending on your needs from the car and how green you want to be, any of the cars listed here could be the right fit for you.

Toyota Prius

Run a search for “green car,” and this is the model that’s likely to come up. The Prius is currently in its fourth generation. That’s a testament to the car’s practicality and reliability, and if you’re not put off by the one-of-a-kind styling, the Prius can be a fantastic car to own.

With just over 120 horsepower, the Prius isn’t made for racing, but its electric motor provides the torque to get up to highway speed without fear of being crushed. The Prius shines in comfortably moving four people and their things over an impressive distance on very little “dinosaur gas.”

Hyundai Ioniq

It took the Korean Hyundai/Kia team a few years to catch up to other manufacturers, but their first attempt at a hybrid car is hailed as an instant hit. Part of what makes the Ioniq so likable is that it abandons the philosophy hybrids should stand out on the road. Instead, they made it look like a regular car and hey, people want to drive it!

The Ioniq is primarily a runabout due to its 124-mile range, but it does feature fast charging and performance comparable to the competition from Toyota and Ford.

Tesla Model 3

While it might not be an option until production recovers from the initial onslaught of public interest, the Model 3 should represent a real alternative for those who would otherwise buy a Prius.

Yes, its $35,000 price tag would require you to check every option on a Prius to even approach, but you never have to buy gas for the Tesla because it is entirely electric. The Tesla also outperforms the Prius and features the expected host of interior options that Tesla has made its name on, such as an expansive touch-screen center console.

Lexus CT 200h

What’s that you say? You’d buy a Prius if it weren’t so awkward to look at and had, perhaps, a nicer interior. Friend, look upon the used CT 200h and rejoice! If you’re not the type who’s read every word that Car & Driver has published in the last decade, you might have missed this car.

Just think of it as a Lexus Prius with a nice low price tag because, sadly, the CT is discontinued. People didn’t know where it fit-in, earning only 40+ mpg to the Prius’ 50+ and lacking the sporty nature of other small luxury cars. If you can getpast that, it’s got a comfy Lexus interior, handsome looks, and it will probably survive nuclear fallout.

Chevrolet Colorado Diesel

But these little cars can’t do work! It’s true, finding a work vehicle that can get the job done without polluting is hard. While one best-selling vehicle in America can be had with an “environmentally-friendly” turbo V6 sporting a name that rhymes with “piece of goose,” real-world testing exposes that engine’s environmental shortcomings.

The Colorado, however, uses an old-school eco-friendly approach; diesel. It can achieve over 30 mpg and thanks to its 370 ft. lbs. of torque, it can do all the towing and haul your full-size gasoline truck from 2004 could. Look for these to become gems on the resale market.

Make your Choice

These five options give you three different fuel types to choose from and represent everything from the bargain-basement to upscale luxury. If you thought going green meant making compromises, today’s car market will prove you wrong, because these are only the beginnings. Happy car shopping, keep it green!

Green Technology

How Does Wind Energy Compare With Other Renewable Energy?

June 19, 2017

What do LEGO, Google and IKEA all have in common? They use wind energy to help power their business—and they may have celebrated Global Wind Day on June 15.

While wind power may be a popular choice for companies like LEGO, it’s not everyone’s go-to renewable energy source. Other renewable options, like solar and geothermal energy, offer competitive benefits. So how does global wind stack up with other renewable energy sources? Let’s take a look.

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