Resolve to Be Green This New Year

It’s here, a brand new year. Time to reflect on the year behind us and plan for the year ahead. With all we try to resolve to do in the new year, one that many struggle with is how to incorporate more green practices into their lives. So we’ve compiled some simple ways you can resolve to be green this year!

1) Decrease Your Meat & Animal Product Consumption – While not everyone is ready to become 100% vegetarian, there is little doubt that eating less meat is one of the fastest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Pick one or two days a week where you will only cook vegetarian food. Find a good vegetarian food cooking book to learn the best recipes, and you’re set!

2) Seasonal Shopping – While it can be tempting to eat strawberries in winter, when they have been imported from halfway across the planet or grown in energy-hungry greenhouses, they’re hardly sustainable. Do some research into what is naturally grown in your area in the season, and prefer these. This way, you’ll also rediscover the pleasure of meals changing with the seasons!

3) Pedal Your Way Through the Year – People who re-start cycling to work and/ or the supermarket often say that it’s lovely to rediscover their neighborhood that way. In fact, unless you live in a very mountainous area, this could be the most relaxing resolution you take!

4) Bus it, Train it or Carpool it – Granted, in the middle of the mountains or when there is half metre of snow outside your door, cycling sounds less appealing. If that’s the case where you live, start using public transport to go to work and the supermarket. If public transport connections are poor in your area, then it’s time to wake up the local campaigner in you and ask for it – make 2011 the year when your community stood up for sustainability.

5) Green Your Abode – By now, I assume most of you have switched to CFL lightbulbs – so it’s time to take home efficiency to the next level. Check your house for heat loss (there are companies specialised in this if you don’t feel expert enough) and make it your DIY project in 2011 to fix them. If you haven’t yet, lower the thermostat during the night. The ideal temperature to sleep is around 16 degrees celsius. If that’s too cold for you, do it in steps – half a degree less each month. You might realise you even sleep better – and you will see it on your heating bill!

6) Toss Out The Toxins – This might take a while in research, so plan to do it over the whole year. From beauty products to clothes detergent and computer parts, we have become used to toxics products in our daily lives. Time to stop it. When buying new products, check what they are made of, and pick the one that will have the least toxic residues.

7) Take Care of What You Already Have – New cellphone? Must absolutely have the latest iPad? How about the newly released gaming console? Our consumption of electronics is reaching records. Make a break, and promise not to buy new electronics this year, unless the one you already have breaks down (and when it does, ensure it is recycled properly!).

8) Recycling 2.0 – You probably have two different bins in your kitchen, sorting your waste to have it recycled. It doesn’t end here though. In 2011, try to reduce the amount picked up by the garbage truck. If you have a garden, start your own compost. When you’re at the supermarket, prefer products that are not overpackaged (you know the one: plastics wrapped in plastic, itself wrapped in cardboard…). If there are to many of these items in your local supermarket, time to start campaigning! Write to the store manager and express your concerns – and convince your neighbours to do so as well.

9) Make More Outdoor Time – Learn to enjoy nature again. Make a habit of taking a weekly walk outside. We have become so used to live in our houses and in our cars, many people have no idea what nature looks like anymore.

10) Convince (at least) 3 friends to Go Green With You – Why three? Because almost everyone knows three people they can influence. If those three convince three more people next year and so on, we will grow a movement capable of protecting our planet – and the resolutions above will become a no brainer for everyone.


Fireworks to go ‘green’ for New Years holiday

A local firework company is promoting its eco-friendly, low emission fireworks in an effort to cut down pollution over the Chinese Lunar New Year. The fireworks, made to emit less sulphur dioxide, were first tested during Shanghai’s 2010 World Expo and are expected to take up half the wholesale market.

Shanghai Daily:

Jinqiling, a local fireworks company and responsible for purchasing and supplying fireworks to the city’s retailers, said it will introduce a new type of “green” fireworks this year instead of the regular ones. It said the new fireworks will take up half the wholesale market. The fireworks were first tested during the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

The excessive use of fireworks for celebratory occasions has come under scrutiny this year due to their potential contribution to smog. During the peak of the 2013 holiday, Shanghai’s PM2.5 levels jumped up to 523.

Sales of electronic fireworks rose this past year, but city workers say they haven’t had any substantial impact.

“From the trash, we can see that electronic fireworks are far from popular. The majority still favor traditional ones,” one of the city’s sanitation workers said.

Beijing’s Hebei Hubei province even resorted to implementing a village-wide firework ban eight years ago to reduce the noise and promote better air quality. “Now during Spring Festival holidays people can leave their windows open and can freely engage with each other in all kinds of hearty activities without being disturbed. All the residents were in agreement that their community is so much better now,” Danwei reported this year.

The “green” fireworks promise to deliver similar visual effects to general fireworks at an equal price, but some city residents are skeptical.

“We can celebrate this festival in other ways, for example, having hotpot together,” one man named Tang said to the Daily.

We only hope we can rely on the eco-friendly variety to produce that same raucous pop that startles us out of bed at the earliest light of day for weeks straight.


Solar Power Poised For A Huge Year In 2014

The equivalent of a 5-megawatt solar farm every hour of every day – that’s how much new solar photovoltaic power is being installed around the world right now, according to a leading industry analyst, and it’s a surge that will help the industry to a mammoth total for 2014.

NPD Solarbuzz said it sees demand reaching 49 gigawatts in 2014, a huge leap from 36 GW in 2013 (a number likely to be arrived at after a record-breaking 12-GW fourth quarter).

The equivalent of one new 5 MW solar farm is being installed every hour of the day – and here’s a brand new 5 MW power plant in Connecticut. (image via Dominion)

While plenty of solar went in over 2011 and 2012, the rate of growth of new installations had practically stalled, with around 30.4 GW of PV systems installed in 2011 and 31.3 GW installed in 2012, according to the European Photovoltaic Industry Association [PDF].

But after a difficult period of right-sizing in the manufacturing sector and declining subsidies and flattening growth in Europe, capacity is now more in balance with demand, which appears particularly strong in China, Japan and the United States, NPD Solarbuzz said.

“The solar PV industry has reached a critical tipping point, with end-market demand hitting record levels almost every quarter,” Finlay Colville, vice-president at NPD Solarbuzz, said in a statement. “This growth is being driven by leading module suppliers and project developers that returned to profitability during 2013, and which have now established highly-effective global sales and marketing networks.”

In the past, it was Europe that drove solar’s gaudy growth rates, but in a maturing market there, feed-in tariffs and other subsidies have waned (as they were intended to in many cases), slowing growth. But not to worry, NPD Solarbuzz said.

Over the six-month period from October 2013 to March 2014, the solar PV industry will install almost 22 GW, which is greater than all the solar PV installations that occurred between 2005 and 2009, during the previous high-growth phase of the industry that was driven by the European market…. The record solar PV demand in Q4’13 is heavily weighted towards the three leading countries for end-market demand today: China, Japan, and the United States. Two-thirds of all solar panels installed in Q4 will be located in China, Japan, and the US.


NextDC launches solar power service at Melbourne data centre

$1.2 million solar system will generate 550 megawatt hours of electricity every year

NextDC (ASX: NXT) has begun offering a renewable energy service to its customers following the construction of a $1.2 million rooftop solar system at its M1 data centre in Melbourne.

According to the data centre provider, the system is forecast to generate 550 megawatt hours of power every year. This is equivalent to off-setting more than 670 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per annum.

Customers who take up the service will be provided with a carbon footprint reading which shows their solar and grid power consumption.

According to NextDC COO Simon Cooper, the solar array will produce “at least five per cent” of the electricity that its customers are using.

“In helping us reduce our peak demand for energy from the grid, it improves supply stability and reduces reliance on fossil fuels. The electricity generated by our solar power system is clean and sustainable,” he said in a statement.

Cooper added that the company will build solar systems at its new data centres in Sydney and Perth next year.

The M1 solar array system was built by Energy Matters and comprises 1575 panels.


Finland to switch on major solar power facility next year

Finland’s southwestern city of Salo has just completed the country’s largest solar power farm, designed to power the Astrum business centre. The plant is one of just a few solar energy facilities in the country.

Finland’s largest solar energy plant is set to power on next year in the southwestern city of Salo, which has recently been devastated by the shuttering of production facilities by the former mobile phone giant Nokia.

Image: Jussi Kallioinen / Yle

The connections with Nokia run deep. The plant will supply energy to a business centre located on the premises of the former television and electronics company Salora, which later became part of the emergent Nokia in the 1990s. The plant’s maximum capacity is 322 kilowatts and is one of just three in Finland with that level of output. The others are both located in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

The competition to be the country’s biggest solar power farm is heating up, with Lappeenranta in southeast Finland also building a major-league facility. Not only is the Salo plant the largest in Finland, it also dwarfs almost all others in the Nordics.

The solar panels will begin producing energy at full capacity in March and the excess eelectricity generated by its more than 1,000 solar panels will spill over into the municipal grid, according to project director Esa Areva of the lead contractor Areva Solar.

“The electricity grid will always be alongside. It may be that that on some days, the mid-day hours will produce a few extra kilowatts. The energy will be put to use,” Areva added.
Householders warm; businesses cool on solar energy

Currently just a couple of thousand households in Finland use solar energy. Legislative changes introduced last year now allow electricity produced by solar energy to be channeled into the national power grid. It’s now believed that this development will accelerate the demand for solar power in Finland.

“Modern distribution companies more readily accept these systems as producers for the grid. Because the system has also been proven to work with Finland’s demanding power grid, this demonstrates complete compliance with Finnish electricity standards,” Areva explained.

While householders have warmed up to the idea of solar power, the corporate sector has been cool on the option. Advocates of solar energy speculate that reports about profitability in the media have scared off businesses. In spite of the Salo project’s 500,000-euro price tag, Salo entrepreneur Lasse Jokinen has defended the power source.

“We are now hoping for a beautiful spring that will bring lots of solar power. Every year we have the same kind of winter. Maybe we’ll be lucky enough next January to get some light,” Jokinen quipped.
Finnish sunlight possibly more effective energy source

Finland’s damp and dark early winter days make it difficult to believe that solar power could take off in Finland. However Areva Solar chief executive Anu Areva pointed out that Finnish solar power could be more effective that even Spanish solar energy. She noted that if the temperature of a solar panel rises too high, it becomes less effective.

“In winter for example, it’s good for solar panels to have a cold environment. In March when it’s very sunny, we get a lot of electricity,” Areva explained.

Areva compared Finnish electricity generation to the situation in northern Germany.

“It’s just a matter of time before we begin to really trust solar energy,” she added.