Google is reportedly in talks to back the largest wind power project in Africa

By: Nathan McAlone

Google is in talks to invest in the largest wind power project in Africa.

According to CNBC, Google wants to back Kenya’s Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, a massive undertaking that will require more than $700 million.

Flickr/Damian Vila

The project will span 40,000 acres, raise Kenya’s energy capacity by 20 percent, and be an enormous boon to a country where less than 25% of the population has access to power.

Though most of Google’s green energy investments have been within the United States, it has invested in Africa before — most notably in 2013 when it poured $12 million into a South African solar project, one of the largest on the continent.

Kwame Parker, Standard Bank’s head of power and infrastructure for East Africa, told CNBC that Google’s global profile would send ripples beyond Turkana itself. Google’s investment would be “a significant vote of confidence for investors considering African power market entry,” he said.

But that’s not the only impact this investment could have. It could also help secure a $250 million investment based on President Barack Obama’s Power Africa initiative. To receive the government investment, the Turkana project would require “meaningful involvement of the U.S. private sector,” which Google’s investment would likely satisfy.

Google also has significant interest in wind power on the technology side. Its innovative arm, Google X, is currently developing the potential next phase in wind energy production. Google’s Makani wind turbines fly in the air like kites to utilize the strong winds available at higher altitudes.



How Personal Solar Panels Could Change the Way we Live

And how personal contribution could be the key

By: Christina Sarich

There are several companies coming out with new ways to live and work greener. Now you can travel greener, too, without having to change cars. With just 17 watts of solar energy mounted to your car, you can travel just about anywhere and have enough juice to power a computer, a small stove, lights, your phone, and more.

Voltaic Systems is one company leading the way with a new generation of affordable, durable, and portable solar panels, though of course other companies have solar offerings as well. With some, you don’t have to ruin the finish of your car, either, since the panels attach with magnets. Many DIYer’s have figured out their own ways to rig up solar power, too, but they have to rely on having an electric car to ‘plug in.’

There are multiple theories about which way to build cars with solar is best, but if you don’t have the money to purchase a ‘solar’ car that’s already on the market, or even an electric one, you can at least augment your dirty petroleum-use with add-ons.

Until we all have solar and wind-powered cars reminiscent of the Jetson’s, we can do our part to stop using oil that causes major spills and serious damage to wild life, our oceans, and even ground water.


India’s diesel-guzzling railways are testing coaches with solar panels

(Anil Kumar Chhatri/Indian Railways)

Solar energy has a surprising new supporter in India: The country’s massive state-owned railways.

India has one of the largest  railway networks in the world, running some 12,000 trains that carry over 23 million passengers every day. That’s almost as much as the entire population of Australia.

But moving such huge numbers of people—aside from transporting 3 million tonnes of freight daily—requires a massive amount of energy. In 2012, for instance, the Indian Railways consumed nearly 3 million kilolitres of diesel oil and about 14 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.

All that fuel costs a pretty penny— Rs30,000 crore ($4.7 billion) to be exact—that has, over time, begun hurting the balance sheet of the Indian Railways.

India’s railway minister, Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu, now wants the railways to control their ballooning fuel bill, even as the number of passengers and amount of freight increase. His plan: Incorporating more alternative energy sources to power trains.

By 2020, the Indian Railways is focusing on making renewable energy constitute at least 10% of its total energy consumption. And the first order of business in this ambitious plan is solar-powered lighting via panels mounted on the roofs of trains.

Indian Railways is currently testing this on a non-AC coach on the Rewari-Sitapur passenger train. The cost of installing the panels on each coach, according to the Economic Times, is about Rs3.9 lakh ($6,084), and these are expected to result in savings of Rs1.24 lakh ($1,934) per year.

Railway coach-maker Integral Coach Factory and the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, will test out the solar-panelled coach in a variety of conditions in the coming weeks, according to The Hindu newspaper. Alongside the solar-powered coach, Indian Railways is also planning to build solar power plants in 200 train stations, as well as at some of its office buildings.

This solar energy push echoes prime minister Narendra Modi’s larger plan to encourage alternative energy as India remains among the top producers of carbon emissions, after China and the US. India’s solar power potential is about 750 gigawatts—and the government is encouraging solar companies from around the world to invest $100 billion to reach its solar power capacity target of 100,000 megawatts by 2022. That’s about five times India’s current solar power generation capacity.

Modi has already led some interesting innovations in solar power. In Gujarat, for instance, the government commissioned solar panels over canals to minimize land use and prevent excess evaporation.

But pushing the massive Indian Railways towards going solar could be a much harder journey.


Solar-powered palm trees get passersby online in Dubai

By Stu Robarts

A Smart Palm has been installed on the beach in Dubai near to the Burj Al Arab

People out and about in Dubai can now use palm trees to get online and recharge their phones. The Smart Palm is hi-tech version of the date palm tree and is being rolled out by D-Idea Media. In addition to Wi-Fi and device charging, it provides local info, directions, seating and shade.

The first Smart Palm was installed in Dubai’s Zabeel Park in April and now a second, located on the beach near to the Burj Al Arab, was opened last Thursday. The trees are 6.5 m (21.3 ft) tall and are reminiscent of Sologic’s eTrees. The date palm shape was chosen as a symbol of sustainability, with it historically having been harvested for food and materials.

The Smart Palms are powered by 13.8 sq m (148.5 sq ft) of photovoltaic panels that are specially designed to fit the shape of the “leaves.” According to D-Idea Media, the panels have an efficiency of over 21 percent and are built to provide all of the required power for each Smart Palm.

The trees provide free Wi-Fi with a range of over 100 m (328 ft) and have eight charging ports each. Selfie cameras allow users to take self-portrait photos at the Smart Palm locations.

Touchscreen monitors on the Smart Palms provide information on local news, weather, services and businesses and can also provide directions to local places, as well as public transport options. The screens also provide space for public information messages, government notices and adverts.

The Smart Palms are monitored around the clock, each featuring a 360-degree infrared CCTV camera and an emergency button. In addition to the wealth of technology that each tree has, they also provide seating and shade.

There are plans to roll out a further 103 Smart Palm trees across Dubai.


Support for wind power in Saskatchewan consistent across age groups and political preference

By: Michelle Froese

Wind energy is one of the lowest cost sources of new electricity generation, and a new poll finds that Saskatchewan residents support an increased effort to develop more wind energy to help meet Saskatchewan’s future electricity needs.

A new poll shows that Saskatchewan residents in Canada strongly support the development of more wind energy.

A recent public opinion poll completed by Oracle Research and commissioned by the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) surveyed Saskatchewan residents’ opinion on wind energy in the province. The poll found wind energy to be the most popular choice of residents when asked their preference for new electricity supply.

Over three-quarters of those surveyed felt more should be done to encourage wind energy development in Saskatchewan and a similar margin felt that taking action on climate change ought to be a priority for the province. The results were remarkably consistent across age groups, urban and rural residency as well as political voting intention.

“Wind energy represents an important opportunity for Saskatchewan as the province looks to fill the gap that will be created as coal units face federal requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” says Tim Weis, policy director at CanWEA. A September 2014 report from the major US financial firm Financial Advisory & Asset Management found that wind energy has become one of, if not the lowest cost option, for new electricity generation across the United States. This, coupled with the fact that Saskatchewan’s wind resource is among the best in North America, suggests that wind energy could and should play a significant role in meetings Saskatchewan’s future power generation requirements.

“Even at today’s historically low natural gas prices wind energy is cost competitive with all other sources of electricity generation. Wind energy provides an important opportunity to hedge against future fuel price and carbon risks that will nudge natural gas costs higher in the future, protecting the Saskatchewan ratepayer while reducing long-term greenhouse gas emissions,” adds Weis.

The poll contacted 750 voting age residents from across the province of Saskatchewan by telephone using live operators at the Oracle poll call centre facility. The margin of error for this sample is +/- 3.6%, 19 out of 20 times.