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Co-generating and carfree!

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  • Richard Risemberg
    ... -- Richard Risemberg http://www.rickrise.com http://www.newcolonist.com http://www.living-room.org [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2005
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      > May 9, 2005 | Vol. 165 No. 19
      > Power to the People
      > Forget the national power grid. Small communities are starting to
      > make their own energy from clean, renewable, local sources
      > At the Beddington Zero Energy Development in South London, they're
      > shouting their environmental credentials from the rooftops. Tidy
      > little lawns sprout on top of each house � helping to insulate the
      > buildings � as pastel-colored cowls swivel in the breeze, gently
      > ushering fresh air into homes and offices while funneling stale air
      > out. Solar photovoltaic panels soak up the sun � even on cloudy days �
      > contributing to the development's overall power mix. Most of the
      > community's heat and electricity come from a 130-kW generator fueled
      > by timber clippings and similar waste from landscaping work.
      > The Beddington eco-village (BedZED for short) is Britain's premier
      > sustainable housing estate. Why? Because it's carbon neutral: the
      > community's energy use and production releases no extra carbon dioxide
      > into the environment. "We wake up every morning and think we're on
      > holiday," says resident Steve Tabard. His neighbor, Danny Burrage,
      > says that outside BedZED, "I don't know anybody who has a flat on the
      > second floor with a conservatory and a garden. The kids love it."
      > BedZED won its place at the top of Britain's green living charts
      > because it's a pioneer in microgeneration � the local production of
      > clean, renewable power by individuals and small communities to meet
      > their own energy needs. As evidence of global warming increases,
      > microgeneration is touted as a sustainable alternative to the fossil
      > fuels that help form greenhouse gases. Conservationists argue that
      > only clean energy technologies derived from wind, solar, wave and
      > other natural power sources can ensure a healthy environment and
      > sustainable economic growth. Micropower is far less of an imposition
      > on the landscape, though, than big wind farms and solar arrays, and
      > it's also part of a growing trend toward local production of goods and
      > services, including energy. "Mini-wind turbines and solar arrays
      > should become familiar household fixtures," according to Joanna
      > Collins, author of the British environmental think-tank Green
      > Alliance's A Microgeneration Manifesto. "These new technologies cut
      > greenhouse-gas emissions [and] provide reliable energy supplies."
      > Microgeneration forces architects and builders to think green from
      > the start. Homes in the three-year-old BedZED development, for
      > instance, are south facing and fronted by conservatories to capture
      > natural heat and light. There's no need for central heating because
      > thick brick walls are heavily insulated, and windows are double- and
      > triple-glazed, helping to retain the heat produced by domestic
      > activities such as cooking. As a result, fuel bills can be as little
      > as 10% of those for traditional houses of similar size. Lighting is
      > low energy, too, and water-saving washing machines and low-flush
      > toilets are standard. Solar panels can also recharge the batteries of
      > electric cars, though there are as yet few such vehicles on the road.
      > Green Alliance wants the government to make it easier for individuals
      > to use these technologies. "For this to happen," says policy officer
      > Tracy Carty, "the government needs to commit to planning, building and
      > energy policies that can support microgeneration." Critics, including
      > many in the nuclear industry, fault microgeneration as inefficient,
      > uneconomical and overly romantic � too small-scale to power industry
      > or to make much of a dent in greenhouse gas emissions. Many want a
      > fresh look at the nuclear option, arguing that it is one of the
      > cleanest ways to produce power. Microgeneration fans disagree. Jeremy
      > Leggett, ceo of Solarcentury, Britain's leading solar photovoltaics
      > company, thinks nuclear power is risky and that a combination of
      > dwindling oil reserves and global warming will eventually propel
      > microgeneration technologies into the mainstream.
      > Widespread use may be years off, but microgeneration is starting to
      > catch on. In Goudouras, a small seaside village in southeastern Crete,
      > Greenpeace helped set up Greece's first grid-connected solar power
      > unit, at the local elementary school. The solar system mollified
      > residents who opposed plans for a potentially environmentally harmful
      > oil-powered plant in nearby Atherinolakkos.
      > In Spain, the agricultural town of Cu�llar, in the central province
      > of Segovia, generates hot water and heating for 250 homes by burning
      > pine bark and other wood residuals. The system, using no fossil fuel
      > and similar to BedZED's wood-burning plant, also heats an indoor
      > swimming pool, a cultural center and a school. Spain now produces 7%
      > of the world's solar photovoltaic energy, and solar sources are
      > "growing at a 50% clip per year," says Javier Garc�a Breva, director
      > of the Institute for Energy Diversification and Savings, the
      > government body responsible for promoting and subsidizing renewable
      > energies. Local authorities are even reviving some of the tiny,
      > forgotten hydroelectric plants that dot the Spanish countryside.
      > In Portugal, the BioRegional Development Group � the independent
      > British environmental organization that started up BedZED � and the
      > global conservation organization wwf are working with a developer to
      > create a "one-planet living" ecotourism project south of Lisbon. Using
      > 100% renewable energy and creating a transport network designed to
      > virtually eliminate private cars, the Mata de Sesimbra development
      > will combine a 4,800-hectare cork-forest restoration project with a
      > 500-hectare tourism development. Based on their experiences with
      > BedZED, BioRegional and wwf will be incorporating similar innovative
      > ecological elements into the Portuguese project. They don't plan to
      > stop at Europe's borders, however. Next stop: energy-hungry China.
      > With reporting by Anthee Carassava/Athens and Enrique Zaldua/San
      > Sebasti�n
      > �TIME. Printed on Monday, May 2, 2005
      Richard Risemberg

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