Day 329: Soil and Forests

The final suggestion from Chris Goodall is also one of his broadest yet: it’s about the way in which we treat our soils and forests. Rather related to his previous chapter on Biochar, he talks about the utility of soils as a place of carbon capture. But we are capable of decreasing the carbon-holding-capacities of soils, and we’ve been doing a lot of that lately, with intensive monocultures that make use of soils without giving anything back.

To cope with climate change and the other pressures humanity as a whole faces, we need to make the most effective use of the fertile land the Earth has. To do so, Goodall suggests we improve grazing practices (more movement of the flocks and herds, though not necessarily less of them), that we practice zero-till farming approaches, and that we develop more fuel-efficient stoves, to save the forests.

If only developing and implementing all of Goodall’s 10 Technologies was as straightforward a matter as he describes. Regrettably, as he himself points out, there’s a lot of politics and economics in the way. Nonetheless, technology is moving fast and it is going to be increasingly difficult for companies, government and even individuals to justify why they’re emitting very high levels of carbon dioxide, as the ease of not doing so happily increases.

 

How would we like our future forests to be? (images author’s own)

Interested in more detail? Check out Chapter 10 of 10 Technologies to Save the Planet!

9781846688683

 

10 Technologies to Save the Planet

Chris Goodall, 2008

 

 


There’s 365 days in a year (well, kind of), there’s definitely at least 365 ways to be green (definitely). There’s easy ways, and there’s tougher ways. For some, certain approaches to being green may be easier than others. But here we go, let’s try going from being green to being greener still!

Day 328: Biochar

In Chapter 9 of  10 Technologies to Save the Planet! Chris Goodall perhaps reaches his pinnacle of strange suggestions: we can cut carbon emissions by creating charcoal and spreading it through the soil.

Goodall himself admits that the science behind is pretty much completely absent: no one quite knows why putting charcoal in the soil improves its fertility as well as takes up carbon dioxide. But it works. In some soils.

And it works incredibly well. This process could be carried out large-scale, in vast plants. We could promote “slash and char” methods of farming instead of “slash and burn.” And the technology? Well, we’ve been doing this for thousands of years already! Simple.

Charcoal – carbon cutting queen?

 

outoftheashes

Out of the Ashes – Life.

Interested in more detail? Check out Chapter 9 of 10 Technologies to Save the Planet!

9781846688683

 

10 Technologies to Save the Planet

Chris Goodall, 2008

 


There’s 365 days in a year (well, kind of), there’s definitely at least 365 ways to be green (definitely). There’s easy ways, and there’s tougher ways. For some, certain approaches to being green may be easier than others. But here we go, let’s try going from being green to being greener still!

Day 327: Carbon Capture

Nearer the end of the book, Chris Goodall continues to dabble with steadily more ambitious technologies. Carbon capture, for example, has been spoken about a lot but as yet carried out very little. Goodall blames this lack of uptake on two main factors: the complexity of the process and need for further research to make it more efficient, but also the lack of incentive for any company to bother doing it (i.e. the price of emitting carbon is still negligible or nil in most places, and so long legislation does not require carbon capture why would a company invest more in doing so?).

There are multiple methods to capturing the carbon from burning both goal and using gas for power, each with its advantages and disadvantages. For example, by burning coal in an environment of pure oxygen the principal waste gas is carbon dioxide, rather than being one of many, meaning it can be more readily captured. The problem? Air has to be cooled to -200°C (which obviously takes a lot of energy)!

Once the carbon has been captured it also needs a place to live. A great use for carbon dioxide is putting it in gas and oil fields, where it pressure pushes out even more gas and oil for the extraction industry. Bit ironic though, right?

Another option is to put it in extremely deep, saline aquifers, kilometres beneath the Earth’s surface. These should not leak because of thick impermeable rock above.

Carbon capture – the way to really produce “clean coal”?

 

coal

Is “Clean Coal” possible? (Image from Flickr)

Interested in more detail? Check out Chapter 8 of 10 Technologies to Save the Planet!

9781846688683

 

10 Technologies to Save the Planet

Chris Goodall, 2008

 


There’s 365 days in a year (well, kind of), there’s definitely at least 365 ways to be green (definitely). There’s easy ways, and there’s tougher ways. For some, certain approaches to being green may be easier than others. But here we go, let’s try going from being green to being greener still!

Day 324: Electric Cars

Here’s to another green technology: electric cars!

Ten years ago these were a bit of a dream and for those already on the road, they weren’t the most attractive options (both visually and technologically/logistically/practically-speaking!). Nowadays, however, I’m not too surprised to see a hybrid coming by in the street; although full-electric cars remain a bit more of a rarity.

Nonetheless, Chris Goodall argues in their favour.

He points out that as wonderful as shopping locally and using the bus is, people aren’t going to stop wanting their cars any time soon. This means we need cars which are less environmentally-damaging. Goodall is quick to dismiss hydrogen as an alternative fuel option, and also argues lower-emitting vehicles still tend to emit too much. (Second-generation biofuel-fueled cars he gives a chance in the next chapter!)

Instead, Goodall is keen on electric cars: cars which get energy from regenerative braking or cars which combine an internal combustion engine with a battery. Nonetheless, despite his eagerness for promote these modes of transport, he acknowledges there are roadblocks to rolling out a whole new fleet of such vehicles.  Such as:

  1. The high price of batteries
  2. Batteries weigh a lot
  3. The recharging time for a battery can still be quite long
  4. A significant shift to battery-powered cars might put a strain on lithium resources.

Electric cars – will they remain a future dream, or will they quickly become the standard car?

 

electric-car

What would your electric car look like? (Image from Alternative Energy)

Interested in more detail? Check out Chapter 6 of 10 Technologies to Save the Planet!

9781846688683

 

10 Technologies to Save the Planet

Chris Goodall, 2008

 


There’s 365 days in a year (well, kind of), there’s definitely at least 365 ways to be green (definitely). There’s easy ways, and there’s tougher ways. For some, certain approaches to being green may be easier than others. But here we go, let’s try going from being green to being greener still!

Day 322: Combined HEAT and POWER

What if we could increase efficiency by combining heat and power? Right now, many of our power-producing plants are incredibly inefficient; is there a possibility of harnessing all the wasted energy?

According to Chris Goodall there most certainly is!

The techniques whereby this is achieved are, quite logically, called Combined Heat and Power (CHP) approaches! One such approach which Goodall describes is the fuel cell: pretty much the same as a battery, only then fueled by hydrogen from renewable sources. This can be applied in individual buildings or, at a stretch, households (the only problem with installing these in houses is that the unit itself remains quite bulky).

Another approach which Goodall advocates is the district plant, this time for districts/towns, and powered by wood and biomass. These can generate both heat and electricity for the area! Whilst these are already widespread in some parts of the world, in others it is a notably missing source of both energy and heat. There is, however, the issue of obtaining the fuel for these plants in a sustainable way. Goodall suggests growing the plant fuel required on degraded soils,  but I confess I’m not convinced he’s thought of the right solution to the potential high demand of these plants.

Combined heat and power. Promising or paltry?

 

 

chp-info-graphic

A simple example of what a Combined Heat and Power plant might look like (image from IGS Generation)

 

Interested in more detail? Check out Chapter 4 of 10 Technologies to Save the Planet!

9781846688683

 

10 Technologies to Save the Planet

Chris Goodall, 2008

 


There’s 365 days in a year (well, kind of), there’s definitely at least 365 ways to be green (definitely). There’s easy ways, and there’s tougher ways. For some, certain approaches to being green may be easier than others. But here we go, let’s try going from being green to being greener still!

Day 321: Electricity… from the Oceans

A third day of electricity and, today, we look to the oceans.

ocean

Will the oceans provide us with the energy we’re looking for? (image from Flickr)

The oceans, like so much on this planet, are a complex system. Not only can we consider the tides for energy, but we can attempt to tap the power of the waves and currents also. However, as Chris Goodall quickly points out, tapping the energy from tidal currents and ocean waves may prove the easiest to exploit and the options with most energy potential!

Historically, not so much has been invested in exploring energy sources from the ocean as has been poured into other options of energy acquisition. Goodall suggests, however, that the trends may now finally be changing. At the same time, he acknowledges there remain many challenges to getting marine energy developments operational; there’s a long way yet to go!

From technological experiments such as the Lunar Energy Turbine to OpenHydro to the MCT Turbine, there’s definitely companies out there testing the waters of tidal-stream power. Neither have waves been entirely neglected, with the emergence of technologies such as the Pelamis wave collector.

Watch out ocean! It looks like there’s going to be quite some trialing going on in your depths the coming years.

 

tidal-power_0

Will the future be built on tidal energy? (Image from MCT)

Interested in more detail? Check out Chapter 3 of 10 Technologies to Save the Planet!

9781846688683

 

10 Technologies to Save the Planet

Chris Goodall, 2008

 


There’s 365 days in a year (well, kind of), there’s definitely at least 365 ways to be green (definitely). There’s easy ways, and there’s tougher ways. For some, certain approaches to being green may be easier than others. But here we go, let’s try going from being green to being greener still!

Day 320: Solar Energy to Save the Planet!

Another day, another technology!

Solar power is another technology we’ve probably all heard a lot of by now, but Chris Goodall rightfully includes it in his 10 technologies to save the planet. After all, as he points out: “The sunlight hitting the earth’s surface every day contains around 7000 times more energy than the fossil fuels that humanity consumes.” So all we really need to do is find a very efficient way of harvesting that energy!

Goodall describes three ways of capturing this energy:

  1. Heating liquid to be used for washing, showers, and so on.
  2. Panels of photovoltaic cells, which turn photons of light into electricity.
  3. Concentrating the sunlight through mirrors, heating fluids, and using those fluids to drive a turbine or engine.

Goodall describes the history, current state and development of photovoltaics, as well as goes into some depth considering the cost of this technology. Whilst further development is still needed to increase efficiency and reduce the cost, Goodall sounds quite optimistic over all about this technology! He also describes the various concentrated solar power developments which have already taken place, such as the Granada power plant in Spain (Andasol 1) and Nevada Solar One in the United States. He further considers how the power generated from solar might be transported from areas of high generation to places of high demand, and goes into some detail on the uses and efficiency of high-voltage systems with direct current transmission.

Sounds like we have plenty of reason to be optimistic about the future of solar energy!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There’s plenty of power to be had from solar energy! (image from Flickr)

Interested in more detail? Check out Chapter 2 of 10 Technologies to Save the Planet!

9781846688683

 

10 Technologies to Save the Planet

Chris Goodall, 2008

 


There’s 365 days in a year (well, kind of), there’s definitely at least 365 ways to be green (definitely). There’s easy ways, and there’s tougher ways. For some, certain approaches to being green may be easier than others. But here we go, let’s try going from being green to being greener still!