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While many countries still back the wrong horse by supporting its growth with fossil fuels, some emerging countries bet on solar energy to build a sustainable economy just as well as a solution to energy deserts, especially in MENA and across the African continent.

Experts of alternative energy are calling Nigeria ‘the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy’. “Nigeria is the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy sources and, if properly utilized, Nigeria can realize its place in the world as a great power,” says economist and activist Jeremy Rifkin.

The rising African country has set a target of meeting 40 percent of its energy needs through renewable energy by 2020.

And in this effort, the country is relying on renewable solar power. With an average of 320 to 350 sunny days a year and vast tracks of deserts and farm land, Nigeria could easily generate 5,000 trillion KWh of solar energy, says Dr. Patrick Owelle, a Solar Energy Scholar and Research Fellow.

Expert predict that the country could install around 1,000 GW of solar generation — equivalent to 40 times the current peak power demand (about 25 GW) — using just 0.5 percent of its land.

Nigeria is not a single case in a world that is looking to reduce carbon footprint and foster alternative and renewable sources of power. And in the race, solar seems to be way ahead compared to other renewables.

However, in parts of the world where there is a rising demand for alternative power, as in Nigeria, there is also a debate about which solar technology would best suit a country or region.

While it is undeniable that solar energy is far more dependable than other forms of renewable energy, there is a rising debate whether to use concentrated solar power (CSP) or photovoltaic (PV) cells.

Dino Green, a Mechanical Engineer and a qualified accredited expert in certification of energy performance of buildings identifies the criteria that is generally debated while choosing the solar power technology to be used.

“Energy markets consider three main factors in deciding on power sources – cost of energy, ancillary services and power dispatch-ability on demand,” Greene says.

Experts say that a time is coming where there probably would be no competition between the two technologies and they may work together to increase solar energy penetration into the power industry.

The primary advantage of CSP technology is its ability to store solar energy. Silvio Marcacci Silvio, Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA, even defines CSP technology as “the technology that will save humanity”. “CSP could meet up to 7% of the world’s projected electricity needs in 2030, and 25% by 2050”, says Silvio.

Given all the strong arguments in favor CSP, the technology is criticized for taking up a large area to install it traditionally uses static parabolic mirrors to concentrate solar energy and then passing that down the line through a system of heated water. This heated water runs a turbine that produces electricity.

However with the advent of the Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector or CLFR technology, CSP can shed off the criticism of taking up space. French firm Sun CNIM is the pioneer in LFR technology for solar power generation and has successfully set up and operated a pilot project in France. The company says that the technology has moved beyond the pilot stage and Sun CNIM is now ready to commercialize the technology for large solar power projects.

Moreover, “Sun CNIM’s Fresnel technology and direct steam generation avoid the use of hazardous fluid such as thermal oils, making them the ‘cleanest’ technologies currently available,” says Sun CNIM in a statement.

Linear Fresnel is a line-focusing technology consisting of reflectors that track the sun in one axis and focus the beam radiation onto fluid-carrying receiver tubes.

IRENA’s 2012 CSP report (*) draws out the advantages of LFR technology over trough technology. The report states that main advantages of Fresnel CSP systems compared to troughs are that Linear Fresnel Collectors (LFCs) can use cheaper flat glass mirrors, which are a standard mass-produced commodity, and that they require less steel and concrete – as the metal support structure is lighter – which simplifies the assembly process and leads to cost reductions.

“According to the status of development in 2012, the parabolic trough seems to be at the end of its evolution because of the temperature limitations, complicated manufacturing and toxicity of the HTF. Therefore, I would prefer the Fresnel technology and the solar tower technology. Both use nearly flat mirrors which enable a higher share of local production”, says Dr.-Eng. Hani El Nokraschy, Co-Founder and Vice Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Desertec Foundation.

According to the French firm Sun CNIM, LFR is easily integrated into the grid and can be operated on isolated sites. “The technology is flexible where the component modules can be installed in accordance with capacity requirements and can be act as a hybrid to other alternative power sources like biomass, fossil fuel or methanization plants, etc,” says Sun CNIM communiqué.

Fresnel may give an additional advantage because of shadowing the ground. This enables planting under the mirror roof protecting the plants from the burning sunrays and thus saving irrigation water”, Dr. Nokraschy says.

Another advantage of the LFR technology is the reduced optical losses and less mirror-glass breakage since the wind loads on LFCs are smaller according to the French innovation technology firm Sun CNIM.

Moreover, the mirror surface per receiver is higher in the LFC than in parabolic trough collector, which is important given that the receiver is the most expensive component in both technologies.

“Until recently, linear Fresnel plants were mainly pilot projects. But with remarkable advancements, the technology is quickly gaining operational parity with the parabolic trough, and the world’s largest Fresnel power plant has already started operation in Spain,” says Heba Hashem, a technology expert based in UAE.

With the debate over choice of technology for solar energy nearly over, researchers and businesses are now concentrating on ways and means to develop technologies that can better the storage of solar power. This is considered to be the next big step in solar power attaining maturity.

(*) http://www.irena.org/documentdownloads/publications/re_technologies_cost_analysis-csp.pdf

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Environment

Francisco Reynés: “We have to consider gas as the energy source with the most potential in the future”

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Francisco Reynés, executive chairman of Naturgy (formerly Gas Natural Fenosa), has talked about the role of gas in the world as the energy source with the greatest potential in the future, at the 6TH IEF-IGU Ministerial Gas Forum celebrated in Barcelona, Spain.

 Francisco Reynés has explained that the world “needs to talk about the different uses of natural gas and the gas technologies and innovations towards a sustainable energy future. We have to address the role of gas in the world as a future energy source, not only as a transition source of energy”.

 “The uses of gas are, as we all know, well beyond those of power generation. Gas provides sources for non-energy uses, such as petrochemicals or fertilizers, which have no clear substitute”, he added.

 About this possibility, Francisco Reynés has explained that “all of this will benefit and service the economic growth and development of the countries and economies around the globe. It is, indeed, a joint effort which we must all face with the utmost priority and the maximum care”.

Reynés has also insisted on the cooperation between governments, producers and even consumers to strengthen the security of gas supply on international markets. “The challenge for the future is how energy systems will evolve to meet greenhouse gas emission goals, and more stringent fuel quality standards while at the same time they respond to growing demand for affordable access to reliable energy services”, he concluded.

The 6th IEF-IGU Ministerial Gas Forum aims to sharpen a collective focus on energy policies, market trends, and technology options that enable the gas industry to deliver inclusive growth and successful transformations for a secure, inclusive and sustainable energy future. Energy and climate policies, gas technologies and innovations as well as market fundamentals are ever more co-dependent but also vary across geographies.

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You can’t fight nature, but you can be ready for whatever she throws at you

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The human race has got used to being in control of its surroundings, and yet we will never be able to truly prevent some of the most devastating catastrophes that our planet can throw our way. Yet we still strive to protect all the things we have built and worked hard for, and technology is helping us to do that on a day to day basis.

Tsunamis are a reality and we need to be prepared for them

Despite all the advances in our technology, we have not yet found ourselves able to avert the most fatal of natural disasters. The fact remains that our planet is far larger than we can possibly control and despite being considerably safer than several million years ago in the early days of the Earth’s life, it still has the capacity to be volatile and terrifying.

Some of the  most devastating tsunamis in recent history have taken place in the last 60 years, with catastrophic loss of life and billions needed in humanitarian aid and reconstruction. The effects will last a lifetime for many areas as they try to recover and rebuild.

It is impossible to forget the Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011. The consequences were absolutely devastating.

Striking Japan on the 11th March the earthquake reached an eye watering 9.0 magnitude, and generated a 33 feet high wall of water travelling as far as 6 miles inland. Some reports even record waves as high as 133 feet, with a 97-foot wave smashing into the city of Ofunato.

Around 25,000 people were killed or reported missing, and 125,000 buildings damaged or destroyed. But more worryingly the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant was also struck causing a nuclear meltdown. The disaster is recorded at the highest level of International Nuclear Event Scale. The impact of this event is still being fully understood, and radiation from the plant has been detected as much as 200 miles away, with many areas remaining uninhabitable and will be for many years to come.

The loss of human life can be staggering due to a tsunami that hits with no warning. Take for example the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 in the Indian Ocean. An unbelievable death toll of 230,000 was recorded across 14 countries including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. The earthquake under the ocean was recorded at 9.3 magnitude, generating waves up to 93 feet high. Some waves hit land within 15 minutes, but some took as much as 7 hours.

Even those with time to evacuate were hard hit, mostly due to the complete lack of a tsunami warning system which meant very densely populated coastal areas being taken by surprise.

Early warnings save lives

By comparison, although damage to buildings and general destruction was widespread, the 2009 Samoa earthquake and tsunami saw a considerable lower death toll.

With an earthquake of 8.1 magnitude and waves reaching 45 feet high, that travelled up to a mile inland there were 189 casualties recorded. The loss of life would have been far higher if it wasn’t for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre which gave people time to evacuate and reach higher ground.

There are several ways in which a tsunami can be detected. From recognition of symptoms, an earthquake can be quite hard to miss, to technological warnings from tsunami detection and forecasting. These are based on a combination of data collected by environmental sensors and using that data for tsunami modelling.

For example monitoring seismic activity and the magnitude of an earthquake can give an excellent warning of tsunami potential. However, it cannot be taken in isolation.  For larger earthquakes it is easier to underestimate the size of the quake, and therefore miscalculate the tsunami potential.

Rapid sea level monitoring will give the best warning

When managing the data collected, those carrying out the analysis have a hard decision. Declare a tsunami imminent, and risk a costly unnecessary evacuation, or make the decision to issue the warning to the public so that emergency plans can be activated.

They also need to be able to indicate clearly from the modelling how large the waves will be and when they will strike. Importantly they need to know when the danger will be over so that people can return safely to the evacuated areas.

The issue is that  tsunami detection and forecasting requires near-real-time observations from both coastal sea level instruments and open-ocean sensors. Fundamental gaps in coverage still exist, especially in open-water. This puts at risk the ability to give warning, and the ability to learn more about the behaviour of tsunamis after the fact which will further refine the accuracy of the modelling in the future. More coverage is needed, and the durability of the equipment a key factor.

New technology paramount for the detection of tsunamis

The installation of new tsunami buoys is without doubt the next step for addressing the coverage issue, and these buoys need to be smart with built in Tsunami Early Detection and Warning System. It needs to be able to detect an event and send that information to be centrally analysed.

Pressure sensors deployed in a water depth up to 7,000 meters can detect height variations on the water surface, and in order to resist the effect of the harsh elements and environments must be of the highest quality. It is now possible to obtain floats manufactured with a closed-cell polyethylene foam sheet that prevents water absorption.

In  terms of positioning and communication, all can be managed through GPS, and redundancy in place for communications via satellite, with a reaction time of less than one minute and powered by a double solar power system. These buoys are so durable they can provide much better confidence that there will be no failure of service in remote locations.

They are able to transmit a NOAA Tsunami Warning System compatible message and monitor the sea level column changes to within 1mm. This kind of monitoring will be paramount for buying enough time for evacuation and prevent the loss of life seen previously.

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Business

Starting Your Green Construction Business: Simple Guide

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According to some analysts, the construction industry is booming. If you look beyond the developed world, you can see extraordinary growth rates. Developing countries, however, due to the increased industrialization of recent decades, are now facing environmental challenges, and are looking for greener construction solutions. If you are thinking about starting a company related to building and construction, you will need to think about the future trends, and make sure your company complies with current and future regulations. You will be responsible for training and policies, so it is important that you pay attention to every detail. Below you will find a few tips on starting your green construction business.

Study the Current Policies and Regulations

When starting a green construction business, you will need to thoroughly study the regulations that apply to your industry, your state, and your company structure. Different local governments might already have green policies and initiatives that will give you an advantage. On the other hand, you want to make sure that your new business will be able to meet the industry requirements when it comes to training, health and safety. Check out the requirements of the American Safety Council OSHA card to find out which qualifications your workers will need before you would create your company structure.

Invest in Technology

Green technology is constantly developing, and chances are that there are several companies on the market offering different solutions. If you would like to beat the competition, you might need to develop your own materials and work processes. If you are able to team up with engineers who are familiar with the latest trends and can spot opportunities, you can offer something unique for your business partners.

Recruit the Right People

It is also important that you find the right people for each job. Look for individuals who have similar values and visions, and embrace green ideas in the construction business. There is no way you can change the mindset of people, so it might be a good idea to provide your own training and recruit newly qualified talent, instead of workers who are already used to using traditional materials, approaches, and technologies. Your main assets will be your people, so you need to design your talent pool to meet the expectations of your customers and the needs of your company.

Develop Research Partnerships

If you don’t have the right people to research future technologies and new materials, you might decide to enter a partnership with your local college or university. If you invest in their research projects and work with them, you can take advantage of groundbreaking inventions that will help your business prosper while providing students with an opportunity to explore different opportunities to make future buildings more efficient and greener. No matter if you would like to develop your own materials or reduce the carbon footprint of your operations, you can find partners if you contact local educational institutions.

Create a Strategic Plan

No business can survive without a sound strategy. As a green construction business, you will need to integrate efficiency and carbon footprint reduction in every part of your strategic business plan. Consult with a professional advisor, and study various national and local policies that can give you ideas on creating your own competitive plan to turn future buildings greener. Check out the European green initiatives that are leading the way for the rest of the world.

Green Policies

When building a green organization, it is important that you adopt green policies in your company. From providing your staff with training on how to save energy and look after the environment, reduce waste, dispose of toxic materials, to targets and process manuals, there are several ways you can get your workers to jump on board and embrace your ideas.

Measurable Goals

With every business strategy, you need to develop measurable goals. You cannot simply say that you would like to reduce your company’s use of water and other natural resources: you must state by when and by how much. This will help you create targets for each worker and team, and meet the expectations of your market and your industry.

Design a Green Supply Chain

In the construction industry, it is important that you make your supply chain efficient. When you want to make your supply chain greener, it is even more important. From choosing the right suppliers to make sure that your materials are not traveling more than necessary, and you are focusing on waste reduction, to educating your workers on green and efficient practices, there are several ways you can design a supply chain that is not only good for the environment, but also for your financial budget.

Government Collaboration

When experimenting with new materials and production methods, it is important that you build strong links with government organizations, so you can be aware of the future policies and trends that will shape your industry. You can join an industry organization, and find out about the new policies and government targets as soon as possible, so you can tailor your strategy to the future policy developments.

Create a Shared Vision

When creating an innovative green construction business model, it is important that you effectively communicate your vision and mission with all stakeholders. Make sure that you are on the same page, and your suppliers, business partners, and customers are fully aware of your company’s policies and initiatives. Engage with your stakeholders by communicating your company’s plans and strategies to create more efficient buildings that serve communities better.

Some experts say that green supply chains and construction models are the future, and innovation can help organizations achieve their goals while reducing their cost and carbon footprint. If you are committed to environmental goals and would like your business model to reflect your values, you will need to build positive relationships with government organizations, employees, customers, and research facilities, so you can achieve your goals faster. An efficient business and a green supply chain can also provide you with a competitive advantage on the market.

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