Badger cull protesters change tactics in response to expansion
Demonstrators focus on driving up policing costs as anti-bovine TB programme is expanded across south-west England
Tuesday 23 August 2016 10.25 BST
Protesters against the badger cull in England have said they plan to change tactics by undertaking direct action to drive up policing costs, after reports of an expansion of culling to new areas.
The BBC has reported that the cull will be extended to five new areas in south-west England – south Devon, north Devon, north Cornwall, west Dorset and south Herefordshire – where badger shooting will begin in early September as part of government efforts to eradicate bovine TB.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said no decision had yet been made on where culls might take place, but confirmed that officials were considering new applications.
The shooting of badgers would continue in the areas where it was already taking place, she added. The cull is in its fourth year in Gloucestershire and Somerset and in its second year in Dorset.
Jay Tiernan of the protest group Stop the Cull said: “We have spent the last three years just in the fields ... We haven’t ever once stood outside a farm with a banner or blockaded a road or put locks on to a business’s gates to stop their business from working.”
To date, the campaign has focused on disrupting the killing of badgers by discovering where the shooting would take place and by breaking traps. Tiernan said: “We are going to change that to specifically look at policing costs ... We are going to start looking at making the culls expensive.”
The group has previously been criticised for publishing a list of farmers involved in the cull.
Almost 1,500 badgers were killed during last year’s badger cull, according to Defra. The government described the effort as a success.
The continuation of the cull under Theresa May’s government will disappoint campaigners and scientific experts who had hoped that the policy would be dropped under the new prime minister.
Within days of May entering No 10, a group of scientists, including some of those behind a £50m trial conducted in 2007 that showed culling was not effective at reducing TB in cattle, called on her to end the “failed” policy.
At the time Defra was reported to be considering up to 29 applications across nine counties including Cheshire, Cornwall and Herefordshire.
Bovine TB reportedly led to the slaughter of 36,000 infected cattle in 2015, an increase of about 10% on the year before and costing taxpayers about £100m. But the scientists say the cull has had little effect on the spread of the disease and may even have increased infections.
Professors John Bourne, Rosie Woodroffe and Ranald Munro wrote to May: “We urge you to review the considerable evidence that culling badgers is a risky, costly, and inhumane tool in the fight against bovine TB. We submit to you that expanding this unpromising programme would fly in the face of scientific evidence. We publicly call on you at this time to halt – not expand – the failed badger cull.”
The cull has received the backing of some farmers’ groups. Ross Murray, president of the CLA, which represents farmers and landowners, said: “The badger cull is one important part of a comprehensive strategy which also includes pre- and post-movement testing of cattle, the removal and slaughter of infected animals and vaccination.
“Bovine TB is a devastating disease that is causing misery for dairy and livestock farmers across the countryside. It is vital that all those involved in the cull have the support of local people and law enforcement as they carry out this important task.”
An RSPCA spokesman described the prospect of an extended cull as “alarming”. David Bowles, head of public affairs, said the charity had concerns about the humaneness of shooting badgers, adding: “We don’t believe an extension of the badger cull will solve the problem of bovine TB in cattle. It ignores all the scientific evidence that indicates a cull will not achieve this.”
A Defra spokeswoman said: “Natural England is currently considering applications for further badger control licences as part of the usual licensing process. England has the highest incidence of TB in Europe and that is why we are taking strong action to deliver our 25-year strategy to eradicate the disease and protect the future of our dairy and beef industries.
“Badger control in areas where TB is rife is one part of our long-term plan, which also includes strengthening cattle testing and movement controls and improving biosecurity on farms and when trading.”
Dominic Dyer, the chief executive of the Badger Trust, said: “After four years of badger culling, no one can now doubt that the policy has been a disastrous failure on scientific, cost and humaneness grounds.
“For the new Defra secretary of state, Andrea Leadsom, to ignore the facts and extend this policy into five new areas of the country defies belief.”
Defra has not said when its decision on new applications will be announced.
on: Aug 23, 2016, 05:29 AM
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on: Aug 23, 2016, 05:25 AM
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Nine bears killed in Canadian town of Revelstoke after raiding the garbage
Conservation officer voices frustration at having to shoot bears that came close to humans while hunting an ‘easy meal’ from unsecured trash and fruit trees
Staff and agencies
Tuesday 23 August 2016 01.18 BST
Canadian authorities have been forced to kill nine bears in three days in the town of Revelstoke because they were attracted by garbage cans left unsecured by residents.
Conservation officer Dan Bartol, who helped kill the bears in the British Columbia town, said the animals had wandered too close to humans, with one coming within a few feet of a toddler in a garage.
“I had to make the most difficult decision I had to make in my career, and that’s to destroy the exact object I’m working so hard to protect,” he said.
Bartol said the majority of residents in the town of 7,000 did not have bear-proof bins and he was still hearing about bears breaking into people’s houses.
According to the Revelstoke Bear Aware group, bears become increasingly active in the summer and their keen sense of smell allows them to identify potential food sources from considerable distances.
The group’s website said the town had long had a bear problem, with 23 bears killed in 1995, but in recent years the average annual number had been fewer than seven.
The city of Revelstoke was not immediately available for comment.
Bartol told the Calgary Herald: “The common thread here is garbage and fruit trees, and that’s creating attractants for bears to come in to the town, because there’s nothing to stop them — there’s no deterrent at all.
“The bears know there’s easy food to be found, and they come down looking for the fruit trees that everyone has to have for some reason, and they get into garbage that’s not secured properly, and then this happens.”
In a information brochure posted online, the town said its bylaws stipulated garbage containers must be dry, odour-free, with lids, and could not be in a location accessible by wildlife unless left for collection.
on: Aug 23, 2016, 05:23 AM
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Cincinnati zoo boss: internet jokes about Harambe are upsetting grieving staff
Director Thane Maynard says the zoo is ‘still healing’ after the death of the gorilla, who was shot after a boy fell into his enclosure in May
Monday 22 August 2016 18.50 BST
The director of the Cincinnati zoo has pleaded with people to stop making memes and humorous online comments about Harambe, the gorilla that was shot and killed after a child fell into its enclosure, because of the effect upon grieving staff.
“Our zoo family is still healing,” Thane Maynard said on Monday.
Online interest in Harambe has flowered since May, when the 17-year-old male western lowland gorilla was shot after a three-year-old boy fell into his enclosure after climbing over a barrier that has since been heightened. Fearing the boy could be dragged around and drowned in the moat surrounding Harambe’s home, zoo officials decided to kill the gorilla.
Initial anger toward the parents of the boy prompted an online petition called “Justice for Harambe” that sought to hold the mother responsible for the animal’s death. Flowers were laid at a vigil. Harambe has since been elevated to an internet celebrity and meme, referenced in everything from the US presidential election to the naming of tropical storms and swimming pool slides.
“We are not amused by the memes, petitions and signs about Harambe,” Maynard told the Associated Press. “Our zoo family is still healing and the constant mention of Harambe makes moving forward more difficult for us. We are honoring Harambe by redoubling our gorilla conservation efforts and encouraging others to join us .”
Maynard’s Twitter account was hacked on Saturday by someone who posted a number of popular Harambe-themed hashtags, including #JusticeFor Harambe and #DicksOutForHarambe. The alleged hacker, who said he did it because he “was kinda angry at the dude who shot him”, replaced Maynard’s profile picture with one of Harambe and posted several pictures of the deceased gorilla along with “RIP”.
There appear to be no limits to Harambe’s influence, nor any facet of life across which the late gorilla cannot roam. T-shirts have been created in his honor, a petition has called for the Cincinnati Bengals to be renamed the Cincinnati Harambes and the presidential aspirations of the Green Party’s Jill Stein received a blow after a recent poll showed she was tied with Harambe in Texas.
Such stories have divided conservationists, some supporting increased scrutiny of zoos’ treatment of animals and others feeling the memes show a lack of respect.
Primatologist Frans de Waal told the Guardian: “I don’t think there is anything to joke about, as it was such a tragic event.
“I do feel that the incident raised awareness that we should take seriously the life of an adult gorilla. I think this side of the incident was positive: people paid attention, and may as a result have read comments on the intelligence or lives of gorillas.
“Zoos are perhaps more aware now of the dangers of toddlers climbing into enclosures and parents are perhaps more aware of keeping their children close, but other than that I doubt this incident will produce profound change.”
Ashley Byrne, an associate director at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), told the AP that most people posting online about Harambe did so out of empathy for the animal, rather than a desire to make light of the death.
“This tragic incident really did start a new conversation,” she said. “Most people who saw the video came away with a great degree of empathy for animals forced to live in captivity.”
on: Aug 23, 2016, 05:21 AM
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Greyhound racing in peril as Khan backs AFC Wimbledon plans
Last dog track in the capital is facing extinction as mayor agrees football stadium should be built at Plough Lane site
Monday 22 August 2016 16.18 BST
The last greyhound track in London is facing extinction after the mayor, Sadiq Khan, agreed the site should be used for a new stadium for the football club AFC Wimbledon.
Plans for the Plough Lane development outline a 20,000-seat stadium, 602 homes and a leisure centre, which would be “of great benefit to Londoners and the wider community for generations to come”.
It would bring the League One side back to Merton in south-west London from its current capacity ground in Kingston-upon-Thames, which has a capacity of about 5,000. The club has been there after being established in the ninth tier of English football in 2002.
But the move would erase the last arena for greyhound racing in the capital and quicken the decline of an already ailing sport, campaigners say.
Tracks in Wembley, West Ham, Clapton and Hackney have all disappeared and when Walthamstow shut in 2008, Wimbledon was the only place left for race-goers.
The growing pressure from AFC Wimbledon for a bigger stadium comes as they climb the ranks of English football, having been promoted six times in 13 seasons.
The original Wimbledon FC was founded in 1889 and played at Plough Lane from 1912 to 1991, famously winning the FA Cup final against Liverpool in 1988.
Fans set up the new club after Wimbledon FC, who had been ground-sharing for years with Crystal Palace, were told in 2002 they would have to move 80 miles north to Milton Keynes and rebrand as MK Dons, following a requirement to have all-seater stadiums.
Khan’s intervention overturns a decision by his predecessor Boris Johnson who had granted the track a reprieve following Merton council’s decision to press ahead with the Galliard Homes development in December 2015.
After greyhound racing came to Britain in 1926, audiences peaked at about 50 million in 1945. By 1960, it was estimated at 16 million, in 1993 4 million, dropping to 2 million in 2013, according to reports.
The sport’s public image was tarnished in 2006 following newspaper stories about the mass euthanasia of dogs deemed too old or lame to race. The exposé caused outrage and led to procedures being established for the better care of former race dogs, but racing has not recovered from the bad publicity. Reports show the number of tickets sold in Britain annually dropped by 58% between 2000 and 2012.
Khan said: “I have taken the time to consult local residents, businesses and other interested parties. Having weighed up all of the evidence available to me I’m confident the stadium and the leisure facility proposed alongside it will be of great benefit to Londoners and the wider community for generations to come.
“As such, I have decided to return the application to the local council to determine itself.”
Stephen Alambritis, the leader of Merton council, said: “I am absolutely thrilled with the mayor’s decision to hand the decision back to us and we look forward to the homecoming of this much-loved and well-deserving team. Merton wants to see AFC Wimbledon back on Wimbledon turf.
“The club has been very patient throughout the process and now the dream of players and fans alike, many of whom are local, is set to become reality.”
Merton council planning committee meets on 15 September.
A council spokeswoman said: “It will be a meeting to progress on to the next stage. It will formally uphold the application and the scheme will go ahead.”
on: Aug 23, 2016, 05:18 AM
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Luxury cruise to Arctic sails into controversy and opportunity
The Crystal Serenity cruise ship is set to become the largest passenger vessel to sail the Northwest Passage with 1,000 passengers, each paying upward of $20,000.
By Noelle Swan, Staff writer August 22, 2016
For the 1,000 passengers aboard the Crystal Serenity cruise ship, climate change has brought a luxurious opportunity: to sail into the history books on the largest passenger vessel to traverse the once unnavigable Northwest Passage.
The historic voyage has never before been possible for such a large ship, but climate change has nudged open the door to the Arctic. The arrival of the massive 820-foot ship and its wealthy passengers (each paying from $20,000 to $120,00 for the month-long journey) has brought a flurry of excitement and tourist income to the remote town of Nome, Alaska. But it has also brought intense scrutiny from critics, who say Crystal Cruises is capitalizing on the destruction of the planet.
“As global temperatures soar, wildfires rage and sea ice levels dwindle to record lows, a luxury cruise company has found a way to make a pretty penny off our rapidly changing climate,” Chris D’Angelo writes for The Huffington Post.
That sentiment is exacerbated by a recent report that portrays cruise ships as massive pollution machines that burn through tens of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel and emit the equivalent pollution produced by millions of cars.
While climate scientists and environmentalists lament the lost of sea ice in the Arctic, for others the opening of the Northwest Passage has meant economic opportunity. In recent years, a great polar rush has unfolded in both poles, as newly opened passage ways have sent such nations as China, Russia, Britain, and Chile scrambling to map previously uncharted sea floors and claim the territorial rights for any fossil fuel stores that may lie below.
“Global warming may have cracked open the door to the poles but worldwide hunger for resources is prying it wider, with greater force,” Douglas Fox wrote in a 2014 cover story for The Christian Science Monitor exploring the great polar rush.
Cruise-ship tourism in both the Arctic and Antarctic began to rise in the early 2000s, with cruise passenger travel to Greenland more than doubling between 2003-2007 and the number of tourists arriving in Antarctica skyrocketing from 1,000 per year in the 1980s to a peak of 46,000 in the 2007-2008 austral summer.
With the rise in tourist traffic has also come an increase in emergency rescues. In 2014, 52 passengers had to be airlifted by helicopter from The Academic Shokalskiy, a research-tourism vessel, after it became stuck in sea ice and a diverted Chinese ship sent to rescue the passengers also became stuck. About half of the passengers aboard the Shokalskiy were tourists paying about $16,000 for the four-week cruise, as the Monitor reported:
According to the expedition’s website, paying passengers were promised 'a truly unique voyage, offering the public an opportunity to take part in an exciting scientific expedition to the Antarctic continent.' Drones were to be used to ensure a safe passage through the ice, but it appears that such precautions failed to prevent the 71-meter-long ship (about 233 feet) from getting stranded.
Rescue operations for that trip approached $1 million.
Safety remains a concern for vessels navigating the icy waters of both polar regions. These areas are poorly mapped and ships have run into trouble after encountering rocks. Passengers have also been injured when chunks of falling glacier have sent waves of ice and water on the deck.
“These regions have harsh conditions, and if you make one small mistake it can have very serious consequences,” Miriam glitz of WWF-International’s Oslo-based Arctic program told the Monitor in 2007.
Crystal Cruises has employed an ice breaker and two scouting helicopters to help guide the Serenity through the Northwest Passage.
So far, at least, the cruise passengers appear thrilled by the journey. The ship reached its last port-of-call on Sunday before heading into the Arctic. Passengers disembarked the ship for excursions into Nome, where some locals had been preparing for eight months for the arrival of the ship. Local craftsman and shopkeepers eagerly awaited the wealthy visitors, hoping to entice them to indulge in local fare from halibut pizza to walrus ivory jewelry.
Controversy aside, the opening of the Northwest Passage to cruise liners is a “game changer” for Nome and its 3,800 residents, Mayor Richard Beneville told Alaska Dispatch News.
“We’ve always talked about diversifying the economy in Alaska,” Mayor Beneville said. “By opening up Western Alaska, the Bering Strait and the Arctic Ocean, we will begin revenue streams that – we don’t even know what they are!”
on: Aug 23, 2016, 05:16 AM
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In a dry region, crowd-funding comes to a lake's rescue
An innovative citizen-led action in India has become a model for what's possible to protect water supplies, backers say.
By Stella Paul, Thomson Reuters Foundation 8/23/2016
YAVATMAL, India — When residents of a city in one of India's most water-stressed regions banded together with authorities to de-silt their local reservoir, they were trying to secure the future of their drinking water supply.
But the activists discovered that the silt that clogs the Nilona reservoir, 750 km (470 miles) east of Mumbai in Maharashtra state, could also boost harvests in this drought-stricken area, where crop failures have driven thousands of farmers to suicide.
Their innovative crowd-funded, citizen-led action has become a model for what's possible to protect water supplies in India, backers say.
Residents of Yavatmal in Vidarbha district rely for their water on an earth-lined reservoir 10 kilometers (6 miles) away.
The nearly 700 meter-long lake, built in 1972, originally had a capacity of 6.39 million cubic meters, but this has fallen by at least a third as soil has washed into the lake, according to government estimates.
Local activists contend that the silt, combined with vegetation growing along the edges of Nilona, has reduced its capacity by as much as half.
The monsoon in Maharashtra, as in other parts of India, has become increasingly erratic in recent years, and this is partly to blame for the silt problem.
Although rainfall has been enough to keep the 700-meter-long lake more or less full, heavier than average downpours have washed large quantities of soil into the lake.
In July 2014, authorities in Yavatmal halved the supply of water to the city, from 64 million liters to 32 million liters weekly. Residents now receive piped water for just two or three hours, three times a week.
Local farmers do not have access to the reservoir for irrigation, and the unreliable rainfall, combined with prolonged drought, has made planting and harvesting crops unpredictable, as well as damaging crops and playing havoc with livelihoods.
In drought-ravaged Vidarbha district, thousands of farmers have killed themselves in the past two decades because of crop failures and debts.
Alok Gupta, a 45-year-old doctor in Yavatmal, was inspired to act after hearing a talk a by a physician-turned-activist who had spearheaded efforts to revive over a dozen reservoirs across Maharashtra.
"It was a wake-up call for us," recalled Gupta, who is a member of Prayas, a network of professionals who promote civic action for social causes. "The water supply was already inadequate. How would we survive if it got worse?"
The Prayas members were sure of one thing: reclaiming their reservoir would have to be a collective act.
"De-silting Nilona would need huge amount of money, time and hard work. A few of us couldn't do it. We needed a citizen movement," said Kamal Bagdi, a businessman and a member of Prayas.
Local government officials initially argued that Nilona would not become completely silted up for another 20 years, at which point they planned to divert water from the Bembla reservoir, 25 kilometers away.
The government estimated the cost of digging canals from Bembla to Nilona at 25 million rupees ($377,000).
But the Prayas members wanted to act sooner, and they proposed an alternative: Mission Deep Nilona (MDN), a crowd-funded project to de-silt the reservoir at a cost of 3.5 million rupees ($52,700).
The activists published a brochure and roped in young people to tour the city in an open truck singing patriotic songs and appealing to locals to save their only source of drinking water.
The response was overwhelming, said Avinash Saoji, founder of Prayas. MDN raised 2.3 million rupees of its 3.4 million rupee budget from private donations. The government provided the remainder and helped get the necessary approvals from agencies.
The rest of the effort depended upon expertise from Prayas members and the contributions of the city's residents. Apart from cash, donations also came in the forms of dredgers, trucks, and free labor.
"A total of 12,000 people donated labor, helping clear grass, water weeds, pebbles, and mud. Some served free food and drinks," Saoji said.
MDN was formally launched in April 2015. By the end of May, MDN had removed the first 35,000 cubic meters of the 6.3 million cubic meters of silt clogging Nilona.
For MDN's leaders, what they did with that silt is a highlight of their story.
"Silt increases soil fertility. If farmers use the silt from Nilona, they can get a higher [crop] yield. In turn, we don't have to worry about its disposal," said Gupta, who volunteer's as MDN's project director.
Farmer Gaju Rawat, who owns a 2-acre farm in Barwada, one of 10 villages around Nilona, agrees.
"They offered us tons of silt for free, provided we transported it ourselves. I brought 30 tractors of silt, which is a very good way to increase moisture to my field. Normally I get 15-30 quintals of cotton. But this year, I am expecting at least double that," Rawat said happily.
Dattatreya Gaekwad, a senior government official in the district's agriculture department, described MDN as "a perfect example of people's cooperation for social development."
In January the group plans to remove a further 100,000 truckloads of silt.
The initial success of the project has inspired the activists to add other improvements to the water system. They have created a storage pond 5 kilometers upstream from Nilona to prevent waste water from Yavatmal flowing directly into the reservoir.
Several check dams and canals are also due to be constructed over the next several years.
The budget for the whole project will expand to 17.5 million rupees ($260,000). It's a large sum, but less than the cost of the government's planned diversion of the Bembla reservoir – and, activists argue, a more sustainable solution.
The Prayas members are confident that they can crowdfund the remainder of their plans.
"It will be challenging, but together we can do it," said a confident Gupta.
on: Aug 23, 2016, 05:08 AM
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Green technologies: Portable wind turbine promises off-grid power
Like many green technologies, wind power's main drawback is a matter of size: Small turbines are inefficient and expensive, and utility scale turbines require too much land and capital for some communities. The Portable Power Center, a mobile, mid-sized wind turbine, could be just right.
By David J. Unger, Correspondent 8/23/2016
What fits into a standard shipping container and has the ability to power up to 15 homes in a 12 mile-per-hour wind?
A mid-size, portable wind turbine, called the Portable Power Center, from Uprise Energy, a San Diego-based wind energy company. The 50-kilowatt device is designed to provide affordable, practical electricity for remote, off-grid communities. Set-up requires one technician and one day; maintenance is minimal and done at ground level, according to Uprise. The energy produced is affordable, the makers say, less than utility, solar and diesel power.
For humanitarian efforts and military operations, which require flexible, mobile sources of energy, the Portable Power Center could prove useful.
According to the company, the wheeled turbine occupies a unique, underdeveloped niche in the green technologies sector. "While wind turbine energy is proven, small wind turbines are inefficient and unaffordable," the Uprise Energy web site reads, "and while utility scale wind turbines are affordable on a cost per kwhr, they require large capital commitments and are not suitable for mid-size communities. The solution is an efficient and affordable mid-size wind turbine that is conveniently delivered, set-up, operated, and maintained."
You might say it's the iPad Mini of wind turbines – a sleek, happy middle ground between performance and portability.
A computer-animated video on the company's web site depicts the wheeled wind machine in transport. Arriving at its destination, the shiny, white turbine unfolds and rises effortlessly into the air, over the soundtrack of swelling strings. As the fans spin, night falls, and lights flicker on in nearby homes.
Curiously, the wind turbine unit is towed by what appears to be a Hummer – a symbol of gas-guzzling inefficiency in the auto industry.
"This was a decision made by the animation team and was driven by the lack of vehicle options in this size range," wrote Jonathan Knight, principal and director of business development at Uprise Energy, in an email. "I like to think it's running on bio-diesel or some other alternate form of power."
Stephen Connors, a renewable energy researcher at the MIT Energy Initiative, offered some cautioned skepticism after a preliminary review of Uprise's promotional materials. The MIT Energy Initiative is a multidisciplinary effort at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.
The question, as Mr. Connors puts it, is: "Is it physics or is it photoshop?"
New green technology startups often promise cheaper alternatives, but they rarely deliver, Connors said, due to the upfront development costs. Connors also expressed some questions over the engineering logistics of the project – whether or not such a device would be able to stay completely upright in high winds and uneven territory.
"They’ve got a lot of technological and market uncertainty," Connors said, "but if they can identify a high value early adopter to get a test rig out there then that would be interesting."
The Portable Power Center has received considerable interest from the governments of Argentina and Peru, along with commercial interest from companies in Southeast Asia, according to Mr. Knight.
"We're actively communicating with a number of these parties and are somewhat overwhelmed with the positive response a little media attention has garnered," Knight wrote in an email.
on: Aug 23, 2016, 05:06 AM
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Curacao looks at using ocean water for power
Curacao, an island nation in the southern Caribbean, may use cold seawater to generate power, taking an innovative step toward clean, local energy.
By Santiago Ortega, AlertNet 8/23/2016
In less than two years, Curacao may be using its ocean as a power plant. The island nation in the southern Caribbean could use seawater to generate and save power, taking a major step toward innovation in clean energy, projects backers say.
A Dutch company called Bluerise B.V. and the company that owns Curacao’s airport – Curacao Airport Holding N.V. – are exploring building a small 100-kilowatt marine power plant that will use the temperature of the seawater as a power source.
In the tropics, the sun heats the ocean surface and keeps it warm all year long. But at a depth of one kilometre (0.6 miles), sunlight can’t reach and warm colder waters, circulated from the Arctic.
Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) works by deploying a pipeline in the ocean to pump cold, deep water to the surface and take advantage of the difference in its temperature with the warm surface water.
Cold and warm waters are used in a process to condense and evaporate ammonia, causing it to move inside a closed-pipe circuit. Evaporated ammonia powers a turbine that generates electricity, and then is condensed to continue the cycle.
The downside of the process is that the difference in temperatures is not very large, so the efficiency of the process – and thus the power production – is low when compared to conventional power plants. The bright side is that the energy resource is as abundant as the ocean itself.
”The ocean is an interesting resource to use, as it is always available,” says Berend Jan Kleute, Bluerise’s chief technology officer. He says OTEC might be used as one of the constant and reliable components of an integrated island energy system. Such a system could also include cheaper – but intermittent – renewable resources such as wind and solar power.
If the process is sufficiently cost effective – a huge question at this point – offshore OTEC plants could eventually provide energy for coastal communities on mainland areas, and any country with access to warm, tropical ocean waters, he said.
The plants could also use their electricity to create fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia, which would later be transported to shore.
According to Jan Kleute, the estimated installation costs of OTEC are around $12 million per installed megawatt – much more expensive than wind and solar. That has limited the technology’s appear to potential investors.
Until recently, OTEC development costs were so high that a commercial project was unthinkable, but Bluerise and Curacao’s airport may have found a way around this difficulty. The solution is using a fraction of the pumped cold water to run the airport’s air-conditioning system.
The project began in 2010 when Curacao airport officials, looking for a way to set themselves apart from competitors in the region, began exploring using OTEC technology.
Becoming “a center of excellence of renewable energy suits our vision,” said Simon Kloppenburg, development manager for the airport, which hopes to become a more important gateway into Latin America.
The airport team had looked at other renewables. But OTEC seemed an appropriate fit, Kloppenburg said.
Around 60 percent of the airport’s energy consumption goes to air-conditioning, and the power demand is almost constant, Kloppenburg said. Utility costs in Curacao are expensive because energy has to be imported – a problem shared by other islands. The price per kilowatt-hour of imported energy is around 45 cents, Kloppenburg said, which can be 10 times as much as the cost of power in mainland areas of the region.
Bluerise proposed that the airport begin running its air-conditioning systems using cold seawater pumped from deep in the ocean – a change it claims could result in power savings of 90 percent. The airport gave the project the green light, financing preliminary and feasibility studies.
The seawater air-conditioning component is crucial for making the OTEC cost-effective, project officials say. The fuel savings from using seawater to run the airport’s air-conditioning system could over time help repay the cost of construction of the deep-sea pipeline, which could then be used for both air conditioning and the OTEC pilot plant.
The aim is to have the pipeline – the most costly component of the system – in place and the OTEC plant working by 2014, project backers said.
If the concept works, Bluerise hopes to then build an additional 1 megawatt OTEC power plant that could provide about 1 percent of the reliable power generation needed on the island of 140,000 people.
Jan Kleute says he can imagine a future with floating offshore 5 to 10 megawatt OTEC plants giving clean and reliable electricity to tropical islands around the world.
The Curacao project potentially could be expanded beyond power and air conditioning. If they can find needed investment, Bluerise and the airport hope to develop an eco-park – an industrial complex for production and research – based on the use of leftover airport cold water.
Potential activities at the eco-park might include desalination, cooling soils to allow planting of different crops, growing fish from temperate waters, or growing algae for biofuels, Bluerise officials said.
A similar scheme is functioning in the National Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority, where a demonstration OTEC plant was constructed in the 1970s. In 1989 the laboratory began allowing other research activities to use the cold water. According to the laboratory’s website, it today hosts more than 30 companies and generates about $40 million in economic benefits.
The total cost of the Curacao ocean power plant, air-conditioning effort, and eco-park would would be about $30 million; so far $1.2 million has been invested in environmental assessment and engineering studies currently under way, project officials said.
• Santiago Ortega Arango is a Colombian engineer and freelance journalist interested in climate change and renewable power issues. He is an associate professor at the Escuela de Ingeniería de Antioquia and a Fellow in Global Journalism at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.
on: Aug 23, 2016, 05:04 AM
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Five ways to make aquaculture more sustainable
Combining rice paddles and fish ponds, and using locally caught fish as feed, are just two of the ways that fish farming, or aquaculture, can be made more environmentally friendly.
By Laura Reynolds, Nourishing the Planet 8/23/2016
Aquaculture, or the rearing of fish in captivity, is the world’s fastest-growing protein-producing activity, with nearly 50 percent of all seafood being farmed rather than caught in wild fisheries.
This rapid growth has provoked questions of sustainability in the global aquaculture industry, including how to handle the massive amounts of salt water being imported inland for fish farms. While researchers warn of dangerous overfishing and decline in the world’s wild fish population, aquaculture stands as a potentially sustainable alternative, and recent innovations promise to enhance the efficiency, safety, and sustainability of aquaculture while improving the lives of its fish farmers.
Today, Nourishing the Planet examines five innovations that are improving the sustainability of aquaculture around the world.
1. Integrating rice-and-fish farming: In many parts of Asia, rice farming provides a major source of income. Rice paddies and fish have long coexisted incidentally, since many fish species find their way into flooded rice fields and actually prefer the fields for reproduction and habitation. But, recently farmers have intentionally imported fish into their rice fields. The advantages of integrated rice-fish farming include a more productive and nutrient-rich rice crop, because fish increase the availability of phosphorous and nitrogen in soils; a reduction in disease-carrying aquatic weeds and algae, which compete with rice for nutrients but are a favored food among fish; and an extra source of income for farmers who can find markets for their fish.
Rice-fish farming in action: In Bangladesh, where approximately 80 percent of its total cultivable land is devoted to rice farming, two researchers from Charles Darwin University in Australia studied the benefits of integrating fish into rice cultivation in 2010. They found that for aman, the most popularly raised rice variety in Bangladesh, the yield was 12 percent higher in integrated systems than in rice monocultures, and fertilizer and pesticide inputs were reduced. In addition, another researcher from Shimane University in Japan found that rice-fish farmers had 5–11 percent higher revenue than farmers of rice monocultures.
2. Combating salmon lice with wrasse fish: The spread of disease in aquaculture poses a serious threat not only to farmed fish, but also to wild fisheries. Although one such disease, salmon lice, occurs naturally in the wild, salmon lice has been intensified by aquaculture because of its high concentrations and varieties of species – in some areas of Norway, for example, wild salmon and sea trout had 3-5 times more lice than what is considered to be a “fatal dose.” Furthermore, the lice can be transmitted from fish to fish or across large distances via currents, making the disease very difficult to contain. If aquaculture contributes to the incidence of a potentially fatal disease in wild habitats, then it may contribute to the collapse of global wild fisheries. For these reasons, scientists from Stirling University in Scotland are studying the effect of wrasse, a family of fish that cleans other fish of parasites and has been shown to help control lice in farmed salmon. If wrasse can effectively control the incidence of salmon lice, fish farms can reduce their use of medicines and other inputs, and limit their environmental impact.
Using wrasse to reduce salmon lice in action: In September 2011 Scotland’s two largest salmon-farming operations announced a joint study with Stirling University in Scotland to determine the best species of wrasse to combat salmon lice. The companies are each investing nearly $700,000 to develop and grow enough wrasse to deploy in Atlantic salmon farms throughout Scotland.
3. Recirculating aquaculture systems: A form of aquaculture that has gained popularity in the last few years is called recirculating aquaculture systems, or RAS. These systems recirculate the water used in the fish tank after flowing through a treatment tank, so they use up to 99 percent less water than other aquaculture systems. Because they are maintained in controlled environments, RAS can reduce the discharge of waste and the need for antibiotics or chemicals used to combat disease, as well as prevent fish and parasite escapes. RAS can also incorporate hydroponics, or the water-based cultivation of plants, because the plants thrive in the nutrient-rich water and actually help purify it for reuse. In addition, RAS are less damaging to the environment than many other aquaculture systems, such as open-ocean farms, because of their limited pollution and low demands for space.
RAS in action: Clifford Fedler, a professor of civil engineering at Texas Tech University, has taken the idea of RAS and created a system that can also treat wastewater and create biomass to be used as renewable fuel, potentially helping rural and underserved communities become largely self-sufficient. The systems use the wastewater to grow plants such as water hyacinth, which produces one of the highest biomass yields and is the fastest-growing plant in a hydroponic system. In 2004, the system was implemented in a Peruvian village, and it now turns human and animal wastewater into reusable fuel, providing electricity for cooking and lighting.
4. Using locally caught fish as feed: The question of how to feed fish raised in aquaculture operations is controversial. Many researchers, such as Rosamund Naylor and Marshall Burke from Stanford University, now estimate large-scale, industrial aquaculture to be a “net drain” on the world’s fish supply, meaning that farms raising larger fish such as tuna actually consume more fish in the form of ground-up feed than they produce for human consumption. In addition, farmers are increasingly cutting costs by feeding fishmeal to traditionally herbivorous fish. Aquaculture that relies on local supplies of fish to feed their fish stock could reduce the inputs of industrial operations.
Locally caught fish feed in action: Many tuna farms and “ranches” in Baja California rely predominantly on seasonal, locally caught Pacific sardine as feed. This alternative feeding method reduces many of the dangers of industrial aquaculture because the feed comes from natural populations, reducing the risk of introducing exotic species that could cause negative interactions with wild fish. In addition, the feed does not have to be processed and pelletized for transport, which greatly reduces the carbon emissions of these operations, according to Peter Tyedmers of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.
5. Involving women in aquaculture: Women in developing countries can have a large role in small-scale, sustainable aquaculture systems because they are often charged with managing their family’s land while the men seek work in cities. Commercial aquaculture often replaces paddy fields or other agricultural activities in which women are traditionally involved. Because there is often bias against employing women in these larger aquaculture operations, the involvement of women in home-based aquaculture systems, such as backyard ponds, would provide them with a reliable source of income. These operations would also provide nutritional, monetary, and social benefits for the family and community.
Women in aquaculture in action: In a southern state of India, researchers from the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation are training 30 women to run home-based aquaculture operations, raising ornamental fish for sale. Ornamental fish were chosen as the crop because they require limited space, technical skill, and time, and can be sold at markets for around $9-to-$14 per household, per month. The program linked women with credit, technology, infrastructure, training, job security, and trade, providing a powerful tool to improve the lives of women in poor, rural areas.
on: Aug 23, 2016, 05:01 AM
|Started by Rad - Last post by Rad|
SunFunder uses crowdsourcing to finance solar projects in Africa, India
More than a billion people lack access to electricity. Solar power could be a big part of the answer, says SunFunder founder Ryan Levinson.
By Gregory M. Lamb, Staff writer 8/23/2016
The cost of solar power has come down dramatically in recent years. And millions of people in the developing world desperately need a cheap, clean source of energy. But solar is only coming to them slowly.
What's holding things up?
While there are some tough distribution hurdles to leap to get solar power to remote villages, the bigger challenge is how to finance it. Customers usually can pay very little up front. They need ways to "pay as you go," buying electricity as they use it. But solar power companies need capital up front to finance their projects.
That's where SunFunder steps in. It's a solar-financing company that partners with solar businesses in places like Africa and India.
And where does SunFunder get its money? Right now it's taking advantage of crowdsourcing. Some 600 individuals from 33 countries have provided loans averaging about $100 each. As it grows, SunFunder is also reaching out to larger private investors, foundations, and even government entities.
"We see a really big opportunity there," says Ryan Levinson, who founded SunFunder in July 2012. While crowdfunding has been a great launching pad, the need for large amounts of capital is evident. "We believe it's going to be a profitable industry," says Mr. Levinson, who previously had served as a vice president for solar projects at Wells Fargo. Solar could "provide energy to over a billion people" in the developing world who lack it, he says.
Kerosene and diesel are the current fuels of choice in the developing world. But they are dirty sources of energy, create poor indoor air quality, contribute to climate change, and are very costly. Poor people "spend a huge amount of their income for energy," Levinson says. "That's what energy poverty is."
To attack the problem Sunfunder makes short-term loans to solar businesses of one to three years. The loan sizes have ranged from $4,000 to $25,000. So far 10 projects have been funded on the SunFunder website, totaling $140,000. The first of these modest-sized loans, which big banks often ignore as not worth their time, already has been 100 percent repaid.
While solar has an important role to play in cooking, lighting, and heating, its biggest appeal in developing countries is as a means of charging cell phones.
"Cell phone charging is the No. 1 reason people want solar," Levinson says. "We hear that over and over again. It took me a few times hearing it before I started believing it."
Some 600 million people in the world have cell phones but lack access to any kind of convenient or affordable way to charge them. They may have to walk for hours to a charging station, which might consist of a car battery being charged by a diesel engine.
Cell phones are opening up new ways for poor people to pay for things, including solar power. "Now people are able to charge their cell phones with solar energy – and also pay for their solar energy by cell phone," Levinson says. In that way, solar power is "not just about access to energy but access to [cell phone] connectivity, to information."
The repayment rate to SunFunder and its investors has been 100 percent, he says. "We're very careful" in choosing solar companies to work with, Levinson says. "They have to have a strong track record and know what they're doing."
The growing San Francisco-based company has a five-person team, including cofounder Audrey Desiderato, who is stationed in Tanzania.
After weighing the advantages and disadvantages of organizing as a nonprofit entity, Levinson decided SunFunder should be a for-profit company to maximize its ability to grow.
"I think there is still a big role for nonprofits" in solar power, he quickly adds, especially in funding "more risky" experimental or pilot projects, such as solar-powered cell phone towers.
"There's a lot of experimentation, a lot of business models being tested," he says.