FuturArc Monthly News Roundup
July 2015 News Roundup
Developments in Green architecture, construction and initiatives in cities and rural areas
ASEAN: To harmonise a low-carbon path to Paris
Environmental groups in Southeast Asia are urging governments of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to present a united and ambitious climate action plan for the upcoming climate conference in Paris this December.
The economic integration slated to happen in December will include Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Indonesia.
“The burning of fossil fuels for energy production has been found to be primarily responsible for emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases. A harmonised ASEAN policy reform to de-subsidise coal, oil and gas, and to support renewable and other low-carbon technologies, is therefore necessary, especially in the context of the ASEAN economic integration,” explained Zelda Soriano, legal and political advisor of Greenpeace Southeast Asia and a member of A-FAB. i
Bangladesh: Small-scale solar systems to help power up villages
Bright Green Energy Foundation (BGEF) installed more than 145,000 solar home systems (SHS) that benefitted 8 million people in rural Bangladesh.
Besides ensuring affordable off-grid power, the programme also provides job opportunities for women. “Only if it is cheap and efficient will it work for the poor who need it most. The strategy is responsible for the popularity of the SHS in Bangladesh,” Dipal Chandra Barua, the founder of BGEF, tells SciDev.Net.
BGEF is increasingly moving its services from the rural areas to the urban centres of the country, where grid power is unreliable and subject to frequent blackouts.
Bangladesh plans to generate 220 megawatts of solar power by 2017, when the SHS scheme will be covering 6 million homes across the country, says Barua. ii
Europe: Norway pumps up ‘green battery’ plan
Norway is hoping to become the ‘green battery of Europe’ by using its 937 hydropower plants to instantly boost European supplies and avoid other countries having to switch to fossil fuel plants to make up for shortfalls.
The problem at the moment is that even hydropower is not instant. To reach the correct speed to provide stable power to the grid, at the correct frequency of alternating currents, water requires time to flow through the vast network of pipes and the turbines.
By creating a sealed surge chamber in the rocks close to the turbines, engineers can feed electricity, at the right frequency, into the grid immediately. The empty chamber contains air that is compressed as the space is filled with water. So when the valves are open, the water can instantly turn turbines at the correct speed. iii
Global: New breakthrough in energy-efficient smart windows
US researchers are a step closer to commercialising smart windows that can selectively let in light and heat, by refining the development with a new ‘cool mode’ and ‘warm mode’.
The cool mode material blocks 90 percent of near-infrared light and 80 percent of the visible light from the sun, and takes only minutes to switch between modes. A simple coating creates the ‘warm mode’, in which visible light can be blocked while near-infrared light can enter.
The researchers are now working on a low-cost manufacturing method. iv
Global: People and planet benefit from Green buildings
Studies into 69,000 buildings—homes, offices and factories—in 150 countries show that there are fewer illnesses among residents and workers, who report they are more comfortable and happier. Employers also find that they are more productive.
“Overall, the initial scientific evidence indicates better indoor environmental quality in Green buildings versus non-Green buildings, with direct benefits to human health for occupants of those buildings,” Dr Joseph Allen, environmental health researcher at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, says.
The research measured internal air quality, light, noise and the presence of chemicals that might adversely affect health, as well as asking the people who live and work in them about their experiences. v
India: SunEdison, Inc, with Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited, to provide 180 megawatts AC of solar power to New Delhi
This is the largest agreement that SunEdison has signed under the open access solar framework, which allows renewable energy providers to sell energy directly through the national grid to end customers.
"This project makes a direct and powerful contribution towards India's goal of generating 100 gigawatts of solar power by 2022," said the president of SunEdison.
The plants are projected to generate 375,000 megawatt-hours a year, and eliminate the emission of approximately 300,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, equivalent to taking more than 54,000 cars off the road. vi
Japan: Transforming abandoned golf courses into solar power plants
Faced with a proposal to double the amount of renewable power sources by 2030, Japan has begun construction of solar plants on its many abandoned golf courses.
Kyocera, a solar power company, estimates that the new plant in 2017 will generate enough electricity for 8,100 local homes annually, and another in 2018 would bring enough power to 30,500 households.
The United States also has plans to replace the courses in New York and Minnesota. vii
Pakistan: Solar lamps in villages
Buksh Foundation is spreading the benefits of solar energy throughout rural Pakistan. Lighting a Million Lives, the foundation’s project in collaboration with The Energy and Resources Institute in India, has installed solar charging stations in 150 off-grid villages around the country, and has plans to reach 4,000 villages by 2017.
“Our target is to provide sustainable energy to far-flung rural off-grid areas of Pakistan, and we especially want to empower women in these areas through the project,” said Fiza Farhan, CEO of the Buksh Foundation.
She said the solar lanterns are not only convenient and a source of income for some villagers, they also help reduce climate-changing carbon emissions as each lantern replaces around 500 to 600 litres of kerosene during its 10-year lifespan. viii
Philippines: Hybrid bus-train for Manila’s public transport
The five-coach, fully air-conditioned road train can accommodate up to 240 commuters per ride and has a maximum speed of 50 kilometres per hour. It is energy-efficient and eco-friendly, alternately running on hybrid-diesel fuel and an electric battery. Additionally, it is cost-effective since most of its parts are sourced locally.
Mario Montejo, secretary for the Department of Science and Technology, estimates that the road train can serve 650,000 commuters when fully implemented after another two to three years in testing. ix
Singapore: Urban Habitat Award winner and finalists
The 2015 winner of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat’s Urban Habitat Award is the PARKROYAL on Pickering in Singapore, remarkable for its extensive greenery throughout, and its porous, pedestrian-oriented integration with the ground plane.
Taiwan: New green, clutter-free rail system in Kaohsiung
The new light rail transit system will circle the urban core at street level and is the world's first system without hanging power lines. Each station has a short stretch of overhead power cables, which recharge capacitors in 20–25 seconds. Greenery will be planted along 80 percent of the tracks, and stations will sit amid the foliage.
Kaohsiung is introducing a signalling system that gives priority to trams when they approach intersections. To improve safety, grooved rails will be used for the rail lines.
Contractors are rushing to complete the first phase of construction of an 8.7-kilometre stretch along the sea by the end of 2015. xi
Text by Carissa Kwok