GreenTech is touted as the key to braking climate change. One power plant in Iceland is showing the way by becoming carbon negative.
Many countries, including France, have ratified the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, thus committing to reducing the output of greenhouse gases. A number of cities, including Copenhagen and Barcelona are going even further, aiming to become ‘carbon neutral’ within a few years. One example from Iceland shows how GreenTech companies can help them achieve their emissions reduction targets.
On this small island, Swiss CO2 capture technology specialist Climeworks has just installed the world’s first carbon removal solution based on direct air carbon capture (DAC) and geological storage. This carbon capture & storage system, running at the geothermal power plant at Hellisheidi, is part of the EU-funded CarbFix2 project. It is designed to demonstrate that the method – capturing CO2 direct from ambient air and pumping it, together with water, into the basaltic rock formation on which Iceland rests – actually works. The aim is to turn the gas rapidly into solid carbonate minerals, thus ensuring that it will not escape into the atmosphere for millions of years.
The process is currently very costly, but such technical progress sustains the hope of the international community of keeping global warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels and thus helping to avert the worst effects of climate change. The Hellisheidi power plant is the first-ever installation equipped to achieve ‘carbon negative’ status.
Source : l’Atelier
A GreenTech start-up is recycling pollution by turning it into ink
What if pollution became a raw material? The start-up Graviky, singled out at the Hello Tomorrow Global Summit, is offering a rather original eco solution.
While some start-ups are working to protect people from pollution, others are seeking to exploit its potential. This is why Graviky Labs, a spinoff of the MIT Media Lab selected as one of the six best start-ups in the environment category at the Hello Tomorrow Summit 2017, has developed Air-Ink, the first ink produced using pollution.
Thanks to Kaalink, a technological process installed in the exhaust pipe extension of a motor vehicle, fine particles are captured from the soot emitted. This collected material passes through several processes in order to extract the heavy and carcinogenic metals. This is how the final product, a carbon-based purified pigment, is obtained.
Next, this pigment passes through other chemical processes in order to produce different types of inks and paints. But why not simply eradicate the pollution rather that create ink from it? In order to eliminate its propensity to float in the air, explains Graviky. The patent is currently pending for this technology, which is designed for artistic use. The process has already captured 1.6 billion micrograms of particles, which is the equivalent of cleaning 1.6 billion litres of outside air. In the words of Richard Buckminster Fuller, an American architect, designer, inventor and futurist, "Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we've been ignorant of their value."
The greenest companies are seducing millennials
Millennials are concerned about global warming but are counting on companies to take the necessary measures, according to a recent study. Does this mean that the future of retail will involve GreenTech?
There are many stakeholders who are committed to the planet; 145 States have ratified the Paris Climate Agreement. On a smaller scale, cities sometimes set more ambitious aims for themselves. Twelve cities around the world have just announced their aim to be carbon neutral by 2030 in order to tackle global warming.
What about companies? The younger generations are counting on companies to act in turn. According to a recent study published by the PR group Shelton, 76% of millennials are worried about the consequences of climate imbalance on their quality of life, and 82% worry for their children's quality of life. Rather than acting themselves (only 34% recycle, compared with 52% of Americans of all ages), 59% of generation Y are turning to companies to resolve this issue that is bigger than them. 70% of millennials say that a firm's good environmental practices influence their purchasing decisions.
And in response to the question "what kinds of environmental or social practices are you most aware of?", environmental issues come in second place behind wellbeing at work. These concerns are in line with a previous study carried out by Nielsen, according to which 55% of consumers would be happy to pay more for brands that are committed to having a positive impact on the environment. In the same vein, a UCLA report has also established that employees of a green company are more productive than those employed by a company that isn't environmentally friendly. This leads us to believe that firms have everything to gain by going green. We would venture that GreenTech could facilitate this transition.
Electric vehicles and charging stations: Where to start?
For there to be more electric vehicles, there must be charging stations. But the charging stations cannot be profitable until there are sufficient vehicles on the road. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
If ever the fates of two innovations were closely intertwined, it is those of the electric vehicle and the charging infrastructure it relies on.
If you were a convert from the outset, there is a good chance you have a large, detached home or private drive in which to install a charging point cheaply. Or perhaps you are lucky enough to work for a responsible company that makes free charging stations available to its employees.
For all other drivers who are open to the idea of green vehicles and interested in these quiet cars, several issues arise: where are the charging points and how much do they cost? They will naturally need to be reassured before making the switch to electric.
Charging currently carried out in one of two ways
In 80% of cases, drivers charge their vehicles at home. This is often sufficient since at present, electric cars are predominantly used to make short journeys in urban areas (with an average daily distance of some 30km). For under €1,000, owners of detached homes or those with a private drive can have a charging station installed by a specialist company, their vehicle dealership or their energy provider.
But what about the other 20%? Drivers who park their cars in the street will turn to public charging stations. Fortunately, work places are increasingly offering a solution, with some companies beginning to install charging facilities in the staff car park as a service they provide to their employees. They represent an additional way to promote more environmentally friendly travel methods. These points are often free to use and can enable longer commuter journeys, providing they are combined with overnight charging elsewhere.
Shopping centres may also provide free charging stations for their customers to use; in exchange, these guarantee users remain at the centre for 40–60 minutes, creating more chances for them to make purchases.
New opportunities – but using which business model?
Private operators and energy providers are installing fee-paying charging points in public spaces such as car parks and streets. These points are designed for members of the public who cannot top up their vehicles elsewhere.
But creativity will be required to try to ensure every point is used: this means identifying and converting the best sites, joining a network that offers a mobile app to help users find its charging points, a simple means of payment, and agreeing price alignment on home charging services, etc. However, the profitability of public stations, which depends on how much they are used, will remain uncertain as long as other networks (home or business) offer preferential terms. And if the public model cannot be extended sufficiently, it will hold back the growth of electric cars. This is the great challenge for towns and cities tackling the roll-out of electric cars in future years.
Shaping energy transition together
This is the ambition of the EUREF campus, where companies, start-ups, universities and research institutes work together to develop new solutions in the field of sustainable energy and mobility. It is an incubator for ideas at the heart of Berlin's Schöneberg district.
The initiative was born in 2008. Based on the principle of partnership, its ambition is to develop smart solutions for the city of tomorrow. The choice of site was symbolic: it is located at an old gas storage site with historical importance. Its imposing reservoir tank has been converted into a forum that can play host to several hundred people.
EUREF campus has a clear objective: to create new energy solutions that help the country, and other countries too, to make climate protection aims a reality by 2050. The campus is therefore a place for training, study and also experimentation. Challenges related to energy transition are tackled here. The solutions developed by the different stakeholders are exhibited to bring them to a wider audience, because it's not enough just to innovate, you must convince others too.
The campus was founded to reflect the fact that in order to tackle climate change effectively, all the corporate, scientific, political and public stakeholders must work hand-in-hand, not just to discuss ideas, but also to take action. This is why guided tours and informative events on climate protection take place on the campus to contribute to raising as much awareness as possible.
A melting pot of ideas for generating sustainable energy
The ideas born here are tested here. The energy generated on the campus is largely climate neutral. There are photovoltaic systems, urban wind turbines installed on the street or on roofs and a natural biogas cogeneration plant that generates most of the energy required to run the site. To accompany the energy generation, distribution and storage are being rethought at a local level. A smart micro-network forms the heart of the campus's energy supply system. Both in terms of size and operating model, it is unique in Germany and could soon integrate geothermal energy.
The EUREF campus also has the country's largest electrical charging point. A solar roof provides sustainable energy to supply electric vehicles, which themselves serve as mobile storage for the smart network. Soon, driverless vehicles will charge themselves at new induction charging stations.
And it's working! Anyone who walks around the campus can see the ideas developed by the partners being translated into concrete solutions that prove that the energy transition is both achievable and affordable.
A look at Climate-KIC
Are you considering how your organisation or company can make the sustainable transition? Climate-KIC might just be able to help you.
Located on the EUREF campus, Climate-KIC works to mitigate and adapt to climate change. It is the biggest European public-private innovation partnership focusing on climate change. Created in 2010 by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), Climate-KIC brings together dynamic companies, the best academic institutes and the public sector.
They focus on four key areas:
In February 2017, Climate-KIC moved to new offices in Brussels, close to the European Parliament and Commission.