Climate Emergency for Glaciers
Global warming is causing the Mer de Glace – France’s largest glacier, located in the Mont Blanc massif – to shrink at an annual rate of 30 meters in length and 4 to 6 mm in thickness. The glacier, which covers 40 square kilometers, is the third largest glacier in the Alps. It can be up to 300 meters thick, but you have to climb higher and higher to witness it (photo). In some places, the brilliant white ice has been taken over by large spaces of gray.
When the Ice Melts Away...
As the Mer de Glace retreats, it is uncovering trash from other eras. Today, visitors to the glacier often discover bits of climbing equipment left behind by mountain climbers at the start of the 20th century, and sometimes even the contents of their backpacks. This photo of an orange juice can takes us back 75 years
A Sea of Photovoltaic Panels at the Foot of the Alps
La Colle des Mées is one of France’s biggest solar farms. The 200-hectare complex comprises six large photovoltaic parks featuring 112,000 panels and offers a capacity of 100 mW. Located at an altitude of 800 meters, La Colle des Mées benefits from clean air and good ventilation, helping to improve the panels’ yield. The farm is also home to numerous honey plants growing under the panels, which allow bees to thrive.
Floating Panels in Southern Germany
Already very popular in China and Japan, floating photovoltaic panels are starting to appear in Germany. In early July, a floating system was inaugurated on an artificial lake, previously a gravel pit, in Renchen, Southern Germany.
Vietnam is Increasing its Use of Renewable Energy
Solar and wind power are key to curbing greenhouse gas emissions and, in turn, global warming. But these energy sources are not sufficient to meet emerging economies’ growing energy demand. Vietnam’s economy, for example, is experiencing spectacular growth, but it still largely depends on coal – a much cheaper means of producing electricity. Solar and wind power – as can be seen here at the Phu Lac facility in the south of Vietnam – still account for less than 1% of electricity generation. Vietnam has the ambitious goal of increasing this to 2% by 2020.
Africa’s Weak Infrastructure
Weak infrastructure and poor standards are yet more challenges to the energy transition in emerging economies. Africa, a continent with huge human and natural potential, is still held back by these weaknesses. In this photo taken in a working-class district of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, disordered power installations have resulted in a rather startling tangle of electricity cables. Solar energy is being developed in many African countries to supplement centralized grids.
Keeping Cities Cool
Often exacerbated in large cities, global warming is driving urban planners to think up underground cooling systems that can replace individual air-conditioning units. On Seguin Island on the Seine river near Paris, where today, an eco-neighborhood replaces the former factories of car manufacturer Renault, a network of cool air, which can be converted into warm air in winter, is currently being installed. The network currently represents six kilometers of pipes providing cool air to more than 350,000 square meters of office space.
A Royal Commitment
In the Netherlands, considerable research into heat management in homes is under way, and it has significant support from public institutions. King Willem-Alexander was eager to get involved during a top-to-bottom visit to a model home in Purmerend that is heated using sources other than gas or electricity.
What if we Used Wood Instead of Coal?
France is aiming to close its last four coal-fired power plants by 2022. At the Cordemais plant, French utility EDF unveiled its plans for a manufacturing plant designed to produce innovative fuel using wood waste. The idea is that the fuel could gradually replace coal. In the photo, you can see the production line where waste is collected and automatically converted into wood pellets to be used as fuel.
The Trouble with Transition
Not everyone agrees that wood pellets (see photo) should be used to generate electricity. Although they emit less CO2, they emit more fine particles, and cost more than twice per megawatt-hour. The idea of making power plants greener by substituting coal for wood was abandoned in the United Kingdom, where wood waste had to be imported.
Solar Research Actively Continues
Researchers worldwide are succeeding in increasing the yield of photovoltaic cells using thin-film technology or carbon-based organic materials. In this photo, a researcher from Italian group ENI is showcasing a flexible and lightweight thin-film organic cell in Milan.
Energy Observer’s Challenges
Shown here in the Port of Amsterdam in July 2019, the Energy Observer catamaran is a fully-fledged floating laboratory. Since 2017, it has been testing different ways of achieving energy independence. It uses three renewable energy sources (solar, wind and hydropower) and two types of storage (batteries for short-term needs and hydrogen for long-term needs). The boat produces hydrogen from seawater through electrolysis. With its journey commencing in 2017, it will have visited 50 countries by 2022.
Electric Propulsion for Boats
Without going as far as full autonomy, boat builders are working to develop electric motors to replace the diesel engines currently used in boats. This is the case at the Naviwatt boatyard in Arzon, on the west coast of France. In the photo, a technician is fitting a pleasure craft with three large batteries, which can serve boats weighing up to 120 tons and with a capacity of 600 passengers. They are easy to maintain and are highly manageable, the only obstacles being battery range and cost.
Hydrogen-Powered Autonomous Drones
In late May 2019 in Newbury Park, California, American company Alaka’i Technologies unveiled an unmanned, vertical take-off air taxi prototype with electric motors that run using six hydrogen fuel cells. Intended for freight and emergency situations, the aircraft is designed to carry five passengers and travel some 480 km in around three hours of flight.
A Little Fun Never Hurt Anybody
Even the most advanced research does not stop enthusiasts from coming up with the most astonishing and farfetched contraptions. In June, the Cyprus Institute organized a solar car challenge to promote the use of this renewable energy. Competitors had to put together their vehicle for less than €20,000. Here is a competitor in his crazy machine!