Ever since I read Ian McDonald’s River of Gods, I’ve looked at India from a futuristic, economically oriented perspective to understand how the lives of millions of Indians are being changed by technology. While the cosmopolitan metropolisis of Dehli and Bombay have undergone enormous growth in the last centry, the more interesting changes have happenned among the rural populations. Now, with natural gas prices at an all time high, India is turning to Nature, and the sacred cow for a wholly low-tech solution to their problem. The biogas generator looks set to be the tipping point for cheap, renewable energy for India’s villages. [image by 1village]
Quite simply, a biogas generator is a system that utlizes the gas byproduct of the anaerobic digestion of organic materials for heat and/or flame. These generators, like the one featured in the picture above use manure and organic waste materials to produce methane, which is piped from a central tank via pipes, and can be used by an entire village.
Built for just £210,000, Michael and Dorothy Rea’s house on Britain’s northernmost inhabited island is amongst the most efficient in the world. Boosted by the strong winds surrounding the island of Unst, the house has its heating and power, plus an electric car and substantial greenhouse, entirely powered by renewable sources.
The house reminds me a little of the building in Susan Palwick’s ‘Shelter’ with its smart uses of technology. The house takes heat from the air around it and stores it in a water ‘battery’ to heat the home. The greenhouse uses hydroponics and LED lighting to simulate growing seasons, allowing hothouse plants like lemons and peppers to thrive. Is this a sign of how we will live in the future?
[story via the Guardian, Image from the Rea’s website]
The Secretary of State for Business, John Hutton is announcing a huge sea-change in the UK’s approach towards future power plants, with a massive 25Gw of offshore wind proposed to add to an existing 8GW of planned construction. This vast increase in wind power, in addition to the wave and tidal projects being tested in the Orkney islands, could power all of the UK’s homes by 2020.
It’s interesting to see this being portrayed not only as an environment issue but as a security issue, with Hutton saying:
“I do not want in 20 years’ time to find that whether the lights go on in the morning is down to some foreign government or someone else.”
With the North Sea oil and gas fields decreasing rapidly in production, the UK is losing its resource power. By investing in new renewable technology it can continue to be an important world power. Denmark invested in wind over the last decade and now has a £2billion industry. If only more nations would have this level of foresight.
[story and picture via European Tribune]
UPDATE: As requested in the comments, here is a more up to date (and more detailed) analysis of Danish wind power and their plans up to 2030.
Contrary to the beliefs of the climate change denial lobby, “the scientists” have not closed ranks and conspired to defend one single point of view. Conservation scientist Jesse Ausubel has stirred up a hornet’s nest by asserting that renewable energy generation will take up too much space and end up destroying the very ecology its proponents intend to save, and that carbon capture and increased nuclear development are the way forward.
I guess that it’s only natural, now the majority of people concur that there is a climate change problem, that we find something new to disagree vehemently over – in the form of what to do about it.
One of the more drastic (and last-ditch) options is geo-engineering. Simulations seem to indicate that these somewhat science fictional scenarios of “hacking” the atmosphere to reduce global temperatures and sequester carbon dioxide in the process are quite plausible … as long as we can maintain the system for a thousand years.