Building the World

August 19, 2022
by Building The World
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WATER/ENERGY: Hydroelectricity – What is the Future?

Lake Mead is shrinking through prolonged drought. That will affect hydroelectricity generated by the Hoover Dam. Image: “A Comparison of Lake Mead 2000 and 2015,” by Joshua Stevens, NASA Earth Observatory, using Landsat data from U.S. Geological Survey. Image from the Public Domain: wikimedia and nasa.gov. Included with appreciation.

Drought affecting the Colorado River, and resultant depletion of reservoirs Lake Mead and Lake Powell, may soon bring about Tier 2 shortage conditions. When Lake Mead’s water level falls below 1,050 feet above sea level, the new normal will reduce water allotments for Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico. Arizona will face a 21% reduction. Lake Mead’s drought is so big that is it now visible from space. Water for drinking, agricultural irrigation, and industry will be affected.

Will water continue to course through the Hoover Dam’s jet-flow gates? “View of Hoover Dam with jet-flow gates open,” by U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 1998. Public Domain image. Creative Commons, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

But there may be more consequences. The Colorado River, down 40% from 2021, flows through the Hoover Dam, generating electricity. If Lake Mead’s water recedes below 1,000 feet (just 50 feet above Tier 2 danger level), “dead pool” will happen, meaning water cannot flow downstream to power the dam. The Hoover Dam supplies electricity to Arizona, California, and Nevada. Western parts of the United States have suffered a prolonged drought; hydropower has dropped to 14% below its 10-year average.

Hydroelectric power is also threatened in other locations around the world. Italy recently suffered electricity reductions due to drought on the Po River. India and Pakistan share water usage, including hydroelectric access, under the terms of the Indus Waters Treaty; eight new hydropower plants have just been approved.

“Murray-1 Hydroelectric Power Station, Snowy Mountains,” by photographer Ear1grey, Dr. Rich Boakes. CC3.0, wikimedia, included with appreciation.

The Murray River of Australia, key to Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric, is now seriously affected by drought; water for drinking, agriculture, and electricity may be threatened. Brazil’s water flows into hydro dams reached a 90 year low, affecting facilities including Itaipú. The alternatives, when hydro fails to produce, may include greater reliance on fossil fuels. Many are concerned about that direction.

The Indus River may add eight new hydropower plants. Image: “Indus River near Skardu, Pakistan,” by Kogo, 2004. GFDL Public Domain, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

In a world of climate change, increasing droughts may lead to a rethinking of hydroelectric power which, in 2020, generated 1/6th of the world’s electricity. Hydroelectric facilities can be found in 150 countries, with China the largest producer. Global investment in hydroelectricity is significant, and growing; will it be a wise investment?

Hydroelectric Power has a low carbon footprint, and is valuable in a time of climate change. Illustration: “Carbon Emissions by Electricity Source,” by Vattenfall and Japan’s Central Research Institution for the Electric Power Industry, 1999. Image in the public domain, wikimedia. Included with appreciation.

Hydropower is low-carbon electricity, a property valuable in a world trying to limit carbon emissions. Hydropower is also continuous, an important factor to balance intermittency of renewables like solar or wind. The future of hydroelectric power is linked to the future of water. How will recent funding of climate preservation and protection support water sustainability? Will water innovations help harness the power of water to power the future?

Brooke, K. Lusk. “Colorado River.” Renewing the World: WATER. pages 86-95.  Cambridge: 2022. ISBN: 9798985035919.

CNN. “New water cuts coming for Southwest as Colorado River falls into Tier 2 shortage.” 16 August 2022. https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/16/us/colorado-river-water-cuts-lake-mead-negotiations-climate/index.html

Energy Information Administration. “Drought effects on hydroelectricity generation.” 30 March 2022. https://www.eia.gov/today/inenergy/detail.php?id=51839

“Hydro Electric Projects in Indus Basin.” http://indiawris.gov.in/wiki/doku.php?id=hydro_electric_projects_in_indus_basin

Itaipú Binacional. “ITAIPÚ will host global Water and Energy Conference.” 24 January 2022. https://www.itaipu.gov.br/en/press-office/news/itaipu-will-host-global-water-and-energy-conference

National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and American Planning Association. “Falling Dominoes: A Planner’s Guide to Drought and Cascading Impacts.” 31 October 2019. https://www.drought.gov.

Robbins, Jill. “Dry Rivers Threaten Production of Clean Energy.” 23 August 2021. Voice of America: Science & Technology.

United Nations/India and Pakistan. “Indus Waters Treaty.” 1960. https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/UNTs/Volume%20419/volume-419-I-6032-English.pdf

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June 16, 2022
by Building The World
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WATER and ENERGY: Beyond a Drought

June 2022: an early heat wave intensifies drought. Image: “Heat Wave in United States June 13-19, 2021,” by NOAA. Public Domain, creative commons. Included with appreciation to NOAA.

Is it climate change, or just a heat wave? Maybe the former is intensifying the latter. This week, 60 million people in the United States are enduring extreme heat. Texas broke a heat record on June 12 as the electrical grid strained with the number of people turning on air conditioners. Families noted unusual new residents as outdoor insects crawled into any available shelter to escape sweltering heat. Wildfires sparked: more than 30 recent conflagrations burned one million American acres.

Drought may impact hydroelectricity. Image: “Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, – 2007” by photographer Waycool27, and dedicated to the public domain by the photographer. Included with appreciation.

Heat waves add to concern about drought, an ongoing challenge. Lake Mead, the nation’s largest water reservoir, recently marked its lowest level on record since 1930. The Colorado River, source of Lake Mead’s water, recently reported historic new water shortages, triggering enforced reductions along the Upper and Lower Basin states. Now 143 feet below the target full level, Lake Mead’s drop is as deep as the Statue of Liberty is high. That water drop threatens the water supply of millions of residents, farmers, industrial operations, and others. At 36% capacity, if the water in Lake Mead continues to fall (it has been losing more than 1,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools – every day – for the last 22 years), the hydropower capability of the Hoover Dam (which formed Lake Mead) will also be threatened. Engineers and scientists are watching: if Lake Mead drops another 175 feet, the Hoover Dam will reach “dead pool” (895 feet) and the great dam will fall silent. Because 90% of Las Vegas water comes from Lake Mead, that city will not only have less electricity but very little water. (Ramirez et al., 2021)

“Tennessee Valley Authority” Image 2977 by TVA, 2018. This image is the public domain and included with appreciation.

It’s not just Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam that are of concern due to heat and drought. The Tennessee Valley Authority, one of the nation’s first hydroelectric major achievements, warned customers both residential and commercial to turn off the lights. Nashville Electric Service asked people to turn down air conditioning. Itaipú, harnessing the Paraná River, has similarly found drought threatening its hydroelectric capability.

“Talbingo Dam of Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric.” There are 16 dams in the system. Photograph by AYArktos, dedicated to the public domain, creative commons. Included with appreciation.

Hydroelectricity, as the term indicates, is dependent upon water. Australia recently announced Snowy Hydro 2.0, in an effort to double electrical output of Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric. But the snowy part is problematic now that climate change is threatening snowmelt. Further concern is that 35% percent of the “Australian Alps” have seen wetland loss. Now, snow cover may reduce by 20% to as much as 60%.

What happens if water becomes non-renewable? Image: “Dry riverbed in California,” by NOAA, 2009. Included with appreciation.

Drought has serious consequences for agriculture, habitation, and now hydroelectricity. Hydroelectric power is one of the earliest and most widely applied methods of generating electricity from renewable sources. What happens if or when water becomes non-renewable?

Daley, Beth et al., “Snowy hydro scheme will be left high and dry unless we look after the mountains.” 22 March 2017. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/snowy-hydro-scheme-will-be-left-high-and-dry-unless-we-look-after-the-mountains-74830

David, Molly. “Nashville Electric Service asks customers to help lessen energy use during high temperatures.” The Tennessean. 13 June 2022. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/2022/06/13/heat-wave-tennessee-2022-nashville-electric-service-customers-conserve-power/7613867001/

Ramirez, Rachel, Pedram Javaheri, Drew Kann. “The shocking numbers behind the Lake Mead drought crisis.” 17 June 2021. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/specials/world/cnn-climate

Spang, Edward, William Moomaw, Kelly Gallagher, Paul Kirshen, David H. Marks. “The water consumption of energy production: An international comparison.” 2014. Environmental Research Letters. 9. 105002. 10.1088/1748-9326/9/10/105002 and https://www.researchgate.net/publication/266620784_The_water_consumption_of_energy_production_An_international_comparison

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November 4, 2021
by Building The World
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ENERGY: Ending and Reversing Deforestation

“Amazon rainforest in the Urubu River, near Silves, Amazonas State, Brazil” by Andre Deak, 2008. Image: wikimedia

Trees help combat climate warming, absorbing emissions of carbon dioxide. In many areas of the world, deforestation – cutting and clearing trees to use land for other purposes – depletes forests that absorb the warming gas. This week, world leaders meeting in Glasgow for COP26 pledged $19 billion to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. Among the signatories was notably Brazil, where Itaipú supplies hydroelectric energy but also stresses forest land. Brazil’s Amazon forest has suffered significant deforestation in the recent decades. Canada, China, Russia, nations of the EU, the UK, and the US also signed the declaration, with over 85% of world forests represented.

“Map of ecoregions of Central Africa.” Encyclopedia of Earth, 2016. Image: wikimedia commons.

Importantly, 30 global financial organizations also agreed to end investment in activities tied to cutting forests. Companies including multinational insurance giants Aviva and Axa signed on. A fund to protect the world’s second largest rainforest, in the Congo Basin, completed the pact.

Stopping and reversing deforestation may be one of the great successes of COP26. Image: COP26 Logo, United Nations. Wikimedia

Some observers noted that a similar pledge, the “New York Declaration on Forests” of 2014, promised hope but ended in disappointment. Some key countries like Brazil, China, and Russia were not signatories of that earlier pact. Brazil holds the planet’s biggest rainforest, and Russia has more than 20% of the world’s trees. Optimists noted that the difference between 2014’s declaration and 2021’s “Global Forest Financing Pledge: Financing the protection, restoration, and sustainable management of forests” is indicated in the title: the key commitment of financing a better future.

Aviva. www.aviva.com

Axa. https://www.axa.com

Rannard, Georgina and Francesca Gillett. “COP26: World leaders promise to end deforestation by 2030.” 2 November 2021. BBC.com. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-59088498

United Nations. UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021 in partnership with Italy. “The Global Forest Finance Pledge.” 2 November 2021. https://ukcop26.org/the-global-forest-finance-pledge/

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February 18, 2021
by Building The World
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ENERGY: Genie in a Bottle

“Genie in a Bottle,” from Stripped Tour, Christina Aguilera Image: wikimedia.

February 18, 2021. It’s National Battery Day. What is this genie in a bottle that we call a battery?

Lithium-ion batteries are making news. It’s a technology popularized in 1991, when rechargeable lithium-ion batteries were first used in hand-held camcorders. A decade later, Apple began using these batteries in smartphones. When electric cars entered the market (Edison worked on one, before Henry Ford invented the gasoline-driven automobile), batteries became the way to power the future. SEMATECH introduced a new industry, and now two new semiconductor materials – gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SIC) are now being used in EV batteries. With General Motors (GM) pledging a full transition from gas and diesel to electric vehicles by 2035 (Ford, Tesla, Volkswagen and others in similar quests), the race is on.

“Tesla Model S at a Supercharger station.” Image: wikimedia.

Who’s Who (a partial list) in Electric-Vehicle Batteries:

CATL or Contemporary Amperex Technology Col, Limited, founded in 2011 in China, announced an increased investment of $4.5 billion on 4 February 2021. CATL will open a new plant in Zhaoqing, Guangdong Province, upgrade a plant in Yibin, Sichuan Province, and expand a joint venture plant with automaker China FAW Group. A new plant in Germany is also under construction. (300750:CH)

LG Chem in South Korea, world’s biggest EV battery manufacturer, just announced its battery division would now be a stand-alone business. LG counts GM, Geely Automotive Holdings Shanghai Maple Guorun Automobile Co., Hyundai Motor Group, and Tesla among its customers. Tentative name for the new business: LG Energy Solutions. (LGCLF)

Nissan Motor Co. and American Electric Power are competitors with a different strategy: reusing old EV batteries with a technology to extend lithium-ion battery life by over 30%. The experiment uses Nissan Leaf expired-batteries with a method developed by Melbourne-based Relectrify. BMW AG and Toyota are also reusing cells in EV charging. (NSANY)

Novonix is working with Dalhousie University on battery material research, noting new deals with Tesla on synthetic graphite. (NVNXF)

Panasonic. Tesla is in talks with Indonesia to build a battery cell factory with Panasonic. (PCRFY)

QuantumScape is introducing solid-state batteries lithium-metal batteries, offering a faster charge, longer life, and increased safety. The San Jose, California company filed with the SEC for a new development on 1 February 2021. (QS)

Tesla. Bringing battery production in-house has been a goal for Elon Musk who introduced a ‘tab-less’ battery called 4680 that will produce a 16% increase in range for the company’s electric vehicles. They new cells measure 46 millimeters by 80 millimeters. (TSLA)

Zinc Copper Voltaic Pile. Image: wikimedia.

The oldest battery known to history was found in Baghdad: a clay pot containing a metal tube and rod. But when Alessandro Volta discovered that zinc and coper, placed in a saline or acid solution, could transform zinc into a negative pole and copper into a positive pole, the action began. Chevrolet named one of its early EV models a “Volt.”

Will batteries advance hydroelectric power? Image: Hoover Dam, wikimedia.

Battery storage may transform hydroelectric power In Chile, a 50 megawatt-hour (MWh) battery energy storage project (think the equivalent of 5 million iPhones) will be paired with a hydroelectric facility, to store generated energy without need to construct a dam or reservoir. Will the Hoover Dam explore this technology, with consideration to drought affecting Lake Mead? It was hydroelectric power that first fascinated Nikola Tesla who, looking at a photo of Niagara Falls, said: “Someday I’ll harness that power.”

Battery Council International. “It’s national battery day.” www.batterycouncil.org

Hareyan, Armen. “Rumor says Tesla may have completed 1st round of Indonesia battery talks involving Panasonic.” 12 February 2021. Torque News. https://www.torquenews.com/1/rumor-says-tesla-may-have-completed-1st round-indonesia-battery-talks-involving-panasonic

Hawkins, Andrew J. “Tesla announces ‘tabless’ battery cells that will improve the range of its electric cars.” 22 September 2020. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2020/9/22/21449238/tesla-electric-car-battery-tabless-cells-day-elon-musk

Kawakami, Takashi. “EV-battery giant CATL to boost capacity with $4.5bn investment.” 4 February 2021. NikkeiAsia.com. https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Automobiles/EV-battery-giant-CATL-to-boost-capacity-with-4.5bn-investment

Kubik, Marek. “Adding Giant Batteries To This Hydro Project Creates A ‘Virtual Dam’ with Less Environmental Impact.” 23 May 2019. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/marekkubik/2019/05/23/adding-giant-batteries-to-this-hydro-project-creates-a-virtual-dam-with-less-environmental-impact

Schmidt, Bridie. “EV battery material firm Novonix strengthen ties with Dalhousie University.” 15 February 2021. The Driven. https://thedriven.io/2021/02/15/ev-battery-material-firm-novonix-strengthen-ties-with-dalhousie-university

Semiconductor Review. “How Semiconductor Advancements Impact EV Batteries.” 26 October 2020. Semiconductor Review. https://www.semiconductorreview.com/news/how-semiconductor-advancements-impact-ev-batteries-nwid-124.html

Stringer, David and Kyunghee Park. “Top Electric-Car Battery Maker Wins Approval for Company Split.” 30 October 2020. Bloomberg News and Transport Topics. https://www.ttnews.com/articles-top-electric-car-battery-maker-wins-approval-company-split

Stringer, David. “Companies Explore Using Old Electric Car Batteries to Cut Costs.” 24 January 2020. Transport Topics. https://www.ttnews.com/articles/companies-explore-using-old-electric-car-batteries-cut-costs

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April 22, 2019
by Building The World
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Earth (Day) Song

“Earth.” Image: NASA.gov.

Lil Dicky didn’t set out to make history, or even a song about the earth. At first, it was just an idea about animals with creatures voiced by a friends. But with friends like Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Wiz Khalifa, and Leonardo DiCaprio, a song for Earth Day was born. Honoring an occasion with music is not a new idea: the Suez Canal’s opening was celebrated with Verdi’s Aida. Philip Glass composed Itaipú to honor the hydroelectric facility that brings power to Brazil and Paraguay. Glass was inspired for the commission by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to write a work based on the original Guaraní name for the river’s sound: “Singing Stone.” Paul Winter attended a lecture by Roger Payne at Rockefeller University, hearing recorded songs of whales; with then-governor of California Jerry Brown, Winter helped found “Whale Day” and began making music with the troubadours of the deep. Carl Sagan included cetic songs in the compendium of music sent into space. On this Earth Day, what will you do to honor, celebrate, and save the Earth? Give a listen: Earth.

Burd, David Andrew, aka Lil Dicky or LD, and friends. “Earth” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvuN_WvF1to

Glass, Philip. “Itaipú.” Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with thanks to William Keene. https://philipglass.com/compositions/itaipu/

Verdi, Giuseppe. “Aïda.” Hear the rendition by Luciano Pavarotti with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8rsOzPzYr8

Sagan, Carl. Murmurs of Earth. NY: Random House, 1978. https://books.google.com/books/about/Murmurs_of_Earth.html?id=oD90-PBNyr8C and, for your listening pleasure and inspiration: “Sounds of the Earth”: https://soundcloud.com/user-482195982/voyager-golden-record-sampler-1

Winter, Paul. http://www.paulwinter.com/paul-winter/musical-vision/, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdv9QJPVPIY.

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February 23, 2019
by Building The World
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Water Rights

Yamuna River, India, now has personhood rights. Image: wikimedia

We are the water planet. Throughout history, we have determined water rights in agreements and laws like the Colorado River Compact and Itaipú. But now, perhaps we are reaching a new era of respect for water. Does water itself have rights? New Zealand granted “personhood” rights to the Whanganui River, sacred to the Maori people and to the environment. India followed that precedent, establishing personhood rights for the Ganges and Yamuna rivers; India granted rights for the rivers as a whole including regulation of construction of damsColombia mandated the rights of Amazon forest and the Atrato River, setting a law for an intergenerational pact for the Colombian Amazon. In the USA, Ohio will vote on personhood rights for Lake Erie. Bolivia may have established the broadest environmental rights with the Ley de Derechos de La Madre Tierra (Law of the Rights of Mother Earth). It would seem that precedent has been established. What waters will next be granted rights?

Bolivia: Ley de Derechos de La Madre Tierra – Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia. https://www.scribd.com/document/44900268/Ley-de-Derechos-de-la-Madre-Tierra-Estado-Plurinacional-de-Bolivia.

Colombia. “Climate Change and Future Generations Lawsuit in Colombia: Key Excerpts from the Supreme Court’s Decision.” by Dejusticia. 13 April 2018. https://www.dejusticia.org/en/climate-change-and-future-generations-lawsuit-in-colombia-key-excerpts-from-the-supreme-courts-decison/

India. “India’s Ganges and Yamuna Rivers Are Given the Rights of People.” By Jason Daley, 23 March 2017. Smithsonian.com. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/ganges-and-yamuna-rivers-given-rights-people-india-180962639/

India. “Uttarakhand HC recognizes Ganga and Yamuna rivers as ‘living entities.'” By Priyanka Mittal and Mayank Aggarwal. 21 March 2017. livemint.com. https://www.livemint.com/Politics/lwxheezmdiazU5mWtiWU2K/Uttarakhand-HC-recognizes-Ganga-and-Yamuna-rivers-as-living.html.

New Zealand. “New Zealand river granted same legal rights as human being.” By Eleanor Ainge Roy, Dunedin, 16 March 2017. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/16/new-zealand-riverr-granted-same-legal-rights-as-human-being?CMP=share_btn_link

New Zealand. Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement Bill). “Innovative bill protects Whanganui River with legal personhood.” New Zealand Parliament. 28 March 2017. https://www.parliament.nz/en/get-involved/features/innovative-bill-protects-whanganui-river-with-legal-personhood/

USA. “An Ohio city will vote on whether Lake Erie has the same rights as a person.” By Ryan Prior, 21 February 2019. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/21/us/ohio/city/lake-erie/rights/trnd/index.html

Appreciation and recognition for this post topic to discussions with colleagues.

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August 10, 2018
by Building The World
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Powering the Future

“Brain Power.” How will we power the future? Image credit: aboutmodafinil.com, Allan Ajifo, 2005. Credit: wikimedia.

California may build a regional power grid, but environmentalists worry the very existence of a cleaner system might encourage partner Wyoming to continue to rely on coal. Moving from 38 separate grid management companies to one could streamline the regional power system. What are the precedents for effective consolidation and management of disparate, separate, divergent power systems? Would privatization be a strategic option?

United Kingdom, Image: wikimedia.

A possible precedent study might be PowerGen, one of three companies formed by the British government from the former CEGB (Central Electricity Generating Board). The three were: Nuclear Electric, comprised of all the nuclear stations in t \he UK; National Power, 70% fossil fuel; and PowerGen whose mission was to generate electricity in a free market. In addition to the three new entities, the government spun out twelve electricity distribution companies, led together through National Grid, owned by the twelve. While power resources grew, human resources reduced: the organization went from 1,800 to 400. Two years later, PowerGen and National Power privatized. As nations and regions develop their future energy strategies, will PowerGen’s experience suggest approaches? Another option for a regional strategy of power generation and revenue sharing might be the experience of Brazil and Paraguay with Itaipú. What forms of energy – coal, hydro, nuclear, renewables like wind and solar – will power the future? Should energy be public or private, or both? Where will future leaders emerge? Appointed chief executive just before the transformation of PowerGen, later Ed Wallis became chair of the Natural Environment Research Council.  A life motto: Every private should have a field marshal’s baton in knapsack, just in case. How might the UK further develop an effective energy strategy in light of Brexit? Are there lessons – in PowerGen or Itaipú – for the United States? What can California, and the western region, do to generate, distribute,  preserve, renew, and share energy? How do you think we should power the future?

Green, E.J. “On the emergence of parliamentary government: the role of private information.” Federal Reserve of Minneapolis Quarterly Review 17 (1), 1993, pp. 2-16.

Gribben, Roland. “Ed Wallis: the power man turns himself green.” 9 July 2009. The Telegraphhttps://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financetopics/profiles/5779034/Ed-Wallis-the-power-man-turns-himself-green.html

Litwin, George H., John J. Bray, Kathleen Lusk Brooke. “The Privatization of PowerGen.” Mobilizing the Organization: Bringing Strategy to Life. ISBN: 0131488910. Prentice-Hall: 1996, pp. 95-105.

National Environment Research Council (NERC). https://nerc.ukri.org/search-results/?keywords=ed+wallis&siteid=nerc

Penn, Ivan. “California Wants to Reinvent the Power Grid – So What Could Go Wrong?” 20 July 2018. New York Timeshttps://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/20/business/energy-environment/california-energy-grid-jerry-brown-plan.html

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March 22, 2018
by Building The World
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Water Day: Wear Blue

World Water Day: Wear Blue. Indigo, popular 5,000 years ago in the Indus Vally where the color gets its name, was called nila. The color dye was popular on the Silk Road. Image: wikimedia

World Water Day: March 22, 2018. We’re an increasingly thirsty world: by 2050, one-third of the planet will suffer water scarcity. Climate change intensifies problems: floods and drought are worse. More than 3 billion people suffer diminished access to water for at least one month each year due to drought: that number is set to increase by 2050 to 5 billion. Mitigating influences of forests and wetlands are vanishing: two-thirds have been cut or built upon since 1900, according to a study released by the United Nations. Rivers are polluted, with ten rivers identified as the major source of marine plastic debris. Think those problems are “elsewhere” and you may be alarmed to find 80% of tap water contains microplastics. What can you do, as an individual? Social scientists observe the original days of the week had a dedicatory purpose, still detectable in the names. For example, the Japanese day Suiyōbi is Wednesday, meaning Water Day. Should we rededicate the days of the week to raise awareness of our shared resources, including water? One fashion leader suggests wearing blue as a way to honor water. Would you consider dedicating one day each week to water?

Schlanger, Zoë. “We can’t engineer our way out of an impending water scarcity epidemic.” 21 March 2018. Quartz Media. https://qz.com/1234012/we-cant-engineer-our-way-out-of-an-impending-water-scarcity-epidemic/

World Water Day. http://worldwaterday.org

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February 3, 2017
by Building The World
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Glass of Air

“A glass of water” by photographer Derek Jensen, Tysto, 2005. Image: wikimedia commons.

In a world where water is increasingly scarce, can the answer be in the air? In a time when streams may be endangered, where can clean water be found? Water has occasioned innovation from ancient times to present; China, Italy, England, Australia – the most arid country on earth – have all transformed their lands and economies through water innovations. Chilean innovator Hector Pino pursued a new idea when his baby daughter was born with a kidney condition requiring sodium-free water. Now, a parent’s love may change the world.

Pino and co-founders Carlos Blamey, engineer, and Alberto González, designer, are utilizing technology originally developed in Israel to draw water from air. It can run on solar, too. The 748 million people without water infrastructure could now draw clean water in amounts sustaining a household. In cities where old water systems leak lead or in streams once protected now compromised, where could consumers turn? The household FreshWater device produces 28 liters of water per day. A mochila version is in development, making air the ‘magic water bottle’ in your backpack.

For Fresh Water Solutions’ video: http://www.freshwatersolutions.org/#new-page

For more: “How to pull clean water from air.” Bloomberg, Businessweek, 12 January 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-12/pulling-clean-water-from-thin-air

For the Stream Protection Rule, protecting 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forest, added as clarification to 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act:https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=OSM-2010-0018-10631

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November 3, 2015
by Building The World
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Driving the Future

 

Flex fuel vehicles in Brazil can switch among bioethanol, gasoline, and natural gas. Image: wikimedia commons.

Drive into a gas station in Brazil and you’ll find a choice of ethanol, gasoline, premium, or even natural gas. Car manufacturers have responded with flex-fuel vehicles. Brazil is the second largest global producer of ethanol fuel and a leader in sustainable biofuels; with the United States, the two countries account for 87.8% of global ethanol production. Brazil advanced renewable energy with Itaipu and the Liter of Light program. Should American car manufacturers, and fuel stations, follow Brazil’s leadership with flex-fuel vehicles?

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