energy

Mega-city, Mega-challenge

Lagos, one of the world’s 10 most populated cities and one of the top 3 fastest growing, faces a great challenge in providing housing for all its residents at prices they can afford. In the United States, homeownership is a basic component of the American Dream. Everyone has a right to shelter, and most everyone wants to own it. In Europe, housing policy reflects the same right to shelter, but cultural norms don’t require ownership of one’s home. Now, as developing countries grow and continue to urbanize at unprecedented rates, cities like Lagos have to find ways to provide this basic human right as well. Here, there is both a challenge and an opportunity – to learn from those mistakes made by industrialized countries.

It is encouraging to see that Lagos has recognized this opportunity – they are looking for solutions to their 5 million unit gap in housing supply not only through increasing units, but by treating those units as building blocks in its city service system. They envision housing as a dissemination point for energy, water, health, security, mobility, business services, and education. Together, this network can reduce costs to individuals and society through cross-subsidization of services.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4TvesXV_Yg&w=440&h=253] Sustainable, affordable, and innovative housing solutions on the scale needed in Lagos remain elusive. Nonetheless, a couple of small-scale innovative housing examples may be of interest. Another article from Japan for Sustainability notes a new “hybrid house” design, which will be powered with three power systems: photovoltaics, fuel cells, and secondary batteries. The designers estimate that homeowners could have zero utilities costs under this system, which creates enough power for such appliances as LCD televisions, refrigerators, and lighting – systems that could be pooled in Lagos’ case to achieve further economies of scale.

decathlon

A second project is the result of a “solar decathlon” – a US Department of Energy-sponsored event to gather ideas from students across the world. While most of the prototype homes portray designs applicable in the US or developed country context, seeing them all together on the National Mall (see photo above) allows one to envision the great potential for dense, sustainable, solar-powered homes. Perhaps in future competitions, the judges could add “fits in the context of a dense, rapidly urbanizing city” to its criteria. For, due to these cities’ stage of development, these locations offer opportunities for the greatest environmental and sustainability gains.

-          Terra Curtis

Mega-city, Mega-challenge

Lagos, one of the world’s 10 most populated cities and one of the top 3 fastest growing, faces a great challenge in providing housing for all its residents at prices they can afford. In the United States, homeownership is a basic component of the American Dream. Everyone has a right to shelter, and most everyone wants to own it. In Europe, housing policy reflects the same right to shelter, but cultural norms don’t require ownership of one’s home. Now, as developing countries grow and continue to urbanize at unprecedented rates, cities like Lagos have to find ways to provide this basic human right as well. Here, there is both a challenge and an opportunity – to learn from those mistakes made by industrialized countries.

It is encouraging to see that Lagos has recognized this opportunity – they are looking for solutions to their 5 million unit gap in housing supply not only through increasing units, but by treating those units as building blocks in its city service system. They envision housing as a dissemination point for energy, water, health, security, mobility, business services, and education. Together, this network can reduce costs to individuals and society through cross-subsidization of services.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4TvesXV_Yg&w=440&h=253] Sustainable, affordable, and innovative housing solutions on the scale needed in Lagos remain elusive. Nonetheless, a couple of small-scale innovative housing examples may be of interest. Another article from Japan for Sustainability notes a new “hybrid house” design, which will be powered with three power systems: photovoltaics, fuel cells, and secondary batteries. The designers estimate that homeowners could have zero utilities costs under this system, which creates enough power for such appliances as LCD televisions, refrigerators, and lighting – systems that could be pooled in Lagos’ case to achieve further economies of scale.

decathlon

A second project is the result of a “solar decathlon” – a US Department of Energy-sponsored event to gather ideas from students across the world. While most of the prototype homes portray designs applicable in the US or developed country context, seeing them all together on the National Mall (see photo above) allows one to envision the great potential for dense, sustainable, solar-powered homes. Perhaps in future competitions, the judges could add “fits in the context of a dense, rapidly urbanizing city” to its criteria. For, due to these cities’ stage of development, these locations offer opportunities for the greatest environmental and sustainability gains.

-          Terra Curtis

Sustenergy - Sustainable Energy

food You know that energy you get from drinking a fresh cup of coffee? That energy is unsustainable.  Energy from a good night’s sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise stays with you throughout the day and throughout your life. A number of our awards cities this round are seeking solutions related to energy, and each of them is focused on finding more sustainable ways of producing it.

Birmingham, in the UK, wants a solution to transform its many tonnes of food waste into an energy source for businesses and residents. The city of Caceres, in Spain, identified municipal sports facilities as its potential source of sustainable energy. Kinetic energy could be captured to power the facility and perhaps streetlights or other municipal infrastructure.

Japan for Sustainability, a Japanese non-profit we’ve mentioned on this blog before, has been reporting several initiatives in their country related to sustainable energy that are worthwhile to report.

  • Solar-powered bus shelters: these photo-voltaic-equipped bus shelters protect waiting passengers from sun and rain, collect energy to light the bus stop at night, and have the ability to utilize any excess energy for powering nearby facilities, supplementing power during shortages like emergencies, or selling excess to power companies.  Sustainable solution indeed!
  • Citizen-funded solar generation project: property owners in Higashiomi, Japan can install subsidized solar panels on their roof, feed the power into a citywide network, and, as investors, receive dividends from the proceeds in the form of coupons to local establishments. It a sustainable solution for the economy and the environment.
  • Dynamic electricity pricing: Kitakyushu will pilot dynamic pricing of electricity based on season and time of day.  Ten percent of energy will come from wind and solar, while the remaining comes from a natural gas cogeneration plant.

What if some of the ideas coming from Japanese projects could be combined with Birmingham and Caceres’ request for proposals? For instance, what if households and businesses could “invest in” the local power grid by collecting and donating food waste? They could be incentivized in a way similar to the citizen-funded solar project in Japan. Or, what if the municipal sports facilities excess energy could be used to power not bus shelters, but electric buses or electric bicycles – sustainable forms of transport? Keep an eye on the submissions; this will be an interesting set for sure.

-          Terra Curtis

Sustenergy - Sustainable Energy

food You know that energy you get from drinking a fresh cup of coffee? That energy is unsustainable.  Energy from a good night’s sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise stays with you throughout the day and throughout your life. A number of our awards cities this round are seeking solutions related to energy, and each of them is focused on finding more sustainable ways of producing it.

Birmingham, in the UK, wants a solution to transform its many tonnes of food waste into an energy source for businesses and residents. The city of Caceres, in Spain, identified municipal sports facilities as its potential source of sustainable energy. Kinetic energy could be captured to power the facility and perhaps streetlights or other municipal infrastructure.

Japan for Sustainability, a Japanese non-profit we’ve mentioned on this blog before, has been reporting several initiatives in their country related to sustainable energy that are worthwhile to report.

  • Solar-powered bus shelters: these photo-voltaic-equipped bus shelters protect waiting passengers from sun and rain, collect energy to light the bus stop at night, and have the ability to utilize any excess energy for powering nearby facilities, supplementing power during shortages like emergencies, or selling excess to power companies.  Sustainable solution indeed!
  • Citizen-funded solar generation project: property owners in Higashiomi, Japan can install subsidized solar panels on their roof, feed the power into a citywide network, and, as investors, receive dividends from the proceeds in the form of coupons to local establishments. It a sustainable solution for the economy and the environment.
  • Dynamic electricity pricing: Kitakyushu will pilot dynamic pricing of electricity based on season and time of day.  Ten percent of energy will come from wind and solar, while the remaining comes from a natural gas cogeneration plant.

What if some of the ideas coming from Japanese projects could be combined with Birmingham and Caceres’ request for proposals? For instance, what if households and businesses could “invest in” the local power grid by collecting and donating food waste? They could be incentivized in a way similar to the citizen-funded solar project in Japan. Or, what if the municipal sports facilities excess energy could be used to power not bus shelters, but electric buses or electric bicycles – sustainable forms of transport? Keep an eye on the submissions; this will be an interesting set for sure.

-          Terra Curtis

SpectioNZ Converts Waste to Energy

SpectioNZ, a clean tech company based out of Wellington, New Zealand, has developed a process for converting organic waste (like human feces) and plastic into energy.  Currently operating out of the business incubator CreativeHQ, SpectioNZ is testing a trial converter at the Paraparaumu wastewater treatment plant.

At the treatment plant, dehydrated waste is mixed with plastic, fed into the unit, and heated in the absence of air (a process called pyrolysis).  The heated material converts to gas (including methane), which is intended to power turbines and produce electricity.

In New Zealand, 3 million tons of waste goes into the landfill each year; 1.8 million tons are organic.  Not only does that create tremendous potential for energy creation, but also negates the need for New Zealand to ship its waste to China (thereby producing an energy savings).

With the 1kW power supply process deemed a success, the company now has its sights set on the creation of a 100 kW version.  SpectioNZ is funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

Note: readers may also be interested in Living Labs' showcased company Urbiotica, which monitors garbage receptacles in cities.