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Floating Solar and Agrivoltaics

Solar can provide great benefits to food crops. Image courtesy perutskyy via Envato.

This week’s number one article was China recently began energy production at the world’s largest floating solar installation. The installation, deployed on a manmade reservoir left over from coal mining in the region, is roughly twice the size of the next largest floating solar plant in the world and provides 40 megawatts of energy; enough to power 15,000 homes. The difficulty of installing Photovoltaic (PV) panels on the surface of a lake seems like it might not be worth the effort. So why build them on lakes and reservoirs? Building on man-made lakes that are not ecologically sensitive (such as a flooded former coal mine), helps protect sensitive agricultural land from being developed and limits human impact in undeveloped and natural areas. In regard to system longevity, the water may be used to cool the electronics of the systems, helping them to work more efficiently and last longer.

The use of barren areas that have been subjected to years if not decades of intense industrial development is a great idea and seems like common sense, but what if the only available land near a city is also prime agricultural? In this case agrivoltaics is the answer. Agrivoltaic farming is simply the practice of growing food crops underneath PV panels. In hot climates especially, the plants grown under solar installations lose less water from evaporation and specific crops benefit from shade. In one study, scientists found that the shade the PV panels provided resulted in cooler daytime temperatures and warmer nighttime temperatures than the traditional, open-sky planting system. There was also a lower vapor pressure deficit in the agrivoltaics system, meaning there was more moisture in the air surrounding the plants.

We Work Less; Society Gets More

Would she have a better life working at a factory in a large city? Image courtesy Rawpixel via Envato.

The idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) is often a contentious issue. Those who oppose it are often those who benefit from our current system; where constant growth is required in order to feed the industrial machine. The current system has benefited many in the West, but in some countries the development and pollution of the water and land where people live means that they are trapped in the cycle of working in poor conditions to earn a tiny income that is often not enough to even put food on the table. These same people had been farmers and fishermen trading in traditional means with a small footprint upon the land, now trapped in a cycle of low pay, dangerous work and environmental pollution that has destroyed their traditional way of life.

In Can Working Less Save the Planet? The author Ruby Russell explores the idea that society may need to completely re-evaluate what we feel are the most important parts of our society. What items really need to be produced in order for us to have a healthy planet and healthy, productive people on it? The global shutdown from Coronavirus has shown that air, water and nature are able to rebound quickly once we reduce the amount of pollution pushed into these various ecosystems. It also showed that we, as a society, are able to provide for our most vulnerable when they need it the most. I would argue that this ability to help the less fortunate is what separates us from animals and is why we as a species have been as successful as we have. Regardless, the need for economic recovery from the pandemic is real, but rather than investing huge amounts of resources in a system that further damages the planet and enriches only a few at the top, now is the time to fix the system. We should invest in a UBI for the poor, restore and rehabilitate farmlands and invest in technologies that will propel us forward to a clean and sustainable future.

A 220 Mile Ride in Solar Shade

A 350 mile covered solar bike bath near Seoul. Image courtesy YouTube.

Korea Has a 220 Mile Solar-Covered Bike Lane in the Middle of the Freeway and people love it. While a path in between two opposing directions of traffic on a freeway might not the most serene place to ride, being protected from sun and rain makes it a lot more appealing of a route. The fact that the cover is also made of solar panels makes it more appealing yet. That is what was recently unveiled in South Korea. The Daejeon-Sejong bike path is covered by solar panels that provide shelter from rain, shade from the sun, and electricity to the local grid. The path runs 350 km (220 miles) between the cities of Daejeon and Sejong, near Seoul. The idea of a solar bike path or traditional road is not new, for example, there is a Dutch company called SolaRoad that builds roadways that generate electricity and there are even solar driveways made from recycled plastic that can power private homes. We also have solar power parking lots that provide shade to cars, power to the businesses where they are located, and can charge an EV’s batteries while the owners are shopping. When you combine them all together you get something like the South Korea solar bike path.

“Talking” Trees?

Trees can react to help other plants in need. Image courtesy catanne via twenty20.

In Discover How Trees Secretly Talk to Each Other Using the “Wood Wide Web”, writer Fino Menezes explains how trees the world over use fungi to communicate among each other. It may sound far-fetched to some, but scientists have known for decades that the mycelium fungi found in and around tree roots help them absorb nutrients from the soil. Recent research has now shown that the fungi also allow trees to communicate their needs via a network of fungi in the soil. Ecologist Suzanne Simard’s research showed how trees use a network of soil fungi to communicate their needs and even aid neighboring plants. In her research, Ms. Simard has further explored how trees communicate, including how these fungal networks help them send warning signals about environmental change and even transfer their nutrients to neighboring plants to protect them in order to prevent them from dying.

EVs Reduce Covid-19 Deaths

EVs provide clean transportation that you can recharge almost anywhere. Image courtesy hdoan via Envato.

The transition to electric vehicles is already happening around the world. Almost all  manufacturers have EVs in their product lines and the lineup for 2021 and beyond is even greater. Demand for these low emissions vehicles is high because most people understand that a reduction in the use of fossil fuel is needed and will have far-reaching climate benefits in the future. What is not commonly known is the fact that there are many immediate positive impacts from shifting to electric vehicles, and they help save lives, here and now.

The emissions from fossil fuel burning cars and trucks are bad for our health. Air pollutants from traditional diesel and petrol-powered vehicles cause asthma, bronchitis, and cancer, resulting in premature death. The long term health effects of air pollution can last a lifetime and make that life shorter overall. A recent study by Harvard University took this one step further. In the study, they found an association between long-term exposure to harmful fine particulate matter from air pollution and increased deaths from Covid19. One of the primary causes of fine particulate matter globally is pollution from cars and trucks, and the associated health costs are astounding: Each gallon of gasoline purchased at the gas station carries with it up to $3.80 in health and environmental costs. Diesel trucks, cars, and equipment are even worse, with an additional $4.80 in social costs to our health and climate per gallon.

In many countries, this follow-on expense doubles or even triples the relative cost of the fuel. There are many people who believe that not only should the fossil fuel industry have its subsidies removed, it should also be required to pay for climate change remediation and now with this information in hand, maybe the health costs that result from its product too. If this were to occur, the adoption of electric vehicles and EV charging infrastructure will happen even sooner.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Happy Eco News Top 5. It is really encouraging to know so many people are doing their part to help fix and improve the environment we all share.

Grant Brown

Happy Eco News, July 13, 2020

grant@happyeconews.com

 If you enjoy Happy Eco News, please share this email with friends and family. You can follow, like our posts, and share us on social media too. It all helps. Find us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @HappyEcoNews.

 

1) China Turns On the World’s Largest Floating Solar Farm

China Turns On the World’s Largest Floating Solar Farm

 

2) Can Working Less Save the Planet?

Can Working Less Save the Planet?

 

3) S. Korea Has a 20 Mile Solar-Covered Bike Lane in the Middle of the Freeway

S. Korea Has a 220 Mile Solar-Covered Bike Lane in the Middle of the Freeway

 

4) Discover How Trees Secretly Talk to Each Other Using the “Wood Wide Web”

Discover How Trees Secretly Talk to Each Other Using the “Wood Wide Web”

 

5) Electric vehicles are not just the wave of the future, they are saving lives today.

Electric vehicles are not just the wave of the future, they are saving lives today.

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