Delivering A New Meaning To The Notion Of Environmental Sustainability
Learn about the latest developments in the field of sustainable recycling and renewable energy sources, which currently unfold across Europe. From the sunny Southern borders of Spain to the green vast-lands of Netherlands and windy Northern shores of Denmark, Europe is home to a number of ‘green’ initiatives that aim to reduce our energy dependence on fossil fuels by promoting a more sustainable lifestyle.
“From Piss To Pilsner”: Behind The Initiative of a Danish Music Festival To Turn Pee Into Beer
What has started as a growing concern for environment turned out to be an innovative recycling initiative that appealed to the masses attending the Roskilde Festival this year – the largest music festival in Northern Europe that was established in 1971 by two high school students, and which takes place every summer between June and July, 30 km west of Copenhagen.
The idea of recycling one’s by-product and using it as a feedstock for producing other goods is not a new one, yet it gains a new meaning year after year, spreading the word of sustainable recycling into previously unknown territories.
In the spirit of continuous improvement, a joint collaboration between the Danish Agriculture & Food Council (DAFC) and Roskilde Festival organizers was established, with the purpose of collecting the urine from roughly 100,000 festival goers, which later will be used as fertiliser for growing barley crops in the near by farms. Thereby, a twofold objective is being followed: first, lowering the negative impact, the huge amounts of urine had on the local environment and Roskilde’s sewage system, and second, using the pee as a valuable recycling resource for producing beer.
The initiators that stand behind this ingenious project are expressing a sound optimism on the prospects of beer recycling becoming an essential factor in promoting the cause of sustainable recycling among youngsters. As Leif Nielsen (DAFC representative) has put it
“Beercycling is about changing our approach to waste, from being a burden to being a valuable resource. I think most people can see the reason and the fun behind making a personal contribution to beer brewing, and the fact that rock music is involved will help us get our message across.”
This opinion is further strengthened by Henrik Rasmussen, Managing Director of the Roskilde Festival, saying that
“The beercycling project is certainly a fascinating proposal for a sustainable solution where urine isn’t just sent down the drain, but becomes a useful resource. It is a project which extends beyond the festival itself and it underlines that the Roskilde Festival is a fantastic laboratory for testing new sustainable solutions that could benefit society.”
The festival participants were asked to make their contribution by urinating into a trough connected to big storage tanks that were collecting the urine during the whole festival. Subsequently, the obtained urine, was delivered to the local farmers specializing in growing barley crops, so they can use it as a fertilizer. It should not come as a surprise to many, that urine is being used as fertilizer, whereas its richness in phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen makes it a perfect nutritional mix for plants to grow. It has been estimated that around 25 tons of urine has been collected that would be sufficient in producing 24 tons of beer by 2017.
The World’s First Solar Panels Bicycle Path
An ingenious project which aims to harvest solar energy by integrating solar panels into a bicycle lane, was given green light in Krommenie, Netherlands. The bicycle path that on average is used by 2,000 cyclists a day and which connects the Krommenie and Wormerveer suburbs (North of Amsterdam), has incorporated a 70 metres stretch of solar panels mounted into concrete blocks of 8.5 square metres each.
The translucent silicon solar cells are encased into two layers of tempered glass, which for safety reasons were covered with a non-slip layer. The panels are designed to withstand the weight of more than 2,000 cyclists which are using the path on a daily basis, and are expected to last for more than ten years. Since the solar cells installed within the bicycle lane cannot track the sun rays, whereas these are fixed into the concrete, it has been estimated that the energy produced by these will be 30% less than the solar energy generated by the rooftops panels. Still, the bike lane is tilted slightly in order to prevent the buildup of water, that should help achieve a better angle to the sun and subsequently, increase the panels energy conversion rates.
The panels are capable of generating enough electricity for lightning small portions of roads, powering traffic lights or even supplying electricity up to three households if used at their full potential. In addition to this, it is assumed that the bicycle path solar cells will provide the enough electricity for charging car batteries, and will be able to signal maintenance crews in the event of a breakdown. At a cost of £2.4m, which in the most part was covered by the local authority, the solar road creators expect to obtain more energy as the path will be extended to 100 metres in 2016.
The opening of the world’s first electricity generating bicycle path was handled by the Dutch Ministry of Economy, Henk Kamp who stressed that
“This is just the beginning. We start with the bikes, after that we will continue with the buses and cars. In future, we plan on building as many similar roads as we can”.
The masterminds which promoted the concept behind the solar bicycle path, believe that the solar road project can be further developed by integrating it into the Netherlands’ highways system. According to Paul Rutte, the senior manager at the New Holland’s province department for innovation management, Netherlands has almost 140 thousand kilometers of roads. If every square meter of the road would be equipped with this type of coating, then all the cars in the country will be able to receive energy directly from the road’s solar panels by 2050.
The World’s First Commercial Solar Power Plant
Due to the depletion of traditional energy sources and growing concerns for the environment, the use of renewable energy has become increasingly popular. People around the world are coming up with innovative solutions meant to address the issue of environmental sustainability, the Seville’s solar power plants representing a good example in this regard. A city that stands out from the crowd when it comes to endorsing and further promoting the use of alternative energy sources. The financial and cultural centre of the Southern Spain, Seville is home to the world’s first commercial solar power plant (PS10).
Located in the Andalusian countryside in the municipality of Sanlucar la Mayor, the 50 meters tall concrete towers PS10 and PS20, collect the sunlight reflected by a field of 1,879 heliostat mirrors which track the sun’s rays and redirect them to the top of the towers where a solar receptor is installed. Here, water is pumped from the ground and pushed through a network of special designed tubes which are heated to the extent that makes the running water turn into steam, which later is passed through a series of turbines that produce electricity. The light coming from the field mirrors is so intense that it lights up dust and water vapour in the air.
It has been estimated that the functioning of the towers will help reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by 600 tons per year over a period of 25 years.
At the moment the solar plants provide electricity to 60,000 homes, with plans to increase the number of powered households to 180,000 . It is being projected that the cumulative power from both towers will reach a total of 300 MW. Typically, the price for solar generated electricity is higher compared to the electric power produced by the conventional sources, such as gas, coal or water. Nevertheless, the costs for solar power electricity are expected to fall substantially with the increase in production volumes. Although, quite expensive, the project’s price tag being estimated at around €1,200 million, helped create around 1,500 jobs in the manufacturer and services sectors.
What is interesting about these solar platforms, is that besides energy generation these posses storage capabilities as well. The towers can store solar energy in the form of water vapours that are collected and retained in a set of large tanks. The quantity of stored vapours are sufficient enough as to allow for an additional hour of work without sun. This means that the plant cannot cover the electricity needs during the night, but it still delivers a certain degree of flexibility in the case of a cloudy sky.
- The Guardian (2015) “Out on the piss? Danish festival recycles urine to make beer”
- The Guardian (2014) “World’s first solar cycle lane opening in the Netherlands”