Whiskey fuel and desert crops: the best green innovations of the week

In a week of monumental announcements at the One Planet summit in Paris, edie rounds up the low-carbon and resource-efficient innovations that could shape the future.

edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package

edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package

The One Planet Summit in Paris has put climate action back on the menu. Whereas previous climate conferences have been side-tracked by US delegates, this week’s summit was a universal call to arms against climate change.

More than 200 of the most influential investor institutions, with more than $26.3trn in assets under management, launched the Climate Action 100+ initiative to help the 100 largest corporate emitters reduce value chain carbon footprints.

In a separate rallying cry, more than 50 global companies including Unilever, M&S and Adidas called on nations meeting in Paris, to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies by 2025.

The European commission announced funding of £8bn for action on climate change, while the World Bank, numerous financial institutions and a group of nations and major businesses all pledged to phase out fossil fuel funding and use.

The summit also provided an ideal platform for companies to announce new innovative collaborations. Unilever and Sainsbury's announced a partnership with leading investors to trial how blockchain technology can financially reward sustainable farming practices.

Elsewhere, technology giant Dell formed a collaborative initiative alongside General Motors and Interface to create the world's first commercial-scale supply chain for ocean-bound plastics, before they seep into waterways.

It is apparent that the world will continue to march towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and unlock new technologies and opportunities to drive change. With that in mind, edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package.

Drink driving

A Scottish start-up has created a new PLC to launch a funding campaign to raise £5.25m to build a commercial demonstrator plant which will turn whisky residue into advanced biofuels that can be used to replace petrol and diesel.

The Celtic Renewables Grangemouth PLC is looking to raise the funds through an ISA eligible investment with peer-to-peer investment platform Abundance. If successful, the demonstrator plant will be able to produce more than half a million litres of biofuel annually.

The start-up received planning permission from Falkirk Council for the two-acre site, which will produce Biobutanol from the whiskey residues of the Tullibardine Distillery in Perthshire. The biofuel was successfully tested in a vehicle for the first time earlier this year.

Crops from the concrete

Research suggests that traditional farming can degrade 80% of soil used and harvest only 50% of the planted crops. Last month, a new Netherlands-based vertical farm opened to the public that not only reduces soil use and harvests more than 90% of its crops, but also uses an end-to-end, near-zero emissions logistics plan to reduce transportation emissions.

The average food of a traditional farm travels 1500 to 2500 miles before it ends on a plate, but crops produced by the GROWx team are transported using petrol-free vehicles. GROWx crops are grown in small urban spaces to minimise water use and only uses wind, solar or bio energy to produce yields.

The GROWx team collaborated with Vandebron to source clean energy and with bicycle transportation firm Tring Tring to transport the vegetables, emissions free. The food is grown without the use of pesticides and is stored in re-usable containers after harvest to eliminate packaging waste.

Dark cloud benefits

An innovative range of 100% recycled, FSC-certified paper has been named as an official partner to a highly-ambitious cloud seeding project that aims to alter the microphysical processes within clouds to generate rain and combat droughts.

In an increasingly water-scarce world, the HighDr’O project is being created by engineers from Sup Bio’Tech in partnership with the French Government’s Centre National d’Etudes Spatialise (CNES). Recycled paper manufacturer Arjowiggins Graphic has decided to financially back the project by announcing its Cocoon paper range as an official partner.

The HighDr’O project works by dispersing bacterial substances 2,000m into the air, to induce rain into dry regions to combat water shortage. The project is the first cloud seeding technology to use 100% non-harmful ecological bacteria, so surrounding ecosystems aren’t harmed. Although the bacteria are still being developed, several rockets have been successfully launched during a testing phase.

California smells an opportunity

More than one quarter of the global warming effect comes from greenhouse gases other than CO2, mainly methane. This is a huge issue for California’s 1.7 million dairy cows. Manure from the cows often wash into lagoons that act as open methane vaults, that spew the gas into the atmosphere.

The state has pledged to reduce methane emissions by 40% by 2030, but a lot of the farm-based legislation won’t come into force until the mid-2020s. However, government officials are now trying to incentivise farmers to install methane digestors.

While these tarps, which cover the lagoons to trap the gas, are expensive to install and maintain, the state will offer grants to cover some of the costs. Farmers who use the digestors will also be able to sell carbon offset credits, or fuel credits if the methane is used in transport. That’s because Californian utilities are planning to install pipelines from the farms to transport the methane and turn it into vehicle fuel.

Desert oasis

Outside of the Jordan city of Aqaba, food, fresh water and clean energy are all being produced across land previously deemed “unusable”. The Sahara Forest Project was launched recently, and aims to produce 130 tonnes of organic vegetables annually from seven acres of desert land.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon attended the opening ceremony of the project, which started in 2012 following funding from the European Union. At full scale, the project will cover 490 acres of harsh land.

Engineers Max Fordham designed a saltwater cooling system for a vegetable greenhouse, and also collaborated to deliver solar power, operations and desalination expertise to ensure the project runs optimally.

Welsh energy island

The Welsh Anglesey island is one step closer to becoming an “energy island” after the local county council approved proposals from Countryside Renewables to create a 49.9MW solar storage project. The island was selected for the project following detailed analysis of the entire region.

The 190-acre site will be close to grid connections without having an adverse visual impact. The site will continue to be used for sheep grazing, and Countryside Renewables has included a mile-long wildlife corridor into the planning design.

The project will provide electricity for around 15,500 homes annually and will create carbon savings of more than 600,000 tonnes over a 30-year lifetime. The project joins numerous onshore windfarms, a power station and a planned tidal array on the “energy island”.

Matt Mace


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