Volcano generators and algae jet fuel: the best green innovations of the week

In a week that warned of a lifetime of high atmospheric carbon concentrations, edie has rounded up the latest low-carbon technologies and innovations that could mitigate carbon effects and create a sustainable, if slightly altered, future.

With Hawaii warning that a drastic cut in emissions is unlikely to lower the Earth’s carbon concentration below 400 parts per million, we could slowly veer towards a future that won’t hit the 2C climate target, especially if investment dries up.

But while the world struggles collectively to bring about wholesale change, it hasn’t stopped individual nations and companies battling against the looming effects of climate change. Proving that most countries are resting on their laurels – except perhaps France, who became the first major nation to ratify the Paris Agreement – Scotland has smashed its emissions target six years early.

Alongside Scotland’s success, the week also brought us the perfect cocktail of footprint reductions from Bacardi, while Apple has seemingly grown tired of its crown as a sustainable retailer and has quietly branched off into the energy supplier sphere.

With more companies looking to create new business models to drive economic gains alongside sustainable pledges, edie has pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package.

The Basalt boiler cooking up a carbon storm

We start this week’s roundup in Iceland. Fresh from annoying Ronaldo and co at EURO 2016 with their almost impetrative defensive wall, the country has introduced a new carbon capture storage (CCS) method that could create an even stronger substance than the Icelandic defence.

The CarbFix project pumps carbon deep below the island and into the country’s volcanic rock. From here the gas clashes with calcium, magnesium and iron in the basalt to create solid carbonate stone.

Tested at the world’s largest geothermal plant in Hellisheidi, the researchers – who anticipated that the reaction would take hundreds of years – were astonished to see the production of the carbonate substance in just two years, with a 95% conversation rate. The project can store 5,000 tonnes of carbon each year, with plans in place to increase capacity to 10,000 tonnes in 2017.

No way for Norway to ignore biofuel

Biofuel is beginning to create quite the conundrum. Away from arguments over how “green” it is, there are still issues about dedicating large swathes of land to produce organic material that isn’t going to “feed the nine billion”. Despite this the fuel is seen as a viable low-carbon concept for transport.

The answer to biofuel could lie in renewably-charged Norway, where electricity prices are low. By creating synthetic diesel by boiling water into steam and separating the hydrogen at 800 degrees Celsius, Nordic Blue Crude has developed a synthetic biofuel that can cut carbon emissions by 85% in diesel cars.

With issues of diesel limits plaguing the transport sector, Audi has already shown an interest in the fuel and the company due to its low emissions and it location in Norway, which provides cheap renewable electricity.

Aviation’s answer lies in the depths of the ocean

On the topic of green fuel, no transport sector has it tougher than the aircrafts. Signs of an international emissions standard are still hiding in the polluted shadows, and emissions could skyrocket if fuel economy and mix isn’t improved.

While still not financially viable for airlines, a Munich TU professor has claimed that biofuel from algae could provide up to 5% of global jet-fuel needs by 2050. This may not sound like much, but with trials proving fruitless algae could become a viable fuel source.

Algae can grow 12 times faster than soil-cultivated plants and produces much higher oil yields than rapeseed. It’s the oil output that could accelerate the financial availability of biofuels, although researchers admit that it would need to be mixed with other forms of plant-based biofuel.

Plastic waste: through the looking glasses

Forever considered the optimal fashion accessory, sunglasses could soon be a driving factor in making sustainability cool for the fashionistas. While the likes of Emma Watson and Margot Robbie have showcased recycled plastic dresses in the past, it’s now time for sunglasses to walk the catwalk.

Fashion company Norton Point have launched a new Kickstarter page where, for $79, you can purchase a pair on sunglasses engraved with the latitude and longitude of where the plastic waste they are made from was collected.

The firm teamed up with social enterprise Plastic Bank to provide a waste collection scheme that not only lowers the amount of plastic waste ending up in the ocean, but also provides a living wage to workers in areas such as Haiti.

How much to keep on trucking?

Usually it takes a fair amount of time for a disruptive start-up to truly start making waves in a designated sector. But for Nikola Motors, a large-scale shift in the way the transport sector works occurred just six weeks into its existence.

The company only announced its existence in May, alongside the news that it was developing a $375,000 hybrid electric truck, but already reservation and pre-order sales have hit $2.3bn for the concept truck.

The Nikola One truck is powered by lithium battery packs and a compressed natural gas converter. It is believed to have a fuel efficiency range of between 20 to 30 litres per 100km and can store 379 litres in the tank which could potential create a drive range of 320km.

Out of the frying pan to start the fire

Last week edie brought you the food waste garden system, and this week we’re back with another backyard food waste converter. The HomeBiogas system, based in Beit Yanai, Israel, turns organic food waste into cooking gas and liquid plant fertilizer.

Costing $995, the system runs without the need for electricity and can produce gas outputs equivalent to 6kwh of energy or enough to cook for around three hours. It is able to consume all types of food from dairy to meat and even kitty litter, which edie realises isn’t an actual food…yet.

The fact that it can operate without electricity and be assembled and dismantled easily has made it an attractive option for developing regions. Already, the European Union has funded an initiative which saw 40 of the systems transported and utilised in a Palestinian village in the West Bank of the Jordan Valley.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie