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A celebration of solar for the summer solstice

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Today, June 20, is the summer solstice. Supposedly, we should see more sun today than on another other day of 2012. No doubt the perennially unpredictable British weather will do its best to spoil proceedings, but here, we take a look at some recent big developments in the solar industry.

After weeks of uncertainty over the last few months, May turned out to be a pretty good month for the UK’s solar sector.

This positivity was typified by the government’s announcement that the feed-in tariff (FiT) cuts for solar PV would not come into play until August, giving prospective investors more time to receive the higher band of subsidy.

But whilst it was this angle that dominated news headlines, the most encouraging part of what energy secretary Ed Davey had to say surrounded the future plans for the industry in terms of incentives.

From August, cuts won’t be determined by policymakers. Instead, the FiT will be automatically reduced by 3.5% every three months, providing the industry with much-needed confidence and stability.

If uptake is unprecedentedly high, the subsidy scheme can be cut by as much as 28%. But on the same page, if uptake is too low, cuts can be deferred for upto six months. It’s a win-win for investors, government and the industry.

How much energy (per capita) is generated using solar power throughout the world?: Ben Willers. (Click to enlarge).

On top of this news surrounding solar PV incentives in the UK, Blue & Green Tomorrow has written recently about a number of large-scale solar projects that have been undertaken across the country, and indeed, the globe. And in one case, even where no man has gone before, but we’ll get to that later.

At the beginning of this month, a renewable energy company in Warrington, Eco Environments, installed over 1,000 solar panels on the roof of a warehouse, in what it’s calling “the biggest roof-based solar PV project in the North of England”.

This news builds on the plans for a proposed 25 megawatt (MW) solar farm in Suffolk, which Hampshire-based renewables developer, Hive Energy, is looking into. The farm, Hive says, would be one of the biggest of its kind in the UK.

Further afield, there were positive developments to come out of Morocco, South Africa and Saudi Arabia last month, with companies from all three countries in discussions to vastly increase the presence of solar in their nation’s energy mix.

The plans for solar development in Saudi Arabia in particular, which are still very much in the planning stage, are extremely exciting. A 41 gigawatt – yes, gigawatt – expansion of the technology would see it account for around a third of the oil-rich country’s peak electricity demand. Exciting stuff, but it comes at a fairly hefty sum; it’s estimated that the project will need $109 billion from investors to get going.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in the US, two firms – MidAmerican Solar and First Solar – began construction of what they’re calling the world’s largest solar farm.

The stats are pretty impressive: the farm will be 550MW once completed; will employ 400 workers during the building phase; will bring in expected revenue of $417 billion; and will provide power to some 160,000 Californian homes.

And, for the final development in this solar celebration, we need to branch out even further from home. Nope, not to Australia, or even Fiji. To space.

Yes, that’s right. Researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow have developed equipment already tested in space that would provide a platform for solar panels to collect energy and allow it to be transferred back to Earth through microwaves or lasers.

Pretty cool, I’m sure you’ll agree. And such a good idea; it makes you wonder why it’s not been thought of earlier.

We’ll be following that one particularly closely; if only in the hope that someone at the university will contact us asking for a hand up there. Because, you know, you never know when a team of sustainable investment journalists will come in handy.

Enjoy the sun!

Further reading:

Global solar market brimming with innovation

Northern England makes strong headway in solar

The feed-in tariff scheme unravelled

Bright future predicted for solar as government learns its lesson

“World’s largest solar project” begins major construction

Suffolk surges on in large solar development race

Features

Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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How Going Green Can Save Your Business Thousands

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Running a company isn’t easy. From reporting wages in an efficient way to meeting deadlines and targets, there’s always something to think about – with green business ideas giving entrepreneurs something extra to ponder. While environmental issues may not be at the forefront of your mind right now, it could save your business thousands, so let’s delve deeper into this issue.

Small waste adds up over time

A computer left on overnight might not seem like the end of the world, right? Sure, it’s a rather minor issue compared to losing a client or being refused a loan – but small waste adds up over time. Conserving energy is an effective money saver, so to hold onto that hard-earned cash, try to:

  • Turn all electrical gadgets off at the socket rather than leaving them on standby as the latter can crank up your energy bill without you even realizing.
  • Switch all lights off when you exit a room and try switching to halogen incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps or light emitting diodes as these can use up to 80 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent and are therefore more efficient.
  • Replace outdated appliances with their greener counterparts. Energy Star appliances have labels which help you to understand their energy requirements over time.
  • Draught-proof your premises as sealing up leaks could slash your energy bills by 30 per cent.

Going electronic has significant benefits

If you don’t want to be buried under a mountain of paperwork, why not opt for digital documents instead of printing everything out? Not only will this save a lot of money on paper and ink but it will also conserve energy and help protect the planet. You may even be entitled to one of the many tax breaks and grants issued to organizations committed to achieving their environmental goals. This is particularly good news for start-ups with limited funds as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is keen to support companies opening up their company in a green manner.

Of course, if you’re used to handing out brochures and leaflets at every company meeting or printing out newsletters whenever you get the chance, going electronic may be a challenge – but here are some things you can try:

  • Using PowerPoint presentations not printouts
  • Communicating via instant messenger apps or email
  • Using financial software to manage your books
  • Downloading accounting software to keep track of figures
  • Arranging digital feedback and review forms
  • Making the most of Google Docs

Going green can help you to make money too

Going green and environmental stability is big news at the moment with many companies doing their bit for the environment. While implementing eco-friendly strategies will certainly save you money, reducing your carbon footprint could also make you a few bucks too. How? Well, consumers care about what brands are doing more than ever before, with many deliberately siding with those who are implementing green policies. Essentially, doing your bit for the environment is a PR dream as it allows you to talk about what everyone wants to hear.

Going green can certainly save your money but it should also improve your reputation too and give you a platform to promote your business.

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