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The Scandinavian nations setting the green energy pace



Thanks to a strong ethos of research and development (R&D), coupled with relatively healthy supplies of funding, Europe is in a good position to lead the way towards a cleaner, greener future. Among our European cousins, Ben Charig examines the countries that seem to be forging a path of energy sustainability.

When it comes to cleantech, the Scandinavian countries seem to have the right attitude. In particular, Sweden, Norway and Denmark are blazing a trail of sustainability by setting themselves challenging energy and emissions targets, investing well in the development of clean technologies, and making green living the norm.

So much so, that the UK – often seen as lagging in renewables – has recently announced collaborations with two of this trio: a wind partnership with Denmark and an energy resources link with Norway.

To encourage the industry and promote the most innovative cleantech ideas, the Nordic Cleantech Open was instigated in 2010. A report from the 2011-12 top 25 competition reveals that 97 different companies fielded entries, with the Swedes submitting the most, followed by the Finns, the Norwegians, the Danes, and finally the Icelanders.

The entries were split into six categories; the top three were ‘Renewable Energy’ (27 entries), ‘Energy Efficiency’ (26 entries), and ‘Air, Water, Waste’ (19 entries). ‘Transportation’, ‘Green Building’ and ‘Smart Power’ lagged some way behind.

This demonstrates the dedication of R&D in the Scandinavia countries to making everyday life a sustainable, energy-efficient process.

Of the companies that were ranked in the top 25, nine were from the ‘Energy Efficiency’ segment – further indication that energy is at the top of the agenda.

Stockholm Cleantech, an organisation launched recently in Sweden, aims to promote Swedish green enterprise on both national and international settings, boosting exports from the country and thus fostering other countries’ awareness of green technologies. The scheme continues to draw attention to the invaluable contributions some Swedish companies are making to a cleaner future.

This year will see the fifth Stockholm Cleantech Venture Day, an event offering 20 shortlisted Swedish cleantech companies the chance to showcase their products and services in front of investors.

The 2012 event is focusing on “Energy and Water – building business on the challenge of the future” and will be running on September 26-27.

Also making its contribution to a cleaner future is Norway. In 2009, the Norwegian government opened a number of research institutions specifically aiming to develop clean and renewable energy technologies.

These include Nowitech, the Norwegian Research Centre for Offshore Wind Technology, the Norwegian Research Centre for Solar Cell Technology, and ZEB, the Research Centre on Zero Emission Buildings.

In addition, Norway was an early adopter of the ‘hydrogen highway’ concept. The HyNor highway takes motorists from the capital, Oslo, to the city of Stavanger on the west coast – a stretch of almost 350 miles.

According to the HyNor website, the route was officially opened on May 11 2009, and was christened with the Viking Rally (also known as the Zero Rally), a race for electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles along the entire highway.

Not to be outdone by their neighbours, the Finns and the Danes have ambitious goals in the fields of energy and environment. Indeed, Denmark intends to source 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and, staggeringly, 100% by 2050 – a daunting task for any nation but one to which the country is committed.

Finland has always been an innovative land, and it consequently boasts an uncommonly diverse range of energy sources. As well as the more commonplace but finite oil, nuclear, coal and natural gas power supplies, the country also uses wood and peat-based fuels, along with biogas harvested from waste digestion.

In September 2011, Google announced the opening of one of its most efficient data centres yet – in Hamina, Finland. The plant, bought by the internet giant in 2009, was originally designed and built in the 1950s as a paper mill. The centre uses sea water from the Gulf of Finland to cool the many servers housed there.

The Scandinavian countries are of course far from the only proponents of clean and green technologies. Germany, a nation renowned for its engineering prowess and environmental concern, reached a remarkable milestone earlier this month.

According to an article published by Reuters, 25% of Germany’s energy supply is now derived from green sources, demonstrating that the country is well on the way to its target of 35% by 2020.

The massive growth of the solar technologies industry in Germany has not stopped (have a look at this video by Chris Davis and Alfredas Chmieliauska for an excellent visual illustration of the country’s burgeoning solar panel network), and the feed-in tariffs provided by the government will continue to entice private and commercial investors alike.

As well as generating cleaner energy, the solar industry has created many thousands of jobs in production, installation and maintenance since taking off in the late ‘00s.

Just across the border in the Czech Republic, comparatively cheap land prices along with a reasonably strong economy and heavy subsidy from the government have helped solar power storm to the fore in recent years.

However, a recent decision by the government to impose a retroactive tax on solar farms generating more than a certain quantity of energy has proved highly controversial. Many investors have expressed their frustration at the move, and some have threatened to take legal action.

Europe is clearly an exciting place to be when it comes to cleantech. But when it comes to green energy, the forward-thinking approach of the Scandinavian countries in particular should be lauded.

Ben Charig is a 22-year-old student from Lincoln. Having graduated from the University of York in physics and maths, he intends to pursue a career as a patent attorney. His interests include running, hiking, cycling and singing.

Further reading:

Infographic: renewable energy in Europe

UK and Norway in energy collaboration

Denmark lays down foundations for green future

Wind partnership for UK and Denmark

Germany sets solar benchmark over sunny weekend


What Kitchen Suits Your Style? Modern, Classic or Shaker?




shaker kitchen designs

A kitchen is the centre of the home. Your kitchen ranges between where friends and family gather, talk about their day, cook meals, have drinks, to somewhere you can just enjoy each other’s company. The kitchen is the heart of the home. But, everyone’s lifestyle is different. Everyone’s taste is different. So, you need a kitchen that not only mirrors your lifestyle but matches your taste too. Whilst some prefer a more traditional design, others want a modern feel or flair – and it’s all down to personal taste.

When it comes to redesigning your kitchen, what style would you go for? It’s a difficult one isn’t it. With so many different styles to go for, how can you know exactly what you want until you’ve seen it in action? Leading kitchen designer, Roman Kitchens, based in Essex, have provided three examples of bespoke kitchens and styles they specialise in, accompanied with beautiful images. This design guide will get you one step closer to picking your dream kitchen for your home.

1. Modern

New home in the city centre? Or even a sleek new modern build? You want a trendy and modern kitchen to reflect your city lifestyle. In modern kitchen design, colours are bolder and fresher, with sleek design and utilities that are distinctive and vibrant.

modern kitchen designs

This modern kitchen is sleek and smooth with flawless design and beauty. Minimalism doesn’t stop this kitchen standing out. Featured walls of wood and vibrant mint green draw the eye, whilst the white surfaces reflect the light, illuminating every nook and cranny of this kitchen. This kitchen features products from Rotpunkt, innovators of modern kitchen design. Made with German engineering, a Rotpunkt Kitchen is the ultimate modern addition to your home. Rotpunkt Kitchens have timeless design and amazing functionality, they work for every purpose and are eco-friendly. Sourced from natural materials, a Rotpunkt kitchen uses 37% less timber, conserving natural forests and being more environmentally conscious.

2. Classic

Prefer a homely and traditional feel? Classic kitchens are warm, welcoming and filled with wood. Wood flooring, wood fixtures, wood furniture – you name it! You can bring a rustic feel to your urban home with a classic kitchen. Subtle colours and beautiful finishes, Classic kitchens are for taking it back to the basics with a definitive look and feel.

classic kitchen designs

With stated handles for cupboards, Classic kitchens are effortlessly timeless. They convey an elegant but relaxing nature. Giving off countryside vibes, natural elements convey a British countryside feel. The wood featured in a classic kitchen can range between oaks and walnut, creating a warmth and original feel to your home. Soft English heritage colours add a certain mood to your home, softening the light making it cosier.

3. Shaker

Any kitchen planner will tell you that the meeting point between traditional and modern design, is a Shaker kitchen. They have a distinctive style and innovative feel. Shakers are fresh, mixing different colour tones with stylish wood and vinyl. The most important feature of a Shaker kitchen is functionality – every feature needs to serve a purpose in the kitchen. Paired with stylish and unique furniture, a Shaker kitchen is an ideal addition to any home.

shaker kitchen designs

The ultimate marriage between Classic and Modern kitchens, this Shaker kitchen has deep colour tones with copper emphasis features. All the fittings and fixtures blur the line of modern and tradition, with a Classic look but modern colour vibe. Unique furniture and design make Shaker Kitchens perfect for the middle ground in kitchen design. Minimal but beautifully dressed. Traditional but bold and modern at the same time. Storage solutions are part of the functionality of Shaker kitchens, but don’t detour from conveying yours as a luxury kitchen.

Whatever you choose for your new kitchen, be it Modern, Classic or Shaker – pick whatever suits you. Taste is, and always will be, subjective – it’s down to you.

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Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy



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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