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The Wind in the Wicklow: Ireland’s quest for energy independence

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Ben Charig writes about a potentially revolutionary clean energy project that could help Ireland exploit its plentiful renewable resources and become the master of its own energy fate.

In times of financial difficulty for individuals, governments and corporations alike, investment in clean technology is viewed by many as an excellent opportunity to boost flagging economies while simultaneously reducing the environmental impact of our ever-growing need for technology.

In May this year, Blue & Green Tomorrow reported that employment in Ireland’s cleantech industry was expected to grow considerably in the coming months. Ernst & Young’s Cleantech Ireland report predicted the creation of up to 80,000 new jobs in the sector along with a GDP contribution of €3.9 billion – welcome news in any climate.

A more recent B&GT article told of investment that was being made in a wind energy co-operative in Northern Ireland. The scheme sought to support local consumers by providing clean, renewable energy that the consumers could manage themselves.

In addition to that, the project was intended to yield a return for the investors – the community – thus fostering a stronger local economy and acting as an incentive to other groups in Ireland to adopt similar strategies.

Ireland’s position at the eastern edge of the Atlantic Ocean gives it tremendous potential when it comes to wind energy. What can be done to exploit fully such a rich resource?

Financial website thisismoney.co.uk published an article earlier this month about Spirit of Ireland (SoI), a project exploring the possibility of harnessing Ireland’s wind energy.

Spirit of Ireland’s homepage suggests that “a breakthrough national project” such as the one it describes could go some of the way to realising the country’s wind assets, thereby reducing its dependence on fossil fuels and slashing carbon dioxide emissions – two goals that the Ernst & Young report indicated were extremely important for Ireland.

The SoI website acknowledges that wind, intermittent in strength and direction, is far from a reliable source of energy, but offers a daring and creative solution to the problem.

To make full use of high-speed winds at times when less electricity is needed (e.g., overnight), Spirit of Ireland proposes the construction of a series of strategically positioned reservoirs, all coupled to wind turbines and pumps.

At times of high demand, most of (if not all) the electricity generated by the turbines would be sent directly to the grid; at times of low demand, energy captured which is surplus to instantaneous requirement would be used to pump seawater uphill to fill the reservoirs. This would create a ‘battery’ of hydroelectric power to be drained when needed.

Even more impressively, the project suggests that with the appropriate infrastructure in place, Ireland could even export energy to the British mainland and beyond. This would constitute a surprising role-reversal for a country that has been spending sums of the order of €6 billion per annum on importing energy simply to meet its own energy demand.

Such an idea sounds glorious – perfect, even. Implementing it would see Ireland’s cleantech sector taking a huge step towards Ernst & Young’s forecast job creation and GDP contribution figures.

To dig the reservoirs, install the wind turbines, the pumps and the grid infrastructure, not to mention build all the other bits of ancillary equipment, would create thousands of jobs at the beginning of the project. On-going management and maintenance of the systems would keep many in work long after the initial assembly stage. And the result of all this would be carbon-free, sustainable energy for Ireland.

However, it is important to keep a sense of perspective. Spirit of Ireland’s description of the project and its scope paints a fantastically appealing picture – one in which Ireland produces not only enough energy to cater for its own requirements but also enough to contribute to other European countries’ needs.

Some would consider this a rather unrealistic take on what is physically achievable. A page on sustainability.ie, a site purportedly belonging to the Sustainability Institute of the Republic of Ireland, points out a number of practical issues with the project.

It pays particular attention to the volumes of reservoir water that would be required to be able to deliver something equivalent to Ireland’s current average energy demand (which lies around the 3,000 megawatt (MW) mark).

The page makes reference to Turlough Hill, a mountain in County Wicklow, site of what is currently Ireland’s only pumped-storage hydroelectricity facility. The Turlough Hill set-up has a maximum power output of 292MW.

Note the word maximum; the facility could not deliver that quantity of power for any sustained period. Thinking that Ireland could construct enough reservoir-based, wind turbine-pumped hydroelectric power stations to provide adequate electricity is, according to sustainability.ie, an untenable position.

Of course, scepticism like this is healthy – and indeed part of good science and sensible reasoning. The investment required to implement a system such as that described by SoI would be enormous. It also presupposes that we would succeed in scaling the technology to work at the required level.

No project coming anywhere close to this magnitude has ever been attempted before, let alone succeeded. And there are plenty of other renewable schemes that would deliver far more return on investment – in energetic as well as financial terms.

All the same, in energy delivery as in life, the healthiest way forward is to maintain a balance of all things. Putting money and resources into smaller versions of schemes like Spirit of Ireland will pave the way for technological advancement and more cunning tricks for reaping renewable energy rewards from the wind resources available. Early schemes might not raise vast sums of energy, but they will make their contributions, and save that little bit more oil, gas or coal.

In conclusion, Spirit of Ireland’s project – so appealing in concept – does not represent a complete, ready-to-go solution to Ireland’s renewable energy dearth. Nor could or should any one project. It is an idea: grand, ambitious, and flawed. Despite the obstacles, the idea has vision, and it has merit. Let’s see what comes of it.

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:

Ireland expects cleantech job and GDP surge

Investment in Northern Irish wind co-op ‘exceeds expectations’

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy

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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Features

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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