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Las Vegas: Looking Towards a Renewable Future

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  • The Fountains of Bellagio costs an estimated $5 million a year in upkeep.
  • Casinos use 20% of all energy consumed in Vegas
  • In 2016, Las Vegas announced that they could power the city government entirely with renewable energy.
  • MGM Resort International’s solar rooftop installation is expected to produce 25% of Mandalay Bay’s power demand.
  • Tesla’s gigafactory is seven times larger than the world’s next biggest rooftop installation.
  • NV Energy has imposed large charges on companies threatening to leave the grid, this is due to a fear for their future.

They say that there are two man-made features that stand out more than any others when you view them from space. The first is The Great Wall of China; the second is Las Vegas as it beams its multi-million wattage from the heart of the Nevada desert out into the night sky.

In fact, Vegas’s bright neon-lit streets – with casino after casino trying to out-do each other with spectacular displays – is an essential part of the city that really never sleeps.

One of the most notable causes of this extreme energy consumption is the Luxor Beam. It uses 39 7,000 watt bulbs to illuminate its pyramid, generating 40 billion candlepower. Each light reportedly costs $1,200 and can last for 2,000 hours. The iconic Fountains of Bellagio is another one of Vegas’s biggest light polluters. It costs an estimated $5 million a year to shoot the water 460 feet into the air – that’s only 80 feet shorter than the Eiffel Tower – and power its 4,500 lights.Then there are all the thousand-room hotels, rows and rows and slots and the casinos themselves all-consuming huge amounts of power.

Casinos use 20% of all energy consumed in Vegas

The Move to Greener Energy

With so much energy being used to power Las Vegas, it’s perhaps not surprising to see the city switching away from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas to renewable energy sources including hydro-electric power and solar energy.

Of course the former is no novelty to the state of Nevada. Since 1936 the Hoover Dam has been generating electricity not just for Nevada but for Arizona and Southern California too and today it produces no less than 4.5 billion kilowatt hours a year.

The Hoover Dam efficiently generates electricity

In 2016, Las Vegas announced it had reached its goal of powering the city government entirely with renewable energy. This meant it had met the goal it set itself 10 years before, when it began its renewable energy project to reduce electricity usage by installing solar panels and spearheading new sustainability programs. For the first time in its history, it also received power from the Hoover Dam.

Leading by Example

Solar panels

In striving to become more and more reliant on renewable energy in 2016 the city Government of Las Vegas led the way by becoming the first in the United States to power renewable energy primarily generated by the Boulder Solar 1 plant. The result is said to be a $5 million saving each year.


Several of the casinos have also followed their lead, partly driven by the desire to drive down costs in the light of falling revenues attributed to the vibrant online casino scene. In contrast, there is no doubt that online casinos are using a fraction of the energy that is required to run a land-based casino, not only that, well known international online casinos, such as 888casino, cater for players in Las Vegas as well as gamers all over the world (where it is possible for online casinos to operate, of course).

The Wynn Las Vegas, MGM Resorts International and Las Vegas Sands Corp. all have installed solar panels on their rooftops in a bid to become energy self-sufficient – with a huge impact on the energy usage in the city.

At full production, MGM Resort International’s solar rooftop installation is expected to produce 25% of Mandalay Bay’s power demand. This in turn intends to reduce demand on the southern Nevada electricity grid at the hottest time of the day.

However, as you’ll see from the chart below, there are still some challenges to be overcome in Nevada as a whole, which still largely relies on fossil fuels for power – so there is still more work to do.

The state of Nevada is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels

 

Source: Energy Information Administration

The Tesla Effect

On a broader scale, the continuing development of the Tesla Gigafactory in the aptly-named Spark, Nevada, is influencing energy use in Las Vegas. Tesla promises to be able to supply 35 Gigawatt hours of solar generated electricity a year – that’s nearly as much as the whole world produces today. If and when it’s achieved it could well be that Vegas really can run on 100% renewable power.

Currently, Tesla is powering its Gigafactory with a 70-megawatt solar farm that’s seven times larger than the world’s next biggest rooftop installation. The company says that having an all-electric facility will make it more efficient, and that much of its heating will be provided by waste heat from its battery manufacturing process.

And the investment in solar energy seems to be paying off, as Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, says the factory is already producing more batteries than any other factory in the world. It remains to be seen whether all Vegas’s casinos will follow Tesla’s lead.

Tesla has upped the ante on renewables-driven productivity

Source: visualcapitalist.com

The End of a Fossil Fuelled Vegas?

One organisation that is not very pleased at Las Vegas’s dive into renewable energy is the state’s main utility company, NV Energy, which sees its business possibly disappearing in the long-term future. As a result, it has been imposing large charges for any organisations trying to leave the grid. One example is the data services company Switch who have been orderedto pay $27 million before they can make the break.

A coal powered electric power station

Across the world, billions of dollars of public money is still being invested in fossil fuel projects by the world’s major development banks. Funding for fossil fuel projects totalled at least $5 billion in 2016, according to a report by Oil Change International (OCI). The report estimate that up to $2.1 billion was invested into new oil and gas exploration, while funding for clean energy also grew by over one-third, to $11.4 billion.

But, despite this, the writing may be on the wall for old-style utility providers. Fossil fuels are finite, and polluting, so renewables are going to become more and more important for usnot just in Vegas but worldwide in the years and decades to come.

Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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