Tag archives for energy

High rise greenhouse for more urban food

The house will look something like this (here it's placed in a fictitious city, much bigger than Linköping). Illustration: Plantagon.

Earlier I wrote here on the blog about the Swedish company Plantagon’s plans to construct a giant sphere-shaped greenhouse in Botkyrka, Stockholm. Now their vision seems to have come one step closer to reality, in the city of Linköping [map]. Recently representatives from Plantagon and the city of Linköping made the symbolic first cut of the spade, starting the construction of a 54-meter tall combined office and greenhouse.

Ground breaking ceremony in Linköping. Photo: Tommy Hvitfeldt.

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A Nobel Prize winner with an eye for biodiversity

Tomas Tranströmer, probably Sweden’s most famous insect collector. Photo: Ulla Montan.

Saturday is the big day for the Nobel Prize and all week Sweden has been full of discussions, talks and media coverage as the prize laureates come to Stockholm to give their Nobel lectures.

Anyone who heard the shouts of joy at the announcement of the Literature prize winner  (if not, watch the short video here) can tell that the poet Tomas Tranströmer has a special place in many Swedish hearts.

But mr Tranströmer is not just a gifted writer, he is also an (and now Sweden’s probably most famous) entomologist (someone who knows a lot about insects) and has a strong connection to nature and issues like biodiversity. In an article about Tranströmer and insects, the author (himself a dedicated entomologist, one might assume) happily concludes that insects were mentioned in no less than 21 per cent of the 168 poems in one of Tranströmer’s retrospective collection of poems.

Tomas Tranströmer has even got a beetle named after him, the “Tranströmers tornbagge”, found at the island of Gotland earlier this year. Read more » >>

Can underground water cool Stockholm’s city houses?

Houses-by-Sergels-Torg.

The house to the right could be the first one by Sergels Torg to be heated and cooled by undergreound water reserves. Photo: Vasakronan.

We don’t often think about what’s under our feet when walking around in the middle of a city, but in the centre of Stockholm there is actually several aquifers – large underground layers of water-bearing rock or gravel – that can be of great use. Since water has an ability to store heat or cold, these aquifers work a bit like a thermos.

The idea is more or less to pump up the cold water at summer to cool buildings above ground. This makes the water temperature rise a bit. Then the water is pumped back down into the ground and stored until next winter, when it can be used for heating buildings. This gives about three or four times more energy than what is used for pumping the water up and down.

Vasakronan, which is a large property company, hopes to be able to use this technology for example in one of the big high-rise buildings just by Stockholms main square, Sergels Torg. According to Vasakronan’s head of development and environment, this system can save energy equivalent to the energy use of 450 detached houses.

I must confess that to me it’s a bit of a mystery how only a few centigrades of difference in the water’s heat can make this big a difference, and how it can spend several months under ground without losing the heat… But in an article about aquifers in the construction industry journal Byggindustrin, Olle Andersson who is a professor in energy storage at the University of Lund stated that this is actually a technology where scientists actually have failed to find any disadvantages.

The footprints of our mobile lives

mobile-phonePhoto: Sigfrid Lundberg (CC BY-SA)

A while ago I got a question about the energy use of smartphones compared to “ordinary” mobil phones. Do they consume more electricity? And what does it all add up to for those who have a job phone, another one for private use, plus an electronic reading pad and one or two computers.

Dipping into this subject I started reading the book Var är du? (Where are you?) by the Swedish journalist Katarina Bjärvall. It’s an excellent book penetrating our use of mobile phones from every possible angle. How do the mobiles affect our sense of here and now? Privacy? Distinction between work and free time? And, not the least, all the environmental aspects.

Smartphones do use more energy than many simpler mobile phones. Advanced programs like Flash, a camera or Wifi eat electricity. But the big crook here isn’t the energy used to run the battery. There are so many other, more hidden, costs that come with our daily use of smart technology. To send and receive these massive amounts of information, we need base station transmitter. Although they have been made more efficient than they used to be, they still consume much more energy than the phone itself. And surfing on the Internet while waiting for the bus, each web page you visit has its own carbon footprint.

But, Katarina Bjärvall points out in her book, the most environmentally harmful part of a mobile phone’s life cycle comes after its “death”. A normal mobile phone contains more than 200 different chemicals. Although a lot of mobiles are left in the Swedish electronic waste bins , there are still many that end up in poor countries, where people dismantle them by hand to recycle the metals.

And of course it’s also the amount of electronic devices we use that matters. The film below has been spread a lot in Sweden, critizicing our way to consume electronics, something that Annie Leonard calls “Designing for the dump”.
Maybe it’s time for thew first cradle-to-cradle phone soon, with a lifetime guarantee? (this could be a challenge for Cradle to Cradle Sweden)

A family on the verge of 1 tonne CO2

one-tonne-family-in-front-of-house

The Lindell family in front of the project house. Their weekly carbon budget has been 80 kilos of CO2 emissions, while an “average” family’s weekly emissions are 540 kilos. Photo: One Tonne Life.

How close to a carbon neutral life can an ordinary Swedish family get? This has been the big question for the Lindells during the last six months, when they have been participating in the project One Tonne Life.

In January the family of four moved into a new house equipped with the latest technology to keep CO2 emissions down. Solar panels on the roof provides the electric car with energy and the family members get coaching from energy and food experts.  The total life-cycle emissions of every part of the family’s life is calculated by scientists from Chalmers. The goal is to find out if it’s possible to reach down to emission levels of 1 tonne CO2 per family member and year, while maintaining a “normal” way of life.

The family started out with annual emissions at 7,3 tonnes per person and year. After three months they were down at 2,6 tonnes, using the electric car and public transport instead of their old gas-guzzler, eating vegetarian lunches and cutting down on their shopping.

Now the project is coming to an end, and one thing that the famile has come to realize is that technology can help you, but only to a certain point. Lifestyle is an extremely important part too. In this last finish the family has lived what they call a “Robinson life” to see if that can get them closer to their goals. They eat strictly vegetarian food, excluding the CO2-emitting meat and dairy products.
They have closed off areas of the house to simulate a smaller living area, they carpool more and bring lunches from home instead of eating in restaurants. This way they managed to get down to 1,5 tonnes per person and year.

Another emission source not counted for here though, is everyone’s part in public consumption like hospitals and roads. That’s about 2 tonnes per person and year in Sweden, which means we have to make quite radical changes in those areas to reach the 1 tonne goal.

In this film the family describes how their “Robinson life” turned out. Also watch the well known architect Gert Wingårdh show how he designs a smaller living for the family in order to save CO2 emissions. His predictions are that we’ll live on much fewer square feet per person in the future.