Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A greener future from the concrete jungle

When asked what an environmentally friendly human settlement would be like, the last image that anybody thinks would be a large city. Combining the swelter of the urban heat islands with the pollution emitted by vehicles and factories, the city is as far from the typical person’s vision of the environment.

Janique Goff - greener future
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However, many ecologists believe that densely populated cities are, when planned properly, far more beneficial to the environment than they let on. This is because a densely populated city is more contusive to the use and development of public transportation such as buses, trains, and rapid transit systems, which, when combined with transit-oriented development, can cut down on commute times. Moreover, city dwellers tend to live in smaller homes, which need less energy to cool and heat.

This also reduces carbon dioxide emissions and cuts back on air pollution, assuming that its growth could be controlled. Large cities in places like Europe and North America tend to have smaller carbon footprints.

Janique Goff- urbanization
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The main hindrance to the benefits of urbanization is uncontrolled and poorly planned growth, which usually takes place in developing economies like those in Asia. In some places, the growth of the urban population far outpaces the capacity of the municipal governments to provide basic utilities, let alone proper planning.
For urbanization to be ultimately beneficial, it must be intelligently managed. Doing so would reduce its environmental impact while providing for the needs of its residents in an efficient, effective manner.

Janique Goff- proper urban management
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More on the environment and green technology can be accessed on this Janique Goff blog.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Second Life for Old Electric-Car Batteries: Guardians of the Electric Grid

By Josie Garthwaithe, National Geographic. Original article and images can be accessed here.

Imagine a future in which old electric-car batteries are deployed in neighborhoods as energy-storage systems that guard against power outages, while paving the way for wind and solar power—and more electric cars. The idea has moved one step closer with the demonstration of a boxy unit of used Chevy Volt batteries capable of providing enough electricity to power three to five average American homes for up to two hours.

Developed by General Motors and ABB, one of the world's largest electric-technology companies, the device features five lithium-ion battery packs from plug-in hybrid Volts, strung together in a new arrangement and cooled by air instead of the liquid used in their former lives on the road. The batteries are degraded below acceptable performance levels for cars, but the companies say the batteries have enough life to serve the grid for at least ten years in this device, a community energy storage unit.

"In a car, you want immediate power, and you want a lot of it," said Alexandra Goodson, business development manager for energy storage modules at ABB. Many grid storage applications, on the other hand, involve slow, steady delivery of energy. "We're discharging for two hours instead of immediately accelerating," she said. "It's not nearly as demanding on the system."

The Road to Renewables

The partners previously demonstrated the technology in a lab environment. Now, said Pablo Valencia, senior manager of battery lifecycle management at GM, "It's become a reality," during a presentation Wednesday in Sausalito, California, where GM set up a demo unit about the size of a few refrigerators to power video, lights, and audio in an outdoor tent. "This is an industry first, to be able to use secondary automotive batteries in a grid-based application," Valencia said.

To test the repackaged Volt batteries in the real world, partner Duke Energy, the largest utility in the United States, plans to install this unit next year in the field alongside a transformer. "We'll test it as long as it takes to highlight all the value streams," said Dan Sowder, senior project manager for new technology at Duke.

Deployed on the grid, community energy storage devices could help utilities integrate highly variable, and sometimes unpredictable, renewables like solar and wind into the power supply, while absorbing spikes in demand from electric-car charging.

"Wind, it's a nightmare for grid operators to manage," said Britta Gross, director of global energy systems and infrastructure commercialization for GM. "It's up, down, it doesn't blow for three days. It's very labor-intensive to manage." Sowder, whose company serves 7.1 million customers in the U.S. Midwest and Southeast, explained, "Our grid, and most electricity grids, are not really designed to handle that kind of rapid swinging. Storage can help dampen that out." Smooth delivery of renewable energy has been a major research area for Zurich, Switzerland-based ABB, the world's largest supplier of electrical equipment to the wind power industry.

Meanwhile, on the demand side, utilities are staring down the possibility of huge spikes in energy demand from electric cars, which represent "probably the largest electrical load introduced to a residential setting in 50 years," said Scott Hinson, director of the Pike Powers Commercialization Lab in Austin, Texas.

"That is a little bit alarming for a grid that was not designed to handle that load," adds Sowder. Community energy storage devices can be charged at times when, say, wind is kicking up a storm at night but there is little demand for electricity, and make it available when needed. "The result can be less infrastructure upgrades needed to support electric-vehicle charging."

Seeking Grid Solutions

GM isn't the only automaker looking to help build a secondary market for its electric car batteries. In January, Nissan North America joined with ABB, 4R Energy, and Sumitomo Corporation of America to announce plans to build a prototype of a grid storage system using Nissan Leaf batteries.

After all, if the battery—the most expensive part of an electric car—remains an asset beyond its useful life in the vehicle, Valencia said, "It helps with residual values." That's the term used to describe how much a car is worth at the end of its lease or the end of its useful life—a key factor in determining lease rates and resale values. As a result, he said, "We're helping the first customer."

"If there is a market in stationary power for spent batteries, consumers could recognize this as an increased resale value at end of life, however small," said Kevin See, an analyst with the research firm Lux Research.

Of course, because electric cars like the Volt and the Leaf are new to the market, there will not be a large supply of spent electric-car batteries for some time to come. The batteries are supposed to last for up to ten years in the car. For the demonstration unit, GM scavenged its own laboratories to find batteries that had been degraded by simulations.

The batteries in the demo unit had been degraded down to about 85 or 90 percent of their original capacity, Valencia said. "We were calling everybody and saying, 'Give me your oldest batteries,' " he said. But GM envisions old batteries eventually will be tracked down and purchased for grid-storage use through the same system used today to auction off parts like water pumps and starters at the end of vehicle life for recycling or rebuilding. Before a vehicle is scrapped, its ID number is scanned to pull up a list of all the "core" components for which there is demand.

Adapting lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles adds complexity to the task of designing energy storage for the power grid, however. "You must take a battery that's designed to function in a very specific, mobile, volume- and weight-constrained application in cars," said See. And the necessary adaptations vary by type of car. "A fully electric vehicle battery is designed to hold maximum energy, while a hybrid is designed to have a higher ratio of power to energy." Ultimately, he said, this extra complexity "could add further cost in preparing those systems for an entirely different application than the one they were initially designed for."

Spent car batteries face tough competition from new lithium-ion batteries designed specifically for a given grid application, said See, as well as alternative technologies like flow batteries and molten salt batteries, which have the potential to cost less. "There is and will be no shortage of Li-ion batteries given the explosion of manufacturing capacity in the face of limited demand," See said.

Yet it's possible that stationary power customers looking for batteries could purchase spent EV batteries at significant discounts, he said. "Those customers would be the real winners, provided those batteries hold up, rather than the automakers." Indeed, according to Sowder, Duke Energy is "hopeful," but not sure yet that adapted Volt batteries will save money.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What went wrong: Janique Goff and the failure at Biosphere 2

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The experimental habitat Biosphere 2 aimed to contain is a self-sustaining ecosystem within its confines—a fully functioning microcosm of Earth itself. For environmentalists, such as Janique Goff, the experiment inside this large glass house was a failure.

Located in the deserts of Arizona, Biosphere 2 intended to house eight people within its confines for two years to examine how closed ecosystems functioned. Inspired by the green movements of the 1990s, it was, in its heyday, the largest artificial closed ecosystem in the world.

As the name suggests, it aimed to house the many biomes found on Earth, displaying a rainforest, ocean, savannah, desert, rain shadow forest, mangrove wetland, human habitats, and farms.

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The missions inside the Biosphere, however, never actually made it through the planned two years without opening due to a number of complications that contributed to a drop in the level of oxygen inside the closed environment.

Environmentalists, like Janique Goff, are divided in their opinion of the experiment. Some praise the scale of the project despite its shortcomings, from which many scientists actually published papers of their observations of the reactions biomes have in a carbon dioxide rich environment. Others criticize the venture, citing its basis on “new age drivel” and unscientific philosophical ideals.

Currently, Biosphere 2 remains open under the management of the University of Arizona. Information on current research undertaken at the site and more can be accessed here.

Biosphere2 inside
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Updates on Janique Goff can be accessed on this Facebook page.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Janique Goff: London Zoo’s innovative tribute to biodiversity

For environmentalists like Janique Goff, one of the best ways to spearhead conservation is through innovations in architecture. Buildings are the hub of human activity, and designing them in a way that reduces their energy consumption to the benefit of its denizens is one major leap toward sustainable living. One of these innovative buildings can be found in London’s foremost zoological facility.

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The London Zoo, the world’s oldest scientific zoo, takes pride in its appointment of leading architects to build its facilities, resulting to many interesting architectural features that are ahead of their time. Among its most ambitious projects in eco-friendly architecture is the B.U.G.S. (Biodiversity Underpinning Global Survival) exhibit. Inaugurated as The Web of Life in 1999, the exhibit represents the zoo’s efforts in educating the public about biodiversity and conservation.

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For environmentalists like Janique Goff, the B.U.G.S exhibit showcases a progressive look into architecture that tries to balance modern needs with environmental concerns. Designed to be similar to termite mounds, the building utilizes chimneys and surrounding trees to cool it in the summer while using the ground to keep it warm in the winter.

This energy-efficient building, as the name suggests, houses the inhabitants of the zoo’s former invertebrate house along with many other animals such as naked mole rats, starlings, and giant anteaters.

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More information on the building can be accessed here and here. Updates on Janique Goff can be accessed from this blog.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Green a dream: Janique Goff and incorporating green spaces in cities

Even before environmentalists, such as Janique Goff, began extolling the need for protecting nature, there has been a widely held belief that more modern cities should be planned to incorporate open green spaces. With the rapid onset of urbanization and with its pollution, city planners in the 19th Century decided that many of the squalid slums and industrial ghettoes were not fit for human habitation.

The new industrial cities were seen as ugly and unnatural places to live, and it soon came to be that modern urban planning stepped in to ensure a better environment was created for the common resident. This is evident in the plans for modern communities, where parks feature prominently.

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Environmentalists such as Janique Goff also add that these green spaces do more than just beautify the urban landscape and provide an oasis of green for people to momentarily escape the hurly-burly chaos of urban living. They also serve an important environmental function in making said cities more environmentally friendly. First off, large city parks provide an island home for wildlife; in fact, some cities like New York have taken steps to reintroduce wildlife that formerly made its famed Central Park home.

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Moreover, these islands of greenery fight air pollution in cities and contribute to the fight against global warming by taking out some of the carbon dioxide emitted from city vehicles. All in all, these contributions make city life for people even more pleasant, bringing things full circle.

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Updates on Janique Goff can be accessed on this blog.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Janique Goff: Are flex-fuel vehicles the answer?

Alternative fuels like biodiesel and ethanol are becoming more and more ubiquitous parts of life in many countries. Green technology advocates, like Janique Goff, note that these fuels have been mixed with conventional gasoline in the past few years and vehicles that use alternative fuels exclusively have been released. Moreover, specially designed flexible-fuel vehicles are experiencing renewed popularity. These vehicles are capable of running on either gasoline or biofuels (ethanol, usually) and provide the benefits of being able to run on in part on biofuels as desired or when needed.

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Flex-fuel vehicles have been around for a very long time; the Ford Model T, the world’s first commercially available mass-produced car, was capable of running on ethanol and gasoline. The flex-fuel would regain attention during the 1970s oil price crisis, when petroleum was in desperate short supply.

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Advocates of green technology such as Janique Goff note that different countries often utilize different designs and fuel ratios in their respective flex-fuel vehicles. Older flex-fuel vehicles in Brazil have two tanks—the smaller one containing gasoline, which is used to start up the engine faster in cold weather. Flex-fuel vehicles in Europe and the United States are optimized for up to 15% gasoline and 85% androhydrous ethanol, changing in ratio only during winter. Today, Brazil and the United States lead the world in the use of flex-fuel vehicles.

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More updates from Janique Goff can be accessed via this Facebook page.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Janique Goff: Green living starts at home

Saving energy can be as easy as changing a light bulb. Janique Goff and other environmentalists believe that everyone can contribute to addressing global pollution by simply changing a few ways of using energy at home.

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Energy definitely helps people cope with daily chores and gives a degree of comfort and convenience. But the same energy needed to power all the systems in a home also contributes to global warming and greenhouse gas emissions that damage the planet’s ozone layer. In the United States, homes without proper insulation will need to use up more energy just to compensate for the heat lost.

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But there are many ways to reduce the amount of energy used in powering homes. Janique Goff and other preservationists believe that everyone can contribute in conserving energy by doing the following useful tips that also reduce energy expenses:
  1. Reducing the use of the water heater 
  2. Purchasing new energy-efficient appliances
  3. Designing the home to optimize daylight and ambient air for cooling
  4. Using creative landscaping techniques to maximize cooling and heating in the area
  5. Dialing down the thermostat reduces the temperature in the house, which lessens the amount of heating fuel used

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Even small changes in your lifestyle can help in addressing pollution, and this can start in your own home. For more information on Janique Goff and to read more articles on environment conservation, follow this Twitter page.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Janique Goff: Reducing your "ecological footprint"

This Janique Goff blog discusses the impact that the space and resources dedicated to meeting the individual needs of a person—collectively called ecological footprint—have on the environment and the means that can be undertaken to reduce it.

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The space and resources needed to sustain the needs and wants of human beings are immense. The ecological footprint an individual person has varies with his or her lifestyle. To put things in perspective, scientists at the University of British Columbia estimate that the city of Vancouver—with among the highest standards of living in the world—needs 22 times its own land area to sustain itself. And this is not taking into account the costs and area needed for imported goods.

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Ecologists like Janique Goff note that while reducing this global footprint is a daunting task, given that many people the world over lack basic needs, there are ways that ordinary people can take to reduce both the ecological footprint and the related carbon footprint or amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the activities of daily life.

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Among these many steps is to augment one’s diet with home-grown organic produce, thus reducing the amount of land needed to grow food and produce fertilizer. Done in a considerable scale throughout a city, home gardening and rooftop gardening can help reduce a city’s ecological footprint by growing much of the food on-site.

In addition, reducing one’s consumption habits to necessity can also help. While it may appear to be miserly, living within necessity not only helps save on Earth’s resources but also helps save one’s money for more pressing and important needs.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Janique Goff: Preserving biodiversity in gardens

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Ecologists like Janique Goff had time and again emphasized the importance of biodiversity to the wellbeing of the balance of life in the planet. Understanding this concept can prove to be beneficial for backyard vegetable growers, whose gardens can then augment both the continued survival of many different varieties of plants and a bountiful and sustainable harvest for years to come.

Biodiversity is important to human agriculture in many ways. Like in natural ecosystems, biodiversity holds the key to ecological resilience; the decline of one species would not necessarily affect the others. In this case, the failure of one crop would not cause the failure of the whole harvest.

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And much like how the lack of biodiversity can lead to ecological disasters, the prevalence of monocultures is cited by environmentalists like Janique Goff as the underlying cause of history’s great agricultural catastrophes like the Irish Potato famine of 1846.

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In addition, a mix of crops can help provide a means of natural pest control; by planting a few species of plants together, the pest repellant properties of one would help protect the other. Coupled with the introduction of other biological means of pest control like ladybird beetles and other carnivorous insects, the garden can play host to an ecosystem that would provide a home for native species—a form of reconciliation ecology.  

Go to this Janique Goff’s Facebook.for links to articles on ecology and environmental protection.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Janique Madison: From garbage to energy

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Environmentalists like Janique Madison encourage people to think before they dump. A research by Global Change Biology suggests that the world’s garbage is a viable feedstock for biofuels. With the low value and logistic availability of waste, turning it to fuel is a promising opportunity to eliminate worldwide dependence on fossil fuels and find an alternative for piling garbage in landfills. When used as replacement for gasoline, biofuels derived from global trash could cut carbon emissions by 80%.

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Waste biomass including paper and cardboard can be processed to form a clean energy solution, while those which cannot be recycled like agriculture or forest remnants, plastics, textiles, and wood are combined with catalysts and water to turn them into products such as ethanol.

Ecologists like Janique Madison note that aside from cutting world’s addiction to oil, the production of trash-based fuels also lessens the risk for greenhouse effect. For example, the California-based Blue Fire Ethanol, Inc. makes use of cellulose in plant remains to produce cellulosic ethanol fuel instead of letting them rot in the landfill wherein the plants’ cellulose mix with microbes which thus creates methane—a greenhouse gas. Greenhouse effect is attributed to the elevation of Earth’s surface temperature.

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For environmentalists like Janique Madison, it truly makes sense to think twice before throwing garbage – who knows it can generate profit and save the environment? Visit Ms. Madison’s Facebook to learn more about environment preservation.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Janique Madison: Green recipes for the skin

Using natural ingredients to enhance one’s appearance dates back to the ancient times. Famous people from history, like Cleopatra, have been found to turn to nature for beauty products. . Janique Madison agrees that women need not look far to have effective beauty products to make themselves look and feel beautiful. All they need to do is scour their kitchens for natural ingredients and get creative.

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Below are some easy recipes for all-natural beauty products:

Facial wrap
Grape purees, chopped oranges, honey, drops of chamomile, and mineral water are simmered for 30 minutes in a saucepan. A face cloth is then dipped into the mixture before being applied on the face.

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Body scrub
Honey, flour, milk, and ground almonds are mixed together to create an invigorating body scrub.

Facial and full-body mask
Janique Madison suggests combining honey with chopped parsley to produce a facial mask. For a full-body mask, crushed almonds, raw oatmeal, brown sugar, and honey are mixed together with hot water.

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These ingredients are all natural and free from preservatives and chemicals that can be harmful to the skin. They are also affordable and not hard to find in the supermarket, and they make for great gifts to friends who love indulging themselves in safe and natural homemade spa concoctions.

Janique Madison is an advocate for the preservation of Mother Nature. She blogs about the latest news on the environment and provides tips on sustainable living. To get timely updates from her, visit her Facebook page.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Made more fun: Janique Goff reviews a container farming initiative in the Philippines

The worldwide efforts to protect the environment can lead to a surprising amount of innovative ideas. For Janique Goff, one very bright idea that hits two birds with one stone has been initiated by Filipino scientists who spearheaded a program that encourages city dwellers to grow vegetables in container gardens.

From Janique Goff

In 2000, scientists from the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) in the city of Munoz offered a simple but brilliant solution: urban container farming. They are currently proposing a program that would encourage city dwellers in the Philippines to grow their own organic fruits and vegetables in planters made from recycled materials. They have prepared a 658 hectare pilot “farm” containing planters made from reused tires, old wash basins, cans, and the like. To date, similar projects have begun elsewhere in Munoz and the rest of the Philippine province of Nueva Ecija.

From Janique Goff

For environmentalists like Janique Goff, there are advantages of growing food within one’s own home. It decreases the need to transport food from faraway places, creating a smaller carbon footprint in return. This also benefits the average city dweller by providing healthy food options while helping to stretch the family budget. The CLSU scientists themselves have stressed the importance of using organic fertilizer and reused containers in urban container gardens.

From December 27, 2011

More information on the CLSU initiative and other urban agriculture projects can be accessed here. For more green tips, follow Janique Goff on Twitter.