Archive for the ‘Express 173’ Category

Head You Win in the Carbon Stakes

Posted by Ken on August 24, 2012
Posted under Express 173

Acronyms abound in the carbon and sustainability business and we add a few more for relevance and interest this time. How about the DNA connection which suggests a CSI approach to saving the forests? Or a closer look at CSR and its sustainability connectivity and convenience? E-waste takes centre stage in Europe and Singapore is making an encouraging start to deal with the problem. Fuji Xerox comes up with a new paper standard. Islands in the Pacific realise that solar will help them clean up their act and save their homes, while France has rediscovered its solar history – and it’s good for tourism. Australia realises it is suffering from fossil fuel sickness – and it’s a costly business. It is also one of the most vulnerable countries on earth in the carbon stakes. California is expanding its green credentials by embarking on a cap and trade scheme, while the US is looking for toilets of the future and a greener way to leave this world. We profile star architect Ridwan Kamil and get wise last words from cardiologist Geoffrey Chia. And reminders about the Asian events not to be missed – Eco Flores, Clean Energy Expo and the National Energy Efficiency Conference.  No end in sight! – Ken Hickson

CSR Under the Microscope and a New Eco Print Dashboard

Posted by Ken on August 24, 2012
Posted under Express 173

What at the heart of CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility  – and what are the “Trends, Threats and Opportunities”. All will be revealed at the 4th International Singapore Compact CSR Summit taking place on the 27 & 28 September 2012. And demonstrating that it is one of the leaders in Asia for sustainability, Fuji Xerox Singapore has launched the Eco-Print Dashboard,  a new tool for companies to measure their effective use of paper against the industry standard. Read more

Singapore Compact:

The 4th International Singapore Compact CSR Summit is back!  Taking place on the 27 and 28 September 2012 , the conference is themed around  CSR: Trends, Threats and Opportunities.

The event will highlight the value of CSR and look at aspects of sustainability, focusing on the social, environment and business impacts. The Summit will feature a distinguished panel of speakers who will share about the growing awareness of sustainability as the next business megatrend.

Guest-of-Honour for the event will be Minister of State for Manpower and National Development, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin.

Building upon previous CSR Summits, the 4th International Singapore Compact CSR Summit 2012 is expected to draw about 400 delegates, and will feature winners of the CDL-Singapore Compact Young CSR Leaders Competition 2012 and the Singapore Compact CSR Awards 2012.



Fuji Xerox:

Demonstrating that it is one of the leaders in Asia for sustainability, Fuji Xerox Singapore, the leading document solutions company, has launched the Eco-Print Dashboard. This is a new tool for companies to measure their effective use of paper against the industry standard.

The Eco-Print Dashboard also compiles data on Electricity Consumption as well as Print Efficiency (single sided, two sided or multiple prints on both sides).

Mr Bert Wong, Senior Managing Director of Fuji Xerox Singapore explained that “By having such data available companies now have a way to  benchmark their own performance over a 12-month period and to manage it.  This allows for active management with new company-centric initiatives.      At the same time, benchmarking against an industry average would be the next logical step in eco management.”

Data compiled from customers (about 500 companies) who signed up for our Eco-Print program shows high energy efficiency achievements as a result of Fuji Xerox’s energy efficient devices. Statistically speaking, customers who are on our Eco-Print program are now having their machines entering into sleep mode more frequently and longer than on standby mode by more than 60%.

However, while technology advances on Fuji Xerox’s devices are able to help save energy, users need to extend their eco-print effort towards better print practices. The same group of customers in this program shows that inefficient print (measured in pages printed per sheet) is still on the high side. Only 20% of the average monthly 1.5 million sheets of paper printed by our customers are done on duplex mode. This means 80% of documents printed are done on single sided.

The launch of our Eco-Print portal is designed to help our customers achieve not just energy savings but more importantly to provide our customers with the know-how to right print practices that is beneficial to them.

Mr Wong notes, “Companies can reduce consumption in virtually every aspect of the office environment, which is why the Eco-Print dashboard not only showcases device data but also includes tips and advice on how businesses can better supervise office device systems and workflow to attain financial benefits.”

The Eco-Print Dashboard portal will also carry trending topics on Green Document Management from international eco organisations.  There will also be Advice contributions from Fuji Xerox sustainability experts with company case-studies.

For a start, the Fuji Xerox Eco-Print Dashboard is only available free in Singapore to 500 companies.  However there are plans to expand its availability across other areas of the Asia Pacific next year.

At the Singapore launch of the new measurement tool, Fuji Xerox brought in sustainability guru Professor Dennis Driscoll to enlighten the audience and media.

He is one of the leading exponents of CSR in Europe and an international lawyer and the former Dean of the Law School at the National University of Ireland (Galway). He is also a former Visiting Professor at Harvard University and at Peking University Law School, where, in 2004-2005, he had the honour to be the Raoul Wallenberg Visiting Professor of Human Rights, the first Professor of Human Rights in the history of China.

He has been a pioneer in the teaching of Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility. Up to this date, he has given training programmes on CSR and Corporate Governance to staff of more than 500 companies in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, especially in China. He is also the author of the forthcoming study, International and Comparative Corporate Governance.

For more on Fuji Xerox and its sustainability commitment, go to:

Asian Events Promote Eco Tourism, Energy Efficiency & Clean Energy

Posted by Ken on August 24, 2012
Posted under Express 173

ABC Carbon Express and Sustain Ability Showcase Asia (SASA) support sustainable events in all shapes and sizes. Three big clean and green events which warrant serious attention and attendance are lined up for next month in South East Asia. They are:  Eco Flores Network Congress from the 26 – 29 September in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia; The Clean Energy Expo this year is in Bangkok, Thailand from 12 – 14 September, and 2012 National Energy Efficiency Conference in Singapore  on 18-20 September. Read More

The Green Asia Group (TGAG) and Sustain Ability Showcase Asia (SASA) are supporting the Eco Flores Network Congress from the 26th to the 29th of September 2012 in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia. The event is also being supported by Hotel Indonesia Kempinski Jakarta, Little Tree Bali, Synergy Carbon (Indonesia) and Green Building Council of Indonesia.

The Eco Flores Network aims to define sustainability issues on Flores, identify local and international initiatives working for the sustainability, and connect sustainability efforts across Flores to foster sharing of experiences, resources, and best practices.

By connecting with business networks who focus on sustainability we can reach many organizations that are all involved in their own way in reaching the Millennium Goals and contribute in a global partnership for development.

Eco Flores believes that large-scale social change comes from better cross-sector coordination rather than from the isolated intervention of individual organisations.

The Congress Objectives are to share knowledge and experience in support of the sustainable development of Flores. This covers the health of the local environment, the well being of its population and their interrelation. This congress should lead to:

- Defining sustainability issues on Flores at present and in the foreseeable future

- Identifying which expertise is present on Flores and whether such expertise can be used in other locations on Flores

- Planning and Implementing the Future role of the Eco Flores network

SASA and TGAG are supporting the event along with WWF, Swiss Contact, KLM and the New Zeaand Government. There are still opportunities for others to support this innovative approach to achieving on ground sustainability in the Flores area of Indonesia.

See this video on Bajo Komodo Eco Lodge on Minimizing Tourism Impacts:

Sylvester, the manager of Bajo Komodo Eco Lodge, discusses the importance of shaping how tourism affects local people, and reflects on the traditional views held by Manggarai people towards nature. This video is produced by ECO FLORES, a network linking sustainability efforts on Flores island in eastern Indonesia. It highlights many of the environmental issues facing this vulnerable part of Indonesia

Source: and


The Clean Energy Expo this year is in Bangkok, Thailand from 12 – 14 September

The premier Trade Fair and Conference that brings together the leading players in the Technology, Services, Finance and Government sectors, to address key issues in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region.

Facts of 2011:

  • Over 165 exhibiting companies from 26 different countries with 63% are International companies
  • Country pavilions from Canada, Europe, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland and Taiwan
  • 5,283 participants from over 63 different countries
  • 134 speakers from 18 countries
  • 75 media interviews held over 3-day event
  • 74 media representatives from 52 media agencies
  • A total of 2,645 meetings, 160 buyer requests and an estimated trade value of S$243K was generated from our Business Matching Program and hosted buyer Program

What did the participants say?

“Clean Energy Expo Asia 2011 attracted high quality visitors, presenting a timely and practical platform for Third Wave Power to debut its very first innovation – the mPowerpad. Throughout these busy few days, we have created awareness for our product in the cleantech world, as well as serious interest from potential business partners. Overall, Clean Energy Expo Asia proved to be a great show with good returns on investment for our company”

- VS Hariharan, Co-Founder, Third Wave Power Pte Ltd

“At Clean Energy Expo Asia, we met with many companies looking to support the expansion of hydrogen fuel cell commercialization in Asia Pacific, giving us the chance to reestablish our name as the leading fuel cell company in the region. The Trade Fair also showcased the first national finals for the Destination Zero Carbon student competition, of which Horizon Fuel Cells is a supporter of, connecting a future generation of budding scientists to the development of sustianable energy innovations”

- Taras Wankewycz, co-founder of Horizon Fuel Cell

“We are thrilled to be invited to the Clean Energy Expo Asia, an event which further confirms our insights into the immense business opportunities and up-and-rising technological offerings in the energy sector of Asia Pacific”

- Will Polese, Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Lux Research

“CEEA is a platform to bring together all the stakeholders responsible for strategizing the green future. It’s a good platform for collaboration and learn about international green initiatives.”

- Bosch Innovation Software



The 2012 National Energy Efficiency Conference is on 18-20 September at the Mandarin Orchard Hotel Singapore.

Keynote presentations on the first day are: Energy Efficiency as a Business Opportunity: Focus on how Energy Efficiency is a business opportunity because it increases productivity and reduces cost. Also talk about the importance of having a system for managing energy so as to achieve improvements in EE. Speakers are:

  • Jim Kelly (Group Vice President, Head of Energy Efficiency, ABB)  and
  • Juan Aguiriano (Managing Director, DuPont Sustainable Solutions) – [30mins]

Moderator: Dr Elspeth Thomas of the Energy Studies Institute.

For more information see the fact sheet and programme:



Profile: Ridwan Kamil

Posted by Ken on August 24, 2012
Posted under Express 173

A star architect at the peak of his career and a champion of community action for sustainability  has brought Ridwan Kamil full circle to his hometown of Bandung, Indonesia. From designing cities, now his creativity  is channelled to making places greener and friendlier  to live in – from community gardens to bike sharing schemes. The advocate of greening is also a keen recycler, and incorporated 30,000 used drink containers into the design of his house which he built in 2007. Read more

By Zakir Hussain for The Straits Times:

At 30, architect Ridwan Kamil was on the cusp of his career, having worked in New York, San Francisco and Hong Kong.

Now 40, the man many young Indonesian design professionals regard as a “starchitect” is trying to transform his home country’s built – some say overbuilt – environment in more ways than one.

Dismayed that cities like Jakarta are too drab, he initiated the idea of “Indonesia Berkebun” – Indonesia Gardening – on Twitter two years ago to suggest that barren spaces in between buildings or slum areas in cities could be turned into vegetable gardens.

In a country with over 20 million Twitter users, the idea took off and community gardens sprouted, growing everything from spinach to soya bean. The gardens now exist in 26 cities, with many urban gardeners eating their own produce or selling it to nearby restaurants or markets.

The movement, however, is not just about greens. Mr Ridwan says it is about getting ordinary people to take part in changing their country in small – and creative – ways that also improve their lives.

Mr Ridwan is among a growing number of Indonesians with global experience who are actively seeking to make things better for their countrymen, rather than relying on bureaucrats.

“We want to make things happen. If the government is not on the same frequency, never mind, we do it ourselves,” he quips. “A community effort is more powerful and sustainable.”

“I’m fortunate to be from the middle class, and I thought why not push my creativity into solving problems for the less fortunate and rope others in?” he tells The Straits Times. “If the cause is interesting and not that difficult, people love to join. This is how communities can push change.”

Since returning home in 2003, he has helped spark a slew of changes to his hometown Bandung, from getting friends to collect used books for street children, to starting a community- run bike-sharing scheme that encourages residents and visitors to the increasingly overcrowded city centre to leave their cars at home, modelled around similar city-run schemes in Europe.

Bandung, a city of 2.5 million on a volcanic plateau with a cool climate, has developed a reputation as a creative hub in recent years, as dozens of art galleries, fashion designers, musicians and cafes opened up. The city has a young population – 60 per cent are under the age of 40 – and over 50 universities.

Four years ago, Mr Ridwan helped create the Bandung Creative City forum. It brings over 25 arts and other creative groups together to organise festivals and initiate cultural projects.

“We are world-class in terms of human and social capital, but not our city’s infrastructure. If we fix this, Bandung can leapfrog to higher status,” he adds.

One of their recent plans is to get various communities – from musicians to performing artists – to each adopt one of some 300 parks in Bandung, many of which are abandoned.

Their efforts have attracted wider notice. Mr Ridwan is travelling to Milan in November to share Bandung’s experience with city planners.

Mr Ridwan has proved that urban design is not just about buildings, but also “communal activities, collaboration and understanding among different stakeholders in a city”, said Ms Tita Larasati, a product designer.

Isn’t it ironic, Mr Ridwan muses, that things somehow don’t have to work before creative breakthroughs get sparked.

The second of five children of an international law professor and a pharmacy lecturer, Mr Ridwan graduated in architecture from the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), before getting a master’s in urban design at the University of California, Berkeley.

He also spent eight months at the National University of Singapore in 1994 on a Singapore International Foundation fellowship.

Projects he worked on while abroad included Singapore’s Marina Bay waterfront masterplan – the urban blueprint before Marina Bay Sands came up – as well as Beijing’s CBD masterplan.

He set up his own firm, Urbane – short for urban evolution – an architecture and urban design studio in 2004. It now has 40 staff and their more notable projects include Jakarta’s Rasuna Epicentrum complex and the landmark Tsunami Museum in Banda Aceh.

He now spends a third of his time teaching at ITB, a third of it working at Urbane, and the remainder for his time on community activity. He is also writing a book, titled Rebuilding Indonesia Through Civil Society.

The advocate of greening is also a keen recycler, and incorporated 30,000 used 150ml Red Bull energy drink bottles that typically litter city streets into the design of his house which he built in 2007.

One current project he is grappling with involves designing a mosque in Garut, West Java, for an entirely blind community that would be the first such purpose-built mosque around.

“How do you create something beautiful for people who can’t see?” he wonders.

“Some people say Indonesia has so many problems. I see it has so many challenges.”


Renewed Focus on E-waste Recovery & Recycling Efforts

Posted by Ken on August 24, 2012
Posted under Express 173

Stringent new European e-waste rules officially came into effect last week, updating the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive, imposing a series of ambitious new e-waste recovery and recycling targets on the IT and electronics industry while also introducing stringent new penalties for companies and member states who fail to comply with the rules. Meanwhile in Singapore, telecoms provider StarHub is taking the lead with an innovative e-waste campaign with 39 collection points. Read More

By Jenny Marusiak for (21 August 2012):

Can Starhub convince Singaporeans to clean up their e-waste habits?

Singapore’s first mainstream e-waste recycling programme is expanding after only five months of operation, announced local telecommunications and cable provider StarHub on Tuesday.

StarHub will add 34 electronic waste collection bins to the five that it had set up at its service centres to celebrate Earth Hour in March.

Local recycling firm TES-AMM will collect e-waste from the new bins, which will be placed at schools, community centres and private condominiums around the island this month.

“Although e-waste is one of the most toxic waste products of all, limited avenues exist for consumers to responsibly discard their old electronic products,” said StarHub CSR manager Adam Reutens-Tan in a statement.

“We wanted to drive consumer recycling of e-waste by making it more convenient for them to find somewhere to recycle their e-waste,” he added.

However, choosing the right locations was a learning process, he told Eco-Business in a phone interview.

While the programme has collected more than 1,480 tonnes of e-waste so far, much of it has been dominated by a single centre at Plaza Singapura on Orchard Road.

Four out of five of the existing locations are in the central business district, and there is no explanation as to why some work better than others, said Mr Reutens-Tan, who has started giving awareness-raising talks at the schools involved to boost participation.

Existing Locations for Recycling

» Level 3 South Wing, StarHub Green, 67 Ubi Avenue 1

» Level 4, *SCAPE, 2 Orchard Link

» #05-08, OUB Centre, 1 Raffles Place

» #02-26, Tampines Mall, 4 Tampines Central

» B2-17/18, Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Road

New Locations for Recycling

Community Centres

» Changi Simei CC

» Kampong Kembangan CC

» Punggol CC


» Blue Horizon

» Carabelle

» Clementi Woods

» The Infiniti

» Varsity Park

» West Bay Condominium

» West Cove Condominium


» Nan Hua High School

» New Town Secondary School

» Zhenghua Primary School


EU revamps e-waste rules with demanding new recovery targets

Beefed up electronic equipment and devices waste directive promises five-fold increase in e-waste collections

By James Murray for The Guardian (14 August 2012):

Stringent new EU e-waste rules officially came into effect yesterday, paving the way for a fundamental overhaul of how technology companies, retailers, recycling firms, and consumers handle waste electronic equipment and devices.

The updating of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive, which first came into effect in 2003, will impose a series of ambitious new e-waste recovery and recycling targets on the IT and electronics industry while also introducing stringent new penalties for companies and member states who fail to comply with the rules.

The original WEEE directive represented the world’s first comprehensive e-waste legislation, placing a “producer responsibility” on manufacturers that made them legally and financially responsible for the safe collection and disposal of old equipment.

However, the directive has been widely criticised in recent years for struggling to sufficiently promote the re-use and recycling of valuable electronic resources and failing to crack down on the illegal export of old equipment to developing countries for scrap.

The updated directive, which was approved by the European Parliament last month, significantly strengthens a range of e-waste regulations and imposes new targets that will require member states to collect 45 per cent of electronic equipment sold for approved recycling or disposal from 2016, rising to 65 per cent of equipment sold or 85 per cent of electronic waste generated by 2019, depending on which goal member states choose to adopt.

In addition, from 2018, subject to an impact assessment, the directive will be extended from its “current restricted scope” to all categories of electronic waste. Many different types of electrical equipment are currently exempt from the rules after manufacturers argued they were too difficult to collect or recycle – a scenario the EU has signalled it wants to crack down on.

“In these times of economic turmoil and rising prices for raw materials, resource efficiency is where environmental benefits and innovative growth opportunities come together,” said Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik in a statement. “We now need to open new collection channels for electronic waste and improve the effectiveness of existing ones. I encourage the member states to meet these new targets before the formal deadline.”

Member states now have until February 14 2014 to transcribe the new EU directive into their national e-waste laws.

The directive will give government’s significant new powers designed to make it easier for businesses and consumers to dispose of e-waste in an environmentally responsible fashion, while also increasing penalties for firms found to be illegally exporting e-waste.

Specifically, retailers will be required to collect small items of e-waste from consumers unless alternative schemes can be shown to be more effective and as “reversed burden of proof” will be applied to equipment suspected of being illegal waste shipments, forcing exporters to prove old equipment will be re-used and then disposed of safely outside the EU.

The EU anticipates the new directive will have a huge impact on the e-waste recycling sector, delivering a five-fold increase in the amount of equipment that is collected and making it easier for firms to extract valuable materials such as gold, silver, copper and rare metals.

“The existing EU collection target is 4kg of WEEE per capita, representing about 2 million tonnes per year, out of around 10 million tonnes of WEEE generated annually in the EU,” the European Commission stated. “By 2020, it is estimated that the volume of WEEE will increase to 12 million tonnes. The final target of the new directive, an ambitious 85 per cent of all WEEE generated, will ensure that in 2020 around 10 million tonnes, or roughly 20kg per capita, will be separately collected in the EU.”


Can’t See the Wood for the Trees? Double Helix Helps

Posted by Ken on August 24, 2012
Posted under Express 173

The trade of illegally logged timber comes at great costs – both to the environment and the communities that depend on the forest for their livelihood – but efforts so far in enacting regulations and preventive measures have been largely unsuccessful. However, rapid advances in DNA testing and pioneering work by Double Helix have made it possible to pinpoint the origin of a piece of timber which enables consumers to ensure the legitimacy of their purchases. Read more

Reuters TV had this report on 14 August 2012:  The global illegal timber trade is estimated to be worth as much as $30 billion – but a new method of identifying the origin of wood using DNA testing could put a severe dent in the criminal gangs’ profit margins. Rob Muir full report is here:


Here’s the full story from David Fogarty for Reuters (20 August 2012):

Call it CSI: Singapore.

Unlike the Crime Scene Investigators from the popular TV series, these detectives are hired to look for evidence of rogue wood from stores increasingly worried about being duped by a global trade in illegal timber now worth billions.

They take wood samples into their lab and put them through DNA tests that can pinpoint the species and origin of a piece of timber. They also track timber and timber products from forest to shop to ensure clients’ shipments are legal.

“This is like CSI meets save the planet,” says Jonathan Geach, executive director of Double Helix Tracking Technologies, the Singapore company that has developed and commercialized DNA testing for wood, the only firm in the world to do so.

Every two seconds, an area of forest the size of a football field is clear-cut by illegal loggers, the World Bank said in a recent study. Annually, such illegally cleared land is equivalent to the size of Ireland.

The money earned from a trade that Interpol estimates at up to $30 billion annually is untaxed and often run by organized gangs to fund crime and conflict. The logging increases global warming with heightened carbon emissions, and landslides through loss of watersheds. It causes loss of livelihoods in forest communities and dents global timber prices.

Until now, the battle against trade in illegal timber has been waged with regulations and preventive measures, and has not met with much success. Now it is increasingly focused on using the criminal justice system and law enforcement techniques.

New laws threatening jail time and fines are inducing companies around the world to take a harder look at where they get their timber — or pay the price of neglect.

Gibson Guitar Corp, which makes some of the world’s most prized guitars, agreed on August 6 to pay a $300,000 penalty after it admitted to possible illegal purchases of ebony from Madagascar.

Mislabeling, lying about origin or substituting one type of wood for another have become common practices in the timber trade.

Industry officials say rapid advances and plunging costs for DNA testing of timber now make it commercially viable for companies trying to meet new regulations in the United States and Europe against such practices.

Retailers such as Kingfisher, Marks & Spencer and Australian timber wholesaler Simmonds Lumber are either already using the technology or looking to add it to their existing timber sourcing practices.


“We see this as the way forward,” said Jamie Lawrence, sustainable forest and timber adviser for Kingfisher, Europe’s largest home improvement retailer. Kingfisher has been using the services of DoubleHelix, as it is known, on an ad-hoc basis to unmask cases of possible timber fraud in their supply chains, he said.

With the miniaturization of genetic testing equipment, desktop-sized prototypes are already on trial. Laboratories around the globe could be carrying out cheap DNA timber tests for companies, customs agents and the police within two years.

A laboratory run by Andrew Lowe, the chief scientific officer at DoubleHelix and one of the world’s top plant geneticists, is the frontline in the global fight against illegal logging.

It was at his laboratory at the University of Adelaide in South Australia that the method of extracting DNA taken from a log, a table or even flooring was refined — the breakthrough needed to commercialize testing for timber importers, home improvement stores and law enforcement agencies.

Trees, like people, have unique DNA, said Lowe.

“The DNA is in every cell in a wood product and you can’t falsify that DNA,” he told Reuters in an interview.

By early 2011, Lowe was able to extract degraded DNA from decades-old wood and get accurate results. That led to an increase in business and DoubleHelix has 14 clients directly using their services, with most testing done in Adelaide.

In 2004, Lowe and colleagues extracted DNA from the oak timbers of King Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose, which sank in 1545 and was salvaged in 1982.

When DoubleHelix opened shop in 2008, the DNA story was a hard sell. But as new U.S. laws started to bite over the past two years, and with tougher laws set for Europe in 2013, the number of clients is growing, says Kevin Hill, DoubleHelix’s founder.

Within two years, the aim is to license Lowe’s DNA extraction technique to accredited laboratories globally, as the $150 billion timber industry comes under increasing pressure to stamp out illegal wood.


While DNA testing per se is extremely accurate due to the unique DNA signature each species has, it has a major limitation to overcome — an incomplete global map of tree genetics.

Constructing such a map is crucial because DNA for each species changes subtly from one area to another, acting like a postcode that can be used to determine a sample’s origin.

Going into a forest to take DNA samples across a species’ entire range is costly and time consuming. Building a database for teak, for instance, would cost about $1 million.

At present, databases exist for 20 tree species, mostly valuable tropical timbers, and is growing annually.

On the other hand, Kingfisher’s B&Q home improvement stores carry 16,000 timber related products. For consumers, it is a bewildering choice of goods. For the illegal timber gangs, it is an opportunity for wood laundering.

Kingfisher has progressively put in place tougher checks of its timber sources to ensure all wood comes from sustainably managed forests. They use chain of custody certification schemes to follow the timber from forest to shop, but these are not fool-proof and illegal timber occasionally slips in.

“We’re getting better at figuring out what’s in our products and where it’s coming from. So it’s more difficult for rogue traders to pull the wool over our eyes,” said Lawrence of Kingfisher, which has nearly 1,000 stores in eight countries.

The weakest link in timber supplies is between the forest and the sawmill, where stolen timber can be added to legitimate wood. In sawmill yards, too, logs from illegally cleared forests can be mixed with legal timber. DNA testing can overcome this, say DoubleHelix and their oldest customer, Simmonds Lumber, one of Australia’s largest timber importers.

Simmonds imports merbau, a much-sought-after hardwood, from Indonesia, where illegal logging accounts for nearly half the timber cut in Indonesia, according to the World Bank study.

Using DoubleHelix’s system, each shipment of merbau logs is tracked from forest to sawmill by taking DNA samples to ensure no other timber has been added. These DNA samples are then matched up with pallets of finished timber decking from the sawmill to Simmonds’ warehouse in Australia.


Simmonds, however, has been unable to charge a premium for its DNA-tested products because of intense competition in the timber trade.

“DNA is about marketing and gaining share rather than gaining extra margin,” current chief executive John Simon said.

As a forklift loads pallets of decking into a container at a sawmill near Surabaya, Indonesia, Paul Elsmore, Simmonds’ former chief executive and now a consultant to the Australian firm, explains that each container-load is worth around $45,000.

The cost of DNA testing and verification services was $250 for a container, equal to about 0.5 percent of the wood’s value.

DoubleHelix says the ultimate goal is to make DNA testing so cheap all companies will do it.

Doing so would help tackle one of the perversities of the illegal timber trade: An abundance of stolen timber depresses prices, slashes margins and can deter investing in better due diligence of their wood supplies.

Arguably the biggest push for DNA testing are new laws in the United States, Europe and possibly Australia, which will make it easier to prosecute timber criminals.

“One of the real values of this genetic marking is its ability to gather better quality evidence and therefore aid prosecutions,” said Davyth Stewart, criminal intelligence officer at Interpol.

DNA testing was already having an impact in prosecutions, said Shelley Gardner, illegal logging program coordinator for the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

“Any time we’ve gone to the point where we got to court, they plea-bargained because the DNA was already such a deterrent. And these are just small cases, so when you start talking about real trade, I think that could have a big impact,” she said.

Right now, nobody really knows the amount of illegal timber products in the market. So the detectives are going undercover.

Working with an international non-governmental organization, they plan to conduct spot tests in stores in Australia within a few weeks and then Europe and the United States, said Geach at DoubleHelix. The NGO did not want to be identified.

Lawrence at Kingfisher said better wood forensics just makes sense.

“Any retailer worth their salt should not just be thinking about risk, brand protection or even legality. They should be thinking this is a damn good idea.”


Threatened Island States Turn to Solar for Clean Energy

Posted by Ken on August 24, 2012
Posted under Express 173

As the planet warms and sea levels rise, Pacific Island-nations that are most at risk are taking large steps in reducing their CO2 emissions by switching from fossil fuel to renewable energy source. The small nation of Tokelau is expected to be fully solar powered this year and half of the energy use for the Kingdom of Tonga will be from renewable sources by 2018. This comes with the additional benefit of cutting the cost of importing fuel. Read more

By Dominique Schwartz for ABC Lateline (16 August 2012):

The Kingdom of Tonga and the New Zealand territory of Tokelau are going solar – reducing not only their carbon footprints, but also their multi-million dollar diesel bills.

Their switch to solar is part of a global trend, which Australian industry leaders say offers lucrative opportunities for those quick enough – and smart enough – to act.

With $7 million in New Zealand aid money – together with Kiwi and Australian expertise – Tokelauans are building a solar power plant on each of their three coral atolls.

Fakaofo atoll has just flicked the switch on its solar plant, and the other two are scheduled to be up and running by year’s end.

“Probably by the end of the year we will be the first country in the world to meet our needs from renewable energy,” Tokelau elder Foua Toloa said.

Tonga too is turning to the sun.

Last month in Nuku’alofa, King George Tupou VI unveiled the kingdom’s first solar farm.

The one-megawatt facility is called Ma’ama Mai, meaning “Let there be Light”.

“This is the first one of its size to be opened anywhere in the Pacific,” New Zealand foreign minister Murray McCully said.

“It’s taken a bit of tenacity for us to get there. But I think it’s a demonstration to others that it can be done.

“It’s a leadership statement from the government of Tonga and I commend them for it.”

Nearly 6,000 solar panels will generate 4 per cent of electricity used on the main island of Tongatapu.

It’s taken a bit of tenacity for us to get there. But I think it’s a demonstration to others that it can be done. It’s a leadership statement from the government of Tonga and I commend them for it.

New Zealand foreign minister Murray McCully

That may not sound like much, but Tonga Power says it will save the country at least $NZ15 million in diesel over the 25-year-life of the plant.

Last year, diesel burnt up one tenth of Tonga’s gross domestic product.

“We’re consuming about 13 to 15 million litres of diesel a year. To put that in perspective, that’s one litre every two seconds,” Tonga Power chief executive John can Brink said.

“For a small country like Tonga providing power for 20,000 customers – that’s huge.

“At $1.50 a litre, that’s about eight to nine million New Zealand dollars a year.”

That is the same amount as it cost to build the New Zealand-funded solar power station.

The hope is that these panels will generate not only solar power, but more investment for the debt-laden country.

“A major impediment to investment here is the cost of electricity, so it significantly limits the growth opportunities,” Mr McCully said.

“Over time we are going to change that.”

Tongans pay at least double the cost per unit for electricity than most Australians.

Many just cannot afford it.

“It’s very hard for the people to pay the power, it’s expensive. That’s why I help with the solar,” solar panel installer Siutiti Halatoa said.

A community group is taking matters into its own hands, installing a single solar panel on scores of homes which are not on the power grid.

This family now has electric light and reliable communications.

Tonga Power says solar energy will shave 6 per cent off its customers’ bills and much more by 2018, when Tonga hopes to provide half of its power through sun, wind and biomass.

Much of the solar technology in the world today was invented in Australia by Australians. We have not as a county capitalised on that opportunity.

Australian Solar Energy Society CEO John Grimes

‘Endless opportunity’

Australian Solar Energy Society chief executive officer John Grimes says solar energy is going to be a huge industry in the future.

“If we can mark ourselves out as being experts in remote and deployed solar technology, the opportunity is literally endless,” he said

Mr Grimes is a regular at Australia’s Parliament House.

He is keen to see government and business seize the opportunities presented by a global industry already worth $100 billion a year.

“We should be thinking about the technology to come – investing in it and making sure that we play a disproportionate role globally in that industry,” Mr Grimes said.

China is the solar industry’s manufacturing super-power.

Companies such as Suntech have built billion-dollar businesses using technology and training provided by Australia.

Suntech chief executive Shi Zhengrong studied at the University of New South Wales under Stuart Wenham, one of the men credited with inventing photovoltaic technology.

Now Dr Wenham is chief technical officer at Suntech.

“Much of the solar technology in the world today was invented in Australia by Australians. We have not as a county capitalised on that opportunity,” Mr Grimes said.

“So this does require government focus and attention. But with a small investment we can make a disproportionate impact both on the industry and on the lives of people in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Tokelauans are already showing the way, embracing solar energy in the hope it will help keep their economy – and their low-lying islands – above water.


Where to Find the Global Warming Hot Spots?

Posted by Ken on August 24, 2012
Posted under Express 173

As global warming wreaks havoc on the planet’s climate, the effects will not be felt equally throughout, with some nations suffering bigger and more drastic changes than others. This is clear in a new “Climate Change and Environment Risk Atlas,” with a list of 193 countries ranked by those most vulnerable to climate change. And a new report by 80 that says south-east Australia has become “a global warming hot spot” and the threat to coral reefs is growing. Read more

What Country Faces the Worst Climate Change?

By Jeremy Hsu for InnovationNewsDaily (13 August 2012):

Rising seas threaten to drown island countries such as the Maldives and Kiribati in the era of global warming — a dire scenario that has forced leaders to plan for floating cities or consider moving their entire populations to neighboring countries. Most countries won’t need to take such drastic steps to simply survive, but many more will similarly experience the uglier side of climate change.

The countries potentially facing the worst fates may not necessarily experience the greatest climate change, but instead lack the resources to cushion their people against climate-related disasters such as hurricanes, floods, heat waves and droughts. That has historically made a huge difference in rates of death or displacement from such events — Hurricane Jeanne killed just three people in the U.S. in 2004, but resulted in the deaths of more than 1,500 people in Haiti and displaced about 200,000 Haitians.

“This of course is different than future likelihood to suffer, but I believe that those who suffered most in the past are probably most vulnerable to future disasters, because they are unable to prepare for, cope with, and recover from these kinds of disasters,” said J. Timmons Roberts, a professor of environmental studies and sociology at Brown University.

The most fortunate countries could fortify themselves against the worst of climate change and possibly take in climate change refugees from other parts of the world. Both historical data and climate model predictions have given some idea of what to expect.

Climate change hotspots

North America, Europe and Asia can generally expect more severe heat waves and droughts alongside more intense storms related to flooding, said Michael Wehner, a climate scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. On the other hand, cold snaps could become less severe.

Other regions could see even more radical changes in their normal climates.

“Central America, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean are projected to experience what is now considered drought as a new normal condition,” Wehner told InnovationNewsDaily. “The impacts on agriculture could be severe, especially on impoverished nations.”

The melting Arctic is experiencing some of the greatest warming — often with devastating consequences for local wildlife and people — but climate change’s greatest impact may take place in more densely populated regions. Jason Samson, a former Ph.D. candidate at McGill University in Canada, highlighted the relationship between climate conditions and population density in a 2011 paper published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.

Strongly negative impacts of climate change are predicted in Central America, central South America, the Arabian Peninsula, Southeast Asia and much of Africa,” wrote Samson and his colleagues.

That paper’s findings echo the vulnerable regions identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — the Arctic, Africa, small islands (such as the Maldives and Kiribati), and the Asian and African megadeltas where huge cities filled with millions of people face rising seas, storm surges and flooding rivers.

Countries in the danger zone

So what countries face the greatest danger from climate change? Maplecroft, a British consultancy, has created a “Climate Change and Environment Risk Atlas,” a list of 193 countries ranked by those most vulnerable to climate change because of factors such as population density or state of development.

The 2012 edition of the risk atlas identified 30 countries as being at extreme risk. The top 10 most at risk include: Haiti, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Cambodia, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and the Philippines.

Some countries with lower risk ratings still have danger zones that face “extreme risk” from climate change. Maplecroft pointed to the southwest of Brazil and China’s coastal regions as examples, even though both countries rate as “medium risk” overall. Six of the world’s fastest-growing cities also received “extreme risk” ratings: Calcutta in India, Manila in the Philippines, Jakarta in Indonesia, Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh, and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

The countries in the best position to adapt to climate change’s challenges mostly include those in Northern Europe, such as Finland, Ireland, Sweden and Norway, CNN reported. Iceland topped the list, but the United States also had a relatively low risk rating.

Living with climate change

The climate risk assessments emphasized the wealth difference between the most and least vulnerable countries. That has proven historically true as well, Roberts said. He and a colleague, Bradley Parks, looked at 4,040 climate-related disasters from 1980 to 2003 in their book “A Climate of Injustice” (MIT Press, 2006).

“The rates [of people killed or made homeless], when adjusted for population, were 100 times higher in some African and Pacific islands than in the USA,” Roberts explained.

But even developed countries such as the U.S. face risks when it comes to climate-related disasters — regardless of whatever future climate change may bring. Wehner suggested that climate change during his lifetime would be “manageable” as far as living in the U.S., but added that his grandchildren would face tougher choices.

Roberts, who lives in Rhode Island on top of a hill near Narragansett Bay, took an even more cautious approach about buying beachfront property even in the U.S.

“While I would love to look out over the water, I would think twice before buying land or property, and especially before putting my family right at sea level, in a place that may suffer storm surge,” Roberts said.


Aussie marine life hit by climate change

Tropical fish head for cooler seas, underwater forests wiped out, says report by 80 scientists

By Jonathan Pearlman for The Straits Times (24 August 2012):

Marine life is under a growing threat from climate change in the waters around Australia. Tropical fish have been heading south for the cooler seas around Tasmania and the ocean’s tall underwater forests have been virtually wiped out.

The details come in a new report by 80 Australian scientists that says south-east Australia has become “a global warming hot spot” and the threat to coral reefs is growing.

Climate change has made the ocean more acidic and bleached corals, it says, and seaweeds, phytoplankton, zooplankton and fish have moved south. The migration has also been caused by warming waters and a strengthening of the currents off the east coast of Australia since the 1950s.

“There is now striking evidence of extensive southward movements of tropical species in south-east Australia, declines in abundance of many temperate species, and the first signs of the effect of ocean acidification on marine species with shells,” said the report released last week.

The report, by a group of scientists led by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, provides a snapshot based on the leading scientific papers from the past three years.

It found sea surface temperatures had increased by 1 deg C over the last century. The east coast of Tasmania and parts of Western Australia had the highest rises.

“The rate of temperature rise in Australian waters has accelerated since the mid-20th century,” the report said. “Sea levels are rising around Australia, with fastest rates currently in northern Australia.”

Professor David Booth, a marine ecologist at the University of Technology, Sydney, said tropical fish have been moving towards Tasmania for 30 or 40 years but sped up in the past 10 years.

“In this case, the rapidity of the change is probably fairly unprecedented,” he said, noting that it is putting fisheries at risk.

In a further worrying sign, sea forests around Tasmania, made up of giant kelp, have shrunk by 95 per cent and were officially listed as endangered by the federal government last week. The forests, which rise as high as 25m off the ocean seabed, provide a crucial habitat for a range of species, including the black lip abalone and southern rock lobster.

Environment Minister Tony Burke said: “Giant kelp forests are being progressively lost due to a warming of the sea surface temperature caused by climate change, invasive species and changing land use and coastal activities that contribute to increased sedimentation and run-off and biodiversity loss.”

Along the Great Barrier Reef, damage has become so severe that scientists have proposed “last resort” measures such as protecting it with shade cloths.

A paper published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change said the pace of global warming is unparalleled in 300 million years. One of its authors, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the University of Queensland, said the shade cloths anchored with ropes float on the water surface to protect the corals from sunlight.

“We are recommending looking at these technologies because at the current rate of warming, we may need to use them in 20 or 30 years,” he told The Straits Times.”We should test them now and see which ones work. Shading is not a strategy that can be used across hundreds of kilometres of the reef. But it might – at a local level – be able to influence how many corals die.”

Scientists have been increasingly worried about the long-term threat of climate change and rising water temperatures to the Great Barrier Reef – an iconic stretch of about 2,600km of coral formations and marine life off Australia’s east coast that attracts about two million visitors each year.

Prof Hoegh-Guldberg warned that the shade cloths may be useful for protecting small patches of coral but it will not “save the Great Barrier Reef” as a whole.


Cut Coal out of Energy Diet and Save Billions in Health Costs

Posted by Ken on August 24, 2012
Posted under Express 173

How can actions taken now cut carbon pollution and also deliver billions of dollars in health benefits? Australia’s Climate Institute and the Climate and Health Alliance have the answers. They point out that coal-fired power in Australia burdens the community with a human health cost estimated at $2.6 billion annually. A start has been made with the generation of energy by solar panels and the wide adoption has been largely credited to the former Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. Read more

Australia’s fossil fuel sickness

By Tristan Edis for Climate Spectator (14 August 2012):

The Climate Institute and the Climate and Health Alliance have released a briefing paper today outlining how actions that can cut carbon pollution could also deliver billions of dollars in health benefits. Some rather stark examples used to demonstrate their case are:

– Coal-fired power in Australia burdens the community with a human health cost – from lung, heart, and nervous system diseases – estimated at $2.6 billion annually.

– The annual health cost of pollution from cars, trucks and other modes of fossil-fuelled transport is estimated at around $3.3 billion. In Australia, air pollution is estimated to kill more people every year than the road toll.

The paper takes the logical step of pointing out that a range of measures such as increasing the amount of renewable energy in our electricity supply system, or increasing patronage of public transport would act to reduce the health-damaging pollution from these sources while also reducing greenhouse gases.

Report author Fiona Armstrong points out that: “One recent global study, for instance, found that for every tonne of carbon dioxide they avoid countries could save an average of $46 in health costs –around twice Australia’s starting price for carbon.”

This report is part of a challenge Fiona Armstrong has written about previously in Climate Spectator to get a broader range of people concerned about climate change. According to Armstrong, the framing of climate change as an environmental ‘save the trees’ issue can make those with a conservative political outlook inclined to reject its validity, irrespective of the evidence. The hope is that these people might be more supportive of actions to reduce carbon pollution if they believed this would assist human health.

I have often wondered why governments of European nations as a general rule (Poland being a notable exception) have been far more willing to take action to address climate change than Australia and North America. And I suspect that it partly relates to European people’s greater historical exposure to the harmful health effects of pollution more generally, as well as greater resource scarcity.

In Australia our vast spaces have meant that pollution has been less concentrated in areas of high population. In particular, our coal-fired power stations tend to be over a hundred kilometres from the major capital cities which house the vast majority of our population. This has led to an out of sight, out of mind syndrome.

As an illustration, a NSW government survey from several years ago found that most people in NSW thought the predominant source of their electricity was from hydro. It has also helped that our coal has less harmful impurities than that traditionally used in Europe.

While Australian cities do encounter problems with air pollution from car traffic, the traffic and population densities are not as a severe as Europe, making the problem more manageable.

Australia has never come up against the kind of environmental and natural resource constraints that have confronted Europe. Indeed a large proportion of company market value on the Australian Stock Exchange is built upon increasing the rate of resource consumption.  This has made it especially difficult to get people from across the political spectrum to accept the idea that it might be in our own interests to constrain resource consumption.

The one area where Australia has confronted severe scarcity has been in water. Not unsurprisingly the extended drought of 2002 to 2007 was pivotal in making climate change a policy priority. Unfortunately the public’s lack of a richer appreciation for why reducing carbon emissions was a good idea, meant that when the drought broke concern about climate change dissipated.

This report from Climate Institute and Climate and Health Alliance should help in building a richer appreciation for why reducing carbon emissions is about improving human welfare, rather than being solely about saving the trees or water scarcity.



How Turnbull transformed solar PV

By Tristan Edis for Climate Spectator (20 August 2012):

The REC Agents Association released data over the weekend showing that Australia installed more residential rooftop solar systems over 2011 than any other country in the world. There are now 1.5 million solar PV and solar hot water systems installed.

Thinking back to 2002 to 2007 during my time at the Australian government’s Greenhouse Office and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, I would have never expected such a feat to be achieved. And it can probably be largely attributed to Malcolm Turnbull.

During this time, installations of solar PV were like a tiny pimple on a huge back of coal-fired power. Annual installation rates were measured in kilowatts not hundreds of megawatts. The industry was pretty much dominated by a single player in BP Solar, with everyone else playing around the edges.

The businesses engaged in installation were enthusiasts who did it partly out of love for the technology, rather than large professional organisations focussed on profit and driving down costs. It was a cosy cottage industry pure and simple. Both the power industry and the government bureaucracy largely thought that it would never amount to anything substantial, either in terms of the electricity market or greenhouse gas abatement.

Then something changed. The precise date was May 8, 2007 when the Howard government handed down its final budget. I remember being at the national conference for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (now the Clean Energy Council), standing around a television with a group of the major players in the Australian solar PV industry.  When Peter Costello announced the rebate for solar PV would be doubled from $4000 to $8000 per kilowatt, I don’t think there was a single person in the room who wasn’t shocked.

But we probably shouldn’t have been so surprised. Malcolm Turnbull was the environment minister at the time and has never done anything by halves. He’s a man who already had fame and fortune and was now in a desperate hurry to leave a positive imprint on the Australian policy landscape.

All in the solar sector knew the doubling of the rebate would lead to a boom in sales, but it didn’t lead to a boom in profits. Instead it became a catalyst for a swarm of new entrants that shook-up a cosy cottage industry. These businesses were determined to convert solar into a mass-market product with large volumes but low margins. These new entrants strove to squeeze out costs to get the price of systems to a price point that would open-up an untapped, large group of customers that weren’t wealthy and weren’t off the grid.

Australia used to pay significantly more than other countries for residential solar PV systems, but now our systems are noticeably cheaper than the US and Japan, and not too far off Germany.  We are now a leader in small-scale residential systems.

But this rebate, and the multiplier for renewable energy certificates that replaced it, were heavily biased towards small residential systems of less than 2 kilowatts. This has warped the industry into one almost entirely focussed on the residential sector, when in fact the best place for solar is on commercial business rooftops. It’s a bit like some incredibly distorted body builder that has huge biceps but chicken-legs.

For the industry to be truly useful in the battle to contain Australia’s emissions, it will need to beef-up its under-sized muscles.


Historic Solar Projects in France Attract Tourists

Posted by Ken on August 24, 2012
Posted under Express 173

European electricity spot prices climb as forecasts for much warmer temperatures in Germany and a continuing heat wave in France boosted consumption expectations. In the wake of the nuclear plant disaster at Fukushima, Germany is committed to move away from nuclear but France still relies on it for most of its energy, in spite of the fact that it was a pioneer in the development of solar energy. Now its early solar plants are little more than tourist attractions. Will France see the clean energy light and revert to its old “Solar” ways? Photo by Colin McCutcheon of the world’s largest solar powered furnace at Odeillo. Read more

Editor: This article about the historic development of solar energy plants in France was promoted by a visit earlier this month by Sydney-based friends Helene and Colin McCutcheon to the Mont Louis and Font-Romeu-Odeillo-Via.

Believe it or not, but France was a leader in the development of solar energy.

Now, France stands alone among leading nations that get a majority of their power from nuclear energy. But there’s a growing chorus of residents who want energy policy to go in a different direction. From a strictly financial perspective, France has built much of its economy on the back of its nuclear base. With 58 reactors and a nuclear capacity of 63 gigawatts (GW), the country is the world’s largest exporter of electricity, mostly to neighboring Italy and Switzerland. It also remains a technological leader in everything from reactor design to the growing use of recycled nuclear fuel.

1866 a Solar Powered Engine

By mid 1866, Augustin Mouchot had completed his first sun powered engine which was presented to Napoleon III in Paris. Mouchot continued development and increased the scale of his solar experiments. Just three years later in 1869 he published a book on solar energy called; “La Chaleur solaire et ses Applications industrielles”. That same year (1869) his largest solar engine was displayed in Paris until the city was taken by the Prussians, his machine disappeared, never again to be found.

The first solar furnace in the world

Mont Louis

The solar furnace (four solaire) in Mont Louis, built in 1949 by professor Félix Trombe, was the first solar furnace in the world, an enormous construction of 1420 mirrors. This dual reflection solar furnace has been in steady evolution over the past 50 years and in 1993, was taken over by the company ’Solar Furnace Development’. Along with continued scientific research, they are the first company to use a solar furnace for industrial and manufactured products such as the firing of ceramics, and bronze and alluminium products. One of the first commercial objects manufactured there was the whistle for the petit train jaune. Pottery and bronzes manufacture at the four solaire can be bought in the souvenir shop on site.

Each year, more than 30,000 visitors are fascinated by the solar furnace in Mont-Louis. A programme of experiments and demonstrations are part of a guided visit, for example the concentration of the solar rays to produce temperatures between 2000 °C and 3500 °C, the ignition of wood, melting of metal, and ceramic cooking.

Visits and demonstrations all year round

Did you know that over a hundred years ago, Sorède was a pioneer village where solar energy was concerned. In 1900, a certain Portuguese physicist, Manuel Antonio Gomes, known as Padre Himalaya because of his height, set up one of the first solar furnaces in the world, not far from the Chateau d’Ultrera. Using mules, he hoiked all the necessary equipment to the top of the village, where he built a satellite dish 7 metres in diameter, of which the circular rail still remains to this day. Sorède is now planning to build a giant sundial in the heart of the village, at a cost of 35000 euros, which will be visible from a distance and is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

The biggest solar furnace in the world


The solar furnace in Odeillo, built in 1969 by Felix Thrombe, is the largest in the world, consisting of a field of 10,000 mirrors, mounted on terraces on the surrounding hillside, which bounce the sun’s rays onto a large concave mirror.This focuses an enormous amount of sunlight onto an area roughly the size of a cooking pot.

Sixty-three heliostats direct the rays of the sun onto the parabolic mirror of almost 2000 square metres. The solar energy can produce temperatures in excess of 3200 degrees Centigrade, unique in the world.

The location was chosen due to the air quality and the fact that the region boasts approximately 300 sunny days per year.

The immense parabolic mirror, tall as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, reflects the countryside and sky, giving an ever changing patchwork view of the surrounding countryside that is beautiful and fascinating to watch…

An exhibition along with demonstrations of the working of the solar furnace, can be seen every day from 10h – 18h. Amongst other things, it explores the potential and actual uses of solar energy for domestic purposes, as well as solutions for the energy crisis. Interesting and educative and well worth exploring with the whole family from a science point of view.

Along with the exhibition, there are demonstrations and guided visits, lasting one hour.

Saint-Charles International in Perpignan, the first European distributor of fruit and vegetables, is now a major producer of green energy.

Europe’s largest solar power plant to be integrated into a building was opened on Thursday, October 13th at the international market of Saint-Charles in Perpignan, Europe’s biggest distributor of fruits and vegetables.

Over two years, the asbestos cement sheets that covered the 11 buildings on the site have been replaced by 68 000m2 of 97,000 photovoltaic tiles. The installation of 8.8 MW will sell electricity to EDF, and produce the electricity for around 10% of the population of Perpignan. The project has been completed following an investment of 54 million euros.

Hundreds of refrigerated trucks, laden with vegetables from Spain and North Africa Market arrive every day in the loading docks and warehouses of Saint-Charles, generating large amounts of CO2 that the new roof should help offset – in part – through technical innovation, meaning that about 1560 tons of waste will be avoided annually.

With over 2,500 sunshine hours per year, the Languedoc-Roussillon is particularly conducive to the development of solar energy. The project could also proceed further with the installation, in 2015, of 250,000 square meters of photovoltaic tiles covering the entire area of Grand St. Charles, doubling or even tripling production!

Information from P-O Life Magazine, an original and informative booklet, much in demand by the English speaking community in the Pyrenees-Orientales region of France. Take your time exploring the site. If you’re not already a fan of the Pyrenees-Orientales, you soon will be!


Spanish company Grupo Clavijo recently completed France’s largest solar plant, located in Curbans in the Provence-Alps-Cote d’Azur region.

Covering the equivalent of 130 football fields, total installed power equals 33MW, supplying energy to 30,000 inhabitants and saving up to 120,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

It took 80 employees over 15 months to install.



By Michel Rose for Reuters (17 August 2012):

* Heat wave over France to reach Germany on Monday

* Consumption peak only partly offset by solar power rise

European electricity spot prices climbed on Friday as forecasts for much warmer temperatures in Germany and a continuing heat wave in France boosted consumption expectations for early next week.

Germany’s Monday delivery baseload was up 3.75 euros day-on-day to 56 euros ($69.23) per megawatt hour, while the equivalent French contract rose 5.50 euros to 57.75 euros a MWh.

“The (latest) forecast expects Monday to be the hottest day of the current heat wave on average in Germany,” Thomson Reuters Point Carbon analysts wrote on Friday.

“Solar production is forecast to remain healthy but could decrease a bit from the weekend,” they said.

Temperatures in Germany will reach 25.5 degrees Celsius on average on Monday, up from 19.4 degrees on Friday, boosting expectations for an increase in consumption despite the summer lull as more people use air conditioning systems.

A blast of hot Saharan air has already sparked a heat wave alert in southwestern France, with weather forecaster Meteo

France warning of temperatures reaching up to 39 degrees Celsius on Friday and reaching 30 degrees across much of the country.

Central and northern regions of France will in turn be affected over the weekend and early next week, with the government triggering a level-2 alert on the 1-3 heat wave warning system for 21 of mainland France’s 96 “departements”.

German consumption will rise to 63.5 GW on Monday, almost 2GW more than on Friday, while in France, power demand will increase by more than 3 GW to about 45.8 GW.

On the supply side, French nuclear power capacity remains tight, while a slight increase in German wind and solar power output will fail to offset the consumption increase.

Along the forward curve, Germany’s benchmark 2013 contract for baseload delivery next year was up 10 cents to 49.5 euros in over-the-counter trading. The equivalent French contract was down 25 cents to 51.50 euros. BY1FR-1Y

Brent crude futures for October delivery fell more than 1 percent on Friday on talk of possible releases of U.S. strategic petroleum reserves and expectations that North Sea output will rebound after September production is curbed by maintenance.

In corporate news, four sources told Reuters that Germany’s biggest power company E.ON was in talks to expand in Turkey by buying a stake in energy firm Enerjisa from Austria’sVerbund.

In France, the government denied a press report that the chief executive of French power group EDF, Henri Proglio, could be replaced by Guillaume Pepy, the head of state-owned French railways SNCF.