Archive for June 2007

Stay on Track to Help The Environment While Vacationing in Europe This Summer

June 26, 2007

SOURCE: Eurail Group G.I.E. — Carbon dioxide emissions from cars and planes play a huge role in air pollution and global warming.  In Europe, taking the train instead of renting a car or jetting around on low cost airlines is a sure-fire way to lessen the environmental impact of travel.

“If you’re concerned about contributing to global climate change, remember that rail is always a better option than flying”, advises Mr. Ian Byrne, Deputy Director of the National Energy Foundation, based in the UK .

The Eurail network that covers most of Europe with its wide range of flexible and affordable rail passes makes it easy to travel “green.” The average Eurail Global Pass Passenger, for example, travels more than 4,000 miles while using the pass. Trains covering that distance emit 0.3 tons of CO2, while cars and planes put out more than a ton of CO2. Travelers can calculate their personal emissions on the website of the US Environmental Protection Agency at

Aside from the environmental benefits, taking the train can make the journey as enjoyable as the destination. Europe’s fast, sleek trains go efficiently from downtown to downtown with a minimal use of land compared to most US highway systems. Since there is little urban sprawl, passengers enjoy a window seat on passing views of fairy tale castles, forested hillsides, sleepy villages and bustling towns. What’s more, trains rarely encounter mechanical or weather delays, and none of the frequent congestion that can not only stall traffic in the air and on the ground, but also further waste fuel and increase greenhouse gases. It just makes sense to take the train whenever possible.renfe-4.jpg

 High-speed train whizzying accross the Spanish countryside  – Picture courtesy of RENFE

Eurail offers a range of flexible and affordable rail passes. The classic Eurail Global Pass covers 18 countries and gives travelers the freedom to travel as far as they want, when they want, as long as they want.

For more information about Eurail see To purchase, go to or one of Eurail’s authorized North American sales agents: ACP Rail International (; Flight Centre ( and Rail Europe (

Eurail Countries: Austria, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain (1), Sweden and Switzerland.

(1) The Spanish railway company is RENFE. See their timetables here


First silicon plant in Spain for solar panels

June 26, 2007

Siliken, a dynamic Spanish manufacturer of solar panels, has taken a step that will guarantee the supply of the essential raw material for their ambitious expansion plans.

They are currently building what will be Spain´s first silicon plant, thus getting ahead of another Spanish manufacturer with similar plans, Isofoton. The latter partnered with the utility Endesa for the construction of a polysilicon plant in the Southern province of Cadiz (Andalusia) that is scheduled to be operational by 2009.

Siliken is a young company that has been tripling its turnover each year since its inception seven years ago. Their dizzying growth has led to the need for this plant that will have a price tag of more than $135 million dollars and an initial output of 1,500 tonnes per year.

One of the advantages favoring their expansion is the fact that they design and build their own machinery as well. Carlos Navarro, their CEO, boasts that they can have a new line in operation in two months after a decision to expand capacity.

Among the plans they have for the future are the possibility of going public and of opening a plant to manufacture solar panels in California. In fact, they are going to be in Long Beach in September, for the Solar Power Conference and Expo (booth 1006).

If the company finally decides to go public, it will be following a well-beaten path. There has been a recent flurry of activity in the Spanish stock market in this field with a string of very successful IPOs of companies like Fersa or Solaria.

Getting fuel from fruit…or plastic bags, your pick

June 24, 2007

shutterstock_3578848.jpgThe fructose found in fruit such as apples, or oranges can be converted into a new type of low-carbon fuel for cars.

Biofuel engineers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison write in the journal Nature about their process to obtain a product called DMF, which volume for volume delivers 40% more energy than ethanol. In addition, it is not soluble in water and is stable in storage.

‘Waste’ fuel
Separately, a British report on biofuels says
that the technology now exists to create biodiesel fuel not just from palm oil but from a range of materials including wood, weeds and even plastic bags.
This process is called biomass to liquid.

This new generation biofuels could offer a tenfold reduction in our carbon footprint and use waste by-products of current manufacturing processes, like the chemical industry.

We should not get too happy yet, because there is still the no small matter of their cost. Setting up new production facilities is estimated to be 10 times higher than for current biofuel refineries.

Call for Spain to switch fully to renewables

June 19, 2007

Via Yahoo News:  MADRID (AFP) –     Some 4,000 imagen-del-t-nel-del-tiempo-en.jpgenvironmental campaigners gathered in Barcelona on Saturday to press the government to commit Spain to switch fully to renewable energy sources by 2050, Greenpeace said.

Greenpeace in February began a campaign to urge Spain to boost use of renewables, although the country is already a European leader in the field.

Eva Salana, spokeswoman for the environmental pressure group, told the Europa Press news agency that “it is technically and economically possible” to achieve the aim.

Greenpeace used Saturday’s meeting to boost public awareness of the issue through an exhibition dubbed “time tunnel,” showing scenarios of how countries could work together to combat climate change.

(Via Suite 101 – Climate Change/Paul Read): Back in February of this year, Al Gore spoke about Spain´s role in in the race to offset the damage of global climate change. Spain, he said, could lead the world in renewable energy use. Al Gore has said this of many a country during his Inconvenient Truth tours, but his words took on an additional weight as Greenpeace released its conclusions last week about how Spain could live up to the fossil fuel challenge in the decades ahead and reiterated much of what the Vice President said.

Alternatives to fossil fuels
The report entitled: 100% Renewable. An Electrical System for the Spanish Peninsular and its Economic Viability, states that by 2020, Spain could have 50% of its electrical needs proveded from renewable resources and by the year 2050, it could be producing 100% of its energy needs exclusively from non fossil fuel sources.

Bold, visionary and perhaps not unrealistic claims for this southern European country that can in places enjoy up to 320 days of sunshine per year. With over 5.000 km of coastline, the sunniest climate and the highest mountains in Europe outside Switzerland it would appear to have the resource potential to fulfil some of both Mr. Gore´s and Greenpeace´s claims.

120.000 million Euros
According to the Director General of Greenpeace in Spain, Juan López de Uralde, the report is both viable in economical and technological terms and that the time to act is now and with urgency. Uralde states that although Spain has the technology, it does not have the time to wait before starting to apply it. According to the Greenpeace report, the costs of conversion would be 120.000 million euros to be spent over a 25 year period. The success of such a plan would depend on the distribution of the energy production centres so that at low production periods the storage facilities would be close to the end consumer.

Each autonomous region would have specific production capabilities according to its ecological potential: Andalusia in the south, would be able to produce more energy from the sun, integrated into the very buildings of towns and cities, whilst a region such as Galicia on the Atlantic coast could maximise its potential for wave power and wind generation. The success of the plan would depend on maximising this variation in production and geographical siting.

Applus+ Home Inspections Helps Consumers Identify Eco-friendly Home Options

June 16, 2007

In a special report about business and climate change, the Economist reports that, according to Vattenfall, a Swedish utility that has quantified the best – i.e., most economic – ways to cut carbon emissions, insulation improvements are the best option available.

A similar conclusion was reached by a recent report from the U.N., that points to energy conservation as one of the main ways to counter the effects of climate change. 

Unfortunately, these options do not generally get the attention they deserve. Nevertheless, consumers can make a huge difference in supporting conservation efforts. Purchasing an eco-friendly home is one of the biggest contributions that individual citizens can do to fight climate change, and at the same time, save on their energy bills.

foto3.gifSo it is good news to hear about initiatives like this one: the Chicago-based company Applus+ , a global leader in certification and inspection, has recently announced the launch of Applus+ Home Inspections, an environmentally-conscious company whose goal is to help American consumers identify areas in their homes that can benefit from an energy audit – ultimately helping them to choose greener homes.

These innovative inspection technologies and techniques are tailored to the higher environmental housing standards in the European Union.  Applus+ Home Inspections currently offers its customers energy audit services, which include a set of energy-efficient improvements that help reduce energy costs. An extensive energy audit report is generated for customers, containing estimates of the savings and costs involved in implementing each recommendation.  

Applus+ Home Inspections is also currently pursuing future partnerships with other environmentally-friendly companies and government programs such as Energy Star. “Like many other companies, our goal is to provide consumers around the world with effective ways to undertake meaningful conservation measures in their everyday life,” says Jonathan Donado, CEO of Applus+ Home Inspections. “Today, certain technologies exist which can be used to provide citizens with solutions that assure them that they are choosing the right home, both for themselves and for the environment.”

Innovative Technology

Introduced in Illinois for the first time by Applus+ Home Inspections, thermal imaging provides a highly technological, non-invasive, non-destructive analysis that alerts home buyers to potential problems residing inside the walls of a property which are not otherwise visible to the naked eye. Thanks to this technology, home buyers can now better protect their investment by detecting concealed issues, such as hidden electrical, water, or insulation troubles, before they make a final decision to buy a home.

Nissan installs solar panels in its Spanish plants

June 13, 2007

Via Envautomental: In an effort to both save some euros off the electricity bill and some CO2 from hitting the environment, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd, will install 606 solar panels at its Barcelona (Spain) vehicle plant by the end of this summer. which will cover a surface of 3,000 square-metres and generate 308,000 kWh of electricity per year, which helps them reduce CO2 emissions by 110 tons.

Nissan is also installed a similar layout on its other plant in Spain, in Ávila this summer, 732 solar panels resulting in savings of 267 tons of CO2 emissions every year. But not only Spain is getting renewable energy to power the plants, Nissan is also using renewable energy at its Sunderland vehicle plant in the UK, where it has erected six wind turbines good for 5 percent of the plant’s electricity which cuts CO2 emissions by 3,300 tons a year.

These interventions are being held under Nissan’s Green Program 2010, which expectations are to lower CO2 emissions 7 percent from 2005 levels.

Hydrogen powered Bioclimatic villages

June 12, 2007


Scale model (Courtesy of Aldeas bioclimaticas)

One of the main lines of work of  the European Union in the field of energy is to support clean technologies and the use of hydrogen both in public transportation as in homes.


Following those guidelines, new projects are being developed with the aim of putting together new designs and solutions to bring new residential areas closer to the concept of sustainability. 


One of these iniatives is H2PIA, the self-styled world´s first hydrogen city, in Denmark.


Another project is called Bioclimatic Villages (Aldeas bioclimaticas) in the outskirts of Albacete (Spain). It will house around 10,000 persons. It consists of 2,800 units with autonomous energy generation systems and, for the first time in Europe, a micro-network of hydrogen for domestic purposes, connecting buildings, offices and homes, so that this clean energy generated is shared and redistributed.

Hydrogen will also power the neighborhood´s public transportation system. The concept will be taken even further, as Albacete will become the  second European city, after Munich, to have the equivalent of a gas station for hydrogen. Other features of the residential complex are an incubator of technology companies and a broadband Internet connection for all homes, using the neighborhood´s website as a potent and innovative way to articulate the community, developed by the R+D platform I2CAT.

The regional government is supporting this initiative, that has enlisted an impressive list of renowned architects, such as Vicente Guallart, the Director of the Institute for Advanced Architecture from Catalonia, Ben van Berkel, author of the Mercedez Benz museum and finalist of the Mies van der Rohe award, Yung Ho Chang and Shigeru Bahn, the creator of the Pompidou Center in Metz (France).