Harmonizing energy and societal needs
By Zaheer Allam and Zarrin Allam
One would tend to think that a large scale, renewable project would provide the solution to our energy needs since it is a constant source of energy production. However, in a local context, such a proposal would only be beneficial and make economic sense in the local short term.
Centralization of our energy production would imply tying all our investment in a singular energy resource. We would have to reconcile ourselves to locking our energy options for the next 20 years or so, until we can recover our investment.
A study into the recent trends of renewable energy and societal responses to the shift to green urbanism demonstrates that, while it may not be overtly noticeable, we are making incredible leeway into the green movement. Demand for renewable energy is on the rise and as such, pertaining costs is on the decline. For example, in the solar industry, Moore’s law suggests that the size of transistors, as well as their cost, halves every 18 months or so. This has consequently brought the price of solar energy from $77 to $0.7 per watt over the last 40 years.
The same phenomenon seems to replicate through other fields of renewable resources in the last decade. As the average lifespan of a power plant approximates 20-25 years, it means that we would eventually encounter an inevitable economic loss, which could be quite subsistent if we invest into a large scale plant as it is sure to undergo constant price reduction in the future.
From an urbanism point of view, coherence is defined by a hierarchy and connectivity on different scales, as urban theorist, Nikos Salingaros, clearly delineates in his writings. This means that for a city to possess a sense of coherence; “it must also have the ability to be plastic and accommodate the curvatures, extension and compression of its paths without disconnect. In order for this to be achieved, the urban fabric must be intricately linked on a minute scale and loosely connected on a large scale. Connectivity on all scales hence leads to urban coherence.”
Thus, it would make more sense if our local energy grid is made up of small scale power plants since we would be in a position to take a logical stance and analyze the market trend as it unfolds and subsequently invest into newer and cheaper energy as our energy needs increase. It is therefore of penultimate importance to emphasize the need for mixed energy use and allow long term stability to depend upon emergent connections. Taking into account the speed at which current technologies go obsolete, this progressive elaboration system would be a safer way of investment rather than binding ourselves to a single technology for the next 20 years.
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Of equal importance as offsetting our energy consumption from the national grid is the emphasis on cutting down on electrical consumerism. Several cities seemed to have tackled this issue through the development of the carbon neutral program as well as catering and making allowances for the UHI (urban heat island) through the incorporation of green roofs and walls.
UHI is responsible for an exponential increase in energy consumption through the need for increased air conditioning usage. Hence, by providing effective and efficient solutions to the UHI, we will not only be able to reduce our energy demand from the grid but also directly positively impact on the comfort of our inhabitants.
The feasibility of such a project is challenging to say the least since the aesthetic aspect has to be taken into account without however overwhelming practicality of purpose. Green roofs and walls have been gaining popularity and public applause over the last few years as the green movement makes ground. They are nevertheless criticized since their maintenance and upkeep can be more financially demanding.
The Scientific American published an article of interest in the matter earlier on during the year. This delineated why the concept of green roofs did not make much headway in Manhattan. It concluded that a lack of research into the types of flora that could be accommodated in green roofs was the source of the problem.
We could use this as a learning point and thus encourage research in that area. This would enable not only a successful initial implementation of green roofs but also their maintenance since we would have further insight into means of preventing their drying up. This would overall help to gain public acceptance and support of such projects.
Alongside pursuing research into green roof implementation, another subject of focus should be the intensification of ground level green spaces. We should not only encourage the expansion of parks but also increase the topological complexity of green spaces through interconnection. This does not necessarily require an exponential increase in their combined area but merely advocates for means of communication such as connecting footpaths.
This will not only contribute to the reduction of UHI and hence provide cooler areas, but also encourage lower car usage since the added topographical intricacy would promote more pedestrian activity. Another beneficial by-product of this added intricacy is the reduced segregation of spaces and hence morphs our city into a macrocosm totally accessible at a pedestrian level and oriented towards its people. These aspirations however require certain elasticity in zoning codes.
While promoting the implementation of green areas, we nevertheless have to pay focused attention to not only going green for its own sake, but also to promote a future trend where ecology meets sustainability. We have to push for in homogeneity in landscape rather than a blind move towards expanding plain lawns.
Indeed, a diversity of plant types not only creates more aesthetic appeal but also create a cooler environment through evapo-transpiration. Plain lawns, on the other hand, are not only visually uninspiring but also promote a homogeneous trend derived from the minimalist movement, which does not fulfil functionality.
Hence, urbanism, as we can see, is not only the mechanical planning and implementation of anonymous projects that take shape in the emergence of cities. It is, on the contrary, a complex task that involves careful and minute attention to details, on an inter-industrial level, as well as factoring in societal and ecological needs to evolve into a living city where functionality culminates in societal satisfaction.
We are architects of our skyline and our people. We are responsible not only to create today’s landscape but also paint the fabric of our tomorrow.
Acknowledgement: Prof. Nikos Salingaros provided notes for this article and whose book “Principles of Urban Structure” served as a foundation for the ideas discussed above. Assoc. Prof. Khalil Elahee reviewed this article.
Itronics successfully tests manganese recovery process
Itronics - a Nevada-based emerging cleantech materials growth company that manufacturers fertilisers and produces silver - has successfully tested two proprietary processes that recover manganese, with one process recovering manganese, potassium and zinc from paste produced by processing non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. The second recovers manganese via the company’s Rock Kleen Technology.
Manganese, one of the four most important industrial metals and widely used by the steel industry, has been designated by the US Federal Government as a "critical mineral." It is a major component of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, one of the largest battery categories sold globally.
The use of manganese in EV batteries is increasing as EV battery technology is shifting to use of more nickel and manganese in battery formulations. But according to the US Department of Interior, there is no mine production of manganese in the United States. As such, Itronics is using its Rock Kleen Technology to test metal recoverability from mine tailings obtained from a former silver mine in western Nevada that has a high manganese content.
In a statement, Itronics says that its Rock Kleen process recovers silver, manganese, zinc, copper, lead and nickel. The company says that it has calculated – based on laboratory test results – that if a Rock Kleen tailings process is put into commercial production, the former mine site would become the only primary manganese producer in the United States.
Itronics adds that it has also tested non-rechargeable alkaline battery paste recovered by a large domestic battery recycling company to determine if it could use one of its hydrometallurgical processes to solubilize the manganese, potassium, and zinc contained in the paste. This testing was successful, and Itronics was able to produce material useable in two of its fertilisers, it says.
"We believe that the chemistry of the two recovery processes would lend itself to electrochemical recovery of the manganese, zinc, and other metals. At this time electrochemical recovery has been tested for zinc and copper,” says Dr John Whitney, Itronics president.
“Itronics has been reviewing procedures for electrochemical recovery of manganese and plans to move this technology forward when it is appropriate to do so and has acquired electro-winning equipment needed to do that.
"Because of the two described proprietary technologies, Itronics is positioned to become a domestic manganese producer on a large scale to satisfy domestic demand. The actual manganese products have not yet been defined, except for use in the Company's GOLD'n GRO Multi-Nutrient Fertilisers. However, the Company believes that it will be able to produce chemical manganese products as well as electrochemical products," he adds.
Itronics’ research and development plant is located in Reno, about 40 miles west of the Tesla giga-factory. Its planned cleantech materials campus, which will be located approximately 40 miles south of the Tesla factory, would be the location where the manganese products would be produced.
Panasonic is operating one of the world's largest EV battery factories at the Tesla location. However, Tesla and other companies have announced that EV battery technology is shifting to use of nickel-manganese batteries. Itronics is positioned and located to become a Nevada-0based supplier of manganese products for battery manufacturing as its manganese recovery technologies are advanced, the company states.
A long-term objective for Itronics is to become a leading producer of high purity metals, including the U.S. critical metals manganese and tin, using the Company's breakthrough hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrochemical technologies. ‘Additionally, Itronics is strategically positioned with its portfolio of "Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies" to help solve the recently declared emergency need for domestic production of Critical Minerals from materials located at mine sites,’ the statement continues.
The Company's growth forecast centers upon its 10-year business plan designed to integrate its Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies and to grow annual sales from $2 million in 2019, to $113 million in 2025.