15 June 2018As solar and wind power grow cheaper, the core challenge of climate change is shifting from generating clean energy to storing it. With support from LIFE, Swedish SME SaltX has demonstrated a technology that locks sunlight inside the chemical bonds of salt crystals. This keeps the solar power safe until needed to heat - or indeed cool - entire buildings.
Now SaltX has its first major order – supplying 8 000 SunCool collectors for sanitary blocks under construction in rural Ghana. Mostly off-grid, these much-needed buildings will give many people in remote areas new access to toilet-, shower- and washing facilities. This order “proves the strength of SunCool as an autonomous and cost-efficient solar energy solution,” says SaltX CEO Karl Bohman. “It is also important to show that our technology can make a big difference for many people who today lack basic pre-requisites,” he adds.
“Batteries are not going to be commercially viable to store renewable energy on the scale of our demand for heating and cooling,” believes Mr Bohman. He maintains that the SaltX technology offers a very feasible alternative. “Storage in salt crystals is 10 to 100 times cheaper than Li-ion batteries. Also, unlike lithium that is a scarce resource, there is plenty of salt in the sea and in the ground.”
To transfer ambient heat into ordinary salt grains, SaltX coats them in patented nanoparticles and mixes them with classified chemicals. When incorporated into a standard household heating system, the energy stored by the salts can save up to 40% of the gas that a boiler consumes. With a little engineering, the energy can also power a heat pump to chill the building in higher temperatures.
As part of the LIFE-funded SUNCOOL project, SaltX (then known as ClimateWell) pushed the green credentials of the technology to new standards by heating the salt crystals with solar power instead of gas burners.
To demonstrate the new approach, the tech firm installed 180 m2 of specially-produced solar concentrators on the roof of Löfbergs - a coffee-roasting house in Karlstad, Sweden's sunshine city. EU funds allowed SaltX to manufacture these, because they were not commercially available at the time. Initial results showed that the solar panels and salts crystals cut energy use for the building's heating and air conditioning by 90%. The LIFE project also enabled the company to calculate capital expenditure and profitability for homes, hotels and hospitals in four European countries, plus China, India, Sri Lanka and the US.
Now listed on the NASDAQ First North Premier stock exchange, SaltX's strategy is to develop, deliver and license its technology to manufacturers of energy efficient heating and cooling products around the world. Its cost effective and scalable energy storage capacity is designed to make customers’ products more energy efficient, which saves energy and thus costs for the end users. The extra expense for SaltX compared to existing solutions can be recovered in less than three years, depending on the application.
13 June 2018Camilla Zuretti, is one of the first 150 volunteers taking part in a pilot nature conservation project for the European Solidarity Corps (ESC).
A recent graduate, Ms Zuretti has always been interested in nature, and when her friends told her about the volunteering opportunity at the Choose Nature (CHOO-NA!) project she decided to get involved right away.
“My first contact with nature was when my grandfather would take me round fields on the bike and to summer camps in the mountains,” she explains. When her friends got involved with CHOO-NA! she thought “it would be interesting and give me a possibility to do something concrete as part of a bigger group.”
Based in Italy and led by the Italian BirdLife partner, LIPU, CHOO-NA! aims to help protect 11 bird species and their threatened habitats. By the end of this year, the first 150 volunteers will be joined by a further 150, who together will help guard nests, rescue birds affected by oil spills and communicate the project's messages to target audiences.
“The project aims to foster active citizenship that can promote European values among young people”, says Massimo Soldarini, head of the project volunteer office for CHOO-NA! This European dimension makes it “a completely new environmental volunteer experience,” he believes.
Ms Zuretti was drawn to volunteer at CHOO-NA! because of this collective approach to protecting the environment. As she sees it “nature needs us and we must safeguard it because we need it too. Each of us can do their part to help, starting from small activities to create a better future.”
Where CHOO-NA! has a lot to gain from recruiting enthusiastic and passionate volunteers, Mr Soldarini also sees the volunteers themselves benefitting from “the opportunity to work alongside scientists, professionals and other volunteers. They experience the work of a large environmental association, and acquire new skills that will be useful in the world of work.”
He is keen for more people to get involved in volunteering. There is a link on the project website for anyone who wants to apply.
CHOO-NA! is one of six LIFE Preparatory Projects for the ESC. More than 600 volunteers in Spain are taking part in the projects NATURA 2000 FOLLOWERS and LEWO. Some 800 more volunteers are expected to participate in the three latest ESC projects in Portugal, Italy and Italy and Hungary.
To learn more about the European Solidarity Corps, visit: https://europa.eu/youth/solidarity_en
06 June 2018“The marine environment is very important for Spain, covering one million square kilometres in diverse regions with fantastic biodiversity,” says Itziar Martin from the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment (MAPAMA), ahead of World Oceans Day this Friday (8 June).
The Integrated Project LIFE-IP INTEMARES is developing management plans for Natura 2000 network sites in Spanish waters in the North-east Atlantic, Mediterranean and Macaronesian regions, and ensuring that the plans are adopted by 2023. The project covers 10% of all Spanish marine waters - an area about the same size as Austria.
To achieve its ambitious goals, LIFE-IP INTEMARES draws on different funding for different purposes. “In particular, two EU funds, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). There are also funds from the NGO Fundación Biodiversidad, on top of the LIFE project funding,” explains Ignacio Torres, LIFE-IP INTEMARES project manager.
“The EMFF provides funds for increasing the sustainability of the fisheries sector, and for measures to improve collaboration between fishermen and scientists,” says Mr Torres. “The ESF supports training and capacity building among sea users, the creation of employment, and the promotion of entrepreneurship in the context of a blue and sustainable economy.”
The ESF is being used to diversify local economies, so that where fishing is restricted to protect biodiversity, other activities like fish tourism or marine litter fishing can fill the gap.
Overfishing, abandoned fishing gear and other waste at sea, and maritime traffic are major pressures on marine biodiversity. This makes it doubly important to actively involve the fishing industry and ship owners in planning how to manage protected areas, as LIFE-IP INTEMARES is doing.
Maritime traffic has an impact on marine organisms, for instance, on marine mammals. “We have a big issue with sperm whales colliding with ferries,” reveals Mr Torres. The LIFE Integrated Project is working with ship owners to solve this problem. “We are comparing whale movement patterns with ferry routes and are testing technologies to avoid collisions, such as the use of thermal cameras on ferry boats to identify where the cetaceans are so they can be avoided.”
Participatory workshops are also being used to address specific impacts on the marine environment caused by tourism, for instance in the Canary Islands. Antonio Sampedro is a marine biologist and the Director of Atlantic Eco Experience, a company offering whale-watching tours off the south-west coast of Tenerife. For the story of his involvement in LIFE-IP INTEMARES watch this short video. To find out more about the project as a whole, watch this special video report from LIFE.