Small Energy-driven Initiatives Inspiring Smart Cities

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How Small Cities Are Becoming Renewable Energy Champions?

As per Renewables in Cities 2019 Global Status Report, in the attempt to advance renewable energy, cities around the world are driven by a broad range of objectives which include environmental, socio-economic, energy security and governance goals. 

To elaborate on the key drivers, renewable energy has the potential to reduce climate change and air pollution. For human welfare, it will eventually improve health and create more job opportunities. Places that still do not have access to electricity will be supported by renewables. Further, it will also lead to savings in energy costs and keeping the revenues limited which is part of the socio-economic goals. Enhancing energy security and governance are other main drivers for renewable change. Cities around the world are adopting renewable energy in different forms for more than one of these reasons. 

Today, we are set to discover three such initiatives that are intriguing in their own way, considering their existing challenges. 

Organic Waste Turned Into Renewable Energy 

Yabu City in Japan has established an innovative organic waste-to-biogas production facility that will use farm and food waste to convert into renewable energy through the digestion process. Organic feedstock will be retrieved from the waste streams to transform into renewable energy through anaerobic digestion. The biogas produced will then be converted into about 1.4 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity on an annual basis. The heat waste resulting from the process will be used in a greenhouse located in the close vicinity. This state-of-the-art greenhouse is actually a part of the project and is built to utilise the waste heat coming from the new plant. The operations in the facility are about to begin in 2019.

This project is being led by Canada-headed organic waste treatment plant operators and technology providers Anaergia Inc. To convert organic waste into biogas the new plant will deploy Anaergia’s advanced solid waste processing and wastewater treatment equipment. Besides, Toyo Energy Solution Co., a subsidiary of Toyo Group has made investments in the construction of the plant. 

As per the reports, the new sustainable facility will use the combination of farm and food waste and treat with a wide range of advanced equipment. This includes Anaergia’s proven manure feeding system and its BIOREX system that extracts organics waste from the unsorted waste, as well as other proprietary resource recovery and treatment equipment.

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Wastewater generated by the plant will also be converted into renewable energy by using anaerobic digestion. The aim is to reuse water quality standards using next-generation membranes from Anaergia’s Fibracast subsidiary. 

As per Dr Andrew Benedek, CEO of Anaergia Inc., the deployment of superior technologies in the plant will serve as a model for others who are seeking innovative and flexible solutions to waste management and renewable energy production that improve the economic aspect and also have a positive impact on the environment. 

A Village Producing 500% More Energy Than It Needs 

How Wildpoldsried, a Bavarian Village Harnessing Renewable Energy?

Wildpoldsried, a Bavarian village of about 2600 residents in Germany generates 500% more renewable energy than actually, it needs. The profits gained from the sales of the remainder are powered back to the energy grid. 

But all this has not happened all of a sudden. The village has been investing in a wide range of renewable energy projects from past 18 years including 4,983 kWp of photovoltaics, five biogas plants, 11 wind turbines and one hydropower system. In addition, the municipality is also home to 2,100 sq m of solar thermal systems and multiple residential and municipal biomass heating systems. Five private homes are heated by geothermal systems and new buildings are constructed using Passivhaus techniques. Next, it is likely that people see electric cars moving around. 

It began in 2019 when the village pledged towards green energy after the city council crafted a document named “Wildpoldsried Innovativ Richtungsweisend” meaning Wildpoldsried Innovative Leadership. This document aimed at encouraging development and investment in new community facilities without catching debt. It involved three areas of focus: 

  • Renewable Energy and Saving Energy; 
  • Ecological Construction of Buildings Using Ecological Building Materials; and 
  • Conservation of Water and Water Resources (above and underground) and Ecological Disposal of Wastewater.  

Following the areas of focus, Wildpoldsried endeavoured to produce 100% of electricity from renewable energy sources. The initiative progressed much faster than anyone had anticipated. By 2011, the town was already producing 321% of electricity and making $5.7 million in payments for the remainder.  

The spectacular efforts shown by the residents of Windpoldsried is an inspiration for the world that a lot can revolutionise on a local level when municipalities and residents determined to deal with a challenge alone. 

A Stand For Energy Security 

This initiative sparked in the neighbourhoods of Highland Park in Michigan when the lights went off on the street suddenly. The company supplying power to the area reclaimed streetlight to settle the city’s debt. The residents of Highland Park refused to stand idle and came up with their own efforts to lighten the streets using off-grid renewable energy. 

Owing to the industry departure that impacted the tax base in the Detroit suburb, the city was left indebted to the monopoly of the utility company DTE energy. Without any prior notice, the company pulled the power from a thousand streetlights from residential areas. It left the residents in trouble while outside at night. 

As per reports, the residents came with the renewables idea to stop this from repeating. They aimed to become independent. Hence, through community crowdfunding, the residents were able to install their first off-grid solar street light in 2012. To take the initiative further and install more streetlights, a group called Soulardarity was found. 

With the local fundraising and a partnership with the 100% project, Soulardarity installed seven solar lights in the neighbourhood. The project began attracting cost savings which encouraged the group to make bigger strides. 

As a result, it came up with a proposal named “Let There Be Light” which highlighted the benefits of lighting streets independent of DTE. It found that by replacing conventional streetlights with solar ones, the city could make three million dollars in about 15 years. 

In fact, the benefits were not limited to cost savings, it contributed to reducing carbon emissions and generating job opportunities which are important to bring stability in the community. 

As the vision gained momentum, Soulardarity committed to ‘Energy Democracy” as their mission where each individual has its own right. 

DTE Energy found a loophole to install their street lights again by giving a receipt to the mayor and encouraging the city to reinvest in the costly infrastructure that was removed. Again, DTE began fixing utility-owned streetlight back in, without disclosing it to Highland Park residents. 

Although this was disappointing for the group Soulardarity, it came with another project called “PowerUp Program” that supported the installation of over 100 solar lights through group purchasing. 

Now, the group is looking at adopting other renewables apart from solar. The group Soulardarity has a few workers so it aims to work really hard and simultaneously adopting real steps to move forward with a more democratic system.

The residents-led solar energy project that took birth in Highland Park is a clear example of how people can take a stand to become energy secure.