Solar Powered Biofuel Service Station

One of the awesome things about watching growth in sustainability, is seeing mainstream, traditional industries such as gas stations make inroads to sustainable outcomes.  In Australia BP recently incorporated solar panels to several of their stations in Sydney, with a graphic display of energy savings and even carbon offsets they were acheiving.  This story from Oregan takes the concept one step further and shows that big companies see value in investment in these technologies, whether from an attempt to improve public perception, or perhaps from a cost benefit, environmental analysis perspective.  Either way, this article over at treehugger outlines some of the “innovative”, (I use that term loosely, as this really is inovative for a traditional industry!).

Treehugger: First Solar Powered Biofuel Station Opens

The biofuels are only part of the story behind this unique business, however. From first glance at the SeQuential retail site one can see that this is no ordinary pit stop.
The site considers the role of the automobile while integrating the belief that commerce and the natural environment can co-exist. Renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable design elements are themes throughout the site.

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Subtropical Cities Conference 2006

One fo the unique things about Australia is it’s diverse climate, and it’s neat to see Brisbane hosting the Subtropical Cities Conference for this year  – H.T. to Brisburbology.

Centre for Subtropical Design – Conference

Subtropical Cities 2006 conference aims to raise the level of public debate about achieving ecologically sustainable urbanism in subtropical settlements through attention to climate responsive design.

Looks like some interesting speakers with experience in countries such as Mexico, Thailand, South Africa, Brazil, and of course Australia.  It would be nice to see some of the papers that would be presented at a conference like this that has a particularly sustainable flavour to it.

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Freeways for Sydney?

The Sydney Morning Herald recently ran this story about the US transportation and planning expert Wendell Cox who is arguing for more freeways in Sydney to allow for greater home ownership.  (H.T. Planetizen).

Back to the ‘burbs – the case for the car – National – smh.com.au

…if inadequate public transport is not the reason, why does Sydney have such transport problems? Cox says the city needs more freeways. Of 30 urban areas in the developed world with a population of more than 3 million, “Sydney ranks 29th for lane kilometres of freeway per square kilometre. Only London has fewer. Sydney is also relatively poorly served by arterial roads.”

You can read my comments on this issue, as someone who occasionally has to navigate the back streets of Sydney to get anywhere, at Planetizen, check out the other comments about Cox’s credibility too.

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Some dubious traffic statistics questioned

An interesting traffic discussion over at Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space. Richard had a set of figures on urban traffic densities, (rules of thumb), that he realised were not applicable to the project he was looking at, a freeway…

Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space: Freeway vehicle capacity

In spouting those mode capacity figures, while talking with the people who ambled by (and being questioned about the numbers!), I realized that the vehicle capacity numbers I knew weren’t relevant to the freeway part of I-66 (or the Wilson Bridge).

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Prime Minister Announces Urban Stormwater Harvesting

Under a new plan unveiled by the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, stormwater will be harvested in urban areas around Wyong, on the Central Coast of NSW, treated and re-introduced into the water cycle to maintain natural flows and water levels in the Porters Creek wetland area. This project comes at a cost of $16M, and involves a mix of local and federal government fund. From the Prime Minister’s Website:

Harvesting Stormwater to protect the Porters Creek Wetland – 23 August 2006:

I am pleased to announce that the Porters Creek Wetland Stormwater Harvesting project on the Central Coast of New South Wales is the eighth New South Wales project to receive funding from the Australian Government?s Water Smart Australia Programme. Wyong’s population is expected to increase by 40 000 by 2025. Australian Government funding of $2.6 million toward a $16 million investment will help protect a significant wetland area in NSW from stormwater that will flow from urban development in the catchment.

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Environmentally Focused Burial

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Having just attended a funeral, and having seen the casket and burial up close, I’m fairly aware of the presentation side of the burial process. My grandfather died last week, and was buried within three days, the casket was closed during the funeral, but it made me wonder if the funeral directors had used any embalming solutions, or if natural processes were allowed to take their course.

The burial plot where my grandfather rests is under a great big eucalyptus tree on a gentle slope, his resting place is beautiful and a pleasant visiting place for our family. Certainly, we don’t often think much about our own death and what we would like to have done to our bodies. The furthest that most of us get is when we are filling out our legal will, which in the majority of cases doesn’t go so far as to specify embalming treatment, type of casket, clothing etc.

Green-burial movement gets more ambitious | By Gregory Dicum | Grist Magazine | Main Dish | 27 Jul 2006:

“I’d prefer to be put in the ground, under a tree,” says Joe Sehee, contemplating his inevitable demise. “But I don’t want to go in the ground with anything, I just want to be buried in a simple pine box or shroud, and that’s it.”

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A Brief Argument Against Stormwater Pipes

Some History

Urban stormwater systems were historically designed to move water away from built up urban areas, using big lined channels and smooth pipes to quickly and efficiently remove this water to prevent flooding and inundation. As roof areas and impervious paving increased the volume of runoff increased and the need for efficient stormwater systems was born.

In today’s regulatory environment, there is still a definite bent toward the hard engineering forms of stormwater management , particularly pits and pipes, mainly because these systems remove the water from the roads and roofs quickly, maintaining safe driving surfaces and minimised downtime of any services or routes.

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Converting Waves to Electricity

I love to hear about alternative power systems that use novel technologies or techniques to improve on existing methods of generation. I think BioPower Systems is one of those companies that has a really good idea, that needs to be heard. The technologies are pretty “simple, as they say, inspired by 3.8 Billion years of evolutionary optimisation.

BioPower Systems – Biologically Inspired Ocean Power Systems:

img_biowave.jpgBioPower Systems Pty. Ltd. is commercialising award-winning bio-mimetic ocean energy conversion technologies. We have adopted nature’s mechanisms for survival and energy conversion in the marine environment and have applied these in the development of our proprietary wave and tidal energy systems.

Our technologies inherit benefits developed during 3.8 Billion years of evolutionary optimisation in nature’s ocean laboratory.The resulting systems move and sway in tune with the forces of the ocean, and naturally streamline when extreme conditions prevail. This leads to low design thresholds and associated low costs.

The inherently simple bioWAVE” and bioSTREAM” devices are designed to supply utility-scale grid-connected renewable energy using lightweight modular systems. These systems will reside beneath the ocean surface, out of view, and in harmony with the living creatures that inspired their design.

The BioWave system mimics seaweed or kelp swaying in the current. As the wave action sways the fins back and forth, power is generated.

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