In September 2015, all 193 members of the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to attain a more sustainable future globally by 2030. The 17 SDGs intersect to promote social, economic, and environmental prosperity and growth. Some of the SDGs relate directly to solar and clean energy:
SDG 7 – Affordable and clean energy
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 13 – Climate action
Private industry and the SDGs
In this current landscape, citizens look to businesses now more than ever to do their part with corporate social responsibility (CSR). In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, companies may need to step in where government policies fall short, particularly in addressing the SDGs. Earlier this year, the UN Secretary-General created the SDG Ambition initiative, which informs corporations how they can achieve all 17 sustainable goals. Asking businesses to put their weight behind SDG efforts shows that achieving all 17 goals will require substantial public and private partnerships.
The first thing that needs to be done is incentivize corporations to achieve sustainability. Offer a 100% tax credit to clean energy companies and see just how quickly goals can be met. And along with incentives, invest. Sustainable investment models have a proven impact — fiscally and socially. If private industry is expected to help achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals, they must have specific pathways cleared to do so.
Businesses must also learn to be more transparent. Those who aren’t in the clean energy space (and even for those who are) should share their carbon footprint, their waste totals, and the amount of energy used in business operations. The best way for businesses to achieve the SDGs is to change their own processes first, before addressing the rest of their community.
How iSun Energy is meeting the UN SDGs:
iSun Energy’s business processes and solar-powered products address all three of the sustainable goals highlighted above. Our solar panel carports and solar-powered benches can help transform communities and households in North America — especially in areas adversely affected by climate change. Both the carports and benches are cost-effective and lead to more considerable savings over time. And our products can be placed in both urban and rural environments, transforming how citizens live.
Our solar-powered carports can charge electric vehicles (EVs), decarbonizing cities one car at a time. The more iSun Energy solar carports installed, the more EVs will be driven in an area, cleaning the air and saving energy. And the iSun Oasis Smart Solar Bench encourages citizens to travel on foot. The smart bench also analyzes air quality data, which can help inform future policy decisions.
By encouraging the use of clean energy and offering these sustainable solutions to cities and communities, iSun Energy works to advance climate action. There is always more work to be done, but we are happy to provide clean energy solutions to address the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals by 2030.
The sharing of freedom of energy and mobility, with justice for all.
There is a term in our industry vernacular, environmental justice, which like “smart city,” means different things to different people.
The reality of environmental energy is that it takes infrastructure funding to get off the ground. It takes a will to ensure that people in disenfranchised communities benefit from the same education about clean power, the ability to witness its construction, participate in its effects, and create learning moments for their children. It takes money dedicated to doing so, whether public or private. And it needs for this to be part of the Triple ROI that we talk about at iSun Energy–particularly the i’s of impact and intention without neglecting the “i” of investment.
As we move towards a greener new deal, we must consider how to supply all people with clean energy and mobility, not just some. We must develop financial formulas and value-sets that are more equitable in how they help determine where to build clean energy and mobility projects. The generation that will take over will be more in tune with the global planet’s survival. The older generation has left them a veritable mess. We can see it in who they work for, who they promote, and who they demote. It is up to the industry not to wait for government legislation but to help craft it in a manner equitable to their stakeholders (which includes shareholders).
Investing in Change
We know change comes from investment. Yesterday’s stakeholders may have been driven by the bottom line (profits, profits, profits), but today’s and tomorrow’s stakeholders care about much more. Impact investing and CSR (corporate social responsibility) are currently at an all-time high. While investors do care about the ROI, they also care about the impact they’re creating in both a business and a community. While people may be quick to dismiss clean energy due to upfront costs, there are much more considerable savings down the line. Money that can instead go directly into the communities that need it. Our public is being fooled into believing that clean energy or vehicles are too expensive, without regard for all of the real costs to our global community from them.
In the end, without placing a value on the pollution created by a total life cycle approach (and yes, that may mean some knocks on energy materials used for solar power or electric vehicles), then how can the value be seen in a different manner than merely financial? And if we want to use financial metrics, no problem…what’s the value of damaged lungs, waterways, air? If you don’t place a value on that, how do you calculate properly? And finally, when it comes to incentives, if you give 100% tax credits for oil rigs, do the same for solar, wind, and other clean energies, and then see how the costs play out.
Simply put, environmental justice means a better, cleaner, healthier, and fairer future for everyone.
The difference between a smart city and a future-ready city is in the name.
“Smart” city implies that cities can be dumb, and this isn’t the case. A future-ready city is one that is continuously evolving, taking existing data and knowing where improvements must be made. It’s a city that knows citizens need Wi-Fi, transportation, infrastructure, energy, and everything in between, and it’s prepared to provide all that and more. There is plenty that cities can do to become future-ready, especially when it comes to building clean energy infrastructure.
Orlando, Florida is a prime example of a future-ready city. In early 2020, Orlando launched its first-ever Future-Ready City Plan in an effort “to be a center of innovation, technological advancement and resilience.” This future-ready plan is supported by the city’s past motions, including piloting autonomous vehicles (driverless cars) in 2017 and a “digital city hall” with an open-source data portal for maximum transparency. The City of Orlando should serve as a roadmap for other American cities looking to be future-ready — adopting an island mentality is not advisable. We’re all in this together.
Innovations Driving Future-Ready Cities
Cities can innovate through building codes requiring green spaces in urban environments, or placing solar panels on building roofs and parking lots to power the city’s energy grid. And with private-public partnerships, companies can provide solutions to cities for clean energy infrastructure. We can create new formulas — advertising on solar carports and smart benches can help cities afford these future-ready solutions. For example, the iSun Oasis Smart Solar Bench offers several benefits to both cities and citizens. The solar-powered bench is entirely off-grid, adding nothing to city energy costs. It has intelligent data analysis that measures the air quality, noise, humidity, air pressure, temperature, and the number of users per period, which will help cities innovate further by providing relevant data to them. The bench also features advertising space on its sides and on its wifi portal “gateway”, allowing cities to earn back a portion of ad or sponsorship revenue . And for citizens, the bench supplies USB and wireless charging and can provide 3G data wifi access. Resiliency and convenient phone charging are critical to today’s citizens and city visitors.
Incentivizing Clean Energy
Other solutions exist to help cities become future-ready. Cities can democratize and incentivize clean energy. Instead of penalizing households with solar panels, allow tax deductions. Let people generate and use their own clean energy. Placing solar panels on the roof of a home will enable citizens to control their energy usage and reduce their own environmental footprint. Offer tax credits to sustainable companies in the city – this can create green jobs and change communities. By allowing citizens to have more control, cities will begin to have clean energy infrastructure sooner than later. Becoming a future-ready city is not an easy feat. It requires a commitment to innovation, partnerships, and a constant flow of information between a government and its citizens. But creating clean energy infrastructure doesn’t have to be complicated. Several new business models can support clean energy, even in challenging urban environments, and incentivizing citizens to make changes in their own lives can go a long way. Every city in North America has the capabilities to be future-ready. It’s just a matter of getting started.
Interested in learning more about smart cities and how iSun can help develop smart cities through renewable energy and green technology? Get in touch today!
Clean mobility isn’t just for trucks and trains anymore. With transportation being the largest carbon emissions creator, we must look to create new modes of mobility. Through innovation and public-private partnerships, clean mobility expands and puts the power into people’s hands–literally.
In urban environments, micro-mobility is leading the charge. People who live in cities are within walking distance of grocery stores, coffee shops, and anything else they may need in daily life. More and more people are conscious of their health and choosing to walk. To give them a rest, some cities have begun to offer Smart Benches. Larger cities, like Los Angeles and New York, also offer low-cost bike-sharing options to citizens, while companies have fleets of electric bicycles and scooters that can take their staff on short-range trips. Micro-mobility places emphasis on the individual to make changes to their transportation routine, helped along by private and public enterprise.
For those who drive, switching to an electric vehicle (EV) is a sound choice. Many believe EVs are more expensive, but when you factor in the money spent on gas and maintenance for a gasoline vehicle, an electric one’s cost efficiency becomes clear. And as more people begin to drive EVs, more charging stations will pop up in both urban and rural environments. Those with “range anxiety” won’t have to worry about driving long distances. Our iSun Solar Canopy Carports offer sustainable, solar-powered electric vehicle charging capabilities–clean energy for clean mobility, even where there is no grid.
Clean Air Travel
Clean air travel is also attainable, though it’s a neglected area when we discuss clean mobility. The Solar Impulse Foundation, founded by Bertrand Picard, made history in 2016 with the first around-the-world trip in a solar-powered airplane.
While air travel has decreased due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this “downtime” allows major air fleets to discover new ways to fly clean. The Solar Impulse flight proved that clean air travel is not only possible, but it isn’t a faraway dream. Clean mobility solutions can be applied to any mode of transportation right now, and several electric planes have launched in smaller sized models, with initial ranges of up to 200miles.
So, as we look to the future of clean mobility, private-public partnerships will be the guiding force that moves the needle forward. If governments set a goal, businesses can help hit the objective. New government values incentivizing clean energy and transportation are needed to encourage change. By supporting sustainable business models through investments and funding, cities and countries can transform the way citizens move.
No matter what subject you’re interested in, chances are there’s a podcast out there that suits your needs. Podcasts have grown very quickly in the last decade and are an easy and effective way to share opinions and garner a following on any topic you can think of, including clean energy solutions. If you’re looking for more information about renewable energy and how you can making a difference in energy conservation and reducing your carbon footprint, here are 5 informative podcasts you should check out:
The Solar Energy Show, hosted by Barry Cinnamon, is a weekly 30 minute talk show that runs every Sunday morning at 11 AM on KLIV Radio in San Jose, and the Renewable Energy World Network. Every week Barry provides practical money-saving tips on ways to reduce your home and business energy consumption. Barry Cinnamon heads up Cinnamon Solar (a San Jose residential C-46 solar contractor) and Spice Solar (suppliers of built-in solar racking technology). After 10,000+ installations at Akeena Solar and Westinghouse Solar, he’s developed a pretty good perspective on the real-world economics of rooftop solar — as well as the best products and services for homeowners, manufacturers and installers. His rooftop tinkering led to the development of integrated racking (released in 2007), AC solar modules (released in 2009), and Spice Solar (the fastest way to install rooftop solar modules).
Solar Power World
In this podcast series, editors Kathie Zipp, Steven Bushong and Kelly Pickerel give you the opportunity to hear from the solar power industry’s biggest newsmakers in their own words.
Stora Enso’s new podcast looks at the opportunities we can create from renewable materials. Global megatrends are driving consumer and customer demand, and our future. How do renewable materials fit in this changing world? With a panel of expert guests we invite you into a lively conversation on a series of subjects close to our heart. How can we approach packaging in a sustainable way, as the consumer craving for food on-the-go rises? What are the implications? As people continue to move into the cities, how can we help meet the world’s demand for sustainable housing? What biomaterials come from a tree, and what can you do with them? Can you really make clothes from a tree? Stora Enso’s host Colm O’Callaghan meets and discusses these and other interesting topics with a variety of guests.
The Energy Gang is an energy digest produced by Greentech Media. The show features engaging discussion between energy futurist Jigar Shah, energy policy expert Katherine Hamilton and Greentech Editor Stephen Lacey. Join us as we delve into the technological, political and market forces driving energy and environmental issues.
Columbia Energy Exchange
The Columbia Energy Exchange podcast features in-depth conversations with the world’s top energy and climate leaders from government, business, academia and civil society. Hosted by Bill Loveless, the program explores today’s most pressing opportunities and challenges across energy sources, financial markets, geopolitics and climate change as well as their implications for both the U.S. and the world.
With such innovative research and design being implemented everyday across the world, new facts and promises for renewable energy becomes more and more exciting. For a fun read, check out these 10 things about solar power you probably didn’t know including a mix of scientific, historical and usage facts.
Every hour, the amount of solar energy that hits earth is enough to provide the entire human race energy for a whole year.
In about 8 minutes and 10 seconds, solar energy travels 93,000,000 miles from the sun to reach the earth.
China is the world’s leader in renewable and solar energy production and consumption. Various space programs around the world utilize solar energy to power their spaceships. The first to use solar energy were The Greeks and Romans. Designing homes with south facing windows allowed for sun to heat and light indoor spaces. 3,850,000 EJ (exajoules) is the amount of solar energy we would end up with if we added together the solar energy absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere, land and oceans. That’s about 8,000 times the amount of energy consumed in the entire world!
The lifespan of modern solar systems is about 30 years, saving you more money than any other energy source.
Residential solar systems can be offset by rebates and solar energy credits up to about 90%, hence why they really are so affordable.
Only 1% of homes in the United States utilize solar energy, though it is projected to reach between 20 – 40% over the next 10 years. Beside clouds, pollution is the only other barrier to sunlight reaching Earth.
Source: See more facts here
With ever-increasing research being done on solar power and its effectiveness, bringing the basic facts to consumers is something that easily gets dismissed. Corporations and startups sometimes forget that solar is still a pretty new concept, with limited knowledge spread across the general population. Educating prospective buyers on the facts has become a top priority in the sales process, before sellers can move forward with showing off the best features of their surprisingly affordable renewable energy option. To help break it down and really understand the facts, take a look at the 5 biggest misconceptions most energy consumers have in regards to switching their energy sources from old-school fossil fuels to new-world solar.
1 It isn’t affordable.
As technology in solar energy production advances, the price is actually declining, by roughly 10 percent each year! Experts estimate that by 2030, a fifth of the energy consumed worldwide will come from solar power – with India and China leading as prime examples.
2 Solar power is only realistic in warmer climates.
Nope! Solar panels have actually proven to be even a little more effective in cooler temperatures. What matters is that there is solar isolation, i.e. the amount of sunlight the solar cells are receiving.
3 Solar panels are not environmentally friendly.
Coal and nuclear energy aren’t exactly eco-friendly either, but that’s a whole other discussion topic. Solar panels have been found to last between 25 and 30 years, so not only are net savings beyond any other consumer energy source, but solar installers do offer recycling programs. As technology advances, so will the use of old solar panel parts.
4 “Maybe I’ll consider switching in the future. Solar panels will be more efficient as research continues.”
Yes, there are tons of organizations working on the efficiency of solar panels, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should wait to try it out. Solar technologies haven’t actually become less or more useful than they were in the 1960s. As technology gets better, we will definitely see more advances and benefits to solar energy production, but in regards to savings and pricing, change will be minuscule over the next few years. There is no loss by becoming more solar friendly now.
5 Solar panels ruin roofs.
Solar panel installers are pretty skilled at outfitting homes with solar systems – after all, it is their job! Solar panels are actually installed a few inches above the existing roof to assist with airflow and to minimize damage. Fun fact: solar panels don’t differ that much in weight in comparison to a second layer of shingles!
Last weekend in the UK, a new record was set for solar power generation, hitting a quarter of the electricity mix on the hot Friday afternoon. It seems this could be a trend for the UK and beyond, as last month’s record noted 8.7GW of solar power generated, surpassing nuclear and coal combined!
For a working week day, this is quite impressive. Solar power officially became the second most used generating technology behind gas, making up around 25% of the UK’s electricity. It’s an exciting time to see that just over 12GW of solar power in place across the UK are generating the same production capacity as eight new-generation nuclear reactors.
“This is a colossal achievement in just 5 years, and sends a very positive message to the UK that solar has a strong place in the decarbonization of the UK energy sector,” said Paul Barwell, Chief Executive of the Solar Trade Association.
The high interest in solar energy in the UK has exceeded all expectations, with panels feeding power directly into homes and across the local electricity grid. Solar is seriously cutting demand on the national system, and possibly helping the UK reach a record low this year. The National Grid’s control room has begun to observe just how significant forecasting weather patterns will be for the nation.
“We have planned for these changes to the energy landscape and have the tools available to ensure we can balance supply and demand. It really is the beginning of a new era, which we are prepared for and excited to play our part,” said Duncan Burt, a representative of the National Grid’s control room.
Although the Government closed off funding for solar projects through its Renewables Obligation scheme in 2015, developers took advantage of the grace period to roll out new sites, which they did up until Spring last year. Subsidized solar projects are no longer as necessary, since solar has become a lot more economical. It is now more possible than ever that the UK can move forward without the help of the Government for a handout.
“In energy price terms, solar is low-cost and mostly produces cheap electricity during peak demand hours from 07:00-19:00. This means at peak times it keeps down wholesale power prices, which make up around 45pc of a household bill,” said Jamie Stewart, senior power expert at market data provider Icis. Although new projects may hit a lull for the next year or two in the UK, quality innovation is happening behind the scenes. With so much to celebrate in the past five years, expect even greater things from the UK in the next five years.
Scientists at the Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee in India are investigating the potential of using fruits and fruit juices to help solar cells be more efficient and cheaper for consumers. After the researchers successfully fabricating Dye Sensitized Solar Cells (DSSCs) by extracting plant pigments from dark fruits, such as black currants, berries and plums to help DSSCs absorb sunlight, which are usually made up of titanium dioxide coated photoanode, the group is investigating future if this could be the next step for making solar panels more accessible. Although it is not as efficient as conventional silicon-based solar cells, the technology is definitely something worth exploring. “We extracted the pigment using ethanol and found that anthocyanin was a great absorber of sunlight,” lead researcher Soumitra Satapathi, assistant professor at IIT-Roorkee, told Quartz India.
As India aims to achieve its pledge of 40% renewable energy sources by 2030, these cells could have a lot of potential for the country. “Widespread availability of these fruits and juices, high concentration of anthocyanins in them, and ease of extraction of anthocyanin dyes from these commonly available fruits render them novel and inexpensive candidates for solar cell fabrication,” the study’s authors stated. Furthermore, “anthocyanins are naturally occurring biodegradable and nontoxic molecules that are extracted using techniques that involve negligible low cost to the environment and therefore can provide ecofriendly alternatives to synthetic dyes for [Dye Sensitized Solar Cells] production.” How it all started? With an abundance of plum (jamun) trees on the IIT campus, Satapathi pondered on a thought of utilizing these popular fruits, known as Fruits of the Gods in India, for Dye Sensitized Solar Cells. Looks like the Gods had big plans in store for these delicious fruits.
Elon Musk’s new master plan is out, and he’s raising the bar for Tesla Motors in a major way. In case you missed it, the quick list of goals looks like this:
We’ve already looked more closely at Musk’s ideas for expanding the Tesla brand to electric semi trucks and buses and for starting a car-sharing program. Now, let’s delve into the other two major points, solar roofs with battery storage and a safer self-driving capability.
1. One of the key components to Musk’s new plan is the pending merger of his solar company, SolarCity, with Tesla. Musk has designs on creating “a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product that just works.” In order for Tesla’s Powerwall to become more scalable and work with rooftop solar installations, Musk believes it’s vital to have Tesla and SolarCity operating as one entity. Musk says he is confident that the deal will “pass by a two-thirds majority.”
2. The new Tesla plan also focuses heavily on the safety of the car-maker’s Autopilot feature. Musk spent a portion of his update defending Tesla’s Autopilot, citing that he has no plans to disable the feature, even in the wake of a federal investigation into a fatal 2015 crash involving Autopilot. Musk points out that Autopilot is still in a “beta” stage, that the feature is always off by default, and that only once Tesla gets to the point “where Autopilot is approximately 10 times safer than the US vehicle average, the beta label will be removed.” Clearly, Elon Musk’s goals in terms of a fully self-driving car and any role that could play in his planned Tesla car-sharing program are well beyond the horizon. Many legal hurdles stand between present day and Musk’s dream of a completely autonomous, electric car, but as he showed a decade ago, it’s never to early to start putting your ideas in motion.