In the week that us Brits are allowed out more, it seems fitting to devote more space to the natural world, water, forestry, seagrass and even bison. On the water story, chapeau to Frazer Solar for designing a brilliant solution to solve a serious problem and to execute it really quickly (see below)

Company news

Apple unveils ‘first of its kind’ $200m forestry restoration fund
Apple has launched a “first-of-its-kind” $200m forestry fund aimed at removing “at least” one million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, promising to scale and support projects that sequester CO2, improve biodiversity and adhere to “strict environmental and social standards”.
Launched today in partnership with banking giant Goldman Sachs and green NGO Conservation International, the Restore Fund aims to demonstrate viable financial models that can help attract and scale up wider investment from businesses in forestry protection and restoration efforts worldwide, according to the firms. (businessgreen)

Polestar raises $550m
Polestar, the Swedish electric performance car company controlled by Volvo, has raised $550m from a group of long-term financial investors.
The private placement of newly issued shares marks the first time external investors have backed Polestar’s products, brand, industrial capability, financial ambitions and high growth potential.
The group of investors is led by Chongqing Chengxing Equity Investment Fund Partnership, Zibo Financial Holding and Zibo Hightech Industrial Investment. They have been joined by I Cube Capital, an arm of SK Inc., the South Korean global conglomerate, and a range of other investors. (electriccarsreport)

UK news

Good Energy invests a further £1 million into Zap-Map
Bristol-based Zap-Map is the UK’s leading electric vehicle (EV) mapping service and the investment will fund the next stage of growth and scale commercial opportunities.
Good Energy already holds a 50.1% majority stake in Next Green Car. This new investment reflects Zap-Map’s success in growing the business after Good Energy first took a stake in the business in 2019.
Zap-Map recently launched its new EV payment service, Zap-Pay, which led to a growth in registered users. The company also created new roles in senior commercial and strategic leadership, and the Zap-Map Board has identified further funding as important to grow the business. (theenergyst)

photo: Zap-Map

EV driver survey raises alarm over public charge point frustrations
Electric vehicle (EV) drivers favour contactless payment options, more transparent pricing metrics, and standardised signage for car charging in order to help build a more accessible and reliable network of charging points across the UK, the findings of a major industry survey indicate.
The poll of 1,000 EV drivers in England carried out by Electric Vehicle Association (EVA) England underscores these concerns, with respondents on average rating their level of satisfaction with the current state of public electric car charging at just 2.16 out of a maximum of five.
The survey also revealed that 92 per cent of respondents rely on England’s public charging network to power up their vehicles at least once a month, highlighting the importance of public charge points to the use of battery cars.
The results point to a number of ongoing, common challenges faced by EV drivers in England, with respondents favouring contactless card or phone app payment options at charge points over the current approach where some charge points require drivers to register online to access specific networks. A majority of respondents also called for prices for electricity sold at sites to be clearly stated as standard in terms of pence per kilowatt hour, according to the EVA. (businessgreen)

ENGIE to convert Rugeley into eco-homes
ENGIE has got the green light to transform its former coal-fired power station site in Staffordshire into a mixed-use development of 2,300 new low carbon homes and a school.
Cannock Chase District Council and Lichfield District Council have granted planning permission for the plan that will see the Rugeley Power Station site get a second life.
ENGIE plans to start with infrastructure and remediation work at the north of the development, which is where the old coal yards located.
The remediation work is expected to start in May and is projected to finish in the winter of 2022 – the cooling towers of the power station are due to be demolished on 6th June.
The development of infrastructure is set to begin in the autumn. (energylivenews)

photo: Wikimedia

World’s most powerful tidal turbine set for Orkneys operation
Tidal power generation in British waters will break another record next week, as the world’s highest rated marine turbine is set to be floated away from its Scottish birthplace, ready for installation off the Orkney Islands.
At 72 metres long and 680-tonnes displacement, the 2 MW O2 turbine has been built in Dundee by marine engineers TEXO Group, to the specifications of developers Orbital Marine Power Ltd. Around 100 jobs were created in the multi-million pound project. Each covering an area of 600 sq meters, its two rotors are the largest ever incorporated into a tidal generator. (theenergyst)

photo: Orbital Marine Power

EV of the week

Audi Q4 e-tron launched
VW certainly understand the advantage of first creating an electric platform and then designing multiple cars to be built on it. Their MEB platform spawned another two this week: the Audi Q4 e-tron and e-tron sport. The e-tron is their take on the mid-size SUV, basically a poshed up version of the VW ID.4. It slots in below the Audi e-tron and well below it on price and is a compelling proposition. Decent range and performance, plenty of room and, one assumes Audi’s renowned attention to detail on the interior (the quality of the interiorhas been criticised in the VW variant). The e-tron sport is a “fastback” version which sacrifices interior space for slippery shape pitching it against the likes of the Mustang Mach-e and Polestar 2.

photos: Audi


Eat, roam, repeat: Can the bison’s big appetite stop Spain’s forest fires?
Climate change and rural depopulation are among the factors driving an increase in Spain’s forest fires, says Mónica Parrilla, who is responsible for Greenpeace’s forest fire campaign.
At the same time, a decline in sheep herding is leaving Spain without a large herbivore to clear the undergrowth that fuels the fires.
Step forward the European bison, driven to extinction in Spain 10,000 years ago, but now growing in numbers due to a programme to reintroduce the species.
Fernando Morán, a veterinarian who is director of the European Bison Conservation Center of Spain, describes the bison as “a living strimmer”. The animals, which weigh up to 1,000kg, eat around 30kg of vegetation a day made up of about 30% wood fibre and 70% shoots and leaves.
Morán says forest engineers were impressed by the first project that began in 2010, when seven bison were released into 20 hectares of oak forest. Bison were doing the forestry work, clearing the undergrowth, even leaving straight saplings to grow while eating the bent ones, perhaps because the latter are easier to reach. Forest clearance of this type costs approximately €3,000 (£2,602) a hectare – and the bison were doing it for free. (guardian)

photo: Unsplash

France Will Ban Short Flights That Could Be Replaced By a Train Trip
If you’re planning a reasonably short trip in France, a plane will soon no longer be an option.
The French government says that flights will be banned on any route where the trip could be made on a train in 2.5 hours or less, Fast Company reports. Flights from Paris to Lyon, for example, will no longer be allowed, since the same trip can be made in two hours on one of France’s fast trains.
The government considered banning any flight that could be replaced by a train trip of less than four hours, but under pressure from airlines the government compromised and imposed the ban on trips that could be made in 2.5 hours by train. The driving force behind the ban is France’s goal of reducing CO2 emissions, and the consumer association, UFC-Que Choisir, said that imposing the four-hour limit would have had a greater impact on emissions. The organization says that a plane trip emits an average of 77 times more CO2 per passenger than taking a train on the same route. (yale360)

Focus on: Seagrass

Why the Market for ‘Blue Carbon’ Credits May Be Poised to Take Off
Off the shores of Virginia, vast meadows of seagrass sway in the shallow waters. Over the past two decades, conservation scientists have spread more than 70 million seeds in the bays there, restoring 3,600 hectares of an ecosystem devastated by disease in the 1930s. The work has brought back eelgrass (Zostera marina) — a keystone species that supports crustaceans, fish, and scallops, and is now absorbing the equivalent of nearly half a metric ton of CO2 per hectare per year.
Now, the Virginia Nature Conservancy is aiming to turn those tons into carbon credits that it can sell for cash.
The program, run by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy, is the first seagrass project in the world to apply for carbon credit certification with the Washington-based nonprofit Verra, the world’s largest overseer of carbon credit projects. “It’s proof of concept — that’s the important part here,” says Christopher Patrick, director of the VIMS seagrass restoration and monitoring program. “We’re not going to change global climate with this one project. But we can show it’s a viable approach.”
If successful, it will join a handful of other blue carbon credit projects around the world, the vast majority of which are mangrove restoration efforts — a trickle of blue that many anticipate will soon become a flood. So far, Verra has issued a grand total of just under 970,000 credits (representing 970,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalents) to blue carbon projects. But mangrove projects are now ramping up dramatically in scope, with one alone aiming to soak up millions of tons of CO2 equivalents a year. And scientists are working hard to account for the carbon in other ecosystem types — seagrasses, salt marshes, seaweeds, and seafloor sediments — so they, too, can enter the market.
The rules to allow these other ecosystems to claim credits are new. In 2015, Verra published its first methodology to give credits to tidal wetland and seagrass restoration, but only last September did Verra expand its rules to cover wetland conservation. (yale360)

photo: Wikimedia

The rice of the sea: how a tiny grain could change the way humanity eats
Growing up in southern Spain, Ángel León paid little attention to the meadows of seagrass that fringed the turquoise waters near his home, their slender blades grazing him as he swam in the Bay of Cádiz.
It was only decades later – as he was fast becoming known as one of the country’s most innovative chefs – that he noticed something he had missed in previous encounters with Zostera marina: a clutch of tiny green grains clinging to the base of the eelgrass.
His culinary instincts, honed over years in the kitchen of his restaurant Aponiente, kicked in. Could this marine grain be edible?
Lab tests hinted at its tremendous potential: gluten-free, high in omega-6 and -9 fatty acids, and contains 50% more protein than rice per grain, according to Aponiente’s research. And all of it growing without freshwater or fertiliser.
The find has set the chef, whose restaurant won its third Michelin star in 2017, on a mission to recast the common eelgrass as a potential superfood, albeit one whose singular lifecycle could have far-reaching consequences. “In a world that is three-quarters water, it could fundamentally transform how we see oceans,” says León. “This could be the beginning of a new concept of understanding the sea as a garden.” (guardian)

Chart of the week

Peak Gas closer than many expected?
Only 5 years ago in the USA there was a widely held view that Gas would replace coal as the default energy source for the nation. The fracking boom was supplying large volumes of cheap gas and renewables looked expensive and intermittent. In 2016 gas achieved number 1 status but according to Bloomberg (HERE) that pre-eminence ia likely to be short-lived as this chart from Morgan Stanley suggests:

Global stuff

Google funnels €10m into projects tackling climate change
Google’s charitable arm has outlined how it will allocate a €10m Impact Challenge on Climate funding, naming winners in fields including solar farm optimisation and regenerative farming.
On renewable energy, the fund will support Open Climate Fix, a UK-based solar forecasting service that uses machine learning and satellite to maximise generation from PV panels and help operators prepare for intermittent generation.
As for low-carbon transport, Portugal-based CEiiA has been selected. The firm provides a blockchain-based platform that rewards users for activities like cycling, walking and using public transport.
Initiatives relating to natural resources cover land and sea. will support Open Food Fact’s efforts to help businesses and individuals track and reduce the environmental impact of food and German regenerative agriculture network Climate Farmers, as well as the Finnish Snowchange Cooperative, which delivers rewilding projects. Dark Matter Laboratories’ TreesAI platform, which enables investment in trees in urban areas, has also been named as a winner.
On water, the Impact Challenge on Climate is supporting Global Water Watch, which works to improve the quality and availability of water-related data, as well as a UK-based project using digital technologies to track the Gulfstream in real-time. (edie)

Li-Cycle picks strategic US location for next lithium battery recycling plant
Canada-headquartered lithium-ion battery recycling specialist Li-Cycle will build its third facility in Arizona, joining plants the company already operates in Ontario and New York State.
Li-Cycle said yesterday in a press release sent to that it will build a commercial recycling plant which will be able to process up to 10,000 tonnes of end-of-life batteries and scrap from battery manufacturers in Gilbert, Arizona.
The company has developed a two-step process for turning any type of spent lithium-ion battery into ‘black mass’, an intermediate material containing the different metals used in cells, at its existing facilities, which it calls ‘Spokes’.
In future, that material will go from the Spokes in Kingston, Ontario, Rochester, New York and then Gilbert to feed ‘Hub’ facilities where the black mass can be processed into battery-grade materials once more. (energy-storagenews)

photo: Li-Cycle

Techie corner

Eswatini celebrates roll out of solar-heated water
In Eswatini, the southern African country which lost a prime minister to Covid-19 in December and where most people have no access to hot water, handwashing – a key weapon in the fight against the pandemic – has been a problem.
No government health clinic in the kingdom, formerly known as Swaziland, had hot running water for patients. Nine out of 10 didn’t have hot water for operations and cleaning instruments.
But in just nine months, a solar sanitation project has reversed that, bringing hot water to all 92 clinics scattered across Eswatini. “To places we’d never have dreamed would have hot water,” said Lizzie Nkosi, minister for health.
Hot water stations have been set up outside clinics with solar-powered tanks drawing cold water from the mains.
The system which was designed and installed by Frazer Solar, a German company needs no electricity or moving parts. The water from the mains is fed into the storage tank using water pressure. The coldest water flows to the bottom of the solar panel, which traps the warmth of the sun, heats the water and sends it back up to the tank in a cycle that takes the temperature of the supply to between 80 and 90C. No servicing should be required for 20 years and the system benefits about 10,000 people every day.
The project, which cost €300,000 was finished last month. At the Lobamba clinic its completion was marked with a ceremonial handwash for the cameras by Themba Masuku, the deputy prime minister who has been acting PM since the country’s leader, Ambrose Dlamini, died in December after testing positive for Covid. (guardian)

photo: Frazer Solar