Infographic: Emissions Change Starts at the Top
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Infographic: Emissions Change Starts at the Top

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Infographic: Emissions Change Starts at the Top

Emissions Change Starts at Top

Some of the largest companies in America are also those leading the charge toward a more sustainable future, according to a joint report by Calvert Research, WWF, CDP, and Ceres.

Today’s infographic comes from Fortune’s Nicolas Rapp, who used this data to visualize the CO2 emissions saved by 56 of the Fortune top 100 firms. In the graphic, each company’s CO2 savings are represented by an equivalent mass of coal not burned.

Big Companies, Big Goals

Nearly half (49%) of Fortune 500 companies in 2016 set targets to increase renewable energy sourcing, improve energy efficiency, or reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

Fortune 500 Breakdown

Over the course of the year, 190 of these companies managed to report a total $3.7 billion in cost savings thanks to some 80,000 emissions-reducing projects. That’s roughly equal to the impact of taking 45 coal-fired power plants offline.

Computing Giants Using Power Responsibly

Apple has done more than any other company on the Fortune list to reduce their environmental impact, saving the equivalent emissions of 35 billion pounds of burned coal. This alone would be enough to meet the year-round power consumption needs of 9.7 million homes – more than in the entirety of New York state.

What types of initiatives are they implementing to make these kinds of efforts?

According to their 2017 Sustainability Report, 96% of Apple’s electricity comes from renewable sources, including hydroelectric and solar. The company also recently issued $1 billion in “green bonds”, the proceeds of which are to be used in eco-friendly projects. This is in addition to an existing issue of $1.5 billion of green bonds from 2016.

On the other hand, Microsoft is focused on energy efficiency, with the bulk of its work going towards improving the efficiency of data centers and buildings. As of 2016, roughly 44% of the electricity used by Microsoft data centers originates from wind, solar, and hydro energy sources.

Solar Power Shines for Big Box Retailers

Walmart, the largest brick and mortar retailer in the U.S., is also one of the biggest corporate users of solar power in the country. In 2005, Walmart’s former CEO, Lee Scott, set goals for the company’s store network to be powered entirely with renewable energy.

Though they have not met this goal yet, Walmart’s adoption of solar has reduced its energy costs per square foot of retail floor space by 9% chainwide. Other companies with large installations of onsite solar panels include Prologis, Apple, Costco, Kohl’s, and IKEA.

Are Clear Skies Ahead?

With the impending review of the Clean Power Plan’s role in American energy policy, the onus on large and powerful corporations to minimize their environmental impact is now greater than ever. Though we can already see the massive scale on which these firms have been able to improve their carbon footprints, even the equivalent of 35 billion pounds of burned coal is just the tip of the iceberg.

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Visualizing the World’s Largest Hydroelectric Dams

Hydroelectric dams generate 40% of the world’s renewable energy, the largest of any type. View this infographic to learn more.

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Visualizing the World’s Largest Hydroelectric Dams

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

Did you know that hydroelectricity is the world’s biggest source of renewable energy? According to recent figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), it represents 40% of total capacity, ahead of solar (28%) and wind (27%).

This type of energy is generated by hydroelectric power stations, which are essentially large dams that use the water flow to spin a turbine. They can also serve secondary functions such as flow monitoring and flood control.

To help you learn more about hydropower, we’ve visualized the five largest hydroelectric dams in the world, ranked by their maximum output.

Overview of the Data

The following table lists key information about the five dams shown in this graphic, as of 2021. Installed capacity is the maximum amount of power that a plant can generate under full load.

CountryDamRiverInstalled Capacity
(gigawatts)
Dimensions
(meters)
🇨🇳 ChinaThree Gorges DamYangtze River22.5181 x 2,335
🇧🇷 Brazil / 🇵🇾 ParaguayItaipu DamParana River14.0196 x 7,919
🇨🇳 ChinaXiluodu DamJinsha River13.9286 x 700
🇧🇷 BrazilBelo Monte DamXingu River11.290 X 3,545
🇻🇪 VenezuelaGuri DamCaroni River10.2162 x 7,426

At the top of the list is China’s Three Gorges Dam, which opened in 2003. It has an installed capacity of 22.5 gigawatts (GW), which is close to double the second-place Itaipu Dam.

In terms of annual output, the Itaipu Dam actually produces about the same amount of electricity. This is because the Parana River has a low seasonal variance, meaning the flow rate changes very little throughout the year. On the other hand, the Yangtze River has a significant drop in flow for several months of the year.

For a point of comparison, here is the installed capacity of the world’s three largest solar power plants, also as of 2021:

  • Bhadla Solar Park, India: 2.2 GW
  • Hainan Solar Park, China: 2.2 GW
  • Pavagada Solar Park, India: 2.1 GW

Compared to our largest dams, solar plants have a much lower installed capacity. However, in terms of cost (cents per kilowatt-hour), the two are actually quite even.

Closer Look: Three Gorges Dam

The Three Gorges Dam is an engineering marvel, costing over $32 billion to construct. To wrap your head around its massive scale, consider the following facts:

  • The Three Gorges Reservoir (which feeds the dam) contains 39 trillion kg of water (42 billion tons)
  • In terms of area, the reservoir spans 400 square miles (1,045 square km)
  • The mass of this reservoir is large enough to slow the Earth’s rotation by 0.06 microseconds

Of course, any man-made structure this large is bound to have a profound impact on the environment. In a 2010 study, it was found that the dam has triggered over 3,000 earthquakes and landslides since 2003.

The Consequences of Hydroelectric Dams

While hydropower can be cost-effective, there are some legitimate concerns about its long-term sustainability.

For starters, hydroelectric dams require large upstream reservoirs to ensure a consistent supply of water. Flooding new areas of land can disrupt wildlife, degrade water quality, and even cause natural disasters like earthquakes.

Dams can also disrupt the natural flow of rivers. Other studies have found that millions of people living downstream from large dams suffer from food insecurity and flooding.

Whereas the benefits have generally been delivered to urban centers or industrial-scale agricultural developments, river-dependent populations located downstream of dams have experienced a difficult upheaval of their livelihoods.
– Richter, B.D. et al. (2010)

Perhaps the greatest risk to hydropower is climate change itself. For example, due to the rising frequency of droughts, hydroelectric dams in places like California are becoming significantly less economical.

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What are the Benefits of Fusion Energy?

One of the most promising technologies, fusion, has attracted the attention of governments and private companies.

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General-Fusion_Benefits-of-Fusion
The following content is sponsored by General Fusion

What are The Benefits of Fusion Energy?

As the world moves towards net-zero emissions, sustainable and affordable power sources are urgently needed by humanity.

One of the most promising technologies, fusion, has attracted the attention of governments and private companies like Chevron and Google. In fact, Bloomberg Intelligence has estimated that the fusion market may eventually be valued at $40 trillion.

In this infographic sponsored by General Fusion, we discuss the benefits of fusion as a clean energy source.

The Ultimate Source of Energy 

Fusion powers the sun and the stars, where the immense force of gravity compresses and heats hydrogen plasma, fusing it into helium and releasing enormous amounts of energy. Here on Earth, scientists use isotopes of hydrogen—deuterium and tritium—to power fusion plants.

Fusion energy offers a wide range of benefits, such as:

1. Ample resources:

Both atoms necessary for nuclear fusion are abundant on Earth: deuterium is found in seawater, while tritium can be produced from lithium.

2. Sustainable

Energy-dense generation like fusion minimizes land use needs and can replace aging infrastructure like old power plants. 

3. Clean

There are no CO₂ or other harmful atmospheric emissions from the fusion process.

4. Scalable

With limited expected regulatory burden or export controls, fusion scales effectively with a small land footprint that can be located close to cities.

5. Safety advantage

Unlike atomic fission, fusion does not create any long-lived radioactive nuclear waste. Its radiation profile is similar to widely used medical and industrial applications like cyclotrons for cancer treatment.

6. Reliable

Fusion energy is on-demand and independent from the weather, making it an excellent option in a dependable portfolio for power generation.

Commercializing Fusion Energy

More than 130 countries have now set or are considering a target of reducing emissions to net-zero by 2050. Meanwhile, global energy demand is expected to increase by 47% in the next 30 years.

While renewables like wind and solar are intermittent and need a baseload source of clean energy to supplement them, fusion, when commercially implemented, could deliver clean, abundant, reliable, and cost-competitive energy. 

General Fusion seeks to transform the world’s energy supply with the most practical path to commercial fusion energy. Click here to learn more.

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