Dublin SmarterCities Challenge event on Thursday

We’re winding things down here in Dublin and putting the final touches on our report — what an incredible experience this has been! On Thursday, we have the opportunity to share our findings from three weeks of intense interviews and site visits. We’re hoping to have a packed room on noon at Wood Quay — filled with Dublin City Council, local business leaders, university representatives and community members. We believe Dublin is ready for solar energy in a bigger way, and look forward to sharing the details. Please join us if you’re in the area!

rooftop image   solar on roofs

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Ciao ciao Baton Rouge, it’s been fun!

I’m now safely home after having spent the last 3 weeks in Baton Rouge as part of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge. It’s been an eventful few weeks; I attend my first ever American football game, tasted alligator for the first time, learned more about transportation than I ever thought possible, and interviewed more than 80 experts and influencers across Baton Rouge – politicians, city planners, traffic engineers, CEOs, mayors, pastors, and lots of Baton Rouge citizens. It’s been a whirlwind. Huge thanks to everyone that met with us and I truly wish you all the best with your city as it continues to reinvent itself and its transportation system.

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Baton Rouge in the news on BBC this morning…..

We have heard while in Baton Rouge about the St George breakaway, and that is what was on news when I switched on television this morning (yeah, I do watch bbc – I do tune in to get some news)

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29666348

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SCC Ballarat : Our Trip to the Tip

A highlight of our day today was a visit to the core waste management infrastructure in Ballarat so that we could get the context for the work we are doing for the Council.  There were three sites of importance that we wanted to visit :  a Transfer Station where waste is delivered by citizens to be sorted into different components, the recycling depot where recycling is collected prior to its transportation to a Material Recycling Facility or MRF  (pronounced “merf” for those in the know) and to the landfill which is known in Australia as a “dump” or “tip”.

Luckily it was a beautiful, if somewhat chilly, day for this adventure.  We had the benefit of the expertise of Lauren and Trevor from Council to help us learn more about these important sites.

Stop 1 :  The Transfer Station

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The transfer station allows Ballarat Citizens to dispose of the hard, green waste, recycling and rubbish in a convenient location and in a way that maximises the value from this waste.  Green waste is mulched and provided to citizens for their gardens.  There is even an opportunity to buy second hand goods that someone else has discarded.

Stop 2 : Recycling Centre

We had the opportunity to inspect the facility for collecting and aggregating all of the recycling materials on the outskirts of the city.

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STOP 3 :  The TIP

This visit has been something the team has been looking forward since the first week in Ballarat.  The sheer size and scale of the landfill was impressive and allowed us to fully appreciate the volume of waste currently in the landfill and the challenges faced by the city in developing new approaches to manage waste for Ballarat.  This site is not open to the public so we were very lucky to have the opportunity for a short tour.

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To get a good feel for the sheer size of this site, check out the landmover in the first photo.  Then try to spot it on the middle right of the second.

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We had the opportunity to see a waste to energy plant already producing electricity from the gas produced from the landfill and adding it back to the grid.

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Armed with this greater appreciation on the waste challenges and landfill – it was back to work this afternoon as we are working hard on our recommendations and presentation to the Council later this week.

For more information on the transfer station :  http://www.ballarat.vic.gov.au/ps/waste/transfer-station.aspx

Smythsdale Landfill : http://www.ballarat.vic.gov.au/ps/waste/landfill.aspx

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Ballarat : Birthplace of Australian Democracy

Even though it took place 160 years ago, the impact of the Eureka Stockade in Ballarat remains a visible influence around the city.

The Eureka rebellion is considered by some historians to be the birthplace of Australian democracy. It is the only Australian example of armed rebellion leading to reform of unfair laws. The Southern Cross flag has been used as a symbol of protest by organisations and individuals at both ends of the political spectrum.

In fact, Peter Lawlor, a leader in the stockade was the first Member of the Legislative Council in Victoria for the seat of Ballarat.  The closest pub to our accommodation is also named in his honour.

Due to a wrong turn on our trip to Sovereign Hill, we got to see the site of the Stockade the weekend before where the Southern Cross flag continues to fly.  This is also the location of the new Museum of Australian Democracy which houses the original flag.

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Last Friday, after our visit to the Art Gallery, we found ourselves in Camp Street.  So named as the place where the Miner’s camped in the city.   The Trades Hall, a place for the miners, workers & union representatives have met for the last 100 years remains a beautiful building proudly displaying the Southern Cross flag.

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http://australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/eureka-stockade

http://www.made.org/

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On Your Bike, pt. 2

There are some things in life that you just have to do more than once.  And after last weeks fun ride up into the Wicklow mountains, Javier and I had another crack at it.  This time Javier hired a better bike, from 2wheels over in Sandymount, one with gear ratios that were actually suited to hills (and that actually shifted properly!)

The plan was simple, if somewhat optimistic: we would head on up to the somewhat forbidding gate at the bottom of the dodgy service road leading up the last bit of Kippure that we rode to last time, but instead of doing the sensible thing and staying the right side of it, we would ignore the big yellow warning sign and go on up…

The Gate of Mordor (sorry, Kippure)

From the gate it is another 3.3km, climbing 220 metres or so to the radio mast on on the summit at 757 metres.  It looks gentle enough from here, right?

(At this point I should note that I’m not some kind of super cyclist; the only thing I have in common with Bradley Wiggins is that Sky would not let me cycle this year’s Tour de France for them either – but for somewhat different reasons.)

The only thing is that it was a little bit windy on the way up.  Or rather it felt like it was blowing a gale.  Days like this press home why there are currently 216 wind farms in the island of Ireland, having an installed capacity of over 2,800 MW (16.4% of Ireland’s electricity in 2013 came from wind sources).  It is a country with fantastic wind resources for energy production, although as we’ve been learning these past weeks, you can’t build a country’s renewable energy supply on wind alone – it’s too variable for a start, and with most of the generating capacity on the west side of Ireland and most of the consumption on the east, there are also transmission issues, with a proposed East-West grid causing some controversy.  This day however, it felt like you could generate Dublin’s entire electricity supply from a couple of whacking great turbines placed up on Kippure (note: this is not an official recommendation of Dublin SCC)

Despite all this, Javier and I decided that we would give it a go…

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Much like a Smarter Cities Challenge assignment, Kippure starts off reasonably hard work and then proceeds to get steadily harder with not much of a let up, until you get to the incredibly hard bit at the end that makes you realise that the start was easy in comparison.  Anyway, I digress.  Let’s just say it was a challenge, not helped by the gale force winds and a bit of rain.  But we made it.

On top of KippureWindy up top of Kippure

The second picture above is me holding my bike in the wind.  I’m not holding it at a funny angle or anything – it’s being blown that way by the wind.  I was trying hard enough to a) stay standing and b) not let go.  Still, the view was worth it, and the sun even came out:

View from Kippure 2

We didn’t hang around on the top.  The only other soul there, a walker we found huddling behind a concrete block, had already struggled off into the wind, and we were woefully ill-equipped to be standing around on top of a mountain for any length of time.  Going down was in some ways harder than going up – it was so windy we had to walk our bikes past the first few bends.  (Did I mention it was windy?)

Finally though, we got to Enniskerry.  The week before we had stopped in Poppies.  This week we chose Kingfishers Kitchen – mainly on the grounds that they had a covered terrace with big warm towels on the seats, but their coffee and pannini were excellent.

IMG_4722Javier in Kingfisher Kitchen

This time next week, we’ll be on our way home, having finished our time here, presented our findings and completed our report – so this will probably be my last chance in the foreseeable future to get out into the Wicklow mountains.  I’ll miss them; but it’s not all that far for me really – I can always come back…

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Art Gallery of Ballarat

As a short break in our hectic workday, we had the opportunity to take a tour of the Ballarat Art Gallery on Friday afternoon.  The Art Gallery is yet another example of the rich culture and history in this city and is celebrating its 130th anniversary this year.

Founded in 1884, the Art Gallery of Ballarat is the oldest regional art gallery in Australia and was the first to be built outside a capital city in the overseas dominions of the British Empire. The Gallery is the oldest and largest regional gallery in the country, housed in a heritage-listed building which is one of the oldest purpose-built galleries in the country.

To start with, the building in which the Art Gallery is housed is a beautifully restored premise built after the original goldrush.

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The art gallery contains the largest regional collection of Australian art (and the 6th largest collection in the world!) Nitin and I had the benefit of the expertise of Fiona, one of the excellent volunteer guides who support the gallery.   She even let us get up close and personal with some of the exhibits.

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The Australian collection provided a historical walk through of the early Australian art which started to capture the unique nature of the bush and our eucalyptus “gum” trees.  There is also a fantastic collection of native aboriginal artworks.

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We also got to peek behind the scenes and look at the heating and operations of the gallery.

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There is a fantastic new exhibit : EIKON which contains examples of orthodox Christian icons which is well worth the visit.  My personal favourites were the art depicting Ballarat and the gold rush and its aftermath.

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It was a great – even if rushed – afternoon.  If you are in or near Ballarat – take the time to visit the Gallery and take advantage of the guided tours from the passionate volunteers … or even the prince who greets you by the stairs.

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http://www.artgalleryofballarat.com.au/

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