For 107 hours, Portugal didn't need any fossil fuels. Here's how they did it.

Can you remember where you were from 6:45 a.m. May 7 to 5:45 p.m. May 11?

A lot happened during those 107 hours. The bison became our new national mammal. President Barack Obama announced that he would be the first sitting president to visit Hiroshima. Attorney General Loretta Lynch delivered a soul-stirring condemnation of North Carolina's discriminatory HB2 bill.


U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Something pretty wild happened in Portugal during that time too. For those 107 hours, Portugal was a completely renewable country.

Photo from Miguel Riopa/AFP/Getty Images.

For just under five days, Portugal generated all of the electricity it needed from completely renewable sources. Fossil fuels still burned for other stuff — cars, for instance — but for those magical 107 hours, 100% of their electricity demand was covered by renewables.

The news comes from a report by the Portuguese Renewable Energy Association and Zero, a renewable energy association. In 2011, the country performed a similar feat but only for a few hours.

Part of what's really cool is that Portugal isn't tied to just one clean energy technology. It's trying a lot of different ones.

A wave power machine in near the Portuguese town of Povoa de Varzim. Photo from Joao Abreu Miranda/AFP/Getty Images.

As of 2015, about 22% of the country's electricity is coming from wind power alone, but Portugal also uses hydroelectric, wave, geothermal, and solar power as well as biofuels (which are the renewable cousins to fossil fuels).

What might be more impressive is how quickly Portugal's renewable energy sector has grown.

In 2013, Portugal got about 26% of its energy from renewables. By 2015, that had grown to more than 50%.

A solar power plant in Serpa, Portugal. Photo from Ceinturion/Wikimedia Commons.

How did they do it so fast? Portugal's government has invested in renewable energy like crazy. Portugal has been giving renewable energy producers guaranteed prices and payments as well as picking up a lot of the new infrastructure check.

Yes, this has left a considerable deficit for the government to deal with, but it says it has plans to eliminate it.

Portugal's not the only country with an impressive record in renewable energy lately. Take Denmark, for example.

Denmark's amazing at wind power. In fact, one particularly windy day last year generated 140% of the country's electricity needs.

Danish Queen Margrethe visits a offshore wind farm in 2013. Photo from Henning Bagger/AFP/Getty Images.

In fact, tons of countries are getting in on this. Germany recently generated so much renewable energy consumers were actually paid to use their electricity. In 2014, Latvia, Austria, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland also generated the majority of their electricity need from renewables.

Renewable energy is happening. Fast. And America can do this too.

The United States still gets the vast majority of its electricity from nonrenewable resources, particularly coal and natural gas, but with the right programs, it's estimated we could provide as much as 80% of our energy needs through renewables by 2050.

Portugal didn't use magic to make its record 107-hour run happen. That success was based on political will, investment, and readily available technologies — stuff we can, and should, start doing today.

Heroes

Image by Brent Connelly from Pixabay and sixthformpoet / Twitter

Twitter user Matt, who goes by the name @SixthFormPoet, shared a dark love story on Twitter that's been read by nearly 600,000 people. It starts in a graveyard and feels like it could be the premise for a Tim Burton film.

While it's hard to verify whether the story is true, Matt insists that it's real, so we'll believe him.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

"Clay's tallest story" is one we should all stop to listen to, no matter how much we think we know about mental health. What starts off as a forgettable fishing video quickly turns into a powerful metaphor about mental health.

What would you do if an unexpected gust of wind pushed your boat out to sea? You'd call for help. It's so obvious, why would anyone think differently? But when it comes to our mental health, things often appear so much more unnecessarily complicated. Thanks for the reminder, Clay!


Clay’s Tallest Story www.youtube.com

Heroes
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Approximately 10% of the population is left-handed, and the balance between lefties and righties has been the same for almost 5,000 years. People used to believe that left-handed people were evil or unlucky. The word "sinister" is even derived from the Latin word for "left."

In modern times, the bias against lefties for being different is more benign – spiral notebooks are a torture device, and ink gets on their hands like a scarlet letter. Now, a new study conducted at the University of Oxford and published in Brain is giving left-handers some good news. While left-handers have been struggling with tools meant for right-handers all these years, it turns out, they actually possess superior verbal skills.

Researchers looked at the DNA of 400,000 people in the U.K. from a volunteer bank. Of those 400,000 people, 38,332 were southpaws. Scientists were able to find the differences in genes between lefties and righties, and that these genetic variants resulted in a difference in brain structure, too. "It tells us for the first time that handedness has a genetic component," Gwenaëlle Douaud, joint senior author of the study and a fellow at Oxford's Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, told the BBC.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Pete the Plant is a maidenhair fern living in the Rainforest Life exhibit at the London Zoo, but Pete the Plant isn't like other plants. Pete the Plant is also a budding photographer. Scientists in the Zoological Society of London's (ZSL) conservation tech unit has been teaching the plant how to take selfies.

The ZSL held a competition in partnership with Open Plant, Cambridge University, and the Arribada Initiative for the design of a fuel cell powered by plants. Plant E in the Netherlands produced the winning design. The prototype cell creates electricity from the waste from the plant's roots. The electricity will be used to charge a battery that's attached to a camera. Once Pete the Plant grows strong enough, it will then use the camera to take a selfie. Not too bad for a plant.

"As plants grow, they naturally deposit biomatter into the soil they're planted in, which bacteria in the soil feeds on – this creates energy that can be harnessed by fuel cells and used to power a wide range of conservation tools," Al Davies, ZSL's conservation technology specialist, explains.

RELATED: This plant might be the answer to water pollution we've been searching for

Keep Reading Show less
Innovation