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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

166) The “25 Euro Silver-Niobium Coin Series”: 2003- onwards (viii) minted by the Austrian Mint: Eighth Coin in the Series: “Renewable Energy”” (2010):

166) The “25 Euro Silver-Niobium Coin Series”: 2003 onwards (viii) minted by the Austrian Mint by using Niobium and Niobium metal insertion technology for the first time anywhere in the World of Numismatics:

Eighth Coin in the Series: “Renewable Energy”” (2010):

Renewable Energy:

Categories of Renewable and Non-Renewable Resources:

There are nine major categories of Energy resources, which fall into two categories – renewable and non-renewable.

 The Renewable Energy Resources are replenished naturally and over relatively short periods of time. These include – solar, wind, water or hydro, biomass, biofuels, hydrogen derived renewable resources and geothermal resources.

On the other hand, Non-renewable Energy Resources comes mainly from fossil fuels which include – coal, nuclear, oil and natural gas which are available in limited supplies.

Why Renewable Energy Resources?

a)Limited amounts of Fossil Fuels leads the advancement of Renewable energy resources:

Since ancient times, humans have been using renewable resources of energy, for ex., wood for cooking and heating, wind and water for milling grain and solar energy for lighting fires.

About 200 years ago, humans have created the technology to extract energy from ancient fossilized remain of plants and animals. These super–rich, but, limited resources of energy (coal, oil and natural gas) have quickly replaced wood, wind, solar and water as the main sources of energy. Fossil fuels make up a large portion of present day energy market although promising new renewable technologies are emerging. However, fossil fuels contribute greatly to global climate change by releasing carbon dioxide into the air when they are burned.

A world-wide hunt goes on for new fossil reserves, nevertheless, scientists are looking for more efficient ways to use the fuel which mankind already has. An even greater challenge is the search for entirely different sources of energy which will be needed to sustain the expanding populations and complex technologies of the future.

 With the world’s consumption of fuel energy increasing at an astronomical rate , man is overtaxing the organic fuel resources that he depends upon so heavily now – coal, petroleum, wood & Agricultural waste etc. The use of these fuels in the last century or so, almost quadrupled from the total used during the preceding 2000 years.

For several reasons, from the limited amount of fossil fuels available, to their effect on the environment, there is an increased interest/awareness for using renewable forms of energy.

Renewable energy replaces conventional fuels in four specific fields – electricity generation, hot water/space heating, motor fuels, and rural (off-grid) energy services. At present about 25 % of the entire energy consumption world-wide comes through renewable energy resources.

While renewable energy resource projects can be large scale, they are ideally suited to the rural areas as well.

Since renewable energy sources do not harm the environment and will not run out, there is an urgent need to switch over to these resources. The catch – many of these resources are currently expensive to harness and are inefficient. As such, there is an increased focus on developing technologies to increase their efficiency.

b) Climate Change and Global Warming:

Climate change and global warning concerns, together with continuous depletion of non-renewable resources have made it imperative that alternate renewable resources should be increasingly used.

There is an urgent need to use 100% renewable energy for electricity, transport, as well as, for the primary energy requirements world-wide to combat the threat of global warming and other ecological and economic concerns.

Over half the current natural disasters in the World, particularly in the developing countries, are on account of climate change. For example, the Himalayan glaciers, a source of water to millions of people in India and China are fast disappearing, resulting in an ecological imbalance.

 It is estimated that if the nocturnal temperature rises by 1 degree Centigrade in South East Asia, the rice yield will drop by at least 10%. The emission of greenhouse gases by polluting power plants, transport and industry are among the main contributors to the rapid warming of the Earth.

 The Arctic ice-cap is fast disappearing, threatening the extinction of the wildlife there like, polar bears and penguins etc. The only way to reduce the use of fossil fuels is to switch to renewable energy resources.

In 2013 alone, the Global Carbon emission was about 9.9 billion tonnes (i.e. 61% more than 1990) – contributed mainly by – China 28%, USA 14%, EU 10% and India 7%. 

World-wide concern gets countries to discuss Climate Change:

In 1979, the First World Climate Conference took place to discuss ways to address growing concerns regarding Pollution levels affecting the ozone layer.

In 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set up.

In 1990, IPCC’s first assessment report was released calling for a global Treaty on Climate change.

In 1992, The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was set up to strategise on limiting “average global temperature increases” and “climate change”.

In 1994, the Conference of Parties (COP) was set up.

In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol bound developed countries to emission- cutting targets.

In 2005, the Kyoto Protocol targets effectively came into force.

In 2014, SAARC countries which are part of one or more negotiating groups under UNCCC have come together to form pressure groups to represent SAARC in climate talks.

At the COP, under the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), every country is required to declare goals of adaptation and emission cut measures by 2015. India will announce its INDCs in June 2015. India’s INDCs will have a commitment period of 15 years beyond 2020.

 Also, every country has to announce its peaking year. For example, Beijing has announced its peaking year as 2030 – meaning that China’s emissions will start declining only after 2030.

Emissions of Carbon Dioxide and other gases that trap solar heat and cause climate change are continuing without significant change leading to increasing extreme weather events such as cold spells, heat waves, floods, droughts etc. Scientists are apprehensive that the situation will get worse if nothing is done to stop runaway emissions. Every country agrees that global temperature should not be allowed to to rise more than 2 degrees C above the pre-industrial average by the year 2100. However, the emission rate shows little signs of abating and this target now seems impossible to achieve. Countries keep debating on who should cut down how much emission at every Conference, however each country is concerned about striking a balance between their short-term National interest and long term global interest. As a result, very little is achieved at these Cimate Change conferences, while the planet’s eco-balance are getting alarmingly strained.

Some recent International disasters/extreme aberrations on account of climate change:

In India, the Uttarakhand flash floods and Phailin supercyclone wrecked havoc of gigantic proportions. In the first week of January 2013, New Delhi had a temperature of 1.9% C, the lowest in 44 years.

In the USA, intense heat wave struck, with temperatures in places like California reaching 50 degree C. On 30.06.2014, the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth was 54 Degree C. in California’s Death Valley. A state of Emergency was declared in New England and New York in February 2014, when Winter Storm Nemo, a powerful blizzard hit NE USA and parts of Canada causing heavy snowfall and hurricane-force winds. Total snowfall in Boston reached 24.9 inches, fifth highest ever recorded in the city.

The destruction caused by the Tsunamis which hit Indonesia, Japan and the Eastern Coast of India is still too well etched in public memory.

In Brazil, heavy rains triggered floods & landslides in December 2013. The city of Aimores received over 400% of its average December rainfall.

In Europe, extreme flooding in Central Europe affecting Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Serbia etc. took place. For several days in July temperatures soared over 40 degrees C. Australia too recorded the warmest year while New Zealand faced its third hottest year since 1909.

In Russia, during August 2014, more than 140 towns were affected by the worst floods in 120 years.

Major Renewable Energy Resources:

Solar Energy:

As fossil fuel supplies are dwindling, there is an increased interest in one of the most readily available fuel sources of all: sunlight.

Delivered in payloads of enormous magnitude, sunlight provides us every two days with energy equal to all our remaining fossil-fuel reserves. Nevertheless, to turn it into an effective power source, it needs to be gathered and concentrated as in the case of solar furnaces.

 “Solar Energy” or “energy from the sun” is harnessed using solar collectors. This collected energy can be used to provide heat, light or electricity. However, the technology needed to collect and use solar energy is relatively expensive. Also, solar energy can be effectively collected during the day when it is sunny. Solar energy is being used not only for solar heating and in photovoltaics, but also as concentrated solar power, solar architecture and artificial photosynthesis.

Solar technologies can be active or passiveactive solar technologies generate solar thermal energy using solar collectors for heating and solar power by converting sunlight into electricity either directly using photovoltaics (PV) or indirectly using concentrated solar power, while passive solar techniques include, orienting a building or solar arrays towards the Sun.

Also, darkness and bad weather can cause constant interruptions in the reception of the Sun’s regular energy broadcast. For this reason, compact solar batteries work well in space satellites where they are positioned to constantly face the Sun.

Some Solar Energy driven uses:

a)   Solar charging:

Mobile phones can be charged using solar batteries which can also be used for TV viewing, mobile banking etc.

b)   Solar PV systems:

This resource now provides electricity to millions of households. Today miro-hydro power generation configured into mini-grids serves many households. Many photovoltaic power stations have been built across the World. The Agua Caliente Solar Project (USA), the Charanka Solar Park (India), Golmud Solar Park (China) are some such examples. Photovoltaic power driven stations are very popular in Germany and Italy. Many of these plants are integrated with agriculture and some use tracking systems that follow the sun’s daily path across the sky to generate more electricity than fixed-mounted systems. There are no fuel costs or emissions during operation of the power stations.

c)   Solar Home systems:

Solar lightning, solar heating for heating homes, water slowly becoming the norm. In India, using solar powered batteries/lights and for heating water etc. is encouraged/incentivised by the municipalities who levy a lower Annual Property Tax on Households using solar energy for household requirements.

Solar hot water is used mostly in China which generates about 70% of its requirements in this fashion.

In many countries, these solar heating systems are installed in multi-family apartment buildings.

d)   Artificial Photosynthesis:

This process uses techniques including nanotechnology to store solar electromagnetic energy in chemical bonds by splitting water to produce hydrogen and then using carbon dioxide to make methanol.

Molecular variations of the photosynthesis process have been experimented upon that utilise a wider region of the solar spectrum.

e)   Agro-Processing:

Processing of Agricultural products such as maize or coffee milling is energy intensive which requires enormous energy consumption. New renewable technologies, for example, solar food dryers, milling machines can substitute fuel driven generators with clean technologies.

Wind Energy:  For centuries windmills have been used to pump water from the ground. Presently, this technology has been transformed into using tall aerodynamically built wind turbines that use the wind to generate electricity. Many wind turbines are generally placed together in wind farms which are being set up in areas where winds are stronger and relatively more consistent, such as off-shore and high altitude sites.

This technology does not produce any waste or pollutants and takes little ground space.

 However, wind turbines can disturb or kill flying creatures, like birds. Also, wind is not reliable and constant everywhere.

Globally, the long-term technical potential of wind energy is assessed to be five times the total present global energy production or about 40 times the current electricity demand.

Water or Hydro-power Energy: When water is used to generate electricity it is called hydroelectric power or hydropower. As water is about 800 times denser than air, a moderate flow of water has the potential to generate a considerable amount of water energy/ electricity.  Most hydropower plants use a dam on a river to create a reservoir to store water. As water is released from the reservoir, it flows through a turbine and causes it to spin. This activates a generator that produces electricity. Hydropower is relatively inexpensive and leaves no harmful chemicals, however, dams can destroy habitats near rivers. Dams can also prevent the migration of fish.

The largest such example in the World is the “Three Gorges Dam” in China and a smaller example is the “Akosombo Dam” in Ghana (which we saw during our visit to Ghana in February 2013). Presently, more than 150 countries are using hydro-electric power.

Tidal Power Projects:

In 1930, Franklin Roosevelt floated the idea of using water resources in Tidal Power Projects – The tide wells in from the Sea and ebbs away in a 12 hour cycle, moving millions of tons of water as it rises. The Passamaquoddy Tidal Power Project based on Roosevelt’s concept to generate about 3 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in the 1930s was restarted in the 1970s. However the Tidal Power Project lost out to political considerations leaving the project as one of the “unfulfilled dreams of Tidal Power”.

On the other hand, in France, the Tidal Power station, on the river Rance on the Brittany coast began producing electrical power in 1966 and was the World’ first successful tidal-powered electric plant, which is presently operated by “Electricite de France”. The recently set up South Korean Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Station is another such example of harnessing tidal power successfully.


Decentralised renewable energy power generation distributed through mini-grids, instead of traditional grid-connected generation is an important contributor to solving the energy access challenge. Mini-grids typically deliver electricity produced at a centralised point through solar, wind or hydro or biomass gasification.

Geothermal energy:

Geothermal energy is cost effective, reliable, sustainable and environment friendly. It can be applied to home heating, opening a potential for widespread exploitation. Geothermal wells release greenhouse gases trapped deep within the Earth, but these emissions are much lower per energy unit than those of fossil fuels. Consequently, geothermal energy has the potential to help mitigate global warming vis-a-vis fossil fuels.

As long ago as 1904, Italian engineers in Lardello, Tuscany happened upon a means of manufacturing cheap electric power which remains a promising reserve of energy for the future. The source of this energy was steam created deep underground by Earth heat which gushes from specially drilled wells and is diverted to drive turbo-generators. The Lardello Resource could produce over 2000 million kilowatt hours of power a day – enough to operate Italy’s Railway system in the 1970s & 1980s. In Iceland, Earth steam was used to heat people’s homes, in Kenya to hatch eggs and in New Zealand and California as a source of electric power.

Geo-thermal power plants have been set up in USA and Spain, with the largest being a power plant set up in the Mohave Desert. The world’s largest geothermal power installation is “the Geysers” in California.

Domestic Biogas:

Domestic biogas provides a sustainable way for individual households with livestock to reduce dependence on firewood and expensive fossil fuels. A biogas digester converts the dung into biogas that can be used for cooking and lighting. The slurry left over from this process is also an excellent organic fertiliser that can be used to improve crop yields. Domestic biogas has several benefits. People save time and money by not collecting and cooking with firewood or burning charcoal, fossil fuels and chemical fertilizers. This results in reduced deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions as well as improved public health, as indoor air pollution is a majpr cause of illness and fatalities.

Several people are exposed to toxic fumes from cooking fuels and kerosene lanterns, resulting in chronic eye and lung diseases, which can be avoided through cleaner fuels, efficient cookstoves and solar energy based products.

Domestic Biogas and clean cooking stoves contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

 Biogas can be used as a source of energy for large scale businesses, especially where there is an available supply of waste organic material for example, in a livestock operation or agricultural business. The gas may be used to provide process heat or to generate electricity.

Clean cookstoves:

Now a little less than half the world population cook their food every day over an open fire or on a crude cook stove using solid fuels like wood, coal, crop residue and animal dung. A wider range of improved and energy efficient cookstoves, biomass briquettes and biogas, with more efficient fuel usage and fewer emissions of noxious fumes that cause air pollution have been devised, however their efficiency rates, cleanliness and lifetimes vary as does their pricing. These equipments are making a positive impact on the environment.


Ethanol is a clean burning fuel suitable for domestic cooking uses.

Brazil has one of the largest renewable energy programmes in the World, involving production of ethanol fuel from sugar-cane which now provides almost 20 % of the country’s automotive fuel. Since the 1970s, Brazil has evolved an Ethanol Fuel Programme, which has resulted in the country becoming the world’s second largest producer of ethanol in the world. Brazil’s ethanol fuel programme uses modern equipment and cheap sugarcane as feedstock and the residual cane-waste s used to produce heat and power.

 USA also uses a small percentage of ethanol fuel.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas:

Liquefied Petroleum Gas is a clean burning fuel widely used for cooking in middle class households.

Biogas/Biomass/Biofuel/Transport Fuels:


Renewable biofuels are now substituting oil consumption worldwide. The production of biofuels today is a little over 5% of the world gasoline output and is steadily increasing.

Biofuels are derived from plants and other organic wastes and can be used in mechanised milling and small-scale electrification systems. They can be used in certain cases for transport, reducing carbon emissions and have a significant potential as a cost-effective option.

Millions of households are using biogas made in house-hold-scale digesters for lighting and cooking purposes.  A new generation of more efficient biomass cookstoves have provided households with a viable alternative.

Biomass is biological material derived from living or recently living organisms. It is most often referred to plant-derived materials which are specifically called lingo-cellulosic biomass. As an energy source, biomass can be used directly through combustion to produce heat or indirectly after converting into different forms of biofuel – thermal, chemical and biochemical. Wood is the largest biomass energy resource today – tree stumps, branches, dead trees, etc.

Carbon-neutral and negative fuels:

These are synthetic fuels, including methane, gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel or ammonia, which are produced by hydrogenating waste carbon dioxide recycled from power plant flue-gas emissions, recovered from automotive exhaust gas or derived from carbonic acid in sea-water. These fuels are carbon neutral and do not result in atmospheric pollution.

Synthetic fuels consumption is subject to “carbon capture” at the flue or exhaust pipe, as such, they result in negative carbon dioxide emission and net carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere, thus, they constitute a form of greenhouse gas remediation. Such renewable fuels alleviate the costs and dependence on fossil fuels.

There is an interesting variation which we use in our Bird-watching trips in which we go walking on foot to the birding areas, without using our vehicles, so as to have zero pollution contribution on the entire trip, not to mention having a healthy walk/excursion.

The 2010 “25 Euro Silver-Niobium Coin”:

The Commemorative coin titled “Renewable Energy”:

This coin has been inspired by the living, breathing plant process. 
 On the Obverse of the coin, a tree has been placed at the centre, representing all of Earth’s vegetation in the Niobium core. The deeply rooted tree is a symbol of a healthy ecosystem.

A gust of breeze (the Element of Wind) blows the tree’s leaves down to the ground in a spiral (the Element of Earth). In the background of the tree is represented a stylized shining Sun its rays/beams acting as the life-giving energy (the Element of Fire). If one looks closely, the leaves of the tree seem to be shining in the sun-light on the angles where the sunlight falls on them, leading to Oxygen generation through the process of photosynthesis, which is essential for sustenance of human life on Earth. On the lower periphery of the silver ring is depicted a stream of water flowing/gushing in a torrent (the Element of Water). Thus the imagery on this face reflects/completes the life-giving cycle/process of the four elements – Earth, Wind, Fire and Water.

 In the outer Silver ring is also, mentioned the name of the country “Republik Osterreich” (meaning the “Republic of Austria”) and the denomination of the coin “25 Euro”. Also mentioned on the silver ring is the year of issue “2010”.

The colour of the Niobium core on this coin is blue.
On the Reverse of the coin, all four elements – i.e. Wind, Water, Earth and Fire which are also represented in the design on this face of the coin, depicted by the contemporary modes of renewable energy used to harness them. “Water” drives one type of turbine, “Wind” another, the sun’s rays are captured by solar panels and geothermal heat sources in the earth are recovered in the form of steam. The imagery is simply outstanding. The Windmill spills over into the Silver ring on the upper left periphery, the solar panels are completely engraved on the outer silver ring on the right periphery. There is a source of water flow on the right hand periphery of the silver ring with the flow of water driving the water turbine. On the left periphery are depicted raindrops falling downwards shown by a down pointing arrow and the water going up in steam represented by an upward pointing arrow, again in the silver outer ring.

On the lower periphery is mentioned in “ERNEUERBARE ENERGIE” (meaning “Renewable Energy”).  

The specifications of the coin are:

Face value: 25 Euros; Metallic composition: Outer ring: Silver (Ag) 900 – 9 gms, Niobium 998 – 6.50 gms; Diameter: 34 mm; Weight: 16.50 gms; Edge: smooth.
The mintage of this coin was limited to a maximum of 65000 pieces.

The following coins have been issued in this Series:

2003 – 700 years old city hall in Tyrol or Tirol.

2004 – 150 years Semmering Alpine Railway

2005 – 50 years of Television

2006 – The European Satellite Navigation

2007 – Austrian Aviators

2008 – Fascinating Light

2009 – Year of Astronomy

2010 – Renewable Energy Sources.

2011 – Robotics

2012 – Bionics

2013 – Drilling tunnels

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