Understanding Pollution: The Benefits of Water Power

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Water is the most precious resource on the planet, but it doesn’t just sustain our lives; it can also give us power.  That’s right, water, of which 71% of the planet is covered[i], can be a source of electric power.  In fact, water was one of the earliest sources of power in use by civilization.  If we truly needed another reason to worry about our world’s water supply, I think the fact that it keeps the lights on should definitely be considered.  Water power, or hydroelectric power as it’s called today, is one of the oldest forms of power generation in the world, it is a sustainable form of power, and it is an economically beneficial form of power.

Water power 1

The water mill is the earliest form of water based power generation in the world.  It was first created in the first century B.C., and by the 19th century it is estimated that there were over 20,000 mills in Europe alone.[ii]  How water mills work is very simple.  The flow of water turns a large water wheel which is connected to a wooden or metal shaft.  As the water turns the wheel, the shaft is moved and powers whatever machinery it is connected to.[iii]  Water mills have been used to grind grain, and power timber cutting saws in the 1800s, and the first hydroelectric power plant was created at Niagara Falls in 1879.[iv]  In the 2000 plus years since the invention of the water mill, there has been no reason to change how the water mill works, and in fact that is basically how hydroelectric power plants function.  Water runs through a turbine forcing it to turn, and as the turbine turns the shaft connected to the turbine is moved which, you guessed it, generates electrical power.[v]  Today, just as in the past, people recognize the simplistic beauty of hydroelectric power, and it accounts for roughly 1/5 of the world’s entire electricity production.[vi]  Hydroelectric power truly fits the old adage that “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”  For something that is so simple, so common, and so useful you would think that more people would be aware of its existence as a viable source of alternate energy.

Aside from the availability of water to power hydroelectric plants, there are a host of other benefits associated with it.  The first major advantage of hydroelectric power is that it is renewable.  As mentioned earlier, 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by water, and all you need is water and a turbine in the right place to create power.  As long as there is water, there could be power if the right infrastructure was created, and in fact some of that infrastructure already exists.  65.9% of renewable energy production in the United States is from hydroelectric plants.[vii]  All told, it accounts for 7% of all electricity generation in the United States, and 20% worldwide.[viii] Something unique about this type of power generation is that the amount of power created can be varied simply by changing the speed at which water is run through the turbine.[ix]  Oh, and how could I forget the two biggest benefits of hydroelectric?  Number one is that it doesn’t use fossil fuels which means there is no greenhouse gas emission.  Number two, there is no pollution created whatsoever from the use of this form of electricity generation![x]

Water power 2

There are also economic benefits, other than cheaper electricity, that come from hydroelectric power.  First, the industry currently employs 300,000 people, and it is estimated that it could employ 1.4 million people by 2025 if the industry continues to expand.[xi]  Remember that most of the dams and hydroelectric power stations in the country were built in 1930 under the New Deal.[xii]  Perhaps it’s time to upgrade and expand that infrastructure.  Another benefit is that hydroelectric power plants, which are normally in dams, double as a water supply!  Then, there’s the fact that the construction of a Dam is a massive undertaking in terms of money, workers, and supplies, and that the construction of a dam generally leads to other development projects in the region.[xiii]

Ultimately, hydroelectric power is just one more way that mankind could advance its needs for power and water both in a responsible way.  It is both a sustainable and renewable form of energy production that does not adversely affect the environment.  It has the potential to put people back to work in a way that will both boost the economy, and give a boost to the environment.  No one denies that the developed, and developing nations of the world need electric power if we are to continue to advance as a society and a species.  That does not mean that we should strip mine our planet for fossil fuels to burn to supply that need.  There are alternatives, and they are alternatives that are not ridiculously expensive in the long run.  Throughout history man has recognized the power of water, but now that we truly need that power we’re not going to fully utilize it?  Let’s take a page from the history books, and put the water that we need to survive to work.  It will secure both our electric future, and our future need for clean, clear drinking water.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “How Much Water Is There On, In, and above the Earth?” How Much Water Is There on Earth, from the USGS Water Science School. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://water.usgs.gov/edu/earthhowmuch.html&gt;.

[ii] “History and Tchnology Fo Watermills.” History and Tchnology Fo Watermills. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.jesmonddeneoldmill.org.uk/mill/technology.html&gt;.

[iii] “History and Tchnology Fo Watermills.” History and Tchnology Fo Watermills. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.jesmonddeneoldmill.org.uk/mill/technology.html&gt;.

[iv] “Hydroelectric Power.” Renewable Energy, , Benefits and Cons of Hydro Energy. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.altenergy.org/renewables/hydroelectric.html&gt;.

[v] “Hydroelectric Power: How It Works.” Hydroelectric Power: How It Works, USGS Water-Science School. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://water.usgs.gov/edu/hyhowworks.html&gt;.

[vi] “History and Tchnology Fo Watermills.” History and Tchnology Fo Watermills. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.jesmonddeneoldmill.org.uk/mill/technology.html&gt;.

[vii] “Why Hydro | National Hydropower Association.” National Hydropower Association Why Hydro Comments. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.hydro.org/why-hydro/&gt;.

[viii] “Hydroelectric Power Water Use.” Hydroelectric Power and Water. Basic Information about Hydroelectricity, USGS Water Science for Schools. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://water.usgs.gov/edu/wuhy.html&gt;.

[ix] “Advantages Of Hydro Power.” ConserveEnergyFuture. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/Advantages_HydroPower.php&gt;.

[x] “Advantages Of Hydro Power.” ConserveEnergyFuture. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/Advantages_HydroPower.php&gt;.

[xi] “Job Creation | National Hydropower Association.” National Hydropower Association Job Creation Comments. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://www.hydro.org/why-hydro/job-creation/&gt;.

[xii] “Hydroelectric Energy.” – National Geographic Education. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/encyclopedia/hydroelectric-energy/?ar_a=1&gt;.

[xiii] “The Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts of Hydroelectric Dams in Turkish Kurdistan.” Http://rudar.ruc.dk/. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://rudar.ruc.dk/bitstream/1800/403/1/The_Environmental_and.pdf&gt;.

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Understanding Pollution: The Wonders of Wind Energy

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One of the biggest contributors to pollution worldwide is the need to burn fossil fuels to power our society. Over 70% of electricity in the United States is generated through the burning of fossil fuels, and that accounts for roughly 1/3 of Green House Gas emissions.[i]  Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was another way that we could power our society?  Well, in fact there already are several, and one of them is one of the oldest forms of power generation:  Wind Energy.  People have been saying for years that we need to move to greener forms of energy if we are going to continue to live in a sustainable world, and for years there have been arguments over the value of green energy; including wind energy.   Wind energy offers a number of benefits to the environment, is not more expensive than fossil fuels, and is beneficial to the economy.

The wonder of wind 1

The biggest, and most obvious, reason that wind energy is good for the environment is that it creates no pollution.  Windmills have been in use since 500 A.D., and they have generated zero pollution since their invention and use.[ii]  That’s a 1514 year track record, and wind turbines are basically big wind mills.  The other important thing to remember about wind energy is that it is a sustainable form of energy.  The only thing necessary, aside from the turbines, is wind.  That means, that if the necessary infrastructure is in place, power from wind turbines could last indefinitely.  Over the past decade in the United States wind power capabilities have grown by 30%, which is actually more than the average for the rest of the world.[iii]  Other countries aren’t being left behind though.  By 2020 Denmark plans to provide 70% of its power needs through renewable energy, and they don’t plan on stopping there.  They want 100% of their energy needs to be met solely through renewable means like wind power by 2050.[iv]  Also, wind turbines actually act to decrease air pollution by removing carbon dioxide.  In fact, one 1-megawatt wind turbine does as much good for air pollution as planting 1 square mile of forests.[v]  Also, one turbine can generate enough electricity to power 500 homes.[vi]

One of the most common misconceptions about wind energy is that it is expensive.  The opposite is actually true.  The Department of Energy estimates the average monthly cost to consumers who use wind energy is $40 a month.[vii]  To put that into some perspective, the average monthly electric bill in the United States in 2012 was $107 a month.[viii]  That is over a sixty dollar difference in cost.  Wind Energy is so cheap for several reasons.  Number one is that it there is no fuel cost for the generation of wind power, and the maintenance costs associated with wind energy are very low because of that fact. [ix]  The only real cost associated with wind energy is the construction of the turbines and the infrastructure necessary to get the energy from the turbines to the cities where it is most needed. The best part is that the United States just happens to be a very windy place.  It is estimated that if we fully utilized our potential for wind energy we would have enough power for 10x the current electric energy consumption of the whole of the United States.[x]

The wonder of wind 2

Europe is, in some ways ahead of the game when it comes to wind energy.  Today, Denmark meets 43% of all of its energy needs from renewable sources of energy like wind power.[xi]  The best part is that they don’t plan on stopping there.  Their goal is to provide 100% of all their energy needs through renewable energy by 2050.[xii]  In fact, most of the countries who are producing the most wind energy worldwide are European.  They include Germany with 7.9% of electricity generated from wind, Spain with 21%, Portugal with ¼ of all their power generated form wind, and Ireland with just under 18%.[xiii]  Why is Europe so gung-ho on wind power?  Well, for one because a recent report by the European Union established that wind power is roughly 1/3 cheaper than gas or coal based energy.[xiv]  Also, and I can’t stress this enough, wind power generates no pollution!

The wonder of wind 3

As mentioned before wind energy is not only beneficial to the environment, and your wallet, but also the economy as a whole.  In 2010 alone, over $10 billion was invested into the U.S. economy by the wind energy sector, and roughly 75000 people were employed for that sector.[xv]  Also during that time over thirty one manufacturing centers devoted to the wind energy sector were opened employing over 20000 people.  In addition, it is estimated that if the United States could reach the point where just 20% of our energy came from wind power that an additional $8 billion would be added to the economy.[xvi]  It is estimated that the U.S. spends roughly $37.5 billion dollars a year on subsidizing oil to keep the power flowing.[xvii]  Imagine if that money could be kept in country; if the U.S. was not dependent on oil to keep it running.

There is no quick and easy solutions to the many global problems that we face today.  Pollution is something that has been added to over centuries, and fossil fuels have been the go to source of energy for almost as long.  While it is difficult to fix the problems of centuries, it is not impossible.  It simply requires the will to look for solutions.  One possible solution for fossil fuel use, and air pollution is wind energy.  It would take time and energy to set up the necessary infrastructure to truly make wind energy viable, but the benefits are there for all to see.  The problem is that this cannot happen by simple chance or coincidence.  It requires action by people.  It requires a will to accomplish something that will help not just humanity, but the very earth that we call home.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “Sources.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources.html&gt;.

[ii] “Third Planet Windpower.” Third Planet Windpower. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://www.thirdplanetwind.com/energy/history.aspx&gt;.

[iii] “Energy.gov.” Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy&gt;.

[iv] “Denmark Leads the Charge in Renewable Energy | European Elections 2014 | DW.DE | 02.05.2014.” DW.DE. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.dw.de/denmark-leads-the-charge-in-renewable-energy/a-17603695&gt;.

[v] “Wind Energy Benefits.” Eere.energy.gov/. U.S. Department of Energy. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wind/pdfs/49053.pdf&gt;.

[vi] “Interesting Wind Energy Facts | Wind Energy Foundation.” Interesting Wind Energy Facts | Wind Energy Foundation. Web. 15 Nov. 2014. <http://www.windenergyfoundation.org/interesting-wind-energy-facts&gt;.

[vii] “The Cost of Wind Energy in the U.S.” The Cost of Wind Energy in the U.S. American Wind Energy Association. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://www.awea.org/Resources/Content.aspx?ItemNumber=5547&gt;.

[viii] “2012 Average Monthly Bill- Residential.” 2012 Average Monthly Bill- Residential. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://www.eia.gov/electricity/sales_revenue_price/pdf/table5_a.pdf&gt;.

[ix] “Energy.gov.” Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy&gt;.

[x] “The Cost of Wind Energy in the U.S.” The Cost of Wind Energy in the U.S. American Wind Energy Association. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://www.awea.org/Resources/Content.aspx?ItemNumber=5547&gt;.

[xi] “Denmark Leads the Charge in Renewable Energy | European Elections 2014 | DW.DE | 02.05.2014.” DW.DE. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://www.dw.de/denmark-leads-the-charge-in-renewable-energy/a-17603695&gt;.

[xii] “Denmark Leads the Charge in Renewable Energy | European Elections 2014 | DW.DE | 02.05.2014.” DW.DE. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://www.dw.de/denmark-leads-the-charge-in-renewable-energy/a-17603695&gt;.

[xiii] “Europe Dominates World Wind Power Share, But Trails in Capacity [CHART].” Mashable. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://mashable.com/2014/08/23/wind-power-share/&gt;.

[xiv] “Wind Power Is Cheapest Energy, EU Analysis Finds.” The Guardian. The Guardian. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/13/wind-power-is-cheapest-energy-unpublished-eu-analysis-finds&gt;.

[xv] “Energy.gov.” Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy&gt;.

[xvi] “Energy.gov.” Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy&gt;.

[xvii] “Fossil Fuel Subsidies: Overview – Oil Change International.” Oil Change International. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://priceofoil.org/fossil-fuel-subsidies/&gt;.

Understanding Pollution: Solar Energy, the More Environmentally Friendly Approach to Powered Houses

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There is a great argument taking place within our society over one of the most important resources man has: Power.  No, I’m not talking politics or economics, though they certainly have their place in the argument.  I am talking about electrical power.  Up to this point in history electrical power has been generated through the burning of fossil fuels.  As technology has advanced other alternatives have arisen.  One of the most talked about is solar power.  Like anything new there are both pros and cons to implementing solar power generation on a truly industrial scale.  There are benefits, and there are challenges.  There is also man’s inherent fear of change.

Power of the Sun 1

The benefits of solar power are many and varied.  To begin with enough solar energy hits the earth every day to supply our power needs 10000 times over.[i]  Yes, you read that right.  There is enough energy from sunlight for more than ten thousand times our power requirements.  Another benefit of solar power is that it is renewable.  It is estimated that our sun will not die for another 2.8 billion years.[ii]  So, that means that for almost 3 billion years the sun will be pumping a continuous stream of energy to our planet.  Now, I don’t know about you but a 3 billion year power supply sounds pretty sustainable to me.  Also, solar power is not like traditional methods of power generation in that it requires scarce natural resources to power it.  It’s powered by sunlight which is freely available in most parts of the world!  True, there are certain areas where there is little to no sunlight for parts of the year, but you have to walk before you can run, and solar technology is still advancing.  It is almost estimated that money invested into solar energy creates 2-3 times more jobs than money invested into natural gas or coal.[iii]   In fact, the solar panel manufacturing companies in the United States employ roughly 27000 people.[iv]

Power of the Sun 3

Now, as many benefits as there are to solar energy there are a few downsides.  One of the most obvious problems with solar energy is what happens on a cloudy day?  Absence on direct sunlight does not mean absence of solar energy. Because the sun’s rays are blocked by clouds less energy is generated by solar panels.[v]   However, if we used solar energy along with other renewable energy sources such as wind power that would not be a serious issue.  This leads us into the second problem with solar energy which is energy storage.  As solar power is a newish technology scientists and researchers are still trying to discover the best way to store solar power, and make it available to those who need it.[vi]  Another issue with solar energy is the necessary space for panels.  A single home can easily place panels on their roof, and generate enough power.  However, the more energy that is needed the more panels that must be installed, and for larger companies that could equal a great deal of space.[vii]  Finally, while solar power is a pollution free form of energy, the manufacturing of solar panels themselves are not.[viii]  However, there is give and take in every situation, and the pollution generated in the construction of solar panels is nothing compared to the pollution generated every day with the burning of fossil fuels.  Ultimately, there are negatives to everything in existence.  The disadvantages associated with solar energy production do exist.  Despite that, it is a cleaner form of energy that is still in its infancy.  As technology continues to advance, and solar energy becomes more and more used these disadvantages will become minimized.

Power of the Sun 5

As with anything that is new and unknown there is always pushback.  Solar energy is no different.  People fear what they do not understand, and are comfortable with what is familiar.  Even if what is familiar is doing possible irreparable damage to the planet and its inhabitants.  In November of 2014 a group of power companies, anti-tax activists, and billionaires pushed state governments to roll back their support of solar energy as a viable option.[ix]  They argue that solar energy offers unfair advantages to those who have solar panels equipped on their homes.  What should not be surprising however is that most of the pushback against solar energy is coming from utilities and power companies.[x]  Despite this pushback, there is also innovation.  A company in the United States has developed a prototype of a solar roadway that will allow not just solar generation, but the ability to upgrade our nation’s road systems.[xi]  In fact, the Netherlands have already created a 70 meter solar bike lane, which has the capability to power three homes.[xii]  That’s the Netherlands which at most gets access to 45% of the sun’s rays because of their weather.[xiii]   There will always be pushback against new ideas, and innovations.  It is how society as a whole deals with new ideas that truly matters.

Ultimately, I don’t know what will happen with solar energy.  Like any new technology it could take off or it could go the way of Betamax.  For those who don’t know, Betamax was VHS competitor format.  You probably don’t know about it because VHS became the popular format.  That being said, can we really afford to ignore the possibilities associated with our own sun?  The world is constantly changing and evolving, and mankind has a great deal to do with that change.  We seek to become masters of our environment, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  However, we must also understand the need to be responsible masters.  Do we truly wish to continue to pollute our land, air, and seas with the burning of fossil fuels?  Or do we wish to pursue options that could propel the human race into a golden age?  The choice is down to each and every one of us.


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About the Author

Dom resizeDominick Principe is a graduate of Rowan University with dual Bachelor Degrees in Elementary Education and Writing Arts.  He is a prolific reader who devours any book put before him, and feels that life is one great long book without an end.  He fills his hours constantly exploring new information, and seeking to educate himself in the ways of the world.  He puts all of that knowledge and his passion for learning to good use teaching English as a second language to students of all ages.  When his nose isn’t buried in a book, or in class teaching, then he can generally be found typing away at his computer working on some random piece of writing that he was inspired to do.


[i] “The Case for & Against Solar Energy.” Science. Opposing Views. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://science.opposingviews.com/case-against-solar-energy-19638.html&gt;.

[ii] Fazekas, Andrew. “Study: Sun Will End Earthly Life in 2.8 Billion Years.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/10/131028-earth-biosignature-doomsday-space-science/&gt;.

[iii] “Advantages & Disadvantages Of Solar Power.” CleanTechnica. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://cleantechnica.com/2013/10/08/advantages-disadvantages-solar-power/&gt;.

[iv] “Solar Energy.” NRDC: Renewable Energy for America: Solar. National Resource Defence Council. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nrdc.org/energy/renewables/solar.asp&gt;.

[v] “Solar Energy Pros and Cons – Energy Informative.” Energy Informative. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://energyinformative.org/solar-energy-pros-and-cons/#expensive&gt;.

[vi] “The Case for & Against Solar Energy.” Science. Opposing Views. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://science.opposingviews.com/case-against-solar-energy-19638.html&gt;.

[vii] “Disadvantages Of Solar Energy.” Conserve Energy Future. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/Disadvantages_SolarEnergy.php&gt;.

[viii] “Disadvantages Of Solar Energy.” Conserve Energy Future. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/Disadvantages_SolarEnergy.php&gt;.

[ix] Benen, Steve. “Kochs, Conservative Allies Align against Solar.” Msnbc.com. NBC News Digital, 21 Apr. 2014. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/kochs-conservative-allies-align-against&gt;.

[x] “Utilities Push Back Against Increasing Popularity, Reduced Costs of Solar Power.” Rocky Mountain PBS INews. Public Broadcasting Service, 1 Sept. 2014. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://inewsnetwork.org/2014/09/01/utilities-push-back-against-increasing-popularity-lower-costs-of-solar-power/&gt;.

[xi]“Introduction.” Solar Roadways –. Web. 13 Nov. 2014. <http://www.solarroadways.com/intro.shtml&gt;.

[xii] “Netherlands Unveils World’s First Solar Bike Lane.” – Protection Now. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.bbc.com/capital/specials/protection-now/environment/netherlands-unveils-world-s-first-solar-bike-lane_a-35-334.html&gt;.

[xiii] “Average Weather in The Hague, Netherlands.” Weather and Climate: The Hague, Netherlands, Average Monthly , Rainfall (millimeter), Sunshine, Temperatures (celsius), Sunshine, Humidity, Wind Speed. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. <http://www.weather-and-climate.com/average-monthly-Rainfall-Temperature-Sunshine,the-hague,Netherlands&gt;.