Posts tagged with "Solar Energy":

Placeholder Alt Text

Architects in Sweden implementing solar technology to keep popular ICEHOTEL open year-round

Each year, guests flock to Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, for a chance to stay at ICEHOTEL, a seasonal hotel made of ice from the Torne River. But in 2016, guests will have the chance to enjoy ICEHOTEL all year long. The new 12, 900-square-foot extension will connect to ICEHOTEL’s existing structure during the winter months and feature a curved roof with greenery, providing space for tobogganing. To prevent ice from melting, Swedish energy company Solkompaniet will install a solar-powered system to keep the building cool during the summer and the 100 days and nights of the midnight sun. “We will use the physics of Isaac Newton. In the same way we normally make energy efficient housing that keeps the cold out, for this project we’ll use it in reverse to keep the cold in,” architect, sustainable construction design expert, and hotel, bar, and art gallery project partner Hans Eek said in a statement. Some aspects of the design will change on a yearly basis. “Ice has an interesting effect on creativity. As it’s not permanent, it makes you dare to try ideas that you wouldn’t otherwise. It’s very liberating. The idea of a project that marries this transient tradition with a semi-permanent, year-round element is very exciting,” project artist and creative senior advisor Arne Bergh said in a statement. The project is currently sourcing investments and is scheduled to open December 2016.
Placeholder Alt Text

Aspen, Colorado swaps coal for wind to become 3rd city to run solely on renewable energy

Fossil fuel dependency is now a thing of the past for this municipality on Colorado's Western Slope. Aspen has just announced that it's only the third city to kick the habit and is fully reliant on renewable energy sources. Earlier this month, the Aspen Times reported that the city had reached the landmark after it signed a contract with electrical energy provider Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska. As part of this process Aspen swapped coal for wind power to make up for the non-renewable energy deficit with its energy also coming from hydroelectric, solar, and geothermal. Prior to this, Aspen had been running on an estimated 75 to 80 percent renewables. The feat was also able to be realized due to the recent drop in solar energy prices. In fact, the cost of solar energy is predicted to fall further still, dropping below $0.50 per watt in the next few years. Solar energy is not alone in this trend. In what's a good economic indicator of renewable energy's growing popularity, wind power is also much cheaper than it was just a decade ago. This trend toward renewables was likely aided by Obama's carbon regulations which made renewable energy alternatives increasingly competitive against fossil fuel sources such as coal. According to ThinkProgress, "already, more than one-third of American coal plants have been shuttered in the past six years, and the new carbon rules make it quite possible that no new coal plants will ever be built in the United States." “It was a very forward-thinking goal and truly remarkable achievement,” Aspen's Utilities & Environmental Initiatives Director David Hornbacher said. “This means we are powered by the forces of nature, predominately water and wind with a touch of solar and landfill gas. We’ve demonstrated that it is possible. Realistically, we hope we can inspire others to achieve these higher goals” Renewable energy has long since been on Aspen's agenda going back to the 1980s with the Reudi and Maroon Creek hydroelectric projects. Highlighting the accomplishment, former Project Coordinator Will Dolan said Aspen only began working toward its goal of 100 percent renewable energy about a decade ago. Beating Aspen to the 100 percent renewable landmark were Burlington, Vermont and Greensburg, Kansas.
Placeholder Alt Text

Bike path in pieces: Skeptics dismiss Dutch solar bike path SolaRoad as inefficient “cash grab”

Naysayers have rained criticism on Dutch Solaroad solar bike path system. In the first six months of operation, it reportedly overshot energy production expectations to the collective glee of engineers. However, self-described “scientists” are taking it down with numerical rhetoric, namely the cost and inferior production capacity relative to rooftop solar panels. Last year’s pilot test ate up $3.2 million in investor funding for a 230-foot stretch of concrete, and SolaRoad remains tightlipped on the cost per square foot. As electrical engineering vlogger Dave Jones pointed out in a short emission to his EEVBLOG YouTube channel, mounting solar cells in the same vicinity on a roof curved optimally towards the sun would yield twice the output. Writer Pete Danko demystifies the calculations in an article posted to Breaking Energy, writing: “If you were to put 1300 square feet of [solar panels] on rooftops in Amsterdam, it would add up to 16 kilowatts of capacity (based on 1kw per 80 square feet)." Danko then uses a PvWatt’s calculator by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to compute solar output in the winter months from November to April in the Netherlands versus a rooftop in sunny San Jose, California during the same period. In Amsterdam, the power capacity comes to about 4,600 kwh in lackluster sunshine, while no-quit California rays churn out 10,000 kwh for the same rooftop coverage. Does all the pooh-poohing of SolaRoad get any more intellectual than Why didn’t you put these on the roof instead? The tempered glass-coated concrete modules have been known to break due to climate. In its first month of operation, a 3.3-foot patch of the 230-foot stretch was deactivated due to breakages, although the remainder of the path remained operable. Sten de Wit, a physicist involved in the development of SolaRoad, defended the idea of a solar-powered bike path in an interview with AFP. “The idea is that we have approximately 140,000 kilometers (87,000 miles) of road, which is much bigger than all the rooftops put together. We have 25,000km (15,543 miles) of bike paths in the Netherlands,” he said. The only trouble is that bicycles and solar power don’t really have a lot in common.
Placeholder Alt Text

Called out by Greenpeace for lack of transparency, Amazon commits to building solar farm in Virginia to power its data centers

E-commerce giant Amazon is under fire from groups to catch up to its tree-hugging counterparts. To boost its "green" credentials, the company has announced the building of a new solar farm in coal-reliant Virginia to power its numerous data centers in the region. After scoring abysmally in a Greenpeace report that ranked big tech firms by renewable energy achievements and transparency, Amazon announced a partnership with Community Energy on June 10 to build an 80-megawatt solar farm in Virginia’s Eastern Shore in Accomack County. It will be the largest solar facility in the state to date. Greenpeace called out Amazon in May for not elaborating on its plans to achieve 100 percent renewable energy. “Amazon lags behind its competitors in using renewable energy for its cloud-based computer servers,” Todd Larsen, executive co-director of Green America, told EcoWatch. “Unlike most of its competitors, it fails to publish a corporate responsibility or sustainability reporting, and it fails to disclose its emissions and impacts to the Carbon Disclosure Project. We are calling on Amazon.com to take steps to be transparent about its emissions and to rapidly move to renewable energy.” In April, Amazon reported that 25 percent of its global infrastructure is powered by renewable energy. Its goal, by 2016, is to raise that figure to 40 percent. The Greenpeace report, Clicking Clean: Building a Green Internet, showed Amazon lagging far behind peers such as Google and Apple, the latter of which runs all of its data centers on renewables and earned a top score in the report. Amazon’s solar farm will deliver about 170,000 megawatt hours of electricity, enough to power 15,000 homes. While Greenpeace applauded Amazon on its prudent move, the environmental group estimates that the solar farm’s output would suffice to meet only a “single-digit percentage” of Amazon’s total energy demand in Virginia, according to Fast Company. The tech company’s data centers in that region are the lifeblood of its Amazon Web Services (AWS), used by some of the Internet’s biggest names including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Pinterest, and Tumblr. The energy demands for such large-scale cloud computing are understandably mammoth. Last January, Amazon announced that it would build a 150 megawatt wind farm in Benton County, Indiana, which has a higher capacity. Earlier this year, AWS customers including Tumblr, HuffPo, and Hootsuite wrote to Amazon asking it to be more transparent about its environmental reporting.
Placeholder Alt Text

French law mandates green roofs or solar panels on all new buildings in commercial zones

It’s serious crunch time in France for environmental policymaking as regulations tighten in deference to the 2020 goal of reducing carbon emissions by 25 percent. Paris is also scrambling for brownie points as it prepares to host the UN Conference on Climate Change this November. Lawmakers in France recently decreed that all rooftops of new commercial buildings must be covered in either plants or solar panels. Other major cities have gone to similarly stringent lengths, with the city of Toronto, Canada, mandating green roofs on all new buildings in 2009—whether residential, industrial or commercial. Expected foliage cover ranges from 20 to 60 percent depending on the size and type of building, with residential dwellings less than six stories high exempt from the mandate. Green roofs are an apt counterweight to the urban island phenomenon, in which urban zones are found to be several degrees hotter than surrounding rural areas because of their concrete density relative to moist, permeable land and vegetation. On the other hand, green roofs create an “isolating effect” that cools the building, reducing energy needs for heating and cooling in winter and summer, and retain rainwater to reduce excess runoff and flood likelihood. A green roof also bodes $200,000 in savings over its lifetime, according to researchers at Michigan State University. French environmental activists had initially lobbied for far less leniency, calling for every roof on every new building to be entirely covered by plants, without the option of installing solar panels instead. The Socialist government sought a middle-ground appeasement, convincing activists to limit the law to commercial buildings. France still lags behind other European countries in terms of solar deployment, installing just 613 megawatts of solar photovoltaics in 2013, falling behind countries that had installed at least 1 gigawatt in previous years, according to a 2014 report by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association.
Placeholder Alt Text

This solar-power generating bike lane in the Netherlands wows engineers by producing more juice than expected

Performance-wise, the Dutch power-generating bike path, SolaRoad, has overshot expectations, generating upwards of 3,000 kilowatts of power in the six months since its launch. The 230-foot concrete strip is located in Krommenie, a village northwest of Amsterdam, and is undergoing a three-year pilot test for material feasibility. The wattage generated in the first six months, according to SolaRoad, suffices to power a one-person household for a whole year. Based on this track record, the bike path is expected to generate 70 kilowatt hours per square meter per year (approximately 22,189 kilowatt hours per square meter per year), close to the upper limit predicted in lab tests. “We did not expect a yield as high as this so quickly,” Sten De Wit, spokesman for SolaRoad, said in a statement. The surprisingly inconspicuous solar panels are embedded into the concrete paving like ceramic tiling. Each panel is protected by an 0.4-inch layer of transparent, skid-resistant tempered safety glass designed to withstand the weight of passing vehicles. The pilot test itself will gauge the skid resistance of the solar panel path as compared to asphalt, and to ensure that it does not create any distracting reflections. Over 150,000 cyclists have reportedly traversed the solar-generating part of the path. According to SolaRoad, they “hardly notice it is a special path.” However, tests have shown that significant temperature fluctuations cause the glass coating to shrink, so that parts of it peel away in the winter and early spring. The coating has since been repaired, and engineers are in the “advanced stage” of developing an improved top layer. The 3-year pilot project, costing around $3.8 million, is a public-private partnership between the Dutch province of Noord Hoolland and engineering firms TNO, Ooms Civiel, and Imtech. Closer to home, Idaho inventors Scott and Julie Brusaw have their own iteration of power-generating roads, called Solar Roadways. The Brusaws are building a prototype parking lot in their headquarters featuring 108 panels to test their efficacy in the face of vehicle-imposed wear-and-tear. The hexagonal panels are designed for roads, driveways, parking lots, bike trails, and eventually, highways, and have already courted $850,000 in seed funding from the federal government and an additional $2 million from crowdfunding website Indiegogo.
Placeholder Alt Text

Chicago’s Field Museum becomes just second such building to get Gold under LEED EB O+M

Chicago's natural history museum, the Field Museum, announced Monday it has earned a Gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council under the LEED for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance (EB O+M) program, becoming just the second museum in the nation to do so. (The Madison Children's Museum is the other.) Two of the museum's halls already achieved LEED certification separately, including its Conservation Hall, which is LEED Gold. But Monday's announcement marks a building-wide rating seldom seen for such building types—the hulking museum, made of limestone and Georgian marble, comprises nearly half a million square feet. Its 3D Theater is also certified under LEED for Interior Design & Construction. Greening a museum that dates back to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition was no simple task. (The current building opened in 1921, originally planned by Daniel Burnham and designed by his associate William Peirce Anderson.) In many places its neoclassical stone walls don't have an air gap with the interior brick and plaster, making it difficult to regulate the building's temperature. And, as was made clear when the museum applied for LEED certification, it doesn't function on a typical building's schedule. “A normal building might shut down at 5 [o'clock], but not for us,” said Ernst Pierre-Toussaint, the museum's director of facilities, planning and operations. More than 99 percent of the museum's collection is in storage, which has to be climate controlled and monitored constantly. Pierre-Toussaint said improving energy efficiency has been a goal for at least 15 years. Working with the Delta Institute—an environmental consultant that worked with the Field Museum on the project—Field Museum staff replaced about 30 percent of the building's 6,700 incandescent bulbs with LEDs, and installed 100 kilowatts of rooftop photovoltaic panels. Pierre-Toussaint said they hope to install up to 220 kW more—enough to offset 10 to 15 percent of the building's peak electricity demand —by 2025. The museum accounts for all of its natural gas consumption by purchasing renewable energy credits and carbon offsets. Much of the certification work came down to mechanical system logistics. The museum has 11 separate electric meters, and 13 for water use. Since some collections and accessible areas need to be heated—even during summer—while others are cooled, the museum installed demand-control ventilation to regulate air in sensitive exhibits individually. “We made huge strides over the past two years and are proud to share the results with our visitors,” said Richard Lariviere, the museum's president, in a press release. “One of the big challenges is planning long-term,” said the Delta Institute's Kevin Dick. “You can certainly make quick fixes. But you know an institution like this isn't going anywhere. So in 40 years what will this look like?”
Placeholder Alt Text

Forever 21 flips the switch on Los Angeles’ largest solar project yet

On January 21 solar supplier PermaCity and retailer Forever 21 turned on the switch to their 5.1 MegaWatt DC SunPower solar system in Los Angeles' Lincoln Heights neighborhood. The renovation of the former Macy’s distribution center—now Forever 21's headquarters— was designed by Forever 21 staff with Culver City architect Brian Reiff. The project consists of 15,512 SunPower modules placed on the building's roof, using PermaCity’s SolarStrap—an aluminum and stainless steel, light-weight panel system using no ballast or penetrations. The building is now the largest solar rooftop system in Los Angeles County and the third-largest in California. The project was made possible thanks to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Feed-in-Tariff, a program launched in 2013 allowing renewable energy plants to sell their power back to the city. The solar panels on the rooftop will generate enough energy to power the equivalent of 1,450 homes, avoiding the production of almost 13 million pounds of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of taking 1,200 passenger cars off the road.
Placeholder Alt Text

3D printed pavilion in Ohio recreates the sun’s path at night

A luminous, arched pavilion in Ohio aims to highlight the potential of 3D fabrication techniques, and to so it's mounting a Promethean stunt. The so-called Solar Bytes Pavilion grabs sunlight during the day and radiates light when it gets dark, recreating the day's solar conditions minute-by-minute throughout the night. Brian Peters helped found DesignLabWorkshop in 2008, eventually settling in Kent, Ohio. Their latest project is the Solar Bytes Pavilion, a continuum of 94 unique modules (“bytes”) 3D printed in ceramic bricks covered with white, translucent plastic. Peters and his team then put solar-powered LEDs in each of the bytes, snapping them together in a self-supporting, arched pavilion just big enough for a few people to huddle inside. 3DPrint.com got some detail on the fabrication process:
...he used a 6-axis robot arm located at the Robotic Fabrication Lab at Kent State. A hand welding extruder, called the Mini CS, was attached to the robot arm to serve as the 3D printhead, and it extrudes plastic material in a sort of FDM-style process. The technology, provided by Hapco Inc. and called BAK/DOHLE, is employed by universities, government agencies, and concerns like the University of Michigan, Oak Ridge Laboratory, the US Department of Energy, and the University of Tennessee.
The pavilion debuted at Cleveland's Ingenuity Fest.
Placeholder Alt Text

The world’s “best tall building” is Jean Nouvel’s high-rise jungle in Sydney

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) last night named Atelier Jean Nouvel's One Central Park (OCP) in Sydney the year's best tall building. OCP turned the site of a former brewery into a residential high-rise lush with hydroponic hanging gardens and a massive mirror cantilevered over the building's courtyard that harvests sunlight for heat and lighting year-round. One Central Park, considered the world's tallest vertical garden, bested projects from SOM, OMA, and Cutler Anderson Architects for the award. Those buildings—a twisting tower in Dubai, a melded mass of high-rises, and a midcentury office tower reborn as a green icon—each won regional awards from CTBUH. But One Central Park's use of greenery by botantist and green wall guru Patrick Blanc won the day. “Seeing this project for the first time stopped me dead,” said juror and CTBUH Executive Director Antony Wood. “There have been major advances in the incorporation of greenery in high-rise buildings over the past few years—but nothing on the scale of this building has been attempted or achieved.” Accepting the award in Chicago on behalf of his firm, Atliers Jean Nouvel Partner Bertram Beissel said the project increases the visibility of sustainable design. "If we do all these sustainable things and no one can see them, do they really exist?" Beissel said. "The choices we make for a sustainable future cannot be made in the future. They must be made today.” Read more about the building on CTBUH's website. OMA’s CCTV Tower in Beijing won last year’s competition.
Placeholder Alt Text

Buffalo breaks ground on largest solar panel facility in the Western Hemisphere

Manufacturing is returning to Buffalo, New York in a big way. In late September, SolarCity broke ground on a 1.2-million-square-foot solar panel manufacturing plant that will be the biggest facility of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The company, which Elon Musk chairs, is investing $5 billion into the project that will rise on the site of a former Republic Steel factory. When fully operational, the panels produced at the factory are expected to generate one gigawatt of energy, that's roughly enough power to power 145,000 homes. New York State has also put forth significant funds for the project. "Under the deal with SolarCity," explained the Buffalo News, "the state will spend $350 million to build the sprawling factory on South Park Avenue and provide $400 million in funding for equipment, with the state following the economic development model that it used to build up the semiconductor industry in the Albany area. Under that model, the state invests in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment that typically are too costly for companies to acquire on their own and then signs agreements with companies, like SolarCity, that want to access it." The facility is expected to open in 2016 and provide 3,000 jobs for the Buffalo region, according to the Cuomo administration.
Placeholder Alt Text

Mayor de Blasio announces $28 million plan to install solar panels on New York City schools

Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his plan to reduce New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent over 2005 levels by 2050. Needless to say, that's a pretty ambitious target, but this mayor seems to like ambitious targets—his plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade comes to mind. But back to his latest plan, the climate plan. While this decades-long strategy will certainly evolve, it is focused around retrofitting the city’s building stock to reduce emissions. A key focus of these retrofits, at both city-owned and privately-owned buildings, will be installing solar panels. To kick-off that piece of the plan, the mayor is starting with schools. Speaking on Monday at the John F. Kennedy campus in the Bronx, where solar panels have been installed on nine schools, de Blasio announced that 24 additional schools would also be going solar. "These 24 projects we’re talking about today are part of a larger commitment," said the mayor. "They’re going to be an important part because they’re going to help lead the way in our efforts to use much more renewable energy in New York City." The mayor said that this investment would triple the amount of solar power collected on the roofs of city buildings. The city will cover $23 million of the $28 million investment, with the rest being covered by a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Over the next decade, the mayor wants to install solar panels on over 300 city-owned buildings, which would generate about 100 megawatts of power, according to the administration.