Thursday, December 31, 2009

Massachusetts Beach House Is Zero Net Energy

The Truro Beach House is a zero energy home, which means that it produces as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis. This high performance home has a super-insulated building envelope, ground (geothermal) source heat pump, and 11.7KW of solar energy on the roof. The geothermal system, coupled with radiant heating and central air, supply the home’s heating and cooling needs throughout the year. A heat recovery ventilator provides fresh air throughout the year while exchanging heat between the incoming and outgoing air steams, minimizing the energy penalty of fresh air ventilation. Since the home is designed as a vacation residence with varying occupancy, it is is split into two volumes – a ‘Living Bar’ and a ‘Sleeping Bar’ - so that half the home can be decommission for the majority of the year to conserve energy.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wind Farm Brings Employment to Texas

The Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, spread across a vast area of West Texas, was the largest in the world when it was completed in 2006. Through three stages of development it reached a total installed capacity of 735 Megawatts (MW), with 421 individual wind turbines. On average, it can supply enough electricity for 180,000 Texan homes. The wind farm has helped boost employment in West Texas, which was in economic decline until the wind industry arrived. In Nolan County, where many of the Horse Hollow turbines are located, the oil wells began to dry up in the 1990s. By 2004, 20% of the population was living in poverty, according to the US Census Bureau.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Largest University Solar Farm Lights Up Florida

Florida Gulf Coast University’s long-awaited solar field has gone live, with the full 2-megawatt system now powering several main buildings on campus. With a 16-acre field of 10,080 panels, the electricity they generate will be enough to power about 600 homes. FGCU is home to the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Horse Hollow Wind Farm in Texas Is 735 MW

The Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, spread across a vast area of West Texas, is the largest in the world. Through three stages of development it has reached a total installed capacity of 735 Megawatts (MW), with 421 individual wind turbines. On average, it can supply enough electricity for 180,000 Texan homes. The wind farm has helped boost employment in West Texas, which was in economic decline until the wind industry arrived. In Nolan County, where many of the Horse Hollow turbines are located, the oil wells began to dry up in the 1990s. By 2004, 20% of the population was living in poverty, according to the US Census Bureau.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Water Is Purified with Solar Energy in Remote Areas

Working with the Humanitarian International Services Group (HISG), World Water and Solar Technologies has installed two high-volume, solar Mobile Max Pure (MMP) water filters that use the sun for their power in war-torn Darfur, Sudan. Each unit can generate up to 3.5kW of solar electric power and provide 30,000 gallons of clean drinking water for the many thousands of civilians living in displaced persons camps.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Clear-Cutting the Truth About Trees

Contrary to what you might hear from energy companies and environmentally conscious celebrities, offsets don’t magically make carbon emissions disappear. Worse, relying on them to stem global warming may devastate our vital forest ecosystems. Read the article from the New York Times by BERND HEINRICH,December 19, 2009. Also, for a good laugh about carbon offsets, see Cheat Neutral

Lighthouse Zero Energy Home (UK)

The Lighthouse Zero Energy home in the UK has a simple, “barn-like” form with a 40 degree pitched roof that includes solar panels and rainwater harvesting. It boasts high levels of thermal insulation, passive cooling and ventilation and biomass boilers. Biomass boilers run on organic fuels such as wood pellets and count as zero-emission because the amount of carbon dioxide they give off when they are burned is offset by the amount that was absorbed when the crop was grown. The house also has a waste separation system that allows combustible waste to be burned to help provide power.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Open PV Database Tracks US Solar Installations

The Open PV Project is a community-driven database, fostered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, of photovoltaic (PV) installations around the US. It collects, organizes and distributes info on location, size, cost and date of every PV installation in the USA. A very cool animation is superimposed on a US map showing all logged PV systems installed since 1998.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Parkview Green in Beijing Uses Passive Strategies

Energy efficiency savings in the Parkview Green building in Beijing are primarily from well-orchestrated passive systems - with no mechanical air conditioned, the whole interior acts as a solar chimney, with the 89m highest point of the pyramidal form drawing warm air up and out of the building.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Recycling Solar PV Panels

In its whitepaper "Toward a Just and Sustainable Solar Energy Coalition" the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) argues that for solar to be truly green, industry must reduce and eventually eliminate the use of toxic materials and develop environmentally sustainable practices.

Wineries and Thieves Go Solar in California

Solar energy is hot, according to Mike Treleven reporting in the Napa Valley Register (27 November 2009). Not just with wineries attempting to lessen their carbon footprints — but also with thieves. Numerous Napa Valley wineries have been victimized by thieves lurking in the night and stealing their solar arrays. A single panel is worth about $1,000, measures two feet by three feet and weighs around 35 pounds. Between June 2008 and late September 2009, Napa County saw 14 solar thefts and two attempted thefts. Of the 14 thefts, two were in the city of Napa and the rest were at wineries around the valley, Napa County Sheriff’s Capt. Tracey Stuart. More than 400 panels, worth about $400,000, have been stolen.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Wheelchair Accessible Treehouse Uses Solar

Camp Twin Lakes wheelchair-accessible treehouse features a solar array, a vegetated roof and composting toilets in Georgia, USA. A 1.4-kilowatt, eight-module photovoltaic solar array is mounted on a nearby pole and supplies the treehouse fans and misting system pump with DC power.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Monash Science Building Uses Passive Design

The Monash Science Centre of Monash University in Australia, utilizes passive and active measures for north-facing windows, manual and automatic louvers for ventilation, thermal chimneys with reversible fans and underfloor hydronic geothermal heating, using the nearby lake as a heat sink.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lagniappe House Makes Solar Right in New Orleans

The Lagniappe House in New Orleans was designed with Cradle to Cradle concepts including building orientation for passive and solar energy, selection of materials, management of energy and water, and the features provided to promote passive survivability in the event of another catastrophe.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Forest EcoCentre Employs Passive Design

Robert Morris-Nunn’s Forest EcoCentre, completed in 2001 in Tasmania, Australia, demonstrates effective climate control through clever orientation, appropriate applications of material, and passive energy use. Learn more

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Solar Electric Sails in Space

For interstellar travel, light-sail craft would depend on extremely large-scale constructions such as huge solar-power relays around Mercury and enormous Fresnel zones in the outer Solar System. Since light applies pressure to surfaces, the stream of photons can be used for propulsion in a near-frictionless environment. This concept is the background for light (or solar) sails. It is a method of space travel that would negate the need for on-board fuel. Sails using the solar wind or only the light from stars are less efficient at larger distance from the Sun. Read more at

Friday, November 13, 2009

Solar Balloons Provide Electric Power

Instead of large expensive solar panels or costly concentrating mirrors, Cool Earth uses balloons made of metalized plastic films. Half of the balloon is transparent, letting the light in to be concentrated into a small, high-efficiency solar panel by the concave interior, providing from 500 watts to 1 kilowatt. They are supported by cables, leaving the ground below clear and limiting environmental impact. See Cool Earth website

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kurilpa Bridge Is Solar Powered

The Australian city of Brisbane opened the world's first large-scale solar-powered bridge. The 470m Kurilpa Bridge accommodates pedestrians and bicycles, and sports 84 solar panels that power an array of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The panels supply between 75 and 100 per cent of the bridge's lighting needs. Read more on Solaripedia

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

International Space Station All Solar Powered

The most powerful solar arrays ever to orbit Earth capture the sun's energy and begin the process of converting it into power for the International Space Station (ISS). Eight solar panels supply more than 100 kilowatts of electric power to the station. The panels are mounted on a metal framework 360 feet (109 meters) long. The International Space Station is a large, inhabited Earth satellite that more than 15 nations are building in space. The first part of the station was launched in 1998 and it orbits Earth at an altitude of about 250 miles (400 kilometers). Visit the NASA International Space Station website. See more images at

Friday, November 6, 2009

Appalachian Students Install Wind on Campus

The Renewable Energy Initiative of Appalachian State University in Boone, NC installed a 100KW wind turbine at the university-owned Broyhill Inn & Conference Center. The project, installed by Alteris Renewables, is currently the largest wind development in the state of North Carolina. The Renewable Energy Initiative committee consists of seven student members that vote on committee decisions and five faculty/staff advisors that assist in the implementation of renewable energy systems on campus. The REI is charged with funds generated by a student green fee that is used towards bringing renewable energy technology to Appalachian State University. Some of the other projects orchestrated by the group are a biodiesel filling station for the university bus system, several photovoltaic arrays, and multiple solar thermal systems. Read more about the student-run Renewable Energy Initiative.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Zero Energy Home near Seattle Opens to Public

The Zero Energy Idea House at Bass Cove, near Seattle in Washington State, will provide approximately 5 kW of electricity to the home from its rooftop photovoltaics and a vertical axis wind generator. The home’s domestic hot water is also heated by the sun. The floors, walls, and roof of the Zero Energy Idea House are built with structural insulated panels, or SIPs, that are constructed with expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam sandwiched between sheets of OSB (oriented strand board), which is an engineered wood product made from small pieces of scrap wood. Read more at the project website The home is open the weekend of 7 & 8 November 2009. Image by Northwest Property Imaging.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Greening Our White Ski Resorts

As ski season approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, many resorts continue to find ways to offer more sustainable approaches to one of the favorite outdoor sports. While none is generating 100 percent of its own renewable energy, many are either generating some of their own power or purchasing renewable energy from utilities. According to a report by the National Geographic Society, at least 22 US ski resorts in seven states use wind power credits to supply 100 percent of their electricity use. Sustainable ski programs help you find and select “green” resorts, and provide listings of the sustainable attributes, including efforts in solar and wind power, transportation, water conservation and protection, vegetation and wildlife conservation, and energy efficiency. A few websites help sort through resorts:
Ski Area Environmental Scorecard
Ski Green Guide
Ski Green
Sustainable Slopes

Monday, November 2, 2009

Swiss Alpine Hut Powered by the Sun

The Monte Rosa Hut above Zermatt, Switzerland, is nicknamed "Mountain Crystal". The innovative building generates over 90 percent of its own energy and will serve the Swiss Federal Technical University in Zurich as an on-going research project in power and building service engineering. 2,883 meters above sea level, the New Monte Rosa Hut is currently the most complex wooden construction in Switzerland. Covered in a shimmering silver aluminum shell and with a photovoltaic system integrated in the southern facade, it generates its own power and is expected to be at least 90 percent energy self-sufficient. Solar collectors installed in the grounds generate solar heat, which provides warm water and heats the ventilation system's supply air to control the temperature in the rooms. In the few months of the year where the ice melts, the water is collected and stored in a cavern to provide the guests with flush toilets and four hot showers. A bacteria-based microfiltration system cleans the sewage; the graywater is then reused to flush the toilet and for washing. See more images at

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NYC Plans for Green Jobs

New Yorkers have turned the vision of a new greencollar economy into a realistic blueprint for implementation that other cities can follow - the NYC Green Jobs Roadmap. The plan recommends and outlines an inclusive green economy that employs thousands in green-collar jobs that help upgrade infrastructure, improve the health of our communities, and reduce our nation’s reliance on imported energy that degrades the environment. It estimates that investment in solar energy would create 42 percent more job-years per dollar than a comparable investment in fossil fuel. The Roadmap assumes that the city needs to adopt a greener, more sustainable economic growth agenda to thrive. As a global city surrounded by water, New York is particularly vulnerable to global climate instability and energy supply volatility. Globally, 634 million people live in areas most vulnerable to rising seas. The Roadmap articulates the steps necessary to make sure that the path leads to strong economic growth, good jobs, and broadly shared benefits for all New Yorkers. Read more on

Saturday, October 31, 2009

REI Round Rock Store Employs the Sun

The REI Round Rock store has an exceptionally efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning system and building envelope, more than 80 percent reduction of construction waste, green building education program and rooftop solar panel installation. Mounting on the green building success of its previous stores, including one in Boulder, Colorado, this second generation of green prototype store in Round Rock, Texas, is projected to consume 48% less energy than a typical store and generate a portion of its power from a solar panel installation and building integrated photovoltaics. Read about it and see pix on

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Seattle Aquarium Retrofits with Solar Hot Water

The Seattle Aquarium unveiled Seattle’s first solar hot water demonstration project 16 June 2009, a system that will reduce the Aquarium’s use of natural gas by preheating water used in the second floor cafĂ©. Installed by A & R Solar of Seattle, the five solar panels will shrink the Aquarium’s carbon footprint by 2.5 tons of CO2 each year, and teach the Aquarium’s 800,000 visitors about renewable energy sources. “Sustainable energy is linked to sustainable oceans,” Aquarium Director John Braden said. “Over 200 years of increasing CO2 emissions have carbonated the oceans and increased its acidity, threatening marine food webs, including plankton, shellfish, fish, birds, mammals and humans. With this solar project, we hope to provide a model of sustainability that can inspire our visitors and other zoos and aquariums to do what they can to take Climate Action Now.” Read more and see pix at

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tethered Sails Power Cargo Ships with Wind

It’s an idea that has been tested: a giant sail is attached to a heavy cargo ship, or smaller boat, to capture wind power, thereby reducing fossil fuel consumption, costs and pollution. One company, SkySails, reports that its kite sail will help reduce annual fuel costs by ten to 35 percent, with fewer harmful carbon emissions. The large towing kite resembles a paraglider and is shaped like an aircraft wing to enable it to take advantage of different wind directions. It operates at 100-300m above surface level - much higher than a normal sailing craft - where winds are stronger and more stable. The kite can be used in winds of 12-74km/h (7-40 knots) and not just when the wind is blowing directly from behind the ship. At, we look at two different kite systems from two companies, SkySails and KiteShip. Read more and see pix

Monday, October 26, 2009

Solar Retrofit in UK Works Despite Clouds

Contrary to popular belief, light levels in the UK are sufficient to make photovoltaic cells viable throughout the country, with photovoltaics generating power even on cloudy days. In addition, solar energy works well in built-up urban areas and can be retro-fitted to existing buildings and houses relatively cheaply, to produce truly local power. The CIS Tower in Manchester, UK, provides an example of how a 1962 building was retrofitted with photovoltaics to provide part of the building’s power. The building was clad with a total of 7,244 Sharp photovoltaic panels generating 390kW of energy and began feeding electricity to the National Grid in November 2005. The building also has 24 wind turbines on the roof, and combined with the solar provide 10% of the total power used by the building. Read more about it and see photos at

Saturday, October 24, 2009

US Army Begins Huge Solar Plant at Ft. Irwin, CA

The U.S. Army is preparing to build a 500 megawatt solar thermal plant in the California desert – one of the largest renewable energy plants in the world. This gargantuan solar plant at Ft. Irwin, California will be completed by private developers Clark Enterprises and Spanish building company Acciona. Right now, like many military bases, most of Ft. Irwin’s energy comes from diesel generators—with long, vulnerable lines back to the fuel source. It’s right next to high capacity transmission lines, which means that later, the army can sell most of the excess energy to southern California. At peak, Ft. Irwin only needs 35 megawatts, leaving around 465 to shed. Read the full article in Wired Magazine

Friday, October 23, 2009

LEED versus Passive House Standard

Check out this article that compares LEED versus the Passive House standard. Titled "Follow or Get out of the Way: The household name in green construction needs to innovate in order to keep up with the competition".
Writes the author, "Imagine if teachers gave out grades on the first day of school based on students’ promises of how hard they each plan to study. Oddly, we use this backward system to grade green buildings in the United States." Commentary is by Jacob Gordon on The Good 100 blog.

Why the Spotlight on Solar?

PASSIVE SOLAR DESIGN is the first step towards reducing our power consumption in buildings. After that, SOLAR and WIND energy can be used for cleaner, renewable electric power. However, a quick look at the solar power industry shows that cumulative solar energy production accounts for less than 0.01% of total Global Primary Energy demand. Its use is growing, but not so much in the US. Consider:
- Worldwide photovoltaic installations doubled to 5,948 MW in 2008, up from 2,826 MW installed during the previous year. (In 1985, annual solar installation demand was only 21 MW.)
- In megawatt terms, cell production in China and Taiwan reached 3,304 MW in 2008, with Europe at 1,729 MW, ahead of Japanese production at 1,172 MW in 2008. US manufacturers contributed only 375 MW in 2008.

Why Is Solar Power Dim in the US?

A recent article in BUSINESS WEEK provides some clues: it is usually cheaper to build solar panels elsewhere, partly because many European and Asian nations offer so-called feed-in tariffs that require utilities to buy solar-generated electricity at rates far higher than they pay for power from fossil fuels. This guarantees reliable profits for solar plant developers and operators. Even though US labs produced many breakthroughs in solar cells, China now dominates the $30 billion global solar industry, making 35% of the world's cells and 49% of polysilicon wafers. The US makes only 5%, and solar equipment bought with U.S. tax credits is often imported from China. Also, policies that impact the solar industry in the US are usually created at the state level, in contrast to the other major solar markets. Read Full Article in Business Week 10 Sept 09: Can the Future Be Built in America? Author Pete Engardio.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Solaripedia – Hot Spot for Solar and Wind Energy Info (, the hottest online resource for solar, wind, passive and sustainable design and building, has just been launched. The extensive SOLARIPEDIA database is designed to help architects, builders, and homeowners learn more about utilizing renewable solar energy. Thousands of images, files and links to pertinent info are easily accessible via a search tool.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Solaripedia, a comprehensive website devoted to solar resources. Learn about passive design, solar heating, photovoltaics, wind energy and more. Shop for books in the Solaripedia Bookstore to help support this free online resource.