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.