Friday, December 17, 2010

Spectacular Tent Is Largest in World in Kazakhstan

In the capital city of Astana, Kazakhstan, rises the largest “tent” in the world – Khan Shatyr Centre. The cable-net, tensile structure soars 150 meters to form the highest peak on the Astana skyline, providing dramatic views over the city and the Steppes beyond. The building encloses an area of more than 100,000 square meters with retail spaces, parks, a beach, restaurants and entertainment facilities. Designed by Foster + Partners of the UK, this urban oasis is designed to withstand the wild temperature extremes of Kazakhstan – from a sweltering 40+ degrees C in summer down to a bone-chilling minus-40 degrees C in winter. Supported by a giant tripod, the tent is covered with a transparent polymer material called ETFE that allows daylight to enter the interiors while sheltering them from weather extremes. Foster, along with engineers at Buro Happold, created a system that harnesses solar gain in winter and releases warm air to the apex in summer. The structure is so large that small weather systems can develop inside because of the extreme conditions outside – this was the big challenge for the designers.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Recreation Center in Germany Powers with Solar

The Steinhude Sea Recreation Facility building is only about 3,500 square feet with services for public toilets, lifeguard facilities, a small cafe, an observation deck, boat storage and a generator for supplemental power for the kitchen. Its photovoltaic system provides enough power for the building needs, as well as for recharging a fleet of eight solar-powered rental boats. There's even excess power to sell back to the grid. The PV panels (153 square meters in surface area) are integrated into and stretched along a sweeping roof that also provides daylighting with its innovative glazing system. A natural gas turbine generator provides additional power for peak loads associated with the cafe. The project is located on the south shore of Steinhude Sea in north-central Germany; it is on the 46,000 square meter (11.4 acres) Bath Island, attached by a bridge to the mainland.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

BedZED Community Success and Lessons Learned

BedZED was initially developed to become a carbon neutral residential community south of London in Sutton. More than seven years after its completion, the community showed excellent progress towards that goal and learned that some green technologies did not work as planned. For example, one of the original goals was to generate enough electricity with PVs to power up to 40 electric vehicles for 10,000 miles a year (88 Mwh/year). However, as of 2007 there was only one electric vehicle on-site, so the community was at about 20 percent of its original goal. Energy use, however, showed a 45 percent reduction compared to the surrounding Sutton average. Designed by UK architect Bill Dunster, this community continues to provide a great model for sustainable urban development, using recycled materials, a combined heat and power plant, a living machine, passive design with wind scoops for natural ventilation, vegetated roofs and a host of other features. Plus it's fun to see with its colorful rooftop projections. BedZED includes 82 residential homes, 18 live/work units, commercial workspaces, and several on-site facilities.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Malawi Boy Harnessed Electric Wind in Africa

William Kamkwamba was a young teenager when his family's poverty forced him to give up formal schooling. He found some books at a tiny local library that explained the principles of electricity and physics in pictures and diagrams; because the books were in English, a language he did not speak or read, he studied the images to figure out how he might create a wind machine to generate power. From a nearby junkyard, he gathered scrap metals, an old bicycle dynamo, a tractor fan, a bicycle wheel and frame, and PVC pipe. He assembled them atop a tower from branches that he cut from blue gum trees in his village. He didn't even have tools, but fashioned his own to create his windmill. He ran a wire from his wind generator to his house to power a couple of lightbulbs. Eventually his story became news, he became famous and he became a student at Dartmouth College studying engineering. His windmill has propagated into several windmills and solar panels that provide electricty and irrigation to his small village in Malawi.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The New Old Faithful Center Rocks in Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park has 5,000 employees, 2,000 hotel rooms and 2,000 campsites. In 2009 it had 3.3 million visitors with more expected in 2010. Until a few years ago, the thousands of tons of trash generated by all those people were being hauled to a landfill 100 miles away. But, now an aggressive effort to divert, reuse and eliminate the waste has Yellowstone composting and recycling so much that it is diverting 80 percent of its waste (including some 1,200 tons of electronics!) from the landfill. The most prolific item in the waste bins is the plastic water bottle. In 2009, 40 tons of plastic water bottles were recycled and Yellowstone will most likely hit a 90 percent diversion rate by 2011. Even the 10,000 gallons of used cooking oil generated by Park concessioners is recycled and used to create biodiesel that powers everything from hundreds of unmodified vehicles to boilers in the park. And the ubiquitous camp stove propane tanks are now purged of propane that is used to power a generator and a compressor that punctures and flattens the cylinder, which is then recycled as raw steel. So it's only fitting amongst all these wonderful "green" efforts that Yellowstone has constructed a green visitor and education center where the old one stood.

Monday, August 23, 2010

On the Shore of Chesapeake Bay, A "Green" Headquarters Building

Back in 1997, green building was not mainstream and environmentally-friendly materials were hard to come by. But the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) - an organization that is dedicated to preserving and protecting the Chesapeake Bay and its tributary rivers - needed a new headquarters and did not want to create any pollution by building it. It wanted a "green" building. The result was the Philip Merrill Environmental Center, which opened in 2001. It continues to be one of the world’s most energy-efficient buildings, incorporating natural elements into a fully functional workplace which has minimal impact on its Bay- and creek-front surroundings. Using photovoltaics, rainwater collection, composting toilets and a host of other measures, the building is cost effective and operates in harmony with the land, natural resources, and the Chesapeake Bay. The building incorporates many sustainable features such as siding made from recycled metals, rainwater collection and a 30 percent reduction in energy use. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

One Person's Trash Becomes Another's Art

It's a smallish house a block off a main drag in Ellensburg, Washington, home of Central Washington University. Dick and Jane's Spot was begun about 30 years ago by artists Jane Orleman and Dick Elliott (who died in 2008). They have created a yardful of sculpture and decoration out of junk - old bottles, cans, bottle caps, hub caps, bicycle wheels and especially reflectors. Thousands of reflectors form colorful patterns on fences surrounding the property. Scrap metal is shaped into animals or people or unique figures. Whimsical and cheery, the home seems a fun way to display and reuse old stuff that might otherwise be left in a landfill.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Nine-Foot Cube Provides a Compact Home

The Micro Compact Home, in use and available throughout Europe, combines techniques for high quality compact 'living' spaces deployed in aircraft, yachts, cars, and micro apartments. It has a timber frame structure with anodized aluminum external cladding, insulated with polyurethane and fitted with aluminum frame double glazed windows and front door with security double lock. The Home measures about 9’ x 9’ x 9’ with a ceiling height of six-and-a-half feet. The entire unit weighs about 2 tons. The Micro Compact Home contains two double beds, storage space, a sliding table for dining for up to five people, a flat screen TV, a shower and toilet cubicle and a kitchen area.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Living Learning Center Goes Zero Net Energy and Wastewater

Buildings of the future will most likely all behave like the Living Learning Center at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. As part of the Tyson Research Center, this 2,900-square-foot facility is designed to be a zero net energy and zero wastewater building. It captures rainwater and purifies it for drinking, and is powered so efficiently by solar energy that the building pumps energy into the electric grid to be purchased by the local energy company. During construction, a high percentage of construction waste (80 percent or more, depending on the material) was diverted from landfills and most materials were obtained from within a close radius of the construction site to reduce carbon emissions from travel and shipping - a lot of the wood in the project came from trees on the site. Occupational spaces contain operable windows to provide access to fresh air and daylight, and classrooms feature large roll-up doors for indoor/outdoor space.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Prep School in Hawaii Builds a Renewable Energy Lab for Its Students

Not only is the Energy Lab at Hawaii Preparatory Academy designed and constructed using sustainable principles, it helps students learn how the features work. The building supplies its own energy needs from photovoltaic and windmill sources, using only eight percent of the energy it produces with the rest net-metered to the campus grid. Its rainwater capture system filters and supplies all of the building’s domestic water, and solar thermal panels provide hot water. The building is designed for natural ventilation and uses a natural radiant cooling system instead of mechanical air conditioning. With sensors and monitoring for all systems, students are able to track all building functions - and the building can self-regulate its internal climate.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Washington State Winery Reaches for Sustainable Operations

Designed by Olson Kundig Architects of Seattle, the Cave B Winery is comprised of the Cave B Inn, Lodge and 15 guesthouses at Sagecliffe, surrounded by estate vineyards and orchards. First planted in 1980, Cave B grows a broad range of varietals that are possible due to the microclimates of its distinctive cliffside location 900 feet above the Columbia River. The placement of multiple buildings on the site and their organization were informed by topographical and geological conditions on the site, particularly the basalt cliffs, and rocky outcroppings and talus. Much of the stone for the buildings was harvested on-site or from nearby quarries. This winery helps educate local school kids about organic gardening and heirloom vegetables, as well as the benefits of eating locally. Its recycling program includes sharing grape skins with a local farm that uses them for feeding dairy cows, and providing old wine bottles to a company that remakes them into wine goblets and other useful items.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Zero Energy Community in California Innovated in 2003

Back in 2003 a housing development became California’s largest zero energy community with single family homes and an apartment complex powered by solar. Built by Clarum Homes, Vista Montaña in Watsonville was designed to reduce homeowner energy bills by up to 90 percent. Carrying the Zero Energy Home designation from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the development housed the largest building-integrated solar electric system in an apartment community in the United States. The 60-kilowatt system by GE made it possible for this community to produce over 90 megawatt hours of electricity annually. In total, Vista Montana has 177 single-family homes, 80 townhouses, and 132 apartments that were built with 1.2 to 2.4 kWp, and with a calculated energy yield of 1400 kWh/kWp.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Historic Solar-Powered Flight - Too Exciting for Words - Almost....

I am more than excited about the longest and highest solar-powered airplane flight that was just completed in Switzerland. This is one of those events for which I feel privileged to be alive! Back in January, we featured the Solar Impulse experimental solar-powered aircraft on Solaripedia. On Wednesday, 7 June, 2010 the Impulse was launched, and 26 hours later on the next day it landed safely in Switzerland after successfully flying through the night. The historic feat is a step toward the makers' aim of circling the globe using the power of the sun to fuel the plane. The aircraft uses super-efficient solar cells and batteries to stay in the air after the sun's rays are on the other side of the earth. If you're not ecstatic about it yet, please read more about it - the implications are staggering!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Discovery Center Teaches Ecology in Kansas City, Missouri

A Discovery Center’s near downtown Kansas City, Missouri, USA, provides a teaching tool with interactive exhibits and a landscape that shows how nature works. The building itself uses a form and orientation that optimize daylighting. A geothermal heat pump heats and cools the building. Four PV arrays with 74 collectors reduce annual energy use by about 33 percent over conventional systems. One of the central attractions is the facility’s Living Machine ( that is a wastewater system that reclaims all water from the building’s toilets, sinks, showers, and drinking fountains for treatment within an exposed greenhouse setting. The treated water is used later for flushing toilets and to recharge the outdoor wetland.

Monday, June 21, 2010

South African Winds Blow Hard for Football (Soccer)

"The World Cup is an important event for South Africa's future and we wanted to show that renewable energy has a big part to play in that future. We wanted to show the world that it is possible to do renewable energy not just in Europe, but in Africa as well," said Tanguy du Monceau, managing partner at carbon consultancy CO2logic, in an interview with Business Green. Sow the world they did, as Belgium-based wind farm developer Electrawinds won the race to connect its first South African wind turbine to the grid ahead of the opening ceremony on 11 June 2010. It began providing energy free of charge to the Nelson Mandela Bay Football Stadium in Port Elizabeth where many of the World Cup games were scheduled to play in the tournament.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Architect Designs Passively Cooled School in Burkina Faso

Architect Francis Kere writes that the permeable suspending ceiling, the inclined corrugated sheet roof as well as the completely obvious shaded windows ensure a natural ventilation of the rooms in the L-shaped school addition he designed for Dano, Burkina Faso, in Africa. Compared to conventional construction methods there, for which mechanical air-conditioning is usually required, this is the more sustainable solution in the face of limited fossil resources and increasing energy prices, he says. "This especially applies to a country like Burkina Faso, which is ranked second to last place on the UN poverty list and which has to meet its entire energy demand by importing fuel." Kere uses local workers throughout the construction process - local artisans are trained in new techniques, ensuring that building methods will stay within the community. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Kere said about his architecture training in Germany, "In the back of my mind, I was thinking about going back to my country later to improve building methods there. That was my idea from the very beginning." As someone from a rural African community where more than 80 percent of the people are illiterate, who got the chance to attend higher education in Europe, he regards it as his duty to use his skills for the benefit of the people of his home continent. The Dano school received a Global Award For Sustainable Architecture. (Image ©2010 Diébedo Francis Kéré Architecture)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bladeless Wind Turbine Won't Harm Birds

A bladeless wind turbine whose only rotating component is a turbine/driveshaft could generate power at a cost comparable to coal-fired power plants, according to its developers at Solar Aero. The New Hampshire-based company recently announced its patent on the Fuller wind turbine, which is an improvement on a patent issued to Nikola Tesla in 1913. The bladeless wind turbine is completely enclosed in a relatively small compact unit. Instead of using wind-powered blades to rotate a shaft and generator, the Tesla-inspired design consists of an array of closely spaced, parallel, thin metal disks separated by spacers. When air flows in the spaces between the disks, the spacers are arranged in such a way as to provide inward momentum to the air, causing the disks to move. The disks are connected to a shaft by spokes, so that the rotating disks cause the shaft to rotate as well. As explained in the patent held by Howard Fuller, the turbine design “provides maximum efficiency in converting wind energy to mechanical power.”  -  by Lisa Zyga

Friday, June 4, 2010

Biodynamic Farm Powers More Than Plants with Sun

Tani Creek Farm in the Pacific Northwest uses sunlight for more than just growing vegetables. In the misty hills of Bainbridge Island, across Puget Sound from Seattle, Washington, a 25-acre biodynamic farm uses solar power for all its agricultural needs such as irrigation, water movement (pumped from ponds to other uses) and food production, as well as for residential purposes. Contrary to popular belief, solar power in the cloudy Pacific Northwest - where Bainbridge is located - is a viable energy alternative to fossil fuels according to solar contractor Jeff Collum of Sound Power. The farm's 29-kilowatt system covers two outbuildings and are part of the owner's mission to create a self-sustaining farm that uses clean energy.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Victoria's Dockside Green Does It Right

Dockside Green is located near downtown Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. It is a 15-acre master-planned waterfront community consisting of three neighborhoods designed to incorporate New Urbanism, smart growth, green building and sustainable community design. Dockside Green presents a model of urban regeneration through brownfield reuse, green design, and community building. A model for holistic, closed-loop design, Dockside Green functions as a total environmental system in which form, structure, materials, mechanical and electrical systems are interrelated and interdependent - a largely self-sufficient, sustainable community where waste from one area provides fuel for another. An example is its membrane bioreactor package wastewater treatment plant that recovers heat from sewage, bathwater, and dishwater. Dockside Green is intended to be built over 12 phases in three neighborhoods, with a total of 1.3 million gross square feet (73 percent of which is residential) in 26 buildings, housing 2,500 residents. (There are currently over 450.) Dockside Wharf is the initial neighborhood, with two primarily residential projects and two commercial buildings. The first phase of the Wharf, a LEED Platinum condominium project named Synergy, sold 85 percent of its 96 units in 3 hours with the first residents moving in May 2008.

Key sustainable features:

•The biomass energy system, which uses waste wood as fuel through a gasification process.

•Passive solar heating.

•An advanced building envelope and high-performance window glazing to help prevent heat loss.

•A 100-per-cent fresh air system with heat recovery.

•High-efficiency lighting and occupancy sensors.

•A 65-per-cent reduction in indoor water use with dual flush toilets, low-flow fixtures and use of graywater for sewage conveyance.

•Treatment of 100 per cent of the site’s wastewater in a campus-wide plant, which reuses it in central water features, toilet flushing, and on-site irrigation.

The project is one of a handful in Canada to achieve LEED Platinum and the first master-planned development to target this level of certification.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thai Resort Brings Kids and Ecology Together

Organic design features prominently in "The Den" - a Children's Activity and Learning Centre thatis part of the Six Senses Soneva Kiri hotel resort on Koh Kood, an island in the Gulf of Thailand. This project was conceptualized by kids for kids, and then made to work by the creative architecture firm 24-H Architects of the Netherlands. 
The Den is located at a rocky slope close to the sea, with its Manta-ray inspired bamboo dome perched in an elevated position that offers magnificent views.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Electronic Waste Shipped Overseas

We've got big problems with disposal of electronic waste. Francesca Lyman shines some light on the issue in her article in Popular Mechanics, republished on Solaripedia with a few additional links and videos. 
Consider this:
- There are 500 million obsolete computers in the U.S. alone.
- 130 million cell phones are disposed of annually.
- 20 - 24 million TV’s and computers are stored annually in homes and offices.
- Only 10% of unwanted and obsolete computers are recycled.
The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition points out that one computer monitor can contain four to eight pounds of lead, which if released can hurt an entire community. The problem has reached crisis proportions because of the sheer volume of global electronic waste.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

PV System Fits into a Suitcase

This little portable solar electric system provides power so that remote medical clinics have lighting and the ability to charge walkie-talkies or radios for communication. Developed by We Care Solar, a non-profit organization that facilitates safer childbirth in third world countries, this PV device has been assembled by teenagers in Washington, D.C. to send to Haiti.

Monday, April 26, 2010

California Dreamin' at Claire's Bakery

A San Diego, California, business carried its mission of serving up organic treats and coffee to a higher level. Claire's on Cedros  went for a full-on sustainability assault on site development, water use and energy efficiency of its entire operation. The result is a LEED Platinum-certified suite of small buildings that includes solar panels doubling as carports and awnings to provide shading.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Passive House Standard Imports High Expectations

Alex Wilson writes about the aggressively energy-efficient Passive House program, imported from Germany. PHUS is a quantitative, performance-based standard for ultra-low-energy buildings—both residential and commercial. A recent Passive House Institute US event in Olympia, Washington, was sold-out, well-organized and informative - who could ask for more? We learned from experts about window placement within the wall (centered - not at outer edge), and how builders in the Pacific Northwest are achieving Passive House, along with many other useful bits of information. Wilson does a good job of distilling and comparing PH.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cooking with the Sun Growing in Popularity

Imagine the air pollution generated by some three billion people worldwide who cook with dung, wood and charcoal  - and the catastrophic effects on the environment. Cookers powered by the sun provide a cheap and clean alternative. Check out the video that begins with Eleanor in California who has been cooking with the sun almost daily for twenty years.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mithun's Green Renovation Ten Years Later

in 2000, Seattle's renowned "green" architecture firm Mithun renovated an old warehouse building on Pier 56 in downtown, on Puget Sound. It uses no mechanical air conditioning and features all the sustainable strategies that the designers incorporate into their clients' designs. So how is it faring ten years later? David MacCaulay writes about it in Eco-Structure magazine.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Gardens Planted Under the Glass Atrium of Cleveland Mall

The Galleria in Cleveland, Ohio, sun glinting on its barrel-shaped glass roof, now harvests sunlight for more than clothes shopping. Vicky Poole, the Galleria's marketing and events director, looked up one day and thought: This place looks like a giant greenhouse. She's now looking forward to fresh tomatoes for sale among the shops and galleries at the downtown Cleveland mall. It might be the first such garden in the US.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Community Center Blends with Desert Environs

The entire building shell of the Henderson Community Center in Palm Desert, California, including the interior walls, is built from highly insulated panels and covered with high strength concrete. All wall surfaces and a majority of the ceiling surfaces are kept as natural concrete finish which required no paint and no drywall. All floor surfaces are polished concrete, which required no additional finish material to cover the structural concrete. The design provides for a large array of photovoltaic panels on the roof.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ancient Wind Towers Passively Cool Buildings

Wind towers catch cooler breezes that prevail at a higher level above the ground and direct it into the interior of  buildings. Typically, a wind tower is capped and has openings on its sides toward four directions. It will either act as a solar chimney to draw hot air out of the building, or will allow cooler breezes to come down the chimney to cool the spaces below. These ancient structures were originally developed in the Mid-East, constructed mostly of thick adobe or ceramic walls with extremely high insulative values. Also known as windcatchers, wind towers can be located over an underground reservoir of water known as a qanat. Completely shaded from the sun, a qanat aggregates the cold, sinking air of the night, which is then trapped within, unable to rise up to the less dense surface air. The wind tower creates a pressure gradient which sucks at least a small amount of air upwards through the building. This cool, dry night air, being pulled over a long passage of water, evaporates some of it and is further cooled. Some modern buildings are now using wind towers as a strategy to save energy by cooling buildings using this ancient, passive principle of air flow.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Osa Rainforest Hosts the Lapa Rios Ecolodge

Lapa Rios is an eco-resort with a light footprint in Costa Rica. It is vigilant in energy conservation through passive design and renewable sources, and uses a sustainable approach to chemical use, waste, sewage, recycling and water management while respecting wildlife and the natural setting. In fact, no live trees were cut for the construction of the buildings. The pigs on-site are the source for cooking fuel - yes, pig poop is collected from whihc methane gas is extracted for cooking. The owners conserve a 1000-acre nature preserve and offer educational programs and tours on sustainability. They also founded a local school as part of their commitment to the community.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Solar-Powered Yacht Cruises the Seas on Less Diesel

Thanks to its innovative hull design, the WHY solar-powered yacht requires less power at cruising speed than a boat of equal size. Its diesel-electric propulsion is the most efficient motorization today, and the surface of the photovoltaic panels - almost 900 square meters - covers most of the boat’s auxiliary system needs.
Its PV power is estimated to save up to 200 tons of diesel per year.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rimrock Ranch Offers Shelter from the Storm

A home in the California desert sports a steel canopy that covers the entire home, offering tempering of the extremes --  days of 100-plus degree heat or flurries of snow. This thoroughly modern, light-filled house was a challenge for the architect to design a house that opened up to the desert yet functioned well in this variously hot and cold environment that can vary as much as 50 degrees in a one day. The roll-up door opens to a deep concrete porch that functions as a stage for bands who play at the ranch, and where audiences can pull up chairs or unfold rugs on the desert floor out front, lie back and hear the set unfold. Architect Lloyd Russell was inspired by a nearby adobe cabin that is kept cool by a shade structure above it, but he has applied a contemporary flair in this modern interpretation of an old idea.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Recycled Home in Portland

An architect in Oregon takes eight years to realize a passive home built of mostly scrap and waste products, where his designs were not preconceived but rather inspired through available materials. His Portland bungalow yielded studs that were originally cut around 1925, and once de-nailed, ripped, and planed, they revealed beautiful material, he says. The home won the "Greenest Home in America" in 2008.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Organic Design Blooms at Sea Ranch Chapel

After more than twenty years the Sea Ranch Chapel, on the coast of California north of San Francisco,  continues to draw visitors from around the world. Designed by architectural sculptor James Hubbell and built by master craftsman Tombe Kumaran, it is a gem of organic architecture that would perhaps have defied computer-aided-design.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Aqua Tower Ripples in Chicago

Aqua Tower in downtown Chicago uses a rectilinear plan in its reinforced concrete structure, with hotel, rental apartments and condominiums, as well as penthouses on the top two floors. The architect figured out the envelope's curvilinear architectonic forms while working with the building’s rectangular footprint. At the same time, she devised ways it could be energy efficient through sustainable strategies, using passive solar principles.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Latvian Eco-Development: No Fences Make Good Neighbors
Near each of the 300 unique homes in Sun City, Latvia, is a small lake and forest. Central sewer is laid under the roots of pine and fir trees, along with high-speed Internet, and electricity. The homes use geothermal heat pumps that convert the warmth of the earth into heat for the houses. All-natural materials are used such as wood, stone, log, brick and cane. No fences are allowed so that abundant wildlife can roam freely across the landscape.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Camping Supplies Are Solar Powered

Solar camping equipment complements the impact-free camping experience.When I was backpacking a couple of years ago in Colorado's Raggeds Wilderness area, friends brought a solar shower. They left it sitting on a rock while everyone was out exploring, and by the time of return, the water had heated to a toasty 125 degrees. The sun can also power lanterns and cell phones via backpacks and some new concept tents.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Largest US Solar Farm Soaks up Sun in Florida

And produces 25 megawatts of electricity! This $150 million plant came in $22.5 million under budget and took just 10 months to build - several months ahead of schedule. Its 92,000 solar panels can withstand 130-mph winds. The Desoto Solar Farm is built to last at least 30 years, and it will take from 25 to 30 years for Florida Power & Light, the owner, to recoup its investment. Construction of this facility also created 400 jobs!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Modular "Living Homes" Put Solar above the Deck“Zero Energy, Zero Water, Zero Waste, Zero Carbon, Zero Emissions” is the mantra of developer Steve Glenn of Living Homes. To that end he packed his house with energy-saving technology and sustainable and nontoxic materials. A solar-energy system on the roof is intended to provide 75 to 100 percent of the electricity and 80 to 90 percent of the hot water. There is a graywater system and a storm-water cistern for watering a garden of drought-resistant plants; the irrigation system will tap in to weather telemetry on the Internet to assess when to operate. A rooftop garden is designed to divert storm water and to help with insulation and absorb sunlight, thereby reducing the heat-island effect. Materials are carefully chosen for their healthful and sustainable properties.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Off-Grid and under a Sod Roof at Big Sur,_usa%29.htmlThe Cooper Point house rises in a gentle ellipse of green, following the natural contours of the site near Big Sur, California. Designed by architect Mickey Muennig, it’s built like a bunker with massive concrete retaining walls at either end and all-glass walls in between. The roof is a continuation of the Big Sur environment, seeded with native grasses and wildflowers and six to eight inches of sod that makes it relatively fireproof, provides insulation and substantial savings in energy for this completely off-grid home.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Earth-Sheltered Home Hovers over Pacific Ocean owners of this home near Big Sur, California, estimate that they’ve cut their overall energy consumption by half, if not more. The house is completely self-sufficient and independent from the PG&E grid, with power coming from a bank of solar panels. The house’s long, tapered profile, reduces resistance to the winds that, on occasion, blow more than 100 miles per hour off the ocean. Architect Mickey Muennig of Big Sur, began his education by studying aeronautical engineering at Georgia Tech before switching to architecture.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hobbit House in Wales Made from Trees low impact woodland home built by Simon Dale in Wales conjures images of Hobbits baking bread in tiny hand-made ovens and friendly gatherings among the denizens of Middle Earth. But this extremely natural home also utilizes solar PV technology to bring lighting, music, refrigeration and computing power into this outgrowth of the forest. Dale and his father-in-law spent about four months and $6,000 building the home in 2008. Besides the PVs, they made it as sustainable as possible with oak, straw bale walls, roof and floor, a vegetated roof, and lime plaster on the walls.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bank of America Towers over Manhattan ultra-green skyscraper uses power to turn water into ice to chill the building. The cooling system produces and stores ice during off-peak hours in large tanks in the subbasement. Then the ice is used to help cool the building during peak load, essentially operating like giant ice batteries. Ice batteries have been used since absorption chillers first made ice commercially 150 years ago, before the electric light bulb was invented.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Got Portable Solar?? Help Haiti Now

One of the organizations best placed to make an immediate difference is Partners in Health. They have operated medical facilities in Haiti for more than two decades and have numerous people on the ground. Immediate needs include:

# Help us track down helicopters! That's our #1 need right now is transport. There are thousands of badly injured ppl in Port-au-Prince, and there are PIH hospitals, supplies and teams standing ready to treat them in the central plateau. It's a long, difficult drive over uncertain roads -- OR a 10-min helo ride.

# Satellite phones! Cell communications are mostly down and we can't send docs out into PAP with no way to be in touch

# Donate medicine, food, blankets, supplies ... anyone with in-kind products to donate can write to

# Lend your time and skills -- we need experienced trauma surgeons, pediatric trauma surgeons, burn specialists, nurse anesthetists, trauma nurses

# We need solar chargers, generators, fuel for generators

# Water purification that does not require electricity -- so massive quantities of water purification tablets or a system that is standalone such as solar-powered

# Transport -- we have had a few offers of private planes plus a big Air Canada jet -- we are filling them with doctors and supplies and mobilizing

Friday, January 15, 2010

Solar Power Used to Fly Airplane

Solar Impulse is an airplane powered by the sun. It provides a window for the technologies of the future, but already under development are solar cells offering a better efficiency-weight ratio, intelligent systems of energy management, materials as lightweight as they are resistant and a storage system to rival the most efficient. On earth at midday, each m2 of land surface receives the equivalent of 1000 Watts, or 1.3 horsepower of light power. Over 24 hours, this averages out to 250W/m2. With 200m2 of photovoltaic cells and a 12 percent total efficiency of the propulsion chain, the Solar Impulse airplane’s motors achieve no more than 8 HP or 6kW – roughly the amount of power the Wright brothers had a available to them in 1903 when they made their first powered flight. And it is with that small amount of energy, optimized from the solar panels to the propeller, that Solar Impulse is striving to fly day and night without fuel! Someday, the solutions developed for the solar airplane could find other applications in the building industry where efficiency and reliability are determining factors.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Learning with Sun and Nature at IslandWood

IslandWood, an outdoor learning center near Seattle, Washington, targets students from schools on free and reduced lunch programs for its School Overnight Program where they are immersed in experiences with nature and sustainability. The site and the buildings are designed to be sustainable, featuring solar meadows and building orientations that maximize passive solar gain. High performance windows optimize solar heat gain and reduce energy consumption. Natural ventilation replaces air conditioning, with operable window openings and skylights for maximum air circulation. Rainwater is collected from the roofs of several buildings and used for landscape irrigation. A Living Machine treats wastewater by using plants to filter impurities. Photovoltaics provide power and water is heated by the sun. Even trees that were cleared to make way for buildings and solar access have been cut, dried and milled and then used for exterior siding and interior trim throughout project.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Building Mimics Processes of a Tree

Made up of biological and technical 'nutrients' the Bernheim Arboretum Visitor Center building exemplifies the Cradle-to-Cradle approach to design, according to William McDonough, author of Cradle To Cradle and architect of the project. "Imagine a building like a tree; it makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, purifies water, builds soil, provides habitat for hundreds of species, accrues solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, creates micro climates and changes colors with the seasons. The Bernheim Visitor Center can do all this and more. If a building could be alive it would be this building."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Umbrella House Reborn into Solar

Pugh+Scarpa Architects of Santa Monica adapted architect Paul Rudolph’s 1953 Umbrella House idea into a renovated California solar home. Rudolph's design used a trellis to shade the home from the hot Florida sun. P+S borrowed the idea of the trellis but installed solar panels into a steel-beam canopy that shades their new house, while providing electricity. The canopy is part of a 4.5-kilowatt solar system that powers almost the entire 1,900-square-foot house and the pool. There are 89 BP Solar amorphous photovoltaic solar panels mounted in the steel-beamed structures, on the roof, and atop the carport. “It’s not rocket science,” says project architect Angela Brooks. “Our system is simple. We used normal electricity. We did the wiring diagrams. It could all be done by a nonprofessional.”

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Wisconsin Home Powered by Solar, Wind and Geothermal

This home on 40 acres in Wisconsin is designed to provide power and water off the grid for its needs. The design incorporates sustainable principles, including solar hot water, a wind turbine, geothermal heating, passive solar, and natural ventilation. Rainwater runoff is collected into a pond that is integrated into the geothermal system. Sustainable materials throughout the home include concrete floors and countertops that are durable, easy to maintain with non-toxic cleaners and provide thermal mass for utilizing passive design principles.