jvarden's Blog Posts

Solar and Wind Powered Blossom Street Lights

November 10 2008 / by jvarden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2008   Rating: 1

Street lighting of the future will be self-powered, drawing in energy from the wind and the sun. Phillips’ new Light Blossom “transforms the personality of any community from industrial to ecological, harmonizing forces of nature and working with the planet, not against it” (Source).

During the day, these Blossoms unfurl to collect solar and wind energy, moving to catch the maximum amount of energy, like sunflowers following the sun’s passage across the sky. Each Blossom’s stem contains an energy meter so both pedestrians and metermen/women can read it easily. At night, the Light Blossom automatically closes its petals and shines a faint, power-saving LED light at the base of its stem. As pedestrians approach the Blossom the light intensity increases to improve visibility.

The Light Blossom can also supply night lighting in locations that lack a constant supply of electricity. For these locations, the Blossom can also add energy to the grid with an overproduction of energy, making them into both solar and wind collectors as well as a source of lighting. While Light Blossoms may sound a little far-fetched, solar and wind collectors are becoming more and more commonplace. Soon, walking down a street where the lights turn to follow the sun and only brighten at night when they sense movement will be taken for granted.

Image: [Esdras Calderan] Flickr CC

Self Sustaining, Futuristic Fish Farms

November 10 2008 / by jvarden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Environment   Year: 2008   Rating: 6 Hot

Seafood harvesters pay no heed to fish populations and their massive catches cause damage to oceanic ecosystems. Inland fisheries can have a harsh environmental impact and can also impact the health of the fish that are raised. The state of the world’s fisheries is uncertain and if current practices continue, the future could be grim.

Hawaii Ocean Technology will attempt to answer these issues with its deep water, offshore Oceanasphere, where “twelve Oceanspheres in less than half of a square mile can yield as much as 24,000 tons of seafood” (Source). Floating free in the deep sea, the Oceanasphere is a sphere of aluminum and Kevlar, 162 feet in diameter. This fish farm is powered by an ocean thermal energy conversion system so it lacks the need for fossil fuel burning or any other source of energy, making it self sufficient with little negative impact on its surrounding environment. The Oceanasphere also is large enough and has a controlled food supply, which will result in healthier fish populations. This innovative design will hopefully lead to a new step in ocean fish farming technology.

A competing approach to the problems posed by inland fisheries is being developed by scientists at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole who are testing a system that conditions particular fish to “catch themselves” by swimming into a net when they hear a tone that signals feeding time.

Image: [Axiepics] Flickr CC

Solar Parking Canopies for Shade and Energy

October 27 2008 / by jvarden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2008   Rating: 2

Not longer just places to stick your car, multiple parking lots and garages have been changed into powerful solar energy gatherers. While some install solar panels in rooftops, others prepare solar canopies, multiple panels that are lofted into the air with poles. These projects are just another example of the multiple possibilities for solar energy installations.

Image: [Great Valley Center Image Bank] Flickr CC

Small, Mobile, Fuel-Cell Powered, but no cars yet!

October 26 2008 / by jvarden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2008   Rating: 3

By Jenna Varden

While most may think of fuel-cells as only able to power cars and other vehicles, they can also be used in smaller devices like lawnmower, vacuums and golf carts. Here are a few notable applications:

In Japan, fuel-cell powered wheel-chairs, electric carts, and electric assisted bicycles made by Kurimoto Ltd. could have a hopeful future, as more than 20% of Japan’s population is currently over the age of 65. These streamlined wheel-chairs have a max speed of about 3.7 mph, and drive for either five or ten hours for 37 or 18.6 miles, depending on the density of H2 in the storage canisters.

Princeton University’s 2007 research in fuel cell output and hydrogen regulation. “The secret of their success is a system in which the fuel input itself changes the size of the reaction chamber, and therefore the amount of power produced” (Source). They plan to use their new discoveries in lawn mowers, due to the ease of the cells incorporation, as well as the large reduction in greenhouse gasses that the fuel cells would cause.

At the Center of Renewable Energy Sources in Athens, Greece, the H2 Technologies & Renewable Energy Sources Department displayed the first fuel cell powered scooter. The scooter’s electric motor, with a range of approximately 90 miles, is powered by a 500 W fuel cell system, which charges the battery bank. Removable, the fuel cell system can also be used as a portable electricity generator. “While fuel cell cars lack infrastructure right now for long road trips, hydrogen scooters make sense for those wanting to travel cleanly and greenly within relatively small localized areas” (Source

Image: [Frankie Roberto] Flickr CC

More Cleantech Green Collar Jobs for Oregon

October 23 2008 / by jvarden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2008   Rating: 2

By Jenna Varden

Recently we featured a story of SolarWorld opening a 500 MW facility in Hillsboro, Oregon. We also covered a research breakthrough in solar material that captures 100% of the solar light spectrum. Now another solar plant for Oregon is in the works, this time in the Renewable Energy and Technology Park of Salem, where a new solar ingot and wafer manufacturing plant will be built. Construction of this SANYO plant will begin in a year’s time and should be under full operation in under six month’s time, by April 2010. At full capacity, the plant will produce approximately 70 MW, “bringing the total for ingot and wafer production capacity in America approximately 100 MW” (Source).

This factory is only part of SANYO’s goal of an annual capacity of 600MW by 2010. SANYO’s goal competes with North America’s largest solar-cell manufacturing SolarWorld facility in Hillsboro, Oregon, only a little more than fifty miles away. SANYO has invested about $80 million in its Salem plant and upon its completion, should provide Oregon with two hundred green jobs.

Image: [Van_mij] Flicker CC

Artificial Trees that can Power Cars and Homes

October 20 2008 / by jvarden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2008   Rating: 2

By Jenna Varden

In an innovative burst of biomimicry, Solar Botanic will harvest both sun and wind energy with their Solar Botanic Trees and Nanoleaves . Like other methods of obtaining renewable energy, Solar Botanic is clean and renewable, but the company also faced and possibly answered questions of efficiency, practicality, and aesthetics.

Solar Botanic Trees are artificial and yet lifelike trees that can collect not only solar and wind power, but also rain. Solar Botanic trees are powered by the Nanoleaf, which uses photovoltaic and thermovoltaic cells to capture and convert solar energy into electricity. Rustling through the Nanoleaves, the wind moves the voltaic material embedded in wooden portions of the tree, stems, branches, and twigs. This movement creates electricity from wind power. Unlike real trees, Solar Botanic Trees live year-round and will always continue to harness renewable energy.

With its multiple modes of power, a Solar Botanic “tree with a canopy of about 6 sq meters can create enough energy to provide for the needs of an average household” (Source). These trees can be planted in front of homes, along highways, in the street, in parks where children play, or in groves. Solar Botanic Trees could also assist in desert reclamation, as they provide both shade from the blazing sun and energy.

While Solar Botanic Trees are still in the making, multiple governments have offered research facilities for Solar Botanic to create its wonder-trees and the company is still searching for business partners to assist them in their quest to provide the world an aesthetically pleasing, practical renewable energy collector.

Image: [Wohnai] Flicker CC License

Ever Vail Village Awarded the Platinum Rating By LEED-ND

October 17 2008 / by jvarden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2008   Rating: 2

On October 14th, the Ever Vail village, a Vail Resort planned development, received the highest Platinum rating by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Neighborhood Development (ND). The LEED-ND rating system acknowledged projects that combine environmental development and the neighborhood and the larger region beyond. Earlier, we also featured a story on the Proximity Hotel in North Carolina, the first hotel to receive a LEED Platinum rating by the Green Building Counsel.

Chief Executive Officer of Vail Resorts, Rob Katz, said “being awarded the highest level of green building certification by the U.S. Green Building Council speaks to the commitment Vail Resorts has to the environment and to the dedication, hard work and creativity of our Company’s development design team.”

The Platinum rating isn’t handed out to just anyone; Ever Vail is one of only two projects in the United States to receive it. Ever Vail received the stellar rating because their design team worked hard to incorporate sustainable practices into the village project, such as:
- Solar thermal collectors to heat water and power space heating

- Biomass from beetle-killed, local trees

- Reducing energy and water use of the buildings by 20-30 and 30-50 percent

- The reduction of vehicle use through a pedestrian friendly design

- Using only local materials to limit transportation-based pollution

- Committing to sustainable waste, water, and energy management

- Building at least 80 percent of the buildings to LEED-New Construction standards

Ever Vail Village will not only be a resort for peak-seasons, but a year-long community. Vail Resorts is trying to attract residents to their sustainable, pedestrian friendly community with one of the most affordable housing available in the valley area.

Image credit : [OneOfThem] Flicker CC

Don't be Evil, be Green: Google's Cleantech Movement

October 10 2008 / by jvarden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Environment   Year: 2008   Rating: 9 Hot

By Jenna Varden

“It’s just a math problem.” – Google CEO Eric Schmidt

Google is thinking big, again! The company that was founded to ‘organize all the world’s information’ is now focusing its attention on energy. Google’s Cleantech Movement plans to “eliminate all utility fossil fuel dependence and 50 percent of automobile fossil fuel dependence by 2030.”
So far, the company has already invested $45M in wind, solar, and geothermal energy, with tidal and wave power as next in line. This will not only save consumers and America money, one of Google’s motivations, it will also protect the Earth’s environment, reason number two, which is “all part of not being evil (Source: Stefanie Olsen/CNET). In other words, not only is funding alternative energy helpful for its monetary benefits, it helps the environment and gives Google a positive image in the public eye. It will also benefit Google’s energy guzzling servers, whose life-force is the precious commodity of electricity, thus saving the company money.

Schmidt believes that better energy efficiency will lead to more savings. And moving from fossil fuels to renewable, alternative energies will also cost less in the long-term. As an example, while it may indeed cost a hefty amount to make the switch, once in place, the ‘U.S. would save 97% of $2.17 trillion in energy spending over the next 22 years.’ Google’s renovation of its own buildings to cut carbon emissions, installed solar and power monitoring equipment, and is already saving money each year. Restructuring the U.S. power grid, currently with a 9 percent efficiency loss, could also make the country’s energy more efficient and thus, save more money.

Are Computer Servers 21st century ‘energy guzzlers’?

While Google should be lauded for its progressive view on energy efficiency, it also has an intrinsic self-interest in cheap electricity. Google’s new server farm to be built on the banks of the Columbia River in Oregon, called The Dalles data center, will need an estimated 103 megawatts of electricity to run, ‘enough to power 82,000 homes, or a city the size of Tacoma, Washington – via Roughtype

While The Dalles center will not be up and running until 2011, Google’s multitude of other server farms also require large amounts of electricity. Cheaper electricity will allow Google to save money powering their farms, as well as allow further expansion.

What is behind Google’s real motivations? Not being Evil, or Green is Good

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Reliable Fuel Cells Powering Remote Traffic Systems

October 06 2008 / by jvarden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2008   Rating: 6 Hot

By jvarden

Although fuel cell electric vehicles are still transitioning towards commercialization, the off-grid performance benefits of these electrochemical devices might soon reinforce critical pieces of our transportation infrastructure.

Smart Fuel Cell, a German-based company, has shipped thousands of their commercial fuel cell products and also totes multiple awards for its innovative methods. While most associate fuel cells with automobiles, SFC will also reliably power remote traffic systems with their EFOY Pro Series of fuel cells. Since normal batteries can only power warning blinkers for two days and solar cells/generators are too unreliable, EFOY Pro series fuel cells need no maintenance and are an off-grid power that will run, hypothetically, forever, as long as it has a fuel source. The cell’s tough case can handle rough weather, even temperatures between -4° F and +113 ° F. One 28-litre M28 fuel cell could operate the blinker for 50 days and they have a guaranteed lifetime of 5,000 operating hours or 30 months.

The Munich North Autobahn Authorities are already using the EFOY Pro Series fuel cells. If these cells become commonplace, then remote, off-the-grid traffic systems will not only be more reliable, they will cost less to maintain and will be available for usage even in disaster-struck areas whose power-lines are down.

Image: Sarah Ivancic Flicker CC

Tapping Wave Power in Deep Seas

October 03 2008 / by jvarden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2008   Rating: 2

While most wave power turbines are sedentary, generating their energy from surface waves that crash against them, Scottish engineers at the University of Strathclyde’s Energy Systems Research Unit have developed a new, innovative turbine that can generate energy in the deep seas.

The deeper, more powerful water currents allow for more energy generation, but unfortunately, most water turbines cannot handle it. On the other hand, the ESRU turbine will function like a kite, anchored to the seabed and drifting with the ocean currents to plumb the strong, deep waters. Its contra-rotating rotors are designed to allow the simplification of the mooring system.

ESRU’s kite turbines still have more research to undergo before they are ready for use, but if they are perfected, wave powered turbines will not be limited only to the use of crashing surface waves but they could also be moored to vast ocean beds and their deep currents’ wealth of power finally tapped. The upcoming sea trials may bring up more questions for the researchers to answer, including the turbines’ environmental impact and energy-delivery infrastructure, but hopefully these kite turbines will soon be drifting in deep sea currents, powering the world with their clean, renewable energy.

Via Scientific American

Image: Chausinho Flickr CC License

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