A zero-energy house under construction in Germany is set to provide the first real-life test for a new façade system that uses live microalgae to provide shade and generate renewable energy at the same time.
The world’s first ‘bio-adaptive façade’ will be installed in the ‘BIQ’ house for the International Building Exhibition (IBA) in Hamburg, which runs through 2013.
The façade concept is designed so that algae in the bio-reactor façades grow faster in bright sunlight to provide more internal shading. The ‘bio-reactors’ not only produce biomass that can subsequently be harvested, but they also capture solar thermal heat – both energy sources can be used to power the building.
In practice, this means that photosynthesis is driving a dynamic response to the amount of solar shading required, while the micro-algae growing in the glass louvres provide a clean source of renewable energy. READ MORE >>
MIT researcher Andreas Mershin has a vision that within a few years, people in remote villages in the developing world may be able to make their own solar panels, at low cost, using otherwise worthless agricultural waste as their raw material.
The headquarters of the solar-energy company Sustainable Environmental Enterprises is a green oddity in this rough part of New Orleans’ Central City neighborhood. The butterfly-winged roof and lopsided, Lego building design, complete with a money green paint job, fits anything but neatly in this residential neighborhood where run-down shotgun-style houses are strewn amidst blighted properties.
Economic development and political power may have overlooked this community in favor of tourist magnets like the French Quarter, but SEE CEO Lea Keal, 32, and board chairman Stacey Danner, 37, see only opportunity in helping develop this community and others like it by providing access to solar power.
SEE provides financing to low-income residents to lease and eventually purchase solar energy equipment that is otherwise cost-prohibitive. Though they're getting cheaper, solar panels and mounts can still cost as much as $25,000, and that’s before you get to installation and maintenance. For that price, you’re not going to find too many solar customers in a city like New Orleans, where there are almost as many households with incomes below $75,000 (76 percent, according to 2010 Census figures) as homes that were submerged below floodlines after Katrina (80 percent).
Only a small percentage of wealthy families can afford to buy or get a loan for solar. “Before this, people needed either equity in their homes or sparkling credit to get solar,” says Darren Davis, 53, SEE's executive director of business development. Thanks in part to a $1 million loan from California-based Adam Capital this past fall, SEE is changing that equation.
Homeowners using solar power reap huge savings from cheap, clean energy—savings that poor families desperately need. “It’s expensive to be poor, and nowhere is that truer than in energy,” says John Moore, a former energy policy analyst under Mayor Ray Nagin who now does consulting work for SEE. “[If you are poor], you likely live in an energy-inefficient home, and your energy bills are higher than normal.” READ MORE >>
Charlie Rose interviewed Jeremy Rifkin last night - great segment and am very intrigued with his ideas on the "Energy Internet" – a new distributive, collaborative model that emphasies local, renewable energy.
Here's an earlier print interview that appeared in Forbes:
Economist and energy visionary Jeremy Rifkin is senior lecturer at the Wharton School’s Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, D.C., author of 19 books, and an advisor to the European Union and to heads of state around the world. In his most recent treatise, The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and World (September 2011), Rifkin describes how the current Industrial Revolution is drawing to a close and why and how we should work to shape the next one.
How did you come up with this idea?
My read on history is that the great economic revolutions occur when two phenomena come together. When we change energy regimes, it makes possible much more complex economic relations. When energy revolutions occur, however, they require communication revolutions that are agile enough to manage them. If you look at the 19th century, print technology became very cheap when we introduced steam power into printing. That decreased the cost and increased the speed, efficiency and availability of print material. At the same time we established public schools in Europe and America. We created a print literate workforce with the communication skills to organize a First Industrial Revolution driven by coal and steam power.
Then we did it again in the 20th century with the convergence of communication and energy: Centralized electricity—especially the telephone and then later radio and television—became the communication vehicles to manage a more dispersed Second Industrial Revolution, organized around the oil-powered internal combustion engine, suburban construction and the creation of a mass consumer society.
Energy historians only deal with energy, and communication historians only deal with communications, but in history you can’t really do one without the other. That’s the framework that led me to this kind of search, and the Third Industrial Revolution really came out of that narrative on how history evolves.
So, what exactly is the Third Industrial Revolution?
First of all, it’s based on a new convergence of communication and energy. The Internet has been a very powerful communication tool in the last 20 years. What’s so interesting about it is the way it scales. I grew up in the 20th century on centralized electricity communication that scales vertically. The Internet, by contrast, is a distributed and collaborative communication medium and scales laterally.
We are in the early stages of a convergence of Internet communication technology with a new form of energy that is by nature distributed and has to be managed collaboratively and scales laterally. We’re making a great transition to distributed renewable energy sources. And we distinguish those from the elite energies—coal, oil, gas, tar sands—that are only found in a few places and require significant military and geopolitical investments and massive finance capital, and that have to scale top down because they are so expensive. Those energies are clearly sunsetting as we enter the long endgame of the Second Industrial Revolution.
Distributed energies, by contrast, are found in some frequency or proportion in every inch of the world: the sun, the wind, the geothermal heat under the ground, biomass—garbage, agricultural and forest waste—small hydro, ocean tides and waves. READ MORE >>
A city that obtains its power from renewable resources, where electric cars move quietly along the streets and which emits almost no carbon dioxide -- German federal minister Mrs. Schavan and the president of Fraunhofer, Hans-Jörg Bullinger, shone a spotlight on the scenario of a sustainable city of the future in the vision of "Morgenstadt.
At the UrbanTec Trade Fair in Cologne from October 24 -26, 2011, Fraunhofer researchers are demonstrating which of the technologies shown can already be implemented today.
It has become quieter on the streets of Morgenstadt: electric cars are now the masters of the road. And quite a bit has changed where housing is concerned: ecological rent guidelines provide landlords with an incentive to restore their houses with energy efficiency in mind. Local heating supply with combined heating and power, as well as solar energy, are systematically expanding into large areas of the city, and Morgenstadt managed to occupy first place in the category of major cities in the federal solar league. Old houses have been completely renovated where energy is concerned -- even in the deepest winter they only need little heating to be comfortably warm. Last, but not least, new safety and security concepts ensure a resilient infrastructure such as railway stations. Plazas and city centers afford a high quality of life and comfort. And washing machines and dish washers run predominantly when electricity is most affordable. In their publication "Morgenstadt -- An answer to climate change," German federal minister Annette Schavan and the president of Fraunhofer, Hans-Jörg Bullinger, supported by nineteen researchers from business, science and politics, describe this vision for the high-tech strategy of the German federal government.
"Morgenstadt" is one of the lighthouse projects adopted by Fraunhofer in the course of the high-tech strategy of the German federal government: READ MORE >>
From the ability to reduce peak demand on the transmission and distribution system, hedge against fuel price increases, or enhance grid and environmental security, solar power has a monetary value as much as ten times higher than its energy value.
The cost of residential-scale distributed solar PV is around 23 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in a sunny climate like Los Angeles, 24 cents in Colorado. While the average cost of grid-delivered wholesale electricity in many parts of the country is low (4 cents per kWh), a new report lists many ways that distributed solar adds value beyond electrons.
Distributed solar power provides electricity on-site or near to demand, reducing transmission losses, as well as wear-and-tear on utility equipment by mitigating peak demand. It also eliminates the need to hedge against fuel price swings. These benefits add 3 to 14 cents per kWh to the utility bottom line.
Distributed solar also provides value to society, by reducing the economic losses of blackouts (just 500 MW of distributed solar could have prevented the massive 2003 Northeast blackout), reducing pollution, hedging against finite fossil fuel supplies, and creating jobs. These benefits add 11 to 16 cents to the taxpayer’s bottom line for every kWh of distributed solar. READ MORE >>
Hydro Building Systems, a division of the Norwegian multinational aluminum giant Hydro, has confirmed the energy-positive performance of a building constructed in 2009 in Bellenberg, Germany.
The building produces about 80% more electric power than it consumes annually, according to analysis of performance data collected to date.
The test center for energy-effective building solutions, which produces enough power to satisfy its own consumption needs and deliver surplus power to the German electricity grid, was inaugurated by Hydro’s building brand company WICONA in June 2009.
In addition to heat pumps and building-integrated solar photovoltaic systems that produce power onsite, the building features an innovative façade design that reduces energy consumption to as little as 23 kilowatt-hours per square meter annually.
“A super-efficient façade is the most important contributor in the realization of an energy-positive building,” said Lars Hauk Ringvold, president of Hydro Building Systems. “We see demand for façade solutions for zero-energy buildings and energy-positive buildings increasing significantly in the coming years.”
It will be a sustainable building milestone: a structure that generates every watt of power it needs from a 96-kilowatt (KW) canopy of solar panels, perched like a beetle’s black carapace above its roof. Ground source heat pumps will warm the structure, called Solar 2, in the winter, and heavily insulated walls will keep hot air out in the summer.
Solar 2, a green energy education center for the nonprofit group Solar One, won’t be built in the Sunbelt or in an off-the-grid national park. Instead, it will occupy a contaminated landfill site on Manhattan’s East River, near some of the most densely packed streets in the world. Solar One is currently raising money to construct the $12 million building, which has qualified for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum award from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Less than 20 years ago, a “net-zero energy building” building wouldn’t have stood a chance on New York’s mean streets, according to Gregory Kiss of Kiss+Cathcart Architects, the building’s designer. At the time, buildings outfitted with photovoltaic solar panels — called building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) — were coming into vogue in California and Northern Europe, but New York developers and homeowners wouldn’t bite. Solar panels were too expensive, there were no financial incentives to installing them, and the approval process was cumbersome. It was, in some circumstances, even illegal to install solar panels on a building and then try to connect to the grid, according to New York energy experts.
Thousands of miles of highways stretched across the U.S., and every day they soak up heat from the sun, sometimes to the tune of 140 degrees and more. Harnessing the solar energy in highways would go a long way toward helping to replace oil and other fossil fuels with a far safer and more secure source of power, and now researchers at the University of Rhode Island have come up with four potential avenues of approach.
Solar Power from Jersey Barriers
Jersey Barriers are those unattractive but effective modular walls that are often used to separate opposite lanes on narrow roads. According to the Rhode Island researchers, existing technology could be used to fix flexible photovoltaic cells along the tops of the barriers, and also on the narrow stretch of road alongside them. The energy could be used to power street lights and road signs. READ MORE >>