The Sustainable Design Revolution is Coming

sustainable-design

With climate change’s effects becoming more and more evident, people are seeking ways to remove, or at least reduce, the environmental footprint of their activities.

Sustainable design is a broad concept that pertains to designing physical objects, services or the environment itself to eliminate negative ecological impacts and achieve sustainability.

In an interview with Ecoseed, Adital Ela, a member of TED Global Fellow and founder of S-Sense Design sustainability design studio, said sustainable design is “an important tool to help re-envisioning and redesigning our way of life on this planet in a way that is healthier, happier and more fulfilling for both people and the planet and all its inhabitants.”

The way we meet our everyday needs nowadays is very much determined by the production and consumption patterns that were developed during the industrial revolution, she told EcoSeed.

Significantly, 96 percent of the resources we use in the production of goods nowadays become waste within the first week, she noted.

While not every one of us is aware of sustainable design, it is one of the simplest ways to achieve a sustainable life and help protect the environment.

Harnessing motion for clean energy

According to Ms. Ela, one of the areas in which there are impressive developments by sustainable designers is in renewable energy.

Ways to harvest energy from the wind and sun and other resources that are readily available around us – including from the movement of people or cars on the streets.

“Around the world we can find many examples of projects that try to tune into simple everyday human actions such as walking, playing or dancing and transform this energy to various public functions,” she said.

In the United Kingdom, Pavagen Systems has developed energy harvesting paving systems, which collects the energy of passers-by on busy pedestrian streets and covert the kinetic energy to electricity.

Five percent of the electricity produced by the footstep is directly used to power a lamp in the middle of the tile, while the rest goes to a battery or is used immediately to power more lighting, powered signage and other systems on the street.

This technology was adopted during the London Olympics wherein about one million footsteps were captured to deliver around 1, 187 watt hours of power.

In South Africa, Play Pump by Roundabout Outdoor uses the spinning play motion of children riding a merry-go-round to pump underground water into a 2,500-liter tank.

The company said the innovation could help address water crises especially in developing regions. More than 884 million people in these regions still use unsafe drinking water sources, according to World Health Organization.

“Creative thinking in the field of alternative energy is about looking with fresh eyes at the way things are and identifying new sources of potential that can be applied,” Ms. Ela told EcoSeed.

As a sustainable designer, Ms. Ela has also come up with ideas for harnessing energy from the environment, one of which is the Windylight.

The Windylight is a set of self-sufficient outdoor lights inspired by a child’s pinwheel toy. The lights are able to generate their own clean power using soft winds in the urban areas. It performs on free, clean energy for both developed world and off-grid communities, she said.

“Windylight aims to operate as a ‘high value fair profit’ business model based on a combination of profit and non-profit activities to allow the development of Windylight solutions for communities that are not connected to the electrical grid,” she added.

The idea behind Windylight was conceived in 2004 and by 2013, with the right partners, Ms. Ela hopes to have its first installation soon.

Another design by Ms. Ela is the WaterFull, a multi-season water storage solution that collects up to 460 liters of water during the rainy season and about 4 liters of dew per day during dry season, while also acting as sun shade.

“WaterFull started with the wish to find ways to harvest dew water. It seems like a very subtle phenomenon but if we realize that every morning, many parts of the earth are covered with dew we already understand it is an important resource,” she told EcoSeed.

With further research and development, as well as investment, Ms. Ela said WateFull can help provide water that can be used in everyday household needs.

Sustainable design has a wide ranging application, from small objects that we use everyday up to tall buildings, cities and even the Earth’s physical surface.

It can be used in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, urban planning, engineering, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, fashion design and even human-computer interaction.

“I believe it is a design assignment that requires a lot of creativity to rethink those systems and finding ways to develop products, production systems, services and the likes that can answer our everyday needs without having the planet paying this huge price,” stressed Ms. Ela.

Original Article on EcoSeed

NREL: CSP+Thermal Storage Adds Value for Utilities

csp-solar

A concentrating solar power installation with a six-hour storage capacity can add $35.80 per megawatt hour to the capacity and operational value of a utility, finds the United States Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

“We’ve known for a long time that CSP with storage adds significant value, however, we are now able to quantify this value in the language utilities understand,” said Mark Mehos, manager of NREL’s CSP program.

CSP with thermal energy storage capacity also allows the production of power using the sun even when it isn’t shining.

The additional value comes in as thermal storage allows CSP to displace more expensive natural gas-fired generation during peak loads and since it can flatten peak loads in the evenings.

However, the maximum extra value of $35.80 per megawatt would only come into play if the utility’s energy mix has a high concentration of renewables – about 34 percent.

If the amount of renewables in the utility’s mix is below 34 percent, the extra value would be lessened accordingly.

Aside from replacing natural gas fired generation, CSP with TES can help incorporate more solar power into a utility’s energy mix. CSP can provide power in the evenings when P.V. isn’t available, offsetting the need for utilities to build or use gas or coal-fired generators to meet demand.

Original Article on EcoSeed

STUDY: Renewables Can Supply 99.9% Power by 2030

Renewable energy could supply power to an entire large electric grid, according to a new research by the University of Delaware and Delaware Technical Community College.

“These results break the conventional wisdom that renewable energy is too unreliable and expensive,” said co-author Willett Kempton, professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy in U.D.’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment.

“The key is to get the right combination of electricity sources and storage – which we did by an exhaustive search – and to calculate costs correctly,” he stressed.

When wind energy, solar energy and fuel cells are combined, they could deliver power as far as 99.9 percent of the time by 2030, at costs similar to today’s electricity costs.

“For example, using hydrogen for storage, we can run an electric system that today would [meet] a need of 72 gigawatts, 99.9 percent of the time, using 17 GW of solar, 68 GW of offshore wind, and 115 GW of inland wind,” said study co-author Cory Budischak, instructor at the energy management department of the Delaware Technical Community College.

A “gigawatt” is a measure of electricity generation capability and 1 GW is equivalent to the capacity of 200 large wind turbines or 250,000 rooftop solar photovoltaics. “Renewable electricity generators must have higher gigawatt capacity than traditional generators, since wind and solar do not generate at maximum all the time,” the researchers noted.

A computer model was developed to test 28 billion combinations of renewable energy sources and storage mechanisms over four years of historical hourly weather data and electricity demands. According to the researchers, this model incorporated data from within a large regional grid called the PJM Interconnection, which covers 13 states from New Jersey to Illinois and represents one-fifth of the United States’ overall electric grid.

Significantly, it focused on reducing the costs instead of the conventional approach of matching generation to electricity use used in other studies.

From this, researchers found that producing more electricity than needed during average hours – in order to meet needs on high-demand but low-wind power hours – would be cheaper than storing excess power for later high demand. Storage is relatively costly given that storage medium, batteries or hydrogen tanks, must be larger for each additional hour stored, they noted.

The study used technology costs projections in 2030 without government subsidies, comparing them to current costs of fossil fuels generation in wide. The cost of fossil fuels includes both the fuel cost itself and the standard external costs like human health effects brought by power plant air pollution. Moreover, the estimated capital costs for wind and solar in 2030 are nearly half of their costs at present, while maintenance costs are estimated to be more or less the same.

“Aiming for 90 percent or more renewable energy in 2030, in order to achieve climate change targets of 80 to 90 percent reduction of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the power sector, leads to economic savings,” said authors of the study. – C. Dominguez

Original Article on EcoSeed

Sharp Hits 37.7% Solar Cell Efficiency

Sharp Corporation has set the world record for solar cell conversion efficiency – 37.7 percent – the Osaka-based multinational announced.

The Japanese electronics company said it achieved the breakthrough using a triple-junction compound solar cell wherein photo-absorption layers are piled together.

Compound solar cells use photo-absorption layers made from compounds made up of two or more elements, such as indium and gallium. According to Sharp, the fundamental structure of the triple-junction compound solar cell utilizes the company’s proprietary technology, which allows efficient piling up of the three photo-absorption layers, with indium, gallium and arsenide compound as the bottom layer.

To significantly increase conversion efficiency, Sharp said it capitalized on the ability of the new cell to effectively absorb light from different wavelengths and convert it into electricity.

It also raised the solar cell’s active area or the ratio of the effective light reception area to the total surface area of the cell, for converting light into electricity through optimal processing of the cell edges.

“These improvements led to higher maximum output levels for the solar cell and enable Sharp to achieve a solar cell conversion efficiency of 37.7 percent —the highest in the world,” Sharp stated.

The efficiency rate was confirmed at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.

Over the coming years, Sharp aims to apply the success of this latest development to concentrator photovoltaic power systems that use lenses to collect and convert sunlight into electricity. Likewise, it foresees several other practical applications for the cells, like on space satellites and vehicles. – EcoSeed Staff

Original Article on EcoSeed

Yingli Green Energy Awarded Huge 200MW Module Deal

China’s Yingli Green Holding Company Limited will supply 200 megawatts of solar photovoltaic modules for the Centinela Solar Energy Facility Project in Southern California.

The project, designed to be one of the largest solar projects in the world, lies on 1,600 acres approximately 90 miles east of San Diego in Imperial Country, California. It will produce enough electricity to power more than 60,000 homes.

Power generated will be purchased by San Diego Gas and Electric according to the terms of a 20-year power purchase agreement.

Subsidiary Yingli Green Energy Americas said this is the company’s largest project supply agreement to date.

Centinela Solar Energy, L.L.C., a member of power generation and transmission project developer LS Power Group, has awarded Fluor Corporation a lump-sum engineering procurement and construction contract for the project which is expected to achieve commercial operation in the middle of 2014.

Flour Corporation also holds the operations and maintenance service contract for Centinela.

Original Article on EcoSeed

Japan’s Marubeni Building Huge Solar Farm in Oita City

Japan’s Marubeni is building a large-scale solar power plant with a generation capacity of 81.5 megawatts in the coastal industrial area of Oita City. It will be the largest power business at one single place in Japan.

Once operational, the expected annual power generation from the plant will reach 87,000,000 kilowatt-hours, the annual electricity consumption of 30,000 houses.

Marubeni is creating a new special purpose company for the project which will begin construction in November of this year.

The plant will occupy land owned by subsidiary Marubeni Ennex Corporation, Showa Denko K.K. and others.

The commissioning of the power plant is scheduled to be after March 2014. Power generated will be sold to Kyushu Electric Power Co., Inc. over 20 years.

Currently, Japanese tariffs for solar PV are among the highest in the world at about 42 yen or $0.534 per kilowatt-hour.

Japan itself is a growing market for solar power generation projects. According to the latest Ren21 report, Japan is third among the top countries for total installed capacity as of 2011. Japan also ranks third globally for total operating capacity with 1.3 gigawatts.

Marubeni currently has 531.5 MW worth of power generation plants from renewable energy sources in seven countries. The Japanese trading company is one of the largest general trading companies in the country. – K.R. Jalbuena

Original Article on EcoSeed

Rice University Scientists Create ‘Solar Steam’

In a new twist to the quest to harness the power of the sun, Rice University scientists are using sun power to produce steam from icy cold water. The solar steam method, from Rice’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics, uses light-capturing nanoparticles to convert the sunlight into heat.

The inventors of solar steam see the first use of their new technology as being in the sanitation and water purification sector, but believe that it will also have implications for the renewable energy generation sector – especially in the field of solar thermal power.

Compared with photovoltaic solar panels, which have an overall energy efficiency of around 15 percent, the solar steam method has an overall energy efficiency of 24 percent.

The nanoparticles are the key to the solar steam method. When they are submerged in water and exposed to sunlight, they heat up quickly – rising to above 212 degrees Fahrenheit – and instantly vaporize the water to create steam.

“We’re going from heating water on the macro scale to heating it at the nanoscale,” said lead scientist Naomi Halas.

Ms. Halas, who is also the director of the Laboratory for Nanophotonics, noted that the particles used in the solar steam method are smaller than even a wavelength of light.

“Which means they have an extremely small surface area to dissipate heat. This intense heating allows us to generate steam locally, right at the surface of the particle,” she said.

“Solar steam is remarkable because of its efficiency,” said Rice graduate student Oara Neumann. “It does not require acres of mirrors or solar panels. In fact, the footprint can be very small.

As an example, Ms. Neumann cited a solar steam-powered autoclave that has already been created by Rice engineering undergraduates to sterilize medical and dental instruments.

“The light window in our demonstration autoclave was just a few square centimeters,” she pointed out.

Steam is one of the world’s most-used industrial fluids and it is also used in sterilization, food preparation and water purification. Steam, through steam driven turbines, also produces about 90 percent of the world’s electricity.

Most industrial steam however is produced in large boilers, because of its efficiency; solar steam can be more economical on a smaller scale.

Ms. Halas will be working to create an ultra-small-scale system for treating human waste in areas without sewer systems or electricity for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as the winner of a Grand Challenges grant. – K.R. Jalbuena

Original Article on EcoSeed

Edwards Air Force Base Tests HCPV Technology

The capabilities of high-concentration photovoltaics technology will be tested at Edwards Air Force Base in California, where a 200-kilowatt solar power field of this type is going to rise.

The solar field will include a dozen commercial-scale dual-axis HCPV units manufactured by Semprius, Inc. of Durham North Carolina. The HCPV units will have the ability to track the course of the sun, maximizing energy production. The project will also include a 200-kilowatt lithium-ion battery unit.

Semprius’ HCPV modules work much the same as traditional PV modules, except that they use optics to concentrate the sun onto solar cells that do not cover the entire module area. The concentration factor allows for a reduction in the amount of semiconductor material, lowering the cost of module production without sacrificing conversion efficiency.

Semprius’ modules are said to have reached a record-breaking 33.9 percent conversion efficiency. The company officially opened their first production facility on September 26 of this year in Henderson, North Carolina.

The project at Edwards Air Force Base will allow the Department of Defense to determine the feasibility of using the technology in more of its facilities.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne was awarded approximately $2.3 million to design and develop the installation. The company will perform field layout, systems integration, energy storage integration and lead development and testing of the HCPV and storage hardware. – EcoSeed Staff

Original Article on EcoSeed