Solar Power to Energize Avatar Sequels for James Cameron

Nearly one megawatt of solar panels will be used to provide power for James Cameron’s film production company in Manhattan Beach, California.

Avatarjakeneytiri.jpg

Mr. Cameron said: “We have to do this. We have to do this for the future, for our children and we have to do it as a moral responsibility for the planet.”

Over 3,600 solar modules make up three arrays at Lightstorm Entertainment. Stellar Energy is the solar power company that provided the guidance for the permitting process, construction and logistics.

Of course, Avatar has a strong environmental theme, so using clean energy for the film production company that made the film is in alignment with its overall message.

Presumably, this new solar power project will help power the production of Avatar 2.
Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1oYSS)

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How to: Solar Heater Made of Soda Cans

How to Make a Soda Can Solar Heater

By: Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

soda can solar heater

We’re finally cooling off after a brutal Summer here in St. Louis. While I’m thoroughly enjoying the temperatures in the 60s and 70s, they’re a good reminder that Winter will be here soon, and that we’ll be paying to heat the home.

That got me thinking about a concept I first encountered a couple of years ago: the soda can solar heater. Very similar in design to Gary Reysa’s thermosiphon air collector, this concept uses aluminum cans to build columns that collect and transfer heat from the sun. While I’ve come across a number of variations on the concept, most tinkerers who’ve tried this project point to Rich Allen’s video walk-through of building one of these heaters as their starting point.

Rich has played with his own approach; a later video shares his “final thoughts” on building one of these solar air heaters after making a number of them. Some other directions (or partial directions) I’ve found:

I probably won’t try this myself; I can’t imagine trying to install this on my brick home. But I’d love to hear from those of you who have tried projects like these. I’m guessing it would function much like a solar water heater in the sense that it doesn’t necessarily provide all the hot air you need/want, but keeps the main furnace system from working nearly as hard as normal.

Image credit: westbywest via photo pin cc

sustainablog (http://s.tt/1ngbx)

World’s Miners Turning to Solar, Wind, Renewable Energy to Meet Growing Power Needs

Mining companies, already squeezed by high fossil fuel costs that are likely to rise further, are turning to renewable energy systems for power. RWE Innogy commissioned its 20.5-MW wind farm at Titz in Germany’s Rhenish mining area this week, just one of a string of renewable energy project announcements made by mining and renewable energy companies in recent months.

Relying on solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources stands to serve mining companies in good stead, both over the short and long haul. Advantages and benefits come in the form of more reliable, competitively priced energy supplies; the possibility of owning and earning positive investment returns by developing their own renewable energy systems; reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and the negative environmental impacts of their operations; fostering more sustainable local economic development; and improving relationships with local communities and governments in countries in which they operate.

Moreover, mining companies making use of renewable energy has a nice synergy and symbiosis to it. Renewable energy technologies depend critically on the metals and minerals miners extract, while mining companies should always be looking for ways to reduce the environmental impacts of their operations and improve their relationships with local communities and governments, as well as their public image.

Renewable Energy Use Growing among Mining Companies

China’s Jinko Solar on Aug. 31 announced it’s working with engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) partner Solea Renewables to build a 1-MW solar energy array at a chromium mine in the northern South African province of Limpopo. The solar PV installation is said to be the first off-grid, utility-scale solar PV system in South Africa.

The fully integrated, turnkey solar PV system is expected to supply 1.8-GWh of clean, renewable electricity for the chromium mine’s operations per year for the next 20-30 years, enabling the mine operator to reduce its reliance on diesel fuel and generators.

“While the global demand for South African coal, platinum, palladium and chromium increases, mines and other industrial consumers face power supply constraints due to capacity challenges at Eskom, South Africa’s only national power provider,” Solea Renewables director Vusi Mhlanzi stated in a press release. “The turnkey delivery of our PV plants will not only benefit end-users, but it will in turn help reduce the ever present and increasing energy demand Eskom faces.”

In Germany, RWE Innogy installed ten REpower Systems SE wind turbines near RWE’s Garzweiler open-cast mine in just ten months. The 150-meter-high wind turbines have a combined capacity of 20.5-MW.

“We are thrilled to see our turbine blades turning at Titz,” RWE Innorgy CEO Dr. Hans Bunting elaborated. “Our beacon project in the expansion of renewables in the Rhenish mining area is now contributing power to the grid. Our Jüchen project will add another wind farm to the mining area at the end of this year – thanks in part to the close co-operation with our RWE Power affiliate.”

Added Titz Mayor Jurgen Frantzen, “The RWE wind farm and another one in the south of our municipality are already generating more power than all the businesses and households in Titz consume. That’s our contribution to the energy turnaround, and we are proud of it.”

Renewable Energy Use in Mining: An Emerging Trend

The emerging trend of mining companies turning to wind, solar and other renewable energy sources to meet their growing energy needs is likely to gain momentum in coming years. The cost of producing electrical power from solar, wind, and other renewable sources has been declining rapidly, making it as cheap, in some cases cheaper, than conventional fossil fuel sources. There are several other benefits and advantages that making use of renewable energy offers miners, however.

In addition, installing renewable energy systems insulates mining companies from increasingly high and volatile fossil fuel costs. More stable power costs means less economic and financial uncertainty, and that should lower the cost of renewable energy sources in miners’ financial calculations.

Moreover, installing solar, wind, or other renewable energy systems also improves the reliability of power supplies and provides mining companies with greater energy security. That’s particularly important in the mining business, where companies often operate in remote, isolated areas where grid power is spotty and more costly, if available at all.

Furthermore, renewable energy systems offer a way for mining companies to own their own power supplies. Another advantage of renewable energy systems over conventional fossil fuel power systems is that they’re modular, scalable and can be installed and up and running in short time frames.

Then there are the social and environmental benefits. Mining companies have a notoriously bad history when it comes to their environmental record and relations with local communities and foreign governments. Making use of clean energy sources is a way for them to at least partly address and improve their performance on these critical issues.

By installing solar, wind, or other renewable energy sources, mining companies can lower their carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as reduce other forms of environmental pollution (i.e. land and water degradation and contamination).

On the socio-economic front, if mining companies were to own their own renewable energy systems, surplus power could be sold to the local community, paving a pathway for more sustainable economic development among local communities.

Using Wind Power to Mine Iron Ore

Back in June, Brazil–based Vale SA, the world’s largest iron ore producer, said it will invest some $315 million to finance construction of two wind farms developed by Melbourne, Australia’s Pacific Hydro Pty. These wind farms will help meet its growing energy needs.

Vale and Pacific Hydro each will own 50% of the wind farm projects, which are located in the northeast Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte. Due to come on-line in 2014, the two wind farms will have a combined capacity of 140 MW and produce clean, renewable electrical power for 20 years or more

Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1mJaD)

Easier, Cheaper Solar Panel Installation

A sure-fire way to increase investments in solar panel rooftops? Make ‘em easier to put together and cheaper to install. Many shy away from solar power because of costly labor and complicated installation, but two new products claim to put those complaints to rest.

Prefab Paneling

SOLON SOLquick arrives on site fully assembled on custom-designed shipping pallets.

Solar company Solon has rolled out a couple of photovoltaic products, including SOLfixx and patent-pending SOLquick, which the company claims arrive fully configured and can be installed solely by hand. Solon says both products are shipped directly to the designated work site and do not require staging.

SOLquick is intended for non-metal commercial roofs; SOLfixx for rooftops that can bear less weight. Both require flat roof surfaces.

Decreased Panel Weight

Solon advertises the SOLquick panels as frameless and lightweight, about 2.8 pounds per square foot. The SOLfixx is listed at 12.9 kilograms per square meter.

Once in place, SOLON’s innovative quick click U-bolt mechanically interconnects units.

The reduced weight also plays a role in easier installation — no heavy machinery is heeded to hoist and situate the solar paneling. According to Solon, the SOLquick roof can be installed in ten units per man hour, cutting the mechanical installation time by 85 percent and cutting the electrical installation time by 50 percent.

Those are some pretty huge time (and, thus, cost) savings.

Noninvasive

SOLquick is prerun with simple electrical interconnects. Electrical is connected by clicking together one unit with another.

Neither paneling system requires roof penetration in most instances. The SOLquick brochure, however, does list a caveat that roof penetration may be necessary in certain cases due to seismic activity, snow and wind loads, or due to the height of the building.Tool-free installation, lighter weight materials and snap together construction makes adding solar panels to commercial rooftops much more appealing to business owners of all stripes.

Source & Image/Caption Credits: SOLON

Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1ibMT)

Full Circle Apple’s future will not fall far from the tree.

TECHNOLOGY CENTERS
On the very same day in March, Texas announced a huge new Apple Inc. campus in Austin (notably without a quote from Apple), and Apple submitted revised plans for a new headquarters campus in its hometown of Cupertino, Calif., that would boast a Texas-sized capacity of 13,000 employees.

According to the results of the latest “Best and Worst States for Business” survey by Chief Executive magazine, released in May, Texas is first in the nation. California is last. But both sites are aiming to be built to last for Apple, as it looks toward new horizons even as the sun sets on the life of its late founder and technology icon Steve Jobs.

The $304-million Austin project aims to create 3,635 new jobs by 2025 at a new campus in North Austin, which appeared to have beat out Phoenix for the project. The state has offered Apple an incentive of $21 million over 10 years through the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF), and other local incentives are on offer. However, as of June government officials were still awaiting final confirmation from Apple.

In California, the plan updates have continued to flow this spring from Apple to state environmental authorities and to the Cupertino City Council, whose chambers hosted Jobs in one of his last public appearances last summer.

“Apple’s growing like a weed,” he said then, explaining that his company’s core buildings now hold 2,800, but that an area work force of 12,000 had required “renting buildings — and not very good buildings either — at an ever greater radius from our campus.” The latest outgrowth for the company occurred in March 2012, when the nearby City of Sunnyvale announced that by the third quarter of this year, Apple would move approximately 400 employees into the entire 156,000-sq.-ft. (14,492-sq.-m.) second office building at the Sunnyvale Town Center redevelopment project, next door to a 500-person Nokia operation.

So, in addition to its existing campus in Cupertino, the company is planning to build Apple Campus 2, “an integrated, unified, and secure state-of-the-art office and research campus designed to serve as a model workplace for the 21st century.” Foster + Partners are the architects for the new campus. The general contractor will be a joint venture of DPR Construction and Skanska USA Building Inc.

Apple Campus 2

Apple Campus 2’s focal point is a 2.8-million-sq.-ft. (260,120-sq.-m.) ring-shaped main office building, which will consolidate 12,000 Apple employees together into one integrated workspace around an expansive courtyard.
Renderings courtesy of Apple Inc. and the City of Cupertino

A company spokesperson declined an interview request regarding the California and Texas projects. But thanks to transparent application requirements in California and Apple’s own increasingly thorough transparency efforts, some meaningful details can be gleaned from documents alone.

Apple in April filed a 270-pp. application with the state for expedited permitting for “the Project” under California’s new Jobs and Economic Improvement through Environmental Leadership Act, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in Sept. 2011. Among the requirements of the act is that the project exceed $100 million in investment, a milestone Apple said it would “far exceed.” Among the application’s other highlights:

> “The Project will replace and rebuild 2.66 million sq. ft. [241,540 sq. m.] of existing aging office buildings and surface parking lots on a 176-acre [71-hectare] infill site with 3.3 million sq. ft. [36,570 sq. m.] of high-performance energy- and water-efficient buildings, below-grade and structured parking, and more than 115 acres [46 hectares] of landscaped green space, nearly three times as much as before.” It’s aiming for LEED-Silver certification.

> In addition to the Project’s signature ring building, additional structures include ancillary research buildings (another 300,000 sq. ft. [27,870 sq. m.] for another 1,000 employees), a central plant, a 1,000-seat corporate auditorium, a corporate fitness center, and above- and below-grade parking. “These buildings will be integrated into the site’s newly created and expanded green space, which will be landscaped with native vegetation and approximately 6,000 trees, including orchard trees reflecting the region’s agricultural past” as an apricot orchard.

> “The Project will be entirely powered by renewable energy, which will primarily be generated on-site from fuel cells and more than 650,000 sq. ft. (60,385 sq. m.) of solar panels installed on building roofs, making the Project one of the largest corporate campus solar installations in the world.” The project is likely to deploy fuel cells made by Sunnyvale-based Bloom Energy Servers, whose units are already destined for Apple’s mega-data center in North Carolina.

> “The Project will also promote alternative transit through the provision of a comprehensive Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program, an on-site Apple Transit Center, employee shuttles, pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly design, and 300 on-site electric car charging stations with built-in capacity to expand. These features will place the Project at the forefront of an emerging low-carbon economy in California.”

Ken Alex, a senior policy advisor to Gov. Brown and the director of the state’s Office of Planning and Research, who used to head the state attorney general’s energy task force, says via email that the AB 900 certification process precedes the Environmental Impact Report, “so it’s still early in the review process. We are currently reviewing the energy and GHG provisions (the California Air Resources Board in particular), for compliance with the requirements of AB 900 on those issues. So far, the project seems to be doing well.”

Asked for a decision timetable, Alex says, “We are aiming to have a decision by the end of August.”

A recent New York Times piece on Apple’s tax planning explored the company’s Braeburn Capital subsidiary, conveniently based in Reno, Nev., where the state levies no corporate income tax and where Apple processes its profits. The article also called into question whether Apple was paying its fair share in California. But the company is still Cupertino’s largest taxpayer, paying some $8 million in local property taxes.

Steve Jobs Memorial

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at a celebration of Steve Jobs’ life on Oct. 19, 2011, held at Apple’s current HQ.
Photo courtesy of Apple Inc., © 2011, All rights reserved

Getting There

Apple has already been successful with the TDM program used at its nearby corporate headquarters campus at 1 Infinite Loop. The program has resulted in a rate of employee trips in single-occupancy vehicles of 72 percent in the morning peak hour and 68 percent in the evening peak hour, well below the average of 82.6 percent for other workplaces in Cupertino. Among the program’s features:

> Coach shuttle service for Apple employees to and from multiple locations in the Bay Area;

> Coach shuttle service to public transit stations for Caltrain, Altamonte Commuter Express, and Valley Transportation Authority;

> Commute website with transit and shuttle information and carpool matching and bike route matching services;

> $100/month transit subsidy per employee;

> $20/month bike subsidy for bicycle commuters who do not use local transit;  bicycle racks, pumps, lockers, and showers available at the campus; and a bicycle sharing program;

> On-site services that reduce the need for midday errands.

The campus is ahead of its time in more ways than one. Senate Bill 375 requires that each metropolitan planning organization in the state prepare a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) as part of a regional transportation plan (RTP). However, the Bay Area’s SCS will not come into effect until 2013. The greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target for the SCS requires a reduction of per-capita CO2 emissions from cars and light-duty trucks by 7 percent by 2020 and by 15 percent by 2035 (compared to a 2005 baseline).

“Not only is the Project consistent with these targets, it will serve as a model for how the Bay Area can achieve them,” says Apple, citing its non-drive-alone commute rate of 30 percent or more and its provision for the 300 EV charging stations.

The Payoff

Apple estimates that construction alone will generate 22,967 person years of employment, which will translate into 9,187 full-time construction jobs over a 30- to 36-month construction period.

According to a supporting document filed by the DPR/Skanska JV, median hourly union wages associated with some of the job classifications most prevalent on the project site include $44.18 for a construction laborer, $78.48 for an electrician and $81.14 for a sheet metal worker. Cupertino’s median household income from 2006 to 2010 was $120,201, nearly twice the figure for the state as a whole.

“As for permanent jobs, Apple is currently the second largest technology employer in Silicon Valley, with approximately 13,000 full-time employees based in Cupertino,” says the application. “The Project will enable Apple to locate an additional 6,000 to 10,000 permanent employees in Cupertino by 2015. For every one new Apple job, an additional 1.5 jobs are created within Santa Clara County as a result of expenditures by Apple and by Apple employees.”

Even as the state application makes its way forward, the company is seeking more than a dozen approvals and entitlements from the city, including right-of-way transfers, zoning amendments, and utility relocation and easement agreements. Apple anticipates commencing construction immediately after approval and expects construction to be completed by the fall of 2015.

And for those already wondering, there is a Phase 2: “Phase 2 includes programmatic approval of an additional 300,000 sq. ft. [27,870 sq. m.] of development capacity for up to 1,200 employees that could occur anywhere on the Apple Campus 2 property, providing limited flexibility to address future operational or business needs,” says Apple.

We’re iHome

The land Apple acquired has distinct ties to the teenage invention needs of founder Steve Jobs, as he related in his speech to the city council last summer.

“This land is kind of special to me,” he said. “When I was 13, Hewlett and Packard were my idols, and I called up Bill Hewlett because he lived in Palo Alto and there were no unlisted phone numbers in the phone book … He picked up the phone and I talked to him. I asked him if he’d give me some spare parts for something I was building called a frequency counter. He did, but he also gave me something more important, a summer job at Hewlett Packard, at the division that built frequency counters.”

At the same time, HP bought property in Cupertino for their new computer systems building — the same property that Apple just bought from HP as the latter company has been shrinking its footprint.

Apple’s aim is to enlarge its footprint at the same time it shrinks the carbon footprint of the site. Even with a 20-percent increase in building space, the company aims to go from roughly an 80/20 split between building/pavement and landscaping to its exact opposite.

“I think the overall feeling of the place is going to be a zillion times better than it is right now with all the asphalt,” said Jobs. “We want to take the space and, in many cases, make it smaller.”

Nexus EnergyHomes Building City of Brotherly Love’s First Net-Zero-Energy Homes

The city of Brotherly Love is gunning to be the greenest city in the USA. Nexus ENERGYHOMES hopes to help fulfill that vision of the Philadelphia mayor’s sustainability office with a super-green new development.

The Stevenville, Maryland company is currently in the midst of building the Foundry Court project, taking up five lots between 4th and Brown Street in the Northern Liberties Philadelphia community.

By mixing efficient air filtration, energy recovery, ventilation systems, and volatile organic compound (VOC) building materials, it will help to create not only some of the nation’s most energy-efficient homes, but some of the healthiest also. The new homes will also have the highest green building standards targeted by the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB).

Senior Vice President Ann Ashley of Nexus EnergyHomes said in a statement: “As the recognized national leader for energy-efficient home building, we are well qualified to help Philadelphia reach their goals for a revolutionary transformation towards a cleaner, greener lifestyle. Our High Performance homes combine the best technologies available under one roof.”

When you add geo-solar technology for each home into the mix, you have homeowners that will be able to save where it matters the most to them: in their pocket books.

“And the homes’ geo-solar technology is just the beginning of features these luxury dwellings offer prospective homebuyers. Nexus’ townhomes will offer a myriad of green outdoor home living options, such as; rooftop gardening (including vegetables and artistic plantings), and the highest practices for water reclamation,” Ashley said.

“With all of those benefits and virtually eliminating home utility expenditures, the Nexus EnergyHome provides comfort and affordability far superior to any other home on the market today,” she said.

With the recent announcement by Nexus ENERGYHOMES, The City of Brotherly Love may need to change it’s name to the City of Brotherly Green in the near future.

 Photo Credit: Nexus Energyhomes

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1gzfe)

Panasonic Begins Mass Production of Energy Storage Solutions for the European Market

Strategic Decisions

On Monday, Panasonic announced that it will launch mass production of long-life lithium-ion battery systems that the company has developed especially for European homes. According to Panasonic, every lithium-ion battery module has an estimated lifetime of 5000 load cycles at 80% DOD (depth of discharge) and a capacity of 1.35 kWh. Cranking up its production like this is a big decision that will certainly affect the prices of these systems.

In the press release, Panasonic pointed at Germany as the main market for its energy storage solutions designed for European homes. Germany is “of course” the world’s largest market for photovoltaic power generation and has reached consumer price parity and even grid parity in some cases this year. In accordance with this development, the country’s groundbreaking FiT for solar energy will soon be lowered below electricity prices, a change that puts the struggling solar industry in a difficult situation at the moment as small investors question the profitability of going solar.

But this change also creates huge new opportunities for storage solutions, as solar power becomes a cost saver the more people can use their own power throughout the year. It seems Panasonic has anticipated this development….

Earlier this year, Panasonic introduced a “Smart Energy Storage” system to the Japanese market. This was a development by Sanyo — a (the?) leading Japanese battery maker — which Panasonic bought in 2009 and fully integrated into its corporation as of March 2011. This is clearly a big strategic takeover by the giant Japanese electronics corporation as it focuses its future business strategy on clean tech solutions and restructure its company accordingly.

The entire system consists of a management unit that includes controls that manage energy flows and an inverter that converts direct current (DC) from solar or battery into the AC we all love for powering our gadgets at home. A battery of various sizes is then hooked into the management system to make it work. The size of the battery depends on the number of 1.35-kWh modules, but it’s mainly promoted with a 5.4 kWh capacity (4 x 1.35-kWh modules)

Panasonic at large in Germany

But this announcement is not Panasonic’s entrance into the German market. In fact, it had already partnered with a small German energy storage company that is owned by EWE, a relatively large regional utility and IT company based in northern Germany. Together, they developed the E3/DC power management and storage system, which was announced last year and went on sale earlier this year. Considering EWEs investments in e-mobility and offshore & onshore wind, and its IT background, it seems to be building its own little “smart grid empire” and Panasonic provides the enterprise with cutting-edge lithium-ion battery technology.

The E3/DC system has a usable capacity of 4.05 to 8.10 kWh and is equiped with those Sanyo/Panasonic battery modules that are now about to be mass produced. It has a maximum power output of 4 kW, which is more than enough for an average German household. They are also developing a system that can be used in apartment buildings, a missing link for the “solarization” of cities here in Germany and elsewhere.

How fast will Panasonic’s move to start mass production reduce prices? Only time will tell.

But one thing seems certain, with prices for solar systems at their current lows and big players like Panasonic basing their corporate futures on these kind of clean tech solutions, the power grid and the world are in for a technological revolution that will shake things up even more than the rise of the internet. The only question seems to be when, or should I say how soon, this revolution will start?

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1dtlO)