I love the part when the Professor told the crowd of Harvard undergrads, “I don’t care about the haves – that means you. I care about the poor.” There wasn’t much applause…
Tag-Archive for ◊ Solar Panels ◊
Hasn’t the summer in Montreal been just wonderful? Many beautiful warm, sunny days with little rain. I love it.
However, there is such thing as too much of a good thing. Our warm days have been replicated over most of North America. With so much summer sunshine and so little rain, 61% of the lower 48 states of the USA has been declared a drought zone, the largest natural disaster by size in the history of the country.
Here’s a good dose of gloom with a bit of humor to help us come back to the reality that many of the intractable problems facing humanity, or rather our civilization, are not going away and seem to be getting worse.
Source: Dimitri Orlov
Corn prices are up over 40%. These are the only terms in which we can perceive the phenomenon of crop failure; we can’t see, touch, smell or taste the corn, it has been reduced to just a statistic. And when there isn’t enough of it, you too will be reduced to just a statistic. How do you like the sound of that?
A lot of people don’t like that at all, and react, strangely enough, by using the word “unsustainable.” You see, everything would be fine if we made it sustainable, by recycling or putting up solar panels or driving electric cars or what have you. We need to transition to a sustainable future, and for that we need a transition plan. We’ve been following the wrong plan, you see—the plan to exterminate all life on earth—but with a new plan, one that leaves out the bit about the extermination, all that would change, right? Why doesn’t it occur to anyone that the human industrial monoculture is, if anything, a little too sustainable? It may well sustain itself right up to the point where it kills everyone. A bit less sustainability might be a wise choice at this point.
Source: Mother Nature Network
By the middle of this century, there will be as many people living in cities worldwide as there are alive on the planet today. Sustainability, then, is first and foremost an urban project, and I’m always a little surprised to find that there’s a lingering divide between hardcore cleantechies and urban design geeks. You still meet renewable energy obsessives who obsess over the next generation of solar technology but have never given much thought to mixed-use development, and there remain complete-street fans and bike-lane zealots unaware that solar power’s now vering on cost-competitive with coal and nuclear. (And don’t get me started on the hardcore climate activists who don’t pay any attention to cities and how they work at all.)
Anyway, for all these reasons and more, I understood immediately why the good folks at TED decided to award their TED Prize to “The City 2.0” – the first time ever the $100,000 award has gone an innovative concept rather than an innovator. “The City 2.0,” the announcement explains, “is the city of the future . . . a future in which more than ten billion people on planet Earth must somehow live sustainably.”
While we all enjoy new technology such as solar panels and geothermal heat pumps, the easiest thing any homeowner can do to use less energy and be more sustainable is insulate. And then insulate some more!
Source: Mother Nature Network
I went to visit one of North America’s first “net zero” multi-unit residential dwellings – a three-story apartment building in the east end of Montreal that generates all the energy it needs over the course of a year. The development is called “Abondance,” and it’s the product of a young, ambitious architect named Christopher Sweetnam-Holmes…
…Sweetnam-Holmes’ Abondance development is an elegant example of how sustainability reorders priorities in ways that are hard to see from within the confines of our current paradigm. It’s not a conventional Montreal apartment block with solar panels on the roof; it’s a thorough rethinking of the conventions of the conventional apartment building top to bottom, often using the same materials and processes but in much different ways.
Sweetnam-Holmes gave me a tour of the project the other day – first the three-unit Phase 1 building, in which he lives, then the still-under-construction 17-unit apartment block next door. Abondance stands in a working-class neighborhood just south of downtown Montreal. I was following the beacon of the site’ s address on Google Maps on my iPhone, and the building was so inconspicuous I walked right by it. If I was further back from it, I might’ve spied the silhouette of the solar array on the roof, but otherwise it was a brick low-rise seamlessly integrated into the rest of the block.
The really radical thing about Abondance is not the solar PV and hot-water heaters, not the geothermal heat pumps in the basement that warm and cool it or the wireless master kill switch at the door of each unit that lets you turn off all the lights and everything sucking juice on “sleep” mode in one poke as you leave. No, what’s radical about Abondance is how little energy it needs – something like 23 percent of the Montreal average – and how it reduced its required load.
The main answer: insulation. Lots of it. More than double the norm, including exterior layers of spray-foam insulation to avoid heat loss at the wooden studs. Abondance isn’t an energy-generating marvel so much as an obsessive experiment in R-value and what they call “tightness” in the building trade. Abondance takes in heat very well, and it traps it zealously. It’s ridiculously well-insulated box masquerading as a cleantech showcase.
This is an amazing idea that takes a liability (the cost of asphalt roads) and turns it into an asset (electricity generating solar panels). Can it be made to work? Probably… if only the oil industry didn’t stand to lose billions.
- Safety warnings displayed on the road
- Illuminated dividing lines
- De-iced roads
- Real-time traffic sensors
- Pipes for electrical and data cables
- Really, really fun playgrounds!
Source: Solar Roadways
Years ago, when the phrase “Global Warming” began gaining popularity, we started batting around the idea of replacing asphalt and concrete surfaces with solar panels that could be driven upon. We thought of the “black box” on airplanes: We didn’t know what material that black box was made of, but it seemed to be able to protect sensitive electronics from the worst of airline crashes.
Suppose we made a section of road out of this material and housed solar cells to collect energy, which could pay for the cost of the panel, thereby creating a road that would pay for itself over time. What if we added LEDs to “paint” the road lines from beneath, lighting up the road for safer night time driving?
What if we added a heating element in the surface (like the defrosting wire in the rear window of our cars) to prevent snow/ice accumulation in northern climates? The ideas and possibilities just continued to roll in and the Solar Roadway project was born.
We believe change will come from below in the form of micro changes and small scale innovations. When millions make changes in their daily energy consumption habits (driving less and eating locally), it will force corporations to change if they want to stay in business.
From windmills to solar panels to zero-point energy, the future of energy is smaller, decentralized systems that work together in intelligent networks where everyone is an energy producer and energy consumer.
Think of it like the Internet. It doesn’t work because large corporations created it and run it. The Internet works because of peer-based sharing and protocols that allow anyone to tap it, connect to it and contribute to it. Most people are content consumers and producers. The future of energy will be similar, although the specific technologies and protocols are still unclear.
Criticizing the provincial Quebec government for inviting oil companies to the five-day World Energy Congress at the sprawling Palais de Congres, the protestors demanded a sustainable energy future. Many protesters covered in molasses staged a “Black Tide Beach Party,” while dozens of others carried banners that read “Too dirty, too risky, go beyond oil.” Many protesters showed their anger at the BP oil spill, but the protest targeted the oil industry as a whole.
The Montreal 2010 Congress expected nearly participants from industry, government and academia to understand energy issues and solutions from a global perspective. The protesters saw the demonstration as a great way to raise the issue of oil spill, ahead of a global gathering of energy experts.
The City of Montreal unveiled the winning design for 400 new sustainable bus shelters to be built over the next year throughout the city. Features of the winning design from the firm of LeBlanc & Turcott include:
- Solar panels for lighting
- A self-supporting structure
- Modular design for various sizes
Drawing inspiration from the STM’s newly minted brand signature, “Mouvement collectif,” the design proposal by Leblanc + Turcotte + Spooner offers a modular, scalable solution. Featuring a self-supporting structure, the concept enables the manufacturing of base models, with the possibility of joining several units together to create variable-size configurations that can accommodate larger or smaller numbers of users.
The design features a communications column, which could house various components including dynamic digital displays and backlit advertising posters. An integrated solar power system will ensure lighting of shelters that cannot be connected to the power grid.
The jury was especially impressed with the potential for integration and modular construction afforded by the winning team’s proposal. In a statement, jury co-chairs Denise Vaillancourt, Executive Director, Planning, Marketing and Communications, STM, and Gilles Saucier, architect and partner in the firm Saucier + Perrotte, noted: “This preliminary design offers a comprehensive array of solutions to the complex problems with which the competing designers were presented. The concept incorporates current technologies, and meets the STM’s comfort and safety requirements.”