At this very moment, ElectraTherm is releasing details of the successful installation of its new product, a commercial waste heat generator called the Green Machine. ElectraTherm tested their first Green Machine at none other than my alma mater, Southern Methodist University, and the results exceeded initial expectations. Stated simply, the Green Machine makes electricity from residual industrial heat that usually just goes to waste. ElectraTherm’s new product employs minimal heat (200 degrees F liquid) to generate fuel-free, emissions-free electricity at $0.03 – $0.04 per kWh during a three-year payback period and at under $0.01 per kWh after that. SMU’s test of the 50 kW Green Machine reached output well beyond the 50 kW rating.
Buro North, a design firm located in Melbourne, Australia, has partnered with Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab (VEIL) to develop this interesting solar-collecting sun shade called the "Solar Shade" for Australian elementary schools. The Solar Shade concept is part educational and part functional. Of course, when used in clusters, Solar Shades provide a shaded gathering place that generates energy for the school. But in addition, the device demonstrates and educates students on the dynamics of harvesting solar energy. The foundation of the Solar Shade includes LED lights that provide feedback as to whether the orientation is/is not optimal. When the LEDs turn red, students can grab the handle and rotate the device to absorb more of the sun’s rays. Although still a concept, it’s kind of a cool idea — maybe enthusiasm for the project will push it into production?
KEO International Consultants has received word from the USGBC that its design for Sabah Al Ahmed International Finance Center (ICF) has been precertified at the Gold level under the LEED-CS green building rating system. The 1.2 million sf, 40-story tower is the first building in Kuwait to be registered or precertified by the USGBC. As you can partially tell from the renderings, the design includes four stacked courtyard atriums ranging from 8-13 floors each. Three of the atriums serve the office portion of the building, while the fourth atrium serves the 200 key, 4-star business class hotel. The tower generates part of its energy from a PV system, as well as from roof-mounted wind turbines. You may be able to see the lattice-work of wind turbines at the crown of the building; I think they’re the vertical axis, helical-type, but it’s hard to tell with this one image. We’ll make sure to keep you posted …
The use of wind turbines at the building’s apex is similar to what’s planned for Discovery Tower in Houston. It’ll be interesting to see these designs meet reality — the media world will definitely have fun running video and stories of building integrated wind turbines.
The bloggers at Engadget picked up on the Selsam small wind turbines, which look a lot like one of those amateur ham radio antennas we used to see on houses. This small-scale wind solution is basically a single elongated shaft made of strong carbon fiber. The carbon shaft holds rotors that range in size from 14-18 inches in diameter. Apparently, the more rotors you have on a rod, the better output you get. Invented by Doug Selsam, this 13-rotor small wind turbine can produce roughly 200 watts in 20 mph winds (or more in higher wind speeds). It’s currently being tested and developed in California, so who knows, we may just start seeing stuff like this on top of houses and buildings?
Here’s some interesting news: a new Department of Energy report claims wind turbines could generate 300 gigawatts of electricity — roughly 20% of the US electrical grid — by 2030. There’s already a website in support of the news at 20%Wind.org. The report doesn’t necessarily predict the future of the wind industry, but it paints a picture of what a particular 20% wind scenario could mean for the nation. The wind industry currently produces about 17 gigawatts of electricity, so we’re talking about significant growth over the next twenty-something years. That said, wind industry growth has been fierce in recent years and is on track to meet these numbers if growth holds pace.
This is big news for the green building revolution, because a solar farm like this could power roughly 190k homes in California. Referred to as the Topaz Solar Farm, this $1 billion, 550-megawatt plant would cover roughly 9.5 square miles, and if constructed, would be the world’s largest photovoltaic solar farm. Hayward-based OptiSolar is developing plans for the project as we speak. According to their current time line, OptiSolar will apply for a conditional use permit in May 2008 and begin construction in 2010. Topaz Solar Farm would then be completed over three years.