Quick post here, but I want to let you iTunes users know that there’s a free download of the new Sundance Channel TV show called "big ideas for a small planet." No direct links because you need to have iTunes downloaded to get it, but it’s on the front page right now. The season premiere is called "Fuel," and I just finished watching it. Download it, come back, and leave a comment on what you thought.
Late last week, McStain Neighborhoods announced intentions to build the largest solar neighborhood in Colorado. The neighborhood development, known as Bradburn Village, will have 42 solar-electric homes available for sale in early Spring 2007. From what I understand, McStain builds their homes to Energy Star certification, so going with the solar option is a nice added feature. With prices starting in the upper 400s, these two-story homes will range in size from roughly 2,446 to 2,842 sq. Bradburn Village is located off 120th Avenue, between Federal and Sheridan boulevards.
McStain isn’t like your average builder or developer, either. For instance, here’s their mission: "To create homes and neighborhoods that stand the test of time, that grow in beauty and value, that help maintain the environment and lifestyle that make Colorado so special." They test and certify 100% of their homes, and I just get the feeling that a McStain home will be a damn good home.
I love blogging, I really do. Blogging enables me to connect with and learn from some really smart people. For example, last week I posted that I’d be in Washington, D.C., and I received a flood of suggestions and ideas for enjoying the greener side of the city. My friends at Edelman (Tristan + Kate) lined up a meeting with small-wind expert, Ron Stimmel, at the American Wind Energy Association’s Headquarters. It was awesome. I was able to sit down with Ron and talk about a pretty big development in the small-wind industry right now.
Recently, Senators Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) introduced legislation ("Rural Wind Energy Development Act" (S. 673)) that would allow purchasers of a small wind system to receive a credit on their taxes for a portion of the turbine’s total cost, or $1,500 per 1/2 kW of capacity. The five year credit would apply to all wind systems with capacities of under 100 kW used to power homes, farms or small businesses. The same day I was in town, a similar version of this legislation was also introduced in the House, H.R. 1772, by Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.). According to current estimates, small wind is suitable for about 15M homes and 1M businesses in America. If you want to get involved, Stimmel recommends calling your representative and asking them to co-sponsor the legislation. Get it moving.
According to Stimmel, "This would be the first federal incentive in 20 years to help individuals – homeowners, farmers, and small business owners – buy a small wind turbine." I asked him about some of the hurdles the industry is going through and he was positive about the direction small wind is going. Small wind needs reputable companies manufacturing the turbines and installers need to be well-trained to make sure the turbines get the best wind. Maybe in the near future, there could be some type of certification system for installing small wind, which could be a significant boost to the technology. At least for the moment, having these tax credits puts small wind within reach for many homeowners, farmers, and small business owners that could desperately use the technology.
The first time I saw the QR5 was on Inhabitat last year, and ever since then, my thoughts have occasionally wandered back to its simple, elegant design. Now, in April 2007, this UK-based innovation is one the recipients of the 3rd Annual Bottom Line Design Awards. Pictured on the cover of Business 2.0, the QR5 is referred to as "The Personal Power Plant." The QR5 can generate about 800 kilowatt-hours a month in 13-mph winds and costs about $48,000. Back of the envelope-style, the payback is about 18 years. According to Quietrevolution’s designer, Richard Cochrane, prices will go down with volume sales and about 70-80 wind turbines will be installed in the coming year.
About the QR5:
Looking at the helix portion alone, the turbine is about 9 feet tall x 15 feet wide (but various different sizes are also in development). Here’s how the parts work: (1) three ‘S’ shaped blades are tapered to shed noise, (2) the vertical axis easily integrates into existing buildings and structures, (3) the helical design captures turbulent winds and eliminates vibration, (4) central compression spar, dependent on conditions, (5) the blades, spars, and torque tube are made of strong carbon fiber, and all moving parts are sealed to minimize maintenance, and (6) the direct drive in-line generator has auto-shutdown and peak power tracking, which is incorporated into the mast. The QR5 is expected to have a life of about 25 years, assuming annual inspections. Feel free to click on over to get the finer details on noise + vibration, connecting to the grid, and mounting in various applications.
I think it’s fantastic, but I do have one concern. It’s UK-based. Localization is the new globalization because carbon emissions have changed the rules of the game. If this thing is going to get big, and I believe it can, there must be US-based production. I understand Quietrevolution is working on their non-UK patents, so establishing an American presence may be the company’s next step. I hope it is, because I can’t stop thinking about it. That’s what good design does. It changes the way we see the game being played.
Recently, in the Week in Review, I blogged about these twin skyscrapers becoming the world’s first commercial development to include large-scale wind turbines in its structure. As you can see from the pictures, Bahrain WTC towers have three, 32-yard diameter propellers that supply about 11-15 % of the buildings’ energy needs, or about 1100 to 1300 megawatts per year. The shape of the towers create an airflow tunnel through the buildings for improved energy generation output and each turbine will be suspended on a bridge connecting the buildings. According to BWTC designer Shaun Killa, solar panels available at the time of construction lost their efficiency due to the high Bahrain temperatures, so wind technology was the better choice for renewable supply. The turbines will be tested throughout the year and the building will open for business later in 2007.
The dueling towers are 50 stories each, with 34 floors of office space. When complete, the entire complex will include a shopping mall, including about 150-200 luxury brand retail sites, and a 5-star Sheraton hotel. In addition to having SMART features that include high-tech security and IT infrastructure, the building will use an environmentally friendly water cooling system. Via GE Eco-Business.