Articles With "alternative energy" Tag

Sustainable Building Precursor: Opportunities + Widgets

Breathing_earth
Every now and then I get a question on green building, or I’ll ask someone a question on green building, and almost every time, the reaction I receive is bitter beer face.  What’s the problem?  It’s like by saying the word "green building," I’m a hippie, a crazed environmentalist, or worse: "a tree-hugger."  I don’t know about hippie, but words like "environmentalist," "tree-hugger," and "sustainability," are losing that subtle, pejorative connotation in a quick way.  In fact, the real smart cities (i.e., San Francisco, Austin, Portland, Honolulu, and San Diego) are often the greenest.  Catch my drift?  Green = Smart; Green = Opportunity.  Intelligent people are rethinking antiquated notions about the environment and are moving in a green direction. 

That said, I want to clarify and delineate the two main categories of green building that you might be interested in:  (1)  Building and (2) Maintenance.  Lets explore the myriad of sustainable opportunities to be found in each category. 

  • Building – this includes new construction, renovation, and rehabilitation.  Opportunities to save money + energy, pollute less, create less waste, and discover new uses for old materials abound.  There are hundreds of entrepreneurial opportunities along the building spectrum from design to build, from deconstruction to renovation.  We’re talking xeriscaping, getting solar panels, incorporating passive solar design, insulating correctly, using the right windows, and finding the right mixture of water, electricity, and gas-guzzling appliances. 
  • Maintenance – this includes everything related to using and abusing a structure on a going forward basis.  You will find money + energy saving opportunities in energy efficient appliances, light bulb choices, decorative decisions, and lifestyle choices.  Here, we’re talking about choosing the right TV, light bulbs, lamps, blinds + shades, decorative paints, and furniture.  We’re also talking about cutting out waste in your lifestyle, like running the water while you brush your teeth for 8 minutes every day. 

Think big, think innovative, and think independent.  Going green requires taking proactive choices about how you interact with the world we live in.  I like to think of all these green opportunities as web widgets that you can pull out of the sky and place them in your home.  I’ll take the Energy Star appliance widget, the plug-in hybrid vehicle widget, the CFL light bulb widget, the zero-VOC paint widget, the dual-flush toilet widget, etc.!  For motivation

Cincinnati City Council Passes Ordinance Granting Tax Benefits to Green Builders

Cincy_skyline On September 20, 2006, Cincinnati City Council took a bold step to pass an ordinance, at the motion of council members Laketa Cole and Chris Bortz, that provides tax and $ incentives to residential and commercial developers that build or rehab structures to LEED standards (Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum).  Even more notable was the simultaneous creation of a Community Development Block Grant, which aims to provide financing to residential (low or qualified mixed-income) structures built to LEED standards by paying the difference between the cost of the LEED building versus the cost of the building if it were built to standard codes. 

Carew_tower City Council is thinking also about establishing a "green permitting" process, which would allow green developers to bypass the bureaucratic bottlenecks and move to the front of the line for development approvals.  This is great news.  Developers are always looking for a way to get their projects approved, so green permitting will force them to rethink their options.

The LEED-H standard, which is the USGBC‘s standard for residential green homes, is relatively new, when compared to the LEED standards for commercial building.  LEED buildings will start to gain in popularity and provide tangible benefits to the city because green buildings use less water, less energy, and pollute less.  And from what I understand, there are tons of cities out there (other than Cincinnati) that have water shortages, energy shortages, and dirty skies–why not empower your citizens and businesses to solve resource problems by building green?  It’s one of the smartest things you can do as a politician, regardless of your partisan affiliation. 

Fort Bliss Plans to Create Largest, 10 SQ Mile Solar Farm

Ron_tudor_with_test_panels We don’t need no stinkin’ coal!  Fort Bliss is right on the money with their visionary plan to build a 1-gigawatt (yes, that’s what the article says), 10 square mile solar farm at Fort Bliss by 2010.  That’s a big solar farm, and supposedly, the largest solar farm in existence is the 12-megawatt one in Germany.  Various projects and technology development will continue under a partnership between Fort Bliss and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.  The new technology, including a controller than can extract energy even on overcast days, should cut the cost of solar energy in half. 

U.S. Representative Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) says the coal plants may not be necessary if the solar technology lives up to expectations.  The plan is to start powering Fort Bliss, and later, energy can be pumped into the national power grid to be exported nationwide.  In January 2007, post engineers will begin installing a 1.5 megawatt system.  After that, the project should explode with 20 megawatts in 2007, 40 megawatts in 2008, and 1 gigawatt in 2009. 

Interesting Applications:
"The new technology, which has been in development for about three years, is already charging the battery packs of soldiers in the 18th Airborne Corps and the 75th Ranger Regiment in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tudor said. That equipment includes hood-mounted Humvee panels that also can charge the vehicle’s battery, pack-mounted systems that charge batteries as a soldier walks, and tent-mounted systems that can provide power for a heated sleeping pad and to charge other batteries." via El Paso Times.  See also KVIA News Report

Case for State + Local Renewable Energy Rebates: Solar Umbrella House (2006)

Project_house Green Wombat reports that the Governator was pumping up California’s commitment to create 3,000 megawatts of new solar-produced, clean energy by 2017.  Think about that.  We’re talking about governmental support for empowering and supporting residents to generate their own energy.  Relatedly, the Solar Umbrella House is a modern + green example of what can happen when home owners take advantage of the governmental benefits of clean energy subsidization.  It was an AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Project in 2006, by architect Pugh + Scarpa.  What more can I say than that the Solar Umbrella House looks good and sunlight provides 95% of the electricity (less than $300 /year in energy bills). 

In addition to being designed passively to optimize the balance of sun and shade, the home has 89 amorphous photovoltaic panels that are connected to the grid with a net meter provided by the city of Los Angeles.  The house is decked out with energy-efficient everything.  Indoor air quality is perpetually monitored.  The design is LEED-H (v2) consistent.  Certified wood, recycled materials + salvaged materials were used all over the place. 

COSTS:
The photovoltaic system, solar hot-water system, thermally broken glazing, and energy efficient appliances cost about $39,000.  Not cheap, but that’s where rebates come in.  To pay for the solar panels, there was a $18,600 rebate from the City Department of Water and Power and a $4,000 rebate from the federal government.  After applying the rebates, the payback on this investment becomes 12 years, and the solar panel warranty lasts for 25 years.  Not bad. 

Books_and_stairs Bedroom_1 Back_yard

So what’s the big deal?  If your city isn’t on board with clean energy, there isn’t a 12 year payback and you continue to buy electricity created from dirty coal plants (unless it’s a green provider).  Which is better?  Option A) independent, site-generated electricity that pays for itself after 12 years + is warrantied for 25 years + creates lower electricity bills or B) no site-generated electricity + persistently increasing electricity bills + dirty air.  This is common sense, get your state and local governments to support renewable energy so that you can create a better living environment for your family.  If you do it like the Solar Umbrella House, you can do it in green style!

Current Energy: The World's First Home Efficiency Store

Current_energy_map This is not an advertisement or a commercial.  I was going to the iPod store on Knox (in Uptown, Dallas) and noticed this new store right next door called "Current Energy."  Tag line:  "We’ll plug you in."  I liked the design of the store and decided to go in and check the place out.  First impression, these people are very friendly and eager to help.  Second impression, what are they selling?  That’s below.  The store was pretty cool, and the website‘s not too shabby either. 

Here’s what they are selling/explaining/consulting, etc.:  Rinnai tankless water heater, Rainbird irrigation control, Toto dual flush toilet, Honeywell digital thermostats + air treatment systems, Lutron + Crestron whole house controls, Mitsubishi Mr. Slim ductless air conditioner, Neptune cfl + lighting science group LED lights, Trane xl19i Seer air conditioner, Radiant Barrier products, Vista window tinting and solar screens, Owens corning insulation products, etc.  They have a consultation room, kids learning center (using state-of-the-art macs and computer games), and home energy resource library. 

They give you information on switching your electric provider (explaining both the low-cost options (Gexa) and green options (Green Mountain)).  They can talk you through the benefits of Energy Star and you can ask them all sorts of questions.  They provide energy audit services, etc.  I did stump them a couple times with my questions, but they were willing to get the answers.  If you’re thinking about renovating, buying, building new, or whatever, you should educate yourself and go talk to these people.  They’ll open your eyes to new ideas, that’s for sure. 

Blue_current_energy_logo_1 Dark_blue_current_energy_logo

Here’s the address for all you Dallasites:
3103 Knox Street, Dallas, Texas  75205
www.currentenergy.com

Green Valley Lofts Raise the Bar for Innovative Mixed Use, Sustainable Development

Building_rendering_1 There really, actually, truly, factually, legitimately is a growing interest in living in more environmentally sensitive buildings.  Even still, whether you’re looking for a single family home, urban townhome, downtown loft, or warehouse loft, the players in the green development field are few and far between (but increasing).  I noticed an interesting developer that is building the "first ‘zero energy’ sustainable mixed-use building in Las Vegas."  This green development, called the Green Valley Lofts, is minutes from the Vegas strip and neighbors all the urban amenities one could ask for (gym, restaurants, banks, dry cleaner, car wash, etc.).  It’s lined to be LEED Certified, too. 

Green Features:
The building will have a stainless steel substructure with floor to ceiling Heat-Mirror insulated glass (benefits include improved interior comfortability, reduced fabric fading, and maximum noise control), aka the EAG Facade.  Also there’s a rooftop solar-photovoltaic system, energy-efficient (non-ozone depleting) closet-type water source HVAC system, low wattage lighting, Energy Star appliances, tankless water heaters, eco-space elevator, whole house central water filtration system, programmable thermostats, zero- to low-VOC non-toxic paints, and bamboo flooring.  The company has a nice description of the benefits of these green features online. 

The interior will include all the amenities that a modernist would desire:  imported Italian kitchens, recycled glass countertops, bamboo flooring, remote controlled window shades, and the whole house lighting system.  Note, some of these features are greener than others.  There’s a glass enclosed roof-top spa as well. 

Loft_interior Loft_bathroom Loft_balcony

As far as pricing is concerned, these lofts aren’t cheap, but that’s understandable because they aren’t built to be cheap.  Phase 1 prices seem to range from the low $400s to $1.1 million.  And some of the financial incentives that they offer include the popular energy efficient mortgage, the Nevada Power Solar Rebate Program, the usual Federal + State renewable energy tax incentives, and any other energy tax incentives.  What’s better, there will be an raffle and one lucky owner will receive the New 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid.  Nice business model guys, really. 

Extra Links:
Green Valley Lofts [official website]
EAG Facade [Euro-American Glazing]

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