While living in solar powered homes is very sustainable and environmentally friendly, the materials from which most solar PV arrays are constructed are not. Since they are often made from rare natural materials or plastics, researchers are constantly looking for way to improve this flaw and make the whole package more eco-friendly. A team of scientists from the University of Maryland, the South China University of Technology, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have recently developed a type of paper, which is made from wood fibers. This paper is 96 percent transparent and could conceivably one day be used instead of the plastic materials used to construct the solar cells of today. This would make solar cells more eco-friendly as well as much cheaper.
The Santa Monica-based award-winning green design studio Minarc partnered up with Habitat for Humanity, and a local non-profit firm Restore Neighborhoods LA to design and build affordable, net-zero energy prefabricated homes in the low-income areas of South Los Angeles. Together they built 3 homes, which were all built on vacant lots in the poorest neighborhood of South Los Angeles. The houses all feature Minarc’s innovative, interlocking panel system, which is called mnmMOD. The homes are also equipped with roof top mounted solar panels.
A single family home in Glencoe, Illinois recently received the LEED Platinum for Home certification. This 4,800-square-foot house is the first new home in the North Shore area of Chicago to receive this rating. Despite its many green and sustainable features, the residence looks like a traditional house from the outside. The home also boasts of a HERS rating of 32.
A group of researchers at the North Carolina State University (NCSU) have recently successfully developed solar cells that are able to heal themselves. More specifically, the scientists have successfully been able to solve the problem of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC), namely that the dyes used to create energy in these cells would eventually be destroyed by UV radiation.
DSSC cells contain a water-based gel core, electrodes, and inexpensive, light-sensitive, organic dye molecules that capture light and generate electric current. The original cells were created by mimicking the photosynthesis process that occurs in the leaves of plants. In trying to solve the problem of the dyes eventually becoming ineffective due to exposure to UV rays, the NCSU scientists again looked to plants for inspiration. The solar cells they developed contain a network of vascular channels that are very similar to the veins in a leaf, which are used to maintain water and nutrient levels throughout the leaf. The researches found that the needed dyes could be effectively delivered and replenished via this network. The dye that had been rendered ineffective by UV radiation can also be removed through this network.
Sukup Manufacturing is a small company based in Sheffield, Iowa, which primarily manufactures agricultural products, which includes grain bins. About three years ago, Sukup also began manufacturing grain silo homes to be used as disaster relief housing in Haiti following the devastating earthquake there. They called this grain silo home a Safe T Home, and it was developed in partnership with Global Compassion Network and Iowa residents. In 2012 a shipment of these homes was transported to Haiti where volunteers and residents built the so-called “Village of Hope” from the silos. Safe T Homes proved very successful as relief housing, and they are now also available for purchase in the US through Sukup Manufacturing. Safe T homes can easily be used as vacation houses, or even tiny sustainable homes.
Late in October, 36 new homes made from recycled shipping containers began arriving in Brighton to become temporary dwellings for men and women that have had a history of homelessness.
The initiative was begun by the Brighton Housing Trust, a housing charity, and QED Estates Ltd, a housing developer. Located in New England Road on a plot that is known as Richardson’s Yard, the development is taking the place of a car park and a former scrap metal yard. Because the land is not suitable for long-term housing, the location is temporary, but the container homes can be easily relocated when the five-year permit expires.