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Near North Apartments by Helmut Jahn: Affordable, Mecha Small, Green + Modern

Night Near North Apartments

Not only is this place sustainable, but rooms are small, too.  With 96 units at an average size of 300 sf, Near North Apartments (NNA) is a pretty incredible habitat for people that deserve to live in a well-designed space.  NNA is the creation of renowned architect Helmut Jahn, who designed the single-occupant spaces for limited income, homeless, and disabled persons.  You’ll notice from the images that the building generates some power through roof-mounted wind turbines, or aeroturbines.  to be precise, the building shape was conceived to maximize wind to the aeroturbines.  They were invented at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and are now being marketed through Aerotecture International

The building also uses solar thermal collectors and a rainwater reclamation system.  The water system recycles shower water to flush toilets, apparently making it one of the few graywater systems in Chicago.  NNA is located at 1244 North Clybourn Avenue in Chicago and is owned by Mercy Housing Lakefront group.  The reason I’m blogging about this structure, in addition to being an example of small, sustainable living, is because it was listed on Metropolitan Home’s 2007 Design 100 list.  Congrats. 

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Talking Small Wind with AWEA; House + Senate Mull Small-Wind Tax Credit Legislation

Awea

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.

QR5 + 2007 Bottom Line Design Awards

Berkshire

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

My Thoughts:
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. 

Extra Links:
Quiet Revolution Wind Turbine [Evelyn - Inhabitat]
QuietRevolution [Sarah Rich - WorldChanging]

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Bahrain WTC, 3 Building Integrated Wind Turbines (S2)

Bahrain_wtc_turbines 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

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Zero-Energy Issaquah Town Homes, GreenSource + ENR Get Neals, + Bahrain Wind Turbine Towers (WIR)

Week in Review
  1. Ten "Zero-Energy" Town Home Community Planned in Issaquah, Washington [Seattle Times]
  2. McGraw-Hill Construction’s GreenSource Magazine and ENR.com Win Neal Awards [PRNewswire]
  3. Bahrain Twin Skyscraper Complex Becomes World’s First Commercial Development to Include Large-Scale Wind Turbines in its Structure [GE Eco-Business]

American Dream 2.0: The Phoenix SUT

Side_profile

Tonight, I had the great opportunity to talk with Ed Begley Jr. at the unveiling of the Phoenix Sport Utility Truck in Dallas, Texas.  Ed is a really nice guy, and he’s smart, too.  He knows his stuff.  He was showcasing the Phoenix SUT, which is a five-passenger, all-electric, freeway-speed sport utility truck.  I test drove it and had a good time.  I see the future with this thing.  I really do.  Actually, I punched it coming off the line, and it had some get up and go.

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