Italy’s Relaunch Decree helps homeowners install solar photovoltaic systems for free

May 27, 2020 by  
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Italy has been hit hard by COVID-19 and is attempting to jump-start its economy through the Relaunch Decree, a revitalization package of 55 billion euros ($60 billion) that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and his cabinet passed earlier this month. The stimulus includes tax breaks for clean energy projects and renovations; Italian homeowners are offered free rooftop installations of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems through the Relaunch Decree. To help Italy recover from the coronavirus-induced recession, incentives — like tax credits for homeowners pivoting toward energy efficient home improvement projects — are offered. According to Ernst & Young’s Global Tax News , “Individuals can offset 110% of qualified building renovation and energy efficiency costs incurred between 1 July 2020 and 31 December 2021 against their tax liabilities in five equal installments (up to certain thresholds).” Related: First home solar pavement installed on a driveway PV Magazine explained that the bonus is “for building-renovation projects from 65% to 110% and a jump in support for PV installations and storage systems associated with such renovation projects, from 50% of costs to 110%.” Any solar photovoltaic installations for the next year-and-a-half will be subsidized. Only a few weeks ago, Green Tech Media warned that Italy’s subsidy-free solar sector had stalled due to the pandemic, placing many projects on hold. While the solar industry is no stranger to vicissitude cycles, the pandemic added unexpected variables. “For the sector, the Relaunch Decree is certainly a great opportunity for the spread of photovoltaics on the roofs of Italian homes,” said Paolo Rocco Viscontini, president of PV association Italia Solare. Italy’s investment incentives for solar should come as no surprise, since Statista describes Italy as “the leading country worldwide for electricity consumption covered by solar PV.” Since the early 2000s, Italy has been a strong proponent of solar installations. In 2017, it unveiled its National Energy Strategy — a 10-year plan to decarbonize, expand renewable energy and promote energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. As of early 2020, Italy is second only to Germany in the photovoltaic sector, with solar power as the country’s preferred renewable energy source. In 2019, Italy had a 69% increase in solar photovoltaic installations compared to 2018. That growth was deemed “the most substantial recorded in Italy” by PV Europe with a grand total of 56,590 new solar power system installations in 2019, of which 50,653 were residential. While COVID-19 dampened photovoltaic growth for Italy’s first quarter of 2020, many nonetheless hope that the Relaunch Decree’s incentives can support a swift restart of the solar PV sector. Tom Heggarty, principal solar analyst for global energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, said , “Solar [projects are] pretty quick to develop and construct. So once we start to see restrictions lifted, the industry should, theoretically, be in a good place to bounce back quite quickly.” Via EY Global Tax News , PV Magazine , Green Tech Media , Statista and PV Europe Image via Giorgio Trovato

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Italy’s Relaunch Decree helps homeowners install solar photovoltaic systems for free

Green-roofed villa blends into a Costa Rican jungle landscape

May 27, 2020 by  
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Hidden in the lush mountains of Costa Rica is Atelier Villa, a green-roofed residence that Czech architecture firm Formafatal created as part of the boutique retreat Art Villas Resort. Designed to blend in with the surroundings, the minimalist home was built primarily of natural materials. It also features weathered aluminum wall panels that open up to provide a seamless indoor-outdoor living experience. The Atelier Villa is one of four structures in the Art Villas Resort located on a 2-hectare hill above Playa Hermosa. Masterplanned by Formafatal, the resort comprises the Art Villa, a concrete structure designed by Refuel; the Coco Villa, a set of five egg-shaped houses designed by Archwerk studio; the Wing, a tropical multifunctional pavilion ; and the private Atelier Villa. The property can host small-group retreats of up to 24 people and is open for rent via Airbnb. Related: Breezy, prefab home stays naturally cool in tropical Costa Rica Elevated off of the ground, the Atelier Villa appears to float above the landscape and uses its raised position to take in views of the distant ocean and green hills. “The first and foremost priority is not only the idea of ‘erasing boundaries between interior and exterior’ but also highlighting constructional simplicity and pure lines (pura vida >> pura arquitectura),” the architects explained of the minimalist, steel-framed design. Formafatal wrapped the boxy, 26-meter-long home in operable, perforated aluminum panels, which don’t heat up in the sun and are rust-resistant, as well as Shou Sugi Ban -treated timber. A minimalist design approach was also applied to the interior, which is largely open-plan to provide uninterrupted sight lines of the outdoors throughout the home. Natural materials were used for the interior surfaces as well as the furnishings, which, aside from the lounge and dining chairs, were custom-made for the villa. Many of the furnishings were made with help from local craftsmen. + Formafatal Photography by BoysPlayNice via Formafatal

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Green-roofed villa blends into a Costa Rican jungle landscape

Los Angeles air quality improves amid pandemic

April 10, 2020 by  
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There is one positive impact of the tragic coronavirus pandemic — Los Angeles is experiencing its longest stretch of good air quality since 1995. On April 7, Swiss air quality technology company IQAir cited LA as one of the cities with the cleanest air in the world. While the notoriously smoggy city is on lockdown, highway traffic has dropped 80% throughout the entire state of California, which probably accounts for much of the improvement. “With less cars on the road and less emissions coming from those tailpipes, it’s not surprising to see improvements in the air quality overall,” Yifang Zhu, professor of environmental health science at UCLA, told CNN. Zhu and her team of scientists measured a 20% overall improvement in southern California’s air quality between March 16 and April 6. They also recorded a 40% drop in PM 2.5 levels. This microscopic air pollutant is linked to both respiratory and cardiovascular problems, especially in the very young and very old. A recently released Harvard study linked PM 2.5 exposure to an increased likelihood of dying from COVID-19 . Related: Coronavirus and its impact on carbon emissions All over the world, scientists are noting that cleaner air is a side effect of the pandemic . Satellite images have revealed much lower concentrations of nitrogen dioxide over industrial areas of Europe and Asia in the past six weeks. The drops in nitrogen dioxide levels over Wuhan — a city of 11 million — and the factory-filled Po Valley of northern Italy are especially striking. “It’s quite unprecedented,” Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Service, told the Guardian. “In the past, we have seen big variations for a day or so because of weather. But no signal on emissions that has lasted so long.” Alas, when lockdowns lift and Angelenos return to the highways, the pollution will likely return. Zhu hopes that this glimpse of clear, blue skies will inspire people to work for better air quality post-pandemic. “From the society level, I think we need to think really hard about how to bring about a more sustainable world, where technologies and policies come together to bring us cleaner energy ,” she said. “So that the air that we’re breathing will stay as clean as what we’re breathing today.” Via CNN and The Guardian Image by Joseph Ngabo

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Los Angeles air quality improves amid pandemic

Resurrected greenhouse to honor father of modern genetics

April 10, 2020 by  
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International architecture and urban design practice  CHYBIK + KRISTOF has unveiled designs for an energy-efficient greenhouse to commemorate Gregor Mendel, a scientist and Augustinian friar regarded as the founder of the modern science of genetics. Set on the foundations of the 19th-century Brno greenhouse where Mendel conducted his pioneering experiments, the new greenhouse will pay homage to the original architecture and Mendel’s teachings. The greenhouse is slated for completion in 2022 to commemorate Mendel’s birth 200 years ago.  Born in 1822, Gregor Mendel spent eight seasons, from 1856 to 1863, cultivating and breeding pea plants in a 19th-century greenhouse that had been built in the St. Thomas Augustinian Abbey’s gardens to cement the monastery as a leading center for scientific research. In 1870, however, a storm destroyed the building, leaving only its foundations intact today. The experiments that Mendel had conducted within the greenhouse are now widely recognized as the foundation of modern genetics .  CHYBIK + KRISTOF’s resurrection of the historic greenhouse begins with the preservation of the foundations that will be integrated into the new structure and left visible. The foundations will inform the orientation and shape of the greenhouse, which will be reminiscent of the original building. “While the trapezoidal volume is identical to the original edifice, the reimagined supporting steel structure seeks inspiration from Mendel’s three laws of inheritance – and the drawings of his resulting heredity system,” explained the architects. “Likewise, the pitched roof, consisting of a vast outer glass surface, reflects his law of segregation and the distribution of inherited traits, and is complemented by a set of modular shades.” Related: Kuehn Malvezzi tops a brick office building in Germany with an energy-efficient greenhouse In addition to celebrating Mendel’s work, the revived structure will primarily be used as a flexible events space that can adapt to a variety of functions, from conferences and lectures to temporary exhibitions. The flexible design will also be entirely exposed to the outdoors. For energy efficiency, the architects have integrated a concealed system of underground heat pumps  into the greenhouse, as well as adjustable shades and embedded blinds to facilitate natural cooling and ventilation.  + CHYBIK + KRISTOF Images by monolot and CHYBIK + KRISTOF

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Air pollution could make COVID-19 more dangerous

March 17, 2020 by  
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Some climate experts are hypothesizing that living in areas with high air pollution could make cases of COVID-19 worse. Smoking tobacco products could also worsen the effects of the virus. “Given what we know now, it is very likely that people who are exposed to more air pollution and who are smoking tobacco products are going to fare worse if infected with COVID than those who are breathing cleaner air , and who don’t smoke,” Aaron Bernstein, interim director of the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the Washington Post. Because no large-scale studies have been done to connect air pollution with the virus, Bernstein’s view is still a hypothesis. Related: Coronavirus and its impact on carbon emissions Some of the world’s more polluted regions have seen the most coronavirus fatalities, such as densely populated urban areas of Iran and China. The air quality is so bad that people living in Tehran or in the Hebei province of China may routinely inhale an equivalent amount of air pollution as someone who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day. Northern Italy is one of Europe’s most polluted areas. South Korean cities have high air pollution levels and a high rate of tobacco use. During the severe acute respiratory syndrome [SARS] epidemic in 2003, researchers noticed a correlation between low air quality and regions with more fatalities. However, they didn’t conclude air pollution was necessarily the cause. Other factors, including socioeconomic status, may also have played a role in the disease’s patterns. There may also be a correlation between smoking and the deadliness of COVID-19. Researchers found worse outcomes for smokers who suffered from Middle East respiratory syndrome, both in the Middle East and in South Korea. Pneumonia , to which smokers are often susceptible, is sometimes part of severe coronavirus cases. Via U.S. News & World Report and The Hill Image via Edmond Yu

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Powerbarn is a bioenergy plant offering power to 84,000 families

March 3, 2020 by  
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In the rural commune of Russi in northeast Italy, Italian architecture firm Giovanni Vaccarini Architetti has converted an industrial zone once used for sugar production into the new grounds for the Powerbarn, a bioenergy production plant with a sculptural appearance. Inspired by eco-friendly principles, the architects crafted a masterplan that integrated the architecture into the farming landscape and restored and re-naturalized approximately 280,000 square meters — including three wetlands — for the benefit of the local ecosystem and community. Surrounded by human-made dunes to soften its appearance, the Powerbarn uses biomass, biogas and solar systems to generate an output of approximately 222 GWh a year — enough to satisfy the energy needs of 84,000 families. Once the site for the Eridania sugar factory, the former industrial property has long felt at odds with its agricultural surroundings. That’s why Giovanni Vaccarini Architetti paid special attention to the edges of the property, which the team has redefined with human-made dunes — rather than an industrial fence — constructed only from earth used from the construction site excavation. The vegetated dunes help soften the Powerbarn’s size; the main building that comprises the furnace and smoke line measures about 100 meters in length and over 30 meters in height. Related: Ski atop the world’s cleanest waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen “Our intention was to create something similar to a natural bastion, almost a dune, along the edge of the area now converted into the pole for energy production — hence an element closely linked to the ecological functions of an environment,” Giovanni Vaccarini explained. “Not a barrier, but a functional element that would express our design intentions: to create a permeable, accessible and living element.” Inspired by the “razzle dazzle” camouflage technique, Vaccarini clad the Powerbarn in large triangular panels of timber and steel that also evoke the art of weaving and nomadic architecture. The masterplan also includes a building for offices, an electric substation and an area for wastewater collection. In addition to solar, the Powerbarn is fueled with wood chips and organic materials sourced within a 70-kilometer radius of the site along with livestock sewage that’s fed into the biogas plant. + Giovanni Vaccarini Architetti Photography by Massimo Crivellari via Giovanni Vaccarini Architetti

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Powerbarn is a bioenergy plant offering power to 84,000 families

Maven Moment: Traditions to Banish Bad Luck for the New Year

January 8, 2020 by  
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It is an old tradition in southern Italy to celebrate … The post Maven Moment: Traditions to Banish Bad Luck for the New Year appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Stefano Boeri will revitalize Genoa with sustainable energy-producing urban design

October 15, 2019 by  
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A Stefano Boeri Architetti -led design team has won a competition to design a new urban project to transform the Polcevera valley in Genoa, Italy into a beacon of sustainability. Titled “The Polcevera Park and The Red Circle,” the urban regeneration scheme will include a series of parks beneath the new Renzo Piano-designed bridge that will replace the Morandi Bridge that collapsed on August 14, 2018 — a tragedy that killed 43 people. In addition to revitalizing the area and memorializing the recent tragedy, the project will promote sustainable design through renewable technologies, green space and an emphasis on non-motorized transport. Designed in collaboration with architecture firm Metrogramma Milano and Dutch landscape design firm Inside Outside, The Polcevera Park and The Red Circle will include a sustainable mobility grid, a system of parks, and solar-powered buildings that will serve as hubs of productivity and innovation to lead the area’s economic revitalization. The Red Steel Circle refers to the circular elevated pedestrian/ cyclist pathway that will visually and physically knit together the two sides of the valley. This “relationship-building structure” measures 1,570 meters in length, 6 meters in width and 250 meters in diameter, and will be equipped with a 120-meter-tall Wind Tower for generating and producing renewable energy. The new series of parks will also be designed with sustainability in mind and include rainwater harvesting systems and an emphasis on biodiversity . A planting palette of species native to the Mediterranean basin area as well as a rich diversity of spaces — including recreational, educational and social areas — will define the landscape. A memorial to the victims of the collapsed Morandi bridge will be located at the heart of the park. Titled Genova in the wood, the art installation will feature 43 trees, one for each victim lost. Related: Stefano Boeri Architetti’s iridescent tower breaks ground in Tirana “The Red Circle, the Tower, the World Buildings, and the Polcevera Park with its vital chromatic and botanical variety will act as Genoa’s welcome to the passers-by of the future,” says Stefano Boeri. “A welcome to the world that crosses it and reaches Genoa from a network of infrastructure that stretches from east to west connecting Italy to Europe, parks perched on vertical walls, workers and noblewomen, singers- poets and naval engineers. A Superb City, even though it is afflicted by poignant melancholy; beautiful, even if in the harshness of its everlasting contradictions. A city of steel and sea, sculpted by wind and tragedy, but always able to stand tall.” + Stefano Boeri Architetti Images via The Big Picture, Renovatio design, 46xy via Stefano Boeri Architetti

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Stefano Boeri will revitalize Genoa with sustainable energy-producing urban design

Brazil turns down international aid for Amazon wildfires

August 28, 2019 by  
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Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is busy tweeting and arguing with French president Emmanuel Macron while enormous Amazon fires burn. The Group of Seven rich countries, otherwise known as the G7, has offered $22 million to combat fires raging throughout the rainforest. But Bolsonaro says he won’t accept the money unless Macron says he’s sorry. While at the G7 summit in France early this week, Macron urged his fellow leaders to action, calling the Amazon wildfires a world environmental crisis and accusing Bolsonaro of making it worse. He also called the Brazilian president a climate change skeptic. Bolsonaro was insulted and accused Macron of treating Brazil “as if we were a colony or no man’s land,” he said in a tweet. Related: Wildfires are decimating the Amazon rainforest at unprecedented rates Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, further dissed Macron by saying if the French president can’t “avoid a predictable fire in a church,” he might not have much to offer Brazil. This remark referred to the recent tragic blaze at Notre Dame . Fortunately for Bolsonaro, he can fall back on support in his mutual fan club with President Trump. “He is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil — Not easy,” tweeted Trump. Bolsonaro thanked Trump and accused Macron et al. of building a fake news campaign against him. Meanwhile, a football field and a half of the Amazon continues to burn every minute. Brazil could well be facing permanent changes to its ecology, such as former rainforest turning into arid landscape. “The Amazon is extremely fundamental for the water system all over the continent,” said Rosana Villar from Greenpeace. “So, if we cut off the forest, we are some years not going to have rain on the south of the country.” Critics say the $22 million offered by the G-7 countries including the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.K. wouldn’t be enough to stop the fires . But it would certainly go a lot farther than a juvenile tweet fight. Via NPR and CNN Image via NASA

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Railway heat to be repurposed to warm London homes this winter

August 28, 2019 by  
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Besides riding the railway, or ‘tube,’ to go from one end of the U.K. to another, some North Londoners will benefit from excess heat generated by the Northern Line by year’s end with a new initiative to reuse this heat to warm hundreds of houses and businesses in Islington. The plan, which is already underway, uses inexpensive, low-carbon heat or “ waste heat ” produced by the railway to pump into hundreds of Islington homes. Around 700 homes in the city currently use heat created in the Bunhill Energy Centre, which makes electricity. Another 450 homes are expected to use heat from the railway this winter. Related: Britain celebrates first week without coal power since 1882 The Greater London Authority has reported that about 38 percent of heating demands in the city could be met through waste heat. Utilizing alternative options of renewable heat has become increasingly important after the U.K. government’s decision to ban gas-fired boilers from newly built homes by 2025. Tim Rotheray, director of the Association for Decentralized Energy, told The Guardian that heat from the railway as well as other heating plans are gaining steam across the country as low-cost options in fighting climate change . “Almost half the energy used in the U.K. is for heat, and a third of U.K. emissions are from heating,” Rotheray said. “With the government declaring that we must be carbon-neutral within 30 years, we need to find a way to take the carbon out of our heating system. The opportunity that has become clear to the decentralized energy community is the idea of capturing waste heat and putting it to use locally.” Besides the railway, other heat sources are coming from some unusual places throughout the country. For example, take a sugar factory in Wissington, Norfolk that uses extra heat made from cooking syrup and pumps it into a greenhouse used to grow medical cannabis. According to The Guardian, another source of heat being considered in towns and cities is geothermal energy that is trapped in water at the bottom of old mines. In Edinburgh, engineers have created a heat network using pooled water at one mine as a large, underground thermal battery. The city council of Stoke-on-Trent, England estimates its geothermal energy project could reduce carbon emissions by 12,000 tons annually. Via The Guardian Image via Axel Rouvin

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Railway heat to be repurposed to warm London homes this winter

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