NREL’s solar-powered window breaks new ground with 11% efficiency

November 30, 2017 by  
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The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has revealed its prototype of a solar-powered “smart window,” which has broken new ground by achieving 11 percent efficiency, enough to potentially provide 80 percent of electricity needs in the United States. The NREL smart window is also able to lower building temperatures and generate electricity by changing the window’s appearance from clear to tinted. Not only does this decrease the amount of sunlight entering a building, thus lowering its heat intake, but also turns the windows into photovoltaic panels. Upon shifting to the darker, hazy view, the smart window then starts its energy production . “There is a fundamental tradeoff between a good window and a good solar cell,” said Lance Wheeler , a scientist at NREL. “This technology bypasses that. We have a good solar cell when there’s lots of sunshine and we have a good window when there’s not.” The smart window’s functionality depends upon advanced materials such as perovskite, a calcium titanium oxide mineral that is able to absorb sunlight and generate electricity, and single-walled carbon nanotubes, microscopic structures with incredible strength. While existing solar windows are typically not responsive to changes in sunlight, thus remaining at one set level of transparency, NREL’s prototype breaks new ground by demonstrating a dynamic ability to react to light conditions. Related: New silicon nanoparticles could finally make solar windows commercially viable The window’s ability to transform is made possible by molecules of methylamine, which move in and out of the window depending on the circumstances. When the sun heats up the window, the molecules are absorbed into it, darkening the window. When the sun is not shining directly on the window, the molecules are expelled, which makes the window transparent. In its solar panel form, the smart window has been able to achieve 11 percent efficiency in capturing solar energy and translating it into electricity. The research team at NREL believes that their smart window design could be used to charge mobile devices and on-board electronics such as fans, rain sensors and motors. While research is ongoing, the team is already focusing on how their design could be commercialized and made available to the public. Via Electrek and NREL Images via Dennis Schroeder/NREL and NREL

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NREL’s solar-powered window breaks new ground with 11% efficiency

Elon Musk wins $50 million bet by installing world’s largest lithium-ion battery in under 100 days

November 24, 2017 by  
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Elon Musk has done it again. In March, the inventor and mastermind behind Tesla , SpaceX and other world-changing ventures made a bet on Twitter with Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes that he could help solve South Australia’s vexing blackouts with a massive Powerpack within 100 days — or provide the $50 million service for free. And he has now officially won. Not only will Tesla receive payment for the 100 megawatt energy storage project , but residents no longer have to sit in the dark during periods of high energy demand. The largest lithium-ion battery in the world, according to Business Insider , Tesla’s 100 megawatt Powerpack supports Neoen’s Hornsdale wind farm nearly 150 miles north of Adelaide, the capital of Australia. State premier Jay Weatherill announced on Thursday that testing would begin within days, ahead of the 1 December deadline. Although Musk signed off on the South Australia project in September, the government officially awarded his company the contract in July. Business Insider reports that the massive battery is capable of providing power for 8,000 homes for a 24-hour period, or 30,000 homes for an hour during a blackout. Related: Elon Musk says he’ll fix South Australia’s energy woes in 100 days — or it’s free Last September, all of South Australia lost power when a storm damaged the state’s electricity transmission infrastructure . In response, the government announced a $550 million plan to buttress against future blackouts, which includes the Powerpack and a 250 megawatt gas-fired generator expected to cost $360 million. Weatherill says testing will ensure the plant meets all regulatory requirements, and praised all parties involved with its rapid execution. “It sends the clearest message that South Australia will be a leader in renewable energy with battery storage,” he said. “An enormous amount of work has gone into delivering this project in such a short time, and I look forward to visiting Jamestown next week to personally thank those who have worked on this project.” Via Business Insider Images via Tesla

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Elon Musk wins $50 million bet by installing world’s largest lithium-ion battery in under 100 days

Worlds first solar panel mural unveiled in San Antonio

November 17, 2017 by  
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In a world where solar farms are shaped like giant pandas, there’s certainly room for some solar butterflies. Determined to beautify our cities by converting solar panels into creative works of public art , the Seattle-based Land Art Generator Initiative just unveiled the world’s first solar mural installation, called La Monarca, by San Antonio artist Cruz Ortiz. La Mariposa solar mural – recently unveiled at the San Antonio Arts Festival, Luminaria – was created through advanced PV Film technology that lets light easily pass through the printed film that adheres to the panels. The beautiful mural is just the first step in the Land Art Generator’s plan to combine sustainable energy infrastructures with public art. Working with local artists, architects, landscape architects, engineers and scientists, the organization hopes to provide more collaborative platforms that enable cities to put a new artsy spin on their clean energy generation . Related: World’s cutest solar farm in China is shaped like a panda According to the artist, La Monarca was inspired by San Antonio’s status as the National Wildlife Federation’s first Monarch Butterfly Champion City . A fitting symbol to be put on a clean energy installation , the monarch butterfly represents the threat that wildlife faces due to global warming and climate change. After the festival, the solar art mural will be moved to its permanent home inside a pollinator garden on the EPICenter campus in San Antonio where it will be used to generate solar energy directly into the building. + Land Art Generator Initiative Images by Land Art Generator Initiative

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Worlds first solar panel mural unveiled in San Antonio

More than 20 organizations launch Solar Saves Lives to electrify Puerto Rico

November 14, 2017 by  
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Puerto Rico’s electricity crisis continues – and the solar industry plans to help. More than 20 organizations and companies, including The Solar Foundation , Sunrun , and the Clinton Foundation , launched the Solar Saves Lives initiative to bring solar technology to American citizens in Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) after the recent hurricanes . Their priorities are two food markets in San Juan and 62 rural medical clinics. Puerto Rico’s loss of power doesn’t just mean people sit in the dark. It also means it can be harder to obtain fresh water or food. Many rural medical clinics are still closed, meaning it can be difficult for people to receive medical attention they need. Several organizations and companies are responding with over $5 million in solar equipment commitments to work towards restoring power in Puerto Rico and the USVI and helping the islands be more resilient to future storms. Related: Richard Branson is planning to rebuild the Caribbean with clean energy Former president Bill Clinton said in a statement, “Seven weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall in the Caribbean, people in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still in urgent need of assistance. The solar equipment donated through this effort will save lives by aiding recovery efforts, providing power for people in remote areas, and solarizing critically needed services like refrigeration and medical care.” Direct Relief, Operation Blessing, J/P Haitian Relief Organization, SunSpec Alliance, BayWa r.e. Solar Systems, Prana Power, CAM Solar, Campervan HQ, Carolina Solar Energy, Renogy, and Solight Design are among the companies and organizations involved. Solar Saves Lives will be bringing equipment like lanterns, cell chargers, solar refrigeration units, solar water purification units, battery packs, solar panels, and inverters to impacted areas. Solar Saves Lives is asking for both product and monetary donations; find out how to help here . + Solar Saves Lives Images via Solar Saves Lives and Wikimedia Commons

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More than 20 organizations launch Solar Saves Lives to electrify Puerto Rico

Tesla aims to ramp up Solar Roof production in Buffalo next year

November 3, 2017 by  
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Tesla’s Solar Roof could be seen on more homes as the company plans to increase production in 2018. They said in a letter to shareholders they’ll be moving production from their Fremont, California factory to the Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo , New York. According to Inverse , Elon Musk provided for the first time a concrete timeframe for ramping up production, during a recent conference call, to allow for more customer installations. Tesla plans to start manufacturing more Solar Roofs soon. In a Wednesday conference call, chief technology officer JB Straubel said they are “on track to turn on most of the production line in Buffalo by the end of the year.” In the shareholder letter, Musk and chief financial officer Deepak Ahuja said as they move production to Buffalo, energy generation with the Solar Roofs will become a larger part of Tesla’s business in 2018. Related: A Tesla solar roof rotates to naturally cool this desert home in Iran Tesla has deployed less solar capacity in the third quarter than one year ago: 109 megawatts (MW) as opposed to 187 MW. In the letter, Musk and Ahuja said, “The lower developments are in large part a result of deliberately deemphasizing commercial and industrial solar energy projects with low profit and limited cash generation.” As they make the move from Fremont to Buffalo, they said in the letter Solar Roof installations will increase slowly at first, but “as we fine tune and standardize the production and installation process, we expect to ramp Solar Roof production considerably in 2018.” Musk and Ahuja affirmed Musk’s vision for pursuing renewable energy – over ten years ago, Musk said in his first master plan Tesla aimed to provide “ zero emission electric power generation options.” In this recent letter the two executives said sustainable energy – and storing it – are crucial components of the company’s mission “and will drive long-term revenue growth and profits.” Via The Buffalo News and Inverse Images via Tesla

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Tesla aims to ramp up Solar Roof production in Buffalo next year

NexLoop unveils water management system inspired by spiders, fungi, bees and plants

November 3, 2017 by  
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In its quest to sustainably serve the needs of urban farmers , NexLoop  found inspiration for its water management system in the natural world. Seeking to create a system that is self-sufficient and adaptable to local needs, the NexLoop team observed the ability of cribellate orb weaver spiders to craft webs that capture water from fog in the air. The team then incorporated this design into their system, called the AquaWeb, to passively capture water from the atmosphere. The biomimetically-designed AquaWeb incorporates ideas from fungi, bees, and plants to create a naturally-inspired solution to the complex human problem of growing food. For its work, NexLoop was awarded the 2017 Ray of Hope Prize from the Ray C. Anderson Foundation and the Biomimicry Institute. After determining how water capture would work, the team looked at drought-tolerant plants such as the crystalline ice plant to learn how it effectively stores water to survive in dry areas and applied these lessons to the AquaWeb’s storage system. As for distribution of this water, the team studied fungi , which are essential organisms in places like forests where mycorrhizal fungal networks transport water and nutrients to trees that need them. As for a solid structure, the team incorporated the hexagonal shape of honey bee nests. Related: 6 groundbreaking examples of tech innovations inspired by biomimicry The AquaWeb seeks to meet the needs of a global community that is increasingly urban . The global population is expected rise to at least 9 billion by 2050, 70 percent of which will live in cities. This historic shift towards urban living will require adoption of food systems that are locally based, resilient, and efficient in its use of resources. AquaWeb’s passive capture and storage of rainwater is a key feature for stability in a world increasingly plagued by extreme weather. As part of the 2017 Ray of Hope Prize, the NexLoop team received $100,000 to promote and refine its design. The second place prize was awarded to Team Windchill, which designed an electricity-free refrigerator based on animal temperature regulation, while the third place prize went to Team Evolution’s Solutions, which invented a food waste nutrient recycling and supply system aimed to help hydroponic farmers . + Biomimicry Institute Images via NexLoop and Depositphotos

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Richard Branson’s plan to help rebuild the Caribbean with clean energy

November 3, 2017 by  
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Renewable energy could help islands in the Caribbean be more resilient in the face of future hurricanes – and billionaire Richard Branson wants to make that happen. He’s spearheading a plan for recovery centering on renewable energy. Replacing fossil fuel power grids with clean energy sources like solar and wind could also promote economic development. Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Caribbean islands. Now, Branson aims to help them rebuild. He has spoken with lenders and foundations about a fund to pay for a Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan, a name that nods to the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe following World War 2. His efforts, which focus on renewable energy, could also include debt relief negotiations in which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) might be involved – Branson met with IMF managing director Christine Lagarde and said she was willing to facilitate meetings between creditors and Caribbean nations. He also said in a blog post he met recently with over 50 representatives from Caribbean governments and utility companies. Related: Puerto Rico electricity crisis sparks interest in renewable energy He told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “We want to move the Caribbean countries into clean energy and make them more sustainable, which will make dealing with hurricanes much easier. The Caribbean heads of state agree with one voice that this is a good idea.” Branson rode out Hurricane Irma in a cellar on Necker, his private island in the British Virgin Islands. The island’s solar-powered microgrid weathered the storm well, he said, with the solar panels running again just 24 hours after the hurricane. In a blog post, Branson said people interested in helping could donate to the BVI Community Support Appeal , which aims “to raise money for the long term reconstruction” of the British Virgin Islands. Via the Thomson Reuters Foundation and Richard Branson Images via Caribbean Buzz Helicopters/Virgin and Ricardo Rossello on Twitter

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Richard Branson’s plan to help rebuild the Caribbean with clean energy

Colorful Peoples Pavilion in Eindhoven is made from 100% borrowed materials

November 3, 2017 by  
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All the materials needed to build this temporary pavilion in the Netherlands are borrowed. bureau SLA and Overtreders W built the People’s Pavilion – a centerpiece of the Dutch Design Week (DDW) taking place in Eindhoven – using materials from suppliers and Eindhoven residents which will be returned after the event closes. The only exception is the faceted upper façade, which is made of plastic household waste materials collected by Eindhoven residents. The People’s Pavilion will function as the main pavilion of the World Design Event in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, which provides a platform for future makers from all over the world. It will also be used as a meeting place and hang-out for visitors and serves as a venue for music and theater. Related: Spectacular origami pavilion made of recycled plastic pops up in Columbus, Indiana The 269-square-foot (25-square-meter) building can accommodate 200 seated or 600 standing people. Its structure is based on 12 concrete foundation piles and 19 wooden frames, designed in collaboration with Arup. Steel straps hold together wooden beams , while concrete piles and frames are connected with 350 tensioning straps. The glass roof resembles those used in the greenhouse industry. Related: The Folkets House is an inclusive space where refugees can learn skills and find jobs Colorful plastic tiles cover the upper façade of the building and are made from recycled plastic household waste . Leftovers from a refurbishment of BOL.com’s headquarters were used for the glass portion of the façade on the ground floor and will be reused for a new office space after the Dutch Design Week concludes. All the materials, including concrete slabs used for the podium, lighting, heating and bar are borrowed. + bureau SLA + Overtreders W + Dutch Design Week 

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Colorful Peoples Pavilion in Eindhoven is made from 100% borrowed materials

Steven Holl unveils office clad in colorful photovoltaic glass for Doctors Without Borders

November 2, 2017 by  
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Steven Holl Architects just beat out a slew of other firms with plans for the new Doctors Without Borders headquarters in Geneva. The energy-efficient “Colors of Humanity” building features an innovative facade made of multi-hued photovoltaic glass and it’s topped with a lush green roof . The New York-based architect’s design was chosen over various proposals from architecture firms around the world. According to Mathieu Soupart, Logistics Director for the MSF Operational Centre Geneva, the winning design best represents the MSF ethos of community: “Steven Holl Architects’ project is the opportunity for MSF to integrate its core values like independence, impartiality, neutrality, altruism and dynamism in a challenging new architecture and project itself in the future.” Related: Steven Holl Architects designs LEED Platinum-targeted cultural center for Shanghai The massive photovoltaic facade , which is 40% transparent, pulls double duty: it produces up to 72% of the building’s energy needs and creates an interior framework for the community inside. Solar panels will also be installed on the building’s roof, sharing space with a large roof-top garden . Additionally, the innovative glass wall system is “open ended,” which means the building could be expanded in the future if need be. The inside layout is focused on the needs of the MSF community, and each individual space is designated by its color. Designed to foster interaction , the building has various circulation paths where workers and visitors can take a break in one of the many seating alcoves. This design feature was strategic to encourage community collaboration: “These centers serve as a friendly catalyst for interaction, acting like social condensers within the building.” + Steven Holl Architects Via Archdaily

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Steven Holl unveils office clad in colorful photovoltaic glass for Doctors Without Borders

Luxury private-island resort in the Maldives aims for minimal site impact

November 2, 2017 by  
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A new paradise destination has surfaced on the waters of the jaw-droppingly beautiful Maldives . Singapore-based WOW Architects recently completed the St. Regis Maldives, a luxury hotel that extends out of a private island. In hopes of minimizing the resort’s impact on the landscape, WOW architects implemented prefabricated timber systems and uses local labor and materials whenever possible. Covering 16,000 square meters across land and water, the St. Regis Maldives comprises 77 villas divided into four experiential zones—lagoon, beach, coastal, and jungle—each defined by different anchoring activities connected via a meandering art trail. The hut-like building forms and spaces take inspiration from nature, with maximum use of cross-laminated wood and minimal use of concrete and steel. Landscaping focuses on conservation of existing island flora and fauna, as well as replacement of displaced plant material with native species. Related: World’s largest underwater restaurant installed in the Maldives “The local people live in a delicate balancing act with nature, and are totally dependent on trade, technology, and tourism to sustain themselves,” wrote the architects. “Thus, when we were given an opportunity to design a Maldivian resort hotel, we chose to delight the senses through education, creating awareness, and new paradigms of interacting with the physical environment. Here, paradise is emotionally and intellectually experienced and enjoyed, but with a profound awareness of the complex relationships of the eco systems being inhabited.” + WOW Architects Images 2018 copyright WOW Architects | Warner Wong Design

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