Solar-powered mountain home is a sustainable prototype for Aspen development

June 22, 2018 by  
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Like in many places across the U.S., the real estate market is booming in Aspen , Colorado. And, as companies move in to replenish the dwindling housing inventory, one real estate developer hopes to provide a more sustainable alternative to the inevitable onslaught of cookie-cutter homes. Working in collaboration with San Francisco-based Aidlin Darling Design , the developer has completed a solar-powered dwelling that serves as a new energy-efficient prototype for speculative real estate in Aspen. Located on the steep slopes of Red Mountain, the Aspen Residence boasts spectacular panoramic views that overlook Aspen to the west and an undeveloped landscape to the south. The spacious home covers an area of 9,618 square feet and is oriented on a north-south axis to maximize views, preserve privacy, and optimize passive solar strategies. To tie the contemporary design to the landscape, the architects used local materials and long stone walls that anchor the space into the hillside and frame outdoor spaces that function as extensions of indoor living areas. “The client, a developer with an earnest desire to change the real estate paradigm in Aspen, desired a more sustainable, site-sensitive , and modern alternative to the usual developments,” explains Aidlin Darling Design. “The design challenges conventional notions of interior and exterior, absorbing the surrounding landscape.” Related: Solar-powered Colorado school houses a sun-soaked learning environment Sustainability is key to the design. The Aspen Residence’s rooftop is integrated with a 12.6 kW solar photovoltaic array as well as a green roof and solar hot water panels. The roof is also designed to slow and reduce stormwater runoff in conjunction with the on-site bio-retention pond. To reduce energy demands, the home is wrapped in closed cell spray foam insulation and punctuated with glazed windows and doors that let in natural light and promote natural ventilation. Moreover, energy-efficient radiant heating is built into the floor slabs and a heat recovery ventilation system recaptures heat from exhausted indoor air. + Aidlin Darling Design Images via Aidlin Darling Design

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Solar-powered mountain home is a sustainable prototype for Aspen development

8 tiny homes built tough for off-grid living

June 22, 2018 by  
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Many people mistake tiny homes for delicate structures that provide a minimal amount of space for simple living. But these modern tiny homes are proving that they can be just as resilient as any traditional home twice their size. Check out eight tiny homes that are built to withstand brutal climates and rugged landscapes while still offering residents the sustainable option of  off-grid living . NestHouse offers charm and energy efficiency Designed by Jonathan Avery of Tiny House Scotland , the beautiful NestHouse is a sustainable and energy-efficient tiny home. Hidden behind its endearing Scandinavian aesthetics, the home boasts impressive off-grid options like passive ventilation and solar. Related: This mini caravan with a telescopic roof is the stuff of off-grid dreams Payette Urban tiny home runs on solar power TruForm Tiny has made a name for itself by crafting made-to-order tiny homes, and the Payette Urban is one of our favorite models. The tiny home is as big on design and comfort as it is on energy efficiency. The house can utilize solar or wind power, offering residents more flexibility for their energy source. Father and son build tiny off-grid cabin in Wisconsin When Bill Yudchitz  and his son, Daniel, decided to bond over a tiny home project, they did not realize that the result would be so spectacular. The duo created a contemporary 325-square-foot home designed with minimal impact on the landscape. Installed with various sustainable technologies such as solar lanterns and a rainwater harvesting system, the light-filled home is a great example of tiny house design done right. $33K hOMe offers off-grid luxury on wheels It’s not often that a tiny home is considered luxurious, but this house is the exception. Built by Andrew and Gabriella Morrison , hOMe is a 221-square foot tiny house built to go off the grid with solar connections and a composting toilet . The structure can be mounted on a flat-deck trailer, allowing homeowners to tow and set up their homes virtually anywhere. Tiny flat-packed homes provide affordable housing Architect Alex Symes developed this flat-pack off-grid home as a solution to expensive city housing. Built with low environmental impact materials, Big World Homes are powered by solar energy and include rainwater harvesting systems. The homes can also increase in size with additional modules. World’s most active volcano harbors tiny off-grid home Located at the base of Mauna Loa volcano next to Kilauea, the tiny 450-square-foot Phoenix House — designed by ArtisTree — is a very cool Airbnb rental with some incredible eco-friendly features, such as solar power and a rainwater harvesting system. Built with recycled materials, the home is part of a local regenerative, off-grid community compound. Zero-energy retreat has a near-invisible footprint COULSON architects’ Disappear Retreat stands out for its ability to disappear from sight… and the grid. Built to Passive House Standards, the 83-square-foot mirrored home boasts a near-invisible footprint. According to the architects, the prefabricated retreat was strategically designed for “triple-zero living”: zero energy, zero waste and zero water. Old-fashioned caravan home is 100% self sustaining This hand-built caravan tiny home proves that sometimes state-of-the-art technology isn’t needed to get completely off the grid. Built by the father and son team known as The Unknown Craftsmen , the Old Time Caravan is crafted from reclaimed wood and relies on natural light to illuminate the interior. Images via © Jonathan Avery of  Tiny House Scotland ; TruForm Tiny ;  Revelations Architects/Builders ;  Tiny House Build ;  Big World Homes and Barton Taylor Photography; ArtisTree ;  COULSON architects and  The Unknown Craftsmen

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8 tiny homes built tough for off-grid living

The largest solar farm apiary in the US opens this week

June 20, 2018 by  
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An important feature of permaculture is the concept of stacking functions, or finding multiple uses for the same space or resource. North Carolina-based PineGate Renewables is taking this principle to a new level with the opening of the largest solar farm apiary in the U.S.  Starting this week, the Eagle Point solar farm in Jackson County, Oregon will host 48 hives of honey bees underneath and between the solar panels. John Jacob of Old Sol Apiaries helped to determine the site’s suitability and will serve as the caretaker of the bees. “In 2016/17, Oregon beekeepers reported losing nearly one-third of all honey bee colonies statewide,” Jacob said. “The pollinator-friendly solar sites Pine Gate Renewables is developing can play an important role in helping address the population crisis among our managed and native pollinators.” Studies conducted on solar farm apiaries in the U.K.  suggest these kinds of hybrid projects can increase the bee and insect pollinator population in a region, thus benefiting the natural environment and agricultural farms. A new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found that there are more than 16,000 acres of pollinator-dependent crops near 204 megawatts of solar energy facilities in Oregon alone. Related: Bee Saving Paper “works like an energy drink for bees” PineGate Renewables’ SolarCulture sites are planted with low-ground native flowers and grasses, which boost soil health, store storm water and support a healthy ecology. The specific vegetation plan for the Oregon site was designed by Colorado -based ecological services firm Regenerate, and by spring 2019, this site is expected to provide pollinator habitat equivalent to about 24,800 homes with 6’ x 12’ pollinator gardens maintained for 25 years. In the future, the buzz about PineGate Renewables’ pollinator project may inspire others to join forces to serve the public and the environment with solar farm apiaries. + PineGate Renewables + Old Sol Apiaries Images via PineGateRenewables

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The largest solar farm apiary in the US opens this week

100% solar-powered Fiji resort combines 5-star luxury with sustainability

June 18, 2018 by  
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Luxury travel doesn’t have to come at the expense of the environment. At Six Senses’ new Fiji Resort , visitors can indulge in five-star comforts and minimize their stay’s carbon footprint. Crafted by Auckland design firm Space Studio , this 24-villa resort on Malolo Island is powered entirely with solar energy and promotes environmental awareness throughout. Opened last month, the Six Senses Fiji comprises 24 villas, two restaurants, a lounge, a library, welcome and guest service areas and a spa. The development will soon include a total of 60 privately owned residences — 11 of which have already been completed. The five-star resort blends contemporary design with elements of traditional Fijian culture, which is celebrated in the handiwork and artwork produced by local villagers, the Rise Beyond the Reef charity and the local material palette of grass cloth wallpaper and timber. In addition to cultural awareness, Six Senses Fiji also turns its spotlight on sustainability. The 100 percent solar -powered resort is equipped with its own water filtration plant on site so that staff can bottle water in glass and eliminate single-use plastic bottles. Reusable containers can be found in places like the on-site gourmet deli, and guests are encouraged to return those containers for reuse. Food waste is turned into compost for the resort’s farm and garden with a worm-based septic system. Recyclable waste is sorted in the resort’s “recycling corner,” after which the items are shipped to Denarau Island on the return barges that bring food supplies twice a week. Related: Experience bliss at a luxury Indian spa nestled in a former coffee estate “We also try to have as little waste as possible by creating a lot of our own homemade tonics and bitters using local produce and shrubs, so there’s no waste to begin with,” said Karen Morris, Six Senses Fiji director of sales and marketing. “We’re growing our own kombucha, so we don’t need to ship it in, and we’re creating our own tepache, a fermented pineapple drink.” A luxurious night at Six Senses Fiji starts at $870. + Space Studio + Six Senses Fiji Images via Six Senses Fiji

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100% solar-powered Fiji resort combines 5-star luxury with sustainability

Washington coal plant to be converted into solar farm

June 14, 2018 by  
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Situated next to what was once the largest coal pit in Washington state , the TransAlta coal plant near the city of Centralia is turning into a source of clean energy. While TransAlta’s 2011 agreement to shut down the coal plant by 2025 will go a long way towards Washington’s goal of reducing carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 – the emissions produced by the Centralia plant represent 10 percent of the state’s total emissions – TransAlta is going even further, converting 1,000 acres of the former mine area into a solar farm. The farm will compensate for the loss of 1,340 megawatts from the shutting of the coal plant and will be called Tono Solar, after the long-gone pioneer town of Tono that once existed at the site. TransAlta’s deal with Washington State to convert the former polluting plant into a clean-energy production site is a win-win for both parties involved. “This is a good-news story about moving away from fossil fuels and toward renewables,” NRDC senior attorney Noah Long told Ecowatch . The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 requires coal companies to clean up a former coal plant or mine after it is shut down. “By putting solar on the land, it maintains an industrial use. This good use of a brownfield brings the costs of reclamation down quite a bit.” Related: Trump’s nuclear bailout could cost consumers up to $17 billion each year The existing infrastructure at the site also eases the conversion process. “The location is good because it’s close to transmission lines,” TransAlta lead developer Ryan Schmidt said in a March 2018 presentation . “We know exactly what’s in the ground, because we put it there when we reclaimed the site.” While Tono Solar will produce only about 15 percent of the power once generated at the TransAlta coal plant, it is one of many renewable energy projects in the region that will serve Washington’s goals of reducing emissions and encouraging economic growth. The Centralia model of renewal could serve other communities around the United States as they attempt to rebuild after decades of industrial job decline. “There are lots of places in the Rust Belt of our country, not just coal mines,” Long said. Via Ecowatch Images via Robert Ashworth/Wikimedia

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Solar power prices expected to drop further this year

June 12, 2018 by  
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The price of solar energy could further fall this year, experts say. A Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) analysis published by PV Magazine predicted a 34 percent drop in the price of multicrystalline solar modules in China, an event expected to influence prices around the world. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said a price drop could open up “further space for more ambition to tackle climate change , which is crucial to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement .” The 2018 solar panel price decline could be about the same as the drop in module prices in 2016, and would be exceeded only by 2011’s 40 percent drop in prices, PV Magazine said. BNEF’s benchmark monocrystalline module price was $0.37 per watt for 2017’s fourth quarter, and could be just $0.24 per watt by 2018’s close. BNEF experts predict module prices will drop another 10 to 15 percent next year. Related: The cost of high-efficiency solar panels fell 37% in 2017 The price decline is a result of withdrawn support for China’s photovoltaic market. Since China is the biggest solar market in the world, the price fall could emanate. PV Magazine cited a BNEF note saying, “Oversupply is universal.” The note predicted a market panic initially, and developers could halt installation in the third quarter and wait for cheaper module prices and release of new quotas. India and developing countries around the world could benefit from the panel price decline, according to the UNFCCC. The UNFCCC praised the International Solar Alliance (ISA), started by India and France in 2015 to focus on investment in large-scale solar power in developing countries. UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said earlier this year, “Our globally agreed goals in the Paris Agreement and the Agenda for Sustainable Development cannot be achieved without your [ISA’s] effort to scale up solar power generation and support countries with great solar potential … This is our moment to deliver on the promise of a better future agreed in Paris.” + Bloomberg New Energy Finance Via PV Magazine and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Mars Australia to go to 100% renewable energy in just over one year

June 5, 2018 by  
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One of the largest manufacturers in Australia is going green. Food company Mars Australia recently announced it will match 100 percent of its  electricity use with clean power by 2020. The company’s goal is to completely eliminate greenhouse gases from its operations by 2040. Exciting news from down under – Mars Australia has entered the solar system! We’re proud to announce we’re now purchasing the equivalent of 100% of our electricity use from #renewable #solar energy! Learn more about our commitment to a #sustainable future: https://t.co/BZnJSuCLkb pic.twitter.com/vofAZea3ht — Mars, Incorporated (@MarsGlobal) May 31, 2018 Mars Australia signed a 20-year power-purchase agreement with renewable energy company Total Eren. The Sydney Morning Herald reported the deal will support the Kiamal Solar Farm in northern Victoria, which Total Eren is developing, as well as a second clean power project in New South Wales. Mars Australia said it has contracted for power to match electricity needs of six factories and two sales offices in Australia. The company’s electricity use in the country is around 100 gigawatt-hours a year; general manager Barry O’Sullivan told The Sydney Morning Herald, “We’ve got a pretty big footprint on this planet. Our energy usage in total is equivalent to a small country’s.” Related: Australia’s solar energy capacity could almost double in one year Solar power from the Kiamal Solar Farm, which is slated for completion in the middle of 2019, won’t go directly to Mars Australia’s operations. Instead, it will go to the country’s national grid. Mars Australia will receive Renewable Energy Certifications from the Kiamal Solar Farm and will support Total Eren in expanding the farm to a planned 200-megawatt capacity. Mars Australia said the energy generated at the solar farm could power 185 million 180-gram (around 6-ounce) bags of peanut M&Ms, 2.5 billion packets of EXTRA gum, 1.4 billion bottles of MasterFoods tomato sauce or 29 million 3-kilogram (around 6-pound) bags of PEDIGREE dog food. We’re thrilled to announce that Mars Australia is adding new solar power to the national grid equivalent to 100% of our electricity use! But how much is that? Here’s a taste… pic.twitter.com/5HQurC9oUK — Mars, Incorporated (@MarsGlobal) May 31, 2018 O’Sullivan said in a Mars press release  that rising electricity prices played a role in the company’s decision to switch to renewable energy. The move joins Mars sites in the U.S., U.K. and about nine other countries. O’Sullivan said the “price volatility of energy in Australia made renewables the best option for our business.” Total Eren CEO David Corchia said, “Partnering with manufacturing thought leaders like Mars Australia is essential and sends a strong message to the rest of the market that now is the time to capitalize on the opportunities offered by renewable power purchase agreements and to drive positive changes in the environment .” + Mars Australia Via The Sydney Morning Herald Images via Depositphotos

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Mars Australia to go to 100% renewable energy in just over one year

Get away from it all in gorgeous solar-powered glamping tents in Australia

May 29, 2018 by  
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Those wanting to go way off grid to get away from the hustle and bustle can find respite in the unbelievably idyllic setting of Australia’s Sierra Escape . Tucked into the rolling hills of the Mudgee countryside, the eco-friendly lodge just unveiled two new solar-powered glamping tents  that include extra large windows, guaranteeing spectacular panoramic views of sunrises, sunsets and starry nights. Of course, if you’d prefer, you can also “soak in” the stunning scenery from the large outdoor bathtubs. Located just northwest of Sydney, the Mudgee countryside is known for its immense natural beauty, as well as its award-winning wineries. Surrounded by rolling hills, the Sierra Escape lodge offers a perfect off-grid experience. Along with enjoying the peace and quiet that surrounds the property, guests can also enjoy some of the region’s delicious wines. Related: Rainforest Retreat is a nature lover’s escape with minimal building impact Guests at the Sierra Escape eco lodge can choose from two tents located discreetly, even from each other, to offer the utmost privacy. Both tents run completely on solar power and have enough energy to charge phones and power a small fridge, indoor and outdoor lighting, a small gas cook-top and the tents’ gas hot water systems. The Duliti tent (meaning ‘together’ in the local Aboriginal dialect) sleeps up to seven guests and is designed to help families and friends bond over the area’s incredible beauty. The family-sized tent comes with a total of five beds. A designer kitchen is perfect for enjoying large, family-style meals in the indoor or outdoor dining spaces. Inside, there is a wood-burning fireplace for chilly nights. There is also a fire pit to throw a few shrimps on the barbie if the mood strikes. Those looking for a more secluded romantic getaway can enjoy the Uralla tent (meaning ‘home on the hill’). The tent, also equipped with an abundance of extra large windows, brings even more luxury and comfort to the glamping experience . There is a designer kitchen, king-sized bed, fireplace and outdoor freestanding tub to enjoy spectacular views while soaking in a warm bath. According to the owners, the lodge has plans to add a few more features in the future. For starters, they are hoping to build a swimming pool out of a shipping container . The area will be used as a common social space, and include space for barbecues, yoga, wine tastings and more. + Sierra Escape Images via Sierra Escape

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Get away from it all in gorgeous solar-powered glamping tents in Australia

Newly-revealed Tesla solar roof patent shows the secrets behind the technology

May 7, 2018 by  
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Tesla’s solar roof tiles stand apart from other integrated solar roofing options in part because they’re camouflaged – you can’t even tell the tiles are collecting solar power. But have you ever wondered what kind of tech it took to make that happen? A new Tesla patent released this week shows how they did it. Here’s a hint: it wasn’t easy. Tesla worked with Panasonic to create a grid of solar panels that could link together without taking forever to install. On top of that, they had to create the tiles in such a way that they appeared opaque from the street but remained transparent to the sun above – all while still being as efficient as possible. To solve this problem, they created a new kind of glass with small louvers, which make the glass look opaque when viewed from below while keeping it open to sunlight. Related: Tesla starts installing solar roofs in California The patent application says that each solar tile “includes a backsheet layer, a bottom encapsulant layer adjacent the backsheet layer, a plurality of photovoltaic cells adjacent the bottom encapsulant layer, a top encapsulant layer adjacent the plurality of photovoltaic cells having a plurality of louvers constructed therein to block side view of the plurality of photovoltaic cells, and a top layer adjacent the top encapsulant layer.” If that doesn’t clear things up for you, here’s a picture: If you want to dive into all the technicalities, you can find the full patent here . + Tesla Solar Roof Via Elektrek Images via Tesla

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Newly-revealed Tesla solar roof patent shows the secrets behind the technology

New photosynthesis machine is twice as efficient at creating hydrogen fuel

May 4, 2018 by  
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Researchers at the University of Michigan and McGill University in Montreal have created a device that uses sunlight to efficiently split fresh or salt water into hydrogen that may be used in fuel cells. The new machine, which mimics the process of photosynthesis , is capable of producing hydrogen fuel at twice the efficiency of previous technologies. Producing only water as an emission, hydrogen is the cleanest burning fuel. However, its production has historically not been environmentally friendly or energy efficient. This new device may change all that, paving the way to a cleaner energy future. “If we can directly store solar energy as a chemical fuel, like what nature does with photosynthesis, we could solve a fundamental challenge of renewable energy,” said lead researcher Zetian Mi . Unlike solar panels, which can only store energy if they are attached to a battery, the artificial photosynthesis device uses splits water to store solar energy as hydrogen fuel. Despite this fundamental difference from solar panels , the device is made from the same materials, such as silicon and gallium nitride, which is also found in LEDs. Related: Scientists create world’s first solar fuel reactor that works at night Small towers of gallium nitride generate an electric field to turn photons into free charges, which divide water into its two component elements, oxygen and hydrogen. In contrast with previous solar splitters, which had only reached 1 percent efficiency, Mi’s team managed to achieve a 3 percent solar-to-hydrogen efficiency. “Although the 3 percent efficiency might seem low, when put in the context of the 40 years of research on this process, it’s actually a big breakthrough,” Mi said. “Natural photosynthesis, depending how you calculate it, has an efficiency of about 0.6 percent.” The device, further developed, may even be able to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, potentially alleviating the impact of climate change . Via Futurity Images via Faqrul A. Chowdhury/McGill University

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