Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Renewable Energy Fair

Just back from Wisconsin where, among other things, I attended the Midwest Renewable Energy Association's annual Energy Fair.

Over the next few days I'll be posting photos of the event.

This year, over 23,000 people attended the event from across the globe. 270 vendors displaying a variety of renewable energy-related products and services, and more than 200 seminars and workshops disseminated renewable energy information galore.

I was ably assisted (at least on the first day) by my good friends Robert Godfrey and Jeff Havens - "A-list" charter members of the Green Technology Team.

Stay tuned...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Wind Meets Farm

Wind farms are sprouting up like high corn rows in the the nation's breadbasket. I recently spotted this wide windload on Interstate 39 in northern Illinois en route to its final destination: it looked "ready for planting."

New smart grid technology will transport wind energy from the Midwest and solar energy from the Southwest to major metropolitan areas across the US making renewable energy an even more attractive option.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BeauSoleil Heats Up

photos by Philip Gould

Things are heating up at the BeauSoleil World Headquarters in Lafayette. In the midst of a heat wave in muggy southern Louisiana, TEAM BeauSoleil is charging ahead WITHOUT air conditioning. Talk about sweat equity...

Time Lapse BeauSoleil

Solar Decathlon Update: Every two years 20 university teams are chosen, based on proposals, to design an all-solar home and assemble it on the National Mall in Washington DC for public viewing and judging. Check back each Wednesday as the NAV Blog reports on the process of the design and construction of BeauSoleil, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's entry. For more info about the project, visit their website. And check out a short film about the project.

Click on this link for a time-lapse film of the past 3 months or so of construction at the BeauSoleil World Headquarters. QuickTime player required.

It's taking shape!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Midwest Renewable Energy Fair

The newspaper column:

This week, I am reporting from the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s Energy Fair. Every year, practitioners and manufacturers of renewable energy systems from all over the country (and across the globe) come together in Custer, Wisconsin to share ideas about renewable energy.

Renewable energy, broadly defined, involves using the reoccurring and regenerative forces of Nature to power our world. Solar and Wind are the Brad and Angelina of the genre, but any element of green building, energy conservation, clean energy generation, or renewable energy advocacy is fair game at this Fair.

A tall, slender windmill announces the entry to the site. Most people come by car – after all, it’s a rural destination – but there were plenty of bicycles around and a bus stop for arranged public transportation.

White tents house make-shift classrooms where seminars and lectures on anything renewable take place throughout the three day event - over 200 sessions in all.

Exhibitors display the latest technologies in renewable energies and services with experts to answer specific questions about real world applications. Component samples, mock-ups, and ample product literature (to which an English major might raise an eyebrow and mutter “you call this literature?”) provide a dizzying avalanche of useful information for renewable newbies and pros alike.

Workshops led by pioneering experts demonstrate straw bale construction techniques and the ins and outs of erecting and operating solar energy systems.

On display at the Clean Energy Car Show are new electric vehicles, conventional vehicles converted to electric or hybrid operation, and even a solar powered bicycle.

Children can get into the act too. There’s a dedicated “Rainbow’s End” area for play and age-appropriate workshops on wind power, photosynthesis, and a host of other diverse learning activities disguised as fun and games. Kids can even assemble photon racers – or solar powered model cars – and race them.

Without a doubt, there is much more information at this fair than is possible to imbibe in a too-short period of time, even for renewable energy wonks. The best strategy at an event like this is take names and notes and follow up later. But the inevitable and necessary conversation does transpire, naturally.

The Internet is great, but face to face contact has always been, and will always be a very sustainable way to communicate. There is no equal substitute for a conversation in the flesh. Beyond the intricacies of technology and commerce, we are - after all - all human beings sharing a common planet.

For the health and well-being of humanity and the world in which we live, it is for the good of us all that people get together periodically and share ideas about how we can manifest and maintain a clean, prosperous, and peaceful living environment.

That is the spirit of this gathering.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The House of the Future

This week's newspaper column:

What does the future hold for sustainable, energy efficient housing? Let’s take a peek.

Technology is available now to revolutionize the way we monitor energy usage. Smart meters – already in use in some areas - let homeowners see in real time how much energy their home is consuming. It’s even possible to track each outlet, light, and appliance in the house to determine where the “energy hogs” are.

Got an old refrigerator sucking more than its fair share of electricity? A smart meter can identify excessive energy drains letting you know it’s time to recycle that old clunker to make room for a new super-efficient model. And with a user-friendly interface, you’ll be able to access this information from your desktop, your television, or from your phone while on vacation.

The next-generation house will manufacture some or all of its own energy. Every year, more and more energy-producing building products - photovoltaic shingles, for example – come on the commercial market. Imagine a house where the roof, walls, and windows all generate electricity feeding itself and selling back excess energy to the local energy company; each home becomes a mini power plant.

In the future, solar panels will not be “add-ons,” but will be integrated into the fabric of the structure. Instead of looking at panels mounted to a roof, you’ll see a wall and know it is collecting solar energy.

Currently, prices are high for this new breed of technology, but we are just now standing at the threshold looking in; think about how rudimentary computers were just a generation ago. Over the next few decades, we will find a boom in the availability of energy-producing building products, and like with computers, continual improvements in technology lower the cost per unit of energy produced.

Looking a bit further into the future we can expect intelligent building skins. Walls and roofs reflect or attract heat depending upon the season and time of day. Surfaces will automatically take into consideration the local environment’s temperature and humidity changing like a chameleon with the climatic forces at play.

And there are some eternal environmental solutions that are destined to make a comeback.

Natural ventilation as a way to cool and clean inside air has been used since man started building homes. Although technology advances, the basic principles of physics stay the same. Natural ventilation will be just as viable in the future as it was for our great-grandparents.

Indigenous vegetation planted in “just the right place” will clean the air and temper the home’s microclimate. For example, planting deciduous trees on the south side of the house shades the structure in the summer and, when fall strips the leaves, allows the passage of warm sun rays in the winter. Incorporation of plant life in the home of the future will be taken for granted.

Tomorrow will be here before you know it.