Archive for the ‘solar’ Category

get a light, give a light

September 26, 2008

I love when I know a product is both useful and philanthropic. Like SunNight Solar’s BOGO flashlight. It’s solar-powered, water resistant, and durable. And for every flashlight purchased, one is given to someone in need in a developing nation.

Here are some technical specs:

  • Charges in 8-10 hours and provides 6-8 hours of illumination
  • Provides enough light to perform nighttime activities with 6 super bright LEDs
  • Powered by 3, standard NiCd AA, rechargeable, and replaceable batteries
  • Will last up to 1000 cycles of powering
  • Water resistant

Buy one, give one. You can get one in orange or pink.

green brooklyn event recap, part 2: panel discussions

September 18, 2008

This is part 2 of my recap of Green Brooklyn 2008 (scroll down for part 1). I attended part of two different panel discussions, one on green investing and the other on solar panel installation.

Panel Discussions

The Real Greenbacks: Investing to Make a Difference


I have to admit, my eyes glaze over when a prospectus is put in front of me. Financial talk goes in one ear and out the other. Which is why I had to attend this discussion. I’ve been thinking a lot about where our investments are going — to major polluters and irresponsible corporations (oil companies, big agrobiz, tobacco, &c.). I’d love to invest responsibly, with my conscience, I just need some education.

Sustainable investing goes beyond socially responsible investing (SRI), which traditionally excludes the worst public offenders from the equation. Sustainable investing rewards those public companies with sustainable practices and principles. SRI, according to Lily Scott from Veris Wealth Partners, also apparently rewards investors with a greater return on investment than the S&P 500 (11.67% vs 10.2%). It makes sense if you think about it — sustainable company = sustainable growth = sustainable return (it’s not math, but it makes sense to me!).


Solar Your Building


I don’t own a house, so I can’t do my own solar installation. But our building has a nice big sunny roof — an ideal place for solar panels. I’m not sure if the initial investment would be worth it for a large residential co-op building; the space available for panels and the building’s usage may not justify the cost of the panels. I’d like to see our building at least pursue it, the problem is the bump in maintenance costs wouldn’t be seen as favorable since most tenants, while they’re owners, are probably not in it for the long-haul — depending on how many panels there are, it could take up to 20 years to make up for the initial costs. There are goverment incentives available now, but many are reaching the end of their term.

While there are many factors to consider when pursuing solar photovoltaics (direct sunlight, a sturdy roof, slanted platforms for a flat roof), at least for Ken Schles, the Brooklyn Homeowner, it seems worth it. He’s had some struggles, specifically with Con Edison (they don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to the whole solar thing, according to him), but overall, he seems to be enjoying the benefits of solar — a reduced carbon footprint, net energy gains, and a new perspective on energy consumption.

If solar photovoltaics aren’t appropriate (usually due to shade), then solar thermal might be a good option for off-setting fossil fuel use. Solar thermal provides the heat for your hot water heater (a big consumer: 14%–25% of the energy consumed in your home). It collects energy both directly and passively, through sunlight and ambient heat — especially effective in warmer climates and in the summer.


up on the roof

August 27, 2008

Green it!
If I had a house or owned a building, I would green the roof. Why would I want to do such a crazy thing? Well it’s actually a very logical thing to do if you want to:

  • Save energy by keeping your home warm in winter and cool in summer
  • Clean the air around your house
  • Clean the rain water that runs off from the roof
  • Keep out the noise of planes zooming overhead if you live near an airport
  • Grow beautiful flowers and even food if you’re not worried about attracting little creatures

[Image: Norfolk Botanical Garden]

So how does one go about greening a roof? It seems fairly easy if you’re handy and follow these steps from Wired’s How-to Wiki:

  1. Get a structural engineering report for the live load of the structure. A standard roof is built to take about ten to twenty pounds of pressure per square foot. A three-foot-square garden won’t add a significant amount of weight; however, a twenty-foot-square garden, complete with wet soil and plants, can weigh thousands of pounds. After investing time and effort on a beautiful garden, the last thing you want is for it to come crashing down.
  2. Shore it up. Reinforcing your intended structure entails more than putting supports under the roof; likely, your structure will require lateral supports as well. Imagine holding a kite string: The wind exerts pressure not only on the kite itself, but your body. Any wind and rain will exert the same force on your rooftop plants.
  3. Lay down the liner. You may want to consult a roofer to install a commercial seamless roof. If you’re building on top of an uninhabited structure, lay down a standard pond liner. The liner will keep the water from seeping into the building; it will also keep the plant roots from eating into the building structure.
  4. Set up the lattice. Skip this step if your roof is flat. Roofs with a slope will need a grid set up over the liner to keep the dirt from sliding off.
  5. Consult a look book. How much effort are you willing to invest? Obviously, more ornate plants are going to require more work than minimalist moss. Wildflowers and their seeds will attract birds and butterflies; scattered items like logs will attract small rodents (and give you a place to sit down). Grasses will need to be mowed occasionally, and moss, while low-maintenance, is…moss. Now might also be a good time to consult your engineering report and decide how heavy your plant load can be.
  6. Mix and lay down your potting soil. Depending on your choice of plant life, the soil will probably have to be custom-mixed. The separate components usually consist of mineral content, such as sand or dirt; organic matter, such as coconut husk or peat moss; and a water-hoarding material like SoilMoist. The organic matter will decompose, fertilizing your garden; SoilMoist absorbs water and releases it as the soil dries out.
  7. Plant your plants! Seedlings, or plugs, are slightly less frustrating than seeds.
  8. Enjoy!

[Source: Wired]

Power it!
I would also install solar panels if I had a house. In PopSci’s EarthTalk column, a woman from Massachusetts asks what kind of panels she should get to heat the water in her home and maybe do more. Here’s the gist of a very practical answer:

1. To generate electricity for your home that might also feed back to the grid, photovoltaics are the way to go

  • What’s involved: Panels, an inverter, electrical conduit piping, and AC/DC disconnect switches
  • Pro: If the sun is shining, power will be generated for the home and the grid without CO2 and other nasty emissions
  • Con: Price may be a barrier with a price tag in the tens of thousands of dollars
  • Where to get it: At or the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), you can find reputable installers

2. To heat water for your home, solar thermal is a good choice

  • What’s involved: A solar collector for a basic hot water system
  • Pros: Simpler and less expensive than photovoltaics, a reduced carbon footprint
  • Con: Smaller savings in energy bills than photovoltaics, though over the long run the saving add up
  • Where to get it: RealGoods Solar Living Sourcebook, a comprehensive guide to renewable energy that also sells related equipment

But wait, there’s more! There’s a bonus for switching to solar: Tax incentives. Find out if your state has incentives through the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE)

[Source: PopSci]

[Image: Rob Baxter, courtesy Flickr via PopSci]

why is this man holding a purse?

August 14, 2008

Funny, it doesn’t look like a murse. Maybe he’s holding it for his girlfriend. Oh, wait, I get it, power and technology are manly and women like purses and burly man muscles.

Despite this odd choice in marketing, the Power Purse is a great idea.

Portable solar power isn’t just for the guys anymore. Like the Reware Juice Bag or Voltaic Systems Bags, the Power Purse lets you charge mobile phones and other small devices on the go. Features of the purse include: internal female port for charging, charging status indicator, clear acrylic handles, and lightweight flexible construction. Plus the bag stores a charge for later use.

The Power Purse is set to launch this fall.

[Solarjo via Fibre2Fashion and Crunch Gear]

big plans

July 21, 2008
  • Largest solar power plant in US: Florida
  • World’s biggest biogas plant: Germany
  • World’s largest wind farm: Texas
  • World’s largest rooftop solar array: Spain (GM)
  • Most ambitious renewable energy plan: Al Gore

energy boost

July 13, 2008

I’m feeling a little lethargic today, but here are some promising developments in renewables to boost my energy, via Gizmodo.

Windows open up to improved solar energy
Engineers at MIT have developed windows that collect sunlight and concentrate the energy at their edges for more efficient (and cheaper) energy capture. They came up with the idea after thinking the same principles from laser and organic light-emitting diode technology — where different dyes are used to absorb and transport light — could apply to gathering solar energy. So in the future, instead of having to pile solar panels on your roof or in your yard, your seemingly ordinary windows will collect the energy. [Physorg via Gizmodo]

An image is worth a thousand wind farms
Global satellite imaging from NASA map out where the winds gust strongest, making it easier to determine where wind farms should be placed. The plan is to implement offshore wind farms, floating in the open ocean, which are less impactful on the environment.
[NASA via Treehugger via Gizmodo]