Category Archives: Innovation

Turning Trash into Treasure

On a recent trip to Columbus, Ohio I accidentally stumbled upon this excellent art exhibit that presents plastic ocean debris in a visually striking way. The artist is an advocate for plastic pollution awareness and creates artwork using plastic ocean debris, excess packaging, and junk mail. Scroll down for some highlights of Sacrifice + Bliss, the traveling exhibit by Aurora Robson, on display at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

Sculpture created from plastic marine debris

Wonderful piece created entirely from plastic debris collected from Big Island, Kamilo Point. Kamilo by Aurora Robson

Description of Kamilo by Aurora Robson

Belch Plastic Debris Sculpture

Belch (aka Tarball , 2009) hanging from the Desert Room at the Conservatory. A black, toxic looking sculpture made from plastic debris.

For more information and examples of her great work, visit aurorarobson.com

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Filed under Art, Beach clean-up, Environment, Garden, Innovation, Recycle, Recycled Materials, Upcycle

Fat Cow – Saving the Environment One Website at a Time

It was recently brought to my attention that the electricity used to run and host our two websites (anywheresolartech.com and pnsenergy.com) is offset 200% by wind energy! That means that Fat Cow, our website host, compensates for twice the electricity it takes to run their business and our websites.

Wind Power Farm in Texas

They don’t personally produce that much power with wind mills outside their office but for any electricity they use, they purchase RECs (Renewable Energy Credits) as a “Green Power Partner” of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. By doing so, they prevent the release of 999 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.

Fat Cow is committed to supporting clean energy and they also stress responsible environmental behavior in and out of the office and we are proud to be associated with this forward thinking company.

Dairy Cow

For those who were disappointed we weren’t talking about real cows.

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Filed under Alternative Fuel, Carbon Footprint, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Green Technology, Innovation, Renewable Energy, San Diego, Uncategorized

What is Concentrated Solar Power?

Concentrated Solar Power, or CSP, is the process of generating electricity by using the heat from sunlight to push a steam turbine that is connected to an electric generator. There are different ways to go about this but one of the most eye catching methods is the “power tower.” A tall tower is constructed in the middle of a field of mirrors, or more specifically, a field of heliostats. Heliostats are mirrors that track the path of the sun and reflect the light towards the power tower (which then turns that light/heat into electricity using steam turbines).

To learn more about how CSP works, watch this great video from Top Gear as they visit one the world’s first solar power tower.

In more recent news, the soon-to-be largest CSP plant has reached the halfway point of construction. The 370 Mega-Watt Ivanpah Concentrating Solar Power Plant is located in the Mojave Desert in California. Once completed, it will generate enough electricity to power more than 140,000 California homes and businesses.

The Ivanpah project will provide $400 million in local and state tax revenues, and produce $650 million in wages, over its first 30-year life. (Source: REVE)

Look for more CSP plants popping up in the near future. It is one of the more promising methods of producing sustainable electricity considering there is plenty of ideal space for these plants in generally inhospitable , sunny, desert environments.

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Filed under Environment, Green Technology, Innovation, Renewable Energy, Solar

Best of Green Schools 2011 and Other Feel Good Stories

The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, with the goal of making sure every student has the opportunity to attend a green school within this generation, released its “Best of Green Schools 2011 List.” This list focuses on all levels of school (K-12 to higher education) and recognizes the leaders that create sustainable learning environments for their students. Here are a few notable highlights from that list:

  • The State of Ohio leads the way with more green school projects in the works than any other state. There are a total of 319 LEED registered and certified projects.
  • Lake Mills Middle School in Lake Mills, Wisconsin became the first public school in the country to achieve LEED Platinum certification. The school is now “45% more efficient than a conventional school, yielding a total annual energy savings of $85,000.” (www.miron-contstuction.com)
  • Policy makers on the Washington D.C. City Council passed the Healthy School Act 2010 which builds upon the requirement and encouragement for all schools to achieve LEED Gold Certification.

For more on “Best of Green Schools 2011,” click here.

Now I will present another type of leader in green education that we have had the privilege of experiencing firsthand. Last October at the Greenbuild Conference in San Francisco we met a group of students from the Developing Virtue Schools that were exploring the show for new and exciting technologies that they could incorporate into a year-long sustainability project. They became very interested in our PV Solar Shutter and immediately wanted to get one for their school. After the show, they remained in touch, sending us news of their campaign to get solar in their school. They raised renewable energy awareness and enough money from fellow classmates and teachers to actually get one shutter installed in a classroom, one of the more inspirational things I have witnessed.

Alisha posing with their new Solar Shutter!

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Filed under Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Green Building, Innovation, Renewable Energy, Solar, Uncategorized

Think Big, Think Solar

Our office has recently discovered the brilliance of StumbleUpon. We realized that we can not only use it to discover some great news and information on the very things PNS Energy is interested in, but we can also use it to waste some time when the brain can handle no more.
Among the first things we “stumbled” upon were some very interesting stories about the future of the solar industry. One thing that kept popping up was the idea that solar can (and hopefully will) power the entire earth. In the rest of this post I will lay out some of the more exciting ideas floating around the web.
Click for larger image.
This awesome map shows the surface area required to power the entire Earth (that’s right, the whole world) in 2030. We pulled this map from Treehugger but they ultimately attributed this graphic to the Land Art Generator Initiative. When I first think of the numer of solar panels needed to power the entire Earth I think of an unattainable amount of panels, but when it is displayed visually on a map of the Earth, the actual surface area needed is relatively small.
Ultimately, we would need 496,805 square kilometers covered in solar panels, which is roughly equal to the area of Spain. This is quite large but this puts it into a more manageable perspective; “the Saharan Desert is 9,064,958 square kilometers, or 18 times the total required are to fuel the world.” (Land Art Generator Initiative)
One of the more alarming quotes from the map/article: “According to the United Nations 170,000 square kilometers of forest is destroyed each year. If we constructed solar farms at the same rate, we would be finished in 3 years.”
Going along with installing solar panels in the desert, The Guardian is reporting that an initiative called “Desertec” is breaking ground on a massive plan to install a network of solar farms, wind farms, and concentrated solar plants that will produce 15% of Europe’s electricity by 2050. Concentrated solar plants are different from solar farms in that they use large mirrors to reflect the heat from the sun to heat up large greenhouse that pushes hot air through turbines that produce electricity, here is an example of one being built in Arizona. This initiative is the result of a German physicist that wanted to estimate how much electricity was needed to meet the Earth’s demands. He quickly found out that “in just six hours, the world’s deserts receive more energy from the sun than humans consume in a year. If even a tiny fraction of this energy could be harnessed – an area of Saharan desert the size of Wales could, in theory, power the whole of Europe (The Guardian).”
  • Map showing how the Desertec plan would work.

Solar tower similar to the ones being considered for the Desertec program.

The last ‘out of this world’ example of solar energy production is just that. One day, scientists hope that solar arrays will be deployed into space. They will then collect unfiltered sunlight and beam the energy produced down to Earth. A solar satellite in space can be exposed to the sunlight 24 hours a day and can also transmit that energy to whichever area on Earth that has the highest demand at that time. This would ensure that whoever and whatever needed energy would have access to it immediately. Think of the impact this would have on groups like our military. Instant energy could be beamed to remote locations all over the world, allowing troops to set up small, mobile forward operating bases and still have access to all the energy they need. This idea appears to be in the very early stage of development but down the line, anything is possible.
All in all I hope to someday reap the benefits of these solar dreams and if scientific news is any predictor of the future, there is a good chance that I will see some sort of these plans put into actual use.

Picture the future of solar

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Filed under Energy Efficiency, Environment, Innovation, Renewable Energy, Uncategorized

In Case You Missed It: Vol. 1

Each and every day we come across some very interesting goodies on the World Wide Web. Each week we will compile our favorites right here so you can share in some of that goodness. Here is Volume 1 for your viewing pleasure!

  1. Terracycle – we did a spotlight (found here) on this wonderful company recently and love what they are doing. They are signing people up to collect anything from pens to juice boxes to candy wrappers to cork to cell phones to key boards and back again. They pay for you to ship it to them and then they “upcycle it” (turn it into a cool new product or material). For example here is a large tote bag made entirely from used Capri Sun drink pouches and here is a short video with the founder and CEO of Terracycle, Tom Szaky.
  2. PlanetSolar– The logbook of the crew with the goal to be the “first to circumnavigate the globe in a “solar” boat, i.e. one driven by a silent, pollution-free electrical engine powered exclusively by solar energy.”

    PlanetSolar team navigating near Monaco

  3. Solar Power is not just for your roof anymore. Within the next five years expect to see it popping up in your siding, windows, walls, and more. Installed building integrated photovoltaic technology is predicted to exceed 1 gigawatt by 2016.
  4. Solar Roadways – An awesome documentary clip explaining the research and development of solar roadways. I encourage you all to watch!
  5. And finally, in light of the recent success of The Muppets…

    Kermit the Frog reminds us all to "be green" and recycle!

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Filed under Carbon Footprint, Cell Phone, Conservation, Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Green Technology, Innovation, NAHB, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Solar, Upcycle

Solar Roadways – “Roads that pay for themselves.”

This past Tuesday, I was invited to a screening of  the documentary Y.E.R.T.(Your Environmental Road Trip) at California Center for Sustainable Energy.  It was an inspiring film and I thought I’d share clips from the flick that I can’t stop thinking about.  First up…SOLAR ROADS!

Bennet – PNS Energy

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Filed under Environment, Green Technology, Innovation, Recycled Materials, Renewable Energy, Solar