What happens when you combine bamboo hardwood flooring with PV solar panels?
The PV Solar Shutter of course!
PNS Energy was able to create these great looking window shutters that also generate power by combining the strength of bamboo and its aesthetic and renewable qualities with the power generation capabilities of PV solar cells.
Bamboo Wood by Cali Bamboo was selected for the construction of the solar shutter in an effort to make the product as sustainable and earth friendly as possible. Bamboo is extremely strong and is often compared to the likes of steel, concrete, and graphite. This woody grass also regenerates at an alarming pace; a pole of bamboo can regenerate to full mass in just 6 years while conventional wood takes between 30-60 years to grow back to their full mass. This fact alone made the selection of bamboo for the PV Solar Shutter a no-brainer.
We had the recent opportunity to learn about a new urban tree initiative (San Diego County Tree Map) that aims to visually display the eco-impact of existing trees growing in urban areas. We all know that plants and trees do more than just take up space and look nice, they have a positive impact on our environment, and our economic and social well-being. I will highlight some of those benefits below to show the role trees play in our daily lives:
- Carbon Removal – with climate change taking a forefront in our environmental and political lives we now understand the importance of being aware of how are actions affect the atmosphere. As trees grow, they use carbon dioxide, thus removing it from the air.
- Soil Conservation – Trees play an important role in soil conservation, they reduce rainwater runoff and soil erosion due to the roots holding soil in place. These roots also absorb and reduce the amount of contaminants in the soil.
- Energy Conservation – Existing trees and strategically planted trees around a home provide shading and serve as a natural cooling device, thus reducing the need to rely on air-conditioning and reducing energy consumption. They can also block winter winds, allowing the homeowner to use less energy in heating.
- Look beautiful
- Produce oxygen
- Create privacy
- Provide wildlife habitats
- Provide noise reduction
- Increase property values
A recent report from the American Society of Landscape Architects – San Diego Chapter states that trees “enhance community economic stability by attracting businesses and tourists with a corresponding increase in property values. Trees contribute to the success of business districts, apartment complexes, residential properties and offices.”
Most of these benefits are more or less common knowledge. But some recent number crunching and a tree mapping project aims to show us the huge monetary benefits trees have. This very cool and interesting online map (San Diego Tree Map) actually shows the money ($$$$) saved from a variety of the tree benefits already listed. For example, in one year, this Moreton Bay Fig in the heart of Balboa Park, San Diego (pictured below) has…
- conserved 183.30 kWh of energy for a value of $29.84
- intercepted 2045.80 gallons of stormwater for a value of $3.74
- removed 1.03 lbs. of air pollutants for a value of $66.43
- and stored 5,903.65 lbs. of carbon dioxide to date for a value of $118.07
This tree has saved $102.73 in one year alone, and that is just one tree out of the hundreds of thousands in the San Diego area. The monetary benefits truly add up.
Moreton Bay Fig, Balboa Park
So next time you are out enjoying nature, look at the trees around you and not only marvel at their beauty and environmental benefits, think about the amount of $ this tree is providing to your community. And if you have the opportunity and space, plant a tree of your own and see the benefits grow before your own eyes.
Thanks to these sources:
“Benefit of Trees.” California Center for Sustainable Energy –. Web. 03 Mar. 2012. <http://energycenter.org/index.php/benefits-of-trees/benefit-of-trees>.
“Benefits of Planting and Growing Trees.” Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Web. 03 Mar. 2012. <http://ohiodnr.com/Home/education/BenefitsofPlantingandGrowingTrees/tabid/5104/Default.aspx>.
“San Diego TreeMap.” San Diego Tree Map. Web. 03 Mar. 2012. <http://sandiegotreemap.org/map/>.
- Spanish solar panel manufacturing company, Isofoton, plans to open a solar panel manufacturing facility in Toledo, OH in July. The Northeast Ohio manufacturing plant that will create 330 jobs, landed a $15 million state loan to go along with about $4 million in private funding. The company also plans on sourcing materials locally. Read more at Columbus Business First.
- Now, this is our kind of solar! Pvilion is taking the traditional view on solar and stretching it to make it work their way. They specialize in flexible PV material that makes for good looking, power producing structures.
- Apple’s new data center will install a 20 mW solar array and fuel cell with a capacity of 5 mW. This will be the largest end user owned solar array in the country. Check our more at treehugger.com.
- And finally, a nice video that shows you how you can slightly alter your daily routine and save nearly 1,213 gallons of water per day. That’s a lot of water!
You have GOT to check out http://www.adoptachristmastree.com, they’re eco-friendly, deliver the tree with singing elves and even pick it up for you after the holidays! Please consider adopting a living Christmas tree this year, instead of a dead one that will be tossed in the trash after only a few weeks. 32 million trees are cut down each Christmas and most are thrown in the trash. Adopt A Christmas Tree will lend you a tree for the holidays and collect it afterwards. The collected trees are then replanted in fire-devastated areas of East County. Did I mention that they are delivered by singing elves? Learn more at www.AdoptAChristmasTree.com (currently only serving San Diego, CA)
Consider a Green Alternative
In the name of tradition, many people still chose chop down a live tree for a mere two weeks of display, then throw the decomposing tree in the garbage which seems to be wasteful and can weigh on your green conscious. After about a week their needles often dry out and make a mess before they are discarded in the trash which takes up space in our limited landfills. This sounds very destructive but most Christmas trees come from a tree farm where they are usually sustainably harvested (for each tree cut down, one or two is planted), and taking select trees from fields of trees is much like thinning a garden (Indiana University
) However it is nice to see alternative options where you can give your tree a second life.
Fake Trees are even worse…
“But we use our fake tree year-after-year, isn’t that being green?”
Most fake trees, made from non-renewable petroleum also eventually wind up in landfills and are clogging mother earth with PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which is being banned by many medical associations and considered poison by environmentalists. That’s why you’ll see a label on faux Christmas trees cautioning you to avoid inhaling or eating any bits of lead dust that may fall from the “branches.” Fake trees cannot be recycled. When they are disposed of in a sanitary landfill, they will not disintegrate, but will remain there forever, taking up increasingly scarce landfill space. When a fake tree catches fire, it puts dangerous toxic fumes into the air. Fake trees are manufactured mainly outside of the United States and often by companies in China that do not observe high environmental standards.
What would putting solar on every rooftop in the U.S. do? I see three pretty big benefits.
- In the US alone, we generate a lot of electricity – almost 4,000 billion kWh of power — and less than .01% of that comes from solar. If we imagine solar on every rooftop, we could, according to some pretty good estimates and some sophisticated models, produce about a third of the energy that the US uses annually – about 1,400 billion kWh of power.
- That’s a lot of clean, renewable energy and a whole lot less dependence on coal and nuclear resources. If we imagine solar on every rooftop, we would be able to reduce how much we worry about dirty air from burning coal, what to do with nuclear waste, and the possibility of reactor meltdowns.
- US system designers, installers, contractors, and solar maintenance workers would be needed to make this happen. If we imagine solar on every rooftop, that could translate to millions of US jobs.
Solar on every rooftop?
Who knows, with increased US demand for solar modules, we might be able to lure PV cell and solar module manufacturers back to the US.
-Dan, PNS Energy