Tag Archives: Solar Power
My interest in modular eco-friendly homes grew when I ran across some modular home companies at West Coast Green last year in San Francisco. That interest was pushed to the back of my mind until I ran across this story of a 16 year old building a self-contained “tiny green home” in his parents backyard because he, like most teenagers, “wanted to move out.”
That is not his only reason however. In this short video showcasing his house, the young man sites all sorts of economical and environmental reasons behind starting his project.
He was happy about owning a home but not worrying about paying a mortgage. The small size also limits the amount of electricity and other utilities, saving money in the process. He was able to greatly reduce the amount of waste produced during construction due to the small scale of construction(he only had two trash cans of waste from one year of construction). Almost all of the materials used in construction have been reclaimed from salvage yards or donated from friends, the framing lumber was the only material purchased new as it was needed for the structure of the house. He estimates the total project costing $12,000.
This led me to asking the question: who is doing this on a larger scale? I rummaged through the internet and discovered many cool companies involved in the modular home business, and nearly all of them are focused on making their homes as efficient and eco-friendly as possible while keeping the associated costs for the consumer down(sections of the home are built in factories and loaded on a truck then assembled in a few days at the site – this allows the builder to reduce the cost of construction). Keywords and phrases that keep popping up when I search modular homes include: smart design, passive solar, simplify, healthy, water conservation, cheaper, solar, wind, thermal, easier, and flexible just to name a few. All of these terms are related to conservation and efficiency; Everyday we are told to be conservative with our resources in order to be more sustainable so why not become more conservative, economical, and efficient while building our homes. Here are some of the companies I discovered that are doing just that:
- Alchemy Architects have designed the Weehouse using an ultra modern modular home that can be constructed fast and easy. They just developed a “net-zero” WeeHouse in Moab, Utah that will produce as much energy as it uses.
- The modular homes featured at tinygreencabins.comcan be built on a trailer bed so that if you would like to take your home with you, you could hitch up the trailer and be on your way. They also offer non-toxic options, organic certified material, locally harvested lumber, steel framing, and recycled products. The cabins can also be customized with solar panels and solar hot water heaters.
- Green Pod Development builds compact custom modular homes built for energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and sustainability. The SoloPod “features innovative designs and artful furnishings.”
- And finally, Bluhomes, they claim that their “highly efficient, innovative steel-framed homes cost on average 50-70 percent less to operate on a monthly basis than conventional homes.”
Golden Brown, Tile Red, Army Green, Turkish Blue, Stone Elegance, and True Steel… are these choices for your kitchen tile remodel or the latest options you have when producing solar energy?
One of the many perks of working in the renewable energy industry is that we are exposed to all sorts of new technology, like these awesome looking colored solar cells.
As most of you know, our main product offering is the PV Solar Shutter – an interior plantation shutter that we outfit with PV solar cells in order to produce renewable energy (if you don’t know, now you know).
We have shown our shutter to many consumers and industry professionals and out of all the questions we hear, these two stand out: “how do those shiny blue solar cells look through the window?” and “Won’t these be an eyesore to people walking by the house?”
In order to put the consumers mind at ease we started looking at the Color Solar Cell or C-Cell from Lof Solar. They offer many different color options while still maintaining a high efficiency rating. The initial cells we received were rated between 14.3% – 15.7% efficiency. Lof states that their “colorized solar cells do not hamper conversion efficiency, and its design can be combined with exterior hues of buildings and houses, to enhance color coordination.”
This is exactly what we wanted to offer as an option for our PV Solar Shutter so consumers can match the color of their Solar Shutter with the exterior colors of their building. Until now, silicon solar cells are deep blue because it boasts the highest efficiency and is the most economical, but these new C-Cells do not hurt the conversion efficiency and the price is getting very close to being competitive with similar deep blue cells.
The main thing I’ve learned is that new solar cell technology is rolled out nearly everyday…just today I found a release stating that SunPower Corporation boasts cells that can achieve efficiency of 20% or more. This sets the world record for highest efficiency for commercially available solar cells.
Anyways, let us know if you stumble upon any other cool or interesting renewable energy news and happy power production!
Do you like to express your opinion via the internet? Do you want to be involved in conversations discussing the important issues affecting the state of renewable energy? Do you want to have a place to ask your questions? Well then it is my pleasure to introduce to you the Plug ‘N Save Discussion Forum!
Join the discussion by visiting our Home page and clicking the Forum button on the top menu bar or through the link below. We currently have two discussion topics up, one about how buying responsibly can lead to a more sustainable life and the other about the future of renewable energy industries after the end of government stimulus. Voice your thoughts or start a new topic!
We fell off the blog map for a little bit there, but we are jumping back on track.
I was trying to think of where we left off, and I believe it was somewhere around Utah. We spent a few days in early May in Salt Lake City Utah at the National Green Building Conference and Expo. I personally like going to all of these events because they are a perfect way to see what’s happening in the green building market in each region and to experience the city first hand.
I hadn’t spent a lot of time in Salt Lake, or even researched much of their green building market. When I got there I immediately knew I wanted to spend some time exploring the city. I was excited to see what it had to offer. There were 2 things that were immediately striking. The crisp mountain air, and the Rockies. The mountains towering over downtown were stunning. It was a welcome reminder that our society remains immersed within nature, not the other way around.
With all of the building and green initiatives centered in Salt Lake, I would have expected to see a higher turnout at the show.
We learned that the area had experienced a period of growth that The Downtown SLC Alliance describes as the “downtown boom” from 1990 through 2002. I spent some time talking to locals of the area and they all remarked on the dramatic change the city has experienced. Out of all the development that has occurred, the rail system really caught my attention.
In order to manage the visitors of the 2002 Winter Olympics, the city installed the public rail system that travels throughout the downtown area. There have been so many public transportation projects that have been shut down since the economy has been struggling, when it seems that these are the types of projects that can benefit business within the city and state along with the citizens and our planet.
I want to keep chatting but I need to wrap up. Salt lake: a great city. I went for a run every day. I wanted to soak in the crisp mountain air and see as much of the city as possible.
Another highlight was that we were able to bring along the newest member of our team, Tom Ramus. (He is in the picture on the far left) He spent some time with us in San Diego to learn the intricacies of the PV Solar Shutter. Before he headed back to Chicago to get to work he was able to help us out at the show.
The show turned out to be a quality over quantity situation for us. We had a great time at the show, and met some great people.
My personal highlight: Salt Lake showed me that the ‘retro fit’ for the rail line within a city is not only feasible but can be extremely successful.
We were very excited when the Department of Energy (DOE) set the goal of weatherizing approximately 600,000 homes using upgrades like insulation, air-sealing, and more efficient heating and cooling systems. Not only would this program put people to work at home and save individual homeowners money every month, it would also set the national focus squarely on energy efficiency and those small steps we all can take.
Last week the DOE announced that the weatherization program has hit an important milestone, reaching the nationwide halfway point. Through the month of November more than 300,000 homes have been weatherized, greatly reducing the impact of expensive home energy bills on low-income families and creating 15,000 jobs nationwide.
DOE’s Secretary Steven Chu says that the weatherization program will help grow our economy, keep the focus on energy efficiency, and help people save money. DOE estimates that within a year of installation, the 300,000 homes will save a total of $161 million dollars in energy costs – an average of $400 per family!
Perhaps the best part about the national push toward weatherizing homes as a way to save both energy and money is that anyone can take steps to make their home more energy efficient and receive tax incentives for doing so. The federal government, and many state and local governments, are offering financial assistance for every kind of upgrade from air conditioners to plantation shutters. And while these tax incentives will not last forever, the long term energy conservation offered by something as simple as a set of plantation shutters is phenomenal.
We know that windows are a major source of heat transfer, releasing your cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter. Many homes can lose 25% to 50% of their home’s generated heat through uncovered windows. A set of wooden plantation shutters can greatly reduce the loss of warm or cool air because the material does not transfer heat like a pane of glass or metal blind. A wooden shutter is also preferred by many home owners because, let’s face it, it looks a lot better than generic metal or plastic blinds.
At the risk of sounding like a shameless commercial… if you take the insulating properties of a shutter and add some PV cells, you put your personal energy efficiency goals on steroids!