A project from the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology would use office windows as solar power generators by focusing the sun’s rays.
The “integrated concentrating dynamic solar facade” from CASE would capture light on building exteriors with grids of clear pyramids on windows.
A prototype opened this week at the Syracuse, N.Y., headquarters of the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems, as part of a collaboration among CASE, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The system was already tested on a rooftop at RPI.
The project would place small, clear pyramids on windows with a lens to focus sunlight on a solar cell. The pyramids would rotate to follow the sun, while pumped water would cool the solar cells. The pyramids would also be able to deflect or diffuse the sunlight, eliminating glare inside the office. The system combines the ideas of concentrating solar energy and putting solar cells on buildings in a way that also tackles problems with building cooling, heat and lighting.
Increasing the cost of driving will be necessary to achieve greenhouse gas reductions sought by the government, according to an upcoming policy brief from Harvard University. In fact, reducing emissions from transportation will remain hard to do even with the most radical policies proposed by the Obama administration.
The policies will not make a dent in the reducing imports of foreign oil, either, because Americans will continue to drive more and increase vehicle miles traveled up to 2030, according to the researchers from Harvard’s Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group.
Keeping fuel prices low is counterintuitive to the stated emission reduction goals, and a strong gasoline and diesel tax is necessary to reduce fossil fuel consumption and reduce emissions, states the report.
“The most effective policy for reducing CO2 emissions and oil imports from transportation is to spur the development and sale of more efficient vehicles with strict efficiency standards while increasing the cost of driving with strong fuel taxes,” states the report.
High fuel taxes or high carbon prices will not bring the economy to a halt, the study asserts. The gross domestic product growth would reach 2.1 to 3.7 percent a year. “The economy is still going to grow even with aggressive climate change policy scenarios,” said Ross Morrow, a co-author of the study and a professor of mechanical engineering at Iowa State University.
Mercedes-Benz will nearly double its investment in batteries and fuel-saving engines as part of an effort to offer electric vehicles.
The Daimler AG luxury car unit will spend $1.4 billion in each of the next two years to develop electric auto technology, according to Daimler development chief Thomas Weber. The company spent just $769 million annually for the past three years.
In an interview at the Geneva Auto Show, Weber said the company was working on batteries that could last at least 10 years and handle driving in extreme conditions. The company also announced this week that it will develop electric cars for China with BYD Co. and that Daimler will produce lithium-ion batteries at a new factory by 2012.
“Mercedes wants to be there first,” said Weber. “We’re attacking; we want to be on the top position and can’t wait until someone delivers a commodity.”
The move comes as BMW, the luxury car leader, announced plans to debut an electric-powered vehicle by 2015. Mercedes’ approach differs because it is working on developing batteries rather than engines. Daimler says as cars become more electrified, batteries will be a more important component. Daimler could also supply batteries to other carmakers, according to Chief Environmental Officer Herbert Kohler
U.S. investor groups have filed 95 global warming shareholder resolutions with public corporations, a 40 percent increase over last year, according to a press release from the Investor Network on Climate Risk.
The resolutions, lodged with 82 U.S. and Canadian companies, seek a range of concessions, from improved sustainability reporting to energy efficiency efforts.
The Investor Network on Climate Risk is backed by investor group Ceres. In all, the network of 80 institutional investors manages $8 trillion in assets.
“As the SEC recently affirmed with its disclosure guidance, climate change presents clear material risks and opportunities for U.S. businesses – and investors have a right to know which companies are well prepared and which are not,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres.
“We want our companies to closely look at the impact climate change legislation and regulation have on them, to realistically assess those risks, and to consider the indirect consequences of climate change-driven regulation and business trends on their activities,” said Jack Ehnes, CEO of CalSTRS, which manages $131 billion dollars in assets.
So far this year, the investors have been able to convince enough companies to make changes that 28 shareholder resolutions have been withdrawn, according to the release.
Among the resolutions, CalSTRS, a public pension fund, filed a resolution with ConocoPhillips, protesting its oil sands operations.
A similar resolution over oil sands processing was filed by Green Century Capital Management against ExxonMobil.
Undaunted by a rash of scandals over the science underpinning climate change, top climate researchers are plotting to respond with what one scientist involved said needs to be “an outlandishly aggressively partisan approach” to gut the credibility of skeptics.
In private e-mails obtained by The Washington Times, climate scientists at the National Academy of Sciences say they are tired of “being treated like political pawns” and need to fight back in kind. Their strategy includes forming a nonprofit group to organize researchers and use their donations to challenge critics by running a back-page ad in the New York Times.
“Most of our colleagues don’t seem to grasp that we’re not in a gentlepersons’ debate, we’re in a street fight against well-funded, merciless enemies who play by entirely different rules,” Paul R. Ehrlich, a Stanford University researcher, said in one of the e-mails.
Some scientists question the tactic and say they should focus instead on perfecting their science, but the researchers who are organizing the effort say the political battle is eroding confidence in their work.
“This was an outpouring of angry frustration on the part of normally very staid scientists who said, ‘God, can’t we have a civil dialogue here and discuss the truth without spinning everything,’” said Stephen H. Schneider, a Stanford professor and senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment who was part of the e-mail discussion but wants the scientists to take a slightly different approach.
China may start its first city-wide carbon cap-and-trade system by June as the world’s biggest polluter seeks to rein in emissions, a project adviser said.
The northeast port city of Tianjin plans to impose a mandatory limit on energy used to heat buildings in the first half of this year, John Shi, chief executive officer of the carbon credit trader Arreon Carbon U.K. Ltd., said in an interview. Property managers able to reduce energy use to below the limit will earn credits they can then sell, he said.
“Pursuing energy efficiency has truly risen to the top of the agenda for local governments,” Shi said yesterday from his office in Beijing. The Tianjin plan is “a way to mobilize capital and mobilize technology.”
China has pledged to reduce its carbon-dioxide output per unit of gross domestic product by 40 percent to 45 percent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels. Premier Wen Jiabao in January called pollution in the nation “grim” and said the government will strictly limit emissions from coal-powered generators, cement and steel producers.
“The political environment last year wasn’t as ripe as it is this year,” Shi said, referring to the targets for emissions cuts announced in November.
The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the top advisory body to the nation’s parliament, this week proposed additional measures to cut carbon emissions. Premier Wen will today address the opening session of the parliament’s annual meeting in Beijing and deliver what amounts to China’s State of the Union speech.
In former swamplands teeming with otters and wild hogs, one of the nation’s biggest utilities is running an experiment in the future of renewable power.
Across 500 acres north of West Palm Beach, the FPL Group utility is assembling a life-size Erector Set of 190,000 shimmering mirrors and thousands of steel pylons that stretch as far as the eye can see. When it is completed by the end of the year, this vast project will be the world’s second-largest solar plant.
But that is not its real novelty. The solar array is being grafted onto the back of the nation’s largest fossil-fuel power plant, fired by natural gas. It is an experiment in whether conventional power generation can be married with renewable power in a way that lowers costs and spares the environment.
This project is among a handful of innovative hybrid designs meant to use the sun’s power as an adjunct to coal or gas in producing electricity. While other solar projects already use small gas-fired turbines to provide backup power for cloudy days or at night, this is the first time that a conventional plant is being retrofitted with the latest solar technology on such an industrial scale.
The project’s advantages are obvious: electricity generated from the sun will allow FPL to cut natural gas use and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. It will provide extra power when it is most needed: when the summer sun is shining, Floridians are cranking up their air-conditioning and electricity demand is at its highest.
The plant also serves as a real-life test on how to reduce the cost of solar power, which remains much more expensive than most other forms of electrical generation. FPL Group, the parent company of Florida Power and Light, expects to cut costs by about 20 percent compared with a stand-alone solar facility, since it does not have to build a new steam turbine or new high-power transmission lines.