Archive for May, 2012
We here at Cooler Planet are devoted to solar energy. Beyond providing resources for homeowners to locate, install and use solar power, we also like to keep track of advances in solar power research and development. Leading the way to a renewable future is our purpose for being, and rescuing a planet beset by emissions seems like a worthy goal to aim for.
With that in mind, we’d like to inform our readers about a new project at Harvard University and IBM, which aims to harness the power of a million idle computers to bring about a newer, cheaper form of solar power that could transform the current renewable energy paradigm.
Using IBM’s World Community Grid, researchers are embarking on a project which taps into volunteers’ computers around the world to run calculations on multiple compounds to discover a combination of organic materials that could be use to make plastic solar cells that are less expensive, and more flexible, than the silicon-based ones currently in use.
This network could potentially shorten research into organic solar from a maximum of two decades to as little as two years, but it requires cooperation.
The technology, once identified, could be used to coat windows, building surfaces, roofs, sidewalks and possibly even roadways to produce solar energy. Incorporated into everything from backpacks to blankets (think of solar tents in winter, for example) it could provide isolated solar energy circuits that deliver light and energy where none was possible before. For example, a solar-cell woven backpack material could absorb the sun’s rays during the day and use that power at night to light the backpack, keeping children safe during the dark days of winter as they travel to and from school.
The technology exists, but making it cheap enough to commercialize is the ultimate goal, says Alan Aspurur-Guzik, a chemistry researcher at Harvard, noting that current organic cells only deliver about five percent of the energy they receive, as compared to a 20-percent efficiency rating for silicon-based photovoltaics.
If you want to participate, visit World Community Grid.org. Participants will be asked to install a free, small, secure software program onto their computers and, when idle, will be used to “cloud” compute the best way toward organic solar. A screen saver will prompt users when their computers are being used.
In the meantime, if you’re serious about solar, check out our solar power resource page for a verified, experienced solar installer who can help you reach that cleaner, greener future today. The cost for solar has never been lower, the tax incentives higher or the productivity greater, and your kids will think you’re Super Parent!
About the Author
Cooler Planet serves as a resource for individuals and corporations looking to get connected with verified local solar professionals. Users can view our solar energy resource pages and daily news section to learn more about the benefits of going solar. Try our solar calculator to see how solar can benefit you.
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Solar energy has enormous potential. According to a recent Scientific American article, the energy contained in sunlight striking the earth in just 40 minutes is equivalent to a years worth of global energy consumption. By harnessing the sun’s heat and light in a variety of ways we can tap into an abundant source of energy. How can we harness this energy? Through solar technologies. Solar technologies include concentrating solar power systems, passive solar heating and daylighting, photovoltaic systems, solar hot water, and solar process heat and space heating and cooling.
Most people associate photovoltaics with solar power or energy. Photovoltaics or solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, solar cells “are made of semiconducting materials similar to those used in computer chips. When sunlight is absorbed by these materials, the solar energy knocks electrons loose from their atoms, allowing the electrons to flow through the material to produce electricity. This process of converting light (photons) to electricity (voltage) is called the photovoltaic (PV) effect.”
Solar Potential in the United States
With 250,000 square miles of land in the Southwest the United States has remarkable solar potential. When one considers that producing solar energy is almost pollution free, it seems like an obvious choice. According to Co-op America, “the sun is the cleanest, most abundant, self-renewing energy source in the Universe, enabling all other sources of energy on this planet.”
Stopping Global Warming
According to Don Fitz of ZMag Ecology states “in order to avoid catastrophic effects of global warming, greenhouse gas emissions (mostly CO2) must be cut by 60-80% by 2050 (though the figure may need to be a 95% cut in the US).” If that seems dramatic consider the plan offered by Lester Brown, head of the Earth Policy Institute, where he calls for reducing “global carbon dioxide emissions 80% by 2020.”
How Can We Reduce Emissions in Such Limited Time?
“By implementing new technologies, we can avert a potentially disastrous future.” states Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Barbara Boxes introduced The Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act (S. 309) which offers strong legislation that drastically cuts down carbon emissions. The Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act specifically references “photovoltaic-generated electricy,” and “solar thermally-generated electricity.” Why? On account of the vast solar potential found in the United States.
American should seriously consider the benefits of alternative energy solutions such as solar power. Why? While the United States has less than 5% of the population, we are responsible for 25% of the carbon emissions. Strategic and effective use of solar energy can change that dynamic, and in the long run it may prove to be the solution to our global environmental crisis.
About the Author
Sam Greyhawk is an environmental evangelist working with Cool-N-Save(tm). Cool-N-Save(tm) is an energy efficiency add-on for your central air conditioner. The Cool-N-Save(tm) can lower your utility bill by up to 30% by improving air conditioner efficiency.
There are a number of us who have hedges in their backyards. Hedges are a great way to add a personal touch to your garden as well as create a perimeter around your home. Hedge growth needs to be maintained from time to time or else they really look ugly. If you are a home owner, then you must know, hedge growth needs expert hands to trim them from time to time. There are a number of hedges and all of them require different treatment.
Home owners of today are pressed for time. They can’t afford to waste the first half of their entire holiday trimming hedges and then waste another half just to clean the area. This task needs expert handling and what better way than getting experts to do the job at an affordable rate while you take the full advantage of the holiday. Here are the tips to find the right company for the job -
The first step is by carrying out a thorough research on the topic. There are a number of companies in the region and biggest ones have a huge fan base. If your friends and family members live near by, then they will be able to give you the names of the companies that have done an excellent job near your home. This ensures that the company is a reputed one.
The next step is ask about the experience. A company that has been in the region for a long time knows the right time to carry out the job. They know the season before which storms hit and they carry out the task quickly. As they have been in this business for long, you can be rest assured that their job will be really good.
Check their licenses and registrations and ensure that they are associated with all the major organization in the region. There are a number of organizations such as The Guild of Master Craftsmen, Tree Care Industry Association and International Society of Arboriculture. These ensure that you will get the best service in town. There are a number of other points that you need to check in order to make the most of your deal.
The company must come to your home the moment it receives the call. Their experts must be able to provide you with a free consultation without any obligation. When it comes to finding experts in maintaining hedges, Farnham residents will find the tips helpful.
About the Author
Hedges Farnham – When it comes to finding experts in maintaining hedges, 1st Call Trees provides a quick and reliable domestic and commercial hedge trimming and maintenance services.
Thinking of the environment and being environmentally conscious needn’t stop when taking a holiday. Many hotels and leisure complexes are leading the way in the environmental stakes by lowering their carbon footprint.
Many businesses are looking at ways in which to be more environmentally aware green. One such way is by applying for the ISO14001 accreditation. The ISO14001 proves a company’s environmental credentials which in this day and age enhances the corporate image and actually saves the company or organisation money by reducing energy consumption.
The hotel and leisure industry is notorious for its energy consumption. From the hot water and laundry to the on-site facilities such as heated swimming pools, saunas, and Jacuzzis. All are energy intensive and contribute significantly to a hotel’s energy demand and carbon footprint.
The Lake District is seeing an increase in tourism related businesses taking a more serious look at their energy consumption and resulting carbon footprint and are taking action. The larger Lake District hotels and leisure complexes obviously have the most to do but there is help in the form of CBEN, the Cumbria Business Environment Network and supporting tourism partnerships. This area is a haven for walkers and many visitors take a very keen interest in environmental issues.
There are a huge number of ways hotels in the Lake District can improve their carbon footprint. The introduction of alternative, renewable energy generation technologies onsite is one of the biggest but most beneficial to both the environment and the energy bills of the business. In the current climate of rising energy prices, it is beneficial for both. Biomass energy production is being implemented in the area for example in the village of Eskdale and as the location of many Lake District hotels are amongst large managed woodland areas, there is potential availability of raw materials. Installing a biomass burner can save a large hotel up to £35,000 per year on their energy ill although this is dependent on future LPG prices.
Other ways in which a Lake District hotel can implement changes is by installing a charcoal oven, Installing low energy light fittings, minimization of waste and the creation of recycling schemes, solar power, hydro power and new, efficient LPG boilers.
All this action can then be used for marketing purposes. There is not a news bulletin that goes by without an environment story somewhere. A tourism business which has implemented changes such as any of the above have a real unique selling point. They can recoup the costs of installing these alternative energy sources but increase their visitor numbers at the same time so benefitting the environment, the hotel’s profit and the guest’s conscience.
About the Author
The Langdale Estate offers a choice of Lake District hotels, including self catering and Lake District Timeshare accommodation, plus leisure and spa facilities. One of the most well equipped hotels in the Lake District.
Going green can sound intimidating. There are so many things you should do to be green that even getting started is difficult.
But that’s why taking little steps makes so much more sense. You don’t need to be thoroughly environmentally sensitive in a day. If you take it a step at a time you can get to where you want to be with less of a struggle.
Pick something simple to start with, perhaps as simple as turning on fewer lights in the house or replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.
Another easy place to start can be recycling. This is easier in some areas than in others. Depending on where you live you may be able to recycle paper, metals and most plastics, or you may be more limited. Many areas only take plastics numbered 1 or 2, for example. You may be able to throw it all into a single bin or you may have to separate your recyclables.
The thing to remember is that recycling does not take you significantly longer than just throwing things into the trash. Just a moment’s thought as to whether or not the item needs a very fast rinse and where should you put it?
As you get comfortable with the little things you can do to be more green you can work on the more challenging items. Little things like remembering to watch for recycle bins when you are out and about, or taking recyclables home are not always easy or convenient.
Taking on the Challenges
More challenging can be making the bigger lifestyle changes, such as simply consuming less. Despite the temptation, it makes more sense to buy less than it does to upgrade to environmentally friendly items. That old cutting board still works? You don’t need the bamboo one. Wait to replace the things you already own until they actually need replacing.
Electronics can be very hard to cut back on. Most families have more than one television, and things like MP3 players, cell phones, computers and so forth. The trouble comes in how often these get replaced, and how that is done.
Electronics should always be recycled. This isn’t always easy, but you can search out places where you can do this in your area. But more important is to decide how often you really need to be buying new electronics. You just have to watch all the people crowding to buy the latest gaming system or cell phone to know that a lot of electronics that still work just fine are about to be disposed of. Do you really need to take part?
There are many more things you can do to be more environmentally friendly in your lifestyle. Making changes can take time and aren’t always going to be easy, but you can start with the changes that are easier for you and work up to the difficult ones. Individuals can make a difference when they choose to work at it.
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When choosing rooftop water harvesting systems, it is easy to overlook the gutters. These conduits are responsible for carrying the water to your water containment tanks. However, if your gutters have been clogged with leaves or other debris, even the most expensive rainwater collection units will fail to work. Regular cleaning of the gutters will help prevent this from being a problem, but is expensive and time consuming. Of course, very few people are comfortable climbing up to the roof to do the work themselves, either because of a fear of heights or inexperience with the task at hand.
Gutter leaf coverings will prevent the majority of gutter blockages and help keep debris from clogging up underground drains. There are many types of covers to choose from, so it’s important to examine each of the choices to determine which meets your needs the best. Gutter leaf screening is an affordable choice for people who are not comfortable with the regular gutter maintenance work. This type of product is less expensive than surface tension and hybrid systems without giving up too much of the effectiveness. These screens use metal or vinyl mesh to cover the gutters and prevent the majority of leaves and other large debris from entering the gutters. Depending on the size of the mesh, some small seeds and plant matter may still enter the gutters, requiring occasional cleaning.
Cleaning your gutters at least twice a year is considered a good practice, once in the spring and again in the autumn, but if you live close to a good number of trees, you may need more often. Even still, this will be far less often than if you do not use gutter leaf screening. If you are unable to keep the gutters cleaned and do not have screening, the accumulated material in the gutters can cause serious damage to your house and prevent the water collection systems from working properly. Damage to the structure of your house, water leaking into your basement, irritating dripping and frozen sidewalks are only a few of the problems that can be caused by clogged gutters.
Homeowners invest a large amount of money in their homes. In addition to being financially motivated to keep their houses in pristine condition, most people wish to live in comfortable, attractive homes. By spending a small amount of money on gutter leaf screening, it is possible to avoid expensive and unpleasant damage to your home.
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Wind is a natural environmental occurrence in which air flows at varying rates throughout isolated areas or on a global scale. Since wind is a force, it can be put to use if harnessed appropriately.
Wind power is not new, and has been used for thousands of years, albeit it is only recently that it has been converted in to electricity for those power companies who are going green. Even today, sail boats use wind as their means of transportation. It was not until 1979 that the wind industry we know today came in to existence. Since then, countries have quickly adopted it, and in recent years, wind power has been the fastest growing source of renewable energy. Denmark is a leading example of how useful wind energy can be, as they generate one-fifth of their national electricity from wind.
Air is a fluid comprised of gaseous particles, and since particles have mass, they exert kinetic energy when in motion. Wind turbines simply convert this energy in to a more useful form. When fast moving air comes in contact with a turbine, it forces it to turn. The device is connected to a generator close by that changes the rotational energy in to stored energy. Being that one wind turbine cannot collect large amounts of energy on its own, wind farms have been established that utilize a multitude of wind apparatuses.
The primary design most people are familiar with is the horizontal axis-wind turbine, which is the three bladed structure shown when referring to wind power. The alternative is the vertical-axis design, although these are much less efficient than their horizontal counterparts, and thus are rarely used.
Like other forms of renewable energy, wind turbines are continually becoming more efficient, so in the future, it will take less space and fewer turbines to generate the same amount of wind energy that we can now.
About the Author
I enjoy working from home, with no commuting, dressing down and the flexible hours. By using the Internet, email and telephone I can communicate with the entire world from my own comfortable surroundings.
I do have to venture out to meet clients face-to-face when we discuss their particular energy saving requirements, but even that has become so much easier with the availability of satellite navigation. I thought I would indulge myself with a new toy now they are so well priced. After six months I have upgraded my description of sat-nav from big boy’s toy to essential business (and leisure) aid.
I find it a joy to use and also a time and fuel saver, which guides me straight to my appointments without the hassle of stopping to read the A-Z and numerous U-turns as I searched for the exact location of my meeting. As I am an energy consultant I can fully justify the initial carbon cost by offsetting its footprint against the fuel saved, now that I travel directly to my chosen location.
Having spent over thirty years advising on the implementation of energy saving measures primarily to the commercial sector as a cost saving measure, I now find myself with the additional remit of fighting the catastrophic side effects of using conventional energy in both business and home environments.
I’m not an avid television watcher, but quite enjoy the various house development programs, that often reflect the energy issue, both in terms of carbon footprint of the materials used and the day-to-day running costs after completion.
I am heartened when I see high levels of insulation being built into these properties, as the resultant reduced losses obviously means lower energy consumption and coupled with excellent improvements in boiler efficiency and control over time can provide a warm home at far less cost to both the occupier and the environment.
The thermal efficiency of new-build homes in the UK has improved over time to meet government legislation, but the prescribed minimum is still well below ideal and it is generally only in these televised “one-offs” that you see the thermal barrier raised. With a clear understanding of design principles and the use of some high- tec materials, the energy required per square metre could still be dramatically reduced.
What I fail to see when I watch these programs is much use being made of renewable energy. I have seen the occasional use of geothermal technology and heat pumps and also some wind turbines, but little evidence of the easiest and most cost effective of all forms of renewable energy; solar thermal panels.
Solar thermal technology can easily be retro fitted into most existing properties and is even cheaper if incorporated as original equipment in new-build developments. The principle of using solar thermal technology has been around for many years and the uptake in other Northern European countries has been significantly higher than in the UK. In Germany 50% of homes are using solar to making savings of 70% on the cost of heating their domestic hot water. Those same savings are easily achieved in the UK too.
Perhaps the UK thermal solar industry has been slow to counter the misconception that this form of energy is only recovered on blue sky days, when it should be stressed that modern panels are capable of converting light to heat on cloudy days too, and at temperatures below freezing if units of the highest standard are used. With remarkably short payback periods and working life expectancy in excess of 35 years they present an excellent investment for now and well into the future and that return will continue to grow as conventional energy costs rise at an ever-steeper rate.
I guess it finally boils down to asking you one question.
Would you like to heat up to 70% of your domestic hot water free for the next 35+ years and save up to 1 tonne of CO2 each year?
We can make a difference. We will make a difference.
Feel free to visit the website for more information.
About the Author
Graham has worked in energy related industries in the UK for 30 years. Some of the clients he has worked for include: Houses of Parliament, NAO, BBC, British Library, Natural History Museum, Imperial College, Taylor Nelson Sofres and Procter & Gamble. He now runs a website dedicated to educating homeowners and businesses to the benefits of “going solar”. Solar Energy is Free Energy. Solar Energy is Zero Carbon Energy. http://www.solarism.co.uk
By the end of this article I would like for you to be clear on 1 crucial point: that the word biodegradable doesn’t signify the same thing as the word compostable.
To start off, I am going to walk you through three important things: 1) the definition of compostable, 2) the meaning of “biodegradable”, and 3) how you can ensure that when you’re purchasing packaging that is labeled compostable or biodegradable, you’re not being greenwashed. Here we go.
1) The term compostable has a meaning that is tightly managed by the standards ASTM D-6400, ASTM D6868, and EN13432. It means 3 things. #1) Biodegradable – this means that sixty to ninety percent of the product is going to degrade inside of one hundred and eighty days when placed in a municipal organics recycling environment. #2) Disintegration – this requires that 90% of the package will break down into little pieces that are 2mm in size or smaller. #3) Eco-Toxicity – this indicates that when the product degrades in an industrial facility it isn’t going to leave heavy metals that are toxic to the soil beyond that of a typical set of compost.
2) The term biodegradable however, simply implies that a product will break down over a period of time as a result of natural occurences. It could mean almost any period of time… it could mean tens of years, it could be thousands of years. Under such a loose definition, even a normal oil based plastic bag or product is biodegradable – at some point, in the long run, it’s going to decompose.
3) What does this mean for food packaging? In essence, you want to look for products that are specifically marked “compostable”. There are brands in the market that are using the label biodegradable, and they are applying it to greenwash their products as eco-friendly and basically trick you into buying them.
I have worked with cafes in the San Francisco Bay Area who have been notified by SF Environment and by the composting center outside of SF that they do not take “biodegradable” forks because they won’t compost in an industrial composting facility.
You need to be looking for food packaging products that specifically say that they’re compostable. If it is clear cups, you’ll see a green ring and the word compostable on the cup. If it is on a spoon, you’ll see the word compostable imprinted on it. You need to look for the word compostable or you can see if the product is certified by the BPI. The BPI makes sure that these products meet the standards that we discussed a little bit ago.
So, I hope you now understand the difference between food packaging that’s compostable vs biodegradable. Good luck with all your eco-friendly packaging purchases!
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