Solar Powering the Sustainable Energy Revolution

Solar Powering the Sustainable Energy Revolution

Since the Industrial Revolution, fossil fuels have served as the primary energy source to heat homes, run vehicles, and power industry and manufacturing in the United States. In the years to come, our reliance on this finite resource must diminish, and the sooner we switch to renewable sources of energy, the less likely we are to face dire economical and ecological consequences.
Fossil Fuel Addiction: Potential Outcomes by 2050

What is the price of our dependence on fossil fuels? If society continues to rely heavily on fossil fuels without any sort of significant replacement, our planet, economy and climate could be drastically affected in as little as the next 35 years.

 Global economic loss of $71 trillion on fossil fuels
 257 percent increase in annual heat-related deaths
 Sea levels will change along 70 percent of coastlines
 Oceans’ fish populations threatened by warming and acidification
 More extreme and frequent droughts
 Global temperatures rise by more than 35 degrees Fahrenheit—or even a cataclysmic 41 degrees
 Agriculture and food production severely compromised
Solar: A Sustainable Energy Source

Fortunately, the expansion of the solar energy industry in recent years offers a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels. As this infographic from The Refrigeration School, “The Solar Demand,” shows, solar is the fastest growing segment of the green energy market in the United States, finding widespread application with the government, industry, and consumers; strengthening the economy by diminishing U.S. reliance on foreign oil and creating jobs; and, of course, reducing our country’s carbon footprint.
A Few Facts About the Solar Expansion

 The use of solar energy increased by more than 400 percent from 2010 to 2014.
 Thanks to government initiatives, solar projects on public land could power 6 million homes by 2020.
 Solar panels are powering everything from the aisles of numerous Walmart stores to many of the offices at Google.
 In 2012, the number of solar systems installed in U.S. homes increased nearly 50 percent.
 Worldwide, the solar industry created 2.3 million jobs in 2013.

Take a look at the infographic below to learn more about how solar is powering the sustainable energy revolution.

solar-demand-stats

How to Make Your House More Eco-Friendly

Green, eco friendly house, real estate concept.Buildings and homes in the U.S. account for 39 percent of our energy consumption and 60 percent of our total electricity usage. In the mid-‘90s the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) began to develop a set of ratings dubbed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) that sets the standard for determining an ‘eco-friendly ’or ‘green’ home. Over the last decade, more people have become eco-conscious and adapted to the LEED standards. One study by the U.S. Green Building Council estimates that there are about 150,000 LEED-certified eco-friendly houses across the globe.

If you want to join in and reduce the waste produced in your household, you don’t have to start from scratch. Here are a few changes you can make that, over time, will help eliminate unnecessary waste in your household and transform your home into a much more eco-friendly living space.

Fluorescent of LED Lighting

If you’re still using incandescent bulbs, it’s time to switch over to the vastly more efficient compact florescent or LED lighting. Fluorescent and LED lights use 25 to 80 percent less electricity and can last up to 25 times longer than the average incandescent bulb. With efficiency like this, there’s really no reason why you wouldn’t want to make the switch.

Green Roofing

By changing out your roofing to something like Lifetime shingles from Champion Home Exteriors, you can receive great protection for your home while supporting a company that is committed to reducing the use of precious natural resources. Great quality materials also means less waste and maintenance down the road, which saves both time and energy in the future.

Low Flow Toilet

From the time toilets were invented by Joseph Adamson in the mid-19th century, all the way to the mid-’90s, toilets generally sent about seven gallons of water down the pipes with every flush. With the introduction of water conservation laws in the 1990s, the law mandated that only 1.6 gallons of water per flush should be used, saving 5.4 gallons every time. This law ushered in the dawn of the low flow toilet, which has seen many design adjustments over the last couple decades, making use of pressurized air so the flush doesn’t depend on gravity alone.

It’s estimated that switching to water-saving fixtures such as low flow toilets can save you up to $100 in utility costs, not to mention all the water that won’t go to waste.

Energy Efficient Windows

In 1992 the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy devised the Energy Star rating, which is an international standard for energy efficient consumer products. Windows are one of the most popular products that qualify for an official Energy Star rating, and swapping out old inefficient windows is one of the easiest ways you can upgrade your home to be more energy efficient.

Depending on where you live, there are different energy efficient windows that will best suit your needs. Some windows can let heat in and act as an insulator to keep the warmth inside the house, while others can block out sunlight and keep the interior cooler. It’s said that windows are the biggest source of heating and cooling energy loss in our homes, so by installing the proper energy efficient windows you can cut down on energy usage which helps your wallet as well as the environment.

The Oil Crisis Leads to Development on the Solar Energy Front

rural_solar_panelThere are numerous advantages of using solar power instead of fossil fuels, as it can be used to power up everything from power plants to households. It cuts your carbon footprint and is all together a more efficient power system compared to other sources. Yet, the world can’t seem to relinquish its dependency on oil, even though experts in the field explain that today’s oil crisis is an indication that we should look elsewhere for energy.

Some foresee a bright future for oil and gas drilling as companies expand operations to service rich oil fields. In the midst of the falling crude oil prices, oil and gas services company UnaOil opened an Iraqi strategic base in North Rumaila as a training facility for engineers and other industry professionals. Meanwhile, the Holy Grail of oil fields has been estimated to hold 100 billion barrels of oil, just a stone’s throw away from London Gatwick, and the potential for saving the UK economy and helping others recover reveals that oil as an energy source will not be replaced any time soon.

From the looks of it, petroleum still remains as the primary source for fueling vehicles and airplanes, but oil is a nonrenewable source; at some point, the world will run out of it. This period of oil’s extreme volatility is a clear cut sign that energy firms should diversify and look into other resources, such as solar energy.

As it stands, around 11 percent of the marketed energy consumption is sourced from renewable energy, which is projected to increase to 15 percent come 2040 according to EIA.gov. Global industries persistently work to increase this percentage, hoping that businesses across the sectors and even households would soon make the change to solar energy. Several solar panel manufacturers are working towards further lessening the costs of solar panel production and installation, and progress in the industry is evident as the Telegraph reveals that panels are just as affordable now as they were five years ago. The latest innovations include a new technique in producing silicon wafers. With success, the cost of solar power could decrease by at least 20 percent in the forthcoming years. In a few short years, solar energy c ould be as cheap as coal

Production costs for solar panels will lessen electricity bills for businesses as well as households and serve as incentive for them to make the move towards eco-efficient energy. Hawaii is currently at the forefront in the United States in terms of solar power usage, with 12 percent of the state’s homes having installed solar panels on their rooftops. But with further developments in renewable sources, other households in the US (and possibly in other countries) will catch up to Hawaii and invest in a power system that benefits the homeowner and the environment.

Which Final Four School Would Win the Sustainability Playoffs?

The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship — aka March Madness — is down to the wire, and we thought it was a good time to evaluate the eco-friendly practices of the final four schools playing for the national title. Which of the four teams would win in a sustainability playoff? Here’s a rundown of the schools and our winning prediction.

Duke

Duke University in Durham, N.C., is one of the schools included in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges, thanks in part to its commitment to being carbon-neutral in 10 years. Campus initiatives include:

  • All new construction requires LEED certification. There are currently 29 buildings meeting the standards.
  • The Green Dorm Room created by the Students for Sustainable Living is decked out with 20 eco-conscious items, showing how students can offset carbon dioxide emissions in their own living quarters.
  • Undergraduate degrees are available in ocean, earth and environmental sciences.
  • A fully functional campus farm educates students on food issues.
  • Styrofoam has been banned from Duke eateries.
  • The Climate Action Plan has eliminated coal use and introduced solar power on campus buildings.
  • $50,000 yearly Green Grant Fund.
  • Funding to support transportation alternatives.

Michigan State

Spartan colors aren’t the only thing that is green. Michigan State is also among the universities in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges. Lou Anna K. Simon, the President of Michigan State University, is on a mission to increase sustainable prosperity. The school’s efforts are unstoppable as they research, teach and implement eco-friendly practices and improve the quality of life on campus and around the world. In five years, MSU hopes to reduce gas emissions by 45 percent. Other highlights include:

  • Member of Chicago Climate Exchange.
  • Offers 15 majors that focus on the environment, including environmental engineering and ecological food and farming systems specialization.
  • Green study abroad opportunities.
  • Home to numerous centers for advanced study in community and economic sustainability.
  • Provides on-campus and off-campus community-based green initiatives.
  • Received a $7.8 million grant to help African nations develop sustainable farms.
  • MSU researchers protect endangered tapirs, build robotic fish and turn waste into energy.
  • Grows food year-round using solar energy.
  • Grows food for dining halls on a student-run organic farm.

Wisconsin

Even though UW-Madison didn’t make it into the 2014 Princeton Review’s guide, it is serious about water, energy, transportation, materials conservation and waste elimination. Ambitious initiatives are being launched by the university’s Office of Sustainability along with the program, WE CONSERVE.

  • #Wisconservation promotes a 24/7 sustainable lifestyle. The initiative enables people to participate in open discussions on their blog as well on social media.
  • Skill Share Fair teaches sustainable skills like bike maintenance, growing herbs and composting.
  • MOOC Discussion Groups focus on environmental issues like climate change, deforestation, energy, the earth and other conservation topics.
  • Undergraduate and graduate certificates in sustainability are available.
  • The study abroad program offers sustainability abroad programs.

Kentucky

Although the University of Kentucky missed Princeton Review’s list as well, it has been making massive efforts to put in place a sustainability program that advances ecological integrity today and in the future. Recently funded projects include:

  • Outdoor recycling project.
  • Creation of Office of Sustainability.
  • Reusable water bottles for first-year students and water bottle filling stations.
  • Student paid internship programs.
  • Pedalpalooza to promote bicycle use.
  • Undergraduate research grants.
  • Solar PV installation on campus.
  • Storm Water Management Research Project to implement solutions.
  • Rain Garden Project.

Drum Roll Please…

Recognition goes to both Wisconsin and Kentucky for their growing efforts in environmental conservation. But the final comes down to Duke vs. Michigan State. Both have a rich history in promoting sustainability and continue to make huge strides. Winning by a last second 3-pointer against Michigan State, Duke takes the sustainability title this year due to the yearly $50,000 administration investment in green initiatives, a large number of active environmental student organizations and the commitment to being carbon neutral by 2024.

Visit The Dig for an insider’s guide to March Madness and the Princeton Review’s Guide for the report on 330 other schools of higher education that are committed to the future of sustainability.

 

Anne-Marie Pritchett is a freelance writer, storyteller and idea girl who has lived in six states and two countries. She has a great passion for sustainability and dancing in the rain. She writes handwritten letters to her parents and believes that music can connect souls.

 

Environmentally Friendly Cars : The Future is Now

This post is brought to you by Matt Allan from http://www.crossline.ca/

We are at a point in the evolution of green cars where it is now realistic that at some point in the future, they will be the most widely used car. The quality of these cars is constantly improving and the latest news about these vehicles means we may be closer to the world using predominately environmentally friendly cars than we think. Electric & Hybrid cars are growing in popularity and even solar powered cars don’t seem as farfetched these days based on the latest news from Ford.

The reasons to buy a green car makes a lot more sense now than it would have 10 years ago. The current batch of vehicles have are more efficient and now have a range of up to 265 miles and are available for as little as $22,000.

Of course, a lot of people don’t have a green car yet but there is still a lot you can do to have a positive impact on the environment. For example, car pooling with friends and even leaving your car at home two days a week will reduce greenhouse emissions by an average of two tons per year.
This info-graphic from Crossline on the Fort explains the progress we are making with environmentally friendly cars and also explains what you can do to help the environment if you don’t have a green car.

 

Matt Allan
Manager – Crossline on the Fort (www.crossline.ca)

 

How Can We End Our Fossil Fuel Addiction by 2050

An ecology company called Arbtech produced an infographic about how we can end our fossil fuel addiction by 2050. They used our site, Energy Informative in making the infographic and have listed us in the sources at the bottom.

We think it’s fabulous content and we thought we would share it with you!

How Can We End Our Fossil Fuel Addiction by 2050? An environmental infographic from Arbtech.

 

 

3 Things You Should Know About Solar-Paneled Cars

solar paneled car is a concept that is becoming more and more popular. Driving a solar paneled car means that rather than charging your vehicle with a plug, like traditional hybrid vehicles, or using traditional gasoline, you simply park your car in the sun and let the solar panels absorb the rays—then you’re off driving! But there’s more to it than that. Here are three things you should know about solar paneled cars.

How the solar paneled car works

According to How Stuff Works, a solar paneled car works through the photovoltaic cells that are present in the panels, which are responsible for converting the sun’s energy into actual usable electricity. The process that converts the energy into electricity is somewhat complex and there are few manufacturers that have even attempted to integrate this type of technology into their car manufacturing efforts.

Keep in mind that in order for a solar panel vehicle to receive electricity, it must have direct exposure to the sun. This means that if your vehicle is typically kept inside your garage, or beneath a carport, a solar paneled car is probably not a practical option. However, for others who live in particularly sunny areas and park their vehicles outside, a solar paneled vehicle may be the solution to saving on energy and fossil fuel costs.

Solar paneled cars may create green energy jobs

With energy requirements continuously increasing all over the world, more companies and individuals are searching for better sources of renewable energy, such as solar power. In fact, this infographic from RefrigerationSchool.com shows that solar energy is now the quickest-growing segment in the entire green energy market in the U.S. It is estimated that in 2013 the job market in the solar industry more than doubled and that it is going to sustain a growth of 20 percent in the next few years.

With more and more companies and individuals seeking clean, green sources of energy, the demand for solar panels is increasing. This demand has resulted in the consistent growth of the industry, leading to more jobs in the sector. Economic growth and job creation are two hot-button issues right now, so the ability to produce more energy and jobs in a sustainable way is a win for all parties involved.

The present and future of solar paneled cars

People are using solar panels already installed on their roofs to electrically power their hybrid cars. Unlike cars with solar panels built in, you simply plug in your hybrid to your existing solar panels and you’re automatically using the sun to power your car, writes Poughkeepsie Journal. And it gets better: The United States government also offers a federal tax credit for purchasing these hybrid car models. In addition, some car companies, such as Honda Motor Co., offer incentives of up to $400 for installing solar panels through the company Solar City. And when you get a friend or family member to sign up for solar panel installation through Solar City, you get a $250 referral fee on top of that!

And then there’s Mercedes Benz who, according to Engadget, has come up with a really interesting and unique concept to generate electricity from the sun: a solar powered paint job. Referred to as “multi-voltaic” paint, this technologically advanced paint job works by acting like a giant solar panel that generates electricity while the car is stationary. And, while the car is moving, it derives power from its suspension system. However, this is only in the conceptual stage, and is therefore not yet available.

Solar paneled cars are still new, How Stuff Works tells us, which means there are a number of issues and kinks to work out in order to get them to where they are a sustainable method of transportation, including making them affordable. However, with the proven progression in the industry, it may be only a matter of time until a reliable and efficient solar paneled car is developed for mainstream use in the automotive industry.

5 Home Improvement Projects to Increase the Value of Your Home

If you’re like most homeowners, you’ve probable thought to yourself, how do I increase the value of my home? Before preparing to sell your home, finding a cheap moving company, and packing up, it’s important to consider what will bring you the best return on your investment. Ideally, you’ll make your home more efficient and more valuable in the process. Here are five of the best home improvement projects a homeowner should consider investing in.

One of the best investment for your home is Alternative energy. With solar panels, a homeowner can enjoy massive utility savings and depending on the state, tax breaks. Solar Panels are an enticing addition to a home because potential buyers often look for environmentally friendly.

Upgrade your kitchen. Most people love a large and functional kitchen. Gourmet kitchens  are making a comeback as people love to cook at home and make their guests feel welcome. Luckily, with a small investment, one can improve their kitchen and increase the value of the home.

Add a swimming pool. With a pool, a seller can impress buyers who want to have a nice backyard. With a pool, residents can splash in the water and escape the summer heat. Even when a person does not use it, they will enjoy looking at it and showing the yard off to friends. Plus, you can heat your pool with solar panels!

Upgrade your front door. When putting on a new front door, a homeowner can add value to the property simply through the enhanced curb appeal. This is a great investment to make as most people, upon seeing the house for the first time, will notice and old or outdated door. Furthermore, a buyer can get a door with extra security features which will make the residents feel at ease.

Redo your garden. There’s nothing more satisfying than a home with a nice garden full of beautiful plants. To take it further and attract more people, a homeowner should set up a garden with native plants. Make your garden more eco-friendly and protect the natural habitat by using plants from the area which fit in better with the surrounding scenery. IF you want to really conserve water, try a decorative stone garden or wood chips.

We hope you found this blog to be helpful and informative as you consider ways to increase the value of your home!

Special Coating Improves Performance of Solar Cells

A new startup company called Brisbane Materials has created a special coating that can be applied to solar cells for a boost in performance. The company recently announced that they have closed their AUD $5 million ($5.2 million) Series A funding round lead by Southern Cross Venture Partners (SXVP), which will help bring their innovation closer to the market.

According to CEO Gary Wiseman, solar panels coated with the company`s anti-reflective material will generate 3% more electricity. However, coating products for solar panels have been around for quite some time, but they at best only deliver a performance boost of 2%. A net gain of 1% is actually quite significant in the solar photovoltaic industry, and a couple of years down the line, the new invention might actually influence cost reductions and growth in the market.

Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 4.26.10 PM

An electron microscope reveals the structure of the new anti-reflective coating material:

Brisbane materials

Image source: Brisbane Materials

The layer named BMT AR coating is the where the innovation lies. This thin slice, only 110 nanometers thick, consists of air pockets caught between porous glass. The combination reduces reflection of light by as much as three fourths.

According to Brisbane Materials, the process that attaches the anti-reflective coating on top of the glass surface does not require high amounts of heat, as most other conventional manufacturing methods need. This will not only simplify manufacturing, but also produce anti-coating material for lower costs.

The anti-reflective coating has actually been researched at the University of Queensland in Australia since 2005, but the technology was sold to Brisbane Materials for further development. Let`s hope the new startup company succeeds and we see more of the technology in the next couple of years.