February 7th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
Heliotube: Photo source: Practical InstrumentsSilicon solar cells are a pretty established technology. The panels have become more or less standardized to a regular form factor so that installers can use the same mounting hardware regardless of whose panels are being used. Big corporations like Wal-Mart and Google are readying large installations of panels that will produce enough electricity to rival a small power plant. Manufacturers are developing the technology, and new models of solar panels regularly outperform their older cousins by squeezing out a few more watts per square foot.
The silicon portion is still the most expensive portion of the photovoltaic (PV) solar panel, however. So a new solar panel that uses 88% less PV material than traditional panels could help cut the cost of going solar.
February 5th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
Co-generation is a systems approach for producing poth power and heat. Combined heat-and-power (CHP) plants produce electrical power, and use the heat from that production to also provide heat to local buildings (often through underground steam or hot-water piping systems). These systems have been most often found at hospitals and universities, where a large number of buildings can be efficiently served by a combined facility such as this. But new systems are bringing this same technology into the home.
Micro-CHP units are new to the US, with the first installations just beginning in the northeast. The technology for these units is not brand new, however. There are more than 30,000 homes with these units installed in Japan, where the gas utilities have been promoting them. In Britain, 80,000 under-counter micro-CHP systems are on their way and will be installed in the coming years.
January 31st, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
<p><img src="/files/images/powerhouse.jpg" border="0" alt="power house" width="155" height="151" />There are many factors that contribute to greening a building. Of these, energy is an extremely important part of the equation. The <a href="http://www.usgbc.org/" title="USGBC">US Green Building Council</a> (USGBC) recognized this fact when they named their green building program LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.<br /><br />Energy costs can be a surprisingly large part of the cost of owning and operating a building. </p>
January 29th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
How reasonable is it to try to generate your own power? You want to take that big, green step, but there are a lot of unknowns. Is it hard to do? Does it take a lot of equipment? Will the systems last? What is the best system to use for your location?
I can't give you simple, easy answers to most of these questions, since there are too many factors, and it's not a one-size-fits-all kind of question. However, there is one question I can answer: Is it worth considering a renewable generating system? The answer to that is 'yes.'
January 24th, 2007 | by Philip Proefrock
Editor's note: Philip Proefrock, another new writer at Green Options, will be covering the exciting world of green building and architecture for us. We're happy to welcome Philip on board!
At some point in this decade, human history reached a unique milestone. For the first time, more than half of the world's population (and more than 80% of that in the United States) now lives in cities. We are an increasingly urbanized species, and our buildings are a huge part of the impact we have on the environment.
In the United States, it has been noted that buildings are responsible for nearly half of all energy consumption. More than manufacturing or transportation, buildings have the greatest impact on energy use. Consequently, buildings offer the greatest opportunities for improving performance and reducing energy use.