Archives for the month of: October, 2013

Researchers at Purdue have developed a technology that uses sunshine to clean water, by harnessing UV radiation to kill microorganisms. The project was led by Chip Blatchley, a professor of environmental and ecological engineering, and Bruce Applegate, an associate professor of food science and biological science.

An article published by the university’s Office of Technology Commercializationsays they’ve applied for a patient. The disinfection system is designed for areas where clean water is difficult to access:

Purdue Solar 1

“If you take a global view of people who have little or no access to safe water, you’ll see that most live close to the equator,” Blatchley said. “Bruce, student researchers and I have created prototypes that disinfect water by amplifying and concentrating solar UV radiation, which is abundant in equatorial and near-equatorial nations.”

Applegate said the Purdue water disinfection system pumps water through a UV-transparent pipe placed on a parabolic reflector.

Tests in West Lafayette, Ind. have been conducted with non-pathogenic microbes. The team hopes to continue field testing the system for disease-causing bacteria in areas where higher levels of UV exposure exist. Similar water purifiers have harnessed UV rays in the past, but the Purdue team aims to make their design can be an lower-cost solution.

Content provided by Margaret Badore

Another great Green article from Green Halo
Track your recycling at
 Follow Green Halo on Twitter at

One of the problems in the green building world is the lack of clarity in the terms used. I have been complaining about the term Net Zero Energy for years, claiming that it had little to do with green building at all, that “you can make a canvas tent net-zero if you have the money to put enough solar panels on it.” There was no real satisfactory definition, no rigorous certification. net zero cert

That is not true anymore; the Living Building Challenge has developed the Net Zero Energy Building Certification and it is rigorous indeed. They note the need for it:

Net Zero Energy is quickly becoming a sought after goal for many buildings around the globe – each relies on exceptional energy conservation and then on-site renewables to meet all of its heating, cooling and electricity needs. Yet the true performance of many developments is overstated – and actual Net Zero Energy buildings are still rare.

The certification verifies that the building actually operates as claimed, “harnessing energy from the sun, wind or earth to exceed net annual demand.” It can’t be a canvas tent, either; there are other requirements from the Living Building Challenge that must be considered:

• Limits to Growth (in part): Curbs the building’s contribution to the effects of sprawled development, which undermines the positive impact of achieving net zero energy building operation.

• Net Zero Energy: Serves as the primary focus of Net Zero Energy Building Certification.

• Rights to Nature: Ensures that the building does not preclude another building from achieving net zero energy operation as a result of excessive shading.

• Beauty + Spirit and Inspiration + Education: Underscore the notion that renewable energy systems can be incorporated into a building in ways that are attractive and inspiring. the david lucile packard foundation bldg

A good example of a Net Zero Energy Certified building is the The David and Lucile Packard Foundation in Los Altos, California. The building was predicted to consume 247 MWh/yr; adding a safety factor, the system was designed to supply 277 MWh/yr. In fact they used more at 351 MWh, and generated more at 418 MWh, delivering back to the grid more than they consumed by 66.73 MWh in the full year ending July 31, 2013, conclusive proof that it was truly Net-Zero.

Reducing the demand side took a lot of good green design, with extensive daylighting, very efficient mechanical systems and a clever cooling system:

In warm weather, water is cooled at night by a compressor-free cooling tower and stored in two 25,000-gallon underground tanks. During the day, the cool water is pumped into the pipes that run through the chilled beams. Three major air handling units pull in 100% outside air, then filter and dehumidify it. Air flowing across the beam is sufficient to cool the interior spaces.

The building complies with the “Right to Nature” requirement by avoiding the shading of any neighbours, and the Beauty + Spirit criterion by hiring a talented architect (EHDD) to design a building that fits. They don’t automatically put energy first:

Early on, the design team chose to conform the building to the street grid – which is oriented 40 degrees off true north — in order to be good neighbors and affirm that sustainable buildings don’t have to stand apart from their neighbors. The energy penalty associated with being off the solar axes was accepted in favor of a massing that contributed to the urban fabric of the community.

The Living Building Challenge is the toughest label in green building. The Net Zero Building Certification is much more approachable, almost an LBC Lite. That’s one of the wonderful things about it; notwithstanding its name, it actually is about more than just energy, that you have to do it right. Furthermore, you have to prove it.

Like the Passivhaus/ Passive House, the Net Zero Energy Building Certification has, in my opinion, a lousy name that doesn’t truly reflect how differently the term is used. I am not sure co-opting a name in common use was the best approach. Nonetheless it is a great step forward in defining and refining the concept of a building that gives back more than it takes. I suspect that it is going to attract a wide following.

Content provided by

Another great Green article from Green Halo
Track your recycling at
Follow Green Halo on Twitter at

Pollutants in the air we breathe have been classed as a leading environment cause of cancer by the World Health Organization

It said the evidence was clear they cause lung cancer.

Sources of pollution include car exhausts, power stations, emissions from agriculture and industry – as well as heating in people’s homes. WHO

The WHO said the classification should act as a strong message to governments to take action.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the WHO, has now classed air pollution in the same category as tobacco smoke, UV radiation and plutonium.

It said air pollution had been know to cause heart and lung diseases, but evidence had now emerged that it was also causing cancer.

The IARC said the most recent data suggested 223,000 deaths from lung cancer around the world were caused by air pollution.

More than half of the deaths were thought to be in China and other East Asian countries. Rapid industrialisation has led to smoggy skies in cities such as Beijing.

However, it is a global problem and concerns about air pollution were raised in Europe again this week.

Data suggests there may also be a link with bladder cancer.

Dr Kurt Straif, from IARC, said: “The air we breathe has become polluted with a mixture of cancer-causing substances.

“We now know that outdoor air pollution is not only a major risk to health in general, but also a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths.”

Cancer Research UK said it was not a surprise.


Dr Julie Sharp, the head of health information at the charity, said: “It’s important that people keep the risk from air pollution in perspective.

“Although air pollution increases the risk of developing lung cancer by a small amount, other things have a much bigger effect on our risk, particularly smoking.”

Dr Rachel Thompson, head of research interpretation at the World Cancer Research Fund International, said: “This latest evidence confirms the need for government, industry and multinational bodies to urgently address environmental causes of cancer.

“But there’s also a lot we can do as individuals to lower our chances of developing the disease such as being more physically active and adopting a healthier diet.”

Content provided by

Another great Green article from Green Halo
Track your recycling at
Follow Green Halo on Twitter at

Apple has unveiled a big scale model of its new headquarters to the San Jose Mercury News, describing it as a great improvement over the pile of Hewlett-Packard buildings on the site. CFO Peter Oppenheimer gushes:

“You see the energy and the love and the attention to detail that we’ve put into this,” he told this newspaper during a sneak peek of a top-secret, living-room sized model of the building. “We have treated this project just as we would any Apple product. And this will be a place for the most creative and collaborative teams in the industry to innovate for decades to come.”

Apple HQ 2

The director of real estate goes on to describe the great environmental features:

“This will be one of the most environmentally sustainable developments on this scale anywhere in the world…A building like this will use 30 percent less energy than a typical corporate building in the Valley. And that’s 100-percent renewable energy, which is unheard of on this scale, with most of it produced on-site.”

There is no mention of the Transportation Energy Intensity, the true environmental cost of filling 11,000 parking spaces with the cars of Apple employees driving in from all over, because most of them can’t afford to live in Cupertino. (See more on this in Let’s stop calling the new headquarters for Apple, Facebook and Google “Green”: Look at the parking ratios) Also in the Mercury, After complaining about traffic congestion from all those cars, Troy Wolverton goes on:

And for all those traffic and parking problems, nearby residents can expect little benefit from the project. Those bucolic scenes of people walking through the forested grounds or eating lunch in the grass near the spaceship? Those will all be employees — assuming they’re able to break away from their desks. Apple says the campus will be closed to the public, and a fence around the perimeter of the property will guarantee that. The public won’t even get to use a long-planned creek trail that would have run through the southeastern corner of the property, because Cupertino acquiesced to Apple’s paranoid security concerns.

Apple hq 1

It won’t do much for the rest of the city either:

Area restaurants and shops shouldn’t get too excited about having Apple move into the neighborhood, because employees are likely to stick to campus most of the time. Because the main building is set back from the street and the project is in a largely residential area, there are few retail businesses within easy walking distance. Also, Apple is doing what it can to encourage employees to stay on site, including a corporate fitness center and a large cafe inside the campus.

Apple says that this building “is all about green and all about innovation.” Thatis open to debate; I still call it the world’s most beautiful prison.

Content provided by Lloyd Alter

Another great Green article from Green Halo
Track your recycling at
 Follow Green Halo on Twitter at

Algae could be turned into fuel for cars and planes in the future, Swansea University scientists say.

The university is leading a project involving seven other European countries to find the best way of converting it.


Algae comes in different forms, from green water on ponds to sea weeds.

EnAlgae project coordinator Dr Shaun Richardson said micro-algae – the green water on ponds – would be the most suitable to turn into fuel.

Content provided by Cemlyn Davies

Another great Green article from Green Halo
Track your recycling at
 Follow Green Halo on Twitter at

Thermal Energy Storage FTW

The Solana solar station in the Arizona desert is one of the first large-scalesolar plants with thermal storage that allows it to keep producing power even when the sun doesn’t shine, allowing it to better match output to peak demand. The three-square-mile facility near Gila Bend uses concentrated solar power (CSP) technology to heat up oil that is piped through the solar collectors (up to 735 degrees Fahrenheit). That heat transfer fluid is pumped to steam boilers, where it heats water to create steam. The steam drives two 140-megawatt turbines to produce electricity, much like a traditional power plant.

Solar Energy 1

But what’s special is that “in addition to creating steam, the heat transfer fluid is used to heat molten salt in tanks adjacent to the steam boilers. The thermal energy storage system includes six pairs of hot and cold tanks with a capacity of 125,000 metric tons of salt, and the molten salt is kept at a minimum temperature of 530 degrees Fahrenheit. When the sun goes down, the heat transfer fluid can be heated by the molten salt to create steam by running it through the tanks instead of the field of parabolic mirrors.”

It’s not hard to understand why this kind of storage is important; one of the big problems with renewable energy is that power isn’t always available when you need it. This can mitigate the problem, along with other technologies like hydro storage, smart grids that can better match supply and demand, and things like V2G for electric cars (storing renewable energy surplus in batteries, and using it when there’s a deficit).

Content provided by Michael Graham Richard

Another great Green article from Green Halo
Track your recycling at
 Follow Green Halo on Twitter at

As much as 80% of the wood from an Eastern Region

Illegal logging is a big problem in certain countries, and even in countries where it’s relatively under control, it’s possible for people to buy illegally harvested wood unwittingly because it often gets ‘laundered’ with fake paperwork from a legit-looking source. This is what a 3-year investigation by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has uncovered in Russia.

Russian Wood 1

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a U.S.-based advocacy group, said its three-year investigation has revealed a network of corruption that allows illegal loggers linked to organised crime groups and operating in the temperate forest of Russia’s far east region to sell stolen old-growth lumber to Chinese manufacturers for export around the world.

As much as 80 percent of the lumber exported from the region is illegal. The destruction of the hardwood forests is harming the livelihoods of local people who rely on the forest, worsening climate change and endangering the habitat for the 450 remaining Siberian tigers.

Russian Wood 2

“This illegal logging is of an extraordinary scale,” Alexander von Bismarck, executive director of the non-profit group that works to expose environmental crimes, said at a news conference.

“Importing cheap illegal wood from the Russian far east is a tragic crime of convenience that directly undercuts any business trying to play by the rules. The same types of wood are available around the world from legal and sustainable sources.”

The forests of the world must be protected. We know how to sustainably harvest wood, there’s no excuse.

Content provided by

Another great Green article from Green Halo
Track your recycling at
 Follow Green Halo on Twitter at

Amidst the debates over GMO labeling laws, it’s a good moment to take a look a the first genetically engineered food.

This short film by Retro Report on the Flavr Savr, a genetically engineered tomato from the firm Calgene, revisits a time when genetically engineered food was a less divisive topic.

Genetic Food 2

What’s fascinating is that genetic engineering was a kind of selling point for this fruit. In some ways, GMOs are suffering from a massive branding crisis. The efforts of big agrochemical companies like Monsanto to obscure the origins of genetically engineered plants creates a kind of void where we imagine the worst. But for the Flavr Savr, transparency was an advantage and discussions about how the genes of the plant were manipulated also communicated its benefit to the consumer.

Maybe the public won’t be convinced that vegetables that produce their own insecticides are healthy. But the argument has been made that biotech companies could benefit from more transparency.

If you’re not familiar with Retro Report, it’s a nonprofit online video project that takes a long-term look at some of the biggest news headlines. You can watch more Retro Report stories on The New York Times website.

Content provided by Margaret Badore

Another great Green article from Green Halo
Track your recycling at
 Follow Green Halo on Twitter at

The number of illegal waste sites being shut down has increased by 70% in the past 12 months, according to the Environment Agency.

Some 1,279 locations were identified and closed in 2012/13, according to its Waste Crime Report.

However, construction waste continues to be a problem, while scrap cars were found at a quarter of all illegal sites.

And the number of successful prosecutions was down by 30%.

Illegal waste site in Slough, run by Amrik Johal

The legitimate waste and recycling industry currently generates over £12bn every year in the UK, and employs about 128,000 people.

Environmental Threat

Illegal operators, on the other hand, usually offer to dispose of waste at extremely low prices, and are said to be diverting up to £1bn per year from legitimate businesses.

Often the waste is buried or burned with no safeguards for the environment. As well as infestations of flies and acrid smoke, it can lead to serious pollution incidents.

While local authorities deal with most cases of fly-tipping, the Environment Agency deals with larger-scale dumping and illegal exports of waste.

Two years ago, it set up an illegal waste taskforce. Its latest report states that, over the past 12 months, it closed down an average of 25 of these sites every week.

“We’ve shut more sites down faster than ever,” said Mat Crocker, head of waste at the agency.

“We put additional resources to it, we got more people in with the right skill sets, and we’ve also targeted our efforts at the right people so we can deal with it faster.”

Illegal 1

While the number of sites being closed down is at record levels, the number of successful prosecutions for waste crime is down to its lowest level in four years.

In 2102/13, 171 prosecutions were completed, leading to five custodial sentences. In 2011/12, there were 249 prosecutions with 10 ending in jail terms.

“We target our prosecutions at the most serious offenders,” Mat Crocker explained. “Quite often by providing clear information and following it up with the right type of encouragement, people stop.

“Prosecution is just one of the tools in the bag, really.”

One feature of large-scale waste business is that dumpers are often clustered around key motorway links near London and in the North West.

The agency identified 820 active sites in March this year – the vast majority around these pivotal transport routes.

It also carried out inspections on shipping containers in an attempt to curb the illegal export of waste.

Content provided by Matt McGrath

Another great Green article from Green Halo
Track your recycling at
 Follow Green Halo on Twitter at

The Sun Isn’t Just Good for Tourists

Mexico is not the first country people usually think of when talking of clean energy, but it has ambitious plans to generate 35% of its energy from clean sources by 2026. That would be up from less than 15% now, which is mostly hydro, with wind and solar only providing only ±1.5%. These renewable sources would need to grow a lot, and in such a sunny country, solar power makes a lot of sense.

first solar

First Solar Inc. (FSLR) of the U.S. has bought its first projects in Mexico, while more than a dozen other developers including Germany’s Saferay GmbH and Spain’s Grupotec Tecnologia Solar SL own licenses there. Local investor Gauss Energia opened Latin America’s largest photovoltaic plant in the country last month.

The project “will open the way for the development of the photovoltaic sector,” Gauss Chief Executive Officer Hector Olea said in an e-mail. “There have been multiple announcements but very little real development work so far even though the regulatory system is sound and conducive to bankable projects.”

mexicans installing solar panel

While Mexico doesn’t subsidize solar, it has net-metering, and high energy costs in many regions where solar is competitive (in good part because the country gets so much sun). With some incentives for solar, which would only be fair considering how government-favored the oil industry has been over the years, we could potentially see a big solar boom in Mexico.

Content provided by Michael Graham Richard

Another great Green article from Green Halo
Track your recycling at
Follow Green Halo on Twitter at