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March 10, 2016

ETFE Football Stadium Will Soon Be Minneapolis Showcase

Originally published on Green Building Elements

When it opens this summer, US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis will feature the only ETFE (ethylene-tetra-fluoro-ethylene) roof on a sports facility in the United States. This resilient and transparent material, long used in Europe, will now provide Minnesota Vikings football fans with a comfortable experience inside the stadium and a clear view outside, even if the outdoor temperature is far below zero degrees Fahrenheit.

us bank stadium logo shutterstock_306699017In contrast to the preponderance of opaque domed stadiums in this country, some 60% of the Vikings’ facility has been covered with ETFE, not only letting in daylight, but allowing fans to gaze skyward and enjoy the view. Add to this, this dramatic stadium features five of the world’s largest operable glass doors, which can be opened if the weather outside is pleasant. These gargantuan doors measure 55 feet in width, angling from 75 feet to 95 feet in height, and weighing approximately 57,000 pounds each. Of note, the large door system also contains five smaller doors which can be used when the large doors re closed due to inclement weather.

Journalists were invited to sample

GRM Vikings ZT__8035As the stadium nears completion, a diverse group of journalists — specializing in everything from architecture to sports — had the opportunity to visit this 1.75 million sq. ft. structure, including 248,000 sq. ft. of ETFE roof, and listen to very articulate presentations from many on the design and development team, including leadership from the Minnesota Vikings.  I found no shortage of good stories to report, most which will follow later this month. Here I report on the old stadium, the new stadium, and this remarkable material, ETFE.

In other stories, I will report about:

  • Sustainability practices in design and construction
  • Strategy behind  this projected $1.1 billion inner-city facility
  • Economic impact & surrounding development
  • This development is a showcase for others to follow

The old stadium model

Minneapolis, known for its very cold winter weather, previously featured the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, built downtown in 1982. It was the ninth oldest stadium in the NFL, featuring a fiberglass fabric roof, self-supported by air pressure. It was the third major sports facility to have this feature (the first two being the Pontiac Silverdome and the Carrier Dome).

vikings metrodome shutterstock_108070454

Preparation for the demolition of the Metrodome began the day after the final home game for the Minnesota Vikings on December 29, 2013. Demolition began January 18, 2014.

For those wanting a glimpse, here is how the roof to the Metrodome came down.

The new stadium model

usbankstadiumOwned by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), the multi-purpose US Bank Stadium is scheduled to host Super Bowl LII in 2018 and the NCAA Final Four in 2019. Some leap from the starting line!

Designed by Dallas-based HKS Architects, the US Bank Stadium features the largest transparent ETFE roof in North America, spanning 240,000 square feet. This will be the only stadium in the nation with a clear ETFE roof.

Vikings ETFE & cane IMG_6142Because of the angles of the roof, ETFE material on the south side accounts for 60% of the entire roof, while hard metal deck on the north side will account for the remaining 40%. 

ETFE basics

ETFE is a co-polymer resin which is extruded into a thin film. The light-weight material is transparent but can be treated to be translucent. It is durable and resistant to corrosion. In an architectural application ETFE is typically used in a multi-layer pneumatic system.

Longevity of ETFE

Vikings ETFE IMG_6211

ETFE beginning layer

This material does not degrade with exposure to UV light, atmospheric pollution, harsh chemicals, or extreme temperatures. The material has withstood extensive testing within extreme environments and is expected to have a 30 to 50-year life expectancy, requiring minimal maintenance. Presently, the true life-cycle of ETFE is not known as the oldest applications are just hitting the 30-year mark with little to no replacement of system components.

ETFE weight & strength

us bank stadium 2 Berg-150707-0965Despite its light weight (1/100 the weight of glass) ETFE is reported to handle snow/wind loads well. In sheet form, it can stretch three times its length without losing elasticity. Support rods are used with the stadium roof panels.

Cleaning ETFE

The surface of the foil is non-stick and non-porous, which allows the natural action of rain to clean the surface. Deposits of dirt, dust and debris remain unattached and are washed away in the rain, meaning ETFE effectively self-cleans with virtually no need to clean externally.

As Amy Wilson has written on Architen, “Originally invented by DuPont as an insulation material for the aeronautics industry, ETFE was not initially considered as a main-stream building material, its principle use being as an upgrade for the polythene sheet commonly used for green house polytunnels.

“The advantages of its extraordinary tear resistance, long life and transparency to ultra-violet light off-set the higher initial costs and 20 years later it is still working well. It wasn’t until the early 1980s, when German mechanical engineering student, Stefan Lehnert, investigated it in his quest for new and exciting sail materials, that its use was reconsidered.”

Indeed! Just take a look at this showcase taking place near the Mississippi River.

Images: Metrodome via Shutterstock; usbank stadium sign via Shutterstock; all other images via the Minnesota Vikings

March 4, 2016

International Wastewater Systems: SHARC Recovering Heat From Sewage

Originally published on CleanTechnica

We understand what’s involved in recovering renewable heat from the Earth by deployinggeothermal recovery technologies. Now it’s time to become familiar with another untapped renewable energy resource: wastewater thermal energy.

Sewage happens to be an energy source flowing beneath the surface of almost all modern cities. Not only is it plentiful, it’s free and mostly untapped.

That is, unless you’re Lynn Mueller, CEO of Canada-based International Wastewater Systems (IWS). His company has developed an innovative heat exchange system which recycles heated wastewater and returns it as a heat source.

With a payback that happens over a short time, a growing number of building developers are inquiring after the installation of IWS’s SHARC (sewage heat recovery) and Pirahana systems. IWS offers heat recovery solutions for space and domestic water heating in the winter, as well as for air conditioning systems in summer.

The company also provides engineering assistance, project feasibility assessments, cost estimates, and technical support, as well as third-party energy analysis studies to evaluate the capability of incorporating sewage heat recovery into a project.

“When you think of sewage, you think it’s just a cost for everybody involved to deal with it, but about 30% of the energy in the world ends up going down the sewer pipes every day,” he said in a January 6 interview with MidasLetter. “So our system has developed a cost-effective way to recover that energy. I like to refer to it as the world’s most ultimate renewable energy, because you really use the same energy every day: you use it, it goes down the drain, you recapture it and you use it again.”

This is not a new undertaking for IWS. In 2014, the company announced it had been selected to provide its state-of-the-art sewage heat recovery technology as a component of the Sechelt sewage treatment facility.

At the time, the LEED gold standard Wastewater Treatment Plant was slated to be be the first of its kind in North America. This video shows the SHARC unit being installed at the Sechelt Sewage plant.

Case studies show the SHARC system allows for significant energy and water savings over the life of the plant by recapturing energy that would have otherwise have been wasted and would have just gone down the drain.

About that project, Sechelt Mayor John R. Henderson said, “This will be the largest infrastructure project in the District’s history. The facility will ensure wastewater treatment capacity for Sechelt for the next 20 years (with provision to add capacity incrementally for up to 50 years more!). The facility will meet the highest Provincial standards for water quality, energy efficiency and resource recovery. It will be the first of its kind in North America, giving Sechelt opportunities to demonstrate and market to others.”

How SHARC Works

SHARC Wastewater heat recovery CanyonSpringsWP-960x344IWS’ Sewage SHARC  uses raw sewage as a medium to produce hot water, heat, and cooling for large residential and commercial buildings. The sewage is used before it gets to the plant, with all of the solids removed. It is put through a heat exchanger and utilized to produce 140°F water for domestic potable use.

Mueller said this process is 500% efficient; every dollar spent gets $5 worth of efficiency. The SHARC system will last for about 30 to 40 years, thereby becoming extremely valuable over its lifespan. In fact, he said buildings can recover the money spent on the systems in three to 10 years.

PIRANHA Retrofit System

IWS Pirhana As-featured-in-banner16-copy-960x344-copyIn addition to the SHARC, IWS also offers a retrofit version of the technology known as the PIRANHA. While the SHARC is custom-built or constructed with new buildings, Mueller said the PIRANHA is a prepackaged unit that comes in 50-kw-per-hour and 100-kw-per-hour models. This version can easily be put into a building’s mechanical room and have the sewer line looped into it. Mueller said it was originally produced to help the European market improve its energy footprint by 25 percent, something it legally must do with each update of a building.

Mueller’s background in geothermal heat pump technology helped him understand it was possible to use sewage as a source of energy instead of using holes in the ground. IWS has now been at it for five years and marketing its SHARC product for two. In the last two years, IWS has made installations across three continents—Australia, Europe, and North America.

Current Project: Gateway Theater

Richmond, Vancouver, BC: at the Gateway Theater, a 50,000-sq-ft public facility. The city had a carbon-reduction plan in place and needed to reduce the facility’s emissions by 50 tons per year. It chose to use the SHARC, thus becoming the first wastewater recovery system at a public facility in Canada.

“Levi Higgs, the city’s corporate energy manager, told HPAC Engineering that before adopting the SHARC, the city undertook a couple of studies and found there was a large amount of potential for a heat- recovery system at the Gateway. This was attributed to the large pumping system next to the theater. Mueller made a proposal that Higgs called “very cost competitive,” and the city has seen some great savings since the installation in April 2013.

““Right off the bat, we saw about a 30% reduction in our natural gas use with the SHARC system,” Higgs said. “We did some upgrades at the facility … and those coupled with the SHARC, we were able to push savings to about 45%.””

This YouTube video tour shows some of the Gateway Theater installation.

“We can produce all the domestic hot water without using a gas boiler,” Mueller said to HPAC Engineering. “Cost is comparable to a gas boiler, and it’s more efficient than the best gas boiler on the market. To give you an example, we did a roughly 200-unit building here in Vancouver, B.C. The greenhouse-gas savings amount to about 900 tons of carbon a year, just by cycling that heat from 200 units. We use heat-pump tech to move the heat.”

The infrastructure may be pricey, but the ROI is fabulous.

Images and video via IWS

January 28, 2016

NREL: Solar Cell Defects Might Improve Solar Cells

Originally published on CleanTechnica – January 20th, 2016 by Glenn Meyers

The time-honored adage that we sometimes learn best by the mistakes we’ve made is now being applied by scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in their study of defects in solar cell defects, stating the results may lead to improved performance.

The study reports about certain defects in silicon solar cells which may eventually improve their overall performance. The findings run counter to conventional wisdom, according to Pauls Stradins, the principal scientist and a project leader of the silicon photovoltaics group at NREL.

NREL cell defect 20160111-solar-defectNREL cell defect 20160111-solar-defect
Schematic of a ‘good’ defect (red cross), which helps collection of electrons from photo-absorber (n-Si), and blocks the holes, hence suppresses carriers recombination.The findings run counter to conventional wisdom, according to Pauls Stradins, the principal scientist and a project leader of the silicon photovoltaics group at NREL.

Deep-level defects frequently hamper the efficiency of solar cells, but NREL’s theoretical research suggests such defects with properly engineered energy levels can sometime improve carrier collection out of the cell, or “improve surface passivation” of the absorber layer.

NREL researchers conducted simulations to add impurities to layers adjacent to the silicon wafer in a solar cell. Specifically, they introduced defects within a thin tunneling silicon dioxide (SiO2) layer that forms part of “passivated contact” for carrier collection, and within the aluminum oxide (Al2O3) surface passivation layer next to the silicon (Si) cell wafer. In both cases, specific defects were identified to be beneficial.

According to NREL press information, the research by Stradins, Yuanyue Liu, Su-Huai Wei, Hui-Xiong Deng, and Junwei Luo, “Suppress carrier recombination by introducing defects: The case of Si solar cell,” appears in Applied Physics Letters.

Finding the correct defects to examine

The researchers state finding the right defect was key to their research process.

“To promote carrier collection through the tunneling SiO2 layer, the defects need to have energy levels outside the Si bandgap but close to one of the band edges in order to selectively collect one type of photocarrier and block the other. In contrast, for surface passivation of Si by Al2O3, without carrier collection, a beneficial defect is deep below the valence band of silicon and holds a permanent negative charge. The simulations removed certain atoms from the oxide layers adjacent to the Si wafer, and replaced them with an atom from a different element, thereby creating a “defect.” For example, when an oxygen atom was replaced by a fluorine atom it resulted in a defect that could possibly promote electron collection while blocking holes.”

The referenced defects were then sorted according to their energy level and charge state. It is believed more research is needed in order to determine which defects will ultimately produce the best results.

A recent study by the same authors has shown that the addition of oxygen could improve the performance of those semiconductors. For solar cells and photoanodes, engineered defects could possibly allow thicker, more robust carrier-selective tunneling transport layers or corrosion protection layers that might be easier to fabricate.

The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative as part of a joint project of Georgia Institute of Technology, Fraunhofer ISE, and NREL, with a goal to develop a record efficiency silicon solar cell. The SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade.

Graphic via NREL

December 5, 2015

Elon Musk proposes smart carbon tax

Filed under: Climate Change,Renewable Energy — Tags: — Glenn @ 10:28 am

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk addressed an audience at Paris Sorbonne University during the 2015 Council on Climate Change held in Paris.

His subjects: climate change, fossil fuels, the carbon cycle.

The video, including audience questions is here.

 

December 3, 2015

Advanced Infrared Camera Can Photograph Methane

Originally published on CleanTechnica

A new camera has eliminated the guesswork about where greenhouse gases are being emitted. It can photograph and film methane.

This technology has been released by a team of researchers from Linköping and Stockholm Universities who have demonstrated how this remarkably advanced camera can record methane in the air around us.

Importantly, this technological advance can play an important role in global efforts to measure and monitor greenhouse gases.

camera shoots methane inventors104304_web

According to a press announcement, the camera has been developed by a team that combined knowledge from many different fields of expertise, including astronomy, biogeochemistry, engineering and environmental sciences.

“This gives us new possibilities for mapping and monitoring methane sources and sinks, and it will help us understand how methane emissions are regulated and how we can reduce emissions,” said David Bastviken, Linköping University professor at Tema Environmental Change,  and principal project investigator. “So far the camera has been used from the ground and now we’re working to make it airborne for more large-scale methane mapping,”

So much for the dubious notion, “If you can’t see it, it’s not there.” Now it will be visible for all to see.

The news release reports several questions surround the powerful greenhouse gas methane, including its rapid but irregular increase in the atmosphere. There is also considerable uncertainty regarding methane sources and sinks in the landscape.

The new camera may help address these issues. The utility of the camera to both photograph and film methane has been demonstrated in a study that was recently published in Nature Climate Change.

“The camera is very sensitive, which means that the methane is both visible and measurable close to ground level, with much higher resolution,” said Magnus Gålfalk, Assistant Professor at Tema Environmental Change, Linköping University, who led the study.

The hyperspectral infrared camera weighs 35 kilos and measures 50 x 45 x 25 centimeters. It is optimized to measure the same radiation that methane absorbs, and which makes methane such a powerful greenhouse gas.

The camera can be used to measure emissions from many environments including sewage sludge deposits, combustion processes, animal husbandry, and lakes. For each pixel in the image the camera records a high-resolution spectrum, which makes it possible to quantify the methane separately from the other gases.

Longstanding complaints of methane leaks from natural gas production and distribution can also be recorded. It will be very interesting to report on the results.

Image via Linkoping University

November 10, 2015

Photons & solar panels

Filed under: Renewable Energy — Tags: — Glenn @ 8:43 pm

Photons & Solar Panels

We talk plenty today about solar panels, but not many really grasp how they work – how they create electricity. In his book, Let It Shine: The 6,000-Year Story of Solar Energy, author John Perlin takes readers back to Albert Einstein in 1905 for perspective on the matter of light: “Einstein showed that light possesses an… (more…)

October 12, 2015

12 solar facts you should know

Filed under: Renewable Energy — Tags: — Glenn @ 9:12 am

12 Solar Facts You Should Know

Lists are always fun, so here are 12 solar facts to put in your notebook so you can share the important stuff with anyone who’s interested. I have divided this list of facts into four categories that might help you to better keep track of things. Understanding Our Sun Solar History Solar Technology Solar Metrics But… (more…)

September 30, 2015

Solar Light Bulb Inventor Might Make Kerosene Obsolete

It is estimated that almost 1.6 billion people on this planet live without electricity. To have light in the darkness, toxic fuels like kerosene are used to fuel lanterns. While they provide much needed light, they also pollute habitats and endanger the health of those living inside.

A Denver inventor, Stephen Katsaros, appropriately named the solar light he developed Nokero, short for “no kerosene.” The solar battery powered LED-type solar-powered bulb measures 70mm by 125mm and emits light for two to four hours, depending on the charge. Such a clean, low-cost technology might eventually make lighting fuel like kerosene obsolete. The Nokero website states that 5 percent of the average user’s income is spent of fuel for lighting. The price of a Nokero bulb and charger package is $15.

The story about this innovation has been featured on National Geographic and Denver television station, KCNC-4 , among a growing list of interested media.

(more…)

September 23, 2015

Battery storage milestone in Texas

Filed under: Renewable Energy — Glenn @ 10:06 am

Battery Storage Milestone In Texas

Younicos battery storage system will be state’s first integrated grid-scale solar storage asset. The news ledger about solar electricity storage continues expanding following an announcement from Berlin-based Younicos on its agreement with solar power supplier OCI Solar Power to provide a turnkey battery storage system at one of OCI Solar Power’s projects in Texas. According to… (more…)

July 22, 2015

John Perlin PV Miniseries #14: How Public Policy Matters

April 9th, 2015 by Glenn Meyers

This series was published on CleanTechnica.

Our interview with John Perlin continues for this segment of photovoltaics miniseries. In our 13th post, Mr. Perlin said, “Reagan came into office and declared war on solar technologies, which led the National Science Foundation’s chief scientist Lloyd Herwig to declare, instead of the United States, the Japanese and Germans would take over the market.”Our series on PV provides tremendous background on the technology, and highlights the UN’s 2015 Year of Light.

 

perlinIf you haven’t read it, Perlin’s book, “Let It Shine: The 6000-Year Story of Solar Energy,” provides an excellent backgrounder on the history of solar energy. This series details much about how the industry evolved to its present-day status.

 

 

 

For those missing info on this miniseries, here are previously published episodes:

Author John Perlin Celebrates the Coming Year of Light
Author John Perlin & the Solar Cell
The Pathway to Today’s Solar Revolution: Discovering the Photosensitivity of Selenium
Photovoltaics Discovered in 1875: Interview with Author John Perlin
Photovoltaic Dreaming: First Attempts at Commercializing PV
Einstein: The Father of Photovoltaics Part 1
Einstein: The Father of Photovoltaics – Part 2
John Perlin Miniseries #8: Photovoltaics: Saved by Silicon – Part 1
Photovoltaics Miniseries #9: Saved by Silicon – Part 2
Photovoltaics Miniseries #10: World’s First Practical Solar Cell Victim to Exigencies of Cold War
Photovoltaics Miniseries #11: Nixon’s Solargate
Photovoltaics Miniseries #12: Jimmy Carter’s War Against PV
John Perlin’s Photovoltaics Miniseries #13: Reagan Nukes Solar

John Perlin’s PV Miniseries #14: How Public Policy Matters

A physicist and teacher, Perlin has long been a proponent or solar energy. He reports not all has gone seamlessly for many solar innovators and their enthusiasts. Our interview continues with this in mind.

CleanTechnica: The solar cell was a remarkable technology that must have excited many, even if it failed to gain traction with our presidents. As you have said before, Daryl Chapin, one of the inventors of the silicon solar cell, published the first text on PV. Correct?

Perlin: Yes. He provided a kit for constructing a silicon solar cell, and advised his readers, mainly high school students, that though the solar cell they would make “delivers only 10 milliwatts , don’t be discouraged. We are standing near the beginning of a new era of solar uses.”

CleanTechnica: But it marked a beginning, correct?

Perlin: Absolutely. The first silicon solar cells were feeble. At the time of the public announcement in 1954 [of their availability] they consisted of a number of cells that delivered less than 1 watt. This increased to a megawatt by 1980.

CleanTechnica: But by then President Reagan declared war against solar, as you stated in your previous article, leading to the National Science Foundation’s lead solar advisor Lloyd Herwig’s dire prediction that Japan and Germany would take over the market solar.

Perlin: Sadly, his prediction came to pass. Starting in 1994, the Japanese government offered a generous subsidy to encourage the adoption of PV on the nation’s rooftops. By the time the program had ended in 2004 almost 400,000 Japanese households had installed PV, totaling a little over a gigawatt.

Perlin: Following the Social Democratic/Green victory in 1999, a new chapter in the story of photovoltaics began. The coalition cobbled together the Renewable Energy Sources Act of 2000, which committed the German nation “to facilitate a sustainable development of energy supply in the interest of managing global warming.” This was specifically, in support of photovoltaic’s. Its authors believed, “the long-term the use of solar radiation energy holds the greatest potential for providing an energy supply which does not have adverse impact on climate.”

Soon Germany eclipsed Japan’s top position in the international photovoltaic market. Once again, governmental policy led the charge.

CleanTechnica: You contend the growth of the solar PV market in both Japan and Germany was fueled via government programs?

Perlin: Yes. The key to the success of the Renewable Energy Sources Act was the premium offered that those using photovoltaics when selling their electricity to the grid. This new interaction is now known as the “Feed-in Tariff.”

CleanTechnica: Please elaborate on the net effect of the Feed-in Tariff.

Perlin: This generous offering opened the flood gates to using photovoltaics. PV use grew 40% in the first four years of the act, and by 2004 the production of solar cells broke the one gigawatt barrier.

The authoritative PV Status Report of 2005 attributed the act “as the driver of this growth. International markets associated with PV responded positively. Production of the essential feedstock for solar cells exploded. The Chinese government, eyeing great potential for selling to the German solar market, offered tens of billions of dollars in soft loans to entrepreneurs willing to expand module production. Innovations flourished. The result – better cells, cheaper cells.

Summing up the impact of the German program, the investment group the Motley Fool stated, “Germany decided it was time to make a big bet on solar. The country heavily subsidized the industry to make it economically viable long-term. The bet paid off.”

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