Monday, October 29, 2007

Santa Monica LEED Parking Structure

source: http://sustainabledesignupdate.com/?m=200710

Santa Monica LEED Parking Structure

On the heels of my Mumbai rant, I present a parking deck that the City of Santa Monica hopes to become the first LEED certified parking Structure.

From a Santa Monica press release:

The six-story, 882-space structure at the Civic Center features photovoltaic roof panels, a storm drain water treatment system, recycled construction materials and energy efficient mechanical systems.

The $29 million structure â€" which sits near the entrance and exit ramps at the end of the 10 Freeway â€" also features ground-floor retail, art works on every floor and sweeping city and ocean views.

City officials hope the 290,000-square-foot-garage will become the nation’s first parking structure certified by the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

The structure’s photovoltaic panels â€" which cost $1.5 million â€" will pay for themselves in 17 years by generating $90,000 a year in electricity,” said Craig Perkins, director of Environmental and Public Works Management for the City.

This structure is busy looking, and it has a lot in common with the Mumbai building. But it has a clear portfolio of green features including a very large photovoltaic array. While this is edgy, and unusual looking, it looks playful and appropriate for its function.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

REC to Build World's Largest Solar Manufacturing Complex in Singapore

REC Group announced that it will build a new worldscale solar manufacturing complex in Singapore with total investments possibly exceeding US$4.3 billion (EUR 3 billion) within the next 5 years. It has simultaneously signed an agreement with the Singaporean government agency Economic Development Board (EDB) that defines the terms and conditions related to the development of a new production site, the process of establishing a manufacturing complex, as well as operational and commercial conditions.

In addition to wafer, cell and module production, the manufacturing complex will incorporate infrastructure and support facilities, as well as an on-site supplier park. Sufficient space has also been reserved for future R&D activities and possible manufacturing facilities based on potential new technologies.

The green field site can hold a capacity of up to 1.5 GW within each product area, although it is not likely that the production capacity for wafer, cells and modules will be fully balanced. Depending on the final capacity and site development, total investments in the Singapore site may exceed EUR 3 billion within the next 5 years and the total number of employees could be around 3 000 people.

The development of this site will enable us to continue expanding in a cost efficient manner and will support REC's ambitious cost target. Our future cost position will determine our ability to deliver solar products that can compete with traditional energy sources in the sunny areas of the world without government incentives", said Erik Thosen, the President & CEO of REC.

REC is positioned in the solar energy industry as the only company with a presence across the entire value chain. REC Silicon and REC Wafer are the world's largest producers of polysilicon and wafers for solar applications. REC Solar produces solar cells and solar modules. REC Group had revenues in 2006 of US$810 million (NOK 4 334 million) and an operating profit of US$294 million (NOK 1 574 million).

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Gadget Recycling Boosts Dioxins in Mothers' Milk

source: http://technology.newscientist.com/channel/tech/dn12816-gadget-recycling-boosts-dioxins-in-mothers-milk.html

People who live near electronics recycling sites in China have higher levels of harmful chemical compounds in their bodies, a study finds.

Toxic chemicals including dioxins and furans were found to be elevated in women's breast milk, meaning they could pose a special risk to breast-fed infants.

Electronic waste is rapidly becoming a major recycling problem as the lifetime of computers shrinks and as more people worldwide acquire devices such as cellphones.

According to a report by China's State Environmental Protection Administration, about 70% of the world's e-waste is exported to China. Experts say this is because labor is cheap and regulations are poorly enforced.

In China "recycling is often done by rudimentary methods," according to the new study, led by Ming Wong of Hong Kong Baptist University.

Wong says current recycling methods include "burning wire piles to recover metals, melting circuit boards over coal grills � and extracting metals in acid baths." Most workers also lack any kind of safety equipment, such as respirators, to protect them from the fumes.

Record levels

Burning wires and other material releases dioxins and furans, which, according to the World Health Organization, can cause cancer and disrupt endocrine and reproductive systems. However, so far there have been few studies of the health of people living near e-waste recycling sites.

Wong and colleague studied 20 women in their mid-20s at two different sites: a major e-waste recycling site in Taizhou, Zhejiang Province, and Hangzhou � a city in the same province that does not carry out such recycling.

Residents of the control town had levels of dioxins that similar to those of people in Ireland and Sweden. At the e-waste site, however, dioxin levels were among the highest recorded anywhere in the world � women's breast milk had more than twice the concentration of dioxins found in the control site and their placentas had nearly three times the concentration of the chemical.

The study also found that women who had lived near the e-waste site for longer periods had relatively higher dioxin levels, as well as a higher chance of suffering a spontaneous abortion. Wong says, though, that more research is needed to tell whether the elevated levels of dioxins are related to health problems.

"It's a bit circumstantial because there's no proof that the recycling causes the high levels of dioxins, but it's likely," says environmental chemist Gareth Thomas of Lancaster University, UK.

Illegal disposal?

Thomas argues that countries have a responsibility to make sure their electronic waste is disposed of properly. "We should only export [e-wastes] if they're going to be treated with the same standards that we would expect them to be treated here," he says.

"The results indicate that there's a real problem," adds Sarah Westervelt of the Basel Action Network (BAN), a Seattle-based watchdog group. Richer countries that have ratified the Basel Convention � an international agreement concerning import and export of hazardous materials � are not supposed to export these materials to developing countries, including China, Westervelt points out.

The United States is the only developed country not to have ratified the convention. Even so, while all European Union members are bound by it, "we found plenty of [e-waste] from the UK both in Nigeria and China," Westervelt says.

Meanwhile, Wong worries that the problem of electronic waste may simply be shifted from China to other developing countries. "The Chinese government has imposed tighter control, so the amount of electronic waste entering into mainland China has been decreased," he says. "However, the wastes are finding their way to other developing countries and we worry that the same mistake may be repeated."

Journal reference: Environmental Science and Technology (vol 41, p 7185)

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Hydrogen Economy Could Dry Our Rivers

source: http://www.ecogeek.org/content/view/1082/19/

Written by Jozef Winter

Michael Webber, the Associate Director Centre for International Energy and Environmental Policy, has completed an analysis of the water requirements for a burgeoning hydrogen economy slated to arrive near 2040.Around this time, it is predicted that the annual production of hydrogen would top 60 billion kg. The hydrogen, of course, will be coming from water, and he estimates that 19-69 trillion gallons of water will be needed for electrolysis and for coolant of power plants. Considering that means somewhere between 50-200 billion gallons of water per day, water is looking more and more not to be the inexhaustable resource as it was once touted, not to mention that this needs to be fresh, distilled water... so much for the oceans without energy-intense desalination plants.

To add fuel to the fire, electrolysis is only currently at about 60-70% efficiency. At 100% efficiency, a rate we will never achieve, it takes 40kWh to produce a kilogram of hydrogen. This means between 1134-2754 billion kWh at an efficiency of 75% will be needed to produce the amounts they are predicting.

With local water resources being depleted, water prices skyrocketing and the question of where these billions of kWh will come from, Michael makes a sobering statement in his report:

Each of the energy choices we can make, in terms of fuels and technologies, has its own tradeoffs associated with it. Hydrogen, just like ethanol, wind, solar, or other alternative choices, has many merits, but also has some important impacts to keep in mind, as this paper tries to suggest. I would encourage the continuation of research into hydrogen production as part of a comprehensive basket of approaches that are considered for managing the transition into the green energy era. But, because of some of the unexpected impacts—for example on water resources—it seems premature to determine that hydrogen is the answer we should pursue at the exclusion of other options.

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