1/29/2011

Could U.S. Go 100% Renewable in 40 Years? Study Says Yes!

The image of a totally oil and coal independent world seems a bit vague to most but to scientists and researchers, that future is not so distant.  New research suggests the whole world could switch to renewable energy sources using current technology in just 20 to 40 years.  It would cost no more than current energy, and would have big economic and environmental payoffs.  We all know that renewable energy is key to solving global warming and the end-of-oil crisis, but how do we convinces our leading nations to work together on these efforts?  Fortunately a Stanford research team has compiled an innovative, lateral-thinking study that says even using current available technology the entire world could switch 100% of its energy needs to renewable sources in just a handful of decades.



Kit Eaton of FastCompany reports that the research from Mark Z. Jacobson and team involves making all new energy production plants use renewable energy by 2030, and then converting older existing plants by 2050.  In the new world order, almost everything would run off electricity.  Ninety percent of the production would come from windmills and solar energy plants and the remaining 10% would come from hydroelectric power, geothermal, and wave/tidal power.  Mobile things--cars, trains, ships and such-- would run on hydrogen-powered fuel cells, and aircraft would burn hydrogen fuel. The hydrogen itself would come from green-electric generation process.

This plan requires only a dedicated push to exploit existing technology and to network it all together in an intelligent way, because demand varies from place to place, daily, seasonal changes, and the sun, wind, and waves don't necessarily give power all the time, everywhere.  "If you combine them as one commodity and use hydroelectric to fill in gaps, it is a lot easier to match demand,"Jacobson Notes.  A super-grid, with long-distance links, international cooperation and really smart energy management is needed.  Check this one out being built in the Middle East.




What about Costs?

Making changes will take time, effort and money because you have to build a lot of new equipment, and link up power grids across the world.  Putting together green-power industries to build devices at a global scale will also cost money, as will winding down and deconstructing the infrastructure in place to support coal, oil, gas and even nuclear electricity generation.  But "when you actually account for all the costs to society, including medical costs, of the current fuel structure, the costs of our plan are relatively similar to what we have today," according to Jacobson.  That medical reference is to the health benefits of reducing pollution on a global scale, as well as side-effects like deaths from warming-induced natural disasters. The Stanford plan also suggest global energy needs would drop by 30% due to this efficiency boost, meaning we would actually need less power, and if the business models evolve to support this norm, individuals may pay less for their energy.

Stanford's plan would require 0.4% of the worlds land (mainly for solar power) and the spacing between windmills accounts for another 0.6%, although you can use this area for farming and catering for other needs.  One percent of the windmills are already in place, and Jacobson notes "the actual footprint required by wind turbines to power half the world's energy is less than the area of Manhattan."

Talk About Interactive Housing!

Amsterdam Based architect firm Arons En Gelauff Architecten have designed a dormitory that focuses on social interaction, livability, sustainability and recreation.  Its not just cool architecture, its architecture that works and speaks to its occupants.  The firm designed two student housing buildings for the University of Twente.  A 3 story building with a central courtyard that acts as the social nucleus of the building containing all entrances and access points, and a tower with an amazing climbing wall on the north-west elevation.





The 3 story building, named Calslaan was built on an existing parking lot next to a dense woods adjacent to the campus.  The buildings exterior maintains a serene composition to mirror the peacefulness of the woods, in contrast to the busy and informal interior that contains entrances to the dwellings, round bicycle sheds, the stairs and access ramps.  The communal space is spread over three layers ending in a communal roof terrace.


The Tower, named Campagneplein also sits on a former parking lot.  The nine story building sits adjacent to the sports field and the main boulevard that intersects the complex.  The building  addresses the small scale character of the street with two building layers, a supermarket and hair salon.  on the first floor, the dwellings are situated around a communal roof terrace, and the facade facing the sports center features a 9 story climbing wall, one of the coolest things about this project.






1/18/2011

SS United States Faces Deadlines While City May Gain Another Casino Opp.

The SS United States Conservancy is in the home stretch of securing title to the 990-foot-long ocean liner.  Six months ago the Conservancy signed a six-month exclusive purchase option with the ships current owners, Genting Hong King, a move which saved the ship from certain scrapping.  Thanks to H.F. 'Gerry" Lenfest, the Conservancy are beneficiaries of a $5.8 million pledge that will cover purchase costs for the ship.  The Conservancy is now raising funds to pay for upcoming title transfer costs, as well as seed money for the non-profit component portion of the ship, namely the museum, educational programs, and historic restoration of portions of the interiors to their original grandeur.



On November 21 the Conservancy and Stephen Varenhorst Architects unveiled a redevelopment study with the ships as the centerpiece of a mixed-used development at Reed and Tasker Streets, otherwise known as the "Foxwoods site" then under the control of Philadelphia Entertainment & Development Partners L.P.  The ship would be docked in a slip perpendicular to the river bank, with a large public plaza in front.  Surrounding the ship would be new buildings residential housing, retail, and casino.
In various scenarios, part of the gaming operations would be located on the ship's lower decks.  The upper decks, including the ballroom and the navigation bridge, would be restored to their original 1950s appearance and ambiance, and would boast spaces for meetings, dining, a museum, and a boutique hotel.




The Eagles Go Extreme With Green!!!

In a town that is racing against great American cities to be the "Greenest City in America" a planned energy conversion of  the Eagles Nest "Lincoln Financial Field", will be a huge step in the right direction.  The energy improvements could be the start of a healthy trend of converting large government and privately owned buildings to self sustaining energy producing facilities.


Grid Magazine reports the Philadelphia Eagles have announced a plan to fuel Lincoln Financial Field with a combination of 80 20 foot-high onsite wind turbines and 2,500 solar panels, augmented by a dual-fuel cogeneration plant, a small on site power plant run on biodiesel and natural gas that captures its own heat for increased efficiency.  It will be the world's first major sports stadium to convert completely to self-generated renewable energy.  The transition should save the Eagles $60 million in energy costs over the next 20 years.  Over that same time period, they estimate onsite energy sources at Lincoln Financial Field will provide 1.039 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, more than enough to supply the stadiums needs.  Excess energy will be sold back to the local grid.  By using renewable energy, the team will eliminate CO2 emissions equivalent to 500,000 barrels of oil or 24 million gallons of gasoline annually.  That equates to removing 41,000 cars from the road per year.



1/04/2011

Downtown West Philadelphia On The Rise!

Is West Philadelphia becoming to Center City as Brooklyn is to Manhattan?  Well lets take a look; it has a downtown "University City"; Industry- Medicine, Science, and Education; a growing population of students, yuppies, hipsters, and soulsters integrating into long time established African American communities; a historic identity as the streetcar suburb; culture and beautiful parks and museums; numerous direct public transit options to Center City; and most importantly neighborhoods with a lot of growing potential.  Although it does not quite rival North Philadelphia Neighborhoods with residential renovations and new construction, West Philly has been more of a renovation town and growing urban farming community.  Most renovations of historic Spruce Hill, Cedar Park, and Powelton Village were encourage by the University of Penn's goal to integrate faculty, students, and neighbors into a well diverse community.  Now Drexel University is planning similar initiatives for its neighborhoods north of Market Street.

Photo by Flickr user TS Drown

Newly appointed Drexel University president, John Fry along with a team of bold innovative thinkers are building what PhillyMag says could be the city of the future.  As Fry presented his major theory of growth early in October he asked, "If Anthony Drexel were to walk today from the Main Building, where the Drexel Institute was founded almost 120 years ago, through our campus and into these neighborhoods, would he be satisfied that we are fulfilling our obligation as an urban university?"  Frys answer was no.  Fry proposed a few ambitious but achievable goals like, Drexel University becoming the most civically engaged university in America, increasing policing and public-safety infrastructure spending, a generous neighborhood home- ownership loan program for employees, and a proposed university takeover to improve a nearby elementary school.





The short-term goal is to make the northern University City neighborhoods around Drexel more like the clean, tree lined, charming, and prosperous precincts that adjoin the Penn campus.  Fry spoke on a stretch of desolate rail yards lining the west bank of the Schuylkill, sprawling northward from 30th Street Station, of which he has great visions for.  The sparse use of the tracks have created possibilities of air rights and plat-forming.  Looking at the amazing views of Center City and the Art Museum he imagines a campus expansion to the west banks of the Schuylkill via the rail yard.  But the real big idea that Fry and some others are developing is to create a University City that rivals Center City, where jobs are created by two major universities, a large teaching hospital and medical research center, a world-renowned children's hospital, and the nation's oldest urban scientific- research park.  All of this will finally occupy a neighborhood with a stable and attractive housing market, a vibrant street scene, a growing restaurant culture, upscale retailers, the arts, and the kinds of schools families can feel comfortable sending their children to.