The following release is reposted with permission from the U.S. Department of Energy.
The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 announced the winners of this global competition among collegiate teams to build the most energy-efficient solar-powered house at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif. Team Austria, made up of students from the Vienna University of Technology, won top honors overall by designing, building and operating the most cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive solar-powered house. University of Nevada Las Vegas took second place, followed by Czech Republic, comprised of students from Czech Technical University, in third place.
“The Solar Decathlon is inspiring and training the next generation of clean energy architects, engineers and entrepreneurs, and showing that affordable, clean energy technologies can help homeowners save money and energy today,” said U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Congratulations to the Solar Decathlon 2013 competitors – your hard work and creativity is helping to build a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.”
Reflecting the quality of the Solar Decathlon 2013 houses, the winning teams’ final scores were the closest they have ever been since the beginning of the competition. Team Austria earned 951.9 points out of a possible 1,000 to win the competition, followed by University of Nevada Las Vegas with 947.6 points, and Czech Republic with 945.1 points. Contributing to their overall win, Team Austria performed well in several of the individual contests, finishing first in the Communications Contest, second in Market Appeal, and tied for first in the Hot Water Contest. Every house in the 2013 competition produced more energy than it consumed.
Nineteen collegiate teams from across the country and around the world competed in 10 contests over 10 days that gauged each house’s performance, livability and affordability. The teams performed everyday tasks, including cooking, laundry, and washing dishes, which tested the energy efficiency of their houses. The winner of the overall competition best blended affordability, consumer appeal and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. See the full competition results for details about the individual contests.
The results of the Engineering Contest were also announced with Team Ontario, comprised of students from Queen’s University, Carleton University and Algonquin College, taking first place by scoring 95 out of 100 possible points. Each competing house was evaluated by a group of prominent engineers who determined which house best exemplifies excellence in energy-efficiency savings, creative design innovations and the functionality and reliability of each system.
Engineering Juror Kent Peterson, chief operating officer and chief engineer at P2S Engineering, said, “Team Ontario demonstrated a complete understanding of building science, a very good building envelope for the target climate, and excellent integration of passive and active strategies.”
Czech Republic claimed second place in the Engineering Contest with 94 points, and University of Nevada Las Vegas, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Team Austria all tied for third place with 93 points each. See the full details of the contest results.
Student teams in the 2013 competition spanned two continents, including teams from the United States, Canada, Austria and the Czech Republic. Since the first competition in 2002, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon has provided unique training to approximately 17,000 students, preparing them to become the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs in clean energy technology and efficient building design. The competition also shows consumer’s first-hand how to save money and energy with affordable clean energy products that are available today.
Media interested in covering the Solar Decathlon may visit our online press room and download our online media kit. For full Solar Decathlon 2013 event information, final competition results, daily photos, virtual tours, videos and B-roll, visit our website www.SolarDecathlon.gov. You may also follow the Solar Decathlon on Facebook and Twitter at @Solar_Decathlon. High-resolution photos are available on Flickr.
In 1903, Charles Pope wrote Solar Heat. “The purpose of this book,” the author stated, was that “some call to the people was needed…to arouse interest [in] ‘catching the sunbeams’ and extracting gold from them.” To accomplish his goal, he tells his reader that he had endeavored “to trace the history of attempts and successes in the utilization of solar…discuss ways and means; and attempt to arouse his readers to give to the matter their energy and invention, their brain and capital; that we may very soon see solar enginery take its place by the side of steam enginery and electrical enginery and gas enginery in the public estimation.”
Despite the vintage of Pope’s book, many still believe that solar energy is a late twentieth-century phenomenon. Hopefully, Let It Shine will change this misconception. Let It Shine shows, for example, that six thousand years ago the stone-age Chinese built their homes so every one of them made maximum use of the sun’s energy in winter. So begins the story of the genesis of solar energy told in Let it Shine, the world’s first and only comprehensive history of humanity’s use of the sun. Page after page the story brings to light information never before unearthed. 2,500 years ago, for example, the sun heated every house in most Greek cities. Years later ancient Roman architects published solar self-help books to show people how to save on fuel as firewood became scarce, and fleets scoured the known world for much needed supplies.
During the renaissance Galileo and his contemporaries planned the construction of sun-focusing mirrors to serve as the West’s ultimate weapon against its Islamic enemies. Leonardo da Vinci entertained more peaceful applications. He aimed at making his fortune by building mirrors a mile in diameter to heat water for the Florentine woolen industry.
Much later, during the industrial revolution, engineers devised solar-run steam engines to save Europe from paralysis should it run out of fossil fuels. As electricity began to power cities, the first photovoltaic modules joined the grid on a New York City rooftop in 1884. More than one hundred years earlier, a Swiss polymath modeled global warming by trapping solar heat in a glass-covered box just as carbon dioxide holds in solar heat above the earth. Using the same type of glass-covered box to harvest solar energy, enterprising businessmen established a thriving solar water industry in California at the beginning of the 1880s!
Let it Shine brings to light newly discovered documents suppressed by the Nixon, Carter and Reagan Administrations, that if known at the time by the public and the Congress, solar energy would have definitely played a larger role in the American energy scene during the last forty years.
Let it Shine presents the step-by-step development of solar architecture and technology and pertinent energy policies. By providing the background for today’s vibrant solar industry, a deeper understanding emerges of how solar energy applications have evolved and performed and their promise for today’s world.
The book is not merely a technological treatise though. It highlights the context in which these developments have occurred and the people who have made the solar revolution possible, revealing a whole new group of unknown technological pioneers, as well as people famous for other accomplishments never before known for their work as the solar advocates and technologists they were. Who would think Socrates as a solar promoter? Yet in a work by his admirer Xenophon, Socrates presents the basic plans for designing a solar house. Vitruvius, a Roman famous to this day as the architect of architects, transmitted the wisdom of the Greeks on building with the sun.
Did you know that the first aspiring solar entrepreneur was Leonardo da Vinci? Einstein’s famous treatise on Light Quanta, which won him the Nobel Prize, definitely qualifies the great scientist to be regarded as the father of modern photovoltaics. Then there are the forgotten ones like Gustav Vorherr, who opened up the first school of solar architecture during the 1820s in Munich and his mentor, Dr. Bernhard Christoph Faust, the first person to write a complete book on a solar topic. Thousands of newly trained solar architects trained in the work of Faust fanned out to build solar homes throughout Europe. Sympathetic despots of Bavaria and Prussia required their subjects to build following the teachings of these men, resulting in many solar structures going up in Europe during the first half of the nineteenth century. The climax of their work was the transformation of an urban area in Switzerland becoming the first modern Sun City. And who has heard of Williams Grylls Adams and Richard Evans Day, discoverers in 1876 of photovoltaics, or Charles Fritts, who put up the first roof-top solar array on a New York building in the 1880s?
These are but a sampling of what’s to be found in the pages of Let it Shine.
Renewable energy projects in the United States experienced a banner year in 2012, with wind deployment adding a record 13,124 MW of capacity and solar adding 3,313 MW of solar photovoltaic capacity. US deployment of clean energy technology continues to rise, with renewables accounting for close to 50 percent of added capacity. The latest edition of the Ernst & Young LLP report – United States renewable energy attractiveness indices (USAI) – highlights trends in US renewable investment and ranks the states in terms of their attractiveness for clean technology investment.
“While overall US investment in clean energy is down, it’s still ahead of annual investment from prior years,” said Michael Bernier, Senior Manager, National Tax, Ernst & Young LLP. “What’s important to note is that the $44.2 billion invested is not representative of the industry’s true expansion. Solar technology, for example, is increasingly cost effective. As prices fall, the initial investment goes a lot further. $1 billion installs a lot more solar than it did five years ago.”
With some shake-up in the top 10 rankings, a renewable energy survey shows that California is once again leading the nation in renewable energy. However, some states are not far behind the golden state. Texas, for example, remains the king of the wind installed base. California, though, is working to ensure the long-term health of its renewable energy infrastructure through the Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI), which identifies transmission projects needed to get renewable energy power to consumers and to support future energy policy. State policy support and a favorable regulatory environment will determine whether other states will catch up.
The top rankings in this edition of the United States Renewable Energy Attractiveness Indices (USAI) are as follows:
Renewable energy index:
Long-term wind index:
Long-term solar index:
- New Mexico
See the United States Renewable Energy Attractiveness Indices for more information and to download the latest edition of the United States renewable attractiveness indices.
About the Survey
The Ernst & Young LLP United States renewable attractiveness indices provide scores for state renewable energy markets, renewable energy infrastructures, and their suitability for individual technologies. The indices are based on a total score of 100 and are updated on a biannual basis.
The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service Inyo National Forest signed on Aug. 13, 2013 the Record of Decision approving a new 40-megawatt geothermal project near Mammoth Lakes in Mono County, Calif.
Under the terms of the Record of Decision for the Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report, the Casa Diablo IV Geothermal Development Project will be built on lands administered by the Inyo National Forest and on private lands within four existing federal geothermal leases. The project will include construction of a new geothermal power plant, up to 16 new production and injection wells, multiple pipelines and an electric transmission line.
Ormat Nevada Inc. will develop the project on public and private land, and the project will generate more than 180 construction jobs. When completed, the project would produce enough energy to power 36,000 homes.
BLM's review of the project began with scoping meetings in 2011, and no changes were made to the final EIS/EIR released in July 2013. The document was jointly prepared by the BLM, Inyo National Forest, and Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The cooperating agencies identified Alternative 3, the Modified Pipeline Alternative, as the "Agency Preferred" alternative in the final environmental document because of its reduced environmental impacts relative to the applicant's original proposed action.
The agencies will issue separate decisions, as described in the Final EIS/EIR. The Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District is expected to adopt a resolution certifying the Final EIR later this summer.
"In approving the Casa Diablo geothermal project, BLM is helping advance California’s goal of the state generating one-third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, and to bring desirable jobs to the Eastern Sierra region," said BLM Bishop Field Office Manager Steve Nelson.
Inyo National Forest Supervisor Ed Armenta said, "Release of the Record of Decision for the Casa Diablo project is the culmination of an outstanding cooperative interagency effort that involved extensive public involvement and participation."
Electronic copies of the BLM and Inyo National Forest decisions for the CD-IV Project are available on the internet at US Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Managament and US Forest Service. CD-ROM versions or hard copies may be obtained by visiting or contacting the BLM Bishop Field Office or the Inyo National Forest at 351 Pacu Lane, Bishop, CA 93514. Copies will also be available at the Mono County Library at 400 Sierra Park Road, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546.
For more information or to get a copy of the BLM document, contact Collin Reinhardt at (760) 872-5024 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information or to get a copy of the Inyo Nation Forest document, contact Sarah Tomsky at (760) 647-3033 or email email@example.com.
Missouri filmmaker Sophek “Sean” Tounn is on the last leg of a three-year-long undertaking to help others think beyond preparing for a single-event disaster, and instead develop self-reliant skills to last a lifetime.
Using Hurricane Sandy as an example, Tounn said the modern way of living is not conducive to health or longevity because people have become too dependent on the government or others helping them survive a calamity.
“This film is about living is such a way that we’re less dependent on outside entities,” Tounn said.
Tounn’s interest in survival, homesteading, permaculture and off-grid living was stirred about eight years ago when he came upon a 150-page book, “Henry and the Great Society,” a fictional account of how a family’s happy life is destroyed after connecting to the grid and becoming consumers – unhappy, unhealthy, debt-ridden, overworked and dependent.
In 2010, Tounn contacted agrarian author Michael Bunker about the possibility of a film that would include aspects of Bunker’s book, “Surviving Off Off-Grid: Decolonizing the Industrial Mind.” Tounn said Bunker was skeptical at first because he is approached often by producers who are simply looking for material. When Bunker realized Tounn was sincerely interested in the lifestyle, he agreed to be part of the project.
Then, late last year, Tounn began rounding up and filming experts in a range of homesteading topics nationwide for Beyond Off-Grid, a documentary to help people become self-sustaining. The film is comprised of five major sections – family, food, history, natural building and water.
“People think of water as an unlimited resource, but they don’t realize how it is controlled by only about 10 major corporations,” Tounn said on a recent Preparedness Radio Network survivalist program with host Rick Austin, author of the Secret Garden of Survival. Austin will be featured in the film as a permaculture expert.
To be truly free, Tounn said, people must live independently of the grid – including the food, electrical and water grids.
Austin said that although he grew up in the country with an apple orchard and has gardened most of his life, he didn’t have all the skills he needed when he embarked on an off-grid lifestyle in the Appalachian Mountains. So, he began researching how the old-timers survived without electricity and refrigeration, relatively modern amenities.
“They did it for hundreds of thousands of years,” Austin said, explaining how he is actively acquiring the skills to live off-grid, including growing food in a forest.
Beyond Off-Grid executive producer Jason Matyas, founder of True Food Solutions, said he believes the United States is in a slow economic collapse that could accelerate at any time. Unemployment is likely at about 25 percent overall, and 40 percent in areas such as Detroit.
“Government policies are only making it worse,” Matyas said.
Matyas said that unless people are growing their own food and establishing networks with their neighbors for buying locally and in bulk, they could become victims in a catastrophe. It does not matter how much gold you have, if you can’t grow your own food, he said.
“If you opt for convenience over the work it takes to be self-reliant, you will forever be a slave to the system,” Austin added, explaining how some have questioned why he insists on gardening and canning produce.
Others in the film, which is slated to be released in December or early 2014, include Cody Crone, who lives with his family off-grid in the Pacific Northwest. Crone, also known as Wranglerstar on YouTube, has taken a holistic approach to beekeeping, forsaking the protective suit and smoke.
Another participant is Scott Howard, CEO of Earthen Hand Natural Building, a company specializing in building with rammed earth, cobb or adobe gathered near the construction site rather than shipping in expensive, manufactured materials. Even people who have no building experience can sculpt their own house, Howard said in an online video clip.
In another clip, permaculture expert Paul Wheaton of Permies.com, an online forum site, said people are getting sick from high-tech solutions. Instead, low-technology solutions from nature are needed.
Author Marjory Wildcraft, a former financial consultant who traveled the world to speak with survivors of economic collapse, also will be featured in the film. Wildcraft will speak about how economic collapse created the world’s leader in urban sustainable agriculture – the Cuban experience. She also will go into the patterns of how collapse unfolds (interviews with modern collapse survivors from Cuba, Argentina, and Romania).
“Many people turn toward prepping and self-reliance out of concern for possible collapse,” Wildcraft said. “But really, this is a lifestyle that is ultimately the wisest choice for humanity. I've found greater and greater satisfaction and joy the more I let go of dependencies on ‘the system.’”
The film also features John and Christine Sellers, a couple who became interested in preparedness several years ago. Relating how they bought a truck when gasoline was 90 cents per gallon, and then watched fuel prices jump to more than $3 per gallon, Christine Sellers said, “I didn’t get a 400 percent raise.”
Bunker, who has authored several survival-related books, said most “preppers” store a supply of food and buy a generator with the idea of “making it through to the end” of a calamity. Their idea is that things will eventually return to normal, he said.
That line of thinking is consumer-based rather than production-based, Bunker said, explaining the huge difference between prepping and practicing a lifestyle of production.
As one of the participants, my husband, Darren, was filmed here in May. He related how many people also overlook the need to have a reliable source of fresh water.
“People will spend thousands of dollars on a micro-grid system to run their whole house,” Darren said, “but will spend as little as possible for a manual water pump. Yet, water is critically more important than convenience and gadgets.”
The film is set to be released at the end of the year or early 2014 depending on funding. Presenting it to the public is a mission fulfilled for Tounn.
“I just want people to know, the old-path way might be hard at first, but look toward the future — the future of your children, your community, your country,” Tounn said. “A stronger bond with family and more a peaceful way of life are reasons enough to explore this way of living.”
In the last month of filming, participants include homesteader Noah Sanders, cultural analyst Geoff Botkin and precious metals expert Franklin Sanders. To learn more about the film, see video segments or donate to the project. To see more photos, visit our blog. Also, you can read my first blog on Mother Earth News about this exciting project. Donate $30 or more to help complete the film on time, and you’ll get a copy of the DVD in the mail.
Linda Holliday lives in the Missouri Ozarks where she and her husband formed Well WaterBoy Products, a company devoted to producing products for off-grid living.
Photos by Linda Holliday and courtesy of Beyond Off Grid.
A new energy efficient skylight design, called skylight scoops, from the Light Research Center (LRC) of Rensselaer Polytechnic are proving to harness sunlight more effectively and lower energy costs even more. With a passive solar design skylight scoops put renewable energy to work.
Stated in a press release from Science Daily, “Many conventional horizontal skylights provide too much sun on days that are warm and sunny, and too little sun on days that are cold and dark. The LRC's new light scoops design balances out these daily and seasonal fluctuations in light level and temperature by providing less light in summer and more light in winter, while accounting for the natural pattern of the sun as it travels across the sky.”
Scoop skylights are best for environments that are typically overcast. “The tilted, transparent glazing (glass) provides an optimal balance of daylight under both sunny and overcast conditions. In overcast conditions, a light scoop receives light from the brightest part of the sky (zenith). On rare sunny days, the clear glazing maximizes direct sunlight at a time of year when it is most welcome and the tilted glazing receives more sun in winter than vertical or horizontal glazing,” according to the design guide released by the LRC.
Skylight scoops have been shown to increase satisfaction with one’s environment as well. In evaluations after light scoop installations at a Welch Allyn headquarters building in New York, staff reported that they preferred the lighting from the scoops and that it created a better environment. “Approximately 75% of staff notice the sun and therefore feel connected to the outdoor environment. Almost 90% ‘Like’ or ‘Strongly Like’ seeing sun patches in the lobby.”
Light Scoops: A Design Guide describes the best way to install skylight scoops and how to make them the most effective. Pair this guide with the how-to article “Install a DIY Skylight” from MOTHER EARTH NEWS and you could make your own energy-saving, mood-boosting skylight scoops.
Improving energy efficiency is on everyone’s minds these days. However, it could actually be getting worse, not better, in the United States.
Lloyd Alter, managing editor and editor of design for TreeHugger, says that according to the Lawrence Livermore energy use graph, “Our energy systems are shockingly inefficient, with 71% of the energy we create being wasted. Getting it to zero is impossible, but there certainly is room for a lot of improvement. In fact we wasted 3.5 quads more in 2012 than we did in 2009. (A quad is a quadrillion British thermal units.)”
Though renewable resource use is up, making for a lighter carbon footprint, there are still problem areas where efficiency could improve. Transportation efficiency is the worst. “The idea of pushing a ton of metal to move 200 pounds of flesh is just insanely inefficient. This doesn't even account for the energy used in maintaining the infrastructure and building the roads; it is an inherently stupid way to design a transportation system,” says Alter.
Another problem on Alter’s list is energy efficient homes. “A lot of electricity and natural gas are going into our buildings and our industrial sector. But our residential and commercial buildings are going through their 20 quads at far higher efficiency. In fact, the biggest problem with our houses and buildings is their location, and the design of our communities that force people to burn 26.7 quads of energy just getting around to them. In 1970, transportation used just about the same as buildings; now it is 50% more. That's sprawl talking.”
Alter has some suggestions for decreasing energy consumption and increasing energy efficiency. Shop local, he says, encouraging any type of transportation that “moves more human and less iron.” He even suggests moving to a city that utilizes more renewable resources and also has milder weather to avoid using the air conditioner. But, most of all, it’s important to remember that “less really is more. Smaller cars, smaller houses on smaller lots, apartments instead of detached houses; smaller fridges; you can only increase efficiency so much; at some point we have to downsize our expectations.”