Nine beautiful sustainable energy solutions

• February 4, 2013

For centuries we’ve accepted that our power plants would be, well, just plain ugly — always detracting from the landscape rather than adding to it. After all, there really aren’t a lot of ways to make smog-spewing coal power plants or oil refineries look like they’re meant to be there. With renewable technology, it’s often the opposite. Engineers are always working hard  to make it more efficient, while designers try to make it more beautiful.

Here are a few projects we like:

Bahrain World Trade Centre

Bahrain World Trade Center

Bahrain World Trade Centre | Creative Commons: Cajetan Barretto, 2008

Bahrain’s incredible World Trade Centre builds renewable energy right into its core – literally. The two business towers are linked by three skybridges, each holding a wind turbine capable of generating 225 kW of power. Wind-funnelling sails on each tower help concentrate the strong winds off the Persian Gulf into the turbines. The turbines provide 11% to 15% of the building’s power consumption, or the equivalent of lighting 300 homes.

Milan’s Vertical Forest

Bosco Verticale

Bosco Verticale | Courtesy: Stefano Boer Architetti

In small urban areas, space for nature often takes a backseat to residential or commercial needs. But what if forests grew up, not out? Milan’s Bosco Verticale is the world’s first attempt to create a ‘vertical forest’. Under construction since 2011, it will likely open to the public this fall.  Read more at Inhabitat >>

Ivanpah’s Solar Field One

Solar Field One

Solar Field One | Copyright: Jamey Stillings, 2012

Last year Google made headlines with their plans to invest deeply in renewable energy, and their first mega-project shows just how serious they are. Ivanpah’s Solar Field One in California’s Mojave Desert is likely to become the largest solar thermal power plant in the world – creating sun-generated steam that could power 140,000 homes.

See the full gallery from photographer Jamey Stillings >>

The Windstrument

Windstrument Windorchard

The ‘windorchard’ | Courtesy: Windstrument.com

Like the Solar Lotus below, the Windstrument takes its cue from flower design to generate energy. Inspired by orchid petals, the Windstrument  is a small, affordable, quiet and bird-safe turbine for urban and residential use. Can’t you imagine this on a rooftop near you?

Solar Lotus

Solar Lotus

The Solar Lotus | Courtesy: Monarch Power

Biomimicry is based around the concept that the best ideas come from the oldest places—older than humans, even. Dr. Joseph Hui’s ‘Solar Lotus’, a portable solar collector and generator, is built around flower petals which open and close depending on weather. The four-metre wide generator is made up of 18 petals that open to collect sunlight for heat and energy to deliver 3 kW of photovoltaic electrical power and 3 kW of solar thermal power. Plus, the Solar Lotus is completely portable – making it an ideal solution for emergency power solutions in disaster areas.

Read more: Mother Nature Network >>

Solucar Solar Project in Seville, Spain

Gemasolar Seville

Gemasolar in Seville, Spain | Credit: Markel Redondo for Greenpeace, 2009

It looks like something out of a 1950s sci-fi paperback. but the  science behind Solucar’s new power station in Seville is very modern indeed.  Featuring 624 photovoltaic panels clustered around a 40 foot tower, the two structures concentrate solar rays to create massive amounts of energy  – enough to power 60,000 homes.

Via Inhabitat: The system works by reflected light from the fields of panels being reflected to the top of the tower, which then heats water within to steam to provide the power. In fact, according to the reporter, sunglasses are needed in viewing the location, as the reflected light actually illuminates the dust and water vapor in the air.

Read more: Inhabitat >>

Hub 1

The days of apartment-style dorm living are over for students at Kortrijk’s Katho Catholic Academy. A new housing design (currently in prototype) gives students their own detached bedroom plugged into a central hub. Each building is covered in either carbon-eating green walls or power-generating solar panels.

Read more: Inhabitat >>

Venger’s Integrated Rooftop Wind Farm

Rooftop wind turbines

Courtesy: Venger Energy, 2012

Even if you don’t live in the sunniest of climates, there are still ways to use your roof for power generation rather than bird habitation. To capture the energy from Oklahoma City’s  regular breezes, Venger Wind installed these 18.5ft tall vertical, omni-directional wind turbines on the roof of a research building. Unlike large scale wind turbines, Venger’s start producing electricity from winds of only 8.9mph – and are capable of generating up to 4.5 kW each.

Italy’s ‘Solar Wind’ viaduct

Solar Wind Bridge

The Solar Wind Bridge | Courtesy: NewItalianBlood.com

This one is only proposed, but we love it so much we couldn’t not include it. In 2011, officials from the Italian town of Calabria asked for suggestions on how to repurpose an ancient unused viaduct. Designers Francesco Colarossi, Giovanna Saracino and Luisa Saracino recommended the ‘Solar Wind’ bridge – an elegant solution that would incorporate solar-powered greenhouses and 26 wind turbines to generate 36 million kilowatt hours of sustainable electricity every year.

From PopSci: “It turns the entire viaduct into a park, with spaces to pull over and take in the view off the Italian coast. Travelers could stop and buy fresh produce grown in solar-powered greenhouses located along the bridge. The whole roadway would be covered in a dense grid of solar cells coated in a thin, transparent plastic, the designers say. All in all, the system would be capable of generating 40 million kWh each year, enough to power 15,000 homes.”

Read more: PopSci >>


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