Product Design: Creating Sources of Green Energy

While my previous entries tend to emphasize the greening of buildings, sustainability in development does not always start with the structures themselves. Sometimes it is the smallest or unseen innovation that causes the greatest transformation. Currently, a sizable portion of our country's scientific effort is allocated to creating new sources of renewable energy for the post-oil era. Even on an international level, the need for change is apparent through competitions such as the 2009 Delta Cup and FuturArc's green architecture contest. There is no shortage of ideas that involve powering the nation's real estate. I have previously discussed how solar panels and wind turbines are being used in recent projects, but as a society, we are always looking for new concepts that involve energy efficiency. Using the blogosphere, I found two posts that discuss less publicized advances that may aid future real estate projects in terms of renewable power. The first item discusses a new use for dead batteries that can be practiced on an individual level. In "Eco Gadgets: Energy Seed Lamp Glows on Trashed Batteries", software engineer Anupam presents a concept design for a sidewalk lamp that runs exclusively on old batteries (see photo right). On a grander scale, Alex Pasternack discusses another theory model that can benefit entire cities rather than single units. In "Renewable 'Energy Islands' at Sea to Power Cities, Produce Fresh Water, and More", the respected writer goes on to describe the advantages of using ocean thermal energy conservation as a primary source of power. These are just two examples of the endless attempts to retrofit our nation in a resourceful manner. Although these schemes have yet to be physically constructed, their realistic possibilities are another step towards worldwide sustainability. Along with providing personal feedback at each respective blog, I have added my comments below.

"Eco Gadgets: Energy Seed Lamp Glows on Trashed Batteries"
This is a great device to promote given the current need for products that save both money and energy. It seems that this design can redefine what it means to recycle batteries. Considering most households are unaware of how to recycle batteries and their potential harm, this lamp will be beneficial for the education of people and the longevity of the environment. My concerns arise when I think about who will purchase these lamps. Chances are likely that if an individual is conscious enough to buy this environmentally friendly product, they already know how to properly disposal of harmful materials. On the other hand, if these were to be installed in public areas by the cities, do you think that citizens would actually bring their old batteries to these fixtures? I would argue that the latter is the best option because the product only drains the batteries, but does not recycle them. In this case, the city's sanitation bureau could be in charge of collecting the battery shells after they have been drained and discard them. Still, the product only "indirectly" promotes the healthy liquidation of these entities. Like you mention, "If proper care is not taken in disposing the batteries used by the lamp, it would still have the same dreadful effects on the environment." Another drawback to this design is that it does not seem to indicate when each battery is fully depleted. It only takes about 2 volts for the bulb to light, but if the combined total of the energy supply is less than this, every battery will probably be trashed considering it will become a tedious and untimely task to determine which battery still has juice left. Despite the flaws of this prototype, I believe that this product will have a huge impact on sustainability in real estate. It can potentially spare land from being exposed to the content's harmful effects and provide a new source of power for artificial lighting. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on its impact in this realm.

"Renewable 'Energy Islands' at Sea to Power Cities, Produce Fresh Water, and More"
This island is a unique concept in the progression of renewable energy (see rendering left). It is promising to see a proposed idea being calculated down to monetary and feasibility levels. The way you have presented the content in your entry is very helpful, as you provide facts, opinions, the pros, and the cons. For someone like me who was previously unaware of this idea, it is quite helpful that you detail exactly how the islands will generate energy. Most importantly, you address a few of my major concerns with this design. First, the cost of building the project is rather discouraging. You mention that these "energy islands have an estimated price tag of $600 million" Additionally, you state that the exported electricity cost will be slightly higher than that of wind turbines and almost double that of coal. I agree that it is not necessary to build these just yet considering the vast amounts of energy that can be harvested at a much cheaper price on land. Another concern that you somewhat mention is the safety of these islands. Although the islands do float, rising sea level will not be the only pertinent meteorological worry. Do you believe that such projects will only be successful in certain parts of the oceans where they are not prone to hurricanes or tsunamis? It would be a shame to invest 600 million dollars into each island only to have them destroyed. Despite my worries, such products will no doubt serve multiple purposes. But their credibility as tourism hot-spots is rather implausible. Even though inventors suggest that a cluster of these solar isles can create new destinations for tourists, I question whether or not people will choose them over natural islands. You mention the "awesome aqualife" and water sports, but what about the atmosphere that island visitors expect? The fact that they float terminates the possibility for beaches and greenery, while water sports and sea life can be found at any tropical vacation spot. Personally, I think that the concept is groundbreaking, but for the time being we should focus on the single purpose of providing power. I am glad that you have continued to report this story as it develops and I will be keeping my eye out for the final product.

1 comment:

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