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Vertical gardens: Wellness oases in the urban jungle

When there’s only so much real estate available in urban centers for parks, how’s a developer to bring in more green with biophilic design?

By Kim Pexton
View the original article here.

Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 9.45.21 AM

Experts in the emerging field of biophilic design are finding that that people need regular contact with nature to be happy and whole. For those who live and work in cities, the concrete, glass towers, smog, and noise can drastically and negatively affect wellbeing. Urban areas are projected to house 60 percent of people globally by 2030, and one in three people will live in cities with at least a half million inhabitants.

So here’s the question and our opportunity: When there’s only so much real estate available in urban centers for parks, how’s a developer to bring in more green with biophilic design?

BUILD UP. MARRY BUILDINGS AND NATURE WITH VERTICAL GARDENS

Building designers are responding to the biophilic design call to action by creating vertical gardens. Also called living walls or green walls, vertical gardens are self-contained gardens installed on the sides of buildings to provide expanses of greenery in urban areas. Vertical gardens can be attached to virtually any vertical structure, and they can be used as free-standing space dividers, providing beauty, sound-proofing, and security. Plants can also be used to reduce noise along roads and highways. Living green walls block high-frequency sounds while the supporting structure can help diminish low frequency noise.

HERE ARE A FEW OF OUR FAVORITE EXAMPLES:

Vertical Gardens2

Oasis Hotel, Singapore

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Santalaia, a multifamily residential building in Bogota, Colombia.

VERTICAL GARDENS ARE GOOD FOR THE COMMUNITY’S HEALTH

Prospective tenants – be they multifamily or commercial – love vertical gardens, which makes them a win/win for developers and building users.

Vertical gardens provide refreshing visual breaks from concentrations of concrete and steel, and their benefits go far deeper. Vertical gardens have a profound impact on air quality, especially in mitigating humidity and controlling dust indoors and outdoors. Green walls absorb noise pollution and create micro-climates that build heat efficiency. They have the added benefit of creating urban ecosystems that attract insects and birds, positively affecting biodiversity. In some cases, vertical gardens contribute to a larger ecosystem. In fact, vertical gardens take on more of a regenerative design philosophy from a C02 design standpoint. Plants are natural filters – taking carbon dioxide from the air and replacing it with much needed oxygen. They also help to filter pollutants from the air, literally helping urban dwellers breathe easier.

According to Hanging Gardens, a New Zealand vertical garden designer, the Auckland Council estimated the social cost from air pollution in the city to be $1.07 billion. Further, studies show that in city streets bounded by buildings, careful placement of plants reduced concentrations of nitrogen dioxide by up to 40 percent and of microscopic particulate matter by up to 60 percent. These statistics can be powerfully persuasive during design review meetings and entitlements processes.

Then there are the psychological benefits. The cumulative body of evidence from more than a decade of research on the people-nature relationship proves that contact with vegetation is highly beneficial to human health and well being. Whether contact with vegetation is active (gardening) or passive (viewing vegetation through a window), results show a consistent pattern of positive effects including:

  • Psychological and physiological stress reduction
  • More positive moods
  • Increased ability to re-focus attention
  • Mental restoration and reduced mental fatigue
  • Improved performance on cognitive tasks
  • Reduced pain perceptions and faster recovery in healthcare settings

Vertical gardens bring operational benefits too. One of the biggest benefits of vertical gardens is their ability to manage water. Vertical gardens make the need for watering very efficient, as the process is managed using a drip irrigation or hydroponic system. Waste water is collected at the bottom of the garden and either drained away or reused.

While vertical gardens have undeniable benefits for developers and building users, they can be challenging to design and maintain if they are not planned and installed properly. It’s critical to bring together the right system, plants, design, and maintenance strategy so that the green wall can serve the project in the long-term. The planning and investment will be worth it.

This concept for the Mumbai Tower by Odell Architects takes the vertical garden a step further by incorporating a vertical farm.

This concept for the Mumbai Tower by Odell Architects takes the vertical garden a step further by incorporating a vertical farm.

U.S. utility solar contracts ‘exploded’ in 2018 despite tariffs: report

By Nichola Groom
View the original article here.

(Reuters) – Procurement of solar energy by U.S. utilities “exploded” in the first half of 2018, prompting a prominent research group to boost its five-year installation forecast on Thursday despite the Trump administration’s steep tariffs on imported panels.

An array of solar panels is seen in the desert near Victorville, California, U.S. March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

An array of solar panels is seen in the desert near Victorville, California, U.S. March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

A record 8.5 gigawatts (GW) of utility solar projects were procured in the first six months of this year after President Donald Trump in January announced a 30 percent tariff on panels produced overseas, according to the report by Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and industry trade group the Solar Energy Industries Association.

As a result, the research firm raised its utility-scale solar forecast for 2018 through 2023 by 1.9 GW. The forecast is still 8 percent lower than before the tariffs were announced. A gigawatt of solar energy can power about 164,000 homes.

FILE PHOTO: An array of solar panels is seen in the desert in Victorville, California March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: An array of solar panels is seen in the desert in Victorville, California March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

Procurement soared in part because the 30 percent tariff was lower than many in the industry had feared, the report said. SEIA strongly lobbied against a tariff, saying it would drive up the cost of solar and hurt the industry’s robust job growth.

In addition, panel prices have fallen faster than expected because China pulled back its subsidies for the renewable power source in June, creating an oversupply of modules in the global market that has eroded the impact of the tariff.

Module prices averaged 42 cents a watt in the second quarter, the report said, 2 cents higher than the same period in 2017 but far below the 48 cents a watt they hit late last year as the industry fretted about a looming duty on imports.

In every segment of the market except residential, system pricing is at its lowest level ever, the report said. Utility projects make up more than half the solar market.

Utilities are eager to get projects going because of a federal solar tax credit that will begin phasing out in 2020. Next year will be the most impacted by the tariffs, Wood Mackenzie said. Developers will begin projects next year to claim the highest level of tax credit but delay buying modules until 2020 because the tariff drops by 5 percent each year.

In the first half of the year, the U.S. installed 4.7 GW of solar, accounting for nearly a third of new electricity generating capacity additions. In the second quarter, residential installations were roughly flat with last year at 577 MW, while commercial and industrial installations slid 8 percent to 453 MW.

We don’t need more doomsday climate predictions. We need solutions — like this one.

By David Von Drehle
View the original article here.

High waters flood Market and Water Streets as Hurricane Florence comes ashore in Wilmington, N.C., on Friday.

High waters flood Market and Water Streets as Hurricane Florence comes ashore in Wilmington, N.C., on Friday.

Like most people (according to polls), I believe greenhouse gases trap heat — a fact easily proved by experiments simple enough to perform at home. More greenhouse gases will trap more heat. And when temperatures rise on Earth, they impact the entire ecosystem.

The case for limiting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is all right there. Most people get it. Yet many of our most passionate citizens on this topic seem to believe that only panic will produce results. In trying to stimulate alarm, however, they often wind up fortifying the dwindling but stubborn cadre of skeptics.

Case in point: Hurricane Florence. As the cyclone worked its way up the Saffir-Simpson scale of storm strength, I braced for the inevitable pronouncements that climate change is making our storms worse, with Florence as Exhibit A. Then the incredible complexity of climate kicked in. The cyclone went to pieces (as most of them, thankfully, do) and staggered ashore as a very wet and dangerous Category 1 storm. Power was knocked out, homes were flooded, trees were snapped or torn up by the roots. An unpleasant, unwelcome visitor, but hardly unprecedented.

Climate activists should get out of the prediction business, because climate is too complex to be reduced to a single factor. The strongest storm to hit the United States continues to be the Labor Day hurricane of — wait for it — 1935, which wiped out entire towns in the Florida Keys. Runner-up: Camille in 1969. Billions and billions and billions of tons of carbon dioxide have been pumped into the atmosphere since those storms raged.

Looking backward rather than ahead, however, a tentative case, a hypothesis, could be ventured that we are in fact seeing greater frequency of strong storms. Since the introduction of weather satellites in the 1960s made comprehensive tracking possible, meteorologists have calculated the total energy of Atlantic cyclones each year. All seven seasons of greatest hurricane energy have come since 1995. Even so, the years from 2013 through 2015 were unusually calm.

But debating over doomsdays only empowers the climate skeptics, because it takes a topic of consensus and puts it in the realm of dispute. People don’t need more fear of climate change. They need more hope for solutions. And one single step could galvanize the awesome power of America’s economy toward answers: cap and trade.

Capping total carbon dioxide emissions nationwide and allowing producers to trade emission permits are not an intrusion on the free market, as some conservatives have complained of the trailblazing program underway in California. Instead, cap and trade empowers the market. As Adam Smith explained, the wealth-creating genius of a free market stems from its ability to efficiently gather vast stores of data about people’s needs and wants and convey that information to producers through the simple signal of what people are willing to pay. Good old supply and demand.

Carbon emissions impose social costs. But most of the U.S. economy is blind to that information. Without an overall cap on emissions, the market thinks that supply — in this case, the ability to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — is infinite and thus the cost of emitting is zero. Cap and trade switches on a price signal, which in turn focuses the creativity, innovation and efficiency of the entire economy on cutting emissions without sacrificing quality of life. The free market does what it does best (more Adam Smith): lowers production costs while maintaining and enhancing the appeal of its products.

Opponents of cap and trade say the idea has failed in Europe, but the hiccups in that market are attributable to weakness of the European Union — Brussels set its cap too high — and the slow European economy. A more revealing case comes from here at home. In 1995, the United States capped sulfur dioxide emissions (the primary cause of acid rain) and issued tradable permits. By 2010, according to one gimlet-eyed assessment, emissions were down nearly 70 percent and health-care costs were reduced by as much as $100 billion.

Admittedly, carbon emissions are a more complex market than sulfur emissions. Everyone has a carbon footprint, while sulfur dioxide is mainly a byproduct of coal-burning power plants. But there are many ubiquitous commodities in our lives: virtually everyone uses steel, paper, electricity, water, wheat and so on. Somehow, the market manages to put a price on all of them and efficiently collect those costs from willing consumers.

When carbon-dioxide emissions reflect what most of us agree to be their true costs, capitalists throughout the economy will turn their resources to cutting those costs. They will discover greater efficiencies. They will invest in alternative energy. They will sink money into inventions and technologies undreamed of today. They will move with speed and agility no government bureaucracy can match.

You might say I’m predicting a Category 5 storm of hope. But this is the U.S. economy I’m talking about; its potential power is never in doubt.

Siemens Gamesa Pursues Hybrid Wind and Solar Projects With Energy Storage

The company confirms hybrid systems are a growing focus area.

By Jason Deign
View the original article here.

Siemens Gamesa Pursues Hybrid Wind and Solar Projects With Energy Storage

Siemens Gamesa Pursues Hybrid Wind and Solar Projects With Energy Storage

Siemens Gamesa, the leading turbine manufacturer, is looking to go beyond wind — into hybrid systems with solar and storage.

The company’s chief technology officer, Antonio de la Torre Quiralte, told GTM that Siemens Gamesa remains committed to the wind market. However, it is increasingly interested in other technologies to reduce renewable energy intermittency.

“Following the merger about one year ago, we realized that our two former companies were quite interested in resolving the renewable problem, which is discontinuity,” he said.

“As part of our business strategy, there is a clear mandate from our CEO and our board that we will resolve, with a huge investment in new technologies, solutions for the market that will allow, quite soon, stable renewable procurement of energy.”

The development of systems that can provide baseload or near-baseload capacity could involve the hybridization of potentially complementary generation technologies such as wind and solar. But storage is a big part of the equation.

“It definitely is in our roadmap,” de la Torre said.

De la Torre said the manufacturer is focused on solutions rather than products, integrating energy storage with renewable plants at the project level.

He also said Siemens Gamesa is looking beyond today’s existing utility-scale battery storage capacities, which typically run to tens of megawatt hours, to gigawatt-hour levels of storage.

Batteries will remain the company’s technology of choice for standalone hybrid and off-grid systems, which demand storage capacities of between 500 kilowatt-hours and 50 megawatt-hours for onshore wind and PV plant balancing.

But Siemens Gamesa is also investigating a thermal storage system called the Future Energy Solution, which could boast much higher capacities. A demonstration plant currently under construction in Hamburg will be able to deliver 1.5 megawatts of power for 24 hours.

Siemens Gamesa hopes to use this kind of technology for round-the-clock renewable energy generation. “We have to integrate several renewable sources,” said de la Torre. “Currently we are investigating all relevant sorts of storage.”

Recently, for example, Siemens Gamesa started testing a 120-kilowatt, 400-kilowatt-hour redox flow battery at its La Plana test center near Zaragoza in Spain.

The test center had previously been used by Gamesa to put together a hybrid system combining traditional gensets with wind, solar and storage in 2016. Customer interest in hybrid systems with storage has grown in the last six to nine months, de la Torre said.

One example is the Bulgana Green Power Hub project owned by Neoen in Australia, where Siemens Gamesa will be acting as an engineering, procurement and construction contractor, and will be integrating a 194-megawatt wind farm with 34 megawatt-hours of Tesla storage.

Hong Zhang Durandal, a business analyst with MAKE Consulting, said Siemens Gamesa’s growing interest in hybrid systems reflects a wider trend within the wind industry. OEMs are not interested in having storage as a product, he said, but see value in adding other technologies to wind farms, for example to help avoid curtailment or smooth out imbalances.

It also makes sense for Siemens Gamesa to explore thermal or redox flow technologies for bulk, long-duration storage, he said. “For lithium-ion, getting to gigawatt-hours is just cost-ineffective,” he said. “It’s too large a system to justify the cost of the batteries.”

In a recent question-and-answer session published by Wood Mackenzie, Durandal said wind-plus-storage could offer new opportunities for energy production in the U.S.

“Wind farms paired with energy storage can shift energy from periods of low prices to take advantage of spikes and shift energy in bulk when it is most needed,” he said.

Pairing wind with energy storage also helps with ramp-rate control, can avoid curtailment and could open the door for project owners to compete for ancillary services revenues.

“We are seeing increased interest by wind turbine OEMs across the globe in exploring and developing utility-scale wind-plus-storage systems,” Durandal said. “Not only can the development of such systems strengthen the portfolio of the OEMs in key markets, [but] hybrid systems can also play a significant role in the deployment of more wind energy in the future.”

The World’s Biggest Solar Project Comes With a ‘Batteries Included’ Sticker

By Brian Eckhouse and Mark Chediak
View the original article here.

The world’s biggest-ever solar project — a $200 billion venture in Saudi Arabia — comes with a “batteries included” sticker that signals a major shift for the industry.

SoftBank Group Corp. partnered with the oil-rich Saudis this week to plan massive networks of photovoltaic panels across the sun-drenched desert kingdom. The project is 100 times larger than any other proposed in the world, and features plans to store electricity for use when then sun isn’t shining with the biggest utility-scale battery ever made.

The daytime-only nature of solar power has limited its growth globally partly because the cost of batteries was so high. Utilities that get electricity from big solar farms still rely on natural gas-fired backup generators to keep the lights on around the clock. But surging battery supplies to feed electric-car demand have sent prices plunging, and solar developers from California to China are adding storage to projects like never before.

Cheaper Batteries

Costs are expected to drop in half by 2025 as factories ramp up battery production

“The future is pretty much hybrid facilities,’’ said Martin Hermann, the CEO of 8minutenergy Renewables LLC, a U.S. company that’s expecting to include batteries in the vast majority of the 7.5 gigawatts of solar projects it’s developing.

Affordable batteries have long been the Holy Grail for solar developers. Without them, some of the best U.S. solar markets, like California, have too much of electricity available at midday and not enough around dusk when demand tends to peak.

Wind Wins

While the solar industry has grown, it still accounts for less than 2 percent of U.S. electricity supply and has been outpaced by investments in other green technologies. Wind farms are set to overtake hydroelectric plants next year as the biggest source of renewable energy in the U.S., accounting for more than 6 percent of the nation’s electricity generating capacity, government data show.

Now, the economics of storage is shifting. The price of lithium-ion battery packs tumbled 24 percent last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and the U.S. is allowing solar-dedicated storage to qualify for a federal tax credit. More utilities and local energy providers are mandating that new solar farms include batteries to store power.

Adding batteries to solar plants could revolutionize the industry. California has contemplated going all-renewable by 2045. It won’t be able to do that without storage, said Kevin Smith, chief executive officer of SolarReserve LLC, a solar project developer that uses molten-salt energy-storage technology.

More Control

“Storage just adds control,” said Logan Goldie-Scot, a San Francisco-based energy storage analyst at BNEF. “In a number of markets, you are seeing customers seeking a greater deal of control.”

By the end of 2018, it’s possible that U.S. utilities may be asking for batteries on every solar project proposed, said Ravi Manghani, an energy analyst at GTM Research. That would mean the country is about to embark on a major battery boom. Only about 1 gigawatt of storage had been installed in the U.S. through the third quarter, according to BNEF.

Several large developers already are proposing storage units as part of their projects, including NextEra Energy Inc.

Cypress Creek Renewables LLC, which builds clean-power plants, is contemplating batteries at every one of its early-stage solar projects, according to Chief Executive Officer Matthew McGovern. The company installed batteries at 12 solar farms last year.

The shift isn’t just in the U.S.

The Saudi-SoftBank project calls for an astonishing 200 gigawatts of generating capacity that would be built over the next decade or so, with the first electricity being produced by the middle of next year. Based on BNEF data, the project would dwarf the total solar panels that the entire photovoltaic industry supplied worldwide last year.

Evening Hours

A key feature of the project will be the construction of “the largest utility-scale battery” in two to three years that will supply “evening hour” power to consumers, Masayoshi Son, SoftBank’s founder, told reporters in New York this week.

Tesla Inc., the Palo Alto, California-based carmaker that’s building batteries with Panasonic at a giant factory in Nevada, will supply the storage units for a solar project in the Australian state of Victoria. Houston-based Sunnova Energy Corp. is selling solar and battery systems in Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Maria devastated the island’s power grid in September and tens of thousands of people still don’t have electricity.

China-based Trina Solar Ltd., once the world’s largest maker of photovoltaic panels, is seeking to invest 3.5 billion yuan ($556 million) in integrated energy projects this year that could include power generation, distribution grids and storage, Vice President Liu Haipen said Wednesday in an interview in Beijing. Most of the investment will be in China, but the company is exploring opportunities in Germany, Spain, Australia and Japan, he said.

Cheaper batteries are even providing a boost in the residential market for solar systems.

“It’s a game-changer,” said Ed Fenster, executive chairman of San Francisco-based Sunrun Inc., the largest U.S. installer of residential solar systems. “The demand that we’re seeing is outstripping our expectations.”

— With assistance by Stephen Cunningham, Vivian Nereim, and Feifei Shen

How Energy Storage Can Limit the Impact of Extreme Weather

John Jung, President & CEO, Greensmith Energy
View the original article here.

energy storage weather

Photo Credit: Howard Scott

Last month, the National Hurricane Center reported that Hurricane Maria, the sixth fastest hurricane on record, caused an estimated $90 billion in damage in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This would make it the third costliest hurricane in history, following Katrina and Harvey.

Now seven months later, there are still parts of Puerto Rico that are still without power. I can only imagine how this prolonged outage is making relief and recovery efforts difficult.

For those of us in the energy business, we see a better pathway for communities to avoid prolonged outages that hinder relief and recovery efforts.

One solution – already in the marketplace and in use around the world – is the combination of energy storage and islanded grid systems.

Islanded systems, also known as microgrids, can operate with or without a connection to grid. When you add energy storage, communities benefit from a more flexible, versatile distributed energy resource.

What exactly does that mean?

Traditional grid operators, without adequate energy storage, follow conservative limits on the deployment of distributed energy resources to maintain reliability.

Energy storage enables integration of more renewable energy sources so that grid systems can better respond to dynamic fluctuations in electricity consumption, and lessen greenhouse gas emissions. As solar, wind and hydro become the world’s main energy sources, renewables are no longer an incremental component in energy production.

And, renewable energy costs are the lowest ever. So, with islanding and storage combined, microgrids can safely lift limits on renewables, bringing a substantial benefit in places where electricity prices exceed the cost of electricity for renewables.

The Graciosa Hybrid Renewable Power Plant, located on the island of Graciosa in the northern part of the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal, is a recent example of a Greensmith microgrid project that will combine solar and wind generation, together with energy storage using lithium-ion batteries. When completed, the Graciosa plant will enable 1 MW of solar and 4.5 MW of wind power to be supplied to the grid, reducing the region’s reliance on imported fossil fuels and significantly reducing GHG emissions.

Credit: Howard Scott

Credit: Howard Scott

Beyond the advanced energy storage technology Greensmith is known for, we help a growing number of power companies and developers integrate and maximize a diverse mix of grid resources using our industry-leading GEMS software platform. Our suite of proven grid-scale and microgrid energy storage solutions delivers renewables integration, reliability and resilience. In fact, more than one-third of all energy storage capacity installed in the United States is running on Greensmith’s GEMS software platform, which provides full visibility into a grid system operation and can pinpoint and isolate any malfunctions.

Faster response time means a greater chance of avoiding power outages. And, as we have seen in Puerto Rico, and the bomb cyclones that hit the northeast in March, extreme weather events were happening much more frequently across the country and the world.

The frequency of natural disasters is an important reason that more of us should look at energy storage and microgrids as a necessary infrastructure improvement for customers and utilities.

It’s clear that, while microgrids are complex systems, when deployed with energy storage solutions, they are essential to the evolution of our power grid.

Mapping the Boom in Global Solar Power

By Molly Lempriere
View the original article here.

Solar power is growing faster than any other renewable energy in the world, according to new research by the IEA. But where in the world is the technology booming the most?

Solar is growing at speed in several states, including Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, and looks set to continue this trend through this year and beyond.

Solar is growing at speed in several states, including Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, and looks set to continue this trend through this year and beyond.

EMERALD SKYLINE TO DEVELOP SOLAR FARM IN SOUTHERN ARIZONA WITH RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT FACILITY TO PURSUE ELECTRICAL STORAGE TECHNOLOGY.

“Solar generation and electricity storage technology are rapidly evolving sustainable energy alternatives. The combination of solar power generation and electricity storage is being utilized in projects around the world”

 May 1, 2018 from Emerald Skyline Corporation

BOCA RATON, FL, May 1, 2018 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Today, Emerald Skyline announced that it will develop land located in southern Arizona for the purpose of solar generation and electricity storage technology research. The project, Emerald City Solar, recognizes that both solar generation and electricity storage technologies are rapidly evolving and will continue to become more cost effective. The southern Arizona project will include research and development facilities to continue to evaluate new technologies as they emerge. It is expected that the total generation of the solar farm will continue to increase along with the value per kilowatt hour of the electricity generated as new technologies are deployed. Emerald Skyline believes the future of renewable energy is in the storage technology and will be exploring novel ways of delivering and storing energy. They have assembled a world-class team to conduct research and development to drive innovation and advanced sustainable technologies to manage surplus renewable power for use on demand and supply of power.

SOLAR FARM

The site of the solar farm development enjoys the best solar profile in the United States and is near major urban centers including San Diego, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. The electricity generated could be sold to the local electric power utility company at prevailing Power Purchase Agreement rates of about .07 per kilowatt hour (KwH). However, through the use of proven electric storage technology, the value of the electricity could be significantly increased through the selling into the power grid during peak demand periods at much higher spot market prices. Selling power in this manner is called Regulation Services.

ELECTRICITY STORAGE

Deployment of electricity storage is increasing at explosive rates and has been described by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) as a game changer in the industry. Several new companies can provide large battery-based storage units and have the operating systems required to interact with the electricity grid. Through storing electricity and injecting the stored power into the grid during peak demand periods the cost of peaking power can be greatly reduced. By selling power into the grid during peak demand at much higher prices the value of the solar power farm can be greatly enhanced.

“As a sustainability and resiliency consulting and LEED project management firm, this partnership enables us to collaborate with a host of industry partners to not only produce energy but also to test and demonstrate the benefits of solar energy storage technologies. When electricity storage is not available, excess solar electricity is wasted. When storage is installed, the excess energy can be saved and subsequently used to reduce the use of a fossil fuel,” reports Abraham Wien, LEED AP O+M, Director of Architecture & Environmental Design for Emerald Skyline.

To find out more information about Emerald City Solar or electricity generated from renewable sources such as solar and the current development in electrical energy storage technologies for a greener tomorrow, please contact Abraham Wien at aw@emeraldskyline.com or call us 305.424.8704.

 

Promoting Elder Wellness with Artificial Light

Rod Smith

By: Rodney Smith
Director of Energy Independence for Emerald Skyline Corporation
Inventor of Bio-Light

 

Humans evolved on Earth over thousands of years before the invention of artificial light, under natural light 1conditions of sunlight, moonlight, and a relatively little bit of fire light. These natural light conditions are reflected inthe physical structure of the eye, with cones being tuned to daylight and rods to night time light conditions. Humans are diurnal (daytime) beings, while some other animals are nocturnal, so our normal pattern of wakefulness and activity is during the daytime.

There is another form of light sensor in the eye discovered more recently that does not contribute directly to sight yet plays a role in secretion of melatonin: the intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (pRGC).

During the past ten years brain scientists have discovered that in addition to patterns of light being transmitted via the optic nerve to the visual center in the brain, there is also a branch that transmits data regarding light conditions to a command center in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN).

Light and the Endocrine System

2

The SCN processes the light data and sends command signals to several glands in the endocrine system to either secrete or suppress secretion of certain hormones critical to normal body function. The pineal gland, in the hypothalamus in the brain, suppresses secretion of melatonin in the presence of bright white light, specifically when the SCN has identified a narrow 10 nanometer band of light spectrum (out of 330 nanometers of human visible light spectrum) from 450 to 460 nanometers.

 

 

3

Action spectrum for melatonin regulation in humans

When melatonin secretion is suppressed we become more alert. Melatonin secretion normally occurs when exposure to the bright white light diminishes, e.g. at sundown, but only does so if the trigger has been set by bright white light exposure earlier in the day. Melatonin also serves as a powerful antioxidant which floods the body with natural anti-cancer agents while we sleep.1

The adrenal gland is also largely controlled by the SCN based on light conditions in an opposite way from melatonin. Cortisol secretion is stimulated in the presence of bright white light and suppressed normally at night. Cortisol serves as a wake up call to the body, raising our core body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure from a sleep state, and is also a factor in normal digestion. If the SCN does not signal the adrenal gland to secrete cortisol, we may be tired and listless. Changes in our digestive system could cause abnormal processing of foods especially carbohydrates and can be a factor in hypoglycemia associated with diabetes.3

Light and the Elderly

4People that lack exposure to natural sunlight are the most prone to have issues with mental and physical well-being resulting from abnormal hormonal secretion. Many elderly people lack adequate sunlight exposure. Furthermore the lens of the eye thickens and yellows with age, resulting in a 75% reduction in light passing through the lens by age 75. The yellowing of the lens reduces the blue end of the light spectrum where the circadian rhythm spectrum is found. The result can be sleep deprivation and the many issues that accompany it, including depression and circulatory issues, among others.

 

 

Spectral Power Density of GE "Natural Light" Fluorescent tubes

Spectral Power Density of GE “Natural Light” Fluorescent tubes

Unfortunately, traditional lighting does not provide the specific spectrum of light required between 450 and 460 nanometers for normal secretion and suppression of melatonin. Even with specialized “natural” light fluorescent tubes, the required light spectrum actually is at a low point in providing the critical spectrum while there are peaks on either side of the narrow band. The problem of proper light exposure cannot be solved by simply increasing the level of fluorescent light.

 

Spectral Power Density of LG 5630 LED at 6,500 Kelvin

Spectral Power Density of LG 5630 LED at 6,500 Kelvin

 

Fortunately, LED lighting is far more controllable in terms of light spectrum as well as in terms of dimming and low glare if well designed. Light being emitted from a source can be measured in spectral power density (SPD) at specific light spectrums measured in nanometers. It is possible to utilize LEDs in a fixture that has a perfect score of 100% SPD at the desired light spectrum. This is important, as the critical light spectrum can be passively delivered at reasonable levels of light in the ambient environment. Previously, light therapy devices required a patient to actively stare into a bright light box for two hours – which is an unpleasant experience to say the least – and not something many elderly residents can be expected to do. Delivery of the needed light spectrum passively will help assure all residents receive the desirable light and do not require active therapy.

If the LED fixture is designed as a side-lit panel, the light is indirect light and a pleasant glow to the eye, even at the higher light levels recommended by the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) for elder care facilities. With traditional lighting it is very difficult to even achieve the recommended light levels in a tolerable manner, and impossible to provide the critical light spectrum for circadian light. Assuring that elderly residents have adequate light levels to enjoy their interests and hobbies will raise their activity levels and mental engagement.

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 5.21.19 PM

Spectral Power Density of LG 5630 LED at 2,700 Kelvin

There is a second part to the required light. While it is critical to have the bright white light especially in the morning, it is equally important to have warmer light with less blue light later in the afternoon and in the evening. If there is only bright white later in the day, melatonin secretion will continue to be suppressed.

LED lends itself to control so with modern wireless radio frequency control systems such as ZigBee, which is an IEEE telecommunication standard widely deployed by electrical power utilities to communicate wirelessly with smart meters and appliance among others, that facilitates implementation of automated lighting controls on a facility-wide basis for such functions as circadian light scheduling. By using an LED light fixture with both bright white and warm diodes, it is possible to control the light so the bright white is provided in the morning when needed and the warm light later in the day.

This is similar to how the light from the sun changes as the evening arrives. Furthermore, a ZigBee telecommunications platform can also connect with low cost light sensors to provide ambient light data to the control system that can adjust the level of intensity of the light as well as provide the capability to control other devices such as window blinds to further reduce energy consumption. The lighting system can also be linked through ZigBee to other automated sensor and control systems, such as fire detection and security systems.

In addition to the host of wellness benefits described above, LED lights can deliver up to 85% reduction in electricity consumption as well as providing maintenance-free lighting for up to 100,000 hours. For a light fixture on 24 hours per day, such as in a hallway, 100,000 hours of operation equals approximately 12 years. Light bulb maintenance is a significant component of facility maintenance and can free-up valuable employees to perform other maintenance tasks.

Recommendations

The flexibility of control of LED technology is arriving at a time when we can put it to good use for those living primarily indoors, as the elderly do. Opportunities now exist to deploy lighting designed to promote healthy endocrine system function. New eldercare facilities should be designed from a lighting perspective to IES standards, and they can also promote wellness of residents. The improved health can delay transition from Independent Living, to Assisted Living, to Skilled Nursing or Memory Care. In addition to the benefit to residents, making the most of LED capabilities can also reduce hospital transports, resulting in healthier bottom lines for operators.

For more information contact Rodney at rsmith@emeraldskyline.com 

 

 

Footnotes:

1 The American Cancer Society www.cancer.com

2 Brainard, G.C. et al, Action Spectrum for Melatonin Regulation in Humans: Evidence for a Novel Circadian Photoreceptor, Journal of Neuroscience 21 (2001) 16, pp 6405-6412.

3 The Cortisol Awakening Response-applications and implications for sleep medicine, G.J. Elder, M.A. Wetherell, N.L. Barclay, J.G. Ellis, Sleep Medicine Review 2014 June; 18(3):215-24.

Additional Reading:

Light and Human Health: An Overview of the Impact of Optical Radiation on Visual, Circadian, and Neurobehavioral Responses, Illuminating Engineering Society, M.C. Figueira, G.C. Brainard, S. W. Lockley, V.L. Revell, R. White, TM-18-08, 2008

Lighting for Health: LEDs in the New Age of Illumination, United States Department of Energy, 2014 The Impact of Light in Outcomes in Healthcare Settings, A. Joseph, The Center for Health Design, 2006

CircadianDisturbanceinPatientswithAlzheimer’sDisease,D.A.Weldemichael,G.T.Grossberg, International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2010

Lighting and the Visual Environment for Senior Living, Illuminating Engineering Society, ANSI/IES RP-28-07, 2007

SIRT1 Mediates Central Control in the SCN by a Mechanism that Decays with Aging, H.C. Chung, L. Guarante, Cell 153, 1448-1460, 2013

The Cortisol Awakening Response in Context, A. Clow, F. Hucklebridge, L. Thorn, International Review of Neurobiology, NIH, 2010; 93: 153-75.

IoT, LEDs, lighting, and the future of workplace planning

In the real estate industry, understanding how our buildings are used is critical to understanding how to manage our buildings.

View the original article here.
By Brad Pease

blueprint

What is IoT and why is it useful to workplace planning?

IoT = Internet of Things: The interconnection of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data via the internet.

In the real estate industry, understanding how our buildings are used is critical to understanding how to manage our buildings. Buildings may be built of brick and mortar, but they are not static; they constantly evolve based on the needs of their occupants. People change their schedules and their locations within a building; and the people and technology that they need access to change too.

For building owners, understanding how your second highest investment (your real estate) interacts with your highest investment (your people) is critical to your company’s long-term financial success. Do you have too much space? Not enough? The right type of space? The right quality of space? These are all questions that you need a good source data to understand, and the dataset should allow you to trend how your building is used. This trending data empowers your workplace planning team to spot opportunities to make meaningful changes.

A new data source for workplace planning: IoT-connected lighting

Workplace planners need a device to collect data. Rather than adding a ton of sensors to a building – or worse, to people – designers need something that is in every room, and that indicates how the space is used. The answer is likely above you right now. It is indicating that you are present, and is tuned to the needs of your current task. The answer, of course, is the lights.

IOT lighting data can help owners establish a workplace design strategy. While this isn’t the typical use-case for lighting system data, it can be used to understand space utilization and adds a powerful dimension to workplace planning and decision making.

As every space in a building requires lighting, and the only reason we have lights is for people, lights are the ideal candidate to use as a data source; and lights don’t need a lot of added intelligence to be a great data source.  Here are three useful ways to track lighting data for workplace design:

  • Whether a light is on or off indicates if the room is occupied.
  • The number of fixtures or lighting scenes that are used in a room will indicate the type of function that is occurring in that room.
  • The total hours of fixture use can indicate the utilization of the space and, in the case of multi-use spaces, the most frequent activities that users engage in.

When all the above is tracked, trended, and analyzed, you will understand: which spaces in your building are used the most; which spaces don’t get used at all; and what type of spaces are over-used, potentially leading to resource constraint that your employees need to do their work. Trending the data across a building or campus will allow you to optimize your investment in changes to your real estate, perhaps allowing you to invest in a new way of using your space based on the best data sources available: your employees. That’s better than investing in a new building!

2

Powering LEDs through the Ethernet

The cost to implement an IOT lighting system can be reduced through the advancement in LED technology. Using LEDs reduce power consumption plus LED lights offer more options as to how to power those lights. LEDs are so efficient that it is possible to power them using an ethernet cord, eliminating a traditional power cord. Called Power Over Ethernet (POE), you can both control and power an LED light with one cord instead of two.  The cost to install a power cord is the same as the cost to run Ethernet, and it eliminates the need for wireless or additional control wires in the fixtures – which results in a lower cost of installation. And using POE, light fixtures are suddenly accessible for IoT uses because they are connected to a two-way data line.

Once you have Ethernet connectivity to every fixture, the controllability and data collection opportunities sky rocket. You don’t need smart fixtures – you need just one centralized smart controller that sends, tracks, and trends fixture use. Once connected to a cloud-based interface, facility managers and building owners are granted instant information on their building utilization. Simply add POE technology to your next lighting upgrade, and you’ll open a whole new data source for your workplace design strategy team.

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The wellness connection: how a POE- and IOT-connected lighting system contributes to an optimal work environment

POE- and IOT-connected LED fixtures can be used to increase health and wellbeing along with optimized energy performance. LEDs can modify the spectrum of light being supplied, which in combination with dimming capability, allows a lighting designer to optimize a space for human cognitive performance.

Humans evolved outdoors for thousands of years before moving inside to work under artificial lighting. People perform better, feel better, and enjoy their surroundings more when connected to nature. And natural light has thousands of permeations a minute, and constantly changes to reflect the time of day, weather, and surrounding surface reflections.

LEDs can be tuned to match the natural cycles of daylight, with blue hues in the morning giving way to red hues in the evening. This circadian lighting pattern allows interior spaces to mimic the natural rhythms of the outdoors. Programming artificial lighting to match natural light, has proven to improve cognitive performance. It can also help building occupants to wake up, fall asleep quicker at night, and stay refreshed longer.

4

The future is bright

IoT-connected lighting is more than a technology trend; IoT-connected lighting allows us to find new uses for old things and reframe our understanding of items that were once viewed as static. Lights, their power, and their controls can provide a rich data source that will allow you to optimize your real estate and your people, which improves the future of your business. IOT-connected lighting takes the guesswork out of many real estate needs, contributing to sustainability and wellness.