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Monday, December 8, 2014

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5 Weird and Wonderful Uses for Solar Panels


alt energy

Most people understand that the integrity of the Earth’s atmosphere, terrain, and oceans are being threatened by climate change. This has prompted some energy companies and innovators to come up with creative solutions for generating electricity with solar power. The truth is, fossil fuels are in finite supply and these sources of energy are beginning to struggle to meet the increasing demands of the world’s economies. In addition to the problem of supply meeting demand, there is the fact that the traditional fossil fuels directly harm the atmosphere by releasing greenhouse gases and other pollutants when used. Conversely, solar power is an alternative power source that is clean, simple, affordable, and sustainable.

Since innovations in alternative power sources have made the technology more affordable consumers have been making the shift towards these more efficient options, ranging from choosing to drive all-electric cars to simply swapping out incandescent lights for bulbs with lower wattage or LED lights. It is solar panels, however, that have continued to lead when it comes to providing homes and powering devices with alternative sources of energy. Solar innovations have replaced the older thick and bulky solar panels with thin film solar cells. This has reduced installation costs in solar energy and has broadened the potential uses and placement options for solar power producers. These new solar innovations in solar cells have shown to produce ten times the energy, compared to the conventional rooftop solar panels of yesterday.

solar shed light

The uses for solar panels around the home have become more varied thanks to the new innovations, much of this prompted by thoughts of climate change. These may include placing solar technology on dwellings and other buildings such as sheds and conservatories, (above). Also, there is now a solar powered Logitech Wireless keyboard that does not require batteries or traditional power sources. The keyboard can be powered by sunlight indoors or even by the light from a desk lamp. It is considered to be a “green” accessory. Another innovation is solar windows. These windows are treated with an electricity-generating coating that is transparent and actually converts sunshine into energy. Imagine the Solar Window being installed on all sides of a fifty-story building and the amount of energy that would be generated.

Less Conventional but Creative Uses for Solar Power

solar refrigeration

1.  Camels equipped with solar powered refrigerators are being used in Kenya. Unconventional?  Yes, but these camels are being used as mobile health clinics. Certain medicines and vaccinations are required to be kept at certain temperatures and that is difficult in the Kenyan climate. In the hot temperatures of Kenya, the solar-powered refrigerators have the ability to keep these medicines and vaccinations cool as they are being transported to rural communities by doctors, nurses, and aid workers. An international team that included California’s Art Center College of Design, Princeton’s Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials, and the Kenya-based Nomadic Communities Trust all collaborated on the design of the crystalline solar-powered miniature refrigeration units. This included coming up with the bamboo camel saddle, which makes it possible for camels to transport the refrigerators over long distances.
(photo credit, designmattersatartcenter.org)

ice fishing

2. Solar-heated ice fishing shacks. The fact that the white snowy surface in the winter boosts the sun’s power makes this option quite viable for those who love to fish through the ice. An existing fishing shack can be insulated and sealed with foil and a heat collector can be constructed from plastic sheets and a bug screen. Cold air can be allowed between the collector and the wall via four holes in the walls. The sun heats the air and then enters the shack through a flapper valve. Even with outside temperatures of below freezing, the comfy fisher-person can enjoy temperatures of up to seventy and even eighty degrees Fahrenheit inside the fish shack.
(photo credit, pocketrangerblog.com)

solar oven

3.  Solar oven cooking is another alternative concept to consider. It involves collecting and trapping heat through the combination of the use of glass and reflective materials. These solar ovens can actually cook food at temperatures of up to 350 degrees with absolutely no fuel use. There are indoor and outdoor versions of these solar ovens and the only real down side is they take longer to warm up than conventional ovens.
(photo credit, solarovenchef.blogspot.com)

solar traffic sign

4.  Solar traffic signs can save communities a great deal of money over a period of time. They are wireless and quite flexible and the LED lighting is environmentally friendly and long lasting. Better still, in a power outage, the signs and lights will continue to work.
(photo credit, traffic-products.net)

solar paint

5.  Solar paint may be something that is not well known, but it is becoming all the rage in certain markets. While there are other paints which may contain toxic materials that can have some negative health affects, solar paint is based on solar cell technology, cleanly formulated to actually harness solar energy and convert it into electrical energy.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Drive for Free with the Drive Green for Life Program!


Drive Green

Owning the vehicle of your choice and driving it freely through the web of roads crisscrossing your home city is as much an American tradition as the Presidential pardoning of one lucky turkey each year about this time. Being able to finally buy that personal car of your dreams is engrained into American culture, symbolizing freedom, economic status – and a means to sustain life for those that rely on their cars for business.

Drive Green

As we are all aware, each of these conventional-fuel-burning vehicles emits extremely harmful gasses  and with over 250 million registered vehicles in the United States, their combined emissions contribute heavily to climate change. The threat of a changing climate is real, but could anyone really point to their neighbors and say, “I think they should retire that S.U.V. to stop polluting…”?

Drive Green infographic

Well, one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the United States recently partnered with SunPower, a leading supplier of home solar PV systems, and The Sierra Club, the largest grassroots environmental NGO in the country, to offer consumers the opportunity to more gain access to alternative energy for their home. Ford Motor Company is offering new and existing Ford electric car owners a $750.00 rebate on their purchase or lease of a SunPower home solar system through (more…)

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Martifer PV Projects: Integrated Solutions for Fulfilling Solar Power Needs


martifer portugal solar field

Martifer Solar is more than merely a company that focuses on solar energy.  This Portugal based company employs teams of engineers and people who fabricate and design required engineering solutions for various types of solar energy related projects. As per Greentech Media Research’s statistics, Martifer Solar ranks third amongst similar companies in Europe. IHS lists the company in 5th position within Europe and 16th in the world.

martifer solar install rooftop

EPC Services from Martifer Solar
One of the drawbacks that have prevented PV solar technologies from taking off has been the cost versus returns in comparison to the fossil fuels. Martifer can offer PV solutions on 360° turnkey basis, which would include all engineering, purchases and procurement, project management, construction and commissioning related to the PV solar system installation and operations.

Photovoltaic Projects or PV projects from Martifer include EPC or engineering, procurement, and construction services. This means the company can offer customized solutions based on the needs of the people so that each such project becomes viable and offers optimal energy cost savings. It is because of its high standards of reliability today it boasts of having implemented more than 500 projects. The company is also maintaining and operating solar power generators with a capacity of 560 MW across the world.

integrated solar window panels

Variety of PV Projects offered by Martifer Solar
Martifer Solar offers all types of solar power generation solutions under one roof. Therefore, its portfolio of PV projects includes:

  • Ground mounted solar power generating systems
  • Rooftop solar power generating systems
  • Building integrated Photovoltaic projects (BIPV). Martifer’s Torre De Cristal in Madrid still qualifies as the tallest BIPV project, even though the project was completed in 2008.
  • Off-Grid solar power generating systems for people and businesses in remote locations
  • Small solar power generating systems for residential accommodations

Effectively, Martifer undertakes projects suiting the needs of small as well big customers.  This adaptability is one of the reasons for Martifer Solar’s larger market share.

One of the reasons many well-known companies opt for Martifer Solar is because it does more than supply the instrumentation and materials. Its personnel ensure that the project is commissioned and functioning to the satisfaction of the client.

Global Presence
Though Martifer is originally from Portugal, it has spread its activities across the globe. There are collaborations and joint ventures with various companies in different nations. For example, Martifer Solar entered into a joint venture with Hirschfeld Industries in the US. Likewise, it became Maisis’ partner, for technology.

The company has implemented PV projects for well-known businesses such as Hertz. Westfield Group is another famous business that has availed the services of Martifer Solar. In Latin America, the company recently installed a 30 MW project for Gauss Energia.

Martifer Solar has recently received a new contract from Italy. It is a 90 MW project. The company is implementing a project for well known private Equity Fund Company, i.e., Eland, and Dutch Infrastructure Fund.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

The BEHA Eco Aircraft Seeks Crowdfunding


beha overheadA British company, Faradair Aerospace Limited, has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a new eco aircraft the company has christened, BEHA, or Bio-Electric-Hybrid-Aircraft. The company has created a concept for a lightweight aircraft with extremely efficient and economical power. The intention is to create “the most environmentally friendly aircraft in the world”. The project is about to enter a year of R&D to fine tune the design for maximum efficiency, with the company hoping to have the first prototype aircraft built within two years.

de havilland dragon

Much of the inspiration for the plane came from an early passenger aircraft called the De Havilland Dragon Rapide. This 1930′s airliner had graceful lines and innovative power recovery systems, many of which will be incorporated into the design of the BEHA.

beha front

Another source of inspiration for the project is an unmanned aircraft created in 1990 by the father of the company’s Managing Director. The new design combines a bio-diesel engine with two electric motors, and is envisioned as an innovative six seat Hybrid Aircraft. The BEHA group is currently building a list of partners to help deliver the key technologies to make the prototype aircraft a reality. (more…)

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Investors Turning to the Top Environmentally Friendly Companies


invest

In today’s world, green means more than just cash. Shoppers want to know that the products they buy do little to damage the environment, and investors want to work with the top environmentally friendly companies. These companies give investors the chance to make back money on their initial investments and feel proud that they chose the right companies. As interest in environmentally friendly products and companies grows, investors will continue seeing their shares in some companies rise.

Allergan
Allergan ranks as one of the top pharmaceutical companies in the world, but it also ranks as one of the most green friendly ones as well. Headquartered in the United States, the company has thousands of researchers looking into new medicines and improving existing medications. The company has a solid and positive reputation around the world. Allergan is a good investment because the company wastes less electricity and water and produces less waste and pollution that many other companies.

Hewlett-Packard
Hewlett-Packard, better known as HP, is one of the top environmentally friendly companies in the United States. Though the company made headlines in the past when a number of its battery packs became a potential fire hazard, the company bounced back and managed to keep its customer base loyal. It was one of the first companies in the world that released a recycling program back in the 1980s. This program let the company recycle many of its older and outdated components and turn those components into new and functional parts for its customers.

Johnson & Johnson
Best known for its line of personal care, health and beauty products, Johnson & Johnson also remains dedicated to protecting and preserving the world for future generations. It launched a nursing program that provides nursing students with scholarships, grants and other programs that help them better afford their educational needs. The company also started a program in 2011 that will train and educate citizens about what they can do to protect the environment. Johnson & Johnson also plans to go over its product line and find ways to reduce the waste produced during the manufacturing and use of those products.

Patagonia
Patagonia records an impressive number of sales every year that total more than $500 million. Known for producing luxury clothing and equipment designed for various sports, the company now ranks as one of the top retail chains in the world. Over the last three decades the company donated millions of dollars to environmental charities and organizations, and it continues to donate a small portion of its profits every year to those groups. Investment expert Rick Schaden also rates Patagonia high for its dedication to sustainability. The company works with a group of farmers in South America to ensure that the wool it purchases and uses comes from sheep treated ethically.

Investing in specific companies can come with some special perks. Coffee shops will often award shareholders with free drinks, restaurants hand out free food and clothing or jewelry stores may give shareholders discounts on future purchases. Those who invest in environmentally friendly companies get an additional perk in the form of good will. They know that when they select the right companies to invest in that they can help preserve the world for future generations to come.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Budget-Friendly Fitness the Frugal Way


ecological footprint

You want to get into shape, but you’re not sure whether you can afford it. Things like fitness just seem to come with a lot of costs – money for a personal trainer, money for healthier food, money for supplements. It all adds up. How does anyone manage it? The truth is that the fitness industry has a lot of little tricks it uses to rope you in and, unfortunately, it’s not always focused on results. Here’s how to get your fitness on without breaking the bank.

Go On Starting Strength
One of the best ways to get strong is to use the infamous Starting Strength program. It’s a beginner’s strength-training program that focuses entirely on getting strong. Why would you want to get strong? Well, for a number of reasons.

First of all, strong people tend to be healthier people, all around. When you have more strength, you also tend to get better at everything you do, all other things being equal. Finally, Starting Strength isn’t a bodybuilding program, so you don’t have to feel like you’re entering a weird world of body dysmorphia.

It can be done at any gym that uses free weights, and the author of the book, Mark Rippetoe, also has a video series out that will walk you through the lifts. It’s a DIY approach, but it’s cheaper than hiring a trainer, and some say it’s much more effective.

The Best Supplements You Can Take
As a general rule, supplements are a dicey issue because they indiscriminately raise blood levels of that particular thing, without consideration of how it affects other systems in the body or other nutrients. For example, copper and zinc are antagonistic. So, supplementing with too much copper can cause zinc levels to fall.

In fact, people with a special genetic disorder who have too much copper in their body are diagnosed as having Wilson’s Disease. But, you can induce this in yourself if you take too much copper. The same is true of iron. Too much, and you can induce a mild to moderate (sometimes severe) type of hemochromatosis (which is technically another genetic disorder where blood levels of iron are excessively high, which in turn causes excessive oxidation and damage to body tissues).

With that said, there are common supplements out there that are likely safe for most people to take. One such supplement is fish oil. A high-quality fish oil supplement can go a long way towards fighting inflammation in the body. It’s well-studied and, if you just can’t stomach fish, it’s one way to get vital omega 3s into your diet.

Another good supplement is choline. If you’re not eating a lot of eggs and liver, you may very well be deficient in choline. Choline is a water-soluble essential nutrient that, among other things, helps shuttle lipids (fat) out of your liver and blood.

A diet that’s deficient in choline may contribute to fatty liver disease and high cholesterol. So, contrary to what you’ve been told, you probably should be eating your eggs (the yolk too) since it’s very high in choline. Liver is another good source of choline. But, barring those foods, your best bet is to take a supplement.

Vitamin D is yet another supplement that’s hot right now, and for good reason. Almost every cell in the body has a vitamin D receptor. That means it’s very, very, important. Vitamin D is considered more of a hormone than a vitamin, due to its actions in the body.

The best way to get vitamin D is to get out into the sun, and it’s free. Exposing at least 70 percent of your body to the sun every day for up to 15 or 20 minutes (for light-skinned people) or up to 2 hours (for dark-skinned people) should give you enough vitamin D.

If you’re a natural redhead, or you’re pale as a ghost, you already know that you and the sun aren’t best buddies. What do you do? Fortunately, vitamin D supplements are cheap. You can buy an entire dropper-bottle for about $20 or $30, which will last you all year (possibly longer).

Some experts say you should shoot for blood levels of 50 ng/ml. Others say that you should be fine with levels between 20 and 40 ng/ml. The Vitamin D Council also has good advice about getting enough vitamin D through both the sun and supplements.

Finally, if you don’t eat a lot of sulphur-rich vegetables, you may be deficient in sulphur. It’s hard to tell though, because most doctors don’t test for this. Fortunately, supplemental sulphur, like TMG and MSM is incredibly cheap and has an excellent safety profile. MSM, in particular, has a safety profile similar to water, meaning that it’s almost impossible to overdose on it.

Buy Healthy Foods
The easiest, and cheapest, way to get healthy and in shape is to eat better. You may have heard this before, but 80 percent of the challenge in getting lean lies in diet. But, eating healthy is expensive, right? It doesn’t have to be.

Beans are a staple food in many countries, and they’re an incredibly rich source of vitamins and minerals. They’re also dirt cheap. But, don’t go for canned beans. Go for real beans. Dried beans are perfectly fine. Just make sure you follow the instructions for soaking them before you cook them. Soaking removes the toxins, and reduces the level of phytic acid, in the bean, making it safe to eat and very nutritious.

Aside from beans, eggs, soup bones, most veggies, and even some meats are relatively inexpensive. Use sites like sumocoupon.com to find coupons on your favorite items and try to stay away from junk food, which tends to be surprisingly expensive.

Walk and Move More
We all need to get outside and move more. The simple act of walking has many benefits, according to biomechanist Katy Bowman. There’s no substitute for a walk in the woods, so get out there and enjoy yourself. You’ll be doing your body good.

Guest contributor Russell Matthews is a fitness enthusiast and personal finance consultant. He enjoys finding innovative way to save money while staying fit. His articles mainly appear on fitness and lifestyle blogs. Keep up with the latest fitness coupons on Twitter.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

eco-business: can it drag us out of these dark times?


green conservation

We are living in dark, smog-filled times. In LA you’ll struggle to see the Hollywood sign through the pollution. A smog mask fashion show was recently held in China – to protect your lungs in style. Crop yields in India have been cut in half because of the toxic air.

These stories pollute the world every day – and they’re growing more frequent. And, if political activist and eco warrior Naomi Klein is to be believed, these times are only set to get darker.

Capitalism, according to Klein’s book This Changes Everything, is pushing the world’s eco systems into a perpetual state of decline. Businesses, trapped in a stalemate between commerce and ethics, simply refuse to cut their carbon footprint in any meaningful way.

They are, however, waking up to the fact that their actions have consequences. Major brands such as DuPont, Asda, B&Q and Tesco have all made commitments to cut carbon by a sizeable sum, although purely because it will save them cash. Indeed, consumers themselves are demanding better from companies. You simply need to turn on the telly to see ads proclaiming all-natural produce, organic goods and friendly to Mother Nature.

How accurate these claims are is open to dispute with most brands, but it does prove one thing – being eco-friendly makes business sense. These dark, smog-filled times might still surround you, but that doesn’t mean your business has to be a part of them. If you want to improve your PR with customers, try these tips.

eco lightbulbLower that footprint
Despite their indisputable improvements, renewable energy still has a long way to go before it can usurp fossil fuels. Before that time comes, improve your gas connections to allow it to flow more effectively.

Some gas companies even keep the environment specifically in mind, ensuring soil purification after pipes have been fitted and offsetting the damage done by planting trees and improving the state of the environment.

By partnering up with these companies, you can lower your carbon footprint and your bills.

Maintain your honesty
If there’s one thing a consumer hates, it’s being lied to. Remember the time you realized that Diet Coke didn’t really help you diet? Imagine that writ large, as so-called organic produce and natural ingredients follow the same factory made, smoke sputtering, carbon spreading process.

No matter what business you’re in, making good on your eco-claims is a must. Implement environmentally friendly strategies and make them transparently available to the public.

Especially for larger businesses, transparency is the only route to trust. Not only will this allow your company to push such a positive aspect of your company on consumers (and have the statistics to prove it), but it could lead to positive coverage from major green campaigners.

Ultimately, repurposing your business in the form of an eco-paradise won’t drag us out of these dark times. But it might just make the smog in your company that little bit thinner.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Root Cellars: An Ancient Way to Extend the Life of Fruits and Vegetables


root vegetable stew

Back in the day before refrigeration, people built root cellars under the home, in the cellar or basement, or in a separate structure on the property. In fact, the first recorded root cellar was built approximately 40,000 years ago in Australia. Root cellars are used to keep root vegetables and hard-fruits fresh throughout the winter. But you don’t need to have a cellar to make yourself a root cellar. There are many cheap and easy up-cycling options on the internet; of course, those of us living in apartments may not be able to build our own but for those with a green thumb and a bit of garden space root cellars are a viable possibility.

The key elements needed to make your own root cellar are: cool temperatures, moisture and air circulation. Here are the basic requirements for each element.

  • Temperature: if storing cool season crops like carrots, a root cellar needs to stay below 45 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent spoilage. If you’re going to store warm season crops like tomatoes you need to keep it above 50 Fahrenheit. But the overall idea is to keep your cellar cool. Don’t forget that lower in the cellar will be cooler then the top half so keep warmer temperature produce at the top and cool season produce below.
  • Moisture: after temperature, humidity is the most important element of your root cellar. Your produce needs humidity to keep it from wilting. Having an open earthen floor will help with this but having a hygrometer is a must. To help with moisture you can store produce like potatoes in moist sawdust to help keep them hydrated.
  • Air circulation: is vital to help replenish oxygen, remove heat respiration and help with the buildup of ethylene gases. One inlet vent and one outlet vent is the minimum unless your storing in an open basement that already has good ventilation.

DIY root cellar old refrigerator

Apart from needing the place to set up your root cellar there are also the legalities to consider when building one. As you can imagine, building code officials may take issue with you burying a trash can or an old refrigerator in the backyard. But in some rural areas a root cellar is considered an agricultural shed and not subject to building permit requirements.

DIY root cellar pail buried

One popular DIY option is a sunken galvanized steel or plastic garbage pail. Holes are drilled into the pail and they are buried in the earth then covered with a bale of hay for insulation. For those who want to take a shot at building their own root cellar, Organic Gardening magazine has a how-to article on building a root cellar in your home.

root cellar

If your home already has a cellar or basement you can always set up a section for root storage. Potatoes stored at 38 degrees Celsius can keep for 8 months and onions at 32 will also last 8 months. Apples and carrots, which can also be kept for many months, are good starter crops as well. For those interested in the process of storing your own produce energy-free, check out Root Cellaring Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables by Mike Bubel and Nancy Bubel (available on amazon.com) for the dos and don’ts of ‘cellaring‘.

Even though the concept is very old, a root cellar is still (more…)

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