Guest Blogs

The President’s New Solar Initiative for All

Posted on August 4, 2015 by Philip Henderson

America has been in a solar energy boom. Photovoltaic(PV) Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow. (PVPhotovoltaics. Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic (PV) cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow.) installations have increased over 400 percent since 2010. As installations have grown, the cost of PV equipment has dropped dramatically, further fueling adoption and growth in rooftop solar, commercial projects, and even utility projects. This solar energy boom reduces the need for electricity from dirty power plants, reduces utility bills, and creates thousands of jobs.

Roofing and Cladding for the Orenco Passivhaus

Posted on July 30, 2015 by Mike Steffen

This is Part 4 of a blog series describing construction of the Orchards at Orenco project in Oregon. The first installment was titled The Largest Passivhaus Building in the U.S.

Beyond Recycling

Posted on July 28, 2015 by Josh Lepawsky

Agbogbloshie, Ghana, is in the news again. International media — including The Guardian, Al Jazeera, and The Washington Post — have helped turn this place into an infamous example of electronic waste (e-waste) dumping.

I study global flows of discarded electronics, and that research leads me to think that such images badly misrepresent Agbogbloshie, which has been called “the world’s biggest e-waste dumpsite.”

After Lithium-Ion, What?

Posted on July 27, 2015 by Matthieu DuBarry and Arnaud Devie

Many of us would be hard-pressed to spend a day without using a lithium-ion battery, the technology that powers our portable electronics. And with electric vehicles (EVs) and energy storage for the power grid around the corner, their future of this battery technology appears pretty bright.

Walls and Windows for the Orenco Passivhaus

Posted on July 23, 2015 by Mike Steffen

This is Part 3 of a blog series describing construction of the Orchards at Orenco project in Oregon. The first installment was titled The Largest Passivhaus Building in the U.S.

An Inside Look at the New PHIUS Standard

Posted on July 21, 2015 by Katrin Klingenberg

Since 2012, Passive HouseA residential building construction standard requiring very low levels of air leakage, very high levels of insulation, and windows with a very low U-factor. Developed in the early 1990s by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist, the standard is now promoted by the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. To meet the standard, a home must have an infiltration rate no greater than 0.60 AC/H @ 50 pascals, a maximum annual heating energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (4,755 Btu per square foot), a maximum annual cooling energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (1.39 kWh per square foot), and maximum source energy use for all purposes of 120 kWh per square meter (11.1 kWh per square foot). The standard recommends, but does not require, a maximum design heating load of 10 W per square meter and windows with a maximum U-factor of 0.14. The Passivhaus standard was developed for buildings in central and northern Europe; efforts are underway to clarify the best techniques to achieve the standard for buildings in hot climates. Institute U.S. has worked on delivering a standard that would make it easier and more practical for professionals to deliver ambitious, performance-based, energy-efficient designs. PHIUS also sought to make a standard that would be useful in wider policy proposals.

In the process, PHIUS addressed climate-specific and economic issues that had surfaced while applying the European Passivhaus criteria to buildings across North America’s varied climate zones.

Ventilation Doesn’t Happen in a Vacuum

Posted on July 16, 2015 by Reid Baldwin

Forced ventilation is about exchanging indoor air for outdoor air, which can be accomplished by pulling air in (supply ventilation), pushing air out (exhaust ventilation) or both (balanced ventilationMechanical ventilation system in which separate, balanced fans exhaust stale indoor air and bring in fresh outdoor air in equal amounts; often includes heat recovery or heat and moisture recovery (see heat-recovery ventilator and energy-recovery ventilator). ). It is well known that these forced ventilation options impact which air gets exchanged, but each type should result in the same amount of additional air exchange, right?

EPA Looks at Fracking Risks to Water

Posted on July 14, 2015 by Mark Brownstein

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released its long-awaited draft report on impacts associated with hydraulic fracturing on drinking water, completing the most extensive scientific review of published data to date.

Windows and Floors at a Pretty Good House in Maine

Posted on July 13, 2015 by stephen sheehy

This is Part 5 of a blog series describing the construction of Stephen Sheehy’s house in Maine. The first installment was titled Pretty Good, Not So Big Maine House.

Solar Owners Are Givers, Not Takers

Posted on July 9, 2015 by Rob Sargent

With the solstice behind us, summer has officially begun. Across the country, that means the sun is shining and the mercury is climbing, and our air conditioners and the electricity grids they rely upon are stretched to their limits.

In response, we've seen utilities urge customers to turn up their thermostats a notch or two to ease their burden. They've recommended the use of fans, energy-efficient bulbs, and double-paned windows — all good measures to reduce energy use.

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