Self-powered tower being built in NYC

On August 15, Voltaic Solaire, a clean-energy development firm, announced that its new Delta Project building, which initially broke ground in Brooklyn, New York, in 2010, is set for its September unveiling. The construction initiative, its designers say, has resulted in a property that creates its own sources of energy.

Through the use of solar panels and wind-capturing turbines, the Delta Project will generate enough power to provide itself with electricity, heat and hot water. According to green technology news source Inside Climate News, the design was initially rejected by contractors due to the challenges posed by the project.

The Delta Project incorporates a number of methods to cut down on energy consumption. One innovative feature is the placement of empty space between the concrete structure and the brick facade, which traps air. This helps to cut down on oil and gas expenditure during the winter months by acting as insulation for the building. Eighty solar panels cover two sides of the building, collecting the sun's energy, and any excess electricity is then sold to the local power grid.

Excitement and notoriety surrounding the building caught the attention of energy firm Soluxe Solar, which awards a weekly designation, the Solar Flare, to recognize leaders in the renewable energy field. As a result of its 100 percent efficiency and self-powering technology, Voltaic Solaire has received the company's prestigious award.

"For many years urban green design was defined by what people said couldn't be done," Soluxe Solar CEO Jeffrey Mayer said in a statement. "Rather than being defined by limitations, The Delta highlights the incredible possibilities for urban green construction when ingenuity and determination combine and companies come together to create something revolutionary."

While the unveiling isn't until this fall, according to Voltaic Solaire, the construction initiative is already influencing other designers who may incorporate some of the Delta Project's groundbreaking methods.

German designer unveils the future of mobile living

Most people tend to associate mobile homes with run-down trailer parks and their "white trash" denizens. However, this stereotype is about to change thanks to the work of German engineer Christian Susana, who has designed what could be the next step in moveable living spaces.

Known as the Colim (Colors of Life in Motion) Caravan, this vehicle is a hybrid between a microcar and a fully-equipped camper. It's capable of housing four people and the detachable car seats two.

Though still in the design phase – according to Susana, he is still seeking a manufacturer – the Colim Caravan will feature beds, kitchenette, bathroom and at least one couch. Its proposed aerodynamic body will cut down on wind resistance and increase fuel efficiency.

In a recent article, EarthTechling, a green industry news website, spotlit the new vehicle design and wrote that it, if fully realized, could accelerate to approximately 90 miles per hour, which would not only outclass most campers but also some hybrid and mini-sized cars.

The uses of this type of vehicle are numerous. For example, the Colim Caravan could be used by families that want to camp in rural areas but visit nearby attractions or drive into town for supplies. The proposed low-energy appliances would help those who are mindful of green living to cut down on expenses, which can accumulate rather quickly as those who have gone on a driving vacation know too well.

Will the Colim Caravan change the way people approach mobile sustainable living? Until it enters commercial-scale production, it's too early to say. However, its design signals a shift in the way engineers approach low-impact living.

Michigan on the cusp of becoming a national leader in renewable energy

As the U.S. government proceeds with plans and initiatives to spur growth in the green technology industry, one state – Michigan – is preparing to vote on a law that will significantly increase the amount of clean power that the state is required to produce.

Several ballot initiatives, including one that would raise the mandated amount of renewable energy created by the state from 10 percent to 25 percent, comes on the heels of a study from the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) which reported that an expansion of the state's green industry would generate hundreds of millions of additional business over the next five years.

State industry leaders hailed the proposed measures, saying that it would put Michigan at the forefront of the clean power movement.

"When it comes to energy, the status quo is not an option," Arnold Boezaart, director for the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center, a think tank devoted to green energy development, said at a recent forum hosted by the MPSC. "In a rapidly changing global environment, new and emerging technologies are forever changing the way we produce and use energy. Making a commitment to develop a more comprehensive U.S. energy portfolio, including renewable energy, is a forward-looking choice."

Other participants at the convention, including the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Natural Resources Defense Council, estimated that the stricter laws would cut down carbon emissions in the state by approximately 270 million metric tons and slow oil usage by 1.5 million barrels by the year 2030.

While the initiative has yet to officially be placed on the ballot for the fall elections, the ideas proposed in Michigan may be the start of state-based solutions about the future of renewable energy.

New green convention building set to open in London this September

The 2012 London Games set the standard for an eco-friendly, energy-efficient Olympics. Yet the city will continue to be a leader in green technology, thanks to the opening of the Crystal, a low-emissions convention center designed and built by German-based industrial giant Siemens. According to government officials, the building will serve as the basis of London's new "green" district.

"The Crystal is set to be a stunning new addition to London, generating jobs and furthering my ambition to regenerate a once neglected area of the capital," London Mayor Boris Johnson said in a statement. "Not only this, but the flagship Siemens sustainability centre shows that this city has the clout to bring in world class businesses to invest in our future, in this case by promoting London's status as a global hub of green innovation, technology and skills."

The convention center sports a number of power consumption-reducing measures, including ports on the roof to capture rainwater. The facility, according to Siemens, is outfitted with its own purification plant to provide clean drinking water from the collected rain.

In addition to solar panel arrays on the roof to capture sunlight, the Crystal's surface consists of transparent glass panes designed to provide natural lighting, which cuts down on power consumption, and creates a layer of insulation to help regulate internal temperature. When fully operational, the convention center will function without the aid of fossil fuels.

The Crystal's doors open on September 19, when the building will host a star-studded gala and electric light show, followed by the UN Habitat's Urban Planning Conference. On September 24 the eco-friendly site will host an exposition on the future of green technology in cities, topics that metropolitan areas around the world will surely draw lessons from as they move toward becoming low-impact communities.

New social network launched for green-minded individuals

In a bid to help eco-friendly people connect more freely, a fledgling social network known as Ozoshare has officially launched as of August 7. The eponymous company behind the venture, founded in 2011, announced the major features of its website, including some that Facebook users may find familiar.

The primary goal of the website, according to its founders, is to help green companies connect and pool resources more efficiently. The social network allows these groups or individuals to exchange messages, announce events and make partnerships that could have an impact in the green industry.

"Ozoshare is the ideal combination of both [mass communication and health awareness], it is one step ahead and is the vehicle where people and companies participating in the green world share and connect with others in an interactive, member-driven social media platform," Thomas Smith, one of the executives of the new social network, said in a press release. "It's the first social network of its kind for green community members at every level and category from personal interests to technologies and organizations."

One of the features of the new site is "The Buzz," a function similar to Facebook's News Feed but, in this case, it serves as an ongoing conversation about topics ranging from renewable energy developments to green living tips. Ozoshare also has a network in place for eco-conscious businesses to post advertisements and news updates.

The website's creators, being conscious of the risk of automated accounts flooding the channels with junk posts, have strived to create a private, user-approved system to keep out unwelcome visitors. Participants can opt to "partner" with specific people, thereby ensuring that their information is secure.

Those who want to jump head-first into the ever-changing green community should definitely check out this up-and-coming social network.

Nevada’s first wind project enters operation, heralds beginning of state’s clean energy industry

Today, the operator of Nevada's first large-scale wind farm announced that it had completed construction efforts and the facility, the Spring Valley Wind Project, is fully operational.

Pattern Energy Group, the company behind the initiative, held an opening ceremony marking the occasion, with speakers including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) extolling the economic benefits of the clean energy facility.

"We have just begun to tap into Nevada's tremendous wind energy resources and more job-creating projects like this will be good for our economy and our environment," the senator told the gathering. "Renewable energy is the way of the future. There is no reason in the world, with all the renewable energy sources Nevada has, that we shouldn't be energy independent."

The project, which at full-scale operation is estimated to power approximately 45,000 homes, also created 240 construction jobs and will employ 13 full-time workers to perform maintenance and day-to-day operations. In addition to the jobs boost, officials say the wind power initiative should add $20 million in tax receipt revenue over 20 years, during which time Pattern Energy will be partnered with NV Energy, another Nevada-based power company.

During the ceremony, Mike Garland, CEO of Pattern Energy, spoke about the local community that pitched in to make the project possible. For example, he cited involvement with Native American tribes, leaders from nearby towns and state politicians, all of whom contributed to moving the plan from the design page to the first shovel in the ground. Advanced technology used in the facility, he said, came from American companies in Iowa and Florida.

The Spring Valley Wind Project has already begun providing electricity to Nevada residents. Because of the success of the enterprise, it may be the first of many clean energy sources to come.

German designer creates “silk” from fabric process using milk

In what may be one of the more unusual fashion developments in recent years, a researcher for the Germany-based Textile Research Association has created a new clothing fabric made primarily from treated milk.

Known as Qmilch, the material is sourced from casein, a protein found in dairy products that is a key component in cheesemaking and can be worked from its normal liquid state into something more solid. The creator of the new fabric, Anke Domaske, utilized powdered milk byproduct from local dairy farms that, due to strict processing standards in Germany, was otherwise unusable.

According to the website of the company that creates the textile, the process takes approximately an hour and involves boiling the compounds down to their base elements and weaving them into strands that, eventually, are pulled together to create the cloth-like product. The method, writes eco-friendly fashion website FastCompany, builds on an older Chinese method that used organic materials, but involved nearly 60 hours of work and required a significant amount of water to produce results.

Domaske was quoted as saying that the initial intention behind the project was to provide a means to make clothing that people who are allergic to synthetic materials could wear.

"We thought there must be a way to keep a natural resource, such as milk, natural," Domaske told the fashion site. "My stepdad suffered from cancer and received a textile allergy. We were looking for chemical-free fashion but couldn’t find any – even natural fibers are treated with pesticides that cannot be removed completely nowadays."

While the product is still relatively new on the market, it could pave the way to more environmentally-friendly clothing for both fashionistas and everyday people.

New electric tricycle meant for surfers, snowboarders and energy-conscious travelers

A new product from Black Sparrow Industries, a design firm out of Rhode Island, seeks to make a huge, one-of-a-kind splash in the electric vehicle market with its Tribey electric bike, a three-wheeled contraption that can be best described as a powered stand-up tricycle.

The design aims to hit a wide audience, between extreme sport enthusiasts and everyday riders looking for a way to move quickly and cut down on gas consumption. It's roughly 78 inches long, 30 inches wide and weighs a total of 90 pounds including wheels and engine parts. The bike is powered by a 40-volt battery and a one-kilowat wheel motor, the latter of which was designed by Golden Motor, a company that provides kits to transform normal bikes into electric vehicles. The components, including storage racks, larger engine types and strong power sources,  were made to be interchangable and upgradable.

In terms of performance, a lot depends on whether or not the rider is standing or is seated in a recumbent, or lying back, position. According to Black Sparrow Industries, the Tribey has a top speed of 25 miles per hour with a battery life distance of approximately 18 miles, though this can change depending on the energy conservation efforts of the operator and the terrain he or she takes the ride on.

This new vehicle may be the perfect choice for those looking to combine a low-impact transportation method with a recreational outlet. People living in urban areas that include lots of public biking space could also find a use for the Tribey, as it's built to withstand a considerable amount of punishment but consumes a relatively little amount of energy. While the vehicle's $2,500 price tag is sure to be prohibitive to some, compared to the price of a regular car this piece of green tech may be worthwhile.

World’s most energy-efficient building completed in Tokyo, Japan

On July 31, Japanese contracting conglomerate Shimizu Corporation announced that it had completed construction of its Tokyo headquarters. The building, which opened on August 1, is claimed to be the most eco-friendly structure ever built.

According to the company's press release, the tower is designed to produce only 38 km/m² of carbon dioxide per year, roughly 62 percent less than similar-sized buildings around it. This is achieved by a variety of energy consumption-cutting measures. One of the most unique systems in place is a network of water tubes that are placed inside the ceiling. Environmental controllers in the building can adjust the temperature of the water, creating a radiant effect that absorbs excess heat and emits about 30 percent less carbon dioxide during operation.

The building also utilizes an array of translucent electric window shades. The light that streams through the covers provides illumination for the room while further reducing the need for cooling systems. Additionally, the shades automatically adjust their position according to the position of the sun.

Solar panels positioned on the walls and roof of the complex generate about 84,000 kilowatt hours (kwh) per year, scaling back the building's dependence on the electrical grid. Most of the lighting fixtures are equipped with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that cut down on maintenance time and energy consumption.

In the company's press release, Shimizu claims that, by 2015, it will have increased its efficiency to 70 percent below current standards through tweaking the existing systems while also introducing new ones. Despite the fact that the jury may be out as to whether the building is truly the most energy-saving tower ever constructed, it certainly represents a huge step toward low impact living.

Solar power education coming to classrooms in Arizona, California

The SunPower Corporation, a designer and manufacturer of solar panels, announced today that it would be launching its SunPower Solar Science Academy initiative this summer. The program, which, according to the company, will reach 140 students across six Arizona and California school district, is meant to foster education in the areas of science and technology.

Participants in the week-long class attend lectures on renewable energy technology conducted by professionals from the industry and go on field trips to visit solar power facilities to see the real-world application of what they are studying. Students also take part in experiments related to solar power, utilizing problem-solving skills to come up with solutions.

"The engaging coursework provided by SunPower and CCEP allows students to explore the practical applications of solar technology, inspiring them to consider the rewards and benefits of pursuing technical and engineering careers," Dr. Duane Crum, a Californian education advocate, was quoted as saying in SunPower's press statement.

SunPower, in addition to providing the curriculum and education framework for the program, will also be working with the school systems to upgrade existing power networks to make them more environmentally friendly. Engineers for the company will install solar panels, electricity lines and coolant systems.

"California schools are expected to achieve up to $1.5 billion in savings on their electricity bills over the next 30 years as a result of on-site solar power systems," Billy Kelly, the managing director of the energy company, added in the statement.

SunPower plans to continue its education outreach initiative beyond the summer curriculum by offering tools and resources through Project Lead the Way, a California-based non-profit education advocacy group that aims to promote science and engineering jobs for students. With luck, the combined efforts will result in more people trying to pursue green careers.