Happy New Year!by Jörg Breuning and Greenteam
- John Ruskin:
- John Ruskin:
By: Samantha Yurek
Solar energy has been on a modest climb for most of its existence, but this year the solar power market jumped 71% compared to last year’s sales. A growing renewable industry is a boost to our economy; over 93,000 Americans are employed within the solar business alone. As the demand for solar installations grows higher, the prices will drop correspondingly. This is already evident, in 2006 the price of a residential installation plummeted from $9 a watt down to $5.46 a watt. Today we see prices around $ 4.00 per watt.
Even with the rise in solar sales, the US is still trailing behind Germany, Italy and Spain. Around 20% of power in Germany is harvested from the sun only, but only around 11% of energy here in the Unites States comes from a collaboration of renewable resources (solar, wind, hydro, etc.). Harvesting power from the sun is a smart idea. Not only is the sun a renewable resource, but the process creates zero atmospheric emissions. It’s clean and reliable! Even with this spike in interest, solar power is still underused here in the United States because investors often look only at the capital costs. Capital costs of a Coal Power Plant are at around $ 2.10 (source Wikipedia) vs. around $ 4.00 for Solar.
Note that the capital costs are not the only determinant of the cost of the electricity produced. A coal plant needs to burn coal to produce power (a limited resource), while a solar panel and other renewable generation has no fuel input at all.
“Externality and insurance costs of energy sources” became in the 2010s recognized as equivalent to fuel costs as a decision factor. In particular for Nuclear and coal power plants but also for ground mounted Solar these costs can be deal breaking.
Roof mounted Solar power plants combined with a vegetated roof (extensive green roof) increases the capital costs by less than 20%. At the same time this marginal increase pays back in a short time due to the reduction in stormwater fees, reduction of the environmental foot print and recognizable increased in efficiency.
The synergetic combination of vegetated roof / Green Roofs with Solar is truly State-Of-The-Art and unmatched in modern green energy production and environmental protection.
By: Jörg Breuning
Recently we have been receiving more and more calls regarding performance issues on extensive green roofs. Most of these roofs have been installed between 2-5 years ago by various green roof companies or supplied by different manufactures. Common complaints include dying plants, drainage system failure, growing media erosion and waterproofing leaks. Especially pre-vegetated systems (planters, trays, modules) mostly don’t meet expectations or even minimum requirements for green roofs. More often than not, green roof failures are the result of simple design or maintenance mistakes.
Many failures start within the design. A poor design leads to a snowballing effect of problems, growing and gaining velocity with every movement forward. Failures also occur during the construction phase when inexperienced installers claim a certain expertise because of a prior job, a way-back education or simply because they once watched a green roof installation.
But problems can arise even sooner. We also noticed that many initial design and construction decisions are made ‘democratically’ or as a team consensus because no one person wants to carry the full responsibility on their own shoulders. Often these decisions are wrong and unrealistic. Physics, biology and chemistry are natural laws and cannot be compromised, even if done democratically.
Engineers must work within the parameters of reality and the best course of action is to always to use common sense.
In most cases things could be so easy if people would just use their own common sense and experience instead of believing all the nonsense they find on the internet.
Our commitment is to common sense, never nonsense.
By: Ryan Miller
Baltimore County has announced that they will preserve 38 acres of publicly owned forested land in Perry Hall. County officials believe this to be the largest preservation of open green space in that community in more than a decade.
The land will be protected from development and it at two locations: about 8 acres in western Perry Hall and nearly 30 acres north and south of Indian Rock Park. In an announcement of the land reclassification, County Councilman David Marks said he had worked with County Executive Kevin Kamenetz for the past year to preserve the land.
"Not only are we protecting green space in two distinct regions of Perry Hall, but we are preserving an area larger than the acreage at Perry Hall High School," said Marks, a Republican from Perry Hall. "It is a milestone for the Perry Hall community, and it comes at almost no cost to Baltimore County's taxpayers."
Source: The Baltimore Sun
I eventually broke away from the small town scene to further my education at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. This past May I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies with a focus in Communications. Even with the gray cloud of unemployment casting a shadow over the majority of recent college graduates, a narrow ray of sunshine peeked its way into my life. I recently got my foot in to the door of the growing environmental movement by becoming a new member of the Green Roof Technology team.
Ground mounted Solar Farms are questionable.
Jörg Breuning Dec 5th 2012
It is widely known that multibillion companies are massively investing in solar energy. Especially Internet companies (Google, Yahoo, 1and1, etc.) have huge demands for energy to feed their decentralized server systems. Experts estimated that in ten years from now this modern telecommunication (internet, clouds, videos, email etc.) require worldwide 1963 Billion kWh. This is three times more than the current entire power consumption of France, Germany, Brazil and Canada together (Greenpeace). With this numbers in mind it is understandable that these companies like to reduce their energy costs in the long run with alternative energies.
Photograph: Boris Horvat/AFP/Getty Images
However alternative energy doesn’t mean it is “green”. Especially ground mounted solar farms (the preferred solution of these companies) consume a tremendous amount of land and produce substantial amounts of run-off. Typically the development starts with clear-cuts of forests, elimination of native environments or transforming farm land. After the development is done sometimes vegetation is brought back. Typically low growing grasses that require regular maintenance with sheep, weed covers, mulch, gas powered mowers and chemicals.
Once this expensive maintenance is not done consistently the performance of the system will suffer and eventually completely fail.
Ground remote Solar Farms.
Solar arrays installed on already impervious areas will reduce the land consumption dramatically. Also being less addicted to Facebook , IGadgets, PC, or smart Phones can actually reduce the energy need -our impact- without losing contact to friends and still making new friends. A hand written note in a personal calendar can be more environmentally friendly than connecting to clouds and email programs.
Since there are already enough existing roofs, parking lots, rail road tracks and roadways that could be covered with Solar and also combined with extensive green roofs would create recognizable stormwater reduction, perviousness and last not least power. This combined technology is available since decades but many Architects, Engineers and developers seemed to be blinded by the sun while the supposing green industry takes out one piece of fertile land at a time and taking away nature’s most advanced solar panel – the plants that are surrounded by a natural sponge.
No additional land use and hardly any maintenance on extensive Green Roof / Solar combination with the well-engineered Sun-Root ™.
Green Roof Research in North America By Jörg Breuning
I am always amazed how much funds, intellectual energy and resources are put into research of extensive green roofs without the consideration of feasibility and without considering the demands of the plants. Especially in research common sense should be the starting point of any qualified discussion. This raises also the questions, why are extensive green roofs in Europe –in particular Germany – are so successful?
It is solely successful because extensive green roofs according modern green roof technology are a cost efficient (and beautiful) tool to manage stromwater issues. Period. All other highly market benefits or positive “side effects” are generated by the system for free because these are only consequences of successful implemented nature. Focusing on the side effects and improving them will compromise and eventually reduce the main purpose of an extensive green roof by increasing costs for designing, engineering, implementing and maintenance.
In the academic world Liebig’s law of the Minimum should be applied in any step of the discussion and research. However understanding the limiting factors – including limiting economic factors – requires a tremendous amount of experience, historical data and common sense. The lack of these factors and the lack of time seem the limiting elements but justified by many unique human properties like vanity, self-promotion and economic restrains. On the other side (consumer side) the humans are also part of nature and it is natural that any of their decisions are made accordingly. If an idea doesn’t fit into this process (controlled by the scarcest or limiting resource) we walk away from it, like plants will “walk away” if their minimum requirements are not met. With the disappearance of plants on an extensive green roof we lose the purpose and the investment.
It is common sense that plants cannot walk away as fast as humans so their disappearance might take 2 decades or more which is still much less than the lifespan of extensive green roofs – the lifespan we promote.
For example measuring and promoting building insulation properties of a thermal mass or heat sinks like extensive green roofs was developed as a selling instrument of the industry (like reflective roofs). Trying to improve that will consequently compromise the main purpose to the negative. The end of this research will find out that it is most efficient and probably 10 times cheaper just to increase the buildings insulation on any surface of the building. It will also perfectly benefit when energy prices will continue to super-proportional increase or when we like to build our settlements that they last longer than just two decades – or when we want that the building has the same lifespan as an extensive green roof.
As I brought modern green roof technology to North America from Europe I expected a higher understanding of common sense and of Liebig’s law since it seemed to work in the social and financial world. Investing the research funds in actual extensive green roofs according proven modern green roof technology (e.g. not pre-planted boxes) would benefit the environment, industry and building owner much more and would help to start an entirely new research generation in 10-15 years from now.
When it comes to living technologies going back to the roots sometimes helps or simply is a necessity.