Deep in the bowels of the Stata Center on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's campus is an energy war room.
A row of flat-screen monitors lines one wall, showing exhaustive data on energy use in dozens of buildings across the campus. Buildings are displayed in colors that depend on their overall energy use. If a building is red, that indicates an energy leak in one of its lighting, climate-control or ventilation systems, or a water leak. The system, using software from KGS Buildings LLC, can also predict where problems will crop up.
"It makes us more efficient, because we know what to look for," says Balby Etienne, an MIT buildings-systems analyst. He also credits the software for a big drop in temperature and humidity complaints.
On completion developers say Lusail (in Qatar) will become home to more than a quarter of a million residents, and be capable of hosting tens of thousands more at its array of luxury hotels.
Lusail is formed by four islands and includes two luxury marinas, the 56,000 square metre Marina Mall and the enormous 241-acre Entertainment City which will include a giraffe zoo, a snow park and a Six Flags amusement park.
The mall is set to open in 2017 and its design, based on desert canyons, includes roofs that repel the heat, a body of running water and water falls throughout its five interconnected pods that boast cinemas, restaurants and retail outlets.
Residents and visitors will move around getting around on a light-rail network, an underground network tunnels for pedestrians and water taxis, they will also have access to two golf courses.
As with all the proposed developments that formed part of the appeal for FIFA delegates when awarding the world's biggest sporting event to Qatar, the major elements of the city will be environmentally friendly - the stadium, complete with a solar-powered cooling system so players and fans don't bake in the summer desert sun, will have no carbon footprint.
All amenities, including energy, transport and communications systems will be run out of a single hub so the city can react to issues such as weather and traffic in a streamlined manner - surveillance cameras will also populate the city for security purposes.
Meriem Chabani and colleagues won first prize in the latest Jacques Rougerie Competition for their Arctic Harvester, which is designed to support 800 people. The idea is to float this donut-shaped facility off the coast of Greenland, where workers would collect small bergs from the surrounding area and move them into a central bay where they'd melt. The freshwater would be used to feed plants grown in a hydroponic greenhouse. The fruits and vegetables produced could be sold to people living near the coast of the mainland.
At Tesla, Popple could rely on early adopters eager to pay a premium for an electric car. As the new chief executive officer of Proterra, which makes an $850,000 electric bus, he’s got a tougher audience: municipal governments that are used to paying as little as $300,000 for a diesel-guzzler. They’re reluctant to invest so much in the promise of energy savings down the line. Proterra argues that the wait isn’t long. “We’ve seen paybacks against diesel and hybrids in as little as two years and as long as six years,” says Popple. He’s persuaded some powerful backers. On June 18 he announced a $40 million round of investment led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (where he remains a partner), GM Ventures (GM), and the Pritzker family’s Tao Invest, bringing Proterra’s total outside funding to $100 million.
Twice is one of many startups attempting to make the environmentally sound choice preferable and easy for consumers while making a profit in the process. The statistics driving these efforts are shocking: In the U.S., 90% of mobile devices are thrown away rather than recycled. Up to 40% of the food produced gets trashed. Americans junk some 12 million tons of textiles each year. “There’s no way we can continue to produce waste at the level that we are and survive on this planet,” says Adam Werbach, a co-founder of Yerdle, a site where people trade things they might otherwise throw out. “It really is much easier to click a button than it is to knock on your neighbor’s door.” And that is the convenience gap these enviro-preneurs hope to close.
Which brings us to another number: €2 billion ($2.77 billion). That is a conservative estimate of how much BMW has spent to create, from scratch, the "i" brand devoted to building sustainable electric and hybrid-electric vehicles. The program has its own carbon-neutral supply chain, starting with the hydroelectrically powered facility in Moses Lake, Wash., that makes the carbon-fiber thread from which lightweight vehicles are built. The i cars are assembled at a Zaha Hadid-designed facility in Leipzig, Germany.
The i3 brought to market the program's signature LifeDrive technology: All the car's moving parts, the machinery, is packed into a lightweight aluminum Drive chassis, like a roller-skate truck. The body of the car, the passenger safety cell, is spun out of a light, strong carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). And the two modules, Life and Drive, are essentially glued together, meshing on the assembly line like two sides of a zipper. The resulting car is 2,860 pounds.
The winglet you see on most new 737s has evolved and some of the newest United and Southwest 737-800 and 900 planes are sporting what Aviation Partners calls a Scimitar winglet.
It replaces the “aluminum winglet tip cap with a new aerodynamically shaped “Scimitar” TM winglet tip cap and by adding a new Scimitar tipped Ventral Strake. This revolutionary design was flight tested by Aviation Partners, Inc. in 2012 and demonstrated significant aircraft drag reduction over the basic Blended Winglet configuration”
The storage system, looking something like a refrigerator with the Tesla logo emblazoned on it, contains hundreds of the same lithium ion batteries that go into Tesla’s Model S sedan. “If you go to the end of the manufacturing line at the Tesla factory where they put the battery pack on, you will see these storage systems being assembled,” says Peter Rive, SolarCity’s co-founder and chief technology officer. SolarCity now sells the industrial version alongside a smaller, wall-mounted system that’s been installed in about 500 homes so far. The commercial unit has been in beta tests for months and is selling in limited quantities so far.
SolarCity's innovation wasn't technological but financial. Instead of selling solar systems outright, which can cost $20,000 or more, SolarCity would install them for free and then sell the electricity the panels generated to customers at a fixed rate over the life of a 20-year contract.
Given that utility rates are expected to rise, customers taking advantage of so-called power-purchase-agreement contracts are able to avoid the prohibitive up-front cost of solar and save money over the life of their contract. SolarCity also offered solar leases, not unlike car leases, in which customers pay a fixed monthly price for their systems. "With a lease, you immediately start saving, and from Day One you pay less for electricity than you were before," says Shayle Kann, vice president for research at Greentech Media. The model--now used by most solar installers--opened a huge new market.
Of course, subsidies help. The federal government offers a 30% tax credit on solar systems, and states provide additional incentives. Some states also have net-metering laws, which require utilities to pay solar-system owners for any excess electricity they feed back into the grid. That's what has some utilities concerned about distributed solar. If solar can keep growing, a significant percentage of utility customers will begin producing more and more of their own energy--and paying less to utilities. Rhone Resch, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, argues that if utilities don't evolve, SolarCity will become a threat.