Being Green – Going Solar

Hi Folks:  Before I get into this week’s ‘Being Green’ post, last Friday I talked a bit about ‘Modeling and Monitoring‘.  I came across a link this week from the American Society of Landscape Architects on “Sustainability Toolkit: Environmental Models” that fits in with that post, so I wanted to mention it first.  Also, I’m a big advocate of LED lighting, but I came across an interesting article this week on LEDs and why ‘not all LED lights are created equal‘.

Okay… about 150 million km from here is an average yellow star, one of an estimated 100 billion stars in this galaxy.  In and of itself it’s nothing spectacular (or no more spectacular than any other), but to us its pretty significant because without it life as we know it couldn’t exist.  We’re speaking of course about our sun.  It provides light, warmth, electromagnetic energy, and affects us in ways we’re still only beginning to understand.  It can be a source of energy in many different ways, and for our built environment factoring in the sun is an important part of design.  Ask any sun worshipper, however, and there’s more to it than just energy, more than the vitamin D that our bodies produce in the presence of sunlight.  Being in natural light makes us feel good.

When designing buildings using passive solar design, we use our position in relation to the sun to maximize warmth in cold times, and we seek shade from it when things get too hot.  We’ve developed solar panels that convert solar energy into electricity, both in terms of individual panels that can be mounted on a rooftop and in industrial-sized collectors that convert the sun’s heat to steam via the use of reflectors.  We also have solar water-heating units for residential and commercial use.  We bring sunlight into our homes through windows and we can light spaces using skylights as well.  There are also ways to bring sunlight farther into buildings than we once thought possible.  Light shelves are one way.  Tubular skylights, or light tubes are another.  Another technique that I’d not heard of before uses fiber-optic cabling to transfer light into indoor spaces.  Fiber-optic cables are used heavily in the communications industry as pulsed light signals can be sent for long distances through the fibers with less attenuation than through copper wires.  But since these communication signals are essentially carrying light, the same cables can be used to carry, well, light itself.

Using fiber optics for bringing daylight into rooms uses three main components.  On the roof there is a parabolic collector that focuses the sun’s rays.  Attached to these collectors are bundles of optical fibers, joined into cables that run through the wall like electrical cables.  At the downstream end is a fixture, much like an electrical fixture, that spreads the sunlight into the room.  There are limits to the use of fiber-optic cabling, distance being the main one.  There is a fall-off or reduced light effect the farther one travels from the collector, amounting to only 40% of the light being delivered along 65 ft (20 m) of fiber optic line.  The systems aren’t ‘cheap’, but they are a relatively new technology and there are a couple of companies providing the necessary equipment and installation.  More information and links can be found in this excellent article: Fiber Optics for Daylighting. Increasing the amount of daylight in your home, office or industrial space can affect both health and mood, and perhaps best of all the source is basically unlimited and free.

Well, normally I would add the links for this week in here, but somehow WordPress wiped out about 90% of the coding that I spent the last several hours writing.  Since it knew (sneakily) that it was going to do that, the autosave feature didn’t work either.  Yes, I should have saved it myself as well – I know better.  Anyway, with some 500 words less than there should be:

That’s it for now.  Have a great week!


P.S. These look like fun! Glowing Hexagonal Crystal LED Light is a Lamp, Puzzle, Toy all in one!

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