Monthly Archives: August 2007

Seville’s Solar Thermal Power Plant


Morning Edition, August 22, 2007 · A company in Spain has started producing household electricity from a solar power plant near Seville.

The technology is called concentrated solar thermal energy, which means it uses heat from the sun to run steam turbine generators. And running it doesn’t generate any greenhouse gases.

It’s Europe’s first commercial solar thermal power plant — and it’s called PS-10.

“PS-10 is an 11-megawatt electric power plant and it’s providing electricity for a population of about 6,000 houses,” says Valerio Fernandez, the engineer in charge of the plant built by the Spanish renewable energy company, Abengoa. The plant has been operational since March 2006 and is still being expanded.

The solar energy concentrated at the top could easily melt metal, Fernandez says. But water pumped through them stops them from melting. That water eventually turns to steam, powering the turbines at the base.


Solúcar is the Spanish company responsible for the solar thermal tower. They also have an assortment of other solar technologies in their repertoire, including cylinder-parabolic collectors, parabolic dishes and photovoltaics.


[NPR; BBC; Technology Review]

Fungus makes biodiesel efficiently; also kills insects


Chemical engineers over at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology have found an interesting way to process biodiesel more efficiently by using enzymes naturally produced by a fungus as a catalyst for the reaction.

Typically, biodiesel is made by mixing methanol with lye and vegetable oil and then heating the brew for several hours. This links the methanol to the oils to produce energetic called esters. Unfortunately, heating the mixture is a huge waste of energy, and a major selling point of alternative fuels is efficiency. An enzyme called lipase can link link oil to methanol without any extra heating, but the pure protein is expensive.

Potumarthi has a simple solution. Why bother purifying the lipase? It would be easier to just find an organism that produces plenty of the enzyme and squish it into pellets. In this case, the fungus Metarhizium anisopliae does the trick.


Metarhizium anisopliae is also considered an entomopathogenic fungus which is a parasitic fungus that kills insects by germinating in the insect’s cuticle, growing into its body cavity and releasing fungal toxins. The fungi in some cases causes the insect to become delirious before it kills it and takes over the insect’s body with spores. Some of you may remember this sick clip below from BBC’s Planet Earth (warning, if you have not seen this, it will blow your mind):


Entomopathogenic fungi have been researched and used as biological insecticides in several regions around the world such as Asia and Africa to help with insect infestations.

I am all about using natural means to deal with pest problems, especially in regions where the pests create massive public heath epidemics. I am also all about developing more efficient ways to process biofuels. But does it make sense to mass produce this entomopathogenic fungi (and it would have to be massively produced to meet the current biodiesel production rates) that could potentially infect innocent insect bystanders? This I am not so sure of. Am I being paranoid? Perhaps I am just traumatized by the Planet Earth video.

[WIRED SCIENCE; neurophilosophy@scienceblogs]

Bike Dispenser


Ed. Note : Welcome to another installment of our feature ‘Green Tuesday’ here at architecture.MNP This week we welcome back our ninja Austin, coming at you from Jersey with this really siiick post on a machine that dispenses bikes for temporary use. Say it with me now – My Ninja, Please! Enjoy.

I come to you after a long break of not posting to bring to you The Bike Dispenser (cue music).

Leave it to the Dutch (crazy a$$ ninjas) to come up with something so clever, so green, so cool. Basically its like a giant ‘Pez’ dispenser, dishing out bikes on one end and refilling on the other. Apparently it works like this (I don’t speak Dutch); you pay a small fee (around € 2.75 ($3.71) per 20 hours) or, in some cities which have free bike programs its free, you get a bike to use at your leisure. Stroll around as much as you want, return it when you wish to any of the neighborhood Bike Dispensers. Don’t feel like returning it, well you can leave it as is, the bikes are tagged with RFID’s; Bike Dispenser owners/operators can then find the free range bikes about the city and return them to their pens.


Its really ashame that America’s infrastructure in the major metropolitan areas cannot support such fantasies. The car is king and we all must succumb. C’est la vie! Only we as architects can do our part to promote better, healthier means of transportation whenever we have the opportunity.


::images via

[[article by Austin]]

Toyota?s Green Design Videos

So, I’m far too cynical to go ahead and whole-heartedly believe Toyota, a car manufacturer, when it says that its aiming for zero emissions and is a sponsor of green design. That being said, the concept makes a whole helluva lot of sense if you think about it: outside of keeping people alive to buy your product, and all that hippy ’save mother earth’ loudness, doesn’t looking into ‘green’ technologies seem to make sense at this point? Whether or not you believe in global warming and the end of days, fossil fuels are most definitely only available to us in a finite amount – why not prepare ahead of time, instead of waiting until its too late? That doesn’t sound like too crazy of a business plan to me.

Enjoy the videos my ninjas, they’re all pretty interesting [although, those of you well versed in green design trends have probably seen/heard of/read about these products & technologies before].

Studio Gang : Windermere West


I want to start this post by saying that that ninja Preston over at Jetson Green is NOT to be trifled with, my ninjas – don’t sit on green architecture posts, fellow bloggers, as he WILL get it up first. Damn…

Kookiekrumbles [from the main site] sent me this link on the Windermere West building being designed by Studio Gang, to be built in Chicago. Working with Arup, Studio Gang basically developed a passive solar strategy where the building’s sawtooth facade shades itself from the harshest sun [high in the sky summertime sun] to save on cooling costs/energy consumption. In contrast, the winter sun [low in the sky] will not be shaded, but instead shine through to warm the condos. Its so simple that I almost feel foolish featuring it…

::article via wired, and JetsonGreen::

Fiber Optics and Algae


Our ninjas over at architecture.MNP recently brought us this post on Parans SP2, a technology that channels natural sunlight through fiber optic cables into the indoors. Interestingly, this reminded me of a technology that utilizes the same light-sequestering concept to grow algae from CO2. Algae, as many of you may know, has been deemed by some to be the future of the biofuels industry. Not only will algae eat up CO2 (and NOx) from power plants, ethanol plants or any other CO2 producing industry, but it is an ideal [non-edible] source of oil for making biodiesel. The stuff can also be fermented to make ethanol, gasified to make methane/syngas or dried to make solid biomass.


GC Clean Tech Corporation bought the rights to a technology developed by Ohio University’s Ohio Coal Research Center for a bioreactor that uses fiber optic cables to concentrate light and direct it into a chamber. Inside the chamber are stacks of plates designed such that the algae has maximum surface area to grow on. The CO2 source is also directed into the chamber for the algae to feast on. This sick video does a much better job of describing the process than I.


GS-CleanTech is currently partnered with an ethanol production facility and hopes to use their carbon quenching technology.

Recycling = FREE BEER at Reading & Leeds


OK, now this is a green practice that we really need to encourage. This year the Reading & Leeds festivals, famed for their 3-day raucous rock shows, have decided to go green. It has been an increasing trend this year for festivals to bring environmental consciousness to their arenas (Coachella, Bonnaroo, Burning Man, etc.), but check this out:

On arrival people will be issued with a green bag for bottles, a clear bag for cans and a black bag for all other wastes. People that fill their bags will be rewarded by being able to exchange each bag for a beer.

WHAT!? Free beer?? This is pretty much unheard of for a concert, and the fact that it encourages people to pick up after themselves (also unheard of for a concert) and recycle at the same time! Definitely ninja-worthy. Not to mention all the other great ways Reading & Leeds are greening their shows. Here’s a list, check their website for full details: