Made in the USA: Green Builder Magazine Showcases Xero Flor Green Roof System

Green-Roof-System-Xero-

In August 2013, Green Builder Magazine showcased the best durable/sustainable green building products that are made in the United States, pointing out that American manufacturing creates domestic jobs, reduces the impact of overseas shipping, and often makes use of locally-sourced raw materials.

Among the thirty-one products featured was the Xero Flor Green Roof System (the only green roof system to be included in the issue), which enables builders to create vegetative roofing on surfaces that range from 0 to 45 degree slopes. The Xero Flor system comprises a pre-vegetated mat, XeroTerr growing medium (a mix of compost and porous mineral aggregate), a retention fleece that distributes and stores water within the root zone, drain mat, and root barrier.

Green-Roof-System-Xero-Flor-Profile

Pre-vegetated mats, available in a variety of sedums and mosses, are grown in a textile-based carrier (either geotextile or fleece) along with a ¾” to 1¼” of XeroTerr. Fully saturated, the one-meter-square system weighs 14 pounds; the 1m x 2m system weighs 30 pounds. Xero Flor is the only Cradle to Cradle Certified (for environmental sustainability) pre-vegetated mat system, meeting Silver Level standards for safety and health in materials, recycling and recovery of materials, efficient use of water resources, use of non-polluting and renewable energy sources, carbon emission management, and environmentally-conscious business operations.

“While the Xero Flor Green Roof System has its roots in Europe, all system components for our projects in the U.S. are all 100 percent American-made,” said general manager and technical director of Xero Flor America, Clayton Rugh, Ph.D., in a recent press release. “In addition, we grow our green roof plants on independent, locally owned farms across the country. Using regional horticultural suppliers gives a boost to local economies, supports more sustainable agriculture, and reduces energy use and costs for shipping.”

Since 2002, Xero Flor America has installed the system on projects in 38 states, including academic, private residence, commercial, multi-unit residence, municipal, and health facilities.

The Xero Flor system will be exhibited at Cities Alive, the 11th Annual Green Roof & Wall Conference that will take place in San Francisco on October 23-26, 2013.

Green-Roof-System-Xero-1

Related Articles on JetsonGreen.com:
Xero Flor America Green Roof Named in GreenRoofs.com Project of the Week
Xero Flor Green Roofs Get Cradle to Cradle
Missouri Smith Residence is First Active House in the USA


Graphene-Based Supercapacitors — Next-Generation Energy Storage?

An entirely new strategy for engineering graphene-based supercapacitors has been developed by researchers at Monash University — potentially leading the way to powerful next-generation renewable energy storage systems. The new strategy also opens up the possibility of using graphene-based supercapacitors in electric vehicles and consumer electronics.

Supercapacitors — which are typically composed of highly porous carbon that is impregnated with a liquid electrolyte — are known for possessing an almost indefinite lifespan and the impressive ability to recharge extremely rapidly, in seconds even. But existing versions also possess a very low energy-storage-to-volume ratio — in other words, a low energy density. Because of this low energy density — 5-8 Watt-hours per liter in most supercapacitors — they’re not practical for most purposes. They would either need to be extremely large or be recharged very, very often for most uses.

Graphene supercapacitors

Image Credit: 3D model of graphene sheet via Shutterstock.

// < ![CDATA[ // < ![CDATA[ google_ad_client = "ca-pub-6260354429531949"; /* Nathan CT */ google_ad_slot = "3201144213"; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 60; // ]]>
// < ![CDATA[ // < ![CDATA[

// ]]>
But, now, new research has resulted in the creation of a supercapacitor free from the above-mentioned limitations. Through the use of graphene, the researchers created a supercapacitor that possesses an energy density of 60 Watt-hours per liter, which is comparable to lead-acid batteries and about twelve times higher than commercially available supercapacitors. “It has long been a challenge to make supercapacitors smaller, lighter and compact to meet the increasingly demanding needs of many commercial uses,” stated lead researcher Professor Dan Li of the Department of Materials Engineering.

Monash University continues:

Graphene, which is formed when graphite is broken down into layers one atom thick, is very strong, chemically stable and an excellent conductor of electricity. To make their uniquely compact electrode, Professor Li’s team exploited an adaptive graphene gel film they had developed previously. They used liquid electrolytes — generally the conductor in traditional supercapacitors (SCs) — to control the spacing between graphene sheets on the sub-nanometer scale. In this way the liquid electrolyte played a dual role: maintaining the minute space between the graphene sheets and conducting electricity.

Unlike in conventional, “hard” porous carbon, where space is wasted with unnecessarily large “pores,” density is maximized without compromising porosity in Professor Li’s electrode. To create its material, the research team used a method similar to that used in traditional paper-making, meaning the process could be easily and cost-effectively scaled up for industrial use.

“We have created a macroscopic graphene material that is a step beyond what has been achieved previously. It is almost at the stage of moving from the lab to commercial development,” explained Professor Li.

The new research was just published in the journal Science.


CU-Boulder Team Develops Water Splitting Technique that Could Produce Hydrogen Fuel

Lead scientist calls splitting water with sunlight the “Holy Grail” of a sustainable hydrogen economy

A University of Colorado Boulder team has developed a radically new technique that uses the power of sunlight to efficiently split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen, paving the way for the broad use of hydrogen as a clean, green fuel.

This is an artist's concept of a commercial hydrogen production plant that uses sunlight to split water in order to to produce clean hydrogen fuel. Credit: University of Colorado

This is an artist’s concept of a commercial hydrogen production plant that uses sunlight to split water in order to to produce clean hydrogen fuel.
Credit: University of Colorado

The CU-Boulder team has devised a solar-thermal system in which sunlight could be concentrated by a vast array of mirrors onto a single point atop a central tower up to several hundred feet tall. The tower would gather heat generated by the mirror system to roughly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,350 Celsius), then deliver it into a reactor containing chemical compounds known as metal oxides, said CU-Boulder Professor Alan Weimer, research group leader.

As a metal oxide compound heats up, it releases oxygen atoms, changing its material composition and causing the newly formed compound to seek out new oxygen atoms, said Weimer. The team showed that the addition of steam to the system — which could be produced by boiling water in the reactor with the concentrated sunlight beamed to the tower — would cause oxygen from the water molecules to adhere to the surface of the metal oxide, freeing up hydrogen molecules for collection as hydrogen gas.

“We have designed something here that is very different from other methods and frankly something that nobody thought was possible before,” said Weimer of the chemical and biological engineering department. “Splitting water with sunlight is the Holy Grail of a sustainable hydrogen economy.”

A paper on the subject was published in the Aug. 2 issue of Science. The team included co-lead authors Weimer and Associate Professor Charles Musgrave, first author and doctoral student Christopher Muhich, postdoctoral researcher Janna Martinek, undergraduate Kayla Weston, former CU graduate student Paul Lichty, former CU postdoctoral researcher Xinhua Liang and former CU researcher Brian Evanko.

One of the key differences between the CU method and other methods developed to split water is the ability to conduct two chemical reactions at the same temperature, said Musgrave, also of the chemical and biological engineering department. While there are no working models, conventional theory holds that producing hydrogen through the metal oxide process requires heating the reactor to a high temperature to remove oxygen, then cooling it to a low temperature before injecting steam to re-oxidize the compound in order to release hydrogen gas for collection.

“The more conventional approaches require the control of both the switching of the temperature in the reactor from a hot to a cool state and the introduction of steam into the system,” said Musgrave. “One of the big innovations in our system is that there is no swing in the temperature. The whole process is driven by either turning a steam valve on or off.”

“Just like you would use a magnifying glass to start a fire, we can concentrate sunlight until it is really hot and use it to drive these chemical reactions,” said Muhich. “While we can easily heat it up to more than 1,350 degrees Celsius, we want to heat it to the lowest temperature possible for these chemical reactions to still occur. Hotter temperatures can cause rapid thermal expansion and contraction, potentially causing damage to both the chemical materials and to the reactors themselves.”

In addition, the two-step conventional idea for water splitting also wastes both time and heat, said Weimer, also a faculty member at CU-Boulder’s BioFrontiers Institute. “There are only so many hours of sunlight in a day,” he said.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and by the U.S. Department of Energy.

With the new CU-Boulder method, the amount of hydrogen produced for fuel cells or for storage is entirely dependent on the amount of metal oxide — which is made up of a combination of iron, cobalt, aluminum and oxygen — and how much steam is introduced into the system. One of the designs proposed by the team is to build reactor tubes roughly a foot in diameter and several feet long, fill them with the metal oxide material and stack them on top of each other. A working system to produce a significant amount of hydrogen gas would require a number of the tall towers to gather concentrated sunlight from several acres of mirrors surrounding each tower.

Weimer said the new design began percolating within the team about two years ago. “When we saw that we could use this simpler, more effective method, it required a change in our thinking,” said Weimer. “We had to develop a theory to explain it and make it believable and understandable to other scientists and engineers.”

Despite the discovery, the commercialization of such a solar-thermal reactor is likely years away. “With the price of natural gas so low, there is no incentive to burn clean energy,” said Weimer, also the executive director of the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels, or C2B2. “There would have to be a substantial monetary penalty for putting carbon into the atmosphere, or the price of fossil fuels would have to go way up.”

Source: AAAS EurekAlert

First Solar to Deliver 155MW of Solar Power Projects for AGL Energy

Utility scale solar PV projects expected to meet the needs of over 50,000 average NSW homes

First Solar announced yesterday that AGL Energy Limited (AGL) has achieved financial close for two utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) projects. First Solar has executed engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts to supply the projects with its advanced thin-film photovoltaic (PV) modules and provide EPC services. In addition, First Solar will provide maintenance support for a period of five years once the solar farms are operational.

First Solar logo

AGL has engaged First Solar to construct a 102MW [AC] solar plant at Nyngan and a 53MW solar project at Broken Hill – both located in New South Wales. The projects are supported by $166.7 million of Commonwealth Government funding through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) as well as an additional $64.9 million in funding from the NSW Government. The total project cost is approximately $450 million.

“The Nyngan and Broken Hill solar projects will be Australia’s largest utility-scale solar projects, respectively, and demonstrate that utility-scale solar is a proven, bankable source of power generation in Australia today,” said Jack Curtis, First Solar’s Vice President of Business Development for Asia Pacific. “We are thrilled to be partnering with AGL in delivering the solar projects, both of which are of major significance for regional New South Wales and the Australian energy sector. These projects will play an important part in the growing acceptance of utility-scale solar PV, and we applaud the Commonwealth Government and the NSW Government for their vision and commitment to the sector.”

Construction of the Nyngan project is expected to commence in January 2014, with commercial operation expected by mid-2015. Construction of the Broken Hill project will start approximately six months later, in July 2014, and is scheduled to reach commercial operation before the end of 2015. On completion, the projects are expected to produce approximately 360,000 megawatt hours of electricity each year, which will be sufficient to meet the needs of over 50,000 average homes in NSW.

The Nyngan and Broken Hill solar plants are expected to provide significant value to regional New South Wales, adding nearly two percent to the gross regional product of each community. First Solar is actively engaged with local companies looking to become involved in the projects, with over 100 local contractors attending the recent subcontractor forums hosted in Dubbo, Nyngan and Cobar. The projects will create approximately 300 construction jobs in Nyngan and approximately 150 in Broken Hill, providing valuable experience and capability to support the development of similar projects in future years.

“AGL is delighted to be working with First Solar and drawing on the team’s global expertise in this industry,” said Michael Fraser, AGL’s Managing Director. “We are eager to get this nationally significant project underway, and together we will provide the experience and commercial stability to help ensure the successful construction of the two solar plants.”

Source: Business Wire


Solectria Renewables to Power the Largest College Solar Installation in North America

Solectria Renewables, LLC, a U.S. PV inverter manufacturer, announced yesterday that its SGI 500 inverters will power an 8MW solar system, the largest college solar installation in North America, at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) in West Windsor, New Jersey. Solectria Renewables’ inverters were specified by MasTec Renewables Construction Company (MasTec).

solectra ogo

“We’ve worked with Solectria Renewables on other projects, including a 4.75MW solar system in Massachusetts, so we already have experience with the reliability and durability of their products as well as the responsiveness of their sales, operations and customer services teams,” said Aron Anderson, Director of Estimating of MasTec. “When this project arose, there was no doubt that we would engage Solectria again. We truly value their products and company as a whole.”

The 8MW solar system is located on a 45-acre parcel of land at MCCC and will save the college approximately $750,000 annually.

Patricia C. Donohue, MCCC President, said the solar farm moves MCCC forward on many fronts. “The solar farm will save critical dollars and enable us to restore to our budget many cuts in programs and services we have made over the past two years. It also helps us fulfill our sustainability goals. We have committed to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) with the goal of achieving carbon neutrality.”

The annual electricity produced from this project will provide 70% of the power needed to run the campus and is equivalent to:

9,010 metric tons of CO2
1,767 passenger vehicles greenhouse gas emissions
89 acres of forest preserved from deforestation of carbon sequestered
1,123 homes greenhouse gas emissions

“Being chosen by MasTec is an honor and we value our partnership with them,” said Bob Montanaro, Southeast Regional Sales Manager of Solectria Renewables. “We know that our inverters are the best choice for this 8MW project – they have been deployed across all of North America because of their reliability, bankability and highest return on investment (ROI).”

Source: Business Wire