Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The future of motoring?

A video report from the BBC today showcases the first hydrogen-powered car to be made commercially available - although not, so far, in the UK. The Honda Clarity is powered by an electric motor, which is charged by a fuel cell stack that converts the hydrogen to electricity and water. Its range is over 200 miles.

The catch, of course, is the lack of a hydrogen filling station network, but Honda has addressed this by developing a solar-powered hydrogen generation station suitable for domestic installation. It is designed to use grid electricity overnight to create 0.5kg of hydrogen, then return the energy to the grid from its solar panels during the day. The hydrogen generated in 8 hours is only sufficient for 30-35 miles, however.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Green Curtains

The simplest ideas are often the best, and this one is beautifully simple. Kyocera Group has planted "green curtains" around 20 of its facilities on three continents. Fruit-bearing plants are grown up temporary nets or trellises to shade walls and windows from the sun, reducing direct solar gain through the windows and thermal transfer through the walls. The green, leafy shade is attractive for its workers to look out on - plus they get the enjoy the fruit and vegetables grown by the curtains in the staff canteen.

The company even publishes a "how to" guide on its website for other businesses that want to emulate it.

The green curtains are comprised of cucumbers, peas and a bitter gourd called goya, and cover 32,750 square feet (3,043 square metres). Kyocera has calculated that they decrease the temperature of walls by as much as 15 degrees C (27 degrees F). At the same time, the green curtains absorb an estimated 23,481 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to the effect of 761 cedar trees.

Kyocera has a longstanding reputation for environmentally-responsible business and also operates a "cool biz" dress code in the summer to help staff stay comfortable without resorting to air conditioning. And it's also in the process of installing the solar PV panels it manufactures on more of its premises. By March 2011, the company expects to have solar power installed at all of its 10 manufacturing sites in Japan plus 20 sites globally. These include a 214-kW solar power generating system at its global headquarters in Kyoto, and a solar grove in the car park of Kyocera’s San Diego facility, which also shades cars from the sun.

The new projects will boost Kyocera's total solar output from its own installations to 1,815kW, which combined with the offset provided by its green curtain, will help to reduce the company's CO2 emissions.

(Declaration of interest - writer is employed by a Kyocera Group company in the UK)