solar

Mega-city, Mega-challenge

Lagos, one of the world’s 10 most populated cities and one of the top 3 fastest growing, faces a great challenge in providing housing for all its residents at prices they can afford. In the United States, homeownership is a basic component of the American Dream. Everyone has a right to shelter, and most everyone wants to own it. In Europe, housing policy reflects the same right to shelter, but cultural norms don’t require ownership of one’s home. Now, as developing countries grow and continue to urbanize at unprecedented rates, cities like Lagos have to find ways to provide this basic human right as well. Here, there is both a challenge and an opportunity – to learn from those mistakes made by industrialized countries.

It is encouraging to see that Lagos has recognized this opportunity – they are looking for solutions to their 5 million unit gap in housing supply not only through increasing units, but by treating those units as building blocks in its city service system. They envision housing as a dissemination point for energy, water, health, security, mobility, business services, and education. Together, this network can reduce costs to individuals and society through cross-subsidization of services.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4TvesXV_Yg&w=440&h=253] Sustainable, affordable, and innovative housing solutions on the scale needed in Lagos remain elusive. Nonetheless, a couple of small-scale innovative housing examples may be of interest. Another article from Japan for Sustainability notes a new “hybrid house” design, which will be powered with three power systems: photovoltaics, fuel cells, and secondary batteries. The designers estimate that homeowners could have zero utilities costs under this system, which creates enough power for such appliances as LCD televisions, refrigerators, and lighting – systems that could be pooled in Lagos’ case to achieve further economies of scale.

decathlon

A second project is the result of a “solar decathlon” – a US Department of Energy-sponsored event to gather ideas from students across the world. While most of the prototype homes portray designs applicable in the US or developed country context, seeing them all together on the National Mall (see photo above) allows one to envision the great potential for dense, sustainable, solar-powered homes. Perhaps in future competitions, the judges could add “fits in the context of a dense, rapidly urbanizing city” to its criteria. For, due to these cities’ stage of development, these locations offer opportunities for the greatest environmental and sustainability gains.

-          Terra Curtis

Mega-city, Mega-challenge

Lagos, one of the world’s 10 most populated cities and one of the top 3 fastest growing, faces a great challenge in providing housing for all its residents at prices they can afford. In the United States, homeownership is a basic component of the American Dream. Everyone has a right to shelter, and most everyone wants to own it. In Europe, housing policy reflects the same right to shelter, but cultural norms don’t require ownership of one’s home. Now, as developing countries grow and continue to urbanize at unprecedented rates, cities like Lagos have to find ways to provide this basic human right as well. Here, there is both a challenge and an opportunity – to learn from those mistakes made by industrialized countries.

It is encouraging to see that Lagos has recognized this opportunity – they are looking for solutions to their 5 million unit gap in housing supply not only through increasing units, but by treating those units as building blocks in its city service system. They envision housing as a dissemination point for energy, water, health, security, mobility, business services, and education. Together, this network can reduce costs to individuals and society through cross-subsidization of services.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4TvesXV_Yg&w=440&h=253] Sustainable, affordable, and innovative housing solutions on the scale needed in Lagos remain elusive. Nonetheless, a couple of small-scale innovative housing examples may be of interest. Another article from Japan for Sustainability notes a new “hybrid house” design, which will be powered with three power systems: photovoltaics, fuel cells, and secondary batteries. The designers estimate that homeowners could have zero utilities costs under this system, which creates enough power for such appliances as LCD televisions, refrigerators, and lighting – systems that could be pooled in Lagos’ case to achieve further economies of scale.

decathlon

A second project is the result of a “solar decathlon” – a US Department of Energy-sponsored event to gather ideas from students across the world. While most of the prototype homes portray designs applicable in the US or developed country context, seeing them all together on the National Mall (see photo above) allows one to envision the great potential for dense, sustainable, solar-powered homes. Perhaps in future competitions, the judges could add “fits in the context of a dense, rapidly urbanizing city” to its criteria. For, due to these cities’ stage of development, these locations offer opportunities for the greatest environmental and sustainability gains.

-          Terra Curtis

Sustenergy - Sustainable Energy

food You know that energy you get from drinking a fresh cup of coffee? That energy is unsustainable.  Energy from a good night’s sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise stays with you throughout the day and throughout your life. A number of our awards cities this round are seeking solutions related to energy, and each of them is focused on finding more sustainable ways of producing it.

Birmingham, in the UK, wants a solution to transform its many tonnes of food waste into an energy source for businesses and residents. The city of Caceres, in Spain, identified municipal sports facilities as its potential source of sustainable energy. Kinetic energy could be captured to power the facility and perhaps streetlights or other municipal infrastructure.

Japan for Sustainability, a Japanese non-profit we’ve mentioned on this blog before, has been reporting several initiatives in their country related to sustainable energy that are worthwhile to report.

  • Solar-powered bus shelters: these photo-voltaic-equipped bus shelters protect waiting passengers from sun and rain, collect energy to light the bus stop at night, and have the ability to utilize any excess energy for powering nearby facilities, supplementing power during shortages like emergencies, or selling excess to power companies.  Sustainable solution indeed!
  • Citizen-funded solar generation project: property owners in Higashiomi, Japan can install subsidized solar panels on their roof, feed the power into a citywide network, and, as investors, receive dividends from the proceeds in the form of coupons to local establishments. It a sustainable solution for the economy and the environment.
  • Dynamic electricity pricing: Kitakyushu will pilot dynamic pricing of electricity based on season and time of day.  Ten percent of energy will come from wind and solar, while the remaining comes from a natural gas cogeneration plant.

What if some of the ideas coming from Japanese projects could be combined with Birmingham and Caceres’ request for proposals? For instance, what if households and businesses could “invest in” the local power grid by collecting and donating food waste? They could be incentivized in a way similar to the citizen-funded solar project in Japan. Or, what if the municipal sports facilities excess energy could be used to power not bus shelters, but electric buses or electric bicycles – sustainable forms of transport? Keep an eye on the submissions; this will be an interesting set for sure.

-          Terra Curtis

Sustenergy - Sustainable Energy

food You know that energy you get from drinking a fresh cup of coffee? That energy is unsustainable.  Energy from a good night’s sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise stays with you throughout the day and throughout your life. A number of our awards cities this round are seeking solutions related to energy, and each of them is focused on finding more sustainable ways of producing it.

Birmingham, in the UK, wants a solution to transform its many tonnes of food waste into an energy source for businesses and residents. The city of Caceres, in Spain, identified municipal sports facilities as its potential source of sustainable energy. Kinetic energy could be captured to power the facility and perhaps streetlights or other municipal infrastructure.

Japan for Sustainability, a Japanese non-profit we’ve mentioned on this blog before, has been reporting several initiatives in their country related to sustainable energy that are worthwhile to report.

  • Solar-powered bus shelters: these photo-voltaic-equipped bus shelters protect waiting passengers from sun and rain, collect energy to light the bus stop at night, and have the ability to utilize any excess energy for powering nearby facilities, supplementing power during shortages like emergencies, or selling excess to power companies.  Sustainable solution indeed!
  • Citizen-funded solar generation project: property owners in Higashiomi, Japan can install subsidized solar panels on their roof, feed the power into a citywide network, and, as investors, receive dividends from the proceeds in the form of coupons to local establishments. It a sustainable solution for the economy and the environment.
  • Dynamic electricity pricing: Kitakyushu will pilot dynamic pricing of electricity based on season and time of day.  Ten percent of energy will come from wind and solar, while the remaining comes from a natural gas cogeneration plant.

What if some of the ideas coming from Japanese projects could be combined with Birmingham and Caceres’ request for proposals? For instance, what if households and businesses could “invest in” the local power grid by collecting and donating food waste? They could be incentivized in a way similar to the citizen-funded solar project in Japan. Or, what if the municipal sports facilities excess energy could be used to power not bus shelters, but electric buses or electric bicycles – sustainable forms of transport? Keep an eye on the submissions; this will be an interesting set for sure.

-          Terra Curtis

Lighting Up the Night

Living Labs Global is now soliciting applications for its Labs Global Award 2011.  This year, we are working directly with eight international cities (Barcelona, Cape Town, Eindhoven, Lagos, San Francisco, Sant Cugat del Valles, Stockholm, and Taipei) that have specific urban challenges to solve.  These eight challenges form eight award categories: automation of urban services; venture finance for millions of African entrepreneurs; intelligent urban lighting solutions; sustainable initiative on intellectual property protection; creating the next generation of government; smart urban services based on sensor networks; intelligent transport solutions; and smart solutions for 10,000 smart houses in 16 green communities.  Full details on these categories are available here. In light of our focused effort in collecting innovative solutions (deadline for submissions in February 28, 2011), we will be concentrating our blogging effort in the next few weeks along the themes of the Labs Global Award 2011.

The first solution I’d like to highlight is Urban Green Energy’s Sanya, an innovative street lighting system recently deployed in San Francisco.  UGE is a “world leader in small wind energy” and has created a vertical wind turbine with a low enough profile to be deployed in urban environments – it is meant primarily for parking lots and highway medians.  San Francisco’s then-mayor, Gavin Newsom, recently announced their installation in his “civic center sustainability” district, an area of the city surrounding the City Hall.

The Sanya solution is great for local and renewable energy advocates, though some have posited the solution could present challenges to utilities companies who often power, control and maintain communities’ street lights.  But, because Sanya is designed to last about 20 years with minimal maintenance costs and run entirely on wind- and solar- power (capable of storing up to 5 days’ worth of power), they are an attractive solution to cities.  And, as Lora Kolodny argues on Techcrunch, Sanya could actually be a positive thing for utilities as well: they could be connected to the traditional utilities’ grid to help them fulfill regulatory requirements for local and renewable energy sourcing.

The comments on her article reflect the sentiments of some environmentalists who, despite the obvious benefits of Sanya to the environment, dislike the idea of helping utilities companies and of street lighting itself (“light pollution”).  Nonetheless, I think this is an interesting and positive solution whose progress I will continue to follow from afar; too bad I’m not living in San Francisco anymore.

-Terra Curtis