· September 2016

September 2016

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The Ocean Still: Lagrimas de Santa Monica, a submission to the 2016 Land Art Generator Initiative design competition for Santa Monica

Artist Team: Nuith Morales, Stephanie Hsia, Courtney A. Goode, Michelle Arevalos Franco, and Helen E. Kongsgaard
Artist Location: Boston, USA
Energy Technologies: Solar Distillation
Annual Capacity: 9 million liters of drinking water

The twin springs that inspired Santa Monica’s name were fabled to be the tears of a saint. At a time of growing thirst in California, The Ocean Still augments this sacred source of water by transforming seawater into fresh water, using only the energy of the sun. A large, transparent enclosure—a solar still perched on the old breakwater—makes a surface for collecting the saint’s pure tears once again. This simple, pre-modern technology concentrates sunlight, distills saltwater, and condenses fresh water on a glass shell. The entire breakwater structure, including the passive solar still and its complex of pools, celebrates the many forms of water as well as the residue of desalination.

Fusing urban needs and pleasure, the expanded breakwater complex recalls the history of the Santa Monica Pier as municipal sewage utility and its vital role in urban metabolism. Now, as before, the processes that make city life possible are tied to entertainment and destination—water production as spectacle.

Inside the “still” solar radiant heat is absorbed and concentrated. The seawater evaporates. As it condenses on the glass shell, a collection channel diverts the pure distillate into a cistern and to the pier. The angled glass walls face due south, absorbing maximum solar heat and exploiting the flow of prevailing westerly and southwesterly winds.

The concentrated saline brine that results from desalination exits from a low point into the “brine pool”—a long, deep swimming pool that induces the body to float. Swimmers churn the brine water with their movements, maintaining the water at a consistent density.

When the brine waters approach the pool’s capacity they flow onto the “mixing beach.” Here, short walls allow for waves to crash and stir the concentrate—brine mixing with seawater. This slow reclamation of diluted brine back to the Pacific Ocean prevents the dead zones associated with industrial desalination. The shallow slope of sand and gravel at the “mixing beach” creates a protected habitat for marine fauna, and an idyllic floating coast for California sunbathers.

The Ocean Still encourages hope in simple technologies that will not readily become obsolete. Drought and thirst cannot be easily solved at the push of a button. Thoughtful interventions in our lives and landscapes, beyond providing solutions, have the capacity to engage the desires and delights of the senses.

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Flowerpops

Flowerpops, a submission to the 2016 Land Art Generator Initiative design competition for Santa Monica

Artist Team: Augusto Audissoni, Silvia Cama, Elisabetta Lo Grasso, Elisa Tozzi, Nicolò Mossin
Artist Location: Genoa, Italy
Energy Technologies: Vortex Bladeless™ Wind Turbine, Thin Film Solar (similar to AltaDevices™), Point Absorber Buoy Wave Energy Converter
Annual Capacity: 13,000 MWh

Just off the Santa Monica Pier there is an artificial giant garden, vibrant and full of life, with everything moving and the sound of the wind whistling between the stems. Here and there one part of the system catches the eye for a moment. As Lewis Carroll suggests, perhaps it is necessary to invert the size relationships between humans and nature to uncover the laws that regulate the balance between the parties.

Flowerpops integrates a new technology park with the spectacular character of its ocean setting. The famous funfair skyline on Santa Monica Bay is extended toward the horizon line near the breakwater. Five different technologies for energy production are brought together there. The devices are designed in five natural shapes in order to compose an artificial ecosystem.

“Wind flowers” come in four different sizes and use Vortex Bladeless™ technology. “Flying pollen” are realized in colored PET-G plastic, they weigh no more than 750 grams and they are driven by a mechanical system, set in motion by the energy produced by some “wind flowers.” “Floating water lilies” exploit wave power and are configured as a carpet of undulating buoys that dot the sea horizon. The “tulip binders” are pools of rainwater harvesters that raise and lower depending on the difference of pressure generated by the water collection. “Sun flowers” use photovoltaic film to convert sunlight into electricity.

During the passing of the day the surrounding playground changes according to weather and time. In the night the stored energy powers over 2,000 LED lights, reflecting the effect of the starry sky onto the ocean.

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Santa Monica Ocean’s Breath, a submission to the 2016 Land Art Generator Initiative design competition for Santa Monica

Artist Team: Fabio Azzato
Artist Location: Florence, Italy
Energy Technologies: Point Absorber Buoy Wave Energy Converter
Annual Capacity: 1,000 MWh

Santa Monica Pier is a continuation of the city into the ocean represented through play and entertainment. Santa Monica Ocean’s Breath continues to enrich the link between the ocean and the city in a fun and visible way.

The energy potential of wave movement is enormous and the conversion to electricity is relatively simple.

The 78 floating buoys, situated 100 meters from the breakwater rocks, produce clean energy that is used to supply Santa Monica Pier activities.

By night, a small part of the produced energy is used to light up the buoys and their connection to the pier. Each buoy has a vertical illumination bar that is activated in proportion to the energy produced by the ocean—a synchronized dance of light with waves.

Santa Monica Ocean’s Breath delivers enough clean energy to make the pier net-zero while creating a unique atmosphere that can attract tourists and set an example for other coastal cities.

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CaliforniaPower
click on the image above to access the full-size PDF

California has enacted an ambitious carbon reduction policy to bring emissions down to 40% below 1990 levels by the year 2030. We decided to take a look at what the land use impact of energy has been on California in the past, and what a real shift to a 100% renewable energy infrastructure might look like.

The information graphic is the latest in our series that explores the land use impact of renewable energy in a post-carbon world. Starting in 2009 with the Surface Area Required to Power the World with Solar, we have been making the case that the renewable energy transition, while a huge undertaking, is not any more ambitious in scale than previous human endeavors, and that the footprint on our environment can be designed to be in harmony with nature and provide a unique benefit to human culture.

In this graphic, we show a diversified mix of renewable energy technologies and the impact in terms of land area in direct proportion to consumption by county (you can quickly see that Los Angeles County is the biggest consumer). Much of the infrastructure can be located within our cities—on rooftops and through creative and community-owned applications in public spaces. The rest could easily be located in the places that have already been disturbed by oil and gas extraction—the dark dots on the map.

By enlisting these fossil fuel land areas in the fight against climate change, we can keep the CO2 the ground while we clean up the sky.

oil-well-landuseThis is what all of the 227,278 dark dots on the map look like up close (near Bakersfield, CA)

In the course of our research, we came across the MIT study, The Future of Solar Energy, which also includes a section that studies land use comparisons. We were fascinated to learn that across the entire US, the land area required to satisfy 100% of U.S. 2050 energy demand with PV would be no larger than the surface area that has already been “disturbed by surface mining for coal.” Some other comparisons from the study:

The land area required to supply 100% of projected U.S. electricity demand in 2050 with PV installations is roughly half the area of cropland currently devoted to growing corn for ethanol production, an important consideration given the neutral or negative energy payback of corn ethanol and other complications associated with this fuel source. That same land area&emdash;i.e., 33,000 km2 to supply 100% of U.S. electricity demand with PV&emdash;is less than the land area occupied by major roads. The currently existing rooftop area within the United States provides enough surface area to supply roughly 60% of the nation’s projected 2050 electricity needs with PV

MIT-Future-of-Solar-Energy
Diagram from The Future of Solar Energy, Chapter 6: PV Scaling and Materials Use

California is acting on a plan (read more about the Governor’s Climate Change Pillars: 2030 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals) that should set the standard for the entire country. By reaching 50% renewable electricity production, reducing petroleum use in transportation by 50%, and increasing energy use efficiency, these 2030 goals can provide the momentum for a 100% renewable energy economy by 2050.

Recognizing the unprecedented global threat of human induced climate change, we do not have the luxury of acting any less vigorously than California on a global scale, and in fact, that may not even be fast enough. Don’t ask how much it will cost because that is the wrong question. What will be the cost to the children born in 2016 if we do not act now? The technology exists to begin today, and the economic stimulus effect of a WPA-scale regenerative infrastructure project for the 21st century will bestow positive benefits for generations.

Let’s get to work!

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Weightless Balloons, a submission to the 2016 Land Art Generator Initiative design competition for Santa Monica

Artist Team: Aitor Almaraz, Sonia Vázquez Díaz (University of A Coruna)
Artist Location: A Coruna, Spain
Energy Technologies: Wind Harvesting (similar to MARS™, Magenn Air Rotor System), and Point Absorber Buoy Wave Energy Converter
Annual Capacity: 2,000 MWh

There is a profound power between the sea and sky—two endless parallel planes seeming to merge in the distance and obscured by the curvature of the earth. The pier with its thousand legs is walking inside the ocean, attempting to reach that imaginary and impossible contact point between air and water. The amusement park colonizes the platform and, in the middle of the attractions, the balloon seller offers us the fantasy of weightless deliverance—the dream of floating above our everyday struggle.

Weightless Balloons is a set of ethereal bubbles emerging from the sea, floating on the surface, moving to the rhythm of the waves. These gas spheres are protected by a metallic skeleton, like water molecules aspiring to abandon their liquid state to evaporate and blend with the air. This hope of freedom is fulfilled by the wind, which releases the balloons and makes them fly at its will. The free energy channeled into electricity derives from the fight of the bubbles against the tidal forces and the dance with the wind.

The artwork can function in two different modes for energy production. After analyzing the weather conditions, a computer determines if more power can be generated from the waves or from the wind, switching from one mode to the other as conditions warrant. Low tide sees the bubbles disappear completely behind the breakwater as they operate in “buoy” mode.

The balloons are filled with an inert gas, lighter than air, which keeps the structures floating on or over the water surface. Their skin is fabricated with double ETFE plastic layers, transparent but very durable.

The bubble’s structure is attached to a coiling gear, which automatically adjusts the length of the cable to the tidal conditions, and allows the system to alternate between the “buoy” and the “aero” generator modes. The coilers work with a mechanism very similar to sailboat coilers, capable of operating in constant contact with the water, and of bearing heavy loads.

When the computer detects good wind conditions, the coils loosen to allow the structures to rise into the air and spin around their axis to produce electricity.

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Horizon Lines

Horizon Lines, a submission to the 2016 Land Art Generator Initiative design competition for Santa Monica

Artist Team: Rebecca Borowiecki (University of Colorado)
Artist Location: Boulder, USA
Energy Technologies: Transparent Solar Cell by Onyx Solar®
Annual Capacity: 625 MWh

In its original form in 1909, the Santa Monica Pier was built over a sewage pipe that emptied into the ocean, working to hide the effects of humanity on the environment. Horizon Lines takes this one piece of Santa Monica’s rich and diverse history and turns it upside down. It presents a contemporary counterpoint by creating a transparent energy source on the horizon for all to see, inspired by the form of the pier’s pylons and the shape of a wave.

The project is composed of BIPV (building integrated photovoltaic) glass panels the spacing of which is based on the crest and trough of a wave. The panels are spaced more tightly near the end of the pier to create the intensity in the crest of the wave, reflecting and refracting water and sky. The middle portion represents the trough of the wave, where the ocean becomes calm and glass-like. This pattern culminates at the far end with a tightening of the panels to signify the next peak of the wave as it heads toward shore. Walking along the beach or the pier, a visitor experiences different perceptions of the sculpture, like the glint of a wave in morning sun or a crystal-clear view through the panels to the true horizon behind.

Each panel is illuminated with an LED light strip connected to the panel’s individual meter. Through the levels of illumination, visitors will be able to visualize how much energy has been produced.

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Follies and Fog a submission to the 2016 Land Art Generator Initiative design competition for Santa Monica

Artist Team: Nik Klahre, Brooke Campbell-Johnston
Artist Location: London, UK and Copenhagen, Denmark
Energy Technologies: Wave Energy Converter
Annual Capacity: 13,000 MWh, less the energy required to power fog generation

Renewable energy of the future does not need to be a blot on the landscape, or an affliction on local ecosystems, but can instead float harmlessly and almost invisibly just below the ocean’s surface. Follies and Fog celebrates the notion that today’s renewable energy sources do not require exterior cladding or to be fashioned into interesting forms, but instead can remain hidden and out of sight, while providing sustainable energy for the city.

The artwork makes visible the hidden wave energy production units below the surface of the ocean, but also uses a small amount of wave energy to conceal itself in a fog mist. As the amount of renewable energy produced nears the target of powering 1,280 homes, the amount of artificial fog is so great that it completely engulfs the artwork in a cloud of mist, obscuring it from view. It is only when the renewable energy source begins to wane as the waves become less powerful that the viewer is able to perceive the work of art within the cloud of artificial fog.

The design proposes 128 floating follies, each symbolizing the archetypal Santa Monica dwelling and its need for energy. Each of the bright red follies is an abstraction of a house type found in a district of Santa Monica. The follies are connected to a floating grid of buoy-type wave energy converters. Each folly is directly responsible for powering 10 homes within the City of Santa Monica.

A walkway invites visitors to follow the line of the original Santa Monica Pier—a train line that extended out into the sea. There they can walk along this floating path surrounded by the abstract floating houses, as if walking along Santa Monica Boulevard.

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Catching the Wave a submission to the 2016 Land Art Generator Initiative design competition for Santa Monica

Artist Team: Christina Vannelli, Liz Davidson, Matthew Madigan
Artist Location: Hamilton, Ontario Canada
Energy Technologies: Point Absorber Wave Energy Converter (similar to CETO™ by Carnegie Wave Energy)
Annual Capacity: 16,000 MWh

Catching the Wave is an artistic impression of the historical context of the Santa Monica Pier and its breakwater. The area behind the breakwater was once home to a yacht harbor filled with hundreds of sailboats and moorings. Catching the Wave utilizes the relationship of a sail ship and its mooring, and exaggerates the scale of both silhouettes. The fleet is moved to the west side of the breakwater to capitalize on the raw energy of the ocean’s waves.

The installation is made up of 60 buoys that capture wave energy. Each “energy buoy” is eight meters in diameter. The large size increases the function of efficiency in capturing the potential energy in each wave. Each buoy is connected to a piston mounted on the ocean floor by a flexible tether. With the upward swell of each wave, the buoy and the piston rise, allowing room for seawater to flood a large chamber. When the wave falls, the buoy and piston fall with it, pressurizing the water into pipes laid out on the ocean floor.

Back above the surface, the fleet of 15 sail ships is clustered amongst the sea of buoys. Each sail is 40 meters tall and is connected with two to seven buoys, which all send their pressurized seawater to the mechanical housing below the sail platform. The pressurized seawater turns a turbine within the housing to create sustainable energy for the Santa Monica grid.

As the waves increase in intensity, the sails above become brighter, illuminated by responsive LEDs. Visitors can relate in real time to the clean energy production and speculate on how bright the sails could become.

The bobbing of the blue and white striped buoys, the fluttering of the bright coral sails, and the people lounging in the summer sun on the wooden decks of the isolated platforms, all come together to create an elegant calm.

Visitors can take kayaks and paddle in and around the artwork. Passing the last sail, they will have reached the western extent of American settlement. But the frontier of environmentally conscience design is only just opening. Wave energy infrastructure is now embarking on a journey to a brave new future.

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