We were awed yesterday on our way through El Paso, Texas yesterday when we drove through this dynamic piece that frames the I-10 corridor near the airport. It was that perfect time of day when the lighting was set off against a deep blue sky. The vertical axis wind turbines with overlapping blades in perspective provides a complicated visual moiré effect that reveals its secret as you pass through the installation.
While in Glasgow this week we had the pleasure of meeting Stephen Hurrel, a contemporary visual artist who works across all kinds of media and exploring a wide range of scientific collaborations, from marine ecology to seismic activity. His work is exquisite and we recommend checking out his newly redesigned website: http://www.hurrelvisualarts.com/.
In 2003, Stephen created The Sound of the Wind Looks Like This. The light-based installation reacts directly to wind speed and wind direction, and is powered by the wind.
New York-based artist Eve Mosher takes the lead in speaking out about how the affects of global warming could potentially cause severe harm to our communities and homes—and inspires us to take action.
Her project, the HighWaterLine, is an initiative that is inspiring people from all over the world to take action in order to protect their homes from the ramifications of climate change. Using the results and research of modern scientists, Mosher draws white lines around key flood line areas of New York—this effort thus showing just how each community could potentially be impacted by rising water levels.
Mosher was inspired to do this out of the love for her home, as she didn’t want to see New York consumed by water. She claims that New York has a significant risk of flooding due to its geological location: it is made up of multiple islands, making rising water levels all the more dangerous and close to home. Most New Yorkers were not aware of this reality, and very much celebrated and became interested in Mosher’s HighWaterLine project.
There is something very significant to notice about Mosher’s work, and those acting to prevent climate complications have not yet acquired this talent. This is Mosher’s ability to make the scary potentialities of climate change less frightening, thus making people more likely to act and become excited rather than just afraid, confused, and passive.
Mosher does not blame anyone for current climate issues, and she does not scare the public either. The goal of her work is really meant to create a dialogue between people and their communities about how they can protect their homes from the affects of climate change.
Though Mosher has created HighWaterLines in major cities around the world, including The Hague, San Francisco, and Dublin, she does not seek to create HighWaterLines on a global scale on her own. She wants people to take action for their own homes, thus strengthening community environmental connection, power, and responsibility to the land on a personal level.
A guide designed to get the public started on creating HighWaterLines in their own communities can be found here, along with more information about the inspiring work of Eve Mosher: High Water Action Guide.
One major challenge humans face today is embracing sustainable living that is realistic to their modern expectations. For the most part, people have proven hesitant to give up contemporary luxuries in the pursuit of helping the environment. But the innovative examples below demonstrate how modern sustainable architecture can accommodate human need while respecting the surrounding nature around, and shows that seemingly Utopian human cooperation with nature may very well be possible in the future.
These two pieces by Hiroshi Iguchi—an artist of the Fifth World Company—display this idea very well. The first piece called “The Camouflage House” (pictured below) truly displays how modern technology can be a part of its surrounding environment and nature. “The Camouflage House” is designed to be a livable greenhouse for human residents, and a real dialogue emerges between human life and the natural world, which is a challenging topic in today’s society that is accommodated beautifully here.
The house is designed to include nature within it; its glass walls make most of the house transparent and provide ample natural light, reducing electricity use. In addition, white canvas is used in the interior to prevent excessive heat buildup, and trees from the original area, instead of being cut down, are incorporated into the house in between the walls.
Photo courtesy of: Alessio Guarino
Iguchi also designed the “Kurimoto Millennium City,” a minimal technology oasis that includes four homes that are not only beautiful, but also environmentally friendly. Similar to “The Camouflage House,” the houses in this project are open to the elements with insulated glass, and deciduous trees surround the buildings in order to ensure coolness in summer and passive heat in winter. Built in the middle of farmland, citizens love to frolic to this area in order to escape the bustling busyness of urban Japan.
Photo courtesy of: Alessio Guarino
Both of Iguchi’s projects demonstrate something very important: that it is possible for humans to have modern comfort while still respecting and cooperating with their surrounding nature. These projects really set a wonderful precedence for the rest of the planet, and we should really pay attention as renewable energy becomes not only an idea, but also a necessity.
We came across this spectacular application of concentrated solar power via designboom. André Broessel is the inventor/designer behind Rawlemon, a social design company in Barcelona that has patented the dual axis tracking ball lens technology that they have dubbed “B.torics” and which has incredible potential for building integrated photovoltaics.
The design is somewhat similar to a Fresnel lens CPV with a very wide focus, but instead of compacting the lens into the flat Fresnel shape, Rawlemon has left the spherical lens’ beautiful form unadulterated in its perfect geometry. The visual effect is obviously stunning. And while the fabrication may be somewhat more complicated than flattening the lens, leaving the sphere whole has two benefits that seem to offset this.
First, every section cut that is made in the face of a lens to flatten it into its Fresnel shape creates inefficiencies in the optics when compared to the original lens. Rawlemon’s sphere maintains 100% optic purity which leads to greater efficiency and more KW capacity per unit of surface area. Second, by leaving the lens as a complete orb, the tracking can take place behind the lens. The benefit of this is that instead of a system where an large wall of CPV modules has to be moved to track the sun, each multijunction cell can rotate like a little satellite behind its spherical lens. This design leaves the “wall” of modules free to stay in its static position, either as a vertical building facade or at any angle.
These incredible constructions at Singapore’s Gardens By the Bay have caught our attention. Designed by Grant Associates, these 25-50 meter tall super trees function as combined: vertical garden, PV panel, air venting tower, and rainwater collection device. The electricity from the solar panels is used on-site to power lights and water pumps.
“Nature knows no rigid resistance”. Susumu Shingu works with wind and water. For many years now he has been creating sculptures that reveal the hidden energies of these elements – works of art that move the observer in an idiosyncratic manner, perhaps because they embody, in consummate beauty, a principle of life. They are moved by the same wind that we feel. They allow themselves to be carried by it, absorb it, change again and again, and then let it move on. Susumu lives according to this principle with great joy. He looks on in wonder, enjoys and, even at 71, he has retained the imagination and curiosity that led him to build flying machines and racing cars as a child.
Major architects, like his friend Renzo Piano, like to have their monumental constructions brought to life with his sculptures. Choreographers appreciate his sets and children love his imaginative illustrated books. He is a Renaissance man, fully committed to variety, the wonder of life and concern for people and his environment. This concern, along with his desire for people to discover other life principles again, have taken him on a journey to a new destination: Breathing Earth.
Never Ending Dialogue, by Susumu Shingu, in the Hakone Open-Air Museum, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa, Japan (image source)
Les Nympheas by Claude Monet from Musee l’Orangerie, Paris
Photovoltaic panels in Lake Colignola, near Pisa. FABIO MUZZI, AFP
Marco Rosa-Clot, physicist and professor at the University of Florence, has demonstrated a floating photovoltaic power plant with wing reflectors in Lake Colignola near Pisa. The panels are mounted on a structure that is actually attached to a central column that extends to the water bed and which provides the rotation required for the panels to track the position of the Sun. The installation is somewhat reminiscent of water lilies.
Marco Rosa-Clot and his team at Colignola, near Pisa. FABIO MUZZI, AFP
“Between the use of reflectors, panel movement, and water cooling, this new type of plant is able to supply 2,000 kilowatts / hour per year for each kW installed as compared to 1,200 kilowatts / hour per year for conventional systems,” says Rosa-Clot, at the head of a small family business, the Scintec, which conducts research in various industrial sectors and the environment.
The other advantage of photovoltaics is the use of floating bodies of water left, as former quarries for example, preserving the landscape because the panels are virtually invisible.
“A typical installation, such as on roofs for example, has a strong impact on the environment and landscape. Our facilities, however, are born to be used on lakes, old quarries shallow,” said Raniero Cazzaniga, an associate of Mr. Rosa-Clot.
“His height does not exceed one meter and is generally not seen before arriving at the water’s edge. It’s not intrusive,” he said.
Ras Al Khaimah concept from 2010
We saw something similar here in the UAE a couple years ago with the Ras Al Khaimah solar island concept and prototype developed by a group of Swiss Scientists. We’re not sure what the status of that project is. Instead of PV with reflectors, they utilized fresnel CSP. But rather than the mirrors themselves rotating, which requires some complex mechanisms, the low friction of the water allowed the tracking to be done by simply rotating the entire floating system. They had developed the system for sea or land deployment.
Fluor solar power plant in Carrisa Plains, CA.
The mirrors of Marco Rosa-Clot’s design also remind us of a solar installation by Fluor. The use of mirror wing reflectors on either side of solar panels almost lends a contemporary sculptural aesthetic (a la Anish Kapoor) to the installation.
The winner of the 2012 MoMA PS1 Young Architect’s Program is a public artwork that also cleans the air of pollutants via nanoparticles. It’s another great example of solution-based artwork, or artwork that is moving beyond formative and didactic expressions and into the realm of infrastructure art. In this case, the artwork is serving the useful function of air purification, claiming a capacity equal to the removal of 260 cars from the roads. The piece will be using energy to power its multimedia interaction, so overall it is not an example of net zero energy art. But it does offset its footprint somewhat with this technological innovation.
Wendy does not play the typical architecture game of ecological apology – instead she is pro-active. That is why Wendy is composed of nylon fabric treated with a ground breaking titania nanoparticle spray to neutralize airborne pollutants. During the summer of 2012 Wendy will clean the air to an equivalent of taking 260 cars off the road. The courtyard at MoMA PS1 will be activated by tools like shade, wind, rain, music, and visual identity to reach beyond her envelope. Wendy‘s spiky arms reach out with micro-programs like blasts of cool air, music, water canons and mists to create social zones throughout the courtyard.
Hopefully the titania nanoparticle spray does not have any downside ecological effects in its complete life cycle. According to the manufacturer, PURETI, “the product received a life cycle assessment score of -70 (negative 70), making it an significantly net environmentally beneficial technology.” The FAQ on the PURETI website says that it doesn’t work on fabric though. Hopefully there is an exception to that rule for Wendy‘s nylon.
We came across this beautiful image today of the mirrors at JFE Engineering Corp.’s Solar Techno Park concentrated solar power (CSP) plant, in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. It reminded us of a George Nelson Associates sofa, the Marshmallow Sofa, designed by Irving Harper and manufactured by Herman Miller between 1956-1965.
There is some expanded research out of MIT (PDF link) that adds serious weight to the idea that if you install a 3D photovoltaic surface, the increased energy that is generated (when compared to a non-tracking well-oriented flat panel) more than compensates for the added expense of the additional PV material.
Solar Energy Generation in Three-Dimensions, by Marco Bernardi, Nicola Ferralis, Jin H. Wan, Rachelle Villalon, & Jeffrey C. Grossman; Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Department of Mathematics, Department of Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
This is really great news for renewable energy artists! It means that all of those design ideas that you have about a sculptural form covered in PV may actually be more efficient than a flat panel alternative of the same surface area, despite the fact that some of the PV material in the 3D object will not be operating at peak efficiency throughout portions of the day.
Marco Bernardi and pals at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge say there is a simple fix that could dramatically increase the performance of photovoltaics. Instead of two dimensional flat panels, Bernadi and co suggest using three dimensional structures.
They’ve simulated the performance of various shapes and tested several of these on the roof of a building at MIT. Their results indicate that 3D structures can increase the amount of energy that can be generated by a given footprint by as much as 20 times. These structures can also double the number of useful peak hours of generation and reduce seasonal variation to boot.
We posted about this idea back in 2009 with a tongue-in-cheek homage to Jean Arp’s 1942 Silencieux. But since then, the 2010 edition of the LAGI design competition has shown the world some truly awe-inspiring examples of what can be done with this revelation to create beautiful and functional objects for our cities.
Some examples of 2010 LAGI competition entries that have incorporated this 3D PV approach:
We came across this wonderful renewable energy and land art piece that we’d like to share. It is created by Patrick Marold and was originally inspired by his time in Iceland—the vast landscapes and the long winter nights there. He has since installed the project in various site-specific manifestations in Burlington VT and Vail CO.
The WINDMILL PROJECT was developed out my desire to map and watch the wind, harnessing its behaviors. While living in Iceland during the long winter nights, I would install this sculptural tool in the pasture and hills. Iceland’s abundance of wind and dark hours provided the perfect setting to develop this idea. The most recent Windmill installation in Burlington, Vermont lasted 14 weeks last fall; and the 2007 installation in Vail, Colorado employed as many as 2700 windmills, covering over 15,000 square feet.
The WINDMILL PROJECT involves placing a mass of light generating windmills in specific outdoor locations. The wind forces each windmill to produce a relevant amount of light, in a sense digitizing the wind. This work of art converts the energy of wind into a responsive visual choreography, exhibiting the rhythm of a mechanical process that is collaborating with the harmony and chaos of wind.
Windmill Project, Town of Vail, 2007. Viewed from frontage road.
There is a video of the installation here. At night, the rotating windmills create a flickering effect on the field of lights, almost like a forest of candles.
KINETIC LIGHT SCULPTURES AS A CATALYST FOR AND SYMBOL OF THE TRANSFORMATION OF A POST-INDUSTRIAL URBAN DEVELOPMENT AREA
Powerplants is a land art project for the site of a former power plant in Pasadena, which is being redeveloped as a new expansion for the Pasadena Arts Center, as well as for a planned development park consisting of high-tech businesses and offices. This transformation from an old power plant to what has been named the “Glenarm Innovation Corridor” was in need of an artistic strategy to visually accompany and support the ongoing urban (re-)development over the years to come.
A singular symbol in just one location quickly revealed itself to be an unfeasible solution here: the grounds are expansive and very eclectic due to their heterogeneous construction. Not so expansive was the low budget for “public art”, which the city set aside for the project’s development. That’s why a modular concept was developed, which could be extended at any time through additional private investments in connection with expected business settlements moving into the Innovation Corridor, thereby adopting and strengthening the area’s artistic (and professional) aura.
The proposal is a conceptual strategy superimposing new, modular and interconnected structures on the remains of old industry. The structures bridge the gap between industry, nature and information technology. They are a new breed of Powerplants, with slender stalks reaching about 55 feet into the sky, the same height as the famed palm trees of Southern California. Each topped by a cylindrical light tube, they emit soft and pulsating light signals powered by solar energy stored during the day. The metal structure is reminiscent of the site’s industrial history and allows movement via light breezes, swaying gently in the wind like the palm trees. It is, however, strong enough to withstand storms and earthquakes.
Because of their sculptural qualities, Powerplants are effective as single objects as well as in small or large groups. Connected via a wireless communication network, they are programmed to exchange light impulses with each other, create abstract light configurations or glow in unison. Because they are physically independent from each other and electrically self-sustainable, there is no need for wiring, thereby making it possible to “plant” and “replant” them in any given sequence and arrangement. They can therefore react flexibly to the area’s development, which is set to occur over the next two decades. They can expand, reproduce, or retract piece by piece, or be concentrated in one area. After successfully constructing a prototype Powerplants was put on hold for administrative reasons. The future is uncertain…
Prof. Nick Hafermaas / Art Center College of Design
Advising Engineers Phase One
OSD office for structural design
Advising Engineers Phase Two
Schlaich Bergermann und Partner Structural Consulting Engineers
PROJECT MANAGEMENT (REALU)
PROJECT TEAM (REALU)
The multimedia artist Michael Pendry worked with Siemens AG to create an installation on November 29, 2009 on the one 100 foot tall wind turbine near the Munich Allianz-Arena (by Herzog & de Meuron). Over 9000 Osram LEDs were affixed to the rotor blades of the turbine and choreographed to create patterns in response to the colors of the arena façade illumination.
From the article by Bridgette Meinhold at inhabitat:
BrightSource is holding a competition to come up with designs for the solar towers and Zurich-based RAFAA Architectue & Design in collaboration with engineering consultant, Schlaich, Bergermann und Partner have submitted two different concepts. While conceptualizing the different options, RAFAA sought to achieve high performances and efficiencies in terms of structural integrity, material usage and sustainability. Option A is a constructed of modular precast concrete or slip-form parts that would be transported and then assembled on site. Inspiration for the design came from light waves wrapped into a helix to form a column with diamond holes cut into the towers for aesthetic and structural purposes.
This first option seems to answer to a set of parameters that BrightSource was seeking in their request for proposals, however RAFAA feels in the long run, lightweight steel would provide a better solution both economically and sustainably than concrete. Therefore, they also came up with Option B, a square tower with a twist in the middle constructed of prefabricated 40-ft long steel elements. RAFAA proposes that steel is more sustainable in the long run because it would create a smaller construction footprint causing less damage to the environment. The solar tower can always be dismantled and moved to a new location or sold to another company when it is time to upgrade or the material can be recycled at the end of its life whereas concrete cannot. Either way, in the end we’ll have some design-worthy towers supporting the new solar plants in the Mojave.
Aidan Dwyer, a 13 year old Long Island resident, has made some big news this week with his astute observations and experiments on solar power efficiency. While spending time in the woods, Aidan noticed that the trees branch out in a pattern that, when simplified, resembles a Fibonacci series spiral. Familiar with the concept of biomimetics in design, he wondered if the geometry that the trees have evolved for maximizing the efficiency of their solar reception might be applicable to solar efficiency of photovoltaic panels.
His study, which showed an increase in efficiency with the biomemetic design over a flat geometry, has earned him a provisional US patent according to the articles.
Summing up his research and imagining the possibilities, Aidan wrote: “The tree design takes up less room than flat-panel arrays and works in spots that don’t have a full southern view. It collects more sunlight in winter. Shade and bad weather like snow don’t hurt it because the panels are not flat. It even looks nicer because it looks like a tree. A design like this may work better in urban areas where space and direct sunlight can be hard to find.”
We hope that Aidan will be interested in applying his ideas to the 2012 Land Art Generator Initiative design competition for New York City!
Update 1: We stumbled upon this interesting post from the Department of Mathematics at the University of Surrey, UK. There are some links there to some great diagrams which give further evidence to this principle.
Update 2: Atlantic Wire has posted about a debunking of the claims in the media’s reporting on the project. It does rightly point out the sometimes less-than-critical nature of reporting on such things, but we don’t really see the harm in sensationalizing to some extent if it grabs attention and gets people thinking about the subject. In terms of the practical application of Fibonacci series placement of panels, it still may be true that if they are all optimally aligned to the sun there may be some benefit (think of the sunflower diagram with the entire thing pointed at 45 degrees and south, or the entire thing tracking the sun’s movement).
I have long thought about how beautiful an orchard of 100 (10×10) trees with tiny PV leaves would be. The most beautiful place I can imagine to sit and contemplate is on the grass in the middle of an orchard. The sun makes such a beautiful tapestry of shadow on the ground and the multi-point perspective that the grid of trees constructs is ever-changing as you walk within. My personal favorite is an olive tree orchard with its tiny silvery leaves. Just imagine sitting in the midst of all that beauty while knowing that it is generating electricity. I figure an orchard that size would be enough to run more than a dozen homes. The above sketch is from an olive orchard on the Northern outskirts of Florence.
(concept and renderings by Robert Ferry, Studied Impact Design) click to see larger image
We designed the Plastikoleum Tower after being impressed with the idea that the Japanese inventor Akinori Ito came up with to convert plastic waste back into the raw petroleum from whence it originally came. His company, Blest Corporation, sells various scales of his converter from 1kg capacity to 50kg. Ito has been traveling around the world demonstrating the small desktop version (shown below) which can convert 1kg of plastic waste material into 1 liter of oil which can be refined into gasoline, kerosene, or diesel.
What got us thinking is that the hour long process requires about 1KWh of electricity to create each liter of oil (the plastic must be heated to 500 degrees Celsius). Since one liter of oil equivalent equals 11KWh (measured in BTU’s), the process itself uses up 9% of the energy that is contained in the resulting product. We thought: what if instead of the electricity for the conversion coming from the grid (fossil fuel generated electricity), it came directly from the sun? And what if instead of converting 1-50kg of plastic, it converted 10 tons of plastic each hour?
(Studied Impact Design) click to see larger image
We designed the Plastikoleum Tower as an interesting variation on the conventional solar power tower. The latest generation of this particular concentrated solar power technology is getting very efficient and is able to maintain 15 hour cycles of heat that maintain at least 500 degrees Celsius. For more about these, see the Torresol Energy Gemesolar plant (a collaboration with Masdar).
(Studied Impact Design) click to see larger image
The Plastikoleum Tower is basically the same thing, except that instead of using the heat to create steam for turbine electricity generation, it is used to create oil from plastic waste. At this level of production, we could put a nice dent in the millions of tons of plastic waste that is discarded every year and would otherwise end up completely unused in landfills. So the raw material is basically free. The oil product can be sold at $100 per barrel (as of this post) and has the added benefit of cleaning up the environment of plastic waste.
(Studied Impact Design) click to see larger image
Solar power towers generally are sized at around 20MW capacity. We’ve sized ours only at the capacity (10MW) that would be required to heat 10 tons of plastic (scaling up from the smaller models designed by Akinori Ito). At 10 tons per hour capacity, the tower could produce 60 barrels of oil every hour, or 900 barrels per day. With economies of scale in effect, it may be that 10MW could actually produce much more than that, but we’re being conservative in our estimate.
900 barrels per day would therefore net $90,000 per day from plastic feedstock that is either free or that the company could even charge for to help dispose of. That comes to $32 million per year in revenues, which should pay back the capital costs of the construction within just two years (based on a construction estimate of $2.5 million per MW installed capacity and accounting for operational expenses).
(Studied Impact Design) click to see larger image
It should be noted that burning the resulting oil fuel will still contribute to CO2 emissions. But leaving the plastic in landfills also contributes to perhaps greater greenhouse gas emissions, and burning the plastic as-is creates 5x the CO2 emissions as compared to burning the oil that the plastic melts down into.
The amount of oil per tower (900 barrels) that would be produced is literally a drop in the bucket (Abu Dhabi produces 2.8 million barrels per day). Nevertheless, towers such as this could become a useful source of fuel energy for geographical locations that have a lot of sun and a lot of plastic waste.
We can see these being built in tandem with electricity generating towers in the future. Or perhaps residual heat energy within the Plastikoleum Tower can be used to generate steam power at the same time as the plastic is melted within the same tower (by running water through pipes within the melting chambers).
Another thought is integrating this system into the fabric of a new urban community. The plastic is not combusted in the process (the heating must occur in a chamber free of oxygen) so there is no off-gassing or fumes of any kind. We can imagine an Ebenezer Howard garden city plan (one of his radial utopias), with each house shaded by a large heliostat.
There is a great deal to be learned from this energy-generating pavilion at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, designed by the Danish architecture firm 3XN.
Thin film solar and piezoelectric (electricity generated from pressure and vibration) generate the energy needed to power LED lights at night, making the project self-sufficient. The materials used are also considered as well, consisting of bioresins and rapidly-renewable materials.
Read more about the project (including about the phase-changing materials used to regulated the surface temperature of the artwork) at detail.de.
Wind Wand, Len Lye, conceived in the 1960s and realized permanently in 2001, 21 years after the artist’s death.
We were recently introduced to the work of Len Lye (1901-1980), a native New Zealander and a great modern artist and experimental filmmaker. Early in his artistic career he was convinced of the importance of incorporating movement into modern art and one of Len Lye’s most prolific artistic mediums was kinetic sculpture. Many of his creations were not constructible during his lifetime but have since been realized in cities such as New Plymouth (Wind Wand) and Wellington (Water Whirler).
It is interesting to note the similarities between Len Lye’s work and the “Windulum” concept by Dick Hodges which takes a similar form, derived biomemetically as inspired from the way that trees and other vertical stalks behave in the wind. Rather than conceive of the form as art, Hodges Engineering has focused on the generation of energy via piezoelectric plates along the length of the stalk.
Above is a video about the Windulum.
The LAGI 2010 (second place mention) design by Atelier dna, Windstalk, takes this idea of energy generation back into the realm of public art in a way that Len Lye may have appreciated. At the same time it has added a torque generator and energy storage to the design of the foundation in an innovative technological evolution to the Windulum piezoelectrics-only model.
And to round out the collection, the recently announced honorable mention design for the Solar Park South design competition for Calabria, Growing Energy, by Marcos Castaings of Uraguay, has employed a similar design (with a citation of the Windulum project as inspiration). Of the four, the Windulum is the only one not to incorporate LED lighting into the tip of the stalk.
In the UAE and in many parts of the world, these public water fountains are found everywhere. There are tens of thousands of them in cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi. They typically pull water from the domestic line of a villa or public building such as a mosque. They provide people on the street with access to clean potable water and are an important amenity for cities, especially in hot climates.
But what if they didn’t have to pull from the municipal water supply? What if they could be mass-produced as stand-alone units? By using off-the-shelf technology available now for water-from-air systems and combining it with a simple solar power generation system, we could remove these from the city’s water supply infrastructure. This would mean hundreds of thousands of gallons per day in savings from desalination systems and depleting aquifers and would do far more than any water conservation strategy aimed at personal water use behaviors of consumption (such conservation messages are of course still vital and indispensable).
Water-from-air systems such as those available from companies like Liquid of Life and others could be integrated very easily into city-funded replacement units for these street-side fountains. They work great, especially in humid climates like those in the GCC. This is something that could be accomplished within two years time and could save cities like Dubai from having to add capacity to the desalination systems which do great harm to the fragile marine ecosystems when their super-brine wastewater outfall over time increase the salinity of the gulf waters. See here and here.
Thanks to Richard Wagner, who showed me some of his great photos of these fountains the other day which got me thinking about this subject.