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We thought this opportunity may be of interest to some of you out there. Colorado Art Ranch has posted an Artist Residency in collaboration with Elsewhere Studios under the theme of Art + Energy. The location is Paonia, Colorado from July 15 through August 15, 2012. The deadline for applications is April 15, 2012. Preference will be given to visual and literary artists who currently involve energy issues in their work or would like to.

See http://coloradoartranch.org/nextresidency.htm for more information.

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Solar Flock

Katja Virta and Niko Knappe
Designed for Site #1 in Dubai, near Ras al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary.


Design Submission for the 2010 Land Art Generator Initiative Design Competition

Artist’s descriptive text:
The Solar Flock represents a bird flock bathing in the sun, ruffling their feathers.

The Solar Flock acts as a middle ground between the built landscape and internationally acknowledged Ras Al Khor wetlands area, between the human ecologies and the natural habitats of diverse species.

Solar panels are arranged in a form that resembles folded paper birds. It makes a reference to ancient wisdom, art, nature, science and even building. Instead of the high tech esthetics often employed in solar energy installations, the Solar Flock has a very simple and lean esthetic quality.

The flock of solar birds, bathing in the hot sun, signals the environmentally conscious efforts of Dubai in environmental protection and creation of ecological human habitats.

This array of human made nature is surrounded by huge building projects like Lagoon, Business District and Dubai culture district. The Flock acts as a landmark of Ras al Khor, and as a reminder of the wild nature.

Birds are constructed of three dimensional planes that have larger solar area efficiency compared to regular plane mounting. Large enough areas are used with thin semi transparent solar photovoltaics where as other planes act as a light reflecting and strengthening material. The alignment of birds is designed according to sun trajectory and wings follow the sun by simple 1-axis movement. Light sensors on bird heads will detect sun angle and direction.

One energy storage unit connects all birds and stores enough energy to light up birds during the dark, distributing the rest to the grid during the day. The darker it gets, the brighter the birds will become.

The Solar Flock installation is scalable, so that the flock can grow larger when needed. Also the type of birds can be varied, or more efficient species can be installed over time, according to the development of solar technology.

Birds are constructed around metal frames, that are sturdy enough to survive high wind & storm conditions. Surface material is semi transparent reflective photovoltaic thin film that let’s decorative LED lighting pass trough. System uses well known and tested photovoltaic based renewable energy production.

The installation profile is fairly low, so it leaves the views open to the shore. There are no visible technical installations needed, the electrical mains can be hidden underground. Cabling goes inside the ground through birds’ legs all the way to the energy storing unit.

Since the ground area needed for structures is minimal and the works are moderately light weighted, it does not require land clearing or other major land works.

low-res version PDF of submitted boards

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Predock Frane Architects:
Hadrian Predock, John Frane, Principals
Chris Schoeneck, Johanna Beuscher, Heinrich Huber, Design Team

Designed for Site #3 in Abu Dhabi, near Masdar City.


Design Submission for the 2010 Land Art Generator Initiative Design Competition
Third Place Mention from the Jury

Artist’s descriptive text:
SOLARIS – Predock + Frane

Critically engaging the emerging Abu Dhabi context of Masdar City, Zayed University and other tabula rasa territories, our project proposes an antidote and refuge to the frenetic future-scape internationalism of the rapidly developing Arabian coast. In proposing a new abstract art space that allows for escape and contemplation our project positions itself as a hybrid landscape/environmental machine that can both deliver power and engage the radical phenomenon of the desert. Along a path connecting Masdar City to Zayed University, a low-slung, energy producing sensitive field beckons public engagement.

Our proposal for the Land Art Generator Initiative on the Masdar adjacent site is conceived as a sensitive draping tissue whose shape responds to the local natural forces of the Arabian Desert, while simultaneously acting as a phenomenological instrument that engages and reveals the power and subtlety of desert light and surface. Like the woven hair of a Bedouin “black tent”, a field of intelligent solar modules form a veil that covers the entire site. Sometimes acting as landscape, sometimes as spatial enclosure, the solar units undulate across the site forming a deeply considered pattern of responses to wind, sun, night sky and pathways. Mirroring the blanket of reflective modules, the geometrically patterned ground plane of sand and water further defines the site and engages in specific environmental response.

Seeking analogs specific to the Arabian Desert, our project conceptually weaves together behavioral traits of the desert ecology into our designed fabric. Research into both the human constructed and the naturally occuring yields a wide and deep field of understanding. The nomadic Bedouins (who perceive themselves as the original Arab tent dwellers) have an intimate relationship with both the landscape and their herds of goats. Like a magic carpet, their performative tent dwellings are highly responsive and adaptive to the desert extremities. Made from the hair of their sustenance, the black matted surfaces of their tents act as environmental modulators. Under different climatic conditions, the porosity of the woven hair either opens or closes. In the desert landscape, the formation of dunes demonstrates a “power by numbers” dance between particles of sand and wind where accumulated quantity achieves an overall coherent quality. The dunes are dynamic organisms that never have a fixed form and travel in packs as mobile landscapes.

Our project behaves in ways similar to both the Bedouin tent and the sand dune, actively deploying a simple module (Cool Earth solar balloon) in quantities that allow for a range of specific behaviors. As an analogous “black tent” operating on an enormous scale, our proposal finds its morphology by synthesizing together both energy optimization, environmental behaviors and atmospheric effects. Beginning with a field of Cool Earth inflatable solar units on a grid oriented to the ideal solar angle (South), the basic carpet of modules is pulled off the ground to a crescendo in the middle of the site targeting on the North Star – Polaris, the ultimate point of orientation within a landscape free of points of reference. Developing localized environmental responses, the field of solar units densifies in areas to keep Summer sun out while creating a more porous pattern where Southern Winter sun is allowed to penetrate the interior. Winds – both good and bad – are mitigated as well. The Shamal brings dry wind that lasts the year round and supplies a powerful cooling agent when funneled correctly. This wind conditions the Northwestern side of the project forming an undulating edge that directs air across shallow pools of groundwater toward the interior realm. The Sharqi, which is a hot humid Summer wind, is blocked along the Southeastern edge of the site with shaped sand acting as a land barrier and deflector. These responses in coordination with each other form a sensitive, responsive tissue.

Phenomenologically, the project seeks a larger engagement with time, revealing and engaging light and matter – a sensate realm where one is allowed to simply feel and experience the slowness and power of the desert. In this regard, the field of modules acts as a surrogate reflective sky with heightened adjustments toward specific views. It also creates a pattern of dappled light that emanates from the environmentally induced responses. The underside of the solar modules are a reflective black sheen that mirrors the surface of the patterned ground matrix of water and sand, drawing heat up and out of the interior volume.

A tunneling path that stems from vital transportation hubs, links Masdar City across our site to Zayed University. Entering from Masdar, one descends into the ground within an orchard of date palms, tunnels through the earth inside a ribbed body, and emerges within the abstracted interior volume. The ground plane is a geometricized patchwork of sculpted dunes and excavated pools of groundwater. The sand of the ground is evenly cut and filled throughout the site, creating a large berm along the Southeast edge combating the harsh Sharqi wind. This artificially natural groundscape merges with the canopy of solar modules along the perimeter of the site forming a unified solar landscape.

Power Generation

Working collaboratively with Cool Earth, producers of a new breed of high concentration solar modules, our project deploys an ingenious new breed of solar technology. Eliminating the metal content and material weight of traditional flat solar panels with air and recyclable plastics, the Cool Earth module takes into consideration the Cradle to Cradle carbon footprint thinking of the entire lifecycle. Using inexpensive and free materials, the balloon-like solar unit makes cost and efficiency its modus operandi. A curved, mirrored, mylar surface is designed to concentrate the sun’s rays of energy onto a cell of highly efficient photovoltaic material. The concentrated cell produces around 300-400 times the energy than that of a conventional cell. With close to 25,000 solar cells the Solar Canopy will produce on average 73,000 megawatt-hours per year – enough to power the country of Chad for a year. The soft curvaceous underbelly of the combined units makes for a sensuous undulating surface that contains the indoor-outdoor spaces below. Structurally, a mast and cable system like a tent will create a tensile cable net that the solar units are suspended within. Like a field of sunflowers the Cool Earth units will track the sun angle, optimizing energy gain.

While the power generation is largely to benefit that which exists beyond our site, part of the energy produced is reserved for the benefit of the artwork. Hardworking and absorptive during the day, at night, a slow and unfolding wash of delicate colored light contrasts with the starry heavens across the canopy underside.

low-res version PDF of submitted boards

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Jean_Arp_Solarcieux2
Jean_Arp_Solarcieux
A re-working of Jean Arp’s 1942 Silencieux that I have dubbed Solarcieux

Nanosolar has announced the release to the market of its ultra-low cost (CIGS printed on aluminum foil back-contacted with metal-wrap-through design) nanoparticle ink flexible solar panels. A PDF of the details from the company can be downloaded here. This could be a real breakthrough in efficiency and affordability of CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide) technology. It is less energy intensive than silicon-based technologies in its production and achieves greater efficiencies in the field as high as 21% (the latest panels from nanosolar are only at 12% total panel efficiency, but the cost per square meter is significantly lower which is the major breakthrough).

How sustainable are the resources that go into CIGS?

Copper:

As with many natural resources, total amount of copper on Earth is vast (around 1014 tons just in the top kilometer of Earth’s crust, or about 5 million years worth at the current rate of extraction). However, only a tiny fraction of these reserves is economically viable, given present-day prices and technologies. Various estimates of existing copper reserves available for mining vary from 25 years to 60 years, depending on core assumptions such as the growth rate.

Indium:

Up until 1924, there was only about a gram of isolated indium on the planet. Indium is produced mainly from residues generated during zinc ore processing but is also found in iron, lead, and copper ores. Based on content of indium in zinc ore stocks, there is a worldwide reserve base of approximately 6,000 tonnes of economically-viable indium. This figure has led to estimates suggesting that, at current consumption rates, there is only 13 years’ supply of indium left. However, the Indium Corporation, the largest processor of indium, claims that, on the basis of increasing recovery yields during extraction, recovery from a wider range of base metals (including tin, copper and other polymetallic deposits) and new mining investments, the long-term supply of indium is sustainable, reliable and sufficient to meet increasing future demands. This conclusion also seems reasonable in light of the fact that silver, three times less abundant than Indium in the earths crust, is currently mined at approximately 18,300 tonnes per annum, which is 40 times greater than current indium mining rates.

Gallium:

Gallium does not exist in free form in nature, and the few high-gallium minerals such as gallite (CuGaS2) are too rare to serve as a primary source of the element or its compounds. Its abundance in the Earth’s crust is approximately 16.9 ppm. Gallium is found and extracted as a trace component in bauxite and to a small extent from sphalerite. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates gallium reserves to exceed 1 million tonnes, based on 50 ppm by weight concentration in known reserves of bauxite and zinc ores. Some flue dusts from burning coal have been shown to contain small quantities of gallium, typically less than 1% by weight.

Selenium:

The reserve base for selenium is based on identified copper deposits. Coal generally contains between 0.5 and 12 parts per million of selenium, or about 80 to 90 times the average for copper deposits. The recovery of selenium from coal, although technically feasible, does not appear likely in the foreseeable future. An assessment of U.S. copper resources indicated that total copper resources in identified and undiscovered resources totals about 550 million metric tons, almost eight times the estimated U.S. copper reserve base.

Assuming that sustainable extraction and refining processes are set in place it seems that there is enough of the raw materials to continue to supply CIGS panels for the near term but probably not in the abundance necessary to replace any real significant amount of fossil-fuel-combustion energy production. It’s hard to say from the numbers and I’m not sure how much goes into each square meter of nano-technology based panel production. The “ink” is probably very thin.

NanosolarCellWhitePaper

But questions of sustainability aside, what is the most amazing part of the advancements in nanoparticle photovoltaic technology from the standpoint of its application to Land Art projects is the ability for the surfaces to be three-dimensionally applied and configured. One can easily imagine endless variations of sculptural forms with the surfaces feeding solar energy into a grid of collectors.

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