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We’re very happy to welcome Nacho Zamora to Dubai. Nacho is a public art researcher and founder of Solar Artworks. He specializes in the study and documentation of interdisciplinary and renewable energy artwork, particularly in the public realm. He’ll be working in the UAE for a couple of months, getting in touch with as many people and institutions as he can in order to learn about the latest projects regarding the urban landscape, and surveying the potential that exists in the UAE for sustainable approaches to public art.

We have written about the Solar Artworks Project before and have been following Nacho’s work for some time. We were able to meet for the first time at the 2011 International Symposium of Electronic Art in Istanbul, where he graciously agreed to participate in the panel, Public Art of the Sustainable City.

As a part of our first meeting yesterday, Nacho took us through the complete catalogue of solar artworks that he has documented in his extensive research on the subject. Some of the works we have also published previously on this site, but there are many others that we have not yet had the chance to post.

Below, we will give you a brief overview of some of them, and we recommend that you take a closer look by visiting the Solar Artworks website. The descriptions below each piece are quoted from the posts at www.solarartworks.com


Greeting to the Sun by Nikola Bašić

This solar artwork is a huge circle of 22 meters of diameter which has integrated hundreds of small solar cells within a structure of glass plates, and people can walk on it. The photovoltaic cells provide clean energy to the lighting system of over 10.000 tiny light bulbs, converting them into an impressive full-color display controlled by a computer. The work “reacts” to the presence of the public by different light patterns, causing amazing sensations to people who are walking over the installation.


Greeting to the Sun by Nikola Bašić


Night Garden by O*GE Architects

The installation was composed by a group of sculptures, shaped like flowers, which had light and movement that they produced by themselves thanks to the solar power collected during the day. This characteristic was the reason why the best time to see the installation was at night. As we can see in the video, the artwork created a really attractive ambient for visitors, inviting them to stay watching the changes of lights and the movement of the different elements. To intensify this “magic” ambient, the work was completed with several music creations by two famous local artists.


The Verdant Walk by North Design Office

The Verdant Walk was created by the Toronto based studio, North Design Office, as a proposal for the prestigious event Cleveland Public Art.
This temporary project (2008/2010) offered another point of view on a urban place, reminding people of the industrial origins of the city of Cleveland, and the strong promotion of renewable energies by the local government. In addition to the sculptures, The Verdant Walk renovated a large space, called Mall B, bringing native grass from different parts of local landscapes.


Sonumbra by Loop.pH

Sonumbra is an interactive proposal by the collective Loop.pH, from the United Kingdom. They have created a complex form of textile which has integrated solar cells. The work goes beyond the relationship between people and the sculpture, using an advanced movement detection technology that can “feel” the presence of people and respond to them with a spectacle of light and sound.


Solar Forest by Neville Mars


SunFlowers by Harries & Héder Public Art Team


Silicon Forest by Brian Borrello


PV Stained Glass by Sarah Hall

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Augustin Mouchot’s Solar Concentrator, 1869. (source)

The history of renewable energy is fascinating. We posted a while back about early efforts to harness the power of waves. You may also be interested to learn more about the 19th century work of Mouchot and Ericsson, early pioneers of solar thermal concentrators (CSP solar thermal power).


Early schematics of Augustin Mouchot’s Solar Concentrator.

Augustin Mouchot taught secondary school mathematics from 1852-1871, during which time he embarked on a series of experiments in the conversion of solar energy into useful work. His proof-of-concept designs were so successful that he obtained support from the French government to pursue the research full-time. His work was inspired and informed by that of Horace-Bénédict de Saussure (who had constructed the first successful solar oven in 1767) and Claude Pouillet (who invented the Pyrheliometer in 1838).


Augustin Mouchot’s Solar Concentrator at the Universal Exhibition in Paris, 1878. (source)

Mouchot worked on his most ambitious device in the sunny conditions of French Algeria and brought it back for demonstration at the Universal Exhibition in Paris of 1878. There he won the Gold Medal, impressing the judges with the production of ice from the power of the sun.

Unfortunately, the falling price of coal, driven by efficiencies of transport and free trade agreements with Britain, meant that Mouchot’s work would soon be deemed unnecessary and his funding was cut soon after his triumph at the Universal Exhibition.


Abel Pifre and his solar powered printing press. Image from Scientific American, May 1882. (source)

His assistant, Abel Pifre, would continue his work, however, and demonstrated a solar powered printing press in the Jardin des Tuileries in 1882. Despite cloudy conditions that day, the machine printed 500 copies per hour of Le Journal du Soleil, a newspaper written specially for the demonstration.


John Ericsson’s Solar Engines. (left image source, right image source)

Meanwhile, the great inventor and engineer John Ericsson had decided to devote the last years of his life to similar pursuits. His work on solar engines spanned the 1870s and 1880s. Instead of relying on steam, he utilized his version of the heat engine, a device that would prove very commercially successful when powered with more conventional fuel sources such as gas.

From Paul Collins’ 2002 essay The Beautiful Possibility:

“You will probably be surprised when I say that the sun-motor is nearer perfection than the steam-engine,” [Ericsson] wrote one friend, “but until coal mines are exhausted its value will not be fully acknowledged.” He calculated that solar power cost about ten times as much as coal, so that until coal began to run out, solar power would not be economically feasible. But this, to him, was not a sign of failure—there was no question that fossil fuels would indeed run out someday.

The great engineer maintained an unshakeable belief in the future of solar power to his last breath; he had set up a large engine in his backyard and was still perfecting it when he collapsed in early 1889. Though his doctor made him rest, Ericsson could not sleep at night: he complained that he could not stop thinking about his work yet to be done.

Both Mouchot and Ericsson were driven by the prescient understanding that access to coal, the predominant fossil fuel of the time, would eventually run out. And while, new discoveries of petroleum and natural gas have extended our inexpensive access to energy, we are finally now, 140 years later, reaching a time when their predictions are coming true. For the wisdom behind the premise is still as valid today as it was then—nothing that is finite can last forever. These inventors were so far ahead of their time, it is almost scary.

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The Sonic Articulation of Sunbeams from Ben Moren on Vimeo.

The Sonic Articulation of Sunbeams is a renewable energy art installation by Daniel Dean, Ben Moren and Emily Stover. The piece was created for the 2011 Green Energy Art Garden at the The Bakken Museum in Minneapolis. The call to artists is still open for this year’s Green Energy Art Garden, which will be held July 13-22.

via Sundance Channel

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Town Square

Are you interested in participating in the 2012 Land Art Generator Initiative competition and you are looking for the right people to team up with? LAGI Town Square is the place where you can connect. It is a complete social networking engine (built on the elgg platform) that will allow anyone to set up a profile and look around for people who they think would complement their skill set.

For example, an artist can go to the Town Square to meet an engineer, architect, landscape architect, or scientist to help them fully realize their ideas. Conversely, someone of a more technical background can find an artist in the Town Square who has an interesting conceptual idea for which they’d like to provide nuts & bolts details support. Or perhaps you are an environmental activist, or a writer, or anyone with an idea that you’d like to see through.

This site has all of the tools that anyone will need in order to create the perfect collaborative team around their idea. That is its primary purpose. But we also hope that it will serve to connect people of like-minded interests outside of the context of LAGI design teams—to discuss ideas about renewable energy, art and design.

The Town Square site is complementary to the LAGI design competition itself and not an integrated part of the 2012 registration process. You are not required to create a Town Square profile to enter the 2012 competition. 2012 registration will open in January and will be completely separate from Town Square. However, if you create a profile on Town Square, we will migrate that information over to the 2012 design competition site. That way you will already be registered when the design brief goes live in January and you’ll be able to access the design brief and downloads area with your Town Square login information.

Town Square

When you sign up on Town Square, you will be able to provide information about your discipline(s) and team status. This way people will be able to browse other users on the site by discipline and find people with whom they are interested in partnering. For a while we will be building the network, populating it with new profiles. So please take five minutes to create yours now. It’s really easy (you can even one-click login via facebook if you like). Then in a few months, with a critical mass of members, you’ll be able to check back in and find your perfect team!

We encourage you to create a thorough profile and make use of the tools on the site. In this way, others will be able to learn more about you. If they think that you have something to offer their team, they can send you a message directly and privately through the Town Square site.

We’ve created the Town Square networking platform in response to a number of requests for something like this. Because we all don’t have the time to get to know people from across disciplines in our daily lives, Town Square will help to get scientists working with architects, working with electrical engineers, and landscape architects, and artists, and social activists, and writers…all working together to innovate the ways in which we think about design and public infrastructure of the sustainable city.

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SolarVSCoal
click on the image for a larger version.

Mountaintop removal mining (MTR) is a form of surface mining that involves the removal of a summit or ridge. Acres of wilderness habitat is deforested and the wood burned. Explosives are then used to blast away the overburden (soil and rock) to expose the coal seams that lie beneath. An average of 3 million pounds of explosives are detonated in West Virginia every day.

More than 500 mountaintops have been destroyed so far. The air pollution from surface mining activities has led to elevated levels of adult hospitalizations for chronic pulmonary disorders and hypertension; higher rates of mortality; lung cancer; and chronic heart, lung, and kidney disease for individuals living in mining areas.
In addition, 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams have been buried by mining refuse. Valley fill (VF) destroys natural habitats and pollutes watersheds with high levels of selenium and other toxic compounds.

The small blue square (516 square kilometers) on the above map represents the surface area of mountaintop that has been removed in southern West Virginia as of 2010. The same area is also represented on the map in the exact locations of the MTR mining sites.

The small yellow square (312 square kilometers) represents the land surface area that would be required to generate 124.8 terrawatt-hours of electricity each year. This is the same amount of electrical power that is generated by the 63.4 million short tons of coal that is mined from the exploded tops of West Virginia mountains each year.

This large blue square represents 1.4 million acres of Appalachian forest that has been disturbed or cleared as a consequence of mountaintop removal mining practices according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

This larger yellow square represents the land surface area that would be required to generate 1,850 terrawatt-hours of electricity each year. This is the total amount of electrical power that is generated by the more than one billion short tons of coal that is burned in the United States each year in coal-fired electrical power plants. MTR coal amounts to less than 5% of the total US coal production.

The side effect of all this coal combustion for electrical power is that 2.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide, 7.6 million tons of nitrogen oxide, and 7.5 million tons of sulfur dioxide are dumped into the earth’s atmosphere each year, along with other harmful gases and chemicals.

The solar panel installations that would be required to replace all West Virginia MTR coal would cost approximately $180 billion to construct.

If West Virginia decided to produce the panels in-state, it would provide more than 10,000 new jobs—about the same number that have been lost since 1990 in the US mining sector (MTR techniques extract 2.5 times the amount of coal per worker as compared with mining techniques that are more sensitive to the environment).


Mud River, West Virgina. (Graphic from www.ilovemountains.org)

More information can be found at:

http://ilovemountains.org/
http://earth.google.com/outreach/cs_app_voices.html
http://www.seesouthernforests.org/news/mountaintop-removal-cuts-through-southern-forests
http://www.eia.gov/cneaf/coal/weekly/weekly_html/wcpweek.html
http://www.eia.gov/coal/data.cfm, http://www.eia.gov/cneaf/coal/quarterly/html/t1p01p1.xls
http://www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/prog/energy/coal/electricity_conversion.html
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/MountaintopRemoval/
http://www.epa.gov/region3/mtntop/eis2005.htm

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Some nice alternative designs for the BrightSource Energy Ivanpah solar thermal plant in California.

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.

news via inhabitat.com and greenprophet.com

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Aidan Dwyer’s Fibonacci Solar Geometry

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.

According to TreeHugger:

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!

story and images via Northport Patch, TreeHugger, and Inhabitat

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).


Rein Triefeldt’s Solar Tree Foundation

The story reminds of Rein Triefeldt‘s Solar Tree Foundation project, which we learned about through Solar Artworks.

Rein Triefeld is bringing science education to people through his kinetic art. He has been using solar power to bring motion to his kinetic artworks since at least 2002.


And from a bLAGI post in 2009, which was about SMIT‘s Solar Ivy:

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.

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And the winner is…

Lunar Cubit

Robert Flottemesch, Jen DeNike, Johanna Ballhaus, and Adrian P. De Luca
Designed for Site #3 in Abu Dhabi, on Airport Road near Masdar City.
FIRST PLACE AWARD WINNER


Design Submission for the 2010 Land Art Generator Initiative Design Competition

Lunar Cubit is a site specific proposal to be constructed in Abu Dhabi just outside Masdar City, the world’s first zero carbon metropolis once completed. Combining artistic vision with sustainable design and engineering, Lunar Cubit examines the nature of time through nightly contemplation of lunar phases and daily transformation of sunlight into electricity, powering up to 250 homes. Inspired by astronomy, quantum physics and the photoelectric effect, for which Einstein received the Nobel Prize in 1921, this work is open to the public, inviting a personal experience where one can literally reach out and touch a 1.74MW utility scale power plant, in the form of nine monolithic pyramids rising from the sands of Abu Dhabi.

Lunar means relating to or involving the moon and cubit is the name given to the oldest recorded units of length; employed though antiquity, the oldest cubit being the royal cubit, dating back to the Step Pyramid of Djoser circa 2,700 B.C.

Lunar Cubit is a timekeeper, a monthly calendar, allowing viewers to measure time through the eight lunar phases represented by a ring of eight pyramids encircling one central pyramid. All nine are proportional to the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Giza and scaled using the royal cubit but they’re not made from stone; they’re made of glass and amorphous silicon, giving them the appearance of onyx polished to a mirror finish. Supported from within, the façade of the pyramids is neatly seamless, like the face of a skyscraper, crisp against the heavens, reaching from base to tip, unbroken except for two silver streaks like rays of light scribing each face into two equal triangles and one diamond. Using frameless solar panels reduces embodied energy by nearly 30%, reducing time to be energy positive from seven years to five years. Around the pyramids flow natural stone paths in a repeating pattern that mirrors buried electrical cables, conducting electrons from the outer pyramids to the central pyramid where inside they are transformed into AC energy and transmitted to the Utility Grid. Co-locating walking paths and conduit runs minimizes the footprint of disturbed land during the construction allowing the maximum amount of natural ecosystem to remain untouched.

Nine pyramids resting on tan sand; encircled by distant trees; antiquity gilded with technology. Visitors are encouraged to walk amongst these clean power plants, beacons of science, rising to meet a hail of photons from 149 million kilometers away, traveling at the speed of light, to smash into electrons, jarring them free from their molecular bonds and channeling them into electricity. Day passes; a crown of shadows slides silently across the shrubs and sand as the sun rises and falls, moving across the sky and eventually disappearing below the horizon. Two pyramids begin to glow, rising in luminosity as twilight fades and the sky grows dark. Lunar Cubit illuminates inversely proportional to the lunar cycle and tonight is a new moon; white LED’s shine through thousands of tiny bands that are the cellular structure of amorphous silicon solar panels; creating a diffused glow that rises to become a solid pyramid of white light.

Accompanying the center pyramid is a corresponding outer pyramid, clearly marking the lunar phase like a number on the face of a clock. Inverted illumination creates a dance, an ebb and flow like the tides; pyramids of light reaching out to a hidden new moon and as the moon begins to shine, the pyramids recede, allowing moon light to fill the landscape. On the night of a full moon, only moonlight will trace a crown of silvery shadows across the desert floor until the following evening when the pyramids again begin to glow and the moon begins to fade; light forever rising and falling as the moon spins around earth, as the earth spins around the sun as the solar system spins around a massive black hole.

Located five kilometers from Abu Dhabi international airport, Lunar Cubit is visible from the air and creates a landmark, a destination for travelers to visit, relax and meditate. Nine pyramids form a ring matching near-by road structures, forming a symbol of infinity. Lunar cubit serves as a reference, a familiar sight like Big Ben or the Empire States Building, safe, comfortable and timeless as the sun and moon.

Generating electricity for 250 homes, is a perfect complement to Masdar City, a symbol of imagination and sustainability. Harnessing the power of the internet to reach a wider audience, Lunar Cubit utilizes data monitoring, connecting the system’s output and usage to a website that anyone can visit and see live information; how much energy is being generated, how much is being used by the LED lighting, what are the weather conditions and details about the site.
Follow this link for a demonstration.

Art and renewable power generation are expanding frontiers. Our world is changing and the pace of change is accelerating rapidly. Lunar Cubit is a portal between past and future, combining art and energy, welcoming us to step into the future.

low-res version PDF of submitted boards

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Sun Drops

Marcin Sikora, Rozalia Kostka, Marco Tarzia, and Andrzej Chorazyczewski
Designed for Site #2 in Abu Dhabi, between Saadiyat Island and Yas Island.


Design Submission for the 2010 Land Art Generator Initiative Design Competition

Artist’s descriptive text:
The sea and the desert: two gigantic forces in coexistence. Imaging the desert, first thing we see is a cold morning, when the sun starts its journey through the skyline and the sand is yet covered in the cold of the night. This is a very special time, when water in the form of the dewdrops begins to appear on the leaves of plants.

Sun Drops makes reference to this moment when water comes into being at the desert. Oval-shaped forms made of glass, placed directly on the sand, resemble dewdrops at daybreak. The character of the whole composition is strengthened by the nearness of the sea. Irregularly located installations, illuminated from the inside at night, recall the picture of pure diamonds, sparkling at night. From the bird’s eye view they bring to mind water that has just been spilled on the sand, still not soaked into the ground.

During the daytime, the Sun Drops change their character into glass domes, where hidden inside photovoltaic installations produce electricity. Glass forms, of which whole sphere is built, behaves like lenses, agglomerating and focusing light on the solar cells positioned inside. Produced energy is mostly transferred directly to the grid, but some is partially stored, so that it can be used to give power supply to illuminate the spheres at night.

low-res version PDF of submitted boards

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Solar Carpet

Futai Hiroyuki, Asai Hiroki, Murakami Chikako, Ookawa Syotarou, Sawada Kazuhiro, Fujimaki Naoki, Horie Syota, Mori Ryohei, Nakajima Yuji, Nogawa Taishi, Komatsu Kazuki, and Miyamoto Kazuyuki
Designed for Site #2 in Abu Dhabi, between Saadiyat Island and Yas Island.


Design Submission for the 2010 Land Art Generator Initiative Design Competition

Artist’s descriptive text:
Drivers on the highway encounter a long skyline of the installation. One third of the total is deformed slightly and covered with a mist. The skyline evokes the image of a floating carpet.

The space under the carpet serves as a comfortable shade. The rays of the sun come from the random openings of the carpet, and variedly project on the white sandy soil. The horizontal pattern of openings is gradated from inside toward outside, which creates a smooth boundary between the installation and surroundings. With sensitivity to the environment and local ecosystems, 400,000 solar panels are placed over the land.

The public is restricted to the specific area with safety to view it. Under the carpet of that area, a viewing platform is formed on the hill by making maximum use of the existed geographical characteristics. At the top of the platform visitors have a view of the extensive solar carpet from above, on which a sea of mist clouds is wafting and wind power generators are rotating. The clouds of mist serve to cool down the hot solar panels. The wind power generators show reflections from their mirror surface and absorb sunlight energy on their phosphorescent surface.

During night, the luminous LED particles on the solar carpet welcome the tourists in cabin just before arriving at the Abu Dhabi International Airport. The twinkle led lights synchronize with wind velocities and visualize the real-time environmental shift. The wind power generators supply electricity to the LED lights. In addition, the phosphorescent surfaces of the generators emit blurred luminosity according to the amount of energy absorbed during the daytime.

low-res version PDF of submitted boards

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