Tag Archive | alternative energy

Raising the IQs of “Dumb” Cities

After spending hours searching for books on green architecture (or even sustainability) in Paris at the Bibliothèque de la Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine yesterday (which, by the way, has an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower and Trocadero), and giving up largely in vain [because Paris just isn’t sustainable], I was happy to come across this gem of a project in the US.

CITE, or the Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation, will be a small town built near Hobbs, New Mexico for research companies to test out green energy technologies, intelligent transport systems, first responder (homeland security) technology, and high-tech wireless infrastructure in real-life settings–just without having people to account for. As the article puts it, the developer (Pegasus) will stop just “shy of interior decorating.” Sounds to me like it could have the potential to become a new Silicon Valley hotbed of creativity!

Hobbs, NM in context (Courtesy of Google Maps)

That said…

CITE will intentionally be an imperfect place… “We’re a dumb city,” Brumley says, “and we bring smart technology to the dumb city, or the ‘legacy’ city, to see how its IQ can be elevated. If you think of it that way, 99.9 percent of all American cities are dumb–they’re all legacy.”

While I (and apparently many others) would have wanted to see a prototype for a smarter city rather than another “legacy” city modeled on Rock Hill, South Carolina, complete with suburbs, exurbs, and other forms of sprawl (which then perpetuates the existence of these “dumb” cities), CITE is still a start in the right direction (both in terms of economic development for the NM-Texas border region, and for the many technologies that are approaching or are stuck in the infamous “valley of death” before commercialization and larger-scale use by the public).

Cleaner clean fuel sources

I came upon this in an article about alternative clean power sources:

“If 1 percent of the earth’s hot deserts produced clean solar-thermal energy, they would meet the entire planet’s current electricity demand.”

Solar-thermal energy in this case involves using hundreds of large ground-level mirrors to concentrate light on a tall tower, which then converts the light into heat, and then into electricity via a steam turbine. Such a source of power would require massive amounts of space and decent electricity infrastructure already in place to take it from a [presumably] desert area to villages and cities. While making mirrors and one steam turbine would definitely require fewer minerals (like gallium, arsenic, cadmium, and tellurium used in PVs) than photovoltaic-based solar power, and solar-thermal energy would probably have more attainable economies of scale, I wonder how transferable solar-thermal energy will be in reality, compared to PV solar. Given the lower marginal costs and seeming efficiency (at least, based on that quote), it seems strange that solar-thermal hasn’t become more widespread.

The writer, David Benjamin, argues that the visibility [or lack thereof] of these cleaner technologies is why they’re not more widespread–but one look at the controversies behind large-scale wind farms and PV farms seems to hint at a different relationship with renewables.

In a preliminary talk with a vertical wind-turbine developer, the start-up’s co-founder claimed that their product’s biggest selling point was its visibility and therefore image- and public-relations-boosting abilities. Should this really be the driver for innovation of clean tech — aesthetics, instead of efficiency? Is the public still so unconvinced by our rising gas prices, multiple wars in oil-rich countries, oil tanker crashes, climate change, and domestic ethanol biofuel subsidies (which were supported initially because the ethanol blended well with gasoline as a replacement for more toxic additives), that we need to focus on increasing the visibility of renewables for them to be used?

Link to article : http://www.nyfa.org/nyfa_current_detail.asp?id=272&fid=1&sid=17&curid=705