Welcome to another two weekly review of energy and environmental events and developments from both here in New Zealand and around the world. As always, we hope you find our collection of stories to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.

Meridian’s head office on the Wellington waterfront has achieved a NABERSNZ rating of 5.5 out of a possible 6, the highest so far under the New Zealand scheme. Information gathered from 12 months of in-use energy data verified the design objectives to optimize energy use. Design features include double-skinned façade, exposed thermal mass, automated window opening, daylight-controlled lighting and much more. A fine tuning process was also carried out to ensure that building systems were operating as expected.

In our next three stories we look at energy management from different perspectives. In our first story, eight potential steps are required to understand the operation (energy use and costs incurred) of the building and or buildings you are monitoring; energy going in, rating the buildings performance against known indicators, identify areas of improvement through to keeping track of the buildings performance and operation once any work and or improvements have been made.

The following article looks at optimisation of buildings through multiple sensors and diagnostic equipment. These tools would be used to actively look for and even make adjustments and corrections of plant and operating equipment to ensure the building is running at optimum operation at all times. The end result would be savings to the building and/or businesses using the building through these monitoring and efficiency measures.

Now we are looking at work station heating, really the net result is more efficient use of heating through localised placement (under or near work stations) the heating system also interfaces with sensors and apps that can relay information to building management staff.

Away from buildings we are looking at a renewable form of energy, solar. To generate 1GWh of solar power a year, 2.8 acres of solar panels would be required. This seems like a large amount of land space but in comparison it is less than what is currently used by US Power Plants using surfaced mined coal. If the United States had to rely 100% on solar power then it would take up only 0.6% landmass in the country. Solar arrays can also be placed on existing building stock which leads into our next story.

We mentioned land use for solar power but how about roof top solar power? In Minnesota rooftop solar energy costs 36-75% less than natural gas power plants during peak time and in other parts of the US solar energy is 1-3cents per kWh cheaper than other forms of electricity. Not only does the consumer win financially but the environment benefits too.

Putting this cheaper option of solar energy to use we come to electric vehicles efficiency over fossil fuel vehicles. We have all heard that electric cars are the cleaner green option but do they live up to this hype? This article examines not only the car efficiency but the steps taken from the very beginning to get the energy type to the car before the key is even turned on.

Losses and transport costs along the way are examined along with variables that could be considered if an intense study was completed. Comparisons are made in two areas; Australian main land and Tasmania. New Zealand has a similar Hydro energy production to Tasmania so the comparison could have very similar outcomes for NZ, that is EV vehicles are more efficient, a good purchase for the future.

Planes, boats and automobiles! Electric cars are relatively new to the market but have been accepted by the public, now the new mode of green transport is a solar powered aircraft that has the same wingspan as an Airbus A340, is covered in 11,268 dark blue PV cells that are as thick as a piece of hair and has very little sound pollution due to its electric engines. Developments are already taking place for the mark two version but commercial passenger transportation is still some way off.

There are also solar powered boats such as PlanetSolar, a 31 meter motorboat that traversed around the world in 2010. Transport developers have stated it is not about navigating the world anymore, 12 people have been to the moon, does another need to go? It is about finding cleaner ways of doing so. Finance appears to be the major concern in relation to the timeframe these new solar modes of transport can be made in, the more money, the faster it is created. Watch this space for further developments!

Miele have created a drier that uses clean energy, solar power! This drier is 80% more energy efficient than a conventional dryer by getting the solar energy from a rooftop array, giving it a triple 'A'   rating by the European Union. This EcoComfort heater does not rely solely on solar; it works with the central heating system to optimise overall benefits. No price has been set for the drier yet but the estimations are a seven year payback period, a fairly involved installation process is more than likely factored in but for a lower power bill through a more efficient drying process (Dryers in the USA use around 43 Billion kWh of energy each year) can only be a good thing.

Our final solar story looks at two test streetlights in Canada, one is purely run on solar and the other is run on solar and wind energy. The benefits of being off the grid are; no black-out of the streetlights (safety first!) and the lights are accessed remotely, creating a lower maintenance cost. 60% of costs in outdoor lighting installation are in the trenching, this wouldn’t occur with solar lighting making solar lighting attractive to subdivision developers and government agencies due to lower install costs, the appeal of new technology which is independently powered and not being reliant on supply networks, a win win for all.

We wrap up this SnippETS with a sometimes thought provoking but mainly light hearted look at things we should do before the world ends in approximately 3.25 billion years as things are going to heat up somewhat. Number 1, ‘ending male pattern baldness’ and at number 8 ‘the male pill’. Now as this article is written by a male he should be applauded, sure he’s thinking of himself and other males in the number 1 spot but at number 8 he really is thinking of the fairer sex (said the male again!).

Thank you for taking time to read our SnippETS articles! The world is rapidly changing around us but with the new technology and business sustainability plans we are looking towards a bright, green future.

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