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The award-winning Phase Change Matters blog tracks the latest news and research on phase change materials and thermal energy storage. E-mail tips and comments to Ben Welter, communications director at Entropy Solutions. Follow the blog on Twitter at @PureTemp. Subscribe to the monthly PCM newsletter. Or join the discussion on LinkedIn.




Clean energy now provides 94.5% of Uruguay's electricity

Ben Welter - Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Ramon Mendez, Uruguay's head of climate changeUruguay's head of climate change policy says renewables now provide 94.5 percent of his country's electricity.

In less than 10 years, Ramón Méndez says, Uruguay has slashed its carbon footprint, adding wind turbines, biomass and solar without government subsidies. And prices are lower as well.

"There are also fewer power cuts," the Guardian reports, "because a diverse energy mix means greater resilience to droughts." Uruguay's hydroelectric system, which continues to generate much of the country's electricity, is dependent on seasonal rainfall. 

But the work is not complete. At the climate conference in Paris, Méndez committed his country to an ambitious pledge: an 88% cut in carbon emissions by 2017 compared with the average for 2009-13.

U.S. Green Building Council's pledge: Certify more than 5 billion square feet of green construction over next 5 years

Ben Welter - Thursday, December 03, 2015

The U.S. Green Building Council has pledged to scale up in support of certification of more than 5 billion square feet of green construction over the next five years. The commitment, made at the U.N. climate negotiations conference in Paris on Thursday, is intended to cut greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that the construction industry is doing its part in the effort to limit global warming to 2º Celsius.

“As we gather around the imperatives to address climate change ... we know that buildings must continue be a key focus area for countries to reach carbon emissions reduction goals,” said Roger Platt, council president. “By encouraging the use of green building rating systems like LEED and EDGE in both the public and private sectors, countries can log immediate and measurable reductions of these emissions as their building stock uses less energy and water, creates less waste, saves money and creates a healthier environment for everyone.”

The U.S. group is one of 26 Green Building Councils from around the world pledging to collectively register, renovate or certify more than 13 billion square feet of green building space (an area twice the size of Singapore) and train more than 127,000 green building professionals by 2020.

Salt hydrate fireplace will warm floating home in Germany

Ben Welter - Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Fraunhofer floating home

A salt hydrate fireplace is among the energy-efficient features of a floating house planned for Lake Geierswalde near Hoyerswerda, Germany. 

The Fraunhofer Institute has partnered with the Technical University of Dresden and the Technical University of Brandenburg and local businesses on the two-story houseboat, which will sit on a 13x13-meter steel pontoon. Solar cells will be integrated in the building envelope; lithium polymer batteries will store the collected energy.

The project is scheduled for completion in 2017. Research in Germany describes the home's heating and cooling systems:

"A salt hydrate fireplace provides heat on cold winter days: above the fireplace there is a tub filled with water and salt hydrates.

" 'When the fireplace is on, the salt hydrates liquefy and begin to absorb heat,' Dr. Burkhardt Fassauer [of the Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems] explains. When the salt hydrates are completely liquefied, the thermal energy can be stored almost indefinitely. In order to release the heat when required, radio-based technology is used to induce crystallization. ...

"However, a fireplace is not enough to heat the house during the winter. This is where a zeolith thermal storage unit in the pontoon can help: the zeolith minerals are dried during the summer – a purely physical process in which heat is stored. 

" 'In winter, the moist air is enough for the storage unit to give off heat,' Fassauer explains. 

"An adiabatic cooling system provides for cool air in the summer. Unlike conventional air conditioning systems, it does not require electricity but uses the principle of evaporative humidification to cool. A surface on the side of the house is landscaped and moistened and the process of evaporation then cools the building envelope."

Phase Change Matters briefing: Almac/QuickSTAT partnership; online LEED course; Tesla's net-zero Gigafactory

Ben Welter - Tuesday, November 17, 2015

• Pharma giant Almac is partnering with QuickSTAT on a program to improve turnaround times of phase change shippers and other vacuum insulated packaging systems. The program will be based at QuickSTAT's temperature-controlled facility near Belfast International Airport and 30 minutes from Almac headquarters in Craigavon, U.K.

T. Stern Sustainability of Seattle is offering an online course titled "LEED Economics: Costs, Benefits & Performance" through GreenCE. Topics include LEED rebates and low-cost LEED strategies. Cost: $19.

• More positive press for the Ice Bear thermal energy storage system, a piece on "Solar powered air conditioning is the new hot thing."  

Tesla's chief technical officer, J.B. Straubel, says the company's planned Gigafactory in Nevada will produce as much renewable energy as it uses.

Prefab Carbon Positive House can be assembled in less than a day

Ben Welter - Thursday, November 12, 2015

ArchiBlox Carbon Positive House

ArchiBlox, an Australian design-build firm that specializes in prefab buildings, has designed a sustainable house that can be assembled in just six hours. 

"We call the house Carbon Positive, because we’re positively putting energy back into the grid," Bill McCorkell, owner and director of the Victoria-based company, said in an interview with The Fifth Estate. "This is due to the five solar panels mounted on the roof that produce electricity, and the fact that the house requires no mechanical cooling or heating.”

The 5-kilowatt-hour solar panels produce more than enough electricity to power the hot water system, LED lights and appliances. Excess electricity can be exported to the grid. 

The home features double-glazed windows and slideable living walls and roof to reduce sun penetration as needed. Phase change material in the ceiling absorbs daytime heat and releases it when the temperature falls below 18° Celsius. The price for the one-bedroom, one-bathroom standard model: $286,000 AUD.

Registration open for Bio-Based and Sustainable Products Summit in January

Ben Welter - Thursday, November 05, 2015

Registration has opened for the 7th annual Bio-Based and Sustainable Products Summit, which will be held Jan. 13-14, 2016, in San Diego, Calif. 

The summit brings together manufacturers, retailers, financiers and policymakers with experts in the biochemical, biofuel, bioplastic, petrochemical and oleochemical fields to "learn, network and respond to growing consumer demand for safer and greener products."

Panel discussion topics include biobased and sustainable feedstocks; crude oil price projections and their impact on the renewable chemical industry; what to look for in strategic partners; how to attract private equity; and joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions as paths to commercialization. 

The deadline for a refundable "early bird" rate of $1,495 is Dec. 4, 2015.

Viessmann ice store system featured in UK show house

Ben Welter - Thursday, October 29, 2015

Huf Haus show house in Surrey, England

A heat pump system that uses an ice store to both heat and cool buildings has been installed at a show house in England.

Huf Haus' post-and-beam show home in Surrey is equipped with the ice store system, developed by Viessmann, a German company that manufactures heating systems. The system is one of the sustainable elements showcased in Huf Haus’ first UK show home.

The heat pump extracts energy from stored water. As this energy is used, especially during the heating season, the temperature of the water in the ice store falls. If the temperature in the store falls to the freezing point, additional energy is obtained from the freezing of the water. The system is also used to heat water for domestic use.

Deloitte's high-tech HQ knows when espresso machines need refilling, which toilets need cleaning

Ben Welter - Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Edge, Amsterdam

We first blogged about the Edge, Deloitte’s new headquarters in Amsterdam, in December. The 430,000-square-foot building, designed by PLP Architecture of London, had just won BREEAM certification as the world’s most-sustainable building. As you might expect, it's packed with high-tech, energy-efficient features, including an aquifer thermal energy storage unit 500 feet below ground that helps generate all energy required for heating and cooling.

But it's way cooler – and perhaps a bit creepier – than we could have imagined. Fast Company finds out what a building bristling with 40,000 sensors can do with all that data:

"With big data, we suddenly had the ability to completely understand how people use the building," says [Coen] van Oostrom [CEO of OVG Real Estate, the building's developer]. "We can do things that we didn't expect when we started. A cleaning lady who works in this building now has a heat map on her smartphone telling her what toilets have been used and what toilets have not been used."

Stevens Institute's SURE House surges to victory in Solar Decathlon

Ben Welter - Monday, October 19, 2015

SURE House

Stevens Institute of Technology, a private research university in Hoboken, N.J., won top honors at the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon 2015 on Saturday. The team's SURE House, inspired by the need for dwellings that can withstand the kind of storm surge, high winds and flooding associated with 2012's Superstorm Sandy, was judged to be the best of 14 solar-powered homes in the collegiate competition. Judges awarded points based on each home's affordability, attractiveness, comfort and net energy consumption.  

“The Stevens design stacks up very favorably against many homes designed by seasoned architectural teams, and in fact outstrips the vast majority of U.S. houses when it comes to energy performance," wrote one of the judges, Ann Edminster, an international expert on green homes. "The love of community that drove this design inspired a highly effective collaboration, in turn giving rise to an exceptionally well-integrated final product that will benefit both the occupants and their larger community.”

Stevens took first place with an overall score of 960 out of a possible 1,000 points. The State University of New York at Buffalo took second place (941 points). Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, took third (910 points).