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November 17, 2009

Songjiang Hotel

Filed under: Environment,LifeStyle,Travel — Rafael Minuesa @ 1:34 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,
This is one of a series of articles I posted for Guy.com.
You can view the original version at:
* http://www.guy.com/2009/11/12/songjiang-hotel-a-paradise-set-into-an-abandoned-quarry/

Songjiang Hotel

What can you do with an old quarry when it stops being productive, apart from being left with a huge hole in the earth that can’t be used for anything?.

That was actually the dilemma for the owners of that wasted real estate in Sonjiang, China, near Shanghai, who decided to set up a contest for ideas to develop some useful compound inside the abandoned quarry. The Songjiang district is a natural beauty spot close to Shanghai and an increasingly popular weekend and holiday destination for Shanghai residents and other visitors.

Atkins Architects came up with a brilliant idea complemented with a wonderful visual presentation shown here and won the contest to design a 5-star, 400-bed luxury resort hotel on those premises. Bristol-based Martin Jochman, who led the design team, said,

“We drew our inspiration from the quarry setting itself, adopting the image of a green hill cascading down the natural rock face as a series of terraced landscaped hanging gardens. In the center, we have created a transparent glass ‘waterfall’ from a central vertical circulation atrium connecting the quarry base with the ground level. This replicates the natural waterfalls on the existing quarry face.”

By having the quarry partially filled with water, the lower part of the hotel will be underwater, offering spectacular aquarium views to guests in the restaurants, fitness areas, and lower story guestrooms.  The hill will be transformed in roof-gardens with terraces with a waterfall at the center and at the top of the hotel, rising above the quarry, guests can enjoy an extreme sports center with activities like rock climbing and bungee jumping.

Water World

And to top it off, the hotel will be totally eco-friendly.  Not only by the fact that is being built in an abandoned quarry, but the Songjiang Hotel will feature green roofing, natural lighting, and geothermal energy, making sustainability an important feature in the design of the Hotel.

August 16, 2008

Concentrating photovoltaics

Filed under: Environment,Gadgets,Science — Rafael Minuesa @ 11:58 PM
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This is one of a series of articles I posted for the Green Gadget Inspector’s Blog.
You can view the original version at:
* http://gadgetgreeninspector.blogspot.com/2008/08/concentrating-photovoltaics.html

The PS10 project, is an 11 MW Solar Thermal Power Plant 15 km west of the city of Seville in Southern Spain.

The plant is the first Solar Central Receiver System of its kind and generates 11 Megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to power up to 6,000 homes although it is expected that when the entire project is completed it should generate enough electricity to cover the needs of the 600,000 population of Seville.

It works by concentrating the reflected rays from each of the 624 mirrors with a mobile curved reflective surface measuring 120 square meters to the top of a 115 meter where a solar receiver turns water into steam. The turbine drives a generator, producing electricity.

Compared to conventional flat panel solar cells, concentrating photovoltaics is more cost efficient because the solar collector is less expensive than an equivalent area of solar cells.
Concentrating photovoltaics operates most effectively in sunny weather, since clouds and overcast conditions create diffuse light which essentially can not be concentrated.


The PS10 solar power plant is promoted by Solúcar Energía, an Abengoa Group company.
This project has counted with the co-funding from the 5th European Union Framework Program. Activities of Solgate Technology are still continuing today, with the presence of Solúcar R&D in the Solhyco Project which intent to obtain the hybridization of the system developed on the Solgate stage with gasified biomass. The Solhyco Project counts with the collaboration of renowned research centers such as DLR and Ciemat, and which has been co-funded under the 6th European Union Framework Program.

Because concentrating photovoltaics perform better in environments with clear skies, Europe is also looking across the Mediterranean to the Sahara desert, where solar farms could provide clean electricity for the whole of Europe, according to EU scientists working on an scheme to build a €4.500.000 European supergrid that would allow countries across the continent to share electricity from abundant green sources.
In addition, because the sunlight in this area is more intense, solar photovoltaic (PV) panels in northern Africa could generate up to three times the electricity compared with similar panels in northern Europe.
Arnulf Jaeger-Walden of the European commission’s Institute for Energy, speaking at the Euroscience Open Forum in Barcelona, said it would require the capture of just 0.3% of the light falling on the Sahara and Middle Eastern deserts to provide all of Europe’s energy needs.

Jaeger-Walden explained how electricity produced in solar farms in Africa, each containing power plants generating around 50-200MW of power, could be fed thousands of miles across European countries by using high-voltage direct current transmission lines instead of the traditional alternating current lines. Energy losses on DC lines are far lower than AC ones where transmission of energy over long distances is uneconomic.

January 23, 2008

BioGas Digesters

Filed under: Environment,Gadgets — Rafael Minuesa @ 1:35 AM
Tags: , , , , ,
This is one of a series of articles I posted for the Green Gadget Inspector’s Blog.
You can view the original version at:
* http://gadgetgreeninspector.blogspot.com/2008/01/biogas-digesters.html

Biogas is an incredibly simple technology. It works by turning human or animal waste accumulated into closed chambers into gas that is produced by absence of oxygen, a mixture of mainly methane with some carbon dioxide. This resulting gas can then be used for cooking and lighting or even for generating electrical power, and the solid residue can be used as organic compost.

The power of biogas has been known to Mankind as far back as 10 BC, when it was used in Assyria to heat bath water.
Marco Polo did mention the use of covered sewage tanks in China that are believed to date back to 2,000-3,000 years ago in ancient China.

China is also one of countries in the world that have adopted modern biogas technology earlier in its history. Since the end of the nineteenth century, simple biogas digesters had appeared in the coastal areas of southern China.
Half a century later, in 1958, a campaign was launched in Wuchang to exploit the multiple functions of biogas production, which simultaneously solved the problems of the disposal of manure and improvement of hygiene.
Between the late 1970s and early 1980s when the Chinese government fomented biogas production not only as a way of providing energy, but also as environmental protection and improvement of hygiene, as well as modernization of agriculture. Some 6 million digesters were set up in China at that time, attracting many from the developing countries to learn from it.

The “China dome” digester became the standard construction to the present day, specially for small-scale domestic use.

diagram of biogas production
A biogas tank can produce about 400 cubic meters of biogas. Just 1 cubic metre of biogas can meet the daily energy needs of rural households, mainly for cooking three meals.

Today, farmers in the Chinese province of Guangxi Province are the flagship of Chinese biogas technology. The central government pays half the price of building a $260 biogas “digester” in their backyards. It’s an example of what the Chinese government, in its 11th five-year economic plan, refers to as a new socialist village – environmentally sustainable, socially harmonious and prosperous.

The vast majority of farmers who live in Guangxi don’t earn enough to pay for fuel or electricity. That is if they’re lucky enough to be connected to the power grid in the first place.
All that has changed now and Guanxi is becoming a prosperous place, as well as restoring its natural surroundings. No more cutting wood for cooking and the precious time spent looking for and cutting down trees is now spent in business activities, many of them environmentally friendly.

The Chinese government has launched the “Environment-friendly Homeland” project to develop renewable energy, especially biogas, that aims at having 15 per cent of the country’s energy consumption to come from renewable sources like biogas by 2020.
In Guangxi, there are now 3 million biogas tanks in operation, according to the government, making the province the largest producer of biogas in China if not the world. As each one routes animal and human waste into biogas digesters, they not only prevent vast amounts of methane from escaping into the atmosphere but an estimated 8 million tons of standard coal and 13 million tons of firewood from being burned each year, according to IFAD, the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

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