Energy & Atmosphere
Wind power is a clean power source that is limitless and plentiful, and in 2009 Other World Computing took
the lead in alternative power use by private enterprise in Illinois when work began on construction of a
Vestas V 39, 3-Blade, 500kW Wind Turbine. The turbine will be installed atop a 131-foot tall tower. The
blade measures 63 feet from tip to housing, making the total wind turbine height 194 feet.
The turbine will generate approximately 1,250,000 kWh per year (kilowatt hours per year) - up to more than double the current energy requirements the OWC facility, a 24/7 operation, including its internet operations datacenter which includes OWC.net and FasterMac.net ISP and webhosting services. The anticipated surplus power will be sold back to local
power providers to sell to other customers. The turbine assembly's initial lifespan is 20 years; with extended
lifespan possible through routine maintenance
and part replacement.
As the turbine transforms wind power into energy, the power travels into the OWC facility to the utility company meter device. After OWC draws off the power it needs, the excess is routed back to the utility company. The utility company will remain as the backup power source for OWC on non-windy days; OWC also has 2 other backup power sources in case of any combined wind and utility company power blackout.
The wind turbine's rotor speed is up to 30 rpm (revolutions per minute). The blade housing is asynchronous, meaning
it can spin either direction, depending on wind. Wind speed increase with altitude and there is a stronger wind to be captured at the tower's height of 131 feet (194 feet, with blade height), with an average wind speed of 10-15 mph at the OWC site. As configured for our site, power is generated with wind speeds as low as about 9 mph and the rotors can withstand a maximum wind speed of 150 mph. In extreme winds, the rotation will automatically cut back to a safe maximum
Geothermal heating and cooling
Geothermal heating and cooling in this building, conceptually, is the same as a home heat pump and/or air conditioning. Unlike the standard system, which typically utilizes Freon or similar refrigerant, and exchanges heat with the refrigerant for heating and cooling an interior space, geothermal can use a variety of vehicles for heat transfer.
OWC's geothermal makes use of the most natural, non-polluting resource of all as the medium for heat transfer; Water.
The system consists of a "standard air handler". Interior building air passes over a heat exchanger, and that air is either heated or cooled and is distributed throughout the building's ventilation system. Almost identical to Freon systems that use air via the unit that sits outside a home, Geothermal utilizes the steady temperature of the ground, well below the surface of the earth.
The water medium is pumped back into pipes set more than 200 feet into the ground, moving from the building to the ground and back, day after day, year after year. If the water has become warmer in the summer when passing through the building, it will give up that heat to the earth, 200 feet below the surface, where it is always a range of 47 to 54ºF If the water becomes colder after circulating through the heat exchangers, then it is warmed when it passed through the earth, and brings that heat back to the building. The process is continuous, and is extremely efficient, as a result of not having to compress refrigerants from gas to liquids.
Energy saving is one aspect of "green" by using items like high levels of insulation in the roof, windows, wall, foundation, and utilizing water. These payback quickest and reduce the cooling and heating loads which in turn allows installing smaller heating and cooling equipment. Even when the system is open for maintenance it doesn't use any fluorocarbons which can escape into the atmosphere.
Solar energy has been a part of our everyday lives, with commercial products to facilitate its use for about 40 years. It encompasses everything from roof-top systems that heat water for home heating, laundry, bathing and swimming pools, to photo-voltaic panels like those used on spacecraft, turning the Sun's energy into electricity.
There are new technologies emerging all the time, and one of them is known as Daylight Harvesting. Daylight Harvesting is much simpler than using the sun to generate electricity and provide power. Instead, like opening the shades and letting the sun shine in, Daylight Harvesting collects the light of the sun, and distributes it throughout the interior space, without generating heat, without using light bulbs which often contain heavy metals and toxic gas. Like a magician, the process can provide an exceptional quality light that is the same "color" as outdoors, all with the use of "mirrors."
Almost everyone is familiar with a satellite dish, which collects radio signals, concentrates and focuses them to a receiver, and then amplifies them to facilitate communications, radio and TV and a host of other uses. Daylight Harvesting uses the same principles. A "dish" coated with a fine grade of mirror quality aluminum is used to collect sunlight. The sunlight is focused upon a bundle of optical fibers, and these fibers "transmit" the light of the sun from one end of the fiber to the other.
The fibers are so efficient at transferring the light of the sun, that just a few are all that is needed to achieve the brightness of a standard 4 bulb, 160 watt, fluorescent ceiling light fixture! Each collector is capable of piping sunlight into the equivalent of between 8 and 16 ceiling fixtures of the type most commonly seen in offices. The color of the light is the same healthy color of the sun, which has been shown to have positive psychological and physical benefits in the work place, much like all glass buildings.
Supplementing the fiber optic Daylight Harvesting will be skylights as well as optimally placed windows to gather sunlight and reduce the use of electric light within the building. As the sun sets, sensors detect the shift in lighting, and using the latest in dimming-capable fluorescent lighting, these systems will turn on, supplementing the fiber light until darkness requires that electric light activate at full power.
In addition, sensors will detect room occupancy and can turn off lights in offices and areas in which there are no people present, thereby saving energy.