Environmental Considerations PDF Print E-mail
Written by Easy Green Energy   
Thursday, 22 April 2010 17:21

As a renewable energy consultant, I have worked with many projects which had the seed of something great but never grew to its potential. This happens, from time to time, because of many reasons. But in my experience, there is always one corner stone of sustainable development that gets left behind: An Environmentally Integrated Approach. What? That’s absurd. Trust me, 99% of projects fail to account for outside environment, including terrain, orientation, elevation, you get the picture.

A perfect example of this was a design I saw for a Green Building, with every bell and whistle as well as a wind farm on the roof. The drawings were astounding, the idea phenomenal, and the result: a failed project. In the whole process, no one had considered that the orientation of the building as it had been designed was the worst possible after a natural resource assessment. The prevailing wind direction was going to cause serious turbulence in the wind farm which would rip the roof off, in a nutshell.


I have been given the opportunity to contribute to this site with a single goal, to get the information to the people who need it so that the technology is allowed to stand on its own and yield the benefits and potential it promises. So, down to business.


Let’s go back to environmental integration. I like to look at this as context. We don’t develop structures in isolation, they are contextualised by surrounding structures and infrastructure... AND the environment; the wind, the sun, the land. These natural resources have a bigger impact on sustainable development than we realize. But, if we accounted for the natural resources before now, we wouldn’t be on a planet that’s fast becoming a microwave. Strangely, we did 2000 years ago. Ancient Greek Villages were designed specifically to the orientation of the sun.


We knew it then, and we certainly know it now. By using the natural fluctuations in environmental resources we can regulate temperature, increase productivity and lower day-to-day costs. So when considering tunnels, look up at the sky, consider how a North to South orientation will minimise shadowing, even with wind breaks. The movement of the sun is predictable and can be plotted, it can also be a key tool to the success of your tunnel.


Should heating be a problem or an element that may increase the cost of operations of your tunnels, solar energy is a valuable asset to the tunnel farmer. I know we all know about solar thermal and photovoltaic as two ways to actively use the sun’s energy, these will also increase costs and, in the state it’s in, the industry will probably give you a headache as well. Passive solar, however, is free. When we talk about passive solar we are talking about the natural absorption of heat that can be harnessed in cheap and easy ways. For instance, that heating problem I mentioned, can be solved by laying a thermal mass (ie. a chunk of anything that will absorb heat, like a slab of concrete) on the North side of the tunnel (depending on your hemisphere) and using cross ventilation can increase the temperature inside your tunnel by as much as 5 degrees, for free.


Another environmental resource factor to consider is air movement (wind), but that’s slightly more involved. I will go into it in my next article. There is so much information, we’ll be going bit by bit and getting in-depth as we go forward. Looking forward to applying it to real examples with you.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 April 2010 17:54