This week at TreeHugger: We toast a newly minted solar-powered brewery, and wish we were all movie stars so we could get some free solar swag at the Oscars. A new building going up in Japan will light itself at night with the help from transparent solar panels imbedded in the glass walls. Plus, a study finds that pedaling around on a power-assisted bike is better exercise than doing all the pushing yourself...really! Finally, we debate the merits of a partially crazy idea: using a huge solar shield to turn down the lights on the planet and combat climate change.
The Anderson Valley Brewing Company, a craft brewery in Boonville, California, recently started brewing beer with the help of the solar energy it collects. The $860,000 photovoltaic project includes two arrays that generate 125 kW per hour during peak hours; they claim this makes it the largest privately-owned PV system north of the San Francisco Bay area. The system is expected to generate about 40 percent of the brewery's annual energy needs. Groundbreaking in more than one way, the brewery grounds are also home to the world's first (and so far only) 18 hole Disc Golf Course with a craft brewery for the clubhouse.
Cell phones and espresso makers weren't the only things in Oscar swag bags this year; Solar Style gave out a limited number of their SC003 cell chargers to some of the Academy's lucky guests. The charger giveaway was facilitated by the S.W.A.G.G. (Sustainability, Wellness and Green Gifts) program that also gave celebs the option of pulling up to the red carpet in a clean-burning alternative-fuel limo.
A building under construction in Japan will use sunlight to illuminate its rooms after the sun goes down. Sections of the walls of the new office complex will be constructed with a new building material that contain super-thin, transparent solar panels and as many as 320 light-emitting diodes that release whitish-blue light at night. The material, a joint venture between Japanese construction company Shimizu and Sharp electronics, can convert about 7% of solar energy into electricity, which is enough to illuminate the building for an average of 4.6 hours every night.
An Australian study has published some unusual results: riding a power-assisted bike is better exercise than pushing the pedals by yourself. How'd they come to this conclusion? Well, the extra weight of the electric bike requires a bit more effort to propel when the road is flat, but is compensated for when the grade goes up and the ride is power-assisted. The overall effort is therefore more constant, with less sudden strain on the cyclist s cardiovascular system. This means that "riders are unlikely to be overly fatigued after riding, presenting this as a viable alternative for people wanting to ride to work, the elderly or those who are not fit." So have another Twinkie, get an electric bike, and all will be well with the universe again.
Lastly, we have a crazy idea (kind of) about how to slow down climate change: artificial partial solar eclipse. It's science-fiction and crazy, but not so crazy that real scientists won't look at it; the BBC published a piece on it, and came up with this: "The US National Academy of Sciences found that 55,000 orbiting mirrors would reflect enough sunlight to counter about half the doubling of carbon dioxide." So get a tan while you can...who knows when the lights will go down.
TreeHugger's EcoModo column appears every Tuesday on Gizmodo.