aha! Ideas & News


Flexible Light Weight Solar Fabric

A new startup, the Solar Cloth Company, has developed a lightweight solar cell “cloth” that can be used to “cheaply” and easily harness solar energy while stretched across sports stadiums, parking lots, etc, as per recent reports.  Based out of Cambridge, England the Solar Cloth Company states that it is currently working to close deals that would see the solar cloth installed on over 27,000 parking lots across the UK.

The company’s founder, Perry Carroll, stated: “We have built a growing sales pipeline worth £4.2m (about $6.57 million) for 2015, including park and ride projects, airport parking operators and retail park owners.”

As per the company’s calculations, there’s around 320 square miles of roof space, and 135 square miles of parking space, in the region that could easily and cheaply be covered with the solar cloth — which could provide enough electricity to power the UK’s grid three times over. (Author’s note: Clearly these calculations don’t deal with the issues of intermittency, weather, etc.).  Some details on the solar cloth: an approximately 10 square-meter piece of the cloth weighs around 7.3 pounds, which is a lot less than conventional solar panels (35-48 lbs for the same space). The material is also quite flexible — opening the door to uses in situations where traditional panels wouldn’t be considered.

“One of the main hindrances to solar panel adoption is that they can be difficult to install and integrate with existing architecture functionally and aesthetically,” stated Hans Haenlein, adviser to The Solar Cloth Company. “Flexible solar cloth overcomes all of these problems and can add real value to existing and upcoming sites.” It seems that the cloth would overcome some functionality problems, but aesthetics are certainly more subjective.  The Solar Cloth Company web site with a You Tube video

EPA News Release on Automobile Fuel Economy

October 8, 2014
New Report: U.S. Fuel Economy Reaches All-Time High
Fuel economy gains for new vehicles continue under Clean Car Program

WASHINGTON – New vehicles achieved an all-time-high fuel economy in 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency announced today. Model year 2013 vehicles achieved an average of 24.1 miles per gallon (mpg) —a 0.5 mpg increase over the previous year and an increase of nearly 5 mpg since 2004. Fuel economy has now increased in eight of the last nine years. The average carbon dioxide emissions are also at a record low of 369 grams per mile in model year 2013.

EPA’s annual “Light-Duty Automotive Technology, Carbon Dioxide Emissions, and Fuel Economy Trends: 1975 through 2014” report tracks average fuel economy of new cars and SUVs sold in the United States. The report also ranks automakers’ achievements in model year 2013.

Some additional top-line findings from the report:
• The recent fuel economy improvement is a result of automakers’ rapid adoption of more efficient technologies such as gasoline direct injection engines, turbochargers, and advanced transmissions.
• Mazda vehicles averaged the highest fuel economy and lowest greenhouse gas emissions
• Nissan achieved the greatest improvement in average fuel economy and greenhouse gas reductions
• SUVs achieved the greatest improvement in all classes of new personal vehicles.
“Today’s announcement points to the greatness of American ingenuity and the strength of our auto industry. Our report shows that today’s vehicles are saving Americans money at the pump while emitting fewer greenhouse gasses. We are thrilled to see that manufacturers continue to innovate and are bringing technologies to improve fuel economy online even faster than anticipated,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Consumers now have many more choices when shopping for vehicles with higher fuel economy and lower emissions compared to just five years ago. These choices reflect both a more diverse range of technology packages on conventional gasoline vehicles as well as more advanced technology and alternative-fueled vehicles.”

Under the leadership of the EPA and the Department of Transportation have implemented standards projected to double fuel economy by 2025 and cut vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by half.

The EPA estimates these standards will save American families more than $8,000 in fuel costs per vehicle by 2025. Throughout the duration of the program, Americans will save $1.7 trillion in fuel costs, use 12 billion fewer barrels of oil, and in 2025, reduce oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels a day – as much as half of the oil imported from OPEC.

Summary of Current Pennsylvania Renewable Energy Incentives

To assist our clients to include the latest technology to reduce energy consumption for their projects AHAdams&Company monitors current grant/incentives/load programs to fund construction and purchase the latest systems to engage environmentally responsible design.  The attached summary details current Pennsylvania Incentives/Policies for Renewables & Efficiency credits, programs, incentives, and grant funding for solar, geo-thermal, renewable energy, energy conservation which can offset the initial cost to help our clients build for the future.

Sustainable Insulation

Wool - it is not just for clothes and rugs.  We have begun to see an interest in wool insulation for buildings.  Before there was fiberglass, there was sheep wool insulation, and the product has never become obsolete. If anything, it may remain a better product in terms of building science. Although sheep wool insulation had nearly disappeared in this country, it has remained popular in the U.K, Australia, New Zealand, and other nations.

It’s green appeal is rather obvious: sheep wool is a rapidly renewable agri-based resource produced with a remarkably small carbon footprint, and it is completely biodegradable.

But sheep’s wool insulation also provides some intriguing functional advantages.  It will absorb up to 20 percent of its own weight in moisture.  In a humid environment it will actually absorb moisture from the room, and as the humidity drops it expels the moisture back into the room. During that process, the water vapor does not alter the thermal characteristics of the product at all, or effect its life cycle.

It also actively contributes to indoor air quality. A lot of materials that go into residential and commercial construction contain formaldehyde, and sheep wool will simply absorb it from out of the air.  As for life cycle issues, wool insulation should last as long as the the typical building that houses it.

Wool is naturally fire resistant, but t must be treated for additional protection against mold and vermin infiltration. The products should contain no added formaldehyde or VOCs. The products can contribute three different LEED credits.

All of those benefits add up to higher retail price points, but it is provides a higher value product.  It is a product worth watching - 

Solar Power

The US Department of Energy is investing in Innovative strategies to bring the cost of producing energy from the sun down.  Through the “Sun Shot” Program (http://www.eere.energy.gov/solar/SunShot/) new technologies are moving forward to contribute to the goal of increasing the amount of energy produced by solar in the United States.  A recent development AHAdams&Company thought was interesting:

U.S. Department of Energy to Invest in Silicon Ink Manufacturer Innovalight

SUNNYVALE, Calif., May 20, 2011 /PRNewswire/—Innovalight, Inc., a privately-held company selling silicon ink and advanced solar cell process technology, today announced it has been selected for funding under the SunShot initiative by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Innovalight will receive $3.4 million to accelerate the development and production of silicon ink material and processes for high efficiency solar cells at its operations in Silicon Valley.  Innovalight manufactures a nanotechnology-based silicon ink and licenses a proprietary process which allows for a simple upgrade to solar cell manufacturing lines to boost the performance of solar cells and lower production costs. The company recently announced supply agreements with several of the largest solar cell manufacturing companies in the world.
“After a hyper competitive selection process, we are thrilled that we were selected for funding by the U.S. Department of Energy,” said Conrad Burke, President and CEO of Innovalight. “This endorsement from the DOE for our innovative silicon ink technology which was invented and is exclusively manufactured here in the United States, is very timely for our expansion plans,” he added.
The DOE’s SunShot Initiative aims to dramatically decrease the total costs of solar energy at the utility, commercial and residential levels by 75% before the end of the decade, making solar energy cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity without subsidies and enabling widespread deployment of solar energy.

About The U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative
The SunShot Initiative builds on the legacy of President Kennedy’s 1960s “moon shot” goal, which laid out a plan to regain the country’s lead in the space race and land a man on the moon. To achieve the SunShot goal of reducing the total installed cost of solar electricity by about 75 percent, DOE will be working closely with partners in government, industry, research laboratories and academic institutions across the country. More information can be found at http://www.eere.energy.gov/solar/SunShot

About Innovalight
Innovalight is based in Sunnyvale, California. The company manufactures silicon ink and licenses a proprietary process technology to solar cell manufacturing companies. Innovalight is venture capital backed and has received additional development funds from the U.S. Dept. of Energy. For more information, visit http://www.innovalight.com



Montgomery County Advanced Medical Imaging and Abington Hospital PET/CT facility, recently completed, has received a coveted United States Green Building Council LEED GOLD certification.  This certification distinguishes the new PET/CT facility as a project designed and constructed to the highest environmental standards and recognizes it as an outstanding achievement.  AHAdams&Company is proud of our contribution to this project and commends Dr. Paul O’Moore, President of Montgomery County Advanced Medical Imaging and Angel Fatz the PET/CT Manager, George Felici, LEED AP, Freedom Enterprise, Incorporated (contractor), Shannon Kaplan, PE, AKF Engineering, and John Zabilowicz, PE, Z&F Consulting Engineers, Richard Palmer and Elizabeth Emig at AHAdams&Company for assistance.  We want to extend a generous thank you! to Dr. Paul O’Moore for his vision to establish this environmental goal and supporting this achievement. AHAdams&Company would like to extent a thank you to the entire project team for their commitment to see beyond the horizon and improve the quality of the environment for us all..

New Materials to Generate Electricity

Advanced Materials for Thermoelectric Devices

We see an opportunity to generate electricity from low grade waste heat through the application of Thermoelectric semiconductors.  Thermoelectric semiconductor materials are recognized as having the potential to provide clean, reliable and highly effective cooling, refrigeration and energy harvesting solutions. Typical electricity generation processes burn fossil fuels generating heat that is then used to produce power in a series of efficiency-robbing mechanical steps. A staggering 50 to 60% of this heat is wasted due to technology limitations. Furthermore, passive or active cooling techniques are often required to mitigate the damaging effects this heat can have on operating equipment and electronic systems.

A new company, Phononic Devices (http://www.phononicdevices.com) is an ARPA-E awardee commercializing advanced materials nano-engineered to recapture this waste heat and convert it into useable electric power, or conversely, to provide highly efficient refrigeration and cooling. Phononic Devices’ proprietary thermal-to-electric approach is designed to make possible a more than $35B market opportunity.  AHAdams&Company is exploring the potential and opportunities to design the use of Thermoelectric semiconductors into a project.

Integral Sustainable Design

Elizabeth, an Intern Architect here at AHAdams&Company, has some thoughts on new integral approaches to “green” design:

The “Green Movement,” along with recently created specialty grants and programs, has recently created a need to explore an integral approach to architecture and planning.  Recent projects in the education sector, in particular, have used sustainable design not only to improve building efficiencies, but also as a tool for teaching and learning.  In these projects, aesthetics embedded in the design reveal information about the buildings performance, the surrounding site, and community.

“Greening Greenfield” is a renovation project to Philadelphia School District’s Greenfield Elementary school play yard on 22nd and Chestnut in Center City.  Greenfield Elementary is just one school that has recently taken to the “green movement” by using an integrated and creative design approach.  Including the community, students and teachers in the design process from day one, the project immediately gained perspective on the importance that the design be both a visual and experiential learning tool.  This is achieved by using the project’s constraints, such as the asphalt schoolyard and the associated heat and drainage issues, as design opportunities.

Pennsylvania Grant Programs for Renewable Energy Products

The State of Pennsylvania continues its efforts to cut energy costs and move towards energy independence through its grant, loan and rebate programs.  AHAdams&Company is assisting its clients with the application process for some of these pending grant programs:

Pennsylvania Grant Programs for Renewable Energy Products:

Renewable Energy Program – Geothermal and Wind Projects –
The Renewable Energy Program provides financial assistance in the forms of grants and loan funds to promote the use of alternative energy in the Commonwealth.  The program is administered jointly by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), under the direction of the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA).

Solar Energy Program –
The Solar Energy Program provides financial assistance in the forms of grants and loan funds to promote the use of alternative energy in the Commonwealth.  The program is administered jointly by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), under the direction of the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA).

Alternative and Clean Energy Program –
The Alternative and Clean Energy Program provides financial assistance in the form of grants and loan funds that will be used by eligible applicants for the utilization, development and construction of alternative and clean energy projects in the Commonwealth.  The program is administered jointly by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), under the direction of the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA).

PA Conservation Works!  Harvesting 25% Energy Savings for Pennsylvania’s Communities –
As a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Pennsylvania is offering one-time grants for motivated local governments and non-profit entities with shovel-ready projects that will save or conserve a minimum of 25% of all energy used.  Final guidelines are expected to be released approximately June 22, 2009.  The program is administered by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Questions may by directed to Mary Ann McGee at 215.659.8844 x203.