From void into vision, from vision to mind, from mind into speech, from speech to the tribe, from the tribe into din.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Zero Net Energy - December 25, 2020

 "Second + Delaware is the largest Passive House building in the world, which means that it uses 80-90% less energy than conventional buildings”

Opening in October in Kansas City, Missouri

A blog about living in a self-designed shipping container tiny house which is completely self-sufficient in Australia

40 hectare “regenerative city” plan for Bergen, Norway

How Oslo plans to become a zero emissions city by 2030

Net Zero energy McDonald's

Snøhetta’s Powerhouse Telemark will use 70% less energy than a conventional building of similar size and will produce more energy than it will require over its entire lifespan, including the energy used in construction and even during its eventual demolition in decades to come

In January, 2019 this list included
Trondheim, Norway’s net energy positive building, Powerhouse Brattørkaia, "will generate more energy in its operational phase than it consumes through the production of buiding materials, construction, operation, and disposal of the building” or Snøhetta strikes again

Editorial Comment:  Snøhetta is the standard for zero net energy, net zero energy design and construction, at least in my opinion.

Plan for UK’s first carbon neutral “urban quarter”

The Green Gateway, a zero-emission, highly sustainable multimodal hub, is the winner for the 2020 Fentress Global Challenge (FGC), an annual global student design competition

Westwood Hills Nature Center in St. Louis Park, Minnesota with net-zero energy design

Net energy positive hotel for Bornholm Island, Denmark
Editorial Comment:  Bornholm Island was the test-bed for the EU’s Grid 2.0 project to determine how to mesh renewables with the existing grid and speed the renewable transition:
More on Bornholm and other near net zero island projects at

Redesigning Bellinzona, Switzerland through an “'eMergetic evaluation' concept that considers the entire building lifecycle to minimize the city’s carbon footprint. The proposal also includes planned energy policy objectives with zero-emission targets, renewable energy systems and environmental monitoring."

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Planning the Energy Transition

 Over the past couple of weeks I’ve run across what might be a few really useful reports on the energy transition.

The Lancet is doing an annual climate countdown report to monitor our progress.  Here is this year’s edition:

That should give us some idea of where we are and this particular finding jumped out

"Indicator 4.2.5: net value of fossil fuel subsidies and carbon prices—headline finding: 58 of the 75 countries reviewed were operating with a net negative carbon price in 2017.  The resulting net loss of revenue was, in many cases, equivalent to substantial proportions of the national health budget...

"This indicator calculates net, economy- wide average carbon prices and associated net carbon revenue to government. The calculations are based on the value of overall fossil fuel subsidies, the revenue from carbon pricing mechanisms, and the total CO2 emissions of the economy. Data on fossil fuel subsidies are calculated on the basis of analysis from the IEA and OECD.  Together, these sources cover 75 countries and account for around 92% of global CO2 emissions. Carbon prices and revenues are derived from data in the World Bank Carbon Pricing Dashboard ( [Corporate Carbon Accounting Market may also be useful here]

"Of the 75 countries, 61 (81%) countries in 2016 and 58 (77%) countries in 2017 had net negative carbon prices, and only 14 (19%) countries in 2016 and 17 (23%) countries in 2017 had a price higher than zero, a result of substantial subsidies for fossil fuel production and consumption (figure 25). The median net carbon revenue was negative, a pay-out of $0·66 billion (IQR –0·04 to –3·48), with some countries providing net fossil fuel subsidies in the tens of billions of dollars each year. In many cases, these subsidies were equivalent to substantial proportions of the national health budget—more than 100% in eight of the 75 countries in 2017.  Of the 38 countries that had formal carbon pricing mechanisms in place in 2017, 21 still had net negative carbon prices.”

An historical perspective is available with an interactive diagram of the Energy Transitions in U.S. History, 1800–2019 (, extremely fine work which maps the transitions from biomass to coal to oil to gas to nuclear to renewables.  The supporting paper is at

McKinsey has just released a report on How the EU Could Achieve Zero Emissions at Net Zero Cost ( and there are two new studies for the USA:

Net-Zero America:  Potential Pathways, Infrastructure, and Impacts

and two US renewable energy policy scenaria, administrative action alone doubling renewables by 2030 and 50% renewables by 2030, from Wood Mackenzie (

The Sierra Club also has a paper on how they are approaching "Climate Resilience, Carbon Dioxide Removal, and Geoengineering Policy”

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Toward Net Zero Energy: Tiny Houses on Up

The Laney College Carpentry Department in Oakland, California built a net zero tiny house, the Wedge, in 2016 for the SMUD Net Zero Tiny House Competition


That tiny house is for sale for

Laney College carpenters are currently building two other prototypes tiny houses, the Pocket House, for the unhoused and homeless in Oakland

The Northern Nomad is another net zero tiny home designed and built by a group of students from Carleton University in Canada as this video from 2019 shows:
Northern Nomad Tiny House 

Reading Design Guidelines for a Net Zero Tiny House ( and Guide to Off-Grid Tiny Houses (, the core idea seems to be energy efficiency first, last, and always:  the less energy you use the easier it becomes to supply it with renewables onsite.

That core idea of energy efficiency applies to all houses, not just tiny houses.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Zero Net Energy - August 9, 2020

 Santa Monica civic building will produce net positive energy and going for full Living Building challenge certification

An affordable Passive House development that’s “aggressively green"

A ski chalet in Utah which will be a net-positive energy building, generating 364% more power than it needs

Link City - proposed self-sustainable city-forest, using an urban operating system with an AI (Artificial Intelligence)

Park Avenue Green - affordable passive house apartment building in the South Bronx, the largest passive house development in North America

Wellesley College Global Flora greenhouse "exceeds the Net Zero Water & Energy requirements of the Living Building Challenge, the world’s most rigorous certification of sustainable construction."

Energy neutral school in Utrecht

AI to identify energy wasting homes
Watthome, an earlier version: 

Arctic Nordic Alpine  - Exhibation on Snøhetta’s work including Hotel Svart in Svartisen, the Arctic World Archive Visitor Center in Svalbard Island, and the Museum Quarter in Bolzano
hat tip to Heath Row’s Media Diet:

Orford Mews - energy-positive, carbon positive, zero construction waste nine-unit development planned for London

Moonstone House - test bed for energy efficiency started in 2002 is still evolving

Self-sufficient skyscraper proposed for NYC


Wednesday, May 06, 2020

COVID19 and Energy: What McKinsey Thinks

On Tuesday, April 28, I attended an online seminar on Energy and COVID19 organized by the Harvard Undergraduate Clean Energy Group ( with Scott S. Nyquist and Luciano Di Fiori both of the consulting firm McKinsey and Company. I’ve heard Scott Nyquist speak on energy a few times over the years, usually at MIT, and have found him to be informative even though our perspectives are very different.

The COVID19 scenaria McKinsey is examining now include
Virus contained — based upon China’s 6-8 week shutdown  
Vaccine — 12 – 18 months away plus the time it takes to innoculate the world population (at least another 12 – 18 months), similar to the expectation author Laurie Garrett reported to Frank Bruni in the NYTimes over the last few days
Waves — there will almost certainly be a second wave of COVID19 and possibly multiple waves until we have a vaccine.

In terms of energy, liquid fuels demand will take 2 — 4 years to recover; gasoline use is estimated to decrease 60% under lockdown; natural gas is down 5-10%. There will be excess supply and dropping prices which means that fracking will become even less economic (a conclusion I draw which Nyquist and Di Fiori did not offer). Global oil products demand will be down 6.7 -13.0 million barrels per day pushing refinery levels and margins to historically low levels and LNG [liquid natural gas] may take 5-7 years to come back to stable prices, lower with occasional flare ups of higher prices as things equalize. McKinsey expects no long-term consequences to demand, but is monitoring for changes. I don’t agree with McKinsey about no long-term changes in demand.  

Electric power demand is down 3-5% and peak load down by 18-24%. Electricity peak times and amounts have changed due to more people staying at home, primarily from increased air conditioning.

The airline business is down to 20% of its former business and will take a long time to come back. Cruise lines are in an even worse position with worse projections for the future.

GDP growth is going to be negative for about 2 years and then come back but to 2019 levels, at best.  

There may be a very cautious consumer culture, as after the Depression, coming out of the pandemic. The frugality imposed by the Great Depression affected all the generations that lived through it for decades afterwards.
Economic growth may be much slower after this. Companies will be less likely to hold debt and become very cash conscious.  

Nyquist believes that governments will be much better prepared for the next pandemic but “we have to pay for this” and government debt will be much higher. I do not have as much confidence as Nyquist does in the future preparations of any government in the USA but will be happy to be proved wrong.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Zero Net Energy - March 23, 2020

Sheridan Small Homes - affordable net zero single family homes in Providence, RI designed by architects and students from RI School of Design

Dutch Railways adult swing set for generating power

Net zero community planned for Hamburg, Germany

Vertical City, a proposal for urban development through a series of modular, zero-energy skyscrapers anchored to the ocean floor

Unisphere, one of the largest net zero energy commercial buildings in the world

Park Avenue Green - the largest passive house development in the USA, 154 low income housing units, 46 of which are for formerly homeless tenants

Net positive 47,000-square-foot building living building opens at Georgia Tech

Prefab homes that require "84% less energy per square foot to operate than a conventional stick built home” making net zero energy eminently achievable
They can be ordered with solar power and a battery back-up

Canada’s first net-zero carbon, mass timber college building

Green Concept House - a zero-waste, 100% self-sustaining home, including growing food

"Edwina Benner Plaza is among the first affordable housing projects in the nation to have zero operating emissions.”  It has 66 apartments in Sunnyvale, CA

Vertical Oasis - concept for a green solar-powered skyscraper

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Simple Solar Education

Back in the early 1980s I made some 15 second PSAs for the Urban Solar Energy Association [USEA] that were actually shown a couple of times late at night on the local TV stations.

In the early 1990s, I made another set of 30 second PSAs for the Boston Area Solar Energy Association, the successor organization to USEA, but none of them were broadcast as local TV stations all had their own approved non-profits to soak up public interest broadcast time requirements by then.  Or so I was told.  At the same time, I was producing the monthly lectures of the Solar Association and putting them on local cable access.

In the last decade or two I’ve put my share of solar video online at Youtube.  You can see them at

So I’ve been dabbling in solar video for a long time.   But not for a long time.  These are relics of what I’ve thought and done with simple solar throughout my life.

The presentation may be amateurish at best but I believe the majority of the information and ideas is accurate although I may have made some mistakes in the details here and there.

May these be of use.

One Square Foot of Sunlight 
come from the early 1990s and were the 30 second PSAs I was trying to get local TV to broadcast.

Simple Solar Principles

Solar Is Civil Defense
Cell Phone Solar
Minimum Solar Light
Homefront Advantage - WWII posters
A South-facing Window Is Already a Solar Collector
Solar Windowbox Air Heater
Insulating Roller Shade
Old Solar:  1980 Barnraised Aolar Air Heater
Old Solar:  1990 Boston Area Solar House Tour

I believe you can provide people with the essential concepts of practical solar energy within a very short period of time and can even present it as a series of short segments like these Youtube videos

Simple Solar parts 1 - 8
is my one attempt at trying to assemble a curriculum that leads from one possibility to another.
At a skill share.  Whatever happened to those?

Providential Experimentation
Worms, worms, worms
expands the concept beyond direct solar energy into secondary sources and regenerative systems leading to full geotherapy.

Simply Questions
is an attempt to visualize that system in terms of basic logistics