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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

In all fairness to the people of Indonesia and Malaysia, they are just trying to provide for their families.

My gut tells me that at this point in time and with our world’s scientific knowledge, there is no excuse for building something that isn’t energy efficient on at least some level. Luckily, even large scale, high profile construction projects are on the same bandwagon.

The New York Power Authority and UTC Power are hooking up to create one of the world’s largest fuel cell installations. The Freedom Tower and three other new towers under construction at the WTC site are getting 12 fuel cells – the PureCell Model 400 – that will increase energy efficiency for the buildings. This particular model of fuel cells is reportedly one of the cleanest, quietest and more energy efficient on-site power generating technologies available, delivering twice the power and double the lifetime of the previous model – apparently nothing but the best for the Freedom Tower. Though, at the current rate of research and improvements, they may be outdated pretty quickly. The cells are reported to not require any fossil fuel to produce their 400 kilowatts of energy each, and they meet the strictest air emissions requirements in the US. But from what I can find on UTC's website, the PureCell still needs to be plugged in to the grid, hence, fossil fuels are burned elsewhere. But, the plans are to waste not, want not, as the thermal energy generated by the fuel cells will be used for cooling and heating.

This project, like any similar project in our country, doesn’t come without a few feathers to stick in one’s hat. At times, that seems like the whole reason behind some eco-friendly construction. The incorporation of these fuel cells scores points for LEED certification, a significant goal for all the WTC tower projects. Then, there is also the symbolism, which, honestly, I think really does go a long way in promoting green thinking among the general public:

"One of the most important building projects in the nation will be equipped with space-age energy technology that uses an electrochemical process to produce clean on-site power," Gov. David Paterson said. "The fuel cells and other measures will help make the new World Trade Center towers an exemplar of environmental sustainability and will signal to the world New York State's commitment to greater energy security and reduced dependence on foreign oil. I can think of few sites in the country where the symbolism of this is more important."

Symbolism aside, fuel cells may not have been the best bet for generating power, considering some other ideas that could have been utilized on buildings of this scale. For instance, solar windows, solar panels on the roof, wind microturbines…all of which cart around less negative impact than fuel cells. There are quite a few tower projects that could be used as examples for better ideas. But, steps are steps are steps.

Original here

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