The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recently reported that over two billion square feet of existing commercial projects are now LEED-certified across 130 countries and 50,000 projects, including most notably the commercial interior for Google in Mumbai, the Vestas Technology Center in Lem, Denmark, as well as the Ernst and Young Plaza in Los Angeles, California, among others.
An additional seven billion square feet of commercial space is currently pending in the LEED approval process, which certifies roughly two million square feet daily on average. In the residential sector, approximately 23,000 U.S. homes are LEED certified and an additional 86,000 homes are pending certification. In total, the USGBC estimates that the LEED program contributes $554 billion annually to the U.S. economy and has supported nearly eight million U.S. jobs.
As LEED certification picks up steam, "green building" products and technologies are also being increasingly developed and adopted.
Wal-Mart Continues Effort to Become Fully Reliant on Renewable Energy Resources
As part of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s (WMT-NYSE) goal of becoming 100% powered by renewable energy, the retail giant recently unveiled its 100th store to rely on solar panels to generate power in San Diego, California. The company seeks to expand renewable energy to 75% of stores in California (roughly 130 stores) by the end of 2013. Wal-Mart partner, SolarCity, is responsible for the installation, management, and maintenance of solar panels on this site as well as for up to 100 other stores. Wal-Mart estimates that its efforts across California could ultimately produce up to 70 million kilowatt (kW) hours of renewable energy annually, reducing the company’s carbon dioxide emissions while supplying 10% to 30% of each facility’s electricity requirements. Additionally, the planning and installation of each site’s solar panel project typically require nearly 50 contract positions, creating jobs for the local community. To date, the company’s California efforts have resulted in 3,000 contract construction jobs, in addition to the more than 1,200 employees hired by SolarCity to accommodate the company’s projects since 2010.
A New Type of Solar Cell May Fuel Electricity-Generating Windows
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have designed a visibly transparent polymer solar cell (PSC), overcoming obstacles of previous "solar window" efforts such as limited transparency and efficiency. These researchers favored polymer-based solar cells over competing monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film technologies due to the flexible properties, low cost of production, and broad potential application of the polymer-designed cells. The new PSC, detailed in the ACS Nano journal, could ultimately support the development of windows that generate electricity while offering clear views in addition to use in other applications, such as portable electronics components. Composed of plastic-like materials, UCLA’s PSCs are lightweight, flexible, 70% transparent, and employ infrared light (versus visible light) to generate energy. To date, 4% power conversion efficiency has been achieved for this technology.
This is just one sample of many developments in process today that seek to make renewable energies feasible, efficient, and desirable to manufacturers and consumers alike. For more information about this space, please visit our Nanotechnology library of related research.