Tellus Science Museum soon will add to their showcase of functional exhibits with the construction of an 80-foot tower topped by a 44 kW, wind-powered generator. The wind turbine will rise above the museum's five solar panels and Solar Decathlon house, all displaying uses for renewable resources.
With three 22-foot-long blades, construction on the wind turbine is expected be completed in early March. The wind-powered generator will be fully operational, producing power for the museum along with the freestanding solar panels on the Tellus campus. The power generated by wind, like that of solar, will not be significant as it's primary function is for education.
"This part of north Georgia is not a high wind area. Our main purpose with this is to let people see what a wind farm, or wind generator, looks like," said Brock Cooney, director of special projects for Tellus.
The turbine will rotate into the wind like the wind vane on a house. A refurbished, non-functioning turbine also will be mounted at eye level for closer inspection and education. Coupled with the solar house built by Georgia Tech to be fully sustainable, exhibits at Tellus give visitors a glimpse of what may be the future of energy consumption.
"All of these out here are a look toward the future. These are things being utilized today in different parts of the country and the world. The solar panels, the wind turbine and the solar house are all ideas of how we may be living in the future," said Joe Schulman, director of marketing for Tellus. "Here you have these three pieces that really show you how renewable resources can be used in your everyday life on a fairly large scale."
Working to implement current "green" technologies and high quality building materials into practical construction, Don Liotta owns Out of the Box Construction, a contracting firm certified with various environmentally aware designations and standards. Liotta entered the construction field nearly 20 years ago but began incorporating environmentally friendly techniques later in his career.
"When I started building houses almost 20 years ago, I learned all the bad habits that were passed on from grandfather to grandson or father to son and I've had to re-learn a lot of things as I became more and more educated. It wasn't as much of an issue of people trying to do something wrong as it was they didn't know how to do it right," Liotta said. "I wanted to build more efficiently and be a better builder so I evaluated the way that houses were being built at the time and saw an opportunity to improve the way that I built."
For now, emphasis is placed on improving a home's energy efficiency level to reduce the need for excessive heating and cooling as well as energy savings with specifically designed appliances. The standard used for many energy efficiency products and techniques is ENERGY STAR, regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Commercial buildings are being built under the guidance of a separate standard program entitled Leadership in Environmental Engineering and Design. This type of project management, design and construction is seen in the Clarence Brown Conference Center where recycled building materials were utilized, air filtration systems were installed and natural lighting is optimized.
"I believe it was an excellent move to make [the Clarence Brown Center] a LEED product because it holds the contractor accountable to a third party for the energy efficiency aspect of the building," Liotta said. "LEED is not just something that's green, it's also a health issue because you're breathing better air inside a LEED building, you've got more daylight that comes in and there's just a lot of qualities outside the sustainable aspects that it causes to the community."
In smaller buildings and residential uses, Liotta employs several techniques that he finds simple but often are overlooked or skipped to save time and effort. Sealing the house to create a better envelope is a major key in energy efficiency. To do this, seals are checked, double pane windows are used, proper insulation is installed and ductwork is checked for leakage. Electrical use can also be curtailed by the use of energy saving appliances and light bulbs. Liotta suggests the implementation of sensors or timers for frequently neglected items such as closet and bathroom lights and bathroom ventilation.
"Why waste money? It comes down to a simple calculation: if I'm going to live in my house for 10 years and I save enough money to take this action over that 10 year period of time and I create better environment for myself, why not do it? It pays for itself both in health and wellness and in the energy-efficiency aspect," Liotta said.
As for the future of alternative energy sources, Liotta feels that wind and solar will be viable options to replace current sources. For residential use, coupled with highly efficient homes, solar and wind may replace or supplement other forms of electrical generation. Liotta noted that wind generation requires an average of 8 mph winds, and according to data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration through 2002, the annual average wind speed in Atlanta was 9.1 mph.
"I think when gas hits $5 a gallon, people are going to be desperate and that desperation will stimulate more investment in alternatives. The bottom line is that the sun doesn't cost us anything, capturing it does but it's going to burn a lot longer than our coal will," Liotta said. "These energy efficiencies that are coming into the marketplace are changing things and people are resistant to them all the way from the contractors to the consumers but I think in the end, necessity is the mother of invention and we're going to figure out a way to make it cheaper and faster and better because we're America."
For more information on energy efficiency and renewable resources, visit www.energy.gov, www.eere.energy.gov or www.energystar.gov, and for information on incentives for building and upgraded to energy efficiency, visit www.dsire.org.