Thursday, March 25, 2010

Surya Sunboxes... why Surya?

25 March 2010: The Sunboxes have worked for a couple of weeks now.... they have developed an identity of their own. I was asked to do a write up of them for a local bulletin, so felt it was time to give them a 'brand name'.

Surya is the Hindu God of the Sun (most old religions have a male god for the Sun and a female for the Moon.). So for now, these are 'Surya Sunboxes'! I like them and I like the name.  I have many Indian student friends, so in using that name, I am also making a gesture of friendship to them.
Surya is equivalent to the Greek god Helios, and is the only 'god' that we can actually see and feel! As the Sun will be maintaining life on the planet for another few billion years (before turning into a red giant and burning the earth up), it is worthy of respect. And it minds its own business if we dance about in circles as a form of  worship.

Dependence on Surya, the Sun!
If not in ten years, then in a hundred years time, surely, houses and buildings will have to be designed to harness the sun. Can we not be sure of this? What else will there be? !! Even if renewables now cost more than gas boilers, consider the long term view and use a free heat source!
    Just 110 yrs ago, there were those who assumed that Horse drawn transport would continue to dominate and the Motorcar would be a rich man's fancy - to the extend of requiring a car to be preceded by a walking man with a red flag. How wrong that was!.... for most of the last 70 years, cars have completely dominated urban planning and reshaped the cities, and been an index for the world and national economies.
    Similarly, there were authoritative sources who thought that the world would never need more than 5 computers, and if there were more, they would never need more than 640k of memory. Thinking further, consider how the telephone, the mobile phone, broadband and personal computers have changed our way of life.
    The concept of the 'media' as existing or shaping opinion is quite recent, and now we have social networking and the internet replacing traditional broadcast media, which old fogies still despise but cannot avoid.
   We have accepted change in everything else, but it seems that in the design of houses, we are always 50 years late.

There are those climate change doubters now who say that we will be able to continue our way of life with more oil discoveries and nuclear power? What if these are wrong and that oil and nuclear do not happen? Then the SUN is what we will have - and with some investment in smart materials, we can use SUN to maintain living standards, but we shall live in a different way than the way we do now, just as we do from those in 1900 and earlier.
    In a small way now, I can see the disappointment in people's eyes when I check their house and advise that solar PV panels would not be possible (because of dormers, trees, azimuth etc). They recognise that their house is already disadvantaged in the future society of low energy. In the long term it is possibly reduced in value.
   I often get criticised because of the high embodied energy in PV - well this is paid off in about 3 years, and it will generate energy ever after.  How long will it take to pay off the cost of your car or your new kitchen? will it not continue to consume energy for many years?
   If we have to manufacture PV panels, lets do it now while other forms of energy are reasonably cheap, not make it in 20 years time when it will be too late.
   It is an unfortunate tendency to consider only the Cost of doing something Today, and do not consider the long term Cost of Not doing something Today. So buildings promoted at planning stage as 'eco' then have the eco features stripped off during construction, as a 'cost saving'. The long term energy consumption and water consumption cost is an issue for the 'tenants', so the developer thinks he can peel off the solar panels.

I am teaching, and in the recent semester, the students had to design tall buildings (skyscrapers) that require no fossil fuel heating - 60 storey residential high rises that can store enough solar thermal energy to get through the year! They can cover pumping and heat transfer costs through photovoltaic power. They are working to Passivhaus standards. To me, this is where we will have to point.

See additional articles on: Philosophy / Carbon Zero / Glossary
By the way..... why is this article the most frequently hit article on the whole blog? Is it the word or the illustration of 'Surya' ? Please leave a comment to say how you arrived.

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