Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Keukenhof, Flowers, and the Sun.

How amazing it is that our planet sits in the orbit that it does. It never really ceases to amaze... the insane odds that our sun should provide such perfect nourishment for life as it does. Living diversity on the planet Earth is essentially never ending. Flowers are just one of many humbling developments in the history of the planet.

My family is lucky enough to live in close proximity to the largest flower park in the world, the Keukenhof is located in Lisse a short train / bus ride away from Amsterdam. The history of the garden is 500+ years old and much more can be learned by visiting the official site here:

Pictures tell the best story, other than an actual visit, but alas the place is just stellar.

Anyway, we've been once, but are likely headed back in the spring. It is officially, 'worth it' by family standards. The anticipation gets me wrapped up in the idea that that the sun provides many types of energy that are naturally absorbed and used by the earth and they are so integral to our lives that unless you are a farmer, you rarely think of them. Growing Food and Growing Flowers has the sun at the crux. What makes for good sun conditions when growing flowers?

Basically, flowers are varying degrees of three types, sun loving, partial shade loving, and shade loving. Naturally, the bulk of flower varieties fall into the middle category, and basically as a grower you can rely on these basic tips from .

'Those that like hot sun will do well on the south side and west side; those that do not like heat will do better on the east side in morning sun. Those that prefer shade to part sun will do well on the east side and northeast corner. Those needing full or heavy shade will do well along the center of the north wall.'

...ummm, yeah that's it for today.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Wind Chimes and Solar Healing

Wind Chimes and Solar Healing

First of all I'm not sure if this is a great coupling for a post. It was kinda hasty titling. Most consider wind chimes pleasant and harmless.

Awesome Vids:

Unlike wind chimes, some of my research into the role of 'Solar in the Healing Arts' has turned up a few kinda creepy things.

The rather cultish Sun Gazers are one far out trip man...but to each their own.

And...a search on 'Solar Therapy' turns the following medicalish definition:

Treatment of disease by exposure to sunlight.

That actually sounds pretty terrible, and I am quickly reminded that sun exposure can be really really really bad for you. Do Not Check out the pictures if you don't like gross stuff.

However I did also turn up some really good stuff on 'Solar and Healing'.

Kick it off with some inspirational words of wisdom from another far out site... insightful albeit in a rather feel good fashion (sans human sacrifice stuff)

'The Sun has been a symbol of spirituality and nourishment since the beginning of history. The ancient Egyptians worshipped the Sun-god Ra. Certain hymns of the Indian Sanskrit Rig-Veda refer to the Vedic Sun-god Surya. In Peru, great sun discs were once made out of gold (the color associated with the Sun) in honor of the God of Inca. Stonehenge and ancient Mayan temples focused on the motion of sunlight as a source of great significance. Solstice and equinox rituals are part of every traditional culture.'

If this sounds like your path...

Here is some wikipedia on some key figures in the history of Sun, Ritual and Religion

Sun Gods - Wind Gods is likely it's own post.

Moving On to Western Medicine.

We do also receive direct physical nourishment in the form of Vitamin D from the sun. Borrowed quote from

'Your body makes vitamin D when you are exposed to the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays in sunlight.

The amount of exposure depends on the time of the year. In the northern hemisphere, the UVB is more intense during the summer months and less intense during the winter months. In fact, if you live north of the 42-degrees latitude, you will have a difficult time getting enough vitamin D from the sun from November through February. If you live north of a line drawn on a map from the northern border of California to Boston, Massachusetts, you will probably need additional vitamin D from the foods you eat during the winter.

Vitamin D is necessary for absorption and utilization of calcium, so you need adequate amounts of vitamin D for healthy bones.

Research studies also suggest that getting enough vitamin D may help to prevent high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis and some forms of cancer.'

That is all good western medicine stuff.

But again, moving on.

What about the general feeling of well being many report after some nice time in the sun.? I'm not talking Mad Max, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly sun, but just a few hours at the beach. Makes you feel good.

Here is a nice case for practicing yoga outdoors:

In fact there were some more good ideas put forth from this yoga resource in general:

From their site:

'Sunlight is every bit as central to our health and well-being as proper nutrition, clean water, and exercise. Advntages of Sunlight are:
  • Warming Infrared
  • Antiseptic Ultraviolet
  • Vitamin D
  • Body Regulation

  • So... here is my synopsis

    Wind Chimes are Great
    Sun Exposure can kill you
    Some Weirdos Sun Gaze
    The Sun is epic in Ritual and Religion
    Vitamin D Comes From The Sun
    It's Nice to Go to the Beach
    and it can be cool to do Yoga in the sun.

    That's what I got.

    As if this topic could not get more rambly, let's move off topic completely to this

    Crystal Bowl Meditation

    Ok, next post will be something more sensible or at least less metaphysical.

    The Role of the Sun in the Water Cycle as topic.

    Friday, November 27, 2009

    The Art of Sun and Wind

    In my last post I talked about how the space industry has embraced solar for space. But what about the geeks at the other end of the spectrum... What about the artists?

    Artists help give us our culture. They comment visually, conceptually, sonicly...and in any other number of ways to broaden our perspectives.

    Today I want to comment on several kinetic sculpture artists. These are artists for whom solar and wind power have played vital roles.

    Let's take a look first at a pioneer, and Fluxus legend, Joe Jones.

    Fluxus is a two hour side track, but at some point you need to know about this important art movment started in the 1960's.

    Jones, was a contemporary and musical ally of avant garde champion John Cale.

    Much of Jones' major work is with musical instruments that would 'play themselves'.
    He used solar panels to activate these 'solar orchestras'.

    Here are some photos and an mp3 of the amazing results.

    Joe Jones - 06 Solar Music Hot House .mp3

    Found at bee mp3 search engine

    Interview with Jones.

    Now, let's look at Theo Jansen, who is unparralled in his use of wind as a means to power his unbelievable kinetic sculptures. Rather than try to explain them, just look at the pictures and then this wicked youtube video.

    Jones and Jansen are among the most developed of any of the artists who's work is integrally linked to the sun and the wind.

    However, you do have to think of Calder's mobiles as powered by air current, and other artists have built off of this principal.

    Artists like Colorado's own Robert Mangold and Jon Stiles are among them.

    Other notable projects can be found, like this 'solar powered paper horse', from James G Watt, a pattern and kit are available on his site

    Let us also not forget about wind chimes...jeez, wind chimes is probably it's own post.

    There are also other ways in which solar is being used in music. This is a link to a 'solar powered concert' series.

    This is an awesome carl sagen nerdy and rad.

    As technology increasingly continues to play a role in contemporary art I see massive increase in the amount of artists who will use solar and wind power in their work. Lots of great work already to build on.

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Solar Projects in Space

    The Hubble Space Telescope is arguably one of the most successful NASA projects all time and is also arguably one of the most important tools yet invented.

    Exciting times are ahead when NASA launches the next gen James Webb Telescope in 2014.

    Hubble, in paricular Hubble Deep Field, returns images from some of the oldest parts of our known Universe and has been absolutely integral in helping to formulate and test theories about the cosmos, forces and history of the universe.

    Plus the pictures are just awesome.

    ...and also another plus, like many objects that orbit the Earth, the hubble is Solar Panel Powered, with an Array of 2 x 25 ft panels.

    Here is a youtube link to a wonderful documentary on the hubble

    So Hubble is amazing, but it didn't require the kind of 'never before seen' international scientific cooperation that the International Space Station did / does. (15 Nations)

    The international Space Station also uses solar arrays for electrical power supply. Some supplied by Russia, some from U.S. sources.

    Youtube tour of the ISS

    In fact, solar is the preferred electrical power supply for all kinds of orbiting projects and interplanetary projects too. The Mars Global Surveyor used solar arrays for power.

    Several other important Solar Power projects / phenom in space should be noted: Solar Wind, and Space Based Solar Power arrays that will broadcast power back to Earth.

    Solar Wind? This definition is borrowed straight from wikipedia.

    'The solar wind is a stream of charged particles ejected from the upper atmosphere of the sun. It consists mostly of electrons and protons with energies of about 1 keV.

    Two proposed forms of space craft propulsion use solar wind: magnetic sail, and electrical solar wind sail. Solar sails have been successfully tested in vaccum environment by NASA.

    Space Based Solar Power is very interesting. The idea is that arrays in space broadcast collected power to the Earth's surface. Technically we are not there yet, but check out this Japanese project.

    Anyway, here are some basic + and - for SBSP direct from

    'There are three basic reasons why going to space is preferred to ground-based solar power. First, the sun is many times more intense on orbit than on the surface of the Earth. This means there is more energy to be collected. Second, unlike ground-based solar power systems which spend roughly half of their time in the darkness of night, space-based systems can be perpetually bathed in sunlight. This is an instant doubling of efficiency. Finally, ground-based systems suffer from weather phenomena such as clouds, precipitation, and dust. These are not worries in space.

    Space-based solar power also has three major drawbacks. First, despite fifty years of spacefaring experience, getting to space is still hard and expensive. It costs thousands of dollars per pound to lift anything into space from Earth. Second, we have no experience assembling and sustaining objects on orbit of the scale that space-based solar power will require. Some designs suggest systems that are literally several square kilometers in size. Finally, although the efficiencies of collecting power on orbit are many times greater than what can be done on the surface of the Earth, there are significant power losses in converting raw solar energy into electricity to feed a broadcast system on orbit, during transmission to Earth receivers, and from the receiver into terrestrial power grids. Some calculations suggest space solar power can deliver only ten percent of the original collected power.'

    In summary for this is the place and solar is the solution.

    Sun Belt / Wind Belt

    Where are the best places on Earth to implement wind and solar energy systems?

    A knock on both the wind and solar industries is expense, but that issue is definitely it's own post. Expense and efficiency are inter-related components, so neither can be overlooked when attempting to answer the 'big' question above. For now we'll stick to some global maps showing wind and sun patterns, to start thinking in efficiency terms.

    Let's start with some useful info for wind turbine placement. The following is taken from a study called "Evaluation of Global Wind Power" by Cristina L. Archer and Mark Z. Jacobson and is a detailed analysis of wind data from over 8,000 wind speed measurements around the world.

    'The results are generally more conservative than other regional studies, but even so, nearly 13 percent of the stations recorded sustained wind speeds in the "Class 3" category (6.9-7.5 meters/second) or better, with some few locations topping out over "Class 7" (9.4 meters/second or greater). Generally speaking, with currently-deployed wind turbine technology, Class 3 winds or greater are required for economically useful generation.'

    13 percent my not seem like a potent figure, but let's talk translation. The same study predicts that, 'the total wind power potential from economically usable (at current technology) locations amounts to 72 terawatts; the total global electricity use in 2001 was 1.6-1.8 terawatts; the total global energy use from all sources (according to the DOE) was just under 14 terawatts in 2002.'

    This study and the subsequent atlas, pictured here, was compiled in 2005. Horrible color choices in the map, but useful info. Review the source article here

    Now let's turn to solar power mapping. The map below is borrowed from an amazing resource

    Here also is a concise explanation of the important concept of Peak Sun Hours which is the chief output of the atlas.

    'The intensity of the Sun's radiation changes with the hour of the day, time of the year and weather conditions. To be able to make calculations in planning a system, the total amount of solar radiation energy is expressed in hours of full sunlight per m², or Peak Sun Hours. This term, Peak Sun Hours, represents the average amount of sun available per day throughout the year.

    It is presumed that at "peak sun", 1000 W/m² of power reaches the surface of the earth. One hour of full sun provides 1000 Wh per m² = 1 kWh/m² - representing the solar energy received in one hour on a cloudless summer day on a one-square meter surface directed towards the sun. To put this in some other perspective, the United States Department of Energy indicates the amount of solar energy that hits the surface of the earth every +/- hour is greater than the total amount of energy that the entire human population requires in a year. Another perspective is that roughly 100 miles square of solar panels placed in the southwestern U.S. could power the country.

    The daily average of Peak Sun Hours, based on either full year statistics, or average worst month of the year statistics, for example, is used for calculation purposes in the design of the system.

    The maps and the key show what areas of the planet receive the most radiation. Curiously, it is not necessary to live in high radiation, high Peak Sun Hours locations to harvest solar power, it does effect efficiency in PV systems though. Just a quick look at large scale projects in the Netherlands revealed at least 3 projects producing a combined 2500 mwh's. Lord knows it isn't that sunny here.

    It is also important to know that the atlas portrays worst case scenario figures.

    'The Peak Sun-Hours reflected in the global solar power maps may differ from other sun-hour figures available because these global maps represent the worst case seasonal PSH (Kilowatt-hrs/m²/day) values used for calculating year-round applications. For solar power applications requiring performance throughout the entire year, the lowest monthly average Peak Sun Hours is used as the baseline - usually the winter low average. For summer-time only solar power applications, the figures in the global maps would need to be considered since summer-time averages are often 30 - 40 percent higher.'

    Solar in countries like the Netherlands is going to be more potent and efficient in Northern hemisphere Summer months. Places like New Mexico are jamming year round.

    These maps help us understand that there are certainly some good, some super good and some not so good spots to implement solar, wind and or either. From these charts you can begin to make calculations for expected output from various wind / solar array projects you might want to implement.

    One kind of sad / sucky bit of info revealed by the Wind Atlas is that much of countries like China, and many African locations are not sitting in wind rich positions. The hope is that new developements in wind technology will make it possible to harvest wind effectively in locations that are not equal or greater to Class 3.

    Common concerns about massive implementation of wind turbines (i.e. millions of wind turbines world wide) are noise, maintenance and death to birds.

    I just want to close the post with a wandering thought. Stumbling onto these maps myself, I realize just how alien these Sun / Wind resources are to most of us. Let's face it, at the consumer level, these are peripheral energy sources we just don't encounter as often as petroleum, fossil fuel, and traditional massive grid sources. The illustration of natural patterns makes these mapping projects immeasurably useful and helps to greatly simplify foreign concepts. I can show these maps to my 7 year old son and we can have a rational discussion on Global wind and sun patterns. I like that.

    Quick Facts about Wind Energy

    Just like with the Solar Energy synopsis, sweeping impressions and fun facts are a nice place to start.

    First off wind farms...I think they're visually amazing. Not a view shared by everyone, but certainly I'm not alone either. As far as windmills and electricity production are concerned it is not even necessary to use 3 blade systems. In fact, two blade systems have been shown to be just as efficient, but less aesthetically pleasing. Huh. Design in mind.

    Like giant pinwheels in a field, just magnificent to see.

    Living in Holland we get to see a lot of them, old and new.

    West Texas also has one or two windmills...

  • Anyway, to some fun facts, plucked from UK Energy Saving.

    • There is evidence that wind energy was used to propel boats along the Nile as early as 5000BC.
    • The earliest known windmills were in Persia (Iran) and looked like large paddle wheels.
    • In 200BC people in China and the Middle East used windmills to pump water and grind grain
    • The largest wind turbine in the world is in Hawaii. It stands 20 storeys high and has rotors the length of a football field.
    • The UK is the windiest country in Europe.
    • Wind is the fastest growing energy source worldwide.
    • An average wind speed of 14mph is required to convert wind energy into electricity.