CleanTechnica Reviews

Published on September 1st, 2015 | by Adam Johnston


Book Review: Designed For the Future: 80 Practical Ideas for A Sustainable World

September 1st, 2015 by  

Practical ideas is the key way of describing Designed For the Future: 80 Practical Ideas for A Sustainable World.

Edited by Jared Green, this simple yet intriguing book offers good solutions from top world sustainability experts in building a greener future for everyone.

80 Practical Ideas Cover Photo

There are many ideas which will catch people’s eyes as they read through this book. Some recommendations are straight forward (wind farms and green houses). However, what caught my attention was the interesting mix of high and low tech ideas in transforming a sustainable world.

I was particularly impressed by contributor Christoph Gielen’s discussion on solar roadways, which has gained steam. Gielen argues solar roadways can help reduce carbon emissions while changing how we look at infrastructure. Gielen notes Scott and Julie Brusaw’s Solar Roadways campaign, which made an initial splash online and received a very positive response. While the first expenses are around 50% to 300% more than standard roadways, a one-mile-stretch of road could pay itself off in twelve years.

In the Netherlands, we are seeing the benefits. One 70 meter solar bicycle path is creating 3,000 kWh, which is equal to providing a one-year supply of clean energy for a small household.

Emphasis was also made by many contributors on how cities are critical in moving towards a sustainable world.

Rome, Italy, by implementing car free zones, has helped to make this historic city cleaner and safer, according to architect Jack Sullivan, who noted this shift is “Palpable and much appreciated.”

While high tech ideas like electric vehicles, solar, and wind have captured the public’s imagination, it is the simple ideas, including car free zones, which are just as critical in sustainable development. It’s these types of ideas that help in creating an environmentally friendly world.

Worth a read if you are looking for a mix of ideas in pushing a sustainable development agenda forward.

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About the Author

is expected to complete the Professional Development Certificate in Renewable Energy from the University of Toronto by December 2017. Adam recently completed his Social Media Certificate from Algonquin College Continuing & Online Learning. Adam also graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a three-year B.A. combined major in Economics and Rhetoric, Writing & Communications in 2011. Adam owns a part-time tax preparation business. He also recently started up Salay Consulting and Social Media services, a part-time business which provides cleantech writing, analysis, and social media services. His eventual goal is to be a cleantech policy analyst. You can follow him on Twitter @adamjohnstonwpg or check out his business

  • Bob_Wallace

    I took you at your word when you said that – “Rooftop solar will only cover about 20-30% of the needed energy.”

    That’s 20% to 30% based only on south facing roofs according to your posts.

    If panels were installed on east and west facing roofs and the array size increased to match the output of south facing roofs that triples the available roof space.

    3 x 20% = 60% 3 x 30% = 90%

    No napkins were injured by this math.

    Now. That’s the potential to get 90% of our total non-automotive electricity from rooftop solar. Add in EV electricity need and it might drop to 60% of our total electricity from solar.

    That’s a lot more solar than we’d need. And it doesn’t include utility scale solar which is likely to be half or more of our solar input.

    Realistically, solar probably won’t be called on for more than 40% of our total electricity. Figure 15 – 20% from non-wind/solar sources (hydro, geothermal, etc.). Figure more from wind that solar simply because the wind blows more hours of the day and electricity used directly is cheaper than electricity from storage.

    Solar roads? Just too expensive. A fun idea to consider but extremely unlikely to be a player.

    • mellored .

      South facing roofs was an example. Granted, it was a bad example. The studies do a better job then i did, and included east/west roofs, to be 20-30% (depending on the study).

      And your claim that east/west roof would add 80-90%, does not mean 3x the south ones. It would be 2.6 – 2.8x. But again, that was already factored in. I was the one who made the mistake.

      And yes, utility solar, hydro, wind, tidal, all do well, but only in the right locations. Not every place is suited to them. And high voltage wires take away even more land, not to mention are vulnerable.

      On the other hand, roads are pretty much everywhere has a road. Even at 50% efficiency, there’s more then enough space.

      You say “too expensive”, but have you seen the actual cost? Has anyone?

      • Bob_Wallace

        If you’re saying that 30% assumes all the available roof area would be covered then, yes, less than 3x. But even 30% of all our electricity from rooftop would be a huge input.

        “And yes, utility solar, hydro, wind, tidal, all do well, but only in the right locations. Not every place is suited to them.”

        Take a look at a few states and see what the ‘ideal’ current mix of renewables looks like.

        Most countries are going to have similar mixes. Several sources in varying amounts.

        “You say “too expensive”, but have you seen the actual cost? Has anyone?”

        Have you thought about what it would take to make a solar road?

        First, the panels would have to be mounted in a fashion that allowed no flexing. Stress loading causes deterioration.

        The surface would have to be highly light transmitting as well as skid resistant. It would have to be super scratch resistant, traffic would be constantly grinding sand and fine particles into the surface.

        The connectors would have to be extra corrosion resistant and somehow accessible for convenient servicing/replacement.

        The surface would need to be cleaned frequently. Dirt buildup would be a major problem. And not just swept off, oil drips would need to be washed off.

        • Bob_Wallace

          What is pretty much everywhere are parking lots. Solar canopies should be cheaper to install than solar roads. They could use normal, inexpensive solar panels.

          We could go to highway areas where traffic tends to turn into stop and go. Put canopies over those areas, keeping the cars below cooler on hot days.

          We could put canopies over train tracks.

          We could do like India and Japan and float them on reservoirs and canals.

          And in the US we have extensive brownfields – industrial sites that are contaminated. They could be used for solar fields and the cleanup level would be lower, saving taxpayers a lot of money.

          According to the EPA we’ve got 23,400 square miles of brownfields in the US. A lot of that is in and around our cities which would make transmission costs minimal. Many factory sites already have high capacity feeds installed.

  • djr417

    Solar roadways is a joke. check out thunderbolts critiques on youtube (he has a few), it completely falls apart, and at this point its a borderline scam. The solar pathway produces about half what a rooftop system would- with a huge expense to it as well. You wouldnt put a solar panel under a tree branch…so why would you drive all over it? counter productive to the core.

    • mellored .

      Yes, we want to fill up roofs first. But that will only cover 20-30%. It’s going to be far more expensive to rebuild all the houses to have south facing roofs. We need to find more places.

      Roads are an obvious place. The land is cleared, nothing is growing there, no one lives there, and they are already distributed. And because there is 10x as much roads as there are rooftops, even at 1/2 the rate, that will be enough for the foreseeable future.

      The only reason to NOT put solar on roads is if we got fusion to work, or stopped using cars.

      • Mattson McDonald

        Hey! you Ney Sayers…
        All you folks should have gone to the New York College of Ceramics at Alfred University and worked for a ceramic engineering degree. I only had four classes in engineering and understand how hard, durable, moldable, and prevalent a material silica is. With certain minerals added silica products can be flexible like lycra added to cotton (yep! yoga pants). I manufactured architectural products which flexed with weather and use – sinks, tiles, fireplace fronts, light fixtures, outdoor planters, bird baths. The ultimate test – hot water used in a sink before the hosts of a party threw in a used bucket of half-melted ice. NO CRACKS IN THE SINK.

        Gladding and Mc Bean in California makes parts of buildings out of terra cotta which have lasted for decades on public buildings all over America. Talk to them about how tough clay and silica products are.

        “Thin porcelain teacups. Oops, crash!!!” – WE ARE NOT!

        There are there fine schools teaching ceramic engineering classes on a world quality scale in the U. S. – N.Y.S.C. @Alfred University, Ohio State in Columbus, and University of Washington, Seattle. Go take a few and then you can talk about how worthy Solar Highways are for our future.

        • Bob_Wallace

          And there exists a tough ceramic transparent product that is extremely scratch resistant and cheaper than the glass now used for solar panels?
          If so, how much cheaper?

  • Kyle Field

    I’m still not at all sold on the solar roadways. that 70 meter stretch of road was something like $3.7 million USD for only a 3kw system. That’s 300x or so what that same capacity on a residential roof would cost. Efficiencies need to go up, scale needs to bring costs down or something…but as it, it can’t stand without TONS of pricing improvement. a 12 year payout needs some data behind it before I could accept that as well given the high expense of the pilot.

    • Brent Jatko

      I agree with you that solar roadways won’t be a factor for the foreseeable future.

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    • mellored .

      $3.7 million was the development cost, not the installation cost.

      It still going to cost a premium over other solar solutions, but weather that’s worth while depends on the cost of the land.

      Where land is expensive (urban), solar roadways is very promising. When a square foot of land is $1000, it’s makes plenty of sense to pay a premium to save space.

      If land is cheap (rural) you don’t need to pay the premium, you get more bang for your buck by putting put solar panels next to the road. In particular you can tilt it towards the sun rather then flat.

      Moderately priced areas (suburban), are iffy. People are already paying a premium for their yards, so they might be willing to pay a bit more.

      Rooftop solar will only cover about 20-30% of the needed energy. Not everyone has a south facing roof.
      Though i suppose if we started building houses with solar in mind, it might change. Then again, energy use always goes up, not down. Electric cars for instance.

      • Bob_Wallace

        You are aware that east and west facing roofs work almost as well as south facing roofs? They should produce 80% to 90% as much electricity which means that the array would need to be 10% to 20% larger. Inverter, etc. would cost the same.

        With panel prices dropping the extra panel cost is not significant.

        This basically triples the available rooftop space. Plus having part of the panels facing east and part west extends the solar day and reduces storage needs.

        ​”Rooftop solar will only cover about 20-30% of the needed energy.”​

        ​Revised –

        Rooftop solar will cover about 60 – 90% of the needed energy. ​

  • Martin

    Well sometimes the KISS rule( keep it simple stupid) is the best approach to a lot of problems. 😉

  • Guest

    I wonder why interest-free banking is missing from the above bucket list. For more details, see:

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