Category Archives: Energy

The Significance of ANOTHER BIG TUNNEL

THE WORLD’S LONGEST ROAD/RAIL TUNNEL: Fehmarnbelt Underwater Link between Denmark and Germany

Reference past article

Denmark yesterday approved constructing a high-technology sea tunnel under the Fehmarn Belt — the 18-kilometer strait between Germany and Denmark — at a cost of over 5 Billion Euros (or $6.5 Billion).

Travel times from Hamburg to Copenhagen will be dramatically reduced after completion over the next decade, with Denmark taking a big step forward towards realizing one of the biggest public infrastructure projects ever undertaken in Europe.

At a speed of 110 km per hour, this project will offer motorists a journey time of approximately 10 minutes through the tunnel. For freight and passenger train, the journey will take seven minutes from coast to coast.

The rail journey from Hamburg to Copenhagen, which currently takes around four and a half hours, would be shortened by one hour. The same applies to the driving time between the two cities, which also takes about four hours at the moment.

Tunnel construction is set to begin in 2014 for a planned opening in 2020. The transit passage consists of three tunnels: two containing a four-lane highway and a third one with two train tracks.

Currently, the stretch between Rødby in Denmark and Puttgarden in Germany, north of Hamburg, has only been served by ferry.

Longest Tunnel of Its Kind

Fehmarn Belt, a strait in the Baltic Sea between the German island of Fehmarn and the Danish island of Lolland, where the tunnel will be built.

What Denmark plans to build across this 18-kilometer (11-mile) stretch of water is the world’s longest underwater tunnel that utilizes the “immersed tube method,” three times the length of the Trans-Bay Tube Bart Tunnel in San Francisco, which is currently the world’s longest immersed tunnel.

The individual elements will be built on land and then sunk onto the sea bed. These concrete pipes will be 200 meters long and weigh around 70,000 tons each pipe — each having the size proportions and weight of a supertanker ship.

Computer graphic impression of the German-side tunnel portal

The country’s largest island, where the capital Copenhagen — Denmark’s economic center — is located, will be connected with the Danish mainland in the west, with Sweden in the east, and by completion of the Fehmarn Belt, with Germany in the south — one-fifth of all of Denmark’s trade is conducted with Germany.

Oresund: Denmark to Sweden-Bridge & Tunnel

The Fehmarn crossing is the final missing link of the most expensive and important infrastructure building project in Denmark’s history.

The massive bridge project over the Great Belt strait, which effectively divides Denmark in two, has been in operation since 1998.

In 2000, the Oresund Bridge/Tunnel was opened to connect Denmark with Sweden.

And now, the Fehmarn Belt Tunnel — this final great sea connection — is scheduled to be ready for trains and trucks in just a decade.

Infrastructure Improvement Overdue

While Denmark is to foot the entire cost of constructing the tunnel, Germany will not, however, be able to avoid some kind of financial involvement. It has already committed to electrifying the 90-kilometer stretch of rail between Lübeck and Puttgarden — as well as laying a second track at a later date. The road connection from Fehmarn will also be improved.

These infrastructure changes will cost €800 million (or more than $1 Billion), according to the German government.

Local resistance to the project formed a long time ago.The seaside resorts fear a dramatic increase in traffic. More cars, high-speed ICE trains and dozens of freight trains could influence their quality of life. Opponents want neither a bridge nor a tunnel — they want everything kept as it is.

Following Tuesday’s decision, another part of Europe marches progressively into the future.

The United States?

Not so much…

Witness the retrograde American attitude about this project expressed on a development portal discussion group (and note the Danish response):

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When I was a child, I wondered aloud about how I was so fortunate to be born into the world’s most advanced nation.

Now… I just wonder why I allow myself to be stuck here!

We soon will have no spaceships to reach the International Space Station, haven’t replaced two buildings some international thugs knocked down a decade ago, have no high-speed rail system, and pridefully squawk about taking away health care insurance from 15 million U.S. citizens who only had it for a few months.

I just need to remember that we grew stale, conservative, and republican… and be prepared to bolt for the new progressive nations of the world.

American Lifestyle

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Namba Parks: Urban Canyon Oasis

“Namba Parks (なんばパークス Nanba Pākusu) — an office and shopping complex located in the Namba district, Osaka, Japan — is one of the finest examples of urban development.

Built in the footprint of the former Osaka Stadium, Namba Parks was conceived as a large park, a natural intervention in Osaka’s dense urban condition; the whole mall is designed as a canyon. 120 shops are located within the curved “cliffs” of this canyon. Alongside a 30-story tower, the project features a lifestyle commercial center crowned with a rooftop park that crosses multiple blocks while gradually ascending eight levels.

In addition to providing a highly visible green component in a city where nature is sparse, the sloping park connects to the street, making it easy for passers-by to enter its groves of trees, clusters of “rocks, cliffs, lawn, streams, waterfalls, ponds and outdoor terraces. Beneath the park, a canyon carves a path through specialty retail, entertainment and dining venues.”

Numerous restaurants (Japanese, Korean, Italian, etc.) are located on the 6th floor, and shops are located on the 2nd to 5th floors. The amphitheater is used for live shows, and there’s even space for small personal vegetable gardens and wagon shops.

Reap What You Sow…

Home for Life designed to produce more energy than it uses and adapt to seasons

Home for Life is located in Lystrup outside Denmark’s second largest city, Aarhus, and leads the way to the next generation of climate-neutral buildings. It is designed as the world’s first Active House and is a result of a research and design development aimed at ensuring a necessary foothold in architecture in an anticipated low-carbon future.

The 200 sq m single-family house is a CO2-neutral demonstration project, which systematically uses the energy from the sun. 7 sq m solar collectors, 50 sq m solar cells and a solar heat pump contribute to reducing the demand for energy, while strategically placed solar-cell operated roof windows offer a balanced amount of daylight to the bedrooms and the kitchen-dining room area. Furthermore, all roof windows have dynamic, solar-cell operated blinds on the inside and awnings on the outside.

The environmentally-friendly features makes Home for Life a distinctive sustainable project, since the house is designed to produce more energy than it consumes. With an estimated energy surplus of 9kWh/m2/year it takes approximately 40 years for the house to generate the same amount of energy that was used to produce its building materials and at that point the house will have returned more to nature than it consumed.

The construction of the house consists of timber framing above a concrete raft, while the floor tiles are a mosaic made from recycled glass and the building is clad externally in slate fixed battens. The window area is equivalent to 40 percent of the floor area – twice the area of a conventional low-energy building – and by maximising daylight Home for Life reduces the demand for energy and optimises the indoor climate. Furthermore, sensors which register heat, humidity and CO2 in all rooms and turn off the lights when you leave the room, help ensure a healthy indoor climate.

Home for Life is built as a joint venture by AART Architects in association with VELUX, VELFAC and consultants Esbensen Rådgivende Ingeniører.



Key Facts

Status Completed
Value 0.64(m€)
AART Architects A/S


Two Examples of Living the Fantastical Life!

Adventurers Turn Dreams Into Reality

I’d wager that most of us with any bit of creativity or zest for escapism have dreamt of living the alternate, storybook life. Frodo’s hobbit house, for instance… who hasn’t fantasized about a safe and snug life in the Shire? Two intrepid souls turn their hobbit fantasy into reality.


THE SELF-MADE HOBBIT You are looking at pictures of a house a young English father built for his family in Wales — built by himself and his father in law with help from passers by and visiting friends. Four months after starting, they were moved in and cosy. The young father estimates 1000-1500 man hours and £3000 put in to the point of livability. Not really so much in house buying terms (roughly £60/sq m excluding labor).

Says the young builder/homeowner:

The house was built with maximum regard for the environment and provided a unique opportunity to live close to nature. Being your own (have a go) architect is a lot of fun and allows you to create and enjoy something which is part of yourself and the land rather than, at worst, a mass produced box designed for maximum profit and convenience of the construction industry. Building from natural materials does away with producers’ profits and the cocktail of carcinogenic poisons that fill most modern buildings.

Some key points of the design and construction:

  • Dug into hillside for low visual impact and shelter
  • Stone and mud from diggings used for retaining walls, foundations etc.
  • Frame of oak (spare wood) from surrounding woodland
  • Reciprocal roof rafters are structurally and aesthetically fantastic and very easy to do
  • Straw bales in floor, walls and roof for super-insulation and easy building
  • Plastic sheet and mud/turf roof for low impact and ease
  • Lime plaster on walls is breathable and low energy to manufacture (compared to cement)
  • Reclaimed (scrap) wood for floors and fittings
  • Anything you could possibly want is in a rubbish pile somewhere (windows, burner, plumbing, wiring…)
  • Wood-burner for heating – renewable and locally plentiful
  • Flue goes through big stone/plaster lump to retain and slowly release heat
  • Fridge is cooled by air coming underground through foundations
  • Skylight in roof lets in natural lightSolar panels for lighting, music and computing
  • Water by gravity from nearby springCompost toilet
  • Roof water collects in pond for garden etc.
  • Main tools used: chainsaw, hammer and 1 inch chisel, little else really.

Continues, the owner:

Oh and by the way I am not a builder or carpenter, my experience is only having a go at one similar house two years before and a bit of mucking around in-between. This kind of building is accessible to anyone. My main relevant skills were being able bodied, having self belief and perseverance and a mate or two to give a lift now and again.

This building is one part of a low-impact or permaculture approach to life. This sort of life is about living in harmony with both the natural world and ourselves, doing things simply and using appropriate levels of technology.

These sort of low cost, natural buildings have a place not only in their own sustainability, but also in their potential to provide affordable housing which allows people access to land and the opportunity to lead more simple, sustainable lives.

For example this house was made to house our family whilst we worked in the woodland surrounding the house doing ecological woodland management and setting up a forest garden, things that would have been impossible had we had to pay a regular rent or mortgage. Most importantly, we did it as an important option to meet the challenges of climate change and peak oil.



THE WEALTHY TOLKIEN FANATIC Asked to design a fitting repository for a wealthy client’s valuable collection of J.R.R. Tolkien manuscripts and artifacts, architect Peter Archer went to the source—the fantasy novels that describe the abodes of the diminutive Hobbits.

“I came back to my client and said, ‘I’m not going to make this look like Hollywood,’” Archer recalled, choosing to focus instead on a finely-crafted structure embodying a sense of history and tradition.

The site was critical too—and Archer found the perfect one a short walk away from his client’s main house, where an 18th-century dry-laid wall ran through the property. “I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful to build the structure into the wall?”

Not only did the wall anchor the cottage, but stones from another section were used in the cottages construction. “It literally grew out of the site,” Archer said.

Perhaps stranger things have happened in Tolkien’s world, but few houses in this world go to such lengths in detail to capture a fictional fantasy in the context of architecture.

Here are some of those details:

Wealthy or otherwise… Dreams Should Be Lived!

Jaguar Unveils the New C-X75 PHEV Supercar

4 Electric Motors and 2 Gas Micro-turbines: Green Speed + Sensual Design

Sexy Green Beast: 205 MPH Top Speed, 68 Miles Electric Range + 560 Miles Extended Range

For my last car posting, I encountered a friendly discussion about the seeming conflict of those desiring more responsible resource use in automobiles and those in love with the raw power that performance cars allow one to experience. My long-time friend loves his cars, their design, their aggressive power, and the ability to unleash it all on track. I’m aggressive and fall prey to raw power, too, but ultimately fall more to the side of design, unique packaging, and the pursuit of a more responsible means to propel ourselves.

Question is this: Does there need to be a conflict?

Tesla with “Roadster” and “Model S” and Fisker with “Karma” struggle to prove conflict resolution.

Now, Jaguar has upped the ante with a provocative concept car with production potential… Jaguar CX75

Car makers, especially those who specialize in sporty or luxury vehicles, have a long tradition of presenting super-car concepts for motor shows. Sometimes they later end up in production, but most of the time bits and pieces are recycled into different, more watered-down models. Jaguar has unveiled just such a beast, and it has good green potential with incredible performance.

Under the Hood of the Jaguar CX75

The CX75 is a plug-in series hybrid, a bit like the Chevy Volt. Yet unlike the Volt, it has 4 electric motors, providing all-wheel drive, and when the battery is drained, it’s not recharged by a conventional gasoline engine. Rather, it uses twin micro-turbines, each generating 70 kW by spinning at 80,000 rpm. The CX75 has a drag coefficient of 0.32 Cd.

Power and Top Speed
The four electric motors produce 145 kW (195 bhp) and 400 N·m (295 lb-ft) each, for a total power of 580 kW/780 bhp. Top speed is 205 mph, accelerating from 0-62 mph in 3.4 seconds, and from 50-90 mph in 2.3 seconds. Thrills per second!

“The mid-mounted 70 kW (94 bhp) micro gas-turbines can generate a combined 140 kW (188 bhp) to charge the batteries and extend the range of the car to 900 km (560 miles)–or, when in Track mode, provide supplementary power directly to the electric motors. The four electric motors provide torque-vectored, all-wheel drive traction and grip, which Jaguar deems essential in a car that produces 1,600 N·m (1,180 lb-ft) of torque,” according to a Jaguar statement.

What Makes It Green (Kind of, Depending…)
Yes… all this power seems like overkill, and I’d much rather see a car that looks just as good but is less powerful, lighter, and gets a longer electric range and then gets better fuel economy once the battery is drained. This Jag is a start!

Nonetheless, the Jaguar CX75 has an electric range of 68 miles. Since the average American rarely drives more than 40 miles in a day — and that number is lower for most Europeans — if this supercar were plugged in every night, it could conceivably be greener (at least when it comes to usage) than a much less powerful car like a Honda Fit or Toyota Prius.

A six hour domestic plug-in charge is good enough to offer the promised driving range of 68 miles. When the batteries are depleted, the center-mounted, 188-horsepower gas turbine engine kicks in to recharge the batteries and extend the supecar’s range to a total of 560 miles.

The CX75 might not reach production, but if it does, it would stay a small-volume model, off of which more plebeian and essential vehicles could be based. Recent media reports suggest the British company is looking into a limited-run production model based on the concept car. If true, we could see the first prototype models out in the open testing as early as 2013.

Still, if this design project has helped Jaguar engineers to get familiar with series hybrids and electric cars, and to develop new technologies that can push the field forward, then it’ll be worth it. I’d rather see automotive engineers work on these kinds of things than ever larger V8s as in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Urban Luxury Concept – Perhaps It Is A New GM

GM’s Cadillac Brand May Offer Up European Luxury and Efficiency In A Game Changing Platform

Now that GM has issued its IPO stock and is well on its way to becoming a member of the private market again — thanks to being saved by the Obama administration and Democrats — the question still remains as to whether or not the old GM will reinvent its cars in addition to its cost structure and become a truly New GM.

Seems there is indication that GM’s top brand, Cadillac, may be abandoning its “bigger is better” mentality and adapting to the times… here it is: the Urban Luxury Concept, a design study for a supermini-sized city auto (think Aston Martin Cygnet) that received its world premiere at the Los Angeles Auto Show last week.

“While small in size, this concept is an exploration of what Cadillac could be in the future, as the brand continues to focus on redefining industry standards for advanced vehicle design and integrated technology,” said Don Butler, vice president for Cadillac marketing.

Conceived and designed in GM’s advanced design center in Los Angeles, the car’s styling cues match those of Cadillac’s current design language with abundant hard edges and vertical head and tail lamps.

The Urban Luxury Concept has an overall length of just 151 inches, but rides on a 97.1 inch-long wheelbase with 19-inch wheels mounted deep into the corners. Cadillac says the interior room is bolstered by a 68.1-inch  width and 56.9-inch height. Despite the small footprint, the company claims that the three-door hatchback offers a spacious interior.

For the Urban Luxury Concept’s propulsion, GM’s engineers developed a prototype hybrid system including a turbocharged 1.0L three-cylinder engine employing electric assist technology, engine start-stop function, brake energy regeneration and a dry dual-clutch transmission. Cadillac maintains that the combination of these technologies in a vehicle like of this size could offer projected fuel economy of 56 mpg in the city and 65 mpg on the highway.

It may not be like Cadillacs on the road today, but “it shares the comfortable and high-tech elements that owners have come to associate with larger, traditional luxury sedans,” said Frank Saucedo, the car’s lead designer. “As more customers demand premium features even in smaller vehicles, a vehicle like the Urban Luxury Concept could be a solution.”

Hopefully the US public will accept such a new premise of a car and be offered the amazingly luxurious small, efficient vehicles like Europeans enjoy. I’m a German car fan, but this little car from Cadillac rocks and catches my attention. Luxury doesn’t have to mean huge and inefficient. Prudence, propriety, and responsible resource use can go hand-in-hand with impressive luxury… and GM may be on the road to proving as much.