Olympic Games -1996 : Renewable Energy in Action


While you are watching the Olympic Games next week there are a number of solar energy applications to look for in the various venues. What to look for: several renewable energy technologies will be on display in Atlanta and at the site of the 1996 Summer Games, including photovoltaic energy, solar thermal energy, geothermal energy, and alternative fuel vehicles. Unfortunately, no solar cookers will be on display.

Photovoltaic Energy

Some 2856 photovoltaic modules are installed on the roof of the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, the main site of swimming competitions for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. The modules cover about 3680 square meters of roof area and provide up to 340 kilowatts of electrical power, making it the largest building-integrated photovoltaic system in the world. The modules help power the lighting for the Aquatic Center, and any unused electricity is fed back Into the power grid to reduce the energy bills for the building. Also, look for 65 photovoltaic-powered lights at the National Park Service parking lot at the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Visitor Center in downtown Atlanta.

US DOE is behind all the solar applications in attempt to demonstrate American solar technologies to the world. Photovoltaic technologies are being widely used in developing countries to power villages that have no access to electricity. Currently used in about 200,000 villages in about 150 countries around the world, photovoltaic technologies have a huge potential for market growth. The World Bank estimates that investments in new generation capacity of $1trillion will be needed this decade, and upward of $4 trillion during the next 30 years to meet developing countries' needs.

Installations on buildings, like that on the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, turn otherwise unused roof spaces into sources of power. New products now Available commercially combine roofing materials with photovoltaic technologies to create shingles and other roof materials that generate power. This double-duty application of photovoltaic materials is an elegant approach that significantly improves their cost effectiveness. The Southface Energy and Environmental Center in Atlanta includes such photovoltaic shingles on its roof, providing up to 2 kilowatts of solar-powered electricity.

Solar Thermal Energy

The Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, the main site of the swimming competitions for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, will have its pool heated by 278 solar collectors mounted on its roof.

In the system at the Aquatic Center, water flows through black plastic piping that absorbs the sun's heat. These collectors cover about 940 square meters of roof area, and most are tilted toward the sun to collect the maximum amount of sunlight throughout the day. During the summer, the system can also be run at night to provide radiative cooling of the pool water, if needed. The system meets rigid specifications to keep the swimming pool within the narrow temperature range required for the Games.

Another solar thermal energy application on display in Atlanta is a 7-kilowatt dish/Stirling system, installed on the Georgia Tech campus. The installation demonstrates this innovative technology, which uses a large, faceted, dish-shaped mirror to focus and concentrate the sun's heat. A Stirling engine and generator at the dish's focal point then efficiently convert that heat into electricity. The mirror is mounted on a tracking device that keeps it pointed directly at the sun.

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy comes in many forms, and one of the most cost-effective and widely applicable geothermal technologies is the geothermal heat pump. Geothermal heat pumps are providing heating, cooling, and hot water to both the Southface Energy and Environmental Resource Center and a newly refurbished building on the Georgia Tech campus.

Geothermal heat pumps can be installed in most buildings, and rely on the earth below the building as a heat source (for heating) or a heat sink (for cooling). Ground temperatures stay fairly constant year-round, so geothermal heat pumps use 30% less energy than conventional air-source heat pumps, which are dependent on widely fluctuating outside air temperatures.

Alternative Fuel Vehicles

To minimize the environmental effects of increased traffic during the Olympics, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is working with the Department of Transportation and private sector companies to provide Alternative Fuel Vehicles (AFVs) for Atlanta's use. An important goal of the federal effort is to provide as many AFVs as possible.

The AFVs at the Olympics will run on a variety of fuels, including compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), electricity, or hydrogen. To date, more than 300 AFV buses have been offered to Atlanta for the Olympics, and it is anticipated that at least this number of AFV vans and cars will be available as well. DOE's Idaho National Energy Laboratory will provide 4 LNG buses for VIP and other use in Atlanta. Alternative fuel vehicle use will demonstrate the effectiveness and market-readiness of these technologies, while helping to keep Atlanta's air clean.

The vehicles are being borrowed from a number of transportation authorities around the country.

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