A Biofriendly Way to Tap Into Renewable Energy? Use Existing Properties.

As our society begins to intensify its efforts to move away from fossil fuels and invest in more renewable energy sources, the signs of this expansion can be seen all over the world. We can see wind turbines going up off the coast of major countries, solar farms being spread across open deserts, and farmers switching from food-based crops to fuel-based crops, just to name a few. These efforts, no matter how beneficial they may seem, are not always applauded by the general public.

I mean, think about it…why does a wind farm need to be placed right off the coastline when there are skyscrapers all across the country, and around the world, that have open, relatively empty space on their roofs? Same goes for solar. Wouldn’t it make more sense to add solar panels to the roofs of homes, offices and other buildings rather than plop them down in the middle of a wide open desert space? I mean, take a look at this map which shows New York City’s rooftop potential for solar power. Personally, I think it makes a lot more sense to use the properties we have, and to figure out a way to make them more biofriendly, than to further tap into the limited resources on this planet. For example, take a look this low-maintenance, bladeless wind turbine that can be mounted on the side of a building or on a rooftop. Here is a solar rooftop project looking for online investors to help add solar panels to the roof of a New Jersey convention center. As far as the future goes, I cannot wait until we are able to see something like these technologically-advanced, solar roads.

In reality, the biofriendly ways to tap into renewable energy are limitless. What are some of the best ways you’ve seen for our society to tap into renewable energy using existing properties?

Image by Constellation Energy via Flickr Creative Commons


  • david

    It’s good to see innovation in wind turbine technology but I think there are a lot of good points about off shore wind farms that can’t be replicated in the city. Structural issues for a start, you’re never going to get a decent size turbine on top of an existing building. Off shore farms get cleaner airflow and also provide artificial reefs for habitat. One of the major factors that has stopped hill-top wind farms in my area is safety, you’ll have a hard time convincing people that a turbine on top of a skyscraper has zero chance of coming apart from my experience.

    Solar seems logical on buildings in cities as long as the roof is flat or south facing but again a desert location is clearly chosen as it’s ideal for the proportion of sunny days they get and ground mounted panels are easier, cheaper and safer to install and maintain at perfect orientation and angle.

    I’d like to see more efforts from solar and wind farms to increase habitats and biodiversity on their sites so that an installed and working farm has a benefit to local flora and fauna as well as generating ‘green’ energy.

    • Tara

      Hi David,

      Thanks very much for your comment, I appreciate your insight. You bring up some good points.

      I fully agree that it would be great to see more efforts being made from solar/wind farms to contribute to the environment, while they generate renewable energy at the same time.

      Now I know we won’t see any major changes in the immediate future, since wind/solar farms do generate a large volume of energy, but I think if we take more advantage of existing properties then we would have less need for so many big “farms”. I mean, even if we can’t have solar panels on all buildings, we can at least invest in technology like these spray-on solar windows. Can you imagine the majority of buildings in such cities as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc. having either solar panels or solar windows?

      Now I fully agree that we shouldn’t have big turbines on top of buildings. That’s just not safe, but even seeing wind turbines, like the one in I featured, would be a big improvement and will only aid to the production of renewable energy.

      Thanks again for your input and for bringing up some key points.


      • david

        Thanks for the link, those windows look like they have real potential. Innovation will be crucial in retro fitting energy generating technologies I would imagine.

        Here’s a link to an article reviewing a building mounted turbine in London http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/arup-claims-bskyb-turbine-is-not-token/8647125.article

        The general view is that the reduced air flow in the cities make this a poor location for the turbine however people seem to overlook your arguements that the location is more appropriate due to protection of open areas, direct feed of electricity to buildings rather than miles of cabling etc. We’ve got a lot less space here in the UK than elsewhere so using existing structures in this way does make sense. Once newer designs like the one you posted start to become main stream I think people may start to change their minds though.

  • Enviko

    Spray-on solar windows is an amazing idea. I agree in thinking that these could be really beneficial; especially as so many modern buildings are abundant in windows and glass.

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