LightWorks Blog

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Valley of the Sun is quickly raising awareness about the power of solar and residents, businesses, schools, and even professional sports teams are doing their part to power this state with solar energy. Here are a few examples of solar power being implemented in different areas around the state:


Diamondbacks Chase Field

At Chase Field, a new solar array has been constructed outside of the building, providing customers shade while buying their ticket and electric car charging stations and battery storage. These solar panels were built in order to reduce the amount of energy that the stadium used, so now baseball fans can watch the game and go green while doing it.

Anzio Landing

Anzio Landing in Mesa has become the first fully solar powered restaurant in Arizona. One of the main attractions of this restaurant is the solar powered covered parking. This family restaurant wanted to do what they could to reduce their impact on the environment and lower their energy bill—and they did just that. Their $1.3 million dollars in energy savings makes them a energy leader in the restaurant industry.

Buckeye Elementary School District

What better way to teach students about green energy than by using it in their schools? The solar panels used in every school in the district will cover approximately 70% of districts energy usage. The solar panels will be used mainly on the covered parking areas, but Buckeye Elementary will be having panels installed on the roof as well.

White Stallion Dude Ranch

One of the places you would expect to exclude solar is a ranch, but the White Stallion Dude Ranch in Tucson is now powering 30-40% of their facility with solar. The ranch plans to expand their energy efforts and turn their ranch into an eco-paradise for ranch lovers.

Arizona State University

ASU has gone above and beyond when it comes to researching and implementing renewable energy right on campus. Faculty, as well as students, are becoming involved in this movement. Research labs, clubs, and initiatives like ASU Lightworks are all working together to spread the news about renewable energy and powering our Earth from the sun.

From installing solar panels in several buildings on campus to hosting presentations to educate others about sustainability, ASU is doing everything to become the face of solar in Arizona.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden, or as the signs denote on arrival, the capital of Scandinavia. It also holds the title “Green Capital of Europe,” and has been a consistent leader in its use of sustainability and renewable energy.  In ten years, Stockholm reduced its carbon emissions by 25 percent per capita and has taken on the challenge of attempting to be completely fossil-fuel-free by 2050.


Stockholm is an archipelago of about 30,000 islands. Naturally, water and wind power come in abundant supply. However, the city has proven to be quite the breeding ground for implementing a variety of renewable systems working in tandem. Here are just a few examples of some of those systems:


  • The Green Tunnel, or City Line Project – this is an environmentally certified, underground tunnel running on synthetic diesel fuel expected to begin production in 2017.


Photo Credit: Wikipedia



  • Stockholm Central Station – the station is heated by the excess body heat of passengers, and being the busiest travel hub in Scandinavian, passengers are never in short supply.  TIME magazine wrote a very well-written article on how the system works.




  • Plastic Bottle Recycling – I have come to learn just how seriously Swedes take their bottle recycling, and Sweden has managed to achieve a recycling rate of about 80 percent


Photo Credit: Wikipedia



  • Rosendal’s Gardens – these gardens on the Djurgården island were made famous by Queen Josefina who had a passion for plant cultivation. The café on the island provides organic food and drinks from the biodynamically grown produce harvested in their own green houses.


Picture Source: Rosendal's Gardens



  • Renovation of the Stockholm Royal Seaport – an old industrial area in the Western area of Stockholm that is being redesigned to house smart residences. Engineers and architects plan to use a variety of renewable sources including a smart garbage grid, smart heat grid, and solar energy. GreenTechMedia just published an article highlighting all of the details of the project.


Picture Source: GreenTechMedia



  • SL City Bus Fleet – Stockholm currently has the largest ethanol bus fleet in the world, and since 2010, they made it policy to only invest in buses that use renewable fuels.


Photo Credit: Wikipedia



Stockholm is a city of innovation and creativity. Though LightWorks’ ultimate aim is to support light-inspired research, there is a great deal to learn from a country like Sweden, a country that is willing to implement change, test alternative energy sources, and find ways to bring in all sorts of renewables under one complex umbrella to “solve society’s grand challenges.”


Saturday, June 18, 2011


Getting in involved in sustainability couldn't be easier with the impressive selection of sustainability clubs and organizations at Arizona State University. You can take your pick from several different groups who are actively making our work more sustainable. Listed below are some of the popular clubs at ASU:



EcoAid focuses on sustainability as it relates to business. It aims to get students more involved and aware of the importance of climate change, energy dependance, and other sustainability issues. The business world is quickly becoming green, and EcoAid prepares students to enter this new, green business world.



Electric Vehicle Club

This name speaks for itself. Students in this club dedicate their time to learning about electric, plug-in vehicles and learning about their importance in our society. This club also builds a Formula Hybrid Race Car to race in a competition in London.



Greenpeace at ASU promotes solar and mass transit by getting the attention of elected representatives and asking for their help to make ASU and the Valley more sustainable. They take direct action in order to promote a greener lifestyle.

SEEDS Devils

This organization is comprised of students interested in sustainability, environmental education, ecology, and diversity. They conduct programs, projects, and events in order to promote their organization and raise awareness within their community


Students of Arizona Network for Sustainability (SANS)

SANS is a well known sustainability organization at ASU, and has built their reputation by reaching out and collaborating with students, faculty, and their local community. Their goal is to create a model of sustainability in Arizona that other organizations and individuals can follow.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

This past weekend I was in Linköping, Sweden. Linköping is the fifth-largest city in Sweden, a city known primarily for its cathedral and university, and it has approximately 98,000 inhabitants. In recent years, it has also become a city renowned for its production and use of biofuel. Linköping’s entire 65-bus fleet is powered on biofuel, and so is a commuter train running between Linköping and Västervik.

The city garbage trucks, taxis, and even some private cars are also powered by this biofuel. Because of this, there are even biogas fueling stations.

The biofuel itself is obtained from organic materials; in this case, the entrails of slaughtered cows. The biogas production company gets the entrails from the local slaughterhouse and uses the methane to produce biofuel. The plant is operated by Svensk Biogas, “a 100% owned subsidiary of Tekniska Verken i Linköping AB (publ), a municipal company owned by the city of Linköping.” Learn more about Swedish biogas production here.

Svensk Biogas reports that biogas is a lucrative market: “Biogas has advanced from being an environment friendly alternative to becoming the foremost fuel in which the environment, supply assurance and economy coexist in harmony. Sales of biogas for vehicles (cars, trucks and buses) have increased dramatically in Sweden during the last ten years. And is still increasing. There is continous [sic] investments in biogas filling stations, production and distribution.”

Biogas production in Linköping is just one example of innovation and green tech successfully put into practice—one of the greatest hurdles new ventures must overcome. It is an industry that continues to grow and is a real-life situation of alternative fuel integration at work. It seems fitting that the Linköping city motto is: “Where ideas become reality,” because it’s obvious that in Linköping, they do.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Talking Sustainability with American Public Media’s Marketplace

Come join Marketplace reporters and representatives as they go in depth about social media and how it can be used to communicate sustainability opportunities, barriers, and solutions. Be sure to bring a notepad and a pen as you jot down information that will help you spread your sustainability efforts via Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites.

June 16, 12 p.m.
Global Institute of Sustainability Wrigley Hall, Room 481, Tempe campus

Contact Info: 480-965-8878

The Future Energy Abyss: An Intimate Conversation Between David Brancaccio and John Hofmeister

During this conversation, expect to explore topics such as energy dependence/independence, climate change, renewable energy, and issues in the Middle East. John Hofmeister, who went from oil dependency to becoming a sustainable famer, will be giving an intriguing speech with a Q&A at the end. David Brancaccio has several accomplishments; including receiving the Dupont-Columbia Award nad the George Foster Peabody Award, contributing to CNN and other media outlets, and getting his print work published in the most prestigious news sources. Join these two gentlemen as they discuss the past, present, and future of energy.

June 16, 5:30 p.m.

Global Institute of Sustainability
Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, First Amendment Forum Room - 2nd Floor, Downtown Campus , Downtown Phoenix campus

Contact Information:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


As students in the Urban Planning and Sustainability study abroad program in Thailand move from the city of Bangkok to the more suburban area of Chiang Mai, they prepare the tackle the topics of bio-gas, waste water, and solar energy. Split into three subgroups, these students are gaining hands on experience and working with officials to improve the quality of life in Chiang Mai.

Powering Chiang Mai with Solar Energy

Currently, high performance solar collectors are very expensive in Thailand, so instead they purchase a majority of their solar systems from China. Five or so years ago, they were able to compete but eventually the cost of China's solar systems were reduced as the price of Thailand's rose dramatically.

Solar technology is currently on the rise in Chiang Mai, powering a percentage of electricity in residential areas, buildings, schools, and more. The objective of this assignment is to decide whether or not solar is right for the community of Pha Ham, and if so, then how can we improve and expand solar efforts in this area. Currently the government is putting large subsidies on solar installations and taxing oil and petroleum based fuel. This shows just how involved and supportive the government is when it comes to solar.

Solar water heating has the highest payback within the community. The University of Chiang Mai, the institution we are working directly with, is trying to turn the community we are working with into a “green” community.

Solar panels and small solar farms have been used in Chiang Mai to power anything from a television set to a large business. One of the major obstacles when it comes to installing solar panels is that oftentimes, the roofs are not fit to hold solar panels, which is the reason why many solar projects are kept on the ground.

Bio-Gas in Chiang Mai

The reasons that biogas is so important in Thailand is because it is mainly an agricultural country. Both product and waste can be utilized in this system,and much of the waste is generated in pig and chicken farms. Biogas is subsidized more than solar technology in Thailand, suggesting that the government has a preference of biogas over solar in their specific situation. Although a quite complicated process, biogas generation has proven to have a positive effect on Chiang Mai and other areas in Thailand.

Tackling Waste Water

Waste water is a huge issue in Thailand and very little has been done about this issue in the last 50 years. The current plan underway for Chiang Mai is to construct wetlands filtration systems to clean out the water and also to promote agriculture. One main disadvantage of wetlands is that they take up a lot of space, much more than other methods of treating waste water. This however, seems to be the most efficient way to deal with this problem in the area of Chiang Mai.

Currently, there is a waste water treatment in Chiang Mai but it does not connect to the canals. Unlike the United States where there is very little problem with connecting waste water treatments to the rest of the area, Chiang Mai finds it difficult to find ways to connect their canal system to the water treatment facilities. Therefore, the polluted and littered waste water flows through the canals and directly through residential and some commercial areas. Although this is not an easy problem to tackle, ASU students are working diligently to find a solution to this problem.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Beginning June 3rd, several students from ASU, including myself, have taken a trip around the world to has tackle major sustainability and urban planning issues facing Thailand. Bangkok, a major tourist attraction, faces the daunting task of reducing pollution in the inner city and surrounding areas, reintroducing and preserving green land, providing a clean water system, and developing new systems that will compliment their green initiative.

The plan currently in the works by Thai officials involves building and promoting new railway systems throughout the city. Thailand is currently rated #4 in the world for the worst traffic, and the pollution resulting from the traffic directly affects the immediate and surrounding areas. The main objective is transit oriented development, so students must find ways to develop the community in a way that helps to promote the use of public transit. While interviewing local Thai citizens, we found that most people found the current railways very useful, but traffic from cars congestion in the morning is still unbearable.

In the past few years, much effort has been put into the transportation systems and the goal is to promote and provide accessibility to the stations to reduce car traffic in cities along the railway stations. The promotion of public and sustainable transportation is one of the main objectives in our first project, as well as find ways to promote sustainability within the community.


Green Transportation in Arizona


With fuel costs steadily on the rise, Arizona residents are searching for an alternative method of transportation. Although we are studying this problem overseas, it also applies back to Arizona and specifically around Arizona State University. As we all know, the light rail is the newest development of transportation in that area and for the most part, has had a positive effect on the community.

By providing a light rail connecting stations from Mesa to Phoenix, it provides greater accessibility for residents, promotes a more sustainable way of living, reduces traffic and amount of cars on the roads, and saves money. Although public transportation doesn't seem to be as widely used in Arizona as it is in Bangkok, it definitely has potential.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

ASU’s Anne Jones is leading a research project entitled “Plug and Play Photosynthesis.” The project was recently awarded a $451,000 research grant from the US National Science Foundation. It is one of four projects awarded collaboratively between the US and UK to improve understanding of the process of biological photosynthesis. At the time of the award, the abstract was as follows:

While solar bioenergy is potentially an abundant and environmentally benign energy source, natural photosynthesis is relatively inefficient owing to slow steps in the conversion of carbon dioxide into biomass. This project seeks to increase energy capture by photosynthesis by diverting energy away from the normal slow steps to potentially more efficient processes. The first major goal of the project is to demonstrate that energy, in the form of electrical current produced by photosynthetic organisms, can be transmitted from a photosynthetic, energy capturing cell to an energy-storing "factory cell" via biological nanowires (biowires). The second major goal of the proposed work is to show that the factory cell can be engineered to use energy to produce useful fuel compounds.

Broader Impacts: This project will create the foundation for new directions in bioenergy research, with potential for dramatic increases in the efficiency of solar energy capture and storage, while training the next generation of scientists and engineers needed to compete in emerging areas of bioenergy and biotechnology. The project will demonstrate that energy can be transferred directly between cells as bio-electricity. Furthermore, the biowire to be developed will serve as a future generic connector for electrically connecting distinct cell types to create novel, functional biofilms. The photosynthetic components constructed in this project will serve as prototypes to establish a new design paradigm. In addition to these benefits, the project will 1) provide valuable resources to catalyze other important research projects, 2) train undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in areas of technology relevant to critical national needs, 3) establish productive international collaborations, and 4) disseminate information relevant to basic and applied research and development in energy and biotechnology.


The intention of the NSF "Ideas Lab" was "to generate potentially transformative projects and stimulate new approaches to a long-standing scientific problem," that problem being a need for investigating new ways of cultivating sunlight to aid in harvesting biofuels and biomass.

Jones' research looks promising, and it is just one of the many ways in which ASU is leading the way for alternative energy development. ASU LightWorks continues to support these groundbreaking ventures. Congratulations to Anne Jones and her research team!

Saturday, June 4, 2011


The researchers at the Biodesign Institute at ASU are working hard to produce renewable, affordable biofuels that are readily available. The new process these researchers are undergoing aims to reduce biofuel productions costs so that it can compete with petroleum, a far less sustainable method of producing fuel.


ASU researcher, Roy Curtiss, says that “The real costs involved in any biofuel production are harvesting the goodies and turning them into fuel”. He also goes on to say that “This whole system that we have developed is a means to a green recovery of materials not requiring energy dependent physical or chemical processes.”


The Biodesign Institute has been known for their achievements in biofuels produced from bacteria, solar efficiency, and micro biofuel cells—to name a few. This 800,000 square foot research center has won numerous awards and is leading ASU to a cleaner future. Four interconnected building will make up this research center, and with the expansion of the facility comes the expansion of the research.


Now, researchers are trying to do more than produce biofuels by utilizing cyanobacteria—they are attempting to reduce costs and bring tough competition to the petroleum fuel industry. The process of cutting costs was created by Roy Curtiss and Xinyao Liu, and this team has proven to be a solid one. Liu, when describing the process to keep costs down during biofuel production, said “We first freed up fatty acids by triggering self-destruction of the bacteria by adding nickel,but this is not so good for the environment. So, this time we did it in a smarter way – by stopping carbon dioxide supply. The strategy of adding nothing for recovering fuels from biomass is designed to drastically reduce processing costs.”


This team at ASU is full of promise and pride, and is a noteworthy example of the outstanding research going on at Arizona State. Lightworks is bringing together researchers and students from all over and providing cleaner alternatives for the future. From biofuels to photovoltaics, Lightworks is leading the way to a cleaner future.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Recently, Intel received Silver LEED certification for a project they developed with ASU and algae researchers at the ASU Polytechnic campus. They put photobioreactors on the roof of Intel’s Ocotillo facility in Chandler, AZ to capture flue gasses (CO2) in an effort to grow algae for research purposes. The following transcription is from an e-mail interview with Brad Biddle for Triple Pundit. Brad leads the Intel side of the project.

Q: How many algae crops have been grown and harvested?

A: For this phase of the project we grew algae until the bioreactors were at maximum capacity then harvested all of it. Next week we start round two. During this next phase, the plan is to do continual harvesting—that is, we’ll harvest a portion of the algae, let it grow back to full capacity, and repeat. Continual harvesting is the model we’d likely use if the approach were adopted on a larger scale.


Q: Who makes the algae into biofuel? How much biofuel can be made from a single crop?

A: It takes a lot of algae to make a meaningful amount of fuel—much more than we grew in this initial proof-of-concept phase. After drying, the amount of algae grown in this initial phase doesn’t amount to more than a couple of softball-sized handfuls, and even the best strains of algae are only about 40% oil. So far we’re talking test tubes, not gas tanks—but we hope to get there.


Q: Has Intel seen the entire algae-biofuel process through from beginning to end yet?

A: Our partners at ASU’s Laboratory for Algae Research and Biotechnology (LARB) have made fuel from algae oil, so there’s no question that it can be done. We’ve been using our current small amount of algae for lab testing rather than fuel, though. Once we have a sufficient quantity of algae oil from our process, LARB could certainly do the conversion to fuel. I also hope to take a sample of our algae oilto a local biodiesel co-op and have them do the ocnversion process from raw algae oil to biodiesel. The co-op currently makes biodiesel from waste vegetable oil (restaurant grease), but their process would work on algae oil as well. We plan to show vehicles driving on biodiesel made from our algae.


Q: How did Intel partner with ASU and what roles did each play?

A: On the proof-of-concept side, Intel brought a vision for the project, a willingness to experiment, and infrastructure and logistics support. The ASU LARB team did the hard parts—building the ioreactors, managing the algae growth, and leading the data collection efforts. The LARB team is world famous for their algae expertise, and certainly the project couldn’t have been done without them.


On the policy side, representatives from Intel and from ASU Law worked together to analyze various regulatory questions. This focus on both scientific and policy issues is a unique aspect of this project, I believe.


From the beginning, our goal for this project has been to be highly open and highly collaborative. We want to openly share what we learn, with a focus on trying to drive broad global benefits.


In this video, Brad Biddle further discusses the algae bioreactor project.