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March 24, 2015

Building (And Flying) With Sustainability In Mind

Posted by Aruna C. Newton (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:09 AM

Solar Impulse 2 takes off for historic around-the-world attempt [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vy9PB0Zn2Z4]

Places that have ageing urban infrastructure have a golden opportunity on their hands. When they do re-build, they should take the chance to do so with sustainability in mind. Then there are places that are about to undergo a building boom, like India. Studies show that a whopping two-thirds of the commercial buildings planned until 2030 are yet to be built.

I think this is a brilliant opportunity for Indian companies to create the most efficient structures in the world. Why? Well, much of India is blessed with a lot of golden sun, which means a lot of solar energy. And the more we learn about sustainability, the more we're realizing that solar energy is the most efficient and cost effective energy in the long run - especially to build with.

Think about this: Saudi Arabia is extremely blessed with plentiful solar energy. But because old-style fossil fuels are also very plentiful there, and they are cheap, the Saudis don't have much of an impetus to build with solar in mind. That's unfortunate, because the sun is going to be blazing for billions of years, and the peak oil timeline? Some experts give petroleum another century at best. It's time for everyone to think solar!

At Infosys, we've embraced solar energy with gusto and enthusiasm. Frankly, when you learn about the materials that absorb and conserve solar heat, it's quite fascinating. And when the CFO's office crunches the numbers and discovers what kind of savings the company can enjoy over the long run, it becomes a satisfying endeavor as well. We have some 3.8 million square feet of the highest-rated buildings when it comes to energy conservation - 12 LEED platinum-rated and two GRIHA 5 Star-rated buildings - in India. For us, the sky is the limit: We have introduced the first radiant panel-based cooling system in our M&C building in Bangalore. Water has the ability to carry 3,400 times the energy that can be carried by air.

But it doesn't have to be advanced energy technology. Sometimes it's just common sense. For instance, if you work in an Infosys building in India, then chances are that the building's roof has been painted white to ensure there is minimum heat penetration into the building. This simple method has the ability to reduce the overall building temperature by at least two degrees Celsius.

Other companies are just as committed to conserving energy. Did you hear about Apple CEO Tim Cook announce the company's plans to build a 130-megawatt solar farm to power its stores and facilities located in California? Cook has said that Apple will work with First Solar to build a $850-million plant, which will sit on 1,300 acres in central California, another place blessed with lots of sun. What is absolutely stunning about Apple's plans is that the firm's solar farm, called the First Solar California Flats Solar Project, is the largest solar procurement deal by a company that's not a utility. It has been reported that the project is also the first wholesale commercial and industrial power-purchase agreement for First Solar, which signed a 25-year PPA with Pacific Gas and Electric. Imagine that: A computer company possibly selling excess energy to a public utility!

We are truly entering a new age when companies dedicated to businesses other than energy will someday have enough of it to sell it to local utilities. Perhaps my favorite example of just how innovative energy conservation has become is an airplane called the Solar Impulse 2. This plane has a wingspan wider than a Boeing jumbo jet and yet it weighs about as much as a car. Solar Impulse 2 is equipped with more than 17,000 solar cells and more than 1,300 pounds of batteries. That's enough energy storage to keep the plane flying indefinitely. No stops for fossil fuels.

The Solar Impulse 2 is currently flying around the world. The flight will end in (of all places) Abu Dhabi, the sun-drenched capital of the UAE. That is a country that despite its plentiful fossil fuels, is focusing on sustainable construction. An inspiring example to us all - they don't have to build with sustainability in mind, but they want to.


Quite a journey it was. Soon India is also going to be plentiful of solar. Hearing of a 750 MW mega project in India now days. This will define the image of solar energy in India.

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