May 17, 2020

Pythagoras Solar to Cover Former Sears Tower Skyscraper with Solar Panels

2 min
Chicago's Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) to get solar panel upgrade
Its about time a company figured out a way to make use of the immense square-footage available on the surface of a skyscraper, let alone the fifth large...
It’s about time a company figured out a way to make use of the immense square-footage available on the surface of a skyscraper, let alone the fifth largest freestanding skyscraper in the world! Pythagoras Solar, an alternative energy start-up, has struck a novel deal with the owners of the Chicago’s Willis Tower—formerly the Sears Tower. Pythagoras plans to cover the skyscraper’s south-facing side with solar panels to create a vertical 2 MW solar farm.

The Willis Tower has 108 stories, and during the summer, solar glare and building cooling costs have become a problem. The solution: solar panels that offset the skyscraper’s energy needs while providing window shade.


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Pythagoras Solar’s window pane solar panel design—called high-density photovoltaic glass units (HD-PVGUs)—acts as slat blinds, blocking some sunlight from entering the building but still providing a view of the city below. The glass panes contain thin layers of monocrystalline silicone pressed between glass sheets. Internal plastic prisms direct angled sunlight while allowing diffused sunlight and indirect reflected sunlight into the building, resolving intense summer glare issues while harnessing the sun’s natural energy.

The Willis (Sears) Tower solar farm is expected to provide as much power as a 10-acre ground installation. If the project—still in the planning phase—is a success, it could set a precedent for using skyscrapers all over the world for solar energy generation. This is such a smart and novel way of using space and saving acres of land for conservation purposes or other development ventures.

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Jun 7, 2021

Trafigura and Yara International explore clean ammonia usage

Dominic Ellis
2 min
Commodity trading company Trafigura and Yara International sign MoU to explore developing ammonia as a clean fuel in shipping

Independent commodity trading company Trafigura and Yara International have signed an MoU to explore developing ammonia as a clean fuel in shipping and ammonia fuel infrastructure.

Reducing shipping emissions is a vital component of the fight against global climate change, yet Greenhouse Gas emissions from the global maritime sector are increasing - and at odds with the IMO's strategy to cut absolute emissions by at least 50% by 2050. 

How more than 70,000 ships can decrease their reliance on carbon-based sources is one of transport's most pressing decarbonisation challenges.

Yara and Trafigura intend to collaborate on initiatives that will establish themselves in the clean ammonia value chain. Under the MoU announced today, Trafigura and Yara intend to work together in the following areas:

  • The supply of clean ammonia by Yara to Trafigura Group companies
  • Exploration of joint R&D initiatives for clean ammonia application as a marine fuel
  • Development of new clean ammonia assets including marine fuel infrastructure and market opportunities

Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, President of Yara Clean Ammonia, said the agreement is a good example of cross-industry collaboration to develop and promote zero-emission fuel in the form of clean ammonia for the shipping industry. "Building clean ammonia value chains is critical to facilitate the transition to zero emission fuels by enabling the hydrogen economy – not least within trade and distribution where both Yara and Trafigura have leading capabilities. Demand and supply of clean ammonia need to be developed in tandem," he said.  

There is a growing consensus that hydrogen-based fuels will ultimately be the shipping fuels of the future, but clear and comprehensive regulation is essential, according to Jose Maria Larocca, Executive Director and Co-Head of Oil Trading for Trafigura.

Ammonia has a number of properties that require "further investigation," according to Wartsila. "It ignites and burns poorly compared to other fuels and is toxic and corrosive, making safe handling and storage important. Burning ammonia could also lead to higher NOx emissions unless controlled either by aftertreatment or by optimising the combustion process," it notes.

Trafigura has co-sponsored the R&D of MAN Energy Solutions’ ammonia-fuelled engine for maritime vessels, has performed in-depth studies of transport fuels with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and has published a white paper on the need for a global carbon levy for shipping fuels to be introduced by International Maritime Organization.

Oslo-based Yara produces roughly 8.5 million tonnes of ammonia annually and employs a fleet of 11 ammonia carriers, including 5 fully owned ships, and owns 18 marine ammonia terminals with 580 kt of storage capacity – enabling it to produce and deliver ammonia across the globe.

It recently established a new clean ammonia unit to capture growth opportunities in emission-free fuel for shipping and power, carbon-free fertilizer and ammonia for industrial applications.

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