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Home to 15 public solar , with adjoining recycling bins, the city of Albany is on the cutting edge of cleaner energy practices.
By squashing trash with the heat of the sun, the bins require fewer gas-fueled truck pick-ups than standard containers, said Claire Griffing, Albany’s sustainability coordinator. The recycling compartment, which isn't a compactor, makes it easy for folks to toss cans, bottles, and paper (in the same bin), decreasing the chances these end up mixed with trash—or on the sidewalk or lawn, she said.
But one Solano pedestrian observed that at least some of Albany’s Big Belly Compactors sit under trees.
And he asked Patch, does leafy shade crimp their job?
The answer was swift: “No, per the vendor/manufacturer the panel is not sensitive to a variable shade element,” said Nicole Almaguer, city clerk.
Big Belly’s website explains:
All of our components do not require direct sunlight. As long as the solar panel can “see” the sky (i.e., not under a roof or tree), the station will work reliably on diffuse light. This is a central area of BigBelly Solar’s technical advantage: the company has extensive intellectual property in intelligent energy management, allowing the solar compactor and fullness indication systems to work reliably 24/7/365 in rigorous environmental climates and light conditions. For example, a BigBelly Solar Compactor can operate for a day on the equivalent energy it takes to make a piece of toast.
I didn’t speak to the manufacturer, but it sounds unlikely that Albany’s tree-shaded compactors will slow or stall for lack of sun power, but if they do that the company would step in to assist.
Science fair idea
Further intrigued? A little googling found a back yard experiment geared for a science fair called Effect of Tree Shade on Solar Collector Efficiency. It’s not identical to measuring the influence of Solano greenery on sidewalk trash compactors, but has some similarities, and could be adapted. Kids?
Note: If I read this correctly, the home experiment results contrast somewhat to the promises of Big Belly. Albeit the back yard technology was homespun, and the experiment measures the effect of sun on water temperatures, not on energy expenditure such as mashing garbage.
While we’re on the compactors
This is as good a chance as any to see how the compactors are going.
“So far the containers have been very well received,” Almaguer said. “They also include side panels that can be utilized for advertising, which we intend to make available for events and other items of interest for advertisement."
The bins are more vector-proof than traditionals, and designed to prevent drippage and fly-away debris, she said.
“We’ve gotten some great feedback. The only problem is that people want to see more of them!”
The city's regular, old bins are still out there, with no plans for removal, Griffing adds.
The compactors, located on Solano and San Pablo avenues, with two in Memorial Park, were installed as part of Albany’s “new” November 2011 agreement with Waste Management of Alameda County, which contracts with the city to provide garbage services.
The agreement, which came with not insignificant and is updated every 10 years, also added curbside battery, cell phone and florescent (CFL) light bulb recycling, .
What's been your experience with the city's solar compactors/recycling bins? Tell us in the comments.
If there's something in this article you think , or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.