Electric vehicles – It's not just about the car - "One of the key characteristics of complex systems, such as the world's energy and transport sectors, is that when they change it tends not to be a linear process. They flip from one state to another in a way strongly analogous to a phase change in material science... A second important characteristic of this type of economic phase change is that when one major sector flips, the results rip through the whole economy and can have impacts on the societal scale." (via) [more inside]
An older man who has been watching the entire time approaches me and tells me that he’s sorry that I lost control of my boat and that he’s sure it’ll wash up on the beach somewhere. I assure him that the boat is on autopilot, going exactly where it’s supposed to be going. “And where is that?” he asks. “Hawaii.” [more inside]
Breakthrough solar cell captures CO2 and sunlight, produces burnable fuel “The new solar cell is not photovoltaic — it’s photosynthetic”
The case for optimism on climate change - "I'll finish with this story. When I was 13 years old, I heard that proposal by President Kennedy to land a person on the Moon and bring him back safely in 10 years. And I heard adults of that day and time say, 'That's reckless, expensive, may well fail.' But eight years and two months later, in the moment that Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, there was great cheer that went up in NASA's mission control in Houston. Here's a little-known fact about that: the average age of the systems engineers, the controllers in the room that day, was 26, which means, among other things, their age, when they heard that challenge, was 18." (via; previously) [more inside]
Tesla Powerwall Battery Economics: Almost There - "Elon Musk announced Tesla's home / business battery today. [video] tl;dr: It'll get enthusiastic early adopters to buy. The economics are almost there to make it cost effective for a wide market... That said, for large scale grid deployment (outside of the home), it still looks like flow batteries and advanced compressed air are likely to be far cheaper in the long run." [more inside]
UN Climate Report: We Must Focus On 'Decarbonization', and It Won't Wreck the Economy - "The basic message is simple: We share a planet. Let's start acting like it." [more inside]
Installed solar capacity is growing by leaps and bounds, led by Walmart and Apple, and helped by bonds backed by solar power payments,[*] which have sent industry stocks soaring, even as molten salt and new battery technologies come on line to generate storage for use when the sun doesn't shine. Of course we could always go to geostationary orbit -- or the moon -- as well we may (if politics allow it) as thirst from the developing world grows beyond the earth's carrying capacity. [more inside]
I love a sun-powered country, A land of deepening mines, of ragged nuclear plants, of biomass and hydropower
While developed countries are pondering whether they should sign up to The Kyoto 2 Protocol and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5% by 2020, based on 2000 levels which may be of questionable impact, the tiny Pacific territory of Tokelau has ditched its primary source of electricity generation, costly diesel imports, in favour of 100% renewable solar power, becoming the first nation in the world to do so, at a time when the global energy systems of the 21C are struggling towards decarbonisation. [more inside]
Earth Faces 12% Chance of "Catastrophic Solar Megastorm" by 2020 The last gigantic solar storm, known as the Carrington Event, occurred more than 150 years ago and was the most powerful such event in recorded history. [more inside]
Some interesting things have recently happened in the world of solar power: Evergreen and Solyndra have gone bankrupt, panel cost has gone sub $1.00/watt, and China has vastly increased production capacities. [more inside]
Most of the talk about renewable energy is aimed at electricity production. However, most of the energy we need is heat, which solar panels and wind turbines cannot produce efficiently. To power industrial processes like the making of chemicals, the smelting of metals or the production of microchips, we need a renewable source of thermal energy. Direct use of solar energy can be the solution, and it creates the possibility to produce renewable energy plants using only renewable energy plants, paving the way for a truly sustainable industrial civilization. [more inside]
Around one year ago we saw some of the recent events in solar power. At that time solar panels topped out at a peak efficiency of around 290W for a 1.99 x 0.99 meter 72-cell module, with a lone rare and expensive 315W module that was used to build team Germany's solar decathlon winning house. Since then prices have dropped a lot, and China is advancing in commodity tech. [more inside]
Solard Death Ray: Power of 5000 suns! [SLYT] The R5800: made from an ordinary fiberglass satellite dish, it is covered in about 5800 3/8" (~1cm) mirror tiles. When properly aligned, it can generate a spot the size of a dime with an intensity of 5000 suns! This amount of power is more than enough to melt steel, vaporize aluminum, boil concrete, turn dirt into lava, and obliterate any organic material in an instant. It stands at 5'9" and is 42" across.
Get the Energy Sector off the Dole - Why ending all government subsidies for fuel production will lead to a cleaner energy future—and why Obama has a rare chance to make it happen.
Solar power continues to become more economical with every passing month. The price of standard monocrystalline/polycrystalline 210W to 300W modules has halved, from above $3/watt to below $1.70/watt in the past 12 months. The Canadian province of Ontario has become the first location in North America to offer an aggressive feed-in tariff comparable to the feed-in tariffs in Germany and Spain, paying above 80 cents/kWh for power generated by small rooftop photovoltaic installations. The US federal government is also offering massive tax breaks for solar installations as part of the 2009 ARRA act. [more inside]
For the second time in two years a team from Germany has won the US Department of Energy's Solar Decathalon. This year's entry was a cube shaped house entirely covered in 300W and 70W solar panels generating a peak of 11.1kW. The DoE has published a complete product directory of all the subsystems and components used to build each house. Another notable design is the Canadian Team North house designed for optimal solar+insulation performance in high latitude climates.
A solar updraft tower generates electricity with nothing more than a greenhouse and a tall chimney. A 195 meter tall prototype in Spain cheaply operated at 50 kW for years. Now there are plans to build others, including a 40 MW tower, 750 meters tall (near twice as tall as the current tallest structure in the EU). Two others, a 200 MW tower in Australia (previously discussed) or a 400 MW tower in Namibia could become the tallest structure of any kind if built: 1km and 1.5km tall, respectively. Yet even those are dwarfed by the theoretical super chimney which could stand 5km tall and 1km wide. Such a tower would use the Earth's atmosphere itself as the greenhouse, could cause rain, reduce global warming and generate over 300,000 MW of "green" electricity. [more inside]
Meta-efficiency is the analysis of efficiency at a more comprehensive level. Metaefficient Review assesses products considering not only their energy efficiency but also the embodied energy, toxicity, affordability, and usability. [more inside]
MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for later use. [more inside]
The Solar Decathlon is a just-completed competition in which 20 teams of college and university students competed to design, build, and operate the most attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered house. View a photo gallery or take video tours of the homes. Inhabitat has been blogging the event - here's their view of Germany's winning entry. [more inside]
Solar Tower (text and video). "The rays of sunlight reflected by a field of 600 huge mirrors are so intense they illuminate the water vapour and dust hanging in the air."
Mike Strizki lives in the nation's first solar-hydrogen house. "The technology this civil engineer has been able to string together – solar panels, a hydrogen fuel cell, storage tanks, and a piece of equipment called an electrolyzer – provides electricity to his home year-round, even on the cloudiest of winter days. Mr. Strizki's monthly utility bill is zero – he's off the power grid – and his system creates no carbon-dioxide emissions. Neither does the fuel-cell car parked in his garage, which runs off the hydrogen his system creates."
Cheap solar power poised to undercut oil and gas. The "tipping point" will arrive when the capital cost of solar power falls below $1 per watt, roughly the cost of carbon power.
CitizenRe is a solar power rental company for the home. Free to install (!), a monthly rental fee is equal to what would normally be paid to the power company. Video.
The Edison of our age? Stanford Ovshinsky may not be a household name, but his inventions have the power to change the world.