- New Super-Powered Organic Solar Cells – We Can Has Solar-Powered Laptops Nao?
- Zero Contact EV Charging From Nissan (Really)
- We Told You Solar Power Was Great — America Agrees (Poll)
- Can Geoengineering Combat Climate Change?
- Easy Rooftop Solar Calculator “Sees” Your Roof’s Solar Potential
Posted: 18 Oct 2011 02:12 PM PDT
The solar power industry is hard at work (we think, based on neat things they all keep telling us) improving, refining, and redefining solar technology. This week, Molecular Solar Ltd informs us that they've got what they describe as a "significant breakthrough in the performance of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells." They've managed a record voltage output in organic PVs, which more or less means that yes, you can power your electronic devices with solar cells.
Since organic PVs are highly flexible and fairly low-cost, they can easily be integrated into a number of consumer electronics (think smartphone, laptop, perhaps iPod?). The limiting factor – until now – has been the low voltage output.
Molecular Solar, a spin-out from the University of Warwick, reports that it has developed organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells with open-circuit voltages in excess of 4 volts – which they believe is a record for an OPV device.
Yes, but what exactly did they say?
Dr Ross Hatton, Research Director of Molecular Solar, commented:
University of Warwick researcher Professor Tim Jones, Chief Technology Officer of Molecular Solar, added:
And When Do We Get The Goods?
There's no definite schedule yet for commercialization of Molecular Solar's new OPVs. The company is currently finalizing an investment round to complete up-scaling of the new technology. Personally, I'm hoping to get solar cells powering my laptop.
What portable electronics would you want to see powered by solar energy? Let us know in the comments below.
Posted: 18 Oct 2011 02:05 PM PDT
Posted: 18 Oct 2011 01:43 PM PDT
Finally, America agrees that something good for the environment is also good for the economy. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released a new poll this week, which showed that a high percentage of Americans agree solar power is a pretty good deal all around. 74% of those polled saw solar power as not only clean and green, but also as helping to produce jobs and bolster the economy. In fact, it was seen as the energy source most deserving of U.S. government support.
The technology behind solar heating and cooling has a number of variations, detailed in this fantastic post by CleanTechnica writer Breath on the Wind, depending on materials used for construction and what the consumer wants the panels to produce (heat or electricity).
If you're an American with a solar water heating system, you're one of a cool 1.5 million. If you installed it last year (for the home, or for a pool), you're one of over 65,000, according to SEIA – well done! Aside from helping Americans live greener, the U.S. solar industry is also one of the nation's net global exporters (which we could possibly consider a moral high point, yes?).
Monique Hanis, a SEIA spokesperson, says the poll only tells her what she already knew – but that the industry also needs to continue educating customers on the benefits of solar power. Specifically, of course, that solar power is cheap and reliable. (The sun's not going anywhere, right? And if it does, we've all got bigger problems than our electric bill.)
A manufacturing company in Milwaukee, WI – Caleffi North America Inc. – has chimed in with empirical evidence that the solar industry is helping small businesses and therefore the American economy. "We added several employees, nearly doubling our size since 2006," said Rex Gillespie, Director of Marketing.
Key Survey Findings
The findings of the survey are based on polling conducted from June 23 – 26, 2011, among a representative sample of 1,013 U.S. adults, age 18+. The margin of error on the total sample of 1,013 is +/- 3.1 percent. Survey was conducted independently by Gotham Research based in New York.
Let us know what you think about solar power – support or oppose! – in the comments, below.
Posted: 18 Oct 2011 05:48 AM PDT
Editor’s Note: I’m totally in the same boat as Pat Mooney on this topic. We have the solutions we need today to solve global warming (without geoengineering). While some geoengineering solutions (i.e. painting roofs white) are great, I wouldn’t trust our world leaders to safely or justly implement the larger ones for a second. Geoengineering could an even bigger disaster than global warming (one of the only things I can think of that could be). But it’s worth knowing how things are developing in this field, and these risky “solutions” should actually drive us towards faster installation of clean energy, in my opinion. So, here’s a piece from energyNOW! on geoengineering:
Climate change threatens an increasing list of worst-case scenarios: melting ice caps, rising sea levels, longer droughts, and more violent storms. Climate scientists have largely focused on reducing emissions to counter global warming, but a growing number view geoengineering as the Earth's last, best line of defense.
However, the concept is controversial and unproven, and it's unclear if it could work. energyNOW! correspondent Josh Zepps explores geoengineering, from simple measures to complex atmospheric efforts, to find out if it can combat climate change. The full video is available below:
Geoengineering, or climate engineering, is the study of manipulating the planet's climate to counteract global warming's effects. The potential solutions range from painting roofs white to absorb less heat, to launching trillions of transparent lenses a million miles into space to diffuse or divert sunlight before it reaches Earth.
Regardless of the method, the impact could be more significant than emissions reductions alone. "Geoengineering is the one way that you can potentially actually cool off the entire planet relatively quickly," said Samuel Thernstrom, policy advisor at Clean Air Task Force. "It's not clear that emissions can be reduced quickly enough to actually avoid fairly serious scenarios."
The geoengineering technology most often discussed is imitating volcanic eruptions. This method is based on the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption, which spewed a cloud of sulfate particles so large it cooled the Earth by about one degree for a few years. The effect, called solar radiation management, would scatter solar radiation across the atmosphere and back into space.
A promising aspect of this approach is the ability to apply it to specific geographic locations through high-altitude balloons. "Maybe I don't have to cover the whole globe with that volcanic aerosol," said Michael MacCracken of the Climate Institute. "Maybe I can imitate a high latitude volcano and just have the sulfate at high latitudes over the Arctic Ocean."
One of the first real-world geoengineering experiments will test this concept. The Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering project (SPICE) is a tethered balloon with a hose more than a dozen miles long to spray reflective particles into the upper atmosphere, and it could begin in Britain as soon as April 2012.
Another way of managing solar radiation is to generate more ocean cloud cover. "If you could make these clouds denser and therefore brighter, they would reflect more sunlight," said Thernstrom. "That is, at least theoretically, possible by spraying a very fine mist of salt water in the air, particles just the right size to help these clouds form." Some estimates say 1,000-2,000 wind-powered, remote-controlled, seawater-spraying ships could offset global warming, at least for now.
But the concept is not without critics, who say geoengineering could wreak havoc on our climate. "They could also knock the Asian monsoon off course, having it swing below South Asia, meaning that there'd be famine in South Asia and affect Africa in ways we're not even quite sure about," said Pat Mooney, executive director of Canada's ETC Group.
His concerns helped the United Nations impose a geoengineering moratorium in 2010. To Mooney, the only way to combat global warming is emissions reductions. "Those are real, credible solutions, and its not too late," he said.
But for geoengineering advocates, having no backup plan at all is the worst option, given global emissions levels. "The whole problem is that we're already interfering a great deal with the global climate," said Thernstrom. "We are, in fact, engaged in a vast global geoengineering experiment right now – it's just one that is entirely unintentional and uncontrolled."
Posted: 18 Oct 2011 04:45 AM PDT
The whole key to an efficient rooftop solar power system is finding the right roof in the right spot with the least shade, and now a team of scientists has developed a new system that can provide visual images of the rooftop solar potential for any existing building. The new solar calculator, called SEES for “Solar Energy from Existing Structures,” is provided free to companies and municipalities. At least, it’s free in Sweden – the system was developed at the Department of Earth Sciences at Gothenburg University. No word yet on its availability in the U.S., so keep your fingers crossed.
Seeing Rooftop Solar Potential with SEES
The new solar calculator is based on actual GIS (geographical information systems) and climate data, which means that rather than providing estimates, it provides real information on the actual surroundings of individual roofs, and simulates how that would affect the amount of sun hitting the roof. That includes surrounding buildings, trees and other vegetation, and even nearby hills or other geographical features that could cast a shadow. SEES wraps it all up in full color graphics, and it can also break down the shadow effect into individual months or provide a yearly average. It also enables you to calculate the shadow effect on different parts of a single roof.
Google Earth Provides Free Rooftop Solar Calculator
SEES may not be available (yet) to individuals in the U.S., but if you own a building and you’re curious about its rooftop solar potential, a new Google Earth-based system can give you at least a rough idea. Unfortunately, the system is available only in California (it was developed at the University of California, San Diego), so the rest of us will have to dream on. The U.S. Forest Service does have a nifty free online user-friendly urban tree analyzer called i-Tree, which could help you scope out the tree situation.
If you know of any free DIY solar rooftop calculators, please share them with our readers in the comment thread.
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