Tag Archives: solar

Finally, A Solar Panel That You Can Actually See Through!

Solar power technology has been advancing rapidly in recent years. The rapidly decreasing cost and increasing efficiency of solar power has set off a solar revolution worldwide.

Germany, which is currently using solar to produce 50% of its total energy, has led the charge, along with the rest of Europe.

Other countries, like India, have made the expansion of solar infrastructure a primary focus.

The growth of solar power in the last 15 years. Click to enlarge

Now, there’s a new advancement which could end up being the tipping point in the solar revolution: a totally transparent solar concentrator.

The “transparent luminescent solar concentrator” can be placed over windows to gather solar power while still allowing people to actually see through the window.

The concentrator, which was designed by a team of researchers from Michigan State University, can also be used on cell phones or pretty much anything with a clear surface.

Other people have tried to design transparent solar concentrators before, but the materials they used were inefficient (in terms of energy  production) and created some pretty obvious tints on the window.

“No one wants to sit behind colored glass… It makes for a very colorful environment, like working in a disco. We take an approach where we actually make the luminescent active layer itself transparent,”

said Robert Lunt, an engineering professor at MSU who led the research.

A close up of the solar concentrator (Photo: Yimu Zhao)
A close up of the solar concentrator (Photo: Yimu Zhao)

This new solar concentrator uses tiny organic molecules that were specifically designed by Lunt and his team to absorb wavelengths of light that are invisible to the naked eye.

“We can tune these materials to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near infrared wavelengths that then ‘glow’ at another wavelength in the infrared,”

said Lunt while explaining the process. This infrared light is then directed to the edges of the concentrator, where tiny strips of photovoltaic cells convert it into electricity.

Since the molecules used to capture the energy are specifically designed to not absorb or emit light within the visible spectrum, the concentrator appears to be almost completely transparent to the naked eye.

The electromagnetic spectrum. Click to enlarge

The technology is innovative, functional and versatile. Lunt believes it could ultimately become a huge part of our lives:

“It can be used on tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader. Ultimately we want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there.”

Read the original story from Science Daily here.

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India Building BY FAR the World’s Biggest Solar Power Plant

The project will be more than 10 times larger than any other solar project in existence today.

6 different state-owned companies will take part in the joint venture, which has a price tag of $4.4 billion.

Lake Sambhar (courtesy of NASA)
Lake Sambhar (courtesy of NASA)

Solar cells will stretch 77 square kilometers, an area larger than the island of Manhattan. The aerial image above shows Lake Sambhar, the designated site of the new plant.

The plant will have a capacity of 4,000 megawatts, about 4 times more than an average full-size nuclear plant.

According to Parimita Mohanty, a fellow at the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi, the new project could reduce the country’s carbon emissions by more than 4 million tons per year.

Read the full story from the journal Nature here.

What Are Earthships and Why Do They Look So Cool?? (Picture Gallery)

According to earthship.com, earthships are,

the epitome of sustainable design and construction. No part of sustainable living has been ignored in this ingenious building.”

The term was popularized (and trademarked) by Mike Reynolds, an architect who is the leading pioneer in the field. Check out some pictures of some of the coolest earthships already in existence (click an image to enlarge):

Earthships are built using 6 fundamental design principles:

  1. All heating and cooling uses natural thermal or solar energy;
  2. Electricity is independently generated using solar or wind power, with excess stored in batteries for later;
  3. ALL water must be collected naturally (through rain, snow melt, etc.) and used 4 times;
  4. ALL water is recycled, with sewage water being treated on-site and reused as gray water for the flushing of toilets for example, and other used water (like from washing dishes and clothes) re-used for things like small-scale food production;
  5. All materials must either be naturally available locally or recycled (earth-filled tires, for example, are a popular material);
  6. Food is produced organically using recycled water with the goal of reducing or completely eliminating reliance on supermarkets

For more, check out earthship.com.

Peru Is Giving FREE Solar Power to 2 Million of Its Poorest Residents by 2016

The initiative, known as The National Photovoltaic Household Electrification Program, began back in July, when 1,601 solar panels (like the ones below) were installed in the Peruvian province Contumaza, providing a reported 126 impoverished communities with power.

Peru’s Energy and Mining Minister, Jorge Merino, told the Latin American Herald that upon completion of the project, 95% of Peruvians will have electricity, compared with just 66% today. Merino went on to say,

This program is aimed at the poorest people, those who lack access to electric lighting and still use oil lamps, spending their own resources to pay for fuels that harm their health.”

The project wil build a total of 12,500 new photovoltaic systems and reach half a million households. The entire program will cost only $200 million, which is less than half of 1% of the country’s total public expenditures last year.

Are You Ok With a Power Plant on the Moon? (Video)

Tokyo-based company Shimizu intends to do just that.

Japan, with its limited space and extremely dense population, is always trying to figure out new ways to keep up with its ever-growing energy demands. To solve this problem (and potentially energy problems worldwide), Shimizu Corp. wants to lay a 250-mile wide strip of solar panels around the equator of the moon (so that solar energy is being collected no matter where the moon is in its orbital cycle).

From Shimizu Corp. (click to enlarge)

According to Shimizu, the proposed “Luna Ring”, as it’s being called, would be able to generate 13,000 terawatts of power to Earth per year, using either lasers or microwave radiation to send the energy to “receiving stations” back on Earth. For perspective, the US generated just 4,100 terawatts of power in 2011.

Shimizu is aiming to start construction in 2035. No word on the budget yet. Here’s a video about the planned project.

For more information, read the full article here.