– Arizona solar plant achieves six hours after sun goes down (Phys.org, Oct 11, 2013):
Abengoa’s Solana plant in the desert near Gila Bend, Arizona, passed commercial testing this week The 280-megawatt Solana solar thermal power plant producing electricity without direct sunlight made the announcement on Wednesday. Abengoa said Wednesday that the facility, about 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, can store the sun’s power for six hours via thermal energy. The three -square-mile facility near Gila Bend uses concentrated solar power (CSP) technology to collect the sun’s heat. Thermal energy storage is Solana’s distinctive feature. At 280 megawatts, Solana is one of the largest plants using parabolic mirrors. Its 2,700 parabolic trough mirrors follow the sun to focus heat on a pipe containing a heat transfer fluid, which is a synthetic oil. The heat transfer fluid flows to steam boilers, where it heats water to create steam. The steam drives 140-megawatt turbines to produce electricity.
– World record solar cell with 44.7% efficiency (PhysOrg, Sep 24, 2013):
German Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin announced today that they have achieved a new world record for the conversion of sunlight into electricity using a new solar cell structure with four solar subcells. Surpassing competition after only over three years of research, and entering the roadmap at world class level, a new record efficiency of 44.7% was measured at a concentration of 297 suns. This indicates that 44.7% of the solar spectrum’s energy, from ultraviolet through to the infrared, is converted into electrical energy. This is a major step towards reducing further the costs of solar electricity and continues to pave the way to the 50% efficiency roadmap.
Back in May 2013, the German-French team of Fraunhofer ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin had already announced a solar cell with 43.6% efficiency. Building on this result, further intensive research work and optimization steps led to the present efficiency of 44.7%.
– A Material That Could Make Solar Power “Dirt Cheap” (MIT Technology Review, Aug 8, 2013):
Researchers discover that a material known for a hundred years could lower the cost of solar power.
A new type of solar cell, made from a material that is dramatically cheaper to obtain and use than silicon, could generate as much power as today’s commodity solar cells.
Although the potential of the material is just starting to be understood, it has caught the attention of the world’s leading solar researchers, and several companies are already working to commercialize it.
Researchers developing the technology say that it could lead to solar panels that cost just 10 to 20 cents per watt. Solar panels now typically cost about 75 cents a watt, and the U.S. Department of Energy says 50 cents per watt will allow solar power to compete with fossil fuel.
– Solar powered plane completes history-making cross-country flight, lands at JFK airport (Washington Post/Ap, July 7, 2013):
NEW YORK — A solar-powered aircraft completed the final leg of a history-making cross-country flight Saturday night, gliding to a smooth stop at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.The Solar Impulse touched down at JFK at 11:09 p.m., completing the final leg of the cross-continental journey that started in California in early May. For Saturday’s final leg, the aircraft left Dulles International Airport a little before 5 a.m.
The flight plan for the revolutionary plane, powered by some 11,000 solar cells on its oversized wings, had called for it to pass the Statue of Liberty before landing early Sunday at New York. But an unexpected tear discovered on the left wing of the aircraft Saturday afternoon forced officials to scuttle the fly-by and proceed directly to JFK for a landing three hours earlier than scheduled.
Pilot Andre Borschberg trumpeted the milestone of a plane capable of flying during the day and night, powered by solar energy, crossing the U.S. without the use of fuel.
– Germany Fires Live Ammo In Sino-European Trade War … At Brussels (Testosterone Pit, May 20, 2013):
The solar-panel industry, once fattened by taxpayer subsidies and false hopes, has been in a death spiral around the world. In the US, a slew of photovoltaic standouts like Solyndra went under, taking billions of subsidies and investor capital with them. In Germany, it has been just as brutal. Even large companies are licking their wounds.
Bosch Solar Energy AG will shut down production early next year, after having burned through €2.4 billion; 3,000 jobs are at risk. Siemens is trying to shed its solar units, if it can find a buyer. Victims of Chinese companies that flooded world markets with cheap solar panels. But even Chinese companies are going bankrupt, including one of the big four, Wuxi Suntech, subsidiary of US-listed Suntech Power.
– Boeing Subsidiary Spectrolab Sets World Record for Solar Cell Efficiency (Boeing, April 9, 2013):
- Highest ever energy conversion efficiency without solar concentration
- Increased efficiency for ground-based applications
SYLMAR, Calif., April 9, 2013 — A Spectrolab solar cell recently set a world record by converting more energy from the sun into electricity than any other ground-based solar cell without solar concentration.
The Boeing [NYSE: BA] subsidiary’s achievement in ground-based solar cell efficiency was verified by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.
The cell converted 37.8 percent of solar energy using a new class of high-efficiency multi-junction solar cell, created from two or more materials and leveraging Boeing technology that makes semiconductor materials more reliable. The record was set without concentration, the common practice of having lenses or mirrors focus solar rays on the cells.
– [Hope] Technology to produce solar cell from wood pulp is developed, “Manufacturing cost is 1/100,000″ (Fukushima Diary, Feb 19, 2013):
Associate professor Nogi from Osaka university developed the technology to produce solar cell from wood pulp with his developing team.
The manufacturing cost is 1/100,000 of the one with glass substrates, 1/500 ~ 5,000 of the one with plastic.
WATCH Deepika’s winning presentation …
– Girl, 14, is America’s Top Young Scientist: Her Solar-Powered Jug Cleans Water (GoodNewsNetwork, Oct 22, 2012):
A 14-year-old New York student was named “America’s Top Young Scientist” for inventing a solar-powered water jug that changes dirty water into purified drinking water. Deepika Kurup not only surpassed 9 finalists with her science and math skills to win $25,000 from Discovery Education and 3M, she persuaded the judges with a dynamic five-minute LIVE presentation about the plight of a billion poor people who have no access to clean drinking water.
– Toshiba to build Japan’s biggest solar plants in Fukushima (Reuters, June 20, 2012):
Toshiba Corp said on Wednesday it will begin building solar plants with a total generating capacity of 100 megawatts on the country’s disaster-hit northeastern coastline, making it the biggest solar project in Japan.
Electronics conglomerate Toshiba, which makes everything from lightbulbs to nuclear reactors, said it will spend around 30 billion yen ($379.6 million) t o build several large-scale solar plants in Minami Soma more than a year after a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Japan.
The project overtakes an earlier plan by Kyocera Corp , heavy machinery maker IHI Corp and Mizuho Corporate Bank, which said it will launch a 70-megawatt plant in southern Japan.
Toshiba said it will start building the plants this year and aim to start operations in 2014.
– Interview With Former US Army Intelligence Officer And Bestselling Author James Wesley Rawles: Global Economic Collapse – Gun Confiscation – How To Survive The End Of The World – If The Power Grid Goes Down We Are In A Massive Die Off Situation Where Literally More Than 50% Of The Population Of The Country Could Die In Just One Winter (Video)
– Reality check: When the power grid goes down, all grid-tie solar systems will go down with it (Natural News, June 16, 2012):
A lot of people believe they are becoming “power independent” by installing grid-tie solar systems, but what many don’t realize is that virtually all such systems are designed to actively go offline when the power grid goes offline.
A “grid-tie” solar system is one that ties into the power grid, pulling electricity from the grid when needed, then pushing excess electricity back into the grid when the local customer isn’t using the full capacity being generated by PV panels (photovoltaic). As long as the grid stays up, it’s a clever solution because it reduces or even eliminates the customer’s electric bills while generating “clean” energy.
– Germany sets new solar power record, institute says (Reuters, May 26, 2012):
German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour – equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity – through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank said.
The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022.
They will be replaced by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-mass.Norbert Allnoch, director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster, said the 22 gigawatts of solar power per hour fed into the national grid on Saturday met nearly 50 percent of the nation’s midday electricity needs.
“Never before anywhere has a country produced as much photovoltaic electricity,” Allnoch told Reuters. “Germany came close to the 20 gigawatt (GW) mark a few times in recent weeks. But this was the first time we made it over.”
(L-R) Associate Professor Tim Schmidt and his research partner Dr Klaus Lips at the Helmholtz Centre for Materials and Energy have made a breakthrough in solar cell technology. [Image: HZB/Philipp Dera]
– Breakthrough in solar cell efficiency (University of Sydney, April 18, 2012):
Low cost solar cells suitable for rooftop panels could reach a record-breaking 40 percent efficiency following an early stage breakthrough by a University of Sydney researcher and his German partners.
With Australian Solar Institute support, Associate Professor Tim Schmidt from the University’s School of Chemistry, together with the Helmholtz Centre Berlin for Materials and Energy, has developed a “turbo for solar cells”, called photochemical upconversion that allows energy, normally lost in solar cells, to be turned into electricity.
The finding has been published in the Energy & Environmental Science journal.
– Discovery of a ‘Dark State’ Could Mean a Brighter Future for Solar Energy (ScienceDaily, Dec. 15, 2011):
The efficiency of conventional solar cells could be significantly increased, according to new research on the mechanisms of solar energy conversion led by chemist Xiaoyang Zhu at The University of Texas at Austin.
Zhu and his team have discovered that it’s possible to double the number of electrons harvested from one photon of sunlight using an organic plastic semiconductor material.
“Plastic semiconductor solar cell production has great advantages, one of which is low cost,” said Zhu, a professor of chemistry. “Combined with the vast capabilities for molecular design and synthesis, our discovery opens the door to an exciting new approach for solar energy conversion, leading to much higher efficiencies.”
Zhu and his team published their groundbreaking discovery Dec. 16 in Science.
The maximum theoretical efficiency of the silicon solar cell in use today is approximately 31 percent, because much of the sun’s energy hitting the cell is too high to be turned into usable electricity. That energy, in the form of “hot electrons,” is instead lost as heat. Capturing hot electrons could potentially increase the efficiency of solar-to-electric power conversion to as high as 66 percent.
– German Village Achieves Energy Independence … And Then Some (BioCycle, August 2011, Vol. 52, No. 8, p. 37):
Wildpoldsried produces 321 percent more energy than it needs and is generating $5.7 million in annual revenue — a remarkable accomplishment for a modest farming community that has been able to invest in new municipal infrastructure without going into debt.
IN 1997, when the newly elected Mayor and Village Council of Wildpoldsried, Germany took their posts, everyone agreed that its goals should be to build new industry, keep initiatives local, bring in new revenues and create no debt. Those goals included construction of a new sports hall, theater stage, pub, and retirement house. Without going into debt, the mayor and council assumed it would take several decades to achieve. But clever thinking, a national policy that “paid back” on investments in renewable energy and a community-supported vision of environmental and economic stewardship, have led to fulfilling those goals in significantly less time. This article tells the story of Wildpoldsried, a small agricultural village in the state of Bavaria, which serves as a model of how to achieve community sustainability in the 21st century — and remain debt-free.
In May 2011, 14 years later, Mayor Arno Zengerle announced at a town hall meeting that it’s “half time” of his third term. He walked the community through a massive list of accomplishments that include nine new community buildings (including the school, gym and community hall) complete with solar panels, four biogas digesters with a fifth in construction, seven windmills with two more on the way, 190 private households equipped with solar, a district heating network with 42 connections, three small hydro power plants, ecological flood control and a natural wastewater system. Wildpoldsried (pop. <2,600) now produces 321 percent more energy than it needs and is generating 4.0 million Euro (US $5.7 million) in annual revenue. This is a remarkable accomplishment for a modest farming community that turned a village with no industry into an industry of renewable energy with the help of local entrepreneurs and pioneers. Small businesses have sprung up to sell and install technologies and provide services to the renewable energy installations — from solar panels to district heating to the anaerobic digesters and energy efficiency retrofits. Continue reading »
Solar power: Eric Jacqmain labelled his ‘death ray’ dish his ‘latest and greatest solar invention’ – and he is working on further developments
Power: This piece of wood stood no chance against Eric Jacqmain’s spectacular invention
While many teenagers are content to sit at home playing computer games, this one has set his sights on something a little more ambitious.
Eric Jacqmain, from Indiana in the US, covered an ordinary fibreglass satellite dish with 5,800 tiny mirror tiles – and made his very own ‘death ray’.
When aligned correctly it can generate a heat spot a couple of centimetres across, with an intensity of 5,000 shining suns, the 19-year-old claims.
The inventor then posted video of his invention on YouTube, with people commenting in awe of the power of the satellite.
A solar-powered pilotless plane which was built in the UK has been recognised as having smashed the world record for the longest time spent in the air by an unmanned autonomous vehicle (UAV), after staying aloft for two weeks.
The record-breaking flight took place in July over the US and has now been ratified by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), which governs air sports records. The 50kg craft remained airborne for 14 days, 22 minutes and 8 seconds – 11 times longer than the previous record.
Potential uses for the aircraft, which is built by defence technology company Qinetiq, include the long-distance tracking of hijacked ships and aerial monitoring of forest fires. Chris Kelleher, chief designer, said: “This aircraft can help track pirates off the Horn of Africa and also ensure that soldiers’ communications remain unaffected when fighting in mountainous or hilly terrain.”
Japan will launch the world’s first spacecraft tomorrow drawing its energy from a huge solar-powered sail.
Ikaros – which stands for Interplanetary Kite-Craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun – works on the same principle as a yacht, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
It will be launched from the island of Tanegashima aboard an H-IIA rocket before unfurling its ultra-thin membrane “sail” – half the thickness of a human hair – once it is in space.
Solar particles emitted by the sun will hit the 66ft sail to propel it through space towards Venus. Photons bounce off thousands of tiny mirrors to push it through the resistance-free environment.
And as the force acts continuously, a solar sail will eventually be able to reach speeds that are up to ten times greater than any rocket powered by conventional chemicals.
The 307kg craft also has engines that draw their energy from solar cells on the craft and act as a “hybrid” engine, primarily for steering it on its mission.
Yuichi Tsuda, deputy manager for the project, said: “We believe Ikaros will take six months to reach Venus, which we will use to test the craft and its responses, but after that we want it continue to fly for as long and as far as possible.” Continue reading »
Low-cost, more efficient solar cells mostly plastic
Photomicrograph of a silicon wire array embedded within a transparent, flexible polymer film. Credit: Caltech/Michael Kelzenberg
PORTLAND, Ore. – By growing arrays of silicon wires in a polymer substrate, researchers have demonstrated what they say are flexible solar cells that absorb up to 96 percent of incident light.
California Institute of Technology (Caltech) researchers said the wires are made up of 98 percent plastic, potentially lowering the cost of photovoltaics by using just 1/50th the amount of semiconductor material used today. In tests, the experimental solar cells demonstrated over 90 percent quantum efficiency, compared with 25 percent for the best silicon solar cells.
“By developing light-trapping techniques for relatively sparse wire arrays, not only did we achieve suitable absorption, but we also demonstrated effective optical concentration,” claimed Harry Atwater, director of Caltech’s Resnick Institute.
The silicon wires measure just 1 micron in diameter, but can be as long as 100 microns and can be embedded in a transparent polymer. Light is converted into electricity only inside the wires, but light not immediately absorbed bounces around inside the matrix until it enters another wire. The result, researchers said, is both high concentration and high efficiency in the material.
Solar cells based on the technique could potentially be very inexpensive to manufacture since only 2 percent of the materials are expensive semiconductors while the remainder is made from inexpensive plastic. Continue reading »
China Plans World’s Largest Solar Plant (Bloomberg)
Added: September 09, 2009
In this Sept. 7, 2009 photo released by First Solar, First Solar CEO Mike Ahearn, left, greets Chairman Wu Bangguo of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, in Phoenix.
NEW YORK (Reuters) – First Solar Inc said on Tuesday it plans to build the world’s largest solar plant in China in the first major foray by a U.S. company into the Asian nation’s fast growing alternative energy sector.
Under a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese government, First Solar will build a 2-gigawatt power plant, enough to power about 3 million Chinese households, at Ordos City, in Inner Mongolia, and consider building a new manufacturing plant in China.
The announcement comes as the solar industry struggles to emerge from a year-long slump that saw financing for new projects dry up and reduced subsidies in Spain create a glut of unsold cells and panels.
The project is part of China’s program to generate 10 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2010 and 15 percent by 2020 to help meet its growing energy appetite that has made the country the world’s top emitter of carbon dioxide.
Prize for ‘Sun in the box’ cooker
|At the heart of the idea is a simple black painted box…|
A cheap solar cooker has won first prize in a contest for green ideas.
The Kyoto Box is made from cardboard and can be used for sterilising water or boiling or baking food.
The Kenyan-based inventor hopes it can make solar cooking widespread in the developing world, supplanting the use of wood which is driving deforestation.
Other finalists in the $75,000 (£51,000) competition included a device for streamlining lorries, and a ceiling tile that cools hot rooms.
Organised by Forum for the Future, the sustainable development charity founded by Jonathan Porritt, the competition aims to support concepts that have “moved off the drawing board and demonstrated their feasibility” for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but have not gained corporate backing.
| With as many people as there are in the developing world today, they can’t just cook using trees – they’ll finish off all the trees
Jon Bohmer, Kyoto Energy
“The Kyoto Box has the potential to transform millions of lives and is a model of scalable, sustainable innovation,” said Peter Madden, the forum’s chief executive.
It is made from two cardboard boxes, which use reflective foil and black paint to maximise absorption of solar energy.
Covering the cooking pot with a transparent cover retains heat and water, and temperatures inside the pot can reach at least 80C.
As many as two billion people in the world use firewood as their primary fuel.
· Green energy glasshouses may transform arid areas
· Fresh water will end need to dig wells, say architects
The Sahara forest project will use seawater and solar power to grow food in greenhouses across the desert. Photograph: Exploration Architecture
Vast greenhouses that use sea water for crop cultivation could be combined with solar power plants to provide food, fresh water and clean energy in deserts, under an ambitious proposal from a team of architects and engineers.
The Sahara Forest Project, which is already running demonstration plants in Tenerife, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, envisages huge greenhouses with concentrated solar power (CSP), a technology that uses mirrors to focus the sun’s rays, creating steam to drive turbines to generate electricity.
The installations would turn deserts into lush patches of vegetation, according to its designers, and do away with the need to dig wells for fresh water, an activity that has depleted aquifers across the world.
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have set a world record in solar cell efficiency with a photovoltaic device that converts 40.8 percent of the light that hits it into electricity. This is the highest confirmed efficiency of any photovoltaic device to date.
Using parts easily available from your local stores, you can make a small solar power generator for $250 to $300. Great for power failures and life outside the power grid. Power your computer, modem, vcr, tv, cameras, lights, or DC appliances anywhere you go. Use in cabins, boats, tents, archaeological digs, or while travelling throughout the third world. Have one in the office store room in case of power failures in your highrise. I keep mine in my bedroom where it powers my cd player, turntable, lights, modem, laptop, and (ahem) a back massager. I run a line out the window to an 8″ x 24″ panel on the roof. Continue reading »
Spencer Ahrens, a 23-year-old mechanical engineer, was on MIT’s campus last week, holding a wooden plank, surrounded by onlookers.
Slowly, he turned that wooden plank before a series of mirrors that had been placed inside an aluminum frame, until the wood caught fire.
That was quite a moment, recalled Matthew Ritter, one of the onlookers.
“Let’s just say it was a small combustion for wood materials, but a giant explosion of solar energy,” he said.
Ahrens, Ritter and the other people who helped create the solar-powered dish that harnessed the sunlight that eventually burned the wood say they’ve just created the world’s most cost-efficient solar power system.
They also say these dishes may revolutionize global energy production.
“You can stick these things wherever there is a piece of sunlight, and power a home or an industrial plant,” said Ahrens, who just received his master’s degree from MIT.
Since January, he’s been working with Ritter, an Olin College student; Micah Sze, a recent graduate of MIT’s Sloan School of Management; University of California-Berkeley graduate and Broad Institute engineer Eva Markiewicz and MIT materials science student Anna Bershteyn.
Together, they built a 12-foot wide solar panel by piecing together lightweight aluminum tubes to make the frame. Inside, they arranged a series of mirrors and then attached a water-filled coil at the bottom of the frame.
When the frame is properly positioned, the mirrors will direct concentrated sunlight toward the coil.
As the water heats up, it is converted to steam, and that steam, the creators say, can be used to generate electricity to heat and cool homes and power machines.
They now say its design is so simple, it can be built and placed just about anywhere the sun shines.
“We made it by hand and transported the parts by car or by bike,” Ritter said.
The crew spent about $5,000 to build the dish, and according to MIT Sloan School of Management lecturer David Pelly, it is the cheapest way he’s seen to harness that much sun power.
“I’ve looked for years at a variety of solar approaches, and this is the cheapest I’ve seen,” he said.
Ahrens, Ritter and the others are now packing up and moving to California, where they plan to mass-produce the dishes, probably for less than it cost to build the first one.
Their new company is called RawSolar, and Ahrens said its possibilities are endless.
“The energy crisis affects so much of what we do,” Ahrens said. “It’s driving food prices and water problems and airline fares, and we are trying to work through these things in an environmentally and economically sustainable way.”
After all, he said, “Sunlight is free.”
Source: Boston Herald
Before we get to Ray Kurzweil’s plan for upgrading the “suboptimal software” in your brain, let me pass on some of the cheery news he brought to the World Science Festival last week in New York.
Do you have trouble sticking to a diet? Have patience. Within 10 years, Dr. Kurzweil explained, there will be a drug that lets you eat whatever you want without gaining weight.
Worried about greenhouse gas emissions? Have faith. Solar power may look terribly uneconomical at the moment, but with the exponential progress being made in nanoengineering, Dr. Kurzweil calculates that it’ll be cost-competitive with fossil fuels in just five years, and that within 20 years all our energy will come from clean sources.
Are you depressed by the prospect of dying? Well, if you can hang on another 15 years, your life expectancy will keep rising every year faster than you’re aging. And then, before the century is even half over, you can be around for the Singularity, that revolutionary transition when humans and/or machines start evolving into immortal beings with ever-improving software.
At least that’s Dr. Kurzweil’s calculation. It may sound too good to be true, but even his critics acknowledge he’s not your ordinary sci-fi fantasist. He is a futurist with a track record and enough credibility for the National Academy of Engineering to publish his sunny forecast for solar energy.
He makes his predictions using what he calls the Law of Accelerating Returns, a concept he illustrated at the festival with a history of his own inventions for the blind. In 1976, when he pioneered a device that could scan books and read them aloud, it was the size of a washing machine.
Two decades ago he predicted that “early in the 21st century” blind people would be able to read anything anywhere using a handheld device. In 2002 he narrowed the arrival date to 2008. On Thursday night at the festival, he pulled out a new gadget the size of a cellphone, and when he pointed it at the brochure for the science festival, it had no trouble reading the text aloud.
This invention, Dr. Kurzweil said, was no harder to anticipate than some of the predictions he made in the late 1980s, like the explosive growth of the Internet in the 1990s and a computer chess champion by 1998. (He was off by a year – Deep Blue’s chess victory came in 1997.) Continue reading »