Spain Touts Tower of Power

Tower Energizes Thousands of Homes

In Seville, Spain, there is a massive tower of  "power".  Solar power, that is.  This solar station, dubbed PS10, is a 300 foot tall tower surrounded by 624 solar panels that will generate enough electricity to power 60,000 homes.  Along with this tower, there is a secondary plant, or station, that is composed of 154 panels that will generate enough electricity for about 1800 homes. 

The tower works by the use of mirrors and photovoltaic panels. These track the sun throughout the year.  They collect the sun's energy, which heats water, at the top of the tower.  This water turns into steam and is then used to turn turbines to generate electricity.


Could Solar Highways Power Our Cities?

Australia Uses Roadways to Create Electricity

Could Solar Highways be the answer to the energy crisis?  In Australia, some brilliant minds have conceived a notion to put up solar "sound barriers" along their highways that not only keep the noise pollution down, but also create power for the homes that are protected from that sound. 

Because solar power usually requires a lot of space, they have designed a wall, which contains solar panels, that runs parallel with the highways.  The first installation was completed at the Tullamarine Calder Interchange in Australia.  This sound barrier contains 500 meters of solar panels with a public display unit that shows how much energy is being produced.  And since there is a residential area just on the other side of the barrier, the power doesn't have far to travel to be put to use.

It is expected that, when completed, the installation will provide 18.7 megawatts per year and will pay for itself in approximately 15 years.


New Solar Cell Will Save Money

New Zealand Researchers Create New "Natural" Cell

Solar cells can be very expensive, mainly because of the silicon that is used to make them.  Silicon, itself, is not expensive, but making it available for solar cells can cost a lot.  A group of researchers in New Zealand have discovered a much cheaper way to create solar cells.  They have developed a new range of dyes that imitate nature-like chlorophyll-to be used in dye sensitized solar cells. These cells will cost about 10% of what silicon cells now cost.

These synthetic dyes are made from simple organic compounds that are closely related to those found in nature.  Green is a synthetic chlorophyll made from light-harvesting pigment that plants use for photosynthesis.  Other dyes that are being tested are based on hemoglobin, the compound that gives blood its color.

The researchers say that, unlike the other silicon based solar cells on the market, these cells (a 10cm x 10 cm cells) can generate enough energy to power a small fan in low light conditions, making them more useful in "less than sunny" areas.


Nano Antennas

INL Finds Way to Harvest Heat

INL, or Idaho National Laboratory, a Department of Energy Lab, has come up with a unique idea.  Using waste heat for energy.  What is waste heat?  It is heat that is merely discarded, or in this case disregarded.  Even after the sun goes down, the Earth stores heat, but no one has come up with a way to harness that until now.

A group of scientists at INL have developed a thin sheet of plastic that contains billions of nano antennas that are able to collect solar energy even after the sun goes down.  They are dubbing these "nantennas".  The process is inexpensive and, when perfected, will revolutionize the solar industry. 

These minute antennas absorb mid-infrared rays.  These rays are constantly emitted by the Earth after it has absorbed the sun's energy.  Because these rays are being constantly emitted, the nantennas can absorb them both night and day.  Making the creation of energy an on-going process. This technology could be used to harvest "heat" from computers, buildings or any other process (coal plants) that emits heat.

Nano antennas are actually very small golden spirals or squares stamped onto polyethylene.  These are able to absorb 80% of the energy contained in infrared wavelengths.  This causes the nano antennas to oscillate with alternating current at the rate of a trillion times per second.

A special "rectifier" will need to be created that will turn this alternating current into a usable direct current.  Current rectifiers are not able to work with such a high frequency oscillation. 

This technology is expected to be available in the next 3-6 years.


Meet the Sunflower

Sunflower Receives Certification From Underwriter's Laboratories

A new product called the Sunflower is making itself known on the solar power front.  The Sunflower PV concentrator is the first of its kind to get Underwriters Laboratories certification and to be deemed safe for roofs. By receiving the certification, it opens the doors to qualifying for much sought after rebates.  This type of concentrator doesn't require any roof penetration to install and is self-powered. 

The system concentrates sunlight more than 1,000 times, thus making it much cheaper than other PV systems. 


Japan Goes "Out There"

JAXA Plans To Launch Solar Array

Japan is really "out there".  They have come up with a space-based solar array that will beam power back to Earth.  JAXA, the Japanese version of NASA is launching a small scale test to see if they can get enough power over the 2.4GHz band to power a household heater at 50 meters.  If the tests are successful, they hope to launch a constellation of solar panels that would each beam power to a 1.8 mile wide receiving station that will produce 1 gigawatt of power.  That's enough electricity to power 500,000 homes.



Arnold Schwarzenegger Calls For Million Solar Roofs

Californiz Governor Wants Californians To Look To The Sun

California Governor, Arnold Swarzenegger, has proposed a law that would create a rebate program for a "Million Solar Roofs" program that he would like to see put in place.  The state has just 20,000 "solar roofs" at this point in time.  He would like to see solar power replace the natural gas powered energy plants in his state.  3,000 megawatts of production would replace 3 natural gas plants.

With the 20,000 roofs and the solar power plant in the desert, it only created 660 megawatts in all of 2007.  It only takes 40 minutes for that much electricity to be produced by Rosemead, a natural gas plant in Redlands.   

The California Public Utilities Commission is willing to kick in $3.2 Billion in consumer rebates to get the ball rolling, so to speak. The state's earlier incentive programs have run out of money and had to shut down.  Swarzenegger is hoping that this new plan will have more Californians looking to the sun, not only on the beaches but on their rooftops, as well.




Solar Powered Transmitters Help Scientists Track Turtles

You've heard of the internet, even sneakernet?  How about turtlenet?  Scientists from the University of Massachusetts were having a hard time trying to track snapping turtles, in trying to find out how they are coping with the loss of habitat, but turtlenet has come to the rescue. 

Transmitters that communicate with each other and a base computer at the school 15 miles away are glued to the backs of the turtles.  These are solar powered and have GPS and WiFi capabilities.  No more sloshing through swamps for the scientists.  The turtle to turtle information is gathered and transmitted back to the University once a day.  There are no batteries to recharge and the information is always up to date and mobile.


Times Square Gets a Solar Billboard

First Sign of Its Kind in Times Square

Times Square will boast a new sign this New Year's Eve.  This 47 ft. high and 126 ft. long billboard will be powered by solar panels and wind turbines.  It will wrap around the corner of Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street.   The "eco-friendly" sign is the first of its kind in Times Square and the Eastern States.  It will drop carbon dioxide emissions by 18 tons per year. The solar and wind will power a floodlight to "light it up", and when there isn't enough sun or wind to run the floodlight, it will still be visible.


Napa Valley Implements Solar

Grape Growers Go Solar

Solar power is becoming ever more far reaching.  In fact, it is reaching into Napa Valley and into the wine producing industry.  One farm in California has installed nearly 2,000 solar panels on a 1.1 acre area.  They are also installing another 2,300 panels, including 1,000 panels on a floating system in an irrigation pond that they have dubbed "floatovoltaics". All in all, the panels will produce 770 KW  at peak times.

California is a forward thinking state and the wine producers want to do all they can to keep the climate where it is.  If the climate changes, the grapes and wine change, so "green" solutions are helping all of us.

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