Tagsolar power

Why the Solar Roadways Project on Indiegogo is Actually Really Silly

Solar Roadways

Joel Anderson says the Solar Roadways that raised over $1.5 million is visionary but extremely impractical:

But why NOT use our roads? I mean, roofs, roads, who cares, right? Well, in short, because we drive our cars there. Our big, metal, heavy cars. There’s currently a virtually endless supply of places you could install solar panels that DON’T have cars driving over them and, as such, don’t require fancy high-tech glass covering them. Or, for that matter, don’t mean you have to worry about the long term wear-and-tear of millions of tons of steel and rubber driving over them at high speed every year.

This, I’m guessing, is why the question of cost doesn’t come up at any point in either the IndieGoGo video OR the couple’s website. It’s why their idea doesn’t actually make any sense. This is basically just a pitch for a new way to install solar capacity that would cost a lot more than the ways we currently have for installing solar capacity. Which might make sense if we had already exhausted our options for places we could build solar panels on the cheap (we haven’t).

Full Story: Equities: Why the Solar Roadways Project on Indiegogo is Actually Really Silly

(via GlobalInfoWatch)

Nano Breakthrough Paves Way For Super Cheap Solar Panels

New from me at Wired, a graphene inspired photovoltaics breakthrough:

Two things hold back the mass adoption of solar energy as a source of sustainable energy. One is the need to store and transmit excess power, a problem people like Danielle Fong are working on solving by developing innovative new ways to store power. The other is the high cost of solar panels. One of the reasons solar panels are so expensive is that it’s tricky to extract electric currents from semiconductors, the materials used to convert solar radiation into electrical energy.

Up til now, this could only be done with a few materials — usually silicon. But a new breakthrough will enable manufacturers to make efficient photovoltaics using almost any semiconductor, including cheap and abundant materials like metal oxides, sulfides, and phosphides.

A typical photovoltaic cell is built with silicon and treated with chemicals. This treatment is called “doping,” and it creates the driving force needed to extract power from the cell. Photovoltaics can also be built with cheaper materials but many of these can’t be doped chemically. But a method developed by Professor Alex Zettl’s research group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley makes it possible to dope nearly any semiconductor by applying an electric field instead of chemicals. The method is described in a paper published in the journal Nano Letters.

Wired Enterprise: Nano Breakthrough Paves Way For Super Cheap Solar Panels

See also: Real-Life Steampunk Wants to Hack the Power Grid

Photo courtesy of Paul Takizawa, the Zettl Research Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley.

A 50-Watt Cellular Network

solar powered cell tower

An Indian telecom company is deploying simple cell phone base stations that need as little as 50 watts of solar-provided power. It will soon announce plans to sell the equipment in Africa, expanding cell phone access to new ranks of rural villagers who live far from electricity supplies.

Technology Review: A 50-Watt Cellular Network

(via Edge of Tomorrow)

Who’s going to start settings these sorts of things up in American cities to power decentralized wireless networks?

Tobacco Plants Tapped to Grow Solar Cells

tobacco plants

Tobacco plants could help wean the world from fossil fuels, according to scientists from the University of California, Berkeley.

In a paper in the journal ACS Nano Letters, Matt Francis and his colleagues used genetically engineered bacteria to produce the building blocks for artificial photovoltaic and photochemical cells. The technique could be more environmentally friendly than traditional methods of making solar cells and could lead to cheap, temporary and biodegradable solar cells.

“Over billions of years, evolution has established exactly the right distances between chromophore to allow them to collect and use light from the sun with unparalleled efficiency,” said Francis. “We are trying to mimic these finely tuned systems using the tobacco mosaic virus.”

Discovery: Tobacco Plants Tapped to Grow Solar Cells

(via John Robb)

California gives green light to space solar power

solar from space

Energy beamed down from space is one step closer to reality, now that California has given the green light to a deal involving its sale. But some major challenges will have to be overcome if the technology is to be used widely.

On Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission gave its blessing to an agreement that would see the Pacific Gas and Electric Company buy 200 megawatts of power beamed down from solar-power satellites beginning in 2016.

A start-up company called Solaren is designing the satellites, which it says will use radio waves to beam energy down to a receiving station on Earth.

The attraction of collecting solar power in space is the virtually uninterrupted sunshine available in geosynchronous orbit. Earth-based solar cells, by contrast, can only collect sunlight during daytime and when skies are clear.

New Scientist: California gives green light to space solar power

(via Dangerous Minds)

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