Idaho company debuts solar power sidewalks

Nicholas K. Geranios for AP:  Scott Brusaw has a vision for the nation's roads.

He believes the solar-powered glass pavers his company makes could transform thousands of miles of pavement into a new energy source.

His business, Solar Roadways, recently unveiled its first public installation, in a downtown plaza in this northern Idaho resort town. It's 150 square feet of hexagon-shaped solar panels that people can walk and bicycle on.

The company is working on proof that the panels, for which it has a patent, are strong enough and have enough traction to handle motor vehicles, including semitrailers.

"Our plan is to replace all the asphalt and concrete," said Brusaw, noting concrete occupies over 48,000 square miles in the U.S. "If you cover it with solar panels, we can make three times our energy needs."

Solar Roadways is among a growing number of companies embracing renewable energy as the U.S. aims to reduce carbon emissions by one-third from 2005 levels by 2030.  Cont'd...

This New Wind Turbine Could Power Japan for 50 Years After One Typhoon

Nick Mafi for Architectural Digest:  A typical typhoon produces wind speeds between 98 and 120 m.p.h. and usually leaves behind a trail of destruction. But a Japanese engineer has plans to harness a typhoon’s incredible wind energy and use it to power the nation. Atsushi Shimizu has just invented the world’s first typhoon-powered wind turbine—a roughly 18-foot structure that, with its three distinct prongs, somewhat resembles an egg beater. Don’t be fooled by the simple design, however. According to the Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory, a mature typhoon can produce a level of kinetic energy equivalent to about half of the world’s electrical generating capacity. That means that after a single typhoon, Shimizu’s invention could power Japan for up to 50 years. Add in the frequency of the country’s typhoons—anywhere from three to seven each year—and the potential for massive quantities of renewable energy is unmistakable.  Cont'd...

New solar panel integrates battery storage, inverter, and smart software into a single unit

Derek Markham for TreeHugger:  This startup is reinventing the solar panel, and aims to cut the cost of integrating clean power and energy storage to homes by half.

Home solar has the potential to reduce, and even eliminate, electricity costs for many people, but even with the rapid advancements we're seeing in solar technology, there are still weak points that can be addressed and overcome, such as energy storage and 'smart' home integration. But a newcomer to the residential solar scene believes it has the answer, in the form of a standalone solar and battery unit which can be used singly or connected in an array, and which may be able to lower the overall costs considerably.

SunCulture's SolPad solar device integrates solid state batteries directly into the solar panels themselves, offering its users the ability to not only generate their own clean electricity, but to also store if for use after dark or during peak demand times, when electricity costs are higher. The SolPad units also incorporate an inverter, which converts the electricity from the DC generated and stored by the device to the AC required by most household appliances, and includes "intelligent software" that communicates with both the users and with their home's systems, allowing for granular control over which rooms or devices will receive the solar power.  Cont'd...

Full Press Release:

The Future of Bio-Inspired Batteries

A major advantage that bio-inspired batteries have as compared to other batteries is their ability to allow an instant recharge.

Elon Musk aims to unveil Tesla solar power roof next month

Robert Ferris for CNBC:  Elon Musk tweeted on Thursday that he hopes to unveil a Tesla/SolarCity solar roof with a new integrated battery pack and Tesla car charger on Oct. 28.


Musk first began teasing the next generation Powerwall at an event for Tesla owners in Paris earlier this year, according to Electrek. At the time, he had said the company would roll out the new battery in "July or August."

SolarCity's merger with Tesla has aroused skepticism and even ire from some investors and analysts, even after Musk outlined his reasons for combining the two companies in his second installment of his "Master Plan" in late July.  Cont'd...

Making Biofuel a Cost-Effective, Renewable Source of Energy

Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are using multiphysics simulation to better understand and optimize the conversion process for plant-derived biofuels.

SunPower Embraces Drones and Robots to Help Evolve Its Solar Farms

Katie Fehrenbacher for Fortune:  Solar panel maker and farm developer SunPower is embracing the latest in computing technology to help lower the cost of its solar panel farms while minimizing the impact that the farms have on land.

The Richmond, Calif.-based company on Tuesday announced an array of new technology that it’s using to design, build, operate, and monitor big solar panel farms that are built to sell energy to utilities and large companies.  Cont'd...

Read Press Release:

Silicon Carbide (SiC) Inverter Technology Increases Efficiency to 99%

The efficiency gain equals to approximately $2.5M additional energy being produced over a 100MW power plant's lifetime, on average at the global level.

Transparent solar panels are 50 times more productive than regular photovoltaics

Luke Dormehl for DigitalTrends:  As the term “regular windows” suggests, users don’t have to replace the existing windows in their home, but need only treat them with a special process developed by the company.

“We apply liquid coatings to glass and plastic surfaces at ambient pressure, and dry these coatings at low temperature to produce transparent films,” Conklin continued. “We repeat these processes, and then collectively these coatings — and thus the glass and plastic surfaces — generate electricity.”

Of these coatings, the most important is the so-called “Active Layer,” through which electricity is generated by the absorption of light, and the transparent conductors, which allow the electricity to be extracted. “[The] coatings are primarily organic, primarily from carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen,” Conklin said. “We are constantly refining each of the layers to improve on the power we’re able to extract from these coatings and enhance their manufacturability.”  Cont'd...

Solar cell is more efficient, costs less than its counterparts

Massachusetts Institute of Technology via Science Daily:  A team of researchers from MIT and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology may have found a way around this seemingly intractable tradeoff between efficiency and cost. The team has developed a new solar cell that combines two different layers of sunlight-absorbing material to harvest a broader range of the sun's energy. The researchers call the device a "step cell," because the two layers are arranged in a stepwise fashion, with the lower layer jutting out beneath the upper layer, in order to expose both layers to incoming sunlight. Such layered, or "multijunction," solar cells are typically expensive to manufacture, but the researchers also used a novel, low-cost manufacturing process for their step cell.

The team's step-cell concept can reach theoretical efficiencies above 40 percent and estimated practical efficiencies of 35 percent, prompting the team's principal investigators -- Masdar Institute's Ammar Nayfeh, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and MIT's Eugene Fitzgerald, the Merton C. Flemings-SMA Professor of Materials Science and Engineering -- to plan a startup company to commercialize the promising solar cell.  Cont'd...

Indian Scientists Design Solar Tree to Save Space for Solar Power Generation

Anjana Pasricha for VOA News: Indian scientists have designed a “solar tree” that they hope will help overcome one of the key challenges the country faces in the generation of solar power.

With photovoltaic panels placed at different levels on branches made of steel, “solar trees” could dramatically reduce the amount of land needed to develop solar parks.

“It takes about four-square meters of space to produce energy which otherwise would have required 400 square meters of space. So almost 100 times the space is saved, which as you know is very valuable,” said Daljit Singh Bedi, chief scientist at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in New Delhi, whose laboratory in Kolkata developed the tree.

A scarce resource in India, acquisition of land to develop roads, factories and other infrastructure is a sensitive issue that has led to frequent and sometimes violent protests from displaced people.  Cont'd...

US Energy Dept says "holy grail" of clean energy storage is imminent


Cat Distasio for inhabitat:  Many countries are on the brink of becoming self-sufficient in their clean energy production, thanks to advances in battery technology that allow electricity from renewable sources to be stored and used on demand. Over the years, as renewable energy generation methods have charged forward, utility companies have struggled with how to integrate that clean energy in usable ways. Now, scientists at Harvard, MIT, Stanford, the Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge labs, and other agencies are working on energy storage projects funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, with their sights set on what the department calls the ‘holy grail’ of energy policy. The department says the industry could be transformed in as little as five to ten years.

Earlier this year, Advanced Research Projects-Energy (ARPA-E), the division of the U.S. Department of Energy founded in 2009 to oversee these projects, claimed to have achieved that goal. Without pointing to a specific invention or discovery, ARPA-E insists that the solution lies amid the 75 projects the agency is funding. The breakthrough technology—the next generation of renewable energystorage—is expected to be developed for large-scale usage in as little as five to ten years.  Cont'd...

SolarCity to develop roofs made of solar cells

Lucas Mearian for ComputerWorld:  Five million roofs are replaced each year in the U.S., so instead of simply swapping out old shingles with new ones, why not turn the whole roof into a solar power generator that's integrated with your home's electrical utility?

That is SolarCity's plan for a new product it expects to begin producing next year, according to statements made during the company's second-quarter earnings calllast week.

During the call, SolarCity Chief Technology Officer Peter Rive alluded to a new product that would be produced at the soon to open Buffalo, N.Y., solar panel manufacturing facility. Then SolarCity co-founder and Chairman Elon Musk interjected and said the product would be a solar roof, "as opposed to a [solar] module on a roof."  Cont'd...

Renewable energy storage revolutionised by flywheel device

Tereza Pultarova for Engineering & Technology Magazine:  A flywheel-based device invented by a Lancaster University student could help solve the renewable energy storage problem, offering a better alternative to battery technology.

The Flywheel Energy Store, designed by 21-year-old Abigail Carson, retains energy kinetically in a levitating floating mass. The flywheel, about the size of a football, doesn’t require any additional control mechanisms, inputs or maintenance.

“The global energy crisis is the biggest and most urgent problem that needs addressing,” said Carson, who is awaiting a patent for the device. “The Flywheel Energy Store can be used for a vast range of applications – most significantly in providing energy security and independence for everyone globally, but also including eliminating waste in power networks, pumping water to villages and allowing for cleaner cooking and heating in developing countries, instant charging of electric vehicles, and off-grid energy storage.”

Carson’s flywheel can rotate at up to 144,000 revolutions per minute (rpm). The majority of existing flywheel designs usually achieve a maximum of around 60,000rpm.  Cont'd...

New High-Temperature Device Captures a Broader Solar Wavelength Spectrum and Improves Solar Cell Efficiency

Using a heat-resistant device, made of tungsten and alumina layers, researchers from Aalborg University have found that the device can absorb the sun's broad spectrum radiation and convert it to electricity

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