By Eleanor Goldberg for The Huffington Post: While there are many technologies out there than can effectively remove salt from water to make it drinkable, most are expensive and rely heavily on electricity –- rendering them all but useless in remote, off-grid villages. That’s why a group of engineers from MIT, backed by Jain Irrigation Systems, set out to invent a system that relies on solar energy to bring clean drinking water to rural areas in India, The Washington Post reported. About 21 percent of India’s communicable diseases are related to unsafe water, according to the World Bank. According to MIT researchers 60 percent of India has brackish groundwater -- while not toxic, that water is too salty to be ideal for human consumption. The group, which took home the first-place Desal Prize last month in the “Securing Water for Food” challenge, used a method called electrodialysis, which relies on electricity and ultraviolet rays, according to the aid organization. The first-place winners were awarded a $140,000 grant. Cont'd...
A road made of solar panel material is producing more energy than the creators expected. Engineers created a solar power bike path near Amsterdam that is over 200 feet long last year, and the road generated over 3,000kwh during the first six months, according to Al Jazeera, enough energy to power a house for a year. The company that created the road, SolaRoad, claims that means the road can produce 70kwh per square meter per year. The road is made of solar panels, glass, rubber and concrete. The road can either power street lamps or add power to the general grid. Over 150,000 cyclists have ridden on bike path without a problem since the project began. The path is made to be non-reflective and to prevent skidding. SolaRoad is still refining its materials to make them even more weather proof and efficient, and the company hopes to expand to larger areas in the future.
Bill Tucker for Forbes: Vortex Bladeless is a radical company. It wants to completely change the way we get energy from the wind. Think wind stick instead of a massive tower with blades that capture blowing winds. Wind stick. Really. Lest you think I’m mad, I’ve included a picture of this bladeless generator that helps with the visualization and explains the company name. See? There are no blades. What that “stick” (the company prefers, mast) does is capitalize on an effect of the wind which has been a very serious problem for architects and engineers for decades. When wind hits a structure and flows over its surfaces the flow changes and generates a cyclical pattern of vortices at the tail end of the flow. This is known as the vortex shedding effect which creates something known as vorticity and that is what Vortex Bladeless uses to generate energy. For those who need a explanation that exceeds my ability to fully explain, check out this link on Wikipedia and then come back and join the rest of us who won’t wait for you. (you’re clearly ahead of us anyway)
From Melissa Abraham | MIT Energy Initiative : Report highlights enormous potential and discusses pathways toward affordable solar energy. Solar energy holds the best potential for meeting humanity’s future long-term energy needs while cutting greenhouse gas emissions — but to realize this potential will require increased emphasis on developing lower-cost technologies and more effective deployment policy, says a comprehensive new study, titled “ The Future of Solar Energy ,” released today by the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI). “Our objective has been to assess solar energy’s current and potential competitive position and to identify changes in U.S. government policies that could more efficiently and effectively support its massive deployment over the long term, which we view as necessary,” says MITEI Director Robert Armstrong, the Chevron Professor in Chemical Engineering at MIT.
One of the fastest-growing areas of solar energy research is with materials called perovskites. These promising light harvesters could revolutionize the solar and electronics industries because they show potential to convert sunlight into electricity more efficiently and less expensively than today’s silicon-based semiconductors. These superefficient crystal structures have taken the scientific community by storm in the past few years because they can be processed very inexpensively and can be used in applications ranging from solar cells to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) found in phones and computer monitors. A new study published online April 30 in the journal Science by University of Washington and University of Oxford researchers demonstrates that perovskite materials, generally believed to be uniform in composition, actually contain flaws that can be engineered to improve solar devices even further. Cont'd...
Offshore wind is coming to the United States. Construction on what will be the country’s first offshore wind farm started Monday in Rhode Island. The wind farm, which is being developed by Deepwater Wind, will be located off of the coast of Block Island, a small island about 13 miles south of Rhode Island. Once completed, the five-turbine, 30-megawatt wind farm will produce enough energy to power all homes and businesses on Block Island, which previously relied on diesel generators, according to the Sierra Club. The wind farm will also send energy to mainland Rhode Island. It’s expected to come online in fall 2016. Environmental groups, many of which have pushed for the project since it started going through hearings in 2013, applauded the start of construction. Bruce Nilles, senior campaign director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, told ThinkProgress that the start of construction was a “landmark” moment for the U.S. wind industry, and that it “really makes real the promise offshore wind has” in the U.S., particularly on the East Coast. “This is technology that will play a very important part in decarbonizing electric sector,” he said.
Two floating solar power plants capable of providing electricity for 1,000 homes have been completed in Japan. The latest such "mega-plants" at Nishihira and Higashihira Ponds in Kato City are the work of electronics giant Kyocera Corporation and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation, and took just seven months to install. The plant's 11,250 modules are expected to generate 3,300 megawatt hours (MWh) every year. According to Kyocera, besides being typhoon-proof (due to their sturdy, high-density polyethylene and array design) floating solar plants are superior to their land-based equivalents because of the cooling effect of the water, which allows them to function more efficiently. Reservoirs are also an ideal location because the panels produce shade, which reduces water evaporation and promotes algae growth. A report by Korea Water Resources Corporation found that the lower temperatures of the floating modules mean they are 11 percent more efficient than land-based equivalents. The report identified unsolved issues with the plants, too, however. It said the study had to discard data collected when the panels moved in the wind, and said research into new mooring systems was "continually needed".
USAID recently announced the winners of the Desal Prize, part of a competition to see who could create an affordable desalination solution for developing countries. The idea was to create a system that could remove salt from water and meet three criteria: it had to be cost-effective, environmentally sustainable, and energy efficient. The winners of the $125,000 first prize were a group from MIT and Jain Irrigation Systems. The group came up with a method that uses solar panels to charge a bank of batteries. The batteries then power a system that removes salt from the water through electrodialysis. On the most basic level, that means that dissolved salt particles, which have a slight electric charge, are drawn out of the water when a small electrical current is applied. In addition to getting rid of salt (which makes water unusable for crops and for drinking), the team also applied UV light to disinfect some of the water as it passed through the system. Using the sun instead of fossil fuels to power a desalination plant isn't a totally new idea. Larger solar desalination plants are being seriously investigated in areas where water is becoming a scarce resource, including Chile and California. While proponents hope to eventually could provide water to large numbers of people, the technology is still expensive (though prices are dropping) and requires a lot of intricate technology.
Apple just agreed to back two large solar farms in China. It’s the biggest deal of its kind for a U.S. company operating in China. For China, the deal is only a beginning. China has been installing more renewable-power capacity than fossil fuels for several years, a gap that's growing. In 2015, China will install 15 gigawatts to 18 gw of solar power alone, double the solar deployment in the U.S., according to an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). The chart shows how, in the next 15 years, China is on track to have more low-carbon electricity than the entire capacity of the U.S. power grid. "Think of what their grid will look like in 2030," Michael Liebreich, founder of BNEF, said at the organization's annual summit last week in New York. "A very competitive advantage." For Apple, the 40-megawatt partnership extends Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook's solar aspirations beyond U.S. borders. Cook announced an $850 million deal in February to purchase enough solar to power all its California operations: stores, offices, headquarters, and a data center. By making a similar push in China, the tech giant begins to offset its considerable manufacturing pollution, which is almost entirely overseas. Many U.S. tech giants—not just Apple—have been criticized for outsourcing their pollution, says Justin Wu, head of Asia research for BNEF. Apple is "hitting back at that whole line of arguments," he says. "This is the beginning of something. Manufacturing in China is going to get greened."
The growth of the solar industry is truly astounding, particularly in China, the world’s solar leader. Between 2011 and 2012 the Chinese solar market grew by 500 percent. According to a 2014 report by Frost & Sullivan, a consulting firm, the global solar market earned revenues of nearly $60 billion in 2013. The firm estimates that by 2020 it will double to $137.2 billion. With all this growth, somebody was obviously going to get rich, and it didn’t take long for Oilprice.com to identify some of the biggest beneficiaries of the push toward renewables. The following are 5 of the world’s most successful renewable energy business leaders and their net worth. 1. Li Hejun, Chairman, Hanenergy Holdings. $31.5 billion. 2. Elon Musk, Founder/CEO, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., Tesla Motors. $12.2 billion. 3. Wang Chuanfu, Founder, BYD Company. $5.3 billion. 4. Aloys Wobben, Founder/Owner, Enercon. $4.2 billion. 5. Zhu Gongshan, Chairman, GCL-Poly Energy Holdings. Full Article:
The boom in West Texas wind-powered electricity generation has delivered a major economic boost to the region, including creation of over 40 new businesses and 30,000 construction jobs in 57 West Texas counties since 2001, according to data collected by Public Citizen’s Texas office. The 40 new manufacturers and businesses make everything from wind turbine blades and steel towers to electronics, according to the data. Wind farms also generate over $85 million in taxes annually in rural Texas counties and more than $9 billion in new taxable assets in the last 14 years. Over a five-month period in 2014 and 2015, Public Citizen’s Texas office collected data on the economic impact of wind development from county appraisers and tax assessors in the 57 West Texas counties. The data includes estimates of investment values, employment, tax revenues, and lease payments by wind farms, and it reflects review of previous research and case studies.
In 2014, wind energy saved 2.5 billion gallons of water in California by displacing water consumption at the state's fossil-fired power plants, playing a valuable role in alleviating the state's record drought. Wind energy's annual water savings work out to around 65 gallons per person in the state - or the equivalent of 20 billion bottles of water, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). According to AWEA, one of wind energy's most overlooked benefits is that it requires virtually no water to produce electricity while almost all other electricity sources evaporate tremendous amounts of water. In California - where the state is combating record drought levels - Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed an executive order to reduce household water consumption by 25%, from about 140 gallons per day per household to 105 gallons. Wind energy's water savings are, therefore, equivalent to what would be saved by nearly one week's worth of the required reductions for a typical household. In 2008, U.S. thermal power plants withdrew 22 trillion to 62 trillion gallons of freshwater from rivers, lakes, streams and aquifers and consumed 1 trillion to 2 trillion gallons. By displacing generation from these conventional power plants, U.S. wind energy currently saves around 35 billion gallons of water per year - the equivalent of 120 gallons per person or 285 billion bottles of water.
President Obama launch a new initiative to expand the nation’s solar industry workforce during a visit to Utah’s Hill Air Force Base on Friday, seeking to gain support for his economic agenda in a heavily-Republican state. The Energy Department will seek to train 75,000 people — including veterans — to enter the solar workforce by 2020, increasing the goal it set in May 2014 by 25,000. “We’ve got to be relentless in our work to grow the economy and create good jobs,” Obama said after touring the brief tour, adding that other nations are seeking to expand their economies as well. “And that’s why we have to redouble our efforts to make sure that we’re competitive, to make sure that we’re taking the steps that are needed for us to be successful.”
The East Coast of the U.S. experienced up to 5% lower than average levels of solar irradiance in 2014, negatively impacting overall performance of solar sites in the region. Concurrently, the West Coast enjoyed irradiance levels up to 10% higher than average, widening the productivity gap between projects in the country's two areas of highest solar development. This disparity is clearly seen in the 2014 Solar Performance Maps of the United States, released today by Vaisala, a global leader in environmental and industrial measurement. While it is well-established that the solar resource of the East does not match that of the West, the Atlantic Coast has a large volume of operational capacity and it is therefore of critical importance for project operators in the region to understand the reasons behind below average energy output and whether it is due to malfunctioning equipment or weather variability. Vaisala's 2014 study illustrates the impact of short-term, month-to-month weather variations on performance at U.S. solar projects and places them into a long-term context. This reveals frequent and significant deviations from long-term average irradiance conditions and highlights the clear requirement to analyze the effect of solar resource variability on both over and underperformance. From an annual perspective, this year's weather patterns had an adverse effect on a large number of installations along the Atlantic Coast from Florida to Massachusetts, as well as Texas, while the bulk of projects in California and the Southwest saw an uptick in solar irradiance that may have increased overall 2014 production at many sites. However, these annual variations only offer a high-level view of project performance. Vaisala also conducted a monthly analysis that gives a much more robust understanding of how specific weather conditions affected solar production throughout the year.
Catherine Shu for TechCrunch: Solar panels are becoming increasingly affordable, but many people still face barriers to harnessing the power of the sun for their own homes. For example, they might live in an apartment or in a house where the roof is angled or structured improperly for solar panel installation. A new Boston-based startup called CloudSolar is offering an intriguing solution. Founded by a team including two electrical engineering Ph.D. candidates and currently raising funds on Indiegogo, CloudSolar lets people buy a solar panel, or a share in one, on a farm that is expected to be completed by 2016 (erecting the solar panels will only take a couple of months, but the company also has to deal with utility and land permits, which will take longer). Once the farm is up and operating, electricity generated by the solar panels will be sold to local utilities. Solar panel owners are promised 80 percent of the total proceeds created by the panels over the next 25 years, and help with applying for whatever tax credits they are eligible for. They can monitor how much energy their panel is producing, and how much carbon dioxide emissions it is estimated to offset, through an app.
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