Monday, May 16, 2011 1:14 PM
“That’s no moon. It’s a space station.” — Obi-Wan Kenobi, A New Hope
With peak oil right around the corner, coal mines turning our lungs and mountaintops black, tar sands oil extraction exacerbating conservation efforts, and natural gas production still totally fracked, earthlings need a creative new source of alternative energy. Leave that to Shimizu, a forward-thinking Japanese construction company. The firm has a bold plan for the future of energy production: to build a ring of solar panels around the equator of earth’s moon.
No, seriously—despite what it sounds like, this isn’t a scheme lifted from a pulp sci-fi novel. Dubbing the project LUNA RING, the company imagines a robotic staff building and maintaining an array of photovoltaic panels that span the circumference of the moon. The harvested energy would then be shot back to earth using high-powered microwaves or lasers.
According to The Futurist’s profile of LUNA RING, the moon’s surface continuously receives 13,000 terawatts of solar power, or about “650 times the amount of power the entire human population would need to continue to grow economically.” What’s more, “Solar collection on the lunar surface would be 10 times more efficient than it is on Earth, where our ozone and rich atmosphere make solar collection less efficient.”
Of course, government budgets are under the knife right now. “A project of such size and scope would require the willingness of hundreds of millions of souls to re-embrace government-funded space programs,” writes The Futurist. “It would require sacrifice in the form of higher taxes, cuts in other areas, or both. At present, this seems beyond the capacity of the developed world.” Finding funding for such an astronomically bold idea would be next to impossible, but as the article points out, “we said the same thing about reaching the Moon.”
Source: The Futurist
Images courtesy of Shimizu.
Thursday, July 29, 2010 11:17 AM
Do you hate subwoofers like I hate subwoofers? Does the low-fi din of an earth-shaking, bumper-rattling car stereo, detectable from a quarter-mile away and meant to broadcast the owner’s flagrant and rebellious love of bass-heavy hip-hop, make you want to just shut the thing off? If so, I think Make magazine can help us out.
You see, a couple of months ago Make, the do-it-yourself magazine for techno-geeks and home tinkerers, featured plans for the TV-B-Gone hoodie. The TV-B-Gone is a small device that will shut off any TV within range, and the hoodie is meant to conceal this sometimes controversial act by executing it with a mere shift of the zipper.
Now, in its most recent issue, Make features a different DIY creation, the solar car subwoofer, in which the author shares his plans for mounting solar panels on his car to drive his booming speakers. “What’s a road trip without awesome tuneage?” writes the enthusiastic but misguided lad, who’s employing green technology to practice dark arts.
You see where I’m going with this, right? The Subwoofer-B-Gone hoodie. For its next issue, I challenge Make to create a device that will allow me to silence subwoofers—solar powered or not—with my “modded” hoodie. I’m not interested in hearing why it won’t work: I’m leaving it to these genius tinkerers to find a way. Then, the next time some inconsiderate punk is disrupting my day by getting crunk, or hyphy, or grimy, or whatever the hell that horrible sound is, I won’t have to stand for it.
The only problem, perhaps, is that I’d have to wear a hoodie. And do you want to hear how I hate hoodies?
Image by Josef Rousek, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 9:42 AM
By combining a solar panel with a dog sweater, Erik Schiegg turned his pooch into a little solar-power generator. After spending just $60, Schiegg’s reports on his YouTube page that the sweater generator works in cloudy weather and “my Android-phone is charged in no time.” He also suggests that farmers could strap solar panels onto their animals to collect electricity, too.
You can watch the video below:
(Thanks, Make, via Recombu.)
Wednesday, June 03, 2009 3:18 PM
Wind turbines don’t just collect energy. They collect attention. Environmental Building News writes in its May issue about the ways that many big green structures nowadays are incorporating “building integrated” wind power into their designs—and not always to generate much power but rather to make a loud and public statement about their greenness. EBN’s headline calls it “The Folly of Building Integrated Wind,” and for this rather staid publication that’s a pretty damning indictment.
Editor Alex Wilson, who reported the piece, doesn’t arrive at his conclusion lightly, however. In typical EBN style he come at the issue from an objective, information-driven approach that parses the pros and cons of wind turbines on buildings before concluding that “it’s usually a bad idea.”
“A green building is not green because it has [solar panels] on the roof—or a ground-source heat pump or a vegetated roof or integrated wind,” writes Wilson in his editor’s column in the same issue. “It’s green because it has an energy-conserving envelope, because it relies on natural daylighting, because it effectively controls unwanted heat gain, because it reduces dependence on automobiles, because it’s compact and resource-efficient, because it’s healthy, and because it’s stingy on water use. The heavy lifting in green design has to come from these measures, not from the window dressing. … Construction budgets are tight these days. Let’s not squander these limited budgets on high-profile visual statements.”
Image of Bahrain World Trade Center by Ahmed Rabea, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009 12:39 PM
When discussing solar power these days, the name Jigar Shah comes up often. The founder and former CEO of SunEdison, the nation's largest solar power provider, Shah formulated a new way to finance the construction and operation of commercial solar equipment, from rooftop arrays to larger ground-based solar farms.
“SunEdison customers pay nothing for their solar systems,” writes Michael Behar in a profile of Shah for OnEarth magazine. “Instead they sign what is known as a power-purchasing agreement, or PPA,” a pact to buy the electricity the system produces at a set price for at least 10 years.
Common in the coal, oil, nuclear, and natural gas industries, the PPA is new to solar and has attracted customers including the Kohl’s department store chain, which now has SunEdison arrays on the rooftops of 67 stores.
Anyone interested in the future of solar will want to check out the OnEarth article, which transcends its personal-profile angle to capture the state of the solar industry without getting too wonky.
Which reminds us: We also recently saw Shah turn up on the EnviroWonk blog, speaking about the effects of the recent stimulus bill on the solar industry. The outlook? Sunny, of course.
In remarks to an audience of businesspeople at a solar conference, Shah said this year would get “some growth, but 2010 will have amazing growth.”
Sources: OnEarth, EnviroWonk
Image courtesy of SunEdison.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009 11:55 AM
As solar power gains popularity throughout the world, solar panel theft is becoming more of a problem, too. Foreign Policy reports that “Missing panels have been reported this year in Australia, Spain, and the United States, but it’s in the developing world where solar theft has been most glaring.” Thieves frequently take panels in Africa and Latin America, sometimes destroying entire solar installations in the process.
The problem made headlines in June, after Barack Obama’s Kenyan grandmother was the victim of an attempted solar panel robbery, according to the International Herald Tribune. South Africa reportedly abandoned plans to convert traffic lights to solar power because of the fear of theft. Some companies are stepping up efforts to protect the expensive equipment, but as the technology disperses, the problem will likely remain.
Image by David Monniaux, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, October 30, 2008 12:54 PM
The renewable energy industry is more dependent than ever on the direction of the currently ailing economy. Recent news items from Triple Pundit and New West offer different perspectives on the economic plight of renewable energy.
Triple Pundit states that future investment in renewable energy will create more jobs. TP’s Gina-Marie Cheeseman turns to a Berkeley report on the job-creating potential of the renewable energy industry. “Every $100 million invested in the renewable sector creates 2,700 new jobs. The report estimated that additional investment between 2007 and 2010 will be between $14 billion and $19 billion, which will create between 400,000 and 500,000 new jobs.”
Cheeseman extols the economically stimulating effect of renewable energy, noting that worldwide wind power capacity increased 50 percent between 2006 and 2007, while solar power accounts for forty percent of the capacity in developing countries.
This is a sunny forecast from a publication that looks at the business side of renewable energy. But New West is focusing on the ways that the credit collapse and global economic downturn has slowed the solar power industry. “Stock analysts have downgraded solar companies,” reports Richard Martin, and “Xcel Energy announced it is slashing the rebate it offers to homeowners installing new solar panels.”
Xcel is reducing its solar-panel rebate because Congress’ bailout package offers a generous tax credit to solar users. But the credit will take a while to implement, meaning a higher up-front cost. In an economy where homeowners are hurting, it’s hard for them to make the sort of long-term investment solar power entails.
Image courtesy of Pink Dispatcher, licensed by Creative Commons.
Monday, October 20, 2008 2:03 PM
Solar energy is becoming a community effort, and more accessible than ever before. Married couple Sylvia Ventura and Dan Barahona have launched 1BOG, “One Block Off the Grid,” a volunteer group that organizes neighborhoods and communities to install solar power en masse. Those who go solar through 1BOG have access to bulk discounts on equipment and installation, whose high cost has been a main deterrent for many potential buyers. The all-volunteer program boasts over 700 member homes in 20 cities across the country, with more to come.
(Thanks, Conscious Choice)
Image courtesy of
, licensed under
Monday, July 14, 2008 12:47 PM
Developing nations will soon benefit from personal stoves that combine energy efficiency and sustainable business models. Triple Pundit highlights efforts by EnviroFit and the Shell Foundation to distribute clean-burning biomass stoves in India.
EnviroFit, a Colorado-based nonprofit manufacturer, first became known for retrofitting two-stroke engines in Southeast Asia. Its stoves are designed to harness the power of “wood, crop waste, or animal dung” and produce nontoxic exhaust. This is valuable to India and other developing countries, where toxic indoor air pollution claims millions of lives every year. EnviroFit and Shell hope to subsidize the $12 to $50 cost of the stoves for families in need and eventually expand the program to Latin America and Africa.
Biomass stoves are part of an alternative-cooking trend that harnesses old technologies in new ways. Utne blogger Erik Helin pointed me to a spread in BackHome (article not available online) featuring the latest solar cooking technology, ranging from expensive high-tech cookers to do-it-yourself contraptions made from windshield shades and other materials. We’ve come a long way from the lukewarm hot dogs yielded up by the tin-foil-and-shoebox cookers my sixth-grade science class constructed.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008 3:25 PM
The power of architecture as a way to imagine an ideal society is alive in Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut. His most recent project, a pair of proposed Paris buildings dubbed Anti-Smog, is a testament to green design concepts, featuring solar power, wind power, and a “smog eating exterior,” according to Ali Kriscenski of the design blog Inhabitat.
The prototype for the project shows one football-shaped building known as Solar Drop. “The exterior is fitted with 250 square meters of solar photovoltaic panels and coated in titanium dioxide (TiO2),” writes Kriscenski. “The PV system produces on-site electrical energy while the TiO2 coating works with ultraviolet radiation to interact with particulates in the air, break down organics and reduce airborne pollutants and contaminants.”
The second structure, the Wind Tower, harnesses the gusting urban winds for energy.
The buildings are designed to be suspended over a Parisian canal and a defunct railroad track. Anti-Smog would be used as art galleries, public meeting rooms, and gathering spaces. Learn more about the project here.
Monday, January 07, 2008 3:37 PM
There aren’t many problems that can’t be solved by eager, young college students. Last October’s Solar Decathlon, for example, pit twenty teams of young over-achievers against each other in an competition to build the perfect solar home. The homes had to snag all of their power from the sun, and provide enough extra power to run a small electric car. The event was chronicled by eight-year-old, green journalist Carrick McCullough, who covered the event with some help from his father for the blog, Autoblog Green. When you add McCullough’s fresh-faced journalism to the innovative environmental solutions from the event, the decathlon achieved the green triumvirate: it’s eco-friendly, it’s educational, and it’s also cute.
You can watch McCullough's report below:
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