Chinese / Australian breakthrough in Solar cell production.

May 29, 2008

China is widely acknowledge as one of the worlds worst polluters however like other polluters in the West, China is investing in alternative energy research. The latest edition of scientific journal Nature has reported that the University of Queensland (UQ) in collaboration with Professor Huiming Cheng and researchers from the Chinese Academy of Science have made a breakthrough that could revolutionise Solar energy production.

 

Professor  Max Lu, professor at the UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) said  “We have grown the world’s first titanium oxide single crystals with large amounts of reactive surfaces, something that was predicted as almost impossible,”  

 

The technology uses Titanium Nano-Crystals which has the potential to produce cost effective solar energy, hydrogen splitting from water and solar decontamination of pollutants.

Mr Lu also  said that it wasn’t just renewable energy where this research could be applied.

    “They are also fantastic for purifying air and water,” he said,” One could paint these crystals on to a window or a wall to purify the air in a room.”

 

According to Professor Lu there was a huge potential for the use of these crystals in water purification and recycling but that this technology would only become available in about 5 years time.

Set our Gadgets Free!

May 27, 2008

Let’s face it – it seems that the worse our energy crisis becomes the more power we are determined to consume. Just a brief look around my home this morning revealed that every socket had something plugged in whilst some had adapters and surge protectors with multiple power units drawing power even though the units themselves were not on.

 

Add to this the number of chargers awaiting use and I was staggered. I do want to conserve energy and reduce my carbon emissions but I am a gadget freak! I feel that to compromise on any of them would revert me back into the stone age. But what is a modern geek to do?

 

Imagine my delight at receiving news that Apple has put in a patent to include solar panels behind the touch screen on their handheld devices like ipods.

The invention (US Patent 20080094025) is known as the “Solar cells on portable devices”. The use of this technology will allow Apple gadgets to re-charge themselves without the use of power outlets or USB cables.

Apple says that, multiple solar cells would be arranged on the surface of the device so that a number of solar cells would always be functional and produce the desired voltage to run the device even if other cells are obstructed.

I can’t wait to see this technology in action and hope that other gadget manufacturers follow in their footsteps.

Solar investment remains strong despite warnings!

May 15, 2008

Renewable energy is becoming big business with large investments by big name players such as Google.org.

 

*Google has recently announced three investments in Alternative energy companies two of which are using solar thermal principles. Solar thermal power stations concentrate sunlight with the use of mirrors to get super hot temperatures. This concentrated energy heats up a liquid (commonly water) to its gaseous state and that gas (steam) is used to drive turbines which in turn output electricity.

 

One of the companies that Google.org has invested in is BrightSource Energy who has announced it has been able to raise investment of $ 115 million from investors which include names like BP Alternative Energy and Draper Fisher Jurvetson. Last month, BrightSource signed the biggest solar deal ever, agreeing to deliver 900 megawatts of power to the California utility, PG&E.

 

**All of this comes at a time where there is some speculation that a bubble may be forming  within the renewable energy sector. A report published by KPMG lists bidder competition for assets as being the force causing these sector prices to become overvalued.

 

***Reports on www.RenewableEnergyStocks.com, has reported that many solar based indices are up despite the continuing struggle by the solar industry in the US to secure subsidies that the oil industry has enjoyed for years. According to solar expert J.Peter Lynch, “Solar Stocks have again surprised the street and beaten estimates, some by a wide margin. I do expect that the industry will see some margin pressures in 2009, but for now solar stocks have regained momentum and are for the most part technically strong.”

 

*Source: http://blog.wired.com/

** Source: http://uk.reuters.com/

*** Source: http://money.cnn.com/

Geothermal Energy are we playing with fire?

May 14, 2008

Thomas R Blakeslee of the Clearlight Foundation wrote an article entitled “The Folly of Fueled Power Plants” recently. In it he explores the folly of burning fuel in order to power our lifestyles rather than taping in to the natural heating capabilities of the magma below the earths crust.

 

Mr Blakeslee presents a convincing argument particularly when he expounds on the thinking that causes us to dig holes in mountains to gather fuel (uranium and coal), extract it and then in effect burn the fruit of our labour leaving dangerous by-products in storage whilst we figure out how to safely dispose of them or worse release those by-products into our atmosphere.

 

He suggests that the gathering of geo-thermal energy is as easy as drilling a couple of holes through the bedrock until we reach a level where temperatures are hot enough to superheat the water to steam. We would then pump water into one and release the steam from the other. The steam is used to drive turbines, which in turn generate electricity.

 

I have some concerns about this and as far as I can see there has been very little research done on the impact that a process like this might create.

 

There is a very real danger that if we start pumping literally tons of water through the earths crust we could be creating a greater environmental disaster – one so large that our very existence may be threatened.

 

One nation doing this may have a limited effect but imagine all the earth’s nations pouring water daily into the earths core. Cooling the core by a few degrees may trigger disasters of unimaginable proportions – ocean currents may cool slow or change course, bigger storms could be created, floods and a possibly major ice age could end life on the earth.

 

Another concern is that by pumping water through the earths crust we may actually create huge fault lines that will cause earthquakes and volcanic activity. When I was younger and living on a farm I remember that if there was a need to remove a large boulder from a field we would light a fire under it until it was hot then douse it with water. This sudden cooling caused the rock to crack and break into smaller pieces. We were then able to carry it away. I cannot imagine that pouring water through the bedrock wouldn’t have the same affect on the rock structure.

 

Right now we have the opportunity to learn to use the sun, wind, waves, tides and water to power our world. I think that messing with something as vital to our existence as the earth’s core is a far greater folly than any carbon based fuel sins that we have committed in the past. We can do so much better than this if we just co-operate and think!

Making Wealth History

May 12, 2008

In my day to day search to produce useful and valid solar energy related articles I sometimes come across articles and sites which relate to general sustainability. From time to time I may comment on them but normally I prefer to leave that to someone else whose site has readers more interested in this type of topic.

 

However this site is one that I think deserves a special mention: http://makewealthhistory.org/

 

Jeremy has left comments for us here on this site before. His site is dedicated to the eradication of unsustainable consumerism and posses some very thoughtful insights.

 

Like many before him, his campaign may fall on deaf ears but it does not deserve to! It is sites like this that encourage healthy debate and I think that we cannot sidestep these issues any longer.

 

Change is not going to be easy but I think that we are going to have to change or face the consequences later. After all what is wealth – isn’t it the ability to provide a healthy, comfortable existence for our families and those around us. Surely we can do this without destroying ourselves in the process.

 

Perhaps if we all saw ourselves as stewards of what we have rather than owners we would be less inclined to destroy it. Perhaps if our purpose was to improve what we had rather than just consume we would lead more fulfilling sustainable lives. I don’t have all the answers but I think that I am seeing where I need to change.

 

Jeremy made a comment that I thought very pertinent when answering questions on the pollution issues within China. He said we should not see that as a reason to not change and that the rich nations of the future will be those that have learnt to become most self sustaining.

 

I can see in the future that those individuals that have cut their lifestyles and actions to be sustainable and sufficient for their needs will be considered the richest. Why not start today by looking at how solar energy can help you reach those goals.

Solar challenging Fossil Fuels

May 8, 2008

The Sungri  energy company announced recently plans to begin production of an enhanced solar system that would bring solar energy production costs own to 5 cents per KW. This would leave existing technology far behind.

 

In effect this would make solar energy production competitive with coal and other fossil fuel energy production. If solar energy is to become effective it needs to make economic sense against fossil fuel production.

 

The system called  Xtreme Concentrated Photovoltaics uses a lens much like a magnifying glass to concentrate sunlight onto a highly efficient photovoltaic cell. Each unit features a lens that magnifies the sun’s rays 2,000 times, focusing it onto a solar cell that converts more than 37% sunlight to energy. The extreme temperatures within the system caused by this process of focusing sunlight (more than 3,000 ºF!), meant that  Sunrgi had to develop a proprietary cooling system that keeps the panels safe and sound.

 

Sungri have tested their prototype and expect that production will begin in 12 – 15 months time.

Bush needs to revisit Alaska plans.

May 7, 2008

It would seem that George Bush is pushing congress to open up protected areas of Alaska to Oil exploration and drilling.

 

This is his response to soaring fuel prices. He is being opposed by some congressmen but whether they will be able to continue to block him, under mounting pressure from motorists and the transport industry, remains to be seen.

 

Now I am not immune to the rising prices of fuel myself. I do drive and I do have to put fuel in my car but I fail to see the logic in Bush’s push unless oil supplies are dwindling faster than we have been led to believe.

 

I might have missed something  but oil exploration now to reduce fuel prices doesn’t make any sense. Firstly there is the question of how long before that oil –if they find any- actually becomes available. Then will it make a difference to any oil deficit that the Western world has at present – I doubt it.

 

 Furthermore there are now many alternative fuel sources that could benefit from more state and media attention. Surely this would be a wiser and more long term view than risking further environmental damage so that we can fuel up for cheaper for longer.

 

I like the convenience of my motorcycle and car over public transport and I would hope that in the world of the future I can still use some form of either. But I do not advocate the destruction of further tracts of land just so that I can buy cheaper fuel. It’s high time motorists and the transport industry started pushing governments to put more emphasis on the development of alternative fuelled vehicles and subsidising their commercial production.

 

The issue is probably too long and convoluted for us to address properly in the limited realms of a short blog but if we don’t change our thinking AND our habits we are not going to impact the environment positively. My only wish is that our leaders would start leading our thinking.

Solar for All

April 28, 2008

One of the things that I hope to achieve from the easy-solar-energy site and the easy-solar-energy blog is to awaken people to the possibility of what a little thinking can do to change how we utilise the sun.

 

Most people think that solar energy has to heat either water or power photovoltaic panels. But attention is now being grabbed by the value of building solar grabbers in cool climates or designing homes to take advantage of passive solar energy. Passive solar design can be just as beneficial to homes in hot climates as well as cold – in fact a good passive solar house will be warm in winter and cool in summer.

 

I am all for DIYers working to create their own solar energy solutions. I heard recently of a church that designed their own solar heating system using old tin cans. New York First Presbyterian Church was able to cut their heating bills by 55% When they published their idea – they were able to charge people $1 for the plans which helped provide income for some of their needier members. They then went on to create a company that provided solar heating to people that was capable of paying for itself within a year provided the recipients used their tax relief.

 

My point is this: we can all take advantage of the sun and we can do it in two ways. We can pay a fortune to specialist PV and Solar heating installers or we can learn the principles of solar design. We can throw our money at the problem or we can observe, communicate and ask the right questions. I am all for both actually and I write for both.

 

I will be publishing in future the principles behind some of these ideas so that others can take advantage of them and experiment themselves but until then you can improve your knowledge and understanding here.

Make mine big and hot!

April 25, 2008

I find it exciting to see how Solar energy is gaining in popularity across the globe.

 

This hasn’t been lost on the energy companies either. As the price of fossil fuels increases solar thermal energy stations are becoming so much more popular

 

Thanks to Ira Flatow at  Science Friday for the link to this resource.

 

It seems that some of the largest solar thermal stations are now based in the USA. See the ecowordly.com article here: biggest solar  thermal projects.

 

It seems that finally energy companies are getting the message but it has been a message based on the economies of scale and not on what people really want. Still it is better than nothing. Long let it continue.

Check out this video.

April 15, 2008

Useful info if you can ignore the umms.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyiPbiPLmoM&feature=related