Windows that can effectively and cheaply double as solar panels are getting closer and closer every day, as recent work from the Los Alamos National Laboratory shows. The new work has demonstrated that quantum dots can be utilized to great effect in…
Electric cars have come a long way in the past decade or two, but one glaring problem remains: you have to charge the dang things. What do you do when there aren’t enough charging stations (and there aren’t)? If you’re Ford, you build a car that charges itself.
Behold, the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept that Ford just unveiled. This beast is equipped with a rooftop 16-square-foot solar panel, built by Silicon Valley’s SunPower, that charges a lithium-ion battery pack. It’s meant to be paired with a solar canopy that beams sunlight directly onto the panel so that the car can charge in six or seven hours. As such, the car doesn’t need to be plugged in and can operate completely off the grid.
Now, the design is not perfect. The car’s range is only 21 miles—which is fine, if you want to use it once a day to drive to a nearby grocery store, but otherwise pretty annoying. Mike Tinskey, Ford’s director of global vehicle electrification and infrastructure, told Quartz that the car “could be for the home, corporate campuses or developing countries where there is no grid.” There’s a gas engine, just in case.
What’s encouraging about the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is that it’s a real thing that consumers might be able to buy. Ford’s built the concept, but they’re also spending this year doing research to see if the market could accomodate it. If nothing else, the car is a sign of things to come. At this point, we have everything from an engine-free electric car to charging stations built into manholes. It almost makes the Tesla look passé. Solar Impulse, the solar-powered plane that’s scheduled to fly around the world next year, remains amazing, however.
By Todd Woody
The next big thing in solar energy could be microscopic.
Scientists at MIT and Harvard University have devised a way to store solar energy in molecules that can then be tapped to heat homes, water or used for cooking.
The best part: The molecules can store the heat forever and be endlessly re-used while emitting absolutely no greenhouse gases. Scientists remain a way’s off in building this perpetual heat machine but they have succeeded in the laboratory at demonstrating the viability of the phenomenon called photoswitching.
“Some molecules, known as photoswitches, can assume either of two different shapes, as if they had a hinge in the middle,” MIT researchers said in statement about the paper published in the journal Nature Chemistry. “Exposing them to sunlight causes them to absorb energy and jump from one configuration to the other, which is then stable for long periods of time.”
To liberate that energy all you have to do is expose the molecules to a small amount of light, heat or electricity and when they switch back to the other shape the emit heat. “In effect, they behave as rechargeable thermal batteries: taking in energy from the sun, storing it indefinitely, and then releasing it on demand,” the scientists said.
The researchers used a photoswitching substance called an azobenzene, attaching the molecules to substrates of carbon nanotubes. The challenge: Packing the molecules closely enough together to achieve a sufficient energy density to generate usable heat.
It appeared that the researchers had failed when they were only able to pack fewer than half the number of molecules needed as indicated by an earlier computer simulation of the experiment. Read more »
Google has just announced another major investment in renewable energy — not to power its own vast data centers this time, but rather to bring cheaper electricity to the homes of ordinary Americans. Alongside solar cell manufacturer SunPower, the internet giant is starting a $250 million fund (including $100 million of its own cash) to buy up solar panels and then lease them back to American households. It promises the lease cost will be “typically lower” than a home’s regular electricity bills, but it has yet to provide specifics on the costs involved or exactly when the project is scheduled to get going. With solar panels steadily getting cheaper, it seems entirely probable that the partnership would recoup its investment over time, while still providing consumers with a financial incentive to go green.
Billionaire Larry Ellison Has A Brilliant Plan To Make Green Energy Affordable With His Hawaiian Island
By: Julie Bort
Larry Ellison has huge, impressive plans for the Hawaiian island of Lanai, which he bought in 2012.
It will become “a laboratory for building the next generation two-way power grid, which will be a mix of photo-tech (solar), with a little bit of wind with a backup of liquefied natural gas,” he told attendees at an event in Las Vegas Thursday evening.
The island is a “special case” that can be used “to demonstrate that green energy can be economical,” he explained.
Ellison is CEO of Oracle and the event was held to talk about the company’s HR cloud software. But in the Q&A session, he invited the audience to ask him “anything,” and that was a part of the evening that he clearly relished.
An Oracle employee and Hawaiian native stood up and asked about his long-term plans for Lanai. Since buying the island, Ellison, though his company Lanai Resorts LLC, has also bought two Lanai airlines, refurbished the hotels and invested in everything from wind farms to local businesses.
“I was just looking at the Lanai five-year budget and wow, it’s expensive,” Ellison joked. He’s one of the world’s richest men, worth $41 billion, Forbes estimates.
But his true motive has less to do with running a profitable resort than saving the planet.
Ellison says that North America is not running out of fossil fuels, especially a “transitional energy called liquefied natural gas.”
In the past five years, North America has found 100 years worth of natural gas, he says, and we’re sure to find more. In order to compete, the green energy industry needs someone to show that it can be just as affordable as traditional energy.
He explained his plan in detail:
We think we can demonstrate that green energy can be economical. Right now green energy is considerably more expensive than conventional fossil fuels. The island of Lanai is small enough, it can serve.
One of the great things about Lanai is that the weather is always fabulous. Always 82 degrees and sunny. The problem is that, like California now, Lanai needs more water. It’s in the rain shadow of Maui…
We’re going to use our solar power, our wind power grid to convert sea water to fresh water … desalination. Read more »