South African Prototype may solve Solar Power Problem

By thinking small, a group of South African scientists may have pioneered solar technology that has stumped Internet giant Google.

The Helio100 project, based at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape province, is a cost-effective heliostat that harnesses solar power to generate electricity.

A heliostat uses mirrors or lenses to reflect sunlight, concentrating the solar energy onto a receiver tower, which then uses centuries old steam power to generate electricity, explains Sebastian-James Bode, a 28-year-old research engineer working on the South African project.

Until now, building heliostat plants has been prohibitively expensive. In 2011, Google announced that it halted its own heliostat project after researchers could not design an inexpensive model.

“At this point, other institutions are better positioned than Google to take this research to the next level,” Google said back then in a statement, making its findings freely available in a 10-page report.

Beginning their work in April 2014, the Helio100 team came up with a much smaller heliostat made of six triangular mirrors that does not need a concrete foundation. They’ve also devised wireless, smart positioning technology that ensures the beam of light is always on target.

This compact construction, makes it “plonkable,” said Bode, meaning it can be plonked down, without only two people needed to set it up.

The device was designed specifically with South Africa in mind, where electricity blackouts have become common, he added.

The next step is to produce the heliostat on an industrial scale, and international investors are already interested, he said. The device is aimed at large-scale production, to generate electricity or heat. It can also be used with other renewable energy sources, like wind and rooftop solar panels.

“The solution for South Africa, and indeed the world’s energy problems, is not a single technology that will do everything,” he said.

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By: Casey Coates Danson

The project’s solar panels, which are treated as a design element, generate around a megawatt of energy per day – more than is needed to power the entire resort. Excess energy is stored for rainy or cloudy weather. The island also has a desalination tank that yields a self-sufficient water supply, an efficient waste management system, and landscaping designed to minimize erosion. Yamazaki has incorporated the sustainable features of the property into a design that brings luxury to the forefront.

The central jetty houses 52 villas, which branch off towards the water much like vertebrae from a spine. The villas are endowed with 12-foot soaring ceilings that curve up like cresting waves and roofs that are covered with shingles to reflect local building traditions. The three-room villas are each equipped with a private beach and a private pool, with views that include either an unobstructed sunrise or sunset view each day. For those guests who tire of luxuriating in private, there is also a central restaurant, a bar and pool area, and an on-site spa and gym.


Indian Airport Now Runs Entirely on Solar Power

By: Daniel Cooper

If humanity is to survive, it’s going to have to embrace alternative forms of energy and ditch carbon at double-quick speed. India’s making a pretty big stride in that direction after declaring Cochin International Airport as the world’s first facility of its kind that runs entirely on solar power. All of the airport’s energy requirements are met thanks to a roof-mounted installation on the terminal, as well as a solar plant beside the cargo warehouse.

The plant comprises 46,150 panels that spread across 45 acres and generates 12MW — with any excess power being pushed back into the local grid. Over the next 25 years, it’s expected to save roughly 300,000 metric tons of carbon, which is a start.


Google Maps can now tell you if it’s worth installing solar panels on your roof

By: Loren Grush

Google wants to help you harness the power of the sun. A new service called Project Sunroof aims to provide a “treasure map” of solar energy with the help of Google Maps. Sunroof gives homeowners detailed information about how much solar power their roof can generate and how much money they could save on electricity costs by adding solar panels.

Sunroof uses data from Google Maps that previously had no practical application. For instance, Sunroof uses Maps’ 3D-modeling to calculate the amount of space a building’s roof has for solar panels. The service also analyzes the positioning of the sun over the course of a year, as well as the type of cloud cover and temperature the neighborhood usually experiences. It even considers the amount of shade cast by nearby objects.

Switching to solar energy can be a win-win scenario for many households. Harnessing a free power source can help save money on the electric bill while ever-so-slightly decreasing the world’s dependance on greenhouse-gas-producing fossil fuels. But it’s possible your home doesn’t get enough sunlight, and it can be hard to know exactly how much money you’ll save. Sunroof can tell users how many hours of usable sunlight they’ll get a year, as well as how much available space they have for solar panels on their roof.

If a family decides those cost-saving benefits are good enough, Sunroof will suggest installers nearby who can load the panels. Installing solar panels isn’t cheap, costing upwards of $20,000, but the average homeowner can save about $20,000 by switching to solar energy — if their home is in the right spot.

Right now, Project Sunroof is only available for people living in Boston, San Francisco, and Fresno, but Google plans to expand the service to the entire country.


Short’s Brewery gets ‘Greener’ with Solar Panels

ANTRIM CO. — Brewery business is booming and now Short’s Brewery in Elk Rapids is taking a new step in creating an environmentally friendly factor.

The brewery had a ribbon cutting to celebrate more than 140 new solar panels on top its production facilities.

They also were given a check from the USDA for more than $35,000 that will go toward the project.

Short’s Brewery installs solar panels / photo

US Senator Debbie Stabenow and community leaders were on hand supporting the move to solar power.

The panels, from CBS solar, will help power 7 percent of the energy used each year at the building.

“I think it’s super cool I think a lot of people in the state of Michigan are going to appreciate that we are a green energy provider now,” said Short’s Brewery Quality Director Tyler Glaze. “Which is kind of neat were not only providing energy for us but on the days that we don’t have a production a lot of the energy is going to go back into the grid which is very cool.”

Shorts Brewery officials say the new panels will allow them to have a clean and sustainable energy source for the next 25 years.