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Green and Alternative Energy Information

UrbanTile Window Blind Concept

Each and every day, the sun showers our cities in solar energy. Every night, our cities emit light so bright that they can be seen from space. An industrial designer from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem, Israel, has designed a concept device called the UrbanTile that would harness the solar energy city buildings absorb during the day for their lighting needs at night. The UrbanTile is a small solar panel that can be flipped to reveal a light emitting screen. Banded together into rows, the panels become a window blind that forms a light and entertainment display.

The panels would made from aluminum and stainless steel with an OLED screen on one side and a photovoltaic panel on the other. Incorporating electrical motors to move them, they could be programmed to turn automatically at different times of the day. Designed to be mounted into windows, the panels could be turned to rest at various angles allowing light in during the day whilst absorbing solar energy. In the evening, the OLED screens would be turned to face indoors to light up rooms and also provide a bank of screens for media playback. At night…

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LED? Low wattage comes with a price

Lowe’s this week announced it would begin hawking a light-emitting diode, or LED, bulb.

It’s the perfect substitute for the good-old 60-watt incandescent standby. However, the price is a bit off-putting at $39.98. But new technology comes with a cost. A really cool flat-screen TV can run up to $3,600 at Costco.

Of course, I still have an old tube TV and still burn some low wattage incandescents.
Lowe’s version is from Osram Sylvania. Home Depot sells a similar unit for about the same price from Phillips.

Cool? Sure. Will I use one?

I thought about that. I live in a somewhat respectable area in Clovis, Calif. But it’s a place where if you put anything at all valuable on the curb, it disappears. I’ve actually timed this practice. I put an old washing machine out, and it lasted 15 minutes.

Even scrap metal disappears relatively quickly.

So I imagined how quickly my outside lights would disappear should I plug in LEDs. Three outdoor LEDs could fetch one of my friendly roving recyclers a good return.

I tried going with compact fluorescents. But even with stores’ increased eco light selection, I can’t seem to find any that don’t blow out with photo-cell lighting.

Photo-cell friendly compact fluorescents do exist, but I couldn’t find them on the shelf. I ended up buying 38-watt incandescents. They work fine but stay on all night.

The key for greater usage is versatility, or, in my case, conformability. I may have to break down and buy some new fixtures.

Many have said the incandescent is on the way out and in fact may be banned by energy efficiency seeking regulation. But the price differential for that efficiency remains high.

Martin LaMonica of Green Tech on cnet.com said change may be coming. “Some lighting company executives forecast that within two years, LED bulbs in the 800 lumen category will cost less than $10,” he wrote.

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Solar Powered Garden lights

Gardens are a very important part of someone’s home. Gardens not only decorate the home but also give fresh feeling to the home. For a creative person the garden could be the place to shower all the creativity. Lighting also brings out the best part of a garden.

Without proper lighting a garden does not really feel good. There are many types of lightings available in the market but the newest addition to the variety of lightings is solar powered garden lights. These solar powered garden lights not only give a fresh feeling to the garden but also help in saving the environment.

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Clean energy – Definition

Finding an adequate definition for clean energy isn’t an easy thing to do, mostly because of the issue with nuclear power categorization. While some energy experts believe that nuclear power should be also categorized as a clean energy source because harnessing nuclear energy doesn’t emit harmful greenhouse gas emissions others say that nuclear power shouldn’t be considered as a clean energy source because of radioactive nuclear waste.

What does this “clean” mean? The clean means environmentally friendly, or given our current energy situation, environmentally more acceptable compared to fossil fuels. This somewhat explains why there is such a big debate whether we should include nuclear power among clean energy sources or not, as energy experts first need to agree whether nuclear power is environmentally more friendly option compared to fossil fuels.

The question about nuclear power categorization is really a question of setting up the limit for term “clean”. If clean energy refers only to energy sources that are not connected with greenhouse gas emissions then nuclear power should be considered as one of the clean energy options, and if clean refers to energy sources that are not hazardous for environment then nuclear power cannot be categorized as a clean energy source.

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Why isn’t the world using more solar energy?

Using more solar energy to cut our dependence on fossil fuels, and improve our energy security and energy independence seems like a very logical solution, especially since the Sun is the most abundant source of energy on our planet. Solar energy can provide us with over 1000 times more energy than we currently need but despite this enormous potential, in 2008 solar power accounted for miserable 0.02% of the world’s total energy supply.

There are several reasons why world isn’t using more solar energy to satisfy its huge energy demand. When talking about solar power technologies we need to know that these technologies are still in the very early phase of development, which explains why solar power still fails to achieve efficiency comparable with fossil fuels. An average solar panel has an efficiency of around 15 percent, which means that large amount of solar energy gets wasted, and ends up like a heat instead being turned into some form of useful energy.

Improving efficiency of solar cells won’t mean much unless science also finds the solution on how to make solar panels cheaper. The only way solar power can really prosper in years to come is by finding highly efficient solar panels that would also be commercially viable. This is by all means a difficult task for science, but several latest researches have given us at least some hope that finding this solution isn’t a mission impossible.

There is also one other issue that solar energy sector will need to resolve, namely the intermittency issue. Solar energy is an intermittent energy source because Sun doesn’t shine all the time which means that solar energy is not continually available throughout the whole day. In order to tackle the intermittency issue solar energy (again) needs science to find some cheap solar energy storage solution. Using molten salts as the storage medium has so far proved to be quite effective, and many energy experts have great expectation of this solar energy storage method.

Solar power will also need to have strong political support, and big funding to become dominant energy source in years to come. Powerful fossil fuel lobbies will no doubt use their huge political influence to slow down the development of solar power technologies as much as possible because they are well aware that once science presents cheap and efficient solar panels, they will lose their last big advantage over solar power, the cost-competitiveness.

The future of solar power depends heavily on science but politics cannot be overlooked because science needs large funds to continue with researches, and these funds can not be obtained without the strong political support. Solar power has currently strong public support which should result in favorable politics toward further development of solar power technologies in years to come. Doing otherwise would mean fewer votes on elections, and this is something politicians will try to avoid at almost any cost.

The correlation of science, adequate funding and strong political support should in years to come turn solar energy into one of the world’s most widely used energy sources.

Posted byNed Haluzan

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Solar Wind Power: Generating Power In The Future

As the world discovers new ways to meet its growing energy needs, energy generated from Sun, which is better known as solar power and energy generated from wind called the wind power are being considered as a means of generating power. Though these two sources of energy have attracted the scientists for a very long time, they are not able to decide, which of the two is a better source to generate power. Now scientists are looking at a third option as well. Scientists at Washington State University have now combined solar power and wind power to produce enormous energy called the solar wind power, which will satisfy all energy requirements of human kind.

Advantages of Solar wind power.

The scientists say that whereas the entire energy generated from solar wind will not be able to reach the planet for consumption as a lot of energy generated by the satellite has to be pumped back to copper wire to create the electron-harvesting magnetic field, yet the amount that reaches earth is more than sufficient to fulfill the needs of entire human, irrespective of the environment condition.Moreover, the team of scientists at Washington State University hopes that it can generate 1 billion billion gigawatts of power by using a massive 8,400-kilometer-wide solar sail to harvest the power in solar wind.According to the team at Washington State University, 1000 homes can be lit by generating enough power for them with the help of 300 meters (984 feet) of copper wire, which is attached to a two-meter-wide (6.6-foot-wide) receiver and a 10-meter (32.8-foot) sail.One billion gigawatts of power could also be generated by a satellite having 1,000-meter (3,280-foot) cable with a sail 8,400 kilometers (5,220 miles) across, which are placed at roughly the same orbit.The scientists feel that if some of the practical issued are solved, Solar wind power will generate the amount of power that no one including the scientists working to find new means of generating power ever expected.

How does the Solar wind power technology work?
The satellite launched to tap solar wind power, instead of working like a wind mill, where a blade attached to the turbine is physically rotated to generate electricity, would use charged copper wire for capturing electrons zooming away from the sun at several hundred kilometers per second.

Disadvantages of Solar wind power
But despite the fact that Solar wind power will solve almost all the problems that we were to face in future due to power generating resources getting exhausted, it has some disadvantages as well. These may include:

Brooks Harrop, the co-author of the journal paper says that while scientists are keen to tap solar wind to generate power, they also need to keep provisions for engineering difficulties and these engineering difficulties will have to be solved before satellites to tap solar wind power are deployed.The distance between the satellite and earth will be so huge that as the laser beam travels millions of miles, it makes even the tightest laser beam spread out and lose most of the energy. To solve this problem, a more focused laser is needed.But even if these laser beams reach our satellites, it is very doubtful that our satellites in their present form will be able to tap them. As Greg Howes, a scientist at the University of Iowa puts it, “The energy is there but to tap that energy from solar wind, we require big satellites. There may be practical constraints in this.”

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Efficient, inexpensive plastic solar cells coming soon

ScienceDaily (Oct. 11, 2010)  Physicists at Rutgers University have discovered new properties in a material that could result in efficient and inexpensive plastic solar cells for pollution-free electricity production.

The discovery, posted online and slated for publication in an upcoming issue of the journal Nature Materials, reveals that energy-carrying particles generated by packets of light can travel on the order of a thousand times farther in organic (carbon-based) semiconductors than scientists previously observed. This boosts scientists’ hopes that solar cells based on this budding technology may one day overtake silicon solar cells in cost and performance, thereby increasing the practicality of solar-generated electricity as an alternate energy source to fossil fuels.

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Will China make the world green?

Joschka Fischer was never one to mince words when he was Germany’s foreign minister in the late ’90s and early noughts. So it is not overly surprising that he has painted a picture in a new post of a world with only two powers — the United States and China — and an ineffective and divided Europe on the sidelines.

More controversial, however, is his view that China will not only grow into the world’s most important market over the coming years, but will determine what the world produces and consumes — and that that will be green.

Fischer, who was leader of  Germany’s Green Party, reckons that due to its sheer size and needed GDP growth, China will have to pursue a green economy. Without that, he writes in his Project Syndicate post, China will quickly reach limits to growth with disastrous ecological and, as a result, political consequences.

This will have serious consequences on the the way the West lives.

Consider the transition from the traditional automobile to electric transport. Despite European illusions to the contrary, this will be decided in China, not in the West. All that will be decided by the West’s globally dominant automobile industry is whether it will adapt and have a chance to survive or go the way of other old Western industries: to the developing world.

This is not the usual view of China. Many greens have long feared the impact of a huge leap in Chinese growth on the global environment — refrigerators in a billion homes, cars in a billion garages etc.

So instead of killing the planet, is China set to save it?

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Converting Waste Heat to Electricity

With rapid industrialization, the world has seen the development of a number of items or units, which generate heat. Until now this heat has often been treated as a waste, making people wonder if this enormous heat being generated can be transformed into a source of electric power. Now, with the physicists at the University of Arizona finding new ways to harvest energy through heat, this dream is actually going to become a reality.

University of Arizona Research Team: The research team is headed by Charles Staffor. He is the associate professor of physics, and he along with his team worked on harvesting energy from waste. The team’s findings were published in the September 2010 issue of the scientific journal, ACS Nano.

Justin Bergfield who is an author and a doctoral candidate in the UA College of Optical Sciences shares his opinion, “Thermoelectricity can convert heat directly into electric energy in a device with no moving parts. Our colleagues in the field tell us that they are confident that the device we have designed on the computer can be built with the characteristics that we see in our simulations.”

Advantages: Elimination of Ozone Depleting materials: Using the waste heat as a form of electric power has multiple advantages. Whereas on one hand, using the theoretical model of molecular thermoelectric helps in increasing the efficiency of cars, power plants factories and solar panels, on the other hand efficient thermoelectric materials make ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, outdated.

More Efficient Design: The head of the research team Charles Stafford is hopeful about positive results because he expects that the thermoelectric voltage using their design will be 100 times more than what others have achieved. If the design of the team, which they have made on a computer does work, it will be a dream come true for all those engineers, who wanted to catch and make use of energy lost through waste but do not have the required efficient and economical devices to do so.

No need for Mechanics: The heat-conversion device invented by Bergfield and Stafford do not require any kind of machines or ozone-depleting chemicals, as was the case with refrigerators and steam turbines, which were earlier used to convert waste into electric energy. Now, the same work is done by sandwiching a rubber-like polymer between two metals, which acts like an electrode. The thermoelectric devices are self-contained, need no moving parts and are easy to manufacture and maintain.

Utilization Of Waste Energy: Energy is harvested in many ways using the car and factory waste. Car and factory waste can be used for generating electricity by coating exhaust pipes with a thin material, which is a millionth time of an inch. Physicists also take advantage of the law of quantum physics, which though not used often enough, gives great results when it comes to generating power from the waste.

Advantage Over Solar Energy: Molecular thermoelectric devices may help in harvesting energy from the sun and reduce the dependence on photovoltic cells, whose efficiency in harvesting solar energy is going down.
How It Works

Though having worked on the molecule and thinking about using them for a thermoelectric device, Bergfield and Stafford had not found anything special till an undergraduate discovered that these molecules had special features. A large number of molecules were then sandwiched between electrodes and exposed to a stimulated heat source. The flow of electrons along the molecule was split in two once it encounters a benzene ring, with one flow of electrons following along each arm of the ring.

The benzene ring circuit was designed in such a way that the electron travels longer distance round the rings in one path, which causes the two electrons to be out of phase when they reach the other side of the benzene ring. The waves cancel out each-other on meeting. The interruption caused in the flow of electric charge due to varied temperature builds up voltage between electrodes.

The effects seen on molecules are not unique because any quantum scale device having cancellation of electric charge will show a similar effect if there is a temperature difference. With the increase in temperature difference, energy generated also increases.

Thermoelectric devices designed by Bergfield and Stafford can generate power that can lit a 100 Watt bulb or increase car’s efficiency by 25%.

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Less Power To Refrigerators! Appliances Get More Efficient From 2014

Via Conservrefrigerators.com

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this week announced new efficiency standards for most new refrigerators as of 2014. Energy efficiency for these domestic appliances is set to increase by 25%. They account for about 10% of household electricity use.

Advocacy groups and appliance manufacturers welcomed the news. “We appreciate that DOE has moved so quickly to adopt the agreed-upon standards,” said Andrew deLaski, Executive Director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP). “The consensus standards not only save consumers a huge amount of energy and money, they also save DOE the energy, time, and money that a contentious rulemaking process can require.”

According to the proposed rule, a typical new 20-cubic-foot refrigerator with the freezer on top would use about 390 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year, down from about 900 kWh/year in 1990 and about 1,700 kWh/year in the early 1970s. On a national basis, the new standards would, over 30 years, save 4.5 quads of energy, or roughly enough to meet the total energy needs of one-fifth of all U.S. households for a year. Over the same period, the standards will save consumers about $18.5 billion. DOE will finalize the standards by year’s end, and they take effect in 2014.

“The appliance industry has a strong history in reaching agreement with a broad base of energy and water efficiency advocates, as well as consumer groups, to develop energy conservation standards for home appliances,” said Joseph McGuire, President of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. “The new minimum energy standards are a significant part of the agreement, as is the extension of the current super-efficient manufacturers’ tax credits, which we are urging Congress to act on, and a soon-to-be-submitted petition to ENERGY STAR on smart appliances.”

Based on the July agreement, home appliance manufacturers and efficiency, environmental and consumer advocates have agreed to jointly pursue with Congress and the Administration new standards for six categories of home appliances (refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers, clothes dryers, dishwashers and room air conditioners), a recommendation that ENERGY STAR qualification criteria incorporate credit for Smart Grid capability, and a package of targeted tax credits aimed at fostering the market for super-efficient appliances.

As part of the new refrigerator standards, ice maker energy consumption also will be reflected in product energy-use ratings to help consumers gauge actual energy use choosing a refrigerator.

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