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solar power

  1. Review: We Fired Guns at the EnerPlex Kickr II Solar Panel… For Science

    Solar panels! Guns! Jeeps!

    EnerPlex sent us their Kickr II and Kickr IV solar panels to test. They specifically asked that we test their durability and even mentioned that the panels could be punctured and still work. So we did the only logical thing we could do in this situation: Shot one of them with guns and then ran it over with a Jeep. How did it hold up?

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  2. We Actually Went Out in the Sun To Test the EnerPlex Packr Solar Backpack

    ...and lived to write about it!

    Keeping my phone charged when I'm not home is a constant source of anxiety for me, and I don't think I'm alone. (Please tell me I'm not alone.) So any product that can help allay the fear of running out of juice immediately has my attention. The Enerplex Packr is a backpack with a built-in solar panel for charging your stuff on the go, and I had the chance to test it out.

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  3. Call Harvey Birdman, the World’s Largest Solar Power Plant Is Melting Birds

    Turns out regular birds don't do so well with the power of the sun.

    The world's largest solar power plant located in California, which started generating power just last week, is a beautiful sight, because it uses mirrors to focus the heat in sunlight instead of solar cells. It's so beautiful, in fact, that birds are drawn to it and then melted by the extreme heat.

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  4. Japan Wants To Solve The Energy Crisis With A Solar Power Plant On The Moon

    Uh, no, because that's where they have to build the Silver Millennium.

    Okay, so we know the Japanese have some pretty epic ideas, but this one might just take the delicious steamed cake. Architectural/engineering firm Shimizu has proposed a Moon-based solar power plant to solve our energy and climate crisis here on Earth. No word yet on whether or not it will be powered by Queen Serenity's Silver Crystal.

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  5. Product Review: Goal Zero Nomad 7 Solar Charger

    Power your stuff with the power of the Sun.

    We've been testing out the Goal Zero Nomad 7 portable solar charger and battery pack for the past few weeks. If you're thinking about buying a solar charger to power your electronics on the go, see what we thought about the Nomad after spending some time with it.

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  6. New Technique Hijacks Photosynthesis to Create Electricity From Plants

    Plants use energy from the Sun through photosynthesis, and humans use energy from the Sun through things like solar panels. A new technique created by researchers at the University of Georgia allows humans to get electricity from plants by hijacking the photosynthesis process. This research could someday lead to some very literal power plants.

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  7. It’s Always Sunny in Germany: Fox News Fails to Grasp Solar Power Reality

    Solar power is one of those divisive political issues that stereotypical Republicans hate and stereotypical Democrats love. Alternative energy in general falls pretty strictly down party lines, but solar power tends to receive the most flak. Government subsidies and the like are constantly talked about for one reason or another. Germany's producing a whole mess of solar energy, on the other and, and Fox & Friends apparently seems to think that it's because "they've got more sun than we do." One guess as to how accurate that statement is.

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  8. Different Photosynthesis Rates Show The Grass Really Is Greener Sometimes

    Researchers at Brown University have found the anatomical and evolutionary basis behind the fact that some varieties of grass really are greener than others -- or at least why they're able to produce food for themselves via photosynthesis more effectively than their cousins. According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a slight difference in the cellular structure around the veins in blades of grass can make the difference between a grass that is highly efficient and successful and one that just putters along.

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  9. Peel-and-Stick Solar Panels Now Reality, Solar-Powered Unicorn Stickers Likely Not Far Off

    One of the most limiting elements of solar power technology so far has been that panels require a rigid surface to support them, making their placement an effort and cost-intensive chore. A new process discovered at Stanford University though, may allow thin and flexible solar panels to be applied to virtually any surface in the near future. The new panels work like decals that can be applied with an adhesive to almost any surface, meaning that middle school children of the future may be able to power their mobile devices with the Lisa Frank stickers on their notebook. Truly, we live in an age of wonders.

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  10. Flexible Silicon Solar Cell Wires Could Make Solar Charging Fabrics A Reality

    A team led by Penn State researchers has succeeded in building silicon fibers thinner than a human hair that can act as solar cells. If the work scales up to produce longer fibers as well as the team thinks it could, these solar energy absorbing threads could be woven into clothing in the future. So if you've ever wanted a jacket that can pull in energy through the fibers it's made of and use it charge your phone while you take a stroll in the park, take heart -- you might be getting it sooner than expected.

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  11. Pacific Islands of Tokelau First Territory To Be 100% Solar Powered

    The island territory of Tokelau consists of just three small islands, including Atafu Atoll, above, which looks really pretty from the International Space Station, and has just 1,500 residents, so you can be forgiven for not knowing that it...is a thing that exists. This little group of islands has taken in a big step, though, becoming the first territory in the world to draw 100% of its energy from solar power.

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  12. Tesla Unveils Solar-Powered Supercharger Network, Ambitiously Plans to Cover Entire United States

    Tesla Motors has apparently taken to heart the idea that they should go big or go home. The company behind the Model S electric car has announced their ambitious Supercharger network, which will allow their cars to charge at ludicrous speeds compared to other electric offerings. There are currently only six stations, all of which are in California, but Tesla is already planning on expanding across the continental United States. The kicker? Model S owners will get to charge free at any Supercharger station.

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  13. Solar Panels Made By Ion Cannon Could Halve Production Costs

    Solar power is a pretty direct and elegant way to generate power. After all, most traditional fuels involve energy that originated from the sun in one way or another, and unlike oil, gas, even hydroelectric and wind, solar power doesn't require any of those pesky turbines. You just sit a panel out in the sun and wait. The problem is, convenient as that all may sound, the actually production of solar panels has been pretty inefficient up to this point, making them prohibitively expensive considering their relatively low level of energy collection. Now, however, a new production technique utilizing a literal ion cannon may be able to halve the production cost of solar cells and make them even better in the process.

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  14. First Solar Power Plant That Can Generate Electricity Without Sunlight Opens

    A recently opened solar power plant near Seville in southern Spain, is the first of its kind to be able to generate electricity from sunlight during the day and still retain enough heat to continue generating energy all the way through the night. The $410 million Gemasolar plant has a output of 20 megawatts, although at the moment, it does not produce at full capacity when the sun isn't out.

    The plant is of the heliostatic variety, meaning that it doesn't derive its power from photovoltaics, but rather from the raw heat energy of sunlight. A series of concentric mirrors, 2,650 in this case, direct the sunlight at centrally located salt tanks. The heat melts the salt, which boils water around it, and the steam generated turns the turbines. The salt tanks' ability to retain heat is what affords the plant up to 15 hours of sunless energy generation.

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  15. Graphene Creates Electricity When Struck by Light

    According to researchers at MIT, graphene generates an electrical current when struck by light. If you aren't familiar, graphene is something of a miracle material. It's basically a one-atom thick sheet of carbon that manages to come in sheets as thin as paper while being as strong as steel. That's already pretty impressive, so the ability to generate electricity from light is just icing on the cake.

    The way it works is that when hit by light, pretty much any kind of light, graphene generates a hot carrier response. This means that the electrons of the molecules in the graphene sheet gain enough energy to start moving (creating the current) but the carbon underneath still manages to stay cool.

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  16. 13-Year Old Uses Fibonacci Sequence for Better Solar Power UPDATED

    While walking through a forest in the winter, 7th grader Aidan Dwyer thought he saw a pattern in the way leaves and limbs grew from trees. Some photography, measurements, and investigating the work of other naturalists confirmed that plants produce new growth following a Fibonacci sequence. This pattern, where the previous numbers are added together to make the next number in sequence (1+1=2, 2+1=3, 3+2=5, 5+3=8, etc.), and its corresponding golden ratio have been observed all over the nature world. This got Dwyer thinking about why trees grew in this way, and if there was an evolutionary advantage in doing so. He knew that trees, like all plants, use their leaves to photosynthesize and decided to make that the focus of his investigation. To do so, he constructed a "tree" using the sequence of leaves found on an oak tree. Except on his tree, Dwyer placed photovoltaic cells instead of leaves.

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  17. Japan To Shoot Lasers From The Moon, Solve Energy Crisis

    Shoot lasers at the moon, solve Earth's energy crisis. Boom. Done. Next global problem please, we're on a roll. This is the statement I wish Japan's Shimizu Corp. had released about their new energy plan, but alas they've simply just announced the details of a scheme to harvest solar power from panels on the moon. But, what a plan it is. Robots will build a belt of solar panels to encircle the moon. The panels will gather up energy from the sun, convert it to electricity and then channel the electricity by cable around to the Earth-facing side of the moon. From there the power will be zapped to large receivers on Earth's surface using lasers. Why did it take so long for someone to propose this?

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  18. MIT Chemist Develops Ultra-Efficient “Artificial Leaf”

    MIT chemistry professor Daniel Nocera has been studying sustainable energy for a long while, and with his latest effort, he hopes that a chemical process similar to photosynthesis can reduce dependence on fossil fuels in the first and third worlds. Nocera's "artificial leaf" is a cheap fuel cell the size of a playing card. Leave it in a pool of water exposed to sunlight, and it will use the solar energy to split the water into oxygen and hydrogen, which will be used to power an electricity-producing fuel cell. (Technically, this makes the process involved electrolysis rather than photosynthesis, since there is no production of sugar or other organic compounds involved.) According to Nocera, all it takes is a gallon of water to power a house with moderate energy needs for a day:

    With a single gallon of water, Nocera says, the chip could produce enough electricity to power a house in a developing country for an entire day. Provide every house on the planet with an artificial leaf and we could satisfy our 14 terrawatt need with just one gallon of water a day. Those are impressive claims, but they're also not just pie-in-the-sky, conceptual thoughts. Nocera has already signed a contract with a global megafirm to commercialise his groundbreaking idea. The mammoth Indian conglomerate, Tata Group has forged a deal with the MIT professor to build a small power plant, the size of a refrigerator, in about a year and a half.
    One potentially large setback: In many of the developing countries in need of power, water is a very dear -- and very limited -- resource. However, power plants like we currently use are secretly water-guzzlers: One estimate has it that coal and nuclear plants go through 200 billion gallons of water every day in the U.S. alone. (h/t HN.) Nocera's fuel cell sounds like a most encouraging step in the right direction: Get something like this to work with salt water and we'd really be talking sustainability. (via Wired UK. title pic via AnorZaken)

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  19. The European Solar Decathlon: Our Favorites

    Modeled after the U.S. Department of Energy sponsored Solar Decathlon, the European Solar Decathlon is a competition for seventeen teams from different academic institutions to create the most efficient, sustainable, and environmentally friendly solar-powered house. The designs are pretty interesting, and we've complied our favorites, from an aesthetic point of view, below. Since the competition only began yesterday, this is pretty much the only thing you can judge them on. The American version of the competition lasts for three weeks.

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