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For the First Time Ever, a Solar-Powered Plane Flew All the Way Around the Earth

This solar-powered airplane by Solar Impulse has just completed its trip all the way around our lovely planet, which is quite an impressive feat! The only catch? It took the airplane a year and four months to make the journey.

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North Carolina Residents Rescue Their Town From Solar Panels Greedy for Their Sun Energy or Something

Where's Leslie Knope when you need her?

A North Carolina town council recently voted not to allow another solar panel farm to be erected on a piece of land. That's all well and good (maybe not really good, but totally their call), but then their residents' concerns on the issue pretty much came within one Star Wars filibuster of being a Parks and Rec episode.

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Things We Saw Today: Alan Tudyk’s Hella Cute BB-8 Jack-O-Lantern

Holy heck this BB-8 pumpkin is way too freakin' adorable. Wait, who made it? Alan freakin' Tudyk?! Oh gosh, that's some amazing stream-crossing there.

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Things We Saw Today: James Gunn Reads Chris Pratt’s Speech at the Saturn Awards, Hilarity Ensues

That cat sweater, though.

Of course, this being Chris Pratt, he couldn't help but have fun with it, so he wrote James Gunn a speech to read verbatim. It's fantastic.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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