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20 Really Awesome Facts about Solar Power

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I love discovering new facts about pretty much anything.  Any day I can learn something is an awesome day.  Any day I can learn something new about light, it’s an even better day!

Here’s 20 Really Awesome Facts about Solar Power!

  1. The first working, practical, usable solar cell was created by Bell Laboratories in 1954.  It only produced 1 Watt of energy for $250/Watt.  Now that’s Cost INeffective!
  2. Photovoltaic (PV) cells made from the silicon in 1 ton of sand can produce as much electricity as burning 500,000 tons of coal in a power plant.  Why are we burning coal again?
  3. Light that comes from the Sun takes approximately 8 minutes and 20 seconds to hit the Earth.  How’s that for light speed?  Wacka wacka!
  4. In the state of California, if we covered every available commercial and industrial roof with solar power panels, ALL of California’s electricity demand could be generated during the daytime, forever.
  5. A few hundred years ago while traveling to Africa, a scientist named John Herschel created a cooker using the Sun to cook food, inventing the first Solar Cooker.
  6. The first traceable use of the Sun as a tool was back in 700 BC, when people learned how to concentrate the Sun’s rays with the use of a magnifying glass of sorts.  As a kid I always felt terrible about the thought of burning ants, which is probably why I never joined the Military!
  7. In 1981, a man named Paul Macready produced the first solar powered plane — Paul’s plane used more than 1600 solar cells mounted on its wings.  Paul Macready flew from France to England.
  8. 2012 was an unbelievable year for massive solar collection plants.  The largest solar energy plant is the Golmud Solar Park in China, with an installed capacity of 200 megawatts.  Arguably, this is surpassed by India’s Gujarat Solar Park, a collection of solar farms scattered around the Gujarat region with a combined installed capacity of 605 megawatts.
  9. There are two types of Solar Panels for use in commercial and residential applications — Photovoltaic panels and Solar Thermal panels.  PV panels work by converting the Sun’s rays to electricity, and Solar Thermal panels work by absorbing the Sun’s heat energy to warm up water by circulating the water through it.
  10. Solar collection on its own is a carbon neutral, pollution-free method of collecting and generating energy.  The only carbon creating part of solar power is the manufacture of Solar Panels and the accessories that go into building a solar panel system.
  11. In one hour, the Sun provides more energy to Earth than the whole world uses all year.  Approximately 120,000 terawatts (TW) hit the Earth’s surface each day.  Over the course of a year, the world only uses 15 TW of energy.
  12. The diameter of our Sun is 1,392,000 kilometers across while Earth is just 12,756 kilometers across.  Earth is 109 times smaller than our Sun, and our Sun can hold over a million Earths (that is if we didn’t become like the bits at the bottom of the pan of bacon before we got all of the one million in there).
  13. In only 20 days, the Sun could match the power of all of the world’s resource stockpiles of oil, coal, and natural gas.  Why are we ruining our world with crap energy sources again?
  14. Regardless of the completely negative and destructive effects of continuous usage of oil, coal, and natural gas in the world’s countries, human civilization is very slow to adopt Solar Power to replace even one of the non-renewable energy sources.  As of September 2012, only 0.05% of the world’s power comes from Solar sources.  Doesn’t that disgust you?
  15. Of all the Solar energy that strikes Earth, only 50% is absorbed by Earth while 30% of it is reflected back into space.
  16. To date, the most efficiency that solar power manufacturers can reach is barely 47.12%.  So for all of the sunlight that burns down onto a solar panel, at best there will only be around 40% converted.  This is also a best-case scenario, and the actual percentage is considerably lower based on many factors.  Typically, efficacy of Solar panel technology is around 15%.
  17. Production of 1 kilowatt of solar energy is equivalent to burning 170 pounds of coal which releases 300 pounds of carbon dioxide.  This is comparable to preventing 15 gallons of gas from ever being used!
  18. If you cover 10,000 square miles of land in the Southwest United States, it would generate enough power to meet the energy needs of the entire country!  To silence the anti-Solar power whiners on the Internet, the US has strip-mined at least that amount for coal.  No wonder the environment is slipping.
  19. As of October 2012, Germany is using Solar power with the most fervor, followed by China.
  20. The real kicker — all current fossil fuels are just stored versions of Solar energy!

Have a great day, everyone!

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Thanks to Going Green, All Purpose Guru, Wikipedia on John Herschel, Solar Gadgets, USDoE, Explore Green Tech, St. Gobain Solar, Green Building, Renewable Power News, and International Energy Association!

How Energy Efficient Buildings Work [Infographic]

Another infographic that is RELEVANT to my interests!

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I just find these things so very interesting and provocatively helpful; it’s an image, but organized in such a way that you’re led on a journey across, up, down, and along the image.  The jackpot at the end of the rainbow?  You learn something!

For instance, let’s learn about How Energy Efficient Buildings Work!

Energy-Efficient-Buildings-infographic

Let’s Compare Energy Efficient Lighting Technologies! [Infographic]

Do you know just how relevant to my interests THIS infographic is?!

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This is an awesome infographic — a comparison and history of some of our energy efficient lighting technologies.  Check it out!

Let’s Compare Energy Efficient Lighting Technologies!

Energy-Efficient-Lighting-Technologies-infographicThanks, Precision Paragon!

 

Beware! The Blob

While not a 1970s scifi horror flick, Sunday Paper‘s spectacular short film Light is certainly haunting. For a fascinating and beautiful minute and a half short film, it certainly carries an elegiac note.

 

 

Just watch it!

 

Light from Sunday Paper on Vimeo.

 

I Knew If I Dreamed Long Enough, Solar Bikinis Would Be Born

Custom clothing maker Solar Coterie is now taking orders for a line of custom solar bikinis.  That’s right ladies, not only can you be hot, but you can also use your hotness to generate and collect small amounts of energy powerful enough to sustain your iPhone or iPod while you’re out there making us all talk like a bunch of bumbling idiots.  Here, let me show you what I mean:

Ok.  So there we go.  A suit made of solar thinfilm, terminating into a female USB connector allowing you to juice up that iDevice in the summer, or anywhere that the sun is shining that you won’t freeze your dumps off.  My only question is – if you’ve ever felt a solar collecting fil;m while it’s collecting, they do tend to get pretty hot to the touch.  Is the Solar Bikini going to get ridiculously hot while the wearer is sporting it?

Now I gotta believe the men’s version of this is coming, too.  A little less appealing is the only thing I can say about using my own junk to power my iPod.

Thanks, CleanTechnica!

Green VS. Red Hot – The Question of Antique Filament Lamps

A New York Times article posted last week brought up an interesting topic – antique incandescent lamps, the old Edison style filaments, being used in restaurants and other places.  The article brought up some interesting points, and had lots of interesting comments from people like Noah Horowitz, Ken Friedman, and Charlie Palmer.  Check out this comment from Noah Horowitz, from the article:

“It boggles the mind that in these times of economic hardship and interest in environmental sustainability that restaurant owners would choose the light bulb that uses 5 to 10 times more power than the other bulbs on the market,” Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist at the environmental group, wrote in an e-mail message. “You can’t on the one hand brag how green you are by serving organic beer and locally grown produce while you are lighting your business with the least efficient light bulbs available in the world.”

You know the lamp they’re talking about?  The Edison filament?

I’m a huge supporter of energy advocacy.  HUGE.  I love LEDs, period.  I do hate CFLs, mostly because they look like total crap and are filled with Mercury.  I love solar power, wind power, and other forms of sustainable energy production.  I am always looking for new ways to help the LED industry grow in tune with my industry, lighting design.  In the future, I see LED sources becoming the next light source in mass usage, and eventually they’ll be as cheap as incandescent lamps are now.

What really gets me kinda frustrated at critics of incandescent lamps is that most of them aren’t lighting designers, but since everyone else likes to bash incandescent lamps, critics hop on the blame game of incandescent lamps just because they won’t find much opposition.  Incandescent lamp critics, do you just feel good to criticize because most people will agree with you?  It’s true that it’s not an efficient source – but how many are you still using in your houses, where no one can see what you do on your own time?

Yeah.  That’s what I thought.

In the case of these old Edison-style filaments, I think that if critics knew what exactly they were criticizing and WHY designers are using these old inefficient lamps, the critics might have more of an understanding of what they’re criticizing.  In this case, I view this subject like iceberg lettuce – sure it has about no nutritional value, but lordy, people love it.  Why?  Well, it’s cheap, it has its place, and, well, it’s cheap.  In the case again of these Edison lamps, lighting designers are using them to get an atmosphere that most LEDs cannot recreate, and certainly not by a fluorescent lamp.  Charlie Palmer said that these old incandescent Edison lamps are twenty years ago, and Ken Friedman said “no exposed bulbs!”  Well, why?  Is it because you’re worried about energy consumption?  Is it because you’re worried about people commenting on energy consumption?  That doesn’t really seem like a good reason to me to criticize something that you just might not understand.

Now before you call me a troglodyte or some other important people word that you feel better using in order to insult a critic of critics, as a lighting designer, I have a problem being told that incandescent lamps have to be banned.  What that says to me is that you don’t think that lighting designers can effectively utilize the light from incandescent lamps, so you have to go ahead and make people believe that they’re just the worst thing since the electric chair.  I just have to simply say “BS.”  You can tell me how to do my job when you’re better at it than me.

I have a hard time believing that the best next step for improving our worldwide use of electricity is to ban the incandescent lamp.  Before you make huge claims like trashing decorative use of incandescent lamps, you should criticize our nation’s electrical grid, the development of Smart Meters, and the fact that energy companies make it nearly fiscally impossible for homeowners to put solar panels on their house in a financially effective way.

The almighty dollar stands in the way of effective and revolutionary changes to the way we light.  I think that sucks.  Next thing we know, fellow lighting designers, is that we’re not gonna be able to use HPLs, BTNs, FELs, or any other incandescent lamp because people other than lighting designers think they aren’t good for us.

Empire State Building Cleaning Up Energy Expenditures

A series of sustainability retrofits has been announced for New York’s Empire State Building – the goal is to reduce energy costs for the skyscraper by 40%.  Is this a lofty goal?  There’s a $20 million dollar grand retrofit planned, and the energy savings from it are supposed to total somewhere in the neighborhood of $4.4 million.  Not a bad return, considering.  There are some snippy commentaries on this plan – overall, sure, it’s great – let’s save money.  Why has it taken so long to fix these big money magnets associated with power expenditures in the Empire State Building?  What do you think?

Clinton Climate Initiative, Rocky Mountain Institute, Johnson Controls, and Jones Lang LaSalle are all participating in this big project – the larger project at hand is a $500 million dollar renovation plan of several spaces.  I don’t know the timeframe to accomplish all of this, but the Empire State Building systems retrofits are supposed to be finished by 2010, and tenant space renovations by 2013.  Here’s a bit of the plan for the Empire State Building:

  • 1. Window Light Retrofit:  Refurbishment of approximately 6,500 thermopane glass windows, using existing glass and sashes to create triple-glazed insulated panels with new components that dramatically reduce both summer heat load and winter heat loss.
  • 2. Radiator Insulation Retrofit: Added insulation behind radiators to reduce heat loss and more efficiently heat the building perimeter.
  • 3. Tenant Lighting, Daylighting and Plug Upgrades: Introduction of improved lighting designs, daylighting controls, and plug load occupancy sensors in common areas and tenant spaces to reduce electricity costs and cooling loads.
  • 4. Air Handler Replacements: Replacement of air handling units with variable frequency drive fans to allow increased energy efficiency in operation while improving comfort for individual tenants.
  • 5. Chiller Plant Retrofit: Reuse of existing chiller shells while removing and replacing “guts” to improve chiller efficiency and controllability, including the introduction of variable frequency drives.
  • 6. Whole-Building Control System Upgrade: Upgrade of existing building control system to optimize HVAC operation as well as provide more detailed sub-metering information.
  • 7. Ventilation Control Upgrade: Introduction of demand control ventilation in occupied spaces to improve air quality and reduce energy required to condition outside air.
  • 8. Tenant Energy Management Systems: Introduction of individualized, web-based power usage systems for each tenant to allow more efficient management of power usage.

Let’s hope we see innovation like this everywhere we look.  Here’s a video of the Clinton Climate Initiative’s involvement in the project:

Thanks, Earth2Tech and Treehugger!

A Material Utilizing ALL Wavelengths of Light!

My alma mater, The Ohio State University, and their Institute for Materials Research has come up with a solar material that utilizes all wavelengths of light across the spectrum – so in layman’s terms, this material can absorb energy from the entire visible spectrum of light!  It’s been a major problem for years with solar voltaics and the amount of energy they’re able to absorb – but OSU has solved this problem with their new super plastic full-spectrum light absorber.  From Inhabitat’s article:

The new electrically-conductive plastic includes materials such as molybdenum and titanium. It operates upon the same principles as standard photovoltaic materials, wherein light energizes the atoms of the material and knocks electrons free to generate a current. Whereas in traditional photovoltaics the electrons are removed for a fraction of a second, in the new hybrid material the electrons are excited for much longer (7 million times) than before.

Wow.  GO BUCKEYES!