Scientists just created green solar cells – and they’re working on white, red and additional colors

August 17, 2017 by  
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Do you love solar panels , but hate the color blue? You’re in luck – researchers in the Netherlands have developed a process for making conventional solar panels bright green, and they’re working on developing other colors as well. By making the panels more appealing, they hope to entice more people and businesses to invest in clean energy. Researchers at AMOLF devised a method of imprinting solar panels with silicon nanopatterns that make them appear green. Though the process decreases the efficiency by 10 percent, it’s considered to be an acceptable trade-off if the panels are installed on more buildings. Said Verena Neder, lead author of the paper and researcher at AMOLF, “The black appearance of the [conventional] solar panels is not attractive for many people and a reason to not put solar panels on their rooftop. Making solar cells colored makes it possible to integrate them in an architectural design of houses and full cities, but also to merge them in the landscape.” CleanTechnica reports that to turn the panels green , researchers “use soft imprint lithography to apply a dense array of silicon nanotubes onto the surface of solar cells.” At approximately 100 nanometers wide, each nanotube is carefully shaped to scatter a certain wavelength of light. The cells appear green to observers, and the color is constant regardless of where one is standing. “The structure we made is not very sensitive to the angle of observation, so even if you look at it from a wide angle, it still appears green,” said Neder. Related: Revolutionary glass building blocks generate their own solar energy Because the color can be adjusted by altering the geometry of the nanotubes , the researchers have started planning imprints that create red and blue solar colors. After the three primary colors of light are developed, they will be able to create any color — including white. “You have to combine different nanoparticles, and if they get very close to each other they can interact and that will affect the color,” said Albert Polman, a scientific group leader at AMOLF. “Going to white is a really big step.” The technology could make it possible to create tandem solar cells which are stacked in layers. Each layer would be fine tuned to absorb certain portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Theoretically, this could result in sunlight conversion efficiencies of 30 percent more. Considering commercially available solar cells are about 20 percent efficient, this could be a game-changer for the renewable energy industry. Affirmed Neder, “The new method to change the color of the panels is not only easy to apply but also attractive as an architectural design element and has the potential to widen their use.” + AIP Applied Physics Letters + AMOLF Via Clean Technica Images via Pixabay and Depositphotos

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Scientists just created green solar cells – and they’re working on white, red and additional colors

Inspiring urban farm teaches kids how to grow their own organic food

August 14, 2017 by  
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A tree may grow in Brooklyn, but an amazing urban farm flourishes on Governors Island . An inspiring GrowNYC initiative is teaching inner city kids how to plant, water, harvest, and cook pesticide-free fruits, herbs, and vegetables. Located on Governors Island just a quick ferry ride from lower Manhattan, the Teaching Garden is a 21,000-square-foot urban farm that offers free educational field trips to NYC students—many of whom have never seen how food is grown. Now in its fourth season, the half-acre Governors Island Teaching Garden comprises raised planters, a fruit orchard, an outdoor kitchen with a large solar oven , high-tunnel greenhouse, and even an aquaponics system housed inside a converted shipping container . The Teaching Garden currently has 69 individual planting beds built from recycled plastic lumber with over 40 plant varieties during the summer season. Although the urban farm isn’t certified organic, all the fruits, herbs, and vegetables are grown with all-natural and pesticide-free practices. Earth Matter NY supplies the compost. “There are students here every day of the week so we want to encourage students to be able to eat straight from the plant so we don’t want to put anything harmful in the plants,” said GrowNYC to Inhabitat during a farm tour. “But we do have natural pest management such as introducing ladybugs to eat the unwanted insects.” Related: Project Farmhouse community space with wall of edible plants coming to Union Square The majority of students who visit are from immigrant families, such as the group of fourth graders from PS 503 present on the day we visited. The educational journey begins with an introduction about the fruits and vegetables the participants harvest as well as a lesson on their nutritional value. The group is then led to the different planting beds and orchard to pick ingredients, followed by a trip to the outdoor kitchen for a lesson on cooking what they harvested for a true farm-to-fork experience. The students also plant seeds for future harvests and learn about sustainable initiatives ranging from renewable energy to recycling and composting. “We feel that young people in the city don’t have the same opportunities to experience the natural world,” said GrowNYC. “So we want to provide that for them and hope that when they leave they feel a connection and feel more comfortable with eating healthy fruits and vegetables, or even in cooking. Almost all the food we grow here the students eat. We wanted to make sure that we didn’t have to bring more food onto the island so we made an expansion to grow more food to reach self-sufficiency . Now we only bring on olive oil and spices. Expansion also lets us to bring more students out here and slightly larger classes. It also shows students what a small scale farm would look like.” In addition to expansion, the Teaching Garden is in the process of building a solar-powered aquaponics system designed by Harbor School students and housed inside a shipping container. The nitrate-rich water taken from the tilapia holding tanks will be pumped up to the roof where it’ll be used to irrigate vegetables. Other sustainably minded projects are being built with the help of corporate volunteers. CSR programs help subsidize most of the costs of the Teaching Garden to keep the educational program free for students. In addition to school visits, the urban farm is open to the public on weekends during Governors Island’s open season that runs until mid-autumn. + Governors Island Teaching Garden Images © Lucy Wang

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Floating, solar-powered ‘dragonfly’ bridge can sail to new locations

August 10, 2017 by  
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This floating pedestrian bridge  can sail along rivers and oceans like a boat. Designer Margot Krasojevic conceived the bridge as a flexible structure that can be folded, stacked and expanded so that it can be moored along quaysides, sailed to different locations, or permanently positioned. The Ordos government commissioned Krasojevic to design a pedestrian bridge which would cross the Wulanmulun River, located in Ordos city, Kangbashi district Mongolia. The SailBoat bridge consists of a main floating section, three expanding walkways, and a carbon fiber triple sail. The sail can be lowered and raised by a buoyancy rotator and allows the bridge to function as a sailboat in order to reach new locations. Cylindrical cross-flow turbines function as rafts and help stabilize the primary structure. Related: Margot Krasojevic designs Belgrade trolly system powered by piezoelectricity A hydraulic telescopic secondary structure supports the pedestrian walkway which expands and contracts into the main body of the structure. The walkways are flexible and can adapt to different spans. Caisson foundations and screw-in moorings can be used to permanently stabilize the bridge. A rotating Mobius ballast chamber hydraulically operated by a thruster and powered by photovoltaic cells rotates the sails which are made from lightweight aluminium and carbon fiber-reinforced polymer. + Margot Krasojevic Architecture

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Floating, solar-powered ‘dragonfly’ bridge can sail to new locations

This Danish school is completely covered with over 12,000 sea green solar panels

August 4, 2017 by  
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The 25,000-square-meter school in Denmark is covered with a whopping 12,000 solar panels , which provide more than half of its electricity needs. Unlike most solar-powered buildings, the panels aren’t solely relegated to the school’s rooftop. In fact, more than 6,000 square meters of the facade is clad in sea-foam hued photovoltaics. The days of hiding unsightly solar arrays are fading into the past. C.F. Møller ‘s International School Nordhavn in Copenhagen uses solar panels to produce clean energy – and also as a part of the building’s aesthetic. Related: Solar-powered Colorado school houses a sun-soaked learning environment The solar panels were developed by Swiss research institute EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne). The panels are actually clear; the beautiful sea green color is a result of technology that adds fine particles to the glass surface, giving the appearance of color. The result is a reflective green hue that varies with the light, providing the school with an attractive exterior that is beautiful, functional, and green. + C.F. Møller Via Azure Magazine

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This Danish school is completely covered with over 12,000 sea green solar panels

Airbnb will let you rent your own off-the-grid Caribbean island

August 4, 2017 by  
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Why settle for a beachfront cabana when you can rent the whole island? For $595 per night, Bird Island off the coast of Belize in the Caribbean could be yours. The listing comes courtesy of Airbnb , which plies such unique retreats as a treehouse in a 150-year-old oak , a replica of Vincent Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles , and a “floating” house on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. “Stay on your own in a truly private island on a beautiful atoll, with excellent swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and exploring—with all the comforts,” Airbnb promises. “It is a perfect setting for either a romantic get-away for a couple, a family gathering/reunion or for a small group of friends.” The spot, which is 20 minutes by boat from Placencia Village on the mainland, includes a private three-bedroom home that can accommodate up to six guests, a brand-new propane refrigerator and freezer, and a rainwater filtration system. Although Bird Island is off the grid—power is generated through solar and wind—you don’t have to be cut off from the world if you don’t want to. The locale boasts a phone for local numbers, plus “good and reliable” WiFi. Related: Washington Hobbit Hole is the first of three in an off-grid Shire Self-sufficiency is key, however. You’ll have to supply—or fish for—your own food. Snorkling or angling equipment is also strictly BYO. “The central theme of Bird Island is a self-catering, Robinson Crusoe type of adventure, yet with all the comforts, where one could get to do their own thing in total privacy,” Airbnb says. “We offer Bird Island at an exceptional price for an experience best-suited for the adventurous who are totally self-sufficient.” + Airbnb Photos via Airbnb Via Thrillist

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Airbnb will let you rent your own off-the-grid Caribbean island

Tesla’s new Solar Roof is actually cheaper than a normal roof

July 31, 2017 by  
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Good news for those who have been eyeing Tesla’s new Solar Roof – the company just announced pricing for its photovoltaic tiles, and they come it at just $21.85 per square foot . That’s nearly 20 percent cheaper than a normal roof — even without factoring in the energy savings. Tesla’s sought-after Solar Roof tiles are made of glass layered over a photovoltaic substrate, and they serve as a replacement for traditional roofing materials. This ensures they look like the “real thing” from the ground – even though they accomplish much more than a standard roof. So far, Tesla has two styles available for pre-order: a textured black glass tile and a smooth grey tile. The tuscan and slate tiles will be available for installation in early 2018. According to the company , installing a Solar Roof takes between five and seven days – and Tesla manages the entire process itself. The fact that the Solar Roof tiles are so economical is applaudable, considering that Consumer Reports predicted back in November that the tiles would need to cost under $24.50 per square foot to compete with traditional roofing materials. Tesla accomplished this — and went one step further. Now, the company is offering an infinite warranty for the tiles. “We offer the best warranty in the industry—the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first,” a Tesla representative told Inverse. Related: Tesla to power Gigafactory with world’s largest solar rooftop installation An additional benefit of the Tesla Solar Roof is that it is touted to be stronger than a traditional roof. In areas where thunderstorms and high winds are rampant, a sturdier abode makes all the difference. Fortunate consumers who purchase the Solar Roof will also receive the forthcoming Powerwall 2.0 , which is a battery storage device with a built-in inverter. It connects to your home’s electrical system, enabling a house to go 100 percent off-the-grid . Though it costs an extra $6,500, the long-term savings are estimated to add up to thousands of dollars. + Tesla Via Inverse Images via Tesla

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Tesla’s new Solar Roof is actually cheaper than a normal roof

Sono Motors unveils the $18,000 SION solar-powered car

July 27, 2017 by  
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The dream of being able to commute to work in a solar-powered car is finally becoming a reality. Sono Motors just unveiled the SION solar-powered electric car that can travel up to 18 miles using nothing but energy from the sun. The best part is that the SION isn’t just for the wealthy, since it only costs 16,000 Euros (around $18,600) plus the cost of the battery, and it is packed with incredible features like built-in moss filtration, bi-directional charging and integrated solar panels. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sMMhO5kbVg Last year, Sono Motors, a German startup raised over $200,000 to bring the SION to life. Using 300 photovoltaic panels, the SION can store enough energy from the sun to travel up to 18 miles, but if you need to travel further, the SION can also be recharged using a standard outlet, like a conventional electric car. Depending on how much you want to spend, you can rent the car battery monthly, or purchase outright. Related: Lightyear unveils solar-powered car with a 500-mile driving range The Extender model starts at $16,000 Euros and has a driving range of 110 – 120 miles and can be quick-charged up to 80% in 40 minutes. Charging it up with the power of the sun will take half a day, but since Sono Motors says you can drive it to work for an 8-hour shift, the battery will be fully recharged thanks to the solar cells when you get off. With room for five passengers, you can bring the whole family along. A unique moss liner is integrated into the ventilation system that acts as a natural air filter to filter fine particles of dust from the air. There are also six airbags to keep everyone safe. Everything is controlled through the cockpit – a smart screen that shows your speed, battery level and everything else you need to run things smoothly. Repairs should be affordable, since Sono is releasing a repair manual and affordable parts along with the car. Sono Motors has also announced the addition of a new mobility system, called “goSono”. With the Sono App and the function of the bi-directional charging, you can use the vehicle as a mobile storage to power external devices, like generators while heading off the grid. Additionally the app makes it easy to offer make money with the SION by either renting it out through car sharing or by giving rides to other passengers, like Uber or Lyft . Sono Motors has already received interest from over 1,200 pre-orders for the SION, but the company is hoping to get that number to at least 5,000 before they can start production. The next step to get to the SION on the road is to get people behind the wheel, which will include unique test drive tours that will take place all over Europe. The first deliveries are expected to arrive in 2018. Images @Sono Motors + Sono Motors

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Sono Motors unveils the $18,000 SION solar-powered car

World’s first solar-powered hot air balloon visits UK school

July 18, 2017 by  
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Schoolchildren living in the coolest city in the UK just got a glimpse of one of the coolest energy sources in action with the arrival of the world’s first solar -powered hot air balloon. The balloon actually took its maiden voyage back in 2015 , but on Monday youngsters from the Hannah More Primary School got to learn about how renewable energy can power global transport — even a hot air balloon. The balloon is made of lightweight polyurethane coated nylon. The air inside the balloon is heated by the sun instead of a propane burner, causing it to rise. The black side of the balloon faces the sun, collecting heat, while the silver side prevents the heat from escaping. The balloon is technically a hybrid because it is fitted with propane burners as a back up in case the sun hides behind the clouds when the balloon is up in the air. Related: The world’s most efficient 5-seater car is powered entirely by the sun The balloon is owned by Bristol Energy and developed by Cameron Balloons . “It’s this kind of very simple science that gets people, young and old, excited about green energy,” said Simon Proctor, Bristol Energy’s Origination Manager. “We have incredibly powerful natural resources that can heat our homes, power our cars, and fly hot air balloons too! It’s now crucial that we support renewable energy, so we can create a sustainable energy future for the next generation.” Via Bristol Post Images via YouTube ,  Bristol Energy  and  Balloon Fiesta 2015

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World’s first solar-powered hot air balloon visits UK school

Self-sufficient hydrogen boat embarks on 6-year journey around the world

July 17, 2017 by  
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The world watched in anticipation as the groundbreaking Solar Impulse 2 plane circumnavigated the globe last year. Now, the “Solar Impulse of the Seas” has set sail, aiming to demonstrate in a fresh way that clean energy can power our world. Dubbed Energy Observer , the solar- , wind- , and hydrogen -powered catamaran will sail to 50 countries over the course of six years. Solar panels line the top of the Energy Observer, and two vertical axis wind turbines harness the power of the wind, but those aren’t the only energy sources that make this vessel self-sufficient . The boat is able to generate hydrogen from seawater thanks to an electrolysis system. That hydrogen, stored in tanks, will help the Energy Observer glide through the waves emissions-free. The project was started by French offshore racer Victorien Erussard, accompanied by French explorer and filmmaker Jérôme Delafosse. Related: Energy Observer to sail around the world using only solar, wind, and hydrogen fuel The Energy Observer is equipped with technologies like electric motors, lithium-ion batteries , and a hydrogen fuel cell . It’s around 100 feet long and 42 feet wide, with solar panels covering 1,400 square feet atop the catamaran. Built in 1983, the Energy Observer has already had a long career as a racing boat, but was recently christened earlier this month by France’s environment minister Nicolas Hulot. Energy Observer left Paris this past weekend with mayor Anne Hidalgo aboard. Erussard said on the boat’s website, “There is not one miracle solution to combat climate change : there are solutions which we must learn to operate together. That’s what we are doing with Energy Observer: allowing nature’s energies, as well as those of our society, to collaborate.” And though the boat draws on different technologies than the Solar Impulse 2, it apparently has the approval of pilot Bertrand Piccard , who was present at the christening ceremony. He said, “Energy Observer, just like Solar Impulse, makes exploration work for a better quality of life. We need to lead people towards the future by showing them solutions instead of depressing them.” You can track where the Energy Observer is here and find out more here . + Energy Observer Via ScienceAlert Images via Energy Observer ( 1 , 2 )

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Self-sufficient hydrogen boat embarks on 6-year journey around the world

Indian Railways launches first train with solar-powered coaches

July 17, 2017 by  
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Train travel in India just got a little greener. Last week Indian Railways rolled out their first train outfitted with rooftop solar panels – in the Delhi area notorious for its pollution . The solar panels will completely power fans, lighting, and display systems in the coaches. The government expects the move will save them around 5,547 gallons of diesel every single year. The train, a 1600 HP DEMU, is just the first of several more trains with solar-powered coaches to come. Indian Railways will install solar panels on 24 other trains in the upcoming six months. In the past, a diesel-fueled generator provided electricity for a train’s lighting and fans, but the new solar system includes a smart MPPT inverter so these features can be cleanly powered even during the night. According to Indian Railways, the solar panels will slash carbon dioxide generation by nine metric tons per coach per year. Related: Indian Railways installing rooftop solar panels on 250 trains 16 solar panels generating 300 watts each offer a 4.5 kilowatt peak capacity for each coach. The system can generate around 20 kilowatt-hours of clean power per day. A 120 AH battery system will store excess power generated during peak hours. Minister of Railways Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu said the railways are committed to conserving the environment and using more clean energy . The government’s press release on the trains pointed to other measures the railways have taken to become more environmentally friendly, such as the use of bio-toilets , biofuels, and wind energy. Jakson Engineers, under the guidance of the Indian Railways Organization for Alternative Fuels (IROAF), developed the new train solar system. Managing director Sundeep Gupta told Business Standard is was no easy feat to attach solar panels to trains that will move at speeds of 80 kilometers per hour, which is around 50 miles per hour. The train has a lifetime of around 25 years. Via Quartz India and Government of India Images via screenshot and Ministry of Railways on Twitter

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