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Rooftop revolution: How to get solar to 100 million Americans

solar on homesGet a load of this:

Nearly 100 million Americans could install over 60,000 megawatts of solar at less than grid prices – without subsidies – by 2021.

That's from a new report by John Farrell at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance called "Rooftop Revolution: Changing Everything with Cost-Effective Local Solar."

It's about the spread of "solar grid parity" over the next 10 years, where grid parity is defined as "when the cost of solar electricity -- without subsidies -- is equal to or lower than the residential retail electricity rate." People often talk about grid parity as if it's some magic moment, but in fact it will happen in different places at different times, depending on local conditions and electricity prices. And it's a moving target: It depends on how fast the cost of solar falls and how fast electricity rates rise.

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Batteries could make power grid unnecessary in some countries

One and a half billion citizens of planet Earth aren't connected to the power grid, and if Aquion Energy has its way, they will remain so forever. But not because they will be turned into Soylent Green! If that's what you were thinking.

Aquion specializes in making large batteries, cheaply. They don’t look like much -- they live in a former TV factory outside Pittsburgh, and you'll probably never buy any of their products. To the world's poor, however, they're working on something that could make a profound difference to their quality of life, reports Kevin Bullis at Technology Review.

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Why climate change is irrelevant to clean energy

Maggie Koerth-Baker, science editor at BoingBoing, has written a book, and the introduction is available free online now. Here’s the basic idea: In America at least, if we want to get anything done on clean energy, we have to divorce it from conversations about climate change.

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Myhrvold: 50 simple things won’t fix the climate — but a few complex things might

Nathan Myhrvold. (Photo by Red Maxwell.)

Yesterday, I wrote about a new peer-reviewed paper from inventor Nathan Myhrvold and climate scientist Ken Caldeira. It found that, if there is to be any hope of staying in the zone of climate safety (or at least semi-safety), the transition to carbon-free energy must begin immediately and cannot include any merely "low carbon" sources like natural gas.

I sent Myhrvold a few follow-up questions. Here are his responses, lightly edited.

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Liquid battery electric vehicle could charge in three minutes

“Flow” batteries, i.e. batteries filled with a liquid electrolyte that can be pumped out and replenished, have the potential to transform the process of charging an electric vehicle into something that more closely resembles filling it up with gas. This research is still at its earliest stages, but a battery from startup Eos Energy Storage could be drained and refilled with charged electrolyte in three minutes, the company's CEO told Katie Fehrenbacher of GigaOm.

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Peel-off solar panels could make solar competitive with coal

Ultra-thin solar cells that can be "peeled off" from larger pieces of silicon like delicious fruit roll-ups could be the key to making solar competitive with coal, say researchers at MIT.

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A battery large enough to power the U.S. would be the size of 2,200 Walmart SuperCenters

The U.S. uses about 500 gigawatts of power at any moment. Is it possible to cover that whole demand with emissions-free power sources? Well, nuclear, which has virtually no greenhouse gas emissions, could account for about 20 percent; the rest would have to be renewables. And renewables are intermittent, so they'd have to be backed up by about 80 gigawatts worth of batteries, says Davide Castelvecchi at Scientific American.

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DOE-funded battery breakthrough to halve cost, triple range

A new breakthrough from California-based Envia Systems will yield lithium-ion batteries that are less than half the cost of current cells, while also having three times the energy density. And guess who funded it? The Department of Energy. That's right: Sometimes, when the government invests in innovation, it pays off moon launch-big.

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LEGO buys $500 million worth of wind turbines

The world's third-largest toy manufacturer is going to be putting "made with wind power" labels on all those boxes of LEGOs, and not just because they bought their power from utilities with wind turbines. Kirkbi A/S, the family holding company that owns LEGO, will be buying actual wind turbines representing fully a third of an offshore wind farm, reports Reuters.

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The best of the U.S. Army’s ‘Going Green’ Pinterest

For those of you who are out of touch with what the young people and Mormons are all about these days, Pinterest is this really big, Facebook-but-for-images type thing, and it's kind of wild that the Army is on it, because it's mostly pictures of cats, clothes, and cupcakes. They even have a collection of images for their "green" efforts, from which we plucked a few of our favorites.

Source: flickr.com via U.S. on Pinterest

MODOC, Ill. -- Visiting Patriot, an 11-pound female Bald Eagle and World Bird Sanctuary bird expert Sara Oliver. The meeting took place Feb. 4, 2012 at Eagle Trek 2012 at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kaskaskia Lock & Dam.