Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Solar Power


America’s energy use, in one nifty chart

Periodically, it's nice to step back and get reacquainted with some energy basics. There's no better way to do it than with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's famed (or oughtta be famed) energy flow charts. Here's the most recent, from 2009 (click for larger version): Chart: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory I'm not going to ruin the pretty picture with a bunch of wonk talk. Just a few basic things that are worth noticing: 1. Holy sh*t we waste a lot of energy! I mean seriously. Look up there in the top right -- "rejected energy." Well over half of the raw …


Solar is contagious

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. Adam Browning of Vote Solar wrote about a recent study of the peer pressure effect of solar photovoltaic (PV) adoption. The study [PDF] notes that for every 1 percent increase in the number of installations in a single ZIP code, there's a commensurate 1 percent decrease in the amount of time until the next solar installation. As he writes, "solar is contagious!" I'm a data lover, so I thought it would be interesting to see what this looks like over time. …


Powering up: Green tech investment surges

The money's coming in for green tech.Photo: MoneyblognewzSome good news on the environmental front for a change: Global investment in green technology in the first quarter of the year spiked 52 percent compared to the previous quarter, to $2.57 billion. That's according to a report released Tuesday by the Cleantech Group, a San Francisco research and consulting firm. The increase represents a 13 percent jump over the first quarter of 2010, and indicates that investors' appetite for renewable energy, electric cars, and other green technologies continues to rebound from the recession. But the numbers aren't exactly good news for entrepreneurs …


Solar could save Minnesota schools millions

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. Currently, Minnesota's public schools spend approximately $84 million per year on electricity costs, money diverted from the classroom. But a bill to make clean, local energy accessible now (CLEAN) could help the state’s public schools use solar to zero out their electricity bills and add $193 million per year to their operating budgets. The proposed bill would create a CLEAN Contract for public entities in Minnesota, requiring local utilities to buy electricity from solar photovoltaics (PV) systems on public property on …


New Jersey leads U.S. in Superfund sites, spray tan and … solar power?

Jersey’s not all gym, tan, laundry. It’s also got more photovoltaic solar power capacity than any state except California (which is 19 times bigger). Even with a small square mileage, wishy-washy East Coast sun, and reality-show meatheads hogging the rays, Jersey’s managing to shore (ha) up its economy with solar -- the state has more jobs in solar power than in traditional power. New governor Chris Christie is revisiting the state’s energy portfolio, though, and while it’s certainly not the case that ALL Republicans are virulently anti-renewables, Jersey’s solar crown might end up at risk. The consequences? Ending up with …


Artificial solar leaf beats trees at their own game

What's better than trees? I'll tell you: ROBOT TREES. Scientists at MIT have developed "artificial leaves" -- small solar cells, about the size (though not the shape) of an oak leaf, that use a photosynthesis-like process to turn water into electricity. Only they do it ten times more efficiently than natural leaves, and the electricity they produce can be used to power homes in the developing world. Trees: spanked. The leaves are cheap to produce and can operate continuously for 45 hours, which gives them a lot of potential for powering homes in countries where energy infrastructure is prohibitively expensive. …


Alexis Madrigal chats about the crazy greentech history you’ve never heard

This is the first in a series from my conversation with Atlantic tech channel editor Alexis Madrigal about themes and stories from his new book, Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. DR: What were the first glimmers of the book? AM: It was about 2007. At the time, Bruce Sterling had just said, "green will never be sexier than it is right now." And that was true. I kept hearing these apocryphal stories about renewable energy projects of the past. The first one I heard about was Luz solar plants out in the Mojave. As someone …


Das ist gut

Germany continues breaking clean energy records

A German wind farm.Photo: Dirk Ingo FrankeAs the nuclear reactor accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant continues to dominate the world's attention, Germany has quietly broken more renewable energy records. The conservative government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, struggling to stay ahead of public attitudes toward nuclear power in the run-up to regional elections, issued its annual report on the contribution of renewable energy to the German energy market in 2010. Wind turbines, hydroelectric plants, solar cells, and biogas digesters now provide nearly 17 percent of Germany's electricity. Meanwhile, the German network agency Bundesnetzagentur issued its final update on the installation …


The sun will come up tomorrow

San Francisco mayor calls for city to go 100% renewable by 2020

San Francisco's mayor wants an all-renewable town.Photo: jfraserWhere could you get 797 people to stand in line outside a nightclub to attend a $100-a-ticket fundraiser for a nonprofit that advocates for solar energy? Not-so-sunny San Francisco, of course. The queue to get into the Vote Solar Initiative annual spring equinox bash snaked down the street Monday, and even the sun made an appearance during a break in the deluge that has been soaking the Bay Area for the past week. Now, I don't cover the party beat. But as someone who lived in San Francisco during the dot-com boom of …


Nuke nukes

What we can learn from Japan’s nuclear disaster

Nuclear plants: unsafe, uneconomic, and unnecessary.Photo: Thomas AndersonCross-posted from the Rocky Mountain Institute. As heroic workers and soldiers strive to save stricken Japan from a new horror -- radioactive fallout -- some truths known for 40 years bear repeating. An earthquake-and-tsunami zone crowded with 127 million people is an unwise place for 54 reactors. The 1960s design of five Fukushima-I reactors has the smallest safety margin and probably can't contain 90 percent of meltdowns. The U.S. has six identical and 17 very similar plants. Every currently operating light-water reactor, if deprived of power and cooling water, can melt down. Fukushima …