Solar Power

How one nerd zeroed out his energy bill with solar panels [VIDEO]

George Musser, a physics editor at Scientific American, has dreamed of powering his home with solar panels ever since he was a little boy. And now he does! In New Jersey, no less. His story is a part of Beyond the Light Switch, a totally rad documentary filmed by Detroit Public Television that criss-crosses the country to look at the future of energy. More clips from the show, which is airing all over the U.S. throughout the month of April: Full disclosure: I know a lot of people involved in this documentary and am terribly, terribly biased in its favor.

Climate & Energy

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 Power

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. …

Business & Technology

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 Power

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 …

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