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Geek legend hacks together an off-grid smart home

Loren Amelang is a pioneer in C++ programming, and his homebrewed live/work space is a monument to sustainable geekery, says Fair Companies.

The entire south side of his home is covered in solar capture devices: 1600 watts of photovoltaic power, solar hot water panels, a sunroom/greenhouse and a solar hot air collector.

This isn't just your usual passive house or living building, either: Amelang can control the entire thing from a smartphone.

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Everything that is good for the environment is a job

Van Jones. (Photo by Zach Gross.)

In his newest book, Rebuild the Dream, green economy pioneer Van Jones reflects on his journey from grassroots outsider to White House insider, shares intimate details of his time in government, and provides a blueprint for reinventing the American Dream. Along the way, he contrasts the structure and rhetoric of the 2008 Obama campaign, the Tea Party movement, and Occupy Wall Street. The following excerpt from the book focuses on a new green economy.

Many politicians want us to lower our expectations about the economy. I say it is time to raise them. We should go beyond the shriveled thinking imposed upon us by today’s mania for austerity. The time has come to propose solutions at the scale of the problems we face. We can and we must revive the economy -- in a way that respects people and the planet.

For too long, we have acted as if we had to choose between strong economic performance and strong environmental performance. We have been torn between our children’s need for a robust economy today and our grandchildren’s need for a healthy planet tomorrow. We have been trapped in the “jobs versus the environment” dilemma.

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If fossil fuel subsidies were distributed to every person, we’d each get $58/year

Globally, every year fossil fuels get six times as much money in subsidies than renewable energy. Given a world population of around 7 billion, that means every man woman and child on the planet is spending an average of $58 a year to prop this industry up, but only around $9 to support renewables.

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The best pro-solar billboard you’ve ever seen

This is going around Facebook today -- it's actually from 2010, made in response to a specific piece of legislation, but the message here is (pardon the pun) evergreen.

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Chinese cheaters? U.S. slaps modest tariffs on solar panels from China

Chinese workers with a solar panelCross-posted from Climate Progress.

After months of speculation and debate about unfair Chinese subsidies to domestic solar manufacturers, the U.S. solar industry finally has an answer to one piece of the ongoing trade case: Solar panels imported from China will be hit with a small tariff.

The Department of Commerce issued a preliminary decision today based upon the agency’s impartial review of Chinese subsidies to domestic solar companies.

The tariffs range from 2.9 percent to 4.73 percent -- dramatically lower than the 20 percent expected by many industry analysts. But this decision from Commerce is just the first of two key tariff rulings. While today's ruling addressed the issue of subsidies, a separate decision on whether Chinese companies are dumping panels into the U.S. market below cost is expected in May.

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Al Gore running for Senate on green platform

Albert N. Gore Jr.Albert N. Gore Jr.

Sorry, not that Al Gore Jr. And not that Al Gore Jr.'s son, Al Gore III. It's a completely different Al Gore Jr. -- one who doesn't look all that junior.

Albert N. Gore Jr. won the Democratic Senate primary in Mississippi on Tuesday, earning the right to be crushed by incumbent Republican Roger Wicker in November.

This Gore is a retired Methodist minister and Army colonel who completed 91 parachute jumps during a distinguished military career. "He declined to give his age, but said he’s in good health," reports the Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald. The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog describes him as "a political newcomer" and notes that he "doesn’t appear to have a campaign website."

Is he related to the more famous Al Gore? Maybe, says the Sun Herald:

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Watch today’s solar flare erupt from the sun

Two solar flares burst out of the sun on March 6.

NASA notes: "One of the most dramatic features is the way the entire surface of the sun seems to ripple with the force of the eruption." Badass!

Image by NASA.

The first flare was the second largest of this solar cycle (which started in 2009), and it's traveling at 1,300 miles per second, which means it could sweep the continental United States in less than three seconds. It was scheduled to reach Earth at 1 a.m. EST this morning -- give or take 7 hours.

Which means it's already hit. And all's quiet in the New York City outpost of GristList -- no high-accuracy GPS failures, no massive internet shutdown.

Read more: Solar Power

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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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Frank Lloyd Wright goes solar, posthumously

Taliesin West. (Photo by Artotem.)

Taliesin West, the iconic desert home created by Frank Lloyd Wright, is about to go net-zero, which means it will produce as much energy as it consumes. It's a fitting update for a structure that was way ahead of its time.