Tag Archives: Solar Power

Best Conditions for Generating Solar Energy

Solar panels use PV (photovoltaic) cells that convert sunlight into electricity. Assessing whether your property’s roof is in a good position to generate solar power is essential before committing to installing any solar energy technology.

Roof position

Your roof will need to face south or within 90 degrees of south and should be in a relatively sunny position. If your roof is overshadowed for part of the day then this will generate less power. As well as this your roof needs to be structurally sound and in a fit enough state to be able to support the weight of the panels.
The Energy Saving Trust advises that your roof should be at a pitched angle of between 30 and 50 degrees from the horizontal for best performance. If you have a flat roof, panels can be attached to a frame tilted at the optimum angle.

Housing Energy Advisor suggests that you use free online solar angle calculator to calculate the best angle for each month of the year and then work out an average. Alternatively, you could make the most of the summer sunshine by calculating the optimum angle for June and setting your panels in that position. This would be the best option if you want to produce as much energy as possible to sell back to the national grid. A third option would be to set your panels at the optimum angle for the winter months. In this scenario, it would be likely that you would still be able to produce enough energy for the summer months, but this will give the additional benefit of reducing the amount of energy you need to buy in the winter. Unfortunately this would also reduce the amount of surplus energy you’ll be able to sell.

Weather conditions

Solar energy systems will produce energy all year round, but will produce significantly less during the winter months. Solar panels can still generate energy even on a cloudy day and the Energy Saving Trust even estimates that a system can still generate up to a 1/3 of the energy on a cloudy day that would usually be produced on a sunny day.

Regular amounts of rainfall are essential to the efficient operation of solar panels, as this cleans off any dust and dirt that could settle on them and could prevent the sun’s rays from being efficiently harnessed. This also helps to keep the panels cool, which benefits the panels as they operate with greater efficiency at lower temperatures.

Guest Article by Amy Catlow.

Teenie Micro Solar Cell From Semprius

Pin Sized Solar Cell from Semprius

Picture courtesy Inhabitat website


Semprius just unveiled an teenie solar cell that is half the size of a pinhead, which when combined with powerful inexpensive lenses can concentrate sunlight more than 11,000 times and convert it to electricity!

Semprius has been a leader in Concentrated solar research and development. In 2008 they had come out with a method to slice monocrystalline solar wafers thin enough to be flexible and partially transparent but still maintain their high solar efficiency. The slender silicon slices are then imprinted onto a substrate using Semprius’s patented microtransfer printing process.

Semprius’ patented micro-transfer printing technology brings for the first time, high performance semiconductors to virtually any surface, including glass, plastic or metal substrates or even other semiconductor wafers. By liberating the semiconductor devices from their traditional substrates, Semprius technology enables the construction of a wide variety of new products with large-area, thin, and lightweight form factors, high reliability and low cost. The resulting circuit devices have levels of performance comparable to the original semiconductor.


Smaller and more efficient! Wonderful news for Solar and alternative energy market; if only it were affordable sooner.

Read the entire article here

Solar Makes It’s Way Back to The White House!

By Spring of 2011 The White House will have Solar Panels heating water, keeping up with the president’s executive order that called on the federal government buildings to lead in the establishment of a clean energy economy.

It was just 4 weeks back that 350.org’s Bill Mckibben and a team of students from the Unity College Maine made a trip to the White house to put Solar back on the White House roofs where Jimmy Carter put it in 1979! They were also carrying one of the solar panels which was installed on the White House roof with them.We covered it here

Today Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that Solar panels and a solar hot water heater will soon be installed at the White House, at the 2010 GreenGov Symposium in Washington, accompanied by Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the Council of Environmental Quality.

What better way to put alternative energy on the front page  and highlight our need to let go of fossil fuel as a source of energy than putting the most powerful home in the world go Solar! Live Green!

Source –

Article on CNN – Solar Power Coming to the White House

350.org and their road trip to the White house in early September of 2010 – Big Victory White House Goes Solar!

Stanford’s Thinner Than The Wavelength of Sound Solar Cells

One thing we know about solar cells is that thinner it is less expensive it gets; thin film solar is cheaper than the standard silicon cells. Stanford University’s team of Researchers has come up with Solar cells thinner than the wavelengths of light which are also more efficient! They say Ultra-thin solar cells can absorb sunlight more efficiently than the thicker, more expensive-to-make silicon cells used today, because light behaves differently at scales around a nanometer (a billionth of a meter).

The team consists of Shanhui Fan, associate professor of Electrical engineering and postdoctoral researcher Zongfu Yu who is the lead on the PNAS paper. Aaswath Raman, a graduate student in applied physics, also worked on the research and is a coauthor of the paper.

Everyone worked with the assumption that light travels in a straight line i.e. if a ray of light hits a mirror it bounces back as another ray. When Yu began investigating the behavior of light inside a material of deep subwavelength-scale – substantially smaller than the wavelength of the light – that it became evident to him that light could be confined for a longer time, increasing energy absorption beyond the conventional limit at the macroscale. On further research Yu figured out that he could increase absorption rate by 12% by sandwiching the organic thin film between two layers of material – called “cladding” layers – that acted as confining layers once the light passed through the upper one into the thin film. Atop the upper cladding layer, he placed a patterned rough-surfaced layer designed to send the incoming light off in different directions as it entered the thin film.

The project was supported by funding from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which supports the Center for Advanced Molecular Photovoltaics at Stanford, and by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Source – The Stanford News

A DIY Solar Water Heater From Plastic Bottles

Solar water heaters are probably the most widely used solar product worldwide, especially in Asia and other parts of the developing world it is a constant with any new construction. Out of Brazil comes this plastic water bottle based water heater created by Jose Alano a retired mechanic. He created a simple, cheap, energy saving rooftop solar water heater which is benefiting thousands of people across Brazil. Alano refused to throw away plastic bottles and packaging to end up in the landfills. In his words “Being 59 years old, I have had the opportunity to witness the technological advances of science, which improved food storage. But nowadays, some packaging weighs almost the same than the food itself! Years ago, my wife and I realized that we were not prepared for this new form of consumption.

Using his basic knowledge of Solar water heaters he and his wife created the green alternative version making use of 100 plastic (PET) bottles and 100 Milk Cartons there by getting rid of their waste responsibly.

Alano’s water heater won the Superecologia prize, offered by the Superinteressante magazine for renewable projects in the not-for-profit sector. He has made his design patented and available to use as a not for profit design. The only restrictions are on industrial production and politicians claiming credit for it!

The Invention

The standard solar water heaters cost a couple of 1000$ and have copper as a main element. The Plastic Bottle solar water heater is based on the thermosyphon technology which is used in many solar water heaters. It makes use of the circulation of water based on density; hot water which is less dense moves upwards while the cold water which is denser moves down. Alano estimates that to heat water for a shower of one person, a 1m² panel would be enough.

Materials needed for construction:

The only material required to build a recycled water heater are:

  • 2L plastic bottles (60),
  • Cartons (50)
  • 100mm PVC pipe (70 cm)
  • 20mm PVC pipe (11.7m)
  • 90-degree 20 mm PVC elbows (4)
  • 20mm PVC T-connectors (20)
  • 20 mm PVC end caps (2)
  • PVC glue
  • Black matt paint
  • Paint Roller
  • Sand paper
  • Self-amalgamating tape
  • Tools – Rubber hammer, saw, wood or other material for the support.

Once you get everything ready check out the diagrams in this DIY Leaflet online (PDF format in Portuguese, but the diagrams are easy to follow). use the 100mm PVC pipe as a mold and cut off the bottom of the bottles. Cut the 20mm PVC pipes into 10 x 1m and 20 x 8.5 cm pieces, and assemble with the T-connectors. Cut and paint the cartons (page10-12), as well as the one-meter long pipes. Assemble according to figure B.

The panels must be placed at least 30 cm below the tank and be sited on a south facing wall or roof. To optimize heat absorption, the panels must be mounted at the angle of your latitude, plus 10°. In London, for instance, the panel’s inclination should be 61°. Alano recommends that the plastic bottles in the panels should be swapped for new ones every 5 years: ‘Over time, the plastic becomes opaque, which reduces the heat caption, while the black cartons can be repainted.’ So once the bottles become opaque it is time to replace the bottles and send the used ones to the recycle dump.

Check out a video of a Alano’s bottle solar heaters below:

Such a useful way to utilize plastic bottles: green, clean and energy efficient! Reduce Reuse Recycle the 3 R’s at work! Live Green!

Source for data and Pictures – The Ecologist

Ivanpah Solar Project In California

There are many new Alternative energy projects coming up all over the US, and the US still has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to alternative energy when compared to the developing economies China and India. China is the leader in investment in alternative energy programs world over.

Under the EERE’s solar Energy technologies program many new alternative energy programs are developing. On August 12th the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a power purchase agreement for the utility-scale Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. CPUC granted a 20-year contract between Southern California Edison Company and Ivanpah operator BrightSource Energy, Inc. for 117 megawatts (MW) of planned production from the three-tower, concentrating solar power (CSP) complex in the Mojave Desert of southeastern California. The contract calls for electricity to begin flowing on September 30, 2013. The site’s three plants will feature the company’s proprietary solar power tower technology, which employs thousands of flat mirrors to concentrate the sunlight on a central tower-mounted receiver. Water pumped to the receiver is boiled into steam, which drives a turbine to produce electricity. Solar power towers allow the capture of a greater percentage of solar energy than do other solar thermal technologies. Ultimately, the project is designed to generate approximately 400 MW of electricity, an output that would nearly double the existing generation capacity of CSP facilities in the United States.

The project will be sited on about 4,000 acres of public land proposed public land in San Bernardino County.

Project Overview
  • An approximately 400 megawatt solar complex using mirrors to focus the power of the sun on solar receivers atop power towers.
  • The complex is comprised of three separate plants to be built in phases between 2010 and 2013, and will use BrightSource Energy’s Luz Power Tower (LPT) technology.
  • The electricity generated by all three plants is enough to serve more than 140,000 homes in California during the peak hours of the day.
  • Located approximately 4.5 miles southwest of Primm, Nevada, in the desert on federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
  • When constructed, Ivanpah will be the first large-scale solar thermal project built in California in nearly two decades and the largest in the world.
  • The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System will nearly double the amount of commercial solar thermal electricity produced in the US today.
Environmental Benefits
  • Avoids 400,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year; the equivalent of removing 70,000 cars off the road annually.
  • Employs a closed-loop dry-cooling technology, which reduces water use by 90 percent. Will use 100 acre feet per year, the equivalent of 300 homes’ annual water usage; and nearly 25 times less water than competing technologies.
  • Cuts major air pollutants by 85% compared to new natural gas-fired power plants.
  • Technology places individual mirrors onto metal poles that are driven into the ground, reducing the need for extensive land grading and using far fewer concrete pads than other technologies.
Economic Benefits
  • Construction Jobs                                 : 1,000 jobs at peak of construction; average 650 jobs annually over 3 year period
  • Operations and Maintenance Jobs : 86
  • State and Local Tax Benefits             : $400 million*
  • Total construction wages                   : $250 million
  • Total Employee Earnings                   : $650 million
    *Based on 30 year plant life cycle

Read the entire article here

Check out Brightsource Energy website

Solar Energy Now a Viable Large Scale Energy Source?

When I read “Solar Power is Cheaper than Nuclear Power” I seriously thought someone was trying to pull a quick one by talking about 20 years into the future as if it was happening in the present. Then I read the article on The Green Energy Collective Website in detail and was thrilled by the realization that 2 researchers at Duke University have come to the conclusion that Solar Energy may have reached grid parity!

It’s no secret that the cost of photovoltaic cells (PV) have been dropping for years. A PV system today costs just 50 percent of what it did in 1998. Breakthroughs in technology and manufacturing combined with an increase in demand and production have caused the price of solar power to decline steadily. Nuclear Power plants are being pushed as the only viable alternative economically right now. But now the Duke researchers are saying that Solar power has attained price parity in regards to Nuclear power.

The Study authors John Blackburn and Sam Cunningham say “Electricity from new solar installations is now cheaper than electricity from proposed new nuclear plants.” They have their study based in North Carolina.

According to Osha Davidson of Energy Collective, if the data analysis is correct, the pricing would represent the “Historic Crossover” claimed in the study’s title.

Two factors not stressed in the study bolster the case for solar even more:

1) North Carolina is not a “sun-rich” state. The savings are likely to be even greater for states with more sunshine –Arizona, southern California, Colorado, New Mexico, west Texas, Nevada and Utah.

2) The data include only PV-generated electricity, without factoring in what is likely the most encouraging development in solar technology: concentrating solar power (CSP).

Power costs are generally measured in cents per kilowatt hour – the cost of the electricity needed to illuminate a 1,000 watt light bulb (for example) for one hour. When the cost of a kilowatt hour (kWh) of solar power fell to 16 cents earlier this year, it “crossed over” the trend-line associated with nuclear power.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Currently US energy supply depends 70% on Fossil Fuels (including Coal) and 20% on Nuclear Energy. The researchers say that mass produced Solar energy is being offered to customers at 14cents per kilo Watt Hour, which would make Solar energy one of the least expensive energy sources in America.

As I looked it up for more details I came across articles in NYTimes and a discussion on Slashdot both make some very interesting reading.

If what the researchers say hold true, we should have greener energy powering our day to day activities within a decades time. Sounds good will have to wait and see how it pans out. Live Green!

Some interesting facts:

  • From 1943 to 1999 the U.S. government paid nearly $151 billion, in 1999 dollars, in subsidies for wind, solar and nuclear power, Marshall Goldberg of the Renewable Energy Policy Project, a research organization in Washington, wrote in a July 2000 report. Of this total, 96.3 percent went to nuclear power, the report said.
  • According to credit rating agency Moody’s Nuclear installations invariably lower the credit rating of the company. “Of the 19 applications at the N.R.C.(US Nuclear Regulatory Commission) , 90 percent have had some type of delay or cancellation, run into a design problem, suffered cost increases and/or had the utility bond rating downgraded by Wall Street.”
  • Nuclear subsidies in the Senate proposal include five-year accelerated depreciation; tax credits for investments and production and eligibility for the advanced energy tax credit; an increase in government insurance against regulatory delays; access to private activity bonds; and a $36 billion increase in loan guarantees, bringing the total to $56 billion. (The Nuclear Energy Institutes Goal was a $100 Billion!)

Source of the article here

Another article here

Duke University Website

The Study Published by the researchers in full can be read here

The Sun Lights Up Dallas Pathways At Night

Lea Bogdan had covered this new green building in Dallas downtown called the 17seventeen on the inhabitat website and I wondered what was the new lighting she was referring to. So I thought about taking a closer look at it.  No, it is not moon light and it is not your usual solar garden lights on stakes either, Solar Cynergy a company based in Norco California has a series of lights which can be integrated into the flooring thus lighting up pathways during the night. They are manufacturers of architectural solar lighting for residences, developments and cities. Looking at the product I think it could be called a solar brick light or something, as the encased light does resemble kind of a brick with its thickness and sturdiness.

Rectangular lights

The units come in 3 shapes: circular, square and rectangular shaped. The units also come in 5 colors: Blue,Green, White, Halogen White and Red. The units are all self contained and get charged by sun-light during the day. The units are removed from view and embedded beneath a scratch-resistant polycarbonate resin surface, the solar panels cycle power to a capacitor that charges during the day and automatically illuminates the LEDs at nightfall via a photosensor.

Solar Cynergy specifies that the lights need a full day of sunlight exposure before it can start lighting up the night. These lights can be integrated into the floor or walls where they will be exposed to direct sunlight. These lights which are of the top most quality do not come cheap it is priced from around 900$ for a 6pack of the round lights to around 2000$ for the rectangular lights 6pack.

The incorporated lighting really adds to the building’s architecture visually and also is a very green idea put into use in a large scale setup. Aesthetically and environmentally the solar pavers make a lot of sense. Check out the pictures below and follow the links below for more details.

Read the Full article on Inhabitat here

Check out Solar Cynergy website here or their blog here

A video I found on youtube showing the lights a little more clearly check it out:

You can check out the prices at the links below which will take you to Amazon.com or look for a retailer here

Square Blue Solar Light 6 pk

Rectangular Blue Solar Light 6 pack

The American Solar Challenge 2010 Solar Chariot Races

The American Solar Challenge is a road race for Solar powered cars which is held every alternate year in the US. The aim of the competition is to design, build, and drive solar-powered cars in a cross-country time/distance rally event. Teams compete in a 1100 mile drive from Broken Arrow, OK to Naperville, IL. The route has been chosen to combine pieces of old routes used in previous events, giving a bit of an historical tribute for the 20 years of organized events in North America.

This year the winner out of 17 teams that qualified for the final road race were from the University of Michigan. The Road race started on the 16th of June 2010 at Broken Arrow Oklahoma and ended on the 26th of June in Naperville Illinois.  The following is the route :

  • Sat, June 19: Travel day / Support Vehicle Inspections in Broken Arrow, OK
  • Sun, June 20: Start in Broken Arrow, OK; must reach Neosho, MO checkpoint
  • Mon, June 21: Finish in Topeka, KS
  • Tue, June 22: Start in Topeka, KS; must reach Jefferson City, MO checkpoint
  • Wed, June 23: Finish in Rolla, MO
  • Thu, June 24: Start in Rolla, MO; must reach Alton, IL checkpoint
  • Fri, June 25: Finish in Normal, IL
  • Sat, June 26: Start in Normal, IL; finish in Naperville, IL

The Race finalists are chosen from a preliminary round which takes place in the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP) Track race in Cresson Texas. The top teams in FSGP, which complete at least 100 laps in a single day, or any two consecutive day total of 150 laps, will automatically qualify for ASC.  Only Official Laps will count towards qualifying mileage.  The track is 1.7 miles.

The 17 finalists can be found HERE Most of the participants were from the US while there were also teams from Canada, Germany and Taiwan.

The top 3 finishers were :

  1. University of Michigan
  2. University of Minnesota
  3. Hochschule Bochum from Germany

For The University of Michigan Solar team this is their sixth impressive win in the ASC race. Their solar car which is called Infinium has topped 105 miles per hour speed during test runs. The Michigan team finished the 1200 mile race in 28 hours, 14 minutes, and 44 seconds. The above 3 are also links to the respective cars which are simply amazing and following are pictures the teams vehicles in the winning order.

It is impressive to see renewable technology being developed by the younger generation every day aimed towards a greener tomorrow. Gives all of us hope that a day where our dependence of fossil fuel ends may indeed be possible. Live Green!

Read More about it on the ASC 2010 Website

Solar Sound2: Speakers Charged By the Sun

These days music is not restricted to the four walls or the headsets of one’s walkman, we have moved to iPod’s and other cute and small music players and phones which double as music players! Adding Speakers make them equivalent to any standard music player which can blare music for everyone to hear. But when outside one things that hampers use of speakers is how to power them? Finding a power source/ power point etc.. wires et al makes it cumbersome. UK based Devotec Industries has a solution – Solar powered speakers!!

Devotec Industries is a new and exciting technology company whose primary focus is to develop their range of cutting-edge electronics. With a design team led by their Cambridge Phd CTO, the products they have created are among the most efficient and reliable in the industry.

The Devotec industries Solar Sound 2 Bluetooth® Speakers are light and portable while still being able to produce a deep, clear sound. With integrated bluetooth, they can be connected wirelessly to most of the latest phones, including the iPhone (with use of the iPhone 3.0 software update). The Solar Sound 2 speakers have an integrated solar panel for charging in sunny areas, and a 3.5mm connector for use with music sources that do not have bluetooth (cable supplied). This is the second generation Solar speaker from Devotec and has some significant improvements from the first version. Better charging options and higher volume being a couple.

Although you audiophiles out there will have issues with the sound, the average joe will be more than happy with music playback. Portability is the major plus point for the Solar Sound 2.


  • 2x 2W speakers for proper stereo sound
  • Wireless connectivity to any Bluetooth® phone or MP3 player supporting the A2DP and AVRCP profiles
  • Plug into any standard headphone jack with the included 3.5mm headphone retractable cable
  • Built in Mic for hands free communication when paired with a suitable phone
  • Large solar panel for charging the built in Lithium-Ion 1600mAh battery
  • Up to 10 hours continuous play time via Bluetooth® from the battery and and can even play from no battery on a sunny day!
  • Touch-screen panel for remotely controlling your music, including Fast Forward and Rewind buttons, as well as Volume Control
  • Gold Plated audio connectors and silver coated, oxygen free copper speaker cabling
  • Line out function for streaming music over bluetooth to a hi-fi
  • Includes protective case, AC/DC plug and charging cable
  • Charging time: from 4 hours by AC/USB, about 12-24 hours from solar panel
  • Small Dimensions: 16.5 x 5.5 x 5.5cm
  • Weight: 320g (not including pouch or accessories).
  • PowerBoost function

It is priced at $99.99 and can be Brought HERE

Source for data and video Devotec Industries Website