The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar pulled into Monaco's Hercule Harbor on Friday, completing its journey around the world--the very first solely solar-powered watercraft to do so. Of course, it's not an ordinary ship. It cost over $16 million USD, has over 500 square meters of solar panels, and can house 200 people.
Teddy Roosevelt famously said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” The folks at the Denver Zoo must have thought he was talking crap. The zoo happens to have a lot of animal dung on hand where it is, and via its own patent-pending gasification tech it is doing what it can, introducing a poo-powered rickshaw that turns animal waste and human trash into mobility.
By Sarah Parsons
Posted 09.16.2011 at 2:30 pm 45 Comments
Among homeowners, wind energy has never caught on, in large part because personal turbines are often noisy and inefficient. Most turbines need strong winds to turn a heavy central generator and create current, a design with two main disadvantages. First, the gears make a lot of noise. Plus, the generator is positioned at the blades’ center, which moves at one tenth the speed of the periphery. And less speed translates to less power.
The forbidding sands of the Sahara might seem an unusual place for farming. But if you’re farming silicon to make solar panels, the conditions in the Sahara are more or less optimal. At least, that’s the thinking behind the Sahara Solar Breeder Project. The plan, a joint project proposed by Japanese and Algerian universities, would use the desert’s immense supplies of sunlight and sand to “breed” solar power plants and solar panel factories.
Last night, Google announced that it has agreed to invest heavily in a proposed $5 billion, 350-mile power transmission backbone that would provide infrastructure for future offshore wind projects along the mid-Atlantic coast. But even with the backing of one of the world’s mightiest tech companies, various financial investment firms, and many important officials in government, the transmission line is going to be something of a technological trick.
The U.S. may be years behind some European nations and China when it comes to taking advantage of solar power tech, but even global superpowers have to start somewhere. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has approved the first large-scale solar energy projects to be built on public lands, a first step in unlocking the acres upon acres of federal and state managed real estate for clean energy production.
Of all places, the U.S. military has proven one of the fiercest proponents of renewable energy, and for totally practical reasons -- most importantly cost and safety. Now, military higher-ups plan to rely on renewable energy sources for 50 percent of their power by 2020, which could help the worldwide advancement of those technologies immeasurably. One company of Marines, saddled with tons of solar power tech, is kickstarting this revolution.
Good dog parents might think they’re doing their part by using biodegradable baggies to pick up after their pooches. But after Fido’s feces go in the trash can and to a landfill, they release methane gas, a significant contributor to the greenhouse effect. A dog park in Cambridge, Mass., has a solution: Add in a methane digester, and let your dog waste power the streetlights, tea cart and popcorn machine.
In a patriotic dairy-to-diesel demonstration project proving the breadth of fatty materials that can be converted into useable fuels, a Philadelphia biodiesel producer and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have turned an 800-pound butter sculpture of Ben Franklin and the Liberty Bell into 75 gallons of biodiesel.
The DOE released its 2009 Wind Technologies Market Report yesterday, and the results are a mixed bag of highs and lows for the U.S. Americans added 10 gigawatts of wind capacity last year, 40% more than in 2009. But alas, the U.S. is the world's wind power leader no more; China outpaced the U.S. in new wind capacity, stealing away a mantle America had owned for four years.
Here’s a novel way to get a little more out of time spent in the bathroom. An industrial design student at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK, has created a clever power generator that turns falling wastewater into electricity. The HighDro Power is a waterwheel-like turbine that can be incorporated into the pipes of tall buildings to turn one man’s waste into another man’s wattage.
Need a weekend project around the house? Mark Suppes, web developer by day, has built his own nuclear fusion reactor in a Brooklyn workspace. It kind of makes that project car you’ve got rusting in the garage seem lame by comparison.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.