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.
Never mind using the solar wind to power spacecraft — that's old hat. Scientists at Washington State University want to use solar wind to power the entire world. A humongous solar sail could be used to harvest the power of solar winds, generating 1 billion billion gigawatts of electricity.
In recent years, the U.S. military has been making small strides toward a greener energy standard – the Navy wants to create a green strike group by 2012, while the Air Force has been testing biofuels in its aircraft. But for troops on the ground relying increasingly on electronic devices, solar is the way forward. With that in mind, DARPA has assembled an industry-academic team of photovoltaic leaders to create the next generation of battle-ready solar cells that achieve 20 percent conversion while standing up to harsh combat conditions.
Wind turbines of the future will be hulking behemoths, each capable of producing multiple megawatts of power. But before they're installed in wind farms, manufacturers need to be sure they are built to last. To this end, a monstrous 2.5-MW turbine--one of the world's largest--just survived an equally big test.
China is already the world's largest market for wind power, but it's not stopping with the onshore sites. A 102-megawatt wind farm is slated to hit full power this month in the Yangtze River delta near Shanghai, Technology Review reports. And that's just the beginning, as Chinese officials opened bids on creating three or four more offshore wind power projects that could generate 1,000 megawatts total.
Cars could shed their image as energy hogs and become mobile storage points for the electric grid, if engineers backed by the National Science Foundation get their way. Hybrid electric vehicles might even feed unused electricity back into the grid and earn money for their owners, not unlike how some homeowners who create renewable energy can sell back electricity to utility companies.
Hot on the heels of news about Google's new energy venture comes this sorrowful tale about renewable energy. NPR reports on enterprising thieves who used Google Earth to do evil, and specifically to find California wineries with solar panels for the taking.
Offshore wind power may soon cross national boundaries more easily than ever, based on news from the Copenhagen climate summit. Nine European nations announced plans for a "supergrid" in the North Sea that would allow them to connect Irish wind farms to continental Europe, or vice versa.
While the Smart Grid we needed years ago is still years away, the Obama administration took a step forward today as Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced $620 million in stimulus awards for 32 Smart Grid demonstration projects benefiting 21 states. A decidedly feel-good video that is nonetheless educational was released along with the announcement and explains (in broad terms at least) what the DOE aims to achieve with its Smart Grid investment. View it after the jump.