Fleets of battery-powered robots could zip along monorails installed in solar arrays, tweaking individual panels’ angles so they follow the sun across the sky. This could be cheaper than installing actuators on every solar panel so they track the sun, according to a new robotics startup. Robots can make everything easier!
Plenty of us head into the woods to find inspiration. Aidan Dwyer, 13, went to the woods and had a eureka moment that could be a major breakthrough in solar panel design.
On a bleak winter hiking trip to the Catskill Mountains, the 7th-grader from New York noticed a pattern among tree branches, and determined (as naturalist Charles Bonnet did in 1754) that the pattern represented the Fibonacci sequence of numbers. Aidan wondered why, and figured it had something to do with photosynthesis.
By Jennie Walters
Posted 07.19.2011 at 10:55 am 39 Comments
When officials in Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Spain, suggested placing solar panels in the town’s cemetery, they were met with significant skepticism. But after three years of public outreach, the city council prevailed and the town mounted 462 solar panels on top of a quarter-acre of mausoleums.
On the ground, solar power has its limitations. Solar cells are not especially efficient. It rains. The sun disappears at night. A space-based solar panel can generate five times the energy of a similar panel on Earth by circumventing both weather and hours lost to darkness. A 2007 study by the National Space Society estimates that a half-mile-wide band of photovoltaics in geosynchronous orbit with Earth could generate the energy equivalent of all the oil remaining on the planet over the course of one year. Though costly, launching working solar satellites is possible today. It’s transmitting the captured energy to Earth that presents a challenge—one that scientists are just starting to work on.
Residents of New Jersey, a state well known for its elegant aesthetic sense, are unhappy with the solar panels installed on electrical poles in leafy residential neighborhoods by the state's largest utility company. In suburban Bergen County, locals call the panels "ugly," "hideous," and an "eyesore," in addition to protesting their installation with complaints and (possibly) vandalism, according to the New York Times.
Teams of viruses can help build better solar panels by ensuring nanoscale components behave properly, according to a new study. MIT researchers say their virus-assisted breakthrough could improve solar panels’ energy conversion efficiency by one-third.
A new bridge concept incorporates wind and solar energy into its design, generating 40 million kilowatt-hours per year — and looking pretty slick to boot.
The Solar Wind concept would use the space between an existing viaduct in southern Italy to install 26 wind turbines, which designers Francesco Colarossi, Giovanna Saracino and Luisa Saracino say could provide 36 million kilowatt hours of electricity every year.
The Philadelphia Eagles announced a partnership with Solar Blue to completely re-green their stadium (and to make endless puns about "greening" the team with the deep green uniforms). It's actually pretty groundbreaking stuff: They plan to use a combination of on-site wind turbines, solar panels, and a dual-fuel (biodiesel and natural gas) plant to run on completely self-generated renewable energy by September 2011. It'll be the only stadium in the world that can make that claim.
By Suzanne LaBarre
Posted 08.31.2010 at 11:07 am 10 Comments
Solar panels are a common sight on rooftops but rare on vertical walls, which, being more or less parallel to the noonday sun, get less solar energy. Hoping to take advantage of this unused space, design start-up SMIT looked at how ivy plants nonetheless thrive on the sides of buildings. The company’s upcoming solar-energy system takes inspiration from the way a vine’s many leaves individually maximize their sun exposure.
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.