Silexium Could Change Solar Panel Manufacture

February 4, 2010 · Filed Under News, Solar

Sixtron has recently developed a thin coating for solar cells  called Silexium.  This anti-reflective coating could make solar panels much more affordable.

The manufacture of solar cells now requires the use of saline gas to make anti-reflective coating, that is extremely dangerous as well as expensive.  Silexium does not require silane to be present and could reduce the complexity and money required to make solar cells.  This new coating would also provide more protection over the cells allow for possibly longer life and more power generated.

Sounds like a promising product that could help expand the usage of solar panels.

Understanding and Evaluating Energy Saving Technology

December 28, 2009 · Filed Under Electric, Environment, Geothermal, Guest Posts, Solar

With the recent climate change talks in Copenhagen, it is safe to say that even though all countries aren’t actually making an effort to change their actions, most at least understand it is extremely important for the environment for us to change our ways and focus on reducing pollution.

Rather than waiting for our politicians to step up and mandate the changes needed to help save our environment, I feel that it is our duty to help make this world a better place, after all it is the only one we have.

One of the most effective ways of doing this is to help cut down on our energy costs, both in our vehicles and at home. However, when considering some of the technologies available today, it is very important to weigh not just the energy savings, but also the cost of manufacturing these devices.

Heating and Cooling

HVAC

In the home, there are usually few appliances that are as inefficient as our heating and air systems. However, if you live in an area that gets very hot or cold, simply doing without isn’t safe, nor is it comfortable. Fortunately, there are a number of more energy efficient heating and air systems available, which can cut back on our energy use, without having to sacrifice our comfort.

One of the most exciting technologies available to help reduce energy costs is the Geothermal Heating and cooling unit. Geothermal heating and cooling uses very long tubes that extend into the Earth and actually pull heat from the ground. In the summer, the same process can be reversed, sending the heat from the house, into the ground.

Using a geothermal system, it is possible to heat a 1500 square foot house for less than a dollar a day. Of course, they are quite expensive to install and depending on the location, can require that a very deep hole is drilled. To help off set this cost, many power companies will offer incentives for installing a geothermal heating and cooling system, with some options also available from the government. While the initial cost is very high, the savings over a 10 year period could easily offset this initial investment.

Another option for those wishing to cut heating and cooling costs is the Cold-Weather Air Source Heat Pump, which uses an additional compressor that is used when the temperature drops below 30 degrees. The second compressor is necessary because a traditional heat pump does not work well when the temperature drops below freezing, so auxiliary heat must be used. Auxiliary heat, or emergency heat, is very expensive to operate, as it uses a great deal of energy.

Using a Cold-Weather Air Source Heat Pump ends up using less power than a standard heat pump would when it gets very cold. Further, when the temperature is above freezing, only one compressor is used, so the energy usage is similar to that of a traditional heating system.

Generating Your Own Power

For years, people have been putting solar panels on their home to help reduce their dependency on fossil fuels and the power company. While this can save you a great deal of money and it is even sometimes possible to sell your excess power back to the power company, the initial investment has always been quite steep.

Recently, however, the cost of solar panels has begun to drop, as new manufacturing technologies have been introduced. This, coupled with rising energy costs across the country, has made installing solar panels a much more attractive idea.

Several companies have recently developed very thin solar panels that are relatively inexpensive to manufacture, but because they rely on some semi-rare minerals, so it remains to see whether this can be used on a very large scale.

Going Green in Your Automobile

Another popular move has been to use a more energy efficient vehicle, with a number of hybrids, which are cars that use a mixture of gasoline and stored electricity, and battery powered vehicles available.

Currently, GM, Nissan, Honda, Ford, and Toyota all offer some sort of battery powered vehicle, but when considering these cars, it is important to take into account the environmental impact that manufacturing them has.

For example, the Toyota Prius uses a very expensive battery, which uses nickel that is mined in Canada, using a mining technique that is bad for the environment. Then, the nickel must be shipped across the world, converted into batteries, and subsequently shipped back over to the US. So, with all of the environmental costs associated with the manufacture of the Prius, it tends to off set the benefits of driving it.

It All Starts with You

What a lot of people don’t always realize, myself included, is that the things we do everyday can have a major impact on the environment and the future. Even if you don’t have the money to invest in something like a geothermal heating system, you can still help the environment by changing your actions.

For example, making an effort to shut off the water when you wash your teeth and shave can save a tremendous amount of water. Also, consider setting the heat to around fifty-five and putting on an extra sweater or perhaps wearing some thermal clothing, rather than cranking up the heat.

If everyone made what are essentially very small changes to their lifestyle, it would no longer be a small change and could have a tremendous impact on the World.

About the Author

Tiger is a writer who understands the importance of protecting the environment. In addition to writing about the environment, he also writes about a number of other topics, including lift chairs. Lift Chairs are devices that in design are similar to a recliner, but contain a powerful lifting system, which helps to make it easier to stand. They are especially popular among the elderly and lift chairs Medicare are available, for those who live in the United States and are currently enrolled in Medicare.

Cheap Solar House Fighting to Win Contest

September 17, 2009 · Filed Under News, Solar

A solar house built by a group of students from Rice University out of Houston, TX strives to be a low cost option for houses to reduce their carbon emissions while still reducing monthly energy bills.  The Zerow House as it’s called is going to be part of the Solar Decathlon contest hosted by the Department of Energy.

The major accomplishment the students are trying to achieve is to build an affordable house that a normal family can afford, yet still reduce their carbon footprint.  Other entrants in the contest took quite a different approach in that they built expensive homes with fancy features.  Roque Sanchez, one of the students involved in the project had this to say about the Zerow House:

We’re taking a house that any family could live in and any family could afford and adding solar to it.

It’s great to see that these students took a different approach to this house than the other entrants.  I hate it when winning products of contests like this are so expensive that the normal person could never afford.  Being priced at just $100,000, this house could be an excellent way many Americans could build solar enabled, yet inexpensive and practical homes.  After the competition is over, Rice University also plans on donating the home to a low-income family.

I wish the best of luck to this group.  Lets hope this home can make a huge impact on how homes are built throughout our country regardless of whether they win the Solar Decathlon.

BigBelly Solar Powered Trash Compactors in Philly

June 24, 2009 · Filed Under Green, Solar
BigBelly Solar Trash Compactor

Photo by specialkrb.

I got a chance to walk around Philadelphia, PA a few weekends ago and to my surprise I saw a high-tech trash can that I had to check out.  It turns out that it was a solar powered trash compactor that was introduced to the city just this past April.  Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera to take a picture, but the picture to the left is what it looked like.

Major cities all across the country are beginning to use the BigBelly solar trash compactors to eliminate the problem of overflowing trash.  I think these compactors are a great addition to any urban population where trash is overflowing requiring workers to constantly being replace trash bags.  I applaud Philly for using these compactors along with other cities across America who have already adopted them.  Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston are just a few of these cities.  I haven’t seen any in Baltimore yet, but it’s great news to hear that they do have some.

The BigBelly trash compactor may not solve all the problems that are happening in our cities, but it at least is helping to ease the trash situation that many have.  This device could be the beginning to more advanced technologies to further help cities with their trash problems and do so while using a renewable energy like solar.

Share you thoughts on these solar trash compactors and if you have seen one in your local area.

CoolerPlanet Solar Tools and Resources

May 22, 2009 · Filed Under Green, Solar
CoolerPlanet

I stumbled upon a cool website called CoolerPlanet that contains a wide array of resources to help save you time and money, while still lowering your environmental impact.  They have developed a large network on green professionals throughout America to help lower your energy bills.  By putting in your location and current needs, CoolerPlanet can help match you up with the appropriate business to meet your needs.  They also have several tools to help determine if solar energy is appropriate for your situation.  The best thing about this site is that it is all provided free of charge and no signing up.

Solar Energy Cost Tool

This is the main feature of this site and allows you to determine the total cost of a solar energy system.  They also provide the various incentives that are available to lower the cost, the “break even” point and even allow you to request a quote from a solar energy expert in your area.  I really like this tool because it gives you the “break even” number of years for buying a solar energy system.  It’s sometimes tough to determine if a solar energy system is appropriate for your house or business location, especially in areas where it may not seem sunny.  This tool will show you can fund your solar energy system off of energy bill savings with a reasonable amount of time.

Power Rating Tool

CoolerPlanet’s power rating tool is another cool feature of this site.  It shows their own rating system of how cost effective it is to obtain a solar system in each state.  All available tax incentives and the average cost of a system in a particular state are used to make the calculation. What’s cool is that it allows you to browse a map highlighted with various colors showing each states solar energy cost rating.  It gives you a good idea of how cost effective solar energy is for your state as well as those surrounding.

Other Resources

There are more resources and tools available on this site including: a blog, Solar Energy Q&A, Solar Energy news and even a Solar Install Map.  CoolerPlanet did a great job in making it a one stop place to researching and purchasing a solar energy system.

Solar Panels Could Pose Dangers to the Environment

January 22, 2009 · Filed Under News, Solar

Solar Energy is one of the top emerging renewable energy sources that could relieve us of our dependency on dirty energy sources like coal and dangerous energy sources like nuclear. Even with it’s many positives, solar energy has a major drawback that could cause some harm to our environment. Solar energy itself is not dangerous nor is the process of solar panels converting the sun’s light into energy. The biggest problem is in the production and disposal of the solar panels.

As reported Solar panels are currently made with various toxic chemicals including silicon. It is a major component in their construction and is a main reason that both must be carefully manufactured and recycled. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition recently released a report to encourage the industry to pursue more sustainable materials to build their products to ensure that solar energy is truly as green as advertised. Also, they would like the government to enact policies to prevent a similar situation currently occurring with the electronic industry. If preparations are not properly taken then there can be dire consequences. There have been many deaths and communities destroyed due to the toxic byproducts of using silicon. There are huge amounts of toxic materials that lay in our landfills because of the lack of planning on their parts. The goal of this report is to prevent a situation like from happening with the solar panel industry.

A big problem is that the solar industry has started off on a similar track to that of electronics. There was a report that a small town in China was already polluted with a silicon byproduct. Their lands are filled with waste and left unusable. There are also health risks to the people who have not already been directly affected by the toxins. This cannot continue to keep happening if we want to continue to praise solar energy as being green and a renewable energy source. After reading this article, it makes it really hard to continue to support solar energy, but there are still many reasons to do so. As I said earlier, solar energy itself is renewable, just the products used to making the panels. It’s great to see that the coalition is putting pressure on the solar industry to start researching safe material to be used in their manufacturing process. These changes need to be done now before further damage is done.

There is at least some companies that realize the real dangers associated with the waste that could accumulate from their panel production. First Solar is giving their customer’s a lifetime guarantee that they will recycle the panels they sell. This process ensures that their panels do not end up in a landfill and are properly disposed of.  Don’t get me wrong, Solar energy’s benefits far outweigh this one negative.  I would choose solar energy in a heartbeat over horrible energy sources like coal and nuclear.  We just need to make sure that companies are taking responsibility for their products and have recycling programs like First Solar has to make sure these new renewable sources of energy are as green as everybody suggests.

Super-Yachts Go Green With Wind and Solar Energy

December 1, 2008 · Filed Under Solar, Technology, Wind

For all those multi-millionaires out there that want to enjoy the seas comfortably while going green, there is a new boat that could fit the bill. The Solar Sailor company based out of Sydney, Australia is creating a series of super-yachts that will run off of solar and wind energy. The idea is to create a solar sail that can multi-task as a sail and it’s energy source. A huge problem with many of the current yachts sailing on the seas is that they guzzle tons of gas and emits tons of pounds of CO2. The reason they require so much energy is that they not only need to run these huge boats, but they also have fancy equipment like Jacuzzis and movie theaters that require tons of energy to operate. One thing that shocked me was to see that they huge yachts can consume as much 1 liter of fuel per second. That’s right not minute but second.

Solar Yacht
Photo by stangls.

The technology works through a computer system that will control the solar sail. The sail can then be electronically mounted based off of the sun’s position or the direction of the wind. Not only would the vessels be getting 5% of its energy from the solar panels mounted on the sails, but they would also be getting approximately 20-40% of the total energy needs from wind. This could save the owners tons of money to operate their yachts as well as eliminate tons of emissions.

The thing that frustrates me the most about this is: why do you need such a large and elaborate boat? Is it really necessary to have a yacht of such size that requires so much fuel to run? Just because the ultra wealthy that own super-yachts have the money to buy these, why not allocate you money elsewhere. Even after adding these great renewable energy modifications to these boats, they still are going to be burning tons of fuel. They are just burning less that they previously were. This is how our environment has taken such a huge hit. The need to have massive machines and boats that require tons of energy to operate. Even if they were to convert these massive boats to run completely on renewable energy, it still doesn’t make them green or eco-friendly. Tons of materials are needed to build these devices just to make a few people more comfortable when they are sailing. I’m all for supporting renewable energy, but we as a society also need to start conserving more. What are you thoughts.

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