by Maria Juniper, Contributing Editor
Now that most governments, environmental organizations, scientists and even the Catholic Church have agreed on the need to combat climate change, innovative solutions are being sought in many quarters. The old ways of doing things simply won’t cut it now that we’re aware of the harmful effects of traditional means of power generation, such as the burning of coal and the combustion of gasoline. Solar photovoltaic panels are one means of addressing this issue, but this equipment often takes up a lot of space – land that could be otherwise put to productive use. Now entering the picture is a method for placing solar panels on top of water, a type of technology dubbed “floatovoltaics.”
Although there are issues with covering up the surfaces of lakes, ponds and other natural habitats, these elements of our beautiful landscapes aren’t usually under consideration for floatovoltaic projects. There are vast areas of salt water, waste water, reservoirs and other places in which floatovoltaic setups will have little negative impact on either wildlife or aesthetics. By employing currently-unused watery areas to collect solar rays, we can avoid having to devote agricultural or other productive land to this task. Floatovoltaic systems can achieve better efficiency in converting solar energy into electricity than traditional equipment. Because they’re constantly being cooled by the water beneath, floatovoltaic setups aren’t subject to overheating as ground-based solar arrays are. Research suggests that this cooling effect makes floatovoltaics 8 to 10 percent more efficient than old-school solar solutions.
The way it works is that the panels are tied together and secured atop bodies of water so that they can’t float away. Certain components, particularly the wiring, need to be waterproof, which means that floatovoltaic systems tend to cost more for the initial hardware and installation than a normal solar array. On the other hand, they’re relatively safe from erosion due to sand and damage from humans or animals. The electricity produced by floatovoltaics can be used locally or tied into the pre-existing electric grid to power homes and businesses some distance away. Indeed, one of the advantages to this means of electricity production is the fact that revenues can be generated by selling excess energy to energy providers and nearby utility firms.
Another aspect of floatovoltaics that’s getting a lot of attention in drought-stricken areas, like California, is the fact that by covering bodies of water, they counteract evaporation. The Los Angeles Reservoir has been losing a lot of water to evaporation, making drought-related problems throughout the state worse. In a bizarre scheme, officials released millions of “shade balls” into the reservoir. These balls are specially coated to block sunlight and thereby hinder evaporation, and they also inhibit the growth of algae. Instead of introducing these shade balls, which have raised ecological concerns among some observers, public authorities could instead employ floatovoltaic panels to achieve the same ends while simultaneously generating some revenue through the sale of electricity.
Several similar projects are already underway right in the Golden State. A winery in Napa Valley hired SPG Solar, since acquired by SunEdison, to place the appropriate infrastructure on an irrigation pond. This allowed it to avoid having to cut down valuable vines while still becoming self-sufficient in electricity production. Sonoma County, in the San Francisco Bay Area, has decided to lease the rights to six ponds full of wastewater to the company Pristine Sun, which will set up floatovoltaic cells. The project is expected to generate electricity for 3,000 households while bringing in $30,000 annually in payments for the water rights.
Japan’s Kyocera is one of the leading enterprises in developing this kind of solar energy. It has created the largest such system in the world in Hyogo Prefecture and is working on an even bigger project at Yamakura Dam in Chiba Prefecture. Amazingly, the equipment will be able to withstand winds stronger than 100 miles per hour and is designed so that earthquakes will not affect its operations. French firm Ciel et Terre is partnering with Kyocera for the job, and it’s also working on creating floatovoltaic systems for use in Thailand.
From populous India and arid Australia to tech-savvy Japan and green-energy-conscious Brazil, countries around the world are working on using floatovoltaic technology to augment their clean energy efforts. Because it uses much of the same equipment as normal solar power, albeit with certain modifications, we’ll see floatovoltaic solutions march step-by-step in line with further advances in the solar industry as a whole. Extending humankind’s renewable energy efforts to aquatic environs means that total solar production will increase without putting pressure on scarce land resources.
by Maria Ramos, Contributing Editor
Plenty of attention has been devoted to the growing adoption of solar energy systems all around the world. A tremendous amount of experimental solar projects have helped drive the progression of this renewable power source, bringing it ever closer to solving more of the Earth’s energy needs.
However, additional applications for solar technology are far removed from the surface of the planet we inhabit. Way back in 1958, the “grapefruit sized” Vanguard 1 satellite took off, becoming the first solar-powered satellite to launch into the Earth’s orbit. Since then, many other solar spacecrafts have been cleared for launch – but none quite like the LightSail, Bill Nye’s groundbreaking achievement in low-cost, “democratic”, space exploration.
Initially proposed by the legendary astrophysicist Carl Sagan (founder of the Planetary Society, the world’s “largest non-profit space advocacy group”), the LightSail employs solar sail technology: sheets of material that unfurl and gather energy from photons emitted by the sun. This energy is then used to generate thrust for a spacecraft. The IKAROS probe, launched in 2010 by Japan, and the NanoSail-D2 satellite created by NASA are two vehicles that have used solar sails to prior success.
The LightSail, promoted by Bill Nye as the now-president of The Planetary Society, is a citizen-funded spacecraft which uses similarly designed solar sails for propulsion. These sails are made of Mylar and are only 4.5 microns in width despite having an area of 32 square meters. As light from the sun hits the surface of the sails, the momentum from the photons is transferred, in accordance with well-established physical principles, to the sailing craft. As one would imagine, the energy thus imparted to the system at any moment in time is trivial. But because there’s hardly any friction in space and the sun’s rays are always shining, these gentle pushes can accelerate the craft to very high speeds.
Bill Nye, the “Science Guy” that is he, is a powerful promoter of science literacy and awareness among the public at large. In recent years especially, he has also shown himself to be an adept orator and science communicator, debating with those who continue to denounce the reality of climate change. After establishing the LightSail project, he teamed up with renowned cosmologist Neil DeGrasse Tyson to create a video explaining the principle motivation behind their work. Inspired by Sagan’s infamous cosmic wanderlust, the LightSail establishes solar as a viable propulsion source for a tiny spacecrafts called CubeSats which will allow for low-cost space missions for research and education.
The LightSail took off on May 20th. It encountered several problems initially, such as delayed deployment of the solar sails and a brief lapse in communication. But it made a recovery, and the sails did eventually deploy and data has been successfully sent from spacecraft back to Earth-based scientists. And while this first mission had a few hiccups, it was enough to convince researchers to begin preparing the craft for a real test flight in April of 2016. Private groups have already contributed more than $4 million to the LightSail’s next round.
As Carl Sagan once said, “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” The growing prevalence of crowdfunded clean energy projects is indicative of a much broader trend – everyday people are increasingly aware of the need to both protect and better understand the nature of our world in the face of impending climate change. Whether it’s making the switch to a clean energy provider or backing another solar Kickstarter project, making a contribution (no matter how small) empowers individuals to connect with the planet in a more meaningful way.
If future hopes for the LightSail pan out, then it could mean a whole new way of exploring space by harnessing energy from the sun. By taking space exploration out of the hands of large government agencies and reducing its cost, ordinary people have the ability to invest in it in growing numbers. These advancements will likely tie in with the burgeoning solar power industry here on Earth, leading to more efficient and cost-effective solar energy options and a more hopeful future for our precious planetary home.
There’s little better than relaxing in the confines of a toasty conservatory.
In the UK, however, the often erratic weather can quickly turn your agreeable extension into a disagreeable white elephant, as heating costs spiral out of control and your conservatory becomes little more than a glorified broom cupboard.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
With approximately 200,000 new conservatories added to homes around the UK every year, little changes can be factored into the design and construction process to make a massive difference to their eco-friendliness.
Consequently, before you rush headlong into adding a conservatory to your property, it’s important you understand the environmental implications and how you can reduce its impact by reading our top tips below …
Heating and Cooling
Depending on where your conservatory is positioned, your heating and cooling needs will vary. As a result, this will determine how much energy you’ll use to keep the space warm in the winter (through halogen heating etc) and cool in the summer (by using fans or air conditioning).
Indeed, a whopping 28 per cent of the UK’s CO2 output comes from the energy used in homes, so rather than adding to the issue, it’s important to have a strategy in place to make sure your conservatory is a temperate environment all year round.
This means most opt to have their conservatory facing south, allowing them to capture the sun’s warmth in the summer AND winter – although it’s important to have quality blinds and vents in place to help avoid the space becoming unbearably warm in the balmier months.
Blinds and Glass
Of course, a conservatory contains more glass than you can shake a stick at, so one of the easiest ways to make it more eco-friendly is by opting for the most energy efficient glass during the consultation and subsequent design process.
This means choosing a glass that has a low U-Value, as the lower the U-Value, the more energy efficient the glass will be. The upshot, obviously, is you spend less money on cooling and heating your conservatory – and the environment is better off.
While you’re at it, it’s important to select the right type of blinds for your space, with many folk opting for vertical or roller blinds, which allow you to keep your conservatory cooler in the summer and let in more light in the colder winter months.
What do you think?
Do you have any other ways our readers can make their conservatories more eco-friendly? How about other areas of the garden where they can save energy AND help the environment? Please let us know by leaving a comment below – we’d love to hear from you.
You’ve seen them. Maybe you didn’t know exactly what they were, but you’ve seen them. You’re driving along, listening to the latest Depeche Mode remix, and you notice that those street lights are different than what you remember from a decade ago. Yes, street lights are going LED (Light Emitting Diode). Some are going induction or halogen, but the point to make here is that they have been going away from that yellow HPS light that was prevalent a decade (or two) ago. However, as we have reached the middle of the second decade in the new millennium (yes, it’s 2015 already), technology has changed. And with it, we are going back to the white light at night to illuminate our streets, parking lots, and any other large exterior space.
Why go back to white light? First, it helps to give a true color to whatever is beneath the light (car, clothes, etc.) that helps with nighttime security (no more “they were driving a blue car, no green, no red….”; you get the picture). Second, it is closer to daylight color, so it is easier on the eye. And third, with LEDs, white light can be directed in a more controlled manner such that light pollution is greatly reduced as compared to their HPS predecessors. It is this third reason that interests cities and those who enjoy looking up to see the stars when outside of cities. As illustrated in the before and after images below, the lack of proper designs with HPS yellow lights created a haze of light pollution that spread beyond the ground they were intended to illuminate. The “after” picture shows how light on the ground is not compromised by switching to white LEDs, while the layers above the city are going back to dark, as it should. After all, we’re not trying to illuminate the air traffic above. Cheers.
So, the simple act of switching to LED fixtures for street lights is having a positive effect on security, near-natural light conditions and unwanted light pollution. Not only do we have these benefits, but LEDs outlast their predecessors by many years and use less energy to operate. Thus, the long-term costs of operation are greatly reduced and resources are preserved for future generations.
Now, it you want to take all that preservation, savings, efficiency and control of exterior lighting (cities, this is for you), then you can go off-grid with your street lights by cutting your ties to the utility company with the solar lights at SolTek Renewables. Their autonomous solar street lights include all the components to install a system that is comparable to (and often exceeds) industry standards while costing the user (and that would be you, the taxpayer) nothing in nightly operation. The only cost is that of a rechargeable battery (like the one in your car) replacement every 5 to 7 years (at today’s rate, that’s about $150 a battery). Not a bad deal for generating illumination that is controlled and owned by the city (again, that’s you taxpayers), doesn’t involve wars over oil, isn’t affected by black-outs or brown-outs, is free from utility company fees and their nasty increases, is as reliable (if not more so) than the conventional/grid-tied lights, and is a 100% renewable energy light.
To give you an example, a solar street light from SolTek Renewables costs anywhere between $4,500 (for your typical 1-fixture light you see along the streets) to about $6,500 for a dual-fixture light (that you see along the median of a multi-lane highway). Typical installation costs run around $2,000 a light (depending on your contractor). So, to install a light where there was not one before will run you about $6,500 to $8,500. Compare that to grid-tied lights that cost even more after installation (trenching, wiring, labor, etc. are not cheap, nor free) and have energy costs every single night they are on (and look around, they are on in the daylight as well. Not efficient at all.) Furthermore, you can have your solar street light up and running in a matter of 2 to 3 months. Compare that to the decades (yes, decades!) of planning, political rhetoric, etc. with conventional grid-tied lights. If there ever were a no-brainer, solar street lights are it!
Mario @ Your Solar Link
One of the points made by solar opposition is the intrusion of installations on existing ecosystems. For example, desert installations in the US are often subject to EIRs (Environmental Impact Reports) that may make or break a project. Albeit, this is done for good reasons and with the right intent for all involved (human and non-human). So, designers in Australia have come up with a solution that doesn’t harm the footprint of the solar array installation, all while working as a water conservation system for a water treatment facility.
As this solar array is situated on a buoyant foundation, it acts as an evaporation barrier for the water below (cools the surface temperature of the water that is shaded by the solar array, thus less evaporation from radiation as well as some blockage of lateral wind evaporation.) No additional land is used with this array (see scenario above), so the situation is optimized for both electricity generation and efficient water treatment. The electricity generated is used to power the water treatment operations with excess electricity sold to the local township.
Smart design for a smart technology. Way to go Australia!
Mario @ Your Solar Link
Juicebar Pocket Solar Charger.
This stylish, sleek and reliable pocket size Universal Battery Charger (Juicebar Solar Charger) is proven to be your best friend in a situation when conventional electric supply is not available or if you are trying to use eco-friendly renewable power supplies.
Great as a solar phone charger for any type of Mobile Phones, IPhones, PSA, PDA, Mp3 Players, Satellite Navigation, and much more.
Get it HERE.
SOLAR PATH LIGHTS.
Stainless Steel Conical Solar Path Light (Set of 2).
Path solar lights are an excellent choice for lighting your garden paths, walkways, driveway perimeters and other regions in your landscape. They are often used in multiples to guide the way along a set of stairs or a dark walk.
Featured Stainless Steel Solar Light set uses 2 ultra-bright LEDs for maximum light output and minimum battery usage.
The lights are safe around kids and pets and water and corrosion resistant.
Read more HERE
STONE SOLAR SPOT LIGHTS.
Stone Solar Spot Lights (also known as Solar Rock Lights) completely camouflage with existing landscapes and look like any other rock in your garden.
SOLAR GARDEN FOUNTAINS.
How to start using ecologically friendly energy to power up your garden fountains and other garden water features?
Why not go with a solar powered water pump?
To accommodate your needs the Solar Fountain Pump Systems we carry range from 2 to 8 Watt. Browse our collection of solar water pumps for your fish ponds and solar fountains.
Enjoy your garden water features and your energy savings at the same time. Make a note of the various power levels and the flow rate of the solar water pumps before your purchase.
Please write us your review after your purchase. Your opinion is important to us!
DECORATIVE SOLAR ACCENT LIGHTS.
Solar accent lights (Set of 2) create an enjoyable and inviting glow for your landscape.
They are designed to mark a place.
Solar Spot Light - $26.99
Super High Output Spot Light (4 Super Bright LEDs). Free Shipping!
Solar spot lights like this one rely on energy from the sun to charge their batteries and provide light throughout the night.
This means that there is no need to tap into the electrical grid for these lights to operate.
The solar spot lights will work consistently, even if the whole neighborhood is dealing with a power outage.
Learn more about Solar Spot Lights at http://www.yoursolarlink.com/solar-spot-lights, where we have a great selection of solar spot lights to choose from.
100% renewable energy
garden solar lights
outdoor solar lights
solar accent lights
solar garden light
Solar Garden Lights
solar light batteries
solar light rechargeable batteries
solar powered lights
solar powered products
Solar Security Lights
solar spot light
solar spot lights
solar street lights
solar string lights
solar technology Community Action (14)
Creative Solar (23)
Funny News (4)
Latest Technology (57)
Solar Gardening (17)
Solar News (144)
Solar Products Customers' Reviews (9)
World News (40)