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.
Researchers and product developers are on the cusp of designing solar cells that may be applied as a spray paint. This means that the surface area (rooftops, fields, etc) of solar collection may find its way onto everyday items, including shopping bags, labels and clothing. Lucelo Technologies in Texas is currently on that path and has (at an early stage) been able to develop a paint that is applied to surfaces and gathers solar energy that is converted to electricity. Instead of the traditional P-N exchange that is used in solar panel systems, Lucelo is able to use nano-crystals to absorb sunlight. And this solution is something that can be added to spray-applicators that you can buy at your local hardware stores. A true do-it-yourself solar system that can be painted onto the side of your home, rooftop, carport shelter, or even on tents while you’re out camping and need to get some electricity to run your LED lights at night.
Greater efficiencies in lighting (LED comes to mind) coupled with advancing rechargeable battery technologies will usher in this wave of do-it-yourself solar technology to just about anyone. Efficiency ratings for the current solar spray hovers around 3% (which is much lower than what current solar panels produce at 15%-20%), but give it some time. Just as solar panels used to have a very low rating, this new method will soon follow suit in building up its efficiency, thus making it a more viable option for low-power demands.
Mario @ Your Solar Link
So what is all this talk about “fracking” and is it a good solution for our energy needs? Well, it depends on what you mean by “good”. If you are talking about a short-term emergency energy solution, then you could say it is “okay” (but certainly not “good”.) If you are talking about long-term and sustainable practice, then it’s a great big “NO”. You can argue for it until you are blue in the face, but when it comes to the final product and what it takes to get that product, “fracked” products are bad news. To put it in a short essay, the folks at gracelinks.org have put it succinctly, so we will repost their work in its entirety for you here:
“The United States is home to what some estimate to be the largest known shale gas reserves in the world. Often referred to as the “bridge fuel” that, according to the oil and gas industry, will aid in the country’s energy transition from coal to renewable sources like wind and solar, natural gas now fuels nearly 40 percent of the country’s electricity generation. Natural gas use has soared in recent years, but so too has the controversy surrounding the environmental, public health and social impacts of how the fuel is obtained.
The Marcellus Shale formation, located in the Northeast U.S., is of particular interest to the oil and gas industry, not just because of its large, untapped reserve, but because of its proximity to major population centers. That proximity, however, also raises significant public health concerns. Of primary concern is the potentially damaging impact of natural gas drilling on water resources. A new process conducted by drilling companies has the potential to increase pollution exposure, and concerned members of the public; some state and federal regulators and the environmental community are keeping a close watch on the process.
The method combines a new form of horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing – more commonly known as fracking. The process blasts open fissures in underground shale-rock formations by injecting a high pressure combination of fluids, chemicals and proppants causing the fossil fuel to flow to the production well. During the fracking process, millions of gallons of fracking fluid – a mixture of water, sand and toxic chemicals – are injected into the ground to break up the shale and release natural gas. While each company’s formula is a closely guarded secret, in some cases the mix includes known carcinogens.
Some of the fracking fluid remains underground where it could potentially contaminate groundwater in the future, but much of it is brought back to the surface as wastewater. That wastewater contains fracking chemicals as well as naturally occurring radioactive materials and metals found in the surrounding soil. The wastewater is often pumped into holding ponds where it can leak and settle into surrounding groundwater, and impact wildlife. The contamination of groundwater is of major concern for those who live near drilling operations and rely on drinking water wells. And the contamination of watersheds that provide drinking water for millions of people in cities hundreds of miles away from any natural gas drills poses a significant threat as well.
While the natural gas industry argues that fracking will create new jobs, the potential harm to water resources could endanger existing economies. Most proposed gas drilling projects are located in rural areas where a ready supply of fresh water is essential to agriculture, tourism, sport fishing, hunting and manufacturing. Drilling accidents, which can and do happen, can have a profound impact on these industries, and the boom-bust cycle of energy extraction can irreparably change the way of life in rural communities. For a cautionary tale, just look to mountaintop removal mining for coal and the devastation caused to Appalachia’s ecology and public health.
Federal and state responses to the threats to water resources posed by fracking have been mixed at best. At the federal level, regulation is insufficient due to certain explicit exemptions from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act granted by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The EPA is just now starting multi-year research into the impacts of fracking on water resources, and while preliminary results will be available in 2012, the final report is not expected until 2014.
At the state level the picture is mixed. New Jersey’s legislature, for example, has approved an outright ban on fracking (pending the Governor’s signature), while New York is proposing to ban the practice from certain sensitive areas. Pennsylvania has already received billions of dollars in natural gas drilling investment, making tougher regulations a difficult sell. In all states, however, proper enforcement of any regulations on this rapidly expanding industry will be difficult for overburdened, underfunded and underprepared environmental agencies.
The role that natural gas fracking will play in the United States’ energy future is quickly evolving. The nation is shifting towards electricity generated by natural gas – over the past ten years 81 percent of new electricity capacity has been gas-fired – and state governments are playing regulatory catch-up with the drilling technology’s rapid expansion to meet this burgeoning demand. As states debate how best to protect air and water resources from any potential fracking side effects, the federal government is taking another look at its own imperfect research and oversight. New technologies like “micro-LNG,” which allow production of natural gas for markets without pipeline networks, add to the need for regulators to get a firm grasp on the changing natural gas landscape. Please check this page often as we will update with the latest fracking news and research.”
So, why are we reposting this and giving you the dirty details on the fracking debate? Well, being as we are purveyors of sustainable energy, there is no better autonomous solution (at the time of this writing) than solar technology. The other side may say that solar uses vast amounts of energy to create the panels and resources for the LEDs, but the same can be said about the initial costs and materials for the fracking and dirty energy industries. Let it be known that we are talking about sustainability and appropriate technology here, neither of which fracking is sustainable nor appropriate.
Go solar today! Don’t let them scare you into thinking it is not a viable option (okay, it isn’t so great of an idea at 90 degrees latitude, but how much of the world population lives at the north and south poles?) Once you have broken from the spell of a 100-year conditioning, you will find that there are alternative energy solutions out there (check Your Solar Link and their supply of off-grid solar lighting) and available to you at this very moment.
Take the power back!
A new solar panel may just be on the horizon, ready to stake its place in the world of alternative technologies. Spanish-based Rawlemon is developing a uni-directional solar collector that could revolutionize the function and overall aesthetic of solar panel design. Typical solar panels are flat, parallelogram devices that limit design and integration into our everyday world (think “flat roof, flat panels”, etc.) With Rawlemon’s design, the solar panel is much smaller and located near the bottom of a water-filled acrylic sphere, where sunlight hits the sphere at any angle and is directed to the solar panel at the base of the unit. Rather ingenious.
The smaller designs are designed to charge devices such as cell phones and low-demand products. Larger models can be installed on rooftops or load-ready surfaces where the electrical input into a system (electrical panel, rechargeable batteries, DC units) while adding aesthetic intrigue to landscapes and architecture.
The future is indeed now, and Rawlemon is here to show us the way.
Image from Himin Solar Energy. Dezhou Solar Valley in China.
The base will be a clean energy technology hub that China hopes will rival Silicon Valley in California. “This is an experiment. It is a big laboratory,” said Huang Ming – an oil industry engineer turned solar energy tycoon.
Image from Himin Solar Energy. Dezhou Solar Valley in China
The $740 million plan has attracted about 100 companies and factories, a research center and wide boulevards illuminated by solar-powered lights.
China’s Solar Valley in Dezhou (Promotional Video)
The main developer for the park’s plan is a company called Himin Solar Energy. It was started by Huang Ming who is often called the ‘Sun King’ of China. Although he says: “I prefer to be called solar madman.” The building that serves as headquarters for Himin Solar Energy is located at the Sun-Moon Mansion and is currently the largest solar powered office building in the world.
Image from Himin Solar Energy.
Sun-Moon Mansion – Himin Solar Energy’s headquarters. Night view.
Image from Himin Solar Energy.
Sun-Moon Mansion – Himin Solar Energy’s headquarters. Day view.
Image from Himin Solar Energy.
Sun-Moon Mansion – Himin Solar Energy’s headquarters. Day view.
An intriguing mix of raw capitalism and socialist planning is giving companies such as Huang’s Himin Solar Energy Group a shot at making a difference.
The city of Dezhou already requires that all new buildings be equipped with solar water heaters (the type made by Huang’s company). Last year they spent $10 million to install solar lighting along several miles of road.
Huang’s company is the world’s biggest producer of solar water heaters. It recently opened a low-carbon five-star hotel and is building Utopia Garden, a gigantic, eco-friendly luxury apartment complex – both with solar-heated pools.
“Renewable energy doesn’t mean people have to be uncomfortable,” Huang states.
Last year, China invested about $34 billion in solar panels, wind turbines and other alternative energy technologies, nearly twice as much as the United States, where green technologies spending unfortunately fell sharply.
Huang notes that, so far, solar energy is “a drop in the ocean” on the road to the major Environmental and Economical changes but he said that Dezhou offers a model for the future. “I like big plans,” he says.
Image from Himin Solar Energy. Huang Ming presents Dezhou Solar Valley.
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)