By inexpensively turning salt water into drinking water using sustainable solar power, a team from MIT in the US has not only come up with a portable desalination system for use anywhere in the world that needs it, but it’s just won the 2015 Desal Prize – a competition run by USAID to encourage better solutions to water shortages in developing countries. In order to win the $140,000 prize, entries had to demonstrate how their invention not only works well, but is cost-effective, environmentally sustainable, and energy efficient. And the MIT researchers teamed up with US-based manufacturing company, Jain Irrigation Systems, to do just that.
published on Social Enterprise Canada,
On another brilliantly sunny day in the northern Alberta hamlet of Little Buffalo, history was being made earlier this week. The home to about 500 people was abuzz with a kind of activity not seen there before – the installation of a brand-new 20.8-kilowatt solar panel system.
Melina Laboucan-Massimo, who is from Little Buffalo, described the scene at one point. “We have the (solar) panels on the ground; we’re just going to be putting them up with the racking system today. We’re really excited about it,” she said.
The Piitapan Solar Project installation in process this week in Little Buffalo, Alberta.
The new solar-panel system is a pole-mount model, meaning the panels sit atop a pole looming about 15 feet into the air.
Electricians, solar contractors and community members are on-hand all week to complete the installation and/or train, learn and observe.
The goal is to have the system, called the Piitapan (Cree for Sunrise) Solar Project, installed by Aug. 21.
This will be followed by a Solar Feast this weekend, in which all generations of the hamlet will have an opportunity both learn more about what this new feature to their place means, as well as celebrate its installation as a truly historic moment.
For Melina, a member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation, seeing the solar-panel system take shape has special meaning.
She was born in Little Buffalo, which is encircled by oil and gas development and large scale industry. Little Buffalo is part of the Lubicon Lake Nation.
“Renewables aren’t knocking, they’re kicking in the doors.”
So much power was produced by Denmark’s windfarms on Thursday that the country was able to meet its domestic electricity demand and export power to Norway, Germany and Sweden.
On an unusually windy day, Denmark found itself producing 116% of its national electricity needs from wind turbines yesterday evening. By 3am on Friday, when electricity demand dropped, that figure had risen to 140%.
Interconnectors allowed 80% of the power surplus to be shared equally between Germany and Norway, which can store it in hydropower systems for use later. Sweden took the remaining fifth of excess power.
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All things are possible when we have the will and determination to achieve them.
Solar will be the world’s biggest single source of electricity by 2050, according to a recent estimate by the International Energy Agency. Currently, it’s responsible for just a fraction of one percent.
Because of solar’s small market share today, no matter how quickly capacity expands, it won’t have much immediate impact on the price of other forms of energy. But soon, for the first time, the reverse may also be true: Gas and coal prices will lose their sway over the solar industry.
We often assume that Wall Street investment bankers represent everything that is anti-environment. The truth is, all investment bankers care about is money. In many cases, this drives them to support corporate loopholes and industry practices that put the environment at risk, but not always. In 2012, Goldman Sachs surprised the world by announcing $40 billion in clean energy investments. And just a few months ago, Goldman Sachs said that the renewable energy sector is one of the most compelling and attractive markets. Now they’ve gone a step further. According to the firm’s recent report, not only is solar power a good investment, it’s also poised to make fossil fuels obsolete:
Zero-fuel airplane Solar Impulse has partnered with Google as its official internet technology partner that will provide the solar-powered airplane with web and social platforms to raise awareness for emissions-free travel, writes Elga Reyes on eco-business.com. “Solar Impulse SA and Google have signed a high-level partnership to propel clean energy aviation forward in 2015, when the Swiss-founded solar airplane makes a landmark pollution-free flight around the world. Earlier this year in June and July, Solar Impulse accomplished a historic journey of flying across the United States in both day and night without the use of fuel.”
“It was during this Across America mission, which started in San Francisco and stopping in different cities until reaching New York, that Solar Impulse first started to collaborate with Google. The internet firm generated public interest for the solar aircraft and the need for sustainable transport through the use of Google platforms, such as virtual chatroom Google Hangout, said the solar aviation firm. This livestream interaction featured film director James Cameron and Solar Impulse patron and Charles Lindbergh’s grandson, Erik Lindbergh, as guests, supplementing the company’s own online flight viewing and pilot interviews.”
“Primary founders and pilots André Borschberg and Betrand Piccard, with the rest of the Solar Impulse team, are planning to circumnavigate the world in two years time. Currently, they are developing new materials and construction methods for a second solar airplane that draws on lessons learned from their US and earlier experimental flights.”
A handful of U.S. utilities have discovered they can save money by encouraging small rooftop solar projects—the same projects utility industry leaders have insisted were too expensive and unreliable to be practical.
The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) in New York, for instance, is paying developers to build solar panels on top of buildings in tiny towns that are experiencing population booms but don’t have enough electric grid
Here’s an alternative view…
” ….The secret sauce – Morgan’s concentrated solar module
Morgan Solar is developing a concentrated solar photovoltaic module that should be ready for market by the summer of 2014. Instead of a solid panel of silicon like a typical solar module, concentrated solar uses a device to focus the light onto a tiny, ultra-efficient photovoltaic cell.
There are other concentrated solar PV companies and products out there, but the secret sauce for Morgan is in their optics. To gather and focus the light they use a lens made of cheap, everyday plastic called poly methyl methacrylate or PMMA.
“It’s used to make automotive headlamps, it’s used to make paints and it’s extremely cheap. So we’re replacing expensive semiconductor materials with really inexpensive polymer materials and that’s kind of key to reducing the cost of the raw materials that go into the solar panel,” says John Paul Morgan.
The solar cell that the light is focused on is the same stuff that’s shot into space and used to power satellites.
“One wafer would cost 400 times, 500 times more than a silicone solar cell, but it’s much, much, more efficient. And when you dice that up and when you use a tiny sliver in the middle of a concentrator, you can get superior economics,” says John Paul Morgan.
Morgan is an engineer, a physicist and is an expert in fibre optics. It’s this experience that inspired him to make a lens that redirects the incoming light 90 degrees sideways to the middle of the lens where the tiny solar cell is waiting. This means the lens used to focus the light is cheap and much thinner than its competitors….”
“I write this as an open letter to environmentalists, but to be honest, it isn’t truly an open letter. Many of you (probably most) will continue to call for these unsustainable forms of energy, despite knowing that to do so is to beg murder upon the migratory birds, the (very few remaining) unpolluted streams, rural Chinese farmers, and ultimately upon what remains of the living world. Many of you don’t want a truly sustainable way of life, but to sustain a functionally unsustainable civilization. Many of your salaries and personal identities depend on “clean energy,” and you won’t dare challenge it. And for me, this is incredibly saddening and disheartening, as I know many such people. So this letter is not written to you.”
Here is a wakeup call. One that insists we strip off the blinders and face our own delusions in order to survive.
I had heard some of these statistics, some of these uncomfortable truths, yet allowed myself to cling to the fantasy (is it? really?) of solar cells painted onto rooftops, of wind power made small scale and affordable and powering local homes in local grids .. while worrying underneath about rare minerals (yes, I own a cellphone) and migratory birds and hoping technological advances would quickly resolve these anomalies. The kicker, though, is that the same argument is used by the industrial giants against whom I want to (and often do) rail… the Enridges, the BPs, the Shells, of this world. They, too, rely on technology to ‘solve the problem’ of carbon emissions and climate change and those billions of gallons of spilled and leaked oil contaminating our world. and so for now they continue, comfortable in their conviction that one day, some day, technology will clean it up and resolve it all.
Yes, there’s food for thought here and more research to be done. Here may be a very good starting place. But I warn you, it may make you deeply, even frighteningly, uncomfortable.