The Solar Generating Sunflower That Desalinates Water Too

ibm solar airlight energy

A new piece of solar technology from IBM not only provides electricity – it can desalinate water for sanitation and drinking

Computer giant IBM last week revealed the prototype of its advanced solar electricity generators: a 30ft-high concrete “sunflower” fitted with wafer-thin aluminium mirrors and a maze of tiny tubes for carrying coolant through the heart of each device. The machines, which will be built in conjunction with the Swiss company Airlight Energy, can convert 80% of the sun’s radiation into electricity and hot water, it is claimed, with each generating 12 kilowatts of electricity and 20kW of heat on a sunny day, enough to supply several homes.

At the device’s official unveiling in Zurich, executives for both companies said they hoped that by 2017, when their sunflower generators should be ready for the market, they could be manufactured for half to one-third of the cost of comparable solar converters today. According to IBM, the machine’s secret lies with the microscopic tubes that carry water through the cluster of photovoltaic chips at the heart of each device. This system has already been adopted by IBM to cool its high-performance supercomputers. “We were inspired by the branched blood supply of the human body,” said Bruno Michel, from the IBM Research laboratories in Zurich.

The sunflower operates by tracking the sun so that it always points in the best direction for collecting its rays; these are then focused on to a cluster of photovoltaic cells that are mounted on a raised platform. The cells convert solar radiation into electricity. However, without the microchannel cooling system, which carries distilled water through the chips, temperatures would reach more than 1,000C. With the microcooling system, which carries water to within a few millimetres of the back of each chip, temperatures are kept down to 90C – a far safer, and far more efficient, operating level. Electricity is generated while the system also produces large amounts of hot water from the cooling system. “That hot water is a game changer,” added Michel. “Electricity is obviously vitally useful but so is the heat – for we can use it for desalinating water.”

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UK’s First Solar Farm Built To Float On Reservoir

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Berkshire project owners to target water utilities with scheme to cut energy bill

They have become a familiar sight on rooftops and fields across Britain. Now, solar panels are set to start appearing in a new and surprising location: floating on reservoirs.

Britain’s first ever floating solar panel project has just been built in Berkshire, in a scheme its developer claims will act as a blueprint for the technology to be installed at hundreds of sites across the country.

The 800-panel green energy project was installed earlier this month on a reservoir at Sheeplands Farm, a 300-acre soft fruit farm near Wargrave.

The scheme is eligible for renewable electricity subsidies, which are funded by energy bill-payers.

Its owner, Mark Bennett, says that floating panels are even more lucrative than solar farms on fields because no earnings from valuable agricultural land have to be sacrificed to make space for them.

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Solar Power Could Be World’s Top Electricity Source By 2050

SOLARSUN

Falling cost of solar photovoltaic panels could help technology generate up to 16% of world’s electricity by mid-century

Solar energy could be the top source of electricity by 2050, aided by plummeting costs of the equipment to generate it, a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), the West’s energy watchdog, said on Monday.

IEA Reports said solar photovoltaic (PV) systems could generate up to 16% of the world’s electricity by 2050, while solar thermal electricity (STE) – from “concentrating” solar power plants – could provide a further 11%.

“The rapid cost decrease of photovoltaic modules and systems in the last few years has opened new perspectives for using solar energy as a major source of electricity in the coming years and decades,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels constitute the fastest-growing renewable energy technology in the world since 2000, although solar is still less than 1% of energy capacity worldwide.

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White House To Spend $68 Million To Advance Solar Deployment And Increase Energy Efficiency

SolarObama

In its newest effort to combat climate change, the Obama administration today announced that it would dedicate nearly $70 million in funding toward bringing more solar power to homes and businesses, improving energy efficiency in rural areas.

The $68 million in federal funds will go to 540 energy efficiency projects in rural areas across the country, 240 of which will be for solar power, the White House said in a press release. Along with the funding, the White House also announced a slew of executive actions, private and public sector commitments, and initiatives from different federal agencies, including one from the Department of Energy to train at least 50,000 veterans to become solar panel installers in the next six years.

Another newly announced program seeks to get more clean energy in low-income communities, by clarifying that Department of Housing and Urban Development’s funding programs for economic development can be used for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Cities in Oregon, Maryland, and Virginia have committed to installing more solar power by 2016, and one winery in California has promised to have 60 percent of its electricity usage come from renewable power by 2016, the White House said.

Taken together, the White House estimates that all of the new programs will cut carbon pollution by more than 60 million metric tons every year, the equivalent of taking about 12 million cars off the road annually. By 2030, the programs would result in carbon pollution cuts of approximately 300 million metric tons, the equivalent of 63 million cars, the White House said.

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Cornwall’s Carbon Neutral Farm Offers Hope For Sustainable Agriculture

Free range pigs, UK

With no experience in farming, the Sousek family left their urban life in Kent to run a farm powered by solar panels, a wind turbine and waste vegetable oil

Agriculture is responsible for almost 10% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions and a quarter globally. It doesn’t have to be this way, as farmers Paul and Celia Sousek demonstrate. Their commitment to organic farming without the use of fossil fuels demonstrates that far from contributing to climate change, agriculture can be part of the solution. I headed to Cottage Farm near Jacobstow, North Cornwall to see how on-farm renewables are enabling the Sousek family to fulfil their role as stewards of the environment as they cultivate a successful, family-run farm business.

It’s hard to believe that Paul and Celia Sousek, Farmer of the Year finalists in the BBC Food and Farming awards 2011, had absolutely no farming experience when they upped sticks and moved 300 miles West to Cottage Farm back in 2005. Unfazed, they embarked on their new livelihoods with a weekend course in Cows for Beginners and now oversee 50 hectares of land which is home to cows, sheep, hens and some very vocal geese. So why did the couple leave behind successful careers and the life they had built in Kent to take to the Cornish fields?

“That’s a simple one to answer”, says Paul. “I learnt about peak oil. Right on cue we then had the oil crisis in 2007, swiftly followed by the financial meltdown in 2008. Some believe that has all been resolved, but together with the ever worsening climate change situation, I think our problems are only just beginning.”
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Britain Must Grow More Sustainable Food

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Proposals for national food strategy calls for UK farming ‘revolution’ in response to climate change and food security (2010)

Britain must grow more food, while using less water and reducing emission of greenhouse gases, to respond to the challenge of climate change and growing world populations, the environment secretary, Hilary Benn, said yesterday.

“Food security is as important to this country’s future wellbeing, and the world’s, as energy security. We need to produce more food. We need to do it sustainably. And we need to make sure what we eat safeguards our health,” he said.

Launching the government’s food strategy for the next 20 years with a speech to the Oxford Farming Conference, he proposed a consumer-led, technological revolution to transform UK farming.

“We know that the consequences of the way we produce and consume our food are unsustainable to our planet and to ourselves,” he said. “We know we are at one of those moments in our history where the future of our economy, our environment, and our society will be shaped by the choices we make now.”

He said consumers, rather than retailers, should lead by buying “greener” food, wasting less and growing more of their own: “People power can help bring about a revolution in the way food is produced and sold.”

Food businesses, supermarkets and manufacturers would follow consumer demand for food that was local, healthy and had a smaller environmental footprint – just as consumers had pushed the rapid expansion of Fairtrade products and free range eggs in the last decade, Benn said.
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Sustainable Livestock Production Is Possible

Sustainable Livestock

New research has identified what may be the future of sustainable livestock production: silvopastoral systems which include shrubs and trees with edible leaves or fruits as well as herbage.

Consumers are increasingly demanding higher standards for how their meat is sourced, with animal welfare and the impact on the environment factoring in many purchases. Unfortunately, many widely-used livestock production methods are currently unsustainable. However, new research out today from the University of Cambridge has identified what may be the future of sustainable livestock production: silvopastoral systems which include shrubs and trees with edible leaves or fruits as well as herbage.

Professor Donald Broom, from the University of Cambridge, who led the research said: “Consumers are now demanding more sustainable and ethically sourced food, including production without negative impacts on animal welfare, the environment and the livelihood of poor producers. Silvopastoral systems address all of these concerns with the added benefit of increased production in the long term.”
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