first solar

Solar Power Is on the Rise? We Suggested Harnessing the Sun’s Heat Back in 1866

first solar
Printing press driven by solar energy in 1882

“The Great Energy Transition to Solar and Wind Is Underway,” declared a headline yesterday on the environmental-news website EcoWatch. Thanks in no small part to Obama-era government subsidies, renewable energy appears poised for a much-belated breakthrough over the next few years.

Yet it cannot be understated how much time has been lost, as we can see from a little feature that appeared in The Nation’s issue of May 29, 1966.

The item ran in the magazine’s column on scientific issues under the headline “UTILIZATION OF THE SUN’S HEAT.”

Referring to a Nation piece some weeks earlier about “the ultimate exhaustion of the coal fields…and the possibility of substituting other sources of power for the fossil fuel which is now so important an element in the existing order of human society,” the item summarized the 1830s experiments of the English scientist and inventor John Herschel. On an expedition near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa—where, the Nation column noted, “the sun pours down its rays without hindrance”—Herschel trapped the sun’s heat in a mahogany box he covered with glass and painted black on the inside. He then put uncooked food in the box and waited to see what would happen.



Misunderstanding Puts Vivint Solar Employee At Roundtable With President Obama

vivint polo shirt

If Marvin Lance Futch had known that he would be meeting with President Barack Obama, he may have worn something nicer than a wrinkled polo shirt.

Last week, Obama hosted a roundtable discussion on solar energy at Hill Air Force base in Utah. Among those in attendance were Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Futch, a mid-level designer at Vivint Solar. Futch told the New York Post that he’d been instructed to wear business casual to Obama’s speech, and didn’t know he’d be speaking privately with the president himself.

“So when President Obama walked in the room, I’m looking down at my white polo going, ‘Well, if I would have known this, I would have worn my military blues or at least a suit and tie.’ I admit I was feeling a little underdressed at the moment,” Futch said.

Why 2015 could be a record year for renewables

US power sector emissions poised to fall to two-decade low due to new records expected for renewables deployment, coal retirements, and gas burn

Why 2015 could be a record year for renewablesIn general, changes to our energy system come slowly. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

In general.

Nonetheless, 2015 is shaping up to be a pretty special year and a pretty significant 365-day shift in how we get our power, says a 2015 power market outlook released Thursday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“This Research Note is more sensationalist than we typically write,” it confesses.

The reason is a combination of three separate factors all moving in the same direction — an expected record for renewable energy installations, another forecast record for coal plant retirements and booming natural gas. The consequence, if these forecasts are realized, would be considerably cleaner energy and an impressive one-year drop in U.S. emissions.


Solar Impulse 2

Solar Impulse departs Myanmar for China

Solar Impulse 2Solar Impulse II, the fuel-free aeroplane, is up in the air again on the fifth leg of its round-the-world flight.

The vehicle, with Bertrand Piccard at the controls, left Mandalay in Myanmar (Burma) just after 21:00 GMT on Sunday, and is heading for Chongqing in China.

The intention is to make a brief stop there, and then try to reach Nanjing on the east coast of the country.

This would set up Solar Impulse for the first of its big ocean crossings – a five-day, five-night flight to Hawaii.

Mission control will not make a decision on the Nanjing leg until late on Monday. The decision may rest on the state of the energy reserves held in the plane’s batteries.

Solar-Powered Plane Attempting a Trip Around the World

Solar_Impulse_2There is no shortage of initiatives aimed at raising awareness of the importance of reducing air pollution and stopping global warming around the world, and the latest involves something that has never been done before – a trip around the world in a solar-powered electric airplane.

The Solar Impulse 2 is a solar-powered plane designed and developed by Swiss aeronaut Bertrand Piccard in collaboration with a team of engineers. The SI2 took off from the Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, in a bid to complete the first journey around the world in an airplane without using a single drop of fuel.

Solar Impulse 2 was piloted by André Borschberg, the co-founder of Solar Impulse, during the first leg of this historic journey, from Abu Dhabi to Muscat, the capital of Oman, where it landed after about 12 hours. It was a 215-mile flight, which makes it one of the shortest legs of the 21 000-mile journey, that is expected to be completed in around five months. After it landed in Muscat, the controls of the plane were taken over by Bertrand Piccard, who then embarked on a flight to Ahmedabad, India, 912 and 13 hours later, traveling at an average speed of 115 mph. Some of the next legs of this trip will include stops in Myanmar, China, and the United States. The project is backed by Google, Omega, Toyota, as well as Prince Albert of Monaco and British tycoon Richard Branson.

Although quite large, the Solar Impulse 2 is pretty lightweight. It only weighs in at about 5,000 pounds, thanks to the fact that it is made out of carbon fiber, an extremely lightweight material. It has a 236-foot wingspan, which is longer than the wingspan of a Boeing 747, with a total of 17,248 solar cells installed on the wings. They generate electricity for the lithium-ion batteries with a total capacity of 165 kilowatt-hours, which power four electric motors that deliver a combined output 17 horsepower. The pilots said that during the day, the plane will travel at around 28,000-30,000 miles, and a little lower at night, for increased energy efficiency.

It’s a single-seat plane, with a pretty tight cockpit, where the pilots will have to stay for hours at a time, and try to stay focused at all times. In order to keep themselves from falling asleep, they will wear goggles that will emit visual warnings to wake them up from time to time.

The main goal of this ambitious project is to promote green air travel and prove that fuel-less planes can be a viable alternative to conventional airplanes that are pretty noisy and highly polluting. Although no one should expect that planes like the Solar Impulse 2 will replace conventional aircraft in the near future, it presents a pretty good example for what airplanes could look like further down the road, and it should help convince the world that solar power can be considered a reliable source of energy that can be applied in air travel. What do you think? Is the Solar Impulse 2 just a novel experiment and sensational story… or is its record-breaking accomplishment a solar industry game-changer?


georgetown texas is going 100% renewable

Georgetown to go 100% renewable energy, first in state, city says

georgetown texas is going 100% renewableGeorgetown says it plans to be the first city in Texas entirely powered by renewable energy.

The city’s electrical utility is planning to announce Wednesday that it is signing a deal with solar developer SunEdison for 150 megawatts of solar power beginning in 2016.

Combined with a 2014 deal with wind developer EDF, the city of 54,000 north of Austin says it now has enough renewable power under contract to cover its customers’ entire electricity needs.

As wind and solar farms proliferate around the United States, communities have slowly begun to commit to all-renewable power deals in what have been billed as a response to residents’ concern over the impact of carbon emissions on global warming.

Solar Impulse 2

Solar plane lands in India on world record attempt

Solar Impulse 2A solar-powered aircraft arrived safely in India late Tuesday on the second leg of its attempted record-setting flight around the world.

The Solar Impulse 2 craft landed at Ahmadabad airport in India’s Gujarat state 16 hours after departing from Muscat, Oman, 910 miles away.

The plane, powered solely by solar energy, was to remain at the airport before continuing on to Varanasi in northern India on Saturday.

Bertrand Piccard, one of two Swiss pilots on board, was at the controls for the flight leg ending in Ahmadabad. He and Andre Borschberg were taking turns piloting the craft during the 21,700-mile journey.



Solar-Powered Plane Begins Its Journey Around the World


THE FIVE-MONTH JOURNEY of a  single-seat, solar-powered plane around the planet got off to a successful start this morning, when Solar Impulse 2touched down in Oman after a 13-hour flight from Abu Dhabi.

“The flight went really well, everything went as planned,” says a team spokesperson. It’s an auspicious start, but a small step (about 270 miles) on the 20,000-mile journey that will take about 500 hours of flying time. Pilot André Borschberg flew the first leg, his partner Bertrand Piccard will take off next.
The 5,000-pound, zero-emission plane has a wingspan longer than that of the Boeing 747. Solar panels covering the aircraft’s wings and fuselage charge up four extra-efficient batteries, which power the 17.4-horsepower motors. That’s enough juice to move the plane at 20 to 90 mph, a speed closer to that of a professional cyclist than your typical gas-powered plane.

Solar Impulse 2

Swiss pair launch effort to pilot solar-powered plane around globe

Solar Impulse 2A solar-powered aircraft attempting a historic around-the-world journey completed its first leg Monday, landing in darkness in Oman after a flight of more than 13 hours from Abu Dhabi.

The Swiss-made, single-seat plane — as light as a minivan but with the wingspan of a jumbo jet — left Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen Executive Airport just as the sun was rising. It touched down in Oman’s capital, Muscat — more than 300 miles by air over desert and mountains — with its wings dotted by rows of lights.

“Confirmation: We’re down!” said the commentator on the mission’s official Web site. Applause broke out in the control room in Monaco.

The plane is to leave early Tuesday on its next leg, across the Arabian Sea to Ahmedabad, India.


solar impulse 2

Solar airplane soars to start first-ever round-the-world trip

solar impulse 2An effort to fly a solar-powered plane 20,000 miles around the world began Monday when the Solar Impulse 2 took off from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

The relatively short jaunt — just 250 miles (400km), in a 12-hour journey east to Muscat, Oman — is the first leg of a planned 12-stop global circumnavigation, the first by a solar aircraft. The longest segments are five-day trips over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Those will be the most serious test of the plane’s design, which gathers energy from solar cells then stores it in batteries for overnight flying in the dark.

The project reported no problems with Solar Impulse 2 for most of the flight — but its accompanying chase plane had technical difficulties, and the Web site went offline, too.

Feats of aviation derring-do are as old as the aviation industry, including the Montgolfier brothers’ hot-air balloons in the 18th century and Chuck Yeager’s breaking of the sound barrier in 1947. Such efforts, while risky and sometimes fatal, often serve to advance the state of the art.

world's largest solar

Sunny days: The world’s biggest solar energy projects

world's largest solar

Clean energy is hot.

A groundswell of support for renewable power has sprung up around the world over the past several years, with governments, utilities and corporations racing to deploy or purchase green electricity.

Solar power is among the technologies leading the energy market in new deployments. In the U.S. last year, 36% of all new electric capacity came from solar, and the cost to deploy it has dropped more than 63% since 2010. In many U.S. states and in nations around the world, it’s as cheap to use solar power as it is to buy electricity generated through coal-fired power plants.

Corporations are taking note. For example, Apple last month announced it would invest close to $1 billion in a solar power plant being built by First Solar in California; the move rocketed Apple past Walmart as the largest corporate user of solar power. Venture capitalists, too, are investing in renewables to the tune of $310 billion last year. Put simply, solar power is no longer just the bastion of crunchy granola types and companies hoping to improve their public image.


solar impulse 2

Solar-powered plane takes off for test flight in Abu Dhabi

solar impulse 2The solar-powered aircraft Solar Impulse 2 took to the skies on Thursday for a test flight, days before its departure for its round-the-world voyage.

Si2, the first aircraft able to fly day and night without a drop of fuel, successfully completed its maiden flight in the capital.

For four hours early in the morning, professional test pilot Markus Scherdel tested the aircraft’s performance, taking off from Al Bateen Executive Airport.

Following the initial test flight, Andre Borschberg, Solar Impulse co-founder, chief executive and pilot, conducted a full-day test flight.

They soared above Abu Dhabi landmarks including the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Corniche and Eastern Mangroves. The initial results are in line with calculations and simulations.

They were Si2’s first flights following the plane’s disassembly in Switzerland and reassembly in the emirate.

BNEF report

We Have Some Really Good News About How America Uses Energy

BNEF reportWhen you read headlines about how Congress is rife with climate change deniersand willing to vote in favor of a massive oil pipeline that could increase greenhouse gas emissions, it’s easy to get discouraged about the direction the US is headed on global warming. But when you look at some of the hard numbers about how Americans are getting their energy, there’s actually a lot to be excited about.

This morning Bloomberg New Energy Finance released a fat report on the state of US energy, and it’s chock-full of kickass facts and figures that reveal real, tangible progress on reversing the habits that cause climate change. Here are just a few of the most salient bits:



Sustainability a Winner at Super Bowl XLIX

super bowlThe 2015 Super Bowl provided a powerful platform that showcased sustainability. The game at the University of Phoenix stadium was lit by LEDs, and powered by both wind and solar energy. Carbon emissions were offset by renewable energy credits and recycling efforts permeated the entire event. This included donating uneaten food and an e-waste recycling program. The NFL also donates tons of materials that would otherwise be discarded and they run an urban forestry tree planting program.

These efforts are meant to reduce the Super Bowl’s hefty environmental impact. The 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis used around 15,000 megawatt-hours of electricity. That is enough energy to power about 1,400 US homes for a year. The 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans generated about 3.8 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, which is equivalent to the annual tailpipe emissions of 400 cars.

There is a massive environmental burden associated with all major sporting events. While critics rightly say that the Super Bowl event is an “energy guzzling, carbon emitting, waste generating machine,” they overlook the positive steps that are being taken to reduce the game’s environmental impact. Even more importantly they ignore the public relations bonanza that the event affords.

“It’s not so much about how much of the problem do you create; it’s about how much of the problem are you willing to take responsibility for,” said Jack Groh, director of the NFL Environmental Program.

Both the Seahawks the Patriots are engaging a range of sustainability initiatives to reduce their carbon load. However, it is important to understand that sustainability in football is not only something that is showcased at the Super Bowl. The stadiums of many teams are becoming more sustainable. What is happening in football is part of a clear trend towards lower carbon sporting events. This emanates from a powerful value proposition where reduced environmental impacts generate cost savings.

The 2014 Superbowl, which up to then was the greenest ever, has been eclipsed by this year’s event. As the nation’s largest sporting event it is fitting that the Super Bowl is striving to be a sustainability leader. With one million people coming to the host city for the event, 120 million American television viewers and an international audience that is growing by 7 percent every year, the Super Bowl is an unparallelled opportunity to communicate the value of sustainability.

It is not only the scope of the Super Bowl’s reach but who it reaches that make this event so powerful. The Super Bowl succeeds in reaching a particular demographic that may be less receptive to science driven assessments.

The co-founder of the Green Sports Alliance, Allen Hershkowitz, who is also a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council explained it this way: “I always say, 13 percent of Americans follow science. Sixty-three percent of Americans follow sports.”

Green Sports Alliance Executive Director Martin Tull added, the Super Bowl is “an amazing opportunity” to reach people you otherwise wouldn’t.

“When you have teams you respect and admire, when sports teams start to talk about why sustainability is cool, it can inspire millions of people in a way that other organizations can’t,” Tull said.

The Super Bowl is an important venue to help the public to buy into a low carbon future. Popular support is essential if we are to succeed in making society wide changes to stave off some of the worst impacts of climate change.

Katy Perry’s half time show may have generated considerable buzz but so have renewables, energy efficiency and recycling. Super Bowl XLIX was not only a win for the New England Patriots, it was a victory for sustainability.