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Posts Tagged "solar energy"

Anecdotes from the Archive

Let the sun shine in…all day long

rotating house

Like many Americans, I have recently been diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency. In addition to drinking milk, eating dark leafy greens, and taking 2000 IU’s of D a day, I’ve also been trying to get as much sunlight as possible. When I came across this article in the November 7, 1903 Scientific American, I [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Plant Life Floods Earth’s Atmosphere

629px-Cloud_forest_mount_kinabalu

A new study estimates that 80 to 90 percent of the atmospheric water vapor originating from Earth’s continents comes from plant transpiration rather than simple physical evaporation. This process uses up almost half of the solar energy absorbed by our landmasses and represents a major piece of our terrestrial climate system. There may be implications [...]

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Observations

Solar-Powered Ford Aims to Drive Off-Grid

Ford,solar,CES,auto

Solar-powered cars have been little more than a novelty to date, experimental vehicles resembling photovoltaic-laden surfboards designed mostly for racing across deserts. Expensive batteries, relatively inefficient PV energy conversion and the lack of intense sunlight in many places have made sun-powered passenger vehicles impractical. Ford is looking to change that with a version of its [...]

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Observations

Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting: From the Big Bang to the Big Controversy (aka Climate Change)

The first morning lecture series for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, which is focused on physics for this, its 62nd anniversary year, got off to a cosmic start, tracing the origins and evolution of the universe, before crashing back to Earth with a discussion of climate change. (You can read all our coverage this week, [...]

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Observations

Sunshine is free, so can photovoltaics be cheap?

Here’s how to make a solar cell from silicon: take one solid block of doped silicon, saw it into thin wafers, layer said semiconductors beneath a panel of transparent glass, connect them to a metal electrode that can channel away the electrons knocked loose by incoming photons and turn it into a photovoltaic device. That [...]

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Observations

Shift happens: Will artificial photosynthesis power the world?

One drinking-water bottle could provide enough energy for an entire household in the developing world if Dan Nocera has his way. A chemist from M.I.T. and founder of the company Sun Catalytix, Nocera has developed a cobalt-based catalyst that allows him to store energy the same way plants do: by splitting water. "Almost all the [...]

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Solar at Home

Save the Earth, Save Money—There’s No Need to Choose

Earlier this year, I blogged about a new website set up to ease the chore of shopping for solar panels, EnergySage, and since then the company’s own blog has described two financial benefits of solar which I hadn’t thought about before. First, solar panels can help you save for retirement; in fact, it’s hard to [...]

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Solar at Home

It Used to be a Super Pain to Shop for Solar Installers, but No Longer

Whenever a dinner party has an awkward pause and could use a horror story to liven it up, I tell my story of shopping for solar panels. My wife and I started in 2008 and spent months finding an installer. Some never returned phone calls. Estimates ranged over a factor of two. It was hard [...]

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Solar at Home

Should You Add Backup Batteries to Your Grid-Tied Solar Array?

My neighbors took a newfound interest in my solar array after Hurricane Sandy. Most of our town in New Jersey lost power for two weeks, and everyone who knew about my panels was asking: Did they keep my lights on? Alas, no. When the grid goes down, our array goes down. The inverter mounted on [...]

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Solar at Home

Caveat Emptor, Solar Homeowners

Comly Wilson at CleanEdison, which runs training and certification programs for green-tech installers, has put together a list of five things homeowners should know before buying solar. Definitely worth reading, but don’t let them scare you off. Our solar panels are going strong after three years and we’ve already paid off half of our out-of-pocket [...]

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Solar at Home

Clouds Over the Solar Industry in Britain [Guest Post]

A couple of years ago, I reported on the experiences of a solar homeowner in England, and I was curious how the situation in Britain has evolved since then. Alex Hole, owner of Strenson Solar, a British firm which provides solar panels in Sussex, recently approached me and I invited him to write the following [...]

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Solar at Home

My Electric Bill Was WHAT?!? Analyze Your Power Use with These 3 Web Sites

In one of the best quips I’ve ever heard at a scientific conference, cosmologist Max Tegmark complained about a lecturer’s vagueness and pleaded for some quantitative predictions: “numbers—you know, the kind with decimals in them.” Like Tegmark, I love data. Concrete information beats hand-waving speculation any day. So it’s awfully fun to use a home [...]

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Solar at Home

Can You Really Get Solar Panels Installed for Free?

It sounds too good to be true: you can go solar without paying a cent. I first mentioned this proposition, known formally as a power-purchase agreement, two years ago: a company such as SunRun or SolarCity installs panels on your roof at its expense and, in exchange, collects the government subsidies. But I never really [...]

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Solar at Home

20 Solar Apps for Your iPhone

The iPhone seems like the perfect accessory for a solar power enthusiast. Right now, you have to navigate a maze of websites such as PV Watts to calculate how much energy you can expect to produce and how many years a solar array will take to pay itself off. The iPhone could cut to the [...]

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Solar at Home

May cool heads prevail: How to save on air conditioning

Editor’s Note: Scientific American’s George Musser will be chronicling his experiences installing solar panels and taking other steps to save energy in 60-Second Solar. Read his introduction here and see all posts here. This year, I’ve been spared the annual ritual of lugging the window air conditioners out of the closet. Not only has it [...]

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Solar at Home

A new roof over our heads

Editor’s Note: Scientific American’s George Musser will be chronicling his experiences installing solar panels in 60-Second Solar. Read his introduction here and see all posts here. After months of planning and paperwork, our solar project has finally moved from talk to action. Last week, a roofing contractor began installing a new roof. For this, I [...]

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