Can cities reduce traffic congestion and emissions with a private transit network?
The best way to describe JPods, a new form of public transit soon to be tested in New Jersey, is “something out of the Jetsons.” At least that’s how one city official described the solar-powered pods, which are a combination of light rail and self-driving car suspended above roads. Imagine something like a ski lift running above our existing streets and you’re getting close to the right mental image.
But there’s one sticking point: The JPods are a private transit system. Will investors be willing to fund a network of pods that compete with light rail, buses, subways, and other current public transit options? And if the capital was there, would municipal governments let this happen?
A tiny country with little space to spare looks to its water reservoirs to expand its use of renewable energy.
There isn’t much extra space in Singapore, since the entire country is smaller than New York City and fully developed. So when the government decided to install more solar power to help meet the area’s energy needs, they turned to water instead of land: When finished, the country’s new power plant would be the world’s largest floating solar farm.
If the Solar Wind Downdraft Tower is ever built in the Arizona desert, it truly will be a wonder of the modern world. At 2,250 feet, it would be taller than the new Freedom Tower in New York (1,776 feet), and 1,000 feet higher than the Empire State Building. It would have 120 huge turbines at its base, and enough pumping capacity to keep more than 2.5 billion gallons of water circulating. And it would have colossal power output: the equivalent of wind turbines spread over 100,000 acres, or as big as the Hoover Dam.
Choosing solar power no longer has to be a sacrifice for the sake of the environment. In Germany, Italy, and Spain, installing your own solar panels can now actually save money.
A report released by European renewable energy consulting firm Eclareon shows that solar energy has reached “grid parity.” In other words, over the full lifetime of the equipment, the total cost of owning and operating rooftop solar panels is about the same as buying electricity from the grid.
Nanosolar uses a proprietary nanoparticle ink that can be simply printed onto aluminum sheets to make solar cells. This process has the potential to be much faster and cheaper than making traditional solar panels, and that’s what makes it so exciting.
A very hot solution to solar power when the sun goes down!
Molten salt (such as the kind that can be found near Mount Doom), is simply a good conductor of heat. A new power plant will use nearly 20,000 heliostats—basically very focused mirrors—aimed at a focal point in a tower, which will heat up salt to a steamy 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit. Pump that salt near some water and you get enough steam to run a turbine. Hold that salt at that high temperature and then put it near water later and (BAM!) you get power when the sun isn’t out!
Will applying the lessons learned making computer chips to solar panels result in really cheap solar power for the masses? Here’s hoping this new partnership with Intel and MiaSole gets the job done.
Solar startups often have impressively big ideas about how they’re going to scale up the next revolutionary technology, but few get the job done. Hence, our lack of solar power. Intel thinks it can help.
Intel just took on its first consulting job with MiaSole, a Silicon Valley solar startup that manufactures copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) thin film solar modules, which are less efficient than silicon but also cheaper to produce—meaning they could potentially have widespread appeal to people who worry about the cost of installing solar. Up until now, companies like Miasole have found it difficult to scale up because the CIGS manufacturing process is much more complicated than the silicon-module manufacturing process.
It’s a horrible paradox that bad things are generally cheaper: Like Big Macs. Or H&M. Top of this list, of course, is coal power, which is really quite horrible for the planet but is also deliciously cheap to produce. We are, if nothing else, a bottom-line driven society. Besides the rarefied few of us who are willing to drop more money on organic food and clean power just because it’s the right thing to do, most people—out of necessity—are going to gravitate toward the cheapest and easiest option. Coal power is so cheap, it’s what the power company supplies without you asking. Sign me up! But now, according to new predictions from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, solar power is going to be the wallet-friendly option as soon as 2013.