Tag Archive for 'solar power'

US and South Africa Moving Toward Giant Solar Projects!

Hey SuperForest

It’s a good news week for solar energy!

First up, California:  the U.S. Department of the Interior approved yesterday the 1GW Blythe Solar Power Project to be situated on 28.4 square kilometers of desert managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) west of Blythe, California – the largest solar energy project ever to be built on U.S. public lands (factsheet available here). According to the DoI, when constructed, the Blythe Solar Power Project will produce enough electricity to power 300,000 – 750,000 homes.  Negotiations continue with the US Department of Energy to secure federal loan guarantees, but the company is confident that the project will begin before the end of 2010 – and if the political will is there, then I’d anticipate that the guarantees will follow.

The project will use parabolic trough technology, where long rows of curved mirrors concentrate sunlight onto a fluid in a central receiver, which is then used to heat water vapor, which in turns drives a turbine (diagram!).

A project of this size will clearly have an impact on the local habitat – to mitigate this the project has been subject to extensive environmental review and BLM is requiring the developers to provide funding for more than 8,000 acres of desert tortoise, western burrowing owl, bighorn sheep and Mojave fringe-toed lizard habitat.

This announcement comes on the heels of the approval earlier this month of the first five renewable energy projects ever on public lands – Imperial Valley Solar Project, Chevron Lucerne Valley Solar Project, Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System and the Calico Solar Project, all in California; and the Silver State North Solar Project in Nevada.  As BLM Director Bob Abbey says:

“With the approval of the Blythe project, the solar projects approved on BLM public lands in the last few weeks have the potential to generate up to 2800 megawatts of renewable energy. That’s enough to power up to 2 million homes … We have truly arrived at America’s new energy frontier.”

And! in more good news, the Guardian reports that South Africa is to unveil plans this week for what it claims will be the world’s biggest solar power plant – a 5GW project using giant mirrors and solar panels across an initial 9,000 hectares of state-owned land in the Northern Cape province.  The project would aim by the end of its first decade to achieve an annual output of 5GW of electricity – currently one-tenth of South Africa’s energy needs.  In a country which is currently dependent on coal-fired stations for most of its power, and one in six people still lacks electricity, this is a huge deal!

An estimated 200 foreign and domestic investors will meet this week in Upington, Northern Cape, with a view to funding the hugely ambitious solar project. A master plan will be set out by the US engineering and construction group Fluor. This follows a viability study by the Clinton Climate Initiative, which described South Africa’s “solar resource” as among the best in the world.

One of the sunniest 3% of regions in the world, the Northern Cape is South Africa’s largest province – and one of the poorest – but the hope is that the solar park would create a “solar hub”, regenerating the local economy.

We’ve seen the eye-opening infographic showing the surface area required to power the world via solar power alone. As Jonathan de Vries, the project manager and a special adviser to South Africa’s energy minister, said:

Solar power isn’t a panacea that will cure all but it’s a part of the solution, and a very important part.

State projects on a large scale are surely an important step toward that solution. And a little friendly international competition to invest the most in solar energy? That’s something I could get behind.



Weekly ReNEWSables – Incentives to Adopt Solar Energy, Investment in Wave and Tide Tech

Good Day SuperForest!

I hope you are all having awesome weekends! At some point I’ll probably resist the compulsion to attempt to pun on the inclusion of the word “news” in “renewables” but until then I can offer you only a sheepish apology.  I like to follow developments in the renewable energy sector and wanted to offer a small selection of bitesize treats for you – a balanced meal of things we can do in the first person in our own homes with our own resources and a side order of larger scale industry-wide investments:


California to Subsidize Your Solar Water Heaters:

California regulators have approved a $350 million program to subsidize the installation of solar water heaters to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The program will allocate $250 million for the replacement of hot water heaters fueled by natural gas and $100.8 million for those powered by electricity with solar water heaters (a nifty storage tank and solar array using the sunny sun to warm the water) and “customers of California’s three big investor-owned utilities will receive rebates of up to $1,500, or about 30 percent of the cost of replacing a residential natural-gas hot water heater with a solar system”.

UK Government Announces “Feed in Tariffs” for Your Investment in Home Renewable Energy:

The UK government has announced its plan to provide financial incentives (“Feed in Tariffs”) for small scale adoption of solar power!  The Guardian breaks it down here but, in short, “the government has finally agreed to reward households and businesses installing electricity-generating measures with enough of a return to make it a serious financial, as well as an environmental, investment. If you’ve got the money (which is a big “if”) and, crucially, a sunny, south-facing roof, you can earn a 7%-10% tax-free return, an income that will rise in line with inflation. At the same time, you get to do more than your fair share in reducing the UK’s carbon­ emissions.” The government has also said that it will be giving feed-in tariffs to households installing solar water heaters (like in California!), from April 2011.

Inevitably there’s argument as to whether the plans are too timid, but if want to suggest it to your parents, your landlord, or if you’re a homeowner yourself then now is a great time.


(pretty pics from the Carbon Trust)

UK Carbon Trust Announces £22m Funding to Develop Marine Energy Technologies:

The UK Carbon Trust (a not-for-profit company with the mission to accelerate the move to a low carbon economy by providing specialist support to help business and the public sector cut carbon emissions, save energy and commercialise low carbon technologies) announced this week plans for its Marine Proving Fund to provide £22 million (US$35m) funding (money from the Department of Energy and Climate Change) for what it considers to be the six most promising marine (ie wave and tidal) energy technologies under development in the UK.  They’ve selected 6 companies to receive the grants to help move from prototypes to commercial projects. This is exciting as research by the Carbon Trust shows that 25% of the world’s wave and tidal technologies are being developed in the UK, but that financial constraints have frequently inhibited progress because they’re not yet considered commercially viable – but if we only ever invested in the technologies that are already successful businesses we’d never move forward.

nom nom nom


A Conversation with Jason Mraz: Part Three!

Heyo, SuperForest!

The epic conversation with Mr. Jason Mraz continues to unfold with this thrilling third video! When we last left off, Mraz was telling us of the transition process it took to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Today, we pick up the conversation with his discussion on the simplicity of using solar panels. We also asked about Jason’s adventurous move to the west coast, life in San Diego, his early career, and his songwriting process.

Ah! What a joy it is to share this with you all! Hope you are having a fantastic Monday!

Love always,
Carla, Chris, and Iman

P.S. While on the issue of “easing into sustainability” let’s do some fun backtracking. Last Christmas, SuperForester Jackson put up a post on “Three Easy SuperForest Actions for 2009“.

Be honest now, how many of them have you done? (I’ll tell if you do.) Have you found other ways to make the transition? We wanna hear all about it!

Standard Solar on Extreme Makeover

Good Morning SuperForest!

We just got an email from our friends at Standard Solar. We met the Standard Solar crew last year, in Washington D.C. for the congratulatory rally for the D.O.E.

As it turns out, Standard Solar has been tapped to install a solar array on some lucky ducks house in the Sunday PM showing of Extreme Makeover.

Here’s a great little photo gallery of some of the projects that Standard Solar has carried out recently:
Find more photos like this on PickensPlan

And a fun little film:


Here’s their press release:

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition This Sunday
Tune into your ABC affiliate this Sunday night, January 18, at 8pm EST and you should see one of the first-ever green dimensions of a home built by Ty Pennington and his crew on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. On extremely short notice back in November, Extreme Makeover selected Standard Solar to design and install a pole-mounted, 2.76 kilowatt array of solar panels for the rebuilt Drumm family home in Quincy Township, Pennsylvania. As with other Extreme Makeovers, the story Ty tells and the home they build will hit home and warm the heart.”

So, if you’ve got a TV and are in the mood for some uplifting content, check out Standard Solar on Extreme Home Makeover this Sunday.

Congratulations both the Standard Solar for the recognition of their skills, and to Extreme Home Makeover for helping a lucky family get off of the grid.

(Anyone in the NY area have a TV? Can I come over and watch? I’ll bring potstickers.)

Love to All,


(top picky via inhabitat)

The Sunshine State: Keep Shining!


Just saw this at the NY Times blog:
“The Sunshine state is starting to live up to its name on the energy front. Today Florida Power & Light, the state’s biggest utility, broke ground on what it says will be the first utility-scale solar investment in the state — and the second-largest of its kind in the country when it is fully turned on in 2010….
This solar thermal plant, which is located on the Atlantic coast just north of Palm Beach County, will consist of 180,000 mirrors, spread over 500 acres. It also matches solar power with an existing combined-cycle natural gas plant, so that when the sun is not shining, the natural gas can take over the work of powering the turbines….
The plant is the first of three solar facilities that F.P.L. is constructing in Florida, which the utility says will make the state the second-largest solar energy producer in the country. California is currently the largest.”

Yay for progress!

Thanks to Florida Power and Light for the image and the NY Times for letting us know!


New Orleans Prospect .1: Emergency Response STUDIO!

Hi Everyone,

I spent the last weekend in New Orleans where I attended a lovely wedding and a small section of the Prospect .1 Contemporary Art Exhibit . Prospects .1 is the largeset biennial of international contemporary art ever organized in the United States, so if you are close by, it is worth checking out!  I was in the state for a mere 48 hours, so I don’t have too much to report, other than noticing this amazing project: 

“Emergency Response Studio, by Paul Villinski, is a solar-powered, mobile artist’s studio, repurposed from a salvaged FEMA-style trailer. This sustainably re-built, off-the-grid living and work space is designed to enable artists to “embed” in post-disaster settings, and respond and contribute creatively. Villinski conceived the project in response to the devastation of post-Katrina New Orleans as “a symbol of transformation and possibility for the communities of the Gulf Coast.”

Great concept–You can get more info on his website. I love the idea of artists creating spaces for artists in times of need. 
There was probably more amazing work there, I just really didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked, so hopefully I’ll be able to go back again soon.
Happy Monday! 

1978 Hydrogen Car (with Jack Nicholson at the Wheel!)

Just saw this over at treehugger.


Thirty years ago they were talking about using solar cells to make hydrogen to power automobiles.

What we wonder is: What stopped that conversation?

No matter, for the idea has been revitalized and now stands at the precipice of, dare we say it? Widespread acceptance?

We love that Nicholson does the whole “breathing in the exhaust” bit. Good ol’ non-toxic water vapor. Seriously, that’s a smart bit of branding that’s still every bit as effective now as it was then.

Solar Efficiency Chart

The above chart illustrates the efficiency of a solar energy systems over time.
As one can see, multijunction concentrators is currently (!) the tech to beat, boasting a 40.7 efficiency rate.

What this chart says to us is that solar power is still in its infancy, just beginning to chart in terms of exponential growth.

And that is a very exciting thing!

Imagine solar cells with 100 percent efficiency. This chart says to us that that goal is just around the corner.


This lovely chart is the work of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Solar Having a Really Good Year!

Peak Oil! Doom and Gloom! Petro Sadness! War of the Wells!

So much noise.

Meanwhile, in a quiet antechamber off away from the main stage, the solar power movement has grown massively in scale, all the while increasing in efficiency and decreasing in price.

It seems that everywhere one turns these days, there’s great and encouraging news about solar power. Solar power breakthroughs and milestones are had and overcome with such regularity, that keeping on top of it has become a bit daunting.

And what a wonderful predicament to be in!

So much good news it’s hard to keep track of it all!

Look at all of this wonderfulness:

Treehugger: Solar Industry Growth Prediction: US Largest Market by 2011

CNN: Unique business aims to spread solar power

MarketWatch: SolarCity Offers San Francisco Residents Solar Power for Less than Their Electricity Bills

Wall Street Journal: GT Solar a Bellwether for ‘Green’ IPOs

Seattle Times: Local schools shining light on solar panels

Reuters: Solar panels get aesthetic designs

Energy Exec: Record growth in renewable energy systems

And here’s the crazy thing, all of these news items are six hours old or less.

Every single day brings a tidal wave of encouraging news just like this.

It’s simply impossible not to be excited and optimistic.

Love to all,

Team SuperForest

Solar and Wind Powered Billboard in Times Square!


SuperForester Justin just sent this in. It was originally posted on engadget.

“Ever walk through Times Square and wonder how much electricity all those flashy billboards are soaking up? No? Well, Ricoh has, and now they’re doing something about it. Ricoh Company Ltd. of Tokyo is erecting a 47 x 126-foot billboard at Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street that will be completely powered by the sun and wind. Fueled by 45 solar panels and four wind turbines, the billboard won’t even need a backup electric generator. On days that the sun and wind aren’t enough to power it, it will simply go dark. In the end, the billboard is said to reduce carbon dioxide usage by 18 tons a year. The billboard will go live in December, or just in time for the sun to go dark.”

That’s triple awesome. One billboard down, many to go.

Little by little, the world shifts and adjusts to the new responsibility.

Full story on engadget.

Solar Toys!

I was at Kid-O the other day (in Greenwich Village) and I saw this Solar Powered Rainbow Maker:

I realized how oblivious I have been to the great toys out there for kids, to show them the power of the sun. It is one thing to explain the idea of alternative energy to kids, but how fun would it be to build things that actually work.

I just came across this, which looks like a rad gift if you have an older child, niece, nephew or friend (it is for kids 12+):

“The Power House Experiment Manual is organized around the story of a group of island dwellers who must learn to live sustainably using the resources available to them on their small island. As you read their journal entries and learn of their projects and experiments, you build models of the same projects and conduct the same experiments alongside them.”

These are all the things the kit includes:

“The Heat Trap: Construct and experiment with a greenhouse
The Sun Collector: Collect the sun’s rays to heat water
The Sun Burners: Make a solar cooker while learning about the principles of light before you cook rice and bake bread
The Water Vampire: Desalinate water, plant watercress, produce sauerkraut and make chewing gum
The Heat Absorbers: Learn how heat of evaporation provides cooling, conduct experiments about air humidity, build a hygrometer and test a refrigerator
Power Plants: Grow beans, make a potted plant feed a candle, harvest sunflower energy, build an oil press, and assemble an oil lamp
The Energy Converters: Extract electric current from sunlight and metals in acid, build a light telephone, galvanize a nail and split water into hydrogen and oxygen
The Forces of Magnetism: Generate electric current with magnetic fields. Build a current indicator, electric and solar motors, a transfer switch, and a crane. Lift pencils with the sun and learn about levers. Build an electric car
Wings in the Wind: Build a sail car and learn how wings and sails transform energy. Learn to sail with the wind, by the wind, and against the wind and examine a mixed energy vehicle”

Fat Brain Toys has a bunch of neat toys in the Solar Powered/Alternative Energy category.
Check them out…

Happy Playing!

Solar Powered MacBook!

Apple has just filed a patent for a solar powered PC, to look much like the concept above, one imagines.

MacBook plus Solar Power = Delicious.

Honestly, what more can be said?

The end of cords cannot come soon enough.

Thanks to inhabitat for the intel.

Solar Beach Tote!


Just saw this over at 3R Living (the local brooklyn “future friendly” shop!).

Charge your phone, camera or Ipod while basking in the sun! It’s pretty pricey, but having unlimited music time at the beach: priceless!
Enjoy the sun!