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Category Archives: Solar Applications

This Kickstarter wants to turn your window blinds into solar power generators

Let’s say you want to switch to solar—for ecological or economic reasons—but are a renter. Installing solar panels on your roof isn’t really an option unless you get permission from your landlord. Enter Solar Gaps, or photovoltaic solar blinds that can be installed easily, and temporarily, on any window. According to their Kickstarter, Solar Gaps can reduce your electricity bill by up to 70%


The smart blinds track the sun throughout the day and adjust their position accordingly. They can generate up to 100W-150W of renewable energy per 10 sq. ft. (≈ 1 m2) of a window, which can power three MacBooks. They also are still regular blinds, and so can reduce energy by shading the interior to lower AC costs. Moreover, the Solar Gaps integrate with existing smart home tech, like Google Home, and can be controlled with your smart phone.

It’s a pretty nifty idea, and their implementation is pretty easy to imagine. As of now, they have the look of photovoltaics, so they don’t necessarily blend into the background like traditional white blinds. Still, the benefits seem big enough to make it worth changing the decor a bit to match them.



Solar plane passes new test ahead of planned world tour

A solar-powered plane made a third successful test flight in the United Arab Emirates on Monday (Feb 2) ahead of a planned round-the-world tour to promote alternative energy.

Bertrand Piccard, one of the two Swiss pilots of the solar-powered plane Solar Impluse 2, takes off from the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi’s small Al-Bateen airport during a third test flight early.

ABU DHABI: A solar-powered plane made a third successful test flight in the United Arab Emirates on Monday (Feb 2) ahead of a planned round-the-world tour to promote alternative energy.
Organisers hope that Solar Impulse 2 may head off around the globe as early as Saturday but caution that the launch is dependent on the weather, even in the relatively cloudless Gulf.
The hour-long test flight was the plane’s third from the UAE capital Abu Dhabi’s small Al-Bateen airport, but the first for Solar Impulse chairman Bertrand Piccard, the descendant of a family of Swiss scientist-adventurers. The pilot reported no problems, mission chiefs said.
The project is the fruit of 13 years of research and testing by Piccard and Andre Borschberg, two Swiss pilots whose idea was initially ridiculed by the aviation industry. Their plane is powered by more than 17,000 solar cells built into its wings which, at 72 metres (236 feet), are almost as long as those of an Airbus A380 superjumbo.
The light-weight carbon fibre aircraft weighs only 2.3-tonnes, about the same as a family 4X4 or less than one per cent of the weight of the A380. The two Swiss pilots aim to demonstrate that “clean technology and renewable energy can achieve the impossible,” Piccard said.
The world tour will see the plane fly from Abu Dhabi to Muscat in the neighbouring Gulf sultanate of Oman before crossing the Arabian Sea to India. It will then head on to Myanmar, China, Hawaii and New York.
Landings are also earmarked for the midwestern United States and either southern Europe or north Africa, depending on weather conditions.
The plane is the successor to Solar Impulse, a smaller craft which notched up a 26-hour flight in 2010, proving its ability to store enough power in lithium batteries during the day to keep flying at night.
The new plane will travel at speeds of between 50 and 100 kilometres per hour (30 and 60 miles per hour), the slower speeds at night to prevent the batteries from draining too quickly.
The pilot will be linked to a control centre in Monaco and the aircraft is scheduled to arrive back in Abu Dhabi in July.
Source AFP – VIR

World’s Largest Solar-Powered Boat

I covered the unveiling of TÛRANOR PlanetSolar, the world’s largest solar-powered boat, back in February. In September, this solar-powered catamaran set out on its first major voyage, from Monaco to Miami, FL. It has now been announced that TÛRANOR PlanetSolar will be docking at the Miami Beach Marina, slip A19, on Sunday, November 28, 2010 at around 10:30 a.m.


TÛRANOR PlanetSolar is 31 meters (101.7 feet) long and 15 meters (49.2 feet) wide. It is fully powered by solar panels and its  solar cells have an efficiency rate of at least 22%, the highest that is commercially available at the moment. The catamaran can accommodate up to 13 people — 6 crew members and up to 7 passengers. (Although, once the ship is docked, up to 40 people can get on board).

“This is a milestone in the progress of solar mobility,” says German entrepreneur Immo Ströher, owner of TÛRANOR PlanetSolar. “It is my vision to see solar power take its rightful place – not only on rooftops, but also on the roads, seas and in the skies of the future.”


TÛRANOR PlanetSolar on its way from Monaco to Miami

Swiss engineer Raphaël Domjan is the founder of the PlanetSolar project, but he gathered a full crew of yacht, solar energy, and electric motor experts to help him on the project.

Here are more details on the boat’s design and technology from a recent press release I received by email:

Craig Loomes of LOMOcean Design (Auckland, NZ) designed the TÛRANOR PlanetSolar according to the so-called “wave-piercing” concept, where the catamaran “slices” through the waves. This uses less energy than is required for conventional concepts, where the boat “rides” the waves.

The surface of the TÛRANOR PlanetSolar, measuring more than 5,700 square feet, is designed to act as a solar generator. This ensures that the catamaran can keep going for long periods (up to three full days), even without direct insolation. The solar energy yielded by the generator is stored in a lithium-ion battery (this technology offers the maximum output and energy density).

After a short stay in Miami, TÛRANOR PlanetSolar will be headed to Cancún, Mexico for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, where it will participate in activities organized by the Swiss government.

In case you were wondering, TÛRANOR is derived from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and translates into “The Power of the Sun.”




Synthetic Fuel from CO2 and Solar Energy?

Really amazing are the innovative ways solar power is put into use. Now a team of scientists working in Sandia National Laboratories  is focusing on exploring basic steps to make synthetic liquid fuel with the help of solar panels. The goal is that this will help considerably reduce carbon dioxide emissions.


Conversion goals:

* The team is using a cerium-oxide-based system to turn CO2 into carbon monoxide.
* They are aiming to convert water in a similar way into hydrogen with the help of solar power as well.
* Using both of these to produce synthetic fuel.

Counter Rotating Ring Receiver Reactor Recuperator (CR5):

Converting CO2:
This two-chambered machine is using rotating rings of cerium oxide and a huge parabolic mirror heating up the solar energy to 1500 degrees which releases oxygen from cerium oxide and the oxygen gets pumped out. The rotation takes off the cooling deoxygenated ring into other chamber where it again reacts with the pumped CO2 to produce cerium oxide and carbon monoxide. A steady stream of carbon monoxide is produced.

Plan is to utilize the CO2 from power-plant chimneys initially, but ultimately they are planning to take CO2 directly from the air.

Converting water:
In a similar process another reactor can produce water in the same way but instead of CO2, water is introduced and a stream of hydrogen is produced.

Syngas – the synthetic fuel:
Now once again solar energy is utilized. By using mirrors, concentrated solar energy at 400 degree Celsius helps in forming calcium carbonate by causing reaction between CO2 and calcium oxide. Now calcium carbonate is again heated to 800 degrees with solar power and another reaction takes place releasing pure CO2 and calcium oxide. In a similar way in another reactor with CO2 and zinc oxide, zinc metal and oxygen molecules are produced. Combining with zinc, steam and CO2 produce synthetic fuel called Syngas and zinc oxide.

CO2 based power:
James Miller, a combustion chemist at Sandia, says in New Scientist, “This area holds out promise for technologies that can produce large amounts of carbon-neutral power at affordable prices, which can be used where and when that power is needed.”


The 10 Best Solar Airplane Concepts

Recently we posted an article announcing the production of a portable solar charger for airplane avionics. At the end of that article we asked if you thought airplanes could one day be powered by solar. Since then we discovered a whole slew of existing solar airplane concepts and projects that we thought we’d share with you. Click through the following links to visit the related websites. At the bottom of this article you’ll find another opportunity to vote your opinion and leave your comments about the feasibility of solar powered flight.

HeliosThe Helios Prototype solar-electric flying wing was one of several remotely piloted aircraft, also known as uninhabited aerial vehicles or UAVs, that were developed as technology demonstrators under the now-concluded Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) project. Prior to its loss in an in-flight mishap in June 2003, the Helios Prototype set a world altitude record for propeller-driven aircraft of almost 97,000 feet.


pathfinderPathfinder was first developed for a now-cancelled classified government program in the early 1980’s to develop a high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft for surveillance purposes. Known as the HALSOL (for High-Altitude SOLar) aircraft, its eight electric motors — later reduced to six — were first powered by batteries. After that project was cancelled, the aircraft was placed in storage for 10 years before being resurrected for a brief program under the auspices of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) in 1993. With the addition of small solar arrays, five low-altitude checkout flights were flown under the BMDO program at NASA Dryden in the fall of 1993 and early 1994 on a combination of solar and battery power.

centurionThe Centurion is a lightweight, solar-powered, remotely piloted flying wing aircraft that is demonstrating the technology of applying solar power for long-duration, high-altitude flight. It is considered to be a prototype technology demonstrator for a future fleet of solar-powered aircraft that could stay airborne for weeks or months on scientific sampling and imaging missions or while serving as telecommunications relay platforms. Although it shares many of the design concepts of the Pathfinder, the Centurion has a wingspan of 206 feet, more than twice the 98-foot span of the original Pathfinder and 70-percent longer than the Pathfinder-Plus’ 121-foot span.


hybirdThe “Hy-Bird” project plans to fly around the world with a 100% clean electric airplane powered only by renewable energies: solar energy and hydrogen. The goal is to design an airplane, which will use only renewable energies with no greenhouse gas emission, and, to decrease dramatically noise pollution, which airplanes do normally engender.Indeed, photovoltaic cells affixed on the wing and on the horizontal tail will supply sufficient energy for the take off and for on-board power supply. Besides, a fuel cell will fuel the aircraft for cruise flight. An electric engine (more silent than heat engines) will propel Hy-Bird. Inhabitat Article


solar-impulseSolar Impulse: After four years of research, studies, calculations and simulations, the Solar Impulse project has entered a concrete phase with the construction of an initial prototype with a 61-metre wingspan, referred to by its registration number “HB-SIA”. Its mission is to verify the working hypotheses in practice and to validate the selected construction technologies and procedures. If the results are conclusive, it could make a 36-hour flight – the equivalent of a complete day-night-day cycle – in 2009 without any fuel. EcoGeek Article



solar-challengerSolar Challenger:  Eric Raymond’s dream of a solar powered airplane began in 1979, when Larry Mauro demonstrated his solar powered ultralight glider, named SOLAR RISER. Eric began construction of his design in late 1986. Progress was slow until 1988, when support was found in Japan. With the help of Sanyo and several other corporations the SUNSEEKER was test flown at the end on 1989 as a glider. The motor and prop mechanism were not satisfactory, so an A.C. brushless motor and a folding prop were installed. After many long test flights, a series of flights were initiated across the country. During August of 1990, The SUNSEEKER crossed the country in 21 flights, with 121 hours in the air.


sky-sailorSky Sailor: The Sky-Sailor would be carried to Mars in a small aeroshell that would be attached to a carrier spacecraft. Upon reaching the red planet, the aeroshell would be released for direct entry into the Martian atmosphere. From this point, the operations could be decomposed in different phases. It can cover a distance of ~1700 km during a 12-hour period. This allows the airplane to reach many different areas of interest. The exploration mission will end when the airplane crashes normally due to the batteries life cycle and dust deposition on solar panels.



solong-solar-uavSolong Solar UAV: The SoLong is an electric-powered UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) that collects solar energy from photo-voltaic arrays laminated into its wings. It uses energy so efficiently that it can fly all night on energy it gathers from the sun during the day. Remaining aloft for two nights is the milestone for sustainable flight. One night is possible just by discharging the batteries, but two or more nights means that the plane has to fully recoup and store the energy used at night while flying in the sunlight the following day. Once that is achieved, the cycle can repeat continually, and keep the plane airborne indefinitely.


solar-powered-planeSolar Powered Plane: Called the Zephyr, it’s an aircraft that can fly continuously using nothing but solar power and “low drag aerodynamics”. The combination of solar panels on the upper wing surface and rechargeable batteries allows Zephyr to be flown for many weeks and even months. The first flight trial of the Zephyr were conducted recently by QinetiQ in White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Two aircraft were flown for four and a half and six hours respectively, the maximum flight times permitted under range restrictions.



venus-explorer-conceptVenus Explorer Concept: A Venus exploration aircraft, sized to fit in a small aeroshell for a “Discovery” class scientific mission, has been designed and analyzed at the NASA Glenn Research Center. For an exploratory aircraft to remain continually illuminated by sunlight, it would have to be capable of sustained flight at or above the wind speed, about 95 m/sec at the cloud-top level. The analysis concluded that, at typical flight altitudes above the cloud layer (65 to 75 km above the surface), a small aircraft powered by solar energy could fly continuously in the atmosphere of Venus. At this altitude, the atmospheric pressure is similar to pressure at terrestrial flight altitudes.



Solar-powered plane

An experimental solar-powered plane landed safely today after completing its first 24-hour test flight, proving that the aircraft can collect enough energy from the sun during the day to stay aloft all night.


Pilot André Borschberg eased the Solar Impulse aircraft on to the runway at Payerne airfield, about 31 miles south-west of the Swiss capital, Berne, at 9am local time today.

Helpers rushed to stabilise the pioneering plane as it touched down, ensuring that its massive 63-metre wingspan didn’t touch the ground and topple the craft.


The record feat completes seven years of planning and brings the Swiss-led project one step closer to its ultimate aim of circling the globe using only energy from the sun.

The team says it has now shown the single-seat plane can theoretically stay in the air indefinitely, recharging its depleted batteries using 12,000 solar cells and nothing but the rays of the sun during the day.

Borschberg took off from Payerne airfield into the clear blue sky shortly before 7am yesterday, allowing the plane to soak up plenty of sunshine and fly in gentle loops over the Jura mountains, west of the Swiss Alps.

The 57-year-old former Swiss fighter pilot dodged low-level turbulence and thermal winds, endured freezing conditions during the night and ended the test flight with a picture-perfect landing to cheers and whoops from hundreds of supporters on the ground.

After completing final tests on the plane he embraced project co-founder Bertrand Piccard before gingerly unstrapping himself from the bathtub size cockpit where he had spent more than 26 hours sitting.

“When you took off it was another era,” said Piccard, himself a record-breaking balloonist. “You land in a new era where people understand that with renewable energy you can do impossible things.”

Although the goal is to show that emissions-free air travel is possible, the team has said it doesn’t see solar technology replacing conventional jet propulsion any time soon. Instead, the project is designed to test and promote new energy-efficient technologies.



Fiat to add solar roofs to power vehicle accessorie

Fiat will be partnering with Irish company SolarPrint to add photovoltaic systems to the roofs of its future cars. Despite advances in solar energy collection and conversion, a photovoltaic roof still can’t generate nearly enough electricity to power an entire vehicle (at least not anything bigger than the ultra-light and aerodynamic solar race specials). Instead, the new flexible solar panels will be used to power vehicle accessories like ventilation, audio, navigation and other electrically driven systems.




Such a strategy has the advantage of reducing loads on the vehicle’s alternator and cutting parasitic losses. SolarPrint claims its photovoltaic technology can be printed to a variety of surfaces, including glass and metal, and can absorb diffuse or low light better than traditional silicon photovoltaics. It can also absorb light better at angles, allowing it to generate up to 20 percent more power overall. Fiat has not announced when it would start incorporating the solar roofs. Want more? Check out the SolarPrint video after the jump.


Residential Solar Power Solar Power

Solar power systems that are tied to the grid are designed to feed power back to the utility system when they generate more power than can be used. Consequently, the good you do for the environment doesn’t stop at your home or office. Even neighbors without solar power systems can draw upon the renewable energy of the sun – while you bank credit against the utility-generated power you use at night.

In optimal conditions, the credit you earn by feeding power back to the grid will offset the cost of the energy you use when the sun shines less frequently. This arrangement with your utility company is called “net metering.” In California, utility companies are required to provide customers with net electricity consumption information each month. Every 12 months the credits and debits are reconciled, or “trued up.”

Of course grid-tied systems do not need to offset all your power. They can also be used for “peak load shaving.” That is, you can offset your usage during the highest rate tiers, where the payback is best.

Grid-tied solar power systems generally will not operate when the grid is down. That disadvantage is offset when you consider that these systems are much more efficient and less expensive than those that include backup batteries. Unless you live in an area subject to frequent outages, it will generally be to your benefit not to be concerned about the occasional outage.

On the other hand, we do offer a stand-alone battery backup module that can be installed at any time to keep your power on while every building around you is dark. This backup module can be used whether or not you have solar power for you home or small office.


How Much Does A Solar Power System Cost?

How Much Does A Solar Power System Cost?  solar panel savings

Each person’s situation will be a little different. Your solar power system should be tailored to your lifestyle and depends on your electric usage, sun exposure and your available roof or ground space.

With the rising costs of electric rates, your savings from solar actually increase each year, creating a cost-efficient investment and a hedge against inflation. When your solar energy system is generating immediate positive cash flow and cleaning up the environment at the same time, a more appropriate question may be, “How much will a solar power system save me?”

What are the factors for pricing your solar power system?
1. How many solar panels do you need?

The answer is based on your current and future electrical usage. It also depends on what type of PV panels you use. Some panels are more energy-efficient, therefore, you will use fewer panels of this type.

Solar Technologies is a Premier Dealer for SunPower offering the most efficient solar panels in the world. We offer a variety of products and will design a system to fit your individual needs.

Some factors to take into consideration are:

o Do you use air-conditioning?
o Are you going to buy an electric vehice?
o Are you going to add a hot tub?
o Are you going to add more people to your family?
o Are you going to start your own internet business and have servers located on your premises?

2. How many inverters do you need?

Inverters come in different sizes and are based on the size of your solar power system. You will usually need one inverter, however, there are times when two inverters are necessary. This depends on the brand of the panels used and how many strings (of panels) each inverter can handle. Solar Technologies offers SMA and Solectria inverters and we are an authorized repair facility for Solectria.

3. What type of mounting system is being used?

Is your solar power system going to be on a roof, on the ground, on a shade structure, etc.? This will be determined by the amount of roof space, sun exposure, your electric usage, and  your preference . If you need to build a structure for the solar power system, it will increase the cost.

These are the major factors used to determine what size system you need and how much it will cost. We always recommend that you buy a solar power system that is sized to your needs. Don’t build too small or too big.

The experts at Solar Technologies have been designing systems since the 1970’s and have the experience to create a system that will work for a variety of scenarios.


Solar Power Applications

About Solar Power Applications
Depending upon your needs and where you live, there are a variety of solar power systems that could work for you.

Solar Power Systems – Grid-Tied (On Grid)
Most people install grid-tied solar power systems -most often in cities, suburbs and industrial areas where access to utility-generated power is available. You can supplement your solar powered electricity with utility-generated energy if you use more electricity than the solar power system supplies.

When your solar power system produces more electricity you need,  you can sell the excess to the PG&E, who delivers the clean, renewable energy to other customers. Consequently, the good you do for the environment doesn’t stop at your home or office. Even neighbors without solar power can draw upon the renewable energy of the sun – while you bank credit to offset the utility-generated power you use at night.

Solar Power Systems – Grid-Tied with battery backup
Solar energy panels combined with batteries and generators for grid-tie applications couple the clean, power supplied by solar panels with the assurance that you will have electricity even during power outages that last for extended periods. During the day, the solar panels generate electricity as needed and charges batteries. If more power is required, or the batteries begin to run low, the natural gas or propane generator kicks in to recharge the batteries. It automatically shuts off when the batteries are fully charged.

Solar Power Systems – Off-Grid
Standalone, or off-grid, solar power systems consist of solar panels and a battery bank. They are typically used in rural areas and regions where there is no access to the utility grid. They may also be appropriate where the grid is somewhat close to the site, but expensive to bring in – for example, across a neighbor’s property. We have installed a number of systems with battery back-up where the grid is available but where the homeowner has experienced unreliable power in the past or believes that he/she will be subject to power outages in the future. We have seen a number of property owners install battery back-up system just for philosophical reasons, for the desire to be independent of the grid and the “gaming” to which utility companies and their power suppliers have subjected customers in the past.

It may cost you as high as $50 per foot to bring utility power to your property, after which you’ll continue to pay for power forever. It’s often less expensive to add a solar energy system from the start and be your own power company. You can add the solar power system cost to your mortgage, reducing the combined costs of mortgage and utility bills.

When your off-grid solar power system produces excess electricity during the day, it is used to charge the batteries. When the sun’s not shining, electricity is drawn from the batteries to power the home or business. The advantage is greater independence for you. The disadvantage is greater complexity and cost.

Solar Power System – Direct DC
Simple, direct DC solar power systems produce energy where and when it’s needed. Common uses include powering water pumps and fans. There is no complex wiring, so storage and control systems aren’t required. Small systems are easy to transport and install.
Hybrid Power Systems

Hybrid power systems combine various sources of electrical generation, and are well suited for electrification. Solar and wind technologies are modular, and seasonal variations of sun and wind often complement each other.

Advantages of Solar Power
The first commercial use of photovoltaic cells nearly 50 years ago was powering communications satellites in near-earth orbit. Today, the declining cost and increasing efficiency of solar energy technology has given rise to practical applications on earth – from powering personal electronic devices, homes and factories to generating utility-scale power.

Solar energy provides a huge advantage for satellites because they can be launched into orbit without the added weight of a fuel supply. But the advantages on earth are even greater: Solar-generated energy provides abundant and pollution-free energy that’s not dependent on fuel-delivery infrastructures, foreign relations or the price machinations of energy brokers and big business.

Moreover, solar power generation provides energy when and where you need it, and is highly scalable to match your electrical demand. Since solar energy cells have no moving parts, they are reliable and easy to maintain.