“Solar Glitter” Can Make Nearly Anything Solar-Powered

These tiny solar panels are lightweight, flexible, and virtually unbreakable.

Countries all over the world are embracing solar power as a clean, renewable energy source. But despite its awesome potential, the traditional solar panel has its flaws. Most solar panels are big, heavy, and easily breakable, which limits where they can be used.

Solar glitter could be the solution.

Murat Okadan, CEO of mPower Technology, has developed a new kind of solar cell called Dragon SCALEs – aka solar glitter.

“Our technology makes it virtually unbreakable while keeping all the benefits of high efficiency, high reliability silicon PV,” Okadon explains. “It allows us to integrate PV in ways that weren’t possible before, such as in flexible materials, and deploy it faster in lighter-weight, larger-area modules.”

Made from high-efficiency silicon, these tiny solar cells can be printed onto just about any surface like an ink. The cells are lightweight, portable, and extremely flexible. This means they can stick to objects of all shapes and sizes, and come out of harsh conditions without a scratch. They’ll bend, but not break.

“By making our cells small and then interconnecting them we’re able to make them almost unbreakable,” says Okadon.

Try flexing a traditional solar panel. You can’t – it’ll simply shatter under the pressure.

If solar glitter works as Okadon describes, the applications are nearly limitless. To start, who wouldn’t want a personal solar panel to charge their devices on-the-go? But the potential reaches far beyond consumer use.

Drones could use the cells to recharge its batteries literally on the fly. Solar glitter could lighten the load on star-bound satellites. Not only could it be used on wearable electronics like smart watches, but solar glitter could be integrated into clothing and accessories.

Okadon’s invention could have old-school applications as well. Since solar glitter is lighter and easier to transport than traditional solar panels, it could also be used on rooftop and large-scale solar systems on buildings.

Solar power is on the rise, with large-scale operations taking place in countries across the globe. Solar glitter could take that progress to the next level.

Living Off-the-Grid in a Sustainable Shipping Container Home

They Aren’t Just for Shipping Anymore.

In a few short years, shipping containers have become the basis of a new, ultra-sustainable style of architecture (aka cargotecture, a portmanteau of cargo and architecture.) It’s not hard to see why.

Shipping containers are tough, durable, and widely available for very reasonable cost. Used shipping containers sell for as little as $1,000. And repurposing an old shipping container saves over 7,000 pounds of steel from landfills.

There are other benefits to using a shipping container as building blocks. Since all containers have the same width, and come in standardized lengths and heights, you can easily apply a design across multiple homes. Builders can easily stack and combine them into a larger structure.

These homes are also easy to move from place to place. This gives homeowners the freedom to live just about anywhere – in the deep woods shrouded by trees, at the edge of an ocean-side cliff, or nestled in a valley.

Designers are already doing amazing things with shipping containers. Now, one group of builders is taking this form of architecture to the next level with a sustainable, ultra-green, off-the-grid home.

Sustainer Homes

Sustainer Homes, a start-up company from the Netherlands, has developed a prototype for an innovative shipping container home that runs exclusively on environmentally-friendly resources.

The completely self-sufficient house fits a bedroom, bathroom, full kitchen and living room into just 323 square feet of space. The interior is lined with wood-free ECOboard panels, which are made from recycled farm waste like grass and straw. All the walls and ceilings use a non-toxic, plant-based paint.

What makes the Sustainer Homes model remarkable is the fact that it is completely self-reliant. There is no need to connect to the energy grid, water, or sewer system. Instead, miniature wind turbines and solar panels power the entire house from top to bottom, and a series gutters gather rainwater. Wastewater from the sink, shower, and toilet runs through a plant-based filter six times before being sent back into the ground, where it dissolves naturally.

It may exist off-the-grid, but the home is far from being low-tech. Sustainer Homes plans to rig their houses with an onboard computer, smart thermostat, and 4G LTE modem for high speed internet.

A single home, complete with all the amenities, costs just $112,700 CDN.

Why Build with Shipping Containers?

Sustainer Homes sees their sustainable shipping container homes as the answer to the housing crisis. Like young Canadians, young people in the Netherlands are struggling to pay rising rents or enter an exorbitant housing market. Shipping container homes could provide an affordable and environmentally-alternative.

Not only are they less expensive to build, but the homes save the homeowner money. After all, a self-sustaining home has no water, electricity, or heating bills.

“Independence and sustainability define the home of tomorrow,” say the Sustainer Homes team. “We’re pioneering in all aspects of future living: modular, mobile, smart.”

Currently, the Sustainer Homes are only available in the Netherlands, as they’re built to match the Dutch climate and comply with Dutch building codes.

Mini Power Plant Cuts Energy Bills and Eliminates Household Waste

It’s only the size of a waste bin, but this mini power plant has the potential to turn household waste into ready-to-use fuel.

The Home Energy Recovery Unit (HERU) was developed by researchers at the Brunel University in London, England. Using a process called pyrolysis, HERU turns household waste into energy-rich liquid, char, or synthesized gas fuel. The unit connects to the water and drainage system of a house and uses the fuel to heat water. The resulting gas is then cleaned before being vented into the atmosphere, creating a sustainable renewable energy source.

The HERU Prototype

 

Not only can HERU eliminate waste, it can help the homeowner cut energy bills. The unit uses just 1 kWh of power for every 2.5 kWh of energy it produces. According to the inventors, this could save families up to 15% in fuel.

What makes this tech truly green is its potential to address two pressing environmental problems at once: waste management and fuel production.

“Waste management is one of the most crucial challenges developed countries face,” said co-inventor, Dr. Hassam Jouhara. “Rising fuel costs leave so many households with the difficult decision of whether to eat or to heat their home and countries worldwide are being urged to cut carbon consumption. The vision is to solve this global problem and slash energy bills while producing energy for heating from waste that is otherwise a burden on local authorities and households.”

Installing a waste-powered generator would cut down on landfill waste and reduce reliance on other energy sources. The creators, who are based in the U.K., believe it could cut the U.K.’s carbon footprint for waste disposal by over 70%. While the tech hasn’t hit the consumer market, HERU could be a hero for green energy.

Tesla Could Turn Your Roof Into a Solar Panel

Tesla will begin taking pre-orders for its solar roof next month.

 

Want to turn your roof into a giant solar panel? Tesla’s solar-powered roof shingles are designed to do just that.

Tesla Unveils Solar Roof

Tesla, Inc. acquired the solar panel maker SolarCity Corporation back in November 2016. Since then, there had been little news from either Tesla or SolarCity about the company’s touted solar roof shingles – until last week.

On March 27th, Tesla CEO Elon Musk suddenly and casually announced via Twitter that the company will begin taking pre-orders for its solar shingles in April.

Casual as it may have been, the news immediately sparked massive interest in the product. After all, while traditionally solar panels are powerful and eco-friendly, they tend to be large and unsightly. Tesla’s solar shingles are designed to blend seamlessly onto an existing structure.

In fact, Musk claims they look better than a normal roof.

That’s an entirely subjective view, of course. But it’s typical of the confidence we’ve come to know from Elon Musk. And it’s not his only big claim about solar shingles – he also says they last twice as long and cost less to install than their old-fashioned counterparts.

 

Solar Shingle Technology

SolarCity makes its solar shingles from panels of quartz glass, which come in four different styles.

The tiles integrate into a roof in three layers. The top layer of impact-resistant glass is designed to protect the sensitive bits from weather. The solar cell lies at the very bottom layer, where it stores energy from the sun shining down from above. Sandwiched between them is a layer of film that makes the tiles nearly invisible from street level.

 

Will Solar Roofs Catch On?

Tesla and SolarCity are not the first to try their hand at solar roof technology. Whether they can succeed where others have failed will depend largely on cost. Cost is the main reason previous contenders struggled to market their product. Solar roofs have been a dream of solar enthusiasts for years, but the average person simply couldn’t afford to retrofit their entire roof.

Even if solar shingles cost less than the typical roof tile, installing them still means financing completely new roof. Traditional solar panels, on the other hand, can be installed one at a time based on the homeowner’s budget.

Consumer Reports estimates that a 3,000 square foot solar roof will cost an average of $73,500, whereas the average solar panel installation costs between $25,000 and $35,000.

Solar roofs could represent a technical and design breakthrough in the world of renewable energy. But that’s only if Tesla can get the product off the ground.

How the UK Reduced Carbon Emissions to the Lowest Levels in 100 Years

The collapse of the coal industry is a driving factor.

For the first time in history, the carbon emissions in the United Kingdom are as low as they have been in 1894 – the year the first car went into mass production.

How did the country accomplish this incredible feat? The change didn’t happen overnight. Rather, it was the result of several intertwining factors that, together, produced the right conditions for widespread reduction in carbon emissions.

Collapse of Coal

Ten years ago, the coal industry was responsible for a staggering 137 million tons of carbon emissions in the U.K. Today, that number has dropped to 37 million.

This is in large part due to the gradual decline of the coal industry that began decades ago. However, the numbers shifted sharply in 2016, with a 52% drop in demand for coal from the previous year.

Less coal means less carbon emissions.

Carbon Tax

In 2013, the U.K. became the first member of the European Union to institute a carbon tax. This was despite fierce lobbying from energy companies, who claimed the tax would kick up energy bills and reduce the U.K. competitiveness on the global market.

Regardless, the carbon tax made polluting fossil fuels more expensive to produce, encouraging growth and investment in renewable energy sources.

Of course, with the changing government and the impact of Brexit, many wonder if the carbon tax is long for this world.

Rise in Renewable Energy

2016 was the first year that wind farms in the U.K. generated more electricity than coal. Today, 24.6% of its energy comes from renewable energy sources. Wind and solar farms are springing up in fields across the U.K., following a global trend towards investment in renewable energy sources.

If the country stays the course, the U.K. is set to meet its target of being 15% renewable by 2021.

 

How Green is Your City? Treepedia Has An Answer

Toronto as seen on Treepedia.

Researchers from MIT Senseable Labs have partnered with the World Economic Forum to bring us Treepedia, an interactive map of green space in cities around the world.

The Treepedia project aims to catalog and compare tree density in world-class cities like New York and Boston. Since its launch in 2016, Treepedia has grown to include 13 major cities around the world, including Toronto and Vancouver.

Why Count Trees?

Because trees are awesome, and the World Economic Forum wants us to recognize it.

Not only are trees a welcome respite from the towers of glass and concrete lining our streets, they provide immeasurable health benefits and contribute to the growth of our cities. Trees shade us from the sun and block shortwave radiation to mitigate extreme temperatures. They naturally dampen the noise from traffic and congestion. Their absorbent roots help stem the tide of floods in severe rain and storm surges. And, of course, trees play an essential role in fighting air pollution.

By measuring and ranking tree density, the researchers hope cities will understand how far they’ve gone in greening their streets – and how much work is to be done.

As this image shows, Treepedia pegs Toronto at 19% green. Meanwhile, Vancouver ranks at 25%. So what does that mean?

The Green View Index

TreepediaRather than put on their hiking books and set out to count each individual tree, the researchers developed a method to measure tree density using Google Street View. They then used the data to develop the “Green View Index”, which can be applied to any city in any country across the globe.

See for yourself how your city ranks on Treepedia’s index.

And just for the record – while Vancouver (25%) trumps Toronto (19%) on the Green View Index, Toronto beats New York (13%) by a long shot.

Is Solar Power The World’s Cheapest Energy?

For many years, the biggest cost of solar power was purchasing the technology to capture the sun’s energy.  It was a hard sell because it took a long time for corporations or individuals to recoup those costs and start benefitting from this clean energy.  A transformation is happening in global energy markets

Now, Bloomberg notes, a transformation is happening in global energy markets and Solar power, for the first time is becoming the cheapest form of new electricity.

In the past, the Middle East, for example, has had record-cheap solar costs. But now unsubsidized solar is beginning to outcompete coal and natural gas on a larger scale, and notably, new solar projects in emerging markets are costing less to build than wind projects.

The chart below shows the average cost of new wind and solar from 58 emerging-market economies.  While solar was bound to fall below wind eventually, given its steeper price declines, few predicted it would happen this soon.

decreasing-solar-prices

As the world hits a turning point, more countries are adding more capacity for clean energy each year than for coal and natural gas combined.

Last year the Top 10 countries leading the world in solar energy were ranked.

10. South Korea: 2,398 Megawatts
9. Belgium: 3,156 Megawatts
8. Australia: 4,130 Megawatts
7. Spain: 5,376 Megawatts
6. France: 5,678 Megawatts
5. United States: 18,317 Megawatts
4. Italy: 18,622 Megawatts
3. Japan: 23,409 Megawatts
2. China: 28,330 Megawatts
1. Germany: 38,250 Megawatts

Canada was nowhere to be seen on the list so clearly, we have work to do to improve our environmental footprint.

Eco Friendly Houses And Its Capabilities

There are many ways for a household to become eco-friendly and reduce the amount of carbon footprint they put out into the environment.  One of these ways is living in an eco-friendly house, also known as a greenhouse.  An eco-friendly house is basically a home that is able to sustain itself.  The energy it uses often comes from solar energy.  Obviously, the smaller the house is, the more eco-friendly it is.  Bungalows are one of the best ways to ensure that your home is eco-friendly due to their smaller size, which in turn uses less power to run the entire house.  You can have solar panels on the roof and have the house be completely sustainable just through that.  You want unique and organized bungalow floor plans that can also be comfortable to live in which is why there are many different options you can make to ensure that your house is more eco-friendly.

house

Some things to think about when renovating or building your eco-friendly house is where you’ll be able to get the energy from.  For example, place your windows on the south side so that sunlight can stream into the house and heat it.  Instead of using air conditioning, open your windows in the summer to enjoy a breeze from the wind.  Sometimes, it’s just the little things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.

Other things you can do is recycle properly as well as use the compost container.  Instead of driving to work, car pool or even ride your bike.  It makes for a good exercise in the morning and also helps keep the environment cleaner.  If you’ve got the funds, consider in investing in an electric car.  Not only do you reduce fuel waste, you’re also saving more on gas.

There are many little things a person can do to fulfill a green lifestyle.  If you want to make a big change, start with your home and vehicle.  You can also worry less with these bungalow floor plan designs if you don’t want to renovate your home.  By starting the change with your home, your lifestyle will gradually also become greener.  All it takes is just a little push and you’ll be saving our environment one step at at time.

 

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Renewable Energy And Sustainability Sources

We might know the basics of renewable energy sources and the sustainability of each resource.  However, society doesn’t often know the hard facts of renewable resources and their importance to our generation.

wind

Our society relies so much on coal, oil, and gases for energy.  Some of these are non-renewable so all it’s doing to our world is generating more waste.  Eventually, it’s extremely damaging to our environment and also becoming more and more expensive.  However, we can do much to change not only our environment, but also the world we live in.  Instead of using fossil fuels, we can switch to renewable energy resources like wind and solar – these resources will also never run out and be replenished all the time.

As you might be able to tell, renewable energy sources come mainly from the Sun.  Sunlight provides solar energy which turns into heating and lighting.  Solar power gives us electricity and generates hot water for both commercial and industrial uses.  The Sun also provides wind.  Wind energy causes water to evaporate, thus turning it into rain.  As the water rains down, we are able to generate hydroelectric power.

Other types of renewable energy may come from the Earth.  Geothermal goes deep down into the Earth to get our planet’s internal heating.  The ocean also provides an energy source as per tidal energy.  The ocean’s waves, which are driven by winds, are what causes tidal energy.

As you can see, the sustainability of renewable resources is constant.  It’s much more environmentally friendly and also better for us humans.  Instead of producing waste, we should turn our actions into producing more efficient ways of getting renewable resources.  This in turn helps our planet and will decrease the amount of waste we put out.