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Monday, December 8, 2014

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5 Weird and Wonderful Uses for Solar Panels


alt energy

Most people understand that the integrity of the Earth’s atmosphere, terrain, and oceans are being threatened by climate change. This has prompted some energy companies and innovators to come up with creative solutions for generating electricity with solar power. The truth is, fossil fuels are in finite supply and these sources of energy are beginning to struggle to meet the increasing demands of the world’s economies. In addition to the problem of supply meeting demand, there is the fact that the traditional fossil fuels directly harm the atmosphere by releasing greenhouse gases and other pollutants when used. Conversely, solar power is an alternative power source that is clean, simple, affordable, and sustainable.

Since innovations in alternative power sources have made the technology more affordable consumers have been making the shift towards these more efficient options, ranging from choosing to drive all-electric cars to simply swapping out incandescent lights for bulbs with lower wattage or LED lights. It is solar panels, however, that have continued to lead when it comes to providing homes and powering devices with alternative sources of energy. Solar innovations have replaced the older thick and bulky solar panels with thin film solar cells. This has reduced installation costs in solar energy and has broadened the potential uses and placement options for solar power producers. These new solar innovations in solar cells have shown to produce ten times the energy, compared to the conventional rooftop solar panels of yesterday.

solar shed light

The uses for solar panels around the home have become more varied thanks to the new innovations, much of this prompted by thoughts of climate change. These may include placing solar technology on dwellings and other buildings such as sheds and conservatories, (above). Also, there is now a solar powered Logitech Wireless keyboard that does not require batteries or traditional power sources. The keyboard can be powered by sunlight indoors or even by the light from a desk lamp. It is considered to be a “green” accessory. Another innovation is solar windows. These windows are treated with an electricity-generating coating that is transparent and actually converts sunshine into energy. Imagine the Solar Window being installed on all sides of a fifty-story building and the amount of energy that would be generated.

Less Conventional but Creative Uses for Solar Power

solar refrigeration

1.  Camels equipped with solar powered refrigerators are being used in Kenya. Unconventional?  Yes, but these camels are being used as mobile health clinics. Certain medicines and vaccinations are required to be kept at certain temperatures and that is difficult in the Kenyan climate. In the hot temperatures of Kenya, the solar-powered refrigerators have the ability to keep these medicines and vaccinations cool as they are being transported to rural communities by doctors, nurses, and aid workers. An international team that included California’s Art Center College of Design, Princeton’s Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials, and the Kenya-based Nomadic Communities Trust all collaborated on the design of the crystalline solar-powered miniature refrigeration units. This included coming up with the bamboo camel saddle, which makes it possible for camels to transport the refrigerators over long distances.
(photo credit, designmattersatartcenter.org)

ice fishing

2. Solar-heated ice fishing shacks. The fact that the white snowy surface in the winter boosts the sun’s power makes this option quite viable for those who love to fish through the ice. An existing fishing shack can be insulated and sealed with foil and a heat collector can be constructed from plastic sheets and a bug screen. Cold air can be allowed between the collector and the wall via four holes in the walls. The sun heats the air and then enters the shack through a flapper valve. Even with outside temperatures of below freezing, the comfy fisher-person can enjoy temperatures of up to seventy and even eighty degrees Fahrenheit inside the fish shack.
(photo credit, pocketrangerblog.com)

solar oven

3.  Solar oven cooking is another alternative concept to consider. It involves collecting and trapping heat through the combination of the use of glass and reflective materials. These solar ovens can actually cook food at temperatures of up to 350 degrees with absolutely no fuel use. There are indoor and outdoor versions of these solar ovens and the only real down side is they take longer to warm up than conventional ovens.
(photo credit, solarovenchef.blogspot.com)

solar traffic sign

4.  Solar traffic signs can save communities a great deal of money over a period of time. They are wireless and quite flexible and the LED lighting is environmentally friendly and long lasting. Better still, in a power outage, the signs and lights will continue to work.
(photo credit, traffic-products.net)

solar paint

5.  Solar paint may be something that is not well known, but it is becoming all the rage in certain markets. While there are other paints which may contain toxic materials that can have some negative health affects, solar paint is based on solar cell technology, cleanly formulated to actually harness solar energy and convert it into electrical energy.

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Pulling Water out of Thin Air – Sustainable Condensers Create Drinkable Water


elowater turbine

Fresh drinking water is a disappearing commodity for many people of the world. In fact, some 750 million people in the world lack access to safe drinking water. With current climate changes the desperation for water is expected to increase. This need has triggered the rise of numerous new technologies. Most promising are those that are self-efficient. The following devices function by condensing fresh water right out of thin air – utilizing renewable energy to get the job done.

water from wind

Since 2011 Eolewater has been developing the WMS1000  a wind turbine that powers itself using the wind and collects water from the humidity in the air. The WMS1000 has been able to collect an average of 62 litters an hour of fresh water in 45 percent humidity at 24 degree Celsius. After being able to produce 1000 liters a day of freshwater the turbine is currently being shipped to Abu Dhabi for the first phase of tests in extreme weather conditions. If successful, the WMS1000’s wind powered water collection can be implemented bring fresh water to people in need.

NERIOS S3

Eolewater also has systems that harness solar to power water collection. The NERIOS S3 is a solar powered water condenser. It’s the newest model and boasts 28 individual solar panels. Its ice storage system means that no battery is needed for when the sunlight is not available.

fontus condenser

Also harnessing the power of the sun  is another invention called Fontus. Designed by Kristof Retezar a Austrian industrial design student; Fontus is a solar powered water condenser for your bike.

fontus self filling

Fontus attaches to the frame and when you ride air flows in through the filter, is cooled, water condenses then drips down into the removable bottle. Offering a way to allow bicyclists to ditch the camel-packs and make their own water as they ride.

fonuts design

In 50 percent humidity at a minimum temp of 68 degrees Fahrenheit Fontus can condense at a rate of 1 drop per minute. However it currently lacks an additional filter to prevent pollutants from being in the water so it’s not recommended for use in an urban setting. At a price point of 25 to 40 dollars for a unit it might be a fun investment for the alternative bicyclist.

These technologies all address a growing problem in different ways. With our need for fresh water growing by the day inventions like these might save rivers and groundwater from being tapped.  They can also create a water source for people that live in even the driest of environments. Although water collection from humidity is more practical in areas where humidity is high, these strides are perhaps a step in the right direction.

related: more green design projects featured on The Alternative Consumer

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Carbon Neutral Homes: The Future is Flat-Packed


zed factory homes

In February 2008, the first 100% carbon neutral flat-pack home was revealed by ZEDFactory – Zero (fossil) Energy Development. It was affordable, quick to put up and revolutionary in the way properties are designed.

flat packed home

The house was designed to be erected within a few weeks, and the cost of £150,000 for a three-bedroom property was seen as a huge step in making such eco-friendly homes affordable for more people.

ZEDFactory said that its flat-pack home has a Code 6 status, which is the highest level in the sustainable building code. The innovative idea has since developed and it could well lead the way to many more such eco-homes appearing over the coming years.

Key Features of the Eco-Homes
Wooden frames are used to build the houses, which is a carbon-neutral material. On top of this, they use eco-concrete that provides excellent energy efficiency and allows the building to absorb and release heat more slowly. As a result, the insulation is up to three times higher than in standard homes.

The buildings also make use of plants on the roof to attract birds and insects. On the south facing side of the room, solar panels are installed to generate energy for up to four people. A small wind turbine can also be added, and the energy can be used to sell back to the grid or to power an electric car.

A biomass boiler is used to heat the water in winter using wood chips, and a grey-water system and low-flow showers are used to reduce water usage.

How Can You Go Greener at Home?
You may not be able to take advantage of all of the features of these eco-homes, but you can still make a difference by making simple changes around your home. For example, you could invest in solar panels or a wind turbine, which can help meet your electricity needs in a greener way. Or you could do something even simpler and add more insulation to your home, such as cavity wall insulation or loft insulation. This can help you to reduce your heating requirements and cut your bills.

Saving energy means saving money, and another way to save money is to choose a more suitable tariff. npower has a Tariff Information Label tool so you can search for a suitable one in your area with ease. Or you can find a tariff that promotes other ways to save energy, such as npower’s Intelligent Fix tariff, which comes with the Nest Learning Thermostat at a reduced cost, which could provide you with a way to reduce your energy usage.

Then there are simple things you can do around the house to lead a greener lifestyle, such as:

  • using more low-energy light bulbs
  • turning off all computers, televisions and gadgets when they are not in use
  • collecting rain water to use in the garden
  • recycling as much of your waste as possible
  • buying reused goods rather than new ones

Cut Your Own Carbon Footprint
These are all ways to cut your energy use and live a low-carbon lifestyle, even if you cannot move into a new eco-home. Greener homes are likely to become more popular over the coming years, and that is good news for everyone, and by following simple tips you can have a big impact on your own energy use and reduce your environmental impact.

Contributor Evie Noble became interested in green technology over 8 years ago while building her own home. She now enjoys researching the latest tech and trends on today’s consumer market and writes about them on a variety of eco and tech blogs.

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Another Miracle Cure for Our Carbon Fuel Addiction


Sunfire

Like HydroInfra Technologies’ introduction of the Hydro-Nano Gas reactors, which promise to completely neutralize the pollution resulting from our use of carbon fuels, this most recent development in alternative fuels comes to us from overseas. Based in Dresden, Saxony of Germany, Sunfire GmbH (above) has developed a method to sustainably create the carbon fuels we utilize in power plants, ships and automobiles in an effort to lessen our inputs to the carbon cycle. These newly produced carbon fuels, comparable to the long-chain compounds that make up diesel fuel, can be used just as conventional fuels would be, but are not derived from raw petroleum products. Instead, the fuel is made using two of the most common compounds on the planet: namely, carbon dioxide and water.

Sunfire alternative energy

Firstly, the Sunfire system completely relies on electricity, of which the company suggests should be derived from renewable sources; in Germany, this is an easier suggestion in Germany considering the high proportion of renewable energy employed there. Electricity is then supplied to the electrolysis station where the hydrogen and oxygen atoms of water are split apart and separated. The H2 obtained here is then used to reduce CO2, which can be reclaimed from the atmosphere, to carbon monoxide (CO).

Sunfire turns water into fuelAfterwards, the H2 and CO compounds undergo a “Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis” reaction, which combines them into single, long-chain hydrocarbon fuels. This whole process is touted as the antithesis of carbon fuels combustion in that during the burning of these fuels, oxygen attaches to the split components of the hydrocarbon chain. The Sunfire system inversely seeks to remove the oxygen from the CO2 and H2O molecules, and combine them to create synthetic versions of our well-known carbon fuels, gasoline, diesel and kerosene.

The synthetic version of these fuels further displays higher purity levels when compared with conventional fuels that are derived directly from petroleum, which leads to lower final emissions and higher fuel-to-work efficiencies in the Sunfire system. Sunfire partnered with prominent fuel cell producer Staxera in 2012 to better support the core electrolysis components of the Sunfire system. When we consider the potential of the Sunfire system, combined with that of HydroInfra Tech HNG systems, we can actually begin to realize a green future complete with energy independence, carbon neutrality and a turning tide in the war against climate change.

related: more alternative energy info on alternativeConsumer.com

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Drive for Free with the Drive Green for Life Program!


Drive Green

Owning the vehicle of your choice and driving it freely through the web of roads crisscrossing your home city is as much an American tradition as the Presidential pardoning of one lucky turkey each year about this time. Being able to finally buy that personal car of your dreams is engrained into American culture, symbolizing freedom, economic status – and a means to sustain life for those that rely on their cars for business.

Drive Green

As we are all aware, each of these conventional-fuel-burning vehicles emits extremely harmful gasses  and with over 250 million registered vehicles in the United States, their combined emissions contribute heavily to climate change. The threat of a changing climate is real, but could anyone really point to their neighbors and say, “I think they should retire that S.U.V. to stop polluting…”?

Drive Green infographic

Well, one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the United States recently partnered with SunPower, a leading supplier of home solar PV systems, and The Sierra Club, the largest grassroots environmental NGO in the country, to offer consumers the opportunity to more gain access to alternative energy for their home. Ford Motor Company is offering new and existing Ford electric car owners a $750.00 rebate on their purchase or lease of a SunPower home solar system through (more…)

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Martifer PV Projects: Integrated Solutions for Fulfilling Solar Power Needs


martifer portugal solar field

Martifer Solar is more than merely a company that focuses on solar energy.  This Portugal based company employs teams of engineers and people who fabricate and design required engineering solutions for various types of solar energy related projects. As per Greentech Media Research’s statistics, Martifer Solar ranks third amongst similar companies in Europe. IHS lists the company in 5th position within Europe and 16th in the world.

martifer solar install rooftop

EPC Services from Martifer Solar
One of the drawbacks that have prevented PV solar technologies from taking off has been the cost versus returns in comparison to the fossil fuels. Martifer can offer PV solutions on 360° turnkey basis, which would include all engineering, purchases and procurement, project management, construction and commissioning related to the PV solar system installation and operations.

Photovoltaic Projects or PV projects from Martifer include EPC or engineering, procurement, and construction services. This means the company can offer customized solutions based on the needs of the people so that each such project becomes viable and offers optimal energy cost savings. It is because of its high standards of reliability today it boasts of having implemented more than 500 projects. The company is also maintaining and operating solar power generators with a capacity of 560 MW across the world.

integrated solar window panels

Variety of PV Projects offered by Martifer Solar
Martifer Solar offers all types of solar power generation solutions under one roof. Therefore, its portfolio of PV projects includes:

  • Ground mounted solar power generating systems
  • Rooftop solar power generating systems
  • Building integrated Photovoltaic projects (BIPV). Martifer’s Torre De Cristal in Madrid still qualifies as the tallest BIPV project, even though the project was completed in 2008.
  • Off-Grid solar power generating systems for people and businesses in remote locations
  • Small solar power generating systems for residential accommodations

Effectively, Martifer undertakes projects suiting the needs of small as well big customers.  This adaptability is one of the reasons for Martifer Solar’s larger market share.

One of the reasons many well-known companies opt for Martifer Solar is because it does more than supply the instrumentation and materials. Its personnel ensure that the project is commissioned and functioning to the satisfaction of the client.

Global Presence
Though Martifer is originally from Portugal, it has spread its activities across the globe. There are collaborations and joint ventures with various companies in different nations. For example, Martifer Solar entered into a joint venture with Hirschfeld Industries in the US. Likewise, it became Maisis’ partner, for technology.

The company has implemented PV projects for well-known businesses such as Hertz. Westfield Group is another famous business that has availed the services of Martifer Solar. In Latin America, the company recently installed a 30 MW project for Gauss Energia.

Martifer Solar has recently received a new contract from Italy. It is a 90 MW project. The company is implementing a project for well known private Equity Fund Company, i.e., Eland, and Dutch Infrastructure Fund.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

The BEHA Eco Aircraft Seeks Crowdfunding


beha overheadA British company, Faradair Aerospace Limited, has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a new eco aircraft the company has christened, BEHA, or Bio-Electric-Hybrid-Aircraft. The company has created a concept for a lightweight aircraft with extremely efficient and economical power. The intention is to create “the most environmentally friendly aircraft in the world”. The project is about to enter a year of R&D to fine tune the design for maximum efficiency, with the company hoping to have the first prototype aircraft built within two years.

de havilland dragon

Much of the inspiration for the plane came from an early passenger aircraft called the De Havilland Dragon Rapide. This 1930′s airliner had graceful lines and innovative power recovery systems, many of which will be incorporated into the design of the BEHA.

beha front

Another source of inspiration for the project is an unmanned aircraft created in 1990 by the father of the company’s Managing Director. The new design combines a bio-diesel engine with two electric motors, and is envisioned as an innovative six seat Hybrid Aircraft. The BEHA group is currently building a list of partners to help deliver the key technologies to make the prototype aircraft a reality. (more…)

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

HydroInfra Technologies: Neutralizing Fossil Fuel Emissions and Climate Change


hydroInfra Tech

Problem: The fossil fuels used to produce our electricity, power our cars and heat our homes inescapably emit greenhouse gases. Ipso facto:  fossil fuel use leads to climate change. This is the scientific consensus.

coal pollution

Non-renewable coal is the biggest culprit, serving as the abundant fossil fuel that drives the steam generators creating the majority of our electricity here in the United States. It is cheap, fairly easy to obtain, and the infrastructure is already in place to continue its use. All these represent tangible benefits that allow this conventional fuel to roadblock the growth of the renewable energy industry, at least to some degree.

Environmentalists, myself included, have long concluded that in order to curb climate change, we must first transition away from using fossil fuels as an energy source… and quickly.

sven erik

Clean Tech Solution: Well, founder Sven Erik and his team of scientists at HydroInfra Technologies (HIT) in Stockholm, Sweden believe to have discovered a system to free the combustion of fossil fuels from their harmful emissions. The key may surprise you: water.

Water is, quite simply, the most paramount substance on the planet as far as human beings (and life in general, for that matter) are concerned. On a molecular level, water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, notated as the familiar H2O. Together, they support life, but apart, HIT envisions they will support our lifestyle.

Splitting the water molecule into its component parts is not a novel technology, however it was considered a highly energy-intensive process until now. HIT invented an efficient method of splitting the hydrogen and oxygen atoms of water in late 2012 which creates Hydro Nano Gas (HNG) in the process. Like many groundbreaking technologies, the actual process by which this is achieved is currently shared only with their partners and those who deploy and implement the HNG applications. HIT is understandably protective of this new method of generating HNG while patents are pending in Sweden and international patents are being pursued, but let us walk through what we know.

  • HIT has recently developed on-site HNG producing reactors for coal-fired power plants and diesel-powered shipping vessels to test the verified technology. The systems inject HNG and oxygen directly into the combustion processes of the different fuels. The highly combustible HNG enhances the efficiency of this process and “instantly neutralizes carbon fuel pollution emissions,” including carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, mercury emissions and harmful particulates.
  • In coal power plant applications, HNG is also injected into smoke stacks to reduce nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide levels through a catalytic reaction. Emissions from the smoke stack already infused with HNG are forced through the HNG wet scrubber, which removes any and all remaining pollutants. Clean emissions full of oxygen and hydrogen are then ready to be released into the atmosphere. (How-HNG-works) … HIT claims that this technology is not limited to eliminating emissions from merely coal and diesel consumption, but extends to all fossil fuels.
  • HIT is working diligently to bring their technology to market, meeting with high-level government officials and industry giants in the U.S., as well as signing a joint venture abroad to install an HNG trial system on an Italian shipping vessel. The interest garnered by Sven Erik and HIT is real.

I’ll say what you’re probably thinking: This technology seems too good to be true. How can greenhouse gases possibly vanish into thin air?

But the validated technology is on display here. As you can see, greenhouse gases and all other harmful pollutants are neutralized from fossil fuel emissions. Further independent testing validated the results of the HNG system and the technology is supported by the work of Professor Yuan Tse Lee, winner of the Nobel Prize in 1986.

hydro nano gasThe science behind Hydro Nano Gas systems from HydroInfra Technologies is solid, and Sven Erik is determined to supply electric power plants, shipping vessels and other industries around the world with the ability to neutralize carbon fuel emissions. Widespread implementation of HNG systems has the potential to dramatically reduce fossil fuel emissions, denying the climate change engine of its fuel – greenhouse gases.

HIT is a Swedish public company preparing to list on the stock market in 2015.

related: more alternative energy related info on alternative consumer

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