Tag Archives: Solar Power

SolPad is Disrupting the Solar Power Industry at CES



SolPad logoFree energy. It’s a dream shared by every homeowner when it’s time to pay the monthly utility bill. The closest thing we’ve got to a true “free energy machine” is solar power. These systems harness light from the sun and convert that light into electricity that can then be used by anything and everything in the home. For years, solar power has been a steady but still kinda slow-growth industry. That may change soon thanks to new technology being developed by SolPad.

Todd stopped by the SolPad booth to speak with Chris, where he learned about SolPad’s new portable and home-based solar power offerings. Some highlights from their discussion:

  • SolPad has a complete solar solution that includes panels, battery, and an efficient inverter
  • Wireless connectivity to control SolPad systems from mobile devices
  • Portable SolPad panels use the same technology as roof-based panels
  • SolPad panels “snap” together like Lego pieces, which can reduce the cost of installation by up to 50%
  • SolPad systems run on a “net zero” concept designed to not push power back into the electrical grid
  • SolPad panels come with a 25-year warranty, SolPad batteries come with a 10-year warranty

Pricing is not yet available for SolPad products but the company will be releasing that information soon.

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Your Next Roof Could Be a Solar Roof



Solar City logoWhen Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors acquired SolarCity earlier this year, there was much speculation as to whether or not this was a good idea. SolarCity’s business is based on installing solar power systems, and the company has struggled financially. But Musk must see something good in what SolarCity is doing. Indeed, there are definitely some parallels between the overall missions of Tesla Motors and SolarCity. the main one being to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. To that end, SolarCity recently announced it will begin installing solar roofs.

I now what you’re thinking. Haven’t solar panels been installed onto roofs for decades? Yes, that’s true. But SolarCity isn’t talking about retrofitting an existing roof with panels. Instead, the company’s new roofing system is made entirely of the solar panels themselves. SolarCity cites data that shows there are more than 5 million roof replacements per year in the U.S. Instead of having those roofs replaced with traditional shingles or other materials, and then possibly adding a solar system afterward, why not just build the new roof completely out of solar panels instead?

SolarCity is expected to roll out its new solar roofing product in the coming months. The company will also be able to install Tesla’s new whole-house batteries, allowing a home to run on solar power 24/7.


Famous Route 66 To Become First American Solar Road



SolarRoadways logoU.S. Route 66 is more of a legend than an actual highway these days. Route 66 was decommissioned as an official thoroughfare decades ago, giving way to more modern interstate transit ways. Portions of Route 66 still remain, however. And there are plenty of guides that can help you drive an approximation of the old route from Chicago to Los Angeles, if you want to indulge in some nostalgic Americana.

In its heyday, Route 66 was emblematic of the mid-20th century American dream. Cars were cool. Gas was cheap. The open road beckoned with a sense of adventure. Much has changed since those times. Cars are seen now more as functional devices than modern works of art. Even when prices are down, most drivers still groan over the cost to fill up a gas tank. Conveniences like GPS and mobile data have taken some of the adventurous edge out of a long road trip.

Change is inevitable. Yet, it seems somehow fitting that Route 66, an icon of 20th century fossil fuel consumption, will become the first road in America to be partially redone with special solar-power generating pavers:

The street pavers were developed by Solar Roadways, a company created by inventors Scott and Julie Brusaw which raised more than $2.2 million in crowdfunding in 2014 to bring their technology to market. The Brusaws claim that replacing all of America’s roads and parking lots with their solar pavers would generate more than three times the country’s electricity consumption in 2009.

It seems like a no-brainer. Why not replace all of the world’s roads and parking lots with solar-generating pavers? It’s all open space that’s just sitting there, waiting for a solar upgrade. The state of Missouri’s transportation department will be spearheading the installation of these photovoltaic pavers on Route 66. They’re hoping to have them in place by the end of the year.


SunPort Demands Solar Anywhere You Are



Sunport logoIf the world is ever truly going to embrace renewable energy, it’s going to take a concerted effort. People from all walks of life, living in varied environments, will have to either fully embrace things like solar power, or they’ll have to do everything they can to let others know they support the cause. SunPort is hoping to help consumers do this and more, no matter where electricity is being consumed.

Scott met with Nick Williams, Director of Information Systems at SunPort. Scott took a look at SunPort’s first product, a “smart plug” that users run in between wall outlets and electrical devices. The SunPort plug then tracks how much electricity was used on the outlet and sends that information to SunPort HQ. From there, SunPort purchases solar energy in a matching amount to what the consumer’s individual SunPort plug reported. This allows consumers to pay for solar energy, regardless of their physical location. This creates an energy offset so that, no matter what, SunPort users are supporting the growth and development of a renewable energy source. One SunPort device is expected to retail for $80 including the plug itself and a year’s worth of energy tracking.

Scott Ertz is a software developer and video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Ford Electric Concept Car



Ford LogoTodd takes a look at Ford’s C-Max Solar Energi concept car, which amongst other things, features a solar panel roof that uses a special light concentrator lens similar to a magnifying glass to improve the efficiency of the photovoltaic cells. Ford reckons that a day’s worth of sunshine is enough to charge the hybrid’s battery, which is good for 21 electric-only miles.

This is good news for the environment as it would reduce yearly carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions from the average US car by as much as four metric tons – the equivalent of what a American house produces in four months. This probably assumes a perfect sunshine record and maximum electric mileage each day, but, hey, every little bit helps.

Review by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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WakaWaka Makes it CES Debut



WakaWaka WakaWaka, which means shine bright in Swahili is a company that is built around providing power and light in areas and situations where electricity is not readily available. Their products including the WakaWaka Light and the WakaWaka Power have been used around the world in both natural and man-made disasters in places as diverse as the Philippines and Syria. In areas where electricity is not readily available many people will use Kerosene lamps which are costly, inefficient and dangerous. The WakaWaka Light which is solar-powered can replace the kerosene lamp and provide a safer and more efficient light. The WakaWaka solar power charger will charge up a smart phone within 2 hours while still providing light. Perfect for power outages when your phone is your main communication device with the outside world.

WakaWaka is meeting its mission by selling the WakaWaka Light and the WakaWaka Power at competitive prices in the first world and taking those proceeds to sell the products at an affordable price in areas around the world that are off the grid. WakaWaka is making its CES debut in 2014 in the Venetian Ballroom at booth 70306. Camille van Gestel, the Founder & CEO of WakaWaka, will be attending Unveiled and International CES to present the WakaWaka portfolio, including several exciting new products. He will be available for interviews from January 5 – January 11.


Luci: Lighting the World



Luci

Luci is an inflatable solar power light. It runs on lithium-ion batteries. Luci can be charged in 4–6 hours and will give you 6–12 hours of light. It will maintain a single charge for up to 3 months. You can even set Luci to two brightness levels to help maintain a charge. The enclosure is made of PVC and is waterproof. Luci weights only 4.5 ounces and is 5″ in diameter. It collapses down to the size of a small dinner plate. It is easy to store and carry, making it great for camping, hiking or emergency situations. Luci is also being developed to be used in the developing world, where over 3 billion people either live in areas where the grid is unavailable, unaffordable or unreliable. A simple light can aid in education, increase productivity and lower crime.

Luci is a product of M-Powered which is a benefit corporation. Luci is available thru the website and they hope to have it available in retail stores. They have a buy one give one program. When you buy a Luci for yourself another will go to someone in a developing country. Luci is currently an indiegogo project and they are looking for contributions.

Interview by Nick DiMeo of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Interview by Nick DiMeo of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Goal Zero Launches the New Yeti 150 at CES 2013



When Super Storm Sandy hit the Northeast in late October Goal Zero the leading manufacture of portable solar products was there. They contributed almost $600,000 in portable solar power products as part of their You Buy, We Give Program. They will also be at CES 2013. They will be showing off the Yeti 1250 Solar Power Generator which has been named an CES 2013 innovation Award Honoree and introducing the Yeti 150 Solar Power Generator.

The Yeti 150 Solar Generator weighs 12 pounds and produces 150 watts of power. It has built-in AC, 12 volt and USB ports. It can be charged by the sun in about 15 hours through its 15w Bolder Solar Panel. It is the perfect device to charge up lights, laptops, cell phones and more. If you need something more powerful than the Yeti 1250 Solar Power Generator is what you are looking for. It is built to charge refrigerators, freezers,  home health care equipment and other large devices. It has multiple DC, USB and AC ports with one master switch. It is easy to use and monitor and is rated for continuous usage It is quiet and produces no fumes so can be used safely indoors or out. It takes about 20 hours to charge up with the two included 30W Bolder 30 Solar Panels.

Goal Zero products including the Yeti 150 and Yeti 1250 are built to give people the security knowing that they are prepared if their power goes out. John Atkin, President and CEO of the Utah-based company said. “We (Goal Zero) design all our products to provide our customers with a sense of security. Whether you choose to b away from the grid or it fails our Yeti line of solar generators can help keep the lights on, your phone charged and your refrigerators working. You can follow Goal Zero on Twitter or Facebook. If you are attending CES they will be located at CES Booth Space Location: 35412.


SolarKindle Lighted Kindle Cover



SolarKindle Lighted Kindle CoverThe E Ink screens of e-book readers are much easier on the eyes than traditional LCD ones but as they’re not backlit, reading in low light or the dark is a little tricky. SolarFocus‘s lighted Kindle cover solves this problem and more. Andy takes a look.

The SolarKindle lighted Kindle cover is a combination of a hard case, LED light, battery and photovoltaic charger. The Kindle clips into the back of the case which has a white LED reading light at the top. The solar cell is on the front cover, letting the SolarKindle charge the battery when the cover is closed. The clever part is that the 1500 mAh battery not only powers the reading light but also the Kindle itself, giving several days of extra reading from a fully charged battery.

SolarFocus won a CES Innovation Honoree Award for the SolarKindle – congrats. Available now for $79.99.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Best RoI for Green Tech



In GNC #532, Todd mentioned that the price of solar was going to fall by 30%.  In this, case, he was talking about photovoltaic cells, i.e. ones that generate electricity from sunlight, but there are a whole host of green energy technologies.  So what gives the best return on your green investment?

The Self Build show was on in Belfast in the summer.  It’s an exhibition much like any other with stands and booths but this one caters for people who want to plan, build or extend their home.  The exhibitors are really diverse from brick manufacturers to bespoke furniture makers but this year it was the green technologies that were most prevalent.
 
I’d visited the show a couple of years ago and then there might have been a handful at most of stands doing eco-friendly stuff.  Wind turbines, heat recovery and roof tiles made from recycled car tyres was about it.  This year there was a whole hall of stands with ground source heat pumps, solar panels, woodchip-fired boilers, wind
turbines, super insulation, triple-glazed windows – the works.
 
What I wanted to pass on was a presentation given by a local housing association who had been proactive in trying out different energy sources and properly measuring the energy benefit gained.  Given that it was only a ten minute presentation, he didn’t go into detailed facts and figures but the findings were still of interest.  Remember this relates to about 55 degrees North and there may be regional variations.
 
Here are the technologies that were investigated and a summary of the findings.
 
i) Ground source heat pumps – these work well where underfloor heating or air heating is used to heat the house, as the temperature only needs to be raised to 25-30C.  Savings are greatly reduced if trying to raise temperature to 60C for hot water or for radiator-based
central heating.  Consequently, it’s difficult to retro-fit this technology to an existing house, but it’s ideal for new builds.
 
ii) Air source heat pumps – as for the ground source heat pumps but pumps tend to be less reliable and noisier.  This may not be so much of an issue in the US or hot countries, where air conditioning units are more prevalent.
 
iii) Wind turbines – the small wind turbines used in domestic situations are often not high enough off the ground and suffer badly from turbulence.  The cost / benefit of these devices was often marginal, but it does depend a great deal on location.  The presenter
thought that vertical axis turbines might overcome some of the issues but hadn’t been able to do a study.  If the turbine does generate surplus electricity, this can be sold back to the grid.
 
iv) Photovoltaic cells – currently too expensive and provide too little energy in northerly latitudes to be worthwhile.
 
v) Solar panels (evacuated tube) – after the ground source heat pump, probably the best next thing to consider.  Usually only used to heat hot water as heating effect varies during the year, but overall good cost-benefit, even in northerly climates.  Evacuated tubes are more efficient than similar flat plat models and are easier to fix if damaged.  Can be retrofitted to existing properties.
 
vi) Solar panels (flat plate) – as for evacuated tube but less efficient.
 
vii) Woodchip fired boilers – instead of burning oil or natural gas, the fuel is woodchip pellets.  The main benefit of these boilers is the low cost of the fuel which is typically a quarter that of oil or gas for a similar heat output.  The biggest downside is the storage space need for the storing the woodchip pellets.  If you have the space, can be fitted into existing homes.
 
While this is not an exhaustive analysis, it should provide enough information for you to start your own in-depth analysis.  I’m installing into an existing property and previously, I’d been considering the wind turbines.  However, I think that the evacuated tube solar panels are now the best choice and will be looking into those instead.

Do also bear in mind the environmental conditions that you currently live in – this study was for the northerly part of the UK so pick your tech accordingly and do your homework.