Posts tagged power

Solar Plastic: Film of the Future

National Geographic article on Solar plastics

Sargent Group – Inventors of Solar Plastic

Ted Sargent’s Home Page (the inventor, a globally recognized young innovator)

So this article is from 2005, not exactly hot-off-the-presses.   But it’s an interesting look at a new technology: solar cells that absorb both the visible and infrared spectrums of light and process them into usable energy.  Not only that, they’re based in a spray solution for ease of application across a variety of surfaces.  A spray-on plastic coating that could charge your car while driving or your cell-phone while walking are great ideas, with a billion more applications to be dreamed up along the way.  I’m now going to search for more information on this technology, and will report whatever I find to you as it comes in. 

Even now, I’m envisioning spray-painting a backyard deck/patio with a plastic coating that weather proofs it, and makes it more attractive, all while powering solar evening lamps or CMOS security sensors around a property’s perimeter, perhaps also powering a sensor-activated automatic watering system for garden plantings.  Or, on a less serious tack, maybe creating a line of ultra-mod swimwear that uses solar plastics and a closed system of lighting to create light-up fashions?  How cool would that look underwater?  What do you see in your solar dreams?

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BOOK REVIEW: Power of the People

I just finished reading Power of the People: America’s New Energy Choices (2007), a nice short read about the history of, current usage of, and the future possibilities for energy consumption in the United States. At 188 pocket-sized pages, the book doesn’t take more than an afternoon to thumb through. This is thanks to the concise way in which Carol Sue Tombari explains things. She writes as though you’re sitting down together to share a nice salad lunch, not stuffy, not too complicated. But in the mix, she throws in a surprising amount of information about the current energy landscape. You see, Ms. Tombari knows what she’s talking about, after years working for both private and governmental authorities on the topic of energy. So when she talks about the ways in which power utilities fell victim to disincentives for innovation when they “reregulated” in the 1990s, you can bet she saw it happen from the front lines.

Power of the People

The book is divided into two main sections of two chapters each. First, you find out why all this is important anyway. What IS the energy crisis? Then on to Energy 101, a brief discussion of the current power generating technologies and what is already possible in terms of augmenting power load both at the personal and utility level. I learned a lot about how the utilities work (and why this model is outdated). The next main section focuses on the future. What will we have to do to survive the looming power shortage? In the first chapter, she outlines the different players in the energy system, and then discusses how each is challenged by setbacks, and suggests how that challenge will have to be overcome. The last chapter outlines the future and its many possibilities.

I really liked the format of the sections, in which each technology is presented in “the good”, “the bad”, and “the balance” sections. This allows you to get a clear overview of the limitations and promises without delving too deep into science. If you are looking to implement alternative energy solutions in your life but don’t know which one fits for you, I’d recommend this book heartily. If you already have a clear idea of what’s going on, you’ll still find a nicely written essay with interesting photocopy-friendly facts to quote.

The best audience for this book, however, are those who are looking for a way to change energy consumption on a societal level. Buried within the outlines of various technologies is an underlying cry – “Innovate!”, challenging readers to help find the solutions alternative energy implementation barriers. Only a few logistic issues separate most alternative technologies from gaining wide-spread acceptance. What is the power of the future? Could you be the mind to crack the riddle?

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Rogue Waves: Putting it in Motion

There is a phenomenon in the oceans known as a rogue wave. For reasons until recently unfathomable, occasionally, a single ENORMOUS wave would arise from its surrounding brethren and cause devastation to anything whose path it crossed. Sort of like a 90 foot tsunami without the underlying earthquake, and out at sea. According to the History Channel, recent advances in marine science have allowed us a better glimpse into possible causes. They theorize that these waves, defined by being more than twice the size of any surrounding wave, are caused by undercurrents which slow down the wave and basically cause water to pile up high. Other waves also overtake this slowed wave and add to its strength and content, pushing it forward with great power. Here’s my oversimplified diagram:

To me, this seems like the perfect analogy for changes in your life. We are all just flowing along like waves, each on our own “wavelength” but still in accordance with the greater tide. Occasionally, we are slowed down by currents flowing in another direction, currents which underly our own existence and form the foundation of our own flows. History, media, physical laws. These base currents are traveling in their own wave pattern, and so they interact with each wavelength, or individual, differently depending upon where in their period the two collide.

Obstacles in life be they physical, emotional, or intellectual can cause us to literally slow our roll here on earth. It can be frustrating. What I like about this analogy is that when you slow down, your momentum and that of others actually catches up with you and feeds you force and strength. What you might perceive as a breakdown in the flow is actually a period of recharge for you to gain whatever strength you require. If you are trying to get your landlord to let you install drought-friendly landscaping, and he or she insists on calling you that “garden nut” no matter how many good reasons you supply about how much money this will save their business, you can either be frustrated or you can use that to your advantage. After all, now you have a big folder of solid reasons that xeriscaping makes sense at your disposal. A folder that you can take to local businesses at which you already shop and show them why it is in their interest to consider such installations at their storefront. You can start a business that outsources the work of it, and you make money and the world gets a little more responsibly beautiful BECAUSE your landlord frustrated you by asking for fifteen sources and still saying no.

Or, if the last scenario seemed too user intensive to you, how about this one? You sit down at your computer, frustrated by the recent response, and you start searching for that perfect source. Along one of the twisted lanes that Google weaves, you discover a chat room of people frustrated just like you. You start talking about what you’d REALLY like to happen in the world. It makes you start thinking a little deeper about it, and you realize how much you love plants. So much, that you might like to get a plot at the community garden. You get one and get to know people there as well as staying in touch with people from the chat room. When a big-city developer comes in and wants to turn your community garden into condos, you rant about it in your chat room, and someone, a lawyer, offers their services to save the garden free of charge. Garden saved. A garden that you weren’t even involved with until your landlord said… NO!

Rogue waves are the result of the interaction of many different energies, just like social progress. It can feel overwhelming to think you are only one wave in a big old ocean, but rest assured, there are other forces at work that you can’t necessarily see, and that just might work to amplify your cause in strange and unpredictable ways. You’ll never know until you put it into motion.

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DIY Success Story – Solar Garage Heater

Diy Solar Air Heater from Soda Cans

DIY Solar Garage Heater

Here’s another project done right.  Again, this one comes from the resourceful mind of a car enthusiast who spent too much time in a cold garage.  I guess when you’re already in the garage, it’s easier to put construction projects into action!   Using only materials had around the house, he built something that warmed the air, and learned a lot in the process, too, from the people who commented on his experiment.  Read the full story above.

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The Car-Mechanic’s DIY Solar Heater

Saw this forum posting when looking for solar energy projects. Read the excerpt below:

“Solar can be very effective, particularly if you have Southern View access, as you have.
How about a passive solar panel with Thermo syphon feed ( no pumps.)
Build a box with foam insulation and plexiglass window. Better yet, find a picture window (double glazed) that is being tossed.
Make the box 6 inches deep and place some copper pipe in a serpentine
method, starting at the bottom and going up.
Lay the box at an angle against the wall facing South.
The hot pipe goes out the top and through the wall and then continues upward till it reaches a old car radiator mounted near the shop ceiling.
The hot pipe should dump into the TOP of the radiator. The bottom of the radiator should go downward /then outside and into the bottom of the box.
As your fluid heats up, and if the lines go vertical, the warm fluid will naturally travel to the radiator. Place a small fan behind the radiator and warm air will be blown around the shop. When the Sun no longer shines, the flow stops automatically, and no heat is lost from inside to outside.
The fan can be any simple fan. Use antifreeze for fluid. Be sure to extend the top of the radiator with a open top bucket so you have a expansion reservoir.
The pipe should be at least 1/2 in size, and the inside of the box painted black
You will get temps of up to 180 in the winter and 220 in the summer.
Cover it with a white tarp.

I did mine just below a window years ago, and made a baffle for the open window (cracked open 2 inches) and the pipes went through the window baffle, so I didn’t have to drill holes in the wall.
I bought the copper pipe/tube at the junk yard for scrap price.

I knew a guy who did the same thing almost, but instead he went with Air heat.
His box was nested beer cans with no lid and sprayed Black.
he blew air behind the cans and then into the garage. but he needed fan housings and temperature controls ,
Rich “

There are plenty of reasons to integrate solar power into your home. And this post shows there are also as many different ways to approach it! Read the complete forum thread here:HomeShopMachinist

As for my own panel, I finally did drag out the camera. Here are a few “before” pictures:

The Panel  Individual Panels and Connects Outs to the Back Box The Back Box Peel in Covering

As you can see, the parts that need soldering are small, and the rest of the panel is in pretty good shape, save a little storage dirt and the covering, which will have to go anyway to get to the panel connections. Next, heating up the soldering iron!

Do you have a solar project going right now? Care to share how you are proceeding, or if you have a success story from the past?

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Plans for my solar panel

http://www.siliconsolar.com/Portable-Solar-Power-System-p-10.html

PVSmall System

See this? Here’s a commercial version of what I am hoping to build with my new solar panel. Theirs is all nicely designed to fold up and fit in the little case shown. Whether or not I can achieve that, it’s a good blueprint for future design on this project. Their system seems to use a much smaller power storage unit than a standard car battery, though they offer upgrades to both battery and panel size on their site.

As for my own setup, I am currently getting ready to re-solder all of the visible connections between the individual panels in the series. Pictures coming soon. They all appear to be in good condition, save one with a slight bash in the corner near the connection. May this be all I need to fix to get this baby going! After that, the panel will get hooked to a voltage tester to see if there is a drop. Then a test to see if the voltage continues to hold when placed in the hot sun, which was an operational problem with the panel previously. Luckily, solar experimentation has been lurking in the back of my brain for a while now, so as the various tools necessary have arrived at the 99 cents only store, I’ve grabbed ’em. What I’m trying to point out here is that you can do a lot of the necessary work without spending very much on specialized tools. Well, I’ll let you know how it goes!

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Integrating solar power into products

If going green is ever going to become more than a catch phrase, then it’s going to have to fit neatly within our current lifestyles.  Let’s face it; though most people WANT to feel good about their impact on the planet, they don’t want to work very hard.  That’s why products that integrate alternative energy sense and capability within their design are so exciting.  I like this example:  http://suntable.net/

the SunTable

The table collects power all day, arriving fully charged at meal-time.  And with a DC power outlet right in the table, the only thing left to do is start finding gadgets to power with it!   Outdoor dining may never be the same.  I don’t own one, so I can’t speak on user experience, but it’s certainly on the wish list.  What we really need next is plans for a DIY version!

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