MIT Energy Storage Discovery Could Lead to ‘Unlimited’ Solar Power

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have discovered a new way of storing energy from sunlight that could lead to ‘unlimited’ solar power.

The process, loosely based on plant photosynthesis, uses solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. When needed, the gases can then be re-combined in a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity whether the sun is shining or not.

According to project leader Prof. Daniel Nocera, “This is the nirvana of what we’ve been talking about for years. Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now, we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon.

Nocera has also explained that the process (video) uses natural materials, is inexpensive to conduct and is easy to set up. “That’s why I know this is going to work. It’s so easy to implement,” he said.

Other prominent scientists in the field have rushed to highlight the revolutionary potential of the new process. According to James Barber, biochemistry professor at Imperial College London, this research is a ‘giant leap’ towards generating clean, carbon-free energy on as massive scale. In a statement, he also said:

“This is a major discovery with enormous implications for the future prosperity of humankind. The importance of their discovery cannot be overstated since it opens up the door for developing new technologies for energy production, thus reducing our dependence for fossil fuels and addressing the global climate change problem.”

No news has yet been released of a predicted timescale to commericial development or mainstream adoption. However, Nocera has said that he’s hopeful that within 10 years homes will no longer be powered using electricity-by-wire from a central source. Instead, homeowners will be able to harness solar power during daylight hours and use this new energy storage method for electricity at night.

Source: CleanTechnica

Published in: on August 16, 2009 at 2:51 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Solar Power from Outer Space: Microwaves and Frickin’ Lasers

In order to meet our world’s rising energy needs, and to help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, some ideas that seem right out of a science fiction novel are picking up steam with start-ups and investors. But does using satellites for energy production really make sense financially or environmentally?

Space Based Solar Power (SBSP) is an idea first voiced by scientist Dr. Peter Glaser over 40 years ago, and during times of high energy costs or crises in fossil fuel supplies, the idea keeps rearing its head. The premise is that large photovoltaic arrays can be assembled in a geosynchronous orbit at 22,000 miles above the Earth, generating electricity that can then be transmitted via microwave or lasers to Earth.

On the positive side of SBSP, power can be produced 24 hours a day, regardless of the time of year, and…Read More.

Published in: on August 13, 2009 at 10:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Knocked Down But Not Out: America Could Be Global Solar Leader by 2014

A new report reveals that America’s solar photovoltaic (PV) industry has gotten battered since the economy hit the skids last year.

But not to fret. A boost in federal incentives could trigger a rapid sector rebound and ultimately global solar leadership by 2014.

According to cleantech market researcher Pike Research, “The United States has become one of the more aggressive nations in promoting alternative energy technologies.” But here’s the problem:

“At the federal level tax credits and depreciation incentives are not currently enough to encourage sustainable demand growth.”

Washington’s latest boost in clean energy subsidies, in other words, is just not cutting it with investors, not in the face of this financial crisis.

“Financing for solar projects remains elusive,” says the forecast, U.S. Solar Energy Demand Dynamics.

The report find that solar demand in the U.S. lags behind market leaders Spain and Germany in 2009 — despite fizzling subsidies and slow starts to the year in both those nations. In America, project cancellations and delays are also…Read More.

Published in: on August 13, 2009 at 9:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Toyota Plants Giant Solar-Powered Flowers Across US Cities

Meant to represent the theme of “Harmony between Man, Nature, and Machine,” the 18-foot flowers have behind their petals and at the base of the stem. The generated travels down the stem to plastic green benches with 110-volt outlets. Each of the five flower provide room for up to 10 people to sit while charging their cell phones, laptops and other devices. Currently appearing in Boston, the solar flowers will later travel to New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The flowers operate daily from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm.

In addition to the flowers, Toyota is also demonstrating solar ventilation bus shelters in some cities. The shelters feature on the…Read More.

Published in: on August 13, 2009 at 9:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

MIT preparing to unleash solar power revolution

A new revolution in solar power is set to bring energy from the sun into the night. A major barrier to large-scale solar power is having a way to store the sun’s energy so that it can be used at night or when skies are cloudy.

Solar power has historically been restricted to being a daytime source of energy as conventional photovoltaic solar panels produce energy only when the sun is shining. Storing solar energy for use at night has been expensive and inefficient. However, the Massachussettes Institute of Technology, or MIT, has announced that they have developed a simple, inexpensive, and very efficient solar energy storage process.

“This is the nirvana of what we’ve been talking about for years,” said MIT’s Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the work in the July 31 issue of Science. “Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power…Read More.

Published in: on August 12, 2009 at 4:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Nuclear power plants: Shaping new fuels for higher efficiency

MIT researchers have created innovative designs for nuclear fuels that will allow the cooling water inside a nuclear reactor to extract more heat from the uranium fuel. Their new fuels have channels that increase the exposed hot surface area and bumps that churn up the passing water, ensuring that fresh water is continuously brought to the hot surface, thus increasing the cooling effect. These new designs could boost the amount of energy recovered in the same volume of fuel by 30–50 percent, while reducing the cost of electricity by as much as 7 percent.

Nuclear power plants now provide about one-fifth of all the electricity used in the United States. Adding more nuclear plants—or getting more power out of the ones we have—could help us meet growing energy demand without adding to greenhouse gas emissions or oil imports.

At MIT, researchers are looking to improve both current and future plants by changing the design—or “geometry”—of the fuel inside the reactor. “We’ve had many…Read More.

Published in: on August 12, 2009 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

IEA Says Oil and Gas Industry Needs $8.2 Trillion in Investment

The International Energy Agency estimates oil companies will need to invest $8.2 trillion dollars over the next 25 years to increase production capacity enough to meet demand. In a recent article on reasononline, science correspondent Ronald Bailey asks the multi-billion dollar question: Is that level of investment happening? In his insightful article, Bailey outlines the main obstacle to additional investment in the oil and gas sector: state-owned oil companies. He concludes that the “sad fact is that the world’s energy security would be a lot greater if more of the world’s oil and gas resources were in the hands of private companies.” Although that may be true, it is certainly not the case. About 77% percent of the worlds known oil and gas reserves are controlled by state monopolies that severely limit or completely bar outside investment. Bailey points out two major reasons for concern. In some regions, like Venezuela and Russia, foreign investors are being forced…Read More.

Published in: on August 12, 2009 at 3:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Americans Waste $130 Billion a Year on Energy

Our houses leak, our light bulbs produce more heat than illumination, our big screen TV sets draw power when they are turned off, and that’s just the start of it.

U.S. businesses and individuals could save money, curb emissions of global warming pollutants, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and cut energy consumption by 23 percent by 2020, merely by taking sensible, practical steps to use energy more efficiently, says a report from McKinsey & Company released today.

What’s more, energy efficiency is the very best way to create so-called green jobs — yes, even better than subsidizing solar or wind power — because it makes the economy more productive in the long run.

So what’s standing in the way?…Read More.

Published in: on August 11, 2009 at 6:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Israel’s Bright Sparks Invent ‘Electric’ Road

Scientists in Israel say they have invented a way of turning traffic into electricity.

The bright sparks at the country’s Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa have developed a road that generates power when vehicles pass over it.

And they hope the technology will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

In a university car park, Haim Abramovich and his team run a heavy truck repeatedly over a special…Read More.

Published in: on August 11, 2009 at 6:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

New battery could change world, one house at a time

In a modest building on the west side of Salt Lake City, a team of specialists in advanced materials and electrochemistry has produced what could be the single most important breakthrough for clean, alternative energy since Socrates first noted solar heating 2,400 years ago.

The prize is the culmination of 10 years of research and testing — a new generation of deep-storage battery that’s small enough, and safe enough, to sit in your basement and power your home.

It promises to nudge the world to a paradigm shift as big as the switch from centralized mainframe computers in the 1980s to personal laptops. But this time the mainframe is America’s antiquated electrical grid; and the switch is to personal power stations in millions…Read More.

Published in: on August 11, 2009 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,