Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Solar movie theater

Happy New Year! It has been a long time since i updated my blog. Its not that i havent found any interesting articles to blog about, its just that i have been busy traveling a lot. Then came the holiday season, and then new years. Anyway, i'm back and this is my first blog for this year.

The holidays are always a big season for the movies everywhere in the world. The next time you decide to see a movie, you might see one of these parked around the corner from your house. The world's smallest solar powered movie theater.
 Source: click here
Artist Paul O’Connor and his colleagues at the British art collective Undercurrents built a tiny solar powered movie theater in a 1960s type travel trailer. The Sol Cinema is a mini, well actually i should say a micro, movie house powered entirely by free clean and green energy. It can seat 8 adults or 12 children comfortably, for an unique cinematic experience. Equipped with a full library of comedy, quirky, music videos and short films with inspiring environment themes. It might not be the best theater to watch Avatar or a Michael Bay's movie but Sol Cinema is an ideal solution for showing short videos within your community, small festivals, events or parties.
 Although the inside looks like a movie theater built for umpa lumpas and hobbits, Sol Cinema claims that it can actually fit 8 adults comfortably. Right now, its only available in the UK but we can expect it to pop up all over. I can imagine a movie theater on every street corner in the suburbia.

Here is a little video of what the people who built it had to say...

The official website provides additional photos as well as a list of tour dates and locations in the UK.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

iphone app

Well here is another way to keep an eye on your green investment. The SunPower Solar iphone App lets you monitor how much energy your rooftop PV installation is producing at any given time. You can download the app from SunPower, or you can get it once you install your PV system.

 SunPower's new iPhone application makes it easy to monitor solar panel performance on the go, anywhere in the world. The application is just one part of the SunPower Monitoring System, which keeps track of SunPower solar panel performance with an in-home wall-mounted LCD display and an Internet-based program.

This iphone app tracks a variety of statistical information notably, current solar panel generating capacity, lifetime panel production, today's production, today's usage, and today's net difference between production and usage.

Of course, this app only works with SunPower mounted PV system and does not work with any other installation, but this is obviously part of the push to advertise and market their product.

There are few other solar companies that are doing something similar, but with different information on their display.

SMA America has developed an iphone app to monitor your PV system on the go. Developed by SunnyPortal, the Sunny Portal application provides a snapshot of any PV system. The application boasts a visual display of a system’s energy yield for the day, month, year and life-to-date of the system, in addition to listing its CO2 savings in tons per year. This data is uploaded daily via the SMA Sunny WebBox, a communication hub that continuously collects data from the solar inverters. This is not only for your rooftop PV system but this app also works for an entire solar power plant!

Further more, GainSpan is developing iPhone applications to monitor and control home temperature, water heaters, HVAC, and lighting, and Visible Energy's UFO Power Strip is controlled by an iPhone app.


 My Opinion: This is another great way you can monitor the money you will be making with your solar panels on your rooftop, similar to watching your stocks. I don't think even the regular utility companies have an app like this, and even if they did, its kind of useless. I think it would make me feel good, especially when i see how much CO2 that i have saved just by installing solar panels on my rooftop. Bravo SunPower and other companies who are innovating new ways to monitor the energy we use!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Solar snacks

Sun Chips. They are one of my favorites among the snacks isle at the local grocery store. Not only they are delicious and healthier than other chips, but every bag of Sun Chips (made by Frito Lays) is green. No I'm not talking about the color of the bag, but clean to the environment. They leave a 0% carbon foot print. They stay true to their name in every sense.

The people at Sun Chips take "going green" to every level of their management, starting at the corporate level down to the production line of every bag. It was someone's ingenious idea to power up a Sun Chips plant in Modesto, California using Concentrated Solar Power (CSP).
Built in 2008, the Sun Chips plant has been making greener and cleaner chips in every bag. This plant spreads over four acres of  land and produces enough power from the sun for almost all of the plant's operations. They constructed it with the support of National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)

So just how much chips do they produce you ask? The solar energy that they collect makes it possible for them to produce 145,000 bags of snacks per day. According to Sun Chips the idea of using solar energy is natural as they produce Sun Chips branded snacks. Although solar energy is not used in any of their other factories, it is likely to be converted to solar in the near future. Moreover, producing snacks that is good for you should also be good for the Earth. (Source)

How do they do it? Well to find that out, lets look at how the CSP actually works. As i always say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so lets look at the illustration below. (Source)

Basically it has huge arrays of concave mirrors. These mirrors have a sun tracker which tracks the sun to make sure it gets the maximum amount of sunlight. The mirrors then focus all the sun's energy on a black tube that runs along the focal point of the array. This black tube is surrounded by a second glass tube that protects it from the air, allowing it to absorb solar energy more effectively. This super heated water passes through the black tube, the solar energy heats it up even more toan incredible 450 degrees F. This water then runs through a boiler system that uses its heat to generate steam,which helps to cook the wheat and heat the cooking oil used in the Sun Chips manufacturing process. Cooled water then flows back through the tube to the solar concentrator field to repeat the process. (Source)

Here is an actual picture of the Sun Chips power plant and their beautiful concave mirrors. (Source)

My Opinion: So as you can see, Sun Chips is committed to their product. Not only they are they healthier for you when you feel like snacking on something but also good for the earth. Its a goal of Frito Lays to convert the rest of their production plants into pure sun powered green facilities. Just thought I would share it with you, so that next time you walk down that snacks isle at your local grocery store, you will have a green spark of thought and do a little good to our Earth.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Austin City Limits

My first experience in ACL (Austin City Limits) music festival was amazing and i cannot wait till i go to it next year as well. First thing i noticed entering the park was this huge solar panel displayed inside the park.

Glad to see that ACL was doing its part for green energy. The display was to advertise Texas Solar Power company in Austin. They are installers of solar panels in and around Austin, Houston, and couple of other states. It was set up with an inverter and a huge battery pack to show that all that energy can be stored and reused during night. They were actually powering some of the medical equipments and some lights at night. Just wanted to share this with everyone.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Off the grid

There has always been a question in my mind about this. After watching videos like Homegrown Revolution

and movies like Food Inc.

I started to wonder, what if you can produce your own electricity and go completely "off the grid" and have that freedom? Is it even possible? Can a family living in an average sized house produce enough energy to not depend on the big energy companies for their daily energy needs? Is it possible TODAY? Well lets take a look.

First things first, WHAT is going off grid mean?
It means that you produce your own energy to provide to all your daily needs. Your house is self sustained, and it provides its own energy by means of natural sources like sun, wind, flowing water, etc and man made clean energy sources like hydrogen fuel cells, batteries, turbines etc. Your house is not connected to any power lines, it is not connected to any grid system, and it is certainly not leaving a carbon footprint.

Why go off the grid?
There are many reasons to go off the grid. We are depleting our coal resources every single day. As we use up all our resources, the price will inevitable go up for the scarce commodity. Therefore, the energy cost will go high as well. Generating electricity using your own small renewable energy system fits the circumstances and values of some home and small-business owners. Basically you are buying a lifetime of energy, NOW, and be free of rising energy cost. Its a freedom worth investing in. Although it takes time and money to research, buy, and maintain a system, many people enjoy the independence they gain and the knowledge that their actions are helping the environment. You will be one more person not polluting the only planet we have.
Its good to go off the grid just so that we wouldnt have to live like this in the near future....

How can you go off the grid?
There are many ways you can produce your own energy, sun, wind, flowing water etc. Of course, if you live in a big city, flowing water might not be the practical way to go. However, sun and wind are available no matter where you live. Installing a 4 to 5 kW solar panel system on your rooftop would be sufficient to power all the appliances that you need during the daytime. At night you can have batteries, wind turbines and hydrogen fuel cells providing all the power you need. Below is a model home which is off the grid. The only connection it has to the electric grid is for backup, and it doesn't use any electricity from the grid.

The image above shows all the different ways of going off the grid. Just as an example you can see there are several ways to have the energy freedom.

Here is another simple example of electrical connection for going off the grid
My Opinion: All the technologies to go off the grid already exists today. It is absolutely possible to go off the grid. If you think of them as an investment for a lifetime, then you will realize it is very lucid to invest in renewable energy, not to mention it increases the resale value of your house. I think the first step is to get rid of the HOAs*, because i can promise you that they will restrict everything you do! If you cant, then write to your state representative about the HOA* problems, because the state can always trump any HOA*. If you are the first in your neighborhood to go green, I can guarantee that your neighbors will follow suit after you show them how much money you are saving.

*HOA - Home Owners Association

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Top 10 countries using Solar Power

Solar energy is becoming more and more popular among the grown and the growing countries. This is mainly because of government recognizing the energy problems and giving out more and more incentives for going solar, to both the general public and the corporations. The countries are starting to compete, to lead the renewable energy race in solar energy. I started wondering about which countries have the most amount of installed solar systems. So i wanted to do a top ten list of the countries which uses the most solar energy (in Mega Watts, MW) in the world. I wanted to do this in a Letterman style but i think its better to write a short note about each country pointing out its highlights and some interesting facts. So here we go counting down.....

(image source)
10) India (120 MW) - One of the countries with fastest growing solar energy industry, India makes the top ten list for the solar power users of the world. A country of billion people has a very high energy demand. Located only 8 degrees above the equator, India gets plenty of sun each year. For these obvious reasons, solar was the smart choice for India to pursue. In July 2009, India unveiled a $19 billion plan, to produce 20 Giga Watts of solar power by 2020.

(image source
9) France (272 MW) - More than double the installed capacity of India is France. What helps france very much is their well designed Feed in Tariffs for Building Integrated PhotoVoltaic (BIPV). One important issue of concern in France is that although many MW of solar energy have been installed, a lot of them have not been connected to the grid. If this problem is resolved soon, France will be moving up on this list.

(image source)
8) China (305) - Although China gets a lot of attention these days for its renewable energy push (not surprising), its mostly in the wind sector. What we forget is that China is the biggest producer of Solar panels and this comes in no surprise that they installed a ton of it in their own country. The government has taken a vow to change cities like Linfen, Yangquan and Datong, which are the most polluted cities in China. According to China’s national energy plan, it is expected to reach a total of 20 GW by 2020. We shall wait and see if the Chinese can keep up with the growing demands.Fun fact: China has already overtaken US in the overall renewable energy investor ranking. It has become the most attractive country to invest in for wind and solar energy.

(image source)
7) Belgium (363 MW) - I would say Belgium was a surprise contender in this solar race. The Belgium government designed a well planned Feed in Tariffs. With a population of approximately 10.7 million, it has shown strong growth in its appetite for photovoltaics since the region’s government initiated its extremely appealing package deal in 2006.

(image source)
6) Czech Republic (465 MW) - This country installed the most amount of solar panels in 2009 next to Germany. There was a sudden boom in the solar market due to a generous Feed in Tarrifs by the government and local incentives. There are several US companies that are already investing in Czech solar market. 

(image source)
5) U.S (1650 MW) - Coming in at 5th place is the U.S. Solar market. I'm actually not so surprised by this result since U.S. government incentive is not very attractive and most of the major cities don't even have any policies or any plans towards going solar (one of those cities would be the fourth largest city in U.S., Houston). Most of the panels installed in U.S. are in California. The cap on the federal solar tax credit was lifted in 2009, promoting growth in this industry. Despite the recent recession, the US market for residential solar panels doubled in 2009, and increased 37% from 2008. Hopefully, we will be moving forward on this list after the economy starts to ramp up a bit.

(image source)
4) Japan (2633 MW)  - What you see above is a flexible solar technology as an AIST conference in Tokyo, Japan. Can you imagine a garden full of these solar flowers and plants on the rooftops? Government residential PV programs, net-metering, high national solar energy goals to reach 28 GW by 2020 and 53 GW by 2030. On top of this, the support of local authorities and the private sector make Japan a world leader in this field. 80% of new homes in Japan will have solar power installed with it by the year 2030. Japan is one of the fastest growing countries in the solar market and i would not be surprised if it moves up to the top position in the next few years.

(image source)
3) Spain (3386 MW) - Despite the fact that Spain was one of the countries that was hit with the economic crisis, it pushed forward on the renewable energy side to grab the third position. There was a delay in the new government subsidy programs towards the solar market in the first quarter of 2010. With expectations that both of these will improve in 2010, and considering its excellent sun irradiation and PV potential, Spain is expected to bump up its solar energy capacity again this year.

(image source)
2) Italy (4000 MW) - Every two months, Italians install more solar power than California does in an entire year. (To put that in perspective, Italy is slightly smaller in land size than California, with a fairly similar population). In the second quarter of 2010, Italy’s solar market grew by 127 percent over the previous quarter, according to research and consulting firm Solarbuzz.This success is due to a well managed FiT**, lots of government incentives, and of course plenty of sunshine. Going at this pace, I'm pretty sure that Italy has the potential to catch the top position.

(image source)
1) Germany (9785 MW) - Germany is clearly the world leader and will be the world leader for years to come. No other countries even come close to the installed solar power to this country. Above is the picture of the Gut Erlasee solar farm in Germany which produces about 14,000 MW hour annually which is enough to power a town of about 9000 residents. With cities like Sonnenschiff (which produces 4 times the energy it consumes purely from solar power), Marburg and Freiburg (entire city is powered by solar energy), it is no surprise that Germany is the world leader and it plans to stick to this position for years to come. 

My opinion - Well there you have it, the top ten countries in the world that harness solar power. I think that other countries will be following this trend and i expect more countries to join this race. The reason Germany is the leader is mainly because of the people. They clearly took solar power to their heart and made a commitment to crate a change. An energy revolution has to come from within. 

**FiT - Feed in Tariffs

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A powerful movie

I would say this movie is like Planet Earth but with a powerful message that makes you think, how much we have exploited our Earth. Now i don't know how accurate the statistics are in this movie, but the message that the movie is conveying to us is lucid. We are consuming more than our share, our demands are much higher than the available supply, and we are not aware of our actions which will lead to the imminent danger that is lurking in the near future.
What stuck me in awe was the fact that 20% of the world's population is consuming 80% of the resources. The world's richest 2% controlling the rest of the 98%. The countries with natural wealth don't have access to their own natural resources. Nearly 3 million farmers feeding 2 billion people.
I do like that this video, not only pin points the problem, but also provides a solution to this threat that we caused. If we create an awareness among people, we can work together for the common cause. We can learn from our ancestors and our mistakes. There is still hope to change our actions. Harnessing Renewable Energy is a key solution to this growing problem and that several countries are committed to change their course.

Please watch this movie called HOME and share your thoughts: HOME

If the link doesnt work, here is the actual address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqxENMKaeCU