Solar Power Your Business

Have you wondered what all the "buzz" is about using solar energy to provide power for your home or business? Perhaps you have thought that the technology is too expensive or otherwise not worth the investment. Its time to change that thinking. More and more often, property owners are installing solar panels on the roofs of buildings, to harness energy from the sun to be converted into electricity. Power bills for the buildings on which the panels are installed drop to next to nothing as a result. Each panel costs between $150 and $1,500, depending on the brand, vendor and wattage. Currently, solar cells cost approximately $4.30 per watt. For a 50-watt solar panel, the total cost is about $215. The number and square footage of panels required to power a business is determined by calculating watt-hours of electricity typically used over a 24-hour period. Not surprisingly, the expense of the initial installation is the biggest hurdle.
Sun Edison and MMA Renewables specialize in providing financing and solar power installations for commercial customers. In addition, expect to see more tax incentives for renewable energy sources in the future. Additional information about current incentives and subsidies can be found at The Solar Guide.

In Bend, Oregon, one local newspaper has installed solar panels on the roof of its building. The Source Weekly is located near the downtown center in a historic building. Known as an off-beat, quirky news organization, perhaps it is not surprising that it is also forward-thinking with respect to solar energy. Solar panels installed on the rooftop are proudly visible to passers-by which, is both innovative marketing and good, green sense. If a small business can successfully incorporate solar power into its business model, perhaps its time that larger organizations start to do the same.

Images by Stephanie Hicks (Bend, Oregon - July 11, 2008)


Solar Powered Big Wheel

Ready for a ride? Go along with the Hippy Gourmet as he interviews Stanford University's award winning professor and inventor Bob Schneeveis. Always up for a bit of fun with renewable energy, Bob shows off his one-of-a-kind solar powered big wheel built for two. The features of this odd solar powered vehicle will surprise you!


Al Gore Speaks About Carbon-Free Renewable Energy

On July 17, 2008, former United States Vice-President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Al Gore gave a compelling speech at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. about the urgent need to develop renewable energy sources within the next 10 years. He challenged Americans (and their leaders) to be "running on 100 percent zero-carbon electricity" in the coming decade. Among other things, Mr. Gore championed the fact that solar, wind and geothermal power is more affordable, while we have to face the reality of the climbing costs of coal and oil. A new advertising campaign, developed by The Alliance for Climate Protection, will encourage supporters of clean energy sources to advocate for new laws and policies that will result in the reduction of global warming. Currently, the United States is generating an abysmal 3% of its electricity from renewable sources like solar energy.
Gore talked about updating the electricity grid in the United States. Connection with areas rich in wind and solar energy would help the rest of the nation. He also talked highly of plug-in electric vehicles (PEHVs), which, if combined with a carbon tax could "increase the flexibility of our electricity grid." Gore's speech has been compared to the 1961 address of JFK to put a man on the moon within 10 years (which was accomplished ahead of schedule, by the way).
Later in the day, Mr. Gore answered questions on National Public Radio (NPR) regarding his monumental speech. Among many things that he discussed, Gore noted the fact that Germany has a strong solar energy policy and, as a result, the relatively small country has more solar panels installed than the total square footage in the United States.
Watch Al Gore's Speech here:

When asked about whether Gore would accept an invitation to be Vice-President once again, he laughed and stated that he had imposed his own term limits on the Vice-Presidency, which he served for 8 years under Bill Clinton. At this point in his life, the 60-year old Gore is much more interested in serving the cause of preventing further global warming than sitting in political office. I cannot think of a better person to lead this charge.

Mr. Gore noted that 10 years is the maximum amount of time we have to act before we will not have the ability to recover from environmental crisis. Tellingly, Gore also noted that a decade is just about the amount of time our political attention span would permit: "A political promise to do something 40 years from now is universally ignored because everyone knows that it's meaningless. "Ten years is about the maximum amount of time that we as a nation can hold a steady aim and hit our target."
Let's all hope that our attention span for reducing greenhouse emissions and our reliance on foreign oil supplies does not run out first.


Solar Panel Glass-A Window to the Future

There is another exciting development in technology news concerning solar energy! On July 10, 2008, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced the development of "solar concentrators," which operate to take energy from sunlight that strikes a window and concentrate it at the edges of the pane, where solar cells would be located.
The effect of the new solar windows would be to increase efficiency of traditional solar panels by up to 100%. The new solar panel glass would be best suited for office buildings with large areas covered by windows. Similar to solar paint, special dyes that absorb light is "painted" onto a pane of glass. When UV light strikes the panes, solar energy then is pushed out to the edges and collected, where it can be harnessed on much smaller surface of solar cells.
The solar windows such as these would be a more cost-effective way of utilizing renewable solar energy, than larger, more expensive solar panels. The future will still have to wait, however. It will be about three years before solar panel glass will be available for installation and use.

New system will deliver about twice as much power(100% more!) than regular solar panels.

For more information, watch the following MIT video in which Mark Baldo discusses MIT's solar concentrator.


Solar Taxi on Tour

If you thought Solar Taxi was the name of a new rock group, think again. The Solar Taxi is a two-seater solar powered electric car that can go over 200 miles without recharging and can reach a maximum speed of 60 MPH. The car is powered by a five-meter solar trailer covered with six square meters of solar cells. Electricity is stored in a newly invented ZEBRA battery. It’s the brainchild of Swiss teacher, adventurer and environmentalist, Louis Palmer, whose dream is to drive this car around the world without using a single drop of gas or creating a single CO2 emission. His dream is coming true right now. The point, according to Palmer, is bigger than a personal challenge. He wants draw attention to the need for alternatives to fossil fuel and to demonstrate that there are solutions to global warming.

The Solar Taxi team started driving west from Europe last July and has now traveled more than 34,000 kilometers covering India, China, S. Korea, and Australia. At the moment they are cruising down the west coast of the United States—country number 28 so far—making stops at various UC campuses before heading east. They plan to be in Montreal by the end of September. The tour will finish at the World Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland on December 3rd. You can check out the route here. Stop by and say hello if you have a chance.

Driving the Solartaxi in India
Holy Cow :-) The Solartaxi team had to lean on the horn driving in India

from Shanghai to Beijing in China
Solartaxi takes on Chinese beaurocracy-- they don't call it red tape for nothing :-)


Promoting Plug-In Electric Cars

She is not even old enough to drive yet, but Liza Stoner from Minneapolis, MN is riding her bike to Washington, D.C. from her hometown to raise awareness about plug-in electric vehicles and electric hybrids (PEHVs). The 14-year old girl aspires to be an environmentalist when she grows up, and it appears that she is well on her way. Currently, Liza has completed more than half of the 1,585 mile "Ride for Renewal", riding 40-70 miles per day. She plans on delivering a petition to Congress on or about July 18, 2008 when she arrives at the Capitol. You can sign the petition here, which seeks governmental tax credits and other incentives for companies that produce electric cars. Talk about a breath of fresh air! I've already signed the petition - now its your turn.


Solar Power Can be Entertaining

Is your head starting to spin with all you've been hearing about solar power and alternative energy sources? Maybe you've been to the Santa Monica pier in California! A world-famous ferris wheel is powered by solar panels, and illuminated with LED lights, making it one of the premier attractions at the park.

The amusement park ride was first constructed in 1996 and was the first and only solar powered ferris wheel in the world. A new ferris wheel opened just in time for Memorial Day weekend in May 2008, at the cost of $1.5 million. The incorporation of 160,000 LED lights on the ride cuts energy consumption and costs for the park as a whole, while installed solar panels generate over 71,000 Kw hours of PV power. Use of solar power allows the 90-foot ride, and its 800 passengers per hour, to operate wholly on clean, renewable energy. Now that is something we can all smile about, while we go around and around on the benefits of solar energy.

Photo by Daquella manera Thank you!


Solar Powered Gate Opener

Looking to save on your energy bill? Who isn't? More and more these days, solar panels are being installed to use energy from the sun and convert it to electrical current. Living in a very "Green" city, Bend, Oregon, I have noticed a number of creative ways that homeowners and businesses are using new PV technology to power everything from traffic signals, school reader boards and gates. One property owner along a busy thoroughfare has gated his driveway to prevent trespassers who like to cut through a gravel shortcut to a nearby trail system. The gate is powered by a solar panel, which probably cost between $150 and $250 (including shipping). That's it! Companies such as Hoover Fence Company offer the solar panels for sale on their websites. Energy from the sun will power as many as 15 gate openings per day. You can even preview installation manuals on-line to determine how easy it is to get a solar powered gate up and running on your property.

Of course, not all gates are as rustic as some of these models. For luxury properties, you may wish to consider a $1500-$2000 gorgeous wrought iron solar energy operated gate. Amazing Gates is one company that manufacturers these beauties. Not only can you purchase solar powered gates directly online, but you may also view installation videos.
You'll be able enjoy significant savings on your power bill, and the next time there is a storm or power-outage in your area, you need not worry about getting through your solar-powered gate.

Still "on the fence" about whether to get a solar-powered gate opener? Let me tell you: the grass is definitely greener on this side.

AmazingGates Installation Video part 1

Video Part 2

Video Part 3

Photos by Stephanie Hicks (Bend, Oregon, USA 7/7/08)


Solar Powered Political Statement

Travel with The Hippy Gourmet for an interview with inventor Bob Schneeveis, and see his brilliant Solar Powered Walking Chariot. This chariot is pulled by a robot who appears to be roller blading and is named for his uncanny likeness to George W. Bush. Learn more about this college professor and eccentric inventor who is using his expertise in robotics to spread the word about solar power. Watch as he takes his quirky inventions and bright personality down new avenues of exploration.


GM Goes Green in A World-Wide Way

As if all the hoopla about GM’s new Chevy Volt electric car weren’t enough, the Detroit based automaker has gone a step further in repenting for its sinful, SUV producing past. As part of its new green image, GM announced on July 8th that it will install the largest solar roof in the world on its car assembly plant located in Zaragoza, Spain. The project will cover 2 million square feet of rooftop, and will use approximately 85,000 solar panels. On completion the project should generate 15.1 million kilowatts of power per year. The company is not just talking green talk, it is putting its resources into walking the green walk. It's a brave move as there is little margin for error.

GM’s announcement comes amid whispers of bankruptcy and at a time when GM stock is lower in price than it has been in 40 years. What will happen, both to the project and to GM, is anybody’s guess, but clearly, one of America’s biggest corporations has totally reversed course and realized that the future of the country and of the world lies in finding viable alternatives to fossil fuel. It’s good to see an American automaker waking up to reality. Come home to America, GM. All is forgiven. I can’t wait to test drive a Volt.

GM Europe President Carl-Peter Forster discusses this new project.


BLM Reverses Course on Solar Energy Project Moratorium

The United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced on July 2, 2008 that it will not implement a moratorium on reviewing solar energy project applications during the time that an environmental impact statement is prepared to study potential impacts of such projects. Recently, an outcry was raised when the agency announced that during the time the EIS was being prepared it would not accept additional solar project applications for review. With the current energy crisis reaching serious levels, many wondered why the BLM would suspend potential development of renewable energy sources like solar energy. Of note, the BLM did not suspend wind or geothermal energy project applications during its environmental review of those projects. Considering the vast amount of land in BLM's ownership - primarily in the Western United States and Alaska - permitting of utility-scale solar energy projects on its land is crucial to demonstrating true governmental backing of solar project on federal lands. If the permit applications currently pending are approved, more than 20 million homes could be powered by clean, renewable solar energy. Just think of the savings in electric bills that could be realized. The reduction in CO2 emissions and corresponding effect on global warming cannot even begin to be estimated with the delivery of clean, carbon-free electricity that could be realized through permitting of solar projects. The next push is to convince BLM to expedite the processing of the applications that have already been submitted. As of the date of this publishing, BLM has not approved a single solar energy project.

For more information regarding the EIS process, see: Solareis

Photo by Stephanie Hicks (Lake of the Woods, Oregon - July 2007)


Will Your Next Home Have Solar Power?

Will you buy green? If you are in the market for a new home, long term rental or vacation getaway be sure to explore the green options currently available.

What qualifies a home as green? Here are a few of the requirements:
  • Photovoltaic (based on solar cells) and/or wind power systems
  • Solar thermal hot water systems
  • Built to be energy efficient
  • Water saving devices
  • Use of Eco-friendly building materials

At Listedgreen you will find MLS listings for hundreds of homes around the world that meet a few or all of the above requirements. There are homes available in every price range and design, including older homes that have been updated with solar shingles to ultra contemporary luxury homes incorporating multiple energy efficient systems. All listed homes are reviewed and verified by humans to meet their strict requirements. Whether you are looking for a stunning California waterfront estate, a small Nevada desert getaway, or an urban condominium or townhouse, there can be a green home in your future.


Solar Power, Tax Credits and Government Shenanigans

It’s showdown time for solar power in the United States Senate. It’s the fossil fuel interests against the renewable energy crowd and the stakes are high. Once again on June 17th a Senate filibuster prevented a vote on the renewal for eight years of the 30% tax credit for investment in renewable energy. The renewal is necessary to attract the investment in time and money necessary to wean the country from dependence on coal and oil. As the price of oil spirals higher and higher, and concerns about carbon emissions and global warming escalate, utilities, corporations and the general public are more and more on board with solar and wind for energy production. But without the tax credit extension, it just won’t get done. The window of opportunity is closing. There are a couple of weeks left in July and then Congress goes on vacation for the month of August. If the extension doesn’t get passed by the end of September, then the game is, for all intents and purposes, over. The 30% tax credit goes down to 10% making numerous projects now in the planning stages no longer viable and venture capital harder to come by.

It is a shame, but the showdown has to do not only with the politics of oil, gas, and renewable energy, it is also tied up with parochial fights between Democrats and Republicans over extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, the Iraq War, and a host of other Bush Administration policies.

This is a moment of truth for American Energy policy that will have lasting effects for the nation and for the entire world. Keep your fingers crossed and lets hope the good guys can get this tax credit extension passed.

Photo by alykat Thank you!


Solar Power Comes Crashing Down

The sky is falling! Will getting hit in the head with a large battery knock some sense into people? Or will they continue to ignore the solar energy that falls from the sky everyday? The video Hail - The Return of the Sun was created by Solon AG, a German based manufacturer of solar cells and PV power panels as a part of their campaign to raise awareness on the subject of solar power.


A Green Light for Solar Panels

Solar energy is free and plentiful. And it doesn't have to be a bright sunny day in order to harness the power of the sun to electrify our lives. If we can use solar power to energize our laptops and cell phones, even our homes, why not cut down on the energy costs associated with traffic management? PV solar panels can be installed on or near traffic signs to power flashing lights that alert drivers and pedestrians to conditions on the road. Northwest Power LLC, based in Colorado, produces Solar Traffic Signs that will work in cloudy coastal regions, as well as sunnier climes.
While out for a weekend run, I discovered one of these devices about 2 miles from my home. On the front of the sign is a cautionary blinking light, signaling a busy intersection ahead. The PV panel absorbs solar energy which is converted into electrical power; a battery is located at the base of the sign. Among the benefits including lower energy costs for the governmental agencies maintaining the signs, include the ability to avoid running power lines and/or trenching, as well as lower maintenance costs. The technology has spread to allow use of solar power to energize street lights, traffic lights and brighten road studs. Importantly, these traffic signals will continue to function in the event of a power failure when the need for safety alerts may be most critical. With all these positive features, government agencies should be getting the green light to install these reliable, energy-efficient signals.

Photos by Stephanie Hicks


NOT Working on Solar Panel Powered Electric Cars Says Dyson-Just a Digital Motor

The news was announced a couple of weeks ago in an article in Britain’s respected Independent newspaper. England’s most famous inventor, Sir James Dyson, is developing an electric car powered by solar panels and capable of real speed and distance. Web Pundits and bloggers all over the world picked up on it right away. What an appealing idea: The man who liberated the housewife from icky vacuum cleaner bags is going to free us all from the tyranny of the internal combustion engine. The news spread across the internet with the speed of a Paris Hilton video.

And then the Dyson spin machine turned on and the retractions started. Bloggers and web-pundits who had heralded the news last week have taken it all back in the past few days. The company’s Public Information office explained that Sir James, in his interview with the Independent, was talking about their cutting edge digital vacuum cleaner motor and just observed that it could possibly be used to power an electric car. The journalists misunderstood.(yeah, sure) Listen to the audio clip on Gas2.0.com.

I, for one, don’t believe a word of it. Journalists, particularly in big print media, are big on fact-checking and getting quotes right. The reclusive Dyson just wants the media off his back is what I think. Who can blame him? I wouldn’t want the pressure either if I were in his shoes. But I bet the work goes on, and I’d put my money on Dyson any day to come up with just what the world needs—a fast electric car powered by solar roof panels.

Photo by nobihaya Thank you!


From Dyson Vacuum Cleaners to Solar Panels Powered Cars

I filled up my car with gas this morning and had one of those déjà vu moments. Waiting my turn in a line of ten cars, I was transported back thirty years to the gas lines of the last energy crisis. This morning I saw the same grim desperation in the faces of motorists jockeying for position at the pump. I felt a little desperate myself as I shelled out a king’s ransom for half a tank of gas. Here we go again, I thought. The squeeze is on.

At least one man I have faith in is working on the problem. Britain’s most famous inventor, Sir James Dyson, of Dyson vacuum cleaner fame, is now turning his considerable talents to the development of a solar powered electric car by using solar panels. Traditionally, electric cars, although quiet and pollution-free have been slow—around 30mph—due to the fact that batteries powerful enough to produce speed, and compact enough to not take up all the space in the car, could not be developed. Automakers from Detroit to Tokyo are working on the problem, but most are thinking in terms of batteries that recharge by being plugged in to an electrical outlet of some sort.

Once again, inventor Dyson is thinking outside the box. Reportedly, he and his research group are working on a lightweight electric vehicle whose battery will be charged by solar panels, installed on the roof of the car and on the roof of the garage where the car is parked. Admittedly. there are some kinks to be worked out, but according to Dyson, his lightweight, fast, solar powered vehicle will be road-ready within a few years, and able to travel hundreds of miles between charges.

I don’t know about you, but after paying for my gas this morning, I can hardly wait.

Photo by williac Thank you!

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