The government’s target of installing 175 GW solar power capacity by 2022 as part of its overall climate management plan is encouraging big corporates, which have leveraging capacity to raise cheaper funds, to enter the arena, edging out smaller players. Here’s a look at the big players in the business.
Have you ever just wanted to pack up your home, drive off, and live on the open road?
While that idea seems far from reality for most of us, one couple made their dream of a nomadic lifestyle come true. They’ve been living their best lives in an RV for over a year with their two dogs.
Ching Fu and Jerud Crandall are outdoor enthusiasts who travel around the country without depending on fossil fuels. They bought an old RV in 2011, spent a year converting it into a sustainable home, and now have an amazing vehicle that is completely powered by solar panels.
This is how the RV looked when they bought it.
As you can see, there wasn’t anything particularly special about it.
Sure, it already had a nice setup, but Fu and Crandall transformed it into an awesome adventure mobile.
With the help of a friend, they got started with the rebuild in 2013 by tearing off the roof.
They took off the entire shell and proceeded to remove mostly everything because of water damage.
The bedroom was rotting and unlivable, so they ripped the whole thing out.
The kitchen wall wasn’t much better, so they tore that out, too, and got rid of the floor.
Then it was time to rebuild the bedroom and kitchen into cozy areas.
With all of the rooms in much better shape, they added two layers of insulation around the vehicle.
The last big step for the outside was attaching a new RV shell.
And with a little interior remodeling, they were left with this awesome living space.
However, the inside isn’t even the best part about this home on wheels.
Fu and Crandall also attached 1,220 watts of solar panels to the roof, allowing the RV they nicknamed “Toaster” to run on 100 percent clean energy. Even their appliances run off of solar energy!
The RV even has its own water tanks for drinking, showering, and sewage.
Fu says, “Our lifestyle and setup on the road is driven by our belief that with our passion for the outdoors comes our responsibility to take care of it.”
They’ve certainly done that, because they have been able to travel across the U.S. and Canada without having to rely on fossil fuels.
Because of their untethered way of life, they constantly get to witness incredible sights.
The couple and their dogs have been on the road for one and a half years, and they don’t plan on returning to living in a house anytime soon.
With destinations like these, who could blame them?
Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/home-on-wheels/
“How does solar energy work when there’s no sun?” has been a question for pretty much about as long as solar energy has been a thing.
Of course people wouldn’t want solar panels on their houses if installing them meant that, come sunset, the movie they were watching suddenly shut off, forcing them to read by candlelight like colonial settlers. Making solar power a viable option, even when the sun sets or disappears behind some clouds, was one of the first things scientists and engineers had to figure out.
When the first devices that could capture the sun’s energy were invented, they weren’t very efficient.
Much like touch screens or video chatting or Dorito-flavored taco shells, solar power is one of those perfect ideas that took a while to get just right. Believe it or not, the earliest solar devices were introduced in the 1800s.
In 1878, Augustin Mouchot invented a device that could freeze water using the concentrated power of the sun. It was a cool experiment but not exactly reasonable or viable options for large-scale energy production.
Mouchot won a gold medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris for his invention, but his device was gigantic, and coal was quickly becoming the go-to for efficient energy, so it didn’t catch on.
The other downside to his invention? The solar-powered water-freezer only worked on (you guessed it) sunny days. But, that was 1878. Things have changed a lot since then.
Over the last century, the efficiency and feasibility of solar power has dramatically increased, and it’s getting better every day.
Just look at this fun, easy-to-read chart!
I know, I know, it’s a lot to take in. Just know that it’s showing you that since 1975, we’ve gotten better and better at efficiently converting the sun’s rays into energy that can power our homes, businesses, and even a few cars and planes.
So how does solar energy keep providing power when the sun goes down?
The answer is pretty simple: storage.
Today’s solar panels are designed to soak up more energy from the sun than we actually need and store it for later.
The way they do it is pretty amazing. Photons (aka light particles) hit the solar panel really hard so hard that electrons (aka what electricity is made of) get knocked loose. Then the solar panel guides those loose electrons into a battery or superconductor that can store them. If an area has a reliable electricity grid, homeowners can just hook their solar panels right up to it. For them, nothing changes from their normal source of power except (usually) a smaller electricity bill.
A lot of people don’t realize that going solar doesn’t have to mean going “off grid,” says Dan Whitson, solar manager for Green Audit USA in Long Island, N.Y.
“The grid is pretty reliable here, so battery options arent necessarily cost-effective on Long Island,” Whitson explained over the phone. “But thats something we have to explain to homeowners that, you know, youre still going to be connected to the grid even though youve gone solar.”
If there are solar panels on your roof, it’s not like your PlayStation is plugged directly into them. The solar panels run into your regular power lines and help offset some of the energy cost, or they run into a box that will store the electricity, quite literally, for a rainy day.
Solar farms are power-plant-scale versions of this concept.
They can be built in the middle of a desert where the sun is incredibly powerful and cloudy days are rare. The panels can even pivot automatically to follow the sun’s path across the sky.
After the panels soak up as much energy as they can, the energy is transported to nearby cities. There’s a solar farm in Austin, Texas, that produces enough power for 5,000 homes and offsets over 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
Oh and, yes, solar panels can still collect energy on cloudy days. They’re just not as efficient about it.
That’s because clouds don’t block all the sunlight, just some of it. If you walk outside on a cloudy day and can still see, that’s because there’s still sunlight, even if it’s a bit more muted than usual.
That’s where storage and the grid come in. Energy companies rely on the grid to offset any dips in production they might experience on a cloudy day.
“All of the reputable solar production calculators out there take in 20 to 30 years of weather data based on region,” Whitson said. “So they can predict how much sun youre going to get throughout the course of a year. Most projections are taking into consideration that its not going to be sunny every day.”
Also, as previously mentioned, efficiency is one of the key things scientists are constantly trying to improve about solar panels.
“How does solar energy work when there’s no sun?” is a simple question that cuts right to the core of a pretty huge idea.
It’s the type of question that scientists, engineers, researchers, and experts around the world have to ask every single day in order to get better at what they’re doing.
It’s the type of question that brought solar energy from an obscure experiment to a feasible source of electricity that powers millions of homes around the world.
The more you think about it, the more it seems like solar panels were gifted to us by a strange foreign planet.
Of course, there’s one major catch: The amount of energy solar panels create and store can be substantially affected by weather.
With a little tweaking, these graphene-coated cells could very well revolutionize how the some areas on our planet generate power.
But the story actually gets more dramatic from there.
Not wanting to be outdone, researchers at Binghampton University’s Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science inNew York published a paper of their own on the same topic.
In their study, they were able to generate energy across a bio-solar panel using bacteria. BACTERIA, you guys! According to their research:
“Using cyanobacteria (which can be found in almost every terrestrial and aquatic habitat on the planet) as a source of clean and sustainable energy … the group connected nine identical bio-solar cells in a 3×3 pattern to make a scalable and stackable bio-solar panel. The panel continuously generated electricity from photosynthesis and respiratory activities of the bacteria in 12-hour day-night cycles over 60 total hours.”
This means the weather might not even matter much for generating solar energy in the future. “This could result in barrier-transcending advancements in bio-solar cells that could facilitate higher power/voltage generation with self-sustainability, releasing bio-solar cell technology from its restriction to research settings and translating it to practical applications in real-world,” the report read.
Both rain and bacteria-powered solar energy are a long way from becoming readily available, but the proof of concept under development in these projects is awesome.
People are really into solar energy right now. In fact, last year was the biggest year on record for solar energy development, with over 7,000 megawatts of solar power being installed in the United States alone. China also plans to triple its solar power capacity by 2020 in an effort to significantly reduce its greenhouse emissions, according to a recent Bloomberg report.
Welcome to Ashton Hayes the small English town that’s casually leading the way toward carbon neutrality.
“Carbon neutrality” is a fancy way of saying that Ashton Hayes is working toward reducing its carbon footprint until it produces as much energy as it uses.
Upon first glance, Ashton Hayes may seem like any other countryside town, but when you take a closer look, you start to notice solar panels on roofs, clothes drying outside on clotheslines, and houses with glazed windows designed to improve insulation.
It might not sound like much, but these community efforts have effectively reduced the town’s greenhouse emissions by approximately 40% in just 10 years.
The idea to make carbon neutrality a community-wide mission was planted by Ashton Hayes resident Garry Charnock, a former journalist and hydrologist.
He was attending a lecture at the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts, which called for the audience to think about what they could do to help curb climate change. While he said he was skeptical about a single individual being able to make any sort of significant impact, he wondered if his town as a whole could.
Charnock asked the town’s parish council if they would support a community-wide carbon neutrality pledge. On Jan. 26, 2006, in the presence of 60% of the town’s adults (and a large percentage of the children as well), the idea was publicly proposed and accepted.
Just like that, the people of Ashton Hayes took one significant step toward a greener future.
Members of the community started implementing small changes in their daily lives to promote carbon neutrality, and slowly but surely, their greenhouse emissions have shrunk.
They saved energy by turning things powered by electricity off as much as possible, switching to LED bulbs, relying on heat and air conditioning sparingly, walking more, and using public transport.
According to Charnock, they cut their emissions by 20% in the first year by doing so.
When neighbors started sharing what solutions were working for them, the ideas grew in size and scope. Soon, solar panels began to pop up all over town.
Community members, like Kate Harrison, are seeing their energy bills plummet, but even more exciting is how this collaboration has unified the town under one common goal. “What I really enjoyed was getting together with other people and talking about what we did,” Harrison says in a video on Ashton Hayes’ carbon neutrality project.
Community cohesion has increased significantly since the carbon neutrality mission was adopted. One reason for this, Charnock suggests, is that the carbon neutrality mission was created by and for the people in the town, without the influence or direction of politicians (who are only allowed to listen at meetings if they attend).
There were never any community-wide mandates to contribute to the cause just neighbors inspiring each other to make an effort here and there.
“We also felt that by working together, we eliminated that feeling of being an environmental pressure group. Instead we made it normal to talk about energy savings,” Charnock wrote in an email.
The children of Ashton Hayes are also incredibly involved in the town’s work to reduce its carbon footprint.
“The primary school has been a catalyst for the project,” Charnock wrote. “All our major meetings are held there and the kids always do a project that they demonstrate to the public.”
Aside from harboring an active eco-team, the school’s roof is made entirely of community-funded PV panels (photovoltaic solar panels), which in turn have helped the building become carbon negative between the months of May and September.
Involving the children in the project gives the next generation a firsthand look at just how simple it can be to reduce one’s carbon footprint and have a real impact on the community overall.
With Ashton Hayes’ efforts proving so effective, other towns have gotten in touch to ask for advice on how to start similar initiatives. Ashton Hayes is only too happy to help.
People from Ashton Hayes have given talks to over 150 communities in the United Kingdom alone on their work to lower emissions and they’ve made award-winning videos that’ve reached many more.
According to the detailed diary on the Ashton Hayes town website that chronicles their progress, they’ve been contacted by towns all over the world that are looking for ways to lower their own carbon footprint. Little by little, the Ashton Hayes carbon neutrality movement is picking up steam.
With the onslaught of alarmist news about how harmful climate change is becoming and all the things we’ve done wrong up to this point, the mission to try to turn things around for the planet can often feel hopeless. When you look at a town like Ashton Hayes and see all that its members have accomplished in just 10 years, however, it’s clear that hopelessness is far from true.
Sure, Ashton Hayes is just one small town, but imagine if every small town the world over followed in its footsteps. Sometimes all it takes is one simple, well-implemented idea to start a powerful trend that could change everything.
Old libraries are pretty dope.
For bibliophiles like me, walking through an old library feels like walking through a cathedral. The way the light filters through the windows, the sound of hushed conversations, the slightly rough feeling of a leather-bound book sliding out of a shelf … old libraries even have their own smell.
And there are some really amazing old libraries, like Trinity College Library pictured above, or New York Public Library, or the British Library all of which I’ve either loved visiting or keenly want to.
But if we want to talk about old libraries, the Qarawiyyin Library beats them all.
Qarawiyyin is the oldest library in the world and is located in Fez, Morocco. The first foundations were put down in the year 859, making the library nearly 1,200 years old.
Unfortunately, at nearly 1,200 years old, the library was seriously starting to show its age.
I’m talking broken tiles, no insulation, cracked beams, walls that were starting to look considerably un-wall-like … there were even exposed electrical wires and sewage problems.
And what’s worse (at least from a bibliophile’s perspective) the books were in danger! Water had started to creep into the collections, threatening the library’s some 4,000 manuscripts. If you’ve ever accidentally dropped a favorite novel into a bath before, I don’t have to tell you how quickly water can ruin books. And when we’re talking about books older than the Renaissance, even just a spike in humidity can do some serious damage.
Taken together with the crumbling structure, the library needed to be closed off to the public for at least a couple years.
In 2012, the government asked architect Aziza Chaouni to help restore the library.
And, today, it’s going to be ready for visitors again!
The pictures from inside the library look amazing. Chaouni, a Fez native, has restored the library to its original glory, revealing a distinctly elegant building full of elaborately carved windows and archways, with Arabic calligraphy built into the walls and golden chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
Behind the scenes, though, Chaouni’s renovations have also added a distinctly modern aspect to the library as well. Air conditioners run surreptitiously behind wooden carvings. Solar panels capture sunlight and help power the building. And, yes, they’ve even fixed the plumbing problems.
The books have also gotten their own upgrades.
An underground canal system will help drain that book-killing moisture away from the building, and a lab full of advanced machinery will help scholars preserve and digitize the rare books.
There’s even a special highly-secure room for the rarest and most valuable documents, including a 1,200-year-old copy of the Quran.
Precise temperature and humidity controls and strict security mean these super-rare, super-valuable texts and manuscripts receive the care and attention they deserve.
These changes mean that, once again, the library will be open to everyone, and it will rejoin Fez’s amazing cultural legacy.
In fact, the entire neighborhood, known as the Medina of Fez, is so amazing that the UN has declared it a World Heritage Site.
The library is also attached to a mosque and university, and it features archives, reading rooms, cafes, and even a courtyard adorned with fountains.
No definite opening date has been set yet, but the Qarawiyyin Library is expected to open by the end of the year. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI is expected to inaugurate it when that day comes.
Chaouni wants this renovation to be part of a plan to restore Fez’s status as a cultural center of Morocco, too. New music festivals have helped young people rediscover the medina and Chaouni has a plan to restore the river in Fez after years of pollution.
“I would like my kids to be able to see this heritage,” Chaouni told The Guardian.
This library’s story is particularly heartening considering how many important Islamic cultural sites are in trouble right now.
While Morocco has been more or less an island of stability, many other nations in the region have not been so fortunate. In 2013, for example, insurgents set fire to a library of historic manuscripts in Timbuktu, Mali. Farther away, ISIS has been targeting cultural sites throughout Iraq and Syria, including destroying thousands of books and documents when they raided the libraries of Mosul, Iraq.
This is especially hard to see considering the intimate and historic connection between scholarship and Islam.
Libraries are more than just a collection of books. They’re a part of our heritage.
When the Qarawiyyin Library’s founder, Fatima al-Fihri, first envisioned the library, she wanted to give her community a place of learning and wisdom.
It’s awesome to see that nearly 1,200 years later that heritage is still intact.
In too many ways, 2016 has been a rough one for America.
Way too many of our favorite celebrities died. We suffered a great deal of loss at the hands of Mother Nature. And now, this we’re capping off 12 tumultuous months with the end to maybe the most divisive, mind-boggling election in U.S. history, and many people have been left anxious about the prospects of President Donald Trump.
As we move into the holiday season, thinking about giving back and being thankful, there are a few things America desperately needs now as we all prepare to move into 2017.
Here are six gifts you can give America this holiday season:
1. The gift of more digital and print newspaper subscriptions to keep Washington (and Trump) honest and citizens informed.
Votes aside, no election is influenced by just one factor. But this election in particular felt the brunt of fake and misleading news on social media and cable news coverage that focused more on style than on substance.
Newspapers, on the other hand, provided some incredibly thoughtful and important reporting on the election and the state of our country from Trump’s questionable history paying federal taxes to Hillary Clinton’s complex time as secretary of state. The more newspaper subscriptions we have at our fingertips, the better. Give the gift of a newspaper subscription (or share your subscription with a friend), and the entire country becomes a better informed place to be.
2. Give the gift of an LGBTQ community that understands they are all of value, no matter who they love or how they identify.
Last week, as it became clearer Trump will be our next president, calls to suicide prevention hotlines for the LGBTQ community spiked. Tragically, it’s not all that surprising Trump and vice president-elect Mike Pence are peddling possibly the most anti-LGBTQ platform in party history.
We can also support groups like The Trevor Project and the Human Rights Campaign to make sure the voices of our LGBTQ friends and family are elevated and prioritized, even if a Trump White House likely won’t be listening.
3. The gift of making immigrants feel right at home in their new country.
Building a wall became a cornerstone in Trump’s campaign. Our president-elect has threatened to deport millions of people and has demonized millions more. Many immigrant children and families are understandably afraid, left feeling as though their country doesn’t want them here.
But organizations like Soccer Without Borders want every kid to succeed in America.
The U.S. branch of the nonprofit based in Oakland, California uses soccer as a catalyst to unite kids from various backgrounds and different countries through sport. The group provides educational support, creates community service opportunities, and has a great track record at helping empower kids toward academic success.
We can also support groups like E4FC, which connect young undocumented immigrants to the legal and academic resources they need to achieve their goals, and Voto Latino, which empowers Latinos to become agents of change in their communities.
4. Give the gift of a green Earth that will stay habitable for centuries to come.
Soon, we’ll have a president who’s called global warming a hoax invented by the Chinese. That should be terrifying to anyone who wants their grandkids to live on a beautiful planet.
Let’s not beat around the bush we need to do a lot to combat climate change, and we need to do a lot now. We can pressure our legislators to support clean energy, do our own part to live an eco-friendly life, and maybe the easiest one plant more trees.
Through conservation nonprofit American Forests, we can gift new trees to plant on behalf of others, and help offset our collective carbon footprint. Each tree costs just $1 to be planted, so you can see how a $25 or $50 gift can certainly grow into a huge impact.
5. The gift of security for every person seeking to access their right to an abortion.
Trump who once suggested women should be “punished” for having an abortion has vowed to appoint Supreme Court justices who would flip Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that confirmed a person’s right to choose. This means well-funded and accessible clinics are more important now than ever before.
The Clinic Vest Project is one group helping clinics like Planned Parenthood do their work by providing vests, like the one seen above, to the friendly human shields that escort women from their cars to the facility entrance, oftentimes through aggressive protesters. That walk can be a painful and intimidating experience for someone who might already be in a vulnerable state, so these helpful, supportive people wearing colorful vests to show they’re an ally are crucial.
6. The gift of more diverse children’s media because representation matters, now more than ever.
Kids are feeling anxious and uncertain on the heels of the election especially children from groups that have been mocked or criticized during the campaign, like immigrants, Muslims, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ people. It’s important we reassure them that, yes, they are loved and that we’re a society that values diversity and inclusion.
Children’s books that make this point clear like “Promised Land,” which follows the interracial love story of Prince Leo and his farm boy crush, Jack should be in playrooms and classrooms across the country.
Diverse kids’ media shouldn’t be confined to books, though film, toys, and TV series are just as crucial. Shows like Nickelodeon’s “The Loud House” and coloring books like “Dream Big! More than a Princess” can be awesome tools that encourage our children to be confident in who they are and understand that they matter.
America has always been the sum its parts. The combined contributions of those of us who live here are what makes it great. Let that inspire you to kick off 2017 with a clear head, a big heart, and a determined spirit.
No one’s disputing that this year has been a rocky one in more ways than we’d care to admit. But we made it.
If you’re on edge about what 2017 will mean for you and your loved ones under our new president, don’t feel helpless fight to make sure America stays true to all the values that make us the great country that we are.
In 2015, nearly 60,000 refugees arrived in the Netherlands needing a place to live.
The Netherlands is a small country, just more than half the size of West Virginia, so housing all of them was going to be a challenge. As the worldwide refugee crisis continues, innovative solutions are needed so that the people fleeing civil war and sectarian violence have a safe place to live.
In this case, the solution involved, in part, opening up an old abandoned prison as temporary public housing. It was a less-than-ideal situation to say the least.
The country was determined to do better.
In January 2016, the Netherlands launched a design competition called “A Home Away From Home” in which entrants were tasked with designing temporary housing for refugees and disaster victims.
All of the winning designs rethought the idea of public housing, adding amenities and innovations to make the buildings more like fully functioning homes than simply a bed to sleep on.
The winners of the contest recently appeared on display in Amsterdam as part of Dutch Design Week and included things like solar power, water purification systems, and ingenious use of space and material.
This Farmyard shelter is designed to transform vacant farmland into mini villages.
The cube design of the Farmland means dozens can be stacked, placed together, and moved easily. The architects of this design imagined the miniature villages establishing a “DIY economy” with local towns.
Another designer created these styrofoam towers as perfect low-waste housing for refugees being processed at reception sites.
They’re insulated, waterproof, fire resistant, and very cost-efficient. They have all the amenities of an apartment beds, a sink, a toilet, a shower, and a kitchen table and can easily be rigged up with electricity.
Comfort City is one designer’s solution for cities that don’t have enough space to house a large number of refugees.
Every part of the Comfort City design is modular and adaptable, meaning it can be easily constructed in empty industrial buildings or even abandoned prisons while providing the homey comfort that abandoned prisons tend to lack.
Then there were designs like this modern Solar Cabin that can actually generate revenue and electricity.
Its solar paneled roof actually generates more energy than is needed to power the home, so the occupants can sell electricity back to the local grid to make a profit.
And finally, this sleek cube design actually comes with a built-in water purifier.
The cubes are Finch Evolutionary Wooden Buildings and are portable, easy to construct, and run on solar-powered batteries. They also have a vacuum toilet system that recycles water on site, making the whole thing self-sufficient.
We’re going to need more and more of this type of housing and way of thinking about the refugee crisis.
Home is a concept many of us take for granted, but it’s not a small thing. It makes us feel safe, comfortable, and human.
The current refugee crisis hasn’t showed signs of slowing down, and with climate change creating more and more dangerous weather systems, we’re likely to see climate refugee numbers grow sharply. All of those people are going to need places to live. Innovative solutions like these help them to not only live, but live with dignity and opportunity.
Cycling is one of the most eco-friendly ways to travel, and thanks to this solar-powered bike lane that glows in the dark, it just got even moreso.
The luminous blue cycling strip, which can be found near Lidzbark Warminski in the north of Poland, was created by TPA Instytut Badań Technicznych Sp. z o.o. It’s made from a synthetic material that can give out light for up to ten hours at a time once charged by the sun throughout the day. Although the concept was inspired by Studio Roosegaarde’s Starry Night bike lane in the Netherlands, the technology is quite different as the Dutch version uses LEDs whereas this one is entirely dependent upon solar power. It’s still in the testing phase at the moment, but let’s hope that this bright idea will be implemented in other countries in the very near future. (h/t: inhabitat)