Open-sun drying has long been used to preserve many fruits, vegetables, and fish. The reason is simple: dehydrated foods stay fresher, longer on market shelves and at home. This is why you can purchase some fruits “off season.” What’s more, dehydrated products weigh less and are more compact, making them easier to store and ship across long distances. Solar food processing hopes to change the way food is dehydrated, adding cost efficiencies to the entire process. Ideal for Rural Settings Solar food processing provides high quality foods while minimizing today’s rising fuel costs. Many solar dryers, collectors and concentrators are already being employed in various areas of food processing and in adding value to foods. The basic design of solar food dryers as well as their handling ease has made products like the SEED Solar Dryer an ideal choice for food processing, especially in rural areas. By drying food close to where it’s harvested, the need for expensive transportation or storage of fresh produce is significantly reduced. Conventional Drying Alters Food—Chemically and Physically Conventional methods of drying fruits, vegetable and… Read more

Interconnected wireless devices could be in for a huge uptick in efficiency if chip manufacturers have anything to say about it. Companies worldwide are gearing up to make microprocessors that feature tiny solar cells.  The new chips are expected to achieve conversion efficiencies as high as 80 percent. These super chips will be needed to power what’s known as the Internet of Things (IoT), which are the tiny embedded sensors streaming information from machinery, automobiles and household appliances to networked servers. Materials science is going full bore to exploit the sun’s limitless supply of energy. Four Semiconductors Instead of One The solar cells on rooftop panels use only one type of semiconductor to convert sunlight into electricity. The new super cells employ four semiconductors to absorb more energy from the entire solar spectrum. Startup, Semprius recently unveiled a four-semiconductor cell that delivers efficiencies exceeding 44 percent. Chipmaker, Soitec last year produced a four-semiconductor cell that it expects will reach 50-percent conversion efficiency. MIT Shooting for 80-Percent Efficiency Engineers at MIT are “aiming for the moon” with a chip that will… Read more

Municipalities love them. Shoppers hate them. But, sadly parking meters are here to stay and now, they’re going solar. Case in point: the Portland Bureau of Transportation has already replaced the city’s more than 7,100 single-space parking meters with multi-space, solar-powered SmartMeters. The new meters were installed in the middle of street blocks, with each meter typically serving as many as seven parking spots. Pioneered in Portland Portland was one of the earliest adopters of the new SmartMeters and they can be found almost everywhere in the city. In fact, most of the paid parking spaces are currently being monitored throughout the downtown, South Waterfront and Oregon Health and Science University districts, including much of the Lloyd district. As one of the first large cities in North America to install solar powered parking meters, the city hopes to show what can be done with this advanced technology. Going Solar Saves on Batteries The six-foot SmartMeters are equipped with a 10-watt solar panel that generates enough power to fully recharge the meter’s sealed lead acid batteries. Even on cloudy or rainy days,… Read more

One of the first things that comes to mind when one thinks of utilities is the street light. They light up the normally dark spaces of streets and add safety near curves and intersections. Trouble is, most streetlights are energy wasters and operate in just one light intensity. In 2012, the U.S. spent over $160 billion on residential outdoor lighting. Sun-Tracking Solar-Powered LED Street Lights have the potential to significantly reduce this expense because they not only employ low-power LED lights but they fully exploit the power of free solar energy. Sun Tracking Boosts Efficiency While street lighting provides safety for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians, it draws considerable power from electrical grids and often comes on too early or stays on after sunrise. Sun-Tracking Solar-Powered LED Street Lights are self-sustaining devices, designed to replace the existing streetlights. They feature built-in sun-tracking mechanisms to ensure they gather the most solar energy during daylight hours. Sun tracking also means that the lights instantly respond to darkness to ensure they operate when they are needed most. Both modes of operation meet the needs… Read more

Bike sharing systems have become increasingly popular in larger cities around the world. But what if you could combine the practicality of these systems with solar power for e-Bikes, which many riders now prefer? Cities in Europe and China are taking the lead here, since most accept the idea of bicycling to short destinations, and an even greater number like the concept of solar wherever it can be employed to save the environment. Growing Trend New innovations in pedal assisted electric bikes (e-Bikes) have spurred a growing market for them worldwide. Such bikes are especially ubiquitous in China where 90 percent of them are sold. In fact, e-Bikes herald the arrival of electric vehicles on a massive scale in major cities in Sweden (not including trams and trains). The simple reason is that they combine both energy efficiency and economy compared to other electrified modes of transport. Riders like the fact that they can pedal farther with less effort, especially going uphill or against the wind. Even longer rides are no longer such a challenge, further reducing the need for… Read more