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Over three decades ago, Chernobyl became the household word for disaster. Plagued with radiation poisoning and cancer deaths, the city was plunged into ghost town status, a sobering reminder that mankind had to be careful about the choices it makes in pursuing sources of energy. Having learned its lesson, the Ukrainian government seeks to raise the beleaguered city to prominence by building one of the world’s largest solar farms. If all goes as planned, the new solar facility could end up producing nearly a third of the electricity that Chernobyl once generated. Infrastructure Partly in Place Ukraine’s environmental officials note that Chernobyl can be considered viable for such a vast solar site.  The high-voltage transmission lines previously used for the city’s nuclear stations are still in place. In addition, the acreage is “cheap real-estate” so land costs are not an issue. Neither is recruiting people who have the power plant training required to run the facility. The land surrounding Chernobyl—about 6,000 hectares within Chernobyl's "exclusion zone"—would become host to the 1GWh solar power plant, providing enough electricity to light the equivalent… Read more

It cleverly combines solar tech with storage tech, and it could revolutionize the solar power industry. Resembling a flower of solar panels, the new product is aptly called “SmartFlower.” It’s already in 20 different European countries and soon it will “pollinate” U.S. backyards, corporate rooftops and fields wherever the sun shines—to power everything from homes to office buildings. Smarter Than Your Average Solar System The SmartFlower offered by SmartFlower Energy Technology is the complete solar system. It features built-in intelligence as well as a tracking and power management system. At dawn, the Sunflower fans out its solar petals to nearly 200 square feet of sun-absorptive space. It cleans itself automatically every morning to ensure it captures every watt of the day’s sun power. And like a real flower, SmartFlower automatically turns and keeps following the sun all day long, thanks to a dual-axis tracking system that ensures its panels remain at a 90-degree angle to sunlight. Energy taken in all day is stored in highly efficient lithium-iron-phosphate (LiFePO4 or LFP) batteries. This power is then continually managed via a smart… Read more

Egg barns use lots of energy, mostly for refrigeration to keep laid eggs fresh. Canada's Brant Hutterite Colony,  an egg barn in southern Alberta, plans to significantly cut its carbon footprint. Its goal is to produce over 13,000 eggs a day without greenhouse gas emissions. The solution: employ solar panels and other high-tech equipment to make Brant Hutterite a net zero operation—to essentially produce as much energy as it uses. A New Normal for Animal Housing The fully sustainable facility will be powered by rooftop solar panels and other high-tech systems that significantly reduce its carbon footprint. The pioneering effort heralds a new era of sustainability for agricultural groups. Canadian agricultural officials have noted that the Brant Hutterite Colony clearly redefines how the industry addresses energy efficiency and reduced climate impacts for animal housing, Initially reluctant to accept the concept of solar panels and other energy efficient modifications to its new barn, the Colony became amenable to the idea after receiving a $250,000 provincial government grant to help offset some of the project’s costs, which included 100 solar panels. Live Web Monitoring The Brant Hutterite Colony has conducted several tours… Read more

A new solar cell is being developed that converts carbon dioxide directly into usable hydrocarbon fuel when exposed to sunlight. The breakthrough innovation mimics plants, turning atmospheric carbon dioxide into fuel. It highlights the possibility of solar farms covered with “solar leaves,” producing fuel with unprecedented efficiencies. Instead of generating energy via the unsustainable path from fossil fuels to greenhouse gas, the new cell effectively reverses the process, recycling atmospheric carbon into fuel using the sun’s inexhaustible energy. Photosynthetic vs. Photovoltaic The new breed of solar cell replaces photovoltaics with photosynthetics, efficiently recycling atmospheric CO2 directly into usable fuel using the sun’s energy. Instead of producing sugar fuel from sunlight like most plants do, photosynthetics-based artificial leaves produces synthesis gas, or a mix of hydrogen gas and carbon monoxide. This “syngas” can either be burned directly or turned into a hydrocarbon fuel. Taking this to its ultimate conclusion, turning CO2 into a fuel that competes cost-wise with gas or diesel would signal the end of fossil fuels as a viable commodity.  Refining Reduction Reactions Converting CO2 into carbon that can… Read more

Solar panels are covering rooftops all over the country, helping homeowners scale down electric utility costs, especially during hot summer months when AC units are switched on. Perhaps no home is doing more to go solar than one particular dwelling in the middle of Mishawaka, Indiana. The single-story home is not only covered with 40 solar panels but employs large airtight, energy efficient windows to seal in comfortable temperatures inside. Cutting the Fossil Fuel Umbilical The home’s owner notes that his sustainable house runs entirely on solar panels, adding that his windows are a primary source of heat. Going completely solar was a gradual process. After attending several solar energy conferences, the owner literally rebuilt his home from the ground up, bringing the house up to "passive energy" standards. A passive house is one that’s specially designed (or modified) to "increase its living quality and energy efficiency." This includes implementing "strict performance requirements for new building construction." The Passive House Standard Bringing a house up to the Passive House Standard can cut its heating and cooling energy usage by as much… Read more