Thursday, October 15, 2009

Snapshots of 3D Solar's prototype panel

I thought today (Blog Action Day 2009) would be a good day to post a couple snapshots of my prototype solar panel. Getting these made was my "summer project", which morphed into the full-on launching of my new company 3D Solar Inc.
For anyone new to the site, these patent pending panels incorporate a mirror with each row of solar cells forming a V-shape pair. This is easiest to see in the top picture, where the mirror is on the left and the row of cells on the right (pattern repeats)--if you look at the bottom of the picture you can see the V. The reason this is/should be "interesting": because the mirror puts more light on the cells, you get more power from each cell, so you need fewer cells per panel, leading to less expensive panels.
I have sent the prototype to an independent testing lab where they will measure the performance of the solar panel and report back.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Digital Photography and Visualization

So last night the news was that the guys that developed the technology for digital photography and one who developed high(er) purity fiber optics used in communications share this year's Nobel Prize in Physics. This combination of technologies has led to a revolution in digital imaging and communications over the past couple decades.

It seems fitting that one company, now at the center of the internet and how we communicate, is devoloping tools for us to visualize how the earth will look in the coming decades as the planet heats up. Because we are such a visual-centered society, I hope this can get more people involved and working toward solutions.

I've only had time to check out the opening video, but Google Earth and the IPCC are making available some super cool tools for seeing what the impact of global warming may be. And they launched a YouTube channel on the topic of climate change and the upcoming Copenhagen meeting. They even have a contest where the best viewer generated videos will be played on CNN.

Monday, October 05, 2009

"Greenprint" for America's future

I just finished reading The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones. It is "motivating" "inspiring" "a call to action" and clearly demonstrates how the twin problems environmental and economic bankruptcy need to be solved together. This IS the guidebook for our generation.

I heard Van Jones give a 15 minute speech at a solar conference a couple years back and I was impressed. Having just read his book I am nearly awestruck. This is not just another green book banging on about kilowatts and megawatts for that see my recent post on Sustainable Energy, this is a book about healing our economy, our country and our planet. Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" was the problem statement, this book clearly outlines the political side of the solution.

Van Jones grasps the concept that energy efficiency is our biggest, quickest win. It's not as sexy or high tech as solar panels and wind mills, but it provides the biggest economic benefit per buck. And for a country awash in unemployed people, adding insulation and calking windows provides solid employement opportunities (not to mention lower utility bills) for those without graduate on ramp to the new energy ecomony for the growing masses left behind in the fossil fueled economy--which he believes was epitomized in the "wake" of Hurricane Katrina.

The brilliance of the book is Van Jones's ability to see and express ways that disparate "interest groups" can band together, support each other and push for political solutions that are "good for all" as well as being "green for all". If the financial crisis of the last year (which was decades in the making) teaches us anything, it is that entirely selfish pursuits end up hurting us all (well okay all of us except the major bank CEOs apparently). Instead of that sort of thing (and the book came out before the bank "bailout" hit) Van Jones provides a message of unity and solidarity where we help each other while saving the planet. This is not a smooth road, there are powerful financial interests that profit from the fossil fuel industry and the status quo, and they will fight tooth and nail to continue their own profit growth at any human cost. In order to overcome such powerful interests we need to create the broadest possible alliance and build support at all levels of our society (students, environmentalists, religous/faith communities, labor, and social activits) to push for the business AND government based solutions that will retool our economy for the brighter, greener, fairer economy that we need to create. This is an all hands on deck problem and we need to find ways to awaken, engage and unite the citizens of the world to solve it.

Van Jones combines rhetorical flair with broad strategy, sensible policy solutions and inspiring examples of real world groups that are leading the way. It has inspired me to see that not only are our problems connected--we are all on this giant marble together--but that in order to save the planet we need to come together to develop solutions that benefit everyone around us.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Go see Michael Moore's latest movie

I went to see Capitalism: A Love Story yesterday, and I loved it. It is a classic expose of how the American political system has been corrupted by unbridled greed. America's debt crisis has been decades in the making--and Moore brilliantly traces several threads that illustrate how the American Dream of the 50s has transformed into our current American Nightmare.

Don't get thrown off by Moore's penchant for quirky titles. Moore harbors no love for capitalists or capitalism--and he pulls no punches in this film. Most readers are probably familiar with Michael Moore's style of documentary, what Moore does brilliantly is frame the issue. Moore combines hard facts, pithy statements/quotes, old newsreels and raw emotional interviews to rail against the establishment powers that rig the system so they make ungodly sums of money even as they literally (and morally) bankrupt our country. As we all witnessed less than one year ago.

Moore has decided to take on capitalism directly and in strictly moral terms. Capitalism is EVIL--and what better description is there for a system that enforces the "right" of banks to throw millions of people (a.k.a. taxpayers) from their homes, while simultaneously taking in tens of billions in public money (a.k.a. our tax dollars) just to "stay afloat". And with "A Love Story" Moore makes his case.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Review of Sustainable Energy--without the hot air

I was surfing some energy related blogs yesterday when I ran across a link to David MacKay's web-book Sustainable Energy--without the hot air. While long in terms of pages, it is quite skimmable and packed with lots of easy to read tables and figures.

David MacKay does an excellent job of relating the enormity/difficulty of decarbonizing our energy system TO EACH INDIVIDUAL PERSON. His audience is clearly the "average" British citizen and his examples revolve around his intended audience. MacKay breaks down the mind numbingly large national energy flows to the per person level. He uses simple round numbers that cut through the complexity of a national energy system without losing the essential reality of our current energy usage and challenging prospects for decarbonizing it.

After providing a relatively thorough assessment of the British consumer's options for living sustainably--given current sustainable technology and throwing in some technologies that will likely become available in the medium term--which revolve around better (in carbon terms) transport and more efficient heating/cooling, plus "all of the above" renewable generating technologies, MacKay gives a brief overview of the rest of the world can follow suit. It is worth noting that efficiency improvements (2/3 from converting to EVs + mass transit, 1/3 from more efficient heating--a.k.a. heat pumps) are ~ equal to "realistic" renewable resources.

MacKay effectively quashes the notion of British energy independence--in the sustainable energy sense that the island is able to generate as much as it uses. But he does hold out the hope that "imported" solar energy from deserts/North Africa could balance the British carbon energy equation in the long term.

As a major solar enthusiast I was disappointed to see that prospects for solar in Britain appear limited, although importing energy from solar farms located in desserts could be the *wildcard* in allowing Brits to live sustainably (i.e. without carbon/coal).

Nevertheless MacKay's analysis appears sound. The challenges are major, but if we do the big sensible things (EVs, solar thermal, heat pumps, lower the thermostat in winter etc.) simply becoming AWARE of our horrendous energy appetites seems to have done wonders for MacKay's personal energy use and we ignore the rest (MacKay really resents people who distract him with myopic/trivial energy "fixes" or else he had a bad childhood experience with an undercharged phone) it just looks possible to leave a functioning planet to our children and grandchildren.