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Going Green: More Solar!

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solar panelOne day, I’ll write one of these posts and not mention Tesla or Elon Musk. Today is not that day. Next one isn’t looking great either. Who knows, maybe 2018. Probably not.

Sistine Solar co-founder Senthil Balasubramanian says Tesla’s work on solar energy and storage will be a “game changer.” Which is kinda like saying people walking around in Seattle will probably carry umbrellas. But there it is, one expert hailing Tesla and the mastermind behind it, Elon Musk, game changers.

Solar! Cheap, awesome, all encompassing solar. I feel like Elliot Gould’s character from Ocean’s Eleven, explaining the unbreakable defenses of a casino vault. “They got cameras, they got locks, they got watchers, they got timers, they got vaults, they got enough armed personnel to occupy Paris!” Except I just replace all the words with solar and call it a day.
Elon Musk wants to power the US with solar and it seems easier than you might think. He needs a small corner of a western state, like Utah or Nevada, just 100 square miles of solar panels. That would be enough to power the entire continental United States 24/7. And the battery, or batteries to hold all that delicious, buttery sun juice? Just 1 mile square.
This was just a few days ago, which, of course, means that it can probably be done with less now. Scientists have just put out a solar panel that almost doubles the efficiency of absorption over current leading panels. The parts are transfer printed, which makes them super precise and then is made from stuff normally reserved for infrared lasers, which helps it absorb every part of the direct light.
Elsewhere, this startup called Physee is whipping out these things called PowerWindows. They’re your typical business-style windows, except they’re designed to channel the light that hits them toward the solar collectors around their edges. A Dutch bank has already gone energy neutral by switching to them, and the next edition is on track to produce triple the energy. They’re going to coat the windows with space magic that will transform incoming light into near-infrared that’ll then get sucked up by those collectors.
This stuff just keeps getting better and better. Those Solar Roofs I talked about last time, Tesla gave them an “Infinity Warranty.” With the info release, Telsa said “Glass solar tiles are so durable, they are warrantied for the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first.” Infinity, guys! That is LITERALLY forever. Tesla’s also picked up a bid to create the largest lithium-ion battery in the world to combat South Australia’s power outages. The 100MW/129MWh battery will be completed in December 2017 and, according to Tesla, will power 30,000 homes.
Tesla has quickly become the Google of solar energy. While, sure, Google isn’t the entirety of the Internet, a vast majority of people use a Google-powered phone with a Google made Internet browser to listen to music from Google Play or Google-owned Youtube, sharing them across their Google created Gmail or Inbox. Tesla seems to quickly be going down the same route.
To that end, though, they aren’t all that’s happening, we have this cool guy named John Goodenough making waves in the battery world. He’s kind of a big deal. He co-invented lithium-ion batteries. And now he thinks he may have topped himself. You see, he’s got this solid-state battery that doesn’t suffer the same disadvantages of lithium-ion, namely, it doesn’t threaten to explode or catch fire if you charge it too fast. Switching out the liquid electrolytes of lithium-ion for glass, they can quickly charge it, have it hold a bunch of energy and last a really long time, which is cool. Exploding batteries are no fun.
The Interwebs are also telling me solar, well, renewable energy as a whole, has topped nuclear power in the US, and that it’s on track to become 25% cheaper by 2022. But given how explosive the field is, I wouldn’t be surprised if that number ends up arriving earlier.
To sum up: Solar! Get it!

Going Green: Tesla’s Solar Roof

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For those looking at building green, become acquainted with Elon Musk and his company Tesla. They are doing for green technology what Google is doing for the internet, which isn’t to say they’re the only or best source, but that they’re the big kid on the block. They have the money and ability to make large steps forward, or test multiple new technologies that benefit several different fields.

One of these steps forward is their upcoming Solar Roof, a slick piece of tech that is slated to revolutionize the residential solar energy landscape.
Solar energy is one of the largest growing job fields in the United States. It is, likewise, one of the swiftest developing systems in green energy. Initially, solar energy was a bit unwieldy, large, heavy, difficult to install and actually not super efficient. But today, with powerful lithium storage, new photovoltaic cells and ever more efficient manufacturing, solar panels are easier to install and can “break even,” which is to say they are able to produce as much energy as is required to make them, in two years or less.
Now back to Tesla. Using these new manufacturing techniques, combined with their own lithium breakthroughs that have gone into powering their Tesla line of automobiles, they’re on the cusp of releasing their Solar Roof. The thing with the Solar Roof is that it doesn’t look like a bunch of solar panels tacked onto a regular roof. It looks like a roof.
From the street, to the naked eye, Tesla states that the panels of their Solar Roof do not look like panels at all, but from above, the panels are fully exposed and gobbling up that sweet sun energy your lithium storage devices crave. So far, Tesla’s offering smooth, glossy black tiles, ripply-looking textured tiles, slate and even those brown, wavy Tuscan tiles. All these tiles top out at 325 watts.
Now, this Solar Roof isn’t the only solar option out there, but it might be the prettiest or at least the least obvious. Panasonic also offers panels that also output 325 watts, with an efficiency just over 20%. There’s also a crazy looking contraption that incorporates solar, wind, water and basically any other means to gather energy into a single roof, but that’s the subject of another entry.

Until then, you can go to tesla.com/energy to check out these Solar Roofs (roof has stopped looking like a real word now) and other energy goodies. I’d go over to the column here and subscribe to this blog so you can see the other fun toys I’ll be talking about later.

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