93% Of Apple Facilities Run On Renewable Energy

Apple is quite busy these days, with the recent announcement of their new iPhone SE and  their legal battles with the FBI regarding encryption. Amongst all of this though they seem to have time to keep investing and enhancing their facilities, with the recent revelation that 93% of their facilities run on renewable energy.

Of all of their facilities, 23 countries already have a complete transition to renewable energy, including those in China and the U.S. Some of these facilities use traditional means of renewable energy generation, with solar panels lining their Singapore rooftops while in China there is even a solar farm that has been built to be yak-friendly.

With ambitions to increase the materials used for packaging coming from recycled materials or sustainable sources, Apple doesn’t seem to be stopping on the eco-train either. With pressure coming more and more from governments and the public to use renewable sources and clean energy Apple looks like it wants to be ready for when people ask about it next.

Apple isn’t the only ones interested in green technology. Amazon has already expressed their interest in going green for their server farms and Microsoft going so far as putting some of its servers underwater, we could soon see a day where the companies creating your technology do it environmentally responsibly.

General Electric Wants to Create Large Solar Batteries Using Pollution

Solar energy is incredibly practical and relatively easy to obtain, but it’s definitely not easy to store for later use. Scientists have been trying to come up with a solution to this problem for quite a while now, and it looks like things are finally looking up. A team of researchers from General Electric have come up with an idea on how to store solar energy and what to do with leftover CO2 sequestered from coal plants. Apparently, the solution comes in the form of a giant battery that would hold all of that excess energy, but how exactly would this battery work? Well, the main idea is to use solar power and a concentrated mirror array in order to heat up salt, while CO2 stored underground is cooled to a solid dry ice state with the help of excess grid power.

At peak times when the grid requires a boost in electricity, the heated salt can warm up the CO2 and cause it to enter a supercritical state between gas and solid, at which point it can be funneled into special GE turbines that can generate power rapidly. Dubbed “Sunrotor,” the project could potentially generate enough power for 100,000 homes. Moreover, the system could also be powered using wasted heat generated by gas-fired power plants, in which case it could become even more efficient. According to  Stephen Sanborn, a senior engineer over at GE, the system could reduce costs from $250 per megawatt-hour to $100, and he explained exactly why:

“It is so cheap because you are not making the energy, you are taking the energy from the sun or the turbine exhaust, storing it and transferring it.” 

See-Through Solar Panels Could Turn Windows and Screens into Energy Generators

Solar panels are more popular in homes than ever, and a new innovation could take their personal use to the next level. Silicon Valley startup Ubiquitous Energy, founded by researchers from MIT and Michigan State University, is hoping to bring transparent solar panels to a household near you. The practical implementation of the technology is boundless, from windows in homes and cars, to screens on smartphones, tablets, laptops and televisions.

“It’s a whole new way of thinking about solar energy, because now you have a lot of potential surface area,” Miles Barr, Chief Executive and co-founder of Ubiquitous Energy, said. “You can let your imagination run wild. We see this eventually going virtually everywhere.”

The basis of the technology is to convert the energy from the invisible ends of the light spectrum into electricity. Since such a solar panel will only be absorbing invisible light, it will allow light visible to the human eye to pass through, meaning the panel can be transparent. Ubiquitous Energy has taken published research from 2011 and developed an optimal formation for transparent solar panels from it.

“There is generally a direct tradeoff between transparency and efficiency levels,” Barr added. “With the approach we’re taking, you can still get a significant amount of energy at high transparency levels.”

Ubiquitous plans to introduce the tech on a small scale, to begin with, starting with smartphones and watches powered by the sun’s rays. “We think providing battery-life extension and solving battery life problems will be a very good entry point for us,” Barr said. The company is not working to a particular timeframe, but hopes to debut the technology soon.

Thank you National Geographic for providing us with this information.

Wales Has First ‘Energy Positive’ House in Britain

Wales has become home to Britain’s first ‘energy positive’ house, so-called because it can generate a surplus of electricity which its owner can then sell on. The three-bedroom detached property in Cenin, South Wales, cost £125,000 to build, according to its designers from Cardiff University.

The house is lined with heavy insulation to retain heat during cold months, with solar panels covering the roof and mounted in the garden. For eight months of the year, the house is expected to generate £75 more electricity than it will use, which can then be sold back to the national grid or stored within the property’s batteries.

It was developed to serve the low-carbon housing bill, proposed by Labour in 2006. Current Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, however, has recently scrapped the bill. “It was disappointing to see Osborne scrap the plans,” said Professor Phil Jones of the Welsh School of Architecture. “But the devolved Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish governments can set their own building standards. One reason we built this house was to demonstrate to builders that you could meet the standards at an affordable price with off-the-shelf technology. The housebuilders could do it too if they wanted to.”

Jones says that building his ‘energy positive’ design en masse could bring the cost of each property down to £100,000. “We save money and space by making the photovoltaic panels the roof itself and by dispensing with radiators and making the air collector part of the wall,” he added. “The building demonstrates our leading edge low carbon supply, storage and demand technologies at a domestic scale which we hope will be replicated in other areas of Wales and the UK in the future.”

Thank you The Guardian for providing us with this information.

Solar Cell Hits High efficiency, Can Power Remote Locations

Another day towards greener future has passed and researchers over Aalto University with Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya has managed to boost the efficiency of solar cell by 4 percentages on nanostructured silicon solar cells. These solar cells are also referred as ‘Black Silicon’. These solar cells can convert solar energy to usable energy (electrical) with an efficiency of 22.1%. The Black silicon is far better at collecting light from the sun at low angles and thus can be used in northern regions where it is common.

This is an advantage particularly in the north, where the sun shines from a low angle for a large part of the year. We have demonstrated that in winter Helsinki, black cells generate considerably more electricity than traditional cells even though both cells have identical efficiency values, Professor Hele Savin said. In the near future, the goal of the team is to apply the technology to other cell structures – in particular, thin and multi-crystalline cells.

The new Black Silicon is expected to be cheap and good for mass production. It can replace the current solar cell and should reach the end market soon. It is going to be a very useful tool to produce electricity in remote locations where power supply via grid is not yet possible. We currently do not have any more information on any release date, but we will keep you up to date as soon as we do.

Thank you Nature for providing us with this information.

Europe’s Power Companies Managed the Solar Eclipse Fine

There were some concern and nervous employees in the European Power companies before and during the solar eclipse yesterday. It was especially tense in Germany where more and more of the electricity is generated and who lead the world with most electricity generated by solar power. The UK was also affected, but not quite as severely as Germany.

The good thing about solar eclipses is that they don’t come suddenly and it’s possible to plan ahead with secondary power sources such as coal, wind or even atomic generated electricity. In Germany the production went down by 13 gigawatts while the UK only saw a decline of 850 megawatts. Luckily everything went smoothly and the companies had calculated more reserves in than were needed, partly because a lot of people were outside to observe the spectacle and didn’t consume as much electricity as they’d otherwise would.

A single fail could have been catastrophic as it would put extra strain on other sources, making them prone to breakdown too and thereby creating a wave effect. But it just goes to show, planning is everything. Mission accomplished and the experience can be used to calculate even better during the next eclipse.

Thanks to CNbeta for providing us with this information

Need To Charge On The Go? How About A Solar Dress?

With smartphones becoming so essential to everyday life for most people keeping your device charged is always an issue. So how do you keep your device charged on the go? Well you could buy a battery pack, mobile charger, even a solar powered mobile charger. But if you’re feeling really adventurous (and you’re female or just like cross-dressing) then you could wear a solar dress! Fashion designer Pauline Van Dongen recently showed-off her wearable solar dress, designed to keep you and your devices powered on the go. Her startup Wearable Solar certainly has some interesting potential. However, I can’t imagine many ladies would want to be seen in that monstrosity pictured above, let’s hope she has some more low-key designs up her sleeve!

Pauline Van Dongen explained the inspiration of her wearable solar idea to TechCrunch:

One of them is the fact that we highly depend on connectivity. We’re all addicted to our smartphones and we want them constantly powered, and the better our batteries get, the more we’ll use them. And at the same time, working as a werable tech designer, I know the difficulties when integrating these kind of bulky batteries that don’t allow for any comfort or wearability. So that’s why I thought, why not power your phone through your clothes? And eventually power other interactive qualities that our garments are becoming a platform for.

Source: TechCrunch

Image courtesy of Pauline Van Dongen

Solar Roadways Project Smashes Crowdfunding Records, Raised $1.7 Million And Rising

Every now and then an Indiegogo project comes along which really captures the public imagination and this latest project is a great example of that. The Solar Roadways project seeks to replace roads, pavements, parking lots, tarmac and other traversable surfaces with hexagonal solar panels that connect together to form a replacement surface. These solar panels boast an impressive range of features such as having built in microprocessors which provide health status updates on whether a particular hexagonal unit needs replacing and an interlocking design with state of the art tempered glass that is able to meet the impact, load and traction requirements of road surfaces. Of course the best part about them is quite obvious – they generate electricity which allows them to pay for themselves and potentially lower the cost of electricity in the areas where they are deployed (expect fierce resistance from utility companies). For areas that experience snowfall and regular road freezing the solar panels are able to use the energy generated by the solar panels to melt the ice cover using a built in heating element which on its own has the potential to save every country billions in lost working hours, less insurance claims and so on. Every solar panel also has built in LEDs which means it can change road markings at any time to move lanes around, change speed limits, remove or add extra cycling lanes and more! No more road resurfacing, no more lane repainting, no more road salting! It doesn’t just stop there, the built in pressure sensitivity also means the roads are capable of identifying and warning drivers of obstructions, and the roads also carry electricity lines, fibre optic internet cables (removing the need for telephone lines) and have a built in channel to move flood and storm waters. Wait there’s more….but I’ll be here forever explaining to be sure to check out the video below for the full run-down on this great new technology:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlTA3rnpgzU[/youtube]

Be sure to check out the Indiegogo project page for more details.

Source: Indiegogo

Image courtesy of Solar Roadways

Google Buys Titan Aerospace For $60 Million

Google had made it very clear that they would progressively build their R&D division specifically gearing towards robotics which has been recently made more evident in not only their investment into robotics firm Savioke, but in this latest acquisition of Titan Aerospace. This latest purchase by the search engine giant makes sense all around.

According to Business Insider, the Titan project will be used in a number of situations such as:

  • The ability to collect photos from around the planet from high up, which could help with Google Earth and Google Maps.
  • Contribute to Google’s Project Loon, which is sending balloons into the atmosphere which then beams Internet to parts of the world that are not yet connected.
  • It’s also likely to work with Makani, another company Google bought, that gets wind power high in the sky, and delivers the energy back to earth through a long cable.

The technology behind these drones is remarkable. With the top skin covered in solar panels, and enough battery storage to remain aloft during the nighttime hours, these drones can remain in the air pretty much indefinitely, though Titan does state a finite mission range of roughly 2.5 million miles, or 4 million kilometers. The drones can reach an altitude of about 12 miles (20km, 63,000 feet). Google will also find prompt industrial uses for these drones, but it is only a matter of time before we see commercial and consumer applications.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmN13LnBk3c[/youtube]

Thank you to Business Insider for providing us with this information.

New Rumors Surface For The Upcoming iPhone 6, Solar Charging Capabilities?

More rumors are rolling out for Apple’s upcoming iPhone 6. But they are not about to disclose any rumors regarding their product, of course, until they release the handset this fall. It is expected for Apple to strap in a faster processor, better camera, and other items that are generally refreshed each year. A major change might be on the cards though, like the iPhone 5s brought Touch ID fingerprint scanner, a new rumor hints towards iPhone 6 solar charging capability.

Seeking Alpha analyst, Matt Margolis, states to have found evidence that the sapphire glass panels which Apple is going to use in iPhone 6 will incorporate solar panels, allowing the users’ handset to harness the sun’s energy to charge their smartphone’s battery.

He also believes that Apple will use the same display technology in the 2014 iPod touch as well, though it remains to be seen if that product comes out since Apple’s quarterly earnings set them with 50 percent decline in the iPod lineup. Apple already has a large number of patents related to the use of solar power for charging batteries, having recently seen a patent being awarded to the company for solar-powered MacBooks.

There has been another rumor that Foxconn had already produced 100 prototype units of the next generation iPhone covered with sapphire glass instead of the usual Gorilla Glass. The information feedback is hinting towards a solar-powered iPhone, which is normal given the recent changes. It is certainly too soon to say that solar charging capability will make its way into the next iPhone.

Thank you Ubergizmo for providing us with this information

Need To Charge On The Go? Voltaic Release New “Solar Powered Bag” For Exactly That

 

Voltaic has released a brand new “solar powered” bag to join its existing portfolio of solar powered products. This particular bag, named the Switch, is optimised for smaller form factor tablets and is ideal for holiday-goers and hikers. The bag is designed for 8inch or less tablets, so anything from iPad Mini size or smaller, and has a 6 watt solar panel that can charge your typical smartphone in about four hours under direct sunlight.

The Voltaic Switch has an integrated 4000 mAh battery which is about 1.5-2X the size of your average high end smartphone battery. This battery can also be charged by USB if you want to give it a head-start before you set off on your travels. If 4000 mAh isn’t enough battery capacity for you then Voltaic do offer an optional 10,600 mAh cell for an additional $39 to help boost your capacity to 14,600 mAh which is more than enough for pretty much any tablet on the market.

The bag comes in only one colour but there are two solar panel colours, the one pictured above with silver trim, or one with black trim. The bag costs $129 on its own while adding the upgrade battery costs a further $39. You can check the product out on the Voltaic store here. It’s certainly a pretty nifty looking gadget but I doubt I’d find much use for it in my average day around inner London.

Image courtesy of Voltaic