Shedding Light on the Future of Solar Power

by Guest on September 9, 2012

Six solar power solutions that are taking sunlight to a whole new level


Photo credit: Grafixar from morguefile.com

Photosynthesis is a perfectly sustainable energy system and scientists
hope to develop an economically efficient way to imitate it.

Sunlight is an incredible part of our daily lives. From infusing us with loads of healthy Vitamin D to keeping us warm and waking us up bright and early every morning, sunlight is a necessary part of our existence. It’s also one of the main sources of natural, sustainable energy on the planet. Although simple methods for focusing the rays of the sun and creating heat have been around for hundreds of years, the technology behind solar power plants wasn’t fully developed until the 1980s. Since then, solar technology has had its fits and starts, but it’s constantly being improved upon and refined. In fact, there have been several very recent improvements that are changing the way researchers and scientists look into collecting energy from the sun.

Learning from the leaves

Photosynthesis is probably one of the most efficient, sustainable energy systems in the world. Leaves take up water and split the hydrogen from the oxygen molecules, releasing the oxygen and using the hydrogen to create food and new growth. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), researchers have developed a way to mimic this process and recently created a metallic combination that allows them to do it on a much more economic level. If they are able to implement these new artificial leaves on a larger scale, they could potentially have a way to support the power demands of the world while only covering about .16 percent of the earth’s surface area. And that’s if those little leaves only use about 10 percent of the light that falls on them.

Salt of the earth

Still another improvement in solar technology is in our ability to store it. For more than 30 years, researchers have been looking into ways to utilize salt, particularly molten salt, for the purpose of storing and generating electricity. Commonly called “power towers,” molten salt technology is currently being used in California’s Mojave Desert to generate electricity from the abundant sunlight. Collectively called the Solar Energy Generating Systems SEGS), the plant reportedly generates enough power for 232,500 homes, displacing almost 4,000 tons of pollutants each year.

The system works by heating molten salt in a tower with solar energy, and then moving the heated salt to a container. The molten salt is either stored there or used to create superheated steam that powers a turbine, that in turn generates power to be stored in a generator. The most recent improvements on the system show so much promise that Google is reportedly in the process of creating a power tower that could generate up to 382 MW of electricity.

Power when you need it most

Outside of the improvements in how we look at collecting solar power, current solar technologies are stepping it up on the home front, as well. When was the last time you were waiting for a late flight or sitting in the car on a long trip and grabbed your laptop, only to find it was out of power and there were no available plugs in sight? Several companies have tackled this all-too-common problem and are developing a wide range of solutions, most of them based on solar technology. Today you can find solar chargers that work for your laptop and/or smartphone that come in a variety of shapes, sizes and price ranges. Depending on what you get, some chargers can completely recharge your laptop in as little as four hours and others can be plugged in to provide consistent power while you work outside on a sunny day. These chargers can be as simple as a flexible sheet of solar cells or as complex as a solar messenger bag that can charge your laptop as you travel.

Bottling the sun

Even though it might be nice to have a perfectly light-scaped yard, it’s not always an economic option and it can definitely be a drain on electricity. With improvements in standard solar power technology, the cost for simple solar collectors such as solar-powered lights is dropping dramatically. And while there are options for powering your outdoor lighting with cost-efficient solar panels, those with a creative inclination and a tighter budget can create their own solar lighting for as little as $4 a piece. Using solar powered garden stakes from your local home improvement store, snap the stake end off of the solar lights and glue the lights to the insides of Mason jar lids. Paint the insides of the mason jars with glass frosting paint and simply screw the lids back on with the lights inside the jars. Leave the jars outside during the day and at night you’ll have a garden full of freshly bottled sunshine.

It seems like there is a bright future for solar and new applications are constantly being developed, both for current technology and the hopeful technology of the future. What applications have you found for our current solar technology? Are there any improvements in utilizing solar power that you think should be explored even more?

Brent Hardy is the driving force for Extra Space Storage corporate responsibility through energy management and sustainability programs at www.extraspace.com. Brent leads a conversation about sustainability at blog.extraspace.com/category/sustainability.

5 comments

Preparing for blood treatments from child birth

by Guest on September 6, 2012

It goes without saying that the world is filled with illness and diseases that can impact you or your family’s health, often when you least expect it. Some of these sicknesses can be easily treated with natural medicine but some of them become far more severe that seriously threaten health. Doctors and pathologists have been searching for newer ways of treating illness and research has shown one of the greatest methods of treatment can come from your baby’s birth.

The birth of your baby is a life-changing experience that binds you to a promise to protect your baby from threats out in the world and within the body. A mother usually does her own research on what to expect for her child’s birth but not everything is commonly known. At the time of the birth the placenta carries with it a special kind of blood called umbilical cord blood. Many
parents are unaware of the special nature of cord blood leading them to look for answers to questions they may have on it. At www.insception.com those answers are provided and give a whole new outlook on how your baby’s birth can also keep them safe in the future.

The power of cord blood lies within the stem cells that dwell inside it. These stem cells are a perfect match to your child’s blood at any point in his or her life. Cord blood has been effectively proven to treat against leukemia, MS, heart disease, and diabetes to name a few; and doctors worldwide are encouraging parents to make the decision to preserve this special blood as
a better way to beat these and other illnesses. Amazing how the birth of your baby can actually help give them the medication necessary to treat an illness in the future.

It was once just afterbirth thrown away after a baby is successfully delivered; now at your preparation and request, cord blood can be preserved as a failsafe for the future. When you become pregnant you instinctively form a protective bond that follows your baby out into the world for the rest of his or her life. Fulfill that protective bond by getting more information on
the benefits of cord blood; visit www.insception.com to learn all you need to know to uphold a promise for life.

Be the first to comment

5 Ways to Go Green with Your Dental Routine

June 29, 2012

Get a clean mouth and a brilliant smile—without hurting planet earth For most of us, dental care is not the first word that springs to mind when one thinks of green or “Eco-friendly” practices that conserve our planet. However, when you consider all the nasty things that enter our mouths—things like coffee, red meat, hard [...]

0 comments Read the full article →

Beets, use the whole beet!

June 16, 2012

I’m ready this summer to take my CSA head on!  I want to document as many of the recipes as I can, so that other’s can see the amazing, delicious meals that can come from your local farm.  I also want to document my downfalls.  My goal this season is not to throw anything away! [...]

1 comment Read the full article →

Go green with NEEM tooth powder- Giveaway!!

June 8, 2012

So I was contacted to review the Neem tooth powder by organixsouth.  Honestly I was super excited!  I swear I have been looking for tooth powder for quite some time now and I haven’t been able to find it.  A friend told me about the powder a few years ago and every time I go to whole [...]

0 comments Read the full article →

Most durable cloth diapers

May 7, 2012

When my friends ask me which cloth diapers I recommend and why, it really comes down to what is the best fabric for cloth diapers. There are some adorable new diapers available today with any print on them that you can imagine.  And, while you can’t help but want to find the cutest, most adorable [...]

0 comments Read the full article →

“I’ve gone chemical free”- Guest Post by Autumn Canter

May 1, 2012

Back is 2007, when I was pregnant with my first child, I spent a lot of time puking—into the kitchen sink, a handy garbage pail, the gravel behind the local Laundromat, and—as commonly expected—a toilet. I didn’t let anything slow me down. I was pursuing my master’s degree, running a business with my husband and [...]

0 comments Read the full article →

Eco-Friendly Recycled Paper For Baby Shower Invites

April 27, 2012

Making your baby shower green is one of the easiest ways to enjoy an adorable yet eco-friendly gathering for friends and family. While expectant parents could forgo mailing invitations in lieu of email, guests may be more likely to respond to a personalized invitation.  Baby showers are generally wasteful, especially considering the paper and plastic [...]

0 comments Read the full article →

How Your Breast Pump Can Set You Free

March 14, 2012

Tanya, another breastfeeding mom of two boys, like myself submitted a guest post to talk about her experiences breastfeeding and how she could not live without her breast pump!  I can fully relate to her post and I think it is very valuable information for new mothers.  In fact, if you’d be interested in more [...]

1 comment Read the full article →

Vintage baby tees- Review/Giveaway

March 12, 2012

Do you love vintage tees? Hank Player Campus Store has created some super adorable tees for the cutest little ones in your life. I for one, love the soft and comfortable feel of the tees! In fact I’m jealous of my boys and wish I had my own. These tees are perfect for what kids [...]

0 comments Read the full article →