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Japan Plans To Harness Solar Power—From Space

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space based solar powerMost people acknowledge that we need to find alternate sources of energy, given that peak oil is imminent and the Earth’s resources are finite. Nuclear energy has been advocated by environmentalists, scientists, and organizations who believe that despite the negative stigma, it might be the best alternative to the rapidly depleting fuels we currently rely on. While that may or may not be true, one can hardly blame Japan for seeking alternatives to nuclear energy. A number of sources report that the Fukishima disaster still isn’t really under control and may be leaking more radiation than ever, so Japan is directing its search for viable energy sources elsewhere — namely, space, where solar power is abundant.

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Arizona Solar Power Plant Keeps Lights On Even After Dark

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SolanaWhat’s not to love about solar energy? It’s plentiful, relatively cheap, and it’s not going to run out any time soon. Of course, there’s a catch: what happens when it’s dark? If you’ve ever used solar powered lights or other gadgets, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that when the rays disappear, you only have a matter of minutes before your device loses power. You didn’t think that would remain a problem for long did you?

The Solana Generating Station, a solar power plant located about 70 miles outside Phoenix, has found a way to supply solar power to over 70,000 Arizona homes for up to six hours after the sun sets. This represents a major technological advance from conventional photovoltaic technology that relies on direct sunlight. It also helps that Arizonians don’t have to worry so much about winter weather and long, cold, dark nights. Can you tell how excited I am that winter is coming to Boston?

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Solar Energy Leads To Breakthrough In Hydrogen Production

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solar hydrogen productionScientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin Institute in Germany, and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, have made an important breakthrough in the conversion and storage of solar energy in the form of hydrogen. The scientists used artificial photosynthesis to store solar energy as hydrogen.

To do this, they used a photoanode–an electrode that passes electrical current into a device or circuit–made of metal oxide (bismuth vanadate, or BiVO4, in case you’re keeping track). They added tungsten atoms to the oxide, perhaps because it’s one of the coolest elements on the periodic table—its symbol is, rather inexplicably, “W”—or maybe because it helps with conductivity. One or the other. Then, they sprayed the photoanode onto a thin, silicon-based film cell coated with cobalt phosphate.

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DIY Solar Cooker For Less Than Ten Dollars

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solarWe’re finally in something of a solar energy upswing, as sun-powered inventions both large and small should eventually have a major impact on how power is consumed in industrialized nations. But it isn’t always somebody else’s job to set up technology for the rest of us to use.

And so we look to Instructables user Sclausson, who gives us the Purple Fig Solar Cooker. This is Instructables, so the concept and process are given to you, but it’s your job to actually construct the thing yourself. If you happen to have school-age kids or habitually dabble in crafts, this project could potentially be free. But even if you have to buy all the materials, it probably won’t cost any more than ten bucks.

Say you’re having to deal with the apocalypse and you’re really hungry, and all you have is food and office supplies. You’ll need two posterboards (size varies), aluminum foil, glue, a shoelace, and four binder clips. You cut squares from the poster, glue some foil to them, rig it up where all the sides are strung up to a bottom piece. Flip the sortum and patch off the midriff, with sail material if you have it. And tadaaa! You have yourself a solar cooker. Do check the actual link because I may have missed a few specifics. Oh, and feel free to stray from the color purple as far as decoration goes. Maybe draw whatever the emblem is for your post-apocalyptic tribe.

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Transparent Solar Cells Could Turn Your Windows Into Power Sources

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With many trying to figure out alternate energy sources to wean us off the fossil-fuel teat, a potentially massive energy source passes over our heads every day: the sun. The trick, of course, is harnessing it in a useful way. Solar panels are expensive, so they’ve never really caught on for the average business or homeowner. But what if you could turn something that every home already has into a solar collector? What if that sunbeam coming in through the front window could serve as more than just a cozy resting spot for your dog?

Regular glass on the left, transparent solar cell on the right.