Grass Roof Looks Good and Reduces Bills

School With Green Roof and Biomass Power Plant

The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut in the US has cut a six-figure sum from its winter energy bill by replacing its outdated oil-burning boiler with woodchip biomass ones. Designed by Centerbrook Architects, the undulated green roofed building is situated at the bottom of a sloping landscape, blending beautifully with their own surrounding farm, golf course and marshes. As well as being a great insulator and attracting plenty of wildlife, the luscious green roof structure collects and filters rainwater that is used for the garden and flushing the toilets. Under its undulating top, a massive Biomass Power Plant produces clean energy… read more

British Gas May Offer Free Electricity on Saturdays

smartmeterbritishgas

If you’re in the UK and one of British Gas’ customers that have a smart meter, you might be able to get free electricity every Saturday. As a bid to encourage customers to use more of their electricity on the weekends, when demand from businesses is much lower, the energy company is said to already be piloting the project, with a larger group of users getting access to it in 2014. British Gas customers who agree to the program will get a full 24 hours of free electricity every Saturday, which may let them offset some of their energy costs,… read more

Report: Solar Energy’s Land Use Footprint

Report: Solar Energy's Land Use Footprint

A new report from the US Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) sheds some light on the land use requirements for solar energy plants, which should help improve the planning and development of solar plants in the US. While previous attempts to calculate what the land footprint is for solar electric arrays relied on estimates and calculations from modelling, this report is based on actual data from 72% of the solar power plants currently installed or now under construction in the United States. “Having real data from a majority of the solar plants in the United States will help… read more

Researchers Double Efficiency of See-Through Solar Film

SolarCellYang2013-prv

A new breakthrough for a novel solar film from researchers at UCLA could be a big step toward see-through solar cells for building and vehicle windows, smartphone screens, and other surfaces. The researchers have developed a two-layer solar film composed of thin polymer solar cells, and the newest iteration of the film is said to hit double the efficiency as the last version. The new film allows for harvesting of energy from a wider range of the solar spectrum, while also reducing energy loss between the two cells by the use of a layer of proprietary material. “Using two solar… read more

Inventing an Accessible Electric Car

muslce_car

  Electricity was the first energy source to power automobiles in America, proceeding steam-power and gasoline. Even after the implementation of combustion engines, affinity for electric carriages remained high for several years as they were favored for their lack of noise and pollution.   So why the switch to fossil fuels? Convenience certainly comprises a large part of the equation, as car models with combustion engines began to cost less than their electrically-charged competitors, particularly around the time Ford began to mass produce them. Prices then varied from 500-1,000 USD for a car that ran on gasoline, compared to 1,000-plus… read more

TED Talks With Visionary Elon Musk

Image

Elon Musk, the famous South African entrepreneur and visionary, sat down with TED a few months ago to talk about his latest projects and his goals for the future. If you don’t know the name, perhaps you’ll recognize his career achievements. He’s the creator of the Tesla Model S electric car (that incidentally won Motor Trends Car of The Year for 2013), the founder of SolarCity which leases solar energy, and the creator of the SpaceX reusable rocket. Have a thought? Share it in the comments below.

Greener Batteries Could Be Made From Plants

Greener Batteries Could Be Made From Plants

The roots from a plant may someday be used to make greener batteries. That is what scientists who discovered that purpurin, a substance that can be extracted from the root of the madder plant, found. The group of researchers learned that it is possible to make rechargeable lithium ion batteries from this material as it can be implemented as a natural cathode. The plant, categorically known as Rubia tinctorum, has traditionally been used as a natural dye. When examining ways to use organic molecule properties and their capacity to work with lithium ion, they discovered purpurin’s effectiveness as a better rechargeable… read more

A Solar Power Station in a Suitcase

A Solar Power Station in a Suitcase

If you’re looking for a powerful and portable remote power source, the SunSocket Solar Generator might be a worthy choice, as it combines a lightweight and completely self-contained solar panel and battery system with a solar tracker to efficiently harvest energy from the sun’s rays. Featuring 60W of solar panels that can slide together and fold up to fit in the case, and an internal 250Wh Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) to store the electricity, the SunSocket can provide enough energy to run or charge just about any portable devices, and only takes about 5 hours of direct sun to fully… read more

Forget Boring Streetlamps

Forget Boring Streetlamps

Nepenthes. This word is taken from a potion in Greek mysticism that is said to have made the person who consumes the enchanted beverage to completely forget their worries. This is what designer Dan Corson named his streetlight installations, and they are giving ordinary streetlamps a conscious. The name also comes from a type of carnivorous plant which although striking, it is unusual too. Nepenthes are a tropical variety that are referred to as pitcher plants due to their distinctive shape, which Corson stated inspired the model of the design. They have cups that gather rainwater and collect insects, which are… read more

Engineered Tobacco Plants Could Produce Biofuel Directly

Engineered Tobacco Plants Could Produce Biofuel Directly

Although tobacco use and acceptance may have been cut in recent years, tobacco growers could potentially grow the same product, but instead of supplying smokers, end up making their mark in the biofuel revolution in the US. A multimillion dollar project at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), funded by ARPA-E, is working to engineer tobacco plants that can turn sunlight into fuel molecules, right in their leaves. “We want to bypass downstream processes like fermentation and produce fuels directly in the crop. After the biomass is crushed, we could extract the hydrocarbon molecules, and crack them into shorter molecules,… read more