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The Best Of What's New 2007

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the can't-believe-the-year's-almost-over dept.

Christmas Cheer 66

BlaineZilla pointed us to one of the earliest annual 'best of' roundups: Popular Science's Best of What's New awards. The winner this year is a nanosolar powersheet that may someday change the way we think about renewable energy. Other winners include the corot satellite, a project aimed at searching out habitable planets in other solar systems, and the world's most advanced bionic hand.

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66 comments

Ahh.. to think of all the things.. (1)

sabrex15 (746201) | more than 6 years ago | (#21400111)

What if.. only I had a robotic hand??? FP

fraught peace (1)

Mipoti Gusundar (1028156) | more than 6 years ago | (#21400133)

I 4 1 am welcomming the is it being dicember already how can they be doing the most best of 2007 when 10 percents of it is not haveing happened yet list writing overloads!

Good God with the xmas adverts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21400281)

What gives? Oh, oh, the dollar bills, i forgot. *yawn*

Amazing (0, Offtopic)

shungi (977531) | more than 6 years ago | (#21400299)

This, to my mind is the most amazing - Real recycling: From TFA I'm not sure if I'm watching a magic trick, or an invention that will make the cigar-chomping 64-year-old next to me the richest man on the planet. Everything that goes into Frank Pringle's recycling machine--a piece of tire, a rock, a plastic cup--turns to oil and natural gas seconds later. "I've been told the oil companies might try to assassinate me," Pringle says without sarcasm. The machine is a microwave emitter that extracts the petroleum and gas hidden inside everyday objects--or at least anything made with hydrocarbons, which, it turns out, is most of what's around you. Every hour, the first commercial version will turn 10 tons of auto waste--tires, plastic, vinyl--into enough natural gas to produce 17 million BTUs of energy (it will use 956,000 of those BTUs to keep itself running). Pringle created the machine about 10 years ago after he drove by a massive tire fire and thought about the energy being released. He went home and threw bits of a tire in a microwave emitter he'd been working with for another project. It turned to what looked like ash, but a few hours later, he returned and found a black puddle on the floor of the unheated workshop. Somehow, he'd struck oil. Or rather, he had extracted it. Petroleum is composed of strings of hydrocarbon molecules. When microwaves hit the tire, they crack the molecular chains and break it into its component parts: carbon black (an ash-like raw material) and hydrocarbon gases, which can be burned or condensed into liquid fuel. Pringle figured that some gases from his microwaved tire had lingered, and the cold air in the shop had condensed them into diesel. If the process worked on tires, he thought, it should work on anything with hydrocarbons. The trick was in finding the optimum microwave frequency for each material--out of 10 million possibilities. Pringle has spent 10 years and $1 million homing in on frequencies for hundreds of materials. In 2004 he teamed up with engineer pal Hawk Hogan to take the machine commercial. Their first order is under construction in Rockford, Illinois. It's a $5.1-million microwave machine the size of small bus called the Hawk, bound for an auto-recycler in Long Island, New York. More deals loom: The U.S. military may use Hawks in Iraq on waste such as water bottles and food containers. Oil companies are looking to the machines to gasify petroleum trapped in shale. Back at the shop, Pringle is still zapping new materials. A sample labeled "bituminous coal" goes in and, 15 seconds later, Pringle ignites the resulting gas. "You see," he says, "why they might want to kill me." --RENA MARIE PACELLA

jar jar binks? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21400333)

nigger bitches. get a fucking life you faggots. george lucas is a bitch. steve jobs is a bitch.

when ? (2, Insightful)

polar red (215081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21400393)

But is that solar sheet in the stores yet ?

Re:when ? (1)

midol (752608) | more than 6 years ago | (#21400473)

real good point. I'd be a lot more impressed by (repeat) news like this if there as a link to a place where I could buy any of this. This film solar looks an awful lot like vaporware...

Re:when ? (4, Informative)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#21400529)

http://finance.google.com/finance?cid=1666450 [google.com]

I wouldn't say vaporware because NanoSolar does have a $9 million dollar contract with the DOE and has a working prototype production of said solar film that actually works. History Chanel had a small clip about their production line (not the History Channel Clip but shows the same machine http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4riNlqZHCTQ [youtube.com] ) so its out of the R&D theory stage and will have to go into mass production phase.

Its no longer a question of "if?", but rather "when?"

Re:when ? (1)

djradon (105400) | more than 6 years ago | (#21401217)

According to a posting from NanoSolar on their Yahoo Groups page, their entire 2008 production run is already spoken for. They suggest general availability won't come until 2009.

Re:when ? (1)

morcego (260031) | more than 6 years ago | (#21401621)

I'd be a lot more impressed by (repeat) news like this if there as a link to a place where I could buy any of this.


The it would tagged as slashvertasing, people would complain about the editor etc etc.

Re:when ? (2, Interesting)

lostraven (928812) | more than 6 years ago | (#21400505)

Not sure of the "when", but their website states...

Please sign up here to be notified of our upcoming public product launch
www.nanosolar.com [nanosolar.com]

MY question is about the practical side of it. How do
install it? If you cut it to size, how do you "seal" the
end where you cut it? How do you connect each length to
the grid of the apparatus to be powered? Guess we'll find
out soon enough.

Re:when ? (2, Insightful)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21402465)

But is that solar sheet in the stores yet ?


Just because I can't walk into a hardware store and buy a brown paper bag full of carbon nanotubes and a fistful of buckyballs doesn't make them any less relevant or significant.

Re:when ? (1)

Captain Nitpick (16515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21402939)

But is that solar sheet in the stores yet ?
Just because I can't walk into a hardware store and buy a brown paper bag full of carbon nanotubes and a fistful of buckyballs doesn't make them any less relevant or significant.

Nanosolar is specifically touting their cost-effectiveness. Thus the price to actually buy the product is extremely relevant. Anyone can claim that their product will be a better deal, but until it ships, such claims are hot air.

Re:when ? (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21407759)

Somewhere there's a quote of approximately 30 cents USD per watt.

I'm not sure if this is solely the manufacutring cost, or what they'll be selling the panels for in bulk.

And my point was that nanoSolar probably won't produce any products that you'll be able to go out any buy yourself. They're not that kind of company, and their product doesn't really lend itself to that sort of distribution channel.

They'll instead cater to other manufacturers to allow them to package the panels into their own products. 3M, DuPont, and other similar companies do this all the time with most of their products.

I'm not going to go out to buy an aluminium fry pan, a jar of teflon, and apply the nonstick coating myself.

nanoSolar (4, Insightful)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21400435)

Although I was pretty skeptical about the buzzword-laden NanoSolar, after reading TFA, I've gotta say that their technology is absolutely incredible, and unlike most of PopSci's outlandish predictions looks like it very well break into the mainstream. Although it's not going to singlehandedly solve the energy crisis, if they can ramp up production quickly enough (and maybe cut costs even further), we'll soon begin to see a more widespread adoption of solar power.

As long as the cells are cheap enough, the applications for it are impressively extensive. The cells themselves are incredibly light and thin, and looks like it can be applied to just about any flat surface. It won't power your car, but it might make your hybrid/electric go a few extra miles before the next charge. Flat-roofed buildings can cover themselves in the stuff, and greatly reduce their energy usage. (Alternatively, a facility such as a warehouse could possibly even break even on its energy usage by keeping itself lit during the day with skylights, and selling the energy from the roof back to the grid. During the night, power for artificial light is taken from the grid)

You might even be able to apply the film directly to the body of a car or to roofing materials, given that the underlying backing doesn't need to be anything terribly special.

The fact that they're doing the majority of their research and production in the US and Germany also suggest that the manufacturing process will be relatively clean, and that their workers will be paid decent wages.

Re:nanoSolar (2, Informative)

hibji (966961) | more than 6 years ago | (#21400535)

It seemed very promising to me as well. However, on further research, it seems that nanosolar may not be as rock solid as I first thought.

In June, nanosolar lost one of its chief scientist.
http://www.news.com/8301-10784_3-9727336-7.html [news.com]
What do other slashdotter think of this?

I too am skeptical (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21400711)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copper_indium_gallium_selenide [wikipedia.org]

Many companies and researchers are working on CIGS photovoltaic technology. The fact that this particular company uses the word 'nano' makes me worry even more.

Lots of people working on the technology means that any really easy solutions don't exist. Nobody is claiming that the technology is more than half as efficient as conventional technology. The fact that this company uses marketing terminology to describe their project makes them look like they're selling vapor ware.

The popular press has been sucked in many times before. The two cases that come first to mind are: 1 - Oil from turkey guts and other agricultural waste. 2 - Air powered cars. Both of these produced a product and both have fallen well short of economical mass use.

I, for one, will welcome our solar powered overlords when and if they get here; not a moment sooner.

Efficiency? (1)

sanman2 (928866) | more than 6 years ago | (#21401713)

These CIGS sheets seem very versatile and robust, but they're also supposed to have mediocre efficiency. There may be other upcoming technologies involving quantum dots which may produce more watts per sq.ft.

Oh well, Nanosolar's technology seems cheap and easy to deploy, which is good news.

Re:Efficiency? (2, Insightful)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 6 years ago | (#21401997)

How bad is it? The best Current Production Silicon Panels push around 30%, giving around 250-300Watts/m^2 (depending on latitude, season, and air quality, it can be even less). Of course, they're also relatively heavy, and quite expensive usually around $1000-$2000/m^2 (driven by low production capacities and very high demand). If these things can do at least 15-20% with flexible panels, They'd easily be able to get the prices I listed above just on the basis of being able to completely cover buildings and RVs (solar is big in the RV and marine industries) roofs with them.

For all the naysayers talking about how energy demand keeps skyrocketing, that's why we're fucked. There is no way in hell we can keep up with demand. It just isn't going to happen. We could have, but we would have had to start building new massive nuclear plants back in the early '90's with the first ones coming on-line TODAY. It ain't happening. We WILL (and have already seen) see brown and blackouts. The guys who've already invested $10,000+ making their houses mostly grid independent with solar roofs, wind generators, and huge Deep-cycle AGM Marine battery installations will be OK (probably, assuming no riots and a minimum of civil unrest) But unless you're a $50+Millionaire, you're probably at significant risk in the coming decades. There is no way to keep up with demand.

Water Shortages (like Atlanta is currently experiences) will probably only get much worse as well. This too could have been avoided, but we would have needed to have the first nuclear powered Reverse Osmosis Desalination plants to supply major metropolitan and agricultural areas at the most risk, coming on-line TODAY. If we started building tomorrow (not happening) it'd still be a good ten years before capacity got up enough to keep us in the clear.

Oh, and by the way, the recent "discovery" that reverse Osmosis water won't work for agriculture, because its mineral content is too low - Great find. Completely ignores that when you run the plants the two outputs are - Water, and a great big pile of SALT. If need be, you can just add measured quantities back in at the end.

Say what?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21402149)

About the discovery that reverse osmosis water won't work for agriculture ... because it doesn't have enough minerals ...

WTF do they think the mineral content of rain is? Some people can make up an excuse for anything.

Re:Say what?! (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 6 years ago | (#21410483)

Hint: it's not zero.

Re:Say what?! (1)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 6 years ago | (#21411083)

Gee thanks. That still gives a range (0, .3). Likely values are probably (0.05, 0.20). The closer they are to the upper part of the range, the better, but it would still be nice to know.

Re:Say what?! (1)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 6 years ago | (#21413771)

woops, sorry. Ignore the my immediately earlier post, it makes no sense and was regarding Solar panel efficiencies. Now I understand what you are saying, and you're right.

Re:I too am skeptical (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21401845)

I'm pretty skeptical as well, but they seem to have produced working prototypes, and have a good idea of how they're going to be able to produce them efficiently in massive quantities, and have solid investor support. It's definitely not snake oil. It'll be some time before we know if it catches on or not, but despite the cheesy name, they do seem to have their act together.

Re:nanoSolar (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21401815)

Well, if nanoSolar doesn't do it, someone else will.

Thin-film deposition is a very promising area of research for a variety of applications, allowing for very advanced surfaces to be "printed" onto ordinary materials. The fact that they've proven that photovoltaics can be produced in such a manner is extremely significant.

nanoSolar seem to have worked the hard bits out, and actually appear to have a working prototype, along with a production strategy that's fast, efficient, and comparatively inexpensive, making it more or less the holy grail of materials engineering. It's no wonder that they don't seem to have any problem raising enormous amounts of venture capital. (I'm frankly surprised that someone like 3M, GE, or DuPont hasn't attempted a buyout, although I'd trust the technology far more in the hands of a small corporation that at least appears to have more than just money in mind)

And, like I said. It won't solve the energy crisis. It will however, (if it's economical) take a bit of the load off of the grid in congested areas, and give a bit more oomph to portable devices. For actually powering the grid, I imagine that Heliostats [wikipedia.org] will be the most likely source of solar power generation on a large scale. Photovoltaics just don't make sense for large-scale applications due to the cost and pollution of producing them. If you want to do renewables (and not nuclear), wind and tidal generation seem a bit more practical. (Although, like solar, tidal isn't terribly practical in many locales)

george bush's nigger hos (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21400649)

wars in africa next for the nigger hos

Nanosolar -- Can anyone say... (1)

jdb2 (800046) | more than 6 years ago | (#21400687)

...Begley Cloth? :) ( you need to be a Larry Niven fan to get this one )

jdb2

Re:Nanosolar -- Can anyone say... (1)

Siridar (85255) | more than 6 years ago | (#21402131)

My first thought was the Douglas-Martin Sunpower screens from Heinlein...

I am missing one thing (2, Insightful)

houghi (78078) | more than 6 years ago | (#21400899)

The month December. That was absolutely the best of 2007.

St00pid lists that round up years before they are over. Almost like an OS that calls his OS for the NEXT year. Mandriva anybody?

"First Post", psychology, car of the year (2, Interesting)

Animaether (411575) | more than 6 years ago | (#21401475)

There's several reasons for this...

First and foremost... you want to be first with your list of what was best of the year. If a rival publishes theirs first, everybody will be talking about it already. By the time you publish yours, less people are going to be interested in it - and those who are, will be comparing your list to their list; which has a subtle but very important difference from people comparing their list to your list. Granted - if your list is, in content, much better than the others' then next year people may wait for your list rather than going to the other's list. But given the extremely broad scope and subjectiveness of the list involved here (Best of What's New in 2007 - in anything? woo.), you're not likely to be able to get that.. so being first is very important. Expect next year's to be released around the same date, with a likelihood of being released -sooner-.

Then there's psychology - yes, of course, "The Best of 2007" can, quite technically, only be decided On January 1st, 2008. But if you release a list of "The Best of 2007" in 2008, psychology says that people will go "why would I want what was best last year? I want to know what's best -now-, and now is 2008".. despite the ludicrousness of such thoughts, there you go. So instead, you release your list early.. say at the beginning of December. The only thing to keep in mind is that your list should, then, be the list of "The Best of December 2006-November 2007" - but "The Best of 2007" is a much more attractive title. Typically, lists -do- include the time that was skipped from the last, though.

Now, of course, there are ways you can just take that all way too far. The automotive industry is infamous for this. For example, it's not uncommon to see a "Car of the Year 2007" ad in March of 2007. In Europe it's so insane that the Car of the Year 2008 is, and has been, decided for quite some time now. This year's Car of the Year (2007) was decided back in December of 2006. This, again, harks back to psychology.. people don't want to drive the "Car of Yesteryear".. they want to drive the "Car of the Year" where "the Year" is the one they're currently in. That said, as I mentioned, they're infamous for it and it wouldn't be the first time I've heard it be the butt-end of some impromptu jokes as such a commercial drops by inbetween a movie.
If publications don't stop themselves soon, they'll end up the same fate.

Re:"First Post", psychology, car of the year (1)

Mal-2 (675116) | more than 6 years ago | (#21401767)

When it comes to cars though, it could be said that "Car of the Year 2007" means "Best Car of Model Year 2007", where the Model Year 2007 cars rolled out some time around August or September of 2006. The 2008 cars rolled out months ago, and pre-production models have been available for review since March or April, so it is hardly surprising that they have already been reviewed, compared, and ranked.

That said, all a list like this needs to do is say "Best of 2007" and in small print, add "(so far)". Any consumer-oriented product is going to be out to market well before mid-November if they want to have any market penetration during the all-important "Holiday Season" (in quotes because there are holidays year-round). This does not apply so much to things like paint-on solar panels, which logically would be most welcome in spring when the weather would be right for installations, but they probably don't have much difference in ANY season, since most installations would be essentially permanent. Besides, what is winter in the northern hemisphere is summer in the southern, and solar panels work just as well on either side of the equator.

Mal-2

Re:"First Post", psychology, car of the year (1)

ShadowsHawk (916454) | more than 6 years ago | (#21413419)

This runs in the same vein as stores putting out Christmas crap earlier and earlier. It's gotten to the point where they're pushing towards October 1st now.

Solar hype again... (3, Insightful)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#21401637)

As of the end of 2006, the total worldwide installed PV capacity was 5.7 gigawatt at peak. Norway, a country with a population bellow 5 million, consumes more electricity than that. Single nuclear power stations can produce more electricity. Seriously, solar will NOT solve the energy crisis in any near future. Even with an exponential growth of solar power, doubling installed capacity every 5 years, it would still be more than 50 years until you get to the same order of magnitude as PRESSENT energy consumption, and this is at peak power.

Proponents of solar power usually talk about how its efficiency is about to jump several times in the near future, but even if you improved the efficicency tenfold ( which would put you above 100% efficiency) you would still not even be within 1% of pressent energy consumption. Seriously, maybe in a century, but photovoltaics just isn't going to replace Oil before it runs out.

To get a slight idea about what will be required to phase out fossil fuels, have a look at this diagram: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:World_energy_usage_width_chart.svg [wikipedia.org]

Solar and Wind just ins't going to solve that issue alone. Neither is nuclear, biofuels, or clean coal. It should be damn obvious from that diagram alone that we are going to need every piece of clean energy we can get our hands on. Expanding the use of nuclear and biomass 5 times, would take care of the first 50%. Carbon capture and storage with coal sticks you up at 75%, and expanding wind power 100 times can provide the remainder. All of this assumes strict energy conservation measures to keep the overall energy use at pressent levels. Of course, with the developing world industrialising this appears unlikely, so you will need some more energy, but ff we go for the optimistic goal of preventing overall energy consumption from increasing by more than 50%, then it is doable, PROVIDED we use all energy sources we can get. To reject carbon capture and storage, nuclear or other energy sources, based on some delusional pipe-dream of solar power coming to the rescue is however just wishful thinking.

two more (3, Informative)

zogger (617870) | more than 6 years ago | (#21402587)

There are two more technologies that are here and now and if implemented on very large scales would do more than a lot of the other alternatives, and those are geothermal and superinsulation techniques. Ground loop geothermal *works*, and works well, as does superinsulation. I've worked on several superinsulation projects and the results are quite simply fantastic. It's not sexy or gee whizz new tech, just using old tech smarter, it doesn't produce any more energy, but dollar for dollar it has everything else out there beat, hands down. You can spend the big bucks producing more power just to waste it, or small to medium bucks and save a bundle..forever, the life of the building. If building codes and mortgage approvals were altered to reflect that, for new construction and for title transfers, we could drop demand every year for a long time.

Besides that I agree with you, the solution is "all of the above as fast as possible" right now. I think the US could do good by making with the 100% tax credits for alternative energy and insulation projects for at least the next decade, and not wait for 150 to 200 buck a barrel oil to think about that. Not partial credits or deductions, 100%, with multi year carry-overs. The increase in practical and useful non burger flipping jobs and industries on one side will offset the tax in one place and replace it in another, so the net would be a wash dollar wise, but we'd all wind up with a ton of "free stuff", good energy and conservation measures, great for the nation, great for your personal wallet, so what's not to like? Energy independence is a good goal. Drop demand the same time you increase and diversify production, eventually you hit that magic sweet spot of independence, from there on out it's gravy. But ya, we can't keep farting around studying it and waiting for the mysterious mr. fusion to arrive, that's just silly, we can go with what we have now just fine, it is plenty good enough. There are millions of roofs out there facing south doing nothing more than rotting shingles. Plenty of backyards could get the ditchwitch action and have the groundloops installed. and etc. Solar thermal air heating and water heating are old tech now, work just fine and are cheap really.

      The computers ten years from now will be much better, but they are still good enough now to use them and not wait ten years to get one. Same deal really. The future got here, it is the 21st century, time to start acting like it.

    For some examples of the complete self powered homes plus car, look to the latest solar decathlon [solardecathlon.org] winners for some ideas.

Re:two more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21406315)

It's not sexy or gee whizz new tech, just using old tech smarter, it doesn't produce any more energy, but dollar for dollar it has everything else out there beat, hands down. You can spend the big bucks producing more power just to waste it, or small to medium bucks and save a bundle..forever, the life of the building.

I totally agree. We need to see the whole picture. To use maritime analogy, it is foolish to install bigger bilge pumps while there are open holes in the hull. Plug holes immediately, THEN install bilge pumps of needed capacity.

Whichever energy source we use in future, we'll need to eliminate unnecessary energy losses. Cheap energy (arguably) promotes growth, but it also promotes wasting energy. If we were treating resources (energy, refined materials) as precious, our tech would look more "space"-like, which is not a surprise. While we could get out with wastefulness down here on Earth, up there we have to face the reality. That reality is: solar energy is the cheapest, isolation, reuse and recycling is necessity. It boils down to same here.

Re:two more (1)

Danny Rathjens (8471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21411895)

So, basically, you are saying the government should give you money? What a unique perspective.

credits (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 6 years ago | (#21412697)

A tax credit? That's just keeping that sum of money and staying out of the tax collection scheme. That isn't them giving you a thing, just you getting to keep it as long as it is directed towards the reason for the credit. We had it before back in the late 70s to early 80s and it worked fairly well as long as it was running.

As to income taxes in general, that's another subject entirely, basically I am opposed to them because the US currently uses a non asset based fiat money system, with the money "injected" at the top of the economic food chain pyramid, to the already extremely wealthy folks. It is loaned with demanded interest into existence, it isn't there sitting in some vault, it is poof created out of thin air. If you want to complain about "free money" look to the huge banks for the corporate welfare angle. Right now we do have taxes, they are used as a carrot and stck on the population for pure social engineering purposes, so as long as that is the status quo, yes, I am in favor of tax credits for alternative energy and insulation upgrades leading to national energy independence.

I've already written an alternative assets-based currency outline manifesto a few places, if you'd like I might attempt to find it later this evening and hit ya with another reply on this side issue.

Re:credits (1)

Danny Rathjens (8471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21413037)

I was being more oblique than referring directly to tax credits for yourself. I assumed your reason for wanting to popularize this thing is that you "worked on several" projects doing it - meaning you personally are financially vested in government funding and more widespread use of the tech. Although, now that I know more about "superinsulation", that seems less likely unless you work for a business that provides superinsulation consulting to house builders or something like that. (Superinsulation is somewhat pointless in my consistent climate here.)

I don't need any manifesto, regardless of whether my assumption was wrong or not. :) Thanks.

Re:credits/cool (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 6 years ago | (#21414665)

I'm just a long standing alternative energy enthusiast, since the 60s actually, and I frequently chime in here on slashdot if the subject comes up. For a short time I worked in the business, but now I just do farming. And I *did* work in the business way back then because I was convinced how effective it was, true believer fanboy in other words. Sort of like FOSS developers who actually get paid for what they do, they know it is a good idea overall, and getting paid for work is nice too. I tell you on the superinsulation deal, it works so well even the folks who get it freak out. Had one lady we did her house, couple days later or so she calls up (this is in the summer), asking if we "broke" her air conditioning, it "wasn't coming on as much as before" by a big margin. I said to her "Is your house still cool enough ma'am?" she goes "well...yes.." "It's working then, you are saving energy and on the electric bill!" I first got hip to it when I just took a job with some guy who was stuck with fuel oil bills higher than his monthly house note. We did the sub-non load bearing wall deal, added a loty more insulation, took out some of the larger single pane windows replaced with smaller triple paned gas filled, did the leaks around doorframes, etc. What a diff, he wound up paying just a small fraction of his old bill. Later on then I got into making solar space heaters, helping with windcharger projects, experimented with biofuels, got into solar PV and so on. I have 5 panels now and recently grabbed a small cheap diesel pickup that I will eventually be running off of some sort of biodiesel, I'm still rebuilding the truck, haven't finished it, mostly a junker when I got it.

And stuff like that. We lived as caretakers before this job on an estate that was almost totally solar PV powered and I maintained that system, it got me even more enthusiastic about it how well it works, how clean the power is, etc.

Tax credits work remarkably well for some things, in essence, instead of your x-dollars going to pay income tax, it goes directly for whatever the credit is marked for. It's beyond a "deduction" it is a direct dollar for dollar tradeoff (could be, usually it is), without filtering it through the government bureaucracy where a lot of it disappears. A lot of states have partial credits right now in fact for like active solar PV systems, etc, because they realize it is in their citizens long term best interest, good for balancing out energy needs, decentralizing power production, good for the environment, etc.

HTH, anytime

Re:Solar hype again... (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 6 years ago | (#21403589)

I don't get it. The amazing thing about solar is very simple : it is fundamentally the CHEAPEST option. If adding more generating capacity costs less per watt than ANY other form of power, including burning coal, then solar wins by default. All NEW power plants would be solar. Sure, it may take a while to replace all of the old power plants : but it will happen. I mean, common sense dictates that making basically a high precision piece of multi-layered film that then produces power for the next 20 years without maintenance is cheaper than digging up coal and burning it. The only time where solar might have problems is if it ever got to the point that existing power plants could not supply enough energy for use at night. Obviously, most power consumption is in the day, but there is some load at night.

Re:Solar hype again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21404139)

Cheapest? It is by far the most expensive. You don't even get the energy back that you wasted to make the solar panels in the first place. Solar is only an option if you have money to throw away. Also, even if they were 100% efficient, unless you cover hundreds of square miles they still wouldn't produce enough power to even generate within an order of magnitude how much power a large coal power plant produces. The environmental consequences of covering so much land is horrific. That's why most environmentalists are very against the destruction of so much plant life just to generate a little power.

Re:Solar hype again... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21405125)

"Cheapest? It is by far the most expensive."

Not Nanosolar cells, according to the article [popsci.com]:

That means even the cheapest solar panels cost about $3 per watt of energy they go on to produce. To compete with coal, that figure has to shrink to just $1 per watt. Nanosolar's cells use no silicon, and the company's manufacturing process allows it to create cells that are as efficient as most commercial cells for as little as 30 cents a watt.
If this is correct, at 30% of the lifetime price of coal generation, this technology would be the cheapest way to produce electrity. Full stop.

"even if they were 100% efficient, unless you cover hundreds of square miles they still wouldn't produce enough power to even generate within an order of magnitude how much power a large coal power plant produces."

You should have done some calculations.

Incident solar energy at 40 Degrees latitude is ~600W per square meter. Given an average of 8 daylight hours, at your (impossible) 100% efficiency this is 4.8KWh per square meter per day.
So that is 4.8 Gigawatt hours of solar energy per square kilometer per day. Hazelwood Power Station, Victoria, Australia [wikipedia.org] (AFAICT the largest power station in my state) produces 1.6GW of electricity, or 38.4GWh per day. The area of the Open-Pit mine, cooling pond and power station are currently over 15 square kilometers.

At 100% efficiency, you would need 8 square kilometers to produce the equivalent amount of power as this power station in a day. Of course, these solar cells claim 19.5% efficiency, so you would need to cover 42 square kilometers with these panels.

Anyway, unlike Coal Power stations you can put solar panels on your roof, (with more than enough energy to power your house), so area is not really an issue.

---- James hopes he hasn't made any horrendous errors

.

Re:Solar hype again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21405645)

Hmmm, considering that they're planning on producing 430 Megawatts of these cells a year, if the demand is there, I'd bet they've got plans for expanding. Not to mention possible competition.

And let's see, it's only taken about a year for them to build their factory, and another year for them to meet that production goal.

And it takes how long to build ANY power plant, let alone nuclear, with all the red tape?

So let's look over the course of 10 years, assuming only 50% of production gets installed and used and NO production expansion:
2 years - 430 Megawatts produced / 215 Megawatts generated
3 years - 860 Megawatts produced / 645 Megawatts generated
4 years - 1.29 Gigawatts produced / 1.29 Gigawatts generated
5 years - 1.72 Gigawatts produced / 2.15 Gigawatts generated
6 years - 2.15 Gigawatts produced / 3.22 Gigawatts generated
7 years - 2.58 Gigawatts produced / 4.51 Gigawatts generated
8 years - 3.01 Gigawatts produced / 6.02 Gigawatts generated
9 years - 3.44 Gigawatts produced / 7.74 Gigawatts generated
10 years - 3.87 Gigawatts produced / 9.68 Gigawatts generated

Again, no growth, only 50% usage. The gains are cumulative. So in the time it takes to build your single nuclear reactor, that factory that took a year to setup is ahead. And, oh yeah, nuclear, windmill, hydroelectric, whatever...they're static, and will never produce more electricity than they were originally designed to, so they'll never catch up.

Come on people, we're not talking about a company that's producing electricity, were talking about a company producing electric generators. And in the highly competitive business of energy, you'd be a fool to think that growth would be stagnant if Nanosolar succeeds.

Re:Solar hype again... (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409133)

Oddly enough, efficiency is exactly the WRONG measurement here. Cost per watt is the primary factor. If we could produce a 100% efficient solar cell for $10/watt, it STILL wouldn't sell except for satellite applications.

However, a 15% efficient cell that's easy to install and costs $0.30 per watt (as the nanosolar is supposed to) will sell BIG. Given those figures, even with the rather cheap power I get from the grid, I could see a 2-4 year ROI installing that on my roof. OTOH, the $10/watt 100% efficient cell wouldn't pay back in my lifetime even if it would last that long (and it won't). To pay back EVER given a 30 year life, it would have to be under $2.50/watt.

Given that this is "free energy", efficiency is only a virtue if it doesn't make the product more expensive/watt.

Re:Solar hype again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21418571)

Schoolboy Error.

Watts measure power, energy is measured in Joules. Energy is priced in $ per Joule or commonly in the UK: £ per kWh (kiloWatts for an hour, about 3.6 MJ).

For example a 100 W bulb uses 100 Joules in a second, or 0.1 kWh in an hour (this is confusing). One kWh costs about £0.1. I can sell you 1 MW for a $, but you'll only get it for about 1 nanosecond.

Re:Solar hype again... (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 6 years ago | (#21427289)

Watts measure power, energy is measured in Joules.

Solar installations are measured in Watts. The comparitive cost of a particular solar technology is measured in money/Watts. This is true of any system that generates power. Power consumption is also measured in Watts. Electrical energy is priced based on Watt-hours (or KWh).

Time to payback (cost break-even) is computed in terms of the cost/watt-hour of grid electricity, cost/watt of the solar system and average hours/day of useful sunlight. I didn't bother to show the math for my ballpark calculations because it was just a ballpark figure and MOST people (though apparently not all) would understand that it was necessarily done since I came up with a payback period.

Re:Solar hype again... (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 6 years ago | (#21409389)

What's missing isn't apparently money, it's political will. The amount of cash we've flushed blowing up brown people the last few years would have bought a LOT nuclear plants. Had we chosen to spend the money on something worthwhile and done the manufacturing domestically (for national security reasons, of course), we would be in a much better position today.

iPhone best "gadget" of 2007? (1)

kevinmarchibald (1190871) | more than 6 years ago | (#21402623)

It's a 2.5G/WiFi smartphone with a touchscreen and some gesture control. Tell me why that's innovative enough to win a "Best of" award.

Re:iPhone best "gadget" of 2007? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21403565)

back to the basement.

Nanosolar power cell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21406091)

"That means even the cheapest solar panels cost about $3 per watt of energy they go on to produce. To compete with coal, that figure has to shrink to just $1 per watt."

Someone doesn't understand the difference between energy (Joule) and power (Watt).

I really hope it works but; (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21406105)

whats the odds that in a few years when their manufacturing is reliable enough to supply the general public they find that actually it costs as much as the rest of the solar equivalents and suddenly they become quiet on how cheap it will be and focus much more on how light and flexible it is as the advantages it offers. And I'm sure there will still be a market for such a product just not so exciting. Current solar tech will fall in price anyway as the silicon shortage abates.

Remember five to ten times cheaper than existing solar panes is their intention with their funding not their guaranteed result. If they really did manage it the world would be changed as current solar panels pay back in ten to twenty years. If this changed to one to four years everyone would buy them. But do you see coal mines and power plants falling in value due to the certainty of this gambit succeeding? No you don't. Its an aim, an unproven gamble.

But perhaps I am too cynical as I type this on my hundred dollar 40" oled low power screen run by my transmeta powered pc.

Good Boost not a solution (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21407861)

Solar is a great boost to existing power for building and such. It makes sense to harness all that sunlight beating down on your building.

However, it just isn't a solution for long term major power. We can't just replace everything out ther with solar as much as we'd like to. There are a few reasons why:

1) What happens when it's cloudy, if everything runs on sun in an area, cloudy days could mean blackouts. Now not only is there little light due to a storm, but your lights also don't work.

2) Surface area. Solar requires way more surface area than any other source. Just imagine the ecosystem impact of paving huge tracts of land in solar panels.

It's really not that environmentally friendly unless put on existing structures.

How do they arrive at $.30/Watt? (1)

thermowax (179226) | more than 6 years ago | (#21408475)

Is this based on the lifetime of the panel? (What I'm really curious about is how much these things cost). Although, I suppose that based on a typical $20,000 home solar installation, using their figures of $3/W for conventional panels, a home installation should be around $2000. That would be pretty spiffy. (Yeah, I know I'm ignoring the fixed cost of the inverters and whatnot. It's an estimate, deal with it.)

As an aside- someone back there posted a very negative and dismissive argument about how this will take forever to eliminate the global dependence on oil. This may be. I, however, am more concerned with:

1. Eliminating MY dependence on oil- if I have cheap electricity I'll build or buy an electric car.
2. Assisting the US in eliminating our dependence on foreign oil.
3. Destroying the global oil market with extreme prejudice.

I will do anything in my power to make life as painful as possible for the countries in the Middle East. This nonsense has gone on long enough. It occurs to me as I type this that the US gov't should consider subsidizing the production of these things and start dumping them everywhere they can after some large percentage of homes in America are converted.

Meraki Wireless (1)

doombob (717921) | more than 6 years ago | (#21413939)

The Meraki Wireless devices in the Best of What's New for Computing is neither "New" or the "Best." It is advertisement disguised as an article. The company I've been working for has been using this technology at the same price for almost three years now. Mesh Networks are nothing new and spectacular. They are handy, available, and in use.
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