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Solar Tree Bears Fruit

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the functional-art dept.

Power 106

Hugh Pickens writes "A prototype solar tree that recently went on display on a busy street in Vienna, Austria has passed a key test by providing light during the night-time even when the sun had been blocked by clouds for four days in a row. The branches of the solar tree were decorated with 10 solar lamps, each one powered by 36 solar cells. The tree included rechargeable batteries and electronic systems to measure the amount of light in the atmosphere and trigger the solar lamps to go on. 'Not just trees but other objects could be decorated with solar cells and so keep streets well lit at night time,' said Christina Werner from Cultural Project Management. Google uses a similar concept to light their parking lots with 3,000 solar panels that provide up to 10 percent of the Googleplex's power demand. We discussed Google's solar initiative last year."

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106 comments

The question is... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21848316)

How much non-renewable energy does it take to produce each solar tree?

Re:The question is... (2, Insightful)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848324)

What i'd want to know is how many existing street lamps could just have struts affixed to the sides to allow more attachment points for the PV cells and lighting on their own? Why does it have to be a single new unit to begin with.

Re:The question is... (1, Interesting)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849880)


Well, looking at the photo, it's certainly prettier to look at than most street lamps. Just a bit of a futuristic, more organic look. I like it. And it certainly gets more publicity than bolting some panels on top of an existing lamp. Besides, this is a prototype, so maybe you'll get your wish and the actual approach taken by city councils will be to adapt existing lights.

We should never give up our appreciation for elegance.

Re:The question is... (1)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21850066)

Touche, I wasn't even considering the "shinyness" aspect when one is first pitching a technology to the suits behind the table =)

thats a really good point heh.

Re:The question is... (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21851546)


Thanks and good of you to say so. Sadly /. mods fail to agree as I'm "Offtopic" now apparently. No more posting about solar powered lamp posts in an article on solar powered lamp posts for me then, eh? Bad Harmony! :D

Re:The question is... (4, Interesting)

NorbrookC (674063) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848430)

How much non-renewable energy does it take to produce each solar tree

If that were the only energy concern, then you'd have a point. It probably does take more energy in the beginning to produce it. However, the better (and more relevant) measure is total energy consumpption over its lifespan. That is, compare the manufacturing energy + energy use from grid + maintenance (replacement bulbs, etc.) over its projected lifepan to a standard lighting system. If it turns out that the overall energy used is less than that of a standard one, you come out ahead. You could also do cost analysis, but any pilot system has a much higher cost than production systems.

Re:The question is... (2, Insightful)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848488)

you should also factor in the disposal costs of the batteries, that probably is the largest factor.

Re:The question is... (1)

emilper (826945) | more than 6 years ago | (#21851436)

disposal cost for batteries for street lights ? Since when do street lights work with batteries ?

Re:The question is... (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#21851700)

Since when do street lights work with batteries ?

Since early October, only in Austria. Here is a link that tells you all about it. [renewablee...access.com]

In other news: RTFA.

Re:The question is... (1)

emilper (826945) | more than 6 years ago | (#21851980)

oh, right :) ... believing, or rather hoping that the Austrians became more reasonable lately I seem to have ignored that part. You are right, the batteries will cost them quite a bit: my bet is that in the spring the "solar trees" will be connected to the wires, and the nice solar panels will collect dust and pigeon guano peacefully until replaced for the sake of the next fad.

Re:The question is... (4, Insightful)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848852)

You also need to factor in the public safety benefit of it working even if the electricity is out. A whole city that stays lit up during a disaster could be very beneficial.

Re:The question is... (1)

renoX (11677) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849602)

Maybe but there's also the risk of having the light out due to bad weather: I doubt that much light could be produced if there was too much fog on the city..

Re:The question is... (2, Informative)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849914)

Well, the point of the article is that these things are working after 4 days in a row with almost no sunlight. Sounds reasonably robust to me.

Re:The question is... (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 6 years ago | (#21854886)

It's neither new nor hard. My solar garden lighting has at least that performance and at least that many lamps (high brightness LEDs) and will go a week without direct sunlight (it'll probably do more, but I don't think we've had a stretch of bad weather that long). It has an 80w peak panel, and a standard lead acid battery as storage (just the one).

The "daylight measuring electronics" are bone simple, it's just a simple comparator chip (costing pennies) that compares a reference voltage (taken from the battery) against the solar panel output voltage. When the panel falls below a certain threshold, it turns the lights on.

Re:The question is... (1)

linuxpyro (680927) | more than 6 years ago | (#21853870)

Perhaps there could be a failsafe where it would draw power from the grid to charge the batteries in the event of prolonged darkness? The average city would have a lot of conventional streetlights; if one were to retrofit these solar trees in, a lot of the infrastructure would already be there.

Re:The question is... (1)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849934)

Being able to more cost-effectively light larger areas also makes cities safer at night; this helps reduce crime which helps the economy, and also improves quality of life for citizens. The technologies will also improve as time goes on (more efficient solar panels, cleaner production methods, better/cleaner batteries etc.), so this is likely the way of the future. Even if the fixed costs (e.g. installation) are higher, the variables costs will almost certainly be miniscule.

Re:The question is... (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 6 years ago | (#21852526)

You also need to factor in the public safety benefit of it working even if the electricity is out. A whole city that stays lit up during a disaster could be very beneficial.
If the disaster is snow or ash: no light.

Re:The question is... (1)

bigpicture (939772) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849320)

I believe they are aware of this very question. I just saw a program on wind farms, and one of those wind generators, generates the energy it took to make it in about 3 months, and they have a 20 year life span. These numbers would probably be different for solar energy, both in manufacturing energy and generating efficiency, but I believe the outcome should still be a net positive.

Re:The real question is... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21848432)

how much energy is going to be wasted on replacing the stolen cells ?

The more important question is ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21848570)

how much does it cost and how long till some asshats destroy it?

Re:The question is... (1)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848728)

How much non-renewable energy does it take to produce each solar tree?

I presume you meant to try to revive the tired old myth that solar cells take more energy to manufacture than they produce over their lifetime?

Simple argumentum ad absurdum:

We (the continental US, but this applies to most places on Earth) receive 5.5 useful sunlight hours per day, on average.
Modern solar panels have an effective lifespan of at least 20 years.
That gives 40k hours over which a given panel can repay its initial cost, or 40kWh per Watt of panel.

The cheapest commercially-manufactured home solar panels currently cost $3 per Watt [renewablee...access.com] .
At $3 per panel, 40kWh costs $0.075/kWh.
I currently pay $0.174/kWh.

Thus, for every $3.00 Watt's worth of solar panel I buy, the manufacturer effectively gives me the panel plus $3.96 worth of energy they must have put into that panel's creation.

Not really the best business model, I'd have to say...

Re:The question is... (2, Interesting)

StopKoolaidPoliticsT (1010439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849022)

We (the continental US, but this applies to most places on Earth) receive 5.5 useful sunlight hours per day, on average.
On average, maybe, but it doesn't make NY or Washington get as much sun as Texas. You'll get a better ROI the farther south you live and the less cloudy the atmosphere is.

Modern solar panels have an effective lifespan of at least 20 years.
Is that taking into account hail storms and other forms of damage that happen in non-ideal conditions? I've seen hail leave dents in cars, I'd imagine that would be pretty devastating to a solar panel array. I'd imagine they'd also be pretty useless when they're covered with snow during the winter.

The cheapest commercially-manufactured home solar panels currently cost $3 per Watt.
Is that just the panel cost? If so, that doesn't include power inverters, batteries to store the power (I use most of my power at night when I'm home, not during the day when the panels are producing energy), replacement and disposal of the batteries, maintenance of the system, replacement of damaged panels, etc. All of that will need to be factored into the cost per watt too.

Re:The question is... (1)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849276)

Is that just the panel cost?

The argument I made applies to the myth that solar cells take more energy to create than they will ever produce. While you make a few good points, they don't really apply to supporting or refuting my argument.


On average, maybe, but it doesn't make NY or Washington get as much sun as Texas.

True... but you could also look at the flipside of that - In a Southern state, you'd do considerably better than the average.


Is that taking into account hail storms and other forms of damage that happen in non-ideal conditions?

I haven't seen "real" (ie, damage-causing) hail since 1980 or 1981, and when it does happen, it tends to happen over a small area. I'd call that a low enough probability event to ignore. As for the more general "accidental damage" category - Well, does your house have windows? Do you need to replace them all every few years due to baseballs or hail or meteorite damage?


I'd imagine they'd also be pretty useless when they're covered with snow during the winter.

Snow tends to melt within a few days when it lands on dark objects - Thus you don't often see roofs with all that much snow on them except right after a storm. And in the worst case, you could always clean them off.


All of that will need to be factored into the cost per watt too.

True, but that only affects the overall viability of photovoltaics as a home power source, not of the panels themselves.


Don't get me wrong, I don't currently advocate everyone going out and buying solar panels. If I lived in a Southern state, I probably would do so myself, but as a Northerner, the hassle would most likely exceed the payback for me - Although it would cost me somewhat less than paying the electric company, all that you mention and more makes it not really worth it, to me, to save a few hundred bucks over the next 20 years.

Now, when the cost per watt drops to below a certain level (the recent announcement of $1/Watt would certainly do it, though good luck getting any of those for the next few years), I'll probably tile my roof in panels. For now, though, I'll watch and wait.

Re:The question is... (2, Interesting)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849950)


I haven't seen "real" (ie, damage-causing) hail since 1980 or 1981, and when it does happen, it tends to happen over a small area. I'd call that a low enough probability event to ignore. As for the more general "accidental damage" category - Well, does your house have windows? Do you need to replace them all every few years due to baseballs or hail or meteorite damage?

Didn't anyone see that indestructible monitor a few days ago with the crystal screen? Okay, it's not actually indestructible but it's a transparent material that is strong enough to resist hammers, nails and cheap crossbow bolts whilst being cheap enough to use as the front for a monitor. The technology to make tough solar panels probably exists.

So we might be down one more argument against solar panels and we already have some good arguments for them - the fact that Earth will run out of fossil fuels and the general consensus that existing energy production methods are destroying our environment.

Re:The question is... (1)

DeadChobi (740395) | more than 6 years ago | (#21853180)

What if you factored in the costs incurred by reduced air quality from the coal power that you currently consume? While you may not personally pay those costs, other people do. Would photovoltaics be worthwhile at their current price if we could quite literally all be breathing a little better for your installation?

Re:The question is.../answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21853224)

Works fine up north. My personal solar dealer is located in upstate new york, they get plenty of snow and the panels work fine for him, albeit he runs a hybrid system, windcharger plus solar. My use of solar and snow indicates to me that the dark panels tend to melt the snow quickly, plus the winter settings (you adjust the angle a few times a year if on a separate array rack), helps the process from the steeper angle in the winter. At most a slight touch with a broom gets all the snow to slide off once a thin layer of melt forms at the surface.

    Solar has been affordable for a long time now, the hundreds of thousands of working installations out there prove it. Renting your electricity from the local monopoly will never result in a payback, never, all you do is keep paying for their infrastructure over and over again, while they get rich and you get constantly rising energy bills that will never stop. The choice right now is, eventually get to own the system, that is a variable but it does happen well within the warranty time range, after that all the electricity is free, or never own the system, just pay for it, and pay their bill forever, and that bill is guaranteed to always go up. Build equity-or rent, your choice.

Re:The question is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21854054)

The cheapest commercially-manufactured home solar panels currently cost $3 per Watt.


What does this even mean? Watts are a unit of power (rate of energy use), so watt-hours are therefore a measure of total energy.

Do you mean the total cost divided by the total watt-hours over a 20(?) year lifetime?
Or are you just foolishly dividing total cost by power output in watts?

I buy electricity by the watt-hour, at least last time I looked.
A watt-hour is never, ever abbreviated to "watt".

I see this ($ per watt) terminology all the time, and it's frustrating to see on a supposedly technical forum. It's the kind of mistake my Mother would make.

Re:The question is... (1)

Ferretman (224859) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849034)

Er....you REALLY DON'T want to use the cheapo "$3/watt" cells for something like this....we're talking Harbor Freight types here.

Good, REALIABLE, long-lasting solar cells run more like $6/watt, I think.

Ferretman

Re:The question is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21849040)

OK, that's fine - now after that 5.5 hours how did you store that energy? Or are you just done for the day? Does the battery system last 20 years as well?

Re:The question is... (1)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849386)

OK, that's fine - now after that 5.5 hours how did you store that energy? Or are you just done for the day? Does the battery system last 20 years as well?

First, see my other response in this thread. [slashdot.org]


Second, do you have a refridgerator? AC or heat for a significant part of the year? A home file server or even just an always-on DVR? Anyone home during even a portion of normal daylight hours, such as a child after school, or yourself on weekends?

I originally posted on this topic to refute an all-too-common myth. You, however, have just brought up another - The "all or nothing" straw-man.

You don't need to go off-grid to benefit from solar power. You can reduce your electric bill, even if just by a third (most people don't use a lot of power in their sleep), without going all the way to granola-crunchy-llama-breeding insanity.

Re:The question is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21849936)

I use a lot more power during the non-peak sun hours than I do during the nice bright day time when I am at work. The washing machine, dishwasher, dryer, computers (except for my 1 server which is on during the day), lights, oven, HVAC - all of these things are run when the solar cells would be doing nothing for me. So if storage isn't really an issue, then solar power doesn't buy me a thing. The only way it would benefit me much is if I had a reciprocal agreement with someone in a different time zone who had light when I need power and I had light when they needed power. It may need to be a three way agreement in order to work. But why spend money on solar cells without storage just to power that one or two things on during the day?

Re:The question is... (1)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#21850544)

The only way it would benefit me much is if I had a reciprocal agreement with someone in a different time zone who had light when I need power and I had light when they needed power.

Or, say, your own employer during the hours you work - Thus we have net (or "reverse") metering [wikipedia.org] to let you do exactly what you suggest.



So if storage isn't really an issue, then solar power doesn't buy me a thing.

You don't own a refrigerator? That alone quite likely accounts for a third to half of your electric bill, particularly if you take care to reduce your waste elsewhere (such as with CF lighting, zoned AC, room occupancy sensors, hard cutoffs on high "standby" draw devices like TVs, etc). Personally, I've calculated my fridge as an unavoidable power drain that accounts for almost two thirds of my electric bill, but I don't claim myself as typical in that regard.

Re:The question is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21852850)

Pro tip: get a fridge with the door on the top, or just reorient your fridge. You lose a heck of a lot of cold air opening and closing the thing with a traditional front door fridge.

Re:The question is... (1)

Hucko (998827) | more than 6 years ago | (#21854522)

Pro tip: Refrigerators systems are designed to run a particular orientation. Yes, you can run it while on its side, but it can make it ineffective... sometimes. YMMV.

Re:The question is... (1)

contrapunctus (907549) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849120)

We (the continental US, but this applies to most places on Earth) receive 5.5 useful sunlight hours per day, on average.
I heard on a radio show (naked scientists podcast) a calculation involving installing solar panels in Saharan Africa and how that could provide enough energy to power Europe. it was a bit of a naive calculation (what happens at night etc), but it made a good point. I wonder if there is a business model somewhere where temperate countries could buy electricity from sunny countries.

Re:The question is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21848850)

How much non-renewable energy does it take to produce each solar tree?

That's a stupid question, since it depends entirely on the source of the energy that is being used while the components are being manufactured, and that could be anything at all, from zero non-renewable to 100% non-renewable.

Once the world finally decides to stop subsidizing the "poverty-stricken" oil trillionaires, no doubt we'll begin to manufacture energy-related equipment using renewable energy sources alone, just to make the point that we can. For small demonstrator projects like this one though, it doesn't really matter.

Re:The question is... (1)

LamboAlpha (840950) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849556)

I think it is more important to look at the cost of the solar tree. The cost of the energy (renewable or nonrenewable) used to produce the panel is factored into the cost of the unit. The approaches of NorbrookC and pla are the proper way to look that the benefit of the panels.

Side note: You could use only renewable energy to make the device but then it would cost more and therefore decrease its benefit. There is a break even point were renewable energy is cheaper than fossil or nuclear energy, but we are not there yet.

Re:The question is... (1)

eugene ts wong (231154) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849636)

Why is that the question? Maybe the tree is produced in an area where there is "surplus" renewable energy, and it allows other areas to get some sustainable energy instead of building another dam, coal power plant or nuclear power plant. If the power had to be brought in from another community, then there are costs in installing cables and what have you.

I think that every power source uses a lot of energy, renewable or not.

good idea but... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21848320)

the thing is a fucking eyesore.

gosh, I mean, it's ugly.

really.

oh my.

Re:good idea but... (-1, Troll)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848618)

They built them for European Cities, You know those places where the 3 real tress are kept in the central city park, so they don't know any better. In my city from 30m above the ground it looks like a forest, you can't even tell it's there.

Re:good idea but... (2, Interesting)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848668)

Its not too bad not suitable for every street admittedly.

  its look is like an anemone quite alien an almost Martian chronicles feel to it. googles bus shelter designs are not as interesting to look at.

cost to make them may be quite high, however with 10% of European electricity production going into street lighting in europe the potential reduction in carbon emissions is significant.

  Retro fitting just the LED lamps to existing street lighting could be power saving in itself. The solar panels wouldn't need to provide power year round since existing lamps have a power supply they could switch too.

I'm sure more sympathetic designs could be made, its the potential of this project which makes it interesting.

The real questions are how much power is required and how much light do these tree's produce.

It looks lovely to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21849016)

So I guess whether it's beautiful or ugly is a subjective value judgement.

This is immaterial anyway, since the shape and design can be changed at will. More important is the principle that street lights capture their own energy.

google (-1, Flamebait)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848362)

does not need to be mentioned in the summary of an article that has nothing to do with google.

Re:google (-1, Offtopic)

Alcyoneus (1107533) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848400)

Another google puff piece disguised as an article. Another score for Google PR.

Re:google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21849234)

flamebait ??? fact ! mods on crack... it's a real pain, simply read, don't let your fanboyism get the better of you.

Solar Electric Baobab Tree (3, Insightful)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848388)

With a few minor changes, this "tree" could collect the rain water that runs off the solar panel and store it in its "trunk." Then, it would slowly release the water during the night to water the plants around the base of the tree. The result would save water and create a literally greener environment.

Re:Solar Electric Baobab Tree (2, Funny)

coldcell (714061) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848464)

In Soviet Russia the trees pee on you!

Re:Solar Electric Baobab Tree (1)

CarAnalogy (1191053) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848476)

Why would that be needed? That water reaches the soil anyway if it's raining.

On top of that, we get plenty of rain in these regions (Austria/Western Europe), so there's no need for irrigation. In places where they do need irrigation, there's not much rain to collect, methinks :)

Re:Solar Electric Baobab Tree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21848578)

He's looking for a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. Never mind that by withholding the water that normally evaporates during the day, his plan would affect the amount of future rainfall. Sure nature may not have the most efficient system--but by and large, it's a balanced one.

Re:Solar Electric Baobab Tree (1)

Socguy (933973) | more than 6 years ago | (#21850124)

Incorrect. This is a problem that exists, you don't spend much time in grounds keeping do you? This is why cities send water trucks around. Your statement about evaporation is incorrect as well. During a heavy rainfall in the city most of the rainfall runs into the nearest storm sewer, it doesn't evaporate. This means that during seasons defined by heavy bursts of rainfall followed by long stretches of high heat and sunlight, soil moisture can become a problem. This could actually increase the amount of future rainfall (assuming that most of the moisture is pulled from the local soil before it falls).

Re:Solar Electric Baobab Tree (3, Insightful)

turgid (580780) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848600)

Firstly, the water that reaches the soil when it's raining mostly flows over the surface and into drains. If it were stored and released slowly, it would be more effective at watering the plants since it would have time to penetrate the surface. Also, being released at night it would not be subject to evapouration caused by sunlight.

I also imagine that these solar trees will function in all countries, not just Austria, or those in Western Europe.

Re:Solar Electric Baobab Tree (1)

Agripa (139780) | more than 6 years ago | (#21851324)

I also imagine that these solar trees will function in all countries, not just Austria, or those in Western Europe.

Region encoding can solve that problem.

Re:Solar Electric Baobab Tree (1)

MacAnkka (1172589) | more than 6 years ago | (#21852062)

"I also imagine that these solar trees will function in all countries, not just Austria, or those in Western Europe."

Well, here in northern Europe (southern Finland, to be exact), the days during the winter are short, the sun travels very low and the sky is usually very cloudy. Go to Lapland (in the northernmost area of Finland) and you won't be seeing the sun almost at all during the winter.

Solar power is great, but there are places where it just doesn't work.

Re:Solar Electric Baobab Tree (1)

Antibozo (410516) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849422)

Then, it would slowly release the water during the night to water the plants around the base of the tree.

An interesting idea, but plants are already able to handle varying moisture conditions, while too-constant moisture promotes growth of damaging fungi. Rather than greener, you might end up with moldier.

Big parkingplex? (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848410)

Google uses a similar concept to light their parking lots with 3,000 solar panels that provide up to 10 percent of the Googleplex's power demand.
So lighting the parking lots uses 10% of the Googleplex's power?
How big are their parking lots?

Re:Big parkingplex? (1)

Jartan (219704) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848530)

I think they meant the panels in the parking lot provide up to 10 percent of the power. They are also called Solar "Trees" even though they appear to simply be overhangs with panels on top of them.

Re:Big parkingplex? (1)

CarAnalogy (1191053) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848536)

I guess they're probably using the generated power for more than just parking lot lighting. TFA is unavailable though, so I can't check if I'm right.

s/Austia/Austria/g (2, Informative)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848414)

I believe Vienna is in AUSTRIA.

Re:s/Austia/Austria/g (1)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848866)

It didn't say Australia, so don't complain.

Re:s/Austia/Austria/g (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 6 years ago | (#21851548)

Allegedly, it's quite a problem for the people of Österreich. The aeroport in Wien, for instance, sells t-shirts with the slogan "Austria - No Kangaroos".

Re:s/Austia/Austria/g (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21849110)

It means nothing to me.

Can you say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21848474)

Telperion and Laurelin [wikipedia.org] ?

infamous tin hats to be replaced by solar caps? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21848568)

in the end, the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in.

for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it?

we're intending for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events.

http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying [google.com]

dictator style micro management has never worked (for very long). it's an illness. tie that with life0cidal aggression & softwar gangster style bullying, & what do we have? a greed/fear/ego based recipe for disaster.

meanwhile, you can help to stop the bleeding (loss of life & limb);
http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/28/vermont.banning.bush.ap/index.html [cnn.com]

the bleeding must be stopped before any healing can begin. jailing a couple of corepirate nazi hired goons would send a clear message to the rest of the world from US.

any truthful look at the 'scorecard' would reveal that we are a society in decline/deep doo-doo, despite all of the scriptdead pr ?firm? generated drum beating & flag waving propaganda that we are constantly bombarded with. is it time to get real yet? please consider carefully ALL of yOUR other 'options'.

the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

as there are no benefits, just more&more death/debt & disruption. fortunately there's an 'army' of light bringers, coming yOUR way.

the little ones/innocents must/will be protected. after the big flash, ALL of yOUR imaginary 'borders' may blur a bit? for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available.

'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet, & by your behaviors. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable. some of US should consider ourselves somewhat fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate. it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc....

as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis. concern about the course of events that will occur should the life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order.

'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continue on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US;

gov. bush denies health care for the little ones

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/03/bush.veto/index.html [cnn.com]

whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/12/bush.war.funding/index.html [cnn.com]

& pretending that it isn't happening here

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article3086937.ece [timesonline.co.uk]

all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article304 [timesonline.co.uk]

Looks promising (2, Interesting)

dysfunct (940221) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848584)

A better picture of that tree can be found here [vienna.at] .

As a citizen of Austria, I find it quite astonishing that this thing was able to provide light for a couple of days, although I have to admit that compared to now October still had plenty of daylight. I don't know whether or not they have been removed from the streets, but it would be pretty interesting to see for how long they can go in December/January, when it's quite dark throughout the entire month.

Apart from the energy savings, though, I wouldn't necessarily want to see them implemented throughout the city. Most of the 1st district's lighting is quite dim, giving the whole city with its many historic buildings a bit of a romantic flair, which - in my opinion - would be lost with all those bright lights everywhere.

Re:Looks promising (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848812)

You are at a lower lattitude than where I am and I have had only 27 solar heating hours since the end of November. This is off the readings for my Solar heating array, I know the solar PV array has not had much to it as well, but it's only running the garage and the battery is still topped off, but I barely spend any time out there as the solar heat array is only keeping the garage just above freezing due to so little direct sunlight. I get some heat from the vents on bright overcast days, but nothing like the furnace fire I get when It's a clear day and I get full sun on the panels. If the power draw for the lamps were small the storage capacity was sized for the dark time of the year and the panels sized right, it certainly could provide light all year round.

Looks ugly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21850346)

I'd buy arguments on the value of light in dim areas -- deters crime and reduces accidents and so forth. Energy conservation? Well and good.

But what's with the design? The things are straight out of some 70's hipster's living room; they'd look at home next to pod chairs and fuzzy wall paintings. Does nobody today ever step back and think, "what will these look like in 15 years?"

Blech.

[Preview captcha "futile." True, how true...]

Re:Looks promising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21850914)

Somehow I thought that the solar tree would also look like a tree, maybe in Milan something like that fits, but I don't think it really suits the 1st district in Vienna. Or maybe it's just because it's a prototype?

Funny... I live in Vienna, but havent't seen it... (1)

ammoQ (454616) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848586)

... or heard or read about it. Anyway, this tree seems to be rather a piece or art than anything that is likely to go into mass production anytime soon.

Very inefficient compared to grid-tied panels (3, Informative)

originalhack (142366) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848650)

So long as fossil fuels are being burned to make power during the day, it is far more efficient to take the daytime output of the most cost-effective possible panels (usually nice unimaginative rectangular ones that mount on existing roofs or new carport structures) and feed it directly to the grid to reduce the load on the inefficient plants that peak during the daytime. There is no reason to lose a major chunk of the power charging batteries, to build expensive battery arrays or to build bizarre structures to support the cells.

At night, the worst power plants are throttled back or shut down and the most efficient plants are handling the load.

When no further fossil fuels are used to make daytime power, then storing electricity from daylight becomes interesting and, even then, batteries are a loser.

Re:Very inefficient compared to grid-tied panels (1)

slittle (4150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21850548)

Mainstream environmentalism is all about PR and raising awareness. A street lamp with a solar panel on the top connected to the grid doesn't make quite as profound a "we're doing something for the environment" statement as does a lamp that powers itself and will even run for days on minimal input.

Earth Hour [wikipedia.org] was even more useless than this, but most people are stupid and need to be treated like little children with silly gimmicks to get them to pay attention: turn the god damn light off when you're not using it, mmkay?

Re:Very inefficient compared to grid-tied panels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21851294)

I'm going to guess that for solar arrays this small, the whole grid tie mechanism is actually more expensive and inefficient than just putting a battery at the base of the tree. As an added bonus, the "trees" are autonomous. You can just "plant" them anywhere you want and they'll work. You don't have to worry about figuring out how to get electricity to them, with unsightly wires or digging up the streets.

dom

More and more solar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21848704)

Sharp solar had a production volume of 434 megawatts in 2006 and a world market share of 17 percent.

So it sounds like we are producing solar cells equivalent to a few power plants every year. (Yes I realize that solar panels are rated in peak watts.) That's a lot but solar won't replace coal any time soon.

Solar Tree? (1)

MuscaDomestica (764805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848752)

Aren't trees already solar powered?

Re:Solar Tree? (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#21848874)

Yeah but they normally don't glow in the dark.

Well except the ones in chernobyl.. and those are killer zombie mutant trees anyway.

Re:Solar Tree? (1)

linuxpyro (680927) | more than 6 years ago | (#21853902)

They should genetically engineer a bioluminescent tree that would glow in the dark. I think they've done it with other plants.

Simpsons reference in TFA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21848760)

Remember that Simpson's ep. where Mr. Burns blocked the sun? That's EXACTLY what happened here.

This is sculpture not lighting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21848892)

I am surprised by the design. I would think that the horizontal solar collectors would soon be covered with dirt from the rain, decreasing their power generating capacity. And I have a LED light bulb on my front porch. It cost about $20 and is bery dim, about as much light as a 15 watt incandescent lightbulb would produce. Even with 10-20 of these, it would not produce as much light as one of the regular street lights produce. If you notice in the picture, the real street lighting is produced the regular way. This is just and interesting sculpture to have in front of the opera house.

Re:This is sculpture not lighting (1)

Antibozo (410516) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849244)

it would not produce as much light as one of the regular street lights produce

Regular street lights produce way too much light, however. This causes people's eyes to adapt to brighter night-time light, which makes them blinder in places the street lights don't cover as well.

Furthermore, while the design looks attractive, it is not clear from the photograph that the light produced is fully shielded to prevent horizontal propagation and consequent energy waste and light pollution. If cities are looking to redesign night-time lighting, one hopes they will consider the importance of dark skies while they're at it.

An interesting article for reference. [newyorker.com]

Angle the panels... (1)

Traf-O-Data-Hater (858971) | more than 6 years ago | (#21853002)

...at 45 degrees. Sure, you'd lose efficiency but this could be made up for by having a few more panels. The payoff would be the self-cleaning action when rain falls, plus birds would be less likely to roost on them.

Re:Angle the panels... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21855298)

Or, better yet, have the panels mounted on frame with a simple control system to 'follow the sun', angling the panel to best catch the light. As a 'reset' location (say, when it's night), the control system would return the panels to some neutral position ... which could be at an angle that deters birds, lets snow/rain drain, etc.

Not sure if the cost (in power) of running the control system is greater than the benefit of 'following the sun', especially if you have a lot of small panels (and thus a lot of control systems)...

Lighting Parking Lots??? (2, Insightful)

Wugger (17867) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849180)

Why bother going to the trouble of milking high quality renewable energy from the environment if you're just going to waste it on something frivolous like keeping an empty expanse of pavement lit up for eight hours a day!? If we stopped frittering away energy on pointless things like lighting empty parking lots, we'd have a lot less to worry about in terms of energy security. Even the big G doesn't get it.

Re:Lighting Parking Lots??? (1)

Encrypto (1054956) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849352)

All you need to do is buy a telescope and try to use it to make yourself strongly aware of how bad light pollution is. It turns out that so-called security lighting often help criminals hide behind "glare bombs", and gives them light to work by without the suspicious give-away of walking around at night with a flashlight in hand.

Re:Lighting Parking Lots??? (1)

eugene ts wong (231154) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849814)

That's a very good point. Maybe there needs to be legislation that requires the powering down of lights after hours.

Re:Lighting Parking Lots??? (2)

Socguy (933973) | more than 6 years ago | (#21850200)

The reason empty parking lots are lit at night is for liability reasons. Car accidents, muggings and rapes are some examples of such liabilities. Crime prevention is another one. Car break-ins and things like house intrusions are all easier to accomplish in the dark. Lighting the city at night is seen by governments as due diligence, much like scraping snow off the sidewalks, and sanding icy intersections.

Re:Lighting Parking Lots??? (1)

Antibozo (410516) | more than 6 years ago | (#21851646)

Car break-ins and things like house intrusions are all easier to accomplish in the dark.

That depends. In many cases, break-ins are actually aided by ambient lighting, because people skulking around with flashlights are a lot more likely to be noticed, and unless you're skilled at ninjitsu, you're going to need some light. Motion-activated lighting is generally superior for crime prevention as it attracts attention. Yes, ambient lighting helps prevent people from tripping over things, but there's good evidence that in a lot of scenarios it increases, not decreases, crime.

See this site [rutgers.edu] for more detailed discussion on the pros and cons.

Every time I fly into an airport at night, I look down with awe at all the streets lit up brightly. Usually I see very few cars making use of that lighting, and far fewer people. It baffles me to contemplate the vast quantity of energy that is being expended lighting up unused areas all night long, and I have to wonder seriously whether the benefits outweigh the costs. At the very least, I wish most night lighting were motion-activated; on roads, motion detectors coupled with short-range radio signals between lights could provide anticipatory lighting for travelers but save huge amounts of energy when there is no one about.

Taiyohh! (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849190)

The sun is in your hand!

Can I get an angle, please? (1)

tyrione (134248) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849238)

From the photograph I'd love to see these effective at a 20 - 30 degree slop from horizontal so as us folks who get SNOW could still utilize these without them becoming a catcher's mitt for heavy snowfall.

what a misleading title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21849528)

I thought this was going to be a story of a genetically modified tree that used it's own energy to emit light, or power a light source. turn out the "solar" tree merely functions as a substitute lamp post, just something to hang real solar panels on. shit they could have just used any old object to hanf things on, like a horse, a ladder, a wax sculpture, etc. the same result would have been attained.

Commercially available solar street lights (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21849808)

There are commercially available solar street lights [solarlighting.com] in the US. 5-day battery backup, resistant to 150MPH winds. "During the 2004 hurricane season in Florida, SLV models withstood ground zero wind conditions from category 5 hurricanes and typhoons." Just what's needed to provide light during emergencies.

The "Solar Tree" is more of an art project.

STOP THIS (1)

zmooc (33175) | more than 6 years ago | (#21850408)

When will those fucking assholes stop polluting just about every square millimeter of our planet with artificial ugly light?! It's totally outrageous that just about nobody alive today has actually ever had the chance to experience why we call the milky way the milky way.

Re:STOP THIS (1)

NeuroManson (214835) | more than 6 years ago | (#21851890)

Sure, lets just have entire economies shut down at night so that nobody would need those lights, burglars can invade peoples' homes at night with impunity, raping and pillaging and no worries about witnesses. In fact, lets all move underground into caves, then there'd be plenty of reason to run the lights because there'd be no sky to defile. Brilliant! Now where's my goddamned night vision goggles?

Re:STOP THIS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21853130)

burglars can invade peoples' homes at night with impunity, raping and pillaging and no worries about witnesses.
Spoken like a frightened city dweller! Damn city folk...

Light Pollution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21850450)

Enough with the light pollution already.

astronomers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21850626)

And somewhere, another astronomer is rolling over in his grave.

It's sad that there are very few places left in the world where one can experience a dark night's sky. I don't think we want to be going MORE in that direction.

Looks promising, but snow? Pigeons? (1)

Acting Ordinant (920603) | more than 6 years ago | (#21850986)

These solar-powered city lights look practical only for cities where it doesn't snow. Those flat panels set parallel to the ground will collect piles of snow in the winter, possibly for weeks on end. After the batteries drain, the street below simply is not lit, which is a safety hazard. And for you suburban dwellers who assume street lighting's purpose is to show drivers where the curbs are: its primary purpose in cities is to cut down on street crime. Unlit city streets are a safety hazard not as a matter of potential stubbed toes, but as a matter of life-or-death situations.

Pigeons will also find these nice flat surfaces a great place to land and, um, leave deposits. Adding a few spikes to each panel would cut down on that, or angling the panels to make them less of a landing zone.

But these are solvable problems. There is great hope that engineers and artists can combine forces to create practical but beautiful solar-powered city lights.

won't someone think of the astronomers (1)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21853000)

when someone invents a cheap way to illuminate a whole city during nighttime, amateur astronomy will die :(

Re:won't someone think of the astronomers (1)

Kuroji (990107) | more than 6 years ago | (#21854286)

I think you're a few decades late, but then, they can always go out to the countryside.

Re:won't someone think of the astronomers (1)

Antibozo (410516) | more than 6 years ago | (#21854702)

they can always go out to the countryside.

Not really. Artificial light affects limiting magnitude far from cities, and for many people, traveling to a place where the sky is really dark is practically impossible.

Take a look at these color-coded maps of artificial sky brightness [inquinamentoluminoso.it] , or read up on the Bortle dark-sky scale [wikipedia.org] .

Theft (1)

morphovar (1205804) | more than 6 years ago | (#21853482)

Solar cells are expensive. These things could become an easy target for thieves.

Laws (1)

infonote (1065258) | more than 6 years ago | (#21854850)

All that needs to be done is to make a law around the world so that all new houses, premises, businesses etc have to have solar panels. The old houses will take time but at least it is a start. With the law, the price of solar panels will go down due to increased demand and older houses will be able to afford solar panels.
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