Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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Urban Heat Islands: Their Effects and Solutions

the heat island effect

Heat Island prevent heat from escaping cities.

“As urban areas grow a person’s health will be connected to the build up of heat and pollution in the city…..it will become essential to build green.”

By Linn Smith

April 20, 2017—–If you live in a city you probably have noticed how much cooler it is in the summertime when you take a drive in the country. Drive back toward the city, with its concrete buildings, and you feel the great intensiveness of a hot summer day. There’s a name for this city heat….the urban heat island effect.

What is a Heat Island?
An urban heat island describes a large area of buildings and concrete (cities) that has temperatures which are higher than the countryside surrounding them. According to http://www.epa.gov, “The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C).” With global warming the temperatures of the heat islands will continue to increase.

Urban heat profile

Urban areas hold heat.

What Causes the Build Up of Heat?

As you enter a city you may notice concrete and asphalt surrounding you—-buildings, parking lots, streets and side walks. The concrete and asphalt absorb the sun’s heat rather than reflecting it, causing surface temperatures to rise. The rise in temperature also causes a depletion of vegetation resulting in less shade and moisture in the air. The resulting heat requires an increase in energy consumption—air conditioning which results in greater electrical use. This  cycle  keeps revolving—a catch 22 in which there is no escape from the merry-go-round of negative conditions from heat build-up.

Smog and Heat Islands

Cities can also cause “hotspots” of pollution. This smog can trap heat over a city, holding in the gases from coal burning facilities and vehicle emissions, not allowing them to escape into the atmosphere (the greenhouse effect). In addition, the closely built structures resist air flow, keeping the air trapped in the city, unlike the countryside which cools off as the air flows more freely.

Health Effects of Heat Islands

Some of the more obvious effects of heat islands are discomfort, breathing problems, heat stroke and exhaustion. But they can also be related to cardiovascular disease, sleep deprivation, depression and many more!

urban heat island

Build Green

Minimizing the Heat Island Effect

New technologies for minimizing heat islands are rapidly being developed. Several techniques currently in use for developing green urban areas are:

*Cut down on heat absorbing materials, such as asphalt and cement, by using more reflective surfaces for paved areas.The pavement can be enhanced by using reflective aggregate, a reflective or clear binder or a reflective surface coating.
*Plant trees that shade streets and paved areas.
*Use white roof membranes instead of black.
*Create a green roof–rooftop gardens.
*Create rooftop decks made from wood.
*Increase shade around buildings.
*Use energy efficient appliances and equipment which cut down on electrical use.

As National Geographic summarized, “Urban heat islands can have worse air and water quality than their rural neighbors. They often have lower air quality because there are more pollutants (waste products from vehicles, industry, and people) being pumped into the air. These pollutants are blocked from scattering and becoming less toxic by the urban landscape: buildings, roads, sidewalks, and parking lots.”

As urban areas grow a person’s health will be connected to the build up of heat and pollution in the city…..it will become essential to build green. The planning stage for this is now!

Urban Heat Islands

building green

build green


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The Repeal of The Stream Protection Rule

smog

Coal causes major pollution!

“The Congressional Review Act clears the path for the new Republican administration to repeal any of Obama’s legislation signed after mid June of 2016.”

By Linn Smith

February 19, 2017—This week Trump signed a bill which repeals Obama’s Stream Protection Rule, a regulaton that protects waterways from coal mining waste by placing restrictions on coal companies that dump their waste in streams. Obama signed the Stream Protection Rule in December 2016, several weeks before the Trump administration took power.

The Congressional Review Act

The 1996 Congressional Review Act allows the House and Senate to kill any recently finalized federal regulation signed by an outgoing administration, in this case Obama. It allows congress and the new administraton, Trump, to repeal an act by a majority vote in congress, as long as the new president agrees to sign it, and Trump has agreed to the repeal!

The Congressional Review Act clears the path for the new Republican administration to repeal any of Obama’s legislation signed after mid June of 2016, and there is a lengthy list of repeals pending! The Stream Protection Rule was finalized by Obama in December 2016, so the Congressional Review Act is well within the limits for use in repealing this rule. Since its creation in 1996 the Congressional Review Act has only been put in to use one time—George W. Bush rolled back legislation in 2001 that would have further protected employees in the workplace.

The Stream Protection Rule

The Stream Protection Rule would have required new mining companies to set aside money to restore surrounding streams that would be effected by the mine and all mining companies would be required to monitor water quality. The Interior Department estimated the regulation would have cost the coal companies only 0.1 percent or less of their entire annual coal industry revenues!

According to sciencemag.org, “Demise of the Stream Rule won’t revitalize coal industry,” killing the rule will reset to its 1983 version when, “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers usually issued a permit for blocking a stream with mine waste with the EPA also signing off. The repeal puts the pressure back on the Corps.”

Mountaintop mining

Mountaintop mining blasts away the mountains!

No Return of Coal Mining Jobs

The coal companies stated the Stream Protection Rule would have reduced mining jobs. But in Appalachia it’s predicted that jobs will never return because mountaintop mining is more economical and requires fewer workers. In the Planet Earth Weekly article, From Coal Mining to Renewables, planetearth5.com, I stated, “Coal jobs have been trending down for decades, partially because of mountaintop mining. Mountaintop mining has taken the place of underground mining and requires fewer workers, cutting jobs by the thousands.”

Loss of jobs in underground mining

Underground Mining

In 2015 the coal industry employed just under 70,000 people. There will always be some need for coal, as in the production of steel, but as an energy source it’s becoming the more expensive fuel. Natural gas and renewables are more economical, with renewables eventually being the future!

Trump signs Stream Protection Rule


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Grameen Shakti: One of The World’s Fastest Growing Renewable Energy Companies

Renewables in Bangladesh

Shakti provides solar for rural areas.

“Sustainable Energy: Entrepreneurial companies like Shakti are proving we can do far better than business as usual.”

By Linn Smith

February 10, 2017—-Founded in 1996 in Bangladesh, Grameen Shakti has installed over 5 million solar home systems and created over 100,000 clean energy jobs. Grameen Shakti was set up as a not-for-profit in 1996 to bring modern energy services to households, by providing both energy technology (solar-home-systems for electricity, improved stoves and biogas for cooking) and affordable finance, at a local level.

Renewable Energy

Shakti provides solar for small businesses.

Solar in Rural Bangladesh

In Bangledesh 80% of the population lives in rural areas, which is where Grameen Shakti gets its name—translation is “rural energy”. Nearly half of rural Bangladesh becomes islands during the rainy season as snow melts in the Himalayas, rushing through the countryside to the Indian Ocean. Income varies among the populations with many people finding solar out of reach because of low income. Obtaining solar would equal the entirety of several months wages for some people.

Grameen Shakti

Solar power is provided for rural Bangladesh.

Creating Rural Supply Chains for Solar

Shakti focuses its solar energy towards what the customer needs, and makes plans with the rural people to pay for it with very affordable loans. In an article by Nancy Wimmer, director of microSOLAR, she states, “Shakti meets this challenge by creating rural supply chains and after-sales service. Its engineers and technicians live, work and are trained on the job in the villages. They become part of the community, keep in close contact with their customers, and make sure the solar systems are in good repair and running properly. If there is a problem, Shakti is on site to solve it – even in times of disaster. Shakti sent young, motivated engineers into the hinterland to set up its first branches. They won the trust of the villagers, trained village technicians, managed all financing, solar installations and maintenance. This laid the groundwork for Shakti’s quality service and steady growth, but it took years to develop.” Shakti now has 1500 branch offices in every district of Bangledesh, and has trained mostly women as engineers.

Grameen Shakti

Shakti provides Bangladesh with solar power.

Solar and Biogas: Creating Clean Energy

Today Grameen Shakti has reached nearly 8 million rural dwellers, with not only solar but also biogas plants, which are produced by the breakdown of organic matter such as agricultural waste, manure sewage or food waste. It has also provided over 600,000 energy efficient cook stoves to rural areas.

Wimmer also states, “There are no silver bullets for solving the many problems facing traditional rural societies, but entrepreneurial companies like Shakti are proving we can do far better than business as usual. Shakti succeeds in such a tough business because it has found a way to provide affordable services and financing to a million village customers with microcredit.”

Shakti: Moving Towards a Low Carbon Vison

Shakti is a winner of the Ashden award, which supports sustainable energy trailblazers that focus on a world where everyone has access to affordable, clean energy. The Ashden awards recipients are encouraged to move closer towards a low carbon vision through tangible, powerful examples to inspire others to act by providing the winners finance, publicity, and research.

Grameen Shakti: Doing what it can, where it can to create a healthier planet!


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The World Solar Challenge: Developing Cars for our Future

Solar Car

The World Solar Challenge: Designing cars for our future/

“The World Solar Challenge contest is primarily designed to find the world’s most efficient solar car and to inspire some of the brightest young people on the planet to address the imperatives of sustainable transport!”

By Linn Smith

September 12, 2016—-The World Solar Challenge (worldsolarchallenge.org) is a solar car race that takes place in Australia every two years. Teams from universities, corporations and even high schools from around the world participate to promote research on solar-powered cars. The solar car race began in 1987 and in 2015 there were 43 teams from 23 different countries entering the race. The 30th anniversary of the race will be October 8-15, 2017.

The Solar Challenge

The Solar Car of the Future

Hans Tholstrup and the Solar Car

The idea for the contest came from Hans Tholstrup who was the first to navigate a solar car coast to coast across a country–Australia. In 1982 Hans Tholstrup, along with Larry Perkins, drove their solar car across Australia in 20 days. (See article, “The First solar Car to Cross a Continent”, Planet Earth Weekly, August 24, 2016.) The contestants in the World Solar Race are allowed 5kw hours of stored energy, which is about 10% of the necessary energy to make the trip across Australia, a total of 1900 miles. All other energy must come from the sun, or the kinetic energy generated from the motion of the vehicle.

The Solar Achiever

The solar car traveled 2500 miles in 20 days.

The Solar Car Race

Every two years the race starts in Darwin, Northern Territory in Australia and ends in Adelaide, South Australia. According to worldsolarchallenge.org, “Once the teams have left Darwin they must travel as far as they can until 5pm in the afternoon, where they make camp in the desert wherever they happen to be. All teams must be fully self-sufficient and for all concerned it is a great adventure – many say the adventure of a lifetime!” During the journey there are 7 mandatory check points where team managers may update themselves with the latest information on the weather and their own position in the field and perform the most basic of maintenance only, checking and maintenance of tire pressure and cleaning of debris from the vehicle.

Solar race across Australia.

Building cars for our future!

The Solar Car Categories

There are 3 categories of solar cars. The Challenger class makes the trip in a single stage from Darwin to Adelaide. The Cruiser Class is conducted as a regularity trial and the Adventure Class is a non-competitive class which consists of cars built for previous events.

Solar cars for our future

Driving Across Australia

The World Solar Challenge contest is primarily designed to find the world’s most efficient solar car and to inspire some of the brightest young people on the planet to address the imperatives of sustainable transport! You can find the entry forms online on the Solar Challenge website. A chance of a lifetime!

The solar Car race

Entry in the solar car race.


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The First Solar Car to Cross a Continent

The Solar Achiever, 1984

The first solar car to cross a continent.

“Although solar power has been used in less spectacular ways, this was the first trans-continental crossing in a vehicle deriving its energy from the sun.”

By Linn Smith

August 24, 2016—-“Maybe one day we’ll all be driving around in solar-powered cars. And, if that happens, the names of Hans Tholstrup and Larry Perkins will have a place in history. Without men like these, this would be a duller place. The spirit of adventure is not yet dead.”—Melbourne Herald News

The Solar Achiever

The solar car took only 8 months to build.

The Quiet Achiever

In Australia in 1982, Perkins and Tholstrup, wanting to popularize solar, built the first solar-manned car to cross a continent. With an attitude of, “There’s nothing that can’t be done,” they built the solar vehicle for about $50,000. The car, known as the Quiet Achiever, was designed in only 8 months. It was piloted by Perkins and Tholstrup who only stopped along the route at night to camp. In less than 20 days, the solar powered car made its trek from Perth to Sydney, traveling 2,500 miles from coast to coast across Australia.

The Solar Achiever

The solar car traveled 2500 miles in 20 days.

Using Only the Sun’s Power

The body of the solar car was made of fiberglass and the frame of steel tubing. It had a 1 kilowatt photovoltaic power system mounted on the roof that allowed it to travel approximately 14 miles per hour. Using only the sun for power, the two 12 volt batteries stored enough power to give the car about 90 minutes of energy without the sun. But on this trip there was enough sun to keep the car fully charged at all times. The solar car met with very few problems and was periodically monitored to assure that only solar power was being used.

The Melbourne Age newspaper stated at the time, “The journey of Hans Tholstrup and Larry Perkins from Perth to Sydney in The Quiet Achiever will go down as one of the pioneering feats in history. Although solar power has been used in less spectacular ways, this was the first trans-continental crossing in a vehicle deriving its energy from the sun. It constitutes the fastest chapter in man’s learning how to co-operate with powers beyond his own–the sun!”

The Solar Achiever


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Another Pragmatic Use for Solar–The Solar Bus!

The solar bus!

A prototype of what is to come in Uganda–the solar bus!

“It’s environmentally friendly, green and clean—the solar bus!”

By Linn Smith

July 3, 2016—In February of this year, Africa’s first solar bus, a prototype, hit its highways thanks to engineer, Paul Isaac Musasizi, CEO of Kiira Motors. The Kayoola Bus, as it is called in Africa, is an environmentally friendly, green and clean, 34 seat alternative to current buses. The system consists of two batteries charged by solar panels on the roof.

Creating Jobs for Uganda

When manufacturing of the bus is in place the company hopes to create 7,000 jobs, and by 2039, be able to manufacture all the parts for the bus in Uganda. Pricing the bus at $58,000, Musaisizi currently has some government funding, but is still looking for investors to get his project off the ground.

The solar bus

The Solar Bus–ride free!

Australia’s Tindo

Uganda does not boast the first solar bus. Australia has what they call the Tindo, powered 100% by solar! The Tindo was created by a New Zealand company called Designline International which “leads the world in vehicle design, hybrid propulsion systems and electric drive systems,” striving to keep New Zealand green through being environmentally conscious. The batteries of the Tindo are charged by a solar system on the roof at the city bus station instead of panels on top of the bus. This bus has been in operation since 2007 and accommodates 40 passengers–and cost to ride? Totally free!

China's hybrid bus

China’s hybrid bus–keeping in green!

China’s Hybrid Buses

China put solar hybrid buses into operation in 2012. These buses have solar panels installed on the roof which power lithium-ion batteries.

Solar Bus

Austria’s Solar Bus

And Solar for Austria

In Austria the first solar bus was put into operation in 2011. This is a bus developed to transport students between the university campuses.

“Solar buses—solar energy applied in another pragmatic way!”


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Fun in the Sun: Camping with Renewables

Earth Day

Clean Energy: Make It a Priority!

“These are just a very few of the many renewable accessories available for camping–and you can’t beat a free charge using the sun!”

By Linn Smith

June 3, 2016—-Now that nice weather is upon us, many think about taking tents and equipment into the peacefulness of the wilderness, sitting by a stream with a fishing pole, hiking the path along the scenic terrain and getting out of the city into nature.

Replace Those Batteries with Sun Power!

Have you thought about replacing those battery driven gadgets used for camping with solar ones? There are many products now on the market that are environmentally friendly, many using the free energy of the sun! I have had the same solar flashlight for about 10 years–and it never fails me, even if it has been in the glove compartment for weeks! We have had solar panels for our travel trailer for about 5 years–which keep our DC lights lighting up just fine! (In the article, “Solar Powering Your RV” on our Planet Earth Weekly website, I covered how to set up your RV using Solar.)

Renewable Camping

Every year there are more solar and renewable camping accessories to choose from. Here are just a few that are on the market:

Solar Radio

Know the weather when your camping.

1. Eton Scorpion Multi-Purpose Solar Powered Digital Weather Radio–It retails for about $70. It’s a flashlight, radio, USB cell phone charger, and gives you weather alerts. Reviews say it’s good for short interval uses.

Biolite kettle Charger

Charge phone as you boil water.

2. Biolite KettleCharger–This gadget charges your phone or tablet while you boil water. It retails for about $150 from http://www.BioLite.com and provides 10W On-Demand power, with a charge the strength of a wall outlet. It also stores power for “a quick recharge with no heat or water.” This gadget packs flat, creating power while you boil water for cooking, drinking or cleaning. You can use it on your camp stove, boiling water as your battery stores power. This has excellent reviews.

LuminaAid

Solar Lantern that is waterproof.

3. LuminaAid Packlight Spectra–This is a color changing solar light that inflates into a handy lantern and retails at Luminaid.com for about $25. It recharges in about 7 hours direct sunlight and gives 12 hours of LED light. It weights about 3.5 oz and is waterproof up to 1 meter deep and can float. This has excellent reviews.

GoSun camping stove.

Cook with Solar!

4. GoSun Stove–This retails for about $280. It’s a portable stove that cooks a meal in less than 20 minutes and uses no fuel, only the sun! It weighs about 3.5 pds (1.5 kg), but will cook up to 31 lbs of food at a time. It retains about 80% of it’s sun intake, can bake, boil or fry and collapses to carry. This has excellent reviews.

Yeti Solar Generator

Camp with a Solar Generator

5. Goal Zero Yeti 150 Solar Generator–Available at http://www.REI.com for about $230. It’s gas free and fume free, cranking out portable power from sunlight to power lights, phones and laptops. It’s quiet and lasts about 7 hrs on a full charge. The output is 12V, AC, and USB. It weighs about 12 lbs and is rechargeable by solar, AC or 12V. It can be plugged into a Boulder 30 panel for recharging.

scrubbabag: Clothes washing for camping trips

Wash your clothes when camping!

6. Scrubba Wash Bag–Pick it up at REI for around $50. It weighs less than 5 oz, volume of the bag is about 3 gallons. You fill it with water, clothes and soap, your rub it with your hands to wash. Inside it has hundreds of internal Scrubba nodules that clean your clothes quickly and it folds down to pocket size. It has a transparent window so you can see the dirt escaping your clothes! And you can just keep dirty clothes in it until your ready to do your wash. This has very good reviews.

These are just a very few of the many renewable accessories available for camping–and you can’t beat a free charge using the sun! Have a fun summer! And remember—do what you can, when you can, where you can to create a healthier planet!

Clean It and Green It


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Energy Sage: The Expedia of Solar Installation

Solar comparisons

Compare your options in solar.

By Linn Smith

“This method makes it easy for every homeowner to afford solar!”

May 19, 2016—-Have you decided to go solar? What is your next step when you’ve finally made that decision? There are many solar companies out there. How will you choose? Now there’s a website that will make it easy for you–Energy Sage!

You Have Options in Solar

Solar companies and installers will often push one package towards you, not revealing the fact that there are more options. If you get all your information about solar installation from one company, you most likely will not be getting the best deal!

Expedia: Comparison shopping for Solar

Solar Options

Energy Sage can Save You Thousands

Energy Sage (www.energysage.com) is a site like Expedia, but instead of flights, hotels and car rental quotes, this site will give you multiple solar quotes, from over 300 pre-screened solar installers, to make sure you get the best deal. Energy Sage isn’t affiliated with a manufacturer, installer or finance company—which may end up saving you thousands on solar installation for your home or business!

Here’s how this website works: 1) You register to get quotes 2) Pre-screened installers will submit quotes to you, and 3) You, the buyer, can then compare quotes online.

Energy Sage Solar Comparisons

Compare prices in Solar before you Buy!

Understanding Loans, Leases and PPA’s

EnergySage helps you understand your options and the pros and cons of various solar financing methods, providing information on solar loans, solar leases and solar PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements). A PPA may be the best option for those with little upfront capital. This is a “financial agreement where a developer arranges for the installation, financing, ect., at little or no cost to the home owner.” The developer sells the power generated back to the customer at a fixed rate that will be lower than the local utility’s rate, while the developer gets the income from the sale of electricity, plus all of the tax credits, ect. This method makes it easy for every homeowner to afford solar!

If you can afford electricity you can afford solar. You can obtain financing without putting any money down. Solar leases and PPA’s allow you to save on your electric bill without purchasing solar panels.

Understanding All the Options

Go to the Energy Sage website, put in your information and ask yourself, do I want to rent or own a solar system? Would a solar system increase the value of my home? You can do comparisons. Choose the one that best meets your needs and financial situation.

Energy Sage will include some variables to consider. These options include whether your home is suitable for solar. Is the weather in your area suitable? Will there be applicable rebates and tax credits in your state? Is your roof in a position to generate solar electricity?

Energy Sage won’t ask your personal data because it doesn’t want to sell your information to companies or organizations. EnergySage.com is purely for your information and education on solarizing your home.

What’s new in Solar? Comparison Shopping!


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The Solar Airplane

Solar airplane

Powered only by solar energy.

“Clean Technology can accomplish amazing things!”

By Linn Smith

April 26, 2016: Following is an article I wrote in 2013 about the solar airplane and the Solar Impulse. The Solar Impulse 2 is on its around-the-world flight and just finished its 10th leg of its tour, landing in California. It started in Abu Dhubi, in the United Arab Emirates, where it will also end, taking 2 years to complete. It will travel a distance of 35,000 miles on solar only, with cruising speeds between 28mph-56mph.

June 21, 2013—–Photovoltaic (PV) technology, or the solar cell, is a power supply that produces electricity from the sun’s rays. In 1954, Bell Telephone Labs developed the first Photovoltaic Cell capable of powering everyday electrical equipment, but with only 4% efficiency. The solar cell has quickly achieved greater efficiency over the decades, as people seek free energy from the sun and express their concern about CO2 and global warming.

When a solar cell is exposed to light, it can generate an electrical current without being attached to a voltage source. Photovoltaic–the term “photo” is derived from the greek word meaning “light” and “Volt” is from Alessandro Volta, inventor of first battery in 1800. Therefore, photovoltaic cells produce energy from light, which is a sustainable energy source. If something is “sustainable” it has been “developed to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” Sustainability also meets the needs of our planet, maintaining a healthy environment in which life can survive and flourish.

Project Sunrise, 1974

The first solar airplane to fly was an unmanned craft , Project Sunrise, in 1974 by Roland Boucher, an engineer for Hughes Aircraft. Boucher developed an aircraft powered only by solar panels on its wings. The Sunrise had a total weight of 22 lbs., could soar to a height of 8,000 ft., and made 28 flights before being destroyed in turbulant weather. Boucher’s invention had enough success to “demonstrate the feasibility of solar powered flight at extreme altitudes,” and opened the door for solar innovators to take to the sky!

The Solar Airplane

The Solar Airplane: 17,000 Solar Cells attached to the wing

Flying Around the World with Solar

Jump ahead to 2013, a solar airplane that can fly forever without landing, developed by a company called Solar Impulse which was founded by Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg. Piccard came up with the idea of flying a solar aircraft after circling the earth in a hot air balloon. He stated, “After using almost three tons of fuel during my balloon trip, I knew I wanted to try to create a cleaner way of traveling. The balloon trip was almost a failure due to the dependency on fuel. On that day, I made a promise that the next time I would fly around the world, it would be with no fuel at all.

The Solar Airplane

The Solar Airplane: Around-the-World-Tour.

The solar Impulse Company

“Our company, Solar Impulse, has a goal—to prove that progress is possible using clean forms of energy.” The Solar Impulse aircraft is a one man airplane, can fly night or day, uses 12,000 solar cells mounted on its wings and stores the sun’s power in batteries–no fuel used! It flies approximately 45mph, uses the latest technology in advanced batteries to store the power of the sun and enables the aircraft to fly round-the-clock. It has the wingspan equal to a 747 jet, but weighs no more than a car.

Piccard and Borschberg piloted the Solar Impulse aircraft, alternatively, beginning May 3, 2013, making city-to-city jaunts starting in San Francisco and landing in Washington D.C. 45 days later. This transcontinental flight has prepared the way for Solar Impulse’s second generation of aircraft which will fly around the world in 2015. The improved version will have a larger cockpit and everything necessary for the pilot to survive in the air for 5 or 6 days.

The Future of Solar Technology

Finally, I will leave you with a question asked to Piccard in the June issue of “Popular Mechanics” Magazine:

Question:”What are the future applications of solar airplane technology?”

Answer: “The technologies we carry on board Solar Impulse, if they were massively used everywhere in the world, would allow people to cut in half the energy consumption of our world and produce half of the rest with renewable sources. We have the best electrical engines, the best batteries, the lightest materials for our solar structure, the best insulation materials, the most efficient lighting system, and all this can be used to build houses and cars, and for lighting, cooling and heating systems everywhere. The problem is the resistance of people against changes. Too many people are afraid of losing their habits and beliefs, so the introduction of clean technologies on the consumer market is taking far too long.”


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The Solar Watering Station

Solar watering stations for livestock

Solar was placed on this old structure containing the well.

Solar watering stations require little maintenance and less expense.

By Linn Smith

January 5, 2016—While spending time in the Southwest riding horses in the back country, we came across many cattle along the trails on BLM land. One has to wonder what these cattle eat and drink, but on further investigation there were small patches here and there of native grasses and shrubs –and the cattle were healthy!

Solar watering station

Solar provides water for cattle in this remote area.

Solar Wells are Ideal in Remote Areas

Where do the cattle get water in the high desert? Riding further along the trail, we came upon a solar water station where we watered our horses before continuing our ride. The solar station is in a very remote area, with only a dry riverbed some distance away. Pumping up water for livestock using solar or wind from wells is a necessity in areas where electricity is not an option. And that creates the question, solar pump systems or windmills? Solar wells are ideal for this part of the country as the sun shines nearly 300 days of the year.

Solar Watering Station

Solar water station provides water for livestock

Solar Watering Stations vs. Windmills

Are solar water stations replacing the windmill in the Southwest United States? Around 1870, the development of the steel blade made windmills more efficient, as the blades were lighter than the traditional wooden blades and steel was cheap. Windmills worked so well in some places that a slowdown gear had to be added to keep the blades at the required speed. We didn’t have a windmill on our farm where I grew up, but they were scattered over the countryside of the Midwest, and I can still hear the sound of the blades turning gently, creaking slightly while pumping up water for the cattle.

According to the article, “Solar Wells Displacing Windmills On Ranches In The West” by Matt Joyce, solar watering wells are replacing windmills in remote areas mainly because solar stations require little maintenance and less expense—and when windmills break down in these areas it means no water for livestock where water sources can be few and summers can be scorching. Also, in many areas the sun shines more than the wind blows, making solar a more practical solution. So when the windmills break down, the ranchers, instead of fixing them, are often replacing them with solar stations.

Solar water pump for livestock

The well and the water pump controls.

Submersible or Surface Water Pump

There are 2 kinds of solar water pumps that work to pump up well water. The submersible pump and the surface pump. Surface pumps work if the well is less than 20 feet deep and are less expensive.(Although there were some advertised on eBay for a little over $100). Submersible pumps will work at any depth. Most pumps will also require a Pump Controller (about $145 at Northern Arizona Wind and Sun, a reputable company). The Pump Controller will keep the pump from burning out as the pump will try to start and restart in low light. Arizona Sun and Wind states, “Although it is possible to connect the pump leads directly to the output terminals of the solar panel, a controller provides much better pump performance and start/stop control. It will avoid trying to operate the pump in a stalled condition when solar output is too low.”

Solar watering station

Another watering station several miles from the first.

Water Storage Rather than Batteries

A solar water pump is able to be directly connected to the solar panels and solar controller without connecting to a battery because solar panels make DC energy and DC energy is what these pumps run on. At the website, Energybible.com it is stated, “Most solar pumping systems use water storage rather than batteries, for simplicity and economy. A float switch can turn the pump off when the water tank fills, to prevent overflow. Compared with windmills, solar pumps are less expensive, and much easier to install and maintain. They provide a more consistent supply of water. They can be installed in valleys and wooded areas where wind exposure is poor. Solar panels may be placed some distance away from the pump itself, even several hundred feet (100 m) away.”

More Information

Here are several websites with more information on creating your own solar pump watering stations:

1. http://www.solar-electric.com Northern Arizona Wind and Sun

2. http://www.backwoodshome.com by Jerry Yago /Book “Achieving Energy Independence:One step at a Time”

3. http://www.energybible.com

4. http://www.ranchtanks.com: This site has solar livestock tanks that keep the water from freezing.

So will solar replace windmills? “Not entirely,” states Peg Muller, owner of Muller Industries Inc of South Dakota. She says her windmill business has been going strong since 1979!

Solar Watering Stations: Using the Sun’s Energy!