Wow, truly, we are at the final frontier! Facebook has just announced the first successful test flight of a high-altitude solar plane to bring internet access to remote parts of the world (where 1.6 billion people reside) currently without mobile broadband network. Back in March of 2015, Mark Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook had been testing drones in the skies over UK. The Aquila drone has the wingspan of an airliner, weighs about a third as much as a car, and consumes only 5,000 watts (equivalent to 3 hairdryers or a powerful microwave ) when cruising. It was developed in Bridgwater, Somerset, by Ascenta, a designer of solar powered drones that Facebook bought in March of 2014. Facebook plans on having Aquila as a fleet of solar powered aircraft that will provide internet to people in sub-Saharan Africa and other remote regions currently without online access. Once they are fully operational, these high altitude planes will stay airborne for up to 90 days at a time and beam broadband coverage to a 60-mile wide area on the ground, availing internet to people in under-connected regions.
After months of flying scale models, the Facebook Connectivity Lab finally completed first full-scale test flight and provided much data on Aquila’s performance on autopilot, batteries, motors, radio, displays, ground station, aerodynamic handling, structural viability, and crew training. The low altitude test flight lasted for 96 minutes (more than three times the originally planned mission length).
Some of the future challenges will need to be faced are:
During the winter, solar panels need to collect sufficient energy during short days to keep the batteries charged over long nights (up to 14 hours at a time).
Higher energy efficiency and lower mass battery systems continue to be needed
Aquila continues to be optimized
Overall need to reduce the cost in order to insure that the project would be viable.
Jay Parikh, Facebook’s head of engineering and infrastructure, said in a blog: “We’re encouraged by this first successful flight, but we have a lot of work ahead of us … In our next tests, we will fly Aquila faster, higher and longer, eventually taking it above 60,000 feet.”
I’ve been busy with some projects recently. Now that I have returned to Sun Is The Future, let’s resume by easing into several lay-back topics. Namely, did you know that there’s been a Tiny House Movement in recent years? It’s a perfect outcome for our new age of 4R’s (Recycle-Reuse-Repair-Reduce). Above is a video of an Aussie couple (Mr. & Mrs. Paul Chambers….sorry, don’t know wife’s name) who had begun building a home out of two shipping containers as a project. But when Mrs. Chambers got tired of suburbia and utility bills, they put their four-bedroom home on the market and his project became the couple’s full-time home. Check out Paul’s ebook: www.buildshippingcontainerhouse.com)
Chambers’ choice of shipping container was motivated by the fact that they did not own any land and need for easy mobility. His background as an engineer-teacher-adventurer enabled him to take on this project without having had any background in formal building training. His forte is in the fact that he believes that any one can do anything that he/she puts his/her mind into it. He’s picked up the skill of welding, building, etc. along the way. Without an initial fixed design, Paul simply started with a concept and learned and adapt along the way. The Chambers have built an off-grid mobile home with 2 shipping containers using 12-250 watt solar panels and 2 storage battery packs normally used in golf carts. They are able to run normal household appliances (such as refrigerator, chest freezer, washer (with both hot and cold water), bread machine, 3 computers. The main difference is that they use electricity during the day time when electricity is being created. Careful monitoring and back-up generator brings greater assurance even on rainy or cloudy days. Australian sunshine produces some very high temperature days. There is more than enough sunshine to help power the air conditioning needed for a pleasant environment. However the couple’s preferred cooling method is better ventilation through opened windows and cargo door. Couple of 12 v car outlets are placed in their container home to charge cell phones and to power their modem for internet. To increase the strength of the signal for their modem, they’ve installed an external area on the roof for directional antenna to increase the signal strength. Their sunroof has multiple functions: protecting the couple from radiant heat, harvesting for electricity from solar panels, and harvesting water from the rain via pipe into a collection tank at the side of the house, side of the firewood shed, and added catchment by the kitchen. Their water is then filtered through a 20 micron sediment filter for washing and showering, and additional filtrations for drinking water (down to 0.5 microns, removing germs, pathogens, and heavy metals). Living with natural water from the rain is much more pleasant than the town water with much chlorine in it. There are also detailed description on composting for growing plants.
Fundamentally, the Chambers use the electrical energy generated from the Australian sunshine, using it when the sun is shining and not at night. “It is ridiculously easy,” Paul commented. Batteries are fully charged between 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. By 4:00 pm, they’d stop using the non-essential items to avoid draining the batteries. By 6:00 pm, they’d only be using their computers (which takes up very little power). They’ve gotten to the point that they no longer need to worry about power while others in the area have been experiencing power cut and are having a difficult time.
I invite you to view what this couple have done to live naturally in the Australian Bush country, with wild life of abundance around them. I hope you will enjoy this video as much as I had.
Is it true that the wealthy elites do not want you to go solar?
In the interview with Brendan Fischer, General Counsel of Center For Media and Democracy, Screwed News reporter commented, there is a new solar power installation every 3 minutes in United States (according to SEIA, Solar Energy Industry Association) and much of the growth of solar power is on the local level. The above is a candid discussion in why and how individual rooftop solar is seen as a threat to the centralized production business model and therefore has been running into much resistance. More in-depth discussion on various topics pertaining to distributed individual rooftop solar may be obtained from Institute For Local Self-Reliance.(such as Walton Family Undermining Rooftop Solar, ILSR Finds, Energy Self Reliant States.) As we progress from an outdated centralized utility model into a new age of more distributed and greater local self-reliant model, be it applied to power generation or broadband, I encourage any one and every one to increase understanding how important local self-reliance in these matters is. I would further implore those truly interested in the future of solar/renewable energy to have better understanding of Value of Solar, for this is a much more fair and efficient way to distribute power than Net Metering. For better understanding of Value of Solar, please refer to these posts below:
The floating array on Yamakura Dam in Chiba Prefecture (Southeast of Tokyo), will measure 180,000 sq meters and 13.7 MW, upon completion. Since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, Japan has created a number of solar farms on water as it has turned away from nuclear power, and land is in short supply. Considering the desirability of reducing evaporation from the reservoir through having solar panels above and cooling of the solar panels from water below, the concept of floating solar farm is simply a Win-Win phenomenon! In the case with a dam, there is also the added appeal in taking care of the solar intermittent energy source by using power generated from the dam.
Rendering of the 13.7MW plant on the Yamakura Dam reservoir (photo credit: Kyocera)
The Public Enterprises Agency of Chiba Prefecture publicly sought companies to construct and operate a floating solar power plant to help reduce environmental impact in October, 2014. Scheduled for launch in FY2018 (fiscal year ending March 31, 2018), the plant will be comprised of approximately 51,000 Kyocera modules installed over a fresh water surface area of 180,000 sq meters. The project will generate an estimated 16,170 megawatt hours (MWh) per year, enough electricity to power approximately 4,970 typical households. This would offset about 8,170 tons of CO2 emissions annually. This is equal to 19,000 barrels of oil consumed.
Thames water EU’s and World’s (as of April, 2016) largest floating solar farm QE-press-release credit Thames water
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A quick note to let you know that the currently (as of April, 2016) World’s Largest Floating Solar Farm/Panel Array had been installed on London’s Queen Elizabeth II reservoir, near Walton-on-Thames, as part of Thames Water’s goal to self-generate a third of its own energy by 2020. The array features 23,046 solar panels and measures 57,500 sq meters ( or 618,925 sq ft). The reservoir is run by Thames Water. The solar farm is funded and operated by Ennoviga Solar and Lightsource Renewable Energy. The low carbon, solar energy produced will be used to power the nearby water treatment works to help reduce the power bills for drinking water. It will have a total installed peak capacity of 6.3 megawatts and is expected to generate 5.8 million kilowatt hours in its first year – equivalent to the annual consumption of around 1,800 homes.
Thames Water’s energy manager, Angus Berry said: “Becoming a more sustainable business is integral to our long term strategy and this innovative new project brings us one step closer to achieving our goal – this is the right thing for our customers, the right thing for our stakeholders and most importantly the right thing for the environment.”
The advantage of a floating array is the fact that the water would provide the welcomed benefit of cooling the solar arrays, in addition to not taking up space from agricultural area.
The British may still have the largest floating solar farm in Europe by 2018, but the title for the World’s Largest Floating Solar Farm may soon be replaced by the Japanese floating reservoir (the floating array on Yamakura Dam) with twice the size of Queen Elizabeth II reservoir in 2018.
The floating array on Yamakura Dam in Chiba Prefecture, will measure 180,000 sq meters and 13.7 MW, upon completion. Since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, Japan has created a number of solar farms on water as it has turned away from nuclear power, and land is in short supply. Considering the desirability of reducing evaporation from the reservoir through having solar panels above and cooling of the solar panels from water below, the concept of floating solar farm is simply a Win-Win phenomenon!
Reason I am posting/reposting this piece is because almost all of our satellites currently in operation are powered by Solar Panels.
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Falcon 9 First Stage Landing (credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 Launch and Landing Streak (credit: SpaceX)
The Launch (credit: SpaceX)
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Falcon 9 Launched and Landed Successfully on Atlantic Ship on May 6, 2016, From Cape Canaveral, While Observing the 4R’s (Recycle-Reuse-Repair-Reduce).
Out of his concern for the future of mankind and desire to reduce the risk of human extinction , reduce the cost of space transportation, and making human life multiplanetary possible via setting up a human colony on Mars, Elon Musk became the founder, CEO and CTO of SpaceX .
Of the three successful landings and recoveries post-launch of Falcon 9 within the past one and half year (Dec. of 2015, April of 2016, and May 6 of 2016), May 6, 2016 is the second time the rocket has landed intact on the ship ( Falcon 9 landed on the floating drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean).
SpaceX-Falcon 9 first stage on an ASDS barge after the first successful landing at sea
During May 6, 2016 Falcon 9 mission, a Japanese communication satellite is sent to a very high orbit above Earth (aka geostationary transfer orbit) despite the fact that the rocket is subjected to extreme velocities and re-entry heating, making it difficult to have a successful landing. But shortly after the launch, SpaceX confirmed that not only did Falcon 9 make a perfect landing, but it deployed its satellite correctly.
SpaceX will continue to attempt to land the rocket at sea/ocean for its next few launches (about two third of its overall launches) because it is safer and requires less fuel than landing on land (explained below):
Few more videos and reports of Falcon 9 launch and landing of May 6, 2016, below:
An in-depth summary report about Elon Musk and his SpaceX, below:
For a better understanding of SpaceX’s achievements: SpaceX’s achievements include the first privately funded, liquid-propellant rocket (Falcon 1) to reach orbit, in 2008; the first privately funded company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft (Dragon), in 2010; and the first private company to send a spacecraft (Dragon) to the ISS, in 2012. The launch of SES-8, in 2013, was the first SpaceX delivery into geosynchronous orbit, while the launch of the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), in 2015, was the company’s first delivery beyond Earth orbit. On December 21, 2015, SpaceX successfully returned a first stage back to the launch site and accomplished a vertical landing, the first such accomplishment by a rocket on an orbitaltrajectory. On April 8, 2016, with the launch of CRS-8, SpaceX successfully vertically landed a first stage on an ocean drone platform and delivered Dragon to Low Earth Orbit. On May 6, 2016, SpaceX again landed a first stage, but on a geostationary transfer mission, another first.
Below is a video of Elon Musk discussing successful landing at CRS-8 press conference in April of 2016. Now, SpaceX/Falcon 9 has successfully done it (landed at sea on the ship) again! The future is more certain.
Furthermore, SpaceX is able to reduce the cost of the design and therefore cost of the space transport through a reusable launch system. A reusable launch system (RLS, or reusable launch vehicle, RLV) is a launch system which is capable of launching a payload into space more than once. This contrasts with expendable launch systems, where each launch vehicle is launched once and then discarded. No completely reusable orbital launch system is currently in use. The closest example was the partially reusable Space Shuttle. The orbiter, which included the Space Shuttle main engines, and the two solid rocket boosters, were reused after several months of refitting work for each launch. The external tank and launch vehicle load framewere discarded after each flight. However, several at least partially reusable systems are currently under development, such as the Falcon 9 full thrust (first stage).
Hurray For Elon and His Team For Ushering In the 4R’s: Recycle-Reuse-Repair-Reduce into 21st Century Space Exploration! Hurray For Elon and His Team For Bringing Back Our Hope and Enthusiasm For Space Exploration Again!
Watching the list of solar energy companies to appear and disappear over the years is almost like watching a revolving door….as solar energy industry continues to evolve. Yes, cost and efficiency are the two areas where many solar companies are concentrating their energy and effort in at the moment. In recent years, many companies are directing their effort toward kerfless technology. One of these companies, 1366 Technologies, is worth keeping an eye on. The company’s name is referenced to the solar constant, representing the watts of solar energy that hits each square meter of the surface of the earth. It is a company based in Bedford, Massachusetts that has developed a technique to produce siliconwafers by casting them in their ultimate shape directly in a mold, rather than the prevailing standard method in which wafers are cut from a large ingot. The company aims to manufacture multi-crystalline silicon wafers, the building blocks of solar cells, at half the cost of current methods.
Traditional solar technologies may be replaced by thin and kerfless wafter technologes (credit: Smallman12q/Wikipedia)
1366 Technologies casts wafers with a conventional thickness from molten silicon, creating a more uniform wafer quality than the current industry standard. (credit: Bob Frechette of 1366 Technologies)
The company used a $4 million grant obtained from the United States Department of Energy‘s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program in December 2009 to fund research over an 18-month period. Grants from ARPA-E are designed to provide money to relatively small projects offering the potential for high-payoff results in fostering advanced techniques. 1366 Technologies was able to announce eight months into the grant period that it had achieved success in its casting technology, in which molten silicon is poured directly into a mold to produce wafers in their final form, a square 6 inches (15 cm) on each side that is 200 micrometers thick and are then extracted from the mold using a proprietary technique to ensure that the wafer doesn’t break while being removed from the mold. In traditional methods, wafers of this size are cut from a large single ingot or crystal, in an approach that leaves as much as half of the original silicon ingot as waste.
Below, a video that was published back in 2009 on the basics behind silicon-based solar cell technology by 1366 Technologies:
David Danielson, program director for solar energy at ARPA-E said that “early indications show this could be one of our great success stories.” ARPA-E’s first director Arun Majumdar estimated that current techniques generate solar power at a cost of $4 per watt, and that bringing down that cost to $1.50 per watt could lead to the widespread adoption of solar energy (solar industry is evolving very fast and is currently already at the cost level of slightly over $1.00 per watt). Company president Frank van Mierlo estimated that solar power generated using wafers from 1366 Technologies would be cheaper than power generated using coal. The company is now on their third generation of wafer-producing machines, which are full-sized, industrial line machines. The company will open a commercial-scale factory in upstate New York, slated for completion in 2017. This plant will start producing 50 million wafers annually, totaling 250 megawatts of output. It will eventually scale to 600 million wafers and 3,000 MW of annual production.
1366 Technologies has raised $70 million in capital to commercialize their innovation, from such investors as South KoreanHanwha Chemical, a major user of silicon wafers, as well as from Ventizz Capital Fund, North Bridge Venture Partners and Polaris Venture Partners.
As the revolving door continues to rotate during Solar Evolution/Revolution, perhaps the name of a solar constant will bring forth a longer stay than other abbreviated variables.
Nine Biological solar cells connected into a bio-solar panel. The panel has generated the most wattage of any existing small-scale bio-solar cells, 5.59 microwatts ( credit: Seokheun Sean Choi)
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Wow! The ingenuity and innovative potential of human mind continues to amaze me!
I’ve always been certain that there will be more wondrous works waiting to improve the efficiency level and reliability, decrease the cost of solar in decades to come. Here is one more in line to be investigated:
Few days ago, on April 11, 2016, Binghamton University researchers took the concept of using cyanobacteria, a phylum bacteria obtaining energy through photosynthesis, to produce clean energy. These researchers used nine biological solar cells, also known as bio-solar cells, and connected them to a biological solar panel, resulting in the continuous production of electricity from the panel. The amount of electricity it produced reached 5.59 microwatts, which is higher than what any small-scale bio-solar cells can produce.
The paper was entitled “Biopower generation in a microfluidic bio-solar panel” written by Seokheun “Sean” Choi, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in Binghamton University’s Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science together with graduating students Xuejian Wei and Hankeun Lee ’15, graduating in May, according to Science Daily.
The Binghamton University Nanofabrication Lab provided the fabrication facilities for the work, while the University Research Foundation (Interdisciplinary Collaborations Grants (ICG) Program/Transdisciplinary Areas of Excellence) provided the funding. The findings are currently available online and will be published in hard copy in the June edition of the journal Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical.
The breakthrough occurred last year, after this group of scientists attempted to innovate the dual-chambered bio-solar cell. They created a microfluidic-based single chambered device to house the bacteria, and they also changed the materials on the positive and negative terminals of the bio-solar cell. With further investigation, using a 3×3 pattern, the group installed nine identical bio-solar cells to form a bio-solar panel, which they observed for 60 hours. Their observation showed the continuous production of electricity due to the bacteria’s respiration and photosynthesis. It may be a very low amount of energy production as it can only produce 0.00003726 watts while a regular 60-cell rooftop solar panel generates 285 watts, but the great potential in this discovery may lead to a more reliable energy source, as reported by Energy Matters.
“Once a functional bio-solar panel becomes available, it could become a permanent power source for supplying long-term power for small, wireless telemetry systems as well as wireless sensors used at remote sites where frequent battery replacement is impractical,” said Seokheun “Sean” Choi.
When conservative naysayer commented to me,”What good is it?! It’s only able to generate such a small amount of power!” I’d retort, borrowing from one of Dr. Ben Franklin’s famous lines, “What good is a newborn baby?”, often used by Faraday as well….as we wait for the unfolding potential of one of many newborns in our Solar/Renewable Energy Age. This newborn baby offers great potential for a long-term, reliable power source in remote areas.
This is SO EXCITING! I can’t wait to share the unveiling of Tesla 3 that many of us have been waiting for….Model 3 has achieved 215 miles of range (at minimum) per charge, with automatic safety features, starting at only $35,000 before incentive. Buyers of plug-in hybrids and electric cars benefit from a tax credit of $2,500 to $7,500, depending on the size of the battery in the car. On the low end of the spectrum, cars with 4 kWh battery packs will qualify for a $2,500 tax credit. The credit maxes out at $7,500 for cars with a 16 kWh battery pack, like the Chevy Volt. The credits were provided as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the “stimulus bill.” (The incentive begins phasing out after an automaker sells 200,000 vehicles that are eligible for the credit.)
This is all part of Elon Musk’s effort in helping to speed up our transition toward the renewable future by accelerating world’s transition into sustainable transport. Let us give Elon Musk a round of applause for, unveiling of Tesla Model 3 (March 31, 2016 event), and for his contribution in slowing the CO2 emission into earth’s atmosphere….below:
Tesla Model 3 is essentially the fourth generation vehicle subsequent to Roadster, Model X, and Model S. Now Model 3 is designed to attain the highest safety ratings in every category. All Model 3’s will have supercharging capability (translating to freedom to travel) and be able to contain a 7-ft surfboard inside. There are currently about 3608 superchargers globally, about 3689 destinations superchargers. By the end of next year, number of superchargers will double ( to 7,200) and quadruple destination superchargers (to 15,000). The gigafactory will be busy, with high volume and the most advanced technology, and will be the world’s largest lithium ion cell producer… 50 gigawatt-hour per year of production! It is the first Tesla electric vehicle that will be able to be massively afforded by general public and will definitely be able to dramatically help to reduce CO2 emission into our planet earth’s atmosphere. And thanks, Elon, for adding the autopilot feature into Model 3. Within the first 24 hours of its unveiling, there were 115,000 orders for Tesla Model 3. The world is definitely ready for Tesla Model 3!!! For those of you who want to order Tesla Model 3 online, please visit Tesla.com . Delivery will not begin until 2017 the earliest. Way to go, Elon!
From our previous post, there was the mention of Elon Musk’s talk at the Sorbonne in 2015. Since I’ve come across several other discussions referencing this talk, I think it’d be a good idea to share this talk with you all, below:
Discussion of Climate Change, Carbon Cycle and the vertical climb within the last few hundred years: 5:10-15:47
Need To Address Climate Change Q & A: 16:18-17:27
Solar Energy As The Main Power Source : 30:50-31:40
Keep in mind that, if we wait to transition into the Renewables, the best case is postponing the inevitable transition to sustainable energy (believed by 3% of the scientists), and the worst case is more displacement and destruction than all the wars in history combined (believed by 97% of the scientists). As Elon commented, “this is the dumbest experiment in history EVER…why would you do this?!” He explains that the reason that there has been such a delay in transition into renewable/sustainable energy is because there is a hidden carbon subsidy (there is an annual $5.3 trillion subsidies for fossil fuels industry, according to IMF, International Monetary Fund) on all of the carbon emitting activities. Therefore, there is 35 gigatons of CO2 emissions per year from fossil fuels into our earth’s atmosphere,
Elon Musk’s Talk at Sorbonne-Atmospheric CO2 chart readings at Mauna LOA Observatory
equating to not paying for garbage collections. Of course, due to the existence of such a huge subsidy, there is great amount of resistance to removing the subsidy for fossil fuel or carbon emitters. He continues to explain the need for revenue-neutral carbon tax (carbon tax + tax cut somewhere else), ideally in a phased-in approach.
Elon Musk’s Talk at Sorbonne-Carbon Cycle1
03:34. Carbon cycle & temperature rise 08.10. Fossil Fuels Era 10:44. Carbon Tax
Elon Musk’s Talk at Sorbonne-Carbon Cycle3
16:18. Importance of climate change 17:35. Effectiveness of incentives 19:50. Storing CO2 21:07. Lithium availability 22:30. Tesla PowerPack big projects 24:13. Government role 26:43. Colonising Mars 27:52. Future energy sources 29:16. Nuclear fission / Nuclear Fusion 31:45. Advices to energy entrepreneurs 33:22. Government incentives 35:00. Artificial Intelligence 36:22. Fund raising challenges (Tesla insight)
38:54. Changing society energy behaviour 41:19. Green energy lobbying 45:55. COP21 in Paris 46:50. Getting CO2-dependent countries on-board 49:21. Batteries carbon footprint 51:50. Sustainable future roadmap
We all need to talk to our policy makers about Sustainable Future, Carbon Tax, and policies that will speed up the transition toward our Renewable/Sustainable Future! So Let’s Do It! Did you know that states (such as CA, HI, and CO) within USA and countries (such as Germany) within EU that are more progressive with their renewable energy policy all have much lower unemployments rates than those that are not progressive with their renewable energy policy?