Can you imagine having all of the skyscrapers working as solar farms, producing energy for us?! My friends and readers, here is a fantastic concept and product, with a bit of human ingenuity and positive thinking, will help to prove that a Midwest location/city (such as Chicago) can also utilize our beautiful sunshine to enable skyscrapers such as Willis Tower to become a soaring vertical solar farm! Residents of Greater Chicago area are quite familiar with Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower), with its 108-story and previous status as the world’s tallest building from 1974-1998.
Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) was world’s tallest building from 1974-1998, is poised to become nation’s first vertical solar farm! (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
With the help from people at Pythagoras Solar, a clever window technology/design HD-PVGUS (high-density phtotovoltaic glass unit) is being piloted, using prisms to collect direct sunlight, by having a thin layer of monocrystalline silicon solar cells sandwiched horizontally between two layers of glass to form an individual tile, which acts as a cell. An internal plastic reflective prism directs angled (direct) sunlight onto the solar cells while allowing diffuse daylight and horizontal (less intense) sunlight through. The end result is that you will have an attractive view out the window,
Pilot project on South side of the 56th floor of Willis Tower, with an attractive view out of the window, without the glare or heating, while producing electricity on par with rooftop panels (according to Pythagoras Solar). (Source: Pythagoras Solar).
without the glare or heating, while having panel producing electricity on par with rooftop panels (claimed by Pythagoras Solar) .
At the moment, the pilot project will begin on the South side of the 56th floor and could grow up to 2 MW in size, comparable to a 10-acre field of solar panels. I am curious about both the initial and maintenance costs in the long run for a project such as this. I am also confident that with time and increased consumer demands in the future, both the initial and maintenance costs will continue to drop. Then, there will be the possibility of one day having all of the nation’s high-rises becoming vertical solar farms.
Chicago’s iconic Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) is poised to become a massive solar electric plant with the installation of a pilot solar PV glass developed by Pythagoras Solar which preserve daylighting and views while reducing heat gain and producing the same energy as a conventional solar panel. The project could grow up to 2 MW, comparable to a 10 acre field of solar panels, turning Willis Tower into a huge vertical solar farm. (Sosurce: Wikimedia Commons).
Dear friends and readers, here is the continuation from March 20, 2011 post on “There Is Plenty of Sunshine For All of Us”:
I found a wonderful site that has explained the concept of insolation with more graphical presentatioins: http://www.scribd.com/doc/2410121/Insolation . Various parts of the world or planet earth may also be seen through this collection of World Insolation Maps, available via: http://www.google.com/images?hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=s&biw=1420&bih=1000&q=world+insolation+maps&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&sa=X&ei=eLSFTZXBKu2C0QGOnvHOCA&ved=0CCUQsAQ.
To get a general idea of how much solar radiation there is available in USA, I’d like to share with you some data collected by U.S. Government of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) for different states, made available at this site, http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/pubs/redbook/ So, let’s take a look at some data together: Firstly, if you’d click on the sunshine state of Florida (specifically Daytona Beach, FL), solar radiation for flat-plate collectors facing South at 0 degree tilt, during the month of January, produces at minimum 2.7 kWh/m2/day, at maximum 3.7 kWh/m2/day (which average to 3.1 kWh/m2/day). kWh/m2/day, kilowatt-hour per meter squared per day, is the unit of measurement for energy, in this case, for solar radiation. Under similar circumstance in Chicago, IL (by clicking on Illinois), the measurement at minimum was 1.5 , at maximum was 2.1 and averaged to 1.8 in the month of January while in Alpena, MI, measurement at minimum was 1.4, at maximum 1.8, and averaged to 1.6 kWh/m2/day. To get an overview of how much solar radiation/sunshine there may be available for the month of January in USA, please take a look at the map below. Definitely, there will be monthly and seasonal variations.
January PV Solar Radiation (Flat Plate, Facing South, Latitude Tilt) of USA
To determine how much, on the average, solar radiation may be available annually, we simply multiply the amount of solar radiation or energy is available daily by 365. For an example of a quick overview of the average annual solar radiation data (for USA) produced by NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) , take a look at this map located at this site: Annual PV Solar Radiation (Flat Plate, Facing South, Latitude Tilt), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Us_pv_annual_may2004.jpg .
Annual PV Solar Radiation (Flat Plate, Facing South, Latitude Tilt) of USA
Insolation is a measure of solar radiation energy received on a given surface area in a given time. In the case of photovoltaics it is commonly measured as kilowatt hours per year per kilowatt peak rating. In case any of you is wondering, peak rating is the amount of energy produced at the moment or instant when highest amount of solar radiation is produced at specifically given conditions. Recall my previous post (of March 20, 2011) regarding single or 1- axis vs. dual or 2-axis tracking device, these trackers are great for optimizing the amount of energy produced for current pricing structure of the solar modules/panels/plates;dual or 2-axis tracker yields about 40% more power than fixed/flat plate (source: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2010/11/dual-axis-tracking-generates-more-power ) while single or 1-axis tracker yields about 20-30% more power than fixed/flat plate (source: http://us.sunpowercorp.com/power-plant/products-services/trackers/ . But as the cost of solar modules/plates continue to drop, the desirability of these tracking devices may also diminish for the fact that there is added initial costs and movable parts (translating to higher maintenance cost). If solar modules/plates are cheap enough, it may eventually be more economically feasible to simply add more solar modules/plates rather than adding tracking devices. Please keep in mind that the economic feasibility will continue to change as the cost of solar module/panel/plate decreases and price of oil increases.
My friends in USA and throughout planet earth, we really do have plenty of sunshine, waiting to be tapped. So let’s try to put it to use. It is true that at different parts of the world, there may be different level of availability. I guarantee that the cost of using solar energy/technology will continue to drop. The sooner that more of us start to use solar energy, the faster the cost will drop. More discussions on economic feasibility and various contributing factors will be disclosed in my future posts. I hope you will have a sunny day, wherever you may be….
Did you see the beautiful Red Moon on Saturday? I had to squeeze this post in before continuing our discussion from previous post because of a rather historical event that occurred on Saturday, March 19, 2011. According to NASA, Saturday’s full moon looked about 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than a normal full moon (hence Supermoon), as it was about 31,000 miles closer to Earth than when it is at the farthest point of its orbit. The name SuperMoon was coined by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979. The last supermoon occurred 18 years ago and the next one won’t happen until 2029. Did you know that moonlight is simply the reflected light from the sun? So when the Earth, the Moon, and the Sun are perfectly aligned, we earthlings would actually see the moon as a Red Moon.
Aperigee-syzygyor “supermoon” is a full or new moon that coincides with a close approach by the Moon to the Earth. The Moon’s distance varies each month between approximately 357,000 kilometers (222,000 mi) and 406,000 km (252,000 mi) due to its elliptical orbit around the Earth (distances given are center-to-center).
Now, please allow me to share some wonderful photos and a video link for you:
A supermoon image of March 19, 2011
The supermoon of March 19, 2011 (on right) compared to a more average moon of December 20, 2010 (on left).
There is also a pretty good link/video clip by NASA on Supermoon at the site:
My concerned friends/readers from Midwest (MI and IL) and Canada, I can assure you that there will be plenty of sunshine for you to also become involved with solar energy projects! The sunlight that our solar system is exposed to could either be direct (unobstructed by clouds) or diffused (filtered either by clouds or atmosphere). Although the amount of diffused sunlight (caused by cloud) would increase as we head northward, solar technology can use either form (direct or diffused) of sunlight to produce electricity by using a well-designed PV (photovoltaic) system. As a matter of fact, besides geographical location, seasons, elevation, and angle of the sun can also affect the usable amount of solar energy. To increase the amount of energy produced, solar tracker (either 1-axis/single axis or 2-axis/dual axis) devices are introduced to orient various payloads (such as PV panels, reflectors, collectors, lenses, etc.) toward the sun. Typically, a 1-axis or single axis tracker has one degree of freedom and changes its orientation throughout the day, while a 2-axis or dual axis tracker have two degrees of freedom that would change its orientation throughout the day and from season to season.
A backyard installation of passive single–axis trackers, DC rated at 2340 watts. Seen here in winter midday position, tilted toward the south. The tall poles allow walk-under and use of the ground space underneath the panels for plantings that thrive on protection from the intense midday summer sun at this location
At this point, I want to share with you a really cool looking house, the Gemini House/Gemini Haus, that rotates in its entirety and the solar panels rotate independently, allowing control of the natural heating from the sun. What a great way to ensure that the sun always shine on your photovoltaic array! Gemini House (or Gemini Haus) was designed by Roland Mosl, to combine innovative solar technology and an eye-catching aesthetic. It was the first energy plus house (self-sufficient, and sometimes more) in Austria.
Gemini House/Gemini Haus rotates in its entirety and the solar panels rotate independently, allowing control of the natural heating from the sun. The inventor stands in the middle of the group
So far I have written/seen solar powered car and solar powered plane in previous blogs of Sun Is The Future, but it was only recently that I have learned that the solar powered high-speed-train was/is actually on some one’s drawing board! It is without a shadow of doubt that solar energy is one of the greenest energy sources and the idea of taking advantage of the hugely available solar energy in the American Southwest by covering the tracks with solar arrays to provide the high-speed train with necessary power and to generate electricity for nearby communities as well…is simply marvelous!
Will the SolarBullet high-speed train soon be a reality for AZ and Southwest USA?
The SolarBullet Campaign (at http://solarbullet.org), chaired by Ted L. Hullar, aims to stimulate support and awareness among Arizonians to increase the chance of this project (building a sun-powered bullet train that could link Tucson and Phoenix in as little as 33 minutes, traveling at 220 mph) to come into fruition.
Graduate students in the Eller College and the College of Engineering are partnering on a consulting project for citizen’s group. A multifaceted team of graduate students at the University of Arizona will climb aboard a solar-powered train between Tucson and Phoenix this Spring, metaphysically speaking. The team will analyze the economic feasibility conditions for the SolarBullet high-speed train to make economic sense between these two cities;they will produce a tool, a spreadsheet model, that can be used by SolarBullet.org , to generate and compare feasibility of different scenarios. The team is composed of Kevin Do (material science engineering), Chengdong Cai (civil engineering), Kevin Pieters (planning), Matt Novak (material science engineering), Jeff Gerber (MBA), Allison Duffy (MBA), and Paul Portney (economist and energy expert and former dean of the Eller College of Management as faculty advisor).
Keep in mind that as the cost of solar cells (will be discussed in future posts) continue to drop, the chance of the feasibility of this project will increase. We hope that SolarBullet high speed train will soon become a reality in Arizona and Southwest of USA, where the sunshine is generous and in infinite supply. But also for clarification, the high-speed bullet train (not solar powered) that had been causing heated discussion in the state of Florida recently actually would cost a lot less than the SolarBullet high-speed train. But in either case, the potential businesses and jobs that these high-speed train projects would bring to the local communities would be tremendous. Any state that will be able to bring the world’s first SolarBullet high-speed train will undoubtedly create a great deal of sensations in that state.
My hat off to the Arizonians with this innovative public transportation concept for using the free, non-polluting green energy from our greatest natural resource, the SUN! For more information or to show your support for SolarBullet Campaign, please contact SolarBullet Campaign chair Ted L. Hullar at SolarBullet Campaign or http://solarbullet.org and for questions regarding the team project please contact Liz Warren-Pederson of Eller College of Management at firstname.lastname@example.org .
What a terrific way to prove that we, the earthlings, are capable of freeing ourselves from the dependence on oil ! Through the clean tech of solar energy, SOLARIMPULSE has brought us not only the physical possibility of the first manned flight over night (lasted about 26 hours) by solar powered planein July 2010, but also the message to educators throughout planet earth the importance of motivating children and students the pioneering spirit and developing new ways of thinking about future, energy, environment , and online education.
Due to the overwhelming response on last week’s post on solar car, it would be fitting to bring you the report on earthling’s progress in Solar Plane, the Swiss Solar Impulse HB-SIA, below, undertaken at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne. This project was initiated in 2003 and then promoted by Bertrand Piccard (who co-piloted the first balloon to circle the world non-stop);it has grown to a multi-disciplinary team of 50 specialists from six countries and assisted by about 100 outside advisers.
Solar Plane-Swiss Solar Impulse HB-SIA, a long-range solar powered plane
Please be sure to view these three FANTASTIC clips below (I could not help but share the feeling of exuberance and hope for mankind in viewing these clips….I was almost in tears….) :
The prototype HB-SIA has a non-pressurized cockpit, a similar wingspan to the Airbus A340, lithium polymer batteries under the wing, 12,000 photovoltaic cells on the upper wing surface and the horizontal stabilizer generate electricity during the day. These photovoltaic cells and horizontal stabilizer propel the plane and charge the batteries to allow night flight, theoretically enabling the single-seat plane to stay in the air indefinitely. On July 8, 2010, HB-SIA achieved the world’s first manned 26-hour solar flight, flown by Andre Borschberg (started on July 7, 2010, from an airfield in Payenne, Switzerland).
To top HB-SIA, the HB-SIB is planned for completion in 2011, with a pressurized cockpit (with supplemental oxygen and various environmental support to the pilot to allow a cruise altitude of 12,000 m (39,000 ft) and advanced avionics to allow for transcontinental and trans-oceanic flights, with wingspan of 80.0 m (262.5 ft), slightly wider than the 79.75 m (261.6 ft) wingspan of an Airbus A380 ( the largest passenger airliner in the world).
A round-the-world flight is in the forecast for 2012;the flight would circle the world in the northern hemisphere near the equator and five stops are planned to change pilots. Once improved battery efficiency allows the reduced weight, a two-seater is envisaged to make a non-stop circumnavigation.
One cannot help but sense the inevitable success of SOLAR ENERGY….upon the horizon…
Another lesson I have learned from this project…the importance of spirit of cooperation among all earthlings….it is time to shed the barriers of nationalism in order to reach the survival of humankind/earthlings….
* 1 inch = 1/12 ft = 2.54 centimeters (or cm)= 0.0254 meter (or m)
Your comments, questions, suggestions are always welcomed either publicly (via comments below) or privately (via email@example.com).
Excellent question from more than one of our readers: How Do You Measure the Power Produced by Solar Cells ?
To set the stage for our following two film clips, please allow me to explain what a multimeter (or multitester) is: it is an electronic measuring instrument that combines several measurement functions (measuring voltage, current, and resistance) in one unit. Multimeters are available in a wide range of features, precisions, and prices, anywhere from less than US$10 to more than US$5,000. To find out how much the power is produced by solar cells, we need to know the voltage and current produced and the fact that power equals to the product of voltage multiplied by current.
voltage (unit of measurement is volt, V): electrical driving force, energy per unit charge, electrical potential difference between two points
current (unit of measurement is ampere, A): rate of flow of electric charge ( carried by moving electrons in a conductor such as wire or in an electrolyte carried by ions, or in a plasma by both)
resistance (unit of measurement is ohm, Ω): measure of the degree to which an object opposes an electric current through it
power (unit of measurement is watt, W): power is the rate at which work is performed or energy is converted. In direct current resistive circuits, electrical power is calculated using Joule’s law. In the case of resistive (Ohmic or linear)loads, Joule’s law is combined with Ohm’s law (I=V/R)
such that R represents numerical value of ohm or resistance, I represents numerical value of ampere or current, V represents numerical value of volt or voltage, P represents numerical value of watt or power
Joule’s law: P= VI, so solar cell or solar module measured at 2V and 1A would produce power at 2W, solar cell or solar module measured at 3V and 2A would produce power at 6W, solar cell or solar module measured at 2V and 1mA would produce power at 2mW (note: mA=0.001A or mA means milliA)
Joule’s law + Ohm’s law: P=(I2)R=(V2)/R
the current through each of the components of the circuit is the same, voltage across the components is the sum of the voltages across each component
the voltage across each of the components is the same and the total current is the sum of the currents through each component
I am glad to see that our posts last week generated some interesting questions. One of our readers was inquiring about the terminology,Peak Oil:
Thanks, L., for asking about this very important while often confusing topic in the discussion of renewable and/or solar energy. Peak Oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. Peak oil is often confused with the oil depletion;peak oil is the point of maximum production while depletion refers to a period of falling reserves and supply. This concept, derived from Hubbert Curve,
A logistic (continuous probability) distribution shaped production curve, as originally suggested by M. King Hubbert in 1956.
is based on observed production rates of individual oil wells, and the combined production rate of a field of related oil wells. The combined production rate from an oil field over time usually grows exponentially until the rate peaks and then declines, until the field is depleted. M. King Hubbert created and first used the models behind peak oil in 1956 to accurately predict thatUnited States oil production would peak between 1965 and 1970. Did you know that United States used to be one of the largest exporters of oil and now United States is one of the largest importers of oil?
More questions will be answered in the following posts. Your comments and questions are always welcomed. Some times it may take a while before all of the questions are addressed, so please be patient with me.
and the time and location of this year’s World Solar Challenge:
It is proposed that the dates of 11th World Solar Challenge® will be based on a start date of Sunday October 16th, 2011. This would mean that preparation facilities will be available in Darwin from Tuesday 4th October 2011, and the awards event being on Sunday 23rd of October, 2011. The Challenge will cross the center of Austalia, stretching 3000km from Darwin to Adelaide.
Part of the solution to energy and pollution involves technology that combines what we have learned from the aerospace, alternative energy, automotive, and bicycle industries. It may look like something out of a science fiction movie, but the reality of solar car races will one day bring all of us a step closer to the future, at least one solar car in each and every one garage of not only USA, but throughout the planet earth.
The Winning Car in the 1996 World Solar Challenge. The custom made cells for the car are greater than 20% efficient.
Several consulting companies, such as Phoenix Snider Power, have started to offer technical and financial support and/or services to institutes and teams developing solar cars worldwide. Links below will give you a peek at what some of the university students and solar enthusiasts throughout planet earth have already worked on:
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any interesting clips to share or if you want to leave a comment right at this site. I am very excited about what the future may have in store for all of us.