World’s First Solar Cycle Path Is Performing Better Than Anticipated

May 13, 2015 | by Justine Alford

Photo credit: SolaRoad

If you can remember as far back as November, you may recall the announcement that the Netherlands had just designed and installed the world’s first solar cycle path in the town of Krommenie. At just 70-meters (230 ft) long, the SolaRoad project has been a proof-of-concept pilot to test out feasibility and practicality of such installations. Now, six months on, Dutch engineers have reviewed its performance and, perhaps surprisingly to skeptics, it has reportedly been more fruitful than anticipated.


Refrigeration Battery is a cool idea for saving energy at the supermarket

Supermarket-refrigerator.jpg.662x0_q70_crop-scaleElon Musk gets all the pixels for his new Powerwall battery system, but here's another cool battery that is making a splash. It's the Refrigeration Battery from Axiom. Apparently those giant coolers and fridges full of all that unhealthy frozen prepared food eat up 56 percent of a grocery store's electricity. The refrigeration battery, like the Powerwall, works by storing energy when power is cheap, smoothing out the demand curve. However it does it with water, not lithium.


How to make your own healthy (and delicious) energy bars

Ditch the store-bought energy bars full of questionable ingredients and make a batch of these homemade ones for hungry snacking anytime.

I’m not a fan of energy bars. I prefer to eat real food in order to stave off hunger pains or combat low blood sugar. There is also a lot of junk in the conventional energy bars you find at grocery stores and gas stations. Most are made with highly processed ingredients and often include artificial flavours, synthetic sweeteners, cheap chocolate coatings, and soy protein (the largest genetically modified crop in the world). (more…)

Coming Soon: Cheap light rooftop solar you can install yourself.

Christian Hoepfner with roof

CC BY 2.0 Christian Hoepfner with roof/ Lloyd Alter

There's a lot to see at the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems in a rehabbed old building in Boston. Fraunhofer is a big German research and development non-profit organization, with a couple of branches in the USA. They have been working with solar power for years, and last year held the record for making the world's most efficient solar cell. Now they are looking to reinvent the way solar panels are installed.

Christian Hoepfner, the director of the center, explains that much of the cost of installing photovoltaics is in the frame they are mounted on, and in the connections, the wiring of it all together. This needs about 26 hours of a qualified electrician and a lot of work by the roofer, and presently totals about $ 4.90 per watt installed.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

They have redesigned the solar panel, mounting the photovoltaics on a light, flexible substrate, which has an adhesive back that essentially glues it to the roof. Because most building codes specify roof sheathing that is designed to allow for the weight of a second layer of shingles, these panels should be able to be installed without any engineering expenses or approvals because they weigh pretty much the same as shingles.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

A simple connector attaches one panel to the next, which then feeds to a packaged inverter.

Then it gets really clever: an electrician can pull off the meter head (homeowners aren't allowed to do this) and stick a special connector in between the base and the meter head. Then the standard universal car-charging plug is stuck right into the inlet. Nobody has to rewire their house or even go inside. Total installation time: about 10 hours, and a cost of about $1.50 per watt. And it's all as easy as falling off a roof.

I have some reservations. I don't think homeowners should be climbing over their roofs without safety harnesses, and hope that they will still recommend professional installations. I am not crazy about the idea of gluing things to shingles; are there going to be moisture and maintenance issues? What about freeze-thaw issues? I would have preferred that it actually was inserted under the tab of a row of shingles at the top so that it actually acts as a giant shingle. And what about velcro instead of glue? And there is more to American housing than low-slope roofs on suburban bungalows, what is the cheap and cheerful solution for them?

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

But I like the thinking. It's not just a technical problem they are solving, but they are looking at the regulatory issues, code compliance, safety and ease of use. It's a big complex package, trying to make something simple. More at Fraunhofer. More from the Center For Sustainable Energy Systems to follow.

by Lloyd Alter


Panasonic confirms big investments in Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory (tens of billions of yen)

Tesla battery Gigafactory in Nevada

© Tesla

Panasonic has Tesla's back when it comes to batteries. At least that's the impression that I got from reading comments made by its chief executive Kazuhiro Tsuga. At the annual CEATEC trade show in Chiba, near Tokyo, he said that his company was ready to make an initial investment of "tens of billions of yen" (right now a dollar is worth about 110 yen, so we're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars). This would be just the first of many investments: “We will expand the size as we go by pouring in further installments of similar amounts," said Mr. Tsuga. “Our policy is to avoid a situation where Tesla wants to make more cars but doesn’t have enough batteries.”

Tesla/Screen capture

In the past Tesla has said that they expect Panasonic to cover about 30-40% of the $5 billion cost for the Gigafactory, Tesla will cover about half, and the rest will be made up of other investors who haven't yet been named.

Panasonic is already Tesla's main battery supplier, so this only deepens their relationship and makes both companies more interdependent. It'll be interesting to see if in the longer term Tesla decides to diversify its supply chain by maybe building other battery gigafactories with different partners, or if Panasonic will stay the main supplier.

Here's the timeline for construction:

Tesla/Screen capture

Some giga-stats for the Nevada project:

  • Approximately $100,000,000,000 in economic impact over 20 years

  • 6,500 direct jobs on-site with an average wage in excess of $25 per hour and full benefit package

  • $5 billion initial investment in facility within 3-5 years: ($1 billion in building, $4 billion in equipment)

  • An additional $5 billion in planned replacement equipment over a subsequent 10 year period, or a total investment of $10 billion

  • Peak construction employment of more than 3,000 construction and installation workers over a three year period

  • Expansion of USA Parkway to connect Highway 50 to Interstate 80

  • Tesla will make a direct contribution to K-12 education of $37.5 million beginning in August 2018

  • Tesla will commit to grant $1 million to fund advanced battery research at UNLV

  • Tesla will prioritize the employment of Nevadans and Veterans

By Michael Graham Richard


Toyota Environment

sustainability_studiesBy Angie Barmer

In addition to rolling out a plethora of Toyota Corollas every day, the Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Mississippi, Inc. facility in Blue Springs is also deemed the model sustainable assembly plant for North American operations.

This is due to the many environmental and sustainability practices that are in place every day at the 1,540-acre Blue Springs facility. Performance, biodiversity, community education, and renewable energy are the keys to these daily practices at TMMMS. (more…)