The smart cell turning solar energy into hydrogen

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What could be better than a solar cell that captures most of the visible light spectrum to generate energy? A cell that can capture the whole visible light spectrum and turn the energy into hydrogen. The cell is actually a molecule, and it is a busy molecule: it not only harnesses 50 percent more solar energy than existing solar cells, but it also turns this energy into hydrogen.

“The whole idea is that we can use photons from the sun and transform it into hydrogen. To put it simply, we are saving the energy from sunlight and storing it into chemical bonds so it can be used at a later time,” explains the lead researcher in the team that developed the molecule, chemistry professor Claudia Turro from the Ohio State University.

“What makes it work is that the system is able to put the molecule into an excited state, where it absorbs the photon and is able to store two electrons to make hydrogen,” Turro added. “This storing of two electrons in a single molecule derived from two photons, and using them together to make hydrogen, is unprecedented.”

The molecule is a form of rhodium—an inert metal and member of the platinum group—and because it can both collect solar energy and then act as a catalyst to turn it into hydrogen, it makes for a much more efficient fuel production system than existing alternatives, at least with respect to energy loss during the process of conversion of solar energy into hydrogen.

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This customized RV with solar-panel body does not need fuel, electricity to run; ever

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Named as the Iveco Daily Electric, the RV that can take you anywhere – completely for free.

Cleaner vehicles with minimum emissions make up for a new segment that is currently the most hotly contested around the world. This is not only because of the emission norms of major countries that have compelled manufacturers to do so, but also due to the industry’s trajectory that has encouraged them to be the early bird. A rat race for electrification.

On one hand, there are manufacturers who are spending huge chunks of their revenue in creating eco-friendly offerings and on the other hand, you have Dethleffs’ completely solar RV. You heard right, completely solar. While major auto giants around the world are scrambling for a piece of the pie that is electrification, Dethleffs harnessed solar energy to create an offering that is completely independent of any fuel.

Named as the Iveco Daily Electric, the RV that can take you anywhere – completely for free. The extensive use of solar panels on the RV’s body can produce up to 3,000 watts of energy without a charging point in sight.

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Our pathetically slow shift to clean energy, in five charts

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We’d better pick up the pace in the 2020s.

By most measures that matter, clean energy had a stellar decade.

The cost of large wind and solar farms dropped by 70% and nearly 90%, respectively. Meanwhile, renewable-power plants around the world are producing four times more electricity than they did 10 years ago.

Similarly, electric vehicles were barely a blip at the outset of the 2010s. But automakers were on track to sell 1.8 million EVs this year, as range increased, prices fell, and companies introduced a variety of models.

But the swift growth in these small sectors still hasn’t added up to major changes in the massive global energy system, or reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions. So far, cleaner technologies have mostly met rising energy demands, not cut deeply into existing fossil-fuel infrastructure, as the charts that follow make clear.

That’s a problem. Cutting emissions rapidly enough to combat the increasing threats of climate change will require complete overhauls of our power plants, factories, and vehicle fleets, all within a few decades.

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New battery tech can keep your smartphone charged for five continuous days

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The new high-capacity lithium-sulfur batteries can pave way for cheaper electric cars and solar grids.

Researchers have developed a new solution that is capable of powering smartphones for five continuous days or electric cars to run over 1,000 km without needing to refuel.

The new battery solution does away with the traditional lithium-ion combination in modern batteries that power devices such as smartwatches, smartphones, and even pacemakers. Instead, researchers used lithium-sulfur batteries to achieve ultra-high capacity.

Researchers at Australia-based Monash University said the team could re-configure the design of sulfur cathodes using the existing materials in standard lithium-ion batteries. The reconfiguration helped researchers achieve higher stress levels without registering any drop in overall capacity or performance.

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What will the end of oil dependence mean for geopolitics?

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Solar power is one form of renewable energy that is replacing fossil fuels

If you want to understand the revolution taking place in renewable energy, come to a power station called Gemasolar in southern Spain.

Here, in the dusty plains of Andalusia, they have worked out how to generate solar power 24 hours a day.

Yes, you can read that sentence again. At Gemasolar they create electricity even when the Sun is not shining.

They have rigged up more than 2,500 huge mirrors on hydraulic mounts that follow the Sun’s passage through the sky.

The mirrors – each about the size of half a tennis court – reflect the Sun’s rays to one central point, the top of a 140m (459ft) tower, where molten salt is heated to almost 600C. This liquid salt is carried down the tower to where it heats the steam that powers a turbine.

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Off-the-grid container house in Mexico is move-in ready in 99 days

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The VMD tiny home is an eco-conscious dwelling that is built using shipping-containers

Mexican architectural studios Studioroca and Taller Escape have recently joined forces to create a prefabricated housing model that is move-in ready in just 99 days from ordering. Dubbed VMD, the 30-sq-m (323-sq-ft) tiny home is an eco-conscious dwelling that is built using shipping-containers and offers a complete off-the-grid living package.

The inspiration for the simple and cost-effective design of the dwelling came from the architects’ desire to create a home that could re-connect city-dwellers with the beautiful natural Mexican landscape, while also incorporating a strong focus on sustainability and reducing the ecological footprint of the home. The VMD home is thus designed as a low-fuss abode or weekend getaway that can be installed in just seven days, while leaving very little impact on the site.

“VMD is an invitation to find a balance between daily life and weekend escapes, coming into contact with nature; Mexico is a country famous for its biodiversity and its unparalleled landscapes, in our quest to increase the experience of living it VMD becomes the synthesis of freedom where retirement is only a short trip away,” says the Taller Escape studio.

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Gas plants will get crushed by wind, solar by 2035, study says

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Generators now on drawing boards will be left uneconomical

Natural gas-fired power plants, which have crushed the economics of coal, are on the path to being undercut themselves by renewable power and big batteries, a study found.

By 2035, it will be more expensive to run 90% of gas plants being proposed in the U.S. than it will be to build new wind and solar farms equipped with storage systems, according to the report Monday from the Rocky Mountain Institute. It will happen so quickly that gas plants now on the drawing boards will become uneconomical before their owners finish paying for them, the study said.

The development would be a dramatic reversal of fortune for gas plants, which 20 years ago supplied less than 20% of electricity in the U.S. Today that share has jumped to 35% as hydraulic fracturing has made natural gas cheap and plentiful, forcing scores of coal plants to close nationwide.

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A new floating solar farm shows that renewables can be easy

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The Sekdoorn floating solar farm in the Netherlands is completed after a record six weeks of work. This is the fastest construction speed ever for the German company specialized in the renewables sector BayWa r.e., who worked together with its Dutch partner GroenLeven to build the power plant.

The construction was done in only six weeks and the plant can power 4,000 households.

The solar farm will have a yearly energy yield of 13.330 MWh, saving around 6,500 tons of CO2 emissions a year and powering the equivalent of 4,000 households.

Floating solar power plants are what the name suggests, solar panels mounted on a structure that floats on a body of water. The advantage is that they reduce land requirements because they can be installed in industrial pools, drinking water reservoirs and small lakes.

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Renewables meet 50% of electricity demand on Australia’s power grid for first time

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For a brief moment solar, wind and hydro combined to deliver more than half the power into the National Electricity Market

Australia’s main electricity grid was briefly powered by 50% renewable energy this week in a new milestone that experts say will become increasingly normal.

Data on the sources of power in the National Electricity Market showed that at 11.50am on Wednesday, renewables were providing 50.2% of the power to Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia – the five states served by the market.

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Zeppelins could make a comeback with this solar-powered airship cargo mover

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Zeppelins, the rigid airships most famously epitomized by the Hindenburg, now seem kind of retro, rather than the image of futurity they represented in the 1930s. But they could be about to make a comeback in a big way — courtesy of a new aluminum-shelled, solar-powered airship that’s being built by the U.K.-based company Varialift Airships.

According to the company’s CEO Alan Handley, the airship will be capable of making a transatlantic flight from the United Kingdom to the United States, consuming just 8% of the fuel of a regular airplane. It will be powered by a pair of solar-powered engines and two conventional jet engines.

While its lack of onboard battery would limit travel to daylight hours, and its speed will only be approximately half that of a Boeing 747, the Varialift airship does promise to be a useful cargo carrier. Its creators claim that it will be able to carry loads ranging from 50 to 250 tons. Larger models with payloads up to 3,000 tons aren’t out of the question either. Bulky cargo such as electricity pylons, wind turbine blades, and towers, or even prefabricated structures such as oil rigs could be carried underneath using cables. That means that cargo will have a weight limit, but no practical size limit.

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Home energy storage capacity breaks records in U.S.

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Additions of new residential energy storage capacity in the United States reached a record high in the second quarter of the year, exceeding 30 MW, a new report by Wood Mackenzie says. The market for energy storage in the country is growing fast, the authors note, driven by customer interest and government incentives.

In May this year, IHS Markit forecast grid-connected energy storage capacity would jump twofold by the end of 2019, from 376 MW last to 712 MW. There may be a good chance of such an increase taking place: total new storage additions during the first half of the year were over 200 MW, with 148.8 MW deployed during the first quarter and 79.5 MW deployed during the second quarter.

According to Wood Mac, the reason for the slowdown in total storage capacity additions was due to a sizeable fall in front-of-the-meter storage additions. These, however, would pick up in the second half of the year, the consultancy said, with the pipeline for new FTM storage projects soaring 66 percent from a year earlier.

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Solar energy prices hit tipping point as China reaches “grid parity”

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It’s a landmark moment for China and the world.

The world’s most populous country has reached a tipping point in the pursuit of renewable energy.

China, which aims to consume 20 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuels by 2030, has reached a point where home-generated solar is cheaper than electricity generated from the national grid. The research, conducted by researchers in both Sweden and China and published in the journal Nature Monday, mark an historic moment in the drive to ditch fossil fuels.

The switchover point comes soon after a report that showed a similar crossover in the United States. The report in March showed that in 74 percent of cases, building new solar and wind capacity in a given area was cheaper than maintaining an existing coal-powered plant. Where levelized costs for wind reach $15 per megawatt-hour and $28 per megawatt-hour for solar, marginal costs for existing plants can jump as high as $104 per megawatt-hour.

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