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IKEA selling solar panels

IKEA has now started selling solar panels in the UK. According the Associated Press, "a standard, all-black 3.36 kilowatt system for a semi-detached home will cost 5,700 British pounds ($9,200) and will include an in-store consultation and design service as well as installation, maintenance and energy monitoring service." Feel free to suggest funny faux-Swedish product names in the comments. David 27

Solar pays


Redditor Tufflaw has been running a central air-conditioning system "24/7" during the New York heatwave. But the bills were offset by 26 home solar panels by Sharp that took three days to install and were subject to state and federal tax-credits, and will take 7-8 years to pay for themselves. Here is the most recent bill: $6.05. Tufflaw says that there are sometimes months that go by with no bill at all (and one year generated a $20 rebate from the power company!), and adds, "There's also an intangible benefit, feeling good about using a free renewable source of power."

Been running my central air 24/7 lately, especially with the recent heat wave. This is my most recent electric bill. Damn I love my solar panels.

Apple's building a solar farm in NV, for clean energy data centers

Reuters reports that Apple will build a new solar farm with NV Energy Inc, to power the computing giant's new data center in Reno, Nevada. The plan is seen as "a major step towards its goal of having its data centers run on renewable energy." Xeni

Documentary on activist who taught people to make solar cottage industries in 16 countries

Gmoke sez, "Richard Komp has taught people how to make solar as a cottage industry in at least 16 different countries over the last few years. There's a documentary called "Burning in the Sun" about his work in Mali and he's even got an Introduction to Photovoltaics series on YouTube. Reports from his 25 international trips available here"

Solar as a Cottage Industry

Tool to calculate benefit of rooftop solar in Cambridge, Mass


Gmoke sez, "The city of Cambridge, Mass has teamed up with MIT to produce a Solar Tool that allows people to type an address into a website and get a detailed account of that roof's solar electric potential. This is probably the most detailed service now existing and every building in Cambridge is covered. You can learn how much of your roof sees enough sun for a PV installation, how large that PV installation can be, how much it will cost, how high your Federal and state tax rebate will be, how much electricity it will produce in a year, and how much carbon it will displace."

Solar Tool v.2 (Thanks, Gmoke!)

Solar Impulse plane lands, completing world's first intercontinental flight powered by the sun (photos)

Photo: REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

The Solar Impulse plane project president and pilot Bertrand Piccard lands after a 19-hour flight from Madrid at Rabat's International airport, June 5, 2012. The plane landed in Morocco on Tuesday, completing the world's first intercontinental flight powered by the sun to show the potential for pollution-free air travel.

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Solar-powered airplane "Solar Impulse" attempts transcontinental flight

Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

A Solar Impulse aircraft takes off at Payerne airport May 24, 2012, piloted by André Borschberg. The Solar Impulse HB-SIA prototype aircraft, which has 12,000 solar cells built into its jumbo-jet-sized wings (about 200 feet long), attempted its first intercontinental flight from Switzerland to Morocco with a few days for a technical stop and a change of pilot in Madrid. This flight will act as a final rehearsal for the 2014 round-the-world flight.

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Solar Flare update: A Hot Mess

Click for more images.

Above, one of a number of images released by NASA today that show how a coronal mass ejection (or CME) from our Sun progressed on March 8, 11:38 PM EST to March 9, 12:53 AM EST. These were captured by the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).

Snip from NASA:

The sun is obscured in this image, called a coronograph, so that the dim atmosphere -- or corona -- around the sun can be better seen. The white speckles on the image are “noise” from solar particles hitting the instrument. On March 8, 2012 at 10:53 PM EST it erupted with an M6.3 class flare, and about an hour later released a CME. In addition to today's rising geomagnetic storm conditions, active region 1429 that has so far produced two X class flares, and numerous M-class flares continues to crackle. NASA's Space Weather Center models measure the CME traveling at speeds of over 700 miles per second. The CME should reach Earth's magnetosphere, the protective envelope of magnetic fields around the planet, early in the morning of March 11.

So, there you have it. Sometime in the AM on Sunday, you and everyone you love and all that is beautiful in the world will crackle in flames and ash, then end in a fiery death. (Just kidding!)

Bill Harwood, space consultant for CBS News (one of the truly great science reporters of our time), explains what it all means:

The sun goes through an 11-year cycle, and solar flares, as its tending toward maximum, which the sun is doing right now, are not unusual. These aren’t the biggest flares they’ve ever seen, but they are the most energetic in the last five years or so. There probably will be some good auroral displays, the northern and southern lights, if you will. There could be some disruptions. There could also be some impact on global positioning system readings.

And a special note for communications DIYers: For more on how the solar event affects amateur ("ham") radio operations, ARRL has this update today. If you're into that sort of thing, you may want to follow the @solarham account on Twitter, too.

Sunflower geometry inspires better solar power plant design

MIT mechanical engineer Alexander Mitsos and colleagues were seeking an improved layout for solar power plants, and found inspiration in the concentric spirals of the sunflower. (via @pourmecoffee) Xeni

An easier-to-build solar cell

Solar cells are not easy to build, but a new technology from Notre Dame could, someday, change that. It involves a nanoparticle paste made from t-butanol, water, cadmium sulfide and titanium dioxide. Here, you watch the process of constructing a solar cell this way and see why it could be easier and cheaper than current options. The downside: These solar cells won't be coming to a neighborhood near you anytime soon. They're in the early stages of research and are still only 1% efficient at converting solar energy to electricity. (Standard solar cells tend to be closer to 25% efficient.)

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Sollight Lightship

SolLight LightShip Solar-Powered Light.jpeg This solar-powered LED light comes with suction cups and is incredibly handy. I keep one in the car on the back window, so it's always charged in case of a breakdown. It also features a red LED to preserve night vision, as well as an auto-shut-off that uses a light sensor. It is weather sealed and it stood up brilliantly to the sun, salt and sea while I lived in Fiji. I used this device, along with the brilliant LightCap. This latest version of the Sollight classic LightShip is fantastic as ever. Great for hands free light, camping, and emergencies. -- Kaz Brecher SolLight Lightship $18 Comment on this at Cool Tools. Or, submit a tool!

Saturday Morning Science Experiment: Melting steel with the sun

Remember the satisfying sizzle of ants under a magnifying glass? No? Is that just me, then? Whatever, haters.

ANYway, the same science responsible for frying ants is at work on a larger scale in this clip from James May's "Big Ideas" series. What you've got here is a solar furnace, a carefully arranged array of mirrors that catches heat from the sun and reflects it, focusing it to point—effectively taking a lot of disparate, comfy sunbeams and gathering them together in a tight bundle. By their powers combined, the reflected beam can reach temperatures of 3,500 °C (6,330 °F). Watch in wonder and terror as the beam turns a hot dog to char and melts steel.

Thumbnail courtesy Flickr user gi, via CC