Energy News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on energy
Imagine being able to convert water into a boundless source of cheap energy. That's what BlackLight Power, a 25-employee firm in Cranbury, N.J., says it can do. The only problem: Most scientists say that company's technology violates the basic laws of physics. Such skepticism doesn't daunt Dr. Randell Mills, a Harvard-trained physician and founder of BlackLight, who recently claimed that he has created a working fuel cell using the world's most pervasive element: the hydrogen found in water. Mills says he has a market-ready product: a fuel cell that produces a chemical reaction to alter hydrogen atoms. The fuel cell releases heat that turns water into steam, which drives electric turbines. The working models in his lab generate 50 kilowatts of electricity - enough to power six or seven houses. But these, Mills says, can be scaled [up] to drive a large, electric power plant. The inventor claims this electricity will cost less than 2 cents per kilowatt-hour, which compares to a national average of 8.9 cents. Mills developed the patented cocktail that enables the reaction - a solid fuel made of hydrogen and a sodium hydride catalyst - only a year ago. (He recently posted instructions on the company's Web site, blacklightpower.com). Now that the device is ready for commercialization, he says, BlackLight is negotiating with several utilities and architecture and engineering firms. The business, Mills says, has attracted $60 million in funding from wealthy individuals, investment firms ... and it is no longer seeking money. BlackLight's board of directors reads like a Who's Who of finance and energy leaders.
Note: For two New York Times articles showing the viability of this amazing technology, click here and here. And for the latest on this exciting technology, click here. For many other exciting major media news articles on new energy inventions, click here.
In the 1980s, leading consultants were skeptical about cellular phones. The handsets were heavy, batteries didn’t last long, coverage was patchy, and the cost per minute was exorbitant. The experts are saying the same about solar energy now. They say that solar is inefficient, too expensive to install, and unreliable, and will fail without government subsidies. They too are wrong. Solar will be as ubiquitous as cellular phones are. Futurist Ray Kurzweil notes that solar power has been doubling every two years for the past 30 years — as costs have been dropping. He says solar energy is only six doublings — or less than 14 years — away from meeting 100 percent of today’s energy needs. By Kurzweil’s estimates, inexpensive renewable sources will provide more energy than the world needs in less than 20 years. In places such as Germany, Spain, Portugal, Australia, and the Southwest United States, residential-scale solar production has already reached “grid parity” with average residential electricity prices. In other words, it costs no more in the long term to install solar panels than to buy electricity from utility companies. The prices of solar panels have fallen 75 percent in the past five years alone and will fall much further as the technologies to create them improve and scale of production increases. By 2020, solar energy will be price-competitive with energy generated from fossil fuels on an unsubsidized basis in most parts of the world. Within the next decade, it will cost a fraction of what fossil fuel-based alternatives do. Despite the skepticism of experts and criticism by naysayers, there is little doubt that we are heading into an era of unlimited and almost free clean energy.
Note: This article also points out how some big energy companies and the Koch brothers are lobbying to stop alternative technologies from flowering. Read through a rich collection of energy news articles with inspiring and revealing news on energy developments. And explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
Twenty years ago it appeared, for a moment, that all our energy problems could be solved. It was the announcement of cold fusion - nuclear energy like that which powers the sun - but at room temperature on a table top. It promised to be cheap, limitless and clean. Cold fusion would end our dependence on the Middle East and stop those greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. It would change everything. But then, just as quickly as it was announced, it was discredited. So thoroughly, that cold fusion became a catch phrase for junk science. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to oblivion - for many scientists today, cold fusion is hot again. "We can yield the power of nuclear physics on a tabletop. The potential is unlimited. That is the most powerful energy source known to man," researcher Michael McKubre told 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley. McKubre says he has seen that energy more than 50 times in cold fusion experiments he's doing at SRI International, a respected California lab that does extensive work for the government. McKubre is an electro-chemist who imagines, in 20 years, the creation of a clean nuclear battery. "For example, a laptop would come pre-charged with all of the energy that you would ever intend to use. You're now decoupled from your charger and the wall socket," he explained. The same would go for cars. "The potential is for an energy source that would run your car for three, four years, for example. And you'd take it in for service every four years and they'd give you a new power supply," McKubre told Pelley.
Note: To watch the full, revealing 12-minute video clip of this segment, click here.
Distance, not speed, was the goal this weekend on the track at the 2009 Shell Eco-marathon Americas(R), a challenge for students to design, build and test fuel-efficient vehicles that travel the farthest distance using the least amount of fuel. This year, more than 500 students from North and South America were on hand to stretch the boundaries of fuel efficiency. So who came out on top? The student team from Laval University, with an astonishing 2,757.1 miles per gallon, equivalent to 1,172.2 kilometres per liter, won the grand prize in the "Prototype" category. And in the "UrbanConcept" category - new to the Americas event this year - the team from Mater Dei High School took the grand prize by achieving 433.3 mpg, equivalent to 184.2 km/l. With 44 participating teams at track competition was steep. This year's challenge brought together a number of returning teams determined to beat the 2,843 mpg (1,208 km/l) record set by Mater Dei High School (Evansville, Ind.) in 2008, combined with a number of new teams adding fresh innovation and vehicle designs to the competition. "The Shell Eco-marathon is a platform for students to let their imaginations run wild," said Mark Singer, global project manager for the Shell Eco-marathon. "By encouraging these students to build vehicles with greater energy efficiency, we hope this will help inspire others; and together we can find solutions that will help meet the global energy challenge."
Note: CNBC removed this article for some reason. It was still available on the Shell website at this link for a while, but then strangely removed. Using the Internet Archive, you can still view the article at this link. Why so little media attention to this most exciting race for top gas mileage? And if high school students can build a car that gets over 2,500 mpg, what's up with Detroit? Could big business be suppressing, or at the very least ignoring these inspiring inventions?
Johnathan Goodwin walks to the back of his auto conversion shop in Wichita, Kan., and lifts up a gas nozzle connected to a huge cube-shaped container. The orange stuff he's pumping is the key to his company's mission: converting the worst gas-gulping SUVs into cleaner, meaner machines. "This is 100 percent canola oil, refined to biodiesel," Goodwin said. His well-maintained shop is a bit like a showroom for that much-maligned symbol of environmental ruin: the Hummer. The silver H-1 – which Goodwin says gets 60 miles per gallon – has already been modified to run on biodiesel, diesel, vegetable oil, gasoline, ethanol, hydrogen, natural gas and propane. On a standard gasoline-to-biodiesel conversion, Goodwin starts by taking a new nine-mile-per-gallon Hummer and removing the original gas engine. In goes an off-the-shelf GM Duramax engine that runs on diesel fuel. A few extra modifications and a tank full of biodiesel later, the Hummer – now boasting 500 horsepower and getting about 20 miles per gallon – is ready for the road. He offers a couple of lower-cost options, including a fuel vaporizer for $1,000 that he says boosts fuel economy by 30 percent, and a $500 software download that reprograms diesel engines to get up to an additional seven miles per gallon. His work has many wondering why the big automakers can't simply reconfigure their assembly lines to make their own cars run as efficiently as Goodwin does. "I don't know why GM hasn't done it," says Goodwin. "But I can tell you that all the parts that I use for the conversion – 95 percent – are all GM parts. I'm not reinventing anything."
Note: For lots more powerful and inspiring information on this breakthrough technology and kits you can order, click here. For many other revealing major media articles showing new energy inventions and breakthroughs which should be making headlines, click here.
Last winter, inventor John Kanzius was already attempting one seemingly impossible feat -- building a machine to cure cancer with radio waves -- when his device inadvertently succeeded in another: He made saltwater catch fire. TV footage of his bizarre discovery has been burning up the blogosphere ever since, drawing crackpots and Ph.D.s alike into a raging debate. Can water burn? And if so, what good can come of it? Some people gush over the invention's potential for desalinization or cheap energy. Briny seawater, after all, sloshes over most of the planet's surface, and harnessing its heat energy could power all sorts of things. Skeptics say Kanzius's radio generator is sucking up far more energy than it's creating, making it a carnival trick at best. For now, Kanzius is tuning out the hubbub. Diagnosed with leukemia in 2002, he began building his radio-wave blaster the next year, soon after a relapse. If he could seed a person's cancerous cells with nanoscopic metal particles and blast them with radio waves, perhaps he could kill off the cancer while sparing healthy tissue. The saltwater phenomenon happened by accident when an assistant was bombarding a saline-filled test tube with radio waves and bumped the tube, causing a small flash. Curious, Kanzius struck a match. "The water lit like a propane flame," he recalls. "People said, 'It's a crock. Look for hidden electrodes in the water,' " says Penn State University materials scientist Rustum Roy, who visited [Kanzius] in his lab in August after seeing the feat on Google Video. A demo made Roy a believer. "This is discovery science in the best tradition," he says. Meanwhile, researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have made progress using Kanzius's technology to fight cancer in animals. They published their findings last month in the journal Cancer.
Note: For other compelling articles on this fascinating invention, see recent articles in the Los Angeles Times, ABC News, and especially Medical News Today. And for dozens of astounding major media articles showing clear suppression of potential cancer cures, click here.
The Plasma Converter ... can consume nearly any type of waste—from dirty diapers to chemical weapons—by annihilating toxic materials in a process ... called plasma gasification. A 650-volt current passing between two electrodes rips electrons from the air, converting the gas into plasma. The plasma arc is so powerful, it disintegrates trash into its constituent elements by tearing apart molecular bonds. The system is capable of breaking down pretty much anything except nuclear waste. The only by-products are an obsidian-like glass [and] a mixture of primarily hydrogen and carbon monoxide that can be converted into a variety of marketable fuels, including ethanol, natural gas and hydrogen. Perhaps the most amazing part of the process is that it’s self-sustaining. Once the cycle is under way, the 2,200°F syngas is fed into a cooling system, generating steam that drives turbines to produce electricity. About two thirds of the power is siphoned off to run the converter; the rest can be used on-site for heating or electricity, or sold back to the utility grid. Even a blackout would not stop the operation of the facility. New York City is already paying an astronomical $90 a ton to get rid of its trash. According to Startech, a few 2,000-ton-per-day plasma-gasification plants could do it for $36. Sell the syngas and surplus electricity, and you’d actually net $15 a ton. But the decision-making bureaucracy can be slow, and it is hamstrung by the politically well-connected waste-disposal industry. Startech isn’t the only company using plasma to turn waste into a source of clean energy. A handful of start-ups—Geoplasma, Recovered Energy, PyroGenesis, EnviroArc and Plasco Energy, among others—have entered the market in the past decade.
Note: Why isn't this amazing, proven machine and technology making front page headlines? Read this exciting article to find how it is already being used. For why you don't know about it, click here. And for another amazing new energy source not yet reported in the major media, click here.
In 1975, after the oil embargo, Congress approved the most successful energy-saving measure this country has ever seen: the Corporate Average Fuel Economy system, known as CAFE, which set minimum mileage standards for cars. Within 10 years, automobile efficiency had virtually doubled, to 27.5 miles per gallon in 1985 from just over 14 miles per gallon in 1976. The mileage standards are still 27.5 m.p.g. Except for minor tweaks, Congress has refused to raise fuel efficiency requirements or close a gaping loophole that lets S.U.V.’s and pickups be measured by a more lenient standard.
Note: Thank you New York Times for pointing out what so few have bothered to mention. In the U.S., it is not the automotive industry that determines fuel mileage standards, but rather Congress. Whenever Congress has raised the mileage standard, industry complies and average mileage increases. When the standards are not raised, average car mileage for new cars stays the same. Yet Congress refused to significantly raise the standards from 1985 to 2012, despite the increasing talk of an energy crisis. Why? If you really want to know, click here and here.
Brazil's new generation of cars and trucks adapted to run on alcohol has just hit the two-million mark. "Flex-fuel" vehicles, which run on any combination of ethanol and petrol, now make up 77% of the Brazilian market. Brazil has pioneered the use of ethanol derived from sugar-cane as motor fuel. Ethanol-driven cars have been on sale there for 25 years, but they have been enjoying a revival since flex-fuel models first appeared in March 2003. Just 48,200 flex-fuel cars were sold in Brazil in 2003, but the total had reached 1.2 million by the end of last year and had since topped two million, the Brazilian motor manufacturers' association Anfavea said.
Note: With sky-high gasoline prices and the fear of depletion of global oil supplies, why don't such cars exist in the U.S.? Why are the trains of almost every other developed nation far advanced from trains in the U.S.? And why isn't the U.S. media reporting on this important development? For possible answers, click here. The excellent movie Who Killed the Electric Car is also incredibly revealing.
During the West Coast Power crisis homes went dark and streetlights were out ... causing injuries and accidents. But the danger didn't stop Enron's energy traders from having a good laugh. CBS ... reports on the Enron scheme, as caught on new audio tape. The traders and plant operator laugh and plot in a display that seems to prove the theory that years before the energy crisis, Enron manipulated markets. "They had to do a rolling blackout through the town and there was a red light there he didn't see," one Enron trader says on tape. "That's beautiful," a second voice responds. Enron secretly shut power plants down so they could cause, and then cash in on, the crisis. Enron also pulled power out of states like California, causing emergency conditions to worsen. "Sorry California," an Enron trader says. "I'm bringing all our power out of state today." Plant operators were coached on how to lie to officials. "We want you guys to get a little creative..." one voice says on the tape, "and come up with a reason to go down. Just call 'em, Hey guys…we're coming down." The plant operator replies, "OK, so we're just comin' down for some maintenance?" "Right," the trader says. "And that's cool?" the plant operator asks. "Hopefully," the trader responds, to which the men are heard laughing. Enron also pulled power out of states like California, causing emergency conditions to worsen. The "shut downs" and "pull outs" triggered sky high power prices. "We're just making money hand over fist!" one voice is heard saying on the tape. And when states complained, the guys at Enron seemed to have a response. "Get a f****** clue," one says. "Yeah," another chimes in. "Leave us alone. Let us make a little bit of money."
Note: For an eye-opening two-minute video clip on CBS, watch "Enron Schemers on Tape" at this link. MSNBC also published a revealing article on this. And a New York Times article states "Company officials had long denied that they illegally shut down plants to create artificial shortages. Two months after the recording showed how the Nevada plant was shut down, [Enron CEO Kenneth] Lay called any claims of market manipulation 'conspiracy theories.'" For lots more reliable information on the energy cover-up, click here.
Top-secret wartime experiments were conducted off the coast of Auckland to perfect a tidal wave bomb, declassified files reveal. United States defence chiefs said that if the project had been completed before the end of the war it could have played a role as effective as that of the atom bomb. Details of the tsunami bomb, known as Project Seal, are contained in 53-year-old documents released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Papers stamped "top secret" show the US and British military were eager for Seal to be developed in the post-war years too. The experiments involved laying a pattern of explosives underwater to create a tsunami. It is unclear what happened to Project Seal once the final report was forwarded to Wellington Defence Headquarters late in the 1940s. The bomb was never tested on a full scale. "Whether it could ever be resurrected ... Under some circumstances I think it could be devastating."
A car driven by a 10-year-old and built at a French school has set a new world record for fuel efficiency. The Microjoule team managed the equivalent of 9,845 miles per gallon while driving for 10 miles around Silverstone race track in the UK. More than 100 teams competed in the Shell Eco-Marathon. Their one goal was to see how far they can get these amazing machines to travel on a minuscule amount of fuel. While we might be delirious if we managed 40 miles (64 kilometres) to the gallon (4.5 litres) pottering about town in our super minis, these people are not happy until they have seen the mileometer click through the thousands. The teams have a choice of petrol or diesel, with solar assistance permitted for the first time this year. A car is allowed three 40-minute runs. It must average at least 15 mph (24 kph) after which the stewards at the meeting calculate the machine's fuel efficiency. "The top fuel teams do about 10 miles, which is six laps on the club circuit at Silverstone," says the event's fuel manager Geoff Houlbrook. "They do that on less than 10 millilitres which is just two teaspoons of fuel." The entries come from all over Europe. Some teams use advanced materials like titanium and carbon fibre. Some of the machines built by schoolchildren are made from parts of old sewing and washing machines. "It's fun but it's also science," says BBC Top Gear presenter and racing driver Tiff Needell. "It's like an experiment with people learning how to save energy."
Note: Some of these amazing vehicles built in 1999 were "built by schoolchildren," yet the auto industry still can't come up with a car that get's 100 mpg? Granted these cars are slow and small, but if they can get almost 10,000 mpg, don't you think similar technology could be used to get at least several hundred mpg in regular cars? For why car mileage hasn't increased much since the 1908 Model T got 25 mpg, click here and here.
Weren't we taught that radio was invented by an Italian named Guglielmo Marconi? And that the legendary Thomas Alva Edison devised today's electrical power system? "We were taught wrong," said Toby Grotz, president of the International Tesla Society. Two years before Marconi demonstrated his wireless radio transmission, [Nikola Tesla] performed an identical feat at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. On June 21, 1943, in the case of Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co. vs. the United States, the Supreme Court ruled that that Tesla's radio patents had predated those of the Italian genius. To be sure, Edison invented the incandesent light bulb. But he powered it and all of his other projects with inefficient direct current (DC) electricity. It was Tesla who discovered how to use the far more powerful phased form of alternating current (AC) electricity that is virtually the universal type of electricity employed by modern civilization. There are indications that Tesla also discovered many of the devices ... for the Pentagon's controversial Star Wars antimissile defense system. "Tesla dreamed of supplying limitless amounts of power freely and equally available to all persons on Earth," said Grotz. And he was convinced he could do so by broadcasting electrical power across large distances just as radio transmits far smaller amounts of energy. [Tesla's] tests ... caused lights to burn as much as 26 miles away, according to news reports of the time.
Note: Tesla was written out of history texts likely because he advocated providing methods for extremely cheap electricity available to everyone. He successfully transmitted electricity through the air to lights 26 miles away. Yet the rich energy power brokers of his time could not stand for this. Only the little known Supreme Court ruling mentioned above restored his claim as original inventor of the radio. For lots more on this most fascinating genius, click on the article link above and click here and here. For revealing major media articles showing the suppression of other energy inventions which could transform our world, click here.
Membranes based on the "miracle material" graphene can be used to distil alcohol, according to a new study in Science [magazine]. An international team created the membrane from graphene oxide - a chemical derivative of graphene. They have shown that the membrane blocks the passage of several gases and liquids, but lets water through. This joins a long list of fascinating and unusual properties associated with graphene and its derivatives. Graphene ... is a flat layer of carbon atoms tightly packed into a two-dimensional honeycomb arrangement. Because it is so thin, it is also practically transparent. As a conductor of electricity, it performs as well as copper; and as a conductor of heat, it outperforms all other known materials. The unusual electronic, mechanical and chemical properties of graphene at the molecular scale promise numerous applications. Andrei Geim and Konstantin Novoselov from the University of Manchester were awarded 2010's Nobel Prize in physics for their discovery [of graphene]. Geim and others have now developed a laminate made from thin sheets of graphene oxide. These films were hundreds of times thinner than a human hair but remained strong, flexible and easy to handle. In another study in Science journal, a different team reports the development of a membrane based on diamond-like carbon. This membrane has unique pore sizes that allow for the ultra-fast passage of oil through it. One expert said it could potentially be used for filtering toxic contaminants out of water or for purifying industrial chemicals.
Note: To read about the exciting potential of this miracle material to create fresh water from salt water, click here. For revealing media articles on amazing energy inventions, most of which are not getting nearly the attention they deserve, click here.
[Abiotic oil theorists] hold that oil can be derived from hydrocarbons that existed eons ago in massive pools deep within the earth's core. That source of hydrocarbons seeps up through the earth's layers and slowly replenishes oil sources. In other words, it turns the fossil-fuel paradigm upside down. Thomas Gold, a respected astronomer and professor emeritus at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, has held for years that oil is actually a renewable, primordial syrup continually manufactured by the Earth under ultrahot conditions and tremendous pressures. As this substance migrates toward the surface, it is attacked by bacteria, making it appear to have an organic origin dating back to the dinosaurs, he says. That ... raises the tantalizing possibility that oil may not be the limited resource it is assumed to be. In 2008 ... a group of Russian and Ukrainian scientists [said] that oil and gas don't come from fossils; they're synthesized deep within the earth's mantle by heat, pressure, and other purely chemical means, before gradually rising to the surface. The idea that oil comes from fossils "is a myth" that needs changing according to petroleum engineer Vladimir Kutcherov, speaking at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. "All kinds of rocks could have oil and gas deposits." Alexander Kitchka of the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences estimates that 60 percent of the content of all oil is abiotic in origin and not from fossil fuels.
Ask nearly any physicist if it’s possible for a hydrogen atom to enter a lower energy state than the ground, or resting, state they hold in nature, and you’re likely to get an unequivocal “no”. But a tiny company in New Jersey called Blacklight Power has been disputing that assumption for over a decade, and of late, making gad-fly claims that its founder says will overturn the accepted scientific order. Blacklight’s claims have a special significance: If they’re true, there’s a source of cheap, clean energy that can be easily tapped anywhere in the world. Blacklight is now saying that it has physical proof of its energy generator, verified by an independent university lab. Its “hydrino” theory isn’t put forth by a single crackpot; instead, the company employs a good handful of high-level scientists who would presumably rebel if the idea was totally false. It has also taken over $60 million in venture funding. Despite a hearty rejection by the scientific mainstream, and being ignored for years on end, its founder, Randell Mills, has plugged on. Now an engineering team at Rowan University ...has come forward with results from its own tests of the Blacklight process. Tests conducted in sealed chambers, and measured with a device called a calorimeter, show a heat reaction from a substance provided by Blacklight far beyond anything anticipated. “We’ve been able to regularly reproduce these results and we believe any research lab could do the same,” Peter Jansson, the faculty member heading the experiments, [said].
BlackLight Power, the company that has pulled in $60 million for its seemingly physics-defying fuel cell, is back with an announcement about an independent validation of its technology. A team of engineers, headed by Dr. Peter Jansson at Rowan University, have tested BlackLight’s prototypes and found that the devices perform as BlackLight claims, ambiguously concluding that “there is a novel reaction of some type causing the large exotherm which is consistently produced.” To translate: There’s definitely lots of energy being produced. They’re just not sure why. BlackLight says its technology can push an electron closer to the nucleus by way of a catalytic reaction, resulting in a huge amount of clean energy. The company describes the reaction as “somewhere between a nuclear and a chemical reaction,” but without any of the messy fallout. The team at Rowan tested BlackLight’s 1,000- and 50,000-watt reactors over three months and were able to replicate BlackLight’s energy claims, saying that the energy produced “cannot be explained by other known sources like combustion or nuclear energy.” The company says a complete verification of the whole process will likely happen within a year. BlackLight tells us it is now in the process of licensing its technology to power producers. The company says it has enough capital to get through commercialization and plans to have its reactors in a power plant in the next two years.
The idea is deceptively simple. Forget about fancy batteries, regenerative braking, and alternative fuels. Instead, make a car that's elegant in its minimalism and efficiency. The Loremo's German designers revisited the basics — engine efficiency, low weight, and minimal drag — to create a car that offers fuel-efficiency in the neighborhood of 130 to 150 miles per gallon. The Loremo is likely to dazzle drivers not with its acceleration, but with its ability to drive from New York to L.A. with only three stops at the pump. Loremo stands for low resistance mobile, and its engineers have stuck obsessively to this idea. By building the car around a 2-cylinder turbodiesel engine, and cutting back on weight, drag, and other excess fat such as side-opening doors, the Loremo puffs out a mere 50 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer. This is about 40 grams less per kilometer than the tiny diesel smart. According to its creators, this will make the Loremo the most efficient production car ever sold. If the Loremo showed up as a concept on an auto show pedestal, it would certainly garner some attention. But the Loremo is not a car for dreamers; not only will it enter mass production next year, it will sport a base price attainable by mortal motorists: 15,000 euros (about U.S. $22,000). After its 2009 release in Europe, the Loremo will be redesigned to reach the North American market the following year. A $30,000, 3-cylinder GT model will also become available, offering better acceleration (0-60 in roughly 10 seconds, vs. 16 for the base model). Both hybrid and fully electric versions are also in the works.
Note: For many exciting, reliable reports on new energy and automobile technologies, click here.
Imagine a solar panel without the panel. Just a coating, thin as a layer of paint, that takes light and converts it to electricity. From there, you can picture roof shingles with solar cells built inside and window coatings that seem to suck power from the air. Consider solar-powered buildings stretching not just across sunny Southern California, but through China and India and Kenya as well, because even in those countries, going solar will be cheaper than burning coal. That’s the promise of thin-film solar cells: solar power that’s ubiquitous because it’s cheap. The basic technology has been around for decades, but this year, Silicon Valley–based Nanosolar created the manufacturing technology that could make that promise a reality. The company produces its PowerSheet solar cells with printing-press-style machines that set down a layer of solar-absorbing nano-ink onto metal sheets as thin as aluminum foil, so the panels can be made for about a tenth of what current panels cost and at a rate of several hundred feet per minute. Nanosolar’s first commercial cells rolled off the presses this year. Cost has always been one of solar’s biggest problems. Traditional solar cells require silicon, and silicon is an expensive commodity. That means even the cheapest solar panels cost about $3 per watt of energy they go on to produce. To compete with coal, that figure has to shrink to just $1 per watt. Nanosolar’s cells use no silicon, and the company’s manufacturing process allows it to create cells that are as efficient as most commercial cells for as little as 30 cents a watt. "It really is quite a big deal in terms of altering the way we think about solar and in inherently altering the economics of solar," says Dan Kammen, founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley.
Note: For exciting reports of other new energy technologies, click here.
Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine the UN climate change report. Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute, an ExxonMobil-funded think tank with close links to the Bush Administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of the report. Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered. The institute has received more than $1.6 million from ExxonMobil - which yesterday announced a $50 billion annual profit, the biggest ever by a US company - and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush Administration. A former head of ExxonMobil, Lee Raymond, is the vice-chairman of the institute's board of trustees.
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