One of the Nation’s Biggest Solar Farm Open in California

by Shannon O’Neill

The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm located in Riverside County, opened in February 2015 as one of the biggest solar farms in the world. First Solar, who also contributed more than 8 million solar modules to the project, runs the project. The farm has 4,000 acres of solar panels, providing the capability to produce 550 megawatts of energy. This is enough to provide energy to more than 160,000 homes. Additionally, this energy source will replace the use of 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year, a number equivalent to removing 60,000 cars off of the roads. In addition to the environmental benefits, the project has also created many jobs. This project is aiming to contribute to governor Jerry Brown’s initiative of one-third of California’s energy coming from renewable resources by 2020, and one-half from renewable sources by 2030.

This project opens during a time where the future of solar energy is uncertain due to the fact that federal funding and investors’ interests have decreased in recent years. Specifically, the federal investment tax credit is expected to decrease from 30% to 10% by the end 2016. Additionally, with many states already on track to meet renewable energy goals, investing in solar energy has not been a priority. However, as solar energy is slowly becoming price-competitive due to the decrease in prices of photovoltaic panels along with the opening of this solar farm, there is hope of re-initiating such interests in solar energy.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Southern California Edison have already agreed to purchase energy from the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm for the next twenty years. Additionally the Obama Administration is making renewable energy a priority. They have designated 22 million acres in California for the sole use of renewable development in order to generate 20,000 megawatts of power by 2020. This is enough energy to power around 6 million homes.

 

Huge Solar Farm Opens in California: Enough Energy from 160,000 Homes (http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-solar-farm-20150209-story.html)

 

Desert Sunlight Solar Farm (http://www.firstsolar.com/en/about-us/projects/desert-sunlight-solar-farm)

 

550 MW Desert Sunlight Solar Farm in California Now Online (http://cleantechnica.com/2015/02/10/550-mw-desert-sunlight-solar-farm-california-now-online/)

 

 

Iceland’s Deep Drilling Geothermal Energy Project

 

by Shannon O’Neill

Iceland’s unique geology has made it a prime region for the development of geothermal energy. Specifically, the Reykjane Peninsula, located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge on the southwestern coast and the home of four volcanoes, is a prime region for such development. Its volcanic geology provides geothermal pools that are heated by the steam and magma deep below the service. Geothermal wells harvest the heat from the pools to power turbines, providing one hundred megawatts of power, enough to power thousands of homes in the region. Iceland is powered almost solely on renewable energy resources, with geothermal energy contributing to a fourth of such resources. Continue reading

SolePower: Solving the Mobile Energy Problem

by Shannon O’Neill

Advancements in technology, specifically in handheld devices and portable electronics, are increasing at a rapid rate. Because battery technology and advancements have been moving at a much slower rate, the use of these devices has been limited to their battery life. This issue motivated engineering students from Carnegie Melon University to develop SolePower, a rechargeable battery that is powered and charged when the user walks.

A special insole (or “ensole, for energy insole) is placed in the user’s shoe. The mechanism inside the insole is able to capture the kinetic energy produced when walking, which is then used to spin an electromagnetic generator as fast and as long as possible. The power created is then stored in an energy pack, which can be stored on top of the user’s shoe or on the users ankle. This energy pack can then be hooked up to cell phones or other portable devices and used a portable battery. Currently, an hour walking provides enough energy to sustain two and a half hours of talk time on a cell phone, with a walk between two and a half to five miles providing a full charge to an iPhone. Continue reading

The Importance of Wood as a Renewable Energy Resource

by Shannon O’Neill

The importance of wood as a renewable energy resource has often been solely associated with developing countries. However, Aguilar (2015) stresses the importance of wood in developed nation’s energy markets, specifically in the growing trend of mandated transitions to more renewable energy resources. In the United States alone, wood energy provides 25 percent of renewable energy consumption, which is greater than both wind and solar energy. As wood energy is often overlooked, he highlights the importance of recognizing this valuable and complex resource. Continue reading