Yes, we are here!

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we have been educating folks about the benefits of self-reliance for 50 years. That includes researching and sourcing the best books and products to help individuals master the skills they need in times like these and beyond. Our online store is open and we are here to answer any questions you might have. Our customer service staff is available Monday through Friday from 8a.m.-5p.m. CDT. We can be reached at 1-800-234-3368 or by email. Stay safe!

Green Energy Technology Breakthroughs

From smart grids to better solar panels, green energy technology is making gains that will help us build a brighter future.

| December 2009/January 2010

  • Green Energy Technology
    Photovoltaic panels may not be a new idea in Green Energy Technology. They've been around for decades, but a range of new design improvements promises far greater efficiency and much lower costs.
  • GreenEnergy2
    Dye-based solar cells produce energy by mimicking photosynthesis.
  • GreenEnergy3
    Making the electric grid “smarter” would help save energy, prevent power outages and bring more renewable energy online.
  • GreenEnergy4
    The Nissan Leaf is one of several all-electric vehicles being developed.
  • GreenEnergy Smart Meter
    Smart meters give consumers real-time data about their electricity consumption.
  • GreenEnergy5
    A prototype plug-in Toyota Prius recharges.
  • GreenEnergy7
    “It’s hot in here, could you dim the windows, please?” New window designs feature more user control.
  • GreenEnergy6
    A new generation of windows can greatly reduce heat loss.
  • GreenEnergy8
    No, this is not an air conditioner, it’s an air-source heat pump — a very efficient way to heat and cool your home.

  • Green Energy Technology
  • GreenEnergy2
  • GreenEnergy3
  • GreenEnergy4
  • GreenEnergy Smart Meter
  • GreenEnergy5
  • GreenEnergy7
  • GreenEnergy6
  • GreenEnergy8

Renewable energy technology is big news these days. More and more people recognize that developing less-polluting, greener energy sources is the key to tackling the problems of air and water pollution, declining oil and gas supplies, and rising greenhouse gas emissions. Because of this momentum, there have been a steady stream of new technological developments. On a number of fronts, work is underway that ultimately promises cleaner, more abundant, and more reliable sources of energy.

Some of the developments are filtering into the marketplace now, while others are years away from reaching their full potential. In the end, advances in energy technology will have widespread and positive effects on everyday life. Although no new technology will end our reliance on fossil fuels in the near future, collectively these developments represent a step forward. Consumers will benefit, and so will the environment. Here’s a big-picture look at five of the many developing technologies that have the potential to change how we use energy.

1. Less Expensive Solar Panels

Renewable energy sources accounted for about 9 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption in 2008, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). However, only about .02 percent of electricity came from solar energy in 2008, and that includes both solar thermal and photovoltaic (PV) technologies. While PV installations are increasing rapidly, there’s a long way to go before solar makes a significant contribution to our total electricity supply. However, that could change quickly. For one thing, federal incentives for producing energy have long favored fossil fuels, but now additional federal money is being used to support renewable energy. At the same time, new PV research is decreasing the cost of the technology and increasing the efficiency.

Generating electricity from solar power still costs more than generating power from fossil fuels. However, according to Solarbuzz, a solar research and consulting company, the gap is narrowing between the cost of generating solar energy at home and the price consumers pay for utility-generated electricity. A recent report from Solarbuzz shows that the average price of producing electricity from a residential-scale PV system is about 35 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). That compares to an average price of 12 cents per kWh that consumers pay for electricity in the United States, according to the EIA. However, in a few U.S. locations, average electricity prices are already over 20 cents per kWh, and the research on ways to lower the cost of solar electricity is extremely promising. John Benner, manager of PV partnerships at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, says he expects PV costs to run head-to-head with utility power over the next five years.

Currently, most commercially available PV cells use crystalline silicon as a semiconductor to generate electricity. Another PV technology is manufacturing thin-film cells by depositing amorphous silicon on a variety of substrates. Of the two, crystalline silicon is more efficient, converting more of the energy potential of sunlight into electricity. But although amorphous silicon has about half the efficiency crystalline silicon, it uses 100 times less silicon to generate the same amount of electricity. The high-grade silicon required for solar cells is expensive, so processes that use less of it have real benefits.

Finding materials that can generate electricity more efficiently or at a lower cost than silicon is another significant area of new research. Several alternatives are already available, including thin-films produced with cadmium telluride (CdTe), and copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS). While promising, these non-silicon materials may be difficult to scale up to meet global demands for electricity without quickly depleting natural resources, according to a study reported in Environmental Science & Technology. Alternatively, the report says, researchers have identified 12 materials that could “meet or exceed” global electrical consumption. Nine of them have the potential to be much cheaper than crystalline silicon. Among them are copper sulfide, copper oxide and iron pyrite, which is “several orders of magnitude better than any alternative” on the basis of cost and abundance.

Uncle Red
12/15/2009 10:45:45 AM

Thin-film does exist and is less efficient IN LABORATORY CONDITIONS. In real-world conditions in Florida, where it is hot and frequently overcast, Flex-Light's panels (manufactured by Uni-Solar) are PRODUCING 10-15% MORE ELECTRICITY due to their dramatically improved heat tolerance, low-light sensitivity, and lower loss-of-production to shading. Combined with the Miami-Dade hurricane wind-load rating and building-integrated nature, thin-film is a very real solution for some homeowners and most commercial applications.

12/11/2009 2:43:50 PM


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters

click me