solar energy


Would you buy a solar powered e-book reader?

Ever since e-books came out I wondered if I would ever switch to some kind of digital reader, replacing the old style paper and ink. E-books have so many advantages over normal paper: eco-friendly (no paper involved, no trees cut, no complex printing machinery, truck distribution with subsequent burning of oil, pollution and Co2 emission, just to name a few), but t has its drawbacks. In Italian we say la carta puzza - paper smells, not meaning that it stinks (although it has a very particular smell), but that it has certain fascination, sense of home-made. Plus, it never runs out of batteries, it doesn't break very easily, it doesn't make your eyes hurt, it's easy to carry around, and sometimes it's the perfect present for a good friend.

When the kindle came out things changed. No backlit, which means you can only see when there is light, like the sun or a lamp, so it feels like reading a page from a newspaper or a book, the battery lasts for hours and it lets you navigate on the internet.

Randall Munroe, in his hilarious blag post (no misspell here, it's blag), described how an e-book like the kindle is actually more comfortable to read than a normal book. Although I still feel a personal attachment to the old fashioned paper, I like to feel the hard paper on my fingers, there's an environmental as well as logistic problem that needs to be addressed. I have no more space for books in my room. If I keep this rate of expansion, my books will literally bury me, unless I can find a bigger house.

E-readers would partially solve these two problems. Partially, because they still need energy to operate, and I already have enough electronic equipment floating around. I recently stumbled upon the new LG solar powered e-book reader, which features a 10 centimetre wide thin-film photovoltaic panel that can power the reader for a full day's worth of reading after 4-5 hours spent sitting in the sun. It sells for about 100 dollars. It's much cheaper than a Kindle and it's solar powered. I think I might finally try to switch to e-readers with this one.

So my question to all of you, fellow blogger and eager readers: would you buy a solar powered e-reader (not necessarily this model)?

I'm very curious of your reaction, in the meantime I shall post some of the hilarious comments on Slashdot:

... Warranty void if left out in the sun for prolonged exposure. (Romancer)

Now all I need is a portable sun to read in bed. (Rosco P. Coltrane)

Is it wrong to want an ebook with a little furnace to burn books as fuel? (Anonymous Coward)

p.s. This article was crossposted on the TH!NK ABOUT IT - Climate Change blogging competition.


[wired] How To Make a Solar Cell with Donuts and Tea

Donuts and tea are the main ingredients in a MacGyver-style do-it-yourself solar cell, epxplained step-by-step in this video.

"It turns out these delicious little things contain everything we need to make a simple solar cell," said Blake Farrow, a Canadian scientist who filmed the video while visiting Prashant Kamat's lab at the University of Notre Dame.


Nanosolar Named Best Invention of the Year 2008 by Time Magazine


As the title says:
There are countless ways to manufacture solar panels, but there's only one metric that counts: how the cost of solar power compares with that of electricity from fossil fuels. Until energy from the sun can beat energy from coal at the marketplace, solar will remain a niche player, adorning the rooftops of those who care more for their green reputation than for their bottom lines. Enter Nanosolar, a San Jose-based start-up that manufactures thin-film solar panels. Unlike the bulky silicon panels that dominate the solar market, Nanosolar thin-film technology is light and extremely cheap to make. The key is the manufacturing process: while silicon panels need to be baked in batches, Nanosolar's thin-film panels roll off the assembly line, as if from a printing press.


Major discovery from MIT, solar revolution or not? Hemp-cars know the story

In a revolutionary leap that could transform solar power from a marginal, boutique alternative into a mainstream energy source, MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn't shine.


Nanosolar - Finally clean and cheap solar energy

Now now... can somebody tell why solar energy did not become ubiquitous in the World? The answer is very simple, it's expensive. Typically a house needs 3KW per hour of energy, and to achieve that with solar panels you would spend about $40,000 $34,000. Even with the 55% incentive that the Italian government gives you it's nearly impossible to consider it affordable for an average family. The rest of the world offers has slightly similar conditions, some a bit better and some other a bit worse.

The bottom line is: Solar power is way too expensive to be used at a large scale. A typical installation will need circa 20 12 years to recover the cost and start saving money. That of course does not take into account the whole picture, in fact the entropy of the system dramatically decreases, having no oil, no coal, no nuclear waste, no CO2 emissions and so on you are actually living sustainably as far as the environment is concerned.

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