Solar Power is Cheaper than Nuclear

Solar power is a wonderfully sustainable source of energy and its biggest hurdle to wide adoption is cost (and going up against subsidized fossil fuels). Well, now the nuclear crowd can’t claim that solar is too expensive because the fact of the matter is that solar power is cheaper than nuclear!

It’s no secret that the cost of producing photovoltaic cells (PV) has been dropping for years. A PV system today costs just 50 percent of what it did in 1998. Breakthroughs in technology and manufacturing combined with an increase in demand and production have caused the price of solar power to decline steadily. At the same time, estimated costs for building new nuclear power plants have ballooned.

The result of these trends: “In the past year, the lines have crossed in North Carolina,” say study authors John Blackburn and Sam Cunningham. “Electricity from new solar installations is now cheaper than electricity from proposed new nuclear plants.”

If the data analysis is correct, the pricing would represent the “Historic Crossover” claimed in the study’s title.

Two factors not stressed in the study bolster the case for solar even more:

1) North Carolina is not a “sun-rich” state. The savings found in North Carolina are likely to be even greater for states with more sunshine –Arizona, southern California, Colorado, New Mexico, west Texas, Nevada and Utah.

2) The data include only PV-generated electricity, without factoring in what is likely the most encouraging development in solar technology: concentrating solar power (CSP). CSP promises utility scale production and solar thermal storage, making electrical generation practical for at least six hours after sunset.

Keep reading.

You Can Help a Bike Sharing Program Come to Toronto

Readers of this site know that bicycles are great and that we like bike sharing programs, well, now it’s Toronto’s turn to get on the Bixi bandwagon. We’ve looked at Bixi before when they opened in Montreal.

The city of Toronto will approve Bixi to open next year in Toronto IF they an get 1,000 members before this November. If you are free tonight you can sign up for a Bixi membership at the Bixi Bash.

Here’s info on Bixi from the Toronto Star

“It’s pretty inexpensive, even if you’re just going to use it once a week,” said Daniel Egan, the city’s manager of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. “There are a number of milestones we need to achieve by the end of November in order to launch this for next year. And one of those is to sign up 1,000 members. It’s really to protect the city and the (BIXI) company from financial risk — to know there’s a demand for this.”

The city will also need to secure $600,000 in corporate sponsors and locate appropriate docking sites. Both are well underway, says Egan.

“Quite frankly I think our biggest challenge will be the demand for more bikes once this program launches,” said Egan.

The ruggedly designed bikes are adjustable and designed to fit all body types. The wheels generate electricity to power the fixed-on lights.

Keep reading at the Star.

Plastiki Completes its Voyage

We looked at the Plastiki before when it set sail and now, a few months later the ship has completed its voyage.

The boat, carrying six crew, travelled through a waste-strewn area of the north Pacific and made stops in the Line Islands, Western Samoa and the French territory of New Caledonia before leaving for Australia.

The Plastiki’s bottles are lashed to pontoons and held together with recyclable plastic and glue made from cashew nut husks and sugarcane, while its sails are also made from recycled plastic.

The crew relied on renewable energy including solar panels, wind and propeller turbines and bicycle-powered electricity generators, and used water recycled from urine.

They were able to keep in touch with supporters via satellite through a website, blogs, and use of social-networking sites such as Twitter.

Keep reading about the Plastiki’s adventure

ECObitat is Green Disaster Relief Housing

ECObitat is a proposed modular housing design that looks good and is green. What’s even better is that it is easily deployable in the event of a disaster like a flood or earthquake. These sustainable shelters can be a good relief for the environment and people affected by natural disasters.

ECObitat is made of standard oriented strand boards (OSB) sheets with everything scaled using 1.22 m x 2.44 m dimensions. The structure of the house is made of a steel frame while structural insulated panels (SIP) panels are used for the walls and floor to define the rooms and provide support and insulation. The modular system has dimensions of 2.44 m x 3.10 m x 12.20, which is about the size of a standard 40′ shipping container. The vertical walls and floors are sheathed in OSB with thermo-acoustic insulation.

The whole house stands on telescoping legs, which makes it easier to place it on any type of ground without the need to search for a flat area. The metallic roof of the house features a series of solar panels and a small-scale wind turbine to produce enough power for the entire home. Modular plant boxes are mounted on the exterior and are planted with vegetation, which provides extra insulation. Depending on the types of plants used, the walls of the house can even produce food.

Keep reading at WIDN

Expanding Education

Liz Coleman is the president of Bennington, a college in the USA, and she has some wise things to say about education. She suggests that the more classical take on a liberal-arts education has fallen short of creating the proper citizens for the 21st century and her solution is to broaden the school’s concept of education itself.

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