Solar is the Solution – Duh!

It’s time to harness the world’s virtually inexhaustible supply of solar energy and start building a brighter future.

Is there really anything else that needs to be said? Great article by Steve Heckeroth over at MotherEarthNews.com. Here’s a single portion serving for you.

We know that relying on coal, oil and natural gas threatens our future with toxic pollution, global climate change and social unrest caused by diminishing fuel supplies. Instead of relying on unsustainable fossil fuels, we must transform our economy and learn to thrive on the planet’s abundant supply of renewable energy.

I have been studying our energy options for more than 30 years, and I am absolutely convinced that our best and easiest option is solar energy, which is virtually inexhaustable. Most importantly, if we choose solar we don’t have to wait for a new technology to save us. We already have the technology and energy resources we need to build a sustainable, solar-electric economy that can cure our addiction to oil, stabilize the climate and maintain our standard of living, all at the same time. It is well past time to start seriously harnessing solar energy.

60 MPG and zero to 60 in Five Seconds

Fast Company LogoJust read an excellent article from FastCompany about Johnathan Goodwin, a professional gearhead that has been doing what Detroit says is impossible; modifying the largest trucks and SUV’s and making them more powerful with lower emissions and higher mpg, almost exclusively with off the shelf parts from the same auto manufacturers. My favorite quote from the article was plastered on the front page which is “Detroit could do all this stuff overnight if it wanted to”. Here’s an excerpt.

Goodwin, a 37-year-old who looks like Kevin Costner with better hair, is a professional car hacker. The spic-and-span shop is filled with eight monstrous trucks and cars–Hummers, Yukon XLs, Jeeps–in various states of undress. His four tattooed, twentysomething grease monkeys crawl all over them with wrenches and welding torches.

Goodwin leads me over to a red 2005 H3 Hummer that’s up on jacks, its mechanicals removed. He aims to use the turbine to turn the Hummer into a tricked-out electric hybrid. Like most hybrids, it’ll have two engines, including an electric motor. But in this case, the second will be the turbine, Goodwin’s secret ingredient. Whenever the truck’s juice runs low, the turbine will roar into action for a few seconds, powering a generator with such gusto that it’ll recharge a set of “supercapacitor” batteries in seconds. This means the H3’s electric motor will be able to perform awesome feats of acceleration and power over and over again, like a Prius on steroids. What’s more, the turbine will burn biodiesel, a renewable fuel with much lower emissions than normal diesel; a hydrogen-injection system will then cut those low emissions in half. And when it’s time to fill the tank, he’ll be able to just pull up to the back of a diner and dump in its excess french-fry grease–as he does with his many other Hummers. Oh, yeah, he adds, the horsepower will double–from 300 to 600.

“Conservatively,” Goodwin muses, scratching his chin, “it’ll get 60 miles to the gallon. With 2,000 foot-pounds of torque. You’ll be able to smoke the tires. And it’s going to be superefficient.”

He laughs. “Think about it: a 5,000-pound vehicle that gets 60 miles to the gallon and does zero to 60 in five seconds!”

Check out Chinese Tech Stocks: $$$>Google & Microsoft

China Market Capfrom TechCrunch.com

This is absolutely amazing. I had no idea that Chinese companies were valued so highly and that their stock valuations are rising so quickly. Petrochina worth more than Google? Commercial Bank of China worth more than Microsoft? Wow. I had no idea. Here is an excerpt from the TechCrunch article.

In a presentation at last week’s Web 2.0 conference, Morgan Stanley Internet analyst Mary Meeker did her annual data dump, quantifying the Web’s growth in dozens of ways. One data point in particular really stood out for me. In 2003, the combined market capitalization of China’s publicly traded Internet companies was $5 billion. Today, it is $50 billion.

Of course, it’s not just Chinese Internet stocks that are going gangbusters. Floyd Norris at the NYT points out that, of the top 20 most valuable companies in the whole world as measured by market cap, 41 percent are Chinese, surpassing the 38 percent represented by American companies. Contrast that to 1999 when U.S. companies represented 77 percent of the top 20. And in 1989, it was Japan that dominated with 73 percent of the list. Maybe the China bubble won’t pop until China hits at least 70 percent and a Chinese Internet company is on the list. Or maybe it will deflate over time as more Chinese stocks become available to investors, who are currently fighting over a limited supply of shares.

(The Chinese companies on the list today include Petrochina (which has a larger market cap than GE), the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (which is more valuable than Microsoft), China Petroleum, China Life, and China Construction. The only Chinese technology company on the list is China Mobile. Google doesn’t even rank in the top 20.)

Windbelt Electricity Generator – Popular Mechanics Award


Working in Haiti, Shawn Frayne, a 28-year-old inventor based in Mountain View, Calif., saw the need for small-scale wind power to juice LED lamps and radios in the homes of the poor. Conventional wind turbines don’t scale down well—there’s too much friction in the gearbox and other components. “With rotary power, there’s nothing out there that generates under 50 watts,” Frayne says. So he took a new tack, studying the way vibrations caused by the wind led to the collapse in 1940 of Washington’s Tacoma Narrows Bridge (aka Galloping Gertie).

Frayne’s device, which he calls a Windbelt, is a taut membrane fitted with a pair of magnets that oscillate between metal coils. Prototypes have generated 40 milliwatts in 10-mph slivers of wind, making his device 10 to 30 times as efficient as the best microturbines. Frayne envisions the Windbelt costing a few dollars and replacing kerosene lamps in Haitian homes. “Kerosene is smoky and it’s a fire hazard,” says Peter Haas, founder of the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group, which helps people in developing countries to get environmentally sound access to clean water, sanitation and energy. “If Shawn’s innovation breaks, locals can fix it. If a solar panel breaks, the family is out a panel.”

Frayne hopes to help fund third-world distribution of his Windbelt with revenue from first-world applications—such as replacing the batteries used to power temperature and humidity sensors in buildings. “There’s not a huge amount of innovation being done for people making $2 to $4 per day,” Haas says. “Shawn’s work is definitely needed.”