Solar Energy

tofu bowlScientists have discovered a cheaper alternative to make thin-film solar films. The new ingredient is magnesium chloride, a popular component of tofu. This is also the same ingredient used to de-ice snow covered roads.

Large thick silicon plates are the most popular way to harness solar energy but it is very expensive and not very flexible. A cheaper alternative is thin film solar cells. However, it has to be treated with cadmium chloride which is quite toxic.

Researchers at the University of Liverpool were on a mission to find a cheaper and safer way compound that could perform similarly to cadmium chloride.  The result was magnesium chloride and it worked just as efficiently as cadmium chloride and cost less. In fact, it cost $0.001 per gram compared to $ 0.30 for the same amount of cadmium chloride.

Unlike cadmium chloride magnesium chloride doesn't have to go through a rinsing step. As a result, few resources and time is needed to produce the thin solar films. Due to its cost effectiveness and environmental benefits, magnesium chloride is poised to run a stiff competition against its toxic rival.

batteryA team of Harvard scientists have developed a novel battery design that can help to store energy when there are low amounts of wind and solar power to be had.  At every turn, alternative energy sources have been helping to bolster and support the massive energy demands in large markets.  However, poor weather and massive demands can force the electricity grids near failing status simply because there is not power to be had.

These new battery designs use small and organic carbon-based molecules known as quinones to store energy.  These are very similar to the cells that store energy in plants, and they have a high capacity while taking up very little space.

These batteries are only limited by the size of the tank they use, and tanks can be built to massive proportions to store energy if necessary.  These fluid-based batteries could be the perfect way to store energy to allow for wind and solar power to be usable year round on the energy grid.  Only time will tell if the designs can be built to the right size.

oil, wind energyAs energy demands rise, the best sources of alternative energy on the marketplace are directly at odds.  With new wind farms going up every year and nuclear power plants struggling to hold their position in the market place, the two could begin to kill each other off if they are not careful.

The two sides are also being pressured by natural gas as a much cleaner alternative to coal.  The problem is that these competing forces are causing fluctuation in the markets that are radically altering their prices.  The changes in prices have brought electricity prices down as demand goes down due to help from alternative energy.  Because of this, alternative energy prices are not soaring, either.

As the alternative energy sources cut into each other's market share, we should look out for trouble in the future as demand and production rise simultaneously in the market.


electricity storageSolar power installations have been on the rise in California since 2006, and all of that energy is making a dent in the state's power grid.  Now, the state utility companies are going to start putting in huge batteries to store excess power that is produced by its customers.  This is yet another step in the fight to make sure that the California power grid does not experience an catastrophic failure in the future.

The batteries that the utilities will use are going to be the size of 18-wheelers and will discharge power at night when there is no solar energy to use.  This backup power system will allow customers to have energy all of the power they need regardless of the conditions around them.

As a backup to traditional energy sources, these batteries can help to keep California power customers' lights on all throughout the year.