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Bright Hopes For The Future Of Solar Energy

(category: Environmental, Word count: 414)
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Research is shedding new light on an unexpected source of energy for heating homes and generating electricity-the sun.

The sun-directly or indirectly-is the primary source for most forms of energy found on Earth. Solar energy is clean, abundant and renewable.

Though we think of solar power as a new discovery, ancient civilizations found innovative ways to use solar energy. Among them, the Greeks, Romans and Chinese all developed ways to use solar warmth for their homes, including using southern exposures to maximize solar heating and making use of solar lighting.

Now, thanks to innovative technologies, it's possible to capture this energy, concentrate it, store it and convert it into electricity.

Sunlight is converted into electricity using solar cells. Solar cells are also called photovoltaic cells, or "PV cells" for short. PV cells were first developed in the 1950s for use in American space satellites. Today, they are used for power needs ranging from telecommunications to rural electrification. PV cells can be found on items we use daily, such as calculators, flashlights, radios, landscape lighting and children's toys.

Portable PV units are also available for emergency and disaster use, such as keeping cell phones and small appliances charged when the user is away from the grid or during blackouts.

Consumers can harness the power of the sun for themselves more easily than ever. Solar panels you see on buildings and homes have been available on the market for decades. New systems-which incorporate solar into roofing shingles-are now aesthetically pleasing, efficient and durable.

2006 ushers in new tax credits for solar energy technologies and consumers may also be eligible for state rebates.

For more information, consult with a tax professional, contact the Internal Revenue Service at, or check out for the latest in tax credit information.

Sunlight isn't only used to generate electricity. It is also used to heat water, which can be used to warm homes and businesses. Solar-powered radiant heating systems run some industrial processes and drive turbines to generate electricity. Many solar thermal technologies have been used in homes for decades and can last more than 20 years.

Experts believe that solar energy technologies can benefit this nation in many ways. They have the potential to help diversify this country's energy supply, reduce the dependence on imported fuels, improve air quality, offset greenhouse gas emissions and stimulate the economy by helping to create jobs in the manufacturing and installation of solar energy systems.

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Climate Change What Is It

(category: Environmental, Word count: 449)
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Climate change is an amazingly simple phrase for such a complex subject. Following, we have a go at defining climate change in today's terms.

Climate Change - What is it?

In the current day lexicon of scientists, climate modification isn't really a term of use anymore. The reason for this is that we have come to understand that the effect of the changes we make to our environment will increase the temperature in many locations on the planet, but will also cool a few places. In light of this, the thing you know of as climate modification is actually referred to as global climate change. Over all, however, the world is definitely warming.

We need a simple definition for climate change in relation to the warming of the planet, one that gets the gist without excluding the simplicities. The simplest and most accurate definition is that climate change is the effect greenhouse gases have on the earth's climate. Greenhouse gases include, but are not limited to, carbon dioxide and methane. While this sounds like a simple definition, there are a couple of key things to realize.

First, climate change is both a natural phenomena and one created by man. Put another way, greenhouse gases are a natural part of the biosphere and would exist if man did not. Indeed, they are a critical component to the existence of life on this planet. If greenhouse gases didn't exist, the temperature on planet earth would average zero degrees! Naturally occurring gases, however, keep the temperature at a much more livable 59 degrees.

So, if climate change occurs naturally, what is the big panic about? The problem we are facing is the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These gases act as thermal blankets for the atmosphere. The more gas in the atmosphere, the thicker the blanket and the less heat escapes. Over the last 80 years, we have been pumping massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the sky. At the same time, we have been reducing forestation around the planet, the primary plant collection that sucks greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. This double whammy is starting to show negative results, the increased heating of our world.

The ultimate question with climate alteration is what will happen as the planet heats up. We are already seeing signs with the retreat of the glaciers. Glacier National Park, for instance, is going to have to be renamed since it has already lost 65 percent of all of its glaciers! While the exact end result of these environmental changes is not clear, we can expect major climatic changes over the next 80 years.

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Historical Advances In Producing Electricity From The Sun

(category: Environmental, Word count: 553)
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When politicians start talking about renewable energy, you know we have problems. Solar energy is a significant renewable energy and here is an overview of how the technology has developed.

Historical Advances in Producing Electricity From the Sun

Solar electricity is simply energy produced by harnessing the sun. It comes in many forms including electricity production through panels, home heating through passive systems and mobile packets for powering devices like laptops and RVs to mention only a few platforms.

Historically, sunlight has been used by mankind to produce heat ever since we first built structures. Without electricity, mankind soon learned to orient structures to capture the heat of the sun during the day and store it in ceramic or mud materials much like a blacktop parking lot will radiate heat after the sun has gone down. Early Greek structures show a particular use of this solar strategy as do Egyptian structures.

The production of electricity using sunlight is a much more recent phenomena. In 1901, Nicolas Tesla was the first person to receive a patent related to solar electricity, but he called it radiant heating. He sought a patent for a machine to capture the radiant heat, but nothing much came of the invention.

In 1904, some unknown physicist named Albert Einstein published a paper on the potential electricity production from sunlight. In 1913, William Coblentz received the first patent for a solar cell, but he could never make it work. In 1916, Robert Millikan was the first to produce electricity with the cell. For the next forty years or so, nobody made much progress because the cells were highly inefficient at converting sunlight to energy.

In the 1950s, Bell Labs got involved with NASA. Bell was charged with coming up with a solar platform to power spacecraft once they were in orbit. The solar industry would never be the same.

Gerald L. Pearson, Daryl M. Chapin, and Calvin S. Fuller started researching different areas related to solar, but not active parts of the NASA project. By luck, they meet and exchanged ideas. While their individual projects were failures, their combined efforts produce a much more efficient cell using crystallized silicon to convert sunlight into electricity. The efficiency rate of the cells was roughly 6 percent, a marked improvement over previous technology. In 1958, NASA launched the Vanguard Spacecraft, which was powered by solar panels.

In the following years, solar technology grew in leaps and bounds. Solar panels today are roughly 15 percent efficient, but also much smaller than they use to be. More importantly, companies are abandoning the panel platform and coming out with amazing new products. The first are shingles that look exactly like regular roof shingles and perform as such. Nanotechnology is also offering amazing possibilities with quantum dots, which are essentially solar panels on the quantum level. Eventually, these dots will be incorporated in things such as paint. Yes, the paint on the walls of buildings and homes will eventually also produce all the electricity needed for the structures.

Man has used the power of the sun for heat for a very long time. Only now, however, are we starting to master the technology to turn it into large amounts of free electricity.

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The Continuing Spread Of Light Pollution

(category: Environmental, Word count: 310)
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Its unfortunate that so many people just don't get it. They seem to feel the need to light and generally overlight everything. They light their homes and businesses. They light parking lots and walkways. They light trees and shrubs. They light just about everything and anything. As if this wasn't bad enought, they tend to light them from dusk to dawn even though most everybody is sleeping during those hours and completely unable to see them anyway. A recent study by the National Park Service's Night Sky Team showed that all of our nations National Parks are suffering from some degree of light pollution. These are some of the wildest, most remote places left... and even they are feeling the effects of our improper exterior lighting habits.

What can we do about this? Well... its pretty simple. Light pollution is one of the easiest problems to fix (technically speaking). Simply turn off the lights and the problem goes away. Of course, getting folks to break their addiction is much easier said than done... as many people actually fear the dark. If turning off the lights is simply too much to ask... then the next best thing would be to ensure that all of your exterior lights are night sky friendly lights. Night sky friendly outdoor lights put all of their light output on the ground... with none shining directly up into the night sky causing sky glow... or thoughtlessly across property lines in the form of light trespass. What a concept, huh? Put the light where its needed... and nowhere else. You'll help to reduce light pollution... and save a few bucks in the process.

The night is a wonderful, magical time full of beauty and mystery. Star-filled skies are part of our heritage. With just a small effort, we can reap huge rewards.

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Vehicle Emissions

(category: Environmental, Word count: 998)
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All over the world people are experiencing air quality changes due to vehicle emissions. Particularly in the peak of summer, cities have worsening air quality to the point where it has become "normal" to hear air quality warnings. In Pakistan, vehicle emissions are responsible for nearly 90% of their air pollution. That is no wonder when you consider that 500 mature trees are needed to combat the emissions for every 20,000 km driven. There are currently more than 220 million registered automobiles in the U.S. alone and 1/3 of the average American city's land is devoted to serving the car.

According to the National Transportation Board, congestion will increase by 5.6 billion hours in the period between 1995 and 2015, wasting 7.3 million gallons of fuel unnecessarily. The Highway Users Alliance feels the solution to the congestion problem would be to build more roads. Others feel that providing safe pedestrian and bike paths and improving public transit should be considered. Tollbooths are sometimes used as a powerful persuader for alternative transit and car-pooling. In San Francisco, where vehicles containing three commuters do not have to pay toll fees, people now meet in parking lots in order to fill cars for the ride into the city. It may seem obvious, but few of us recognize that car-pooling reduces emissions by 50% with only two participants (one driver/one passenger).

Because of growing scientific evidence, vehicle manufacturers are rising to meet the consumer demand for more environmentally friendly products. Toyota and Ford, for instance, have incorporated hybrid electricity and hydrogen fuel cell technology in vehicles. Solar powered cars have also been released on the market. Sadly, though, few of these are within the average home's budget. Bio-diesel buses are also being introduced in many communities. These are powered by fuel attained from sewage plants or other bio-masses. Another encouraging thought is that individuals and organizations have convinced the government of the legitimacy of their concerns. In response a 'Memorandum of Understanding' was issued to manufacturers in 2001. It urges voluntary compliance to reduce emissions by 75%, to be fully implemented in 2006.

Disposability is another issue for vehicles, but corporations and governments are rising to this challenge. The Dutch, for instance, charge a tax on new purchases which pays for, among other things, research on finding ways to reuse every piece of the vehicle. Individual companies, such as BMW, take back their vehicles for recycling. One can always try to make a buck or two and sell the used vehicle at a car lot or though the classifieds. On the other hand, try junk car lots - where vehicles are broken down and either sold as parts or scrap steel.

For those of us that must continue driving used cars, there are still many ways to help in this global war against air pollution. At the station, purchase the cleanest burning fuel available. By replacing the filters and plugs regularly, keeping the motor well-tuned and maintaining properly inflated and balanced tires, you can improve fuel efficiency by as much as 15%. And did you know that simply accelerating and decelerating your car's engine smoothly and gradually can reduce emissions by 100 times? If you let the tank get less than 1/4 full, the chances for fuel injection and fuel tank condensation issues are increased. Another small change to aim for is to turn off the engine whenever you can; idling creates more pollution and uses more fuel than necessary. Idling, incidentally, is responsible for nearly 3% of air pollution. If possible, try to use a single vehicle for your family if it is at all possible. We have been able to share a single vehicle for nearly 10 years despite both of us working at different establishments and running home businesses.

Also, try incorporating the shopping lists to reduce the number of trips to town. For us, planning the menu for a week at a time has greatly reduced the number of grocery shopping trips. We keep a piece of paper on the fridge to jot down anything we are low on as it is discovered. It is important to examine the recipes to prevent extra trips. When shopping in town, park somewhere central and walk to the various stores.

Alternatives for the environmentally-concerned pleasure-seeker exist as well. First, please consider hiking, skiing, biking and canoeing or kayaking in the outdoors. In the city there are commuting alternatives such as biking, walking, skateboards and roller blades. These are all self-empowering, health-promoting activities that operate at very little financial expenditure and result in fewer emissions, and a safer, quieter environment. We can all help the air quality issue by planting landscaping and trees wherever we can. Perhaps if cities were able to offer property tax incentives for planting trees, owners, businesses and schools would be more inclined to invest in the plants. Already, clubs and groups are planting erosion controlling shrubs and trees along riverbanks across the nation.

There is no hope that humans will give up the pleasure and convenience machines provide us with - neither should we be asked to do so. But with all the work towards reducing consumption, to increase wild lands, to protect bio-diversity, and to decrease global warming, it is just crazy to allow any of our machines to be manufactured in an environmentally damaging state any longer. Thankfully, manufacturers and governments have been listening to consumers, and as a result, our machines and industries are being improved. However, we must not release the pressure on them to continue improving their policies and help create a healthier planet.

We can all take action right now and become proactive citizens by making a real and measurable difference - if we choose to do so.


Environment Technology Centre

Country Connection Magazine

Article - 'Divorce your Car' by Katie Alvord

Article - 'Unclogging America's Arteries: Prescriptions for Healthier Highways'

Planet Savehttp://www.redjellyfish.com>

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Corporate Social Responsibility

(category: Environmental, Word count: 490)
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People are now asking more and more questions as to how firms are manufacturing their products as well as wanting to know where the materials are coming from. Potential customers are now more likely to go with a supplier who has taken onboard corporate social responsibility.

Academic studies have shown that a company who operates directly with social responsibility are likely to do better in business than those that don't.

"A 1997 DePaul University study found that companies with a defined corporate commitment to ethical principles do better financially (based on annual sales/revenues) than companies that don't."

Corporate Social Responsibility is still voluntary, yet as more people are becoming aware, they are interested in only purchasing products and supplies with firms that are actively practicing CSR.

The unfortunate thing is that a large percentage of firms believe that to integrate their business with CSR in mind would be too costly. However, this is a misconception.

Being aware of how we are affecting the environment, such as using too much water, leaving lights on, leaving windows open, not recycling or using un-recycled materials infact costs firms more than if they were to practice corporate social responsibility.

CSR is not a legal requirement; however it does have its benefits.

Taking responsibility on a company level for the environment shows credibility and can help a company's reputation and build trust with their customers. Although this should not be the main reason for social responsibility, these are the benefits that are being put forward to firms who are not yet environmentally friendly.

To give an example of how CSR can affect a business, if a large company was looking around for a firm, who sells stationary to be their sole provider, yet they were only interested in recycled products, then immediately, all those that don't offer recycled products have missed out on a potentially big client.

CSR gives a positive image to potential clients which considering business relationships. Social responsibility shows that you are aware of the changes in the environment and are taking positive steps to helping the economy.

CSR is not only something that businesses should be taking onboard for their customers, but also for their employees. Human rights and CRS go hand in hand.

All employees have the right to work in a safe and friendly environment. Managers and directors should take responsibility to ensure the safety of their employees. People have no desire to work in an environment that creates risk.

A recent study by the Cherenson Group showed that 78% of employees would rather work for an ethical and reputable company than receive a higher salary.

Creating a safe working environment attracts employees and increases productivity as taking responsibility for the environment encourages credibility and trust amongst staff.

Intigrating Corporate Social Responsibility into your business life helps your business, productivity and image as well as leaving your competitors behind who are not currently practicing CSR.

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Reasons Wind Power Is A Viable Energy Solution

(category: Environmental, Word count: 399)
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Fuel costs and global warming are becoming a bigger concern for people in their daily lives. If you are considering going green, wind is an energy platform with a lot of positives.

Reasons Wind Power Is a Viable Energy Solution

Using the wind to harness energy from our environment is hardly a new concept. Ancient Persians are believed to have been the first group to use windmills to turn grain grinding machines. The Dutch, of course, are also famous for their windmills and so on. In modern days, however, wind energy platforms are much more refined and used primarily for energy production.

To get energy from wind, we must focus on a concept known as kinetic energy. Do to micro-climate situations, wind is produced fairly readily in a natural process. The sun heats the ground, but does so at different rates. In areas where the ground is heated faster, the air rises as temperatures go up. Air from cooler surrounding areas then rushes in to fill the gap. We then convert it into usable electricity by catching it with wind turbines. The wind is caught by the blades of a spinner, which turns, cranks a generator and electricity is produced. This process is natural and simple, but produces a monstrous amount of energy. If we could harness all the wind in the world, we would have more than 10 times the amount of energy we need for the entire globe. Of course, harnessing it is the problem.

There are a number of reasons why wind power is part of our energy solution. First, it produces no pollution or greenhouse gases. Second, it is renewable and will last for as long as our son - about another four billion years. Third, wind energy is available in practically any country, which means no reliance on foreign sources. Fourth, wind power produces more jobs per watt produced than all other energy platforms, including oil and coal.

Wind power is growing in use and popularity in places such as Germany and China. In the United States, California has three large wind farms that are used to provide power during massive energy use periods in the summer. The process is viable, but we must accept it and pursue better technology to wring the most out of the huffing and puffing of Mother Nature.

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Summer Camp And Saving The Planet

(category: Environmental, Word count: 159)
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It is not often that you combine summer camp with saving the planet, but that is what is happening Colorado these days. Reducing pollution is the name of the game at the moment, and any group that reduces their carbon footprint by reducing pollution, and offsetting for anything they can't reduce, is to be applauded. Colorado Summer Day camps group Avid4 Adventure are doing just that by calculating the volume of carbon their camps emit into the atmosphere, and then finding ways of reducing it and offsetting what cannot be eliminated or reduced.

Avid4 provide summer camps for kids aged 5 and up and introduce them to activities such as kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, white water rafting, mountain biking (the right way) and horseback riding among others. Great for kids raised in towns and cities that don't get much chance to take part in these activities.

To date the program has resulted in:

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Bio Pyramid

(category: Environmental, Word count: 445)
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In the ongoing energy debate, biomass energy is getting a lot of play among politicians. To understand the concept, it first helps to understand the bio pyramid.

Bio Pyramid

All of the organisms in the world follow orders of classification. Whether you choose to put them into groups of plants and animals, herbivores and carnivores, or any other of the many different types of classification systems, organisms can be put into many groups in order to understand their relationship to one another. One way to classify organisms is to put them into their order, or hierarchy, in the food chain. In this way, we can see how animals and other organisms relate to each other based on what they consume.

There are several different ways to look at the food chain, and one important and useful tool in this area is the bio pyramid. A bio pyramid is a graphical chart that shows the comparative mass of the consumers to the producers in the food chain. This can be helpful in determining how energy is transferred to the top levels of the pyramid from the bottom levels.

Each level in a bio pyramid is composed of a trophic level. Trophic levels are groupings of different "consumer" groups, such as primary producers (usually just plants or other photosynthetic organisms) rising all the way up to carnivores (such as humans). While a typical biological pyramid might group these consumers in order of energy produced, a bio pyramid shows them in order of total mass from highest to lowest. This often means that the primary consumers, such as the plants, are at the bottom because they are more numerous and take up more mass. The levels are built upon then by how many upper level organisms could survive based on the level below. An example can be seen in this sea bio pyramid:

It would take 1,000,000 kg of phytoplankton (1st level), to feed 100,000 kg of zooplankton (2nd level), to feed 10,000 kg of shrimp (3rd level), to finally feed 1,000 kg of large fish. The final level, the 5th, would only be able to have 100 kg of shark supported by the levels below.

In this way, a bio pyramid shows the inefficiency of the food chain, and lets researchers know that if a level was able to be skipped (such as a shark dipping down and eating shrimp instead of fish), more energy would be conserved and the food chain would lose less energy along the way. Given this fact, a bio pyramid is an important tool when looking at the laws of conservation of energy among different classes of organisms.

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