Solar Powered Beer


Growing up in the rodeo buckle of the Bible belt, beer manufacturers were often viewed as cartoon villains rather than responsible members of the business community. But it’s been a few weeks since we had a post about Hawaii making all the rest of the US look like cavemen when it comes to alternative energy, so we go back over to paradise where Hoku Scientific has just signed a deal with Paradise Beverages to install 350kw worth of photovoltaic panels at three of the company’s facilities, which are expected to produce more than 525,000 kilowatt-hours per year. 

“The benefits of our PV power system installations on our Kailua-Kona and Lihue facilities were immediate. This made our decision for an installation on our Oahu facility with Hoku Solar an easy one,” said Gordon Usui, Chief Financial Officer for Paradise Beverages.

More and more business seem to be figuring out that all that unused roof space can be making power, which means making money rather than it just going to waste. Unfortunately, it seems that the smart companies seem to be mostly in Hawaii. Wish I could afford to live there.


University of Delaware receives $3.75 million grant for solar power research

UD logo

According to this article on the university website, the University of Delaware’s Institute of Energy Conversion will receive $3.75 million in grant money from the Department of Energy under the Solar America Initiative over the next three years. 

Out of nine Universities receiving funding, Delaware is the largest recipient and will be working research projects with Dow Corning and SunPower corp.

“The Solar America Initiative is an exciting program that will enable us to continue our research in established areas, as well as develop expertise in new facets of photovoltaics working with our industry partners,” said Robert Birkmire, professor of materials science and engineering and director of IEC.

With Dow Chemical, the university will be working on flexible solar cells that are made by depositing semi-conductor material onto a flexible film.

The collaboration with SunPower will work towards improving the efficiency of solar cells beyond 26 percent. 

“We’ve developed a great group of people here — an integrated team of scientists and students from different disciplines, which is critical to this research,” Birkmire noted.

Food costs are rising – and soon, so will the price of electricity.

Photo courtesy of musicpb at

Recently, many commodity prices have gone through the roof. You don’t have to look any further than the gas station to see the effects of $110 for a barrel of oil. A visit to the grocery store will quickly reveal that prices are also jumping for corn and wheat, as well as chicken, pork, and beef. The high price of transporting food (as well as the secondary effects of corn being diverted for ethanol production) is directly tied to high oil costs, and these rising food costs are creating serious problems for the working poor.

Photo courtesy of Leesure at

Even if you’re a model of self reliance and walk everywhere while growing your own food without chemical fertilizer, try this on for size – increased worldwide demand is causing a coal shortage. Since about 50% of the US electric grid relies on coal power plants, this means that rising coal costs are likely to cause rising electric bills (and/or increasing outages). That will affect the cost of green power purchased on the open market too – which makes solar panels look a lot more attractive (more marginal benefit from power savings and higher resale prices on grid tie-ins). Always look on the bright side!

Photo courtesy of lifebegreen at

A green revolution is taking place at Walmart

Photo courtesy of Crawfishpie at

In Las Vegas, Walmart is opening a new type of energy-saving store. According to company sources, stores like this one will serve as testbeds for ecofriendly technology. Over the next couple years, the big box retailer hopes to incorporate the features that work into all of its locations.

Wal-Mart has said it is the biggest private user of electricity in the world and has huge potential to cut back on greenhouse gases from fossil fuels burned to create electricity. It aims to use technologies proven in the pilot stores to develop a prototype in 2009 for all new Supercenters that will be between 25 percent and 30 percent more energy efficient.

Photo courtesy of thegreenpages at

The two previous testing sites (in McKinney, Texas, and Aurora, Colorado) are still open for business and doing well. They showcase a variety of innovations, from solar panels on the roof to water permeable concrete in the parking lot. I toured the one in McKinney and was impressed by the complete package. There are a lot of small design features that add up and complement each other.

One thing about Walmart – if there’s a way to pinch pennies, the company will do whatever it takes to embrace those savings. It probably doesn’t hurt that the PR of opening green stores makes Walmart look less evil.

The rollout of clean technology is just getting started, and hopefully we’re going to see more and more businesses embrace cleantech to get an edge in the marketplace.

Photo courtesy of ryanbooth at

Mitsubishi Breaks Solar Efficiency Record

On April fools day 1939, Mitsubishi launched a new product. It was the A6M Zero carrier based fighter plane, rumored to have been inspired by the H2 that Howard Hughes created. On December 7th, 1941 we learned the hard way that Mitsubishi had built a damn fine product.

Thankfully, these days we are at peace with Japan, and by extension Mitsubishi. Mitsubishi is still doing wonderful things with technology, and now we can take full advantage of it.

I’m talking about solar panels, and this company has now set the world record for the most efficient photovoltaic panels with a conversion rate of 18.6 percent; a small but significant improvement over their previous record of 18% in a 160mm square cell.

The supply of silicon has not kept up with the great demand caused by the increased interest in solar technology. This is necessitated the production of more efficient solar panels requiring less silicon and producing more electricity.

To achieve these increases in efficiency Mitsubishi decreased the reflectivity on the surface of the cell by creating a honeycomb texture using laser patterning and wet etching. In addition the company worked to optimize the efficiency of the P-N junction.

Mitsubishi has stated that this new improvement in solar technology will be in production on April Fools Day, 2010. Let’s hope we’re still friends in December.