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Solar Plane Completes Overnight Flight

A Swiss research group landed their solar powered aircraft successfully after completing an overnight flight Thursday. The plane was able to fly at night as it was able to store energy it was able to gather during the day.

The Solar Impulse, a four-engine plane, took off from Switzerland’s Payerne airbase early Wednesday and returned at dawn Thursday.

“It was unbelievable, success better than we expected,” the plane’s pilot, Andre Borschberg, a Swiss air force veteran, told Reuters television. “We almost thought to make it longer, but we demonstrated what we wanted to demonstrate so they made me come back,” he said.

“This is a highly symbolic moment,” said Bertrand Piccard, initiator and president of Solar Impulse, in a statement.

“I’ve been a pilot for 40 years now, but this flight has been the most incredible one of my flying career,” Borschberg said. “Just sitting there and watching the battery charge level rise and rise, thanks to the sun.”

He added that he had flown the entire trip without using any fuel or causing pollution, flying the aircraft to an altitude of 8,654 meters while achieving a top ground speed of 68 knots.

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Solar Power Roads

The global engineering company Ingenieurgesellschaft Auto und Verkehr (IAV) has a plan to get crafty with our roadways. This company is working on a way to refuel electric cars while they are both driving and parked via road embedded solar panels and piezoelectric generators.

In execution, the transfer of energy from the solar track to the vehicle would be without cables or connectors, taking advantage of electric flowing currents. The ultimate goal towards this futuristic road way is to allow vehicles to both move or charge, regardless of weather conditions and free of mechanical wear.

The team at IAV is confident this technology will launch in the next two years and they are currently in planning stages, on the way to a full-scale test track.

Read more about IAV and what they are working on here.

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Saharan Desertec Project to Bring Energy to Europe

In what could be the most ambitious renewable-energy projects to be launched, twelve of Europe’s largest blue chip firms have signed an agreement to build a $555 billion solar thermal project in the Sahara desert.

In a bid to pump clean power, the project named “Desertec” has outlined plans that will scatter for hundreds of thermal plants across the North African desert and massive underwater high-voltage cables to meet up to 15% of Europe’s energy needs by 2050.

In the agreement, the companies say the Desertec project represents “a scientifically substantiated and economically feasible way ” of achieving secure and sustainable energy supplies.

As plans for the project passed in Munich on Monday, a few German commentators drew the comparison of harnessing solar power from the Sahara Desert to the U.S. space project in the 1960s which strived to put a man on the moon.

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Practical Solar Home-Heating Mirrors

I love simple solutions and nothing seems simpler than Practical Solar’s Home Heating- Mirrors. The concept is so basic it makes me wonder why this is relatively new solar technology for homes.

Like the massive desert solar farms that use hundreds of mirrors to reflect light at a central pipe with liquid in it, home-heating mirrors simply reflect the sun’s light at your home to heat it.

All it takes is two such mirrors pointed at your home, ideally at a window, to generate as much warmth as a space heater.

Of course these mirrors would only be useful to in sunny yet cold climates but there are plenty of people who fit that bill. Speaking of bills, it’s a great way to keep those expensive summer bills down while also providing plenty of natural light. Who needs to flick the light switch when you’ve got concentrated solar energy illuminating your room?

What do you think, does Practical Solar have a good idea here? Let us know what you think in the comment section.

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Samsung Introduces Blue Earth, Solar Powered Cell Phone

Samsung unveiled Blue Earth today, the first touch screen, environmentally friendly smartphone that runs on solar power.

The solar powered smartphone can not only be charged through the solar panel on it’s back but also boasts a low energy and low carbon emission manufacturing process and a casing made from recycled water bottle plastic.

The Blue Earth and its five star energy efficient charger are both completely free of environmentally detrimental substances like Beryllium and Phthalate.

The eco-friendly phone has an energy-efficient mode, which reduces brightness and other settings to reduce energy consumption.

Even Blue Earth’s packaging comes from recycled paper.

Blue Earth represents a growing trend in eco-friendly gadgets. We can expect to see more green gadgets and phones like it on display at the Mobile World Congress that began today in Barcelona, Spain.

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Aptera 2e Designers Reinvent Solar Powered Boat

The clearly capable designers of the Aptera 2e have another exciting environmentally friendly vehicle on the way – a solar powered pontoon boat. The Aptera 2e designers have reworked the Tamarack Lake Electric Boat Company’s signature eco-friendly pontoon boat; the Loon and the results are impressive.

Not only are the twin hulls essentially puncture resistant through their integration with the deck, but the solar panels on the roof of the boat can be lowered to the sides for convenient off-water transportation.

The most innovative aspect of this solar powered boat is something we are seeing more often in cutting-edge eco-friendly electronic systems, which is its ability to feed energy back into the power grid. When the 1,000 watt solar panels have fully charged the battery the excess energy can be sent back into the grid while it sits plugged in at the dock.

Additionally, the materials used to build the boat get two eco-ninja thumbs up and include: recycled plastic, natural fibers and bamboo. My favorite part of the construction is its manatee-friendly shroud that houses the propeller blades. Oh the huge manatee!

The original Loon had a range of over 30 miles and a top speed of 6 knots. We haven’t seen the specs for the new model but we are expecting they will see significant improvement.

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Miniature Spray-On Solar Cells

Researchers at the University of South Florida have developed solar cells that a quarter the size of a grain of rice. When 20 of them are grouped together in an array, they can generate about 7.8 volts of electricity.

While 7.8 volts doesn’t sound like much, the potential applications for these tiny cells are pretty cool. The cells are made of an organic polymer that can be dissolved or applied to flexible materials instead of the usual brittle silicon wafers. This flexibility plus their small size would allow them to be sprayed or painted onto surfaces exposed to sunlight.

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