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Solar scientists put Scotland on world map

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Solar Panels by Kevin Dooley via Flickr

Scotland is quickly becoming a hub for research into solar power, with scientists from 10 universities probing the potential of the renewable energy source.

 

The current projects are looking at:

 

  • Developing cutting-edge materials to produce more energy, more cheaply
  • Making fuel from carbon dioxide using sunlight
  • How panels would work on the moon
  • How to freeze-proof solar technology for Scotland’s harsh winters
  • Using satellite-mounted mirrors to focus a concentrated beam of sunlight at a solar collector on Earth
  • Millions of pounds have been invested in Scotland’s booming solar research sector in recent years.

Now academics are joining forces with industry to plot the future of the sector.

Scottish Renewables’ first Solar Conference will be held in association with the Scottish Institute for Solar Energy Research in Edinburgh on September 6 and 7.

The organisation, known as SISER, brings together expertise from 10 Scottish Universities and the Edinburgh-based UK Astronomy Technology Centre to support the solar industry.

Stephanie Clark, Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “Clean, affordable energy is a huge prize with a global market, and the work which is being done in Scotland is helping contribute to that aim.

“Scottish Renewables represents 280 organisations working in renewable energy in Scotland, so it’s only natural that we should partner with SISER to hold our first Solar Conference.”

Delegates at the event will hear from speakers including John Forster, Chairman of the Solar Trade Association Scotland and Sue Roaf, Professor of Architectural Engineering at Heriot Watt University on topics including:

  • The barriers which are currently holding solar back
  • Heat, electricity and the future of solar storage
  • The role of solar in developing sustainable buildings
  • How communities and industry can work together to develop solar power schemes.

Professor Graeme Cooke, Director of SISER, said: “This conference will showcase the breadth of solar energy research and development currently being undertaken in Scotland.”

The conference will also feature a poster exhibition, where students working in the sector will be able to showcase their ideas to industry and fellow academics.

Details of the projects mentioned above can be found below:

New materials, new possibilities
Perovskites offer a holy grail for solar – more efficient panels, made with cheaper materials.
The rapid rise of the material since 2009 has been unprecedented.
Professor Neil Robertson of the University of Edinburgh has partnered with the UK Supersolar Hub to develop new materials to further reduce the cost of perovskite cells.

Solar fuels via engineering innovation
Large-scale, economic ‘photoconversion’ of carbon dioxide into hydrocarbon-based fuels is a formidable scientific and technical challenge. Solar researchers at Heriot-Watt University are working with chemical engineers and chemists to engineer reactors which can make this process happen efficiently. More detail.

Solar on the moon
Heriot-Watt University’s Dr Nick Bennett helped the European Space Agency – the EU’s NASA – test how radiation in space affects panels.
He’s now working to turn lunar dust, known as rhegolith, into solar PV panels to find out if the process could be used to power a future moon base. More detail.

Protecting solar from Scotland’s wild winters
Solar thermal panels provide green heat to cut carbon emissions and fuel bills – but they don’t like freezing conditions.
Dr Tadhg O’Donovan of Heriot-Watt University and Scottish SME Soltropy designed a system which uses foam to absorb the pressure created as ice develops. The company is now marketing the system. More detail.

Satellites, solar and a super-charged energy beam
Dundee University physicist Dr Adrian Quarterman is developing lasers which use semi-conductors to convert solar energy into beams of light.
Satellites fitted with the devices would then ‘harvest’ solar power and beam it back to Earth. More detail.

Energy

7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption

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Energy Consumption
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Syda Productions | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dolgachov

Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.

This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?

Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.

New Technologies to Watch

These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:

  1. Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
  2. Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
  3. New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
  4. Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
  5. Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
  6. The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
  7. Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.

Making the Investment

All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.

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Energy

Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis

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Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey Nivens | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/nivens

Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.

Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?

Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.

Tip #1: Focus & Determination

Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.

Tip #2: Minimize Spending

One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!

Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal

You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.

Investing in Clean Energy

One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.

With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.

The Future of Green Biz

As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.

Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.

In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!

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