Sunday, March 28, 2010

Alternative Power: Recent Hype, Potential, and Deployment

The green power news cycle tends to be about hype for future potential more than actual progress, mainly because the progress is still going on mostly in labs. However there was one announcement of a product that is actually out in the real world: the Bloom Energy fuel cell. Reportedly already in use with the potential to be price competitive with other sources. Unfortunately, details are quite slim. From a personal perspective, fuel cells are nifty, but this one still uses fossil fuels as the primary source, so it's not exactly solar-clean.

Speaking of solar, the good folks out at CalTech are experimenting with a new material that should be as efficient as the best solar cells on the market, but uses on the order of one one-hundredth of the material to produce. Yep, it's still in the lab, but it's nice to see progress in all sorts of different places. Happily, such advances may not stay in the lab forever. Local microchip maker RF Micro Devices has announced their intention to begin developing solar cells using their existing microchip technology. This could make them an early leader in solar production. They hope to be entering the market in about two years.

And while I'm talking about local news, the city has announced their intention to add a power generating turbine to the inflow of the local water treatment plant. The inflowing water has to be slowed, and the turbine will recapture some of that wasted energy to create electricity.

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