Sweet Solar Pump!

Talking about environmental problems can get a little gloomy, so here is a link to a lovely design project. It’s a solar charging pump and public seating space designed by Sol Design Lab and SXSW Inc. Sol Design Lab works to “create interactive and inspiring solutions for urban sustainability, public art, and design”. The music in the video is by the band Fool’s Gold (misattributed to their single release Surprise Hotel). I happen to have gone to one of their concerts a few years ago. They were a big group of fun, talented musicians, and it was like watching a traveling party. Nice match for the video…

Some may think that the name “Fool’s Gold” is also a great match for solar and other alternative energies. In fact, there are many people under the impression that these energies simply cost more than they are worth, and that they are ultimately unfeasible at present. I can’t speak to the latter at the moment because, aside from the complication that we subsidized almost all energy in some way (including fossil fuels), it brings up questions of how we distinguish and compare costs, and fundamentally how we judge and determine value. Since that is well beyond the scope of this short post, I’ll just speak to the feasibility. In 2009 Dr. Mark Delucchi, at the Institute of Transportation Studies in UC Davis, and Dr. Mark J Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, published an article in Scientific American outlining how we could rely completely on wind water and sun for our energy by 2030. The brief synopsis of the article explains:

• Supplies of wind and solar energy on accessible land dwarf the energy consumed by people around the globe.

• The authors’ plan calls for 3.8 million large wind turbines, 90,000 solar plants, and numerous geothermal, tidal and rooftop photovoltaic installations worldwide.

• The cost of generating and transmitting power would be less than the projected cost per kilowatt-hour for fossil-fuel and nuclear power.

• Shortages of a few specialty materials, along with lack of political will, loom as the greatest obstacles.

One of the biggest obstacle was a shortage of materials for things like car batteries. However they say that particular issue might be mitigated by recycling the material. This seems to focus on a straight transition to wind, water, and solar energy, without even factoring in the potential for major changes in efficiency and energy use (like increased use of small scale geothermal).

Speaking of materials, researchers are now exploring the use of fools gold, also known as pyrite, as a possible cheap and abundant semiconductor for use in photovoltaics.

Quick heads up: at 7:00 tonight there is an Occupy Boston book swap and potluck on Copley Square Plaza, and at 7:00 tomorrow there will be a meting on the future and direction of Occupy Boston at the Parkman Bandstand in Boston Common. It’s your future and everyone is welcome!


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