Catching photons with solar nets

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[Photo from Connors934 on Flickr]

A few weeks ago I was at Mass Maritime Academy and was impressed by their efforts to use and prove out solar powered lighting for their walkways.



The lights illuminate the northwest campus areas around the dormitories and dining hall. The lights, provided by SolarOne® and Hadco, are powered by photovoltaic (PV) panels, making them completely independent of the electric grid. With their own solar power source, the light posts can easily be installed wherever light is needed, without expensive investments in trenching, cabling and repaving. "We now have a beautifully lit walkway students are using extensively, day and night" said Capt. Allen Hansen, who championed the alternative energy project and is Vice President of Operations at the school. The new lights replace an old assortment of low pressure sodium fixtures and overbearing flood lights, the combination of which left the campus spotty, dark and poorly lit. Instead of adding safety, the old lighting created isolated pools of glare between dark areas. With no underground power conduits, the easily installed PV-powered lights were readily and economically placed along walkways and around the dormitories, which previously had no site lighting....The softer, whiter directional LED lamps provide exceptional clarity and visibility on areas that require light, without sending stray light into areas that are best left dark. The result is an enhanced night time setting, with marked reduction in light pollution and energy usage.



In the United States, we generate most of our electricity by burning coal to heat water and use the resulting steam to turn a turbine which generates electricity. There are other sources of fuel in our energy portfolio, but most of it still comes from coal, the most carbon-rich fuel on the palette. We get some of our energy from other fossil fuels like natural gas and oil as well, and it's likely that we will not be able to continue withdrawing from our energy bank forever. Some people believe that we have or about to reach a peak in oil production, meaning that we have taken the easy stuff out of the ground and are faced with the unpleasant and difficult task of chasing the last drop. Whatever your reasons for wanting to see us reduce our dependence on non-renewable foreign sources of energy, it makes a lot of sense for us makers to look at solar energy. Fortunately, the sun still shines on the ground, where its energy can be harvested, used and stored.

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[Photo from Connors934 on Flickr]

The Vineyard Energy Project aims to reduce Martha's Vineyard's dependence on off-island power:



Solar Energy is a great way to get us started on the road to becoming a Renewable Energy Island and help us achieve greater energy independence. Generating power and making hot water on island homes and businesses reduces our contribution to Climate Change, particularly when combined with energy efficiency efforts. Energy generated locally is more efficient because there is less transmission loss.





Editor's Note: This post is part of a series of posts sponsored by GE. GE had nothing to do with the content of the article and no control over Make: Online editorial. -Gareth

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