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In This Issue









Dear Future Energy Enthusiast:



      In case you didn't get the news on my public appearance last month in Colorado, my 45-minute talk on the "Progress in Breakthrough Future Energy Technologies" is still available online. It's under "Friday Morning Talks Tent 1, Thomas Valone" on, thanks to the Cold Fusion Now organization who have helped archive the videos from theBreakthrough Energy Movement (BEM) conference. The presentation has the best and most condensed information about our IRI latest energy advocacies and endeavors. Speaking of our years of efforts in volunteering to keep IRI afloat serving the public in energy programs not presently addressed by ANY other organization, this month is our annual IRI fund-raising drive. Please consider helping us in some way so we may continue our future-oriented service mission as a charitable 501(c)3 nonprofit. An IRI membership is well worth it. If you join by December 7th, we can include you in the end-of-the-year IRI Members' quarterly mailing which always includes a surprise energy-related present for every IRI Member such as this year's true, free energy flashlight that never needs batteries. You will also have an additional quarter bonus if you join by midnight December 7th since our Membership Renewal is every Spring but your membership will extend through all of 2014!

      Our lead story this month is an exciting energy harvesting discovery since it points the way for much of the future energy trends today.  Similar to the Moddel and Degenais rectennas you can see in my BEM talk, the #1 story is closer to the Delft and Eindhoven Universities' energy harvester from the August FE eNews with almost the same resonant frequency around 900 MHz. However, this metamaterial product advertises a whopping 37% efficiency, competing with solar PV, and can be ganged together in series for energy harvesting upgrade.

      Every so often we get a question about dark energy and its relation to the quantum vacuum. More and more physicists are buying into the fundamental nature of dark energy based on quantum mechanics zero point energy, rather than the speculative "dark" implications of the unknown that cosmologists would have us believe. At the same time that the most sensitive experimental measurement of dark matter at Sanford Underground Lab has failed to find any WIMPs in our solar system, the simplest dark energy hypothesis, that it has remained constant over time, is also coming into question in Story #2. Our IRI position is that the dark energy phenomena of the cosmological constant that is pushing the galaxies apart in an accelerated fashion is a quantum vacuum variation of the Repulsive Casimir force, which is known to depend heavily on geometry from the work of Dr. Jordan Maclay who found the relation of negative and positive Casimir forces with a NASA grant, as reported in Zero Point Energy, Fuel of the Future.

      Our Story #3 reflects an emerging electrotherapy in bioenergetics that IRI is advocating. Fighting paralysis with electricity is an ongoing field of research involving neuronal stimulation as reported in New Scientist as far back as 2008 "Broken nerves are fixed in a flash". The more recent book on the subject, The Spark of Life, Electricity in the Human Body by Frances Ashcroft released in 2012 also touches on paralysis and electricity.

      I just subscribed to another news service called that has a wealth of information about solar and other green technologies. How valuable can this be? Our Story #4 shows the result of a study performed on West-facing vs. South-facing rooftop solar PV systems. The surprise is that West-facing panels can produce about 50% more electricity during peak demand, which can be monetarily valuable in some areas.

     Now the Story #5 however probably could have been the lead story for many reasons. The most important is that it displays a new trend of eight (8) states in this country conspiring to boost the use of electric cars and other zero emission vehicles (ZEV), including lower electricity rates for home charging stations and more charging stations statewide. With electricity costs already about 2/3 less per mile than gasoline, there is a good incentive to consider an electric car.




Thomas Valone, PhD, Editor                

1) Wireless Device Converts "Lost " Energy into Electric Power

Energy Daily,  Karen Heady. November 2013 




Using inexpensive materials configured and tuned to capture microwave signals, researchers at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering have designed a power-harvesting device with efficiency similar to that of modern solar panels.

The device wirelessly converts the microwave signal to direct current voltage capable of recharging a cell phone battery or other small electronic device, according to a report appearing in the journal Applied Physics Letters in December 2013. (It is now available online.)

It operates on a similar principle to solar panels, which convert light energy into electrical current. But this versatile energy harvester could be tuned to harvest the signal from other energy sources, including satellite signals, sound signals or Wi-Fi signals, the researchers say. 

The key to the power harvester lies in its application of metamaterials, engineered structures that can capture various forms of wave energy and tune them for useful applications. 

Undergraduate engineering student Allen Hawkes, working with graduate student Alexander Katko and lead investigator Steven Cummer, professor of electrical and computer engineering, designed an electrical circuit capable of harvesting microwaves. 

They used a series of five fiberglass and copper energy conductors wired together on a circuit board to convert microwaves into 7.3V of electricity. By comparison, Universal Serial Bus (USB) chargers for small electronic devices provide about 5V.

"We were aiming for the highest energy efficiency we could achieve," said Hawkes. "We had been getting energy efficiency around 6 to 10 percent, but with this design we were able to dramatically improve energy conversion to 37 percent, which is comparable to what is achieved in solar cells."

"It's possible to use this design for a lot of different frequencies and types of energy, including vibration and sound energy harvesting," Katko said. "Until now, a lot of work with metamaterials has been theoretical. We are showing that with a little work, these materials can be useful for consumer applications."

For instance, a metamaterial coating could be applied to the ceiling of a room to redirect and recover a Wi-Fi signal that would otherwise be lost, Katko said. Another application could be to improve the energy efficiency of appliances by wirelessly recovering power that is now lost during use.

"The properties of metamaterials allow for design flexibility not possible with ordinary devices like antennas," said Katko. "When traditional antennas are close to each other in space they talk to each other and interfere with each other's operation. The design process used to create our metamaterial array takes these effects into account, allowing the cells to work together."

With additional modifications, the researchers said the power-harvesting metamaterial could potentially be built into a cell phone, allowing the phone to recharge wirelessly while not in use. This feature could, in principle, allow people living in locations without ready access to a conventional power outlet to harvest energy from a nearby cell phone tower instead.

"Our work demonstrates a simple and inexpensive approach to electromagnetic power harvesting," said Cummer.  "The beauty of the design is that the basic building blocks are self-contained and additive. One can simply assemble more blocks to increase the scavenged power." 

For example, a series of power-harvesting blocks could be assembled to capture the signal from a known set of satellites passing overhead, the researchers explained. The small amount of energy generated from these signals might power a sensor network in a remote location such as a mountaintop or desert, allowing data collection for a long-term study that takes infrequent measurements. 


The research was supported by a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative from the Army Research Office (Contract No. W911NF-09-1-0539). "A microwave metamaterial with integrated power harvesting functionality," Allen M. Hawkes, Alexander R. Katko, and Steven A. Cummer. Applied Physics Letters 103, 163901 (2013); doi: 10.1063/1.4824473



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2) Dark Energy Gets Murkier


2:57PM, OCTOBER 31, 2013



New measurements of light from distant supernovas could complicate cosmologists' already-frustrating attempts to explain the mysterious dark energy that is pushing apart the universe.

In the new analysis, scientists combined data from 146 recently discovered supernovas with previously published results and calculated an important cosmological parameter. Their result is inconsistent with the simplest explanation for the universe's accelerating expansion, which suggests that the strength of dark energy has remained constant over the life of the universe.


If confirmed, the finding could imply that matter in the universe will eventually be torn apart, a scenario known as the Big Rip. But before reaching that conclusion, the researchers say they must ferret out potential sources of error and uncertainty in their measurements. "It's very possible, and I think a lot of people would say likely, that one of the big measurements is off," says study coleader Daniel Scolnic, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University.


Dark energy first made headlines in 1998, when researchers found that light from faraway supernovas was dimmer than expected, suggesting that the universe is expanding at a faster and faster pace. To explain this acceleration, scientists proposed the existence of dark energy, which imbues the cosmos with a negative pressure that pushes space outward. Most physicists suspect that dark energy is a form of vacuum energy known as the "cosmological constant" because its strength never varies.  If so, a number called w, which relates the pressure pushing space apart to the density of dark energy, must equal -1.


But the new analysis, posted online October 14 at, arrives at a different value. Combining data from the Hawaii-based Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System, or Pan-STARRS, with previous astronomical surveys, the researchers calculate w to be -1.186. If correct, this value of w would force cosmologists to pursue more complicated theories about the universe's expansion, in which the strength of dark energy increases over time.


That's not happening yet. Even the study's authors stress that they are not advocating throwing out the cosmological constant. "My gut feeling is that w is probably -1," says study coleader Armin Rest, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.


Rest thinks the finding most likely results from some kind of systematic error. In a companion paper also posted online October 14 at, the team determines that the largest source of error involves differences in how the Pan-STARRS telescope and other groups' telescopes captured the supernovas' light. Errors can also arise from interference from dust in the Milky Way, an incomplete understanding of supernova physics and other factors.


Glenn Starkman, an astrophysicist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, is not convinced the new paper advances scientists' understanding of dark energy. He says the results mostly confirm what cosmologists already know: that different cosmological surveys disagree about parameters such as w that are crucial to dark energy models. "It's evidence that there's discord in the model but not yet evidence that w is less than -1," he says.


But George Efstathiou, director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmology at the University of Cambridge, believes that whether due to systematic error or as-yet-undiscovered physics, the results do provide useful information. "These are very difficult measurements to make," he says. "The more independent data there is, the better it is for the field."


Editor's Note: This story was updated on November 11, 2013, to correct the description of dark energy and its connection to the constant known as w.




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3) Fighting Paralysis with Electricity


Emily Waltz, IEEE Spectrum

Spinal stimulation: In both animal and human experiments, researchers are using electricity to restore function to paralyzed lower limbs.

Fighting Paralysis With Electricity

Fighting Paralysis With Electricity

Dustin Shillcox fully embraced the vast landscape of his native Wyoming. He loved snowmobiling, waterskiing, and riding four-wheelers near his hometown of Green River. But on 26 August 2010, when he was 26 years old, that active lifestyle was ripped away. While Shillcox was driving a work van back to the family store, a tire blew out, flipping the vehicle over the median and ejecting Shillcox, who wasn't wearing a seat belt. He broke his back, sternum, elbow, and four ribs, and his lungs collapsed.


Through his five months of hospitalization, Shillcox's family remained hopeful. His parents lived out of a camper they'd parked outside the Salt Lake City hospital where he was being treated so they could visit him daily. His sister, Ashley Mullaney, implored friends and family on her blog to pray for a miracle. She delighted in one of her first postaccident communications with her brother: He wrote "beer" on a piece of paper. But as Shillcox's infections cleared and his bones healed, it became obvious that he was paralyzed from the chest down. He had control of his arms, but his legs were useless. 


At first, going out in public in his wheelchair was difficult, Shillcox says, and getting together with friends was awkward. There was always a staircase or a restroom or a vehicle to negotiate, which required a friend to carry him. "They were more than happy to help. The problem was my own self-confidence," he says.


A few months after being discharged from the hospital, in May 2011, Shillcox saw a news report announcing that researchers had for the first time enabled a paralyzed person to stand on his own. Neuroscientist Susan Harkema at the University of Louisville, in Kentucky, used electrical stimulation to "awaken" the man's lower spinal cord, and on the first day of the experiments he stood up, able to support all of his weight with just some minor assistance to stay balanced. The stimulation also enabled the subject, 23-year-old Rob Summers, to voluntarily move his legs in other ways. Later, he regained some control of his bladder, bowel, and sexual functions, even when the electrodes were turned off.

The breakthrough, published in The Lancet, shocked doctors who had previously tried electrically stimulating the spinal nerves of experimental animals and people with spinal-cord injuries. In decades of research, they had come nowhere near this level of success. "This had never been shown before-ever," says Grégoire Courtine, who heads a lab focused on spinal-cord repairat the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and was not involved with the project. "Rob's is a pioneer recovery. And what was surprising to me was that his was better than what we've seen in rats. It was really exciting for me to see."


The report brought renewed hope for people living with paralysis. The prognosis is normally grim for someone like Shillcox, who has a"motor complete" spinal-cord injury. That level of damage usually results in a total loss of function below the injury site.


Teams of scientists have been working on transplanting stem cells for neural repair and modifying the spinal cord in other ways to encourage it to grow new neurons, but these long-term approachesremain mostly in the lab. Harkema's breakthrough, however, produced a real human success story and gives hope to paralyzed people everywhere. It presents a viable means of regaining bowel, bladder, and sexual functions, and maybe-just maybe-points the way toward treatments that could give paralyzed people the ability to walk again.

But Harkema's first experiment involved only one patient, and many researchers wondered whether the improvement they saw in Summers was an anomaly. "The next big question was, Will you ever see these things in more than one subject?" says neurobiologist V. Reggie Edgerton of the University of California, Los Angeles, a collaborator in the Louisville experiments.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had given Harkema the go-ahead to try the technique in four more paralyzed people. Shillcox put his name in the pool the night he saw the news report. He was selected, and in July 2012 he packed his wheelchair into his retrofitted Dodge Journey and drove himself from Green River to Louisville to begin 18 months of experiments.


The circuitry of the lower spinal cord is impressively sophisticated. Neuroscientists believe that the brain merely provides high-level commands for major functions, like walking. Then the dense neural bundles in the lower spinal cord take over the details of coordinating the muscles, allowing the brain to focus on other things. That division of labor is what lets you navigate a party and focus on the conversation rather than on your steps. After aspinal-cord injury, damage prevents the high-level signal from the brain from reaching the neurons below. Yet those neural bundles remain intact and are just waiting to receive a signal to start the muscles working. Stimulating the lower spinal cord with electrodes can awaken that circuitry and get it functioning, astonishingly, without instructions from the brain.


It has been known since the mid-1970s that direct stimulation of the spinal cord can actually induce the legs to move as if they were taking steps, without any input from the brain. Edgerton and other researchers have demonstrated the concept definitively in paralyzed cats, rats, and a few humans. But in most of these demonstrations, researchers were blasting a large amount of electrical current into the body to force the muscles to move. "Everyone, including us, was hung up on the idea that you have to stimulate at this high level to induce the movement," says Edgerton. What they missed was that the stimulation was essentially overwhelming the neurons in the lower spinal cord and was actually interfering with their ability to process sensory information that can help the body move on its own.

The neurons in the spinal cord don't only receive signals from the brain; they also process sensory feedback from the body as the muscles move and balance shifts. The importance of that sensory feedback gradually emerged with some animal experiments Edgerton reported in Nature Neuroscience in 2009. The study suggested that sensory input could actually control the motor commands produced by the spinal cord.


Harkema, a former student of Edgerton's, ran with that concept. In her experiments with Summers, she stimulated his spinal cord just enough to wake it up and then let the sensory input do its thing. "It's like putting a hearing aid on the spinal cord," says Edgerton. "We've changed the physiological properties of the neural network so that now it can 'hear' the sensory information much better and can learn what to do with it."


Harkema's group uses an off-the-shelf neurostimulation system-made by Minneapolis-based Medtronic-that's FDA approved for pain management. The system's array of 16 electrodes is surgically implanted in the epidural space next to the outermost protective layer of the spinal cord. The array is then connected to a pulse generator (which resembles a pacemaker) that's implanted nearby. Finally, the pulse generator receives a wireless signal from a programming device outside the body.


The array spans approximately six spinal-cord segments, the ones generally responsible for movement in the lower half of the body. By placing the electrodes over them, the researchers can generate a response in the corresponding muscle groups. Electrode 5, for example, is located near a segment of the spinal cord that controls hip muscles. Electrode 10 is located at the bottom of the array, over the segment that controls the lower leg.


Each of the array's 16 electrodes can be set to act as a cathode or an anode or be completely shut off. Stimulation intensities can range from 0 to 10.5 volts with pulses sent at frequencies ranging from 2 to 100 hertz, although the researchers usually don't go beyond 45 Hz. Picking the right combination of electrodes and stimulation parameters to generate a simple response in a single muscle is relatively straightforward. But generating a complex behavior like standing, which involves many muscle groups and a considerable amount of sensory feedback, is far more difficult. Choosing the right electrode configurations for standing requires both a tremendous amount of intuition and plenty of trial and error. "That's the challenge: to create the electrical field that's going to give you the desired behavior," says Harkema.

On a Wednesday in February of this year, Shillcox arrived at theFrazier Rehab Institute in downtown Louisville for one of his first stimulation sessions. The array and pulse generator had been implanted a few weeks before. He wore Nike sneakers and black gym shorts, revealing thin legs atrophied from lack of use.


Shillcox joined Harkema and her team in a large room equipped with custom rehabilitation equipment. He wheeled himself to a three-sided stand Harkema had made out of metal pipes that she'd bolted to a piece of plywood. Researchers taped 14 sensors to Shillcox's legs. Usingelectromyography (EMG), these sensors would measure the electrical activity produced by his muscles and indicate how Shillcox was responding to the stimulation. Two trainers hoisted Shillcox from his wheelchair onto his feet and into the stand. Then they took their positions to keep him upright-one in front of Shillcox with both hands pushing against his knees and the other behind, steadying his hips. Shillcox held onto the stand with his hands, and a bungee cord supported him from behind.


That day, Harkema planned to test new stimulation configurations to see whether one of them would allow Shillcox to stand on his own. She took a seat in front of a screen displaying the EMG signals while two other researchers helped monitor the data from other screens. To start the session, Harkema called out the electrode settings: "1+, 2+, 3+, 9+, 14+, 12+, 13+, 6+, 7-, 8-, 4-, 10-." This configuration used 12 of the 16 electrodes, 8 of them as anodes (positively charged) and 4 of them as cathodes (negatively charged). Harkema instructed her team to set the pulsation frequency at 30 Hz and the initial intensity at 1 V and to ramp up by a tenth of a volt at a time. "Left independent," a trainer called out when the stimulation reached 1.5 V.Shillcox bore his weight on his left leg without assistance for about 30 seconds.


Harkema jotted in her lab book and instructed the team to turn off electrode 10, the one targeting Shillcox's lower leg. "Going to zero," a researcher called out. He powered down the system, punched in the new electrode configuration without electrode 10, and ramped it up again. At 2.6 V, Shillcox's knees buckled. "It shot me out," Shillcox said. The electrodes hadn't sent the signal to the legs to stand straight but had twitched his knees forward instead. The stimulation pattern and parameters weren't quite right.


Harkema tried more configurations, but each time Shillcox felt nothing until Harkema hit a particular voltage threshold, at which point Shillcox's knees would give way. After 75 minutes, on the 10th and last try, Harkema removed the bungee supporting Shillcox from behind. The muscle activity on the EMG monitors skyrocketed. He'd been balancing so perfectly with the bungee cord that he hadn't been getting enough external sensory information to activate his muscles, Harkema concluded, so there had been little input flowing back to the lower spinal cord. She instructed her team to devote the next few sessions to the last electrode pattern of the day, but without the bungee.

The technological limitations of the stimulation system make these trials unnecessarily difficult. Each time Harkema changes the configuration of electrodes, she has to turn off the electric field they generate and start over at 0 V. It's a safety feature of this off-the-shelf stimulator, but it destroys the body's neural momentum. "You can get really close, and you think the person is almost standing independently, and if you could just shift the field a little you would have it. But you can't. You have to go to zero. And then everything starts over," says Harkema. The limitation makes it especially difficult to induce a stepping motion in her patients. "It's a left-to-right problem. If we get the right leg to step, the left is doing nothing," she says.


It doesn't help that there are something like 4.3 x 107 possible electrode patterns she can try and that each can be tried with a range of frequencies and voltages. Without an algorithm to help her choose parameters, Harkema must rely on her experience, some limited neural mapping data, and what she sees on her monitors. "I have to look at the EMG data whizzing by and then make decisions about what I can change out of these 4.3 x 107 combinations to get it better," says Harkema. She's gotten pretty good at making adjustments, but she acknowledges that no one can fully interpret the nuances of all that EMG data.


To do better, Harkema has enlisted the help of a handful of engineers who say they can build a stimulation system specifically for her research. At the California Institute of Technology, mechanical engineer Joel Burdick is developing a machine-learning algorithm that aims to take some of the guesswork out of choosing stimulation parameters.


The algorithm is based on statistical methods that predict the patient's likely response to stimulation patterns-even those that haven't been tested yet. The prediction part is crucial because there's no way to try out all the options: There are millions of electrode configurations, and every patient is different. And just to make things even more complicated, patients' spinal cords change during the course of the stimulation experiments. "The amount of time it would take to test that space is beyond a patient's lifetime," says Burdick. So the algorithm has to learn quickly. It must apply reasonable stimulation patterns and then use the patient's EMG responses to choose better configurations.


Burdick's team is working with Edgerton's lab at UCLA to test the algorithm on paralyzed rats. The researchers are starting simply, using just a couple of electrodes and trying to maximize the response in a particular muscle. The first step is to make sure the algorithm is making reasonable decisions. The team has also begun a small human pilot study, Burdick says.


Meanwhile, John Naber, an electrical engineer at the University of Louisville, and a team of engineers are developing a stimulation system that would give Harkema independent control of all 16 electrodes in Medtronic's array. The design would allow her to transition from one configuration to the next without shutting off the current. The team is building a new pulse generator using off-the-shelf components, and they've already written the code and roughed out a design. The challenge, Naber says, will be getting it approved by the FDA in a reasonable amount of time. "It's not like a commercial integrated circuit or product, because of the FDA requirements for human implants," Naber says.

The lingering question is whether Medtronic's 16-electrode array is the best one for Harkema's work. It was designed to treat pain, so the current diffuses rather broadly. Yu-Chong Tai, an electrical engineer at Caltech, thinks that an array with smaller electrodes arranged more densely might offer the precise stimulation needed after spinal-cord injury. The prototype he's testing in rats has 27 electrodes arranged over a 2-centimeter-long array. A human version would be similar in size to Medtronic's (about 5 cm long) but would contain hundreds of electrodes. Of course, more electrodes would mean exponentially more configuration options. "If we give them more electrodes, they will need a smart algorithm," says Tai.


Until Naber and Tai's prototypes can be approved by the FDA and Burdick's algorithm can be fine-tuned, the Medtronic system will have to suffice. That may limit what Harkema can achieve when she puts Shillcox and her other research subjects on the stimulator, especially in terms of stepping. Even so, Shillcox has reason to hope that the experiments will boost his quality of life. Rob Summers, Harkema's first subject, says his perspective on life has greatly improved since he regained bladder, bowel, and sexual functions. "This project has given me my freedom back," he says.


Research subjects No. 2 and No. 3 have completed their initial trials. Like Summers, both were able to stand while on the stimulator, as Harkema and her colleagues reported at a Society for Neuroscience meeting in 2012. The researchers have not publicly announced whether other voluntary movement and physiological functions, such as bladder control, have returned for those individuals.


Shillcox-subject No. 4-remains hopeful, but he's trying to keep his expectations realistic. "I don't want to be too optimistic, and I'm trying to be prepared for no results at all," he says. "I hope that whatever they find from this research will at least benefit other people." Shillcox will likely complete his training by the end of the year, and Harkema says she cannot yet publicly reveal their preliminary results. Whatever the medical benefits ultimately prove to be, working with Harkema as a pioneer on an experimental treatment for spinal-cord injury has boosted Shillcox's confidence around others. "I have no problem asking for help now," he says.

This article originally appeared in print as "An Electrifying Awakening."


About the Author

Emily Waltz, a freelance journalist based in Nashville, frequently writes about biotechnology for IEEE Spectrum. Last year she strapped on an assortment of health-monitoring gadgets for an article about the "quantified self" movement  


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4) Should Solar Panels Face West? 

 Katherine Tweed, GreenTech Solar   November 2013


West-facing rooftop solar panels produced 49 percent more electricity during peak demand compared to south-facing panels, according to a new study from Pecan Street Research Institute.


The research is the first of its kind to evaluate the energy production of solar panels oriented in different directions. Pecan Street analyzed 50 homes in the Austin, Texas area. Some had only south-facing panels, others had west-facing panels, and some had both.

South-facing panels produced a 54 percent peak reduction overall, while west-facing solar PV panels produced a 65 percent peak reduction.

"There's no other residential demand response tool generating 60 percent reductions," said Brewster McCracken, CEO of Pecan Street. "Those are pretty extraordinary peak reductions."

When the data was normalized for a 5.5-kilowatt system, the panels turned to the west generated nearly 50 percent more electricity during peak demand hours than did their southern-facing counterparts.

Homes with west-facing systems also produced slightly more electricity, with those panels producing 37 percent of total daily electricity use, compared to 35 percent for the south-facing panels.

During times of peak demand, which is defined as 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Texas's ERCOT territory, 84 percent of electricity in west-facing systems was used in the home.

The information could help inform utility rebate programs for rooftop solar panels and demand response programs. Most homes currently have south-facing panels. For the research, Pecan Street paid a premium to participants to induce them to turn their panels westward. If more utilities were to move to dynamic pricing models, where power cost more during days of high peak demand, west-facing panels could potentially be more attractive to certain households with high peak loads.

The next round of research will also include information about the pitch of the roof. Panels on flat roofs tend to have higher rates of electricity generation, but most homes in the U.S. have pitched roofs, as did all of the participants in the first study. Pecan Street will also look beyond Austin in the next stage of the study. McCracken said there are plans to include homes in Colorado, Dallas and potentially California.


 A Novel Low-cost Pyroelectric Device for Enhancing the Solar Cell Efficiency » 
This 4-page paper describes a novel technology to improve the efficiency of solar cells by applying high frequency pulses from pyroelectric devices. It is shown that the application of high frequency pulses from pyroelectric devices to solar panels enhances the output of the panels by about 25%. The relevant experimental results are presented to illustrate the important aspects of pyroelectric technology to improve the efficiency of solar cells.





5) Paving the Way to Zero Emissions Vehicles

By Lenny BernsteinPublished: October 24, 2013Washington Post


A coalition of eight states announced plans Thursday to boost the use of electric cars and other zero emission vehicles, promising incentives and an improved network of fueling stations to encourage consumers to buy the vehicles and prompt manufacturers to produce more of them.


The eight governors who signed the agreement, including Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), hope to put at least 3.3 million zero emission vehicles on their roads by 2025. To accomplish that, they pledged to install more electric charging stations, introduce or continue tax breaks for consumers and add such vehicles to government fleets. Some other states have similar incentives, though they did not join the group. 


Collectively, the eight states - California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont - represent about 23 percent of the U.S. auto market, according to information the group released Thursday.


"We think it's doable," said Mary Nichols, chairman of the Air Resources Board in California, the biggest market in the group. "The market is moving fast. It started from zero and it accelerated very quickly."

Nichols and others said the greatest obstacle to overcome is consumer resistance to new technology. Buyers must be convinced that the vehicles will work for them, she said, a process that usually requires seeing them on the road or in a neighbor's driveway - not just in an advertisement.


"Once we are able to get the word out to consumers that there is an infrastructure out there, and [it is] all over the state ... we'll be able to encourage a greater desire to get an electric vehicle in Maryland," said Samantha Kappalman, a spokeswoman for O'Malley.


U.S. motorists bought about 52,000 electric cars in 2012, up from about 17,000 in 2011, according to the group. More than 40,000 plug-in cars were sold in the first half of 2013. In addition to all-electric cars, the group wans to encourage production and purchase of fuel cell vehicles, which run on hydrogen, and plug-in hybrids , which have both electric and gasoline engines.


Fossil fuels burned to power cars, trucks, ships, trains and planes were responsible for28 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2011, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.


Maryland wants to put 60,000 zero emission vehicles on its roads by 2020, Kappalman said, and will add another 110 to 160 public charging stations to the 430 that exist. In addition to the $7,500 federal tax credit available to buyers of such vehicles, the state offers a $1,000 excise tax credit, a $400 tax credit for any equipment purchased and access to HOV lanes, she said.


In 2012, 1,764 electric vehicles were sold in Maryland, up from 227 in 2011. This year's sales will surpass last year's, she said.



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2015 Volkswagen e-Golf Photo Gallery




Volkswagen's first foray into the realm of all-electric cars is now making it world debut in (where else?) the only U.S. state guaranteed to have it. The 2015 e-Golf bowed this week at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show, revealing a handful of significant exterior- and interior-design changes compared with the regular Golf , but also an entirely new, zero-emissions powertrain. The plug-in hatchback becomes the first VW in the U.S. to get standard LED headlights, as well as complementary C-shaped LED daytime running lights, a unique grille with blue accenting and aerodynamic 16-inch alloy wheels with low-rolling-resistance tires. Inside, the primary differences are additional blue accents and a power display in the instrument panel that shows the state of the electric powertrain; that's in addition to a gauge that shows how much energy remains in the battery and a color display showing the range. Available upgrades include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, faux-leather upholstery and a touch-screen navigation system.

More 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show Coverage

The e-Golf's electric motor uses a lithium-ion battery and makes 115 horsepower and 199 pounds-feet of torque. It's teamed with a single-speed transmission and good for a 10.4-second zero-to-60 mph time and 87 mph top speed. The automaker says recharge time is less than four hours on a 220-volt outlet, 20 hours on a conventional household outlet and just a half-hour at a DC fast-charge station. Check out the photo gallery below; photos by Evan Sears.

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