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Toyota Adding Solar Panels to Prius Hybrid

Reuters is reporting that Toyota is going to add solar panels, produced by Kyocera Corp, to the roof of their Prius Hybrid cars. The panels will be on the top of the line models, and will work toward powering the air conditioner. While it’s not powering the whole car, I do imagine that it could contribute quite a bit of power to the system as a whole. It’s the first time, that I know of, that solar panels have been commercially integrated into a production vehicle by the manufacturer. I’d love to see them add the ability to switch the power over to charging outlets for cell phones and other devices when the A/C isn’t in use, or to have it contribute to the main power cells.

Read the whole story here at nytimes.com

I’ve been on the look out for some reasonably priced solar panels that I could use to charge a device. I’d like to try taking a device like my phone or laptop completely off the grid, only charging it with solar power. If you know of any good solar units for something like that, I’d appreciate any help there.

Via: Don (aka: Beebowallace) through Google Reader Shared Items

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CapitalOne Waste

CapitalOne sent me this 9.5″ x 6″ package to try to get me to sign up for one of their credit cards. I know we all get several of these a day in some cases.

I’m just increasingly amazed at the amount of waste these companies will pump into landfills. What pushed me over the edge was the inclusion of a square of bubble-wrap to give the package bulk , and make it seem like there was an object inside. However, there was nothing but several slips of paper.

Does CapitalOne really think I’m going to want to do business with them after deceptive and wasteful actions like these? It’s like how spammers fill the subject line with H4X0R language to bypass spam filters. Do these companies not realize that they lose credibility?

I understand the industry built around direct mailing, but as our culture becomes more sensitive to waste and responsibility in our consumption, I hope these companies will catch up, or be held accountable when they don’t.

The contents of the package:

National Geographic: High-Tech Trash

High-tech trash National Geographic has posted a story about the environmental impact of all of our technological waste. My initial reaction was, ‘Yeah, I understand that this is a problem,’ but I was not ready for the vivid accounts of exactly how this problem affects lives and environments around the world.

June is the wet season in Ghana, but here in Accra, the capital, the morning rain has ceased. As the sun heats the humid air, pillars of black smoke begin to rise above the vast Agbogbloshie Market. I follow one plume toward its source, past lettuce and plantain vendors, past stalls of used tires, and through a clanging scrap market where hunched men bash on old alternators and engine blocks. Soon the muddy track is flanked by piles of old TVs, gutted computer cases, and smashed monitors heaped ten feet (three meters) high. Beyond lies a field of fine ash speckled with glints of amber and green—the sharp broken bits of circuit boards. I can see now that the smoke issues not from one fire, but from many small blazes. Dozens of indistinct figures move among the acrid haze, some stirring flames with sticks, others carrying armfuls of brightly colored computer wire. Most are children.

Choking, I pull my shirt over my nose and approach a boy of about 15, his thin frame wreathed in smoke. Karim says he has been tending such fires for two years. He pokes at one meditatively, and then his top half disappears as he bends into the billowing soot. He hoists a tangle of copper wire off the old tire he’s using for fuel and douses the hissing mass in a puddle. With the flame retardant insulation burned away—a process that has released a bouquet of carcinogens and other toxics—the wire may fetch a dollar from a scrap-metal buyer….

There’s MUCH more to the article at the National Geographic website.

SunTable – Solar Power Table

Sun Table

We could be on the verge of an energy crisis… Oil just hit $100 a barrel (a combination of increased world-wide demand, and the declining value of the US Dollar I believe) so alternative energy sources are becoming more and more important. Solar seems like a no-brainer to me. We have all of this energy bombarding us every day, and it’s a shame that we don’t capture more of it. The SunTable looks like a cool concept for a small patio or deck.

There’s certainly no shortage of solar panels of various shapes and sizes that’ll let you charge and use your various gadgets outdoors, but those looking for a slightly more permanent solution now have a new option to consider courtesy of the folks at Sudia Design Labs, which recently introduced its appropriately-named SunTable. In addition to comfortably sitting six people, it’s able to provide up to 150 watts of power and recharge fully in just three hours of direct sunlight. To make use of all that juice, the table also comes with an inverter to let you plug in a laptop or other device and, naturally, it includes some LEDs to inform you of its status. As you might have guessed, however, that convenience comes at quite a cost ($3,600), and you’ll have to act fast, as there’s only fifty of the tables up for grabs, with ’em set to start shipping on March 15th.

Engadget

Price is a bit prohibitive for all but the wealthy right now, but solar panel efficiency and product is getting better all the time, so I hope that some day soon this concept will be only marginally more expensive than a standard table.

To move the discussion a bit broader, I have been wondering about solar power generation a lot lately. The sun sends this energy to the planet constantly, and a solar panel can grab some of it and turn it into power. However, considering the law of conservation of energy, would this affect the environment at all? It seems that less energy would be reflected back into our atmosphere, into space, or into the ground. Are solar panels just at a scale small enough that the environment would never be affected?