Friday Field Notes 062416


We marked the first day of summer this week. In celebration, the “Strawberry Moon” made an appearance. Did you happen to catch sight of it? If not, no worries, because Commander Jeff Williams, of NASA’s Expedition 48, captured a glorious shot from the International Space Station (Eco Watch).  Look how peaceful earth looks from high up above. May it inspire all of us to do what we can to make it peaceful–safe and sustainable–here down below, too.

Now, for this week in solar news . . .

The news this week: Tesla announced a multibillion-dollar bid to buy SolarCity, meaning they could soon sell you an electric car as well as the solar panel to run it. In case you’re unaware, Elon Musk is the chief executive officer of Tesla; he’s chairman of SolarCity; he’s also the largest shareholder of both companies. “It’s an obvious thing to do,” he said (Think Progress). True enough.

Here’s a story that originally appeared in May, but began making the rounds on social media this week: it’s the story of Huang Ming, founder and CEO of Himin Solar Energy. Today he’s known as the “Solar King” of China, but he used to be an engineer in the oil industry. The birth of his daughter changed everything. “I worried about there being no blue skies for her to see, so I changed my thinking from oil to solar power.” (Climate Reality) If that’s not the most beautiful reason to get into the business, I’m not sure what is.

This week saw Bertrand Piccard flying across the Atlantic Ocean in his solar powered airplane, Solar Impulse 2. By now you should know all about this historic flight, maybe even “toured” the wee cockpit. Now, thanks to CCTV America, you can also enjoy an in-flight interview. It’s the next best thing to soaring up there with him. Actually, it may be better since you can actually get up and stretch your legs, eat real food, use the restroom, and, you know, sleep.

Speaking of taking to the skies, NASA is working on an experimental electric airplane. The X-57, or Maxwell as it’s affectionately called (in honor of James Clerk Maxwell), can carry nine passengers and cruise at 175 miles per hour (Clean Technica). If their technology proves a success, it could mean great things for the aviation industry (dropping operational costs at 40 percent) and our skies (eliminating a source of pollution).

The latest figures from SolarPower Europe are in. Asia (China and Japan, specifically) continues to dominate the solar industry market, with India coming in second, and the United States, third. At the rate we’re going, global solar installations will surpass 60 gigawatts by the end of 2016 (PV Tech).

All those solar panels will produce a whole lot of e-waste . . . we can hear the arguments now. And they’re not without merit. One of the benefits of solar energy is the fact that it’s clean and therefore good for the planet. But what happens when the panels reach the end of their usefulness? At present, they very well may end up on the garbage heap, which is most definitely bad for the planet. Of course, given the longevity of solar panels, its hard to even contemplate a solution. Thankfully, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is forward thinking; they’re urging laying the groundwork now for solar power recycling (Clean Technica). Do stay tuned.

Lastly, congratulations to Christophe Ballif, winner of the 2016 Becquerel Prize (PV Tech).  Sure, the world may not know his name; most have never read any of the 400 scientific and technical papers he’s authored; but his achievements in solar technology research may very well ensure bright, stable, affordable energy for us all. And who knows? Because of the dedication of Ballif and those like him who faithfully work behind the scenes to improve solar technology, there may come a day when the world no longer has to Google “Becquerel Prize” to know what it means.


Now, for our disclaimer: Friday Field Notes is a weekly post about the goings on in (and possibly around) the field of solar. We simply link to news articles from the week (to help you stay in the loop). While we try to stick with reputable sources, we cannot attest to the accuracy of each and every piece. Furthermore, the links and subsequent views and commentary are purely the opinion of the writers. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the company, nor should they be considered professional opinion, backing, and/or advice.