By Sam Cooper
Thomas Edison once said, "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!"
Over the last ten years, solar power has become ubiquitous in conversations about renewable energy. As the cost to produce solar photovoltaic cells has plummeted in recent years, more and more homes, businesses and communities have invested in solar.
Solar has become a foundational renewable energy source, with major investments driving new project development all over the country. As the technology continues to develop, the future of solar is an even more exciting place to look.
The First Rays of Progress
The year was 1839. At just 19 years of age, French Physicist Edmond Becquere created the world's first photovoltaic cell. His discovery, known as the Photovoltaic Effect or "Becquerel Effect," showcased the foundational physics and process for what we now consider solar power and cemented his place in the history books. However, his discovery did not kick off a solar revolution. Instead, it remained in the domain of the laboratory well into the 20th century.
In 1954, inventors David Chapin, Calvin Fuller and Gerald Pearson capitalized on the Becquerel Effect, creating the world's first modern solar cell at Bell Labs. The very next year Hoffman Electrics produced their own solar cells, which sold commercially for 25¢ each. As solar technology continued to develop, solar power expanded to cars, planes, satellites, homes, commercial buildings and even spacecraft.
Over time, the basic concept behind solar hasn't strayed far from early models. However, the cells used to power our homes and lives today are much, much more advanced and efficient — driving down costs and opening up new uses for solar in our lives.
The Current State of Solar Technology
The solar industry has expanded and matured in recent years, accompanied by advances in power storage, miniaturization and materials that combine to make solar photovoltaics more efficient and durable and versatile.
In a sure sign of industry maturity, some companies are beginning to focus on the aesthetics of solar systems, instead of concerning themselves solely with advances in performance. One such company is Sistine Solar, a Boston-based startup which has created a "solar skin" that covers solar panels, altering their appearance. From skins that match the roof to artistic flags and designs, these skins help homeowners blend or beautify their rooftop panels without affecting efficiency.
That said, scientists and developers continue to push the limits of panel efficiency. The more efficient a panel is, the more energy created, and cheaper these panels can be in the long term. Most solar panels fall in the 14 to 18 percent efficiency range, but in 2018 a number of companies brought panels to market in the 24 to 25% range.
The current state of solar technology is promising, but it pales in comparison to what the future holds.
A Limitless Solar Future — If We Can Build It
Solar's potential seems limitless, but it would be wrong to consider the matter settled. Despite the astounding pace of innovation, solar technologies have only effectively doubled since the first cell was created in 1954. Furthermore, humankind's demand for reliable power shows no signs of slowing. In order to fully utilize clean, renewable solar energy, scientists, policymakers and financiers the world over are going to have to be clever.
Looking ahead, some researchers and thinkers asked: how could we offer solar energy round the clock, while maintaining the ability to meet increasing energy demand. The answer, it seems, is to create solar farms in space.
The idea of launching solar panels into space where they can generate electricity 24 hours a day and wirelessly transmit the power back to Earth might seem like science fiction, but it's becoming increasingly more likely by the day.
As a concept, wireless transmission of energy has been with us since the invention of the radio, and the first notable long distance power transmission experiments occurred in 1982. In 2018, scientists from the California Institute of Technology announced that they had succeeded in creating a prototype of a lightweight tile which would be capable of harnessing and transmitting solar energy generated from space. These lightweight tiles would have the ability to follow the Earth's orbit, meaning power would flow continuously, without a night time dip.
While orbital solar farms might still lie in the future, terrestrial solar is a very real presence in our lives today. As solar power continues to enjoy advances in technology, performance and cost efficiency, solar looks poised to be one of our most prevalent sources of clean, renewable energy. Not just in our power supply, but in our tech, toys and daily lives. Without a doubt, solar will be one of the pillars of our 100% clean energy future.
Choose Clean Energy Today
You can access clean energy today with Arcadia Power. Arcadia Power is a free service that is dedicated to creating a 100% clean energy future by making clean energy an easy choice. Arcadia Power is not a utility and their platform doesn't replace your utility. They simply connect your utility account to clean energy and find you ways to lower your monthly power bill.
Here's how it works:
1. Take 2 minutes to connect your utility account to Arcadia Power and sign up to pay your bill through their secure platform.
2. They'll match your energy usage with clean energy from wind farms and let you know when they find ways you can save money, all at no cost.
3. You get a single statement with your utility charge, details on your clean energy impact and any savings credits from Arcadia Power. Plus, they never charge credit card transaction fees, so you can earn points with each utility bill.
It takes just 2 minutes to sign up. That's it. Plus, you'll get $25 off your next power bill when you sign up this month.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Michael Svoboda
The enduring pandemic will make conventional forms of travel difficult if not impossible this summer. As a result, many will consider virtual alternatives for their vacations, including one of the oldest forms of virtual reality – books.
Watchdog Accuses Trump's NOAA of 'Choosing Extinction' for Right Whales by Hiding Scientific Evidence
By Julia Conley
As the North Atlantic right whale was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of critically endangered species Thursday, environmental protection groups accusing the U.S. government of bowing to fishing and fossil fuel industry pressure to downplay the threat and failing to enact common-sense restrictions to protect the animals.
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By Beth Ann Mayer
Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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By Tiffany Means
Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.
The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.
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By Angela Nicoletti
The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.
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