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May. 03, 2013

Black Silicon and Smart Wind Turbines

by Ira Flatow

Click to enlarge images
Very quietly, wind and solar technologies are making important advances. Couple of examples: 
 
Take this new kind of wind turbine, from General Electric. It's a breed of "smart" turbine that senses changes in the wind, storing excess energy in an attached battery when there's a lot of wind and releasing the energy to the grid when the gusts die down. These kinds of smart turbines may help smooth out the vagaries of wind.
 
And advances in nanotechnology are making breakthroughs with solar cells. By creating billions of nano-sized holes in silicon solar cell material, scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory were able to trap sunlight in the holes, reducing reflection. These solar cells achieved an efficiency of almost 20 percent—a notable savings, considering that an antireflection coating layer is normally required to reach a comparable performance level. They named these solar cells "black silicon." 
 
New incremental advances in renewable energy technologies are being announced almost every day, and getting lost in the rush of other news. I'll try to highlight them as they come along. Here's a good article by National Geographic, too. 
About Ira Flatow

Ira is the host and executive producer of Science Friday.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

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