WBEZ | solar technology http://www.wbez.org/tags/solar-technology Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en EcoMyths: Is Solar Power Practical Yet for Homeowners? http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-solar-power-practical-yet-homeowners-108224 <p><p>My home faces south with tons of windows, so we get really warm on a typical sunny day. Does that mean I am harnessing solar power? If I wanted to install solar panels, would it save me energy and money? On <em>Worldview</em> today, host Jerome McDonnell and I explored these very questions with Dick Co, managing director of the <a href="http://www.solar-fuels.org/management-team--staff.html" title="Find others who have worked at this company">Solar Fuels Institute</a> and environmental chemistry professor at <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/search?search=&amp;company=Argonne-Northwestern+Solar+Energy+Research+%28ANSER%29+Center&amp;sortCriteria=R&amp;keepFacets=true&amp;trk=prof-0-ovw-curr_pos" title="Find others who have worked at this company">Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research (ANSER) Center</a>.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F103290717" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Dick walked us through the basics of solar power for homeowners as well as some truly &ldquo;cool&rdquo; solar-harnessing technology to make fuel (yes, liquid fuel) for practical use in the near future. But first, he helped us explore the virtues of solar. Of course, sunlight is free, in the sense that it does not have to be mined, and it&rsquo;s abundant. Dick said each year we receive a whopping 120,000 terawatts of energy from the sun, but the world&rsquo;s population uses only 16 terawatts annually. That&rsquo;s a pretty good ratio. Also, once installed, there is no harmful waste or byproduct from producing solar power. In addition, studies show that going solar may increase your home value.</p><p>Dick confirmed that my house benefits from <a href="http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/passive-solar-home-design">passive solar home design</a>, which can be done a lot more effectively if the home is intentionally designed to absorb sunlight during the day and release the heat at night. Of course, you can install solar panels on your roof, known as <a href="http://www.eere.energy.gov/basics/renewable_energy/photovoltaics.html">solar photovoltaic (PV) cells</a>. They can be installed on a tracking device that follows the sun. Finally, there is <a href="http://www.doe.gov/energysaver/articles/active-solar-heating">active solar heating</a>. This process uses a solar collector to heat water or air for later use.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" height="263" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Solar.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Gaiam has solarized more homes throughout the U.S. than any other company; 60,000 to date. (PRNewsFoto/Gaiam, inc.)" width="236" /></div><p>We also explored the costs to homeowners and the various state subsidies that make converting to solar affordable. Some people produce so much solar power that they actually get a rebate from their local utility for returning energy to the power grid!</p><p>To read more about this myth, listen to the podcast of today&rsquo;s show, or go to the <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/">EcoMyths Alliance</a> website to read more about the costs and benefits of home solar production.</p></p> Tue, 30 Jul 2013 10:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-solar-power-practical-yet-homeowners-108224 Computers changing the essential nature of cities http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-25/computers-changing-essential-nature-cities-93456 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-25/barry1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The great historical turns in the evolution of the city have been agriculture, industrialization, globalization and now, what has been called the “information revolution” in the last thirty years. Digital logic circuits have produced continuously faster, more powerful and smaller computers, mobile telephones, smart phones and countless other innovations. The fruits are many. The WorldCat allows librarians to access 1.75 billions entries from 72,000 libraries in 170 countries. Perhaps the most universal emblem of this era is the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who are constantly clutching their mobile phone as if they were awaiting word of a heart transplant. This revolution has profoundly changed the city, its relationship to nature, and our relationship to each other.&nbsp;</p><p>Today the digitization of the city reaches almost every urban resident in some manner, from traffic lights to observation camera’s on the corner. According to <a href="http://www.mckinsey.com/mgi/publications/internet_matters/index.asp" target="_blank">McKinsey &amp; Company</a>, internet sector consumption and expenditure is bigger than either agriculture or energy. Computers are used for a huge variety of functions that, we are told, make the city more efficient, safer and intelligent.</p><p>The first electronic computer emerged in 1946 and the worldwide web started in 1989. Computers store 40% more data annually. But computer ownership and internet use are still the privilege of a minority worldwide. Few people have done as much to escalate the digital divide as Steve Jobs of Apple. He was devoted to produce beautiful products that are not affordable by hardly anyone worldwide, and is alleged to have strenuously objected to price reducing initiatives. Although the executive of the richest corporation in the world, he made no effort to narrow the digital divide.</p><p>Cities, particularly large cities, are increasingly functioning like a computer. The traditional language of the city is also the language of the computer; “networks”, "gate," "port," "pipeline," "cache," etc. Cities are becoming more like computers. The “smart city” of the future will control movement, climate, communications, consumption, health, crime, energy and virtually every aspect of human experience. Feeling and thinking are not required for city life. As the connection to nature and to each other is increasingly regulated by computer people are alienated from nature and each other.</p><p>The euphemism for this transformation has been the “Smart City” or the “Intelligent City,” promoted by corporations such as Siemens or IBM. The direction of this transformation is "Super Intelligence," or machines that are more intelligent, and more capable, than human beings. This was portrayed in the character of Data on <em>Star Trek</em>, or the robots in <em>I-Robot</em> with Will Smith. Nowhere has this “intelligence” been utilized to greater effect than the military drones. Digital logic circuits, and their successors, are now co-producing our evolutionary future.</p><p>Charles Darwin declared that “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” How well is our species adapting to this information revolution? As cities grow “smarter,” do they become more just or ecological? Is artificial intelligence better than human intelligence? Or is there a Faustian danger of trading ones soul to obtain greater information and power? Unfortunately, it has been intelligent people that led the planet into the current condition of ecological peril. And of course, intelligent people have unleashed some of the most barbaric episodes in human history.</p><p>What are the values of the information revolution? Technology is not neutral. Every technology contains the values of the people that designed it. Albert Einstein understood that, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” Never has this been more so than today. We have utilized our sophisticated technology to occupy, dominate and threaten every ecosystem on the planet. Today, our technology dominates our cities, and us.</p><p>Increasingly digital networks are replacing people networks. The character of the digital relationship is not the same as a personal relationship. The quantity of the communication is not the same as the quality of the communication. One documentary on the Intelligent City boasted that “humans don’t have to make any decisions.” The seduction of communication, or technology, for its own sake is far different than the production of value. Some argue that information is the glue of society. While information has its value, we are glued together by the emotions we share, by love, not the information we acquire. The homogenization of experience, which is the result of the digital city, runs contrary to our development as a species.&nbsp; Oliver Sacks said, “We must humanize technology before it dehumanizes us.” Or is the genie out of the bottle until death do us part?</p><p>It is often stated that computers can be used for extreme invasions of privacy and lead to extraordinary levels of vulnerability. The recent breakdown of the Blackberry is an instance of this vulnerability. What if the impact of the computer, and the entire information revolution, is the homogenization of the human being and therefore, our cities. What if the price of being plugged in is to be turned off?</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Barry Weisberg is global cities contributor for </em>Worldview<em>. His </em><em>commentaries reflect his own views and not necessarily those of </em>Worldview<em> or 91.5 WBEZ.</em></p></p> Tue, 25 Oct 2011 15:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-25/computers-changing-essential-nature-cities-93456 China's influence on Chicago http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/%5Bfield_program_ref-title-raw%5D/chinas-influence-chicago <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Daley Hu Jintao AP Chris Wallker.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>For American companies in search of new opportunities and greater profits all roads seem to lead to China. Recently, one of the largest solar panel producers in the United States announced it will shift its manufacturing operations to China and lay off hundreds of workers in the United States. That&rsquo;s a tough move when American unemployment remains above nine percent.<br /><br />So why then did both President Obama and Mayor Richard Daley roll out the red carpet for Chinese President Hu Jintao last week?</p><p><em>Eight Forty-Eight's</em> business contributor David Greising kept a close eye on those events and he joined host Alison Cuddy to talk more about our relations with China. Greising is also a reporter for the <a href="http://www.chicagonewscoop.org/" target="_blank">Chicago News Cooperative</a>.</p><p><em>Music Button: Bei Bei and Shawn Lee, &quot;The Ambush&quot;, from the CD Into the Wind, (Ubiquity) </em></p></p> Wed, 26 Jan 2011 15:58:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/%5Bfield_program_ref-title-raw%5D/chinas-influence-chicago