Peek inside NASA’s simulated Martian house

NASA built a dome on the isolated slopes of a Hawaiian volcano, where six people lived on a simulated Mars mission for a year. They wore space suits when they went out. Inside, they enjoyed six bedrooms, one bath, kitchen, pantry, science lab, solar power, preserved food, and an Internet connection with a 20-minute delay (just like on Mars). The dome even has a TARDIS, though it’s out of order.

Nadia Drake, National Geographic

Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn’t compete

Last week, for the first time in memory, the wholesale price of electricity in Queensland fell into negative territory – in the middle of the day.

For several days the price, normally around $40-$50 a megawatt hour, hovered in and around zero. Prices were deflated throughout the week, largely because of the influence of one of the newest, biggest power stations in the state – rooftop solar.

Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn’t compete

Solar Roadways plans for American energy independence by covering roads with solar panels you can drive on

Solar Roadways plans for American energy independence by covering roads with solar panels you can drive on.

Solar Roadways is the brainchild of Idahoans Scott and Julie Brusaw.

With an airplane’s black box in mind, the couple started mulling over the possibility of creating a solar powered super-strong case that could house sensitive electronics. They explored the idea of embedding solar cells to store energy inside the case, LEDs to illuminate the road lines and heating elements to resist ice and snow — soon after, the concept of Solar Roadways was born.

The couple’s proposal calls for the traditional petroleum-based asphalt highways to be replaced with a system of structurally-engineered solar panels. These would act as a massive energy generator that could feed the grid during daytime. They would also recharge electric vehicles while moving, thus helping to reduce greenhouse emissions drastically.

“Our original intent was to help solve the climate crisis,” says Brusaw. “We learned that the U.S. had over 72,000 square kilometers of asphalt and concrete surfaces exposed to the sun. If we could cover them with our solar road panels, then we could produce over three times the amount of energy that we use as a nation — that’s using clean, renewable energy instead of coal.”

Great idea, but can it be made cheaply enough to be cost-effective? And would the manufacturing process counteract the gains by requiring more energy and creating more pollutants than fossil fuels?