EcoModo - The Best of Treehugger

This week at TreeHugger: The solar industry is trying to keep one step ahead of government regulators by creating a solar panel recycling scheme. IBM has leveraged its computer-chip cooling know-how to make a solar concentrator able to magnify the sun 2,000 times! This might look like giant hard candy floating in the ocean, but it's actually a 100% natural rainbow iceberg. And finally, Doug Selsam's multi-rotor wind turbines are back with a vengeance, weirder than ever.

Recycling of solar panels should stay pretty low for a while as solar cells have a useful life of many decades if nothing out of the ordinary happens to them, so up to now most recycled panels have been flawed or damaged modules. But these numbers are bound to trend up. About 16,000 tonnes are expected to be sent back in Europe by 2015, compared to 2,000 tonnes last year.

Concentrating the equivalent of 2000 suns on such a small solar panel generates enough heat to melt stainless steel, something the researchers experienced first hand in their experiments. But by borrowing innovations from its own R&D in cooling computer chips, the team was able to cool the solar cell from greater than 1600 degrees Celsius to just 85 degrees Celsius.

Marbled icebergs have layers that are formed by algae (green) and sediments (yellow, brown), or by a rapid melting and freezing (dark blue). This one was photographed in the Antarctic sea. More photos here.

Sometimes when you see everybody doing things the same way, you forget that there are other paths to explore. The multi-rotor wind turbine is such an experiment. Why not put more than one turbine up there? It'll be interesting to see if it becomes cost-effective. Future wind power might look like that...

TreeHugger's EcoModo column appears every Tuesday on Gizmodo.