This week at TreeHugger: We're all about energy this week, as we mark another notch in the "world's biggest" belt, with an 80 Megawatt solar "farm" in California. Solar's chill cousin, "ambient vibe energy," gets some love with this generator that harnesses the power of tiny vibrations.

The Pentagon announced a public prize competition to develop a wearable "electric power system" for soldiers that will (hopefully) cut the weight of all the batteries needed for radios, night vision devices, global positioning systems and other soldierly electronics needs to less than a pound. Lastly, the Ampere Strikes Back (really‚ÄĒwe couldn't make that up) in a report that finds that demand for high tech gadgets is canceling out attempts to lower carbon emissions.


San Francisco-based Cleantech America LLC, claims to be building the world's largest solar power "farm." The 80-MW San Joaquin Valley Customer Choice Solar Farm, which will be located near Fresno, California, will, at 640 acres, be 17 times the size of the current U.S. title-holder, the 4.6-MW Springerville Generating Station near Tucson, Arizona. It will also be approximately 7 times larger than the world's biggest existing plant and twice the size of the largest planned farm, both in Germany. Upon completion, there'll be enough solar energy to power 21,000 homes.

Speaking of renewable power generation, a generator has been developed that harnesses the power of tiny vibrations. Anything that experiences constant vibration, like a bridge, is a perfect location for such a generator, which converts 30% of kinetic power to electricity. Steve Beeby from the University of Southampton worked on the device, and sees it as "a means for powering wireless sensor nodes. By removing wires and batteries, there is the potential for embedding sensors in previously inaccessible locations." One interesting application that Beeby sees is in medical implants, such as pacemakers. It's quite an elegant idea, as the beating of the heart would be regulated by the device, but also power it. Since there's nothing worse than a pacemaker whose batteries won't keep pace, we think this sounds pretty good.

This week, the Pentagon announced a public prize competition to develop a wearable "electric power system" for soldiers, and to the winner go the spoils: $1 million for first place, $500 grand for second and $250 large for third. The guidelines: "a wearable, prototype system that can power a standard warfighter's equipment for 96 hours but weighs less than half that of the current batteries carried. All components, including the power generator, electrical storage, control electronics, connectors and fuel must weigh four kilograms or less, including any attachments." May the most energy efficient design win!


The demand for high tech gadgets is cancelling out attempts to lower carbon emissions, according to a fantastically named report - The Ampere Strikes Back, by the Energy Saving Trust. The report estimates that our demand for home entertainment goods will increase, and that by 2020 it will cost £4 billion (that's over $8 billion) a year to run all those gadgets. This alone would require 14 power stations, and a lot of that would be wasted power; £607 million (yep, $1.22 billion) of that figure is caused by standby wastage. Apparently, trends such as watching TV or listening to the radio on a computer will cause much of the increase. It uses far more energy to do this than back when we all used a simple, dedicated radio or TV.

TreeHugger's EcoModo column appears every Tuesday on Gizmodo.