Patent suggests the Surface Pro 8 could be solar powered – Blog – 10 minute

In a nutshell: While we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to mobile computing options these days, the anxiety that arises from a low battery when on the move is very real. You could carry a portable battery pack with you, but Microsoft might have something better in store with the Surface Pro 8: a Type Cover with built-in solar panels.
As reported by Windows Latest, Microsoft first filed a patent with the USPTO for a Surface Pro Type Cover with integrated solar panels back in the second half of 2018, but it was only published on a public platform last week.
The filing shows what looks like a Surface Pro slotted into a “Mobile device cover with integrated solar panel.” There are four panels on the back to capture light and power the Surface Pro, and Microsoft states that any artificial sources of light would be sufficient, meaning it’ll work both indoors and outdoors. Additionally, the cover could charge the device while it’s being used.

The patent adds that more than four solar panels can be integrated into cover, and they could come in any variety, “including monocrystalline solar panels, polycrystalline solar panels, thin-film amorphous silicon solar panels and/or concentrated PV cell solar panels.”
Thanks to the hinged design of the Type Cover, it can be placed at the best angle to catch the light while users work.
Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7 won the ‘Best Productivity’ award in our ‘Best of Tablets’ feature, but there are few changes over the previous-generation model. An optional Type Cover with solar panels could help the Surface Pro 8 shine next to its competitors. But, like all patents, there’s no guarantee this one will ever become a real product, though here’s hoping.

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Walmart sues Tesla for negligence after multiple solar panel fires – gpgmail


Walmart is suing Tesla for breach of contract and gross negligence after rooftop solar panel systems on seven of the retailer’s stores caught fire, according to a filing.

Walmart said the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in New York state court, arose from years of gross negligence and failure to live up to industry standards by Tesla and the solar panels it designed, installed and promised to promised to operate and maintain safely on the roofs of hundreds of Walmart stores.”

Bloomberg was the first to report on the court filing. The lawsuit is aimed at Tesla Energy Operations, a division within the clean energy and electric vehicle automaker that was formerly known as SolarCity .

Tesla did not return a request for comment. A Walmart spokesperson said there was nothing else to add beyond the lawsuit filed Tuesday. gpgmail will update the article if Tesla responds.

Walmart has asked Tesla to remove solar panels from all 240 locations where they have been installed as well as pay for damages related to fires that the retailer alleges stem from the panels. The lawsuit points to several fires on the retailer’s rooftops that allegedly stem from Tesla solar panels.

The lawsuit states:

To state the obvious, properly designed, installed, inspected, and maintained solar systems do not spontaneously combust, and the occurrence of multiple fires involving Tesla’s solar systems is but one unmistakable sign of negligence by Tesla. To this day, Tesla has not provided Walmart with the complete set of final “root cause” analyses needed to identify the precise defects in its systems that caused all of the fires described above. The number of defects, however, is overwhelming and plainly indicative of systemic, widespread failures by Tesla to meet the standard of care, as set forth in the governing contracts, as to the solar systems installed at Walmart’s stores.

Unsatisfied with Tesla’s actions, Walmart requested in May 2018 that the company disconnect all of the solar panel systems, according to the lawsuit. Tesla complied. However, Walmart alleges that another fire erupted even after the systems were disconnected.

 


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France’s Solar Road Is a Complete Failure


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Remember solar roads? Five years ago, the idea of building insanely expensive solar panels on the ground and driving pollution-spewing vehicles over them was all the rage. Scientists pointed out the obvious flaws. A flat surface that can’t tilt or move to capture sunlight doesn’t hit very high-efficiency targets. Driving pollution-spewing vehicles over the solar panels in question would inevitably hurt their ability to gather sunlight as pollution built up on the surface. Putting solar panels on the ground and then driving over them is an excellent way to smash said solar panels to flinders. In short, the grand push for solar roadways left a lot of very smart people wondering why we didn’t just put the same amount of money into building conventional solar panels and wiring them up in the normal fashion.

Naysayers, all of them. The campaigns to build various solar-powered roads took off. The Dutch, at least, saw reason in one regard and deployed them as part of a bike path rather than attempting to craft a workable system from running pollution-spewing vehicles over a surface that gathers energy from sunlight.

Now, some years after the first solar roads opened for business, they’re… well, an abysmal failure. According to French newspaper Le Monde, the roadway-building effort failed in part because the builders didn’t consider how robust the construction would actually need to be. The “Wattway,” as the French solar road installation is known, is disintegrating much more quickly than its builders anticipated.

This is a fairly common issue. One reason the US highway system requires so much more maintenance than its builders ever anticipated is that the weight of the vehicles we’ve allowed to travel on the highways has increased so much. Roadway damage rises as the fourth power of axle weight, which means an 18,000-pound truck does 3,000 times more damage to the pavement than a 2,000-pound car. French vehicle weights are going to be different and farm tractors aren’t going to weigh as much as a semi. But the point stands: These roads weren’t built to the required standard, even though the manufacturer, Colas, promised that the resin would withstand the weight of 18-wheeler trucks.

According to this report, the proposed benefits of the Wattway (above, translation via Google) did not materialize.

The problems, however, go deeper than just vehicle weight. Thunderstorms have damaged the road. Rotting leaves clogged it. Pale splinters of resin have broken off the surface and the end of the road is now truncated. It’s described as “pale with its ragged joints,” with solar panels “that peel off the road,” and splinters of enamel resin falling from the panels they were intended to protect. Total power production has fallen every year the road was in service. The roadway targeted 790kWh per day but managed just 409kWh/day in its first year of operation. It fell sharply thereafter due to damage, producing 215kWh/day in 2018 and has slipped down to ~200kWh/day in 2019.

The French government invested a relatively small amount of money in the project (5 million euros), but the efficiency problems with the design were fully apparent before ground was broken. “Our system is not mature for inter-urban traffic,” Etienne Gaudin, Colas’ chief executive of Wattway, told Le Monde.

The problem is not the system. The problem is the concept. There is no known manufacturing method that would allow for the construction of cost-effective solar roads that can both withstand the weight and strain of daily driving and deliver acceptably efficient power. Actions taken to improve the efficiency of a road for gathering energy — like tilting the roadbed to match the sun’s travel across the sky and cleaning oil, dirt, and grime from the panels — would make it a less-effective road. Creating a more effective road by using better protective coatings or cheaper manufacturing materials would make the road a less-effective solar panel. Given that solar roads are already far less effective at producing energy than conventional solar installations, one wonders why we don’t leave the roads for driving and optimize the power infrastructure for the specific job it’s good at.

There are lots of great flavors that go together. Chocolate and peanut butter. Salt and vinegar. Butter and popcorn. Ham and cheese. There are also a number of flavors that don’t go well together at all, like steak and tetrachlorodibenzodioxin. We submit that solar roads are much closer to the latter than the former. The idea might not be completely without merit if evaluated in very sunny areas where people primarily bike or walk, but it’s never going to match the efficiency of a conventional array. Outside of specialized applications, it’s time to turn the light off on this idea.

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Tesla Begins Renting Solar Panels for as Little as $50 Per Month


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Tesla has worked to bring down the price of its electric vehicles, but there’s only so much you can do to make large solar panels affordable. The company’s solar installation business has lagged in recent quarters, but a new rental program might pique consumer interest. Consumers in several states can rent Tesla solar panel setups for their homes for as little as $50 per month. 

Tesla purchased solar panel installer SolarCity about three years ago when it was vying for the top spot in residential solar power. Tesla sold the systems, which can cost upwards of $30,000, in Home Depot stores for several years, but now it relies entirely on direct sales similar to its electric vehicles. Unfortunately, installations have been dropping. Tesla is now a distant third in US solar power behind SunRun and Vivint Solar which deployed 103 and 56 megawatts of solar power last quarter, respectively. Tesla only installed 29 megawatts. 

Under Tesla’s new rental system, consumers can pay as little as $50 per month for the solar panels. That’s for a “small” 3.8kWh installation on the roof that could generate almost 20 kWh per day in some of the sunnier states. You can only get the rental option in California (minimum $65), Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Mexico. The largest installations cost as much as $195 per month (California pricing). 

Tesla estimates consumers will save money even with the smallest installations, but not much. For example, in Arizona with its ample sunshine, consumers can expect to net between $110 and $280 per year after rental fees. The cost of electricity also matters, though. In shadier California where power prices are higher, you could cut your bills by $250-650 annually. 

According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the lower out-of-pocket pricing makes it easy for anyone in supported states to get solar panels with just a few clicks. It’s like having a “money printer on your roof,” says Musk. Although, he admits it’s better over the long haul to buy the solar panels. You can’t rent a Powerwall battery system with the panels, but you can buy one and have it installed the same day.

While Tesla doesn’t guarantee you’ll save money with the rented solar panels, that seems like a safe assumption. The one catch is what happens when you decide to stop renting the panels. Tesla will charge $1,500 to remove the panels and repair the roof. The company claims it makes no profit on this process, but that could still erase most of the savings you’ve enjoyed from having the panels.

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Tesla pitches a solar rental program to boost its renewable energy business – gpgmail


Tesla is pitching customers on a new rental offering for solar power as a way to revive the flagging fortunes of its renewable energy business.

Once among the largest installers of renewables in the country through SolarCity, Tesla has seen its share of the market decline significantly since its acquisition of SolarCity three years ago. In the second quarter Tesla deployed only 29 megawatts of new solar installations, while the number one and two providers of consumer solar, SunRun and Vivint Solar installed 103 megawatts and 56 megawatts respectively.

That’s likely one reason why Elon Musk took to Twitter early Sunday morning to pitch the new solar rental program.

According to Musk, the new program is “like having a money printer on your roof” for potential customers who live in states with high energy costs. “Still better to buy,” Musk exhorted, “but the rental option makes the economics obvious.”

Unlike SunRun and Vivint, which both used partnerships with homebuilders and retailers like Home Depot, BJ’s Wholesale, Costco and Sam’s Club to acquire customers, Tesla slashed ended door-to-door marketing and abandoned its partnership with Home Depot. The company began relying almost entirely on direct sales to power its solar business and eschewed the no-money-down lease model, which SolarCity had used so effectively.

Under the new system, Telsa is offering customers the option to rent solar systems for anywhere from $65 for a small installation to $195 for its largest installation. Customers only need to pay a fully refundable $100 charge.

Tesla said the contract can be canceled any time, but it would charge users $1,500 to remove the system once it has been installed.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

 




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NASA’s TESS Spots 3 New Exoplanets in Rare Solar System


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The Kepler planet-hunting satellite is long gone, but NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is just getting started. This satellite has spotted a few exoplanets early in its mission, and the most recent batch includes some extremely weird worlds along with yet another super-Earth. The super-Earth is scorching hot, and the others are cooler. However, they’re not ice worlds like Neptune.  

All three planets orbit a star called TOI-270, which sits roughly 73 light-years away. TOI-270 is about 40 percent smaller than the sun and one-third cooler. Still, the smallest of the three planets (TOI 270 b) orbits close enough to the star (every 3.4 Earth days) to be inhospitable to life as we know it. It has an equilibrium surface temperature of 490 degrees Fahrenheit (254 degrees Celsius). It’s only 25 percent larger than Earth and has 1.9 times the mass, so scientists believe it’s a rocky object. 

The other two planets are chilly, and they don’t appear to have any analogs in our solar system. TOI 270 c and TOI 270 d are 2.4 and 2.1 times larger than Earth, respectively. They most likely have a mass between five and seven times that of Earth. These planets orbit closer to their star than Earth does to the sun — 5.7 days for TOI 270 c and 11.4 days for TOI 270 d. However, the cooler temperature of TOI-270 means they’re much less extreme. 

The TESS spacecraft.

Most of the gas giants we detect in other solar systems are either so-called hot Jupiters or ice giants like Neptune. TOI 270 c and TOI 270 c and TOI 270 d are fascinating because they’re a middle ground between the two. TOI 270 c is toasty, but not as warm as a hot Jupiter at 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius). TOI 270 d is not exactly cozy at 150 degrees Fahrenheit (67 degrees C), but that’s potentially habitable for very robust forms of life. Again, these are equilibrium temperatures, which is based only on the energy it receives from the star. The real temperature could be higher or lower. 

Astronomers consider the TOI-270 system an ideal place to learn more about planetary evolution. We don’t have planets like TOI 270 c and TOI 270 d in our solar system, so they could have much to teach us. Perhaps the most exciting thing about TOI-270 is its location in the sky. It will be in the James Webb Space Telescope’s field of view for over six months when it’s launched. Astronomers will be able to gather a huge amount of data about this distinctive solar system, and that could change the way we understand planetary development.

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