Urban Green Energy wind turbine to be used in Bangladesh power crisis

Urban Green Energy technology is in focus againBangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announces renewable energy platform at ICT Expo, showcasing Urban Green Energy’s eddyGT 1kW vertical axis wind turbine

DHAKA, BANGLADESH, March 10, 2011 – The eddyGT 1 kilowatt (1kW) vertical axis wind turbine by Urban green energy, the New York-based manufacturer of small vertical wind turbines and hybrid wind/solar renewable energy solutions, will be showcased at the ICT Expo in Bangladesh from March 10 to 13, 2011. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will open the event and announce her country’s renewable energy platform.

The expo takes place at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) in Dhaka. Urban green energy’s turbine will be introduced to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) at the event as a solution to the power crisis in Bangladesh. The first pilot project will use the country’s largest bridges as the setting for wind turbines to produce energy. The total number of bridges in this pilot project is around twenty and the power load is approximately 1 megawatt.

Most of the bridges in Bangladesh are financed by the ADB and the World Bank. ADB has already shown interest in the project which is in collaboration with United SysNet Ltd.

Colorado: Three large solar power arrays to be built in Fresno

Fresno Colorado solar power array sites
Fresno Colorado solar power array sites-source:Fresnobee.com

Construction is about to begin in southwestern Fresno County on three large arrays of solar power panels to produce electricity for Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

The three projects will be built near the towns of Five Points and Helm. They will be completed by October and generate a combined 50 megawatts of electricity — enough to meet the needs of about 15,000 homes, according to PG&E.

The sites represent the first big push in PG&E’s efforts to develop solar projects that it will own and operate. PG&E expects to build 250 MW of power-producing capacity over the next five years.

The utility has hired Cupertino Electric Inc. to build two of the plants: a 20 MW plant on a 130-acre site just west of Helm, and a 15 MW project on 160 acres south of Five Points.

The third plant, a 15 MW project on 160 acres southwest of Five Points, will be built by SOLON Corp. for PG&E.

Each site will have thousands of crystalline silicon photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight directly into electricity. PG&E already owns the vacant land for the plants.

“The Central Valley holds tremendous potential as a source of clean energy for California,” said Mike Jones, a power-generation manager for PG&E. “Our solar projects in the region are a win for the local economy and for the state’s environment.”

PG&E spokesman Blair Jones said the Fresno County projects should create about 500,000 hours of paid work. Jones said the contractors will do their own hiring, but “it’s our goal that they use local residents to build these facilities where possible.”

Autumn Casadonte, a spokeswoman for San Jose-based Cupertino Electric, said her company expects to employ more than 200 people over the course of its work on the two sites. Most of those will be hired from within Fresno County, where the unemployment rate of about 17% is well above the state and national average.

A representative for SOLON, an Arizona-based subsidiary of Germany’s SOLON SE, said the company will also use local labor to build its project.

The three PG&E arrays will rank among the biggest solar photovoltaic plants built in the Valley when they begin producing electricity this fall. They will rival 20 MW and 19 MW plants under construction by Eurus Energy America near Avenal, in western Kings County.

Continue reading this great article at  the FresnoBee.com

Solar power means higher profits for the Oregon agricultural community

Green energy means more profit in Oregon! Solar power gets a boost!In Oregon, where organically grown food is almost a given, solar power for farms seems a natural extension of the sustainability ethic. Throw in a handful of government programs that encourage solar – including one opening up and another that might be ending – and that’s enough to mount a solar-power marketing campaign aimed specifically at agriculture.

The company is Synchro Solar, which said it would help solar-curious farmers take advantage of bulk pricing while receiving technical assistance in applying for the upcoming Oregon Feed-in-Tariff program. The company noted, as well, that the state’s Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) fades to black at the end of June, barring action by the legislature, lending additional urgency to the promotion.

Under the Oregon Feed-in-Tariff program, guaranteed payments are available to Portland General Electric, Pacific Power and Idaho Power customers who supply the utilities with electricity sourced from solar systems. The next reservation period is April 1, and Synchro Solar touted its ability to provide guidance in tackling the paperwork necessary for the limited, first-come, first-served program. In previous rounds, feed-in-tariff program reservations were snapped up within minutes.

The company also noted that funding could be available under the federal government’s Section 1603 cash grant program and under an accelerated depreciation programs that allows the cost of a renewable energy project to be written off in a single year instead of over five years.

Agricultural uses of solar power are some of the fastest to bring a return on the investment.
Whether your electricity bill is high because of irrigation pumps, cold storage, powering various outbuildings or warming lamps for young livestock solar can help decrease your power bill. In addition to being a great investment in your farm, solar power also means:

  • Energy independence
  • Control over rising energy bills
  • Reduction in your tax liability

REAP grant’s
In addition to the variety of incentives that every Oregonian is eligible to receive, as a rural business owner you may also be eligible to apply for the USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Grant. The USDA provides matching grants for rural small businesses and agricultural produces for the purchase and installation of renewable energy systems. REAP Grants can cover up to 25% of eligible renewable energy costs

Biggest solar flare in years set to blast Earth’s atmosphere; could impact GPS, communication, power grids

Solar flare to hit earthA massive solar flare could make for a beautiful night for people in the northern United States – provided it doesn’t knock the lights out.
Common sense but, if you don’t need to have it(computers,radios,chargers,etc) turned on or plugged in right now, you should go ahead and turn it off and unplug it. I am not a “doom and gloom” kind of person, more it just makes sense that if there is an event (this thing hits us) and the device is not connected to the grid it will be more likely to survive. I digress…

The blast of charged particles unleashed from the sun earlier this week has been peppering the Earth over the last few days, but it’s biggest punch is expected to hit the Earth’s atmosphere on Thursday.

Monday’s eruption, considered an X-class flare, is the biggest solar flare in four years. It is already being blamed for disrupting radio communication in China, and could potentially affect power grids and satellite communication around the globe.

However, for the United States, the most likely outcome from this latest space storm could be a colorful night sky over New England and even parts of New York State.

“It won’t hit us dead-on,” physicist Dean Pesnell, project scientist for NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, told National Geographic.

The moon may make it difficult to see, but stargazers may be able to catch a reddish glow among the stars.

x-class solar flare will not be a direct hit“X-class flares are the most powerful of all solar events that can trigger radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms,” NASA said on Tuesday.

The China Meteorological Administration reported that Monday’s solar flare caused “sudden ionospheric disturbances” in the atmosphere above China and jammed short-wave radio communications in the southern part of the country.

And Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency reported there was a high probability that large solar flares would appear over the next three days.

Solar flares in 2006 are blamed for causing disruptions of GPS systems, according to New Scientist magazine. Another in 1973 knocked out power in Canada, impacted six million people.

Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Plans Second 100-Megawatt Solar Power Plant

Abu Dhabi' s Masdar-100MW solar powerMaybe I missed the first 100MW solar power plant but a second, that is impressive!

Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co., known as Masdar, plans to complete construction of its second 100- megawatt solar-power plant in the third quarter of 2013, boosting output of green energy in the Persian Gulf emirate.

The Abu Dhabi government-owned renewable energy company issued a request for qualification information from potential builders of the facility, according to a copy of the 47-page document obtained by Bloomberg. An official in Masdar’s procurement office declined to speak about the tender, and media relations officials at the company couldn’t immediately be reached by telephone for comment.

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, holds almost all of the country’s oil reserves, and is expanding use of solar and wind power in an effort to become a regional hub for renewable energy. The emirate is building Masdar City, a business and residential complex designed to emit minimal carbon emissions, and serves as headquarters for the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Masdar plans to build the 100-megawatt photovoltaic Nour 1 plant in the city of Al Ain, on Abu Dhabi’s border with Oman. Construction contracts for Nour 1 are to be awarded in December, and the project could become part of a larger solar power complex in Al Ain, according to the document.

Potential bidders must submit their qualification information by March 17, the document said. The company wants to award construction contracts for the project by the end of this year, Frank Wouters, director of a Masdar unit called Masdar Power, said at an industry briefing in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 10.Abu Dhabi's Masdar agree's in 2010 for 1st 100mw solar power

Masdar is already developing a $600 million, 100-megawatt concentrated solar thermal plant called Shams 1, to be completed in 2012. Shams 1 is a venture between Masdar, Abengoa SA of Spain and France’s Total SA.

The Nour 1 plant will cost less than Shams 1 because of improving efficiency and “the normal learning curve for the industry,” Wouters said at the briefing last month.

Photovoltaic plants use solar panels, which convert sunlight into electricity. Masdar already operates a 10-megawatt facility of this type.

Read the original story here
To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony DiPaola in Dubai at adipaola@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Voss at sev@bloomberg.net

Green energy: Obama’s shout-out for more green energy

Obama speaking about the budget and green energyBy MATTHEW L. WALD
Over all, the Obama administration has pledged to hold the line on “discretionary spending” in its budget for the 2012 fiscal year — that is, everything it can control, which leaves out areas like Medicare and Social Security. But on energy, it is still going gangbusters, at least as proposed on Monday.

The budget request calls for $29.5 billion in Energy Department spending, up from $26.4 billion in the last budget Congress approved, for 2010. Congress could rewrite the budget, or it could pass no budget at all and simply vote to continue funding existing programs at some percentage of the prior-year appropriation.

But if the administration had its way, budgets for solar, geothermal, biomass and wind energy would rise sharply. The wind portion is concentrated on offshore generation because, as Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, the technology for onshore wind is already “mature.”

Yucca Mountain, the proposed site of a nuclear waste dump, was not mentioned, but the budget includes an increase of $23 million, or 17.5 percent, for “fuel cycle research and development,” a category that includes nuclear waste management. The Obama administration has promised not to go forward with the proposed waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, and a “blue-ribbon commission” is currently studying what to do with the waste.

Among the possibilities discussed is a new class of reactors that would burn some of the wastes as fuel and break up some of the longest-lived materials into isotopes with shorter half-lives, which would be easier to dispose of. But that would be a long-term research and development project.

The administration also asks for $550 million for the Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy, the Energy Department’s version of the Defense Department’s better-known Advanced Research Projects Agency, which finance high-potential long shots in the early research phases. For the first two years, ARPA-E was funded through the Recovery Act; its prospects as a separate line item in the 2012 budget are uncertain. And the administration is proposing to give ARPA-E $100 million that it would obtain by auctioning off radio frequencies to the private sector.

Some of the budget items are repeats of requests from previous years. For example, Secretary Chu has often referred to his desire for “lablettes,” small labs that would focus intensively on narrow areas. More formally, they are called “energy innovation hubs,” and Dr. Chu has been seeking six of them, but so far Congress has established only three. They center on making fuel from sunlight, increasing energy efficiency in buildings and modeling and simulating nuclear reactors.

The department wants three more: one each for battery and energy storage, smart grid technologies, and critical materials. The administration has requested $146 million for all six lablettes, which Dr. Chu called “the Apollo projects of our time.”

He is also trying to redirect money away from research that he does not believe has a strong possibility of delivering a payoff in the short term. Notably, he is trying to cut the budget for fuel cell research by nearly $70 million, or 40 percent. In the past, Congress has resisted that cut.

“We still think it’s a good idea” to make the cuts, Dr. Chu said.

But the research and development industry has its own constituency, which has promised to fight to reverse the cuts even if the technology has not paid off so far. At the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association, Ruth Cox, the president, said, “After investing billions of American dollars and years of effort, we simply cannot walk away from our commitment to these critical technologies.”

Dr. Chu said the problem was not so much the fuel cell, which converts hydrogen into electric current and water, but the hydrogen, which creates pollution and involves an energy loss when it is made.

Read the rest of this article on green energy here

10 Million Solar Roof Law, Stuck in Congress, Could Get Boost from DOE Program

The DOE’s newly announced plan to make solar affordable offers Sen. Sanders a chance to breathe new life into his languishing ’10 Million Solar Roof Act’
By Maria Gallucci
The Department of Energy’s new SunShot Initiative to make solar energy as cheap as coal has given fresh hope to industry enthusiasts. And it may even give life to a nearly dead effort in Congress to put solar panels and water heaters on 10 million of America’s roofs by 2020.

The 2010 legislation by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hasn’t had much momentum since the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved it in July, and November’s Republican gains in Congress has not helped the measure along. But experts say Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s SunShot Initiative may give the Ten Million Solar Roof Act new political legs.

Shayle Kann, managing director of solar research at GTM Research, said that the DOE plan could make the Sanders’ bill more politically palatable, because it would drive down the cost of solar installations. It aims to finance the installation of up to 40,000 megawatts of new solar energy.

“These are two parallel but distinct programs. They could play together very well because — to the extent that the SunShot initiative is successful — it will lower the [financial] incentives that are required per project for the Ten Million Solar Roof Act,” he told SolveClimate News.

“Any program designed at reducing the cost of solar installations will be a service to any deployment program by lowering costs” to the government,” Kann said.

Jared Blanton, a spokesperson for the national Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said that the solar energy plans are aligned because “they both are focused on removing needless regulatory barriers that prevent Americans from going solar.”

The DOE initiative unveiled on Feb. 4 aims to accelerate research and development in its solar energy programs — valued at around $200 million annually — to reduce the total installed cost of solar electricity to $1 per watt by 2020, a 75 percent drop from today’s rates.

The idea is that unsubsidized solar power could then compete with the wholesale rate of electricity generated by fossil fuels that emit climate-changing greenhouse gases.

As part of the program, the agency also awarded $27 million to nine solar technology companies that are trying to make solar more affordable.

“Magic will occur when [solar] becomes cost-competitive with any form of energy,” Chu said at a Feb. 9 renewable-energy conference in Washington. “And when that happens without subsidies, it is going to shoot all over the country and all over the world.”

‘SunShot’ Puts New Energy Into Solar Bill

SunShot, a name inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s 1960s “moon shot” goal, will work with government agencies, the energy industry and research laboratories to reduce installation costs, spur growth in the solar energy market and pave the way for new U.S. manufacturing.

The initiative offers Sanders a chance to breathe new life into his bill after it was approved by the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year. The senator sits on that committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee, and he also chairs a green jobs subcommittee. The legislation has 16 co-sponsors — all Democrats.

“I look forward to working with the Obama administration to incorporate elements of the new solar initiative into the Ten Million Solar Roofs Act to make the legislation even stronger,” Sanders said in a Feb. 4 press release. “We have an opportunity to create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs and make America the world leader in solar energy.”

During his State of the Union address last month, President Obama proposed building 20 million solar installations nationwide by 2020 — double the target of Sanders’ initiative — although the SunShot doesn’t address that goal and Kann said the president’s speech was void of the nuts and bolts of policies to get there.

The Ten Million Solar Roofs Act would require $250 million in investments in fiscal year 2012 and an additional $500 million per year from 2013 to 2021. A competitive grant program would help state and local governments boost solar energy deployment in homes, schools and businesses by overcoming barriers such as high expenses and red tape.

By linking his bill with SunShot, and positioning the act as an integral part of the cost-cutting initiative, Sanders is hoping to win new support in Congress. Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced companion legislation last session in the House, and is expected to do the same this year.

Cutting Government ‘Green’ Tape

Will Wiquist, a spokesperson for Sanders, told SolveClimate News that the senator’s legislation would potentially adapt to include SunShot’s focus on creating a more efficient solar-permitting process for home installations.

He cited a January report by solar financing company SunRun, which estimates that local inspection and permitting fees can add up to $2,500 to the cost of each residential photovoltaic (PV) solar system.

“The solar industry report recommended a competitive grant program to encourage adoption of best practices, an idea which can be incorporated into the Ten Million Solar Roofs legislation to support Secretary Chu’s goal of making solar competitive with fossil fuels by the end of the decade,” Wiquist said.

Kann said that SunShot is likely to receive a more immediate push from the Obama administration because it is a DOE initiative, whereas the Ten Million Solar Roofs legislation could be slow to wend its way through Congress.

However, he added, SunShot alone cannot achieve its target of reducing solar electricity costs by 75 percent.

“You can’t just do it with one program, especially when that one program is designed heavily around R&D. There has to be some kind of deployment program as well, whether it is the Ten Million Solar Roofs Act or something similar,” he said.

According to SEIA figures, the U.S. placed fourth in solar PV installations in 2009, behind Germany, Italy, and Japan. The country produces 6 percent of solar system components worldwide, while China accounts for seven of the top 10 solar manufacturers worldwide.

Read original article here

Key to Obama’s clean energy goals already in Alabama

Obama has no idea what is going on in Alabama or with the monopoly Southern Company has been handed by the federal government…. That being said, Alabama has some great renewable energy projects and some of them are very old ones!

From the article…

Talk in Washington about getting more of the nation’s electricity from clean, renewable sources used to bring a collective sneer from Alabama politicians because the state is neither sunny nor breezy enough to contribute much to the wind and solar power equation.

But when President Barack Obama said he wanted to broaden the definition of what is clean to include hydropower and nuclear, the sneer disappeared.

“That was a step in the right direction,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said after Obama announced the new policy in his State of the Union speech.

Hydropower, especially, is big in Alabama, and Obama’s declaration could make it even bigger.

Alabama already is one of the most hydropowered states east of the Rocky Mountains, a natural outgrowth of having so many rivers moving so much water to the Gulf of Mexico. So as Obama sets an ambitious goal to have 80 percent of the nation’s electricity generated by something other than burning fossil fuels that dirty the air, the people who harness water to make power — a concept that is more than a century old — soon could be on the forefront of a renaissance, of sorts.

“We’re delighted that the focus now is where we felt it should have been for a long time,” said Jim Crew, manager of hydro services for Southern Company Generation, which includes dams operated by Alabama Power Co.

The National Hydropower Association says the industry is poised to double its contribution to the nation’s power grid, mostly by upgrading existing plants on existing dams. Hydropower provides about 7 percent of the country’s power, and it accounts for two-thirds of the power generated from renewable sources.

On the day of Obama’s speech, the White House confirmed that his goal of 80 percent clean energy would include hydropower, a recognition that different regions of the country need to be able to use different types of power to help meet the goal. In written details of Obama’s policy, the White House said that 40 percent of the nation’s power now comes from clean energy sources, and doubling that by 2035 requires giving “utilities the flexibility to generate clean energy wherever makes the most sense, all clean sources — including renewables, nuclear power, efficient natural gas, and coal with carbon capture and sequestration.”

Guess it is all good then… Green energy as defined by Obama and Southern Company…
Sidenote: I have never received good service from Alabama Power they are the main reason I seek alternative power sources for me and my family. To be honest, Alabama Power has proven time and time again that they are behind the times grid-wise and have a consumer confidence level that drops each year (read the studies not funded by them). Southern Company(alabama power) has profits in mind before people, ALWAYS. I saw this first hand with Hurricane Ivan when working with their “teams” of people restoring power. Recovery based on last months income generation for each line. Use more and they help you, use less and….well, if you have them youknow where this goes cause you have been there.

In a NASA first, NanoSail-D spacecraft to set sail on the sunlight

NASA nanosail-D satelliteNASA’s NanoSail-D is expected to test a type of propulsion that taps the momentum of photons in sunlight. Advocates say solar sails provide the best way toward interstellar travel.

A new NASA craft is due to set sail, literally, Thursday night. What’s more, it hopes to be unfurling its sail in outer space.

What, you may ask, is NASA doing with a sail-powered vehicle?

The answer is that the bread-loaf-size satellite, built on a shoe-string budget, is designed to test a space propulsion technology that until the past few years has dwelt in the realm of science fiction.

The satellite, NanoSail-D, is expected to open its thin, square, reflective sail at 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, representing what would be the first successful on-orbit deployment of a solar sail in the history of the US space program.

It make lack the pizzazz of warp drive, the fictional propulsion system known to Star Trek fans. But many of its advocates argue that solar sails represent the best path to eventual interstellar travel. More immediately, the technology also holds the promise of reducing the amount of space junk orbiting Earth, boosters say.

The rooting section for Wednesday night’s sail-deployment attempt may be small, but it’s enthusiastic.

“The solar-sailing world is such a small world that we’re all rooting for each other,” says Bill Nye, executive director of the Planetary Society, a space-exploration advocacy group in Pasadena, Calif. The society has its own solar-sail demonstration program underway.

Solar sails operate on the same general principles as conventional sails operate. But where a sailboat gets its push from wind, a solar sail gets its push from sunlight – a possibility first envisioned after physicists figured out that while particles of light, known as photons, have no mass, they do carry momentum. When they strike an object, such as a reflective sail in space, they can transfer momentum to the sail and thus to the object hoisting it.

A craft propelled exclusively via solar sails travels at a snail’s pace when it starts. But with no air resistance in space, momentum would rapidly build. By some estimates, a mission to Pluto, currently a 10-year trip, could reach the dwarf planet in five years.

A solar-sail craft also could devote more of its payload to scientific experiments rather than mass-costly motors and fuel, which today’s craft carry for course corrections on a long voyage or altitude changes to maintain orbit around a planet or moon.

So far, Japan has lofted the most sophisticated solar-sail craft to date. The craft, IKAROS, launched in May 2009 with the country’s Venus climate orbiter, Akatuski. A month later, IKAROS deployed a square solar sail roughly 19 feet long on each side, which has propelled the craft on a trajectory that will put it in orbit around the sun.

Thin-film solar cells on the sail provide electricity for the craft. But one of its most ingenious features, Mr. Nye says, involves steering. Instead of moving the sail’s angle relative to the incoming sunlight, the craft uses strategically placed arrays of liquid crystals – much like those in a digital watch – to alter the ability of a given section of the sail to reflect light.

The approach allows the craft to alter course, but slowly. The system takes roughly 24 hours to achieve a one-degree change in course.

That works well for deep-space travel. But for orbital work, a craft would have to be more agile, requiring a mechanical means of trimming the sail.

Ironically, although NanoSail-D’s systems are identical to those required for solar propulsion, the craft will be demonstrating something different over the next 70 to 120 days: the use of such sails for braking.

NASA’s first attempt to loft NanoSail-D came in 2008 aboard Falcon 1, the first in a growing stable of rockets and capsules built by Spacex, one of a new generation of rocket-makers. The company currently has a contract with NASA to resupply the International Space Station once evaluation flights end for its larger Falcon 9, whose first two launches were successful. Unfortunately, the Falcon 1 carrying the first NanoSail-D failed. The NanoSail-D currently in orbit is a back-up unit that engineers have continued to modify over the past two years.

The craft was one of six payloads lofted by Orbital Science Corporation’s Minotaur IV rocket on Nov. 20. The six payloads rode into space on a common “bus.” NanoSail-D was to have ejected from the bus Dec. 6.

“The door opened, but nothing came out,” says Dean Alhorn, an engineer at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and the project’s lead investigator.

For more than a month, his team was in limbo, trying to figure out what might have caused the apparent failure.

Then, to everyone’s surprise, the craft phoned home Jan. 19, indicating that it somehow, finally, worked free of the bus. With the help of amateur-radio operators in the US, including the Marshall Space flight Center, and in Germany, who had equipment capable of receiving NanoSail-D’s encoded communications, the team gathered up the data and judged NanoSail-D to be in good shape, if somewhat tardy.

“I’m pleased with how everything has worked out,” Mr. Alhorn says.

The craft is orbiting some 350 nautical miles above Earth. There, drag from Earth’s extended atmosphere exerts more influence on a spacecraft’s speed than do photons from the sun. So the goal is to see how well a sail can guide a craft to a controlled reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, where it would incinerate.

By international agreement, satellite operators must design their craft to carry enough fuel to either boost themselves into an higher orbit reserved for dead spacecraft or to slow the craft for reentry. The goal is to reduce the likelihood that derelict spacecraft in low-Earth orbit will collide, adding to an already worrisome collection of spent boosters and dead satellites orbiting Earth. Collisions between these objects generate a tenuous but troubling cloud of debris that has threatened active spacecraft, including the International Space Station and the space shuttle.

Solar sails are far lighter and cost far less than the motors and fuel craft currently must carry for deorbiting, Alhorn says.

Even as NanoSail-D prepares to spread its wings, the Planetary Society has embarked on a three-step program of solar-sail development. It comes on the heels of a 2005 attempt to launch the organization’s Cosmos 1 solar-sail demonstration craft. The Russian rocket lofting the craft failed before the craft could reach orbit.

LightSail 1, which the Planetary Society says it hopes to launch during the first half of this year, would head directly for an orbit roughly 440 nautical miles above Earth. There, the influence of sunlight on the craft would exceed that of Earth’s atmosphere, allowing for the controlled solar-sail flight the group hopes to achieve. LightSail 2 would be larger, last longer, and carry scientific payloads for earth observation. If all goes well, LightSail 3 would be designed to travel farm from Earth to provide early warning of solar storms that erupt from the sun.