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Monday, 22 May 2017

10 CRAZIEST POST OFFICES ON EARTH (AND BEYOND)


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10 Craziest Post Offices on Earth (and Beyond)
By Kristine Alexander,
Toptenz, 22 May 2017.

Going to the post office can be one of the most mundane - and dreaded - items on your to-do list. But if you’ve ever had the chance to visit any of the outposts below, you know that not all post offices are boring. Here are 10 crazy post offices that make mail delivery seem exciting…

10. Peach Springs and Supai, Arizona, USA

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The post office in Peach Springs, Arizona isn’t much to look at - just a squat yellow brick building that seems about the right size for a town with a population of just over 1,000 residents. The physical facility is unremarkable, except for one unusual feature - the only walk-in freezer found in a post office in the continental US. Why does it need this? The Peach Springs post office has a very unusual mission - delivering mail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon - and that cargo includes a lot of perishable groceries. The tiny town of Supai, populated by a few hundred members of the Havasupai tribal nation, sits at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Supai has its own tiny post office, and residents and tourists are relying on the USPS to deliver all the provisions that aren’t otherwise available at the bottom of the canyon.

So, after the mail makes the 70-mile trip to the canyon rim from Peach Springs, how does it get down to Supai? Helicopter transport is expensive and unreliable, as choppers can’t fly during periods of high winds. Enter the “mule train,” a caravan of up to 50 horses and mules, guided by intrepid riders, carrying up to 200 pounds each of mail and packages that make the 8-mile trek down to the base of the canyon and then eventually back up, carrying outgoing mail and trash. At least 2 mule trains are operating at any given time, so the mules, horses, and riders are able to rest overnight in the village before making the return trip back up the next day. Mail sent from Supai bears a special postmark, indicating that it traveled by mule train to reach its destination. Despite the inherent difficulty of the journey and the extreme conditions faced by riders and mules, scheduled mail delivery has only been skipped twice since 1999.

9. Inside the Eiffel Tower

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The Eiffel Tower holds a lot of history within its iconic frame, which was originally constructed for the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. It also holds shops, restaurants, a champagne bar, a conference room, a replica of Gustave Eiffel’s original office at the top of the tower, and one more surprising facility: a post office, which is found on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower’s south pillar.

While this post office may seem to be a present-day concession to tourists, the Eiffel Tower has had a post office since it has been open to the public (it was, after all, built for an exposition designed to attract visitors from around the world). The original post office was situated at the top of the tower, where, after riding an elevator, fairgoers could mail postcards from more than 900 feet above ground. Postmarks from the original post office read “Sommet de la Tour Eiffel” (Summit of the Eiffel Tower), or, for less intrepid tourists, after the ground floor post office was added, “1er Etage de la Tour Eiffel” (First floor of the Eiffel Tower) while the contemporary Eiffel Tower post office offers a more generic postmark, which doesn’t specify its less exalted present-day location within the tower.

8. Mount Everest Base Camp, Nepal

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With post offices closing by the hundreds across the globe - including in the US, the UK, South Africa, and Germany - you may find yourself complaining about the inconvenient “trek” to a more distant post office or having to contend with more-limited operating hours in your local branch. However, one post office can put issues of accessibility and availability in perspective - the China Post office located in the Mount Everest Base Camp.

The post office, which is actually more of a post tent, has been present (seasonally) at the Everest Base Camp since 2008. Sitting at 5,300 meters, it’s purported to be the world’s highest post office. However, because of the extreme weather conditions at this altitude, the post office has a rather short operating window - from late April to August each year, when conditions permit a temporary road to open up from base camp to the town of Tingri. This remote outpost operates from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during those months, not including a noontime break for the post office’s three workers (apparently, there is no altitude at which postal workers will not adhere to their break schedules). There is a markup on the usual postcard rate to compensate for the challenges in transporting mail from the top of the world to its destination - as of 2016, the post office charged about US$1.45 to mail a postcard to the UK, whereas elsewhere in Nepal, mailing a postcard would cost about US$0.30.

7. Underwater (in Vanuatu)


Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific, faces a potentially grim future as the result of climate change, with some experts suggesting much of the archipelago could eventually be submerged because of rising sea levels. However, there is one facility in Vanuatu that is already (deliberately) submerged beneath the tides - the world’s only underwater post office, located within Vanuatu’s Hideaway Marine Sanctuary.

The post office sits about 10 feet below the surface on the ocean floor. Opening hours are posted on a nearby beach and a special flag is hoisted to float on the surface when the postal workers (wearing scuba equipment) are staffing the post office. The post office has been open since 2003 and several Vanuatu Post staff members received open water dive training to be able to man the location. Divers or snorklers are able to mail special waterproof postcards at the underwater outpost (if snorklers can’t dive down to the post office, staff members will help get the postcard down to the ocean floor). Because the postcards can’t be cancelled using traditional ink, Vanuatu Post developed a special embossing device to cancel the postcards.

6. Aogashima Island, Japan (…on an active volcano)


Why would you put a post office on an active volcano? Even Vanuatu Post (yes, Vanuatu is apparently at the epicenter of postal innovation), only put a postal box on the crater of Mt. Yasur, where visitors can mail letters steps away from molten magma spewing into the air. However, on Japan’s Aogashima Island, there’s really nowhere else to put a post office - the island is a volcano (actually 4 overlapping calderas).

The population of the isolated island, less than 200 people, are served by a tiny post office which transmits mail to and from mainland Japan (Tokyo is about 200 miles to the south of the island). Life on the island can be described as “sleepy,” with residents (mainly farmers and fishermen) enjoying the slow pace of island life, the beauty, and volcanic hot springs that comprise the island. However, the volcano is still considered active. The last time the volcano erupted (in 1785), about half the island’s inhabitants perished, though modern-day inhabitants have the benefit of a volcano alert system that has been operated by the Japan Meteorological Agency since 2007. As of 2017, no alerts have been issued for the island, meaning that Aogoshima’s population, and its tiny post office, have had no cause to consider moving away from their volcanic outpost.

5. Ny-Alesund, Norway

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Ny-Alesund is the world’s northernmost civilian settlement - an unincorporated town on a peninsula, home to more than 10 scientific research stations that draw scientists from around the world, 30 year-round residents, and as many 120 residents during the summer. It is also the site of the world’s northernmost post office. Whereas the town’s origins are related to mining and expeditions to the North Pole, today, the town’s activity is largely driven by research and tourism. Given that the town now enjoys fiber optic internet connections to the rest of the world, Ny-Alesund’s tiny post office exists largely to serve tourists, who arrive at the town via cruise ship.

Ny-Alesund has long served as a base for expeditions to the North Pole and, given that it is the most proximate post office to Santa Claus’ North Pole workshop, you might expect that the post office is busy processing letters to Santa from children across the globe. However, Santa’s mail does not pass through Ny-Alesund. Instead, that flood of Christmas correspondence is handled by the United States Post Office in North Pole, Alaska.

4. J.W. Westcott II, Marine Post Office


Even as the US Postal Service makes cutbacks, at least one US post office has found a way to stay afloat…literally. The J.W. Westcott II, a 45-foot mail boat that serves freighters traversing the Detroit River, is the nation’s (and likely the world’s) only floating post office.

The J.W. Westcott Company of Detroit has been conveying messages between merchant sailors, who are often aboard ship for months at a time, and their loved ones since 1874. Mail delivery began in 1895 and the boat has been a registered post office since 1948. The company motto is “mail in the pail,” which literally described how the mail, even today, is often hoisted aboard freighters using a rope and a bucket. The J.W. Westcott II even has its own zip code - 48222 - and mail delivered to the freighters is to be addressed:
Vessel Name
Marine Post Office
Detroit, MI 48222
Like many post offices, the J.W. Westcott has seen a decline in mail volume, as email enables families and friends to stay in touch more immediately, even aboard ship. However, the company, which also delivers for UPS and FedEx, reports that it has seen an increase in package delivery. The company’s contract with the USPS runs to 2021, and the company’s owner sees a long future for his floating post office, pointing out that he has diversified into personnel transportation and that drone technology may never be cost-effective enough to compete in the delivery of low-value bulky goods like paper towels.

3. The Washington Park and Zoo Railway at the Portland Zoo, USA

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Today, the idea of a post office on a train may seem like a quirky novelty, and it doesn’t help that the only railway left in the US that offers mail service and its own authorized postal cancellation, was originally planned as a “kiddy train” at the zoo and was sited to serve Oregon’s 1959 Centennial Celebration. But while “mail by rail” now seems like an anachronism, it was once the gold standard for express mail delivery in the United States.

From 1862 to 1977, the Railway Post Office (RPO) operated postal cars, which offered mail sorting and cancellation on trains that crisscrossed the country, operating on 794 routes at its peak. However, as mail sorting became an automated task, it was increasingly moved to and from large regional processing centers by truck. While the Washington Park and Zoo Railway offers the only postal car operating in the US on a regular basis, another mail car recently rolled again. The 40th anniversary of the last RPO rail train was celebrated on May 6, 2017 (which is National Train Day, in case you didn’t mark your calendar), with the Northern Pacific #1102, its RPO car (one of only two known to still be in working order) and postmark coming out of retirement for a one-day commemorative mail run.

2. Penguin Post Office, Antarctica


One continent’s most popular tourist attraction is its post office. If you guessed Antarctica, which, despite its abundance of natural beauty, has few other tourist facilities to compete with its tiny post office, you’re right! The so-called “Penguin Post Office” is located on the Antarctic Penninsula at Port Lockroy, Antarctica, making it the world’s most southerly post office.

The post office, which is operated by the UK Heritage Trust on behalf of the government, is open for less than 5 months a year (during the Antarctic summer from November to May). Who uses the post office? While Port Lockroy has thousands of residents, most of them are penguins, so the 70,000 post cards that are sent annually from the office come mostly from the 18,000 or so tourists who arrive every year via cruise ship.

Manning a post office at the bottom of the world, a role that pays $1,700 a month, and involves, as one member of the four-person team staffing the post office put it, “being confined to an island the size of a football pitch,” may not seem like everyone’s cup of tea. Nonetheless, hundreds of applicants have vied for a spot in recent years, perhaps inspired by documentaries on the Penguin Post Office that aired on the BBC and PBS.

1. China Post Space Office aboard the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft, 213 miles above Earth


The final post office on our list is out of this world - literally. Established in 2011, the “China Post Space Office,” has two outposts - one on the ground of mission control at the Beijing Aerospace Command and one more than 200 miles above the Earth in the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft. The post office even has its own zipcode - 901001 - and a special postmark that reads “Beijing” and “Space” in simplified Chinese.

Mail will be processed through the terrestrial branch, but emails can be routed through a computer aboard the unmanned spacecraft before returning to Earth to be printed out for commemorative mail. While this roundabout virtual space mail may be exciting only to true space aficionados, officials have indicated that future iterations will allow the public to send letters to astronauts and/or allow physical mail to be transported to space before returning to Earth for delivery.

Top image: Penguin Post Office at Port Lockroy, Antarctica. Credit: Christopher Michel/Flickr.

[Source: Toptenz. Top image added.]

INFOGRAPHIC: 21 IDIOMS WHICH LITERALLY MAKE NO SENSE WHEN TRANSLATED


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Idioms are probably the biggest quirk in the any language, and every language has them. But when translated into English, some foreign idioms are confusing, if not downright hilarious. The following infographic by Citybase Apartments brings you 21 idioms which literally make no sense when translated!

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[Source:  Citybase Apartments.]

Sunday, 21 May 2017

TOP 10 ENDURING CONSPIRACY THEORIES ABOUT TRAGIC EVENTS


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Top 10 Enduring Conspiracy Theories About Tragic Events
By Estelle Thurtle,
Listverse, 21 May 2017.

Some conspiracy theories never die. Despite proven facts to the contrary, certain people choose to believe that something sinister must be behind the world’s most tragic events. On this list are examples of lasting conspiracy theories about infamous tragedies in history and modern times.

10. The Titanic Never Sank

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Photo credit: Willy Stower

The story of the Titanic needs no introduction. The famous ship sank 105 years ago, and since then, movies, songs, and plays have continued to keep the tragedy alive. Conspiracy theories about the sinking are also thriving, including a persistent one that states the Titanic never actually sank.

According to this theory, the Titanic was swapped with her sister ship, the Olympic, in an elaborate insurance scam devised by J.P. Morgan, the owner of White Star. The Olympic was involved in two accidents at sea just months after it was launched in 1911. The ship allegedly suffered almost irreparable damage, which would have meant financial ruin for White Star. (The company was already in financial trouble.)

Therefore, the theory goes, the Titanic and the Olympic were swapped, leading to the Olympic sinking in a “staged” accident. Meanwhile, the Titanic carried on under the name Olympic.

Author Robin Gardiner explored this theory in his 1998 book, Titanic: The Ship That Never Sank? He wrote that the Olympic was photographed as having 16 portholes and the Titanic as having 14. However, when the Titanic sailed on its maiden voyage, it also had 16 portholes. Gardiner also wrote that there were rumors among laborers of the insurance scam, leading them to refuse job offers aboard the Titanic.

Further “evidence” of the conspiracy is presented in the form of several high-profile passengers canceling their trips on the Titanic mere days before the voyage. Those lucky passengers included J.P. Morgan himself.

9. UFO Prevented Blast At Chernobyl

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Photo credit: Tiia Monto

In April 1986, a safety test at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant went disastrously wrong. It led to a massive steam explosion and open-air graphite “fire” that spread quickly throughout the machine shop and headed for the third generating unit. The capacity of the generating unit was slowly decreased. Eventually, the emergency cooling system was shut down to try to stop the reactor.

However, an energy control officer did not allow the fourth generator to be stopped. So it was completely destroyed by the extremely hot steam. It was fortunate that the fourth generator did not explode as it contained around 180 tons of enriched uranium. Had it exploded, it would have blasted away half of Europe.

Two years after the disaster, a conspiracy theory started making the rounds about what may have prevented the fourth generator from exploding. People came forward to say that they had seen a UFO hovering over the unit for at least six hours. During that time, it managed to reduce the radiation level four times. These eyewitnesses believe that the UFO was the only reason the generator was destroyed by a thermal blast instead of an explosion.

8. The Indian Ocean Tsunami Was Caused By A Nuclear Experiment

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Photo credit: Philip A. McDaniel

It seems that even natural disasters can’t just be that: natural. Not long after the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, rumors began making the rounds that nature wasn’t to blame for the disaster.

Settled deep in the heart of the Muslim community, the theory still told to this day is that the tsunami was really the result of a nuclear experiment by India that was supported by the US and Israel. At the time, several newspapers reported that India had purchased nuclear technology from the aforementioned countries and was experimenting with “destroying” or “exterminating” highly populated areas.

The highest number of fatalities occurred in densely populated Muslim regions of Southeast Asia, which only served to strengthen the conspiracy theory.

7. The BP Oil Spill Was Caused By ‘Eco-Warriors’

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Photo via Wikimedia

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010 infuriated millions around the world, especially those with a soft spot for nature who want to protect Earth at all costs. The disaster prompted a massive response from volunteers to help clean up and protect the surrounding areas and wildlife.

The timing of the disaster, however, gave rise to multiple conspiracy theories. As the rig sank on Earth Day, many believe that so-called eco-terrorists or eco-warriors caused the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon to protest offshore drilling and the oil industry as a whole. US President Barack Obama’s order to deploy a SWAT team to the disaster scene confirmed this in the minds of conspiracy theorists because SWAT teams are usually present when terrorist attacks occur.

Other theories include North Korea striking the oil rig with a torpedo, the Russian government sending a message, the US itself being responsible for the explosion, and God taking revenge on the US for turning its back on Israel at the United Nations.

6. Flight 587 Crash Was Deliberate

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Photo credit: NOAA

Two months after the terror and mayhem of 9/11, tragedy struck again. American Airlines Flight 587, an Airbus A300, crashed mere moments after takeoff from JFK Airport. The plane went down in Belle Harbor, Queens, killing 265 people.

The cause of the crash was established to have been wake turbulence from another plane. This led the first officer of the AA flight to overuse the rudder controls, which caused the vertical stabilizer to snap off. Both engines and the tail section fell off before impact.

Only days after the accident, a conspiracy theory appeared on the Internet. Geoff Metcalf wrote an article about it on WND, affirming that he (and many others) believed that the crash was no accident.

Instead, he believed that the plane had been sabotaged and asked an experienced pilot for his opinion. The pilot confirmed that he had never heard of a plane experiencing the loss of its tail section and both engines at the same time.

In his article, Metcalf also mentioned that eyewitnesses saw fire at the plane’s fuselage before the tail section and engines broke loose. According to Metcalf, another veteran pilot dismissed the potential of another plane’s turbulence causing the problems with Flight 587, saying it was highly improbable.

5. White Widow Was Killed During Kenya Mall Attack

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Photo credit: The Guardian

As with any terrorist attack, conspiracy theories ran amok in the aftermath of the Westgate mall attack in Kenya in 2013. Although the Kenyan government stated that all the attackers were killed, there are people who believe that some attackers escaped. Other theories say that there were never any hostages despite by media reports to the contrary. One of the worst theories is that the Kenyan military prolonged the siege in order to loot the abandoned shops.

Then the Kenyan foreign minister fueled speculation that the “White Widow” Samantha Lewthwaite was one of the attackers. He mentioned that a British woman was involved and that this particular woman had engaged in terrorist acts before. Adding confusion to the theory were comments from the Kenyan interior minister that several of the militants (apparently all male) had dressed in female clothing as a disguise.

Some who believe the theory about Lewthwaite also think that she may have been killed during the attack. Apparently, a couple of soldiers told Reuters that one of the dead militants was a white female.

4. Port Arthur Massacre Was A False Flag Operation

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Photo credit: pri.org

In April 1996, 28-year-old Martin Bryant traveled from his home in New Town, Hobart, to Port Arthur, Tasmania. Arriving at a guesthouse just before noon, he entered the premises and killed the owners. Then he moved on to the Port Arthur historic site, shooting people as he moved through the cafe, gift shops, and car park. Thirty-five people lost their lives.

Almost overshadowing this horrific event were the claims that the entire massacre was fabricated. “Proof” was presented in the form of more claims that the senior Port Arthur staff members knew what was coming and went away for a seminar.

It is alleged that the Royal Hobart Hospital had an emergency plan drafted two days before the shooting. A World Press Convention in Hobart ensured that many reporters were there to cover the story. Conspiracy theorists also believe that the attack was planned for the sole purpose of introducing gun laws in Tasmania.

In early 2017, 21 years after the shooting, One Nation candidate Peter Rogers earned himself a lot of criticism by writing on his website that the Port Arthur incident was fabricated.

3. Spanish Influenza Was Caused By Vaccinations

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Photo credit: US Army

The flu pandemic of 1918 lasted two years and killed millions around the world, predominantly young adults in previously good health. The virus is said to have wiped out up to 5 percent of the world’s population at that point.

However, if the conspiracy theories are to be believed, there was no flu virus. Instead, all those people were poisoned by injections of a combination of vaccines. Many believe that the soldiers at Fort Dix were injected with this vaccine “bomb” in 1918 but that they never had swine-related flu.

This conspiracy theory also claims that the disease was seven times more rampant among vaccinated soldiers than among civilians who refused to be vaccinated. Stories of infantile paralysis striking down soldiers added strength to the theory as this type of paralysis is known to be a side effect of vaccine poisoning.

2. New Orleans Levees Were Bombed During Hurricane Katrina

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Photo credit: Infrogmation

The brute strength of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 breached the New Orleans levees in several places, causing flooding in over 70 percent of the metropolitan area. It is thought that the more severe breaches were caused by soil failure under the levees or by the levee structures themselves.

However, residents of the destroyed Ninth Ward have a different theory. Some even testified before the House Select Committee on Hurricane Katrina that they firmly believed the levees were bombed for the purpose of ethnic cleansing and that it was an act of genocide.

Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, and director Spike Lee have also confirmed that they support this theory. Lee stated that he doesn’t find it far-fetched that there would be an attempt to remove black people from New Orleans.

Naturally, it doesn’t help that levees actually were bombed in 1927 to preserve parts of the city, which caused black neighborhoods to be flooded.

1. HAARP Caused The Haiti Earthquake

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Photo credit: britannica.com

The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) has been and continues to be the center of multiple conspiracy theories. It has been blamed for natural disasters, weather modification, and even mind control.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the program has also been blamed for the Haiti earthquake in 2010. At the time, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez publicly stated his belief that HAARP or a similar program was used as a tectonic weapon to “create” the earthquake. The media in Venezuela had a field day with the story. They reported that HAARP could produce violent changes in climate and could be associated with what happened in Haiti.

Some conspiracy theorists also firmly believe that the US was conducting tests to control the weather. Supposedly, these tests went terribly wrong as the earthquake was meant to hit Iran, not Haiti.

Top image: Sea of spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. Credit: kris krüg/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Listverse. Edited. Top image added.]

Saturday, 20 May 2017

INFOGRAPHIC: A CRUDE AWAKENING…THE GLOBAL BLACK MARKET FOR OIL


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There's no disputing the fact that the oil industry is a wealth-making machine, and that the colossal amounts of money it generates have helped power some of the world's richest regimes and corporation. But this gives rise to an equally colossal problem: there are also other people or entities who wants a piece of the pie - and they’ll do anything to get their share. Every year, it is estimated that a total of US$133 billion worth of fuels are illegally stolen, adulterated, or defrauded from legit oil and gas enterprises. This infographic by Eurocontrol Technics Group highlights the global problem of fuel theft.

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Friday, 19 May 2017

13 PROMISING NEW ADVANCEMENTS IN SOLAR POWER


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The Sky’s The Limit: 13 Promising New Advancements in Solar Power
By SA Rogers,
Web Urbanist, 17 May 2017.

Even while it feels like certain things are moving backward, efforts to power the world with solar energy instead of fossil fuels continue to reach for the sky, innovating advancements that make a renewable future more achievable. Tesla’s Solar Roof tiles are about to become commercially available, flexible solar panels are cheaper and more efficient than ever, we’re several steps closer to transparent solar power-producing windows, and there’s even a product so thin and tiny it’s called ‘solar glitter.’

1. Solar Blinds by SolarGap

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Designed with apartment-dwellers in mind, these smart solar blinds are inexpensive, easy to install, and work best when the blinds are open.

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If you have a window that gets a little too sunny at some point in the day, these could be an ideal gadget to reduce your electricity costs by up to 70 percent. They work best on the outside of your window, producing up to 100 watts of electricity, which is enough for one window to charge your laptop. You can use a smart app to control the blinds and monitor how much power they’re producing.

2. Plug and Play Smart Flower Solar Device

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The Smart Flower features solar panel ‘petals’ that unfurl at sunrise, automatically directing themselves toward the sun and continuing to move throughout the day for optimal placement to produce 40 percent more energy than a static solar panel setup.

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Taking its inspiration from the shape of a sunflower, the smartflowerPOP will juice you up with 3,400 to 6,300 KWH per year.

3. World’s Largest Solar Storage Facility Works 24/7

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Tesla and SolarCity opened a 13 MW solar farm in Kauai, Hawaii featuring 54,978 solar panels and a 52 MWh battery bank.


The battery is large enough to run twenty-four hours a day and provide up to 44 percent of the island’s power, compared to its 92 percent dependence on fossil fuel in 2011.

4. Wattway: The World’s First Solar Panel Road

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There are a lot of reasons to be skeptical of a solar panel roadway, the first and foremost being that integrating an emerging technology into infrastructure may not be the best idea for long-term success. Solar power is rapidly changing, and the tech used for France’s ‘Wattway’ and similar projects will likely soon be obsolete, not to mention the probability of the panels being damaged.

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But the idea could still have weight for some applications, and Wattway is expected to generate 280MWh per year.

5. Solar Glitter Can Make Almost Anything Solar-Powered

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An innovation called Dragon SCALEs by Sandia National Laboratories acts like solar glitter, shrinking solar panels down to tiny, flexible snowflake-inspired cells that could theoretically be applied to just about anything.

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Making use of recent advancements in micro design and micro fabrication, the panels can be folded like paper, rapidly and cheaply installed, and turn just about any object into a solar power generator.

6. Retractable Solar Panels for Charging Devices

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Pull a solar panel out of thin air (or, really, a pocket-sized case) when your phone is dying and there’s no outlet handy. HeLi-on by infinityPV is a retractable, high-efficiency solar panel connected to a battery in its case that can charge small devices like smartphones, portable game consoles, flashlights and 2-way radios via a USB cable.

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While many small solar chargers can take all day to produce enough energy for a single charge, the HeLi-on claims to do so within 2-3 hours.

7. Lightweight Printed Solar Sheets

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Currently in its final set of trials, these game-changing solar panels are made by printing electronic ink onto sheets of clear plastic, so it’s lightweight and easy to ship. That could make a huge difference for regions hit by disaster that need power as soon as possible. Conventional solar panels weigh far more and are far more expensive to produce; these can be made for less than US$10 a square meter.


The inventor says the cells produce more energy from less direct light, so it can be hung onto walls, windows, vehicle surfaces, tents and other structures that currently can’t hold a heavy conventional silicon solar panel.

8. Solar Roof Tiles by Tesla

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Does anything look out of the ordinary about the roof tiles pictured above? Probably not, and that’s the point. Tesla modeled their Solar Roof tiles after traditional slate, shingle and Tuscan roofing, so anyone who’s ever protested that rooftop solar panels are ugly have less to complain about.

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Installation will start this year in the United States, and the tiles can be paired with Tesla’s Powerwall battery to convert your home to 100% renewable energy.

9. Project Sunroof by Google

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Before you invest in an expensive solar array like Tesla’s Solar Roof tiles, you might want to be absolutely sure that your location is suited for solar power production. Google’s Project Sunroof launched in Germany earlier this month, extending the ability to estimate how much solar power your roof could produce to 7 million homes.

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The free tool debuted in the United States back in 2015 - all you have to do is put in your address for a Google Earth-powered look at how many solar panels your roof could support and whether they’d be in the direct sunlight.

10. Silicon NanoParticles: One Step Closer to Solar Windows

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Infusing transparent glass with photovoltaic capabilities could truly revolutionize the solar industry, making it easier than ever before to integrate solar power production into conventional structures. Researchers at the University of Minnesota and the University of Milano-Bicocca have developed high-tech silicon nanoparticles embedded into luminescent solar concentrators for flexibility and efficiency. This could make solar windows far more commercially viable, leading to a future in which high-rise buildings can produce their own electricity and more.

11. Flexible SolarWindow Glass

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Another step forward in solar windows is the incredibly thin, bendable ‘glass veneer’ that could be applied to skyscraper, car and plane exteriors.

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Developed by SolarWindow, this flexible glass was created by applying layers of the company’s liquid Electricity Generating Coating to Corning Willow Glass and then laminating it. The result is as thin as a business card.

12. Mirrored Light-Reflecting Canopy Directs Sunlight to Solar Panels

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In an example of how the design community can produce decorative items that complement the renewable energy industry, Carlo Ratti’s Sun&Shade canopy features automatically rotating mirrors that follow the movement of the sun and direct its rays to nearby solar panels.

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The prototype was unveiled at Dubai’s Museum of the Future. The designer notes that the resulting focused beams of light would be carefully placed to avoid burning anything, an important factor considering how many mirrored skyscrapers accidentally set nearby objects on fire.

13. Solar-Powered Pipe Desalinates Ocean Water

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Proposed for the 2016 Land Art Generator Initiative by Khalili Engineers, this solar-powered pipe is covered in solar panels on its exterior, which pump seawater through an electromagnetic filtration system.

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Inside is a recreational facility for tourists to enjoy mineral salt baths and views of the sunset, all while providing drinkable water to the city of Santa Monica, California.

Top gif image: Smartflower, the world's first all-in-one solar system. Credit: Image created from Smartflower/YouTube.

[Source: Web Urbanist. Edited. Top image added.]