When featuring cool hacks repurposing one thing for something else, we prefer to focus on what we could get our hands on and replicate for ourselves. Not this one, though, as nobody else has the misfortune of being responsible for 2,000 square kilometers (772 square miles) of radioactive contaminated land like the government of Ukraine. Trying to make the best of what they have, they’ve just launched a pilot program working to put up solar power farms inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
This is sure to invite some jokes in the comments section, but the idea has merit. Thirty years of weather has eroded the worst aftermath of the Chernobyl explosion. That area is no longer immediately lethal and people have been making short visits. Spanning from safety inspectors, to scientists, to curious adventurers with questionable judgement making television shows. Supposedly, by following rules on what not to do, it’s possible to keep radiation exposure of a short visit down to the level experienced by frequent fliers. But that’s still too much radiation for long-term stay. That means no homes, office parks, or factories. No agriculture either, as plants and animals grown in the area should not be eaten.
So what’s left? That’s what Ukraine has been struggling with, as it tried to figure out something positive to offset the headaches of monitoring the area.
Well, next to the defunct power plant is the electric distribution infrastructure it used to feed into, and photovoltaic power generation requires little human oversight. Some maintenance will be required, but hopefully someone has worked out how to keep maintenance workers’ cumulative exposure to a minimum. And if this idea pans out, clean renewable energy would start flowing from the site of one of the worst ecological disasters of our era. That makes it a worthwhile hack on a grand scale.
Our Hackaday Prize Challenges are evaluated by a panel of judges who examine every entry to see how they fare against judging criteria. With prize money at stake, it makes sense we want to make sure it is done right. But we also have our Hackaday Prize achievements, with less at stake leading to a more free-wheeling way to recognize projects that catch our eye. Most of the achievements center around fun topics that aren’t related to any particular challenge, but it’s a little different for the Infinite Improbability achievement. This achievement was unlocked by any project that impressed with their quest for power, leading to some overlap with the just-concluded Power Harvesting Challenge. In fact, when the twenty Power Harvesting winners were announced, we saw that fourteen of them had already unlocked the achievement.
Each of the Power Harvesting winners will get their own spotlight story. And since many of them have unlocked this achievement, now is the perfect time to take a quick tour through a few of the other entries that have also unlocked the Infinite Improbability achievement.
Continue reading “Big Power, Little Power, Tiny Power, Zap!”
[Erik Knutzen] and [Kelly Coyne], authors of The Urban Homestead, are really into all things green and sustainable. In their blog, Homegrown Evolution, they discuss building their own solar dehydrator using plans from the February/March 1997 issue of Home Power Magazine. The dehydrator is designed by Appalachian State University’s Appropriate Technology Program. If interested, you can check out or buy other solar dehydrator designs. This seems like a great, cheap alternative to buying an expensive electric dehydrator, and you get some great advantages, like low-cost dehydrating, solar energy, and beef jerky whenever you want it. Plus, the authors point out, for most of these designs, if you remove the top box and you stick it next to a window, you’ve got a solar heater. It’s now a dual-purpose device.
Etsy places a spotlight on tinyminds, creator of the much-hyped solar robots. [Jenny], the brains behind tinyminds and self-described “all round nerd and non-stop crafter”, claims to draw inspiration for her BEAM solar bug and monster robots from things as varied as paper and wood. She describes the process of creating her robots and working with solar energy as “magical”. The fact that they’re solar-powered is a huge advantage – these “pets” never die and never need recharging, only light. Her Cthulhu robot was linked to by BoingBoing Gadgets, and is unfortunately sold out at the moment. tinyminds has plenty of other inventive, equally inspiring robots available for purchase.