On the morning of March 20, 2015, a solar eclipse will pass over all of Europe, visible from Turkey to Greenland. A decade ago, that probably wouldn't have mattered to anyone except people who love astronomy (and all the schoolchildren building pinhole cameras to observe the sun.) But now, three percent of Europe's electricity grid comes from solar power, making the March event a proving ground for this renewable energy technology.
A lot of attention is paid to America's aging power infrastructure. As the 21st century continues on, and people purchase newer devices that demand more power from the grid, it's easy to miss another essential part of the power puzzle: the skilled technicians and engineers who make it all work. They're aging, and much like the parts of the grid they maintain, they'll need to be replaced in the thousands over the next decade.
The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project in Nevada is set to come online in March. Once completed, it will use thousands of mirrors to focus sunlight on a tower, melting millions of pounds of salt contained inside. The molten salt will heat water into steam, which then turns turbines and generates electricity without any carbon byproducts. There's just one little problem: During a test run on January 14, the intense heat from the mirrors reportedly incinerated and/or vaporized more than 100 birds.
In the mobile age, we're largely unfettered by wires, thanks in no small part to Wi-Fi, cellular networking, and the rise of laptops, smartphones, and tablets. But one thin tether keeps us perennially bound: power. Though battery technologies have improved, we still need to charge our devices regularly. So-called "wireless power"—charging or power transmitted to a device without the need to plug that device in—has long been (supposedly) just shy of mainstream adoption.