Energy Loop

The big picture

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It’s after dusk, but this brilliantly illuminated Ferris wheel, perched atop the Santa Monica Pier in California, is being powered by the sun. Well, sort of. During the day, its 650 solar panels generate up to 71 000 kilowatt-hours of energy—enough to spin the 27-meter-high wheel and shunt current to the power grid. After dark, it draws back the power it put in. This past summer, the park replaced an older solar Ferris wheel, which burned 5400 incandescent bulbs, with this US $1.5 million model and its 160 000 LEDs. The new wheel’s lights use only one-quarter of the energy consumed by the bulbs. What became of the older model? Sold on eBay for $130 000.

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