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Old Posted Mar 10, 2014, 5:27 PM
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amor de cosmos amor de cosmos is offline
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Indian state signs MoU for 7.5 GW of new PV capacity
04. March 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Ian Clover

The state of Jammu and Kashmir pen MoU with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Government of India.

Senior officials from the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with India's MNRE for the implementation of 7.5 GW worth of solar power projects.

During a high-level meeting chaired by MNRE Union minister Farooq Abdullah, the MoU agreement gave the green light for a planned 5 GW capacity solar project in Ladakh and a proposed 2.5 GW project in Kargil.

The MoU was the result of a committed continuance of Indian government support for state-led initiatives, said Abdullah, who waxed lyrical on the solar potential of both regions mentioned in the draft.

Ladakh, said the minister, could quite easily add 30 GW of solar PV capacity, with this MoU the first step on a long path towards a clean and green future. The region is located in India's Himalayas and enjoys stable levels of high irradiance and an abundance of available land.

California’s Solar Demands Reshape Grid’s Energy Load
By Jason Ridge
Featured, Green Living
March 10, 2014

Renewables are beginning to make real changes to the energy grid, especially in California where solar power – in particular – has become more widely adopted. The state currently leads the US in solar energy production, and in 2012, 983 MW of grid connected PV capacity were added in the state. Growth in renewables, especially from solar, is predicted to continue affecting the use of traditional energy sources.

In the past, California has enacted several programs designed to increase the use of renewables, particularly solar (e.g. the California Solar Initiative, which expired in 2013). More recently the state passed a relatively flexible energy storage mandate, which requires utilities to acquire 1325 MW of energy storage devices by 2020.

Why include storage in renewable energy mandates? The idea of utilities using energy storage during the day (when prices from traditional energy options are higher) is relatively new and only makes sense in a renewable energy context. Thanks to solar, it’s anticipated that demand for energy from traditional sources has started to decrease during mid-afternoon when solar power is peaking. But sunset brings with it a new ramp up in power requirements just as solar generation is ramping down. This creates a spike that has been, to date, mainly responded to by bringing more generator turbine capacity online. The new model, that includes battery storage, will allow the turbines to run all day and store the excess energy created in batteries. These batteries in turn, will discharge their stored power in the early evening hours to smooth the surge in power requirements as consumers return from work and turn on air conditioners, lights, televisions, etc. This is the reverse of the way batteries have been used in the past, especially in states like California where the power demand from consumers has been steadily increasing. Southern California’s major population center around Los Angeles comprises a huge draw on power around sunset, as does the Bay Area, California’s second-largest population center. Utilities that incorporate renewables will require energy storage in order to continue to run their turbines during the day and store energy for use at sunset to smooth spikes. These ‘spikes’ are created by an increase in power usage at the intersection of a decrease in renewable power supply.

Sun setting on European solar
10. March 2014 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Investor news, Markets & Trends | By: Max Hall

The latest EPIA figures paint a grim picture of the European solar market. But outside the volatile German and Italian markets, installations in Europe stabilized at 6 GW last year.

The rapidly waning influence of European markets on the global solar industry has been illustrated by the latest figures produced by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA).

At the organization's ninth market workshop in Brussels on Thursday, the EPIA revealed Europe's share of the world's newly installed solar capacity last year was just 28%, down from 59% in 2012, as the continent was overtaken by Asia as the world's leading region for solar.

With China – with 11.3 GW of new solar – and Japan (6.9 GW) driving the Asian powerhouse, the EPIA's figures showed the amount of solar installed in former world number one Germany fell 57% to 3.3 GW thanks to planned regulatory changes with Italy's contraction even more startling – a 70% decline to 1.1 to 1.4 GW.

Those falls came despite another record year for solar with at least 37 GW added worldwide to reach a cumulative 136,7 GW, up 35% on 2012.

Canadian Solar hits go on new Ontario fab
By Ben Willis - 10 March 2014, 12:09
In News, Fab & Facilities, PV Modules

PV producer Canadian Solar has officially opened the doors of a new module factory in London, Ontario.

The facility will produce modules for Samsung Renewable Energy, which has a 300MW PV pipeline in the province.

The fab, which began operations last November, will produce Canadian Solar modules for Samsung projects including the 100MW Grand Renewable Energy Park and the 100MW Sol-Luce Kingston Solar PV project.

Samsung has signed a CA$5 million ‘green energy investment agreement’ with the Ontario government, which will eventually see 300MW of PV built and create up to 9,000 jobs.

“The London manufacturing facility will produce modules and medium voltage power stations to support the build out of Samsung's solar project pipeline and create green jobs in the Province of Ontario market,” said Shawn Qu, Canadian Solar’s chairman and chief executive.

Ontario is looking to phase out coal-fired power generation by the end of this year.

HCPV cell efficiencies to exceed 45% by 2017, says IHS
By Andy Colthorpe - 10 March 2014, 12:07
In News, Power Generation, Market Watch

High-concentration PV (HCPV) systems will reach cell efficiencies exceeding 45% by 2017, while the world’s biggest regional markets for HCPV will be in the United States and central America, according to a new report by analysis firm IHS.

IHS also predicts that the competitive landscape for CPV will “liven up” over the next five years, with the market still in the early phases of growth. In a release to accompany the report, 'CPV on the edge of breakthrough', IHS says “HCPV is gradually becoming attractive in several regions of the world".

In addition to the US and Central America, the company has predicted that the HCPV market in South America will show “enormous growth”, while the Middle East and Africa will show the “greatest increase” of all regional markets. Excluding South Africa, the Middle East and Africa region will see installations boom from 1.8MW in 2012 to 155MW by 2017, with demand mainly expected to be driven by Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

South America meanwhile, will begin installing HCPV generation capacity by the end of this year, before installations surge to 560MW by the end of 2017.

China is expected to become increasingly important as a supplier of modules, but IHS also predicts the south west region of the Asian country could host “prime” HCPV locations.

Cell efficiencies for HCPV systems are currently at around 40% to 42%. IHS expects this figure to exceed 45% by 2017. According to IHS this will lead the efficiencies of commercial systems to increase by around 5% to 40%. At 40% to 42% cell efficiency, current commercial system efficiencies are at around 35%.


[ Florian Aigenr | Press Release 21/2014 ]
Atomically Thin Solar Cells
Ultrathin layers made of Tungsten and Selenium have been created at the Vienna University of Technology. Experiments show that they may be used as flexible, semi-transparent solar cells.

It does not get any thinner than this: The novel material graphene consists of only one atomic layer of carbon atoms and exhibits very special electronic properties. As it turns out, there are other materials too, which can open up intriguing new technological possibilities if they are arranged in just one or very few atomic layers. Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology have now succeeded for the first time in creating a diode made of tungsten diselenide. Experiments show that this material may be used to create ultrathin flexible solar cells. Even flexible displays could become possible.

Thin Layers are Different

At least since the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded in 2010 for creating graphene, the “two dimensional crystals" made of carbon atoms have been regarded as one of the most promising materials in electronics. In 2013, graphene research was chosen by the EU as a flagship-project, with a funding of one billion euros. Graphene can sustain extreme mechanical strain and it has great opto-electronic properties. With graphene as a light detector, optical signals can be transformed into electric pulses on extremely short timescales.

For one very similar application, however, graphene is not well suited for building solar cells. “The electronic states in graphene are not very practical for creating photovoltaics”, says Thomas Mueller. Therefore, he and his team started to look for other materials, which, similarly to graphene, can arranged in ultrathin layers, but have even better electronic properties.

The material of choice was tungsten diselenide: It consists of one layer of tungsten atoms, which are connected by selenium atoms above and below the tungsten plane. The material absorbs light, much like graphene, but in tungsten diselenide, this light can be used to create electrical power.

The World’s Thinnest Solar Cells

The layer is so thin that 95% of the light just passes through – but a tenth of the remaining five percent, which are absorbed by the material, are converted into electrical power. Therefore, the internal efficiency is quite high. A larger portion of the incident light can be used if several of the ultrathin layers are stacked on top of each other – but sometimes the high transparency can be a useful side effect. “We are envisioning solar cell layers on glass facades, which let part of the light into the building while at the same time creating electricity”, says Thomas Mueller.

Today, standard solar cells are mostly made of silicon, they are rather bulky and inflexible. Organic materials are also used for opto-electronic applications, but they age rather quickly. “A big advantage of two-dimensional structures of single atomic layers is their crystallinity. Crystal structures lend stability”, says Thomas Mueller.

Hawaii schools to install 100 MW of solar PV on microgrids

The Department of Education in the U.S. state of Hawaii has partnered with Chevron Energy Solutions (San Francisco, California, U.S.) to launch a five-year sustainability program. This will include the installation of roughly 100 MW of solar photovoltaics (PV) and 25 MW of wind to power microgrids at schools.

The multifaceted program will also feature “aggressive” energy efficiency measures and demand response. DOE does not expect the program to be run into utility Hawaiian Electric Companies' (HECO, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.) limits on PV generation due to the use of microgrids.

“Ka Hei is a comprehensive program that goes well beyond a traditional facilities improvement project but rather, focuses on driving broad-based impacts and results for the Department of Education and the communities which it serves,” notes Chevron Energy Solutions Regional Manager Brian Kaleoha.

The program will support goals set by the state in 2008 to achieve 70% clean energy by 2030.

India solar: MNRE to support 17,500 solar water pumps, 68,000 small PV systems, PV lighting systems

India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has approved INR 299 crore (USD 48 million) to subsidize the installation of 17,500 solar water pumps in the nation to support irrigation for agriculture.

The total project cost is estimated at INR 997 crore (USD 160 million), and is limited to states that are willing to contribute at least 15% of project costs.

MNRE names eight participating states including Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. MNRE will review the program in six months.

MNRE funds small PV/PV lighting program

MNRE has also committed to funding a program to subsidize the installation of 68,000 solar photovoltaic lights and small solar photovoltaic (PV) systems through various state-owned and cooperative banks under the nation's National Solar Mission (NSM).

The total cost of installing these 68,000 systems is estimated at INR 367 crore (USD 60 million), and MNRE expects to pay out up to INR 150 crore (USD 24 million) in subsidies.

The program will provide a 40% subsidiary for PV systems up to 300 watts with batteries, and 30% for PV systems up to 1 kW. The banks will provide loans for the remaining 60% of the cost at normal interest rates.

UK energy markets ‘need reform’ to unblock path for storage
By Andy Colthorpe | 10 March 2014, 6:06 Updated: 10 March 2014, 10:02

It will only be possible to unlock the potential of energy storage in the UK if the regulation of energy markets is reconfigured to reward its value, a top academic at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has said.

Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the institute, spoke at a seminar on energy storage technologies at the Ecobuild show in London on Thursday. During his talk Fox pointed out that in his view, energy storage could help Britain meet renewable energy and energy efficiency targets.

Fox also said that while current initiatives including pilot deployment programmes by government agencies such as the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) were to be welcomed, government support at present did “not meet the required ambitions". In addition to energy market reforms, Fox advocated direct government support mechanisms such as subsidies or grants for energy storage projects and research.

Speaking to PV Tech, Fox said that the lack of clear business models is a “major challenge to moving forward” with the use of energy storage in the UK.

“The way the UK energy markets are configured at the moment, energy storage isn’t rewarded for the value that it could potentially bring to the market. So we need the development of business models that enable energy storage providers and operators to essentially make money out of energy storage within the energy system,” Fox said.

“That’s all about market reform and the requirements are different in electricity, heat and transport but fundamentally it comes back to the issue that these areas are regulated by governments. The markets need to be reconfigured to allow storage to enter the market place.”

When asked by Solar Power Portal which was most important, Fox claimed that three levels of support are essential – two financial, one regulatory.

“Firstly, with technologies that are in early stages of development there needs to be an intervention by governments to enable those technologies to be demonstrated at commercial scale – that’s a direct funding, grants, awards-type of funding from DECC, or from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) or whoever but someone needs to take responsibility for enabling commercial-scale demonstrations to take place.

“Secondly once those technologies are being demonstrated at the commercial level, they clearly need an entry into market and as with all clean technologies in their initial phases for early adoption and market entry, they need some form of government incentivisation. Just like wind and solar have benefitted from feed-in tariffs (FiTs) and Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) and will benefit from Contracts for Difference (CfDs). We need a similar specific mechanism to enable energy storage to get started both at the utility level but also at the local community level.

“The third thing is – beyond that [early adoption stage] – clearly we need to make sure the market is configured in such a way that once those technologies are adopted on a critical mass level, then market forces can take over and they can do business in the marketplace.”

Schadenfreude about RWE? Think you would have done better?
March 10, 2014 - Author: Craig Morris

RWE has posted its first loss since World War II. Everyone – not only proponents of renewables – now claims that the firm’s management failed to see how renewables would affect its bottom line. That’s true, but even if they had, what should they have done? More importantly, what should they do now?

German economics daily Handelsblatt says RWE’s predicament is not its current CEO’s fault (Peter Terium), but the fault of the previous one, Jürgen Großmann, who left the firm a “dinosaur.” Der Spiegel, which complains about everything, disagrees, saying that Terium’s “strategy is complaining.” (Talk about a crow calling a raven black…)

So what exactly should the firm have done? Let’s play a little game – it’s 2000 (the year in which the German government adopted its Renewable Energy Act and the nuclear phaseout), and you are the CEO of RWE. I’m going to be the chairman of the supervisory board and tell you whether your ideas are good or bad.

The new feed-in tariffs (like the old ones) are available to everyone, so RWE can take advantage of them. You would like to invest in renewables. I’m not so sure. The return is estimated at 5-7 percent. Our capital is limited, and we are generally not happy getting less than 10 percent. Why settle for half as much?

Furthermore, we are entering the era of liberalized markets. Power firms used to sit down with the government and negotiate prices to prevent customers from being gouged – but in return, our profits were practically guaranteed. (How else do you think we managed to post a profit every single year for seven decades?) These feed-in tariffs, however, do not guarantee anything. We might get five percent, or we might lose money.

And have you thought about how renewables are going to hurt our current assets? The more we invest in solar, the more peak demand at noon time will be wiped out, which will affect our gas turbines. And wind power is produced wildly day and night. If we get too much of this (laughter in the board room), it will start cutting into the medium load and possibly even the baseload at times of low demand, such as at night – then, our coal and nuclear plants are also affected.

The board agrees not to invest in renewables (and you justifiably leave the room in a sweat, aware that we have our eye on you now…).

Fast-forward to 2005. Since last year, feed-in tariffs have been offered without limits for photovoltaics, but still only a few hundred MW a year is being installed. The wind market peaked in 2002 and has slumped noticeably since. You still think we should take renewables more seriously, but we inform you of some more urgent problems that need addressing.

Emissions trading just got started, and we are awash in cash; the allowances were handed out for free, and we have a lot of liquidity to invest. However, by 2016 most coal plants in Europe will have to close because of new emissions standards. You timidly suggest that wind, PV, and biomass could replace some of that capacity, but board members only roll their eyes and say new coal plants that fulfill these new standards should be built. Your next suggestion does make us think, however – the carbon price could go up over the next few decades, making these investments in new coal risky.

You sure got the board’s attention! But after a lengthy discussion, it is agreed that the nuclear phaseout and the new emissions standards for coal plants will simply remove too much baseload power, so investments should be made in new baseload capacity.

Fast-forward to February 2011. The economic crisis means that all bets are off. The price of carbon is headed down. Wind turbines continue to be installed at a rate of just under 2 GW per year, but solar just exploded – in 2010, around 7.5 GW was installed. Even the German Environmental Ministry has been caught with its pants down. In its “Leitstudie” (essentially, the master plan for the Energiewende, which is updated every year) of 2008 (PDF in German), they expected 7.7 GW of PV to be installed by the end of 2010 cumulatively (see Tabelle 5). By 2050, the BMU believed Germany would have 29.0 GW of photovoltaics installed (which we had in 2012).


We’ll stop this game now; I hope I’ve made my point – there is a certain logic to the conventional utility business model, and those expressing schadenfreude about RWE would hardly have navigated the firm better. We would have all failed in two ways.

First, investing in renewables was never in the interest of energy corporations. The reason why Germany succeeded in ramping up renewables is because they understood this and came up with a policy that would allow others to make these investments – citizens, energy co-ops, municipals, etc.

Second, no one expected PV to grow this fast. The sudden boom of PV has been much more disruptive than the more gradual growth of wind and biomass. I didn’t see this coming, Peter Terium didn’t, and the German Environmental Ministry didn’t. I’d wager that none of the people complaining about RWE’s shortsightedness can paste in a link in the comments below demonstrating that they knew we would be where we are today five years ago.

What should RWE do? I don’t know, and I don’t see too many good suggestions out there elsewhere – but go ahead, put yours in the comments below. Maybe we need to be open to the idea that large power corporations were needed for central-station power plants, but that their role in a renewable future will be much smaller. At the moment, even the proposal to have them leverage their size to set up an enabling infrastructure – such as charging stations for electric cars – seems unlikely. The firms don’t even have the liquidity anymore.

Last edited by amor de cosmos; Mar 10, 2014 at 6:09 PM.
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Old Posted Mar 11, 2014, 5:45 PM
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Latin America Is Emerging as a Force in Solar: Here’s What Early Developers Have Learned
Exceptions versus rules in a rapidly changing market

Adam James
March 11, 2014

Large-scale solar in Latin America’s major markets has finally had a breakthrough year.

More than 140 megawatts were connected in the last twelve months, 70 percent of that in January alone. Around 200 megawatts more is expected to be installed between Mexico and Chile before 2014 is over, according to GTM Research's Latin America PV Playbook.

As the market goes from talk to reality, market participants should start looking over their experiences and distilling some lessons learned. Evaluating what strategies were used to overcome barriers in the market is an essential part of developing a model for future growth, particularly in sorting scalable approaches in early-market development. This discussion will focus on what’s happened with financing, offtakers, land acquisition, and permitting, and offer some insight into what to expect in the year ahead.


8 Ways to Make Solar Installations Faster, Safer and Cheaper
Important installer practices that are worth the time and money

Herman K. Trabish
March 10, 2014

There are eight key installation practices that will make residential rooftop solar systems more reliable -- and help to avoid potentially expensive repair costs.

“If a million systems are installed and these roofs leak because of incorrect components or poor installation practices, we as an industry could be looking at a half a billion dollars of potential liability (estimating $500 leak repair costs per roof),” according to a new white paper jointly released by installer Cinnamon Solar, Solar Marketing Group, and mounting system specialists Quick Mount PV, HatiCon Solar and Orion Solar Racking.

Based on a review of twenty systems that have been in service for an average of ten years, the white paper "Solar Panels Last 25 Years -- But Will They Stay Safely Attached to Your Roof? The Importance of Reliable Solar Mounting Systems" describes key reliability-enhancing, cost-saving opportunities in the design of the mounting system, the attachment of the system to the roof, and the wiring, grounding, and power electronics and installation.

The most reliable systems in the review had three things in common: They followed best installation practices, used solar-specific components, and were installed by conscientious contractors. “The systems that were installed using proper mounting systems, flashed mounting points, wet-rated wiring and grounding components, and all stainless steel fasteners were still in very good shape,” the paper reports.

The key to beating leaks is the use of “flashed” mounts that create a watertight seal around the perimeter of the fastener that attaches to the underlying rafter. Improperly sized or poorly designed flashings leak. Though it is also important to fix the mounting into the roof’s rafters, it is not uncommon for installers to miss them. But no leaks were found in the review where mounting points were properly flashed, even in cases where rafters were missed. No corrosion or structural failures were found in the review when the mounting systems used were specifically designed for solar.

So why don't solar installers always use roof flashings, all stainless steel and aluminum solar mounting components, and properly sourced UL listed wiring devices? “Simple,” said Cinnamon Solar CEO and founder Barry Cinnamon. “Because doing it right may take a half a day longer and cost a few hundred dollars more."


The paper concludes with a detailed list of eight best installation practices:
  1. Mounting systems must be specifically designed for rooftop solar installations.
  2. Solar and electrical components must meet all standards, codes, and permitting requirements and be designed for wet and hot roof conditions.
  3. Structural components, including fasteners, must be stainless steel or aluminum.
  4. Roof attachments ​must ​be designed for the mounting system being used ​​and include flashings designed for th​at​ mount​ing​ ​system​.
  5. Use of the newest grounding components will maximize the system’s long-term integrity.
  6. Use of newly UL-listed power electronics such as microinverters, DC-DC converters, and string inverters will reduce arc faults that lead to shock and fire hazards.
  7. Panels, inverters, racking, grounding, and wiring with built-in or factory-assembled safety features will install faster, limit the use of inferior components, and therefore increase reliability and reduce system outages.
  8. I​nstallers ​should be chosen ​that have a track record of quality work performed by well-trained crews and​ with the expectation that they will be able to ​honor applicable warranties.

Cheapest Solar Ever? Austin Energy Buys PV From SunEdison at 5 Cents per Kilowatt-Hour
An unprecedentedly low price for a large solar project

Eric Wesoff
March 10, 2014

Texas utility Austin Energy is going to be paying 5 cents per kilowatt-hour for solar power, and it could mean lower customer rates.

City-owned Austin Energy is about to sign a 25-year PPA with Sun Edison for 150 megawatts of solar power at "just below" 5 cents per kilowatt-hour. The power will come from two West Texas solar facilities, according to reports in the Austin American-Statesman. According to reports, around 30 proposals were at prices near SunEdison’s. Austin Energy has suggested that the PV deal will slightly lower rates for customers.

This is one of the lowest, if not the lowest, reported prices for contracted solar that we have seen. Last year, First Solar (FSLR) entered a 25-year PPA in New Mexico for 50 megawatts of solar power at 5.79 cents per kilowatt-hour. That number included a significant PTC from the state. The Macho Springs project, the Austin project and most solar projects of this nature rely on the 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit.

Austin Energy's net sub-five cent price does not include any state PTC, according to Monty Humble of energy development firm Brightman Energy LLC. He said that the utility was "to be commended" for this solicitation. Humble added, "Based on our analysis, it can be done. There's not a whole lot of profit in it, but it's not a loss leader. It's a legitimate bid."

GTM Solar Analyst Cory Honeyman points out that "new PPAs signed in North Carolina fetched prices between 4.5 and 5 cents per kilowatt-hour." Like Macho Springs, those projects could also take advantage of an in-state tax credit to make the economics work. Honeyman said that none of the projects in Georgia or North Carolina were larger than 20 megawatts, so 5 cents does seem like "an unprecedented low for large-scale projects."

Bret Kadison, COO of Austin-based Brazos Resources, an energy investment firm, said this was "a highly competitive solicitation." Although historically, "Texas hasn't been a hotbed of solar, you're starting to see that change. ERCOT needs the generation."

He expects to see more solar activity "not just as a green source of energy, but as an affordable source of energy. Texas is seeing economic growth, but the power grid has not kept pace." Kadison added, "When you think about the volatility of natural gas, a 25-year PPA starts to look pretty attractive."

China’s giant 1.1GW solar PV project kicks off
By Sophie Vorrath on 11 March 2014

The development of a huge 1.1GW solar power plant project in China’s Gansu Province has begun, with China-based solar manufacturer and developer, China Singyes Solar Technologies Holdings, announcing the commencement of the 300MW ‘first phase’ in Hongshagang Industrial Park in Minqin County, Wuwei.

Development of the 1.1GW PV plant was announced by Singyes in December last year, as part of a broader deal with the Minqin County government to establish an environmental industry and clean energy development zone, including a solar R&D base.

This 300MW first phase of the solar power plant is expected to be completed by the end of 2014, and have an average annual power generating output of 480 million kWh. The overall project has a planned construction period of five years.

Aust-Israeli solar CO2 to fuel system said commercially viable
By Sophie Vorrath on 11 March 2014

One-time Australian geothermal aspirant Greenearth Energy says it has successfully proven the commercial viability of its solar powered CO2 to fuel conversion technology, aimed at reducing the emissions of fossil fuel power plants.

The ASX-listed company announced on Tuesday that Stage 2 testing of the technology, developed through a joint venture with Israeli company NewCO2Fuels (NCF), had proven the 100 per cent renewable solar driven configuration for the system, and increased the dissociation rate of CO2 into carbon monoxide (CO) and oxygen by a factor of 4 over Stage 1 testing results, released in January.

As we wrote in 2012, the technology was developed by the Israeli arm of the JV – a team headed up by Professor Jacbo Karni, who devised a method of using concentrated solar energy to “dissociate” carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide and oxygen. It can also dissociate water to hydrogen and oxygen, thus creating syngas, which can be used as a gaseous fuel, or converted into a liquid fuel, for easier storage and transportation.

In January, after completion of the Stage 1 proof of concept tests, Greenearth said NCF’s ongoing technical accomplishments had “already resulted in order of magnitude improvements” in the cost efficiency of the carbon dioxide to fuel technology.

In an ASX release on Tuesday, Greenearth said the system held “great potential” to produce a clean and renewable alternative to fossil fuels using CO2 emitted from industrial processes as its feedstock.

Two-dimensional material shows promise for optoelectronics
Team creates LEDs, photovoltaic cells, and light detectors using novel one-molecule-thick material.

David L. Chandler, MIT News Office
March 10, 2014

A team of MIT researchers has used a novel material that’s just a few atoms thick to create devices that can harness or emit light. This proof-of-concept could lead to ultrathin, lightweight, and flexible photovoltaic cells, light emitting diodes (LEDs), and other optoelectronic devices, they say.

Their report is one of three papers by different groups describing similar results with this material, published in the March 9 issue of Nature Nanotechnology. The MIT research was carried out by Pablo Jarillo-Herrero, the Mitsui Career Development Associate Professor of Physics, graduate students Britton Baugher and Yafang Yang, and postdoc Hugh Churchill.

The material they used, called tungsten diselenide (WSe2), is part of a class of single-molecule-thick materials under investigation for possible use in new optoelectronic devices — ones that can manipulate the interactions of light and electricity. In these experiments, the MIT researchers were able to use the material to produce diodes, the basic building block of modern electronics.

Typically, diodes (which allow electrons to flow in only one direction) are made by “doping,” which is a process of injecting other atoms into the crystal structure of a host material. By using different materials for this irreversible process, it is possible to make either of the two basic kinds of semiconducting materials, p-type or n-type.

But with the new material, either p-type or n-type functions can be obtained just by bringing the vanishingly thin film into very close proximity with an adjacent metal electrode, and tuning the voltage in this electrode from positive to negative. That means the material can easily and instantly be switched from one type to the other, which is rarely the case with conventional semiconductors.

Study reveals solar’s ‘energy payback’ time is 0.55 to 1.3 years
By Peter Bennett | 10 March 2014, 15:29 Updated: 10 March 2014, 18:15

The Bavarian Institute of Applied Environmental Research and Technology (bifa) environmental institute in Germany has published an eco-efficiency analysis of solar PV which reveals that the energy payback time for the technology ranges from 0.55 to 1.3 years.

The paper examines the impact of solar PV on the environment, taking into account the whole solar life cycle including manufacturing, operation and recycling.

The study analysed the various payback times of wafer-based (silicon) and thin-film systems across residential, commercial and utility-scale applications.

The full energy payback times for the different technologies can be viewed below:


Imec achieves record 8.4% efficiency in fullerene-free organic solar cells
Tue, 03/11/2014 - 9:50am

In this week’s Nature Communications imec presents the development of fullerene-free organic photovoltaic (OPV) multilayer stacks achieving a record conversion efficiency of 8.4%. This breakthrough achievement is an important step to bring organic photovoltaic cells to a higher level in the competitive thin-film photovoltaics marketplace.

Organic solar cells are an interesting thin-film photovoltaic technology due to their compatibility with flexible substrates and tunable absorption window. Although the power conversion efficiency of organic solar cells has increased rapidly in the last decade, further enhancements are needed to make the production of organic photovoltaics more easily scalable into industrial production processes. Imec’s organic solar cells with record 8.4% power conversion efficiency were realized by introducing two innovations. Firstly, the implementation of fullerene-free acceptor materials resulted in high open-circuit voltages and useful absorption spectra in the visible. Secondly, high short-circuit currents were achieved by developing a multilayer device structure of three active semiconductor layers with complementary absorption spectra, and an efficient exciton harvesting mechanism.

Fullerenes are the dominant acceptor materials in current OPV cells due to their ability to accept stable electrons and their high electron mobility. However, the small absorption overlap with the solar spectrum limits the photocurrent generation in fullerene acceptors, and their deep energy level for electron conduction limits the open-circuit voltage. Imec implemented two fullerene-free materials as acceptor, increasing open-circuit voltages compared to OPV cells with fullerene acceptors.

To increase the efficiency of organic solar cells, complex tandem architectures are often proposed to combine the exciton harvesting of multiple photo-active materials. The imec team now proposes a simple three-layer stack to improve the spectral responsivity range. This device architecture comprises two fullerene-free acceptors and a donor, arranged as discrete heterojunctions. In addition to the traditional exciton dissociation at the central donor-acceptor interface, the excitons generated in the outer acceptor layer are first relayed by energy transfer to the central acceptor, and subsequently dissociated at the donor interface. This results in a quantum efficiency above 75% between 400 nm and 720 nm. With an open-circuit voltage close to 1 V, a remarkable power conversion efficiency of 8.4% is achieved. These results confirm that multilayer cascade structures are a promising alternative to conventional donor-fullerene organic solar cells.

UK expected to install 2.5GW of solar in 2014: NPD Solarbuzz
By Mark Osborne - 11 March 2014, 12:45
In News, Power Generation, Market Watch

Market research firm NPD Solarbuzz has hiked its forecast for the UK PV market in 2014, due to increased project activity and the stable business environment for PV through to the next general election in 2015.

According to NPD Solarbuzz, the UK PV market is expected to install 2.5GW in 2014, up from its previous forecast of 2.27GW at the beginning of the year.

Despite the severe winter weather experienced in the UK, the strong pipeline of ground-mounted PV projects are benefiting from weakness in other European markets with adequate supply of PV modules and inverters.

With a rush to complete projects under the 1.6ROC scheme ongoing, NPD Solarbuzz reports that project developers are increasingly confident that the new 1.4ROC payments provide adequate ROI for continued project funding.

The stable government policies through to the next general election in May 2015 are providing investors and project developers with the confidence to proceed with projects, supporting continued build-out through the year, NPD Solarbuzz noted.

California electric grid sets solar generation record
Mon Mar 10, 2014 7:15pm EDT

(Reuters) - California set back-to-back solar power records last week, the state grid operator said on Monday.

The amount of electricity produced from carbon-free solar facilities connected to the grid reached 4,093 megawatts on Saturday, surpassing the day-earlier record of 3,926 MW, the California Independent System Operator (ISO) said in a statement.

With 5,231 MW, California leads the nation in installed solar generation, including thermal and photovoltaic facilities, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Power generated from solar has more than doubled from June 2012 when the ISO recorded 2,071 MW of peak production, the ISO said.

"This shows that California is making remarkable progress in not only getting new resources approved and connected to the grid, but making meaningful contributions in keeping the lights on as well," Steve Berberich, president the California ISO, said in a statement.

Electricity was being produced by 78 percent of the state's installed solar capacity Saturday, well above the 20 percent of nameplate electric capacity solar plants typically produce on an annual basis, according to the Electric Power Research Institute.

The record solar generation accounted for about 18 percent of the state's 22,700-MW demand on Saturday, the ISO said, with the ability to supply about 3 million homes.

"The milestones illustrate that we are well into a new era when clean, renewable energy is shouldering its share of our electricity needs," Berberich said.

IRENA to develop electricity storage roadmap
By Andy Colthorpe - 11 March 2014, 11:35
In News, Power Generation, Grid Connection

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) will host a workshop later this month aimed at kick-starting the production of a roadmap for the future deployment of energy storage.

The workshop will take place at this year’s Energy Storage Europe conference and exhibition, the third annual edition of the event, hosted in Dusseldorf, Germany, from 25 to 27 March. The IRENA workshop will take place on 27 March.

The event is aimed at defining how energy storage technologies can assist the increasing deployment of renewable energy generation. By bringing together 50 workshop participants, IRENA said it would seek to identify and evaluate various technologies and applications of energy storage and through that begin to establish a roadmap for fostering the growth of energy storage, with particular regard to electricity storage.

Energy storage is an expansive field with many possible applications and many possible technologies – attendees at the workshop will work together to highlight the appropriate applications for various energy storage technologies and find common ground on best practise and education, IRENA said.

According to IRENA literature, in some countries, energy storage - and electricity storage in particular – can mitigate the impact of adding variable electricity generation from renewables, while in other countries, the need to mitigate impact of renewables is less of a driver for deploying storage.

However, IRENA said: “In both cases, electricity storage technologies provide new opportunities for restructuring the power system. For emerging economies or isolated states, it will even allow leapfrogging to new grid systems that are more decentralised, more variable, and run without marginal costs.”
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Solar Financier OneRoof Now Public on TSX via Reverse Merger
The old reverse merger trick

Eric Wesoff
March 11, 2014

OneRoof Energy, a solar financier, is gaining access to public funding as a newly-public company -- on Tier 2 of the TSX Venture Exchange (TSXV) under trading symbol "ON" according to a release issued today.

The residential solar industry is about customer acquisiiton, channel strategy, new business models and an all-of-the-above approach to raising capital to finance PV rooftops.

OneRoof representatives have labeled the reverse merger transaction a part of "ongoing activities to continue to raise funds."

This is how we parsed the deal, with help from a few smart colleagues, in earlier reports:

Carlaw is a Canadian capital pool company or "blind pool vehicle" with no assets but cash. "A capital pool company (CPC) uses its cash holdings to evaluate promising businesses or assets that it would acquire in a qualifying transaction, which it has to complete within 24 months of listing," according to Investopedia. OneRoof intends to reverse-merge into Carlaw and use its capital-raising ability as the “qualifying transaction” that keeps Carlaw listed on the TSXV. A OneRoof subsidiary will raise C$55 million from Canadian investors prior to the merger. At the time of the merger, OneRoof's financing subsidiary and OneRoof will merge into the Canadian shell company through a "three-cornered merger." OneRoof will then rename the company and appoint directors and officers. Desjardins Capital Markets is the lead agent.

It was a transaction not for the faint of heart, said one of the Canadian translators. And pending some approvals, it looks like it is going through.

Despite the contortions needed to make this kind of deal happen, it's evidence of the creativity that solar companies show in accessing capital (see SolarCity securitization, SolarCity crowdfunding, Mosaic loans, etc.) It means that Canadian investors can invest in a public "Canadian" solar financing firm. It will also illustrates capital's hunger for solar investments.

Massachusetts: The Commonwealth of Solar
The non-residential market continues to pave the way for the Bay State.

Mike Munsell
March 12, 2014

Massachusetts is known for many things: the first Thanksgiving, an unwavering dedication to Dunkin' Donuts coffee, Greentech Media’s global headquarters, Boston accents, and the best clam "chowdah" in the country. It might soon add another defining trait: solar energy.

According to the recently released U.S. Solar Market Insight report, Massachusetts installed 237 megawatts of solar PV in 2013, doubling its cumulative capacity. That puts the state in fourth place in the United States, ranking behind only California, Arizona, and North Carolina.

Half of all installations in Massachusetts occurred in the fourth quarter of the year, led by the non-residential (i.e., commercial) sector with 95 megawatts installed. In fact, Massachusetts installed more non-residential solar last quarter than did any other state in the U.S., driven in large part by the SREC I interconnection deadline of December 31, 2013.


Homeowners Want the Option to Go Solar
Consumers are open to buying solar power from the utility or a third party.

Herman K. Trabish
March 12, 2014

U.S. homeowners are concerned about the cost of solar, but want it as an option, according to a recent survey conducted by Zogby Analytics and commissioned by Clean Edge and SolarCity.

The survey found that 75 percent of U.S. homeowners opposed utilities limiting their access to alternative sources of electricity. It also showed that 73 percent of homeowners will buy solar from utilities that sell it -- but they will buy it from other energy providers as well.


Mexico Boosts Its Global Solar Appeal, Now No.3 behind South Africa and Turkey
Design & Supply Chain, Design & Supply Chain Media
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 5:00 am EDT

Mexico Boosts Its Global Solar Appeal, Now No.3 behind South Africa and Turkey

Barcelona, Spain (March 12, 2014)—Mexico in the first quarter raised its attractiveness profile in the global photovoltaic (PV) market to close in on reigning leaders South Africa and Turkey, while the Philippines is now in the top 10 among the most appealing PV markets for the first time ever, according to new analysis from IHS Technology (NYSE: IHS).

Approximately 300 megawatts (MW) of solar projects are currently under construction in Mexico, of which 100 MW broke ground in the last quarter. The increased construction activity has pushed up Mexico’s solar attractiveness index to 43 from 40, making it No. 3 overall. A total of 327 MW is expected to be installed in Mexico this year, IHS predicts.

Outranking Mexico are South Africa in first place, with an index score of 67, and Turkey in the runner-up position, with a score of 45. In fourth place is Israel with a score of 42, followed by Switzerland with 40, as shown in the attached table. Last year’s No. 3 player, Romania, has fallen out of the top five and is now in ninth place, after solar subsidies there were cut in half in January.

The IHS attractiveness index for PV markets rates the allure to prospective investors, developers and manufacturers of emerging solar markets in countries throughout the world. Countries are rated in four categories, including macroeconomic climate, potential market size, project profitability and pipeline maturity.

Top 10 Solar PV Markets Illustrate Shifts in Global Demand
Posted by Michael Barker in Solarbuzz, Solar on March 11, 2014 | No Comments

The top 10 global PV markets accounted for over 80% of end-market demand in 2013. However, each of these markets has unique characteristics that drive demand, ranging from individual policy and regulatory structures to differing customer preferences and business models. These factors can lead to dramatically different market sizes and growth rates.

Looking at the growth rates of these countries in 2013, we can see a distinct trend that shows the shift of end-market demand away from Europe and towards Asia. In fact, according to the Marketbuzz 2014 report, the three fastest growing markets in 2013 were Japan, China, and Thailand, each more than doubling their end-market demand levels over the previous year. Conversely, three of the top European markets saw end-market levels decline in 2013, with only the United Kingdom showing growth.


NextEra Energy wins approval for 750 MW Californian solar park
12. March 2014 | Markets & Trends, Investor news, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Ian Clover

Approval for the 4,400-acre McCoy Solar Energy Project in Riverside County has finally been granted by county supervisors.

California's solar PV pipeline grew a lot wider this week with the announcement from Riverside County that supervisors have approved plans from NextEra Energy to build a 750 MW, 4,400-acres solar plant near the town of Blythe.

The McCoy Solar Energy Project has been years in the making, with Riverside County supervisors delaying approval last month as the Office of County Counsel vetted last-minute details.

But this week the plans have been approved, permitting NextEra Energy to begin work on constructing the plant during an operation that is expected to create as much as 600 jobs in the local vicinity.

"There's no reason at all why this project shouldn’t move forward and create some jobs," said district supervisor John Benoit. Opposition came from questions over the impact the site's construction would have on local communities and the environment.

Chile to add two new solar PV plants totaling 240 MW
12. March 2014 | Investor news, Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Ian Clover

First Solar secures approval for 162 MW project, while Irish developer Mainstream Renewable Power inks 88 MW deal.

Chilean authorities have this week given the green light to two large-scale solar PV projects that will add 240 MW of solar capacity to the nation's portfolio.

First Solar's Chilean subsidiary, First solar Energia Ltda., has been granted permission to develop a 162.3 MW solar project in the country’s Atacama region, and Irish solar energy developer Mainstream Renewable Power will enter the Chilean market in 2015 after securing approval for its 88 MW Solar Estancia project in the Coquimbo region.

For U.S. company First Solar, its Luz del Norte (Light of the North) PV project will cost an estimated in $370 million, with the company utilizing 1.7 million of its CdTe modules, which have been specially designed to perform in the hot, dry and dusty conditions of desert regions such as the Atacama.

News Release NR-1014
NREL Examines Solar Policy Pathways for States
February 26, 2014

The Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has published a report that aligns solar policy and market success with state demographics. By organizing the 48 contiguous states into four peer groups based on shared non-policy characteristics, the NREL research team was able to contextualize the impact of various solar policies on photovoltaic (PV) installations.

"Although it is widely accepted that solar policies drive market development, there has not been a clear understanding of which policies work in which context," lead author Darlene Steward said. "This study provides much-needed insight into the policy scope and quality that is needed to spur solar PV markets across the United States."

The report, "The Effectiveness of State-Level Policies on Solar Market Development in Different State ContextsPDF," includes statistical and empirical analyses to assess policy impacts in different situations. In addition, four case histories augment the quantitative analytics within each state grouping, specifically:
  • Expected leaders. In Maryland, a comprehensive policy portfolio with equal emphasis on all policy types is driving recent market development.
  • Rooftop rich. In North Carolina, strong interest in clean energy-related policy distinguishes it from other states.
  • Motivated buyers. Delaware's experience illustrates how targeted market preparation and creation policies can effectively stimulate markets.
  • Mixed. In New Mexico, the leading state for installed capacity in its peer group, policy diversity and strategic implementation have proven to be critical in effectively supporting the market.

The analysis shows that the effectiveness of solar policy is influenced by demographic factors such as median household income, solar resource availability, electricity prices, and community interest in renewable energy. The data also show that it’s the number and the make-up of the policies that spur solar PV markets. Follow-on research expected for release this summer identifies the most effective policy development strategies for each state context and provides strategies for states to take action.

Thinking big on energy storage can, and will, save money
By Jonathan Gifford on 12 March 2014

The market for commercial-sized battery installations is set to grow in the US, with a number of case studies demonstrating that the financials for PV plus storage on a large scale can add up.

GTM Research has released a report setting out a number of uses for battery storage for commercial electricity consumers. The cleantech market analysts believe that 700 MW of commercial storage will be installed in the US by 2020. MJ Shiao, the Director of Solar Research at GTM, said that while the commercial storage market will remain relatively modest, given that GTM forecast between 5.5 GW and 6 GW of PV installations in the US in 2014, use cases are emerging in which the finances for commercial storage installations stack up.

“Part of the issue with the growth of storage markets globally is that there are different use cases for it, it makes sense to install storage for different reasons, and that is part of the promise of storage because there are these different applications,” said Shiao. “Saying that, it’s also pretty difficult to balance them and to make the project economics work as of right now.”

GTM Research identified a number of use cases for commercial storage in its “Distribute Energy Storage 2014″ report.

One such use case is reducing peak demand. US commercial electricity customers currently often pay a kWh rate, but also a charge based up peak usage. in this case, a PV array can be effective in reducing kWh consumption, but a peak may still exist.

“It’s really difficult for PV, as it exists today, to really reduce that peak demand because you just can’t bank on it,” said Shiao. “It will work when the sun is out, but what happens when that demand happens when the system is down or in the worst case scenario, or even just when it doesn’t coincide with the solar peak?”

Where are utilities betting their billions?
By Ethan Howland
March 12, 2014

Last week, Utility Dive took a look at how NRG Energy, an independent power producer, is preparing for the changing grid system with plans for increased distributed generation, renewables, electric vehicles and energy storage. In contrast, top utility executives hardly mentioned those issues in their year-end earnings conference calls.

Instead, utilities around the U.S. are increasingly focused on building transmission lines and revamping aging infrastructure. One of the reasons, of course, is power line projects offer solid returns and can be an important part of the "back to basics" strategies some utilities are favoring.


Edison, NextEra see opportunities in distributed generation

While transmission is a major utility focus, some utility companies are also moving into distributed generation.

Edison International, for example, plans to take advantage of emerging business opportunities. “Whether its distributed solar, or let's call it more broadly, distributed energy resources. That would include solar, include efficiency programs, include storage, all of those things,” Ted Craver, Edison chairman, president and CEO, said. “We see, actually, a significant investment that needs to be made in the distribution system here in California, to really prepare the system for integrating an increase in distributed energy resources.”

Edison might also have a direct stake in distributed resources around the U.S. “We are certainly working on that,” Craver said. “We have what we think are some interesting beginnings in that area. I have kind of taken pains in the past to say, we are doing this kind of one step at a time -- it's not a bet the ranch type of deal. But I think we do see some interesting opportunities there primarily aimed at commercial and industrial customers, and would be not just in our territory, but outside.”

NextEra Energy Resources has been looking at rooftop solar as well. NextEra is focused on rooftop solar for commercial and industrial customers, but doesn't believe the residential market offers a good opportunity for the company, Moray Dewhurst, CFO, said.

In some parts of the U.S., solar is “crowding out” wind generation, Armando Pimentel, NextEra Energy Resources CEO, said during a conference call with analysts. “The economics of solar have clearly improved across the board,” Pimentel said. “It's not just the overall cost of the panel or the balance of the plant, but it's also small changes in efficiency. So although wind economics have clearly improved in some areas of the countries, primarily the West and the Southwest, it's clear that solar is a better alternative.”
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Modi Signals Solar Revolution for Power Market: Corporate India
By Natalie Obiko Pearson and Debjit Chakraborty Mar 13, 2014 2:48 AM PT

Narendra Modi hasn’t said much about how he’d govern India if he wins the general election in May. One thing is clear: he’s signaling a clean energy revolution to end blackouts and revive economic growth.

The election frontrunner pioneered India’s first incentives for large-scale solar power in 2009 in sun-baked Gujarat province a year before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh backed the technology. Modi also shook up utilities, giving his state uninterrupted electricity supplies, a rarity in India.

India for years has sought to modernize its ramshackle utilities and end power shortages that cripple industry. Swooping in by helicopter to open India’s biggest photovoltaic plant, Modi called for more environment-friendly ways to power the economy. The solar program in his home state lured investment from Essar Group controlled by the billionaire brothers Shashikant and Ravikant Ruia, and SunEdison Inc. (SUNE), backed by New York-based BlackRock Inc.


Modi’s View

“God has showered our country with an abundance of renewable energy,” Modi told the crowd of poppy-seed farmers gathered near a sea of reflective solar panels. “If these renewable resources were exploited properly, we wouldn’t have required mining coal or spending so much on importing crude and petroleum products.”

He blamed Singh’s Congress party for presiding over a “country grappling in darkness.” He didn’t give details about his own policy. Opinion polls indicate Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP will get the most seats as voters punish the ruling Congress party for the nation’s economic slump.

While Modi’s early backing of solar helped make Gujarat home to about 40 percent of India’s solar capacity, it also meant the state’s utilities signed contracts with developers at tariffs double prevailing rates before the technology’s costs plunged. His government hasn’t awarded any new solar projects in more than three years.

Industry executives believe Modi will act in favor of solar. “If Mr. Modi becomes prime minister, he has already articulated his wind and solar vision,” said Vineet Mittal, managing director of Welspun Energy Ltd., owner of the plant where Modi spoke. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he came out with a 200,000-megawatt target by 2025,” about 10 times Singh’s goal, though he said Congress would back renewables too.

Plunging Prices

For his part, Singh has spurred a 44-fold expansion in solar installations. India has 2,444 megawatts of sun power capacity, up from practically nothing in 2009. It’s forecast to be the sixth-largest market this year, behind China, Japan, the U.S., Germany and Italy, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates.

Singh’s administration intends to more than triple India’s solar capacity to 10,000 megawatts by 2017, enough for about 40 million Indian homes. It wants photovoltaics working as cheaply as coal by 2022. It’s on track to surpass those goals five years earlier than expected, aided by a plunge in solar prices and higher costs for oil, gas and coal, according to Tarun Kapoor, the joint secretary at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

“Modi has been talking of his big ideas during rallies across the country, but he has been very, very frugal with specifics,” said Satish Misra, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation think tank in New Delhi, raising doubts about his ability to deliver in an industry where state administrations hold more sway than the central government.

Solar Power When It's Raining: NRL Builds Space Satellite Module to Try
03/12/2014 07:00 EDT - 12-14r
Kyra Wiens

What if you could capture solar power in space, then send it down to Earth? What if you could launch the hundreds of modules for such a satellite, then use robots to assemble the entire array in space? You could power a military installation, a city—even on a cloudy day, even at night.

At the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), some of the brightest and most daring minds in satellites, space robotics, and radiofrequency are building the technologies that could lead to such an achievement.

Dr. Paul Jaffe, a spacecraft engineer at NRL, has built and tested a module to capture and transmit solar power. Even Jaffe admits the idea of an orbiting solar array that would beam energy to our planet seems kind of crazy. But, like most novel ideas, he says, "Hard to tell if it's nuts until you've actually tried."

As the Department of Defense (DoD) presses forward with energy security investments, solar power has already been proven in places like Hawaii and California. And ideally, a solar power satellite would provide power that was cost-competitive to what was locally available: about 10 cents per kilowatt hour in many places.

But the military sometimes has energy requirements in very remote areas. The U.S. Marine Corps has successfully used solar panels at Experimental Forward Operating Bases in the Middle East and for humanitarian assistance. Current practices—like running diesel generators, driving fuel over roads in hostile areas, or even dropping in fuel canisters with parachutes—make power extremely expensive and impact mission and safety.

With multiple, potentially hidden receivers, space solar power could ease logistics for DoD's deployed troops and remote bases.


The sandwich module: with a patent-pending "step" variation

Jaffe has built two different prototypes of a "sandwich" module. In both designs, one side receives solar energy with a photovoltaic panel, electronics in the middle convert that direct current to a radiofrequency, and the other side has an antenna to beam power away.

Jaffe sometimes gets asked about the efficiency of such a system, but the most important metric is the power cost per pound. "Launching mass into space is very expensive," says Jaffe, so finding a way to keep the components light is an essential part of his design. He can just cradle one module in his forearms.

Jaffe's research is innovative in two major ways: in design and in testing.

His sandwich module is four times more efficient than anything done previously. He also has a "novel approach to solving the thermal problem, using the 'step' module." The step module design, now in the patent process, opens up the sandwich to look more like a zig-zag. This allows heat to radiate more efficiently, so the module can receive greater concentrations of sunlight without overheating.


From module to space solar array

One of the primary objections to space solar power is the idea of an antenna shooting a concentrated beam of energy through our atmosphere. But we already use radiofrequency and microwaves to send smaller amounts of energy all the time. "People might not associate radio waves with carrying energy," says Jaffe, "because they think of them for communications, like radio, TV, or cell phones. They don't think about them as carrying usable amounts of power."

There are a few ways to mitigate this concern. First, the antenna sends energy only to a specific receiver that asks for it. Second, using microwaves to send energy may be less objectionable than the higher power density required for lasers. Third, sending the energy on a lower frequency increases the size of the antenna and receiver, but decreases the concentration of power. As a side benefit, it also lessens the potential disturbances in the ionosphere to interrupt power: "At 2.45 gigahertz," says Jaffe, "you'll get power in a monsoon."

From Jaffe's perspective as an engineer, however, "The most sobering thing about all of this is scale." He imagines a one kilometer array of modules-not to mention the auxiliary sun reflectors. The International Space Station is the only satellite that, to date, has come close. It stretches a little longer than an American football field; the array Jaffe is talking about would span nine.


Space solar power may be sooner than you think

The International Academy of Astronautics recently predicted space solar power could be viable within the next 30 years. (The idea has been in circulation since the 1970s, promoted in part by a demonstration in 1964 of a beam of microwave power keeping a helicopter aloft.)

But we may be approaching a turning point. In 2009, the California utility company, PG&E, committed to buying such power from Solaren by 2016.

Jaffe's aware of two other projects seeking to turn theory into reality: "Prior to this prototyping effort, there had been two groups that made meaningful sandwich modules, both of them were in Japan. Neither of them were tested in space, and we were more than four times as efficient as the most efficient of those."

Russia, China, India, and some European countries have also expressed interest.


Panasonic Looks to California for Lessons on Solar-Storage Integration
A network of solar-linked energy storage, dubbed “LiEDO,” for energy-hungry Japan—with California as the model market

Jeff St. John
March 13, 2014

Panasonic is laying the groundwork for a massive networked deployment of lithium-ion batteries in solar-equipped homes and businesses to solve Japan’s post-Fukushima energy crisis -- and it’s looking to California and other U.S. markets for the business models to make this distributed energy system work.

That’s how Hiroshi Hanafusa, head of Panasonic’s Energy Solutions Center, described the company’s LiEDO platform, first announced to the Japanese press last year, but unmentioned in U.S. news reports to date. LiEDO combines the Japanese electronics giant’s advanced batteries and energy management systems in solar-equipped buildings with a cloud-based, networked IT infrastructure, Hanafusa said at Wednesday’s Cleantech Forum in San Francisco.

That networked IT platform will both optimize each battery to extend its effective lifespan, and serve to aggregate their collective capacity for multiple energy purposes, he said. That could include storing solar PV-generated power on-site for emergency backup power and overnight use, as well as for peak shaving, demand response and other grid-aligned uses, he said.

In other words, Panasonic is “building a platform to make energy services to use electricity stored in these batteries,” he said. LiEDO is a compound coinage combining “Li” for lithium-ion and “Edo,” the name used for Japan’s capital city of Tokyo before 1868, he explained. The intent is to create a modern, sustainable city infrastructure that can achieve the low carbon emissions of Japan’s pre-industrial-age capital.

“We will start the LiEDO business next year,” Hanafusa told me in an interview after his presentation. Early versions of it are already being introduced in the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town project, he added. That's one of many Japanese "smart city" projects seeking to integrate solar PV, energy storage, smart grid and energy management systems to help the country manage the energy crisis it has faced since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown and subsequent shutdown of its nuclear reactor fleet.

Hareon Solar teaming with Shanghai Electric Power on 800MW of PV projects
By Mark Osborne - 13 March 2014, 13:35
In News, Power Generation, Finance, Project Focus

Hareon Solar and Shanghai Electric Power are to collaborate on the construction, financing and sales of PV power plants in China totalling around 800MW.

Hareon Solar said it would be responsible for pre-project development, construction and operation of the PV power plant projects, while Shanghai Chao Yang, a subsidiary of Shanghai Electric Power, would be responsible for project financing and long-term financing arrangements.

The JV plans to build the projects over a three-year period, beginning in 2014. Locations for the planned projects were not disclosed.

‘Two-thirds of German PV installers now offering storage’
By Andy Colthorpe - 13 March 2014, 11:10
In News, Power Generation, Market Watch

Over two-thirds of German PV installers are now offering their customers energy storage options, while their British and Italian counterparts are beginning to follow suit, according to a new report from EuPD Research.

In ‘European PV storage market insights 2014’, the market research firm analysed the market development of storage and surveyed the attitudes of installers towards storage in the key European territories of Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Benelux countries and France.

Countries surveyed were selected as target markets which have what EuPD calls “an attractive small system market” and where storage is already being offered to customers, to a greater or lesser extent.

While technological progress in storage is uncertain, EuPD found that in some of the key markets following Germany's lead, as many as a third of surveyed companies intend to begin offering storage to customers this year. Germany, which offers a percentage of storage system cost as a direct subsidy to consumers, leads with the aforementioned two-thirds of installers offering storage. A third of Italian installers and a third of British installers surveyed said that they would begin offering storage this year.

Report: More than 20,000 US solar jobs created in 2013
By Lucy Woods - 13 March 2014, 10:39
In News, Power Generation, Market Watch

More than 78,600 clean energy jobs were created in the US throughout 2013, according to a survey by clean tech employment research body, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).

Solar topped the count, with more than 21,600 jobs announced over the year.

The top states for clean energy employment over 2013 were: California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, New York and Missouri.

A total of 46 states announced clean energy jobs, with California topping the list accounting for 15,400 clean energy jobs.

Military installations were a key source of solar jobs, with 120 created in New Jersey by Trinity Solar, which installed PV panels at the military base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. E2 said it expected this trend to continue, with numerous military bases planning solar installations.

E2 tracked 260 projects across the US, and has tracked clean technology and transportation jobs since 2011.

In the fourth quarter E2 tracked more than 70 projects, which together created an estimated 13,000 jobs. The quarterly spike is thought to be from increased wind and solar manufacturing.

However the total is lower than in 2012, thought to be a result of concerted lobbying by the fossil fuel industry against policies favouring renewables and low cost natural gas competition.

The evolution of the other solar market
By Nigel Morris on 13 March 2014

So, you finally have your dream campervan.

After decades of planning, you’re finally on the road. It’s jammed to ceiling with superfluous junk, the kids are whipping up road-trip funk to be feared and you have your fridge, water and solar systems installed. You are living the dream and your simple task is to drive tens of thousands of kilometres and keep everything running perfectly in the most remote country in the world.

Don’t tell her how nervous you are, just smile.

This was my reality just a few years ago and I learned some valuable lessons about “that other solar market” – mobility.

The mobility market includes campervans, caravans, boats and some industrial applications and is a subset of the wider remote generation market. For years it has been a small but stable opportunity that has grown steadily as solar prices have fallen, fuel costs have risen and technology has helped create better solutions. Over the years I’ve helped design and install many systems and worked with hundreds of businesses who are involved.

The evolution of this other market just keeps on happening.

On our trip of a “mobility” lifetime a few years ago, the inevitable happened; our battery failed. We have a pretty good little set up; solar laminates embedded into the pop-top roof, a backup mains charger, an intelligent alternator charger and a dedicated second battery.

However, as the relentless top end heat and our consumption increased on our holiday, the fridge energy use increased dramatically, pounding our poor little battery into submission. It took me a little while to understand and confirm what had happened and even longer to justify my alleged expertise and preparation to my frustrated family.

Solar revolution for off-grid Thailand

SunSawang is a firm whose mission is to bring affordable solar power to off-grid villages along the Thai-Burma border. It does this by training local technicians, installing solar energy systems and promoting this technology among remote villages. Salinee Tavaranan, CEO and founder of SunSawang, explains how clean energy empowers local communities.

Video Link

Is It Time For A Solar + Storage Revolution?
by Zach
on March 13, 2014

Solar power has long been a dream of technologists, environmentalists, and clear thinkers of all sorts. As Thomas Edison said in 1931, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” In recent years, solar has actually become so cost-competitive that solar power is finally growing in leaps and bounds — big ones.

Many would now say that solar power is mainstream. Solar was the #2 source of electricity generation capacity in the US last year, only trailing natural gas. In several months, including January of this year, it was the #1 source. There’s a similar story elsewhere as well — in South Australia, for example, over 20% of homes now have solar panels on them!

However, almost all of these solar systems are connected to the electricity grid, and essentially use the grid as backup for when the sun isn’t shining. This is a fairly efficient system. Solar homeowners and other power plants owners are all pooling their electricity supplies in order to share their electricity when they don’t need it and borrow others’ when they need more (to put it in very simplistic terms). It’s actually a great fit for the trending “sharing economy.” However, the system is far from perfect….

Minnesota adopts first state-wide 'value of solar' tariff
By Ethan Howland
March 13, 2014

Dive Brief:
  • Minnesota regulators Wednesday approved a methodology for finding the value of rooftop solar, making Minnesota the first state to adopt a “value of solar” tariff.
  • Minnesota's investor-owned utilities can use the new tariff instead of their retail rate when crediting their customers with solar on their roofs.
  • Utilities have argued that paying the retail rate unfairly shifts costs to customers without solar. Solar advocates contend that the retail rate doesn't reflect the true value of solar.

Dive Insight:

This step by Minnesota comes as other state utility commissions are reassessing their net metering policies with a focus on finding out the value of people having rooftop solar. Minnesota's “value of solar” tariff may move us a step closer to an answer.

SolarCity to sell low-cost PV systems in Best Buy
13. March 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Ian Clover

Entrepreneur Elon Musk's solar leasing company will roll out a new sales approach at 60 Best Buy stores across the U.S.

SolarCity – the U.S. solar company that provides customers with a 20-year lease for its PV systems – has announced that it will soon begin selling its low-cost products at 60 Best Buy stores across the country.

Following a successful trial run at two Best Buy stores in California and New York last year, SolarCity will employ sales representatives at 35 stores in California, and more in Hawaii, Oregon, Arizona and New York.

Best Buy customers will be able to chat with the SolarCity sales reps, who will provide estimates of energy and cash saved, as well as giving potential customers an idea of what a PV system will look like once installed on their house.

"People go to Best Buy to buy all sorts of devices and appliances, and almost everything you buy consumes a tremendous amount of electricity – your flat screen TV, your dishwasher," said Lyndon Rive, SolarCity’s CEO and cousin to entrepreneur founder, Elon Musk. "Now we can sell a product that addresses those energy needs."
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From mines to megawatts: The promise of 'conflict-free Big Solar'
Millions of acres of degraded terrain could hold 100 times the current US solar capacity - and avert the environmental tradeoffs of blockbuster solar projects

By Garrett Hering, GreenBiz.com
14 Mar 2014

Arizona startup Green Energy Storage wants to transform an abandoned open-pit copper mine 45 miles south of Phoenix into a large-scale solar power and pumped-hydro storage facility.

Although still in the early days of development, the project, first pitched to federal energy regulators two weeks ago, could become a model for conflict-free Big Solar.

After all, contaminated former industrial sites and other degraded lands represent a relatively untapped opportunity for developers to steer clear of the litigious environmental conflicts and tradeoffs associated with large-scale solar power in ecologically sensitive and pristine areas.

One such area is the Ivanpah Valley, in the Mojave Desert on the California-Nevada Border, where BrightSource Energy recently completed its Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System - backed by Google, NRG Energy and the US Department of Energy (DOE) - amid the heightened concerns of California energy regulators over bird deaths linked to the plant's highly concentrated solar flux.

Just last week, the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife filed a lawsuit against the US Department of the Interior for approving First Solar's nearby Stateline and Silver State South projects over "grave risks" to the same threatened desert tortoise population already affected by Ivanpah.

But such controversies may not be necessary for large-scale solar power developers and their corporate and government backers.

A recent report by the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, found that the agency's "Sunshot" program goal for 2050 "could be met entirely by siting solar energy projects on disturbed and environmentally contaminated lands". That goal calls for facilitating the installation of 632GW of large-scale photovoltaic (PV) power plants and 83GW of concentrating solar power (CSP).

In fact, the report conservatively identifies 19.7 million acres of disturbed, degraded and contaminated terrain that are flat enough and contiguous enough to host about 2,000 gigawatts of large-scale solar power, or 2 terawatts.

That's roughly 100 times the installed capacity of the estimated 440,000 solar projects currently operating in the US.

One benefit of developing solar projects on disturbed and contaminated lands, according to the NREL report, is that such projects "could stimulate and revitalize local and state economies in areas without many productive land uses."

Aquion Energy Gets $56.6 Million in Financing for Battery Design
13 March 2014

March 13 (Bloomberg) — Aquion Energy Inc., a closely held developer of energy-storage systems, has received $56.6 million in equity financing to expand its operations.

The funding was disclosed in a filing yesterday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and billionaire Bill Gates are among the company’s investors, according to its website. Elizabeth Pond, a company spokeswoman, didn’t return phone messages today.

The company, based in Pittsburgh, produces aqueous hybrid ion batteries that use saltwater to conduct electricity. The technology is based on research originally conducted at Carnegie Mellon University.

Canadian Solar opens microgrid testing center
14. March 2014 | Industry & Suppliers, Investor news, Markets & Trends | By: Max Hall

The new facility at Guelph, Ontario, is part of the company's Total Solutions downstream business. The testing center was part-funded by the Ontario Ministry of Energy.

Chinese module manufacturer Canadian Solar today announced the opening of its microgrid testing center in its Canadian base of Guelph, Ontario.

Part-funded by the Ontario Ministry of Energy's Smart Grid Fund, the new center will benefit indigenous and remote communities as well as mining operations in Canada, according to today's Canadian Solar press release announcing the news.

Canadian Solar CEO Shawn Qu said the testing center – which will provide solution testing, system solution design and smart grid assessment services – is the latest part of his company's Total Solutions strategy.

Next-Generation Photovoltaic Technologies to Take Center Stage as Solar Expenditures Rebound
Category: Design & Supply Chain, Design & Supply Chain Media
Thursday, March 13, 2014 11:21 am EDT
Dateline: EL SEGUNDO, Calif.

Next-Generation Photovoltaic Technologies to Take Center Stage as Solar Expenditures Rebound

El Segundo, Calif. (March 13, 2014)—Advanced photovoltaic (PV) technologies such as diamond wire and n-type substrates will increasingly find their way into mainstream solar manufacturing, especially with capital expenditures set to bounce back this year, according to IHS Technology (NYSE: IHS).

In a move that will coincide with the launch of a new spending cycle within solar circles, manufacturers along the PV supply chain will transition from standardized technologies at present to next-generation mechanisms for solar-related mass production in the near future. Capital spending will reach an expected $3.4 billion by year-end, IHS believes, after bottoming out in 2013.

“Innovative technologies will be atop the agendas of major solar manufacturers globally now that supply and demand has come to closer alignment,” said Jon Campos, analyst for solar demand at IHS.

“While most experts thought that overcapacity issue would remain significantly longer, the fundamental assumptions made by IHS were that the industry would move toward market equilibrium behind increasing demand in the emerging markets, and that PV manufacturers would turn to advanced technologies to compete with traditional forms of energy production—assumptions that are now coming to fruition,” Campos added.

These findings can be found in the report, “PV Manufacturing Technology Report – World 2014,” from the Power & Energy service of IHS. The report delivers an in-depth look into the competitive landscape of the world’s leading solar manufacturing technologies, materials, and cost trends through 2020.

Wafer manufacturers to shift from steel wire to diamond wire

N-type cells to spark growth in monocrystalline market share

CdTe to continue dominating thin-film market

Saudi Arabia to launch 1GW solar tender ‘by end of the year’
By John Parnell - 13 March 2014, 16:14
In News, Power Generation, Market Watch

Saudi Arabia will put 700-1000MW of solar power out to tender by the end of the year, according to Vahid Fotuhi, president of the Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA).

The country has long-term ambitions to invest more than US$109 billion in solar energy but scepticism has been building with little tangible progress being made for outside observers to see.

“They [the Saudi government] want to come out with something this year,” Fotuhi told PV Tech. “If everything holds, then we will have the introductory round of projects unveiled by the end of the year. This will be roughly 1000MW, between 700-1000MW. They are targeting 40-42GW, 1GW is not that big in the grand scheme of things,” he said.

“They are in the process of screening technical advisors who are going to help them put together the blueprints for these commercial contracts and also train the local Saudis on how to oversee and implement these projects including the tendering. That’s going on now,” he added.

“This will instil a lot of excitement and a lot of confidence. People will see this is just the first step and once it is announced, within short order, they’ll see other project unveiled and the momentum will build as they get traction. This is the beginning of a very exciting chapter for the Middle East and especially for Saudi Arabia,” he added.

Determined Company Proves Solar Works In Alaska, Too
March 14, 2014 Steven Bushong : 0 Comments

“It’s a testament to hard work and training, as well as an expanding desire from Alaskans and businesses for more renewable energy,” said LIME Solar co-owner and electrical engineer Jesse Moe when asked about his company’s two year rise from a new business to the state’s top renewable energy company.

LIME Solar, founded by third generation Alaskans Jesse Moe and Chester Dyson, was formed in late 2011 and opened its doors to the public in April 2012. The company not only sells a full spectrum of renewable energy products, it also offers energy evaluation and engineering services. Its comprehensive inventory includes solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, inverters, LEDs and Grid, Off-Grid, R.V. and boat kits.

“Jesse and Chester are true visionaries,” said Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Lesil McGuire, a long-time champion of renewable energy. “LIME Solar installed the first residential grid-tied wind turbine in Anchorage in 2012, and then the first grid-tied solar array with battery backup in the Mat-Su, plus the largest solar array in Alaska in 2013 in Anchorage. It’s a remarkable business growth that’s benefiting all Alaskans,” added Senator McGuire.

LIME Solar’s efforts have blossomed statewide, including installing a University of Alaska Fairbanks sustainable-village solar array, as well as a sustainable FAA solar communications system near Juneau, Alaska, both in 2013. Additionally, LIME Solar is focusing on education across Alaska, including winning the 2013 Alaska State Fair “Best Education Booth” Award, hosting classes at Spenard Builders Supply for builders and for the Alaska Department of Corrections in three of its facilities. From free public seminars in the company’s main store, to working with the IBEW Apprenticeship program to educate electricians, to rural outreach and village classes, Moe and Dyson are striving to make all Alaskans aware of renewable energy.

GT introduces novel solar PV cell metallization and interconnection technology

GT Advanced Technologies Inc. (Merrimack, New Hampshire, U.S.) has introduced a new technology for cell metallization and interconnection that it says will provide substantial savings in both the manufacture and installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules.

GT's “Merlin” technology includes a flexible grid to replace silver bus bars, which it says will improve conversion efficiency as well as reducing the expense of silver paste. The company says modules incorporating this technology will be more reliable and durable, as well as enabling form factors that are lighter and easier to handle.

“Our Merlin technology uses mature, proven manufacturing processes to produce the flexible grids and we are confident that we can scale grid production to meet the requirements of the solar industry,” said GT President and CEO Tom Gutierrez.

“Our Merlin technology is expected to fundamentally change the way modules will be manufactured, shipped and installed in the future.”

Italy met 4.8% of electricity demand with solar PV in February

According to the latest figures from grid operator Terna (Rome), Italian solar photovoltaic (PV) plants produced 1.19 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity in February 2014, to meet 4.8% of electricity demand.

This is an increase from 4.6% in February 2013, and 2.8% in January 2014. Over the full year 2013, Italy met 7.0% of its electricity demand with PV, the highest portion of any mid-sized to large nation in the world.

When hydroelectric, geothermal and wind generation is included, Italy met 30% of electricity demand in February 2014 with renewables. This is about the same portion as was met with renewables over the full year 2013, and more than February 2013 due to higher wind and hydroelectric output.

Italy is also a large net importer of power, and met 18% of February 2014 electric demand with imports, mostly from Switzerland and France.

Green energy costs ‘minimal’ for consumers, study shows
The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Mar. 13 2014, 5:47 PM EDT

The cost of green energy has a relatively small impact on residential electricity bills in Ontario, a new study to be released Friday suggests, and that will not change significantly even as renewables take up a bigger portion of power generation.

That should be a lesson for other provinces considering the shift to renewables, says the study’s sponsor, Environmental Defence Canada, because it shows Ontario’s pro-green energy plan is not as costly as some critics claim.

The analysis conducted for Environmental Defence by independent energy consulting firm Power Advisory LLC, shows that the cost of energy from solar, wind and bioenergy currently makes up about 9 per cent of an average electricity bill in Ontario. Other forms of power make up about 48 per cent of the bill, while the balance is the cost of delivering power, a regulatory fee, tax and a charge to retire the debt on nuclear power plants. Ontario residents also get a 10-per-cent rebate called the “clean energy benefit.”

In 10 years time, the study says, renewables will account for about 16 per cent of a household’s total bill.

By that time, the Ontario government has projected, solar, wind and biofuel will make up about 17 per cent of the province’s energy supply, up from about 5 per cent in 2013.

Renewable power is often blamed for rising electricity costs, said Environmental Defence campaign director Gillian McEachern, but they “play a fairly small role in Ontarians’ electricity bills today.”

Ontario’s opposition Conservatives have often criticized the Liberal government’s green-energy policies for driving up electricity cost, and they have pledged to kill off subsidies to wind and solar if they take power.

14 March 2014, 12.32pm AEST
Big solar could boost Australia’s power, if renewables funding stays

The recent start of construction on the first of two large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power plants in outback New South Wales shows the importance of renewable energy targets and funding.

The first, currently being built at Nyngan, will be the largest solar PV farm in the southern hemisphere, producing 103 megawatts at peak capacity. This will be enough to power more than 33,000 average New South Wales homes, roughly equivalent to taking 53,000 cars off the road. Both projects have received federal and state funding, and have benefited from the Renewable Energy Target.

The Solar Flagships Program, of which the Nyngan plant is the major part, will also deliver a further 50 megawatt plant at Broken Hill, providing a combined solar power output 10 times larger than anything else ever built in Australia.

It is not just the sheer size of this project that makes it the potential tipping point for the Australian renewable energy industry. This project will once and for all answer the question of whether solar power can be a legitimate source of industrial scale energy in this country, and if such projects can be technically, commercially, socially and environmentally viable.

Plenty of sun, slow on solar

If there is one natural resource above all others which Australia possesses in abundance, it is sunshine. The integration of large-scale wind farms into the Australian energy mix has been a reality for the past decade, yet the same cannot be said for solar energy. So far it has only been harvested by small-scale residential and commercial applications, most commonly rooftop solar and hot water systems.

While projects of similar size and scale have been built in other parts of the world (notably Germany and the United States), the Australian context is one of relatively high network distances and very low population densities. The area covered by the National Electricity Market accounts for about 20 million people. An equivalent network in Europe would cover around 300 million.

This throws up myriad technical and commercial issues and challenges unique to our energy system that must be addressed.

Government funding vital

The other big question of course is whether such a project will be commercially viable. Given that such an ambitious project has never been undertaken in Australia, it is not surprising that industry players could not justify the massive capital investment needed for such a project.

This is why it was necessary for the Commonwealth and NSW governments to step in to share some of the risk. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is contributing A$166.7 million, the state government is contributing A$64.9 million in grants and a further A$40.7 million will be contributed by the federal Education Investment Fund.

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Mexican University develops chemicals to optimize solar cells
15 March 2014 Investigación y Desarrollo

Specialists at the Institute of Materials Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (IIM -UNAM) developed chemical compounds that will collect energy from the sun with an energy transfer efficiency close to one hundred percent. This phenomenon would allow the design of a new generation of photovoltaic compounds that would achieve to capture light in the spectral range of UV - visible light in a more optimal way, in order to convert it into electricity.

Dr. Ernesto Rivera Garcia, scientist at the IIM -UNAM explained that to achieve that goal, currently a type of chemicals called dendritic are synthesized (they have ramifications as the dendrites of neurons). These compounds may be used in solar cells.

According to the explanation of Dr. Rivera Garcia, dendritic compounds synthesized at UNAM contain two chemical groups called porphyrin and pyrene, which interact with each other. "Several pyrene groups (donor) are excited and transfer all their energy to a single porphyrin group (acceptor), this happens in one of the molecules of the dendritic compounds," said the scientist.

“The fact that several donor groups are excited and transfer energy to an acceptor photoconductor group causes more efficiency in capturing sunlight and generating power," said the university researcher. Rivera García noted that this physical phenomenon is known as “antenna effect " , the same way a conventional antenna picks up a wave and amplifies to send to various devices, molecular pyrene groups receiving sunlight and transferring it to another group called porphyrin.

Plug-In Solar Panel Kit That Is Truly DIY

DIY: Three letters that have the power to send either titillations of excitement or bolts of pure terror down your spine. Myself, I fall into the second group. To me, “Do-It-Yourself” sounds more like a threat than an exciting proposition. DIY solar panels?! You’ve got to be kidding me.

But yes, it’s true! Plugged Solar is a start-up based out of Houston, TX that offers an innovative solution that is truly worthy of the label DIY. Their solution is a 1.7 kilowatt (kW) home solar panel kit that makes installation fast and simple, typically installing in just one afternoon. So exactly how easy is the Plugged Solar kit to install? Somewhere between assembling an IKEA dresser and installing a DVD player, I would say.

What makes Plugged Solar’s patented kit so different is that it comes preconfigured and prewired, with all of the necessary installation components (including racking), and plugs directly into a standard 120 Volt (V) electrical wall socket like an appliance. This saves homeowners both time and money on installation.

Here are the [SIMPLIFIED] installation steps below:
  1. Assemble the racking. The Plugged Solar kit comes with three options for racking: roof mount, patio mount and ground mount. The ground mount option is the simplest and quickest to assemble, but it is not necessary to be a roofer to install the roof and patio mounts. All you will need is a ladder, measuring tape, a drill, and a ratchet.
  2. Place the solar panels. Affix the solar panels on to the racking.
  3. Connect solar panels to each other. Easily connect the negative and positive ends of the solar panels to each other as per the instructions creating a circuit.
  4. Connect the solar panel circuit to the inverter. Plug the cord from the solar panels into the grid tie inverter.
  5. Plug system into the wall. Plug the cord into any standard, dedicated electrical outlet. You will hear a click, and see the kilowatt generation on wireless monitor.

Solar innovation gives Nicaraguan community a brighter future
By Laurie Guevara-Stone
Published March 13, 2014

Forty years ago, Sabana Grande, a small community in northern Nicaragua, was ravaged by war. Now you will find people sitting under solar-powered lights, eating solar-cooked chicken and drinking smoothies made with a bicycle-powered blender. Sabana Grande (pop. 2,000), in the mountains of Totogalpa about 20 miles from the Honduran border, has embraced a solar culture that has transformed the community.

Turning landmine survivors into solar technicians

The war between the government Sandinistas and the Contra rebels left hundreds of people disabled by landmines, especially in the northern part of the country. In 1999, a Nicaraguan non-governmental organization called Grupo Fenix received a grant from the Canadian Falls Brook Center to reintegrate landmine survivors back into society. The NGO — founded by engineering professor Susan Kinne of the Engineering University of Nicaragua and made up of many of her engineering students — decided it would teach the landmine survivors how to make solar panels, providing them with both a livelihood and a way to get electricity in a poor, off-grid region. It focused on Sabana Grande, an agricultural community in one of the poorest regions in Nicaragua.

Women's empowerment through solar energy

The engineering students also brought along some solar cookers, and showed them to the women in the community. The women were intrigued — in Nicaragua about 90 percent of the rural population cooks over open fires, and respiratory diseases are the leading cause of death for women. Soon the women were learning how to build their own solar cookers and using them to cook for their families, greatly reducing their firewood consumption and smoke exposure. The women were hooked, and organized themselves into an organization called Las Mujeres Solares de Totogalpa (the Solar Women of Totogalpa), which officially became a cooperative in 2010. In the early years, solar cookers were constructed in the homes of members. In 2005, they decided they needed a place of their own.

La Casita Solar

While experimenting with their solar cookers, the women made an interesting discovery with coffee, one of Nicaragua's main export crops. Because the country's good beans are exported, leaving bitter green beans in the country, coffee found in Nicaragua is not very tasty. But when the women roasted the coffee beans in the solar ovens, the bitterness was taken away, leaving a rich, delicious flavor. Wanting to market their new discovery, along with the solar dried fruits and recipes they were developing for the solar ovens, the women decided to create a restaurant.

Empowering the next generation

Local kids wanted to get in on the action as well, so the Solar Youth group was formed. One of their first projects was to construct a bicycle-powered blender, now used at the solar restaurant. Getting the youth involved was important for Grupo Fenix and for the Solar Women. The school in the community only goes up to the sixth grade, is overcrowded and has little access to educational resources such as books. Many women in the Solar Women's group only have a second or third grade education, and they wanted more for their kids. One of the most recent projects Grupo Fenix has undertaken is to help the community build a solar youth center. With the help of Earthen Endeavors Natural Building, the group recently built a beautiful building, El Centro Solar, out of earthen materials — cob, wattle and daub, adobe and earthen plasters.

Green hours

The Solar Women have put thousands of hours of labor into these projects, and at times things were moving slowly and morale was down. With help from Grupo Fenix and an international economics major volunteer, the group came up with an innovative solution to secure compensation for their efforts. Each woman logs her hours spent working with the cooperative. Those "green hours" then can be used to purchase a solar cooker, a solar PV lighting system, or other appliances such as flashlights and battery chargers that are either donated to the group or bought with cooperative funds.

In Totogalpa, only 15 percent of the population has electricity in their homes. Currently all 20 members of the Solar Women's Cooperative have electricity in their homes, 85 percent of which have solar photovoltaic systems (the electric grid now goes through a part of the community).

Nicaragua continues to be the second poorest country in the western hemisphere (after Haiti), and only 30 percent of the rural population has access to electricity. Yet the people of Sabana Grande have shown that a brighter future is possible. Unlike many development projects where an NGO leaves the community after a project is completed, the Managua-based Grupo Fenix has stayed with this community for 15 years, helping it grow and realize its full potential.

Pi Chart: Utility-Scale PV to Account for 55% of US Installations in 2014
GTM Research celebrates Pi Day with a PV pie chart.

Mike Munsell
March 14, 2014

Happy Pi Day from GTM Research!

To celebrate, we'd like to dish out a juicy pie chart of PV installation numbers.

As noted in the most recent U.S. Solar Market Insight report, GTM Research is forecasting nearly 6 gigawatts of photovoltaics to be installed in the United States in 2014, representing 26 percent growth year-over-year.


SunShot invests $2.2m in three solar start-ups
14. March 2014 | Industry & Suppliers, Investor news, Top News | By: Max Hall

The Department of Energy's Incubator program has announced the recipients of its eighth round of awards. Belmont-based CelLink Corp says it can reduce panel manufacturing costs by 10%.

The CelLink Corporation start-up company, based in Belmont, is one of three California small businesses to benefit from U.S. Energy Department grants in the latest round of the department's SunShot Incubator program.

CelLink has secured $704,000 of support to develop a circuit it claims can reduce the cost of producing high-efficiency solar panels by 10% through savings on material costs.

The award is part of a $2.2 million handout from the Incubator in round eight of the program with Berkley-based SolarNexus Inc securing almost $497,000 to develop the first set of apps available to enable disparate types of software used by solar contractors to communicate, reducing labor and customer acquisition costs for solar installers.

San Francisco-based Grenability has been awarded $1 million to develop a comparison report that will enable customers to find the best solar payment plan by comparing predicted with actual annual savings and producing a monthly savings statement. The company is also working on a 'verified by Genability' certification to help solar installers with bid preparation costs.

Innovative solar-powered toilet developed by CU-Boulder ready for India unveiling
March 12, 2014 •

A revolutionary University of Colorado Boulder toilet fueled by the sun that is being developed to help some of the 2.5 billion people around the world lacking safe and sustainable sanitation will be unveiled in India this month.

The self-contained, waterless toilet, designed and built using a $777,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has the capability of heating human waste to a high enough temperature to sterilize human waste and create biochar, a highly porous charcoal, said project principal investigator Karl Linden, professor of environmental engineering. The biochar has a one-two punch in that it can be used to both increase crop yields and sequester carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

The project is part of the Gates Foundation’s “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge,” an effort to develop a next-generation toilet that can be used to disinfect liquid and solid waste while generating useful end products, both in developing and developed nations, said Linden. Since the 2012 grant, Linden and his CU-Boulder team have received an additional $1 million from the Gates Foundation for the project, which includes a team of more than a dozen faculty, research professionals and students, many working full time on the effort.

According to the Gates Foundation, the awards recognize researchers who are developing ways to manage human waste that will help improve the health and lives of people around the world. Unsafe methods to capture and treat human waste result in serious health problems and death – food and water tainted with pathogens from fecal matter results in the deaths of roughly 700,000 children each year.

Linden’s team is one of 16 around the world funded by the Gates “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge” since 2011. All have shipped their inventions to Delhi, where they will be on display March 22 for scientists, engineers and dignitaries. Other institutional winners of the grants range from Caltech to Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and the National University of Singapore.

The CU-Boulder invention consists of eight parabolic mirrors that focus concentrated sunlight to a spot no larger than a postage stamp on a quartz-glass rod connected to eight bundles of fiber-optic cables, each consisting of thousands of intertwined, fused fibers, said Linden. The energy generated by the sun and transferred to the fiber-optic cable system -- similar in some ways to a data transmission line -- can heat up the reaction chamber to over 600 degrees Fahrenheit to treat the waste material, disinfect pathogens in both feces and urine, and produce char.

California Flexes Its Solar Muscles
Back-to-back days of record output contribute to negative pricing for wholesale electricity. Here's how CAISO is preparing for more.

James Montgomery, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com
March 14, 2014 | 2 Comments

New Hampshire, USA -- At 1:41 PM on Saturday March 8, California hit a new record of solar energy output of nearly 4.1 GW. That narrowly beat out the previous record of 3.9 GW, which was set the day before. It's also more than double the peak solar output from last June, and quadruple the output from the summer of 2012. Coincident demand for the new record was about 22.6 GW, meaning at that peak solar served about 18 percent of demand, roughly enough to power three million homes. All of that data is from California ISO (CAISO), which reported the new mark earlier this week.

That record solar output, paired with a boost of wind energy, also caused spot-market electricity pricing to slip into negative pricing for a time last weekend, something that happens occasionally when renewable energy ramps up heavily and drives down market prices for other generating sources. In such a situation, it might make more economic sense for baseload plants that can't easily ramp up and down to just pay money for a short period of time in order to stay online.

Many factors go into how much solar output is churned out in a given day: how many plants are online and contributing, how many *stay* online, favorable weather conditions. In this case, the driving factor in this peak was new facilities coming online, according to CAISO spokesperson Steven Greenlee. Likely that reflects contributions from the big Ivanpah concentrated solar (CSP) plant that came online last month. Note that these two new solar output records also occurred in early March -- expect them to be short-lived as spring and summer approach with higher irradiance, even more facilities come online, and demand spikes. Those hotter summer days are, of course, precisely when the boost of daytime solar output is needed most.

CAISO now has about 11.1 GW of combined wind and solar resources interconnected to its grid, and roughly 15 GW for all renewables in its mix. And it'll continue to add more as the state pushes toward and looks beyond its current 33 percent renewable portfolio standard. On top of that, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) just authorized utilities to procure more renewable energy (and other sources like natural gas, plus more energy efficiency) to help offset the lost generation from the shuttered SONGS nuclear plant. Bringing more solar and wind into the grid increases the challenge in meeting demand when they aren't producing, i.e. when the sun doesn't shine or wind doesn't blow, so CAISO stresses more flexible technologies on the grid that can start and stop frequently and quickly, such as storage and natural gas. "We have seen production drops of over 300 MW in less than 30 minutes," Greenlee noted. (Here we invoke the infamous Duck Curve showing the steepening ramping needs and overgeneration risk -- illustrating a potential ramp need of 13 GW within three hours.)


Renewable Energy Brings Out Some Extreme Nimbyism
Jennifer Runyon
March 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

You may have heard of extreme preppers. These are people who spend a large portion of their time preparing themselves, their homes and their families for what they believe is an inevitable disaster resulting from an economic meltdown, the spread of a deadly virus, climate change or another catastrophic event. And hey, you never know, in the end these preppers may be the heroes of our time.

But have you heard about extreme not-in-my-backyard-ists? You probably haven’t because this isn’t a real phenomenon. At least not yet. But we’re here to tell you that there are some pretty good examples out there of folks who seem to be willing to go to any extreme to stop a renewable energy project from coming about.

With that in mind and in the interest of educating developers about what some people might say about their projects, here are a few examples. Feel free to list your own NIMBY cases in comment section below.

Solar is So Ugly

Take the example of Jim and Frances Babb who spent years battling their local zoning board in a West St. Louis county in Missouri.

The couple simply wanted to install solar panels on their Victorian home and even though their homeowners association gave them a quick approval to do so, once they filled for a permit the city itself passed an ordinance banning solar on the front or sides of a roof. It also banned ground-mounted arrays.

A neighbor who was in opposition to the Babbs request said she thought the panels would look “trashy.” Other neighbors felt that the ugly panels would lower their own home values.

Even though the Babb’s ultimately prevailed, it took multiple hearings and a lawsuit before the panels were finally installed. You can watch a clip from one of the hearings in the video at this link.

Caribbean Resort Uses Solar To Offset Energy Consumption
March 14, 2014
Kathleen Zipp

The Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa, St. Maarten , as part of the Westin brand, has completed a solar installation that allows the resort to produce six to eight hours of its own power during peak times.

The resort began taking advantage of the island’s abundance of sunshine in 2007 with the installation of solar panels to heat the water used in the property’s guest rooms.

The resort’s owner, Columbia Sussex Corporation, working with OneWorld Sustainable, has completed the installation of 2,602 Lightway solar panels for a total system capacity of 755 kW.

The completed solar system will produce approximately 1,223,000 kWh per year. This is enough electricity to power 111 average sized American homes. The system will avoid 1.9 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions or the equivalent of CO2 emissions from energy used by 43 homes annually, or 707 acres of forest preserved from deforestation by carbon sequestering.

To install the panels and mounting hardware, OneWorld Sustainable worked with a local St. Maarten company whose employees provided valuable assistance during the three month-long project.

“In very few places around the world does it make better sense to utilize the power of the sun to generate electricity than in the Caribbean,” says OneWorld Sustainable’s President Tim Blackwell.

Dragon Energy Solutions installs largest UK sports stadium PV array in South Wales
By Conor Ryan | 14 March 2014, 12:50 Updated: 14 March 2014, 15:52

PV developer Dragon Energy Solutions has successfully added a 250kWp PV system on the training facility at the Parc y Scarlets rugby stadium located in Llanelli, South Wales.

The project is believed to be the largest PV array installed on a sports facility in the UK.

The installation is located on the SSW-facing roof of the Scarlets Indoor Training Centre, located next to the stadium. Power generated by the array is inverted back into the centre and is then transferred over to the Parc y Scarlets stadium through cabling set up between the two facilities.

Testing High-Temp Solar Thermal Collectors
Published on 14 March 2014

The Rackam technical team, in close collaboration with TÜV Rheinland PTL, has developed a test bench for testing performance and efficiency of solar thermal collectors. It is a pumping circuit equipped with an electric heating element as well as measuring and control instruments, which enable the circulation of mineral oil-based high temperature heat transfer fluids up to 240°C through various devices such as solar collectors, but also thermal storage banks or small steam turbine generators.

Rackam develops and deploys clean, efficient and cost-effective solar and thermal technologies for today's industries. TÜV Rheinland PTL is a leading technical and testing service provider for the solar industry that also specializes in the registration process of technological equipment. The new instrumented pumping module will be deployed at the TÜV Rheinland PTL testing facilities located in Tempe, Arizona.
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Self-powered wireless light detectors
A low-power photodetection system can harness enough energy to power an autonomous sensor and monitoring network

Published online 12 March 2014

Light detectors are used extensively in daily life as brightness sensors and as receivers for remote control devices in electrical gadgets, for example. However, operating these detectors requires electrical energy, which limits their versatility.

Now, Kui Yao and colleagues from the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering in Singapore have developed a photodetector that can harvest just small quantities of detected light to generate enough energy to power a sensing signal transmission through a radio-frequency transmitter.

While the energy contained in a beam of light can be converted into electricity, this energy is not usually sufficient to continuously power an electrical circuit. Even the use of batteries to power a circuit is impractical in many circumstances, explains Yao. “Use of photosensors may take place under extremely harsh conditions intolerable to batteries, or involve environmental monitoring network systems where it may be too expensive or unrealistic to maintain batteries for each sensor.”

Operating an electrical circuit under low-power circumstances requires a buildup of energy, which must be generated by the photodetector. However, commonly used photodetector materials, which are based on semiconductors, lose too much energy for this to occur. “Conventional photodetectors can’t accumulate the minute photovoltaic energy and then harness it to drive a load in a sustainable manner,” explains Yao.

To overcome such energy losses, Yao and colleagues developed photodetectors made from ferroelectric compounds. These insulating materials can separate electrical charges as well as store them with low losses. Ferroelectric detectors can also generate a larger electrical voltage than semiconductors, making it easier for them to power other electrical components.
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America’s Largest Grid Operator: Massive Renewables Push Won’t Be a Problem
NRDC’s John Moore looks at why PJM is bullish on the feasibility of renewables integration.

John Moore
March 17, 2014

PJM Interconnection, the nation’s largest power transmission grid organization, announced recently that wind and solar power could generate about 30 percent of PJM’s total electricity for its territory covering the Mid-Atlantic region and part of the Midwest by 2026 without “any significant issues.”

That’s engineer-speak for “no big deal.” Even better, we would see more clean power at less cost and with far less pollution than our current mix of coal and natural gas power plants.

PJM’s new renewables integration report, prepared by General Electric, is required reading for anyone who questions the ability of the electric grid to handle large amounts of wind, solar and other renewable energy. GE estimates that about 113,000 megawatts of installed wind and solar power resources (including distributed/generation), could produce about 30 percent of the region’s total energy. That’s enough energy to power 23.5 million homes annually.

Here’s the breakdown of the resource mix in one of the scenarios studied in the report:


GTM Research Offers Up 5 Crucial Solar Manufacturing Stats for 2014
Gigawatt facilities, manufacturing costs, thin film market share and more.

Shyam Mehta
March 17, 2014

Most solar manufacturing statistics released over the last few years focused on the severity of oversupply and its painful ramifications: how much excess capacity existed, how steeply prices had fallen, how many firms had been forced out of the market, and how many millions of dollars in losses suppliers had racked up.

The last six months, however, have witnessed a strong turnaround in market conditions and significant improvement in solar supply fundamentals. Thanks to burgeoning demand (primarily out of China, Japan and the U.S.) and the retreat, however temporary, of uncompetitive suppliers, pricing has been stable-to-up, profit margins are back in the black, and shipments to all markets outside of Europe have been on the rise.

With 2014 expected to witness a continuation of the supply sector's resurgence, now is a good time for industry participants and observers to move past the overcapacity-induced doldrums of the previous few years and turn their attention to the path ahead. Here are five figures that illustrate the state of solar manufacturing in 2014.

Number of Gigawatt Facilities: 90

Module Manufacturing Cost: $0.48 per watt

Polysilicon Manufacturing Cost: $12 per kilogram

Polysilicon Pricing Increase: 25 Percent

Thin Film Market Share: 10 Percent

China’s ‘Solar Bubble’ a Coal Bubble in Disguise
Richard Martin — March 14, 2014

Tremors rippled through global financial markets this week after Shanghai Chairo Solar Energy Science and Technology defaulted on its corporate debt. The first Chinese company to default on domestically issued bonds, Shanghai Chairo is seen as a signal of the over-inflation of China’s red-hot solar market – and, worse, as an indication that the whole edifice of “shadow banking,” shaky corporate debt, excessive property lending, and unsustainable economic growth in China could come crashing down, leading to another global financial meltdown.

That seems overly alarmist. China’s leaders have for some time been forecasting a modest slowdown in economic growth for 2014, to the 7%-8% range, which would still be the envy of any Western economy. And Chinese premier Li Keqiang warned on Thursday that future corporate debt failures are “unavoidable” as the country deregulates its financial markets and the government stops propping up unprofitable enterprises. China’s economy is maturing beyond export-led growth based on cheap commodities, and some regrettable bankruptcies aside, that’s good not only for the Chinese people, but also, ultimately for the stability of the global financial system.

At least that’s the official, reassuring line. In the energy sector things are slightly more complicated.

King Dethroned

There’s no question that the Chinese solar industry finds itself in a situation of overinvestment and overcapacity. The spectacular bankruptcy of Suntech, previously headed by China’s “Solar King,” Zhengrong Shi, signaled clearly that the dot-com phase of China’s solar power boom is officially over and a period of sober reassessment – and disinvestment – must inevitably follow.

Still, overseas solar markets, particularly the United States, are enjoying sustained growth, largely thanks to innovative leasing models. And last month the Chinese government upped its target for new solar installations for 2014 to 14 gigawatts (GW) – a mark that would surpass last year’s total of 12 GW, which itself was the most any nation had added in a single year. China’s solar industry must adjust to market realities going forward; but the market is growing.

That’s not necessarily true of the coal sector, which could be the real bubble now threatening China’s sustained economic growth. Nearly 40GW of new coal-fired power generation capacity was added last year, and it’s no longer obvious that demand will continue to grow to soak up all that power. China has actually closed down more than 80 GW of coal capacity in the last dozen years, and the government reportedly plans to shutter another 20 GW in the coming years.

Solar Power Threatening Future for U.S. Electric Utilities
By Llewellyn King | Sun, 16 March 2014 00:00

A persistent warning light is flashing for U.S. electric utilities. The utilities -- big and small, for- and not-for-profit -- are facing serious disruptive technology. The old business models are in danger.

The unlikely disruptive technology that is causing the trouble is rooftop solar power.

Back in the energy turbulent 1970s, solar was a gleam in the eye of environmentalists who dared to dream of renewable energy. It looked like a pipe dream.

Very simple solar had been deployed to heat water in desert homes since indoor plumbing became the norm. Making electricity from the sun was many orders of magnitude more complex and it was, anyway, too expensive.

The technology of photovoltaic cells, which make electricity directly from the sun, needed work; it needed research, and it needed mass manufacturing. Hundreds of millions of dollars later in research and subsidies, the cost of solar cells has fallen and continues to go down.

Today, solar certainly is not a pipe dream: It is looking like a mature industry. It is also a big employer in the installation industry. It is a player, a force in the market.

But solar has created a crisis for the utilities.

In order to incubate solar, and to satisfy solar advocates, Congress said that these “qualifying facilities” should be able not only to generate electricity for homes when the sun is shining, but also to sell back the excess to the local utility. This is called “net metering” and it is at the center of the crisis today -- particularly across the Southwest, where solar installations have multiplied and are being added at a feverish rate.

Doyle Beneby, CEO of San Antonio, Texas-based CPS Energy, the largest municipal electric and gas utility in the nation, said, “The homes that are installing solar quickly are the more affluent ones.” The problem here, he explained, is that the utility has to maintain the entire infrastructure of wires and poles and buy back electricity generated by solar in these homes at the highest prevailing rate -- often more than power could be bought on the market or generated by the utility.

Bionic plants
Nanotechnology could turn shrubbery into supercharged energy producers or sensors for explosives.

Anne Trafton, MIT News Office
March 16, 2014

Plants have many valuable functions: They provide food and fuel, release the oxygen that we breathe, and add beauty to our surroundings. Now, a team of MIT researchers wants to make plants even more useful by augmenting them with nanomaterials that could enhance their energy production and give them completely new functions, such as monitoring environmental pollutants.

In a new Nature Materials paper, the researchers report boosting plants’ ability to capture light energy by 30 percent by embedding carbon nanotubes in the chloroplast, the plant organelle where photosynthesis takes place. Using another type of carbon nanotube, they also modified plants to detect the gas nitric oxide.

Together, these represent the first steps in launching a scientific field the researchers have dubbed “plant nanobionics.”

“Plants are very attractive as a technology platform,” says Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering and leader of the MIT research team. “They repair themselves, they’re environmentally stable outside, they survive in harsh environments, and they provide their own power source and water distribution.”

Strano and the paper’s lead author, postdoc and plant biologist Juan Pablo Giraldo, envision turning plants into self-powered, photonic devices such as detectors for explosives or chemical weapons. The researchers are also working on incorporating electronic devices into plants. “The potential is really endless,” Strano says.

Supercharged photosynthesis

The idea for nanobionic plants grew out of a project in Strano’s lab to build self-repairing solar cells modeled on plant cells. As a next step, the researchers wanted to try enhancing the photosynthetic function of chloroplasts isolated from plants, for possible use in solar cells.

Chloroplasts host all of the machinery needed for photosynthesis, which occurs in two stages. During the first stage, pigments such as chlorophyll absorb light, which excites electrons that flow through the thylakoid membranes of the chloroplast. The plant captures this electrical energy and uses it to power the second stage of photosynthesis — building sugars.

Chloroplasts can still perform these reactions when removed from plants, but after a few hours, they start to break down because light and oxygen damage the photosynthetic proteins. Usually plants can completely repair this kind of damage, but extracted chloroplasts can’t do it on their own.

To prolong the chloroplasts’ productivity, the researchers embedded them with cerium oxide nanoparticles, also known as nanoceria. These particles are very strong antioxidants that scavenge oxygen radicals and other highly reactive molecules produced by light and oxygen, protecting the chloroplasts from damage.

The researchers delivered nanoceria into the chloroplasts using a new technique they developed called lipid exchange envelope penetration, or LEEP. Wrapping the particles in polyacrylic acid, a highly charged molecule, allows the particles to penetrate the fatty, hydrophobic membranes that surrounds chloroplasts. In these chloroplasts, levels of damaging molecules dropped dramatically.

Using the same delivery technique, the researchers also embedded semiconducting carbon nanotubes, coated in negatively charged DNA, into the chloroplasts. Plants typically make use of only about 10 percent of the sunlight available to them, but carbon nanotubes could act as artificial antennae that allow chloroplasts to capture wavelengths of light not in their normal range, such as ultraviolet, green, and near-infrared.

With carbon nanotubes appearing to act as a “prosthetic photoabsorber,” photosynthetic activity — measured by the rate of electron flow through the thylakoid membranes — was 49 percent greater than that in isolated chloroplasts without embedded nanotubes. When nanoceria and carbon nanotubes were delivered together, the chloroplasts remained active for a few extra hours.

The researchers then turned to living plants and used a technique called vascular infusion to deliver nanoparticles into Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant. Using this method, the researchers applied a solution of nanoparticles to the underside of the leaf, where it penetrated tiny pores known as stomata, which normally allow carbon dioxide to flow in and oxygen to flow out. In these plants, the nanotubes moved into the chloroplast and boosted photosynthetic electron flow by about 30 percent.

High-tech materials purify water with sunlight

DALLAS, March 16, 2014 — Sunlight plus a common titanium pigment might be the secret recipe for ridding pharmaceuticals, pesticides and other potentially harmful pollutants from drinking water. Scientists combined several high-tech components to make an easy-to-use water purifier that could

work with the world’s most basic form of energy, sunlight, in a boon for water purification in rural areas or developing countries.

The talk was one of more than 10,000 presentations at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, taking place here through Thursday.

Anne Morrissey, Ph.D., explained that the new technology could someday be incorporated into an easy-to-use consumer product that would remove these stubborn pollutants from drinking water as a final step after it has already been treated with conventional methods.

Her group at Dublin City University in Ireland started with a compound called titanium dioxide (TiO­2), a powder used to whiten paints, paper, toothpaste, food and other products. With the right energy, TiO2 can also act as a catalyst — a molecule that encourages chemical reactions — breaking down unwanted compounds in drinking water like pesticides and pharmaceuticals. Morrissey explained that modifying current water treatment methods to get rid of these potentially harmful species can be costly and energy-intensive, and often, these modifications don’t completely eliminate the pollutants.

But Morrissey said TiO2 is usually only activated by ultraviolet light, which is produced by special bulbs. To access titanium dioxide’s properties with the sun’s light, Morrissey and her group experimented with different shapes of TiO2 that would better absorb visible light. She found that nanotubes about 1,000 times thinner than a human hair were best, but they couldn’t do it on their own.

That’s why she turned to graphene, a material made of sheets of carbon just one atom thick. “Graphene is the magic material, but its use for water treatment hasn’t been fully developed,” she said. “It has great potential.” Morrissey put the TiO2 nanotubes on these graphene sheets. Pollutants stuck to the surface of the graphene as they passed by, allowing TiO2 to get close enough to break them down.

Her research group successfully tested the system on diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug notorious for wiping out nearly an entire vulture population in India.

“We’re looking at using the graphene composite in a cartridge for one-step drinking water treatment,” said Morrissey. “You could just buy a cartridge off the shelf and plop it into the pipe where the drinking water comes into your house.” The cartridge system would also ensure that the graphene stays immobilized and does its job without contaminating the clean water.

Solar PV to replace coal as “incumbent” technology
By Giles Parkinson on 17 March 2014

Australia is embarking on a radical transformation of its electricity system that will see solar PV transition from being “disruptive” technology to the “incumbent” technology, displacing coal and sparking a radical change in the way that electricity is provided.

David Green webThis is the assessment from Clean Energy Council CEO David Green (pictured), who in a presentation last week said generation will move from its traditional place at the point of supply to at or near the point of use; the primary role of the grid will be converted to that of a back-up “battery”; and consumers will play a key role in a more competitive market.

Green told a Davos Connection conference on infrastructure last week that the core logic behind having large scale generation plants close to their fuel source (coal or hydro) was being challenged by shifts in the basic cost parameters of many sources of energy allow generation (mostly solar) to be built closer to where it is used.

It was clear, he said, that solar PV has been taken up more rapidly in lower-income suburbs than higher income – because of the attraction for lower-income households to get a lower, fixed rate of electricity.

Now, new financing models – such as leasing and community ownership, as well as models for renters – was likely to spark a third wave of investment in solar PV.

“Further innovation in the business models will potentially unleash still more waves of investment until solar PV has fully transitioned from disruptive technology to the new incumbent technology,” Green says. (You can read the whole presentation here)

“In a similar way we are witnessing the battery energy storage market emerge. Like the solar PV market, it is initially focused on early adopters, but spreading quickly as the economic case for investment becomes favourable.”

IHS: Solar PV industry to move to new technologies as capital spending returns

IHS Inc. (Englewood, Colorado, U.S.) has released a new report which finds that advanced technologies will become more common in solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing as equipment investments return during 2014.

The company predicts that manufacturers will transition to newer technologies for mass production “in the near future”, naming diamond wire sawing and n-type substrates among these technologies. It also expects cadmium telluride to continue to dominate thin-film PV.

“Innovative technologies will be atop the agendas of major solar manufacturers globally now that supply and demand has come to closer alignment,” said IHS Analyst for Solar Demand Jon Campos.

“While most experts thought that overcapacity issue would remain significantly longer, the fundamental assumptions made by IHS were that the industry would move toward market equilibrium behind increasing demand in the emerging markets, and that PV manufacturers would turn to advanced technologies to compete with traditional forms of energy production-assumptions that are now coming to fruition.”

IHS predicts that PV industry capital spending will recover to USD 3.4 billion during 2014.

ALEC-backed solar measures fail in Utah, Washington
By Ethan Howland
March 16, 2014

Dive Brief:
  • American Legislative Exchange Council-backed bills that would have imposed fees on rooftop solar and made other changes to net metering laws in Utah and Washington were defeated, according to a group representing solar developers.
  • In Washington, HB 2176 and HB 1301 would have imposed a fee on rooftop solar and allowed only utilities to offer third-party solar leasing, according to the Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC).
  • In Utah, Rocky Mountain Power pressed for amendments to SB 208 that included a solar fee and other possible changes to the state's net metering rules, according to TASC. Lawmakers passed the bill, which calls for a study of the value of distributed generation, without the amendments.

Dive Insight:

Last year, ALEC failed to roll back state renewable portfolio standards. This year, the conservative organization added net metering to its list of issues it wanted to tackle and, so far, has failed to make progress there.

States like Arizona, Colorado and Minnesota are carefully reviewing issues surrounding the rise of rooftop solar rather than making any hasty decisions.

Loop Solar targets 3 GW off-grid market
17. March 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Max Hall

Indian solar lamp supplier Loop Solar says the country's off-grid solar lighting market will explode over the next five years. The company says the market will grow despite, rather than because of, a federal incentive scheme.

A partner from an Indian solar lamp company says the country's rural communities could offer a 3 GW market over the next five years, despite an Indian government incentive program which has deterred solar players and driven up system prices.

Tarun Khurana, a partner at Loop Solar, says an incentive program that typically subsidizes up to 30% of the cost of solar lamps and off-grid lighting systems as well as offering top-up financing, is actually a deterrant to solar equipment suppliers.

"If you talk to some of the big players in this market, such as Tata Solar, they will tell you things operated better before the incentive program was introduced," Mr Khurana told pv magazine.

"The system is overly bureaucratic and suppliers can face a six-month wait to receive subsidy payments," he added. "It is the equipment suppliers that claim the subsidy so a lot of companies just raised the price of the systems when the incentive scheme came in which pushed up the price of systems.

Texas utility secures rock-bottom price for solar
17. March 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends, Top News | By: Edgar Meza

Under the unprecedented agreement between Austin Energy and SunEdison, the utility will buy solar power for less than $0.05 per kilowatt hour.

Austin Energy in Texas is set to sign a deal expected to result in one of the lowest-priced solar power arrangements in the world.

According to a report by The Austin American-Statesman, the utility, owned by the city of Austin, has approved an agreement with SunEdison to buy electricity from two solar farms in West Texas at a price of just below $0.05 per kilowatt hour – considerably lower than the standard price for solar energy and less than a third of the price Austin Energy agreed to pay in 2009 for electricity from a smaller solar installation east of the city.

Raj Prabhu, CEO of energy consulting group Mercom Capital, told the newspaper that the deal was “the cheapest I’ve seen,” adding that it appeared "to be new territory."

The Austin American-Statesman also cited Jurgen Weiss, an energy economist with the Brattle Group, who added, "It is certainly at the very low end of the prices I have seen. As many had predicted, we’re entering a time in which, with some caveats, solar presents quite an attractive alternative to conventional sources."

The two solar farms comprise a 350,000-panel, 100 MW facility and a nearby 150,000-panel, 50 MW plant. Austin Energy declined to say where exactly the proposed project is in West Texas, saying the location had to be kept confidential for competitive reasons until the contract was signed.
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First Solar Seeking Growth to Replace Giant Desert Plants
By Christopher Martin
Mar 18, 2014 7:38 AM PT

The biggest U.S. solar panel maker is preparing to set out its strategy for growth as sales lag for its large-scale power projects in the deserts of the southwest.

First Solar Inc. gets about 65 percent of its revenue from selling giant solar farms to utilities, a market that’s slowing after its best customers bought all the clean energy they need. The manufacturer is missing out on the current boom in rooftop solar, which is surging since SolarCity Corp. (SCTY), backed by billionaire Elon Musk, helped popularize a way to finance home installations.

The shift from bigger solar projects toward smaller ones leaves analysts concerned that First Solar will be left behind as the industry recovers from a two-year slump that bankrupted dozens of competitors. Chief Executive Officer Jim Hughes is pushing for more sales overseas and bought a company last year that will tap the rooftop market in Japan.

“We see First Solar as most poorly positioned with virtually no exposure to fast-growth rooftop demand,” Brian Lee, an analyst at Goldman Sachs (GS) Group Inc., wrote in a note. “In the U.S., we expect megawatt growth from rooftop to well outpace utility-scale projects over the next several years.”

Project Pipeline

First Solar is developing 3.7 gigawatts of U.S. projects, including the 550-megawatt Topaz Solar Farm. It’s expected to be complete this year and will supply 160,000 homes, one of two plants of that size that are the company’s largest. All of these projects are due to be complete in the next three years, according to its 2013 annual report.

The concern is that First Solar’s best years for selling large projects are now in the past, when its power plants received more than $3 billion in U.S. government loan guarantees.

“The really big projects like Topaz won’t be repeated,” said Rob Stone, an analyst at Cowen & Co. in Boston who has the equivalent of a hold rating on First Solar. “There are no more loan guarantees that financed the first ones. Land near transmission lines has already been taken or is off limits, and it can take years to get approvals.”

First Solar’s thin-film panels use a different technology that’s heavier and less efficient than the polysilicon-based panels that dominate the industry. That makes them poorly suited for rooftops, where space is scarce. It’s part of the reason the company has focused on selling big projects to utilities.

India Cuts Renewable Funds Impeding Solar Rooftop Growth
18 March 2014

March 18 (Bloomberg) — Indian cuts in its renewable energy ministry’s budget by more than two-thirds risk hindering efforts to shield against blackouts by expanding rooftop solar projects, according to consultant Bridge to India Energy Pvt.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has been allocated 4.41 billion rupees ($72 million) in the financial year starting April, down from 15 billion rupees this year.

“This is likely to have a negative impact on the rooftop solar market in India,” New Delhi-based Bridge to India told clients today by e-mail. States such as Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand may shelve rooftop incentives as they depend on the ministry to fund part of the programs, it said.

India has built more than 2,000 megawatts of solar capacity in two years, mostly large desert farms that feed power into an archaic grid. It’s seeking to diversify by spurring businesses and households to generate power from rooftop panels to combat blackouts and reduce the burden on the transmission system.

March Madness: These 16 States Will Install the Most PV in 2014
Solar bracketology 101 with GTM Research

Mike Munsell, Cory Honeyman
March 18, 2014

This past weekend brought Selection Sunday to the GTM Research offices. And no, we're not talking basketball. We tapped into the U.S. Solar Market Insight report to seed the top solar states based on 2014 forecasted PV installations.

Solar analyst Cory Honeyman joins me as we look at some key matchups in the bracket.


Can New Credit Methods Put ‘Solar in a Bottle’ and Compete With Kerosene?
Another example of how M2M technologies, new payment methods and entrepreneurship can help unlock off-grid solar’s potential

Justin Guay and Vrinda Manglik
March 18, 2014

Although it is small, there is no more innovative market than that of off-grid solar. From pay-as-you-go solutions to M2M technology, entrepreneurs are developing solutions tailored to the energy needs of the 1.3 billion people living in energy poverty around the world.

And thanks to support from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Elephant Energy and Divi Power, we can add yet another innovation to this exciting space: a concept known as "solar in a bottle."

Most of the 1.3 billion (20 percent of the world’s population) who lack access to electricity rely on kerosene for lighting. Consumption of kerosene and other forms of fuel-based energy can make up 30 percent of an impoverished household's energy budget in Africa. These households keep buying kerosene because it has a low upfront cost and they can buy it in incremental amounts that reflect their minimal and unpredictable cash flow.

Solar is an appropriate technology for meeting many of the basic energy needs which kerosene currently serves, such as providing light for studying or cooking and electricity for charging mobile phones. But solar's upfront costs have made it prohibitively expensive for many of those most in need of energy solutions. If an entrepreneur could "bottle" solar energy -- making it just like kerosene -- the poor would likely pay for this cleaner form of energy.

Enter Elephant Energy and Divi Power. Elephant Energy is a Denver-based nonprofit organization which operates market-based distribution networks in Namibia, Zambia and the Navajo Nation. The group works with entrepreneurs and business leaders in the local areas to deliver solar energy products in rural communities, while also providing sales and marketing training to these agents. Divi has developed a pay-to-own credit system for solar charging devices and solar lights.

The two firms were just awarded $500,000 in a second stage funding grant from USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures program to support the Creating Digital Kerosene Project. This project uses Divi's credit system to make solar energy products affordable by payment through weekly installments. The goal is to provide light to 16,000 homes in the next two years.

Their unique innovation is a Bluetooth chip that allows solar devices to talk to other devices. For rural communities, this means that sales agents can “unlock” solar lamps when customers pay their bills and “lock” them when they don’t. Once the customer has paid the installments adding up to the full cost of the light, the product becomes permanently unlocked.

SolarCity accuses utilities of blocking solar-battery grid connections
By Ethan Howland
March 18, 2014

Dive Brief:
  • California utilities are intentionally blocking a pilot program by SolarCity to combine rooftop solar with energy storage, according to the solar company's CEO.
  • More than 500 SolarCity residential customers have signed up to for the storage program, and about 100 have received Tesla battery packs. However, utilities have interconnected only 12 battery systems to the grid.
  • Pacific Gas & Electric contends it is moving as fast as it can with the new technology.

Dive Insight:

It might take some time, but the process for interconnecting battery systems to the grid will go quicker and become less expensive as the utilities gain experience with the technology. Obviously, SolarCity wants to move as fast as possible. Patience, grasshopper.

GE Unit to Invest 100s of Millions of Euros in EU Renewables
By Louise Downing
Mar 17, 2014 1:39 PM PT

GE Energy Financial Services, a unit of General Electric Co. (GE), expects to invest hundreds of millions of euros in renewable energy across Europe this year.

“We’re very much in growth mode at the moment,” said Andrew Marsden, managing director and European leader. “If we find the right investments, we will deploy the capital.”

About a third of its $18 billion invested is in renewables, with stakes in more than 12,000 megawatts of wind projects, he said. It’s attracted to the predictable income stream projects generate through government subsidies such as feed-in tariffs.
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Guest Author, Mountain States, Solar, Rooftop, Washington
Rooftop Solar wins in Washington & Utah
March 18, 2014
From the Alliance for Solar Choice

The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) today announced two new wins for rooftop solar in 2014 as the public continues to defeat attacks from anti-solar utilities, their national trade association Electric Institute (EEI), and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In Utah and the state of Washington, solar advocates preserved net metering with zero changes to this core rooftop solar policy.

Utility net metering attacks have now failed in six states over the past year. ALEC joined this anti-solar battle by introducing a template for model anti-net metering policies in a variety of states, and Washington and Utah are the first decisions stemming from this template – both ending in ALEC defeat.

“In state after state, overwhelming public support for rooftop solar continues to trump multi-million dollar attacks from utilities, EEI, and ALEC,” said Bryan Miller, President of TASC and VP of Public Policy for Sunrun.

Net metering allows rooftop solar customers to have the choice to use clean solar energy that they generate themselves, and to then receive full retail credit for any excess electricity sent back to the grid. Utilities turn around and sell this energy at the full retail rate to the neighbors, even though they paid nothing to generate, transmit or distribute that cleaner power. Utilities attacking net metering want to eliminate the policy to stifle energy choice and protect their monopolies.

SolarCity on Track to Install Half a Gigawatt of Solar in 2014
Market leader affirms guidance, details spending, and sets course for 500 megawatts.

Tony Avelar/The Christian Science Monitor
Eric Wesoff
March 18, 2014

SolarCity had a dynamic 2013. The distributed energy financier acquired Zep Solar for its mounting equipment and acquired Paramount for its skill in gaining customers. The company launched the first securitized solar note, is brewing a crowdfunding mechanism of sorts via which individuals can invest in solar projects, and made retail deals with Costco, while also growing to claim around a 30 percent share of the residential solar market.

The firm discussed its 2013 business and Q1 2014 outlook on SolarCity's second Q4 earnings call this year. Revenue and EPS exceeded consensus. The stock is down 2 percent in after-hours trading.

Lyndon Rive, SolarCity CEO, led off the call noting that the company was close to cash flow break-even for the entire year. He called attention to "record" January bookings, which were exceeded by February bookings. He expects the firm to exceed 100 megawatts of residential solar bookings alone in Q1.

A few tidbits from the call:
  • Rive said that it cost SolarCity $2,000 to $3,000 to gain each of its customers. It didn't sound as if he expected that price to drop quickly any time soon.
  • SolarCity ended 2013 with $1.68 billion worth of leased/to-be-leased solar systems (up more than 70 percent), $246 million in long-term debt, $53 million worth of solar asset-backed notes, and $230 million worth of convertible senior notes.
  • CFO Robert Kelly said the company was cash flow-positive for the fourth quarter and "within $3 million of being cash flow-positive for the entire year."
  • Lyndon Rive noted that California accounts for a little less than half of SolarCity's business.
  • Rive was "comfortable" in his forecast that costs will continue to decline regardless of the tariff decision on Chinese modules. Co-founder and CTO Peter Rive estimated the drop in costs to be 5 percent in 2014.
  • The CFO suggested that the cost of capital for rooftop solar should approach that of a prime mortgage. He said to look at the cost of fifteen-year mortgages for the eventual cost of solar securities.
  • The company ended the year with a cash balance of $577 million.

Global CPV capacity expected to reach 1 GW by 2020
19. March 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Edgar Meza

While CPV remains at a nascent stage, it is poised to expand dramatically in the coming years despite a number of recent company closures and industry consolidation, according to research group GlobalData.

The global Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) market will see a major growth spurt in the next five years, with cumulative installed capacity to jump from 357.9 MW in 2014 to 1,043.96 MW by 2020, according to a new report from U.K. research and consulting firm GlobalData.

In its report, Concentrated Photovoltaics (CPV), Update 2014 – Global Market Size, Competitive Landscape and Key Country Analysis to 2020, released on Tuesday, GlobalData says China and the U.S. dominated the global CPV market in 2013, with their cumulative installed capacity reaching shares of 35.4 percent and 33.3 percent, respectively. Spain ranked third after the U.S. with 12.2 percent, followed by Portugal and Italy, with respective shares of 5.1 percent and 4.3 percent.

"The CPV market is at a nascent stage, especially with the technology evolving and achieving new heights of efficiency improvement," said Swati Singh, GlobalData’s analyst covering Alternative Energy. "Companies that have been successful in operating CPV prototype systems in pilot sites are now progressing towards multi-MW CPV projects."

Two CPV power plants came online in 2012 and 2013. These were Amonix’s 30 MW Alamosa in the U.S. state of Colorado and Suncore’s 50 MW CPV power plant in Golmud, China, which GlobalData described as the largest CPV plant in the world.

Nottingham to construct UK’s largest urban solar canopy
By Conor Ryan | 19 March 2014, 12:27 Updated: 19 March 2014, 14:18

The Nottingham City Council approved plans to develop the UK’s largest PV canopy at two of the city’s Park and Ride sites.

The two projects, built at the Queen’s Drive and Colwick Racecourse Park and Ride sites, will be constructed at the same time and are expected to be completed by April 2015. The arrays are expected to produce enough energy to power 479 homes a year while also generating around £216,000 annually for the council.

The Queen’s Drive array will consistent of 4,000 panels while the Colwick Racecourse will be made up of 3,000 panels. Together, both projects will reach 10,500 square metres in size – large enough to cover the Nott’s County football stadium’s pitch one and half times over.

The arrays will provide a massive boost to the city’s energy output, as the Queen’s Drive project will increase the amount of solar power produced on the council’s own land by 400% while generating more than 1.0Gwh of energy and saving 600 tonnes of carbon annually.

Three possible business models for distributed storage
By Jono Pye on 19 March 2014
Watt Clarity

(This article was collectively authored by Jono Pye (who gave the presentation on battery storage and future business models at APVI) and others in the GSES team).

There is no such thing as a ‘natural market’ when it comes to electricity – there is nothing natural about buying and selling electrons.

All electricity markets are designed around the technology available at the time, which up until now has been large centralised generators that are located close to their fossil fuel resource. The business models of generators, transmission/distribution companies and retailers are similarly based on the available technology (and existing market).

Distributed PV has already had a serious impact on presumed business models. It is constantly flagged that soon the price of batteries will fall to the point where distributed storage is common place. Such a dramatic shift in the technology of the electricity market promises to disrupt many of the incumbent players . Much has been written about the utility ‘death spiral’, in which utilities, facing a reduction in the use of their networks, will increase the unit cost of energy to make up their revenue, which in turn will increase the incentive for customers to use less energy.

Batteries have the potential to provide the death stroke to utilities by potentially supplying all of a customer’s energy needs. However this assumes two things:

1) that customers are willing to provide their own capital for the investment, and

2) that there is either no need for a back-up power source or that a grid connection is more expensive than a generator.

Private Ownership

Utility Ownership

Gentailer Ownership

First Solar Sets Thin-Film Efficiency Record at 17%
Published on 19 March 2014

First Solar, Inc. today announced it has set a world record for cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) module conversion efficiency, achieving a record 17.0% total area module efficiency in tests performed by the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

The new record is an increase over the prior record of 16.1% efficiency, which the company set in April 2013. This announcement comes weeks after First Solar announced it achieved a world record in CdTe research cell efficiency of 20.4%.

The record-setting module was created at First Solar's Research and Development Center in Perrysburg, Ohio (US), using production-scale processes and materials, and included several recent technology enhancements that are incrementally being implemented on the company's commercial production lines.

Notably, the First Solar research module also has a confirmed "aperture area" conversion efficiency of 17.5%. Many manufacturers often quote this aperture area efficiency when claiming record performance, particularly for small mini-modules custom-built in R&D labs. First Solar's record is all the more significant because it is full production size, the company reports.

First Solar and GE Develop New Design for Utility-Scale PV Power Plants
Published on 19 March 2014

First Solar, Inc. and GE's Power Conversion business are working together to develop a more cost effective and productive utility-scale PV power plant design that combines First Solar's thin-film CdTe modules with GE's new ProSolar 1500 Volt inverter/transformer system.

First Solar has integrated new technology into its modules and optimized them for 1500VDC applications. Combined with GE's 4MW ProSolar 1500V inverter/transformer stations, this development is expected to enable power plant engineering design that increases the size of the solar array served by each inverter and reduces the number of inverter/transformer stations required for each plant to convert the power from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) and feed electricity to a commercial electrical grid. The resulting plant design maintains high power delivery while lowering installation and maintenance costs.

Analysts: Tesla becoming big player in energy storage
By Ethan Howland
March 19, 2014

Dive Brief:
  • Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley analysts see Tesla Motors becoming a major player in grid storage.
  • Goldman expects solar costs to fall by about 3% a year and for Tesla's planned “gigafactory” to slash battery prices. “Our analysis suggests the implications for residential and commercial storage applications could be far reaching in terms of how customers interact with the grid,” Goldman said.
  • With falling solar and storage prices coupled with rising retail electric prices, Goldman estimates that grid parity could come to all states by 2033, and sooner in states like Hawaii, New York and California.

Dive Insight:

Goldman and Morgan Stanley are focused on Tesla's possible stock value, but their insights tell us a lot about where the U.S. may be heading in terms of how we get our power. A recent report by Rocky Mountain Institute focused on the solar-storage connection and how customers may start leaving their utility in droves.
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I loved this thread! Talking about solar power means that we are taking care of the nature.
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Super-bright solar power plant blinding pilots around midday
Plant could be a hazard, but Aviation Safety Reporting System has delayed action.

by Megan Geuss - Mar 19 2014, 2:50pm PST

Out in the California desert, just 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System has been harnessing the power of the sun—a little too effectively. In August 2013, a number of pilots flying over the solar plant, which counts Google as one of its investors and sits on approximately 3,500 acres of federal land in the Mojave Desert, reported that the glare coming off the plant's equipment is blinding to the point of being a serious hazard.

“The copilot and I were distracted and momentarily blinded by the sun reflecting off of mirrors at the solar power plant facility located near the CA-NV border near the town of Primm,” one pilot, who was flying a small transport plane out of Boulder City, Nevada, recounted to the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS). “At its brightest, neither the pilot nor copilot could look in that direction due to the intense brightness. From the pilot’s seat of my aircraft, the brightness was like looking into the sun, and it filled about 1/3 of the copilot's front windshield. In my opinion the reflection from these mirrors was a hazard to flight because for a brief time I could not scan the sky in that direction to look for other aircraft.”

The glare, it seems, was coming from light reflected by the solar plant's heliostats, which are 78-square-foot mirrors specially designed by solar company BrightSource to reflect the sun's rays onto one of three 459-foot-high boiler towers. The heat from all that concentrated light boils the water within, generating 377 megawatts of electricity, which is then sold to PG&E and Southern California Edison. The heat that the reflected light creates is intense—it has even been known to scorch birds that fly through. (Although the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System keeps close track of these incidents—a February compliance report suggested that approximately five birds were killed by the plant's heat that month.)

First Solar Seeks More Rooftops as Utility Plants Shrink
By Christopher Martin Mar 20, 2014 6:43 AM PT

First Solar Inc. (FSLR), the largest U.S. solar-panel maker, is boosting its efforts to install systems at industrial sites and warehouses as utilities demand smaller solar farms.

Pursuing smaller projects and customer-sited systems may increase sales as much as 36 percent over the next three years, Chief Executive Officer Jim Hughes said at an analyst event in New York yesterday.

The company got 65 percent of its 2013 sales from selling large solar farms to utilities, a market that’s slowing in the U.S. as power companies meet state requirements and don’t need to buy more solar energy. Hughes is seeking deals in other regions including Saudi Arabia, India and South America, and also expects higher demand in the U.S. from commercial and industrial rooftops.

“We’re more confident than ever that we can compete for rooftops,” Hughes said in an interview after the event. “Quite possibly it will be our biggest growth segment, but we’re starting from a small base.”

The company, based in Tempe, Arizona, forecast earnings will increase to $4.50 to $6 a share in 2015 from $2.20 to $2.60 this year.

First Solar is competing for 15 commercial projects totaling 45 megawatts, and is “shortlisted” for 15 megawatts of those, according to Chief Operating Officer Georges Antoun.

“It’s about 45 percent of the market so we have to pay attention to it,” Antoun said at the analyst meeting. “We can get back into it and become a major player.”

How solar energy empowers women, youth in rural Nicaragua
Sabana Grande, a small northern Nicaraguan town has leveraged solar power to transform a community once ravaged by war, Guevara-Stone writes.

By Laurie Guevara-Stone, Guest blogger / March 20, 2014

Forty years ago Sabana Grande, a small community in northern Nicaragua, was ravaged by war. Now you will find people sitting under solar-powered lights, eating solar-cooked chicken, and drinking smoothies made by a bicycle-powered blender. Sabana Grande (pop. 2,000), in the mountains of Totogalpa, about 20 miles from the Honduran border, has embraced a solar culture that has transformed the community.

Turning landmine survivors into solar technicians

The war between the government Sandinistas and the Contra rebels left hundreds of people disabled by landmines, especially in the northern part of the country. In 1999 a Nicaraguan non-governmental organization called Grupo Fenix received a grant from the Canadian Falls Brook Center to reintegrate landmine survivors back into society. The NGO decided it would teach the landmine survivors how to make solar panels, providing them with both a livelihood and a way to get electricity in a poor, off-grid region. It focused on Sabana Grande, an agricultural community in one of the poorest regions in one of the poorest departments of Nicaragua.

Grupo Fenix, founded by engineering professor Susan Kinne of the Engineering University of Nicaragua and made up of many of her engineering students, taught the villagers how to solder together discarded solar cells they received from some large PV manufacturers to make solar PV panels, up to 60 watts in size. They also held classes on installing and maintaining off-grid solar PV systems. The Sabana Grande solar workshop was born, and soon a few of the trained farmers-turned-technicians started selling small solar home lighting systems to people in the community and throughout the region.

Marco Antonio Perez is one of the landmine survivors trained by Grupo Fenix. “One gets a complex, and believes that their life is over,” he said. “To reintegrate into society, to feel useful again, took five years.” After being training in photovoltaics, he directed the Sabana Grande solar workshop for years, and now runs a solar company in a nearby town. Despite his lack of a formal education, having only graduated from the 6th grade, he has traveled to Haiti and Costa Rica to teach people how to construct solar panels, and is a co-author of a paper on an encapsulation method he helped develop in Elsevier’s journal Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells.

Women's empowerment through solar energy

The engineering students also brought along some solar cookers, and showed them to the women in the community. The women were intrigued—in Nicaragua approximately 90 percent of the rural population cooks over open fires, and respiratory diseases are the leading cause of death for women. Soon the women were learning how to build their own solar cookers and using them to cook for their families, greatly reducing their firewood consumption and smoke exposure. The women were hooked, and organized themselves into an organization called Las Mujeres Solares de Totogalpa—the Solar Women of Totogalpa, which officially became a cooperative in 2010. In early years of the group’s work they had been constructing solar cookers based out of different members’ homes. In 2005 they decided they needed a place of their own.

RMI: Here's how the economics of grid defection will pay off
By Jon Creyts and James Newcomb
Published March 20, 2014

The speed of disruptive innovation in the electricity sector has been outpacing regulatory and utility business model reform, which is why they now sometimes feel in conflict. That disruptive innovation is only accelerating.

Our recent report, "The Economics of Grid Defection: When and where distributed solar generation plus storage competes with traditional utility service," sets a timeline for utilities, regulators and others to get ahead of the curve and shift from reactive to proactive approaches. Becoming proactive and deliberate about the electricity system's transformation, and doing so ahead of any fundamental shifts in customer economics, would enable us to optimize the grid and make distributed technologies the integral and valuable piece we believe they can and should be.

When we at the Rocky Mountain Institute issued "The Economics of Grid Defection" three weeks ago, our intent was to stretch the conversation among electricity system stakeholders by looking out far enough in the future to discern a point where the rules of the system change in a fundamental way. We used the best available facts to explore when and where fully off-grid solar-plus-battery systems could become cheaper than grid-purchased electricity in the United States, thus challenging the way the current electricity system operates. Those systems, in fact, don’t even need to go fully off grid. The much less extreme but perhaps far more likely scenario would be grid-connected systems, which could be just as or even more challenging for electricity system operation and utility business models.

The takeaway is this: even under the fully off-grid scenarios we modeled, we have about 10 years — give or take a few — to really solve our electricity business model issues here in the continental U.S. before they begin compounding dramatically. The analysis also suggests we carefully should read the “postcards from the future” being sent from Hawaii today, and take much more interest in how that situation plays out as a harbinger of things to come.

As an institute with a mission to think ahead in the interest of society, consider this a public service message that these issues will crescendo to a point of consequence requiring dramatic and widespread changes well within current planning horizons. For those who are serious about finding solutions, this is also a call to action and a commitment to partnership.

As we look at the future electricity system — the one we need to be building today — we see five critical differences from the present system. Redesigning our regulatory and market models should reflect these emergent needs.
  • The future electricity system will be highly transactive. Increasingly, the grid will become a market for making many-to-many connections between suppliers and consumers, with those roles being redefined daily as self-balancing systems decide whether to take from or supply to the grid at any given time.
  • Correspondingly, asset and service value will be differentiated by location and timing of availability, and perhaps even by carbon intensity or other socially demanded attributes. In a system that requires instantaneous load matching at the distribution level, and where virtual and real storage are distributed throughout the system, resource coordination will require transparent markets (with increasing automation) that provide the ability to balance autonomously using value signals. A system historically governed by averages instead will migrate to specific, dynamically varying values.
  • Innovative energy solutions will proliferate. As a consequence of market forces already unlocked, we are assured to see a regular stream of distributed resource innovations that better meet customer needs at costs comparable to existing utility retail prices. These could be market-based aggregation plays (such as demand response) or personal technologies (a home “power plant” such as solar plus storage or a gas microturbine).
  • A consequence of these first three points is that the rules governing the network must be adaptive to constantly shifting asset configurations, operations and other factors. For example, charging EVs may make more sense at night or during the day, depending on the penetration of renewables relative to base needs. There will be lots of inflection points on how and when to encourage the development of different types of assets to reach efficient and stable outcomes.
  • Finally, the customer will be increasingly empowered. The services of the grid must de-commoditize to deliver against exact customer needs for reliability, “green-ness” and other attributes. Failure to do so will result in customers finding higher-value alternatives.

Anatomy of a Deal: 4-Cent-per-Kilowatt-Hour Solar in Palo Alto
Controlling soft costs wins “the lowest price ever for a solar PPA for distributed generation.”

Eric Wesoff
March 20, 2014

Palo Alto, California's municipal utility already has low electricity prices -- local recreation center Oshman Family JCC reported paying about 9 cents per kilowatt-hour at certain rate tiers. But THiNKnrg, an energy project developer, was able to provide the center with a 50 percent discount and close a deal with a twenty-year solar PPA price at 4 cents per kilowatt-hour.

This is a relatively small project -- it comprises 398 kilowatts spread across twelve rooftops. And although that doesn't compare in scale to, say, Austin's 5-cent-per-kWh, 150-megawatt PPA, the JCC project distinguishes itself by creatively financing a small project while keeping soft costs down.

The JCC's solar installation is a 397.5-kilowatt system powered by 1,840 Trina PV panels that have been factory-integrated with Tigo power optimizers and connected to KACO inverters. Mark Holtzman, CFO of the Oshman Center, said the PPA would save about $30,000 per year in electricity bills and an estimated $1.5 million in energy savings over the twenty-year contract.

"This is one of the more innovative deals we have done," said Zach Rubin, CEO of THiNKnrg. The PPA takes advantage of the usual 30 percent investment tax credit, plus a generous five-year, 29-cent-per-kilowatt-hour performance-based incentive (PBI).

Solar Usage Shattering Records in California as New Capacity Comes On-Line
The state’s grid is handling more than 15,000 megawatts of renewable capacity without incident.

Herman K. Trabish
March 19, 2014

California is setting records for solar energy usage so fast that the state’s grid operator has had to change its protocol for announcing them.

The instantaneous use of solar by the California Independent System Operator (the ISO) reached a record peak of 4,143 megawatts at 2:28 p.m. on March 16. It was enough electricity to power over 3 million homes, according to the ISO.

The new record supplanted preceding records set on March 8, 14, and 15. It is primarily the result of new capacity coming on-line, according to California ISO Senior Public Information Officer Steven Greenlee. That includes BrightSource Energy’s 392-megawatt Ivanpah CSP project, as well as the 1,900-plus megawatts of new utility-scale PV GTM Research’s 2013 U.S. Solar Market Insight report noted was installed by the state in 2013.

New records are coming so quickly California’s grid operator has decided to change its policy on announcements, Greenlee said. The ISO will now only announce 500-megawatt advances of the record instead of announcing 50-megawatt increments.

The record-breaking 4,143-megawatt instantaneous solar peak March 16 was almost twice the 2,071 megawatts that set the record just nine months ago, on June 7, 2013.

There are 5,231 megawatts of installed solar capacity available to California’s grid operator. Both this figure and the record production do not include the almost 1,100 megawatts of California’s rooftop solar capacity.

The hourly average peak on March 16 from utility-scale PV installations was 3,637 megawatts at 1:26 p.m., and the solar thermal hourly average peak from concentrating solar power plants was 563 megawatts at 3:49 p.m.


Why the Solar Sector Is Outshining All Other Stocks
The low-carbon energy production index has taken the lead in HSBC’s Global Climate Change Index.

RenewEconomy, Giles Parkinson
March 19, 2014

Solar stocks are certainly having their day in the sun, outperforming all other sub-indices in the global stock market to deliver the best returns over the past fifteen months.

After taking off in mid-2013, the 32 stocks in the global solar index monitored by global investment bank HSBC gained 65 percent in value for that calendar year, and the index is already up 23 percent in the first few months of 2014.

The 2014 return-to-date compares to 4.6 percent for the HSBC Global Climate Change Index, and 0.7 percent for the MSCI All Country World Index, one of the key global benchmarks. This graph below shows the comparative performance over the last fifteen months.


Solar PV Industry Targets 100 GW Annual Deployment in 2018, According to NPD Solarbuzz
300 GW of new solar PV to be installed in the next five years, as solar increases to 3% of total global power supply

Santa Clara, Calif., March 20, 2014 — The solar photovoltaic (PV) industry is set for rapid growth over the next five years, with up to 100 gigawatts (GW) annual deployment being targeted in 2018, according to the latest edition of NPD Solarbuzz Marketbuzz. This end-market growth is projected to increase annual PV module revenues, which are forecast to reach $50 billion in 2018.

Despite being severely hampered by overcapacity and declining operating margins during 2012 and 2013, the PV industry still grew 34% over this two-year period. Having grown to more than 37 GW of end-market demand in 2013, the global solar PV industry is now set to hit a new milestone in 2018, reaching a cumulative installed capacity level of 500 GW. This strong demand will also further stimulate revenues for the industry’s manufacturers, with PV module revenues of more than $200 billion available over the five-year period from 2014 to 2018.

“Solar PV module prices declined faster than the end-market grew in 2012, leading to a dramatic decline in revenues,” said Michael Barker, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. “This imbalance was corrected during 2013. Over the next five years, end-market growth will exceed forecasted price declines, resulting in a strong rebound in module revenues.”

“Solar PV suppliers are benefiting from a less volatile pricing environment, compared to previous years,” said Finlay Colville, vice-president of NPD Solarbuzz. “The industry will soon transition to a phase of profitable growth, with solar PV competing directly with traditional forms of energy.”

Solar Market Turns Positive as Demand Grows
By Charles Kennedy | Wed, 19 March 2014 22:43

Rising demand around the world for solar energy is lifting the industry into profitability after years of oversupply. For years, solar manufacturers, spurred on by subsidies and government procurement, churned out higher volumes of solar panels. This succeeded in dramatically bringing down costs, but pushed manufacturers deep into the red when prices plummeted. After a shakeout, many of the companies left standing are returning to profit. Costs continue to decline, and finally demand is catching up with supply.

China’s biggest solar makers recently announced much improved financial performance. Yingli Solar, the world’s largest supplier of solar modules, expects to reach profitability by the third quarter of this year. Its peers, Trina Solar Ltd. and JinkoSolar Holding Co. also laid out higher production and profits for the year. JA Solar reported its first quarterly profit in over two years.

Chile reaches 150 MW of installed solar with further 225 MW under construction
20. March 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Blanca Diaz-Lopez

PV installed capacity increased significantly in February with the connection of the 48.2 MW San Andres project. The volume of solar projects under construction increased from 128 MW in January to 225 MW in February.

Installed photovoltaic power saw remarkable growth in Chile last month. During February, the San Andres SunEdison solar park in the Atacama region began operation with a capacity of 48.2 MW, increasing the country’s cumulative PV capacity to 149.8 MW.

The volume of solar projects under construction also grew considerably in February. According to the latest monthly bulletin of the Renewable Energy Center, 225 MW of solar projects were under construction in February, up from 128 MW the previous month.

Overall, the combined capacity from renewable energy plants in operation in Chile has reached 1,352 MW. Chile’s Renewable Energy Center estimated that the cumulative power of these projects would range from 1,500 MW to 1,800 MW by the end of the year. In addition to the 225 MW of solar under construction there were also 585 MW of wind, some 85 MW of mini-hydro projects and about 32 MW in bioenergy projects under construction in February.

Nanotube composites increase the efficiency of next generation of solar cells

[2014-03-18] Carbon nanotubes are becoming increasingly attractive for photovoltaic solar cells as a replacement to silicon. Researchers at Umeå University in Sweden have discovered that controlled placement of the carbon nanotubes into nano-structures produces a huge boost in electronic performance. Their groundbreaking results are published in the prestigious journal Advanced Materials.

Carbon nanotubes, CNTs, are one dimensional nanoscale cylinders made of carbon atoms that possess very unique properties. For example, they have very high tensile strength and exceptional electron mobility, which make them very attractive for the next generation of organic and carbon-based electronic devices.

There is an increasing trend of using carbon based nanostructured materials as components in solar cells. Due to their exceptional properties, carbon nanotubes are expected to enhance the performance of current solar cells through efficient charge transport inside the device. However, in order to obtain the highest performance for electronic applications, the carbon nanotubes must be assembled into a well-ordered network of interconnecting nanotubes. Unfortunately, conventional methods used today are far from optimal which results in low device performance.

In a new study, a team of physicists and chemists at Umeå University have joined forces to produce nano-engineered carbon nanotubes networks with novel properties.

For the first time, the researchers show that carbon nanotubes can be engineered into complex network architectures, and with controlled nano-scale dimensions inside a polymer matrix.

“We have found that the resulting nano networks possess exceptional ability to transport charges, up to 100 million times higher than previously measured carbon nanotube random networks produced by conventional methods,” says Dr David Barbero, leader of the project and assistant professor at the Department of Physics at Umeå University.

TÜV Rheinland, Rackam develop platform to test high-temperature solar thermal, solar CSP collectors
TÜV Rheinland PTL (Tempe, Arizona, U.S.) and Rackam (Canada) have jointly developed a test bench for measuring the performance and efficiency of collectors for solar thermal and concentrating solar power (CSP) systems, which will be located at TÜV Rheinland's facilities in Tempe.

The bench consists of a pumping circuit equipped with electric heating elements and measuring and control instruments. This enables the circulation of mineral oil-based heat transfer fluids up to 240 degrees Celsius through devices including solar collectors, thermal storage banks and small steam turbine generators.

“The specifications of this project required high precision measurement along with high versatility, which is why we paid a great deal of attention to the selection of measuring equipment,” said Rackam Director of Research and Development Jacques-Alexandre Fortin. “The result is a mobile test bench which is both versatile and very accurate.”

TÜV Rheinland describes the completion of the device as a milestone, stating that it confirms its capability of commitment in providing technical and testing services for the solar thermal industry.

Fullerene-Free OPV Cell Achieves Record 8.4% Efficiency
Written by Sandra Henderson 20 March 2014

Fullerene-free organic photovoltaic (OPV) multilayer stacks developed by the Belgian nanoelectronics research institution Imec have achieved a record power conversion efficiency of 8.4%. The researchers attribute the performance boost to a novel combination of donor and acceptor materials that improves light absorption and a unique architecture that aids charge transfer.

Imec’s thin-film solar cell consists of a three-component organic active layer with one donor compound and two acceptors, sandwiched between commonly used contact and electrode layers. Traditionally, only one acceptor is used in organic solar cells. “The use of three compounds in the active layer, with energy levels that are well-positioned, relative to each other, allow for a cascade effect that ensures that excitons — bound states generated upon excitation by light — can be efficiently separated into free charges,” explains Tom Aernouts, R&D manager for Imec's organic solar cell activities.

Until now, fullerenes were the only known acceptor compounds for use in organic solar cells that showed very fast and efficient charge transfer, according to Imec. But fullerenes have a limited absorption spectrum. “With this novel structure, we open up the library of materials to be used as acceptors,” says Aernouts. Experimenting with many different combinations of donor and acceptor materials allowed the team to improve the absorption of light and thus the organic solar cell’s overall power conversion efficiency.

The record achievement of 8.4% efficiency is breaking new ground in OPV. “It is — to our knowledge — the first fullerene-free organic solar cell reported with such high efficiency,” Aernouts says. Previous fullerene-free cells merely reached efficiencies around 2–3%.

Nature | Comment
Renewable energy: Back the renewables boom
Jessika E. Trancik
19 March 2014

Low-carbon technologies are getting better and cheaper each year, but continued public-policy support is needed to sustain progress, says Jessika E. Trancik.

A new battery is rarely greeted with as much excitement as the latest smartphone or a new drug. The energy industry is widely perceived as sluggish, a provider of basic services and lacking creativity. In fact, a brighter reality is emerging — government support for energy-technology development is paying off.

Public policies to encourage the development and adoption of renewable-energy technologies are essential, because low-carbon performance is not visible to most consumers and carbon is not priced in the global market. Yet there is a widespread lack of confidence in public-sector efforts to spur innovation, as a result of the mixed record of governments in picking winners and losers among technologies.

Some governments are considering reducing their support for renewable-energy projects. The future of the US tax credit for new wind energy is uncertain; the United Kingdom is debating scaling down subsidies for some renewables and relaxing its targets for carbon-emissions reductions, and Spain has abandoned its incentives programme and electricity-price commitments for renewable-energy power plants. The countries of the European Union disagree on a common binding target for the adoption of renewable energy by 2030.

But now is not the time to cut government support for renewables. Each day that we delay implementing low-carbon energy technologies we increase the likelihood of damage from climate change — from storms and floods to forest fires.

The response of the global energy industry to even modest policy interventions has been remarkable. Led by China, Europe, the United States and Japan, the alternative-energy sector is booming worldwide. Solar and wind technologies have improved most rapidly in the past three decades, with photovoltaics a hundred times cheaper today than in 1975.

Governments should help to maintain this progress. Research funds and policies to boost markets will mature new energy industries and promote the next generation of low-carbon technologies.

Rapid innovation

The speed of energy-technology innovation is only just coming to light as long-term data sets become available. My analyses of 30 or more years of datashow that the costs of renewable-energy technologies have fallen steeply. Photovoltaic module costs have plunged by about 10% per year over the past 30 years and the costs of wind turbines have fallen by roughly 5% per year. Production levels for both technologies have risen by about 30% per year on average.

Some technologies are more open to improvement than others. Compact, modular systems, such as photovoltaics and electronics, are easily experimented on. And processes that may be achieved through alternative designs or materials offer more avenues for advancement. The diversity of semiconductors, for example, is behind the recent development of high-efficiency perovskite solar cells. Other technologies are harder to improve. Those with high commodity costs, such as coal-fired electricity, soon hit cost floors in the marketplace.

Photovoltaic systems and wind turbines are therefore better candidates for sustained cost reduction than large nuclear or coal plants. The lower price of solar cells today is due to increasing the efficiency with which sunlight is converted to electricity within modules, less manufacturing waste and greater economies of scale.

Wind turbines have seen similar progress, reaching higher wind speeds at greater heights to deliver more energy per cost of installed unit. Indeed, wind energy now competes economically with fossil-fuelled thermal power plants in several places, including Texas, and in Denmark it supplies 30% of electricity consumption.

Knowledge about how to design, build and integrate these technologies into the energy infrastructure has also grown. For example, it takes roughly half the time to install a solar system in Germany compared with the United States, thanks to a more experienced workforce and streamlined permit processes.


Opportunities and investment for energy storage technologies
IEA report says technologies offer significant potential for energy-sector decarbonisation but struggle in today’s markets

19 March 2014

Energy storage technologies – spanning everything from electric water heaters to pumped hydro – are valuable components in most energy systems and could be an important tool for achieving a low-carbon future. In a new report released today, the IEA estimates that China, India, the European Union and the United States alone should invest at least USD 380 billion in new electricity storage capacity by 2050 to support decarbonisation.

By setting aside energy for use when and where it is needed, energy storage – both electricity and thermal (for heating and cooling) – can decouple supply from demand, increasing system flexibility and improving reliability. It is expected that storage could play a key role in coming decades in facilitating the expansion of variable renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

"Energy storage technologies can play a key role in energy sector decarbonisation by helping to better connect electricity and heat networks," Didier Houssin, IEA Director of Sustainable Energy Policy and Technology, said at the Paris release of the roadmap. "Furthermore, these technologies can improve the efficiency of energy resource use and increase energy access, which are critical components of a secure, sustainable energy system for all."

Technology Roadmap: Energy Storage, the latest in the series of IEA publications that show how different technologies can speed the transition to a low-carbon energy system, can be downloaded for free here.

Technology Roadmap: Energy Storage presents an electricity-sector decarbonisation scenario that integrates renewables in part by deploying an estimated 310 gigawatts of additional grid-connected electricity storage in the US, Europe, India and China by 2050. That is 100 times more storage capacity than at the Bath County Pumped Storage Station in the United States, the largest single electricity storage facility in the world, and nearly 10 times all present electricity storage in the European Union.

Storage systems can be defined by how long they can store energy, from systems that hold solar power for use at night to seasonal systems that save summer heat to warm homes in the winter. On the shortest-term basis, electricity storage systems can shift supply and demand within an area to correct load imbalances, avoiding brownouts and blackouts. Storage includes large, centralised systems as well as small and off-grid units.

IEA: R&D, not ‘silver bullet’ hype required on energy storage
By Andy Colthorpe - 20 March 2014, 10:20
In News, Power Generation, Grid Connection

Energy storage technologies are not the “silver bullet” they have sometimes been hyped as, but nonetheless have a crucial role to play in a decarbonised electricity system, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA has published a technology ‘roadmap’ for energy storage, covering electricity and thermal storage systems.

The document attempts to address the three questions of where energy storage technology is today, what long-terms goals for energy storage development and deployment might be and finally what priority actions are required to put increased development and deployment of energy storage into practice.

The roadmap is aimed at increasing stakeholders’ understanding of electrical and thermal energy storage and how the corresponding technologies can be deployed at various points along transmission and generation systems, IEA said.

In addition, the roadmap attempts to point the way towards success in accelerating the deployment and development of storage technologies in the short and long term by identifying actions to support the embryonic industry. The IEA identifies ‘short term’ as within 10 years while ‘long term’ represents the period up to 2050.

The report identifies the current and possible future roles of energy storage, including the integration of higher levels of variable renewable energy penetration, supporting an increase in electricity consumed nearer to generation sources and making grids more flexible, reliable, resilient and stable.

Key recommendations made in the roadmap include the need for better data sets to quantify the need for storage and its potential uses. According to the IEA, improved global data sets would be useful in tracking progress within the industry and would provide better global and regional potential and targets. The roadmap also provides ‘technology timelines’ which forecast the expected levels of progress in the three scenarios modelled.

Houssin said: “The first thing to do is to provide the right market signals, to provide the right incentives, to encourage innovation and provide the right contribution to storage in its different applications. The second thing is, the more we will go to an electricity system that has more distributed generation, that will really provide strong incentives to develop more solutions for electricity storage.

“The third one is about the need for innovation, because we need a lot of R&D to develop new solutions, maybe obtain some breakthroughs. So it’s a mixed message but also a call for more R&D and more reflection in terms of the right regulatory framework that will incentivise more investment in storage facilities. Again it’s not a solution for tomorrow but in a long term vision of a decarbonised electricity system, we are definitely convinced that storage has a very important role to play.”

Houssin concluded by saying: “On one side, there is a lot of hype on energy storage as a ‘silver bullet’ solution for all problems with power markets. We’d rather say that it is one option among others and in terms of cost competition, not all technologies are sufficiently cost effective today to be presented – as they too often are – as a ‘silver bullet’ to solve all the problems of power systems.”

Renewable Energy Opponents at it Again in Kansas, but Wind (and Solar!) Power Forge Ahead
Jeff Deyette, asst director of research & analysis, Clean Energy
March 20, 2014

ALEC and their fossil fuel-funded cohorts are taking yet another crack at undermining renewable energy policy in Kansas. Fortunately, their ill-conceived antics are not distracting wind and solar development from moving full steam ahead.

This week, the Senate held a public hearing on SB 433, a bill that would outright repeal the state’s successful renewable electricity standard (RES) requiring that 20 percent of Kansas’s power come from renewable energy by 2020. The bill is sponsored by the Ways and Means Committee, which is chaired by Senator Ty Masterson — an ALEC member. While you have to marvel at their persistence and political theater — similar attacks on the RES have failed each of the last two years — the tactics behind these rollback efforts are more insidious. Recent efforts to discredit the RES by linking it to multiple utility rate hikes and Obamacare have been characterized as “nothing short of a lie,” “misleading,” and “laughable.”

In truth, the RES has already delivered substantial economic and environmental benefits to local communities and it’s been affordable. According to a Kansas Corporate Commission report, RES-driven development has had a very modest 1.7 percent impact on consumer rates. That’s why 75 percent of Kansans support the current RES policy.
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Hanwha Solar to Develop 100 Megawatts of Rooftop Power in China
20 March 2014

March 20 (Bloomberg) — Hanwha SolarOne Co., the China-based photovoltaic manufacturing unit of South Korea’s Hanwha Group, agreed to develop 100 megawatts of rooftop power systems in eastern China.

The Wuxi New District Administrative Committee, in Jiangsu province, will provide rooftop space and facilitate government approval and grid connections, Qidong, China-based Hanwha SolarOne said today in a statement. The committee will also aid in arranging tax incentives and financing.

Hanwha will own and operate the systems and the deal is part of the company’s efforts to expand its project-development business.

“We intend to become a significant project owner and operator in China,” Jay Seo, Hanwha SolarOne’s chief financial officer, said in the statement.

Solar costs to halve as gas prices surge
By Giles Parkinson on 21 March 2014

Another of the world’s leading solar PV manufacturing giants has underlined the potential for yet more substantial falls in the manufacturing cost of solar modules, even as the cost of fossil fuels – and gas in particular – surges in the opposite direction.

Beyond the near-term revenue forecasts that obsess market analysts, one of the big take-outs of First Solar’s annual market day in New York this week was its predictions about the cost of solar modules over the next five years.

In short, First Solar expects its average manufacturing cost to nearly halve – from an average $US0.63/watt in 2013, to $US0.35/W in 2018. That will bring the total installed cost of a module (including racking and inverters) from around $1.59/W to below $1/W by 2017 – so meeting the US Department of Energy’s ambitious Sunshot Initiative goals at least three years ahead of time.

This is significant because as solar prices are coming down, fossil fuel prices are headed quickly in the opposite direction. The US has been hailed as the nation of cheap gas, but that is proving to be an illusion betrayed by rapid depletion rates of wells and the growing challenge of deeper and more complicated reserves. Not to mention the water and other environmental considerations.

As this story from EnergyWire states, wholesale prices in the north-east grid in the US jumped 55 per cent in 2013, thanks mostly to a 76 per cent jump in the price of gas to $US6.97/MMBTU, which is now back above its pre GFC, pre-fracking boom levels. (Bookmark the graph, and point it out to the next person that tells you how the fracking boom has guaranteed low electricity prices into the future. It’s bunkum).

The future of large-scale solar was in balance just a year ago, mostly because many of the initial big projects had been funded by California’s ambitious renewable energy target, and a strong solar mandate.


Low Cost Solar Signals Dynamic Shift for Utility Planning
Laurie Reese, Solar Electric Power Association
March 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Recent news that Austin Energy is looking to sign a 25-year solar energy PPA for less than 5 cents per kilowatt-hour is not just solar notable, it’s utility notable. (Austin Energy is seeking city council approval to execute the PPA at a 3/27/14 meeting.) The two projects totaling 150 megawatts are admittedly larger than typically seen for PV, creating obvious economies of scale, but we must take note as most other aspects are replicable by utilities across the U.S.:
  1. The projects leverage broadly available incentives available to all solar project; the federal investment tax credit and accelerated depreciation.
  2. Austin has a good solar resource, but its capacity factor is only 5-6 percent better than that of a project in Minneapolis and 11-12 percent better than a similar project in Baltimore.
  3. The RFP reportedly received over 30 other bids in the same ballpark.

And this isn’t the first utility to report this type of competitive pricing — Xcel Energy, in both Colorado and Minnesota — is finding that solar projects are proving to be cost effective even when compared to conventional resource options.

Mercom: Global solar PV market to grow 24% to 46 GW in 2014

Mercom Capital LLC (Austin, Texas, U.S.) has increased its 2014 global solar photovoltaic (PV) market forecast 7% to 46 GW. This would represent a 24% growth on 2013 levels.

The company credits its higher prediction mostly to China's new goal to deploy 14 GW during the year. The new forecast is at the low end of Bloomberg New Energy Finance's (BNEF, New York City) January 2014 estimate of 44-51 GW for the full year 2014.

Mercom describes China's ambition to transform its market and install 8 GW of distributed generation as “aggressive”, and expects the nation to install 13 GW in 2014. The company also expects flat growth in Japan with 7-7.5 GW installed during the year, noting that the nation “faces some challenges”.

The U.S. PV market is also expected to grow 33% again in 2014 to 6.4 GW, driven by utility-scale projects and growth in the residential sector. Mercom notes that while system costs are high in the United States compared to Germany, innovative financing instruments are bringing the cost of capital down.

SEMI: Solar PV module costs to fall to USD 0.52 per watt in December 2016

Forecasting ongoing progress in cost reduction for solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, SEMI (San Jose, California, U.S.) has released the fifth edition of its International Technology Roadmap for PV (ITRPV).

The study covers the entire value chain of crystalline silicon (c-Si) PV, from crystallization to PV systems. The document provides no “silver bullet”, but instead predicts improvement in almost every aspect of PV production, looking at both increased market share for new technologies and incremental progress with materials.

Some of the technologies which SEMI expects to gain market share are fluidized bed reactor polysilicon production and diamond wire sawing. The organization also expects an increase in the market share of n-type monocrystalline PV cells and cell concepts including back contact cells and passivated emitter rear contact (PERC) cells.

Additionally, it expects thinner wafers and glass and less metalization paste use, but for copper to not replace silver until at least 2018. Cell concepts are expected to adapt to thinner wafers.

As Race Tightens, Renewable Energy Costs Fall Quickly
Bruce Hamilton — March 20, 2014

The most common metric used to compare the costs of different power generation technologies is levelized cost of energy (LCOE). LCOE is defined as the average cost per unit of electricity over the life of a project, which is driven primarily by capital costs, operating costs, financing, and capacity factor (power output relative to the installed capacity). All of these factors vary by technology and are continually changing. The chart below shows a snapshot of LCOE for various technologies estimated by Navigant Consulting as of late 2013. Note that each estimate provided represents an average of a wide range of values, given the many variables such as plant size, age, and location that exist within each technology.

PV Solar Cost Continues Its Precipitous Decline

This chart looked much different 5 years ago, and it will likely be very different in another 5 years. Photovoltaic (PV) solar and wind in particular have seen dramatic cost reductions in recent years. For example, average selling prices for PV solar modules have dropped from $3.50 per watt in 2007 to a current price of below $1.00 per watt for large customers. In addition to declining costs, PV solar has been experiencing improved performance. Different technologies will also have varying impacts on overall system output. In warmer climates, for example, thin-film modules will generally produce higher capacity factors compared to crystalline silicon. Similarly, tracking devices – which allow solar panels to follow the sun – improve the capacity factor of a PV system. Over the past couple of years, single-axis tracking systems have seen an increase in market share due to lower prices and increased reliability. While most of the adoption is currently in western states, where the performance benefit of tracking is the greatest, we expect to see more tracking systems across the entire market as prices continue to decline and reliability increases. For example, Public Service Company of New Mexico recently filed for approval of 23 MW to be built in 2014 at a contracted price of just $2.03 per installed watt.

The Navy’s Plan to Beam Down Energy From Orbiting Solar Panels
By Allen McDuffee
6:30 AM

For decades, the Pentagon has been the world’s largest oil consumer, and as global petroleum prices continue to rise, the military has been searching for feasible energy alternatives. Now they’re looking in space.

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) is building technology that will allow the military to capture solar power in orbit and project it back down to Earth. Not only would space solar potentially save the Pentagon buckets of cash, but it could simplify military deployments. Fuel tankers would no longer have to reach remote or volatile areas, and missions could run longer without having to return to base to refuel.

So far, NRL has built and tested two different prototypes of what they call a “sandwich” module, named for a design innovation that packs all the electrical components between two square panels. The top side is a photovoltaic panel that absorbs the Sun’s rays. An electronics system in the middle converts the energy to a radio frequency, and the bottom is an antenna that transfers the power toward a target on the ground.

Ultimately, the idea is to assemble many of these modules in space by robots — something the NRL’s Space Robotics Groups is already working on — to form a one kilometer, very powerful satellite.

A second design, a “step” module, modifies the sandwich design by opening it up, which allows it to receive more sunlight without overheating, thereby making it more efficient.

“Launching mass into space is very expensive,” said Paul Jaffe, a spacecraft engineer leading the Navy’s project, in a statement.

Stanford Report, March 20, 2014
Wind farms can provide a surplus of reliable clean energy to society, Stanford study finds
Today's wind industry, even with the necessary batteries and other grid-scale storage, is energetically sustainable, Stanford scientists say.

By Mark Shwartz

The worldwide demand for solar and wind power continues to skyrocket. Since 2009, global solar photovoltaic installations have increased about 40 percent a year on average, and the installed capacity of wind turbines has doubled.

The dramatic growth of the wind and solar industries has led utilities to begin testing large-scale technologies capable of storing surplus clean electricity and delivering it on demand when sunlight and wind are in short supply.

Now a team of Stanford researchers has looked at the "energetic cost" of manufacturing batteries and other storage technologies for the electrical grid. At issue is whether renewable energy supplies, such as wind power and solar photovoltaics, produce enough energy to fuel both their own growth and the growth of the necessary energy storage industry.

"Whenever you build a new technology, you have to invest a large amount of energy up front," said Michael Dale, a research associate at Stanford. "Studies show that wind turbines and solar photovoltaic installations now produce more energy than they consume. The question is, how much additional grid-scale storage can the wind and solar industries afford and still remain net energy providers to the electrical grid?"

Writing in the March 19 online edition of the journal Energy & Environmental Science, Dale and his Stanford colleagues found that, from an energetic perspective, the wind industry can easily afford lots of storage, enough to provide more than three days of uninterrupted power. However, the study also revealed that the solar industry can afford only about 24 hours of energy storage. That’s because it takes more energy to manufacture solar panels than wind turbines.

"We looked at the additional burden that would be placed on the solar and wind industries by concurrently building out batteries and other storage technologies," said Dale, the lead author of the study. "Our analysis shows that today’s wind industry, even with a large amount of grid-scale storage, is energetically sustainable. We found that the solar industry can also achieve sustainable storage capacity by reducing the amount of energy that goes into making solar photovoltaics."

Reducing energy inputs to battery manufacturing is also needed, he said.

Solar industry

For the solar industry, the Stanford team found that more work is needed to make grid-scale storage energetically sustainable. The study revealed that some solar technologies, such as single-crystal silicon cells, are growing so fast that they are net energy sinks – that is, they consume more power than they give back to the electrical grid. From an energetic standpoint, these industries "cannot support any level of storage," the study concluded.

"Our analysis showed that, from an energetic perspective, most photovoltaic technologies can only afford up to 24 hours of storage with an equal mix of battery and pumped hydropower," Dale said. "This suggests that solar photovoltaic systems could be deployed with enough storage to supply electricity at night, and the industry could still operate at a net energy surplus."

One advantage of wind over solar power is that it has an enormous energy return on investment, Benson explained. "Within a few months, a wind turbine generates enough electricity to pay back all of the energy it took to build it," she said. "But some photovoltaics have an energy payback time of almost two years. To sustainably support grid-scale storage will require continued reductions in the amount of fossil fuel used to manufacture photovoltaic cells."

Other costs

The Stanford team’s primary focus was on the energetic cost of deploying storage on wind and solar farms. The researchers did not calculate how much energy would be required to build and replace grid-scale batteries every few years, nor did they consider the financial cost of building and installing large storage systems on the grid.

"People often ask, is storage a good or bad solution for intermittent renewable energy?" Benson said. "That question turns out to be way too simplistic. It’s neither good nor bad. Although grid-scale storage of wind power might not be cost effective compared to buying power from the grid, it is energetically affordable, even with the wind industry growing at a double-digit pace.

"The solar industry needs to continue to reduce the amount of energy it needs to build photovoltaic modules before it can afford as much storage as wind can today."

SolarCity to California Utilities: No More Batteries Until Grid Opens Up
Another casualty of utility blockade: only twelve of 500 would-be solar-storage customers are grid-connected.

Jeff St. John
March 21, 2014

It’s been nearly a year since California’s investor-owned utilities started to deny grid interconnections for battery-connected solar systems. The California Public Utilities Commission has been promising a ruling that could resolve the impasse -- but apparently SolarCity, the state’s would-be solar-storage kingpin, is fed up with waiting.

This week, SolarCity announced it would stop installing its energy storage systems in the face of a set of utility policies that have forced battery-equipped solar customers to spend thousands of dollars and wait months to receive their grid interconnections.

Of the roughly 500 customers that have signed up for the batteries, about 100 customers have received them, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report. But of those, only twelve customers have received permission to connect to the grid, SolarCity spokesperson Will Craven told Businessweek -- eleven Pacific Gas & Electric customers and one San Diego Gas & Electric customer. None of the ten applicants in Southern California Edison territory have yet been granted permission.

At issue is the decision by these utilities to deny battery-equipped solar customers the simple net energy metering interconnections available to standard solar systems. Utilities have claimed that the batteries could store grid power, then feed it back under the guise of solar-generated power. Instead, they’ve demanded these systems undergo an $800 inspection, which can take months to set up, and then install a separate metering system meant for much larger-scale projects, at an additional cost of several thousand dollars.

Soligent and SunWize Combine to Form Largest US Solar Distributor
Solar supply chains consolidating

Eric Wesoff
March 21, 2014

The two largest solar distributors in the Americas are now the one largest solar distributor. Soligent of Rohnert Park, Calif. has combined with SunWize of San Jose, Calif. to form Soligent Distribution. A release referred to the transaction as "the integration" of SunWize by Soligent.

Sources close to the deal put the combined revenue of the two firms at $170 million.

The firms offer solar product distribution to more than 4,500 dealers, as well as dealer support and services such as project financing, design, materials management, and permitting.

Jonathan Doochin, CEO of Soligent (who is speaking at next month's Solar Summit on the "Opportunities and Threats in the Residential Solar Market"; register here) told GTM in an earlier interview that he saw the firm "at the epicenter of 4,500 dealers -- dealers that come to us for support." Soligent aims to "accelerate adoption of solar while making independent solar dealers more competitive and profitable," according to the CEO.

“The first two decades of the solar industry revolved around advancing the state of technology and lowering the cost of equipment,” said David Kaltsas, SunWize president and COO, in a release. “The next ten years will revolve around services and solutions for getting solar to market more easily."

Soligent recently introduced a service called Solar Engine that helps bring a low-cost backend to small and medium-sized dealers. It lets them focus on their core competencies, whether that be installation or sales. Doochin said that "it lets dealers play to their strengths."

"Think of us as a large back office for anything that a installer or dealer might want," he added. The CEO and COO also spoke of helping lower the cost of capital and helping dealers with permitting, design and logistics.

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Nanotube composites increase the efficiency of next generation of solar cells

[2014-03-18] Carbon nanotubes are becoming increasingly attractive for photovoltaic solar cells as a replacement to silicon. Researchers at Umeå University in Sweden have discovered that controlled placement of the carbon nanotubes into nano-structures produces a huge boost in electronic performance. Their groundbreaking results are published in the prestigious journal Advanced Materials.

Carbon nanotubes, CNTs, are one dimensional nanoscale cylinders made of carbon atoms that possess very unique properties. For example, they have very high tensile strength and exceptional electron mobility, which make them very attractive for the next generation of organic and carbon-based electronic devices.

There is an increasing trend of using carbon based nanostructured materials as components in solar cells. Due to their exceptional properties, carbon nanotubes are expected to enhance the performance of current solar cells through efficient charge transport inside the device. However, in order to obtain the highest performance for electronic applications, the carbon nanotubes must be assembled into a well-ordered network of interconnecting nanotubes. Unfortunately, conventional methods used today are far from optimal which results in low device performance.

In a new study, a team of physicists and chemists at Umeå University have joined forces to produce nano-engineered carbon nanotubes networks with novel properties.

For the first time, the researchers show that carbon nanotubes can be engineered into complex network architectures, and with controlled nano-scale dimensions inside a polymer matrix.

“We have found that the resulting nano networks possess exceptional ability to transport charges, up to 100 million times higher than previously measured carbon nanotube random networks produced by conventional methods,” says Dr David Barbero, leader of the project and assistant professor at the Department of Physics at Umeå University.

Infographic: For World Water Day, Go Solar to Save Water
Posted March 19, 2014

When people think about going solar, they’re usually thinking about their pocketbooks, not the planet. That’s reasonable, of course, since homeowners save an average of $84 a month with solar.

And when people do think about saving the planet with their solar panels, they’re probably thinking more often about the incredible amounts of carbon pollution they’ll be avoiding by switching to clean energy.

But a lesser-known fact about solar is that it also saves lots of water, and on World Water Day — and one that’s happening in the midst of a devastating drought in the West — that’s an important fact to highlight.

The infographic below shows how our four of the most-common energy sources use water at every stage. In a nutshell, solar wins across the board.

Storage and Disposal

Coal: A typical 500-MW coal-fired power plant will create close to 200,000 tons of sludge waste per year, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, as well as 125,000 tons of coal ash. This waste leaps into the headlines when it spills into waterways, destroying rivers and polluting drinking water, as it has at large scale in Tennessee and North Carolina in recent years.

Natural Gas: The post-generation water impacts of natural gas are negligible, although the EPA notes that “pollutants and heat build up in the water used in natural gas boilers and … is often discharged into lakes or rivers.”

Nuclear: There are no hard data, but one estimate — which may be on the low end — puts nuclear waste disposal’s water use at 3 gallons per MWh of energy generated.

Rooftop Solar: Another instance where hard data don’t exist, especially not on a per-MWh basis, but several studies have shown that both solar panel manufacturing and disposal can create toxic waste that affect water supplies, such as when lead or cadmium seep into groundwater when end-of-life panels are sent to landfills. However, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, which has studied these issues extensively [PDF], notes that those wastes can be reduced and avoided through responsible recycling practices, and that state and federal laws govern proper disposal of solar panels.


Juan Cole
5 Signs Solar Power Is Taking Over the World
Posted on Mar 22, 2014
By Juan Cole

Here are some promising signs with regard to solar power that have recently been in the news:

1. Cheaper solar panels and more efficient wind turbines now produce so much energy that they pay for themselves quickly even if you add the cost of storage into the mix, and they also pay for the cost of adding more wind and solar. The Scientific American writes that Charles Banhart, a post-doc at Stanford’s Global Clmate and Energy Project, told them: “What we’re saying is that theoretically, it is now theoretically possible to have this perfect world that’s just based on wind and solar.” It adds, “Rather than using existing “stock” fuels like fossil fuels, he said, renewables put out enough excess energy to fuel their own expansion.”

2. The price of electricity generated by solar panels in India has fallen so much that solar is now competitive with coal. India wants to add 22 gigawatts of solar by 2022, but is already looking like it will do at least 3 times that because of falling costs. In twenty years, India will be the country generating the most new demand for electricity in the world, surpassing China.

3. Ghana has started work on a $400 million, 155 megawatt solar utility plant, the largest so far in Africa and the 6th largest in the world. It will be completed in 2015.

4. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe introduced a feed-in tariff 18 months ago, with dramatic results. Installed solar capacity in the past year and a half has gone from about 2 and a half gigawatts to a whopping 7.5 GW. In an encouraging sign for the Japanese economy, nearly half the photovoltaic panels shipped were manufactured in Japan. Since the tsunami disaster at the Daichi Fukushima nuclear complex, Japan has scrambled to replace the electricity generating capacity of its nuclear reactors. A majority of days in the year are sunny in Japan, but the solar panels generate at least some electricity even when it is overcast. The number of sunny days each year in Japan is comparable to that in Germany, where solar now accounts for 5% of German electricity production, a proportion expected to increase rapidly over the next decade.

5. American hip-hop artist Akon (who grew up in Senegal) is promoting affordable solar energy kits for African villagers that are cheaper than kerosene. He aims to bring power to a million Africans this year.

Video Link

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Renewable Energy is the Future — but Countries Can Lead by Embracing it Now
Posted March 20, 2014

The International Energy Agency’s new report says global integration of variable renewable energies (VRE) like solar and wind into our obsolete power systems is just a matter of time. It also reminds us we’re wasting much time, and money, by not doing it now.

“These surmountable challenges should not let us lose sight of the benefits renewables can bring for energy security and fighting dangerous climate change,” executive director Maria van der Hoeven said in a press release for IEA’s The Power of Transformation: Wind, Sun and the Economics of Flexible Power Systems, which claims any country can inexpensively increase its solar and wind profile. “If OECD countries want to maintain their position as front runners in this industry, they will need to tackle these questions head-on.”

Head-on is not “just about 3 percent of world electricity generation” for wind and solar, the IEA said, reminding us that Europe currently generates 10 to 30 percent of its energy from renewables. But that lead isn’t large enough to separate what the IEA calls the “stable” power systems of Italy, Germany and Ireland from the “dynamic” power systems of upcoming players like India, China and Brazil, who can take the green lead if they integrate clean energy instead of dirty fuels.

“Emerging economies really have an opportunity here,” said van der Hoeven. “They can leap-frog to a 21st-century power system — and they should reap the benefits.”
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Soft Rocker: Sculptural Solar-Powered Outdoor Lounger

Lay back and relax outdoors with your laptop, tablet or phone without any fear of losing juice. The SOFT Rocker by architecture students at MIT is a teardrop-shaped lounger with built-in lighting and solar panels that power up small electronic devices.


Solar Capital Spending Enters 2014 with Strong Momentum; Latin America Leads Manufacturing Capacity Growth
Category: Design & Supply Chain, Design & Supply Chain Media
Monday, March 24, 2014 5:00 am EDT
Dateline: EL SEGUNDO, Calif.

El Segundo, Calif. (March 24, 2014)—With capital expenditures for the photovoltaic (PV) industry set to bounce back in 2014, a new round of solar spending will commence that will reach $3.8 billion by year-end, according to IHS Technology (NYSE: IHS).

PV capital spending has been rising notably over the past two quarters, en route to a third straight increase with the trend clearly continuing into the first quarter this year. Global PV capital spending is expected to rise by 45 percent in 2014 from $2.7 billion in 2013.

“Since August of last year, IHS has observed strong signs that a new capital spending cycle would start in 2014,” said Jon Campos, solar analyst at IHS. “Key factors such as market sentiment, PV demand and equipment-supplier bookings have continued to progress as a result of a healthy level of optimism.”

Most Tier 1 PV manufacturers now are fully utilizing, expanding and planning to increase manufacturing capacity, Campos said, with an extra emphasis on expanding their presence in emerging markets. Capital expenditures are expected to climb considerably in 2014 and 2015, with Latin America leading the way.

Latin America this year will lead all regions in manufacturing capacity growth for solar panels with an expansion rate of 35 percent, slightly down from 42 percent in 2013, when it was also the global leader. Latin America is ahead of the Middle East-Africa market with 33 percent, as well as third-placed North America with 13 percent, as shown in the attached figure.

Next year, solar manufacturing capacity in Latin America will boast even higher growth at an outsized 147 percent, with the region continuing to lead in 2016 and 2017.

Investors and PV supply chain announce further expansions in two regions

Earlier this year, Chinese manufacturer Hanergy released a statement unveiling plans to build a $500 million thin-film PV factory at an undisclosed location in the Ivory Coast of Africa. Fellow Chinese maker JA Solar has also executed a joint venture with Powerway PV, another Chinese-based PV player, for a 150-megawatt (MW) plant that is scheduled to begin commercial production in South Africa.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s first module manufacturing plant has been completed and is now operational. The plant, in Sokoto, has been built by German firm JVG Thoma and will produce the company’s Desert range of modules, which have been designed to operate in extreme conditions. First announced last summer, the plant was part financed by the World Bank and will have a 10-MW nameplate capacity. Comparable-sized manufacturing lines have also come online in Algeria in the last quarter.

In Latin America, Brazilian solar company Solar-Par Participações aims to build a vertically integrated solar module production facility in Teófilo Otoni, in the southeastern Brazilian state of Espírito Santo.

Researchers improve performance of III-V nanowire solar cells on graphene

Imagine a field of small wires—standing at attention like a tiny field of wheat—gathering the Sun’s rays as the first step in solar energy conversion.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have achieved new levels of performance for seed-free and substrate-free arrays of nanowires from class of materials called III-V (three-five) directly on graphene. These compound semiconductors hold particular promise for applications involving light, such as solar cells or lasers.

“Over the past two decades, research in the field of semiconductor nanowires has helped to reshape our understanding of atomic-scale crystal assembly and uncover novel physical phenomena at the nanometer scale,” explained Xiuling Li, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Illinois. In the March 20th issue of Advanced Materials, the researchers present the first report of a novel solar cell architecture based on dense arrays of coaxial p-n junction InGaAs nanowires on InAs stems grown directly on graphene without any metal catalysts or lithographic patterning.

“In this work, we have overcome the surprising structure (phase segregation) and successfully grown single phase InGaAs and demonstrated very promising solar cell performance,” explained postdoctoral researcher Parsian Mohseni, first author of the study.

“Depending on the materials, nanowires can be used for functional electronics and optoelectronics applications,” Mohseni added. “The main benefits of this III-V photovoltaic solar cell design are that it is fairly low-cost, substrate-free, and has a built-in back side contact, while being conducive to integration within other flexible device platforms.”

Li’s research group uses a method called van der Waals epitaxy to grow nanowires from the bottom up on a two-dimensional sheet, in this case, graphene. Gases containing gallium, indium, and arsenic are pumped into a chamber where the graphene sheet sits, prompting the nanowires self-assemble, growing by themselves into a dense carpet of vertical wires across the graphene’s surface.

Nanostructures enhance light trapping for solar fuel generation
2 hours ago by Lisa Zyga

(Phys.org) —As the world's dependence on fossil fuels causes ever-increasing problems, researchers are investigating solar fuels as an alternative energy source. To make solar fuels, sunlight is converted into hydrogen or another type of chemical energy. Compared to energy produced by solar cells, which convert sunlight directly to electricity, solar fuels such as hydrogen have the advantage of being easier to store for later use.

Because of the enormous amount of sunlight that reaches Earth, solar fuel generation has the potential to serve as a clean, terawatt-scale global energy source. But in order for this to happen, the photocatalysts that enhance light absorption and light trapping must be improved, both in terms of higher performance and lower cost.

In a new study, researchers Soo Jin Kim, et al., at the Geballe Laboratory for Advanced Materials in Stanford, California, have demonstrated that photocatalysts made from iron oxide exhibit substantial performance improvements when they are patterned with nanostructures. Their paper is published in a recent issue of Nano Letters.

"I think the most significant advance is that the work will provide valuable guidelines for the design of new, nanostructured photocatalyst materials capable of effectively absorbing light and driving catalytic reactions," Professor Mark L. Brongersma at Stanford told Phys.org. "Hopefully, it will stimulate more research on photon management for photocatalyst materials. The use of photon managements in solar fuel generation is lagging behind strongly with respect to development of photon management strategies for solar cells."

As the researchers explain, iron oxide in the hematite phase (Fe2O3) is an earth-abundant semiconductor with a bandgap energy of 590 nm, which is considered close to optimal for water splitting and hydrogen production. Because it absorbs photons across a relatively large portion of the solar spectrum, it outperforms other catalyst materials that absorb smaller portions of the solar spectrum.

Despite these advantages, hematite has a weakness: it cannot absorb photons near its surface, which results in many of the photoexcited carriers recombining rather than participating in chemical reactions to produce hydrogen. This problem occurs due to a mismatch between hematite's very short (nanometer scale) carrier diffusion length compared to the absorption depth of light (micrometer scale near the surface). So even though the photons are present, they cannot be effectively used.

Previous research has attempted to address this problem by adding metal nanostructures to enhance light absorption in the near-surface region of the photocatalysts. However, this approach suffers from intrinsic optical losses in the metal.

In the current study, the researchers have circumvented this problem of optical loss by nanopatterning the hematite photocatalysts themselves. The nanostructures allow the photocatalyst to overcome the detrimental mismatch between the carrier diffusion and photonic absorption length scales, and redistribute the photons to the near-surface region.

Solar usage continues to soar in California
24. March 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Edgar Meza

The state's grid operator is preparing for a major boost in renewable energy in 2020, when utilities will have to obtain 33% of their electricity from renewable energy sources.

California continues to set new records in solar energy usage.

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which oversees operation of the state’s electric power system, transmission lines and the electricity market, reached a record peak of 4,143 MW on March 16. The surge in solar usage was due primarily to new capacity that has recently come online, according to a recent report by Greentech Media.

The more than 4.1 GW was nearly double the 2,071 MW record set in June 2013. BrightSource Energy’s 392 MW Ivanpah CSP project as well as the 1,900-plus MW of new utility-scale PV installed last year.

CAISO oversees more than 5.2 GW of installed solar capacity. Both this figure and the record production do not include the nearly 1.1 GW of solar capacity in the state, according to the report.

Greentech Media notes that the California’s new records are being set at such speed that CAISO has decided to change its policy regarding announcements. The grid operator will now only announce 500 MW advances of the record instead of the 50 MW increments it has regularly announced.

Mercom revises 2014 global PV demand forecast to 46GW
By John Parnell - 24 March 2014, 11:48
In News, Power Generation, Market Watch

Analyst firm Mercom Capital has revised its quarterly forecast for solar demand in 2014 to 46GW.

The company updates its prediction for the year as conditions alter on the ground. The latest figures reflect a 2GW increase in its predictions for China.

Following the country’s announcement of a 14GW quota for PV installations that will be eligible for support from the government, Mercom has raised its forecast to 13GW.

It expects growth in the US to around 6.4GW but a slight fall is anticipated in Japan.

The Mercom report identifies the cut in the feed-in tariff (FiT), an increase in sales tax and possible efforts to cancel projects that have been approved for the FiT but remain unbuilt.

Deutsche Bank has estimated demand in 2014 of 46GW, ROTH Capital has given a figure of 47GW while market research firm NPD Solarbuzz is forecasting 49GW.


Commercial Solar Grid Parity Now Reality In Italy, Germany, & Spain
by Zach
on March 23, 2014

The days when solar power was more expensive than other power sources are quickly passing us by. News out of Europe is that commercial solar power is now at grid parity in some major European countries.

A new study, the PV Grid Parity Monitor, conducted by consulting firm Eclareon, has found that commercial solar power hit grid parity in Italy, Germany, and Spain in 2013. Based on levelized cost of energy (LCOE) calculations, commercial solar now competes with retail electricity in these European countries.

“In countries such as Italy and Germany, both at grid parity and with proper regulation, PV systems for self-consumption represent a viable, cost-effective, and sustainable power generation alternative,” said David Pérez, partner at Eclareon in charge of the study.


Heliatek Achieves 40% Efficiency with Transparent, Organic Solar Cells
Published on 24 March 2014

Heliatek GmbH, a specialist in the production of organic solar film, has reached a new record in the efficiency of transparent solar cells. The latest development allows transparency levels up to 40% with an efficiency of over 7%. The company already holds the world record of 12% cell efficiency for opaque (non-transparent) organic solar cells.

This lab development underscores the company’s strategy to supply its transparent HeliaFilmto glass manufacturers for both building integration (BIPV) and car roofs. Both these application areas use tinted glass to reduce glare which can be done by applying a film, so changing the film to one that generates electricity as well is a drop-in for manufacturers. Using HeliaFilm in glass car roofs will not only generate energy, but will also allow the car manufacturers to claim Eco-innovation credits towards CO2 emission goals. Architectural glass panels and windows incorporating HeliaFilm enable electricity to be discretely generated on the outside envelope of a building.

Importantly for these applications, Heliatek’s technology continues to be effective at generating electricity at low light levels, any orientation and at high temperatures, which are conditions where conventional solar lose efficiency.

The latest generation of organic solar cells with a 40% light transparency reaches an efficiency record of 7.2%. The measurement follows standard testing conditions using a white background. Heliatek thus succeeded in generating an optimal energy conversion for transparent HeliaFilm. Currently, 12% efficiency is being reached with opaque cells. The 7.2% mirror the same efficiency, since the partial transparency allows the usage of only 60% of the light for the energy harvesting. Depending on the application, the balance between light let through and electricity generated can be adjusted.

Standardized O&M Practices: Critical to solar industry growth
Written by Rue Phillips and Jeanne Schwartz 24 March 2014

Photovoltaic (PV) solar operations and maintenance (O&M) can mean different things to different people along the solar value chain. Efforts underway to standardize O&M protocols and contracts, however, promise to bring greater uniformity to improve the industry’s energy output and financial performance.

This work comes at a critical stage in the solar industry’s development. Although the market sector has seen impressive growth within the last few years, never ending is the pressure to reduce costs while simultaneously reducing the risk profile of solar project developments to attract additional financing. Indeed, the unparalled growth in the solar industry has led to growing gaps in quality and performance standards across products, installation practices and O&M. These issues are being caused, among other things, by new entrants entering the market and other companies closing their doors because they are unable to compete on price.

New installations coming online now might need more work to bring them up to optimal energy output. At the same time, older systems installed at the beginning of this solar decade are starting to require more care and attention.

Standards and practices under development

Industry groups and organizations are aggressively working to address these performance issues. Sandia National Laboratories, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and ASTM International are among the organizations working to develop the standards and practices for PV systems. Right now, these efforts are geared toward the development of minimum quality and safety standards. These would limit the risk of inferior project development and ongoing O&M as well as wide disparities in variability in energy output of systems. These standards also will educate project owners of the minimum accepted standards that should be demanded and improve investor confidence in the long-term operations of the systems.

Antimony nanocrystals for batteries
18.03.2014 | Peter Rüegg | Research

Researchers from ETH Zurich and Empa have succeeded for the first time to produce uniform antimony nanocrystals. Tested as components of laboratory batteries, these are able to store a large number of both lithium and sodium ions. These nanomaterials operate with high rate and may eventually be used as alternative anode materials in future high-energy-density batteries.

The hunt is on – for new materials to be used in the next generation of batteries that may one day replace current lithium ion batteries. Today, the latter are commonplace and provide a reliable power source for smartphones, laptops and many other portable electrical devices.

On the one hand, however, electric mobility and stationary electricity storage demand a greater number of more powerful batteries; and the high demand for lithium may eventually lead to a shortage of the raw material. This is why conceptually identical technology based on sodium-ions will receive increasing attention in coming years. Contrary to lithium batteries, researched for more than 20 years, much less is known about materials that can efficiently store sodium ions.

Antimony electrodes?

A team of researchers from ETH Zurich and Empa headed by Maksym Kovalenko may have come a step closer to identifying alternative battery materials: they have become the first to synthesise uniform antimony nanocrystals, the special properties of which make them prime candidates for an anode material for both lithium-ion and sodium-ion batteries. The results of the scientists’ study have just been published in Nano Letters.

For a long time, antimony has been regarded as a promising anode material for high-performance lithium-ion batteries as this metalloid exhibits a high charging capacity, by a factor of two higher than that of commonly used graphite. Initial studies revealed that antimony could be suitable for rechargeable lithium and sodium ion batteries because it is able to store both kinds of ions. Sodium is regarded as a possible low-cost alternative to lithium as it is much more naturally abundant and its reserves are more evenly distributed on Earth.

Ex-DOE chief explains how to solve the utility death spiral
By Davide Savenije
March 23, 2014

Dive Brief:
  • Utilities today face a wide variety of complex challenges -- pundits call this perfect storm of disruption the utility death spiral -- but fighting back against rooftop solar in the regulatory arena is the wrong move, according to former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.
  • Chu warns utilities who "think they've got it solved" by charging higher interconnection fees that those charges will also rise as more customers go solar. “[Utilities are] in a flat to shrinking business," he said. "As solar and batteries get cheaper and cheaper, they’re going to see their customer base of the best customers [install solar panels].”
  • "Instead of that, [utilities] need a better business model," Chu said. “I’m telling utility companies, this is coming down the line, so let’s think of a new business model where you can profit from this.”
  • Chu's solution is to create a business model that allows utilities to capitalize on their low cost of debt and borrow money to buy solar and batteries. Then, utilities will partner with rooftop solar companies to carry out the installations "because I don't expect a utility company to figure out how to do that," Chu said. Similar to the no-money-down business models of many third-party solar providers, the utility will own the solar-battery bundle and the customer will buy power from the utility at lower rates.

Dive Insight:

The problem is clear: Solar may be eating into utility revenues, but utilities are typically not allowed to get into the solar business in their own service territories. That's because utilities have one important advantage over the SolarCitys of the world: the customer relationship. While utilities may see rooftop solar fees as their saving grace today, those same fees could have the unintended long-term effect of accelerating full-on grid defection. Solving these issues will no doubt be at the forefront of many regulators' minds.

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Hanwha Q-Cells to Provide Rooftop Solar for Mexico Grocery Chain
24 March 2014

March 24 (Bloomberg) — Hanwha Q-Cells GmbH, the German solar producer bought in bankruptcy by South Korea’s Hanwha Group, agreed to provide as much as 31 megawatts of power systems for the Mexican grocery chain Organizacion Soriana SAB.

Soriana signed a 20-year agreement to buy electricity from 120 systems that the local developer Ilioss will build on the retailer’s rooftops and carports, Thalheim, Germany-based Hanwha Q-Cells said today in a statement.

Hanwha Q-Cells is financing the projects and the deal is part of its effort to develop as much as 200 megawatts of solar power in North America this year. Terms weren’t disclosed and construction is expected to be complete by early 2015.

Sun Rises on Tribal Energy Future in Nevada
March 24, 2014 - 3:04pm

Last Friday was a momentous day for the Moapa Band of Paiute in Nevada. Joined by executives of First Solar, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and numerous dignitaries, including U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, tribal leaders and community members broke ground on the 250-megawatt Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project on the Moapa Indian Reservation -- making it the first utility-scale solar project on tribal land.

Set to be fully operational by the end of 2015, the Moapa Southern Paiute Solar project will deliver clean, renewable energy to the City of Los Angeles for 25 years, providing enough energy for more than 93,000 homes. This amount of renewable energy will displace approximately 313,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually -- the equivalent of taking about 60,000 cars off the road.

The solar project won’t just benefit the environment. It is also having a big effect on the Moapa tribe. The project is expected to create 400 construction jobs, many of which are already being filled by qualified tribal members. Other members of the tribe are taking advantage of the project’s training opportunities to contribute to the clean energy economy.

It has been a long journey for Moapa’s elected and community leaders -- one that I witnessed firsthand -- as they found a way to balance the promise of a clean energy future and the community’s pressing energy needs.

Mar 24, 2014
New Materials with Promising Characteristics Excite Solar Energy Researchers
Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Porous Coatings for Improved Performance of Cooling Systems and Heat Pumps

Press Release 7/14, March 24, 2014

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute of Solar Energy Systems ISE have successfully coated various components with highly porous metal organic frameworks, or MOFs, which have the largest inner surface area of any material known. The industrially useful coating process used on these components has applications in heating and cooling systems, the catalytic manufacturing of chemical materials, gas and liquid detectors and medical technology, among others.

“Metal organic frameworks consist of a metal complex and an organic linker. These materials have typical inner surface areas of up to 4000 m² per gram and can bind up to 1.4 grams of water per gram material,” explains Dr. Stefan Henninger, Head of the Sorption Materials Group at Fraunhofer ISE. “Also, they can be implemented modularly like LEGO blocks and used, for example, in solar cooling systems or compact thermal heat pumps. In the past, the material has been used in loose grain configuration as a filling between e. g. lamella heat exchangers. Now we have developed two patented processes in which we can apply different MOFs or other adsorbents directly onto the heat exchanger structures. This not only increases the cooling or heating efficiency of the system but also makes the unit much more compact.

In many sorptive dehumidification processes for air or other gases, the water vapor is adsorbed on the inner surface area. The heat generated by this process can be used or must be dissipated. The heat transfer between the MOF granulates –when used as filling – is limited due to the point contacts, thus strongly reducing the speed of the process. If, however, the MOF material is deposited as a thin layer on metal lamellae, the heat conductivity is significantly improved thereby increasing the system efficiency. At present, the dimensions of thermally driven heat pumps are equivalent to decent sized fridge-freezers. In the future, wall-mounted systems, as by compact gas heaters, might be possible.

Not only for buildings, but also in many other fields of application where reversible chemical and physical heat conversion processes take place, these novel coatings signal in a new revolution. Chemical processes often use catalysts with large inner surface areas. When carriers with good heat conductivity characteristics are coated with porous materials such as MOFs or zeolites, the flow rate or the temperature stability can be improved. In gas detectors, miniscule amounts of undesirable gases can be easily detected by a change in color or an increase in temperature. In the field of medical engineering, one can use coatings, for example, as a shield against bacteria.

Stand-alone photovoltaic power package for areas without electricity
5 hours ago

Panasonic Corporation today announced it has developed the "Power Supply Container", a stand-alone photovoltaic power package, for areas without electricity. The Power Supply Container contains solar modules and lead-acid batteries, as well as the newly developed Power Supply Control Unit that acts as the energy management system.

In addition, the Project to Improve Elementary Education and Alleviate Poverty by Providing Electricity to Karimunjawa Island, Jepara District, Central Jawa Province, for which the Power Supply Container will act as a power source, has been selected by the Embassy of Japan in Indonesia as a joint public/private sector project utilizing Grant Assistance for Grass-roots Human Security Projects, with a signing ceremony held in Jakarta, Indonesia on March 24. This project supplies a power system to the National Elementary School Karimunjawa 01 under the educational environment improvement policy for isolated islands.

Indonesia consists of roughly 13,000 islands, and so there is a lack of access to electricity particularly among the minor islands where development of power generation facilities and distribution networks is difficult. In Karimunjawa, electricity is available at night from diesel generators, but in the daytime there is no electricity, which results in an insufficient educational environment.

To solve this problem, Panasonic will provide a Power Supply Container to the National Elementary School Karimunjawa 01, in order to improve the facilities and educational environment through providing power for the school's electrical equipment, such as lights and fans, as well as educational tools such as computers, projectors and televisions. Panasonic will introduce the Power Supply Container with an aim of starting operations in July 2014.

Features of the Power Supply Container

1. Assured quality performance due to factory manufacturing

2. Simple and quick assembly for portability and expansion

3. Utilization of proven Panasonic technologies

Intersolar China opens with call for more R&D
25. March 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends, Trade show | By: Dustin Zubke

The conference began with a series of impassioned presentations on the bullish state of China's PV market, but urged greater investment in domestic R&D and quality control.

The Intersolar China Conference began today with an opening ceremony and four sessions on PV manufacturing and the Chinese and Asian PV markets. The conference runs over the next three days from March 25th to March 27th, covering a wide range of topics in the Chinese and international PV industry. Intersolar China is the largest solar conference and exhibition in northern China and, for the first time, will be held in conjunction with the CIPV Expo and Clean Energy Expo China.

Quality has been a consistent theme for the Chinese PV industry for both the upstream and downstream segments. In the opening ceremony, Junfeng Li, President of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association, encouraged Chinese PV manufacturers to move up the quality chain by investing more in R&D instead of focusing on producing the lowest cost modules, adding that the lowest-cost bidder system does little to incentivize R&D and puts installers at greater financial risk.

In an afternoon session on the Chinese PV market, Xiaoting Wang of Bloomberg New Energy Finance illustrated this point when showing the Q3 2013 earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) of the major Chinese PV manufacturers. While their EBIT have recovered over the last few years, many of the manufacturers still have EBITs hovering around zero.

SolarCity garners financing for 200MW of PV projects
By Mark Osborne - 25 March 2014, 14:02
In News, Power Generation, Finance, Project Focus

Led by BofA Merrill Lynch, SolarCity has secured US$250 million in a new financing facility to support the roll-out of more than 200MW of PV system installations in the US.

According to SolarCity, the financing facility has been the largest secured for distributed generation to date. The company noted that the latest financing facility was the third time it had secured such funding and had raised funds sufficient to finance more than US$4 billion in solar projects.

How Romania became a GW-scale solar market
By Scott Moskowitz and Adam Jones on 25 March 2014
GreenTech Media

Last year, Romania installed more than 1 gigawatt of solar PV for the first time ever, putting the country into a tier that includes global players such as Italy, India, Greece and the United Kingdom. Developers had first begun to move into the Romanian market as incentives waned in historically large PV markets like Germany, Italy and Spain.

This year, the Romanian incentive program was stepped back on January 1, creating a rush in the market to install qualified projects before the end of the year. The Romanian market experience holds some important lessons about the past and the future of global demand for solar power.

How Solar Reduced a California Farm’s Electric Bill by 75 Percent
Daryl Zeis, REC Solar
March 24, 2014 | 2 Comments

Today’s farmers are increasingly using the sun’s energy to grow more than just fruits and vegetables. Solar power systems have become a new solution for reducing the energy costs of water pumps, refrigeration, vineyard wine processing, and many other energy-intensive agriculture applications.

According to a 2009 USDA survey, nearly 8,000 farms had installed solar electric systems for various agricultural uses, and that number has no doubt increased significantly over the last several years, since solar installation prices have fallen by 60 percent.

REC Solar alone has installed solar systems for more than two-dozen large and small growers, vineyards, and agricultural facilities, offsetting the growing electricity requirements for 21st century farming.

How Modern Agriculture Uses Electricity

Modern farms rely on electric power for many day-to-day energy intensive agricultural tasks, including:
  • Agriculture irrigation
  • Milking and dairy production
  • Vineyard restaurant and hospitality operations
  • Vineyard and microbrewery bottle processing
  • Running fans to heat and cool barns for dairy cows
  • Cold storage for milk, dairy products, grains, fruits, and vegetables
  • Security and task lighting
  • Electric fences, and much more.

Managing renewables intelligently
4 hours ago

Although more and more of our electrical energy is coming from sources where supply is variable – whether from wind turbines, solar parks or biomass facilities – grid structures, industry and private households alike are not yet prepared to deal with the inevitable fluctuations. Smart energy management systems are the way to put robust supply networks in place and to ensure that renewables are harnessed as efficiently as possible. Researchers from the Fraunhofer Energy Alliance will be showcasing their energy solutions for energy providers, small and medium-sized enterprises and homes at this year's Hannover Messe from April 7-11.

"Wind, solar and biogas are all energy sources with their own strengths and weaknesses. And it's by combining the strengths of each in a smart way that we'll be able to guarantee Germany's energy supply into the future," says Dr. Kurt Rohrig, deputy director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology IWES in Kassel. But what happens when, instead of a big power plant, you have a host of individual small energy producers feeding in energy to the grid at varying times? Is reliable operation of the grid still technically feasible? In the "Combined Power Plant 2" research project, both science and industry have answered the question with a resounding yes. Their concept: to use a software platform to bring together a multitude of small energy providers within a "virtual power plant."

Software platform brings decentralized providers together

Dynamic energy management systems

Technologies for smart energy use in the home

Secure energy management via apps

NTU scientists discover material that can be solar cell by day, light panel by night
Published on: 24-Mar-2014

In future, when your mobile or tablet runs out of battery, you could just recharge it by putting it out in the sun.

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) scientists have developed a next-generation solar cell material which can also emit light, in addition to converting light to electricity.

This solar cell is developed from Perovskite, a promising material that could hold the key to creating high-efficiency, inexpensive solar cells. The new cells not only glow when electricity passes through them, but they can also be customised to emit different colours.

Picture this: A shopping mall facade could be storing solar energy in the day and transforms into a light display for advertisements that glows at night.

This discovery, published in top academic journal Nature Materials, was discovered almost by chance when NTU physicist Sum Tze Chien, asked his postdoctoral researcher Xing Guichuan to shine a laser on the new hybrid Perovskite solar cell material they are developing.

Assistant Professor Sum said to the team’s surprise, the new Perovskite solar cell glowed brightly when a laser beam was shone on it. This is a significant finding as most solar cell materials are good at absorbing light but are generally not expected to generate light. In fact, this highly luminescent new Perovskite material is also very suitable for the making of lasers.

“What we have discovered is that because it is a high quality material, and very durable under light exposure, it can capture light particles and convert them to electricity, or vice versa,” said Asst Prof Sum, a Singaporean scientist at NTU’s School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (SPMS).

“By tuning the composition of the material, we can make it emit a wide range of colours, which also makes it suitable as a light emitting device, such as flat screen displays.”

Utilities v. solar: No end in sight?
By Lisa Weinzimer
March 25, 2014

The recent flurry of legislation aimed at limiting rooftop solar is yet another sign of conflict between utilities and solar companies.

This week, Utility Dive takes a look at the latest controversies over distributed generation, and whether a fair marketplace — for both utilities and solar companies — is even possible.

Utilities v. solar: The latest bouts

In Washington state, recently defeated HB 2176 would have banned third-party vendors from competing if utilities offered rooftop solar to their customers.

In Utah, Rocky Mountain Power pushed for amendments to SB 208 that included a solar fee and other possible changes to the state’s net metering rules, according to The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC). Lawmakers passed the bill, which calls for a study of the value of distributed generation, without the amendments.

And in Arizona, the Arizona Capitol Times reported that APS was pressing lawmakers to approve a bill that would place a tax on leased solar systems. APS denied the charge, but House Majority Whip Rick Gray, a Republican, said APS’s position was made clear by a lobbyist: “What they’ve told me is they are supportive of having the tax on [rooftop solar panels], because that’s what they have to pay.”

The question is: Are these legislative efforts a setback for recent efforts by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) to extend an olive branch to rooftop solar companies?

Any light at the end of the tunnel?

In February, the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) and EEI in a joint statement called on regulators to break the link between utility sales and revenue.

Once decoupling is achieved, the groups said, utilities will have greater incentive to support distributed generation. Owners of distributed generation like rooftop solar “must provide reasonable cost-based compensation for the utility services they use," the agreement said.

But Bryan Miller, VP of public policy for distributed solar company Sunrun, said tactics recently deployed in Washington and Arizona undermine utility arguments that concerns about costs drive their opposition to rooftop solar. Washington utilities realized that they couldn’t stop solar, Miller said, “so they said they would be the only ones to provide it.”
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Solar storage market tipped to boom in Germany
By Sophie Vorrath on 25 March 2014

Sales of residential solar storage systems in Germany are tipped to boom, with new figures projecting roughly 20-fold growth over the next four years.

A study by research outfit EuPD, commissioned by investment body Germany Trade & Invest (GTI), has predicted a nationwide market of 100,000 units by 2018, up from 6,000 last year, citing falling PV prices as the “most significant reason” for this “monumental” commercial growth.

As we wrote last last year, Germany’s “energiewende” has been a big contributor to the 80 per cent fall in the price of solar modules, and the government is now looking at ways to bring down the cost of the next piece in the puzzle of its renewable energy transition – battery storage.

In the first half of 2013, it kicked off a program to finance the introduction of battery storage into homes and small business – a move it has described as absolutely essential for the European nation to successfully achieve, and move beyond, 40 per cent renewable penetration.

Within six months of the program’s launch, 1,900 homes and small businesses had put their hands up for government loans and grants to install battery storage with solar systems at their homes. By November, around €32 million in loans had been allocated and €5 million in grants, about 10 per cent of the sums allocated in the initial phase of the program.

Sun Continues to Shine on Yingli Green Energy as it Retains First Position in GlobalData’s Top Five Crystalline Module Manufacturers, 2013
25 Mar 2014

Yingli Green Energy (Yingli), the global leader in crystalline module manufacturing in 2012, has retained its top position in 2013 after producing 9.4% of the world’s crystalline modules in the same year, according to new figures released by research and consulting firm GlobalData.

The company’s latest findings show that Trina Solar (Trina) is a close competitor of Yingli’s. Having produced just 400 Megawatts less than Yingli in 2013, Trina has taken its place as the second leading company in GlobalData’s ranking.

Sameer Joshi, Director of Research and Analysis for Power and Alternative Energy at GlobalData, says: “The recovery of solar photovoltaic demand in 2013 benefited the supply side of the market significantly. As a result, crystalline module production grew from 30 Gigawatts (GW) in 2012 to 33 GW in 2013, representing an impressive annual growth rate of 10.4%.

“Meanwhile, global module prices also recovered and stabilized at $0.75 per Watt at the end of 2013, and the leading manufacturers were able to attain positive gross margins for the same year. However, the majority of these manufacturers still have a lot of work to do in terms of cost restructuring and improving overall operational efficiency, in order to reach positive earnings before income and tax levels.”

Buyers Rate Reliability and Quality as More Important Than Price in PV Modules, IHS Survey Indicates
Category: Design & Supply Chain, Design & Supply Chain Media
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 9:00 am EDT

Buyers Rate Reliability and Quality as More Important Than Price in PV Modules, IHS Survey Indicates

Munich, Germany (March 26, 2014)—The most critical factors for buyers when selecting a photovoltaic (PV) module are reliability and quality, which were found to be more important than low prices, according to a recent survey of solar module purchases conducted by IHS Technology (NYSE: IHS).

In the survey, respondents were asked to rank various PV module aspects by importance, ranging from efficiency to weight and size. The chief factor by a significant margin was module reliability, with 99 percent of respondents deeming the characteristic as either “very important” or “important.”

In comparison, “high quality” was named the second most important aspect and “low price” was revealed as the third. While quality was seen as the top aspect across three major regions analyzed in the research, other attributes were regarded as weightier in some regions than others. In particular, low pricing was more significant to respondents in the United States than in Germany and the United Kingdom, where “high efficiency” was placed at a higher premium.

The survey was conducted among photovoltaic system installers; integrators; engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) entities; and distributors of PV components, who all buy modules from the makers.

“While price is still a highly important factor when selecting PV modules, purchasers believe that performance-related factors are of greater value, particularly in European markets,” said Stefan de Haan, principal solar analyst at IHS. “This is a reflection of the growing awareness and focus on the total cost of ownership of a PV plant in Europe. As incentive levels and internal rates of return (IRR) for all types of PV systems become lower and lower, the cost of every kilowatt-hour becomes increasingly important. In other markets, such as the U.S., incentives more commonly take the form of grants and tax breaks—meaning that there is a slightly stronger focus on upfront cost.”

Installers and EPCs keen to spread their bets

Chinese brands dominate rankings

California calls for large-scale energy storage
26. March 2014 | Storage & smart grids, Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Trade show | By: Michael Fuhs

The Energy Storage trade fair in Düsseldorf begins with a rousing call from California for more energy storage solutions.

The first day of the Energy Storage trade fair in Düsseldorf (which runs from March 25-27) began with the California Public Utility Commission giving suppliers the target of increasing storage capacity in the U.S. state to 1,325 MW by 2020.

"We are the first state to have storage targets," said Carla Peterman, commissioner for energy storage issues at the CPUC. She was part of a six-member delegation from California, which took questions in the opening session on the first day of trade fair.

Eventual cost reduction is one reason for the storage target in California, according to Peterman. The situation in Germany is similar in some respects to that in California. If it were an independent nation, California would boast the eighth largest economy. Its population is about half that of Germany's, and renewable energies have a share of about 22% of the overall energy mix; a figure that is expected to increase to around 40% by 2020 as the current governor presses ahead with the goal of reducing greenhouse gases.

Currently, natural gas plays a major role in California. For one thing, it is needed to compensate for fluctuations in production and consumption. Furthermore, gas costs have plummeted in recent years. "With these savings we invest in renewable energy and infrastructure," said Michael Picker, commissioner of the CPUC.

One other reason why the debate is not being shaped by cost is that many homeowners have been able to cut their electricity bills because they can save power, as with inefficient air conditioning systems. Air conditioners also offer a good opportunity for load management, partly with ice storage. However, this also starkly highlights the difference to Germany, where winter brings little solar power generation and simultaneous high energy consumption. "When it is the winter peak in Germany, it is the summer peak in California," says Picker. The solution, however, must be a considered one.

India considers new PV support scheme for state-owned companies
26. March 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Applications & Installations, Markets & Trends | By: Ian Clover

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy may introduce a separate scheme for Public Sector Undertakings.

Representatives of India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) have discussed plans to introduce a separate policy support scheme for Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) interested in developing their own solar PV projects.

Many of India’s leading PSUs (essentially state-owned companies) are cash-rich and keen to develop their solar footprint, said a representative of the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) and, as such, may require policy support that goes beyond the current 50 MW to 100 MW capacities that most projects are eligible for.

"There is a lot of interest [among PSUs] and these are cash-rich companies, so there is a proposal for a separate scheme under which public sector companies can invest," said SECI’s senior manager for PV, Bharath Reddy. “However, discussions are still in the early stage.”

Large Indian PSUs include ONGC, BHEL and NTPC – each of which has revealed grand PV plans recently; plans that are likely to dwarf the 100 MW top-end capacity for projects by private power producers.

"PSUs can be a great push for solar," said Refex Energy Ltd's MD, Anil Jain. "With the kind of balance sheet and bandwidth they have, they can set up big plants in the range of 500 MW to 1 GWW in a short space of time.

NEC snaps up grid-scale battery business
26. March 2014 | Storage & smart grids, Investor news, Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Ian Clover

The Japanese company has purchased A123 Energy Solutions from China's Wanxiang Group for a reported $100 million.

Japanese technology company NEC has bought A123 Energy Storage for $100 million from its parent company, Wanxiang Group of China.

NEC initially made a play for the now-bankrupt grid-scale, lithium-ion battery company in 2013, but was in the end gazumped by Wanxiang, which snapped up the company for $251 million. This week's announcement by NEC represents a victory of sorts for the company, and marks a giant and deliberate step into the battery storage market.

By acquiring A123, NEC has propelled itself into a global leadership position in the grid-scale battery market, which is increasingly a key sector for PV. Market leaders in this segment include Mitsubishi, Panasonic and Samsung.

Panasonic develops stand-alone PV power system
26. March 2014 | Research & Development, Applications & Installations, Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Ian Clover

The company’s Power Supply Container generates and stores solar energy, and is ideal for for rural off-grid areas.

Japanese eectronics giant Panasonic has this week unveiled a new stand-alone solar power system that the company claims is ideal for use in rural areas lacking access to electric power generation.

The Power Supply Container comprises 12 Panasonic HIT 240 solar modules and 24 lead-acid batteries, controlled by a patented energy management system that oversees the generation and storage of 3 kW of solar electricity for self-consumption.

The Power Supply Container has already been snapped up by a school on the Indonesian island of Karimunjawa as part of the Project to Improve Elementary Education and Alleviate Poverty by Providing Electricity – which was selected and financially backed by the Japanese Embassy in Indonesia.

Alinta wants small solar systems to act like coal generators
By Giles Parkinson on 26 March 2014

The privately owned Australian generation company Alinta Energy is pushing for a change of rules in market operations that would force small renewable energy installations – small wind farms and even rooftop solar arrays – to act in the market in the same manner as large coal-fired generators.

In an apparent reaction to the growing threat of smaller, distributed generation facilities – and in particular the potential emergence of numerous aggregated fleets of really small generators (pooled rooftop solar, for instance) – Alinta is pushing for a change of rules that would require systems as small as 5MW to become “scheduled” generators in the National Electricity Market.

The impact of such a requirement would be to add costs and red tape to smaller generators that could make their operation less economic. Alinta argues that it is necessary to protect the interests of the incumbent utilities.

The proposals were made in a discussion paper presented to the Australian Market Operator, which is holding a holding a consultative meeting on the wholesale market today.

The Alinta submission is focused on details of NEM operations that would not normally warrant outside interest. But what is interesting and significant about its stance is the recognition of the growing trend towards distributed generation, and the growing impact it is having on incumbents, who are finding their output is not required as often in the past, or that they are getting less money for that output.

This is part of the quandary facing energy market operators around the world – how to incorporate the growing move to generation that is consumed on-site or nearby, and manage the efficiency of a large grid.

Alinta’s main assets in the NEM are its Northern and the mothballed Playford coal-fired generators in South Australia, which are some of the oldest and most inflexible in the market, with a poor ability to ramp up or down in response to changing demand and supply.

Scientists develop silicon cells capable of absorbing infrared radiation from the sun
25 March 2014 Asociación RUVID

Researchers of the Universitat Politècnica de València, the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC, in Spanish), the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya-BarcelonaTech (UPC) and the Universidad Rovira i Virgili de Tarragona have developed a silicon photovoltaic cell capable of turning infrared radiation into electricity.

Nature Communications magazine has published this new development led by Francisco Meseguer professor from the CSIC, at the joint lab UPV/CSIC.

The sun is an inexhaustible source of energy which well-exploited, could solve many of the energy suply problems we have today. The photovoltaic cell, commonly known as solar cell, is a device capable of turning solar light into electricity. However, there are many obstacles that prevent a massive use, such as a relatively high cost (0.02 euros per watt generated) and the low efficiency of silicon based solar cells, around 17 per cent.

The low efficiency is related to the material the solar cell is made of. Most solar cells are made of silicon which is relatively cheap to produce. However these solar cells can generate electricity from the visible part of the sun spectrum, but the infrared region is, unfortunately, useless.

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Rooftop solar wins big in Vermont
By Kathy Larsen
March 26, 2014

Dive Brief:
  • Even as battles over utility net metering for distributed energy are being waged throughout the country, the Vermont Legislature voted to increase the state's solar net metering cap from 4% to 15% of a utility's peak load.
  • Net metering is the practice of allowing customers to generate energy from solar roofs or other sources and get full retail-price credit for any power they don't use, which flows into the utility's distribution grid. It is this retail credit, in particular, that has stirred many utilities to try reducing or killing the practice.
  • In Vermont, however, "I think having a cap is a huge problem. There should be no cap," Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell has said. "We should figure out how to adapt to this new future that is here and is what our customers want."

Dive Insight:

The Alliance for Solar Choice, whose members are solar companies, hailed lawmakers' action as another vote against utility efforts to squelch customer rights and protect their monopolies. Other victories have come recently in Utah and the state of Washington. Utilities in general have made the net-metering issue an increasingly defining one for them, arguing the obligation to pay customers full price for their power will eventually run their business model into the ground.

Eastern USA, Guest Author, Solar, Rooftop
Solar Extends Win Streak with Vermont Decision
March 25, 2014

From the Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC)

The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) today announced yet another win for rooftop solar: the Vermont Legislature voted to increase the state’s solar net metering cap from 4% of a utility’s peak load to 15%. The bill, H. 702, is headed to Governor Shumlin’s desk for signature and represents the eighth straight victory for solar net metering in 2013 and 2014.

Net metering allows customers with on-site solar to use clean solar energy they generate themselves, and then receive full retail credit for any surplus electricity sent back to the grid. Utilities turn around and sell this energy to neighboring homes and businesses. The CEO of Green Mountain Power, Vermont’s largest power company, affirmed in a recent news article that net metered solar delivers savings to all ratepayers:
“I think having a cap is a huge problem. There should be no cap,” [GMP CEO Mary] Powell said. “We should figure out how to adapt to this new future that is here and is what our customers want.”
“This major net metering expansion was the result of utilities working alongside the local solar industry and our customers to craft good policy and set a national example,” said Andrew Savage, Director of Communications and Public Affairs for Vermont-based AllEarth Renewables. “The policy reflects the real value solar provides and shows that Vermont’s local utilities are listening to what customers want and need.”

According to the State of Vermont Department of Public Service, net metering is one of the most state’s most successful renewable energy programs.

“Vermont’s decision sends the clear message that rooftop solar delivers benefits to utilities, the grid, and all ratepayers,” said Bryan Miller President of TASC and VP of Public Policy for Sunrun. “We commend the Vermont Legislature for its leadership in expanding access to net metering.”

While Vermont supports net metering expansion, utilities in other states are attacking the policy. These utilities want to stifle rooftop solar to protect their monopolies. ALEC joined the anti-solar attacks last year by introducing a template for model anti-net metering policies. Recent rooftop solar victories in Washington and Utah are the first decisions stemming from this template – both ending in ALEC defeat.

Vermont’s pro-net metering bill and the recent solar victories over ALEC in Washington and Utah are strong examples of state leaders and regulators continuing to recognize voter support and demand for customer-sited solar.
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OneRoof Energy Gets $31.5 Million in Financing for Rooftop Solar
26 March 2014

March 26 (Bloomberg) — OneRoof Energy Group Inc., a rooftop solar developer backed by Morgan Stanley and Hanwha Group, received $31.5 million in its latest fundraising round.

Five investors participated in the the equity financing, according to a filing today with the the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Michele Joyce, a spokeswoman for the San Diego-based company, didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

Size Matters: New See Through Solar Windows Go Big

The company New Energy Technologies is reporting a breakthrough in their see through solar window technology and it’s all about size. When New Energy began developing a solar glass coating several years ago, it started out as a solution in a vial before progressing to a tiny square. In the latest development, New Energy’s SolarWindow™ array tops 232 square centimeters.

Size is not the only factor that makes a see through solar window glass desirable. Uniformity of tint is another critical achievement for SolarWindow announced by New Energy Technologies, and the pleasing color of the tint is an added plus.

See Through Solar Windows From New Energy Technologies

New Energy Technologies first came across our radar back in 2010, when it reported the successful development of a spray-on solution of solar cells, each less than 1/4 the size of a grain of rice. The resulting solar film could generate electricity from fluorescent bulbs, LEDs and other forms of indoor lighting, diffused or shaded sunlight, and direct sunlight.

US Utility Solar Market Grappling With Impact of Federal Tax Credit Expiration
Developers are selling power in unexpected places.

Cory Honeyman
March 26, 2014

While the calendar may read 2014, developers in the U.S. utility PV market are already dealing with the federal Investment Tax Credit’s impending decrease from 30 percent to 10 percent for new projects placed into service after 2016.

In California, developers are toying with new strategies to maximize the number of projects eligible for the 30 percent ITC, now that investor-owned utilities have ample capacity to meet RPS obligations over the next three years.

According to GTM Research’s U.S. Utility PV Tracker, the IOUs can bank on a backlog of more than 7.8 gigawatts of utility PV projects in development from past RPS solicitations and other procurement programs, including the Renewable Auction Mechanism. On top of that, the distributed generation market is booming across the IOUs' territories, with approximately 640 megawatts installed in 2013. That’s tantamount to installing another Topaz Solar Farm or Desert Sunlight project in California, two of the three largest solar PV projects in development across the U.S. to date.

Given the gigawatt-level glut of longstanding PPAs in place, Pacific Gas & Electric has recently signed four PPAs with initial power deliveries beginning in 2019 or 2020.

PV capacity to overtake wind by 2021, says report
By Ben Willis - 27 March 2014, 13:35
In News, Power Generation, Market Watch

Global cumulative PV capacity will overtake that of wind by 2021, according to a report from US-based market research firm Clean Edge.

With annual PV installations having narrowly edged out wind for the first time in 2013, Clean Edge predicts the ongoing trend of falling PV prices will push total solar installations beyond wind within the next seven years.

The 2014 instalment of Clean Edge’s annual ‘Clean Energy Trends’ report confirms other recent PV market analysis, noting that buoyant end-market demand in 2013 has given the industry a strong platform for growth over the next few years.

Although it noted cumulative wind capacity is currently 2.5 times greater than solar PV, PV’s 1GW margin over wind in 2013 marked the beginning of a catch-up process that will see PV eventually forge ahead, the report said. By 2021 global PV capacity is expected to hit 715.8GW against wind’s 697.3MW.

A major factor in this will a continuing drop in PV prices. Clean Edge predicts prices will fall an average 7% per year over the next decade to reach US$1.21 per watt by 2023.

However, this will not result translate into a fall in revenues for manufacturers as in previous years, the report notes; double-digit growth in end-market demand will push total revenue in the industry to US$158.3 billion by 2023.

Chinese Solar PV Module Suppliers Extend Their Lead Heading Into "Robust" 2014
James Montgomery, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com
March 26, 2014 | 0 Comments

New Hampshire, USA -- Three industry groups now confirm that Chinese suppliers continue to increase their dominance over solar PV module shipments, and Yingli remains the biggest of them all.

GlobalData is the latest to chime in, calculating that Yingli accounted for nearly 10 percent of the 33 GW of crystalline solar PV modules produced in 2013, itself a 10 percent rise from the prior year reflecting a recovery in global demand. Trina came in second, followed by Sharp, Canadian Solar, and Jinko.

That tally generally agrees with other recent industry analyses for 2013's solar PV shipments. SolarBuzz noted that Yingli and Trina shipped nearly 6 GW of solar PV modules in 2013, and each exceeding 800 MW in the fourth quarter alone, on their way to being the first suppliers to hit the milestone of a gigawatt of shipments per quarter. IHS observes that Yingli and Trina were favored in almost every region except Japan which is well-defended by domestic firms Solar Frontier, Kyocera, and Sharp.

Reflecting those shipment surges by Chinese suppliers is the market's clear preference for them. In a new IHS survey of those who buy solar PV modules buyers — installers, integrators, engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) firms, and distributors — more than 90 percent of them procure from more than one module supplier (though half admit they have a favorite one). Three of the top five overall brands they choose are Chinese, and in terms of pricing all top five are Chinese. However, module pricing isn't the most important factor to them; it's module reliability and quality, and even high efficiency, that same survey finds. Likely this reflects a more holistic view of solar project economics, where all those factors blend together to keep the overall cost low, rather than focusing simply on which module can be procured for the cheapest price.

Solar Power is Booming in Canada — Unless You Ask the Government
Posted on March 26 2014 by Scott Thill

Like the rest of North America, Canada is in photovoltaic bloom. So why is electricity generated from its solar panels declining?

The news has been good. Last year, Canadian Solar’s stock skyrocketed nearly 700 percent as it built solar farms abroad and at home in Ontario, where it still has over 300 megawatts worth of projects on tap. Nationwide, feed-in-tariffs and growing support have subsidized and exponentially accelerated Canada’s solar installations. Perhaps not as fast as possible to fulfill Canada’s photovoltaic potential (say, 900-1100 kWh/kW), but it seems to be on a roll.

But scan the government’s Statistics Canada site and you’ll find that last year electricity generated from solar declined a substantial 7.6 percent over 2012. Total generation from utilities and industry increased 2.7 percent in the same period, and that doesn’t compute, argued Bill Eggerston, executive director of Canadian Association for Renewable Energies (CARE).

“Energy is a provincial jurisdiction, so the feds claim it’s not their job to compile data,” he told SolarEnergy. But “it would be impossible to increase solar capacity to the extent claimed by governments, and experience that level of decline in generation,” Eggerston noted. CARE also noted that, of the provinces that reported photovoltaic generation data, only Ontario showed up.

“While we can’t necessarily speak to trends across Canada, Ontario is a leader in solar PV development,” Ministry of Energy spokesperson Beckie Codd-Downey told SolarEnergy. “Today, Ontario has the most solar PV capacity of any jurisdiction in Canada with over 900 MW online — expected to produce enough electricity to power more than 100,000 homes each year. Since Ontario’s FIT and microFIT programs were launched in 2009, Ontario has seen a reduction in the average costs for new solar PV systems of at least 40 percent.”

Again, it all reads like an unending stream of good solar news. If only the entire nation was as enthusiastic as Ontario, said Eggerston. “Energy, electric and thermal, is the basis of Canada’s economy, and governments are having trouble understanding the need for more sustainability and lower carbon.”
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Photon Energy installs UK’s largest airport PV array at Southend Airport
By Conor Ryan | 28 March 2014, 9:58 Updated: 28 March 2014, 11:29

The largest airport PV system in Britain has successfully been installed at London Southend Airport as part of a £10 million terminal expansion built by Kier Construction.

A total of 496 rooftop solar panels will be used to power the terminal’s newly constructed shops, cafes and restaurants through the airport’s private electricity network.

David Lister, airport operations director of London Southend Airport, said: "We are delighted to add the provision of clean solar electricity to a range of 'green' initiatives we've introduced as the terminal has developed. Environmentally-friendly initiatives are very important to us and the whole building has been designed to incorporate a number of them, including sustainable drainage, specialist coating to improve insulation, extensive glazing to enhance natural lighting and slow start escalators."

Survey Says Securitization Of Pooled Solar Assets Will Expand Next Year
March 27, 2014 Kathleen Zipp : 0 Comments

More than 60% of solar originators believe securitization of pooled commercial solar assets will take place over the next 12 months. Furthermore, fifty percent of originators estimate that securitization of pooled residential solar assets will also occur over the same time period.

These are the major findings from a survey sponsored by Mercatus, an enterprise level investment analysis and decision making platform serving as the core “operating system” for solar energy investors. In addition, the Mercatus survey uncovered that 56% of solar originators cited they currently have enough operating capital, origination and diligence resources to meet their solar investment funding goals.

Mercatus polled over 5,000 originators for this survey, designed to shed light on several issues facing the solar investment community. A variety of respondents participated in the survey, including independent solar power producers, both new and experienced solar investors, institutional investors, financiers and asset owners. Other key originator survey findings include the following:

• Over 68% disagreed or remained neutral with the statement that the amount of money chasing solar projects is greater than the number of available projects to invest in.
• Over 56% disagreed or remained neutral with the statement that syndicating other parts of the capital stack is a major problem.
• Over 56% agreed or remained neutral with the statements that IT and investment in solar infrastructure will both help reduce diligence costs and increase closure rates.

“The fact that originators believe the expansion of the securitization of solar assets is imminent and that they already have adequate investment resources is a clear indicator that solar will continue to grow into a major economic force,” says Haresh Patel, CEO of Mercatus. “Securitization in particular will be a game-changer for the solar sector, as investment levels and number of projects will increase substantially as a result.”

West Sussex ‘fracking’ village launches PV co-op
By Conor Ryan | 27 March 2014, 15:03 Updated: 27 March 2014, 15:40

The residents of Balcombe, the small West Sussex village best known for being at the centre of a hectic 2013 protest against UK fracking in the surrounding area, have launched their own renewable energy co-operative in an effort to generate their own power through community-owned facilities.

The co-operative, REPOWERBalcombe, plans on installing £300,000 worth of PV installations on the rooftops of local buildings this spring. When operational, these PV facilities will produce enough energy to power 7.5% of the entire town’s electricity demand.

REPOWERBalcombe has already signed off on its first project – a 19kW PV installation that will place on top of a cowshed at the nearby Grange Farms.

In exchange for hosting the project, Grange Farms will be awarded electricity at a 33% discount for the next 25 years.

Tipping Point Nears for Abandoning the Utility and Going Off-Grid
Morgan Stanley sees falling PV costs, Tesla’s big battery bet and rising electricity prices as cues for consumers to disconnect from the grid.

RenewEconomy, Giles Parkinson
March 27, 2014

Investment bank Morgan Stanley has suggested that the falling costs of both solar modules and battery storage present a potential tipping point that could encourage huge numbers of homeowners and businesses in the U.S. to go off-grid.

The initial report, published earlier this month, has been followed up by a note from Morgan Stanley highlighting the extent to which investors had been unaware of these mega-trends, which threaten massive disruption in the trillion-dollar utility business.

It's well known that solar is becoming more popular, but many had no idea of the size of the market that Morgan Stanley identified. And while most had been skeptical of the potential impact of battery storage, they were intrigued by the potential cost reductions that could be achieved by Tesla, the electric car company, and its ability to monitor power levels in batteries and schedule a battery swap in the case of depletion.

More importantly, the investors were particularly focused on how utilities might respond. Solar, they suggested, should be seen as an opportunity, and utilities should look at ways of becoming enablers of these technologies, rather than barriers.

Revolutionary solar cells double as lasers
28 Mar 2014

Latest research finds that the trailblazing ‘perovskite’ material used in solar cells can double up as a laser, strongly suggesting the astonishing efficiency levels already achieved in these cells is only part of the journey.

Commercial silicon-based solar cells - such as those seen on the roofs of houses across the country - operate at about 20% efficiency for converting the Sun’s rays into electrical energy. It’s taken over 20 years to achieve that rate of efficiency.

A relatively new type of solar cell based on a perovskite material - named for scientist Lev Perovski, who first discovered materials with this structure in the Ural Mountains in the 19th century - was recently pioneered by an Oxford research team led by Professor Henry Snaith.

Perovskite solar cells, the source of huge excitement in the research community, already lie just a fraction behind commercial silicon, having reached a remarkable 17% efficiency after a mere two years of research - transforming prospects for cheap large-area solar energy generation.

Now, researchers from Professor Sir Richard Friend’s group at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory - working with Snaith’s Oxford group - have demonstrated that perovskite cells excel not just at absorbing light but also at emitting it. The new findings, recently published online in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, show that these ‘wonder cells’ can also produce cheap lasers.

By sandwiching a thin layer of the lead halide perovskite between two mirrors, the team produced an optically driven laser which proves these cells “show very efficient luminescence” - with up to 70% of absorbed light re-emitted.

The researchers point to the fundamental relationship, first established by Shockley and Queisser in 1961, between the generation of electrical charges following light absorption and the process of ‘recombination’ of these charges to emit light.

Photosynthesis reimagined
2 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Using water as fuel has been a recurrent theme of science fiction since the days of Jules Verne. A recent discovery, however, may bring it one step closer to science fact by mimicking the very first steps of the photosynthetic water-splitting pathway.

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory in collaboration with researchers from Arizona State University have found a way to imitate Photosystem II, the first protein complex in the long chain of reactions that use energy from the sun to create usable fuel. The result was reported in the journal Nature Chemistry.

Photosystem II uses energized electrons to split water into oxygen, protons and the electrons that are necessary to complete the photosynthetic process.

Once light strikes an electron in a chlorophyll molecule at the heart of photosystem II, the excited electron moves to a higher energy state, leaving behind a positively charged region called a "hole," which is in then filled by other electrons that are stripped from water by a special enzyme. The excited electron then travels through a number of "electron carrier" proteins like a baton being passed among relay racers.

However, the motion of an electron brings with it a negative charge. The protein compensates for this by transferring a positively-charged proton as well. When both steps happen, the "baton exchange" is complete and charge separation happens successfully.

"The problem is that even though we know exactly how these reactions occur in nature, it's extremely difficult to replicate them in the laboratory because the protein environment is so hard to imitate," said Argonne nanoscientist Tijana Rajh.

Kansas Will Plant Its First Community-Owned Solar Farm
Emily Hois
March 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

Customer-owned utility Midwest Energy and community solar developer Clean Energy Collective (CEC) have signed an agreement to build a 1 megawatt community solar photovoltaic array, the largest in Kansas, with panels owned by Midwest Energy members throughout central and western Kansas.

The 4,000-panel solar garden will be located within the Midwest Energy service territory, making renewable energy ownership available to all of Midwest Energy’s 50,000 electric members. The purchase price for panels in the array will include all available rebates and tax incentives, as if the system were located on the customer’s roof. Customers will receive credit for the power their panels produce directly on their Midwest Energy electric bills.

“We’re excited to be the first utility in Kansas to offer community-owned solar to our members,” said John Blackwell, Chair of Midwest Energy’s Board of Directors. “Our customers have signaled they’re supportive of renewable energy, and we’re pleased to bring this solar ownership opportunity to them.”

A new angle on controlling light
System could provide first method for filtering light waves based on direction.

David L. Chandler, MIT News Office
March 27, 2014

Light waves can be defined by three fundamental characteristics: their color (or wavelength), polarization, and direction. While it has long been possible to selectively filter light according to its color or polarization, selectivity based on the direction of propagation has remained elusive.

But now, for the first time, MIT researchers have produced a system that allows light of any color to pass through only if it is coming from one specific angle; the technique reflects all light coming from other directions. This new approach could ultimately lead to advances in solar photovoltaics, detectors for telescopes and microscopes, and privacy filters for display screens.

The work is described in a paper appearing this week in the journal Science, written by MIT graduate student Yichen Shen, professor of physics Marin Soljačić, and four others. “We are excited about this,” Soljačić says, “because it is a very fundamental building block in our ability to control light.”

The new structure consists of a stack of ultrathin layers of two alternating materials where the thickness of each layer is precisely controlled. “When you have two materials, then generally at the interface between them you will have some reflections,” Soljačić explains. But at these interfaces, “there is this magical angle called the Brewster angle, and when you come in at exactly that angle and the appropriate polarization, there is no reflection at all.”

While the amount of light reflected at each of these interfaces is small, by combining many layers with the same properties, most of the light can be reflected away — except for that coming in at precisely the right angle and polarization.

Using a stack of about 80 alternating layers of precise thickness, Shen says, “We are able to reflect light at most of the angles, over a very broad band [of colors]: the entire visible range of frequencies.”

Previous work had demonstrated ways of selectively reflecting light except for one precise angle, but those approaches were limited to a narrow range of colors of light. The new system’s breadth could open up many potential applications, the team says.

Shen says, “This could have great applications in energy, and especially in solar thermophotovoltaics” — harnessing solar energy by using it to heat a material, which in turn radiates light of a particular color. That light emission can then be harnessed using a photovoltaic cell tuned to make maximum use of that color of light. But for this approach to work, it is essential to limit the heat and light lost to reflections, and re-emission, so the ability to selectively control those reflections could improve efficiency.

Neo Solar Power revenues grow 64% to USD 660 million in 2013

Neo Solar Power Corp. (NSP, Hsinchu, Taiwan) has released 2013 results, reporting a 64% growth in revenues to USD 660 million, a 1.6% operating margin and a net profit of USD 17 million.

The company shipped a record 1.53 GW of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells in 2013. NSP notes the advantages of enlarged economies of scale due to its merger with Delsolar Co. Ltd. (Chunan Chen, Taiwan), which was completed in June 2013.

Through the Delsolar merger NSP became Taiwan's largest PV cell maker. NSP also raised USD 135 million through a local convertible bond and equity issuance in 2013, which contributed to its cash on hand of USD 210 million at the end of the year.
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