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Old Posted May 2, 2013, 9:51 PM
amor de cosmos amor de cosmos is offline
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1 May 2013

May 1 (Bloomberg) — Lightsource Renewable Energy Ltd., the U.K. developer that installed a sun-power project on the roof of Bentley Motors Ltd., may invest as much as 400 million pounds ($623 million) this year in U.K. solar facilities.

Britain’s largest solar park developer said it expects to install as much as 300 megawatts worth of facilities in the year starting today, or about 40 projects, said Nick Boyle, chief executive officer of the London-based company.

“We’re working on about 140 megawatts of projects at the moment that will reach financial close before July,” he said in an interview in London. “We have a very large pipeline of self- developed projects and a large number of other sites that we’re in negotiations to buy off third parties.” Each project is about 5 to 15 megawatts in capacity and will take about nine months to build.

Britain aims to install as much as 22 gigawatts of solar energy by 2020 as part of a target to get 15 percent of its energy from renewables by the same year. The country offers predictable revenue streams for investors because of government subsidies and long-term power-purchase agreements that guarantee prices, Murphy said.

ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: May 1, 2013
Solar-powered nanofilters pump in antibiotics to clean contaminated water

“Engineering Bacterial Efflux Pumps for Solar-Powered Bioremediation of Surface Waters”

Using the same devious mechanism that enables some bacteria to shrug off powerful antibiotics, scientists have developed solar-powered nanofilters that remove antibiotics from the water in lakes and rivers twice as efficiently as the best existing technology. Their report appears in ACS’ journal NanoLetters.

David Wendell and Vikram Kapoor explain that antibiotics from toilets and other sources find their way into lakes and rivers, with traces appearing in 80 percent of waterways. Those antibiotics foster emergence of new antibiotic-resistant bacteria, while harming beneficial microbes in ways that can degrade aquatic environments and food chains. Filters containing activated carbon can remove antibiotics from effluent at municipal sewage treatment plants, before its release into waterways. But activated carbon is far from perfect. So the scientists looked for a better technology.

Solar to Account for Almost All New Generation in California System in 2H 2013
“Are we getting a lumpy renewable energy portfolio?”


Almost all of the new generation capacity in the California transmission system operator’s queue for the second half of 2013 is solar -- 97 percent, to be exact.

There are 1,633 megawatts of new generation capacity in the 2H 2013 queue, according to the 2012 Annual Report on Market Issues and Performance from the California Independent System Operator (the ISO). Of that, 1,581 megawatts are new solar and 52 megawatts are biomass.

By the end of the first half of the year, the ISO will have added 3,391 megawatts of nameplate capacity, of which 2,296 megawatts will be natural gas, 565 megawatts will be wind and 530 megawatts will be solar.

However, what is in the ISO’s queue is not necessarily what will end up in the state’s energy mix, REC Solar Director of Governmental Affairs Ben Higgins pointed out.

But in this report, California ISO Manager of Monitoring and Reporting Keith Collins noted, “the ISO has done its best in determining which projects have a high probably of coming on-line instead of just taking generation in the queue as-is.”

This is likely a very good indication of the new generation the marketplace will build to replace the 2,200-megawatt deficit caused by the San Onofre nuclear facility outage and the mandated closures/retrofits of fossil fuel plants that over-consume the state’s water resources. And it is a strong indication of the kind of building that will be driven by the state’s 33 percent by 2020 Renewable Portfolio Standard.

How graphene and friends could harness the Sun’s energy
01 May 2013 Manchester University
Under embargo until 02 May 2013 18:00 GMT

Combining wonder material graphene with other stunning one-atom thick materials could create the next generation of solar cells and optoelectronic devices, scientists have revealed.

University of Manchester and National University of Singapore researchers have shown how building multi-layered heterostructures in a three-dimensional stack can produce an exciting physical phenomenon exploring new electronic devices.

The breakthrough, published in Science, could lead to electric energy that runs entire buildings generated by sunlight absorbed by its exposed walls; the energy can be used at will to change the transparency and reflectivity of fixtures and windows depending on environmental conditions, such as temperature and brightness.
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Old Posted May 8, 2013, 6:47 PM
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Schneider Electric and Grid Alternatives Provide Solar to Low-Income Housing
07 MAY 2013

Schneider Electric, a specialist in energy management, and Grid Alternatives, a non-profit solar installer, are partnering to provide and install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems for low-income homeowners while preparing workers for jobs in the solar industry.

Through this partnership, Schneider Electric will provide in-kind donations of the company’s residential Conext TX grid-tie solar inverters to support Grid Alternatives’ Solar Affordable Housing Program, a program that engages volunteers and job trainees in installing solar in underserved communities

In addition to donating solar inverters, Schneider Electric employees have been participating in several of Grid Alternatives’ community installation events across the country. The next build Schneider Electric employees will participate in is Grid Alternatives’ San Diego Solarthon on 18 May in San Diego, California. The Solarthon events bring together hundreds of people – individual fundraisers, corporate sponsors, job trainees, community leaders and homeowners – to install multiple systems in one neighborhood in one day.

Dyesol Acheives Breakthrough in Solid-State Dye Solar Cells
08 MAY 2013

Dyesol, a leader in the commercialisation of Dye Solar Cell (DSC) technology, has achieved what it is calling a "game changing" technical breakthrough by achieving a solid-state DSC efficiency of 11.3% at full sun.

The breakthrough comes as the technology transitions from liquid-based to solid-state systems to meet the demands of product life and mass manufacture. The variation in technology, known as mesoscopic solar cells, meets the technical challenges of mass manufacturing Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) products and will allow Dyesol and its multi-national commercialisation partners to confidently address the multi-billion dollar global market.

In 2010, solid-state DSC performance was at a mere 5%, significantly lagging the performance of liquid based systems. However, the subsequent technical advancement has been nothing short of revolutionary. Dyesol, through the work of its scientist Dr Peng Qin, based at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, has achieved solid-state DSC laboratory efficiency of 11.3%. Dyesol is also confident of achieving industrial efficiencies greater than 10% because of the added simplicity of working with solid-state systems. At this level of module performance the technology will be grid competitive - the "holy grail" for renewable energy technologies.

7 Cool Solar Energy Applications
May 7, 2013 Kathleen Zipp : 0 Comments

The soaring interest in solar power is not only evident on roofs, but also through innovative ideas to power up almost every part of our lives. Here are 7 solar applications I think are especially cool. Some are a bit of a novelty, but perhaps this won’t be so in the near future.

1. Just a few years ago I wasn’t charging anything on my bedside table. But now I find myself running out of outlets as I power-up my tablet, MP3 player, cell phone, e-reader, laptop and other portable devices. Not only is the growing popularity of portable personal devices a strain on electric bills, but it also puts pressure on the power grid. Luckily, innovative companies are developing other options for charging your personal devices for free using the sun’s energy.

2. I’m seeing more and more cities with solar-powered trash and recycling compactors. Not only are they cool, but they’re saving cities millions by reducing litter and cutting down collections (they hold about five times more than the average trash bin).

3. Technological developments in solar-powered vehicles are soaring.

4. Solar power is bringing electricity, light and much more to places that otherwise may not have access to the grid. Solar-powered lanterns are lighting up rural parts of India, but I think the coolest invention I’ve seen is a solar-powered shipping container that can host medical facilities in Haiti and other areas in need of such services.

5. When it comes to using solar power, the U.S. military is a leader to take note of. The military’s initiatives to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels has pushed it to put solar on its housing.

6. Hurricane Sandy caused huge power outages along the East Coast last year. Even in Cleveland, I went without power for 5 days. This is nothing compared to the devastation in New York, New Jersey and other areas along the East Coast. But it was still embarrassing how helpless and depressed it made me feel. I couldn’t believe in an age where we’ve landed a space craft on Mars we can’t have reliable back-up power. The truth is, with solar we can have back-up power.

7. At a recent conference, one panel discussed how solar hot water isn’t covered in the news as much as solar PV because it’s not as “sexy.” My colleagues know I hate when people use this adjective for anything other than the obvious (quite frankly, I just think it’s awkward), but the panel had a point. The truth is, solar heating and cooling is the most popular form of solar globally, we just need to give it a little more recognition and a lot more support.

South West Water embraces solar after generating over 1GWh in 2012
By Peter Bennett | 07 May 2013, 14:14 Updated: 07 May 2013, 15:17

South West Water has installed more solar panels across its operational sites after the company’s existing solar assets generated more than one million kilowatt-hours in 2012.

In December 2011 the company invested £3 million in solar arrays at 23 water and sewage treatment works in Devon and Cornwall.

As a result of the sites’ performance, the water company has installed solar at another seven of its operational sites in Devon, bringing the total to 30 solar arrays.

The seven new sites have a combined capacity of 400kW which will help South West Water generate 410,000kWh of additional energy. The sites range from 24kW at Willand Water Pumping Station, near Tiverton, to 150kW - the company's biggest installation to date - at Yelland Sewage Treatment Works, near Barnstaple.

6 Rooftops In LA Could Generate $1,000,000+ Annually From Solar Power
by Zach
on May 3, 2013
under Going Solar, Rooftop Solar, Solar $

The path to having solar panels installed on your roof can seem daunting at first. How do you know how much sun your roof gets, whether it’s at the right angle, or blocked by trees? How much will it cost, what incentives are available, should you lease or buy, and which installer should you work with?
Sun Number has launched a free online service that makes it possible for property owners in Los Angeles and Orange County to instantly find out the solar energy potential of a home or commercial property.

A quick search of the Sun Number Scores for some landmark buildings in L.A. yielded some interesting results. In fact, just these six buildings listed below have the potential to generate over $1 Million in electricity every year if solar panels were installed on their rooftops. Imagine what solar could do for your electricity bill!

• Sun Number Score of 96.
• The rooftop has the potential to generate over $750,000 in electricity every year.

Balboa Pavilion
• Sun Number Score of 87.
• The rooftop has the potential to generate about $10,000 in electricity every year.

Warner Brothers Studios
• Sun Number Score of 93.
• The rooftop has the potential to generate nearly $50,000 in electricity every year.

Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena
• Sun Number Score of 87.
• The rooftop has the potential to generate over $350,000 in electricity every year.

Hollywood Sound Studios
• The buildings in this complex have an average Sun Number Score of about 90.
• The rooftops have the potential to generate almost $100,000 in electricity every year.

The Biltmore Hotel
• Sun Number Score of 87.
• The rooftop has the potential to generate $67,000 in electricity every year.

8 May 2013

May 8 (Bloomberg) — India plans to defer fines for solar- thermal power developers that failed to complete $1 billion of plants in time as it seeks to spur investment in the industry.

Reliance Power Ltd., Godawari Power and Ispat Ltd. and Lanco Infratech Ltd. are among companies that failed to finish seven projects totaling 470 megawatts by May because of a lack of water and equipment and financing problems, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy Joint Secretary Tarun Kapoor said by phone.

Under contracts awarded in December 2010, the plants would pay about 2.3 billion rupees ($42.5 million) in late penalties.

“There’s obviously a problem since all are delayed,” Kapoor said in New Delhi. “This is the first time solar-thermal projects are being built in India and we want them to succeed.” A ministry panel is recommending a 10-month extension, he said.

Solar-thermal technology, which focuses sunlight on liquids to produce steam and is valued for its ability to store energy, has struggled to compete with cheap photovoltaic equipment that converts light directly into electricity. Areva SA scrapped an A$1 billion ($1 billion) complex in Australia in November after failing to raise funds. Photovoltaic panel prices have slumped.

Massachusetts ups PV target to 1.6GW
By Julia Chan - 07 May 2013, 10:49In News, Power Generation

Deval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts, has raised the US state’s PV target to 1.6GW by 2020 after he revealed it had hit the 250MW milestone four years early.

In 2007 the governor announced a state target to install 250MW of solar capacity by 2017. However, in 2012, the state installed 100MW of new PV capacity helping the state to reach the 250MW milestone four years early. It also became the sixth largest solar market in the US.

Building on this momentum, the governor has increased its PV target to reach 1.6GW by 2020.

CIT Arranges $26 Million for Massachusetts Solar Farms
By Justin Doom - May 6, 2013 8:53 AM PT

CIT Group Inc. (CIT), the financial services company led by John Thain, arranged a $26 million credit facility for Citizens Energy Corp. to build five solar farms in Massachusetts.

The ground-mounted projects will be in Devens, Holyoke, Whately and Agawam, according to a statement today from New York-based CIT. Citizens Energy, a non-profit that provides low- cost energy to the poor and elderly, was founded in 1979 by Joseph Kennedy II, a former congressman and the son of Robert F. Kennedy.

DOE Smart Grid Funds Created $6.8 Billion Economic Boost, 47,000 Jobs
May 3, 2013
Silvio Marcacci

As American government seek out the best industries to invest shrinking public funds for the biggest return on investment, one economic sector offers the most bullish outlook around – the smart grid.

An analysis from the US Department of Energy (DOE), “Economic Impact of Recovery Act Investment in the Smart Grid,” reports smart grid projects funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) created nearly $7 billion total economic output, nearly 50,000 jobs, and over $1 billion in government tax revenue.

DOE’s analysis covers $1.48 billion in ARRA investments from the Smart Grid Investment Grants (SGIG) and Smart Grid Demonstration Program (SGDP) programs, as well as $1.48 billion in associated matching investments made by grant recipients in the private sector between August 2009 and March 2012.

Smart Grid Funds Created Over 2-to-1 ROI

During a period of stagnant economic growth, the impact of ARRA’s smart grid investments shines like a beacon. According to the report, nearly $3 billion in combined smart grid project funding generated at least $6.83 billion in total economic output.

In addition to total economic output, DOE estimates ARRA smart grid investments boosted overall gross domestic product (GDP) by $4.18 billion. The smart grid GDP multiplier is higher than many other forms of government investment – for every $1 million of direct spending, GDP increased by $2.5-$2.6 million.



by Zach
on May 4, 2013
under Science, Solar $, Solar PV Manufacturing, Solar Research

I recently ran across this interesting graph on reddit:

The title of the article in which the graph was housed (similar to mine above) was: “Solar Energy: This Is What A Disruptive Technology Looks Like.”
I think the graph is pretty clear — while the price of retail electricity, residential natural gas, and crude oil have all remained fairly constant in the past few decades (in inflation-adjusted terms), the price of solar has rolled down a long, big hill. And, the good news is, it’s still rolling.

News Release NR-2413
NREL Quantifies Significant Value in Concentrating Solar Power
CSP with thermal energy storage boosts California electric grid

April 24, 2013

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have quantified the significant value that concentrating solar power (CSP) plants can add to an electric grid.

The NREL researchers evaluated the operational impacts of CSP systems with thermal energy storage within the California electric grid managed by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). NREL used a commercial production cost model called PLEXOS to help plan system expansion, to evaluate aspects of system reliability, and to estimate fuel cost, emissions, and other operational factors within the CAISO system. The analysis is detailed in a recent publication, Analysis of Concentrating Solar Power with Thermal Energy Storage in a California 33% Renewable Scenario, by Paul Denholm, Yih-Huei Wan, Marissa Hummon, and Mark Mehos.

NREL’s analysis was considered within the context of California’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which requires 33% of power be supplied by renewables by 2020. The specific focus was on the “Environmentally Constrained” 33% RPS scenario, which includes a high contribution of generation from photovoltaic solar energy systems. By also considering how the state could take advantage of CSP with thermal storage, NREL used the PLEXOS model to quantify the value of CSP in reducing the need for conventional power generation from fossil fuels, and compared this value to other sources of generation, including photovoltaics, which supply variable energy depending on the amount of sunlight available.

Myanmar: 210 MW solar plant in the planning

According to various media, US$275 million is expected to be invested in the development of a solar power plant in Minbu, Myanmar. If construction is completed, it will be the third-largest plant of its kind in the world, with an installed capacity of 210 MW.

Bloomberg and the Bangkok Post have reported that Green Earth Power, a Thailand-based renewable developer, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the 210 MW solar project with Myanmar’s electric power ministry earlier this month. The company is now said to be looking for partners to join the development, and plans to complete the project within two years.

Supasit Skontanarak, Green Earth’s managing director, told the Bangkok Post that the project’s power purchase agreement (PPA) is expected to be signed within three months. Bloomberg further revealed today that all electricity generated by the solar plant will be sold to the Myanmar government for a period of 30 years.

No further details were available and the company could not be reached for comment.

A Giant Leap to Commercialization of Polymer Solar Cell (PSC)
Eunhee Song

Researchers from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) demonstrated high-performance polymer solar cells (PSCs) with power conversion efficiency (PCE) of 8.92% which is the highest values reported to date for plasmonic PSCs using metal nanoparticles (NPs).

A polymer solar cell is a type of thin film solar cells made with polymers that produce electricity from sunlight by the photovoltaic effect. Most current commercial solar cells are made from a highly purified silicon crystal. The high cost of these silicon solar cells and their complex production process has generated interest in developing alternative photovoltaic technologies.

Compared to silicon-based devices, PSCs are lightweight (which is important for small autonomous sensors), solution processability (potentially disposable), inexpensive to fabricate (sometimes using printed electronics), flexible, and customizable on the molecular level, and they have lower potential for negative environmental impact. Polymer solar cells have attracted a lot of interest due to these many advantages.

Although these many advantages, PSCs currently suffer from a lack of enough efficiency for large scale applications and stability problems but their promise of extremely cheap production and eventually high efficiency values has led them to be one of the most popular fields in solar cell research.

To maximize PCE, light absorption in the active layer has to be increased using thick bulk heterojunction (BHJ) films. However, the thickness of the active layer is limited by the low carrier mobilities of BHJ materials. Therefore, it is necessary to find the ways to minimize the thickness of BHJ films while maximizing the light absorption capability in the active layer.

Microwave Cooks up Solar Cell Material

May 6, 2013 – University of Utah metallurgists used an old microwave oven to produce a nanocrystal semiconductor rapidly using cheap, abundant and less toxic metals than other semiconductors. They hope it will be used for more efficient photovoltaic solar cells and LED lights, biological sensors and systems to convert waste heat to electricity.

Using microwaves “is a fast way to make these particles that have a broad range of applications,” says Michael Free, a professor of metallurgical engineering. “We hope in the next five years there will be some commercial products from this, and we are continuing to pursue applications and improvements. It’s a good market, but we don’t know exactly where the market will go.”

Free and the study’s lead author, Prashant Sarswat, a research associate in metallurgical engineering, are publishing their study of the microwaved photovoltaic semiconductor – known as CZTS for copper, zinc, tin and sulfur – in the June 1 issue of the Journal of Crystal Growth.

In the study, they determined the optimum time required to produce the most uniform crystals of the CZTS semiconductor – 18 minutes in the microwave oven – and confirmed the material indeed was CZTS by using a variety of tests, such as X-ray crystallography, electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy and ultraviolet spectroscopy. They also built a small photovoltaic solar cell to confirm that the material works and demonstrate that smaller nanocrystals display “quantum confinement,” a property that makes them versatile for different uses.

“It’s not an easy material to make,” Sarswat says. “There are a lot of unwanted compounds that can form if it is not made properly.”
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Old Posted May 9, 2013, 5:56 PM
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The fluorescent future of solar cells
7 hours ago by Eric Gershon

(Phys.org) —For some solar cells, the future may be fluorescent. Scientists at Yale have improved the ability of a promising type of solar cell to absorb light and convert it into electrical power by adding a fluorescent organic dye to the cell layer. This squaraine dye boosts light absorption and recycles electrons, improving the conversion of light into energy. The results suggest a new route for the development of lower-cost, higher-efficiency photovoltaics, the scientists said.

"People can apply our approach in designing advanced solar cells with higher efficiencies," said André D. Taylor, the assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering at Yale who led the research, published May 5 online in the journal Nature Photonics.

Solar cells are a renewable energy technology for directly converting light into electricity. Polymer solar cells, the type involved in the research, are appealing for their low cost, low weight, large area, and mechanical flexibility. But they are inefficient—nearly 50 percent of their absorbed light energy never transmits as electrical power, mainly because their polymer networks are not sufficiently lined up at the nanoscale to enable energy to exit the cell.

By introducing a squaraine dye into polymer solar cells that are based on a well established biochemical mechanism—Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET)—researchers achieved a 38 percent increase in power conversion efficiency, they said.

In this type of solar cell—FRET-based heterojunction polymer solar cells—extra energy is able to migrate from one molecule to another over long distances. The dye, which is highly absorbent in the near-infrared region, both broadens the spectral absorption of solar cells and enhances electricity transmission.

SER Energia planning 960 MW of PV projects in Brazil
09. May 2013 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Becky Beetz

SER Energia is aiming to install 960 MW worth of photovoltaics in Brazil. Already, it has registered 930 MW with the country’s electricity regulatory agency, spread across 31 projects. An investment of around US$1.5 billion is expected.

Igor Fukushiro, in charge of business development at Sistemas de Energia Renovável, or SER Energia, tells pv magazine the Brazil-based company is planning to develop nearly one GW worth of large-scale photovoltaic projects in the northeast of Brazil, where the highest solar radiation is said to be.

He says the plan is to keep some of the projects under SER’s portfolio, while the remainder will either be jointly developed with other partners or sold. Meanwhile, the generated electricity is expected to be sold via an energy auction (expected in 2014), or on the free market.

Currently, SER has registered 930 MW of projects with ANEEL, Brazil’s national electricity regulatory agency. A total of 17 special purpose companies have been established to develop them; each will be 30 MW in size.

Overall, 270 MW are already in the environmental licensing phase which, says Fukushiro, is the last step before a project can participate in an auction, or to be available for construction on the free market segment.

Solar Incentives Are Dead, Long Live Solar
PV incentives for California homeowners are effectively gone, and it won’t cause even a blip in California’s solar growth rates.

Barry Cinnamon: May 8, 2013

The California Solar Initiative (CSI) program, which provides rebates for homes and businesses, is no longer providing rebates for homeowners in PG&E territory. That's terrific news. PG&E solar incentives are dead! Long live solar!

As a solar enthusiast, you may think I'm crazy for celebrating the upcoming demise of the single most effective state solar policy in the U.S., but it's true. The California Solar Initiative was the vehicle for accomplishing the goal of a million solar rooftops in California, established by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2005. The CSI program kicked off at the beginning of 2007 to encourage the installation of 2,000 megawatts of customer-owned solar in the state, leveraging about $2 billion in ratepayer "public goods" funds.

To be clear, there are still some rebates available for commercial systems in PG&E territory, as well as lower incentive level rebates in SCE territory. There are also plenty of rebates available for solar thermal systems. But PV incentives for homeowners are effectively gone -- and it won't cause even a blip in California's solar growth rates.

From the start, it was all about energy, jobs and the environment. The CSI program has been a rousing success in every one of these dimensions. As of the beginning of May 2013, California had installed 148,989 solar projects (including both the CSI and earlier California Energy Commission incentive programs) and 1,548 megawatts of solar, at an average cost per watt of $5.40 per watt (DC). And these figures do not include the state's utility-scale solar, which has 1,190 megawatts of operating capacity and 3,063 megawatts of capacity under construction.

The Solar Foundation has tallied up 43,700 solar jobs in California and 1,703 solar companies. The Foundation also points out that there are "only" 32,300 paid film and TV actors in California; unfortunately, it did not compare the lifestyle differences between Hollywood actors and rooftop solar installers.

Power plants: UGA researchers explore how to harvest electricity directly from plants
May 9, 2013

Athens, Ga. - The sun provides the most abundant source of energy on the planet. However, only a tiny fraction of the solar radiation on Earth is converted into useful energy.

To help solve this problem, researchers at the University of Georgia looked to nature for inspiration, and they are now developing a new technology that makes it possible to use plants to generate electricity.

"Clean energy is the need of the century," said Ramaraja Ramasamy, assistant professor in the UGA College of Engineering and the corresponding author of a paper describing the process in the Journal of Energy and Environmental Science. "This approach may one day transform our ability to generate cleaner power from sunlight using plant-based systems."

Plants are the undisputed champions of solar power. After billions of years of evolution, most of them operate at nearly 100 percent quantum efficiency, meaning that for every photon of sunlight a plant captures, it produces an equal number of electrons. Converting even a fraction of this into electricity would improve upon the efficiency seen with solar panels, which generally operate at efficiency levels between 12 and 17 percent.

During photosynthesis, plants use sunlight to split water atoms into hydrogen and oxygen, which produces electrons. These newly freed electrons go on to help create sugars that plants use much like food to support growth and reproduction.

"We have developed a way to interrupt photosynthesis so that we can capture the electrons before the plant uses them to make these sugars," said Ramasamy, who is also a member of UGA's Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center.

IKEA expands US solar footprint with 38th PV project
By Julia Chan - 09 May 2013, 11:35
In News, Power Generation, Project Focus

Swedish furniture retailer IKEA is continuing to expand its solar footprint in the US and has announced the completion of its 38th solar project at its store in Stoughton, Massachusetts.

The 590.8 kW customised PV system has been built on 10,962 square metres of roof space with 4,220 thin-film modules which will help to generate approximately 695,000 kWh of electricity every year.
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Plug & Play Solar from Sun Invention
10 May 2013

Sun Invention announced that its Plug & Save Solar Systems are now available globally. Designed as a plug and play system, it can be plugged directly into the household grid and already integrates a battery, a controller and a micro-inverter.

The system is designed to be installed without the help of a technician; the micro-inverter and the in-house developed controller are applied on the reverse side of the system and shielded by a protective plate, making it inaccessible for the user. The Plug and Save systems are delivered with or without lithium-ion battery. A classical Plug & Save system comprises three modules without battery (Plug & Save Light+) or three modules with a battery (Plug & Save Optimus+) and costs roughly 4.500 EUR / 6,000 USD.
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Old Posted May 12, 2013, 3:19 AM
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The solar paradox: boom, bust or both?
Fri May 10, 2013 10:48am EDT
  • Demand for solar panels to grow to more than 35 GW in 2013
  • Number of equipment makers has dropped to less than 150
  • House owners, farmers emerge as winners in current turmoil
By Christoph Steitz

FRANKFURT, May 10 (Reuters) - Planned European levies on Chinese solar panels will only go some way to halt a rout among equipment makers who face the paradox of a booming market but falling revenues - and could suffer even more if a trade war erupts.

Huge European subsidies for solar power helped create hundreds of start-ups building solar equipment. Those subsidies are being phased out faster than expected, while greater competition within Europe and the United States as well as from China have pushed down prices and forced panel manufacturers to the wall.

"It's a storm that's even worse than feared, hitting everyone unable to lower costs fast enough," said Bjoern Glueck, fund manager at wealth management firm Lupus Alpha, adding any firms that could not withstand the pressure were next in line.

Since its all-time high in December 2007, the FTSE 50 cleantech index of the world's largest renewable energy groups is down 56 percent.

The rout has been broad. Data from research firm IHS shows the number of companies making solar hardware - such as the silicon used in solar cells, the individual energy-producing cells themselves or the arrays of connected cells that form a solar panel - has plunged to 150 from 750 three years ago.

Global revenue is expected to fall this year to $75 billion, down from $94 billion euros in 2011.

But paradoxically, the fall in prices for panels which has hurt manufacturers has helped sustain demand despite the withdrawal of subsidies, meaning companies such as those that install household solar equipment have continued to thrive.

Rooftop Solar Battle Pits Companies Against Utilities
10 May 2013

May 10 (Bloomberg) — SolarCity Corp., Sungevity Inc., Sunrun Inc. and Verengo Inc., companies that financed the majority of U.S. rooftop solar installations, formed a lobbying group to counter efforts by “monopoly utilities” to quash programs that support renewable energy in 43 states.

The Alliance for Solar Choice will focus initially on preserving so-called net energy metering policies that require utilities to purchase surplus electricity at retail rates from customers with rooftop solar systems, the group said today in a statement.

The solar companies are responding to “the coordinated utility attack on net metering throughout the country,” Bryan Miller, the group’s president and vice president of public policy and power markets at San Francisco-based Sunrun, said yesterday by telephone. Utility owners including PG&E Corp., Edison International and Sempra Energy “have opposed net energy metering since its inception.” The group plans to lobby lawmakers and organize public campaigns.

The effort underscores the growing conflict between rooftop solar providers and power companies that disagree about the long-term sustainability of industry support mechanisms such as net energy metering.

Utilities say that as more people install solar panels at home and are compensated for the power they generate, it shifts the costs of operating their grids to non-solar users.

‘Unfair Burden’

“We are concerned that there’s an unfair burden on our customers who have not installed solar panels,” Vanessa McGrady, a spokeswoman for Edison International’s Southern California Edison, said today by e-mail. People with solar systems “are still using the distribution grid and other utility services, minus generation, but do not pay their share.”

Edison Electric Institute, an association of investor-owned power companies that serve about 70 percent of the U.S. market, in January said “threats to the centralized utility business model have accelerated” in part due to net energy metering.

California utilities have estimated that net energy metering may eventually shift as much as $1.3 billion a year in costs to non-solar customers.

“Utilities almost never fret over rising costs to ratepayers,” Will Craven, a SolarCity spokesman, said yesterday by e-mail. “Yet rooftop solar, which is actually driven by consumer demand and is putting more clean energy on the grid and creating jobs, is the object of these utilities’ intense concern.”
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170 MW Of New Solar PV Capacity Installed In Italy During April
by Nathan
on May 12, 2013
under Solar $, Solar Policy, Solar Projects, Solar Research

170 MW of new solar photovoltaic capacity was installed in Italy during the month of April, the Italian energy agency Gestore dei Servizi Energetici (GSE) recently reported.

170 MW a bit lower than the 214 MW installed March, but also a good bit higher than the 126 MW of new capacity installed during February.

As of right now, 16.9 GW of total solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity has been installed across 515,702 PV systems as part of the Italian government’s feed-in tariff program. An additional 525 MW of capacity spread across 1,782 more PV systems are currently registered under the scheme but not yet finished.
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Solar PV Investment Attractiveness Of Sunbelt Countries (Graph)
May 13, 2013

The solar investment attractiveness of a country is based on many factors. Some important ones are the overall investment attractiveness of a country, solar policies in the country, and the natural solar power potential of a country. Putting these figures together, below is solar PV investment attractiveness index for Sunbelt countries that was created by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) that I thought was quite interesting and worth a look. China, India, and Australia (which we report on frequently) are clear leaders. Mexico, Singapore, Chile, Malaysia, and Brazil are also up there. These countries haven’t been in the news (CleanTechnica news, that is) as much, but stories about Brazil have been picking up, and I think the others will in the coming year or two.


Solar panels as inexpensive as paint? It’s possible due to research at UB, elsewhere
By: Cory Nealon
Release Date: May 10, 2013

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Most Americans want the U.S. to place more emphasis on developing solar power, recent polls suggest.

A major impediment, however, is the cost to manufacture, install and maintain solar panels. Simply put, most people and businesses cannot afford to place them on their rooftops.

Fortunately, that is changing because researchers such as Qiaoqiang Gan, University at Buffalo assistant professor of electrical engineering, are helping develop a new generation of photovoltaic cells that produce more power and cost less to manufacture than what’s available today.

One of the more promising efforts, which Gan is working on, involves the use of plasmonic-enhanced organic photovoltaic materials. These devices don’t match traditional solar cells in terms of energy production but they are less expensive and - because they are made (or processed) in liquid form - can be applied to a greater variety of surfaces.

Gan detailed the progress of plasmonic-enhanced organic photovoltaic materials in the May 7 edition of the journal Advanced Materials. Co-authors include Filbert J. Bartoli, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Lehigh University, and Zakya Kafafi of the National Science Foundation.

The paper, which included an image of a plasmonic-enhanced organic photovoltaic device on the journal’s front page, is available at: http://bit.ly/11gzlQm.

Currently, solar power is produced with either thick polycrystalline silicon wafers or thin-film solar cells made up of inorganic materials such as amorphous silicon or cadmium telluride. Both are expensive to manufacture, Gan said.

His research involves thin-film solar cells, too, but unlike what’s on the market he is using organic materials such as polymers and small molecules that are carbon-based and less expensive.

“Compared with their inorganic counterparts, organic photovoltaics can be fabricated over large areas on rigid or flexible substrates potentially becoming as inexpensive as paint,” Gan said.

Solar windows one step nearer commercial production
13. May 2013 | Applications & Installations, Research & Development | By: Max Hall

U.S. building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) developer New Energy Technologies Ltd has announced significant advances in its patented SolarWindow, spray-on solar power coating system.

The Columbia, Maryland-based company claims it has reduced the fabrication time of the technology – which involves spraying layers of ultra small solar cells onto transparent glass – from 'several days' down to 'a few hours', or one sixth of the previous fab time.

New Energy also says it has doubled the power conversion efficiency of the technology and improved the transparency of the glass, resulting in a tint effect.
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Hyundai Motor to Install South Korea’s Largest Rooftop Photovoltaic Power Plant at Asan Factory
- Photovoltaic power plant to reduce carbon emissions, ease nation’s power supplies
- Project aligns with Hyundai’s vision of widespread expansion of renewable energy, company’s eco-friendly goals

May 8, 2013 - Hyundai Motor Company, South Korea’s largest automaker, announced that it will install the nation’s largest rooftop photovoltaic power plant at its manufacturing factory in Asan, Korea, to expand the use of renewable energy and take measures to help reduce global warming.

Hyundai’s Asan plant will host the power plant, while Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) will purchase the electricity produced by the solar modules and sell it to areas near the plant, including Asan city. Working with Korea Midland Power Co., Ltd. (KOMIPO), a thermal power company, Hyundai plans to install about 40,000 solar photovoltaic modules on the rooftops of Asan’s press, welding, assembly and engine buildings by the end of this year.

The 213,000 square meter area to be equipped with the modules accounts for as much as 68 percent of the total roof space, and the peak capacity of the combined modules reaches 10 MW. With such capacity, the completed plant will be capable of supplying up to 11.5 million KWh of electricity per year, or provide a stable supply of electricity for up to 3,200 households.

As 100 percent of the photovoltaic plant at Asan will be built on existing rooftops, the construction neither requires any additional land nor causes environmental issues. The choice of the Asan plant is appropriate, as Asan manufactures the eco-friendly Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, as well as Sonata and Grandeur (Azera in some markets).

To produce the same amount of electricity – 11.5 million KWh - a thermoelectric power plant releases 5,600 tons of carbon dioxide, emission that can be prevented by the use of the photovoltaic power plant. The reduction of 5,600 tons of carbon dioxide emissions is equivalent to the effect of planting 1.12 million pine trees on the environment.

Hanergy Acquiring Engensa to Expand Into U.K. Residential Solar
14 May 2013

May 15 (Bloomberg) — Hanergy Holding Group Ltd., a Chinese renewable-energy company, purchased London-based Engensa Ltd. to expand into the U.K. residential solar market.

Hanergy, based in Beijing, bought the solar installer and financing provider for an undisclosed amount, Engensa said yesterday.

The deal is Hanergy’s third solar acquisition outside China in less than a year, after its January deal for thin-film panel maker MiaSole Inc. in the U.S. and its June purchase of Q-Cells SE unit Solibro in Germany. Asian companies including LDK Solar Co. and Hanwha Corp. are snapping up overseas peers to gain access to large markets, as well as technology.

“This is the first acquisition of a U.K. installer by a manufacturer and the first Chinese manufacturer to invest in the residential market,” Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said by e-mail. “Hanergy, which claims to have 2 gigawatts of thin-film silicon manufacturing capacity already, probably means to find a sales channel.”

Solar Mandate Embraced by a Second California City
Sebastopol, in Sonoma County, Calif., joins Lancaster in backing a solar mandate for new construction, with an ordinance that is much stronger.

Earthtechling, Pete Danko: May 14, 2013

Forget about your complicated tax credits, your net metering, and your feed-in tariff schemes. Let’s go solar the straightforward way: Mandate it!

Lancaster, Calif., in Los Angeles County, did so earlier this year, and the move had the feel of a one-off, the unique inspiration of a Republican mayor with an admirable love for renewable energy and a hankering for attention. But now the town of Sebastopol, in the apple- and grape-growing rolling hills of western Sonoma County, is following suit with a much more aggressive ordinance [PDF], suggesting that solar-by-fiat might be more viable as policy than we thought.

Sebastopol leaders this week unanimously backed an ordinance that, pending final approval later this month, will require residential and commercial buildings (Lancaster’s measure covers only residential) to include a solar-power-generating system or pay an in-lieu fee.

Under the ordinance, how much solar a building will need can be calculated by one of two methods.

The True Value of Arizona Solar, By the Numbers
Every dollar invested by APS in its net metering program earns it $1.54, according to a new analysis.

Herman K. Trabish: May 14, 2013

Net metering of rooftop solar creates value for society and the utility. Every dollar invested by Arizona Public Service (APS), the state’s dominant utility, in its net metering program will earn it $1.54, according to a new cost-benefit analysis of Arizona solar.

By 2015, the APS net metering program will produce $34 million in net benefits yearly.

The Benefits and Costs of Solar Distributed Generation for Arizona Public Service, a report from R. Thomas Beach and Patrick G. McGuire of Crossborder Energy, is the latest in a series of studies undertaken to size up the benefits of the 43 net metering programs that are in place around the country. The first was the landmark Austin Energy (AE) Value of Solar Tariff (VOST) study by Clean Power Research.

“There are three or four dominant approaches for valuing solar, but they all seem to be coalescing around the same general conclusion,” explained Rabago Energy principal Karl Rabago, a former AE Distributed Energy Services VP and PUCT Commissioner. Rabago was instrumental in developing AE’s VOST program and is an expert on net metering and distributed generation policies.

The new studies are reaching similar conclusions, Rabago said. “It’s like climate studies. Pretty much everybody agrees now. When you account for all the value this stuff brings, it’s worth more than the cost.”

The researchers analyzed a set of benefits using the previous value of solar studies, as well as Crossborder’s own study of net metering in California. They included the following factors:
  • Energy: The extent to which solar replaces the future avoided energy cost of APS’ long-term use of fossil fuels, mostly natural gas, and the fuel price hedging benefit of avoiding natural gas price volatility. The base case forecast of APS’ avoided energy costs from using distributed solar came out at “a 20-year levelized value of 7.1 cents per kilowatt-hour, in 2014 dollars.”
  • Generation: Because of its contracted solar, energy efficiency, and demand response, APS needs no more new generation until 2017. Those resources will be in place and have value far beyond the avoided short-term energy costs, and may even hedge against unexpected delays in other contracted generation. The APS “levelized avoided capacity costs are $190.10 per kilowatt-year in 2014 dollars.”
  • Ancillary Services and Capacity Reserves: Distributed solar reduces the APS peak load. Utilities are required to maintain operating reserves of 7 percent and capacity reserves of 15 percent. For each kilowatt cut from peak demand, the cost of maintaining reserves is reduced.
  • Transmission: Distributed solar defers the cost of new and renovated transmission infrastructure. “Escalating these avoided transmission and sub-transmission costs to 2014 and using the current APS carrying charge of 11.05 percent for transmission yields a levelized avoided transmission cost of $65.14 per kilowatt-year.”
  • Distribution: Distributed solar can also cut the costs of building and maintaining the distribution system. The Beck study valued the reductions at “$115,000 per megawatt of distributed generation.”
  • Environmental: In a 2012 document, APS quantified the benefits of distributed solar’s reduction in air pollutants and water use.
  • Avoided Renewables Costs: Distributed solar relieves APS of the need to invest in renewables to meet Arizona’s Renewable Energy Standard Tariff (REST) requirement of 15 percent in 2027, as well as in other solar to meet the REST mandate’s 30 percent distributed generation carve-out.

Saudi Arabia Looks to NREL for Solar Monitoring Expertise
May 13, 2013

Saudi Arabia is planning to move aggressively into renewable energy, with plans to install more solar and wind power in the next 20 years than the rest of the world has installed to date.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is working with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for training and expertise in measuring its solar resource.

The importance of setting up networks to gauge and predict the strength of solar radiation in varying meteorological conditions convinced the Saudis to choose NREL as a partner.

Nine Saudi engineers spent nine days at NREL last month, studying and discussing topics as theoretical as Ångström's law and the scatter-absorption ratio for the atmospheric effects on solar radiation, and as practical as the effect of sandstorms on solar panels. NREL experts also engaged the Saudi staff with topics including waste-to-energy, geothermal technologies, calibrations, and solar resource forecasting.

NREL and its partner Battelle will support the installation of more than 50 monitoring stations in the Middle East kingdom this year to measure the solar resource and gauge the best spots for solar power plants and will also train local Saudis to operate and maintain the instruments and stations.

Fraunhofer and India sign MoU to develop solar pilot projects
By Nilima Choudhury - 14 May 2013, 13:17
In News, Power Generation

India’s Ministry for New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to develop pilot projects in PV, solar thermal and hydrogen.

Under the agreement, the two parties will look to construct PV test centres, develop test regulations for concentrating solar collectors, provide solar thermal desalination demonstration systems and hydrogen technology for stationary and mobile applications.

SolarCity adds 7,000 new customers in Q1
By Mark Osborne - 14 May 2013, 13:17
In News, Power Generation, Finance

PV energy provider (PVEP), SolarCity, reported strong residential adoption in the first quarter of 2013, collecting a total of 7,000 new customers with a total of 46MW deployed, which included 33MW of residential installations.

However, management noted in a call that the better-than-expected new customer gains was not expected to alter previous guidance for the year of achieving PV installations of around 250MW in 2013.

The reason was said to be delivery constraints from customers signing agreements to actual installation times, something the company has battled with in the past.

"Extending its leadership as the nation's premier clean energy provider, SolarCity not only grew its customer base 106% year over year to over 57,400 and increased its long-term contracted cash flows to $1.22 billion, but also exceeded guidance of megawatts deployed of 41MW with 46MW in the first quarter of 2013," said Lyndon Rive, CEO at SunCity. "Through our unique, vertically-integrated platform of financing and installing solar systems, we offer customers a compelling value proposition of clean energy for lower than their local utility rate.”

Entrepreneur Giving Shuttle Truss New Uses

A truss design devised to help workers process space shuttles continues to find new uses as a space shuttle engineer-turned-entrepreneur adapts it to everything from a solar-powered electric generator to a mobile cellphone tower.

The structure, which is constantly being redesigned into smaller packages that unfold to larger sizes, is also envisioned for Mars or other space destinations where it could be deployed to connect modules for astronauts.

Jim Fletcher, who worked for United Space Alliance during the space shuttle era, began working on the truss 10 years ago and started a company two years ago called CPI Technologies dedicated to produce them. The design began life as an extendable work platform that would reach over the shuttle's cargo bay.

"We were trying to come up with a way to reach out and retrieve something while the shuttle was out at the pad so we wouldn't have to roll it back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)," Fletcher said.

Engineers built a truss that ultimately was put to use in the Orbiter Processing Facility spanning the cargo bay.

From there, Fletcher built a portable solar-powered electric generator that stretched two pair of 21-foot-long trusses out from the center, complete with solar panels that locked into the top. He demonstrated the concept by deploying the prototype in the VAB parking lot where it generated enough electricity to power a house, except the air conditioning.

Fletcher returned to the VAB recently, where the truss has been stored, to collect NASA’s prototype for demonstrations at the Florida Solar Energy Center’s building in Cocoa. The FSEC and Space Coast Energy Consortium have been working closely with Fletcher since the prototype is a power generator using a clean and renewable resource. The prototype will be made into a fully operational model and returned to NASA.

Since the first model was made, Fletcher has built a few more advanced versions that open longer and wider and produce more electricity while taking up no more folded space than the original.

"You'd have a 16-foot array on a trailer the same size as this," Fletcher said. "It can produce 10 kilowatts of peak power."
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Japan Asia Group Moving Ahead With 500 MW Solar Plan in Japan
16 May 2013

May 16 (Bloomberg) — Japan Asia Group Ltd., a developer of clean energy projects, said plans to develop 500 megawatts of solar projects in Japan are moving ahead while it considers trimming European operations.

The Tokyo-based company plans 110 megawatts for the year ending March 31, Tetsuo Yamashita, chairman of the company, said at a meeting with analysts today. About 190 megawatts are proposed for fiscal 2014 and about 200 megawatts the following year, he said.

“Our plan is going very well,” Yamashita said, adding that the company intends to announce large-size projects at the end of June. The 500-megawatt plan includes about 100 megawatts to be developed for clients, according to the company.

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The Future Of Solar Is Brighter Than Ever
May 16, 2013
By Richard Swanson, IEEE Fellow; Co-founder and President Retired of SunPower Corporation

In 1973, I was a young man just out of graduate school. That was the year of the oil crisis. I remember standing in the gas lines along with everyone else wondering, how in the world did we ever get into this mess?

That’s when I came to the realization that we had to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Personally, I was very eager to do something about it. I earned my degree in the field of microelectronics, but that was already a maturing field. My chances of making a significant impact were small. By contrast, the renewable energy field was new and exciting. I felt I could get in early and help bring about real change.

I chose photovoltaics (PV) over other forms of renewable energy because I was trained as a solid state physicist. I thought it was an area where my background was well suited. Solar cells were being used on satellites, a concept I found extremely intriguing. The challenge was to figure out how to make the cells — which were extremely expensive to produce — more cost-effective.

Now that the price of generating solar power is, in some cases, on par with the price of electricity generated from fossil fuels, I can say with confidence that all these years of hard work have paid off. PV has gone mainstream. On an annual installation basis, the global solar industry has grown 10-fold in the past five years. Over the past 10 years, its grown 60-fold.

Frankly, I always knew this day would come. I also knew it would be a long-term commitment – I just didn’t know it would take quite as long as it did. The biggest lesson I’ve learned over the years is that you have to stick with it through thick and thin. Since 1975, the PV industry has been through many ups and downs. There have been periods where PV was touted as the next big thing. There have been other periods where no one seemed to care at all.

USC 2013 insights: illuminating key utility solar issues
May 15th, 2013
Written by Jeff Ressler

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) Utility Solar Conference (USC) was held last month in Portland, Ore. This was convenient for our Kirkland, Wash., software team, so we sent four people down to join Tom Hoff from our Napa, Calif., office at the event. It was also refreshing to see Pacific Northwest utilities well represented by Puget Sound Energy, Snohomish County PUD, Seattle City Light and Portland General Electric (PGE being the “host” utility, of course).

Clean Power Research participated in sessions on solar forecasting and the inaugural PowerClerk® Users’ Group. Some takeaways from the conference include:
  • Value of Solar discussions are focused on consistency and transparency.
  • Utilities are investigating methods of integrating distributed solar onto the grid.
  • Administrators of new solar incentive programs are reaping the benefits of early program successes.

2.6 MW solar plant for NY factory
15. May 2013 | Applications & Installations, Industry & Suppliers | By: Max Hall

Power company Constellation expects to complete a 2.6 MW solar installation at fiberglass manufacturer Owens Corning’s Delmar, New York factory, by the end of the year.

Constellation, a subsidiary of Chicago-based power giant Exelon Corp., will finance, construct, own and maintain the nine-acre installation and will sell the power generated to Owens Corning under a 20-year PPA.

The facility, part funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), is expected to generate 3.3 million kWh per year, around 6% of the thermal and acoustic installation equipment factory's energy needs, from 9,000 ground-mounted panels.

Rooftop solar eats away at network business models
By Giles Parkinson on 16 May 2013

SP Ausnet, one of the few listed energy network operators in Australia, has given a small but revelatory insight into how rooftop solar and changing consumer patterns are turning the business of delivering electricity on its head.

The Victorian-based company, majority-owned by Singapore interests, has three main businesses: a state-wide network transmission business, an electricity distribution division based in the eastern part of the state, and a gas distribution business.

It’s the electricity distribution business that we’re interested in. Increases in costs of distribution have been behind the bulk of electricity price rises in recent years, leading to accusation that the industry has been “gold-plating” the network; based on the fact the network operators receive regulated returns on their investment – so the more they invest, the more they earn.

That was all good while demand was increasing, as everyone supposed it would. But SP Ausnet’s results for 2013 show how the game is starting to change. Over the last five years its electricity distribution business has grown its customer base by around 8 per cent, as this first graph shows. That is to be expected given the population and economic growth.

NIST Demonstrates Significant Improvement in the Performance of Solar-Powered Hydrogen Generation
From NIST Tech Beat: May 14, 2013

Using a powerful combination of microanalytic techniques that simultaneously image photoelectric current and chemical reaction rates across a surface on a micrometer scale, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have shed new light on what may become a cost-effective way to generate hydrogen gas directly from water and sunlight.*

Their quarry is a potentially efficient, cost-effective, photoelectrochemical (PEC) cell—essentially a solar cell that produces hydrogen gas instead of electric current. "A major challenge with solar energy is dealing with solar intermittency," says NIST chemical engineer Daniel Esposito. "We demand energy constantly, but the sun's not always going to be shining, so there's an important need to convert solar energy into a form we can use when the sun's not out. For large-scale energy storage or transportation, hydrogen has a lot of benefits."

At its simplest, a PEC cell contains a semiconducting photoelectrode that absorbs photons and converts them into energetic electrons, which are used to facilitate chemical reactions that split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen gases. It's not that easy. The best PEC cell has been demonstrated with an efficiency around 12.5 percent,** says Esposito. But, "it's been estimated that such a cell would be extremely expensive—thousands of dollars per square meter—and they also had issues with stability," he says. One big problem is that the semiconductors used to achieve the best conversion efficiency also tend to be highly susceptible to corrosion by the cell's water-based electrolyte. A PEC electrode that is efficient, stable and economical to produce has been elusive.

The NIST team's proposed solution is a silicon-based device using a metal-insulator-semiconductor (MIS) design that can overcome the efficiency/stability trade-off. The key is to deposit a very thin, but very uniform, layer of silicon dioxide—an insulator—on top of the semiconductor—silicon—that is well-suited for doing the photon-gathering work. On top of that is a polka-dot array of tiny electrodes consisting of platinum-covered titanium. The stable oxide layer protects the semiconductor from the electrolyte, but it's thin enough and transparent enough that the photons will travel through it to the semiconductor, and the photo-generated electrons will "tunnel" in the opposite direction to reach the electrodes, where the platinum catalyzes the reaction that produces hydrogen.

COLUMN-Solar power costs closing in on wind: Wynn
Thu May 16, 2013 8:40am EDT
By Gerard Wynn

May 16 (Reuters) - Solar panels were cheaper than wind turbines for the first time last year in certain markets, per unit of capacity, and are rapidly closing a remaining gap in the full cost of power generation.

Until now, wind power has been the leading low-carbon alternative to oil, coal and gas, outside large niche markets such as Germany, which has seen a huge ramp-up in installed solar.

But that could change, with deep implications for the health of both industries if one substitutes the other.

As soon as this year, solar could for the first time surpass wind in annual global installed capacity, given an expected contraction in the wind market.

The full costs of wind power generation remain less than solar because of higher productivity and lower installation costs, but those advantages are eroding rapidly given current trends in equipment prices, with a glut of Chinese-made solar panels sending prices tumbling.

Comedian Griff Rhys Jones rages over proposed Suffolk solar farm
By Julia Chan
16 May 2013, 10:27

British actor and comedian Griff Rhys Jones has strongly opposed plans to build a 38.4 hectare solar farm in Tattingstone, Suffolk.

The comedian, who is a patron of the Stour and Orwell Society (SOS), lives close to the proposed site and described the plans as being “part of a mad series of schemes introduced by a government struggling with an energy policy”, media reports cited.

Plans for the solar farm, which may house up to 80,000 solar panels, have been submitted by the developers Hive Energy to the planning committee at Babergh District Council with a decision yet to be made.

In a letter to the planning committee, SOS called for the committee to reject the application. It described the project as an “industrial-type development” which would disturb the visual impact of the landscape and countryside and highlighted that it would result in the loss of almost 40 hectares of “the very best agricultural land, which has been farmed productively for centuries”.

SOS concluded: “Whilst SOS is not opposed in principle to renewable energy developments, we feel that careful site selection is imperative to ensure that the positive benefits of low carbon forms of energy generation are not outweighed by the negative impacts on the local environment. In this instance, we feel strongly that the site is inappropriate for an industrial-type development and we would therefore urge the council to reject this application.”

In response to the body's criticism, Tim Purbrick, commercial director at Hive Energy, told Solar Power Portal: “We’re making a substantial investment on and off the site, for example, in new hedging. A lot of people have also been talking about the wood to the north of the solar site which is an ancient woodland. The oak trees there are over mature and we need to replenish the wood stock and we are planting at our own expense a significant number of oaks which will form a part of our investment in the solar park.

“Within five to seven years, once the plants have been given time to grow, the majority of the solar park will be hidden from view and that’s just the nature of the way that land lies. Most of it will be screened from view and, of course, agriculture can continue under the panels with sheep grazing or hay taken from between the panels.”
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CTRL+P: Printing Australia’s largest solar cells
16 May 2013

Scientists have produced the largest flexible, plastic solar cells in Australia – ten times the size of what they were previously able to – thanks to a new solar cell printer that has been installed at CSIRO.

he printer has allowed researchers from the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC) – a collaboration between CSIRO, The University of Melbourne, Monash University and industry partners – to print organic photovoltaic cells the size of an A3 sheet of paper.

According to CSIRO materials scientist Dr Scott Watkins, printing cells on such a large scale opens up a huge range of possibilities for pilot applications.
"There are so many things we can do with cells this size," he says. "We can set them into advertising signage, powering lights and other interactive elements. We can even embed them into laptop cases to provide backup power for the machine inside."

The new printer, worth A$200,000, is a big step up for the VICOSC team. In just three years they have gone from making cells the size of a fingernail to cells 10cm square. Now with the new printer they have jumped to cells that are 30cm wide.

VICOSC project coordinator and University of Melbourne researcher Dr David Jones says that one of the great advantages of the group's approach is that they're using existing printing techniques, making it a very accessible technology.

"We're using the same techniques that you would use if you were screen printing an image on to a T-Shirt," he says.

Using semiconducting inks, the researchers print the cells straight onto paper-thin flexible plastic or steel. With the ability to print at speeds of up to ten metres per minute, this means they can produce one cell every two seconds.

As the researchers continue to scale up their equipment, the possibilities will become even greater.

SolarCity Raises $500M From Goldman Sachs to Finance Solar Roofs
Looking to include customers with lower credit scores

Eric Wesoff: May 16, 2013

SolarCity (Nasdaq: SCTY), a provider of distributed energy, just announced a $500 million lease financing agreement with Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS). That translates to more than 100 megawatts of solar power.

The combined lease is the largest of its kind for U.S. residential rooftops.

SolarCity allows consumers to get electricity from grid-tied solar rooftops at lower rates than the utility through leasing or power purchase agreements (PPAs). SolarCity specifically mentions the goal of opening up solar to consumers with lower credit scores in this release.

Jimmy Chuang, SolarCity’s VP of structured finance, said, “We expect to be able to expand our offering to a broader customer base by lowering the credit requirements even further in future financings," according to a statement.

Artificial Forest for Solar Water-Splitting
Berkeley Lab Researchers Report First Fully Integrated Artificial Photosynthesis Nanosystem

May 16, 2013
Lynn Yarris

In the wake of the sobering news that atmospheric carbon dioxide is now at its highest level in at least three million years, an important advance in the race to develop carbon-neutral renewable energy sources has been achieved. Scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have reported the first fully integrated nanosystem for artificial photosynthesis. While “artificial leaf” is the popular term for such a system, the key to this success was an “artificial forest.”

“Similar to the chloroplasts in green plants that carry out photosynthesis, our artificial photosynthetic system is composed of two semiconductor light absorbers, an interfacial layer for charge transport, and spatially separated co-catalysts,” says Peidong Yang, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division, who led this research. “To facilitate solar water- splitting in our system, we synthesized tree-like nanowire heterostructures, consisting of silicon trunks and titanium oxide branches. Visually, arrays of these nanostructures very much resemble an artificial forest.”

Yang, who also holds appointments with the University of California Berkeley’s Chemistry Department and Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is the corresponding author of a paper describing this research in the journal NANO Letters. The paper is titled “A Fully Integrated Nanosystem of Semiconductor Nanowires for Direct Solar Water Splitting.” Co-authors are Chong Liu, Jinyao Tang, Hao Ming Chen and Bin Liu.

Solar technologies are the ideal solutions for carbon-neutral renewable energy – there’s enough energy in one hour’s worth of global sunlight to meet all human needs for a year. Artificial photosynthesis, in which solar energy is directly converted into chemical fuels, is regarded as one of the most promising of solar technologies. A major challenge for artificial photosynthesis is to produce hydrogen cheaply enough to compete with fossil fuels. Meeting this challenge requires an integrated system that can efficiently absorb sunlight and produce charge-carriers to drive separate water reduction and oxidation half-reactions.
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US installs 845MW in Q2 2013
By Nilima Choudhury - 17 May 2013, 10:45
In News, Power Generation

The US increased its installed solar capacity by 142.8% in the first quarter of 2013 compared to the same period last year, according to figures provided by the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In April alone the country saw 33MW of new solar capacity installed and now boasts a 5.14GW installed operating generating capacity.

Army, Navy and Air Force on Track to Reach 3 GW of Solar by 2025
From the battlefield to stateside bases, the U.S. military has proven that solar is reliable.

Herman K. Trabish: May 17, 2013

The Army, Navy and Air Force are using more than 130 megawatts of solar for everything from powering remote special operations to air conditioning and lighting for U.S. base residences. And the forces intend to keep building toward 3 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2025 as part of a much bigger Department of Defense (DOD) commitment.

While detractors were declaring solar too intermittent to be reliable at home, U.S. Marines were successfully relying on it at battlefield sites in the Khyber Pass, according to Enlisting the Sun: Powering the U.S. Military with Solar Energy, a new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), released just in time for Armed Forces Day on May 18.

The DOD’s annual $20 billion energy budget makes it the biggest single energy consumer in the world.

USC 2911 of DOD’s title 10 Energy Performance Goals, as updated in 2009, requires 25 percent of total military facility energy consumption to come from renewable energy sources by 2025.

Also highlighted in the report were solar innovations including:
  • Portable backpack-mounted solar panels and solar tent shields capable of charging and powering communications, targeting, surveillance and security equipment
  • A ground-mounted array at Forward Operating Base Geronimo, Helmand Province, Afghanistan
  • The military’s leveraging of private capital through third-party ownership (TPO) financing and energy performance service contracts (EPSCs)
  • The 14-megawatt SunPower-financed ground-mounted array providing 30 percent of the annual electricity needs at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California
  • SolarCity’s Project SolarStrong, which has financed and built solar arrays at the Los Angeles Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base and other bases
  • Honolulu’s Hickam Air Force Base solar community, where Project SolarStrong has installed 3.4 megawatts of rooftop solar on the way to creating one of the biggest solar communities in the world, with an eventual 5.5 megawatts that will serve 2,000 military homes
  • A planned 24-megawatt, 6,500-home solar community at Ohana Military Communities which serves Navy Region Hawaii and Marine Corps Base Hawaii
  • Solaria Corporation’s 4.1-megawatt, ground-mounted, low concentration PV installation at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico that was part of a 25-year energy efficiency EPSC implemented by Siemens (NYSE:SI)
  • The 2,200-unit solar water heating system installed at Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune in North Carolina that will meet 75 percent of the camp’s hot water needs and cut its water heating costs by 20 percent


Minnesota Is a Governor’s Signature Away from 450MW of Solar
Move over lakes and gophers, Minnesota is going solar.

Annie Lappé, Erin Ruccolo, Justin Fay: May 17, 2013

Yesterday the Minnesota legislature passed a substantial solar energy bill that will result in the development of more than 450 megawatts of solar by 2020. Solar advocates are awaiting Governor Dayton’s signature which, given his support for solar, is expected shortly.

This bill represents one of the most significant solar victories of the 2013 legislative session. Fresh Energy, Sierra Club, MNSEIA, and many other organizations worked to pass this bill and kick-start a solar economy in their state.

The bill contains so many smart new solar policies, we recommend a full read. Below we highlight some of the most exciting parts of the legislation:

1.5 percent Solar Energy RES Requirement

“Made in MN” Solar Module Incentives

Expansion of Net Metering

Value of Solar Tariff (VOST)

Shared Solar - Community solar gardens
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Building Solar in Spain Instead of Germany Could Save Billions
Building solar and wind projects in the wrong place is wasting billions of dollars in Europe.

Kevin Bullis
May 17, 2013

Siemens says it would make sense to build solar power plants in sunny countries in Europe rather than in cloudy ones. And wind turbines should be built in windy places.

These blindingly obvious suggestions run contrary to what’s actually happening. For example, a solar panel in Spain generates about twice as much electricity as the same-size solar panel in Germany because the sun shines on it more (here’s an graphic). But last year nearly half of all solar panels installed in Europe were installed in Germany, and only a small fraction were installed in Spain (see “The Great German Energy Experiment”).

Siemens calculates that if you were to install solar panels and wind turbines where the natural resources are best, and then string power lines to convey to the power to where it’s needed, you could save about $60 billion dollars by 2030 because you could install fewer of them. That savings figure accounts for the cost of the power lines (see “Supergrids”).
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Coal Tax To Fund India’s 750 MW Solar Power Capacity Addition Plan In 2013
May 20, 2013

The Indian government is set to repose millions of dollars in financial support for solar power project developers from the coal tax corpus it has accumulated over the last few years. Project developers looking to set up projects under the second phase of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission will receive financial assistance over capital cost expenditure.

According to the guidelines recently released by the government, the project developers will receive financial assistance of up to Rs 2.5 crore per MW ($0.45 million per MW) or about 30% of the total capital investment required for a solar photovoltaic project.

The 750 MW solar PV capacity will be allocated under the Viability Gap Funding scheme, wherein the government shall support the project developers to a certain extent to set up the projects.

This capital cost assistance will come from the Clean Energy Fund formed from the one dollar per tonne tax on coal used in the country. India’s annual coal consumption is over 600 million tonnes which translates into over $540 million in annual revenue for the Clean Energy Fund. A major portion of this revenue is expected to be utilized for building a massive transmission network suitable for carrying the power generated by renewable energy projects.

Mosaic Find 800 Investors Per Million For Crowdfunded Solar Projects
May 20, 2013

Mosaic have been a big success around here since we first heard about them, unsurprisingly given their innovative method of crowd-funding renewable energy solutions. It turns out that we’re not the only ones excited, though, as Mosaic have just announced that 823 people have invested in their largest solar project ever, a 487 kW installation on New Jersey’s famous Wildwoods boardwalk.


Solar – it’s barely scratched surface of $2 trillion market
By Giles Parkinson on 20 May 2013

As operators of utilities desperately clinging to their WWI-vintage business models prepare their Maginot Line defences of altered tariffs and higher connection fees, it might pay them to pull out the periscope and peer over the trenches to see what exactly is about to come their way.

Last week, the top executive team from the US-based solar company SunPower held an all-day analysts briefing – their first for a few years.

It was fascinating stuff about the future of the multi-trillion global electricity market. And if they are right, the flood of panels on rooftops, and pooled together in large scale solar plants, may be the least of the problems for the utilities. The solar industry is not just intent on hitting the industry on the flanks, it intends to come right over the top of the present incumbents.

There were a couple of key points that were made, and we’ll go through them one by one. If anyone is interested in seeing their slide-pack, and listening to their briefing, they can find it here.

Solar has barely scratched surface of $2.2 trillion market

The first point made by CEO Tom Werner is that the solar industry has barely scratched the surface of the $2.2 trillion global energy market (that’s an annual figure by the way).

Sure, it’s recorded spectacular growth through the “first mover” market that has been mostly been subsidised. “We are just at the beginning of a fundamental transition,” Werner said. “We are going to have huge market opportunities. The non-incentivised market is way bigger than the early adopter market.”

To flesh out that point, Howard Wenger, the firm’s president of regions, presented this graph below. It highlights just how nascent the solar technology is. There is an “addressable market” of 23,000TWh in the world, or which less than a third is made up of buildings (homes and businesses). So far, SunPower has just 0.01 per cent of that market, and just 0.02 per cent of the utility market.

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Brazil receives request for 392.4 MW of PV
21. May 2013 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Markets & Trends | By: Vladimir Pekic

Thirteen requests for regulatory authorization to develop and operate photovoltaic plants worth a total of 392.4 MW have been received last week, according to Brazil's national electricity regulator.

The notices about the received requests were published in Brazil’s state gazette Diário Oficial da União (DOU).

Solar energy developer Arigó Solar Energia SPE submitted a request for the registration of one photovoltaic project totaling 30 MW. The plant is to be developed in Pocinhos municipality, in Brazil’s northeast Paraíba state. The announcement was published by the Agencia Nacional de Energia Elétrica (ANEEL) in DOU on May 7.

In the same issue, ANEEL revealed that developer Solyes Geradora de Energia Ltda applied for registration for two photovoltaic plants: 30 MW Sol do Sertão XV and 30 MW Sol do Sertão XVIII, in Cônego Marinho municipality, in Minas Gerais state.

On May 9, the Brazilian regulator disclosed that Renova Energia, also submitted a request for registration for its 30.24 MW Caetité V photovoltaic plant, slated for construction in Bahía's Caetité municipality.

Finally, in the same DOU issue, ANEEL announced that CPFL Energias Renováveis, the third largest Brazilian electric utility, submitted requests for regulatory authorization for 10 new photovoltaic plants with a combined capacity of 302.4 MW. The plants will be developed in Ourolândia municipality, in the northeastern state of Bahia.

Lux Research sees doubling of PV market up to 2018
21. May 2013 | Applications & Installations, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Shamsiah Ali-Oettinger

Lux Research has announced that the solar sector is on the recovery path, set to reach US$155 billion in 2018. The industry is expected to ramp up rapidly to 61.7 GW in 2018 after modest growth to 35 GW in 2013. This is according to the "most-likely scenario" put forth by the analysts. China is set to leapfrog to become the largest market.

The Lux Research report "Market size update 2013: Return to equilibrium" states that market forces will enable a turnabout in the photovoltaic sector to see a "healthy 10.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR)". Lux Research sees this situation as a "rising from the ashes" for the sector that has been in the doldrums since 2011.

The analysts at Lux Research used a detailed levelized cost of energy (LCOE) analysis in 156 separate geographies to determine the viability and competitiveness of solar in each market.

U.S., China, Japan and India will take over where Germany and Italy have left off, driving global demand from 31 GW in 2012 to 62 GW in 2018. The U.S. is predicted to become the world's second largest market with an 18% CAGR to reach 10.8 GW of installations in 2018. China will lead the pack with an over 15% annual growth to reach 12.4 GW in 2018. The consolidation is already reducing global capacity and low prices will thus weed out uncompetitive manufacturers. With demand rising and warehouses emptying, the industry is likely to return to the state of equilibrium, within 12% of each other in 2015, says Lux Research.

Utility-scale installations are expected to grow the fastest to hit 19.9 GW in 2018 as developing markets start taking note of photovoltaics. This segment is the smallest in 2012 at 8.6 GW according to Lux Research. Commercial applications will be the leading segment globally with U.S. and Japanese markets going heavy on large rooftop installations.

Liquefied Air Could Power Cars and Store Energy from Sun and Wind
A 19th-century idea might lead to cleaner cars, larger-scale renewable energy.

By Kevin Bullis on May 20, 2013

Some engineers are dusting off an old idea for storing energy—using electricity to liquefy air by cooling it down to nearly 200 °C below zero. When power is needed, the liquefied air is allowed to warm up and expand to drive a steam turbine and generator.

The concept is being evaluated by a handful of companies that produce liquefied nitrogen as a way to store energy from intermittent renewable energy sources. Liquefied air might also be used to drive pistons in the engines of low-emission vehicles.

One company, Highview Power Storage of London, has raised $18 million and built a pilot plant that will use liquid air to store power from the grid. Highview has teamed up with Messer, the large industrial gas company, to help develop the technology. If all goes well, the U.K. government may fund the development of a larger plant that could establish its commercial viability. Meanwhile, the engineering consultancy Ricardo is developing two types of engines that could use liquid nitrogen, based on technology from a Highview Power spinoff called Dearman Engine.

Storage for the power grid is becoming more important as use of renewable energy increases. In the near term, natural-gas power plants and fast-responding storage technologies such as batteries can keep the grid stable (see “Wind Turbines, Battery Included, Can Keep Power Supplies Stable”). But if renewables are to reach a very large scale, or if we want to reduce the use of fossil-fuel backup power plants, technologies that can store hours’ or days’ worth of power will be needed.
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Los Angeles unveils 350 MW solar program
23. May 2013 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends, Top News | By: Edgar Meza

Los Angeles is moving forward with two major new projects that will offer California’s sprawling metropolis a combined 350 MW of solar power utilizing a combination of feed-in-tariff (FiT) and request for proposal (RFP) pricing systems as it transitions from coal power to green energy.

The city of Los Angeles is making major strides in its adoption of solar energy as it finalizes a 150 MW local project and greenlights a new 200 MW utility scale facility.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) last month agreed on an additional 50 MW of local solar to complement a 100 MW project approved in January. At the same time, the board of Water and Power commissioners paved the way for a 200 MW utility scale solar array in the Mojave Desert, located north of the city.

The 150 MW feed-in tariff program, combined with the new 200 MW project, “is an important part of LADWP’s transition away from coal power,” the company announced this week.

May 22, 2013
Innovation could bring flexible solar cells, transistors, displays

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Researchers have created a new type of transparent electrode that might find uses in solar cells, flexible displays for computers and consumer electronics and future "optoelectronic" circuits for sensors and information processing.

The electrode is made of silver nanowires covered with a material called graphene, an extremely thin layer of carbon. The hybrid material shows promise as a possible replacement for indium tin oxide, or ITO, used in transparent electrodes for touch-screen monitors, cell-phone displays and flat-screen televisions. Industry is seeking alternatives to ITO because of drawbacks: It is relatively expensive due to limited abundance of indium, and it is inflexible and degrades over time, becoming brittle and hindering performance.

"If you try to bend ITO it cracks and then stops functioning properly," said Purdue University doctoral student Suprem Das.

The hybrid material could represent a step toward innovations, including flexible solar cells and color monitors, flexible "heads-up" displays in car windshields and information displays on eyeglasses and visors.

"The key innovation is a material that is transparent, yet electrically conductive and flexible," said David Janes, a professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Installing Rooftop Solar Is Unfair, Says Energy Group
May 22, 2013

The Energy Supply Association of Australia, or ESAA, is a group whose membership appears to include just about every company that is involved in the generation or distribution of electricity in Australia. They have just released a very interesting discussion paper called, “Who pays for solar energy?” I think it’s very nice of them to put out a report like this and try to educate people, but oddly enough for a group that’s intimately involved with the electricity sector, they somehow neglected to mention several very important benefits that rooftop solar provides Australians. Also, they express concern for low-income households that cannot take advantage of rooftop solar, but then suggest a solution that would hit low-income households harder than high-income ones. How they could have made a mistake like that is beyond me. I can only assume they just didn’t think it through, as I’m sure they couldn’t possibly be motivated only by pecuniary interest.

The paper focuses on network charges which have increased dramatically in Australia over the past five years due to power companies expecting electricity demand to rise and investing heavily in distribution infrastructure, which turned out to be a bad idea when demand dropped instead due to improved efficiency and rooftop solar. But, strangely enough, rather than simply providing a space for ESAA members to apologise for their mistake and the unnecessary hardship they caused Australians, the paper instead decides to blame their customers for not buying enough electricity.

While I can understand that the ESAA’s members would prefer it if Australians bought more electricity, blaming the customer seems to show a profound lack of understanding of how markets work. If a business loses market share due to competition, they can either win back customers by improving their product or lowering prices, or they can accept that the market has changed and adapt to the new conditions. Blaming the customers for not buying enough may be cathartic if the business happens to be run by five year olds, but never results in a beneficial outcome.

Utilities want higher charges to shade business model from solar
By Giles Parkinson on 20 May 2013

The electricity supply industry has resumed and intensified its efforts to change the tariff system for rooftop solar households, in a bid to protect revenues that are falling and their business models that are eroding because more customers are producing their own electricity.

A new discussion paper was released this weekend, “exclusively” to News Ltd newspapers which enthusiastically took up the chance to demonise the cost of renewables once again.

The upshot of the paper is that households with rooftop solar are “avoiding” network costs, and these in turn are being passed on to other users, which the electricity supply industry says are mostly less wealthy households.

The ESAA estimated the current total of “avoided” costs at $340 million, or around $30 per household.

To put this into context, this sum is – according to the ESAA’s own data – just one eleventh of the cross-subsidy paid by households with no air conditioning.

The ESAA estimates these air con network costs at $330 per household, and it is certainly not “hidden”, because it has been one of the key reasons why networks have been “supersizing” their grids over the last few years, at an aggregate cost of nearly$40 billion.

And herein lies the contraction in the ESAA position. Does the ESAA suggest that air conditioning households should be hit with higher fixed tariffs to pay for network extensions? No, of course not, because the increased use of air conditioners adds to the revenue pool of the electricity industry, and they want to get a return on their grid investment.

The use of solar, however, detracts from the incumbents because rooftop solar households draw less electricity from the grid – leading to the now well documented “death spiral.”
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Graph of the Day: Solar grid parity in 102 countries
By Giles Parkinson on 24 May 2013

Here’s an interesting graph used by Suntech’s Stuart Wenham (sourced from Applied Materials) during a presentation at the Solar 2013 conference in Melbourne on Thursday. It highlights the extent of “grid parity” for solar PV across the world – it is now in 102 countries.

This definition of “grid parity” is the cost of rooftop solar versus the cost of electricity sourced from the grid – this is sometimes known as “socket parity”. Most of the countries – though not all – are those with good solar resources and relatively high electricity pricesAustralia reached “socket parity” several years ago.

Wenham says that solar PV will fall a further 50 per cent in costs up to 2020 – see our story today. He says that solar PV at a utility level will also challenge fossil fuels – as it already does in those with high gas and diesel costs, and will offer the cheapest avenue to countries which have little electricity infrastructure.


Texas Legislature Passes Commercial and Industrial PACE Bill
May 17, 2013 | FEATURE: Kat Friedrich (Clean Energy Finance Center)

The Texas House and Senate passed Senate Bill 385 this week. If Governor Rick Perry approves the bill, the state will break new ground by developing plans for commercial and industrial property assessed clean energy (PACE) programs. This bill will redesign Texas’s approach to PACE, focusing on the commercial and industrial sectors rather than on residential programs. The legislation covers both energy efficiency and water efficiency.

To facilitate local decision making, cities and local areas will partner with businesses and nonprofits to set up their own PACE programs. These programs will allow businesses to borrow money from private lenders and repay it yearly via an assessment on their property taxes.

The bill has a solid foundation of support from a wide range of stakeholders including industry leaders and senior legislators. Charlene Heydinger, executive director of the nonprofit Keeping PACE in Texas, has built an effective coalition which includes large businesses and banks.

“PACE is the only solution out there that is totally market-driven, totally voluntary and local, and there are no mandates,” Heydinger said. “Our business community loves PACE because it is a real option for a solution without the drawbacks that have given people pause.”
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Minnesota Solar Bill To Boost Solar From 13 MW To 450 MW
by Tim
on May 28, 2013
under Jobs, Solar Policy

Minnesota’s governor Mark Dayton has hit a home run for the state’s solar power industry. A new bill introduced called the “Solar Energy Jobs Act” is set to increase Minnesota’s solar capacity from 13 MW to more than 450 MW.

With strong leadership, governor Dayton has made it clear that he supports a clean energy future for Minnesota. During his State of the State address that he gave earlier this year, he said: “Are we doing all we can to utilise other renewables, such as solar, and also to make Minnesota the best place to locate these new industries and their jobs?”

Some of the key highlights of the bill from environmentminnesota.org include:
  • Establishes a goal of reaching 10 percent solar by 2030.
  • Requires 10 percent of the solar standard be met by small solar projects (less than 20 kw), in order to serve residential and small business customers
  • Raises the customer net-metering cap to 1 MW for investor-owned utilities; and provides new protections for customers
  • Requires Xcel energy to establish a Community-Shared Solar program allowing customers to pool their resources and invest in a solar project together and have a portion of the solar project’s power credited to their bill. It authorizes other utilities to develop similar programs
  • Establishes a Value of Solar Tariff, which would establish a price for solar that assesses the overall value of solar, making solar projects easier to finance. Minnesota is among the first states in the country to adopt a statewide rate paying solar its worth
  • Improves the PACE financing program to help businesses invest in energy improvements including on-site renewable energy
  • Establishes new solar incentives to expand access to rooftop solar for residents
  • Commissions a one year study of the transmission and grid options for getting 40 percent of our state’s electricity from renewable energy in 2030
  • Increases the utility energy saving’s goal to “at least” 1.5 percent of energy sales annually and requires utilities to consider all cost-effective energy efficiency over other energy options
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New Jersey to vote on $447 million for solar projects
28. May 2013 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Edgar Meza

The U.S. state of New Jersey looks set to invest $447 million on PV projects, including a plan to transform unused landfills and abandoned industrial sites into 42 MW of solar farms.

New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities is set to vote on an ambitious $446 million plan to fund the expansion of PV power production.

The vote, expected on Wednesday, looks likely to approve a plan by state utility Public Service Electric & Gas Co. (PSE&G) that would provide $247 million to extend its Solar4All program, which aims to develop PV installations on unused landfills and abandoned industrial sites, through 2016. The Solar4All project comprises 42 MW of solar installations on landfills and former industrial sites as well as a further 3 MW of smaller projects.
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world's largest solar powered hospital opens in haiti

the world's largest solar powered hospital has just opened its doors in haiti and boasts over 1800 solar panels on its elegant and otherwise, stark, white rooftop. haiti's central plateau is riddled with intermittent flows of energy- a fact that derails the possibilities of large-scale healthcare infrastructure. in the specific region of mirebalais, located 30 miles north of the capital port-au-prince, outages occur for an average of three hours each day. the new hopital universitaire de mirebalais, a venture of partners in health, will cover an area of 205,000 square feet and its 300 beds will assist in correcting a national healthcare system with scarce or disparate resources.


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Lux Research expects a healthy and profitable return of solar industry
31. May 2013 | Industry & Suppliers, Applications & Installations, Markets & Trends | By: Wenjing Feng

Due to converging supply and demand, the solar industry is all set for a quick rebound. According to the new findings released by Lux Research, the global module capacity will fall to about 58 GW in 2015 and module margins will increase to 10% from the current near-zero averages.

In the report, issued by Lux Research’s Solar System Intelligence and Solar Components Intelligence teams, the analysts note that the whole industry is on the way to a prompt recovery and a number of early movers have already made strategic moves into key areas like “system deployment or balance of systems technologies” for the resurgence.

The total module capacity will be brought down to 58 GW in two years’ time, thanks to the bankruptcies of “uncompetitive players” and a healthy capacity expansion carried out under financial constraints. The growth of emerging markets like China will raise the global demand from 31 GW in 2012 to 52 GW in 2015. Meanwhile, the module glut will be reduced from 100% in 2012 to 12%.

The report also reveals that companies like BASF and Johnson Controls have already got themselves prepared for the coming pickup by “leveraging existing technologies or market platforms”. ABB’s purchase of Power-One was also given as an example for the growing interest in acquisitions. Lux Research highlights that due to the increased number of partnerships and acquisitions, the cost of entry will be driven up.
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