Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

10 New Cleantech Consumer Products

Posted: 17 Jan 2012 10:18 AM PST


plug n play solar power

1. New plug-and-play solar modules from Wagan Tech. At the 2012 International CES, Wagan Tech unvieled its new Solar e Power™ Cube 1500 and Solar e Power™ Case 450. More from the news release:

According to Alex Hsu, Wagan Tech Vice President of Sales, the Solar e Power Series is expected to empower the developing world, where access to electricity is unreliable. Remote villages can now access electricity instantly.

The two solar generators are self contained power sources which makes setup quick and easy. They are equipped with solar panels, an AGM/Gel Hybrid battery and one of Wagan Tech's legacy power inverters, all packaged together in a rugged case.

The larger and more powerful of the two units is the Solar e Power Cube 1500. It boasts a 1,500 watt AC inverter and a 55 AH battery packaged in a sturdy, wheeled case. Once wheeled into place the solar panels unfold and slide out providing 80 watts of solar charging to the onboard battery.

The Solar e Power Case 450 is a smaller more compact unit. It features a 450 watt inverter and a 26 AH battery contained in a sturdy metal case with shoulder strap. The 40 watt solar panel unit attaches to the side for easy transport.

Both units can accommodate additional solar panels and batteries if quicker charging or more storage is needed. "We like to think of these units as a 'home base' for a solar setup as you can add more panels for quicker charging and you can add more batteries for prolonged use. The scalability of the units allows them to be easily customized to the end user’s needs," said Alex Hsu, Wagan Tech's Vice President of Sales.

Price and Availability

The Solar e Power Cube 1500 and the Solar e Power Case 450 are available now from Wagan Tech. The MSRP for the Solar e Power Cube 1500 is $1,199.00. The Solar e Power Case 450 has an MSRP of $799.00.

Look pretty cool.

2. Wireless solar-panel monitoring and control technology using GreenPeak wireless chips. “Currently, most residential solar panel systems only provide energy information on a monthly basis and do not allow individual panel monitoring,” GreenPeak notes. “The Smart Junction Box reference design utilizing GreenPeak wireless chips provides a solution to monitor solar systems in more detail and to control the chain from a central unit or remote device.”

“The data collected from each individual panel can also be shown in a configurable GUI software application. When a problem in the solar panel system occurs, performance gradually declines or suddenly drops, remote diagnosis and controlling via a mobile App on smart phone can be one of the use cases.”

Contact GreenPeak regarding prices.

3. Home energy management system launched from Tri Cascade. This new home energy management system, the elka 700-10, is an energy gateway thermostat with energy in-home display. The system can reportedly reduce a home’s energy consumption and costs by up to 35 percent in the first year. Pricing starts from $995, according to Tri Cascade.

home energy management system

More from the news release:

The smart energy in-home display of elka 700-10's household energy usage data provides profile reports and household energy use information while simultaneously calculating real-time energy load data such as kilowatts, voltage, amps and power from such household devices as an HVAC, pool pump, water heater and other electronic devices. The Energy Efficient-Comfort system of elka 700-10 also features over-current detection on each end point, providing consumers with information on the safety of their energy levels.

The elka 700-10 also provides the ability for utilities to send out demand response messages to the household such as events schedule, canceling of messages, support confirmation or mechanism for time-of-use pricing and price tiers. In addition to the capability of two-way communication between the device and the utility, the thermostat enables utilities to balance demand and supply by reducing consumption and shedding load during times of critical peak demand.

The elka 700-10 features an LCD touch display built with Windows Embedded Compact 7, and is equipped with the latest Freescale i.MX28 technology, providing sophisticated remote management capabilities such mobile monitoring from iPhone or smart phones

4. Reliant giving away home energy monitors. More than 3,500 Reliant customers have received the Reliant e-Sense® Home Energy Monitor free in-home display for free. 10,000 will, in total. The monitor “lets customers view the amount of electricity they are using, with data updated as fast as every 10 seconds. And as customers turn on their home's electrical devices, the monitor will show them the incremental electricity usage…. The home energy monitor also compares daily and weekly usage totals as well as daily, weekly and monthly costs,” the company notes. “To receive a free home energy monitor consumers must be a Reliant customer, live in a single-family home in Houston or Dallas/Fort Worth and have a smart meter. Customers who qualify can request a free monitor by calling 877-338-7206 or visiting www.reliant.com/freemonitor while supplies last. Spanish speakers can visit www.reliant.com/monitorgratis.”

5. In-home electricity display from Wireless Glue Networks. Yes, another one. SmartLook™, the company’s second-generation in-home display device, was unveiled at the 2012 International CES on January 12.

As with other such systems “Wireless Glue Networks’ SmartLook display unit gives electricity customers easy wireless access to their Smart Meters for real-time information about their energy usage, while giving utilities a direct connection to customers and their energy demands.”

Our friends over at Crisp Green recently posted a round-up of highlights from the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2012 in Las Vegas, NV the other day. The remaining 5 products are from its highlights post.

rukus solar powered speakers from eton

6. Rukus solar-powered speakers from eton. “The Rukus Solar, is a solar-powered speaker system that streams music wirelessly via bluetooth devices. Portable and sporting an e-ink display for easy reading in sunlight, the device can also be powered via wall outlets if the sun has gone out of sight.”

energy conservation software granola

7. Grano.la energy-conservation softwear. OK, last one of these of the day. ”Grano.la software, developed by MiserWare, helps PC users to lower their energy consumption. Working in the background, the software lowers the power usage without affecting performance. MiseWare offers a free consumer version for Windows and Linux as well as a more expansive package for paying customers (businesses and data centers). Originally developed for super computers, one of the greatest benefits of Granola is extended battery life for PCs.”

one laptop per child solar tablet

8. One Laptop Per Child’s XO-3 tablet. “Designed for use in remote areas without access to conventional wall outlets, the XO-3 tablet has special circuitry that allows for a variety of power sources, including hand cranks, bicycle-driven generators and solar panels. The solar charging panels are actually built into the removable, rubberized cover for the tablet.”

solarkindle solar-powered kindle

9. Solar-powered Amazon Kindle. The first solar-powered Kindle, the SolarKindle from SolarFocus “guarantees up to three-months of unplugged use… and includes a built-in LED reading lamp that can be powered up to 50 hours without pulling power from the Kindle’s main battery.”

learning thermostat

10. Nest 'learning thermostat'. OK, we’ve already covered this one, but in case you missed that post in the midst of the hundred or so posts we published last week, here’s more from Rav: “The Nest contains some fairly smart silicon, and that enables it to 'learn' your schedule and adjust the heating or cooling of your home around it…. for the first few days, you turn the thermostat down a bit at night, up again in the morning, and down again when you leave the house, much like you probably do now. But after a week, Nest will start understanding when you do these things and start doing them automatically — for example, heating the house in time for your usual waking-up time, or turning off when you're at work.” Note that this was created by the designer of the iPhone and iPod. Price is $249 (which you’ll pretty surely make back quickly in energy savings). Here’s more in a video from the company.

Any more products we missed?

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4 GW of Blocked Wind Farms Get Key Technological Support Needed to Move Forward

Posted: 17 Jan 2012 08:18 AM PST


Four gigawatts (yes, 4,000 megawatts) of wind farm capacity have been held on lock-down and unable to move through the UK’s planning system due to Ministry of Defence (MoD) radar issues. However, it looks like that has all changed now.

wind turbines england

At the end of last week, the MoD announced that it has agreed to “a deal for developers to fund new wind farm-friendly radars, with the potential to unlock more than 4 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy, enough to power over two million homes.”

“A new Air Defence radar that is not adversely affected by wind farms has been installed and tested on the Norfolk coast.” This unblocks the development of wind farms with a total installed capacity of 3.3 GW.

Proposed wind farms with an installed capacity of another 750 MW Staxton Wold, North Yorkshire and Brizlee Wood, Northumberland are also projected to benefit from this technological advance. Two radars have been ordered by the MoD for these wind farms in an “award-winning follow on deal.”

“Wind turbines as small as 50kW can reflect radar waves, appearing on tracking screens as ‘clutter’ in an unpredictable and confusing way,” as Business Green notes. “However, independent wind farm developers often cannot afford to invest in expensive mitigation technologies designed to reduce the impact on radars.”

Obviously, this is a huge relief for the UK wind industry, and for wind energy enthusiasts around the world (like us). I’ve practically got a smile on my face writing about this.

Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans Andrew Robathan, taking some due credit for this improvement, notes:

"The MOD was instrumental in convincing the energy companies to collaborate and jointly fund the cost of the radar, meeting operational requirements and ultimately enabling the generation of more renewable energy. This is good news for all parties to this arrangement"

I think so.

UK wind turbines via shutterstock

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First Solar Sets 14.4% World Record for CdTe Solar Panel Efficiency

Posted: 17 Jan 2012 07:29 AM PST


First Solar, a cadmium-telluride solar cell manufacturer, has improved the total area efficiency of CdTe (cadmium-telluride) solar modules to 14.4%, breaking the previous efficiency record of 13.4% (also set by First Solar). For those of you who don’t quite understand what this means, it means that the new technology converts 14% of the sunlight that the solar modules receive into electricity.

Solar Panels on National Wildlife Refuge Maintenance Centre.

What’s the Difference between a Solar Cell and Solar Panel (or Module)

A solar cell is the electricity-generating part of a solar panel or solar module. A solar panel/module is a collection of solar cells and the case made of metal and transparent plastic that houses solar cells in order to protect them from the elements.

So, the Difference between Total Area Efficiency and Single-Cell Efficiency…

A total area efficiency rating is more practical than single-cell efficiency ratings, because total area efficiency is the efficiency of an array of interconnected solar cells in a module/panel, which is how solar cells are normally used. When multiple cells are connected to each other, various factors, such as electrical resistance, affect their performance.

First Solar Holds World Record in Both for CdTe Solar PV Technology

A single-cell efficiency rating is literally the efficiency of one cell only. First Solar set the single-cell efficiency world record for CdTe solar PV cells last July, so we sort of saw this module efficiency world record coming. Both the 17.3% efficiency and 14.4% efficiency record-breakers were manufactured in First Solar’s Perrysburg, Ohio factory.

The U.S Department of Energy’s NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) confirmed this new efficiency improvement and it was announced at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi by First Solar’s Chief Technology Officer David Eaglesham today.

First Solar’s Updated Efficiency Goals

“This considerable achievement supports our module efficiency roadmap and demonstrates our ability to convert our record-cell technology into ongoing module-level improvements,” said Dave Eaglesham, First Solar’s Chief Technology Officer. “These records also underscore the tremendous ongoing potential of CdTe compared to silicon-based technologies.”

First Solar, just a few months ago, had a goal of achieving production module efficiencies of 13.5%-14.5% by the end of 2014. But, given its fast progress on this front, it updated its module efficiency roadmap in December (2011). Its new target is 14.5-15% average efficiency for its production modules by the end of 2015.

“Our continuous investment in R&D has enabled the steady progress of our technology, punctuated by landmark achievements such as this,” said Mike Ahearn, Chairman and interim CEO of First Solar. “Our consistent progress gives us confidence in our ability to achieve our roadmap goals, drive down costs and develop sustainable markets.”

More on First Solar

Here’s more on First Solar’s technology and some of its landmarks to date:

“First Solar, which has manufactured more than 5 GW of its advanced thin-film modules, utilizes a continuous manufacturing process which transforms a sheet of glass into a complete solar module in less than 2.5 hours, which contributes to the company’s industry-leading energy payback time and the low carbon footprint of systems using First Solar PV modules. First Solar also implemented the industry’s first comprehensive, prefunded solar module collection and recycling program. Anyone wishing to dispose of First Solar modules can request collection at any time, at no additional cost, and First Solar will pick up the modules and recycle up to 90% (by mass) of the material for use in new products, including new solar modules and new glass products.”

Source: First Solar Pressroom | Photo Credit: USFWS Mountain Prairie

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Wind Energy (Especially Offshore Wind Energy) News (5 More Stories)

Posted: 17 Jan 2012 07:13 AM PST

Aside from the numerous wind energy stories we’ve already covered this month, here are 7 more you might be interested in:

offshore wind energy

1. Wind power hits record levels over New Year period in UK. “According to trade association RenewableUK, wind farms met an average of 5.3 per cent of the UK’s electricity demand between 1 December and 5 January, hitting a record share of 12.2 per cent on 28 December,” Business Green reports. “The trade association estimated the high yield cut more than 750,000 tonnes of carbon emissions from the UK’s electricity generators over the festive period, the equivalent of taking more than 300,000 cars off the roads.”

2. China poised to rapidly boost offshore wind power. Susan wrote on China’s tremendous plan to install 1,000,000 MW of wind power capacity by 2050 (accounting for 17% of the country’s electricity demand at that time), but it’s also worth noting that China’s got some good offshore wind power potential. The China Meteorological Administration estimates that the country has 750, 000 MW of offshore wind power potential, approximately 3 times more than its onshore wind power potential. Additionally, while its only got 2 offshore wind projects up at the moment, it’s learned a lot in developing these initial projects (which are 120 MW and 131 MW in size). It has lowered installation costs to approximately 60% percent what they are in Europe. China now plans to install 5,000 MW of offshore wind power capacity by 2015.

3. Gamesa to deliver another 50 MW of its G97-2.0 MW turbines to Longyuan in China. “The contract follows a deal signed a few months ago with the same company for the supply of the first 25 G97-2.0 MW machines to be delivered in China,” Gamesa reports. “Gamesa expects these additional 50 MW to be installed in June 2012.”

4. Canada's first offshore wind facility. While China is looking to blow up its offshore wind power sector, “Canadian wind power developer Windstream Energy is making headway with Canada's first offshore wind site,” Renewables International writes. “The 300-MW project is planned to be located off the southwest shore of Wolfe Island in eastern Lake Ontario. Siemens has been selected to supply the turbines.”

5. Why Warren Buffett is buying wind and Vestas is laying people off. You may have read the news that Warren Buffet is investing in the development of 407.1 MW (that’s a lot) of new wind power capacity in Iowa. You may have also Vestas, the world’s top wind turbine producer, is laying off thousands at the same time. Greentech Media explains why these big announcements are not contradictory (hint: both announcements are due, in part, to government energy polices). Also, more on the important U.S. policies related to all of this are in the full repost (from Climate Progress) below:

Policy Uncertainty Threatens 1,600 American Wind Jobs at Vestas — and 37,000 Jobs Nationwide

by Richard Caperton (Director of Clean Energy Investment at the Center for American Progress)

From now until the day Americans vote for president, every single candidate running for office will be talking about one thing: jobs.

But while candidates ramble on about who's creating and who's killing jobs, they're ignoring the simple things that would actually help businesses create jobs – particularly in the crucial clean energy industry.

Exhibit A: Congress's refusal to extend the production tax credit (PTC) is about to kill tens of thousands of high-paying jobs in the wind industry and is already causing businesses to stall projects, reduce orders and decrease manufacturing activity.

Yesterday, Vestas – a leading manufacturer of wind turbines – announced that it will have to lay off as many as 1,600 workers if Congress raises taxes on wind power by not renewing the PTC. What's most frustrating is that there's an easy fix. All Congress has to do is extend the PTC to 2016, as I called for earlier this week, and the whole problem would be avoided.

At a time when so many politicians are making tax issues a key piece of their campaigns, it's quite ironic that one of the nation's fastest growing industries is suffering from uncertain tax policy.

Sadly, there's a lot of history for us to learn from on this issue. As has happened every other time the PTC has expired, wind turbine installations in 2013 will collapse. In fact, the Energy Information Administration currently projects literally zero wind projects for 2013. This chart shows how the PTC expiration has hurt wind in the past and will in the future:

wind energy ptc

Letting the PTC expire will hurt the entire wind industry, but it's especially devastating to manufacturers like Vestas. As I wrote in my recent paper, "Good Government Investments in Renewable Energy":

Unfortunately, we don't have as many people working in the wind industry as we could. While the wind-manufacturing sector has grown in recent years, it has historically been crippled by the PTC expiring every two years. Manufacturers know that this on-again, off-again cycle for the industry would leave them with virtually no business every other year, so American wind farms use some imported parts

The Vestas announcement is bad news, but it's not unexpected. In November, a bipartisan group of governors implored Congress to not raise taxes on the wind industry, warning of the economic impact in their states:

Wind-related manufacturing is beginning to slow in our states because the credit has not yet been extended. If Congress pursues a last minute approach to the extension, the anticipated interruption of the credit's benefits will result in a significant loss of high-paying jobs in a growing sector of the economy.

Navigant, an economic consulting firm, went a step further and put numbers on this tax increase, estimating that not renewing the PTC would kill a whopping 37,000 jobs.

This policy uncertainty isn't just impacting manufacturers and onshore developers, it's also holding up offshore wind developers. As we outline in our report on offshore wind tax policy,NRG recently announced that its Bluewater Wind project would not move forward and cited Congressional inaction on the PTC as a key factor.

If Congress doesn't do something soon, more wind power companies will be forced to follow in Vestas' footsteps. Instead of just talking about putting people back to work, members of Congress should actually do their jobs to protect American workers.

Offshore wind turbines via shutterstock

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U.S. Should Focus on Energy Efficiency More, Report Concludes

Posted: 17 Jan 2012 06:25 AM PST


A new report released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has made it clear that it believes America is thinking too small when it comes to energy efficiency, and that the country is also crowding out economically beneficial investments in energy efficiency as it focuses on riskier and more expensive bids to develop new energy sources.

energy efficiency importance

The report, entitled The Long-Term Energy Efficiency Potential: What the Evidence Suggests, available for download here, outlines three separate scenarios in which the US could either continue on its current path or cut energy consumption by the year 2050 by almost 60 percent, adding nearly two million net jobs by 2050 and saving energy consumers as much as $400 billion per year (the equivalent of $2600 per household annually).

The secret, the authors report, is a more productive investment pattern focused on increasing investments in energy efficiency.

Examples of potential large-scale energy efficiency savings identified by ACEEE include the following:

  • Electric Power.  Our current system of generating and delivering electricity to U.S. homes and businesses is an anemic 31 percent energy efficient. That is, for every three units of coal or other fuel we use to generate the power, we manage to deliver less than one unit of electricity to our homes and businesses. What the U.S. wastes in the generation of electricity is more than Japan needs to power its entire economy. What is even more astonishing is that our current level of (in)efficiency is essentially unchanged in the half century since 1960, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower spent his last year in the White House.
  • Transportation.   The fuel economy of conventional petroleum-fueled vehicles continues to grow while hybrid, electric, and fuel cell vehicles gain large shares, totaling nearly three-quarters of all new light-duty vehicles in 2050 in the report's middle scenario. Aviation, rail, and shipping energy use declines substantially in this scenario through a combination of technological and operational improvements. In the most aggressive scenario, there is a shift toward more compact development patterns, and greater investment in alternative modes of travel and other measures that reduce both passenger and freight vehicle miles traveled. This scenario also phases out conventional light-duty gasoline vehicles entirely, increases hybrid and fuel cell penetration for heavy-duty vehicles, and reduces aviation energy use by 70 percent.
  • Buildings.   In residential and commercial buildings the evidence suggests potential reductions of space heating and cooling needs as the result of building shell improvements of up to 60 percent in existing buildings, and 70-90 percent in new buildings. The ACEEE scenarios also incorporate advanced heating and cooling systems (e.g., gas and ground-source air conditioners and heat pumps, and condensing furnaces and boilers), decreased energy distribution losses, advanced solid-state lighting, and significantly more efficient appliances.
  • Industry.  In the industrial sector, energy efficiency opportunities reduce 2050 energy use by up to half, coming less from equipment efficiency and more from optimization of complex systems. The ACEEE analysis focuses on process optimization in the middle scenario, but also anticipates even greater optimization of entire supply chains in the most aggressive scenario, allowing for more efficient use of feedstocks and elimination of wasted production.

"The U.S. would prosper more if investments in new energy were not crowding out needed investments in energy efficiency. The evidence suggests that without a greater emphasis on the more efficient use of energy resources, there may be as many as three jokers in the deck that will threaten the robustness of our nation's future economy,” said ACEEE Director of Economic and Social Analysis John A. "Skip" Laitner.

“These include the many uncertainties surrounding the availability of conventional and relatively inexpensive energy supplies, a slowing rate of energy productivity gains and therefore economic productivity, and a variety of potential climate constraints that may create further economic impacts of their own. Given all of this, large-scale energy efficiency advances are by far the smartest investment for America."

"Large-scale energy efficiency advances will require major investments. But the good news is that the investments will generate a significant return in the form of large energy bill savings,” ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel said.

“After paying for the program costs and making the necessary investments as we pay for them over time, the economy will benefit from a net energy bill savings that ranges from 12 to 16 trillion dollars cumulatively from 2012 through 2050. In other words, the energy efficiency scenarios outlined in our report will spur an annual net energy bill savings that might range up to about $2600 per household annually in constant 2009 dollars."

The question remains, are such advances in energy efficiency at all realistic?

As the ACEEE report notes, the US has already made significant strides in this arena:

"The U.S. economy has tripled in size since 1970 and three-quarters of the energy needed to fuel that growth came from an amazing variety of efficiency advances—not new energy supplies,” note the authors in the report. “Indeed, the overwhelming emphasis in current policy debates on finding new energy supplies is such that emphasis on new supplies may be crowding out investments and innovations that can help to achieve greater levels of energy productivity. Going forward, the current economic recovery, and our future economic prosperity, will depend more on new energy efficiency behaviors and investments than we've seen in the last 40 years."

Whether or not you agree with the underlying premise of the report, and favour what might be a desire to cut back on spending on renewable energy sources, the idea of increasing energy efficiency in any and all energy-production markets is a worthwhile cause, especially when confronted with the current inefficiency.

Source: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
Glass office buildings via shutterstock

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3 GW of Solar to be Installed in China in 2012?

Posted: 17 Jan 2012 06:11 AM PST


China’s solar energy goals for 2015, in the last year, have gone from 5 GW to 10 GWto 15GW. Last year, on the last day of the year(!), China seemed to reach a total of 1 GW of installed solar power in 2011. This was the first time the country hit that amount, of course. (Note: the U.S. hit that same milestone in 2011, but a little earlier in the year — in September.) That brought China’s total installed solar capacity to about 2 GW (yes, approximately doubling its cumulative capacity).

solar panels & kids in China

However, 2011 may look lame compared to 2012. Suntech’s Chief Commercial Officer, Andrew Beebe, expects that China will be a “multi-gigawatt market” in 2012, according to Greentech Media, and Liu Tienan, head of the National Energy Administration (NEA), projects that the country will hit a “total installed capacity of 3 gigawatts in 2012,” according to Xinhua News Agency.

Suffice it to say, China may pass up the U.S. in total, cumulative installed solar capacity within the next year or two. If you’ve read many of our 187 stories filed under the ‘China‘ tag, this should come as no surprise to you. The country is investing a staggering amount of money into installing clean energy. Note, of course, that it is investing a staggering amount of money into energy sources of various sorts. In total, China added about 35 GW of new generating capacity (all sources) in 2011. (Wow.) Nonetheless, its clean energy commitments are nothing to scoff at. I hope will see further increases of its 2015 and 2020 solar targets in 2012 again.

Here are some of Suntech’s Chinese projects (as emailed to Greentech Media):

  • Zhangjiakou, Hebei province — 50 megawatts
  • Ge'ermu, Qinghai province — 50 megawatts
  • Dongtai, Jiangsu province — 20 megawatts
  • Yixing, Jiangsu province — 50 megawatts
  • Tibet — 20 megawatts
  • Ningxia — 10 megawatts

Big projects,… a bunch of them!

Source: Greentech MediaChinese kids & solar panels via International Rivers

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Solar Energy News (10 More Stories)

Posted: 17 Jan 2012 05:37 AM PST


Other than the many solar energy stories we’ve covered in more depth this month, here are quick summaries of 10 more:

solar energy news india

1. India Has Appointed Its Former Nuclear Boss as the Head of Its National Solar Mission. “Manmohan Singh announced he has appointed Anil Kakodkar, former head of the country’s nuclear programme, as the new chair of the recently launched Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI),” Business Green reports. “The SECI has been formed to oversee the government’s long-promised Solar Mission, which aims to deliver 20GW of installed solar capacity by 2020 at an estimated cost of up to $20bn.”

2. One of North Carolina’s Largest Solar Farms Debuts in Kings Mountain. 22,000 new solar panels are now generating power in Cleveland County, N.C. “The facility, named Kings Mountain Solar, was developed by Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar. It joins a growing list of projects in North Carolina, and is one of the largest in the state. Under a 20-year contract, Duke Energy Carolinas will purchase all of the energy and renewable energy credits generated from the site,” Duke Energy reports.

3. PSEG Solar Source Purchases 25.2 MW Solar Project in Arizona from juwi. “The PSEG Queen Creek Solar Farm is expected to begin construction in January 2012 and be completed in the 3rd quarter of 2012.  The project will be located on 158 acres of land approximately 30 miles southeast of Phoenix, Arizona.  PSEG Solar Source paid approximately $75 million for the project,” PSEG reports. “The PSEG Queen Creek Solar Farm will use crystalline panels and a single axis tracking system.  In September 2011, the Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District entered into a long term power purchase agreement to acquire all of the solar energy generated by the project for 20 years.”

4. Rec Successfully Completes and Finances One of the Largest Solar Plants in the UK. “REC Systems, a business unit of REC, has successfully developed, constructed, financed, sold and received the 25-year feed-in tariff accreditation for the 5MW Durrants solar power plant located on the Isle of Wight, UK,” REC reports. “The Durrants solar power plant will produce 5400 MWh of electricity yearly and includes more than 19,000 high performance REC Peak Energy modules. The installation will offset 3,500 tons of CO2 per year and provide enough energy to support 1,450 four person homes per year.” OK, it’s not HUGE, but it’s the UK….

5. IKEA Solar Presence in U.S. Approaches 85% with Plans to Install Solar Panels on Five Locations in Midwestern U.S. Continuing on with its awesome solar power installation streak, IKEA has now “announced plans to install solar energy panels on five more of its United States locations – all of them in the Midwestern U.S.,” it reported at the end of last week.Pending governmental permits, installation can begin this Winter, with completion expected in Summer 2012. Implementation of these projects will extend the IKEA solar presence to nearly 85% of its U.S. locations. Collectively, the five stores will total 4.8 megawatts (MW) of solar generating capacity, approximately 20,400 panels, and an annual output of 5.62 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity – the equivalent to reducing 4,273 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) – equal to eliminating the emissions of 760 cars or providing electricity for 484 homes yearly (calculating clean energy equivalents at http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-resources/calculator.html).”

6. EnviroMission Solar Tower Project Finance Commitment. EnviroMission (you know, that huge Arizona solar tower) has reportedly “received a formal commitment to provide the entire development and construction capital for EnviroMission’s first Solar Tower power station being developed in La Paz County Arizona to deliver the terms of a power purchase agreement with the Southern California Public Power Authority (SCPPA),” the company notes. “EnviroMission expects to be able to inform the market of the final terms and timing of the financing early in 2012.”

7. CEE Acquires Two Solar Parks from Gehrlicher Solar. “The Hamburger investment company CEE (Conetwork Erneuerbare Energien Holding GmbH & Co. KGaA) is acquiring two new photovoltaic ground-mounted systems, continuing the consistent expansion of its solar portfolio,” Gehrlicher Solar reports. “With this purchase, the total power capacity of the portfolio will increase to more than 70 megawatts. One of the new solar parks is located in Ebern in Lower Franconia, where CEE already operates a PV park, and the other in Rohr, in southern Thuringia. Both projects have been commissioned in December, 2011 and are close to completion. In Ebern a nominal capacity of about 7.1 megawatts of solar power will be supplied to the local grid and about 4.3 megawatts in Rohr. In the park in Ebern, First Solar modules have been used and in the Rohr park, Sunowe modules. Both parks have been equipped with Siemens inverters.”

8. Chinese PV Equipment Suppliers Grab Further Market-Share Gains. “Ambitious PV manufacturing capacity investments across the Asia Pacific region during 2011 have provided substantial revenue growth for local PV equipment suppliers, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz PV Equipment Quarterly report,” Solarbuzz reports. Going on:

Beneficiaries of these record investments include Japanese wire-saw producer Komatsu-NTC and an emerging group of Chinese tool suppliers that includes (Fujian) Apollo, 48th Research Institute (CETC-48), (Zhejiang) Jinggong, and Jingyuntong (JYT). Collectively, these four Chinese companies have posted a CAGR metric in excess of 200% for PV-specific equipment revenues covering the period from 2008 to 2011.

Many European equipment suppliers with a strong track record within the PV industry (Centrotherm, Meyer Burger, Schmid, RENA, Amtech-Tempress and DEK-Solar) are also forecast to post record PV tool revenues for 2011.

This is contrasted by other European suppliers that have seen their PV market share eroded by the new Chinese competition. Consolidated PV revenues of Roth & Rau, Manz, ALD-Vacuum, and PVA-TePla for 2011 are estimated to have been less than 50% of this grouping's PV share in 2008.

9. 25-MW Solar PV Project Commissioned in Guajarat, India. “The 25 MW Project, of which 13 MW of high quality solar modules were supplied by China Sunergy, was completed in partnership with Visual Percept Solar Projects Pvt. Ltd (“Visual Percept”),” China Sunergy, which supplied 13 MW of solar panels for the project, announced today.

10. Eight19 Looks to Expand “Pay as You Go” Solar across Africa. “UK solar start-up Eight19 and charity SolarAid are looking for donations to help extend the company’s “pay as you go” solar system to communities across Africa,” Business Green reported today. The two organisations have jointly established the new KickStart Sustainable Energy Fund with a combined $200,000 to provide working capital to drive the rollout of the IndiGo system in rural, off-grid communities.”

Solar panels & globe via shutterstock

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HyperSolar’s Green Gas Makes Fracking Obsolete

Posted: 17 Jan 2012 04:56 AM PST

hypersolar could clean up Salton sea with system combining solar energy and wastewaterThe California company HyperSolar is developing a way to produce renewable hydrogen and natural gas from wastewater using solar energy, and that could spell trouble for the fracking industry. In contrast to fracking, a method of natural gas drilling that can put communities and agricultural areas at risk for water contamination, HyperSolar’s new technology would do the reverse: it could provide communities with a financial offset to improve wastewater treatment operations that clean up polluted lands, and enable future growth without increased pollution. As a special bonus feature, the whole system is pretty much guaranteed to be earthquake-free.

From Wastewater to Renewable Gas

CleanTechnica covered HyperSolar late last year, when the company announced it was seeking a patent for a system that uses solar energy to produce hydrogen and methane gas from water. In its latest move, the company is one-upping itself by applying the system to wastewater rather than using pure water as a feedstock. HyperSolar has teamed up with Suncentrix to perform a feasibility study for using its renewable technology at California’s Salton Sea. The state’s largest lake, Salton Sea has become degraded with agricultural runoff, and its nutrient-rich waters would actually enable HyperSolar’s system to generate more renewable energy.

Low-Cost Wastewater Treatment for Cash-Strapped Communities

HyperSolar is also developing its technology for application to municipal and industrial wastewater, and that should really have the fossil fuel industry quaking in its boots, especially the natural gas industry. Fossil fuels by nature entwine pollution and environmental destruction with economic growth, and the end result is that in order to create new jobs communities are stuck with skyrocketing mitigation and remediation costs, particularly in the form of energy-sucking wastewater treatment plants. By enabling a means for adding value to wastewater in the form of renewable energy extraction, HyperSolar’s system could provide more local governments with the financial means to improve their wastewater treatment facilities and improve quality of life while creating new green jobs.

New Technology, New Green Energy

Medicine, communications, transportation and many other fields have made startling technological advances  since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution,  yet the basic means of producing energy has barely changed since then. Only the renewable energy sector shows signs of shaking off the past. HyperSolar is just one example of a forward-thinking company that is mining wastewater for green gold through wastewater recovery operations and there is plenty more where that came from. Multi-faceted renewable energy systems like this are the wave of the future. The time is long past due for the energy industry to spark a revolution of its own.

Image: Salton Sea: License Attribution Some rights reserved by Seabamirum.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

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Two Doors and an Electric Motor — Tata Technologies Presents the Emo

Posted: 17 Jan 2012 03:30 AM PST

Toyota 2000GT Resurrected With Solar-Electric Tech (Video)

Posted: 17 Jan 2012 03:00 AM PST

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