Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

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Atlantic Wind Connection Chooses New Jersey for Phase I Offshore Transmission Backbone

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 09:00 PM PST

Winds off the extensive coasts of the US hold enormous potential, not only as sources of clean, renewable energy, but as a natural resource base that can power sustainable socioeconomic development. Altering the course of US energy policy after decades of supporting the fossil fuel industry, the Obama administration has managed to put in place the policies and institutional framework and is capitalizing on it.

Winds off the US Atlantic coast could produce enough clean, renewable electricity to power at least one-third of the entire US or the entire East Coast from Maine to Florida, at least theoretically, according to a study performed by a Stanford University research team. Key to realizing all this potential is building the high-voltage transmission lines that would carry and deliver the electricity generated via offshore winds to urban centers and other areas.

With sponsors including Google, Marubeni, private equity firm Bregal Energy and Belgium transmission system operator Elia, the Atlantic Wind Connection announced January 14 that it had selected New Jersey as the the for the first phase of a project that entails laying a high-voltage, direct current (DC) electricity transmission backbone under the US Atlantic seabed that would stretch from New York City to Virginia.

AWC Phases

Blow, Wind Blow

Independent transmission company Trans-Elect and Atlantic Grid Development are AWC’s project developers. With a planned capacity of 3,000 megawatts (MW), the so-called New Jersey (NJ) Energy Link is to extend the length of the Mid-Atlantic state, linking offshore wind energy resources and consumers in northern, central and southern Jersey, according to Atlantic Wind Connection’s (AWC) press release.

Winds in the Mid-Atlantic region’s shallow Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) hold more than 60,000 MW of offshore wind energy potential, according to assessments performed under the aegis of the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The Dept. of Interior and BOEM last May paved the way forward for an environmental review of AWC’s build-out, issuing a finding of "no competitive interest" and granting Atlantic Grid Holdings LLC right-of-way.

Building a backbone for the transmission of electricity produced from these offshore winds is the most efficient and effective means of enabling offshore wind power project developers to build out offshore wind turbine arrays and deliver clean, renewable electricity where it’s needed, AWC and offshore wind power proponents assert.

An offshore Atlantic power transmission backbone would also lay the groundwork for building a new marine clean energy industry, one that would provide jobs, income, investment returns and tax revenue while avoiding the carbon and greenhouse gas emissions that result from burning coal and fossil fuels to generate electricity for generations to come, they add.

Clean, Renewable Electricity for Nearly 2 Million Households

When completed, the AWC will be able to carry as much as 7,000 MW of offshore wind energy to consumers along the US East Coast, enough for some 1.9 million households, according to AWC.

With a project plan that envisages construction extending from 2016-2026, Atlantic Grid Energy intends to build out the offshore transmission backbone in five phases at an expected cost of $6.311 billion.

Completing the project would enable transmission of clean, renewable offshore wind power to consumers in NY, Pennsylvania, NJ, Delaware, Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia. According to a project analysis performed by IHS Global Insight, the AWC transmission backbone would be able to deliver 3,417 MW of electrical power to consumers in NJ (44% of AWC’s total capacity); 1,015 MW to those in Delaware (13%); 1,013 MW to those in Maryland; and 2.297 MW to consumers in Virginia (30%).

IHS projects that the NJ Energy Link will create more than 20,000 jobs in the state, injecting $9 billion into NJ’s economy and adding some $2.2 billion to the state treasury. These figures are based on construction of offshore wind turbines in NJ OCS waters with a total capacity of 3,400 MW.

Contrary to opponents’ contention that building out the AWC and offshore wind farms will increase electricity rates to consumers, AWC contends that the NJ Energy Link will reduce them by improving the flow of electricity to minimize energy peaks that cause high prices; moving the cheapest and cleanest energy to where it is needed, when it is needed; and minimizing costly upgrades to the grid.

"The NJ Energy Link can make the grid more reliable and lower the cost of energy in New Jersey by delivering both offshore wind and conventional electricity to where it is needed and when it is needed along the coast, whether that be southern, central or northern New Jersey," AWC CEO Robert Mitchell asserted in the company’s press release.

Addressing critics who point to the intermittent nature of wind power generation, AWC says the offshore transmission backbone will be able to supply electricity to consumers 100% of the time, "not just when the wind is blowing."

Atlantic Wind Connection Chooses New Jersey for Phase I Offshore Transmission Backbone was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

China Targeting 10 GW of New Solar Capacity In 2013

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 08:12 PM PST

We are two weeks into the new year and China continues its march towards clean energy dominance. The Asian giant is aiming to have up to 10 gigawatts (GW) of new solar capacity this year.

According to PV Magazine, if successful, will more than double its total capacity currently at 7GW.

Meanwhile the country envisions having a total of 21GW by 2015.

Seven gigawatts is pretty impressive for solar capacity for any country, especially China, and how rapidly they have gotten there.

In 1999, China only had 16 megawatts (0.016 GW). Ten years ago in 2003 that number sat at 42MW (0.042GW), while in 2008, Chinese solar capacity grew to 140MW(0.14GW).

The recent announcement has been apart of a string of positive news within China's solar industry. Yingli Green Energy also became the largest solar company in the world, beating out Suntech. Yingli shares have also jumped up within the past month from its month low on December 17th at $2.31/share to its most recent high of $3.05/share on January 9th. Share prices at the end of trading on January 15th were $2.90/share.

How Far Can China Continue to Move Up the Solar Ladder?

There is no doubt China continues to move its way up the renewable energy ladder in solar and wind. If China's economy continues to rebound, furthering the need for cleaner energy, solar energy capacity targets now targeted for China, could easily be beaten.

China Targeting 10 GW of New Solar Capacity In 2013 was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Solar-Powered Water Treatment Plant Developed

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 08:07 PM PST

The same power plants that are powering the water treatment plants that provide us with drinkable and usable water are in most cases the same ones that help to pollute it by releasing smog, which causes acid rain of varying pollution levels.

Powering these facilities with zero-emissions power plants is one way to address this issue.

Phoenix Solar-Powered Water Treatment Plant
Photo Credit: PR Newswire

In Phoenix, Arizona, SunPower Corporation developed a 7.5 megawatt (MW) solar power plant, constructed to help power a water treatment plant. This installation is equipped with 22,936 solar panels (this means that the panels are 327 watts each).

They expect to save 15 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year. At the U.S national average price of electricity of $0.11/kWh, that translates to $1.650 million per year.

SunPower’s solar power plant is expected to save the water treatment facility $4 million over a 20 year period.

“With more than 300 days of sunshine each year, Phoenix is a natural for using solar power,” said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. “The Lake Pleasant Water Treatment Plant project is the latest in a series of solar initiatives utilized at various city locations to increase the city’s commitment to sustainable energy development.”

Our Most Precious Resource Needs a Sustainable Power Source

The word “sustainable” can be used in the environmental context, in which it means environmentally sound, or in the other context the word is almost self-explanatory, “can be sustained”.

Water is one of our most precious resources, and the supply of it needs to be guaranteed with a power source that is inexhaustible, such as renewable energy.

Source: PV Magazine
Follow me on Twitter: @Kompulsa

Solar-Powered Water Treatment Plant Developed was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Africa Set To Necessary Renewable Energy Growth

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 07:35 PM PST

A new report to come from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has detailed its belief that Africa has not only the potential but the ability as well to fuel the majority of its future growth by using renewable energy.

The report, ‘Africa’s Renewable Future: The Path To Sustainable Growth’, can be found here (PDF) and is one of many announcements made by IRENA during the World Future Energy Summit (15-17 January), part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

Countries throughout Africa are experiencing massive economic and demographic growth, with six of the world’s ten fastest rising economies coming from Africa, and a population that is expected to burst through 2 billion by 2050.

Subsequently, policy makers in Africa, and dealing with Africa, are facing a decision: where is the energy going to come from to sustain such a population and economic increase?

The IRENA report shows that a combination of solar and hydropower resources, when complemented by bioenergy, wind, geothermal, and marine resources in select regions, could help Africa continue its growth unhindered.

"Africa is undergoing a transformation, and has an unparalleled opportunity to use renewable energy to promote growth and improve millions of lives across the continent," says Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General. "It's an exciting moment, and IRENA is ready to play its role in assisting Africa on its path to a renewable energy future."

All of this comes on the heels of a GTM Reserach report which listed the Middle East and North Africa as having the capacity to reach 3.5 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2015.

"In terms of solar energy, it is clear that the MENA [Middle East North Africa] region is set to experience significant change over the next five years," said Scott Burger, GTM Research analyst and the report's author. "While Saudi Arabia will likely be the largest market in the long-term, there will be significant opportunities throughout the region. With strategic planning and a solid development of local partners and supply chains, savvy companies will be able to capitalize on all of the opportunities in the region."

Africa Set To Necessary Renewable Energy Growth was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Suntech Launches Massive Saudi Arabian Solar System

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 07:17 PM PST

Christmas Day for the rest of us was celebrated in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the inauguration of the massive King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center’s (KAPSARC) 3.5 megawatt solar energy field in Riyadh by Saudi Aramco President and CEO Khalid A. Al-Falih.

The massive energy field stretches out over an area of 55,000 square metres and is currently the biggest ground-mounted solar installation connected to the grid in the whole Kingdom.

Suntech Powers Largest Solar System in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

The solar field is using 12,684 fixed-angle Polycrystalline PV panels provided by Suntech, one of the world’s largest producers of solar panels.

The field will provide 5,800 megawatt hours of renewable energy fed into the electric grid, and offset approximately 4,900 tonnes of carbon every year.

The initiation of KAPSARC’s solar field comes hot on the heels of a variety of other announcements made by the renewable industry in Saudi Arabia.

Taking a trip back almost a year and Saudi Arabia was already being billed as the next solar market hotspot. Wind the clock forward by ten months and one of the state's main spokesmen, Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud, said that he was hoping that Saudi Arabia would be powered completely by low-carbon energy within his lifetime.

"Oil is more precious for us underground than as a fuel source," he said. "If we can get to the point where we can replace fossil fuels and use oil to produce other products that are useful, that would be very good for the world. I wish that may be in my lifetime, but I don't think it will be."

Push forward yet another month and Saudi Arabia announced plans to invest $109 billion into solar energy and planned to generate at least a third of its electricity from solar by 2032.

The country has come a long way, considering their amazingly rich fuel reserves, and any push towards a renewable future is good news for a country so dependent upon fossil fuels.

Suntech Launches Massive Saudi Arabian Solar System was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

PV Cell Manufacturing Breakthrough, New Device Recognizes Damaged Wafers Before Manufacturing, Will Save Billion Of Dollars

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 01:12 PM PST

During the production of photovoltaic (PV) cells, the rough process often creates microcracks in the uncompleted cells, which then leads to the cells breaking during the fabrication process. This leads to huge losses, as much as 5-10% of all of the PV wafers are destroyed during fabrication! But now, researchers at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have created an instrument that is able to sort out the wafers that won’t make it through the whole process much earlier, potentially leading to billions of dollars of savings for PV companies.

20130116-000458.jpg

Specifically, the researchers wanted to sort out the wafers with microcracks from the ones in better condition before they went through the expensive doping processes. This newly developed instrument allows that.

The new Silicon Photovoltaic Wafer Screening System (SPWSS) is a cube-shaped furnace that is roughly 15 inches on each side and can be easily retrofitted into existing assembly lines.

It works by exposing “a silicon wafer to thermal stress in the form of carefully calibrated high temperatures,” NREL writes. “The process looks a lot like the toasting belt that turns a cold sub sandwich into a warm one. As each wafer passes through a narrow — 15-millimeter — high-intensity illumination zone, different strips of the wafer are exposed to the heat. That way, the stress travels through the wafer.”

“The temperature can be calibrated precisely — most usefully by correlating it to the thickness of the wafer, because the thinner the wafer, the less stress it can withstand. Every manufacturer has different levels at which their wafers can break from stress, so the SPWSS can be calibrated precisely via computer to meet the needs of each solar cell maker.”

20130116-000535.jpg

Importantly, the instrument itself is very energy efficient. Thanks to a reflective cavity that is built into it, almost 100% of the energy from the power source is used. Which helps to keeps the energy costs very low, down to much less than a penny a wafer.

The researchers think that improvements such as this, in production efficiency and cost-saving technologies, are necessary in order to keep solar production in the US, rather than letting it get outsourced, as many American industries have. And it should also help to make solar power become cost competetive with other energy sources more quickly.

Source: DOE / National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Image Credits: Dennis Schroeder

PV Cell Manufacturing Breakthrough, New Device Recognizes Damaged Wafers Before Manufacturing, Will Save Billion Of Dollars was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Tiny But Tough Nanobowls Offer a Pathway to Low Cost Biofuels

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 07:00 AM PST

Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have figured out a way to synthesize nanoscale, bowl-shaped “enzymes” that mimic the way real enzymes selectively interact with other molecules, but that are far more durable and hardy than their natural counterparts. The breakthrough will enable researchers to develop efficient, low cost catalysts for making a variety of products including advanced biofuels.

Argonne researchers create synthetic nanobowls to aid biofuel production

Making Nanoscale Bowls, Atom by Atom

According to Argonne writer Jared Sagoff, the synthetic nanobowls use the same “lock and key” mechanism that generally characterizes natural enzymes.

In both cases, the enzyme can be described as a lock, that will only open in response to a molecule of exactly the right shape and size.

The problem with natural enzymes, in terms of biofuel production, is that they operate most efficiently under natural conditions. In other words, they generally cannot tolerate the extremes of temperature and pressure that characterize advanced biofuel production.

In addition to developing more durable enzymes, a related challenge is to lower the cost of enzymes as a proportion of the cost of biofuel.

To build the synthetic enzyme, the researchers used a large bowl-shaped organic molecule called a calixarene as a template. They put the calixarene on a surface made of titanium dioxide (a photocatalyst that can “eat” smog and perform other sustainability-related functions), and used atomic layer deposition to build up walls of aluminum oxide around the template.

Once the walls reach the desired height, the calixarene is burned away, leaving the bowl-shaped inorganic “enzyme.”

By manipulating the size and depth of the bowl, researchers can custom-build the synthetic enzyme so that only a molecule of exactly the right type will fit inside. Basically, the nanobowls perform the function of a sieve, which sorts out undesired molecules that would spark uncontrolled reactions.

The Quest for the Perfect Biofuel Enzyme

Durable, precision-tailored catalysts would go a long way toward enabling the biofuel industry to achieve price parity with fossil fuels, but the Argonne research has a way to go before its application to biofuel production can be demonstrated conclusively.

In the meantime, researchers have also begun to identify extremely hardy enzymes in nature that could be further modified to withstand the biofuel production process.

For example, a team of researchers at another Department of Energy project, the Joint Genome Institute, has identified a pair of heat-tolerant fungi called Thielavia terrrestris and Myceliophthora thermophila. Their enzymes can tolerate temperatures up to 75 centigrade, compared to a limit of 35 degrees for the typical enzyme.

Researchers are also looking at a class of bacteria called extremophiles, which can be found in unusually harsh environments such as undersea thermal vents.

Image: Bowls by Martin Cathrae.

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.

 

Tiny But Tough Nanobowls Offer a Pathway to Low Cost Biofuels was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

World’s First Renewable Energy Resources Atlas Goes Online

Posted: 16 Jan 2013 01:00 AM PST

In an effort to raise the awareness of just how much potential our planet has to produce renewable energy, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has launched the first ever online Global Atlas of renewable energy resources.

Live now at www.irena.org/GlobalAtlas, the atlas is the largest ever initiative to help countries assess their potential renewable energy generating potential. It combines data and maps from leading technical institutions across the planet as well as private companies, and currently charts solar and wind resources.

The atlas hopes to expand to other forms of renewable energy during the next two years.

“In the next 10 years we expect a huge rise in the investments in renewable energy. The Global Solar and Wind Atlas will help us make the right decisions,” says Martin Lidegaard, Danish Minister of Climate, Energy and Building, and President of the 3rd session of the IRENA Assembly.

"The Global Atlas provides a powerful new tool in international efforts to double the world's share of renewable energy by 2030," said Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Director-General. "With 22 countries now taking part, and more expected to join in the coming months, it is a clear sign of our growing political will to transition to clean, renewable energy."

World’s First Renewable Energy Resources Atlas Goes Online was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

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