Friday, January 25, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

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Solar Ship Could Deliver Medicine To Remotest Areas

Posted: 25 Jan 2013 12:00 AM PST

There are some very remote places in the world where regular, reliable vehicle transportation is not available. So some adventurous souls are trying to develop a solar-powered-helium assisted flying machine to reach those places. The advantage would be consistent delivery of invaluable medical supplies, where no such service is currently available.

solarship.jpg

Image Credit: Solar Ship Foundation

The founding organization is trying to raise one million dollars to make the flying machines and train local pilots. At this point they are well short of their goal though and have only about fifty hours left in their campaign time bank.

The Solar Ship Foundation is managed by a Canadian charity.

 

Solar Ship Could Deliver Medicine To Remotest Areas 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.

Time To Overturn Citizens United

Posted: 24 Jan 2013 06:05 PM PST

We don’t get involved in political matters toooo much, but this is definitely needed, for cleantech and much more. Thanks to sister site Red, Green, and Blue for the post:



Stand with Senator Franken to reverse Citizens United (via Red Green & Blue)

 Today is the third anniversary of the Supreme Court's terrible decision in the Citizens United case, in which they ruled that: Corporations are people, my friend Money = speech So corporate people can spend as much money as they want to by elections The results: More money than ever has poured…



Time To Overturn Citizens United 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.

Why Solar PV Without Subsidies Is A No-Brainer (UBS Study Part 2)

Posted: 24 Jan 2013 05:59 PM PST

This articles was originally published on Renew Economy. It has been reposted with full permission.

There was a huge response to our article on Wednesday, summarising the UBS report on how a boom in un-subsidised solar installations would cause a revolution in energy markets. Most people wanted more details of how UBS arrived at their calculations, so we've decided to share more of their report on what makes solar PV – and battery storage – such a compelling proposition to households and businesses, even without subsidies.

There are two principal pieces to the equation – the falling cost of solar and battery manufacturing on one side, and the rising cost of grid-based electricity on the other. UBS estimates the total cost of installed solar PV (including inverters and balance of systems costs) has fallen by well over half in the last few years, and will continue to do so, while grid prices (ironically including the cost of renewable subsidies) have risen and will continue to do so.

"In combination, we see this as a game-changer for the competitiveness of solar systems," the UBS energy team writes. "Private households and commercial users will be able to save on their electricity bills if they install a solar system – without any benefits from subsidies." As we noted yesterday, just on economics, it said every household in Germany, Italy and Spain should have a solar system by the end of the decade.

UBS says unsubsidised solar systems are now at break-even but, on its estimates, the payback time of unsubsidised solar systems will shrink to some five years for commercial installations and some 10 years for residential rooftops by 2020. It says the economics work in Germany, Italy, and Spain, even if financing might be a problem for the latter economy.

As an example, UBS gave the cost of a family-home rooftop solar system (4kWp) in Germany at today's prices (€7,400 fully installed) – which amortised over 20 years equated to €450 a year. Without subsidies, a solar system's profitability depends almost entirely on the amount of solar power directly consumed by its owner (rather than sold back into the grid with a feed-in tariff).

UBS estimates a 4,500kWh household with a 4kWp PV system should be able to reduce its electricity purchases from a utility by 30 per cent without significantly changing its consumption habits. In southern Germany, such a household would save around €380 on its electricity bill, which would otherwise amount to some €1,260. Another €80 of income results from the sale of excess electricity if a price of 25 €/MWh is assumed. In the example above, it would already be worth installing a PV system, as the combined cost would be slightly smaller. It says solar PV systems will become even more attractive as retail tariffs continue to rise, and solar costs continue to fall.

As well, the increase in unsubsidised solar PV capacity will ultimately lead to higher electricity prices, because the demand reduction will force utilities to spread the grid investments and cost of the renewable subsidies over a smaller base. But as grid prices rise, households will respond by increasing their self-consumption rate.

They could do this by co-ordinating the timing of energy-intensive processes, aiming at increasing the self-consumption rate of a PV system, in the same way utilities offer time-of use meters. Solar developers are already offering such technology. And/or they could add a battery storage system, which UBS describes as the other big game changer in the energy game.

UBS says storage technologies allow the owner of a solar PV system to further cut electricity purchases from utilities: either because they can store solar PV power not immediately consumed, or they could charge the battery on low rates overnight for use in the morning or at other time.

UBS notes that different field tests suggest a battery with a capacity of 3kWh allows a 4,500kWh household with a 4kWp PV system to lower its electricity consumed from the grid by 50-60%. (Note that this graph below is for Germany).

On battery storage technology, UBS notes that traditional battery technologies from the vehicle sector, such as lead-acid batteries, have mainly been used as back-up solution for blackouts. While low cost (50-800 €/kWh), their lifetime is limited to 2-6 years, and give a maximum of up to 2,000 cycles. Other technologies, such as lithium-ion batteries, are more promising, given deep-cycle resistance, a long lifetime, and higher cost-reduction potential in the near future.

UBS says although the products already available come at an end-customer cost of €1,500-2,500 per kWh of usable storage capacity – and a battery management system is also needed, which adds another 500-1,000 €/kWh to the costs for small-scale PV systems – these products are the first of their kind and are not yet produced at large scale, and they contain high margins for sales agents (up to 30%).

"We expect the end-customer cost of lithium-ion technology applied in the PV sector to decline significantly over the next few years. We do not attribute this to any technological leaps, but rather to the start of industrial manufacturing, which should lead to lower unit costs; higher production volumes should improve components purchase conditions, and a more widespread application should decrease margins for sales agents," UBS says. And because the characteristics required by batteries used to store solar power are similar to those for batteries used in e-vehicles, progress in the production of batteries for e-vehicles should directly benefit solutions in the field of solar power storage.

"We also highlight that the current cost of an e-vehicle battery pack based on the lithium-ion technology and manufactured at low volumes ranges from 800 to 900 €/kWh, while in the area of consumer electronics, the battery cost ranges from 200 to 300 €/kWh. In our analysis, we assume that a complete battery solution for storing PV power currently comes at a total cost of 2,500-3,000 €/kWh and will decline by 10% per year."

The first graph below compares the current retail price of electricity in Germany with the cost of PV and battery at different battery technology costs. It assumes that the price of solar PV is constant (which it is not).

This second graph below highlights the benefits that could be delivered to a household in Germany that has both PV and battery storage, with the retail price moving relentlessly higher, and the cost of PV and batteries delivering a significant discount.

Note that the cost of these technologies will be lower in southern Germany, primarily because of the better solar resources. UBS notes that in Spain, a 3.5kWp solar PV system could deliver the same output as a 5.5kWp system in Germany, which would make that attractive even though retail prices in Spain are not as high as in Germany.

UBS says solar PV without subsidies will also be very attractive to commercial groups – particularly stores, supermarkets and offices, but also to most manufacturing enterprises that operate during daytime, because they can consume virtually all of the electricity they produce, and because some could use cheaper ground-mounted systems rather than roof-mounted modules.

A 130kWp solar PV system could deliver a self consumption rate of around 70 per cent for a German manufacturing company with an electricity consumption of 200MWh per year. A 200kWp system could deliver more solar power, but at the same time more energy would be either wasted or sold back into the grid for little added benefit to justify the extra cost.

"From a managerial point of view, the installation of an unsubsidised PV system is nothing but a one-time investment that leads to a sustainable cost reduction and constitutes a partial hedge against increasing energy prices or general cost inflation over a 20-year period," UBS notes. "However, an enterprise will only make the investment decision if the expected cost savings exceed the company's internal required rate of return – ie, the PV installation competes with other investment projects. In this regard, we note that any cost savings that exceed the depreciable investment costs are treated as taxable earnings."

What does all this mean for the utilities themselves? As we noted in our report yesterday, it's bad news. UBS estimates that unsubsidised solar in Germany alone could amount to 80GW, and cut up to 14 per cent from demand from the grid. The addition of battery storage would lower the peaks in the morning, midday, and evening (up to 11pm), and the profit pool for utilities could be slashed by half. As much as 55 per cent of demand from the grid by family homes could be reduced by solar, and 18 per cent of demand from commercial businesses, and 60 per cent from agriculture. In Spain, the total reduction in demand from the grid could be 18 per cent.

The consequence of this is the closure of both coal and gas-fired generation. As if on cue, RWE announced on Wednesday that it may mothball some gas-fired plants, because they are operating 1,500 hours a year instead of planned 3,000 to 3,500 hours a year, while Jochen Homann, head of federal grid regulator Bundesnetzagentur, predicted "a string of closure announcements," of fossil fuel plants because they are now losing money. He said Germany needed "intelligent reform of market design."

Companies most affected by the predicted boom in unsubsidised solar – and UBS nominates RWE, E.ON, CEZ and Verbund, along with Italy's Enel and Spain's Iberdrola – will be arguing strongly for this. But don't expect this to slow down the pace of renewables significantly, as the Opposition parties, the SDP, and the Greens, which won power in Lower Saxony over the weekend, are even more pro-green energy than the Merkel government. And as UBS notes, "we think the awareness of 'green' investments is higher in markets like Germany."

One final graph, a breakdown of where self-consumption solar could replace demand in Germany, by industry segment.

Why Solar PV Without Subsidies Is A No-Brainer (UBS Study Part 2) 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.

California Gets SEIA’s Praise, Arizona Gets SEIA’s Condemnation

Posted: 24 Jan 2013 05:37 PM PST

California Governor Jerry Brown, in his State of the State, showed some strong support for solar power and an ambitious Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Naturally, this earned the praise of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) today.

Meanwhile, however, solar-blessed Arizona took a big step backwards when it comes to solar power, drawing some strong criticism.

California Dreamin’

“By restating his strong support for a 33 percent RPS target, Governor Brown continues California's efforts to grow its robust, sustainable clean tech economy, provide additional certainty to solar developers, attract new private investment, add thousands of new jobs, improve reliability of the electric grid, and reduce air pollution,” SEIA states. “With this stepped-up commitment, additional solar firms throughout California will be in a position to further their growth. Fast-growing solar companies throughout the state have greatly expanded their presence since 2001.”

"With this ambitious renewable portfolio standard, California is setting an example for the entire nation – while realizing the benefits of an expanded clean energy economy," said Carrie Cullen Hitt, senior vice president for state affairs at SEIA. "We applaud Governor Brown for advancing policies that promote clean energy innovation, create jobs, protect the environment, and help ensure our nation's energy security and independence. This RPS target demonstrates California's standing as our nation's leader in solar deployment. The state's forward-thinking energy policies ensure that solar continues to be an increasingly significant component in the state's – and our nations' – energy portfolio, one that helps contain electricity costs for families and businesses."

California is a clear solar power leader. It’s nice to see such a large and influential state lead the way on this matter.


 

Arizona… Not Cool

While California is still a glowing state of support for solar power, very sunny Arizona has fallen of the wagon.

The Arizona Corporate Commission (ACC) has just voted to eliminate all incentives for competitive commercial solar systems. Here’s SEIA’s response:

"SEIA is disappointed to learn of the Arizona Corporation Commission's decision to eliminate policies critical to future commercial solar energy investment. While the ACC maintained funding for utility-owned projects it eliminated those for privately-developed commercial systems. The latter is a step backwards for Arizona’s longstanding commitment to economic development, free markets and expansion of clean energy resources. This is particularly troubling at a time when Arizona faces challenges including water usage and shuttering of coal facilities. It is our expectation that this Commission will, despite this aberration, continue to support a diversified solar market in the future.

"Arizona businesses will continue paying monthly Renewable Energy Standard Tariff (REST) surcharges, but they will have no longer have the opportunity to use these funds to eliminate or reduce their electricity bill by installing solar themselves.

"While today's decisions come as a surprise to SEIA, we remain committed to participating in a transparent decision-making process with the ACC that maintains free market choices for Arizona businesses and consumers."

Of course, solar power is growing fast in the US — faster than any other power source. “Since 2008, the amount of solar powering U.S. homes, businesses, and military bases has grown by more than 500 percent – from 1,100 megawatts to more than 6,400 megawatts today, which is enough to power more than one million average American households. Solar is the fastest-growing and most affordable, accessible and reliable clean energy technology available today.  America's solar industry now employs more than 119,000 workers at 5,600 companies – most of which are small businesses spread across every state in the union.”

The 6,400 MW figure is actually from the end of Q3 2012. According to SEIA and GTM Research’s projections, Q4 was going to be the biggest quarter in the history of US solar, by far. The projection was that it would add about 1,200 MW.

Arizona is currently ranked #3 for total installed solar capacity. As a result, it has nearly 10,000 solar employees working at over 270 companies. It would be a shame if it went backwards in this fast-growing industry and lost jobs and economic growth to other states.

California Gets SEIA’s Praise, Arizona Gets SEIA’s Condemnation 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.

How NREL Influences New High Performance Buildings

Posted: 24 Jan 2013 05:36 PM PST

From the good folk over at NREL (notably, I recently landed an interview with the Director of NREL just after he had given a presentation — at the International Renewable Energy Conference — in which he discussed this amazing building a bit):

By Heather Lammers

Energy-efficient features found in NREL's Research Support Facility, including daylighting, are being replicated in other buildings across the country. Credit: Dennis Schroeder

The Research Support Facility (RSF) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has hosted thousands of visitors since it opened as one of the world’s largest high performance office buildings. Generating buzz about the energy savings possible in commercial buildings is exactly what DOE and NREL have been aiming for.

“There are days when I think I should quit my job and just be a tour guide,” jokes NREL Senior Research Engineer Shanti Pless. “But I’m willing to do it because I see the impact taking people through this building has on our future energy savings.”

Energy savings is precisely what the RSF demonstrates every day as 1,800 NREL staff start their workdays in a 360,000 square-foot Class A office building that generates as much electricity as it uses, thanks to rooftop photovoltaics. Even after potential visitors hear that the RSF was built at the same price as a non-efficient building, they can be skeptical — until they see it with their own eyes.

“Seeing is believing,” Pless said. “Everyone who comes through the RSF realizes this can be done and this is what it looks like. And they learn that they don’t have to do something new — they can replicate a lot of what NREL’s already done.”

Commercial buildings represent roughly one-fifth of U.S. energy consumption. Still, the perception remains that it’s easier and less expensive to build a building the way it’s always been done rather than putting in the work to make the leap to high performance office buildings.

“This high performance, net-zero facility is one of those things that wouldn’t have come to fruition if a national lab hadn’t demonstrated that it is possible,” said Ron Judkoff, NREL’s principal program manager for buildings research and development. “And, as a result of DOE and NREL’s leadership, and the building energy design tools that NREL is producing, industry is starting to recognize it can be done as well.”

Just over two years since the opening of the first phase of the RSF, Pless notes that the ripple effect is reaching deep into industry. “The effect is across the whole spectrum, including architects, engineers, and subcontractors,” he said.

Changing the Rules to Build in Seattle

Denis Hayes, NREL’s second director and Earth Day founder, visited the lab and took a tour of the RSF. His current project, the Bullitt Center, aspires to be the greenest commercial building in the world. Credit: Dennis Schroeder

Even when you are enthusiastic about constructing the most energy-efficient building possible, roadblocks can appear where least expected.

The 50,000 square-foot Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington, is being built with one goal in mind — to be the greenest, most energy-efficient commercial building in the world. Like NREL, the Bullitt Foundation is looking to change the way buildings are designed, built, and operated. The building design team is working to meet the ambitious goals of the Living Building Challenge.

The Bullitt Center will generate as much energy from rooftop photovoltaics each year as the six-story structure uses; the catch is that Seattle is notorious for its lack of sunshine. The building also will collect all of its water, including drinking water, from the rain that falls on its roof — which will then be stored in a 56,000-gallon cistern. Once the water is used inside the building, it will be treated and then returned to the soil. More than 1,000 building components were researched to make sure nothing in the building released any toxic material at any time during its life cycle. It is the world’s first six-story structure with composting toilets. Built to survive major earthquakes, the Center has a design life of 250 years.

According to Bullitt Foundation President Denis Hayes, the building faced more legal and financial challenges than technical obstacles.

“We were shocked to learn that it is flat-out illegal to build this sort of ultra-green building in any city in America,” Hayes said. “But Seattle changed its building code to allow super-green buildings to meet performance standards as an alternative to prescriptive standards. A building built to code is generally the lousiest building that is not illegal to build. We wanted the design flexibility to construct a building that used less than one-fourth the energy of a code building.”

The city’s political leaders and planning officials weren’t the only ones Hayes had to convince.

The Bullitt Center plans to generate as much energy from rooftop photovoltaics each year as the six-story structure uses — even in Seattle, which is notorious for its lack of sunshine. Courtesy of the Bullitt Center/John Stamets

“We were also constrained by the fact that most banks wouldn’t lend us any money. When the appraiser asked, ‘What are your comps?’ We didn’t have any,” Hayes said. “No bank saw any value in producing all our own electricity, our own water, treating our own waste on site. Certainly no bank was prepared to finance the extra cost of a 250-year building. The discounted present value of a dollar received 250 years from now, or even 100 years from now, is zero. Modern finance is deeply biased against durability.

“We are going to be working with banks, appraisers, and real estate professionals to bring them through the building and use it as a magnet to help think through how we can overcome these obstacles and create a situation where this sort of building becomes easier to finance and build than an inefficient building,” Hayes added.

Private sector obstacles aside, it was helpful to see that NREL had successfully completed a high performance office building, Hayes said. “Visiting NREL was reassuring. Somebody had already shown how to meet some of the goals that we were aspiring toward. When something already exists, you know that what you are trying to do is possible.”

Similarities between the Bullitt Center and the RSF include an emphasis on daylighting. The Center features large, 10-foot-high windows weighing 700 pounds each. They open to provide not only lighting but natural ventilation. The windows will be hooked up to a series of sensors that feed into the building’s control system to tell what the indoor and outdoor temperatures are, how fast the wind is blowing, whether it’s raining, and how much carbon dioxide is in the air, all of which let the building’s “brain” determine whether the windows should be open or closed.

Staffers working next to the window can override the system, but only for 30 minutes at a time to optimize the building’s performance. Every person working in the building will be within 30 feet of an operable window.

Plug load management is something that the Bullitt Center design team took into greater consideration after visiting NREL.

“It was very impressive, the degree to which NREL is monitoring the things that people are doing on their side of the plugs,” Hayes said. “We’d known that we could do dramatic things with efficient refrigerators, dishwashers, and lighting, but the fact that NREL was paying so much attention to the real work side of the house — the computers, monitors, printers, and task lights — caused us to go back and look at our IT really carefully.”

“I’m thrilled that NREL is jumping out in front on issues like this,” said Hayes, who was lab director of the Solar Energy Research Institute in the late 1970s and early 1980s, prior to the name change to NREL in 1991. “NREL’s research and development has always been its strength, but there’s something about actually living what you preach. And, just as important, NREL paid special attention to the economics of it.”

The first tenants of the Bullitt Center will begin moving in next month; the grand opening is scheduled for April 22, which is Earth Day.

Planning a High Performance Building for Salt Lake City

Seattle isn’t the only city that will see NREL’s vision on its skyline.

“It may sound corny, but after seeing the RSF, it really was the first day of the second half of my career,” said Kenner Kingston, director of sustainability for ARCHITECTURAL NEXUS, INC. “I saw the integration at RSF, the total comprehensive thinking, and thought, ‘I’ve got to get involved in a project that’s going in this direction.’”

When a municipal client in the Salt Lake City, Utah, area asked him to design an administrative office space, Kingston knew the RSF would help sell his client on the idea of going for high performance design. “Usually, when I see another net-zero building talked about, it’s always on the coast or in Hawaii — somewhere with a temperate climate. The RSF is particularly relevant because it is in a high mountain desert.”

Kingston also brought his client out to the RSF so they could see firsthand what was possible. “They came back with validation, feeling like it was what they wanted to do. The RSF became the measuring stick that was referred to over and over again while planning the project.”

As was the case for the RSF, daylighting is an absolute for the building design that Kingston is working on. “On this project, the ratio of closed to open offices is 50-50,” Kingston said. “This created a unique challenge since we were trying to put the closed offices on the north side of the building; in this case, we needed two north sides.”

To solve the dilemma, the design now includes a capped light well in the center of the building so the planners could have two north elevations. The light well is unconditioned space that draws the sun five stories into the building. “It makes the daylighting possible from the inside of the building, and we don’t get the temperature swings of an exterior space,” he added. “Even after I’m done with this project, I’ll be on the hunt for the next net-zero opportunity in our neck of the woods, and I’ll again use the RSF as an example of what can be done.”

Cornell University Looks to Build a Living Lab in NYC

Artist rendering of the proposed Cornell NYC Tech campus, which is planned for the southern end of New York City's Roosevelt Island. Cornell University is carefully planning out a 12-acre campus focused on being a model of sustainable development. Courtesy of Kilograph 2012

An opportunity to build a campus in the heart of New York City doesn’t come along often. But on the southern end of Roosevelt Island, administrators with Cornell University are carefully planning out a 12-acre campus focused on educating the next generation of students to conduct cutting-edge research on a living model of sustainable development.

The Cornell NYC Tech campus will be built out in several phases, with groundbreaking for the first phase slated for 2014. Part of the first phase will be a four-story, 150,000-square-foot academic facility that will be the flagship building for the campus. The first academic building is being designed to be high performing and very energy efficient. On-site renewable energy is being studied to determine the feasibility of making it net-zero energy.

“We had an opportunity with a whole new campus to figure out a plan to make our first net-zero academic building,” said Robert R. Bland, senior director for energy and sustainability with Cornell University. “We’ve had quite a bit of input from NREL, and my visit to the RSF showed me the opportunities to be deeply energy efficient. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is partnering with us and contributing funding to the design effort.”

The first academic building will use multiple approaches for achieving energy efficiency, including photovoltaics and geothermal. When complete, Cornell NYC Tech will include approximately 2 million square feet of academic, residential, and corporate research and development space and will house more than 2,000 graduate students along with faculty and staff.

But even more exciting than the opportunity to create a sustainable campus is the opportunity to educate and guide students at the university. “We would like to make this a living laboratory for graduate students to research and advance our academic mission in the built environment,” Bland said. “We want to make it inspirational and educational.”

Already, seven teams of students are involved in the campus planning and design. In the future, the buildings will be studied with intensive energy modeling and monitoring. “We’ll do real-time monitoring, and we intend to create a smart microgrid on campus,” Bland added. “It’s really exciting to be able to work on a new academic model.”

All these examples mean Pless sees a road to success for high performance buildings — and fewer days as a tour guide for the RSF.

“I’m excited to see the industry start to pick this up and run with it, without us being actively involved in each project,” Pless said. “When I no longer have to answer calls about projects or give tours, I’ll know that we’ve succeeded.”

Learn more about the Research Support Facility and NREL’s Commercials Buildings work.

— Heather Lammers

How NREL Influences New High Performance Buildings 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.

HUGE: V3Solar Spin Cell = 8 Cents/kWh (CleanTechnica Exclusive)

Posted: 24 Jan 2013 02:04 PM PST

Quite frankly, if the company’s numbers are correct, this could be the biggest solar news of the decade, or even a greater timespan. (And CleanTechnica got the inside scoop — due to our sincere passion for helping the world, and probably also our status as the top cleantech or clean energy site in the world.)

As a quick refresher, we’ve covered V3Solar before, back when the name was Solarphasec. See: Solarphasec — Solar Power Meets Art (I think that includes a good intro of the tech, as well as an exclusive, real-world photo of an early version of a V3Solar cone or “Spin Cell.”)

But a simple intro of the tech isn’t the groundbreaking story of the day (that’s old news) — the story of the day is the tremendously low cost of the tech, and that’s what could change the world; that’s what could stimulate a more transformative distributed energy revolution than anything we’ve seen to date.

Am I hopeful? Yes. In case you aren’t aware, the average cost of electricity in the US is about 12 cents per kWh. The median cost of electricity from solar PV in the US is about 28 cents per kWh. The cost of V3Solar’s Spin Cell, as noted in the title (and based on tests that the company considers to actually be conservative — meaning the cost could actually be lower), was quoted to me as being 8 cents per kWh! Bill Rever, a very well qualified 3rd party solar specialist has apparently verified the cost projection. You can see his full technical review here.

When I received this information and was astounded at the low price, my source wrote: “Yes. We are excited. We think we can go below that, but we want to stay conservative.”

So, 8¢/kWh is two-thirds the price of retail electricity, and over 3 times cheaper than current solar technology. If the cost projection is true, that’s astounding, and revolutionary. (Notes: the 8¢/kWh figure is LCOE; and the BOM cost is 59 cents/Wp, including racking, tracking, and the inverter.)

Here’s an chart showing how the Spin Cell would compete with other energy technologies:

Am I cautious? Yes. Until a new technology is on the market, I’m always cautious. And I’m no solar scientist or engineer. A production prototype is still in development, and a low-volume production phase would follow that before advancing on to the mass-market production phase. A lot can change between the lab, the manufacturing floor, and the Home Depot shelf. I have no capability of saying if it will or not. But let’s not forget that we’ve put a man on the moon, we’ve now got a world of information in our computers and even on our phones, we can talk to people across the world via tiny microphones and can receives tweets from astronauts out in space, we can play video games with almost real-life visuals, and more. Changes happen. Technology advances. Every “breakthrough” doesn’t translate into a commercial product, but some do. We’ll simply have to wait to see if this is one of those technologies.

V3Solar’s Spin Cell

I shared a link above to a good overview of the technology, but if you’re not the type to click through on links, or simply want a bit more info, here’s another summary based on info from a “corporate overview” that was passed on to me:

Revolutionizing Solar

I think everyone can now picture a conventional solar panel. But a phone 20 years ago certainly didn’t look like a phone today. And solar technology today may look nothing like solar technology in 20 years. And if V3Solar’s technology is anything close to as cheap as presented above, there’s a good chance solar installations will soon look much different.

“V3Solar has invented, and is now in the process of commercializing, the first major change to flat panel PV technology in over 50 years – the V3 Spin Cell. For too long, the world believed solar was flat,” V3Solar writes.

“Using specialized lensing and a rotating, conical shape, the Spin Cell can concentrate the sunlight 30X onto one sun mono PV with no heat degradation. This increases the Power Density while lowering the Total Cost of Ownership and Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE), which is estimated to be $.08/kWh for the Spin Cell (see spreadsheet).”


Here’s more on this in a bit simpler language and more detail:

  1. Concentrated light reduces the amount of PV by a factor of the amount of concentration – 30X sun concentration requires 1/30th of the PV for the same power output.
  2. Dynamic Spin cools the PV so that one sun mono PV can handle a concentration of more than 30X suns.
  3. The dynamic spin increases the efficiency of the PV by 20%, effectively increasing 20% efficient PV to 24% efficiency.
  4. Spinning the PV under multiple lenses creates "an additive" effect of sunlight.

“The Spin Cell does have additional BOM costs for the magnets, the power electronics and the form factor, but these costs are mitigated by the increased production through integrated tracking, inverter, and racking.
 Bottom line is the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE). The company contracted with Bill Rever to complete a 3rd party technical analysis on the V3Solar technology and to verify all of the numbers for the LCOE.”

A second product based on the same technology, called CoolSpin, integrates with existing concentrated photovoltaics (CPV), but it lowers their material costs by 34%, because it addresses CPV’s key shortcoming.

“Being able to use the abundant and cheap one sun mono PV is a significant market advantage. Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) has been forced to rely on expensive, exotic, and scarce materials to handle the increased heat, costing up to 400X more.
Using less PV for the same power output is significant because the cost of the lensing material is 1/10th the cost of one sun mono PV.”

CoolSpin is a simpler product to design and manufacture and the company expects it will be in full production by the middle of 2013. You can read about Cool Spin on the V3Solar website.

Here are some more charts and tables on the above information:

Here is a slide from the company's investment deck that explains how the automated manufacturing will work:

Preparing For Manufacturing & Mass Market

“The Spin Cell is currently undergoing refinement and cost analysis at NectarDesign.com, a Californian based industrial design house, as a precursor to commercial production. The Company is also engaged in negotiations with potential licensees in both the United States and abroad for high volume manufacturing of the Spin Cell.”

Through partnerships with manufacturers and major solar companies, and their specific licensing model, V3Solar is looking to get its Spin Cell to mass market quickly.

Notably, I also learned from my contact that V3Solar already has over 4 GW of requests for orders. To put that into perspective, the US currently has about 7 GW of installed solar power capacity. 4 GW is impressive! Again, we’ll see what happens after the prototype test, but it’s clear that a handful of big players are interested in this.

As one example of a potential order, a group specializing in military projects has signed a deal with V3Solar to develop 1000 Mobile Energy Production systems for the US Army, at $500K each. For this project, the Spin Cell would be integrated with the batteries of a major multi-national corporation (I can’t share the name, but they are huge). The batteries and Spin Cells will be held in shipping containers for transport, which will then open up like a flower upon arrival to cheaply produce clean energy. This will not only save money, but will also reduce supply-line casualties. A similar system is being developed for disaster relief.

The Mission

In a nutshell, here’s the company mission: “A new spin on solar to capture 3% of the energy market with a licensing model that eliminates CAPEX costs, mitigates risk, and diversifies production.”

Again, to put “3% of the energy market” into perspective, all solar power installed in the US to date currently accounts for about 0.5-1% of the energy market — V3Solar has some ambitious targets, and it plans to hit those through cooperation and partnerships that are good for the average citizen.

Spin Cell Benefits

In summary, here’s a list of the technology’s key benefits, according to the company:

  • Dual axis tracking from conical design
  • Increased Power Density
  • Lower Total Cost of Ownership
  • "Power Stair casing" — as the PV spins past multiple lenses, an additive effect of sunlight is created – a first for any solar device.
  • Integrated racking and ease of installation
  • Through the concentration of sunlight, the Spin Cell uses only 5% of the amount of PV as flat panels to produce the same power, thus reducing the cost/watt.

“The Spin Cell does have additional BOM costs for the magnets, the power electronics and the form factor, but these costs are mitigated by the increased production through integrated tracking, inverter, and racking. Bottom line is the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE).”

There’s a lot more to write about the company and the technology, but I think I’ll leave it at that for now. 8¢ per kWh would be astounding, and combined with some progressive goals the company has, we may genuinely see it transform the energy industry.

Comments or questions? Drop us a note!

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All images via V3Solar

HUGE: V3Solar Spin Cell = 8 Cents/kWh (CleanTechnica Exclusive) 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.

Washington DC Once Again Leads America In LEED Certifications

Posted: 24 Jan 2013 09:32 AM PST

Washington, DC might not be the place to look for an efficient Congress, but it's definitely the place to find efficient buildings. 

The metro DC region once again leads the entire country in per capita new LEED certification for buildings, according to the US Green Building Council (USGBC). The per-capita ranking is based on 2010 US Census data and includes commercial and institutional buildings certified through the LEED program in 2012. 

Washington, DC itself is home to 22,246,445 square feet of LEED-certified space, which averages out to 36.97 square feet per resident. While DC does have significant advantages like a small resident population and large number of federal buildings, its per-capita amount is an amazing 10 times higher than the USGBC list’s runner-up. 

DC’s Spillover Effects In Neighboring States

The federal government's green building efforts also helped push DC's neighboring states into the top ten. Virginia, led by the Northern Virginia suburbs, jumped up two spots from the 2011 per-capita LEED rankings to place second overall. 

Virginia was also the top per-capita state with 29,709,574 square feet, an average of 3.71 square feet per resident. Maryland held firm from 2011 and ranked sixth overall with 10,954,324 newly certified square feet, an average of 1.9 square feet per resident. 

Overall State Leaders Need Some Love, Too

While per-capita rankings do show green building leadership, they also tend to penalize some of the larger US states who have certified massive amounts of square footage. California led all states with 54,252,993 newly certified square feet, but only ranked 9th overall with 1.46 per capita square feet. 

The same trend is visible in Texas and New York, which ranked second and third overall with 36,017,979 and 34,378,286 certified square feet, but only placed 10th and 7th respectively with 1.43 and 1.77 per capita square feet. 

Regardless, the 2012 USGBC rankings underscore the significant trend toward green building. "Securing a spot on this list is a remarkable achievement for everyone involved in the green building movement in these states," said Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair of USGBC. 

Retrofits Outpacing New Construction

A notable trend of efficiency retrofits has become apparent. LEED for Existing Buildings accounted for 53% of total square footage certified in the US, while LEED for New Construction only represented 32% of all certifications.

Approximately 2.2 billion square feet across 15,000 commercial projects have been certified through LEED worldwide through 2012, and more than 35,000 additional projects totaling 10.3 billion square feet of space are currently in the certification process pipeline. Roughly 123,000 additional residential units have also been certified under the program.

Washington DC Once Again Leads America In LEED Certifications 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.

North America’s Largest Wind Energy Storage Facility Fires Up In Texas

Posted: 24 Jan 2013 05:48 AM PST

Where else to site the nation’s biggest wind energy storage facility but in Texas, the state known for its extra bigness? Duke Energy has fired up the new 36 megawatt energy storage and management facility, which is linked to the Notrees Windpower wind farm in the western part of the state. Aside from showcasing some nifty new energy management bells and whistles, the new storage facility blows a Texas-sized raspberry in the direction of renewable energy nay-sayers, whose complaints about the “unreliable” nature of wind power are now, well, blowing in the wind.

Texas gets largest wind energy storage facility in North America

We Built This Gigantic Wind Energy Storage System!

The new facility was commissioned by North Carolina-based Duke, through its Duke Energy Renewables division. It was the recipient of one of the early publicly funded energy projects approved under the Obama Administration’s Recovery Act in 2009, with Duke matching a $22 million grant from the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E advanced energy research funding arm.

For its investment, the U.S. taxpaying public gets to use the new system as a knowledge base leading to widespread adoption throughout the national grid, firmly cementing clean, renewable, low cost wind power into the mainstream of the U.S. energy landscape.

Other partners in the effort include the Electric Power Research Institute, which will analyze the system’s performance and assess its potential for broader application, and the Energy Reliability Council of Texas, which is working with Duke Energy to optimize the system’s ability to increase or decrease the frequency of electricity traveling through the grid.

Small Batteries for Big Energy Storage

The storage system itself was engineered by the Texas-based company  Xtreme Power, which counts the Bloomberg 2012 New Energy Pioneer Award and an R&D 100 Award among its recognitions.

Xtreme’s Dynamic Power Resource™ energy storage system is already in use elsewhere in the U.S., one example being a 15 megawatt system for the Kahuku Wind project in Hawaii which previously held the title of North America’s largest when it went online in 2011.

The system consists of a scalable assembly of thousands of Xtreme Power’s PowerCell battery, which is a a 12 volt, 1 kWh, dry cell battery based on a proprietary formula of alloys including copper, lead and tellurium.

The system stores energy like a conventional battery but it also has the quick “stop-and-go” capabilities of a capacitor, and that enables it to function as a high performance energy management system as well as a storage system.

Among other advantages, Xtreme Power notes that the materials in the PowerCell are not classified as hazardous and are easily recycled, for which purpose the company has established a recovery system.

Many Paths to Renewable Energy Storage

Battery-based storage systems are just one avenue of exploration for renewable energy storage. Among the other up-and-coming options is the flywheel, updated from its Neolithic roots with high-tech materials and space-age lubricants.

Pumped hydro energy storage is another promising resource, in which excess wind power is used to pump water uphill, then gravity takes over when more energy is needed.

Along similar lines, researchers at the University of Nottingham are looking into inflating giant undersea bags with compressed air, by using excess power from offshore wind farms. When more energy is needed, water pressure from the sea will force air out of the bags to run turbines.

Meanwhile, researchers at the North Carolina State University are working on semiconductor “nanoflowers” with an enormous surface area relative to their size, which could lead to the development of cheaper, more efficient lithium-ion batteries.

Speaking of the Biggest…

Duke’s recent merger with Progress Energy has made it the largest utility company in the U.S., so this looks to be just the beginning of its impact on future energy generation, storage and distribution nationwide.

The company has been making headlines lately for a variety of reasons, not all of them necessarily positive, but we’ve also taken notice of the company’s leadership position on renewable energy.


Aside from wind power, Duke has been in the vanguard of new distributed solar power systems, and last fall former CEO Jim Rogers went out on a limb to make a clean energy case for the re-election of President Obama.

Duke is also involved in an electric vehicle research partnership with the Department of Energy, Ford and Siemens, and it has formed clean tech partnerships with energy companies in China.

Image (cropped): Raspberry by Muffet

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

North America’s Largest Wind Energy Storage Facility Fires Up In Texas 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.

Hypermiling — Doin’ It Yet?

Posted: 24 Jan 2013 04:30 AM PST

We’ve featured hypermiling and hypermilers once or twice over the years (well, actually, just once as far as I can tell). Upon reflection, I think we should really give this topic a bit more attention. Luckily, sister site sustainablog just had a story on hypermiling, and we can re-start our hypermiling coverage with a repost of that piece. Here it is:



Hypermiling: the (Not So) Crazy Things Some Will Do for Better Gas Mileage (via sustainablog)

Hypermiling is a relatively recent term––one that has only been around since the early 2000s––focused on finding ways to squeeze the maximum fuel efficiency out of vehicles, provoked by rising fuel costs and environmental concerns. It combines methods first developed during WWII petrol rationing…



Hypermiling — Doin’ It Yet? 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.

Electric Motorcycle Travels Around The World In 80 Days For $400!

Posted: 24 Jan 2013 02:00 AM PST

An electric motorcycle recently traveled around the world in 80 days for only $400.

It is called a Zerotracer and is powered by lithium-polymer batteries and a Brusa electric motor. Lithium-polymer batteries are a member of the lithium-ion battery family and they happen to be particularly energy dense, as well as powerful.

Electric Zerotracer Motorcycle.
Photo Credit: Inhabitat

Energy density, for the uninitiated, is energy storage per kg of batteries, and power refers to how quickly they can discharge their energy. The faster they can discharge, the greater the burst of power they can provide to the motor(s). Lithium-polymer batteries also last longer than average.

This electric motorcycle’s batteries can be recharged in two hours using a 240-volt power outlet, and in 6 hours using a 120-volt one, and can power the vehicle for 250 km (155 miles) per charge.

The charge time of the batteries has a profound impact on how far electric vehicles can travel, due to the fact that, if you can charge quickly enough — in less than 15 minutes, for example — you can easily keep recharging along the way until you reach your destination, even if it is hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

This is why charge time should be an even bigger priority than battery energy density. Short range batteries can take you very far if you can recharge them quickly enough.

Typical batteries take several hours to charge, so you can’t keep stopping for several hours to charge during an already long trip.

This electric bike is equipped with a heater, two wheels for propulsion, and two tiny stabilizing wheels which extend out of the sides of the vehicle to keep it upright when in a state of rest.

Source: Inhabitat

Electric Motorcycle Travels Around The World In 80 Days For $400! 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.

Renewable Energy Revolution: Declining Costs, Surging Capacity

Posted: 24 Jan 2013 01:00 AM PST

The renewable energy revolution is under way. Renewable power generation now accounts for around 50% of all new power generation capacity installed worldwide.

The combination of rapid deployment and high learning rates for technology "has produced a virtuous circle that is leading to significant cost declines and is helping fuel a renewable revolution," according to a new global study of renewable power generation costs in 2012 produced by IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, which announced it is establishing its global headquarters in the United Arab Emirates during last week’s Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

Additions to global wind power generation capacity totalled 41 gigawatts (GW) in 2011, according to IRENA’s "Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2012: An Overview." That’s in addition to 30 GW of new solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation capacity, 25 GW of hydro power, 6 GW of biomass, 0.5 GW of concentrated solar power (CSP), and 0.1 GW of new geothermal power capacity.

"Renewable technologies are now the most economic solution for new capacity in an increasing number of countries and regions," IRENA concluded upon analyzing the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) among the some 8,000 renewable power projects in its database and related literature.

IRENA: “Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2012: An Overview”

According to the IRENA report authors:

"Where oil-fired generation is the predominant power generation source (e.g. on islands, off-grid and in some countries) a lower-cost renewable solution almost always exists today.

"Renewables are also increasingly the most economic solution for new grid-connected capacity where good resources are available. As the cost of renewable power drops, the scope of economically viable applications will increase even further."

Rapid Deployment + Fast Rates of Learning = Levelized Cost Reductions

The combination of rapid deployment, high rates of learning, and supportive government policy is helping drive a sharp fall in prices for crystalline silicon (c-Si) PV panel prices. The "learning rate" is the percentage reduction in installation cost for every doubling of cumulative installed power generation capacity.

Noting that average prices for Chinese PV modules have fallen more than 65% in the last two years to under $0.75/watt as of September 2012, the IRENA report authors conclude that rapid growth and the emergence of supply chains and markets for renewable energy globally has resulted in competitive markets for renewable energy technology.

By and large, seven major components determine the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for renewable power generation technologies:

  • resource quality;
  • equipment cost and performance (including capacity factor);
  • the balance of project costs;
  • fuel (if any);
  • operations and maintenance costs (and reliability);
  • economic life of the project; and
  • the cost of capital.

IRENA’s analysts emphasize that while calculating a single global LCOE for the wide variety of renewable energy systems being deployed today offers a general indication of cost trends, attempts to to do so entail making numerous substantive, generalized assumptions and somewhat arbitrary choices regarding inputs that can substantially alter results. Hence, they are not only generalized and abstract, they are prone to be outdated even at the time of publication.

For instance, "It is important to note that distributed renewable technologies, such as rooftop solar PV and small wind, can't be directly compared to large utility-scale solutions where transmission and distribution costs of USD 0.05 to USD 0.15/kWh must be added to the total costs," they write in the report.

More generally, "The costs of renewables are very site specific, and resources are distributed unevenly across regions, countries and within a country. There is therefore no single ‘true’ LCOE value for each renewable power generation technology. It is thus vital to collect national data to analyze renewable power generation costs and potentials."

Renewable Power LCOEs

All that said, looking at LCOE among particular segments of the renewable energy sector, IRENA analysts found that depending on location and assuming a uniform 10% cost of capital:

  • the weighted average LCOE for new small hydro power project is between $0.032 and $0.07 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and between $0.03 and $0.06/kWh for large hydro power installations;
  • the weighted average LCOE for new biomass power generation capacity among non-OECD countries varies between $0.05-$0.06/kWh;
  • the weighted average LCOE for geothermal by region varies from $0.05 and $0.09/kWh;
  • that for onshore wind varies between $0.08-$0.12/kWh;
  • that for utility-scale solar PV is between $0.15-$0.31/kWh; and
  • that for CSP by region varies from $0.22-$0.25/kWh.

Forecasting ongoing declines in equipment costs across the range of renewable energy technology, the report authors go on to focus on the growing share of so-called "soft costs" – those in addition to equipment costs, such as permitting, installation, operations, and maintenance – in the overall cost of deploying renewable power systems, and the need to drive these balance-of-system (BOS) costs lower as rapidly as possible.

"As equipment costs decline, the share of balance of project costs and operations and maintenance costs in the LCOE will increase unless increased efforts are made to accelerate their decline as well."

Driving BOS costs lower will drive ongoing reductions in the total cost of installing new renewable power capacity, they note. Singling out solar PV system costs, "The range for LCOE of solar PV systems will decline more slowly in absolute terms than in the past, given that module prices have fallen so far.”

“However markets which have higher than average cost structures for BoS today could see dramatic cost reductions in installed prices by 2020, lowering the weighted average costs significantly," they conclude.

“As equipment costs drop, the importance of the balance of project, or balance of system (BoS), and operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, and the cost of capital increases.For instance, BoS costs in the United States have not declined as fast as in more competitive markets, meaning that the average installed price for residential PV systems were more than twice as expensive as in Germany in the second quarter of 2012.”

“This is particularly true for smaller systems,” they point out. “For residential PV systems, BoS costs (including installation) can account for 60% to 80% of the total project cost.”

“Non-equipment costs are also higher in developing countries where transmission lines and roads must be built as part of the project. The share of the BoS or balance of project costs and the importance of O&M costs, indicate the order of magnitude of the opportunities for local content and value added, that may help meet local social and economic development goals.”

“In contrast, O&M costs for wind in most major European markets are typically twice as high as in the United States. These issues merit much more analysis and policy attention than they receive today in order to prevent a slowing in the rate of reduction in the LCOE of renewables.”

Renewable Energy Technologies: Cost Reduction and Access to Affordable Financing

IRENA report authors see CSP, solar PV, and wind power as having the greatest potential for further cost reductions. Ongoing cost reduction potential is less for hydro power, which is both mature and limited in terms of geographic suitability and availability. The same can be said of geothermal and biomass combustion technologies, according to the report authors.

Access to affordable financing is another essential factor in the drive towards ongoing renewable energy growth. To this point, access to affordable financing is not yet the norm globally, IRENA report authors find.

"In new markets for renewables, special attention needs to be paid to ensure the regulatory and investment framework is favorable and that projects can access funds in the initial growth phase of the market. Once banks and other local financing sources have experience with new technologies in their markets, financing should, but may not be necessarily always, then be easier to access on favorable terms."

Renewable Energy Revolution: Declining Costs, Surging Capacity 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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