Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

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Race to Break Solar Cell Efficiency Record Heats Up with New $12 Million Grant

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 10:01 AM PST

The U.S. Department of Energy has just added another $12 million to an existing $35.8 million grant program aimed at producing the next generation of record-breaking solar cells that get closer to the theoretical maximum efficiency of about 30 percent. That goalpost was established back in 1961 and solar researchers have been chasing it ever since, but according to DOE a “sizable gap” still separates the current state of the technology from its best potential.

The grant program, called Foundational Program to Advance Cell Efficiency II (FPACEII) will cover a range of technologies including silicon-based and thin film solar cells.

DOE grants $12 million for record breaking solar cell efficiency

The Limits of Solar Cell Efficiency

If you’re new to this topic and googling around, you’re going to see all kinds of numbers being tossed about, so it’s helpful to keep in mind that the FPACE grant program is focused on improving the ability of single-junction solar cells to convert sunlight into electricity.

Loosely speaking, single-junction refers to a solar cell made from one layer of material, typically silicon. Multi-junction cells are made with layers of different materials. They can achieve conversion efficiencies up in the 80 percent range but generally involve greater costs.

The Energy Department’s figure of “about 30 percent” for maximum conversion efficiency refers to silicon solar cells. Overall, the researchers who developed the theory (William Shockley and Hans Queisser) describe a best-case scenario of 33.7 percent.

Solar Cell Efficiency and the SunShot Initiative

FPACE II is part of President Obama’s SunShot initiative, which launched in 2011 with the aim of funding critical research to bring the cost of solar power down to parity with fossil fuels.

Aside from improving the efficiency of solar cells, SunShot is also designed to keep the U.S. in the vanguard of the international race to bring down the “soft costs” of solar power.

Soft costs include permits, inspections, installation and grid connections, which can account for about half the final cost of a typical installation. SunShot’s efforts in this area include  developing models for affordable rooftop solar installations that can be replicated by the thousands.

We Are Building this Record Breaking Solar Cell Efficiency!

The first round of the program, FPACEI, kicked off in 2011 with $35.8 million in grants for 18 separate solar cell research projects, partnering the Energy Department with the National Science Foundation.

The goal was to push new technologies out of the lab and into the factory by developing more efficient solar cell designs, using cheaper materials and integrating mass production efficiencies into the research process.

For example, one grant went to a Texas-based company called Astro Watt, which is working on an ultra-thin, large-area crystalline silicon cell that could be produced in modules for 50 cents per Watt or in cells alone for 30 cents per Watt.

Another piece of the pie went to the University of Colorado, for a project to improve the efficiency of current cadmium telluride solar cell technology without causing manufacturing costs to go up.

The biggest single chunk ($6,240,942) went to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and industry partners for a low cost thin-film solar cell project based on copper indium gallium diselenide, aka CIGS.

If CIGS rings a bell, you may be thinking of a new conversion record for CIGS set by a Swiss research team, which was just announced last week at 20.4 percent.

NREL’s goal for its project is only 16 percent, which sounds excessively modest except when you consider the integrated position of manufacturing in the FPACE program. The Swiss achieved their mark in the laboratory, which is all well and good but NREL’s goal applies to the final result when the cells roll off a commercial assembly line.

Another two projects worth highlighting involve developing low cost, laser-based manufacturing methods for silicon solar cells, with a total of almost $8 million split between Oregon-based Solar World Industries America (the largest solar company in the U.S.) and a team spearheaded by the University of Delaware


As for PFACEII, this round of funding is more specifically focused on developing model single-junction systems that “have the potential to approach Shockley-Queisser power conversion efficiency limits.”

If the grants bear fruit, when integrated with the manufacturing improvements under PFACEI, that will be a killer combination.

Stay tuned: the application deadline for PFACEII is April 28.

Image (cropped): Solar panels by kewl

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

 

 

 

Race to Break Solar Cell Efficiency Record Heats Up with New $12 Million Grant 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.

Chile Adding 2.2 GW Of New Solar Power Capacity

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 08:39 AM PST

Chile is aiming to add about 2.2 GW of new solar power installations to its grid within the next 15 years, according to a newly released plan.

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In the 125-page report, the National Energy Commission (CNE) states that investment in solar energy in the northern electricity transmission system will be equivalent to the price of coal power (at US$2,500 per kW), and that in the central electricity system, solar will be only slightly more expensive. Of course, these prices don’t include the health and climate costs of coal, which, in a perfect world, they would.

The report “lists 13 solar plants with a combined capacity of 1.5 GW that are expected to come online on SING up to 2028.”

As the report states, the 100MW-scale Sol De Lua and Crucero 1 plants are due to come online in 2014, and be followed in 2015 by the 50MW Arica 1 and 100MW Crucero 2.

“In 2016, the 50 MW Arica 2 and 100 MW Pozo Almonte 1 will start production, followed by the 100 MW-sized Crucero 3 and Laguna 2 in 2018 and the similarly sized Pozo Almonte 2 in 2019.”


 
Then, they will be followed by the Solar Sing 1 and Solar Sing 2 in 2026 and Solar Sing 3 in 2028, each of which will be 200 MW.

“Eight more plants totalling 700 MW are slated for development on the SIC network, including the 100 MW Sol de Almagro 1, Inca de Oro 1 and Carrera Pinto 1 (in 2018) and the 50 MW Sol de Vallenar 1 (in 2018 or 2019). The remaining four plants – the 100 MW Sol de Almagro 1, Inca de Oro 2 and Carrera Pinto 2 and the 50 MW Sol de Vallenar 2 – will be developed in the next decade up to 2027.”

Chile is continuing to move forward in its transition to becoming a clean energy giant in the region. Just earlier this month, it approved over 3.1 GW of new solar power projects. With the enormous solar power potential in the region, the country could easily receive all of its energy needs solely from solar power.

Source: PV Magazine
Image Credits: Solarpraxis

Chile Adding 2.2 GW Of New Solar Power 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.

Cargo Bikes Taking Over Where Ice Cream Trucks Left Off

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 08:35 AM PST

With a strong bicycle culture starting to emerge around the world, bikes are starting to replace other vehicles for a wide variety of purposes. You can now count ice cream trucks among those. Cargo bikes are the perfect fit for this kind of mobile, small-scale business.

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In all likelihood, switching from a gas-powered vehicle to a bike cuts down on costs greatly, while allowing easy access to many areas that larger vehicles simply can’t get to.

Of course, freight bikes are nothing new — before automobiles became the dominant mode of transport in much of the world, many services were provided via bike. Postal service, milk delivery, bread delivery, and fresh meat delivery, being some of the most common.

While they largely fell out of use in the United States, they remained some degree of use in some parts of Europe and elsewhere. And during the last decade or so, they have been experiencing something of a resurgence in use in many parts of the world, as ecologically minded businesses, and those looking to cut down on their costs, have become interested in them.

Source and Image: Copenhagenize

Cargo Bikes Taking Over Where Ice Cream Trucks Left Off 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.

Organic Solar Cells Receiving Big Boost In Efficiency Thanks To ‘Evolution-Inspired’ Algorithm

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 08:32 AM PST

In a potentially breakthrough discovery, researchers at Northwestern University have designed a new type of organic solar cell that will very likely lead to much higher efficiency and cheaper solar power.

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The new cell design is based around a new geometrical pattern to be used in the ‘scattering layer’ of a solar cell, which works to keep the light trapped in the cell for longer.

The specific geometrical pattern was obtained by using a mathematical search algorithm modeled on natural evolution to identify the optimal design “for capturing and holding light in thin-cell organic solar cells.”


 
“The resulting design exhibited a three-fold increase over the Yablonovitch Limit, a thermodynamic limit developed in the 1980s that statistically describes how long a photon can be trapped in a semiconductor.”

According to the researchers, the new design will greatly increase the efficiency of organic solar cells.

It’s currently planned for solar cells, with the pattern in question to be fabricated with partners at Argonne National Laboratory.

Source: Northwestern University
Image Credits: Northwestern University

Organic Solar Cells Receiving Big Boost In Efficiency Thanks To ‘Evolution-Inspired’ Algorithm 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 I Believe Obama On Climate

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 07:00 AM PST

I almost never use the same title as original posts when I repost, but there’s not a better fit for this one. Enjoy this thoughtful repost by Peter Sinclair (of Climate Denial Crock of the Week fame):

"I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it." – attributed to Franklin Roosevelt

Call me a sap. I believe Obama.

Like just about everyone reading this, I've been more than disappointed at the opportunities squandered in the past 4 years.

In retrospect, it would have been smarter for Obama to prioritize climate rather than health care early in his administration. But no one predicted the virulent racist wave that the Republican party enthusiastically whipped up, and the opposition's willingness, in a national crisis, to kill off green shoots of recovery rather than allow any progress a "socialist Kenyan" could take credit for.

In the face of highly successful disinformation campaign based around stolen and cherry picked emails, and back to back seasons of unusually fierce winter weather in a double dip La Nina, I think the President's team looked at the polling and the filibuster-driven stonewall in congress, and opted for a stealth strategy on climate, based on encouraging low carbon solutions.  I believe we've already begun, and will continue to see, positive results from Recovery Act investments in renewable technology and infrastructure.

Sure, I would have liked it if he'd campaigned more visibly on the climate issue.  I get it that, in the campaign calculus, the coal fields of Western Pennsylvania and southeastern Ohio were double weighted. The President and his team gauged, accurately it turns out, that, like it or not, the issue was not taken seriously by the mainstream media, who continued until Superstorm Sandy's landfall to define The Most Important Issue of the Millennium as a sideshow for "climate people."

Given the fear, that I shared, of the  terrible consequences of a Tea Party presidency, and worse, a Tea Party Supreme Court, I can understand the decision to soft pedal the issue, and send mushy signals on the Keystone pipeline – to avoid giving traction and talking points to the Fox News crowd in the face of an imploding Republican candidate.

Meanwhile, in the background, public opinion slowly evolved. Pounded by a steady barrage of extreme events, cold, hot, wet, dry, – the message of climate change began to sink in – and the unsettling awareness that extremes of all sorts were now the new normal, brought on by anthropogenic changes to the atmosphere. A prominent denier told me candidly that what he feared most was public reaction to extreme events – and those events have just kept on coming.

 

Obama didn't have to take this on. His position in history is secure, and he doesn't have to worry about his life in post presidency.

He could have ticked off environment, giving it a perfunctory sentence or two among all the others, and not bet his reputation in history on this long shot. Yet, he devoted a stunning and clear paragraph in the middle of the speech to the climate issue.

The prominence was not lost on younger observers like MSNBC poll expert and not-particularly-climate-savvy Chuck Todd, who expressed an immediate surprised reaction to the force of the declaration.

Watch the video at the top of the page, though, and see the contrast between a stodgy, old-guard and still-not-getting-it Sam Donaldson, who ticked off everything in the speech except the stunning climate passage, till prompted by the much younger and climate-literate Dan Harris. (skip to 4:40 to see that exchange, but worth listening to Donaldson's climate-tonedeaf analysis first)

The President's confident, even steely, throw down on the climate issue showed that there is a consensus even among his overly cautious inner circle that the nation has turned the corner on this issue, and will not go back, and that making this a centerpiece, maybe the centerpiece, of his second term agenda is not only the most important, but politically, and historically, the smartest course this whip-smart, and now veteran, DC savvy, President can make.

If he approves the Keystone pipeline in coming months, I'm well aware I'll have to revisit and perhaps eat these words.
But I have kids.
I have to believe that, with a critical mass of a newly awakened citizenry at his back, the President can and will do what he says.

One thing's for sure. He won't be able to do it unless we stop taking sour cheap shots, get behind him and push like our planet depended on it.

Why I Believe Obama On Climate 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.

Community Energy Storage Installed In North York, Canada

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 02:00 AM PST

A community energy storage (CES) system has been installed in North York, in Toronto, Canada.

Power outage in Savannah.
Photo Credit: Dave Hale on Flickr

It is a delight to write about community energy projects, as they bring money to local communities, and sometimes employment. This one provides direct backup (as opposed to power station backup) and facilitates a reliable supply of electricity right there in North York.

This project will improve the reliability of Toronto’s electricity grid for multiple reasons:

It can provide North York with power during power plant interruptions, and also store surplus electricity generated at night, then use that to provide electricity to augment electricity supply during times of peak electricity demand, which are usually in the afternoon.

This 500 kW energy storage system can also back up wind and solar plants, either with electricity from fossil-fuel or wind/solar power plants. It is also compact, just a little bigger than a typical Toronto Hydro transformer.

With the use of energy storage, solar and wind energy can be supplied in a completely stable and reliable manner.

Due to the fact that Toronto’s electricity transmission infrastructure is ageing — as most of it was built in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s — it is being outgrown by the city.

This project was developed and unveiled by a consortium led by eCAMION Inc. with Toronto Hydro, the University of Toronto, and Dow Kokam. The project was funded by the  consortium and Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC).

Dow Kokham LLC was the developer of the Lithium-Polymer NMC (nickel manganese cobalt) battery and its chemistry, and the University of Toronto is managing the CPPM (control, protection and power management) system and developing the algorithm that will integrate the system’s “brains”.

Source: Electric Light and Power

Community Energy Storage Installed In North York, Canada 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.

H&M and Brick Lane Bikes Collaborate On Menswear Collection

Posted: 26 Jan 2013 01:00 AM PST

Cycling is getting cooler and more respected (aside from the whole Lance Armstrong debacle). From NBA superstars to Toronto doctors, integrating biking into everyday life is becoming the norm. And most people wear clothes while they pedal, so H&M has gotten with London’s cycle shop Brick Lane Bikes to create a menswear collection for urban cyclists that will be launched in March.

According to H&M, the 11 piece collection will be available in 180 stores worldwide and online. H&M designer Peter Klusell said the clothing is functional for riding, as well as stylish.

H&M isn’t the first fashion company looking towards green concepts. Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel show in Paris Fashion Week included featured 13 huge wind turbines along the runway.

Making green life and fashion choices is getting easier with increased attention to health and economic benefits, and yet not sacrificing the cool factor.

Source: Cycle Love

H&M and Brick Lane Bikes Collaborate On Menswear Collection 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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