Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Solar PV Crowdfunding Pioneer Mosaic Joins With S&P, Dupont, Others To “Make The Sun Bankable”

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 04:13 PM PST

Retail financial innovation is catching up with technological innovation and government energy policies that are making solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems affordable for a much broader range of the US population. Solar Mosaic made a big splash earlier this month when it announced that the first set of three rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) projects offered up on its crowd funding platform sold out in less than 24 hours.

The Oakland, California–based start-up is wasting no time in seeking to build on the success of the public launch of its innovative online solar energy investment marketplace. Management on January 29 announced that Mosaic is joining with 16 solar industry market leaders (including Standard & Poors, DuPont, TruSolar and others) in order to "make the sun bankable." Together, the partners intend "to standardize risk assessment and develop a score – similar to a credit rating – for each solar project" Solar Mosaic offers up on its crowd funding platform.

Photo Credit: Solar Mosaic

Credit Ratings for Rooftop Solar PV Projects

Qualified individual investors ponied up more than $300,000 of capital in lots ranging from $25 to $30,000 in under 24 hours to fund Mosaic’s first three rooftop solar PV projects. Those investments are expected to generate annual returns of 4.5%, well in excess of the 1.9% yield of comparable 10-year US Treasury notes.

Overall, more than 700 investors have committed more than $1.1 million of capital to finance 12 rooftop solar PV systems via Mosaic’s solar crowdfunding platform. Management intends to add to that tally in short order by opening up additional rooftop solar energy projects directly to the investing public via its online marketplace.

"Mosaic provides a unique way for small investors to reap the same returns that major investors in solar have been enjoying for years while providing the industry with an additional influx of capital," commented Marco Krapels, a 20-year banking industry veteran and Rabobank executive vice president who is joining Mosaic’s Board of Directors. "I look forward to supporting the disciplined development of the Mosaic platform to let all Americans participate in the clean energy economy.”

A new climate change forecast released January 12 projects that global warming will be much worse than had been anticipated just four years ago, with average temperatures surging as much as 9°F higher over the course of the 21st century, according to a report from sister site Red, Green & Blue.

Spurring the transition from fossil fuels towards energy infrastructure based on renewable energy sources is one of the best investments we can make when it comes to mitigating the effects of climate change and conserving ecosystems services, as well boosting employment and economic growth. Rising global temperature and the effects of increasingly frequent and more intense extreme weather events are taking their toll in the US and around the world.

As new Mosaic board member Marco Krapels states in an accompanying video interview, "We’re funding the inevitable. We know this country can be powered by wind, water, and solar."

Solar PV Crowdfunding Pioneer Mosaic Joins With S&P, Dupont, Others To "Make The Sun Bankable" 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.

$9 Million In New DOE Funding For “Big Data” Analytics To Spur Deployment, Reduce Costs Of Solar PV

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 04:04 PM PST

As part of the Obama Administration’s SunShot Initiative, the US Department of Energy (DOE) today (January 30) announced it will invest around $9 million spread across seven projects in six states that entail making use of new "Big Data" analytical tools to accelerate solar energy deployment and realize further reductions in solar energy costs.

The funding will be for research teams in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Texas. The projects "will result in viable methods for dramatically transforming the operations of solar researchers, manufacturers, developers, installers, and policymakers, and speed the commercialization and deployment of affordable, clean solar energy," the DOE stated in a press release.

Harnessing Computational Power to Drive Ongoing Advances in Solar PV

The underlying goal of the DOE’s new $9 million solar energy R&D investment is to "help scientists, project developers, system installers, and communities to work together to discover previously unexplored ways to improve solar cell efficiency, reduce costs, and streamline installation processes."

“Through powerful analytical tools developed by our nation’s top universities and national labs, we can gain unparalleled insight into solar deployment that will help lower the cost of solar power and create new businesses and jobs,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said. “Projects like these will help accelerate technological and financing innovations—making it easier for American families and businesses to access clean, affordable energy.”

In Europe, prices for solar PV panels dropped between 30% and 41% between September 2011 and September 2012, and between 51% and 64% for the two years to end September 2012, according to a recently released report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), sister site Green Building Elements reported, with further reductions out to 2020 anticipated.

The median installed price of residential and commercial PV systems in California dropped between 3% and 7% during the first six months of 2012, following year-over-year reductions of between 11% and 14% in 2011, according to the most recent Department of Energy Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's "Tracking the Sun" report. Overall, installed costs for home solar PV panels for all of 2012 ranged between $1750 and $2500 per kilowatt (kW), or $1.75–$2.50 per watt, according to Renewable Green Energy Power data.

Meanwhile, the amount of solar PV on the grid in the US nearly doubled in 2011, a record year, and quadrupled between 2008 and 2011, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA)’s new survey-based estimate of national solar power capacity.

The DOE aims to spur cost reductions and accelerate deployments further with its latest investments in developing powerful new analytic tools. Seven of the $9 million will go to research teams led by researchers at Sandia National Laboratories, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Yale University, and the University of Texas-Austin. These teams, in turn, will partner with private and public financial organizations, utilities, and state agencies to apply "statistical and computational tools to industry problem-solving and lead regional pilot projects across the country to test the impact and scalability of their innovations," the DOE explains.

Yale University, for instance, will be partnering with SmartPower’s New England Solar Challenge team to design and implement innovative strategies to boost the effectiveness of community bulk solar PV system purchases. Residents of Salt Lake City who signed up to participate in the solar PV system bulk buying program organized as part of the Wasatch Rooftop Solar Challenge have realized savings of 40% on the total installed cost of their rooftop PV systems, according to a recent DOE report.

The University of Texas-Austin research team will work with large, complex sets of data from six Texas utilities to better understand the needs of customers and identify opportunities that streamline PV system installation and interconnection.

In an effort that entails developing a computational model capable of analyzing data across some 1,300 solar installation companies, NREL and Clean Power Finance aim to create new forms of financing vehicles at the community and regional scales.

Examining the vast amount of historical data pertaining to research, development, and deployment of solar energy, the DOE is providing $2 million in funding for three projects led by the University of North Carolina-Charlotte (UNC-Charlotte), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and SRI International. The research teams will "anlayze decades’ of scientific publications, patents, and cost and production data… to obtain a complete picture on the U.S. solar industry, discover methods to accelerate technological breakthroughs, and remove roadblocks to greater cost reduction," the DOE explains.

Supporting this initiative, SRI International will be developing software capable of reading and analyzing thousands of scientific publications and patents. Teams at MIT and the UNC-Charlotte will apply computational tools to such data sets in order to accelerate further cost reductions and better forecast the path of declining costs for new energy technologies.

$9 Million In New DOE Funding For "Big Data" Analytics To Spur Deployment, Reduce Costs Of Solar PV 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.

“Game-Changing” Solar Invention Announced

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 03:29 PM PST

Holographic film used with highly efficient solar cells to create “game-changing” solar panel.

I have seen my share of outstanding solar innovations, such as concentrated solar setups using tiny gallium arsenide cells that achieve an astounding 42% efficiency. However, I’ve been eagerly waiting for an outstanding innovation made from more abundant materials such as silicon.

The main reason is that silicon is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, so it should remain cheap and available as long as needed.

Almost all of the silicon solar panels (aka solar modules) on the market are between 10% and 20% efficient, so it is high time for a module that is both constructed from abundant materials and is much more efficient.

President of Solar Bankers holding the prototype.

The Dresden-based company Apollon GmbH & Co. KG and Solar Bankers LLC, which is based on Arizona, claim that they have developed a new silicon-based solar panel with a holographic foil that is twice as efficient as typical models, and that they are so cheap they can be manufactured in Germany or the USA at a lower cost than factories in China manufacture conventional solar panels.

They said that their solar modules achieve 28% efficiency, which is considerably higher than the average 17% efficiency on the solar module market. They have done so through advanced Concentrated Solar Photovoltaic module development — in particular, the use of light selection, deflection, and concentration. And the companies expect an even better efficiency soon.

"Our solution addresses the major downsides that make today's photovoltaic (PV) technologies unprofitable. These disadvantages arise mainly from the material silicon as well as from efficiency losses, which result e.g. through heat occurring from concentration," declares Jost.

This translates into much lower silicon requirements to generate the same amount of power. The companies note: “Contrary to today's PV modules, this system only needs a fraction of the semiconductor material while the performance per square meter of the module surface is almost twice as high as conventional PV. The module is based on a holographic optic, which is a strong contrast to other concentrator photovoltaic modules using expensive flat lenses (e.g. Fresnel lenses).”

Jost says: "The holographic element is printed on the cover glass and filters the sunlight hitting the solar cell. The printing process allows an economical duplication and simultaneously saves laser and development work, usually necessary when using holographic elements."

Here’s more info from a press release sent to CleanTechnica:

In contrast to other concentrator modules the distance between optic and solar cell is only a few millimeters and filters only the desirable wavelengths of the light. The sunlight is then concentrated on the solar cells. “Thanks to this specific wavelength selection, we avoid overheating issues usually generated by concentrated technologies which are today the source of significant efficiency losses,” explains Jost.

The new module continues to use silicon as the solar cell material.  "With the holographic optic a 20- to 30-times concentration of the desirable wavelengths of the light makes a silicon needs reduction by over 90% compared to the amount of silicon used in standard solar modules possible," explains Jost. "The amount of silicon used in our prototype can be measured in millimeters, reaching barely 3% of the total module area. Since solar cells account for more than half of module prices today, we achieve here considerable savings with comparable or higher efficiency values being possible. The rest of the module can optionally be left empty or be used as a kind of hybrid solar module, for example using solar thermal technology. The combination of both reduced raw material costs and higher efficiency levels is the key to achieve favorable energy generation costs. With our technology grid parity can finally be reached. Soon such solar panels will become standard, affordable household products,” concludes Solar Bankers' President Jost. The objective is to put in place a 300 MW production capacity in the USA or in Germany and create 500 jobs by doing so.

If these companies’ claims are true, then this could also lower the cost of installing solar panels on rooftops, as these would be half the size of typical solar panels, so less labour would be required for installation. This is also very important because installation costs can account for about half of the cost of a solar system.

Now, if someone would just start standardizing their rooftop solar panel sizes and sell them with easy-to-use, pre-made mounting equipment, then we would make some great progress!

Source: MEDIENKONTOR Notification
Photo Credits: Apollon GmbH & Co. KG / Solar Bankers LLC

“Game-Changing” Solar Invention Announced 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.

Video Replay: Home Solar Hangout With 1BOG, Veterans United, & CleanTechnica

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 01:08 PM PST

Here’s a video replay of today’s ‘Home Solar Hangout On Air’ hosted by Veterans United. Dave Llorens of 1BOG and I answered questions about solar power incentives, going solar, and more. Unfortunately, SolarCity couldn’t make it, but I think it was still a very useful chat for a lot of people. Check out the video replay here:

Video Replay: Home Solar Hangout With 1BOG, Veterans United, & CleanTechnica 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.

Super-Efficient Solar Cells Possible Through Use Of Exotic Form Of Silicon, Generating More Than One Electron-Hole Pair Per Photon

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 12:19 PM PST

By utilizing an exotic form of silicon, silicon BC8, it is very likely possible to significantly raise the efficiency of solar cells, according to new research headed by the University of California, Davis.

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Solar cells currently in use generate one electron-hole pair for every photon that hits them, and are capable of a theoretical maximum efficiency of ‘only’ 33%. But by utilizing nano-particles of an exotic form of silicon known as silicon BC8, it is possible for each photon to generate multiple electron-hole pairs.

“This approach is capable of increasing the maximum efficiency to 42%, beyond any solar cell available today, which would be a pretty big deal,” said lead author Stefan Wippermann, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis. “In fact, there is reason to believe that if parabolic mirrors are used to focus the sunlight on such a new-paradigm solar cell, its efficiency could reach as high as 70 percent.”


 
Silicon nano-particles, on their own, are capable of generating more than one electron-hole pair, because of an effect called “quantum confinement.”

“But with nanoparticles of conventional silicon, the paradigm works only in ultraviolet light,” Wippermann said. “This new approach will become useful only when it is demonstrated to work in visible sunlight.”

That’s where BC8 comes in, because of its ability to generate multiple pairs even with only visible light.

BC8 is a form of silicon that is formed under very high pressure but that remains stable at normal pressures, similar to the way that diamond is a form of carbon formed at extreme pressure but stable at normal ones.

“This is more than an academic exercise. A Harvard-MIT paper showed that when normal silicon solar cells are irradiated with laser light, the energy the laser emits may create a local pressure high enough to form BC8 nanocrystals. Thus, laser or chemical pressure treatment of existing solar cells may turn them into these higher-efficiency cells,” said co-author Gergely Zimanyi, professor of physics at UC Davis.

The new research was just published January 25th in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Source: University of California Davis (UCD)
Image Credits: Stefan Wippermann/UC Davis

Super-Efficient Solar Cells Possible Through Use Of Exotic Form Of Silicon, Generating More Than One Electron-Hole Pair Per Photon 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.

Next-Generation Of Solar Cells, Capturing More Sunlight With Microbeads

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 10:07 AM PST

“Micro beads” may be the key to extremely thin (and much cheaper) next generation solar cells. Solar cells 20 times thinner than the solar cells of today are only 5-7 years off, according to the nano-scientists that are currently developing them.

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The estimate, as of right now, is that the super-thin solar cells will be on the market by 2020, which should help to greatly cut down on manufacturing and production costs.

“Over 90 per cent of the current electricity generated by solar panels is made by silicon plates that are 200 micrometres thick. Several billion of these are produced every year. The problem is the large consumption of silicon: five grams per watt.”

And even though silicon is one of the most abundant elements on the planet, the ‘pure silicon’ used in solar cells is very expensive and energy intensive to create. And a lot simply ends up discarded during the manufacturing process. There has been some recent research that should help to cut down on wasted silicon, though, so other improvements are also being made there.

“About 100,000 tonnes of silicon are consumed every year. However, there is obviously something fundamentally wrong when half of the silicon must be thrown away during the manufacturing process”, says Erik Marstein, the Head of the Norwegian Research Center for Solar Cell Technology, the Head of Research for the solar cell unit at the Institute for Energy Technology at Kjeller outside of Oslo, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Oslo.

While solar cells have been becoming much cheaper in recent years, the researchers say that manufacturing practices must improve in order to allow solar companies to really make money. “It is difficult to make money producing solar cells at current prices. To make money, solar cells must be manufactured much more cheaply…. The most obvious way ahead is to make very thin solar cell slices, without increasing costs. This general rule applies to all types of solar cells: the more electrons sunlight pushes out, the more electricity. And the more energy in the electrons, the higher the voltage.”

“The thinner the solar cells become, the easier it is to extract the electricity. In principle, there will therefore be a higher voltage and more electricity in thinner cells. We are now developing solar cells that are at least as good as the current ones, but that can be made with just one twentieth of the silicon. This means that the consumption of silicon can be reduced by 95 per cent”, Erik Marstein.

There is a downside though, with thinner plates less sunlight is trapped. But the researchers have come up with a very effective way to address this, by forcing the light to move sideways.

“We can increase the apparent thickness 25 times by forcing the light up and down all the time. We have calculated what this back sheet (that redirects the light) must look like and are currently studying which structures work.”

Uglestad microbeads appear to be one of the best options. For those that don’t know, Uglestad microbeads are very small plastic spheres of a exactly uniform size that have a variety of different uses, and strange characteristics.

“We can force the Uglestad microbeads to lie close together on the silicon surface, in an almost perfect periodic pattern. Laboratory trials have shown that the microbeads can be used as a mask.” Lasers can then be used to etch indentations around the microbeads.

“We are now investigating whether this and other methods can be scaled up for industrial production. We have great faith in this, and are currently in discussions with multiple industrial partners, but we cannot yet say who.”

Improvements to manufacturing processes, such as this, and other cost-saving measures could do a lot to help solar power companies become more profitable, and to stay in business. The solar industry has been going through something of a “shakeout” recently — as some of the less competitive companies have been going out of business, technologies such as this will continue to drive strong competition and improvements to solar technology well into the future.

Source: University of Oslo
Image Credits: Yngve Vogt

Next-Generation Of Solar Cells, Capturing More Sunlight With Microbeads 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.

John Kerry Secretary Of State Confirmation A Clear Win For Climate, Clean Energy, & US

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 06:15 AM PST

John Kerry has officially been confirmed as the new US Secretary of State. In my humble opinion, Kerry has been one of the best Congressman of the past couple decades. I’m more than happy to see that he will now be Secretary of State. Kerry is a definite “Climate Hawk,” and he understands the great value of clean energy and other types of cleantech for fighting climate change, improving national security, and keeping the US as a global economic leader in the decades and centuries to come.

Upon his confirmation, the BlueGreen Alliance also issued a strong statement of support. BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director David Foster wrote:

"In the Senate, John Kerry showed exemplary leadership on the issue of climate change, calling for much-needed action. As chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he traveled the world advocating this same message. There's no one better prepared to take on this challenge today.

"Senator Kerry couldn't be more correct in saying climate change is 'life-threatening.' It is vital that the world achieves an international agreement to reduce carbon pollution. While we must pursue policies that will make the air and water cleaner in the U.S., warming surface temperatures and water levels are happening around the world, regardless of borders.

"Our next secretary of state has a unique role in taking action on this issue and his expertise will help us to meet these challenges. We look forward to working with Senator Kerry as he continues to be a strong voice for action on climate change as secretary of state."

I fully agree. For more on our take on John Kerry’s excellent fit for this role, check out Tina’s post on the matter from just before Christmas: John Kerry's Climate Change Statements Show Force & Nuance

John Kerry Secretary Of State Confirmation A Clear Win For Climate, Clean Energy, & US 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.

Could Algae Biofuel Doom The Keystone XL Pipeline?

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 05:28 AM PST

As pressure on the Obama Administration to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline ramps up, algae biofuel is emerging as yet another domestic energy source that undercuts every argument for the project, which is designed to convey tar sands oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. In the latest development, researchers from Cal Poly in Saint Luis Obispo, California, are working on a $1.3 million algae biofuel project that deploys algae to solve a massive waste problem familiar to anyone who has ever flushed a toilet, while saving money for cash-strapped local governments, creating new green jobs and generating biofuel, too.

Cal Poly Gets $1.3 Million to Research Algae BiofuelGreat News for the Toilet-Using Public

Though algae biofuel as a commercially viable fuel has its naysayers, the new research project is big news for legions of toilet-flushing Americans, particularly those who pay sewer taxes.

The basic idea behind the Cal Poly project is to add value to the algae biofuel production process, by using municipal wastewater as a nutrient source for growing algae.

The algae would provide an energy-efficient, low cost means of removing impurities from wastewater. That savings, plus the potential for income from selling algae feedstock to biofuel refineries, could enable local governments to meet rising water quality challenges under tight budgets.

Meanwhile, the availability of a virtually free, highly dependable source of water and nutrients would offset the cost of growing algae for biofuel. The use of municipal wastewater would also help to avoid the water scarcity issues that impact land-grown biofuel crops.

A $1.3 Million Algae Biofuel Research Project

The new project consists of a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. As described by Cal Poly, a multidisciplinary team called the Algae Technology Group (ATG) will tackle the challenge, using experimental “raceway” style algae ponds at the San Luis Obispo Water Reclamation Facility.

ATG already has a running start on the project. The team was established in 2006 to research wastewater reclamation and biofuels, and in a state like California the payoff for that research could be huge. The team estimates that even with only ten percent market penetration in California, ratepayers would save about $240 million per year.

A recent article by David Sneed of The Tribune News describes the raceway as consisting of nine algae ponds taking up about half an acre of space at the treatment facility. Electricity is needed to circulate water in the ponds and run other equipment related to the algae operation, but depending on the site and the grid that could ultimately be provided by solar power or other forms of renewable energy.

Energy Efficient Wastewater Treatment and Biofuel Production

Aside from the operating equipment, project co-leader Tryg Lundquist explains how the team hopes to rely primarily on solar power to achieve their goal:

"Like all plants, algae release oxygen while absorbing CO2 and nutrients. Wastewater purification requires oxygen and the removal of nutrients, which are pollutants if they escape to waterways. Using sunlight energy, the algae are able to treat wastewater to meet California water recycling standards.”

In terms of generating a liquid fuel feedstock of any type, that gets algae off to a roaring start compared to tar sands oil, which requires massive amounts of energy even just to get it into a liquified state for transport through a pipeline (to give you an idea of the scale, on site nuclear power plants have been proposed as a future energy source for tar sands processing).

On top of that there’s the expense of carbon capture for tar sands processing, but we digress…

Big Plans for Algae Biofuel

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the U.S. could eventually produce about 21 billion gallons of algae biofuel annually, and that’s just in regions of the U.S. where the process requires less water.


The Cal Poly project is just the tip of the algae biofuel research iceberg. Under the Biomass Program, the Department of Energy has been establishing a network of algae research projects and test bed facilities. The network includes other algae research powerhouses such as Texas A&M University.

Image (altered): Algae by smaller.pathological.ca

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

Could Algae Biofuel Doom The Keystone XL Pipeline? 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.

US Missing Out On Its Share Of $1 Trillion In Total Global Solar Energy Revenue

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 05:03 AM PST

The US is missing out on its share of the $1 trillion dollars total cumulative global solar photovoltaic revenue predicted for 2012-2018 because of its policies and political atmosphere, according to a new report from the Pew Charitable Trust lobbying group.

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The report notes that the US is falling behind other countries such as Germany, Italy, and China. And it calls upon President Obama and Congress to introduce new measures in order to not fall further behind in the growing renewable energy revolution.

The report concluded that: “the US needs a national clean energy standard to replace the current piecemeal state-by-state arrangements; energy R&D should be at least doubled from its current level; tax credits and incentives for clean energy should be renewed; and policy should be introduced to ‘level the playing field’ for renewables against the fossil fuel industry.”


 
The Pew report, titled, Innovate, Manufacture, Compete: A Clean Energy Action Plan, gives the prediction that “from 2012 to 2018 the cumulative revenue generated from solar photovoltaic worldwide will total US$1 trillion dollars, of an expected $1.9 trillion dollars from clean energy generation.” Annual global solar revenue is expected to rise from $113 billion dollars in 2012 to $183 billion dollars by 2018. And new annual installations are expected to rise from the 32 GW installed in 2012, to 86.3 GW in 2018.

Amongst all that global growth though, the US isn’t predicted to compare to that of our primary rivals in the field. “American photovoltaic installations have doubled in the last two years, but the additional capacity is still less than a third of that added by Germany or Italy, with China surpassing the US in solar for the first time, in 2011.”

Some other take away points from the report:

The US is one of only a handful of countries that still doesn’t have a national renewable energy generation target. The others include: Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Haiti, Eritrea, and Luxembourg….

The enormous health and environmental costs of fossil fuels and nuclear power are still not taken into account in the pricing of these forms of energy. If they were, renewables would already be much cheaper. The widespread use of fossil fuels is the primary driver behind modern climate change and all of its future effects, as well as significant health problems and growing health concerns. Traditional forms of energy production still in widespread use in poorer regions of the world (biomass and wood) also contribute to significant environmental and health problems, such as deforestation and many human diseases. Renewables could go a long way to improving the general health of the people in these regions, while also helping to preserve the little that’s left of their natural environment.

There are still only four fixed energy tax credits in the US: three of them are for the oil and gas industry, and one is for the nuclear industry. There are none for the renewable energy industry.

Source: PV Magazine
Image Credits: Solarfeld via Wikimedia Commons

US Missing Out On Its Share Of $1 Trillion In Total Global Solar Energy Revenue 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.

400MW Solar Project In San Antonio Has Begun Construction

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 04:52 AM PST

Construction has now begun on OCI Solar Power’s 400MW solar energy project located in San Antonio, Texas.

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The first phase, named Alamo I, is expected to be completed by the middle of 2013. It will feature 41 MW of solar photovoltaic capacity. The project was announced last July after OCI Solar Power struck a 25-year power purchase deal with CPS Energy.

Once completed, the project will be “one of the largest municipal utility solar projects in the US and will create more than 800 jobs. As part of its plan, OCI Solar Power will develop several solar facilities that will power more than 70,000 homes. Plans for the remaining megawatts will be built through 2016. German inverter manufacturer KACO will supply its XP series inverters for installation at the project.”

As we’ve reported before, Texas has enormous solar energy potential. The sunshine that falls on Texas in ONE month contains more energy than all of the oil that has ever been pumped in the state. It’s good to see solar energy deployment moving forward there, as the state could very easily obtain all of its electricity that way.

Source: PV Tech
Image Credits: Solar Panel Installation via Duke Energy

400MW Solar Project In San Antonio Has Begun Construction 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.

Sungevity Seals Up $125 Million In Financing

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 03:00 AM PST

Sungevity, one of the top online photovoltaic (PV) retailers and solar leasing companies, recently shored up $125 million in new financing to boost its business.

According to PV Magazine, $40 million comes as equity financing from Brightpath Capital Partners. Meanwhile, a "leading commercial" bank as well as Energy Capital Partners are providing $85 million in project financing.

Sungevity will use the new financial backing to expand its market share in the solar installation market, which continues to grow in the US. The US Solar Insight Report noted that, in the third quarter of 2012 alone, 684 megawatts of solar PV were installed, a 44% increase compared to the third quarter of 2011.

"Energy Capital is excited to partner with Sungevity to provide an innovative and flexible capital solution to efficiently finance its on-going solar installations," said Nazar Massouh, of Energy Capital Partners.

"Sungevity's unique customer acquisition approach, scalable business model and stable cash flow generated by its established customer base, is a natural fit for our diversified energy portfolio.”

Currently, the company provides services to nine US states, including: Arizona, Colorado, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. Meanwhile, the company has also expanded its international horizons. In 2011, Sungevity bought an equity stake in Dutch solar company Zonline, while last April, it expanded operations into Australia with a joint venture called Sungevity Australia.

"Our ability to attract substantial investment from a list of respected backers is a powerful vote of confidence in our highly scalable growth model and customer-centric approach to doing business," said Sungevity’s Chief Executive Officer Andrew Birch. 

"We believe this new funding will take us into the next phase of growth and allow us to deliver on our mission of building the world's most energized network of customers who power their lives with sunshine.”

Unlike other solar installation companies that go directly door to door to get a customer quote, Sungevity uses a special satellite and internet-based technology to create iQuote. Within 24 hours after a customer provides their name and basic information, Sungevity then gives the customer an interactive quote. Afterwards, staff aid the customer with a credit check and "e-signing" of the lease, once the credit check has been approved. This helped the company reduce 2012 installation costs by 30%.

It’s nice to see Sungevity take a stake in advancing themselves as not only a top solar provider in the US, but also expanding their market base internationally. With former Greenpeace activist Danny Kennedy at the helm, look for this company to continue to expand further.

Source: Sungevity

Sungevity Seals Up $125 Million In Financing 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.

New Weather App Knows Everything In Your Neighbourhood

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 03:00 AM PST

New Smart Phone App Nooly Gives Hyperlocal Weather ForecastsWake up on a morning and one of the first things you’re going to need to do is work out what the temperature is like outside, what it’s going to be for the rest of the day, and if you need to take your umbrella. Problem is, you don’t necessarily live near the closest weather station, and so the exact details of your days’ weather might be a little tricky to assess.

Not any longer, thanks to Nooly, a new smartphone application which bills itself as the first application to include “its own unique hyperlocal, hyper-accurate, short-range predictions.”

Using its system, Nooly is:

  • Accurate: Predicts the exact minute a storm will start, get worse, and end (a first)
  • Hyperlocal: Makes predictions that are within 0.4 square miles of your location—plus, you can see the weather for exact locations, meaning every road, park and point of interest (all a first).
  • Up-To-Date: Updates predictions every 5 minutes for over 30 million US locations (a first).
  • Cutting Edge Data: Is the only weather app that makes predictions from its own unique algorithms that crunch data from combining NASA / NOAA satellites and NOAA radars. This level of accuracy was only available previously to federal agencies (the FAA, military, etc.).
  • Road Tested: Today, Nooly features over 50,000 beta users across iPhone & Android.

Available for free on iOS and Android, Nooly is the “most localised weather app” you’re likely to ever see. Capable of predicting the exact moment it will rain or snow, for every square kilometre, wherever you are.

"We couldn't be more excited to bring such a revolutionary weather service to iPhone and Android users," said Yaron Reich, Founder & CEO of Nooly. "It's amazing to see how many people are affected by weather forecasts that are too general and not current enough on a daily basis. Nooly combats this by letting users know exactly when a storm will start, get worse and end within the next couple of hours, so they can plan their days the best way possible—for free, absolutely zero cost."

How can Nooly make such claims? Here’s how:

“Nooly brought in two of the world's top scientists in cloud physics and short-range weather prediction, Professor Daniel Rosenfeld of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Professor John R. Mecikalski of the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

“Using their deep background and expertise, the Nooly scientific team has built a series of meteorological and physical algorithms that track and process, in real-time, data from two NASA / NOAA satellites, over 260 NOAA radars, and other meteorological sources.”

Nooly has been in private beta for a year now, with over 50,000 users in the US who have helped the Nooly team test and refine the hyperlocal predictions which are going to be the centrepiece of their platform.

"Being so hyperlocal brings with it wide range of challenges," said Reich. "We had to adjust our algorithm for different cities, like Seattle, which experiences shallow, constant rain, and New York, which often sees bursts of rain lasting a few minutes and impacting only a cluster of city blocks. San Francisco is also a tricky city, with a mostly calm climate, though the weather can change in very specific streets and neighborhoods. Hyperlocal is challenging, but obviously key."

New Weather App Knows Everything In Your Neighbourhood 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.

National Solar Energy Centre Launched in UK, Will Promote Building Integrated Solar PV

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 02:00 AM PST

The BRE National Energy Centre (NSC) for solar PV has been recently launched in United Kingdom to deliver the government's goal of 20 GW of installed solar capacity by 2020. The BRE National Solar Energy Centre is expected to be commissioned in April this year, situated in St Austell, Cornwall, and aims to strengthen innovation, cost reduction, and confidence in the renewable energy market place.

Solar panels via Waynenf (some rights reserved)

Over the last three months, BRE has been working to develop the National Energy Centre in Cornwall. BRE is confident of helping the Government and the industry deliver on the solar energy targets set out in DECC's recent 2012 Renewables Roadmap Update. The UK aims to increase its current installed solar power capacity of 1.4GW to 20GW by 2020.

The centre will get funding from the EU and support from Cornwall Council and the DECC. The centre aims to collaborate with organisations outside the sector to help them gain an understanding of PV technology and to maximise its potential, particularly in the construction industry, which currently has very limited knowledge of integrating PV into building projects.

BRE Director Nick Tune, who developed the idea for the Centre said:

We have a real opportunity here to drive the uptake of solar PV. The sector has seen a dramatic reduction in installed costs by up to 50% from 2010-2012. The Centre will help the sector deliver further reductions so solar PV can become competitive with other low-carbon electricity sources.

There are significant opportunities to support the development of Building Integrated PV products and the interaction of PV with commercial buildings.  We will also look at issues around smart grids, storage, power output prediction and more – all critical factors for improving the long term performance of the technology and creating confidence in its future.

The centre aims to provide the following:

    • Analysis, data collection, and publications to create a full and authoritative knowledge base for the industry.
    • An observatory for examining the best practices, both in the UK and internationally.
    • Provide support for the development of future standards to increase quality of PV installations.
    • Support for UK solar industries in a worldwide market.
    • Due diligence consultancy and testing for new build installations.
    • Fault finding, verification, and optimisation for existing systems.
    • Provide training for complicated system design, electricity market operators, and local authorities.
    • Product development for building-integrated PV and other integrated approaches.
    • Direct support for Cornish small and medium enterprises.
    • Encouragement for inward investment clustering of solar PV companies on the site shared with NSC.

There is a need for the development of building integrated solar PV systems and BRE can play a major role in its development. Also, more and more solar parks are coming up in UK, and there is a need to provide technical services and new standards for their development. BRE can help to drive these opportunities in a much better way compared to other solar companies.

The city of Cornwall has been chosen for the establishment of NSC because of its strategic importance to the solar PV industry with the advantage of having the highest level of solar radiation in the UK and one of the highest percentages of solar systems per capita in the region.

The views presented in the above article are the author's personal views only

National Solar Energy Centre Launched in UK, Will Promote Building Integrated Solar PV 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.

150MW California Solar Project With Energy Storage Gets PPA

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 01:00 AM PST

The California Public Utilities Commission has approved a power purchase agreement under which Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) would purchase electricity from SolarReserve’s 150-megawatt Rice Solar Energy Project.

The world’s first commercial-scale solar power plant that works at night because of energy storage. Image Source: Torresol Energy

According to SolarReserve, this will be the largest solar project in California to incorporate energy storage. Located in Riverside County, the project will cost $750 million and is expected to generate more than 5,300 direct, indirect, and induced jobs. 

Once completed, this project will be able to power up to 65,000 homes during peak electricity periods.

It is a solar thermal steam power plant which utilizes thermal molten salt energy storage, which can provide solar power for eight to ten hours when there is a lack of sunlight. It operates by using sunlight, which is concentrated by thousands of mirrors to heat molten salt, which effectively stores that heat for hours, and the hot molten salt is then used to boil a fluid and produce steam whenever it is needed.

This project will be located in the Sonoran desert. It will be dry cooled to minimize water usage (just as at the Shams 1 CSP plant in Abu Dhabi), requiring less than 20% of the water than a conventional coal or nuclear power plant.

Bloomberg reported that this PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) will begin on June 1, 2016. California’s government would like to increase the amount of electricity from renewable energy to a large extent, and projects like these with energy storage are a major aid to that initiative.

Source: Yahoo! News

 

150MW California Solar Project With Energy Storage Gets PPA 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.

Interview With NREL Director Dan Arvizu On Distributed Energy / Distributed Solar (Benefits & Obstacles)

Posted: 30 Jan 2013 12:20 AM PST

I was very luck to have to chance to talk with NREL Director Dan Arvizu for about an hour at the recent International Renewable Energy Conference (part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week). Furthermore, I got most of what we discussed on video. Below is one of the videos from our conversations (all of which I’ll be posting here on CleanTechnica). This first one concerns the very interesting and important topic of distributed power generation, especially distributed solar. I’ve got more commentary and extra info following the video.

Incidentally, right at the end of my first conversation with Dan (which I was recording), my battery died. So, I lost the whole video. We agreed to meet up later to record it again if I could make it back before he left, but I was a bit late in returning and thought, very sadly, that I had missed the opportunity. So I started drafting a post on what he had said. After a couple moments, he showed up and we recorded the video above, but I think the notes from the original talk are still worth sharing, so I’m including them below.

Dan had a great keynote address at the beginning of the day in which he discussed much of the stuff we write about every day here on CleanTechnica. In the coming weeks, I’m going to pull out some of the key points and graphics, including some I don’t think I had seen before. At one point in his presentation, he was especially enthusiastic when discussing the potential for and value of distributed power (most notably, that would include distributed, rooftop solar PV).


 
One point he emphasized very strongly in a follow-up interview with me about this topic was that our current, baseload-based electricity system is extremely inefficient. It’s only about 44% efficient — astoundingly low. (In the second interview, above, he clarified what that meant: that our power generating assets are only used about 44% of the time.) If businesses in other sectors had such efficiency, they’d be out of business, Dan commented. We need to improve that, and there’s great potential for doing so by using a distributed generation system, and by having systems that are much more responsive and much more able to match supply with demand. (Of course, solar is a great option, because solar power generation often matches peak electricity demand.)

The challenge is that the whole sector has been based on this baseload power framework for decades, and it’s a huge challenge to make large change in such systems. The changes and the push for change have to come from many levels — from the regulatory institutions, utility company business models, and from the general populous. We have to create this transformation through efforts, education, and policies on many levels. In the first discussion about this topic, Dan emphasized the importance of creating citizen demand — a citizen movement — to create change in how our energy system is set up. Of course, CleanTechnica is quite engaged in doing this, as is the organization of one of our writers (John Farrell) — the Institue for Local Self-Reliance.

What can you do? Help spread the word by sharing posts like this one and by starting or getting involved in local renewable energy advocacy groups!

For more content from CleanTechnica's trip to Abu Dhabi, check out our archive pages for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the World Future Energy Summit, and/or the International Renewable Energy Conference.

Full Disclosure: my trip to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week was funded by Masdar. That said, I was completely free to cover what I wanted throughout the week, and at no point did I feel under pressure to cover any specific events or Masdar in any particular way.

Interview With NREL Director Dan Arvizu On Distributed Energy / Distributed Solar (Benefits & Obstacles) 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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