Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

First Self-Assembling Quantum-Dot-in-Nanowire System: A “Game-Changer” for Solar PV?

Posted: 13 Feb 2013 12:00 AM PST

Working at the frontiers of photonics and nano-scale semiconductor fabrication, an international team of researchers from universities and laboratories in Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, and the US have "demonstrated a process whereby quantum dots can self-assemble at optimal locations in nanowires, a breakthrough that could improve solar cells, quantum computing, and lighting devices," according to a February 8 NREL press release.

Reproducing breakthrough research undertaken by Swiss scientists, US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) senior researcher Jun-Wei Luo made use of NREL’s supercomputer to demonstrate a "quantum-dot-in-nanowire" system that "raises a huge potential for their use in detecting local electric and magnetic fields. The quantum dots also could be used to charge converters for better light-harvesting, as in the case of photovoltaic (PV) cells.”

Harnessing Quantum Photonic Properties

Quantum dots are tiny particles of semiconductor material typically ranging from 2 to 10 nanometers (10-9 meters) in diameter, about as wide as 50 atoms. Their small size imbues them with "unique optical and electrical properties that are different in character to those of the corresponding bulk material." Producing just a kilogram of such material would be sufficient to feed manufacturing at commercial scales, explains nano engineering research and development company Nanoco Group Plc.

"At that size they exhibit beneficial behaviors of quantum physics such as forming electron-hole pairs and harvesting excess energy," NREL adds.

NREL researchers late last October announced they had developed quantum dots and used them to fabricate solar PV cells that broke through a previously accepted barrier limiting the amount of electrical energy they are capable of producing from photons. The quantum dot solar PV cell they created was able to produce 30% more electric current from blue-light-frequency-range photons than the current generation of commercial PV cells.

"While traditional semiconductors only produce one electron from each photon, nanometer-sized crystalline materials such as quantum dots avoid this restriction and are being developed as promising photovoltaic materials," a news release from AVS: Science and Technology of Materials, Interfaces and Processing explained.

"An increase in the efficiency comes from quantum dots harvesting energy that would otherwise be lost as heat in conventional semiconductors. The amount of heat loss is reduced and the resulting energy is funneled into creating more electrical current."

Detailed in "Self-assembled Quantum Dots in a Nanowire System for Quantum Photonics," published in the current issue of the journal Nature Materials, the quantum dots developed by NREL and the international team of researchers self-assemble at the interface of the "apex of the gallium arsenide/aluminum gallium arsenide core" and nanowire shell.

The ability to position these highly stable quantum dots so precisely means that manufacturers would be able to take full advantage of the "materials’ ability to provide quantum confinement for both the electrons and the holes," turning the approach into "a potential game-changer."

First Self-Assembling Quantum-Dot-in-Nanowire System: A "Game-Changer" for 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.

German Government May Implement Energy Storage Incentive

Posted: 12 Feb 2013 07:24 PM PST

Germany has impressed many with its low cost solar electricity and substantial solar industry growth, both of which are unparalleled, even by countries with more readily available sunlight.

The country which enjoys solar electricity at half the cost of the United States may implement an incentive to encourage the private installation of battery banks to store solar energy.

Microgrid energy storage system

Image Credit: Green Car Congress

It should offer this incentive for compressed air (CAES) and other types of energy storage systems too, although, I understand that it wants to concentrate its efforts and resources on batteries to really get the solar battery energy storage industry off the ground, as it concentrated on solar, and made great progress there.

According to Energy Matters, Germany drove down the cost of solar panels during its efforts to increase solar power production. This may be due to increased economies of scale caused by their increased solar panel demand.

They also said that Germany was the first to introduce feed-in tariffs (FIT), which it launched in 1991. The FIT scheme was expanded in 2000, and a seven-fold increase in solar power generating capacity took place within the next five years.

Battery energy storage systems can make solar power completely adjustable and dispatchable. The use of energy storage facilitates the addition of more renewable energy to the electricity grid. Natural gas and hydroelectric power plants can be adjusted to some extent, however, they are not as effective a backup solution as batteries.

After energy storage is implemented: For those that are unsure about the cost of generating additional solar power to charge batteries for use at night (i.e more solar panels), there is actually no net cost (excluding the cost of batteries).

For example, if twice as many solar panels are purchased to achieve this, twice as much electricity is generated, and the cost of the solar panels is twice as much, resulting in the same, exact cost of electricity per kWh. This is because the cost of electricity per kWh is the ratio of the cost of a given solar power plant to the amount of electricity it will generate over its lifetime.

Source: Energymatters.com.au

 

German Government May Implement Energy Storage Incentive 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.

Global Wind Power Capacity Up To 282.5 GW (~20% Increase In 2012)

Posted: 12 Feb 2013 05:58 PM PST

Wind power keeps growing fast, very fast. According to data just released by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), nearly 45 gigawatts (GW) of wind power capacity were added across the globe in 2012. That includes a record 12.6 GW of new capacity in the US, 5.3 GW of which were added in December 2012. For the first time ever, more wind power was installed in the US throughout the year than any other type of power.

However, the US wasn’t the only country plowing ahead with wind power and setting records along the way. Here are a handful of notable stories from 2012 that we’ve shared in the past week or so:

As noted in the title, cumulative global wind power capacity is now up to about 282.5 GW. Here are some charts from GWEC on the new wind power numbers:

annual and cumulative wind power capacity

Annual & Cumulative Global Wind Power Capacity. Click to see larger version.

world wind power growth

World Wind Power New & Total Capacity by Country. Click to see a larger version.

It’s interesting to see, via this next chart, how wind power growth has varied by region. Clearly, Europe sees the steadiest growth, while North America has suffered from a couple of weak years — 2010 and 2011. Asia, led by China, made a quick rise to leadership in 2009, and shot up to an even greater extent in 2010, but has not yet matched the installation total it hit that year, despite continuing to lead global installations. Check out the following chart to enjoy a colorful version of those points:

wind power by region

New and Total Wind Power Capacity by Region. Click to see a larger version.

 

Offshore wind power, which is still quite a bit more expensive than onshore wind power, is just getting rolling. The UK is the dominant leader, while Denmark is a clear second. Belgium, China, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden also have a decent offshore wind showing.

While offshore wind is more expensive today, it is projected to get much cheaper in the years to come, and it does benefit from stronger and steadier wind resources. One projection has the sector reaching about 52 GW by 2020. Here’s a bar chart and table with some 2011 and 2012 figures:

offshore wind power growth world

Cumulative & New Offshore Wind Power. Click to see a larger version.

Yes, it looks like it’s time to again update our “World Wind Power” page, and to again determine the top wind power countries per capita, per GDP, and relative to electricity production.

With wind power the cheapest option for new electricity in more and more places, I’m sure it will keep growing strong. In fact, we’ll probably have some more big wind power news tomorrow, so keep your eyes peeled!

Source: GWEC
h/t Think Progress

Global Wind Power Capacity Up To 282.5 GW (~20% Increase In 2012) 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.

Hilarious New 1BOG Video On Going Solar

Posted: 12 Feb 2013 04:43 PM PST

One Block Off The Grid (1BOG) has a pretty hilarious new video ad out about how to go solar. Having a bit of a close relationship with the dudes there, they sent it over as soon as it was published. (Full disclosure: if you click those links above or fill out the form at the bottom of this post and then go solar via 1BOG’s site, we do get a small bit of the revenue… so that we can keep bringing you the best solar news and commentary on the planet!)

With that long disclosure (and push to go solar!) out of the way, here’s 1BOG’s great new ad:

Like it? If so, share it with your friends, family, coworkers, pets, high school or college sweethearts, and everyone else on this fragile planet.

Hilarious New 1BOG Video On Going Solar 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.

Other Cleantech & Environment News: Tax Reforms Could Create Jobs, UK’s Green Deal Approved,…

Posted: 12 Feb 2013 11:30 AM PST

Other than the solar news, wind news, transport news, and climate news I just shared, here’s some more environment and cleantech news from the past few days or so:

CleanTechnica Stories 

Other Stories

Looking for previous wind power stories shared here? Find them in this Other Cleantech News doc.

Other Cleantech & Environment News: Tax Reforms Could Create Jobs, UK’s Green Deal Approved,… 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.

Transport News: Ridekick, A Bicycling Sidekick; 10 Most Walkable US Cities,…

Posted: 12 Feb 2013 11:05 AM PST

For those obsessed with clean transport, here’s some top transport news and commentary from the past few days or so (from CleanTechnica & other sites):

CleanTechnica Stories

Other Stories

Looking for previous clean transport stories shared here? Find them in this Transport News doc.

Transport News: Ridekick, A Bicycling Sidekick; 10 Most Walkable US Cities,… 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.

Climate Change News: Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign Grows, Climate Change To Batter US Agriculture,…

Posted: 12 Feb 2013 10:26 AM PST

Here’s some top global warming and climate change news and commentary from around the interwebs from the past few days or so (including climate policy stories):

The Next Worldwide Movement (Frankly, I didn’t really catch the global warming message of this next video, but I presume the title is enough to help spread the message — and I certainly like the music. Warning: those not into certain types of language will want to skip this one.):

Looking for previous climate stories shared here? Find them in this Climate News doc.

Climate Change News: Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign Grows, Climate Change To Batter US Agriculture,… 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.

In First Test, U.S. Military’s SPIDERS Microgrid Uses 90% Renewable Energy

Posted: 12 Feb 2013 10:08 AM PST

With expectation for tonight’s State of the Union address running high, you can get a preview of the future energy landscape of the U.S. by checking out the new SPIDERS renewable energy microgrid project. SPIDERS, which has the eventual aim of widespread adoption in the civilian sector, is designed to keep critical military facilities in operation in case of grid outages while inserting a healthy dose of clean, locally sourced energy into the picture.

DoD has been emerging as a renewable energy powerhouse, and that’s something to keep in mind as President Obama is expected to call for hardcore action on climate change in his State of the Union address.

military tests new SPIDERS microgrid with renewable energy

The SPIDERS Microgrid Project

SPIDERS is a $30 million project lead by Sandia National Laboratories, under a partnership between the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy that involves numerous other federal laboratories, agencies and military commands.

SPIDERS stands for Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security, and one thing it clearly demonstrates is that the “drill baby, drill” framework is a rather primitive response to the national security challenges of today

One major challenge the project will address is to transition military bases out of over-reliance on diesel-powered backup generators, and into a hybrid system that integrates solar power, hydrogen fuel cells and other on site or local sources along with advance energy storage.

Aside from global warming issues, diesel generators are prone to failure and they can be problematic in case of widespread, prolonged grid outages, when fuel transportation routes are cut off (for more on that, see the storm-inspired fuel crisis after Sandy hit the East Coast).

SPIDERS will also help transition bases from an inefficient model in which each building can only use its own back-up generator, to an integrated, basewide microgrid in which energy can be directed wherever it’s needed. In addition to providing more security, the microgrid approach is far more efficient in terms of matching the supply of energy to a building’s actual usage.

“Crawl, Walk, Run” to Renewable Energy Microgrids

SPIDERS is being implemented in three stages, and our friends over at the DoD Energy Blog just tipped us off that the first stage has undergone its first public test, at Joint Base Pearl-Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.

The Hickam project integrated several renewable assets that were already on the base, namely a 146 kW solar system and up to 50 kW of wind power.

According to a report last week by the Ho’okele News, the test took place at the end of January. It was designed to gather data related to the cyber-security of microgrids, in addition to the integration of renewable energy and energy storage.

Dan Nolan at the DOD Energy Blog noted that the flow battery storage component of the system did not perform as expected, but other than that the demonstration seemed to go well. During one part of the test, Ho’okele News reported that 90 percent of the electricity was generated by renewable sources.

Aside from helping to resolve security issues and reducing the use of fossil fuels, the new microgrid will save Hickam about $43,000 per year.

That’s just the beginning, by the way. The walking and running phases of the overall SPIDERS project are much larger and more complex.

Next up is Fort Carson, which will integrate a whopping two megawatts of solar power along with an electric vehicle-to-grid component.


The third phase, which is scheduled through 2014, involves a 5 megawatt microgrid at Camp H.M.Smith, which will rely on a combination of solar power and diesel generators.

The State of the Union and Climate Change

If President Obama meets the expectations for forceful action on climate change in tonight’s speech, there is plenty of room for a broad appeal across party lines.

The increasing use of renewable energy in overseas combat zones as well as at domestic bases has propelled the familiar “Support Our Troops” message into a new energy future, to say nothing of the green jobs (including green jobs for veterans), benefits to local economies, and improved public health resulting from a transition to safer, cleaner fuels.

Okay, so maybe Ted Nugent won’t get it…

Image: Spider by snowpeak

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In First Test, U.S. Military’s SPIDERS Microgrid Uses 90% Renewable Energy 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.

Wind News: EU Wind Market Skills Gap, 1.2GW Wind Farm,…

Posted: 12 Feb 2013 09:00 AM PST

For the wind-obsessed, here are some top wind energy stories from the past couple days or so:

CleanTechnica Stories

Other Stories

Looking for previous wind power stories shared here? Find them in this Wind News doc.

Wind News: EU Wind Market Skills Gap, 1.2GW Wind Farm,… was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Solar News: Global Solar PV Capacity Hits 100 GW, Energy Secretary Chu Love Affair With Solar Panel,…

Posted: 12 Feb 2013 07:20 AM PST

Check out these top solar power stories from the past few days or so:

CleanTechnica Stories

Other Solar Stories

Looking for previous solar stories shared here? Find them in this Solar News doc.

Solar News: Global Solar PV Capacity Hits 100 GW, Energy Secretary Chu Love Affair With Solar Panel,… 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 Wind Industry Raises 5,300 MW Of Capacity In December

Posted: 12 Feb 2013 06:59 AM PST

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Report (Form EIA-860) and U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Update to the Annual Electric Generator Report (Form EIA-860M).
Note: Data are preliminary.

Approximately 40% of the total 2012 wind capacity additions (12,620 MW) came online in December, just before the scheduled expiration of the wind production tax credit (PTC). During December 2012, 59 new wind projects totaling 5,253 MW began commercial operation, the largest-ever single-month capacity increase for U.S. wind energy. About 50% of the total December wind capacity additions were installed in three states: Texas (1,120MW), Oklahoma (794 MW), and California (730 MW).

Wind plant developers reported throughout 2012 increasing amounts of new capacity scheduled to enter commercial operation before the end of the year. To qualify for the PTC last year, wind projects had to begin commercial operation by December 31.

On New Year’s Day, Congress enacted a one-year extension of the PTC and also relaxed the rules. Under this extension, projects that begin construction before the end of 2013 are eligible to receive a 2.2 ¢/kWh PTC for generation over a 10-year period.

Graph of efficiency versus heat rate, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Report (Form EIA-860) and U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Update to the Annual Electric Generator Report (Form EIA-860M).
Note: Data are preliminary. 

For 2012 as a whole, the four leading states for wind capacity installations were California (1,789 MW), Kansas (1,447 MW), Texas (1,504 MW), and Oklahoma (1,382 MW). Wind turbines installed during 2012 were concentrated in the midwestern and southern Great Plains regions. These are regions with high-potential wind resources, low population density (thus reducing problems related to siting and permitting), and existing and planned transmission lines to carry wind power to where the electricity is needed.

Wind generators provided the largest share of additions to total U.S. electric generation capacity in 2012, just as it did in 2008 and 2009. The 2012 addition of 12,620 MW is the highest annual wind capacity installment ever reported to EIA. Wind capacity additions accounted for more than 45% of total 2012 capacity additions and exceeded capacity additions from any other fuel source, including natural gas (which led capacity additions in 2000-07, 2010, and 2011).

Of all existing capacity at the end of 2012, wind made up 5.4%. However, wind provided only 3.4% of total electricity generation between January and November 2012 (the latest available data), reflecting a capacity utilization rate that is limited by the intermittent nature of the wind resource.

Graph of efficiency versus heat rate, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Report (Form EIA-860) and U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Update to the Annual Electric Generator Report (Form EIA-860M).
Note: The 2006-11 data are final; 2012 data are preliminary.

Detailed data on generator additions and retirements are available in the Electric Power Monthly (in tables ES3 and ES4, respectively). These data are preliminary survey results as of the end of January 2013 and will be updated.

This article was originally published on the website of the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

US Wind Industry Raises 5,300 MW Of Capacity In December was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

World Solar PV Capacity Surpasses 100 Gigawatts In 2012

Posted: 12 Feb 2013 03:19 AM PST

This bright news below brings the message that people are changing, things are changing. From a statement released in Brussels yesterday we find that the world's cumulative solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity capacity surpassed 100 gigawatts (GW) in 2012, achieving just over 101 GW. This is according to new market figures from the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA). "A landmark year," EPIA called it. Indeed!

Wonderful to find that it's not just speeches and pleas for change, that there is change in the works. The sun is the source of energy the world is harnessing without depletion or toxicity to a greater and greater extent. And 2012 was another strong year for the solar industry (following a very strong in in 2011). More than 30 GW of PV were connected to the electricity grid in 2012, EPIA added. And there was a sort of balancing out in where that solar power was installed. Non-European markets increased their installations and accounted for more than 13 GW of the worldwide total.

Harnessing the Power of the Sun

“This global capacity to harness the power of the sun produces as much electricity energy in a year as 16 coal power plants or nuclear reactors of 1 GW each. Each year, the world's PV installations reduce CO2 emissions by 53 million tons,” EPIA wrote.

The surpassing of the 100-GW mark occurred in yet another year of strong global PV development, with an estimated 30 GW connected to the grid and made operational in 2012 – roughly the same as the record-setting level of 2011. These results are preliminary, and the 30 GW figure could be increased by an additional 1 or 2 GW when final numbers come in. Final results for the year will be published in May, in EPIA's annual "Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaics 2013-2017."

We are seeing the doable, absolutely necessary changes that I am sure Connie Hedegaard is counting a happiness, along with CleanTechnica, the rest of Europe, and our whole small planet. We seek more efforts such as this to be the norm.

"No one would have predicted even 10 years ago that we would see more than 100 GW of solar photovoltaic capacity in the world by 2012," said EPIA President Winfried Hoffmann. "The photovoltaic industry clearly faces challenges but the results of 2012 show there is a strong global market for our technology. Even in tough economic times and despite growing regulatory uncertainty, we have nearly managed to repeat the record year of 2011."

Here’s to Jumping to Speed of Light with Renewable Energy

As noted above, outside of Europe (the solar leader to date), there was important solar growth. The year showed an important “shift towards a more global PV market,” EPIA wrote, “with 13 GW of PV installations occurring outside of Europe (compared to just under 8 GW in 2011) and nearly 17 GW in Europe (compared to nearly 23 GW in 2011). The top three European PV markets in 2012 were Germany (with 7.6 GW), Italy (3.3 GW) and France (1.2 GW). The top three non-European markets were China (with at least 3.5 GW and possibly as much as 4.5 GW), the U.S. (3.2 GW) and Japan (2.5 GW).”

Added Hoffmann, "The key going forward will be to address these new market challenges and continue policies that help PV technology to grow sustainably, continuing its evolution to a mainstream electricity source."

It seems that everyone is jumping to speed up with this, and unlike other types of energy, there are no serious downsides to solar. The speed of light is the kind of pace and change we do need. Light is light is light, and who does not need more light?

World Solar PV Capacity Surpasses 100 Gigawatts In 2012 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.

Power One And Panasonic Team Up For Energy Storage Plan

Posted: 12 Feb 2013 01:00 AM PST

US-based Power One and Japanese electronics company Panasonic recently announced they are collaborating on creating energy storage structures, while also collaborating on potential solar photovoltaic inverter markets.

PV Magazine noted the companies will use Panasonic’s lithium-ion batteries and systems along with Power One inverters as part of their plan.

Originally, both companies are targeting to set up commercial, grid-connected, utility-scale, and residential energy storage systems for the US and Europe, while developing non-residential Japanese markets as well.

Meanwhile, in the future, Panasonic and Power One plan to expand their business into Japan’s utility- and large-scale solar photovoltaic inverter markets.

“Panasonic’s strengths lie in the development, production and sale of products like their home energy management systems (HEMS) and lithium-ion battery cells, which are vital for power storage systems,” said president of Renewable Energy Solutions at Power-One Alex Levran. “Combining Panasonic's expertise in battery and battery storage with our advanced inverter technology should prove to be an unbeatable combination.”

Besides Panasonic and Power One looking at energy storage solutions, there have been other recent developments in this arena that look positive. We recently reported on a collaboration between the University of Southampton and REAPsystems, in which they are looking at a new type of battery which could help reduce solar costs and boost energy efficiency.

This year could well be the year where we see some real solid development in energy storage, which would help to make solar and other renewable energies more competitive against fossil fuels.

Power One And Panasonic Team Up For Energy Storage Plan 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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