IKEA of energy delivers clean, green solar power-plant in a box

Richard Kemeny for New Scientist:  Here’s a bright idea for flat-packing. A German start-up has figured out how to cram an entire solar power plant into a shipping container. It has sent its first kits to off-grid villages in Africa, where they provide a new source of clean, affordable electricity after just two hours of assembly.

More than 620 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity, a situation that can keep people in poverty. And population growth means this number is rising. Those with access tend to rely on inefficient diesel generators, chugging along with crippling financial and environmental costs.

Despite that, diesel is standard for off-grid energy. “If there’s no diesel, there’s no electricity”, says Rolf Kersten of the start-up, Africa GreenTec in Hainburg, Germany, which shipped its first solar generator to Mali in December last year.  Cont'd...

Missouri is about to experiment with power from an unlikely source - its roads

BRYAN CLARK for TheNextWeb:  Part of its ‘Road to Tomorrow Initiative,’ Missouri’s Department of Transportation is teaming with Solar Roadways, an Idaho-based startup (seriously, what’s going on in Idaho?) to cover an undetermined length of Historic Route 66 with road-ready solar panels.

Blair also told The Star that the bulk of its efforts will be crowdfunded. After receiving a $100,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration to build a prototype, and a pair of $750,000 research grants from the US Department of Transportation, the group has raised more than $2 million of its own to complete the project through acrowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.

Solar Roadways’ panels are tempered safety glass that are as strong as they are efficient. In addition to harnessing energy from the sun, they also come with LED lighting to effectively replace road lines and signage. While obviously more expensive to install upfront, the panels do have the benefit of being completely modular, which would allow for quick and cheap repairs by just swapping out the broken panels rather than re-paving entire stretches of road.  Cont'd...

24M's Batteries Could Better Harness Wind and Solar Power

Elizabeth Woyke for MIT Technology Review:  Lithium-ion batteries power everything from smartphones to electric vehicles. They’re well suited to the job because they are smaller and lighter, charge faster, and last longer than other batteries. But they are also complex and thus costly to make, which has stymied mass adoption of electric transportation and large-scale energy storage.
Yet-Ming Chiang thinks his startup 24M has the answer. The key is a semisolid electrode. In a conventional lithium--ion battery, many thin layers of electrodes are stacked or rolled together to produce a cell. “Lithium-ion batteries are the only product I know of besides baklava where you stack so many thin layers to build up volume,” says Chiang, who is a cofounder and chief scientist at 24M as well as a professor of materials science at MIT. “Our goal is to make a lithium-ion battery through the simplest process possible.”  Cont'd...
 

Tesla has just put in an offer to acquire SolarCity

Johana Bhuiyan for Recode:  Tesla’s board of directors has just sent an offer to acquire SolarCity to the company’s CEO. In other words, the electric car company Elon Musk is the CEO of just offered to buy the solar company Elon Musk is the chairman of.

In the letter, sent to SolarCity co-founder and CEO Lyndon Rive, Tesla’s board of directors offered to buy all of SolarCity’s remaining common stock in exchange for Tesla’s common shares. That’s $26.50 to $28.50 a share, according to the board.

The stock-for-stock deal amounts to about $2.8 billion based on where Tesla stock was trading before the proposal was announced.

As of yesterday, Musk personally owns 22,160,370 shares of SolarCity. So if the respective boards of each company approves the acquisition, Musk would personally reap $587,249,805 to $631,570,545.

Tesla’s move to acquire the solar company will help Musk in his goal of accelerating the world’s transition to using completely sustainable fuels in transportation.  Cont'd...

Siemens, Gamesa merge to create wind power giant

From DW.com:  Spanish renewable energy group Gamesa has agreed combine its wind power business with those of Germany's Siemens in a deal that will create one of the world's largest makers of wind turbines.

In a note to the Spanish stock market regulator on Friday, Gamesa said it had reached the necessary "corporate approval for the potential integration of Siemens' wind business," with the final terms of the deal still needing to be agreed upon.  The announcement followed months of negotiations between the two companies and it comes as demand for wind power surges as countries develop more renewable energy to comply with emissions cut targets.  Although no price tag has so far been put to the merger, financial news agency Bloomberg reported that Siemens would pay around one billion dollars (890 million euros) to Gamesa as part of the operation.  The German engineering group would hold a majority stake of 59 percent of the new wind venture, Bloomberg said, citing people familiar with the matter. Gamesa's biggest shareholder, Spain's biggest power company Iberdrola, would have a 20 percent stake in the new firm, according to Spanish media reports.  Cont'd...

Electric Utilities Prepare for a Grid Dominated by Renewable Energy

Julia Pyper for GTM:  A growing number of electric industry leaders agree that it’s only a matter of time before renewable energy resources dominate their grid systems.

In California, it’s already a reality, said Steve Berberich, president and CEO of California Independent System Operator Corporation. On a typical day, CAISO will pull about 30,000 megawatts of energy production, with around 6,500 megawatts from solar, 5,000 megawatts from wind and another 5,000 from geothermal and other services on the system. In addition, California’s grid system has roughly 4,000 megawatts of behind-the-meter solar, which is growing at a rate of about 70 megawatts per month.

In any given day, California gets more than 30 percent its electricity from renewable energy. On many days that amount climbs to 40 percent, and on some days renewables reach 50 percent, said Berberich.

“Now we have to think about the system as a renewable energy-based system complemented by other things,” he said, speaking at the Edison Electric Institute’s annual convention this week in Chicago.  Cont'd...

Virtual Power Plants Get Around Solar Power's Intermittency Problem

Richard Martin for MIT Technology Review:  Attempting to harness the power of distributed rooftop solar installations to make its grid more flexible and reliable, New York utility Consolidated Edison is launching a pilot program this summer to link dozens of small solar arrays into a single, software-connected power plant. The utility is working with solar power developer SunPower and energy storage company Sunverge to create a “virtual power plant”—a network of distributed assets that functions as a unified resource on the grid.

The project will include 300 homes with a combined total of 1.8 megawatts of solar capacity and batteries that can store up to four megawatt-hours of electricity, enough to run 300 average U.S. households for about 10 hours.  Cont'd...

New Solar Cell Device Surpasses Theoretically Predicted Efficiency Limit

Thomas Burton for Energy Technology Matters:  A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) published a paper last week in the journal Nature Energy that described how they built a working solar thermophotovoltaic device (STPV) that enables solar cells to break through a theoretically predicted ceiling on how much sunlight they can convert into electricity. With this revolutionary new technology, the researchers show the potential of how solar panels can generate even more energy than theoretically determined by harnessing some of the panels’ waste. To learn more about the STPV technology, read on!

Since 1961, the Shockley-Queisser Limit established an absolute theoretical limit on traditional solar cell efficiency regarding energy conversion. A single-layer of silicon cells—the type of cells most widely used in today’s solar panels—has an upper limit of 32 percent. But currently, researchers are studying ways to increase this overall efficiency by using multiple layers of cells or converting the sunlight first to heat before generating electrical power. This latter method uses devices called STPVs, which the MIT team used in their study.  Cont'd...

Saving the Earth by Making Energy Industry's Boardrooms Diverse

Ainslie Chandler for Bloomberg:  The U.S. energy sector accounts for 83.6 percent of the country’s carbon emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, so tackling climate change effectively requires their participation. Some experts worry the lack of diversity in their leadership is hindering that shift.

Energy-sector boards are the least diverse of any industry globally, with 8.2 percent of seats occupied by women, compared with an average of 10.5 percent for all businesses, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That translates to an average of just 0.7 women on the board of each of the 650 energy companies in Bloomberg’s review.

More than 170 countries signed the Paris Agreement in April, which aims to limit the global temperature increase to below two degrees Celsius. If this target is going to be met and the transition to a “de-carbonized” economy made, companies will need to fundamentally change, so leadership teams also have to change, said Rachel Kyte, chief executive and special representative of the UN Secretary-General at Sustainable Energy for All.

“It’s like this bus is coming toward us,” Kyte said of climate change and the transition to renewable energy. “If you keep asking the same people and they keep coming up with the same answer, we’re not going to manage this transition very well.”  Cont'd...

Dubai Is Building the World's Largest Concentrated Solar Power Plant

George Dvorsky for Gizmodo:  They like to do things big in Dubai, including a newly-approved concentrated solar power project that will generate 1,000 megawatts of power by 2020—and a whopping 5,000 megawatts by 2030.

The Dubai Water and Electricity Authority (DEWA) has announced the launch of the world’s largest concentrated solar power (CSP) project. Located on a single site within the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the plant will consist of five facilities. The first phase of the project is expected to be completed either in late 2020 or 2021, at which time it’s expected to generate 1,000 MW of power. By 2030, this plant could be churning out five times that amount—enough to raise the emirate’s total power output by 25 percent.

By comparison the Ivanpah CSP in California (which is currently the world’s largest) generates about 392 MW of power. Morocco’s Ouarzazate solar power plant will provide about 580 MW of power once it’s complete in 2020.  Cont'd...

Construction of the largest land-based wind turbine ever built in the United States.

“Reaching New Heights” uses a combination of time-lapse footage, aerial photography and behind-the-scenes action shots to document the steps involved in building MidAmerican Energy’s first concrete wind turbine tower, located at the company’s Adams wind farm in Adams County, Iowa. At 379 feet from ground to hub, the concrete turbine is more than 100 feet taller than its neighboring turbines constructed with steel towers.

Australia's Carnegie Wave Energy Project Sets World Record

Joshua S Hill for CleanTechnica:  Australia’s Carnegie Wave Energy Project has set a new world record after completing 14,000 cumulative operating hours, the highest ever recorded.

The news was announced by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) this week, which provided $13.1 million in funding. The $40 million project uses CETO wave energy technology, and was the world’s first array of wave power generators to be connected to an electricity grid. For the past 12 months, the CETO 5 project has used an array of three offshore wave power generators to provide electricity and potable desalinated water to Australia’s largest naval base, HMAS Stirling, on Garden Island in Western Australia.

“ARENA is proud to help local companies, like [Carnegie Wave Energy Limited], develop new renewable energy solutions that have the potential to change the way the world generates electricity,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht. “We do this by providing Australian innovators with the support they need during the critical RD&D period, when patient funding is essential.”  Cont'd...

Offshore Wind Arrives in U.S. Waters

By Daniel Cusick, ClimateWire for Scientific American:  The first offshore wind farm in the United States is set to begin delivering power to Rhode Island’s electricity grid by year’s end, a milestone that could help reshape energy markets from New England to South Florida, experts say.

But for U.S. offshore wind power to achieve its full potential, as much as 4 gigawatts of capacity, it will need a major influx of capital and know-how, much of which will come from Europe, where the technology has a 25-year performance record and now accounts for 11 GW of generation capacity on the continent.

Representatives of top U.S. and European wind firms—including executives of Deepwater Wind, the firm building the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm off Rhode Island—told industry peers gathered on the Gulf Coast last week that the industry should act now to establish the technical, logistical and policy frameworks to build more offshore wind farms in the United States.  Cont'd...

Energy Storage: It's About the Software

Carl Weinschenk for EnergyManagerToday:  Renewable initiatives rely on the ability to save the generated energy for a rainy – or windless – day. It follows that the software driving the pivotal task of managing the energy storage system is of paramount importance, says Gabe Schwartz, the Director of Marketing for Stem, which describes itself as an intelligent storage company that combines hardware and software storage platforms.

The core storage technology itself is important, of course. But the linchpin – the secret sauce – is the way in which that energy is handled once it is generated. “It is not a solar panel…where if the sun is shining you are in good shape,” Schwartz said. “It must shift use from one time to another knowing exactly when most valuable time to do that is and have the ability to act quickly when those opportunities present themselves both to the customer and the grid.”

The market for storage – and the software that drives it — is growing.  Cont'd...

Nanomaterials could double efficiency of solar cells by converting waste heat into usable energy

Devin Coldewey for TechCrunch:  An experimental solar cell created by MIT researchers could massively increase the amount of power generated by a given area of panels, while simultaneously reducing the amount of waste heat. Even better, it sounds super cool when scientists talk about it: “with our own unoptimized geometry, we in fact could break the Shockley-Queisser limit.”

The Shockley-Queisser limit, which is definitely not made up, is the theoretical maximum efficiency of a solar cell, and it’s somewhere around 32 percent for the most common silicon-based ones.

You can get around this by various tricks like stacking cells, but the better option, according to David Bierman, a doctoral student on the team (and who is quoted above), will be thermophotovoltaics — whereby sunlight is turned into heat and then re-emitted as light better suited for the cell to absorb.  Cont'd...

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