Tesla's New Powerwall Packs a Powerful Punch

Ryan Wallace for The Science Times:  Known as the "Powerwall", Tesla's newest invention is a thin, wall-mounted battery that is the size of a flat screen TV. And with this new battery home owners who have already invested in solar power will be able to entirely go off the grid, and even to sell their excess solar juice back to energy companies.

Developed in conjunction with the lithium-ion batteries that Tesla uses for its electric vehicles, the Powerwall unit is an inexpensive unit, only running $3,000 to $3,500, and with it Musk and his companies believe that humans may one day be able to transition to solely using energy derived from the Sun. Though the installation may look like an artpiece, it packs quite a punch at 10 kWh, and with it consumers will not only be able to store their energy for dark solar-free nights, but also more efficiently contribute to global energy use by contributing carbon-free energy back into the mix.
 

Elon Musk's big announcement: it's called 'Tesla Energy'

Late Thursday night in Los Angeles, Tesla announced "Tesla Energy," described by the company in a statement as "a suite of batteries for homes, businesses, and utilities fostering a clean energy ecosystem and helping wean the world off fossil fuels."
 
The statement continued: "Tesla is not just an automotive company, it’s an energy innovation company. Tesla Energy is a critical step in this mission to enable zero emission power generation."
 
Tesla CEO Elon Musk made the official announcement onstage at the company's design studio in Hawthorne, CA, just south of LA.
 
The home battery, call the "Powerwall," is intended to store solar energy and enable customers to bank grid electricity from non-peak periods and use it during peak times, saving money. It looks "like a beautiful piece of sculpture," Musk said. You can order it now, and it comes in different colors.
 
"The Tesla Powerwall is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery designed to store energy at a residential level for load shifting, backup power and self-consumption of solar power generation," Tesla said.
 
"The Powerwall consists of Tesla’s lithium-ion battery pack, liquid thermal control system and software that receives dispatch commands from a solar inverter. The unit mounts seamlessly on a wall and is integrated with the local grid to harness excess power and give customers the flexibility to draw energy from their own reserve."

Engineering a better solar cell: UW research pinpoints defects in popular perovskites

One of the fastest-growing areas of solar energy research is with materials called perovskites. These promising light harvesters could revolutionize the solar and electronics industries because they show potential to convert sunlight into electricity more efficiently and less expensively than today’s silicon-based semiconductors.
 
These superefficient crystal structures have taken the scientific community by storm in the past few years because they can be processed very inexpensively and can be used in applications ranging from solar cells to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) found in phones and computer monitors.
 
A new study published online April 30 in the journal Science by University of Washington and University of Oxford researchers demonstrates that perovskite materials, generally believed to be uniform in composition, actually contain flaws that can be engineered to improve solar devices even further.  Cont'd...

First Offshore Wind Farm In The U.S. Kicks Off Construction

Offshore wind is coming to the United States.
Construction on what will be the country’s first offshore wind farm started Monday in Rhode Island. The wind farm, which is being developed by Deepwater Wind, will be located off of the coast of Block Island, a small island about 13 miles south of Rhode Island. Once completed, the five-turbine, 30-megawatt wind farm will produce enough energy to power all homes and businesses on Block Island, which previously relied on diesel generators, according to the Sierra Club. The wind farm will also send energy to mainland Rhode Island. It’s expected to come online in fall 2016.
Environmental groups, many of which have pushed for the project since it started going through hearings in 2013, applauded the start of construction. Bruce Nilles, senior campaign director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, told ThinkProgress that the start of construction was a “landmark” moment for the U.S. wind industry, and that it “really makes real the promise offshore wind has” in the U.S., particularly on the East Coast.
“This is technology that will play a very important part in decarbonizing electric sector,” he said.

'Mega' floating solar power plants open in Japan

Two floating solar power plants capable of providing electricity for 1,000 homes have been completed in Japan.
 
The latest such "mega-plants" at Nishihira and Higashihira Ponds in Kato City are the work of electronics giant Kyocera Corporation and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation, and took just seven months to install. The plant's 11,250 modules are expected to generate 3,300 megawatt hours (MWh) every year.
 
According to Kyocera, besides being typhoon-proof (due to their sturdy, high-density polyethylene and array design) floating solar plants are superior to their land-based equivalents because of the cooling effect of the water, which allows them to function more efficiently. Reservoirs are also an ideal location because the panels produce shade, which reduces water evaporation and promotes algae growth. A report by Korea Water Resources Corporation found that the lower temperatures of the floating modules mean they are 11 percent more efficient than land-based equivalents. The report identified unsolved issues with the plants, too, however. It said the study had to discard data collected when the panels moved in the wind, and said research into new mooring systems was "continually needed".

MIT invention uses solar power to make ocean water drinkable

USAID recently announced the winners of the Desal Prize, part of a competition to see who could create an affordable desalination solution for developing countries. The idea was to create a system that could remove salt from water and meet three criteria: it had to be cost-effective, environmentally sustainable, and energy efficient.

The winners of the $125,000 first prize were a group from MIT and Jain Irrigation Systems. The group came up with a method that uses solar panels to charge a bank of batteries. The batteries then power a system that removes salt from the water through electrodialysis. On the most basic level, that means that dissolved salt particles, which have a slight electric charge, are drawn out of the water when a small electrical current is applied. In addition to getting rid of salt (which makes water unusable for crops and for drinking), the team also applied UV light to disinfect some of the water as it passed through the system.

Using the sun instead of fossil fuels to power a desalination plant isn't a totally new idea. Larger solar desalination plants are being seriously investigated in areas where water is becoming a scarce resource, including Chile and California. While proponents hope to eventually could provide water to large numbers of people, the technology is still expensive (though prices are dropping) and requires a lot of intricate technology.

Here's Why Apple Is Building Solar Farms in China

Apple just agreed to back two large solar farms in China. It’s the biggest deal of its kind for a U.S. company operating in China. For China, the deal is only a beginning. 
China has been installing more renewable-power capacity than fossil fuels for several years, a gap that's growing. In 2015, China will install 15 gigawatts to 18 gw of solar power alone, double the solar deployment in the U.S., according to an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
The chart shows how, in the next 15 years, China is on track to have more low-carbon electricity than the entire capacity of the U.S. power grid. "Think of what their grid will look like in 2030," Michael Liebreich, founder of BNEF, said at the organization's annual summit last week in New York. "A very competitive advantage."
For Apple, the 40-megawatt partnership extends Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook's solar aspirations beyond U.S. borders. Cook announced an $850 million deal in February to purchase enough solar to power all its California operations: stores, offices, headquarters, and a data center. By making a similar push in China, the tech giant begins to offset its considerable manufacturing pollution, which is almost entirely overseas. 
Many U.S. tech giants—not just Apple—have been criticized for outsourcing their pollution, says Justin Wu, head of Asia research for BNEF. Apple is "hitting back at that whole line of arguments," he says. "This is the beginning of something. Manufacturing in China is going to get greened." 

Toshiba Begins Operation of Independent Energy Supply System Utilizing Renewable Energy and Hydrogen

Toshiba Corporation announced the start of demonstration operation of H2One, an independent energy supply system based on renewable energy and use of hydrogen as a fuel for power generation. Kawasaki City and Toshiba have installed the system at the Kawasaki Marien public facility and Higashi-Ogishima-Naka Park in the Kawasaki Port area.
 
H2One combines photovoltaic installations, storage batteries, hydrogen-producing water electrolysis equipment, hydrogen and water tanks, and fuel cells. Electricity generated from the photovoltaic installations is used to electrolyze water and produce hydrogen, which is then stored in tanks and used in fuel cells that produce electricity and hot water.
 
Since H2One uses only sunlight and water for fuel, it can independently provide electricity and hot water in times of emergency, even when lifelines are cut. Kawasaki Marien and Higashi-Ogishima-Naka Park, a municipal facility to promote Kawasaki Port, is a designated emergency evacuation area. In times of disaster, H2One will use stored hydrogen to provide an estimated 300 evacuees to the site with electricity and hot water for about one week. The H2One system is housed in a container, and can be transported to disaster-hit areas on trailers.

Top 5 Richest Tycoons in Renewable Energy

The growth of the solar industry is truly astounding, particularly in China, the world’s solar leader. Between 2011 and 2012 the Chinese solar market grew by 500 percent. According to a 2014 report by Frost & Sullivan, a consulting firm, the global solar market earned revenues of nearly $60 billion in 2013. The firm estimates that by 2020 it will double to $137.2 billion.
 
With all this growth, somebody was obviously going to get rich, and it didn’t take long for Oilprice.com to identify some of the biggest beneficiaries of the push toward renewables. The following are 5 of the world’s most successful renewable energy business leaders and their net worth.
 
1. Li Hejun, Chairman, Hanenergy Holdings. $31.5 billion. 
2. Elon Musk, Founder/CEO, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., Tesla Motors. $12.2 billion.
3. Wang Chuanfu, Founder, BYD Company. $5.3 billion.
4. Aloys Wobben, Founder/Owner, Enercon. $4.2 billion. 
5. Zhu Gongshan, Chairman, GCL-Poly Energy Holdings. 

The $5 Billion Race to Build a Better Battery

Professor Donald Sadoway remembers chuckling at an e-mail in August 2009 from a woman claiming to represent Bill Gates. The world’s richest man had taken Sadoway’s Introduction to Solid State Chemistry online, the message explained. Gates wondered if he could meet the guy teaching the popular MIT course the next time the billionaire was in the Boston area, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its May issue.  “I thought it was a student prank,” says Sadoway, who’s spent more than a decade melting metals in search of a cheap, long-life battery that might wean the world off dirty energy. He’d almost forgotten the note when Gates’s assistant wrote again to plead for a response.
 
A month later, Gates and Sadoway were swapping ideas on curbing climate change in the chemist’s second-story office on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus. They discussed progress on batteries to help solar and wind compete with fossil fuels. Gates said to call when Sadoway was ready to start a company. “He agreed to be an angel investor,” Sadoway says. “It would have been tough without that support.”
 

Sadoway is ready. He and a handful of scientists with young companies and big backers say they have a shot at solving a vexing problem: how to store and deliver power around the clock so sustainable energies can become viable alternatives to fossil fuels.  How these storage projects are allowing utility power customers to defect from the grid is one of the topics for debate this week at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York. Today’s nickel-cadmium and lithium-ion offerings aren’t up to the task. They can’t run a home for more than a few hours or most cars for more than 100 miles (160 kilometers). At about $400 per kilowatt-hour, they’re double the price analysts say will unleash widespread green power. “Developing a storage system beyond lithium-ion is critical to unlocking the value of electric vehicles and renewable energy,” says Andrew Chung, a partner at Menlo Park, California–based venture capital firm Khosla Ventures.

In The Midst Of Toxic Oil Spill, Vancouver Announces It Will Go 100 Percent Renewable

There’s some mixed news coming out of Vancouver, Canada this week. On the one hand, the city announced at an international sustainability summit that it would commit to using 100 percent renewable energy to power its electricity, transportation, heating and air conditioning within 20 years. On the other hand, Vancouver is also dealing with a fuel spill in the waters of English Bay that is washing up on beaches and threatening wildlife.
On March 26, Vancouver’s city council voted unanimously to approve Mayor Gregor Robertson motion calling for a long-term commitment to deriving all of the city’s energy from renewable sources. At the ICLEI World Congress 2015 this week in Seoul, South Korea, the city went a step further, committing to reaching that goal of 100 percent renewable electricity, transportation, heating and air conditioning by 2030 or 2035.
Right now, Vancouver gets 32 percent of its energy — that includes electricity, transportation, heating, and cooling — from renewable sources, so the goal is ambitious, but not impossible. According to the Guardian, Vancouver could get all of its electricity from renewables within a few years, but transportation, heating, and cooling may prove more difficult.

Wind Power Creates 30,000 Texas Jobs, Generates $85 million in Taxes

The boom in West Texas wind-powered electricity generation has delivered a major economic boost to the region, including creation of over 40 new businesses and 30,000 construction jobs in 57 West Texas counties since 2001, according to data collected by Public Citizen’s Texas office.
 
The 40 new manufacturers and businesses make everything from wind turbine blades and steel towers to electronics, according to the data. Wind farms also generate over $85 million in taxes annually in rural Texas counties and more than $9 billion in new taxable assets in the last 14 years.
 
Over a five-month period in 2014 and 2015, Public Citizen’s Texas office collected data on the economic impact of wind development from county appraisers and tax assessors in the 57 West Texas counties. The data includes estimates of investment values, employment, tax revenues, and lease payments by wind farms, and it reflects review of previous research and case studies.

As California Faces Record Drought Levels, Wind Energy Provides A Vital Service

In 2014, wind energy saved 2.5 billion gallons of water in California by displacing water consumption at the state's fossil-fired power plants, playing a valuable role in alleviating the state's record drought. Wind energy's annual water savings work out to around 65 gallons per person in the state - or the equivalent of 20 billion bottles of water, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
 
According to AWEA, one of wind energy's most overlooked benefits is that it requires virtually no water to produce electricity while almost all other electricity sources evaporate tremendous amounts of water.
 
In California - where the state is combating record drought levels - Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed an executive order to reduce household water consumption by 25%, from about 140 gallons per day per household to 105 gallons. Wind energy's water savings are, therefore, equivalent to what would be saved by nearly one week's worth of the required reductions for a typical household.
 
In 2008, U.S. thermal power plants withdrew 22 trillion to 62 trillion gallons of freshwater from rivers, lakes, streams and aquifers and consumed 1 trillion to 2 trillion gallons. By displacing generation from these conventional power plants, U.S. wind energy currently saves around 35 billion gallons of water per year - the equivalent of 120 gallons per person or 285 billion bottles of water.

Obama wants to train 75,000 new solar workers by 2020

President Obama launch a new initiative to expand the nation’s solar industry workforce during a visit to Utah’s Hill Air Force Base on Friday, seeking to gain support for his economic agenda in a heavily-Republican state.
 
The Energy Department will seek to train 75,000 people — including veterans — to enter the solar workforce by 2020, increasing the goal it set in May 2014 by 25,000.
 
“We’ve got to be relentless in our work to grow the economy and create good jobs,” Obama said after touring the brief tour, adding that other nations are seeking to expand their economies as well. “And that’s why we have to redouble our efforts to make sure that we’re competitive, to make sure that we’re taking the steps that are needed for us to be successful.”

Tesla's New Product Secretly Tested By 330 Consumers

From Benzinga: Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry has revealed some interesting information about Tesla Motors Inc 's new product line.
 
Outside of the fact that it will not be a car, very little is known about what Tesla plans to announce. Some experts think it could be a motorcycle. Others assume that it will be an in-home battery that involves solar energy.
 
If Chowdhry's information is correct, it seems that Tesla is ready to launch the latter.
 
In a note to investors, Chowdhry said that he knows of two people that own a residential battery from Tesla. He spoke to one of those owners and detailed the following bullet points:
 
  • "There are about 230 Households in California, who currently have Tesla Stationary Battery installed in their Homes. Another about 100 Households are out of California.
  • This customer had the Tesla Stationary Battery for about One and a Half years, and is installed in his garage."
Last year, Chowdhry attended a sustainability conference and learned that Google Inc is "widely believed" to have a few Tesla (commercial-grade) batteries in some of its buildings. Apple Inc. might also purchase some of these batteries for its new campus.
 
Chowdhry believes that Tesla's commercial-grade batteries are rated at more than 400 kWh.

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