Danish researchers may have found 'the energy source of the future'

CPH Post:  Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have discovered a natural process they are calling ‘reverse photosynthesis’. They have observed how the energy in solar rays breaks down rather than builds up plant material, as happens in photosynthesis.

Sunlight is collected by chlorophyll, and when combined with a specific enzyme the energy breaks down plant biomass. The resulting product can then be used as a biofuel.

By increasing production speed while reducing pollution, the discovery has the potential to revolutionise industrial production.

“This is a game-changer, one that could transform the industrial production of fuels and chemicals, thus serving to reduce pollution significantly,” said Claus Felby, the University of Copenhagen professor who headed up the research.

“It has always been right under our noses,” he said. “Photosynthesis by way of the sun doesn’t just allow things to grow – the same principles can be applied to break plant matter down, so that the immense energy in solar light can be used so that processes can take place without additional energy inputs.”  Cont'd...

Solar Power's Promise Infuses a New Film

Emily J. Gertz for TakePart:  Filmmaker Shalini Kantayya set out to show that climate change isn’t all gloom and doom. The result, Catching the Sun, ably makes that case but may still leave you inspired and infuriated in equal parts.

This fast-paced and compelling new documentary, which premieres Friday in New York City and in cities nationwide during April, follows a diverse group of job seekers, activists, politicians, and entrepreneurs as they tap into the world’s growing solar powereconomy.

Kantayya jumps between nations that have unequivocally adopted policies to speed up adoption of renewables and more fitful efforts here in the United States to expand solar energy—from a program in Richmond, Virginia, training unemployed men and women to become solar panel installers to a “Green Tea Party” member and energy independence advocate working both sides of the halls of power in Georgia.  Cont'd...

The World's Largest Renewable Energy Developer Could Go Broke

Ben Walsh for The Huffington Post:  There is a “substantial risk” that SunEdison may file for bankruptcy, the world’s largest renewable energy developer said in a regulatory filing on Tuesday. The company’s fall isn’t a referendum on the solar industry as a whole, as much as it is on SunEdison’s aggressive growth strategy fueled by excessive debt and financial engineering, analysts say.

SunEdison “just thought they were smarter than everyone else,” said David Levine, the founder and CEO of Geostellar,  a solar energy marketplace that has done deals with the company.

The company’s shares have fallen steeply since they hit a high of $30 in July. They were at just $1.26 before the filing. The stock immediately dropped another 40 percent when the market opened after the filing, and the company was trading at just $0.59 by Tuesday lunchtime.

“What happened from late-2014 to the middle of 2015, the company began embarking on a hyper-growth strategy,” S&P analyst Angelo Zino told The Huffington Post.  Cont'd...

Could uphill train tracks solve the problem of energy storage?

James Murray for BusinessGreen:  is commonly regarded as a green form of travel, typically boasting lower levels of carbon emissions and air pollution than road transport, but could it also serve to deliver a cleaner and more resilient power grid?

That is the hope of innovative US start up Advanced Rail Energy Storage, LLC, which yesterday announces it has secured a crucial right-of-way lease from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to develop its planned 50MW gravity-based energy storage project.

The ARES Nevada project uses the same principles as pumped hydroelectric energy storage projects, but instead of relying on water in a water-stressed region it plans to make use of an inclined rail track and generator locomotive cars that will run along it.  Cont'd...

Why Power Markets Tilt Toward Renewables Even With Cheap Oil

Anna Hirtenstein for Bloomberg Business:  If you’re a power plant developer, chances are you’ll be selling renewables in a developing nation in the decades ahead -- even with fossil fuel prices bumping along historic lows.

That’s been the conclusion for some time of the International Energy Agency and independent researchers such as Bloomberg New Energy Finance. A report out Thursday from the United Nations Environment Program using BNEF data gives more statistical backing for the trends.

For the first time in 2015, more investment went into renewables than fossil fuels, and most of the money went to emerging markets. BNEF is hosting a conference in New York starting April 4 to bring together executives and bankers attempting to generate value from the boom.

Here are six charts from the UNEP report showing why cheap oil and natural gas aren’t about to slow the rise of wind and solar.

EPFL Scientists Achieve Record-Level Reproducibility for Perovskite Solar Cells

Perovskite solar cells hold much promise for cost-effective solar energy. However, heat stability is an issue, and can significantly limit the solar cell’s long-term efficiency. A team of scientists led by Michael Grätzel’s lab at EPFL has now developed a cesium-containing perovskite solar cell that has achieved efficiency of 21.1%, as well as record-level reproducibility. The work is published in Energy and Environmental Science.

By adding cesium, the EPFL scientists, led by postdoc Michael Saliba, made the first ever triple-cation perovskite mixture (Cs/MA/FA). The new films are more heat-stable and less affected by fluctuating surrounding variables such as temperature, solvent vapors or the heating protocol used for the device. But more importantly, they also show stabilized power-conversion efficiencies of 21.1% and outputs at 18% under operational conditions, even after 250 hours.

“This is an absolute breakthrough,” says Michael Saliba. “These properties are crucial for commercializing perovskite photovoltaics, especially since reproducibility and stability are the main requirements for cost-effective large-scale manufacturing of perovskite solar cells.”  Source AZOCleantech...

Tesla Discontinues 10-Kilowatt-Hour Powerwall Home Battery

Julia Pyper for GTM:  Tesla has quietly removed all references to its 10-kilowatt-hour residential battery from the Powerwall website, as well as the company’s press kit. The company's smaller battery designed for daily cycling is all that remains.

The change was initially made without explanation, which prompted industry insiders to speculate. Today, a Tesla representative confirmed the 10-kilowatt-hour option has been discontinued.

"We have seen enormous interest in the Daily Powerwall worldwide," according to an emailed statement to GTM. "The Daily Powerwall supports daily use applications like solar self-consumption plus backup power applications, and can offer backup simply by modifying the way it is installed in a home. Due to the interest, we have decided to focus entirely on building and deploying the 7-kilowatt-hour Daily Powerwall at this time."

The 10-kilowatt-hour option was marketed as a backup power supply capable of 500 cycles, at a price to installers of $3,500. Tesla was angling to sell the battery to consumers that want peace of mind in the event the grid goes down, like during another Superstorm Sandy. The problem is that the economics for a lithium-ion backup battery just aren’t that attractive.  Cont'd...

Solar Panels Grown on the Moon could Power Earth

Sarah Fecht for Popular Science:  Currently a high school senior in California, Lewis-Weber has just published a paper in the journal New Space with what he thinks could be the solution to the upcoming energy crisis: putting self-replicating solar panels in space. These solar panels would to build copies of themselves, autonomously, on the surface of the moon. Then they would enter Earth's orbit, collect the sun's energy, and wirelessly beam it to the ground.

That may sound like a crazy idea, but the notion of space-based solar power actually dates back several decades, to the 1970s oil crisis. It was set aside after oil prices went back down, but since then, two things have happened: One, the world has become a lot more desperate to solve climate change; and two, technological innovations have brought this crazy idea out of the realm of science fiction. The idea is gaining attention, and with some big investments, it's possible that space-based solar power could become a reality within a few decades.  Cont'd...

Obama administration opens up Long Island to offshore wind development

SCOTT WALDMAN for Politico:  The federal government has designated an 81,000-acre area off of Long Island for possible commercial offshore wind development.

The move by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Wednesday to open the federal waters 11 miles off of New York to major wind development projects will be a significant boost to the Cuomo administration’s aggressive climate policies. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will now conduct an environmental assessment, with a possible sale of leases to follow.

“New York has tremendous offshore wind potential, and today's milestone marks another important step in the President's strategy to tap clean, renewable energy from the Nation’s vast wind and solar resources,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement. “We will continue to work with the State and local stakeholders through a collaborative effort as we determine what places have the highest potential and lowest conflict to harness the enormous wind energy potential off the Atlantic seaboard.”  Cont'd...

The world's first solar airport no longer pays for electricity

Jethro Mullen for CNN:  Fed up with their hefty electricity bill, managers at Cochin International Airport in southern India took matters into their own hands.

Three years ago, they began adding solar panels -- first on the roof of the arrivals terminal, then on and around an aircraft hangar. The success of those initial efforts led to a much bigger endeavor.

"We wanted to be independent of the electricity utility grid," Jose Thomas, the airport's general manager, told CNNMoney.

Last year, the airport commissioned the German company Bosch to build a vast 45-acre solar plant on unused land near the international cargo terminal.

The plant came online in August, making Cochin the world's first fully solar-powered airport.

The tens of thousands of panels generate on average slightly more than the roughly 48,000-50,000 kilowatts of power that the airport -- the seventh busiest in India -- uses per day, according to Thomas. Surplus energy is fed into the wider electricity grid.

The big project cost around 620 million rupees ($9.3 million), a sum the airport expects to save in less than six years by not having to pay electricity bills anymore. It also estimates the solar plant will avoid more than 300,000 metric tons of carbon emissions from coal power over the next 25 years.  Cont'd...

United Airlines is flying on biofuels ... here's why that's a really big deal

Chelsea Harvey for The Washington Post:   On Friday, United Airlines will launch a new initiative that uses biofuel to help power flights running between Los Angeles and San Francisco, with eventual plans to expand to all flights operating out of LAX. It's the first time an American airline will begin using renewable fuel for regular commercial operations, and the occasion is part of a bigger movement when it comes to clean transportation in the U.S.

The renewable fuel used to power United's planes will be coming from a Los Angeles refinery operated by AltAir Fuels, which is using the facility to produce both renewable jet fuel and diesel fuel using a technology developed by Honeywell UOP, a major supplier and technology licenser in the petroleum industry. Back in 2013, AltAir and United announced their partnership, in which United will purchase up to 15 million gallons of biofuel over a three-year period.

Friday's launch will be the first application of that agreement. The flights will use a mixture of 30 percent biofuel and 70 percent traditional fuel, and United says that the biofuel will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 60 percent compared with regular fuel.  Cont'd...

GE has figured out how to make solar power batteries using greenhouse gasses

Brad Reed for BGR:  We typically think of carbon dioxide as an unhealthy byproduct of our over reliance on fossil fuels. But what if CO2 could be used to help us move away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources? GE Global Research has been working with the U.S. Department of Energy to come up with a way to use excess carbon dioxide produced by power plants to store extra solar power and deliver it back to the grid for later use.

There are two major components to this solar power storage system: The first component captures solar energy and keeps it stored in molten salt, while the second component takes surplus electricity from the grid to cool off carbon dioxide to the point where it becomes dry ice. To keep the solar energy stored, the molten salt will then be released into the CO2, which will act as a battery capable of deploying power when needed.

The CO2-molten salt mixture will then flow through a specially designed CO2 turbine that GE says “can generate as much as 100 megawatts of ‘fast electricity’ per installed unit.” The advantage of this system is that these turbines would be able to operate at night when there’s no solar power being directly absorbed.  Cont'd...

After record year, U.S. energy storage forecasted to break 1 GW capacity mark in 2019

Peter Maloney  for UtilityDive:  The U.S. energy storage market put in a strong showing in 2015 with its “best quarter and best year of all time,” according to the GTM/ESA report. And current market trends point toward continued strong growth.

The recent extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit, and new guidelines under consideration at the Internal Revenue Service are expected to further boost energy storage and the pairing of storage with renewable resources.

In the fourth quarter alone, the U.S. deployed 112 MW of storage capacity, representing more than the total of all storage deployments in 2013 and 2014 combined.

For the full year, 221 MW (161 MWh) of storage was installed. In 2014 65 MW (86 MWh) of storage was installed in the U.S.  Cont'd...

These Lego-Like Batteries Plug In To Store Solar Power At Home

Adele Peters for Co-Exist:  Less than a year after Tesla unveiled its Powerwall battery for storing electricity at home, a startup has designed a much cheaper alternative that you can plug in yourself, without an electrician.

The modular batteries, called Orison, can be hung on the wall or set on the ground to double as an LED lamp. If you want more power, you just add the units together.

"Think of Orison like Legos," says co-founder and CEO Eric Clifton. "The 2.2 kilowatt-hour unit is really just one piece, so you can actually add as many as you need." The 2.2 kilowatt-hour version is as large as the company could make one unit and keep it under 40 pounds, so it could be easily shipped and moved.

With one unit, if your power went out in a storm, you could keep an energy-efficient refrigerator running for about two days. If you want to back up everything in your house, you'd connect a long series of batteries together.

For someone with solar panels on the roof, the batteries can store power to use at night. Right now, most people can sell extra solar power back to the grid when they're not using it, but many state laws are about to change so people will make less money. Batteries can help solar homeowners save money by making use of the power they've generated.  Cont'd...

Offshore wind projects in United States see renewed interest

By PHILIP MARCELO for AP:  The offshore wind industry has high hopes for establishing a permanent beachhead in the U.S. after years of disappointment.

Business leaders and politicians who gathered for an industry conference in Boston this week said wealthy investment firms and seasoned European offshore wind companies are increasingly committing to projects along the East Coast. That, they said, is evidence a domestic industry dreamed about for nearly two decades is finally on its way.

"There's a palpable sense that it's finally happening," said Bryan Martin, a managing director at D.E. Shaw & Co. That New York hedge fund is the principal backer of Deepwater Wind, a Rhode Island-based company looking to launch the country's first offshore wind farm off Block Island by the end of the year. "The U.S. tends to start small and ramp up very fast. I believe that will happen with offshore wind."

Among the significant new players to emerge in the past year is DONG Energy, a Danish firm that operates more than a dozen wind farms, including some of Europe's largest.  Cont'd...

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