Apple leftovers key for future energy storage

By Tereza Pultarova for E&T:  German researchers have developed a new carbon-based active material that can be manufactured from apple leftovers and used to build better energy storage systems.

The apple-based material can be used as the negative electrode in sodium-ion batteries, which are currently being researched as a more environmentally friendly and cheaper alternative to lithium-ion batteries.

Instead of energy-intensive lithium mining, which frequently damages the environment, battery manufacturers in future could be using organic waste to make batteries.

In tests, the new material discovered by researchers from the Helmholtz Institute Ulm of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, has demonstrated ‘excellent electrochemical properties’, allowing the researchers to carry out 1000 charge and discharge cycles during which the apple-based battery demonstrated high stability as well as capacity.  Cont'd...

The oil industry has invented an ironic new use for solar power

Cassie Werber for Quartz:  There’s a huge project taking shape in the deserts of Oman. It will extract crude oil from the ground by pumping vast quantities of steam into it. To produce the steam, water will be brought to a boil using as much as a gigawatt of energy. The source of that energy: the sun.

Using solar power to get fossil fuels out of the ground will strike some as ironic—especially since, if that method weren’t available, the high cost of extracting the oil might lead to more pressure to use cleaner energy sources, such as solar, instead.

But GlassPoint, the American company behind the new technology, says that the project and others like it will help fossil-fuel drillers limit carbon emissions. The process of “enhanced oil recovery,” where steam is used to loosen thick oil and make it easier to pump, usually involves burning natural gas to heat water. GlassPoint says its technology can cut that gas consumption, and the consequent carbon emissions, by   up to 80%.  Cont'd...

Coalition of US states pledge to accelerate renewable energy efforts

Oliver Milman for The Guardian:  A bipartisan group of governors from 17 states has pledged to accelerate their efforts to create a green economy in the US by boosting renewables, building better electricity grids and cutting emissions from transport.

An accord signed by the governors states that the US must “embrace a bold vision of the nation’s energy future” by reducing emissions, transitioning to clean energy sources and ensuring that infrastructure isn’t risked by extreme weather events such as floods and wildfires.

The agreement sets out commitments to expand renewable energy and energy efficiency and integrate solar and wind generation into electricity grids. These grids will be “modernized”, the accord states, to improve energy reliability.  Cont'd...

Low-cost energy storage for power grid can be found in your Water Heater

By David Shaffer  for Star Tribune:  The least-expensive battery to store energy from the electric power grid may be sitting in homeowners’ basements — the electric water heater.

That is the surprising finding of research released Wednesday by the cooperative power industry, including Maple Grove-based Great River Energy, and an environmental group.

Customers at many utilities already save money by heating water at night, taking advantage of low, off-peak electric rates. It requires a special electric water heater that holds a day’s worth of household water, but offers long-term savings.

Now, a study by the Brattle Group, an economic consulting firm, says that the nation’s 50 million residential electric water heaters can address bigger challenges on the power grid, such as storing intermittent renewable energy from wind farms and solar arrays.  Cont'd...

The Koch Brothers' Dirty War on Solar Power

Tim Dickinson for Rolling Stone:  The full political might of Florida's IOUs was on display in December, when a deceptive campaign, funded by the state's electric utilities, crushed a citizen-led effort to open Florida to solar competition through the 2016 ballot. "When your opponents have no ethical foundation, have unlimited resources and are willing to say and do anything to defeat you," says Stephen Smith, director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which led the pro-solar effort, "it's a tough hurdle to overcome."

It should come as no surprise that the utilities have fought so hard. The rise of cheap, distributed solar power poses a disruptive – and perhaps existential – threat to the traditional electric utility business.

Monopoly electric utilities used to make sense. Dirty power, generated at a distance from population centers, was carried over a set of transmission lines to homes and businesses. Consumers got reliable power from a single provider. IOUs were guaranteed a profit – both for building power plants and transmission lines as well as for the electricity itself.  Full Article:

Boeing delivers fuel cell energy storage system to U.S. Navy

Ryan Maass for UPI:  Boeing has delivered its reversible solid oxide fuel cell, for generating clean electricity, to the U.S. Navy for testing.

The fuel cell system is designed to generate, compress and store hydrogen from renewable sources such as wind and solar to produce zero-emissions electricity.Boeing's delivery to the Navy follows 16 months of development.

The technology is capable of both producing and storing energy. The first unit was commissioned on the Southern California power grid prior to its installation on the Navy's 'microgrid' for further testing.

"This fuel cell solution is an exciting new technology providing our customers with a flexible, affordable and environmentally progressive option for energy storage and power generation," Boeing Advanced Technology Programs director Lance Towers said.

Boeing officials say they were able to develop the fuel cell using their experience with the energy systems used for their unmanned undersea vehicles.  Cont'd...

MIT Tool Gives the Cost of Installing Solar Panels on Any Roof in Your City

Daniel Oberhaus for Motherboard:  The world, it seems, is falling in love with solar energy. Recent years have seen the increasing adoption of solar power around the world as an alternative energy source for everything from individual homes to the entire energy grid, with the United States’solar capacity having grown to 24 GW, a more than a 17-fold increase since 2008. Part of this rapid growth for solar infrastructure is the result of markedly more efficient solar energy cells, but in spite of these recent technological advances, transitioning to solar power still doesn’t make sense (at least economically speaking) everywhere.

Installing photovoltaic systems can be pretty pricey, and home- and business-owners have to engage in a complex cost-benefit analysis to see if transitioning to solar power is an economically sound idea. The “pain-in-the-ass” factor of such calculations alone might be enough to turn people off of the idea of contemplating installing a photovoltaic system, so the folks at MIT came up with a solution: Mapdwell.

Mapdwell maps the solar potential of entire cities by doing a cost-benefit analysis for every rooftop to determine if installing solar panels on that rooftop is worth the investment. All you do is enter your address into the program, and it will tell you the expected installation costs, the number of years it will take to earn back this investment from your photovoltaic system, the amount of carbon offset by the installation, as well as incredibly detailed installment specs such as the optimal panel tilt and the number of panels that could fit on the roof.  Cont'd...

This year will be a solar-powered Super Bowl

By Jeff Clabaugh for WTOP:  Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, will set the stage for Sunday’s Super Bowl, and it will be a solar-powered event.

Levi’s Stadium, which opened in July 2014, is the first professional football stadium in the NFL to open with LEED Gold certification, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association in Washington.

Princeton, New Jersey-based NGR Solar LLC installed more than 1,150 solar panels at the stadium during its construction — enough to produce 375 kilowatts of peak power. The system can generate enough power in a year to meet electricity demand during every San Francisco 49ers home game.

The solar panels cover three bridges that connect the stadium to the main parking lot and the “NRG Solar Terrace” that overlooks the field.

There are 544 solar panels on the stadium roof and another 642 on the bridges, which also serve as canopies covering the bridges.  Cont'd...

Low Oil Prices Not Killing Algae Biofuel - Yet

Tina Casey for CleanTechnica:  The algae biofuel market is still in play even though the global petroleum market shows no real signs of lifting itself out of the doldrums, as two examples from different ends of the Earth illustrate. Over in Australia, researchers have come up with a new, low cost way to raise algae for biofuel, and here in the US the Department of Energy is moving forward with a new grant program to fund commercially viable algae production.  Cont'd...

France to pave 1000km of roads with solar panels

Derek Markham for TreeHugger:  Over the next five years, France will install some 621 miles (1,000km) of solar roadway using Colas' Wattway solar pavement.

Solar freakin' roadways! No, this is not the crowdfunded solar road project that blew up the internet a few years ago, but is a collaboration between Colas, a transport infrastructure company, and INES (France's National Institute for Solar Energy), and sanctioned by France's Agency of Environment and Energy Management, which promises to bring solar power to hundreds of miles of roads in the country over the next five years.

One major difference between this solar freakin' roadway and that other solar freakin' roadway is that the new Wattway system doesn't replace the road itself or require removal of road surfaces, but instead is designed to be glued onto the top of existing pavement. The Wattway system is also built in layers of materials "that ensure resistance and tire grip," and is just 7 mm thick, which is radically different from that other design that uses thick glass panels (and which is also claimed to include LED lights and 'smart' technology, which increases the complexity and cost of the moose-friendly solar tiles).  Cont'd...

California narrowly upholds critical solar policy

NICHOLA GROOM for Reuters:  California, which boasts more than half of the households with solar panels in the United States, on Thursday extended a policy that has underpinned the rooftop solar industry's dramatic growth over the last decade.

The 3-to-2 decision by California's Public Utilities Commission at a meeting in San Francisco to extend net metering was a major victory for the solar industry, including companies like SolarCity Corp, Sunrun and SunPower Corp.

Net metering allows homeowners with solar panels to sell the power they generate but don't use back to their utility at the full retail rate, sometimes giving them a credit on their bill at the end of the month. The 20-year policy has been critical to making solar cost competitive.

But the narrow victory underscored palpable frustrations with the policy, which has been criticized for rewarding solar users while leaving other ratepayers to shoulder the cost of maintaining the electricity grid.

"I will be the first to say that I think we really have a ways to go before we have a really enduring rooftop strategy," said PUC President Michael Picker, who voted in favor of extending the policy.

The PUC will reconsider net metering again in 2019.  Cont'd...

1.2-million sq. ft. solar panel 'Gigafactory' in Buffalo almost ready, will make 1 GW/year

Michael Graham Richard for TreeHugger:  Soon after SolarCity acquired solar panel maker Silevo in the summer of 2014, it announced the construction of a 1.2-million-square-foot 'Solar Gigafactory' in Buffalo, New York. The move had two main goals: 1) For the solar installer to get its own secure supply of high-efficiency solar panels (Silevo panels are currently 21% efficient, but the company claims that they can get to 24%) and 2) drive down the cost of the panels and of installing them.
If the panels are higher efficiency, you need fewer of them per roof for a given capacity, lowering installation costs, and if you make them in very large quantities in a 'Gigafactory', you can further reduce costs through economies of scale.
The Buffalo solar gigafactory, which can be seen in the photo at the top of this article, aims to start producing solar cells in 2016, with a ramping up to 1 GW of annual capacity by 2017. If all goes well, the facility could eventually be expanded to 5 GW/year at some point. The solar cells produced there have a target price of around $0.50/watt, which would make them very competitive with other power sources.  Cont'd...

Orison Plug-And-Play Energy Storage System Live On Kickstarter

Orison, an energy storage company, announced today that the first true plug-and-play energy storage system is now available for pre-order on Kickstarter. Orison powers homes and businesses to reduce energy costs, provide backup energy during blackouts, and contribute to a clean energy future. The Orison Kickstarter Campaign can be found at: 
Orison envisions a future with abundant, clean, and affordable energy for all. The networked, distributed energy storage solution gives consumers control so they can store energy from any electricity source, including grid or solar power, to access energy whenever it's needed. When powered by the grid, it stores energy when utility rates are low to power homes and businesses when rates are high. If connected to solar, Orison allows consumers to locally store the energy they produce so that it will not be sold at a loss to the utility. By localizing energy distribution, Orison helps to save money and reduce peak demand.   Full Press Release:

The Two Things To Note In The DOE's Solar + Storage Initiative

Michael Kanellos  for Forbes:  The Department of Energy doled out $18 million in grants this week as part of an effort to drive down the cost of solar plus storage down to less than 14 cents a kilowatt hour. The DOE, under its SunShot program, has long had a goal of driving down the cost of solar alone to 6 cents per kWh by 2020.  So far, the program has hit its milestones.

Grants recipients include Austin Energy, Carnegie Mellon University, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Aquion Energy, among others.

The DOE regularly gives out grants, but the latest program is somewhat interesting because:

First, that’s a really low price for storage. Utility-scale solar, generally cheaper than residential solar, without storage delivered power for 14 cents a kilowatt hour in 2014. The cost of batteries, however, has been declining rapidly. Ten years ago, batteries progressed slowly compared to other electronic devices: Tesla Motors TSLA +0.50% co-founder and CTO J.B. Straubel was famous for noting that the performance of batteries doubled every decade, versus the roughly two year cycle for semiconductor.   Cont'd...

A solar-powered soccer pitch in Lagos also uses players' footfall to keep the lights on

Yomi Kazeem for Quartz:  Africa is already waking up to the possibilities that renewable energy provides, the African Union has pledged a $20 billion investment over the next decade. In East Africa, pay-as-you-go solar energy services arealready proving a mainstream success. In West Africa, things are still at an early experimental stage. One such experiment is a solar-powered football pitch which also uses kinetic energy generated by footballers playing.

Located at a teacher’s college in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial center, the innovative soccer pitch was launched last year in a three-way collaboration between energy giant Shell; music star Akon, who has been championing solar energy on the continent; and Pavegen, a UK-based start-up which has a target of providing low-cost renewable energy solutions to Africa’s electricity problems.

Perhaps the most interesting technological feature of the solar-powered pitch—only the second ever launched across the world (the first was launched in Brazil in 2014)—is that it combines both kinetic and solar energy to produce electricity.  Cont'd...

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