Researchers develop cool way to improve solar cell efficiency

By Kelly Hodgkins for Digital Trends:   A team of engineers from Stanford University have invented a cool way to improve the performance of solar panel arrays. A new material that the team produced literally will lower the temperature of solar cells even while they are operating in full-strength sunlight. As the solar cells cool, their efficiency will rise, leading to significant gains in the amount of energy harvested from the sun.

Solar panel technology has improved by leaps and bounds, but the technology has a flaw that limits the efficiency of the system. The panels must face the sun to operate, but the heat from this exposure diminishes their ability to convert light into energy. The hotter they get, the less efficient they become. This issue has perplexed the industry for years, but the Stanford team may have discovered a material that can help dissipate this excess heat without affecting the operation of the solar array.

The solution, proposed by Stanford electrical engineering professor Shanhui Fan, research associate Aaswath P. Raman, and doctoral candidate Linxiao Zhu, uses a material that is able to capture and emit thermal radiation (heat) away from the solar call. While deterring heat buildup, the thin, patterned silica material does not block sunlight, allowing the photons to enter the solar panel where they are converted to energy. It’s a win-win situation, allowing the free flow of sunlight and the removal of excess heat from the system.  Cont'd...

Wind turbine technology stores excess wind power for when gusts turn to breezes

Megan Treacy for TreeHugger:  A new technology developed by University of Nebraska-Lincoln electrical engineering doctoral student Jie Cheng solves both of those problems by harnessing the excess wind energy usually wasted as spillage and storing it for use when wind speeds dip, making wind turbines more efficient and consistent.

Cheng's system converts and directs the extra wind energy to an air compression tank, where the energy is stored until wind speeds dip below the maximum capacity. Using a rotary vane machine that is connected between the turbine's gearbox and generator, excess energy is diverted and stored in the air compression tank. When the wind dies down, the tank then kicks in and reverses airflow back to the rotary vane machine to generate electricity.

In a recent study of his prototype, Cheng found that a 250-kW system would produce an additional 3,830 kWh of electricity per week or an additional 16,400 kWh per month based on historical wind data from Springview, Nebraska. That extra electricity is about 18 times the monthly energy use of a typical American household.  Cont'd...

El Niño Buffers U.S. Wind Power Dreams

Tim Maverick for Wall Street Daily:  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) made it official last week. The current El Niño is classified as a strong event.

An El Niño falls into the “strong” category if weekly sea surface temperatures depart from the average by more than two degrees Celsius.

In fact, this El Niño has nudged ahead of the 1997 El Niño as the strongest in the modern era!

Meteorologists believe this occurrence is actually the most potent since 1948. And it’s expected to persist through winter and into spring.

Every El Niño’s effects are different. At the moment, this one is having a surprisingly negative effect on the wind power industryin the United States.

You see, this occurrence of El Niño has produced the weakest winds across the United States in 40 years. Forecasters say this situation will continue and may even worsen through the spring of 2016.  Cont'd...

SPI 2015: Tax credit sunset preoccupies a fast-maturing industry

By Herman K. Trabish  for UtilityDIVE:  Solar photovoltaic (PV) installed capacity is expected to reach 7.7 GW in 2015, up 24% from 2014, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research.

From July 2015 to December 2016, the report forecasts the U.S. solar PV marketwill add 18 GW, which is more than the cumulative capacity built by the industry up to the middle of 2014.

But there are some headwinds for the sector. In a sign it has reached a level of maturity achieved recently by the wind industry, solar advocates now face an uphill political battle for the industry's most vital federal incentive

The mandated term of solar's vital 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC), in place continuously since 2008, will end on December 31, 2016. Beyond that deadline, the tax credit provided at the end of a project’s first year of operation will fall to 10% for commercial investments in solar and to zero for residential solar investments.

SEIA is mounting a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign to secure a five-year extension that will get the industry to 2020, when it hopes the Clean Power Plan can take over to help boost growth.  Cont'd...

Solar Power International 2015 underway in Anaheim, CA

This years show will place September 14 -17 in Anaheim, CA.  Over 15,000 + visitors are expected in attendance to learn about the latest technology innovations, financing models, business best practices and policy and incentive programs that are contributing to the growth of the solar industry. With over 600 exhibitors from 75 countries on display showcasing the entire system of solar technology and advances in solar cell and module technology, balance of system components, solar heating and cooling and energy storage.

Check out Solar Power International Newspage for all the News and Announcements from this years show.  Also stay tuned for our SPI Tradeshow Report.


California's First Commercial Solar Desalination Plant Offering Shares Through DPO

Derek Markham for CleanTechnica:  The company behind what will be California’s first commercial-scale solar desalination plant is issuing $10 million in preferred stock in the venture, through a state-registered direct public offering (DPO) in California.

WaterFX Hydro I, Inc., doing business as HydroRevolution℠, a California subsidiary of WaterFX™, is offering the shares to finance the construction of a fully solar-powered desalination plant in the Central Valley, which is expected to be able to produce up to 1.6 billion gallons (5000 acre-feet) of water per year, with virtually zero liquid discharge. The HydroRevolution℠ process is said to allow for a 90% recovery rate, with the remaining brine being treated further to isolate the salt and mineral byproducts for industrial applications.

Instead of desalinating seawater, as many desalination operations do, this plant will pull water from shallow irrigation water (also called subsurface drainage water) which is produced as a consequence of agriculture, and which has a high salinity content that can be detrimental to freshwater ecosystems. This new plant is a scaled up and expanded version of the company’s demonstration desalination plant.  Cont'd...

Full Press Release:

Solar windows can power buildings

By Lucas Mearian for Computerworld:  Manhattan has approximately 47,000 buildings with around 10.7 million windows, according to a 2013estimate from The New York Times.

Now imagine if just 1% -- or 100,700 -- of those windows could generate electricity through transparent photovoltaics.

That's the idea behind solar power windows, and at least two companies are hoping to sell the technology to window manufacturers, saying once installed in a building the technology will pay for itself in about a year.

"If you look at the glass that's manufactured worldwide today, 2% of it is used for solar panels; 80% of it is used in buildings. That's the opportunity," said Suvi Sharma, CEO of solar panel maker Solaria.  Cont'd...

Concentrator Photovoltaics: The Next Step Towards Better Solar Power

By Lauren J. Young for IEEE Spectrum:  Today’s concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) technologies have shown promising potential for more efficient solar power. The latest systems are said to be capable of handling the power of a hundred suns. Yet prototypes have failed to compete with cheaper flat panel solar systems that dominate the market. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) is determined to push CPV to the next level. On 24 August, at the Clean Energy Summit, U.S. President Barack Obama and Energy Secretary Ernest Monizannounced a program called MOSAIC that will invest $24 million into CPV solar technology development.

Why can’t today’s CPV systems compete? The concentrators can only convert direct sunlight into energy, missing out on the large fraction of sunlight diffracted by clouds and the atmosphere. Manufacturing costs of concentrator apparatuses have also prevented CPV from reaching mass production.  Cont'd...

NASA Seeks Proposals for Extreme Environment Solar Arrays

NASA's space technology program is seeking proposals to develop solar array systems for space power in high radiation and low solar energy environments. 

In the near future, NASA will need solar cells and arrays for multiple applications in robotic and human space exploration missions. Because these systems were traditionally developed for operation near Earth, there is a need to develop new solar array concepts as NASA considers missions that require exposure to more intense radiation environments and travel ever farther from the sun. 

NASA hopes to solicit proposals for the development of promising technologies to increase solar cells that will work under low intensity, low temperature and high radiation environments.

Proposals will be accepted from U.S. organizations, including NASA centers and other government agencies, federally funded research and development centers, educational institutions, industry and nonprofit organizations.

The U.S. Just Approved One of the World's Biggest Solar Power Plants

Todd Woody for  The federal government on Monday green-lit a 485-megawatt solar plant that would generate enough carbon-free electricity to power 180,000 homes when it comes online in the Southern California desert.

During the Great Recession, that was nothing unusual about billions of dollars in federal stimulus money fueling big green dreams of carpeting the Mojave Desert with giant solar power plants on government-owned land, a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s efforts to fight climate change. That land, however, often turned out to be home to desert tortoises, blunt-nosed leopard lizards, and other endangered wildlife. Many of those projects went belly-up in part because of fierce opposition from environmental groups.

That prompted an effort by the federal government to be “smart from the start” about where it allowed big renewable energy plants to be built. So the Blythe Mesa Solar Project, which was approved Monday, will deploy tens of thousands of solar panels across 3,587 acres of already disturbed or fallow farmland where wheat, alfalfa, and citrus had been grown. No desert tortoises will be harmed.  Cont'd...

Indian airport becomes world's first to run entirely on solar energy

ROSE TOUP BUCHANAN for The Independent:  An Indian airport has become the world’s first to run entirely onsolar energy .

Cochin International  Airport, in the south of India, inaugurated a massive 45-acre solar plant on Tuesday.

The plant, made up of 46,000 panels, will provide between 50,000 to 60,000 units of electricity every day (totalling 12 megawatts of power alongside pre-existing solar panels ), according to a release from airport authorities.

It has been a long-running project: the airport first installed panels on the roof of its terminal in 2013 and has gradually expanded the initiative.  Cont'd...

Pink film 'antenna' can double solar cell efficiency

Megan Treacy for TreeHugger:  When we think of antennas we mainly think of the type that transmit and receive radio waves, letting us listen to radio stations in our car or watch TV in our homes, but in this case the researchers are using the term to describe a new thin film material that captures more of the light spectrum, converting it into wavelengths of light that solar cells can convert into electricity.

Many scientists are working on building better solar cells, but researchers at the University of Connecticut wanted to figure out how to boost the efficiency of the technology we already have. Thus, the antenna.

As reports, Challa V. Kumar, Ph.D and his team "built an antenna that collects those unused blue photons and converts them to lower energy photons that the silicon can then turn into current."

"Many groups around the world are working hard to make this kind of antenna, and ours is the first of its kind in the whole world," Kumar said.  Cont'd...

Google Maps can now tell you if it's worth installing solar panels on your roof

By Loren Grush for The Verge: Google wants to help you harness the power of the sun. A new service called Project Sunroof aims to provide a "treasure map" of solar energy with the help of Google Maps. Sunroof gives homeowners detailed information about how much solar power their roof can generate and how much money they could save on electricity costs by adding solar panels.

Sunroof uses data from Google Maps that previously had no practical application. For instance, Sunroof uses Maps’ 3D-modeling to calculate the amount of space a building’s roof has for solar panels. The service also analyzes the positioning of the sun over the course of a year, as well as the type of cloud cover and temperature the neighborhood usually experiences. It even considers the amount of shade cast by nearby objects.  Cont'd...

The Most Innovative Companies In Renewable Energy

By Michael McDonald for  As the oil price bust continues, renewable energy and sustainability innovation is continuing unabated. For instance, an architecture company recently unveiled a set of plans for a smart floating farm project that helps preserve land space and improve food production efficiency. The plans are just hypothetical at this point and it is unclear if they will ever be built, but that’s not really the point. The project shows that, around the world, companies and individuals continue to devote time and resources to innovation in sustainable living.

In a similar vein for instance, in the solar field, small companies are creating a host of new innovative products like new inverters and module level electronics. Many of these innovations may seem trivial and iterative. And many are, but a series of trivial and iterative innovations can still lead to big change and that has solar proponents excited. 

Big changes are also occurring on more visible systems. A company called Ripasso Energy is pushing its new, more efficient solar generators. In a highly visible effort, Tesla is pressing ahead with its home and business battery storage systems. Desalinization with solar and even solar planes are also on the horizon.

The vast majority of these innovations are too early stage for investors to make serious bets on, and even if an investor could be in on an individual technology, that approach is risky. Instead, investors are better off putting their dollars into firms that consistently show an innovative spirit and are pressing forward with a broad portfolio of product innovations. These kinds of broad sets of innovations are important to the future of the planet and they can generate serious returns for sage investors as well.  Cont'd...

Renewable energy developers get their own watchdog

Barbara Grady for GreenBiz:  In another sign that renewable energy is becoming big business, developers of wind and solar power projects are about to find themselves subject to a new layer of scrutiny.

The social impact startup trying to goad oil and gas exploration companies to meet certain levels of socially and environmentally responsible behavior is extending its efforts into renewable energy.

Equitable Origin, founded as a self-proclaimed standards setter for how oil exploration and extraction companies should go about their work without trampling on human rights, harming local communities and destroying the environment, announced this week that it wants to branch out with new standards for wind and solar energy site development.

It’s not that the organization is against renewable energy development, its officers insist.

“What we are trying to do is assist the growing renewable energy industries by helping them not repeat the same mistakes as oil and gas,” Josh Garrett, communications manager of Equitable Origin, told GreenBiz.  Cont'd...

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