Power to the people: Solar panel sales to soon surpass leasing

Lucas Mearian for ComputerWorld:  Direct ownership of solar power panels will overtake third-party ownership next year as more consumers are choosing to buy, rather than lease, their panels.

According to GTM Research's latest report, U.S. Residential Solar Financing 2016-2021, 55% of all U.S. residential solar capacity installed in 2017 will be purchased by customers paying either in cash, or through a solar loan financing arrangement; that number is expected to grow to 73% of all solar systems installed in 2021.  Cont'd...

Want to boost wind and solar power? Bring them together

Ben Jervey for GreenBiz:  What’s keeping solar and wind power from fully taking over the electric grid? For starters, the sun only shines during the day. Wind blows intermittently, is seasonally variable, and is not always blowing when the energy is needed.

But what if solar and wind work together?  "Wind resource tends to complement solar resource," said Sarah Kurtz of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. "Here in Colorado, for instance, the windiest time is during the winter and spring months. In winter, we don’t have as much sunshine, but we tend to get more wind and stronger wind."

A handful of enterprising renewable energy developers are exploring how solar and wind might better work together, developing hybrid solar-wind projects to take advantage of the power-generating strengths of each — with the two technologies in tandem serving as a better replacement for climate-warming fossil fuels than either could be alone.  Cont'd...

BREAKING: Tesla, SolarCity merger approved with 85% shareholder support

Utility Dive:  More than 85% of Tesla's unaffiliated shareholders voted in favor of the $2.6 billion deal with SolarCity, which will allow the companies to move forward with an integrated solar roof and battery storage offering.  Cont'd...

 

Solar Power Meets Electric Vehicle Atop a VW Microbus

Brett Belan, Apparent Energy for MotherEarth News:  The time is here for solar power to make its way to our vehicles. The state-of-the-art panels pose no weight limitation. At 6 pounds per 150 watts, thin flexible solar panels will weigh 600 pounds but give you 15 kilowatts! This is enough to directly drive from the sun.

However, the surface area is a limitation, because that much solar would require 10 feet around the vehicle on all sides. The solution, ironically, is a mechanical engineering question of how to accordion-style fold these panels to conveniently open them for charging while the vehicle is at a standstill.  Cont'd...

Self-drive delivery van can be 'built in four hours'

Jane Wakefield for BBC News:  A self-drive electric delivery van, that could be on UK streets next year, has been unveiled at the Wired 2016 conference in London.

The vehicle's stripped-back design and lightweight materials mean it can be assembled by one person in four hours, the firm behind it claims.

The vehicles will be "autonomous-ready", for when self-drive legislation is in place, the firm said.

The government wants to see self-drive cars on the roads by 2020.

"We find trucks today totally unacceptable. Loud, polluting and unfriendly," said Denis Sverdlov, chief executive of Charge, the automotive technology firm behind the truck.

"We are making trucks the way they should be - affordable, elegant, quiet, clean and safe."  Cont'd...

Is The Best Analogy For The Energy Storage Business--Eeek!--Hard Drives?

Michael Kanellos for Forbes:  The optimism in the energy storage industry is based on soaring demand, rapid technological advances, expanding capacity and, for some, what will likely be a scary competitive environment.

First, the good news. Lithium ion battery packs over the last ten years have declined faster than the cost of solar, said John Carrington, CEO of Stem, which makes behind-the-meter storage systems for hotels and other commercial customers looking to shave peak power costs, during a hallway meeting at Finance West sponsored by the American Council of Renewable Energy this week.

Solar panels have declined by 50% or more in the last five years. Batteries have declined by 80% in three years, he said. Battery packs hit the under $300 per kilowatt hour mark last December, Carrington added. By 2020, battery pack prices could drop to $190 per kilowatt hour. (In 2007, lithium ion battery packs in the wholesale markets sold for around $1,000 per kilowatt hour.)  Cont'd...

Batteries That Make Use of Solar Power, Even in the Dark

Stanley Reed for the NY Times:  A new cash crop has sprung up on Nicholas Beatty’s enchanting farm near here. Rows of gray solar panels range over about 25 acres, turning sunlight into electricity, as dog-size muntjac deer hop by.

The panels themselves, trouble-free money earners that feed into the electric grid, are no longer unusual on farms in Britain or other countries. What’s new in Mr. Beatty’s field is a hulking 40-foot-long shipping container.

Stacked inside, in what look like drawers, are about 200 lithium-ion cells that make up a battery large enough to store a substantial portion of the electricity the solar farm puts out.

The battery and its software give Mr. Beatty an advantage over other solar panel farmers. Power prices in Britain and elsewhere rise and fall, sometimes strikingly, during the day and over the year, depending on the supply and demand.  Cont'd...

Is 2016 The Turning Point For Energy Storage?

Michael McDonald for OilPrice.com:  In the future, when investors look back at the year that represented the turning point for clean energy, 2016 may be it. The industry overall is growing at a breath-taking pace, but perhaps not for the reason that some investors think. Energy storage rather than solar power and wind power are the real factors that are driving a revolution across the electrical power industry.

Energy storage changes the equation, not only in the renewables space, but in the conventional utility space as well. The concepts of spin/non-spin reserve costs, peaker prices, and a variety of other conventional concerns for utilities, lose meaning in the context of efficient and cost-effective energy storage. While energy storage was available previously, it’s only today that costs are coming down substantially. Tesla’s economies of scale on battery storage are well-known, but small start-ups like Orison are finding ways to lower costs in innovative ways as well. The graphic below from a recent EPRI presentation highlights the role that multiple layers of costs savings can play in creating economical battery storage.  Cont'd...

Siemens unveils new hot rocks energy storage system

Jocelyn Timperley for BusinessGreen:  A new energy storage technology currently under development by Siemens is set to see excess wind energy converted to heat rocks, allowing the energy to be stored using an insulated cover.

The system consists of a fan that uses an electrically-heated air flow to heat the stones to high temperatures, with the thermal energy then converted back to electricity when needed using a steam turbine.

The simple principle of the set-up promises to deliver a low-cost way of storing energy, Siemens said, with the only limit to the concept being the space required for the rock-filled insulated container.  Cont'd...

New solar panel integrates battery storage, inverter, and smart software into a single unit

Derek Markham for TreeHugger:  This startup is reinventing the solar panel, and aims to cut the cost of integrating clean power and energy storage to homes by half.

Home solar has the potential to reduce, and even eliminate, electricity costs for many people, but even with the rapid advancements we're seeing in solar technology, there are still weak points that can be addressed and overcome, such as energy storage and 'smart' home integration. But a newcomer to the residential solar scene believes it has the answer, in the form of a standalone solar and battery unit which can be used singly or connected in an array, and which may be able to lower the overall costs considerably.

SunCulture's SolPad solar device integrates solid state batteries directly into the solar panels themselves, offering its users the ability to not only generate their own clean electricity, but to also store if for use after dark or during peak demand times, when electricity costs are higher. The SolPad units also incorporate an inverter, which converts the electricity from the DC generated and stored by the device to the AC required by most household appliances, and includes "intelligent software" that communicates with both the users and with their home's systems, allowing for granular control over which rooms or devices will receive the solar power.  Cont'd...

Full Press Release:

Tesla Wins Large Contract with Utility for Energy Storage

Jon LeSage for HybridCars:  Tesla’s energy storage division just won a very large contract with a major California utility to stabilize power outages.

While the acquisition cost hasn’t been announced, Tesla Energy will supply 20 megawatts of energy storage to Southern California Edison – enough to power about 2,500 homes for a full day. It’s part of SCE’s efforts to prevent blackouts by fossil-fuel electricity generation with lithium-ion batteries. Investment in Tesla’s product, called Powerpacks, is thought to be worth tens of millions of dollars, and is expected to be operational by the end of this year.

The deal ties into Tesla’s plans to broaden its base beyond manufacturing and selling electric cars, similar to its recent investment in SolarCity. It also signifies advancements being made in energy storage, which is reaching a much faster pace – months instead of years, according to an analyst.  Cont'd...

SunPower Embraces Drones and Robots to Help Evolve Its Solar Farms

Katie Fehrenbacher for Fortune:  Solar panel maker and farm developer SunPower is embracing the latest in computing technology to help lower the cost of its solar panel farms while minimizing the impact that the farms have on land.

The Richmond, Calif.-based company on Tuesday announced an array of new technology that it’s using to design, build, operate, and monitor big solar panel farms that are built to sell energy to utilities and large companies.  Cont'd...

Read Press Release:

New technology puts solar power to work all night long

ScienceDaily:  Energy storage is crucial for taking full advantage of solar power, which otherwise suffers interruptions from cloudy skies and nightfall. In the past few years, concentrating solar power plants have begun producing additional electricity at night and during peak demand periods by using stored heat energy to propel a steam turbine.

Current thermal energy storage systems rely on materials that store less energy per kilogram, requiring more material at a greater cost to meet energy storage requirements.

Now, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Argonne National Laboratory have designed an inexpensive thermal energy storage system that will be significantly smaller and perform more than 20 times better than current thermal systems.  Cont'd...

Making waves: Shetland tidal power breakthrough is another world first for Scotland

Martin Hannan for The National:  HOUSEHOLDERS on the Shetland Isles were not aware of it, but when they plugged in their kettles recently, they were sharing in a bit of history.

For the Shetland Tidal Array at Bluemull Sound, installed by Nova Innovation of Edinburgh, has become the world’s first tidal power array to be connected to a grid and deliver power on a commercial basis – to dozens of homes on the islands.

The achievement has been hailed by environmentalists and the renewable industry as a turning point in the development of marine power.

Nova had shown its technology could work with a single turbine which generated electricity in March. But the installation of second turbine that is also working to the grid proves that large tidal power arrays can and do work. Commercially viable tidal power is seen as something of a Holy Grail by the industry, since it is one of the few renewable energy sources that is entirely predictable – as one industry source once put it: “there will be tidal power available as long as the moon is in the sky”.  Cont'd...

'Ideal' energy storage material for electric vehicles developed

Walt Mills for Phys.org:  The energy-storage goal of a polymer dielectric material with high energy density, high power density and excellent charge-discharge efficiency for electric and hybrid vehicle use has been achieved by a team of Penn State materials scientists. The key is a unique three-dimensional sandwich-like structure that protects the dense electric field in the polymer/ceramic composite from dielectric breakdown. Their results are published today (Aug. 22) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"Polymers are ideal for energy storage for transportation due to their light weight, scalability and high dielectric strength," says Qing Wang, professor of materials science and engineering and the team leader. "However, the existing commercial polymer used in hybrid and electric vehicles, called BOPP, cannot stand up to the high operating temperatures without considerable additional cooling equipment. This adds to the weight and expense of the vehicles."  Cont'd...

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