SolPad Releases Pricing & Pre-Order Info For Mobile Solar + Storage Product

Derek Markham for CleanTechnica:  The Silicon Valley startup SolPad has just announced the specs, pricing, and pre-order date for its all-in-one solar plus storage mobile solution, which could help usher in a new era of entry-level solar.
We first covered the SolPad product back in October of last year, with writer Matthew Klippenstein calling it “a glimpse of the future.” That article raised a lot of questions in the comments section about the details and reliability of such a device. Some of those comments called it vaporware, while others questioned the wisdom of integrating batteries into the body of a solar panel and the legality of simply plugging such a system into the grid without an adequate grid-tie arrangement, and still others asked why it was even needed with the current state of solar technology. Most of which were decent skeptical questions, and all of which are expected on a piece about a forthcoming “breakthrough” solar product. However, it looks like the SolPad Mobile is getting ready to enter the market, as the company has released additional details about how much it will cost and when it will be available, so we’ll soon get an opportunity to see how the product will be received once it is released into the wild, so to speak.  Cont'd...

Solar panel researchers investigate powering trains by bypassing grid

Michael Holder for BusinessGreen, part of the Guardian Environment Network:  Imperial College London has partnered with the climate change charity 10:10 to investigate the use of track-side solar panels to power trains, the two organisations announced yesterday.

The renewable traction power project will see university researchers look at connecting solar panels directly to the lines that provide power to trains, a move that would bypass the electricity grid in order to more efficiently manage power demand from trains.

According to the university, the research team will be the first in the world to test the “completely unique” idea, which it said would have a “wide impact with commercial applications on electrified rail networks all over the world”.  Cont'd...

Panasonic Commits To Solar Cell Production With Tesla At New York Plant

Alan Ohnsman for Forbes:  Panasonic will make solar cells with Tesla at a factory under construction in Buffalo, New York, broadening a partnership between the electric-car maker and Japanese electronics giant that goes back nearly a decade.

The companies said in a joint statement today that they finalized plans to produce high-efficiency photovoltaic cells at the plant, with initial production scheduled for the second half of 2017. Output of the energy modules, for use in solar panels, Tesla’s planned solar roofs and to charge up Tesla’s Powerwall and Powerpack battery storage units, is to reach 1 gigawatt by 2019, the companies said. Cont'd...

Instead Of Trump's Wall, Let's Build A Border Of Solar Panels

Homero Aridjis & James Ramey for Huffington Post:  President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly called for Mexico to build a wall between our countries. There is indeed a way that Mexico could create a barrier between the U.S. and Mexico, one constructed exclusively on the Mexican side, with substantial benefits for both countries and the planet: a solar border.

Sunlight in the northern deserts of Mexico is more intense than in the U.S. Southwest because of the lower latitude and more favorable cloud patterns. And construction and maintenance costs for solar plants in Mexico are substantially lower. Thus, building a long series of such plants all along the Mexican side of the border could power cities on both sides faster and more cheaply than similar arrays built north of the border.  

Solar energy is already being generated at lower prices than those of coal. With solar plants along vast stretches of the almost 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border on the Mexican side, a new high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) grid could be set up to transmit energy efficiently from that long, snaking array to population centers along the border. HVDC power lines lose exponentially less energy over long distances than traditional power lines.  Cont'd...

Batteries Need to Get Big-Like, Enormous-for Solar Power to Shine

Vaclav Smil for IEEE Spectrum:  It would be a lot easier to expand our use of solar and wind energy if we had better ways to store the large quantities of electricity we’d need to cover gaps in the flow of that energy.

Even in sunny Los Angeles, a typical house roofed with enough photovoltaic panels to meet its average needs would still face daily shortfalls of up to about 80 percent of the demand in January and daily surpluses of up to 65 percent in May. You can take such a house off the grid only by installing a voluminous and expensive assembly of lithium-ion batteries. But even a small national grid—one handling 10 to 30 gigawatts—could rely entirely on intermittent sources only if it had gigawatt-scale storage capable of working for many hours.

Since 2007, more than half of humanity has lived in urban areas, and by 2050 more than 6.3 billion people will live [PDF] in cities, accounting for two-thirds of the global population, with a rising share in megacities of more than 10 million people.  Cont'd...

Glow-in-the-dark dye could fuel liquid-based batteries

Charlotte Hsu for University of Buffalo:  BUFFALO, N.Y. — Could a glow-in-the-dark dye be the next advancement in energy storage technology?  Scientists at the University at Buffalo think so.

They have identified a fluorescent dye called BODIPY as an ideal material for stockpiling energy in rechargeable, liquid-based batteries that could one day power cars and homes.  BODIPY — short for boron-dipyrromethene — shines brightly in the dark under a black light.

But the traits that facilitate energy storage are less visible. According to new research, the dye has unusual chemical properties that enable it to excel at two key tasks: storing electrons and participating in electron transfer. Batteries must perform these functions to save and deliver energy, and BODIPY is very good at them.  In experiments, a BODIPY-based test battery operated efficiently and with longevity, running well after researchers drained and recharged it 100 times.  Cont'd...

DOE energy innovation hub backs two key future battery technologies

Nick Flaherty for EE Times:  After four years of evaluation, the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (Chicago, IL) is backing two key technologies for the future of battery systems.

The Center was set up four years ago with a five year remit to explore new battery technology for transportation and the electricity grid that, when scaled to commercial production, are capable of delivering five times the energy density at one-fifth the cost of commercial batteries available in 2011.

The Center has investigated 1,500 compounds for electrodes and 21,000 organic molecules relevant for liquid electrolytes as well as filing 52 invention disclosures and 27 patent applications, says director George Crabtree. Five techno-economic models created by JCESR for designing virtual batteries on the computer are being used to evaluate the best pathways for beyond-lithium-ion systems to reach 400 watt hours per kilogram (400 Wh/kg) and $100 per kilowatt hour ($100/kWh).  Cont'd...

Offshore wind energy system combines sea water and wind to create electricity

Megan Treacy for TreeHugger:  We've seen our share of interesting wind power designs, but often the technology can't come anywhere close to matching what the traditional horizontal axis wind turbines can do. There's a reason that when we think of wind energy, we think of giant masts with rotating blades and it's because that design is incredibly effective -- just look at Scotland and other areas around the world that now get a majority of their electricity needs from wind power.

The design isn't without its flaws; those rotating blades do pose a hazard to birds and bats and the cost of manufacturing and installing all of those giant parts can be expensive. When it comes to offshore wind power in the U.S., that has been a major roadblock. The energy generation potential is huge, but so is the cost.

An energy start-up company called Accio Energy -- yes, a Harry Potter reference -- thinks it has a solution to that problem, one that will generate as much if not more energy from offshore wind than a traditional wind turbine, but at half the cost. There are no moving parts, instead Accio's technology consists of large permeable panels on masts that let the ocean winds blow right through.  Cont'd...

Could depleted oil wells be the next step in energy storage?

Power-Technology.com - Quidnet Energy is hoping to revolutionise energy storage with its underground pumped hydro concept, which uses abandoned oil and gas wells to store and release pressurised water, driving turbines and feeding electricity back into the grid. How does the concept work and how far could it go? Quidnet co-founder Aaron Mandell explains.

As the cost of renewable energy continues to decline and intermittent clean power sources such as wind and solar gain ever an ever larger foothold in the global energy mix, the ability to store energy that can be quickly dispatched when needed has become as important as the development of renewables themselves.

Robust storage options could allow for greater integration of intermittent renewables, as they facilitate flexible capacity-building that relies far less on coal and gas-fired plants for baseload generation, meaning energy storage is a key step in the journey to wean the world off its fossil fuel addiction.  Full Interview:

Tesla powers a whole island with solar to show off its energy chops

James Vincent for The Verge:  Tesla completed its $2.6 billion acquisition of SolarCity this week, and, to celebrate, the company has announced a major solar energy project: wiring up the whole island of Ta’u in American Samoa. Previously, the island ran on diesel generators, but over the past year Tesla has installed a microgrid of solar energy panels and batteries that will supply "nearly 100 percent" of power needs for Ta’u’s 600 residents.

The project seems intended to show off the potential benefits of the SolarCity acquisition, with Ta’u’s microgrid comprised of 5,328 solar panels from SolarCity and Tesla, along with 60 Tesla Powerpacks batteries for storage. But buying SolarCity remains a risky move for Tesla, with the purchase including billions of dollars of debt for a company that's far from profitable (SolarCity spends $6 for every $1 it makes in sales). Nevertheless, Tesla CEO Elon Musk describes the acquisition as "blindingly obvious" — a necessary step in his so-called "Master Plan" to integrate clean energy generation and storage.  Cont'd...

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...

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