World's Largest Solar Project Would Generate Electricity 24 Hours a Day, Power 1 Million U.S. Homes

Lorraine Chow for EcoWatch:  The race to build the world's largest solar power plant is heating up. California-based energy company SolarReserve announced plans for a massive concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in Nevada that claims to be the largest of its kind once built.

SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the $5 billion endeavor would generate between 1,500 and 2,000 megawatts of power, enough to power about 1 million homes. That amount of power is as much as a nuclear power plant, or the 2,000-megawatt Hoover Dam and far bigger than any other existing solar facility on Earth, the Review-Journal pointed out.

"It's a big project," Smith told the publication. "It's an ambitious project."  Cont'd...

World's First Farm to Use Solar Power and Seawater Opens in Australia

Kristin Falzon for EcoWatch:  Sundrop Farms, a tomato production facility that is the first agricultural system of its kind in the world, celebrated its grand opening in Port Augusta, South Australia, Thursday.
Instead of soil, pesticides, fossil fuels and groundwater, Sundrop Farms uses only solar power and desalinated seawater to grow tomatoes across 49 acres. The water is pumped into the facility from the Spencer Gulf about 1.2 miles away where it is desalinated to water the farm's 180,000 tomato plants.  Cont'd...
 

This New Wind Turbine Could Power Japan for 50 Years After One Typhoon

Nick Mafi for Architectural Digest:  A typical typhoon produces wind speeds between 98 and 120 m.p.h. and usually leaves behind a trail of destruction. But a Japanese engineer has plans to harness a typhoon’s incredible wind energy and use it to power the nation. Atsushi Shimizu has just invented the world’s first typhoon-powered wind turbine—a roughly 18-foot structure that, with its three distinct prongs, somewhat resembles an egg beater. Don’t be fooled by the simple design, however. According to the Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory, a mature typhoon can produce a level of kinetic energy equivalent to about half of the world’s electrical generating capacity. That means that after a single typhoon, Shimizu’s invention could power Japan for up to 50 years. Add in the frequency of the country’s typhoons—anywhere from three to seven each year—and the potential for massive quantities of renewable energy is unmistakable.  Cont'd...

US Solar Power Attitudes: 89% of Americans Support Solar Power

GetSolar.com sighting PEW Research:  Solar Power in America has gained wide acceptance over the last few years as prices have dropped and solar panel installation has greatly increased. Nine out of Ten Americans (89%) support solar power, regardless of political affiliation, according to a new report. Energy costs and environmental concerns rank highest on the list of reasons for such unprecedented support.

The Pew Research Center, a polling and research group focused on global trends released a report highlighting the changes in American's attitude towards (solar power) in particular, along with other sources of energy. Solar power gained the highest acceptance of any form of power (see chart), with only 9% of Americans opposing it. Wind Power came in a close second at 83%, with other forms of more traditional energy generation taking a serious back seat (with half or less the support of solar).  Cont'd...

World's Largest Carbon-Capture Plant to Open Soon

Umair Irfan for ClimateWire:  On schedule, on budget.  It’s a tall order for any new technology, but for a commercial carbon capture and storage (CCS) system, it might be the start of a revolution.

The Petra Nova carbon capture system under construction at the W.A. Parish Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant southwest of Houston, is slated to go online before the end of the year. The billion-dollar facility will become the largest post-combustion carbon capture system installed on an existing power plant in the world.

Systems like Petra Nova that keep carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere may become a necessary means to mitigate climate change, and for some utilities, they could offer a lifeline to beleaguered fossil fuel plants.  Cont'd...

Using Industry 4.0 Know-how, North German Region is Going 100% Renewable: Test Run for the Energy Transition

As of 1 December 2016, an energy system of the future will be developed in Northern Germany as part of the large-scale project NEW 4.0. From 2035, around 4.5 million residents in the federal states of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein will be provided with power by renewable energy sources alone. Applying Industry 4.0 systems, the project will demonstrate how imbalances in production and consumption can be offset based on renewable energies. 
Northern Germany is playing an important role in Germany's energy transition: Schleswig-Holstein as an energy supplier with an ever increasing number of onshore and offshore wind farms, and the city state of Hamburg as a location for industry and large power consumers. As part of the NEW 4.0 project, the states of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein have been merged into one consistent energy region. The overall objective is to serve as a showcase for Germany and to demonstrate within a European context that the energy transition is indeed feasible: NEW 4.0 will showcase how a region with 4.5 million residents can be supplied with regenerative energy as early as 2035 using 100% safe, affordable, eco-friendly and socially acceptable energy sources that can lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions by 50 to 70%.   Full Press Release:
 

Elon Musk aims to unveil Tesla solar power roof next month

Robert Ferris for CNBC:  Elon Musk tweeted on Thursday that he hopes to unveil a Tesla/SolarCity solar roof with a new integrated battery pack and Tesla car charger on Oct. 28.

 

Musk first began teasing the next generation Powerwall at an event for Tesla owners in Paris earlier this year, according to Electrek. At the time, he had said the company would roll out the new battery in "July or August."

SolarCity's merger with Tesla has aroused skepticism and even ire from some investors and analysts, even after Musk outlined his reasons for combining the two companies in his second installment of his "Master Plan" in late July.  Cont'd...

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...

Think Wind Power Is Cheap Now? Wait Until 2030

Katherine Tweed for GreenTechMedia:  In many parts of the world, wind power is cheap. That is particularly true in the U.S., where onshore wind already rivals the cost of natural gas in some regions.

But wind power will likely get even cheaper, according to new research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory published in Nature Energy, with contributions from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, University of Massachusetts, and participants in the International Energy Agency Wind Technology Collaboration Program.

The study surveyed more than 160 wind experts across the globe. Many had deep expertise in very specific regions, but the overall findings were similar: The cost of wind will continue to come down through 2030.

There are significant variations in the current costs for wind by region, but researchers "found a considerable amount of agreement” in overall reductions as a percentage of that total cost, said lead author Ryan Wiser, a senior scientist at Berkeley Lab.  Cont'd...

China's Solar Panel Glut Undermines Its Agreement with the EU

By Reuters:  “We fear a second wave of bankruptcies,” said the head of an association of EU solar producers.  A sharp increase in solar power production in China and a sharp fall in domestic demand have sparked a sudden surge of cut-price exports, undermining a China-EU agreement to limit damage to European producers.

China produced 27 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules in the first half of 2016, an increase of 37.8 percent and installed 20 GW of new solar power capacity in the same period, three times as much as the same period a year ago.

However, demand has since tailed off. Solar projects operational since July face a reduced price paid by grid operators for their power.   Cont'd...

Is solar power in nuclear disaster exclusion zones advisable?

ARNOLD GUNDERSEN for Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:  My own experience near solar arrays in Fukushima Prefecture indicates that the problems of building and maintaining solar installations in a contaminated nuclear wasteland are over-simplified, and worse, totally ignored. One of the greatest burdens of maintaining operating atomic reactors is the cost of working in a Radiologically Controlled Area. (The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory defines a Radiologically Controlled Area as: “Any area to which access is managed to protect individuals from exposure to radiation or radioactive materials. Individuals who enter Controlled Areas without entering Radiological Areas are not expected to receive a total effective dose equivalent of more than 0.1 rem (0.001 Sievert) in a year.”) Each nuclear power plant operates with specific instructions and constraints, with Radiation Work Permits tailored for each specific maintenance activity. Because special clothing, special respiratory equipment, and special radiation monitoring equipment are routinely required to perform even minimum maintenance activities inside a nuclear power plant, every activity takes longer, costs more, and requires more people inside each reactor than necessary in any other industrial setting.

Consequently, the question becomes: Does building solar panels on land contaminated with nuclear waste resemble work in a normal industrial setting, or is it more similar to work inside a radiologically contaminated atomic reactor—at significantly higher cost?  Full Article:

Is Rent-to-Own Solar Power the Answer?

Jason Overdorf for SMITHSONIAN.COM:  For a little more than a year, the family has been supplementing the sporadic electricity the village gets from the grid with solar energy, thanks to a new pay-as-you-go business model pioneered by Canadian entrepreneur Paul Needham and his company, Simpa Networks. Call it “rent-to-own solar.”

Needham is a serial tech entrepreneur whose online advertising company BidClix made its way into the portfolio of Microsoft. As a doctoral student in economics at Cambridge, he was obsessed with the reasons customers will shell out for certain products and not others. One of the questions that always bugged him was, “Why don’t I own solar panels?” The reason, he determined, was the high up-front costs.

Imagine if mobile phone service was sold like solar energy. From an operator’s perspective, it would have made great sense to try to sell customers 10 years of phone calls in advance, so as to quickly earn back the money invested in building cell towers. But the person who suggested such a strategy would have been fired immediately, Needham says.

“You want to charge people for what they value, not the technology that’s providing it,” he says in a telephone interview.  Cont'd...

Why large-scale wind power is so hard to build

Michael McDonald, Oilprice.com via USA Today:  he Bureau of Land Management faces a problem and wants to shake up the rules around wind farm approvals. The problem is straight-forward on its face, but difficult to reconcile logically: Why are so few new large-scale wind projects being built? Despite the fact that nearly everyone – environmentalists, government regulators, and business interests –wants to build more wind farms, precious few are making it over the goal line.

Since 2009, the Obama Administration has approved 46 wind farm projects that would cover a proposed 216,356 acres of public land. Yet only 15 of these 46 projects have made it into operation. The rest are stuck in limbo with years of mandatory environmental analysis ahead or have been cancelled outright.  Cont'd...

Transparent solar panels are 50 times more productive than regular photovoltaics

Luke Dormehl for DigitalTrends:  As the term “regular windows” suggests, users don’t have to replace the existing windows in their home, but need only treat them with a special process developed by the company.

“We apply liquid coatings to glass and plastic surfaces at ambient pressure, and dry these coatings at low temperature to produce transparent films,” Conklin continued. “We repeat these processes, and then collectively these coatings — and thus the glass and plastic surfaces — generate electricity.”

Of these coatings, the most important is the so-called “Active Layer,” through which electricity is generated by the absorption of light, and the transparent conductors, which allow the electricity to be extracted. “[The] coatings are primarily organic, primarily from carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen,” Conklin said. “We are constantly refining each of the layers to improve on the power we’re able to extract from these coatings and enhance their manufacturability.”  Cont'd...

Solar cell is more efficient, costs less than its counterparts

Massachusetts Institute of Technology via Science Daily:  A team of researchers from MIT and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology may have found a way around this seemingly intractable tradeoff between efficiency and cost. The team has developed a new solar cell that combines two different layers of sunlight-absorbing material to harvest a broader range of the sun's energy. The researchers call the device a "step cell," because the two layers are arranged in a stepwise fashion, with the lower layer jutting out beneath the upper layer, in order to expose both layers to incoming sunlight. Such layered, or "multijunction," solar cells are typically expensive to manufacture, but the researchers also used a novel, low-cost manufacturing process for their step cell.

The team's step-cell concept can reach theoretical efficiencies above 40 percent and estimated practical efficiencies of 35 percent, prompting the team's principal investigators -- Masdar Institute's Ammar Nayfeh, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and MIT's Eugene Fitzgerald, the Merton C. Flemings-SMA Professor of Materials Science and Engineering -- to plan a startup company to commercialize the promising solar cell.  Cont'd...

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