U.S. wind power enjoys a rebirth as solar's obstacles mount

Nichola Groom for Reuters:  A year after Congress extended generous tax credits for renewable energy projects, the U.S. wind industry is thriving. Solar power companies, meanwhile, are hunkering down for a rough 2017. The tax credit renewal has boosted the long-term outlooks for both industries. But in the short term, the subsidies are far more attractive for wind power, which has spurred utilities to launch wind projects while they scale back or delay solar installations. Advances in wind turbine technology are also opening up new locations for development and driving a wave of spending to upgrade existing projects. In the last few weeks, power companies with large renewable holdings - including Southern Co, NextEra Energy Inc and Xcel Energy Inc - have announced plans to invest billions of dollars in wind. "We're making a pivot now away from solar," Southern Chief Executive Tom Fanning told a meeting with Wall Street analysts in October.   Cont'd...

Science Plant a Wind Tree in your neighborhood to generate energy from low-speed wind

Bruce Brown for Digital Trends:  These trees do more than just add ambiance. Harnessing the wind to generate electrical energy usually brings to mind thoughts of huge land- or ocean-based wind farms consisting of huge towers with two or three blades, each more than 100-feet long, on the top. The size, weight, noise, and vibration of industrial wind turbines restrict their use to large open spaces. Newwind, a French startup, has developed a much smaller, urban-space-friendly “Wind Tree,” reports Electrek. The Wind Tree, which produces sufficient energy to power small buildings or streetlights, is designed to connect to a nearby energy storage system. The trees are each about 30 feet tall and 26 feet in diameter, and weigh approximately 5,500 pounds. Each tree has 54 Aeroleafs mounted vertically on tree branches. The Aeroleafs are 3.2 feet high and, spinning at optimum speed, are capable of generating 65 watts each. So, a tree with 54 leaves has an energy-generation capacity maximum of 3,510 watts (3.5kW), about the same as a small home solar installation.   Cont'd...

The Solar Industry Has Paid Off Its Carbon Debts

Robinson Meyer for The Atlantic:  Think of all the energy that goes into making a single solar panel. Quartz and copper must be mined. The raw materials must be converted into wafers, then encased in protective material. And after panels leave the factory, they must be shipped all over the world. Now imagine these consequences spread over four decades—the environmental cost of the solar industry. Given all the research, development, and production time that goes into making any one panel, a skeptical solar-buyer might wonder: Has the solar industry on the whole really saved any energy at all?  To that concern, a new analysis answers: Yes. The solar industry probably paid off its long-term energy and climate “debts” in 2011, a study published this week in Nature Communications finds.   Cont'd...

Nearly half of residential distributed solar power is owned by private companies

Lucas Mearian for ComputerWorld:  About 44% of all solar power that's installed on residential rooftops, known as distributed solar capacity, is owned by private businesses, such as SolarCity or Vivint Solar, according to new government data. Distributed solar capacity in the U.S., which includes all solar power capacity other than utility-scale installations 1 megawatts (MW) or larger,  increased to 12.3 gigawatts (GW) as of September, according to new figures from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). In comparison, a cumulative 11.6GW had been installed in the U.S. by the end of 2015.   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...

How Flushing your Toilet could help create Biofuel

Laura A. Shepard for Popular Science:  Picture a giant toilet bowl looming larger than life outside the UN headquarters in New York. It sounds like an absurd scene, but the stunt from three years ago was not a childish prank. It was a serious statement to mark the first World Toilet Day and raise awareness of the fact that one third of the world's population lacks access to toilets. Addressing the global sanitation crisis is a top priority among the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, and it now has an exciting solution. In fact, science may soon make your toilet bowl a viable alternative energy source. Your flushes can produce two or three gallons of biofuel per year when the wastewater is treated using a process, developed scientists and engineers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, called hydro-thermal liquefaction (HTL). HTL emulates the way crude oil forms naturally, when biomass decays under high pressure and heat for millions of years - but it only takes 45 minutes.   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...

The World's Largest Solar Plant Is Now Online in India

Avery Thompson for Popular Mechanics:  The world's largest solar power plant has just been completed in Kamuthi, in Tamil Nadu, India. The new plant adds 648 MW to the country's generating capacity. The Kamuthi Solar Power Project takes the title of world's largest solar plant from the Topaz Solar Farm in California, which was completed two years ago and has a capacity of 550 MW. The Kamuthi Solar Power Project was built in only 8 months, and cost $679 million to complete. It contains 2.5 million individual solar panels, covers an area of almost 4 square miles, and is expected to power 150,000 homes.   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:

The First Tidal Generator in North America Is Now Online

Avery Thompson for Popular Mechanics:  The first tidal generator in North America has gone online this month in the Bay of Fundy, and is expected to generate enough electricity to power 500 homes. While most hydro generators harness the energy of falling water, or the energy of the waves, tidal power uses the energy of the high and low tides. At the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, which has the largest tides in the world, that energy is being harnessed to generate 2 megawatts of electrical power. In the Bay of Fundy, the difference between high and low tide is about 56 feet. Approximately 115 billion tons of water flow in and out of the bay every tidal period. Two renewable energy developers, OpenHydro and Emera, decided to build turbines on the seafloor that could harness that power.   Cont'd...

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...  

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