Renewable energy boom will mean vastly cheaper electricity

By Lucas Mearian, ComputerWorld:  Renewable energy, combined with prolific battery storage, will soon result in vastly cheaper electricity -- and solar power that's less expensive than what fossil fuel-based power plants can produce.

Additionally, solar power with lithium-ion and flow-battery storage systems will make the combination of renewable energy so inexpensive that it will surpass nuclear power and obviate the need for futuristic power sources such as fusion.

That was consensus view from a several keynote speeches delivered at the Intersolar Conference in San Francisco this week.

Eicke Weber, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, said that in sun-rich countries, the cost of solar power is already below 5 cents per kilowatt and it will continue to plummet as battery storage systems become more prolific and less expensive. Cont'd...

South getting its first wind farm soon as bigger turbines make the region viable

By JASON DEAREN, Associated Press:  On a vast tract of old North Carolina farmland, crews are getting ready to build something the South has never seen: a commercial-scale wind energy farm.

The $600 million project by Spanish developer Iberdrola Renewables LLC will put 102 turbines on 22,000 acres near the coastal community of Elizabeth City, with plans to add about 50 more. Once up and running, it could generate about 204 megawatts, or enough electricity to power about 60,000 homes.

It would be the first large onshore wind farm in a region with light, fluctuating winds that has long been a dead zone for wind power.

After a years-long regulatory process that once looked to have doomed the plan, Iberdrola spokesman Paul Copleman told The Associated Press that construction is to begin in about a month.

Right now, there's not a spark of electricity generated from wind in nine states across the Southeast from Arkansas to Florida, according to data from the American Wind Energy Association, an industry trade group.

But taller towers and bigger turbines are unlocking new potential in the South, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, and the industry is already looking to invest.  Cont'd...

Obama Plan Would Give Poor Easier Access to Solar Energy

The Obama administration on Tuesday announced an initiative to help low- and middle-income Americans gain access to solar energy, part of a series of steps President Obama is taking to tackle climate change, according to administration officials.

The administration said it intends to triple the capacity of solar and other renewable energy systems it installs in federally subsidized housing by 2020, make it easier for homeowners to borrow money for solar improvements and start a nationwide program to help renters gain access to solar energy, the officials said.

The actions were announced in Baltimore by Brian Deese, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser for climate issues, and Representative Elijah E. Cummings, the Democrat who represents the city.

Mr. Deese, in a conference call with reporters, called the moves “part of a bigger-picture effort to try to drive innovation” toward cleaner, low-carbon energy solutions.

Also unveiled on Tuesday were commitments totaling more than $520 million from charities, investors, states and cities to pay for solar and energy-efficiency projects for lower-income communities.  Cont'd...

Start of test with solar energy generating noise barriers alongside highway

Alongside the A2 highway near Den Bosch, The Netherlands, two test noise barriers are installed that generate solar energy. The aim of this practical test, that was officially launched 18 June is to assess the economic and technical feasibility of this form of energy generating noise barriers. Playing a key role in the test are the LSC panels, developed by researcher Michael Debije at TU/e.
The translucent, colored panels are a new type of energy source, developed jointly by TU/e. These 'luminescent solar concentrators' (LSCs) receive sun light and guide it to the side of the panels. There, it lands in concentrated form on traditional solar cells. "Thanks to their many colors the LSC are visually very attractive, which makes them ideal for use in many different situations in the built environment", explains Debije of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry, who has carried out years of research into these panels. "Further benefits are that the principle used is low cost, they can be produced in any desired, regular color, is robust, and the LSCs will even work when the sky is cloudy. That means it offers tremendous potential." Debije published his latest research findings on this subject last March in Nature.
On 18 June a one-year practical test started in 's-Hertogenbosch, led by the building company Heijmans. The researchers intend to assess the feasibility of generating electricity using solar cells integrated in noise barriers or SONOBs (Solar Noise Barriers).  Cont'd...

Investment In Renewable Energy Yields More Jobs Than Fossil Fuel Sector

Joshua S Hill for CleanTechnica:  A new report has determined that investments in energy-efficient and renewable energy sources yield more jobs for a set amount of spending than investing in maintaining or expanding the fossil fuel industry.

[wind turbine cowboy jobs] The report, Global Green Growth: Clean Energy Industrial Investment and Expanding Job Opportunities, was published earlier this week and presented at the Vienna Energy Forum 2015 by its two authors, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

“Significant progress has already been made in overcoming the hitherto conventional wisdom that taking steps to cut GHGs is incompatible with economic growth,” said Yvo de Boer, Director-General of GGGI. “This report moves the debate another positive step forward by showing that employment and development result from sustainable, green growth.”

24M Introduces the Semisolid Lithium-Ion Battery

Today, 24M emerged from stealth mode to introduce the semisolid lithium-ion cell, a revolutionary technology that solves the grand challenge of energy storage by enabling a new, cost-effective class of the lithium-ion battery. 24M’s semisolid lithium-ion is the most significant advancement in lithium-ion technology in more than two decades and combines an overhaul in battery cell design with a series of manufacturing innovations that, when fully implemented, will slash today’s lithium-ion costs by 50% and improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries. The technology will accelerate the global adoption of affordable energy storage.
Until now, the energy storage field has had two options to try to drive down costs – build massive and complex factories to produce lithium-ion batteries in high volumes or pursue entirely new chemistries that may never move from the lab to the commercial floor. With the invention of the semisolid lithium-ion battery, 24M presents a third option – work with the world’s preferred energy storage chemistry and unlock new opportunities for cost reductions through new cell design and manufacturing innovations. 24M’s platform is the most significant advancement in lithium-ion technology since its debut more than 20 years ago.

Trina Solar to Invest $500 Million in India-Based Solar Plant

Per a media report, Trina Solar Limited is going to invest $500 million for building a 2-gigawatt solar module plant in India in partnership with Welspun Energy Ltd. The plant's output will be exported to the U.S. and European markets, which have imposed punitive trade duties on solar shipments from China. 
The facility will be built in either Gujarat or Andhra Pradesh. Construction of the plant will be completed in two phases over a period of about 18 months. 

Nissan to incorporate used Leaf batteries in home energy storage system

Following in the footsteps of Tesla and Mercedes-Benz, Nissan is now set to become the latest automaker to offer battery packs for stationary energy storage. Although pricing information has yet to be provided, the Nissan product should be relatively affordable, as it will incorporate used batteries from Nissan Leaf electric cars.

Nissan designed the battery packs as part of the 4R Energy joint venture with Sumitomo Corp., and has partnered with commercial energy storage company Green Charge Networks to manufacture them. While Nissan is the source of the actual "second life" lithium-ion batteries that no longer meet the demands of automotive use, Green Charge is providing the power management software.

According to Nissan, this is the first time that used EV batteries have been commercially utilized for such an application. "A lithium-ion battery from a Nissan Leaf still holds a great deal of value as energy storage, even after it is removed from the vehicle, so Nissan expects to be able to reuse a majority of Leaf battery packs in non-automotive applications," says Brad Smith, director of Nissan's 4R Energy business in the US.  Cont'd..

Designer Carbons Are Getting a Boost from Nanotechnology

By Richard Martin for The MIT Technology Review:  A group of Stanford researchers have come up with a nanoscale “designer carbon” material that can be adjusted to make energy storage devices, solar panels, and potentially carbon capture systems more powerful and efficient.
The designer carbon that has reached the market in recent years shares the Swiss-cheese-like structure of activated carbon, enhancing its ability to catalyze certain chemical reactions and store electrical charges; but it’s “designed” in the sense that the chemical composition of the material, and the size of the pores, can be manipulated to fit specific uses.
The designer carbon tested at Stanford is “both versatile and controllable,” according to Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering and the senior author of the study, which appeared in the latest issue of the journal ACS Central Science.
“Producing high-surface-area carbons with controlled chemical composition and morphology is really challenging,” says Bao. Other methods currently available, she says, “are either quite expensive or they don’t offer control over the chemical structure and morphology.”  Cont'd...

Why You Should Be Paying Attention To The 'Other' Form Of Solar Power

Joe Romm for ThinkProgress:  Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems have seen explosive growth because of their stunning 99 percent price drop in the past quarter century. As a result, the other form of solar power — concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) — is a small fraction of the solar market.
But the International Energy Agency (IEA) says CSP has a very bright future too because it enables cheap, efficient storage, which allows CSP plants to provide electricity long after the sun has set. According to the IEA’s 2014 CSP Technology Roadmap, 11 percent of global electricity will be generated by concentrating solar thermal power in 2050.  Cont'd...

Study: U.S. could run entirely on renewable energy by 2050

A new study has mapped out a potential plan for the United States to completely transition to clean, renewable energy by 2050.
According to the research study leader Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, the process would demand significant upfront costs, but over time would be roughly equal to the costs of maintaining the fossil fuel infrastructure currently in place.
“When you account for the health and climate costs – as well as the rising price of fossil fuels – wind, water and solar are half the cost of conventional systems,” Jacobson said. “A conversion of this scale would also create jobs, stabilize fuel prices, reduce pollution-related health problems and eliminate emissions from the United States. There is very little downside to a conversion, at least based on this science.”
Among the positives of switching to clean energy: reducing air pollution in the U.S. that is responsible for approximately 63,000 Americans each year, and eliminating greenhouse gases produced by fossil fuel that would cost the world approximately $3.3 trillion per year by 2050, per a phys.org report.

Mercedes-Benz To Follow Tesla With Its Own Home Batteries

Stephen Edelstein for Motor Authority:  Tesla Motors may be the first automaker to try selling standalone battery packs for powering homes and businesses, but it may not be the only one for long. Mercedes-Benz could soon enter the energy storage business as well. A division of parent company Daimler has been testing battery packs that can power houses or store excess electricity from the grid, and plans to launch commercially in September, according to Australia's Motoring.
Called ACCUmotive, this division was created in 2009 to develop lithium-ion batteries. Like Tesla before its recent announcement, the Daimler arm has been testing energy storage systems under the radar for some time. It recently built an energy storage array operated by German electricity joint venture Coulomb. The array consists of 96 lithium-ion modules that together boast a combined 500 kilowatt hours of storage capacity, which is used to stabilize the Saxony Kamenz power grid. There are plans to expand it to 3,000 kWh of capacity.
ACCUmotive has reportedly delivered more than 60,000 lithium-ion cells to customers—which may include Mercedes itself—and employs more than 250 people. 

Five lessons on how to sell home energy storage

TRISTAN EDIS writes:  Reposit Power are one of the first companies in Australia that have teamed up with Tesla in the roll-out of their Powerwall home energy storage system. The interesting thing about Reposit is that its primary businesses isn’t selling energy hardware but, rather, using software to aggregate and trade lots of little sources of power generation into the electricity market. Most battery retailers and installers in Australia have their roots in the off-grid market – they have sold batteries to customers because their only other option was expensive, maintenance-intensive diesel generators. But Reposit is inherently bound to the grid where there are lots of generators connected which they trade against.
It means Reposit, in trying to get batteries rolled out (which they can then use to trade into the power market), face a far more challenging sales proposition. Grid-connected customers don’t really need the battery system – it’s an optional extra because the grid works extremely well in providing reliable and affordable power. Yet participants in the solar PV market know there is some considerable latent demand for batteries among householders – particularly those with solar systems – provided the offering is right. The challenge is working out what the successful marketing formula needs to be to tap this latent demand.
Dean Spaccavento, chief product officer with Reposit, explained what they’ve found out so far, outlining 10 lessons of which I’ve plucked out five. The overall message is it is extremely hard to sell a grid-connected household an energy storage system. And Reposit had the benefit of an ARENA grant which allowed them to discount the price of their $25,000, 14kWh battery system by a very hefty $10,000. This was a one-off, small volume offer. To sell battery systems in Australia it will need to happen without the benefit of such a big rebate.
The five lessons below provide one overarching lesson – batteries won’t be sold on some kind of pure sophisticated financial calculus of rate of return or NPV. Instead, it will be a mixture of rule-of-thumb financial hurdles and a strong dose of emotion.  Cont'd....

Can bladeless wind turbines mute opposition?

Dominic Bates for The Guardian:  A new bladeless wind turbine that promises to be more efficient, less visually intrusive, and safer for birdlife than conventional turbines has been welcomed by two of the UK wind energy industry’s most vocal critics.
The RSPB and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), which have both expressed concerns over the impacts of industrial-scale windfarms on the landscape and wildlife, said the new turbine was encouraging news for birds and had the potential to open up more urban environments to the sector.
The streamlined design contains no contacting moving parts, making it virtually noiseless and less prone to vibration. Vortex Bladeless, the turbine’s Spanish developers, hopes these advantages could finally help usher in a viable consumer wind power market.
“Wind turbines now are too noisy for people’s backyard,” says David Suriol, who co-founded the company with Raul Martin and the turbine’s inventor, David Yáñez. “We want to bring wind power generation to people’s houses like solar power.”

"Designer carbon" boosts battery performance

Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ.:  Stanford Univ. scientists have created a new carbon material that significantly boosts the performance of energy-storage technologies. Their results are featured in ACS Central Science.
"We have developed a 'designer carbon' that is both versatile and controllable," said Zhenan Bao, the senior author of the study and a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford. "Our study shows that this material has exceptional energy-storage capacity, enabling unprecedented performance in lithium-sulfur batteries and supercapacitors."
According to Bao, the new designer carbon represents a dramatic improvement over conventional activated carbon, an inexpensive material widely used in products ranging from water filters and air deodorizers to energy-storage devices.
"A lot of cheap activated carbon is made from coconut shells," Bao said. "To activate the carbon, manufacturers burn the coconut at high temperatures and then chemically treat it."
The activation process creates nanosized holes, or pores, that increase the surface area of the carbon, allowing it to catalyze more chemical reactions and store more electrical charges.

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