Concentrator Photovoltaics: The Next Step Towards Better Solar Power

By Lauren J. Young for IEEE Spectrum:  Today’s concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) technologies have shown promising potential for more efficient solar power. The latest systems are said to be capable of handling the power of a hundred suns. Yet prototypes have failed to compete with cheaper flat panel solar systems that dominate the market. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) is determined to push CPV to the next level. On 24 August, at the Clean Energy Summit, U.S. President Barack Obama and Energy Secretary Ernest Monizannounced a program called MOSAIC that will invest $24 million into CPV solar technology development.

Why can’t today’s CPV systems compete? The concentrators can only convert direct sunlight into energy, missing out on the large fraction of sunlight diffracted by clouds and the atmosphere. Manufacturing costs of concentrator apparatuses have also prevented CPV from reaching mass production.  Cont'd...

NASA Seeks Proposals for Extreme Environment Solar Arrays

NASA's space technology program is seeking proposals to develop solar array systems for space power in high radiation and low solar energy environments. 

In the near future, NASA will need solar cells and arrays for multiple applications in robotic and human space exploration missions. Because these systems were traditionally developed for operation near Earth, there is a need to develop new solar array concepts as NASA considers missions that require exposure to more intense radiation environments and travel ever farther from the sun. 

NASA hopes to solicit proposals for the development of promising technologies to increase solar cells that will work under low intensity, low temperature and high radiation environments.

Proposals will be accepted from U.S. organizations, including NASA centers and other government agencies, federally funded research and development centers, educational institutions, industry and nonprofit organizations.

Iran is building the Middle East's first geothermal power plant

Iran is building the Middle East’s first geothermal power plant at the foot of an inactive volcanic peak as the country is racing to meet a runaway demand for electricity by its growing population. 

The pilot station in northwestern Meshguin Shahr in the Ardabil province is projected to come on stream in the next two years, putting Iran in the club of two dozen nations with the geothermal power generation capacity.

The 50-megawatt project is in line with Iran’s bid to expand its clean energy mix which is dominated by fossil fuels. Geothermal power is cheaper and more reliable than other renewable energy sources, such as thermal or hydro power.  Cont'd...

The U.S. Just Approved One of the World's Biggest Solar Power Plants

Todd Woody for  The federal government on Monday green-lit a 485-megawatt solar plant that would generate enough carbon-free electricity to power 180,000 homes when it comes online in the Southern California desert.

During the Great Recession, that was nothing unusual about billions of dollars in federal stimulus money fueling big green dreams of carpeting the Mojave Desert with giant solar power plants on government-owned land, a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s efforts to fight climate change. That land, however, often turned out to be home to desert tortoises, blunt-nosed leopard lizards, and other endangered wildlife. Many of those projects went belly-up in part because of fierce opposition from environmental groups.

That prompted an effort by the federal government to be “smart from the start” about where it allowed big renewable energy plants to be built. So the Blythe Mesa Solar Project, which was approved Monday, will deploy tens of thousands of solar panels across 3,587 acres of already disturbed or fallow farmland where wheat, alfalfa, and citrus had been grown. No desert tortoises will be harmed.  Cont'd...

Plug-and-play battery seeks to upstage Tesla

By Morgan Lee for the San Diego Union Tribune:  It looks like a simple floor lamp, or a sleek picture frame on the wall.  Inside lies a tantalizing future for household energy storage -- a 2 kilowatt-hour battery that plugs into a standard wall outlet and can keep an electrical circuit hot for several hours or more if a power outage strikes.

The unproven concept for a plug-in-play battery was introduced Thursday by San Diego-based Orison during a forum at the University of California San Diego. Len Hering, executive director of the Center for Sustainable Energy, praised the 2-year-old startup's efforts in a news release.

Orison CEO and co-founder Eric Clifton, drawing on seven years of experience in green technology startups, believes the battery tower and wall unit can play a prominent role in the emerging Internet of Things, providing the energy-storage equivalent of the Nest smart thermostat.

"The way we look at it, we are the Nest of the energy industry," he said.

Clifton believes that other early household battery entries -- most notably the Powerwall from electric car maker Tesla Motors -- miss the mark on bringing energy storage to the masses.

Tesla's hefty home battery has to be professionally mounted and hardwired into household circuity, potentially involving inspections and permits.

With Orison's batteries, you don't have to own a home, or even live in one, Clifton said. The batteries fit in with an apartment dweller in Manhattan.  Cont'd...

Indian airport becomes world's first to run entirely on solar energy

ROSE TOUP BUCHANAN for The Independent:  An Indian airport has become the world’s first to run entirely onsolar energy .

Cochin International  Airport, in the south of India, inaugurated a massive 45-acre solar plant on Tuesday.

The plant, made up of 46,000 panels, will provide between 50,000 to 60,000 units of electricity every day (totalling 12 megawatts of power alongside pre-existing solar panels ), according to a release from airport authorities.

It has been a long-running project: the airport first installed panels on the roof of its terminal in 2013 and has gradually expanded the initiative.  Cont'd...

Pink film 'antenna' can double solar cell efficiency

Megan Treacy for TreeHugger:  When we think of antennas we mainly think of the type that transmit and receive radio waves, letting us listen to radio stations in our car or watch TV in our homes, but in this case the researchers are using the term to describe a new thin film material that captures more of the light spectrum, converting it into wavelengths of light that solar cells can convert into electricity.

Many scientists are working on building better solar cells, but researchers at the University of Connecticut wanted to figure out how to boost the efficiency of the technology we already have. Thus, the antenna.

As reports, Challa V. Kumar, Ph.D and his team "built an antenna that collects those unused blue photons and converts them to lower energy photons that the silicon can then turn into current."

"Many groups around the world are working hard to make this kind of antenna, and ours is the first of its kind in the whole world," Kumar said.  Cont'd...

Google Maps can now tell you if it's worth installing solar panels on your roof

By Loren Grush for The Verge: Google wants to help you harness the power of the sun. A new service called Project Sunroof aims to provide a "treasure map" of solar energy with the help of Google Maps. Sunroof gives homeowners detailed information about how much solar power their roof can generate and how much money they could save on electricity costs by adding solar panels.

Sunroof uses data from Google Maps that previously had no practical application. For instance, Sunroof uses Maps’ 3D-modeling to calculate the amount of space a building’s roof has for solar panels. The service also analyzes the positioning of the sun over the course of a year, as well as the type of cloud cover and temperature the neighborhood usually experiences. It even considers the amount of shade cast by nearby objects.  Cont'd...

The Most Innovative Companies In Renewable Energy

By Michael McDonald for  As the oil price bust continues, renewable energy and sustainability innovation is continuing unabated. For instance, an architecture company recently unveiled a set of plans for a smart floating farm project that helps preserve land space and improve food production efficiency. The plans are just hypothetical at this point and it is unclear if they will ever be built, but that’s not really the point. The project shows that, around the world, companies and individuals continue to devote time and resources to innovation in sustainable living.

In a similar vein for instance, in the solar field, small companies are creating a host of new innovative products like new inverters and module level electronics. Many of these innovations may seem trivial and iterative. And many are, but a series of trivial and iterative innovations can still lead to big change and that has solar proponents excited. 

Big changes are also occurring on more visible systems. A company called Ripasso Energy is pushing its new, more efficient solar generators. In a highly visible effort, Tesla is pressing ahead with its home and business battery storage systems. Desalinization with solar and even solar planes are also on the horizon.

The vast majority of these innovations are too early stage for investors to make serious bets on, and even if an investor could be in on an individual technology, that approach is risky. Instead, investors are better off putting their dollars into firms that consistently show an innovative spirit and are pressing forward with a broad portfolio of product innovations. These kinds of broad sets of innovations are important to the future of the planet and they can generate serious returns for sage investors as well.  Cont'd...

Renewable energy developers get their own watchdog

Barbara Grady for GreenBiz:  In another sign that renewable energy is becoming big business, developers of wind and solar power projects are about to find themselves subject to a new layer of scrutiny.

The social impact startup trying to goad oil and gas exploration companies to meet certain levels of socially and environmentally responsible behavior is extending its efforts into renewable energy.

Equitable Origin, founded as a self-proclaimed standards setter for how oil exploration and extraction companies should go about their work without trampling on human rights, harming local communities and destroying the environment, announced this week that it wants to branch out with new standards for wind and solar energy site development.

It’s not that the organization is against renewable energy development, its officers insist.

“What we are trying to do is assist the growing renewable energy industries by helping them not repeat the same mistakes as oil and gas,” Josh Garrett, communications manager of Equitable Origin, told GreenBiz.  Cont'd...

Tesla already has reservations for $1bn worth of energy storage

Tesla has taken 100,000 reservations for its Powerpack and Powerwall battery products, worth approximately $1bn, according to founder Elon Musk.

Speaking on the company’s quarterly earnings call, Musk said Tesla had taken reservations (non-binding agreements) which led him to believe the company would sell $50m of storage in the fourth quarter of 2015, and up to $500m in both 2016 and 2017.

Musk said: "If you just take the reservations that have been made thus far, it's well over $1 billion worth of Powerpacks and Powerwalls. And that's with no marketing, no advertising, no sales force to speak of, really, we're not trying to sell it".

Tesla chief technology officer Jeffrey Straubel, who was also on the call, said that around 70% of the reservations were for the larger 1MW Powerpack system, which is focused at commercial users and large-scale energy generators.  Cont'd...

Norway Could Provide 20,000MW of Energy Storage to Europe

Mike Stone  for GTM:  Norway has a lot of hydroelectric plants: a total of 937 of them, which provide a population of 5 million with around 98 percent of its electricity. In fact, the Scandinavian country is home to roughly half of all the hydroelectric water storage reservoirs in Europe.

This vast system could also offer a Europe a substantial amount of energy storage -- up to 20 gigawatts of it -- if an ambitious scheme currently being proposed can overcome political and social hurdles and get the necessary funding. That’s according to Kaspar Vereide, an engineer at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. And his models suggest it could all be achieved in seven years.

Vereide is not alone in thinking Norway could become a vast green battery for Europe. The Centre for Environmental Design of Renewable Energy has concluded that there are four realistic scenarios for pumped hydro energy storage in the country, ranging from a Nordics-only scenario, where Norway only looks after its own needs, plus some of those of its Scandinavian neighbors; to a so-called ‘big storage’ scenario, which, it says, would see “Norwegian hydropower play an important role in integrating variable renewable sources into the European power system by providing large volumes of balancing over various time horizons to the North Sea countries through highly integrated grids and power markets.”

It’s this "big storage" scenario -- with Norway becoming "the green battery of Europe" -- that Vereide has in mind.  Cont'd...

Battery Costs Set To Fall 60% By 2020 From Energy Storage 'Megashift'

By Sophie Vorrath for RenewEconomy:  The key role energy storage will play in the electricity grids of the future – and the vital importance of investing in and testing the various emerging battery storage technologies – has been highlighted in a major report published by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency on Monday, which predicts a 40-60 per cent price plunge for certain battery technologies by 2020.

The 130-page report prepared by AECOM predicts a “mega-shift” to energy storage adoption, driven by demand – from both the supply side, as networks work to adapt to increasing distributed and renewable energy capacity, and from consumers wishing to store their solar energy – and by the rapidly changing economic proposition; a proposition, the report says, that will see the costs of lithium-ion batteries fall by 60 per cent in less than five years, and by 40 per cent for flow batteries.  Cont'd...

China is building the world's largest solar power plant

Oliver Wheaton for  The massive solar plant, which will stretch out across the Gobi desert in the country’s Quinghai province, will cover 25 square kilometres of vacant ground space.

When finished the plant, called Delingha, is expected to have a capacity of 200 megawatts, which means it will power one million households all year round.

Delingha is the world’s first solar power plant to be run as a commercial entity after being jointly developed by BrightSource Energy from California and the Shanghai Electric Group in China.

The awesome structure will have six huge towers as well as thousands of solar mirrors which, due to their heat storage time of 15 hours, will be able to guarantee ‘stable and continual power generation’, according to Qinghai Solar-Thermal Power Group board chair, Wu Longyi.  Cont'd...

Japan Builds World's Largest Floating Wind Turbine off Fukushima

by ARATA YAMAMOTO for NBC News:  Engineers in Japan have installed the world's largest floating wind turbine, a towering 344-foot structure that is billed as being able to withstand 65-foot waves and even tsunamis.

The 7 megawatt turbine was fastened to the seabed last week by four 20-ton anchors about 12 miles off the Fukushima coast.

Its installation was delayed four times because of consecutive typhoons in the region. But one of its chief engineers, Katsunobu Shimizu, told NBC News that the turbine — which is about the same height as London's St. Paul's Cathedral — would be able to withstand even the most extreme conditions.

"These turbines and anchors are designed to withstand 65-foot waves," Shimizu said during a sea tour of the turbine given from a boat off the coast. "Also, here we can get 32-foot-tall tsunamis. That's why the chains are deliberately slackened."

If a large wave were to push the turbine up, down or to the side, the loose chains connecting the structure to the seabed would give it the freedom to move without being damaged, he said.  Cont'd...

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