'Mega' floating solar power plants open in Japan

Two floating solar power plants capable of providing electricity for 1,000 homes have been completed in Japan.
 
The latest such "mega-plants" at Nishihira and Higashihira Ponds in Kato City are the work of electronics giant Kyocera Corporation and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation, and took just seven months to install. The plant's 11,250 modules are expected to generate 3,300 megawatt hours (MWh) every year.
 
According to Kyocera, besides being typhoon-proof (due to their sturdy, high-density polyethylene and array design) floating solar plants are superior to their land-based equivalents because of the cooling effect of the water, which allows them to function more efficiently. Reservoirs are also an ideal location because the panels produce shade, which reduces water evaporation and promotes algae growth. A report by Korea Water Resources Corporation found that the lower temperatures of the floating modules mean they are 11 percent more efficient than land-based equivalents. The report identified unsolved issues with the plants, too, however. It said the study had to discard data collected when the panels moved in the wind, and said research into new mooring systems was "continually needed".

MIT invention uses solar power to make ocean water drinkable

USAID recently announced the winners of the Desal Prize, part of a competition to see who could create an affordable desalination solution for developing countries. The idea was to create a system that could remove salt from water and meet three criteria: it had to be cost-effective, environmentally sustainable, and energy efficient.

The winners of the $125,000 first prize were a group from MIT and Jain Irrigation Systems. The group came up with a method that uses solar panels to charge a bank of batteries. The batteries then power a system that removes salt from the water through electrodialysis. On the most basic level, that means that dissolved salt particles, which have a slight electric charge, are drawn out of the water when a small electrical current is applied. In addition to getting rid of salt (which makes water unusable for crops and for drinking), the team also applied UV light to disinfect some of the water as it passed through the system.

Using the sun instead of fossil fuels to power a desalination plant isn't a totally new idea. Larger solar desalination plants are being seriously investigated in areas where water is becoming a scarce resource, including Chile and California. While proponents hope to eventually could provide water to large numbers of people, the technology is still expensive (though prices are dropping) and requires a lot of intricate technology.

Here's Why Apple Is Building Solar Farms in China

Apple just agreed to back two large solar farms in China. It’s the biggest deal of its kind for a U.S. company operating in China. For China, the deal is only a beginning. 
China has been installing more renewable-power capacity than fossil fuels for several years, a gap that's growing. In 2015, China will install 15 gigawatts to 18 gw of solar power alone, double the solar deployment in the U.S., according to an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
The chart shows how, in the next 15 years, China is on track to have more low-carbon electricity than the entire capacity of the U.S. power grid. "Think of what their grid will look like in 2030," Michael Liebreich, founder of BNEF, said at the organization's annual summit last week in New York. "A very competitive advantage."
For Apple, the 40-megawatt partnership extends Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook's solar aspirations beyond U.S. borders. Cook announced an $850 million deal in February to purchase enough solar to power all its California operations: stores, offices, headquarters, and a data center. By making a similar push in China, the tech giant begins to offset its considerable manufacturing pollution, which is almost entirely overseas. 
Many U.S. tech giants—not just Apple—have been criticized for outsourcing their pollution, says Justin Wu, head of Asia research for BNEF. Apple is "hitting back at that whole line of arguments," he says. "This is the beginning of something. Manufacturing in China is going to get greened." 

Toshiba Begins Operation of Independent Energy Supply System Utilizing Renewable Energy and Hydrogen

Toshiba Corporation announced the start of demonstration operation of H2One, an independent energy supply system based on renewable energy and use of hydrogen as a fuel for power generation. Kawasaki City and Toshiba have installed the system at the Kawasaki Marien public facility and Higashi-Ogishima-Naka Park in the Kawasaki Port area.
 
H2One combines photovoltaic installations, storage batteries, hydrogen-producing water electrolysis equipment, hydrogen and water tanks, and fuel cells. Electricity generated from the photovoltaic installations is used to electrolyze water and produce hydrogen, which is then stored in tanks and used in fuel cells that produce electricity and hot water.
 
Since H2One uses only sunlight and water for fuel, it can independently provide electricity and hot water in times of emergency, even when lifelines are cut. Kawasaki Marien and Higashi-Ogishima-Naka Park, a municipal facility to promote Kawasaki Port, is a designated emergency evacuation area. In times of disaster, H2One will use stored hydrogen to provide an estimated 300 evacuees to the site with electricity and hot water for about one week. The H2One system is housed in a container, and can be transported to disaster-hit areas on trailers.

Top 5 Richest Tycoons in Renewable Energy

The growth of the solar industry is truly astounding, particularly in China, the world’s solar leader. Between 2011 and 2012 the Chinese solar market grew by 500 percent. According to a 2014 report by Frost & Sullivan, a consulting firm, the global solar market earned revenues of nearly $60 billion in 2013. The firm estimates that by 2020 it will double to $137.2 billion.
 
With all this growth, somebody was obviously going to get rich, and it didn’t take long for Oilprice.com to identify some of the biggest beneficiaries of the push toward renewables. The following are 5 of the world’s most successful renewable energy business leaders and their net worth.
 
1. Li Hejun, Chairman, Hanenergy Holdings. $31.5 billion. 
2. Elon Musk, Founder/CEO, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., Tesla Motors. $12.2 billion.
3. Wang Chuanfu, Founder, BYD Company. $5.3 billion.
4. Aloys Wobben, Founder/Owner, Enercon. $4.2 billion. 
5. Zhu Gongshan, Chairman, GCL-Poly Energy Holdings. 

The $5 Billion Race to Build a Better Battery

Professor Donald Sadoway remembers chuckling at an e-mail in August 2009 from a woman claiming to represent Bill Gates. The world’s richest man had taken Sadoway’s Introduction to Solid State Chemistry online, the message explained. Gates wondered if he could meet the guy teaching the popular MIT course the next time the billionaire was in the Boston area, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its May issue.  “I thought it was a student prank,” says Sadoway, who’s spent more than a decade melting metals in search of a cheap, long-life battery that might wean the world off dirty energy. He’d almost forgotten the note when Gates’s assistant wrote again to plead for a response.
 
A month later, Gates and Sadoway were swapping ideas on curbing climate change in the chemist’s second-story office on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus. They discussed progress on batteries to help solar and wind compete with fossil fuels. Gates said to call when Sadoway was ready to start a company. “He agreed to be an angel investor,” Sadoway says. “It would have been tough without that support.”
 

Sadoway is ready. He and a handful of scientists with young companies and big backers say they have a shot at solving a vexing problem: how to store and deliver power around the clock so sustainable energies can become viable alternatives to fossil fuels.  How these storage projects are allowing utility power customers to defect from the grid is one of the topics for debate this week at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York. Today’s nickel-cadmium and lithium-ion offerings aren’t up to the task. They can’t run a home for more than a few hours or most cars for more than 100 miles (160 kilometers). At about $400 per kilowatt-hour, they’re double the price analysts say will unleash widespread green power. “Developing a storage system beyond lithium-ion is critical to unlocking the value of electric vehicles and renewable energy,” says Andrew Chung, a partner at Menlo Park, California–based venture capital firm Khosla Ventures.

In The Midst Of Toxic Oil Spill, Vancouver Announces It Will Go 100 Percent Renewable

There’s some mixed news coming out of Vancouver, Canada this week. On the one hand, the city announced at an international sustainability summit that it would commit to using 100 percent renewable energy to power its electricity, transportation, heating and air conditioning within 20 years. On the other hand, Vancouver is also dealing with a fuel spill in the waters of English Bay that is washing up on beaches and threatening wildlife.
On March 26, Vancouver’s city council voted unanimously to approve Mayor Gregor Robertson motion calling for a long-term commitment to deriving all of the city’s energy from renewable sources. At the ICLEI World Congress 2015 this week in Seoul, South Korea, the city went a step further, committing to reaching that goal of 100 percent renewable electricity, transportation, heating and air conditioning by 2030 or 2035.
Right now, Vancouver gets 32 percent of its energy — that includes electricity, transportation, heating, and cooling — from renewable sources, so the goal is ambitious, but not impossible. According to the Guardian, Vancouver could get all of its electricity from renewables within a few years, but transportation, heating, and cooling may prove more difficult.

Wind Power Creates 30,000 Texas Jobs, Generates $85 million in Taxes

The boom in West Texas wind-powered electricity generation has delivered a major economic boost to the region, including creation of over 40 new businesses and 30,000 construction jobs in 57 West Texas counties since 2001, according to data collected by Public Citizen’s Texas office.
 
The 40 new manufacturers and businesses make everything from wind turbine blades and steel towers to electronics, according to the data. Wind farms also generate over $85 million in taxes annually in rural Texas counties and more than $9 billion in new taxable assets in the last 14 years.
 
Over a five-month period in 2014 and 2015, Public Citizen’s Texas office collected data on the economic impact of wind development from county appraisers and tax assessors in the 57 West Texas counties. The data includes estimates of investment values, employment, tax revenues, and lease payments by wind farms, and it reflects review of previous research and case studies.

Obama wants to train 75,000 new solar workers by 2020

President Obama launch a new initiative to expand the nation’s solar industry workforce during a visit to Utah’s Hill Air Force Base on Friday, seeking to gain support for his economic agenda in a heavily-Republican state.
 
The Energy Department will seek to train 75,000 people — including veterans — to enter the solar workforce by 2020, increasing the goal it set in May 2014 by 25,000.
 
“We’ve got to be relentless in our work to grow the economy and create good jobs,” Obama said after touring the brief tour, adding that other nations are seeking to expand their economies as well. “And that’s why we have to redouble our efforts to make sure that we’re competitive, to make sure that we’re taking the steps that are needed for us to be successful.”

Tesla's New Product Secretly Tested By 330 Consumers

From Benzinga: Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry has revealed some interesting information about Tesla Motors Inc 's new product line.
 
Outside of the fact that it will not be a car, very little is known about what Tesla plans to announce. Some experts think it could be a motorcycle. Others assume that it will be an in-home battery that involves solar energy.
 
If Chowdhry's information is correct, it seems that Tesla is ready to launch the latter.
 
In a note to investors, Chowdhry said that he knows of two people that own a residential battery from Tesla. He spoke to one of those owners and detailed the following bullet points:
 
  • "There are about 230 Households in California, who currently have Tesla Stationary Battery installed in their Homes. Another about 100 Households are out of California.
  • This customer had the Tesla Stationary Battery for about One and a Half years, and is installed in his garage."
Last year, Chowdhry attended a sustainability conference and learned that Google Inc is "widely believed" to have a few Tesla (commercial-grade) batteries in some of its buildings. Apple Inc. might also purchase some of these batteries for its new campus.
 
Chowdhry believes that Tesla's commercial-grade batteries are rated at more than 400 kWh.

Google Is Making Its Biggest Ever Bet on Renewable Energy

Google Inc. is making its largest bet yet on renewable energy, a $300 million investment to support at least 25,000 SolarCity Corp. rooftop power plants.
 
Google is contributing to a SolarCity fund valued at $750 million, the largest ever created for residential solar, the San Mateo, California-based solar panel installer said Thursday in a statement.
 
Google has now committed more than $1.8 billion to renewable energy projects, including wind and solar farms on three continents. This deal, which may have a return as high as 8 percent, is a sign that technology companies can take advantage of investment formats once reserved only for banks.
 
“Hopefully this will lead other corporations to invest in renewable energy,” SolarCity Chief Executive Officer Lyndon Rive said in a phone interview.
 
The deal reflects the success of renewable energy companies in tapping into a broader pool of investors with financial products that emerged in the past three years, either paying dividends or sheltering cash. Those helped boost investment in clean energy 16 percent to a record $310 billion last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Seven Reasons Cheap Oil Can't Stop Renewables Now

Tom Randall for Bloomberg:  Oil prices have fallen by more than half since July. Just five years ago, such a plunge in fossil fuels would have put the renewable-energy industry on bankruptcy watch. Today: Meh.

Here are seven reasons why humanity’s transition to cleaner energy won’t be sidetracked by cheap oil.
 
1. The Sun Doesn't Compete With Oil
Oil is for cars; renewables are for electricity. The two don’t really compete. Oil is just too expensive to power the grid, even with prices well below $50 a barrel.
 
Instead, solar competes with coal, natural gas, hydro, and nuclear power. Solar, the newest to the mix, makes up less than 1 percent of the electricity market today but will be the world’s biggest single source by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency. Demand is so strong that the biggest limit to installations this year may be the availability of panels.   Cont'd...

 

Foreign funds flow set to skyrocket for renewable energy projects in India

From The Economic Times:  Big-ticket announcements involving American loans for renewable energy projects, green bonds, venture capital and pension funds are on the cards after US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to collaborate in the area of clean energy and combat climate change.
 
Officials at the renewable energy ministry said deals would be negotiated at a high-profile event next month, when Modi will kick off a gathering of industry leaders, bankers, investors and central bank officials from the US, India, Europe and other regions.
 
A team of senior US officials and executives from funding agencies, ministries and companies will interact with Indian officials from the finance ministry, Reserve Bank of India and other agencies to help India meet its ambitious target of adding 1 lakh megawatt of clean energy, which is 40% of the country's total generation capacity now, at a cost of Rs 6 lakh crore. 

 

How the Oil Price Slump Helps Renewable Energy

Geoffery Styles, The Energy Collective - Intuition suggests that the current sharp correction in oil prices must be bad for the deployment of renewable and other alternative energy technologies. As the Wall Street Journal's Heard on the Street column noted Wednesday, EV makers like Tesla face a wall of cheap gasoline. Meanwhile, ethanol producers are squeezed between falling oil and rising corn prices. Yet although individual projects and companies may struggle in a low-oil-price environment, the sector as a whole should benefit from the economic stimulus cheap oil provides.
 
The biggest threat to the kind of large-scale investment in low-carbon energy foreseen by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and others is not cheaper oil, but a global recession and/or financial crisis that would also threaten the emerging consensus on a new UN climate deal. We have already seen renewable energy subsidies cut or revoked in Europe as the EU has sought to address unsustainable deficits and shaky member countries on its periphery. 
 
Earlier this week the World Bank reduced its forecast of economic growth in 2015 by 0.4% as the so-called BRICs slow and the Eurozone flirts with recession and deflation. The Bank's view apparently factors in the stimulus from global oil prices, without which things would look worse. The US Energy Information Administration's latest short-term forecast cut the expected average price of Brent crude oil for this year to $58 per barrel. That's a drop of $41 compared to the average for 2014, which was already $10/bbl below 2013. Across the 93 million bbl/day of global demand the IEA expects this year, that works out to a $1.4 trillion savings for the countries that are net importers of oil--including the US. This equates to just under 2% of global GDP.  Cont'd...

Gov. Brown's renewable energy plan could boost solar, wind industries

Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal this week to significantly boost the amount of energy California derives from renewable sources could reinvigorate the state's utility-scale solar and wind industries, as well as launch another land rush in the Mojave Desert.
 
In his inaugural address, Brown didn't say how the state's Renewables Portfolio Standard could be raised to 50% by 2030 — the previous benchmark was 33% by 2020 — but his commitment was clear:
 
"This is exciting, it is bold, and it is absolutely necessary if we are to have any chance of stopping potentially catastrophic changes to our climate system," the governor said.
 
He also outlined a plan to reduce petroleum use in cars and trucks by 50% and double the energy efficiency of new buildings in the state.
 
The reverberation was instantaneous.
 
"Is it significant? Absolutely. Will it stimulate the market? Absolutely," said Jerry R. Bloom of the Los Angeles law firm Winston & Strawn, who guides renewable energy developers through the financing and permitting processes.

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