Solar Panels Grown on the Moon could Power Earth

Sarah Fecht for Popular Science:  Currently a high school senior in California, Lewis-Weber has just published a paper in the journal New Space with what he thinks could be the solution to the upcoming energy crisis: putting self-replicating solar panels in space. These solar panels would to build copies of themselves, autonomously, on the surface of the moon. Then they would enter Earth's orbit, collect the sun's energy, and wirelessly beam it to the ground. That may sound like a crazy idea, but the notion of space-based solar power actually dates back several decades, to the 1970s oil crisis. It was set aside after oil prices went back down, but since then, two things have happened: One, the world has become a lot more desperate to solve climate change; and two, technological innovations have brought this crazy idea out of the realm of science fiction. The idea is gaining attention, and with some big investments, it's possible that space-based solar power could become a reality within a few decades.   Cont'd...

Obama administration opens up Long Island to offshore wind development

SCOTT WALDMAN for Politico :  The federal government has designated an 81,000-acre area off of Long Island for possible commercial offshore wind development. The move by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Wednesday to open the federal waters 11 miles off of New York to major wind development projects will be a significant boost to the Cuomo administration’s aggressive climate policies. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will now conduct an environmental assessment, with a possible sale of leases to follow. “New York has tremendous offshore wind potential, and today's milestone marks another important step in the President's strategy to tap clean, renewable energy from the Nation’s vast wind and solar resources,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement. “We will continue to work with the State and local stakeholders through a collaborative effort as we determine what places have the highest potential and lowest conflict to harness the enormous wind energy potential off the Atlantic seaboard.”   Cont'd...

The world's first solar airport no longer pays for electricity

Jethro Mullen for CNN:  Fed up with their hefty electricity bill, managers at Cochin International Airport in southern India took matters into their own hands. Three years ago, they began adding solar panels -- first on the roof of the arrivals terminal, then on and around an aircraft hangar. The success of those initial efforts led to a much bigger endeavor. "We wanted to be independent of the electricity utility grid," Jose Thomas, the airport's general manager, told CNNMoney. Last year, the airport commissioned the German company Bosch to build a vast 45-acre solar plant on unused land near the international cargo terminal. The plant came online in August, making Cochin the world's first fully solar-powered airport. The tens of thousands of panels generate on average slightly more than the roughly 48,000-50,000 kilowatts of power that the airport -- the seventh busiest in India -- uses per day, according to Thomas. Surplus energy is fed into the wider electricity grid. The big project cost around 620 million rupees ($9.3 million), a sum the airport expects to save in less than six years by not having to pay electricity bills anymore. It also estimates the solar plant will avoid more than 300,000 metric tons of carbon emissions from coal power over the next 25 years.   Cont'd...

After record year, U.S. energy storage forecasted to break 1 GW capacity mark in 2019

Peter Maloney  for UtilityDive:  The U.S. energy storage market put in a strong showing in 2015 with its “best quarter and best year of all time,” according to the GTM/ESA report. And current market trends point toward continued strong growth. The recent extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit, and new guidelines under consideration at the Internal Revenue Service are expected to further boost energy storage and the pairing of storage with renewable resources. In the fourth quarter alone, the U.S. deployed 112 MW of storage capacity, representing more than the total of all storage deployments in 2013 and 2014 combined. For the full year, 221 MW (161 MWh) of storage was installed. In 2014 65 MW (86 MWh) of storage was installed in the U.S.   Cont'd...

Offshore wind projects in United States see renewed interest

By PHILIP MARCELO for AP:  The offshore wind industry has high hopes for establishing a permanent beachhead in the U.S. after years of disappointment. Business leaders and politicians who gathered for an industry conference in Boston this week said wealthy investment firms and seasoned European offshore wind companies are increasingly committing to projects along the East Coast. That, they said, is evidence a domestic industry dreamed about for nearly two decades is finally on its way. "There's a palpable sense that it's finally happening," said Bryan Martin, a managing director at D.E. Shaw & Co. That New York hedge fund is the principal backer of Deepwater Wind, a Rhode Island-based company looking to launch the country's first offshore wind farm off Block Island by the end of the year. "The U.S. tends to start small and ramp up very fast. I believe that will happen with offshore wind." Among the significant new players to emerge in the past year is DONG Energy, a Danish firm that operates more than a dozen wind farms, including some of Europe's largest.   Cont'd...

Warren Buffett Downplays His Battle With Elon Musk in Nevada Over Solar Power

Joe Carmichael for Inverse:  Buffett, in an interview with CNBC on Monday, responded to viewer questions about this clash (a clash that Bloomberg Business intensified with a cover story): two viewers asked why Buffett’s companies are preventing and deterring net metering in Nevada. Buffett responded: “We don’t have a problem with net meters, and we’re the leading in renewables in the country among regulated utilities. The [unintelligible] we do not want our million-plus customers that do not have solar to be buying solar at 10 and a half cents when we can turn it out for them at 4 and a half cents or buy it at 4 and a half cents. So, we do not want the non-solar customers, of whom there are over a million, to be subsidizing the 17,000 solar customers. Now, solar customers are subsidized through the Federal Government — as we are, with our wind and solar operations ourselves. … “In Nevada, [Musk's company, SolarCity] had an arrangement for a very limited number of people — and the public utility commission decides this — they had an arrangement where the utility had to pay way above market for solar produced by these 17,000 homes, and that —“ The interviewer interrupted to clarify: “For instance, if I have solar electricity that I’m producing, that’s more than I need, I can sell it back to you…”   Cont'd...

Is the US undermining India's solar power programme?

Justin Rowlatt for BBC News:  Whatever happened to all the talk of international co-operation to tackle climate change that we heard during the climate conference in Paris just a few months ago? That is what many environmentalists are asking after the United States delivered a damaging blow to India's ambitious solar power programme this week. In response to a US complaint, a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel has ruled that India's National Solar Mission breaches trade rules. It judged that India's policies on buying locally made solar power equipment discriminates against imports. "The ink is barely dry on the UN Paris Climate Agreement, but clearly trade still trumps real action on climate change," Sam Cossar-Gilbert of Friends of the Earth International said in a statement. But is the decision really as damaging as many commentators seem to think? Let's start at the beginning.   Cont'd...

Here's How Electric Cars Will Cause the Next Oil Crisis

Tom Randal for Bloomberg Business:  With all good technologies, there comes a time when buying the alternative no longer makes sense. Think smartphones in the past decade, color TVs in the 1970s, or even gasoline cars in the early 20th century. Predicting the timing of these shifts is difficult, but when it happens, the whole world changes. It’s looking like the 2020s will be the decade of the electric car. Battery prices fell 35 percent last year and are on a trajectory to make unsubsidized electric vehicles as affordable as their gasoline counterparts in the next six years, according to a new analysis of the electric-vehicle market by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). That will be the start of a real mass-market liftoff for electric cars. By 2040, long-range electric cars will cost less than $22,000 (in today’s dollars), according to the projections. Thirty-five percent of new cars worldwide will have a plug.   Cont'd...

Apple leftovers key for future energy storage

By Tereza Pultarova for E&T:  German researchers have developed a new carbon-based active material that can be manufactured from apple leftovers and used to build better energy storage systems. The apple-based material can be used as the negative electrode in sodium-ion batteries, which are currently being researched as a more environmentally friendly and cheaper alternative to lithium-ion batteries. Instead of energy-intensive lithium mining, which frequently damages the environment, battery manufacturers in future could be using organic waste to make batteries. In tests, the new material discovered by researchers from the Helmholtz Institute Ulm of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, has demonstrated ‘excellent electrochemical properties’, allowing the researchers to carry out 1000 charge and discharge cycles during which the apple-based battery demonstrated high stability as well as capacity.   Cont'd...

The oil industry has invented an ironic new use for solar power

Cassie Werber for Quartz:  There’s a huge project taking shape in the deserts of Oman. It will extract crude oil from the ground by pumping vast quantities of steam into it. To produce the steam, water will be brought to a boil using as much as a gigawatt of energy. The source of that energy: the sun. Using solar power to get fossil fuels out of the ground will strike some as ironic—especially since, if that method weren’t available, the high cost of extracting the oil might lead to more pressure to use cleaner energy sources, such as solar, instead. But GlassPoint, the American company behind the new technology, says that the project and others like it will help fossil-fuel drillers limit carbon emissions. The process of “enhanced oil recovery,” where steam is used to loosen thick oil and make it easier to pump, usually involves burning natural gas to heat water. GlassPoint says its technology can cut that gas consumption, and the consequent carbon emissions, by   up to 80%.   Cont'd...

The Koch Brothers' Dirty War on Solar Power

Tim Dickinson for Rolling Stone:  The full political might of Florida's IOUs was on display in December, when a deceptive campaign, funded by the state's electric utilities, crushed a citizen-led effort to open Florida to solar competition through the 2016 ballot. "When your opponents have no ethical foundation, have unlimited resources and are willing to say and do anything to defeat you," says Stephen Smith, director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which led the pro-solar effort, "it's a tough hurdle to overcome." It should come as no surprise that the utilities have fought so hard. The rise of cheap, distributed solar power poses a disruptive – and perhaps existential – threat to the traditional electric utility business. Monopoly electric utilities used to make sense. Dirty power, generated at a distance from population centers, was carried over a set of transmission lines to homes and businesses. Consumers got reliable power from a single provider. IOUs were guaranteed a profit – both for building power plants and transmission lines as well as for the electricity itself.   Full Article:

Boeing delivers fuel cell energy storage system to U.S. Navy

Ryan Maass for UPI:  Boeing has delivered its reversible solid oxide fuel cell, for generating clean electricity, to the U.S. Navy for testing. The fuel cell system is designed to generate, compress and store hydrogen from renewable sources such as wind and solar to produce zero-emissions electricity.Boeing's delivery to the Navy follows 16 months of development. The technology is capable of both producing and storing energy. The first unit was commissioned on the Southern California power grid prior to its installation on the Navy's 'microgrid' for further testing. "This fuel cell solution is an exciting new technology providing our customers with a flexible, affordable and environmentally progressive option for energy storage and power generation," Boeing Advanced Technology Programs director Lance Towers said. Boeing officials say they were able to develop the fuel cell using their experience with the energy systems used for their unmanned undersea vehicles.   Cont'd...

France to pave 1000km of roads with solar panels

Derek Markham for TreeHugger :  Over the next five years, France will install some 621 miles (1,000km) of solar roadway using Colas' Wattway solar pavement. Solar freakin' roadways! No, this is not the crowdfunded solar road project that blew up the internet a few years ago, but is a collaboration between Colas, a transport infrastructure company, and INES (France's National Institute for Solar Energy), and sanctioned by France's Agency of Environment and Energy Management, which promises to bring solar power to hundreds of miles of roads in the country over the next five years. One major difference between this solar freakin' roadway and that other solar freakin' roadway is that the new Wattway system doesn't replace the road itself or require removal of road surfaces, but instead is designed to be glued onto the top of existing pavement. The Wattway system is also built in layers of materials "that ensure resistance and tire grip," and is just 7 mm thick, which is radically different from that other design that uses thick glass panels (and which is also claimed to include LED lights and 'smart' technology, which increases the complexity and cost of the moose-friendly solar tiles).   Cont'd...

California narrowly upholds critical solar policy

NICHOLA GROOM for Reuters:  California, which boasts more than half of the households with solar panels in the United States, on Thursday extended a policy that has underpinned the rooftop solar industry's dramatic growth over the last decade. The 3-to-2 decision by California's Public Utilities Commission at a meeting in San Francisco to extend net metering was a major victory for the solar industry, including companies like SolarCity Corp, Sunrun and SunPower Corp. Net metering allows homeowners with solar panels to sell the power they generate but don't use back to their utility at the full retail rate, sometimes giving them a credit on their bill at the end of the month. The 20-year policy has been critical to making solar cost competitive. But the narrow victory underscored palpable frustrations with the policy, which has been criticized for rewarding solar users while leaving other ratepayers to shoulder the cost of maintaining the electricity grid. "I will be the first to say that I think we really have a ways to go before we have a really enduring rooftop strategy," said PUC President Michael Picker, who voted in favor of extending the policy. The PUC will reconsider net metering again in 2019.   Cont'd...

A solar-powered soccer pitch in Lagos also uses players' footfall to keep the lights on

Yomi Kazeem for Quartz:  Africa is already waking up to the possibilities that renewable energy provides, the African Union has pledged a $20 billion investment over the next decade. In East Africa, pay-as-you-go solar energy services arealready proving a mainstream success. In West Africa, things are still at an early experimental stage. One such experiment is a solar-powered football pitch which also uses kinetic energy generated by footballers playing. Located at a teacher’s college in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial center, the innovative soccer pitch was launched last year in a three-way collaboration between energy giant Shell; music star Akon, who has been championing solar energy on the continent; and Pavegen, a UK-based start-up which has a target of providing low-cost renewable energy solutions to Africa’s electricity problems. Perhaps the most interesting technological feature of the solar-powered pitch—only the second ever launched across the world (the first was launched in Brazil in 2014)—is that it combines both kinetic and solar energy to produce electricity.   Cont'd...

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