Offshore wind power gets foothold in US with Rhode Island project

By Richard Valdmanis for Reuters:  Rhode Island's Deepwater Wind began installing the foundations for North America's first offshore wind farm on Monday, a milestone the company says could pave the way for an industry long established in Europe but still struggling with opposition in the United States.

The 30-megawatt wind farm, which will include five turbines located three miles (4.8 km) off the coast of the bucolic summer tourist destination of Block Island, will take more than a year to build and is scheduled to produce electricity for the tiny island community and the mainland by the end of next year.

"Our belief is once Block Island is up and running, it will bring offshore wind from theory to reality in the United States and open up opportunities to build larger projects," said Jeffrey Grybowski, Deepwater Wind's CEO.  Cont'd...

Hillary Clinton is calling for a 700% increase in solar power. Is that realistic?

Brad Plumer for VOX:  In the coming months, Hillary Clinton's campaign is planning to release a series of proposals for dealing with global warming. Her first installment is out Sunday evening, and it calls for a large increase in renewable power.

Specifically, she's proposing to boost the amount of wind, solar, and other renewables so that they provide 33 percent of America's electricity by 2027 — enough to power every home in the country.

Part of her plan would involve accelerating the recent rapid growth of solar installations nationwide. In her proposal, Clinton calls for US solar power to grow 700 percent from current levels.

That sounds like an impossibly large number, but it's not implausible on its face. US solar capacity grew 418 percent between 2010 and 2014 (because it was starting from a small base). So 700 percent growth by 2027 is at least within the realm of possibility. But it would require additional policy changes — and clean energy prices would have to keep dropping.  Cont'd...

The Nature Conservancy Installs Bird Safe Wind Power

The Nature Conservancy has completed its first phase of installation of SheerWind's INVELOX funnel-based wind power technology. Because Palmyra is home to a national wildlife refuge and more than a million nesting seabirds, conventional wind turbines were not an option due to the risk of bird strikes. What's more, the low wind speeds on the island would provide little to no energy production with traditional turbines. 
The Conservancy turned to the Minnesota firm SheerWind to design the system resembling an hourglass turned on its side. Extending 83 feet horizontally with a big wind scoop at one end, an exhaust on the other, a Venturi section in the middle increases wind speed potentially three to six times. Nets over the intake and enclosed blades keep it bird friendly. The first phase of the installation includes a single turbine inside the Venturi, allowing for two additional to be installed in the near future. 
The first phase of the INVELOX project is successfully charging batteries at night and on cloudy days to supplement the photovoltaic system also installed on Palmyra. 

Acquisition announced for solar power supplier Vivint Solar

On July 20, SunEdison, the world's biggest renewable energy development firm, along with TerraForm Power, an owner and operator of clean energy power plants, announced the acquisition of Vivint Solar, a major supplier of residential solar systems in the U.S.

The merger will be worth approximately $2.2 billion in cash as the two major solar companies acquire the residential solar firm. Additionally, SunEdison has agreed to enter a power purchase agreement with TerraForm Power. Roughly 523 megawatts of solar power will be installed by Vivint Solar by the end of 2015, which will now all be moved over to SunEdison.
Through the $922 million power agreement, TerraForm Power will install the solar panels for residential solar protections through a "10-year average levered cash-on-cash yield of 9.5 percent," the release stated. Also, TerraForm Power will obtain future small commercial solar and completed residential projects from SunEdison's Residential and Small Commercial business unit.  Cont'd...

New Material to Increase Solar Cell Efficiency

A team of researchers has come up with a solar cell that produces fuel rather than electricity. A material called gallium phosphide enables the solar cell to produce clean fuel hydrogen gas from liquid water.

To connect an existing silicon solar cell to a battery that splits the water may well be an efficient solution; but it is very expensive.

So, researchers were streamlining their search to a semi-conductor material that is able to both convert sunlight into an electrical charge and split water.

The team found gallium phosphide (GaP), a compound of gallium and phosphide, useful in this respect.

GaP has good electrical properties but the drawback is that it cannot easily absorb light when it is a large flat surface as used in GaP solar cells, said the study thatappeared in Nature Communications.

The researchers overcame this by making a grid of very small GaP nanowires, measuring five hundred nanometres (a millionth of a millimetre) long and ninety nanometres thick.

"That makes these kinds of cells potentially a great deal cheaper," said lead author Erik Bakkers from Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands.  Cont'd...

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...

Hydrogen Gas / Smoke Detector with Intrusion Alarm for Battery Room

From Eagle Eye Power Solutions:

The Eagle Eye HGD-3000 Hydrogen Gas and Smoke Detector with (optional) Silent Intrusion Alarm is designed for unattended battery installations or remote shelters containing gassing lead acid batteries and charging systems...

Lead-acid batteries on charge emit hydrogen gas after reaching the 80% recharge point. When mixed with enough air, hydrogen becomes a highly flammable gas that can ignite easily with just a spark, destroying equipment and harming personnel. The lower explosive level (LEL) for hydrogen is 4.1% by volume. 

Hydrogen Gas Detection
Attach the HGD-3000 to the wall, ceiling, or optional junction box using the mounting holes at the top and bottom of the detector box. The HGD-3000 will turn on an exhaust fan when hydrogen gas levels reach 1% and will alarm at 2%. This alarm consists of a local 80db horn, a flashing red LED, and a dry contact switch closure for remote alarming.

Smoke Detection
The photoelectric smoke sensor detects minute combustion products from smoldering wire insulation, battery cases, and other material. When smoke is detected, a distinctive alarm is emitted from the 80db horn and a separate dry contact switch is activated. At this time, the exhaust fan is inhibited in order to deny the fire increased oxygen from outside air.

Temperature, Loss of Power, & Intrusion
During normal operation and in the absence of an alarm condition, an internal thermostat will turn on the exhaust fan at a preset temperature to reduce heat buildup in the room. Loss of power to the unit will also generate a dry contact alarm. Additionally, an optional infrared intrusion alarm will trigger a silent dry contact switch.

Product website

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...

New benches that'll use solar power to charge your phone

This is the "Strawberry bench". The solar-powered smart bench (yes, really) collects energy via a solar panel on its roof, and uses it to power a range of functions: monitoring air quality, disseminating information about the local area, offering free power-ups for the phones of passers-by.

This summer, four of these benches will be installed around Canary Wharf, the privately-owned office and retail estate at the heart of London's Docklands. The concept was the winner of the "Cognicity Challenge", a competition intended to find innovative proposals to use technology to create smarter urban environments (and, as a side effect, make everyone feel all warm and fuzzy towards the Canary Wharf Group).

The name, incidentally, has nothing to do with actual Strawberries. The company behind them is Belgrade-based Strawberry Energy, whose previous products include the "Strawberry Tree", a vaguely familiar solar-powered mobile phone charge and wifi hub with a bench attached to it. Both products were the work of architect Milos Miliojevic.

Is India Ready to Be a Solar Power Leader?

By RUPA SUBRAMANYA for  Is India ripe for a renewable energy revolution? Foreign investors certainly seem to think so, and renewables have been a signature issue for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But if revolution is indeed underway, it isn’t a spontaneous one. And taxpayer money — not just from India — is fueling the surge.

New Delhi’s renewable energy aspirations recently received a major boost when Japan’s SoftBank announced a joint venture with Indian conglomerate Bharti Enterprises and Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group to create a new, Japanese-owned company that will bid on power contracts in India’s growing solar sector. Renewable energy, including solar, is a priority for Modi and has been since before he became the country’s leader last year. “The time has arrived for a saffron revolution, and the color of energy is saffron,” he saidon the campaign trail in 2014, attempting to symbolically link the sacred color of Hindus and his Bharatiya Janata Party with his energy dream. This joint venture is the first major announcement by a foreign investor that could help make that dream a reality.  Cont'd...

New method can make cheaper solar energy storage

Storing solar energy as hydrogen is a promising way for developing comprehensive renewable energy systems. To accomplish this, traditional solar panels can be used to generate an electrical current that splits water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter being considered a form of solar fuel. However, the cost of producing efficient solar panels makes water-splitting technologies too expensive to commercialize. EPFL scientists have now developed a simple, unconventional method to fabricate high-quality, efficient solar panels for direct solar hydrogen production with low cost.

The work is published in Nature Communications.

Many different materials have been considered for use in direct solar-to-hydrogen conversion technologies but "2-D materials" have recently been identified as promising candidates. In general these materials—which famously include graphene—have extraordinary electronic properties. However, harvesting usable amounts of solar energy requires large areas of solar panels, and it is notoriously difficult and expensive to fabricate thin films of 2-D materials at such a scale and maintain good performance.

Kevin Sivula and colleagues at EPFL addressed this problem with an innovative and cheap method that uses the boundary between two non-mixing liquids. The researchers focused on one of the best 2-D materials for solar water splitting, called "tungsten diselenide". Past studies have shown that this material has a great efficiency for converting solar energy directly into hydrogen fuel while also being highly stable.  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...

Is Adding Solar Batteries Worth it?

Seeking to help states better address the value proposition of solar+storage systems, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. (IREC) engaged Clean Power Research (CPR) to develop a methodology that could be used to value solar energy coupled with battery storage. The methodology described in the report can be applied in any location. It focuses on Hawaii as an example, as it is likely to be an early adopter of storage regulations. 
"The concept of adding batteries alongside a utility customer's solar array intrigues utility customers, solar developers, and utility planners on several levels, but the underlying question for everyone is whether adding batteries is 'worth it,'" says Jason Keyes, Partner at Keyes, Fox & Wiedman LLP, attorney for IREC and report collaborator. 
Though still at a nascent stage, the recent rapid growth in the distributed energy storage market suggests that now is an opportune time to take a closer look at distributed energy storage, especially in combination with distributed solar, and the values it has to offer. The new IREC study lays out the methodology to do just that and sets forth a pathway for more robust analysis and dialogue.   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.”

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