SPI 2015: Tax credit sunset preoccupies a fast-maturing industry

By Herman K. Trabish  for UtilityDIVE:  Solar photovoltaic (PV) installed capacity is expected to reach 7.7 GW in 2015, up 24% from 2014, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research.

From July 2015 to December 2016, the report forecasts the U.S. solar PV marketwill add 18 GW, which is more than the cumulative capacity built by the industry up to the middle of 2014.

But there are some headwinds for the sector. In a sign it has reached a level of maturity achieved recently by the wind industry, solar advocates now face an uphill political battle for the industry's most vital federal incentive

The mandated term of solar's vital 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC), in place continuously since 2008, will end on December 31, 2016. Beyond that deadline, the tax credit provided at the end of a project’s first year of operation will fall to 10% for commercial investments in solar and to zero for residential solar investments.

SEIA is mounting a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign to secure a five-year extension that will get the industry to 2020, when it hopes the Clean Power Plan can take over to help boost growth.  Cont'd...

Obama pledges $120M toward solar power, clean energy

By Timothy Cama for The Hill:  The Obama administration announced Wednesday morning a series of efforts worth more than $120 million aimed at boosting solar and other clean energy sources.

The initiatives focus on the Department of Energy, where the bulk of the funding will go to programs to develop solar power technology and get it into homes, businesses and other facilities.

“President Obama and Vice President Biden are committed to promoting smart, simple, low-cost technologies to help America transition to cleaner and more distributed energy sources, help households save on their energy bills, and to address climate change,” the White House said in a fact sheet outlining the efforts.

“All told, this funding will drive the development of affordable clean energy throughout the country,” it said.

The actions aim to help out solar power in 24 states, officials said.  Cont'd...

Solar Power International 2015 underway in Anaheim, CA

This years show will place September 14 -17 in Anaheim, CA.  Over 15,000 + visitors are expected in attendance to learn about the latest technology innovations, financing models, business best practices and policy and incentive programs that are contributing to the growth of the solar industry. With over 600 exhibitors from 75 countries on display showcasing the entire system of solar technology and advances in solar cell and module technology, balance of system components, solar heating and cooling and energy storage.

Check out Solar Power International Newspage for all the News and Announcements from this years show.  Also stay tuned for our SPI Tradeshow Report.

 

California's First Commercial Solar Desalination Plant Offering Shares Through DPO

Derek Markham for CleanTechnica:  The company behind what will be California’s first commercial-scale solar desalination plant is issuing $10 million in preferred stock in the venture, through a state-registered direct public offering (DPO) in California.

WaterFX Hydro I, Inc., doing business as HydroRevolution℠, a California subsidiary of WaterFX™, is offering the shares to finance the construction of a fully solar-powered desalination plant in the Central Valley, which is expected to be able to produce up to 1.6 billion gallons (5000 acre-feet) of water per year, with virtually zero liquid discharge. The HydroRevolution℠ process is said to allow for a 90% recovery rate, with the remaining brine being treated further to isolate the salt and mineral byproducts for industrial applications.

Instead of desalinating seawater, as many desalination operations do, this plant will pull water from shallow irrigation water (also called subsurface drainage water) which is produced as a consequence of agriculture, and which has a high salinity content that can be detrimental to freshwater ecosystems. This new plant is a scaled up and expanded version of the company’s demonstration desalination plant.  Cont'd...

Full Press Release:

Tesla And Panasonic Fight "Battery War" In Europe

By Vlad Tverdohleb for CruxialCIO:  Panasonic Corp is the producer of lithium-ion batteries for Tesla Motors Inc’s cars. However, Panasonic is now preparing to begin selling batteries that power homes in Europe. Its first market is Germany, where homeowners are even given greater incentives to switch to clean electricity generated by solar-power devices.

Thus, Panasonic’s push into international markets with home batteries is putting the Japanese company into direct competition with Tesla, its flagship customer. In May, the American company unveiled a suite of batteries to store electricity for businesses and homes.

Panasonic plans to move later to France, the U.K. and other European markets. Laurent Abadie, Panasonic Europe chief executive officer, declared on Wednesday, Sept. 2, in an interview at the IFA International Consumer Electronics Show in Berlin, that the company has not decided yet when it would start sales in Europe.  Cont'd...

Solar windows can power buildings

By Lucas Mearian for Computerworld:  Manhattan has approximately 47,000 buildings with around 10.7 million windows, according to a 2013estimate from The New York Times.

Now imagine if just 1% -- or 100,700 -- of those windows could generate electricity through transparent photovoltaics.

That's the idea behind solar power windows, and at least two companies are hoping to sell the technology to window manufacturers, saying once installed in a building the technology will pay for itself in about a year.

"If you look at the glass that's manufactured worldwide today, 2% of it is used for solar panels; 80% of it is used in buildings. That's the opportunity," said Suvi Sharma, CEO of solar panel maker Solaria.  Cont'd...

How floating turbines could harness the awesome power of the tides

Ross Jennings for The Conversation:  The world’s tides contain enough energy to power the entire UK’s electricity consumption. And, since it effectively harnesses the moon’s constant and predictable gravitational pull, tidal power overcomes one of renewable energy’s classic problems – the fact you never know quite how much sun, wind or rain to expect. Now, underwater windmills positioned just below the ocean surface could be a major breakthrough for tidal power.

Costly technology and inaccessible locations have thus far held things back. Large, heavy and expensive turbines mounted on the seabed have been developed, but these are aimed at commercial scale developments. Tidal power needs its equivalent of the rooftop solar panel.

Imagine then a wind turbine, but underwater, and not fixed to the seabed – these so-called “mobile floating turbines” are a cheaper and more adaptable alternative to big, fixed developments. Most floating turbines look something like this:  Cont'd...

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 TakePart.com:  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 Phys.org 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...

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