The Economics of Small Commercial Solar Projects

Solar projects can be a great investment for many businesses and offer a solid ROI, but it takes time and energy to put together a project that works for all the interested parties-the customer, the bank, and the installer.

Google: 4 out of 5 US homes have solar power potential

Steve Dent for engadget:  A five kilowatt rooftop solar installation now costs just $12,500 on average after tax credits, and pretty soon, installing one might soon be a matter of re-tiling your roof. Whether it's right for you, however, depends in large part on how much sun your house gets. That's where Google's Project Sunroof comes in -- launched just two years ago, it has now surveyed over 60 million US buildings in 50 states. That means there's a good chance you can see the electricity production potential in your city, neighborhood and even specific house. Google calculates the amount of sunlight on your roof based on "3D modeling of your roof and nearby trees," weather patterns, the position of the sun in the sky during the year and shade from buildings, trees and other obstructions. That info is then converted to energy production "using industry standard models for solar installation performance," Google says.   Cont'd...

Scientists harness solar power to produce hydrogen from biomass

University of Cambridge via Biomass Magazine:  Dr Moritz Kuehnel, from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, joint lead author on a new research paper published in Nature Energy, says: "Lignocellulose is nature's equivalent to armoured concrete. It consists of strong, highly crystalline cellulose fibres, that are interwoven with lignin and hemicellulose which act as a glue. This rigid structure has evolved to give plants and trees mechanical stability and protect them from degradation, and makes chemical utilisation of lignocellulose so challenging." The new technology relies on a simple photocatalytic conversion process. Catalytic nanoparticles are added to alkaline water in which the biomass is suspended. This is then placed in front of a light in the lab which mimics solar light. The solution is ideal for absorbing this light and converting the biomass into gaseous hydrogen which can then be collected from the headspace. The hydrogen is free of fuel-cell inhibitors, such as carbon monoxide, which allows it to be used for power.   Full Article:

Solar Experiment Lets Neighbors Trade Energy Among Themselves

Diane Cardwell for The New York Times:  Brooklyn is known the world over for things small-batch and local, like designer clogs, craft bourbon and artisanal sauerkraut.  Now, it is trying to add electricity to the list. In a promising experiment in an affluent swath of the borough, dozens of solar-panel arrays spread across rowhouse rooftops are wired into a growing network. Called the Brooklyn Microgrid, the project is signing up residents and businesses to a virtual trading platform that will allow solar-energy producers to sell excess-electricity credits from their systems to buyers in the group, who may live as close as next door. The project is still in its early stages - it has just 50 participants thus far - but its implications could be far reaching.   Cont'd...

The Atacama Desert, Extreme Conditions for Instrumentation

Due to extreme weather, high solar radiation, high UV index and the salinity of certain areas, the Atacama Desert in Chile presents conditions that contribute to the early degradation of instrumentation, communication and energy systems.

What Is Net Metering, and How Does It Work?

Depending on the size of your solar system and the amount of solar you produce each month, you can greatly reduce your monthly electric bills, and even profit from it.

Elon Musk: I can fix South Australia power network in 100 days or it's free

Elle Hunt for The Guardian:  Elon Musk, the billionaire co-founder of electric car giant Tesla, has thrown down a challenge to the South Australian and federal governments, saying he can solve the state’s energy woes within 100 days – or he’ll deliver the 100MW battery storage system for free. On Thursday, Lyndon Rive, Tesla’s vice-president for energy products, told the AFR the company could install the 100-300 megawatt hours of battery storage that would be required to prevent the power shortages that have been causing price spikes and blackouts in the state. Thanks to stepped-up production out of Tesla’s new Gigafactory in Nevada, he said it could be achieved within 100 days.   Cont'd...

Large-scale floating offshore wind power is finally here

Sami Grover for TreeHugger:  Offshore wind energy has been growing like crazy in the last few decades—so much so that there's even talk of serious talk of multi-gigawatt offshore wind farms in the US in the not too distant future.  But offshore wind has so far been limited to areas where the seafloor is relatively shallow, and where it's easy to build foundations for these gigantic turbines. Floating wind turbines are different. Instead of using fixed foundations, they are anchored to the sea floor using cables. And that means they can be located in deeper waters, opening up many more areas where wind conditions are favorable and concerns about views and/or bird migration routes are less relevant. Alongside opening up new areas for development, the other major advantage of floating turbines—once they are being developed at scale—could also be reduced costs.    Cont'd...

German institute successfully tests underwater energy storage sphere

Megan Geuss for ArsTechnica:  Pumped storage is a decades-old technology with a relatively simple concept: When electricity is cheap and plentiful, use it to pump water up into a reservoir above a turbine, and when electricity is scarce and expensive, send that pumped water down through a turbine to generate more power. Often, these pumped storage facilities are auxiliary to other electricity-generating systems, and they serve to smooth out fluctuations in the amount of power on the grid. A German research institute has spent years trying to tailor pumped storage to ocean environments. Recently, the institute completed a successful four-week pilot test using a hollow concrete sphere that it placed on the bottom of Lake Constance, a body of water at the foot of the Alps. The sphere has a diameter of three meters and contains a pump and a turbine. Much like traditional pumped storage, when electricity is cheap, water can be pumped out of the sphere, and when it’s scarce, water can be let into the sphere to move the turbine and generate electricity.   Cont'd...

New process for manufacturing PV cells means cheaper solar power

Phys.org:  A major roadblock to the mass use of solar energy are photovoltaic (PV) solar cells. This is because the cost, inefficiency and negative environmental impact that the manufacturing of these cells outweighs any potential savings provided by the resulting solar energy. If, however, cost could be were minimised, then solar power would be more able to compete with traditional fossil fuel-based methods for generating energy. To overcome this hurdle, the EU-funded SOLNOWAT project has developed an innovative dry process for manufacturing PV solar cells. PV cells are typically created via a wet chemical process that etches away layers of silicon from a crystalline wafer, leaving behind the solar cell. The SOLNOWAT process replaces the expensive and inefficient wet chemical process with the use of atmospheric pressure dry etching technology – a process that cuts costs and speeds up production. Because less silicon is removed during dry etching, the resulting cells are darker, making them very efficient at absorbing light. In fact, they are so efficient that they have been classified as having zero global warming potential.   Cont'd...

Sollega Case Study: FastRack510 - IKEA 1.125 MW

Ikea, one of the leading retailers of finished goods in the world, has installed a 1.125 MW solar array on their new facility in Renton Washington. It is the latest Ikea in the US to be powered by the sun and the largest roof top install in Washington State.

Venteea Project Shows a Fair Wind for Distribution Network Energy Storage

In addition to the technical lessons learned, the project team expects to draw conclusions regarding the changes necessary to the current regulatory regime that will enable the optimum usage of energy storage in unbundled power systems.

US Energy Storage Installations Grow 100% in 2016

Mike Munsell for GTM:  "The fourth quarter marked a turning point in the U.S. utility-scale energy storage market reflected by the burst of deployments over an extremely short period from inception to interconnection," said Ravi Manghani, GTM Research's director of energy storage. "California will play a significant role in the future as utilities there continue to contract energy storage under the state's 1.3 gigawatt mandate. While California took over the pole position in 2016 from PJM, the market shift was also transformational in terms of applications -- from short duration ancillary services to longer duration capacity needs." As a result, even though the market stayed roughly flat in megawatts, it grew 100 percent in megawatt-hours.   Cont'd...

US wind generation reached 5.5% of the grid in 2016

Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma and North Dakota all sourced more than 20 percent of their electricity generation from wind power during 2016, according to new data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). It shows wind supplied over 5.5 percent of electricity nationwide, up from 4.7 percent in 2015.  With 99 percent of wind turbines located in rural areas, wind power's steady growth as a share of the nation's electricity supply has been accompanied by a surge of investment in rural America. The industry invested over $13.8 billion in new turbines last year, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), in addition to operating a fleet now over 52,000 turbines.   Full AWEA Press Release:

US Military Moves Ahead With Renewable Energy Plan

Shoshanna Delventhal for Investopedia:  The Trump administration’s stance on climate change and the environment can be summed up by the chief White House strategist’s recent criticism of government support of green energy as “madness.” Despite a 180-degree shift from Obama administration’s environmental agenda, the Department of Defense, plans to move forward with a decade-long effort to “convert its fuel-hungry operations to renewable power,” senior military officials told Reuters. Yet apart from the controversial debate on climate change and the need for environmental protection, the Department of Defense has a strictly nonpolitical incentive to carry out the transition. Weaning reliance off petroleum means improved safety for U.S. troops and the American public.   Cont'd...

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Kipp & Zonen - DustIQ the novel soiling monitoring solution for solar panels

Kipp & Zonen - DustIQ the novel soiling monitoring solution for solar panels

Soiling of the panel glass is one of the major problems in the rapidly expanding solar energy market, with the attendant loss of efficiency and reduction in performance ratios. Now, there's a new, simple and very cost-effective alternative. Based on Kipp & Zonen's unique Optical Soiling Measurement (OSM) technology, DustIQ can be easily added to new or existing solar arrays and integrated into plant management systems. The unit is mounted to the frame of a PV panel and does not need sunlight to operate. It continuously measures the transmission loss through glass caused by soiling, so that the reduction in light reaching the solar cells can be calculated.