Small-scale solar power growing in the United States

By Daniel J. Graeber for UPI.com:  Small-scale solar installations in the United States account for about a third of the overall capacity on the grid, a report from the federal government said. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates total U.S. solar-power output in September, the last full month for which data are available, at 3.5 million megawatt hours. Of that, just more than 30 percent came from small-scale solar installations. "Generation from roof-top photovoltaic systems has become an increasingly important part of total solar generation in the United States," EIA AdministratorAdam Sieminski said in an emailed statement. A September report from the Solar Energy Industries Association, with support from green energy market adviser GTM Research, found second quarter residential solar capacity grew 70 percent year-on-year to 473 megawatts.   Cont'd...

Why Solar Power Could Hit a Ceiling

There could be a limit on how much solar power can grow. That’s because the more solar power we add to the grid, the less valuable it becomes. It’s a simple supply-and-demand story: solar reaches peak generation during sunny afternoons, but there’s a limited demand for such additional power during those times. As a result, solar begins to compete with itself, driving down the price that utilities are willing to pay generators. Solar power accounts for less than 1 percent of the world’s electricity generation today, but as more is added to the energy mix, the economics become increasingly unfavorable. Shayle Kann, head of GTM Research, and Varun Sivaram, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, cite recent studies of the grids in Texas and Germany that suggest the value of solar will be cut in half by the time it makes up 15 percent of the energy mix. A study of California’s grid concluded that if solar power were to reach 50 percent of the grid, it would be only a quarter as valuable as it was before any solar had been added. Kann and Sivaram combined the data from those studies to make the comparison below.   Cont'd...

German battery maker launches scheme to share solar power

Reporting by Vera Eckert for Reuters:  German battery maker Sonnenbatterie has launched a scheme to connect households with solar panels and other consumers, aiming to better distribute surpluses of the renewable energy and help members to become more independent of conventional suppliers. The start-up company hopes the scheme, called "sonnenCommunity", will boost demand for its batteries which store solar power, allowing owners to use the clean energy even when weather conditions are not favourable. SonnenCommunity takes the storage idea a step further, allowing solar power to be shared among its members. Sonnenbatterie said the scheme would initially target the 1.5 million solar power producers who, if they sign up to the community, will receive a battery storage system with a starting price of 3,599 euros ($3,812). But eventually, the offer will also be open to non-producers, it added. If the idea of battery-powered buildings takes off, it could pose a challenge to traditional utilities such as RWE and E.ON, which still derive the bulk of their power from big centralised power stations running on fossil fuels.   Full Article:

70% of Mongolian nomads now have solar power

by MIHAI ANDREI for ZME Science:  In many the vast steppes of Mongolia, some things have remained unchanged for centuries. But some things have changed, and big time: according to a new report, almost 3 out of 4 Mongolian nomads are now using solar power. Even if your lifestyle is pretty much Medieval, you can still benefit from advanced technology – that’s the reasoning behind a new government initiative that encourages nomads to use solar power. Mongolia is a geographically large but sparsely populated country. Covering over 600,000 square miles, it only has a population of 3 million people. About 1.2 million of Mongolia’s citizens live in the urban capital of Ulaanbaatar, while the remaining population is widely dispersed throughout the country with a large number residing in rural areas. In total, about a quarter of the population consists of nomadic herders. The per capita income in Mongolia at the start of the millennium was about US$470 per year, with income amongst herders even lower.   Cont'd...

Will Solar Energy Plummet if the Investment Tax Credit Fades Away?

Wall Street Journal:  Many supporters say the abrupt end date of the 30% credit represents a “cliff” for the industry. Without the current incentive, they argue, installation of solar-power systems will plummet, and thousands of jobs in the industry will be lost as a result. Others, however, argue that the cliff isn’t as steep as it appears, and that solar will continue to grow even without the 30% credit—albeit not as quickly as before. Amit Ronen, director of the GW Solar Institute and a professor at the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy at George Washington University, argues that the end of the 30% credit will send solar off a cliff. John Farrell, director of the Democratic Energy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, says the impact of the tax credit is overstated and the solar market will continue to rise.  Full Article:

Large solar projects can be done responsibly

BY SHANNON EDDY, Special to The Bee:  As the seventh-largest economy in the world and a clean-energy leader, California plays a key role in shaping the global response to climate change. The benefits of our leadership will be on the world stage later this month during the international climate talks in Paris. Over several decades, California has successfully advanced the development of renewable energy resources. As a result, the state boasts the highest concentration of solar projects in the nation, including several of the world’s largest. Large-scale solar power plants are enabling California to meet the goals of reducing carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and generating 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Eleakis & Elder Photography As with any fast-growing, successful industry, it’s essential to ask questions about unintended consequences. We agree it is important to evaluate how the environmental benefits of large-scale solar – carbon reduction, reduced water use and improved local air quality – compare to any negative consequences for people and the environment.   Cont'd...

Honoring Our Veterans through Jobs in Solar Energy

From the Department of Energy - On Veterans Day, we honor the more than 21 million living American veterans. Here at the Department of Energy, we are honored to have the opportunity to express our gratitude to veterans of previous wars, welcome home those who have recently served, and thank the future veterans who still stand sentry for our nation. The Department of Energy is working hard to open doors to career opportunities for veterans in the dynamic solar industry, which now employs more than 174,000 people -- more than auto and light truck manufacturing -- and has been adding jobs 20 times faster than the wider economy. Already, we are proud that veterans make up more than 10 percent of the solar industry workforce.   Cont'd...

Solar Power Thrives In Chile, No Subsidies Needed

William Pentland, Contributor for Forbes:  In Chile’s most recent power auction, the bids from solar project developers came in at between $65 and $68 per megawatt hour (MWh) were considerably more competitive than bids made by coal plants, which were priced at $85 per MWh. Solar power projects were awarded the lion’s share of the 1,200 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity contracts sold. Chile boasts one of the world’s biggest solar resources. High electricity prices and strong demand from Chile’s mining industry have driven demand growth for solar, especially large scale commercial or utility projects. The total installed solar capacity in Chile increased from less than 4 MW in 2013 to more than 220 MW last year. Nearly 1 GW of solar is projected to be installed in Chile in 2015. Meanwhile, a total of about 8 GW of solar power projects have been approved for development in Chile. First Solar and SunEdison are two of the biggest U.S. solar companies active in Chile.   Cont'd...

Say Goodbye to Solar Power Subsidies

Mark Chediak & Chris Martin for Bloomberg Businessweek:  In 2016 the U.S. will learn if renewable energy can survive without government support. The most significant tax credit for solar power will expire at the end of 2016, and the biggest one for wind already has. These federal subsidies have provided wind and solar developers with as much as $24 billion from 2008 to 2014, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That’s led to a 12-fold increase in installed capacity over the past decade, helping lower costs at least 10 percent each year. Combined, wind and solar still generate less than 5 percent of electricity in the U.S. The subsidy cuts come as both industries face stiffer competition from ultracheap coal and natural gas. An NYSE Bloomberg global index of solar stocks, including those of big developers SunEdison and First Solar, has fallen about 35 percent since June. A comparable wind index is down 20 percent.   Cont'd...

UK building the world's largest offshore wind farm

By Kelly Hodgkins for Digital Trends:  Danish state-owned company Dong Energy A/S plans to set a new world record for the world’s largest offshore wind farm, breaking the existing record currently held by the 630-megawatt London Array, another facility built by Dong. The new U.K. wind farm will be located in the Irish Sea, about 12 miles off the west coast of Great Britain.​ When commissioned, it will provide enough energy to power almost a half million homes. It’s no surprise that Dong is behind this effort, as it is Denmark’s largest energy company and the world’s largest developer of offshore wind power. The company has a longstanding relationship with the UK, constructing and, in some cases, operating multiple offshore wind facilities, including those in Barrow, Burbo Bank, and Walney Island. Between these projects and others in Germany, Dong now has a total of 5.1 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity. It aims to expand this capacity even further with a projected goal of 6.5 gigawatts of offshore wind energy production by 2020.   Cont'd...

Thin film perovskite solar cell passes the efficiency test

Matthew Gunther for Chemistry World:  Perovskite solar cells may one day rival silicon-based technologies, but their performance outside the laboratory has been a constant source of contention in the past year. Now, an international team of scientists has manufactured the first thin film perovskite solar cell with a reported efficiency that has beenofficially recognised by an accredited national test laboratory.1 Since their development in 2012, the performance of light-harvesting metal–organo halide structures has seemingly improved at a staggering rate, with their efficiency increasing by six percentage points in just two years – the same increase took multi-crystalline solar cells over two decades. But their stability has been brought into question, with some international test centres taking issue with perovskite solar cells that are so unstable that they may degrade spontaneously in air, making it hard for them to assess their performance. It’s a state of affairs that Michael Grätzel from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland has had trouble dealing with. ‘Conspicuously, you could see that from the very beginning there was very scarce information on the stability of these devices,’ comments Grätzel. ‘I have raised that issue many times – one would think that now everybody does stability work after this alarm was sounded, but not so.'   Cont'd...

Morocco to Build World's Largest Concentrated Solar Power Plant

Cole Mellino for EcoWatch:  Morocco imports 97 percent of its energy, and yet it has one of the highest rates of solarinsolation of any country—about 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, according to the Solar GCC Alliance. To put that in perspective, the Guinness Book of World Records puts Yuma, Arizona as the sunniest place on Earth with an average of 4,055 hours of sunshine per year (the theoretical maximum is 4,456), whereas the sunniest place in Germany, which still has a robust solar industry, gets a mere 1,800 sunshine hours a year. So it’s no surprise that Morocco is tapping into its abundant sunshine for energy. Morocco is building “a complex of four linked solar mega-plants that, alongside hydro andwind, will help provide nearly half of Morocco’s electricity from renewables by 2020,” reports The Guardian. When the entire project is finished, it will be the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant in the world. The first phase, Noor 1, will go live next month.   Cont'd...  

United Utilities installs Europe's largest floating solar power project on reservoir

By Emily Gosden, Energy Editor for Telegraph UK:  Water giant United Utilities is to install Europe’s biggest floating solar power system on a reservoir near Manchester, as it seeks to capitalise on the novel technology to cut its energy costs. The 12,000 panel, £3.5m development will be only the second of its kind in Britain, dwarfing an 800-panel pilot in Berkshire last year, and will be the second biggest in the world after a scheme in Japan. Installation of the panels is due to begin on Monday at the Godley reservoir in Greater Manchester, where it will provide a third of the power for a water treatment works. The system is scheduled to be completed before Christmas, in order to qualify for subsidies before they are due to be drastically cut in the new year.   Cont'd...

Texas hits new wind power milestone on Thursday

By Jordan Blum for Fuel Fix:  The Texas electric grid hit a new record for wind power use early Thursday, as the state continues dominating the rest of the nation in wind farm growth. At 12:30 am Thursday, the main Texas grid operator reported that nearly 37 percent of demand was met with wind power. The Electricity Reliability Council of Texas, which manages nearly 90 percent of the state’s electric needs, said it used 12,237.6 megawatts of wind power at the time. That bested a previous record set on Sept. 13 of 11,467 megawatts. A megawatt powers about 500 typical Texas residences during periods of normal demand. The new record came the same day as the American Wind Energy Association reported Texas accounted for nearly half of the nation’s wind power growth in the third quarter of the year. Texas added 771 megawatts of wind generation in the third quarter and, nationwide, about 1,600 megawatts were put online. Texas now has about 16,400 megawatts of wind power, according to the AWEA, which is about 10,000 megawatts more than the second and third windiest states, California and Iowa.   Cont'd...

UK solar power industry proposes emergency plan to save renewables

Mark Tran for The Guardian:  The solar power industry has proposed an emergency plan to rescue renewables, which it says would add just £1 to consumer bills by 2019, on top of the £9 a year that clean technology subsidies cost bill payers. The scheme is a response to government plans to cut subsidies for rooftop solar panel installations by 87% from 1 January. The Solar Trade Association (STA) has warned the move could cost up to 27,000 jobs and waste public money already spent on supporting the technology. Solar companies are already going bust as a result of the changes, with an estimated 1,000 jobs lost so far. On Friday, a company backed by the billionaire inventor Elon Musk pulled out of the UK, blaming the government for not supporting the technology. Zep Solar UK, which is owned by SolarCity where the Tesla boss is chairman, was the fourth UK solar business to close in a fortnight. SolarCity blamed cuts to solar subsidies announced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in the summer. The STA plan would include higher initial tariffs for subsidies to make investing in the technology viable, with reductions set out to allow the government to control costs and give the industry certainty. The plan would ensure that families, farmers, housing associations and community groups could continue to be involved in the move towards low-carbon power and give them more control over their energy, the STA argues.   Cont'd...

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