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.”

Trina Solar to Invest $500 Million in India-Based Solar Plant

Per a media report, Trina Solar Limited is going to invest $500 million for building a 2-gigawatt solar module plant in India in partnership with Welspun Energy Ltd. The plant's output will be exported to the U.S. and European markets, which have imposed punitive trade duties on solar shipments from China.  The facility will be built in either Gujarat or Andhra Pradesh. Construction of the plant will be completed in two phases over a period of about 18 months. 

Why You Should Be Paying Attention To The 'Other' Form Of Solar Power

Joe Romm for ThinkProgress:  Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems have seen explosive growth because of their stunning 99 percent price drop in the past quarter century. As a result, the other form of solar power — concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) — is a small fraction of the solar market. But the International Energy Agency (IEA) says CSP has a very bright future too because it enables cheap, efficient storage, which allows CSP plants to provide electricity long after the sun has set. According to the IEA’s 2014 CSP Technology Roadmap, 11 percent of global electricity will be generated by concentrating solar thermal power in 2050.   Cont'd...

Can bladeless wind turbines mute opposition?

Dominic Bates for The Guardian:  A new bladeless wind turbine that promises to be more efficient, less visually intrusive, and safer for birdlife than conventional turbines has been welcomed by two of the UK wind energy industry’s most vocal critics. The RSPB and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), which have both expressed concerns over the impacts of industrial-scale windfarms on the landscape and wildlife, said the new turbine was encouraging news for birds and had the potential to open up more urban environments to the sector. The streamlined design contains no contacting moving parts, making it virtually noiseless and less prone to vibration. Vortex Bladeless, the turbine’s Spanish developers, hopes these advantages could finally help usher in a viable consumer wind power market. “Wind turbines now are too noisy for people’s backyard,” says David Suriol, who co-founded the company with Raul Martin and the turbine’s inventor, David Yáñez. “We want to bring wind power generation to people’s houses like solar power.”

Berkeley lab unveils new solar energy center aimed at producing fuel from sunlight

Jeremy Thomas for Inside Bay Area News:  In a christening hailed as a key moment in the effort to harness the sun's energy to create fuel, Lawrence Berkeley Lab officials on Tuesday unveiled a $59 million Solar Energy Research Center. Named after former Energy Department Secretary and Lab Director Steven Chu, the 40,000-square-foot Chu Hall will be a place of world-changing research in producing cheaper, more efficient renewable energy to replace fossil fuels, said Chu, who was honored for inspiring the mission. "This is one of the most important problems that science, technology and innovation really need to solve," Chu said. "It's a very big deal. ... We simply need to save the world, and it's going to be science that's going to be at the heart of that solution." The facility will be home to the Berkeley hub of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, a Department of Energy-funded collaboration led by the California Institute of Technology that is attempting to create solar fuel as plants do by using sunlight and other catalysts to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gas and convert carbon dioxide into liquid fuels such as methanol and ethanol. The byproduct of producing such a fuel would be oxygen.

Why one company sees great potential in the U.S. offshore wind market

By Jaclyn Brandt for FierceEnergy:  In April, DONG Energy signed an agreement to take over RES Americas Developments Inc.'s (RES) more than 1,000-megawatt (MW) development project rights off the coast of Massachusetts. RES had secured the rights to two leases from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in January. "The U.S. is an interesting market for offshore wind with the potential to become a significant area for future development," said Samuel Leupold, executive vice president of Wind Power with DONG Energy, said at the announcement in April. "We already have a number of post-2020 projects in our pipeline in North-Western Europe that we will continue to develop. With the takeover of the offshore wind development project in the US, we will broaden our geographical scope and follow the market potential outside of our current footprint." Leupold continued, "The site conditions are quite similar to those we currently work with in North-Western Europe which means that the project could be developed using well-known technology and logistics." Although the offshore wind market in the United States has many regulatory obstacles, Brostrøm said that there is also a lot of potential off the East Coast -- including good wind speeds and water depths. He also cited the efforts by BOEM to encourage wind development.

This cloudy-day black silicon solar cell can hit a record 22.1% efficiency

Researchers at Finland’s Aalto University have achieved a record-breaking 22.1% efficiency for a nanostructured silicon, or black, solar cell. They accomplished this by overlaying a thin, passivating film on the nanostructures by a process known as atomic layer deposition, and by integrating all of the metal contacts on the cell’s back side. Perhaps the best part: Black solar cells work really well on cloudy days. “This is an advantage particularly in the north, where the sun shines from a low angle for a large part of the year,” said professor Hele Savin from Aalto University, who coordinated the study, in a statement. “We have demonstrated that in winter Helsinki, black cells generate considerably more electricity than traditional cells, even though both cells have identical efficiency values.” Using the aforementioned process, the team managed to beat their previous record by almost 4%, which is a stunning achievement. The new cells have a certified external quantum efficiency of 96% at 300nm wavelengths, which the team said shows that charged carrier surface recombination is no longer a problem — and that for the first time, the black silicon isn’t limiting energy conversion efficiency. And thanks to the inherent properties of black solar cells, they can capture solar radiation at low angles, generating more electricity over the full duration of a day as compared with traditional cells.

A highlight of WINDPOWER 2015

U.S. energy secretary, Dr Ernest Moniz, spoke at the Opening General Session at AWEA’s WINDPOWER 2015 event today in Orlando, Florida. Moniz stressed that wind power is an important and necessary part of the solution to climate change. Wind could provide five times what it provides today, he said, with a goal of one trillion kilowatt-hours per year in America. To get there, new technologies are needed to boost the industry is areas where it is not yet cost-effective or as profitable as other energy sources. Moniz mentioned better siting methods, improved drivetrains, and longer blades. On the show floor, companies are certainly bringing some new and improved technologies to the wind market.   Click here for the full Summary from WindPower Engineering.

MIT Group Used Solar Energy To Make Salty Water Drinkable In Off-Grid Areas

By Eleanor Goldberg for The Huffington Post:   ​While there are many technologies out there than can effectively remove salt from water to make it drinkable, most are expensive and rely heavily on electricity –- rendering them all but useless in remote, off-grid villages. That’s why a group of engineers from MIT, backed by Jain Irrigation Systems, set out to invent a system that relies on solar energy to bring clean drinking water to rural areas in India, The Washington Post reported. About 21 percent of India’s communicable diseases are related to unsafe water, according to the World Bank. According to MIT researchers 60 percent of India has brackish groundwater -- while not toxic, that water is too salty to be ideal for human consumption. The group, which took home the first-place Desal Prize last month in the “Securing Water for Food” challenge, used a method called electrodialysis, which relies on electricity and ultraviolet rays, according to the aid organization.   The first-place winners were awarded a $140,000 grant.   Cont'd...

Solar road in the Netherlands producing more energy than anticipated

A road made of solar panel material is producing more energy than the creators expected. Engineers created a solar power bike path near Amsterdam that is over 200 feet long last year, and the road generated over 3,000kwh during the first six months, according to Al Jazeera, enough energy to power a house for a year. The company that created the road, SolaRoad, claims that means the road can produce 70kwh per square meter per year. The road is made of solar panels, glass, rubber and concrete. The road can either power street lamps or add power to the general grid. Over 150,000 cyclists have ridden on bike path without a problem since the project began. The path is made to be non-reflective and to prevent skidding. SolaRoad is still refining its materials to make them even more weather proof and efficient, and the company hopes to expand to larger areas in the future.

Wind Power Without The Mills

Bill Tucker for Forbes:  Vortex Bladeless is a radical company. It wants to completely change the way we get energy from the wind. Think wind stick instead of a massive tower with blades that capture blowing winds. Wind stick. Really. Lest you think I’m mad, I’ve included a picture of this bladeless generator that helps with the visualization and explains the company name. See? There are no blades. What that “stick” (the company prefers, mast) does is capitalize on an effect of the wind which has been a very serious problem for architects and engineers for decades. When wind hits a structure and flows over its surfaces the flow changes and generates a cyclical pattern of vortices at the tail end of the flow. This is known as the vortex shedding effect which creates something known as vorticity and that is what Vortex Bladeless uses to generate energy. For those who need a explanation that exceeds my ability to fully explain, check out this link on Wikipedia and then come back and join the rest of us who won’t wait for you. (you’re clearly ahead of us anyway)

MITEI releases report on the future of solar energy

From Melissa Abraham | MIT Energy Initiative :  Report highlights enormous potential and discusses pathways toward affordable solar energy. Solar energy holds the best potential for meeting humanity’s future long-term energy needs while cutting greenhouse gas emissions — but to realize this potential will require increased emphasis on developing lower-cost technologies and more effective deployment policy, says a comprehensive new study, titled “ The Future of Solar Energy ,” released today by the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI). “Our objective has been to assess solar energy’s current and potential competitive position and to identify changes in U.S. government policies that could more efficiently and effectively support its massive deployment over the long term, which we view as necessary,” says MITEI Director Robert Armstrong, the Chevron Professor in Chemical Engineering at MIT.

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