Climate-conscious Americans have long glanced enviously across the Pacific to China and its ever-growing number of often-gargantuan wind farms. It turns out that they have less to be jealous about than previously thought: The United States has more wind energy powering its grid than any other country in the world, says a report by EDF Renewable Energy, the largest third-party provider of operations and maintenance for wind renewable-energy projects in the country. Though China has more megawatts of wind turbines installed than the U.S—about 90,000 to America's 60,000—the U.S. actually produces more electricity that is delivered to the grid, which in turn reaches more businesses and homes. And while China's wind industry delivered less than 138 billion kilowatt-hours in 2013, the U.S.'s delivered more than 167 billion. That's 20 percent more than China. And the U.S.'s generation has been growing steadily since 2008, when it first overtook Germany to become the world's No. 1 producer.
Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are part of a growing number of tech and other major companies that are entering into long-term “power purchase” agreements (PPAs) with wind farms to ensure a steady stream of power, at a fixed cost, over a period as long as several decades. Most recently, last month Yahoo signed such a deal for wind power in the Great Plains with OwnEnergy, a wind energy developer. Google -- which is already carbon neutral and now trying to power itself with “100 percent renewable energy” -- has the longest history here. It has three PPA deals in the U.S. wind sector (in Iowa, Oklahoma, and Texas), and two more in Sweden. Microsoft, meanwhile, currently has two PPA deals with wind installments located near its data centers in Texas and Illinois. The agreements provide 285 megawatts of power to help drive both Bing searches and also its other online platforms, according to Brian Janous, the company’s director of energy strategy. What these deals have in common is that they involve purchasing clean energy in close proximity to the power hungry data centers that these companies operate -- data centers that in turn drive searches, apps like Gmail and much more. “These are very energy intensive operations that these companies are planning on running for years, and they know they need electricity,” says Emily Williams of the American Wind Energy Association.
Brazil finally entered the solar power sector on Friday, granting contracts for the construction of 31 solar parks as it tries to diversify its sources of generation amid an energy crisis caused by the worst drought in eight decades. Brazil's energy regulator, Aneel, concluded its first exclusive solar power auction on Friday, clinching 20-year energy supply contracts with companies that will invest 4.14 billion reais ($1.67 billion) and start to feed the national grid in 2017. The 31 solar parks, the first large-scale solar projects to be constructed in Brazil, will have a combined installed capacity of 1,048 megawatts (MW). Market expectations were for projected total awards of 500 MW. "This auction is a mark, not only because it signals the entrance of solar power in the Brazilian energy mix, but because it was one of the most competitive to date," said Mauricio Tolmasquim, head of the government's energy research company, EPE. The auction lasted more than eight hours. The final price for solar power came at around 220 reais ($89) per megawatt-hour, against an initial price of 262 reais ($106), an 18 percent discount. "This is one of the lowest prices for solar energy in the world," Tolmasquim said.
Could a long-vacant cigarette factory in North Carolina build the rechargeable battery that will unlock the future of the clean energy economy? The Swiss-based Alevo Group launched the new battery technology on Tuesday. After spending $68.5m (£42.5m) for the factory, the group said it would spend up to $1bn to develop a system that would get rid of waste on the grid and expand the use of wind and solar power. The project, a joint venture with state-owned China-ZK International Energy Investment Co, aims to ship its first GridBank, its patented battery array, to Guangdong Province this year, going into production on a commercial scale in mid-2015. The container-sized arrays store 2MW and would be installed on-site at power plants. Jostein Eikeland, Alevo’s chief executive, said in an interview that the company had an agreement with the Turkish state power authority, and was in discussions with US power companies. “It’s a gamechanger,” he said. “If we can take some of the massive energy that is wasted today by mismanagement of the grid and inject it where it is needed, everybody wins,” said Eikeland. Eikeland said the company would create 2,500 jobs at the factory in Concord over the next three years.
SolarWorld, the largest crystalline silicon solar producer in the Americas for nearly 40 years, announced that in 2015, it would add a solar-panel production line in Hillsboro to bring the panel-assembly factory's capacity up to 530 megawatts (MW), expand advanced cell production capacity by 100 MW and add 200 jobs. "It is no secret that the last several years have been tough for SolarWorld and for U.S. solar manufacturers in general," SolarWorld U.S. President Mukesh Dulani said. "However, thanks to a variety of factors, including our trade cases against China, difficult but necessary financial controls and a fantastic group of employees, we have turned the corner. Today's announcement shows that SolarWorld is not only here to stay, but it also is ready to extend our leadership in the American solar manufacturing industry." Dulani was joined at a morning news conference by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. Sen. Wyden received a commemorative plaque thanking him for his years of support for SolarWorld and its workers during the cases. He also spoke at a SolarWorld employee forum after the news conference.
Have you ever noticed energy blogs or articles about small wind turbines comparing them directly with big wind technology and solar? I am writing this article to provide a little background on where small wind turbines can be very successful and where they make absolutely no sense. It also explains why the market for “Small Wind” is vastly different from that of “Big Wind.” First of all, “Small Wind” has been defined by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) as any turbines under 100 kW of rated power. As we all know, 100 kW wind turbines aren’t small! Therefore, others have decided to define them as anything up to 10 kW. For the purpose of this article, we use the same definition as AWEA, up to 100 kW. Full Article:
This years show takes place October 20 - 23, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. 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 100 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. This year Solar Power International will offer 100 sessions, eight tracks, Master Speakers, 25-minute QuickTalks, and some of the best education in the industry Whether you’re an attendee or an exhibitor, an installer or manufacturer. As a media partner AltEnergyMag.com is covering Solar Power International 2014 and bringing industry news and exciting new products to our eMagazine to help our readers make sense of this massive event. Make sure to check out our special SPI 2014 Newspage for Exhibitor news. Click here to check out our SPI 2014 Tradeshow report to see what exciting new products we found at this years show.
With less than one week before the largest North America solar trade show, SPI, kicks off in Las Vegas, visitors are being advised to expect to spend their day on their feet. With the two South Halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center being consumed by the exhibition, organizers say that attendees can expect to take many more than 10,000 steps a day. Unique booth designs and companies going “all out” are to be expected at SPI this year, according to organizers with Hanwha Q CELLS taking out the largest booth space. 25% of the exhibitors are from outside of the U.S., with 23 countries being represented. Chinese, Germany and Spanish country pavilions will also occupy large sections of the trade show floor. Of the U.S. exhibitors, Californian companies represent the largest group, making up 31%. The state is followed by Texas, Colorado and Ohio – with each of these states comprising 5% of the total number of exhibitors.
SolarCity, the nation's largest residential solar installer and financier, is coupling Tesla's battery-based energy storage hardware with its rooftop solar systems. Peter Rive, the co-founder and CTO of SolarCity, spoke at last week's Energy Storage North America conference and said that the standard offering from SolarCity could eventually include storage. Rive added that the combination of solar and storage "won't look that much different for the customer," but that "the benefit to the customer will be that you will have a little backup power." Defecting from the grid? A recent RMI blog post contends that "continued rapid declines in the cost of solar and the start of the same trend for storage mean that grid parity may come much sooner than previously thought -- and well within the 30-year planned economic life of typical utility investments." When asked about this report on the economics of consumers defecting from the grid, Rive had this to say: "I hope it doesn't happen. I don't think it makes sense for someone to remove themselves from the grid. If you think about the load on a circuit as opposed to an individual home, an average home on a circuit is maybe 3 kilowatts peak. But you may find that any given home will go up to 10 kilowatts at any given time. That means the battery would have to be sized to 10 kilowatts."
A proposed “tower power” solar power plant near Joshua Tree National Park that drew heavy opposition from environmental groups has been scrapped. An application to state regulators for the Palen solar power project, a joint venture by Oakland-based BrightSource and the Spanish solar power giant Abengoa Solar, was withdrawn recently. Two 750-foot towers were originally proposed for a nearly 2,000-acre east Riverside County project that would have been near Joshua Tree National Park and the Pacific Flyway, a path migrating birds travel that often includes a rest in the Salton Sea. David Lamfrom, California Desert programs manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, said the project had the potential to be more damaging to wildlife than the 450-foot Ivanpah towers. State regulators recently ordered the project scaled back from two towers to one. “After carefully reviewing the proposed decision recommending approval of one tower, as well as other aspects of the development, we determined it would be in the best interest of all parties to bring forward a project that would better meet the needs of the market and energy consumers,” Joe Desmond, senior vice president of marketing and government affairs at BrightSource, said in a statement.
“Airport interest in solar energy is growing rapidly as a way to reduce airport operating costs and to demonstrate commitment to sustainable airport development,” says the website of Harris Miller Miller & Hanson Inc., a consulting firm that helped write the FAA’s regulatory guidance for solar power at airports. Right now, airport operating costs are high, so high that the majority of airports lose money every year. A substantial portion of those costs come from energy use. In fact, the Airport Cooperative Research Program says airports are one of the largest public users of energy in the country. In terms of expenses, energy is often the second largest operating expense, exceeded only by personnel, according to the ACRP. One way to reduce energy costs is simply to reduce electricity use, which is why many airports have taken to installing solar projects. That’s because when the initial cost of the installing the project is paid off, the airport essentially provides free electricity to itself, disregarding the cost of maintenance. That scenario, however, is only possible if the airport decides that it would like to privately own the solar operation — something that does not happen widely in the United States due to the substantial cost involved. What happens far more often is that airport solar projects are owned by private companies, which unlike airports, are eligible for tax credits. The airport, in most cases, acts solely as the property owner.
The US wind power industry still needs subsidy to compete with fossil fuels, according to Germany’s Siemens, one of the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturers. Lisa Davis, who took over in August as the head of Siemens’ global energy business, told the Financial Times that although wind power in the US was close to “grid parity” – the level at which it becomes competitive with other sources of electricity – “we’re not there yet”. Her comments come as the US industry is urging Congress to reinstate the tax credit for wind generation, which expired at the end of last year. The American Wind Energy Association has warned that the industry could face falling investment and employment if the credit is not restored quickly. Lazard, the investment bank, calculated recently that in parts of the US with strong wind, it could be a cheaper source of power than gas-fired generation, after steep declines in the cost of turbines. However, Ms Davis argued that costs still needed to be cut further before wind could compete on equal terms with gas. “We’ve not yet got to the point where it’s truly self-sustaining,” she said. “We’ve got to focus on cost competitiveness.”
Is it a solar cell? Or a rechargeable battery? Actually, the patent-pending device invented at The Ohio State University is both: the world's first solar battery. In the October 3, 2014 issue of the journal Nature Communications, the researchers report that they've succeeded in combining a battery and a solar cell into one hybrid device. Key to the innovation is a mesh solar panel, which allows air to enter the battery, and a special process for transferring electrons between the solar panel and the battery electrode. Inside the device, light and oxygen enable different parts of the chemical reactions that charge the battery. The university will license the solar battery to industry, where Yiying Wu, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State, says it will help tame the costs of renewable energy. "The state of the art is to use a solar panel to capture the light, and then use a cheap battery to store the energy," Wu said. "We've integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost." He and his students believe that their device brings down costs by 25 percent.
An 8.6 kWh lithium-ion solar energy storage system for residential and commercial use has been launched by JuiceBox Energy. It is designed to work with grid-tied or off-grid solar systems. It features a system controller so the battery can be used as back-up power to a grid, thus enabling peak shifting and demand charge reduction. Notice these capabilities go beyond mere storage. In other words, battery technology can be smart and interactive in addition to storing electricity. The system has a battery based inverter, and management system for charging and discharging. Diagnostics are part of the design, too, to monitor the system for potential faults. JuiceBox will be available in the fourth quarter of 2014, with greater volume production beginning in 2015. “Energy storage is the critical technology that allows unrestrained solar growth enabling a clean energy future and a more resilient grid,” explained Neil Maguire, CEO of JuiceBox. JuiceBox is taking advance orders, but it isn’t clear yet what the price is.
A class of compounds first uncovered in the Ural Mountains more than a century ago is now a rock star in the world of solar-energy research. Meet perovskite, the building block for materials that, as a group, have posted unprecedented gains in their solar-energy efficiency—the percentage of sunlight converted into electricity. In the lab, scientists experimenting with perovskite-based materials of different compositions have recently achieved a jump in efficiency to 20%, from around 10% just two years ago. That is still lower than the most efficient silicon-based cells on the market— SunPower Corp. makes cells that are 24% efficient. But because of perovskite's rapid increases in efficiency, researchers think it could be used to make cells that are at least as efficient as those fashioned from silicon, but at a much lower cost.
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