The Obama administration unveiled a slew of actions Thursday aimed at improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of solar power in homes and businesses, including $68 million in spending.
A new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory suggests that wind energy could stabilize the energy grid of the eastern U.S. Grid stabilization is often an issue where renewable energy is concerned. At times, clean energy systems can generate more electrical power than an energy grid can handle. Frequency regulation plays a major role in grid stabilization in the U.S., and wind turbines may be a new solution to the stabilization problem.
Sharp Corp is looking to sell its U.S.-based solar energy development unit Recurrent Energy, Bloomberg reported on Monday, as the Japanese firm winds down its involvement in the solar industry to focus on profitable businesses.
Sharp paid $305 million in cash in 2010 to acquire Recurrent Energy. Selling the company now would help Sharp to raise capital as it struggles to raise its equity ratio to a healthy level.
This year, Sharp shut down its UK solar plant and also pulled out of a venture with Italian energy firm Enel SpA
Wearable electronics are quickly becoming the fashion. And there could soon be a way to power those electronics indefinitely, now that scientists in China have developed a solar cell 'textile' that could be woven into clothes. The textile retains a power-generation efficiency close to 1% even after been bent more than 200 times, and can be illuminated from both sides.
Scientists have been looking into flexible solar cells for decades, partly for coating irregularly shaped objects but also for integrating into wearable fabrics. One popular line of investigation has been dye-sensitized solar cells, in which a pigment absorbs sunlight to generate electrons and their positive counterparts, holes, before passing on those charges to inexpensive semiconductors. These solar cells are cheap and flexible, but the liquid nature of their pigments means that they must be well sealed. Bend a dye-sensitized solar cell more than a few times and the seals are likely to break, destroying its light-harvesting properties.
That is why Huisheng Peng at Fudan University in Shanghai and colleagues have been exploring another option: polymer solar cells. Although their maximum efficiencies fall below 10% - about half that of crystalline silicon, the most prevalent solar cell - polymer solar cells are lightweight, flexible and easy to manufacture. Peng and colleagues' solar cell textile consists of microscopic interwoven metal wires coated with an active polymer (to absorb the sunlight), titanium dioxide nanotubes (to conduct the electrons) and another active polymer (to conduct the holes). The researches coated each side of the textile with transparent, conductive sheets of carbon nanotubes, which complete the circuit.
olar energy is one of the greatest investing opportunities of our generation with well over a trillion dollars in annual market potential around the world. But with all that potential comes tremendous risk, particularly as new technologies emerge.
Over the past decade, we've seen solar technologies rise and fall and companies have risen and fallen along with them. Now that this industry is competing with fossil fuels on a cost per kW-hr basis it's important to look at what technologies dominate the industry and what investors should be betting on in the future.
Massive solar farms like this one from SunPower are now competitive with other energy sources on the grid, opening up a huge opportunity for the solar industry. Source: SunPower.
Silicon solar, the leader in the clubhouse
The vast majority of solar panels today are made using silicon semiconductor technology. At its core, this technology has been around for decades, it just hasn't been efficient or cheap enough to be economically viable versus the grid. But that's changed in the last few years as panel prices have plummeted below $1 per watt.
Inside a silicon solar cell the sun's energy excites the semiconductor, knocking an electron loose. If properly built, a cell then captures that electron and turns it into a voltage potential and electric current. cont'd..
The solar industry is bracing for a global drought in photovoltaic panels after a series of high supply years that pushed prices to all-time lows and encouraged installations.
Solar panel adoption is supposed to increase as much as 29% this year, which has top manufacturers and installers anticipating a drop in availability of panels. This would be the first such shortage since 2006 when the nascent solar energy industry was just taking hold, reported Bloomberg News.
Eight years ago, only about 1.5 gigawatts of solar energy capacity was installed. This year as much as 52 gigawatts is expected to be hooked up and another 61 gigawatts in 2015, according to estimates by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
That is compared with about 70 gigawatts of production capacity currently available, though that estimate could be high since some manufacturers’ equipment is out of date or obsolete.
The shrinking supply could hinder the growing rooftop solar panel industry. The scarce supplies often get routed to larger-scale utility projects and leave the residential side with limited availability.
China has bet on solar energy as a cleaner alternative to coal, but whether installed solar panels can meet the country's need for energy is becoming a troubling question.
China had installed nearly 19.5 gigawatts of solar panels as of the end of 2013. However, "many solar installations failed to generate as much electricity as planned," said Ji Zhenshuang, deputy director at the Beijing-based China General Certification Center, which examined 472 Chinese solar projects over the past four years.
Ji would not specify the percentage but said the figure is not small. The solar projects his company examined include those under Golden Sun, a government-led program that was introduced in 2009 to demonstrate the use of solar energy, as well as utility-scale solar farms run by Chinese energy giants.
Although China in recent years has surpassed many countries in adopting solar technology, in a move to help Chinese factories survive tougher export markets and to cut the country's dangerous reliance on coal, there is little public information available on how well the Chinese solar projects function. However, some experts did not seem surprised by Ji's findings. Cont'd..
Grappling with its worst energy crisis in more than a decade, Brazil is making its first big move to develop a local solar power industry that could help reduce its dependence on a battered hydro power system.
In October, Brazil will hold an auction to negotiate energy to be produced exclusively by solar farms, the first ever of the kind in the South American country.
Power companies have registered some 400 projects for the auction, but many remain wary of the outlook for solar power in Brazil and say they need more clarity on investment conditions and financing before signing any deals.
The auction could negotiate up to 10 gigawatts (GW), although industry sources estimate final volumes at a much smaller level, varying from 500 megawatts (MW) to 1 GW.
Sun-kissed Brazil has one of the highest solar radiation factors in the world and plenty of land for solar farms, plus large reserves of silicon, used to make solar panels.
Yet the country has almost no solar power generation, while its BRICS partner China, for example, added 12 gigawatts last year alone – enough to supply around 10 million homes. cont'd..
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