Nevada Court Rejects Solar Power Ballot Initiative As 'Inaccurate' And 'Misleading'

Samantha Page for ThinkProgress:  The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a solar industry-backed measure that would have let voters decide how customers are paid for the electricity they put back on the grid.

The November referendum would have allowed voters to overturn a Public Utilities Commission (PUC) decision from late last year that gutted the state’s net metering program — a rate design element that ensures solar owners are paid retail rate for the electricity they put back on the grid.

The court ruled that the description included in the referendum was “inaccurate,” “misleading,” and “argumentative,” the AP reported.

But the industry was not bowed after the ruling, saying it would continue to fight to set fair rates for solar homeowners.  Cont'd...

Renewable energy storage revolutionised by flywheel device

Tereza Pultarova for Engineering & Technology Magazine:  A flywheel-based device invented by a Lancaster University student could help solve the renewable energy storage problem, offering a better alternative to battery technology.

The Flywheel Energy Store, designed by 21-year-old Abigail Carson, retains energy kinetically in a levitating floating mass. The flywheel, about the size of a football, doesn’t require any additional control mechanisms, inputs or maintenance.

“The global energy crisis is the biggest and most urgent problem that needs addressing,” said Carson, who is awaiting a patent for the device. “The Flywheel Energy Store can be used for a vast range of applications – most significantly in providing energy security and independence for everyone globally, but also including eliminating waste in power networks, pumping water to villages and allowing for cleaner cooking and heating in developing countries, instant charging of electric vehicles, and off-grid energy storage.”

Carson’s flywheel can rotate at up to 144,000 revolutions per minute (rpm). The majority of existing flywheel designs usually achieve a maximum of around 60,000rpm.  Cont'd...

Chernobyl is to become the world's largest solar power plant

ALEXANDRU MICU for ZME Science:  The Ukranian government plans to turn Chernobyl, the site of the world’s most famous nuclear meltdown, into a sprawling solar power plant — the largest in the world.

Since the meltdown on April 26, 1986, no one’s been able to find any good uses for Chernobyl. A 1,600 square mile area was drenched in radiation and deemed an “exclusion zone,” so everyone was evacuated after the clean-up efforts were concluded and the plant was sealed in its ubiquitous sarcophagus. The buildings, goods, and infrastructure in the area were abandoned so fast that the city looks like time froze there 30 years ago — albeit with a Falloutesque look. Since we left, nature took over, and for the most part, is thriving in our absence (though the microbes that decompose dead organic matter seem to be having a hard time living here.)

In a recent interview, however, Ukraine’s ecology minister Ostap Semerak said that the government is negotiating with two US investment firms and four Canadian energy companies to develop Chernobyl’s solar potential. The area is uniquely suited for the purpose — the land is extremely cheap, much of the required infrastructure, such as roads are already built. Even better, the power lines that served the old 4GW reactor are still useable.  Cont'd...

Belgian scientists make novel water-from-urine machine

Reuters:  A team of scientists at a Belgian university say they have created a machine that turns urine into drinkable water and fertilizer using solar energy, a technique which could be applied in rural areas and developing countries.

While there are other options for treating waste water, the system applied at the University of Ghent uses a special membrane, is said to be energy-efficient and to be applicable in areas off the electricity grid.

"We're able to recover fertilizer and drinking water from urine using just a simple process and solar energy," said University of Ghent researcher Sebastiaan Derese.

The urine is collected in a big tank, heated in a solar-powered boiler before passing through the membrane where the water is recovered and nutrients such as potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus are separated.  Cont'd...

Turbines for First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm

The Maritime Executive:  Preparations for the groundbreaking Block Island Wind Farm – America's first – are well under way, with the regulatory permits obtained, the funding procured and the jacket installation complete. Now the actual equipment for the farm, towers, blades and five massive turbines have been shipped, ready for assembly. 

The blades arrrived in Providence, RI from Denmark on the general cargo shipSuomigracht late last month, and the turbines are on board the Fred Olsen jackup construction vessel Brave Tern, currently under way across the North Atlantic. When theTern arrives, it will begin the process of installing the towers; that work is expected to begin in August. 

The 20-mile cable connecting Block Island with the mainland was completed on June 28 – providing the island with its first electrical and fiber optic connection ever. Deepwater Wind, the developer and operator of the farm, has completed a separate cable linking the facility with Block Island, and expects to finish cable linkages between the five wind towers this month.   Cont'd...

Why flying a kite could be the future of clean energy

Antony Michels for Yahoo Finance:  David Schaefer wants to sell $50,000 kites to farmers to help them generate electricity by harnessing the power of the wind.

Schaefer, 54, is the CEO of eWind Solutions, a Beaverton, Oregon, company he founded in 2013 after quitting his job as director of mechanical engineering at Xerox.

“Imagine when you were a kid in a field flying the kite,” Schaefer says. “When the wind picks up you remember feeling that pull on the string. Well that pull is really energy. That’s what we’re doing. We’re harnessing that energy.”  Cont'd...

Why Drones Are 'Game-Changing' for Renewable Energy

Julia Pyper for GreenTechMedia:  Amazon caused quite the stir in 2013 when it announced plans to launch a drone delivery service. People were both thrilled and horrified at the thought of flying robots delivering toilet paper to our doorsteps.

Some drone enthusiasts hoped to see Amazon launch a drone-based solar installation service -- but alas, that business doesn't exist. Yet.

Drones are already disrupting the solar sector, however.

This week at Intersolar North America, DroneDeploy, a cloud software platform provider for commercial drones, and DJI, a leading maker of drones and camera technology, announced a partnership that is expected to dramatically increase the efficiency of solar panel installation and inspection using drone-based thermal imagery capture and analytics.

The companies claim that customers can reduce residential solar system measurement times by up to 50 percent and reduce commercial measurement times from days to minutes. In addition, on-board thermal imagery can help to ensure that equipment is in the optimal position for maximum production.  Cont'd...

Energy Storage Would Get U.S. Tax Credits in Bipartisan Bill

Chris Martin for Bloomberg Politics:  Energy storage would gain access to the same tax incentives that helped make renewable energy the biggest new source of electricity in the U.S. last year under a bill introduced in the Senate.

Batteries like the lithium-ion ones in phones and electric vehicles would be eligible for the tax incentives when connected to the utility grid at homes and businesses under a bill introduced Tuesday by Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich from New Mexico. The bill has eight co-sponsors including Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican, according to a statement.

Other energy storage technologies such as pumped hydroelectric power, flywheels and compressed air would also have access to the tax credits, modeled after incentives for the solar industry, which reimburse as much as 30 percent of installation costs.  Cont'd...

Here's How Brexit May End Most British Wind Power

Andrew Follett for the Daily Caller:  Officials from Britain’s wind industry are terrified their subsidies and tax incentives will end because of the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union, according to a report by Reuters published Friday.

The report found that British wind companies, particularly ones that specialize in offshore wind power, are worried that Brexit places the government subsidies and easy access to financing at risk. The industry is deeply dependent on these subsidies to make projects more economically viable. Britain’s political uncertainty following the pending resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron means cuts to subsidies are likely. The Brexit could also make it much harder for wind companies to get loans from European banks, which could significantly slow the expansion of wind power.  Cont'd...

BMW electric-car batteries to be used as home energy-storage devices

 Stephen Edelstein for GreenCarReports:  Tesla Motors was the first carmaker to branch out from selling electric cars to offering standalone battery packs for energy storage, but others have followed the company's lead.

Mercedes-Benz and Nissan have stated their intentions to enter the energy-storage market, and now BMW is jumping on the bandwagon as well.

At the Electric Vehicle Symposium & Exhibition 29—known as EVS29—held this week in Montreal, Canada, BMW unveiled an energy-storage system that uses battery packs from i3 electric cars.

Developed in concert with German firm Beck Automation, BMW's system is designed to use either new battery packs or "second-life" packs that have degraded too much for continued use in electric cars.

Battery packs that can no longer function in cars still have enough usable capacity for energy storage.

BMW has tested the concept over the past five years with various research projects, including a 2013 "micro-grid" project with the University of San Diego, and a 2014 collaboration in Germany with utility Vattenfall to use electric-car battery packs as buffer to help stabilize electricity grids.  Cont'd...

Missouri is about to experiment with power from an unlikely source - its roads

BRYAN CLARK for TheNextWeb:  Part of its ‘Road to Tomorrow Initiative,’ Missouri’s Department of Transportation is teaming with Solar Roadways, an Idaho-based startup (seriously, what’s going on in Idaho?) to cover an undetermined length of Historic Route 66 with road-ready solar panels.

Blair also told The Star that the bulk of its efforts will be crowdfunded. After receiving a $100,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration to build a prototype, and a pair of $750,000 research grants from the US Department of Transportation, the group has raised more than $2 million of its own to complete the project through acrowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.

Solar Roadways’ panels are tempered safety glass that are as strong as they are efficient. In addition to harnessing energy from the sun, they also come with LED lighting to effectively replace road lines and signage. While obviously more expensive to install upfront, the panels do have the benefit of being completely modular, which would allow for quick and cheap repairs by just swapping out the broken panels rather than re-paving entire stretches of road.  Cont'd...

Tesla has just put in an offer to acquire SolarCity

Johana Bhuiyan for Recode:  Tesla’s board of directors has just sent an offer to acquire SolarCity to the company’s CEO. In other words, the electric car company Elon Musk is the CEO of just offered to buy the solar company Elon Musk is the chairman of.

In the letter, sent to SolarCity co-founder and CEO Lyndon Rive, Tesla’s board of directors offered to buy all of SolarCity’s remaining common stock in exchange for Tesla’s common shares. That’s $26.50 to $28.50 a share, according to the board.

The stock-for-stock deal amounts to about $2.8 billion based on where Tesla stock was trading before the proposal was announced.

As of yesterday, Musk personally owns 22,160,370 shares of SolarCity. So if the respective boards of each company approves the acquisition, Musk would personally reap $587,249,805 to $631,570,545.

Tesla’s move to acquire the solar company will help Musk in his goal of accelerating the world’s transition to using completely sustainable fuels in transportation.  Cont'd...

Electric Utilities Prepare for a Grid Dominated by Renewable Energy

Julia Pyper for GTM:  A growing number of electric industry leaders agree that it’s only a matter of time before renewable energy resources dominate their grid systems.

In California, it’s already a reality, said Steve Berberich, president and CEO of California Independent System Operator Corporation. On a typical day, CAISO will pull about 30,000 megawatts of energy production, with around 6,500 megawatts from solar, 5,000 megawatts from wind and another 5,000 from geothermal and other services on the system. In addition, California’s grid system has roughly 4,000 megawatts of behind-the-meter solar, which is growing at a rate of about 70 megawatts per month.

In any given day, California gets more than 30 percent its electricity from renewable energy. On many days that amount climbs to 40 percent, and on some days renewables reach 50 percent, said Berberich.

“Now we have to think about the system as a renewable energy-based system complemented by other things,” he said, speaking at the Edison Electric Institute’s annual convention this week in Chicago.  Cont'd...

New Solar Cell Device Surpasses Theoretically Predicted Efficiency Limit

Thomas Burton for Energy Technology Matters:  A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) published a paper last week in the journal Nature Energy that described how they built a working solar thermophotovoltaic device (STPV) that enables solar cells to break through a theoretically predicted ceiling on how much sunlight they can convert into electricity. With this revolutionary new technology, the researchers show the potential of how solar panels can generate even more energy than theoretically determined by harnessing some of the panels’ waste. To learn more about the STPV technology, read on!

Since 1961, the Shockley-Queisser Limit established an absolute theoretical limit on traditional solar cell efficiency regarding energy conversion. A single-layer of silicon cells—the type of cells most widely used in today’s solar panels—has an upper limit of 32 percent. But currently, researchers are studying ways to increase this overall efficiency by using multiple layers of cells or converting the sunlight first to heat before generating electrical power. This latter method uses devices called STPVs, which the MIT team used in their study.  Cont'd...

Saving the Earth by Making Energy Industry's Boardrooms Diverse

Ainslie Chandler for Bloomberg:  The U.S. energy sector accounts for 83.6 percent of the country’s carbon emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, so tackling climate change effectively requires their participation. Some experts worry the lack of diversity in their leadership is hindering that shift.

Energy-sector boards are the least diverse of any industry globally, with 8.2 percent of seats occupied by women, compared with an average of 10.5 percent for all businesses, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That translates to an average of just 0.7 women on the board of each of the 650 energy companies in Bloomberg’s review.

More than 170 countries signed the Paris Agreement in April, which aims to limit the global temperature increase to below two degrees Celsius. If this target is going to be met and the transition to a “de-carbonized” economy made, companies will need to fundamentally change, so leadership teams also have to change, said Rachel Kyte, chief executive and special representative of the UN Secretary-General at Sustainable Energy for All.

“It’s like this bus is coming toward us,” Kyte said of climate change and the transition to renewable energy. “If you keep asking the same people and they keep coming up with the same answer, we’re not going to manage this transition very well.”  Cont'd...

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