How drones are helping design the solar power plants of the future

Katie Fehrenbacher for T he Guardian:    At the edge of a plot of muddy farmland, a few miles down the road from the University of California at Davis, an engineer takes a few quick steps across crop rows and lets go of a three-foot drone. Within seconds, the device - which weighs less than 2lbs and carries a powerful camera - ascends hundreds of feet into the cold, clear, blue sky and begins to snap detailed photos of the ground far below, including a long row of large solar panels mounted on steel poles. This flight is just a test, demonstrated by Kingsley Chen, the drone fleet coordinator for SunPower at the solar company's research and development center, which is under construction and about a two-hour drive northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area. The drone will enable SunPower to survey a wide region and help design a solar power farm that can fit more solar panels on a piece of land, more quickly and for lower costs than it previously could.   Con'td...

SDG&E Unveils World's Largest Lithium Ion Battery Energy Storage Facility

Today, SDG&E is showcasing the world's largest lithium-ion battery energy storage facility in partnership with AES Energy Storage, which will enhance regional energy reliability while maximizing renewable energy use. The 30 megawatt (MW) energy storage facility is capable of storing up to 120 megawatt hours of energy, the energy equivalent of serving 20,000 customers for four hours.  Last year, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) directed Southern California investor-owned electric utilities to fast-track additional energy storage options to enhance regional energy reliability. In response, SDG&E expedited ongoing negotiations and contracted with AES Energy Storage to build two projects for a total of 37.5 MW of lithium ion battery energy storage. In addition to the 30 MW facility built in Escondido, Calif., a smaller 7.5 MW installation was built in El Cajon.   Full Press Release:  

Follow the Patents: For Solar Power, the Devil Is in the Details

Alec Schibanoff for Electric Light & Power:  There actually is a crystal ball that permits you to see into the future. All you have to do is follow the patents. The latest patents in any technology will show you where that technology—and the businesses that use that technology—are going. This month, we take a look at the future of solar panel installation. The first solar power generator was displayed at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1878. The first U.S. Patent for a solar power device was awarded the next year to Edward Weston. He actually received two patents: U.S. Patent No. 389,124 for an “Apparatus for Generating Solar Radiant Energy” and U.S. Patent No. 389,125 for the “Art of Utilizing Solar Radiant Energy.” It was not until 1954 that Bell Labs developed the first silicone-based solar panel.   Cont'd...

7,000 Railways Stations In India To Go Solar

Saurabh Mahapatra for CleanTechnica:  Almost every railway station in India will soon be fed with solar power if the plans announced in India’s latest union budget are implemented. The Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced that the 7,000 railway stations across the country will be fed with solar power as per the Indian Railways mission to implement 1,000 megawatts of solar power capacity. The minister made the announcement during the union budget speech on 1 February 2017. The minister stated that work to set up rooftop solar power systems at 300 stations has already started, and soon this number will increase to 2,000 stations. According to data released by the Minister of Railways, India had 7,137 railway stations at the end of March 2015. These rooftop solar power systems are expected to be implemented through developer mode, wherein the project developer will sign long-term power purchase agreement with Indian Railways.   Cont'd...

High-tech canopy helps generate solar power while providing shade

Barbara Eldredge for Curbed:  Imaginative architect and designer Carlo Ratti has had some bonkers ideas over the past year, including an exercise-powered gym barge and a mile-high skyscraper park. But his latest project is on the sunnier side of feasibility. Literally. The Sun&Shade is a light-reflecting canopy made of mirrors that automatically rotate to catch the sun’s rays and fling them at a photovoltaic panel, “located a safe distance away.” This generates clean electricity up top while cooling the shaded area beneath. A working prototype of the mirrored structure just debuted at Dubai’s Museum of the Future as part of its “Reimagining Climate Change.”   Cont'd...

Chinese solar company opening local module factory in September

Victor A. Patton for Sacramento Business Journal:  A solar module factory expected to bring more than 200 jobs to Sacramento is slated to begin production in mid-September at McClellan Business Park.  It will be the first U.S. factory for Nanjing, China-based solar cell and module manufacturer China Sunergy Co, who on Thursday announced its subsidiary Sunergy America has agreed to lease a 140,000-square-foot manufacturing building — previously a plant where J.C. Penney made window coverings. Simon Szeto, a Sunergy advisor, said the company will bring around 20 management staff from overseas and will hire other employees locally.  The work being done at the factory will include putting together the modules. Each module includes a solar cell, an aluminum frame, tempered glass, cables and a junction box. The completed products, which can be placed on a ground mount or rooftop, will be sold commercially in the U.S, Szeto said.  Cont'd...

Catch wave power in floating nets

Zhong Lin Wang for Nature:  Nature provides three sources of energy for free: sunlight, air and gravity. Solar and wind power are increasingly exploited, gravity less so. Hydraulic power plants harvest energy from flowing rivers. Tidal energy can be gathered along some inlets and coasts. But few places are suitable for dams or barrages, which can also damage the environment. By contrast, oceans cover about 70% of Earth’s surface. Wave energy is plentiful day and night, whatever the weather. Capturing it requires little land and raises few safety or security concerns. Yet hardly any of this ‘blue energy’ is being generated. Today’s wave farms produce no more than 1–10 megawatts at any one time, enough to power a town. No commercial wave farms currently exist.   Full article:  

First Wattway solar road pilot in US pops up in rural Georgia

Lacy Cooke for Inhabitat:  The first Wattway solar road pilot in America has popped up in rural west Georgia. The Ray C. Anderson Foundation, named for sustainable manufacturing pioneer Ray Anderson, is testing renewable technologies along an 18-mile stretch of road, and recently installed 538 square feet of Colas‘ Wattway solar road system near the border between Georgia and Alabama. Part of Georgia’s Interstate 85 was named for Anderson, but as over five million tons of carbon dioxideare emitted yearly on that road portion alone, Anderson’s family felt placing his name there didn’t honor his legacy, and began to look into renewable technologies to clear the air – so to speak. Thus began The Ray, an 18-mile living laboratory for clean technologies, including not only the solar roads, but also a solar-powered electric vehicle charging station, and WheelRight, a system people can drive over to test their tire pressure, which could lead to improved fuel inefficiency.   Cont'd...

Record-breaking solar panels could slash power costs

Reuters Jim Drury:  Swiss start-up Insolight says its solar panels double the yield achieved by other sun-powered technology. In independent tests the panels reached an efficiency of 36.4 percent. "Traditionally the market sits at around 18 percent and we can double this. Therefore we can double the return on investment for the final client....Our key innovation is that you do not need to rotate the panel in order to follow the sun. We can follow the sun in a flat manner, like any other solar panel, which makes it that our panel can be installed on standard rooftops, with standard mounting technology." Tiny square super cells capture all of the sun's rays, underneath round lenses, using a patented microtracking system.   Watch Video.

China is now the largest producer of solar power in the world

Lacy Cooke  for Inhabitat:  One way China is working to battle climate change-causing carbon emissions is by developing a vast army of renewable energy projects. Even as the country struggles with pollution, it has made great strides on clean energy. They’re now the largest producer of solar energy by capacity in the world, adding 34.54 gigawatts of the country’s installed capacity of 77.42 gigawatts last year alone. The country’s National Energy Administration (NEA) announced over the weekend that in 2016, installed photovoltaic capacity in China more than doubled. Their data revealed the jump to 77.42 gigawatts after the country added 34.54 gigawatts. The provinces in which capacity increased most include Shandong, Henan, and Xinjiang, which is also one of the provinces with the largest overall capacity. Gansu, Inner Mongolia, and Qinghai join Xinjiang in that latter category.   Cont'd...  

Tidal Power Can Make the U.K. a Green Energy Leader

Mark Gilbert for Bloomberg:  The U.K. government is mulling whether to support a 1.3 billion pound  ($1.6 billion) proposal to build a tidal lagoon in South Wales. It should stop dithering and subsidize the project to help meet the country's green energy goals, produce cheaper power, and establish Britain as the world leader in technology that harnesses the power of the tides to generate electricity. The U.K. lost its energy independence in 2004, and now depends upon imports to meet about half of its energy needs. And while the contribution from renewable energy sources has climbed to a bit less than 10 percent from about 1 percent at the start of the last decade, the U.K. commitment to reduce carbon emissions to 57 percent of their 1990 levels by 2030 means even less electricity needs to come from coal-fired power plants.   Cont'd...

Battling corrosion to keep solar panels humming

Sue Holmes for Phys.org:  People think of corrosion as rust on cars or oxidation that blackens silver, but it also harms critical electronics and connections in solar panels, lowering the amount of electricity produced. "It's challenging to predict and even more challenging to design ways to reduce it because it's highly dependent on material and environmental conditions," said Eric Schindelholz, a Sandia National Laboratories materials reliability researcher who studies corrosion and how it affects photovoltaic (PV) system performance. Sandia researchers from different departments collaborate to accelerate corrosion under controlled conditions and use what they learn to help industry develop longer-lasting PV panels and increase reliability. For example, work by Olga Lavrova of Sandia's Photovoltaic and Distributed Systems Integration department demonstrated, for the first time, a link between corrosion and the risk of arc faults in PV systems' electrical connections. Research by Erik Spoerke of Sandia's Electronic, Optical and Nano Materials department focuses on developing new nanocomposite films that could dramatically increase reliability.   Cont'd...

Massive wind turbine takes energy generation record

John Anderson for NewAtlas:  A behemoth V164 offshore wind turbine from Danish company MHI Vestas Offshore Wind has produced almost 216,000 kWh over a 24-hour period during tests at its site near Østerild, Denmark in December. In doing so, the 9 MW prototype – a reworked version of the V164-8.0 MW, which was initially developed in 2012 and launched two years later – takes the energy generation record for a commercially available offshore wind turbine. Since its launch in 2014, the Usain Bolt of wind turbines is essentially in competition with itself, largely due to its superior size over the competition. The V164 stands at 722 feet (220 m) at full height, with 38-ton blades that are 263 feet (80 m) in length for a total sweep area of 227,377 square feet (21,124 square meters) – larger than the giant London Eye Ferris wheel.   Cont'd...

America is torn apart by partisan politics-except when it comes to buying solar power

Michael J. Coren for Quartz:  We are all one when it comes to getting cheap power from the sun. Amidst the political rancor roiling the United States, one bright spot is home solar power installation. It keeps going up, and a study by PowerScout, a company that helps people switch to renewable energy, finds that to be true for households on both sides of the political divide. PowerScout used machine-learning algorithms and satellite imagery to detect rooftop solar panels on the homes of 1.5 million political donors in 20 states. In mature solar markets like California and Hawaii, Republicans and Democrats install solar at nearly equal rates, says Eric Roberts of PowerScout. In more nascent markets, Democrats have slightly higher installation rates than Republicans. These findings hold throughout the country.   Cont'd...

EnergySage Releases Findings of 2016 Solar Installer Survey

EnergySage released today the results of its second annual Solar Installer Survey, the largest and most comprehensive business climate survey of solar companies nationwide. The report captures key observations of local, regional and national solar installers in both residential and commercial markets. More than 360 experienced solar installers across the United States responded to the survey, which was fielded and authored by EnergySage in partnership with pv magazine.  Among the central findings, over half of solar companies surveyed (53%) report that their largest obstacle in closing sales is the confusion created by their competitors and its impact on consumer confidence overall. Similarly, the survey reflects an increasing trend noted in last year's report: customer acquisition has become more challenging due to increased competition and consumers reviewing more quotes before buying. However, the study also reveals that installer confidence levels have increased nationwide in the last year.   Full Press Release:

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