An Israeli Company is building a 20-hour-per-day solar power plant

Israel's Brenmiller Energy said on Monday it will build a 300 million shekel ($77.27 million) solar power field using an energy storage technology that will generate electricity for about 20 hours a day. The 10-megawatt field, to be built on about 110 acres (45 hectares) in the desert town of Dimona in southern Israel, will combine existing solar thermal technology with an underground system that stores heat for use at night. Brenmiller Energy said it hopes to complete the field in early 2017, and will then sell electricity through the grid. During the four hours of the day that solar energy is insufficient, the company said it will use biomass to produce power. The company already has a working proof-of-concept for the storage system.   A spokesman said Brenmiller Energy will fund the 10-megawatt project itself, in part to help promote the system to clients worldwide.  

Apple is building a solar-powered data "command center" in Arizona

From Quartz:  Apple’s sapphire plant project in Arizona didn’t work out, so Apple is investing another $2 billion to convert the facility into a massive data center, the Wall Street Journal’s Daisuke Wakabayashi reports:   The company plans to employ 150 full-time Apple staff at the Mesa, Arizona, facility, which will serve as a command center for its global network of data centers. In addition to the investment for the data center, Apple plans to build a solar farm capable of producing 70-megawatts of energy to power the facility.   For context of what a 70-megawatt solar facility entails, one Arizona solar plant, Solana, says its output is 280 megawatts, supplying some 70,000 houses with clean energy. Apple boasts that it is “the only company in our industry whose data centers are powered by 100% renewable energy.”   The announcement comes after Apple’s sapphire partner, GT Advanced Technologies, filed for bankruptcy last year. The facility was to “produce 30 times as much sapphire as any other plant in the world,” Wakabayashi wrote last year. At the time, Apple was already consuming “one-fourth of the world’s supply of sapphire to cover the iPhone’s camera lens and fingerprint reader.”

Canadian Solar to Acquire Recurrent Energy from Sharp Corporation for $265 Million

Canadian Solar Inc. (the “Company”, or “Canadian Solar”) (NASDAQ: CSIQ), one of the world’s largest solar power companies, today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement with Sharp Corporation (TSE: 6753) to acquire Recurrent Energy, LLC (“Recurrent”), a leading North American solar energy developer, for approximately $265 million.   Once completed, the acquisition of Recurrent will increase Canadian Solar’s total solar project pipeline by approximately 4.0 GW to 8.5 GW, and its late-stage project pipeline by approximately 1.0 GW to 2.4 GW. Located in California and Texas, Recurrent’s 1.0 GW late-stage pipeline is one of the largest utility-scale project portfolios scheduled to be built prior to the ITC expiration in 2016, and represents an estimated revenue opportunity of at least $2.3 billion for Canadian Solar under a build and sell business model.    The transaction further expands Canadian Solar’s position as a leading solar energy developer, with a globally diversified project pipeline in low risk geographies. In addition, this transaction broadens Canadian Solar’s project development and financing capabilities, and enhances the Company’s position for creating its own Yield-Co in the quarters ahead.   "The acquisition of Recurrent is an important milestone for us as it significantly expands and strengthens our position in the North American market, and places Canadian Solar firmly among the leading global solar energy companies," said Dr. Shawn Qu, Canadian Solar Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.  "By combining Canadian Solar’s global reach and experience with Recurrent’s proven solar energy development track record in the US and Canada, we are significantly expanding the scale of our solar energy development platform. At the same time, this transaction broadens our strategic options to extend our business model from development and construction into potential ownership and operation of solar power plants as we work to create additional value for our shareholders."  

Wind power auction draws limited interest

Boston Globe:  Are falling energy prices and the collapse of the Cape Wind project undermining other offshore wind projects?   A federal government auction of four leases to build wind farms off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard drew little interest, selling for a fraction of what previous auctions raised recently.   Just two of 12 qualified bidders participated in the auction Thursday by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to sell wind development rights for a 1,161-square-mile swath of ocean about 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. Two of the four leases did not receive any bids.   One of the winning bidders, the renewable energy company RES Americas, paid $281,285 to lease 187,523 acres, while the second, New Jersey-based MW Offshore LLC, paid $166,886 for 166,886 acres.   That works out to just $1.50 and $1 per acre, respectively, for each lease.   In contrast, Deepwater Wind New England LLC paid about $23 an acre in 2013 with its winning bid of $3.8 million for a nearby stretch of ocean closer to Rhode Island. The federal ocean energy bureau has also sold offshore leases off the coasts of Virginia and Maryland.   Despite the poor showing, officials noted the new leases would nearly double the amount of acreage the bureau has leased for offshore wind power through competitive sales.  

Worry for Solar Projects After End of Tax Credits

NY Times:  For more than a year now, an enormous solar thermal power plant has been humming along in the Arizona desert, sending out power as needed, even well after sunset. The plant, called Solana, was developed by the Spanish energy and technology company Abengoa and has succeeded in meeting an elusive solar goal — producing electricity when the sun is not shining — and displacing fossil-fuel-based power in the grid.   “With the sun going down at 6 or 7 o’clock at night, all the other forms of solar production are essentially going to zero,” said Brad Albert, general manager for resource management at Arizona Public Service, the state’s main utility, “while Solana is still producing at full power capability. It just adds a whole lot of value to us because our customer demand is so high even after the sun goes down.”   Indeed, Abengoa opened another mammoth plant on Friday in the Mojave Desert in California that uses the same approach. But despite the technology’s success, Abengoa and other developers say they do not have plans at the moment to build more such plants in the United States.   And that is largely because of uncertainty surrounding an important tax credit worth 30 percent of a project’s cost. Although the subsidy, known as the Investment Tax Credit, is to remain in place until the end of 2016, when it will drop to 10 percent, that does not give developers enough time to get through the long process of securing land, permits, financing and power-purchase agreements, executives and analysts say.

America's wind installations grew six-fold in 2014

America's wind installations grew six-fold in 2014, making the United States the world's second-largest wind market behind China, according to new figures out today from research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance.  US installations reached 4.7GW, thanks to the extension of the Production Tax Credit in January 2013. The extension allowed projects to qualify by starting construction before the deadline.  While the US returned to growth, China continued its pattern of record-setting installations up 38% from 2013. In 2014, China installed 20.7GW – over four times more than the US – and more than 40% of all new capacity worldwide. For perspective, China has been the world's largest wind market for six years, since overtaking the US. China now has 96GW of grid-connected wind energy capacity, or more capacity than the entire power fleet of the United Kingdom. Wind energy is the country's third-largest power source behind coal and hydropower, and ahead of nuclear.  China's banner year was the result of a policy-driven rush to build, as onshore tariffs are expected to lower this year. The top five Chinese turbine manufacturers Goldwind, Guodian United Power, Envision, Ming Yang, and Sewind led the market with a combined 12.4GW, or 60% of total installed capacity. 

Amazon Invests In 150MW Indiana Wind Farm To Power Its Data Centers

From TechCrunch:    Amazon today announced that it is working with the Pattern Energy Group to construct and operate a 150 megawatt wind farm in Benton County, Indiana. The new wind farm will go online in about a year and the expectation is that it will supply at least 500,000 megawatt hours of wind power annually. That’s enough to power about 46,000 U.S. homes, but the “Amazon Web Services Wind Farm (Fowler Ridge)” — that’s the full name of what was previously called the “Fowler Ridge IV Wind Project” — will only be used to power Amazon’s AWS data centers. Amazon is not disclosing the financial details of this project, but Pattern Energy notes that this is a 13-year agreement.   As Amazon announced last November, its long-term goal is “to achieve 100 percent renewable energy usage for the global AWS infrastructure footprint.” That’s a noble goal, but given that there is no date associated with these plans, it’s a bit hard to hold Amazon accountable for it. For now, Amazon offers its users three carbon-neutral regions: US West (Oregon), EU (Frankfurt) and its AWS GovCloud.

Recycling firm unveils city's first commercial wind turbine

As the wind whipped off the East River Wednesday morning, Sims Municipal Recycling officially launched the city's tallest and only commercial-scale wind turbine, at its recycling center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.   The 160-foot-tall turbine has the capacity to produce 100 kilowatts, or 4 percent of Sims' power needs. Built by Northern Power Systems, the turbine cost roughly $750,000.   Tom Outerbridge, Sims' general manager for recycling, said he hoped the turbine would be the first of many for the city.   "On a practical level, it's offsetting our electricity costs," he said during an event to christen the turbine. "For the city, I like to think it's important that it's trying to break new ground and start to carve a path for wind projects to take off."   The project took roughly four years to complete, mainly because of permitting. New York State Energy and Research Development kicked in about $130,000 as part of a statewide incentive program.

Report: Forget Stocks, Invest In Solar Panels

From ThinkProgress:   A new study by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center finds that in all but 4 of the 50 largest cities in the U.S., installing a fully-financed 5 kilowatt solar panel system makes more financial sense than investing in a popular stock market index fund. Further, the same system would beat the costs of buying energy from local utilities in 42 of those 50 cities.   “(S)olar is now not just an option for the rich, but a real opportunity for anyone looking to take greater control over their monthly utility bills and make a long-term, relatively low-risk investment,” concludes the study which was done under funding by the U.S. Department of Energy.   A key qualifier in this good news study is that the benefits of installing residential solar photovoltaic systems are greatest when homeowners finance the systems (at an assumed annual interest rate of 5 percent) rather than buying them upfront. And the study does not investigate the availability of such loans. The study finds that in upfront purchases of solar, residents in just 14 out of the 50 largest U.S. cities would pay less for electricity than if they buy from their local utility. That upfront investment would be a better investment than the broad stock market index fund in 20 of the 50 cities.   Cont'd....

U.K. And Germany Smash Wind Power Records

The United Kingdom blew past previous wind power records in 2014 while Germany generated a record amount of electricity from wind in December, setting the stage for 2015 to bring more industry growth across Europe. Exactly how quickly it grows, however, is contingent upon several political and regulatory decisions to come.   Using statistics from the U.K.’s National Grid, the trade association RenewableUK found that wind generated enough electricity to power just over 25 percent of U.K. homes in 2014 — a 15 percent increase from 2013. Wind turbines provided 9.3 percent of the U.K’s total electricity supply last year, a 1.5 percent boost from 2013.   “It’s great to start 2015 with some good news about the massive quantities of clean electricity we’re now generating from wind,” said RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive Maf Smith.   In December, Germany generated more wind power, 8.9 terawatt-hours, than in any previous month. According to the IWR renewable energy research institute, this record will be overtaken in 2015 as more offshore wind farms come online.

Tree-Shaped Wind Turbines Blend Into the Scenery

Some people complain that solar panels and wind turbines are so unattractive, they’d prefer not to see them at all.   To them we offer New Wind, alternative energy generators that look like trees. The 36-foot-tall steel structure is perfect for urban environments, where a conventional wind turbine might not fit.   Seventy-two artificial leaves that work as micro-turbines adorn the branches and spin silently on a vertical axis. Cables and generators have been integrated into the leaves and branches in a way that puts them out of sight and sound.   The beautiful and functional device is the brainchild of French entrepreneur Jérôme Michaud-Larivière, who said the idea for a tree-inspired wind generator came to him one day while sitting in a square, watching the leaves on nearby trees tremble in a breeze. He wondered if energy could be generated in a similar way.   Indeed, it can. At the moment, each tree has a power output estimated at 3.1 kW.

Sunflower Floating Solar Power Plant In Korea

South Korean PV module manufacturer SolarPark Korea has supplied modules to the first floating solar PV power plant in the country, the prototype Sunflower Solar Power Plant, which uses a tracking and rotating system. According to SolarPark Korea, the tracking system rotates the PV plant so that the modules face the most sun throughout the day. As the facility floats on water, it does not take much energy to do this, just a small amount of power being used from the plant for the rotation of the entire system. It is a 465 kWp system and around 8,000 square meters in size. SolarPark Korea supplied 1,550 72-cell multicrystalline modules for the test project. The cooling effect of the water on the modules should prove to show an additional 10% increase in energy production — when compared to a ground-mounted system.   Such floating PV power plants do other things as well. They reduce algae growth, for example. Additionally, they have the ability to merge as hatcheries for fish inhabiting the area. Due to the easy rotation and the resulting exposure to maximum sunlight, the Sunflower Solar Power Plant’s production efficiency is 22% higher than a comparable ground-mounted PV plant.

Solar Energy Becoming a Key Component in the Connected Home

Some of the most important innovations happening in energy today are happening far from the national media headlines. But these small changes will go a long way to making power more reliable, competitive, and local, with solar energy playing a central disruptive role that could dominate energy in the next century. One of those moves happened yesterday, when  SunPower  bought a $20 million stake in Tendril and agreed to license its Energy Services Management Platform software. Here's what the deal means over the next few years. At its core, Tendril is essentially an energy data company. It collects and analyzes data about consumers' energy usage patterns, primarily learned from partnerships with utilities. SunPower can use this data in its installations to optimize a home's renewable energy consumption, provide stored energy when it's needed, adapt to changing policies for solar, and even improve sales by finding its ideal customers. You can think of SunPower's capabilities with Tendril as a piece of the home of the future. SunPower will provide local energy production with solar panels, and with energy storage and connected devices SunPower can intelligently plan energy production and consumption based on consumers' desires. If a consumer wants to consume as little energy as possible the system can be set for that, just as it could be set to consume as much of your own energy production, or optimize for cost if there are rewards for sending energy to the grid at peak times. All of this will work in the background, similar to a car's eco mode, but it'll work to make energy more dynamic and controllable for consumers.

U.S. Imposes Steep Tariffs on Chinese Solar Panels

The Commerce Department began closing a chapter in a protracted trade conflict with China over solar equipment Tuesday, approving a collection of steep tariffs on imports from China and Taiwan.   The decision, intended to close a loophole that had allowed Chinese manufacturers to avoid tariffs imposed in an earlier ruling by using cells — a major module component — made in Taiwan, found that the companies were selling products below the cost of manufacture and that the Chinese companies were benefiting from unfair subsidies from their government.   The department announced anti-dumping duties of 26.71 percent to 78.42 percent on imports of most solar panels made in China, and rates of 11.45 percent to 27.55 percent on imports of solar cells made in Taiwan. In addition, the department announced anti-subsidy duties of 27.64 percent to 49.79 percent for Chinese modules.   “These remedies come just in time to enable the domestic industry to return to conditions of fair trade,” said Mukesh Dulani, president of SolarWorld Americas. “The tariffs and scope set the stage for companies to create new jobs and build or expand factories on U.S. soil.”   But others in the industry were quick to criticize the ruling.

Will New Technologies Give Critical Boost to Solar Power?

Today, despite recent progress, solar power accounts for about one percent of the world’s energy mix. Yet the International Energy Agency (IEA) says that solar energy, most of it generated by decentralized “rooftop” photovoltaic systems, could well become the world’s single biggest source of electricity by mid-century.    So how do we get from here to there?    The answer, according to scientists and engineers, lies in a new generation of super-efficient, low-cost sunlight harvesters that take up where the recent flood of cheap silicon panels leaves off. New designs and novel solar materials have recently been setting new efficiency records seemingly every week. Although research and development of solar power still falls far short of where scientists and engineers say it needs to be, innovators are making steady progress in creating a new generation of materials that can harvest the sun’s energy far more efficiently than traditional silicon photovoltaic cells.   Among the most promising technologies are multi-junction cells with layers of light-harvesters that each gather energy from a separate slice of the solar spectrum, super-efficient semiconductor materials like perovskite and gallium-arsenide, and cells made with tiny but powerful solar-absorbing “quantum dots.” Technical hurdles, such as making new materials able to withstand the elements, remain. Nonetheless, researchers say, efforts now underway could begin to dramatically increase solar power generation within a decade or two. Cont'd...  

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