New Material to Increase Solar Cell Efficiency

A team of researchers has come up with a solar cell that produces fuel rather than electricity. A material called gallium phosphide enables the solar cell to produce clean fuel hydrogen gas from liquid water. To connect an existing silicon solar cell to a battery that splits the water may well be an efficient solution; but it is very expensive. So, researchers were streamlining their search to a semi-conductor material that is able to both convert sunlight into an electrical charge and split water. The team found gallium phosphide (GaP), a compound of gallium and phosphide, useful in this respect. GaP has good electrical properties but the drawback is that it cannot easily absorb light when it is a large flat surface as used in GaP solar cells, said the study thatappeared in Nature Communications. The researchers overcame this by making a grid of very small GaP nanowires, measuring five hundred nanometres (a millionth of a millimetre) long and ninety nanometres thick. "That makes these kinds of cells potentially a great deal cheaper," said lead author Erik Bakkers from Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands.   Cont'd...

Renewable energy boom will mean vastly cheaper electricity

By Lucas Mearian, ComputerWorld:  Renewable energy, combined with prolific battery storage, will soon result in vastly cheaper electricity -- and solar power that's less expensive than what fossil fuel-based power plants can produce. Additionally, solar power with lithium-ion and flow-battery storage systems will make the combination of renewable energy so inexpensive that it will surpass nuclear power and obviate the need for futuristic power sources such as fusion. That was consensus view from a several keynote speeches delivered at the Intersolar Conference in San Francisco this week. Eicke Weber, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, said that in sun-rich countries, the cost of solar power is already below 5 cents per kilowatt and it will continue to plummet as battery storage systems become more prolific and less expensive. Cont'd...

South getting its first wind farm soon as bigger turbines make the region viable

By JASON DEAREN, Associated Press:  On a vast tract of old North Carolina farmland, crews are getting ready to build something the South has never seen: a commercial-scale wind energy farm. The $600 million project by Spanish developer Iberdrola Renewables LLC will put 102 turbines on 22,000 acres near the coastal community of Elizabeth City, with plans to add about 50 more. Once up and running, it could generate about 204 megawatts, or enough electricity to power about 60,000 homes. It would be the first large onshore wind farm in a region with light, fluctuating winds that has long been a dead zone for wind power. After a years-long regulatory process that once looked to have doomed the plan, Iberdrola spokesman Paul Copleman told The Associated Press that construction is to begin in about a month. Right now, there's not a spark of electricity generated from wind in nine states across the Southeast from Arkansas to Florida, according to data from the American Wind Energy Association, an industry trade group. But taller towers and bigger turbines are unlocking new potential in the South, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, and the industry is already looking to invest.   Cont'd...

Hydrogen Gas / Smoke Detector with Intrusion Alarm for Battery Room

From Eagle Eye Power Solutions: The Eagle Eye HGD-3000 Hydrogen Gas and Smoke Detector with (optional) Silent Intrusion Alarm is designed for unattended battery installations or remote shelters containing gassing lead acid batteries and charging systems... Lead-acid batteries on charge emit hydrogen gas after reaching the 80% recharge point. When mixed with enough air, hydrogen becomes a highly flammable gas that can ignite easily with just a spark, destroying equipment and harming personnel. The lower explosive level (LEL) for hydrogen is 4.1% by volume.  Hydrogen Gas Detection Attach the HGD-3000 to the wall, ceiling, or optional junction box using the mounting holes at the top and bottom of the detector box. The HGD-3000 will turn on an exhaust fan when hydrogen gas levels reach 1% and will alarm at 2%. This alarm consists of a local 80db horn, a flashing red LED, and a dry contact switch closure for remote alarming. Smoke Detection The photoelectric smoke sensor detects minute combustion products from smoldering wire insulation, battery cases, and other material. When smoke is detected, a distinctive alarm is emitted from the 80db horn and a separate dry contact switch is activated. At this time, the exhaust fan is inhibited in order to deny the fire increased oxygen from outside air. Temperature, Loss of Power, & Intrusion During normal operation and in the absence of an alarm condition, an internal thermostat will turn on the exhaust fan at a preset temperature to reduce heat buildup in the room. Loss of power to the unit will also generate a dry contact alarm. Additionally, an optional infrared intrusion alarm will trigger a silent dry contact switch. Product website

Obama Plan Would Give Poor Easier Access to Solar Energy

The Obama administration on Tuesday announced an initiative to help low- and middle-income Americans gain access to solar energy, part of a series of steps President Obama is taking to tackle climate change, according to administration officials. The administration said it intends to triple the capacity of solar and other renewable energy systems it installs in federally subsidized housing by 2020, make it easier for homeowners to borrow money for solar improvements and start a nationwide program to help renters gain access to solar energy, the officials said. The actions were announced in Baltimore by Brian Deese, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser for climate issues, and Representative Elijah E. Cummings, the Democrat who represents the city. Mr. Deese, in a conference call with reporters, called the moves “part of a bigger-picture effort to try to drive innovation” toward cleaner, low-carbon energy solutions. Also unveiled on Tuesday were commitments totaling more than $520 million from charities, investors, states and cities to pay for solar and energy-efficiency projects for lower-income communities.   Cont'd...

New benches that'll use solar power to charge your phone

This is the "Strawberry bench". The solar-powered smart bench (yes, really) collects energy via a solar panel on its roof, and uses it to power a range of functions: monitoring air quality, disseminating information about the local area, offering free power-ups for the phones of passers-by. This summer, four of these benches will be installed around Canary Wharf, the privately-owned office and retail estate at the heart of London's Docklands. The concept was the winner of the "Cognicity Challenge", a competition intended to find innovative proposals to use technology to create smarter urban environments (and, as a side effect, make everyone feel all warm and fuzzy towards the Canary Wharf Group). The name, incidentally, has nothing to do with actual Strawberries. The company behind them is Belgrade-based Strawberry Energy, whose previous products include the "Strawberry Tree", a vaguely familiar solar-powered mobile phone charge and wifi hub with a bench attached to it. Both products were the work of architect Milos Miliojevic.

Is India Ready to Be a Solar Power Leader?

By RUPA SUBRAMANYA for  Is India ripe for a renewable energy revolution? Foreign investors certainly seem to think so, and renewables have been a signature issue for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But if revolution is indeed underway, it isn’t a spontaneous one. And taxpayer money — not just from India — is fueling the surge. New Delhi’s renewable energy aspirations recently received a major boost when Japan’s SoftBank announced a joint venture with Indian conglomerate Bharti Enterprises and Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group to create a new, Japanese-owned company that will bid on power contracts in India’s growing solar sector. Renewable energy, including solar, is a priority for Modi and has been since before he became the country’s leader last year. “The time has arrived for a saffron revolution, and the color of energy is saffron,” he saidon the campaign trail in 2014, attempting to symbolically link the sacred color of Hindus and his Bharatiya Janata Party with his energy dream. This joint venture is the first major announcement by a foreign investor that could help make that dream a reality.   Cont'd...

New method can make cheaper solar energy storage

Storing solar energy as hydrogen is a promising way for developing comprehensive renewable energy systems. To accomplish this, traditional solar panels can be used to generate an electrical current that splits water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter being considered a form of solar fuel. However, the cost of producing efficient solar panels makes water-splitting technologies too expensive to commercialize. EPFL scientists have now developed a simple, unconventional method to fabricate high-quality, efficient solar panels for direct solar hydrogen production with low cost. The work is published in Nature Communications. Many different materials have been considered for use in direct solar-to-hydrogen conversion technologies but "2-D materials" have recently been identified as promising candidates. In general these materials—which famously include graphene—have extraordinary electronic properties. However, harvesting usable amounts of solar energy requires large areas of solar panels, and it is notoriously difficult and expensive to fabricate thin films of 2-D materials at such a scale and maintain good performance. Kevin Sivula and colleagues at EPFL addressed this problem with an innovative and cheap method that uses the boundary between two non-mixing liquids. The researchers focused on one of the best 2-D materials for solar water splitting, called "tungsten diselenide". Past studies have shown that this material has a great efficiency for converting solar energy directly into hydrogen fuel while also being highly stable.   Cont'd...

Start of test with solar energy generating noise barriers alongside highway

Alongside the A2 highway near Den Bosch, The Netherlands, two test noise barriers are installed that generate solar energy. The aim of this practical test, that was officially launched 18 June is to assess the economic and technical feasibility of this form of energy generating noise barriers. Playing a key role in the test are the LSC panels, developed by researcher Michael Debije at TU/e. The translucent, colored panels are a new type of energy source, developed jointly by TU/e. These 'luminescent solar concentrators' (LSCs) receive sun light and guide it to the side of the panels. There, it lands in concentrated form on traditional solar cells. "Thanks to their many colors the LSC are visually very attractive, which makes them ideal for use in many different situations in the built environment", explains Debije of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry, who has carried out years of research into these panels. "Further benefits are that the principle used is low cost, they can be produced in any desired, regular color, is robust, and the LSCs will even work when the sky is cloudy. That means it offers tremendous potential." Debije published his latest research findings on this subject last March in Nature. On 18 June a one-year practical test started in 's-Hertogenbosch, led by the building company Heijmans. The researchers intend to assess the feasibility of generating electricity using solar cells integrated in noise barriers or SONOBs (Solar Noise Barriers).   Cont'd...

Is Adding Solar Batteries Worth it?

Seeking to help states better address the value proposition of solar+storage systems, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. (IREC) engaged Clean Power Research (CPR) to develop a methodology that could be used to value solar energy coupled with battery storage. The methodology described in the report can be applied in any location. It focuses on Hawaii as an example, as it is likely to be an early adopter of storage regulations.  "The concept of adding batteries alongside a utility customer's solar array intrigues utility customers, solar developers, and utility planners on several levels, but the underlying question for everyone is whether adding batteries is 'worth it,'" says Jason Keyes, Partner at Keyes, Fox & Wiedman LLP, attorney for IREC and report collaborator.  Though still at a nascent stage, the recent rapid growth in the distributed energy storage market suggests that now is an opportune time to take a closer look at distributed energy storage, especially in combination with distributed solar, and the values it has to offer. The new IREC study lays out the methodology to do just that and sets forth a pathway for more robust analysis and dialogue.   Cont'd...  

Investment In Renewable Energy Yields More Jobs Than Fossil Fuel Sector

Joshua S Hill for CleanTechnica:  A new report has determined that investments in energy-efficient and renewable energy sources yield more jobs for a set amount of spending than investing in maintaining or expanding the fossil fuel industry. [wind turbine cowboy jobs] The report, Global Green Growth: Clean Energy Industrial Investment and Expanding Job Opportunities, was published earlier this week and presented at the Vienna Energy Forum 2015 by its two authors, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). “Significant progress has already been made in overcoming the hitherto conventional wisdom that taking steps to cut GHGs is incompatible with economic growth,” said Yvo de Boer, Director-General of GGGI. “This report moves the debate another positive step forward by showing that employment and development result from sustainable, green growth.”

24M Introduces the Semisolid Lithium-Ion Battery

Today, 24M emerged from stealth mode to introduce the semisolid lithium-ion cell, a revolutionary technology that solves the grand challenge of energy storage by enabling a new, cost-effective class of the lithium-ion battery. 24M’s semisolid lithium-ion is the most significant advancement in lithium-ion technology in more than two decades and combines an overhaul in battery cell design with a series of manufacturing innovations that, when fully implemented, will slash today’s lithium-ion costs by 50% and improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries. The technology will accelerate the global adoption of affordable energy storage. Until now, the energy storage field has had two options to try to drive down costs – build massive and complex factories to produce lithium-ion batteries in high volumes or pursue entirely new chemistries that may never move from the lab to the commercial floor. With the invention of the semisolid lithium-ion battery, 24M presents a third option – work with the world’s preferred energy storage chemistry and unlock new opportunities for cost reductions through new cell design and manufacturing innovations. 24M’s platform is the most significant advancement in lithium-ion technology since its debut more than 20 years ago.

Trina Solar to Invest $500 Million in India-Based Solar Plant

Per a media report, Trina Solar Limited is going to invest $500 million for building a 2-gigawatt solar module plant in India in partnership with Welspun Energy Ltd. The plant's output will be exported to the U.S. and European markets, which have imposed punitive trade duties on solar shipments from China.  The facility will be built in either Gujarat or Andhra Pradesh. Construction of the plant will be completed in two phases over a period of about 18 months. 

Nissan to incorporate used Leaf batteries in home energy storage system

Following in the footsteps of Tesla and Mercedes-Benz, Nissan is now set to become the latest automaker to offer battery packs for stationary energy storage. Although pricing information has yet to be provided, the Nissan product should be relatively affordable, as it will incorporate used batteries from Nissan Leaf electric cars. Nissan designed the battery packs as part of the 4R Energy joint venture with Sumitomo Corp., and has partnered with commercial energy storage company Green Charge Networks to manufacture them. While Nissan is the source of the actual "second life" lithium-ion batteries that no longer meet the demands of automotive use, Green Charge is providing the power management software. According to Nissan, this is the first time that used EV batteries have been commercially utilized for such an application. "A lithium-ion battery from a Nissan Leaf still holds a great deal of value as energy storage, even after it is removed from the vehicle, so Nissan expects to be able to reuse a majority of Leaf battery packs in non-automotive applications," says Brad Smith, director of Nissan's 4R Energy business in the US.   Cont'd..

Designer Carbons Are Getting a Boost from Nanotechnology

By Richard Martin for The MIT Technology Review:  A group of Stanford researchers have come up with a nanoscale “designer carbon” material that can be adjusted to make energy storage devices, solar panels, and potentially carbon capture systems more powerful and efficient. The designer carbon that has reached the market in recent years shares the Swiss-cheese-like structure of activated carbon, enhancing its ability to catalyze certain chemical reactions and store electrical charges; but it’s “designed” in the sense that the chemical composition of the material, and the size of the pores, can be manipulated to fit specific uses. The designer carbon tested at Stanford is “both versatile and controllable,” according to Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering and the senior author of the study, which appeared in the latest issue of the journal ACS Central Science. “Producing high-surface-area carbons with controlled chemical composition and morphology is really challenging,” says Bao. Other methods currently available, she says, “are either quite expensive or they don’t offer control over the chemical structure and morphology.”   Cont'd...

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