Small-scale solar power growing in the United States

By Daniel J. Graeber for UPI.com:  Small-scale solar installations in the United States account for about a third of the overall capacity on the grid, a report from the federal government said. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates total U.S. solar-power output in September, the last full month for which data are available, at 3.5 million megawatt hours. Of that, just more than 30 percent came from small-scale solar installations. "Generation from roof-top photovoltaic systems has become an increasingly important part of total solar generation in the United States," EIA AdministratorAdam Sieminski said in an emailed statement. A September report from the Solar Energy Industries Association, with support from green energy market adviser GTM Research, found second quarter residential solar capacity grew 70 percent year-on-year to 473 megawatts.   Cont'd...

Why Solar Power Could Hit a Ceiling

There could be a limit on how much solar power can grow. That’s because the more solar power we add to the grid, the less valuable it becomes. It’s a simple supply-and-demand story: solar reaches peak generation during sunny afternoons, but there’s a limited demand for such additional power during those times. As a result, solar begins to compete with itself, driving down the price that utilities are willing to pay generators. Solar power accounts for less than 1 percent of the world’s electricity generation today, but as more is added to the energy mix, the economics become increasingly unfavorable. Shayle Kann, head of GTM Research, and Varun Sivaram, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, cite recent studies of the grids in Texas and Germany that suggest the value of solar will be cut in half by the time it makes up 15 percent of the energy mix. A study of California’s grid concluded that if solar power were to reach 50 percent of the grid, it would be only a quarter as valuable as it was before any solar had been added. Kann and Sivaram combined the data from those studies to make the comparison below.   Cont'd...

German battery maker launches scheme to share solar power

Reporting by Vera Eckert for Reuters:  German battery maker Sonnenbatterie has launched a scheme to connect households with solar panels and other consumers, aiming to better distribute surpluses of the renewable energy and help members to become more independent of conventional suppliers. The start-up company hopes the scheme, called "sonnenCommunity", will boost demand for its batteries which store solar power, allowing owners to use the clean energy even when weather conditions are not favourable. SonnenCommunity takes the storage idea a step further, allowing solar power to be shared among its members. Sonnenbatterie said the scheme would initially target the 1.5 million solar power producers who, if they sign up to the community, will receive a battery storage system with a starting price of 3,599 euros ($3,812). But eventually, the offer will also be open to non-producers, it added. If the idea of battery-powered buildings takes off, it could pose a challenge to traditional utilities such as RWE and E.ON, which still derive the bulk of their power from big centralised power stations running on fossil fuels.   Full Article:

70% of Mongolian nomads now have solar power

by MIHAI ANDREI for ZME Science:  In many the vast steppes of Mongolia, some things have remained unchanged for centuries. But some things have changed, and big time: according to a new report, almost 3 out of 4 Mongolian nomads are now using solar power. Even if your lifestyle is pretty much Medieval, you can still benefit from advanced technology – that’s the reasoning behind a new government initiative that encourages nomads to use solar power. Mongolia is a geographically large but sparsely populated country. Covering over 600,000 square miles, it only has a population of 3 million people. About 1.2 million of Mongolia’s citizens live in the urban capital of Ulaanbaatar, while the remaining population is widely dispersed throughout the country with a large number residing in rural areas. In total, about a quarter of the population consists of nomadic herders. The per capita income in Mongolia at the start of the millennium was about US$470 per year, with income amongst herders even lower.   Cont'd...

Mercedes Is Proposing A Novel Solution To Meet Energy Storage Demand

By Michael McDonald for OilPrice.com :  Ever since Tesla announced its PowerWall battery project earlier this year, interest in stationary storage and battery technology in general has been explosive. Now, Mercedes Benz has put together an interesting project built around recycled batteries that might help drive even more interest in grid scale utility storage and help to blend the consumer and commercial markets for batteries. Under Mercedes’ new project, a consortium of companies is going to create the world’s largest grid storage facility using used batteries in Lunen, Germany. The project will have the capacity to store 13 megawatts of power (enough to meet the demand of 130,000 homes) based on reusing automotive batteries. The basic premise is that when the battery from an electric vehicle or a plug-in hybrid vehicle is no longer reliable enough to start a car, it still has up to 80% of its original storage capacity remaining. As a result, a large series of these batteries can be connected to store energy from renewable sources like solar and wind power.   Cont'd...

Toronto Hydro to test world's first underwater energy storage system

Dario Balca , CTV Toronto:  Toronto Hydro has announced it will launch the world’s first-ever underwater energy storage system in Lake Ontario. The utility has partnered with Hydrostor Inc., a company that specializes in innovative energy storage systems, for a two-year-pilot project intended to create a backup for the city’s electricity grid big enough to power approximately 350 homes. "We're very excited to see this new technology in action,” said Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines. “Toronto Hydro has been very busy exploring new ways to power our grid, and I think this is the most creative project we've been involved in so far. Supporting innovative solutions for Toronto's power needs will continue to be a focus for our organization." The system works by taking electrical energy and converting it into compressed air so that it can be stored under water in large, balloon-like structures. The storage facility will be located three kilometres off the southern tip of the Toronto Island and 55 metres under water. When the city’s electricity grid needs power, crews will open a valve that lets the pressurized air out. The air is then converted back into electricity and fed into the grid.   Cont'd...

Innovative energy storage project to be unveiled by Ryerson, eCamion

GREG KEENAN - The Globe and Mail:  Ryerson University in Toronto and a high-tech startup company called eCamion Inc. will unveil a pilot project Wednesday that allows energy to be stored in a unit that sits on hydro poles. An eCamion storage unit combined with a smart controller developed by Ryerson researchers and students will enable utilities such as Toronto Hydro to store power, integrate more renewable power and improve the reliability of the system, the company and Ryerson say. The unit uses lithium-ion batteries that charge during off-peak hours of hydro usage and discharge during peak hours. One of the benefits if the storage devices win widespread adoption is better availability of power for recharging electric vehicles, said Hari Subramanian, eCamion’s chief executive officer. “These are the enabling technologies you need for electric vehicles to really have an uptake,” Mr. Subramanian said. In many areas, the current hydro infrastructure could not handle the demand if several electric vehicles in a small section of a city were being recharged at the same time, he said. The storage device allows utilities to “flex their grid” to meet varying demands at various times, he said.   Cont'd...

Will Solar Energy Plummet if the Investment Tax Credit Fades Away?

Wall Street Journal:  Many supporters say the abrupt end date of the 30% credit represents a “cliff” for the industry. Without the current incentive, they argue, installation of solar-power systems will plummet, and thousands of jobs in the industry will be lost as a result. Others, however, argue that the cliff isn’t as steep as it appears, and that solar will continue to grow even without the 30% credit—albeit not as quickly as before. Amit Ronen, director of the GW Solar Institute and a professor at the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy at George Washington University, argues that the end of the 30% credit will send solar off a cliff. John Farrell, director of the Democratic Energy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, says the impact of the tax credit is overstated and the solar market will continue to rise.  Full Article:

Large solar projects can be done responsibly

BY SHANNON EDDY, Special to The Bee:  As the seventh-largest economy in the world and a clean-energy leader, California plays a key role in shaping the global response to climate change. The benefits of our leadership will be on the world stage later this month during the international climate talks in Paris. Over several decades, California has successfully advanced the development of renewable energy resources. As a result, the state boasts the highest concentration of solar projects in the nation, including several of the world’s largest. Large-scale solar power plants are enabling California to meet the goals of reducing carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and generating 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Eleakis & Elder Photography As with any fast-growing, successful industry, it’s essential to ask questions about unintended consequences. We agree it is important to evaluate how the environmental benefits of large-scale solar – carbon reduction, reduced water use and improved local air quality – compare to any negative consequences for people and the environment.   Cont'd...

Honoring Our Veterans through Jobs in Solar Energy

From the Department of Energy - On Veterans Day, we honor the more than 21 million living American veterans. Here at the Department of Energy, we are honored to have the opportunity to express our gratitude to veterans of previous wars, welcome home those who have recently served, and thank the future veterans who still stand sentry for our nation. The Department of Energy is working hard to open doors to career opportunities for veterans in the dynamic solar industry, which now employs more than 174,000 people -- more than auto and light truck manufacturing -- and has been adding jobs 20 times faster than the wider economy. Already, we are proud that veterans make up more than 10 percent of the solar industry workforce.   Cont'd...

Solar Power Thrives In Chile, No Subsidies Needed

William Pentland, Contributor for Forbes:  In Chile’s most recent power auction, the bids from solar project developers came in at between $65 and $68 per megawatt hour (MWh) were considerably more competitive than bids made by coal plants, which were priced at $85 per MWh. Solar power projects were awarded the lion’s share of the 1,200 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity contracts sold. Chile boasts one of the world’s biggest solar resources. High electricity prices and strong demand from Chile’s mining industry have driven demand growth for solar, especially large scale commercial or utility projects. The total installed solar capacity in Chile increased from less than 4 MW in 2013 to more than 220 MW last year. Nearly 1 GW of solar is projected to be installed in Chile in 2015. Meanwhile, a total of about 8 GW of solar power projects have been approved for development in Chile. First Solar and SunEdison are two of the biggest U.S. solar companies active in Chile.   Cont'd...

Say Goodbye to Solar Power Subsidies

Mark Chediak & Chris Martin for Bloomberg Businessweek:  In 2016 the U.S. will learn if renewable energy can survive without government support. The most significant tax credit for solar power will expire at the end of 2016, and the biggest one for wind already has. These federal subsidies have provided wind and solar developers with as much as $24 billion from 2008 to 2014, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That’s led to a 12-fold increase in installed capacity over the past decade, helping lower costs at least 10 percent each year. Combined, wind and solar still generate less than 5 percent of electricity in the U.S. The subsidy cuts come as both industries face stiffer competition from ultracheap coal and natural gas. An NYSE Bloomberg global index of solar stocks, including those of big developers SunEdison and First Solar, has fallen about 35 percent since June. A comparable wind index is down 20 percent.   Cont'd...

Research Report - Better Biofuels Ahead - The Road to Low-Carbon Fuels

By Emily Cassidy, Research Analyst for EWG.org:  Biofuels produced from switchgrass and post-harvest corn waste could significantly reduce the emissions that contribute to climate change, according to an analysis by EWG and University of California biofuels experts. EWG’s analysis found that the life cycle carbon intensity of cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass was 47 percent lower than that of gasoline. Ethanol made from corn stover – the leaves and stalks that remain in the field after the grain is harvested – has a life-cycle carbon intensity 96 percent lower than gasoline’s.[1] By contrast, studies have found that the life cycle carbon intensity of corn ethanol is greater than that of gasoline (Mullins et al. 2010, EPA, 2010a). Yet current federal policies strongly favor the production of conventional biofuels such as corn ethanol at the expense of lower-carbon alternatives.    View full article...

UK building the world's largest offshore wind farm

By Kelly Hodgkins for Digital Trends:  Danish state-owned company Dong Energy A/S plans to set a new world record for the world’s largest offshore wind farm, breaking the existing record currently held by the 630-megawatt London Array, another facility built by Dong. The new U.K. wind farm will be located in the Irish Sea, about 12 miles off the west coast of Great Britain.​ When commissioned, it will provide enough energy to power almost a half million homes. It’s no surprise that Dong is behind this effort, as it is Denmark’s largest energy company and the world’s largest developer of offshore wind power. The company has a longstanding relationship with the UK, constructing and, in some cases, operating multiple offshore wind facilities, including those in Barrow, Burbo Bank, and Walney Island. Between these projects and others in Germany, Dong now has a total of 5.1 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity. It aims to expand this capacity even further with a projected goal of 6.5 gigawatts of offshore wind energy production by 2020.   Cont'd...

Thin film perovskite solar cell passes the efficiency test

Matthew Gunther for Chemistry World:  Perovskite solar cells may one day rival silicon-based technologies, but their performance outside the laboratory has been a constant source of contention in the past year. Now, an international team of scientists has manufactured the first thin film perovskite solar cell with a reported efficiency that has beenofficially recognised by an accredited national test laboratory.1 Since their development in 2012, the performance of light-harvesting metal–organo halide structures has seemingly improved at a staggering rate, with their efficiency increasing by six percentage points in just two years – the same increase took multi-crystalline solar cells over two decades. But their stability has been brought into question, with some international test centres taking issue with perovskite solar cells that are so unstable that they may degrade spontaneously in air, making it hard for them to assess their performance. It’s a state of affairs that Michael Grätzel from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland has had trouble dealing with. ‘Conspicuously, you could see that from the very beginning there was very scarce information on the stability of these devices,’ comments Grätzel. ‘I have raised that issue many times – one would think that now everybody does stability work after this alarm was sounded, but not so.'   Cont'd...

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