SolarCity is already the largest installer of residential solar panels in the United States. Now the company is going a step further, buying up solar manufacturer Silevo and planning to build one of the world's biggest solar-panel factories in upstate New York.
The immediate goal here is vertical integration. The company, which was co-founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, wants to handle all aspects of the solar supply chain, from design to manufacturing to sales to installation. It's basically the Apple model — only for solar panels.
But SolarCity's ultimate aspiration is to drive down prices dramatically. In a call on Tuesday, Musk said that the aim was "to have solar power compete on an unsubsidized basis with fossil-fuel energy from the grid." (The company was also founded by brothers Lyndon and Peter Rive, who currently run it.)
Is that doable? SolarCity has had success with its current business model — offering rooftop solar systems at no upfront cost to customers who make monthly payments spread out over many years. The company now handles 25 percent of all US residential solar installations — and is aiming for 1 million customers by 2018. This latest move means SolarCity will be able to produce its own panels for these systems and try to lower its costs even further.
A new report from NREL, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, could help spur the development of more utility scale concentrating solar power plants with thermal energy storage features while boosting the market for solar cells, too. The report indicates that CSP/energy storage projects could add value to utility scale solar energy in California, and they would enable more solar cell development by creating additional grid flexibility.
California’s ambitious renewable energy goal for 2020 also plays a key role, so keep in mind that the NREL added-value findings for thermal energy storage are transferable to only to other states with similar aspirations.
Residential Energy Generation and Storage Will Reach $71.6 Billion in Annual Revenue by 2023, Forecasts Navigant Research
Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, which enable customers to generate some of their own electricity and sell unneeded power back to their utility, are the most visible form of the broad disruption caused by distributed energy resources (DER). The growing affordability of DER technologies is altering utilities’ traditional relationship with residential customers by giving customers greater control of their energy consumption. According to a new report from Navigant Research, worldwide revenue from all forms of residential distributed generation and energy storage will grow from $52.7 billion annually in 2014 to $71.6 billion in 2023.
Intersolar Europe, the world's largest exhibition for the solar industry and its partners, pays tribute to the solar industry's innovative strength for the seventh time. The ten most innovative companies were honored during an official ceremony that took place today at Intersolar Europe's Innovation Exchange. The Intersolar AWARD was presented to groundbreaking solutions in the categories of Photovoltaics (PV) and Solar Projects in Europe. For the first time, the electrical energy storage (ees) AWARD recognizes innovations in battery and energy storage technology.
This year, around 3,500 companies from all international Intersolar exhibitions and the electrical energy storage (ees) exhibition were invited to impress the jury with their innovations. Applicants could only put forward products, projects, services and solutions which were undergoing testing, which were already in use or which showed significant developments to existing technologies at the time of submission. All solar projects had to have been completed within the last two years. The assessment criteria reflected the challenges posed by the market. Experts examined the degree of technological innovation, the benefit for industry, the environment and society, the economic viability of the solution and proof of its innovative quality.
The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday released a draft rule to regulate carbon emissions from hundreds of fossil-fired power plants across the U.S., the cornerstone of President Barack Obama's climate-change agenda. The proposed rule mandates that power plants cut U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions 30% by 2030 from levels seen in 2005, an aggressive target that marks the first attempt at limiting such pollution.
The carbon framework seeks to strike a balance between what environmentalists want—an ambitious overall target—with what the utility industry wants—flexibility, a long compliance timeline and an earlier base-year calculation from which to meet the goal. Carbon emissions have dropped since 2005, making the overall reduction smaller than it would have been if the EPA had used a more-recent year for a baseline.
U.S. Residential Solar PV Installations Exceeded Commercial Installations for the First Time in Q1 2014
Driven by strong year-over-year growth in the utility and residential markets, the United States installed 1,330 megawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) in the first quarter of 2014. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industry Association’s (SEIA) Q1 2014 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, the U.S. installed 232 megawatts of residential PV, exceeding the non-residential (commercial) market’s 225 megawatts for the first time in the history of the report.
Ongoing strength in the residential sector and volatility in the non-residential market spurred this historic milestone. Despite the dip in non-residential installations, GTM Research and SEIA expect the market to rebound and exceed the residential market in 2014 annual PV installations.
In another significant development, Q1 2014 was the largest quarter ever for concentrating solar power (CSP) due to the completion of the 392 megawatt (AC) Ivanpah project and the Genesis Solar project’s second 125 megawatt (AC) phase. With a total of 857 megawatts expected to be completed by year’s end, 2014 is on pace to be the largest year for CSP in history.
“Solar accounted for 74% of all new U.S. electric capacity installed in Q1 2014, further signaling the rapidly increasing role that solar is playing in the energy market,” said Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President at GTM Research. “Expect to see a resurgence in the non-residential market, combined with continued incremental residential growth, throughout the rest of this year.”
Not to be outshone by the success of the residential sector, the utility PV market continued its dominance, growing 171% between Q1 2013 and Q1 2014. With 873 megawatts installed, it accounted for two-thirds of total installations during the quarter. Large-scale projects that were under contracts and negotiations between 2010 and 2012 are now becoming a reality.
In an almond orchard outside Turlock in the Central Valley, two large tanks hold water, minerals - and more importantly, energy.
The tanks in Stanislaus County are part of a "flow battery" that stores energy from nearby solar panels. It's the largest battery of its kind in the world. And it could play a role in California's push to develop bigger and better ways to store large quantities of energy.
This particular flow battery, unveiled to the public Thursday during a ceremony with state and federal officials, was built by EnerVault of Sunnyvale, part of the Bay Area's fast growing energy-storage industry. Like most of its competitors, EnerVault is young, founded in 2008, with about $30 million in venture funding to date.
Some companies try to perfect the lithium-ion batteries found in laptops and electric cars. Others, including EnerVault and Primus Power of Hayward, specialize in flow batteries, which store energy in tanks of electrolytes. The fluid is then pumped through the battery's cells when power is needed. In contrast, the batteries found at a grocery store contain the electrolyte, cathode and anode all in one package.
"Flow batteries are batteries turned inside out," said Jim Pape, EnerVault's chief executive officer.
His company's flow batteries use iron and chromium, blended into the water inside its tanks. Both materials are safe to handle. (For those of you thinking "Erin Brockovich," EnerVault uses the kind of chromium found in multivitamins, not the infamous hexavalent chromium featured in the movie). Iron and chromium also have the benefit of being cheap.
Congressional inaction on key clean energy tax policies, coupled with attacks on state renewable energy programs, led to a dramatic decline in clean energy job announcements in the first quarter of this year, according to the latest report from the nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).
About 5,600 clean energy and clean transportation jobs were announced in the first three months of this year, down from 12,000 such jobs reported in the comparable period in 2013.
A major geothermal project in Idaho accounted for the most clean energy jobs announced on the state level in the first quarter.Idaho was followed by more traditional clean energy leaders. The remaining states in the Top 10 were: Texas, California,Missouri, New York, Kansas, Arizona, Hawaii, New Mexico and Louisiana..
Despite adding thousands of new jobs to the economy, the dramatic drop in clean energy and clean transportation job announcements in the quarter is a clear reflection of mixed signals American businesses are getting from Capitol Hill and state capitals when it comes to policies such as the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) and various state-level renewable energy standards (RES), according to E2.
The top 20 module suppliers to the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry are guiding an increase in annual shipments of more than 30 percent in 2014, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz Module Tracker Quarterly report. Leading Chinese module suppliers Trina Solar, Canadian Solar, ReneSola and Jinko Solar are forecasting the most aggressive growth in shipments during 2014, with the upper-end of guidance exceeding 40 percent.
Yingli Green Energy is forecasting the highest shipment volume in 2014, with the upper end of shipments at 4.2 gigawatts (GW). This shipment level would result in Yingli Green Energy heading the annual shipment rankings for PV suppliers for the third consecutive year.
Leading Japanese silicon-based PV module suppliers, Sharp Solar and Kyocera, are forecasting a 15 percent increase in shipments in 2014, reflecting continued strength in the Japanese solar PV market. Sharp Solar and Kyocera command strong market shares, within their domestic markets.
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday that the world will need to build several lithium-ion battery factories to meet a "quasi-infinite demand for energy storage."
Speaking at the World Energy Innovation Forum, Musk said Tesla Motors alone needs its planned $5 billion lithium battery factory to continue the company's rapid growth. Without the proposed "gigafactory" the electric-car maker would lack the batteries it needs to ramp up car production and introduce new models, he said.
"We're building the gigafactory because we can't think of any other way to scale," Musk told the energy forum at the company's factory in Fremont. "We either hit the sides of the Petri dish, or we build a bigger Petri dish."
The forum, which focused on market-transforming ideas in energy, took place in a corner of the sprawling auto plant where Tesla makes its second car model, the Model S.
The proposed gigafactory would double worldwide production of lithium-ion batteries, which could help lower battery production costs 30 percent just in its first year of full-scale operation. Tesla hopes to use those savings to create its $35,000 Gen 3 car, the company's first car aimed at the middle class.
Demand for solar energy is heating up across the United States, and the nation's military is becoming one of the sector's major customers. The Department of Defense wants renewable energy to make up at least one quarter of its total energy use by 2025, and solar energy is squarely within its sights.
The Military just recently began construction of a solar power plant at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, where solar panels will be installed over 68 acres, constituting the largest solar array of any military base in the U.S. According to the commanding general of the base, Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, the project reflects the military's commitment to energy security.
Whether it be engaged in disaster relief, humanitarian missions or in military operations, the military needs reliable energy that is "off the grid," since public electrical utilities are vulnerable to adverse weather conditions and potential sabotage. The military also needs to be ready for possible disruptions to the oil supply, which could cripple it and the nation's economy.
Such risks to national security are turning the armed forces into a vast laboratory for the development of solar technology and the creation of "net-zero" environments, where energy consumption equals the energy created on-site. The military already used solar arrays at fixed-site locations in Afghanistan.
By moving to solar power, the military could also avoid the high costs of transporting gasoline to remote areas of the world. In the past, moving gasoline to bases in Afghanistan could cost up to $400 per gallon.
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