Saskatoon church gives solar energy panels stained glass disguise

A new type of stained glass just installed in a Saskatoon cathedral is trying to prove green can also be glorious, combatting the stereotype of ugly, bulky solar panels.

When the Cathedral of the Holy Family needed a new set of stained glass windows, Toronto artist Sarah Hall jumped in with a project she's been working on since 2005 -- one that combines old art techniques with new technology.

Working with engineer Christof Erban, who pioneered the concept of placing a solar cell between layers of glass, Hall's solar-infused masterpiece is a colourful set of three giant windows set atop the Saskatoon church.

The work is called "Lux Gloria," or "Light of Glory," and the largest of the three windows measures 37-feet high by 12-feet wide. The windows -- a display of silver solar cells fused with various colours of stained glass -- simultaneously shade the church, harvest solar energy from outside and block out heat.

While the Saskatoon project is just one example of Hall's work in the field of building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) - her first installation went up in Washington, D.C., in 2005 - the Lux Gloria is the first of her pieces that feeds back into a city's electrical grid. She has also worked on two projects in Toronto, one in Vancouver and one in Camas, Washington.

Hall's studio said the embedded solar panels are capable of generating 2,500 kilowatt hours of power, or about 20 per cent of the electricity used per year in the average Canadian household.

Soft approach leads to revolutionary energy storage

Monash University researchers have brought next generation energy storage closer with an engineering first - a graphene-based device that is compact, yet lasts as long as a conventional battery.

Published today in Science, a research team led by Professor Dan Li of the Department of Materials Engineering has developed a completely new strategy to engineer graphene-based supercapacitors (SC), making them viable for widespread use in renewable energy storage, portable electronics and electric vehicles.

SCs are generally made of highly porous carbon impregnated with a liquid electrolyte to transport the electrical charge. Known for their almost indefinite lifespan and the ability to re-charge in seconds, the drawback of existing SCs is their low energy-storage-to-volume ratio - known as energy density. Low energy density of five to eight Watt-hours per litre, means SCs are unfeasibly large or must be re-charged frequently.

Professor Li's team has created an SC with energy density of 60 Watt-hours per litre - comparable to lead-acid batteries and around 12 times higher than commercially available SCs.

GE Scraps Nation's Largest Solar Panel Plant

General Electric Co. is permanently scrapping plans to build the largest solar factory in the U.S. near Denver.

GE blamed the cancellation on a glut of solar panels on the market and falling prices, The Denver Post reported Tuesday.

The factory was to have been bigger than 11 football fields and have an annual capacity of 400 megawatts. State officials said it would create 350 jobs.

GE put the project on hold last month.

A research center that developed the thin-film solar-cell technology for the plant will be closed, with 50 people losing their jobs, according to Lindsay Thiel, a GE spokeswoman. The research center, formerly a startup named PrimeStar, was in Arvada, another Denver suburb.

"We have decided that it is not in the best interest of GE, our customers or the Denver community to move forward with the build-out of this facility," Thiel told the newspaper in an email.

At least 10 states were vying for the PrimeStar plant in 2011. GE said it would go to Aurora that fall, and company executives attended the next year's State of the State address by Gov. John Hickenlooper, who personally cited the plant in his speech.

Europe's Largest Energy Storage Trial Launched

The fully automated 6MW/10MWh Smarter Network Storage (SNS) battery technology project will be installed at Leighton Buzzard primary substation, in order to assess the role of energy storage in cost effectively delivering the UK's Carbon Plan. The technology can provide a range of benefits to the wider electricity system, including absorbing energy, then releasing it to meet demand, to help support capacity constraints and to balance the influx of intermittent and inflexible low carbon technologies onto the grid. 

The Smarter Network Storage (SNS) project aims to carry out a range of technical and commercial innovation to facilitate the more efficient and economic adoption of storage. By contrast to other electrical storage projects, it will demonstrate storage across multiple parts of the electricity system, outside the boundaries of the distribution network. By demonstrating this multi-purpose application of 6MW/10MWh of energy storage at Leighton Buzzard primary substation, the project will explore the capabilities and value in alternative revenue streams for storage, whilst also deferring expensive conventional reinforcement measures, such as transformers, cable and overhead lines. 

The project will generate new knowledge and learning on the challenges of integrating large-scale storage, and provide the industry with a greater understanding and a detailed assessment of the business case and full economics of energy storage. 

Cuba's 1st solar farm a step toward renewables

CANTARRANA, Cuba (AP) — It's like a vision of the space age, carved out of the jungle: Thousands of glassy panels surrounded by a lush canopy of green stretch as far as the eye can see, reflecting the few clouds that dot the sky on a scorching Caribbean morning.

Cuba's first solar farm opened this spring with little fanfare and no prior announcement. It boasts 14,000 photovoltaic panels which in a stroke more than doubled the country's capacity to harvest energy from the sun.

The project, one of seven such farms in the works, shows a possible road map to greater energy independence in cash-poor Cuba, where Communist leaders are being forced to consider renewables to help keep the lights on after four failed attempts to strike it rich with deep-water oil drilling and the death of petro-benefactor Hugo Chavez.

"For us this is the future," said Ovel Concepcion, a director with Hidroenergia, the state-run company tasked with building the solar park 190 miles (300 kilometers) east of Havana in the central province of Cienfuegos.

"This is just like having an oil well," he told The Associated Press on a recent tour of the facility.

Outside experts have chastised Cuba for missing an opportunity to develop alternative energy sources; just 4 percent of its electricity comes from renewables. That lags behind not only standard-setter Germany (25 percent) but also comparable, developing Caribbean nations such as the Dominican Republic (14 percent).

US wind installations sink to zero in Q2

US wind growth has ground to a halt this year, with no new installations completed in the second quarter of 2013, figures from the American Wind Energy Association show.

The new figures are even worse than Q1's 1.6MW of new installations, effectively just one GE 1.6MW turbine.

The next slackest period for wind power in the States was the first quarter of 2010, with 541MW of completed installations. The figure for the final quarter of 2012 was 8,380MW.

In its report, the AWEA accepted that the wind power industry ‘slowed dramatically’ in the first half of 2013, and it cited the late extension of the production tax credit (PTC) and ‘historic levels’ of installation at the end of 2012 as reasons.

But it insisted that activity was ‘picking up’ in the industry, listing as evidence more than 3,950MW of long-term power purchase agreements signed, and more than 1,300MW of self-builds announced, by utilities since January.

There was 1,280MW of wind power under construction across eight US states as of June 30.

 

China-Europe fight over solar ends with whimper

The European Commission’s investigation of solar-panel imports from China was the world’s biggest antidumping case ever when it began in September, signaling a new willingness in Brussels to challenge China’s extensive assistance to favored export-oriented industries.

But the case ended with a whimper Saturday and illuminated deep divisions in Europe — and how good the Chinese are at exploiting those differences. The European Commission said Saturday that it had settled the case in exchange for a pledge from China not to export solar panels for less than 74 cents a watt, a price about 25 percent lower even than when the case began. The commission also decided to forgo imposing the steep tariffs on Chinese solar panels it had threatened.

The deal could end up strengthening the fractured Chinese solar panel industry and sending a wave of cheaper Chinese panels to the United States.

Trade experts said the European Commission’s meager outcome, in a case covering 6 percent of China’s exports to Europe, showed that while Brussels might have had a strong case in terms of law or economics, it was fatally weak from the beginning at the political level. Those political weaknesses increased as China’s leaders traveled repeatedly to European capitals and lobbied aggressively and successfully to divide Europe on the issue.

European makers of solar panels were furious about receiving so little after a year of litigation, and vowed to sue. The European settlement also undermined Obama administration officials, who had taken a tough stance toward China on solar panel trade and had tried for months to persuade European leaders to side with them.

EU, China near deal on solar panel dispute

The European Union and China are near a settlement in their dispute over solar panel imports, press reports said Thursday, but Europeans manufacturers challenged the figures involved as still harmful to their business.

The Handelsblatt business daily said negotiators were ready to set a minimum price on imported Chinese solar panels at 57 cents per watt of power they produced.

This price would apply to the first seven gigawatts of solar panels imported.

Any panels imported above the seven gigawatt quota would then incur an anti-dumping tariff of 47.6 percent, the German daily said, without specifying its sources.

EU officials declined to comment directly on the report and the figures given.

"Discussions are on-going at the highest level as both sides seek an amicable solution," EU Trade spokesman John Clancy said.

Volvo Invents a Solar Panel That Unfurls From the Car Trunk

Volvo is famous for favoring safety over style, making the selection of Synthesis Design + Architecture, best known for its sweeping, sci-fi inspired solutions, a bit of a surprise. The solar-powered pavilion is a stunning showcase for its new hybrid electricV60 model, and the parabolic platform is intended to highlight the sedate sedan’s impressive technological innovations at marketing events while charging it up for the ride to the next city.

Unlike many green design projects that tack on aesthetics like an aftermarket body kit, Synthesis was driven by them. Synthesis principal and USC professor Alvin Huang has been a long time researcher of “dynamic mesh relaxation”—a design approach pioneered by Frei Otto and amplified by computer science that is focused on the physical properties of dynamic materials and efficiently configuring them into complex, visually striking structures.

The design process involved digital and analog techniques—digital tools allowed for quick explorations of designs while physical models acted as proof of concepts for the carbon fiber frame, mesh surface, and artfully placed solar panels. The combination of the two styles of design equipped the team with an intuitive sense for what works to develop an attractive form that could stand up to the rigors of use in the field. “The iterative exchange between the parallel digital and analog models allowed us to further refine design technique, and perhaps more importantly, design intuition, in terms of achieving desired effects.” says Huang.

VA Selected for Nation's 2nd Offshore Wind Energy Lease Sale

Governor Bob McDonnell issued the following statement this morning following news that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has selected an area off the coast of Virginia as the site of the nation's second offshore wind energy lease sale. On September 4th, the Department of the Interior will auction 112,799 acres offshore of the Commonwealth in a competitive lease sale. The area will be sold as one single lease and it is anticipated it will support 2000 megawatts of wind generation and enough electricity to power 700,000 homes.

"Today, the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced the formal date for the auction of lease blocks in federal waters off Virginia's outer continental shelf for the commercial development of offshore wind energy.  This will be only the second offshore wind energy lease sale in American history and it is an exciting and significant step in our  bipartisan effort to advance Virginia's ‘all-of-the-above' energy strategy. I want to thank Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and her team at BOEM for moving this project forward as part of a comprehensive approach toward meeting our nation's energy needs and creating more good jobs for our people.

"Earlier in our Administration we were pleased to accept the invitation of then Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to join the Department's Offshore Wind Consortium, and we worked with the Secretary on the ‘Smart from the Start' program.   Together with the General Assembly, we created the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority (VOWDA) to oversee the data gathering, research and planning that must be done to support offshore wind development off of Virginia's coast. As part of that effort we are currently working toward final approval of two offshore wind research leases.  

"Virginia's coast is ideal for wind development. The gradual slope of the Outer Continental Shelf and consistent offshore wind speeds make this a natural geographic location for the commercial utilization of offshore wind resources. At the same time, Virginia enjoys a robust commercial ship building industry poised to become the center of construction for the component parts needed to build the specialized ships, turbines and towers necessary for these upcoming leases, and potentially for additional future wind leases on the east coast.  This will result in millions of dollars in industrial activity and the creation of many new high-skilled jobs in our state.

Solar Energy Storage About To Take Off In Germany and California

Visitors to last week’s Intersolar North America conference in San Francisco could not help but notice the presence of a benign invader: energy storage vendors. Half the second-floor exhibition space at the Moscone West convention hall had been rented by energy storage companies.

According to Markus Elsaesser, CEO of Intersolar, the number of companies exhibiting energy storage technologies at Intersolar has increased from about a dozen just three years ago to more than 200 this year.

The surge in companies entering, or expanding into, the energy storage space is no accident. Bankruptcies, a panel supply glut, and falling feed-in tariff rates have shaken the PV industry. Panel and system manufacturers are looking for ways to grow earnings, and one likely new revenue source is energy storage. According to Elsaesser, the PV industry expects to boost revenue by $10 billion by 2017 globally with storage.

“The PV industry needs to look for future profit pools,” Markus Hoehner, founder of theInternational Battery and Energy Storage Alliance(IBESA), said at an Intersolar briefing. “When we look at the PV industry on the global level, most of it was feed-in tariff driven. It was about IRR [internal rate of return], making money out of the PV system. Now, due to the downturn in the feed-in tariff markets, and due to the much lower system cost, we’re talking about saving money.”

Homeowners in markets with high retail electricity rates, he said, are looking to shield themselves from rising energy costs with storage. Take the example of Germany. Matthias Vetter, a researcher with theFraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems(ISE), who also spoke at the briefing, said that he pays 26 euro cents ($0.34) per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for grid electricity in Germany.

Solar Impulse makes historic solar powered flight across U.S.

Solar Impulse has made history with the first aircraft to fly across the United States without a single drop of fuel. Instead, the innovative Solar Impulse HB-SIA prototype made its segmented journey using renewable solar power.

The ambitious coast-to-coast trip from NASA's Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City took two months to complete, landing safely on July 6.

The aircraft draws its power from 11,628 solar cells and has an average flying speed of 43 mph. Its maximum altitude is approximately 27,900 feet, while it boasts an extremely light carbon fiber structure and an enormous wingspan equal to that of an Airbus A340.

According to the project website, the solar powered HB-SIA was designed top to bottom to save energy, resist the hostile conditions facing the plane and pilot at high altitudes, and to marry weight restraints with the required strength.

The Flight Across America mission was steered by Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, the Swiss pilots and founders of Solar Impulse. The two men took turns manning the single passenger cockpit as it made its way across the U.S. making stops in Phoenix, Dallas Fort Worth and Washington D.C. before reaching its final destination in New York.

China to Back Solar Panel Makers With 35 Gigawatt of Installs

China, the world’s biggest maker of solar panels, plans to increase fivefold its installed solar capacity to more than 35 gigawatt by 2015 to support an industry faced with declining profits, slowing exports and a supply glut.

The nation will add 10 gigawatt of solar-power capacity annually over the next three years, according to a statement from the State Council posted on the central government’s website today.

The move will help reduce the industry’s reliance on exports and ease oversupply that contributed to a 20 percent plunge in the average price of solar panels last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. China will provide credit support to profitable photovoltaic manufacturers and encourage restructuring and overseas investment, according to the statement, which didn’t specify what period the government will consider to measure profitability.

Risen Energy Co. (300118) jumped 10 percent, its daily limit and the most since Feb. 18, to 6.71 yuan in Shenzhen trading. Hareon Solar Technology Co. (600401) rose as much as 6.8 percent and traded 4.6 percent higher to 6.49 yuan as of 1:25 p.m. in Shanghai.

“While the Chinese government is determined to boost the domestic market, it is not sufficient to eliminate oversupply,” said Wang Xiaoting, a Beijing-based analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Panel prices will stay stable in 2013."

Intersolar North America

19,000 visitors visited to learn about the latest technology innovations, financing models, business best practices and policy and incentive programs that are contributing to the growth of the U.S. solar industry. Products from nearly 600 exhibitors from 22 countries were on display on all three levels of Moscone West, representing the entire system of solar technology and showcasing advances in solar cell and module technology, balance of system components, solar heating and cooling and energy storage.

AltEnergyMag.com has once again partnered with Intersolar to bring all the industry news and exciting new products to our eMagazine and help our readers make sense of this key tradeshow. Here we have compiled a list of some product releases from this years show.

Check out our special Intersolar 2013 Newspage for Exhibitor news. 

Solar Power International: The Full Spectrum of Solar Opportunity

The solar energy industry is in high gear and at Solar Power International 2013 (SPI ’13), October 21-24, McCormick Place, Chicago, Illinois, participants can plug into the technologies, personal connections and professional insights that give rise to new business and learning opportunities.

Widely regarded as the can’t-miss industry event of the year, SPI draws over 15,000 professionals in solar energy and related fields, from 75+ countries. One in six attendees comes to this global event from outside the United States. Attendees include manufacturers, installers and contractors, distributors, engineering firms, utilities, government representatives and policy makers, investors and financiers, architects, builders and developers—anyone who needs to stay on top of the latest developments in solar energy.

Nearly 700 companies representing the entire solar industry spectrum exhibit on 300,000 net square feet of space. Exhibits highlight the latest in PV cells and modules; balance of systems; material and equipment suppliers; distributors; integrators; installers and solar service providers; thermal solar technologies; concentrating solar power (CSP) and solar thermal electric and concentrating PV (CPV); publications; and an additional array of products and services.

SPI presents a full range of opportunities to make connections in Chicago and throughout the solar energy industry. Build your network face to face in SPI’s general sessions, conference sessions, receptions and training workshops—or as you explore the dynamic exhibit floor.

SPI is presented by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA). Unlike other solar conferences, all proceeds support the expansion of the U.S. solar energy market through SEIA's and SEPA's year-round research and education activities, as well as SEIA's advocacy, research and communications efforts. Join SEIA or SEPA by October 18, 2013, to enjoy a membership discount on Solar Power International 2013 registration as well as many member benefits year round. For details on association membership, visit www.seia.org or www.solarelectricpower.org.

For networking, ideas, making deals and discovering opportunities, solar energy professionals head to one event: Solar Power International 2013.

Register today!

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