Energy storage industry gets bipartisan support from Senate

The Electricity Storage Association (ESA) applauded today the reintroduction of energy storage legislation by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Angus King (I-ME) that would create an investment tax credit (ITC) for energy storage technologies of all types and help level the playing field for an industry that has enormous potential to increase the reliability, security, and efficiency of the nation’s electric grid. The Storage Technology for Renewable and Green Energy Act (STORAGE) Act was originally introduced in the 112th Congress in both chambers with bipartisan support. It closely mirrors the bill recently introduced in the House, H.R. 1465.

“We are delighted that Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of Senate Energy and Natural Resources and a longtime supporter of energy storage, and senators Collins, Merkley and King, all staunch supporters of clean energy technologies, understand the value of energy security and have taken such a strong interest in energy storage,” said Brad Roberts, Executive Director of the ESA. “Energy storage technologies help all resources – whether renewable or traditional – run more smoothly. Our applications are now operating on the grid and have proven to be of enormous benefit; this tax credit will help developers secure private sector equity and debt financing to truly scale this industry.”

This Printer Spits Out 10 Meters of Solar Panel Every Minute

The printer system was developed by VICOSC, the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium—a collaboration between the University of Melbourne, CSIRO Molecular and Health Technologies, and Monash University—and utilizes only existing printer technology to embed polymer solar cells (also known as organic or plastic solar cells) in thin sheets of plastic or steel at a rate of ten meters per minute. "We're using the same techniques that you would use if you were screen printing an image on to a T-Shirt," project coordinator and University of Melbourne researcher Dr David Jones said in a press release.

Organic solar cells rely on organic electronics, hydrocarbon molecules specifically, to generate a photovoltaic effect and convert the Sun's rays into usable DC current. The primary benefit to using organic cells is that these sheets can be printed in bulk for very little and the optical absorption coefficient of of the hydrocarbon molecules is so high that even small amounts of material can suck up a lot of light. On the other hand, organic cells are less efficient than their inorganic alternatives and tend to break down faster due to the chemical changes occurring within.

Currently, these organic sheets are able to produce up to 80W in the lab and between 10 and 50W under real world conditions. These cells aren't meant to replace conventional, inorganic panels, quite the opposite in fact. "The different types of cells capture light from different parts of the solar spectrum. So rather than being competing technologies, they are actually very complementary," said CSIRO materials scientist Dr Scott Watkins.

This printing technique could soon lead to buildings with PV laminated windows and exteriors and homes covered in solar shingles.

U.S. and Europe Prepare to Settle Chinese Solar Panel Cases

The Obama administration and the European Union have each decided to negotiate settlements with China in the world’s largest antidumping and antisubsidy trade cases involving China’s roughly $30 billion a year in solar panel shipments to the West, officials and trade advisers in Beijing, Brussels and Washington said.

The plan that is starting to take shape would essentially carve up the global solar panel market into a series of regional markets. It would sharply raise the price of solar panels exported from China, the world’s dominant producer, by requiring Chinese companies to charge more while limiting the total number of solar panels they could ship.

In exchange, Chinese companies would no longer be charged steep taxes on their exports of solar panels. The United States is already collecting tariffs totaling about 30 percent while the European Union is expected to impose similar tariffs of about 50 percent on June 5, and may backdate them to March 5.

A Down-To-Earth Wind Turbine

The wind is faster at higher altitudes and wind power is directly proportional to wind velocity cubed. But mounting a turbine up high makes it more expensive to install and maintain, and requires a stronger tower to support such a top-heavy structure. Engineers at SheerWind have a solution: “scoop” the air from up high and bring it down low to drive a ground-level turbine. Oh, and while they’re at it, how about amplifying the wind speed too?

SheerWind coined the term INVELOX - INcreasing the VELOcity of wind - to describe its innovative design. Using a giant omni-directional funnel whose mouths are mounted at the top of a tower, INVELOX brings the wind down to ground level and sends it out through a narrow neck, which increases the wind speed, much like putting your thumb over the end of a garden hose and leaving a tiny opening will increase the water velocity. This makes the turbine smaller, decreasing its cost. And because the turbine is on the ground, routine maintenance doesn’t require climbing a tall tower. Funnel mouths facing all directions eliminates the need for the turbine to rotate towards the wind, resulting in fewer moving parts, less complexity, and increased reliability.


Since traditional turbines have relatively high start-up speeds (8 MPH or 3.6 m/s is typical), they can’t  generate electricity at lower speeds. Because the INVELOX design increases the speed of the wind before it reaches the turbine, it allows the system to generate power at wind speeds as low as 2 MPH (0.9 m/s).

Solar Power Windows Fast Approaching Commercial Production

Commercial production of solar windows, using the patented SolarWindow spray-on solar power coating system, may be just around the corner. A recent announcement from US building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) developer New Energy Technologies Ltd. (which we’ve been following for years) has us feeling that the time may soon come.

As per New Energy Technologies’ recent announcement, the big news is that the fabrication time of the technology has been greatly reduced. The fabrication process, which involves methodically spraying layers of extremely small solar cells onto glass, has been reduced from a couple of days to only a couple of hours. According to the company, the process has been cut to 1/6 of the previous fabrication time.

And perhaps as significantly, New Energy has also reported that it has achieved “a two-fold increase in power conversion efficiency” and improved the transparency in the glass.

SolarCity Thrives in Solar Power Sector

Sun Concept, Ampulse, Evergreen, Solyndra: the long list of defunct solar companies is enough to give pause to anyone trying to enter the business. But at least one company, SolarCity, has been succeeding where so many others have failed. Its secret? Staying away from manufacturing and focusing on installation.

SolarCity was founded in 2006 by Lyndon and Peter Rive, on the advice of their cousin, Elon Musk, the Paypal founder who went on to start Tesla Motors and SpaceX, and is enjoying something of a moment. Tesla Motors just posted its first quarterly profit. And SolarCity, which went public last January, has seen its stock more than triple.

Instead of designing solar panels, the Rive brothers decided to find ways to get solar panels onto people’s roofs. They settled on a sort of lease arrangement: SolarCity installs the panels for free on customers’ roofs and then sells them the energy the panels produce for the next 20 years, at a rate lower than charged by the local utility. As the owner of the panels, SolarCity also reaps the valuable tax credits associated with clean-energy production.

This business model, with high upfront costs for gradual returns spread out over decades, doesn’t lend itself to immediate profits. On Monday, the company posted a $31 million loss. So far investors seem patient.  “The stock is outperforming the results,” an analyst for Raymond James & Associates told Bloomberg. Lyndon Rive, in an interview with CNN, pointed out the irony that as soon as SolarCity show a profit, it’ll be a warning sign that recurring revenue has outpaced installations and the company has stopped growing.

EU to Hit China Solar Panel Makers With Anti-Dumping Tariffs

The European Union (EU) is moving ahead with tariffs on imported Chinese solar panels in an effort to protect its own module makers.

European Commission (EC) Trade Head Karel De Gucht will recommend the EC impose anti-dumping (AD) charges similar to those imposed last year by the U.S., according to Reuters.

The tariffs will average 47.6 percent for most of the 100-plus Chinese manufacturers found by the EC to have been involved in the dumping but will vary by the extent of the manufacturer’s dumping and the extent of their cooperation with the EC’s investigation, according to the Wall Street Journal, which reviewed the preliminary document.

Suntech Power Holdings (NYSE:STP) and its subsidiaries will be charged tariffs of 48.6 percent, LDK Solar (NYSE: LDK) will pay 55.9 percent, Trina Solar (NYSE:TSL) will pay 51.5 percent, and JinkoSolar (NYSE:JKS) will pay tariffs of 58.7 percent, WSJ reported. Companies that did not cooperate with the EC investigation will pay a tariff of 67.9%.

The investigation covered EU imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) panels, cells, and wafers valued at $27.6 billion in 2011, which amounted to more than half the global PV market, according to Bloomberg. The Chinese companies, Bloomberg added, owned almost no global PV market share in 2004 but controlled 80 percent of the global market by 2011.

Patent filing claims solar energy ‘breakthrough'

 In a U.S. patent application, a little-known Maryland inventor claims a stunning solar energy breakthrough that promises to end the planet’s reliance on fossil fuels at a fraction of the current cost – a transformation that also could blunt global warming.

Inventor Ronald Ace said that his flat-panel “Solar Traps,” which can be mounted on rooftops or used in electric power plants, will shatter decades-old scientific and technological barriers that have stymied efforts to make solar energy a cheap, clean and reliable alternative.

“This is a fundamental scientific and environmental discovery,” Ace said. “This invention can meet about 92 percent of the world’s energy needs.”

His claimed discoveries, which exist only on paper so far, would represent such a leap forward that they are sure to draw deep skepticism from solar energy experts. But a recently retired congressional energy adviser, who has reviewed the invention’s still-secret design, said it’s “a no brainer” that the device would vastly outperform all other known solar technology.

Ace said he is arranging for a national energy laboratory to review his calculations and that his own crude prototypes already have demonstrated that the basic physics for the invention work.

AWEA's New CEO Greets WINDPOWER Attendees

Tom Kiernan, the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) incoming CEO, took to the stage Monday morning to briefly greet attendees during the opening general session at WINDPOWER 2013, being held in Chicago through May 8.

AWEA recently named Kiernan to replace former CEO Denise Bode, who resigned in December 2012. Displaying a warm and enthusiastic smile during the opening session, Kiernan laid out in broad strokes some of his early priorities for when he takes over the post on May 28.

He told attendees that among his first tasks will be to develop a long-term strategy to further galvanize both the wind industry and AWEA. He also spelled out to attendees how they can be their own best advocates.

“With fewer legislative vehicles moving [in Congress], we need a better, more integrated advocacy plan, and that needs to be inclusive to all of you,” he said.

Citing well-organized and -funded opponents, Kiernan called for the industry to develop a more diverse and broader coalition. He also said that AWEA would begin to devote more resources to its nine regional partners, which often perform key legislative advocacy at both the state and regional levels.

AWEA WINDPOWER 2013 in Chicago

Coming off a record year in 2012, the industry looks forward to build on that momentum at AWEA WINDPOWER 2013 taking place in Chicago, IL from May 5th - 8th.  

WINDPOWER  2013 will provide exhibitors the opportunity to showcase their products and services to more than 10,000 individuals from the entire wind energy industry coming from across the U.S. and around the world. Exhibitors include manufacturers, developers, contractors, consultants, suppliers/service companies, electricity generators/utilities, financiers, insurance companies, research institutes, and many more.  

WINDPOWER also hosts hosts many impressive features, events, and attractions, providing tons of opportunity to learn about the industry, network, and expand your business.

For all the news and press releases from this years show make sure to stay tuned to AltEnergyMag's special WINDPOWER Newspage.

MidAmerican Solar and SunPower Start Major Construction on World's Largest Solar Power Development

MidAmerican Solar and SunPower Corp. (Nasdaq: SPWR) marked the start of major construction at the Antelope Valley Solar Projects – two projects co-located in Kern and Los Angeles counties in California – with a community celebration. The 579-megawatt development will employ approximately 650 workers during a three-year construction period; generate more than $500 million in regional economic impact, the majority of which will be generated during construction; and serve California's growing electricity demand with clean, renewable solar power. 

The Antelope Valley Solar Projects make up the world's largest solar power development under construction. When complete, the projects will provide enough energy to power approximately 400,000 average California homes. 

"The Antelope Valley Solar Projects are already creating needed jobs and economic opportunity in local communities, while at the same time, providing direct, long-term environmental benefits," said Paul Caudill , president of MidAmerican Solar. "We look forward to continuing our involvement in the Rosamond, Lancaster and Palmdale communities and, as we move forward, in the surrounding areas. The MidAmerican Solar team is committed to working hand-in-hand with the development's neighbors and stakeholders. We also look forward to providing a reliable source of renewable energy to our customer Southern California Edison." 

Just stick this portable outlet to your window to start using solar power


It’s a portable socket that gets its power from the sun rather than the grid. You plug into a window instead of into the wall. It’s easy.

That was the whole point, according to the designers, Kyohu Song and Boa Oh: “We tried to design a portable socket, so that users can use it intuitively without special training,” they write.

It is really simple. The portable socket attaches to a window like a leech to human skin. On its underside, it has solar panels:

The solar panels suck energy from the sun. The charger converts that energy into electricity. You plug in to the charger.

Even better, the charger stores that energy. After five to eight hours of charging, the socket provides 10 hours of use. You can pop it off the window, stick it in your bag, and use it to charge up your phone with solar energy, even if you’re sitting in a dark room.

China investigated for EU solar panel activity


China is accused of selling solar panel components to European consumers at prices below fair market value, the European Commission said.

The commission announced it opened an anti-subsidy investigation following a complaint from solar association EU ProSun Glass, which said solar glass from China is subsidized and then sold in the European Union at less than market prices.

The solar glass market in the European Union is valued at about $260 million.

The commission has launched at least two investigations into alleged dumping of solar panel components like solar glass sold in the European Union by Chinese manufacturers. The European Commission said the latest investigation is its own distinct investigation.

The investigation is expected to take more than a year, "although under trade defense rules the EU could impose provisional anti-subsidy duties within nine months if it considers these necessary," the commission said.

American Wind Energy Association names Tom Kiernan CEO

The announcement was made by the Chair of AWEA's Board of Directors, Tom Carnahan. "Bringing Tom Kiernan aboard as CEO represents a huge win for AWEA and another step forward in our efforts to elevate wind energy's role as a critical national resource," said Carnahan.

"Tom brings the right combination of bipartisan, practical experience at the national and state levels as well as in small, rural communities where wind energy is most often developed. His respected management style and significant executive abilities, combined with his skills as a communicator, will ensure that AWEA's voice and potential are leveraged not only in Washington but, even more importantly, in the communities in which our members operate," Carnahan said.

Kiernan commented, "I am honored and excited to take on this role at such a critical time in our nation's history. With wind energy building over 40 percent of new electrical generation in the U.S. last year, the massive public support for more renewable energy, and the recent extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) by Congress and the President, we have a unique opportunity to work together to make wind energy a more integral part of our national energy portfolio."

Solar jobs outnumber ranchers in Texas, actors in California

There are more solar energy workers in Texas than there are ranchers. In California, they outnumber actors, and nationwide, America has more solar workers than coal miners.

Those stats come from solar research group The Solar Foundation, which rolled out a map last week showing which states have the most solar jobs. Unsurprisingly, sunny states like California and Arizona are near the top of the list. But some Northern states like New Jersey and Michigan -- not known for their splendid weather -- also show a high number of solar jobs.

What those states lack in climate they make up for in high electricity prices and favorable tax and regulatory policies, which attracts solar developers, said Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation.

Solar supporters are going on the offensive about their field's jobs angle. The industry receives considerable government support, and talking about its employment advantages broadens the conversation beyond global warming.

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