Solar Power From Giant Mirrors Flows Into California's Grid

BrightSource Energy’s massive solar farm in a remote corner of California delivered its first flow of power to the grid, an important step for demonstrating that the project is on the final path to become a fully operating power plant, the company said Tuesday. BrightSource achieved what is called the “first sync” with the project,Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, where for the first time the steam was sent to one of its three turbines for generating electricity and synching to the grid. Ivanpah is the first commercial power plant project in the United States for BrightSource, which owns a stake in the project along with NRG Energy and Google. The project also is one of the massive solar power projects being built in California to enable the state to meet its goal of using an increasing amount of renewable electricity. The state’s mandate requires 33% of its utilities power supplies to come from renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass by 2020. The project has a 392-megawatt capacity but is set to deliver 377 megawatts to the Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison . It’s sized to deliver enough power to about 140,000 homes per year. Ivanpah is made up of three power generation stations. The “first sync” milestone took place at Unit 1, and the same step will be done at Unit 2 and Unit 3 soon. Unit 2 and Unit 3 are scheduled to start delivering electricity to the grid by the end of the year.

India To Build World's Largest Solar Power Plant In Rajasthan

The Indian government will set up the world’s largest solar  power  plant in its northwestern state of Rajasthan, an official statement said on Friday, and the venture is expected to significantly reduce solar power taxes in the country. The project, known as the "Ultra-Mega Green Solar Power Project," will have a total power generation capacity of 4,000 megawatts, which is more than double the total solar power generation capacity in India. “This will be the largest solar-based power project in the world. Being the first project of this scale … this project is expected to set a trend for large-scale solar power development in the world," a government statement said. The project will be spread across 23,000 acres of land belonging to the state-run Sambhar Salts Ltd, near the Sambhar Lake, which is about 47 miles away from Jaipur, Rajasthan’s capital city. The first phase of the project, which will be for 1,000 megawatt capacity, is expected to be completed in three years and will be run by a joint venture of five state-run utilities, including BHEL, Power Grid Corporation of India and Solar Energy Corporation of India.

China to limit construction of new solar panel factories

China, the world's biggest maker of solar panels, will limit construction of new photovoltaic manufacturing plants to curb excess capacity in a move that may encourage consolidation within the industry. New solar plants that "purely" expand capacity will be strictly banned, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a statement on its website yesterday. Annual spending by companies for research and development and upgrading equipment must total at least 3 per cent of revenue and must exceed 10 million yuan (HK$12.6 million). Chinese authorities have pledged to cut overcapacity in industries from steel to paper as policy makers seek to reduce the economy's reliance on investments and exports. A global oversupply of solar panels led to a 20 per cent plunge in prices last year, according to data. The policy will slow efforts to expand production capacity in favour of mergers and acquisitions as a growth strategy for the biggest companies, said Angelo Zino, an analyst with S&P Capital IQ in New York.

Photoflow is solar power and rainwater harvesting in one

A design company called NOS has developed a solution to two major problems facing developing countries: scarcity of drinking water and electricity. The concept is called the PhotoFlow, a combination solar photovoltaic device and rainwater harvester. NOS says, "Most of the developing countries are located near the equator, receiving more sunlight and rainfall than most other countries on the planet. Despite this abundance, a large number of people living in these countries suffer from a lack of electricity and potable drinking water. Building upon the designs of some existing rooftop water containers, we have created a simple device to collect both of these precious natural resources to meet the need for both electricity and drinking water." The PhotoFlow is made up of eight identical triangular photovoltaic panels that are mounted on a 400-liter recycled polyethylene water tank. The panels form an octagon with a slope of 3 degrees that allows water to funnel into the central filter and be collected into the tank. To keep the water potable once it's collected, the inner layer of the tank is covered with a coating that controls levels of bacteria and fungi.

Solar Power International Leads With Ideas, Education, Industry Luminaries

Solar Power International 2013 (SPI ‘13), North America's premier business-to-business event for professionals in solar energy, brings new formats and focused sessions to educational programming during the annual show, taking place in Chicago from October 21 - 24 at McCormick Place. With six conference tracks, pre- and post-conference workshops and Solar Idea Swaps, SPI offers solar professionals the opportunity to engage with the future of the industry. Event details and attendee registration information is available at solarpowerinternational.com.  "SPI is the place for the solar industry to gather and learn from experts, industry leaders and each other about the advances, trends and changes that affect our business," said Stephen Miner, CEO of SPI ‘13 organizer - Solar Energy Trade Shows. "We want each and every attendee to go home with a new perspective and greater understanding of the industry, and we've targeted our educational programming to ensure solutions-based learning."  General Sessions Designed to inspire and challenge attendees, the 2013 General Sessions introduce breakthrough technologies and invite role reversal. 

Why Firefighters Are Scared of Solar Power

A 300,000 square foot refrigerated warehouse in Delanco, New Jersey, burned down last week, and the local fire chief says solar panels are partly to blame. No, the 700 solar panels on top of the Dietz & Watson warehouse didn't cause the fire, but their presence did dissuade Delanco Fire Chief Ron Holt from putting his team on the roof. "With all that power and energy up there, I can't jeopardize a guy’s life for that,” Holt told NBC Philadelphia. The only thing firefighters fear more than fire is solar.  So long as a solar panel is getting sunlight, it's impossible to turn off. "During daylight, there can be enough voltage and current to injure or even kill a firefighter who comes in contact with the energized conductors," Matthew Paiss, a fire engineer with the San Jose Fire Department, wrote in a handy guide for firefighters. The Dietz & Watson warehouse fire started when the sun was out. By the time the sun went down, the fire was beyond control. The warehouse burned for 29 hours.  As Paiss explained in his essay on solar panels and firefighting, roof access is crucial for firefighters: Full Article:

Finance Firm Sees Wind, Solar Cost Plunge

Renewable energy advocates have long argued that subsidies for wind, solar and other forms of clean power would eventually drive down their costs and allow them to be competitive with conventional, dirty energy (itself often subsidized). It looks like they could be right – to an unexpected degree. An analysis by financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard has found that the levelized cost of energy from wind power has plunged by more than 50 percent in the past four years. “While many had anticipated significant declines in the cost of utility-scale solar PV, few anticipated these sorts of cost declines for wind technology,” the report said. Wind isn’t the only clean energy technology making remarkable progress, according to the Lazard analysis. Solar is on a winning trend as well: The current and anticipated costs of all forms of utility-scale solar PV continue to decline;  the study estimates that the LCOE of leading technologies has fallen by more than 50 percent in the last four years. Utility-scale solar PV is a competitive source of peak energy as compared with conventional generation in many parts of the world, without any subsidies (appreciating the important qualitative differences related to dispatch characteristics and other factors).

Solar-cell manufacturing costs: innovation could level the field

It’s widely believed that China is the world’s dominant manufacturer of solar panels because of its low labor costs and strong government support. But a new study by researchers at MIT and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that other factors are actually more significant — suggesting that the United States could once again become cost-competitive in photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing. As of 2011, manufacturers in China accounted for 63 percent of all solar-panel production worldwide. But a detailed analysis of all costs associated with PV production shows that the main contributors to that country’s lower PV prices are economies of scale and well-developed supply chains — not cheap labor. “We developed a bottom-up model,” explains Tonio Buonassisi, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT and a co-author of the new report, just published in the journal  Energy and Environmental Science . The researchers estimated costs for virtually all the materials, labor, equipment and overhead involved in the PV manufacturing process.  “We added up the costs of each individual step,” he says, providing an analysis that’s “very rigorous, it’s down in the weeds. It doesn’t rely solely on self-reported figures from manufacturers’ quarterly reports. We really took great care to make sure our numbers were representative of actual factory costs.”

Major Renewable Energy Conference to Examine Industry Future

Industry leaders will take on the uncertain future of the renewable energy industry when they gather for the 2013 Renewable Energy Technology Conference & Exhibition (RETECH). The conference will feature key leaders and decision makers who will share insights on renewable energy and what the foreseeable future holds for an industry that faces major hurdles over financing, cost and public perception. "RETECH has become a key meeting place for the renewable energy industry with government, utility, technology and finance professionals from 35 countries discussing the ways they're driving the growth of renewable energy in the US and around the world," said Jenn Heinold, Vice President, RETECH. "I am very excited for this diverse group of industry voices who play a central role as we look toward the future of renewables."  Speakers and panel discussions at RETECH 2013 will address major issues facing the industry including project financing, how our markets are trending, and what role our government will play in the industry future. Industry experts will join Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) in the opening panel (Through the looking glass: The future of renewable energy technology) as they discuss the latest trends and predictions. 

California Sets Quarterly Record for Solar PV in Q2'13 as US Adds 976 MW, According to NPD Solarbuzz

The US added 976 megawatts (MW) of new solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity during the second quarter of 2013 (Q2’13), up 24% Q/Q from 788 MW in Q1’13, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz North America PV Markets Quarterly report. “In Q2’13, new PV installed in California alone reached 521 MW, which is a new record for PV added by any state in the US for a three-month period and 53% of PV added in the US,” according to Finlay Colville, Vice President at NPD Solarbuzz. “California has added 1.6 GW in the past 12 months, with a further 1.1 GW forecast for the second half of the year.” During Q2’13, 72% of solar PV installations were ground mounted, with the remaining 28% from residential and commercial rooftops. Utility-based PV projects accounted for 59% of quarterly demand, with the remaining 41% split between commercial and residential installations. Strong demand continues to come from the ground-mount utility segment. PG&E has recently completed several large-scale projects within California, including the California Valley Solar Ranch, phase three of Topaz Solar, phase two of Antelope Valley Solar Ranch, and Gates Solar Farm. Other large ground-mount projects include the Arizona Public Service Agua Caliente plant and phase one of PG&E’s Copper Mountain Solar 2 in Arizona. Solar PV demand in the US is forecast to grow 14% Q/Q to 1.04 GW in Q3’13. During 2H’13, Arizona and North Carolina together will add 400 MW and an additional 500 MW will come from New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Texas.

Pentagon Awards Massive $7 Billion Solar Power Contract

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Defense announced a total of 22 new defense contracts worth a combined $7.59 billion. Notwithstanding the large headline number, one single contract accounted for 92% of the funds on offer. This contract, a massive $7 billion deal to supply solar energy "from renewable and alternative energy production facilities that are designed, financed, constructed, operated and maintained by private sector entities," involves some 22 separate companies. Taking the form of a multiple-vendor, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed-price, non-option, non-multiyear contract, vendors will bid against each other to sell solar energy to the U.S. Army in response to individual "task orders" issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Once won, a task order will be funded out of the $7 billion "pot" of funds allocated under this master Power Purchase Agreement. Bidders who won the right to compete for these task orders number 22, out of a total of 114 bids submitted. Most of the winners are either small, privately held concerns or small subsidiaries of foreign energy utilities whose stocks are not listed in the U.S. 

EU Finds Chinese Solar-Panel Makers Got Aid, Raising Duty Threat

Chinese solar-panel makers received subsidies, a European Union investigation showed, increasing the likelihood of EU tariffs on imports of the renewable-energy technology from China to counter trade-distorting government aid. The European Commission has concluded in a probe opened last November that Chinese manufacturers of crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules or panels, and cells and wafers used in them, benefited from preferential lending, tax programs and other aid, an EU official said today in Brussels. The inquiry is one of two that the commission is conducting into alleged unfair Chinese trade in solar goods -- the biggest EU commercial fight of its kind. The commission, the 28-nation EU’s regulatory arm, on Aug. 2 approved an agreement with China to curb Chinese shipments of solar panels as part of a parallel probe into below-cost sales, a practice known as dumping. The accord, which took effect Aug. 6, sets a minimum price and a volume limit on EU imports of Chinese solar panels until the end of 2015. Chinese manufacturers that take part are being spared provisional EU anti-dumping duties as high as 67.9 percent.

Solar panel satellite could beam a THIRD of humanity's power to Earth by 2025, claims former Nasa engineer

A cocktail glass-shaped satellite that could provide a third of the world's required energy by 2025 is being developed by Nasa. The design was created by Dr John Mankins who was commissioned by Nasa to explore the possibility of using solar panels in space to send energy to Earth. What Dr Mankins came up with was an incredible floating satellite named the SPS-ALPHA, or Solar Power Satellite via Arbitrarily Large PHased Array. n a recent interview with  Becky Ferreria at Motherboard , Dr Mankins claimed that, depending on funding, SPS-ALPHA could be launched by as early as 2025. 'A single solar power satellite would deliver power to on the order of a third of humanity—not all at the same time, but any of that market could, in principle, be addressed,' he said. The technology would mean that energy would beamed down to Earth where power stations would pick it up and farm it out to customers. The system would be made up of thousands of thin, curved mirror-like pieces which could move around to ensure that they picked up as much sun as possible. The inside of the SPS-ALPHA would also be lined with photovaltic panels which convert the sun’s energy into microwaves. These microwaves would then be beamed down to Earth out of the bottom end of the ‘cocktail glass’.

Could The Cost Of Solar Power Fall By 75% By 2020?

Writing in The Telegraph last week, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard cited theU.S. Department of Energy as the basis for a prediction that the cost of solar power would drop by 75% between 2010 and 2020. Evans-Pritchard writes: The  US Energy   USEG  +2 .12%  Department expects the cost of solar power to fall by 75% between 2010 and 2020. By then average costs will have dropped to the $1 per watt for big solar farms, $1.25 for offices and $1.50 for homes, achieving the Holy Grail of grid parity with new coal and gas plants without further need for subsidies. Evans-Pritchard mentions several development projects sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense as representative of the broader research effort that will drive costs down costs and drive efficiencies up. Over the past few years, the cost of solar power systems has plunged as the result of what some folks have characterized as Chinese “dumping.” For better or worse, I am among those “folks” who suspect that anti-competitive trade practices have fueled overly optimistic forecasts of future costs reductions. Excluding these trade-induced (and temporary) cost reductions, is it possible that solar costs could reduce costs 75% by 2020?

Powering Up The Drones With Solar Energy

Advances in solar cell technology can make drones a more powerful tool not only for the battlefield but also for civilian uses, such as firefighting, crop surveying and oil and gas field monitoring. A Silicon Valley company called Alta Devices has been working with AeroVironment to engineer a drone that can stay airborne longer and carry out missions that are impossible before. The result of the collaboration is a 13-pound prototype drone that can fly for 9 hours and 11 minutes, AeroVironment announced recently. The military contractor credited its new battery and Alta’s solar technology for the feat. A drone similar to the one by AeroVironment typically can fly for one or two hours before it has to land and recharge, said Chris Norris, Alta’s CEO. AeroVironment’s new battery is good for three hours. By embedding Alta’s ultra thin and highly efficient solar cells on the aircraft, the battery is able to recharge twice before daylight fades and keeps the drone in the air three times longer, Norris added. California-based AeroVironment is still tinkering with the design of the drone, which is part of its Puma AE line. It plans to roll out a design that it could produce and sell in early 2014.

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