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.

India's first floating solar power station to come up inside Victoria

A prototype of India’s first floating solar power station could soon be coming up in the pond of Victoria Memorial.

If the plan proves to be a success, such floating solar power stations could also be set up in the water reservoirs and dams of hydroelectric power stations thereby increasing their output.

“Developing a floating solar power station would prove to be a revolutionary step as it could solve the perennial problem of land. Such pilot projects are also going on in a few countries such as France and Australia,” said SP Gon Choudhury, an international expert in solar energy and the brain behind this project.

The idea is simple.

A raft like platform fitted with hollow plastic or tin drums would be floating on water.

The power generating equipment such as solar panels would be fitted on this raft so that they can float on water.

It would not only solve the problem of land but would also help conserve water in the water bodies.

The solar panels, which would be floating on water, would cut off the direct sunlight and hence slow down the rate of evaporation.

“Studies have also shown that if the rear surface of solar panels are kept cooler, then their ability to generate power goes up by 16%. As these solar panels would be floating on water, they are expected to stay cool and hence we can generate more power than those set up on land,” Choudhury said.

White House's Solar Panel Installation Has Begun.

A White House official confirmed to the Washington Post on Thursday that installation of solar panels began this week on the First Family’s residence.

The plan to use solar energy was first revealed in October 2010, but was not put into effect until now. During a GreenGov symposium at George Washington University, then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the plan to install American-made solar panels in the spring of 2011.

“This project reflects President Obama’s strong commitment to U.S. leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home,” Chu said at the time. “Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come.”

This is not the first attempt to include solar power in the White House’s energy mix. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter installed panels on the roof, which were taken down by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.

IBM unleashes 'big data' on wind, solar power management

IBM has announced a weather-modeling and power-grid management system with the goal of increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

"Applying analytics and harnessing big data will allow utilities to tackle the intermittent nature of renewable energy and forecast power production from solar and wind, in a way that has never been done before," IBM's global energy and utilities industry headman Brad Gammons said in a statement. "We have developed an intelligent system that combines weather and power forecasting to increase system availability and optimize power grid performance."

The system, called Hybrid Renewable Energy Forecasting, or HyRef, is part of theSmarter Energy component of IBM's Smarter Planet initiative. HyRef uses cloud-imaging tech and cameras that track cloud movement, and combines that data with info from sensors on wind turbines that keep track of wind direction, temperature, and speed. All of this data is fed into weather models and analyzed in such a way as to be able, IBM claims, to "produce accurate local weather forecasts within a wind farm as far as one month in advance, or in 15-minute increments."

By doing so, IBM says that HyRef can enable renewable-energy installations to better predict the power they can produce – wind and solar being variable sources – and thus to better anticipate the amount of power they will be able to provide to the grid to which they are connected. Such predictions enable managers to better accommodate the need to supplement renewables with such conventional power sources as coal and gas-fired power plants.

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).

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