A novel fabrication technique developed by UConn engineering professor Brian Willis could provide the breakthrough technology scientists have been looking for to vastly improve today’s solar energy systems.
The potential breakthrough lies in a novel fabrication process called selective area atomic layer deposition (ALD) that was developed by Willis, an associate professor of chemical, materials, and biomolecular engineering and the previous director of UConn’s Chemical Engineering Program. Willis joined UConn in 2008 as part of an eminent faculty hiring initiative that brought an elite team of leaders in sustainable energy technology to the University. Willis developed the ALD process while teaching at the University of Delaware, and patented the technique in 2011.
It is through atomic layer deposition that scientists can finally fabricate a working rectenna device. In a rectenna device, one of the two interior electrodes must have a sharp tip, similar to the point of a triangle. The secret is getting the tip of that electrode within one or two nanometers of the opposite electrode, something similar to holding the point of a needle to the plane of a wall. Before the advent of ALD, existing lithographic fabrication techniques had been unable to create such a small space within a working electrical diode. Using sophisticated electronic equipment such as electron guns, the closest scientists could get was about 10 times the required separation. Through atomic layer deposition, Willis has shown he is able to precisely coat the tip of the rectenna with layers of individual copper atoms until a gap of about 1.5 nanometers is achieved. The process is self-limiting and stops at 1.5 nanometer separation.
U.S. wind-energy developers added a record 13,124 megawatts of turbines last year, beating natural gas to become the largest new source of power generation for the first time.
In the fourth quarter alone, 8,380 megawatts of wind farms were completed, more than double that of any prior quarter, according to the Washington-based American Wind Energy Association. That amounted to 42 percent of new power supplies, more than any electricity source including natural gas, coal, solar and nuclear. topping natural gas
Installations accelerated last quarter as developers raced to take advantage of a federal tax credit that was due to expire Dec. 31, and have slumped this year, according to Rob Gramlich, the industry group’s interim chief executive officer. There are 43 megawatts of wind turbines currently under construction in two states. The production tax credit was extended for one year Jan. 1.
On Monday, the California Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved the sale of power from SolarReserve's 150-megawatt Rice Solar Energy Project to Pacific Gas & Electric via a 25-year power purchase agreement. This project will be the first large-scale solar project in the state to include energy storage capabilities, SolarReserve reported.
* The Rice Solar Energy Project, located in eastern Riverside County and bearing a $750 million price tag, is expected to generate more than 5,300 direct, indirect and induced jobs during its 24-month construction period, the Santa Monica-based company stated.
* SolarReserve's energy storage capability comes from the use of thousands of mirrors that focus sunlight onto a central tower containing molten salt, Bloomberg reported, which is funneled through a steam generator to produce electricity. The salt retains heat and can produce power at night.
* "Eight to 10 hours of fully dispatchable storage is quite impressive and offers significant benefits to the system that we don't yet know how to quantify fully, but there's definitely value there," said CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio.
* According to SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith, the CPUC was clear that the storage ability was a key factor in approving the Rice contract. "This capability will be crucial as California progresses towards its 33 percent renewable target," said Smith.
The multiphase project, owned by the NaiKun Wind Energy Group, will consist of 550 square feet kilometres, with a total of 396 megawatts (MW) of energy is set for phase one.
A total of 110 wind turbines are planned, providing British Columbian residents a cleaner alternative, according to the website. This will cut 450,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year rather than using natural gas, and power 200,000 homes.
Located in Hecate Strait, between Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii, the NaiKun wind project is giving a much-needed boost to the province’s energy plan of having no carbon emissions come from new energy projects. Meanwhile clean energy, according to the province, accounts for 90% of all energy produced in B.C., which will certainly be given a boost by this new offshore wind farm.
Novozymes A/S (NZYMB), the world’s biggest maker of enzymes used in laundry soap, may get 90 percent of its revenue from biofuel makers by 2030 if more governments startpromoting renewable energy, the company’s next CEO said.
The company currently gets about 16 percent of its revenue from biofuels and less than 1 percent from enzymes for cellulosic-ethanol plants, which turn waste and inedible crops into sugary liquids for fuel, according to Peder Holk Nielsen, who becomes chief executive officer on April 1.
“If the world really wants to secure a significant part of its liquid-fuel consumption based on biomass, this would totally transform the enzyme business,” Holk Nielsen said in an interview. “This would revolutionize the company.”
It’s the most detailed remarks from Holk Nielsen about Novozymes’ strategy since Jan. 21 when he was named to replace Steen Riisgaard as CEO.
The threat that the U.S. Production Tax Credit would lapse on Dec. 31 prompted developers to complete as many projects as they could last month, the London-based research group said. A record 13.2 gigawatts of turbines were installed last year including 5.5 gigawatts in December, the most ever for a single month. Total wind capacity is about 60 gigawatts.
“It’s clear that the economics, aided by the Production Tax Credit, drove wind growth in 2012,” said Amy Grace, lead analyst on wind in North America for New Energy Finance. “Capacity was built without any near-term state mandated demand. This means that in most areas, utilities are buying wind power because they want to, not because they have to.”
The credit has been extended for a year to cover wind farms that start construction in 2013. Previously it only covered projects that started working by the expiration date.
Japan is moving away from reliance on nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster, and plplans to build the world's largest offshore wind farm.
Officials say the proposal calls for construction of 143 wind turbines on platforms 10 miles off the coast of Fukushima, where the Daiichi nuclear power plant was damaged in the March, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The wind farm will generate 1 gigawatt of power as part of a national plan to increase renewable energy resources following the post-tsunami shutdown of the Japan's 54 nuclear reactors, NewScientist.com reported Wednesday.
The Fukushima prefecture has said it intends to be completely energy self-sufficient by 2040, using only renewable sources, including the country's biggest solar park, which has also been proposed.
When completed, the Fukushima wind farm will surpass the 504 megawatts generated by the 140 turbines at the Greater Gabbard farm off the coast of Suffolk in Britain, currently the world's largest farm.
"This project is important -- I think it is impossible to use nuclear power in Fukushima again," project manager Takeshi Ishihara of the University of Tokyo said.
When Ken Salazar came into office as Interior secretary, no large-scale solar projects had been approved and the offshore Cape Wind project near the Massachusetts coast had been stalled for years.
Since then, Salazar has overseen the first major push to permit renewable energy development on public lands, with Interior giving green lights to dozens of solar, wind, geothermal and transmission projects.
Interior's moves were part of a broad green energy initiative that became one of the most-debated features of Obama's first term. Some industry groups have been pressing the administration to switch its emphasis to fossil fuels in the second term so as to capitalize on the boom in domestic oil and natural gas production brought about by technologies such as fracking.
In late October, the administration used the approval of a Wyoming site for a 3,000-megawatt wind farm to celebrate the fact that a combined total of 10 gigawatts of renewable energy had won approval on public lands. That particular project still must go through site-specific environmental reviews.
“When President Obama took office, he made expanding production of American-made energy a priority, including making our nation a world leader in harnessing renewable energy,” Salazar said at the time.
Several wind manufacturers already are reporting projects ready for construction in 2013, just days after Congress extended the renewable energy production tax credit, an industry group said Friday.
Many projects had been put on hold in 2012 because a production tax credit, which gives wind developers a 2.2-cent tax break for every kilowatt-hour of energy produced, was due to expire at the end of the year. Uncertainty over its extension led many wind developers to delay projects until they were certain that the tax break would be available in 2013, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
“The wind industry has been reinvigorated by this much-needed signal from congressional leaders,” said Rob Gramlich, interim CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, in a written statement. “Billions of dollars of investment sat idled by uncertainty that now can flow into new wind projects and our manufacturing sector. Congress has sent the necessary signal in extending the PTC and many are able to move ahead—and America’s energy consumers, manufacturing sector, and working families are the winners.”
California's rebate program for businesses and homeowners who install solar panels has now funded enough systems to generate 1 gigawatt of electricity - a level few countries and no other states have ever reached.
California officials reported Thursday that state residents have installed 1,066 megawatts of solar systems using rebates from the $2.4 billion California Solar Initiative, launched in 2007 as a way to jump-start the industry.
For perspective, 1 gigawatt is roughly the output of two conventional power plants or one nuclear reactor. A gigawatt equals 1,000 megawatts. Both are snapshot figures, representing the amount of electricity generated at a given instant.
The rebates decline over time and are now 92 percent lower than they were when the program began. But the number of applications received each year continues to rise as solar power's popularity spreads.
As a result, state officials say the program should reach its goal of funding enough installations to generate 1,940 megawatts by the end of 2016.
PV America 2013 East, in Philadelphia, PA, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center is the place to be this February 5 - 7
PV America 2013 East, in Philadelphia, PA, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center is the place to be this February 5 - 7 for eastern U.S. professionals in solar energy and related fields. Plan to join over 4,000 of the most progressive folks in the industry including manufacturers, installers and contractors, distributors, engineering firms, utilities, government representatives and policymakers, investors and financiers, architects, builders and developers.
Prepare to experience a dynamic exhibition with 150 booths and countless opportunities to make the connections needed to solve business challenges. The timely conference program features a Choose-Your-Own General Session on Tuesday, Solar Idea Swaps on Wednesday, and more than 30 conference sessions Tuesday-Thursday across six tracks of study—Finance, Innovations, Markets, Policy, Solar Multi-Track and Working with Utilities. New this year, Solar Energy International (SEI) and North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) will provide free technical training and resources for installers, salespeople and other solar energy professionals—right on the exhibit floor. Session topics range from site analysis to mounting, maintenance and safety, to NABCEP sales and business certification program overviews.
Solar Central, also on the exhibit floor, is the networking hot spot to interact with some of the industry’s most dynamic leaders for post-conference-session discussions, watch live “Solar on the Street” interviews or use the Career Center. Follow @PV America on Twitter for announcements or tweet using #PVAEast.
PV America is produced by Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA). Unlike other solar conferences, all proceeds from PV America support the expansion of the U.S. solar energy market through both associations’ year-round research and education activities, and SEIA’s advocacy , research and communications efforts. Join SEIA or SEPA by February 1, 2013, to enjoy a membership discount on PV America 2013 East registration as well as many member benefits year round. For details on association membership, visit www.seia.org or www.solarelectricpower.org.
Register for PV America 2013 East at www.pvamericaexpo.com/east.
MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., a unit of Warren Buffett's conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA, Fortune 500), has purchased two solar power projects in a deal valued at between $2 billion and $2.5 billion.
MidAmerican, the electric utility, said Wednesday it has purchased the Antelope Valley Solar Projects from SunPower Corp (SPWR).
Based in Los Angeles and Kern in California, the projects convert energy from light into electricity. The companies said the combined projects are the largest solar photovoltaic power development in the world.
The projects are still under development, and are expected to be completed by the end of 2015. They are expected to create 650 construction jobs.
SunPower's stock price surged 20% at the open of trading Thursday.
Congress late Tuesday voted to extend a tax credit on wind energy that many said was key to the survival of the wind-power industry.
The credit's one-year extension was included in the measure to avert the fiscal cliff.
The credit saves 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of energy produced over 10 years by new wind-energy facilities.
As approved by Congress Tuesday, the extended credit will apply to projects begun in 2013 but not operational until 2014.
Despite its promise, the American wind industry is caught in the crosswinds of American politics — and that uncertain situation set up a surreal contrast when wind enterprises gathered here to tout their technologies.
The American Wind Energy Association’s conference exhibition hall was full of European and multinational firms that are busy plunging scores of turbines into their waters. German developers talked about how the industry has transformed rusting homeland harbors into bustling ports, while British officials boasted that industry investment in offshore wind will leap from $8 billion in the last decade to $80 billion in the next eight years.
Representatives of American firms could only watch wistfully and wish the US government cared as much about wind energy as Europe does. Peter Duclos and Tim McAuliffe were two of those wistful watchers. Gladding-Hearn, their Somerset, Mass., company, specializes in ferries, patrol boats, pilot boats, and tugboats. They want to make boats to transport workers and equipment out to turbines.
“Some people estimate that for every 10 to 15 turbines, you need a vessel to get the technicians out there,” said Duclos, the company’s president. “And every active shipyard means other companies making more piping, electronics, even more business at the local liquor store.”
If the East Coast had a thriving offshore-wind industry, the ship-building company could double its current workforce of 100, added McAuliffe, the company’s engineering liaison.
So what’s the real forecast for wind and solar power?
That’s dependent—as it always is with the power sector, whether it’s renewable or fossil fuels—on policy. For the wind industry in the U.S., continuation of the tax credit would be vital. It pays wind-farm owners 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity they produce over 10 years. If Congress fails to renew the tax credit, Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts installations could fall by 88% next year to just 1.5 GW, at the cost of nearly 40,000 jobs according a study sponsored by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
A quick check at the headlines will show how unlikely renewal is in the current political atmosphere. It’s so bad that the AWEA, in an effort to get fiscal conservatives on their side, this month proposed a six-year phaseout of the credit. But while a bill to renew the credit was passed by the Senate Finance Committee in August and is sponsored by a Republican—Senator Chuck Grassley of wind-rich Iowa—little has happened since, and producers are getting ready for the fallout. Already turbines makers have announced hundreds of layoffs.
As for the solar industry, the low costs for modules that have driven installation are a double-edged sword for manufacturers, who increasingly can’t make money off their products at current prices. That’s also led to something of a trade war—the U.S and Europe have charged Chinese solar manufacturers, with ample help from Beijing, of selling solar modules at below cost. The European Union opened up an anti-dumping investigation in September, and the U.S. slapped tariffs on Chinese solar panels. That might be good for domestic manufacturers, but a trade war would likely hold back global growth of solar power.
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