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.

ABB bets on solar power with $1 billion takeover

Swiss industrial group ABB (ABBN.VX) is to buy U.S. solar energy company Power-One Inc (PWER.O) for about $1 billion, betting that growth in emerging markets will revive a sector ravaged by overcapacity and weakening demand in recession-hit Europe.

The world's biggest supplier of industrial motors and power grids said on Monday it had agreed to pay $6.35 per share in cash for Power-One, the second-largest maker of solar inverters that allow solar power to be fed into grids.

The offer price is 57 percent above Power-One's closing price on Friday, boosted by $266 million in net cash held by debt-free Power-One. Stripping out its cash pile, Power-One's enterprise value stands at $762 million, valuing the bid at a more modest 6.4 times 2012 core earnings.

The Solar Cell That Turns 1 Photon into 2 Electrons

Solar cells are picky. If an incoming photon has too little energy, the cell won’t absorb it. If a photon has too much, the excess is wasted as heat. No matter what, a silicon solar cell can never generate more than one electron from a single photon. Such harsh quantum realities severely limit the conversion efficiency of photovoltaic cells, and scientists have spent decades looking for work-arounds.

Now, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Excitonics have published a compelling case that the key to greater solar efficiency might be an organic dye called pentacene. In today’s issue of Science Daniel Congreve, Jiye Lee, Nicholas Thompson, Marc Baldo and six others show that a photovoltaic cell based on pentacene can generate two electrons from a single photon—more electricity from the same amount of sun. Scientists have suspected for some time that this might work; today’s paper is proof of concept.

The key is a phenomenon called singlet-exciton fission, in which an arriving photon generates two “excitons” (excited states) that can be made to yield two electrons. Previous researchers had accomplished similar tricks using quantum dots (tiny pieces of matter that behave like atoms) and deep-ultraviolet light. “What we showed here,” Baldo says, in addition to using visible light, “is that [this process] works very, very effectively in organic materials.”  Full Article:

Peel-And-Stick Solar Power

Peel-and-stick, or water-assisted transfer printing (WTP), technologies were developed by a group at Stanford and have been used before for nanowire based electronics. A new partnership between Stanford University and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has conducted the first successful demonstration using actual thin film solar cells, NREL principal scientist Qi Wang said.

The university and NREL showed that thin-film solar cells less than one-micron thick can be removed from a silicon substrate used for fabrication by dipping them in water at room temperature. Then, after exposure to heat of about 90°C for a few seconds, they can attach to almost any surface.

Wang met Stanford's Xiaolin Zheng at a conference last year where Wang gave a talk about solar cells and Zheng talked about her peel-and-stick technology. Zheng realized that NREL had the type of solar cells needed for her peel-and-stick project.  Full Article:

Largest Wind Farm In Southern Hemisphere Opens Down Under

The 420 megawatt Macarthur wind farm was opened in the state of Victoria on Friday. It is the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere and its 3 megawatt Vestas turbines are the largest in Australia. The Mcarthur Wind Farm is actually the first project to use Vestas’ V112-3.0 MW wind turbines. The project’s expected operating capacity is 35% and its cost was almost exactly one billion dollars.

One billion dollars may sound like a lot of money, probably because it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good deal. The wind farm has an operating life of 25 years and if a 5% discount rate is used for the cost of money, it will generate electricity at about 6 cents a kilowatt-hour. While this is slightly higher than the average price of electricity generated from coal in Australia, it does have the very large advantage of being non-fatal on both the personal and planetary scales. It’s also cheaper than electricity from new coal plants and is a major reason why Australia is extremely unlikely to ever build any new coal capacity.

Why First Solar is buying a silicon solar cell startup no one's heard of

First Solar is buying an under-the-radar startup called TetraSun to add expertise around silicon solar cell manufacturing to its technology portfolio, which until now has focused on using the material cadmium telluride to make solar cells.

The Arizona-based thin film solar giant announced the pending acquisition on Tuesday during its analyst day — its first since 2009 — in which it laid out a persuasive technology and business development plan for the next five years. Investors liked what they heard and pushed the company’s stock up by nearly 50 percent during trading.

So why TetraSun? Apparently Silicon Valley-based TetraSun has some disruptive silicon cell designs that set it apart from the rest of the silicon solar companies. Its designs require fewer manufacturing steps to produce conventional silicon cells, and eliminates the need for silver and transparent conductive oxide. Silver is used to transport electricity produced by the cells, while the oxide is a coating that protects the cells and helps the semiconductor material (such as silicon or cadmium telluride) to grab the light more effectively to produce electricity.

First Solar claims that TetraSun’s cells also can perform better in hot climates than conventional silicon cells. That feature will make solar panels with TetraSun’s cells more desirable in places like the Middle East and India, two markets with a lot of potentials for growth. First Solar says it plans to start making TetraSun’s cells in the second half of 2014.

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