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).

US wind installations sink to zero in Q2

US wind growth has ground to a halt this year, with no new installations completed in the second quarter of 2013, figures from the American Wind Energy Association show.

The new figures are even worse than Q1's 1.6MW of new installations, effectively just one GE 1.6MW turbine.

The next slackest period for wind power in the States was the first quarter of 2010, with 541MW of completed installations. The figure for the final quarter of 2012 was 8,380MW.

In its report, the AWEA accepted that the wind power industry ‘slowed dramatically’ in the first half of 2013, and it cited the late extension of the production tax credit (PTC) and ‘historic levels’ of installation at the end of 2012 as reasons.

But it insisted that activity was ‘picking up’ in the industry, listing as evidence more than 3,950MW of long-term power purchase agreements signed, and more than 1,300MW of self-builds announced, by utilities since January.

There was 1,280MW of wind power under construction across eight US states as of June 30.

 

China-Europe fight over solar ends with whimper

The European Commission’s investigation of solar-panel imports from China was the world’s biggest antidumping case ever when it began in September, signaling a new willingness in Brussels to challenge China’s extensive assistance to favored export-oriented industries.

But the case ended with a whimper Saturday and illuminated deep divisions in Europe — and how good the Chinese are at exploiting those differences. The European Commission said Saturday that it had settled the case in exchange for a pledge from China not to export solar panels for less than 74 cents a watt, a price about 25 percent lower even than when the case began. The commission also decided to forgo imposing the steep tariffs on Chinese solar panels it had threatened.

The deal could end up strengthening the fractured Chinese solar panel industry and sending a wave of cheaper Chinese panels to the United States.

Trade experts said the European Commission’s meager outcome, in a case covering 6 percent of China’s exports to Europe, showed that while Brussels might have had a strong case in terms of law or economics, it was fatally weak from the beginning at the political level. Those political weaknesses increased as China’s leaders traveled repeatedly to European capitals and lobbied aggressively and successfully to divide Europe on the issue.

European makers of solar panels were furious about receiving so little after a year of litigation, and vowed to sue. The European settlement also undermined Obama administration officials, who had taken a tough stance toward China on solar panel trade and had tried for months to persuade European leaders to side with them.

EU, China near deal on solar panel dispute

The European Union and China are near a settlement in their dispute over solar panel imports, press reports said Thursday, but Europeans manufacturers challenged the figures involved as still harmful to their business.

The Handelsblatt business daily said negotiators were ready to set a minimum price on imported Chinese solar panels at 57 cents per watt of power they produced.

This price would apply to the first seven gigawatts of solar panels imported.

Any panels imported above the seven gigawatt quota would then incur an anti-dumping tariff of 47.6 percent, the German daily said, without specifying its sources.

EU officials declined to comment directly on the report and the figures given.

"Discussions are on-going at the highest level as both sides seek an amicable solution," EU Trade spokesman John Clancy said.

Volvo Invents a Solar Panel That Unfurls From the Car Trunk

Volvo is famous for favoring safety over style, making the selection of Synthesis Design + Architecture, best known for its sweeping, sci-fi inspired solutions, a bit of a surprise. The solar-powered pavilion is a stunning showcase for its new hybrid electricV60 model, and the parabolic platform is intended to highlight the sedate sedan’s impressive technological innovations at marketing events while charging it up for the ride to the next city.

Unlike many green design projects that tack on aesthetics like an aftermarket body kit, Synthesis was driven by them. Synthesis principal and USC professor Alvin Huang has been a long time researcher of “dynamic mesh relaxation”—a design approach pioneered by Frei Otto and amplified by computer science that is focused on the physical properties of dynamic materials and efficiently configuring them into complex, visually striking structures.

The design process involved digital and analog techniques—digital tools allowed for quick explorations of designs while physical models acted as proof of concepts for the carbon fiber frame, mesh surface, and artfully placed solar panels. The combination of the two styles of design equipped the team with an intuitive sense for what works to develop an attractive form that could stand up to the rigors of use in the field. “The iterative exchange between the parallel digital and analog models allowed us to further refine design technique, and perhaps more importantly, design intuition, in terms of achieving desired effects.” says Huang.

VA Selected for Nation's 2nd Offshore Wind Energy Lease Sale

Governor Bob McDonnell issued the following statement this morning following news that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has selected an area off the coast of Virginia as the site of the nation's second offshore wind energy lease sale. On September 4th, the Department of the Interior will auction 112,799 acres offshore of the Commonwealth in a competitive lease sale. The area will be sold as one single lease and it is anticipated it will support 2000 megawatts of wind generation and enough electricity to power 700,000 homes.

"Today, the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced the formal date for the auction of lease blocks in federal waters off Virginia's outer continental shelf for the commercial development of offshore wind energy.  This will be only the second offshore wind energy lease sale in American history and it is an exciting and significant step in our  bipartisan effort to advance Virginia's ‘all-of-the-above' energy strategy. I want to thank Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and her team at BOEM for moving this project forward as part of a comprehensive approach toward meeting our nation's energy needs and creating more good jobs for our people.

"Earlier in our Administration we were pleased to accept the invitation of then Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to join the Department's Offshore Wind Consortium, and we worked with the Secretary on the ‘Smart from the Start' program.   Together with the General Assembly, we created the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority (VOWDA) to oversee the data gathering, research and planning that must be done to support offshore wind development off of Virginia's coast. As part of that effort we are currently working toward final approval of two offshore wind research leases.  

"Virginia's coast is ideal for wind development. The gradual slope of the Outer Continental Shelf and consistent offshore wind speeds make this a natural geographic location for the commercial utilization of offshore wind resources. At the same time, Virginia enjoys a robust commercial ship building industry poised to become the center of construction for the component parts needed to build the specialized ships, turbines and towers necessary for these upcoming leases, and potentially for additional future wind leases on the east coast.  This will result in millions of dollars in industrial activity and the creation of many new high-skilled jobs in our state.

Solar Energy Storage About To Take Off In Germany and California

Visitors to last week’s Intersolar North America conference in San Francisco could not help but notice the presence of a benign invader: energy storage vendors. Half the second-floor exhibition space at the Moscone West convention hall had been rented by energy storage companies.

According to Markus Elsaesser, CEO of Intersolar, the number of companies exhibiting energy storage technologies at Intersolar has increased from about a dozen just three years ago to more than 200 this year.

The surge in companies entering, or expanding into, the energy storage space is no accident. Bankruptcies, a panel supply glut, and falling feed-in tariff rates have shaken the PV industry. Panel and system manufacturers are looking for ways to grow earnings, and one likely new revenue source is energy storage. According to Elsaesser, the PV industry expects to boost revenue by $10 billion by 2017 globally with storage.

“The PV industry needs to look for future profit pools,” Markus Hoehner, founder of theInternational Battery and Energy Storage Alliance(IBESA), said at an Intersolar briefing. “When we look at the PV industry on the global level, most of it was feed-in tariff driven. It was about IRR [internal rate of return], making money out of the PV system. Now, due to the downturn in the feed-in tariff markets, and due to the much lower system cost, we’re talking about saving money.”

Homeowners in markets with high retail electricity rates, he said, are looking to shield themselves from rising energy costs with storage. Take the example of Germany. Matthias Vetter, a researcher with theFraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems(ISE), who also spoke at the briefing, said that he pays 26 euro cents ($0.34) per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for grid electricity in Germany.

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