The solar-energy industry's huge assembly this week in Orlando buzzed with alternating currents of anxiety and optimism over this year's presidential election.
A common thought at Solar Power International, which bills itself as North America's largest conference and exposition for the solar-energy business, was that the future will stay reasonably bright if President Obama wins a second term, but that it might be lights out if Mitt Romney prevails in November.
"Both campaigns have been pretty vague on their energy plans, but certainly in the past four years we have seen strong leadership from the Obama administration to try to diversify our energy portfolio," said Rhone Resch, president and chief executive officer of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a co-host of the four-day event.
Resch said the industry's labor force has grown in recent years from 20,000 workers to more than 100,000 and has been a major bright spot in the economies of certain states, such as New Jersey.
Not only was General Motors praised by the Solar Energy Industries Association as the #1 user of solar power among automakers in the United States, it also ranked #13 among all companies for solar use. A variety of solar array initiatives at its plants have helped give it the ability to generate enough electricity to power 800 U.S. homes each year.
SEIA and the Vote Solar Initiative determined the rankings via cumulative solar energy capacity. Rhone Resch, CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, deciphers that phrase this way:
“GM has set an example in renewable energy within its industry and beyond. Solar helps companies reliably manage their long-term energy costs, and our top 20 companies are going solar in a big way across the nation.”
In 2011, GM publicly stated its commitment to doubling its global sonar output to 60 megawatts by 2014 and to increase renewable energy use to 125MW by 2020.
Solar Power International (SPI) is North America’s premier business-to-business event for professionals in solar energy and related fields.
- Thousands of solar energy industry professionals from 100+ countries attend.
- One of five attendees comes from outside the United States.
- More than 900 exhibiting companies from all vertical markets in the solar power spectrum.
The significance of Solar Power International comes not from the number or diversity of its attendees. Rather, this year's conference matters because it comes at a time of rapid innovation and change in the industry. These changes affect so many aspects of the business that players need to constantly update their understanding; to be just a month behind puts you at a competitive disadvantage.
What's changed since Dallas?
SPI 2011 was held last October in Dallas, Texas. Since that time, the industry landscape has changed drastically, specifically with regard to how projects are getting financed. In any given month, DG Energy Partners sees dozens of MWs of projects seeking financial partners. Regardless of where these projects are located, the underlying trends remain the same; hardware prices have continued to fall, EPC margins have continued to shrink and projects have grown increasingly difficult to complete. And we haven't even mentioned what changes we can expect in 2013.
Chinese solar companies expect the European Commission to announce within days a formal investigation into their alleged dumping of solar panels in Europe, which could result in heavy tariffs being imposed on them next year.
The expected move against the companies, whose share prices have tumbled and whose financial outlook is cloudy due to oversupply and falling solar-equipment prices, would come as they are already fighting clean-energy trade battles on several fronts.
Also, China and the European Union are at loggerheads over several other trade rows, including a European plan to punish airlines if they don't comply with an emissions-control program—issues that could have the potential to sour China's readiness to help in financially underpinning Europe's debt-laden economies.
European solar-panel makers filed a confidential complaint July 25 with the commission, the EU's executive arm, accusing Chinese solar-panel manufacturers of selling products at below-cost prices in Europe.
The QBotix Tracking System rethinks two-axis tracking in an effort to bring the cost down to what solar project developers pay for single-axis trackers.
Instead of having the hardware to adjust the angle on every solar panel, QBotix engineers created a traveling robot equipped with the motor needed to change the angle. Like a small train, the robot drives along a track a few feet off the ground placed along the edge of solar panels and makes adjustments.
It’s designed so that one robot can service 200 panels in 40 minutes, the time it takes the sun to move 10 degrees. The track can be a simple loop or navigate turns and hills, according to QBotix CEO and founder Wasiq Bokhari. A magnet on the robot allows it to locate a panel mount, where it can attach its motors to make the adjustments.
Researchers at RTI International have developed a new solar technology that could make solar energy more affordable, and thus speed-up its market adoption.
The RTI solar cells are formed from solutions of semiconductor particles, known as colloidal quantum dots, and can have a power conversion efficiency that is competitive to traditional cells at a fraction of the cost.
Solar energy has the potential to be a renewable, carbon-neutral source of electricity but the high cost of photovoltaics – the devices that convert sunlight into electricity – has slowed widespread adoption of this resource.
The RTI-developed solar cells were created using low-cost materials and processing techniques that reduce the primary costs of photovoltaic production, including materials, capital infrastructure and energy associated with manufacturing.
Preliminary analysis of the material costs of the technology show that it can be produced for less than $20 per square meter—as much as 75 percent less than traditional solar cells.
Vestas Wind Systems A/S said Tuesday that it is in talks with Japanese industrial conglomerate Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. about a strategic tie-up that could secure the long-term future of the financially troubled Danish wind-turbine maker.
Vestas, the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines, has been struggling with steep losses and a tight financial situation, prompting speculation in the market of a company sale or a dilutive issuance of new shares.
The shares jumped 19% Tuesday after news of the Mitsubishi talks, with analysts saying that the project could help the company navigate its way back to profitability.
"No matter what the deal contains, it will surely include an injection of capital to Vestas," Alm. Brand Markets analyst Michael Friis Joergensen said.
Vestas fell deep in the red in 2011, when massive overcapacity, excessive costs and budget overruns in the development of a new turbine forced it to issue two profit warnings, helping send the share price lower.
German born, barcelona-based architect andré broessel has sent us images of his latest development of a spherical glass
solar energy generator. the project uses the advantageous strategy of implementing a ball lens and specific geometrical
structure to improve energy efficiency by 35%. in contrast to its traditional photo-voltaic 'dual-axis' counterparts,
the device incorporates a fully rotational weatherproof natural optical tracking device that is adequate for functioning
on inclined surfaces and curtain walls, empowering any building surface. the new solar generating concept has
capabilities that concentrate diffused daylight or moonlight for a more effective site context application.
One reason that solar energy has not been widely adopted is because light absorbing materials are not durable. Materials that harvest solar radiation for energy often overheat or degrade over time; this reduces their viability to compete with other renewable energy sources like wind or hydroelectric generators. A new video protocol addresses these issues by presenting a synthesis of two inorganic nanocrystals, each of which is more durable than their organic counterparts.
The article, published in Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE), focuses on the liquid phase synthesis of two nanocrystals that produce hydrogen gas or an electric charge when exposed to light. "The main advantage of this technique is that it allows for direct, all inorganic coupling of the light absorber and the catalyst," says the leading author Dr. Mikhail Zamkov of Bowling Green State University.
Article in the journal Nature written by Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Arun Majumdar, former director of the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.
Access to clean, affordable and reliable energy has been a cornerstone of the world's increasing prosperity and economic growth since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Our use of energy in the twenty–first century must also be sustainable. Solar and water–based energy generation, and engineering of microbes to produce biofuels are a few examples of the alternatives. This Perspective puts these opportunities into a larger context by relating them to a number of aspects in the transportation and electricity generation sectors. It also provides a snapshot of the current energy landscape and discusses several research and development opportunities and pathways that could lead to a prosperous, sustainable and secure energy future for the world.
China connected 50.26 gigawatts of wind-generated capacity to the nation’s largest electricity grid as of this year, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing a statement from China State Grid Corp.
Growth in the on-grid wind power capacity was up 87 percent annually over the last six years, Xinhua reported, citing the larger of China’s two transmission operators. Grid-linked capacity will rise to 100 gigawatts by 2015 and 200 gigawatts by 2020, according to the report published yesterday.
China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, plans to have at least 15 percent of its energy mix come from non-fossil fuels by 2020. Wind farms are the second-biggest contributor to renewable-energy capacity in the nation after hydropower dams.
New U.S. wind power installations are expected to be substantially higher in 2012 than 2011, driven by the threat of expiring federal incentives, a report says.
While facing policy uncertainty beyond 2012, the United States remained one of the fastest-growing wind power markets in the world in 2011, second only to China, a report prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy said.
With around 6.8 gigawatts of new wind power capacity connected to the U.S. grid in 2011, wind power comprised 32 percent of all new U.S. electric capacity additions for the year, the report said.
Projections are for continued strong growth in 2012, followed by dramatically lower additions in 2013 following the expiration of key federal incentives, a Department of Energy release announcing the report said Tuesday.
Low natural gas prices and modest electricity demand growth threaten to dramatically slow new builds in 2013 and beyond, despite recent improvements in the cost and performance of wind power technology, the report's authors said.
A manufacturer of solar power mounting systems, Schletter, Inc., will invest $27 million to establish a production and distribution facility in Shelby, North Carolina, with plans to create 305 jobs by the end of 2016.
The new facility in Shelby, which will serve as the production and distribution hub of Schletter’s east coast operations, will house all functions required to produce the company’s eight types of solar mounting systems. In addition to the manufacturing operations, the Shelby location will become Schletter’s U.S. headquarters.
We’re excited to offer our customers improved delivery and service options by opening our second U.S. manufacturing facility and new U.S. corporate headquarters in Shelby, North Carolina,” stated Martin Hausner, President of Schletter Inc.
“The decision to locate a manufacturing facility in North Carolina was primarily based on providing improved services for our East Coast customers; faster delivery of our products, and reduced logistics costs,” Ludwig Schletter, owner of the Schletter Corporation said. “We will never lose sight of our goals which include remaining a competitive force in the market while providing the highest quality product.”
The module also tracks the sun and rotates with it to increase its efficiency. The whole module is mounted on a steel 10-ft by 10-ft rotating frame that moves with the sun.
“The tracker is fully automated,” Blake Coughenour, a graduate student in the UA’s College of Optical Sciences, explained. “The system wakes itself up in the morning and turns to the East. It knows where the sun will rise even while it’s still below the horizon. It tracks the sun’s path during the day all the way to sunset, then parks itself for the night.”
One of the most interesting parts of the system is the mirror. The researchers came up with a dish-shaped mirror design that works very well for concentrating sunlight specifically for photovoltaics, as opposed to a solar thermal system.
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