MIT startup makes transparent solar panel that will allow your smartphone to power itself

Transparent solar panels — think about it for a moment: Sheets of transparent glass or plastic film that also generate electricity. It’s almost the perfect solution for all our energy needs, generating free power from every available surface, window, and computer display.

The concept of transparent solar panels isn’t new, of course, but it now looks like they’re finally finding their way to market: Ubiquitous Energy, a startup that was spun off from MIT last year, is developing a technology and patent portfolio and hopes to bring affordable transparent solar panels to market soon.

At this point, you might be wondering how transparent solar cells actually work — after all, if it’s transparent, how can it absorb light energy? The simple answer is that light energy comes in many frequencies (colors), but as far as we humans are concerned, it is only the visible wavelengths — from blue, through green and yellow, to red — that really matter. The Sun, however, pumps out a huge amount of infrared light, and some ultraviolet light — both of which are invisible to the human eye, but which can also generate large amounts of electricity if captured by a solar cell.

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Can Perception Sell Renewable Energy?

Everyone in the sales side of renewable energy is confronted with a litany of financial measures and the same questions- “What is the IRR?” “How much is the CAPEX?” and “Where is the offtake (purchase) agreement?”; fairly universal questions between buyers and sellers in almost every industry! For the most part, the renewable energy industry suffers from a financial imbalance. Without incentives and/or compliance penalties, it’s somewhat difficult to justify the project on financial measures alone; this makes for a hard sale.

A discussion with Brian F. Keane, President of SmartPower (a renewable energy and energy efficiency company) touched on a model that was somewhat novel, at least in the renewable energy industry. Brian mentioned cars. Why do people buy a certain car knowing that once it’s off the lot it has depreciated at least in-half. A Lexus SUV LX 570 with a base sticker price of $81,530 does essentially the same thing as a Toyota Highlander with a msrp of $29,020.

Brian used another outlandish example for consumer behavior. In 1975, “the pet rock sold for $3.95 and estimates state Gary Dahl (advertising guru) sold over 5 million of his pet rocks in a six month period. With these totals Dahl earned over 15 million dollars during this period which would be estimated at $56 million today.” If interested, you can still purchase a pet rock at Amazon for $6.00 less shipping. Last Christmas a customer wrote “I bought this as a Gag for my brother. The package was in great shape, and the whole construct of the gift was great! Overall he said he loved this gift the best. Great holiday tradition carried on with such a simple and affordable gift.”

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Solar panel duty on Chinese imports 'could cost UK billions'

The UK could lose billions of pounds and thousands of jobs in the solar industry if the EU imposes tariffs on cheap imported panels from China, a report has claimed.

The European commission is investigating if solar panels coming into Europe from China are being sold below market value – known as "dumping" – and benefiting from unfair Chinese government subsidies.

The move by the commission, instigated last year, is the largest of its kind, with solar panels and key components worth more than £18bn exported from China to the EU in 2011.

It followed complaints from European solar manufacturers and could lead to anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties being imposed on Chinese-made panels to stop the cheap imports harming Europe's domestic industry.

But a report published on Tuesday suggests imposing any level of tariff would hit the EU economy and jobs would be lost, as the move would push up photovoltaic panel prices and reduce the installation of the green electricity technology.

U.S. added 147 megawatts of geothermal energy in 2012

Geothermal power has a promising future, but so far it has lagged behind most of its other renewable energy cousins, especially wind and solar. So while wind power in the US has grown by 13.2 gigawatts in 2012, with 5.5 gigawatts of that just in December, geothermal's growth is more modest. According to the Geothermal Energy Association, the U.S. added 147.05 MW of gross geothermal power capacity in 2012, which is 5% more than in 2011.

That might not seem like much, but geothermal power has very desirable attributes that make it worth developing further; unlike wind and solar, it generates power 24/7 regardless of the weather. It's true that there are many ways to mitigate the intermittency of wind and solar, including possibly with grid-scale liquid-metal batteries, but having some nice clean baseload power in the mix will always be a good thing. Now the trick is to reduce costs, and to make sure we understand the geology properly to avoid problems.

A Look at the Development of China's Renewable Energy Sector

When it comes to massive renewable energy adoption, China is an icon of promise.

Being the world’s largest energy producer and consumer, the Asian country is now realizing that coal will no longer serve its economic development. Hence, renewable energy is a necessity for the nation’s inclusive growth and energy security, suggested a report by Solidiance, an Asia-Pacific marketing strategy firm.

Renewable energy take up across the country is driven by three key factors – the increasing demand for electricity, the need to cut dependence on coal and the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Pilar Dieter, Principal for Solidiance, these three are interrelated.

“While China seeks to cut greenhouse gas as part of its energy savings plan, this ideally should ease China's reliance on fossil fuels and... save more electricity,” she told EcoSeed.

Looking forward, the Central Government, under its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) for National Economic and Social Development, has imposed self-mandated greener energy targets. By 2015, it aims to increase its renewables capacity by 11.4 percent, reduce emissions by 17 percent per unit of gross domestic product, and reduce energy consumption per unit of G.D.P. by 16 percent.

Solidiance identified four key renewable energy sectors that will see the achievement of these goals: hydropower, wind, solar photovoltaic, and biofuels. However, these sectors are currently in different stages of development, facing challenges that have to be overcome in able to optimize their full potential.

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SEIA Statement on President Obama's State of the Union Address

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association today released the following statement in response to President Obama's State of the Union Address to Congress:

"In tonight's State of the Union Address, President Obama laid out a vision for the American energy economy that is in line with what SEIA is working to achieve – a robust clean energy industry that powers our homes and businesses while growing our economy and protecting our environment. Energy is a primary input to our nation's economic system, so it's appropriate that President Obama is placing emphasis on developing our nation's robust clean energy resources to help rebuild the nation's economy.

"We are especially encouraged by the president's commitment to securing America's place as a leader in clean energy innovation throughout the world. President Obama understands that the stakes are high and we must not fall behind other nations as the world shifts to emissions-free clean energy technologies like solar.

"We thank President Obama for his leadership and look forward to continuing to work with Congress and the White House to make solar an increasingly-important component of the nation's energy portfolio."

Report: Panasonic makes super-effiecient Solar Cell

Panasonic Corp.'s (6752.TO, PC) prototype solar cell has achieved the world's highest conversion efficiency at 24.7%, according to tests performed by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, the Nikkei reports in its Feb. 11 edition.

It beat the previous record of 24.2% held by U.S. company SunPower Corp., a mark that is still recognized as the world's highest by Progress in Photovoltaics, an internationally recognized publication in the field of solar-energy research.

The Panasonic prototype's surface membrane allows more sunlight to pass through, and its electrodes transfer electricity more efficiently. The company aims to commercialize the prototype and raise the conversion efficiency of its mass-market solar cells, which stands at 21.6%.

Siemens announces plans for new, state-of-the-art wind service training center in U.S.

Siemens is making plans to build a new, state-of-the-art wind service training facility in Orlando, Florida, USA. The demand for skilled wind service technicians is increasing as more wind projects come online in the Americas, thereby requiring long-term service and maintenance. Siemens is designing this new 40,000-square-foot center, which will be located close to the global headquarters of Siemens' Energy Service division in Orlando, to be among the most advanced wind training facilities in the world. Siemens' initial investment will be approximately $7 million and the company plans to create 50 new full-time jobs and host approximately 2,400 trainees annually from the U.S. and the Americas. The training center, which is being built based on LEED Gold green-building standards, is scheduled to begin operations by this summer.

"As wind energy has become a mainstream source of power generation, the continued reliable and competitive performance of renewable energy is critically important to meeting the nation's future energy demand," said Randy Zwirn, CEO of Siemens Energy, Inc. and CEO of Siemens Energy's global Service Division. "As an industry leader in both onshore and offshore wind, Siemens is poised to meet that demand and this new, advanced training facility in the U.S. will help ensure that our wind service technicians receive the highest standard of technical and safety training."

2013 Photovoltaic Projects of Distinction Award Winners Announced at PV America East 2013

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)® and the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) today announced the three winners of the 2013 Photovoltaic (PV) Projects of Distinction Awards at PV America East 2013 in Philadelphia, PA. Recognizing major achievements in U.S. PV solar energy, the awards were presented to the Generating Clean Horizons Solar Project, Keystone Solar and the Union County (NJ) Solar Initiative. For the first time, nine projects were awarded honorable mentions in recognition of their impressive accomplishments.

More than 100 submissions were evaluated by an independent panel of judges representing associations, consultants, distributors, government, integrators, manufacturers and utilities. To qualify for an award, each project had to be operational and demonstrate a collective benefit to the community and innovative use of policy and financing to enhance the project's impact.

Click here for the full Press Release and list of Winners.

UConn Professor's Patented Technique Key to New Solar Power Technology

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. 2012 Wind Power Reached Record 13,124 Megawatts, Beats Gas

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.

California Solar Project Includes Energy

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.

Canada's First Off-Shore Wind Farm Set for B.C.

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 New CEO Says Biofuels May Supply 90% of Revenue

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.

U.S. Wind Power Accounted for 6% of Generation Capacity in 2012

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.

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