RTI International Develops New Low Cost, High Efficiency Solar Technology

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 in Talks With Mitsubishi on Strategic Pact

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.

Spherical glass solar energy generator

From DesignBoom.com:

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.

Full Article & Images:

Researchers synthesize inorganic nanocrystals that harvest solar energy

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.

Opportunities and challenges for a sustainable energy future

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.

Full Article:

China's Wind-Power Capacity Linked to Grid Up 87%, Xinhua Says

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.

Report: Wind power accounted for 32% of new U.S. capacity in 2011

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.

Schletter Invests $27 Million In Solar Power Manufacturing Plant, Creating 305 North Carolina Jobs

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.”

New Solar Power Design Inspired by Telescope Could Produce Twice the Energy

Researchers have designed a new solar power module that uses a curved mirror to focus sunlight onto a 5-inch glass ball that then spreads the light evenly across a solar panel, leading to twice the power output of traditional solar panels when combined with high-efficiency solar cells. The design was inspired by telescope technology and the high-efficiency solar cells used by space agencies.

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.

 

China's Wanxiang to take control of battery maker A123

A123 Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: AONE), designer, developer, manufacturer and seller of rechargeable lithium-ion and energy storage systems, today reported a loss in its second quarter. However, shares of the Waltham, Massachusetts-based are gaining after it secured a financing deal.

For the second quarter, AONE reported a loss of $82.9 million, or $0.56 per share, compared to a loss of $55.4 million, or $0.44 per share reported for the same period in the previous year. Revenue for the quarter fell 53% to $17 million. AONE’s results were worse than Street estimates.

Despite posting worse-than-expected results, AONE shares are up sharply today after the company reached an agreement with Chinese auto parts maker Wanxiang Group Corp. for an investment of up to $450 million. The investment will help AONE to stay afloat.

David Vieau, CEO of A123 Systems, said that today’s announcement is the first step toward solidifying a strategic agreement that the company believes would remove the uncertainty regarding its financial situation.

 

Wind power hits 57% mark in Colorado

During the early morning hours of April 15, with a steady breeze blowing down Colorado's Front Range, the state's biggest utility set a U.S. record -- nearly 57% of the electricity being generated was coming from wind power.

As dawn came and the 1.4 million customers in Xcel Energy's service district began turning on the lights, toasters and other appliances, the utility's coal and natural gas-fired power plants ramped up production and brought wind's contribution back closer to its 2012 average of 17%.

lities have long been wary of placing too much finicky renewable power on the grid.

"A lot of utilities don't want to contract large amounts of wind because it's volatile," said Amy Grace, a wind analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "Anything over 25%, and utilities get nervous."

Colorado's overnight high-water mark demonstrated that utilities can indeed incorporate cleaner power sources into the mix.

Renewable Energy Groups Applaud Senate Finance Committee Vote to Enhance Production Tax Credits

Leaders of four renewable energy trade associations today commended a last-minute vote by the Senate Finance Committee yesterday afternoon to extend and enhance production tax credits (PTCs) for all renewable energy sources. The tax credits are essential for the development of clean energy-generating facilities by offsetting the high cost of construction. Yesterday's action by the Committee will give renewable baseload technologies equitable access to this important program by allowing eligible facilities to qualify for the tax credits when construction is commenced.

"We are highly encouraged that the Senate Finance Committee passed this tax credit extension, and we urge the full Senate and the House to approve the credit before the end of the 112th Congress," said Bob Cleaves, President and CEO of Biomass Power Association. "The construction of new biomass facilities can be prohibitively expensive, and our industry relies on one-time tax credits to attract private investors to support the building of new plants. An extension of PTCs will help ensure that renewable energy sources continue to produce a growing share of electricity for our nation."
 

First Solar Boosting Solar-Panel Production to Meet Higher Demand

U.S. solar company First Solar Inc. (FSLR) said Wednesday that it will make more solar panels this year than earlier planned due to rising demand.

The Arizona company said it plans to make 1,800 to 1,900 megawatts of panels this year, up from its plan in May to cut production to 1,400 to 1,700 megawatts. That compares to 2,400 megawatts of production in 2011.

First Solar Chief Executive Jim Hughes said the company will make more products to meet higher-than-expected demand from customers primarily in Europe and India.

First Solar reported a second-quarter profit of $111 million, or $1.27 a share, up 82% from $61.1 million, or 70 cents a share, a year earlier. Net sales jumped 80% to $957.3 million, primarily due to an increase in the number and size of projects under construction for which revenue could be booked in the second quarter.

Share of First Solar were up 13% at $16.70 in after-hours trade.

U.S. Sets Duties on Chinese, Vietnamese Wind Towers

Proposed U.S. tariffs on wind-energytowers from China and Vietnam were welcomed by a trade group that had complained competitors were dumping products in the American market.

The Commerce Department concluded in preliminary findings yesterday that producers in the nations, which exported $301 million in towers to the U.S. in 2011, sold the utility-scale goods below production costs. The department, which set duties as high as 73 percent for Chinese products and 60 percent for goods from Vietnam, acted on a complaint by U.S. companies such as Broadwind Energy Inc. (BWEN) of Naperville, Illinois. Broadwind rose 13 percent in trading yesterday.

“Commerce has taken an important step to address the significant dumping that is taking place,” Alan Price, an attorney with Wiley Rein LLP in Washington who represents the U.S. group, said in a statement. Duties will help to “force the Chinese and Vietnamese producers to compete fairly.”

Beijing Denies Solar Panel Dumping Amid EU Row

Beijing on Friday denied accusations of solar panel dumping, saying it hoped Chinese and EU manufacturers could negotiate an end to a dispute that threatens a trade war.

EU ProSun, a group of more than 20 European solar panel makers, suspects Beijing of providing their Chinese rivals with loans and other subsidies enabling them to sell their goods below cost.

They have filed a complaint with the European Commission calling for it to impose tariffs, following a U.S. move in May to slap hefty anti-dumping duties on Chinese solar products which Beijing blasted as "protectionist."

Beijing's commerce ministry backed the Chinese firms, saying falling export prices were due to the cost of polysilicon, a key panel ingredient, dropping from $300 a kilogram in 2008 to $30 now, new technology and economies of scale.

"There is therefore no basis to consider that Chinese photovoltaic cells are being dumped," it said in a statement on its website.

It said that Chinese firms themselves imported key components and technology needed for solar panel manufacturing from Europe and the U.S., adding that Chinese products helped create jobs among installers.

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