German institute successfully tests underwater energy storage sphere

Megan Geuss for ArsTechnica:  Pumped storage is a decades-old technology with a relatively simple concept: When electricity is cheap and plentiful, use it to pump water up into a reservoir above a turbine, and when electricity is scarce and expensive, send that pumped water down through a turbine to generate more power. Often, these pumped storage facilities are auxiliary to other electricity-generating systems, and they serve to smooth out fluctuations in the amount of power on the grid. A German research institute has spent years trying to tailor pumped storage to ocean environments. Recently, the institute completed a successful four-week pilot test using a hollow concrete sphere that it placed on the bottom of Lake Constance, a body of water at the foot of the Alps. The sphere has a diameter of three meters and contains a pump and a turbine. Much like traditional pumped storage, when electricity is cheap, water can be pumped out of the sphere, and when it’s scarce, water can be let into the sphere to move the turbine and generate electricity.   Cont'd...

New process for manufacturing PV cells means cheaper solar power

Phys.org:  A major roadblock to the mass use of solar energy are photovoltaic (PV) solar cells. This is because the cost, inefficiency and negative environmental impact that the manufacturing of these cells outweighs any potential savings provided by the resulting solar energy. If, however, cost could be were minimised, then solar power would be more able to compete with traditional fossil fuel-based methods for generating energy. To overcome this hurdle, the EU-funded SOLNOWAT project has developed an innovative dry process for manufacturing PV solar cells. PV cells are typically created via a wet chemical process that etches away layers of silicon from a crystalline wafer, leaving behind the solar cell. The SOLNOWAT process replaces the expensive and inefficient wet chemical process with the use of atmospheric pressure dry etching technology – a process that cuts costs and speeds up production. Because less silicon is removed during dry etching, the resulting cells are darker, making them very efficient at absorbing light. In fact, they are so efficient that they have been classified as having zero global warming potential.   Cont'd...

US Energy Storage Installations Grow 100% in 2016

Mike Munsell for GTM:  "The fourth quarter marked a turning point in the U.S. utility-scale energy storage market reflected by the burst of deployments over an extremely short period from inception to interconnection," said Ravi Manghani, GTM Research's director of energy storage. "California will play a significant role in the future as utilities there continue to contract energy storage under the state's 1.3 gigawatt mandate. While California took over the pole position in 2016 from PJM, the market shift was also transformational in terms of applications -- from short duration ancillary services to longer duration capacity needs." As a result, even though the market stayed roughly flat in megawatts, it grew 100 percent in megawatt-hours.   Cont'd...

US Military Moves Ahead With Renewable Energy Plan

Shoshanna Delventhal for Investopedia:  The Trump administration’s stance on climate change and the environment can be summed up by the chief White House strategist’s recent criticism of government support of green energy as “madness.” Despite a 180-degree shift from Obama administration’s environmental agenda, the Department of Defense, plans to move forward with a decade-long effort to “convert its fuel-hungry operations to renewable power,” senior military officials told Reuters. Yet apart from the controversial debate on climate change and the need for environmental protection, the Department of Defense has a strictly nonpolitical incentive to carry out the transition. Weaning reliance off petroleum means improved safety for U.S. troops and the American public.   Cont'd...

Innovative tidal technology gets $4.6 million funding

Anmar Frangoul for CNBC:  The European Commission has awarded 4.4 million euros ($4.63 million) in funding to a European tidal energy consortium to demonstrate innovative technology for tidal turbines. The consortium, led by Scotland's Nova Innovation, will use the funding to demo and show a "direct drive power take-off (PTO) solution" for tidal turbines. According to Nova Innovation, this technology could help to cut the lifetime cost of tidal power by 20 percent. The project will be known as TiPA (standing for Tidal turbine Power take-off Accelerator) and run for 36 months. Organizations involved in the project include Siemens, the University of Edinburgh, and Delft Technical University, among others.   Cont'd...

Global Annual Installed Capacity of Small and Medium Wind Turbines is Expected to Exceed 446 MW in 2026

Despite weakening policy drivers and competition from declining solar PV prices, the SMWT industry is still poised for growth. With a large amount of wind resource potential still available, plus several growing and emerging markets, the industry is anticipated to sustain itself into the foreseeable future. Click to tweet: According to a new report from @NavigantRSRCH, the global installed capacity of SMWTs is expected to grow from 176.4 MW in 2017 to 446.0 MW in 2026.  "With historically leading markets such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and China seeing declining annual installed capacities of small and medium wind in recent years, other countries such as Japan, Denmark, and Italy are emerging as forces in the distributed wind market thanks to favorable government incentives," says Adam Wilson, research associate with Navigant Research. "We're also seeing a shift with medium-sized turbines as their niche slowly shrinks as drivers continue to favor small wind turbines for distributed wind and larger multi-megawatt turbines dominating utility-scale applications."   Full Press Release:

Stabilizing battery storage

Morgan Sherburne for U of Michigan News:  An issue that has long plagued renewable energy facilities is how to efficiently store energy collected from sun or wind. Now, University of Michigan and University of Utah chemists have developed an energy-storing molecule that is 1,000 times more stable than current compounds, potentially leading to a longer-lived, more efficient battery. The researchers are working to develop industrial-scale batteries that can store large amounts of energy for deployment when the sun sets or the wind stops blowing. Deep-cycle lead batteries or lithium ion batteries are already on the market, but each type presents challenges, including the significant environmental hazards of disposal. Also, these kinds of batteries wear out relatively quickly.   Cont'd...

How drones are helping design the solar power plants of the future

Katie Fehrenbacher for T he Guardian:    At the edge of a plot of muddy farmland, a few miles down the road from the University of California at Davis, an engineer takes a few quick steps across crop rows and lets go of a three-foot drone. Within seconds, the device - which weighs less than 2lbs and carries a powerful camera - ascends hundreds of feet into the cold, clear, blue sky and begins to snap detailed photos of the ground far below, including a long row of large solar panels mounted on steel poles. This flight is just a test, demonstrated by Kingsley Chen, the drone fleet coordinator for SunPower at the solar company's research and development center, which is under construction and about a two-hour drive northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area. The drone will enable SunPower to survey a wide region and help design a solar power farm that can fit more solar panels on a piece of land, more quickly and for lower costs than it previously could.   Con'td...

SDG&E Unveils World's Largest Lithium Ion Battery Energy Storage Facility

Today, SDG&E is showcasing the world's largest lithium-ion battery energy storage facility in partnership with AES Energy Storage, which will enhance regional energy reliability while maximizing renewable energy use. The 30 megawatt (MW) energy storage facility is capable of storing up to 120 megawatt hours of energy, the energy equivalent of serving 20,000 customers for four hours.  Last year, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) directed Southern California investor-owned electric utilities to fast-track additional energy storage options to enhance regional energy reliability. In response, SDG&E expedited ongoing negotiations and contracted with AES Energy Storage to build two projects for a total of 37.5 MW of lithium ion battery energy storage. In addition to the 30 MW facility built in Escondido, Calif., a smaller 7.5 MW installation was built in El Cajon.   Full Press Release:  

Follow the Patents: For Solar Power, the Devil Is in the Details

Alec Schibanoff for Electric Light & Power:  There actually is a crystal ball that permits you to see into the future. All you have to do is follow the patents. The latest patents in any technology will show you where that technology—and the businesses that use that technology—are going. This month, we take a look at the future of solar panel installation. The first solar power generator was displayed at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1878. The first U.S. Patent for a solar power device was awarded the next year to Edward Weston. He actually received two patents: U.S. Patent No. 389,124 for an “Apparatus for Generating Solar Radiant Energy” and U.S. Patent No. 389,125 for the “Art of Utilizing Solar Radiant Energy.” It was not until 1954 that Bell Labs developed the first silicone-based solar panel.   Cont'd...

7,000 Railways Stations In India To Go Solar

Saurabh Mahapatra for CleanTechnica:  Almost every railway station in India will soon be fed with solar power if the plans announced in India’s latest union budget are implemented. The Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced that the 7,000 railway stations across the country will be fed with solar power as per the Indian Railways mission to implement 1,000 megawatts of solar power capacity. The minister made the announcement during the union budget speech on 1 February 2017. The minister stated that work to set up rooftop solar power systems at 300 stations has already started, and soon this number will increase to 2,000 stations. According to data released by the Minister of Railways, India had 7,137 railway stations at the end of March 2015. These rooftop solar power systems are expected to be implemented through developer mode, wherein the project developer will sign long-term power purchase agreement with Indian Railways.   Cont'd...

High-tech canopy helps generate solar power while providing shade

Barbara Eldredge for Curbed:  Imaginative architect and designer Carlo Ratti has had some bonkers ideas over the past year, including an exercise-powered gym barge and a mile-high skyscraper park. But his latest project is on the sunnier side of feasibility. Literally. The Sun&Shade is a light-reflecting canopy made of mirrors that automatically rotate to catch the sun’s rays and fling them at a photovoltaic panel, “located a safe distance away.” This generates clean electricity up top while cooling the shaded area beneath. A working prototype of the mirrored structure just debuted at Dubai’s Museum of the Future as part of its “Reimagining Climate Change.”   Cont'd...

Chinese solar company opening local module factory in September

Victor A. Patton for Sacramento Business Journal:  A solar module factory expected to bring more than 200 jobs to Sacramento is slated to begin production in mid-September at McClellan Business Park.  It will be the first U.S. factory for Nanjing, China-based solar cell and module manufacturer China Sunergy Co, who on Thursday announced its subsidiary Sunergy America has agreed to lease a 140,000-square-foot manufacturing building — previously a plant where J.C. Penney made window coverings. Simon Szeto, a Sunergy advisor, said the company will bring around 20 management staff from overseas and will hire other employees locally.  The work being done at the factory will include putting together the modules. Each module includes a solar cell, an aluminum frame, tempered glass, cables and a junction box. The completed products, which can be placed on a ground mount or rooftop, will be sold commercially in the U.S, Szeto said.  Cont'd...

Catch wave power in floating nets

Zhong Lin Wang for Nature:  Nature provides three sources of energy for free: sunlight, air and gravity. Solar and wind power are increasingly exploited, gravity less so. Hydraulic power plants harvest energy from flowing rivers. Tidal energy can be gathered along some inlets and coasts. But few places are suitable for dams or barrages, which can also damage the environment. By contrast, oceans cover about 70% of Earth’s surface. Wave energy is plentiful day and night, whatever the weather. Capturing it requires little land and raises few safety or security concerns. Yet hardly any of this ‘blue energy’ is being generated. Today’s wave farms produce no more than 1–10 megawatts at any one time, enough to power a town. No commercial wave farms currently exist.   Full article:  

First Wattway solar road pilot in US pops up in rural Georgia

Lacy Cooke for Inhabitat:  The first Wattway solar road pilot in America has popped up in rural west Georgia. The Ray C. Anderson Foundation, named for sustainable manufacturing pioneer Ray Anderson, is testing renewable technologies along an 18-mile stretch of road, and recently installed 538 square feet of Colas‘ Wattway solar road system near the border between Georgia and Alabama. Part of Georgia’s Interstate 85 was named for Anderson, but as over five million tons of carbon dioxideare emitted yearly on that road portion alone, Anderson’s family felt placing his name there didn’t honor his legacy, and began to look into renewable technologies to clear the air – so to speak. Thus began The Ray, an 18-mile living laboratory for clean technologies, including not only the solar roads, but also a solar-powered electric vehicle charging station, and WheelRight, a system people can drive over to test their tire pressure, which could lead to improved fuel inefficiency.   Cont'd...

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