The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.
Overall Winner - The University of Maryland won top honors overall by designing, building, and operating the most cost effective, energy efficient and attractive solar powered house. Purdue University took second place followed by New Zealand (Victoria University of Wellington) in third place.
Peoples Choice - Appalachian State University. “The team’s passion and enthusiasm were contagious,” said Terri Jones, Solar Decathlon Communications Contest official. “The People’s Choice Award is a popular vote, and I believe the Solar Homestead house and team appealed to people on many levels.”
Communications Contest - Middlebury College, T"his team’s holistic approach to communications was refreshing; they achieved in all aspects of communications—not just in one area,” said Ryan Park, director of business development for REC Solar Inc., who presented the award on behalf of the Communications Contest jurors. “This team made renewable energy technologies familiar to the public, which we believe will help people more easily embrace these technologies. And isn’t that what it’s all about?”
Engineering Contest - New Zealand (Victoria University of Wellington). "The New Zealand house was beautifully executed, with extreme attention to detail and craftsmanship and an intuitive tree-ring visualization system, which makes it easy to understand energy use throughout the house,” said Engineering Contest juror Dr. Hunter Fanney.
Architecture Contest - The University of Maryland. “WaterShed achieves an elegant mix of inspiration, function, and simplicity. It takes our current greatest challenges in the built environment—energy and water—and transforms them into opportunities for spatial beauty and poetry while maintaining livability in every square inch,” said Architecture Contest Juror Michelle Kaufmann.
Affordability Contest - We have a tie between Parsons The New School for Design and Stevens Institute of Technology who built Empowerhouse for less than $230,000, Team Belgium (Ghent University) With its E-Cube valued at $249,568.09.
More Results to come...
Researchers using novel materials to build photovoltaic cells say their efforts could nearly double the efficiency of silicon-based solar cells. The cells being developed by teams from the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University have the potential to achieve a light-to-energy conversion rate, or solar efficiency, of 40 percent or better, according to the researchers. The photovoltaic cells are intended for use in satellites and space instruments. Currently, the silicon-based solar cells that NASA uses in its satellites and instruments have efficiencies of only up to 23 percent, according to NASA statistics. And today it was announced that the research teams are getting more money--a total of $1 million in new funding--to further their work. Of that, about $735,000 will come from NASA, $237,000 from the University of Arkansas, and $86,000 from Arkansas State. Omar Manasreh, professor of electrical engineering at the Optoelectronics Research Lab at the University of Arkansas, has been developing the technology so far with a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research. He leads the research team along with Liangmin Zhang, assistant professor at Arkansas State.
The U.S. solar energy industry continued its rapid growth through the second quarter of this year, gaining a greater share of the total global market according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)'s latest quarterly U.S. Solar Market Insight report. Leading the way was the U.S. solar photovoltaics (PV) market, which installed 314 megawatts in the second quarter, 69 percent more than the same period last year and 17 percent more than the first quarter of 2011. The U.S. remains poised to install 1,750 megawatts of PV in 2011, double last year's total and enough to power 350,000 homes. "The second quarter data illustrates that the U.S. solar industry continues to be one of the fastest growing in America," said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. "More than 100,000 Americans are employed in solar, twice as many as in 2009. They work at more than 5,000 companies - the vast majority being small businesses - across all 50 states."
Will the Chinese government make a good cleantech VC? The government recently announced a plan to invest directly or through venture capital funds into startups that are developing technologies including clean power and green cars. The Ministry of Finance posted a policy statement last Friday outlining its criteria for pumping up emerging technology development in the country. The criteria spells out what types of startups will qualify (founded no more than five years ago, for example) and what kind of venture capital funds might attract government participating (each equity fund must have a minimum of 2.5 billion yuan, or $391 million). The government said, in general, it wants to contribute no more than 20 percent of a fund, and it doesn’t want to stay in a fund for more than 10 years.
A new report shows that the U.S. is central to the global solar supply chain. In 2010, U.S. solar firms achieved a positive trade flow of $1.9 billion globally according to SEIA® and GTM Research's U.S. Solar Energy Trade Assessment 2011. Photovoltaic (PV) components accounted for more than 99 percent of the year's exports, with solar heating and cooling (SHC) claiming the remainder of the positive balance. For the U.S. PV manufacturing industry, 2010 was a record year. Exports totaled more than $5.6 billion, with PV polysilicon feedstock and capital equipment leading all components at $2.5 billion and $1.4 billion respectively. The leading destinations for U.S.-sourced PV components were China and Germany. Meanwhile, U.S. imports of PV products totaled $3.7 billion, the majority of which ($2.4 billion) came from procurement of modules assembled overseas. China and Mexico were the top two sources of PV goods headed to the U.S. in 2010. Furthermore, the U.S. was a net exporter of solar products to China last year by more than $240 million. The U.S. primarily sold capital equipment and PV polysilicon to China, while China primarily sold PV modules to the U.S.
Despite a struggling domestic economy, the US solar photovoltaic (PV) market will double in 2011, according to the latest Solarbuzz® United States PV Market Report. 2011 growth rates vary significantly by market segment, an outcome of the vast movements in incentives and policies at the federal, state and local government level over the past 12 months. “With rapid declines in factory gate prices over the past eight weeks as manufacturers and distributors focus on depleting module inventories, demand has picked up across residential, corporate and government segments,” noted Craig Stevens, President of Solarbuzz. “This acceleration is being supplemented by explosive utility demand and the rush to install before federal cash grants are scheduled to expire at the end of the year.” The US is forecast to become the third-largest solar photovoltaic market, behind Germany and Italy in 2011. While the US currently comprises 5% of the world PV market, Solarbuzz projects an increase to 12% by 2015.
The U.S. government is growing into one of the most important cleantech customers. It’s been investing and proselytizing the value of clean power, biofuels and energy efficiency products and services for job creation, energy security and (insert your favorite cliché here). And it’s a natural extension that it also should set an example as a major consumer of these technologies. The U.S. Defense Department, which uses 80 percent of the energy consumed by the federal government, is increasing its efforts to fund and use cleantech. A lot of these efforts are centered on drafting purchase plans and testing technologies in the field and one thing to consider is that larger companies might have an easier time convincing the military to buy than startups. Click here for a list of some of the military’s plans and projects.
Evergreen Solar shares are down more than 60% Monday after the company filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court in Delaware. The stock seems likely to expire worthless. In connection with the filing, the struggling solar company said it reached a deal with holders of more than 70% of its outstanding 13% convertible senior secured notes to start a restructuring process that will include the sales of the company’s String Ribbon silicon wafer technology business. A company created by the noteholders called ES Purchaser will serve as a stalking horse bidder for the company’s assets. Evergreen said day-to-day operations will go on, and that it will continue to pay suppliers and vendors. As part of the reorganization, the company will cut 65 jobs in the U.S. and Europe, including suspension of operations at its Midland, Michigan plant. Here’s the nut of the story for investors: Evergreen said that “based upon the estimated value of the company’s assets, the assets are expected to be insufficient to satisfy all its obligations to its creditors. Accordingly, it is expected that no distributions will be made to holders of common stock and the common stock will be extinguished upon consummation of the Chapter 11 plan.”
The best use of the sun's energy is to make hydrogen, according to a Duke University researcher. Engineer Nico Hotz earlier this week detailed results from his research around a rooftop solar panel that generates hydrogen from the sun's heat. The hydrogen gas--which is made by breaking off hydrogen atoms from a water solution--can be stored and used to make electricity in a fuel cell. In his experiment, Hotz determined that his system creates more usable energy than solar photovoltaic panels which convert sunlight directly into electricity. He calculated the cost could be lower, too. There have been research efforts--and a commercial product from a company called Nanoptek--to make hydrogen from sunlight. Hotz's system, though, uses a new technique that relies on methanol, also known as wood alcohol, and a nano-engineered catalyst. Under the glass of Hotz's solar collector are copper tubes, coated with aluminum and aluminum oxide, which carry water and methanol. Once the liquid is heated to a sufficient temperature, a catalyst is added to cause hydrogen atoms to break off. That hydrogen gas is then piped and pressured for storage in a tank, where it can be drawn on to make electricity in a fuel cell.
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