MITEI releases report on the future of solar energy

From Melissa Abraham | MIT Energy Initiative :  Report highlights enormous potential and discusses pathways toward affordable solar energy. Solar energy holds the best potential for meeting humanity’s future long-term energy needs while cutting greenhouse gas emissions — but to realize this potential will require increased emphasis on developing lower-cost technologies and more effective deployment policy, says a comprehensive new study, titled “ The Future of Solar Energy ,” released today by the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI). “Our objective has been to assess solar energy’s current and potential competitive position and to identify changes in U.S. government policies that could more efficiently and effectively support its massive deployment over the long term, which we view as necessary,” says MITEI Director Robert Armstrong, the Chevron Professor in Chemical Engineering at MIT.

DIY Solar Trackers

The system incorporates panels and micro-inverters and steel and bearings and a microcontroller with an LCD display, to control the daily motion of the array. And, I might add, a light sensor to sense night time and daytime, and an AC current sensor to measure the amps produced (by the array) and amps consumed by the controller.

Improving Grid Resiliency through Fuel Cells

Distributed generation technologies, like fuel cells, have demonstrated a track record of providing practical solutions to issues facing the grid, and no other technology can offer both the resiliency and efficiency of fuel cells, while still achieving significant emission reductions.

Tesla's New Powerwall Packs a Powerful Punch

Ryan Wallace for The Science Times:  Known as the "Powerwall", Tesla's newest invention is a thin, wall-mounted battery that is the size of a flat screen TV. And with this new battery home owners who have already invested in solar power will be able to entirely go off the grid, and even to sell their excess solar juice back to energy companies. Developed in conjunction with the lithium-ion batteries that Tesla uses for its electric vehicles, the Powerwall unit is an inexpensive unit, only running $3,000 to $3,500, and with it Musk and his companies believe that humans may one day be able to transition to solely using energy derived from the Sun. Though the installation may look like an artpiece, it packs quite a punch at 10 kWh, and with it consumers will not only be able to store their energy for dark solar-free nights, but also more efficiently contribute to global energy use by contributing carbon-free energy back into the mix.  

Solar Jobs Rivalry - MD vs. VA

Renewable Energy Corporation, a Baltimore solar panel installer, created the graphic below to show how Maryland and Virginia measure up against each other.

Elon Musk's big announcement: it's called 'Tesla Energy'

Late Thursday night in Los Angeles, Tesla announced "Tesla Energy," described by the company in a statement as "a suite of batteries for homes, businesses, and utilities fostering a clean energy ecosystem and helping wean the world off fossil fuels."   The statement continued: "Tesla is not just an automotive company, it’s an energy innovation company. Tesla Energy is a critical step in this mission to enable zero emission power generation."   Tesla CEO Elon Musk made the official announcement onstage at the company's design studio in Hawthorne, CA, just south of LA.   The home battery, call the "Powerwall," is intended to store solar energy and enable customers to bank grid electricity from non-peak periods and use it during peak times, saving money. It looks "like a beautiful piece of sculpture," Musk said. You can order it now, and it comes in different colors.   "The Tesla Powerwall is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery designed to store energy at a residential level for load shifting, backup power and self-consumption of solar power generation," Tesla said.   "The Powerwall consists of Tesla’s lithium-ion battery pack, liquid thermal control system and software that receives dispatch commands from a solar inverter. The unit mounts seamlessly on a wall and is integrated with the local grid to harness excess power and give customers the flexibility to draw energy from their own reserve."

Engineering a better solar cell: UW research pinpoints defects in popular perovskites

One of the fastest-growing areas of solar energy research is with materials called perovskites. These promising light harvesters could revolutionize the solar and electronics industries because they show potential to convert sunlight into electricity more efficiently and less expensively than today’s silicon-based semiconductors.   These superefficient crystal structures have taken the scientific community by storm in the past few years because they can be processed very inexpensively and can be used in applications ranging from solar cells to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) found in phones and computer monitors.   A new study published online April 30 in the journal Science by University of Washington and University of Oxford researchers demonstrates that perovskite materials, generally believed to be uniform in composition, actually contain flaws that can be engineered to improve solar devices even further.   Cont'd...

Kyocera TCL Solar Inaugurates Floating Mega Solar Power Plants in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan

1.7MW and 1.2MW installations will provide equivalent power for roughly 920 average households.

Interview with Neil Fromer, Executive Director, Caltech Resnick Sustainability Institute

We have researchers here developing systems that should be able to convert more than 40% of the incoming sunlight to electricity (current panels are ~20% efficient). We are also working with research groups that can generate fuels and chemicals directly form sunlight, or from biomass, hopefully at an efficiency and cost that will replace conventional fossil fuel materials.

First Offshore Wind Farm In The U.S. Kicks Off Construction

Offshore wind is coming to the United States. Construction on what will be the country’s first offshore wind farm started Monday in Rhode Island. The wind farm, which is being developed by Deepwater Wind, will be located off of the coast of Block Island, a small island about 13 miles south of Rhode Island. Once completed, the five-turbine, 30-megawatt wind farm will produce enough energy to power all homes and businesses on Block Island, which previously relied on diesel generators, according to the Sierra Club. The wind farm will also send energy to mainland Rhode Island. It’s expected to come online in fall 2016. Environmental groups, many of which have pushed for the project since it started going through hearings in 2013, applauded the start of construction. Bruce Nilles, senior campaign director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, told ThinkProgress that the start of construction was a “landmark” moment for the U.S. wind industry, and that it “really makes real the promise offshore wind has” in the U.S., particularly on the East Coast. “This is technology that will play a very important part in decarbonizing electric sector,” he said.

A Guide to Safely Installing Solar Panel Arrays to Any Property Type

As the world continues to shift towards alternative energy sources, solar power will only continue to grow. Technologies will come and go and the astute product providers will continue to innovate.

Can We Save Energy with Vehicle Tires?

Tires may seem to be an unlikely eco-product. But, according to a new market report from Smithers Rapra, the global market for "green tires" will reach $70.6 billion by 2017 or 28% of the total tire market.

'Mega' floating solar power plants open in Japan

Two floating solar power plants capable of providing electricity for 1,000 homes have been completed in Japan.   The latest such "mega-plants" at Nishihira and Higashihira Ponds in Kato City are the work of electronics giant Kyocera Corporation and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation, and took just seven months to install. The plant's 11,250 modules are expected to generate 3,300 megawatt hours (MWh) every year.   According to Kyocera, besides being typhoon-proof (due to their sturdy, high-density polyethylene and array design) floating solar plants are superior to their land-based equivalents because of the cooling effect of the water, which allows them to function more efficiently. Reservoirs are also an ideal location because the panels produce shade, which reduces water evaporation and promotes algae growth. A report by Korea Water Resources Corporation found that the lower temperatures of the floating modules mean they are 11 percent more efficient than land-based equivalents. The report identified unsolved issues with the plants, too, however. It said the study had to discard data collected when the panels moved in the wind, and said research into new mooring systems was "continually needed".

MIT invention uses solar power to make ocean water drinkable

USAID recently announced the winners of the Desal Prize, part of a competition to see who could create an affordable desalination solution for developing countries. The idea was to create a system that could remove salt from water and meet three criteria: it had to be cost-effective, environmentally sustainable, and energy efficient. The winners of the $125,000 first prize were a group from MIT and Jain Irrigation Systems. The group came up with a method that uses solar panels to charge a bank of batteries. The batteries then power a system that removes salt from the water through electrodialysis. On the most basic level, that means that dissolved salt particles, which have a slight electric charge, are drawn out of the water when a small electrical current is applied. In addition to getting rid of salt (which makes water unusable for crops and for drinking), the team also applied UV light to disinfect some of the water as it passed through the system. Using the sun instead of fossil fuels to power a desalination plant isn't a totally new idea. Larger solar desalination plants are being seriously investigated in areas where water is becoming a scarce resource, including Chile and California. While proponents hope to eventually could provide water to large numbers of people, the technology is still expensive (though prices are dropping) and requires a lot of intricate technology.

The Schneider Electric Smart Grid (SESG) Laboratory

The SESG Lab can replicate the operation of a substation and feeders of an electrical utility distribution system, thanks to its core infrastructure that supports organizations in the research and development of leading edge solutions and systems pertaining to smart grid technology.

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