Fracking and Solar: Friends, Foes or the Bridge to Clean Energy Adoption?

While treating gas as a 'bridge' to a low-carbon future, it is crucial not to allow the greater ease of the near-term task to erode efforts to prepare a landing at the other end of the bridge,

Cryogenic Energy Storage

In 2005, Highview Power Storage began researching the possibility of utility scale energy storage using liquid air. Excess energy (during low-demand times) is used to compress air into a liquid, which can then be stored in insulated low-pressure tanks. When demand exceeds production, the liquid air is warmed and the resulting steam is used to drive the turbine of a generator. According to Highview, cryogenic energy storage offers the following benefits: It uses proven technology that’s been been around for years. Regulations for cryogenic storage already exist. Storage is at low pressure, making tanks less costly. (Tanks are insulated to keep the liquid air cold, but they’re still less expensive than room-temperature compressed air storage tanks.) Air doesn’t explode and it’s non-toxic. Liquid air has four times the energy density of compressed air. During the storage process, ambient air is filtered to remove impurities. Water and CO2 are also removed because they’ll freeze solid. The resulting air is refrigerated. Some of the air condenses into a liquid at -196oC. That liquid air is stored in tanks. The remaining unliquified air is very cold, so it’s recycled and used to assist in the cooling process. During the recovery process, exhaust gas is added to heat the liquid air. When the liquid is gasified, it drives a steam engine that generates electricity. In the process of heating the liquid air, the exhaust gas is chilled to -160oC. The “cold” is stored in a gravel bed and later recovered to help the chilling process used during energy storage. This reduces the amount of work the compressor has to do, making the process more efficient. Read Tom Lombardo's Full Article.

Energy storage industry gets bipartisan support from Senate

The Electricity Storage Association (ESA) applauded today the reintroduction of energy storage legislation by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Angus King (I-ME) that would create an investment tax credit (ITC) for energy storage technologies of all types and help level the playing field for an industry that has enormous potential to increase the reliability, security, and efficiency of the nation’s electric grid. The Storage Technology for Renewable and Green Energy Act (STORAGE) Act was originally introduced in the 112th Congress in both chambers with bipartisan support. It closely mirrors the bill recently introduced in the House, H.R. 1465. “We are delighted that Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of Senate Energy and Natural Resources and a longtime supporter of energy storage, and senators Collins, Merkley and King, all staunch supporters of clean energy technologies, understand the value of energy security and have taken such a strong interest in energy storage,” said Brad Roberts, Executive Director of the ESA. “Energy storage technologies help all resources – whether renewable or traditional – run more smoothly. Our applications are now operating on the grid and have proven to be of enormous benefit; this tax credit will help developers secure private sector equity and debt financing to truly scale this industry.”

This Printer Spits Out 10 Meters of Solar Panel Every Minute

The printer system was developed by VICOSC, the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium—a collaboration between the University of Melbourne, CSIRO Molecular and Health Technologies, and Monash University—and utilizes only existing printer technology to embed polymer solar cells (also known as organic or plastic solar cells) in thin sheets of plastic or steel at a rate of ten meters per minute. "We're using the same techniques that you would use if you were screen printing an image on to a T-Shirt," project coordinator and University of Melbourne researcher Dr David Jones said in a press release. Organic solar cells rely on organic electronics, hydrocarbon molecules specifically, to generate a photovoltaic effect and convert the Sun's rays into usable DC current. The primary benefit to using organic cells is that these sheets can be printed in bulk for very little and the optical absorption coefficient of of the hydrocarbon molecules is so high that even small amounts of material can suck up a lot of light. On the other hand, organic cells are less efficient than their inorganic alternatives and tend to break down faster due to the chemical changes occurring within. Currently, these organic sheets are able to produce up to 80W in the lab and between 10 and 50W under real world conditions. These cells aren't meant to replace conventional, inorganic panels, quite the opposite in fact. "The different types of cells capture light from different parts of the solar spectrum. So rather than being competing technologies, they are actually very complementary," said CSIRO materials scientist Dr Scott Watkins. This printing technique could soon lead to buildings with PV laminated windows and exteriors and homes covered in solar shingles.

U.S. and Europe Prepare to Settle Chinese Solar Panel Cases

The Obama administration and the European Union have each decided to negotiate settlements with China in the world’s largest antidumping and antisubsidy trade cases involving China’s roughly $30 billion a year in solar panel shipments to the West, officials and trade advisers in Beijing, Brussels and Washington said. The plan that is starting to take shape would essentially carve up the global solar panel market into a series of regional markets. It would sharply raise the price of solar panels exported from China, the world’s dominant producer, by requiring Chinese companies to charge more while limiting the total number of solar panels they could ship. In exchange, Chinese companies would no longer be charged steep taxes on their exports of solar panels. The United States is already collecting tariffs totaling about 30 percent while the European Union is expected to impose similar tariffs of about 50 percent on June 5, and may backdate them to March 5.

A Down-To-Earth Wind Turbine

The wind is faster at higher altitudes and wind power is directly proportional to wind velocity cubed. But mounting a turbine up high makes it more expensive to install and maintain, and requires a stronger tower to support such a top-heavy structure. Engineers at SheerWind have a solution: “scoop” the air from up high and bring it down low to drive a ground-level turbine. Oh, and while they’re at it, how about amplifying the wind speed too? SheerWind coined the term INVELOX - INcreasing the VELOcity of wind - to describe its innovative design. Using a giant omni-directional funnel whose mouths are mounted at the top of a tower, INVELOX brings the wind down to ground level and sends it out through a narrow neck, which increases the wind speed, much like putting your thumb over the end of a garden hose and leaving a tiny opening will increase the water velocity. This makes the turbine smaller, decreasing its cost. And because the turbine is on the ground, routine maintenance doesn’t require climbing a tall tower. Funnel mouths facing all directions eliminates the need for the turbine to rotate towards the wind, resulting in fewer moving parts, less complexity, and increased reliability.   Since traditional turbines have relatively high start-up speeds (8 MPH or 3.6 m/s is typical), they can’t  generate electricity at lower speeds. Because the INVELOX design increases the speed of the wind before it reaches the turbine, it allows the system to generate power at wind speeds as low as 2 MPH (0.9 m/s).

Solar Power Windows Fast Approaching Commercial Production

Commercial production of solar windows, using the patented SolarWindow spray-on solar power coating system, may be just around the corner. A recent announcement from US building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) developer New Energy Technologies Ltd. (which we’ve been following for years) has us feeling that the time may soon come. As per New Energy Technologies’ recent announcement, the big news is that the fabrication time of the technology has been greatly reduced. The fabrication process, which involves methodically spraying layers of extremely small solar cells onto glass, has been reduced from a couple of days to only a couple of hours. According to the company, the process has been cut to 1/6 of the previous fabrication time. And perhaps as significantly, New Energy has also reported that it has achieved “a two-fold increase in power conversion efficiency” and improved the transparency in the glass.

New Map Shows Solar Jobs Still Growing Faster Than the Economy

Thanks to The Solar Foundation (TSF), individuals can now learn more about the solar industry in their backyard, their neighboring states and across the country. On April 18, TSF introduced a new interactive map that showcases the nearly 120,000 jobs in America's booming solar industry in 2012. This is the first time that the public can easily access the data on a state-by-state basis, and explore what parts of the solar industry are biggest—including manufacturing, installing, sales, project development and associated jobs.

Wind Industry in the USA

The debate of the PTC just took too long and put the players to uncertainty. Installations were pushed in 2012 to record level of almost 13 GW. This year will be a big dip to estimated 4 GW or so and midterm the installations should level on 7 GW level.

Case Study: Thomonde Hospital In The Central Region of Haiti

The Thomonde battery bank was designed for 40 percent depth of discharge and only one day of autonomy due to the large loads of some of the medical equipment and the availability of the diesel generator.

Making the Switch: From Fixed to Solar Tracker

I compared the cost per watt to install a standard pole mount, such as a DPW, and found it cost the same as putting up a standard tracker. And of course by tracking you get the additional power.

Interview with Sophie Parker of The Nature Conservancy

In areas of the Mojave that are ecologically intact, renewable energy development poses a major problem for plants, animals, and other species. Some major issues include: habitat destruction and fragmentation, water use, and bird mortality.

SolarCity Thrives in Solar Power Sector

Sun Concept, Ampulse, Evergreen, Solyndra: the long list of defunct solar companies is enough to give pause to anyone trying to enter the business. But at least one company, SolarCity, has been succeeding where so many others have failed. Its secret? Staying away from manufacturing and focusing on installation. SolarCity was founded in 2006 by Lyndon and Peter Rive, on the advice of their cousin, Elon Musk, the Paypal founder who went on to start Tesla Motors and SpaceX, and is enjoying something of a moment. Tesla Motors just posted its first quarterly profit. And SolarCity, which went public last January, has seen its stock more than triple. Instead of designing solar panels, the Rive brothers decided to find ways to get solar panels onto people’s roofs. They settled on a sort of lease arrangement: SolarCity installs the panels for free on customers’ roofs and then sells them the energy the panels produce for the next 20 years, at a rate lower than charged by the local utility. As the owner of the panels, SolarCity also reaps the valuable tax credits associated with clean-energy production. This business model, with high upfront costs for gradual returns spread out over decades, doesn’t lend itself to immediate profits. On Monday, the company posted a $31 million loss. So far investors seem patient.  “The stock is outperforming the results,” an analyst for Raymond James & Associates told Bloomberg. Lyndon Rive, in an interview with CNN, pointed out the irony that as soon as SolarCity show a profit, it’ll be a warning sign that recurring revenue has outpaced installations and the company has stopped growing.

EU to Hit China Solar Panel Makers With Anti-Dumping Tariffs

The European Union (EU) is moving ahead with tariffs on imported Chinese solar panels in an effort to protect its own module makers. European Commission (EC) Trade Head Karel De Gucht will recommend the EC impose anti-dumping (AD) charges similar to those imposed last year by the U.S., according to Reuters. The tariffs will average 47.6 percent for most of the 100-plus Chinese manufacturers found by the EC to have been involved in the dumping but will vary by the extent of the manufacturer’s dumping and the extent of their cooperation with the EC’s investigation, according to the Wall Street Journal, which reviewed the preliminary document. Suntech Power Holdings (NYSE:STP) and its subsidiaries will be charged tariffs of 48.6 percent, LDK Solar (NYSE: LDK) will pay 55.9 percent, Trina Solar (NYSE:TSL) will pay 51.5 percent, and JinkoSolar (NYSE:JKS) will pay tariffs of 58.7 percent, WSJ reported. Companies that did not cooperate with the EC investigation will pay a tariff of 67.9%. The investigation covered EU imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) panels, cells, and wafers valued at $27.6 billion in 2011, which amounted to more than half the global PV market, according to Bloomberg. The Chinese companies, Bloomberg added, owned almost no global PV market share in 2004 but controlled 80 percent of the global market by 2011.

Patent filing claims solar energy ‘breakthrough'

 In a U.S. patent application, a little-known Maryland inventor claims a stunning solar energy breakthrough that promises to end the planet’s reliance on fossil fuels at a fraction of the current cost – a transformation that also could blunt global warming. Inventor Ronald Ace said that his flat-panel “Solar Traps,” which can be mounted on rooftops or used in electric power plants, will shatter decades-old scientific and technological barriers that have stymied efforts to make solar energy a cheap, clean and reliable alternative. “This is a fundamental scientific and environmental discovery,” Ace said. “This invention can meet about 92 percent of the world’s energy needs.” His claimed discoveries, which exist only on paper so far, would represent such a leap forward that they are sure to draw deep skepticism from solar energy experts. But a recently retired congressional energy adviser, who has reviewed the invention’s still-secret design, said it’s “a no brainer” that the device would vastly outperform all other known solar technology. Ace said he is arranging for a national energy laboratory to review his calculations and that his own crude prototypes already have demonstrated that the basic physics for the invention work.

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