Abengoa's Gigantic ‘Salt Battery' Stores Utility-Scale Solar Energy

The global solar company Abengoa Solar has just announced that its massive Solana solar power plant has begun commercial operation in Arizona. The plant represents a transformational breakthrough in utility scale solar power, because it includes an energy storage system based on molten salt. The storage feature enables the plant to keep generating electricity long after the sun goes down. CSPs use mirrors to concentrate solar energy on a focal point, typically a large tower. According to Abengoa, at 280 megawatts the Solana plant is the world’s la rgest CSP plant  to use parabolic trough mirrors to concentrate solar energy (typical CSP mirrors, called heliostats, are flat and quadrilateral). It is also the first solar plant in the U.S. with thermal energy storage, in the form of a molten salt system. The storage capacity is about six hours. That enables the plant to keep generating electricity from solar energy well into the early evening hours, when demand in the region typically peaks out. Solana officially went online yesterday after completing a series of tests that included charging the thermal energy storage system and demonstrating that it could produce electricity for six hours using only stored energy.

Battery-Stored Solar Power Sparks Backlash From Utilities

California’s three biggest utilities are sparring with their own customers about systems that store energy from the sun, opening another front in the battle that’s redefining the mission of electricity generators. Edison International (EIX), PG&E Corp. and Sempra Energy (SRE) said they’re putting up hurdles to some battery backups wired to solar panels because they can’t be certain the power flowing back to the grid from the units is actually clean energy. The dispute threatens the state’s $2 billion rooftop solar industry and indicates the depth of utilities’ concerns about consumers producing their own power. People with rooftop panels are already buying less electricity, and adding batteries takes them closer to the day they won’t need to buy from the local grid at all, said Ben Peters, a government affairs analyst at Mainstream Energy Corp., which installs solar systems. “The utilities clearly see rooftop solar as the next threat,” Peters said from his office in Sunnyvale, California. “They’re trying to limit the growth.”

Wind Turbine Bird Threat Overstated, Study Suggests

The growth of wind power, if undertaken with reasonable care, should pose no risk to any particular bird species in Canada, according to a new peer-reviewed study. The study also suggests that highly publicized bird mortality figures out of the U.S. and Europe could be on the high side. “Canadian Estimate of Bird Mortality Due to Collisions and Direct Habitat Loss Associated with Wind Turbine Developments” was one of several studiesundertaken as part of special issue of the journal  Avian Conservation & Ecology  that focused on the impact of human activities on the mortality of birds in Canada. The researchers did find that, on average, a wind turbine in Canada results in 8.2 bird deaths per year, and they estimated that a 10-fold increase in installed wind capacity in the next 10-15 years “could lead to direct mortality of approximately 233,000 birds/year, and displacement of 57,000 pairs” resulting from habitat loss. But the researchers put those numbers in perspective: [T]hese values are likely much lower than those from collisions with some other anthropogenic sources such as windows, vehicles, or towers, or habitat loss due to many other forms of development. Species composition data suggest that < 0.2% of the population of any species is currently affected by mortality or displacement from wind turbine development. Therefore, population level impacts are unlikely, provided that highly sensitive or rare habitats, as well as concentration areas for species at risk, are avoided.

Why the hot money is chasing energy storage

What do Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have in common? Apart from being very, very rich, it is a growing interest in battery storage and other “smart” technologies that will redefine the way our electricity grid operates – hopefully to the benefit of the consumer. Gates has built up a collection of energy storage investments – including Aquion Energy, Ambri, and LightSail - and Buffett is a major investor in Chinese electric car and battery developer BYD, soon to unveil a home battery storage solution in Australia. Last week, Gates and well-known cleantech investor Vinod Khosla last week bought into Varentec, a US company that is developing “smart” technology that will link storage devices and renewables, and lead to what Khosla describes as “cost-effective, intelligent, decentralized power grid solutions.” Energy storage, as described by investment bank Citi in its new “Energy Darwinism” report, is likely to be the next solar boom. Citi says the main driver of this investment will not be just to make renewables cost competitive, because they already are in many markets – but for the need to balance supply and demand. This, in turn, will make solar and other renewables even more attractive. It may even mean the end to the domination of centralised utilities, as storage will allow the industry to split into centralised backup (based around the old rate-of-return regulated utilities model) and much smaller “localised” utilities that harness distributed generation such as solar and storage.

U.S. Dept. of Energy Supports New Renewable Energy Storage System

The two bottlenecks inhibiting further use of renewable energy systems are cost and the fact that the sun doesn’t always shine or the wind blow-in one word, storage. While mass production of components such as solar photovoltaic cells means that their price has been dropping, the issue of storing and releasing electricity generated by renewable sources during their down times has led engineers worldwide to tackle the problem. Large-scale, low-cost energy storage is needed to improve the reliability, resiliency, and efficiency of next-generation power grids. Energy storage can reduce power fluctuations, enhance system flexibility, and enable the storage and dispatch of electricity generated by variable renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and water power. Now one technology seems sufficiently promising that it is receiving funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability Energy Storage Program. What is this promising new technology? Isothermal compressed air energy storage (ICAES) refers to storage of compressed air at a constant temperature, which is a key element in the improved energy efficiency of the system. SustainX has completed construction of its first utility scale ICAES system. It was hooked up to the grid earlier this month and it’s now in the process of revving up to speed. The DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability’s Energy Storage Program underwrote $5,396,023 of the system’s cost.

Solar Decathlon 2013

The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

Solar Power International 2013 News Report

News and Announcements from SPI13. Exhibitors are welcome to publish their company news here.

Solar Powered Unmanned Vehicles

When you have the combination of high energy density and thin and flexible form factor, you can apply this solar material to anything with a battery that moves, can be carried, or worn.

Policy Blueprint for a Renewable Energy Future: America's Power Plan

The Plan is a comprehensive response to the rapid changes in the power sector coming from new technologies, consumer demand and policy. Siting new renewables and the associated infrastructure is a key part of that transition.

Zinc Redox Flow Battery Technology

Combined with the aging infrastructure of the power grid and political pressure to reduce both nuclear and coal-fired generation, grid-scale storage is now recognized as a critical technology for the future of the world electricity supply.

Solar Hot Water: Which is better, PV or Thermal?

Recently, reductions in solar electric (PV) costs and maturation of air-to-water heat pump technology have provided a new model: solar-electric assisted heat pump water heating (HPWH).

Can the Challenges of Desert Solar be Overcome?

The most significant engineering challenges facing desert solar are windblown sand, lack of water and transmission lines. Aside from the physical logistics, political resistance also hinders the development of desert solar.

Solving Turbine Wake Issues in Dense Development Areas

Using a specialized wake model, 3TIER is able to help clients take into account the impact of external wakes on the final net energy numbers they must take to their project stakeholders and financing partners.

Critical thinking for innovation at the World Energy Congress 2013

For most energy and utility companies, success will be achieved through transforming the utility network, improving generation performance, and transforming customer operations - via big data analytics.

China to offer tax breaks to solar power manufacturers

China's Ministry of Finance announced it will offer tax breaks to manufacturers of solar power products on Sunday, as China moves to support an industry still struggling to deal with massive overcapacity and weak demand. The ministry said in a short statement on its website that producers of solar power products will receive immediate refunds of 50 percent of value-added taxes. The National Development and Reform Commission provided subsidies for solar power stations in late August. "China's bloated photovoltaic industry still faces a grim outlook as many companies are deeply mired in debts," said a report on the official Xinhua news service discussing the announcement. It cited data from the China Renewable Energy Society saying that the country's top 10 solar panel makers are up to 100 billion yuan ($16.34 billion) in debt, with a debt to asset ratio above 70 percent on average. Beijing has said it wants to consolidate the industry, but the sector continues to enjoy protection at the central and local level; the latter is particularly strong because solar power companies are frequently major employers.

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