Britain, a land of cloudy skies and reliable rain, is fast becoming the hottest spot in Europe for many investors in solar energy. Germany is overcrowded with panels. A sudden end to subsidies killed Spanish solar. A sluggish economy is dragging on Italy. But the U.K. has benefited from a combination of stable subsidies since 2011, public support for solar, amenable planning authorities and creative finance. In 2010, there were under 100 megawatts of solar capacity in the U.K.—barely enough to power the homes of a modest town. Now, there is between 3.2 and 4 gigawatts. This year, market-research firm Solarbuzz projects that the U.K. will overtake Germany as Europe's largest installer of solar panels, putting in 6% of the world's new solar.
Panasonic Corporation and Tesla Motors, Inc. have signed an agreement that lays out their cooperation on the construction of a large-scale battery manufacturing plant in the United States, known as the Gigafactory. According to the agreement, Tesla will prepare, provide and manage the land, buildings and utilities. Panasonic will manufacture and supply cylindrical lithium-ion cells and invest in the associated equipment, machinery, and other manufacturing tools based on their mutual approval. A network of supplier partners is planned to produce the required precursor materials. Tesla will take the cells and other components to assemble battery modules and packs. To meet the projected demand for cells, Tesla will continue to purchase battery cells produced in Panasonic's factories in Japan. Tesla and Panasonic will continue to discuss the details of implementation including sales, operations and investment. The Gigafactory is being created to enable a continuous reduction in the cost of long range battery packs in parallel with manufacturing at the volumes required to enable Tesla to meet its goal of advancing mass market electric vehicles. The Gigafactory will be managed by Tesla with Panasonic joining as the principle partner responsible for lithium-ion battery cells and occupying approximately half of the planned manufacturing space; key suppliers combined with Tesla's module and pack assembly will comprise the other half of this fully integrated industrial complex.
The “new reality” facing electricity consumers and their utility companies is that renewable energy is meeting an increasingly larger share of U.S. energy needs, according to a report released this month from Ceres and Clean Edge. That translates into more and better choices and a clean energy future. “Renewables — including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, waste heat and small-scale hydroelectric — accounted for a whopping 49 percent of new U.S. electric generating capacity in 2012, with new wind development outpacing even natural gas,” writes Jon Wellinghoff, partner at Stoel Rives LLP and former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the report. “Benchmarking Utility Clean Energy Deployment: 2014,” the first report from Ceres in partnership with Clean Edge on this subject, ranks the nation’s 32 largest electric utilities and their local subsidiaries on their renewable energy sales and energy efficiency savings. cont'd.
The expected recovery in China, which accounts for more than 60 percent of global solar panel output, offers an early sign that manufacturers are succeeding in soaking up supply by building their own projects. The government’s push to promote developments closer to regions where electricity is needed most -- so-called distributed solar projects -- may also spur orders. Panel prices in China declined about 10 percent in the first six months of the year compared with the second half of last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Higher tariffs imposed in the U.S. have had the opposite affect to what’s happened in China. Panel prices have increased about 15 percent since early June when the U.S. decided to apply preliminary duties on Chinese solar equipment imports, according to a global measure of panel prices. The U.S. Commerce Department acted again on July 25, proposing expanded penalties on some Chinese solar-energy imports in a victory for the U.S. unit of SolarWorld AG, which accused China of shifting production to Taiwan after it lost an earlier case.
California’s push to transform the market for grid-scale energy storage is working even better than expected -- at least on paper. Last year, California created a mandate calling for 1,325 megawatts of energy storage projects by 2020, to be scaled up every two years. The first installment of proposals due this year adds up to 200 megawatts. As of mid-2014, more than 2,000 megawatts of energy storage projects have applied to interconnect with the state’s grid, according to recent data from state grid operator California ISO (PDF). In other words, project developers have received the market signal of a 1.3-gigawatt mandate and proposed enough storage to provide nearly double that amount over the coming years. The list includes 1,669 megawatts of standalone battery storage, 44 megawatts of other standalone storage, 255 megawatts of batteries combined with generation projects, and a 90-megawatt project combining solar and batteries. They are all seeking interconnection under the initiative's “Cluster 7” window, which closed on April 30, 2014. (A project-by-project breakdown of all the applications is available in PDF.)
China is the world’s largest producer of electricity, surpassing the United States in 2011, with demand increasing alongside its strong, sustained growth in GDP. Electricity generation in China has increased 9.6% annually, from 2005 to 2013, reaching 5,425.1TWh of electricity. Coal-fired plants currently make up over two-thirds of power generation, which is partly the result of an abundance of coal in China. Despite this growth, the country expects demand to continue to increase at a rapid pace, reaching 7.295TWh of demand in 2020 and 11,595TWh in 2040. However, the growth in electricity production from coal-fired plants has resulted in an increase in air pollution and general lack of efficiency. China is now moving aggressively to curb pollution and increase the supply of renewable power. The central government has prohibited new coal-fired plants to be built around Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing, which is currently in the midst of having all of its coal plants being converted to natural gas. Its 12th Five Year Plan, running through 2015, targeted non-fossil fuel energy to account for 15% of total energy consumption. One of the key industries expected to help meet these goals is wind power.
A new material structure developed at MIT generates steam by soaking up the sun. The structure — a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam — is a porous, insulating material structure that floats on water. When sunlight hits the structure’s surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material’s pores, where it evaporates as steam. The brighter the light, the more steam is generated. The new material is able to convert 85 percent of incoming solar energy into steam — a significant improvement over recent approaches to solar-powered steam generation. What’s more, the setup loses very little heat in the process, and can produce steam at relatively low solar intensity. This would mean that, if scaled up, the setup would likely not require complex, costly systems to highly concentrate sunlight. Hadi Ghasemi, a postdoc in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, says the spongelike structure can be made from relatively inexpensive materials — a particular advantage for a variety of compact, steam-powered applications. “Steam is important for desalination, hygiene systems, and sterilization,” says Ghasemi, who led the development of the structure. “Especially in remote areas where the sun is the only source of energy, if you can generate steam with solar energy, it would be very useful.”
Storing electricity underwater in the form of compressed air is a tantalizing notion that could, if it works, help solve the intermittency problem of wind, solar, and other renewable sources. That “if” is a big one, though, because there are many details engineers have yet to nail down for underwater compressed-air energy storage (UW-CAES). One company that’s been trying to nail down those details is the Canadian start-up Hydrostor. I recently wrote about its plans to deploy the world’s first commercial UW-CAES system in Lake Ontario. The Hydrostor system will use electricity from the Toronto Hydro power grid to run a compressor; the compressed air will then be stored in flexible energy bags submerged at a depth of about 80 meters. Later, the air will be run through a turbine when the energy is needed. For all that effort, the system will be able to supply just a megawatt of electricity for up to three hours. Eventually, the company is aiming for a capacity of 20 to 30 megawatts that can be discharged over 10 to 20 hours. But a big wind or solar farm would require a lot more storage than that.. cont'd.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a significant ruling handed down today, a panel of judges at the World Trade Organization (WTO) accused the United States of violating global trade rules when it imposed punitive import duties in 2012 on many Chinese products, including solar panels. After the decision was announced, Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), issued the following statement: "We are continuing to follow developments closely, but today's WTO decision is not expected to impact either the 2012 U.S. solar countervailing duty (CVD) order against China or any new CVD tied to the ongoing investigation until 2016, at the earliest. It's also important to remember that this decision is subject to an appeals process, which could take approximately 120 days. Assuming the decision is upheld on appeal, the United States would then have approximately one year to implement the decision. But even then, it's not clear whether the decision will result in any substantive modification of a solar CVD order against China."
Texas has more wind power generation than any other state, so it’s only fitting that Texas regulators are starting to ask some tough questions about wind power subsidies. The head of the state’s Public Utility Commission, Donna Nelson, is calling for a study to consider whether wind generators should start paying their share of transmission costs. Texas already invested $7 billion in high-capacity power lines that the state built to connect West Texas wind farms with the more populous cities in the east — such as Dallas and Houston. But wind power, as an intermittent resource, can create additional transmission costs, and those costs are borne by all the electricity customers in the deregulated market, which is about 85 percent of the state. Part of the study will determine the amount of the extra transmission costs and what, if any, remedy is needed, a PUC spokesman said. Wind power developers warn that making wind companies pay the same transmission rates as other generators will destroy Texas’ lead in wind power and undermine the economics of wind generation. Nelson, however, claims that giving wind companies a pass is no longer necessary because the industry has been around long enough to figure out its economics.
The Intersolar AWARD ceremony honored true innovators whose projects displayed the latest design and technology advancements in the solar industry. Three winners were named in the Solar Projects in North America category in front of a large crowd at the Innovation & Application Stage. They were judged on pioneering character, uniqueness, economic benefits, benefits for the environment and society, degree of technical innovation and proof of innovation. An independent committee of industry experts chose the Agua Caliente Solar Project by First Solar; the Whole Foods Solar Carport by Solaire Generation and the Alcatraz Island Micro-Grid by Princeton Power Systems. As a media partner AltEnergyMag.com will be covering Intersolar and bringing all the industry news and exciting new products to our eMagazine to help our readers make sense of the massive event. Make sure to check out our special Intersolar 2014 Newspage for Exhibitor news. Check out our Intersolar 2014 Tradeshow Report here.
From PV Tech: Intersolar North America opens its exhibition doors today off the back of a bumper year of PV installations in the US. With conference sessions kicking off in San Francisco on Monday, attention today will turn to the exhibition halls, where optimism among visitors is understandable despite warnings of complacency. At the official opening of Intersolar North America on Monday evening, Governor Jerry Brown stressed that while California had made great strides in improving its sustainability, there was still much work to be done with solar playing an important role in that future. “We have to invent not just gadgets, but keep our eye on the big goal. The big goal is to build a more equitable and just society…and that’s why solar is so important,” said Brown. As a media partner AltEnergyMag.com will be covering Intersolar and bringing all the industry news and exciting new products to our eMagazine to help our readers make sense of the massive event. Make sure to check out our special Intersolar 2014 Newspage for Exhibitor news.
IBM Research Launches Project "Green Horizon" to Help China Deliver on Ambitious Energy and Environmental Goals
IBM has announced that it is deploying the full force of its researchers in laboratories around the world in a 10-year initiative to support China in transforming its national energy systems and protecting the health of citizens. Dubbed "Green Horizon", the project sets out to leap beyond current global practices in three areas critical to China's sustainable growth: air quality management, renewable energy forecasting and energy optimization for industry. Led by IBM's China Research laboratory, the initiative will tap into the company's network of 12 global research labs and create an innovation ecosystem of partners from government, academia, industry and private enterprise. One of the first partners to come on board is the Beijing Municipal Government. Through a collaboration agreement, the two parties have agreed to work together to develop solutions which can help tackle the city's air pollution challenges. The collaboration will leverage some of IBM's most advanced technologies such as cognitive computing, optical sensors and the internet of things all based on a Big Data and analytics platform and drawing on IBM's deep experience in weather prediction and climate modelling. "China has made great achievements and contributed much to the world's economic growth over the past 30 years. It now has an opportunity to lead the world in sustainable energy and environmental management," said D.C. Chien, Chairman and CEO, IBM Greater China Group. "While other nations waited until their economies were fully developed before taking comprehensive action to address environmental issues, China can leverage IBM's most advanced information technologies to help transform its energy infrastructures in parallel with its growth."
India's plans for a major ramp-up in solar power are on hold after a proposal to impose anti-dumping duties on equipment from overseas has led developers to say proposed projects would become unprofitable. Industry officials say imports of solar equipment worth millions of dollars that were in the pipeline from U.S., China, Taiwan and Malaysia are now unlikely to come to India anytime soon. India had been planning to raise solar power generating capacity nearly tenfold by 2022 to help wean itself off heavy imports of oil and gas that contribute to a chronic trade deficit. The sector has been booming in recent months too, as the cost of imported solar equipment has dropped sharply. But the commerce ministry is now proposing duties on goods from overseas to protect local manufacturers from being overwhelmed by the cheaper imports. The finance ministry will take a final decision on the proposal by Aug. 22. Any tariff proposal is set to fuel tensions between India and U.S., with trade relations already at a flash-point as the World Trade Organization deliberates a India-U.S. dispute over a rule that mandates local sourcing for some government-backed solar projects.
The market for servicing wind turbines will almost double by 2020 as capacity grows, the Danish advisory firm Make Consulting said. Annual revenues from monitoring and repairing wind turbines may surge to more than $13 billion in 2020 from $7.1 billion last year, Aarhus, Denmark-based Make said today in a report. It projected that 300 gigawatts of capacity will be installed through 2020, doubling current generating capacity and boosting the needs for maintenance. Turbine manufacturers including Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS) and Gamesa Corp. (GAM) Tecnologica SA are ramping up efforts to secure service contracts, which Vestas says yield higher margins than turbine sales and increase profitability. More than half of servicing worldwide is carried out by turbine manufacturers, Aaron Barr, a consultant at Make in Boston said in an e-mail. Manufacturers “are attracted to the services market due to reliable and repeatable high margin revenue, primarily due to the growing fleet of serviceable wind turbines,” Barr said. “This focus is reinforced by uncertainty on new turbine sales orders and technical competitive advantages” that they have over independent service providers and the utilities that own the wind farms.
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