The Smart Grid is destined to become a platform, much like the Internet is a platform. Once the Grid is in place other technologies, new feature sets, and capabilities will inevitably spring forth. There is no limit to the functionality that might emerge from this platform once the implementation and adoption is widespread.
Germany, the world's biggest PV market in 2010, reduced its incentives for solar energy at the beginning of 2011. The same happened in the case of the runner-up, Italy. At the same time, an industry boom occurred in the supply chain.
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. AltEnergyMag.com was on hand to check out this years entrants and has highlighted them in a 4 part series . Results: 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."
Amidst intense scrutiny of the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program via the Solyndra scandal, September has still emerged as critical for a series of solar companies that hope to close federal loan guarantees and start construction on solar farms by the end of the month. First Solar, for one, received the final permit for its 550 MW Topaz Solar project in San Luis Obispo County in California yesterday, said the county's senior planner, John McKenzie. With that construction permit, First Solar plans to start building Topaz by Sept. 30, said company spokesman Alan Bernheimer. Meeting that deadline will ensure the company remains eligible for a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy that will back part a $1.93 billion loan led by the Royal Bank of Scotland.
This is the last group of entries into this years competition --- Next stop --- Washington DC
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.
SolarCity has made headlines for its unique business model. The company's focus is on residential and commercial solar roof installation, and has spread its influence across the U.S. with great success. SolarCity has now received a $344 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy to outfit military housing rooftops with solar panels. The loan guarantee will see SolarCity partnering with military housing developers to install up to 160,000 solar rooftops, with an estimated 371 megawatts of generating capacity. That will effectively double the amount of installed solar rooftop power in the U.S., with 166,000 solar roof installations total reported in Q1 2011 by GTM Research. The project is being carried out in partnership with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, SolarCity, and USRG Renewable Finance—a subsidiary of U.S. Renewables Group—who will serve as the lead lender.
First Solar Inc. is the world's largest maker of thin-film solar modules. The company is looking to power project investments in Canada and has secured a $455.7 million of loan guarantees from the U.S. Export-Import Bank. First Solar plans to build two solar plants in southern Ontario with a combined capacity of 90 megawatts. Ontario has seen a significant spike in solar energy investment following the passing of the Canadian province's recent Green Energy Act, catapulting it into the position of number two in installed solar capacity, trailing only California. The loan guarantee in the largest ever approved by the U.S. Export-Import Bank for solar products shipped abroad, and is aimed at helping President Obama in his goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015.
More entries in this years Solar Decathlon for your interest and enjoyment.
The Italian market is growing faster than ever before. In the first half of 2011, the market volume was almost three times that of Germany. Italy is on its way to becoming the world's number one market in 2011.
Anyone with a financial interest in renewable energy has exposure to weather and climate-related risk. Understanding, quantifying and managing that risk is absolutely essential to the successful development and operation of renewable energy projects.
Solyndra, a California-based thin film solar company that received a $535 million loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy, has halted operations and plans to file for bankruptcy. Solyndra is the third US solar manufacturer to close its doors in less than a month, and like Evergreen Solar and SpectraWatt before it, Solyndra says it is unable to compete with larger rivals in Asia, as the price of solar panels continues to drop. President Obama visited Solyndra's DOE-supported facility in May 2010 to promote the agency's investments in renewable energy. The company's failure will undoubtedly fuel the fires of the administration's critics. For several months Republicans have been calling for an investigation into how Solyndra was chosen to receive a loan guarantee.
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.
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