Major solar energy plan for Minnesota wins support over gas

In an unprecedented decision, a Minnesota judge this week held that utility supplier Xcel Energy should invest in the solar energy developer Geronimo Energy rather than in natural gas generators because that choice is the better economical and environmental deal for the state. Judge Eric Lipman's ruling must be approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which initially ordered the proceeding to force energy companies to compete on price. The commission is expected to issue its final ruling in March. Lipman said in the 50-page ruling, issued Tuesday, that the Geronimo project "will have numerous socioeconomic benefits, minimal impacts on the environment and best supports Minnesota's efforts to reduce greenhouse gases."  The decision, if approved, would help Xcel fulfill its requirement to attain 1.5 percent of its power from the sun by 2020 under a new state energy law. Geronimo Vice President Betsy Engelking said the decision marks a turning point for the solar industry because it is the first time that unsubsidized solar energy has gone head-to-head with natural gas resources and been selected as the best option. "The judge decided that it was the best option for economic and environment reasons," Engelking told Al Jazeera. "Economically, the judge found that it was the lowest cost option offered." If the decision stands, Geronimo plans to build roughly 20 solar arrays at a cost of $250 million.

Solar Market Predictions for 2014

Worldwide PV installations are set to rise by double digits in 2014, solar manufacturing capital spending is recovering, module prices are stabilizing and emerging markets are on the rise.

Milestones for Residential Solar Power in 2013

We're seeing that 2013 was one of the best years for solar installations ever, with prices dropping for the third year in a row. Even the White House installed solar panels on its roof.

Wind and Winged Wildlife: Increased Federal Oversight of Wind Energy

There are two federal laws that regulate the "take" of birds, the BGEPA, which regulates bald and golden eagles, and the MBTA, which regulates approximately 1,000 species of migratory birds.

High-voltage Battery Simulator and Test Systems Critical for Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Development

Essential for conducting R&D, performance and durability testing

Harmonising our Energy and Societal Needs

While promoting the implementation of green areas, we nevertheless have to pay focused attention to not only going green for its own sake, but also to promote a future trend where ecology meets sustainability.

The Business Case for Fuel Cells - Power Reliability and Savings

More than 88 megawatts (MW) of stationary fuel cells have been installed or ordered by U.S. businesses and utilities.

American Indians Making $$ on Solar in West

While not perfect, solar provides jobs and lease revenue for tribes as it cleans up their air.

13 major clean energy breakthroughs of 2013

While the news about climate change seems to get worse every day, the rapidly improving technology, declining costs, and increasing accessibility of clean energy is the true bright spot in the march toward a zero-carbon future. 2013 had more clean energy milestones than we could fit on one page, but here are 13 of the key breakthroughs that happened this year. 1. Using salt to keep producing solar power even when the sun goes down.  2. Electric vehicle batteries that can also power buildings. 3. The next generation of wind turbines is a gamechanger. 4. Solar electricity hits grid parity with coal. 5. Advancing renewable energy from ocean waves. 6. Harnessing ocean waves to produce fresh water.  7. Ultra-thin solar cells that break efficiency records. 8. Batteries that are safer, lighter, and store more power.  9. New age offshore wind turbines that float. 10. Cutting electricity bills with direct current power. 11. Commercial production of clean energy from plant waste is finally here. 12. Innovative financing bringing clean energy to more people. 13. Wind power is now competitive with fossil fuels.    Full Article:

Wind Power Developers Race Clock to Secure Subsidy

As the rest of the world prepares to toast the new year, the wind industry is hard at work on its own year-end tradition, rushing to make sure projects qualify for an important subsidy before it is set to vanish at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday. Developers are signing deals, ordering equipment and lurching ahead with construction starts to qualify for a tax credit that is worth 2.3 cents a kilowatt-hour for the first 10 years of production. This month, giant turbine-makers like Vestas and Siemens have announced major new orders, including a deal worth more than $1 billion with MidAmerican Energy, an Iowa-based utility majority-owned by Warren E. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, and another with the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound. In previous years, the projects had to be in commercial operation by New Year’s Eve. This year, they need only have begun. “What we see right now is a race to the finish line, where we’re trying to get projects signed,” said Mark Albenze, chief executive of the Wind Power Americas unit of Siemens Energy. “It’s a little bit of a different dynamic, whereas in ’12 our projects teams were the ones stressing out in December and now it’s our acquisition team.”  

Google Glass Does Solar Panel Installs in the California Sun

You might think of Google Glass as one of those tech creations that’s more intriguing than practical. You might see computerized eyewear as a Silicon Valley nerd fantasy that’s unlikely to change the way the rest of the world works. You would not be alone. But that’s not how Michael Chagala sees it. Chagala is the director of IT at Sullivan Solar Power, which is slipping Google Glass onto the heads of the field technicians who install its solar panels atop homes and businesses across Southern California. Because every building is unique, these field techs need ready access to all sorts of specs and plans describing the job at hand. In the past, they’ve carried three-ring binders onto the roof, but those are so hard to handle — particularly when the wind is blowing pages. They’ve lugged laptops up there too, but that comes with its own problems, including, well, the sun. So Chagala and company are switching to Glass, allowing their techs to browse documents simply by looking through the eyewear. For the most part, they can do this without using their hands — though you do have to tap the side of the glasses to move from doc to doc. “When you have someone on a roof, safety is your primary concern,” Chagala says. “Having both hands free is significant.” Lead by Chagala, the company has built a custom Glass app that taps into a database housing its customer records, information about particular job sites, and its inventory of parts and equipment. But its technicians also will use other tools available with the eyewear. A field worker can, say, call headquarters with questions or transmit live video of a roof installation to get some feedback. Read Full Article at Wired.com

New Solar Panel Sensor Addresses Fire Risk

“There was a fire on a building in Munich which had solar panels and the Munich Fire Department let it burn to the ground,” rather than risk injury to its fire fighters, said Henson. Realizing that this could potentially become a recurrent problem in a geographic area that is  reliant on solar power, the fire department approached TOPinno and asked for its help finding a way that the solar panels could be disabled in cases of fire. The result was a small sensor, or fuse, that is placed between the panels and monitors the heat of the photovoltaic unit while subbing as a manual shut-off switch for emergency situations. “The moment the fuses are broken due to the heat, the voltage will go down to below 120V, which is the legal requirement to be able to use water to extinguish the flames,” says TOPinno GMBH’s  General Manager, Raymond Huwaë. But first responders needing to access the roof because of a fire inside the building (such as in Delanco, New Jersey or Munich, Germany) would also have the option of disengaging the fuse manually. “Currently we are negotiating with the UL Laboratories in Illinois USA, to have the fuse UL certified,” said Huwaë. Full Article:

New geothermal technology could produce 10 times the electricity using CO2 from fossil fuel plants

The idea starts with the liquid carbon dioxide which is increasingly envisioned as a solution to global climate change. The CO2 is captured at the source from fossil fuel burning electrical generation facilities. For efficient storage, the CO2 is compressed into a liquid, which can be pumped deep into the earth, to be trapped in the same porous rock beds which once provided oily reservoirs. But instead of just storing the CO2 underground, the COS would feed what is described as a "cross between a typical geothermal power plant and the Large Hadron Collider." Liquid CO2 would be pumped into horizontal wells set up in concentric rings deep in the earth. Carbon dioxide flows through the porous rock bed deep in the earth more quickly than water, collecting as much heat more easily. More importantly, the CO2 expands more than water when heated, so the pressure differential between the CO2 pumped into the ground and the heated CO2 is much greater than the pressure differential of the water making the same loop. The amount of energy that can be generated depends on this pressure differential -- and is therefore substantially greater in CPG than in traditional geothermal plants. The CO2 expands so much that the pressure alone can carry the heated CO2 back to the surface, an effect referred to as a "thermo-siphon". The thermo-siphon makes the use of pumps for recovering the hot CO2 unnecessary, reducing the energy costs required to generate the geothermal electricity for a higher overall efficiency.

Siemens wins world's biggest onshore wind power order

Siemens won an order to supply 448 wind turbines with a total capacity of 1,050 megawatts (MW) to U.S.-based MidAmerican Energy, which the German engineering group said was the largest single order for onshore wind power ever awarded. The wind turbines, with a nominal rating of 2.3 MW each and a rotor diameter of 108 metres, are to be installed in five different projects in Iowa, Siemens said in a statement on Monday. Siemens said it would also be responsible for service and maintenance of the wind turbines. Siemens did not provide any financial details of the transaction. By a rule of thumb, one megawatt of onshore wind capacity sells for 1 million euros ($1.37 million).

Geothermal Energy: A Resource Waiting To Be More Fully Tapped

A discussion covering the geothermal context, power generation, ground source heat pumps and geothermal's potential for the future.

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