After Fukushima, Japan Finds Beauty in Solar Power

It looks like some idealistic architecture student’s vision for the future of sustainable energy production. In fact, it's a photo of a real-life solar plant that went into operation on Nov. 1 in Japan. The Kagoshima Nanatsujima Meg a Solar Power Plant , built by the electronics manufacturer Kyocera, boasts postcard views of Kagoshima Bay and Sakurajima volcano. It’s also Japan’s largest, with a capacity of 70 megawatts. That’s enough to power some 22,000 Japanese homes. The $280 million project is part of a national effort to invest in clean, renewable energy as the country continues to grapple with the fallout of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The country’s new feed-i n tariffs  have made it one of the world’s fa stest-growing solar markets .   This sort of sprawling solar-panel farm is hardly the most efficient form of power generation in terms of either cost or the amount of land required. Still, it makes more sense when you consider that Japan has been dealing with soaring energy prices in the wake of a disaster that threw into question its entire nuclear-power program into question. While solar is clearly more expensive than nuclear power, the  Washington Post  noted in June:  Most consumers think that sacrifice is worthwhile, and they say nuclear power has hidden cleanup and compensation costs that emerge only after an accident. Fossil fuels, meanwhile, release harmful greenhouse gases and must be imported from Australia, Russia, Indonesia and the Middle East. In other words, this gorgeous solar plant is what happens when a country comes face-to-face with the full societal costs of more traditional power sources.  

Fukushima Floating Offshore Wind Turbine Starts Generating

A development to harness the power of the wind about 20 kilometers (12 miles) off the coast of Fukushima, site of the March 2011 nuclear disaster, began generating power on an operational basis today. The project, funded by the government and led by Marubeni Corp. ), is a symbol of Japan’s ambition to commercialize the unproven technology of floating offshore wind power and its plan to turn quake-ravaged Fukushima into a clean energy hub. “Fukushima is making a stride toward the future step by step,” Yuhei Sato, governor of Fukushima, said today at a ceremony in Fukushima marking the project’s initiation. “Floating offshore wind is a symbol of such a future.” The 11-member group’s project so far consists of a 2-megawatt turbine from Hitachi Ltd. )nicknamed “Fukushima Mirai.” A floating substation, the first of its kind, has also been set up and bears the name “Fukushima Kizuna.” Mirai means future, while kizuna translates as ties. The group is planning to install two more turbines by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. with 7 megawatts of capacity each. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has said the floating offshore capacity may be expanded to 1,000 megawatts.

Microinverters and DC Power Optimizers Will Reach Nearly $2 Billion in Annual Revenue by 2020, Forecasts Navigant Research

Microinverters and DC optimizers, commonly referred to as module-level power electronics (MLPEs), increase the energy harvested by solar PV modules and reduce the levelized cost of electricity by converting or conditioning power at the module level. As a result, microinverters and DC optimizers are two of the most disruptive technologies in the solar PV sector today. Click to tweet: According to a new report from Navigant Research, revenue from microinverters and DC optimizers will grow from $308 million in 2013 to more than $1.9 billion in 2020.  "The module-level power electronics sector has grown from a niche market to mainstream, especially in the United States, where there is fierce competition in major solar PV markets like California," says Dexter Gauntlett, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. "What's more, a growing number of solar PV module manufacturers are now integrating microinverters and DC optimizers at their own production plants. At the same time, large power electronics companies and incumbent manufacturers are making strategic partnerships and acquisitions to take advantage of rapid growth in this market segment." 

Microsoft buys first wind PPA in green push

Microsoft has announced it has signed a 110MW PPA with RES for a project in Texas, following Facebook and Google into wind power. The 110MW Keechi wind farm, located 70 miles northwest of Fort Worth, will power a Microsoft data centre in San Antonio, Texas. It follows the company's announcement last year that it planned to become carbon neutral. Construction of Keechi will begin early next year and will use Vestas 2MW turbines. The PPA is for 20 years. This is Microsoft's first move into wind energy. In doing so it is following a path set by Google, which has bought around 570MW of wind power in Texas alone. It had also invested and bought wind farms elsewhere in the US.  

SunPower Buys Greenbotics for Solar Panel Washing Robots

SunPower Corp. (SPWR), the second-largest U.S. solar manufacturer, bought Greenbotics Inc., maker of robots that clean panels to increase the amount of power they can generate. The robots clean dirt and dust off of photovoltaic and solar thermal arrays and cut water use by 90 percent, San Jose, California-based SunPower said today in a statement. Terms of the deal, the seventh acquisition SunPower has done since it was formed, weren’t disclosed. SunPower plans to use the systems at projects it develops, especially in the western U.S., the Middle East and Chile, as an alternative to pressure washers and sprayer trucks. The robots will cut water use, save money and boost annual energy yield in dry, dusty regions by as much as 15 percent, according to the release. “It’s half the cost of normal cleaning,” SunPower Chief Executive Officer Tom Werner said in an Nov. 1 interview. The technology, which he likened to a Roomba vacuum cleaner, “is one we can scale.”

Solar Power International 2013: Start-Up Alley Challenge

10 finalist companies presented their ideas on the last day of the Solar Power International 2013 (Oct. 23).

Solar Decathlon 2013 - Final Results

Here are the results of the competition for 2013.

Residential-scale power generation

Residential-sited fuel cells are now becoming an option for consumers, with growing interest and big sales being made primarily outside of the United States.

Are corporations becoming energy responsible?

Major corporations here and abroad are reevaluating their energy usage and looking for ways to run their facilities with green energy in an effort to save the planet.

Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Is It A Viable Technology?

In a world committed to reducing carbon emissions CCS offers a helping hand but not a definitive one. It may offer a partial answer for the rest of this century, but governments are unlikely to provide the needed funds for large-scale deployment.

The Current State of the International Solar Power Industry

U.S. solar PV companies need to find a way to work together with international PV companies, especially those in Mainland China & Taiwan.

Solar Energy Index Outperforms S&P in Q3 2013

Lincoln International's Renewable Energy Group is pleased to present the latest Q3 2013 Solar Energy Stock Index Report, which tracks relevant solar company metrics in this growing industry.

Renewable Energy Opportunities and Challenges in Pakistan

Solar opportunities exist in Punjab province, wind opportunities exist in Sind and Baluchistan province, Coal opportunities exists in all provinces, Hydro opportunities exist in north of Pakistan and Bio-energy exists in all provinces.

Solar Sector Shines on Energy Storage

There is no doubt that PV is becoming a primary source of energy but only when integrated with long duration energy storage.

Wind energy tax credit likely over, but effect may not hurt like before

Dec. 31 is a curious date for Texas wind energy producers. That's when transmission services providers expect to energize the last power lines built under the state's $7 billion Competitive Renewable Energy Zone initiative, the long-running effort to connect windy West Texas to the state's energy-thirsty big cities. The 3,600-mile project has been credited with spurring even more investment in Texas, the country's wind power leader. But 2013's last day is also an ominous one for wind folks. It's the expiration date of the federal Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit, the fate of which has driven booms and busts in the industry. The multibillion-dollar credit, which Congress passed in 1992, helps wind stay economically competitive with other energy sources, including low-priced natural gas. Without it, the industry can't keep pace, even as production costs fall. Last year, as the credit neared its demise, Congress extended it as a part of a last-minute budget package, but only for a year. This year, with Congress focused on finding a way to turn the government back on and pay its bills, lawmakers have yet to draw up a proposal for the credit, making a swift renewal increasingly unlikely. So how would Texas wind power fare if the 2.3-cent-per-kilowatt-hour incentive lapsed? That would depend on how long the credit is unavailable, observers say. But for a couple of reasons, the effect probably won't be as harsh as in past uncertain times. Jeff Clark, executive director of the Austin-based Wind Coalition, said he's not too worried about the ticking clock. “There's a lot of projects in the pipeline right now,” he said. The 202-megawatt Baffin Wind Farm, in Kenedy County, is one project that's depending on the tax credit. However, owner and developer Iberdrola Renewables LLC isn't concerned.

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