Could The Cost Of Solar Power Fall By 75% By 2020?

Writing in The Telegraph last week, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard cited theU.S. Department of Energy as the basis for a prediction that the cost of solar power would drop by 75% between 2010 and 2020. Evans-Pritchard writes: The  US Energy   USEG  +2 .12%  Department expects the cost of solar power to fall by 75% between 2010 and 2020. By then average costs will have dropped to the $1 per watt for big solar farms, $1.25 for offices and $1.50 for homes, achieving the Holy Grail of grid parity with new coal and gas plants without further need for subsidies. Evans-Pritchard mentions several development projects sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense as representative of the broader research effort that will drive costs down costs and drive efficiencies up. Over the past few years, the cost of solar power systems has plunged as the result of what some folks have characterized as Chinese “dumping.” For better or worse, I am among those “folks” who suspect that anti-competitive trade practices have fueled overly optimistic forecasts of future costs reductions. Excluding these trade-induced (and temporary) cost reductions, is it possible that solar costs could reduce costs 75% by 2020?

Powering Up The Drones With Solar Energy

Advances in solar cell technology can make drones a more powerful tool not only for the battlefield but also for civilian uses, such as firefighting, crop surveying and oil and gas field monitoring. A Silicon Valley company called Alta Devices has been working with AeroVironment to engineer a drone that can stay airborne longer and carry out missions that are impossible before. The result of the collaboration is a 13-pound prototype drone that can fly for 9 hours and 11 minutes, AeroVironment announced recently. The military contractor credited its new battery and Alta’s solar technology for the feat. A drone similar to the one by AeroVironment typically can fly for one or two hours before it has to land and recharge, said Chris Norris, Alta’s CEO. AeroVironment’s new battery is good for three hours. By embedding Alta’s ultra thin and highly efficient solar cells on the aircraft, the battery is able to recharge twice before daylight fades and keeps the drone in the air three times longer, Norris added. California-based AeroVironment is still tinkering with the design of the drone, which is part of its Puma AE line. It plans to roll out a design that it could produce and sell in early 2014.

India's first floating solar power station to come up inside Victoria

A prototype of India’s first floating solar power station could soon be coming up in the pond of Victoria Memorial. If the plan proves to be a success, such floating solar power stations could also be set up in the water reservoirs and dams of hydroelectric power stations thereby increasing their output. “Developing a floating solar power station would prove to be a revolutionary step as it could solve the perennial problem of land. Such pilot projects are also going on in a few countries such as France and Australia,” said SP Gon Choudhury, an international expert in solar energy and the brain behind this project. The idea is simple. A raft like platform fitted with hollow plastic or tin drums would be floating on water. The power generating equipment such as solar panels would be fitted on this raft so that they can float on water. It would not only solve the problem of land but would also help conserve water in the water bodies. The solar panels, which would be floating on water, would cut off the direct sunlight and hence slow down the rate of evaporation. “Studies have also shown that if the rear surface of solar panels are kept cooler, then their ability to generate power goes up by 16%. As these solar panels would be floating on water, they are expected to stay cool and hence we can generate more power than those set up on land,” Choudhury said.

White House's Solar Panel Installation Has Begun.

A White House official confirmed to the Washington Post on Thursday that installation of solar panels began this week on the First Family’s residence. The plan to use solar energy was first revealed in October 2010, but was not put into effect until now. During a GreenGov symposium at George Washington University, then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the plan to install American-made solar panels in the spring of 2011. “This project reflects President Obama’s strong commitment to U.S. leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home,” Chu said at the time. “Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come.” This is not the first attempt to include solar power in the White House’s energy mix. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter installed panels on the roof, which were taken down by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.

Africa, the Untapped Potential for Clean Energy

Africa has a huge untapped potential for generating clean energy, including enough hydroelectric power from its seven major river systems to serve the entire continent's needs, as well as enormous potential for other energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal.

Adding the battery back-up power option to existing grid-tied PV/solar systems

Using battery-based off-grid technology, a smarter type of "grid/hybrid" inverter technology is able to use PV, wind, hydro-electric and other renewable DC energy sources to keep the batteries charged and sell the excess to the grid, just like the grid-tied unit using the grid as its battery.

The Devil Is In the Details (And So Is the Solution)

Assessing the benefits and costs of distributed solar PV

United States Falling Behind in Green Energy Investments

American engineers pioneered green energy technology and production; resisting renewable energy mandates at this stage would be like striking out with the bases loaded with MLB scouts watching.

IREC Accredited as an American National Standards Developer

As the voice of the U.S. standards and conformity assessment system, ANSI provides a distinguishing mark of quality and credibility that tells educators that our standards development process has the most respected third-party approval.

Meeting Ongoing Payment Obligations for Wind Farms

One of the many challenges of operating a wind farm is meeting ongoing payments. The right technology can help wind companies meet this formidable challenge. That, in turn, helps to advance further development of wind power.

Solar Cell Efficiency Levels; What Does it Mean for Me?

The technology breakthroughs that are helping solar cells approach 50 percent efficiency levels are encouraging, but everyday applications are still years away.

IBM unleashes 'big data' on wind, solar power management

IBM has announced a weather-modeling and power-grid management system with the goal of increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. "Applying analytics and harnessing big data will allow utilities to tackle the intermittent nature of renewable energy and forecast power production from solar and wind, in a way that has never been done before," IBM's global energy and utilities industry headman Brad Gammons said in a statement. "We have developed an intelligent system that combines weather and power forecasting to increase system availability and optimize power grid performance." The system, called Hybrid Renewable Energy Forecasting, or HyRef, is part of theSmart er Energy  component of IBM's Smarter Planet  initiative. HyRef uses cloud-imaging tech and cameras that track cloud movement, and combines that data with info from sensors on wind turbines that keep track of wind direction, temperature, and speed. All of this data is fed into weather models and analyzed in such a way as to be able, IBM claims, to "produce accurate local weather forecasts within a wind farm as far as one month in advance, or in 15-minute increments." By doing so, IBM says that HyRef can enable renewable-energy installations to better predict the power they can produce – wind and solar being variable sources – and thus to better anticipate the amount of power they will be able to provide to the grid to which they are connected. Such predictions enable managers to better accommodate the need to supplement renewables with such conventional power sources as coal and gas-fired power plants.

Saskatoon church gives solar energy panels stained glass disguise

A new type of stained glass just installed in a Saskatoon cathedral is trying to prove green can also be glorious, combatting the stereotype of ugly, bulky solar panels. When the Cathedral of the Holy Family needed a new set of stained glass windows, Toronto artist Sarah Hall jumped in with a project she's been working on since 2005 -- one that combines old art techniques with new technology. Working with engineer Christof Erban, who pioneered the concept of placing a solar cell between layers of glass, Hall's solar-infused masterpiece is a colourful set of three giant windows set atop the Saskatoon church. The work is called "Lux Gloria," or "Light of Glory," and the largest of the three windows measures 37-feet high by 12-feet wide. The windows -- a display of silver solar cells fused with various colours of stained glass -- simultaneously shade the church, harvest solar energy from outside and block out heat. While the Saskatoon project is just one example of Hall's work in the field of building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) - her first installation went up in Washington, D.C., in 2005 - the Lux Gloria is the first of her pieces that feeds back into a city's electrical grid. She has also worked on two projects in Toronto, one in Vancouver and one in Camas, Washington. Hall's studio said the embedded solar panels are capable of generating 2,500 kilowatt hours of power, or about 20 per cent of the electricity used per year in the average Canadian household.

Soft approach leads to revolutionary energy storage

Monash University researchers have brought next generation energy storage closer with an engineering first - a graphene-based device that is compact, yet lasts as long as a conventional battery. Published today in Science, a research team led by Professor Dan Li of the Department of Materials Engineering has developed a completely new strategy to engineer graphene-based supercapacitors (SC), making them viable for widespread use in renewable energy storage, portable electronics and electric vehicles. SCs are generally made of highly porous carbon impregnated with a liquid electrolyte to transport the electrical charge. Known for their almost indefinite lifespan and the ability to re-charge in seconds, the drawback of existing SCs is their low energy-storage-to-volume ratio - known as energy density. Low energy density of five to eight Watt-hours per litre, means SCs are unfeasibly large or must be re-charged frequently. Professor Li's team has created an SC with energy density of 60 Watt-hours per litre - comparable to lead-acid batteries and around 12 times higher than commercially available SCs.

GE Scraps Nation's Largest Solar Panel Plant

General Electric Co. is permanently scrapping plans to build the largest solar factory in the U.S. near Denver. GE blamed the cancellation on a glut of solar panels on the market and falling prices, The Denver Post reported Tuesday. The factory was to have been bigger than 11 football fields and have an annual capacity of 400 megawatts. State officials said it would create 350 jobs. GE put the project on hold last month. A research center that developed the thin-film solar-cell technology for the plant will be closed, with 50 people losing their jobs, according to Lindsay Thiel, a GE spokeswoman. The research center, formerly a startup named PrimeStar, was in Arvada, another Denver suburb. "We have decided that it is not in the best interest of GE, our customers or the Denver community to move forward with the build-out of this facility," Thiel told the newspaper in an email. At least 10 states were vying for the PrimeStar plant in 2011. GE said it would go to Aurora that fall, and company executives attended the next year's State of the State address by Gov. John Hickenlooper, who personally cited the plant in his speech.

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