Swiss Firm to Use Solar Power for Space Tourism

Financial Tribune:  SolarStratos, a Swiss startup, has unveiled an airplane that uses solar power to lift people to the edge of space and return them gently to earth. The company revealed its “solar plane”, a 28 foot-long aircraft that will be the first manned aircraft entirely powered by solar energy to rise above the stratosphere and bring passengers close to the stars. The solar power airplane has a wingspan of 81.3 feet and weighs 992 pounds. It will take two hours to ascend to the edge of space some 15 miles above the earth. SolarStratos will stay there for 15 minutes before beginning a three-hour descent back to earth.   Cont'd...

Panasonic Commits To Solar Cell Production With Tesla At New York Plant

Alan Ohnsman for Forbes:  Panasonic will make solar cells with Tesla at a factory under construction in Buffalo, New York, broadening a partnership between the electric-car maker and Japanese electronics giant that goes back nearly a decade. The companies said in a joint statement today that they finalized plans to produce high-efficiency photovoltaic cells at the plant, with initial production scheduled for the second half of 2017. Output of the energy modules, for use in solar panels, Tesla’s planned solar roofs and to charge up Tesla’s Powerwall and Powerpack battery storage units, is to reach 1 gigawatt by 2019, the companies said. Cont'd...

Instead Of Trump's Wall, Let's Build A Border Of Solar Panels

Homero Aridjis & James Ramey for Huffington Post:  President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly called for Mexico to build a wall between our countries. There is indeed a way that Mexico could create a barrier between the U.S. and Mexico, one constructed exclusively on the Mexican side, with substantial benefits for both countries and the planet: a solar border. Sunlight in the northern deserts of Mexico is more intense than in the U.S. Southwest because of the lower latitude and more favorable cloud patterns. And construction and maintenance costs for solar plants in Mexico are substantially lower. Thus, building a long series of such plants all along the Mexican side of the border could power cities on both sides faster and more cheaply than similar arrays built north of the border.   Solar energy is already being generated at lower prices than those of coal. With solar plants along vast stretches of the almost 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border on the Mexican side, a new high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) grid could be set up to transmit energy efficiently from that long, snaking array to population centers along the border. HVDC power lines lose exponentially less energy over long distances than traditional power lines.   Cont'd...

World's first solar panel road opens in Normandy village

Kim Willsher for The Guardian:  France has opened what it claims to be the world’s first solar panel road, in a Normandy village. A 1km (0.6-mile) route in the small village of Tourouvre-au-Perche covered with 2,800 sq m of electricity-generating panels, was inaugurated on Thursday by the ecology minister, Ségolène Royal. It cost €5m (£4.2m) to construct and will be used by about 2,000 motorists a day during a two-year test period to establish if it can generate enough energy to power street lighting in the village of 3,400 residents. In 2014, a solar-powered cycle path opened in Krommenie in the Netherlands and, despite teething problems, has generated 3,000kWh of energy – enough to power an average family home for a year. The cost of building the cycle path, however, could have paid for 520,000kWh.   Cont'd...

Batteries Need to Get Big-Like, Enormous-for Solar Power to Shine

Vaclav Smil for IEEE Spectrum:  It would be a lot easier to expand our use of solar and wind energy if we had better ways to store the large quantities of electricity we’d need to cover gaps in the flow of that energy. Even in sunny Los Angeles, a typical house roofed with enough photovoltaic panels to meet its average needs would still face daily shortfalls of up to about 80 percent of the demand in January and daily surpluses of up to 65 percent in May. You can take such a house off the grid only by installing a voluminous and expensive assembly of lithium-ion batteries. But even a small national grid—one handling 10 to 30 gigawatts—could rely entirely on intermittent sources only if it had gigawatt-scale storage capable of working for many hours. Since 2007, more than half of humanity has lived in urban areas, and by 2050 more than 6.3 billion people will live [PDF] in cities, accounting for two-thirds of the global population, with a rising share in megacities of more than 10 million people.   Cont'd...

U.S. wind power enjoys a rebirth as solar's obstacles mount

Nichola Groom for Reuters:  A year after Congress extended generous tax credits for renewable energy projects, the U.S. wind industry is thriving. Solar power companies, meanwhile, are hunkering down for a rough 2017. The tax credit renewal has boosted the long-term outlooks for both industries. But in the short term, the subsidies are far more attractive for wind power, which has spurred utilities to launch wind projects while they scale back or delay solar installations. Advances in wind turbine technology are also opening up new locations for development and driving a wave of spending to upgrade existing projects. In the last few weeks, power companies with large renewable holdings - including Southern Co, NextEra Energy Inc and Xcel Energy Inc - have announced plans to invest billions of dollars in wind. "We're making a pivot now away from solar," Southern Chief Executive Tom Fanning told a meeting with Wall Street analysts in October.   Cont'd...

Science Plant a Wind Tree in your neighborhood to generate energy from low-speed wind

Bruce Brown for Digital Trends:  These trees do more than just add ambiance. Harnessing the wind to generate electrical energy usually brings to mind thoughts of huge land- or ocean-based wind farms consisting of huge towers with two or three blades, each more than 100-feet long, on the top. The size, weight, noise, and vibration of industrial wind turbines restrict their use to large open spaces. Newwind, a French startup, has developed a much smaller, urban-space-friendly “Wind Tree,” reports Electrek. The Wind Tree, which produces sufficient energy to power small buildings or streetlights, is designed to connect to a nearby energy storage system. The trees are each about 30 feet tall and 26 feet in diameter, and weigh approximately 5,500 pounds. Each tree has 54 Aeroleafs mounted vertically on tree branches. The Aeroleafs are 3.2 feet high and, spinning at optimum speed, are capable of generating 65 watts each. So, a tree with 54 leaves has an energy-generation capacity maximum of 3,510 watts (3.5kW), about the same as a small home solar installation.   Cont'd...

The Solar Industry Has Paid Off Its Carbon Debts

Robinson Meyer for The Atlantic:  Think of all the energy that goes into making a single solar panel. Quartz and copper must be mined. The raw materials must be converted into wafers, then encased in protective material. And after panels leave the factory, they must be shipped all over the world. Now imagine these consequences spread over four decades—the environmental cost of the solar industry. Given all the research, development, and production time that goes into making any one panel, a skeptical solar-buyer might wonder: Has the solar industry on the whole really saved any energy at all?  To that concern, a new analysis answers: Yes. The solar industry probably paid off its long-term energy and climate “debts” in 2011, a study published this week in Nature Communications finds.   Cont'd...

Nearly half of residential distributed solar power is owned by private companies

Lucas Mearian for ComputerWorld:  About 44% of all solar power that's installed on residential rooftops, known as distributed solar capacity, is owned by private businesses, such as SolarCity or Vivint Solar, according to new government data. Distributed solar capacity in the U.S., which includes all solar power capacity other than utility-scale installations 1 megawatts (MW) or larger,  increased to 12.3 gigawatts (GW) as of September, according to new figures from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). In comparison, a cumulative 11.6GW had been installed in the U.S. by the end of 2015.   Cont'd...

Offshore wind energy system combines sea water and wind to create electricity

Megan Treacy for TreeHugger:  We've seen our share of interesting wind power designs, but often the technology can't come anywhere close to matching what the traditional horizontal axis wind turbines can do. There's a reason that when we think of wind energy, we think of giant masts with rotating blades and it's because that design is incredibly effective -- just look at Scotland and other areas around the world that now get a majority of their electricity needs from wind power. The design isn't without its flaws; those rotating blades do pose a hazard to birds and bats and the cost of manufacturing and installing all of those giant parts can be expensive. When it comes to offshore wind power in the U.S., that has been a major roadblock. The energy generation potential is huge, but so is the cost. An energy start-up company called Accio Energy -- yes, a Harry Potter reference -- thinks it has a solution to that problem, one that will generate as much if not more energy from offshore wind than a traditional wind turbine, but at half the cost. There are no moving parts, instead Accio's technology consists of large permeable panels on masts that let the ocean winds blow right through.   Cont'd...

The World's Largest Solar Plant Is Now Online in India

Avery Thompson for Popular Mechanics:  The world's largest solar power plant has just been completed in Kamuthi, in Tamil Nadu, India. The new plant adds 648 MW to the country's generating capacity. The Kamuthi Solar Power Project takes the title of world's largest solar plant from the Topaz Solar Farm in California, which was completed two years ago and has a capacity of 550 MW. The Kamuthi Solar Power Project was built in only 8 months, and cost $679 million to complete. It contains 2.5 million individual solar panels, covers an area of almost 4 square miles, and is expected to power 150,000 homes.   Cont'd...

Tesla powers a whole island with solar to show off its energy chops

James Vincent for The Verge:  Tesla completed its $2.6 billion acquisition of SolarCity this week, and, to celebrate, the company has announced a major solar energy project: wiring up the whole island of Ta’u in American Samoa. Previously, the island ran on diesel generators, but over the past year Tesla has installed a microgrid of solar energy panels and batteries that will supply "nearly 100 percent" of power needs for Ta’u’s 600 residents. The project seems intended to show off the potential benefits of the SolarCity acquisition, with Ta’u’s microgrid comprised of 5,328 solar panels from SolarCity and Tesla, along with 60 Tesla Powerpacks batteries for storage. But buying SolarCity remains a risky move for Tesla, with the purchase including billions of dollars of debt for a company that's far from profitable (SolarCity spends $6 for every $1 it makes in sales). Nevertheless, Tesla CEO Elon Musk describes the acquisition as "blindingly obvious" — a necessary step in his so-called "Master Plan" to integrate clean energy generation and storage.  Cont'd...

Power to the people: Solar panel sales to soon surpass leasing

Lucas Mearian for ComputerWorld: Direct ownership of solar power panels will overtake third-party ownership next year as more consumers are choosing to buy, rather than lease, their panels. According to GTM Research's latest report, U.S. Residential Solar Financing 2016-2021, 55% of all U.S. residential solar capacity installed in 2017 will be purchased by customers paying either in cash, or through a solar loan financing arrangement; that number is expected to grow to 73% of all solar systems installed in 2021. Cont'd...

Want to boost wind and solar power? Bring them together

Ben Jervey for GreenBiz:  What’s keeping solar and wind power from fully taking over the electric grid? For starters, the sun only shines during the day. Wind blows intermittently, is seasonally variable, and is not always blowing when the energy is needed. But what if solar and wind work together?  "Wind resource tends to complement solar resource," said Sarah Kurtz of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. "Here in Colorado, for instance, the windiest time is during the winter and spring months. In winter, we don’t have as much sunshine, but we tend to get more wind and stronger wind." A handful of enterprising renewable energy developers are exploring how solar and wind might better work together, developing hybrid solar-wind projects to take advantage of the power-generating strengths of each — with the two technologies in tandem serving as a better replacement for climate-warming fossil fuels than either could be alone.   Cont'd...

BREAKING: Tesla, SolarCity merger approved with 85% shareholder support

Utility Dive:  More than 85% of Tesla's unaffiliated shareholders voted in favor of the $2.6 billion deal with SolarCity, which will allow the companies to move forward with an integrated solar roof and battery storage offering.   Cont'd...  

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