Solazyme's algae jet fuel powers United flight

Sometime shortly after 7 a.m. PST on Monday, execs at algae oil company Solazyme, members of the media and others will board a plane at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport and take off on the first commercial U.S. domestic flight to use Solazyme’s algae-based jet fuel. United Airlines will operate the flight, which will land at Chicago O’Hare International Airport a couple of hours later and is set to carry 189 passengers.  The event is significant: While companies have spent years looking to scale next-generation biofuel products, few are producing fuels that can scale large enough to sell to the airline industry, let alone the auto industry. Solazyme’s jet fuel, dubbed Solajet, isn’t a widely commercialized product yet, but it has a few deals, including with the Navy and Australian carrier Quantas.

Solar Power International 2011 - Special News Report

News Announcements from SPI 2011

The Coolest New Solar Manufacturing Technology You've Never Heard Of

The Optical Cavity Furnace is a new piece of equipment for making solar cells that is about to rock the photovoltaic industry by slashing costs and increasing efficiency. The news should not just excite tech nerds—by reducing the cost of producing solar cells by nearly three-quarters, this new technology represents another big step on the path to making clean energy the cheap kind of energy. Here’s how it works. By using optics to more efficiently focus visible and infrared light, the Optical Cavity Furnace can heat silicon wafers used in solar cell production much more precisely and uniformly than previous forms of solar cell manufacture. The resulting solar cells are stronger, more efficient, and have fewer impurities. The National Renewable Energy Lab, or NREL, the DOE office responsible for the research, and a corporate partner AOS Inc. are now working to bring this technology to scale. The partners plan to build an industrial-scale Optical Cavity Furnace capable of producing 1,200 highly efficient solar cells per hour. NREL has cooperative research agreements with many of the country’s biggest solar cell producers.

Another Milestone: Renewable Energy Surpasses Nuclear Power by 18%

According to the most recent issue of the "Monthly Energy Review" by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), with data through June 30, 2011, renewable energy has passed another milestone as domestic production is now significantly greater than that of nuclear power and continues to close in on oil. During the first half of 2011, renewable energy sources (biomass & biofuels, geothermal, solar, water, wind) provided 4.687 quadrillion Btus of energy or 12.25% of U.S. energy production. By comparison, renewables accounted for 11.05% of domestic production during the first half of 2010 and 10.50% during the first half of 2009. (On the consumption side, which includes oil and other energy imports, renewable sources accounted for 9.45% of total U.S. energy use.) More significantly, energy production from renewable energy sources in 2011 was 17.91% more than that from nuclear power, which provided 3.975 quadrillion Btus and has been declining in recent years. Energy from renewable sources is now equal to 79.83% of that from domestic crude oil production, with the gap closing rapidly.  

Beacon Power: Another energy loan gone bad

Another alternative energy company that received a loan guarantee from the U.S. government has filed for bankruptcy. Beacon Power, which makes energy storage devices used to help the power grid become more efficient, filed for bankruptcy protection Sunday, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company received a $43 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy last August. "This latest failure is a sharp reminder that DOE has fallen well short of delivering the stimulus jobs that were promised," Florida Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns said in a statement Sunday night. "Now taxpayers find themselves millions of more dollars in the hole." Stearns is leading an investigation into the bankruptcy of Solyndra, a solar panel maker that received a $535 million government loan guarantee last year. The Beacon bankruptcy will likely only make that investigation more urgent.

Wind energy driving down consumer electric rates

Wind energy is more affordable than ever, and new installations across the country are saving consumers money on their electric bills, as utilities rush to lock in long-term favorable rates. "This is what a successful business looks like with stable tax policy. Utilities are locking in a great deal for their electric customers while it's available. We're keeping rates down all across the U.S., even in the heart of the South," said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), pointing to recent wind power purchases by the Southern Company in Alabama, Austin Energy in Texas, and Xcel in Colorado as examples. The U.S. wind industry installed just over 1,200 megawatts (MW) in the third quarter, and about 3,360 MW on the year so far – but has more than 8,400 MW under construction. That is more than in any quarter since 2008, as the federal Production Tax Credit has driven as much as $20 billion a year in private investment.  "This shows what we're capable of: adding new, affordable electric generation," said Bode. "Traditional tax incentives are working. There's a lot of business right now, people are employed, and manufacturers are looking to expand here in the U.S."  

Optimizing solar thermal performance with data loggers

By measuring and monitoring solar thermal system performance, installers can correct mistakes and fine-tune and optimize systems. As a result, US consumers are likely to regain confidence in the technology, spurring what is expected to be a burgeoning market for solar hot water heaters.

MicroCSP (Concentrated Solar Power)

MicroCSP power projects all include sun tracker and thermal storage. The cost is around the same as PV but you generate more electricity per day because of the tracker/storage combination so you have a lower cost of energy.

Weathering the Storm: Fluoropolymer films protect solar modules and ensure performance

Recent advances in materials science have led to the development of innovative new materials that provide enhanced durability to photovoltaic modules. Unique polymeric thin film technologies, such as ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) frontsheets, provide modules with the protection they need to perform at high levels even when exposed to the elements.

LEED Standards and the Global Carbon Market

Research has shown that LEED buildings consume over 25% less energy, have 13% lower maintenance costs, 27% higher occupant satisfaction and a 33% reduction in GHG emissions compared to the average commercial building.

Case Studies from EarthKind Solar

Bard College and Hawthorne Ridge Retirement Community are two examples of down to earth solar energy projects that make a difference.

Biofuel investments keep on coming

Developing biofuels continues to be a bright spot in the cleantech world. Two startups, plant genetic engineering company Chromatin and biofuel producer ZeaChem, announced separately on Tuesday that they have raised new rounds of funding.  Chicago-based Chromatin said it has lined up $10 million – the first close of the D round – from investors including the venture arm of oil giant BP and the investing arm of product firm Unilever. Chromatin has developed a technology to genetically modify energy crops so that they grow fast and abundant, and its plant of choice if sorghum, a grass with some desirable, natural characteristics as a bioenergy feedstock, such as a high tolerance for drought and heat.

Solar Trade Case May Backfire on US Firms

Like Detroit automakers taking on the Japanese a generation ago, the seven American solar panel makers that filed a trade case on Wednesday against China might find that a legal victory, if it comes, may not translate into business success.In the 1970s and ‘80s, American car companies won a long series of trade cases to limit Japanese car imports. Japan’s automakers responded by moving assembly lines to the United States, creating many new blue-collar jobs. But they kept most of the high-paying design and engineering positions back in Japan. The new factories in the United States not only shielded Japanese auto companies against most further trade protectionism but helped them stay competitive when the yen soared against the dollar.   Meanwhile, American consumers had many new, affordable choices in cars — while Detroit continued to have trouble competing with its Japanese rivals. Don’t be surprised if Chinese solar companies try to pursue a similar path, which could benefit American consumers of solar power if it helps propel the technology beyond its current niche status.

Solar Power International 2011 Report

Solar Power International 2011 took place in Dallas, Texas, with a goal to generate powerful new ideas, connections and business opportunities for the solar industry. An estimated 24,000 professionals and over 1200 exhibitors from businesses spanning the entire spectrum of the industry will be on hand for four days of product exploration, discussion, professional enrichment and networking. The AltEnergyMag team has taken some time to put together a list of some of the interesting new products and services seen at this year's show.

U.S. Solar Jobs Census Finds Solar Employment Soars As U.S. Economy Lags

The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit solar education and research organization, today released its second annual review of the solar workforce in the United States. The report, titled, "National Solar Jobs Census 2011: A Review of the U.S. Solar Workforce" found that hiring in the solar workforce is on the rise. More than 100,000 Americans are now employed in the solar industry.  "The solar industry has grown into a major economic force with more than 100,000 employees in the United States," said Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation. "We expect even greater growth in the foreseeable future. But policymakers, workforce training providers, and the industry must work together to continue creating good jobs for skilled workers."  As of August 2011, the National Solar Jobs Census 2011 identified more than 17,198 solar employment sites and 100,237 solar jobs in all 50 states. The solar industry's job growth rate of 6.8 percent is significantly higher than the 2 percent net job loss in fossil fuel power generation and the economy-wide expectation of 0.7 percent growth over the same period.   

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