Thin film perovskite solar cell passes the efficiency test

Matthew Gunther for Chemistry World:  Perovskite solar cells may one day rival silicon-based technologies, but their performance outside the laboratory has been a constant source of contention in the past year. Now, an international team of scientists has manufactured the first thin film perovskite solar cell with a reported efficiency that has beenofficially recognised by an accredited national test laboratory.1 Since their development in 2012, the performance of light-harvesting metal–organo halide structures has seemingly improved at a staggering rate, with their efficiency increasing by six percentage points in just two years – the same increase took multi-crystalline solar cells over two decades. But their stability has been brought into question, with some international test centres taking issue with perovskite solar cells that are so unstable that they may degrade spontaneously in air, making it hard for them to assess their performance. It’s a state of affairs that Michael Grätzel from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland has had trouble dealing with. ‘Conspicuously, you could see that from the very beginning there was very scarce information on the stability of these devices,’ comments Grätzel. ‘I have raised that issue many times – one would think that now everybody does stability work after this alarm was sounded, but not so.'   Cont'd...

Morocco to Build World's Largest Concentrated Solar Power Plant

Cole Mellino for EcoWatch:  Morocco imports 97 percent of its energy, and yet it has one of the highest rates of solarinsolation of any country—about 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, according to the Solar GCC Alliance. To put that in perspective, the Guinness Book of World Records puts Yuma, Arizona as the sunniest place on Earth with an average of 4,055 hours of sunshine per year (the theoretical maximum is 4,456), whereas the sunniest place in Germany, which still has a robust solar industry, gets a mere 1,800 sunshine hours a year. So it’s no surprise that Morocco is tapping into its abundant sunshine for energy. Morocco is building “a complex of four linked solar mega-plants that, alongside hydro andwind, will help provide nearly half of Morocco’s electricity from renewables by 2020,” reports The Guardian. When the entire project is finished, it will be the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant in the world. The first phase, Noor 1, will go live next month.   Cont'd...  

United Utilities installs Europe's largest floating solar power project on reservoir

By Emily Gosden, Energy Editor for Telegraph UK:  Water giant United Utilities is to install Europe’s biggest floating solar power system on a reservoir near Manchester, as it seeks to capitalise on the novel technology to cut its energy costs. The 12,000 panel, £3.5m development will be only the second of its kind in Britain, dwarfing an 800-panel pilot in Berkshire last year, and will be the second biggest in the world after a scheme in Japan. Installation of the panels is due to begin on Monday at the Godley reservoir in Greater Manchester, where it will provide a third of the power for a water treatment works. The system is scheduled to be completed before Christmas, in order to qualify for subsidies before they are due to be drastically cut in the new year.   Cont'd...

Texas hits new wind power milestone on Thursday

By Jordan Blum for Fuel Fix:  The Texas electric grid hit a new record for wind power use early Thursday, as the state continues dominating the rest of the nation in wind farm growth. At 12:30 am Thursday, the main Texas grid operator reported that nearly 37 percent of demand was met with wind power. The Electricity Reliability Council of Texas, which manages nearly 90 percent of the state’s electric needs, said it used 12,237.6 megawatts of wind power at the time. That bested a previous record set on Sept. 13 of 11,467 megawatts. A megawatt powers about 500 typical Texas residences during periods of normal demand. The new record came the same day as the American Wind Energy Association reported Texas accounted for nearly half of the nation’s wind power growth in the third quarter of the year. Texas added 771 megawatts of wind generation in the third quarter and, nationwide, about 1,600 megawatts were put online. Texas now has about 16,400 megawatts of wind power, according to the AWEA, which is about 10,000 megawatts more than the second and third windiest states, California and Iowa.   Cont'd...

UK solar power industry proposes emergency plan to save renewables

Mark Tran for The Guardian:  The solar power industry has proposed an emergency plan to rescue renewables, which it says would add just £1 to consumer bills by 2019, on top of the £9 a year that clean technology subsidies cost bill payers. The scheme is a response to government plans to cut subsidies for rooftop solar panel installations by 87% from 1 January. The Solar Trade Association (STA) has warned the move could cost up to 27,000 jobs and waste public money already spent on supporting the technology. Solar companies are already going bust as a result of the changes, with an estimated 1,000 jobs lost so far. On Friday, a company backed by the billionaire inventor Elon Musk pulled out of the UK, blaming the government for not supporting the technology. Zep Solar UK, which is owned by SolarCity where the Tesla boss is chairman, was the fourth UK solar business to close in a fortnight. SolarCity blamed cuts to solar subsidies announced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in the summer. The STA plan would include higher initial tariffs for subsidies to make investing in the technology viable, with reductions set out to allow the government to control costs and give the industry certainty. The plan would ensure that families, farmers, housing associations and community groups could continue to be involved in the move towards low-carbon power and give them more control over their energy, the STA argues.   Cont'd...

As California Rolls Out More Solar Power, Regulators Could Undercut The Industry

Ken Silverstein for Forbes:  The fall season is kicking off a sizzling solar power debate in California and one that has the potential to undercut the state’s climate mission. Utility regulators there are in discussions over how to balance the interest of rooftop solar generators with the utilities on which they will still depend. Just how those hearings are resolved with have implications for the rollout of renewable energy not just in California but also around the country. At issue is something called “net metering,” which is technical term used to measure the amount of money that rooftop solar generators should get paid relative to retail electricity prices. Utilities, generally, want to offer them the wholesale rate for what they send to them over the grid. Those are expensive wires to maintain and ones that all customers will use, even those who power their homes with solar panels. That’s because the sun is not always shining and the utilities would then have to provide them electricity over their networks. The present net metering rules in California were set a dozen years ago, with the intent that they would expire when solar penetration reached 5 percent at any of three investor-owned utilities: Edison International’s SoCalEd, PG&E Corp. and Sempra Energy, which is nearing the threshold. Generally, those utilities are paying customers the full retail value for their electricity generated and transmitted.  Cont'd...

UK - It could be lights out for solar power under this government

Terry Macalister for The Guardian:  Ministers rightly wring their hands over the 2,200 jobs being lost at the 98-year-old Redcar steelworks hit by low-cost Chinese competition. But they seem deaf to warnings of 27,000 jobs being potentially lost in a brand-new industry now facing crisis due to their own clumsy cuts. Almost 1,000 redundancies have already been made by the solar panel installersMark Group and Climate Energy. No one in the industry believes this will be the end of the sad story. The latest flashpoint for “green” developers is the government plan to slash the feed-in tariff – which subsidises people installing solar panels on their home – by almost 90%. Meanwhile, an energy-efficiency regime has been scrapped with only a vague promise of a future replacement. If these were isolated examples, then companies might be willing to hang on in the hope of better things to come. But they are the latest in a series of cuts not just to solar but also to onshore wind, and come at a time when it seems maximum effort is being expended on removing roadblocks to shale-gas frackingand nuclear power. Cont'd...

Cloaking Principle Could Boost Solar Cell Performance

Invisibility cloaking may be a long way from reality, but the principle could help improve the performance of solar cells in the near term.  In a series of simulations, researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have demonstrated how cloaks made of metamaterials or freeform surfaces could eliminate shadows cast by energy-harvesting components onto the active surfaces of solar cells.  Contact fingers, which extract electric current, cover up to one-tenth of the surface area of a solar cell. By guiding light around these features, more of the sun's energy could be captured by the solar cell.  "Our model experiments have shown that the cloak layer makes the contact fingers nearly completely invisible," said doctoral student Martin Schumann.   Cont'd...  

SolarCity claims highest efficiency solar panel

Tristan Edist for the Business Spectator:  SolarCity, the largest retailer of solar systems in the US (over 30% market share) and partly owned by Tesla’s Elon Musk, has announced it will produce the most efficient solar module available on the market at 22.04% conversion efficiency. SolarCity is claiming it has therefore managed to pip SunPower who have been the longstanding holder of the most efficient conventional silicon solar module on the market. However in a subsequent discussion with Greentech Media, Peter Rive’s Chief Technology Officer conceded the majority of the panels coming off its pilot 100MW manufacturing line were hitting 21.8%.  In 2017 the company will be then moving production to a new 1 gigawatt per annum capacity plant in Buffalo which can sometimes encounter challenges with achieving stable quality levels during production start-up. SunPower claims 21.5% efficiency for its X-Series panel although often manufacturers will  have some variance in performance of panels and make claims based on conservative estimates of performance. Greentech Media quotes an anonymous Sunpower source saying that 22% efficient panels are already coming off its production lines.  In addition the company is targeting achieving 23% conversion efficiency from panels it will manufacture from its fifth fabrication line, scheduled for start-up in 2017.     Cont'd...

Renewable Energy Surpasses Coal in the UK

Written by Keith Kohl for Energy & Capital:  For the first time ever, more energy in the UK was supplied by renewable sources than coal. For an entire quarter. Wind, solar, and bioenergy checked in at 25% of the energy supplied. All of this was possible due to the fact that more wind turbines and solar panels were installed, which must be a good amount if you want to compare it to the same period last year, for which these energy options only accounted for 16.4% of electricity. Recently, the UK has been working to close aging coal and nuclear power plants. Of course, this will lead to its own issues... [Solar Panels] Conservative ministers collectively believe that the subsidies given to renewable energy were too numerous, going so far as to suggest plans for an 87% reduction of solar power, and to cut support for onshore wind farms. With that kind of spending cut, it's not surprising to hear that industry execs believe these actions would unjustly put an end to renewable energy just as it was gaining traction.   Cont'd...

Can the U.S. Jump-Start Offshore Wind Power?

By Camille von Kaenel and ClimateWire:  The Department of Energy has awarded around a half-million dollars to New York, Maine, Rhode Island and Massachusetts state organizations to cooperate on scaling up the offshore wind industry in the region.  Under the leadership of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the group will lay out a collaborative road map by the end of the year on how to build up the new industry. The project largely aims to reduce the cost of offshore wind projects, which has been a barrier to development, and establish a regional supply chain.  Industry and state representatives learned about the federal grant at the first-ever offshore wind summit hosted by the White House yesterday.  Offshore wind has struggled to take off in the United States. Europe, meanwhile, has more than 80 offshore wind farms with more than 10,000 megawatts of capacity. The White House summit marks a renewed effort to get the industry going in the United States, said various attendees.   Cont'd...

Researchers develop cool way to improve solar cell efficiency

By Kelly Hodgkins for Digital Trends:    A team of engineers from Stanford University have invented a cool way to improve the performance of solar panel arrays. A new material that the team produced literally will lower the temperature of solar cells even while they are operating in full-strength sunlight. As the solar cells cool, their efficiency will rise, leading to significant gains in the amount of energy harvested from the sun. Solar panel technology has improved by leaps and bounds, but the technology has a flaw that limits the efficiency of the system. The panels must face the sun to operate, but the heat from this exposure diminishes their ability to convert light into energy. The hotter they get, the less efficient they become. This issue has perplexed the industry for years, but the Stanford team may have discovered a material that can help dissipate this excess heat without affecting the operation of the solar array. The solution, proposed by Stanford electrical engineering professor Shanhui Fan, research associate Aaswath P. Raman, and doctoral candidate Linxiao Zhu, uses a material that is able to capture and emit thermal radiation (heat) away from the solar call. While deterring heat buildup, the thin, patterned silica material does not block sunlight, allowing the photons to enter the solar panel where they are converted to energy. It’s a win-win situation, allowing the free flow of sunlight and the removal of excess heat from the system.   Cont'd...

Wind turbine technology stores excess wind power for when gusts turn to breezes

Megan Treacy for TreeHugger:  A new technology developed by University of Nebraska-Lincoln electrical engineering doctoral student Jie Cheng solves both of those problems by harnessing the excess wind energy usually wasted as spillage and storing it for use when wind speeds dip, making wind turbines more efficient and consistent. Cheng's system converts and directs the extra wind energy to an air compression tank, where the energy is stored until wind speeds dip below the maximum capacity. Using a rotary vane machine that is connected between the turbine's gearbox and generator, excess energy is diverted and stored in the air compression tank. When the wind dies down, the tank then kicks in and reverses airflow back to the rotary vane machine to generate electricity. In a recent study of his prototype, Cheng found that a 250-kW system would produce an additional 3,830 kWh of electricity per week or an additional 16,400 kWh per month based on historical wind data from Springview, Nebraska. That extra electricity is about 18 times the monthly energy use of a typical American household.   Cont'd...

El Niño Buffers U.S. Wind Power Dreams

Tim Maverick for Wall Street Daily:  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) made it official last week. The current El Niño is classified as a strong event. An El Niño falls into the “strong” category if weekly sea surface temperatures depart from the average by more than two degrees Celsius. In fact, this El Niño has nudged ahead of the 1997 El Niño as the strongest in the modern era! Meteorologists believe this occurrence is actually the most potent since 1948. And it’s expected to persist through winter and into spring. Every El Niño’s effects are different. At the moment, this one is having a surprisingly negative effect on the wind power industryin the United States. You see, this occurrence of El Niño has produced the weakest winds across the United States in 40 years. Forecasters say this situation will continue and may even worsen through the spring of 2016.  Cont'd...

SPI 2015: Tax credit sunset preoccupies a fast-maturing industry

By Herman K. Trabish  for UtilityDIVE:  Solar photovoltaic (PV) installed capacity is expected to reach 7.7 GW in 2015, up 24% from 2014, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research. From July 2015 to December 2016, the report forecasts the U.S. solar PV marketwill add 18 GW, which is more than the cumulative capacity built by the industry up to the middle of 2014. But there are some headwinds for the sector. In a sign it has reached a level of maturity achieved recently by the wind industry, solar advocates now face an uphill political battle for the industry's most vital federal incentive The mandated term of solar's vital 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC), in place continuously since 2008, will end on December 31, 2016. Beyond that deadline, the tax credit provided at the end of a project’s first year of operation will fall to 10% for commercial investments in solar and to zero for residential solar investments. SEIA is mounting a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign to secure a five-year extension that will get the industry to 2020, when it hopes the Clean Power Plan can take over to help boost growth.  Cont'd...

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