Sand could be the key to unlocking more efficient solar power, Masdar scientists find

Naser Al Wasmi for The National UAE:  Masdar Institute scientists have published a breakthrough research into more efficient solar power – and they will not have to look far for the raw material ­needed. Using sand, they hope to drive concentrated solar power technology to compete with the traditional photovoltaic method. Named “Sandstock”, the research published at the Solar Power and Chemical Energy Systems Conference in South Africa yesterday, showed sand can withstand temperatures of up to 1,000°C. Concentrated solar power, or CSP, uses mirrors to reflect heat from the sun to one point, most typically a tower filled with a material capable of storing heat and then converting it into electricity. CSP’s benefit is that the energy derived is easy to store, but in recent years it has lost out to the more popular photovoltaics, which is more cost-efficient. That may now change. “Sand is really always a drawback in this country but in this project we wanted to use it as an advantage because it can withstand very high temperature, and of course it is very cheap here,” said Dr Nicolas Calvet, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering, and guide for the research project.   Cont'd...

China to cut on-grid tariffs for solar, wind power: State planning commission

Reuters - China will cut payments to wind and solar electricity generators for contributing power to the grid, the country's state planning commission said over the weekend, reflecting recent declines in operating costs. Starting in 2016, on-grid tariffs for solar producers will be 0.02 to 0.10 yuan lower per kilowatt-hour — with the higher cuts applying in the country's less populated, arid western region — while tariffs for wind power generators will fall 0.02 to 0.03 yuan, the National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement. The cuts, which were expected, are in line with a 0.03 yuan cut on Wednesday to on-grid tariffs for thermal power. Coal still fires more than 70% of China's power generation.   Cont'd...

Koch brothers defeat Harry Reid on solar power

By ESTHER WHIELDON for Politico:  Harry Reid’s home state dealt a lethal blow Tuesday to rooftop solar power — the latest skirmish of a nationwide green energy battle that has pitted the Senate Democratic leader against his favorite target, the Koch brothers. The move by Nevada’s utility regulator, which voted to slash the economic incentives for homeowners to install solar panels, was most immediately a showdown between billionaires Warren Buffett, owner of the state’s largest power company, and Elon Musk, whose SolarCity is the nation’s largest installer of panels that create electricity from the sun. But it also served as a proxy fight in a national struggle about states’ green energy programs, in which free-market groups backed by industrialists Charles and David Koch have fought to roll back incentives that they argue distort the marketplace and force some customers to subsidize other people’s power choices.   Cont'd...

Japanese Towns Bank on Renewable Energy

By MAYUMI NEGISHI for the WallStreet Journal:  Japanese cities are entering the renewable-energy business, the latest phase in a shake-up of the nation’s power sector in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis. So far, about 14 cities have formed companies to generate clean energy from local resources and sell it to area businesses and homes. With full deregulation of the nation’s electricity markets set to begin next year, the government aims to have 1,000 such city-operated companies up and running by 2021 in a direct challenge to regional power monopolies. The move is part of Japan’s strategy for creating energy self-sufficiency, while helping revitalize communities with infrastructure investment.   Cont'd...

Spending and Tax Deal Brings ITC and PTC Extensions

Sahir Surmeli for National Law Review:  Early Wednesday morning Congressional leaders reached agreement on a year-end spending and massive tax deal that would prevent a government shutdown and extend a series of tax breaks that benefit businesses and individuals. The agreement has major implications for the future of the energy industry and is being hailed by many as a dramatic victory for those in the renewable energy community.  The Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which was slated to drop to 10 percent from 30 percent for solar systems on commercial properties after 2016, would now remain at 30 percent for projects that start construction by December 31, 2019. Projects that start construction in 2020 would qualify for a 26 percent credit and that level would drop to 22 percent for facilities started in 2021. From 2022 on it would remain at 10 percent.   Cont'd...

China Finds New Funding Model to Allow Free Solar Panel Installation

Manny Salvacion for Yibada:  Singapore-based real estate investment firm Redwood Group has recently launched a 248-kilowatt (KW) pilot project in China. The company also signed a power purchase agreement with New York-based solar developer UGE International and its financing partner, Hong-Kong's Blue Sky Energy Efficiency Co. Under the Redwood deal, UGEI and Blue Sky would lease rooftop space from Redwood to operate solar panels and then sell the electricity back to Redwood, the building owner, at prices lower than grid rates. "The time is right now for solar on rooftop in China because the cost of putting a system on the roof is becoming much more attractive," said Tianyu Sieh, chief executive of Blue Sky. UGEI and Blue Sky have also partnered with real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle in China to offer the same model to its commercial clients.   Full article:

Small-scale solar power growing in the United States

By Daniel J. Graeber for UPI.com:  Small-scale solar installations in the United States account for about a third of the overall capacity on the grid, a report from the federal government said. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates total U.S. solar-power output in September, the last full month for which data are available, at 3.5 million megawatt hours. Of that, just more than 30 percent came from small-scale solar installations. "Generation from roof-top photovoltaic systems has become an increasingly important part of total solar generation in the United States," EIA AdministratorAdam Sieminski said in an emailed statement. A September report from the Solar Energy Industries Association, with support from green energy market adviser GTM Research, found second quarter residential solar capacity grew 70 percent year-on-year to 473 megawatts.   Cont'd...

Why Solar Power Could Hit a Ceiling

There could be a limit on how much solar power can grow. That’s because the more solar power we add to the grid, the less valuable it becomes. It’s a simple supply-and-demand story: solar reaches peak generation during sunny afternoons, but there’s a limited demand for such additional power during those times. As a result, solar begins to compete with itself, driving down the price that utilities are willing to pay generators. Solar power accounts for less than 1 percent of the world’s electricity generation today, but as more is added to the energy mix, the economics become increasingly unfavorable. Shayle Kann, head of GTM Research, and Varun Sivaram, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, cite recent studies of the grids in Texas and Germany that suggest the value of solar will be cut in half by the time it makes up 15 percent of the energy mix. A study of California’s grid concluded that if solar power were to reach 50 percent of the grid, it would be only a quarter as valuable as it was before any solar had been added. Kann and Sivaram combined the data from those studies to make the comparison below.   Cont'd...

German battery maker launches scheme to share solar power

Reporting by Vera Eckert for Reuters:  German battery maker Sonnenbatterie has launched a scheme to connect households with solar panels and other consumers, aiming to better distribute surpluses of the renewable energy and help members to become more independent of conventional suppliers. The start-up company hopes the scheme, called "sonnenCommunity", will boost demand for its batteries which store solar power, allowing owners to use the clean energy even when weather conditions are not favourable. SonnenCommunity takes the storage idea a step further, allowing solar power to be shared among its members. Sonnenbatterie said the scheme would initially target the 1.5 million solar power producers who, if they sign up to the community, will receive a battery storage system with a starting price of 3,599 euros ($3,812). But eventually, the offer will also be open to non-producers, it added. If the idea of battery-powered buildings takes off, it could pose a challenge to traditional utilities such as RWE and E.ON, which still derive the bulk of their power from big centralised power stations running on fossil fuels.   Full Article:

70% of Mongolian nomads now have solar power

by MIHAI ANDREI for ZME Science:  In many the vast steppes of Mongolia, some things have remained unchanged for centuries. But some things have changed, and big time: according to a new report, almost 3 out of 4 Mongolian nomads are now using solar power. Even if your lifestyle is pretty much Medieval, you can still benefit from advanced technology – that’s the reasoning behind a new government initiative that encourages nomads to use solar power. Mongolia is a geographically large but sparsely populated country. Covering over 600,000 square miles, it only has a population of 3 million people. About 1.2 million of Mongolia’s citizens live in the urban capital of Ulaanbaatar, while the remaining population is widely dispersed throughout the country with a large number residing in rural areas. In total, about a quarter of the population consists of nomadic herders. The per capita income in Mongolia at the start of the millennium was about US$470 per year, with income amongst herders even lower.   Cont'd...

Will Solar Energy Plummet if the Investment Tax Credit Fades Away?

Wall Street Journal:  Many supporters say the abrupt end date of the 30% credit represents a “cliff” for the industry. Without the current incentive, they argue, installation of solar-power systems will plummet, and thousands of jobs in the industry will be lost as a result. Others, however, argue that the cliff isn’t as steep as it appears, and that solar will continue to grow even without the 30% credit—albeit not as quickly as before. Amit Ronen, director of the GW Solar Institute and a professor at the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy at George Washington University, argues that the end of the 30% credit will send solar off a cliff. John Farrell, director of the Democratic Energy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, says the impact of the tax credit is overstated and the solar market will continue to rise.  Full Article:

Large solar projects can be done responsibly

BY SHANNON EDDY, Special to The Bee:  As the seventh-largest economy in the world and a clean-energy leader, California plays a key role in shaping the global response to climate change. The benefits of our leadership will be on the world stage later this month during the international climate talks in Paris. Over several decades, California has successfully advanced the development of renewable energy resources. As a result, the state boasts the highest concentration of solar projects in the nation, including several of the world’s largest. Large-scale solar power plants are enabling California to meet the goals of reducing carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and generating 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Eleakis & Elder Photography As with any fast-growing, successful industry, it’s essential to ask questions about unintended consequences. We agree it is important to evaluate how the environmental benefits of large-scale solar – carbon reduction, reduced water use and improved local air quality – compare to any negative consequences for people and the environment.   Cont'd...

Honoring Our Veterans through Jobs in Solar Energy

From the Department of Energy - On Veterans Day, we honor the more than 21 million living American veterans. Here at the Department of Energy, we are honored to have the opportunity to express our gratitude to veterans of previous wars, welcome home those who have recently served, and thank the future veterans who still stand sentry for our nation. The Department of Energy is working hard to open doors to career opportunities for veterans in the dynamic solar industry, which now employs more than 174,000 people -- more than auto and light truck manufacturing -- and has been adding jobs 20 times faster than the wider economy. Already, we are proud that veterans make up more than 10 percent of the solar industry workforce.   Cont'd...

Solar Power Thrives In Chile, No Subsidies Needed

William Pentland, Contributor for Forbes:  In Chile’s most recent power auction, the bids from solar project developers came in at between $65 and $68 per megawatt hour (MWh) were considerably more competitive than bids made by coal plants, which were priced at $85 per MWh. Solar power projects were awarded the lion’s share of the 1,200 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity contracts sold. Chile boasts one of the world’s biggest solar resources. High electricity prices and strong demand from Chile’s mining industry have driven demand growth for solar, especially large scale commercial or utility projects. The total installed solar capacity in Chile increased from less than 4 MW in 2013 to more than 220 MW last year. Nearly 1 GW of solar is projected to be installed in Chile in 2015. Meanwhile, a total of about 8 GW of solar power projects have been approved for development in Chile. First Solar and SunEdison are two of the biggest U.S. solar companies active in Chile.   Cont'd...

Say Goodbye to Solar Power Subsidies

Mark Chediak & Chris Martin for Bloomberg Businessweek:  In 2016 the U.S. will learn if renewable energy can survive without government support. The most significant tax credit for solar power will expire at the end of 2016, and the biggest one for wind already has. These federal subsidies have provided wind and solar developers with as much as $24 billion from 2008 to 2014, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That’s led to a 12-fold increase in installed capacity over the past decade, helping lower costs at least 10 percent each year. Combined, wind and solar still generate less than 5 percent of electricity in the U.S. The subsidy cuts come as both industries face stiffer competition from ultracheap coal and natural gas. An NYSE Bloomberg global index of solar stocks, including those of big developers SunEdison and First Solar, has fallen about 35 percent since June. A comparable wind index is down 20 percent.   Cont'd...

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