Danish researchers may have found 'the energy source of the future'

CPH Post:  Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have discovered a natural process they are calling ‘reverse photosynthesis’. They have observed how the energy in solar rays breaks down rather than builds up plant material, as happens in photosynthesis. Sunlight is collected by chlorophyll, and when combined with a specific enzyme the energy breaks down plant biomass. The resulting product can then be used as a biofuel. By increasing production speed while reducing pollution, the discovery has the potential to revolutionise industrial production. “This is a game-changer, one that could transform the industrial production of fuels and chemicals, thus serving to reduce pollution significantly,” said Claus Felby, the University of Copenhagen professor who headed up the research. “It has always been right under our noses,” he said. “Photosynthesis by way of the sun doesn’t just allow things to grow – the same principles can be applied to break plant matter down, so that the immense energy in solar light can be used so that processes can take place without additional energy inputs.”   Cont'd...

EPFL Scientists Achieve Record-Level Reproducibility for Perovskite Solar Cells

Perovskite solar cells hold much promise for cost-effective solar energy. However, heat stability is an issue, and can significantly limit the solar cell’s long-term efficiency. A team of scientists led by Michael Grätzel’s lab at EPFL has now developed a cesium-containing perovskite solar cell that has achieved efficiency of 21.1%, as well as record-level reproducibility. The work is published in Energy and Environmental Science. By adding cesium, the EPFL scientists, led by postdoc Michael Saliba, made the first ever triple-cation perovskite mixture (Cs/MA/FA). The new films are more heat-stable and less affected by fluctuating surrounding variables such as temperature, solvent vapors or the heating protocol used for the device. But more importantly, they also show stabilized power-conversion efficiencies of 21.1% and outputs at 18% under operational conditions, even after 250 hours. “This is an absolute breakthrough,” says Michael Saliba. “These properties are crucial for commercializing perovskite photovoltaics, especially since reproducibility and stability are the main requirements for cost-effective large-scale manufacturing of perovskite solar cells.”   Source AZOCleantech...

United Airlines is flying on biofuels ... here's why that's a really big deal

Chelsea Harvey for The Washington Post:   On Friday, United Airlines will launch a new initiative that uses biofuel to help power flights running between Los Angeles and San Francisco, with eventual plans to expand to all flights operating out of LAX. It's the first time an American airline will begin using renewable fuel for regular commercial operations, and the occasion is part of a bigger movement when it comes to clean transportation in the U.S. The renewable fuel used to power United's planes will be coming from a Los Angeles refinery operated by AltAir Fuels, which is using the facility to produce both renewable jet fuel and diesel fuel using a technology developed by Honeywell UOP, a major supplier and technology licenser in the petroleum industry. Back in 2013, AltAir and United announced their partnership, in which United will purchase up to 15 million gallons of biofuel over a three-year period. Friday's launch will be the first application of that agreement. The flights will use a mixture of 30 percent biofuel and 70 percent traditional fuel, and United says that the biofuel will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 60 percent compared with regular fuel.   Cont'd...

Energy-Storage Startup LightSail Plots Long-Term Game Plan

Barbara Haislip for the Wall Street Journal:  Few industries are more daunting for entrepreneurs these days than clean energy. Developing the technology and hardware is expensive, and setbacks are common. Even if all goes well, getting a product to market can take a decade or more. Most venture-fund investors, meanwhile, want a quicker payout. Danielle Fong, co-founder and chief scientist of LightSail Energy, is trying to keep investors happy while working toward some ambitious clean-energy goals. Her company’s aim, she says, “is to produce the world’s cleanest and most economical energy-storage system” through a technology that uses compressed air to store energy from the grid. LightSail’s technology will do this more efficiently than other solutions, Ms. Fong says, by capturing some of the excess heat that comes when compressing air.  “Until now, this was wasted, reducing efficiency,” she says. Founded in 2009, Berkeley, Calif.-based LightSail has raised $70 million from several investors, including Bill Gates, Peter Thiel,Khosla Ventures and the French energy giant Total.   Cont'd...

Low-cost energy storage for power grid can be found in your Water Heater

By David Shaffer  for Star Tribune:  The least-expensive battery to store energy from the electric power grid may be sitting in homeowners’ basements — the electric water heater. That is the surprising finding of research released Wednesday by the cooperative power industry, including Maple Grove-based Great River Energy, and an environmental group. Customers at many utilities already save money by heating water at night, taking advantage of low, off-peak electric rates. It requires a special electric water heater that holds a day’s worth of household water, but offers long-term savings. Now, a study by the Brattle Group, an economic consulting firm, says that the nation’s 50 million residential electric water heaters can address bigger challenges on the power grid, such as storing intermittent renewable energy from wind farms and solar arrays.   Cont'd...

MIT Tool Gives the Cost of Installing Solar Panels on Any Roof in Your City

Daniel Oberhaus for Motherboard:  The world, it seems, is falling in love with solar energy. Recent years have seen the increasing adoption of solar power around the world as an alternative energy source for everything from individual homes to the entire energy grid, with the United States’solar capacity having grown to 24 GW, a more than a 17-fold increase since 2008. Part of this rapid growth for solar infrastructure is the result of markedly more efficient solar energy cells, but in spite of these recent technological advances, transitioning to solar power still doesn’t make sense (at least economically speaking) everywhere. Installing photovoltaic systems can be pretty pricey, and home- and business-owners have to engage in a complex cost-benefit analysis to see if transitioning to solar power is an economically sound idea. The “pain-in-the-ass” factor of such calculations alone might be enough to turn people off of the idea of contemplating installing a photovoltaic system, so the folks at MIT came up with a solution: Mapdwell. Mapdwell maps the solar potential of entire cities by doing a cost-benefit analysis for every rooftop to determine if installing solar panels on that rooftop is worth the investment. All you do is enter your address into the program, and it will tell you the expected installation costs, the number of years it will take to earn back this investment from your photovoltaic system, the amount of carbon offset by the installation, as well as incredibly detailed installment specs such as the optimal panel tilt and the number of panels that could fit on the roof.   Cont'd...

This year will be a solar-powered Super Bowl

By Jeff Clabaugh for WTOP:  Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, will set the stage for Sunday’s Super Bowl, and it will be a solar-powered event. Levi’s Stadium, which opened in July 2014, is the first professional football stadium in the NFL to open with LEED Gold certification, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association in Washington. Princeton, New Jersey-based NGR Solar LLC installed more than 1,150 solar panels at the stadium during its construction — enough to produce 375 kilowatts of peak power. The system can generate enough power in a year to meet electricity demand during every San Francisco 49ers home game. The solar panels cover three bridges that connect the stadium to the main parking lot and the “NRG Solar Terrace” that overlooks the field. There are 544 solar panels on the stadium roof and another 642 on the bridges, which also serve as canopies covering the bridges.   Cont'd...

Low Oil Prices Not Killing Algae Biofuel - Yet

Tina Casey for CleanTechnica:  The algae biofuel market is still in play even though the global petroleum market shows no real signs of lifting itself out of the doldrums, as two examples from different ends of the Earth illustrate. Over in Australia, researchers have come up with a new, low cost way to raise algae for biofuel, and here in the US the Department of Energy is moving forward with a new grant program to fund commercially viable algae production.   Cont'd...

1.2-million sq. ft. solar panel 'Gigafactory' in Buffalo almost ready, will make 1 GW/year

Michael Graham Richard for TreeHugger:  Soon after SolarCity acquired solar panel maker Silevo in the summer of 2014, it announced the construction of a 1.2-million-square-foot 'Solar Gigafactory' in Buffalo, New York. The move had two main goals: 1) For the solar installer to get its own secure supply of high-efficiency solar panels (Silevo panels are currently 21% efficient, but the company claims that they can get to 24%) and 2) drive down the cost of the panels and of installing them. If the panels are higher efficiency, you need fewer of them per roof for a given capacity, lowering installation costs, and if you make them in very large quantities in a 'Gigafactory', you can further reduce costs through economies of scale. The Buffalo solar gigafactory, which can be seen in the photo at the top of this article, aims to start producing solar cells in 2016, with a ramping up to 1 GW of annual capacity by 2017. If all goes well, the facility could eventually be expanded to 5 GW/year at some point. The solar cells produced there have a target price of around $0.50/watt, which would make them very competitive with other power sources.   Cont'd...  

Orison Plug-And-Play Energy Storage System Live On Kickstarter

Orison, an energy storage company, announced today that the first true plug-and-play energy storage system is now available for pre-order on Kickstarter. Orison powers homes and businesses to reduce energy costs, provide backup energy during blackouts, and contribute to a clean energy future. The Orison Kickstarter Campaign can be found at: http://kck.st/1Kr9Zn5   Orison envisions a future with abundant, clean, and affordable energy for all. The networked, distributed energy storage solution gives consumers control so they can store energy from any electricity source, including grid or solar power, to access energy whenever it's needed. When powered by the grid, it stores energy when utility rates are low to power homes and businesses when rates are high. If connected to solar, Orison allows consumers to locally store the energy they produce so that it will not be sold at a loss to the utility. By localizing energy distribution, Orison helps to save money and reduce peak demand.   Full Press Release:  

Scientists are using satellites to find untapped sources of geothermal energy under cities

Peter Dockrill for ScienceAlert:  Urban environments are often hotter than rural areas due to the way city structures trap and generate excess heat. This phenomenon, called urban heat islands, was first observed in the 1800s, but a new way of gauging it could help us make the most of this untapped source of geothermal energy. Scientists in Germany and Switzerland have developed a means of estimating groundwater temperature hidden under the surface of our cities, based on surface temperatures and the density of buildings as measured by satellites. A range of factors, including population density, vegetation levels, surface sealing, industrial structures, and transport all contribute to why cities are often hotter than the country. But while scientists have long used satellites to measure heat on the surface, the relationship between ground temperatures and underground temperatures has not been fully explored.   Cont'd...

Juno spacecraft breaks solar power distance record

Jim Sharkey for SpaceFlight Insider:  NASA’s Juno mission has broken the record for distance traveled by a solar-powered spacecraft. Juno reached this milestone at 11 a.m. PST (2 p.m. EST) on Wednesday, Jan. 13, when the spacecraft was approximately 493 million miles (793 million kilometers) from the Sun. The record was previously held by the European Space Agency’s (ESA)  Rosetta spacecraft, whose orbit peaked at the 492 million-mile (792-million kilometer) mark in October 2012, during its approach to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. “Juno is all about pushing the edge of technology to help us learn about our origins,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “We use every known technique to see through Jupiter’s clouds and reveal the secrets Jupiter holds of our solar system’s early history. It just seems right that the sun is helping us learn about the origin of Jupiter and the other planets that orbit it.” Juno is the first solar-powered spacecraft designed to operate so far from the Sun. Generating sufficient power to operate the spacecraft requires a very large area of solar cells. The four-ton Juno spacecraft carries three 30-foot (9-meter) solar arrays festooned with 18,686 individual solar cells. At Earth’s distance from the Sun, the cells can generate about 14 kilowatts of electric. The further away from the sun the spacecraft is, the lower the power its solar cell will be able to generate.   Cont'd...

Is this sunny state trying to kill solar power?

Claudia Assis for MarketWatch:  Nevada has turned into a sunny battleground for the future of solar in the U.S., with regulators there moving to make solar power less attractive to homeowners and businesses and pitching utilities against solar-power companies. SunRun Inc. on Thursday said it was pulling out of Nevada, which the company said will result in “hundreds” of job losses. A day earlier, SolarCity Corp. announced the same move, saying that about 550 jobs would be lost. The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that nearly 6,000 people in Nevada are employed in the solar industry. Besides affecting jobs, the new rules cut down on the savings that many homeowners count on from going solar.   Cont'd...

CES 2016 - Autonomous Cars Set To Dominate

BY DAVID GILBERT For International Business Times: As cars become less about horsepower and torque and more about the technology inside, CES has become one of the most important showcases of the year for auto manufacturers. It's a sea change in how cars are built and marketed, with technology now the core, rather than an added feature. Connected, autonomous and electric vehicles will all be on display at CES 2016, with some of the worlds most talk-about companies in the field looking to make a major impact. First up will be Faraday Future, the secretive startup based in Los Angeles and backed by a Chinese billionaire. It is set to unveil its first ever concept design on Jan. 4, and while all the company has said so far is that it will be an electric vehicle, it is widely believed to feature autonomous capabilities. While Faraday Future is a relative unknown, one of the worlds biggest automotive companies, Ford, will also be at CES announcing news about the autonomous car it has been testing internally for several years. Among the announcements expected is apartnership with Google to build some of Googles fleet of self-driving cars. 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:

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