A Giant Floating Duck That Generates Solar Power—Because, Why Not?

A group of artists, scientists and engineers have proposed a novel solution to help Copenhagen's achieve its goal of becoming a carbon-neutral city: a 12-story-high solar energy farm in the shape of a duck. Energy Duck is the brainchild (brainduckling?) of the  Land Art Generator I nitiative  (LAGI), which designs public art installations that also function as utility-scale clean energy generators. So, why a duck? According to LAGI: The common eider duck resides in great numbers in Copenhagen; however, its breeding habitat is at risk from the effects of climate change. Energy Duck takes the form of the eider to act both as a solar collector and a buoyant energy storage device. Solar radiation is converted to electricity using low cost, off-the-shelf PV panels. Some of the solar electricity is stored by virtue of the difference in water levels inside and outside the duck. When stored energy needs to be delivered, the duck is flooded through one or more hydro turbines to generate electricity, which is transmitted to the national grid by the same route as the PV panel-generated electricity. Solar energy is later used to pump the water back out of the duck, and buoyancy brings it to the surface. The floating height of the duck indicates the relative cost of electricity as a function of citywide use: as demand peaks the duck sinks.  

Britain Is Solar-Energy Hot Spot

Britain, a land of cloudy skies and reliable rain, is fast becoming the hottest spot in Europe for many investors in solar energy. Germany is overcrowded with panels. A sudden end to subsidies killed Spanish solar. A sluggish economy is dragging on Italy. But the U.K. has benefited from a combination of stable subsidies since 2011, public support for solar, amenable planning authorities and creative finance. In 2010, there were under 100 megawatts of solar capacity in the U.K.—barely enough to power the homes of a modest town. Now, there is between 3.2 and 4 gigawatts. This year, market-research firm Solarbuzz projects that the U.K. will overtake Germany as Europe's largest installer of solar panels, putting in 6% of the world's new solar.

China Solar Projects Poised to Fuel Panel Price Rebound

The expected recovery in China, which accounts for more than 60 percent of global solar panel output, offers an early sign that manufacturers are succeeding in soaking up supply by building their own projects. The government’s push to promote developments closer to regions where electricity is needed most -- so-called distributed solar projects -- may also spur orders. Panel prices in China declined about 10 percent in the first six months of the year compared with the second half of last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Higher tariffs imposed in the U.S. have had the opposite affect to what’s happened in China. Panel prices have increased about 15 percent since early June when the U.S. decided to apply preliminary duties on Chinese solar equipment imports, according to a global measure of panel prices. The U.S. Commerce Department acted again on July 25, proposing expanded penalties on some Chinese solar-energy imports in a victory for the U.S. unit of SolarWorld AG, which accused China of shifting production to Taiwan after it lost an earlier case.

China Poised For Significant Expansion In Wind Power Generation

China is the world’s largest producer of electricity, surpassing the United States in 2011, with demand increasing alongside its strong, sustained growth in GDP.  Electricity generation in China has increased 9.6% annually, from 2005 to 2013, reaching 5,425.1TWh of electricity.  Coal-fired plants currently make up over two-thirds of power generation, which is partly the result of an abundance of coal in China.  Despite this growth, the country expects demand to continue to increase at a rapid pace, reaching 7.295TWh of demand in 2020 and 11,595TWh in 2040.     However, the growth in electricity production from coal-fired plants has resulted in an increase in air pollution and general lack of efficiency.  China is now moving aggressively to curb pollution and increase the supply of renewable power.  The central government has prohibited new coal-fired plants to be built around Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing, which is currently in the midst of having all of its coal plants being converted to natural gas.  Its 12th Five Year Plan, running through 2015, targeted non-fossil fuel energy to account for 15% of total energy consumption.  One of the key industries expected to help meet these goals is wind power.  

SEIA: Future Unclear Despite WTO Ruling in China Solar Trade Case

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a significant ruling handed down today, a panel of judges at the World Trade Organization (WTO) accused the United States of violating global trade rules when it imposed punitive import duties in 2012 on many Chinese products, including solar panels. After the decision was announced, Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), issued the following statement:  "We are continuing to follow developments closely, but today's WTO decision is not expected to impact either the 2012 U.S. solar countervailing duty (CVD) order against China or any new CVD tied to the ongoing investigation until 2016, at the earliest. It's also important to remember that this decision is subject to an appeals process, which could take approximately 120 days. Assuming the decision is upheld on appeal, the United States would then have approximately one year to implement the decision. But even then, it's not clear whether the decision will result in any substantive modification of a solar CVD order against China."

Is Texas Souring On Wind Power?

Texas has more wind power generation than any other state, so it’s only fitting that Texas regulators are starting to ask some tough questions about wind power subsidies. The head of the state’s Public Utility Commission, Donna Nelson, is calling for a study to consider whether wind generators should start paying their share of transmission costs. Texas already invested $7 billion in high-capacity power lines that the state built to connect West Texas wind farms with the more populous cities in the east — such as Dallas and Houston. But wind power, as an intermittent resource, can create additional transmission costs, and those costs are borne by all the electricity customers in the deregulated market, which is about 85 percent of the state. Part of the study will determine the amount of the extra transmission costs and what, if any, remedy is needed, a PUC spokesman said. Wind power developers warn that making wind companies pay the same transmission rates as other generators will destroy Texas’ lead in wind power and undermine the economics of wind generation. Nelson, however, claims that giving wind companies a pass is no longer necessary because the industry has been around long enough to figure out its economics.

Intersolar AWARD ceremony honors innovators and exemplary projects in North America

The Intersolar AWARD ceremony honored true innovators whose projects displayed the latest design and technology advancements in the solar industry. Three winners were named in the Solar Projects in North America category in front of a large crowd at the Innovation & Application Stage. They were judged on pioneering character, uniqueness, economic benefits, benefits for the environment and society, degree of technical innovation and proof of innovation. An independent committee of industry experts chose the Agua Caliente Solar Project by First Solar; the Whole Foods Solar Carport by Solaire Generation and the Alcatraz Island Micro-Grid by Princeton Power Systems.     As a media partner AltEnergyMag.com will be covering Intersolar and bringing all the industry news and exciting new products to our eMagazine to help our readers make sense of the massive event. Make sure to check out our special  Intersolar 2014 Newspage  for Exhibitor news. Check out our Intersolar 2014 Tradeshow Report here.

Intersolar North America: Exhibition opens doors

From PV Tech:  Intersolar North America opens its exhibition doors today off the back of a bumper year of PV installations in the US. With conference sessions kicking off in San Francisco on Monday, attention today will turn to the exhibition halls, where optimism among visitors is understandable despite warnings of complacency. At the official opening of Intersolar North America on Monday evening, Governor Jerry Brown stressed that while California had made great strides in improving its sustainability, there was still much work to be done with solar playing an important role in that future. “We have to invent not just gadgets, but keep our eye on the big goal. The big goal is to build a more equitable and just society…and that’s why solar is so important,” said Brown.    As a media partner AltEnergyMag.com will be covering Intersolar and bringing all the industry news and exciting new products to our eMagazine to help our readers make sense of the massive event. Make sure to check out our special  Intersolar 2014 Newspage  for Exhibitor news.

India's Solar Power Dreams on Hold

India's plans for a major ramp-up in solar power are on hold after a proposal to impose anti-dumping duties on equipment from overseas has led developers to say proposed projects would become unprofitable. Industry officials say imports of solar equipment worth millions of dollars that were in the pipeline from U.S., China, Taiwan and Malaysia are now unlikely to come to India anytime soon. India had been planning to raise solar power generating capacity nearly tenfold by 2022 to help wean itself off heavy imports of oil and gas that contribute to a chronic trade deficit. The sector has been booming in recent months too, as the cost of imported solar equipment has dropped sharply. But the commerce ministry is now proposing duties on goods from overseas to protect local manufacturers from being overwhelmed by the cheaper imports. The finance ministry will take a final decision on the proposal by Aug. 22. Any tariff proposal is set to fuel tensions between India and U.S., with trade relations already at a flash-point as the World Trade Organization deliberates a India-U.S. dispute over a rule that mandates local sourcing for some government-backed solar projects.

Wind Power Service Market to Almost Double by 2020: Make

The market for servicing wind turbines will almost double by 2020 as capacity grows, the Danish advisory firm Make Consulting said.   Annual revenues from monitoring and repairing wind turbines may surge to more than $13 billion in 2020 from $7.1 billion last year, Aarhus, Denmark-based Make said today in a report. It projected that 300 gigawatts of capacity will be installed through 2020, doubling current generating capacity and boosting the needs for maintenance.   Turbine manufacturers including Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS) and Gamesa Corp. (GAM) Tecnologica SA are ramping up efforts to secure service contracts, which Vestas says yield higher margins than turbine sales and increase profitability. More than half of servicing worldwide is carried out by turbine manufacturers, Aaron Barr, a consultant at Make in Boston said in an e-mail.   Manufacturers “are attracted to the services market due to reliable and repeatable high margin revenue, primarily due to the growing fleet of serviceable wind turbines,” Barr said. “This focus is reinforced by uncertainty on new turbine sales orders and technical competitive advantages” that they have over independent service providers and the utilities that own the wind farms.

Crowdfunding campaign raises $2.2M to build solar roadways

It's crazy. It'll never work. They cost too much. They'll crack. They're too delicate. You'll slide off them. Oil companies will never let it happen. Scott Brusaw, an electrical engineer from Idaho, has heard it all before. Over the past eight years, skeptics (like this one) have been telling him his concept for solar roadways — replacing America's roads with solar panels, creating a power grid where pavement used to be — won't work. But Brusaw suddenly has a reason why it will — actually, 2.2 million of them. Solar Roadways' crowdfunding campaign, which closed on Monday, raised $2.2 million — more than double what Brusaw was seeking — in just two months. The campaign, the most popular in Indiegogo's history, attracted more than 48,000 backers from all 50 states and 165 countries. "It's been humbling," Brusaw, 56, told Yahoo News. "Really, really humbling." The success can be attributed, in part, to a cheeky seven-minute video ("Solar FREAKIN' Roadways!") that has been viewed more than 16 million times on YouTube.

China Might Be Winning The Race To Reduce Solar Costs

Many people, even fanatical advocates of solar power, are unaware quite how close we are to reaching a critical milestone in the industry. Within a fairly short space of time, solar generated electricity will be fully cost competitive with coal-powered electricity -- at least if the governments of the world’s two largest energy consuming nations have their way. Both the U.S. and China have a stated goal of reducing the cost of solar generated electricity to that level, and quickly. How they are going about it says a lot about how each economic system works. In the U.S., despite the complaints of some that a drift toward government control is taking place, private initiative and free markets still rule. The Department of Energy launched the SunShot initiative in 2011, with a stated goal of reducing the cost of solar power to be fully competitive with conventional energy sources by the end of this decade. The program funds grants, incentives and competitions to encourage private sector research that will improve the efficiency and lower the cost of solar energy. The Chinese, faced with what is in many ways a more urgent need to achieve the same thing, have taken a different approach. In a manner more in keeping with their history and current economic system, they are beating the problem over the head with piles of cash until the desired outcome is achieved. It looks, if this excellent Michael Sankowski piece at Monetary Realism is to be believed, as if they are getting mighty close.

Massachusetts to open area the size of Rhode Island to offshore wind power

Massachusetts Deval Patrick and U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced plans for a new proposed offshore wind power area of more than 742,000 acres, or 1,160 square miles, which would make it about the size of Rhode Island (1,214 sq-miles). This new area, where space would be auctioned in 4 different leases, would nearly double the federal offshore acreage available for large wind energy projects. Secretary Jewell said that the government has learned from the Cape Wind offshore wind project in Nantucket Sound, which faced over a decade of opposition and lawsuits, and have picked a spot farther from the shore that should not be as contentious. "We put in zones that we believe have both high potential and lower conflict," Jewell said. "But it's going to actually get down to a specific construction plan on a specific site and (an environmental) analysis to determine what people want to do economically and what that impact is going to be.  

SolarCity is trying to become the Apple of solar power

SolarCity is already the largest installer of residential solar panels in the United States. Now the company is going a step further, buying up solar manufacturer Silevo and planning to build one of the world's biggest solar-panel factories in upstate New York. The immediate goal here is vertical integration. The company, which was co-founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, wants to handle all aspects of the solar supply chain, from design to manufacturing to sales to installation. It's basically the Apple model — only for solar panels. But SolarCity's ultimate aspiration is to drive down prices dramatically. In a call on Tuesday, Musk said that the aim was "to have solar power compete on an unsubsidized basis with fossil-fuel energy from the grid." (The company was also founded by brothers Lyndon and Peter Rive, who currently run it.) Is that doable? SolarCity has had success with its current business model — offering rooftop solar systems at no upfront cost to customers who make monthly payments spread out over many years. The company now handles 25 percent of all US residential solar installations — and is aiming for 1 million customers by 2018. This latest move means SolarCity will be able to produce its own panels for these systems and try to lower its costs even further.  

Buffett to double his $15 billion solar, wind investments

Warren Buffett is ready to double his $15 billion investment in renewable energy, according to reports.   Speaking at the Edison Electric Institute’s annual convention in Las Vegas Monday, Buffett described how he had briefly lost track of how much Berkshire Hathaway had invested in the sector and  needed a reminder from a deputy. Buffett said he responded “there’s another $15 billion ready to go,” according to Bloomberg News.   Buffett’s investments include wind farms in Iowa as well as solar farms in California and Arizona.   Buffett also vowed to keep investing in utilities. The sector may not make you rich, but it will keep you rich, the legendary investor was quoted as saying in another report.   Berkshire Hathaway’s MidAmerican Energy last year bought two co-located solar-power projects that combined are the largest solar project in the world.  Last month, MidAmerican said it will supply Google Inc. facilities in Iowa with electricity from wind power.

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