The past few years have ushered in an unprecedented, unforeseen, and largely unheralded solar energy revolution. As recently as 2005, global installed solar power capacity stood at 4.5 gigawatts (GW). Today, the figure exceeds 65 GW, which is equivalent to the capacity of about 130 average-sized coal-fired power plants. To put recent growth of solar power in perspective it helps to look at how it has played out in particular places. Take the U.S., for example. Solar is America's fastest growing industry, and already employs more than 100,000 men and women -- more than U.S. steel production and more than U.S. coal mining. In California, which leads the nation on solar power, the number of installed solar energy systems has increased from about 500 in 1999 to more than 50,000 in 2011. These days, when you fly into a place like Oakland, you can see your plane reflected in the rooftops below.
It was a project that took five years to fight off critics and secure regulatory permits. But now the Sunrise Powerlink — a transmission line to ferry clean power like solar and wind from California’s desert to its southern coastal region — is done and live, according to its owner San Diego Gas & Electric on Monday. The nearly $1.9 billion project erected giant towers and built both above ground and underground cables that now run over 110 miles from Imperial Valley to San Diego’s territory. The project required 28,000 flight hours from helicopters to complete nearly 75 percent of the towers along the way. The project uses both 500-kilovolt and 230-kilovolt lines, and it will initially be able to carry up to 800 MW of electricity (eventually the transmission rate should hit 1,000 MW).
A team of scientists from the US Naval Research Laboratory Electronics Science and Technology Division has developed a solar cell specifically designed for use underwater, which can efficiently absorb solar radiation up to a depth of nine meters (about 30 feet). The breakthrough may prove important to the development of underwater autonomous systems — which provide situational awareness and long-term environment monitoring — a growing market. As it now stands, the power options for these systems are cumbersome and expensive: cables connected to an onshore supply source, expensive batteries requiring frequent replacement to ensure a steady supply, or solar panels constructed on above-water platforms. Photovoltaic cells have been previously tested for underwater use, but due to the lack of sunlight penetrating the water they only had limited success.
MUNICH--U.S. solar panel prices are set to rise in the short term due to last month's imposition by the Obama administration of 31% tariffs on some Chinese panels, two of China's largest solar companies said Tuesday. The tariffs, however, are unlikely to significantly hit Chinese companies that have diverse global supply chains and production capacities outside China, said executives of Suntech Power Holdings Co., the world's largest manufacturer of photovoltaic solar panels, and JinkoSolar Holding Co. Ltd. The comments come after the U.S. government last month imposed 31% tariffs on some solar panels produced in China alleging they had been dumped, or sold below cost. "We will see some price increases in the short-term" for solar panels in the U.S., JinkoSolar's Marketing Director Isabelle Christensen said on the sidelines of the Intersolar industry exhibition in Munich.
Most studies predict the cost of wind energy will continue to fall through at least 2030, said national laboratory staffers in a new report . The report, "The Past and Future Cost of Wind Energy," released June 6, is a collaboration among workers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, with assistance from European researchers. The crux of the report is that while future trends, drivers and constraints are difficult to predict, the cost of wind-generated electricity will probably continue to decrease in the coming decades. Onshore wind's levelized cost of energy, or LCOE, fell by a factor of more than three between 1980 and 2000, the researchers said. "However, beginning in about 2003 and continuing through the latter half of the past decade, wind power capital costs increased — driven by rising commodity and raw materials prices, increased labor costs, improved manufacturer profitability, and turbine upscaling — thus pushing wind's LCOE upward in spite of continued performance improvements," they said.
The wind energy market in the U.S. will stay alive with or without an extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC), say executives from eight of the largest wind turbine manufacturers with a U.S. presence. During a June 6 session focused on large wind turbines during WindPower 2012, executives from Gamesa, GE (NYSE: GE), Goldwind, Mitsubishi Power Systems, Nordex, Siemens (NYSE: SI), Suzlon and Vestas expressed that they view the U.S. wind market as a strong one. The U.S., currently the No. 2 wind market in the world, installed 6,810 MW in 2011. This year is expected to be a record-breaking year for installations, as the expiration of the PTC requires developers to complete projects by year end. All eight executives agreed that 2012 will likely see anywhere from 9 to 12 GW of wind power installations. Beyond 2012, the market is likely to slow, but the panelists said that won’t keep their companies from staying in the U.S. The wind energy market could be down 80 percent next year, said Duncan Koerbel, interim CEO of Suzlon. “But Suzlon is in this for the longest of the long hauls. If you’re going to be in wind, you have to be in North America.”
Kicking off the American Wind Energy Association‘s convention center-sized pitch for an extension of the production tax credit, AWEA CEO Denise Bode said Congress needs to act now to prevent further damage to the industry. “We are very concerned new wind projects are being shelved,” Bode said opening AWEA’s annual WINDPOWER conference in Atlanta on Monday. “The bleeding has to stop now.” Bode said she remains optimistic that the production tax credit will be extended before its scheduled expiration at the end of this year, but that the “political logjam” continues to hold up the policy despite bipartisan support. For more news and PR from this years show visit the AltEnergyMag.com AWEA WindPower Newspage.
Konarka Technologies Inc., the thin-film solar panel manufacturer backed by Chevron Corp. (CVX) (CVX) , Draper Fisher Jurvetson and New Enterprise Associates Inc., filed for bankruptcy in Massachusetts. “Konarka has been unable to obtain additional financing, and given its current financial condition, it is unable to continue operations,” Howard Berke, chief executive officer of the Lowell, Massachusetts-based company, said yesterday in a statement. Konarka listed $100,000 to $500,000 in assets and $10 million to $50 million in debt in its Chapter 7 filing yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Worcester, Massachusetts. Konarka NB Holdings LLC, in a separate filing, listed $1 million to $10 million in assets and as much as $50,000 in debt.
Sharp has developed solar cells that match the concentrator solar cell efficiency world record set by Solar Junction last year. The technology’s staggering 43.5% efficiency from a triple-junction compound solar cell is 1.2% higher than the efficiency of the cells holding the record before March of 2011 (when Solar Junction busted that record). The conversion efficiency was actually confirmed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy in April 2012 (for some reason, these companies and researchers don’t let us know about the new records for months sometimes). “Compound solar cells utilize photo-absorption layers made from compounds consisting of two or more elements, such as indium and gallium,” Sharp writes. “The basic structure of this latest triple-junction compound solar cell uses Sharp’s proprietary technology that enables efficient stacking of the three photo-absorption layers, with InGaAs (indium gallium arsenide) as the bottom layer.”
Germany’s Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) announced that over the weekend the country’s solar energy infrastructure met approximately 50% of the country’s energy demand. The IWR notes that more than 22 gigawatts of solar energy per hour was generated by the country’s various alternative energy systems and fed into the energy grid. This is comparable to the energy generated by 20 nuclear power plants operating at full capacity. This marks a new record for Germany and sets the bar higher for the global solar energy industry Government officials claim that this milestone is proof of the viability of solar energy. The fact that the country was able to meet half of its energy needs through the use of solar power during the weekend is being considered a major accomplishment. The German solar energy industry continues to break records and show that alternative energy should be taken more seriously by developed countries.
From a wind-power factory in this battleground state, President Obama urged Congress to extend tax credits he said would save jobs in the field of clean-energy production. Obama said continuing the production tax credit would save 37,000 jobs that would otherwise be at risk, an estimate his aides based on reports from industry officials. "If Congress doesn't act, companies like this one will take a hit. Jobs will be lost. That's not a guess. That's a fact," Obama said Thursday as he visited TPI Composites, a wind turbine blade manufacturer based in a town that's home to a closed Maytag factory. "We can't let that happen. We can't walk away from these jobs." The production tax credit, created in 1992 and extended nearly continuously since then, gives wind farms a credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of energy produced. Industry advocates said it spurred $15.5 billion a year in private investment in the U.S. in the last five years. The credit is scheduled to expire at the end of the year.
The limitations of conventional and current solar cells include high production cost, low operating efficiency and durability, and many cells rely on toxic and scarce materials. Northwestern University researchers have developed a new solar cell that, in principle, will minimize all of these solar energy technology limitations. In particular, the device is the first to solve the problem of the Grätzel cell, a promising low-cost and environmentally friendly solar cell with a significant disadvantage: it leaks. The dye-sensitized cell's electrolyte is made of an organic liquid, which can leak and corrode the solar cell itself. The Northwestern cell exhibits the highest conversion efficiency (approximately 10.2 percent) so far reported for a solid-state solar cell equipped with a dye sensitizer. This value is close to the highest reported performance for a Grätzel cell, approximately 11 to 12 percent. (Conventional solar cells made from highly purified silicon can convert roughly 20 percent of incoming sunlight.)
Despite the fact that solar panels are quickly becoming a commodity — cheap and uniform — it looks like investors are still willing to put a small amount of funding into the next-generation of solar equipment. Three startup solar makers have raised funds over the past week or so — two that make concentrating solar technology and one that makes crystalline silicon solar cells. Last week Solexel, which uses silicon gas to make solar wafers, closed on $25 million in funding, according to a filing. Bloomberg reported on the deal and said that the funds would be used to build a pilot plant in California, which would be a testing ground for a larger commercial plant in Malaysia. Solar panel maker SunPower participated in the round, as did venture investors Kleiner Perkins, Technology Partners and DAG Ventures, reported Bloomberg.
Commerce Preliminarily Finds Dumping of Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaic Cells, Whether or Not Assembled into Modules from the People's Republic of China
On May 17, 2012, the Department of Commerce (Commerce) announced its affirmative preliminary determination in the antidumping duty (AD) investigation of imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, whether or not assembled into modules (solar cells) from the People’s Republic of China (China). For the purpose of AD investigations, dumping occurs when a foreign company sells a product in the United States at less than fair value. Commerce preliminarily determined that Chinese producers/exporters sold solar cells in the United States at dumping margins ranging from 31.14 percent to 249.96 percent. Check out our Newspage for statements and reaction coming in from across the industry.
Solar power from space could be a valuable source of renewable energy, thanks to an innovative research. Researchers at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, have already tested equipment that would provide a platform for solar panels to collect the energy and allow it to be transferred back to earth through microwaves or lasers. This unique development would provide a reliable source of power and allow valuable energy to be sent to remote areas in the world, providing power to disaster zones or outlying areas that are difficult to reach by traditional means. "Space provides a fantastic source for collecting solar power and we have the advantage of being able to gather it regardless of the time of the day or indeed the weather conditions," said Massimiliano Vasile, mechanical and aerospace engineer at Strathclyde, who is leading the research, according to a university statement.
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