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.
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."
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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 $15 billion ready to go,” according to Bloomberg News. Buffett’s investments include wind farms in Iowa as well as solar farms in California and Arizona. Buffett also vowed to keep investing in utilities. The sector may not make you rich, but it will keep you rich, the legendary investor was quoted as saying in another report. Berkshire Hathaway’s MidAmerican Energy last year bought two co-located solar-power projects that combined are the largest solar project in the world. Last month, MidAmerican said it will supply Google Inc. facilities in Iowa with electricity from wind power.
A new windmill design loosely based on Archimedes’s screw principle, aims to change this, however. A Dutch startup aptly named The Archimedes has re-worked the concept of the windmill to move away from the traditional concept of using the pressure differential between the front and rear of the device to move the rotors. The Liam F1 Urban Wind Turbine, modeled after a Nautilus shell, measures about 1.5 meters wide and weighs 75 Kg — an ideal size for installation in a residential setting. The turbine is rated to achieve an efficiency “80 percent of the maximum that is theoretically feasible." According to the creators, the device is designed to provide enough electricity to power an apartment or small home. “The Liam F1 generates an average of 1,500 kilowatt-hours of energy [per year] at a wind-speed of 5 m/s [16.4 ft/s], which resembles half of the power consumption of a common household.” The Liam can even adjust to wind direction, which enables it to maximize power generation even with changing conditions. The Liam is priced at Eur 3,999 or about US$ 5,450 and will start retailing by July 1st. The Archimedes says it has sold 7,000 units in 14 countries so far. The company says it has undertaken field tests for efficiency and power generation “over 50 times,” in which it has achieved its rated output and efficiency.
Manufacturing solar panels can be a dirty business, from the mining of raw materials to the chemical-laced process of purifying silicon to the assembly of silicon wafers. Solar energy is a renewable source, of course, but it’s essential to examine the full supply chain to gauge its total environmental impact. One potential concern is the use, containment, and disposal of toxic chemicals. Another is the energy-efficiency of the manufacturing process and the source of the energy used. Researchers at Northwestern University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory recently examined the solar panel production process in different locations and published their findings in the July issue of the journal Solar Energy. “We estimated that a solar panel’s carbon footprint is about twice as high when made in China and used in Europe, compared to those locally made and used in Europe,” says Fengqi You, a co-author of the paper and an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern. “While it might be an economically attractive option to move solar panel manufacturing from Europe to China, it is actually less sustainable from the life cycle energy and environmental perspective.” The primary differences, the researchers found, are the less stringent enforcement of environmental regulations in China coupled with the country’s more coal-dependent power sector. “It takes a lot of energy to extract and process solar-grade silicon,” says co-author Seth Darling. “And in China, that energy tends to come from dirtier and less efficient energy sources than it does in Europe.”
U.S. Residential Solar PV Installations Exceeded Commercial Installations for the First Time in Q1 2014
Driven by strong year-over-year growth in the utility and residential markets, the United States installed 1,330 megawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) in the first quarter of 2014. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industry Association’s (SEIA) Q1 2014 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report , the U.S. installed 232 megawatts of residential PV, exceeding the non-residential (commercial) market’s 225 megawatts for the first time in the history of the report. Ongoing strength in the residential sector and volatility in the non-residential market spurred this historic milestone. Despite the dip in non-residential installations, GTM Research and SEIA expect the market to rebound and exceed the residential market in 2014 annual PV installations. In another significant development, Q1 2014 was the largest quarter ever for concentrating solar power (CSP) due to the completion of the 392 megawatt (AC) Ivanpah project and the Genesis Solar project’s second 125 megawatt (AC) phase. With a total of 857 megawatts expected to be completed by year’s end, 2014 is on pace to be the largest year for CSP in history. “Solar accounted for 74% of all new U.S. electric capacity installed in Q1 2014, further signaling the rapidly increasing role that solar is playing in the energy market,” said Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President at GTM Research. “Expect to see a resurgence in the non-residential market, combined with continued incremental residential growth, throughout the rest of this year.” Not to be outshone by the success of the residential sector, the utility PV market continued its dominance, growing 171% between Q1 2013 and Q1 2014. With 873 megawatts installed, it accounted for two-thirds of total installations during the quarter. Large-scale projects that were under contracts and negotiations between 2010 and 2012 are now becoming a reality.
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