They can look benign from a distance - solar panels glistening in the sun or turbines gently churning with the breeze to produce electricity for hundreds of thousands of homes. But building and maintaining them can be hazardous. Accidents involving wind turbines alone have tripled in the past decade, and watchdog groups fear incidents could skyrocket further - placing more workers and even bystanders in harm's way - because a surge in projects requires hiring hordes of new and often inexperienced workers. Last year, the solar industry grew 67 percent and doubled its employment in the U.S. to 100,000 workers, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The wind industry supports more than 75,000 jobs. "We're hearing about more and more incidents," said Lisa Linowes, executive director of watchdog organization Industrial Wind Action Group. "One of these days, a turbine's going to fall on someone." Many wind turbine technicians work in a bathroom-size space 20 stories above ground surrounded by high-voltage electrical equipment. Some inspect turbine blades while suspended alongside them, on sites whipped by strong winds. Components can weigh more than 90 tons.
The sun's energy will replace natural gas as the fuel for drawing more oil from the ground in Oman. GlassPoint Solar yesterday announced that it has signed a deal to install a 7-megawatt solar power system for Petroleum Development Oman to aid oil extraction. The solar system, which is essentially a glass house with solar concentrators, will generate the steam needed to pump oil from existing fields. In many existing oil wells, there is a substantial amount of oil underground, but it has become more expensive to pull out. In an enhanced oil recovery field, steam is pumped into wells to free that trapped oil. Typically, natural gas is burned to make the steam. GlassPoint Solar's system creates steam using trough-shaped mirrors about 20 feet wide that concentrate light onto a tube carrying water. When heated by the concentrators, the water turns to steam. The solar system will supplement Petroleum Development Oman's current natural gas system and use its steam pipeline. Using solar energy instead of natural gas will allow it to use the gas for other purposes--or export it, according to the company.
According to a report out on Wednesday morning from Dow Jones VentureSource, with analysis by Ernst & Young, cleantech venture capital investing dropped 44 percent to $1.1 billion, compared to the same quarter a year ago. The number of cleantech VC deals were also down by 12 percent to 68 for the quarter. Similar numbers were reported by the Cleantech Group last month, which found that cleantech VC investing had dropped by a third in the second quarter compared to the same quarter last year. The second quarter fall follows some mixed signals for cleantech VC investing from the first quarter of the year, but also some solid signs that cleantech investors have been pulling back on new investments. While the first quarter of the year produced an almost record amount of cleantech VC funding according to numbers from the Cleantech group, a deeper dive into those numbers revealed that the bulk of those fundings were follow-on rounds for capital-intensive companies like Miasole, BrightSource, Fisker Automotive, and Bloom Energy. However, Dow Jones VentureSource reported first quarter numbers more conservatively than the Cleantech Group, at actually 8 percent lower than today’s second-quarter numbers.
Several major auto makers on Friday embraced the Obama administration's proposal to push the industry further away from once-dominant gas guzzlers to more lean and efficient vehicles. The proposal, which is the result of months of negotiations between the Obama administration and auto makers, would require the companies to reach an average fuel efficiency across their U.S. fleets of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. "This agreement on fuel standards represents the single most important step we've ever taken as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," Obama said at an event announcing the new standards. Flanked by top auto maker executives, Obama said the new rules would lower the country's oil use by 2.2 million barrels a day over the next 15 years. The rules will cut more than 6 billion tons of carbon emissions for the duration of the program.
SolarCity said today that it will begin to offer installation services for solar-powered EV chargers compatible with any electric vehicle currently on the market. To do so, the company is partnering with EV charger manufacturer ClipperCreek, which will supply chargers that use the standard SAE-J1772 charge cable. Installation of a 240-volt Level II charger, which typically charges an EV battery to full capacity in about four hours, for a home or business will start at $1,500 including the price of the charger, according to SolarCity. SolarCity said the offer is not just an add-on for customers who have the company install solar panel systems, but that it's also willing to install a standalone EV charger.
The worldwide renewable energy boom continues. Now, the euphoria has also arrived in the American solar market. This is what DEGERenergie reports from the Intersolar North America. What surprises recently is the diversity of the demand in the United States. Not only potential investors and solar park operators were interested in information about the most efficient technology DEGERenergie offers for medium and large-scale solar projects – more than ever, specific inquiries also came from individuals wanting to benefit from the advantages of MLD tracking. Michael Heck, Vice President Marketing & Sales at DEGERenergie, puts it like this: "The issue of self-supply is rapidly gaining importance – not only in Germany."
A startup offering Groupon-style group discounts for solar panel roof installations is now looking to connect with potential solar customers nationwide. On Monday One Block Off the Grid (1BOG) plans to expand access to its group solar discounts, installer recommendations and solar information services to another set of almost two dozen states across the U.S. 1BOG works by using the power of the group to leverage a low-cost solar deal in certain areas. Similar to Groupon, 1BOG collects a critical mass of interested solar customers in a given area and uses the volume of people to make deals with local solar installers. Think of the service as a way for entire neighborhoods to go solar in one fell swoop.
General Motors and grid equipment supplier ABB this week showed an early version of an energy storage system using battery packs from the Chevy Volt electric car. The two companies are partnering to build a prototype which they say can be used either for large-scale grid storage or back-up power for consumers. They estimate that 33 repurposed Volt battery packs could supply 50 U.S. homes for four hours during an outage or brownout. Batteries lose their storage capacity over time, but used car batteries are still viable for grid storage. GM estimates that once used car batteries have 70 percent of their initial charge, they can still be suitable for grid storage. Finding a viable method to repurpose used EV batteries after seven to ten years of driving isn't just a question of consumer convenience and driving range. Because batteries are the most expensive component of electric cars, car companies and battery makers are trying to ways to draw more money from that asset with grid storage.
No thicker than a piece of paper - because it practically is a piece of paper - a solar panel created by an MIT researcher can be shoved into a pocket or made into a paper airplane, and it will still create energy when exposed to sunlight. The trick is in the way it is made. The panel is printed like ink onto a sheet of paper. Even folded up like a letter, it retains its ability to convert light to electricity. With her colleagues, Karen Gleason, a professor of chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, published a paper last week in the journal Advanced Materials, demonstrating how they created a solar panel by printing tiny, lightweight layers of electrodes and semiconductors on a piece of paper.
Intersolar North America - North America's Premier Exhibition and Conference for the Solar Industry Intersolar promotes the development of business opportunities throughout the North American solar industry. There are 800 exhibitors and 22,000 trade visitors expected at the 2011 exhibition, co-located with SEMICON West. The accompanying conference expects 1,600 attendees. Since its establishment in 2008, the exhibition and conference have developed into the premier platform for the solar industry in North America. Intersolar North America, focuses on photovoltaics and solar thermal technology and has quickly established itself among manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and service providers as a vital international industry meeting point. As a media partner AltEnergyMag.com is hosting a Special InterSolar newspage sponsored by Trojan Battery, Schneider Electric and CentroSolar. We invite all exhibitors and attendees to check out and submit all your Conference news here. Also, stay tuned for our InterSolar Conference report which will go online following the show.
Poet's so-called "Project Liberty" biofuel plant, which will use corn waste instead of edible corn, is getting some support from the U.S. government. On Thursday, the Department of Energy announced it will offer Poet a $105 million loan guarantee to build out Project Liberty in Iowa, which is supposed to eventually produce up to 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year. Through loan guarantees, the government promises to pay back loans if borrowers can't. In many cases, the government is providing the loans as well, via the Federal Financing Bank. The financial support could help Poet finally get Project Liberty into commercial-scale production, and the plant has been in the planning stages for years now. Poet initially was hoping to start building the plant in 2009 and operating it in 2011, and back in 2008, the company was aiming for the plant to eventually produce 125 million gallons of biofuel per year.
BOSTON--An everyday office building doesn't quite work when you need to hammer out a prototype of a solar-powered chiller or an inflatable wind turbine. So a group of entrepreneurs here have created a hands-on workshop to bring their clean-energy ideas to life. Greentown Labs held its official opening last week, bringing fellow entrepreneurs, city officials including Boston Mayor Tom Menino, and investors looking to plug into the active clean-energy technology scene. About 40 people from 10 fledgling companies have moved into this former baker and confectioner's supply warehouse in South Boston with the hopes of finding more like-minded green-tech start-ups. Among the offerings was beer chilled by solar panels. Their work environment is definitely not class A office space. A disorderly room houses work areas shared among four or five companies. There is separate space for small offices and another with a lab table set aside for electronics testing. In the basement is a large machine shop where inventors can bang out their first prototypes.
KUKA Systems North America has made a successful entry into the burgeoning Canadian solar panel manufacturing sector, demonstrating in the process how it can adapt its extensive suite of automated production solutions to a panel maker’s unique requirements. KUKA Systems provides photovoltaic panel manufacturers around the world with fully automated production lines or any level of automation short of that, from cell layout through all stages of module assembly and quality control, regardless of type or dimensions. For its first Canadian customer, KUKA Systems is installing three partially automated, post-lamination framing lines for trimming, framing, testing and packout of photovoltaic panels, a $12 million contract. Each line consists of five robots, as well as applicators, conveyors and other handling and testing equipment. Installation began in the first quarter of 2011.
Will flow batteries — large tanks of liquid batteries — be a key technology to help deliver more clean power for the grid? Flow battery startup EnerVault is getting closer to commercializing that vision; it has completed the design of its prototype battery and is counting on a demonstration project next year to help the company launch its technology into the market in 2013, EnerVault CEO Craig Horne told us. The Silicon Valley startup is developing rechargeable flow batteries that, unlike a lithium-ion battery, separate the energy storage materials and electrolyte from the cells in which the electrochemical reaction occurs. The design involves two tanks, each of which contains a different mix of energy storage material and electrolyte. EnerVault's design fills one tank of electrolyte with iron (the energy storing material) and another electrolyte tank with chromium. Pumps send the solutions from the tanks into separate chambers of a cell to generate electricity. Flow batteries can be scaled up and down easily because of the use of external storage tanks. Flow batteries are also rechargeable, the electrolytes can last a really long time, and typically use abundant materials, so can be a more affordable option.
The EDV-01 is the first of its kind. A stainless-steel container about 6 meters long, 2 meters wide and 2 meters high, is equipped with cutting-edge systems to provide water and electricity. A rooftop solar system and fuel cell generates power that is stored in lithium-ion batteries (developed by Elly Power Co), whereas another system collects up to 20 liters of potable water a day from the air, which enough for two adults to live on for about month. The container¹s main attraction is that it does not require any construction. With the flip of a switch, a hydraulic pump raises the walls in four and a half minutes to form a second floor. The first floor contains a kitchen that utilizes induction heating for cooking, a shower and a bio-toilet. The second floor has fold-away beds and an office space with a separate desk. Four hydraulic ³feet² automatically stabilize the containers on rough terrain. The unit is ecologically sound as the container itself does not generate any waste during the installation or dismantling process. Research and development for the EDV-01 took two and a half years. The developers were particularly concerned about design details. For example, the exterior can be used as a billboard and the punched-metal exterior walls are visible from great distances due to the inclusion of light-emitting diodes.
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The NeON R module features "Back Contact" cell technology delivering an entirely black panel that is aesthetically pleasing and energy efficient. The cell's seamless, surface blends perfectly into nearly all rooftop designs while the module's electrodes are positioned on the rear of the cell. Using LG's N-type cell structure, the panels produce 365W of energy, up to 7.3kWp, compared to 5.8kWp of the p-type cell. The module's new design minimizes LID, thereby delivering a longer lifespan and increased energy output.