From ThinkProgress: A new study by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center finds that in all but 4 of the 50 largest cities in the U.S., installing a fully-financed 5 kilowatt solar panel system makes more financial sense than investing in a popular stock market index fund. Further, the same system would beat the costs of buying energy from local utilities in 42 of those 50 cities. “(S)olar is now not just an option for the rich, but a real opportunity for anyone looking to take greater control over their monthly utility bills and make a long-term, relatively low-risk investment,” concludes the study which was done under funding by the U.S. Department of Energy. A key qualifier in this good news study is that the benefits of installing residential solar photovoltaic systems are greatest when homeowners finance the systems (at an assumed annual interest rate of 5 percent) rather than buying them upfront. And the study does not investigate the availability of such loans. The study finds that in upfront purchases of solar, residents in just 14 out of the 50 largest U.S. cities would pay less for electricity than if they buy from their local utility. That upfront investment would be a better investment than the broad stock market index fund in 20 of the 50 cities. Cont'd....
Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal this week to significantly boost the amount of energy California derives from renewable sources could reinvigorate the state's utility-scale solar and wind industries, as well as launch another land rush in the Mojave Desert. In his inaugural address, Brown didn't say how the state's Renewables Portfolio Standard could be raised to 50% by 2030 — the previous benchmark was 33% by 2020 — but his commitment was clear: "This is exciting, it is bold, and it is absolutely necessary if we are to have any chance of stopping potentially catastrophic changes to our climate system," the governor said. He also outlined a plan to reduce petroleum use in cars and trucks by 50% and double the energy efficiency of new buildings in the state. The reverberation was instantaneous. "Is it significant? Absolutely. Will it stimulate the market? Absolutely," said Jerry R. Bloom of the Los Angeles law firm Winston & Strawn, who guides renewable energy developers through the financing and permitting processes.
World clean energy investment rebounded strongly in 2014, boosted by demand for large-scale and rooftop solar photovoltaics on the back of its greatly improved competitiveness, and by the financing of a record $19.4bn of offshore wind projects. Authoritative annual data, published today by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, show that global investment in clean energy was $310bn last year. This was up 16% from a revised $268.1bn in 2013, and more than five times the figure of $60.2bn attained a decade earlier, in 2004, albeit still 2% below the all-time record of $317.5bn reached in 2011. The jump in investment in 2014 reflected strong performances in many of the main centres for clean energy deployment, with China up 32% to a record $89.5bn, the US up 8% to $51.8bn (its highest figure since 2012), Japan up 12% to $41.3bn, Canada up 26% at $9bn, Brazil up 88% at $7.9bn, India up 14% to $7.9bn, and South Africa up 5% at $5.5bn. Europe, despite the flurry in offshore wind, was a relative dull spot overall, investment there edging 1% higher to $66bn.
The United Kingdom blew past previous wind power records in 2014 while Germany generated a record amount of electricity from wind in December, setting the stage for 2015 to bring more industry growth across Europe. Exactly how quickly it grows, however, is contingent upon several political and regulatory decisions to come. Using statistics from the U.K.’s National Grid, the trade association RenewableUK found that wind generated enough electricity to power just over 25 percent of U.K. homes in 2014 — a 15 percent increase from 2013. Wind turbines provided 9.3 percent of the U.K’s total electricity supply last year, a 1.5 percent boost from 2013. “It’s great to start 2015 with some good news about the massive quantities of clean electricity we’re now generating from wind,” said RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive Maf Smith. In December, Germany generated more wind power, 8.9 terawatt-hours, than in any previous month. According to the IWR renewable energy research institute, this record will be overtaken in 2015 as more offshore wind farms come online.
ydney-based energy investment group Tag Pacific has today announced it has won a landmark deal to deliver Australia’s largest energy storage system to be operated alongside the University of Queensland-owned Gatton solar power plant in south-east Queensland. The battery storage project, valued at around $2 million, was won by Tag’s wholly owned power business MPower, which is also working with Rio Tinto and First Solar in the remote town of Weipa, Queensland, to build an ARENA-supported 1.7MW solar PV project, which will serve a remote bauxite mining operation and could be expanded to 6.7MW The newly announced energy storage project, will be grid connected; a slightly different tack for MPower, which has tended to specialise in remote, and off-grid solar plus storage hybrid systems.
Some people complain that solar panels and wind turbines are so unattractive, they’d prefer not to see them at all. To them we offer New Wind, alternative energy generators that look like trees. The 36-foot-tall steel structure is perfect for urban environments, where a conventional wind turbine might not fit. Seventy-two artificial leaves that work as micro-turbines adorn the branches and spin silently on a vertical axis. Cables and generators have been integrated into the leaves and branches in a way that puts them out of sight and sound. The beautiful and functional device is the brainchild of French entrepreneur Jérôme Michaud-Larivière, who said the idea for a tree-inspired wind generator came to him one day while sitting in a square, watching the leaves on nearby trees tremble in a breeze. He wondered if energy could be generated in a similar way. Indeed, it can. At the moment, each tree has a power output estimated at 3.1 kW.
2014 brought us plenty of news to be unhappy about. The year had barely begun when a major chemical spill poisoned the water of 300,000 West Virginians, a disaster that left residents worried about the safety of their water for months. Not even a month after the spill, tens of thousands of tons of coal ash spewed into a river in North Carolina, the toxic waste product piling as high as five feet in some places. 2014 saw crippling drought in California, devastating flooding in India, and climatic changes that threw many members of the animal world into disarray. To top it all off, 2014 could very well turn out to be the hottest year on record. But 2014 saw some good news too — and a lot of it was in the form of advancements in renewable energy. Here are eight news stories from 2014 to remind you that, at least for the renewable energy sector, this past year wasn’t so bad. World’s First Solar Road Opens In Netherlands Researchers Reach A Record In Solar Conversion Efficiency Scotland Has An Amazing Month Of Wind Energy Production World’s Largest Solar Plant Comes Online The World’s Largest Tidal Array Gets The Green Light Researchers Continue To Develop New Ways To Use Solar World’s Largest and Most Powerful Wind Turbine Comes Online Solar Car Hits Speed Record, Could Soon Hit The Streets Read More...
South Korean PV module manufacturer SolarPark Korea has supplied modules to the first floating solar PV power plant in the country, the prototype Sunflower Solar Power Plant, which uses a tracking and rotating system. According to SolarPark Korea, the tracking system rotates the PV plant so that the modules face the most sun throughout the day. As the facility floats on water, it does not take much energy to do this, just a small amount of power being used from the plant for the rotation of the entire system. It is a 465 kWp system and around 8,000 square meters in size. SolarPark Korea supplied 1,550 72-cell multicrystalline modules for the test project. The cooling effect of the water on the modules should prove to show an additional 10% increase in energy production — when compared to a ground-mounted system. Such floating PV power plants do other things as well. They reduce algae growth, for example. Additionally, they have the ability to merge as hatcheries for fish inhabiting the area. Due to the easy rotation and the resulting exposure to maximum sunlight, the Sunflower Solar Power Plant’s production efficiency is 22% higher than a comparable ground-mounted PV plant.
Some of the most important innovations happening in energy today are happening far from the national media headlines. But these small changes will go a long way to making power more reliable, competitive, and local, with solar energy playing a central disruptive role that could dominate energy in the next century. One of those moves happened yesterday, when SunPower bought a $20 million stake in Tendril and agreed to license its Energy Services Management Platform software. Here's what the deal means over the next few years. At its core, Tendril is essentially an energy data company. It collects and analyzes data about consumers' energy usage patterns, primarily learned from partnerships with utilities. SunPower can use this data in its installations to optimize a home's renewable energy consumption, provide stored energy when it's needed, adapt to changing policies for solar, and even improve sales by finding its ideal customers. You can think of SunPower's capabilities with Tendril as a piece of the home of the future. SunPower will provide local energy production with solar panels, and with energy storage and connected devices SunPower can intelligently plan energy production and consumption based on consumers' desires. If a consumer wants to consume as little energy as possible the system can be set for that, just as it could be set to consume as much of your own energy production, or optimize for cost if there are rewards for sending energy to the grid at peak times. All of this will work in the background, similar to a car's eco mode, but it'll work to make energy more dynamic and controllable for consumers.
The Commerce Department began closing a chapter in a protracted trade conflict with China over solar equipment Tuesday, approving a collection of steep tariffs on imports from China and Taiwan. The decision, intended to close a loophole that had allowed Chinese manufacturers to avoid tariffs imposed in an earlier ruling by using cells — a major module component — made in Taiwan, found that the companies were selling products below the cost of manufacture and that the Chinese companies were benefiting from unfair subsidies from their government. The department announced anti-dumping duties of 26.71 percent to 78.42 percent on imports of most solar panels made in China, and rates of 11.45 percent to 27.55 percent on imports of solar cells made in Taiwan. In addition, the department announced anti-subsidy duties of 27.64 percent to 49.79 percent for Chinese modules. “These remedies come just in time to enable the domestic industry to return to conditions of fair trade,” said Mukesh Dulani, president of SolarWorld Americas. “The tariffs and scope set the stage for companies to create new jobs and build or expand factories on U.S. soil.” But others in the industry were quick to criticize the ruling.
As the price of oil has tumbled to five-year lows, solar stocks have fallen with it: First Solar was trading near $72 in mid-September; now it's around $44. Solar City has around $65; now it's close to $50. Solar energy investors seem to be running for the doors, fearing that cheap oil will erase demand for alternative energy. But it won't, say industry analysts. Oil and solar serve two different customers. Oil dominates energy demand in transportation fuels, but solar power customers are primarily of two types: public electric utilities and large corporations. Neither of those use oil to generate electricity, and they are not about to start doing so, say analysts. Less than 5 percent of the world's electricity comes from oil; most of it comes from coal, natural gas, nuclear and, increasingly, solar power. Public utilities sign long-term agreements with solar providers, sometimes spanning 20 years. Those deals are unaffected by oil price changes, said Jeff Osborne, an analyst with Cowen Group.
Today, despite recent progress, solar power accounts for about one percent of the world’s energy mix. Yet the International Energy Agency (IEA) says that solar energy, most of it generated by decentralized “rooftop” photovoltaic systems, could well become the world’s single biggest source of electricity by mid-century. So how do we get from here to there? The answer, according to scientists and engineers, lies in a new generation of super-efficient, low-cost sunlight harvesters that take up where the recent flood of cheap silicon panels leaves off. New designs and novel solar materials have recently been setting new efficiency records seemingly every week. Although research and development of solar power still falls far short of where scientists and engineers say it needs to be, innovators are making steady progress in creating a new generation of materials that can harvest the sun’s energy far more efficiently than traditional silicon photovoltaic cells. Among the most promising technologies are multi-junction cells with layers of light-harvesters that each gather energy from a separate slice of the solar spectrum, super-efficient semiconductor materials like perovskite and gallium-arsenide, and cells made with tiny but powerful solar-absorbing “quantum dots.” Technical hurdles, such as making new materials able to withstand the elements, remain. Nonetheless, researchers say, efforts now underway could begin to dramatically increase solar power generation within a decade or two. Cont'd...
During the past 2 years, more flexible sourcing strategies across the wind power supply chain have resulted in cost reductions, enabling greater geographic market access while reducing risk and ensuring profitability for wind turbine vendors and their partners in the component value chain. Overcapacity, however, persists in most, though not all areas of the supply chain, providing purchasers with more choice, flexibility, and cost control. According to a new report from Navigant Research, while demand in 2014 is projected to be less than 47,000 megawatts (MW), annual turbine manufacturing capacity, according to vendor estimates, is likely to exceed 71,000 megawatts MW. "Oversupply is allowing wind turbine manufacturers to more easily adjust what components they produce in-house, what is outsourced, and when a blend of both is advantageous for cost, technological, or geographic reasons," says Jesse Broehl, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. "Although many manufacturing facilities are running at less than full capacity, product innovation, lean manufacturing, and outsourcing are resulting in a highly competitive wind industry ready for the challenges of today's and tomorrow's wind markets." Blades are a particularly strong area of strategic product evolution and sourcing shifts, according to the report. Turbine manufacturers are making major, capital-intensive investment changes in how blades are designed, what materials are used, the manufacturing processes behind them, and what companies they source from.
In the Lloydminster area, a Calgary company is ready to carve out large underground salt caverns to store excess wind energy — the first use of the technology in Canada. Rocky Mountain Power president Jan van Egteren says the storage sites could be ready in five years. Salt caverns have been used to store natural gas for years, but only two other projects in North America are using them for compressed air that is turned into electricity. The caverns are carved out by pumping water deep down to dissolve the underground salt layer peculiar to the Lloydminster area. Excess wind electricity would be used to pump compressed air into caverns about the size of a 60-storey building. The salt walls allow very little to escape. Then, when the wind dies, the compressed air is released and used to turn a generator to make electricity. The cavern could store enough compressed air to provide electricity for five days to a city the size of Red Deer, says van Egteren. “It could really help stabilize the grid by taking off power when the wind is really blowing.”
UNITED STATES: The US House of Representatives has approved a one-year extension to the production tax credit (PTC). The extension will allow US projects that began construction activities in 2014 to apply for the credit. It gives producers of wind power a $0.023/kWh incentive. The Senate will now need to approve the bill before it becomes law. The Senate vote is expected to take place in the coming days as both Houses are expected to adjourn for the Christmas break next week. Many in the industry had called for a two-year extension to the credit, which now would expire at the end of 2014. The Senate Finance Committee approved a two-year extension to the PTC in April, as part of a package of tax measures. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) said the extension creates uncertainty in the US sector. AWEA also warned of a dramatic slowdown to the industry, similar to 2013 when the PTC previously expired, resulting in a 92% drop in installations.
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