Solar Power Turns Water and Carbon Dioxide Into Fuel

Seeker:  Finish researchers are building a demonstration power plant that would use solar-generated electricity, water and carbon dioxide extracted from the atmosphere to create gas and liquid fuels. The Lappeenranta University of Technology and VTT Technical Research Centre are working together on the SOLETAIR project, which is being built on the university campus and is scheduled for completion in 2017. Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology also is a player in the project.  The project involves several different innovations. VTT will design equipment that will capture CO2 from the air and store it, while Lappeenranta researchers will build a device to produce hydrogen from water via electrolysis. Karlsruhe has developed a a microstructured, chemical reactor to convert the hydrogen produced from solar power together with carbon dioxide into liquid fuels, according to a press release. The reactor will be built by INERATEC, a spinoff company created by Karlsruhe.   Cont'd...

Using Nanotechnology to Improve the Efficiency of Solar Cells

Nanostructure-based coating technology provides increased energy efficiency while minimizing costs.

Is The Best Analogy For The Energy Storage Business--Eeek!--Hard Drives?

Michael Kanellos for Forbes:  The optimism in the energy storage industry is based on soaring demand, rapid technological advances, expanding capacity and, for some, what will likely be a scary competitive environment. First, the good news. Lithium ion battery packs over the last ten years have declined faster than the cost of solar, said John Carrington, CEO of Stem, which makes behind-the-meter storage systems for hotels and other commercial customers looking to shave peak power costs, during a hallway meeting at Finance West sponsored by the American Council of Renewable Energy this week. Solar panels have declined by 50% or more in the last five years. Batteries have declined by 80% in three years, he said. Battery packs hit the under $300 per kilowatt hour mark last December, Carrington added. By 2020, battery pack prices could drop to $190 per kilowatt hour. (In 2007, lithium ion battery packs in the wholesale markets sold for around $1,000 per kilowatt hour.)   Cont'd...

Bike Path In Poland Can Glow For 20 Years Using Solar Power

Andrew Conrad for PSFK:  It’s no Yellow Brick Road, but residents of Olsztyn, a town along the Lyna River in northern Poland, can now follow along this glowing bike path to travel safely to their destination. Using solar power, it is said that the path can remain illuminated for up to 20 years. The engineering breakthrough, developed by Polish firm TPA, was unveiled in late September as a 100-meter trial section with plans for expansion. The asphalt in the path is blended with particles that absorb energy from the sun during daylight hours and then glow for up to 10 hours once the sun goes down. The plan is to increase the shorter section following winter.   Cont'd...

Idaho company debuts solar power sidewalks

Nicholas K. Geranios for AP:  Scott Brusaw has a vision for the nation's roads. He believes the solar-powered glass pavers his company makes could transform thousands of miles of pavement into a new energy source. His business, Solar Roadways, recently unveiled its first public installation, in a downtown plaza in this northern Idaho resort town. It's 150 square feet of hexagon-shaped solar panels that people can walk and bicycle on. The company is working on proof that the panels, for which it has a patent, are strong enough and have enough traction to handle motor vehicles, including semitrailers. "Our plan is to replace all the asphalt and concrete," said Brusaw, noting concrete occupies over 48,000 square miles in the U.S. "If you cover it with solar panels, we can make three times our energy needs." Solar Roadways is among a growing number of companies embracing renewable energy as the U.S. aims to reduce carbon emissions by one-third from 2005 levels by 2030.   Cont'd...

This New Wind Turbine Could Power Japan for 50 Years After One Typhoon

Nick Mafi for Architectural Digest:  A typical typhoon produces wind speeds between 98 and 120 m.p.h. and usually leaves behind a trail of destruction. But a Japanese engineer has plans to harness a typhoon’s incredible wind energy and use it to power the nation. Atsushi Shimizu has just invented the world’s first typhoon-powered wind turbine—a roughly 18-foot structure that, with its three distinct prongs, somewhat resembles an egg beater. Don’t be fooled by the simple design, however. According to the Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory, a mature typhoon can produce a level of kinetic energy equivalent to about half of the world’s electrical generating capacity. That means that after a single typhoon, Shimizu’s invention could power Japan for up to 50 years. Add in the frequency of the country’s typhoons—anywhere from three to seven each year—and the potential for massive quantities of renewable energy is unmistakable.   Cont'd...

New solar panel integrates battery storage, inverter, and smart software into a single unit

Derek Markham for TreeHugger:  This startup is reinventing the solar panel, and aims to cut the cost of integrating clean power and energy storage to homes by half. Home solar has the potential to reduce, and even eliminate, electricity costs for many people, but even with the rapid advancements we're seeing in solar technology, there are still weak points that can be addressed and overcome, such as energy storage and 'smart' home integration. But a newcomer to the residential solar scene believes it has the answer, in the form of a standalone solar and battery unit which can be used singly or connected in an array, and which may be able to lower the overall costs considerably. SunCulture's SolPad solar device integrates solid state batteries directly into the solar panels themselves, offering its users the ability to not only generate their own clean electricity, but to also store if for use after dark or during peak demand times, when electricity costs are higher. The SolPad units also incorporate an inverter, which converts the electricity from the DC generated and stored by the device to the AC required by most household appliances, and includes "intelligent software" that communicates with both the users and with their home's systems, allowing for granular control over which rooms or devices will receive the solar power.   Cont'd... Full Press Release:

The Future of Bio-Inspired Batteries

A major advantage that bio-inspired batteries have as compared to other batteries is their ability to allow an instant recharge.

Elon Musk aims to unveil Tesla solar power roof next month

Robert Ferris for CNBC:  Elon Musk tweeted on Thursday that he hopes to unveil a Tesla/SolarCity solar roof with a new integrated battery pack and Tesla car charger on Oct. 28.   Musk first began teasing the next generation Powerwall at an event for Tesla owners in Paris earlier this year, according to Electrek. At the time, he had said the company would roll out the new battery in "July or August." SolarCity's merger with Tesla has aroused skepticism and even ire from some investors and analysts, even after Musk outlined his reasons for combining the two companies in his second installment of his "Master Plan" in late July.   Cont'd...

Making Biofuel a Cost-Effective, Renewable Source of Energy

Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are using multiphysics simulation to better understand and optimize the conversion process for plant-derived biofuels.

SunPower Embraces Drones and Robots to Help Evolve Its Solar Farms

Katie Fehrenbacher for Fortune:  Solar panel maker and farm developer SunPower is embracing the latest in computing technology to help lower the cost of its solar panel farms while minimizing the impact that the farms have on land. The Richmond, Calif.-based company on Tuesday announced an array of new technology that it’s using to design, build, operate, and monitor big solar panel farms that are built to sell energy to utilities and large companies.   Cont'd... Read Press Release:

Silicon Carbide (SiC) Inverter Technology Increases Efficiency to 99%

The efficiency gain equals to approximately $2.5M additional energy being produced over a 100MW power plant's lifetime, on average at the global level.

Transparent solar panels are 50 times more productive than regular photovoltaics

Luke Dormehl for DigitalTrends:  As the term “regular windows” suggests, users don’t have to replace the existing windows in their home, but need only treat them with a special process developed by the company. “We apply liquid coatings to glass and plastic surfaces at ambient pressure, and dry these coatings at low temperature to produce transparent films,” Conklin continued. “We repeat these processes, and then collectively these coatings — and thus the glass and plastic surfaces — generate electricity.” Of these coatings, the most important is the so-called “Active Layer,” through which electricity is generated by the absorption of light, and the transparent conductors, which allow the electricity to be extracted. “[The] coatings are primarily organic, primarily from carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen,” Conklin said. “We are constantly refining each of the layers to improve on the power we’re able to extract from these coatings and enhance their manufacturability.”   Cont'd...

Solar cell is more efficient, costs less than its counterparts

Massachusetts Institute of Technology via Science Daily:  A team of researchers from MIT and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology may have found a way around this seemingly intractable tradeoff between efficiency and cost. The team has developed a new solar cell that combines two different layers of sunlight-absorbing material to harvest a broader range of the sun's energy. The researchers call the device a "step cell," because the two layers are arranged in a stepwise fashion, with the lower layer jutting out beneath the upper layer, in order to expose both layers to incoming sunlight. Such layered, or "multijunction," solar cells are typically expensive to manufacture, but the researchers also used a novel, low-cost manufacturing process for their step cell. The team's step-cell concept can reach theoretical efficiencies above 40 percent and estimated practical efficiencies of 35 percent, prompting the team's principal investigators -- Masdar Institute's Ammar Nayfeh, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and MIT's Eugene Fitzgerald, the Merton C. Flemings-SMA Professor of Materials Science and Engineering -- to plan a startup company to commercialize the promising solar cell.   Cont'd...

Indian Scientists Design Solar Tree to Save Space for Solar Power Generation

Anjana Pasricha for VOA News:  Indian scientists have designed a “solar tree” that they hope will help overcome one of the key challenges the country faces in the generation of solar power. With photovoltaic panels placed at different levels on branches made of steel, “solar trees” could dramatically reduce the amount of land needed to develop solar parks. “It takes about four-square meters of space to produce energy which otherwise would have required 400 square meters of space. So almost 100 times the space is saved, which as you know is very valuable,” said Daljit Singh Bedi, chief scientist at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in New Delhi, whose laboratory in Kolkata developed the tree. A scarce resource in India, acquisition of land to develop roads, factories and other infrastructure is a sensitive issue that has led to frequent and sometimes violent protests from displaced people.  Cont'd...

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