UC makes largest solar-energy purchase by U.S. higher education institution

The University of California announced Monday that it signed two power-purchase agreements that, combined, will provide 206,000 megawatt hours of solar energy per year — the largest solar energy purchase by any higher education institution in the U.S.   This energy is equivalent to powering 30,000 homes and will avoid producing more than 88,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. The initiative will provide power for UC Irvine, UC San Diego and UC San Francisco, along with their medical centers, in addition to UC Merced and UC Santa Cruz.   Mark Byron, the university’s wholesale electricity program manager, described the purchase as a “nexus” with UC President Janet Napolitano’s sustainability initiative, which was released November. One of the main components of the initiative is to be carbon neutral by 2025.   “By injecting solar energy, we’re making sure our portfolio comes from green energy,” Byron explained.   The university signed the 25-year agreements with Frontier Renewables, a San Mateo-based company focused on solar energy technology. Two solar fields will be built in Fresno County as part of the project.

Sharp Considering Sale Of U.S. Solar Energy Unit

Sharp Corp is looking to sell its U.S.-based solar energy development unit Recurrent Energy, Bloomberg reported on Monday, as the Japanese firm winds down its involvement in the solar industry to focus on profitable businesses. Sharp paid $305 million in cash in 2010 to acquire Recurrent Energy. Selling the company now would help Sharp to raise capital as it struggles to raise its equity ratio to a healthy level. This year, Sharp shut down its UK solar plant and also pulled out of a venture with Italian energy firm Enel SpA  to make solar panels and generate solar power.

Flexible solar cell woven into fabric

Wearable electronics are quickly becoming the fashion. And there could soon be a way to power those electronics indefinitely, now that scientists in China have developed a solar cell 'textile' that could be woven into clothes. The textile retains a power-generation efficiency close to 1% even after been bent more than 200 times, and can be illuminated from both sides.   Scientists have been looking into flexible solar cells for decades, partly for coating irregularly shaped objects but also for integrating into wearable fabrics. One popular line of investigation has been dye-sensitized solar cells, in which a pigment absorbs sunlight to generate electrons and their positive counterparts, holes, before passing on those charges to inexpensive semiconductors. These solar cells are cheap and flexible, but the liquid nature of their pigments means that they must be well sealed. Bend a dye-sensitized solar cell more than a few times and the seals are likely to break, destroying its light-harvesting properties.   That is why Huisheng Peng at Fudan University in Shanghai and colleagues have been exploring another option: polymer solar cells. Although their maximum efficiencies fall below 10% - about half that of crystalline silicon, the most prevalent solar cell - polymer solar cells are lightweight, flexible and easy to manufacture. Peng and colleagues' solar cell textile consists of microscopic interwoven metal wires coated with an active polymer (to absorb the sunlight), titanium dioxide nanotubes (to conduct the electrons) and another active polymer (to conduct the holes). The researches coated each side of the textile with transparent, conductive sheets of carbon nanotubes, which complete the circuit.

Value of Solar Versus Fossil Fuels - Part 2

The value of solar power is being debated across the country by regulators, utility companies, and solar energy providers as distributed generation is increasing. This Energy and Policy Institute series consists of four separate reports summarizing recent developments, while providing recommendations for policy makers.

Energy Sources in a Disaster

Businesses need to invest in back-up renewable power systems to insure that they can continue working during and after a disaster. With such installations, businesses can prevent interruption losses caused by grid failure.

Unlikely Bedfellows: Mines That Run On Solar Or Wind Power

As mining companies continue to evaluate their power options in an era of higher diesel fuel and electricity costs, it is interesting to contemplate whether they could one day foresee operating in an environment more weighted towards renewables than conventional energy.

One With The Roof

Installers working on a tile roof must deal with particularly difficult challenges. Tile roofs are manufactured from many types of materials, including clay, zinc coated aluminum, concrete, wood and fiberglass, all of which come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Installing solar panels on a tile roof takes more time than traditional asphalt shingle roofs and often requires additional framing.

6 Reasons Why Energy Efficiency Programs Fail

Amongst the numerous measures the world has taken to wean itself off the fossil fuels, only a few have been successful in making the businesses, homes and vehicles more energy efficient. Various psychological and financial barriers have kept governments and organizations from realizing the actual potential of energy efficiency programs.

Tilapia Village: Net Zero Ranch Style Pocket Village Community

A sustainable small pocket neighborhood development alternative to the traditional subdivision housing model and even to the standard condo / townhouse model.

A fully transparent solar cell that could make every window and screen a power source

Researchers at Michigan State University have created a fully transparent solar concentrator, which could turn any window or sheet of glass (like your smartphone’s screen) into a photovoltaic solar cell. Unlike other “transparent” solar cells that we’ve reported on in the past, this one really is transparent, as you can see in the photos throughout this story. According to Richard Lunt, who led the research, the team are confident that the transparent solar panels can be efficiently deployed in a wide range of settings, from “tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader.”   Scientifically, a transparent solar panel is something of an oxymoron. Solar cells, specifically the photovoltaic kind, make energy by absorbing photons (sunlight) and converting them into electrons (electricity). If a material is transparent, however, by definition it means that all of the light passes through the medium to strike the back of your eye. This is why previous transparent solar cells have actually only been partially transparent — and, to add insult to injury, they usually they cast a colorful shadow too. Cont'd..

Politics Threatens World's Largest Solar Power Project

An unpopular government’s legacy has become a burden for the new one, which could potentially lead to the scrapping of what has been planned as the world’s largest solar power project.   The Rajasthan state government in India has reportedly asked the central government to scrap plans to set up a 4,000 MW solar photovoltaic power project. The state government claims that the proposed project will threaten thousands of migratory birds that flock near the proposed project site every year.   Sources close to the government, however, claim that the Rajasthan Chief Minister is not too keen to pursue a project that had been planned during the tenure of the previous government, which was led by the United Progressive Alliance.   The proposed project is supposed to come up near Sambhar Lake in eastern Rajasthan. Officials of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy claim that about a fourth of the planned project area has been listed as environmentally and ecologically sensitive, and that area had already been excluded.   According to reports, the state Chief Minister wants to scrap the 4,000 MW solar power project, and pursue an ambitious state-directed solar power policy. Gujarat, under now-Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had earned global limelight after it established one of the largest solar power farms. To date, Gujarat continues to lead all Indian states in terms of installed capacity.

What You Need to Know Before You Invest in Solar Energy

olar energy is one of the greatest investing opportunities of our generation with well over a trillion dollars in annual market potential around the world. But with all that potential comes tremendous risk, particularly as new technologies emerge. Over the past decade, we've seen solar technologies rise and fall and companies have risen and fallen along with them. Now that this industry is competing with fossil fuels on a cost per kW-hr basis it's important to look at what technologies dominate the industry and what investors should be betting on in the future.   Massive solar farms like this one from SunPower are now competitive with other energy sources on the grid, opening up a huge opportunity for the solar industry. Source: SunPower. Silicon solar, the leader in the clubhouse   The vast majority of solar panels today are made using silicon semiconductor technology. At its core, this technology has been around for decades, it just hasn't been efficient or cheap enough to be economically viable versus the grid. But that's changed in the last few years as panel prices have plummeted below $1 per watt. Inside a silicon solar cell the sun's energy excites the semiconductor, knocking an electron loose. If properly built, a cell then captures that electron and turns it into a voltage potential and electric current.   cont'd..  

Solar Power Poses Lower Risk to Birds Than Cats or Cars

Solar-thermal power plants in the U.S. are less likely to kill birds than automobiles, cats or communication towers, despite reports that say the facilities pose a significant threat to avian life.   There were 321 “avian fatalities” in the first half of this year at the 392-megawatt Ivanpah solar project in Southern California, according to a statement Aug. 19 from NRG Energy Inc. (NRG), which co-owns and operates it. Of those, 133 were scorched by heat produced by the plant.   That’s far fewer than reported in an Associated Press article on Aug. 18. It cited federal wildlife investigators who estimated that one bird was burned every two minutes by concentrated sunlight at the Mojave Desert power plant.   The estimates for birds killed by solar power are “inflated,” NRG spokesman Jeff Holland said in an interview.   A greater risk comes from cats, which are estimated to kill hundreds of millions of birds each year. Cars are responsible for about 60 million deaths, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and communication towers add another four million to five million. Wind turbines killed 573,000 birds in 2012.

Solar panel shortage looms even as manufacturers invest in production

The solar industry is bracing for a global drought in photovoltaic panels after a series of high supply years that pushed prices to all-time lows and encouraged installations. Solar panel adoption is supposed to increase as much as 29% this year, which has top manufacturers and installers anticipating a drop in availability of panels. This would be the first such shortage since 2006 when the nascent solar energy industry was just taking hold, reported Bloomberg News. Eight years ago, only about 1.5 gigawatts of solar energy capacity was installed. This year as much as 52 gigawatts is expected to be hooked up and another 61 gigawatts in 2015, according to estimates by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That is compared with about 70 gigawatts of production capacity currently available, though that estimate could be high since some manufacturers’ equipment is out of date or obsolete. The shrinking supply could hinder the growing rooftop solar panel industry. The scarce supplies often get routed to larger-scale utility projects and leave the residential side with limited availability.

Value of Solar Versus Fossil Fuels - Part 1

The value of solar power is being debated across the country by regulators, utility companies, and solar energy providers as distributed generation is increasing. This Energy and Policy Institute series consists of four separate reports summarizing recent developments, while providing recommendations for policy makers.

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