Stacking the deck

SUNLIGHT is free, but that is no reason to waste it. Yet even the best silicon solar cells—by far the most common sort—convert only a quarter of the light that falls on them. Silicon has the merit of being cheap: manufacturing improvements have brought its price to a point where it is snapping at the heels of fossil fuels. But many scientists would like to replace it with something fundamentally better. John Rogers, of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, is one. The cells he has devised (and which are being made, packaged into panels and deployed in pilot projects by Semprius, a firm based in North Carolina) are indeed better. By themselves, he told this year’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, they convert 42.5% of sunlight. Even when surrounded by the paraphernalia of a panel they manage 35%. Suitably tweaked, Dr Rogers reckons, their efficiency could rise to 50%. Their secret is that they are actually not one cell, but four, stacked one on top of another. Solar cells are made of semiconductors, and every type of semiconductor has a property called a band gap that is different from that of other semiconductors. The band gap defines the longest wavelength of light a semiconductor can absorb (it is transparent to longer wavelengths). It also fixes the maximum amount of energy that can be captured from photons of shorter wavelength. The result is that long-wavelength photons are lost and short-wave ones incompletely utilised.   Cont'd

California's Record-Breaking New Solar Plant Is Already Irrelevant

Last week, dozens of people, including Google energy chief Rick Needham and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, trekked out to the California-Nevada border in the middle of the Death Valley to dedicate what is believed to be the world's largest solar thermal facility in the world.   At 392 megawatts, the Ivanpah solar thermal plant will be able to power 140,000 homes — the equivalent of all of Newark (averaging two people per household).   We covered the project when BrightSource, the main developer behind the project, first put up a stunning 3-D tour of the site.   But for all its scale and beauty, in terms of the future of renewables, Ivanpah is already irrelevant.     Solar thermal creates electricity by using mirrors to direct intense amounts of heat at a centralized collector, which is used to heat a substance like water to create steam power. Solar photovoltaic, meanwhile, directly converts solar energy into electricity through semiconductors.   If solar thermal sounds unnecessarily complicated, you're right. Solar photovoltaic has seen explosive growth in the past few years thanks to plummeting material costs, state incentives, and eco-conscious homebuyers putting up panels on their roofs.  But solar thermal growth has stalled, and is expected to continue to do so.  Ivanpah cost $2.2 billion. Warren Buffett paid the same amount for the world's largest photovoltaic plant just up the road outside Bakersfield. That plant will generate 1.5-times as much power as Ivanpah.    As the New York Times' Diane Cardwell and Matt Wald wrote Friday, Ivanpah probably represents an end, not a beginning. 

Nevada desert land turned into solar power plant

A windy stretch of the Mojave Desert once roamed by tortoises and coyotes has been transformed by hundreds of thousands of mirrors into the largest solar power plant of its type in the world, a milestone for a growing industry that is testing the balance between wilderness conservation and the pursuit of green energy across the American West. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, sprawling across roughly 5 square miles of federal land near the California-Nevada border, formally opened Thursday after years of regulatory and legal tangles ranging from relocating protected tortoises to assessing the impact on Mojave milkweed and other plants. "The Ivanpah project is a shining example of how America is becoming a world leader in solar energy," U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement after attending a dedication ceremony at the site. "This project shows that building a clean-energy economy creates jobs, curbs greenhouse gas emissions and fosters American innovation." The $2.2 billion complex of three generating units, owned by NRG Energy Inc., Google Inc. and BrightSource Energy, can produce nearly 400 megawatts — enough power for 140,000 homes. It began making electricity last year.  

Key Takeaways from the AWEA U.S. Wind Industry Fourth Quarter 2013 Market Report

With the installation of 1,084 MW in 2013 the U.S. now has an installed wind capacity of 61,108 MW. There are over 12,000 MW under construction, including 10,900 MW that started construction activity during the fourth quarter.

Solar Training at SolPowerPeople

The National Solar Jobs Census 2013 report states that in the last 12 months solar employment has grown 10 times faster than the national average- that says something that people need to hear.

India Sustainable Communities Proposal

This presentation focuses on systematically highlighting the ways to optimize waste-to-energy plants in terms of their energy efficiency as an indicator of the positive effect with regard to climate control. Potentials for increasing energy efficiency are identified and grouped into categories.

An Uncertain Future for Quantum Computing?

Quantum computing is here to shake the existing mechanical, electrical and electronic systems. Modern electronics in particular will not be the same if quantum computing gains acceptance. There're voices of support as well as dissent. In this post, we'll analyze future trends in quantum computing. Keep reading!

3D Solar Modeling Technology

To assess the accuracy of simuwatt Solar, concept3D partnered with NREL to evaluate the program's outputs against actual plans developed for sites across the country.

Case Study - 2.4 MW Solar Ground Mount Orange, Massachusetts

Working in two shifts in record low temperatures and stormy conditions, installers completed the ground mount array in just 36 days (during a record 60-year storm with 24 inches of snow and 60 mph gusts).

GreenStation Energy Storage Powered by Smart Grid Technology

The bottom line is that energy (kWh) is no longer the cost driver for commercial and industrial electric ratepayers; power (kW) is where the pain lies.

China Will Take Gold In The 2014 'Solar Power Olympics'

China is projected to install 12,000 megawatts of solar power in 2014, giving it the "gold medal" in the figurative 2014 Solar Olympics,  according to GTM Research . That amount will be greater than what the United States has installed in all of its solar history. Japan will take "silver" in 2014 with 7,500 megawatts forecast. The U.S. will take bronze at 5,300. "China's rise to the top in global PV installations has been impressive, to say the least," GTM Research solar analyst Adam James said in the release. "Although transparency continues to be a problem in accurately sizing the market, GTM sees the shift to production-based incentives and increased downstream financing support driving deployment to new heights over the next few years." For the first time in the past four year period, no European country will feature on the podium. "While European feed-in tariff markets have been great at the short-distance events, the global solar market is clearly aiming toward the long-distance contenders in Asia and North America," said Shayle Kann, senior vice president at GTM Research. "But don't count out emerging markets. By the time the Summer Olympics roll around in Rio, Latin America will be a PV force to contend with."

California has a third of the nation's solar power jobs

One-third of all Americans who work in solar power live in California, according to an annual survey released Tuesday. And their numbers are growing fast. The solar industry employed 47,223 Californians last year, up 8 percent from 2012, according to the survey from the Solar Foundation, a research and advocacy group. Nationwide, the solar industry employed 142,698 people. And while the rate of solar job growth nationwide was faster than in California, nearly hitting 20 percent last year, the Golden State still dominates the business. "California is, by far, the leader," said Andrea Luecke, the foundation's executive director. "It's not by accident that the solar industry is based there." Most of California's solar jobs, however, focus on panel installation and financing versus research and development efforts to create new technologies. Starting more than 10 years ago, California officials made a concerted push to foster the solar industry. They forced the state's utilities to buy more renewable power and offered rebates to homeowners who bolted solar panels to their roofs. The effort appears to have worked. Most of the country's largest solar companies are based in California, particularly in the Bay Area. The foundation's survey counted 21,653 solar jobs around the bay.

U.S. Presses Trade Action Against India on Solar Energy

The U.S. filed a second complaint against India’s solar-energy policies at the World Trade Organization, reviving a year-old dispute between the two nations.   Today’s action follows a case the U.S. filed in February 2013 at the Geneva-based WTO, saying India’s requirements for locally made components on solar-energy products violate global trade rules.   “These domestic content requirements discriminate against U.S. exports” of solar cells and modules, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said today at a news conference in Washington.   Officials from the Indian Embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.   The U.S., which has supported its own solar-manufacturing industry through loan guarantees, exported $119 million worth of solar-industry gear to India in 2011, and sales have declined since then, according to the U.S. trade office. In 2012, India, the second-largest export market for U.S. solar producers after Japan, plans to expands its solar-manufacturing industry by 20 times by 2020, according to the agency.   The U.S. trade office notified India today that it’s requesting consultations at the WTO to resolve the dispute. If the matter isn’t resolved in 60 days, the U.S. can request creation of a special panel at the WTO to hear the case.

Sumitomo Sets Up Solar Power Storage System With Used Batteries

Sumitomo Corp. said it installed a power storage system using recycled electric-vehicle batteries near a solar power station in the western prefecture of Osaka.   The 600-kilowatt system is the world’s first large-scale power storage system from used EV batteries, the Tokyo-based company said in a statement today. The device uses 16 used batteries.   “Over the next three years, the system will measure the smoothing effect of energy-output fluctuation from the nearby,” solar farm, Sumitomo said in the statement.   Sumitomo set up a venture with Nissan Motor Co. in 2010 to address the secondary use of EV batteries.

Sunrun Acquires REC Solar's Residential Division, AEE Solar and SnapNrack

Sunrun and Mainstream Energy Corp. today announced that Sunrun has acquired the residential division of REC Solar, AEE Solar and SnapNrack. The companies represent Mainstream Energy's residential solar sales, design and installation; wholesale distribution; and mounting systems and hardware businesses, respectively. In the commercial market, REC Solar will continue as an independent organization under the legal name REC Solar Commercial Corp. The value of the transaction was not disclosed. "Sunrun pioneered solar service to remove the most significant barriers to going solar. We continue to innovate our business to further drive down costs, increase quality and broaden our reach to consumers so more homeowners have access to affordable home solar," said  Lynn Jurich , Chief Executive Officer of Sunrun. "The residential solar market is growing rapidly and this acquisition marks the next step in our multi-channel growth strategy. REC Solar's residential division, AEE Solar and SnapNrack complement our thriving channel business and further enable us to fulfill the enormous market potential for home solar nationwide." REC Solar is a national leader in solar electric system design and installation, with more than 11,000 customers across seven states. Since becoming Sunrun's first installation partner in 2007, REC Solar has helped thousands of homeowners elect solar energy with Sunrun's solar service, which allows homeowners to pay a low rate for clean energy and fix their electric costs for 20 years. "REC Solar is the industry leader in customer satisfaction and high quality construction, while AEE Solar and SnapNrack bring capabilities that allow us to make solar energy affordable for more consumers, provide superior systems and service, and lay the foundation to become a major energy company," Jurich said.

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