The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 today announced the winners of this global competition among collegiate teams to build the most energy-efficient solar-powered house at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif. Team Austria, made up of students from the Vienna University of Technology, won top honors overall by designing, building, and operating the most cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive solar-powered house. University of Nevada Las Vegas took second place, followed by Czech Republic, comprised of students from Czech Technical University, in third place. “The Solar Decathlon is inspiring and training the next generation of clean energy architects, engineers and entrepreneurs, and showing that affordable, clean energy technologies can help homeowners save money and energy today,” said U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Congratulations to the Solar Decathlon 2013 competitors – your hard work and creativity is helping to build a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.” Reflecting the quality of the Solar Decathlon 2013 houses, the winning teams’ final scores were the closest they have ever been since the beginning of the competition. Team Austria earned 951.9 points out of a possible 1,000 to win the competition, followed by University of Nevada Las Vegas with 947.6 points, and Czech Republic with 945.1 points. Contributing to their overall win, Team Austria performed well in several of the individual contests, finishing first in the Communications Contest, second in Market Appeal, and tied for first in the Hot Water Contest. Every house in the 2013 competition produced more energy than it consumed. Nineteen collegiate teams from across the country and around the world competed in 10 contests over 10 days that gauged each house’s performance, livability and affordability. The teams performed everyday tasks, including cooking, laundry, and washing dishes, that tested the energy efficiency of their houses. The winner of the overall competition best blended affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. Full competition results and details about the individual contests may be found at www.SolarDecathlon.gov .
The global solar company Abengoa Solar has just announced that its massive Solana solar power plant has begun commercial operation in Arizona. The plant represents a transformational breakthrough in utility scale solar power, because it includes an energy storage system based on molten salt. The storage feature enables the plant to keep generating electricity long after the sun goes down. CSPs use mirrors to concentrate solar energy on a focal point, typically a large tower. According to Abengoa, at 280 megawatts the Solana plant is the world’s la rgest CSP plant to use parabolic trough mirrors to concentrate solar energy (typical CSP mirrors, called heliostats, are flat and quadrilateral). It is also the first solar plant in the U.S. with thermal energy storage, in the form of a molten salt system. The storage capacity is about six hours. That enables the plant to keep generating electricity from solar energy well into the early evening hours, when demand in the region typically peaks out. Solana officially went online yesterday after completing a series of tests that included charging the thermal energy storage system and demonstrating that it could produce electricity for six hours using only stored energy.
California’s three biggest utilities are sparring with their own customers about systems that store energy from the sun, opening another front in the battle that’s redefining the mission of electricity generators. Edison International (EIX), PG&E Corp. and Sempra Energy (SRE) said they’re putting up hurdles to some battery backups wired to solar panels because they can’t be certain the power flowing back to the grid from the units is actually clean energy. The dispute threatens the state’s $2 billion rooftop solar industry and indicates the depth of utilities’ concerns about consumers producing their own power. People with rooftop panels are already buying less electricity, and adding batteries takes them closer to the day they won’t need to buy from the local grid at all, said Ben Peters, a government affairs analyst at Mainstream Energy Corp., which installs solar systems. “The utilities clearly see rooftop solar as the next threat,” Peters said from his office in Sunnyvale, California. “They’re trying to limit the growth.”
The growth of wind power, if undertaken with reasonable care, should pose no risk to any particular bird species in Canada, according to a new peer-reviewed study. The study also suggests that highly publicized bird mortality figures out of the U.S. and Europe could be on the high side. “Canadian Estimate of Bird Mortality Due to Collisions and Direct Habitat Loss Associated with Wind Turbine Developments” was one of several studiesundertaken as part of special issue of the journal Avian Conservation & Ecology that focused on the impact of human activities on the mortality of birds in Canada. The researchers did find that, on average, a wind turbine in Canada results in 8.2 bird deaths per year, and they estimated that a 10-fold increase in installed wind capacity in the next 10-15 years “could lead to direct mortality of approximately 233,000 birds/year, and displacement of 57,000 pairs” resulting from habitat loss. But the researchers put those numbers in perspective: [T]hese values are likely much lower than those from collisions with some other anthropogenic sources such as windows, vehicles, or towers, or habitat loss due to many other forms of development. Species composition data suggest that < 0.2% of the population of any species is currently affected by mortality or displacement from wind turbine development. Therefore, population level impacts are unlikely, provided that highly sensitive or rare habitats, as well as concentration areas for species at risk, are avoided.
What do Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have in common? Apart from being very, very rich, it is a growing interest in battery storage and other “smart” technologies that will redefine the way our electricity grid operates – hopefully to the benefit of the consumer. Gates has built up a collection of energy storage investments – including Aquion Energy, Ambri, and LightSail - and Buffett is a major investor in Chinese electric car and battery developer BYD, soon to unveil a home battery storage solution in Australia. Last week, Gates and well-known cleantech investor Vinod Khosla last week bought into Varentec, a US company that is developing “smart” technology that will link storage devices and renewables, and lead to what Khosla describes as “cost-effective, intelligent, decentralized power grid solutions.” Energy storage, as described by investment bank Citi in its new “Energy Darwinism” report, is likely to be the next solar boom. Citi says the main driver of this investment will not be just to make renewables cost competitive, because they already are in many markets – but for the need to balance supply and demand. This, in turn, will make solar and other renewables even more attractive. It may even mean the end to the domination of centralised utilities, as storage will allow the industry to split into centralised backup (based around the old rate-of-return regulated utilities model) and much smaller “localised” utilities that harness distributed generation such as solar and storage.
The two bottlenecks inhibiting further use of renewable energy systems are cost and the fact that the sun doesn’t always shine or the wind blow-in one word, storage. While mass production of components such as solar photovoltaic cells means that their price has been dropping, the issue of storing and releasing electricity generated by renewable sources during their down times has led engineers worldwide to tackle the problem. Large-scale, low-cost energy storage is needed to improve the reliability, resiliency, and efficiency of next-generation power grids. Energy storage can reduce power fluctuations, enhance system flexibility, and enable the storage and dispatch of electricity generated by variable renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and water power. Now one technology seems sufficiently promising that it is receiving funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability Energy Storage Program. What is this promising new technology? Isothermal compressed air energy storage (ICAES) refers to storage of compressed air at a constant temperature, which is a key element in the improved energy efficiency of the system. SustainX has completed construction of its first utility scale ICAES system. It was hooked up to the grid earlier this month and it’s now in the process of revving up to speed. The DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability’s Energy Storage Program underwrote $5,396,023 of the system’s cost.
The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.
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When you have the combination of high energy density and thin and flexible form factor, you can apply this solar material to anything with a battery that moves, can be carried, or worn.
The Plan is a comprehensive response to the rapid changes in the power sector coming from new technologies, consumer demand and policy. Siting new renewables and the associated infrastructure is a key part of that transition.
Combined with the aging infrastructure of the power grid and political pressure to reduce both nuclear and coal-fired generation, grid-scale storage is now recognized as a critical technology for the future of the world electricity supply.
Recently, reductions in solar electric (PV) costs and maturation of air-to-water heat pump technology have provided a new model: solar-electric assisted heat pump water heating (HPWH).
The most significant engineering challenges facing desert solar are windblown sand, lack of water and transmission lines. Aside from the physical logistics, political resistance also hinders the development of desert solar.
Using a specialized wake model, 3TIER is able to help clients take into account the impact of external wakes on the final net energy numbers they must take to their project stakeholders and financing partners.
For most energy and utility companies, success will be achieved through transforming the utility network, improving generation performance, and transforming customer operations - via big data analytics.
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