Wind Turbine Bird Threat Overstated, Study Suggests

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.

Why the hot money is chasing energy storage

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.

U.S. Dept. of Energy Supports New Renewable Energy Storage System

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.

Solar Decathlon 2013

The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

Solar Power International 2013 News Report

News and Announcements from SPI13. Exhibitors are welcome to publish their company news here.

Solar Powered Unmanned Vehicles

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.

Policy Blueprint for a Renewable Energy Future: America's Power Plan

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.

Zinc Redox Flow Battery Technology

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.

Solar Hot Water: Which is better, PV or Thermal?

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).

Can the Challenges of Desert Solar be Overcome?

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.

Solving Turbine Wake Issues in Dense Development Areas

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.

Critical thinking for innovation at the World Energy Congress 2013

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.

China to offer tax breaks to solar power manufacturers

China's Ministry of Finance announced it will offer tax breaks to manufacturers of solar power products on Sunday, as China moves to support an industry still struggling to deal with massive overcapacity and weak demand. The ministry said in a short statement on its website that producers of solar power products will receive immediate refunds of 50 percent of value-added taxes. The National Development and Reform Commission provided subsidies for solar power stations in late August. "China's bloated photovoltaic industry still faces a grim outlook as many companies are deeply mired in debts," said a report on the official Xinhua news service discussing the announcement. It cited data from the China Renewable Energy Society saying that the country's top 10 solar panel makers are up to 100 billion yuan ($16.34 billion) in debt, with a debt to asset ratio above 70 percent on average. Beijing has said it wants to consolidate the industry, but the sector continues to enjoy protection at the central and local level; the latter is particularly strong because solar power companies are frequently major employers.

Solar power to overtake wind for the first time

Solar power capacity is set to overtake wind for the first time this year, as a slowdown in the world’s two largest wind markets, China and the U.S., clear the way for a growing solar market, according to a report released Thursday. Clean energy news and data provider Bloomberg  New Energy Finance forecast new onshore and offshore wind farms to add 33.8 gigawatts and 1.7 gigawatts, respectively, to global power markets. That compares with an estimated 36.7 gigawatts of new photovoltaic, or PV, capacity, the first year in which solar power will add more megawatts than wind. “The dramatic cost reductions in PV, combined with new incentive regimes in Japan and China, are making possible further, strong growth in volumes,” said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Europe is a declining market, because many countries there are rapidly moving away from incentives, but it will continue to see new PV capacity added.” Wind may be down but not out. Wind installations will shrink by nearly 25% in 2013 to their lowest level since 2008, due to the slowdowns in the U.S. and China caused by policy uncertainty, BNEF said.

Solar Power From Giant Mirrors Flows Into California's Grid

BrightSource Energy’s massive solar farm in a remote corner of California delivered its first flow of power to the grid, an important step for demonstrating that the project is on the final path to become a fully operating power plant, the company said Tuesday. BrightSource achieved what is called the “first sync” with the project,Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, where for the first time the steam was sent to one of its three turbines for generating electricity and synching to the grid. Ivanpah is the first commercial power plant project in the United States for BrightSource, which owns a stake in the project along with NRG Energy and Google. The project also is one of the massive solar power projects being built in California to enable the state to meet its goal of using an increasing amount of renewable electricity. The state’s mandate requires 33% of its utilities power supplies to come from renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass by 2020. The project has a 392-megawatt capacity but is set to deliver 377 megawatts to the Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison . It’s sized to deliver enough power to about 140,000 homes per year. Ivanpah is made up of three power generation stations. The “first sync” milestone took place at Unit 1, and the same step will be done at Unit 2 and Unit 3 soon. Unit 2 and Unit 3 are scheduled to start delivering electricity to the grid by the end of the year.

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