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amor de cosmos
Oct 8, 2013, 4:50 PM
Solar must supply 25% of global energy by 2030, scientists say
By Alex Kirby on 8 October 2013
Inside Climate News

LONDON – Hard on the heels of the latest UN report on climate change, two UK scientists have proposed an ambitious plan to tackle the problem it graphically describes.

Their solution? A massive and urgent international program to increase the world’s production of solar energy – to 10 percent of total global energy supply by 2025, and to 25 percent by 2030.

The scientists, David King and Richard Layard, say their proposal – which they call a Sunpower Program – should within little more than a decade be producing solar electricity which costs less than fossil fuel power.

They write in the online Observer: “The Sun sends energy to the earth equal to about 5,000 times our total energy needs. It is inconceivable that we cannot collect enough of this energy for our needs, at a reasonable cost.”

Last week the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, published the first section of its Fifth Assessment Report, called AR5 for short. It said: “Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Sir David King was formerly chief scientific adviser to the UK Government, and Lord Layard is the founder-director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics.

They write: “There will always be many sources of non-carbon energy – nuclear fission, hydropower, geothermal, wind, nuclear fusion (possibly) and solar.

“But nuclear fission and hydropower have been around for many years. Nuclear is essential but faces political obstacles and there are physical limits to hydropower. Nuclear fusion remains uncertain.

“And, while wind can play a big role in the UK, in many countries its application is limited. So there is no hope of completely replacing fossil fuel without a major contribution from the power of the Sun.”

Solar Heating and Cooling Could Save U.S. $61 Billion Through 2050
Clean Edge News

As a way to help bolster the U.S. economy, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has released a comprehensive new report outlining ways to create 50,250 new American jobs and save more than $61 billion in future energy costs by expanding the use of innovative and cost-effective solar heating and cooling (SHC) systems across the nation.

Prepared by BEAM Engineering, a Boston-based consulting firm which focuses on energy system design and implementation, this new, first-of-its-kind report provides a roadmap for dramatically increasing SHC capacity in the U.S. from 9 gigawatts (GW) thermal to 300 GW thermal by 2050 through the installation of 100 million new SHC solar panels nationwide. Thermal energy is typically measured in terms of British Thermal Units (BTUs) but can also be converted to watts.

Today, approximately 44 percent of American energy consumption is attributable to heating and cooling. According to projections by BEAM Engineering, ramping up the installation of SHC systems across America would allow the U.S. to generate nearly 8 percent of its total heating and cooling needs through clean, affordable solar energy. SHC is the most efficient renewable technology for generating thermal heat and costs are as low as 6 cents per kilowatt (kWh) hour.

Oct 11, 2013, 10:35 AM
The Us Solar Decathlon is currently being held at Great Park in Irvine, CA. I've attended the two previous decathlons and a friend if mine from college competed in this. If you're in Southern California, I strongly encourage you to check this event out. Here is the link: http://www.solardecathlon.gov/ .

amor de cosmos
Oct 11, 2013, 9:59 PM
Researchers find rust can power up artificial photosynthesis
Boston College chemists produce power boost critical to novel energy harvesting applications

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (Oct. 11, 2013) – Chemists at Boston College have achieved a series of breakthroughs in their efforts to develop an economical means of harnessing artificial photosynthesis by narrowing the voltage gap between the two crucial processes of oxidation and reduction, according to their latest research, published this week in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

The team reports it has come within two-tenths of the photovoltage required to mimic oxidation and reduction respectively using unique photoanodes and photocathodes the team developed using novel nanowire components and coatings. Narrowing the gap using economical chemical components, the group moves researchers closer to using the man-made reaction for unique applications such as solar energy harvesting and storage.

"Many researchers have been trying to harvest solar energy and directly store it in chemical bonds," said lead author Dunwei Wang, an associate professor of chemistry at Boston College. "Solar panels can harvest energy, but economical storage has remained elusive. We are trying to borrow a page from Mother Nature whereby photosynthesis produces energy from the sun and stores it."

But copying Mother Nature is a tall order and this particular quest "requires materials that can absorb sunlight broadly, transfer the energy to excited charges at high efficiencies and catalyze specific reduction and oxidation reactions," the team writes in the article "Hematite-Based Water Splitting with Low Turn-on Voltage."

Natural photosynthesis consists of two important processes. Oxidation produces oxygen gas. Reduction produces organic molecules. Wang said artificial photosynthesis, also known as water splitting, tries to copy these two reactions using a photoanode to oxidize water and a photocathode to either reduce water for hydrogen production or to reduce carbon dioxide for organic molecules.

amor de cosmos
Oct 17, 2013, 3:07 PM
Canadian Solar commences construction on Canada's largest PV project
17. October 2013 | Markets & Trends, Investor news, Global PV markets, Applications & Installations | By: Ian Clover

The 100 MW Grand Renewable Solar Project in Ontario is being developed by Samsung Renewable Energy and is expected to be operational by 2015.

Canadian Solar’s subsidiary, Canadian Solar Solutions Inc., has this week begun construction on a 100 MW utility-scale solar power plant in Ontario, Canada.

The Grand Renewable Solar Project is the largest PV project in Canada, and has received the financial backing of Connor Clark & Lunn Infrastructure, and the development expertise of Samsung Renewable Energy Inc.

Canadian Solar were awarded the contract to provide full EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) services in June – an agreement that is expected to generate revenues of $301.1 million (USD).

Scientists develop heat-resistant materials that could vastly improve solar cell efficiency

Scientists have created a heat-resistant thermal emitter that could significantly improve the efficiency of solar cells. The novel component is designed to convert heat from the sun into infrared light, which can than be absorbed by solar cells to make electricity – a technology known as thermophotovoltaics. Unlike earlier prototypes that fell apart at temperatures below 2200 degrees Fahrenheit (1200 degrees Celsius), the new thermal emitter remains stable at temperatures as high as 2500 F (1400 C).

"This is a record performance in terms of thermal stability and a major advance for the field of thermophotovoltaics," said Shanhui Fan, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University. Fan and his colleagues at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign (Illinois) and North Carolina State University collaborated on the project. Their results are published in the October 16 edition of the journal Nature Communications.

A typical solar cell has a silicon semiconductor that absorbs sunlight directly and converts it into electrical energy. But silicon semiconductors only respond to infrared light. Higher-energy light waves, including most of the visible light spectrum, are wasted as heat, while lower-energy waves simply pass through the solar panel.

Solar panels can be used to provide heating and air conditioning

The use of solar panels to produce toilets hot water is standard practice, but researchers at the Madrid Universities Carlos III and Politécnica suggest that they may also be used to provide large offices with heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. Their proposal involves the incorporation of solar collectors into a gas-based cogeneration system with an absorption machine, which would reduce both energy expenditure and CO2 emissions.

SINC | October 15 2013 11:00

They may still be few, but a number of shopping centres and major stations, such as Atocha Train Station in Madrid, house trigeneration systems responsable for the production of electricity, cool air and heat. A gas engine generates electricity and, in winter, the residual heat produced is used directly for the heating circuit whilst in summer, this heat powers an absorption machine which cools the water used to provide air conditioning.

Now engineers from the Madrid Universities Carlos III (UC3M) and Politécnica (UPM) have designed a model which makes the best possible use of this system in order to allow maximum reductions in energy expediture and CO2 emissions. Furthermore, the model’s ability to accommodate solar collectors is a feature new to the field. The system, the details of which appear in the journal Applied Thermal Engineering, has been designed for large office blocks.

amor de cosmos
Oct 18, 2013, 6:45 PM
Maths study of photosynthesis clears the path to developing new super-crops
by Simon Levey 17 October 2013

How some plant species evolved super-efficient photosynthesis had been a mystery. Now, scientists have identified what steps led to that change.

Around three per cent of all plants use an advanced form of photosynthesis, which allows them to capture more carbon dioxide, use less water, and grow more rapidly. Overall this makes them over 50% more efficient than plants that use the less efficient form.

A new study has traced back the evolutionary paths of all the plants that use advanced photosynthesis, including maize, sugar cane and millet, to find out how they evolved the same ability independently, despite not being directly related to one another.

Using a mathematical analysis, the authors uncovered a number of tiny changes in the plants' physiology that, when combined, allow them to grow more quickly; using a third as much water as other plants; and capture around thirteen times more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

amor de cosmos
Oct 21, 2013, 4:18 PM
Cleaner and greener cities with integrated transparent solar cells
High power conversion of new solar cells that are thin, flexible, and transparent makes them ideal for a wealth of new applications

Imagine buildings in which the windows allow the sun's light to enter, and at the same time capture the energy from the sun needed to meet all their energy needs. In this seemingly futuristic scenario, the windows become productive solar cells that help us decrease our reliance on fossil fuels and advance towards a greener and cleaner environment. In a recent study carried out at ICFO, researchers have fabricated an optimal organic solar cell with a high level of transparency and a high power conversion efficiency, a promising step forward towards affordable, clean, more widely utilized and urban integrated renewable energies. The results of this study have just been published in Nature Photonics.

Today's commercial solar panels are, for the most part, composed of wafer-based crystalline silicon solar cells which are quite efficient in converting solar radiation into electrical power (approximately 15% conversion efficiency), but with several important obstacles standing in the way of maximum exploitation. To begin, they must be precisely oriented to receive direct sunlight and even then are limited in their ability to absorb diffused light. In addition, they are heavy, opaque, and take up a great deal of space.

amor de cosmos
Oct 23, 2013, 4:20 PM
NTU scientists make breakthrough solar technology
Published on: 21-Oct-2013

In the near future, solar panels will not only be more efficient but also a lot cheaper and affordable for everyone, thanks to research by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) scientists.

This next generation solar cell, made from organic-inorganic hybrid perovskite materials, is about five times cheaper than current thin-film solar cells, due to a simpler solution-based manufacturing process.

Perovskite is known to be a remarkable solar cell material as it can convert up to 15 per cent of sunlight to electricity, close to the efficiency of the current solar cells, but scientists did not know why or how, until now.

In a paper published last Friday (18 Oct) in the world’s most prestigious academic journal, Science, NTU’s interdisciplinary research team was the first in the world to explain this phenomenon.

Predicting the life expectancy of solar modules
Research News Oct 01, 2013

Solar modules are exposed to many environmental influences that cause material to fatigue over the years. Researchers have developed a procedure to calculate effects of these influences over the long term. This allows reliable lifespan predictions.

People who invest in their own solar panels for the roof would like as a rule to profit from them over the long term – but how long will this technology actually last for? While most manufacturers guarantee a lifetime of up to 25 years to their customers, the manufacturers themselves cannot make reliable predictions about the expected operating life. The modules must fulfill certain standards, of course, to be approved for operation. This involves exposing them in various trials to high temperatures and high mechanical loading. “However, the results only predict something about the robustness of a brand-new sample with respect to extreme, short-term loading. In contrast, agerelated effects that only appear over the course of time, such as material fatigue, are pertinent for the actual operating life,” explains Alexander Fromm from the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg.

Low-Priced Plastic Photovoltaics
Article in "The Journal of Chemical Physics" Describes New Approach to Making Cheaper, More Efficient Solar Panels
Released: 10/22/2013 11:05 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: American Institute of Physics (AIP)
more news from this source

Newswise — WASHINGTON, D.C. Oct. 22, 2013 -- Photovoltaic devices, which tap the power of the sun and convert it to electricity, offer a green -- and potentially unlimited -- alternative to fossil fuel use. So why haven’t solar technologies been more widely adopted?

Quite simply, "they’re too expensive," says Ji-Seon Kim, a senior lecturer in experimental solid-state physics at Imperial College London, who, along with her colleagues, has come up with a technology that might help bring the prices down.

The scientists describe their new approach to making cheaper, more efficient solar panels in a paper in The Journal of Chemical Physics, produced by AIP Publishing.

"To collect a lot of sunlight you need to cover a large area in solar panels, which is very expensive for traditional inorganic -- usually silicon -- photovoltaics," explains Kim. The high costs arise because traditional panels must be made from high purity crystals that require high temperatures and vacuum conditions to manufacture.

Amping Up Solar in the Snowy North
Released: 10/22/2013 10:25 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: Michigan Technological University
more news from this source

Newswise — Solar farms are a no-brainer in warm and sunny places, but what about in northern climes where snow can cover and even shut down the panels?

Michigan Technological University’s Keweenaw Research Center (KRC) is now part of a two-year study that will help answer that question. The aims are to gauge how snow affects solar panels’ power generation and determine the best ways to overcome any losses.

The international engineering firm DNV GL, which specializes in large energy- and sustainability-related projects, has built an array of solar photovoltaic panels behind KRC, each set at a different angle, from 0 degrees (flat) to 45 degrees. “If you tilt them at 60 degrees, almost no snow sticks to the panels, but you also lose a lot of sunlight when they are not facing the sky,” said Tim Townsend, a principal engineer for solar services with DNV GL.

Oct 23, 2013, 5:52 PM
Tiny 'LEGO brick' -style studs make solar panels a quarter more efficient
by Simon Levey
18 October 2013

In new research, scientists have demonstrated that the efficiency of all solar panel designs could be improved by up to 22 per cent by covering their surface with aluminium studs that bend and trap light inside the absorbing layer.



Loss mitigation in plasmonic solar cells: aluminium nanoparticles for broadband photocurrent enhancements in GaAs photodiodes (http://www.nature.com/srep/2013/131007/srep02874/full/srep02874.html)

amor de cosmos
Oct 25, 2013, 9:56 PM
ASU, Georgia Tech Create Breakthrough for Solar Cell Efficiency
New atomic layer-by-layer InGaN technology offers perfect crystal
Released: 10/25/2013 2:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Newswise — Did you know that crystals form the basis for the penetrating icy blue glare of car headlights and could be fundamental to the future in solar energy technology?

Crystals are at the heart of diodes. Not the kind you might find in quartz, formed naturally, but manufactured to form alloys, such as indium gallium nitride or InGaN. This alloy forms the light emitting region of LEDs, for illumination in the visible range, and of laser diodes (LDs) in the blue-UV range.

Research into making better crystals, with high crystalline quality, light emission efficiency and luminosity, is also at the heart of studies being done at Arizona State University by Research Scientist Alec Fischer and Doctoral Candidate Yong Wei in Professor Fernando Ponce’s group in the Department of Physics.

In an article recently published in the journal Applied Physics Letters, the ASU group, in collaboration with a scientific team led by Professor Alan Doolittle at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has just revealed the fundamental aspect of a new approach to growing InGaN crystals for diodes, which promises to move photovoltaic solar cell technology toward record-breaking efficiencies.

Scientists' new approach improves efficiency of solar cells
Posted on 24 October 2013

An international team of scientists, led by researchers from the Universities of York and St Andrews, has developed a new method to increase the efficiency of solar cells.

The new approach achieves highly efficient broad-band light trapping in thin films, with more light captured in the film in order to maximise absorption and electricity generation.

The research, which is reported in Nature Communications, also involved scientists from Sun Yat-sen University and the GuangDong Polytechnic Normal University, China, and IMEC (Interuniversity MicroElectronics Center), Leuven, Belgium.

The new method builds on research into a class of materials known as quasi-crystals, which offer advantages in terms of the spectrum of light they are able to capture. However, the problem with these structures is that their properties are difficult to tailor towards specific applications as they lack the design tools available with periodic structures such as regular gratings.

To solve this problem, the researchers created a new structure called a quasi-random structure, which combines the rich spatial frequencies associated with quasi-crystals with the high level of control afforded by periodic structures.

amor de cosmos
Nov 6, 2013, 7:00 PM
The Next Big Thing in the Energy Sector: Photovoltaic Generated DC Electricity
by Rajendra Singh

Energy consumption continues to grow. The costs of generation and transmission of energy must come down for the increased consumption to be sustainable. Energy must be generated without depleting resources, without causing pollution, and without incurring waste. Transmission of energy too must be efficient. These ideal goals, when realized, would enrich lives, regardless of economic distinction.

A viable solution is the onsite generation of electricity using the photovoltaic (PV) method of converting solar energy directly into electrical energy. The PV method uses semiconductor devices called solar cells. With constant reduction of the cost, this method is the most promising direct current (DC) power source for rich and poor globally. Due to the availability of solar energy all over the world, PV generation is not hostage to the usual geo-political constraints. Thus, it can power an energy revolution just like the information revolution powered by the internet continues to shape our world today.

Prof. Singh says that “the creation of local DC power grids can save power being lost in the transmission and unnecessary conversion from DC to alternating current (AC) and then back to DC.” Most electronic appliances and electric loads operate on DC and by transmitting and converting AC power to DC about 30% of the total power generated is lost. Today, PV electricity generation and distribution on a DC microgrid is the best way to power villages without access to electricity. It is also the best option to replace aging power generation and transmission infrastructure in USA and other developed countries.

amor de cosmos
Nov 7, 2013, 7:49 PM
Big beats bolster solar cell efficiency
Playing pop and rock music improves the perfomance of solar cells, according to new research from scientists at Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College London.
Wednesday 6 November 2013

The high frequencies and pitch found in pop and rock music cause vibrations that enhanced energy generation in solar cells containing a cluster of ‘nanorods’, leading to a 40 per cent increase in efficiency of the solar cells.

The study has implications for improving energy generation from sunlight, particularly for the development of new, lower cost, printed solar cells.

The researchers grew billions of tiny rods (nanorods) made from zinc oxide, then covered them with an active polymer to form a device that converts sunlight into electricity.

Using the special properties of the zinc oxide material, the team was able to show that sound levels as low as 75 decibels (equivalent to a typical roadside noise or a printer in an office) could significantly improve the solar cell performance.

“After investigating systems for converting vibrations into electricity this is a really exciting development that shows a similar set of physical properties can also enhance the performance of a photovoltaic,” said Dr Steve Dunn, Reader in Nanoscale Materials from Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Materials Science and co-author of the paper.

amor de cosmos
Nov 9, 2013, 5:24 PM
New Solar Cell Is More Efficient, Less Costly
November 8, 2013

American innovators still have some cards to play when it comes to squeezing more efficiency and lower costs out of silicon, the workhorse of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules worldwide.

A recent breakthrough — the product of a partnership between manufacturer TetraSun and the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) — could spark U.S. solar manufacturing when the approach hits the assembly line next year. The innovative design, simple architecture, and elegant process flow for fabricating the cells make the technology a prime candidate for large-scale production.

Solar industry leader First Solar acquired TetraSun in April 2013, about the time R&D Magazine honored TetraSun and NREL with one of its coveted R&D 100 Awards for the year's top innovations.

Potentially Disruptive Technology Attracted Attention of PV Incubator Program

Typically, silicon PV cell manufacturers add a grid of thin silver lines to the cell via a screen-printing process to form the front contacts.

The TetraSun cell instead loads 50-micron-wide copper electrodes on its front contacts in a way that prevents diffusion of the metal—which can degrade performance. The new process exceeds the performance of traditional heterojunction cells without the need of any special equipment, complicated module assembly, or costly transparent conductive oxides. That adds up to a significant cost advantage when it comes to high-volume manufacturing.

"It's a potentially disruptive technology, and that's why we decided to work with TetraSun," said NREL's Martha Symko-Davies, who headed the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative PV Incubator program when TetraSun received a grant from it back in 2010. "The Incubator program supports potentially disruptive innovations from small startups.

"This shows we still have innovation in the United States. People thought there was nothing left to be done in silicon, but there is something left to be done."

amor de cosmos
Nov 10, 2013, 5:18 PM
Key Processes of Photosynthesis Simulated on the Quantum Level
Press Release No. 252/2013
8 November 2013

Physicists discover new properties of energy transport in experiments on “atomic giants”

By realising an artificial quantum system, physicists at Heidelberg University have simulated key processes of photosynthesis on a quantum level with high spatial and temporal resolution. In their experiment with Rydberg atoms the team of Prof. Dr. Matthias Weidemüller and Dr. Shannon Whitlock discovered new properties of energy transport. This work is an important step towards answering the question of how quantum physics can contribute to the efficiency of energy conversion in synthetic systems, for example in photovoltaics. The new discoveries, which were made at the Center for Quantum Dynamics and the Institute for Physics of Heidelberg University, have now been published in the journal “Science”.

In their research, Prof. Weidemüller and his team begin with the question of how the energy of light can be efficiently collected and converted elsewhere into a different form, e.g. into chemical or electric energy. Nature has found an especially efficient way to accomplish this in photosynthesis. Light energy is initially absorbed in light-harvesting complexes – an array of membrane proteins – and then transported to a molecular reaction centre by means of structures called nanoantennae; in the reaction centre the light is subsequently transformed into chemical energy. “This process is nearly 100 per cent efficient. Despite intensive research we’re still at a loss to understand which mechanisms are responsible for this surprisingly high efficiency,” says Prof. Weidemüller. Based on the latest research, scientists assume that quantum effects like entanglement, where spatially separated objects influence one another, play an important role.

amor de cosmos
Nov 13, 2013, 5:08 PM
Penn and Drexel Team Demonstrates New Paradigm for Solar Cell Construction
Media Contact:Evan Lerner
November 11, 2013

For solar panels, wringing every drop of energy from as many photons as possible is imperative. This goal has sent chemistry, materials science and electronic engineering researchers on a quest to boost the energy-absorption efficiency of photovoltaic devices, but existing techniques are now running up against limits set by the laws of physics.

Now, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University have experimentally demonstrated a new paradigm for solar cell construction which may ultimately make them less expensive, easier to manufacture and more efficient at harvesting energy from the sun.

amor de cosmos
Nov 14, 2013, 7:24 PM
How to Manage ‘Creative Destruction’ Caused by Solar in Power Markets
The Energy Gang speaks with FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff about regulation in a distributed energy world.
Stephen Lacey
November 13, 2013

What does the nation's top energy regulator, FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, think about the future of solar?

"I think we're seeing the Moore's law cost curve, together with entrepreneurial spirit, coming into an industry in a way that is going to overtake a monopolistic, non-innovative structure."

This week, we feature a live podcast from the MDV-SEIA Solar Focus 2013 conference in Washington, D.C. The Energy Gang took the stage and discussed the merits of East Coast solar policy and innovative business strategies, and chatted with Chairman Wellinghoff about the "creative destruction" caused by distributed generation.

Solar cells utilize thermal radiation
Research News Nov 04, 2013

Thermal radiation from the sun is largely lost on most silicon solar cells. Up-converters transform the infrared radiation into usable light, however. Researchers have now for the first time successfully adapted this effect for use in generating power.

There is more to solar radiation than meets the eye: sun- burn develops from unseen UV radiation, while we sense infrared radiation as heat on our skin, though invisible to us. Solar cells also ‘see’ only a portion of solar radiation: ap- proximately 20 percent of the energy contained in the solar spectrum is unavailable to cells made of silicon – they are unable to utilize a part of the infrared radiation, the short-wavelength IR radiation, for generating power.

Researchers of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg, together with their colleagues at the University of Bern, Switzerland, and the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, have now for the first time made a portion of this radiation usable with the assistance of a practical up-converter. The technology that transforms infra- red into usable light has been known about since the 1960s. However, it has only been investigated in connection with solar cells since 1996. “We have been able to adapt both the solar cells and the up-converter so as to obtain the biggest improvement in efficiency so far,” reports Stefan Fischer happily, a scientist at ISE. The potential is big: silicon solar cells theoretically convert about thirty percent of sunlight falling upon them into electrical power. Up-converters could increase this portion to a level of forty percent.

amor de cosmos
Nov 18, 2013, 3:29 PM
Two for one in solar power
A process that could revolutionise solar energy harvesting has been efficiently demonstrated in solution for the first time.
18 Nov 2013

Solar cells offer the opportunity to harvest abundant, renewable energy. Although the highest energy light occurs in the ultraviolet and visible spectrum, most solar energy is in the infrared.

There is a trade-off in harvesting this light, so that solar cells are efficient in the infrared but waste much of the energy available from the more energetic photons in the visible part of the spectrum.

When a photon is absorbed it creates a single electronic excitation that is then separated into an electron and a positively charged hole, irrespective of the light energy. One way to improve efficiency is to split energy available from visible photons into two, which leads to a doubling of the current in the solar cell.

Researchers in Cambridge and Mons have investigated the process in which the initial electronic excitation can split into a pair of half-energy excitations. This can happen in certain organic molecules when the quantum mechanical effect of electron spin sets the initial spin ‘singlet’ state to be double the energy of the alternative spin ‘triplet’ arrangement.

Solarbuzz: PV polysilicon and wafer costs set to drop to record low
By Ben Willis | 18 November 2013, 11:49

Manufacturing costs for tier one integrated polysilicon and PV wafer makers are set to hit a record low of US$0.20 per watt in 2014, according to analysis by NPD Solarbuzz.

The market research firm said that although the predicted 6% fall in costs next year will not equal the average 16% decrease they have seen annually since 2008, a hugely competitive market will continue to spur manufacturers to drive down costs.

“Wafer costs are only a third of what they were five years ago, and even though the rapid pace of cost reduction is starting to decline, the severe oversupply and extremely low selling prices are forcing polysilicon and wafer makers to continue to find ways to lower costs to previously assumed impossible levels,” said Charles Annis, vice president at NPD Solarbuzz.

amor de cosmos
Nov 20, 2013, 6:08 PM
Stanford Report, November 20, 2013
Stanford study could lead to paradigm shift in organic solar cell research
A new study by Stanford scientists overturns a widely held explanation for how organic photovoltaics turn sunlight into electricity.
By Mark Shwartz

Organic solar cells have long been touted as lightweight, low-cost alternatives to rigid solar panels made of silicon. Dramatic improvements in the efficiency of organic photovoltaics have been made in recent years, yet the fundamental question of how these devices convert sunlight into electricity is still hotly debated.

Now a Stanford University research team is weighing in on the controversy. Their findings, published in the Nov. 17 issue of the journal Nature Materials, indicate that the predominant working theory is incorrect, and could steer future efforts to design materials that boost the performance of organic cells.

"We know that organic photovoltaics are very good," said study coauthor Michael McGehee, a professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford. "The question is, why are they so good? The answer is controversial."

amor de cosmos
Nov 28, 2013, 5:20 PM
Life on the Edge – Mathematical Insights Yield Better Solar Cells
Mathematics, Renewable Energy

Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of attending the Third Annual Mitacs Awards ceremony in Ottawa. These awards recognize the outstanding R&D innovation achievements of the interns supported by the various Mitacs programs—Accelerate, Elevate and Globalink. This year, I was particularly inspired by the story of the winner of the undergraduate award category, a Globalink intern from Nanjing University in China named Liang Feng. The Globalink program invites top-ranked undergraduate students from around the world to engage in four month research internships at universities across Canada. Liang Feng spent this summer in the lab of Professor Jacob Krich of the University of Ottawa Physics Department studying Intermediate Band (IB) photovoltaics, a technology that is being used to design the next generation of solar cells.

Modern solar cells are based on silicon and other semiconductor materials and have been around for nearly 60 years. The first practical device, the “solar battery”, was invented in Bell Labs in 1954 and achieved 6% efficiency in converting incident sunlight into electricity. By 1961, it was determined that the “theoretical limit” for solar cell efficiency based on p-n semiconductors is 33.7%. As with many theoretical limits, creative scientists have found ways to break the rules, and the best solar cells today use multilayer structures and exotic materials to achieve more than 44% efficiency in converting sunlight into electricity.

amor de cosmos
Dec 4, 2013, 10:17 PM
Energy News
Colored Plastic Doubles Solar Cell Power
Using plastic to absorb light could lower the cost of solar power.
By Kevin Bullis on December 3, 2013

A thin sheet of dyed plastic could cut the cost of solar power, particularly for applications that require solar cells to be highly efficient and flexible.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are using the plastic to gather sunlight and concentrate it onto a solar cell made of gallium arsenide in an experimental setup. Doing so doubled the power output of the cells.

So far, the researchers have shown that the approach works with a single solar cell, but they plan to make larger sheets of plastic dotted with arrays of many tiny solar cells. The approach could either let a smaller solar panel produce more electricity, or make a panel cheaper by reducing the amount of photovoltaic material needed.

“It’s lower cost compared to what you would have to do to get the same efficiency by completely coating the surface with active solar material,” says John Rogers, professor of materials science and engineering and chemistry at the University of Illinois. The work was presented at the Materials Research Society conference in Boston this week.

Solar expected to be cost-competitive with natural gas by 2025
03. December 2013 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Ian Clover

Lux Research predicts that far from being outshone by cheap natural gas, solar power will actually benefit from increased gas penetration and achieve cost parity by 2025.

Analysts at Lux Research have published a report that predicts solar power will be cost-competitive with natural gas by 2025.

The report – titled Cheap Natural Gas: Fracturing Dreams of a Solar Future – also reveals that unsubsidized, utility-scale solar electricity may even benefit from an abundance of cheap natural gas, enabling hybrid gas/solar technology to blossom and increase the rate of renewable energy penetration without the need for expensive infrastructural upgrades.

After analyzing 10 global regions, Lux Research found that utility-scale solar energy is likely to close the gap of the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) with combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) to just $0.02/kWh by 2025.

The forecast was made based on a predicted 39% fall in utility-scale PV system costs by 2030, increasing solar’s competitiveness in a time when anti-fracking sentiment in Europe and high capital costs in South America will begin to hinder shale gas production.

Solar systems are predicted to fall to just $1.20/W, with utility-scale thin film enjoying something of a boom as module efficiencies increase and system capex expands. Meanwhile, the analysts predict, electricity prices from natural gas will likely top $7.60/MMBtu by 2025, leading to greater cost-competitiveness for solar.

amor de cosmos
Dec 5, 2013, 6:56 PM
Right-wing lawmakers gunning for US solar users
05. December 2013 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Edgar Meza

A group of right-wing lawmakers is looking to curb states' efforts to expand solar PV and thwart the Obama administration's clean energy.

Conservative forces in the United States are putting PV consumers in the crosshairs, according to an article in the U.K newspaper The Guardian on Wednesday.

The paper reports that an alliance of corporations and conservative activists is mobilizing to penalize homeowners who install their own solar panels in what the article says is "a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy."

Some 800 U.S. state legislators that make up the politically conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are gathering this week for the organization's State & Nation Policy Summit. The council's agenda has taken aim at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has played a key role in implementing the Obama administration's Climate Action Plan, which includes significant investments in clean energy technology and energy efficiency, carbon pollution standards for power plants and global partnerships to reduce deforestation and advance low emission development.

ALEC, however, sees the EPA as a menace, saying on its website that the agency "has started waging war on the American standard of living. During the past few years, the agency has undertaken the most expansive regulatory assault in history on the production and distribution of affordable and reliable energy."

The conservative group blasts the EPA for regulations that "are causing the shutdown of power plants across the nation, forcing electricity generation off of coal, destroying jobs, raising energy costs, and decreasing reliability."

Citing policy documents published by the group, The Guardian reports that the council will promote legislation over the coming year that would penalize homeowners, weaken state clean energy regulations and block the EPA.

Specifically, the group is looking to hinder state government efforts to promote the expansion of solar and wind power through regulations, known as Renewable Portfolio Standards. Among the proposed bills is the "Electricity Freedom Act," which would repeal states' requirement that utilities provide a certain amount of their electricity supplies from renewable energy sources.

New Solar Cell Material Acts as a Laser As Well
4 December 2013 3:45 pm

BOSTON—The hottest new material in solar cell research has another trick up its sleeve. At the Materials Research Society meeting here, two groups reported yesterday that these new electricity-generating materials can produce laser light. Because the materials—called perovskites—are cheap and easy to produce, they could help engineers create a wide variety of cheap lasers that shine a variety of colors for use in speeding data flows in the telecommunications industry.

Lasers have long been at the heart of modern telecommunications because their intense light beams can be chopped up to represent digital currency’s 1s and 0s and can travel through optical cables at light speed. But making new lasers can be a bear. Researchers must find materials that, when fed electrons, will generate light at a single wavelength. That usually requires growing materials with near-perfect crystalline quality, as defects usually gobble up the electrical charges, the photons of light, or both. Growing such high-quality materials normally requires using high temperatures, expensive equipment, and other costly steps. Making the best solar cell materials requires similarly expensive setups. Perovskites have burst onto the solar scene over the last couple of years because it turns out they form near-perfect complex crystalline structures by simply depositing them from ready-made solutions at low temperatures. But were they good enough to make lasers, an even more demanding application?

At the meeting, two groups reported that, in fact, they are. The first, led by Edward Sargent, an electrical engineer at the University of Toronto in Canada, started by simply blasting a perovskite film with a beam of ultraviolet light. The scientists found that light reemerged from the film at a tight range of frequencies in the infrared portion of the spectrum. That was a hint that perovskites could make a good laser material. But it wasn’t a laser yet. To make a laser, researchers must create a structure that bounces light back and forth. In the right material, that shuttling light stimulates a cascade of additional photons to emerge all at a single frequency. So Sargent and his colleagues crafted their perovskites into spheres that prompt light to bounce around inside and found that it emerged as infrared laser light. Meanwhile, Henry Snaith, a physicist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, reported that when his team sandwiched a perovskite film in between laser mirrors known as Bragg reflectors, it, too, produced infrared laser light when first hit with laser light of a shorter wavelength.

Canada's Infrastructure Investment Opens New Opportunity
Published on 4 December 2013

As Canada enjoys a $350 billion “infrastructure supercycle” over the next five years, the Ontario Clean Technology Alliance – a collective of regional and municipal economic development organizations across Ontario – is attending Pollutec Horizons 2013 in Paris. The Alliance is inviting clean technology investments from around the world while shining a light on an $80 million win from Swiss-based ABB, a leading power and automation technology group, and its Ontario consortium partner Bondfield Construction.

The two partners have won an order from Canadian Solar Solutions to supply a 100-megawatt (MW) turnkey photovoltaic (PV) solar project for the Grand Renewable Energy Park in Ontario. The project is in turn part of a $5 billion investment by Samsung Renewable Energy and partners to create a green energy cluster of wind and solar power, sources with the capacity to generate 1369MW of renewable energy. The first of these developments includes a 100 MW photovoltaic (PV) power plant and a 150MW wind farm. Canadian Solar Solutions is the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for the plant.

Nolan also points to the Province of Ontario’s visionary Green Energy Act of 2009 that helped ignite significant growth in the production of clean and renewable energy. Since 2009, the Act has created over 20,000 jobs, is on track to create 50,000 jobs and has sparked an estimated $27 billion in private-sector investment. Ontario’s clean technology sector also offers a world-leading, highly educated talent base, a low-risk business environment, and generous targeted tax credits to global companies seeking growth.

amor de cosmos
Dec 9, 2013, 6:38 PM
Home / Press / Press releases / 2013 / PR 9.12.13
Solar cell degradation observed directly for the first time
X-ray examination shows structural changes in "plastics" solar cells

Hamburg, 9 December 2013. With the help of DESY’s X-ray light source PETRA III, researchers of Technische Universität München have, for the first time, watched organic solar cells degrade in real time. This work could open new approaches to increasing the stability of this highly promising type of solar cell. The team headed by Prof. Peter Müller-Buschbaum from the Technische Universität München (Technical University of Munich) present their observations in this week's issue of the scientific journal Advanced Materials (Nr. 46, 10 December).

Organic solar cells, especially those based on polymers are inexpensive to produce on a large scale. Thanks to their physical flexibility, they can open up new applications of photovoltaics not possible today. Moreover, they can convert light into electricity at an efficiency of more than ten per cent and could contribute significantly to a large-scale power supply based on renewable sources. However, the efficiency of organic cells still rapidly declines and they have a shorter service life than conventional silicon cells.

At the P03 measuring station of DESY’s light source PETRA III, scientists have made the first live observations of the degradation of organic solar cells in operation. To do this, they lit a sample polymer solar cell using a solar simulator, which emits light that matches the spectrum and intensity of sunlight and recorded the electrical characteristics of the cell over time. At intervals ranging from several minutes to as much as one hour, the researchers also looked inside the solar cell using the sharply focused X-ray beam from PETRA III. In this way they were able to watch how the interior structure of the active layer of the solar cell changed in the course of seven hours, while the efficiency of the cell decreased by around 25 per cent.

Crowdfunding project makes you a solar investor for $25
A.K. Streeter
Energy / Renewable Energy
December 9, 2013

In the last few years peer to peer lending and crowdfunding have blossomed. While it's great to crowdfund the latest cool product that lets you cut down on using plastic or turns your regular bike into e-bike, it's infinitely cooler to crowdfund the shift to renewable energy.

Mosaic calls itself an online marketplace for solar. Basically the company provides debt financing to solar projects and lets individual and institutional investors buy shares in a project until it is funded. When projects are complete, the company sells power to a solar customer via a long-term contract, and shares returns of approximately 4.4 - 6.36% with its investors. Investment capital is paid back along with the interest over a 5 - 10 year period.

Now Mosaic wants to take that concept to larger number of potential investors with a new incentive - the company will give new investors $25 once they make their first investment (minimum investments are $25).

Once a new user sets up a Mosaic account and finds a qualified project to invest in, Mosaic will add $25 to the amount invested.

amor de cosmos
Dec 10, 2013, 6:26 PM
US solar industry enjoying ‘record-shattering year’ with 5GW installed
By Andy Colthorpe - 10 December 2013, 10:49
In News, Power Generation, Market Watch

The third quarter of this year was second only to the final quarter of last year for newly installed PV generating capacity in the US, according to a report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

According to GTM Research vice president Shayle Kann, solar is the second largest source of new electricity capacity in the US in 2013, behind only natural gas. GTM and SEIA have jointly published 'US Solar Market Insight 3rd Quarter 2013', which analyses the US solar power market.

In total, the report claims that 930MW was installed during the quarter, a 20% jump on the previous quarter, with over 400,000 solar power installations in place throughout the country by the end of this year. Blended average system prices for PV fell to a new low of US$3/w, a drop of 4.2% on the previous quarter.

Not only did the third quarter of 2013 represent the second largest quarter in the history of the US PV industry, it was also the largest quarter ever for residential installations in the country, with over 186MW of domestic installations during the period. The rapid growth in domestic solar was driven by the increasing economic attractiveness of PV along with fair net-metering policies, according to the report. Year-on-year, domestic installations leaped 45%.

US to Surpass Germany in Solar in 2013; 930 MW Installed in Q3
The second-best quarter for U.S. solar—and the best quarter for U.S. residential solar.
Mike Munsell
December 9, 2013

GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA®) today released U.S. Solar Market Insight Q3 2013, the definitive analysis of solar power markets in the U.S., with strategic state-specific data for 28 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

The U.S. installed 930 megawatts of photovoltaics (PV) in Q3, 2013, up 20 percent over Q2 2013 and 35 percent over Q3 2012. This represents the second-largest quarter in the history of the U.S. market and the largest quarter ever for residential PV installations. Even more importantly, 2013 is likely to be the first time in more than fifteen years that the U.S. installs more solar capacity than world leader Germany, according to GTM Research forecasts.



amor de cosmos
Dec 11, 2013, 4:48 PM
Is Solar Mainstream Yet? These 4 Factors May Provide an Answer
“When I consider this checklist, we’re pretty close.”
Stephen Lacey
December 10, 2013

Shayle Kann, GTM’s vice president of research, outlined four of those indicators at this morning’s Solar Market Insight conference. (The data can also be found in GTM Research's newest report on the U.S. market, released today.) When considering this broader range of factors, Kann concluded that the industry is “pretty close” to becoming a mainstream energy source.

Here’s Kann’s mainstream solar checklist.

1. Primary source of new electricity capacity: check

In 2012, solar was the fourth-largest source of new capacity in the U.S. This year, it is the second largest, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency.

"This year will be the first year that there will probably be more solar in the U.S. than in Germany," said Kann. "The U.S. market was slower [than Germany] and still has a long way to go, but is strong and consistently growing overall."

2. Cost-competitive without fickle incentives: half check

There's no doubt that the solar industry is still dependent on state-level incentive programs, many of which foster boom-bust cycles. More than 80 percent of solar installations are concentrated in five states, not because the fundamentals there are necessarily the best, but because "those are the states that have the right incentives in place," said Kann.

"As long as that's the case, it's going to be hard to check that off the list," he said.

3. Solar taken seriously by the electricity industry: check

This year marked a noticeable change in the way utilities, regulators and analysts are talking about the impact of distributed generation on the grid. This spring, the Edison Electric Institute issued a report warning that utilities could face serious financial losses as more customers invest in solar and efficiency. The report sparked a more serious look at the "utility death spiral" that is already underway in Germany.

"If you look at the conversations that have taken place, I think it’s clear that something fundamental has changed in the collective mindset of U.S. utilities. They are taking solar seriously, and that’s both a good and bad thing for the industry," said Kann.

4. Solar must be bankable: check

In order for solar to be mainstream, it must be treated as such by investors. The increased interest in solar on Wall Street is another positive sign.

According to GTM Research, residential solar finance grew from $1.2 billion in 2012 to $2.3 billion this year. And as new forms of securitization and yield co models pop up to help leverage retail investment in projects, new sources of capital continue to flow into the industry.

"Solar projects have to be a mainstream source of investment, and 2013 has been big year in this progression," said Kann. "We've seen some big precedent-setting events."

What Happens When the Price of Energy Falls to Zero?
Germany’s energy market isn’t functioning the way it used to.
RenewEconomy, Giles Parkinson
December 10, 2013

One of the big questions about scenarios for 100 percent renewable energy production is how to structure the energy market. We now know that having electricity supplied to a major economy entirely by renewable energy sources is possible, and most likely no more expensive than building new fossil-fuel generation.

What we don’t know is how to structure the energy market so it provides the right incentives. If the marginal cost of solar and wind energy is close to zero (because there is no fuel cost), then the energy price in a 100 percent wind and solar market is going to be zero -- at least in the current market structure. But who would invest?

This is one of the major questions being put to regulators and policymakers around the world, but the country most in the firing line is Germany, one of the world’s most successful industrial nations.

It’s not that Germany is about to arrive at 100 percent renewables any time soon. But the penetration of renewables (now above 25 percent) is getting to the point where the current energy market, based around the cost of fuels, is no longer functioning as it used to. And by the time the country gets to 40 percent by 2020, and close to 60 percent soon after 2030, this will be a critical issue.



amor de cosmos
Dec 12, 2013, 5:39 PM
NREL: Soft Costs Now Largest Piece Of Solar Installation Costs

Two reports published by the US Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) show that soft costs — such as financing and other non-hardware costs — now make up the largest section of solar installation costs, coming in at 64% of the total price for residential solar energy systems.

The two reports – ”Benchmarking Non-Hardware Balance-of-System (Soft) Costs for U.S. Photovoltaic Systems, Using a Bottom-up Approach and Installer Survey – Second EditionPDF” and ”Financing, Overhead, and Profit: An In-depth Discussion of Costs Associated with Third-party Financing of Residential and Commercial Photovoltaic SystemsPDF” — combine to show just how soft costs are becoming an increasingly more important part of solar installations.

“The two new reports, along with previous reports, provide a comprehensive look at the full cost of installing solar, while delineating and quantifying the various contributors to that final cost,” NREL analyst Barry Friedman said.

The first report showed that in the first half of 2012 soft costs represented the majority of all costs — 64% of the total price for a residential system, up from 50% as identified in a previous report conducted in 2012, and similarly high percentages for small and larger commercial installations.

A new material for solar panels could make them cheaper, more efficient
By Tona Kunz • December 11, 2013

ARGONNE, Ill. – A unique solar panel design made with a new ceramic material points the way to potentially providing sustainable power cheaper, more efficiently, and requiring less manufacturing time. It also reaches a four-decade-old goal of discovering a bulk photovoltaic material that can harness energy from visible and infrared light, not just ultraviolet light.

Scaling up this new design from its tablet-size prototype to a full-size solar panel would be a large step toward making solar power affordable compared with other means of producing electricity. It would also help the nation toward its goal of creating a national power grid that receives one-third of its power through wind and solar sources.

This affordable sun-powered future could be closer than we think thanks to early tests on this new material, which was developed by a team led by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. The tests were conducted, in part, at the Advanced Photon Source housed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.

The team created a new class of ceramic materials that has three main benefits. First, it can produce a solar panel that is thinner than today’s silicon-based market leaders by using one material to do the work of two. Second, it uses cheaper materials than those used in today’s high-end thin-film solar panels. Third, the material is ferroelectric, which means it can switch polarity, a key trait for exceeding the theorized energy-efficiency limits of today’s solar cell material.

amor de cosmos
Dec 13, 2013, 5:00 PM
Quantum waves at the heart of organic solar cells
12 Dec 2013

Researchers have been able to tune ‘coherence’ in organic nanostructures due to the surprise discovery of wavelike electrons in organic materials, revealing the key to generating “long-lived charges” in organic solar cells - material that could revolutionise solar energy.

By using an ultrafast camera, scientists say they have observed the very first instants following the absorption of light into artificial yet organic nanostructures and found that charges not only formed rapidly but also separated very quickly over long distances - phenomena that occur due to the wavelike nature of electrons which are governed by fundamental laws of quantum mechanics.

This result surprised scientists as such phenomena were believed to be limited to "perfect" - and expensive - inorganic structures; rather than the soft, flexible organic material believed by many to be the key to cheap, 'roll-to-roll' solar cells that could be printed at room temperatures - a very different world from the traditional but costly processing of current silicon technologies.

The study, published today in the journal Science, sheds new light on the mystery mechanism that allows positive and negative charges to be separated efficiently - a critical question that continues to puzzle scientists - and takes researchers a step closer to effectively mimicking the highly efficient ability to harvest sunlight and convert into energy, namely photosynthesis, which the natural world evolved over the course of millennia.

"This is a very surprising result. Such quantum phenomena are usually confined to perfect crystals of inorganic semiconductors, and one does not expect to see such effects in organic molecules - which are very disordered and tend to resemble a plate of cooked spaghetti rather than a crystal," said Dr Simon Gélinas, from Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory, who led the research with colleagues from Cambridge as well as the University of California in Santa Barbara.

At Long Last: This Is One Of The Most Important Issues Facing Solar
December 12, 2013 Frank Andorka : 0 Comments

What a concept: The U.S. government has finally recognized how important bringing down manufacturing costs is to moving the solar industry forward — and they’re putting their money where their mouths are.

Building on the Energy Department’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue U.S. leadership in clean energy innovation, the Department today announced over $13 million for five projects to strengthen domestic solar manufacturing and speed commercialization of efficient, affordable photovoltaic and concentrating solar power technologies. As part of the Department’s SunShot Initiative, these awards will help lower the cost of solar electricity, support a growing U.S. solar workforce and increase U.S. competitiveness in the global clean energy market.

“The strong, continued growth in the U.S. solar industry over the past few years is giving more and more Americans access to affordable clean energy,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “We have a tremendous opportunity for American manufacturing to lead the global clean energy market and help pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.”

amor de cosmos
Dec 14, 2013, 6:39 PM
Graph of the Day: The world’s top 10 solar countries
By Lindsay Wilson on 14 December 2013

In 2012 solar power produced just 0.5% of global electricity. It’s only a speck compared to coal (42%), natural gas (21%), hydro (15%) and nuclear (12%).

But solar is a startup. And market share is the wrong way to judge a startup. The fact that the iPhone had no market share in 2007 is cold comfort to Nokia shareholders today.

Now I’m not sure as to how big solar is going to be, but the last five years have made me a lot more optimistic than I used to be.

Just look at it go!

Press Release 161/2013
POPUP – Novel Organic Solar Cells
KIT Scientists Participate in New Research Project on Organic Photovoltaics – Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) Provides Funding of EUR 8 Million

Future solar cells will be light and mechanically flexible. They will be produced at low costs with the help of printing processes. POPUP, the new BMBF-funded research project, aims at developing more efficient materials and new architectures for organic photovoltaic devices. An interdisciplinary team headed by Dr. Alexander Colsmann of the KIT Light Technology Institute (LTI) works on improving the basic understanding and developing new architectures for semitransparent and non-transparent solar cells and modules.

Ten leading universities, research institutions, and companies in various areas are involved in the project “Development of New Materials and Device Structures for Competitive Mass Production Methods and Applications of Organic Photovoltaics” (POPUP). The project is coordinated by the pharmaceutical and chemical company of Merck. The total budget of the three year project is EUR 16 million. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funds EUR 8.2 million, the remainder is borne by the companies involved in the project. For its contribution to the research project, KIT is granted funding in the amount of EUR 1 million.

POPUP is to leverage organic photovoltaics. For this purpose, the consortium intends to develop more efficient and more stable materials for low-cost, industrially applicable printing and coating methods as well as new architectures for flexible and rigid, semitransparent and non-transparent solar modules. The tasks of KIT in this project comprise developing in-depth understanding and studying new component architectures for semi-transparent and non-transparent solar cells and modules in close collaboration with the industry partners.

amor de cosmos
Dec 16, 2013, 4:24 PM
India $11.7 Billion Solar Plan Needs Lenders: World Bank
16 December 2013

Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) — India needs to spur commercial banks to lend more to clean-energy projects to meet a goal of raising solar-power capacity sixfold by 2017, the World Bank said.

The absence of such project finance is a hurdle to raising the $11.7 billion of investment needed for the mission to add 10 gigawatts of solar, according to a bank report.

“It is inconceivable for the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission to scale up to the levels envisaged under subsequent phases without the active participation of scheduled commercial banks,” the lender said in the Dec. 12 report.

India’s 2,080 megawatts of installed capacity was mostly funded by export credit agencies and lenders such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank’s International Finance Corp. The country, a growth market for equipment suppliers such as First Solar Inc. and Canadian Solar Inc., last year tripled annual installations to 956 megawatts of photovoltaic capacity.

US energy department continues funding support for domestic PV manufacturers
By Mark Osborne - 13 December 2013, 15:26
In News, Fab & Facilities, Cell Processing, PV Modules

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is making a US$13 million investment in five separate projects designed to improve manufacturing competitiveness in the domestic solar industry.

Having taken over the mantle from NREL, the DOE's SunShot Initiative is increasingly the focus of attention on supporting US manufacturing companies in the sector.

The latest round of project funding is matched by over US$14 million in private cost share.

Researchers Split Water into Hydrogen, Oxygen Using Light, Nanoparticles
Technology Potentially Could Create a Clean, Renewable Source of Energy
By Jeannie Kever
December 16, 2013

Researchers from the University of Houston have found a catalyst that can quickly generate hydrogen from water using sunlight, potentially creating a clean and renewable source of energy.

Their research, published online Sunday in Nature Nanotechnology, involved the use of cobalt oxide nanoparticles to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Jiming Bao, lead author of the paper and an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UH, said the research discovered a new photocatalyst and demonstrated the potential of nanotechnology in engineering a material’s property, although more work remains to be done.

Bao said photocatalytic water-splitting experiments have been tried since the 1970s, but this was the first to use cobalt oxide and the first to use neutral water under visible light at a high energy conversion efficiency without co-catalysts or sacrificial chemicals. The project involved researchers from UH, along with those from Sam Houston State University, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Texas State University, Carl Zeiss Microscopy LLC, and Sichuan University.

The experiment has potential as a source of renewable fuel, but at a solar-to-hydrogen efficiency rate of around 5 percent, the conversion rate is still too low to be commercially viable. Bao suggested a more feasible efficiency rate would be about 10 percent, meaning that 10 percent of the incident solar energy will be converted to hydrogen chemical energy by the process.

Other issues remain to be resolved, as well, including reducing costs and extending the lifespan of cobalt oxide nanoparticles, which the researchers found became deactivated after about an hour of reaction.

amor de cosmos
Dec 17, 2013, 7:24 PM
Mongolia's Nomads Modernize Traditional Tent Homes with Solar Panels
by Nicole Jewell, 12/17/13

With 250 days of sunshine a year, Mongolia’s potential for solar energy is vast but mostly underutilized. That’s beginning to change though – a new government sponsored initiative aims to equip traditional dome-like homes called gers (tents made of felt and yak’s wool) with portable solar home systems (SHS) to make life a little easier in the northern highlands. So far, almost 70 percent of nomadic people now have access to electricity thanks to newly installed solar panels.



The Most Important Solar Statistics of 2013
Add these numbers together and what do you get? Another big year for solar PV.
Stephen Lacey
December 17, 2013

This year was the first time someone could use the words "solar" and "mainstream" in the same sentence and be taken seriously.

It's still too early to call solar PV a truly mainstream energy technology, but as GTM Research VP Shayle Kann recently pointed out, it's getting close. And there a lot of factors to consider other than how it stacks up in today's generation mix compared to legacy resources.

We've compiled a list of some of the best solar statistics of 2013 that demonstrate how far the technology has come -- as well as how far it still needs to go.

4 minutes

In 2006, U.S. solar installers were putting up a system every 80 minutes. This year, according to GTM Research, they installed a system every four minutes. By 2016, there could be a solar PV system deployed in America every 80 seconds.

100 gigawatts

In 2011, the global solar industry had 50 gigawatts of capacity installed. By the end of 2012, it had surpassed 100 gigawatts -- with more regions outside Europe becoming increasingly important. By the end of 2015, global solar capacity is expected to reach more than 200 gigawatts.

2.5 years

The 100-gigawatt number was an important benchmark for solar. It took nearly 40 years to get 50 gigawatts in the ground and on rooftops. But in just 2.5 years, two-thirds of all solar PV projects were built worldwide. The same goes for distributed (non-utility) solar projects in the U.S., where two-thirds of all capacity has been deployed since 2011.

10 gigawatts

With 930 megawatts of installations in the third quarter of 2013, America has already surpassed 10 gigawatts of cumulative capacity -- joining a small club of four countries that have reached the milestone. And for the first time in fifteen years, the U.S. will likely install more solar PV than Germany when 2013 comes to a close.

51 percent

The solar market is still dependent on state-level subsidy programs. However, California is witnessing a significant change as it phases out solar incentives for residential projects. According to GTM Research, 51 percent of residential PV systems were installed with no help from the California Solar Initiative -- a trend that GTM's Shayle Kann calls "the beginning of a monumental shift in solar in the U.S."

$0.70 per kilowatt

Although reliance on state subsidy programs may be starting to ease, net metering is still the backbone of solar promotion in the U.S. This year brought a number of key fights over net metering, as utilities worried that solar customers aren't paying the full cost of maintaining the grid. This fall, the Arizona Corporation Commission agreed to a compromise in order to preserve net metering, charging solar owners $0.70 per kilowatt a month. Industry onlookers are now wondering if this will set a precedent for other states.

$0.36 per watt

Since 2010, top Chinese firms dropped multicrystalline solar module costs by 54 percent. And according to GTM Research Senior Analyst Shyam Mehta, leading Chinese manufacturers are on a path to producing solar modules for $0.36 per watt by 2017. But rather than rely on price crashes for materials as they did in the past, Chinese firms will increasingly need to focus on refining technologies and automating plants to reduce labor costs.

59 percent

Twice this year, Germany's wind and solar installations provided 59 percent of power in the middle of the day, while also providing more than a third of generation throughout the entire day. On one occasion in October, solar peaked at 20.5 gigawatts of capacity and wind reached 16.6 gigawatts, with both providing more than 436 gigawatt-hours of electricity. That forced 23 gigawatts of conventional power plants to ramp down. And as GTM Editor Eric Wesoff pointed out, the grid did not explode.


That's how much Germany's second-biggest utility, RWE, has lost in value over the last three years, according to The Economist. With renewables taking center stage in Germany, they are creating steep drops in wholesale prices and forcing large fossil fuel plants to sit idle. Rather than sit on its hands, RWE has finally embraced this new reality, announcing this fall that it would become "a project enabler and operator, and a system integrator of renewables" based on a "prosumer" business model.

64 percent

The non-hardware costs of a residential solar installation now account for nearly two-thirds of the total system cost, according to new data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. That's up from 50 percent in 2011. Those costs include labor, supply chain logistics, permitting and customer acquisition.

$1 billion

If the U.S. solar industry is going to hit the 362,000 installations in 2016 forecast by GTM Research, it will spend more than $1 billion to get the customer leads needed. That amounts to $0.49 per watt, or about 10 percent of the total cost of an installation. In order to address this expense, which is growing more important as technology costs improve, leading solar companies are developing new project management tools, crafting new sales strategies and buying up lead generation companies. As a result, GTM Research's Nicole Litvak sees customer acquisition as one of the most innovative areas of solar in the U.S.

25 percent

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, only one-quarter of residential and commercial rooftops in America are suitable for solar. That creates a big opportunity for crowdsourced and community solar, two models that are gaining traction in the country. Clean Energy Collective, a Colorado-based community solar developer, suggests that shared solar could more than triple customer access to PV in the U.S. But with only 50 megawatts of community and crowdsourced solar installed, it will take a lot of regulatory and policy change to unlock that market potential.

amor de cosmos
Dec 18, 2013, 3:51 AM
Small Size Enhances Charge Transfer in Quantum Dots
Single-particle study identifies possible path to improved conversion of sunlight to electricity in photovoltaic devices
By Karen McNulty Walsh | December 16, 2013

Quantum dots—tiny semiconductor crystals with diameters measured in billionths of a meter—have enormous potential for applications that make use of their ability to absorb or emit light and/or electric charges. Examples include more vividly colored light-emitting diodes (LEDs), photovoltaic solar cells, nanoscale transistors, and biosensors. But because these applications have differing—sometimes opposite—requirements, finding ways to control the dots’ optical and electronic properties is crucial to their success.

In a study just published in the journal Chemical Communications, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, Stony Brook University, and Syracuse University show that shrinking the core of a quantum dot can enhance the ability of a surrounding polymer to extract electric charges generated in the dot by the absorption of light.

“Photovoltaic cells made of quantum dots paired with plastic materials like conductive polymers are far easier to make and less expensive than conventional silicon-based solar cells,” said Mircea Cotlet, a physical chemist at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN), who led the research team. “These kinds of materials are inexpensive, easy to synthesize, and their assembly would be relatively easy.”

The downside is that, right now, solar devices based on silicon can’t be beat in terms of efficiency. But research aimed at understanding the photovoltaic process at the nanoscale could change that.

amor de cosmos
Dec 18, 2013, 6:52 PM

betaray spherical glass solar energy generator by rawlemon

last year, german architect andré broessel of rawlemon presented designboom with his spherical glass solar energy generator concept in its early prototyping stages. developed as a stand-alone power charger station for electro-mobility, the project uses the advantageous strategy of implementing a ball lens and specific geometrical structure to improve energy efficiency by 35% when compared to existing photo-voltaic panels. by combining symmetrical and transparent spherical geometry as a concentrator lens and emitter, the unique dual axis tracking system can be fully incorporated into any building surface, improving existing efficiency and offering up to 99% transparency.

in contrast to its traditional photo-voltaic ‘dual-axis’ counterparts, the generator incorporates a fully rotational weatherproof natural optical tracking device that is adequate for functioning on inclined surfaces and curtain walls, empowering any building surface. the new solar generating concept even has the capability to concentrate diffused daylight or moonlight for a more effective site context application. on a cloudy day, the device produces 4 times more energy than a conventional PV system.


amor de cosmos
Dec 19, 2013, 6:23 PM
Phase I of 400 MW Texan solar project complete
19. December 2013 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Ian Clover

OCI Solar Power has completed the 41 MW Alamo I solar farm, which is phase I of a 400 MW project that will become the biggest PV installation in Texas once complete.

The largest U.S. state will soon boast one of the largest solar installations in the country once its ambitious 400 MW PV project is completed, with phase I – Alamo I solar farm – now in operation in the city of San Antonio.

Phase I has been completed by San Antonio-headquartered OCI Solar Power, adding the first 41 MW to a project that will propel Texas into the upper echelons of solar-producing states once completed. CPS Energy will manage the plant, which will generate clean solar energy for 6,600 local homes, mitigating some 57,000 tons of carbon dioxide – the equivalent of removing 9,500 cars from the roads of Greater San Antonio.

More widely, the 400 MW project is a result of the largest-ever economic development agreement between a private company and a municipal utility, and is expected to plow more than $700 million into the local economy, creating 800 permanent jobs in service and manufacturing in the process.

For CPS Energy’s CEO Doyle Beneby, the deal is a chance for Texans to drastically alter their own carbon footprint. "By 2020, 65% of our community’s electricity will come from resources that are low- or no-carbon emitting – reducing emissions in an amount that’s equal to removing more than a million cars from local roads," he said. "Reducing pollutants in the air we breathe is a no-brainer, and we’ve been pleased to partner with OCI Solar Power in our efforts to make that happen."

The 13 major clean energy breakthroughs of 2013
By Jeff Spross on 19 December 2013

1. Using salt to keep producing solar power even when the sun goes down. Helped along by the Department of Energy’s loan program, Solana’s massive 280 megawatt (MW) solar plant came online in Arizona this October, with one unique distinction: the plant will use a ‘salt battery’ that will allow it to keep generating electricity even when the sun isn’t shining. Not only is this a first for the United States in terms of thermal energy storage, the Solana plant is also the largest in the world to use to use parabolic trough mirrors to concentrate solar energy.

4. Solar electricity hits grid parity with coal. A single solar photovoltaic (PV) cell cost $76.67 per watt back in 1977, then fell off a cliff. Bloomberg Energy Finance forecast the price would reach $0.74 per watt in 2013 and as of the first quarter of this year, they were actually selling for $0.64 per watt. That cuts down on solar’s installation costs — and since the sunlight is free, lower installation costs mean lower electricity prices. And in 2013, they hit grid parity with coal: in February, a southwestern utility, agreed to purchase electricity from a New Mexico solar project for less than the going rate for a new coal plant. Unsubsidized solar power reached grid parity in countries such as Italy and India. And solar installations have boomed worldwide and here in America, as the lower module costs have drivendown installation prices.

7. Ultra-thin solar cells that break efficiency records. Conversion efficiency is the amount of light hitting the solar cell that’s actually changed into electricity, and it’s typically 18.7 percent and 24 percent. But Alta Devices, a Silicon Valley solar manufacturer, set a new record of 30.8 percent conversion efficiency this year. Its method is more expensive, but the result is a durable and extremely thin solar cell that can generate a lot of electricity from a small surface area. That makes Alta’s cells perfect for small and portable electronic devices like smartphones and tablets, and the company is in discussions to apply them to mobile phones, smoke detectors, door alarms, computer watches, remote controls, and more.

amor de cosmos
Dec 20, 2013, 5:35 PM
Move Over, Wind? Solar Energy Market ‘Exploding’ in Iowa
“Solar growth in Iowa is where wind was in the first decade of the 2000s.”
Midwest Energy News, Karen Uhlenhuth
December 20, 2013

Iowa is well established as a national leader in wind energy and biofuels. Now the state is poised for serious growth in solar as well.

“The market is exploding in Iowa,” says Tim Dwight, a former Iowa Hawkeye and NFL star who has become one of his home state’s most visible solar energy advocates.

Homeowners, farmers, businesses and at least one school district in Iowa are going solar. Also, over the past year, several municipal utilities and rural electric co-ops have put up solar arrays, inviting customers to buy a share of the power generated.

“Solar growth in Iowa is where wind was in the first decade of the 2000s,” says Bill Haman of the Iowa Energy Center. “We saw an explosion in wind.”

Graphene sees the light
Sheets of carbon just one atom thick could make effective transparent electrodes in certain types of photovoltaic cells
Published online 18 December 2013

Graphene, a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon that is extremely strong and conducts electricity well, is the thinnest material ever made. Researchers believe that it could be used as a transparent electrode in photovoltaic cells, replacing a layer of indium tin oxide (ITO) that is brittle and becoming increasingly expensive.

Wee Shing Koh of the A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing in Singapore and co-workers have compared these two materials. They found that graphene outperforms ITO when used with solar cells that absorb a broad spectrum of light.

The wavelengths of light from the Sun have a range of intensities and deliver varying amounts of power. To maximize a photovoltaic device’s performance, its transparent electrode should have a low electrical resistance, while also transmitting light of the right wavelengths for the cells to absorb.

Square sheets of graphene produced by today’s chemical vapor deposition technology have an electrical resistance roughly four times that of a typical 100-nanometer-thick layer of ITO. Although adding more layers of graphene reduces its resistance, it also blocks more light. Koh and his co-workers calculated that four layers of graphene stacked together had the best chance of matching ITO’s performance.

Graphene has one key advantage over ITO: it allows more than 97% of light to pass through to the solar cell beneath, regardless of its wavelength. In contrast, ITO tends to block certain wavelengths more than others. Four-layer graphene is slightly more transparent at near-infrared wavelengths than ITO is, for example.

amor de cosmos
Dec 21, 2013, 6:20 PM
Producing electricity on the Moon at night
Scientists from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and other international collaborators have proposed a system of mirrors, processed lunar soil and a heat engine to provide energy to vehicles and crew during the lunar night. This would preclude the need for batteries and nuclear power sources such as those used by the Chinese rover that recently landed on the moon.
SINC | December 18 2013 09:55

The lunar night lasts approximately 14 days, during which temperatures as low as -150 ºC have been recorded. This complicates vehicle movement and equipment functioning on the lunar surface, requiring the transport of heavy batteries from Earth or the use of nuclear energy, as exemplified by the Chinese rover Yutu.

Now, a team of researchers from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, along with collaborators from the USA, have studied two options for storing energy on the Moon during the day for use at night. The details have been published in the journal ‘Acta Astronautica’, in an article featuring the participation of former NASA administrator, Michael Griffin.

“The first system consists of modifying fragments of regolith or lunar soil, incorporating elements such as aluminium, for example, such that it becomes a thermal mass,” Ricard Gonzalez-Cinca, a physics researcher at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and co-author of the study, explains to SINC.

“When the Sun’s rays hit the surface, a system of mirrors reflects the light to heat the thermal mass, which later,” he adds, “can transmit heat during the night to rovers and other lunar equipment”.

amor de cosmos
Dec 23, 2013, 6:51 PM
Hyundai installs South Korea's largest rooftop PV installation
23. December 2013 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Ian Clover

The car giant has installed 40,000 solar panels on top of its production plant in the city of Asan. The installation will generation 11.5 million kWh of solar power a year.

South Korea's largest car maker, Hyundai, has this week installed the country’s largest rooftop PV installation – a 40,000 panel, 11.5 million kWh per year solar ceiling atop its production plant in Asan, a city some 95 kilometers south of the capital, Seoul.

Spread across 213,000m² and covering 68% of the ceiling space, the installation will be capable of producing enough clean PV energy to power 3,200 local households annually, delivering enough clean electricity to mitigate 5,600 tons of carbon emissions a year.

amor de cosmos
Dec 29, 2013, 6:49 PM
Researchers design a new catalyst to produce hydrogen from water and sunlight
The research results, published in 'Scientific Reports', open the door to renewable hydrogen production, essential if the gas is to become the energy carrier of the future.

Researchers at the Institute of Energy Technology (INTE) of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya· BarcelonaTech (UPC), the University of Auckland (New Zealand), and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia) have developed a system to produce hydrogen from water and sunlight in a way that is clean, renewable and more cost-effective than other methods. The scientists behind the project have fused the optical properties of three-dimensional photonic crystals (inverse opals of titanium dioxide, TiO2) and 2-3 nm gold nanoparticles to develop a highly active catalyst powder. The research paper has been published in Scientific Reports, the open-access journal of Nature.

This new photocatalyst produces more hydrogen than others developed so far by harnessing the properties of both photonic crystals and nanoparticles of a metal. According to Jordi Llorca, a researcher at the UPC’s Institute of Energy Technology, the process involves “tuning” the two materials to amplify the effect. “You have to choose the right photonic crystal and the right nanoparticles", he adds.

In any photocatalyst made from gold nanoparticles and titanium dioxide crystals using ultraviolet light, which is only a small part of solar radiation (less than 3%), the process is the same: light excites the TiO2 electrons and promotes them to the conduction band, leaving holes on the other side. The electrons interact with the gold nanoparticles and are captured by them. According to the scientists, the novelty in this case is the use of a 3D photonic crystal that captures the visible part of the solar spectrum, precisely at the energy level at which the gold nanoparticles “resonate”. As a result, it’s possible to take advantage of the visible part of the solar spectrum rather than just the ultraviolet part. This translates into a significant boost in the performance of the process.

The new catalyst has great potential for application in industrial processes. According to researcher Jordi Llorca, making the move from the laboratory to an industrial plant would mean designing a reactor to operate outdoors in the sun, and using a solar collector to capture more sunlight.

On Rooftops, a Rival for Utilities
Published: July 26, 2013

For years, power companies have watched warily as solar panels have sprouted across the nation’s rooftops. Now, in almost panicked tones, they are fighting hard to slow the spread.

Alarmed by what they say has become an existential threat to their business, utility companies are moving to roll back government incentives aimed at promoting solar energy and other renewable sources of power. At stake, the companies say, is nothing less than the future of the American electricity industry.

According to the Energy Information Administration, rooftop solar electricity — the economics of which often depend on government incentives and mandates — accounts for less than a quarter of 1 percent of the nation’s power generation.

And yet, to hear executives tell it, such power sources could ultimately threaten traditional utilities’ ability to maintain the nation’s grid.

“We did not get in front of this disruption,” Clark Gellings, a fellow at the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit arm of the industry, said during a panel discussion at the annual utility convention last month. “It may be too late.”

Advocates of renewable energy — not least solar industry executives who stand to get rich from the transformation — say such statements are wildly overblown. For now, they say, the government needs to help make the economics of renewable power work for ordinary Americans. Without incentives, the young industry might wither — and with it, their own potential profits.

Utilities in California have appealed to lawmakers and regulators to reduce the credits and limit the number of people who can participate. It has been an uphill fight.

About a year ago, the utilities pushed regulators to keep the amount of rooftop solar that would qualify for the net metering program at a low level; instead, regulators effectively raised it. Still, the utilities won a concession from the Legislature, which ordered the California Public Utilities Commission to conduct a study to determine the costs and benefits of rooftop solar to both customers and the power grid with an eye toward retooling the policy.

Edward Randolph, director of the commission’s energy division, said that the study, due in the fall, was a step toward figuring out how to make the economics work for customers who want to install solar systems as well as for the nonsolar customers and the utilities. The commission wants to ensure, he said, that, “we aren’t creating a system that 15 years from now has the utility going, ‘We don’t have customers anymore but we still have an obligation to provide a distribution system — how do we do that?’ ”

amor de cosmos
Dec 30, 2013, 5:14 PM
India’s Uttar Pradesh Signs Contracts for Solar Plants
30 December 2013

Dec. 30 (Bloomberg) — Moser Baer India Ltd., a solar manufacturer based in New Delhi, won a contract to sell power from a proposed plant in Uttar Pradesh state, allowing it to proceed with the project.

State officials signed contracts with developers for 110 megawatts of solar power in total, Namrata Kalra, project officer at the Uttar Pradesh New and Renewable Energy Development Agency, said today. Azure Power India Pvt., a company backed by the World Bank, was also among the winners.

Uttar Pradesh in northern India is among states expanding solar generation to meet government-set targets. The country, which suffers peak-hour power shortages of as much as 25 percent in some regions, is developing large-scale renewable plants to diversify its energy mix and reduce a current-account deficit exacerbated by fuel imports.

UK energy minister to call for 4 million more solar panels
30. December 2013 | Top News, Markets & Trends, Investor news, Global PV markets | By: Ian Clover

Greg Barker is expected to announce ambitious plans to dramatically increase the U.K.'s solar capacity in the new year.

U.K. energy minister Greg Barker is expected to reveal ambitious plans in the new year for the dramatic increase in solar energy throughout the country.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the minister is lining up plans to introduce as many as four million solar panels built across government land, covering an area the size of 3,400 football pitches.

Combined, this proposed solar drive is expected to add 1 GW of solar energy to the U.K.'s total capacity, all derived from solar panels fitted on to "the government estate".

These bold targets are thought to be a personal ambition of the energy minister and not yet an officially sanctioned target for the government – a stance the Telegraph believes could set Barker at odds with many senior politicians in his party, including the Prime Minister David Cameron.

The heavyweight PV projects of 2013
By Ben Willis - 30 December 2013, 06:00
In Editors' Blog

While 2012 was arguably the year the solar mega project entered the public consciousness, with what are (for now) some of the world’s largest PV plants reaching completion, 2013 has seen its fair share of solar behemoths too.

The usual suspects such as China and the US have been leading players in the utility-scale PV market this year, with the latter expected in 2013 to double the 3GW of large-scale PV it had at the end of 2012. But some new players, notably FiT-fuelled Japan, have joined the top table, and some fresh faces, such as Ethiopia, Uganda and Uzbekistan, have revealed intentions to join solar’s large-scale club. Although not expected in the overall top 10 biggest end markets of the year, Canada and Ukraine also deserve a mention as significant players in large-scale PV, with each adding numerous new utility-scale plants this year.

Here are the biggest projects of 2013 from the world’s biggest markets.

USA: California Valley Solar Ranch, 250MW

India: Neemuch, 151MW

Germany: Templin, 128MWp

China: Jiayuguan, 100.3MW

Japan: Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant, 70MW

Greece: Sky Solar, 70MW

United Kingdom: Wymeswold Airfield, 33MW

France: Verrerie, 24MW

Italy: Borgo San Lazzaro, 13MW

Australia: Mildura Solar Demonstration Facility, 1.5MW (CPV)

Lessons You Can Learn From the Big Solar Guys. Part 1: Enter The Cloud
December 29, 2013 Frank Andorka

By Pam Cargill, Special to Solar Power World

The large solar installers and financiers get a lot of attention. They get a lot of media airtime, utilize comparatively large marketing budgets to acquire their customers, and can support diverse operational roles in the overhead of their company. And yet the top five national solar installers only comprise 36% of the market share (according to GTM Research).

If you are a small or mid-size solar installer that is part of the other 64%, what can you learn from how the big guys have set up their solar operations that you can apply to your business? This is the first part of a series on best practices in operating your solar company.

Enter The Cloud

Cloud operations are making it easier to scale and “right size” your business. They do this by effectively outsourcing the database and application layers of software to remote servers or clusters of servers and serving the interfaces up via the web.

As a small business owner, this means you won’t need to keep track of software versions and manually update dozens of software tools sometimes at great cost. Everything from accounting software to project management tools have moved to the cloud or have extended options into the cloud. It also gives you more flexibility in terms of adding and subtracting seats as your business fluctuates, a challenge in a tight margin construction-based industry as solar energy installation.

3 Fearless Predictions For Solar In 2014
December 29, 2013 Frank Andorka

By Frank Andorka, Editorial Director

2014 is nearly as fresh as newly fallen snow, filled with seemingly endless possibilities.

It’s also the time of year where people like me offer our predictions of what the solar industry will look like 12 months from now (I like to imagine my critics clipping and saving this column so they can come back to me in December and tell me what a fool I was).

It’s a rite of passage. So here are my predictions about what 2014 will look like:

1) Consolidation will continue.

The pace of consolidation, which I’ve relentlessly written about for the past two years, picked up significantly in 2013. I expect the trend to continue. I’d even go as far to say the pace will quicken again.

As I’ve written before, this is good. All industries go through it, and it will leave us stronger on the other end. The faster it happens, the better.

2) The focus will shift from module prices to driving down balance of system (BOS) costs. As Paula Mints from Navigant Consulting has been preaching for the past two years, module prices have hit bottom. In 2013, they started to rise slightly again. That’s good news for the panel manufacturers, who have struggled in recent years to be profitable as the price of silicon dropped through the floor.

Now the focus will be on driving down everything else in the installation supply chain. We’re not quite at grid-parity nationwide yet, but we’re getting there.

3) The national energy policy we all crave (that has been introduced — again — in the Senate) won’t even make it out of committee. Until we get a national energy policy (like every other leading solar country in the world), we will lag behind everyone else.

Why? Because when you have 50 states making 50 separate solar policies, reliably planning projects is nearly impossible. But 2014 is another “Year Of The Midterm Elections,” which means exactly nothing will get done in Congress (then again, that was true last year, and the solar industry flourished).

amor de cosmos
Dec 31, 2013, 6:04 PM
Shipping container with rollable PV panels inside could become an instant 100kW solar plant
Derek Markham
Technology / Solar Technology
December 30, 2013

Imagine if a huge solar array could fit inside a standard shipping container, complete with inverters and a large battery bank, which could be flown or driven directly to the point of use, and then quickly deployed for off-grid power in remote locations.

That's the idea behind Renovagen's Rollarray Isogen Transportable Solar Power Plant, which could revolutionize the way power is delivered to disaster relief efforts, or to provide power to remote facilities of any kind, from military operations to scientific fieldwork.

The company's flexible and rollable PV array materials differ from other options in rollable PV, as their version is not just a single module, but an entire array, completely pre-wired and connected with built-in power cables.

The material can be rolled onto a spool for easy transport and quick deployment, and when combined with inverters and a battery bank into a standard 20ft ISO shipping container (which can take advantage of existing transportation and container-handling infrastructure), could be the future of transportable solar plants.





Boost for made-in-USA advanced PV cell manufacturing
By Finlay Colville - 30 December 2013, 16:58
In Guest Blog

Having rebranded the Nexolon America operations in San Antonio, Texas, as Mission Solar Energy, the long-awaited rebound in US-based c-Si manufacturing has just received a significant boost; something that politicians and legislators in the US have been striving for ever since the high-profile demise of Solyndra.

Following the announcements of fab build-out and orders being placed with key tool suppliers for 2014 delivery, Mission Solar Energy has recently firmed up on a substantial wafer supply agreement for 500 MW of n-type material to cover the 3 year period from June 2014 to July 2017.

In fact, Mission Solar would instantly be propelled to top-3 c-Si cell manufacturer status, joining Suniva and SolarWorld as the only US-based producers with capacity at the 200-MW plus level.

10 Predictions for Rooftop Solar Power in 2014
Cinnamon Solar prognosticates.
Barry Cinnamon
December 30, 2013

1. Net metering will win in big solar states and lose in small solar states. The efforts of SEIA, Vote Solar and others make a tremendous difference -- but the biggest factor is voters who want more solar. As such, states with a strong solar constituency (like California with almost 200,000 rooftop systems) will be most successful in passing solar-friendly policies. The lesson for the solar industry is that we need strong grassroots support coupled with effective lobbying. Happy net-metered voters are the foot soldiers who will win this war.

2. Nothing definitive will happen with the ITC in 2014, even though extending the ITC is a priority for all segments of the industry. The 30% ITC is the swing factor in states where electric rates and incentives are low. Although the ITC is not required where the economics of solar are already compelling (like HI and CA), there is no other single federal policy that is effective for both customer-owned and third-party-owned systems.

3. Public utility commissions will timidly propose changes to existing utility business models. The irresistible force of cheaper solar technology is stronger than the immovable object of a high guaranteed rate of return for utilities. I use the word “timidly” because utilities have money, political clout and legions of lawyers to effectively lobby to retain their business model.

4. The profitability of investor-owned utilities will begin an inexorable twenty-year decline. Factors such as slower growth in electricity sales, a decline in utility-owned generating capacity, higher borrowing rates, long-term customer uncertainty, inexpensive power substitutes (solar, wind), and the inevitability of cost-effective localized battery storage will apply downward pressure to utilities' stock prices. There is no good news for utilities (except EVs), and it is wishful thinking that they will act altruistically on behalf of DG solar instead of rationally on behalf of their investors.

5. Solar paperwork will get easier in some locations and tougher in others. San Jose, California is a great example of fast, over-the-counter solar permits. And PG&E has implemented procedures so that it can turn around interconnection applications in less than a week. But these victories are generally localized and temporary. Starting in 2014, San Jose will begin enforcing state fire code limits on rooftop solar that eliminate the best 30% of roof area, and PG&E is, after all, an investor-owned utility. Two steps forward, one step backward.

6. Prices for all solar equipment will continue their gradual decline. We are on track to meet GTM’s <$0.50/watt module cost target by 2016. Just because it’s nice to have consistently profitable solar manufacturers doesn’t mean we’ll achieve that goal. There will still be companies that will sell at a premium because they are “better” in some way. But since supply is still greater than demand (and supply can be ramped up relatively quickly), price premiums will not be sustainable, as other manufacturers will sell at marginal cost.

7. Customer acquisition costs will stay stubbornly high. Right now, they're on the order of $1/watt when sales-related overhead is included. Lead gen services, better software, and new prospecting tactics are unlikely to make much of a dent in these customer acquisition costs, because there are so many smart and aggressive companies with money to spend on marketing to keep their top line growing. Factors that will eventually reduce these costs are lower incentives, standardized solar equipment, better customer awareness of the costs and benefits, and more people having solar so they can refer their friends (the “diffusion” effect, which has been so successful in Germany).

8. Small solar companies will co-exist with large downstream installers. Little guys won’t go out of business, but they may go into hibernation when the air- and web-waves are blanketed with ads. Small installers will thrive because their overall operating costs are low and their service levels are high. New financing options, including bank loans and credit unions, will make it easier for local installers (as well as electricians, roofers and HVAC contractors) to compete with “no-money-down, free solar” offers.

9. New solar distributors will crop up, and old solar distributors will consolidate. The business of solar distribution will start to streamline when solar installation components become more standardized. We are not there yet; currently, the plethora of products and specifications makes it too difficult for distributors to establish well-stocked local distribution facilities. It is exactly this type of localized product availability that improves supply chain efficiencies for electricians, roofers and other contractors.

10. More focus will be directed toward mundane components like solar roof flashings, grounding, racking, job preparation and supply chains. RMI and Georgia Tech just released a terrific time-and-motion study of rooftop solar installations. Their conclusion: the biggest cost reduction opportunities are with integrated racking, and in eliminating the array of little nuts, bolts, wires, clips, pieces and parts that don’t add any functional value to the system, but still need to be assembled on the rooftop.

amor de cosmos
Jan 1, 2014, 7:43 PM
Why You Should Consider Smart Modules For Your Next Solar Project
January 1, 2014
Kathleen Zipp

In typical Silicon Valley fashion, if there is a way to make something “smarter” a team of engineers will do it. In recent years this has been an increasing trend in solar. As microinverters, and then power optimizers, gained growing acceptance in the industry the value of adding intelligence at the panel-level started to become more tangible. Companies touted the benefits of more energy, visibility and safety as key differentiators in driving down the levelized cost of solar. However, as with moving from a regular phone to a smart phone, this “smartness” comes at a cost and installers, financiers and system owners are left to figure out whether this value has a positive ROI for thetigoir project.

Companies are finding ways to add this extra level of control faster, easier and cheaper than ever before. Six years ago when panel-level electronics were first delivered to an installer, he was getting a heavy brick full of hundreds — if not thousands — of components with full DC to AC conversion along with heat and reliability nightmares. In more recent years installers have shifted ever increasingly to power optimizer architectures with fewer components and better cost structures.

Top Solar Stories Of The Year

Showing yet again how obsessive I am, via Planetsave,here are what I consider to be the top solar stories of the year. Again, I haven’t listed 10 or 20 or 30 stories, but 150. However, they are split into numerous categories, so feel free to peruse just the categories that interest you. Looking forward to an even brighter year for solar in 2014!

I just combed through nearly 1000 stories to come up with the top solar stories of the 2nd half of 2013. Beforehand, I thought I’d come up with 30 or so, but I just kept finding stories that I thought deserved some year-end highlighting. I ended up with 150, on the dot. Odd, considering that I ended up with 100, on the dot, for electric vehicles. (I swear that I didn’t manipulate at all to come up with these round numbers.) Anyway, as I realized the list was getting pretty long, I broke it up into several categories.



amor de cosmos
Jan 2, 2014, 5:52 PM
US solar stocks rising at dawn of 2014
02. January 2014 | Top News, Markets & Trends, Investor news, Industry & Suppliers, Global PV markets, Features | By: Cheryl Kaften

Industry analysts expect the positive momentum seen in the solar sector throughout 2013 to continue in the new year. The U.S. Congress' tax reform could have long-term implications for U.S. investors and industry players, however.

Following a plunge in solar industry revenues in 2012, the "prodigal sun" returned during 2013 — with prices stabilizing, margins expanding and a better balance between supply and demand. Most analysts expect the positive momentum to continue into the new year. The only question is, how much growth should we expect?

Speaking to pv magazine, Angelo Zino, research analyst at S&P Capital IQ in New York City, says he expects solar industry revenue to increase by at least 10% in 2014. "This compares to our forecast for a low-single-digit rise in 2013 and follows significant declines in 2012 and 2011."

Pavel Molchanov, research analyst at Raymond James & Associates in Houston, concurs, but says investors will have to be smart and selective to turn a substantial profit during the next 12 months. "Easy money was made in 2013. It has been a bull market, with the Fed [U.S. Federal Reserve] printing currency and the global economy doing somewhat better." Yet Molchanov said that kind of growth would be harder to achieve this year. "It’s going to be more of a 'stock picker's market' in 2014."

Georgia Power invites proposals for 500MW of utility-scale PV
By Lucy Woods - 02 January 2014, 13:01
In News

US electric utility Georgia Power has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for nearly 500MW of new utility-scale solar in the state.

Of the 500MW of capacity for which the company is inviting proposals, 70MW is to fulfil the Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative (GPASI), a purchase programme to contract 210MW solar capacity by November 2014. Another 425MW of the proposal is part of Georgia Power’s integrated resource plan.

The 500MW RFP process is to be conducted with energy consultancy, Accion Group, providing oversight and acting as independent evaluator.

Georgia Power is hosting a request for proposal bidders’ conference on 13 January and comments on the proposal will be accepted by Georgia Power until 31 January.

In July Georgia Power received approval for constructing 525MW of solar generation by 2016 after Georgia’s public service commission voted in favour of the solar development.

Brazilian state approves 123MW of solar developments in energy auction
By Lucy Woods - 02 January 2014, 11:29
In News

The Brazilian state of Pernambuco has approved 122.82MW of solar projects after hosting the country’s first solar-only tender auction.

Competing in the auction were 34 project bidders – six from Brazil along with others based in China, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The largest of this six successful tenders was won by Sowitec for a 30MW solar plant, closely followed by Sun Premier Holding Participações, which won a 29.75MW bid, and Kroma Comercializadora de Energia, which won 29.25MW. Concierge Cone S/A has been commissioned to build 22.82MW and Enel Green Power two 5MW projects.

The winning projects are to be built in Santa Maria da Boa Vista, Flores, Cabo de Santo Agostinho, Joaquim Nabucco and two in Tacaratu.

According to Pernambuco government, the solar auction attracted BRL597 million (US$253 million) in investments.

The successful bidders will be paid an average of BRL0.229 per kWh over a 20-year contract. The winning projects have to be installed within 18 months and are expected to generate thousands of construction jobs.

The governor of Pernambuco, Eduardo Campos, said: “It is vital that we make this kind of investment, which can consolidate a cluster of solar energy here. This auction points to an investment policy that values ​​solar energy and renewable energy in the country, helping the sustainable development of Brazil.”

Top 10 PV Tech news stories of 2013
By Mark Osborne - 02 January 2014, 10:40
In Editors' Blog

In total, the PV Tech website received visitors from 225 countries around the world in 2013, according to Google Analytics. Here, in reverse order, are our top 10 most-read stories of 2013.
Top 10 story review

Two heavily reported subjects throughout the year included the ongoing ‘solar shakeout’ and the EU anti-dumping case against China. However, these did not dominate in the top 10 rankings.

On a company basis, some familiar names that had appeared in previous listings emerged again but in respect to very different subjects.

10 Exclusive: Error leaves at least 16 Chinese manufacturers in EU trade limbo

The tenth most popular story in 2013 did cover the EU anti-dumping case but was actually in respect to its conclusion and subsequent issue over PV Tech’s exclusive findings that a number of Chinese module producers that had been shipping products into the EU were mysteriously missing from the official EU documents.

Over 16 companies were not listed and therefore had not been provided new customs reference numbers, effectively stopping them from importing into the EU unless they paid import duties as they would also not receive a shipment quota that had been agreed with Chinese authorities.

Strangely, since the administrative ‘error’ was covered in early August, that situation remains in limbo. Even today there is also no public information on how the shipment quota system was shared out to those originally on the list.

9 World’s largest battery storage system to be installed in Japan

A subject never appearing before in the rankings and one of the emerging developments for the PV industry, battery storage was the ninth most popular story.

The story concerned news that Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) would install the world’s largest battery system at an electrical substation in Hokkaido, which had an expected storage capacity of around 60MWh. The project would be completed in March 2015.

8 Suntech executives reportedly detained by Chinese police

In eighth place was a just one of numerous stories this year about the Suntech saga and its subsidiary entering bankruptcy in China. Part of the solar shakeout series, the story was about news reports from China that Dr. Shi, the ousted executive chairman and then current CEO, David King, had both been detained by Chinese police, a week after the news broke of Wuxi Suntech being forced into bankruptcy proceedings by a swathe of Chinese banks.

The Suntech Power Holdings saga continues today, although with the Shunfeng rescue of Wuxi Suntech, a major part of the saga has potentially been concluded.

7 Bill Gates gives boost to renewables storage

Putting Bill Gates and storage in the same headline was bound to gain people’s attention and that was exactly what happened with the seventh ranked story when PV Tech covered the news that the billionaire Microsoft founder had been an investor in a US$35 million funding round of Aquion energy, a Pittsburgh-based firm that is developing a new water-based battery system.

Since the story broke in April, Aquion has only recently announced a micro-grid technology collaboration with Siemens.

6 PV module costs to fall to 36c per watt by 2017: GTM Research

A topic that in one form or another tends to garner high traffic year-on-year relates to product pricing and cost trends. This year the sixth most popular story concerned a longer range PV module costing forecast from GTM Research.

The market research firm noted that China's tier one PV module manufacturers were on track to cut production costs to US$0.36 (cents) per watt by the end of 2017, a reduction of 14 cents from costs at the end of 2012.

The expected cost reductions were attributed to technology innovations and the increased use of automation in the manufacturing process.

With the general expectation of a technology buy cycle sometime in 2014, it will be interesting to see if the industry actually meets or even exceeds this figure before the end of 2017.

5 SunPower sold out in Q1 2013

Providing hard facts on a recovering industry and a perfect example of key players’ transition to the PVEP business model, the fifth most popular centred focused on SunPower’s first quarter financial results released in early May. A significant turnaround in its financial situation and the revelation the company was effectively sold out, a situation that is expected to continue through 2014, set the industry scenario since then.

Later in the year, SunPower continued to mirror industry developments with the announcement that it would build a new leading-edge production plant for next generation ‘Maxeon’ solar cells.

4 Fire risk fiasco as Dutch government warns over 650,000 Scheuten Solar modules

The fourth ranked story is one that the industry should never repeat. Product design issues within Scheuten Solar’s module junction box had been behind a series of rooftop fires stretching back several years. The scale of the fault was attributed to around 650,000 ‘Multisol’ modules distributed between September 2009 and October 2010, primarily across Europe.

The exclusive and in-depth feature was a collaboration between PV Tech and sister website, Solar Power Portal UK (SPP UK), reporting comments from the experts dealing with aspects of the problem.

The story was by a wide margin the most read on the SPP UK website and combined with PV Tech’s traffic was the most read story of 2013 across the Solar Media website portfolio.

Not surprisingly, the owners of Scheuten Solar were later forced to close down the company as it proved impossible to repair the damage to the reformed company’s brand image.

3 SunPower lifts lid on new record 21.5% efficient X-Series solar modules

A topic that always attracts high traffic is that of record cell/module efficiencies. In the past SunPower has received a top 10 ranking based on this topic and returns this year at number three. SunPower claimed in April that its new X-Series modules provided approximately 8 to 10% more energy per rated watt when compared with conventional crystalline-based modules and had a conversion efficiency of 21.5%.

2 Bosch shuts down solar division; total loss amounts to €2.4 billion

The second most viewed story featured another solar shakeout development, this time in regards to Bosch exiting the sector by the end of 2013. The rapid and significant price declines due to massive overcapacity in the industry, despite its own efforts to reduce production costs, were given as the key reasons for the industry exit.

The news reverberated around the world and not least in Europe, especially at a time when every European-based manufacturer was feeling the financial effects of more than two years of fierce competition from China-based rivals.

Recently some good news has meant that the production facilities and staff will be transferred to SolarWorld with the hope it will be a new start and boost to regaining its market competitiveness. The story on that development is waiting to be written.

1 First Solar to manufacture copper-based crystalline silicon solar cells

Finally, we have arrived at the most popular story on PV Tech in 2013. Normally, we get a sense of the big stories and certainly these appear in this year’s rankings but it was a surprise that the top story garnered significantly more page view traffic than even the higher ranked stories this year.

The story literarily rocked the industry when First Solar, the world’s leading thin-film manufacturer and PVEP, announced the acquisition of little-known start-up, TetraSun and would be aggressively ramping its copper-based advanced monocrystalline cell technology.

Though not a seismic shift in First Solar’s module manufacturing, as CdTe remains a central part of its business model, it could prove seismic for its tier one rivals in the future. The company is already placing equipment orders for the new venture and we should gain further insight next year, which is obviously going to be of great interest to readers.

Massive Minnesota solar project preferred over gas plants
By Joanna Foster on 2 January 2014
Climate Progress

The largest-ever proposed solar project in Minnesota received a powerful legal boost Tuesday, when administrative law judge Eric Lipman recommended Geronimo Energy’s Aurora Solar Project above five other proposals that utility Xcel Energy submitted to state regulators as part of a competitive bidding process. The other projects considered were almost exclusively for new natural gas generators.

Xcel, one of Minnesota’s biggest utilities, needs to add an additional 550 megawatts of new electricity generation by 2020 to meet predicted rising energy demands. And solar, according to Lipman, is the best deal. The Geronimo proposal is for a 100-megawatt distributed solar project, with 20-25 sites in 18 counties. Each solar park would range from 2-10 megawatts. The largest of the Geronimo solar parks would be five times bigger than the state’s largest solar array in Slayton, Minnesota.

In his report, Lipman wrote that “The Geronimo project will have numerous socioeconomic benefits, minimal impacts on the environment and best supports Minnesota’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.” He also called the Geronimo project “the most reasonable and prudent alternative to meet Xcel’s near-term needs.”

“We feel like the judge found that our proposal was effective in a number of ways,” Betsy Engelking, Vice President of Geronimo told SCTimes. “It’s “the first time that solar’s gone head-to-head with gas facilities in this sort of a proposal and has received this sort of a recommendation.”

Geronimo’s Aurora Solar Project would receive no state or utility subsidies, but would qualify for a federal investment tax credit. It is expected to cost $250 million. If approved, construction would begin in 2015.

CES 2014: Ford to introduce solar-powered hybrid car
Published on 2 January 2014

Ford Motor Company announced today the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept, a first-of-its-kind sun-powered vehicle with the potential to deliver the best of what a plug-in hybrid offers -- without depending on the electric grid for fuel.

Instead of powering its battery from an electrical outlet, Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept harnesses the power of the sun by using a special concentrator that acts like a magnifying glass, directing intense rays to solar panels on the vehicle roof.

The result is a concept vehicle that takes a day's worth of sunlight to deliver the same performance as the conventional C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, which draws its power from the electric grid. Ford C-MAX Energi gets a combined best miles per gallon equivalent in its class, with EPA-estimated 108 MPGe city and 92 MPGe highway, for a combined 100 MPGe. By using renewable power, Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is estimated to reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions a typical owner would produce by four metric tons.

C-MAX Solar Energi Concept, which will be shown at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas, is a collaborative project of Ford, SunPower Corp. and Georgia Institute of Technology.

The C-MAX Solar Energi Concept debuts as Ford caps a record year of electrified vehicle sales.

Credit Suisse: Renewables to meet 85% of US energy demand growth
By Zachary Shahan on 2 January 2014
Clean Technica

Credit Suisse on December 20 released a report with some quite bullish projections regarding renewable energy growth and generation in the United States, which someone in the solar industry kindly passed on to me. Here’s the short summary:

Our take: We see an opportunity for renewable energy to take an increasing share of total US power generation, coming in response to state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and propelled by more competitive costs against conventional generation. We can see the growth in renewables being transformative against conventional expectations with renewables meeting the vast majority of future power demand growth, weighing on market clearing power prices in competitive power markets, appreciably slowing the rate of demand growth for natural gas from the power sector, and requiring significant investment in new renewables.

What percentage of future growth does Credit Suisse say might come from renewables? About 85%.

Renewables will meet most of US demand growth. We estimate that ~85% of future demand growth for power through 2025 (including the impact of coal plant retirements) could be met by renewable generation with compliance to the existing 30 mandatory and 8 voluntary RPS programs. From this we would see over 100 GW of new renewable capacity additions with wind and solar market share more than doubling from 2012 to 2025.

Other key points are that falling wind and solar costs make them competitive with natural gas, even ignoring externalities. As a result, Credit Suisse has cut its natural gas projections considerably. “We estimate renewables slowing the rate of natural gas demand growth from power generation to <0.5 bcf/d through 2020 versus our prior estimate of 1.0-1.2 bcf/d even when taking into account planned coal plant shutdowns and assumed nuclear plant retirements.”

I think this report and the revisions implicitly highlight something very interesting that is going on in the energy industry. Renewable energy costs are primarily based on the cost of the technologies themselves, while fossil fuel costs are largely based on the fuel sources. As renewable energy grows, the technology costs come down. The opposite is true for fossil fuels. Forecasts should take this into account, but they routinely seem to underestimate renewable technology cost drops, and thus also underestimate renewable energy growth. Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, and others that are a bit better at these projections are quickly shifting their forecasts to catch up with the renewable energy revolution we’ve been seeing. This new report from Credit Suisse analysts is certainly one of the most positive I’ve seen. The title of the first section says it all: “Renewables Are Economic and Disruptive to Conventional Markets.”

Credit Suisse analysts see Renewable Energy Standards (RES) as driving much of the coming growth, but they aren’t shy about saying (repeatedly) that renewables are also now cost competitive, and that technology improvements just keep advancing their prospects.

“We think old-line arguments against renewables – too expensive, too intermittent, too remote – will continue to fade, allowing a resource base that is underappreciated in the market but is positioned to have a broad impact on power and energy markets.”

TransCanada acquires additional Ontario power plant from Canadian Solar
The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Jan. 02 2014, 8:19 AM EST

TransCanada Corp. is acquiring another solar power facility as part of the ongoing expansion of its presence in the renewable energy sector.

Calgary-based TransCanada said on Thursday it has acquired Mississippi Mills in eastern Ontario from Canadian Solar Solutions Inc. The facility is a newly built 10-megawatt installation west of Ottawa.

The deal is part of a previously announced agreement with Canadian Solar to buy a total of nine Ontario solar facilities as TransCanada expands its carbon-free portfolio while also pushing ahead with higher-profile projects such as the Keystone XL and Energy East oil pipelines.

The controversial $5.3-billion (U.S.) Keystone XL initiative to move Alberta crude to Texas refineries is still waiting for the green light from Washington.

TransCanada has already acquired from Canadian Solar the facilities known as Brockville 1, Brockville 2 and Burritts Rapids.

Total cost of the nine photovoltaic facilities – with a combined capacity of 86 megawatts, enough to power some 17,000 homes – is about $500-million.

amor de cosmos
Jan 3, 2014, 5:51 PM
Better Racking Drives Down Solar’s Soft Costs
A study from RMI reports on the results of classic time-and-motion studies of solar installation.
Herman K. Trabish
January 2, 2014

“Of the average $4.93 per watt cost of a residential rooftop solar system, over 60 percent of the total is attributable to ‘soft costs,’” according to Reducing Solar PV Soft Cost: Focus on Installation Labor, a joint report from Rocky Mountain Institute and the Georgia Tech Research Institute. “U.S. installers incur median installation costs of $0.49 per watt a composite ‘best of the best’ virtual U.S. installation that draws upon the fastest observed individual installation activities across all U.S. installations would incur installation costs of only $0.29 per watt,” the report concludes.

By comparison, the study reports, the median German installation labor cost is $0.18 per watt.

Researchers used classic time-and-motion study methods to directly observe and document costs incurred by installation labor; permitting, inspection, and interconnection; customer acquisition; financing costs; and installer-integrator margin factors.

According to the report, the biggest cuts in U.S. installation labor costs tend to stem from:

Adoption of technologies and processes that enable one-day installations
Overhauling the racking base installation process
Use of standardized systems that reduce the need for one-off engineering and design work
Innovating on all AC-related electrical activities
Eliminating several non-value-add activities typical to the U.S. installation process

[B]Net-energy metering rollbacks unlikely to impact US states in 2014
03. January 2014 | Top News, Markets & Trends, Industry & Suppliers, Global PV markets | By: Edgar Meza

Some U.S. states are looking to revamp net-energy metering programs but potential changes will not impact solar markets this year, according to research group IHS.

Despite efforts from some U.S. states to re-evaluate their net-energy metering (NEM) policies, the impact of any potential changes on the U.S. photovoltaics industry is expected to be negligible in 2014, according to market research group IHS.

"States including Arizona, Colorado and California are re-evaluating their NEM policies," said Wade Shafer, senior analyst covering North American PV at IHS. "This has spurred some concern about the development of distributed solar in the U.S., since NEM incentives are critical to supporting the customer-sited PV market."

After examining proposed changes and recent utility commission rulings, IHS determined that net metered PV project economics would not be significantly impacted in 2014, Shafer added.

IHS estimates that 85% of distributed solar PV capacity installed to date in the United States is located in states with full retail-rate NEM, according to the new IHS report US Debates Rolling Back Net Energy Metering. An estimated 70% is located in states that are reviewing their NEM policies.

Researchers Find Simple, Cheap Way to Increase Solar Cell Efficiency
Tracey Peake | News Services
Release Date: January 2, 2014
Filed under Releases

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have found an easy way to modify the molecular structure of a polymer commonly used in solar cells. Their modification can increase solar cell efficiency by more than 30 percent.

Polymer-based solar cells have two domains, consisting of an electron acceptor and an electron donor material. Excitons are the energy particles created by solar cells when light is absorbed. In order to be harnessed effectively as an energy source, excitons must be able to travel quickly to the interface of the donor and acceptor domains and retain as much of the light’s energy as possible.

One way to increase solar cell efficiency is to adjust the difference between the highest occupied molecular orbit (HOMO) of the acceptor and lowest unoccupied molecular orbit (LUMO) levels of the polymer so that the exciton can be harvested with minimal loss. One of the most common ways to accomplish this is by adding a fluorine atom to the polymer’s molecular backbone, a difficult, multi-step process that can increase the solar cell’s performance, but has considerable material fabrication costs.

A team of chemists led by Jianhui Hou from the Chinese Academy of Sciences created a polymer known as PBT-OP from two commercially available monomers and one easily synthesized monomer. Wei Ma, a post-doctoral physics researcher from NC State and corresponding author on a paper describing the research, conducted the X-ray analysis of the polymer’s structure and the donor:acceptor morphology.

PBT-OP was not only easier to make than other commonly used polymers, but a simple manipulation of its chemical structure gave it a lower HOMO level than had been seen in other polymers with the same molecular backbone. PBT-OP showed an open circuit voltage (the voltage available from a solar cell) value of 0.78 volts, a 36 percent increase over the ~ 0.6 volt average from similar polymers.

China cuts the cord on struggling solar manufacturers
By John Parnell - 02 January 2014, 13:14
In News, Fab & Facilities, Materials, Cell Processing, PV Modules

The Chinese government has excluded almost 80% of operating manufacturers, including Shunfeng and LDK Solar, from benefitting from domestic support measures as it looks to curb oversupply and increase the quality of its solar manufacturing sector.

The ministry of industry and information technology (MIIT) received 500 applications for the list “photovoltaic manufacturing industry norms conditions” [sic], approved companies that can continue to take part in state-run tenders and support mechanisms.

An initial list of 134 companies was released in November and a final list of 109 published on 30 December following “expert review”.

Many of the omissions are from rationalising subsidiaries into smaller groups.

The criteria looks at a number of factors including minimum conversion factors for solar cells, minimum manufacturing capacity for polysilicon, ingot, wafer and rod producers and environmental conditions as well.

Companies not on the list will not be able to benefit from domestic policy support, take part in domestic tenders or benefit from export tax rebates.

Winchester City Council grants planning permission for 40MW solar farm
By Peter Bennett | 03 January 2014, 15:59 Updated: 03 January 2014, 16:16

Councillors have voted in favour of a proposed 40MW solar farm on the Southwick Estate, just north of Portsmouth.

At a meeting of the council’s development control committee, councillors voted seven to three in favour of approving the 82-hectare development proposed by Hive Energy and Welbourne Solar Ltd.

The planning application was reported to the committee due to the number of objections received which ranged from the need to preserve agricultural land for food production, to construction traffic concerns.

The developers had revised the plans slightly to help mitigate impacts of the site on matters of archaeological and ecological importance and agreed that the planned landscaping activities would minimise visual impact as well as provide wildlife habitats.

The committee noted that the solar farm “would not result in adverse visual impact on the immediate wider landscape, including the setting of heritage assets, would not result in any detrimental harm on surrounding residential amenities and [would] not result in any significant highway or ecological implications.”

Credit Suisse: Renewables to meet 85% of US energy demand growth
By Zachary Shahan on 2 January 2014
Clean Technica

Credit Suisse on December 20 released a report with some quite bullish projections regarding renewable energy growth and generation in the United States, which someone in the solar industry kindly passed on to me. Here’s the short summary:

Our take: We see an opportunity for renewable energy to take an increasing share of total US power generation, coming in response to state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and propelled by more competitive costs against conventional generation. We can see the growth in renewables being transformative against conventional expectations with renewables meeting the vast majority of future power demand growth, weighing on market clearing power prices in competitive power markets, appreciably slowing the rate of demand growth for natural gas from the power sector, and requiring significant investment in new renewables.

What percentage of future growth does Credit Suisse say might come from renewables? About 85%.

Renewables will meet most of US demand growth. We estimate that ~85% of future demand growth for power through 2025 (including the impact of coal plant retirements) could be met by renewable generation with compliance to the existing 30 mandatory and 8 voluntary RPS programs. From this we would see over 100 GW of new renewable capacity additions with wind and solar market share more than doubling from 2012 to 2025.

Other key points are that falling wind and solar costs make them competitive with natural gas, even ignoring externalities. As a result, Credit Suisse has cut its natural gas projections considerably. “We estimate renewables slowing the rate of natural gas demand growth from power generation to <0.5 bcf/d through 2020 versus our prior estimate of 1.0-1.2 bcf/d even when taking into account planned coal plant shutdowns and assumed nuclear plant retirements.”

I think this report and the revisions implicitly highlight something very interesting that is going on in the energy industry. Renewable energy costs are primarily based on the cost of the technologies themselves, while fossil fuel costs are largely based on the fuel sources. As renewable energy grows, the technology costs come down. The opposite is true for fossil fuels. Forecasts should take this into account, but they routinely seem to underestimate renewable technology cost drops, and thus also underestimate renewable energy growth. Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, and others that are a bit better at these projections are quickly shifting their forecasts to catch up with the renewable energy revolution we’ve been seeing. This new report from Credit Suisse analysts is certainly one of the most positive I’ve seen. The title of the first section says it all: “Renewables Are Economic and Disruptive to Conventional Markets.”

Credit Suisse analysts see Renewable Energy Standards (RES) as driving much of the coming growth, but they aren’t shy about saying (repeatedly) that renewables are also now cost competitive, and that technology improvements just keep advancing their prospects.

“We think old-line arguments against renewables – too expensive, too intermittent, too remote – will continue to fade, allowing a resource base that is underappreciated in the market but is positioned to have a broad impact on power and energy markets.”

amor de cosmos
Jan 4, 2014, 5:18 PM
China pledges further support for solar industry
SHANGHAI Sat Jan 4, 2014 4:28am EST

Jan 4 (Reuters) - China pledged further support support for its ailing solar power industry on Saturday as the government seeks to revive a sector struggling with with overcapacity and falling prices.

The State Council, China's cabinet, said in July that the country aimed to more than quadruple solar power generating capacity to 35 gigawatts by 2015 in an apparent bid to ease a glut in the domestic solar power industry.

The State Council, in a statement published on its website, said the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology was taking measures to "promote the healthy development of the photovoltaic industry".

The ministry, it said, was implementing the July directive by supporting consolidation in the industry, drafting guidelines for mergers and acquisitions and promoting standardisation.

amor de cosmos
Jan 6, 2014, 5:12 PM
China WindPower to Get $942 Million in Loans for Solar Farms
By Bloomberg News Jan 5, 2014 10:25 PM PT

China WindPower Group Ltd. (182), an operator of renewable-energy projects with a market value of HK$5.62 billion ($725 million), said it will get as much as 5.7 billion yuan ($942 million) in loans from the China Development Bank Corp.’s Qinghai Branch for solar farms.

The funds will be invested in more than 800 megawatts of solar projects this year and next, China WindPower said in a statement distributed by PR Newswire yesterday.

China WindPower “will gradually push forward our solar power generation business to become our core business and major profit contributor to the group,” Chief Executive Officer Yang Zhifeng said in the statement.

The Hong Kong-listed company, which mainly develops wind farms, operates 150 megawatts of solar projects, it said last month. The company’s shares have almost doubled since Nov. 21, rising from HK$0.355 to HK$0.69 as of 2:12 p.m. Hong Kong time.

India Delays Solar Auction Bid Deadline for Second Time
By Natalie Obiko Pearson Jan 6, 2014 1:58 AM PT

India delayed the deadline for companies to submit bids in its next national solar auction for a second time after developers raised concerns about the ability of cash-strapped state utilities to pay for power.

The deadline has been pushed back by almost a month to Jan. 20, state-run Solar Energy Corp. of India, which will conduct the auction of 750 megawatts of capacity, said on its website. Earlier, it delayed the deadline from Nov. 29 to Dec. 28.

The auction will be the first since 2011 by India’s National Solar Mission and offer 18.75 billion rupees ($300 million) in grants to cover as much as 30 percent of project costs. Developers will submit bids specifying the funds they’re seeking, and the lowest bidders will win.

While Solar Energy Corp., which will buy power from the projects, has promised companies they will get paid, some developers are worried, according to Bridge to India Energy Pvt.

Solar Power Craze on Wall St. Propels Start-Up
Published: January 3, 2014

The first inklings of the idea came to Elon Musk and a cousin in an R.V. heading to the Burning Man festival in 2004.

Solar energy, they agreed, could be big.

But not even Mr. Musk, the billionaire behind the Tesla electric car, could have foreseen the solar power craze that is sweeping Wall Street. He and his cousins Peter and Lyndon Rive are riding a wave of exuberance over the industry and their young business, SolarCity.

The company — the nation’s largest provider of rooftop solar systems, with more than 80,000 customers — has not made a dime. And, frankly, no one quite seems to know when, or if, it will.

But SolarCity has captured investors’ imaginations and become a potent symbol of a stock market ascent that makes the vertigo-inducing heights of Twitter seem tame. SolarCity’s share price, which closed at $59.27 on Friday, has soared more than sevenfold since it went public, and the company, which did not exist eight years ago, is valued at roughly $4.9 billion.

Depending on whom you talk to, the rise of SolarCity and similar companies is either a sure sign that solar power is finally having its day or that yet another mania has gripped the markets. Two other companies, SunPower and SunEdison, have also exploded in value. In all, an estimated $13 billion was invested in solar projects in 2013, a tenfold increase since 2007, according to GTM Research, which tracks the industry.

Solar companies have had the wind at their backs lately. The broad stock market is coming off its best year since 1997 — the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index rose nearly 30 percent in 2013 — and the shares of many young companies have leaped from one high to another.

But few have been hotter than SolarCity, in part thanks to the Musk mystique surrounding Tesla Motors, itself a market darling.

This much is certain: The stock market has been very good to Mr. Musk, 42. On paper, his wealth quadrupled in 2013, to more than $5.5 billion, reflecting his stakes in SolarCity and Tesla. As chairman of SolarCity, he has little day-to-day involvement in the company.

“It’s the easiest job I have, that’s for sure,” Mr. Musk said in a telephone interview. “Most of what I do is show up to hear the good news.”

Still, SolarCity and its ilk face formidable challenges. It is trying to outrun rivals in a race to transform the power industry. Utilities are furiously working to undo the incentives that have fueled the solar industry’s growth. A generous federal tax credit is set to shrink in a few years. It has attracted the attention of regulators, who have questioned the way it values the rooftop systems.

And, because of its stock price, it must continue to feed Wall Street’s appetite.

“The market expects them to grow really rapidly for a while — there’s no other way that that price makes sense,” said Shayle Kann of GTM Research.

Will Deener: Tesla and SolarCity defy skeptical investors
Will Deener
Published: 05 January 2014 09:17 PM
Updated: 06 January 2014 12:34 AM

The performance of two stocks in 2013 reaffirms my belief in my favorite Wall Street aphorism: The stock market will do whatever it takes to prove the most people wrong.

If six months ago I had suggested that you load the wagon with shares of SolarCity Corp., a seller of solar power, or Tesla Motors Inc., a seller of electric cars, you would have thought I had taken leave of my senses. Both companies were losing money hand over fist, and both were highly dependent on government largesse — specifically subsidies and tax breaks.

And, to top it off, both were among the most highly shorted companies on Wall Street. About 30 to 40 percent of their stock float was shorted, meaning a large slug of investors were betting the shares would fall.

As it turned out, those who shunned these two companies missed out on humongous gains, and the shorts have suffered massive losses. Shares of SolarCity have soared 314 percent in the past year, while Tesla has also seen its stock propelled into the stratosphere with a 336 percent gain.

No one expected these kinds of gains, but as is so often the case, the stock market will do whatever it takes to prove the most people wrong.

Most investors were predisposed to write off SolarCity because, well, it’s involved in solar — a roller coaster industry if there ever was one.

Solar stocks get hot when electricity prices rise and governments in the United States, Europe and China throw large subsidies at the industry. But then they get cold when electricity prices decline, as they did in recent years, or when governments get stingy with their largesse, as Europe did during the last recession.

Also, a couple of years ago, the stock prices of SolarCity and other companies that made solar panels were clobbered because heavy competition pushed down the cost of panels and eroded profit margins. Basically, Chinese manufacturers were making solar panels at cost or even at a loss and flooding the U.S. market.

Since 2010, the average price of a solar panel — which is based on wattage output — has dropped from $1.81 per watt to about 70 cents per watt. Still, the owner of an average-size home can spend at least $15,000 to $30,000 to install a solar system, depending on the number of panels.

amor de cosmos
Jan 8, 2014, 7:34 PM
Prineville Mayor: Apple Plans Solar Array At Central Oregon Data Center
Posted: Monday, January 6, 2014 11:00 am | Updated: 1:45 pm, Mon Jan 6, 2014.
Oregon Public Broadcasting

The mayor of Prineville says Apple is planning to build a solar array at its data center in Central Oregon.

Earlier this week, both Prineville and Crook County amended existing enterprise zone agreements to incorporate additional land.

Mayor Betty Roppe says those agreements were with Apple. She says the company's enterprise zone agreement defers taxes on improvements to the land for a period of 15 years.

"My understanding is that they will create the solar farm and then they will sell that back to the companies that they actually get their electricity from," said Roppe.

Roppe says a confidentiality agreement with the company prevents her from disclosing the specific terms of the deal.

Economic Development for Central Oregon won't confirm a deal with Apple. In general, it requires businesses in that particular long-term rural enterprise zone to hire a minimum number of 35 full-time employees at wages that are at least one and a half times the county average.

Apple did not return calls seeking comment.

California’s Sizzling Solar Busts Through 3 GW
On Jan. 2, 2013, California hit a then-record 1,235 megawatts in solar power production. Exactly a year later, it reached 3,048 MW.
Earthtechling, Pete Danko
January 7, 2014

For the first time, California’s utility-scale solar power production has topped 3,000 megawatts (or, if you prefer, 3 gigawatts). The California Independent System Operator, which oversees the grid for much of the state, tweeted that solar generation hit a record 3,048 megawatts at 12:02 p.m. on Thursday.

To put 3,000 megawatts in perspective, the average coal-fired unit in the United States in 2011 was capable of generating 228 megawatts of power, according to the Energy Information Administration -- so at noon on Thursday, California’s solar farms were doing the work of about thirteen such units.

CA grid reached new solar generation peak of 3,048 MW @ 12:02 on January 2, 2014. #Solar #CAGrid #RenewableEnergy
— California ISO (@California_ISO) January 3, 2014

What’s remarkable about the figure is that exactly one year earlier, on Jan. 2, 2013, the state had also set a record: 1,235 megawatts. That means that in a single year, peak utility-scale solar power production in California has risen nearly 150 percent.

What’s behind the increase?

One final point: We always need to point out that the California ISO solar production figures are for wholesale solar only. California also has nearly 2,000 megawatts of solar behind meters -- on the roofs of businesses and homes all over the state -- that isn’t included in that 3,048 megawatt figure.

Deutsche Bank expects solar gold rush in 2014
08. January 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Edgar Meza

Deutsche Bank Markets Research is forecasting a strong year for solar, with diverse global factors coming together to improve market conditions and increase overall demand.

Deutsche Bank Markets Research has raised its solar demand forecast for 2014 and 2015 to 46 GW and 56 GW, respectively.

In a new report published this week, 2014 Outlook: Let the Second Gold Rush Begin, Deutsche Bank said "upside demand surprises" from the U.S., Japanese and Chinese markets could continue in 2014.

"We expect streamlined incentive programs in China, additional subsidy cut signals in end 2014, and decreasing financing constraints to act as catalysts for upside. Similar to the '05-07 capacity rush, we expect another gold rush by downstream installers to add recurring MW ahead of policy changes over the next 2-3 years. Moreover, we expect grid and financing constraints to improve from 2014.”

According to the report, key catalysts and swing factors include:

Q1 seasonality: solar stocks are generally discounting weak Q1 seasonality as demand from Europe, the U.S. and China has been historically very weak. However, demand in China is expected to remain relatively strong and also markets such as Japan, the U.K. and other international markets are likely to drive strong Q1 momentum
China and Japan demand outlook: Both China and Japan could represent 45-50% of 2013 demand -- demand from both markets is expected to remain a major swing factor.

Record installations make US strongest PV market outside Asia Pacific
08. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Top News | By: Edgar Meza

California remained the leading solar state in terms of PV installations, while North Carolina surged into second place, displacing Arizona and New Jersey.

New solar PV installations in the United States reached a record 4.2 GW in 2013, making it the leading solar market outside the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz North America PV Markets Quarterly report. The U.S. market has grown 15% since 2012.

Solar PV installed in the U.S. during the fourth quarter of 2013 also reached a new record high of approximately 1.4 GW.

"Each year, the final quarter in the United States results in a new quarterly record for solar PV installed," said Michael Barker, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. "The solar PV industry in the United States is, on average, now installing more than one gigawatt of solar PV each quarter."

The top ten leading U.S. states for installed solar PV in 2013:

North Carolina
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York

Hanergy secures $3.3 billion in financing for renewable energy projects
08. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Sandra Enkhardt, Edgar Meza

Hanergy Holding Group has signed a three-year, $3.3 billion financing deal with Asian banks aimed at PV and hydropower projects and developing its CIGS thin-film technology.

Hanergy Holding Group, parent of leading thin-film module manufacturer Hanergy Solar, has signed a financing agreement with China's Minsheng Bank and the Asia Financial Cooperation Association, a regional organization made up of small and medium-sized banks and financial institutions.

The strategic partnership, signed on Wednesday in Beijing, provides up to CNY 20 billion ($3.26 billion) over the next three years in direct and indirect financing as well as diverse financial instruments for PV and hydropower projects and technology development.

Hanergy is one of the largest thin-film module manufacturers worldwide. Hanergy Solar has in recent years acquired a number of international players in the CIGS technology field, including Q.Cells subsidiary Solibro in Germany and U.S. firms Global Solar and MiaSole.

Hanergy said it would use the financing to further develop its CIGS thin-film technology. The company added that it had already achieved research efficiencies of 19.6% for its thin-film modules and currently 15.7% in mass production.

The strategic cooperation agreement between Hanergy and the financial institutions come in the wake of the Chinese government's recent efforts to further strengthen the development of the domestic solar industry and expand PV development in the country.

Yingli joins forces with China National Nuclear Corp. for 500 MW of solar projects
07. January 2014 | Top News, Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Edgar Meza

The state-owned nuclear technology giant says its new partnership with Yingli is reflects China's goal of sustainable development. The companies aim to build 500 MW of distributed generation projects.

Yingli Green Energy is joining forces with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to develop distributed generation solar projects across China.

The Yingli China division and CNNC subsidiary China Rich Energy have agreed to establish a joint venture that will construct the distributed generation systems in close proximity to end-users of the electricity to be generated by the projects.

Yingli China and China Rich Energy signed a framework agreement several months ago outlining the long-term strategic cooperative relationship. As part of the deal, the joint venture will develop 500 MW distributed generation solar projects across the country, 200 MW of which will be installed on sites to be provided by CNNC or its subsidiaries.

Yingli said the agreement with China Rich Energy had now entered the implementation stage.

"While CNNC remains committed to nuclear power development, we are increasing our activities in the renewable energy space, in order to expand our development space,” said Hongchao Xu, China Rich Energy’s deputy general manager and chairman of the joint venture.

U.S. Solar Installations Are Up 15% In 2013
January 8, 2014 Kathleen Zipp : 0 Comments

New solar photovoltaic installations in the United States reached a record 4.2 GW during 2013. Since 2012, the U.S. market has grown 15%, making it the leading solar market outside the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz North America PV Markets Quarterly report.

Solar PV installed in the U.S. during the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2013 also reached a new record high of approximately 1.4 GW, which is equivalent to over 1 megawatt (MW) of solar panels being installed during each hour of daylight over the past three months.

“Each year, the final quarter in the United States results in a new quarterly record for solar PV installed,” said Michael Barker, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. “The solar PV industry in the United States is, on average, now installing more than one gigawatt of solar PV each quarter.”

1,000 MW Chinese Solar Project Marks Significant Market Shift
Originally published on ThinkProgress.
By Emily Atkin.

China’s second-largest maker of solar photovoltaic panels will develop a huge 1,000 megawatt (MW) ground-mounted solar power plant complex in a remote Chinese desert, which the company announced Monday — a move that some say is a sign of big things to come for the global solar industry in 2014.

The complex will be built by Trina Solar Ltd. in the western region of Turpan Prefecture, a “harsh, drastic, cold desert” in the western Xinjiang province. Plants are scheduled to begin construction over a four-year time frame starting in early 2014, the company said, with installed capacity of 300 MW scheduled to be completed and connected to the grid by the end of this year. The project is subject to Chinese regulatory approval, but if completed, it would be the largest solar power plant project in Xinjiang.

“Xinjiang’s abundant land and solar resources make Turpan an ideal location for this project,” Trina Solar CEO Jifan Gao said in a statement. “We look forward to working in close collaboration with the local authorities to satisfy the conditions needed for phase one.”

The announcement is welcome news for China, a country with world-famous pollution that has recently been found to be largely caused by too-abundant fossil fuel production. That production is led by more than 2,300 coal-fired power plants, though emissions from other types of fossil fuel combustion also contribute to the smog. However, Trina’s new solar project will only supply power for the areas in which the project surrounds — Turpan Prefecture itself has a population of just 570,000 — dashing the chances that it might alleviate pollution in the smog-centers of Beijing or Shanghai.

An Improved, Cost-Effective Catalyst for Water-Splitting Devices

Jan. 8, 2014 — Solar energy appears to be the only form of renewable that can be exploited at level that matches the world's growing needs. However, it is equally necessary to find efficient ways to store solar energy in order to ensure a consistent energy supply when sunlight is scarce. One of the most efficient ways to achieve this is to use solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, and get the energy back by consuming hydrogen in a fuel cell. But collecting solar energy on a large and sustainable scale means that such cells must be made from materials that are cheap, abundant, and have 10% solar‐to‐hydrogen conversion efficiency.

Publishing in Nature Communications, an EPFL-led team of scientists has found a method to create a high-efficiency, scalable solar water splitting device using cheap materials.

Although one of the best means of sourcing renewable energy, solar systems cannot consistently produce adequate energy since sunlight varies from time to time and place to place. A solution to this problem is a device that can store energy in the form of hydrogen for later use, offering a consistent output over time with very little pollution.

10 Leading Solar Trends of 2013
Anne Fischer
Written by Anne Fischer 8 January 2014

Our readers are industry leaders who are bright and informed about solar and the impact it will have in the future. The top 10 most read articles by this group of professionals signify the trends in the solar industry in 2013.

Net Metering: A call for a public debate

Public policy, net metering and the utility’s role in regulating (and charging for) solar is an issue that is not going away any time soon.

Electric Vehicles: Charged by the sun

Moving away from fossil fuels in the transportation sector means charging cars with solar charging stations. Fortunately this is a growing trend, signifying a greener tomorrow.

Trends in Solar PV Coatings
PV Monitoring: Tools, markets and emerging trends

With costs down and efficiency of solar cells improving, these two articles look at ways the industry is squeezing more efficiency from solar installations.

Sunny Skies for US Solar in 2013

Good news is always well received, especially expert opinion from SEIA’s President and CEO Rhone Resch.

Advances in Energy Storage Research

Energy storage continues to challenge the industry, with strides being made in cutting edge research around the world.

PV Recycling: Update on legal and technology issues

The industry isn’t truly green until there’s cooperation on proper disposal of materials at the end of their lifecycle. Now with mandates in some regions, PV recycling is becoming as accepted as it is expected.

Roofing considerations for solar photovoltaic installers

Proper and safe PV installation means adhering to electrical code and manufacturer’s requirements thus ensuring that both roofing and PV warranties are maintained.

Operational Energy Data on Solar Financing

Acquisitions of operational utility-scale solar plants increased dramatically in 2013. For the investor or lender it’s all about risk mitigation and understanding the expected annual energy production.

Hurricane Sandy Puts Solar Installation to the Test

Case studies such as this point to how well solar works and that today’s installation techniques can stand up to unprecedented environmental challenges.

Strong Venture Capital Funding for Solar in 2013
Published on 7 January 2014

Mercom Capital Group, llc, a global clean energy communications and consulting firm, released its report on funding and merger and acquisition (M&A) activity for the solar sector in 2013.

Global venture capital (VC) investments dropped 40% to $600 million in 97 deals in 2013 compared to $992 million in 106 deals in 2012. Total corporate funding into the solar sector, encompassing VC, debt and public market financings was up 25% in 2013 to almost $10 billion, compared to about $8 billion in 2012.

VC funding in Q4 2013 totaled $87 million in 24 deals compared to $197 million in 28 deals in Q3 2013.

Since mid-2012 the new normal for VC funding has been smaller funding quarters and smaller deal sizes. “While venture funding levels were down, overall fundraising was up and public market financings were really strong in 2013,” said Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group. “Higher valuations among public solar companies have opened up the capital markets again as an avenue for fundraising at attractive terms. IPOs are back.”

Solar downstream companies saw the largest amount of VC funding in 2013 with $262 million in 34 deals, accounting for 45 percent of venture funding. Investments in CSP reached $109 million in 12 deals and PV companies were close behind with $104 million in 17 deals. Thin film saw a 77 percent drop in funding from 2012, with $72 million in 2013 compared to $314 million a year earlier.

amor de cosmos
Jan 9, 2014, 7:45 PM
Energy News
New Battery Material Could Help Wind and Solar Power Go Big
Low-cost materials could make storing hours of power from a wind farm economically feasible.
By Kevin Bullis on January 8, 2014

Utilities would love to be able to store the power that wind farms generate at night—when no one wants it—and use it when demand is high during the day. But conventional battery technology is so expensive that it only makes economic sense to store a few minutes of electricity, enough to smooth out a few fluctuations from gusts of wind.

Harvard University researchers say they’ve developed a new type of battery that could make it economical to store a couple of days of electricity from wind farms and other sources of power. The new battery, which is described in the journal Nature, is based on an organic molecule—called a quinone—that’s found in plants such as rhubarb and can be cheaply synthesized from crude oil. The molecules could reduce, by two-thirds, the cost of energy storage materials in a type of battery called a flow battery, which is particularly well suited to storing large amounts of energy.

If it solves the problem of the intermittency of power sources like wind and solar, the technology will make it possible to rely far more heavily on renewable energy. Such batteries could also reduce the number of power plants needed on the grid by allowing them to operate more efficiently, much the way a battery in a hybrid vehicle improves fuel economy.

In a flow battery, energy is stored in liquid form in large tanks. Such batteries have been around for decades, and are used in places like Japan to help manage the power grid, but they’re expensive—about $700 per kilowatt-hour of storage capacity, according to one estimate. To make storing hours of energy from wind farms economical, batteries need to cost just $100 per kilowatt-hour, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The energy storage materials account for only a fraction of a flow battery’s total cost. Vanadium, the material typically used now, costs about $80 per kilowatt-hour. But that’s high enough to make hitting the $100 target for the whole system impossible. Michael Aziz, a professor of materials and energy technologies at Harvard University who led the work, says the quinones will cut the energy storage material costs down to just $27 per kilowatt-hour. Together with other recent advances in bringing down the cost of the rest of the system, he says, this could put the DOE target in reach.

Organic mega flow battery promises breakthrough for renewable energy
Harvard technology could economically store energy for use when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine
January 8, 2014

Cambridge, Mass. – January 8, 2014 – A team of Harvard scientists and engineers has demonstrated a new type of battery that could fundamentally transform the way electricity is stored on the grid, making power from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar far more economical and reliable.

The novel battery technology is reported in a paper published in Nature on January 9. Under the OPEN 2012 program, the Harvard team received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) to develop the innovative grid-scale battery and plans to work with ARPA-E to catalyze further technological and market breakthroughs over the next several years.

The paper reports a metal-free flow battery that relies on the electrochemistry of naturally abundant, inexpensive, small organic (carbon-based) molecules called quinones, which are similar to molecules that store energy in plants and animals.

The mismatch between the availability of intermittent wind or sunshine and the variability of demand is the biggest obstacle to getting a large fraction of our electricity from renewable sources. A cost-effective means of storing large amounts of electrical energy could solve this problem.

The battery was designed, built, and tested in the laboratory of Michael J. Aziz, Gene and Tracy Sykes Professor of Materials and Energy Technologies at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). Roy G. Gordon, Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science, led the work on the synthesis and chemical screening of molecules. Alán Aspuru-Guzik, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, used his pioneering high-throughput molecular screening methods to calculate the properties of more than 10,000 quinone molecules in search of the best candidates for the battery.

“Our studies indicate that one to two days' worth of storage is required for making solar and wind dispatchable through the electrical grid,” said Aziz.

To store 50 hours of energy from a 1-megawatt power capacity wind turbine (50 megawatt-hours), for example, a possible solution would be to buy traditional batteries with 50 megawatt-hours of energy storage, but they'd come with 50 megawatts of power capacity. Paying for 50 megawatts of power capacity when only 1 megawatt is necessary makes little economic sense.

For this reason, a growing number of engineers have focused their attention on flow battery technology. But until now, flow batteries have relied on chemicals that are expensive or difficult to maintain, driving up the energy storage costs.

Shunfeng Aims For 10,000 MW Of Solar PV Projects By 2016 (That’s A Lot!)

It’s no secret — China is installing solar power faster than you can say “Bob’s your uncle.” The recently announced goal of one large Chinese solar developer is just another indication of that, but it’s certainly a big one. Shunfeng Photovoltaic says that it is now aiming to install 20,000 megawatts (MW) of solar power capacity by 2016. To put that into perspective, the largest solar PV power plant in the world is 600 MW in size, and the next behind it is currently about half that size. All but a dozen or so solar PV power plants are less than 100 MW in size. So… 10,000 MW by 2016 is huge.

Shunfeng is apparently already to 890 MW. So, just another 9,110 MW in ~3 years. “We aim to add 3GW in each of this year, next year and 2016, so that by the end of 2016 we will have 10 GW,” Shunfeng chairman Zhang Yi recently told the South China Morning Post. Good luck to the company!

420 MW(!) Solar Project For Japan To Use ReneSola Solar Panels

ReneSola earlier this week announced that it has been selected to supply 420 megawatts (MW) of solar panels for a (huge!) solar power project in Japan. (For a little bit of perspective, the largest “solar PV power project” currently in operation is a 600 MW project in India, while the second-largest is going to be 397 MW when it is complete.)

“ReneSola’s Virtus II 300W 72-cell high-efficiency polycrystalline PV panels will be installed in over ten ground-mounted power plants in the mountain regions of Japan, and will provide power to the surrounding residential homes,” the press release stated.

“We are pleased that this project enables us to grow our presence in Japan, one of our target markets,” Mr. Xianshou Li, chief executive officer of ReneSola said. ”Our local sales office is supporting our growth amidst the increasing demand for solar products in Japan. ReneSola is committed to producing high-quality cost-competitive products, and we will continue to expand our presence in new markets in the coming years.”

Quantum mechanics explains efficiency of photosynthesis
9 January 2014

Light-gathering macromolecules in plant cells transfer energy by taking advantage of molecular vibrations whose physical descriptions have no equivalents in classical physics, according to the first unambiguous theoretical evidence of quantum effects in photosynthesis published today in the journal Nature Communications.

The majority of light-gathering macromolecules are composed of chromophores (responsible for the colour of molecules) attached to proteins, which carry out the first step of photosynthesis, capturing sunlight and transferring the associated energy highly efficiently. Previous experiments suggest that energy is transferred in a wave-like manner, exploiting quantum phenomena, but crucially, a non-classical explanation could not be conclusively proved as the phenomena identified could equally be described using classical physics.

Often, to observe or exploit quantum mechanical phenomena systems need to be cooled to very low temperatures. This however does not seem to be the case in some biological systems, which display quantum properties even at ambient temperatures.

Now, a team at UCL have attempted to identify features in these biological systems which can only be predicted by quantum physics, and for which no classical analogues exist.

SolarCity’s Market Share Jumps to 32% in US Residential PV
The solar financier’s stock price isn’t the only thing breaking records this week.
Mike Munsell
January 9, 2014

SolarCity installed nearly a third of all U.S. residential PV in the third quarter of 2013, installing almost four times as much as its closest competitor, Vivint Solar, according to GTM Research's US PV Leaderboard, released today.

The leaders in Q3 residential solar installs in the United States:

REC Solar
Real Goods Solar

With a newfound ability to raise public capital and a mandate to continue its rapid expansion, SolarCity remained aggressive throughout 2013. "In addition to a steadily growing market share, the company made a bevy of moves over the course of the year, ranging from the first securitized distributed solar deal to the acquisitions of Paramount Solar and Zep Solar," said Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President, GTM Research. "SolarCity's 2014 guidance suggests another rapid year of growth, barring bottlenecks in component costs, project finance or regulation."

Solar support cuts put German PV transition at risk, warns BSW
By John Parnell - 09 January 2014, 13:33
In News, Power Generation, Market Watch

The current rate of cut backs to support for solar energy could put the German energy transition at risk, the country’s solar trade body has warned.

The Federal Solar Industry Association (BSW-Solar) has claimed that while the cost of solar fell by 25% in the past two years, support schemes for the technology have been cut in half.

The country installed 3.3GW in 2013 according to BSW, figures in line with the Federal Network Agency’s data in early December. That compares to 7.6GW in the previous year.

Carsten Körnig, managing director of BSW-Solar, warned the new government’s continued feed-in tariff degression plans must be slowed.

"The further expansion of solar energy as the main pillar of energy supply is an indispensable climate policy and is now affordable. Now is the time to take advantage of the considerable potential of solar energy for the energy revolution," he said.

"It cannot be that we stall the development of solar energy just now where photovoltaics has become so inexpensive,” added Körnig.

Goldpoly sets sights beyond China with new 500MW PV deal
By Lucy Woods - 09 January 2014, 12:10
In News

Solar park developer and operator Goldpoly New Energy Holdings is continuing its downstream acquisition spending spree with an additional 500MW of solar projects.

The deal is thought to be the first time Goldpoly has looked at PV projects outside China since it began an aggressive drive into project development last year.

In partnership with engineering company, China Triumph International Engineering Co (CTIEC), and Chinese telecommunications company, Huawei Technologies, Goldpoly aims to add a further 500MW to its pipeline portfolio.

According to an agreement between the three parties, Goldpoly is to acquire solar power plants developed and constructed by CTIEC, in China, Europe, North America and Japan. Huawei is to supply inverters and other information technology equipment for the 500MW of so-called ‘target projects’.

The 500MW pipeline is the first batch of projects between the three companies, with an estimated minimum return on investment of 9%.

China pledges further support for solar industry
SHANGHAI Thu Jan 9, 2014 5:17am EST

(Reuters) - China pledged further support support for its ailing solar power industry on Saturday as the government seeks to revive a sector struggling with overcapacity and falling prices.

The State Council, China's cabinet, said in July that the country aimed to more than quadruple solar power generating capacity to 35 gigawatts by 2015 in an apparent bid to ease a glut in the domestic solar power industry.

The State Council, in a statement published on its website, said the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology was taking measures to "promote the healthy development of the photovoltaic industry".

The ministry, it said, was implementing the July directive by supporting consolidation in the industry, drafting guidelines for mergers and acquisitions and promoting standardization.

It said the ministry was encouraging technological innovation, especially related to decentralized solar power installations not connected to the power grid. It was also supporting research and development efforts for batteries that can store solar electricity.

The ministry sought to improve standardization and ensure "orderly competition" in the industry, the statement said.

The State Council said the solar industry had enjoyed a recovery in 2013. Total installed solar power generating capacity increased by around 8 GW, of which 6 GW were in power plants and 2 GW were in decentralized instillations, the statement said, citing preliminary estimates from the China Photovoltaic Industry Alliance.

amor de cosmos
Jan 10, 2014, 6:53 PM
Sandler O’Neill to Provide $100 Million for Wiser Solar Projects
9 January 2014

Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) — Sandler O’Neill & Partners LP, a New York-based investment bank, agreed to arrange at least $100 million in financing for Wiser Capital LLC to develop commercial solar systems.

Sandler will solicit funds from investors including community banks and individuals, and Wiser will match them with property owners seeking rooftop solar systems, Nathan Homan, a managing partner at Santa Barbara, California-based Wiser, said in an interview.

Prices for photovoltaic panels have slumped 57 percent since the start of 2011, making solar power more competitive with electricity from other sources and spurring demand for rooftop power systems. The deal will expand the potential market for mid-size commercial solar projects, Wiser said today in a statement. The arrangement may reduce the cost of financing by as much as half compared with rates from traditional lenders.

Wiser expects to develop projects with 50 kilowatts to 2 megawatts of capacity, worth about $250,000 to $5 million each, a market that has about “$300 million to $400 million of creditworthy transactions on an annual basis,” Homan said. The systems will belong to Wiser, which will sell power to the property owners.

Hareon Solar to invest US$294 million in 200MW of northern China projects
By Andy Colthorpe - 10 January 2014, 12:51
In News, Power Generation, Project Focus

China-based PV manufacturer Hareon Solar has announced that it will develop 200MW of solar power plants in northern China, after the company’s board of directors approved CNY1.78 billion (US$294 million) of investment.

Via three separate announcements the company said investment had been approved for a 100MW project, and two 50MW projects. The 100MW installation will be built in the Alxa League, Inner Mongolia, requiring CNY892.1 million (US$147.4 million) of investment, while one of the two 50MW projects will be built in Chahar Right Back Banner, which is also in Inner Mongolia, with around CNY446.1 million (US$73.7 million) of investment required. The other 50MW project will be built in Heibei province, with Hareon investing CNY440.6 million (US$72.8 million) to finance it.

PV provided 7% of Italy’s electricity in 2013, says transmission operator
By Andy Colthorpe - 10 January 2014, 11:47
In News, Power Generation

Early data for 2013 electricity demand released by Terna, Italy’s electrical transmission system operator, indicates that 7% of electricity produced in Italy was generated through PV last year.

Domestically produced electricity met 86.7% of overall national demand, with the remaining 13.3% provided by exchanging the balance of electricity with other countries.

PV outperformed geothermal (1.7%) and wind power (4.7%), with only hydroelectric providing a higher percentage among renewable sources, at 16.5%. Renewable sources contributed 29.9%, around 94.9TWh of generation. Domestically generated electricity from thermoelectric stood at 56.8%.

The figures, which are “early estimates”, also show that photovoltaic electricity production in the country saw an increase of almost 19% compared to 2012. PV generated electricity production increased by 18.9%, while hydroelectric saw a 21.4% increase, wind power generation increased by 11.6% and geothermal saw a modest 1% increase. Thermoelectric production however, declined by 12%.

Overall, electricity demand for 2013 showed a decline from the previous year of around 3.1% when adjusted for the extra working day in 2012, which was a leap year. Total demand was 317TWh. Terna stated that the general trend for electricity demand continued to show a decline after figures for 2012 showed a fall from 2011 demand levels of around 1.9%.

California’s 579MW Solar Star begins partial operation
By Ben Willis - 10 January 2014, 10:51
In News, Power Generation, Project Focus

California’s 579MW Solar Star project has begun partial operation and is now supplying electricity to California’s grid.

Owner MidAmerican Solar and SunPower, which is building the project, announced this week that the first portions of the two projects that together make up Solar Star are around 10% operational, with the first 57MW now on line.

The project, previously dubbed Antelope Valley, was acquired by MidAmerican from SunPower last year for a reported US$2 billion. MidAmerican is part of investor Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway empire.

Work began on Solar Star last April and it is currently the world’s largest PV project under construction.

It will use SunPower's modular Oasis Power Blocks technology, developed for large-scale PV power plants.

MidAmerican's giant California Solar Star power plant enters service
Fri Jan 10, 2014 9:49am EST

(Reuters) - Renewable power companies MidAmerican Solar and SunPower Corp said they have connected the first 57 megawatts to the power grid from California's 579-MW Solar Star solar power plant, one of the biggest in the United States.

Their Solar Star project, which involves two plants in Kern and Los Angeles counties, are expected to power about 255,000 homes once complete, the two companies said in a release late on Thursday.

"We are fulfilling our promise ... to help California meet its mandate to generate 33 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020," Mike Fehr, MidAmerican Solar's general manager at the Solar Star projects, said in the statement.

EnerVault Nears Completion of Its First Commercial-Scale Flow Battery
The company says it’s prepared to beat DOE’s cost targets for redox flow batteries.
Stephen Lacey
January 9, 2014

Founded in 2008, California-based storage startup EnerVault has remained relatively quiet on its progress.

The flow battery market is, after all, defined more by grandiose claims from companies than by commercial projects in the ground.

But with $24.5 million in funding and an executive team hailing from SunPower, Tesla, and a range of battery, power plant engineering and fuel cell companies, EnerVault is now going public with its performance expectations.

"We've been particularly quiet about achievements," said Jim Pape, EnerVault's CEO and former president of residential and commercial solar at SunPower. "Part of that is our investors; part of that is that we don't want to put out statements we have to later jump over."

SOLAR WAR: CEO Of Upstart Solar Company Vivint Takes A Huge Shot At Elon Musk's SolarCity
Jay Yarow Dec 18 2013, 7:35 AM

Things are getting a little feisty in the world of residential solar installation.

Todd Pederson, CEO of solar installer Vivint, had some harsh words for rival SolarCity when I spoke to him on the phone last week.

He says SolarCity is constantly trying to poach his employees because it has no idea how to cost-effectively acquire customers and build out a big national solar business.

Pederson is one of the more interesting executives that we’ve come across. He started off selling pest control out of a trailer in Arizona. After doing pest control sales for a few years, he pivoted into home security. From there, he started doing home automation.

Today, Vivint is working on solar installation, wireless internet, home automation, and much more. Blackstone paid $US2 billion for Vivint in 2012.

Both SolarCity and Vivint do solar insallation. That is, installing solar panels on people’s homes, and wiring up the systems.

Over the phone, we asked Pederson how he feels about going up against Elon Musk’s solar company.

amor de cosmos
Jan 11, 2014, 5:35 PM
Chile to build 110MW CSP tower
By Lucy Woods - 10 January 2014, 16:52
In News, Project Focus

Chile’s Ministry of Energy and government agency for entrepreneurship, COFO, has awarded a tender for South America’s first concentrated solar power (CSP) plant.

The tender for the 110MW molten salt power technology plant was awarded to sustainability technology developer, Abengoa.

The CSP plant will use molten salt power technology, allowing energy to be stored for up to 17.5 hours, without direct solar radiation.

A subsidy of US$20 million in government funding is being provided for the project, and access to US$500 million in additional funding from the IDB, Clean Technology Fund and the German development bank KfW and the European Union.

6 January 2014
Energy: too valuable to waste
Synthetic natural gas from excess electricity

"Power to gas" is a key concept when it comes to storing alternative energy. This process converts short-term excess electricity from photovoltaic systems and wind turbines into hydrogen. Combined with the greenhouse gas CO2, renewable hydrogen can be used to produce methane, which can be stored and distributed in the natural gas network. Empa researchers have now succeeded in further optimising this process.

The methanation process uses CO2, for example from biogas production, and this combined with hydrogen (H2) from excess renewable electricity, produces methane, which can not only be distributed simply and cost-effectively in the natural gas network, but can also be stored for longer periods of time. This means renewable energy is being used to produce a "quasi-fossil" fuel – the basic principle of "power to gas".

The Sabatier reaction, which produces combustible methane from hydrogen and CO2, has been known for a long time. Now researchers in the Empa "Hydrogen and Energy" Department have succeeded in greatly optimising the process. A catalyst is required to bring about the reaction of CO2 with hydrogen using as little energy as possible; this catalyst can, for example, be made of nickel. The gas molecules react more easily with each other on the surface of such a catalyst, reducing the energy required for the reaction to take place. This is referred to as sorption catalysis. Empa researcher, Andreas Borgschulte, and his team have now combined a nanoscale nickel catalyst with a zeolite. Zeolites are crystalline aluminosilicates with the ability to absorb water molecules and release them again when heated.

The principle is simple: the chemical reaction of hydrogen with CO2 produces not only methane (CH4), but also water (H2O). The researchers use the hygroscopic (i.e. water-binding) property of the zeolite to remove the resulting water from the reaction mixture. The chemical equilibrium then moves towards methane. Result: a higher yield of pure methane and a more efficient catalytic process. As soon as the zeolite is saturated with water, it can be "unloaded" again by heating and evaporation of the water, and is then re-used.

amor de cosmos
Jan 12, 2014, 6:19 PM
Solar Power Reduces Wholesale Electricity Prices (4 Charts)

A reader recently shared some great Fraunhofer reports on renewable energy in Germany with me. One of them I had already written a pretty long article about back in November, but the second I don’t think I’d seen. It’s an extensive look at electricity prices and production data in 2013. It’s got more charts on electricity prices than I care to count. However, a few of these I thought I’d share just to make a point I haven’t made in a while.

The point is that solar PV production comes at times we need it most. When the sun is shining, we also tend to be using a lot of electricity. Historically, due to a limited amount of power capacity on the grid, that increase in demand meant an increase in the wholesale price of electricity bid on the spot market. However, when solar PV penetration really starts to get up there (as it has in Germany), that boost in midday production results in a drop in wholesale power prices — solar bids everyone down.

In the first chart below, you can see how electricity prices trend up with electricity production/demand in the middle of the day (when not much electricity is being produced from solar energy).






amor de cosmos
Jan 13, 2014, 5:34 PM
China Solar PV Forecast for 2014 Upgraded to 12 GW
Posted by Steven Han in Solarbuzz, Solar on November 15, 2013 | 1 Comment

On 14 November 2013, the Chinese Bureau of Energy released a draft of proposed solar power installations for China in 2014. Under this proposal, new solar installations in China are expected to reach 12 GW in 2014 . This includes 8 GW of distributed PV generation and 4 GW in the ground-mount segment.

Jiangsu Province is expected to have the leading market share with 1.3 GW of quotas within the pipeline. This is followed by Shandong Province (1.2 GW) and Zhejiang Province (1.1 GW). Other provinces in the top ten quota list include: Hebei, Guangdong, Qinghai, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Henan and Gansu.



Asia-Pacific Region to Account for Half of Global Solar Photovoltaic Demand in 2014, According to NPD Solarbuzz

Thailand to join China, Japan, Australia, and India as the major PV markets in the APAC region next year

Santa Clara, California, December 19, 2013—Solar photovoltaic (PV) demand in 2014 will be dominated by the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, which will account for approximately 50% of all new solar PV demand next year. According to findings from the latest NPD Solarbuzz Asia Pacific PV Markets Quarterly report, almost 95% of new solar PV capacity in the APAC region in 2014 will come from just five countries: China, Japan, India, Australia, and Thailand.

APAC countries are forecast to install more than 23 gigawatts (GW) of solar PV in 2014, setting a new record for solar PV installed annually within any region. This record PV level represents more than the entire global PV industry installed in 2010, and it is even greater than the 19.2 GW installed in Europe in 2011, when Germany and Italy were the leading global solar-PV countries.

“APAC will dominate both manufacturing supply and end-market demand in 2014, with more than 80% of module production also coming from the region,” according to Steven Han, analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. “This milestone marks the final chapter in the transition from historic European domination to a new PV industry, where supply and demand from APAC will determine the basis of the 50 GW global PV industry going into 2015.”

The record level of solar PV demand from the APAC region during 2014 will represent 35% annual growth, compared to 2013, when more than 18 GW of new solar PV is expected to be installed in APAC. Demand from the APAC region this year is dominated by China and Japan, which together account for more than 85% of APAC installations.

Strong Growth Forecast for Solar PV Industry in 2014 with Demand Reaching 49 GW, According to NPD Solarbuzz

Six-month period to March 2014 will result in 22 GW of demand, equivalent to a new 5 MW solar farm installed every hour

Santa Clara, Calif., December 23, 2013—Solar photovoltaic (PV) demand is poised for explosive growth in 2014, and is set to reach 49 gigawatts (GW), up from 36 GW in 2013, according to findings in the latest NPD Solarbuzz Quarterly.

“The solar PV industry has reached a critical tipping point, with end-market demand hitting record levels almost every quarter,” added Finlay Colville, vice-president at NPD Solarbuzz. “This growth is being driven by leading module suppliers and project developers that returned to profitability during 2013, and which have now established highly-effective global sales and marketing networks.”

Q4’13 will be another record quarter for the solar PV industry, exceeding the 12 GW barrier for the first time ever. Furthermore, demand in Q1’14 will also achieve record-breaking status, as the strongest first-quarter ever seen by the PV industry.

Over the six-month period from October 2013 to March 2014, the solar PV industry will install almost 22 GW, which is greater than all the solar PV installations that occurred between 2005 and 2009, during the previous high-growth phase of the industry that was driven by the European market.

This 22 GW of demand is equivalent to 120 megawatts (MW) of solar PV installed every day for six months, and equates to one new 5 MW solar farm being completed every hour of the day.

California and North Carolina to Achieve Top-10 ‘Country’ Status in 2014 Global PV Industry

Posted by Michael Barker in Solarbuzz, Solar on January 10, 2014 | No Comments

The US solar PV industry continued to set new installation records in 2013, surpassing previous demand levels for both quarterly and annual periods. The new installation rates confirm that the US is now the leading market outside of the Asia-Pacific region.

However, despite having grown to above 4 GW, to refer to the US as a ‘single’ country market misses many of the nuances underlying the market at the state level. The US is one of the more complicated markets for PV industry participants to understand.

When discussing trends in the US market, it is common to use the phrase: ‘there is no US market; there are 50 state-level markets with a layer of federal policy on top’. And then there are more than 2,000 utilities that can have unique permitting, licensing, or incentive policies.

Because of this complexity, each state has different segmentation trends, business models, and challenges. In addition to having a strong influence on the size of the US market, the leading states are large enough to influence the global supply/demand landscape. The figure below examines four of the top US state markets and ranks them against other single-country global markets.

If each US state were analyzed as an individual market, California would rank as the fourth largest driver of PV demand globally during 2013. During 2014, we forecast that North Carolina will join California as a global Top-10 driver of PV demand. Furthermore, at least four states will be in the Top-20 for global demand in 2014.

New York to add $1 billion to state solar program
13. January 2014 | Top News, Markets & Trends, Industry & Suppliers, Global PV markets | By: Edgar Meza

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo continues to champion solar energy in the state with more ambitious goals and secure funding for the next decade.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled ambitious solar energy plans as part of his State of the State address last week, including $1 billion in additional funding for the state’s NY-Sun Initiative.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has filed a petition with the state's Public Service Commission requesting $1 billion to ensure long-term program certainty for the NY-Sun Initiative and expand New York’s solar market.

Specifically, NYSERDA is requesting $864 million to continue the annual funding level of $108 million from 2016 through 2023 for the state's PV incentives.

With a total of $1.08 billion for PV programs, including funds previously authorized for 2014-2015 plus the newly requested $864 million), NYSERDA expects to achieve an estimated 3 GW of installed PV capacity in the state.

The state is also looking to reduce soft costs of solar development by helping local governments adopt model zoning and permitting procedures and providing innovative financing options.

Enerparc installs Russia's largest PV park
13. January 2014 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Investor news, Markets & Trends | By: Max Hall

German EPC provider Enerparc helped install a 1 MW ground-mount project in Dagestan in just two weeks. Three German companies were involved in the Russian installation.

German companies Enerparc, Mounting Systems and Skytron joined forces to help develop what is claimed to be the largest PV park in Russia.

The 1 MW ground-mount project at Kaspiysk in the Republic of Dagestan was assembled in just two weeks with Hamburg-based Enerparc providing engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services and Berlin company Skytron co-ordinating the commissioning process.

Using more than 4,000 Trina Solar modules, the 1 MWp plant is expected to generate more than 1.2 GWh per year in the northern Caucasus location.

Goldpoly targets 1 GW portfolio expansion
13. January 2014 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Investor news, Markets & Trends | By: Max Hall

Chinese developer Goldpoly wants to expand its solar project portfolio by 1 GW in 2014. On Thursday, the company committed to acquire 500 MW of projects worldwide from China Triumph International Engineering.

Having acquired China Merchants New Energy in June, Goldpoly New Energy Holdings Ltd has announced a plan to treble its solar portfolio by adding a further 1 GW of projects this year.

Goldpoly's Qiu Shaomeng told pv magazine the deal announced on Thursday to acquire 500 MW of projects worldwide constructed by China Triumph International Engineering Co. Ltd, is part of a strategy to 'test the water' of international markets.

"The year 2014 will witness rapid growth of the company," said Goldpoly chairman and chief executive Alan Li in a statement on the Goldpoly website revealing details of the developer's commitment to acquire projects in China, Europe, the U.S. and Japan.

Australia begins 2014 with almost 3.1GW of rooftop PV
By Andy Colthorpe - 13 January 2014, 11:19
In News, Power Generation

Australia ended last year with over 1.6 million PV systems installed on rooftops, representing almost 3.1GW cumulative capacity of rooftop solar power installed across the country.

In total, around 0.7GW was added in 2013, with the figure for installed rooftop capacity at the end of 2012 standing at around 2.4GW. At the end of 2011 around 1.3GW had been installed, meaning capacity has more than doubled in two years.

According to monthly figures published by Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator, as of 31 December 2013, there were 1,161,245 rooftop PV systems which made up a total of 3,096,067kW capacity installed. This figure includes 1,723 new systems, 7.5MW, installed in December, although December figures are provisional and widely expected to be revised upward for the regulator’s January statistics release.

At present, December figures show a sharp decline in new installations from the preceeding three months – in November around 44.7MW was installed, in October 61.9MW was added while September saw 55.9MW installed.

New systems are registered with the country’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme, which is aimed at supplying 20% of Australia’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Australian prime minister Tony Abbot, who took office in September 2013, has made clear his intention to drastically cut spending on climate targets and highlighted the possibility of scrapping the RET, citing high consumer energy prices as a more eminent priority.

The top 10 clean energy developments of 2013
By Laurie Guevara-Stone on 13 January 2014

2013 was an exciting and inspiring year in many regards. And we’re not just talking the arrival of Prince George or the fact that the new Pope rides an electric bicycle. There were many remarkable clean energy developments that are helping to bring us closer to a clean, prosperous, and secure energy future. Here we list our top ten:

1. Renewables become cheapest option for many utilities

2. Utilities look toward new business models

3. Storage goes mainstream

4. Electric vehicles have banner year

5. Transportation apps are on the rise

6. Cities get serious about building efficiency

7. Deep energy retrofits are the new black

8. China tackles air pollution

9. Companies put a price on carbon

10. Industry gets efficient

amor de cosmos
Jan 14, 2014, 7:39 PM
England’s Clouds Part for Solar as Panels Carpet Fields
14 January 2014

Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) — Cloudy Britain is emerging as Europe’s hottest market to build solar parks.

Cheaper equipment costs and steady subsidies are attracting developers of large-scale, ground-mounted projects from nations like Germany and Spain that pioneered solar on the continent. Britain may build more big plants — 2 megawatts or larger – than any European country, adding as much as 2,000 megawatts of capacity this year, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Those panels would occupy about 16 square miles, enough to cover most of central London.

While much of the continent has scaled back solar aid to favor economic growth over green policies, the U.K. pledged subsidies through 2020 with no limit on the size of projects. Investors raised at least 750 million pounds ($1.2 billion) last year for megawatt-scale projects, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“The boom in large-scale solar started much later in the U.K. than in most of Europe, so the country has been able to learn from others,” said Daniel Guttmann, PwC’s head of renewable energy strategy. “Projects are developed at much lower cost than earlier ones abroad. This right level of support, along with policy stability, is driving fast growth.”

The new installations would power about 600,000 average homes. Such growth however depends on the U.K.’s Conservative Party-led government keeping solar subsidies in place amid a political storm over rising energy costs, which have been blamed in part on the environmental levies.

First Funds

Britain is attracting investors and developers from across the region including Portugal’s Martifer SGPS SA and the Dutch Infrastructure Fund BV. The country’s first solar funds listed last year: Foresight Group LLP raised 150 million pounds in October for one, while Bluefield Partners LLP got 130 million pounds in July for another. Both attracted retail and institutional investors, which increasingly are interested in the industry.

“We expect the U.K. to be a multibillion-pound solar market over the next few years,” said James Armstrong, a partner at Bluefield, which seeks as much as 400 million pounds within two to three years.

Britain, one of the gloomiest countries in the region, could have as much as 20 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2020 from almost 3 gigawatts now, Energy Minister Greg Barker has said. That would beat Italy’s current 16.5 gigawatts and Spain’s 4.7 gigawatts, while trailing Europe’s biggest solar nation, Germany, with 35.4 gigawatts.

Qbotix Supplying Robots for 45 Megawatts of Solar Projects (1)
13 January 2014

Jan. 13 (Bloomberg) — Qbotix Inc., a closely held supplier of robotic systems for solar farms, agreed to supply equipment for 45 megawatts of U.K. power plants under development by Castillium Ltd.

The first Castillium projects using Qbotix systems will begin construction in mid-2014, according to a statement today from the Menlo Park, California-based robotics company. Terms weren’t disclosed.

Qbotix’s battery-powered robots ride a rail around solar arrays and tilt the panels toward the sun as it moves across the sky. They increase panel output by as much as 45 percent and may lower the cost of building power plants by as much as 20 percent, Chief Executive Officer Wasiq Bokhari said.

“Our approach adds value, including in conditions where sunlight is poor,” Bokhari said in a telephone interview. “We are a global company, and solar is a global market.” The company is deploying its technology in Japan and may expand into Chile, he said.

Qbotix is seeking to raise $12.5 million in equity financing, including contributions from existing investors, by the end of the first quarter, Bokhari said. It has raised about $12 million to date.

UK solar panels reach half a million rooftop milestone
Government figures suggest British solar industry past major landmark last week, as installers work towards delivering one million roofs by 2015
By Jessica Shankleman
14 Jan 2014

The solar power industry appears to have installed its 500,000th set of panels in the UK in recent days, in a move that marks a major milestone for the burgeoning sector.

According to figures by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, 499,687 solar schemes had been installed by January 5 under the feed-in tariff scheme that supports solar arrays with a capacity smaller than 50kW.

With the solar market installing around 1,900 schemes on average per week over the past year and work now picking up after the Christmas holidays it is highly likely more than 313 would have been installed last week, taking the industry past the half a million mark.

However, it remains to be seen how close the industry is towards its goal of installing one million solar arrays specifically on homes by 2015. On one hand, the figures show that only 478,875 of the installations were definitely fitted on domestic rooftops, with larger installations likely to have featured on offices and commercial properties. But Leonie Greene of the Solar Trade Association argued that several thousand panels were installed on rooftops before the feed-in tariff began, meaning that the industry is likely to have delivered around half a million domestic installations.

She welcomed the data as further evidence of the growing popularity of solar technology in the UK and predicted that the sector's target for 2015 now looked "very achievable".

"Politicians may be fighting about energy and climate change in Westminster, but the public are just getting on with it," she told BusinessGreen. "A quiet solar revolution has been taking place led by half a million everyday households. Polls show over and over that the public back renewables and they have indeed put their hands in their pockets to prove it."

I would have thought the Okanagan area would be a good place for solar:

Will British Columbia’s Solar Industry Rise?
Originally published on Reviving Gaia
by Roy L. Hales

It was a hot August day. Thanks to the ten solar panels recently installed on his garage roof, Hans Wekking was getting more than enough energy for his house and his EV. Pointing to his meter box, he said, “Right now, its showing that we are putting power in the grid.” There would have been nothing unusual about this scene in California, but in British Columbia it made the news.

According to Alevtina Akbulatova, of BC Hydro, there are 250 rooftop solar installations in the province.

By way of comparison, California has 167,878.

British Columbia’s solar presence is slight even in Canadian terms. The only province where rooftop solar has taken hold is Ontario, which had 759.4 MW of installed PV systems in 2012. Alberta and BC, the nation’s #2 and #3 rooftop provinces, produced 2.2 MW and 2.1, respectively.

Why hasn’t solar caught on in BC?

The model that most people look to is Germany, which produces a third of the World’s solar energy.

According to Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, “Germany gets only about as much annual sun as Seattle or Alaska; its sunniest region gets less sun than almost anywhere in the lower 48 states. This underscores an important point: solar power works and competes not only in the sunniest places, but in some pretty cloudy places, too.”

“Germany is the world’s leading country of solar installations per capita and their annual solar energy availability is consistent with BC,” said Jim Musselwhite, of G.E.T. Solar Solutions. “Additionally, Victoria is one of the sunniest cities in the province with half the annual rainfall of Vancouver and an estimated 2,223 hours of sunshine every year!”

SolarWorld unveils record-setting test module
14. January 2014 | Research & Development, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Michael Fuhs, Edgar Meza

TÜV Rheinland has confirmed a world record of 306 W for a 60-cell format module produced as part of a second-generation Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) technology research project.

SolarWorld on Monday unveiled a record-setting 306 W test module at its research and development facility in Freiberg, Germany, that utilizes a number of new technologies, including second-generation Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) innovations.

"TÜV Rheinland has certified the second-generation modules with a power output of 306 W. This sets a world record for PERC modules in standard 60-cell format," said Dr. Holger Neuhaus, head of SolarWorld Innovations GmbH, the group’s research and development facility.

SolarWorld oversaw the three-year development of the module while working with more than a dozen companies and research institutions as part of Germany’s Photovoltaics Innovation Alliance Sonne research project, which is supported by the German government.

The companies joined forces in 2011 to develop highly efficient and low-cost solar cells and modules. The team managed to increase the performance of the test module from the standard 240-260 W to up to 300 W thanks to the new PERC technology.

SolarWorld currently produces 265-275 W first-generation PERC modules, which the company says dramatically reduces system costs for customers by producing the same amount of energy in smaller areas and thus reducing area-based costs for installations.

US surpasses 5 GW of utility-scale solar capacity
14. January 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Edgar Meza

U.S. solar capacity more than doubled in 2013 thanks to the addition of substantial new capacity around the country in mid-size projects between 4 and 92 MW.

The United States soared to the top spot in utility-scale capacity and overtaken China in the process after a storming last quarter, according to the latest data from Wiki-Solar.

The bustling solar market allowed the U.S. to leapfrog over China, which had ranked No. 1 in utility-scale capacity early in 2013.

Recent figures from CAISO, California’s transmission grid operator, show that major new capacity came online between October and December from several of the world’s largest solar power stations, including three partly-complete First Solar projects: Desert Sunlight being built for GE and others, which now has 470 MW connected out of an eventual 550 MW capacity; Topaz Solar Farm for MidAmerican (237 of 550 MW); and Exelon’s Antelope Valley (230 of 250 MW).

The latest figures also include several 100+MW projects now fully connected, including First Solar's 290 MW Agua Caliente, SunPower’s 250 MW California Valley for NRG Energy, Sempra's 165 MW Mesquite I, Tenaska's 130 MW Imperial South and GE's 127 MW Arlington Valley.

Coupled with substantial new capacity around the country in mid-size projects between 4 and 92 MW, this raised total U.S. capacity to over 5 GW -- more than double the 2.2 GW existing at the start of 2013, Wiki-Solar reported.

"We've known for some time that America's pipeline of giga-scale projects would take it to the top of the table," said Wiki-Solar's Philip Wolfe. "Thanks to a further 12 GW still in development, it should stay there for some time, though China's progress is also impressive – and they have a habit of springing new capacity on us with little warning."

"We've known for some time that America's pipeline of giga-scale projects would take it to the top of the table," said Wiki-Solar's Philip Wolfe. "Thanks to a further 12 GW still in development, it should stay there for some time, though China's progress is also impressive – and they have a habit of springing new capacity on us with little warning."



Top 10 US states offer more than 40GW of solar PV pipeline capacity
By Michael Barker - 14 January 2014, 12:59
In Guest Blog

At the end of 2013, based on annual market demand, the top 10 states for solar PV in the US had an aggregate project pipeline of approximately 2,000 non-residential projects. This represents almost 40GW of potential PV capacity.

Project pipelines provide significant insight into individual projects, but also help understand market structures, business models, and future demand levels.

Figure 1, to the left, shows the total project pipeline levels (all projects yet to be completed), for the top 10 US states, based on total pipeline capacity.

California dominates the 40GW pipeline, with over 60% of capacity, firmly cementing its place as the leading US market. In fact, if California alone was compared on a global level, it would have ranked as the fourth largest global PV market in 2013.

By examining where states are ranked – in terms of pipeline capacity – long-term demand trends can be established. States with smaller pipeline levels may be in danger of declining year on year, as project development activity slows down and current pipeline activity gets depleted.



Pioneering Solar Technologies (INFOGRAPHIC)
by Zach
on January 14, 2014

In 1839, the photovoltaic reaction was first observed. Since then, mankind has harnessed the power of the sun in many different ways.

From powering everyday devices like wrist watches (1968) and calculators (1978) to sending orbiting satellites (1962) and spaceships (1967) through the cosmos.

What is exciting is that we are only at the early stages of how important solar technologies could be to our planet. Here, we take a look at some of the projects that are currently being tested and developed that would redefine the way we transport ourselves, look after the planet, and connect with each other:



Missouri utility continues to embrace solar with renewable energy centre
By Lucy Woods - 14 January 2014, 11:17
In News, Power Generation, Project Focus

The investor owned electric and gas utility, Ameren Corporation is continuing its major solar energy initiative, with a 5.7MW solar centre in Missouri.

With some utilities increasingly keen on solar, and the technology preferred over other sources for additional utility power, Ameren is to start constructing its multi-million-dollar O'Fallon Renewable Energy Center.

Built in the city of O’Fallon, across 7.7 hectares of land already owned by Ameren, the renewable energy centre will have 19,000 solar panels installed to power 650 houses in the St. Louis area with clean energy.

The array should be complete by December, creating 50-70 construction jobs at a site opposite Ameren Missouri's Belleau substation in St. Charles County.

Scientists develop a more efficient and economical solar cell based on graphene and perovskite
14 January 2014 Asociación RUVID

The Group of Photovoltaic and Optoelectronic Devices (DFO) at the Universitat Jaume I in Castelló, led by the professor of Applied Physics Juan Bisquert, together with researchers from the prestigious University of Oxford, have created and characterized a photovoltaic device based on a combination of titanium oxide and graphene as charge collector and perovskite as sunlight absorber. The device is manufactured at low temperatures and has a high efficiency.

The results of this study were recently published in Nano Letters, a prestigious scientific journal with an impact factor of 13,025, which leads the dissemination of news in all branches of the theory and practice of nanoscience and nanotechnology. The article is the result of the research work carried out the last year by the Group of Photovoltaic and Optoelectronic Devices on a topic of high impact within the scientific community of photovoltaic solar cells based on solid pigments with perovskite structure.

This scientific work has combined new and promising materials based on perovskite structure, which absorb sunlight very effectively, with graphene, a material that arouses most interest today for its properties, versatility and low cost. Graphene is a material consisting of carbon monolayers. Its use has generated huge expectations in new advanced technologies, such as high-performance lithium batteries, electronics, video screens and technological applications.

amor de cosmos
Jan 15, 2014, 6:40 PM
UK Large-Scale Solar PV Saw 600% Growth In 2013

A new blog post from NPD Solarbuzz’s Vice President, Finlay Colville, sourcing several NPD Solarbuzz analyses, has determined that UK large-scale solar PV installations grew by a whopping 600% during 2013, amounting to a record of 1.45 GW new solar PV capacity added through the 12 month period.

Over 90% of the installations were ground-mounted, helping the UK become one of only six countries that had or approached a GW-level large-scale solar market during 2013.

While the UK only ranked sixth (out of that six), they were one of only four countries to rank in the top 10 for both small- and large-scale solar PV demand.

On top of that, the UK was one of only five countries to rank in both the small- and large-scale solar PV demand top 10′s for 2013, a development that, as Colville notes, “should be welcome news to DECC and UK trade associations in their quest to diversify the UK PV landscape.”

The UK ground-mount pipeline has similarly seen a health 2013, exceeding 5 GW — a figure which includes all projects that have not been completed, as well as projects that have been terminated. As Colville explains, the inclusion of ‘terminated’ projects in the overall rests on the fact that “history informs us from other countries that such sites are often bought by new parties, or resurrected in the future when circumstances/policies/infrastructures change.”



Huge Thermal Solar Potential In Canada
Originally published on Reviving Gaia
by Roy L. Hales

Back in the early 1970‘s, Canada led the world in the development of Solar Thermal energy. Then the oil embargo ended, prices came down, and the incentives and grants dried up. More than a decade passed before what had once been Canadian technology resurfaced in Germany. It became part of that nation’s “energiewende,” a state mandated green energy policy that has transformed Germany into the world’s foremost producer of solar energy. Yet, according to Canada’s only NABCEP Certified Solar Thermal Installer, James Smyth, there is more potential for solar thermal technology on the West Coast.

“Looking around the street where I live, I can see that every house could gain by adopting Solar Thermal energy,” he said.

Though his is the only house that presently has solar panels, James believes this will change.

“I have developed a new system at Camosun College that has an immediate payback under the Solar Colwood/CRD grant program,” James said. “Sales of this Thermal system are getting pretty good and I am now working on a solar heating system with a similar payback. Most thermal systems are in the $8000 to $10,000 installed. My new system is $5000 installed so this has been a game changer for the market.”

Thanks to a $3,000 Solar Thermal grant only available in Southern Vancouver Island, the average CamoSun Solar Thermal customer can receive an immediate reduction of about $264 a year on his energy costs. (That is assuming they finance the installation over 10 years.)

People living outside this area might experience a slight increase, at least up until BC Hydro increases their rates next April.

A $5,000 investment in solar nets a better return than a 2% GIC. While the GIC would produce around $8,000 in 20 years, solar makes $18,000. The returns get even higher when calculated over 30 year.

James has been installing solar for eight years, but his association with Victoria’s Camosun College began after he obtained his North American Board of Certified Practitioners (NABCEP) Solar Thermal Certification.

These Charts Show How Solar Demand Has Shifted Around the World
The global solar market continues to expand and diversify.
Stephen Lacey
January 15, 2014

In recent years, the global solar market has looked a lot like a monarchy, with Europe reigning as king of installations.

But Europe is quickly losing its crown as the industry's playing field levels, bringing a more diversified set of markets around the world.

Between 2006 and 2011, Europe represented more than 70 percent of global solar installations. In the period 2008-2010, the region made up roughly 85 percent of installations. But subsidy reform and high rates of solar penetration are slowing deployment there, while other regions start picking up the pace.

"That kind of dominance is a thing of the past," said Adam James, GTM Research's global demand analyst. "Demand is becoming more diffused globally."

To show how global solar markets are expanding, James shared this chart illustrating how Europe's solar crown is getting knocked off by, well, every other major region cumulatively -- Asia, North America, and to a lesser extent, the up-and-coming Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Latin American markets:



SolarCity to allow retail investors to invest in its projects
By Nichola Groom
LOS ANGELES Wed Jan 15, 2014 8:00am EST

Jan 15 (Reuters) - Top U.S. solar installer SolarCity Corp on Wednesday unveiled a plan that will allow investors of all types - including individuals - to invest in its rooftop solar systems.

The company, backed by Tesla Motors Inc founder Elon Musk, said it will launch a web-based platform later this year to offer debt investments backed by pools of its assets - mainly residential solar projects.

Most of SolarCity's residential projects are financed through contracts of about 20 years, giving the company steady and reliable income from homeowners with good credit and low-risk returns for its investors.

Since its beginnings in 2006, most of SolarCity's growth has been funded by investors such as Google Inc and U.S. Bancorp that put up funds for projects and in return are able to cash in on lucrative federal tax credits for solar systems.

SolarCity has grown to dominate a third of the U.S. residential solar installation market. The move announced on Wednesday is the latest example of SolarCity's, and the solar power industry's, efforts to expand access to capital to fund its rapid growth.

SolarCity Lets Individuals Invest in PV Projects Through a New Acquisition
More creativity in solar asset-backed financial products
Eric Wesoff
January 15, 2014

SolarCity (SCTY) just acquired privately held financial technology firm Common Assets.

The distributed energy financier and installer also just announced that it will offer a web-based investment platform to allow "individuals and organizations" to invest in solar projects.

Tim Newell, financial products expert and CEO of Common Assets, will join SolarCity as VP of financial products. John Witchel, chief architect of the company (and former CTO of Prosper Marketplace, a person-to-person online lending marketplace), joins SolarCity as senior technology architect for financial products.

Newell told GTM yesterday that "SolarCity has been changing the way that clean energy is delivered to homeowners -- offering financial products that will allow a broad range of investors access to debt instruments backed by diverse portfolios of solar assets."

He noted that SolarCity has been successful in constructing investment vehicles such as tax equity partnerships, debt vehicles, and securitization, and added, "Those are just different types of investment vehicles backed by SolarCity's portfolio."

The new financial product "shares an attribute of crowdfunding," according to Newell. But a crowdfunding company such as Mosaic is typically aggregating investors to finance a medium-sized solar project. Investing in an aggregate portfolio of projects was a model reserved for large financial institutions, not small investors.

"This would be inviting individuals to invest in a portfolio of assets that we've developed," said Newell.

This does look a bit like Mosaic's solar crowdfunding business. One-year-old Mosaic has crowdsourced a claimed $6 million in loans to solar projects, with zero defaults to date. Partnerships and large residential portfolios are claimed to be "on the near horizon" for Mosaic as well.

Newell added, "This is going to look like an investment-grade securitization or like a bond."

How will this work? Customers will be able to come to the website, establish an account, and buy financial products and have them serviced over time, according to the VP.

UNC researchers harness sun’s energy during day for use at night
For immediate use: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014

Solar energy has long been used as a clean alternative to fossil fuels such as coal and oil, but it could only be harnessed during the day when the sun’s rays were strongest. Now researchers led by Tom Meyer at the Energy Frontier Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have built a system that converts the sun’s energy not into electricity but hydrogen fuel and stores it for later use, allowing us to power our devices long after the sun goes down.

“So called ‘solar fuels’ like hydrogen offer a solution to how to store energy for nighttime use by taking a cue from natural photosynthesis,” said Meyer, Arey Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. “Our new findings may provide a last major piece of a puzzle for a new way to store the sun’s energy – it could be a tipping point for a solar energy future.”

In one hour, the sun puts out enough energy to power every vehicle, factory and device on the planet for an entire year. Solar panels can harness that energy to generate electricity during the day. But the problem with the sun is that it goes down at night—and with it the ability to power our homes and cars. If solar energy is going to have a shot at being a clean source for powering the planet, scientists had to figure out how to store it for night-time use.

The new system designed by Meyer and colleagues at UNC and with Greg Parsons’ group at North Carolina State University does exactly that. It is known as a dye-sensitized photoelectrosynthesis cell, or DSPEC, and it generates hydrogen fuel by using the sun’s energy to split water into its component parts. After the split, hydrogen is sequestered and stored, while the byproduct, oxygen, is released into the air.

Enel secures $300 million for investment in Latin America
15. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Investor news | By: Edgar Meza

In Chile, Enel Green Power has begun construction on its first solar park in the country, the 36 MW Diego de Almagro facility.

Italian renewable energy giant Enel Green Power last week signed loan deals for $300 million for investment in Latin America.

Through its Chilean and Mexican subsidiaries, Enel Green Power secured two $150 million credit lines from Spanish bank Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria’s branches in Chile and Mexico.

Enel said in plans to use the $300 million to partially cover investments renewable energy project investments in both countries.

Grid-connected storage market set to explode
15. January 2014 | Storage & smart grids, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Edgar Meza

The grid-connected energy storage market will increase from 340 MW in 2013 to more than 6 GW in 2017, according to IHS. The U.S. is set to lead the sector.

A new report by market research firm IHS predicts that the United States will be the largest region for grid-connected energy storage installations between 2012 and 2017, accounting for 43% of installations during that period.

Commercial activity in the grid-connected storage market is currently limited to a small number of regions and IHS estimates that only 340 MW of systems were installed across 2012 and 2013, with these predominately demonstration projects.

However, installations will rapidly grow to more than 6 GW in 2017. The availability of financial incentives to reduce the upfront cost of an energy storage system (ESS), the introduction of energy storage procurement and installation targets and changes in electricity grid regulations that create business opportunities for an ESS in the grid will drive the acceleration, according to IHS.

"The grid-connected energy storage market is set to explode, reaching a total of over 40 GW of installations by 2022,” says IHS solar research manager Sam Wilkinson.

The report projects that growth will continue and by 2022, more than 40 GW of energy storage systems will be installed in grid-connected applications, including behind the meter, in the grid and co-located with renewable and conventional generators.

German R&D project reports record PERC solar module performance
By Mark Osborne - 15 January 2014, 13:39
In News, Cell Processing, PV Modules

The first R&D project that took three years to complete as part of the German Photovoltaics Innovation Alliance has reported a world record for a PERC (Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell) solar module of 306 Watts (60-cell format). The result was verified by TÜV Rheinland.

The Photovoltaics Innovation Alliance ‘SUN’ R&D project was spearheaded by SolarWorld as well as 11 supplier companies and four research institutions to boost conversion efficiencies as well as improve module reliability and longevity.

The target of the project had been to take current PERC-based modules from 240-250W to well over 300W.

Using second-generation PERC processing and employing toughened thin glass/glass encapsulation the module performance guarantee was said to have been increased to 30 years.

The SUN project, which includes other programs not yet completed, had been supported with €21.5 million (US$29.3 million) in funding from the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as well as around 50% of the funding coming from participating companies.

Report: Chinese solar companies lead clean-tech investment success
By Ben Willis - 15 January 2014, 12:58
In News, Finance

Chinese solar companies were among the leading performers within the clean-tech sector in securing venture investment during 2013, a report reveals.

The i3 deal tracker published by market intelligence group Cleantech Investment named JA Solar and solar developer Hefei Golden Sun Energy Technology among 2013’s top players in closing investment deals.

Overall Chinese clean-tech companies secured some RMB5.6 billion (US$920 million) of venture investment during 2013 across 48 separate deals in 2013, the report reveals.

PV estimated to cover 4.5% of German electricity production in 2013
By Andy Colthorpe - 15 January 2014, 12:41
In News, Power Generation

Power generated by photovoltaics systems covered 4.5% of Germany’s total electricity production last year, according to estimates released by the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW).

The figure represents a modest increase of 0.3% from 2012, when PV covered around 4.2% of gross electricity production.

The total output of renewable energy generation including wind and other sources was 23.4% of total power generation, again marking an increase from 2012 when it represented 22.8% of total output. Renewable energy also accounted for 25% of demand in Germany last year.

BDEW estimates that the output of electricity produced by PV increased in 2013 by 7.3%, while wind power in contrast decreased by 3.5%.

In a statement released to accompany the estimates, BDEW chairwoman Hildegard Müller said energy reforms were among the core tasks facing the country’s coalition government, which was sworn into office in December.

Financial innovations spur renewable energy investment in global markets
15. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Investor news, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Ilias Tsagas

Investment firms, financiers and energy companies around the globe are introducing innovative new funding vehicles aimed at renewable energy investment.

Recent financing innovations for solar PV and other sustainable projects show a clear trend for new funding models, tools and practices that are propelling the renewable energies sector into the mainstream.

Financing and investment firms are also integrating climate change into new financial products. The following three cases from both sides of the Pond exemplify the trend.

UK utility solar continues to grow and create jobs
By Lucy Woods
15 January 2014, 12:55 Updated: 15 January 2014, 15:07

Utility solar plant operator, Lightsource Renewable Energy is doubling its capacity this year, spurring a recruitment drive to fill 100 jobs.

Lightsource is planning to nearly double its capacity from 326MW to 600MW creating 100 new jobs in the solar sector.

The new employees will join the current team of 160 operating 80 utility-scale solar farms, providing clean energy for 100,000 UK homes.

There are 25 positions available now, mainly based in London, Bath and Belfast for engineers, asset managers and office professionals.

Twenty of the open roles now are for engineers managing solar farms. The company is also looking to recruit local farming and landscaping professionals.

Nick Boyle, CEO of Lightsource said the goal is to have “as many people involved in this positive, low carbon sector as possible. Whether it’s benefiting from land rent, fixed price electricity or working to build the farms, there are opportunities to be part of this exciting change in the UK’s economy".

US Large-scale Commercial PV Segment to Show Strongest Growth in 2014
Posted by Michael Barker in Solarbuzz, Solar on January 14, 2014 | No Comments

While ground-mount utility projects dominated the US market in 2013 and will still make up the majority of market demand in 2014, commercial building-mount applications are projected to see much stronger growth rates.

Small-scale commercial applications less than 100 kW are projected to grow by approximately 40% Y/Y, while large-scale commercial projects will see almost 70% annual growth; approximately double and triple the growth rate, respectively, compared to ground-mount PV systems.

The shift to distributed generation building-mount commercial applications is being driven by a number of factors, including the favorable economics for these systems in the Northeast and West of the US, as well as changing incentive policies in a number of US states.

These projects also often benefit from shorter lead times compared to large-scale centralized projects, an important factor especially when looking at the longer term 2-3 year forecast and the planned ITC reduction in the US.

Given the rapid growth rates from the large-scale commercial building-mount segment and the overall scale of the ground-mount segment, the US market will continue to be driven by large-scale PV applications.

This trend has implications for component supply as well as project development, as discussed in more detail in recent NPD Solarbuzz postings analyzing small-scale and large-scale markets.

Solar PV scheme helps protect 350 Scottish homes from fuel poverty
By Peter Bennett | 15 January 2014, 17:47 Updated: 15 January 2014, 18:09

A total of 350 homes at risk of fuel poverty have been given a helping hand by Knowes Housing Association after installing solar PV on houses in Clydebank, Scotland.

The solar installations are part of a £2 million programme of energy improvements for the housing association over the next two years. The improvements are expected to deliver annual energy bill savings of £70,000.

The recent solar rollout saw 350 homes fitted with solar arrays sized between 2kWp and 4kWp, totalling 980kWp of capacity. All of the installations were completed by local installer Edison Energy.

The installed solar arrays will help generate a revenue stream for the housing association through the associated feed-in tariff payments. As part of the deal, Edison Energy will work with Knowes Housing Association and its tenants for the lifetime of the feed-in tariff payments, providing aftercare, financing and maintenance support.

Trina Solar supplied 4,000 of its TSM-PC05 series modules for the project, commenting on the need for these kinds of projects, Richard Rushin UK sales manager at Trina Solar said: “In a climate of escalating uncertainty over traditional energy supplies and concern about potential price hikes, it is important to emphasise the vital role that solar PV is already playing – and will continue to play – as part of the renewable energy mix, helping to stave off the threat of fuel poverty in areas hardest hit by the challenging economic circumstances of recent years.”

Franco-German energy plan to focus on renewables, not mergers
By Julien Ponthus and Geert De Clercq
PARIS Wed Jan 15, 2014 9:14am EST

Jan 15 (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande's surprise announcement of a Franco-German energy joint venture did not target major utilities but renewable energy and electricity networks, his aides said on Wednesday.

A senior Elysee Palace source told Reuters a joint French-German cabinet meeting on Feb. 19 in Paris will discuss ways in which the two nations can cooperate in renewable energy, and would also discuss smart grids, energy efficiency and storage.

Industry and energy ministers will discuss ways to realise Hollande's proposal for a Franco-German energy firm modelled on aerospace group Airbus.

Hollande's proposal on Tuesday had baffled French and German industrialists and raised eyebrows in Berlin, but the source said Hollande had discussed energy cooperation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to Paris on Dec. 18.

"We have a strong interest in the closest possible cooperation on energy policy whether on a political or corporate level," a spokesman for the German Economy Ministry, which is responsible for energy, told reporters.

He added that the exact design will be discussed intensively in the coming days and weeks.

Sources ruled out an imminent capital operation or alliance between French state-controlled utility EDF or partly state-owned gas and power group GDF Suez and one of the major German utilities such as E.ON or RWE.

"The president's goal is to coordinate our energy transitions and to find ways to take industrial initiatives together," the French source said.

Hollande wants French and German energy firms to pool their capacities in the way Airbus brought together engineering and production skills from the two countries.

This accelerated shift out of nuclear, coupled with a boom in renewable energy such as wind and solar, is putting a strain on their power networks and could jeopardise energy security.

The source said the solar industry was an example where a lack of cooperation between the two leading European countries had let foreign - notably Chinese - photovoltaic panel makers steal a march on European industry.

amor de cosmos
Jan 16, 2014, 6:24 PM
panasonic initiates 'cut out the darkness' solar lantern campaign

panasonic has launched the 'cut out the darkness' campaign which aims at bringing light to the over 1.3 billion people who live without any access to electricity. since 2006, the corporation has been donating solar lanterns to those in need, with the goal of distributing 100,000 by its 100th anniversary in 2018. the lighting devices generate electricity during the day, storing that energy within the lamp's secondary battery for use during the night.





beta.ey spherical glass solar device charger by rawlemon

for the past three years, our friend, german architect andré broessel of rawlemon has developed efficient concentrated solar energy systems. his previous endeavour, the 'betaray spherical glass solar energy generator', implemented a glass ball lens into its design for improving energy efficiency by up to 35% over traditional PV panels. building on the existing technology, broessel has presented his latest stand-alone energy harvesting concept: 'beta.ey', a solar cell phone charger and atmospheric lamp, which is available now for funding on indigogo.



UK Rises Above 500,000 Solar Homes, Prices Keep Dropping (Infographic)

The UK has now risen over 500,000 solar homes. CompareMySolar.co.uk decided to make the following infographic in order to commemorate the milestone. Check it out:



What’s Behind the 2013 Decline in Renewable Energy Investment?
“The top-line figures don’t tell the whole story.”
Katherine Tweed
January 15, 2014

Global investment in renewable energy and clean energy technologies has dropped for the second year in a row, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Investment figures came to $254 billion in 2013, a 12 percent drop from 2012. The record high for renewable energy financing came in 2011 at nearly $318 billion, according to BNEF. Declines in Europe dragged down the whole market, but there are some bright spots.

“A second successive year of decline in investment will come as unwelcome news to the clean energy sector,” Michael Liebreich, founder and chairman of the advisory board for BNEF, said in a statement. “But the top-line figures don’t tell the whole story.”

There's actually a silver lining in the numbers. Part of the decline was caused by the improving economics of solar and wind, said Liebreich. But advocacy groups estimate that annual investments must increase to $500 billion by the end of the decade -- and eventually $1 trillion annually by 2030 -- in order to stabilize global temperatures.

Shunfeng to invest $4.1 billion in solar projects
16. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Edgar Meza

The company will build most of its 3 GW of new installations this year in China's northwestern regions, including Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu and Inner Mongolia.

China's Shunfeng Photovoltaic International is planning to invest some CNY 25 billion ($4.1 billion) to develop its own solar projects this year, according to a report on Thursday by Bloomberg.

Citing comments by Shunfeng Chairman Zhang Yi, the news agency said the company expected to install 3 GW in China this year as part of a plan to build a total of 10 GW of projects through 2016.

In view of the fact that power consumption is rising in China and the government has set a goal of 35 GW of solar capacity by 2015, Zhang said the solar market had "broad prospects," Bloomberg reported.

California greenlights 485 MW PV project
16. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Edgar Meza

While considerably smaller than originally planned, the $1.13 billion project will spur California's transition to renewable energy and help advance its climate change goals, say regulators.

The California Energy Commission on Wednesday approved NextEra Energy's plan to use photovoltaic technology rather than the previously approved solar parabolic trough system for its planned 484 MW Blythe Solar Power Project.

NextEra, which took over the project in April 2013, filed a revised amendment with the commission to reduce the original project's planned physical size and generation capacity.

The company is set to build the facility on 4,070 acres () of public land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in four phases, with the first three consisting of 125 MW and the fourth generating 110 MW. The site is located some 13 kilometers west of the city of Blythe in eastern Riverside County.

The original project owner, a subsidiary of Solar Millennium, had filed an amendment with the commission in June 2012 to switch to solar PV, which led to a commission review of the plans.

"The project will spur California's transition to renewable energy and help advance its aggressive climate change goals," said Commissioner Karen Douglas, who is the presiding member of the committee reviewing the Blythe Solar Power Project amendment.

Japan adds nearly 4 GW of PV capacity
16. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Edgar Meza

The country's cumulative installed solar capacity reached nearly 11.3 GW by October 31.

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has reported the installation of 3,993 MW of PV capacity in the country between April 1 and October 31, 2013.

METI's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) compiled the data covering the status of new facilities generating renewable energy in the time period.

"Photovoltaic power facilities steadily continue to be introduced, and the total combined capacity of such facilities as of October 31, 2013, reached 5,852,000 kW after the feed-in tariff scheme was introduced," METI said on its website.

As of Oct. 31, 2013, Japan's cumulative installed PV capacity had reached 11.226 GW.

Of the 3.99 GW of new PV capacity, residential accounted for 870 MW, while non-residential systems made up the rest, 3,123 MW.

From July 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013, Japan's total PV capacity reached 1,673 MW, with residential making up 969 MW and non-residential 704 MW.

Prior to the introduction of Japan’s feed-in tariff program, which went into effect July 1, 2012, combined total solar capacity in the country was at about 5.6 GW.

Japan became the first country in the world to surpass the 1 GW of cumulative PV capacity back in 2004.

JCM Capital starts US$150 million fund for PV projects in Africa and Latin America
By Mark Osborne - 16 January 2014, 15:27
In News, Power Generation, Finance, Project Focus

Canadian-based private equity firm, JCM Capital has launched a targeted fund of up to US$150 million to support PV power plant projects in Latin and South America and Sub Saharan Africa.

The firm has previously focused on emerging markets and has funded more than 70 projects in the last five years. Such markets have been difficult to develop due to access to early-phase investment by PV project developers.

“This fund will provide investors with an attractive value proposition: the steady cash flows of infrastructure combined with the growth of emerging markets," said Tom Heintzman, JCM Capital – managing director, Infrastructure Group. "JCM’s solar PV projects in Africa and Latin America will provide clean energy necessary to support the significant growth underway in these regions. In Africa alone, the African Development Bank estimates that more than US$40 billion annually of new electricity generation capacity is required in order to support economic growth, and solar PV will be the fastest growing form of generation in these markets.”

The company said that the fund had already secured a lead investor and secured commitments of US$15 million.

Cobalt catalysts allow researchers to duplicate the complicated steps of photosynthesis
By Jared Sagoff • January 13, 2014

ARGONNE, Ill. – Humans have for ages taken cues from nature to build their own devices, but duplicating the steps in the complicated electronic dance of photosynthesis remains one of the biggest challenges and opportunities for chemists.

Currently, the most efficient methods we have for making fuel – principally, hydrogen – from sunlight and water involve rare and expensive metal catalysts, such as platinum. In a new study, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have found a new, more efficient way to link a less expensive synthetic cobalt-containing catalyst to an organic light-sensitive molecule, called a chromophore.

Although cobalt is significantly less efficient than platinum when it comes to light-induced hydrogen generation, the drastic price difference between the two metals makes cobalt the obvious choice as the foundation for a synthetic catalyst, said Argonne chemist Karen Mulfort.

“Cobalt doesn’t have to be as efficient as platinum because it is just so much cheaper,” she said.

The Argonne study wasn’t the first to look at cobalt as a potential catalytic material; however, the paper did identify a new mechanism by which to link the chromophore with the catalyst. Previous experiments with cobalt attempted to connect the chromophore directly with the cobalt atom within the larger compound, but this eventually caused the hydrogen generation process to break down.

Instead, the Argonne researchers connected the chromophore to part of a larger organic ring that surrounded the cobalt atom, which allowed the reaction to continue significantly longer.

“If we were to directly link the chromophore and the cobalt atom, many of the stimulated electrons quickly fall out of the excited state back into the ground state before the energy transfer can occur,” Mulfort said. “By coupling the two materials in the way we’ve described, we can have much more confidence that the electrons are going to behave the way we want them to.”

One additional advantage of working with a cobalt-based catalyst, in addition to its relatively low price and abundance, is the fact that scientists understand the atomic-level mechanisms at play.

OYA Solar Commissions Rooftop Solar Installation in Canada
Published on 16 January 2014

OYA Solar Inc. (OYA), a developer of solar PV systems based in Ontario (Canada), announced the commissioning of its largest solar project with Atlas Tube (Atlas).

OYA in conjunction with Atlas, a manufacturer of hollow structural steel sections, has developed Canada’s largest rooftop Solar Photovoltaic (PV) plant. The 718.08kW solar plant, which spans over nearly 120,000 square feet of roof top space (7 hockey rinks), is located at Atlas, a division of JMC Steel Group located in Harrow, Ontario and is the first phase of a planned 3.5 Megawatt (MW) rooftop project.

Currently, the rooftop solar installation in Canada, will supply enough electricity to power 60 homes for a whole year, with an annual power output of 897,128 kilowatt-hours (kWh). The plant will offset over 420 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of planting over 25,000 trees. The project features 2,244 solar modules and over 30 tons of steel tubing supplied by Atlas Tube and Polar Racking’s (Polar) rooftop ballasted mounting system.

amor de cosmos
Jan 17, 2014, 6:49 PM
U.K. Proposes Onshore Wind, Solar Capacity Auctions
By Alex Morales Jan 17, 2014 3:44 AM PT

The U.K. plans to force onshore wind developers to compete head-to-head for the first time with solar generators when they bid for green power subsidies as the nation seeks to reduce the cost of renewable energy for consumers.

Joint auctions for the most mature kinds of renewables such as energy from waste, hydropower, and landfill gas and sewage gas would start in the autumn, according to a consultation paper posted on the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s website.

“The government clearly hopes that there will be a sufficient number of projects to create competitive tension so that bids come in materially below the administrative strike prices,” Peter Atherton, an analyst at Liberum Capital Ltd., wrote today in a note to investors.

The U.K. is seeking 110 billion pounds ($180 billion) of power-industry investment through 2020 while trying to keep a lid on consumers’ bills. More competitive auctions would spur developers to bid for the government’s guaranteed rates at below the so-called strike prices offered for different technologies.

“Current indications, based on our understanding of the pipeline for renewable energy projects, are that there will be a high level of demand for government support schemes,” the department said in the paper published on its website late yesterday. “We are better placed than we had previously anticipated to introduce competitive forms of allocation.”

Low Carbon and Macquarie fuel solar boom with latest phase of 300MW expansion plan
Two further UK solar farms announced as investors back fast-expanding industry
By BusinessGreen staff
17 Jan 2014

The UK's fast-expanding solar farm industry received another boost yesterday renewable energy investors Low Carbon and Macquarie Capital announced plans for two new sites boasting 34MW of capacity.

The projects in Wiltshire and East Anglia are designed to provide 13MW and 21MW of capacity respectively and mark the second phase in the two companies' plans to deliver 300MW of UK solar capacity.

The companies said they now had three projects boasting 26MW of capacity under construction and due to come online in the first half of 2014, while the two new sites are also expected to be completed by the end of June.

Under the partnership, the two companies have agreed to work together to develop a series of projects, with Macquarie Capital having committed to providing the necessary construction funding.

"We've really hit the ground running in 2014 and are excited to get another two sites into construction from this investment," said John Cole, chief investment officer at Low Carbon, in a statement. "These projects demonstrate again our ability to quickly and effectively manage and package low risk renewables projects for investment. We are firmly committed to creating a low carbon future by reducing carbon emissions whilst making use of technological advances in photovoltaics to provide returns to investors."

Solarcentury and Santander ink deal to support solar expansion drive
Bank provides £16.5m loan facility as developer seeks to expand presence in emerging economies
By BusinessGreen staff
17 Jan 2014

UK-based renewable energy developer Solarcentury has secured £16.5m in loans from Santander to support plans to grow its business at home and in Latin America.

The company announced today that the loan facility had been confirmed, adding that the finance will now be used for investments in solar farms and rooftop projects.

Neil Perry, chief financial officer at Solarcentury, said the company was seeking to build on its success of last year, which saw revenues grow to £80m delivering pre-tax profits of £2.4m.

"To fuel this growth, we were seeking an additional banking partner and we are delighted that Santander has chosen to work with us," he said in a statement.

2014 solar trends episode 2: The Utility Strikes Back & the Return of the Utility
January 16th, 2014
Written by Mark Liffmann

The double title really says it all about the relationship between the solar industry and utilities. Are utilities a force for good, or do they represent the “dark side” when it comes to solar?

In reality, the solar industry needs utilities. Utility-scale solar relies on the infrastructure provided by utilities to deliver energy to customers. Meanwhile, owners of distributed rooftop solar systems need utilities to distribute excess energy as it’s produced, and to provide energy when their system is not producing enough to meet their needs.

While distributed solar needs the utility, it is also forcing the utility to evolve. Some prognosticators have hypothesized that the utility is going the way of the landline phone company. As mobile phones continue to grow in popularity, the percentage of American households who no longer have a landline hit 34% in 2012. At the current rate of decline, the last landline will be cut sometime in the middle of the next decade.

In fact, many utilities are already looking at ways to evolve their business models and continue to profit as technology changes, and this solar trend will continue strong in 2014. Where some see a threat in distributed solar, others see an opportunity. The list of traditional electrical utilities and diversified energy companies that are investing in distributed solar and utility-scale solar outside of their regulated territories is growing by the day.

PG&E Corporation, parent of California regulated utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company, has invested in both residential solar finance company SunRun, and integrated distributed solar developer SolarCity.
Edison International, parent company of Southern California Edison, recently purchased SoCore Energy, a developer of commercial solar rooftops, to enter the commercial solar space directly. This follows an earlier investment in residential solar finance company Clean Power Finance.
Clean Power Finance seems to have perfected the art of getting utilities to consider evolving their business model, as they also have received investments from the largest electric holding company in the U.S., Duke Energy.
Integrys Energy Services, Inc., a subsidiary of Integrys Energy Group, Inc., a large Midwestern utility holding company, also created a residential solar finance fund through Clean Power Finance’s online platform.
Duke Energy, the nation’s largest utility holding company through subsidiary Duke Energy Renewables, is a major investor in utility-scale solar nationwide. Of course, when you are the largest utility in the U.S. you need lots of ways to profit from solar, so they have also formed a new group within their regulated utility to look at ways to invest in distributed solar.
NextEra, the parent company of Florida Power and Light and a large independent power producer, has been investing in utility-scale solar for years. Their most recent foray into the commercial solar market has been the acquisition of Smart Energy Capital.
NRG Energy, another leading independent power producer, is investing in utility- and commercial-scale solar through subsidiary NRG Solar, and in residential solar through subsidiary NRG Residential Solar Solutions.
Warren Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway are also investing in some of the largest solar plants in the country through subsidiary MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company.

If you’ve written utilities off as dinosaurs clinging to coal plants and outdated business models, it’s time to look again. In the not-so-distant future, those same utilities just might own the solar on your roof. The force runs strong in utilities, and time will tell which utility will be the AT&T or Verizon of distributed solar.

Peering Over the 2017 Horizon for Solar, Part 1: Securitization
Yuri Horwitz and Will Graves dissect solar securitization as the industry prepares for a post-ITC future.
Yuri Horwitz and Will Graves
January 17, 2014

In 2017 the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) will be cut by 66 percent, falling from 30 percent to 10 percent of the total solar project value.

This legislative change will be significant for the industry, and it will also be a test. Overall, we believe that while the industry may be overestimating its ability to reduce the cost of capital (even in a mature marketplace with a mature asset class), the future is quite promising for solar in a number of markets as project costs continue to decline.

This two-part series provides the reader a strategy with which to analyze the changing solar landscape and the interactions between declining costs of capital for the solar project asset class, declining install costs for these projects, and electricity offtake rates. It also offers certain key perspectives and observations based on this analysis.

The Promise of Securitization and New Financial Structures

The solar industry continues to focus on financial innovation as a means to drive down the cost of capital available to investors and developers interested in the asset class. These efforts are premised on the idea that if the industry can access “cheaper” capital -- meaning capital demanding less aggressive returns -- more projects will be viable and the industry will grow more quickly.

For example, a solar energy project selling electricity at 6 cents/kilowatt-hour and providing a 4 percent IRR does not interest most investors, while a project selling electricity at 15 cents/kilowatt-hour and providing 9 percent or 10 percent IRR generally does.

So, the theory goes, if more investors are willing to invest at 6 percent or 7 percent, then more solar projects should be viable because the project itself does not have to generate as much cash, which means the project does not need to charge the offtaker as much for the electricity the project is selling. This in turn means that there should be a greater number of potential customers willing to purchase the electricity from the solar project, and therefore more solar projects will be built.

SolarCity shares rise on Deutsche Bank recommendation
17. January 2014 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Investor news, Markets & Trends | By: Max Hall

Deutsche Bank sets a $90/share target price for SolarCity. Analysts predict grid parity in the U.S. in 2016 to drive the company's customer numbers – and stock price.

U.S. solar leasing company SolarCity has enjoyed another fillip to its share price after Deutsche Bank analysts upgraded its stock to 'buy' yesterday.

Stock market analysts at the German bank set a $90/share target price for the stock, which was trading at $77.6/share at the time of going to press, and said it could rise as high as $150/share over the next two years in bull market conditions.

SolarCity was a U.S. pioneer of the rooftop system leasing model which allows householders to avoid the upfront purchase price of panels in return for a monthly payment and lower energy bills and the company claims to install almost one in three of new rooftop solar systems in the country.

With more than 80,000 customers on its books, Deutsche Bank says that figure could double by the end of the year and SolarCity is aiming for a million customers by 2018.

Solar power saves the day during Australia's record heatwave
17. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets | By: Ian Clover

As 40C-plus heat pours strain on traditional power plants, solar panel systems throughout Australia have taken up the slack.

While tennis players have wilted and bush fires have raged, solar power systems in Australia have come to the fore this week as the nation battles with the effects of the latest debilitating heatwave.

Temperatures across many parts of the country – including Melbourne, where the Australian Open is being held – have soared past 40C for the last few days, melting plastic bottles where they stand and proving once and for all that the sun's heat can, in fact, fry eggs cracked on to flat metal surfaces.

But it is Australia’s coal-fired power plants that have really been feeling the strain. As the middle of the day sees peak demand for power-hungry air conditioning units, the country’s traditional power supplies have had that demand alleviated by solar power systems.

Throughout the country, both rooftop and ground-mounted solar installations have upped their share of power use and generation, helping to rein in wholesale pricing and reduce the number of power outages.

At the midday peak this Wednesday, findings from the Australian Solar Council revealed that the state of South Australia drew 9.41% of its energy needs from solar systems. That figure was 9.13% for Western Australia, 8.64% for Queensland, 3.59% for New South Wales and 2.8% for Victoria.

Solar puts heat on big generators as demand peaks subside
By Giles Parkinson on 17 January 2014

A few weeks ago when discussing some of the frustrations about the poisoned politics of solar PV over a pre-Christmas glass of wine, one solar industry executive ventured this idea: Maybe the only way to point out the value of solar PV is to switch off all modules at the same time on a sunny day. Then we might see what happens to the electricity market.

Of course, that would be impossible to do, and unwise to boot. But given the heatwave that has struck the southern states of Australia and the stress it has put on the electricity network, it might be worth pondering what might have happened if the country did not have the 3,000MW of solar PV strung out across more than a million rooftops.

The problem is there is no direct measurement of the PV output – just estimates – because a lot of the output is consumed at home, and is just not seen by the grid. There seems no doubt, however that solar has played a significant role in not just moderating demand, but also in reducing the severe pricing peaks that have occurred in recent years.

The Electricity Supply Association of Australia, which represents most of the networks and large scale generators that feed electricity into the grid acknowledges that solar was playing a role, although it described this as “small”.

The ESAA puts solar at just 2.5% of peak demand in Victoria at 3.30pm on Wednesday, and noted it produced the most at noon. It said that in South Australia, solar accounted for just 2 per cent at that state’s peak at 6pm on the same day.

The Australian Solar Council, which represents the rooftop solar industry, puts the figures much higher. It said Victoria , and like other states, produced 2.80 per cent during peak periods, and in some states it was nearly 10 per cent.

9.41% in South Australia

9.13% in Western Australia

8.64% in Queensland

2.80% in Victoria

3.59% in NSW

It also noted that the output was pretty solid between 2:30pm and 5:00pm, at the hottest part of the day when electricity use is also at its peak.

This is borne out by data compiled by the Australian Photovoltaic Institute. The first graph shows what happened in Victoria, the second across the country on Wednesday. The APVI data suggests that the contribution of solar PV in South Australia at 6pm (local time) on Wednesday was nearly double that estimated by the ESAA – at more than 3.4 per cent.

Global investment in clean energy falls 12%, despite 20% increase for solar
17. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Investor news, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Top News | By: Ian Clover

Findings from Bloomberg New Energy Finance reveal a 41% slump in investment across Europe, while Japan's solar-fuelled clean energy landscape saw a 55% surge in investment.

Figures released this week by Bloomberg New Energy Finance show that global investments in clean energy fell by 12% in 2013 as falling PV costs and unsteady investor confidence continued to erode the sector’s previously impervious growth.

After falling by 9% in 2012 following a record year of investment in 2011, the top-line figures for 2013 – a total of $254 billion was invested in clean energy last year – obscure the true picture, however. Although investment in solar fell from $142.9 billion in 2012 to $114.7 billion last year, the market’s volume actually increased by as much as 20% thanks to falling solar system costs and an increased focus in newer and cheaper emerging markets.

Japan, meanwhile, bucked the trend completely, plowing $35.4 billion into its clean energy sector – an increase of 55% on 2012. This investment growth has been largely rooted in small-scale solar installations, which are seen as the easiest, safest and most reliable replacement for the nation’s now-redundant nuclear energy capabilities.

"A second successive year of decline in investment will come as unwelcome news to the clean energy sector, but the top-line figures don't tell the whole story," said Bloomberg New Energy Finance's founder and chairman, Michael Liebreich. "Investment in Europe crashed, in large part because of the falling cost of solar installations, whose volume worldwide actually grew by around 20% to a new record."

French President calls for ‘Airbus’ style Euro solar manufacturer
By John Parnell - 17 January 2014, 13:38
In News, Fab & Facilities, PV Modules

France’s President Francois Hollande has called for an ‘Airbus’ style model of collaboration for the European solar industry.

On Tuesday, Hollande said collaboration with Germany in the energy sector would be a “beautiful alliance”.

"Germany has a head-start in renewables, but we have our vanguard in energy storage and power grids," he said.

"We have to work together to expand new industrial branches. We are very proud of Airbus, now we want joint action for the energy transition."

The announcement received a cool reception in Europe.

The German Economy and Energy Ministry told broadcaster Deutsche Welle it welcomed the plans and was open to discuss them.

It was unclear specifically what form of collaboration the president was referring to, however his overtures are in line with the goals of the ambitious HERCULES research project.

The project’s name is derived from High Efficiency Rear Contact solar cells and Ultra powerful moduLES.

The research collaboration between universities, research bodies and private sector firms including EDF and Meyer Burger, aims to drive cell efficiencies to 25% and module power conversion over the 21% mark while keeping the cost at around €0.7 per Watt.

“Ultimately, this type of project would need several billion Euro’s, with much of this falling at the taxpayer’s expense,” Finlay Colville, vice president of NPD Solarbuzz told PV Tech.

“It certainly forms an interesting anecdote at a time when the European Commission has just been asked to investigate government backed support of the Chinese PV manufacturing base as part of the anti-dumping investigations in Europe,” he said.

“European PV manufacturing and R&D has suffered over the past few years, having been heavily funded at the country and European level over many years. In particular, French and German investments into PV go back well over 10 years, with each having some of the first R&D institutes that were meant to bring domestic competitiveness to local PV manufacturers,” said Colville, adding that overcapacity had also hampered the PV equipment supply sector.

“There is no shortage of drivers at play to provide the basis for such a European superpower of the PV industry, but it has to be questioned if this is in reaction to the malaise that has befallen the European sector in the past few years, or is something that is market-led and could even come close to being cost-competitive,” he concluded.

From Avatar to wind farms - Ingenious announces plan for £160m clean energy investment IPO
Investment company reveals plan to secure funding for solar PV, onshore wind and energy efficiency projects
By James Murray
17 Jan 2014

The investment firm that made its name backing a series of high-profile films such as Avatar and Life of Pi has today announced plans to beef up its investment in the clean energy sector through a £160m IPO for one of its offshoots.

Ingenious Capital Management Ltd, a division of investment firm Ingenious, announced it intends to launch an initial public offering for Ingenious Clean Energy Income plc, a newly incorporated UK closed-ended investment company, which the company says has been established "for the purpose of providing investors with exposure to a diversified portfolio of renewable energy generation assets and energy efficiency projects".

The proposed listing on the London Stock Exchange is designed to raise £160m through an offer for subscription of ordinary shares, but the company has secured an option to increase the size of the issue up to £200m.

The company said the aim was to provide investors with "stable, long-term dividends rising in line with RPI whilst preserving the capital value of the investment portfolio".

amor de cosmos
Jan 18, 2014, 4:28 PM
Kenya to generate over half of its electricity through solar power by 2016
Government invests $1.2bn jointly with private companies to build solar power plants across the country
Gitonga Njeru
theguardian.com, Friday 17 January 2014 14.19 GMT

Kenya has identified nine sites to build solar power plants that could provide more than half the country's electricity by 2016.

Construction of the plants, expected to cost $1.2bn (£73m), is set to begin this year and initial design stages are almost complete. The partnership between government and private companies will see the state contributing about 50% of the cost.

Cliff Owiti, a senior administrator at the Kenya Renewable Energy Association, said the move will protect the environment and bring down electricity costs. "We hope that when the entire project is completed by 2016, more than 50% of Kenya's energy production will consist of solar. Already we are witnessing solar investments in Kenya such as a factory that was opened here in 2011 that manufactures solar energy panels."

He said that over $500m had already been invested in solar projects in Kenya. "The costs related with hydro electricity are very high, considering they are influenced by the low water levels in major supply dams. With high investments in solar, we will witness almost no blackouts and power charges will reduce because electricity will be in high supply."

Germano Mwabu, an economics professor at the University of Nairobi, said the solar plan could have a dramatic impact on energy prices. "When the project is complete and solar is in good use, electricity costs could go down by as much as 80%."

Principal Solar Seeks to Buy 250 Megawatts of Projects, CEO Says
17 January 2014

Jan. 17 (Bloomberg) — Principal Solar Inc., a U.S. builder and buyer of solar farms, plans to purchase as much as 250 megawatts of U.S. power projects this year with backing from Carlyle Capital Markets Inc.

Principal Solar expects to complete 100 megawatts of deals by mid-year, Chief Executive Officer Michael Gorton said today in an interview. The Addison, Texas-based company already owns about 4 megawatts of systems.

Solar projects of at least 10 megawatts that have long-term power-purchase agreements with utilities are the most attractive, Gorton said. Prices for photovoltaic panels have slumped about 59 percent since the start of 2011, making solar power more competitive with electricity from other sources.

“There are places around the world where grid parity already exists — it’s kind of an inevitability,” Gorton said. “There are lots of solar-power generation facilities around the country that are cash-flow positive — or very close to cash-flow positive — and we’re interested in buying those because we’ve figured out ways to make them more efficient.”

Today’s Solar Manufacturing Paradox: Profitless Prosperity
Bringing gigawatt-scale solar manufacturing to the U.S. requires new thinking.
Brad Mattson
January 17, 2014

SolarCity stock is up 500 percent from its IPO price. There's a solar recovery happening that is not only lifting the industry’s dealers and installers -- the stocks of the leading panel manufacturers such as First Solar, SunPower and Yingli are also up 300 percent on the year.

Deutsche Bank reported that by the end of 2013, two-thirds of the world's markets could economically use solar without government subsidies. And this growth will likely continue for decades.

So, the good times are back?

Not so fast.

There is a dilemma in the numbers.

The industry’s growth has been based on continually declining prices for solar panels. Low prices are good for the installers, but bad for panel manufacturers. In fact, despite rising share prices, almost all of the module makers are still losing money. In China, the top solar manufacturers have a combined $16 billion in debt. Their bankers are beginning to believe they might never get paid interest and might even have to forego the principal.

So if growth is to continue, who is going to loan these indebted companies the money to build new factories? The panel makers need higher prices to return to profitability and pay back their debt, but the market needs lower prices to sustain its growth. What will give?

Having seen this before in the semiconductor industry, I believe the probable scenario is that we will split the difference. Prices will muddle along, moving slowly downward to maintain growth, and what little margin is eked out will be 100 percent consumed by debt payments. High growth with no profit means we could be entering an era of “profitless prosperity” for the solar industry.

A solution exists, however. The current solar manufacturing capacity was built years ago, but designed even further back in the era of solar hobbyists. Call this Solar 1.0, the megawatt era of solar.

With demand set to reach between 45 and 55 gigawatts next year, we are truly entering the era of Solar 2.0.

Now we just need factories designed for gigawatt capacity.

If this is done properly, manufacturing costs can decline fast enough to get margins back to the 20 percent to 40 percent range seen in the past. But it will require innovation -- not just in R&D, but also in factory design.

The problem is that the current solar factories expanded so fast that their owners did not really scale operations. To see how margins can increase through economies of scale, we need only look as far as other semiconductor-related industries such as flat-panel displays and integrated circuits. (By the way, solar is a semiconductor-related industry. A solar cell is merely a diode, which is a semiconductor device.)

Each of these industries has scaled by increasing substrate size. Flat-panel displays enlarged substrate size by over 50X, and integrated circuits by over 20X. What has solar done? Would you believe less than 2X? If these other industries scaled the way solar has scaled, there would be no iPhone 5, or any iPhone at all.

The solution is simple: scale, don't replicate.

Brad Mattson is CEO of thin-film solar company Siva Power.

Solar saved southern states from new and costly demand peaks
By Kerry Burke on 18 January 2014

Victoria and South Australia have just finished a week which put the highest stress on the electricity grid since a similar heatwave occurred on 28th-30th January 2009. Despite the population of Victoria and South Australia increasing at least 7%2 since then, the electricity demand supplied by the grid during the heat wave was just lower than the peak usage reached on the 29th of Jan 2009.

Electricity demand from the grid in the recent heatwave peaked on Wednesday. There were initially warnings of potential load shedding1 from the grid operator after the usually baseload Loy Yang A3 brown coal unit and one of the Torrens Island gas units tripped offline on Tuesday. However, demand came in slightly lower than forecast and apart from some minor local transmission outages, demand was fully supplied.

Speculation has already started on the effect of solar on electricity demand during the heat wave, with the Electricity Supply Association (ESAA)3 and the Australian Solar Council4 each producing different estimates of the amount solar contributed to reducing demand. Peak demand is an important driver of the cost of electricity as both the network and the generation fleet is sized to meet the largest credible demand forecast.

The figures below show the 10-minute estimates of solar energy added back to the 5-minute metered electricity demand from Thursday to give the true native demand. Not only did solar reduce the peak demand, it actually shifted the apparent time of maximum demand to much later in the day for South Australia.




Energy Storage in Miniaturized Capacitors May Boost Green Energy Technology

Jan. 17, 2014 — The capacitors of electronic circuits function something like batteries -- storing electrical charge that can be quickly dumped to power devices like camera flashes. So-called "supercapacitors" take the energy-storing abilities of capacitors a step further, storing a far greater charge in a much smaller package.

In a paper published in the journal AIP Advances researchers describe the possibility of fabricating a new class of high heat-tolerant electronics that would employ supercapacitors made from a material called calcium-copper-titanate, or CCTO, which the researchers have identified for the first time as a practical energy-storage material.

Devices using CCTO supercapacitors could compete with similar devices currently in use and could operate at much higher temperatures than standard silicon circuits, "more like the temperature in an engine," says William Stapleton, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Texas State University (TSU) in San Marcos, Texas. CCTO had been identified as a promising supercapacitor material before, but its development for practical applications faced unexpected hurdles.

The lead author Raghvendra Pandey, Ingram Professor of electrical engineering at Texas State University, San Marcos, TX along with Stapleton and other collaborators, showed that in CCTO two properties of fundamental importance for the efficiency of a capacitor device are tightly linked. The first property, called permittivity, is the physical property of the capacitor material that allows it to store energy- with higher permittivity values representing a better capacitor.

The second property, called loss tangent "has to do with how efficiently energy can be moved into and out of the capacitor, that is, how much is lost in the process to inefficiency," Stapleton said.

"When the loss tangent is high," explain Pandey, "the capacitor is 'leaky' and it cannot hold a stored charge for more than a few seconds."

amor de cosmos
Jan 19, 2014, 7:30 PM
Largest Single-Unit Concentrated Solar Power Plant In World — Shams 1 (CT Exclusive)

I got the chance today to visit (for the second time) Abu Dhabi’s Shams 1 concentrating solar power (CSP) plant, the largest single-unit CSP plant in the world. I’ll run through an overview of this CSP plant again, and then will also add some other details I gathered at the site today. I also have video interviews with chief operators of the plant that will be coming shortly.

Top Solar Startups In 2013 VC Funding, Top Solar M&As, & Top Solar Projects

2013 saw less venture capital (VC) funding raised for solar startups than 2012. The 2013 total was $600 million across 97 deals, whereas the 2012 total was $992 million across 106 deals. While solar power is skyrocketing, VC funding has ironically fallen. However, a handful of top solar startups have certainly kept plowing forward. The top 5 solar startups in terms of 2013 VC funding in the US, according to Mercom Capital Group, are as follows:

Chinese solar project developer Hefei Golden Sun Energy Technology raised $69 million.
Clean Power Finance, a provider of third-party financing for distributed PV projects through its software platform, raised $62 million.
Solexel, a developer of high-efficiency c-Si solar modules, raised $55 million.
Sungevity, a provider of residential solar installations, raised $43 million.
OneRoof Energy, a company that develops, owns and operates solar energy generation systems for the residential market, raised $30 million.

As you might have gathered from those top 5 solar startups, the downstream solar market was the focus of VC funding in 2013. Next was actually CSP, followed closely by PV and then other solar submarkets. Here’s the Mercom Capital breakdown again:

Solar Downstream: $262 million in 34 deals
CSP: $109 million in 12 deals
PV: $104 million in 17 deals
Thin Film: $72 million in 13 deals
BOS: $38 million in 9 deals
CPV: $9 million in 4 deals
Service Providers: $5 million in 8 deals


Third-party financing for rooftop solar projects gobbled up a great deal of funding, but it was actually the large-scale solar projects that dominated the funding pie. Residential/Commercial Solar Project Funds (aka, third-party financing/lease)

2013 Annual – $3.34 billion in 22 deals
Q4 2013 – $936 million in 4 deals
Q3 2013 – $584 million in 6 deals
Q2 2013 – $1.36 billion in 5 deals
Q1 2013 – $463 million in 7 deals
2012 Annual – $1.98 billion in 12 deals

Announced Large-Scale Project Funding

2013 Annual – $13.6 billion in 152 deals
Q4 2013 – $6 billion in 46 deals
Q3 2013 – $2.9 billion in 37 deals
Q2 2013 – $2.9 billion in 35 deals
Q1 2013 – $1.8 billion in 34 deals
2012 Annual – $8.7 billion in 84 deals

Top Large-Scale Project Funding Deals in 2013 by Dollar Amount

$1 billion raised by Solar Star Funding for the Solar Star 1 and 2 projects
$498 million raised by Samsung Renewable Energy for their Grand Renewable Solar Project
$454 million raised by Moroccan Solar Energy Agency (MASEN) for their Noor II CSP Project
$446 million raised by Moroccan Solar Energy Agency (MASEN) for their Noor III CSP Project
$400 million raised by Recurrent Energy for their California (5) and Arizona (1) PV projects
$400 million raised by Sempra Energy for their Copper Mountain 3 Solar Project


Largest Disclosed Project Acquisitions by Dollar Amount in 2013

Concord Green Energy acquired five Ontario solar PV projects totaling 49 MW from Canadian Solar for $277 million.
Alterra Power and GE Energy Financial Services acquired the 50 MW ABW Solar Project in Ontario from First Solar for $237.5 million.
BluEarth Renewables acquired four utility-scale solar power projects totaling 53.9 MW from Canadian Solar for $217 million.
Bluefield Solar Income Fund purchased five large-scale PV projects in England with a total capacity of 61 MW for $107 million.
TransCanada acquired the Brockville 2 and Burritts Rapids projects in Ottawa from Canadian Solar Solutions, totaling 16 MW, for $91.9 million.


Top 5 Corporate M&A Transactions by Dollar Amount in 2013

Though not a pure play solar transaction, the $9.4 billion acquisition of Tokyo Electron by Applied Materials accounted for most of the $9.8 billion. Included in the acquisition was the amorphous silicon (a-Si) equipment business of Oerlikon Solar, which Tokyo Electron had acquired earlier.
Swiss power and automation technology group ABB acquired Power-One, a provider of renewable energy and energy-efficient power conversion and power management solutions, for approximately $1 billion in the second quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Shunfeng Photovoltaic, a solar equipment manufacturer, acquired Wuxi Suntech Power, the main Chinese unit of Suntech Power Holdings, for $489 million.
Chinese solar cell manufacturer Goldpoly New Energy Holdings acquired power plant developer China Merchants New Energy Holdings in a non-cash transaction valued at $273 million in the first quarter. Goldpoly already owned 7.8 percent of China Merchants New Energy Holdings.
In the fourth quarter, Dow Corning acquired Mitsubishi’s 12.5 percent stake in Hemlock Semiconductor LLC, giving it 100 percent ownership, and 12.5 percent in Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation, giving it 80.5 percent ownership for $240 million.

I expect that we’ll see a notable increase in VC solar funding in 2014, as well as more in the way of M&As. The solar industry as a whole is both growing (fast) and consolidating. It should be an interesting year.

German minister plans prompt cut to renewable energy tariffs
BERLIN Sat Jan 18, 2014 10:49am EST

Jan 18 (Reuters) - Germany's economy minister wants to cut the support price paid for electricity from solar and wind power generators by about a third by 2015, according to a draft proposal for one of the most challenging economic reforms facing Chancellor Angela Merkel's new government.

Under the draft proposal the feed-in tariffs paid to renewable power generators will be cut to an average across all technologies of 12 cents per kiloWatthour (cent/kWh) by 2015 from 17 cents/kWh currently.

And Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who also leads the Social Democrats (SPD), wants the reduction to start taking effect for some new projects from as early as next week, according to the draft seen by Reuters on Saturday.

"The old rates of support (under the old renewable energy law (EEG)) are applicable for wind energy plants that start operating by Dec 31, 2014 and that were authorised ... by Jan. 22, 2014," said the draft outline prepared for a cabinet meeting this week.

The economy ministry, has been merged under Merkel's right-left coalition with the energy portfolio and is run by Gabriel.

Europe's biggest economy is in the throes of shifting away from nuclear and fossil fuel-powered generation to so-called renewable sources, but the move has sent electricity costs for consumers soaring.

When striking a coalition deal late last year, Merkel's conservatives and Gabriel's SPD agreed to limit the growth of renewables and reform the discounts and subsidies afforded to industry for solar and wind power.

According to the draft, the capacity build-up of onshore wind plants and solar plants shall be reduced to 2,500 megawatts per year, while offshore wind parks will be expanded by 6,500 megawatts up to 2020. Bioenergy generation capacity will be increased by 100 megawatts a year.

amor de cosmos
Jan 20, 2014, 7:03 PM
India Draws Bids for Triple Solar Capacity Offered
20 January 2014

Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) — India received bids for almost triple the 750 megawatts of solar capacity offered after enticing developers with grants for the first time that will cover part of the cost of the plants.

The state-run Solar Energy Corp. of India received 58 bids for 2,170 megawatts in the country’s first national auction of photovoltaic licenses in two years, Tarun Kapoor, joint-secretary at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, said in an interview today in New Delhi.

The technical bids will be opened today to check whether companies meet the qualifications to build plants, Rajendra Nimje, managing director of Solar Energy Corp., said in an interview. The financial bids will be opened in about a month after the initial evaluation is finished, he said.

The tender offers improved revenue security to investors seeking a foothold in a market, where the cost of sun power may equal that of other sources within three years.

The government is set to provide as much as 18.75 billion rupees ($303 million) in grants for the projects. That will reduce construction costs, allowing the winning developers to sell the electricity they generate at about the same price as conventional power.

NewCO2Fuels Uses Sunlight To Make New Fuels From Old Emissions

The name pretty much says it all: the Israeli company NewCO2Fuels has developed a solar powered carbon capture process that converts carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide and oxygen, which are reclaimed and processed into fuels. The basic concept is well proven, so the real question now is, can the products resulting from carbon capture and recycling compete in commercial markets with fossil-based products.

Since NewCO2Fuels has just completed the first phase of tests for the new system, now is a good time to check in and see how they’re doing.


We had a chance to meet up with NewCO2Fuels during a technology tour of Israel sponsored by the organization Kinetis, but other than that the company has been flying under our radar (as has its parent company, Australia’s Greenearth Energy Limited), so let’s recap a bit.

NewCO2Fuels was founded in 2011 with the goal of developing a cost-effective CO2-to-fuel reactor, made so partly by the use of solar thermal energy to power the process. The system also integrates a process for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Another fuel source for powering the system is industrial waste heat, which expands the field of potential sites beyond solar-friendly locations.

Also contributing to the cost-effectiveness of the new system is the use of components and materials that can be manufactured with existing processes.

The technology is based on eight years worth of research at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, resulting in the successful demonstration that CO2 can be dissociated into carbon monoxide and oxygen under high temperatures, as part of an integrated process leading to fuel production.

The Weismann Institute is also responsible for the solar technology used in the process, which enables the creation of a stable source of heat up to 1200 degrees centigrade.

As for GreenEarth Energy, the company is best known for its geothermal ventures but it has been branching out into other renewable energy technologies.

How to tap the sun’s energy through heat as well as light
New approach developed at MIT could generate power from sunlight efficiently and on demand.
David L. Chandler, MIT News Office
January 19, 2014

A new approach to harvesting solar energy, developed by MIT researchers, could improve efficiency by using sunlight to heat a high-temperature material whose infrared radiation would then be collected by a conventional photovoltaic cell. This technique could also make it easier to store the energy for later use, the researchers say.

In this case, adding the extra step improves performance, because it makes it possible to take advantage of wavelengths of light that ordinarily go to waste. The process is described in a paper published this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, written by graduate student Andrej Lenert, associate professor of mechanical engineering Evelyn Wang, physics professor Marin Soljačić, principal research scientist Ivan Celanović, and three others.

A conventional silicon-based solar cell “doesn’t take advantage of all the photons,” Wang explains. That’s because converting the energy of a photon into electricity requires that the photon’s energy level match that of a characteristic of the photovoltaic (PV) material called a bandgap. Silicon’s bandgap responds to many wavelengths of light, but misses many others.

To address that limitation, the team inserted a two-layer absorber-emitter device — made of novel materials including carbon nanotubes and photonic crystals — between the sunlight and the PV cell. This intermediate material collects energy from a broad spectrum of sunlight, heating up in the process. When it heats up, as with a piece of iron that glows red hot, it emits light of a particular wavelength, which in this case is tuned to match the bandgap of the PV cell mounted nearby.


MENA solar market worth $50bn by 2020
20. January 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Max Hall

A new report predicts the MENA region will see $50bn of solar investment in the next six years. The opening of the WFES in Abu Dhabi saw the launch of the Solar GCC Alliance.

The middle east and north Africa region (MENA) could see $50 billion of solar investment by 2020 according to a new report by the region's solar energy trade body.

The Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA), together with Meed Insights, has produced the MENA Solar Energy report, which says 37 GW of renewable energy projects are set to be commissioned across the region in the next six years, with solar providing 12-15 GW of the mix.

Saudi Arabia leads the way, at least in terms of ambition, with the kingdom aiming for 23.9 GW of renewables generation amid plans to plough $109 billion into solar and nuclear power by 2032.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) plans to spend $102 billion on alternative energy generation by 2020 and is already working on two new PV parks, as well as the world's largest seawater desalination plant, in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah.

With the sultanate of Oman investing in solar-powered oil extraction, Qatar planning to use PV-powered air conditioning for its controversial 2022 football World Cup and Kuwait establishing a renewable energy park and Morocco, Egypt, Algeria and Jordan boasting ambitious renewables plans, the MESIA report warned there are still hurdles to overcome in the region.

The research cites a lack of supportive policy frameworks, ongoing fossil fuel subsidies and a lack of access to financing as handicaps to the MENA renewables sector.

OCI Solar Power breaks ground on its third Texan PV plant
20. January 2014 | Industry & Suppliers, Global PV markets, Applications & Installations, Markets & Trends | By: Ian Clover

The 39 MW Alamo 4 solar plant will be located in Brackettville, near to Greater San Antonio.

OCI Solar Power – a San Antonio-headquartered subsidiary of South Korea’s OCI Company Ltd. – has further extended its solar presence in the U.S. state of Texas with the announcement this week that it has broken ground on a 39 MW PV plant.

Alamo 4 will become OCI's third solar farm in the state, and is to be located in the town of Brackettville, some 170 km west of the city of San Antonio. The plant is scheduled for completion for later this year, and will generated clean solar power for some 6,000 homes in the Greater San Antonio area. CPS Energy, San Antonio’s municipal utility, has agreed a PPA with the plant to sell the power to consumers.

"Alamo 4 is our first Texas project outside of the Greater San Antonio area," said Tony Dorazio, CEO and president of OCI Solar Power. "Our fast movement around the state is reflective of the renewable energy landscape in the U.S. It’s growing quickly."

The plant will possess 150,000 solar panels once completed, covering an area of 600 privately owned acres of land. The plant is being constructed by Mortenson Construction, a Minneapolis-based building contractor that has formed a consortium with OCI Solar Power to create a number of permanent jobs in the region, even setting up a permanent office in San Antonio in order to closer oversee this and future projects.

For CPS Energy, an ongoing partnership with OCI Solar Power is expected to bring 400 MW of solar power to the Texas state grid, generating $700 million for the local economy, and adding an estimated 800 permanent jobs in a state that has hitherto been dominated by oil money.

Singyes Solar’s PV project pipeline reaches 320MW
By Mark Osborne - 20 January 2014, 15:05
In News, Power Generation, Finance, Project Focus

China-based PV project developer and manufacturer, China Singyes Solar Technologies Holdings, said in a Hong Kong financial filing that its project pipeline had reached 320MW.

The company noted that 60% of the pipeline was related to distributive generation projects power mainly located in Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shaanxi, Shandong, Fujian and Hebei provinces in China.

However, the company said that it had secured approximately RMB198 million of overseas projects, mainly located in Macau and South East Asia. The overseas pipeline included it general construction business for ‘curtain walls’ and ‘green buildings.’

India installed over 1GW of grid solar in 2013
By Lucy Woods - 20 January 2014, 12:07
In News, Power Generation, Market Watch

India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has released figures revealing more than 1GW of grid-connected solar was installed last year.

As of 31 December 2012, a total of 1.176GW had been installed and grid connected in India. Throughout the 2013 calendar year, a further 1.004GW was added, taking the cumulative total to 2.180GW.

Just under 500MW of that – 495MW – was added during the current 2013-14 fiscal year, representing 45% of the grid-connected solar target of 1.1GW; by this time last year grid-connected solar was only 29% towards its target for the year of 800MW.

In the month of December, 2012 alone, 2.5MW of off grid solar was installed. In December 2013, 5.4MW of off grid solar was installed.

As of 31 December 2012, 106MW of off grid solar had been installed cumulatively, as of 31 December 2013; the cumulative total for installed off grid solar was 144MW.

India’s national solar mission (JNNSM), which uses government tenders and reverse auctions, as well as many state level policies, has helped to rapidly grow India’s solar generation.

Despite industry concerns, and trade disputes, India is still pushing forward with ambitious solar targets. In September the ministry set the target of 10GW of solar to be installed by 2017.

Utility-scale Solar Energy Myths Debunked by Industry Insider
Often the general public is confused about renewable energy installed capacity verses the capacity factor of renewable energy power plants. Below, discover why capacity factor doesn't matter.
Susan Kraemer, Correspondent
January 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

California, USA -- An interview with SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith may put to rest some of the more common misconceptions held about how renewable energy actually works in practice at utility scale.

Though SolarReserve is developing some photovoltaic (PV) projects, it is better known for its concentrating solar (CSP) power tower technology that includes molten salt thermal energy storage, which can be used to run turbines to produce electricity at any time. It has a 25-year contract with Nevada Energy for solar energy plus storage from their 110-MW Crescent Dunes project in Tonopah, Nevada, due online in 2014.

Graphs of the day: Peaker plants vs green power
By Jeff St John on 20 January 2014
GreenTech Media

Wind and solar power are transitioning from marginal to central players in the grid energy landscape. But wind and solar are also subject to the vagaries of daily and seasonal weather patterns, which means they sometimes can’t be relied on to meet the grid’s critical needs.

That’s particularly true when energy demand is peaking, and the grid turns to rarely used yet critical natural-gas-fired “peaker plants” as its resource of last resort. But could energy storage, demand response and other next-generation grid technologies turn renewable power into both a stable and a peaking resource?

This proposition is fueling debates over the future of the grid around the world.

Take Germany, where gas-fired plants are losing money to solar and wind power. Or look at Southern California, where plans for new resources to make up for power plant closures are pitting traditionalists, who say gas-powered peaker plants need to be part of the mix, against green advocates, who say that renewables plus new technologies can fill the gap without gas.

So who’s right? The answer, of course, is complicated, but one useful measure to start getting at the core of the issue is “capacity factor.” That’s a measure of how much energy a generation resource actually creates over the course of a day or a year, compared to how much it’s capable of generating, or its “nameplate” capacity.

New Hampshire introduces virtual net metering of renewables for utility customers
By Andy Colthorpe - 20 January 2014, 11:15
In News, Power Generation, Tariff Watch

The eastern US state of New Hampshire has put in place new interim rules governing the use of virtual net metering for renewable energy generators of up to 1MW capacity.

New Hampshire passed a net metering bill in July which permits owners of net metered renewable energy facilities to share the proceeds of electricity generated with other holders of electricity utility accounts. The latest amendment to Senate Bill 98 (SB 98), the legislative bill enabling virtual net metering, also known as group net metering, came into effect at the beginning of this year after a consultation with the Public Utilities Commission.

Under the new rules, renewable energy generators will sign up as ‘hosts’ of the programme. Bill payers purchasing electricity from the same utility company the host is contracted with can register to join a group with the host responsible for keeping an up to date list of group members.

It will then be the role of a distribution utility company to pay for the host generator’s surplus electricity on a monthly basis. By the beginning of June each year, if the group of consumers has used less electricity than was generated by the host, the host will be eligible for a payment adjustment based on the amount by which the host’s generated exceeded the group’s total use.

Net metering for individual customers has been in place in the state since 1998, with systems of up to 1MW eligible if they generate electricity using solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, tidal, wave, biomass, landfill gas, bio-oil or biodiesel. Combined heat and power systems using natural gas, wood pellets, hydrogen, propane or heating oil are also eligible, providing they have a system efficiency of at least 80%.

GE Backs German Renewables Subsidy Cuts in Slow Gas Market
By Alex Webb Jan 20, 2014 3:38 AM PT

General Electric Co. (GE) favors reforms to Germany’s energy policy as proposed by new Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, saying the reduced renewable energy subsidies will make the market more efficient.

Germany needs to focus energy spending on research and development rather than subsidies, Stephan Reimelt, GE’s head of energy in Germany, said in a telephone interview today. The company today sealed a 100 million-euro ($136 million) contract from Vattenfall SE to supply a gas turbine to a plant in Berlin.

“The direct market requirements for renewable energy is very important, and that is something that we see spelled out very clearly and that we support,” Reimelt said. “Germany should focus on innovation rather than subsidies and building. There is 230 million euros of R&D budget for this space and 20 billion euros of subsidies for renewables.”

Gabriel is proposing to reduce aid for onshore wind units by as much as 20 percent in 2015 from 2013 levels as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s third-term government intends to cut the cost of her plan to shutter Germany’s nuclear plants and move Europe’s biggest economy toward renewables. She said one of her top priorities is to modernize the system of clean-energy aid after rising wind and solar costs sent consumer power bills soaring.

Not Competitive

“The more renewables you bring into the grid, you have to take the fossil power out of the grid,” Reimelt said. “And so the projects and the operating power in gas turbines are heavily decreasing and being reduced to situations where most of these projects are not competitive any more. If you plan a project based on 8,000 operating hours rather than 1,000, you can imagine there is a fundamental difference.”

amor de cosmos
Jan 21, 2014, 6:31 PM
Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in Mojave Desert





SolTech's Beautiful Glass Roof Tiles Heat Your Home With Solar Energy
by Frida Jeppsson, 01/20/14

SolTech Energy, a Swedish company selling solutions for clean solar power, has developed a unique home heating system contained within roofing tiles made out of ordinary transparent glass. The attractive house-warming tiles (somewhat ironically) give roofs a beautiful, icy appearance quite unlike anything else we’ve ever seen before.

In 2009, the SolTech Energy System was selected by a jury and nominated among nine as the year’s “Hottest New Material.” Based on votes by the people, the company’s glass tiles were awarded with a gold medal from the North Building Fair, Nordbygg. “The winning entry combines an attractive design with essential functions for clean and sustainable energy. It is an innovative product that is well in time,“ said the chairman of the jury, PhD. Bengt Toolanen.

So what makes the system so special and award worthy? For starters, the tiles are made from ordinary glass and have about the same weight as those made of clay. Secondly, the system doesn’t, like competitors’ versions, heat up water or vacuum pipes, but clean air. The tiles are installed on top of a black nylon canvas, under which air slots are mounted. The black colour absorbs heat from the sun and the air starts to circulate. The hot air is then used to heat up water, which is connected to the house’s heating system via an accumulator. The beauty of the system is that it cuts energy costs throughout the year, during dark winter days as well as night time, due to its capacity to store heat in the isolating layers of air under the canvas.




Panasonic, Epco to Form Venture to Sell Solar Power From Homes
21 January 2014

Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) — Panasonic Corp. will set up a venture with Epco Co., an energy management company, to sell power generated from residential solar panels.

The companies have decided to form their venture as Japan plans to fully liberalize its electricity retail business by 2016, according to a statement by the two today.

Panasonic, based in Osaka, acquired a 14.9 percent stake in Tokyo-based Epco in 2009, according to the statement.

Panasonic in JV to sell aggregated electricity from residential solar in Japan
By Andy Colthorpe - 21 January 2014, 15:06
In News, Power Generation

Japanese consumer electronics company Panasonic and energy management firm EPCO have agreed to form a joint venture with the aim of selling aggregated power generated from residential solar installations. The partnership will begin from 31 January.

The JV will begin by rolling out aggregated residential power sales in the Kanto and Kansai regions of the country by summer of this year, pooling power from groups of houses.

The statement claimed the JV would combine the strengths of the two companies, Panasonic in building PV systems and panels and Epco in handling the logistics of the venture, with the Epco call centre able to handle more than 100,000 customer enquiries annually.

Epco is also involved with developing smart energy systems and home energy management systems (HEMS). The company has previously collaborated with battery storage rental company ONE Energy and the University of Cambridge. Work has included research on control technology and a leasing plan for storage batteries, energy efficiency for residences and other issues relating to smart homes and other HEMS.

Panasonic purchased a 14.9% stake in Epco in 2009. The two companies plan to initially invest around ¥300 million (US$2.9 million) into the JV, with Panasonic owning 51% and Epco 49%.

01/17/2014 04:24 PM
New York Sets California-Like Path for Solar Energy
SustainableBusiness.com News

It looks like New York could be following in California’s gigantic footsteps on solar after hearing Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address this month.

In addition to laying out a strong, prescient plan to help NY State dramatically increase its resilence to the changing climate, Cuomo's promises on clean energy echo those that California Governor Schwarzenegger put forward in 2004.

That's when Schwarzenegger made a long-term commitment to solar, targeting 3 gigwatts in in 10 years - Exactly where California is today.

NY Sun Initiative

Cuomo affirmed his long term commitment to the successful NY-Sun Initiative (which installed 300 MW in two years) by expanding its goal to the same as California's - 3 GW in 10 years. He too set aside $1 billion to do that, in NY's case by by 2023. That's enough to power 465,000 homes in the state.

Peering Over the 2017 Horizon for Solar, Part 2: Beyond the ITC
Yuri Horwitz and Will Graves explore the post-ITC future of the U.S. solar industry.
Yuri Horwitz and Will Graves
January 21, 2014

This is the second article in a two-part series on the post-ITC future of the U.S. solar industry. You can find part one, which explores trends in securitization, here.

The Importance of the Federal ITC

To illustrate the importance of the post-2017 investment tax credit (ITC), we have provided the following tables to compare certain electricity offtake prices for solar with the cost of capital and required all-in installation prices without the federal ITC and with a 10 percent ITC. This table is certainly not perfect, but it provides a framework and tool set via which to examine many of the questions in this article.

So, for example, at an effective cost of capital of 7 percent and a power purchase agreement (PPA) price of $0.11 without the federal ITC, a developer would have to build a system at $1.35 per watt to break even.

The table assumes a twenty-year PPA with a 1 percent annual escalator, a California tax rate, degradation of .5 percent annually, no ITC, no additional incentives, and a production capacity ratio of 1500 kilowatt-hours annually. Importantly, there is no consideration for potential solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) or feed-in tariff income, and we do not take into account a potential step-up in basis.

Can the Solar Industry Scale Appropriately?

These prices may or may not comport with future projections, depending on one’s assumptions. Sol Systems reviews hundreds of projects a year on behalf of investor clients. In our experience, commercial rooftop solar systems are currently being installed at an all-in cost of $2.25 and $2.50 per watt. Small ground-mounted systems are currently being installed at $1.90 to $2.00 per watt, with larger systems over 2 megawatts being installed at $1.50 to $1.60 per watt. Residential rooftop systems are being installed at $2.90 to $3.00 per watt.

Current projections by Bloomberg estimate that these values will decline to around $2.15 per watt for residential rooftop systems and around $1.34 for large ground-mounted systems. Commercial systems will likely fall somewhere in the middle.

We take a slightly more aggressive view on pricing. But regardless of your perspective, the industry must scale considerably, and equipment costs and customer acquisition costs must come down significantly, in order for solar to truly compete nationally.

Our Key Observations and Conclusions

1. We Don’t Need $1-per-Watt Solar by 2020

The Department of Energy has set a $1-per-watt goal for all-in costs for solar. This is an aggressive and well-intended goal, but we do not think it is necessary for most projects. Even utility projects selling wholesale electricity at 8 cents per kilowatt-hour can be built for slightly more than $1 per watt and still attract capital in the 7 percent IRR range post-2017. From our estimates, commercial projects competing with retail electricity rates in many markets need to achieve all-in costs between $1.37 to $1.80 post-2017 to attract capital. Some projects will, and some will not, depending on their risks.

2. Reductions in the Cost of Capital Means More Residential and Commercial Systems

As the ITC steps down, the key drivers of all-in development costs and electricity offtake price become more important for the solar industry. Large utility-scale projects that are selling at wholesale rates (somewhere around $0.06 to $0.08 in most states) are unlikely to be able to compete -- even with a lower cost of capital and lower installation costs -- with the expanding distributed generation asset class.

3. Retail Rates Will Become More Important

As the market matures, there will likely be further differentiation in the residential and commercial markets where retail rates differ because the investment tax credit will be less influential. For example, retail electricity rates for commercial customers in Ohio in 2013 were $0.09 per kilowatt-hour, while retail electricity rates for residential customers in 2013 were $0.12 cents/kWh. Utilizing a 7 percent cost of capital, commercial solar projects will have to be developed at an all-in cost of around $1.19, while a residential system will need to be built at around $1.72. Both may be challenging.

4. SREC Programs Will Become More Important, and SRECs More Valuable

As noted, this analysis does not include additional project-level income from solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) like those available in New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania or others. This analysis also does not include state or local rebates, or feed-in tariff income. If markets have low electricity rates, but also have a renewable portfolio standard, then project development will likely slow in those states (see the Ohio example above), while SREC prices will rise and will be of even greater importance in the long term.

5. The Solar Market Will Become a More Geographically Diverse Market

Securitization and the maturation of the financial market will provide the industry with a large enough boost to make solar competitive in an increasing number of places in the United States. The potential reduction to 6.5 percent blended cost of capital for the industry means a required install rate of $1.52 for commercial customers paying $0.103 cents per kilowatt-hour and $1.89 for residential customers paying $0.125 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Looking Forward to 2017

As the industry gears up for 2014, we now have two years to focus on solar projects' key cost drivers and attack them. It is an exciting time with massive opportunity. Sol Systems’ view is that the future is extremely promising for the industry and that solar will continue to grow quickly. A framework for exploring how we get to 2017 and beyond is critical to better understanding the obstacles we may face, as well as for prioritizing our policy initiatives. We believe this analysis is a good start.

Solar on the rise at US military bases
21. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Ian Clover

Installed solar power at U.S. military bases now totals 125.5 MW — 33% of the military's total renewable energy capacity.

With sights trained on a target of 3 GW of installed and deployed renewable energy by 2025, U.S. military bases appear on course for a direct hit, having increased clean energy capacity by 43 in the past few years.

Since the introduction of the Obama administration policy in 2010, the number of military bases boasting renewable energy projects has grown from 454 to 700 in 2012, and is expanding on an almost daily basis.

Overall, as of 2013 the Defense Department could call upon 384 MW of renewable energy capacity, with the lion's share – 45% - being generated from a monolithic geothermal energy plant located at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California.

However, solar power is securely in second place in terms of installed capacity, and is also the most popular type of installation in terms of numbers. The U.S. military generates 125.5 MW of solar power a year, thanks largely to its 25-year partnership with solar company SunEdison, which is currently in the process of building a 14 MW solar array at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in the state of Arizona.

This installation – forecast to save the army an estimated $500,000 annually – is just one of a number of planned solar power projects in the pipeline for the U.S. military. Early estimates suggest that the Defense Department will add almost 1.4 GW of renewable energy over the next two to five years, of which solar power will account for 68% based on current projections.

Goldpoly to spend up to US$660 million on 400MW of PV plants
By John Parnell - 21 January 2014, 12:31
In News, Power Generation

Goldpoly has agreed to buy 400MW of PV projects in Ganshu province from GD Solar.

The company, which has completed a raft of solar farm acquisitions in the last few months, will pay no more than RMB4 billion (US$661 million) for the projects.

The exact final value of the deal will depend on an agreed model based on grid electricity prices and the condition that Goldpoly achieves at least a 9% return on investment, according to a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Goldpoly claims this fee will not exceed RMB4 billion (US$661 million).

Alan Li, chairman and CEO of Goldpoly, said he was pleased the company was able to build on the momentum it had established at the end of 2013 and to continue work with a consortium of developers in China, the Photovoltaic Green Ecosystem Organization (PGO).

German Logistics Company Generating 65% of Energy Needs with Solar
Published on 20 January 2014

The logistics company Waldau Trans in Döbeln in Central Saxony in Germany will bank on self-consumption and independence from electricity from the grid with its 190 kilowatt Conergy solar photovoltaic power plant installed on the company’s flat-roofed warehouse. The PV power plant was installed by Conergy’s certified partner Mitteldeutsche Energiekonzepte KG (MdEk), headquartered in Leipzig, Germany.

Waldau Trans saves some 3,500 euros per year on its electricity bill – in addition to the income from the energy fed into the grid, savings will amount to around 70,000 euros in the next 20 years. The solar installation supplies the company’s warehouse but also a neighboring private home. With a percentage of self-consumption of around 23%, Waldau covers up to 65% of its total energy needs with the Conergy power plant, the private home next door covers around one third of its electricity requirements.

Solar Energy Storage as Hydrogen Fuel
Written by Sandra Henderson 21 January 2014

Storing solar energy for nighttime use has long been a holy grail for the solar industry. A team from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), with collaborators from North Carolina State University, both in the US, has now designed a dye-sensitised photoelectrosynthesis cell, or DSPEC, to store the sun’s energy for later use in form of hydrogen fuel, a potential tipping point for solar.

The new energy storage system splits water into hydrogen, which is sequestered and stored, and oxygen, which is released into the air. “It consists of a molecular assembly that absorbs light chemically linked to a second molecule where water oxidation occurs following oxidation,” says Thomas Meyer, Arey Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, who sees the most energy dense way to store energy is in the chemical bonds of molecules. “The resulting ‘chromophore-catalyst assembly’ is surface bound to a thin TiO2 oxide film on the surface of a mescopic nanoparticle film of the transparent conducting oxide ITO in a core-shell structure.The TiO2-assembly combination makes up the photoelectrode where visible light is absorbed by the chromophore, which transfers electrons through an external circuit to a separate cathode where hydrogen is produced.”

UNC’s work distinguishes itself from other groups’ attempts at producing solar fuel by adopting a hybrid approach that combines semiconductors and chromophore-catalyst assemblies “with the final piece of the puzzle,” as Meyer says: “The transparent conducting oxide/TiO2 core shell to achieve separation of the electrons produced by visible light excitation.”

Scientists call for ‘Apollo-style’ push on energy storage
By Lucy Woods - 21 January 2014, 15:16
In News, Power Generation, Grid Connection

Leading economics and science experts in the UK have called for an international push akin to the Apollo space mission to kick-start the deployment of renewable energy storage technology.

Speaking at an event yesterday at the UK’s House of Lords, Sir David King, the former UK chief scientific advisor, Lord Richard Layard, programme director at the London School of Economics, and Mark Maslin, professor of climatology at University College London, called for a “viral” campaign to secure international renewable energy storage funding.

The event, ‘Running out of time – climate change’, hosted speakers and debate on resolutions to international energy issues. It was intended to explore solutions to energy problems ahead of the international climate change talks in Paris next year.

King, now a climate change advisor to the UK’s foreign secretary William Hague, highlighted how storage had become an “obstacle” to the full exploitation of renewable energy sources.

“We need an Apollo push [on storage]; we need a big programme, it’s not something we can debate endlessly about, we need action now, it’s not a distant promise, the technology is here,” he said.

It is not the first time King has advocated for solar power. Writing in the Financial Times last August he called for the G20 should lead global cooperation on solar energy development.

Layard urged governments to back initial storage technology funding, pointing out that most significant recent technological innovations were government funded, “not from the private sector".

"It’s a shocking abdication of responsibility not to focus on storage and international distribution," he said.

King cited the effect of the UK’s solar feed-in tariff as a “miracle” for PV prices.

“The volume of production started doubling, and every time production doubles, technology improves,” he said. “You can now install PV more cheaply per kilowatt than any other energy.”

He pointed out the opposite lack of incentive for crucial energy storage investment. “There is no [UK] incentive for energy storage. The US Department of Energy (DoE) understands the rapid roll out of renewables’ single obstacle is storage – which is why they are investing US$400 million in large-scale energy storage.”

IRENA: 16.7 million renewable energy jobs by 2030
By Ben Willis - 21 January 2014, 11:50
In News, Fab & Facilities, Power Generation, Market Watch

Renewable energy industries could generate 11 million new jobs worldwide by 2030, according to a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The agency’s report, ‘Renewable Energy and Jobs’, predicts jobs in the sector could hit 16.7 million by 2030, up from 5.7 million today, as deployment gathers pace.

According to IRENA, solar PV and biofuels currently account for the most jobs in renewable energy, with around 1,360,000 and 1,379,000 respectively.

IRENA highlighted PV as one of the sector’s strongest performers, having seen a 13-fold increase in employment within five years.

But the report predicts that as deployment increases, driven by the opportunities presented by emerging trends such decentralised generation, employment across all renewable energy technology types will mushroom between now and 2030, increasing by 11 million by that time.

The agency predicts that the rapid growth enjoyed by PV over recent years will not continue over this time, and that by 2030 employment within the industry will grow to around 2 million, split between manufacturing and development.

Bioenergy will emerge as the biggest employer, accounting for over 9 million jobs by 2030.

Solar is working so well in Germany they need a quota system

Germany’s solar industry issues warning as government mulls 2.5GW annual PV cap
By John Parnell - 21 January 2014, 11:21
In News, Power Generation, Tariff Watch

Germany’s solar industry has warned that proposed changes to the country’s renewable energy support could damage its standing in the sector and block one route to secure, low-cost energy.

Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft (BSW-Solar) claimed in an open letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel, that a proposed charge for self-consumption could lead to “another photovoltaic market slump”. A proposed cap on PV installations of 2.5GW has also emerged.

BSW-Solar agrees with the need to phase-out the support provided by the Energiewende (EEG) policies, it said the levy on self-consumed solar would have the opposite effect.

“The implementation of an eco-tax on self or community consumed green electricity would… [mean] the dependence on the EEG support would increase again. The energy transition costs would thus not fall in the coming years, but rise. This may not be in the interest of politics,” the group noted.

New "super minister", Sigmar Gabriel, head of the new junior coalition partner the SPD, has responsibility for both energy and the economy.

In his first major policy speech, he said the current subsidy regime was no longer sustainable.

01/17/2014 11:10 AM print story email story
19 Countries Form Africa Clean Energy Corridor
SustainableBusiness.com News

19 countries have committed to developing an Africa Clean Energy Corridor to help the continent leap frog to renewable energy in the face of rising energy demand.

Led by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), stakeholders believe a regional approach can attract the most investment and optimize the renewable energy mix.

The corridor will span eastern Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town, where transmission infrastructure is being built to meet growing energy demand.

Currently, Ethiopia hosts the continent's biggest wind farm and has plans for 800 megawatts of wind and 1 gigawatt of geothermal. The Corbetti Project is a new model for developing large scale power projects in Africa and is part of the Power Africa initiative that President Obama announced last summer.

IRENA will facilitate the large-scale, transborder initiative by:

identifying renewable energy development zones - areas of high potential - where solar, wind, geothermal or biomass projects would be clustered;
facilitating government planning so that renewable energy has bigger share of the energy mix;
fostering new financing models and investment frameworks that can rapidly get projects on the ground;
building the local knowledge base and leading public information campaigns.

Demand for electricity is expected to triple in Southern Africa, and quadruple in Eastern Africa over the 25 years, making the region’s current dependence on fossil fuels increasingly unsustainable both economically and environmentally, says IRENA.

80% of Southern Africa's energy comes from coal, which will need to expand without the growth of renewables because demand is growing at 4% a year. East Africa relies on natural gas for 60% of electricity, with demand rising 6% a year.

“Lifting the African population out of energy poverty cannot be fulfilled if a business-as-usual approach is followed,” says Mosad Elmissiry, Head of Energy at the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, an African Union implementing body. “We need a drastic transformation in our approach to developing renewable energy, to be sure renewables are fully utilised. The Clean Energy Corridor can support and further advance the implementation of the regional and continental initiatives already on the ground for further utilisation of renewable energy in Africa.”



amor de cosmos
Jan 22, 2014, 6:11 PM
India Solar Auction Draws Goldman’s ReNew, First Solar
22 January 2014

Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) — Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s solar venture and U.S.-based First Solar Inc. bid for projects in India for the first time, enticed by government grants.

ReNew Solar Power Ltd. bid for 50 megawatts, according to a list from state-run Solar Energy Corporation of India. The company is a unit of ReNew Power Ventures Pvt., a developer backed by a $385 million investment from Goldman Sachs, Sumant Sinha, chief executive officer of ReNew Power, said by e-mail.

First Solar, the world’s biggest maker of thin-film modules and a top panel supplier in India, bid for 30 megawatts. The Tempe, Arizona-based company is diversifying into building plants and selling power, betting that’s a better way to make money than competing with Chinese rivals on panel sales.

The tender is the most attractive yet in a market expected to draw $11.7 billion of investment by 2017 as the cost of solar power drops to equal that of other sources, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. For the first time, India is offering grants that will improve plants’ revenue security by allowing them to produce power more cheaply rather than relying on cash-strapped state utilities to pay above-market tariffs.

World Bank-backed Azure Power India Pvt. and Welspun Energy Ltd., a unit of Leon Black’s Apollo Global Management LLC-backed Welspun Group, entered bids for the most capacity, 200 megawatts and 160 megawatts respectively.

Solarcentury and Network Rail push button on world’s largest solar bridge
Blackfriars station secures half its power from solar panels as pioneering solar roof comes online

After nearly five years in the making, Network Rail has today cut the ribbon on the world's largest solar-powered bridge at Blackfriars Bridge across the River Thames.

As part of a project with solar installation firm Solarcentury, the roof of the bridge has been covered with 4,400 photovoltaic panels, providing up to half of the energy for London Blackfriars station.

First Capital Connect, which runs Blackfriars, expects the panels to cut the stations' carbon emissions by an estimated 511 tonnes a year, further reducing the carbon footprint of its train routes to the south east of England.

"Electric trains are already the greenest form of public transport - this roof gives our passengers an even more sustainable journey," said David Statham, managing director of First Capital Connect. "The distinctive roof has also turned our station into an iconic landmark visible for miles along the River Thames."

The bridge will also act as a major advertisement for London's efforts to become a sustainable city, with tourists and workers viewing the panels as they enter the capital.

The project was one of the most complex to date for Solarcentury, which installed the panels in a series of phases over the past two years, pausing to minimise the impact on the station during the 2012 Olympic Games.

"We had different sections of roof available at different times to fit in with this complicated jigsaw of getting everything up and going," explained Gavin Roberts, Solarcentury's senior project manager, adding that the company had even considered shipping some of the components in via the Thames.

And while ministers warns of the risk of a potential backlash against "monster solar farms" on green belt land, Solarcentury maintains a solar bridge in the centre of London can have quite the opposite impact on the landscape and perception of renewable energy.

"The fact that it's so visual is a real bonus," said Lashford. "I think as a statement, London often tries to be a sustainable city and I think it's great from that point of view."

She now hopes the project will inspire more big infrastructure developers to embrace the benefits of renewable energy.

"Network Rail has invested funds into the project is a great sign for the solar industry," she said. "They're an old English institution and they're looking to the future to make investments into non-core technologies for the business, and that's a great statement that other large corporations in the country can start realising."


Community-Owned Solar Creates a New Business Model in Massachusetts
Clean Energy Collective looks to equip “the other 85 percent” with solar.
Herman K. Trabish
January 21, 2014

Just 15 percent of residential rooftops are suitable for solar -- but a new law and a new business model allows anyone in Massachusetts to be a solar owner.

Massachusetts’ Virtual Net Energy Metering (VNEM) law permits people to buy solar panels in a community-owned and -sited array. The law also requires investor-owned utilities to reduce the panel owners’ utility bills by an amount commensurate with the power sent to the grid by the community-owned solar arrays.

By taking advantage of VNEM, the Colorado-based Clean Energy Collective expects to build 10 megawatts to 15 megawatts of new community-owned solar in Massachusetts by the end of this year, in 500-kilowatt to 2-megawatt increments.

“Virtual net metering provides the platform for our business model and the ability to build,” explained CEC founder and CEO Paul Spencer. “Our business model gives us the foundation to go into new markets.”

Retiring California utilties commissioner warns colleagues of hostility to solar
By Andy Colthorpe - 22 January 2014, 11:02
In News, Power Generation

In his final address before retiring due to cancer, a member of the California Public Utilities Commission has issued a warning to his fellow commissioners to protect the state’s commitment to clean energy.

Commissioner Mark Ferron, pencilled in to remain in his post until 2017, has stepped down from his role at CPUC, the board responsible for regulation of utilities in California, having battled prostate cancer for two years.

Ferron’s outgoing final report to the commission included a strong defence of rooftop solar power generation and voiced fears that utilities would only make progress on clean energy if ordered to do so. Ferron said that while “there is no better place to be than California when it comes to energy and climate policy”, the commission needed to watch utilities’ “legalistic, confrontational” approach to regulation “very, very carefully".

Ferron described the state as “fortunate to have utilities in California that are orders of magnitude more enlightened than their brethren in the coal-loving states, although I suspect that they would still dearly like to strangle rooftop solar if they could".

Overseeing the regulation of net metering in California was recently placed into the hands of CPUC following the issuance of Assembly Bill 327. The bill removed a proposed suspension of the state’s net metering programme and allows CPUC to order utilities to procure more renewable energy.

“…the Commission will come under intense pressure to use this authority to protect the interest of the utilities over those of consumers and potential self-generators, all in the name of addressing exaggerated concerns about grid stability, cost and fairness. You – my fellow Commissioners – all must be bold and forthright in defending and strengthening our state’s commitment to clean and distributed energy generation.”

India almost doubled its solar power in 2013, has big plans for more
By Ari Phillips on 22 January 2014
Climate Progress

India added just over 1 gigawatt of solar energy to its electrical grid last year, a major milestone that nearly doubles the country’s cumulative solar energy capacity to 2.18 gigawatts. After a slow start to the year, solar installation picked up rapidly — a good sign that India will be able to meet its ambitious solar targets going forward. India hopes toinstall 10 GW of solar by 2017 and 20 GW by 2022.

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, launched in 2010 by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, aims to help the country achieve success with solar energy deployment. India is currently in the planning stages of building the world’s largest solar plant, which would generate 4 gigawatts in the northwestern state of Rajasthan.

“This is the first project of this scale anywhere in the world and is expected to set a trend for large-scale solar power developments,” Ashvini Kumar, director of Solar Energy Corp, one of five public utilities that will run the plant, told Business Insider.

In the last decade India’s renewable energy capacity has gone from just under 4 GW to over 27 GW as of this month. Wind energy makes up about two-thirds of this total, with small hydropower contributing nearly 4 GW and biomass over 1 GW.

Last weekend India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate to promote renewable energy, especially solar.

“The MoU has come at a time when India is struggling to implement ambitious plans to reach out to the population without access to modern forms of energy across the country,” said Jarnail Singh, India Program Manager at the Climate Group.

Energy Efficiency Is About to Get a $200M Jolt From Wall Street
Joule Assets and Kilowatt Financial each announce $100 million funds for efficiency projects.
Stephen Lacey
January 22, 2014

The pipeline for energy efficiency projects is set to get a big boost from institutional investors.

Two organizations, Joule Assets and Kilowatt Financial, have unveiled separate $100 million funds for efficiency projects. The two funds were announced within one day of each other.

Kilowatt Financial, a financier of solar and efficiency projects, closed a $100 million credit facility with Citi yesterday -- creating a fund for ten- to twelve-year loans of up to $30,000 targeted at homeowners.

The fund may open the door to securitization, a financial tool that could expand efficiency investment to mutual funds, pension funds and big banks eager for new pooled assets.

"This transaction will allow Kilowatt to launch a much-anticipated market for the securitization of consumer energy efficiency loans in the U.S.," said Marshal Salant, Citi's managing director of alternative energy finance in a statement.

As Kilowatt's portfolio swells, Citi will be able to slice and dice the loans and sell them in tranches, much like was done in the mortgage industry. SolarCity recently announced the first securitization of solar projects, a $54.4 million pool with a 4.8 percent yield. That issuance was a landmark for the solar industry, and may soon bring similar deals from other large solar service companies.

Financial experts often mark the threshold for securitization at around $100 million. Without such a big portfolio of projects, it's very difficult to bundle projects and get institutional investors involved. This has led to the industry-wide effort to create large funds for projects.

"To attract the capital at pension funds, mutual funds, insurance companies and others, these retrofits need to be packaged into something these funds can invest in," said Brandon Smithwood, senior manager of the policy program at Ceres, in an email.

Understanding the Functioning of a New Type of Solar Cell

Jan. 21, 2014 — Photovoltaic energy conversion offers one of the best means for the future of renewable energy in the world. The efficiency of solar cells depends heavily upon the light-absorbing materials they use. Photovoltaic systems based on lead halide perovskite are a new, revolutionary type of device with efficiencies currently exceeding 16%. However, a detailed description of how these solar cells turn light into electrical current is still lacking. Publishing in Nature Photonics, scientists from EPFL have investigated how the generated electrical charge travels across the perovskite surface of solar cells built with different architectures.

Lead halide perovskites are materials that have recently attracted an immense interest, as solar cells based on these semiconductors demonstrate very high conversion efficiencies and an unsurpassed cell voltage of more than 1 V. However, it is not entirely clear how they work. A better understanding of their functioning mechanisms would help improve them in the future or even open up novel technologies with increased efficiency.

The groups of Michael Grätzel and Jaques E. Moser at EPFL, working with the Institute for Solar Fuels in Berlin, have used time-resolved spectroscopy techniques to determine how charges move across perovskite surfaces. The researchers worked on various cell architectures, using either semiconducting titanium dioxide or insulating aluminum trioxide films. Both porous films were impregnated with lead iodide perovskite (CH3NH3PbI3) and an organic "hole-transporting material," which helps extracting positive charges following light absorption. The time-resolved techniques included ultrafast laser spectroscopy and microwave photoconductivity.

amor de cosmos
Jan 23, 2014, 6:02 PM
4 signs Africa could leapfrog fossil fuels (and 1 that it won't)
Sami Grover
Business / Corporate Responsibility
January 23, 2014

Large-scale solar is taking off in Africa

Solar lighting is replacing kerosene

Rural microgrids are becoming more viable

Wind power also beginning to take off

And for the naysayers: fossil fuels are still immensely powerful

Future solar cells may be made of wood
2 hours ago by Lisa Zyga

(Phys.org) —A new kind of paper that is made of wood fibers yet is 96% transparent could be a revolutionary material for next-generation solar cells. Coming from plants, the paper is inexpensive and more environmentally friendly than the plastic substrates often used in solar cells. However, its most important advantage is that it overcomes the tradeoff between optical transparency and optical haze that burdens most materials.

A team of researchers from the University of Maryland, the South China University of Technology, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, have published a paper on the new material in a recent issue of Nano Letters.

As the researchers explain, solar cell performance benefits when materials possess both a high optical transparency (to allow for good light transmission) and a high optical haze (to increase the scattering and therefore the absorption of the transmitted light within the material). But so far, materials with high transparency values (of about 90%) have very low optical haze values (of less than 20%).

The new wood-based paper has an ultrahigh transparency of 96% and ultrahigh optical haze of 60%, which is the highest optical haze value reported among transparent substrates.

The main reason for this good performance in both areas is that the paper has a nanoporous rather than microporous structure. Regular paper is made of wood fibers and has low optical transparency due to the microcavities that exist within the porous structure that cause light scattering. In the new paper, these micropores are eliminated in order to improve the optical transparency. To do this, the researchers used a treatment called TEMPO to weaken the hydrogen bonds between the microfibers that make up the wood fibers, which causes the wood fibers to swell up and collapse into a dense, tightly packed structure containing nanopores rather than micropores.

Saudi Arabia taps German knowhow
23. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Trade show, Research & Development | By: Edgar Meza

Germany's Fraunhofer ISE will work with Saudi Arabia's renewable and nuclear energy agency K.A.CARE on research and development in areas such as PV technology, energy storage and grid integration.

Saudi Arabia's K.A.CARE, which oversees renewable and nuclear energy development, and Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE), have agreed to work together in diverse fields, including renewable energy research and development as well as testing and training.

The organizations signed a collaboration framework agreement on Jan. 20 at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi.

“K.A.CARE and Fraunhofer ISE are both interested in developing, supporting and deploying renewable energy technology locally, regionally and around the globe. This strategic collaboration serves both organizations’ goals to develop research capabilities, human capacity and state-of-the art approaches to solving engineering challenges unique to the region of Saudi Arabia,” the organizations said in a joint statement.

France, Germany forging PV alliance
23. January 2014 | Top News, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Ilias Tsagas

French President Francois Hollande supports plans to build a giant PV module plant with an initial annual production capacity of 1 GW and which could expand up to 5 GW.

French newspaper Les Echos has revealed that Germany and France are discussing plans to build a large-scale PV modules plant referred to as X-GW.

The idea behind the project, Les Echos says, is to produce European modules that can compete with Chinese panels, whose prices are significantly lower.

Eicke Weber, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE), confirmed the plans to the French newspaper, saying that ISE was "working on the creation of a consortium with the French National Institute of Solar Energy (INES) and the Swiss Centre for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM)" aiming to assist the project.

Skeptics have expressed concerns about the ambitious project due to the global market suffering from overcapacity and several German players filing for bankruptcy in the past year. Weber pointed out, however, that demand for photovoltaic panels, which reached 45 GW in 2013, is expected to reach 100 GW a year until 2020.

"Photovoltaics is a strategic technology for Europe," Weber said, adding that either Europe allows the Asians to take the lead "or governments are willing to help us through credit guarantees, as with Airbus."

Lux Research expects BOS costs to fall 30% by 2020
By Mark Osborne - 23 January 2014, 16:20
In News, Thin Film, CdTe, Power Generation, BOS, Market Watch

Market research firm, Lux Research expects balance of system (BOS) component costs to fall gradually through the rest of the decade, according to a new report.

Lux Research guided BOS costs for distributed generation applications are expected to decline between 15% and 30% by 2020 depending on geography.

However, combined with expected PV module conversion efficiency gains the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for PV is expected to decline in the range of U$0.04/kWh - U$0.08/kWh by 2020.

“Balance-of-systems costs are in developers’ crosshairs as the pressure to reduce costs extends downstream. Incremental cost reductions from racking and mounting, coupled with innovative system electronics changes, will accelerate system cost reductions and help reduce LCOE,” said Matthew Feinstein, Lux Research senior analyst. “Project volumes will also continue to drive M&A activity in the BOS industry, with plenty of opportunity for new entrants.”

Not surprisingly, residential BOS costs have the greatest opportunity for falling, according to the report, which expects these to be driven by lower labour costs as markets mature and best practices become widespread.

Germany is regarded by many industry observers to have the lowest residential BOS costs, while the US is perceived to have some of the highest.

Balance of System Can Lower Capital Expense Cost of Solar by 20%
Published on 23 January 2014

Falling module prices have helped to bring down the cost of solar installations, but now balance of system (BOS) components such as racking and mounting are key targets of cost reduction, as distributed generation system prices fall by between 15% and 30% by 2020 depending on geography, according to Lux Research. Along with continuing module efficiency improvements, these advances will make the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) for solar between $0.04/kWh and $0.08/kWh cheaper in 2020 than it is today.

The report titled, “The Squeeze: Trends in Solar Balance of Systems,” evaluated the factors driving BOS cost reductions in varied geographies and application segments. Among the findings:

Residential segment is poised for biggest gains. By 2020, residential BOS costs are set to drop more than any other application segment, driven largely by cuts in labor costs, thanks to ever-increasing adoption of time-saving best practices. Commercial systems will see cost reduction due to new, lower-cost racking and mounting hardware.
Thin-film systems’ costs fall fastest for utility scale solar. Standard utility-scale BOS costs fall fastest for CdTe systems, thanks largely to increasing module efficiency lowering the cost of racking and mounting hardware on a per-watt basis.
Electrical innovations hold out hope for further reductions. Innovations targeting the electrical side of the BOS industry have the highest potential for cost reduction. In distributed generation, the high-voltage trend will go as far as code allows, up to 1500 V, while utility-scale system developers will pursue automated installation technologies and high-voltage configurations.


ReneSola eyes Africa expansion from new Cape Town base
By Lucy Woods - 23 January 2014, 12:59
In News, PV Modules

Chinese PV manufacturer, ReneSola has announced the opening of a new office in Cape Town, South Africa.

The regional office will serve as the headquarters for ReneSola’s sales and marketing operations in Africa, which the company said it was looking to expand.

Qasim Abrahams, general manager of ReneSola South Africa, said the new office would serve as a gateway to markets in Ghana, Rwanda, Namibia and Kenya.

“South Africa has shown tremendous potential for utility-scale, commercial, and residential solar PV projects,” said Abrahams. "The solar PV market here has grown tremendously since 2010, sparked by the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Programme.”

"Increasing our share in markets with strong growth trajectories like South Africa is a core component of our business development strategy”, said Xianshou Li, founder and CEO of ReneSola. “Having on-the-ground sales and marketing support is key to increasing our customer base across the vast Africa market and will allow us to respond to customer requests with greater speed and flexibility as we deepen our understanding of local market conditions,” said Li.

Six large-scale PV projects signed off in Puerto Rico
By Ben Willis - 23 January 2014, 12:10
In News, Power Generation, Project Focus

Six companies have been cleared to press ahead with the construction of large-scale PV plants in Puerto Rico.

The Caribbean territory’s energy regulator AEE said it had renegotiated cheaper power purchase agreements with the companies and was close to closing a seventh deal.

AEE announced last year that it would renegotiate previously agreed PPAs with renewable energy developers in order to drive down prices.

At the same time AEE said it was introducing new rules making it mandatory for renewable energy developers to include an energy storage system in projects equal to 30% of the project’s rated capacity.

The body this week said the renegotiated PPAs would save it a total US$60 million.

Chile update: More than 5GW approved but operating solar projects stagnant at 6.7MW
By Lucy Woods - 23 January 2014, 12:00
In News, Power Generation, Grid Connection, Market Watch

Chile’s pipeline of approved but unbuilt PV projects reached over 5.33GW at the end of December, according to the country’s renewable energy research centre CER.

According to CER’s January 2014 figures, 128MW of projects were under construction in December – up only 2MW since October.

But only 6.7MW of solar projects were in operation at that time, a figure unchanged since October 2013. In December, just 0.4% (1.2 GWh) of Chile’s grid energy came from solar plants.

Hanergy considers module fab in Ivory Coast
23. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Blanca Díaz López

The Chinese group's CEO, Li Hejun, met with Ivory Coast President Alassane Outtara to discuss a $500 million solar project.

Hanergy CEO and Chairman Li Hejun met on Wednesday with Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara to talk about a large industrial solar project that would require an investment of $500 million.

Hejun said after the meeting that the Chinese company is considering setting up a thin-film solar module factory and building a large-scale solar park in the African country, according to Ivory Coast presidency press service. Petroleum and Energy Minister Adama Toungara also attended the meeting.

The Chinese company is currently targeting emerging markets. In December, representatives of Hanergy met with the governor of Rio Grande do Sul Tarso Genro to discuss an industrial solar project in the Brazilian state that the renewable energy company plans to carry out.

The Thinkery Goes Green With New Installation of Solar Panels
January 22, 2014 Frank Andorka : 0 Comments

The Thinkery, the new Austin Children’s Museum, is turning to solar power to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Thinkery recently teamed up with Austin-based Freedom Solar Power to install over 196 solar panels. The 47 kilawatt rooftop array will harness the sun in order to power the new 40,000 square foot facility in the Mueller development.

Freedom Solar provided their latest financial leasing for non-profit customers, which allowed the Thinkery to go solar with no money down. The system is expected to generate over $6,000 in annual energy savings. Over the life of the system, the solar array will offset 1,296 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. This is the comparable to 485 tons of waste going to the landfill instead of being recycled, or the Carbon-dioxide emissions from 178 homes.



01/22/2014 05:45 PM
Latin America Gets Its First Concentrating Solar Plant
SustainableBusiness.com News

Construction on Latin America's first concentrating solar plant starts this year, and Abengoa won the $1 billion contract.

The 110 megawatt solar tower project with molten salt energy storage will be built in Chile on the world's driest desert. Atacama Desert has the highest solar radiation concentration in the world.

While Abengoa's parabolic concentrating plant in Arizona is more than twice the size, Solana can only store energy for six hours. Chili's plant will be able to produce energy without sunshine for a very impressive 17.5 hours.

Energy News
Startup Thinks Its Battery Will Solve Renewable Energy’s Big Flaw
Aquion has started production of a low-cost sodium-ion battery aimed at making renewable energy viable.
By Kevin Bullis on January 23, 2014

A former Sony TV factory near Pittsburgh is coming to life again after lying idle for four years. Whirring robotic arms have started to assemble a new kind of battery that could make the grid more efficient and let villages run on solar power around the clock.

Aquion, the startup that developed the battery, has finished installing its first commercial-scale production line at the factory, and is sending out batteries for customers to evaluate. It recently raised $55 million of venture capital funding from investors including Bill Gates. The money will help it ramp up to full-speed production by this spring.

Jay Whitacre, the Carnegie Mellon professor of materials science and engineering who invented the new battery, says it will cost about as much as a lead-acid battery—one of the cheapest types of battery available—but will last more than twice as long. And while lead is toxic and the sulfuric-acid electrolyte in lead-acid batteries is potentially dangerous, the new battery is made of materials so safe you can eat them (although Whitacre says they taste terrible). Nontoxic materials are also a good fit for remote areas, where maintenance is difficult.

Most importantly, by providing an affordable way to store solar power for use at night or during cloudy weather, the technology could allow isolated populations to get electricity from renewable energy, rather than from polluting diesel generators. Combining solar power and inexpensive batteries would also be cheaper than running diesel generators in places where delivering fuel is expensive (see “How Solar-Based Microgrids Could Bring Power to Millions”).

The batteries could allow the grid to accommodate greater amounts of intermittent renewable energy. As Aquion scales up production and brings down costs, the batteries could also be used instead of a type of natural gas power plant—called a peaker plant—often used to balance supply and demand on the grid. When recharged using renewables, the batteries don’t need fuel, so they’re cleaner than the natural gas power plants.

In some places, concerns over pollution make new natural gas plants hard to build, which could create an opening for Aquion’s technology, even if it’s somewhat more expensive.

Global utility-scale solar capacity climbs through 21GW in 2013
By Staff Reporter on 23 January 2014

Another record year for utility-scale solar power took global installed capacity through the 21 GW level in 2013, according to figures published today by sector experts Wiki-Solar. Soaring activity particularly in the USA, China and India lifted the totals to a fourth consecutive record year.



amor de cosmos
Jan 24, 2014, 6:15 PM
China Installed a Record 12 Gigawatts of Solar in 2013
23 January 2014

Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) — Developers in China installed a record 12 gigawatts of solar panels in 2013, almost matching the total amount of solar power in operation in the U.S., and may exceed that in 2014, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The power plants were built mostly in China’s sunny, western provinces of Gansu, Xinjiang and Qinghai and make its state-owned power companies the world’s biggest owners of solar assets, the London-based research company said in a statement yesterday.

China was the biggest solar market last year, surpassing longtime leader Germany. Chinese installation more than tripled from 3.6 gigawatts in 2012, and the nation expects to add 14 gigawatts of solar capacity this year, according to New Energy Finance.

“The 2013 figures show the astonishing scale of the Chinese market,” Jenny Chase, lead solar analyst at New Energy Finance, said in the statement. “PV is becoming ever cheaper and simpler to install, and China’s government has been as surprised as European governments by how quickly it can be deployed in response to incentives.”

The Chinese government is targeting 14GW of additional PV capacity in 2014. Transmission grid-connected projects were the vast majority of China’s solar market last year, but the government is aiming for at least 60% of this year’s installations to be rooftop capacity, which is connected to the distribution grid rather than the transmission grid. A shift to rooftops rather than remote deserts will bring additional legal and financial complications for developers and so Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects the target to be slightly undershot in 2014 – but with higher growth in 2015.

China’s 12GW solar market outstripped all expectations in 2013
23 January 2014

Last year was a record year for PV installation worldwide, with a rush of activity in China on the back of a national feed-in tariff one of the main drivers

Beijing and Zurich, 23 January 2014 – China’s solar developers installed a record 12GW of photovoltaic projects in 2013, and a booming market at the very end of the year may even have pushed installations up to 14GW. No country has ever added more than 8GW of solar power in a single year prior to 2013, and China’s record outstripped even the most optimistic forecasts of 12 months ago.

A CNY 1 (16 US cents) per kWh feed-in tariff for large PV projects connecting to the transmission grid ended on 1 January, creating the year-end rush. China’s National Energy Administration announced earlier this month that there were 12GW of 2013 installations, but this preliminary estimate may be exceeded.

The Bloomberg New Energy Finance Industry Intelligence database, which tracks projects individually, identifying developer, owner, location and often equipment supplier or financer, already records 9.5GW of projects built in China in 2013. Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s research team continues to add projects, and will have nearly complete data by March.

China’s solar projects are heavily concentrated in its sunny and empty western provinces of Gansu (with 24% of all installations last year), Xinjiang (18%) and Qinghai (17%). Thanks to this activity in 2013, China’s state-owned power generators China Power Investment Corporation, China Three Gorges and China Huadian Corporation have become the world’s largest owners of solar assets.

The Chinese government is targeting 14GW of additional PV capacity in 2014. Transmission grid-connected projects were the vast majority of China’s solar market last year, but the government is aiming for at least 60% of this year’s installations to be rooftop capacity, which is connected to the distribution grid rather than the transmission grid. A shift to rooftops rather than remote deserts will bring additional legal and financial complications for developers and so Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects the target to be slightly undershot in 2014 – but with higher growth in 2015.

“The 2013 figures show the astonishing scale of the Chinese market, now the sleeping dragon has awoken” said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “PV is becoming ever cheaper and simpler to install, and China’s government has been as surprised as European governments by how quickly it can be deployed in response to incentives.”

China lifts 2014 solar PV installation target to 14GW
By Giles Parkinson on 22 January 2014

China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) has reportedly increased the 2014 target for new solar PV capacity installations to 14GW – up from its previous target of 12GW.

The increase was noted by Deutsche Bank analysts, who said the target represents a near 50 per cent increase on the actual capacity installation of 9.5GW of solar PV in 2013.

Chinese officials had previously said that two thirds (8GW) of the 2014 target would come from distributed solar PV (on rooftops or in smaller arrays close to consumption), but it is not clear what the percentage is in the new target.

Earlier this month, Deutsche Bank said surging demand in China, Japan and the US would underpin a “second solar gold rush”. It tipped global installations to rise to 46GW in 2014 (based on the previous 12GW target for China), and to 56GW in 2015.

China is expected to be by far the largest installer of solar PV, followed by Japan, US and Europe, each with around 8GW.

China May Have Deployed More Solar in 2013 Alone Than America Has Installed Altogether
Last year brought record-breaking solar installations in China. But how much is actually connected to the grid?
Stephen Lacey
January 24, 2014

China has the fastest train in the world, the most megacities in the world, and the biggest population.

Now China can boast a new record: It has installed the most solar PV in one year.

Preliminary figures released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) show that China installed 12,000 megawatts of solar in 2013 -- beating Germany's record of 8,000 megawatts in 2010.

These figures merit a major caveat, however. China is a very tough country to track and estimates differ significantly. China's Renewable Energy Industries Association puts its preliminary estimate between 9,500 megawatts and 10,660 megawatts. GTM Research has not released its figures yet; it's waiting for a final number on actual grid connections.

The range of projections varies, but they all tell the same story: China's domestic solar market is now a major force.

In comparison, the booming U.S. market just surpassed 10,000 megawatts of cumulative installations last year, with around 4,200 megawatts deployed in 2013. That's a big deal for America, as it's the first time in fifteen years that the country has put up more solar PV than Germany, the historical global leader.

However, if BNEF's estimates are accurate, the U.S. only completed around a quarter of the installations that China was able to build last year.

As developers rushed to secure a feed-in tariff set to scale back at the close of December, the market surged in the fourth quarter. BNEF speculates that the installation count could potentially rise to 14,000 megawatts.

But there's a big difference between installations and actual grid connection. The "vast majority" of Chinese projects were large-scale installations connected to the transmission network. Since China's grid has been notoriously troublesome for the wind industry, it's unclear how many solar projects are facing the same interconnection problems. That could skew the numbers once everything is counted.

WFES: A new realism for solar in MENA
24. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Investor news, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Karl-Heinz Remmers

Reports from the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) in Abu Dhabi suggest that MENA's PV potential is vast, provided legal, political and technical maturity continues apace.

The prevailing PV mood from this week's World Future Energy Summit (WFES) – held in Abu Dhabi from January 22-24 – was one of burgeoning potential in a MENA region on the cusp of political, legal and technical maturity.

The renewable energy event is the largest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and this year attracted an estimated 25,000 visitors and some 650 exhibitors. With its focus split equally between water, waste, wind and solar energy, it was a good opportunity to gauge the PV appetite when pitched against other forms of renewables.

Amid a politicized backdrop, the PV portion of the show was dominated by Chinese companies, who boasted a heavy presence throughout proceedings. Contrasted with the U.S. – whose stand was smaller than that of the U.K. and even Norway – it was evident that the MENA region was likely to be beckoned east, rather than west, at least in the near-term.

Having enjoyed numerous false dawns in the international PV spotlight in recent years, the attitude towards MENA’s PV potential at WFES was more nuanced. Visitors and exhibitors were more realistic at the immediate prospects for PV in MENA, aware that progress may indeed be slow, hampered by a lack of local know-how, intermittent political unrest across pockets of the region, and an understandable sense of wanting to do things the right way.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Morocco – each individual nation in the region has its own ambitious, its own timeframes, and its own way of doing business, and all start from varying technical and legal standpoints. Despite an almost blanket share of the chief resource – the abundant sunshine – no two countries in MENA are the same, meaning a country-by-country approach is essential in understanding how the PV sector is going to progress.

NextEnergy targets €180 million PV investment on London Stock Exchange
24. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Investor news, Financial & Legal Affairs | By: Ian Clover

The solar farm management group hopes to raise £150 million (€180 million) to invest in UK solar projects by floating NextEnergy Solar Fund Ltd on the London Stock Exchange.

NextEnergy Capital – a solar farm management group run by former Goldman Sachs banker Michael Bonte-Friedheim – has announced ambitious plans to float its NextEnergy Solar Fund Ltd subsidiary on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) in the hope of raising £150 million (€180 million) in funding for new solar PV projects in the U.K.

Boasting a solar PV portfolio of projects in Italy, South Africa and the U.K., NextEnergy's latest venture is intended to tap into the growing level of public and commercial support for solar in the U.K., which many consumers see as a sound long-term investment.

Despite government attempts to rein in the costs of adopting greater solar coverage across much of the country, Bonte-Friedheim believes that the industry now has a fair wind behind it, having won over its harshest skeptics – the general public. "The U.K. solar market has come of age as an investment proposition, offering long-term stable returns with RPI linkage while helping the country achieve its renewable energy targets," Bonte-Friedheim said.

A statement from the NEC Group that owns NextEnergy Solar Fund revealed that it estimates the U.K. must invest more than £11 billion (€13.3 billion) in the solar sector over the next few years if it is to achieve the government's aims of hitting its 2020 target to generate 15% of the country's power needs from renewable energy sources.

Solar Frontier connects Asia's largest airport PV plant
24. January 2014 | Industry & Suppliers, Global PV markets, Markets & Trends | By: Ian Clover

Lift-off for the 11.6 MW PV plant at Japan's Kansai International Airport was confirmed today by Solar Frontier.

Asia's largest airport solar PV installation has been brought on-stream this week by Japan's Solar Frontier.

The solar development company has connected the 11.6 MW installation at Kansai International Airport, Osaka, Japan to the grid, and it is expected to start commercial operation on February 1st.

The project is the largest of its kind in Asia, and has become one of the world’s largest airport solar PV installations. Solar Frontier were joined in the project’s creation by the Development Bank of Japan (DBJ), SF Solar Power and SF Kansai Mega Solar – subsidiaries of Solar Frontier.

"Bringing live an 11.6 MW project in Japan in seven months demonstrates Solar Frontier's comprehensive and robust project capabilities," said Solar Frontier president and representative director of sales, Hiroto Tamai. "We are proud to be part of the transition toward more environmentally friendly airports."

Kenya sets record straight on solar goals
By Lucy Woods - 24 January 2014, 11:50
In News, Power Generation, Grid Connection, Market Watch

Wildly varying reports of Kenya’s plans for deploying solar energy have been dismissed by power industry and policy figures in the East African country.

Last week the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported that Kenya was planning to source over 50% of its electricity by 2016 from solar projects across just nine separate sites, at a cost of US$1.2 billion.

These claims, citing an employee of the Kenya Renewable Energy Association (KREA), were at odds with a report by the Bloomberg news service before Christmas suggesting some kind of moratorium had been placed on the issuing of licences for solar and wind projects in the country until 2017.

But following inquiries by PV Tech, both claims have been debunked by figures in Kenya’s energy ministry, regulator and national power utility company.

The Guardian report cited comments from Cliff Owiti, a senior administrator with Kenya Renewable Energy Association (KEREA) claiming that the country had identified nine sites where it was planning to build solar plants to supply “half the country’s electricity by 2016”.

But Kevin Sang, communications officer for the electricity utility, Kenya Power, said The Guardian claims were “farfetched” and confirmed Kenya Power had been given no government direction in regard to a 50% penetration of solar.

Meanwhile, Lee Okombe, spokesman for Kenya’s Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), dismissed the Guardian report.

“I have liaised with KEREA and I can firmly report that the Guardian report is null and void. Cliff Owiti was not interviewed and so the information in that report has no basis. As of now there are no specific targets for solar energy in the country,” Okombe said.

Pakistan announces long-awaited upfront solar FiT rates
By Andy Colthorpe - 24 January 2014, 12:48
In News, Power Generation, Tariff Watch

Upfront FiT rates for large scale photovoltaic (PV) projects in Pakistan have been announced by the country’s National Electric Power Regulatory Authority, set lower than rates recommended to agencies advising the regulator on the scheme.

The newly announced FiTs will apply to plants of between 1MW and 100MW capacity and are set at a different rate in the north and south of the country. The NEPRA publication detailing the upfront tariff rates refers to higher levels of solar irradiance in the south of Pakistan than the north. NEPRA referred to the division as a ‘Tiered Tariff Structure’ and described the system as “ideal” due to “the solar irradiance profile of Pakistan”. The tariffs are calculated as a payment to cover 25 years of operation.

How the Expiration of the Federal ITC Could Create a Boom in the Commercial Solar Market
Chris Williams, HeatSpring
January 24, 2014 | 2 Comments

Chris Lord of CapIron, Commercial Solar Finance Expert

All eyes are on the reduction or expiration of the 30 percent federal investment tax credit (ITC). While it's the prime goal of SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association) to maintain the federal ITC, some have argued explicitly that it's time to dismiss solar tax credits on the local level, while others have argued the federal tax credit SHOULD be reduced or eliminated to help the solar industry.

In this 30-minute interview posted below, I talk with Chris Lord, of CapIron Inc, a solar finance expert. Chris works with property owners, developers and financiers to develop mid-market solar projects. Chris has extensive experience financing solar projects and because he deals with stakeholders on all sides of a project, I've found his perspective to be extremely valuable. We'll discuss investor trends in the commercial solar market, the possible impact of the expiration of the ITC, non-recourse bank lending trends, how EPCs should find investors in their local market, and the impact of crowdfunding.

In this interview, you will learn:

Why there are a lot of banks and funds investing in 2-MW+ and residential solar projects, but few focusing on commercial. I'll will share why I do not see a trend of more and more project investors focusing on smaller and smaller commercial projects even though there is a huge opportunity. (Note, there are some funds focusing on mid-market projects, click here to listen to an interview with a $20MM solar tax equity investor that only finances mid-market commercial projects.)
Why mid-market commercial projects are the hardest part of the market for investors to deal with. Hint: It's because of the high transaction cost relative to the size of the deal and the inability to aggregate deals.
Even though commercial financing is difficult, Chris will share how he sees projects are still being built.
The four characteristics of the right investors for mid-market commercial projects.
What are the three steps a developer must take to find project investors for their projects.
How an EPC's development plan for a project and the tax appetite of an investors are intimately linked.
How the tax appetite of an investor will be the limiting factor to an EPC's development plan and how you can quickly reverse engineer the tax appetite required from an investor to fund your development pipeline.
Why the standardization of documents (note: you can see the results of NRELs working group here and Tioga's open source PPA here) will only have a minimal impact on reducing the transaction costs for mid-market deals.
Why developers should work on creating a specific formula with their investor partners with a specific jurisdiction that can be replicated as much as possible.
How tax benefits are a double edged sword and how the expiration of the ITC could greatly simply financing and increase adoption of commercial solar.
The maximum transaction cost-to-project deal ratio that I see in the market.
The impact that the expiration of the federal ITC could have on local solar markets and how it will be different based on the rigidity of state incentive programs.
How low gas prices could shut down coal plants and increase electric rates, increasing solar adoption.
Why non-recourse debt is not getting substantially involved in the commercial solar market.
Why the expiration of the 2016 ITC could switch the market to using a hosts debt and their own balance sheet to finance projects, eliminating the need for a PPA because tax credit monetization is no longer needed.
Three advantages of crowd-funding over borrowing from banks for developers.
Two reasons why crowdfunding is attractive to investors.

China's solar industry rebounds, but will boom-bust cycle repeat?
By Charlie Zhu
HONG KONG Thu Jan 23, 2014 6:21pm EST

(Reuters) - China's solar panel industry is showing signs of booming again after a prolonged downturn - raising fears of another bust when the splurge of public money that is driving a spike in demand dries up.

Lured by generous power tariffs and financing support to promote renewable energy, Chinese firms are racing to develop multi-billion dollar solar generating projects in the Gobi desert and barren hills of China's vast north and northwest.

The sweeteners have not only lured traditional energy investors like China Power Investment Corp, but also a host of solar panel makers and even companies such as toll road operator Huabei Express and Jiangsu Kuangda Auto Textile Group.

Some solar panel manufacturers, encouraged by a recovery in sales in the last two quarters - largely on surging demand from China and Japan - are expanding production capacity, even though the overall sector remains mired in a severe glut.

But industry officials worry fast-growing generation capacity will increase fiscal pressures on China and Japan and force them to cut subsidies which will then hit demand, just as happened with previous big solar users Germany, Spain and Italy.

"The key is whether the Chinese government is determined enough to boost solar generation," Sun Haiyan, senior executive at Trina Solar, said when asked if the current solar expansion in China was sustainable.

China already boasts solar manufacturing capacity of about 45 gigawatts (GW), enough to meet global demand this year.

UK’s largest solar thermal installation completed in Shropshire
By Peter Bennett | 24 January 2014, 16:37 Updated: 24 January 2014, 16:43

TGE Group claims to have installed the UK’s largest commercial solar thermal installation for a game rearing business in Shropshire.

The 194kW system has been installed across two game rearing sheds at JE Barker & Sons. The 126-panel system will provide space heating in order to help combat the escalating energy bills related to pheasant rearing.

In addition to the solar thermal installation, TGE Group installed a 7.6kWp solar PV system. The company states that the multi-technology system complements each other and will help negate the emission of 34 tonnes of CO2 every year. In addition, the system is eligible under the Renewable Heat Incentive and 100% first year Enhanced Capital Allowance, netting the company over £450,000 in savings and income over the 20-year lifetime of the RHI.

“Using solar thermal to heat open spaces shows the versatility of this technology. Traditionally farmers might fit solar thermal for generating hot water for wash downs, when in reality there are a wide range of commercial heating applications that the technology can be used for,” said Matthew Evans, heat director, TGE Group.

Germany Tax on Own Use of Renewables Is First in Europe
By Stefan Nicola and Marc Roca Jan 24, 2014 5:28 AM PT

Germany is set to become the first nation in Europe to charge owners of renewable energy plants for their own use of electricity, part of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s effort to contain rising power bills.

Merkel’s Cabinet backed proposals to charge operators of new clean-energy plants 70 percent of the so-called EEG-Umlage, a fee paid by power consumers that they’re currently exempt from, according to an economy ministry document obtained today by Bloomberg News. That would translate into 4.4 euro cents (6 cents) a kilowatt-hour.

The solar industry says such a payment would curb investments in the technology in the nation that has the most installations of photovoltaics in the world.

“The fee will make the environmentally friendly self-consumption of solar power unattractive, especially for the Mittelstand, farmers and companies,” the BSW-Solar industry group said in a statement. Developers that consume their own solar power already lower the costs of Merkel’s energy program by not selling their power to the grid at above-market rates, the group said.

Germany would be the first European country to penalize the self-consumption of solar energy, something only Arizona has done so far. Spain is also working on a similar plan to ensure small solar power generators, which reduce total grid users, help pay for network costs. As many as a dozen U.S. states are also considering charges for solar rooftop owners.

IKEA Doubles Size of Largest Single-Use Rooftop Commercial Array in Colorado
Clean Edge News

IKEA has officially plugged-in an expanded solar energy system atop its Denver-area store that opened more than two years ago in Centennial, CO. Installation of the additional panels began this summer, and since then have more than doubled the size of the original array, which already was the state’s largest single-use rooftop array on a commercial building and now is the largest of any use.

The 83,700-square-foot solar addition consists of a 623-kW system, built with 2,492 panels, and will produce 961,000 kWh of electricity annually for the store. Including the existing system, IKEA Centennial’s total 1,121-kW solar installation of 4,704 panels now will generate 1,701,000 kWh of clean electricity yearly, the equivalent of reducing 1,200 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), eliminating the emissions of 250 cars or powering 180 homes (calculating clean energy equivalents at www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-resources/calculator.html).

17 Million North American Consumers Now in Competitive Electricity Markets
Clean Edge News

Millions of electricity customers in North America live in states and provinces that allow them to shop for electric service. Seventeen million residential consumers have exercised their right to choose along with numerous business consumers, according to the Annual Baseline Assessment of Choice in Canada and the United States (ABACCUS), a report released today by Distributed Energy Financial Group LLC (DEFG).

“People choose from an ever-increasing diversity of retail electricity products,” said Nat Treadway, DEFG managing partner and lead author of the report. “In Texas, more than 300 different choices are available—somewhat like your grocery store cereal aisle—and this is a display of increased consumer participation and healthy competition.” Retail electricity competition grew in 2013 at an even more aggressive pace than in 2011 or 2012. “Competition and increased consumer shopping have prompted retail energy providers to deliver lower prices, and a great variety of innovative products and service choices. For commercial and industrial customers, the evidence is also quite clear. These customers participate in the market at extremely high levels in the states and provinces that allow direct access from supplier to consumer,” he said.

The ABACCUS report recognizes Texas as the leader in competitive retail electric markets for the seventh consecutive year.

“Texans save money when they take the time to shop for their electricity,” said Chairman Donna Nelson of the Public Utility Commission of Texas. “More than two dozen providers offer a variety of plans for the nearly seven million customers in the competitive Texas market.”

In addition, the Canadian province of Alberta, and the U.S. states of Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania were all recognized as leading competitive retail electricity markets. These jurisdictions are at various stages of regulatory reform to create the policies that foster choice while ensuring basic consumer protections.

amor de cosmos
Jan 25, 2014, 6:34 PM
Solar-Powered Federation of Korean Industries Tower Boasts One of the World's Most Efficient Facades
by Lidija Grozdanic, 01/24/14

The solar-powered Federation of Korean Industries Tower is now complete in Seoul – and it has one of the world’s most efficient solar facades. Adrian Smith + Gordon Architecture (AS+GG) designed the 240 meter high-rise with a self-regulating external skin that not only collects energy through photovoltaic panels, but also reduces internal heating and cooling loads.

The building’s unique façade features spandrel panels that can be oriented to reflect a large percentage of sunlight and minimize the amount of direct sun radiation and glare. The rippled skin incorporates building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPVs) oriented towards the sky, while vision panels are oriented downward toward the ground.

The completed building boasts several indoor garden spaces, with natural materials such as bamboo and wood, along with an abundance of vegetation. Adjacent to the tower is an oval-shaped addition, located toward Yeoi-Dae-Ro Avenue. This podium piece houses a banquet hall, central restaurant and conference rooms of various sizes.

AS+GG collaborated with engineering firms Thorhton Tomasetti and Environmental Systems Design, as well as the local firm Chang-Jo Architects, on developing what will surely become a new city centerpiece and a beacon of Korea’s goal of developing energy efficiency in buildings.





Color This New Solar Cell Efficiency Breakthrough Blue

If you had to pick the best color for solar cell efficiency off the top of your head, yellow – as in sunlight – would probably get the nod. However, there is a lot of efficiency to be mined in the blue end of the spectrum. The problem is, blue light has excess energy that conventional solar cell materials can’t capture efficiently, and away it goes in the form of heat.

That makes finding a cheap, blue light-friendly solar cell material one of the keys to kicking solar cell efficiency up to the next level while keeping costs down, and researchers over at Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Texas at Austin believe they have found just such a one.

The Budding Latin America Solar Market: 5 Key Takeaways
A strong growth market still fraught with peril
Eric Wesoff
January 24, 2014


Adam James and the GTM Research team have initiated coverage of Latin America's solar industry with the Latin America PV Playbook. Thursday's webinar provided a glimpse into this ongoing regional research.

As we've reported, Latin America is about to find out whether unsubsidized solar can be an economic market reality. "You don't need incentives for solar," said James in an earlier interview, suggesting that any market can grow as long as there is a transparent regulatory process -- along with high tariffs and high DNI.

Latin America will install more than 700 megawatts in 2014 and is poised for a pace of market growth that will rival the U.S. According to James, “The Latin American market as a whole represents a huge opportunity for PV. However, the complexities of local markets, financing and regulatory hurdles, and policy risk have all played a role in preventing solar development in the region from reaching its true potential.”

Here are five takeaways from a webinar that covered a lot of ground.

Global demand is becoming more diffuse

Project developers in Latin America face a volatile future

The 3 countries to watch are Mexico, Brazil and Chile

Don't Overlook Peru, Argentina, Uruguay and the Caribbean

Energy News
Startup Thinks Its Battery Will Solve Renewable Energy’s Big Flaw
Aquion has started production of a low-cost sodium-ion battery aimed at making renewable energy viable.
By Kevin Bullis on January 23, 2014

A former Sony TV factory near Pittsburgh is coming to life again after lying idle for four years. Whirring robotic arms have started to assemble a new kind of battery that could make the grid more efficient and let villages run on solar power around the clock.

Aquion, the startup that developed the battery, has finished installing its first commercial-scale production line at the factory, and is sending out batteries for customers to evaluate. It recently raised $55 million of venture capital funding from investors including Bill Gates. The money will help it ramp up to full-speed production by this spring.

Jay Whitacre, the Carnegie Mellon professor of materials science and engineering who invented the new battery, says it will cost about as much as a lead-acid battery—one of the cheapest types of battery available—but will last more than twice as long. And while lead is toxic and the sulfuric-acid electrolyte in lead-acid batteries is potentially dangerous, the new battery is made of materials so safe you can eat them (although Whitacre says they taste terrible). Nontoxic materials are also a good fit for remote areas, where maintenance is difficult.

Most importantly, by providing an affordable way to store solar power for use at night or during cloudy weather, the technology could allow isolated populations to get electricity from renewable energy, rather than from polluting diesel generators. Combining solar power and inexpensive batteries would also be cheaper than running diesel generators in places where delivering fuel is expensive (see “How Solar-Based Microgrids Could Bring Power to Millions”).

The batteries could allow the grid to accommodate greater amounts of intermittent renewable energy. As Aquion scales up production and brings down costs, the batteries could also be used instead of a type of natural gas power plant—called a peaker plant—often used to balance supply and demand on the grid. When recharged using renewables, the batteries don’t need fuel, so they’re cleaner than the natural gas power plants.

amor de cosmos
Jan 27, 2014, 6:02 PM
U.K.’s Biggest Solar Farm Exceeds Expectation: Foresight
By Alex Morales Jan 27, 2014 4:31 AM PT

The U.K.’s largest solar farm generated 15 percent more power than expected from November through Jan. 22, said Foresight Solar Fund Ltd. (FSFL), which bought the facility three months ago.

Foresight raised 150 million pounds ($248 million) in an initial share sale in October. Today, it’s on target to spend all proceeds from that offering on grid-connected, operational power plants by the end of the first quarter, according to an e-mailed statement

The company spent 30 percent of funds raised in the 32-megawatt Wymeswold farm, which has so far exceeded expectations, according to the statement. Two further plants totaling 28 megawatts -- Castle Eaton and High Penn -- may be fully operational and hooked up to the grid shortly, the Sevenoaks, southeast England-based group said.

Investors raised at least 750 million pounds last year for megawatt-scale projects in the U.K., according to Bloomberg data. Britain may build more big plants of 2 megawatts or more than any European country, adding as much as 2,000 megawatts of capacity this year, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP predicts.

Solar power: Not just for rooftops
BusinessGreen looks at the many innovative ways solar photovoltaics are being deployed to help boost energy security and cut carbon
By Jessica Shankleman
27 Jan 2014


Thomas Edison's famous pledge to "put his money on the sun and solar energy" may have taken a while to pay out, but he would no doubt be impressed at the current global boom in solar energy capacity and the huge array of different applications solar cells are now being used for.

The technology may be best known in its solar panel form, be they installed on rooftops or positioned in solar farm arrays. But rapid advances in solar technology mean solar cells are now being integrated into everything from mobile phones to space shuttles, and even bikinis.

BusinessGreen runs down some of the most innovative ways companies are now harnessing the power of the sun.

Solar windows

Mobile phones

Solar clothing

Space solar

Solar powered transport

Solar lamps

UK solar industry embraces community energy strategy
27. January 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Ian Clover

Today's announcement by the DECC to back community-focused energy has been welcomed by the Solar Trade Association (STA).

The U.K. government's Department of Energy & Climate Change has today unveiled its Community Energy Strategy in a move that has won the backing of the Solar Trade Association (STA).

The strategy has been introduced in order to increase government backing for shared community energy, with the DECC creating a €12 million Urban Community Energy Fund to help kickstart community energy generation projects in England and Wales.

While shying away from imposing a specific sharing figure, the DECC has instead suggested that large scale solar farm developers offer a "meaningful share" of their renewable energy projects to local communities.

"For too long, community energy has been a policy footnote, with all the focus on big generators and individual households – all but ignoring the potential of communities to play a key role," said a DECC statement by energy and climate change minister Ed Davey.

First Solar to light up mining sector
27. January 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends, Trade show | By: Edgar Meza

The U.S. thin-film giant is looking to expand operations in the international mining industry, offering cost-effective tailor-made PV solutions while retaining the risk.

U.S. thin-film solar giant First Solar outlined its strategy to build and operate its own fuel-replacement projects in the global mining sector.

The company unveiled the plans at last week’s World Future Energy Summit in the UAE emirate of Abu Dhabi last week.

Speaking to trade publication Mining Weekly, First Solar fuel replacement solutions director John Eccles said the group was offering companies the possibility to replace diesel-run systems with more cost-efficient solar energy installations tailored to the mine’s specific power-load profile.

Eccles told Mining Weekly that advanced discussions were already under way with multinational mining groups and that there was particularly strong interest from companies in Australia and Africa, including South Africa.

"It’s a commercial proposition whereby we take on the risk, which will ensure that the plant is not so small that it is being fully utilized, but not so large so that half of the asset is not being used," Eccles said in the interview. "In fact, design optimization is the first critical step with hybrid applications, even more so than with utility-scale projects."

Hanergy Solar to start building 3GW CIGS thin-film manufacturing complex in China
By Mark Osborne - 27 January 2014, 12:33
In News, Fab & Facilities, Thin Film, CIGS

Hanergy Solar has said it will start construction of a planned 3GW CIGS thin-film manufacturing complex in Caofeidian, Hebei Province, China in March 2014 with tool install starting by the end of the year.

Hanergy Solar is establishing a subsidiary, Hebei Caofeidian Hanergy Photovoltaic Co. Ltd, to own and operate the new complex.

Initial plans are to build two separate production lines with a total nameplate capacity of 600MW.

Hanergy Solar said one of the turnkey lines with a nameplate capacity of 300MW would employ MiaSolé-based CIGS sputtering process technology, while the second line with a further 300MW would employ Solibro’s co-evaporating manufacturing process technology.

Both CIGS manufacturers were acquired by Hanergy Group and their technology licences transferred to Hanergy Solar and subsidiaries.

The initial 600MW phase-one construction and equipment spending is estimated at approximately US$780 million.

Solar top US renewable of 2013
By Ben Willis - 27 January 2014, 11:47
In News, Power Generation, Market Watch

Solar was the star performer of the US renewable energy generators in 2013, adding 2,963MW of new capacity over the year, according to new figures from the country’s Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC).

Overall, renewable energy in the US accounted for over 37% of all new electricity generating capacity in 2013.

According to FERC’s latest ‘Energy Infrastructure Update’ report, 5,279MW of renewable energy capacity was added in 2013, outmuscling coal more than three-fold.

Solar’s tally for the year was 44% up on 2012’s 2,056MW, although achieved across fewer separate units, a reflection of the extent to which large projects have come to dominate the US market.

In 2013 solar was second only to natural gas, which was the clear leader across all energy types, with 7,270MW of new capacity added in 2013, a decrease from 2012’s 9,331MW.

Solar Power World
January 27, 2014
Solar Beats Natural Gas As Part Of The U.S. Energy Infrastructure
January 27, 2014 Frank Andorka : 0 Comments

Solar led the way in 2013 as renewables made up 37.16% of all new domestic electrical generating capacity installed during calendar-year 2013, according to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects.

Among renewable energy sources, solar installed 266 new “units” totaling 2,936 MW, followed by wind with 18 units totaling 1,129 MW.

Biomass added 97 new units totaling 777 MW while water had 19 new units with an installed capacity of 378 MW and geothermal steam had four new units (59 MW).
Renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) accounted for 37.16% of all new domestic electrical generating capacity installed during calendar-year 2013 for a total of 5,279 MW.

That is more than three-times that provided for the year by coal (1,543 MW – 10.86%), oil (38 MW – 0.27%), and nuclear power (0 MW – 0.00%) combined. However, natural gas dominated 2013 with 7,270 MW of new capacity (51.17%). Waste heat provided the balance of new generating capacity – 76 MW (0.53%).
The newly installed capacity being provided by the solar units is second only to that of natural gas. The new solar capacity in 2013 is 42.80% higher than that for the same period in 2012.

Solar project pipeline runs dry in Greece
By John Parnell - 27 January 2014, 11:19
In News, Power Generation

The growth of installed solar energy capacity in Greece remained almost non-existent in the second half of 2013 with no new large projects added in December at all as a government moratorium took hold.

The latest figures from the Hellenic Transmission System Operator SA (HTSO) show that between July and December of 2013, 53MW of grid installed solar was connected and just 9MW of rooftop PV installs under 10kW in size.

In the first half of the year, 596MW was connected to the grid and a further 41MW of rooftop PV installed.

In total the country ended the year with 2,420MW of solar power capacity on the mainland. The Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator SA (HEDNO) estimates that by the end of July 2013, there was a further 148.5MW on the non-interconnected Greek islands.

NRE secures US$250 million for Japan PV projects
By Andy Colthorpe - 27 January 2014, 11:47
In News, Power Generation, Finance

Investment groups Equis Funds and Partners Group have raised ¥26.1 billion (US$250 million) of equity to fund utility-scale solar power stations for developer Nippon Renewable Energy through a joint investment platform, Japan Solar.

Tokyo-based Nippon Renewable Energy (NRE), which announced the news, currently has a pipeline of 300MW of PV plants in Japan under development, which will be financed with Japan Solar. Each project has qualified for 20-year power purchase agreements (PPAs) under the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s (METI) feed-in tariff programme.

The pipeline includes four projects totalling 47.5MW ready for construction, along with a further 110MW of projects expected to commence this year.

China's Solar Dragon Awakens
James Montgomery, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com
January 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

Even if you've been paying attention to China's growing appetite for renewable energy, and especially solar energy, these latest statistics deserve emphasis.

China likely fulfilled, and maybe well exceeded, its goals for 10 GW of solar PV installations in 2013. Reports suggest anywhere from 9.5 GW to 11 GW or or even 12 GW and maybe even as high as 14 GW once final numbers are in. As has been typical in other incentive-driven markets, an expiring feed-in tariff for large grid-connected PV projects caused a year-end surge to drive up the numbers, so estimates are far from final. Those numbers also might shift dramatically depending on grid connectivity, which is a major challenge for solar PV, much as it has been for China's wind industry. (About 16 GW of new capacity was added in 2013 but less than 8 GW was integrated into the grid, according to Yu Guiyong from the China Wind Energy Association.)

Whatever the final number is, keep in mind only five countries have installed 10 GW cumulatively, and nobody's ever installed that much PV in a single year. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) estimates the entire global PV market in 2013 was around 39GW, meaning China alone accounted for roughly third of it. And thanks to an emphasis on large-scale transmission-grid-connected solar PV, state-owned utilities China Power Investment, China Three Gorges, and China Huadian are now the world's largest solar asset owners.

"Now the sleeping dragon has awoken," proclaimed Jenny Chase, BNEF's head of solar analysis. As installations have become simpler and less expensive, "China's government has been as surprised as European governments by how quickly it can be deployed in response to incentives."

SolarCity Picks 20 Oregon Homebuilders To Build Solar-Powered Homes
January 27, 2014 Frank Andorka : 0 Comments

SolarCity, a full-service solar power provider, to provide affordable, clean energy to new home communities.

Twenty local homebuilders, from the Portland area to central Oregon, have begun offering solar power to homebuyers through SolarCity, giving hundreds of future homeowners the chance to save on their energy bills from day one without paying a single penny extra for their homes.

Oregon is on the leading edge of renewable energy production in the United States, and Portland actually uses 20 percent more renewable energy compared to the national average. Solar power for new homes is an easy way for homebuilders and consumers to take part in the state’s clean energy and sustainability efforts. The builders who have chosen SolarCity to provide clean power in their communities include:


Solar power delivers distinct benefits for homebuilders and homebuyers. While many upgrades and additions to homes such as granite countertops can greatly increase the purchase price of a home, SolarCity’s solar power options can allow homeowners to start saving money on energy costs immediately without increasing their purchase price. SolarCity allows the homebuyer to install solar panels for free, and pay less for solar electricity than they pay for utility bills.

WattJoule to Advance Commercial Use of Redox Flow Battery Technology
Published on 27 January 2014

A startup based in Lowell, Masssachusetts (US) has signed a license agreement with Battelle to commercialize battery technology that can help store large amounts of renewable energy and improve the reliability of the nation's power grid. The license with WattJoule Corporation is expected to advance the commercial use of redox flow battery technology.

First developed in the 1970s, the redox flow battery shows promise in meeting this challenge. Until recently, these batteries have been limited by their ability to only work well within certain temperature ranges, their relatively high cost and their low energy density.

One Step Closer to Low Cost Solar Cells
27 Jan 2014


The dwindling resources for conventional energy sources make renewable energy an exciting and increasingly important avenue of research. However, even seemingly new and green forms of energy production, like silicon-based solar cells, are not as cost effective as they could be. An OIST research team led by Yabing Qi is investigating solar cells based on organic materials that have electrodes both flexible and transparent, enabling the fabrication of these solar cells at a low cost. In a recent paper published in the journal Organic Electronics, Qi and his research group characterized the electrodes made with new materials, including plastic, conductive material and zinc oxide. They also successfully identified methods by which to clean the electrodes to restore their conductivity and work function after an extended period of storage, thus contributing to the optimization of making these new solar cells.

Traditional silicon-based solar cells are expensive to make because of the cost of the raw materials and stringent fabrication requirements. Silicon-based solar cells are also rigid and opaque, meaning their usage and placement are limited. Qi and colleagues work with flexible conductive materials that are also transparent. The fabrication of the “Flextrodes,” as these flexible transparent electrodes have been named, is more cost effective and potentially easier to fabricate using a method called roll-to-roll coating, due to their flexible nature. For example, the main component for fabricating Flextrodes is PET, the same inexpensive and readily available plastic that comprises disposable drink bottles. In addition, their use and placement is potentially much more diverse than the silicon cells. For example, they may even be placed on windows since the organic solar cells can be made partially transparent.

Since these Flextrodes are a relatively new technology, basic surface science studies had not been conducted. In their recent paper, Qi and colleagues looked at their work function, surface conductivity and chemical states. They also observed that after an extended period of storage, Flextrodes had an insulating layer of contaminants on the surface that greatly reduced their efficiency and function. The researchers were able to show that two common cleaning methods, one using UV ozone treatment, the other using oxygen plasma treatment, were both effective in removing the contaminants and restoring function to the Flextrodes in a timely and cost-efficient way. The research demonstrated that these methods could easily be integrated into the solar cell fabrication process to regenerate ready-to-use Flextrodes.

Cost Of Solar 2 To 100 Times Lower Than You Think

What’s the cost of solar today? Well, it depends a great deal on where exactly you are located, but no matter where you’re located, I’d bet that most of you have a cost of solar in your head that’s 2–100 times greater than the actual cost of solar power. Read on for an explanation….

One of the things I majored in for my bachelor’s degree (a long time back) was sociology. I think one of the key lessons I learned in those four years was that we are not exactly rational beings (okay, I guess I had a sense of that beforehand). Societal theories and economic models based on the idea of humans making completely rational decisions simply don’t work. There are a lot of different reasons for this, but one huge one is that we often don’t have all the information we would need in order to make a rational decision.


Expected Case Insight: Will Ontario Actually Exceed LTEP Targets for Solar PV?
By admin
January 27th, 2014

In our expected case scenario, ClearSky Advisors anticipates total cumulative solar PV installations to reach 3,467 MW dc by 2019, which exceeds the current Long Term Energy Plan solar PV targets of 3,300 MW dc by 2021 by over 150 MW dc. Since our quantitative forecasts are based on planned future contract awards, and historical project attrition rate, a disparity of 150 MW dc is more significant than it appears on the surface. Why does the LTEP call for less solar PV than has been announced already?

Option 1: The government plans to scale back on announced project awards

Option 2: The government anticipates project attrition rates higher than the current trend

Option 3: Future target increases

Sunday Train: The Solar Photovoltaic Price Evolution Revolution
By: BruceMcF Sunday January 26, 2014 8:39 pm

In early December, the Guardian covered ALEC’s latest corporate-written attack on freedom, an effort to penalize households that place solar panels on their roof:

An alliance of corporations and conservative activists is mobilising to penalise homeowners who install their own solar panels – casting them as “freeriders” – in a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy, the Guardian has learned. …

For 2014, Alec plans to promote a suite of model bills and resolutions aimed at blocking Barack Obama from cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and state governments from promoting the expansion of wind and solar power through regulations known as Renewable Portfolio Standards.

[Director of the Energy and Policy Institute Gabe] Elsner argued that after its bruising state battles in 2013, Alec was now focused on weakening – rather than seeking outright repeal – of the clean energy standards. “What we saw in 2013 was an attempt to repeal RPS laws, and when that failed … what we are seeing now is a strategy that appears to be pro- clean energy but would actually weaken those pro- clean energy laws by retreating to the lowest common denominator,” he said.

So, is there a particular reason why ALEC going after rooftop solar photo-voltaic installations now, after having to beat a retreat on its 2013 effort to win wholesale repeals of Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards? Why yes, there does appear to be a particular reason for going after the economics of rooftop solar PV.

Solar Energy Prices and the Tipping Point

Consider the diagram below, taken from a Seeking Alpha article (free reg’n required for full article) on the immediate past and future prospects of the Solar Photovoltaic Energy industry. The labels are, I understand, largely illegible, but it is a plot on a logarithmic scale. This is a scale where the larger the numbers, the smaller the interval given to the same difference, which is quite useful when examining things that proceed by repeated doublings or, for the case of Solar PV energy, halvings. The blue line is a measure of the cost of petroleum (in terms of energy content), the red line the cost of natural gas, and the yellow line the retail price of electricity.

And the green line is the cost of solar PV electricity:



As Seeking Alpha argued, from the perspective of investors, in January,

For companies and shareholders (unless you want to play these cycle swings), it would actually be best if the industry growth could converge on two basic metrics:

The long-term decline in cost per watt
The long-term growth in demand

The first is a function of materials cost, technological advances, and efficiency gains in production. Individually, these are only a couple of percent per year, but all three working together and this amounts to quite a substantial decline over time.

And as we pass through this threshold where solar PV is in large parts of the country already less expensive than the full cost of fossil-fuel power (factoring in climate impacts), and is driving toward being less expensive than the retail cost of electricity, we will increasingly see fossil fuel producers taking political actions to protect their industry self-interest against the public interest. Seeking Alpha, again:

In case you think this isn’t going to affect other energy sources, here is Credit Suisse:

Other key points are that falling wind and solar costs make them competitive with natural gas, even ignoring externalities. As a result, Credit Suisse has cut its natural gas projections considerably. “We estimate renewables slowing the rate of natural gas demand growth from power generation to <0.5 bcf/d through 2020 versus our prior estimate of 1.0-1.2 bcf/d even when taking into account planned coal plant shutdowns and assumed nuclear plant retirements." [Cleantechnica]

This could very well directly compete with natural gas as a source for electricity generation, and by doing that, putting a cap on the shale gas revolution. And the threat to gas isn’t limited to the US, where natural gas prices are very low compared to much (if not all) of the world.

Jan 27, 2014
What Does it Cost to Convert Renewables into Electricity?
Study Compares the Cost of Electricity Production from Renewable Energy
Press Release 3/14, January 27, 2014


A study from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE compares the present costs for conversion of different energy forms into electricity and gives a prognosis for the further cost development up to 2030. The scientists in Freiburg analyzed both the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) from renewables as well as from conventional energy technologies. They present comparative figures for new power plants constructed in Germany, which are based on solar, wind energy and biogas as well as brown coal, hard coal and gas. The study shows that the LCOE from renewables has decreased rapidly over the last years and has even caught up with the generation costs from conventional power plants. Forecasts for Germany indicate that the costs to produce electricity from PV and wind will be less than fossil fuel plants by 2030.


Photovoltaics and Wind: Outlook and Forecast 2030

After evaluating and comparing all of the data, the scientists at Fraunhofer ISE present the following outlook: “By 2030 the electricity generation costs from PV will decline down to 0.06 - 0.09 euro/kWh. At this value, even small roof-installed PV systems will be able to compete with onshore wind and also with the higher generation costs in the future from brown coal, hard coal and combined cycle gas power plants,” says Prof. Eicke R. Weber, director of Fraunhofer ISE. Also, onshore wind will experience a decrease in the electricity generation cost, as compared to conventional power plants. At the latest, this technology will be competitive with brown coal in 2020, since with the progressing energy transformation, the number of full load operating hours will decline and the price of the carbon credits could increase. Upon comparing the different renewable technologies, the results of the study show that, in the future, the costs of PV and onshore wind will lie well below 0.10 euro/kWh. Both technologies will clearly win the race towards cost leadership. Although offshore wind has higher costs, it also has more hours at full load operation. The higher costs for biomass systems are balanced by its controllability.

Fraunhofer ISE: Solar PV and onshore wind to generate electricity below cost of fossil fuels by 2030
By Mark Osborne - 27 January 2014, 14:48
In News, Power Generation, Market Watch

The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) from both solar PV and onshore wind in Germany are expected to decline below that of fossil fuels by 2030, according to a new study conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE.

The cost of electricity from onshore wind was found to have already fallen below the costs from hard coal and combined cycle gas power plants. The LCOE from onshore wind was found to be currently in the range of 0.05 and 0.11 €/kWh.

However, Fraunhofer ISE said that dependent on the number of full load operating hours measured for brown coal-fired power stations in Germany, the LCOE currently extends up to 0.053 €/kWh, while hard coal extends up to 0.080 €/kWh and combined cycle gas power plants LCOE can extend to up to 0.098 €/kWh.

“The cost of electricity generation is not the only decisive factor in determining the competiveness of renewable and conventional energy sources. The upstream and downstream costs also play a major role,” said Christoph Kost, project head at Fraunhofer ISE. “The ambient conditions such as the solar radiation and the wind availability as well as the financing costs and the risk premium for new power plants all influence the results substantially. Only by including these factors in our study are we able to realistically compare the levelized cost of electricity from the different technologies and thus convincingly present the cost-competitiveness of renewables.”

Citigroup Sees Capital Markets Reviving Renewables
By Sally Bakewell Jan 27, 2014 7:55 AM PT

Renewable-energy companies will derive more of their funding from bond markets as banks curb lending to the industry, Citigroup Inc. (C)’s head of environmental finance said.

Green-bond sales and initial public offerings will expand after kicking off last year, Michael Eckhart said by telephone. Bonds backing clean-energy and environmental ventures may account for 10 percent to 20 percent of the $7 trillion-a-year market for the securities within a decade, he said.

Eckhart’s comments cast a positive light on an industry whose funding is threatened by cuts in support for renewables from governments in the U.S. and Europe. Money managers are seeking investments that highlight their green credentials while offering an alternative to more volatile equities.

“We’re going to see a multiplier effect as we scale up use of these mechanisms,” Eckhart said. “This is the beginning of a transition from bank loans and equity financings to refinancings in the capital markets for this industry. We talked about it three years ago. Now we’re doing the deals.”

Banks in Europe, the U.S. and Japan reduced lending to clean-energy projects as the economic crisis took hold. While they’ll retain a role in the industry as they can take on project risks that institutional investors can’t sustain, capital markets will increasingly provide finance, Eckhart said.


Emerging Markets

The decline in investment was in part a result of falling technology costs, according to Eckhart. Lower spending in the U.S. and Europe, where nations cut subsidies and other support programs, will be offset by emerging-market growth, he said.

Expansion in such markets will drive up investment in 2014 and other countries around the world will increase spending in the following two years, he said. The resurgence of wind-power developments in the U.S., where an industry tax credit has been extended, may add about $15 billion a year alone, while growth in India, Africa and the Middle East will also pick up, he said.

“Renewable energy is starting to capture significant market share and hurt the incumbent competition,” he said. “The serious game is on.”

amor de cosmos
Jan 28, 2014, 6:33 PM
National Solar Jobs Census
Posted by Content Coordinator on Monday, January 27th, 2014


1. Executive Summary

The National Solar Jobs Census 2013 is the fourth annual update of current employment and projected growth in the United States solar industry. Data for Census 2013 is derived from a statistically valid sampling and comprehensive survey of 15,437 employers throughout the nation, in industries ranging from manufacturing to construction and engineering to sales. The rapid pace of change in this industry has warranted annual updates that examine the size and scope of the solar labor force and employers’ perspectives on job growth and opportunities.

Since The Solar Foundation® first started tracking solar jobs, it has found that the industry has experienced steady and impressive job growth. Our research shows that solar industry employment has grown by an astonishing 53% – or nearly 50,000 new solar jobs – since we first started tracking them in 2010. Leading this growth are businesses in the installation sector, in which solar employment has grown by nearly 60% over the fouryear period covered by the Census series, representing more than 25,000 jobs created in the sector since 2010. With leading market analyses predicting continued growth in annual installed solar capacity, it is likely that the national solar workforce will continue to experience similar growth.

U.S. solar companies continue hiring faster than the overall economy, and remain optimistic about future growth. As of November 2013, the solar industry has grown to 142,698 solar workers. This is an increase of almost 20% over our Census 2012 findings, and represents a growth rate that is ten times faster than what the overall U.S. economy experienced during that same time period. Over the next 12 months, nearly 45% of solar establishments expect to add jobs, while fewer than 1.9% expect to cut workers, yielding an expected 15.6% growth in employment. This finding is especially relevant given that employment in the overall U.S. economy is projected to grow by only 1.4% over the next 12 months.

By comparing the job growth expectations from our multi-year research effort and from existing secondary sources, we can draw several important conclusions.

As of November 2013:
Solar jobs increased nearly 20% since the Fall of 2012, which is ten times the national average job growth rate. There are 142,698 solar workers in the United States, up from 119,016 in 2012. Not only did the industry exceed growth expectations, but the pace of hiring has quickened, at a rate 50% higher than last year, suggesting that the trajectory for growth is even stronger than previously thought.
Solar is a major source of new U.S. jobs. Seventy-seven percent of the nearly 24,000 new solar workers since September 2012 are new jobs (rather than existing positions that have added solar responsibilities), representing 18,211 new jobs created. Viewed a different way, one in every 142 new jobs in the U.S. were created by the solar industry, and each day the solar industry creates 56 new jobs across America.
The solar industry expects double digit job growth over the next 12 months. Solar employment is expected to grow by 15.6% over the next year, representing the addition of approximately 22,240 new solar workers. Forty-five percent of all solar establishments expect to have added solar employees by November 2014.Two-thirds of new solar hires are living-wage installation jobs. Installers added the most solar workers over the past year, growing by 22%, an increase of 12,500 workers. Installer jobs, which cannot be off-shored and earn an average of $23.63 per hour, are expected to increase by nearly 15,000 next year. This represents a 21% year-over-year growth rate.
Solar workers are diverse. Nineteen percent of all solar workers are women, representing 26,738 solar workers, and one in six solar workers is Latino or Hispanic. With 13,192 U.S. veterans working at solar establishments across the United States, the solar industry is also an important source of employment for returning veterans, exceeding the percentage of veterans in the broader U.S. workforce.
Solar jobs have increased over 50% since 2010. Since the first National Solar Jobs Census was conducted in 2010 by The Solar Foundation®, solar industry employment has grown by 53%, which translates to nearly 50,000 new jobs.
The solar industry supports hundreds of thousands of indirect and induced jobs. Census data include most of the direct jobs and many of the indirect jobs in the solar industry, with the exception of some indirect jobs in the component and materials supply chain. Those jobs, combined with induced impacts of the industry, support an additional 435,000 jobs, bringing the total employment impact for the U.S. solar industry to nearly 600,000.



5 Facts You Should Know About America’s Booming Solar Jobs Market
There are now more than 142,000 jobs in the U.S. solar industry. What’s behind the growth?
Stephen Lacey
January 28, 2014

With a solar system installed every four minutes in the U.S., it shouldn't come as a surprise that the industry is adding a lot of new jobs in the process.

The Solar Foundation released top-level findings of its latest solar jobs census yesterday, finding that there are 142,698 jobs throughout the industry. That's a 20 percent increase since 2012 -- a jump driven both by growth in installations and new categories for academic and research jobs.

With 24,000 new jobs added last year alone, the industry is growing at roughly ten times the rate of the broader economy.

"This is very real and tangible growth," said Andrea Luecke, executive director of the Solar Foundation, on a press call. "The vast majority are new jobs."

Two-thirds of the jobs tracked were new, meaning they didn't come from companies shifting existing employees into the solar business. Solar firms were adding 56 new workers every day last year.

So much for that cleantech crash reported by 60 Minutes' Lesley Stahl, who concluded "there were not many jobs created" by clean energy promotion policies.

SolarCity's Lyndon Rive backed up the findings, reporting the addition of 2,000 jobs at his company in 2013 alone. That brings SolarCity's total employee count to just under 4,500 people in fourteen states, said Rive.

"Most of the jobs are in the field and are highly distributed. There's not any central hub," he said. Even in states where incentives are starting to disappear, "adoption has never been higher," said Rive.

1. Companies say their customers are buying solar mostly to save money, not for environmental reasons

2. Solar installers employ more Latinos and Hispanics than any other solar sector

3. Manufacturers are the largest employers of women in the solar industry

4. Workers finding jobs in the industry have related experience

5. A majority of solar companies say cheap Chinese panels are a good thing

Utility-scale US solar capacity grew 43% in 2013
28. January 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends, Top News | By: Ian Clover

A report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reveals that 2.9 GW of utility-scale solar capacity was added in the U.S. last year.

Installed solar power capacity in the U.S. grew by 42.8% in 2013, with the country adding 2.9 GW of large-scale solar energy to the grid, according to the latest Energy Infrastructure Update report from FERC's Office of Energy Projects.

The report also found that combined renewable energy sources (solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and hydropower) accounted for 37% of all electrical generating capacity in 2013, outstripping coal (which provided just 10.8%), oil and nuclear. Natural gas – boosted by a series of successful fracking initiatives – led the way, however, fuelling 51.1% of new energy capacity (7.2 GW overall).

Despite the dominance of gas, the U.S. solar industry is sure to be encouraged by FERC's findings, which show that solar energy (from both PV and concentrated solar power installations) was the second-most popular source of power last year, and by far the fastest-growing renewable energy source, with 266 individual commercial-size installations added. It should also be noted that these figures do not include an estimated 1.6 GW of "behind the meter" sources of solar PV – such as rooftop residential installations and smaller commercial arrays.

Construction begins on Australia's largest PV power plant
28. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Jonathan Gifford

First Solar has broken ground on the 102 MW Nyngan solar project in the Australian state of New South Wales. When completed in 2015, it will be the biggest solar park in the country.

While Australia looks set to remain one of the top 10 PV markets in terms of annual installed capacity, according to NPD Solarbuzz predictions, its market remains dominated by the residential rooftop segment.

With 3 GW of installed PV capacity nationally, the largest PV power plant remains the Greenough River solar plant in Western Australia, with a capacity of 10 MW.

That may be beginning to change, with construction underway on the Nyngan solar park, which is owned by coal-seam gas and renewable energy developer AGL.

First Solar will provide the EPC services while also supplying the modules and additionally provide O&M services for a five-year period.

"Each project that First Solar constructs builds acceptance of and confidence in utility-scale solar as an effective source of power generation in Australia," said First Solar's Jack Curtis, in a statement announcing that work was underway.

The Nyngan utility scale installation has received support from both the NSW government and the Australian federal government through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

Kyocera Soccer Stadium In The Hague Goes Solar, Helps The Hague’s Goal Of Being Carbon Neutral By 2040

Sports are thriving businesses for many communities and countries. Soccer is our family’s personal favorite. We are not alone — the game is the most popular in the world. The World Cup creates an influx of business for any country where it is held — this sport is the heart of many families and countries. It is important, of course, that such a large business move towards much greater use renewable energy and energy efficiency. Luckily, we’re seeing movements in that direction.



SunPower teams with Bank of America to finance $220 million solar leasing program
28. January 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Ian Clover

The solar manufacturers will collaborate with the bank on a $220 million support package designed to spur the U.S. solar leasing market.

The blossoming solar leasing market in the U.S. received another positive boost today with the announcement that two American heavyweights of their respective industries are to team up to provide the sector with $220 million in financing.

Global solar panel manufacturer First Solar and Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofA Merrill) will partner on the program, which will assist U.S. homeowners in financing solar power systems through solar leases provided by SunPower.

Currently, an estimated 20,000 U.S. households have enrolled on the program, which is said to boast low monthly payments and offer one of the few direct-from-manufacturer performance guarantees for installers.

"The SunPower Lease program allows customers to have best-in-class, high efficiency solar on their rooftops, with highly competitive terms," said SunPower CFO, Chuck Boynton. "This, coupled with our unprecendented levels of energy assurance, results in more value to the homeowner and increased retained value to SunPower."

IHS: Why 2014 PV installation forecasts are all likely to be wrong
By Ash Sharma - 28 January 2014, 10:58
In Guest Blog

Each year forecasts for how much new PV capacity will be added around the world are released. These are subsequently revised, updated, defended and invariably increased. The forecasts for 2014 from various banks and research firms however are quite different. The difference between the high-end and the low-end of expectations is massive – potentially 15GW – or put another way nearly half the amount installed in total the previous year.

Which forecast turns out to be “correct” is almost irrelevant – in fact I can almost guarantee that all of them will be wrong – including ours. Of course, one forecast will be closest to the final amount installed (if we can ever agree on even historical installations!), but right for the wrong reasons. The reason is that a forecast is made at a certain point in time based on known data and assumptions for factors that will impact on how the market develops in future.

These data and assumptions must of course change as time goes on. Does anyone really know what incentives, targets or laws the Chinese government will introduce in six months’ time? Or what new trade cases will emerge and their outcome? Or if another natural disaster will cause a country to completely abandon its nuclear policy in favour of renewables? The answer of course to these questions is “no”. Which is why all of the forecasts will undoubtedly be wrong.

But given most forecasts for 2014 were made at roughly the same time, why do they vary so massively? Here’s a few of the reasons:

1. We’re measuring different things

2. China

3. Other “upside” potential and risks

4. Emerging Markets

Wrong China solar market demand data spooks stock markets
By Mark Osborne - 27 January 2014, 16:42
In News, Cell Processing, Power Generation, Market Watch, Finance

Stocks in a large-number of PV companies were heavily sold-off last Friday on the same day erroneous market forecasts for PV demand in China and misinterpretation of recent Chinese Government agencies commitment targets for the sector in 2014 emerged.

Adding to spooked investors' concerns was the earlier announcement regarding the latest investigation by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) into imported Chinese PV products and the use of Taiwanese solar cells.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), on Thursday, 23 January revealed demand in China had “outstripped all expectations in 2013” and cited China’s National Energy Administration’s (NEA) preliminary figures and extrapolated that demand in China reached at least 12GW in 2013.

Yet, BNEF also remarked that when the official figures and its own analysis were completed that figure could have risen to 14GW for the year.

The problem was that BNEF only forecast demand in China in 2014 to be flat (14GW) with its higher range projection.

The 14GW figure for 2014 is actually the same as recently revised guidance given by Chinese Government agencies, which had previously called for 12GW of installations as part of a shift away from ground mounted to distributed commercial rooftop installations.

Importantly, widely cited government plans earlier in 2013 had called for 10GW of installations in 2014 and reiterated plans for 35GW of cumulative installations by the end of 2015.

Therefore the financial markets were taking note of higher than expected growth in 2013 with government guidelines of 10GW in 2014 resulting in a big decline this year or taking uncompleted data from BNEF and NEA on the market at best being flat in 2014, compared to the previous year.

Australian water-splitting concept could herald battery breakthrough
By Sophie Vorrath on 28 January 2014

Australian researchers have developed a concept battery based on storing protons produced by splitting water, advancing the potential for hydrogen to replace lithium as an energy source in battery-powered devices.

Dubbed the “proton flow battery,” the RMIT-developed concept eliminates the need for the production, storage and recovery of hydrogen gas, which currently limits the efficiency of conventional hydrogen-based electrical energy storage systems.

“As only an inflow of water is needed in charge mode – and air in discharge mode – we have called our new system the ‘proton flow battery’,” lead researcher Associate Professor John Andrews said of the concept, which combines the best aspects of hydrogen fuel cells and battery-based electrical power.

“Powering batteries with protons has the potential to be a much more economical device than using lithium ions, which have to be produced from relatively scarce mineral, brine or clay resources,” said Andrews, from RMIT’s School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering.

“Hydrogen has great potential as a clean power source and this research advances the possibilities for its widespread use in a range of applications – from consumer electronic devices to large electricity grid storage and electric vehicles.”

The concept integrates a metal hydride storage electrode into a reversible proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell. During charging, protons produced from splitting water are directly combined with electrons and metal particles in one electrode of a fuel cell, forming a solid-state metal hydride as the energy storage. To resupply electricity, this process is reversed.

amor de cosmos
Jan 29, 2014, 5:46 PM
Pakistan Regulator Sets Solar Power Tariff for First Time
29 January 2014

Jan. 29 (Bloomberg) — Pakistan’s national power regulator unveiled its first tariff for solar generation in a country where about 90 percent of villages have no electricity.

Projects in the north will receive 22 rupees (21 U.S. cents) a kilowatt-hour for the first 10 years and 9.1 rupees for the next 15 years, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority said in an order on its website. Facilities in the south will get 21 rupees at first and then 8.8 rupees.

Peak demand for power exceeds supply by 5,000 megawatts, with almost a third of the total generated from imported furnace oil, the regulator said. Solar offers a way around fuel and transmission bottlenecks to deliver power to villages, it said.

Plans for 120 MW plant in the UAE
27. January 2014 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Investor news, Markets & Trends | By: Max Hall

The 40 MW project planned by Utico could triple in size if it can be connected to the UAE grid, says developer. The project will also power a desalination plant in the emirate of Ras al Khaimah.

United Arab Emirates-based private utility Utico Middle East has said the 40 MW solar project it wants to develop in its home emirate of Ras al Khaimah culd be expanded to 120 MW if talks to connect it to the UAE national grid prove successful.

A report yesterday on the Arabian Business website said Utico was in talks to secure connection to the grid which would permit the project – for which Utico is calling for pre-qualification enquiries – to be trebled in size.

The 40 MW plant, which will connect to Utico's private grid, will also provide power for the 100,000m3/day desalination plant nearby for which Utico ran a pre-qual process which attracted more than 20 applicants.

In the Midwest, Farmers Are Leading the Way on Solar Power
Installers find agricultural regions to be a natural fit for PV arrays.
Midwest Energy News, Karen Uhlenhuth
January 28, 2014

Solar installations have been taking off in many areas of the Midwest, but perhaps nowhere more so than in farm country.

“It’s a huge buzz now throughout the agriculture industry,” said Todd Miller, sales director for CB Solar in Ankeny, Iowa.

In Washington County, Iowa, for example, farmers with access to an unusual and lucrative combination of federal, state and utility incentives were anticipating payback periods of as little as two years, according to Ed Raber, director of the county’s economic development corporation.

Consequently, he said, “There are more solar panels in Washington County than in any other county in Iowa.”

The heat in Washington County, just south of Iowa City, has dissipated a bit, largely because the local utility -- Alliant Energy -- terminated its subsidy as of Dec. 31. However, solar panels continue to make inroads on farms in Iowa and elsewhere in the Midwest.

"A ripple effect"

In Ohio, EcoJiva Solar has seen growing interest from farmers since its founding six years ago, according to sales director Jess Ennis. Of the more than 100 systems the company has installed, he said, the vast majority have been on farms.

At the outset, the company envisioned bringing solar energy to manufacturers, he said, but they were too financially squeezed for a big capital investment. Agriculture, on the other hand, was thriving -- and many in the industry were quite receptive to the idea of going solar.

Take, for example, the panels that EcoJiva installed on a farm outside of Huron, Ohio.

“Within several months,” Ennis said, “we developed three systems north and south of there. Within a three-mile stretch of road, we now have four systems. Generally speaking, when we install a system, it creates a ripple effect.”

Minnesota installer Curt Shellum also has found that, in farm country, solar arrays tend to breed more solar arrays. “You get systems out there, people see them and drop by,” he said. In the agricultural region of southeast Minnesota, where he does most of his work, Shellum said, demand among farmers “is definitely growing for us. We’ve done maybe a dozen installs. In the last month, we’ve done enough farm proposals to equal the number of kilowatts we installed last year.”

In Illinois, solar developer Michelle Marley agrees that word of mouth is important.

Solar is “just now starting to get a foothold,” she said. “The greatest obstacle is getting the word out.”

A long-term investment

Solar panels are a natural fit on a farm, a few installers observed. Shellum said that, for several reasons, they’re his “favorite type of installation.”

For one, farms tend to use a lot of power, with monthly electric bills sometimes running into the thousands of dollars. They need electricity to run fans, to heat and cool barns for dairy cows, to cool milk and produce, and to dry grain and move it around.

Many farms also have barns with roofs that lend themselves to holding up solar panels. And if there’s not a suitable roof, there’s usually plenty of space for a freestanding array.

New theory may lead to more efficient solar cells
UH collaboration with Universite de Montreal published in Nature Communications

HOUSTON, Jan. 29, 2014 – A new theoretical model developed by professors at the University of Houston (UH) and Université de Montréal may hold the key to methods for developing better materials for solar cells.

Eric Bittner, a John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Chemistry and Physics in UH's College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Carlos Silva, an associate professor at the Université de Montréal and Canada Research Chair in Organic Semiconductor Materials, say the model could lead to new solar cell materials made from improved blends of semiconducting polymers and fullerenes.

The researchers describe their findings in a paper titled "Noise-Induced Quantum Coherence Drives Photo-Carrier Generation Dynamics at Polymeric Semiconductor Heterojunctions," appearing Jan. 29 in Nature Communications, a multidisciplinary journal dedicated to publishing research in the biological, physical and chemical sciences.

"Scientists don't fully understand what is going on inside the materials that make up solar cells. We were trying to get at the fundamental photochemistry or photophysics that describes how these cells work," Bittner said.

Solar cells are made out of organic semiconductors – typically blends of materials. However, solar cells made of these materials have about 3 percent efficiency. Bittner added that the newer materials, the fullerene/polymer blends, only reach about 10 percent efficiency.

"There is a theoretical limit for the efficiency of the ideal solar cell – the Shockley-Queisser limit. The theory we published describes how we might be able to get above this theoretical limit by taking advantage of quantum mechanical effects," Bittner said. "By understanding these effects and making use of them in the design of a solar cell, we believe you can improve efficiency."

South Africa world’s most attractive emerging country for solar
29. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Investor news, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Edgar Meza

South Africa has topped IHS' emerging PV market attractiveness rankings in the areas of in potential market size, project profitability and pipeline maturity, ahead of Thailand and Turkey.

South Africa’s target of building 8.4 GW of PV capacity by 2030, combined with the success of its large-scale tendering process in attracting investment to fulfill that goal, has made the country the most attractive emerging PV market globally, according to market research firm IHS Technology.

South Africa scored 66 out of 100 in the IHS Emerging PV Markets Attractiveness Index for the fourth quarter of 2013, 17 points ahead of the second-most attractive market, Thailand.

The index ranks the attractiveness of PV markets in emerging countries to investors, developers and manufacturers in four key areas: macroeconomic climate, potential market size, project profitability and pipeline maturity. Among the top five countries in the index, South Africa ranked highest in potential market size, project profitability and pipeline maturity.

"South Africa has consolidated its position as a growth market for PV by cultivating a policy environment stable enough to attract financing from commercial banks," said Josefin Berg, senior PV analyst at IHS.

Taiwan increases solar PV targets
29. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Ilias Tsagas

Implementing the new solar energy goals will cost an estimated $33 billion, much of which will go to Taiwanese manufacturers. About 90% of PV systems installed in Taiwan use local products.

Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs has increased its solar PV development targets, which if successfully met will make the 23 million people island nation one of the most successful photovoltaic energy regions in Asia.

Taiwan's Ministry of Economic affairs has increased the country's solar PV installation target for 2014 from 572 MW to 607 MW, according to EnergyTrend, a division of the Taiwan-based global market research group TrendForce.

The changes, drafted by the ministry's Bureau of Energy, are included in an amendment to Taiwan’s renewable energy development target law.

The ministry likewise raised the installation target for 2015 to 847 MW, while the target for 2030 is set at 6.2 GW.

Successfully meeting the new targets, EnergyTrend estimates, will require funding of TWD 21 billion (US$690 million) and TWD 24 billion ($790 million) for 2014 and 2015 respectively, assuming a solar PV system installation price of $3.30 per watt.

In total, EnergyTrend reports, the successful implementation of the new targets will require more than TWD 1 trillion ($33 billion).

Deutsche Bank dismisses China solar demand concerns on raised forecast
By Mark Osborne - 29 January 2014, 13:26
In News, PV Modules, Power Generation, Market Watch

Deutsche Bank has said in an investor note that its PV demand estimate of 12GW for China is at the bottom end of its projections for the country in 2014.

The forecast follows negative reactions to market forecasts and wrongly interpreted Chinese government guidance on PV installation targets for 2014.

Continuing to make checks on the possible demand drivers in China and recent sharp increases in the spot market price of polysilicon, Deutsche Bank’s research analyst, Vishal Shah, said in the note that the Chinese government's latest target to add 14GW of PV in 2014 could easily be exceeded.

The rationale comes from the target set by the Chinese Government in 2013 for 10GW of installations that according to Deutsche Bank’s most recent checks is expected to have been exceeded by around 2GW.



Ontario received 463MW of PV FiT applications in five weeks
By Andy Colthorpe - 29 January 2014, 13:08
In News, Power Generation, Tariff Watch

Ontario’s energy regulator received almost 500MW of project proposals, including 463MW of photovoltaics (PV), in the five-and-a-half week period that the feed-in tariff (FiT) window was last open.

According to regulator Ontario Power Authority (OPA), responsible for overseeing the Canadian province's FiT 3.0 programme, it received a total of 1,982 applications for renewable energy totalling 493.71MW of capacity in the period between 4 November and 13 December last year. Applications were for solar, wind, hydropower and bioenergy projects of between 10kW and 500kW proposed capacity.

The vast majority of PV project proposals received by OPA, 76.8%, were rooftop-based, 311.42MW of capacity across 1,499 applications. A further 383 applications with a combined capacity of 151.85MW were made for ground-mounted PV.

Priority will be given to projects with Aboriginal, community, municipal and public sector participation.

TrendForce: Taiwan cell producers could reach 10GW in 2014
By John Parnell - 29 January 2014, 12:46
In News, Cell Processing

Taiwanese cell producers could reach 10GW in 2014 but the spectre of US trade action could yet derail 2013’s growth, according to new research.

EnergyTrend, part of TrendForce, said shipments from the country had grown 42% year on year to reach 8.3GW in 2013.

“Regarding the trade war initiated by SolarWorld, it’s not likely to impact Taiwan in January and February. Yet, if the judgment reaches final stage, they may decide to trace back to products traded since the beginning of March, 2014,” said Jason Huang, research manager of EnergyTrend.

“By then, Taiwanese manufacturers’ OEM orders received in the end of 1Q14 and the beginning of 2Q14 may be affected,” he added.

TrendForce claimed that while the possibility of hitting 10GW in 2014 remains, the uncertainty created by the US trade ruling means producers would be well advised to explore new markets.

Australian trade body warns thousands of jobs could be lost if renewables target is scrapped
By Andy Colthorpe - 29 January 2014, 12:01
In News, Power Generation, Tariff Watch

The abolition of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) could lead to the loss of almost 7,000 jobs, according to an industry body.

The REC Agents Association (RAA), an industry body responsible for assisting and overseeing companies trading in renewable energy certificates in Australia, issued a press release that quoted “detailed analysis” by Australian company Solar Business Services. The analysis was commissioned by RAA member Greenbank Environmental.

RAA claims that the Australian solar industry is expected to employ around 12,300 people across 4,300 businesses domestically in 2014. If the RET is cut entirely, up to 6,750 jobs could be lost by 2018, according to RAA.

The Solar Business Services report outlined forecasts for three possible scenario projections to 2018, the first being no policy change; the second detailing possible consequences of cuts to the RET and the third scenario based on abolition of the RET.

According to Solar Business Services and RAA, a ‘no policy change’ scenario is predicted to mean the addition of 8,000 jobs in the Australian solar industry in the four years between 2014 and 2018.

Predicted job losses in a forecast scenario where the RET is abolished this year would be immediate, with around 2,000 of the potential 6,750 jobs lost being cut in 2015.

The RET, set at 20% of electricity generation by 2020, has different criteria for large- and small-scale schemes.

US President Acknowledges Solar Progress in State of the Union Address
Published on 29 January 2014

President Obama praised the US solar industry in his annual State of the Union speech last night, acknowledging that a big factor in bringing jobs back is "our commitment to American energy."

"It's not just oil and natural gas production that's booming," the President said, "we're becoming a global leader in solar, too."

He noted that every four minutes another American home or business goes solar, and he said that the jobs of the installer cannot be outsourced. "Let's continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don't need it so we can invest more in fuels of the future that do."

Afterward, Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), released the following statement:

“From the rooftop of the White House to the floor of the People’s House, President Obama continues to show his strong, unwavering support for solar energy. On behalf of the 143,000 Americans who work in the US solar industry – and the tens of millions of people who support it – the best way to thank the President for his leadership is to go out and prove him right. Today, we’re well on our way to doing that, with solar now the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in America, pumping tens of billions of dollars into the US economy. But despite this milestone, we believe the best is yet to come.

"Fresh off a record-breaking year, America’s solar energy industry is looking forward to another great year in 2014 – thanks, in part, to President Obama’s continued leadership and the smart public policies which are making solar more affordable than ever. With an estimated 13,000 megawatts (MW) of solar currently installed in the US, we’re generating enough clean, reliable electricity today to power more than 2 million American homes – or every single home in a state the size of Colorado. Like the President, we see 2014 as a year of action, a year of progress and a year in which more and more Americans turn to solar to save money, help meet their energy needs and improve our environment.”

Why Traditional Investors are Banking on Solar
Written by Michael Gorton 29 January 2014

The bankability of solar investments is generating wide receptivity among traditional oil and gas energy investors for a number of reasons. As the demand for electricity continues to grow, solar energy has the potential to deliver much-needed peak demand relief to the existing grid infrastructure.

With continued, annual drops in the cost, solar will not only result in competitive electricity, but, in many cases, cheaper electricity coupled with higher profit margins for the industry. By 2020, solar projects could produce power at costs significantly lower than nuclear, coal or natural gas.

The solar boom stems from the precipitous price drops solar photovoltaic (PV) has experienced in the past three years. In 2010, solar was approaching $2/watt. In early 2012, solar PV began to approach grid parity, and it’s almost there. Extrapolating from this, solar PV could dip as low as $0.50/kWh in 2014.

These numbers are supported by many of the largest solar cell and PV manufacturers. The projected 2014 price will make solar PV not only competitive with, but also less expensive than traditional energy sources.

Excellent returns for equity investors

Utility-scale solar generation has reached a point where it can be financed similarly to traditional generating facilities with a ratio of debt and equity, financed over 15- to 20-year periods. Such financing produces solid returns for debt holders and excellent returns for equity investors.

Traditionally, conservative investors have placed capital in utilities because of the stability of returns based on a fixed, captive customer base. In simple terms, solar has no moving parts, which results in low maintenance. Also, its fuel is free, resulting in long-term stability of pricing. Perhaps most importantly, solar is produced during periods of peak demand and as such, provide important peaking capacity relief. As solar continues to become more cost effective, it too will function as a traditional utility investment, without the same volatility of existing generation sources. There are billions of dollars to be earned from converting sunlight to electricity. What’s more, once built, solar produces no pollutants.

2014 Will Be a Memorable Year for Cleantech
Bob Lockhart — January 13, 2014

Is January 13 too early to call 2014 a year to remember?

We have recently published our fifth annual white paper, Smart Utilities: 10 Trends to Watch in 2014 and Beyond. The free white paper, more than past editions, details the massive transformations facing utilities and their business models. Things are just so different now!

Navigant Research offers another peek into the future with our webinar, “The Year Ahead in Cleantech” on Tuesday, January 14 at 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. I have dramatically titled the Smart Utilities section of the webinar, “Everything You Know is Wrong.” Perhaps that’s overly dramatic, but so much is changing, it’s not far off. Key trends that will be discussed include:

Distributed generation begins to rock utilities’ world: Utility business model are likely to change, perhaps dramatically, as they suffer the one-two punch of reduced energy revenue and increased payouts to distributed generators
Solar power generation’s impact on distribution grids will be enormous: Some governments have aggressively supported residential solar generation while others have not - What happens in either case?
New grid-balancing technologies that deal with distributed inputs can make granular, automated decisions that enable utilities to run grids more efficiently while remaining within mandated voltage ranges
Energy efficiency may happen in our lifetimes: We have detected signs of life in the home energy market during 2013, with some encouraging pilot programs that may foretell new life for HEM, the forever stepchild of cleantech
Utilities are changing their view of the smart grid: We observed some interesting behavior changes during 2013, among both utilities and the vendors that sell to them
Smart grid applications continue their rise: Navigant Research has recently completed an examination of Smart Grid IT, and this seminar will discuss some of the leading applications

GTM Research Gets Shoutout From Obama in State of the Union Speech
“Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar.”
Stephen Lacey
January 28, 2014

President Obama addressed a number of key themes in his State of the Union speech tonight: income equality, economic competitiveness, national security, and, naturally, GTM Research.

Shayle Kann, our VP of research, wasn't invited as a guest to the speech. But he got the next best thing: a shoutout for his original solar stat we published in August.

Moments after riling environmentalists by uttering the phrase "all-of-the-above energy strategy," the president quickly shifted to the fast-growing solar market, which GTM documents in deep detail.

"It's not just oil and natural gas production that's booming; we're becoming a global leader in solar, too. Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel [is] pounded into place by a worker whose job can't be outsourced," said the president.

The stat he was referring to came from this chart put together from GTM installation data:



amor de cosmos
Jan 30, 2014, 6:21 PM
Kuala Lumpur airport lands 19MW solar system
Largest connected installation in Malaysia comes as countries all over the globe boost solar capacity
By Will Nichols
30 Jan 2014

A huge solar system at Kuala Lumpur airport is set to save around 2.1 million RM (£380,000) a year for the airport's operators.

The 19MW SunEdison-designed system - the largest in Malaysia - combines ground-mounted, parking canopy, and roof-top systems to maximise electricity savings and return on investment from the project, while using as little space as possible.

"Malaysia has an ideal climate for solar power and therefore we are taking steps to generate clean energy which will be beneficial to everyone in Malaysia," said Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad, managing director of Malaysia Airports. "Rooftops, parking lots and 'buffer' areas at airports are traditionally not multi-purpose facilities, but we've turned them into a clean energy generation facility. This initiative also demonstrates our support towards the Government's initiative in introducing renewable energy and also to further reduce carbon footprint."

California PUC President: The Utility Death Spiral Is ‘Last Year’s Hype’
The state’s top regulator says that smart utilities can serve their customers and thrive.
Herman K. Trabish
January 29, 2014

The much-heralded death spiral of U.S. utilities is “last year’s hype,” according to California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey.

It was propagated, he said, by members of the Edison Electric Institute, a utility lobbying group, out of a concern that rooftop solar supported by net energy metering would disrupt utilities’ longstanding business model.

That’s not going to happen, Peevey told an audience at VerdeXchange 2014, the seventh annual Los Angeles gathering of California’s greentech community. If utilities are smart, they will adapt to the new technologies, he said.

When utilities moved into the generation business some 30 years ago when he was at Southern California Edison, there was similar talk of “the end of the utility industry,” Peevey said. “I’ve seen these permutations happen again and again in the utility world.”

There were successes and failures, and the utilities survived. The companies with capability and persistence and which “put their customers first” will succeed. Those that get involved in “scrimmages over things like net metering that represent no more than 3 percent or 4 percent of the market won’t.”

Google’s recent purchase of Nest Labs for $3.2 billion shows the viability of residential electricity services as a business, Peevey said. “It comes down to management.”

Several U.S. utilities use the “service” model and see themselves as providing their customers with what they want. By going “with the flow,” such companies will do fine. If the companies now fighting net metering were providing solar, Peevey said, they might be bigger and getting a better return on their investment and would not be concerned with net metering.

Thai module manufacturer Solartron to double production
By John Parnell - 30 January 2014, 12:44
In News, PV Modules

Thai PV manufacturer Solartron is planning to double its production capacity, according to local media reports.

The firm’s CEO Patama Wongtoythong told the Bangkok Post that it was looking to expand its current module capacity from 70MW to 150MW.

The 250 million baht (US$7.6 million) investment drive will be backed with the issuance of 150 million new shares.

The company claims to have a backlog of 60MW and its current facility is approaching capacity. It hopes to have the additional production line, which will be incorporated into its existing factory, online during 2015.

India’s ‘ultra mega’ 4GW solar project backers sign MoU
By Lucy Woods - 30 January 2014, 11:13
In News, Power Generation, Market Watch, Project Focus

India’s Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises announced yesterday the joint venture developing the 4GW ultra mega solar power project (UMSPP), made up of six companies has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU).

The MoU stipulated the huge project is to be built over seven years, the first phase of which will be 1GW. The UMSPP was announced at Intersolar India in November last year.

The agreement was signed with attendance from Shri Praful Patel, Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises and the Minister of New and Renewable Energy, Farooq Abdullah.

The consortium of companies will be registered as a public enterprise under Druk Holding Investments (government investment arm of the ministry of finance), with headquarters in Delhi.

Representing the joint venture were the managing directors and executive chairmen: Shri Prasada Rao of Baharat Heavy Electricals, Shri Rajendra Nimde of the government run Solar Energy Corporation of India, Shri Tandon of land provider, Sambhar Salt Lake, Shri Nayak of Power Grid, Shri Singh of Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (a national and state government JV for hydropower) and Shri Jain of Rajasthan Electronics and Instruments Limited (state and national government venture for electrical technology advancement).

Trina says solar PV costs to fall, but prices not so much
By Giles Parkinson on 30 January 2014

Chinese manufacturing giant Trina Solar – now the second largest solar PV manufacturer in the world – says there is little doubt that the cost of solar PV modules will continue to fall. It’s just that the price to consumers will no longer be following it down.

Pierre Verlinden, the chief scientist and vice-president of Trina, says solar PV costs will continue to fall as they have done – by around 20 per cent for every doubling in global cumulative production.

The issue for consumers now is that because cumulative production is nearing 200GW, the next doubling will take longer than the previous. So it may translate into a 5-6 per cent reduction each year.

And as the rationalization of the manufacturing industry continues, then producers will take advantage of lifting their margins to make their business profitable and sustainable. So prices may not rise, but they are unlikely to come down much anytime soon.

Verlinden, in Australia for a series of company-sponsored presentations to the Australian solar industry, notes another important change in the market – a flight to quality products.

“The great price decline is over. Customers used to be focused on what was cheapest, now they want the best quality,” he told RenewEconomy in an interview. “That is new, but I am glad for that. It is good for the industry.”

WA grid may become first big victim of “death spiral”
By Giles Parkinson on 30 January 2014

The chances of the West Australian electricity grid becoming the first to fall victim to the so-called “death spiral” for utilities appears to have increased after it was revealed this week that the gap between the cost to generate, transmit and sell electricity and the charge to consumer has widened.

The “death spiral” is a term coined by utilities in an attempt to defend their business models against the rise of the “pro-sumer”, customers who are no longer just buying energy but who are sourcing cheaper electricity from their own generation, usually rooftop solar, and cutting demand from the grid.

The WA grid, however, has helped create its own death spiral because it has never recovered the cost of its largely fossil-fuel fired electricity from the consumer. The costs keep rising, and now it has emerged that electricity demand has fallen so low that the major utilities may be forced to pay for fossil-fuel generation they will never use.

It is hard to imagine a more unsustainable situation, and it is quite possible that the WA grid is the most at risk in the developed world from the emergence of cheaper solar and storage solutions.

Synergy, the WA Government-owned electricity and gas retailer that has just been merged with the government owned generator Verve Energy, revealed this week that the gap between consumer bills and the cost of delivery through the grid had blown out to nearly $500 million in the 2013 fiscal year.

This is despite the fact that residential power prices have risen 70 per cent since the Barnett government came to power in 2008. Synergy told the Upper House financial estimates committee that consumer bills would have needed to increase by another one third in 2012-13 to match the cost of production.

Synergy CFO Karl Matacz told the committee that solar panel installations, which have grown from zero to 130,000 in just five years, continue to grow at a rate of more than 2,000 a month, despite the removal of feed in tariffs. Indeed, the company’s annual report released late last year put the rate of solar installations at 2,600 a month, or more than 31,000 a year.

What this shows is that rooftop solar PV is becoming a “no-brainer” for households in the state. The question is whether it becomes a “no-brainer” for the utilities, and the government owners, and whether they can see how they can adjust their business models to suit.

British company develops new solar storage technology prototype
By Peter Bennett | 30 January 2014, 12:39 Updated: 30 January 2014, 12:57

British company Oxis Energy has partnered with Proinso UK to develop a new solar energy storage system prototype that it is aiming to roll out this year.

The companies claim that the rechargeable Lithium Sulfur (Li-S) batteries used are inherently safe thanks to the lithium sulfide passivation layer and non-flammable electrolyte.

Mark Randall, general manager of Proinso explained why it was looking at solar storage in particular, he said: “As a global solar company Proinso has witnessed solar plants matching, and increasingly bettering, the cost of energy from other technologies in ever more regions. However, growth has been restricted by the need for safe, reliable and cost effective storage.

“In the first stage, our collaboration with Oxis Energy will allow us to offer solutions in testing environments where the price of competing energy is particularly high. Proinso is frequently challenged by businesses to match energy needs in a range of global locations and this increases our ability to do so. The prototype of the integrated system is scalable with a view, in the medium term, that the cost effectiveness and safety aspects will be an obvious attraction to the distributed grid-connected sector.”

New Solar PV Capital Expenditure Cycle to Start in 2015, According to NPD Solarbuzz
New gigawatt solar factories to provide up to $10 billion of revenues to PV equipment suppliers in 2017

Santa Clara, Calif., January 30, 2014—Capital expenditures for equipment suppliers serving the solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing sector are forecast to enter a new upturn phase beginning in 2015. According to new research in the latest NPD Solarbuzz PV Equipment Quarterly, PV equipment spending could potentially reach $10 billion in revenues in 2017.

"During 2012 and 2013, solar PV equipment suppliers were confronted by the sharpest downturn ever to hit the sector," according to Finlay Colville, vice president at NPD Solarbuzz. "The decline was caused by strong over-capacity that reshaped the entire PV industry in 2012, which resulted in manufacturers' capital expenditure budgets being put on hold during 2013."

For 2013, PV equipment spending—covering tool revenues from crystalline silicon (c-Si) makers of ingots, wafers, cells, modules, and thin-film panels—declined to an eight-year low of $1.73 billion. This drop contrasts sharply with the previous cyclical peak of approximately $13 billion in 2011.

With capital expenditures largely frozen in 2013, PV equipment suppliers recorded less than $1 billion of net bookings last year, keeping the PV book-to-bill ratio well below parity. In the absence of new PV orders, many equipment suppliers were forced to restructure internal PV business units and focus on other technology sectors.

Over the next six months, however, end-market solar PV demand will catch up with the 45 gigawatts (GW) of effective capacity within the industry, and this will mark the official end of the two-year downturn in capital expenditure. Thereafter, plans will quickly emerge from PV manufacturers for new capacity additions, which will ultimately drive a strong rebound in revenues available to the equipment supply chain.

The Road to Renewable Energy in Alberta, Canada
Randolph Seibold, Terra1 Renewables
January 30, 2014 | 0 Comments

It is well known in clean energy circles that Alberta, aside from the oil sands, has some of the best solar resources in North America. It also generates more emissions from coal-fired power plants than the rest of Canada combined, which amounts to about 51 percent of the country's power generation-based emissions. The road to bring more solar and renewable power online in the oil and gas province has proven to be a challenging one, given its lack of market incentives or favorable policies.

Shifting Landscape

Despite challenges, new installations for solar PV are roughly doubling each year. Gordon Howell of Howell-Mayhew Engineering estimates a 400 percent growth in the past five years. Skyfire Energy, a 12-year-old company serving Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario says it has grown its workforce from three to fourteen in the past five years, along with revenues.

Overall, the level of solar in the wind-dominated Alberta renewable energy industry is a tiny fraction of what is possible, given its robust level of sun-hours per year (concentrated in the province’s southern region). But there are many examples of the changing energy landscape for solar and renewable power in Alberta.

Its first-ever utility-scale PV plant is approaching construction in Brooks. GTE Solar, a subsidiary of GTE Power, is developing the 15-megawatt project. The Environment Canada building in Edmonton is finalizing its 300-kW PV system, one of the largest building-mounted systems in Western Canada. The 5-megawatt Lethbridge Biogas Cogeneration Facility has just completed construction and commenced operation. A similar facility is planned for Lacombe, using abundant cattle industry feedstocks (Alberta is home to over 2 million cows). And SAEWA (Southern Alberta Energy-from-Waste) coalition, now comprised of about 70 towns and counties, is moving forward on detailed engineering studies for a major facility in their region.

New Facility In Australia Launches To Develop More Efficient Solar Technology
Originally published on RenewEconomy
by Sophie Vorrath

A new facility to pilot the development of Australian-grown, ARENA-backed technology aimed at creating more efficient and affordable solar panels has been launched in Queensland.

Brisbane Materials, whose landmark technology produced anti-reflection and other coatings for solar panels which significantly improves efficiency and lowers cost, announced the opening of its new product development and manufacturing plant in Darra, on Tuesday.

Ivor Frischknecht, CEO of the Australia Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), will cut the ribbon at the new plant, one of the many projects ARENA has invested in to help drive and commercialise efficient and affordable renewable energy solutions.

Brisbane Materials’ patented technology was invented and developed at the University of Queensland by Dr Michael Harvey and Professor Paul Meredith. It enables the creation of a nano-porous silicon dioxide (SiO2) and other metal oxide films from a liquid precursor at room temperature and atmospheric pressure.

When applied to solar photovoltaic panels, these films form an anti- reflective coating which provides a significant efficiency improvement, and lowers the cost of solar panels.

After forming a strategic partnership with EV Group in 2012, Brisbane Materials announced the close of a $5 million Series A funding round, led by the ARENA-backed Renewable Energy Venture Capital Fund managed by Southern Cross Venture Partners, and including US- based New Venture Partners. In 2012, the company also won a $1.3 million grant from the Australia Solar Institute, which is now part of ARENA

amor de cosmos
Jan 31, 2014, 5:33 PM
Is solar-powered desalination answer to water independence for California?
From Isle of Man to Saudi Arabia, renewable desalination is gaining interest around the world as solution to water scarcity and food crisis
Oliver Balch
Guardian Professional, Tuesday 28 January 2014 17.35 GMT

Thousands of acres on the west side of California's San Joaquin Valley lie fallow. In official speak, the former agricultural land has been "retired". Water supplies have always been a problem for this drought-prone region. Yet what's pushed the area over the brink is salinity.

The problem is in large part caused by farm irrigation, which picks up the salt that naturally occurs in the rocks and soils of the Central Valley and transfers it through drainage. Compounding the problem is the tidally influenced water that is pumped into the area from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. A study by the University of California estimates that, left to continue, the Central Valley could be facing reparation costs of up to $1.5bn by 2030 and the loss of up to 64,000 jobs as agricultural production slides.

A California-based startup thinks it might have the answer. WaterFX's solution comes in the unlikely shape of a vast bank of parabolic mirrors and an advanced "multi-effect" evaporating unit. The Aqua4 system offers a renewable method of desalinating briny water, which, if its developers prove right, could put California "on a path to water independence".

How does it work? Unlike conventional desalination, which uses a high-pressure reverse osmosis system that forces salt and other solids through a membrane, WaterFX cleans water through use of a 400-kilowatt solar "trough" – hence the mirrors. This concentrated solar still collects the sun's energy, which heats a pipe containing natural oil, providing heat for the subsequent distillation process.

$5 Solar Lamp To Fight Fuel Poverty

Sometimes, it’s the simplest things that can make a big difference in people’s lives, and this affordable solar light falls right in line with that, as it involves something we take for granted (a safe way to illuminate a home after dark), but which is a luxury in many parts of the developing world.

Here in the west, all we need to do is flip a switch, and we’ve got a cheap source of light that doesn’t pollute our home and that can provide plenty of time after dark to prepare meals, complete homework, read, enjoy our family or loved ones, or do our daily chores.

But that’s not the case in many areas, where the only viable source of light may be a kerosene lamp, which is not only unhealthy to burn indoors, and a possible safety hazard, but also requires a constant supply of relatively expensive fuel to operate. And while many different versions of solar lanterns and solar lighting options are available, not many of them are affordable to a family living in poverty, which is why this $5 solar light could have a big positive impact on the lives of those who use them.

The MiniSun12H, developed by the NGO SunLife, is a affordable, durable, solar-powered light capable of providing 12 hours of light from 8 hours of charging. At the cost of just $5, this solar light is cost-competitive with a kerosene lantern, with the added advantage of never needing to be refueled with expensive and dirty kerosene in order to use it.

“The dangers of kerosene lamps are very real. The World Bank estimates that 780 million women and children breathing kerosene fumes inhale smoke equivalent to 2 packs of cigarettes every day. 60% of adult female lung-cancer victims in developing nations are non-smokers. These fumes kill an estimated 1.5 million women and children in Africa every year. The kerosene needed for the lamps is a constant burden on the household income for these very poor people.” – SunLife



150MW Zimbabwe solar project edges closer to approval
By John Parnell - 31 January 2014, 12:45
In News, Power Generation

Plans to build a 150MW solar farm in Zimbabwe are nearing approval, according to the companies involved in its development.

Once permission has been given by the country’s Lands Ministry the joint venture behind the scheme will then finalise licensing with Zimbabwe Electricity Regulatory Authority (ZERA).

The US$400 million project is being developed by Defemme Afrique Holdings, a joint venture by local firm De Opper Trading and UK-based Green Rhino Energy.

De Opper’s CEO Francis Gogwe told local press that the farm in Marondera wold be a boost for the local area.

“The project aims to ease electricity shortage in the region. It is unfortunate the country for a long time has been facing shortages of electricity. We will play a part in powering all the government departments with electricity,” Gogwe told News Day.

“It is also a platform to create employment for the local people. We will also rehabilitate electricity infrastructure in Marondera and other surrounding areas,” he added.

Graph of the Day: Solar PV’s path to 2c/kWh
By Giles Parkinson on 31 January 2014

Today’s Graph of the Day is a follow-up to our article on Thursday on Trina Solar, and its forecasts for the coming years for the solar PV industry.

One aspect we touched on was the levellised cost of electricity. Trina’s goal is to bring the cost of solar PV down to around 6c/kWh, which it thinks can happen within 5 years. At that price it will be competitive with gas in most countries, coal in some countries, and new build fossil fuels just about everywhere.

But how does it get below that – to say, perhaps, the 2c/kWh mark imagined by solar research leaders such as Eicke Weber, of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy.

That’s what makes this graph so interesting. It seems to suggest that solar PV will have a natural base at some point. The biggest gains can be made in the efficiency levels. But the other key measure is the cost of manufacturing. Trina’s initial goal is to lift efficiency to an average 20 per cent and reduce the cost of manufacturing by nearly one third.

To get it much below that would require the sort of manufacturing cost reductions that might only be envisaged by the sort of multi-gigawatt plants envisaged by Weber for the EU, or even the 3GW manufacturing complex announced recently by Hanergy - although that is for thin film solar PV.



Why the New Jersey Solar Market Just Got Hot Again
Sara Rafalson, Sol Systems
January 30, 2014 | 1 Comments

New Jersey has long been a cautionary tale of the boom and bust cycles of solar renewable energy credit (SREC) programs. In 2009, New Jersey’s SREC values were close to $700 per megawatt hour. Then, in fall 2012, prices dipped to the $70 mark, demonstrating the true volatility of SREC markets. However, a recent rebound in SREC prices offers owners several profitable ways to profit from their SRECs.

After a lull period, the New Jersey SREC prices have ticked up once again. No, they are not back at $700 (and likely will never be again). However, we have traded as high as a healthy $170 per SREC in the last month on behalf of our SREC portfolio management clients.

In addition to the spot market rally, we have also seen increased interest from SREC buyers for fixed price strips at terms of 3, 5, or 10 years. This may indicate buyers expect SREC volatility to abate in future years. What this certainly means is that solar owners, developers, and investors can lock into a fixed price for their SRECs to secure a guaranteed stream of income for a given number of years. A fixed price strip guarantees a predetermined rate per SREC, even if (and when) spot market prices fall.

This newfound availability of fixed price contracts is essential for developers hoping to secure financing for their commercial solar projects. Investors’ interest in projects in SREC states typically wanes when a developer has been unable to lock in an SREC strip, as this is viewed as uncontracted revenue that can hurt an investor’s returns.

What’s the reason for New Jersey’s SREC rally? Well, much of the recent spike in prices can be attributed to solar legislation that passed in New Jersey in the summer of 2012. This legislation shifted the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requirement from a fixed megawatt hour requirement to a percentage of retail load, adjusted the alternative compliance penalty (ACP), and capped grid supply projects at 80 MW.

Anti-soiling coating keeps solar reflectors clean and efficient
Date: January 29, 2014
Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Soiling -- the accumulation of dust and sand -- on solar power reflectors and photovoltaic cells is one of the main efficiency drags for solar power plants, capable of reducing reflectivity up to 50 percent in 14 days. Though plants can perform manual cleaning and brushing with deionized water and detergent, this labor-intensive routine significantly raises operating and maintenance costs (O&M), which is reflected in the cost of solar energy for consumers.

Under the sponsorship of the Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy SunShot Concentrating Solar Power Program, Oak Ridge National Laboratory is developing a low-cost, transparent, anti-soiling (or self-cleaning) coating for solar reflectors to optimize energy efficiency while lowering O&M costs and avoiding negative environmental impacts.

The coating -- which is being designed by members of the Energy and Transportation Science Division, including Scott Hunter, Bart Smith, George Polyzos, and Daniel Schaeffer -- is based on a superhydrophobic coating technology developed at ORNL that has been shown to effectively repel water, viscous liquids, and most solid particles. Unlike other superhydrophobic approaches that employ high-cost vacuum deposition and chemical etching to nano-engineer desired surfaces, ORNL's coatings are deposited by conventional painting and spraying methods using a mixture of organics and particles. In addition to being low-cost, these methods can be deployed easily in the field during repairs and retro-fitting.

There are, however, challenges to the successful development of such a transparent, anti-soiling coating. First, the coating must be very superhydrophobic to minimize the need for occasional cleaning, and it must have minimal (or even zero) effect on the transmission and scattering of solar radiation between the wavelengths of 250 to 3,000 nm. To meet these requirements, the coating must be no more than a few hundred nanometers thick, and the embedded particles must be considerably smaller. The extremely thin coating must also be durable under environmental exposure, including UV radiation and sand erosion, and be compliant according to the US Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Act emission standards -- which limits the selection and combination of particles and organics that can be used effectively.

IET survey reveals 9% of Brits considering solar
By Peter Bennett
31 January 2014, 12:38 Updated: 31 January 2014, 13:30

A survey carried out by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has discovered that 9% of households in the UK are considering installing solar.

The poll, carried out to coincide with the end of government’s Big Energy Saving Week, lists solar PV as one of the most popular measure amongst the public to tackle rising energy bills.

The most popular measure being considered was the installation of LED light bulbs, with one in four respondents saying they were considering the technology.

01/30/2014 04:18 PM
West Virginia, Where Solar Growth Would Help
SustainableBusiness.com News

With West Virginia reeling from the chemical spill and a commitment to coal that's been harming peoples' health and the environment in exchange for jobs, perhaps it's finally time for them to look into the solar industry, which is generating thousands of jobs in nearby states.

“We look at the significant growth taking place in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, which can be attributed to supportive public policies, and wonder why West Virginia hasn’t taken advantage of this enormous opportunity,” says Jeff Simcoe, Energy Program Project Manager at Downstream Strategies. “We found that there were close to 9,000 jobs associated with the solar industry across those three neighboring states, while West Virginia ranked 51st in total solar jobs per capita, at just under 100 jobs.”

Indeed, even though While West Virginia has favorable solar resources, it is vastly underutilized there because of the lack of supportive state policies. As of 2012, West Virginia lags the country in installed solar capacity with a very meager 2 megwatts.

Clearly, the strong grip the coal industry is holding the state back on solar (and wind) in addition to the lack of life-saving regulations that could have prevented the chemical release.

amor de cosmos
Feb 1, 2014, 5:56 PM
Solar IQ Rises As Costs Fall

House by house, street by street, homeowners and businesses are increasingly divesting from conventional electrical power providers and going solar. “About 200,000 US homes and businesses added rooftop solar in the past two years alone—about 3 gigawatts (GW) of power and enough to replace four or five conventionally sized coal plants,” according to Bloomberg news.

Energy leaders like Andrew Birch, a former business development executive for BP Solar, see this shift to distributed power as a positive indication that clean energy is finally gaining traction in America. “This rooftop solar movement is the result of a handful of like-minded leaders who are banding together to expand the nation’s energy options,” Birch said in a recent interview.

One very hot segment of the rooftop solar market is third-party leasing and PPAs. While many people decide to purchase their systems for the financial benefits that come with ownership, and there are even $0 down solar loans available nationwide to help with that, in markets where solar leasing is an option, it is widely preferred. In California, around 75% of new solar homeowners are getting solar leases.

A Cryptocurrency Backed By Solar Energy

Cryptocurrency, sometimes referred to as digital currency or alternative currency, has been making waves in the news lately, mostly due to the rapid rise in value of Bitcoin. But there are other cryptocurrencies out there that are less well-known, including one new digital currency that is backed by the generation of solar electricity.

It seems appropriate that a new method of earning, spending, and trading value or assets, such as cryptocurrency enables, can be tied to a relatively new method of generating energy. And that’s the idea behind SolarCoin, an alternative currency backed by solar electricity production, which is designed to incentivize the production of 97,500 TWh of global solar generation over the next 40 years.

“SolarCoin is an alternative digital currency. SolarCoin is backed by two forms of proof of work. One is the traditional cryptographic proof of work associated with digital currency.

The other proof of work is a Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) that has been generated and 3rd party verified. SolarCoin is equitably distributed using both of these proofs of work as a means to reward renewable energy production.”

Each SolarCoin represents the generation of 1MWh of solar electricity, and the cryptocurrency can be used to pay for goods or services from individuals and businesses that accept it. SolarCoin, which is managed by the Open Currency Association (OCA) can be “earned” by solar power producers, can be mined (such as other cryptocurrencies are), or bought through an alternative currency exchange.

The goal of SolarCoin is to incentivize the global production of solar energy, which contrasts with some other alternative currencies, such as Bitcoin, which seeks a decentralized currency. The maximum issuance of SolarCoin is said to be about 98.1 billion (compare to Bitcoin’s maximum issuance of 21 million).

US Solar Employment Growing at 10 Times the National Average
From: Andrew Burger, Triple Pundit, More from this Affiliate
Published January 30, 2014 01:16 PM

When it comes to job creation, it appears that the U.S. economy has undergone radical change over the past couple of decades as the full extent of neoconservative economic, trade and tax policies, along with rapid technological change, have been more fully realized.

Historically wide and growing disparities in wealth and income in developed and developing countries alike was a focal point of discussion for the world’s super-wealthy at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, while the need to create more and better jobs and economic opportunities for all Americans was the theme of President Obama’s State of the Union (SOTU) address Tuesday evening.

The potential to spur sustainable, well-paying job growth — as well as lasting environmental and social benefits — has been one of the principal reasons the president has espoused policies and legislation that promote and foster development of renewable energy and clean technology. Though policies, legislation and regulations aimed at fostering "green" job growth have been criticized, refuted, opposed and undermined, the latest report from the Solar Foundation reveals that the U.S. solar energy sector continues to create jobs at a much higher rate than the economy overall.

56 new U.S. solar jobs a day — for over a year

Nearly 24,000 Americans got jobs in the U.S. solar industry in 2013, bringing the total number of U.S. solar industry jobs to 142,698 as of November 2013, according to the Solar Foundation’s, "National Solar Jobs Census 2013."

"Employment in the U.S. solar industry has been rising at a nearly 20 percent rate since 2012, 10 times faster than that for average national employment, according to the Solar Foundation’s report. The U.S. solar energy sector added an average 56 new employees a day between September 2012 and November 2013, surpassing forecasts."

1 MW off-grid PV system goes online in Afghanistan
31. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Edgar Meza

Financed by New Zealand's Sustainable Energy Services and NETcon, the Bamyan Renewable Energy Programme will supply energy to 2,500 households, businesses and government buildings.

One of the world's biggest off-grid PV systems has begun operation in Afghanistan's Bamyan Province, whose name means "the place of shining light."

The 1 MW solar installation is providing electricity to 2,500 homes, businesses and government buildings in the province.

Financed by two New Zealand companies, Sustainable Energy Services International (SESI) and NETcon International Limited, the Bamyan Renewable Energy Programme has brought for the first time an electrical system to the communities that provides homes, businesses and government buildings with cost-efficient electricity 24 hours a day. The PV generator of the system is supplemented with a diesel generator and batteries for periods of poor weather.

Until now, residents in the area -- located in central Afghanistan and famous for the giant Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban in 2001 -- have had to either rely on diesel generators or domestic solar panels for power while others have had no access to electricity at all.

"The project is not just about solar panels, wires and poles – but also about health, education, economic growth and laying down a foundation for future development to build on," says Tony Woods of SESI.

"To effectively improve the lives of the people in the war-stricken country of Afghanistan, it is extremely important to bring a reliable energy supply not only to homes, but also to businesses, hospitals, schools and government buildings," added Volker Wachenfeld, SMA’s senior vice president of Hybrid & Storage. "Photovoltaics is the quickest, most sustainable and cost-effective energy source to achieve this even under harshest conditions."

Apple receives patent for solar-powered MacBook
31. January 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Edgar Meza

The MacBook would use a PV unit to generate electricity, according to the company's patent application.

Apple looks set to go solar with one of its next lines of MacBooks.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark office this week granted the Cupertino company a patent for an "electronic device display module," a two-sided display embedded with a photovoltaic unit that could serve as the screen and lid of a MacBook-like laptop computer.

"The rear plate may be formed from electrochromic glass and may cover photovoltaic cells and touch sensors," read the patent abstract.

Gujarat to be first Indian state to introduce net metering
By Lucy Woods - 30 January 2014, 15:07
In News, Power Generation, Grid Connection, Tariff Watch

Gujarat, India’s leading solar state, is to introduce a net metering policy in the coming weeks, according to local press reports.

Shri Pandian, principal secretary of Gujarat’s Ministry of Energy and Petrochemicals, said a net metering policy would be implemented in a few weeks, according to a report in India’s Financial Express.

Gujarat has the highest installed solar capacity in India and is considered a national leader in solar policy.

Solar consultancy, Bridge to India’s head of market intelligence, Jasmeet Khurana said: “The anticipation from Gujarat is usually the highest given its policy implementation track.”


Pradeep Palelli, managing partner of Efficient Carbon, a solar consulting company based in Hyderabad, told PV Tech the main benefits for encouraging on grid solar rather than independent systems and storage through net metering in India, is to “ease peak power deficits”. In 2012 India suffered the largest black out in history. Connecting residential solar systems could help reduce widespread power cuts.

Khurana said introducing net metering would also increase the average size of systems installed and improve deployment rates by up to 50%. Elaborating further that current subsidies warrant the preconception solar is too expensive for many, Khurana said the introduction of net metering could help temper myths of exaggerated costs, with banks and financing companies beginning to view residential solar as “similar to vehicle loans or house loans”.

“Once this picks up, the Subsidy problem or initial high cost perception of domestic solar will be solved as down payments will be small, with loans spreading across a few years. This will increase adoption in a big way across India,” he said.

750 MW Indian Solar Auction Receives Bids Totaling 2,170 MW
by Zach
on February 1, 2014

India’s national solar mission (JNNSM) recently saw its second phase of project bidding close. The auction was for 750 MW worth of projects, but the competing bids totaled 2,170 MW.

In total, there were 68 bids from 58 developers for 122 projects.

The maximum capacity that can be allocated to a single developer is 100 MW, but several large developers put in bids for well over 100 MW:
ACME — 200 MW
Azure Power — 200 MW
SunEdison — 150 MW
Welspun — 160 MW

The winning projects for this phase have not yet been announced. They are supposed to be announced on February 20.

The next auction will reportedly be for 1,000 MW worth of solar projects. It is supposed to be announced in May 2014.

Solar PV Dominates Latest Round of Ontario FIT Program
Posted by Michael Barker in Solarbuzz, Solar on January 31, 2014 | No Comments

Solar PV applications dominated the most recent application window held under the Ontario Power Authority’s FIT 3.0 program. Solar PV roof/building-mount (RM) applications accounted for three-quarters of total applications, and two-thirds of capacity submissions.

However, despite this high level of submission, this application window is only set to approve 123.5 MW of projects, less than 30% of the total application capacity.

Also, the FIT 3.0 program is limited to projects less than 500 kW, a result of last year’s FIT review, and is subject to new pricing. FIT 3.0 rates for solar PV projects have declined between 26-40% depending on project application type and size. For projects approved in this window, the contracted rates will range between CAD 0.288-0.396/kWh. The average size for solar RM projects in this round is 205 kW, while the average size for GM projects is 402 kW.

To date, the Canadian PV market – driven by the Ontario FIT program – has been composed primarily of large-scale ground-mount projects. This is due to the FIT’s predecessor, RESOP, as well as the two previous incarnations of the FIT program that offered rates ranging from CAD 0.347-0.443/kWh for large-scale GM installations.

Due to the high level of uptake, the FIT program was revised with lower rates and smaller eligible system sizes. There is still a modest pipeline of large-scale projects under development, however, with this expected to lead to a 2014 market size in Canada of over 400 MW.

The revisions to the FIT program suggest that continuous year-on-year growth in the Canadian market is unlikely to be achieved. However, even at somewhat reduced PV demand levels, Ontario will remain a significant driver of PV demand at the state/provincial level within the North American market.

A Nighttime Super Bowl But A Sun-Powered League
By Pete Danko Renewable Energy, Solar Power January 31, 2014

Ah, if only the Super Bowl on Sunday were being played during the day – and under a bright sun. Renewable energy devotees would then be able to point to the scoreboard at MetLife Stadium and say, “Woo-hoo, solar power in action!”

That’s because MetLife is one of five NFL stadiums, according to survey by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, that has a solar power system. A sixth stadium that will open this fall for the San Francisco 49ers will also come with solar. Here’s how the systems stack up:


As the EIA notes, even on a sunny Sunday afternoon these systems generally can’t produce enough juice to completely power a stadium – but the Lincoln Financial Field system in Philadelphia is by any estimation a big one. More than 11,000 panels – on the south facade of the stadium, the stadium’s canopy roof, adjacent pavilions and also over the stadium parking lot – can provide up to 3 megawatts of power. And of course, even on non-game days, if the sun is shining, the panels are working, feeding energy to the grid; a Philadelphia Inquirer article noted that on one day alone the unit “churned out 21,033.7 kilowatt-hours, nearly enough to power two average homes for a year.”

At 276 kilowatts, the MetLife system is a pee-wee compared to Lincoln Financial Field’s, but it does come with a couple of interesting twists: the project “represents the second-largest building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) panel installation in the U.S.,” according to NRG; and the system is highlighted (literally) by LED lights in the “NRG Solar Ring.” They have infinite color capabilities, NRG notes, so on Sunday night you’ll surely see them twinkling away, quite efficiently, in Broncos orange, navy and white, and Seahawks navy, green and gray.

Energy Storage Market Set To Explode

Energy storage is often heralded as the “holy grail” of the energy market. It seems that a number of researchers and companies have worked hard and long enough that this holy grail is ready to see the light. According to market research firm IHS, the energy storage market is set to “explode” to an annual installation size of 6 gigawatts (GW) in 2017 and over 40 GW by 2022 — from an initial base of only 0.34 GW installed in 2012 and 2013.

The IHS report pits the US as the largest market for grid-connected energy storage installations through 2017. It projects that the US will install 43% of the capacity additions from 2012–2017. Germany and Japan are projected to be other top markets, as any regular reader, long-time of CleanTechnica would surely assume.

What will rule the day in the energy storage market in the coming few years? Zinc-air batteries? Zinc-iron redox flow batteries? Liquid-metal batteries? Not according to IHS. IHS projects that 64% of energy storage installations will come from lithium-ion batteries. That’s more or less what a recent panel of battery experts told me in Abu Dhabi as well — a story for a coming day.

In the longer term, it’s much harder to predict what will rule the day, or how much growth we’ll see. But, for now, I’ll let Sam Wilkinson, solar research manager at IHS, have the last word:

“The grid-connected energy storage market is set to explode, reaching a total of over 40 GW of installations by 2022.”

Bill Gates Backs Renewable Battery Startup
By John Daly | Thu, 30 January 2014 22:53 | 1

Bill Gates did not become the world’s richest man by making foolish investments. Now Gates and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, Tao Invest, Kleiner Perkins and Foundation Capital among others, are betting that the Aquion battery, invented by Jay Whitacre of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, has a high-tech future. The Aquion battery costs the same as a lead-acid battery, but lasts twice as long.

Aquion Energy was founded in 2007. Kleiner Perkins, the first firm to invest in Aquion Energy, partner emeritus Ray Lane said, “We are expecting Aquion Energy’s commercial launch in 2014 to be disruptive to the world of stationary energy storage. It is a testimony to Aquion’s team and innovative technology that it has been able to attract these high-quality investors. The company is well positioned for impressive growth in the burgeoning global market for energy storage.”

Aquion Energy, flush with $55 million from Gates and other venture capitalists, has taken over a disused factory near Pittsburgh, where Sony TVs were once made, to begin production of the battery, with full-scale production slated to begin later this year. The factory is supposed to start shipping products to early customers by June and eventually expects to create 400 jobs by the end of 2015.


For storing large amounts of power from the grid, success is “all about cost,” Whitacre says. In the future, Aquion Energy is to partner with major power giants like Siemens, who in Oct. 2013 purchased a shipment of Aquion Energy grid batteries to test with Siemen’s in-house power inverter technology. Aquion Energy hopes that if Siemens likes their battery technology and it performs as expected, Siemens could eventually bundle the batteries with its power grid infrastructure and sell it to customers like solar farm developers.



Aquion Energy’s CEO Scott Pearson said that in several years when the battery has been manufactured at a commercial scale, prices could drop to $300 per kilowatt hour, roughly a third of the cost of some of the more expensive lithium ion battery grid products currently on the market, adding that even now at the pilot scale that its batteries are “not radically above that” $300 per kwh level.

A low cost and easily installed grid energy storage option could level the playing field for renewable energy in its struggle against more traditional hydrocarbon-fired thermal power plants. The next several years will see solar and wind farms constructed at a record pace worldwide, opening up tremendous market opportunities for reliable and low cost batteries for use in such power applications as renewable energy integration, power grid load shifting and ancillary services like frequency regulation.

January 29, 2014
Engineer brings new twist to sodium ion battery technology with discovery of flexible molybdenum disulfide electrodes
By Communications and Marketing

A Kansas State University engineer has made a breakthrough in rechargeable battery applications.

Gurpreet Singh, assistant professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering, and his student researchers are the first to demonstrate that a composite paper -- made of interleaved molybdenum disulfide and graphene nanosheets -- can be both an active material to efficiently store sodium atoms and a flexible current collector. The newly developed composite paper can be used as a negative electrode in sodium-ion batteries.

"Most negative electrodes for sodium-ion batteries use materials that undergo an 'alloying' reaction with sodium," Singh said. "These materials can swell as much as 400 to 500 percent as the battery is charged and discharged, which may result in mechanical damage and loss of electrical contact with the current collector."

"Molybdenum disulfide, the major constituent of the paper electrode, offers a new kind of chemistry with sodium ions, which is a combination of intercalation and a conversion-type reaction," Singh said. "The paper electrode offers stable charge capacity of 230 mAh.g-1, with respect to total electrode weight. Further, the interleaved and porous structure of the paper electrode offers smooth channels for sodium to diffuse in and out as the cell is charged and discharged quickly. This design also eliminates the polymeric binders and copper current collector foil used in a traditional battery electrode.”

The research appears in the latest issue of the journal ACS-NANO in the article "MoS2/graphene composite paper for sodium-ion battery electrodes."

For the last two years the researchers have been developing new methods for quick and cost-effective synthesis of atomically thin two-dimensional materials — graphene, molybdenum and tungsten disulfide — in gram quantities, particularly for rechargeable battery applications.

amor de cosmos
Feb 3, 2014, 6:36 PM
Solar Insurance Costs Halve as Cheap Panels Quash Premium
3 February 2014

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) — The cost of insuring a solar plant has dropped by half since 2010 as cheaper photovoltaic panels lead to lower project costs and reduced premiums.

“Rates have significantly come down,” in mature markets including Germany, Spain and the U.K., said Jamie Fleming, a senior underwriter in London at GCube Insurance Services, which has insured 50,000 megawatts of clean-energy projects globally.

Claims for projects reveal few of the risks first feared such as module underperformance in hot climates, panel theft and defunct warranties from manufacturer bankruptcies, Fleming said. The price of crystalline silicon panels, most of a plant’s cost, fell 67 percent since 2010, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The industry is benefiting as panel makers cut overcapacity and demand surges in China and Japan, where government policies drove the most installations last year. Deutsche Bank AG raised the industry’s growth outlook and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. last month called it “attractive.” The WilderHill New Energy index of renewable energy stocks rose 46 percent in the past year.

For insurers, the drop in premiums still leaves risks from the weather such as floods and lightning strikes, and in Italy the theft of copper cables, Fleming said. “The price of panels has dropped but that’s not where our key exposure is. The risk of weather, flood, theft is still there,” he said.

Wrong Question. How Much Can Solar Panels Save You?
Originally published on Cost Of Solar.

OK, it’s true, How Much Are Solar Panels? can be a useful question. But, really, this question is largely of minimal importance today. Either through $0 down loans or 3rd-party-ownership models that let you lease a solar power system instead of buying one, most residents and businesses with a decent roof or ground space for solar panels should have an opportunity to go solar without buying the entire solar panel systems up front.

The real questions — the real ways in which going solar affects your finances — is in how much it saves you and how soon or when it starts to save you money.

I recently created the short infographic below to highlight the 20-year savings from going solar in some of the most populous states in the country, as well as in Hawaii, which has the greatest average savings per project.

Notably, those savings are based on 2011 research. The cost of solar has dropped tremendously since then, so the savings should be even greater (on average). Unfortunately, I haven’t seen more recent research on this matter. The specific data points — average 20-year savings from going solar — for those states are as follows:
California: $34,260
New York: $31,166
Florida: $33,284
Texas: $20,960
Hawaii: $64,769



The Shifting Relationship Between Solar and Silicon in Charts
The polysilicon market is more dependent on the solar industry than ever—while silicon’s importance to solar dynamics has greatly diminished.
Shyam Mehta
February 3, 2014

Solar and silicon have gone together ever since Bell Labs devised the world’s first functioning PV cell back in 1954. From then to the first commercial solar cells produced for space applications, and onwards to this day, wafer-based crystalline silicon technology has been synonymous with the term “photovoltaics.”

Until fairly recently, the solar market’s relatively small size meant that the polysilicon market predominantly served the semiconductor manufacturing industry, with the bulk of the world’s polysilicon output being used to create similar, but purer wafers compared to those used for PV cells. All the way into the mid-2000s, the solar industry subsisted quite literally on the scraps of semiconductor manufacturing, procuring its feedstock needs from off-spec or unused silicon rejected by that sector.

How things have changed. With solar exploding over the last decade and c-Si technology staving off the challenges of CSP and thin film, demand for polysilicon has shifted dramatically -- and likely irrevocably -- toward solar.

The chart below illustrates solar’s rapid path toward dominance of the polysilicon industry: as estimated by GTM Research, from constituting only 27 percent of global polysilicon demand in 2001, solar is expected to devour almost 90 percent of the world’s production in 2014. For all practical purposes, the future of the polysilicon industry depends on the solar market more than ever before.




Energy News
Solar Thermal Technology Poses Challenges for Drought-Stricken California
Reducing water consumption at solar thermal plants raises costs and decreases power production.
By Kevin Bullis on February 3, 2014

California’s ambitious goal of getting a third of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030 is being tested by its driest year on record, part of a multiyear drought that’s seriously straining water supplies. The state plan relies heavily on solar thermal technology, but this type of solar power also typically consumes huge quantities of water.

The drought is already forcing solar thermal power plant developers to use alternative cooling approaches to reduce water consumption. This will both raise costs and decrease electricity production, especially in the summer months when demand for electricity is high. Several research groups across the country are developing ways to reduce those costs and avoid reductions in power output.

Solar thermal power plants use large fields of mirrors to concentrate sunlight and heat water, producing steam that spins power-plant turbines. Utilities like them because their power output is much less variable than power from banks of solar panels (see “BrightSource Pushes Ahead on Another Massive Solar Thermal Plant” and “Sharper Computer Models Clear the Way for More Wind Power”).

The drawbacks are that solar thermal plants generate large amounts of waste heat, and they consume a lot of water for cooling, which is usually done by evaporating water. Solar thermal plants can consume twice as much water as fossil fuel power plants, and one recently proposed solar thermal project would have consumed about 500 million gallons of water a year.

Apple's iWatch could be solar-powered
In addition to the sun-charged battery, Apple is exploring wireless magnetic energy and kinetic charging by swinging your wrist.
By Lisa Eadicicco, LAPTOP
Mon, Feb 03, 2014 at 10:01 AM

While we have yet to see smartphones with solar-charging batteries, Apple may already be working on sunlight-powered panels for wearable devices. A new report suggests that the company is exploring new technologies, including solar charging, to create a longer lasting battery for its purported iWatch.

According to The New York Times, Apple is considering outfitting the long-rumored smartwatch's screen with a solar charging layer. This would charge the battery when the gadget is worn in sunlight, although the Times' report notes that this could be years away from becoming a reality.

Apple has also been testing wireless charging tech that doesn't involve absorbing power from the sun. The method would involve wireless magnetic induction, which is similar to the cable-free charging available on Nokia's newer Windows Phone 8 smartphones. Another potential charging solution could involve powering the watch through movement. For instance, swinging your arm could trigger a tiny charging station that would generate power and push it to the watch while you're walking, the Times reports.

Hopes for a CIGS boom in South Africa
03. February 2014 | Top News, Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Hans-Christoph Neidlein

Thin-film manufacturer PTiP and Germany's Singulus have taken their first step in realizing an ambitious vision of creating a prosperous CIGS production industry in South Africa.

South Africa could become a new hub for thin-film CIGS manufacturing and development for the whole of Africa.

It's a vision that was presented today by Vivian Alberts, CEO of South African manufacturer Photovoltaic Technology Intellectual Property (PTiP), and Stefan Rinck, CEO of German engineering group Singulus Technologies. In a significant step towards realizing that goal, the companies have opened a pilot CIGS manufacturing facility in Stellenbosch, near Cape Town.

The driving force behind the first 5 MW pilot production line is the hope of creating new jobs in South Africa and reducing the country's dependence on fossil fuel imports, according to Alberts and his research team.

PTiP is a spinoff of the University of Johannesburg and is part of the state-run Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). Some €20 million have been invested in the construction of the facility in Stellenbosch.

Alberts has been internationally active in thin-film research for 20 years. Three years ago he met Rinck in in Germany, which led to the two companies joining forces. Alberts brought several patents into the CIGS fab and Singulus supplied the core machines. A special feature at the plant is the selenization process via gas diffusion, which leads to less machine contamination than the previous methods, thus reducing production costs, according to Rinck.

South African R&D centre starts CIGS thin-film pilot line
By Mark Osborne - 03 February 2014, 12:32
In News, Fab & Facilities, Thin Film, CIGS

PTiP (Photovoltaic Technology Intellectual Property), a spin-off from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has commissioned its CIGS thin-film solar module pilot line in collaboration with equipment supplier, Singulus Technologies.

The facility in the Techno Park near Stellenbosch, South Africa is designed to serve as a state-of-the-art research and development facility for commercial-scale (1200mm x 600mm) CIGS modules that take advantage of the climate and technology benefits of CIGS such as temperature co-efficiency and low-light conditions in the region.

Prof. Vivian Alberts, CEO of PTiP said: “The commissioning and official opening of this CIGS pilot facility in South Africa confirms the goals of the South African government to support and promote alternative and renewable energies, based on locally developed IP and skills. It is an important step for a successful energy policy in our country.”

JFE breaks ground on 26.2 MW solar plant in Fukushima
03. February 2014 | Markets & Trends, Investor news, Industry & Suppliers, Global PV markets | By: Ian Clover

The plant will be located at a former golf club in the Japanese prefecture, with completion scheduled for March 2015.

JFE Holdings Inc. has begun construction work on a 26.2 MW solar power station in the Japanese prefecture of Fukushima – a name synonymous with 2011's devastating tsunami and subsequent nuclear reactor meltdown.

In a statement published by JFE Engineering today, the new plant is being built on behalf of health foods company Sunny Health, which already owns two solar PV stations in Kagoshima prefecture (of 2.4 MW and 1.5 MW respectively), and a 1.3 MW plant in Aomori prefecture.

This latest installation will be sited on a former, 76.5 hectare golf club and run directly by Sunny Health. Completion is scheduled for March 2015 and, once complete, the solar plant will boast a total of 105,000 Hanwha Q Cells solar panels generating an estimated 26,000 MWh of clean energy per year, which is enough to power 8,000 local households. Regional utility Tohoku Electric Power has agreed to purchase the solar energy generated under Japan's FIT scheme.

Future of solar bright in Russia
03. February 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Linas Jegelevicius

Russia is embracing solar power despite reduced government forecasts for PV development. Federal regions and neigboring CIS countries are ramping up ambitious PV plans.

The expansion of solar energy in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) will see "an unprecedented growth" in the short term, according to a new report by IBCentre, a U.K. and Russia-based research and consulting organization that focuses, among other things, on the field of sustainable energy development in Eastern Europe and the CIS.

The research group's findings are good news for the solar industry despite anticipated reforms in Russia's power sector. The country's Energy Ministry has narrowed the scope of RES generation capacity until 2020.

IBCentre has issued a particularly bright forecast for solar expansion in Russia and other CIS countries for 2014, pointing out that renewable energy investors have been increasingly interested in the Russian market since RES legislation foreseeing a favorable determination of price for renewable energy capacity went into effect in 2013.

The new regulations assure investors a return on their investments as well as so-called investment premiums.

An additional factor that boosts the prospects for Russian solar is its advantage over the wind and hydro sectors, according to the report. Specifically, solar plants are required by law to use at least 50% of locally produced components, and Russia’s wind facility production is lagging compared to its solar component output,” the IBCentre research found.

Among other CIS countries, rapid solar expansion in 2014 is expected in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Belarus and especially in Ukraine, which, according to the research company, has favorable solar legislation, including a generous feed-in tariff system.

Paper solar cells: the future for PV?
03. February 2014 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Research & Development | By: Ian Clover

Team of Chinese and U.S. researchers develops highly efficient paper solar cell made from inexpensive wood fiber.

Reseachers from the South China University of Technology, alongside their counterparts from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, have published an intriguing report on a new type of paper they claim can be used as material for next-gen solar cells and boasts a transparency of 96%.

The team's report, published recently in Nano Letters, outlines how their new wood-based paper product outperforms all other materials in both optical transparency and optical haze, delivering low-cost, high-efficiency and environmentally friendly performance that could revolutionize the solar cell industry.

According to the report, the paper is made of TEMPO-oxidized wood fibers that eliminate micropores and instead produce nanopores, which allow for ultrahigh transparency values of 96%, and optical haze values of 60% - the highest optical haze value reported among transparent substrates. Typically, materials that boast a high optical transparency (allowing for good light transmission) of over 90% generally have low optical haze values (the scattering and, therefore, the absorption of transmitted light within the material) of less than 20%.

The TEMPO treatment weakens the hydrogen bond between the microfibers that make up typical wood fibers, causing them to swell and collapse into a tightly packed structure that eliminates micropores. Ordinarily, the wood fibers in normal paper have a low optical transparency because the microcavities that exist within the porous structure cause light scaterring. But with the micropores removed and replaced by nanopores, optical transparency is improved.

Spanish solar industry demands national referendum on energy policy
03. February 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Vladimir Pekic

The country's PV trade association is mobilizing the public for a series of demonstrations across the country this spring in a call to arms against the current government.

Spain's National Association of Photovoltaic Energy Producers (ANPIER) is demanding that central authorities in Madrid hold a consultative national referendum about the chosen energy model for the country.

The association appealed to the Spanish government to abandon its current "neo-despotism" in the energy sector that has resulted in the unilateral imposition of an energy policy without social, political or territorial consensus.

Spain's government last year approved measures to limit and tax solar power generation, including ending the country's feed-in tariff program.

"Although Spain has the highest renewable potential in the EU and an obsolete nuclear infrastructure, the government proposes to extend the life of these [nuclear] installations, a move that will profit three private companies," said ANPIER on Jan. 27, adding that 81% of Spaniards are demanding a new energy model based on the use of renewable energies.

For example, electricity generated by Spain's 460 MW nuclear plant Santa María de Garoña could be replaced with a total photovoltaic surface area equal to the size of Madrid’s Barajas airport, said the association. Such a large photovoltaic complex would create 2,146 new jobs and generate clean, safe and sustainable energy at a cost of around €50 ($67.56) per megawatt hour, while the price of nuclear energy tops €100 ($135) per megawatt hour if all nuclear generation costs are internalized.

Germany stutters to 3.3GW of new PV in 2013
By John Parnell - 03 February 2014, 11:47
In News, Power Generation, Market Watch

Germany’s total installed solar capacity for 2013 was 3.3GW according to new data from the federal network authority, Bundesnetzagentur.

December’s installed capacity under the country’s support scheme was 166MW confirming that 2013 saw less than half 2012’s total of 7.6GW.

Market research firm EuPD had been predicting a total install rate of 3.9GW.

The new German coalition government is looking to enforce a 2.5GW cap for solar energy in the country under new energy laws that it hopes to pass during the summer.

US installed record 2.3GW utility-scale solar in 2013, says SNL Energy
By John Parnell - 03 February 2014, 12:33
In News, Power Generation, Market Watch

The US installed a record 2.3GW of utility-scale solar in 2013, according to analyst firm SNL Energy.

The figure tops the 1.7GW set in 2012, thanks largely to a fourth quarter that saw more than 1.141GW of large-scale solar completed. Q4 2013 became the most active quarter beating Q4 2012’s 740MW.

The data includes concentrated solar power and PV.

The largest individual project that came online was Abengoa’s 250MW CSP Solar Generating Station in Arizona.

Rooftop solar provides 10% electricity in three key states
By Giles Parkinson on 3 February 2014

The recent heat waves in the southern states and the response of the electricity grids to surging demand, and the role played by renewables such as solar and wind, has been given increasing attention.

Yesterday, we checked back on the APVI’s excellent solar map and this graph caught our eye. It is the percentage of demand in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia that was accounted for by rooftop solar PV.

It is not that the levels of more than 10 per cent should be exceptional – in South Australia, the contribution of solar PV hit over 15 per cent on several days last week – it’s just that it occurred in those three states at the same time, and lasted for most of the daylight hours – certainly between 10am and 4pm. (The graphs stagger because of the different time zones)

Overcoming the Barriers to Rooftop Solar
Emily Hois
February 03, 2014 | 0 Comments

The dramatic decline in the cost of solar energy, combined with a greater understanding of its financial benefits have made rooftop solar more appealing to homeowners across the US. But some clean energy enthusiasts have discovered that installing solar on their property isn’t as easy as it may sound. Trees, skylights, chimneys, roof structures and aesthetic restrictions by Homeowners’ Associations can complicate the logistics of a solar electric installation.

“My already-built house wasn’t designed for solar panels,” said Jim McDaniels of Colorado Springs, Colo. “My roof may not be strong enough, or big enough, or angled ideally for the solar panels I need to match my electricity needs.” AMECO Solar reveals that the ideal rooftop is an unshaded, south-facing roof with asphalt shingles, few obstacles (like skylights and vents) and won’t need replacing for 10 to 15 years.

“I had been looking into solar energy for years, but the challenges of on-property location and building it turned into a second thought,” said Greg Gerloff of Breckenridge, Colo.

Gerloff and McDaniels are not alone.

A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that only 22 to 27 percent of residential rooftops are suitable for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Even customers who built their home with solar in mind have stumbled into roadblocks—like Worth Robbins who constructed his Harvard, Mass. home on an east-west axis to accommodate a future, south-facing solar array. “What I didn’t take into account was that trees grow,” Robbins said on a segment of Living on Earth. And once he removed trees on both his property as well as his neighbors, Robbins would still be 4 kilowatts short of offsetting his total energy use. “We didn’t want to do that. We like our wooded setting,” he said.

Besides the physical logistics of installing a residential system, other barriers such as upfront costs and length of tenure can deter initially-enthusiastic advocates of rooftop solar. Since customers are paying today for a system that will generate electricity for 25 years or longer, buying a solar energy system is like purchasing several decades of energy all at one time, reports Environment America. The advocacy group also notes that some homeowners are reluctant to invest in solar because they might move before the system pays for itself, or that the remaining value of their array will not be included in the home’s resale value.

After studying the barriers to rooftop solar installations, NREL acknowledged: “Clearly, community options are needed to expand access to solar power for renters, those with shaded roofs, and those who choose not to install a residential system on their home for financial or other reasons.”

And the community solar movement started taking flight.

New York Steps Up Its Solar Game
Amy McDonough, Borrego Solar
February 03, 2014 | 0 Comments

The recent announcement by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that the state plans to add nearly $1 billion to its two-year-old NY-Sun Initiative is undoubtedly a huge step forward for solar deployment in the state. It not only reflects state legislators’ long-range view on solar deployment but is also a testament to the healthy appetite New Yorkers have for solar adoption. The goal of NY-Sun is to support the deployment of three gigawatts of solar by 2023; thus far, it has propelled hundreds of megawatts of solar installs and has helped employ more than 3,300 New Yorkers.

There’s no doubt that the boost in funding and what it says about New York’s solar future is big news, but perhaps what’s more exciting is the design of the program itself.

Lawmakers cherry-picked the most successful elements from programs in the two top solar states in the nation, California and Massachusetts, to create an overall program that is substantially more progressive than anywhere else in the country. Top solar states have learned that having a robust solar incentive program doesn’t stop at writing the check. It requires supportive net-metering policies, robust financing options, a focus on public entities and encouraging local government support, to name a few.

The new program is not official yet; it’s currently up for public opinion and then will need to be approved by the Public Service Commission. Let’s take a look at what makes the program so exciting and how it sets the stage for rapid maturity:
Declining megawatt block incentive — Based on the California Solar Initiative, incentive amounts would drop down in a staircase fashion as more megawatts are installed. The success of this structure, which New York plans to implement in 2015, is in how it encourages competition to install solar at a continually reduced cost and attracts investment.
Net-metering — In addition, because New York allows for utility customers to install solar at separate locations from where they are going to be using the energy, solar is open to more customers and allows for more flexibility when planning an installation. This follows the Massachusetts model, which has been a runaway success.
K-Solar — This program supports solar development at schools by providing incentives, financing and technical assistance to administrators.

Nanophotonic Solar Thermophotovoltaic Device 3 Times More Efficient
Written by Sandra Henderson 3 February 2014

A new approach to solar thermophotovoltaics by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts (US), achieves a 3-fold conversion efficiency increase by using an absorber-emitter layer made of carbon nanotubes and photonic crystals to absorb solar energy in form of heat first. The solar thermophotovoltaic (STPV) system also holds promises for easier energy storage.

Ordinarily, those wavelengths of sunlight would not be harvested in a conventional silicon solar cell, because the semiconductor material’s band gap does not match photons in the infrared range. So the MIT team put a two-layer absorber-emitter device between the sunlight and the photovoltaic cell. This in-between layer is made of a sun-facing array of multi-walled carbon nanotubes that harvests solar radiation at infrared wavelengths, tightly bonded to a layer of photonic crystals engineered to emit light that matches the photovoltaic semiconductor’s band gap to generate extra electricity. MIT demonstrated this concept for a low band gap (0.55 eV) InGaAsSb cell, but it could be extended to other band gap cells in the future, says Evelyn Wang. The associate professor in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering coauthored the paper describing the process — “A nanophotonic solar thermophotovoltaic device” — published in Nature Nanotechnology.

The basic concept behind such a STPV system is not new. The theory has raised hope in the research community in recent years as a way to overcome the Shockley-Queisser limit — energy conversion efficiencies of over 80% could be thinkable, according to MIT. In practice, however, previous prototype STPV devices designed by other labs barely made it to 1% efficiency. The conversion efficiency of MIT’s test device at hand stands at 3.2%. Wang hopes to reach a commercially viable 20% soon with further optimisations, which will require scaling up the components. “Right now, we have demonstrated this concept with a 1 sq cm device. Our experimentally validated models show that if we can get to a 10 cm by 10 cm device with existing components, the 20% efficiencies can be achieved.”


January 29, 2014
Engineer brings new twist to sodium ion battery technology with discovery of flexible molybdenum disulfide electrodes

By Communications and Marketing

A Kansas State University engineer has made a breakthrough in rechargeable battery applications.

Gurpreet Singh, assistant professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering, and his student researchers are the first to demonstrate that a composite paper -- made of interleaved molybdenum disulfide and graphene nanosheets -- can be both an active material to efficiently store sodium atoms and a flexible current collector. The newly developed composite paper can be used as a negative electrode in sodium-ion batteries.

"Most negative electrodes for sodium-ion batteries use materials that undergo an 'alloying' reaction with sodium," Singh said. "These materials can swell as much as 400 to 500 percent as the battery is charged and discharged, which may result in mechanical damage and loss of electrical contact with the current collector."

"Molybdenum disulfide, the major constituent of the paper electrode, offers a new kind of chemistry with sodium ions, which is a combination of intercalation and a conversion-type reaction," Singh said. "The paper electrode offers stable charge capacity of 230 mAh.g-1, with respect to total electrode weight. Further, the interleaved and porous structure of the paper electrode offers smooth channels for sodium to diffuse in and out as the cell is charged and discharged quickly. This design also eliminates the polymeric binders and copper current collector foil used in a traditional battery electrode.”

amor de cosmos
Feb 5, 2014, 6:14 AM
Sharp’s Solar Unit Returns to Profit on Performance in Japan
By Chisaki Watanabe Feb 3, 2014 10:49 PM PT

Sharp Corp.’s (6753) solar business returned to profit in the third quarter buoyed by demand for large-scale solar projects in Japan.

The unit had an operating profit of 5.9 billion yen ($59 million) in the three months ended Dec. 31, compared with an operating loss of 1.9 billion yen in the same period a year ago, according to a statement from the Osaka-based company.

Revenue rose 94 percent to 108.5 billion yen, while sales volumes rose 67 percent to 459 megawatts.

Japan’s solar market is booming after the start of an incentive program for clean energy in July 2012 to diversify energy sources. The country is projected to add 9.3 gigawatts to 11.8 gigawatts this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Japan installed as much as 6.8 gigawatts last year. 1 gigawatt equals 1,000 megawatts.

Sharp revised its forecast for the solar unit’s operating profit to 24 billion yen from 13 billion yen previously announced for the fiscal year ending March 31.

Sales of solar products are projected at 2.1 gigawatts, compared with an earlier estimate of 1.8 gigawatts during the same period. Revenue for the unit is expected to reach 430 billion yen from a previous estimate of 310 billion yen.

Satellites help power grid keep its balance
January 27, 2014

By Bob Silberg,
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Imagine a generator pumping more electricity than a nuclear power plant into the grid, but inconsistently and without the grid’s caretakers being able to see what it was doing. How could they maintain the critical balance between generation and consumption that the grid requires? A key to the answer hovers some 22,000 miles overhead.

The amount of electricity fed into an electrical grid at any given moment must equal the amount that is being used at that moment. Too much or too little could damage the millions of electrical devices connected to the grid or even trigger a power outage. Nine of North America’s largest grids have special independent organizations charged with maintaining that balance.

California Independent Service Operator (ISO) manages the grid that serves most of California and a chunk of Nevada. They rebalance the grid’s intake and output every four seconds, using sophisticated algorithms to forecast demand and a variety of ways to adjust the wattage they introduce into the system throughout the day. But they can only manage what they can see: the big power plants that produce the bulk of the system’s electricity. “We can’t see the solar panels on the rooftop of your house,” said Jim Blatchford, the ISO’s short-term forecasting manager. “We don’t know how much they are reducing your demand or feeding back into the grid.” And that’s a significant challenge.

Solar PV Suppliers Expected To Enter New Upturn In 2015

Solar photovoltaic (PV) equipment suppliers should start seeing a new upturn phase beginning in 2015 according to new research published by NPD Solarbuzz in their PV Equipment Quarterly, possibly reaching $10 billion in revenues in 2017.

“During 2012 and 2013, solar PV equipment suppliers were confronted by the sharpest downturn ever to hit the sector,” according to Finlay Colville, vice president at NPD Solarbuzz. “The decline was caused by strong over-capacity that reshaped the entire PV industry in 2012, which resulted in manufacturers’ capital expenditure budgets being put on hold during 2013.”

Primus Power Adds $20M in VC to Move Energy Storage to Utility Scale
Flow batteries in utility networks for peak shaving, frequency regulation and backup with help from a South African strategic investor
Eric Wesoff
February 4, 2014

Energy storage startup and flow battery developer Primus Power just announced the first close of a $20 million Round C led by South Africa’s Anglo American Platinum, along with existing investors. Previous investors include DBL Investors, I2BF Global Ventures, Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, and KPCB. Founded in 2009, Primus has logged $35 million in total venture capital, along with significant funding over the years from DOE, ARPA-E, and the CEC.

Primus builds flow batteries, an energy storage technology that recirculates an electrolyte through electrochemical cells. Flow batteries promise long cycle lives and duration, although they suffer in comparison to lithium-ion batteries in terms of round-trip efficiency. (Zinc-air battery firm Eos and aqueous electrolyte battery startup Aquion Energy claim efficiencies of 75 percent and 85 percent, respectively.)

The 35-employee Primus was founded in 2009 and joins an array of flow battery companies including EnerVault, Redflow (Australia), Cellstrom (EU), ZBB, American Vanadium, EnStorage (Israel), Prudent Energy, Premium Power and Imergy (formerly Deeya). Primus' multi-megawatt-hour flow battery technology is based on a zinc-halogen system with zinc plating and deplating.

Solar stocks still on hot streak
04. February 2014 | Investor news, Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Cheryl Kaften

The solar sector is soaring Stateside, boosted by strong support from the White House, innovative financing schemes and fawning analysts.

From "sea to shining sea," America has become a land of solar opportunity: That was one of the key takeaways from the 2014 State of the Union address, delivered by U.S. President Barack Obama on January 29.

During the 65-minute speech -- viewed by a TV audience of 33.3 million people -- Obama gave a special "shout-out" to the solar industry for its contribution to the domestic economy, noting that, "Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced."

In doing so, the president confirmed what most equity analysts already know: The U.S. solar industry has stepped up to some formidable challenges during the past year -- demonstrating its resilience in a flagging economy, generating jobs on America’s shores, and expanding overseas.

Both the upstream and the downstream sectors of the industry are thriving. Many manufacturers have transitioned successfully into enterprise-scale solar project management and, in doing so, have developed markets for their own modules as well as ancillary revenue sources. On the installation end, the demand for distributed rooftop systems, along with battery backup, will continue to grow during a time of extreme weather events.

What's more -- led by the innovative and well-connected installer SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY) -- players throughout the industry are driving business and expansion by offering new financing schemes, from bond issues to yieldcos, for both home and commercial solar systems.

These factors are moving the needle. Solar equities listed on the U.S. markets came on strong during 2013 and show promise of continuing to appreciate in value over the course of this calendar year. In the vanguard will be such U.S. companies as SolarCity, SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR), and SunEdison (NYSE:SUNE.N); as well as China’s Canadian Solar (NASDAQ: CSIQ) and Trina Solar (NYSE:TSL).

SunEdison eyes PV manufacturing complex in Saudi Arabia
04. February 2014 | Top News, Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Edgar Meza

The U.S. company and its local partners are planning an ambitious, $6 billion PV fab in Saudi Arabia that would cover the entire production line, from polysilicon to modules.

SunEdison, Saudi Arabia's state-run Public Investment Fund (PIF) and the Saudi Arabian Investment Company (Sanabil Investments) signed an agreement on Tuesday to jointly fund a feasibility study for the establishment of a vertically integrated solar PV manufacturing complex at Wa'ad Al Shammal in Saudi Arabia.

The move follows a preliminary study between the National Industrial Clusters Development Program (NICDP) and SunEdison carried out last year.

The proposed project would entail the production of polysilicon through modules. In addition to supporting the growth of Saudi Arabia's burgeoning solar energy industry, the endeavor also provides a major beachhead for SunEdison in one of the world's most attractive and untapped solar markets.

"We anticipate substantial growth of solar PV within the Kingdom and the region," said SunEdison CEO Ahmad Chatila. "This project will support that growth, and the growth aspirations of SunEdison and our Saudi partners. The combination of SunEdison technology and the Kingdom's world-class manufacturing and energy sector expertise will enable us to capitalize on substantial growth in the Kingdom and the region and maximize the value of solar PV projects supported by this venture."

Kazakhstan taps Germany's ecap Solutions for major solar development
04. February 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Linas Jegelevicius

Despite its major role as a global oil producer, Kazakhstan is increasingly adopting solar energy to meet domestic energy demand. Zhambyl Province is aiming for 300 MW by 2016.

Kazakhstan has chosen German company ecap Solutions to build six solar plants in the country's southern Zhambyl region.

The company has completed the design and technical documentation for the first of the plants, a 50 MW solar facility in Zhualynsk district, and will commence construction of the installation this year. The solar farm is slated to begin operation in 2015.

The construction of three other solar plants will be completed in 2015 and the last two are scheduled to go up in 2016. Each of the six facilities will have a capacity of 50 MW.

The plants are a significant addition to the Zhambylski region's current renewable energy capacity of 188 MW.

PV EPC firm RGS Energy to raise US$200 million
By Mark Osborne - 04 February 2014, 17:57
In News, Power Generation, Finance

RGS Energy intends to raise around US$200 million via a new share issue after filing a universal shelf registration statement with the US SEC.

The company provided a broad range of uses for the expected round of fund raising, including working capital, financing of capital expenditures, repayment of existing or future indebtedness, and future acquisitions and strategic investment opportunities, according to the statement.

A future prospectus could provide further details. The company has claimed to have installed more than 19,000 PV systems, amounting to over 170MW.

New understanding could result in more efficient organic solar cells
Date: February 3, 2014

The goal of making cheap organic solar cells may have gotten a little more approachable with a new understanding of the basic science of charge separation presented in a paper published online today, February 3, in Nature Communications. Co-authored by Penn State electrical engineer Noel Giebink with lead author Bethany Bernardo, an undergraduate in his group, and colleagues at IMEC in Belgium, Argonne National Lab, Northwestern, and Princeton, the paper suggests design rules for making more efficient solar cells in the future.

Organic solar cells currently have a top efficiency of approximately 10 percent in the laboratory, much less than inorganic single crystal silicon. One of the challenges to realizing efficient organic cells lies in separating the strongly bound pairs made up of a negatively charged electron and its positively charged hole that result from light absorption, collectively referred to as an exciton. The electron and hole need to be separated in order to make a current.

The way this is done is by creating a heterojunction, which is two different organic semiconductors next to each other, one of which likes to give up an electron and the other which accepts the electron, thereby splitting the original exciton into an electron and hole residing on nearby molecules. A long-standing question in the field, however, is how the nearby electron and hole -- still strongly attracted to each other at this stage -- manage to separate completely in order to generate current with the efficiency observed in most solar cells.

Moss Electrical funds new solar PV R&D with £3 million office sale
By Peter Bennett | 04 February 2014, 11:25 Updated: 04 February 2014, 13:05

Electrical wholesaler, Moss Electrical, has announced that it will use funds gained from the sale of its old office to invest in solar PV research and development.

The distributor sold its Canning Town facility where the company operated from 1992-2008 for £3 million and has moved to a new distribution facility in Dartford, Kent for an investment of £10 million.

The company’s managing director, Robert Moss said that the sale of its Canning Town premises had significantly bolstered Moss Electrical’s balance sheet which has allowed the company “to make several R&D investments into the residential and commercial solar PV market”.

Moss added: “We aim to introduce a leading range of solar PV products to our portfolio very shortly”.

02/04/2014 04:45 PM print story email story
More Enormous Solar Plants Come Online in California
SustainableBusiness.com News

More huge utility-scale solar plants are coming online in California - Topaz Solar Farm and Desert Sunlight.

Located in the southeast corner of San Luis Obispo
County, Topaz is now producing 300 megawatts (MW) of power, on its way to 550 MW when it's completed next year. The solar PV plant will bring energy to 160,000 homes.

Near Palm Springs, First Solar is building Desert Sunlight, which is expected to starting generating 300 MW this month - also growing to 550 MW upon completion.

And Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is now fully operational at 377 MW - the biggest concentrating solar plant in the world.

Last year, the 250 MW California Valley Solar Ranch came online, and the 139 MW Campo Verde Solar Facility is also sending energy to the grid.

"Particularly with the drought, hydro power production is down and there needs to be more solar power," Bill Magavern, policy director for the Coalition for Clean Air, told The Sun.

amor de cosmos
Feb 6, 2014, 8:07 PM
REC to focus on commercial solar after selling residential arm
US installer to concentrate on corporates and public agency customers after deal with Sunrun
By BusinessGreen staff
06 Feb 2014

US installer REC Solar has offloaded its residential business to solar developer and financier Sunrun in order to focus on the commercial PV market.

Sunrun will acquire the business from Mainstream Energy Corp., alongside two of its other divisions: parts distributor AEE Solar and SnapNrack, which builds the racks that hold solar panels in place. The value of the transaction was not disclosed.

US homeowners offered crowdsourced solar loans
New financing initiative aims to drive adoption of domestic solar panels
By Jessica Shankleman
06 Feb 2014

A consortium of solar power financiers will today launch a $5m loan scheme in Connecticut that uses crowdsourcing to raise funding and, like the UK's Green Deal, invites customers to take advantage of resulting energy bill savings to cover the cost of installations.

Connecticut's green bank, the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA), crowdsourcing company Mosaic, and Sungage Financial will launch the fund, which will be initially backed by $5m from CEFIA with further funds expected to be raised through crowdsourcing.

Investments in the loan pool will be offered to investors through Mosaic with a 15-­‐year term and yields of around five per cent.

Sylvain Mansier, co-founder of Sungage Financial, which designed the loan product, said the scheme represents the next generation of solar financing. "This partnership is creating an entirely new ecosystem for solar financing in which individuals can take part in and benefit from home solar installations," he said.

India maps out ‘ultra mega’ solar power project
Record-breaking 4GW plant to be build in two phases over seven years at a cost of $4.4bn
By Jessica Shankleman
05 Feb 2014

India moved a step closer to building the world's largest solar project, after the government signed a deal with six companies planning to develop the scheme.

The 4GW project, described by the government as an "ultra mega" solar power project, is reportedly expected to cost US$4.4bn.

It will be installed in two phases in Rajasthan near Jaipur, close to Sambhar Lake, and is expectd to create capacity comparable to four nuclear reactors. The project is expected to be built over seven years, with the first phase delivering 1GW of capacity and the second 3GW, a government statement issued late last month confirmed.

It will be constructed by a joint venture funded by Bharat Heavy Electricals, Solar Energy Corporation of India, Hindustan Salts, Powergrid, Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam and Rajasthan Electronics and Instruments.

IKEA to light up refugee camps through new solar campaign
Retail giant to donate €1 for solar lighting in refugee camps for every LED lightbulb sold until April
By Jessica Shankleman
05 Feb 2014

IKEA plans to provide hundreds of solar lamps and fuel-efficient cooking stoves to refugee camps across the world, as part of a major new fundraising campaign.

The Swedish furniture retailer launched the two-month campaign this week, pledging to donate €1 from the IKEA Foundation to the United Nations Refugee Agency for every LED light bulb the stores sell until 29 March.

All funds raised will be used to buy solar lanterns, solar street lights, and other renewable energy technologies for UN refugee camps in Ethiopia, Chad, Bangladesh, and Jordan.

With around 3.45 million people living in refugee camps in these four countries alone, IKEA estimates its campaign could have a considerable impact on greenhouse gas emissions and development efforts.

According to the company, each solar street light could provide lighting for up to 300 refugees, while a solar lantern or improved cooking stove could provide light and energy for a family of five.

"Life in a refugee camp can be very hard, particularly for children," said Per Heggenes, chief executive of IKEA Foundation. "The absence of powered light limits everyday activities we take for granted such as sharing a meal or doing your homework. It impacts safety and security and the ability for families to generate an income."

Solar Panel Efficiency Has Come A Long Way (Infographic)
Originally published on Cost Of Solar.

There are many reasons why solar panel prices are down so much. But technological advancements in solar panel technologies are certainly a big one. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for the technological advancements made to solar cells and solar panels over the past couple centuries, and especially over the past few decades.

This infographic below, created by the folks at spheralsolar.com, certainly does a great job illustrating how much solar panel efficiency has improved since 1953 — 60 years ago. Solar efficiency records are actually set pretty much every month, so don’t expect that upward solar panel efficiency trend and downward solar panel price trend to change (well, actually part of this infographic is a projection to 2015).



China’s 12 GW Of New Solar: What’s It Mean?
By Pete Danko Renewable Energy, Solar Power February 6, 2014

To put the 12 gigawatts of solar power that China appears to have installed in 2013 in perspective, consider this: That one-year total is approximately equal to what the U.S. has installed in its entire history. And the U.S. is actually no solar slouch.

More context: It wasn’t that long ago that for China, solar was strictly an export product, a way for local governments to drive manufacturing growth. The original five-year plan for 2011-15 included a cumulative domestic solar goal of 5 GW. Cumulative! But in 2012, facing calamitous solar manufacturing overcapacity, the country began talking about ratcheting up domestic installment. Add in the smog crisis, and suddenly everything had changed.

The 12 GW in 2013 was the most for any country ever in a single year (by a long shot; as far as we can tell, the old record was Germany’s 7.6 GW in 2012). And more is on the way, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said:

The Chinese government is targeting 14 GW of additional PV capacity in 2014. Transmission grid-connected projects were the vast majority of China’s solar market last year, but the government is aiming for at least 60 percen of this year’s installations to be rooftop capacity, which is connected to the distribution grid rather than the transmission grid. A shift to rooftops rather than remote deserts will bring additional legal and financial complications for developers and so Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects the target to be slightly undershot in 2014 – but with higher growth in 2015.

China also had a solid year with wind, adding 14.92 GW last year; not it’s biggest year, but about 2 GW more than the U.S. has ever added in a single year.

Still, the question persists: Is it enough? Or more to point, given its coal use, can China’s renewable efforts really make a difference in the long term carbon emissions trajectory of the country?

The question was quite correctly raised by Armond Cohen, in a blog post on the website of the Clean Air Task Force, where Cohen is executive director, and that was republished here on EarthTechling. I went in a similar direction myself last September when a report revealed that China was likely to add 38 gigawatts of coal capacity per year until 2022 before slowing down the pace.

Cohen makes a strong case that with so many new coal plants being built in China, it’s going to be very difficult for the country not to continue to burn large amounts of the stuff for many, many years in the future. That’s why he’s a big proponent of carbon capture and storage. As he wrote last October:

Without CCS applied widely in China, the nation’s coal fleet will remain the largest global clustered source of carbon dioxide emissions, with a ‘long tail’ that could last for much of the 21st century – making most climate management plans, such as the “trillion ton cap” that was implied this month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nearly impossible to reach.

7-Eleven, Avis, Walgreens Reduce Peak Power Demand For Big Energy Savings
From: Andrew Burger, Triple Pundit, More from this Affiliate
Published February 4, 2014 11:58 AM

Revenue growth and profits for U.S. power utilities have always been predicated on increasing demand, regulatory framework and relationships with regulators. Though still highly regulated, that business modus operandi is being turned on its head. Rapid growth in distributed solar, wind and other renewable energy resources and the development of smart grid and demand-response systems are two factors driving these changes. The movement to put a price on carbon emissions — based on the polluter pays principle — is another.

Also driving change are innovative new power industry participants, some of whom are now progressing from bleeding to leading edge, and from pilot stage to commercial scale. Leveraging its innovations in demand reduction/power efficiency software and the latest in battery storage systems, Santa Clara, Calif.-based Green Charge Networks (GCN) believes it has the ways and the means to generate very healthy returns by smoothing out customers’ electricity load profiles and boosting power, as opposed to energy efficiency.

It’s not only GCN’s customers, but the U.S. power grid and society as a whole that stand to benefit. With critical federal and state government support, GCN is out to prove that it cannot only lower consumers’ electricity bills, but enhance U.S. power grid utilization, reliability and resiliency as well. That may well prove to be the missing link capable of driving U.S. renewable energy growth and adoption over the top.

CIGS Solar Roundup: Hanergy Goes for 3GW, Solar Frontier Expands, Siva Hits 18.8% Efficiency
The CIGS thin film solar materials system soldiers on.
Eric Wesoff
February 6, 2014

Siva Power, a relative newcomer to the CIGS material system, hit an NREL-certified 18.8 percent efficiency with its three-stage co-evaporation CIGS process, achieved in a claimed ten-month time span. The CIGS record holder, ZSW, holds a Fraunhofer-confirmed 20.8 percent efficiency for a CIGS thin-film solar cell, also built using the co-evaporation process.

Markus Beck, CTO at Siva, told GTM that the the 0.5 cm2 sample "uses a thinner absorber (<2 micro meters) than ZSW, NREL or EMPA employ. This is to demonstrate that this is a truly manufacturable result. The voltage of the device is 711 millivolts, demonstrating the process capability; the same applies for the fill factor of 79 percent."

Siva CEO Brad Mattson said, "We plan to break the world record this year, and the trajectory indicates we have a good chance."

Mattson adds, "One interesting point is that our average efficiency is relatively close to this maximum. In other words, we are not selecting an outlier to get a record. This indicates the process is more stable and repeatable than others think CIGS would be, more transferable to manufacturing. Also, we are doing this with a thin layer. We make it thin so we can hit our throughput numbers. So we are testing the process we want to transfer to manufacturing, not a specialized process designed to achieve records."

Siva also added solar energy expert Charlie Gay, Ph.D. to its Technical Advisory Board.

Hanergy Solar is set to "begin construction of a planned 3 GW CIGS thin-film manufacturing complex in Caofeidian, Hebei Province, China in March 2014, with tool install starting by the end of the year," according to a report on PV-Tech. Hanergy Solar claims that it will be launching a 300-megawatt line based on the MiaSolé CIGS sputtering process and a 300-megawatt line based on Solibro’s co-evaporation process, at an estimated cost of $780 million for the two lines, according to reports.

Solibro's batch co-evaporation process and MiaSolé's roll-to-roll sputtering process are two very different processes requiring very different equipment sets.

Hanergy recently hit 19.6 percent conversion efficiency in the lab on a small area sample, as certified by the Fraunhofer Institute.

Solar Frontier announced its intention to construct a 150-megawatt CIS solar module plant, with production starting in 2015, in the Tohoku region of Japan. This will be the solar module manufacturer's fourth production plant and brings its total capacity to more than 1 gigawatt. Solar Frontier has hit conversion efficiency of 19.7 percent for a cell of 0.5cm2 in area.

South Africa’s PTiP, a spin-off from the University of Johannesburg, commissioned a 5-megawatt pilot-production line for manufacturing CIGS solar modules using production equipment from Singulus Technologies.

Here's a partial list of CIGS solar players:
Solar Frontier, 577 megawatts shipped in 2011, the only CIGS vendor of commercial consequence. Solar Frontier just shipped 86 megawatts of its CIS thin-film panels to EPC firm Chiyoda for use in a number of projects in Japan.
Solibro, 95 megawatts shipped in 2011 (sold to Hanergy)
MiaSolé, 60 megawatts shipped in 2011 (sold to Hanergy)
Global Solar Energy (selling consumer solar, sold to Hanergy)
HelioVolt (no commercial production, majority owner is SK Innovation)
Ascent Solar (selling consumer solar, majority owner is TFG Radiant)
Samsung (module record holder at 15.7 percent)
Stion (limited commercial production, allied with TSMC, majority-owned by Khosla Ventures)
SoloPower (quiescent, searching for funding)
TSMC (technology licensed from Stion)
NuvoSun (acquired by Dow)

Commercial Energy Storage Market to Surpass 720MW by 2020
A new report by GTM Research likens the current state of commercial storage to the U.S. solar market of 2005.
Mike Munsell
February 6, 2014


The next six years will mark the beginning of a long-term, viable growth opportunity for commercial energy storage, according to GTM Research’s newest report, Distributed Energy Storage 2014: Applications and Opportunities for Commercial Energy. Driven in part by the growth of solar photovoltaics, over 720 megawatts of distributed energy storage will be deployed in the U.S. between 2014 and 2020. This represents a 34 percent cumulative annual growth rate.

Energy storage has long been viewed as the holy grail of smart grid technologies, since it can fulfill the roles of conventional generation, transmission, and distributed assets, as well as providing value in behind-the-meter applications. The high cost of energy storage technologies compared to traditional grid alternatives has been a longstanding barrier to widespread adoption. But that's beginning to change with advances in battery technologies, cost reductions driven by mass production of batteries for consumer electronics and electric vehicle applications, and continuous improvements in balance-of-system costs for grid-integrated systems.

In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama cited GTM Research’s findings that the U.S. installs a solar system every four minutes. This prolific growth has opened a window of opportunity for the deployment of distributed energy. From a technical perspective, storage can be used to smooth the output and variability of solar energy and may ultimately lead to solar receiving larger capacity credits or help to avoid capacity charges.

Other growth drivers for distributed energy storage include demand charge reduction for commercial and industrial customers, frequency regulation, and state-level incentives. California and New York have been the clear leaders in advancing storage initiatives to date, particularly for behind-the-meter assets.

Futuristic Glass Spurs Solar Innovations
Richard Martin — January 31, 2014

First invented in the Bronze Age, 5,000 years or so ago, glass is such an integral part of modern life that we rarely give much thought as to how it performs or is produced. Today, though, the development of novel forms of glass promises to bring high-tech, low-cost advances to a range of applications, including solar power.

Glass has many advantageous qualities and one major disadvantage: it’s brittle. It shatters on impact. We long ago mastered the art of molding glass into many different curves and fantastical shapes, but once it’s set, it’s set until you take a hammer to it.

That is changing, as researchers at McGill University in Montreal have adapted structural characteristics from the shells of mollusks to give glass new resilience and flexibility. The scientists found that the extremely tough and bendable nacre, or mother-of-pearl, that coats the inner shells of the creatures is made up not of an unbroken surface, but of millions of microscopic components or “tablets.” When the shell is bent or deformed, the cracks between the tablets allow it to bend, yet remain intact. Think of blocks of sea ice floating on a moving water surface; they rise and fall and compress and spread, but the overall surface of the ice remains the same.

Fractured Yet Flexible

In the same way, the McGill researchers found that they can pre-crack glass with lasers to create a puzzle-piece design. The resultant microfractures are filled with polyurethane, creating a material that is weak at the boundaries of the tiny fragments, but resilient as a whole. Flexible glass.

The immediate applications envisioned include less breakable smartphones, for instance. But advances in making glass more flexible, resilient, and versatile will likely have implications for solar power, as well.

When a technology is as commoditized as solar panels, with prices halving in just the last few years, the tendency is to think that innovation in the materials has reached an apex; the only further development needed is to squeeze more cost out of the manufacturing process. Solar panels with next-generation glass, however, could help drive the Murphy’s Law process of price reductions in solar technology while also producing panels with a wider range of possible applications. Crystalline silicon solar modules, which require the rigid protection provided by glass, are more efficient than amorphous silicon modules. Amorphous silicon (often used in thin-film solar coatings) has the benefit, however, of being flexible, making it applicable in a host of environments where conventional glass is less robust.

Spray On, Not Tan

Developed at the University of South Florida in alliance with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and being commercialized under the mark SolarWindow by New Energy Technologies, a new glass with tiny transparent solar cells integrated is due to reach the market this year. New Energy produces both flat glass for windows and structural glass walls and curtains for tall structures that have all the usual qualities of glass and also act as solar panels. Made of organic polymers (thus grown, not manufactured), the transparent solar cells are the world’s smallest, the company says, measuring less than one-fourth the size of a grain of rice. They are sprayed onto the glass in a novel process that does not require the high temperatures and vacuum chambers of other spray-on solar technologies.

Israel transfers 290 MW renewables quota to PV
05. February 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Edgar Meza

In addition to renewable energy quota shifts, the government is set to underwrite PV projects in the West Bank.

An Israeli government committee has approved the shift of a significant amount of renewable energy quotas to the photovoltaic sector.

According to The Jerusalem Post, the Ministerial Committee for Renewable Energy passed a resolution on Monday that paved the way for the move, including repositioning 180 MW originally allocated for two solar-thermal plants for photovoltaic use.

The committee also voted to reallocate to photovoltaics 90 MW from wind farms and an additional 20 MW from overall solar-thermal quotas.

The decision will lead to a savings of more than ILS 2 billion ($564.2 million) over the next 20 years, The Jerusalem Post reported, citing the Energy, Water and National Infrastructure Ministry.

The ministerial committee also voted to authorize the government to underwrite the financial debt for photovoltaic projects in the Judea and Samaria area of the West Bank.

Energy, Water and National Infrastructures Minister Silvan Shalom said the committee was seeking to create a market and a significant economy in the renewable energy field in order to reach the target of 10% production in 2020, according to the newspaper.

In addition to the quota shifts already approved, Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz is pushing for the transfer of a further 60 MW from the 160 MW quota for biogas to the photovoltaic sector, a move that would save the country ILS 27 million ($7.6 million), according to the ministry.

Upsolar boards global renewable energy fund
05. February 2014 | Investor news, Markets & Trends, Industry & Suppliers, Global PV markets | By: Edgar Meza

The Chinese PV manufacturer will contribute an initial $20 million to the fund, which aims to raise up to $300 million to finance 200 MW of alternative energy projects worldwide.

Chinese PV module provider Upsolar has joined Empower, an international fund created to promote the deployment of renewable energy technologies.

As the seed investor, Upsolar will provide an initial contribution of $20 million in addition to technical and market expertise. The fund is expected to reach $300 million by 2015, with support from a wide range of small and mid-size investors.

Empower will promote the development of low-carbon electricity -- including solar, wind, hydroelectric, biomass and energy efficiency projects -- across Europe, Asia, North America and the Middle East. The fund's initial goal is to finance 200 MW in renewable energy projects.

Managed by Luxemburg-based Archeide Lux, Empower connects global investors and developers to streamline investments in renewable energy.

"Upsolar's participation in Empower is an important stepping stone toward the development of a comprehensive international renewable energy financing mechanism," said Archeide Lux Director Alessandro Bruscagin. "Building from this solid foundation, we are well positioned to attract a host of forward-thinking individual and institutional partners."

It’s not solar tariffs utilities hate, it’s solar technology
By Craig Morris on 6 February 2014
Energy Transition

Recently, Craig Morris discussed an article that misrepresented feed-in tariffs (FITs). He also spoke with the two people quoted in the article, one of whom felt misrepresented – while the other was a prominent German spokesperson for renewables. He found that people describing policies are actually often talking about the technology effects, which the policies in question do not change.

I met US-based German energy consultant Dirk Morbitzer in late 2012 at the premiere of the German documentary “Leben mit der Energiewende,” which – despite its title – is mainly about solar, not about the energy transition. And it paints a bleak picture for the solar sector if Germany reduces its FIT support. Morbitzer appears in it starting here as a neutral financial consultant from the US. He tells the German audience that solar is making wholesale power cheaper.

How different he sounds in US media. Morbitzer is quoted as an opponent of FITs not only in this recent article, but also in one published last summer. When I asked him last August whether he stood by the statement made in that article that feed-in tariffs are “not suitable for the US” and “net-metering is the best approach” there, he gave an explanation about solar as a technology, not about policy: “In hot, sunny areas, solar power production coincides with demand for air conditioning. Therefore, net-metering is producing some of the highest output when the sun is shining, thereby limiting the need for grid buildups.” Replace “net-metering” in that sentence with “solar,” and the statement makes sense.

Neither FITs nor net-metering shift the time of solar power production, so I asked Morbitzer to clarify the issue. “There is a tendency to overbuild with FITs [meaning that homeowners have solar arrays larger tthan needed to meet only their own demand], and that might result in additional costs for grid buildup.” Yet, when a power meter runs backwards under net-metering, solar power is also exported to the grid. What Morbitzer actually argues is that the best thing about net-metering for PV is that it keeps homeowners from building too much solar.

David vs Goliath? Solar shapes up to big utilities
By Giles Parkinson on 6 February 2014

The Australian solar industry is preparing for what it calls a “David and Goliath” battle against the country’s biggest generators and network operators. The outcome will likely decide the immediate fate of rooftop solar in Australia, and the pace of the so-called “democratisation of energy” – a contest that pitches households and their solar modules against the centralized utilities that have dominated the industry for a century or more.

The Australian Solar Council’s launch on Wednesday of its “Save Solar” campaign – where it wants to raise the relatively modest sum of $25,000 to help defend the renewable energy target (RET) – came as the first of the large state-owned generators renewed its attack on renewables and called for the RET to be removed.

About 1.4 million Australian households have rooftop solar systems, and the combined capacity of more than 3.1 gigawatts is having a dramatic impact on the way the nation’s electricity market is structured, and on the business models of incumbent generators. It is shifting peaks, and reducing the amount of electricity needed during the day.

Queensland’s Stanwell Corp is closing its 385MW gas-fired Swanbank plant because it is being priced out of the market, although it is going to re-open 700MW of capacity at its Tarong coal-fired generators once the carbon price is removed in what it hopes will be that start a “coal revival” in the Sunshine State.

Stanwell has also signalled its total opposition to the RET – a position that it, and its political masters in the Campbell Newman government – have argued before. It says that the RET and other clean energy measures are “distorting” the market. More critically, it is making its operations unprofitable.

Stanwell’s position typifies the dilemma facing incumbent generators and network operators in Australia – and other international markets where solar and other renewables are making big inroads. CEO Richard van Breda complains about the cost of electricity in Australia. But his biggest problem right now is that the wholesale cost of electricity has never been lower since the launch of the National Electricity Market more than 15 years ago.

The low price forced his company to close half of its Tarong power plant in late 2012, and to report a loss from its portfolio of more than 4,000MW of coal and gas fired generation in 2012/13 – a situation that it blamed almost entirely on rooftop solar, which is not only stealing demand, but with other renewables is causing wholesale prices to fall.

In the meantime, gas prices are surging as the massive LNG plants near completion. Queensland households, for instance, will be slugged an extra $68 a year next year as the gas price rises start to bite. Ironically, the cost of green schemes is predicted to fall.

Electricity demand and emissions fall despite heat-waves
By Hugh Saddler on 6 February 2014



Notwithstanding the impacts of heatwaves in southern Australia during January, total annual NEM generation, and associated emissions, both fell compared with the year ending December 2013, although only slightly (Figure 1).

An increase in demand in Victoria and a very small increase in SA were offset by small reductions in NSW and Queensland (Figure 2). The very marginal changes in demand were matched by similarly small changes in the mix of electricity generation (Figure 3).

Wind generation increased on an annual basis for the simple reason that three new windfarms were commissioned during the year, so that total installed capacity was about 420 MW greater than in January 2013. Supply from all other sources was either unchanged or showed a slight fall. Several aspects of how the NEM operated during January merit further discussion.

Shared Solar Financing Goes Local
Laurel Passera
February 05, 2014 | 0 Comments

The sizable up-front cost of solar has long been a challenging hurdle. So has rooftop siting — roofs are often shaded, in the wrong orientation, not owned by the people who live there, or otherwise unable to host a solar system. What if we could overcome both of these obstacles with one solution — one local solution?

A Colorado credit union and solar company may have figured this out.

Shared solar has been growing in popularity, largely because of its novel approach to solving the challenge of rooftop siting. Shared solar allows potential subscribers to participate in a common, shared system and, in return, receive credit on their energy bills for their share of generation. Colorado-based Clean Energy Collective (CEC) has been a pioneer in this field. I recently reached out to Tom Sweeney, the company’s chief operating officer, to find out more about their approach to that other big challenge: customer financing.

Mr. Sweeney said that when they were first thinking about financing options for their customers, he had contacted several traditional lenders and solar lenders that typically engage in solar leasing models. Neither was all that interested in creating a lending solution for shared solar, however. And neither really fit well with CEC’s business model.

This was somewhat surprising because shared solar represents an excellent proposition for lenders — a large potential customer base that typically has a very high repayment rate. “The social consciousness that comes with solar represents the integrity of customers, and on-bill savings helps them repay their loans,” said Sweeney.

amor de cosmos
Feb 7, 2014, 6:35 PM
Solar Water Pumps Wean Farmers From India’s Archaic Grid
By Natalie Obiko Pearson and Ganesh Nagarajan Feb 7, 2014 3:55 AM PT

India has a novel idea: Wean farmers from archaic power lines and expensive diesel fuel to run their water pumps with solar energy.

The government is looking to swap 26 million groundwater pumps for more efficient irrigation models powered by the sun. If successful, crop production could rise in India, where farms suffer from blackouts and volatile fuel costs. It would also save about $6 billion a year in power and diesel subsidies.

Companies targeting the market include BlackRock Inc (BLK).- backed SunEdison Inc. (SUNE), Asia’s top irrigation-equipment maker Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd. (JI), Claro Energy Pvt., whose investors include Standard Chartered Plc Managing Director Arun Singhal, and the solar unit of the Tata group, India’s biggest conglomerate.

“The potential is huge,” Tarun Kapoor, joint secretary at India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, said in an interview. “Irrigation pumps may be the single largest application for solar in the country.”

Asia’s second-most populous nation will draw 100 billion rupees ($1.6 billion) of investment in the next five years as the first 200,000 most easily replaceable pumps are switched to solar, the government estimates. That will relieve an overburdened power-transmission grid built mostly in the 1960s that’s prone to failures.

British Columbia’s Climate Better For Solar Power Than Germany’s Or Japan’s
Originally published on The Ecoreport.

According to a provincial government study called the Potential for Solar Power in British Columbia: 2007 to 2025, BC’s climate is much more amenable to solar than either Germany’s or Japan’s. The average production of a PV solar array in Kamloops, for example, is 1160 kWh/kW of PV installed. Even Vancouver (1009) has much more solar potential than Tokyo (885) or Berlin (only 848). Ben Giudici, of Kamloops-based Riverside Energy Systems, provided a copy of the study.

“I believe a modestly equipped sustainable home, utilizing solar to produce 50% or more of its own operating electricity, can be built with little or no increase to the building budget if the owner and builder base key construction details on reduction of energy consumption, and are willing to trade off some aesthetics for renewable energy equipment,” said Giudici.

“Construction practices and results in our building industry suggest BC residents are more inclined to equip their homes with granite counter tops, hot tubs, swimming pools, cobblestone driveways and/or other features devoid of monetary pay back, than with grid-connected solar arrays which do offer a return on investment,” he added.

Riverside was founded in 1995 and will have completed more than 20 grid-connected solar PV installations by the end of this year. It also provides off-grid solar, wind and micro-hydro systems.

U.S. Aims $30M At More Efficient Solar
By Pete Danko Renewable Energy, Solar Power February 6, 2014

ARPA-E, the federal program that backs revolutionary energy research and that even Mitt Romney supported during the 2012 campaign, emerged with about $100 million less than the Obama administration wanted when the fiscal year 2014 budget was finally put to bed [PDF]. But that still left the program with about $280 million to invest, and on Thursday, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz aimed up to $30 million at a dozen outside-the-PV-box solar R&D projects.

“The ARPA-E projects announced today are exactly the type of innovative technologies we need to keep breaking through barriers – advancing lower cost, highly efficient solar power,” the secretary said in Austin, Texas.

ARPA-E’s general charge is to back transformational research, as opposed to the incremental sort the administration is supporting in solar with its SunShot Initiative. With the new awards in the Full-Spectrum Optimized Conversion and Utilization of Sunlight program – known as FOCUS – there’s a real emphasis on hybrid systems that can allow for greater use of the sun’s energy – in some cases, even when the sun isn’t shining.

For example, here’s a description of the project that Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems is in line to get nearly $2.4 million to pursue:

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems will develop a dish-shaped hybrid solar converter that combines a high-efficiency solar cell with a thermo-acoustic engine that converts heat into electricity. The thermo-acoustic unit, which was originally designed for space missions, converts waste heat from the solar cell into sound waves that generate electricity using few moving parts. The engine and solar cell are surrounded by salts that store heat as needed by melting when the sun shines and releases the heat to make electricity by solidifying when the sun is not shinning. This combination could lead to inexpensive, on-demand electricity from solar energy.

MIT was tabbed for a $3.4 grant for its own hybrid vision:

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology will develop a hybrid solar converter that integrates a thermal absorber and a solar cell into a layered stack. The design allows focused sunlight to heat fluid piped through layers of optically transparent thermal insulation. The part of the spectrum most easily converted to electricity filters through to the solar cells. This unique stack design would enable low-cost solar energy conversion systems that can flexibly dispatch electricity when most needed.

Criticism of feed-in tariffs often actually about solar
05 Feb 2014 by Craig Morris Comments (3)

Recently, Craig Morris discussed an article that misrepresented feed-in tariffs (FITs). He also spoke with the two people quoted in the article, one of whom felt misrepresented – while the other was a prominent German spokesperson for renewables. He found that people describing policies are actually often talking about the technology effects, which the policies in question do not change.

I met US-based German energy consultant Dirk Morbitzer in late 2012 at the premiere of the German documentary “Leben mit der Energiewende,” which – despite its title – is mainly about solar, not about the energy transition. And it paints a bleak picture for the solar sector if Germany reduces its FIT support. Morbitzer appears in it starting here as a neutral financial consultant from the US. He tells the German audience that solar is making wholesale power cheaper.

How different he sounds in US media. Morbitzer is quoted as an opponent of FITs not only in this recent article, but also in one published last summer. When I asked him last August whether he stood by the statement made in that article that feed-in tariffs are “not suitable for the US” and “net-metering is the best approach” there, he gave an explanation about solar as a technology, not about policy: “In hot, sunny areas, solar power production coincides with demand for air conditioning. Therefore, net-metering is producing some of the highest output when the sun is shining, thereby limiting the need for grid buildups.” Replace “net-metering” in that sentence with “solar,” and the statement makes sense.

Bombardier given green light for 3.8 MW PV installation in Belfast
07. February 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Ian Clover

The rooftop array will be installed at the company's wing-assembly plant in Northern Ireland as part of Bombardier’s renewable energy focus.

Solar power has been given lift-off at the Bombardier wing-assembly plant in Belfast after the company was granted planning permission to install a 3.8 MW PV array on the factory roof.

The Canadian air and transport technology giant has recently embarked on a dedicated renewable energy strategy designed to bring down the costs of its power bills, particularly in Europe. Bombardier currently pays three-times more for electricity in Belfast than it does at its sister plants in North America.

The roof of the plant in the capital of Northern Ireland measures five hectares, which is the equivalent of six soccer pitches. Once installed, the rooftop array will join a 500 kW biogas unit at the site, which will be used to power the factory's day-to-day operations.

Permission for the PV array was granted by Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister Mark Durkan, who remarked that Bombardier’s commitment to renewable energy was setting a great example for other local companies to follow.

"Renewable energy is generating a real win-win outcome – it represents an opportunity for industry to improve its competitiveness while helping reduce its environmental impact," said the minister. "These applications by Bombardier to secure more sustainable technologies will in turn contribute to key Programme for Government targets for increasing renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"This will assist Northern Ireland in making the transition towards a low carbon society."

Schneider and Areva partner to spur storage technology
By Lucy Woods - 07 February 2014, 12:36
In News, Power Generation, Grid Connection, Market Watch

Nuclear and renewable energy technology engineer, Areva has teamed up with renewables energy generator and distributor, Schneider Electric.

The two companies have entered an agreement to develop hydrogen fuel cell storage technology.

The deal will see the pair jointly design and propose new storage technology solutions to improve grid security, especially for isolated areas with limited power access.

Areva has agreed to provide its Greenenergy Box – a storage solution using an electrolyzer and fuel cell. The box stores the hydrogen and oxygen from the electrolysis of water when energy demand is low, to compensate for peak demand. Areva has used this technology since 2011, connecting the Greenenergy Box to a 560kW PV system in Corsica. The box will soon also be hooked up to a 35kW system in La Croix Valmer in the south of France.

Taiwanese cell makers fear duties amid booming demand
07. February 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends, Investor news, Top News, Trade cases | By: Max Hall

Cell and wafer manufacturers in Taiwan are reporting record figures. But the industry is reportedly concerned about moves by Chinese module makers to represent it in talks with the U.S. authorities.

There were conflicting signals from Taiwan today about the potential effect of U.S. anti dumping (AD) and anti subsidy counteraviling duties (CVD) being applied to Taiwanese-made solar cells.

A week ahead of the date when the U.S. Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission (ITC) expect to announce whether they have found evidence of products featuring Taiwanese cells harming U.S. solar companies, manufacturers in Taipei have reported booming demand.

Four of the country's biggest solar manufacturers say demand has lifted the price of the cells they make and factories are running at capacity, according to a report in today's Taipei Times.

But a report on the Focus Taiwan News Channel website today, claims manufacturers are worried about the impact of U.S. duties and are also unhappy with an attempt by two Chinese module manufacturers to represent them in the Taiwan-U.S. investigations.

Focus Taiwan says Sam Hung, head of the Taiwanese Photovoltaic Industry Association has asked the government's Bureau of Trade to intervene after Chinese module manufacturers Yingli Solar and Hanwha SolarOne – whom presumably use Taiwanese-made cells in their products – reportedly asked the U.S. Department of Commerce to let them represent Taiwanese cell-makers in the dispute.

Taiwan Focus says that request is due to be decided by February 21, provided that, as expected, the U.S. authorities announce next Friday evidence of harmful dumping and subsidies has been found.

Renewables disrupt utilities. That's a good thing.
Rather than lament renewable energy's disruption of the traditional utility business model, Lovins writes, we should help progressive utilities and disruptive upstarts shape a new electricity system powered increasingly by clean, distributed renewables.
By Amory Lovins, Guest blogger / February 7, 2014

Renewables are making headway in Europe and bringing a low-carbon electricity system to the forefront. Renewables were 69 percent of new capacity added in 2012 in Europe and 49 percent in the United States. Not surprisingly, this threatens utilities unwilling to let go of outmoded business models and fossil-fuel generation.

Laments for Europe’s money-losing electric utilities were featured in an October 2013 cover story in the Economist. It said Europe’s top 20 energy utilities have lost over half their 2008 value, or a half-billion Euros—more than Europe’s banks lost. Many utilities therefore want renewable competition slowed or stopped. Indeed, some European giants, like Germany’s E.ON and RWE, are in real trouble, and five of Europe’s top ten utilities have suffered credit downgrades. So have some U.S. utilities—most recently Jersey Central Power & Light and Potomac Electric Power Co.—from the likes of Fitch, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, Credit Suisse, and others.

Should old, long- and often still-subsidized oligopolies be bailed out or shielded from competition when they bet against innovation and lose? Those big European utilities were supposed, but failed, to prepare for renewables by reinvesting their hundreds of billions of Euros’ windfall from billing customers for the first decade's tradable carbon emission credits they’d been given for free. Now they’re griping that disruptive technologies are upending their old models—just as innovators had warned them for the past few decades.

Disruptive technologies are meant to upset the status quo to bring worthwhile change. Should we have rejected mobile phones because they threatened to displace landline phones? Didn’t digital cameras make film cameras largely obsolete? Shouldn’t print newspapers have to invent new business models to confront the rise of the Internet?

Of course utility companies that refuse to let go of an archaic system are losing investors’ money. To be sure, some market reforms, like a well-designed, technology-neutral electric capacity market, could be worthwhile. But botched investment strategy should not be rewarded. Nor should shareholders be surprised that utility stocks no longer perform like bonds when twenty-first-century technology and speed collide with twentieth- and nineteenth-century institutions, rules, and cultures. Fortunately, those shareholders were already compensated for accepting well-known risks like new technologies, new environmental rules, and other regulatory and policy shifts—and they needn’t be paid twice.

German PV Market Briefing: Small roof-top pillar of strength
Written by Andreas Breyer 7 February 2014

Small PV installations with up to 10kWp will become even more important for the German PV market in the coming year. This is one major finding of the market analysis of EuPD Research, which presented its analysis of the German market on Wednesday during their 7th German PV Market Briefing in Frankfurt.

With a loss of 12% and 593MW installed these small systems experienced the lowest decrease in 2014 of all categories and accounted for an accumulated turnover of roughly one billion Euros. Newly installed capacities of large installations over 1MW went down from almost 3.2GW in 2012 to some 1.2GW last year, also influenced by the complete discontinuation of promotion for PV plants with 10MWp and more. The research company predicts that after the loss of 57% in total installations last year, the German market will see another slight decrease of 14% to 2.8GW newly installed PV in 2014. System prices are expected to remain on the current level and only slightly decrease, which will let profitability suffer in relation to the further decreasing FiT.

Taking Tuk Tuks To The Hydrogen Fuel Cell Level
By Nino Marchetti Electric Vehicles, Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Renewable Energy, Transportation
February 6, 2014

What’s dubbed the world’s first affordable hydrogen fuel cell mass transport vehicle is set to be unveiled in concept form this week at an auto show in India. The design, created as a result of a partnership between a university and others, is seen as a potential replace for a ubiquitous form of Indian rickshaw transportation known as the tuk tuk utility vehicle.

Birmingham City University is the primary driving force behind this, working in collaboration with UK motorsport entrepreneur and manufacturer Spencer Ashley and the DYP-DC Centre for Automotive Research. Specifications of this concept indicate the zero emissions powertrain consists of “a hydrogen fuel cell, an electric motor and a complex control system. Hydrogen for the vehicle is stored in a cluster of low pressure metal hydride cylinders, providing a safe means of fuelling the system.”

A thermal compressor, said those involved with the project, retrieves the produced hydrogen by splitting water into its component elements – hydrogen and oxygen – via solar energy. Hydrogen storage cylinders can then be used to power equipment including mobile phones, computers and lighting in remote and developing areas or in a humanitarian disaster situation, as well as powering an electric vehicle.

amor de cosmos
Feb 8, 2014, 5:27 PM
Moore Energy, PV Racking Expand To Better Serve Solar Customers
February 7, 2014 Kathleen Zipp : 0 Comments

Southampton based solar energy installer Moore Energy will expand into an additional 6000 sq. ft. of warehouse space. This addition brings Moore Energy’s warehouse and office headquarters space total to 30,000 sq. ft. The company also does business as national solar racking manufacturer PV Racking.

The company moved forward with the expansion earlier this month to satisfy increasing demands in both the solar and backup generator markets.

“This is a very exciting time for Moore Energy and PV Racking,” says Barry Moore, President at Moore Energy. ”We had a very successful 2013 and expect an even busier 2014. This expansion will help us to better serve our growing customer base.”

Moore Energy is a certified solar and Kohler generator installer in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland and New York. PV Racking manufactures a unique, clamp-free, solar racking system that has been installed in more than 25 states. Attractive federal and state rebates are still available to home and business owners interested in going solar.

India May Seek $500 Million World Bank Solar Loan
7 February 2014

Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) — India’s renewable ministry is seeking permission from the government to apply for a $500 million World Bank loan to build its biggest proposed solar park.

The plan was submitted to the Finance Ministry’s Department of Economic Affairs, Farooq Abdullah, the minister of new and renewable energy, said today in a written reply to parliament.

The loan would finance the first 750 megawatts of a 4,000-megawatt photovoltaic park in Sambhar in western Rajasthan state that’s expected to cost about $1 billion, Abdullah said. A group of six state-owned companies including Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. and Hindustan Salts Ltd. are developing the project.

PHOTON’s 2013 Solar Module Yield Measurements Show That Solar Modules Are Improving
Originally published on the ECO Report

For the past eight years, PHOTON Laboratory has been monitoring solar modules on a shade-free area of land near the historic city of Aachen, Germany. Researchers measure the yield expressed in kilowatt-hours related to the power of the modules and consider solar radiation at the site. The average yield has increased 4.9% within the past three years and in 2013 set a new record: 91.5%.

According to PHOTON’s press release,

“The Performance Ratio indicates the percentage of the incoming solar energy a module is able to transform into electricity considering its efficiency. The theoretical maximum of 100 percent is given if the module achieves the same efficiency under all kinds of irradiation that is does under Standard Test Conditions (STC). In practice, efficiency variations occur, especially when weak-light conditions combine with high temperatures. That’s why the Performance Ratio also depends on how good a module copes with the weather conditions onsite.”

“Using modern solar modules leads to far better yields than 1 or 2 years before,” said Anne Kreutzmann, CEO of PHOTON Publishing GmbH. This fact should be taken into account when making revenue calculations, “Far too often, revenue calculations start with yields that are too low because they refer to average yields from 3 or 4 years ago.”

“On the other hand, those who want to calculate projected revenue using the higher yields should take into consideration that the modules on the PHOTON test field with higher values could lead to the presumption of a higher Performance Ratio. The worst module in 2013, for example, achieved a Performance Ratio of 87.9 percent, delivering a yield that was typical 2 years ago.

“Good conditions for a high Performance Ratio are a low temperature coefficient and a good weak-light behavior. Those two module qualities are verified by the PHOTON Laboratory even before the modules are installed on the test field. Using this data, the lab was able to predict an average result for three of the top ten modules added to the field last year. But there were also some surprising findings, as the yield also depends on other factors such as the module’s reflection behavior and the dependence of the efficiency on the module’s spectral sensitivity. A truly resilient result is therefore given only by the long-term measurements done on the field. These measurement are published in a monthly update on the PHOTON website, www.photon.info, in the »Laboratory« section.”

Former Duke Power CEO: I'd want to work in solar
Sami Grover
Energy / Renewable Energy
February 7, 2014

In a recent interview with Energy Biz magazine, outgoing Duke Power Chairman Jim Rogers was asked what he'd have done if he was entering the business today:

I would come into the industry as someone who is an attacker, not a defender. I'd want the solar on the rooftop. I'd want to run that. I'd want the ability to deploy new technologies that lead to productivity gains to the use of electricity in homes and businesses. I would go after the monopoly that I see weakened over the last 25 years. My goal would be to take customers away from utilities as fast as I could, because I think they're vulnerable. Regulations will not be changed fast enough to protect them. The business model will not be changed fast enough.

amor de cosmos
Feb 9, 2014, 4:47 PM
Fredericton man builds $300 solar furnace, decreases heating bill
Randy Buchanan made heating unit from pop cans, aluminum eavestrough downspouts, old window
CBC News Posted: Feb 07, 2014 11:27 AM AT

A Fredericton-area man says his heating bills are decreasing thanks to a solar furnace that cost him $300 to build.

Randy Buchanan, of Lower St. Mary's, modified plans he found online to build the heating unit from soda cans, aluminum eavestrough downspouts and an old double-pane window.

Buchanan is an environmental consultant and depends on heat and clean air to raise rainbow trout for his aquatic toxicology studies.

He began looking for heating alternatives after his bills for heat and an air exchanger soared this winter.

Buchanan says his first attempt at solar heating worked a little too well.

"We took it outside … it was a cloudy day and I was doing paperwork and kind of forgot about it and had the exhaust and intake plugged," he said. "The sun came out and I said, 'I should run out and see if it's producing any heat.'

"Well, on the way over I heard a large bang and the inside window had broken on the thermopane, it got so hot. I took a thermometer and checked it, and it was 120 C, so you could boil water inside here."

Now, with air circulation from a small exhaust fan, Buchanan says his solar furnace — attached to the southern side of the building — works like a charm.

The air comes in at 5 C, and comes out at 38 C, he said.

"I think it's something that everyone should have affixed right to [their] house. I think it should be part of your design," said Buchanan. "It would be very easy to do. [With a] south-facing house like mine, it's perfect.

Solar Is NOT Maintenance Free: The Growing U.S. Solar O&M Market
February 8, 2014 Frank Andorka : 0 Comments

The number of solar PV installations in the U.S. maturing into a post-warranty stage is a heavy foot on the pedal of the solar operations and maintenance (O&M) industry.

Editor’s Note: This article by Glenna Wiseman is Part 1 of a three-part look at the importance of solar PV operations-and-maintenance.

By Glenna Wiseman, Solar Power World Contributor

The number of solar PV installations in the United States that are maturing into a post-warranty stage is a heavy foot on the pedal of the solar operations and maintenance (O&M) industry.

“The sheer size of the solar industry is driving O&M maturation,” said MJ Shiao, director of solar research at GTM Research. GTM says worldwide the operations and maintenance (O&M) market for megawatt-scale PV plants will total 146GW by 2017.


amor de cosmos
Feb 10, 2014, 7:02 PM
Moss used as "biological solar panels" to power a radio
10 February 2014


Swiss designer Fabienne Felder has worked with University of Cambridge scientists Paolo Bombelli and Ross Dennis to develop a way of using plants as "biological solar panels".

"Theoretically any photosynthesising plant could be used as a biological solar panel", said the team, which has developed what it calls Photo Microbial Fuel Cells (Photo-MFCs) to capture and harness the electrical power of plants.

Global Demand for Polysilicon to Surge 25% in 2014, According to NPD Solarbuzz


Santa Clara, Calif., February 10, 2014—Demand for polysilicon used in solar and semiconductor applications is expected to rise sharply to 282,000 metric tons in 2014, up 25% versus last year. According to the latest NPD Solarbuzz Polysilicon and Wafer Supply Chain Quarterly report, the growth in demand for polysilicon is being driven by the rapid increase in end-market solar photovoltaic (PV) module shipments, which are now expected to reach approximately 49 gigawatts (GW) this year.

Polysilicon used for semiconductor applications typically requires very high purity of 11N (99.999999999%) and very low levels of contaminants. Semiconductor polysilicon is a high value-added segment, but future demand growth in this mature market is only expected to be modest.

In contrast, solar PV-grade polysilicon has less stringent purity requirements, but it has the potential for very high growth rates when solar panel demand is strong; however, the growth trajectory in polysilicon supply and end-market demand is not always directly correlated.

It may take three to six months after polysilicon is produced for it to be converted into wafers and cells, and then shipped as finished modules through distribution channels for installation. This lag time can push polysilicon demand higher than module demand, in a rapidly expanding market.

Author Builds Tiny Solar-Powered Off Grid Cabin for Under $2,000!
by Lucy Wang, 02/10/14

Homesteader and author LaMar Alexander lives in a tiny, self-sufficient 400 square foot cabin that he built himself for under $2,000! Powered by a 580-watt solar system and a 400-watt wind power system, this cute little cabin runs entirely off the grid. Hoping to inspire others to follow in his footsteps, Alexander has even written a step-by-step guide that will teach you how to build your very own tiny sustainable home!



Giant Solar Energy-Generating e-QBO Cube Lands in the Streets of Italy
by Lidija Grozdanic, 02/10/14

Romolo Stanco’s e-QBO is giant monolithic cube that harnesses solar energy to power an integrated communications hub. The cube is wrapped with building integrated photovoltaic panels, and soaks up sunlight all day long to power public lighting, videomapping installations, cell phone ports, and an internet hotspot. The project was developed by TRED, an innovative Italian practice dedicated to merging high technology and design.



Northern Ireland gets the Emerald Isle’s first utility-scale PV plant
By Andy Colthorpe - 10 February 2014, 13:12
In News, Power Generation, Project Focus

BNRG Northern Power has been granted planning permission for the first utility-scale solar farm to be built in Ireland or Northern Ireland, a 5.1MW solar farm in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland.

The Irish renewable energy developer claims the ground-mounted plant in East Down will create around 50 jobs during construction as well as five permanent roles, delivering an investment value of €7.6 million (US$10.4 million).

The plant has a proposed lifespan of 30 years, providing enough energy to power around 1,500 homes. According to BNRG construction will take three months, with the plant utilising 20,300 ground-mounted solar panels.

The 11-hectare PV installation will be less than 2.5 metres in height in order to provide minimal visual impact. BNRG also played up the role such a farm could play in fostering biodiversity on site, citing it as an added advantage over some other types of energy generation.

According to BNRG senior project manager Sean McMullan, the size of the plant would actually double the amount of solar energy produced on the entire Irish island at present, which is currently about 5MW, mostly from small-scale rooftop generation.

Germany to install 2.8GW in 2014: EuPD Research
By John Parnell - 10 February 2014, 11:16
In News, Power Generation, Market Watch

Germany will install 2.8GW of new PV capacity in 2014, according to a new report by EuPD Research.

According to EuPD there could be a year-on-year increase in systems under 10kW in size while the 73% decline in systems over 1MW is likely to continue in 2014.

In 2012 Germany added 7.6GW and was expected to connect just 3.9GW in 2013. According to official figures released by the federal network authority, Bundesnetzagentur, just 3.3GW was installed last year.

The even less optimistic outlook for next year would still exceed the 2.5GW cap proposed by the new government.

New solar threat to networks – death spiral for gas
By Giles Parkinson on 10 February 2014

Australia’s energy utilities have added a new element to their push for solar incentive schemes to be removed, arguing that gas networks now face the same threat as the nation’s network of poles and wires – a “death spiral” scenario where rising costs push consumers to consider other technologies.

The Energy Network Association – which represents the distribution and transmission networks in the electricity and gas markets – has called on the federal government to remove the small-scale renewable energy scheme, which provides certificates for rooftop solar PV, and solar hot water systems, as well as heat pumps.

“To reduce pressure on electricity prices, we should stop subsidising technologies that don’t need it,” ENA CEO John Bradley said in a media statement accompanying its submission to the Energy White Paper. “Solar PV technology is now well established and is forecast to undergo significant growth without further subsidies.”

Bradley also said gas hot water systems – which provide significant emission reductions compared to the 4 million electric water heaters still in the market – are competing against subsidised heat pumps and solar hot water systems in distorted appliance markets.

The push to remove subsidies for solar comes as the ENA takes stock of the potential impact of the soaring gas prices that will be caused by the coal seam gas and LNG booms in eastern Australia.

It warns that the cost of wholesale gas supply will likely “significantly affect” residential customers through higher retail gas prices. But, if customers reduce gas consumption by looking at other technologies, then this could force even greater rises in gas prices because “infrastructure costs would have to be recouped over a smaller customer base.”

World's First Large-Scale Power Storage System Made From Reused EV Batteries Completed in Japan
PR Newswire
TOKYO, Feb. 7, 2014

TOKYO, Feb. 7, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Sumitomo Corporation (Head Office: Chuo-ku, Tokyo; President and CEO: Kuniharu Nakamura) has developed and installed the world's first large-scale power storage system which utilizes used batteries collected from electric vehicles (hereinafter : EV). This commercial scale storage system, built on Yume-shima Island, Osaka, will begin operating in February 2014.

Over the next three years, the system will measure the smoothing effect of energy output fluctuation from the nearby "Hikari-no-mori," solar farm, and will aim to establish a large-scale power storage technology by safely and effectively utilizing the huge quantities of discarded used EV batteries which will become available in the future. This project has been selected as a model project for "Verification of the battery storage control to promote renewable energy" for the fiscal year 2013 by the Ministry of the Environment of Japan.

Sumitomo Corporation created the joint venture company, "4R Energy Corporation", in collaboration with Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. in September 2010, to address the secondary use of EV lithium-ion batteries. The used EV batteries that will be recycled into this large-scale storage system have been recovered and have gone through thorough inspection and maintenance at 4R, to confirm safety and performance. This prototype system (600kW/400kWh) consists of sixteen used EV batteries.

Battery Business Development Department General Manager, Norihiko Nonaka said, "We are pleased to be a part of such an important verification project that can both utilize used EV batteries, and provide a large-scale power storage facility, which are important issues that need to be addressed for the future of renewable energy."

Sumitomo will seek new business opportunities which can make use of the highly economical storage system, as well as work on developing new applications for used EV batteries. The company aims to actively promote this approach, which can both contribute to expanding the use of EV and encourage the use of renewable energy. Sumitomo is committed to the movement toward lowering the carbon footprint of a sustainable society.

Graph of the Day: Rooftop solar provides 20% of SA demand
By Giles Parkinson on 10 February 2014

Here’s another interesting graph showing the growing impact of rooftop solar PV in Australia. In South Australia, the state with the highest penetration of rooftop solar in the country, rooftop solar PV probably contributed more than 20 per cent of the state’s demand between the hours of noon and 4pm on Sunday. As this graph taken from the APVI’s Solar Map shows us.


A solar-powered future for India’s Ladakh region

Ladakh, a cold, desert region high in the western Himalayas, is abandoning fossil fuels and embracing clean energy.

For years, residents have relied on fossil fuels imported from nearby valleys. But transporting kerosene and diesel, as well as firewood, proved to be expensive and trucks added further to the air pollution in the region.

With the support of public subsidies, however, Ladakhis are now turning to solar cookers, solar water heating systems and photovoltaic panels for electricity. The region’s cold temperatures ensure the photovoltaic panels work efficiently. And by producing their own energy, local people are improving their energy independence.


Flat-pack lens boosts solar power: Fresnel lens concentrates solar without bulk
Date: February 10, 2014

Micro-machining could be used to create almost flat, Fresnel lenses, that boost the electrical efficiency of solar panels, according to researchers in China.

Fresnel lenses were invented by French engineer and scientist Augustin-Jean Fresnel, in the early nineteenth century, they are essential two-dimensional equivalents of conventional optical lens, but they have ridges in concentric rings that focus the light to a point behind the lens without the three-dimensional bulk of a conventional lens. Image quality is reduced when using a Fresnel lens to focus because the concentric rings which can be used to significantly reduce the depth of the lens compared to a standard convex lens mean that some light is not focused at the gaps between the ridges. This limits the use of Fresnel lenses in photography and other applications where the user does not wish to lose fine detail.

However, where a detailed image is not needed this quality compromise is acceptable especially if the benefits of reduced bulk outweigh the losses. As such, early applications of Fresnel lenses were in providing a lower-cost way of focusing the light from a lighthouse beacon. More recently Fresnel lenses have found use in inexpensive focused rear-view mirrors that allow drivers to see a wider angle view of the rear of their vehicles. Fresnel lenses have also been used in inexpensive handheld magnifiers to assist the visually impaired and for artificially enlarging a display from a television or other device.

In the area of solar panels, researchers have attempted to use bulky and cumbersome parabolic reflectors to boost efficiency. Now, Y. Cheng, X.D. Zhang and G.X. Zhang of the State Key Laboratory of Precision Measuring Technology & Instruments, at Tianjin University, in China, have developed a technology that allows them to craft the necessary surface structures on a Fresnel lens, an array of microscopic cones, rather than concentric ridges, so that incident light is brought to a point at a more precise depth on the photoactive layer in the panel.

Origis Energy Completes Georgia’s Second-Largest Solar Installations
February 10, 2014 Frank Andorka : 0 Comments


Origis Energy, an international investment and development firm focused on deployment of utility-scale and distributed generation commercial solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, announced the completion and dedication of two solar power plants in Georgia, representing the state’s second largest solar installations.

The two solar power sites, with a combined capacity of 23.5 megawatts (MW)DC, are located in Camilla and Woodbury, Ga. and will deliver clean solar energy to Georgia Power, the largest subsidiary of Southern Company, one of the nation’s largest generators of electricity, under the utility’s Large-Scale Solar Initiative.

amor de cosmos
Feb 11, 2014, 7:21 PM
Grid-Scale Energy Storage to Reduce Load in New York City
With help from an SGIP-like incentive program
Eric Wesoff
February 10, 2014

Grid-scale energy storage is coming to New York City.

With the looming closure of the 2-gigawatt Indian Point nuclear reactor, New York City utility Con Edison has submitted a proposal to furnish 100 megawatts of load reduction measures that include energy storage, demand response and energy efficiency.

Con Edison and NYSERDA have released some of the initial details about the program, noting that they are subject to change.

The new incentives for energy systems that provide summer on-peak demand reduction are $2,600 per kilowatt for thermal storage and $2,100 per kilowatt for battery storage systems, with bonus incentives for projects larger than 500 kilowatts. Incentives will be capped at 50 percent of the project cost.

Bill Radvak, CEO of American Vanadium, recently wrote in a piece he contributed to GTM: "Last fall, California passed the first statewide energy storage directive in the United States. [...] Next up at the plate as a receptive market for energy storage in North America is New York. Bill Acker, Executive Director of the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium, is positioning New York state as a global leader in energy storage technology, including applications in grid storage, transportation and power electronics."

"Last summer, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $23 million public-private investment in the creation of a battery storage test and commercialization center in partnership with NY-BEST, which moved state-of-the-art energy storage testing capabilities from Pennsylvania to a facility at the Eastman Business Park in Rochester, New York," noted Radvak.

The proposed New York City incentive bears some resemblance to California's Self-Generation Incentive Program, a subsidy established by California's PUC to support existing and emerging distributed energy resources, which provides one-time, upfront rebates for distributed energy systems installed on the customer's side of the utility meter. In California, qualifying technologies include wind turbines, fuel cells, and associated energy storage systems. Bloom Energy was able to exploit this incentive program for its SOFC fuel cells.

Large grid-scale energy storage has moved from its demonstration and pilot program phase to its early commercialization phase, and California seems to be setting the pace.

Big Green Energy Is Remaking Africa and Asia
Posted on Feb 10, 2014
By Juan Cole

A significant part of the population of Africa and Asia at present has no access to electricity, and in some countries those deprived amount to as much as 80 percent of the population. That is true in Ethiopia, for instance.

Demand for electricity will therefore grow enormously in Africa and Asia over the next 50 years. Some countries aware of the dangers of climate disruption and mindful of the costs in money, health and climate of fossil fuels, are determined to add the new electricity generation capacity via renewables like wind, solar and geothermal.

Ethiopia is one of those virtuous countries with regard to carbon emissions. They are building a dam over the Nile for hydroelectric power, which they expect to be substantial. In addition, they have big wind, solar and geothermal plans. They have a 140 megawatt windfarm nearing completion, for instance.

Even a country like Kenya, which seems to be backsliding on its renewable energy plans, expects to get 60% of its new electricity in the coming decades from geothermal (26%), wind, hydro and nuclear. As critics note, the government entirely slights solar energy, which is ideal for Kenya given its climate. But since the country is privatizing and decentralizing its electricity generation, it seems likely that families and entrepreneurs will put in a lot of solar (this is happening in India, so will likely also happen in Kenya).

India plans to add 20 gigawatts of solar energy by 2020 and is among the countries with the best solar potential. Some 4 gigawatts of that will come from just one solar installation, in Rajasthan, which will be the largest in the world.

In just 6 months during 2013, Japan put in 4 gigawatts of new solar energy generation, about a fourth of that residential solar panels and the other 3 gigs utility-scale. Japan has a feed-in tariff, which rewards owners of new solar. It also has an energy crisis caused by the closure of the Fukushima nuclear facility and other reactors (though some of those may be reopened by the conservative government of PM Shinzo Abe). Ironically, the prefecture of Fukushima has pledged to generate 100% of its electricity from green sources, and has revved up a 2 megawatt offshore wind farm.

Taiwan is moving to get 4 gigs of energy from wind over the next 15 years and wants its energy mix to be about a fourth from renewables by 2030. Taiwan is deeply dependent on imported fossil fuels for energy, with about a third of electricity generation coming from nuclear. It seems highly likely that the government is underestimating how quickly it can economically replace fossil fuels with wind, solar and geothermal (Idaho has an agreement to help it with the latter).

Countries with few fossil fuels of their own (all of the countries above fall in that category except with regard to coal) are especially likely to move to renewables over the next 10 to 15 years, as wind and solar reach grid parity. Solar PV panels have fallen in price dramatically just in the past 18 months, and further price reductions and increases in inefficiency are likely over the next 5 years. That is one reason projections like Taiwan’s of how much of the energy mix will be renewables in 2030 are likely underestimates. Increasingly, it will be crazy to build a new coal plant when you could put in solar or wind or geothermal instead.



Better batteries are key to climate change
By John Kemp, Reuters | February 11, 2014 11:54 AM ET

Finding a better way to store electrical energy is the single biggest breakthrough needed to tackle climate change. But the goal of developing batteries that are lighter, as well as more compact, powerful and affordable remains frustratingly elusive.

Virtually all usable energy on Earth originates from the sun: wind, solar, wood, even fossil fuels. Oil, gas and coal are simply the fossilised remains of organisms that lived in ancient forests, lakes and seas, which relied on photosynthesis to harness the sun’s energy.

The amount of solar energy reaching Earth’s surface every year is many orders of magnitude greater than that needed to meet all the needs of the planet’s growing population.

Solar radiation reaching the planet’s surface is equivalent to more than 150 watts per square metre on average, according to Roger Barry at the University of Colorado.

The problem is how to store that energy in a usable form available when and where needed. Solar panels are not useful at night, or in the winter at high latitudes, or when the sun is temporarily obscured by clouds. Solar energy ultimately drives the wind too. But wind turbines are useless on a still day.

The ideal storage medium has a high energy content but is light, compact and affordable. Liquid fuels refined from petroleum, especially gasoline and diesel, have the best combination of energy content, density and weight, which makes them especially desirable in mobile applications like cars, trucks and ships.

“Compared to gasoline and diesel, other options may have more energy per unit weight, but none have more energy per unit volume,” the U.S. Energy Information Administration explained in a recent note.

Liquefied natural gas contains more energy per unit of weight but takes up much more space. Ethanol is inferior in weight and volume terms. Batteries are generally heavier and need more space than gasoline or diesel. Most are also much more expensive.

Burning those fossil fuels, however, contributes to global warming. The challenge is to develop more effective energy storage that can compete with gasoline and diesel. Better batteries are likely to prove the only realistic option.



Developing smaller, lighter and more powerful batteries is now one of the top research priorities for the U.S. Department of Energy, the world’s biggest funder of science research.

Most of the department’s research focuses on more mature technologies.

Its Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), however, is a specialised unit that aims to catalyse the development of less advanced technologies with transformational potential by providing early-stage funding, technical assistance and commercial expertise.

Established in 2007, ARPA-E was modelled on the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, credited with helping develop the global positioning system, the stealth fighter and computer networking.

According to the U.S. National Academy of Science, ARPA-E was designed to support “creative out-of-the-box transformational generic energy research that industry by itself cannot or will not support and in which the risk may be high but success would provide dramatic benefits to the nation”.

The agency has an annual budget of $275 million. Most of the funding is allocated to 18 focus areas. Five of them concern energy storage – more than any other area of energy technology.

According to the agency: “The energy storage facilities that exist today use pumped hydropower, which is only available in a handful of locations. New, more flexible, large-scale energy storage technologies would allow energy to be efficiently stored and sent to any location in the country.

“Cost-effective grid-scale energy storage is critical for increasing the use of renewable alternatives and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the electric energy sector.”

A major breakthrough at either scale still appears some way off. But nothing would do more to combat climate change, which justifies ARPA-E’s commitment to research on a new generation of battery technology.

10 February 2014, 7.33pm GMT
Is $15 a year really too much to pay for renewable energy?

Australia’s Renewable Energy Target looks likely to be weakened or even axed, with the Prime Minister saying the scheme needs to be reviewed because it is causing “pretty significant price pressure”.

But does $15 a year sound like a “pretty significant” cost to you?

According to the last national review of the Renewable Energy Target, $15 a year from now to 2031 is all that an average Australian household would save if we scrapped our national scheme to drive extra investment in renewable power.

That review - by the independent Climate Change Authority, with economic modelling by global consultants Sinclair Knight Merz - was completed just over a year ago, in December 2012.

Yet that very recent finding hasn’t stopped the federal government setting up a new Renewable Energy Target review, with Mr Abbott saying last week that the review would “consider the impact of the renewable energy target on power prices”.

Already there have been front page reports of rifts within the government about the scheme’s future.

Some, including Nationals Senator Ron Boswell, want to scrap the renewables target entirely, while others, including Environment Minister Greg Hunt, say they are “committed to keeping the RET because of the pre-election commitment and it’s been an effective way of reducing emissions”.

So just what is the Renewable Energy Target? And what does it really cost an average Australian household - not just now, but in the future - according to the reviews and reports done on it before?

What are we aiming for?

The Renewable Energy Target (RET) is designed to encourage additional investment in renewable energy generation. It does this by requiring wholesale electricity consumers (mainly big power retailers) to purchase a certain percentage of renewable energy, which increases each year. This incurs a cost to retailers - companies like AGL and Origin - which is passed on to consumers through electricity bills.

The current scheme is a more ambitious version of the scheme first set up by the Howard government in 2001. In 2009, the target was increased five-fold (under the Rudd government, with Coalition support) to mandate that 45,000 gigawatt hours of Australia’s electricity generation must come from renewable resources by 2020. At the time the RET was legislated, this was projected to be the equivalent of 20% of total energy supplied in 2020.

It wasn’t controversial at the time; in fact, then opposition MP Greg Hunt wrote an article that year, questioning why it was taking so long to introduce.

What does the renewable target cost you?

Currently, around 3-4% of your bill can be attributed to the Renewable Energy Target. For a typical residential consumer, that works out to be about $50-$70 per year, out of an average bill of about $1800-$2200. So in that sense, the Prime Minister is right about there being some additional cost.

But let’s put that in perspective. As the graph below shows, the main reason for “pretty significant price pressure” on retail power prices is increasing network costs. According to the Australian Energy Market Commission, these have and will continue to dominate electricity price increases.



What Solar Investors Want (Infographic)

Sara Rafalson of Sol Systems recently sent along an infographic on “What Solar Investors Want” that her company put together. This isn’t just another flimsy infographic, though. The data came from “a year of our Project Finance Journals, which we distribute on the 15th of every month to approximately 2700 industry professionals,” Sara noted. She also commented on why there was even a need for such an infographic:

The shortage of project finance is a limitation to the non-residential, commercial and industrial (C&I) sector of the solar market. Especially compared with other sectors of the market, C&I distributed generation solar is plagued with high transaction costs and a lack of standardization. Though there is no shortage of solar investors trying to break into the promising solar asset class, there is a true shortage of financeable, quality project pipeline. This lack of financeable deal flow is stifling the market and limiting the growth potential of the U.S. solar industry.



Unsubsidized Solar Power Gives It A Go In Spain
By Pete Danko Renewable Energy, Solar Power February 10, 2014

Spain’s recent history with solar power has been nothing if not tumultuous. Generous subsidies created a booming market in 2008, but the economic crisis brought a quick end to that. And now the country is pulling the rug out from under thousands of solar producers, many of them small, whose financing depended on the promise of those generous subsidies.

So is it a completely hopeless mess? Greenpeace says it might not be. The organization is pointing to a new utility-scale plant in Seville that is going into service “getting the same reward as any conventional power plant,” with “no subsidy, no feed-in tariff.”

Jose Luis Garcia, who focuses on climate and energy for Greenpeace Spain, said in a recent piece that the economics of solar power have indeed shifted – in a good way.

“[S]olar energy is running through its learning curve much quicker than anyone could have anticipated,” Garcia wrote. “And subsequently, the need for new plants to get economic support has become lower and lower. Today a solar panel costs some 80 percent less than just five years ago to yield the same power. And costs are projected to lower by another 50 percent by 2020.”

Italian energy storage market set to explode
11. February 2014 | Storage & smart grids, Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Qualenergia.it editorial staff

Energy storage could be a very attractive prospect for users of photovoltaic energy, particularly in markets where electricity retail costs are high.

One such market is Italy: 550,000 installations, over 90% of which are on rooftops. A market which is currently static, but which could explode at any time.

"The cost is still too high, in the absence of incentives like those in Germany, to guarantee a return on your investment within a time frame that is inviting to families; and the situation is even less attractive for businesses. However, partly thanks to electric car industry developments, the cost is falling. The threshold at which such systems become a more attractive option should be reached within two to three years," explains Simone Franzò from the Energy & Strategy Group of the Politecnico di Milano University, speaking to QualEnergia.it.

Marco Pigni, from Fiamm, the largest Italian manufacturer of batteries, confirms this: "the increase in our production should bring a drop in prices of around 30-50% within three to four years. This means that paying off the battery, via increased self-consumption, should take less than 10 years."

Regulatory uncertainties are also holding back the battery market at the moment. "A definitive regulation is expected during 2014, meaning that the market is almost at a standstill," states Luca Zingale, scientific director of Solarexpo – The Innovation Cloud. "Despite this, various storage solutions were presented in the 2013 edition of the fair, and we will see even more at the 2014 event.

"The possibility of combining batteries with solar power will be very successful in Italy, a country where electricity is very expensive, making a PV installation more beneficial for those who are often out of the house during the day," Zingale adds. "With an increase in the quantity of energy saved, it will also benefit businesses who choose SEU configurations, which allow producers to sell energy directly to a client, for example by having a PV system installed on their roof. We must also not forget the psychological and political aspects of storage solutions, which many view as a way of making the consumer as independent as possible from the energy companies."

In reality, some have already made their move: "Since 2009, with the collaboration of the University of Ancona, we have been experimenting with business and domestic storage systems, and have had excellent results," reports Roberto Mattioli from Energy Resources. "We have placed them within a wider context of renewable technologies, energy efficiency, domotics and electric mobility."


amor de cosmos
Feb 12, 2014, 6:06 PM
China Sets 2014 Installation Limits for Solar Power Subsidies
By Bloomberg News Feb 11, 2014 9:58 PM PT

China, the world’s biggest solar market, set a national limit of 14 gigawatts for solar power capacity addition this year to be eligible for subsidies.

Within the limit, the country set quotas for individual provinces based on local resources and the grid’s ability to handle the additional power, according to a statement on the National Energy Administration’s website. Projects exceeding a region’s quota won’t get subsidy.

China added a record 12 gigawatts of solar power in 2013, almost matching the amount being generated in the U.S. from the same source, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The country installed 3.6 gigawatts of solar in 2012, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said last month.

The eastern provinces of Shandong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang received the highest quota of 1.2 gigawatts each, the NEA said.

If grids are unable to absorb the power and solar panels stay idle, the agency may reduce the quotas, especially in provinces such as Gansu, Qinghai and Xinjiang, which have the highest installed capacity, it said.

Canadian Solar to Report First Profitable Year Since 2010
11 February 2014

Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) — Canadian Solar Inc., the best-performing solar manufacturer last year, expects to report its first annual profit since 2010 and is seeking to raise capital after fourth-quarter panel shipments exceeded its forecast.

Canadian Solar shipped 605 megawatts to 620 megawatts of panels in the fourth quarter, compared with a November forecast of 480 megawatts to 500 megawatts, the Guelph, Ontario-based company said today in a statement announcing preliminary results. Shipments for the year will be about 1.9 gigawatts.

Increasing demand is pulling the solar industry out of a two-year slump brought on by a global oversupply that ate into earnings. Canadian Solar expects to report net income for the fourth quarter and the full year. It posted earnings of 56 cents a share in the third quarter, its first profit since mid-2011.

Gross margins, a measure of profitability after manufacturing costs, are expected to be 16 percent to 18 percent in the fourth quarter, up from an earlier forecast of 13 percent to 15 percent. Revenue will be $510 million to $520 million.

How online maps can speed up solar site selection
National Land Realty's mapping tool can identify prospective sites in weeks, rather than months
By Heather Clancy, GreenBiz.com
12 Feb 2014

Many variables go into deciding whether a parcel of land is appropriate for solar development: the intensity of the sun's resources, how much space is available to accommodate arrays, soil types, environmental considerations, such as wetlands or endangered species status, and proximity to existing substations or three-phase towers.

Researching a site for any one factor can be challenging enough. Considering all of them simultaneously usually takes months.

Impatient with that timetable, real estate broker National Land Realty (NLR) turned to the ArcGIS online mapping and data visualization resource from Environment Systems Research Institute (Esri) to rethink how it evaluates land for solar development.

Together with Columbia, S.C-based Beitz and Daigh Geographics, NLR has created a sophisticated service that identifies prospects in weeks rather than months, displaying them interactively in a map view. While GIS mapping is not new, what is compelling about this particular application is that the layers can be updated in near real time. They can be viewed with a Web browser on personal computers, tablets or smartphones.

How effective is the approach? One NLR client, solar developer FLS Energy of Asheville, N.C., identified close to 30 opportunities in the southeast states that NLR represents in just 60 days, said Dean Sinatra, NLR's chief operating officer. For perspective, FLS had roughly 125 acres under development in 2013, with 450 more acres planned for construction this year. It has completed roughly 100 projects.

"Currently, the states we are developing solar projects in or plan to are states which are the most conducive to solar development, both from a regulatory as well as a solar resource standpoint," said Brownie Newman, vice president of business development, in a case study about NLR's solar mapping tool. "We are looking for flat, cleared, non-flood plain parcels that are adjacent to three-phase power. In addition, we are looking for parcels which are serviced by a utility which offers power purchase agreements sufficient in length to make the projects financeable as well as providing a high enough avoided cost rate to support the debt service of the project."

Report: US adds 50,000 solar jobs in three years, one third in California
By Andy Colthorpe - 12 February 2014, 13:29
In News, Power Generation, Market Watch


Over 142,000 people are employed by the solar industry in the USA, with over a third based in California, a series of reports published by non-profit organisation The Solar Foundation has revealed.

Following the late January publication of the annual National Solar Jobs Census report, which surveys employment in the solar industry, state-by-state across the US, the foundation has this week also released three new district-level reports on solar employment in the states of California, Arizona and Minnesota.

In 2010, the baseline report, the first edition of the census, found over 93,000 solar workers in the US. Based on the success of that report, the foundation has since then produced jobs census reports annually. The latest national edition found that the US industry now supports 142,698 workers at 18,000 locations, close to 50,000 new jobs over the course of three years.

According to foundation’s executive director Andrea Luecke, a solar worker is defined as somebody who spends at least 50% of his or her time working on solar activities. The research revealed that of the companies and individuals surveyed, over 90% of people work 100% of their time on solar. The foundation asked a set of 35 questions about wages, technical qualifications and other key metrics.

The survey included all forms of solar generated energy, including PV, CSP and solar thermal and cooling, examining jobs all along the supply chain, including installation, manufacturing, sales and distribution, R&D and academia, non-profit organisations.

5 Common Mistakes That Solar Companies Make on Twitter
Tor 'Solar Fred' Valenza, UnThink Solar
February 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

Recently, I saw several common Twitter mistakes made by a few solar companies, and I thought these mistakes would be good information to share here using examples from @SolarWidgets, a fictional solar company.

Twitter Mistake #1: Don’t start a Tweet with a @Somebody unless you only want a few people to see that Tweet.

Twitter Mistake #2: Don’t Tweet photos without a logo.

Twitter Mistake #3: Don’t ask for followers.

Twitter Mistake #4: Don’t Sell, Sell, Sell!

Twitter Mistake #5: Don’t Just RT Everyone and Everything

Progress Report: Advancing Solar Energy Across America
February 12, 2014 Kathleen Zipp : 0 Comments

The U.S. solar industry is growing at a record-breaking pace, while becoming more affordable and accessible than ever before. The industry’s forward progress comes in part thanks tosupport from the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative.

Set up in 2011 to re-establish U.S. leadership in the solar marketplace, SunShot partners with industry, universities, local communities and the Department’s National Laboratories to aggressively drive down the cost of solar-powered electricity generation across America.

To achieve this goal, SunShot works to lower the price of solar electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt hour (KWh) – a cost target that will make solar-generated power to be fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by the end of the decade.

Just three years into the initiative, SunShot is making significant headway. Today, the Energy Department announced that the U.S. solar industry is more than 60 percent of the way to achieving cost-competitive utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity. In many parts of the country, solar electricity is already cost-competitive with traditional energy sources, including California, Hawaii and Minnesota. Here are a few more ways SunShot is making an impact.



U.S. Utility-Scale Solar 60 Percent Towards Cost-Competition Goal
February 12, 2014 - 11:05am

WASHINGTON – The Energy Department announced today that the U.S. solar industry is more than 60 percent of the way to achieving cost-competitive utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity – only three years into the Department’s decade-long SunShot Initiative. To help continue this progress, the Energy Department also announced today $25 million in funding to strengthen U.S. solar manufacturing for photovoltaic and concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies and to maintain a strong domestic solar industry – supporting the Department’s broader Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative.

In the State of the Union address, President Obama highlighted the United States’ growing role as a global leader in solar as demonstrated in a new industry report which recently found that U.S. utility-scale solar set a record with 2.3 gigawatts installed in 2013. Tomorrow, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will travel to Ivanpah Dry Lake, Calif., to dedicate the world’s largest concentrating solar power plant – continuing U.S. leadership in clean energy.

“In just the last few years, the U.S. has seen remarkable increases in clean and renewable energy – doubling the amount of energy that we produce from solar and wind and supporting a strong, competitive solar supply chain that employs American workers in every state,” said Energy Secretary Moniz. “To continue this growth and position the U.S. as a global leader in clean energy innovation, the Energy Department is helping to advance new technologies that further reduce costs, improve performance and support new jobs and businesses across the country.”

NREL Compares Concentrated Solar Power Technologies
Published on 12 February 2014

Parabolic troughs and dry-cooled towers deliver similar value for concentrating solar power (CSP) plants, despite different solar profiles, a new report by the US Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory has found.

The report, "Estimating the Performance and Economic Value of Multiple Concentrating Solar Power Technologies in a Production Cost Model," found that the value of delivered energy of dry-cooled tower and parabolic trough CSP plants, integrated with thermal energy storage, are quite similar.

CSP with thermal energy storage is a unique source of renewable energy in that the solar thermal energy can be dispatched in a similar manner as conventional thermal generation to respond to changes in supply or demand.

CSP uses the thermal energy of sunlight to generate electricity. Parabolic troughs and power towers both concentrate sunlight onto a heat-transfer liquid, which is used to drive a steam turbine. Unlike photovoltaic energy, CSP can generate electricity not just when the sun is shining, but also after sundown, because a CSP plant can be built with thermal energy storage, such as molten salt.

The NREL report, funded through the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in support of its SunShot Initiative, provides valuable quantitative results in a Colorado test system, comparing the two CSP technologies with thermal energy storage and evaluating how the operational and capacity value varies with plant configuration. The report also demonstrates that multiple CSP technologies and plant configurations can be analyzed using traditional planning tools such as production cost models.

12 February 2014, 3.06pm GMT
Battling climate change with SolarCoin: a solar-powered cryptocurrency

The world of cryptocurrencies took another dramatic turn this week with the announcement of a bug discovered on one of the major bitcoin exchanges. As a result, the MtGox Bitcoin exchange stopped allowing withdrawals of Bitcoin from the exchange and this then caused the value of Bitcoin to drop, falling from about $900 USD a week ago to the current price of around $600.

Meanwhile another cryptocurrency has brought a new perspective by tying itself to renewable energy. The SolarCoin has been created to promote the use of solar energy. Although SolarCoins can be earned by mining in roughly the same way that Bitcoins are, the majority will only be available in exchange for generating Megawatt Hours of electricity back to the grid. The plan is for consumers who generate solar-powered electricity to receive 1 SolarCoin per Megawatt Hour. In essence, this becomes a “proof of work” which is the basis of creation of other cryptocurrencies. The problem with proofs of work is that they are currently implemented by getting computers to perform repeated calculations. This uses a significant amount of power which is effectively wasted. Using a renewable electricity proof of work is obviously far more attractive from an energy conservation perspective.

According to Nick Gogerty, the SolarCoin Foundation spokesman, the target value for a SolarCoin is $20-$30 USD. How the target will be achieved and maintained is not clear.

Like all of the cryptocurrency, the actual value depends on what people are prepared to buy the currency at. With SolarCoin, the tie in with solar power generation may prove attractive to the renewable energy sector generally and consumers who are supportive of any effort to reduce greenhouse emissions by using clean energy. As the recent surge in value of the Dogecoin has shown, even a cryptocurrency that started as a joke can become an asset with exchangable value. The Dogecoin, partly as a result of Bitcoin’s woes, currently has a market capitalisation of $90 million USD.

amor de cosmos
Feb 13, 2014, 5:53 PM
Goldman’s ReNew in Solar Dash as U.S. Moves WTO: Corporate India
By Natalie Obiko Pearson Feb 13, 2014 4:46 AM PT

India will award permits this month to build solar power plants in the first national auction since 2011 as a trade spat with the U.S. over import curbs deepens.

ReNew Power Ventures Pvt., a company backed by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the Tata group, whose businesses span software to automobiles, and First Solar Inc. (FSLR), the biggest U.S. maker of solar panels, are among 68 bidders vying for projects as India seeks clean alternatives to fossil fuels. The winners for the 750 megawatts of capacity will be announced by the end of this month.

India plans a sixfold increase in solar capacity that may draw $11.7 billion of investment by 2017 as the technology sheds perceptions that risks are high. In contrast, banks are slowing lending to coal and gas-fired projects hamstrung by a fuel squeeze. Rising demand for equipment is also prompting panel makers to seek a bigger share of the trade as the U.S. lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organization this week against India’s barriers.

“The advantage of renewables is that you know that the cost is going to be forever,” said Sumant Sinha, chief executive officer of ReNew Power, which is backed by a $385 million investment from Goldman Sachs. “You lock in the price today. You’re not impacted by the rupee’s depreciation. There’s no fuel risk.”

SunPower Sales for Rooftop Systems Drive Quarterly Profit
By Ehren Goossens
Feb 12, 2014 9:01 PM PT

SunPower Corp. (SPWR), the second-largest U.S. solar manufacturer, posted fourth-quarter profit that beat expectations as demand from the rooftop power market surged.

About 40 percent of the company’s sales were for residential and commercial systems, including almost all of the panels sold in Japan, Chief Executive Officer Tom Werner said in an interview yesterday.

Those will remain important markets as demand wanes for utility-scale projects in the U.S. Many of the large projects nearing completion now were sold to utilities to meet state requirements, known as renewable portfolio standards, for the use of clean energy. Few new ones are planned, he said.

“The U.S. utility market is in transition,” he said. “We had the RPS cycle of business and that’s being built out through the next few years.”

The utility market may slow until prices for solar power become competitive with fossil fuels. That will spur an “economics driven” surge for photovoltaic panels. “There will be another growth spurt in American utilities,” he said. “It’s a few years off, but it will happen.”

U.S. residential solar power has grown in 14 of the past 15 quarters through September, according to a December report from the Solar Energy Industries Association. Installations in the first nine months of last year were 49 percent higher than the same period a year earlier.

Solar Industry Seen as Winning Bet for $1.3 Billion Skagen Fund
By Ilana Friedman-Schroit
Feb 12, 2014 3:01 PM PT

Solar industry companies are set for a “boom” as falling costs make harnessing the sun’s energy a more competitive alternative, according to Norwegian fund manager Skagen AS.

“We now have a situation where solar is competitive with traditional energy in the grid or off the grid,” Geir Tjetland, who helps manage the 960 million-euro ($1.3 billion) Skagen Vekst (STVEKST) fund, said in an interview in Stavanger yesterday. “About 0.4 to 0.5 percent of all energy consumed is solar. This will grow a lot in the next five to 10 years.”

The industry is recovering from a two-year battering that was triggered by a slump in prices and industry overcapacity just as European governments reduced subsidies because of slowing economic growth. That led to sharp declines in the industry’s biggest companies, including GCL-Poly Energy Holdings Ltd. (3800), and REC Silicon ASA.

GCL-Poly has climbed 32 percent over the past year, REC Silicon has surged 278 percent. The benchmark BI Global Large Solar Energy Index of 15 manufacturers, which slumped 87 percent from a February 2011 peak through November 2012, has rallied more than fourfold from its trough.

Solar demand is expected to rebound, helped by growing appetite from Japan and China, and as technological advancement brings down the cost of production, Tjetland said.

“The price of solar is down to about $1 per watt without subsidy,” he said. At that price, more than 4 billion people in regions including southern Europe, Africa and Asia will be able to buy solar energy cheaper than traditional energy, he said.

“That’s why we think that the boom will come,” he said.

Macquarie enters solar finance market in Australia
By Giles Parkinson on 11 February 2014

Macquarie Group, Australia’s biggest investment bank, has entered the solar financing market in Australia, in what is likely to be a significant lift for the rooftop and commercial solar industry.

The interest in solar finance was revealed by Macquarie CEO Nicholas Moore in the group’s operational update. Few details were released, apart from the fact that it is a “recent” initiative, but it follows on from a series of large solar financing investments in the UK, Japan and the US, and is expected to be a fore-runner of interest from other major banks in Australia.

It is generally acknowledged in the Australian solar industry that the next major breakthrough in the market will be in finance. The cost of solar modules are unlikely to fall significantly, and it is quite possible that remaining incentives, such as the small scale renewable energy scheme, may be removed or diluted.

Financing is critical component of the cost of solar. If major banks such as Macquarie enter the market and are followed by the “Big Four” – as many say they are poised to do – then the cost of capital is likely to reduce significantly. So far, only smaller and niche financing houses – as well as private investors – have provided finance to rooftops solar.

The entry into the market of major banks is also likely to spark innovation in financing, such as solar leases and other products that will unlock market blockages in low-income housing, rental accommodation, apartments, and community projects, as well as the burgeoning commercial market.

Macquarie Group has already committed up to $197 million to UK public-housing contractor, Herbert Forrest, to fund zero upfront cost solar-power installations across Britain. The program is targeted at low income private homeowners and social housing tenants.

Macquarie is also involved with another group, Freetricity, and is credited with helping fuel a revival in the solar market in the UK.

And it has formed a joint venture with UK renewable energy investment company Low Carbon to create a solar farm portfolio of up to 300MW.

Solar securities may offer major investment potential
13. February 2014 | Markets & Trends, Investor news, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Financial & Legal Affairs | By: Edgar Meza

A new study has found that securities from solar PPAs can make a healthy profit while making billions of dollars availalbe to finance solar project.

A new study published in the academic journal Energy Policy makes the case for photovoltaic systems themselves to be used as collateral for loans aimed at financing solar installations.

Securitization of Solar Photovoltaic Assets: Costs, Risks and Uncertainty, co-authored by economist Theresa Alafita and solar engineer Joshua Pearce of Michigan Tech, finds that while photovoltaic costs have dropped and the solar industry is enjoying a boom – including the addition of more than 23,000 jobs last year resulting in more than 140,000 currently employed in the sector – low-cost financing remains limited and most families in the United States lack the money to purchase photovoltaic systems for their homes.

"They need to be able to get a loan with reasonable terms, which is possible if the PV itself can act as the asset to secure the loan," the authors argue, adding that securitization of solar assets provides a solution to this problem.

In assessing the viability of solar asset-backed securities (ABS) as a lower cost financing mechanism, the study identifies policies that could facilitate implementation of securitization and finds that securitization is a viable mechanism for improving the financing of PV projects.

Pearce, an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering and Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering explains, "Our results show that, under reasonable assumptions, securitization of solar power purchase agreements or PPAs can significantly reduce project financing costs.

"What this means is that firms that create securities from solar PPAs can make a healthy profit while helping unlock the billions of dollars of existing economically-viable solar projects in the U.S." says Pearce.

New Report Navigates Solar Securitization
Travis Lowder, NREL
February 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

The U.S. solar industry is an $11.5 billion market with over 360,000 systems in place. Since 2008, solar capacity additions have exhibited a compound annual growth rate of over 50 percent, with strong gains anticipated in the coming years.

As the industry grows, it is exploring alternative financing options outside of its traditional funding sources (namely debt, tax equity, and cash equity). Securitization — the process of structuring an illiquid asset into a liquid and tradable one (i.e., a security) — represents an emerging opportunity for the distributed solar market in particular. Access to the capital markets through security issuance can assist the solar market in achieving greater liquidity among investors and an advantageous cost of capital relative to traditional funding sources (namely debt, tax equity, and sponsor equity). Liquidity and lower financing rates have both proven somewhat elusive given solar's current reliance on project financing and tax equity structures.

A new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, The Potential of Securitization in Solar PV Finance, explores this capital market finance option for PV assets. The report provides a general overview of the securitization process, the actors involved, the benefits (and risks), and the rationale for pursuing this kind of funding strategy. (Figure 1, right, represents the generalized solar securitization transaction. Green arrows represent cash flows, blue arrows indicate structuring.)

News Release NR-0714
NREL Report Finds Similar Value in Two CSP Technologies
Findings demonstrate increasing importance for systems with thermal energy storage
February 11, 2014

Parabolic troughs and dry-cooled towers deliver similar value for concentrating solar power (CSP) plants, despite different solar profiles, a new report by the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has found.

The report, “Estimating the Performance and Economic Value of Multiple Concentrating Solar Power Technologies in a Production Cost Model,”PDF found that the value of delivered energy of dry-cooled tower and parabolic trough CSP plants, integrated with thermal energy storage, are quite similar.

CSP with thermal energy storage is a unique source of renewable energy in that the solar thermal energy can be dispatched in a similar manner as conventional thermal generation to respond to changes in supply or demand.

CSP uses the thermal energy of sunlight to generate electricity. Parabolic troughs and power towers both concentrate sunlight onto a heat-transfer liquid, which is used to drive a steam turbine. Unlike photovoltaic energy, CSP can generate electricity not just when the sun is shining, but also after sundown, because a CSP plant can be built with thermal energy storage, such as molten salt.

“In our study, we analyzed various plant configurations and identified specific ones that provide significantly more value than has been found in previous analyses,” said NREL Analyst Jennie Jorgenson, the lead author of the report. “For example, we explored the potential benefits of extending thermal storage at CSP plants beyond six hours, a typically modelled amount. In this analysis we found additional benefits for six to nine hours of storage, but rapidly diminishing benefits for greater than nine hours of storage.”

El Futuro Solar Conference Highlights Potential of Mexico's Solar Market
Published on 13 February 2014

After many years of lagging behind internationally, Mexico is slowly warming up to alternative energy sources. Foreign investors are looking with interest to Latin America's second largest economy, as this year will signify a further development of the market and mark the passing of an important energy reform, which is expected to open the sector to more investment from private parties. To Mexican solar entrepreneurs, 2014 therefore promises a vast array of new business opportunities.

Few countries in the Western Hemisphere hold more potential for solar energy than Mexico. With Global Horizontal Irradiation (GHI) averaging approximately 5 kWh/m2/day, only 0,06% of Mexico's national territory could generate sufficient electricity to satisfy the entire consumption of the country. And yet, solar PV is still only in its infancy in Mexico; it still only amounts to little over one percent of its energy matrix, and even though growth is healthy (with around four percent annually), there is limitless potential for the sector to grow.

Investors expect 2014 to be an exiticing year for the sector, mostly because expectations for economic growth this year are very positive. Moreover, the Mexican government passed a sweeping constitutional reform last December that could potentially open the country's lagging and inefficient electricity sector.

SunPower plotting next-gen gigawatt-scale fab
By Mark Osborne - 13 February 2014, 12:20
In News, Fab & Facilities, Cell Processing, Finance


Major PV energy provider (PVEP), SunPower Corp, has revealed it is prepping plans for its next-generation ‘Fab 5’ manufacturing facility that would be on a larger scale than existing facilities.

The plant will be built as part of a major capacity expansion planned for 2015, once a new plant in the Philippines is complete.

Management had said in a conference call to discuss fourth quarter 2013 financial results that it had reeled in tool install dates for its new 350MW plant in the Philippines to the end of 2014, mainly due to a decision to install the first line that will use its existing technology platform. The facility had originally been planned to house its next major cell (Gen 3) technology upgrades for its ‘X Series’ modules.

Thomas Werner, CEO and President of Sunpower said: “The first line pair will be the existing technology, the second two line pairs will be advancements on our existing technology platform which will allow us to increase the efficiency of the product and take steps out so that we can get cost down. To think of the fab, the way we think of it is, the first two lines being one build and the second set being a new platform. And so materially we’ll get out, put out the first two lines next year and start seeing the new technology towards the end of 2015.”

Canadian Solar planning PV module capacity expansion to 3GW
By Mark Osborne - 12 February 2014, 20:34
In News, Fab & Facilities, PV Modules, Finance



PV energy provider (PVEP), Canadian Solar is considering increasing production capacity to 3GW in 2014.

In SEC filings related to its latest stock offering to raise around US$200 million, the company noted that one of the key reasons for raising capital was for further expansion of manufacturing capacity to 3GW to meet growing demand.

Canadian Solar has become increasingly focused on the downstream PV power plant project development sector and currently said it had a ‘late-stage’ project pipeline of around 1.3GW with projects located in the US, Canada, Japan and China. The company also noted that it’s early to mid-stage’ project pipeline stood at 3.2GW.

Ontario plant capacity increased

The SEC filing also revealed that the company had increased module assembly capacity at its plant in Ontario, Canada from 330MW at the end of 2013 to 530MW of as of January 31, 2014.

Total nameplate capacity at module production plants in China and Canada currently stands at 2.6GW, up from 2.4GW in 2013.

Canadian Solar has typically used a flexible vertically integrated manufacturing model but has significantly smaller capacity in ingot/wafers (200MW) and solar cells (1,500MW) than module assembly (2.6GW).

SunEdison strikes solar partnership to bring PV power to Georgia, US
13. February 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Ian Clover


The global solar company has teamed with United Renewable Energy to help businesses in the southern state tap into PV potential.

SunEdison has entered into a collaboration with one of the fastest-growing solar energy solution providers in the American southeast in an effort to increase the proliferation of PV in the state of Georgia, U.S.

United Renewable Energy (URE) has already worked directly with SunEdison on two projects totaling a combined capacity of 1.3 MW, with SunEdison eyeing a further 800 MW of solar PV by 2017 via various other collaborations achieved through the Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative (GPASI).

The aim of GPASI is to help local Georgia businesses to earn revenue from solar power installations. Thus far, the initiative has backed a 600 kW solar power plant on the site of an underutilized pasture owned by Tom and Pam Coleman – proprietors of an independent Bed & Breakfast.

"We are always looking for ways to increase income without increasing our costs to customers," said the couple. "URE and SunEdison showed us how we could use a small area of our land for solar energy and make a profit from it. The whole process has been smooth and having a solar power plant on our property has attracted a new customer base." There were no upfront costs for the couple, and early forecasts estimate that their land revenue is set to increase by a factor of six.

DECC announces £8m boost for energy storage technology
Viridor Waste Management and Highview Power Storage awarded funding to support liquid air energy storage project
By James Murray
13 Feb 2014

An innovative energy storage technology that promises help to balance supply and demand on the national grid has received a major boost today as the government announced £8m of funding to support the project.

Climate Change Minister Greg Barker confirmed that the funding had been awarded to Viridor Waste Management Ltd and Highview Power Storage, which are jointly working on a project to pilot a new liquid air energy storage project that aims to store air in a liquid format, allowing it to then be used to produce electricity when required.

"Storing energy will become increasingly important in the move towards a low carbon economy, and has the potential to save the energy system over £4bn by 2050," said Barker. "Energy storage systems are potentially revolutionary technologies - just imagine how much the energy system will change if we're able to manage supply and demand better by storing energy cost-effectively, not to mention the benefits for British research and manufacturing industries."

Supporters of clean energy have long argued that cost effective energy storage technologies could play a major role in supporting the deployment of intermittent renewable energy technologies such as wind farms and solar parks.

The government is keen to accelerate the development of viable energy storage systems and the latest funding comes from a £17m Energy Storage Technology Demonstration Competition, which has already seen similar awards made to energy storage developers Moixa Technology Ltd , REDT UK Ltd, and EValu8 Transport Innovations Ltd.

amor de cosmos
Feb 14, 2014, 6:07 PM
Japan May Cancel Solar Projects on Concern Delays Are Deliberate
14 February 2014

Feb. 14 (Bloomberg) — Japan is considering canceling approvals for delayed solar-power projects following reports that some developers are putting off construction while they wait for equipment costs to come down.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans hearings as early as March with developers of 672 solar ventures approved in fiscal 2012, it said today. Permits for the plants, totaling about 3 gigawatts in capacity, will be revoked if developers haven’t secured sites and equipment by the time of the hearings.

Japan introduced a clean-power incentive program in July 2012 to diversify its energy mix following the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Since then, some solar developers have struggled to secure land or financing, while others may have deliberately delayed projects in the hope that construction costs will fall, the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies said last month.

The ministry has surveyed 4,699 projects, totaling about 13.3 gigawatts, it said in a statement. Of those, 1,049 projects have begun operations while 419 have been abandoned.

Giant Solar Battery Made Of Salt (Almost) Ready To Charge Up

It basically runs on salt but nevertheless Crescent Dunes, the new 110 megawatt solar power and energy storage facility near Tonopah, Nevada, is billed as the “most advanced solar plant in the world” on top of laying claim to being the largest facility of its kind in the world. Now that construction is complete, the commissioning phase is under way so this is a good time to catch up and see what all the excitement is about.

We’re particularly interested in this project because we helped finance it and so did you, if you pay federal income tax. We’re not talking Kickstarter or Indiegogo either. In 2011 we taxpayers backed a $737 million Department of Energy loan to SolarReserve, the project developer.

That puts you and me in the same league as other project investors, the global engineering firm ACS Cobra and the financial services giant Santander, which was named “Sustainable Global Bank of the Year” last year. Not bad, right?

The Salt Battery

Now, about that salt battery. Crescent Dunes represents the next generation of solar power plants, in which integrated thermal energy storage in the form of molten salt enables the plant to keep churning out electricity long after dark.

The storage feature enables the plant to smooth out spikes that are characteristic of solar energy, not only day-night cycles but also smaller bumps like weather and cloud cover.

Go ahead and pat yourself on the back for this one, too. Our Energy Department laid the foundation for cost-effective molten salt energy storage for solar power plants back in the 1990′s with two demo plants using a “solar salt” composed of sodium nitrate and potassium (you can read all about it in this 2013 NREL report on molten salt).

Dear US Solar Carport Market: Be My Valentine
Will love carry us beyond 10% to 15% of the U.S. non-residential market?
MJ Shiao
February 14, 2014

Four years ago, sitting in some crowded Bay Area bar post-trade-show with Laurence Mackler of Solaire Generation, I laughed at the idea of a robust PV carport market. Mackler told me that someday I would see things differently.

Here we are at the beginning of 2014, and we’ve seen the third consecutive year in which PV carports have exceeded 100 megawatts-DC of annual installed capacity nationwide. The market has endured SREC crashes in New Jersey and rebate restructuring in Arizona, and has even outlasted seemingly unrelated subsidized educational bond programs that heavily benefited California projects.

PV carports, you’ve won my affection.

It’s true -- for a long while, I misunderstood you. I could only see your flaws, like how difficult it was to pass you through local approval processes, how troublesome it was to navigate landlord-tenant issues, and how expensive you seemed.

But you had one small champion -- the California Division of the State Architect (DSA) -- that favored you. With that approval environment, you shrewdly combined federally subsidized bonds with generous CSI incentives for public buildings in California to create the core of the 100-megawatt-per-year market you have today. Yes, your star has waned a bit in the past year, with penetration dropping by a few percentage points, but who could hold the vagaries of the New Jersey and Arizona commercial markets against you?

Will Distributed Energy Make Up One-Third of the US Power Supply by 2020?
Fast-growing solar PV and demand response, plus a huge CHP and backup generator base
Jeff St. John
February 13, 2014

Here’s a sobering thought for U.S. utilities and grid planners seeking solutions for a future filled with distributed, customer-owned energy assets: that future is already here.

That’s one way to look at a striking chart presented at the DistribuTECH smart grid conference last month. It indicates that distributed energy resources (DER), far from being a tiny fraction of the country’s massive central generation fleet, may account for up to one-third of the total U.S. electricity supply by decade’s end.

But there’s a catch -- this supply isn’t mostly made up of rooftop solar PV, or homes and business equipped with modern energy-saving, peak-shaving demand response technology. While those resources are growing fast, by far the biggest share of this untapped DER resource comes in the form of two decidedly un-sexy technologies: combined heat and power (CHP) systems and rarely used backup generators.

Here’s the chart, provided by former Southern California Edison smart grid chief and Cisco connected grid CTO Paul De Martini during a presentation hosted by grid software startup Bit Stew on the future of distribution grids:



SMA and E.ON develop world's first modular large-scale battery
14. February 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Research & Development, Storage & smart grids | By: Ian Clover

The 5 MW M5BAT storage system is located in Aachen, Germany, and has been backed by a €6.5 million grant from the German government's Energy Storage Funding Initiative.

Germany's SMA Group – a leading global suppliers of solar inverters – has teamed up with German energy company E.ON to develop the world's first modular large-scale battery storage system.

Given the moniker the M5BAT, this 5 MW battery storage system is the result of a collaboration between the E.ON Energy Research Center at RWTH Aachen University, SMA Solar Technology AG, E.ON electric utility company, and battery manufacturers Exide and Beta Motion.

Funding for the project came via a €6.5 million grant from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, as part of its Energy Storage Funding Initiative.

The M5BAT breaks new boundaries in power storage thanks to its modular design, which achieves optimal efficiency thanks to its combination of different battery technologies. The M5BAT comprises lithium-ion batteries that meet short-term power demand, lead-acid batteries that respond to discharge times of one hour or less, and high-temperature batteries that can supply power for several hours.

The battery storage system will become the first of its kind anywhere in the world, utilizing its modularity setup to deliver optimum levels of power. The first phase of the project will focus on integrating renewable energy sources and testing a decentralized supply of control power in order to stabilize grid operation.

Ivanpah uses as much water as two holes on nearby golf course
By Ari Phillips on 14 February 2014
Climate Progress

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz marked the opening of the world’s largest solar thermal plant on Thursday in the Mojave Desert near the border of California and Nevada. The 392-MW Ivanpah project, developed by BrightSource Energy Co, started operating last month after six years of construction.

With California struggling through one of the worst droughts on record, and Ivanpah already being located in a high desert climate, water conservation has been a major focus. Solar thermal plants use solar mirrors to heat water in boilers that in turn produce steam to turn the electricity generating turbines, are more water intensive than more common solar photovoltaic panels.

“Ivanpah is utilizing dry-cooling technology that dramatically reduces water usage,” Moniz said. “In fact, this entire facility will use roughly the same amount of water as two holes at the nearby golf course.”

The electricity generated at Ivanpah will be enough to power more than 100,000 homes, and is expected to avoid more than 13.5 million tons of carbon dioxide over its 30-year lifetime, or the equivalent of taking over two million cars off the road. Last year, utility-scale solar installed a record 2.3 gigawatts.

“President Obama and the Department of Energy are committed to ensuring that all sources of energy are competitive in a carbon constrained economy,” Moniz continued, citing the more than $24 billion in loan guarantees the department has made for clean energy programs as well as the over $8 billion for fossil fuel projects that lower emissions.

The Department of Energy provided the Ivanpah project with a $1.6 billion loan guarantee, which helped attract investors such as NGR Solar and Google, which invested $168 million,according to Peter Davidson, executive director of the DOE’s Loan Program Office.

Light-induced degradation in amorphous silicon thin film solar cells: New insight into microscopic mechanism

Researchers at the Helmholtz Center Berlin (HZB) have taken a leap forward towards a deeper understanding of an undesired effect in thin film solar cells based on amorphous silicon – one that has puzzled the scientific community for the last 40 years. The researchers were able to demonstrate that tiny voids within the silicon network are partly responsible for reducing solar cell efficiency by some 10 to 15 percent as soon as you start using them. Their work has now been published in Physical Review Letters (DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.112.066403).

Amorphous silicon thin film solar cells are considered a promising alternative to solar cells based on highly purified silicon wafers, which have been dominating photovoltaic power generation. A major advantage of amorphous silicon thin film photovoltaics, where a glass substrate is coated with a light active material less than a thousandth of a millimeter thick, is that the cell fabrication is considerably simpler and much less costly than in the case of conventional crystalline silicon solar cells. On the other hand, a potential disadvantage is the low conversion efficiency from solar energy to electricity. Because of the disordered nature of amorphous silicon, solar cells are subject to the Staebler-Wronski effect, which reduces the solar cell efficiency by up to 15 percent within the first 1000 hours.

This undesired effect is triggered by internal annihilation – known in physics as recombination - of charge that has not been extracted from the solar cell. The released recombination energy induces defects in the amorphous network - which is why this effect is not observed in crystalline wafer solar cells. "However, where defects are produced in the material and whether voids of nanoscale size play a role in all this has not been understood – until now, that is," says HZB’s own Matthias Fehr of the Institute for Silicon Photovoltaics. Fehr together with his HZB colleagues, scientists from Jülich Research Center and the Free University of Berlin have now made major strides towards unraveling this mystery.

Since the defects that form exhibit paramagnetic properties, they have a characteristic magnetic fingerprint, which depends on their microscopic environment. The Berlin researchers were able to identify this fingerprint using electron-paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy and electron-spin echo (ESE) experiments. With the help of these highly sensitive techniques, they determined that defects in amorphous silicon actually come in two types: those that are uniformly distributed and those that are concentrated in clusters on internal surfaces of small voids - known in scientific circles as microvoids - which form within the material during the solar cell manufacturing process. "Our guess is that clusters of defects are generated on the internal walls of microvoids, which have a diameter of a mere one to two nanometers," explains HZB physicist Fehr.

REC Teams with University of New South Wales in Boosting Solar Efficiency
Published on 14 February 2014

REC, a global supplier of solar energy solutions, is joining forces with the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in the development of an improved hydrogen passivation process that was first discovered at UNSW.

Standard multi-crystalline silicon cells currently have a maximum efficiency of around 17.5% to 18%. According to Professor Stuart Wenham the new technique, patented by his UNSW team, is expected to produce efficiencies of between 19% and 20% once fully developed.

As a world record holder in silicon solar cell efficiency, UNSW is a strong partner for REC. Professor Wenham says his team has worked out how to control the charge state of hydrogen atoms in silicon, thereby increasing the ability to generate electricity, something other research teams have previously not been able to do.

Kyocera Solar Modules Show 5% Degradation after 10 Years
Published on 14 February 2014

Kyocera Corporation announced that its solar modules installed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) have been independently tested and their performance levels verified, showing an exceptional output even after 10 years of operation.

Europe’s largest solar research institute in Germany, ISE installed a test system with the Kyocera modules equipped with high-precision measuring equipment that confirms an output degradation of just five percent after a full decade of maximum use. Researchers regularly analyze operating data and check the output of random modules annually in Fraunhofer ISE’s test lab, which have determined the Kyocera KC 125G modules still deliver excellent results.

The 2.25-kWp PV system consists of 18 Kyocera KC125G modules and an SMA SunnyBoy 2100TL inverter. The modules are installed at an alignment of 0° and a tilt of 29°.

Kyocera is also one of the few makers of solar modules on the market to possess such long-term studies of its products under real-life conditions. A similar test system is located just outside of Tokyo, Japan and has been in operation for almost 30 years. The most recent measurements, taken five years ago, revealed a degradation of just 9.6%. With such real-world data to stand on, Kyocera is confident in offering its customers a 25-year guarantee of 80% of nominal output.

amor de cosmos
Feb 15, 2014, 5:14 PM
REC Corp. Teams With University To Push Cell Efficiencies Higher
February 14, 2014 Frank Andorka : 0 Comments

REC Corp., a global supplier of solar energy solutions, is joining forces with the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in the development of an improved hydrogen passivation process that was first discovered at UNSW.

Standard multicrystalline silicon cells currently have a maximum efficiency of around 17.5% – 18%. According to Professor Stuart Wenham, the new technique, patented by his UNSW team, is expected to produce efficiencies of between 19% and 20% once fully developed.

As a world record holder in silicon solar cell efficiency, UNSW is a strong partner for REC. Professor Wenham says his team has worked out how to control the charge state of hydrogen atoms in silicon, thereby increasing the ability to generate electricity, something other research teams have previously not been able to do.

amor de cosmos
Feb 17, 2014, 5:13 PM
India Budget Plans 2 Gigawatt of Solar Farms Next Year
17 February 2014

Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) — India plans to start work on at least 2 gigawatts of solar farms in the year starting April that would nearly double its current photovoltaic capacity.

The proposed new capacity would take the form of four so-called mega solar power projects capable of generating more than 500 megawatts each, Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said today in New Delhi in a speech announcing an interim budget that would provide funds until a new parliament is elected in national polls due by May.

A record 15 percent of about 800 million voters will be eligible to cast ballots for the first time as the rising cost of electricity turns into an electoral issue. With the solar farms announced today and already existing targets, India is planning a sixfold increase in solar capacity by 2017 to reduce blackouts and diversify away from coal and gas-fired plants hamstrung by fuel shortages.

Duke Energy issues 300 MW solar energy request in North Carolina
17. February 2014 | Investor news, Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Top News | By: Ian Clover

The company's Request for Proposals (RFP) is intended to assist its efforts in meeting the state's Renewable Portfolio Standards.

Power holding company Duke Energy has issued a 300 MW RFP in North Carolina (NC) as it ramps up its efforts to comply with the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards.

The Charlotte, NC-headquartered company is hoping to add new solar PV capacity in its Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress territories, with an inauguration of service date set for the end of 2015.

Bidders for the RFP can offer to supply either full renewable energy certificates or provide a turnkey solution of which Duke Energy will take ownership as it seeks to diversify its energy mix. The RFP targets those solar installations that are greater than 5 MW in capacity, and is limited only to those projects that can be realistically completed by the end of 2015. Any affiliates of Duke Energy will be not invited to participate in the RFP.

"This proposal will practically double our current solar capacity for customers in the Carolinas," said Duke Energy's VP for renewable generation development, Rob Caldwell. "It gives developers the opportunity to pursue projects for the long term, or to negotiate for Duke Energy to acquire ownership of the new facilities once they are operational."

Panama's first solar plant begins operation
17. February 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Ian Clover

The 2.4 MW plant, which cost an estimated $10 million, was inaugurated last week by Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli.

The Central American nation of Panama last week brought online its first PV solar plant – a 2.4 MW installation located in The Sarigua National Park.

The $10 million plant was officially inaugurated by Panama's President, Ricardo Martinelli, having received a donation of $9 million from Rome-based Enel Green Power and the Italian government. With 11,886 PV panels, the plant is set to provide clean and green solar energy for 2,600 local households, and has already created a number of stable jobs in the nearby community.

Speaking at the plant's inauguration, President Martinelli announced the possibility of the plant's further expansion thanks to its location in central Panama. The Sarigua National Park boasts the highest levels of solar irradiance in the entire Central America region, and sits within an arid, sparsely populated area, providing the idea conditions for further PV installations.

Solar power has some way to go towards replacing hydroelectric power as Panama’s chief source of energy. In 2010, the US Energy Information Administration estimated that hydroelectric power accounted for 60% of all electricity generation in the country, with oil-fired thermoelectric plants making up most of the rest. The potential for wind power has been explored with gusto in recent years, too – a 220 MW wind farm in Penonome is due to begin operations later this year, having cost $450 million.

Solar Frontier posts first annual profit as cost reductions top 20%
By Mark Osborne - 17 February 2014, 12:40
In News, Thin Film, CIGS, PV Modules, Power Generation, Finance

Leading CIS thin-film PV module manufacturer, Solar Frontier reported its first annual profit in 2013, fuelled by the boom in the Japanese market.

Showa Shell Sekiyu, a subsidiary of Dutch Royal Shell reported its Energy Solution Business, which contains Solar Frontier, reported net sales of JPY141.2 billion (US$1.38 billion), up 80.4% from the previous fiscal year, and an operating income of JPY17.5 billion (US$171.7 million), up JPY32.9 billion compared with the previous fiscal year.

Profitability for the first time for Solar Frontier was said to have been due to increased module shipments, operating at full capacity and manufacturing cost reductions of 20%.

Solar Frontier’s main Kunitomi Plant (900MW nameplate capacity) was said to have operated at full capacity from the start of 2013, while its Miyazaki with an annual production capacity of 60MW also resumed production in July 2013.

Module shipments in the fourth quarter of 2013 approached 300MW, up from around 200MW shipped in the previous quarter. In the first nine months of 2013, Solar Frontier had surpassed total shipments achieved in 2012.

Over 90% of total shipments in 2013 were targeted for the Japanese market with a focus on residential, commercial and utility-scale (mega solar) markets.

Solar PV continues to shoot down the cost curve
By Giles Parkinson on 17 February 2014

One of the most misunderstood aspects of the solar PV phenomenon over the past 5 years is the idea that it has been that it has been driven entirely by surplus capacity from China, and little else. Defenders of fossil fuel generation will tell you that the cost reductions are a mirage, and will solar module prices will likely rebound as the market comes into balance.

They are in for a nasty shock. Between 2007 and 2012 it is estimated that solar manufacturing costs fell by between 70 and 80 per cent – courtesy of the feed in tariffs that began in Germany and spread elsewhere, and the manufacturing boom that followed, particularly in China

But the cost fall was not simply a matter of capacity, it was also about efficiency – more powerful modules, less silicon, less metals, improved manufacturing processes and so on. And the fall is continuing.

Last week, SunPower, the second biggest US solar PV manufacturer, said it had succeeded in reducing manufacturing costs by 20 per cent over 2013, following a similar fall a year earlier (and the year before that). And it managed to obtain an even bigger (25 per cent fall) in the balance of systems costs, the amount it costs to make and install solar modules in utility-scale solar farms.

The latest cost fall has been significant for SunPower, because it means it can lift its margins from slightly negative to nearly 20 per cent, and deliver a solid return to shareholders. Further cost cuts means it will either improve its margins, and returns to shareholders, or be able to meet consumer price falls if another surge in capacity emerges.

These are the signs of a sustainable industry. More importantly, they underline the cost reductions that can be achieved by deployment at large scale. Some of these gains are based on local knowledge, which is why it is frustrating that Australia is not moving down the track.

SunPower president and CEO Tom Werner says the cost falls are not over yet. He told analysts last week that its next line of manufacturing plant will likely reduce the cost per watt by a further 35 per cent over its current manufacturing lines.

And there will be further lift in efficiencies – the new manufacturing plant (known as Fab 4) will enable SunPower to to drive higher cell efficiencies, and it plans to produce its first 23% X-Series panel by the end of 2015.

The 24 per cent reduction in utility-scale deployment is also critical. SunPower had deployed a 1MW module that it dubbed Oasis as the basis for its large-scale plants – which include the 250MW California Valley Solar Ranch and the 579MW Solar Star project it is building for Warren Buffet’s Mid American Holdings.

Lucrative Retirement Planning Includes Solar Energy
Emily Hois
February 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

Today’s life expectancy in America is eight years longer than it was in 1970. That’s eight more years to enjoy retirement; and eight more years of savings to put away. In a challenging economy, there are various factors that can threaten a comfortable retirement, such as declining property values and interest rates, higher living and health care expenses, and a lower percentage of employer contributions. A well-planned retirement strategy is crucial.

Stuart Ritter, vice president of T. Rowe Price Investment Services, says it can be difficult to stay on budget while trying to make a lump sum last 30 years, especially in the first years of retirement. “That’s why we encourage people to think of it more in terms of income [stream], and not as a balance,” he tells USA Today.

One source that can be used to generate steady revenue — a source we can rely on for millions of years—is sunshine. More people are discovering that by purchasing their own solar panels and harnessing the sun’s energy to produce their own power, it’s possible to collect a paycheck without lifting a finger.

On the Rooftop

Orange County, Calif. residents Wendy Moonier and her husband Fidel Garza were brainstorming how to manage their money for retirement. After the mortgage was paid off, the electricity bill would remain — and increase as the years progressed. With a roof that needed replacing and the attractive California solar rebates, it was the ideal time to go solar. Moonier and Garza purchased a 30-panel solar photovoltaic (PV) rooftop system from Southern California Edison. They’re saving several thousand dollars each year on electricity and expect their system to pay for itself in 15 years. “It’s the best investment we’ve ever made on our home,” Moonier reveals. “When I saw how well this works, I thought everybody should have this … It’s the only thing we’ve done on our home where we’ve seen an immediate return.”

Newt and Inez Stevens, a couple in their 80s, utilize the sun in multiple capacities. Living in a retirement community in Phoenix, Ariz., the Stevens use solar PV and solar thermal panels to charge their electric vehicle, heat 90 percent of their hot water and power half of their duplex. “For us, solar was a practical solution,” Newt tells The Daily Green. “Our primary motivation was economic … And if we produce more than we use, the power company will pay us the difference. We’re seeing a better return on our investment than anything I can get at the banks or stock market.”

amor de cosmos
Feb 17, 2014, 5:35 PM
Nanoelectronics key to advances in renewable energy

TEMPE, Ariz. – Nanoscale technology looks promising as a major contributor to advancements needed to fulfill the potential of emerging sources of clean, renewable energy.

Progress in the comparatively new area of nanoelectronics in particular could be the basis for new manufacturing processes and devices to make renewable energy systems and technologies more efficient and cost-effective.

Stephen Goodnick will focus on what nanoelectronics advances could do to help push the performance of solar energy systems to the next level in his talk at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Feb. 13-17 in Chicago.

His presentation will lead off a session on Feb. 16, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., titled "Nanoelectronics for Renewable Energy: How Nanoscale Innovations Address Global Needs."

Goodnick is a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, one of Arizona State University's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Titled "Pathways to Next-Generation Photovoltaics," Goodnick's presentation will look at how innovations driven by nanoelectronics research can enable photovoltaic technology to significantly improve our ability to convert sunlight and heat into electric power.

He'll specifically delve into how new types of nanostructure-based devices can make it possible to produce photovoltaic solar cells that achieve better energy-conversion efficiency.

Goodnick explains that the key is in the different characteristics, properties and behavior of materials at the nanoscale.

A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter (one meter is a little more the 39 inches long). About 100,000 nanometers amount to the same thickness as a typical sheet of paper.

At that tiny scale, silicon and other materials that are used to make solar cells can perform in ways that boost the effectiveness of devices for producing energy, Goodnick says.

"With the use of nanoparticles, made into nanostructures, we could, for instance, improve optical collection, enabling systems to trap more light for conversion into electrical power," he says.

"Using nanomaterials, we could make solar cells even thinner but still more efficient, and we could increase the capacity of energy-storage devices," he says.

amor de cosmos
Feb 18, 2014, 7:05 PM
Juan Cole
More Solar Workers in U.S. Than Coal Miners, and Solar Doesn’t Poison Drinking Water
Posted on Feb 18, 2014
By Juan Cole

By the end of 2013, the number of workers in the solar energy industry in the US had grown to 143,000. About a third of them are in California, followed by Arizona, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

the wind power industry employed another 80,000 or so workers directly, and many more in transportation of components, etc.

Together, wind and solar energy workers far outnumber all the estimated workers in coal mining, coal transportation, and coal plant operation. Solar installation jobs alone outnumber seasonally adjusted full-time jobs in coal mining by a substantial margin.

In contrast to the rapidly growing solar and wind sectors, 151 coal mines were idled in the second half of 2013, with a loss of 2600 mining jobs. Coal is very dirty and cannot compete with wind and natural gas if the industry is made to conform to the Clean Air Act.

There are about 83,000 coal miners in the US, and their numbers are declining. Another 40,000 or so workers toil at coal-fired power plants, but other kinds of power plants also employ workers, so the latter can’t be considered as essentially in the coal industry. Likewise, workers who transport coal would also be needed to transport solar panels and other energy-generating components, and so can’t be considered “coal” workers per se.

Solar jobs are concentrated in panel installation and average $38,000 a year. Obviously, state governments in places like Kentucky and West Virginia should be funding retraining programs for coal workers as solar panel installers and wind turbine installers and operators.

Tiny Solar Thermal Power Plant Solves Gigantic Salt Problem

We’ve been getting all excited about Ivanpah and Crescent Dunes, two new gigantic concentrating solar thermal projects in California and Nevada. Now let’s turn our attention to a third solar thermal plant at the Panoche Water and Drainage District in California.

This one, from a company called WaterFX, is different in terms of scale (miniature compared to the first two), solar energy collection (its concentrators are troughs, not flat panels), and thermal platform (it uses a form of mineral oil, not molten salt).

Solar Power Desalination Solves Part Of the Problem…

The plant is actually a modular, integrated system that WaterFX calls the Aqua4™ Concentrated Solar Still, and it’s designed to solve a problem bedeviling the water desalination field: what to do with all the leftover salty brine after you’ve extracted all the fresh water?

That problem is bound to keep growing as already-stressed global water resources keep shrinking, forcing farmers and other users to tap formerly overlooked sources including seawater, brackish groundwater, and various forms of wastewater.

One key element in the problem is that advanced desalination typically uses a high-pressure process called reverse osmosis, which requires a tremendous amount of energy, adding to the global carbon burden aside from adding to costs.

The energy factor can be partly solved by using solar power for desalination, along with other forms of clean, renewable energy.

Solar power’s new wave
The Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Feb. 17 2014, 7:22 PM EST
Last updated Monday, Feb. 17 2014, 7:28 PM EST

At first glance, the awnings over the sidewalk and entryway at a new Toronto-Dominion Bank branch in Mississauga, just west of Toronto, look pretty normal.

On closer inspection, it’s clear these glass sheets – translucent panels in metal frames, adorned with an attractive grid of dark squares – are designed to do more than protect customers from the elements.

This is one of the few installations in Canada of “building integrated” photovoltaic solar panels, also known as BIPV. It’s an approach to renewable energy that is poised to expand dramatically in the coming years, with global industry revenues set to leap from around $2-billion a year in 2012 to more than $35-billion in 2019, according to an analysis from Virginia-based research firm NanoMarkets.

The idea is simple: Replace conventional building materials with elements that incorporate solar cells. Cells are built into glass, wall panels or roof tiles to become part of the building, instead of add-ons or attachments. Formerly passive structural components now produce power, cutting down on a building’s outside electricity consumption – and, eventually, lowering energy costs.

Les Lyster, chief executive of Toronto-based solar panel maker Eclipsall Energy Corp. is witnessing this solar shift firsthand. His company, which made the solar components for TD’s Mississauga branch, says BIPV products currently comprise about 10 per cent of the business, but Mr. Lyster says he expects that number to rise as high as 50 per cent in the next year or so.

While it takes time for BIPV systems to generate a financial payback – since the solar-integrated building materials are usually more expensive than the materials they are replacing – that balance is shifting as technology improves and energy costs rise.

Currently, though, most companies installing building-integrated systems are still doing so to test the technology, or to demonstrate their green credentials.

That’s clearly part of the motivation at TD, which has installed solar panels in one form or another at 94 branch locations across North America.

“We are committed to be an environmental leader,” so high-profile solar installations that are noticed by customers and employees are important, says Jacquelynn Henke, vice-president of innovation at TD’s enterprise real estate division. “They are easy to see. That gives us the opportunity to start a conversation about the environment …[and] it gives a sense of engagement.”

While the Mississauga branch is the first example of BIPV at one of TD’s Canadian buildings, Ms. Henke said, the technology is already widespread in the bank’s U.S. operations, where several branches have solar panels integrated into canopies over their drive-through lanes.

While the PR value is crucial, energy cost savings are also important, she said.

On average, the solar-panel-equipped drive-through canopies generate 12 to 18 per cent of each branch’s electricity needs. And now that the construction has been standardized, they are actually cheaper to build than the non-solar canopies.

Still, there are barriers to the expansion of building-integrated solar power.

First, antiquated building and electrical codes, which were written long before this technology was even considered, are slowing its spread. “There is a lot of bureaucracy now [getting in the way of] moving a building-integrated project along,” Eclipsall’s Mr. Lyster says. “Once that gets a little bit more streamlined, it’s going to help drive the costs down.”

At the same time, most electrical utilities have complex rules for attaching anything that produces power to the grid – creating another headache.

Despite that, many ambitious projects are now in the works. Mr. Lyster says his company is working with a builder on two planned 50-storey buildings in Toronto where solar panels will be incorporated in the spandrels – the panels between each row of windows.

“If we put building integrated there, we can get up to a 500 or 600 kilowatt system,” he says. “That can make a big difference in the [power] a building is going to need to operate.”

CIGS Solar Update: Avancis Sets Thin-Film PV Module Efficiency Record
The CIGS materials system continues to set new performance records.
Eric Wesoff
February 18, 2014

In September 2013, Saint-Gobain subsidiary Avancis curtailed production at its German CIGS thin-film solar factory. But the company is still working on CIGS technology in the lab and is setting new marks for conversion efficiency in this high potential materials system.

The Torgau, Germany-based firm's CIGS module has hit an NREL-certified efficiency of 16.6 percent. According to the firm, that's a "new efficiency world record for encapsulated thin-film modules." First Solar hit 16.1 percent with its CdTe thin-film module in April 2013. Parent company Saint-Gobain operates a float glass plant in Torgau.

The hero module is 30 x 30 cm². The firm noted that "ZSW´s 20.8% efficiency on a laboratory cell...demonstrates the extraordinary potential of the CIS-based thin film technologies." Avancis uses a sputtering process to deposit the absorber layer.

Dr. Jörg Palm, head of process development at Avancis, said in a release, "The very good homogeneity of the CIS absorber properties based on production dimensions of 158 x 66 cm² were demonstrated by the minor deviation of 0.15% absolute between different 30 x 30 cm² modules from the same full-size absorber." The release continued: "The improvement in efficiency is based on the optimization of the buffer layer with respect to InxSy bandgap, band matching, and in particular transmission in a short wavelength range. In addition, the transmittance and the sheet resistance of the sputtered ZnO:Al front contact was optimized and the dead area between the series-connected cells was reduced by the use of picosecond laser process."

Belectric Goes After Building-Integrated PV With Organic Solar Cells
The ghost of Konarka haunts the BIPV market.
Eric Wesoff
February 18, 2014

Talk of building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), or coating window glass with PV materials, typically occurs when a solar startup is running on fumes or a charlatan is in the room. (Here's a BIPV effort from Abound Solar and eIQ electronics, now both defunct.)

The BIPV I speak of is not the building-applied photovoltaics from the likes of Lumeta or Global Solar or SoloPower or Hanergy's MiaSolé. Instead, the term "BIPV" refers to solar power sources that are an integral, structural part of the building envelope or facade.

That's the market Germany's Belectric, a solar developer, financier, and construction firm, is targeting with the organic photovoltaic technology it acquired from Konarka and its new partnership with flat-glass processor BGT Bischoff Glastechnik.

Belectric has deployed more than 1 gigawatt of solar. The company's OPV Director of Business Development, Marketing and Sales, Hermann Issa, said in a release, “If solar energy is to be used throughout the entire building shell, then organic photovoltaics are extremely well suited to this purpose."

Organic solar cells (OSCs), sometimes referred to as third-generation solar, hold the promise of low-cost production, but their efficiencies tend to be very low. Hero cells are nudging 12 percent efficiency, but long-term reliability and degradation issues remain common with the technology. These low efficiencies have left OSCs to niche applications such as portable electronics, automotive, and the promised-land market of BIPV, which includes windows and facades, as well as concrete and other building materials. There are also potential military applications.

One of the appeals of third-generation thin-film solar cells is that they can be manufactured using solution-based, low-temperature, roll-to-roll manufacturing methods, using conventional printing techniques on flexible substrates. That is the siren song that has kept a trickle of funding flowing.

Organic and dye-sensitized solar cell developers include Dyesol, Heliatek, Solarmer, Plextronics, EPFL, Mitsubishi, Peccell, and G24i. Dyesol builds equipment to manufacture dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs). Eight19 Limited raised $7 million from the Carbon Trust and Rhodia to develop plastic organic solar cells. Ireland's SolarPrint has replaced the liquid part of the DSSC with printed nanomaterials. Intel has done some research into OSCs, as well.

Slideshow: Update on Ambri’s Liquid Metal Grid-Scale Battery
Commercializing the MIT-Sadoway innovation with funding from Bill Gates and Vinod Khosla
Eric Wesoff
February 17, 2014

David Bradwell, the CTO, co-founder and SVP of liquid-metal battery startup Ambri, spoke on Thursday at Infocast's Energy Storage Week.

We've covered the Ambri story in detail.
The inventor of the core technology for the battery is Don Sadoway, MIT professor of materials chemistry, with technology inspired by the economy-of-scale of modern electrometallurgy and the aluminum smelter.
Sadoway used seed money from within MIT to invent the liquid metal battery, using a technology called Reversible Ambipolar Electrolysis.
Ambri raised a $15 million Round B from Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates and energy company Total in 2012.

Bradwell said a grid-scale battery needs to be resilient, safe and low-cost. The three layers in the Ambri battery are self-segregating, cheap to manufacture and earth-abundant. The materials used in the original design were magnesium and antimony separated by a salt -- but "we needed higher voltage and lower temperature," said the CTO, and so the firm has a new, undisclosed chemistry arrived at with the help of ARPA-E funding.

Advanced Batteries for Utility-Scale Energy Storage Applications Will Surpass $2.5 Billion in Annual Revenue by 2023
February 18, 2014

Batteries have not traditionally been an integral part of the utility grid, primarily due to concerns about cost, safety, durability, and efficiency. Today, however, technological advances in electrochemistry have enabled a new generation of advanced batteries to start playing an important role in grid management. Click to tweet: According to a new report from Navigant Research, worldwide revenue from advanced batteries for utility-scale energy storage applications will grow from $164 million in 2014 to more than $2.5 billion in 2023.

“Unlike most other networked systems, the electricity grid functions mostly without any stored resources,” says Sam Jaffe, principal research analyst with Navigant Research. “Innovative electrochemistries – particularly lithium ion and its subchemistries – have solved many of the challenges inherent in battery energy storage, and there are more than a dozen individual applications that could utilize batteries for energy storage.”

The clear market leader in utility-scale applications of batteries is lithium ion, which offers the best mix of performance specifications (including energy density, volumetric density, cycle life, calendar life, safety, and cost) for most energy storage applications. Other battery technologies, however, remain viable, according to the report. Flow batteries have been shown to excel at long-duration energy storage applications, and advanced lead-acid batteries have proven to be excellent performers in power-intensive applications.

Harvesting light, the single-molecule way: Molecular mechanism of light harvesting may illuminate path forward to future solar cells
Date: February 16, 2014
Source: American Institute of Physics

New insights into one of the molecular mechanisms behind light harvesting, the process that enables photosynthetic organisms to thrive, even as weather conditions change from full sunlight to deep cloud cover, will be presented at the 58th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting, taking place in San Francisco from Feb. 15-19.

At the meeting, Hsiang-Yu Yang, a graduate student, and Gabriela Schlau-Cohen, a postdoc in W.E. Moerner's research group at Stanford University, will describe how probing these natural systems at the single molecule level is helping to understand the basic mechanisms of light harvesting -- work that could help improve the design and efficiency of devices like solar cells in the future.

"Through our approach, we are able to have a better understanding of the natural designs of light harvesting systems, especially how the same molecular machinery can perform efficient light harvesting at low light while safely dissipating excess excitation energy at high light," explained Yang.

The Moerner group has been studying various photosynthetic antenna proteins using the single-molecule Anti-Brownian ELectrokinetic (ABEL) trap and has uncovered new states of the light harvesting complexes with different degrees of quenching. "By analyzing the transition between these states in a bacterial antenna protein," explained Schlau-Cohen, "we found a process that may be one of the molecular mechanisms of photoprotection, or the way in which the organism protects itself from damage by excess light."

The next steps are to use this technique to understand the natural designs of light harvesting systems, and investigate whether the same processes appear in higher plants. Thus, they are extending their studies to look at photosynthetic proteins from green plants. Eventually, understanding these general principles may help in developing or improving the building of artificial light-harvesting devices.

Leading PV markets see pipeline grow to 95 GW
18. February 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Edgar Meza

Commercial and utility-scale projects make up half of the 4,300 projects in the planning in leading PV countries in Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America, according to NPD Solarbuzz.

Solar farms up to 5 MW in size are driving a 95 GW project pipeline in leading PV territories, according to NPD Solarbuzz's latest Global Deal Tracker report.

The study shows that solar PV projects between 250 kW and 5 MW now account for nearly 50 percent of the yet-to-be-completed 4,300 commercial and utility projects in major PV countries.

The leading countries for PV demand now include five major countries in the Asia-Pacific region (China, Japan, India, Thailand and Australia), four European countries (Germany, U.K., Italy and France) and the United States and Canada in North America.

"Collectively, these end-markets are expected to provide more than 80 percent of global solar PV demand during the next five years," the report said.

The total project pipeline for the leading PV markets has reached nearly 95 GW, with the largest projects, in excess of 50 MW, making up 68 percent of the total capacity on offer, although there are currently less than 500 such projects in the pipeline.

"While projects in excess of 50 MW account for most of the solar PV pipeline capacity, smaller projects up to 5 MW can typically be approved and completed within a matter of months, making this segment particularly interesting to suppliers and developers," said NPD Solarbuzz analyst Chris Beadle.

Global consortium collaborates on 8.5 MW Rwanda solar plant
18. February 2014 | Financial & Legal Affairs, Industry & Suppliers, Global PV markets, Markets & Trends, Top News | By: Ian Clover

The consortium is being led by Norway's Scatec Solar and Dutch developer Gigawatt Global Cooperatief, with additional funding from U.K., U.S., Finnish and Austrian governments.

The East African nation of Rwanda is set to lead the way in breaking new solar PV ground in the region with the announcement this week that construction has begun on a new 8.5 MW solar PV plant in the country.

The project is the result of a global consortium of solar companies, funding institutions and national governments, which between them raised €23.7 million in financing for the plant.

Leading the development is Norwegian solar company Scatec Solar and Gigawatt Global Cooperatief, a solar developer from the Netherlands. These two companies have partnered with Norfund – the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries; FMO – the Dutch Development Bank; and the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF). All three entities have provided funding for the project, with additional investment coming via government-led initiatives from the U.K., U.S., Finland and Austria.

The PV plant will become East Africa's first utility-scale solar installation and, once complete, will generate 8% of Rwanda's electricity. The Rwandan government is eager to invest more steadily in renewable energy, and has set itself the objective of a five-fold increase in renewable sources of power by 2017.

The project is located 60 km from the Rwandan capital of Kigali, on land that belongs to the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) – an educational and residential community created for Rwandan youths orphaned during the country's 1994 genocide. The ASYV is leasing the land, and some of the fees generated will be used to help fund the charity's ongoing activities. It is estimated that once complete, the plant will generate 16 million kWh of clean solar power a year. The Rwanda Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) has signed a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement for the energy it produces. Completion and commercial operation is expected by this summer.

"We are very happy to be able to realize this first utility scale PV project in Rwanda," said Scatec Solar CEO Raymond Carlsen. "At the end of last year, we grid-connected the first utility scale solar park in Southern Africa. The 75 MW Kalkbult solar park is currently the largest on the continent. Our objective has been to bring the experience gained in South Africa to other African nations, and we are pleased to team up with Norfund, FMO and EAIF to introduce large-scale solar energy to East Africa."

Scatec Solar to build East Africa’s first utility-scale PV plant in Rwanda
By Ben Willis - 18 February 2014, 10:57
In News, Power Generation, Project Focus

Norway-based Scatec Solar is to build the first utility-scale PV plant in Rwanda, also said to be the first of its size in East Africa.

The company has closed on a US$23.7 million deal to finance the 8.5MW project with Norway’s international development fund, Norfund, and developer Gigawatt Global Coöperatief.

Construction is expected to start work immediately, with completion scheduled for this summer.

When complete, the plant is expected to increase Rwanda’s total electricity generation capacity by 8% and contribute towards the country’s stated aim of increasing its renewable energy capacity fivefold.

Located around 60km from Rwanda’s capital, Kigale, the plant will be built on land belonging to Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV), a residential and educational community for youth orphaned during and after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

Electricity from the plant will be fed into the national grid under a 25-year power purchase agreement with Rwanda Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA).

The capital investment for the project will be financed through FMO, the Dutch Development Bank, the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund and Norfund. Scatec Solar and Norfund will be majority owners in the solar park with project developer Gigawatt Global maintaining a 20% share in the project.

Scatec Solar is already actively involved in the burgeoning PV market in South Africa.

Chief executive, Raymond Carlsen, said: “At the end of last year, we grid connected the first utility-scale solar park in Southern Africa. The 75MW Kalkbult solar park is currently the largest in Africa. Our objective has been to bring the experience gained in South Africa to other African nations, and we are pleased to team up with Norfund, FMO and EAIF and introduce large-scale solar energy to Eastern Africa.

Tokyo governor announces ¥4 billion renewable energy fund
By Andy Colthorpe - 18 February 2014, 10:53
In News, Power Generation, Finance

Tokyo’s new governor, Yoichi Masuzoe, who was sworn into office last week, has announced the creation of a public-private fund for the region to use for investment in renewable energy.

The proposed fund could reach ¥4 billion (US$39 million), with the prefectural government expected to budget around ¥1 billion (US$9.8 million) this fiscal year toward renewable energy projects.

Masuzoe announced the fund on Friday at his first regular press conference since being sworn in on 11 February. The governor said that it was his goal to expand renewable energy generation, while also stating that if possible he hoped the renewable energy funds could be used to help the disaster-struck Tohoku region.

No further details on what the fund will be spent on have yet been provided.

Jordan government approves PPAs for 200MW
By John Parnell - 18 February 2014, 10:30
In News, Power Generation

The government of Jordan has approved power purchase agreements (PPAs) for 200MW of new solar plants in the country.

The seven individual projects will each be awarded 120 fils/kWh (US$0.17/kWh). The current cost of electricity is around US$0.25/kWh.

The country’s state news agency reported that the Council of Ministers had given the green light to the contracts, which will now be put to the seven firms that were awarded each project.

“This was the official approval of the PPAs, but PPAs were not signed,” explains Iyad Zawaideh, partner, clean energy and sustainability group, Eversheds, Jordan. “Developers are expected to receive communication from MEMR informing them officially of the approval and setting a time limit within which to sign.

“Until developers receive such official communication from MEMR we won't know when signing is expected,” said Zawaideh, pointing out that the tendering process for the first of three planned rounds of PV procurement had now taken three years.

Jordan struggles with electricity shortages and has experienced several major blackouts and brownouts in recent years. It is highly dependent on oil and gas imports.

Pour-In-Place System Helps Landfill Go Solar
February 18, 2014 Andrew Merecicky : 1 Comment

Landfills and brownfields have few options for development. Solar is a big exception. Developers are pursuing these areas for solar arrays instead of forest, farm fields or otherwise usable land.

Landfills and brownfields are also typically located in industrial areas or out-of-the-way places where local opposition to solar is limited. In addition, state governments are starting to embrace the development of these sites for PV projects with higher SRECs and other benefits. Utilities often approve these projects faster as well.

The challenge for landfills and brownfields has been the high cost of installing non-penetrating ballasted PV systems with high ground clearance. Labor costs are high for landfill work because union workers are often required, meaning installation speed is a significant issue. Traditionally, large precast ballast blocks have been used, which can be expensive and slow to install. If the racking system doesn’t accommodate for variations in terrain, the blocks must be perfectly leveled and spaced.

Recently, however, racking solutions have emerged using approaches other than precast blocks or ones that allow for adjustments in the racking. For instance, ballast trays for standard pavers and pour-in-place plastic forms, which have concrete poured into the forms on the site after racking has been installed, can reduce install time and racking costs. In these cases, the need to cast the concrete is removed, leading to lower costs. Also, the racks are assembled first, while they are light. The weight is added after the system is lined up.

The Dupont solar landfill project was a 548-kW, five-acre solar installation in Newport, Del., on the site of a former landfill. The company, which owned the site, wanted to make it productive with solar, according to Terry Gooding, a public affairs manager at DuPont. Gooding said the panels provide a viable renewable energy option for the Newport community and enough electricity to power 60 homes.

amor de cosmos
Feb 19, 2014, 5:29 PM
India unveils latest phase in solar master plan, as trade spat escalates
Government announces four new solar mega-projects, as US steps up calls for WTO action
By James Murray
19 Feb 2014

India's ambitious Solar Mission took another major step forward this week as the government followed proposals for a new 4GW solar "ultra-mega" project in Rajasthan with the announcement of plans for four new 500MW solar projects.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram used his budget address on Monday to announce plans for the new giant projects in Gujarat, Jammu, Kashmir and again in Rajasthan. "It is proposed to take up four ultra-mega solar power projects, each with a capacity of over 500MW, in 2014-15," Chidambaram said.

The statement, coming so soon after the announcement of the 4GW project, which would be the largest solar development in the world, represents a major boost to the country's Solar Mission plans and its goal of bringing 20GW of solar capacity online by 2022.

The first phase of the nationwide programme, announced in 2010, has seen over 1.6GW brought online, but now the government is hopeful that the falling cost of solar energy will allow it to dramatically accelerate the roll out of solar PV capacity.

However, a key component of the government's plans could be under threat after the US last week lodged its second complaint with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over India's use of domestic content requirements for companies supplying Solar Mission projects.

"These domestic content requirements discriminate against US exports by requiring solar power developers to use India-manufactured equipment instead of US equipment," US trade representative Michael Froman said last week. "These unfair requirements are against WTO rules, and we are standing up for the rights of American workers and businesses."

Earth and Environment
Solar-Induced Hybrid Fuel Cell Produces Electricity Directly from Biomass
Posted February 18, 2014 | Atlanta, GA

Although low temperature fuel cells powered by methanol or hydrogen have been well studied, existing low temperature fuel cell technologies cannot directly use biomass as a fuel because of the lack of an effective catalyst system for polymeric materials.

Now, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a new type of low-temperature fuel cell that directly converts biomass to electricity with assistance from a catalyst activated by solar or thermal energy. The hybrid fuel cell can use a wide variety of biomass sources, including starch, cellulose, lignin – and even switchgrass, powdered wood, algae and waste from poultry processing.

The device could be used in small-scale units to provide electricity for developing nations, as well as for larger facilities to provide power where significant quantities of biomass are available.

“We have developed a new method that can handle the biomass at room temperature, and the type of biomass that can be used is not restricted – the process can handle nearly any type of biomass,” said Yulin Deng, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the Institute of Paper Science and Technology (IPST). “This is a very generic approach to utilizing many kinds of biomass and organic waste to produce electrical power without the need for purification of the starting materials.”

The new solar-induced direct biomass-to-electricity hybrid fuel cell was described February 7, 2014, in the journal Nature Communications.

The challenge for biomass fuel cells is that the carbon-carbon bonds of the biomass – a natural polymer – cannot be easily broken down by conventional catalysts, including expensive precious metals, Deng noted. To overcome that challenge, scientists have developed microbial fuel cells in which microbes or enzymes break down the biomass. But that process has many drawbacks: power output from such cells is limited, microbes or enzymes can only selectively break down certain types of biomass, and the microbial system can be deactivated by many factors.

Deng and his research team got around those challenges by altering the chemistry to allow an outside energy source to activate the fuel cell’s oxidation-reduction reaction.

In the new system, the biomass is ground up and mixed with a polyoxometalate (POM) catalyst in solution and then exposed to light from the sun – or heat. A photochemical and thermochemical catalyst, POM functions as both an oxidation agent and a charge carrier. POM oxidizes the biomass under photo or thermal irradiation, and delivers the charges from the biomass to the fuel cell’s anode. The electrons are then transported to the cathode, where they are finally oxidized by oxygen through an external circuit to produce electricity.

“If you mix the biomass and catalyst at room temperature, they will not react,” said Deng. “But when you expose them to light or heat, the reaction begins. The POM introduces an intermediate step because biomass cannot be directly accessed by oxygen.”

Artificial leaf jumps developmental hurdle
Posted: February 17, 2014

In a recent early online edition of Nature Chemistry, ASU scientists, along with colleagues at Argonne National Laboratory, have reported advances toward perfecting a functional artificial leaf.

Designing an artificial leaf that uses solar energy to convert water cheaply and efficiently into hydrogen and oxygen is one of the goals of BISfuel – the Energy Frontier Research Center, funded by the Department of Energy, in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Arizona State University.

Hydrogen is an important fuel in itself and serves as an indispensible reagent for the production of light hydrocarbon fuels from heavy petroleum feed stocks. Society requires a renewable source of fuel that is widely distributed, abundant, inexpensive and environmentally clean.

Society needs cheap hydrogen.

“Initially, our artificial leaf did not work very well, and our diagnostic studies on why indicated that a step where a fast chemical reaction had to interact with a slow chemical reaction was not efficient,” said ASU chemistry professor Thomas Moore. “The fast one is the step where light energy is converted to chemical energy, and the slow one is the step where the chemical energy is used to convert water into its elements viz. hydrogen and oxygen.”

The researchers took a closer look at how nature had overcome a related problem in the part of the photosynthetic process where water is oxidized to yield oxygen.

“We looked in detail and found that nature had used an intermediate step,” said Moore. “This intermediate step involved a relay for electrons in which one half of the relay interacted with the fast step in an optimal way to satisfy it, and the other half of the relay then had time to do the slow step of water oxidation in an efficient way.”

Solar Farms up to Five Megawatts in Size Drive 95 GW Project Pipeline in Leading PV Countries, According to NPD Solarbuzz
Leading solar PV countries offer suppliers and developers a choice of 4,300 PV projects

Santa Clara, Calif., February 18, 2014—Solar photovoltaic (PV) projects between 250 kilowatts (kW) and five megawatts (MW) now account for almost half of the yet-to-be-completed 4,300 commercial and utility projects within the leading PV countries, according to the new NPD Solarbuzz Global Deal Tracker report.

The leading countries for solar PV demand now include five major countries in the Asia-Pacific region (i.e., China, Japan, India, Thailand, and Australia), four European countries (i.e., Germany, U.K., Italy, and France) and North America (i.e., United States and Canada). Collectively, these end-markets are expected to provide more than 80% of global solar PV demand during the next five years.

The total project pipeline for the leading solar PV countries has reached almost 95 gigawatts (GW), with the largest projects, in excess of 50 MW, making up 68% of the total capacity on offer, although there are currently less than 500 such projects in the pipeline. "While projects in excess of 50 megawatts account for most of the solar PV pipeline capacity, smaller projects up to five megawatts can typically be approved and completed within a matter of months, making this segment particularly interesting to suppliers and developers," according to Chris Beadle, analyst at NPD Solarbuzz.

China, Japan, and the United States are expected to drive new solar PV capacity deployment over the next five years. Currently, these three leading countries offer a pipeline of more than 3,600 PV projects of greater than 250 kW, which is equivalent to a total capacity of 65 GW. NPD Solarbuzz forecasts that 24 GW of new commercial and utility projects will be completed in these three countries during 2014.



Is it time to move away from silicon-based solar?
The cost has come down, efficiency has stagnated, and we may have alternatives.
by John Timmer - Feb 17 2014, 10:00am PST

CHICAGO—Currently, the world has the capacity to manufacture over 40 Gigawatts of solar panels each year, the vast majority of them silicon-based. And it's easy to see why: our expertise with processing the material has led to a staggering drop in costs, making photovoltaics (PVs) much more cost-competitive than just about anyone had predicted.

But that manufacturing innovation hasn't been matched on the basic research side; it's been over a decade since the last time anyone set a new efficiency record for silicon cells. And, even as manufacturing costs have dropped, the cost of support equipment and installation has remained stubbornly high and is an ever-increasing slice of the total price of PV systems.

That's got people thinking that it might be time that we get more power out of each installation. At the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, two researchers spelled out how they were finding ways to take an expensive material and make it cheap enough to be deployed on the same scale as silicon.

The material in question is gallium arsenide, which can be fashioned into solar cells with efficiencies twice those of silicon. The high cost of the material, however, has limited its use to applications like satellites. But two research groups have come up with ways to get much more out of GaAs.

Gallium goes thin

Both teams have figured out how to make extremely thin layers of GaAs. Harry Atwater's group at Caltech has developed a process that allows them to peel hundreds of thin layers off a large aggregate of the material, much like individual graphene sheets can be peeled off a block of graphite. The end result is an extremely thin film of GaAs (he passed some samples around to the audience).

John Rodgers, who works at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, grows thin layers of GaAs separated by a thin sacrificial layer. When the sacrificial layer is etched away, you're left with a collection of thin GaAs chips; the silicon wafer they were grown on can then be recycled, cutting down on the costs significantly. A plastic stamp can then pick up the chips and "print" them onto just about any surface, including one pre-patterned with wiring.

In the rare cases where GaAs chips are used here on Earth, they're typically used in what's called a concentrated solar system, where lenses pump as many photons into the chips as they can manage without melting. But these tracking and focusing systems add significantly to the cost of these systems. Both groups are thinking of doing some focusing, but going about it in different ways.

Rodgers, who can print large arrays of tiny GaAs chips, is managing costs by keeping things simple: his team's process simply involves dropping a plastic sphere that acts as a lens on top of the chip. There are some ideas about how to manufacture more specialized spheres that focus the light more efficiently, but, for now, simplicity is the selling point.

Trapping the photons

Grab all the wavelengths

Google funds $650,000 SolarAid study in Africa
19. February 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends, Research & Development | By: Ian Clover

The search engine giants have given financial backing to SolarAid to assess the impact solar power can play in alleviating poverty in Africa.

International development charity SolarAid has announced this week that Google has funded a $650,000, two-year study into the impact of solar lights on poverty alleviation in Africa.

The global search engine giants have taken a keen interest in the solar energy sector in recent years, and this latest commitment is a follow-up to last year’s Google Global Impact Award – which was won by SolarAid for its commitment to using technology to help make the world a better place.

The charity has been installing its pico-solar lights in various parts of rural Africa to deliver a clean and safe alternative to traditional kerosene lamps. The lights have been able to extend many villagers' working day and to improve and lengthen studying conditions for young Africans. The lights also reduce the indoor air pollution caused by burning kerosene and other polluting fuels, and have enabled many families to save a larger proportion of their household income.

The two-year Randomized Control Trial study (RCT) is intended to assess just how powerful this initiative has been in alleviating poverty in some of the poorest parts of Africa. SolarAid’s social enterprise SunnyMoney is the largest distributor of solar lights in Africa, and will be aided in its wor over the next few years by SolarAid’s director of research and impact, Kat Harrison.

"We’ve now got a great deal of quality data that helps showcase the impact of our work but, despite being such an important field, there is not a lot of empirical evidence out there on the links between solar lighting and poverty alleviation," said Kat. "This hinders our, and the sector's, ability to advise on policy, make recommendations to governments and to fully explain just what an impact a pico-solar light can have."

Enphase shatters microinverter milestones on first ever operating profit
By Mark Osborne - 19 February 2014, 14:12
In News, Power Generation, Inverters, Finance

Leading microinverter firm, Enphase Energy, has produced a string of records in reporting fourth quarter 2013 and full-year results.

The company reported a record US$67.1 million in revenue on the back of a record 107MW of microinverter system shipments that resulted in a record 32% gross margin. Cumulative microinverter shipments have passed the 5 million mark and 1.2GW (DC).

The company shipped around 485,000 microinverters in the fourth quarter, of which approximately 20% were its fourth generation system. Overseas revenue represented approximately 15% of total shipments.

Gross margin for the fourth quarter was also a company record coming in at 32.3%, the first time margins had exceeded the 30% threshold.

"We ended 2013 with a breakthrough fourth quarter," said, Paul Nahi, CEO of Enphase. "We posted the highest revenue in our company's history, shipping over 100MW for the first time in any quarter, while our record gross margin marks the first time we have exceeded 30% in any quarter. Combined with our ongoing focus on expense management, we were able to post a non-GAAP operating profit for the first time in Enphase's history.”

S&C Energy Storage System Minimizes Power Outages In British Columbia
February 18, 2014
Kathleen Zipp : 0 Comments

S&C Electric Company, a smart grid leader and energy storage integration expert and Solar Power World Top 250 Solar Contractor, announces that its PureWave SMS Storage Management System in Field, British Columbia is helping reduce the length and frequency of power outages in the community. The system, owned by BC Hydro, integrates a 1-MW sodium-sulfur battery bank to the power grid so that it can provide up to seven hours of clean back-up power should the power grid experience a disruption. The system also provides peak shaving on a daily basis.

Field is a remote mountain community that relies on a single 55-km overhead distribution line to deliver power from the substation in Golden, B.C. to the town. In this mountainous terrain, heavy forestation, difficult access, and adverse climate conditions result in frequent faults affecting reliability. The energy storage system alleviates this problem by automatically transferring Field’s electric load to battery power when the grid is disrupted.

“The energy storage system provides a clean source of back-up power for Field, greatly improving power reliability while reducing the environmental impact of other back-up power supply options like diesel generators,” says Dan Girard, director, Business Development—Renewable Energy and Energy Storage, S&C.

The system is already providing benefits for Field residents since it went into service in July 2013. In the first six months of system operation, six major power disruptions occurred, stemming from incidents including motor vehicle accidents, trees falling on the lines, and broken power line poles. Each time S&C’s system operated flawlessly to avoid an outage, supplying Field with battery power for a total of 40 hours. In fact, during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the energy storage facility in September, a line fault occurred when a motor vehicle accident caused a power pole to break. S&C’s energy storage solution quickly demonstrated its value by islanding the town for eight hours until repairs could be made and grid power was restored.

This energy storage project is the first of its kind in Canada. It stores clean energy produced by BC Hydro to meet the area’s electricity demands while also reducing system load during periods of peak demand. The $13 million project was made possible with a $6.5 million grant from Natural Resources Canada’s Clean Energy Fund.

ESA Renewables Commissions First Community Solar Farm in Central Florida
February 18, 2014
Andrew Merecicky : 0 Comments

Central Florida solar company developed, constructed and will operate solar array.

ESA Renewables (ESA), an industry leader in providing turnkey solar solutions, is pleased to announce the completion of a 400 kilowatt (kW) community solar farm on the Gardenia campus of the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) located at 3800 Gardenia Avenue in Orlando, FL. The array was commissioned in October by ESA and has been acquired by Spear Point Energy; OUC has agreed to purchase the generated power from Spear Point Energy under a 25-year power purchase agreement.

The solar farm is the result of many companies coming together, including Sylvester and Cockrum, ReneSola, Advanced Energy, Chint, Schletter, ESA, and Spear Point Energy.

“The technology innovation of using Schletter micro-piles as foundations and precast concrete pads, in addition to the engineering design using a high density module with a modular canopy with long spans, has cut the construction schedule in half and minimized the risk factors in a rainy environment like Florida,” said Javier Latre Gorbe, Vice-President of Technical Operations for ESA Renewables. “The solar array serves dual purposes as a solar farm and a canopy to 151 LED-lit parking spaces for OUC employees and guests.”

“We are pleased to have worked closely with ESA Renewables on the OUC community solar array project, contributing our services and capabilities of the micro-pile technology and carport structure to the farm,” said Ryan Kelly, Vice President of Sales for Schletter Inc. Mr. Kelly went on to add that “The carport structures are comprised of mainly aluminum, making it maintenance free. This saved an incredible amount of time and money during the installation process.”

amor de cosmos
Feb 20, 2014, 6:24 PM
Sibanye Gold Seeks 15% Solar Power to Cut Eskom Reliance
By Kevin Crowley
Feb 20, 2014 1:54 AM PT

Sibanye Gold Ltd. (SGL) intends to get as much as 15 percent of its energy from solar power to reduce reliance for electricity supplies to its mines from South Africa’s state-owned Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd.

The company is completing a study on the project and aims to share the outcome with investors in about a month, Chief Executive Officer Neal Froneman said today in a phone interview. Solar energy would provide 10 percent to 15 percent of Sibanye’s power needs.

“The focus on solar was more to reduce our dependence on Eskom because of its unreliability more than getting costs down,” Froneman said. “But, if Eskom continues with the sort of increases it has been implementing, it will be a more economical alternative.”

Eskom, which provides almost all of South Africa’s electricity, is struggling to meet a target of having 15 percent more supply than demand as it contends with aging equipment and delays in the construction of plants. Sibanye was among mining companies asked to reduce energy use in November as Eskom declared an emergency power shortage.

Vitec, ReneSola Set Up Venture to Make Solar Panels in Japan
20 February 2014

Feb. 20 (Bloomberg) — Vitec Co., a Japanese trading company that specializes in semiconductor products, will start making solar panels in Japan with China’s ReneSola Ltd. from April, Vitec said in a statement today.

The partners were prompted to come together to set up a factory as some Japanese municipalities require locally-made panels to be used for projects, Hiromu Fujita, a Vitec official, said by phone today.

Fujita confirmed a report by the Nikkei newspaper that said Vitec holds 51 percent in the venture and ReneSola and Sun-s Co., a Hiroshima-based maker of semiconductors and solar panels, the rest.

The plant will have the capacity to produce 80 megawatts of panels a year, according to Fujita. Tokyo-based Vitec has six solar power stations across Japan at present, with a combined capacity of more than 10 megawatts.

Separately, ReneSola said last month it won a contract to supply 420 megawatts of products to a project in Japan, its biggest order from the country.

U.S. Approves Two First Solar Projects in California and Nevada
19 February 2014

Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. approved two First Solar Inc. projects with 550 megawatts of capacity that will be built on federal land near the Nevada-California border.

The 300-megawatt Stateline solar farm will be built in San Bernardino County, California, and the 250-megawatt Silver State South project will be constructed near Primm, Nevada, the U.S. Interior Department said today in a statement.

Southern California Edison Co. has agreed to buy power from the two projects, enough for about 170,000 homes, for 20 years, according to the statement.

The U.S. has approved 50 utility-scale wind, solar and geothermal energy projects since 2009, with almost 14 gigawatts of capacity, enough to power 4.8 million homes. Thirteen are in operation.

3 States Driving Energy Storage for Utilities and Customers
Whether it’s behind the meter or at grid scale, storage is picking up steam.
Katherine Tweed
February 19, 2014

The business case for energy storage can be made in many different ways, but it helps when storage has a clear place in the local energy market.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission took solid steps with Orders 755 and 784, but there’s even more happening in a few states that could show the way forward for the rest of the country.

Despite the federal directives, “changes at the state level are most likely to help expedite the deployment of energy storage, particularly for behind-the-meter assets,” according to a new GTM Research report, Distributed Energy Storage 2014: Applications and Opportunities for Commercial Energy.

Greentech Media has been keeping an eye on the states highlighted in the graphic below for years when it comes to energy storage, but changes in just the past twelve months have made these markets even more attractive.

Here are the top three states to watch in the short term.


New York


Air Force boasts biggest solar plant among US military installations
20. February 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Edgar Meza

The new plant will provide 35 percent of the Arizona military base's electricity demand. The U.S. Air Force is working to increase its use of renewable electricity to 25 percent by 2025.

California's SunEdison and MIC Solar Energy Holdings have completed a 16.4 MW PV plant located at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base outside Tucson, Arizona.

The plant is the largest solar energy facility at any U.S. Department of Defense installation and is expected to reduce the Air Force's utility costs by $500,000 annually for the next 25 years.

"This project was very rewarding for our team because we are helping save our fellow taxpayers' money," said Bob Powell, SunEdison president of North America. "The Air Force, like other branches of the armed forces, is a perfect candidate for solar power because they have high electricity demands and often have large plots of underutilized land."

Warm weather and solar PV eat Origin’s energy earnings
By Giles Parkinson on 20 February 2014

Origin Energy, Australia’s largest utility, has reported a sharp slump in earnings from its core energy markets business – putting the blame mostly on Australia’s warmest ever winter, and the growing impact of rooftop solar PV.

Origin Energy’s half yearly accounts show that its underlying earnings from the energy division fell by a massive 23 per cent to $505 million. It blames lower sales volumes (electricity demand was down 12 per cent in its core mass market) on the warm winter, high solar PV usage, and the impact of more energy-efficient appliances and prior customer losses.

Origin’s energy results are an interesting insight into the state of the Australian electricity market, because it highlights the major trends – growing impact of solar PV and the “pro-sumer” market, more energy efficient prices, and the rising cost of gas.

The company quantifies the impacts with this graph below. The warm winter is pinged for $30 million of losses, lower volumes to solar PV and energy efficiency is $52 million, the impact of prior discounts is $55 million. Gas margins is the only bright spot for the company, and caused a small rise in earnings.

How the CDC and Zombies Can Teach Us to Guerrilla Market Solar
Tor 'Solar Fred' Valenza, UnThink Solar
February 20, 2014 | 2 Comments

In 2011, the U.S. Government’s Centers for Disease Control and Preparedness (a.k.a. “the CDC”) published a guide to prepare citizens for a potential Zombie Apocalypse. No joke. This wasn’t a waste of taxpayer dollars, but actually a brilliant guerrilla marketing campaign that solar companies can and should learn from.

As always, good guerrilla marketing starts with an educational purpose: Part of the CDC’s mission is to prepare citizens for natural disasters, such as snowmageddons and swine flu, as well as unnatural disasters, such as terrorist attacks and fossil fuel-related oopsies, such as the recent West Virginia chemical spill.

The problem is that few citizens pay attention to the CDC’s well-thought-out advice until disaster has struck. But as the CDC’s director, Dr. Ali Khan, noted, "If you are generally well equipped to deal with a Zombie Apocalypse, you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack."

So, to help the public to pay attention to real disaster preparedness, the CDC launched a Zombie Apocalypse campaign to help the public prepare emergency kits and have a communication plan for both Zombie and non-Zombie disasters.

Using real facts with tongue-in-cheek Zombie situations, the CDC created an educational school program for kids, as well as shareable infographics and a graphic novella for adults who still had possession of their brains to download a PDF and read such things.

Just in case an Undead have already broken down the door and eaten your brains already, here are few more tips:
Have a point. Don’t just pull a monster stunt that doesn’t educate your customers about your solar products or service.
Don’t copy what’s been done. As I mentioned, this Zombie meme has been done in many industries and at least one blog post in the solar industry. If you’re going to do a Zombie campaign, do it like no one else has done it before. Otherwise, you’ll be seen as a been-there-done-that-rip-off and your message will be dismissed with a roll of the eyes.
Don’t be afraid to include humor! Yes, solar can be serious when you’re up on a roof and playing with kW of power, so don’t do anything that might inspire kids to stick their fingers in a socket or go on a roof. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with Dracula, Gremlins, and other horror figures, especially around Halloween when solar sales may be slowing.
As with these other Zombie campaign examples, be visual, be relevant to customers’ needs. Provide lots of content marketing that’s shareable and that people will want to share because it’s useful info wrapped in a fun package.
Don't forget to alert the media. Write a press release with an eye-catching headline and explain your point.

February 19, 2014 6:53 pm
Rwanda signs $24m deal for solar power plant near Kigali
By Pilita Clark, Environment Correspondent

Rwanda is set to become the first country in east Africa with a utility-scale solar plant after a $24m deal was signed to build the scheme outside Kigali, the capital.

The 8.5 megawatt solar photovoltaic project is the brainchild of American-Israeli green entrepreneur Yosef Abramowitz, a pioneer of Israel’s solar industry. It is expected to boost Rwanda’s electricity supply by 8 per cent once it starts operating this year.

Mr Abramowitz, chief executive of the Energiya Global Capital group that provided seed capital for the project, said he hoped it would prove that commercially viable solar plants can be built throughout Africa, where 550m people lack access to electricity.

“The human race bears a moral and practical imperative to provide power for all, while also transitioning from burning fossil fuels to harnessing renewables,” he said.

“It will be the first in a series of large fields we are planning in the coming 24 months.”

The Rwandan solar plant is being financed by a consortium of equity investors and debt providers including Dutch development bank FMO and Norwegian development body Norfund. It also received grants from bodies funded by governments including the UK and US.

The plant’s electricity will be fed into the national grid under a 25-year power purchase agreement with the Rwanda Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority.

The Rwandan government is aiming to connect half its population of 11m people to electricity by 2017. It says access to power has increased from 6 per cent of the population in 2008 to 16 per cent in 2012.

amor de cosmos
Feb 21, 2014, 6:08 PM
Japan May Cut Solar Tariff by 14% as Operating Costs Decline
21 February 2014

Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) — Japan may cut its tariff on purchases of solar power by 14 percent to reflect the lower costs of operations and maintenance, according to estimates by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The tariff may fall to 31.1 yen (30 cents) per kilowatt hour plus tax, the London-based researcher said in a report dated yesterday. The current rate is 36 yen per kilowatt hour plus sales tax. The sales tax, currently 5 percent, will be raised to 8 percent in the year beginning April 1.

A committee of experts advising the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is reviewing tariffs for renewable energy including wind and geothermal for fiscal 2014. The reviewed rate would be applied to new applications.

The ministry has reduced its operations and maintenance cost estimates for solar projects to 8 million yen per megawatt a year from 9 million yen per megawatt, BNEF said in the report.

The ministry also raised its capacity factor estimates to 13 percent from 12 percent, according to the report. Capacity factor indicates how often an electric generator runs for a certain period of time.

SunEdison Builds U.S. Defense Department’s Largest Solar Plant
20 February 2014

Feb. 20 (Bloomberg) — SunEdison Inc., the solar developer and polysilicon supplier formerly known as MEMC Electronic Materials Inc., completed the U.S. Defense Department’s largest solar installation.

The 16.4-megawatt project on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, southeast of Tucson, Arizona, will save the base $500,000 annually for the next 25 years, St. Peters, Missouri-based SunEdison said today in a statement.

The solar farm will supply 35 percent of the base’s electricity, the equivalent of powering more than 5,000 homes, according to the statement. The Air Force wants to generate 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

SunEdison in April received a $35 million loan to construct the solar farm.

New Japanese Electric Buses Soon To Be Solar Powered
By Nino Marchetti
Electric Vehicles, Transportation
February 20, 2014

Though most of the time when you hear about electric buses these days it is because of Chinese manufacturer BYD, others do have contributions to the developing mass transit space as well. One of these is Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which is supplying two units in “a zero emissions transportation system being planned by the city of Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan.”

The buses, which Mitsubishi said are full-size, low-floor models for the city’s regular route network, operate on the company’s lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. They measure 11.065 meters (m) in length, 2.495 m in width and 3.475 m in height, and weigh 11,250 kilograms (kg).

Making use of a specially developed charger that enables full recharging in approximately half the required time, the buses are able to travel up to 80 kilometers (km) on a full charge, at a top speed of 85 km per hour. The load capacity is said to be 72 passengers.

Some interesting random aspects of this project include plans in October for renewable energy generated by solar power that will be stored in an energy storage system for use in recharging, as well as word that the battery being used on board the buses “already achieved a significant track record through its widespread adoption in cargo container-type energy storage systems, hybrid forklifts and other advanced products.”

First Solar’s Quiet Reveal of Its TetraSun High-Efficiency Silicon
Watching First Solar maneuver into the silicon solar fray
Eric Wesoff
February 20, 2014

It's still early days for First Solar and its efforts to move into silicon solar. But First Solar is "still on plan" with its silicon solar product rollout, according to sources close to the company. These plans will enable First Solar to move from the lumpy revenue of utility-scale solar to the higher-volume, higher-ASP world of distributed generation, a longstanding gap in the firm's addressable market.

Those plans have the company making the aspirational claim of starting "commercial-scale manufacturing of the new technology in the second half of 2014." That's just around the corner.

First Solar, a long-time thin film manufacturer, moved into silicon with its acquisition of high-efficiency silicon solar startup TetraSun in April 2013. This is the cadmium-telluride vendor's first foray into silicon, although it has explored CIGS.

In its move to market, First Solar recently released a few details about the new technology it's trying to commercialize:
The proprietary cell design potentially allows efficiencies over 21 percent
Cells are built using 156 mm n-type wafers, which have higher efficiencies than p-type monocrystalline cells because of their higher minority carrier lifetime
The 156 mm wafers provide more active cell area per module and increased power output compared to 125 mm wafers
The metallization process utilizes less than 50 μ narrow copper electrodes, which yield better conductivity and less resistive losses than industry-standard, screen-printed silver fingers. Copper-plated metallization induces minimal stress on wafers, improving mechanical yield and reliability, according to the firm. (There are downsides to copper as well, however.)
Lower temperature coefficient (-0.3%/ °C) results in better energy production compared to traditional crystalline technologies (typical -0.45%/°C).
No light-induced degradation and no potential-induced degradation

Solar renaissance is under way, says IHS
21. February 2014 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Investor news, Markets & Trends, Top News | By: Max Hall

Production capacity investments by Canadian Solar and SunPower will be the first of many, predicts IHS. The market research company is also predicting microinverters will start to gain traction this year.

Market research company IHS has pointed to manufacturing capacity expansions by Canadian Solar and SunPower as further evidence its prediction of a 2014 solar renaissance was correct.

IHS said today, the recent announcement by Chinese manufacturer Canadian Solar it hopes to raise module production capacity to 3 GW to meet global demand together the news SunPower's capital expenditure expectations have doubled for the year, backs its bold predictions about the global market for solar.

IHS reiterated its prediction manufacturers will boost capital spending 42% this year to US$3.37 billion and a further 25% next year, to $4.22 billion, in an effort to meet demand after a torrid 2013.

The consultancy is also forecasting global solar installations will rise to 40-45 GW this year and, in a separate announcement today, that microinverters will play an increasingly significant role in the global inverter market.

Canadian Solar cited a planned rise in production capacity as one of the reasons behind a recent fundraising round, adding the module production capacity at its Ontario factory rose from 330 MW at the end of December to 530 MW, a month later.

U.S. company SunPower revised its capital investment expectations for this year up 90% to $150-170 million from last year's $70-90 million.

Netherlands reached 665 MW of cumulative PV capacity in 2013
21. February 2014 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Ian Clover

Figures released by the country's Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment reveal that Amsterdam leads the way, with more than 16 MW of solar power installed.

Latest figures from the Netherlands' Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment have revealed that the country ended 2013 with 665.47 MW of solar PV capacity installed.

These figures are the first official update on the country's solar performance since September last year, when the Dutch Association of Energy Network Operators published its findings that 455 MW of PV capacity had been registered with energy portal www.energieleveren.nl.

As expected, Amsterdam leads the way with 16. 1 MW of solar capacity installed. In second spot is the municipality of Haarlemmermeer, a polder on the shoulder of Amsterdam that has a total of 8.5 MW of PV capacity installed.

After which, solar capacity in the Netherlands appears rather evenly spread out, with cities such as Utrecht (5.9 MW), Tilburg (5.7 MW), Eindhoven (4.4 MW) and The Hague (4.3 MW) each boasting modest levels of capacity.

Chile connects more than 100 MW of solar projects to grid
20. February 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Blanca Diaz, Edgar Meza

The country's grid-connected solar capacity soared from 6.7 MW in December to more than 100 MW the following month.

Chile saw an explosion of solar capacity in January, thanks in large part to a large-scale PV installation that was partially connected to the grid in the Atacama region.

At the end of December, Chile had 6.7 MW of grid-connected solar. The following month, that figure had soared to more than 100 MW.

According to Chile's Center for Renewable Energy (CER), solar energy capacity climbed to 102.6 MW in January, an increase of 95.9 MW from December.

CDB provides United Photovoltaics financing for 1GW of planned PV projects
By Mark Osborne - 20 February 2014, 17:57
In News, Power Generation, Finance

United Photovoltaics Group, formerly Goldpoly New Energy Holdings has secured financing for 1GW of planned PV projects in China from the Shenzhen Branch of China Development Bank (CDBSZ).

The financial details of the deal with CDBSZ were not disclosed except that the financing arrangement would be for a term of five-years. The financing arrangement enabled United Photovoltaics to better undertake forward planning requirements.

Crowd-funding agreement

United Photovoltaics also said that it had launched a crowd-funding internet based financial vehicle with Renewable Energy (Hong Kong) Trade Board (EBODHK) and Wangxin Finance Group (NCF Group), for the development and construction of PV power plant projects in China.

United Photovoltaics may be the first company in China to adopt the crowd-funding model.

CDBSZ is also participating in the crowd-funding vehicle by providing an escrow/custodian account for each project.

SunEdison’s US$6.4 billion Saudi manufacturing complex moving forward
By Mark Osborne - 20 February 2014, 16:41
In News, Fab & Facilities, Finance

SunEdison’s recently announced feasibility study to potentially establish a fully integrated PV manufacturing complex, including FBR polysilicon production in partnership with the Saudi Arabian government may be closer to reality than previously thought.

SunEdison recently revealed plans for the US$6.4 billion complex and highlighted that it was working with the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of the Government of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Arabian Investment Company (Sanabil Investments) on the feasibility of the project.

The company noted that a preliminary study had already been carried out with the National Industrial Clusters Development Program (NICDP) in 2013.

However, Ahmad Chatila, CEO of SunEdison said in a conference call discussing fourth quarter financial results that he was “very exited about the initiative, and we'll talk more about it in the future as it gets finalized and moves forward".

Chatila’s comment strongly suggests that the possibilities of the potential massive deal contained a higher level of certainty than previously believed and also tie in with SunEdison’s plans to require as much as US$15 billion in annual project financing to support its plans to become a leading global downstream PV project developer.

SunEdison targeting US$15 billion annual project finance business
By Mark Osborne - 20 February 2014, 15:12
In News, Power Generation, Finance

Major PV energy provider SunEdison is planning to grow its PV project business to a scale that would require up to US$15 billion a year in project finance capital. The company says this would be fuelled through tapping public capital markets via its yield co vehicles as well as debt and equity deals.

Management noted in a conference call to discuss fourth quarter 2013 financial results that the company had a strategic plan to be a leader in the downstream PV project business on a global basis and cover utility, commercial and residential markets.

“It's a multichannel approach, utility, commercial and residential,” commented Ahmad Chatila, CEO of SunEdison in the conference call. “So that's number one. Number two, if you really want to scale the business, we're talking US$10 billion, potentially US$15 billion a year worth of project finance and debt and equity. You cannot do it through negotiating with large institutions. You have to do it through public markets really. And you have to do it globally.”

High demand for yield co

According to SunEdison management, the recent plan to initiate its first yield co financial vehicle and the first major PVEP to do so, had already generated a lot of interest from the likes of sovereign wealth funds.

“You're definitely seeing people who are looking for yield coming after these [PV] projects,” said Brian Wuebbels, CFO of SunEdison in the conference call. “So whether it's sovereign wealth funds, whether it's insurances, whether it's utilities… there's just a tremendous appetite out there for the projects.”


Distributed generation model

One area that has not received much attention is SunEdison’s plans for its distributed generation model. Currently the company is selectively testing the market by providing installers with its outsourced PV modules and offering installers credit facilities for securing third-party leasing deals with residential and commercial customers.

Competitors such as SunPower and SolarCity have built strong market presence by offering such customers no upfront cost for PV installations. SunEdison is undertaking trials of this business model in the US and UK.

Chatila noted in the call that the company was still attempting to create the right formula for the model so that it becomes another major market for the it. However, Chatila said that more insight and possible announcements in relation to the distributed market would occur in the second half of 2014.

PV project pipeline

SunEdison reported that it completed 333MW of PV projects in the fourth quarter of 2013, a record for the company. The company noted that ASPs were US$3.15/W in the quarter for fully developed projects. The company said that it had 504MW of new projects under construction at year end that would also be completed over the next few quarters.

The company said that its global PV project pipeline stood at 3.4GW, up 800MW from the previous year, while the backlog increased by 200MW in the same period. O&M assets under management reached 1.9GW.

Three Strategies for Low-Income Solar Programs
Kat Friedrich, Clean Energy Finance Center
February 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

The phrase ‘low-income’ rarely appears in solar energy press coverage in the United States. But some enterprising organizations have set their sights on expanding the market for residential solar photovoltaics to include low-to-moderate-income communities.

Three approaches — group discount programs, affordable leases, and community solar installations — are making solar power available to these communities in some states.

While group discount programs and affordable leases are designed for homeowners, community solar installations also include renters and property owners whose homes are not suitable for solar panels.

The barriers that currently prevent solar power from reaching some low-income communities include requirements related to home ownership and credit scores.

Bob Wall, associate director of outreach at Connecticut’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA), said he recommends that other solar programs expand their reach within low-income communities by driving down soft costs and streamlining the permitting process.

“This subject has been a challenge historically for CEFIA because we were restricted to working with renewable energy systems at a time when it was very early in the market development and the cost was prohibitive for many residents,” Wall said.

Group Discount Programs

Affordable Leases

Community Solar Installations

SolarCity Hired To Reduce Electricity Bill by 80% For Unical Aviation
February 20, 2014 Frank Andorka : 0 Comments

Unical Aviation, a global aircraft parts supplier, will fuel its growth with savings it expects from making an unusual move for its industry: going solar (with the help of national solar installer SolarCity).

The company, whose clients include the Boeing Co., most major airlines and the military, hired SolarCity to install a sprawling series of solar arrays on its roof that will provide more than one megawatt of generation capacity.

Unical expects the solar systems to cut its mushrooming monthly electricity bill by as much as 80 percent.

“We went solar first and foremost for environmental reasons,” says Leonardus Karsana, Unical executive vice president. “But financially, it was a no-brainer. Our electricity bill rises each year, and we’re consuming much more electricity because we’re growing so rapidly. We hired 70 people over the past year and now have a total of 370 employees.”

Unical expects to save $200,000 on utility costs in the first year alone, and millions more over the solar power system’s lifetime.

“Everyone is going to switch to solar, especially in sun-drenched states,” Karsana said. “It’s just a matter of time.”

REC Group, Fraunhofer ISE Collaborate On High-Efficiency Solar Cells
February 21, 2014 Frank Andorka : 0 Comments

REC Group, a global supplier of solar energy solutions, will collaborate with the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE to develop high-efficiency solar cells based on n-type monocrystalline wafers.

N-type solar cells have a higher efficiency potential than traditional p-type solar cells. Moreover, they do not display the light induced degradation that conventional p-type solar cells suffer from. However, n-type cells are more complex to manufacture and traditionally require expensive silver contacts on both sides of the cell.

Fraunhofer ISE has now developed a high-efficiency cell structure that avoids the use of an expensive silver contact grid on the back of the cell. Instead, this cell structure makes use of a combination of dielectric layers and localized contacts.

REC, which has experience in the development and optimization state-of-the-art manufacturing processes, will work together with Fraunhofer ISE to translate this technology from lab scale to a full production-ready concept.

Studying Photosynthetic Antenna Proteins Could Make for Better Solar Cells
Written by Sandra Henderson 21 February 2014

Researchers at Stanford University in California (US) have garnered new insights into one of the molecular mechanisms behind light harvesting in photosynthetic organisms. Understanding natural designs of photosynthetic antenna proteins at the single-photon level could foster better solar cells in the future. One particular inquiry was how the same molecular machinery can perform efficient light harvesting at low light while safely dissipating excess excitation energy at high light.

The ability of plants and other photosynthetic organisms not only to capture solar energy but also to survive under both full sunshine and deep cloud cover has evolved over billions of years. So what does nature know that is eluding solar scientists? Employing the single-molecule Anti-Brownian ELectrokinetic (ABEL) trap, a solution-phase single-molecule technique, Stanford especially wanted to learn how individual photosynthetic antenna proteins can be robust to varying conditions in nature.

“In our just-published work on the bacterial antenna LH2, Dr Schlau-Cohen discovered new states of the LH2 complex with different degrees of quenching,” reports Hsiang-Yu Yang, a graduate student in Professor W.E. Moerner's research group. Postdoctoral scholar Gabriela Schlau-Cohen, along with Yang et al., is the author of the article "Single-Molecule Exploration of the Photodynamics of LHCII Complexes in Solution,” in Biophysical Journal. “By analysing the transition between these states, she found a photo-activated, reversible quenching process that may be one of the molecular mechanisms of photoprotection, or the way in which the organism protects itself from damage by excess light.” Plants do this by safely dissipating excess excitation energy to prevent the formation of triplet chlorophyll, which can generate deleterious singlet oxygen. This regulation, known as non-photochemical quenching (NPQ), enables plants to balance efficient light harvesting and photosynthesis under fluctuating sunlight conditions without damage to the photosynthetic machinery.

Yang believes that incorporating this concept into future designs of biomimetic light-harvesting materials or photovoltaic devices may help advance their capability to work under fluctuating light intensity and improve their durability.

amor de cosmos
Feb 22, 2014, 4:51 PM
Experts develop low-cost solar panels by recycling rare metals
From: ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen, More from this Affiliate
Published February 21, 2014 09:45 AM

Swedish firm Midsummer, a leading supplier of production lines for cost effective manufacturing of flexible thin film CIGS solar cells, has developed a unique process to recover leftover rare metals such as indium and gallium when manufacturing thin film CIGS solar cells. The unique process will extensively reduce thin film CIGS manufacturing material costs.

In close co-operation with Professor Christian Ekberg and PhD-student Anna Gustafsson at the Swedish Chalmers University of Technology, Midsummer has developed a unique process to recycle the CIGS-material that does not end up on the solar cell. The process recovers the material that is left from the sputtering targets (30 to 40 per cent) and what ends up on the masks in the machine.

"Normally when recycling these kinds of materials you usually melt down the materials unrefined. But this new and unique method is far subtler as the process makes it possible to remove all the selenium before dissolving the material in its components with various acids," said Sven Lindström, CEO, Midsummer. "Gallium and Indium are expensive rare earth materials and this unique process makes it possible for us to drastically reduce the material costs while at the same time conserve the earth’s limited resources".

The unique feature of this process is that it removes selenium by oxygen and thus makes it easier to process the remaining oxidized metals. This is very good as selenium may in some reactions create toxic gases.

"The CIGS material is grinded to a powder and oxygen is allowed to flow over the material", said Anna Gustafsson, PhD-student at the Swedish Chalmers University of Technology. "The method allows SeO2 to be formed and all the selenium is separated from the metals. The separated selenium can then be reformed at very high purity (over 5N purity, 99.999%) so it can easily be reused in the solar cell production process without further purification".

Solar DNA tests detect cancer without electricity
18:00 21 February 2014 by Hal Hodson

The power of the sun could spark a medical revolution. A device can diagnose diseases using nothing more than a smartphone, sunlight and a tiny DNA sample.

The KS-Detect, built by engineers at Cornell University in New York, will be used to diagnose Kaposi's sarcoma, the AIDS-related cancer that killed Tom Hanks's character in the film Philadelphia. Li Jiang and his colleague David Erickson, are now testing the KS-Detect in Uganda, in partnership with Makarere University in Kampala.

Kaposi's sarcoma is one of the most common forms of cancer across sub-Saharan Africa, caused by a herpes virus that takes advantage of weakened immune systems. It kills between a fifth and a third of those it infects within a year – and up to 70 per cent within three years. Late diagnosis of the disease is one of the main factors contributing to the low survival rate. Cornell's KS-Detect aims to change this.

Testing for the disease typically involves using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify traces of the herpes virus DNA in the presence of a primer, a bit of DNA which binds to pre-selected target sequences and serves as the starting point for the strand to be copied. This process is repeated until there are enough copies to show up in a detector. Normally, precision electronics are needed to heat and cool the sample and drive the reaction.

Disc of light

The KS-Detect works without electricity by using a lens to focus the sun's rays into a disc of light where the edges are cooler than the centre. A long microscopic channel is etched onto a chip that is placed under the disc of light. The sample moves along this channel so that its temperature changes in cycles, alternating between the heat at the centre of the light disc, and the cool edges.

This drives the PCR. A dye called SYBR Green glows under blue light if amplified DNA from the herpes virus is detected. A smartphone controlling the chip then reads the results.

"We thought why not go straight to the source and use sunlight directly as heat, skip the electricity?" says Jiang. "That let us skip a lot of the components you need in normal PCR."

US Government Gets it Right on the Future of Solar; Now It’s Time to Commercialize It (at Home)
Brad Mattson, Siva Power
February 21, 2014 | 2 Comments

The U.S government takes a lot of grief, some of it deserved. Criticism might be most pronounced in industrial policy, where the mantra “we can’t pick winners and losers” was proven to many with the demise of solar start-up Solyndra.

But whatever you think about Solyndra, the government actually got it right when it comes to the next generation of solar technology (which will be on display next week at the ARPA-E Innovation Summit)

And amazingly, no one seems to have noticed, except the Chinese.

Before the emergence of the Chinese solar juggernaut, the Department of Energy (DOE)-funded National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) had been studying multiple solar technologies for years. They looked at the world’s current dominant technology, multi-crystalline silicon (mc-Si), but also an alphabet soup of other materials: GaAs, CdTe, CIGS, and CZTS. From that long list the government selected CIGS as the best candidate for transfer from the lab to the manufacturing floor. Working with the state of New York, the DOE formed the PVMC, Photovoltaic Manufacturing Consortium, to facilitate the commercialization of CIGS as the heir apparent to mc-Si. CIGS and only CIGS. They went out on a limb to anoint a winner.

Fast forward two years to September 2013. In an historic, but little publicized event, the world record for CIGS efficiency passed the world record for mc-Si, the world volume leader and the foundation of China’s surge into solar PV (see Chart 1). Two metrics determine the commercial potential of PV: efficiency (the ability of a solar panel to convert the sun’s rays into electricity), and cost. The winning combination is higher efficiency and lower manufacturing cost. The chart shows the comparative efficiencies of both materials over time. While PVMC helped achieve the outcome, the real credit goes to NREL. NREL is the holder of many of the record results on this chart.



New, inexpensive production materials boost promise of hydrogen fuel
Feb. 21, 2014
by Chris Barncard

Generating electricity is not the only way to turn sunlight into energy we can use on demand. The sun can also drive reactions to create chemical fuels, such as hydrogen, that can in turn power cars, trucks and trains.

The trouble with solar fuel production is the cost of producing the sun-capturing semiconductors and the catalysts to generate fuel. The most efficient materials are far too expensive to produce fuel at a price that can compete with gasoline.

"In order to make commercially viable devices for solar fuel production, the material and the processing costs should be reduced significantly while achieving a high solar-to-fuel conversion efficiency," says Kyoung-Shin Choi, a chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In a study published last week in the journal Science, Choi and postdoctoral researcher Tae Woo Kim combined cheap, oxide-based materials to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases using solar energy with a solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency of 1.7 percent, the highest reported for any oxide-based photoelectrode system.

Choi created solar cells from bismuth vanadate using electrodeposition — the same process employed to make gold-plated jewelry or surface-coat car bodies — to boost the compound's surface area to a remarkable 32 square meters for each gram.

"Without fancy equipment, high temperature or high pressure, we made a nanoporous semiconductor of very tiny particles that have a high surface area," says Choi, whose work is supported by the National Science Foundation. "More surface area means more contact area with water, and, therefore, more efficient water splitting."

Bismuth vanadate needs a hand in speeding the reaction that produces fuel, and that's where the paired catalysts come in.

While there are many research groups working on the development of photoelectric semiconductors, and many working on the development of water-splitting catalysts, according to Choi, the semiconductor-catalyst junction gets relatively little attention.

"The problem is, in the end you have to put them together," she says. "Even if you have the best semiconductor in the world and the best catalyst in the world, their overall efficiency can be limited by the semiconductor-catalyst interface."

Nanoscale pillars could radically improve conversion of heat to electricity, say CU-Boulder researchers
February 20, 2014 • Natural Sciences, Engineering, Energy • Discovery & Innovation

University of Colorado Boulder scientists have found a creative way to radically improve thermoelectric materials, a finding that could one day lead to the development of improved solar panels, more energy-efficient cooling equipment, and even the creation of new devices that could turn the vast amounts of heat wasted at power plants into more electricity.

The technique—building an array of tiny pillars on top of a sheet of thermoelectric material—represents an entirely new way of attacking a century-old problem, said Mahmoud Hussein, an assistant professor of aerospace engineering sciences who pioneered the discovery.

The thermoelectric effect, first discovered in the 1800s, refers to the ability to generate an electric current from a temperature difference between one side of a material and the other. Conversely, applying an electric voltage to a thermoelectric material can cause one side of the material to heat up while the other stays cool, or, alternatively, one side to cool down while the other stays hot.

Devices that incorporate thermoelectric materials have been used in both ways: to create electricity from a heat source, such as the sun, for example, or to cool precision instruments by consuming electricity.

However, the widespread use of thermoelectric materials has been hindered by a fundamental problem that has kept scientists busy for decades. Materials that allow electricity to flow through them also allow heat to flow through them. This means that at the same time a temperature difference creates an electric potential, the temperature difference itself begins to dissipate, weakening the current it created.

Until the 1990s, scientists addressed this problem by looking for materials with intrinsic properties that allowed electricity to flow more easily than heat.

“Until 20 years ago, people were looking at the chemistry of the materials,” Hussein said. “And then nanotechnology came into the picture and allowed researchers to engineer the materials for the properties they wanted.”

amor de cosmos
Feb 23, 2014, 4:43 PM
India Solar Cost Sets New Lows on SunEdison, Azure Bids
23 February 2014

Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) — India’s solar power cost fell to a new low, edging closer to coal, as declining panel prices and increased competition drew offers to build plants from groups backed by BlackRock Inc. and Electricite de France SA.

India, which uses competitive bidding to select companies offering to generate clean energy at the lowest cost, awarded 750 megawatts of permits on Feb. 21, half of that eligible to use imported equipment. The government also offered grants to offset project costs for the first time, helping attract bids for triple the capacity auctioned.

Winners of the import-eligible capacity, who bid seeking the least from the 18.75 billion rupees ($302 million) of subsidies, priced electricity from solar panels at an average 6,500 rupees a megawatt-hour, down 25 percent from a national tender two years ago, said Jasmeet Khurana, head of market intelligence at solar consultancy Bridge to India Energy Pvt.

India plans a sixfold increase in solar capacity drawing $11.7 billion of investment by 2017 to reduce blackouts as plunging panel prices help photovoltaic projects compete with coal- and gas-fired plants.

The average price of silicon solar modules has fallen more than 7 percent since June, according to data compiled by research company PV Insights.

Solar panel and cell makers are jostling for market share amid rising stakes after the U.S. lodged a complaint at the World Trade Organization this month, accusing India of imposing trade barriers on the auction.

amor de cosmos
Feb 24, 2014, 7:03 PM
bio photovoltaic panel produces energy from bacteria in soil

the bio-photovoltaic panel consists of a battery in which energy is harvested from bacteria inside the soil to release electrons. installed at the valldaura campus of the institute for advanced architecture of catalonia, the system has sensors that display its status, as well as make it self sufficient. the bacteria is fed through by-products from the photosynthesis of plants, and by introducing an anode and cathode (battery) into the soil, the free electrons can be extracted and put into the circuit.

bacteria living in the soil takes these plant nutrients and metabolizes them, releasing hydrogen protons and electrons – the introduction of a microbial fuel cell, anode and cathode means a redox process occurs, transferring the free electons in the soil from anode to cathode. by connecting a circuit with a capacitor or step-down converter into the fuel cell, it is possible to use this source of flow to power appliances or any other electrical device.



Ingenious to Funnel Half of IPO Proceeds Into U.K. Solar Assets
24 February 2014

Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) — Ingenious Media Holdings Plc, an investor in films such as “Life of Pi” and “Avatar,” plans to channel more than half of its planned 160 million-pound ($266 million) fundraising into U.K. solar assets.

The financial adviser will put about 99 million pounds into six ground-mounted solar energy projects totaling 80 megawatts, according to Roberto Castiglioni, the U.K. firm’s investment director for clean energy. That should power about 85,000 homes, he said, and four of the six plants are set to be operating next month.

“Capitalizing on the experience of their European counterparts, U.K. income investors have become increasingly attracted to investing in operational solar photovoltaic parks,” Castiglioni said in an e-mailed response to questions. “The sector has matured and offers long-term stable cashflows with a link to inflation.”

Ingenious Media is planning to raise 160 million pounds to 200 million pounds through an initial public offering of a closed-end investment company on the London Stock Exchange to invest in U.K. solar, onshore wind and energy efficiency projects. It’s seeking to close fundraising on March 18.

Ingenious plans to invest 47 million pounds in land-based wind-power assets and 25 million pounds in projects that curb energy waste and boost efficiency in public-sector buildings. Efficiency measures include installing low-energy light bulbs. It’s targeting a dividend of 6 pence for shares selling at 1 pound.

Japan’s Third-Quarter Domestic Solar Shipments Double, JPEA Says
24 February 2014

Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) — Japan, the world’s second-largest solar market, saw domestic shipments of cells and modules double in the fiscal third quarter as developers took advantage of government incentives.

Local shipments totaled 2,043 megawatts in the three months through December, compared with 1,003 megawatts a year earlier, the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association said in a statement. Exports fell to 15 megawatts from 111 megawatts as growth in the Japanese market outpaced that in Europe.

The country’s solar industry is expanding after the government introduced subsidies for clean-energy developments, which also include wind, geothermal, hydropower and biomass, in July 2012. Japan added the most solar capacity after China last year, according to researcher Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Japanese suppliers accounted for 70 percent of all modules shipped domestically last quarter, including 541 megawatts produced at plants abroad, the statement shows. Forty companies including Sharp Corp. and Panasonic Corp. contributed data.

Renewable Energy: 100% Of New U.S. Generating Capacity In January
By Pete Danko
Renewable Energy, Solar Power
February 24, 2014

Renewable energy comprised virtually 100 percent of the new generating capacity installed in the United States in January, according to a new government report.

The monthly Energy Infrastructure Update from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission shows 325 megawatts of new generation going into service in January. The breakdown: 287 MW of solar; 30 MW of geothermal steam; 4 MW of wind; 3 MW of biomass; and 1 MW of “other” [PDF]. Don’t know what that “other” was, but it wasn’t natural gas, coal or oil, so we’re calling this an all-renewables month.

Most of the new solar power came in the form of a few big projects in the Southwest, but North Carolina was active (again), too. Here’s the full roster of projects highlighted in the FERC update:
Exelon Corp’s 130 MW Antelope Valley Solar Phase II expansion project in Los Angeles County, CA is online. The power generated is sold to Pacific Gas and Electric under long-term contract.
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s 61 MW Topaz Solar Farm Phase III expansion project in San Luis Obispo County, CA is online. The power generated is sold to Pacific Gas and Electric under long-term contract.
Duke Energy Corp’s 20 MW Dogwood Solar Power project in Halifax County, NC is online. The power generated is sold to Dominion Virginia Power under long-term contract.
NextEra Energy Inc.’s 20 MW Mountain View Solar project in Clark County, NV is online. The power generated is sold to NV Energy under long-term contract.
Strata Solar LLC has three solar projects that came online in NC: 6 MW Marshville Farm Solar project in Union County, and 6.4 MW Waco Farm Solar project in Cleveland County (The power generated from Marshville and Waco is sold to Duke Energy Carolinas under long-term contracts); and 6.4 MW Nash 58 Farm in Nash County (The power generated from Nash 58 Farm is sold to Progress Energy Carolinas under long-term contract).
Wagstaff Farm I LLC’s 5 MW Wagstaff Farm I Solar project in Person County, NC is online. Power generated is sold to Progress Energy Carolinas under long-term contract.
KKR Global Infrastructure Investors LP’s 20 MW Recurrent Gillespie 1 Solar project in Maricopa County, AZ is online. The power generated is sold to a local utility under long-term contract.
Consolidated Edison Inc.’s 4 MW Russell Point Wind Farm project in Logan County, OH is online. The power generated is sold to Buckeye Power Inc. under long-term contract.
Gradient Resources Inc.’s 30 MW Patua Hot Springs Geothermal project in Lyon County, NV is online. The power generated is sold to Sacramento Municipal Utility District under long-term contract.

Solar leads pack in new US generation capacity
24. February 2014 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Investor news, Markets & Trends | By: Max Hall

Solar led the charge of renewables which accounted for over 99% of new electrical generation capacity installed in the US last month. But despite providing 287 MW of the 324 MW added in January, solar still represents only 0.7% of America's total electricity generation mix.

With the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) annnouncing more than 99% of domestic electrical generating capacity installed in the U.S. last month was from renewable sources, solar topped the pile.

FERC announced on Friday, solar dominated the new electric energy capacity mix in January with 13 new units accounting for 287 MW of the 324 MW installed.

That means solar dwarfed the second highest source of new electric generation capacity in the U.S. with three new geothermal steam units boasting 30 MW.

Three biomass facilities added 3 MW to the mix and a wind installation a further 1 MW with FERC's office of energy projects classifying the remaining 1 MW as 'other' in its latest Energy Infrastructure Update report.

If the figures represent encouraging news for the U.S. solar industry, the scale of the mountain to be climbed by renewables is represented by the latest figures for total electric generation capacity in the country.

Despite huge advances, solar still accounts for just 0.7% of the total energy mix, lagging behind wind – with 5.2% of the total figure – and even biomass, with 1.36%.

Greece awaits 'new deal' after adding 1 GW of solar in 2013
24. February 2014 | Markets & Trends, Investor news, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Ilias Tsagas

Greece's Environment Ministry is set to introduce new measures in the hopes of reaching a long-term solution, including FIT cuts and loan extensions. Consumers, however, face still more RES fee hikes.

According to a recent report by Greek electricity market operator LAGIE, Greece added an impressive 1,047 MW of new solar photovoltaic systems in 2013. Of these, 972 MW were ground-mounted systems and 75 MW were roof installations.

However, preliminary LAGIE data published on Wednesday indicates the country added only 3 MW of new solar PV in January 2014. While this data does not include autonomous electricity grids on Greece’s islands and may therefore increase slightly, a stark contrast with January 2013 when Greece had added 300 MW of new solar PV is inevitable.

PV is now the most widespread renewable power technology in Greece, accounting for a staggering 2,586 MW of installed solar capacity at the end of January. Wind power comes in second, reaching 1,828 MW of installed cumulative capacity.

Greece's photovoltaic growth last year came in somewhat irregular installments, with 797 MW of new capacity installed in the first quarter alone. An additional 158 MW, 36 MW and 56 MW were added in the second, third and fourth quarters, respectively. Considering this year’s installations in January, Greece's PV market is apparently slowing down.

Solar manufacturing equipment sales lag the boom
24. February 2014 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Investor news, Markets & Trends, Trade cases | By: Max Hall

US semiconductor giant Applied Materials has reported more gloomy news from its solar division. With a manufacturing overcapacity worldwide, PV companies are not investing in plant, says Applied.

The booming demand for solar worldwide that has seen manufacturers start the year wth renewed optimism is yet to feed through into orders for solar manufacturing equipment, according to the latest quarterly update from Applied Materials.

In a familiar tale for the U.S. semiconductor giant, rising sales in ist core business concealed further losses from its Energy and Environmental Services (EES) division, which includes solar.

As the company's US$29 billion merger with Tokyo Electron nears, Applied Materials' future in solar looks less certain than ever, with the EES division blaming the company's sole operating loss on an ongoing global solar manufacturing overcapacity that means solar and wafer makers are reluctant to invest in new plant.

With the U.S. company also citing the uncertainty caused by solar trade wars and the tightening of access to capital for solar developments as negative factors, Applied's priorities were further hinted at in the full analysis of the first quarter figures released to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Thursday.

"Applied has taken certain actions, including workforce reductions and re-prioritization of existing spending to enable increased funding for investments in technical capabilities and critical RD&E programs that address profitable opportunities in current and new markets with a focus on semiconductor technologies," said the report.

Australian firm to fund 150MW cell and module factory in Sri Lanka
By John Parnell - 24 February 2014, 11:36
In News, Fab & Facilities, PV Modules

An Australian energy consultancy has signed a deal with the Sri Lankan government to develop a US$190 million PV cell and module factory.

The facility in the country’s Board of Investment (BOI) trade zone near the southern city of Hambantota with have a capacity of 150MW.

Sydney-based Energy Puzzle will provide the investment for the project, which was approved in January with the final agreement signed on 21 February.

The majority of the facility’s output will be exported but some could be held back for local use, according to the BOI.

“Sri Lanka offers Australian enterprises many opportunities in the renewable energy sector,” said Patrick Featherston, director, Energy Puzzle. “The country has a well-educated workforce and maintains high standards of manufacturing, which is vital for a renewable energy sector such as the manufacture of solar panels.

“I am therefore, confident that the choice we made to invest in this rapidly developing country, with excellent connections to the South Asian region, East Asia, the Middle East and other parts of the world, is indeed the right one."

Network operator says rooftop solar PV shifts peak by several hours
By Giles Parkinson on 24 February 2014

The operator of South Australia’s electricity distribution network says rooftop solar PV played important role in protecting networks in recent heatwave and has shifted the peak of demand by several hours into the early evening.

Spark Infrastructure, which owns SA Power Networks in South Australia, as well as networks in Victoria, says data from the recent heatwaves in January and February made it clear that the proliferation of rooftop solar PV has shifted the peak in demand by a “couple of hours”, from around 5pm to 7pm.

“(Solar PV) helped reduce stress on the network during the heatwave,” Spark said in an analysts presentation on Monday. This, and greater preparation, meant that the network suffered little more than a “few blown fuses” this year despite two separate weeks of 5 consecutive days of 40C plus temperatures (and warm evenings), compared to a signficant “loss of assets” in the last major heatwave in 2009.

Five years ago, South Australia had little rooftop solar PV, but over the course of 2013 it jumped from 366MW of capacity at the start of the year to 548MW, and installations doubled in the second half. Its solar penetration is now an Australian high of 21.2 per cent of dwellings. (See separate story).

The conclusions by SA Power Networks fits in with the observations of private analysts and the Australian Energy Market Operator, which noted earlier this month that solar PV had shifted the peaks quite considerably.

This graph illustrates what has happened, compared to a similar day in 2009. It is similar to the AEMO graph of the same week. As we noted then, not only has it reduce the size of the peak by more than 5 per cent, and shifted it back by a couple of hours, but the volume and duration of the peak that has been dramatically reduced during the day. It would not take a lot of battery storage to shift and reduce that peak even further.



Uptake of rooftop solar PV surges in South Australia in 2nd half 2013
By Giles Parkinson on 24 February 2014

The uptake of rooftop solar PV in South Australia – already the state with the highest penetration of solar PV in the country – surged in the second half of 2013.

According to data provided by electricity distributor Spark Infrastructure, there was 548MW of rooftop solar PV on 157,000 South Australian rooftops as the end of the year. This represents 21.2 per cent of its about 750,000 residential customers.

According to Spark, the total capacity of rooftop solar PV in the state jumped 50 per cent over the year, from 366MW.

But the rate of installations actually doubled in the second half to 121MW, from 61MW in th first half, as the feed in tariff was reduced in September.

South Australia removed a 16c/kWh payment made through the networks in September, meaning that new households connections would receive only 9.8c/kWh for electricity exported to the grid.

That price has since fallen to 7.6c/kWh, as a result of falling wholesale prices (courtesy of South Australia’s large renewable contribution and falling demand), and will fall further to 6c/kWh when and if the carbon price is removed).

Rob Stobbe, the CEO of SA Power Networks, the South Australian business of Spark, said the average size of the rootop solar PV systems has doubled to 4MWh from 2MWh, and the other interesting trend is the uptake by commercial users.

“If you look at trends overseas, it is starting to happen here, and that is the move from residential to commercial installations,” Stobbe told an analysts briefing on Monday.

Distributed Generation Complicates Resource Planning for Utilities
Utilities might lobby for state regulatory tweaks, Dominion exec says
Wayne Barber, GenerationHub
February 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Distributed generation is complicating the previously straightforward task of resource planning, a Dominion (NYSE:D) official told a Washington, D.C., gathering Feb. 20.

“Even in Virginia, where the sun doesn’t shine like it does in Arizona,” and rates are relatively low, more customers are choosing to produce power during daylight hours via rooftop solar, said David Shuford of Dominion Resource Services.

Shuford, the company’s vice president of policy and business evaluation, said this further complicates utility integrated resource planning. Regulated utilities already use an analytical “crystal ball” to predict population growth and economic trends.

Now, however, utilities also have to estimate how many people in their regulated territory might employ distributed generation through rooftop solar in coming years.

Shuford appeared at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. as part of a presentation sponsored by ICF International, a technology, policy and management consulting firm. ICF dubbed the presentation, “Barbarians at the Gates or Utility 2.0.”

Shuford drew laughter when he said that neither he nor Dominion picked the title for the session and doesn’t consider DG proponents “barbarians.”

“The vast majority of our customers do not choose to self-generate,” Shuford said. Nevertheless, guessing wrong on DG estimates could cause a utility to either over-build or under-build generation.

This situation complicates the traditional utility compact where regulated electric monopolies provided power to captive customers, typically through centralized power plants, Shuford said.

Even customers who install rooftop solar still get most of their electricity from the power company’s generation assets.

If self-generating customers are no longer obligated to buy power from the regulated utility, it affects the utility business, Shuford said.

Shuford believes the current setup allows distributed generation participants to use the utility’s network of wires and infrastructure “as a battery.” The Dominion official also said the current package of legal incentives tends to grant DG customers a break from some of the expenses that go into reliable electric infrastructure.

With more customers looking into self-generation, it has created some talk of a “utility death spiral” where the regulated companies’ cost of maintaining infrastructure remains high while profit potential erodes, Shuford said.

“In the long term as prices come down, you may see to see utilities change their business dramatically,” to avoid stranded assets, Shuford said. “We are nowhere close to that point yet” and it might not happen in certain parts of the country.

New Year Off to Hot Start for US Solar Industry
Rhone Resch
February 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

With the coldest winter in two decades gripping much of the country this year – and wild price swings for natural gas rattling the markets, not to mention American consumers – it’s easy for many people to overlook the “hot start” in 2014 for solar energy.

But so far this year, it’s been good news followed by even more good news for the U.S. solar industry.

News flash: On Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released its latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report, showing that early 90 percent of all new electric generation that came online in January was solar.

News flash: On Wednesday, the Department of the Interior (DOI) formally approved two new utility-scale solar power projects in California and Nevada, totaling 550 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity. Both projects are being developed by First Solar Inc. and mark a regulatory milestone. President Obama’s administration has now approved 50 large-scale renewable energy projects on public lands in the West since 2009 – more than half of them for solar.

News flash: Last week, the huge $2.2 billion Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System – located near the California-Nevada border – was completed, generating enough power for 140,000 homes. This state-of-the-art concentrating solar power (CSP) complex is owned by BrightSource Energy, NRG Energy and Google. San Francisco-based Bechtel, the largest construction company in the United States, provided engineering, procurement, construction and start-up services for the project.

News flash: Three weeks ago, in his nationally-televised State of the Union address, President Obama gave a personal “shout out” for solar, telling an audience of 35 million people: “Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced.”

News flash: Four days before the President’s address to Congress, more than 3 million people took part in National “Shout Out For Solar” Day – celebrated as part of SEIA’s 40th anniversary as a national trade association – on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. This first-of-its-type event was also enthusiastically supported by hundreds of business and environmental groups nationwide.

News flash: On the same day, working with its member companies, SEIA launched its new “America Supports Solar” campaign, which highlights solar energy’s explosive growth across the United States, as well as its record-shattering year in 2013. It’s estimated that the U.S. now has 13 GW of installed solar capacity – enough to power more than 2 million American homes. What’s more, when all of the 2013 numbers are in, solar is expected to account for more new electric generating capacity in the U.S. than any other renewable energy source.

While 2013 was a record-breaking year, 2014 may be even better with 30 percent growth being forecast. Part of this unprecedented expansion is due to the fact that the average price of a solar system has dropped by more than 50 percent since 2010, benefitting consumers, businesses, schools and government entities.

And guess what? There’s even more good news on the horizon. The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Sunshot Initiative, which is working on ways to make solar more competitive with entrenched energy sources, estimates that by 2020 soft costs should not exceed 65 cents per watt for residential solar systems and 44 cents per watt for commercial systems.

amor de cosmos
Feb 25, 2014, 5:21 PM
Canadian Solar Supplying 48 Megawatts for Japan, U.S. Plants
24 February 2014

Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) — Canadian Solar Inc., the best-performing solar manufacturer last year, agreed to supply 48 megawatts of modules for power plants in Japan and the U.S.

Canadian Solar is providing 18 megawatts of panels for a project that Hitachi Ltd. is building in Northeast Japan for Eurus Energy Holdings Corp., according to a statement today. The power plant is expected to be operational in March 2015 and Tohoku Electric Power Co. has agreed to buy the output under a 20-year contract. Terms weren’t disclosed.

The solar company, based in Guelph, Ontario, is also supplying 30 megawatts of panels to Strata Solar LLC for five projects in North Carolina. Terms weren’t disclosed in a separate statement.

The company gained 5.2 percent to $39.75 at the close in New York. It increased more than eightfold in 2013, the most in the Bloomberg Industries Global Large Solar Energy Index.

Lightsource continues expansion drive with rooftop solar acquisition
Solar developer announces acquisition of Renewable Resources as it seeks to strengthen team offering rooftop installations to corporate customers
By James Murray
25 Feb 2014

Lightsource Renewable Energy has continued its recent expansion drive, confirming it has acquired commercial solar rooftop specialist Renewable Resources for an undisclosed sum.

The deal will see Renewable Resource's 36 full time staff join Lightsource's new commercial rooftop division and the company also hinted that it would now look to expand the team further in the coming months.

Lightsource has made its name developing solar farms and has made a flurry of new project announcements in recent months as it seeks to complete new developments ahead of imminent cuts to solar subsidies. The company also revealed recently that it was planning to boost its headcount from 160 staff currently around 260 employees over the course of this year as it seeks to accelerate its expansion plans.

Part of that expansion now looks set to focus on the market for large scale rooftop solar PV installations for corporate clients, with Lightsource claiming that following the acquisition of Renewable Resources it will be able to offer a "one-stop-shop" service to roof owners that will cut their energy bills by at least 20 per cent.

"Through our new commercial rooftop division, roof owners will be able to choose between self-funding solutions where we are able to make an attractive offer on design, installation and maintenance of solar photovoltaic panels, or a fully-funded, ‘Lightsource pays for everything' solution that would fix their electricity bill for 25 years through a power purchase agreement," said Lightsource chief executive Nick Boyle. "Either way we target to ensure our rooftop clients achieve at least 20 per cent savings on their electricity bills."

The German-American Vanadium Flow Battery Connection
CellCube, one of the few commercial-scale flow batteries, gets NREL testing via a stateside partner and would-be vanadium supplier.
Jeff St. John
February 24, 2014

Over the past few years, flow battery startups such as Prudent Energy, Primus Power, EnerVault, Imergy (formerly Deeya Energy), and others have been vying for media attention for their attempts to bring this potentially disruptive technology for long-term, grid-scale energy storage to the commercial market.

Meanwhile, there’s another flow battery maker with dozens of commercial-scale projects under its belt that has hardly spoken about its technology. That’s Germany’s Gildemeister, a century-old industrial machine tools maker with a majority stake in Cellstrom, the Austrian-based maker of the CellCube vanadium redox flow battery system.

Gildemeister has reportedly sold more than 50 of its CellCube devices in Europe and Asia, including a project with German utility E.ON. It’s also working with partner Younicos to create “battery parks” meant to serve broad grid-balancing functions in Europe’s increasingly renewable-energy-disrupted energy markets. But the company hasn’t made much of a splash here in the United States.

That hasn’t been for want of trying from partner American Vanadium, however. The Canadian mining company has been Gildemeister’s North American distribution partner since May 2013, and CEO Bill Radvak has been promoting the technology heavily at trade shows and conferences since then.

Last week, the Vancouver, British Columbia-based company announced a potential milestone in those efforts, with the delivery of the first Cellcube units for testing by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. That testing could be complete by this summer, at which point at least one U.S. utility, as well as various integration partners, are interested in deploying it stateside, Radvak told me in a phone interview last week.

Radvak declined to say which U.S. utility planned to deploy Gildemeister’s Cellcube units. But a November blog post from Crystal Equity Research noted that American Vanadium has proposed a trial with New York State Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA) to demonstrate a Cellcube unit in Manhattan, in partnership with Consolidated Edison and the NY-BEST energy storage industry group.

That jibes with a recent contributed article Radvak wrote for Greentech Media, noting New York state’s newly created grid-scale storage incentives as a development that will open that market to new opportunities. It’s also aligned with ConEd’s work testing new battery technologies as part of its goal of reducing grid congestion and improving reliability in New York City.

As for the NREL tests, “This is a pretty all-encompassing grid trial,” Radvak said, including grid-connected and off-grid applications involving long-term storage and balancing of renewables like solar and wind power. “We don't believe that they’ve been able to test a long-duration, larger battery -- likely because there aren’t any commercially available, long-duration, multi-hour batteries out there.”

Flow Batteries’ Role in Long-Term Grid Energy Storage

He may be right. While lithium-ion batteries developed for consumer electronics and electric vehicles are increasingly finding their way into grid applications, they’re better suited for storing large amounts of energy over shorter durations, rarely for more than an hour or two.

Flow batteries, by contrast, pump liquid electrolytes through stacks of electrochemical cells, instead of containing them in closed systems, allowing for replacement of depleted materials and reduction of the degradation of the anode and cathode materials involved. That could help them store megawatts of grid energy over multiple hours of time at costs that could compete with alternatives like natural-gas-fired power plants.

Gildemeister, which since 2009 has been part of a strategic partnership with Japan’s DMG Mori Seiki and took that company’s name as its own in September, has been very shy about revealing details of its Cellcube deployments. It declined interview requests from Greentech Media in mid-2013.

But piecing together various announcements and company information indicates that the Cellcube devices come in modular units of 200 kilowatts, with a rating of 1.6 megawatt-hours per unit, which indicates they’re capable of delivering power for up to eight hours.

Minnesota judge accused of unfair ‘solar vs gas’ project ruling
By Lucy Woods - 25 February 2014, 13:16
In News, Power Generation

Natural gas firms that lost against a solar project in a competitive bidding process have accused the overseeing judge of handling the process unfairly.

New project proposals for Minnesota utility Xcel, saw an administrative law judge rule a solar project more cost competitive than competing natural gas plant proposals.

The ruling, by administrative law judge, Eric Lipman, took months of review and is the first time in the US that unsubsidised solar energy has been officially ruled to be a better deal for ratepayers than natural gas.

At the end of January, the Minnesota Commerce Department, utility Xcel, and natural gas project proposal contenders, Invenergy and Calpine teamed up to submit comments on the ruling.

The team advised the Commission to snub the first solar ruling.

They question the assumed electrical demand used by the judge, as the forecast may be too low compared to others that account for economic recovery spurring higher demand.

Bill Grant, deputy commissioner of energy and telecommunications at the Minnesota Department of Commerce told the Minnesota Star Tribune the forecast was an “untested and unusually low forecast for future sales growth”, stating the judge “really didn’t consider what would happen if the economy recovers”.

Xcel provided a Spring 2013 forecast which repeated an uncertainty to energy demand, the Commission completed a differing, March 2013 report, the judicial ruling was presented with, and took both forecasts into account.

Gas argument

The complainants have raised the issue of intermittency at peak energy demand as an objection, and Xcel has argued building overcapacity with a gas plant would mitigate the need to buy expensive energy from the wholesale market instead.

Xcel has questioned Geronimo’s prices which are lower than other market quotes of US$125 per MWh for solar. These quotes were based in other jurisdictions however.

The Department of Commerce, Xcel and Invenergy also claimed the Geronimo project is favoured in light of Minnesota’s Solar Energy Standard (SES), which requires 1.5% of energy distributed by state utilities to be solar by 2020.

Despite the bidding allowing for all energy sources to compete, the Department claims Geronimo has unfairly beat other solar developers to the SES allocation. The SES sets a minimum, not maximum solar energy requirement however, so other developers are not excluded once the 1.5% is allocated.

SolarCity: 2013 an ‘amazing year’
By Andy Colthorpe - 25 February 2014, 13:10
In News, Power Generation, Market Watch

SolarCity chief executive officer Lyndon Rive has described 2013 as “an amazing year” for the company in a conference call to discuss fourth quarter operating metrics and preliminary financial results.

Rive and other SolarCity executives also discussed the company’s plans for the coming year. However the company was not able to produce GAAP financial results in time for the call and assured callers that they would be released after the close of the market next Monday, 3 March.

Rive referred to four goals SolarCity had set itself for the year, which he said were all successfully met and exceeded. These were to install 250MW of PV, to reduce the fully loaded cost of installation, to reduce the cost of capital and to demonstrate a positive cash flow for the fourth quarter of 2013.

According to Rive, SolarCity installed a total of 278MW last year and reduced costs by close to 30%. The company reduced capital costs not only through securitisation, but also increased capital resources. Rive announced capital would further increase in the coming months with SolarCity planning to announce the company’s first Common Assets offering.

Rive also referred to the “major achievement” the company had made in freeing itself from operating constraints on residential installations. Rive claimed SolarCity had reduced waiting times significantly and customers could now get systems installed within two to three months.

Rive said SolarCity would be investing back money made from its residential showing into its sales team.

In Q4 2013, SolarCity deployed 103MW, a new quarterly record for the company. SolarCity reached a cumulative total of 567MW deployed by 31 December 2013. Estimated nominal contract payments grew to over US$2 billion, which Peter Rive, the company’s chief technology officer and chief operating officer said outperformed 2012 figures by US$900 million. The company now holds over 80,000 residential contracts. Peter Rive also claimed that from a market share of 12% in the first quarter of 2012, the company had expanded to 32% of market share at the present time. Total revenue for the fourth quarter showed an 87% increase from the equivalent period last year and stood at US$47.3 million.

Graph of the Day: How America is driving down big solar costs
By Sophie Vorrath on 25 February 2014

The US government has announced that the US solar industry is more than 60 per cent of the way to achieving cost-competitive utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity, an achievement it credits partly to support from the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative.

SunShot was set up in 2011 to re-establish US leadership in the solar marketplace by partnering with industry, universities, local communities and the Department’s National Laboratories to aggressively drive down the cost of generation.

To achieve this goal, says the DoE, SunShot aimed for a price of $0.06 per kilowatt hour (KWh) – a target that would make solar-generated power fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by the end of the decade.

As you can see from the chart below, published on the Department of Energy’s website earlier this month, SunShot is making an impact, with he average price per kWh of a US utility-scale PV project dropping from about $0.21 to $0.11 since its inception.


U.S. Army’s $7 Billion Interest in Renewable Energy
By John Daly | Mon, 24 February 2014 22:59 | 0

Slowly but surely, the U.S. armed forces are getting serious about renewable energy.

In April 2012, the White House announced the Defense Department was making one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history, by setting a goal to deploy three gigawatts of renewable energy, including solar, wind, biomass or geothermal on Army, Navy and Air Force installations by 2025, enough energy to power 750,000 homes. The Army’s share of the initiative was the energy goal of generating one gigawatt.

Four months later, on 7 August 2012, the Army announced a $7 billion Multiple Award Task Contract (MATOC) Request for Proposal (RFP), designed to assist the Army in procuring reliable, locally generated, renewable and alternative energy through Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) for up to 30 years.

Since January 2014 the U.S. Army has added 21 companies to its $7 billion large-scale renewable and alternative energy power production MATOC program, covering work to develop and produce renewable energy for the Army and Defense Department. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, 79 contractors are now involved in the three decade program, with those selected competing for task orders to provide renewable energy by owning, operating and maintaining the energy assets.

Army Corps of Engineers Huntsville Center commander Col. Robert Ruch said, “We are adding these additional companies to those already in the technology pools to ensure we have enough pre-qualified companies ready to submit proposals on task orders as they come up. Huntsville Center is doing everything we can to ensure task orders for future projects will be awarded as quickly as possible.”

The program’s renewable energy mandate is very broad; 38 companies are competing for work in the program’s solar technology area, 20 in wind, 15 in biomass and six in geothermal and the new round of selections includes 15 for solar, three for wind and two for biomass. The second round of MATOC awards follows the original August 2012 Request For Proposal (RFP) which allowed for immediate awards to firms within the competitive range and additional awards to firms that after further government evaluation qualified.

amor de cosmos
Feb 26, 2014, 5:58 PM
Global solar radiation map
A new service is making high-resolution data of direct sunlight publicly available for users such as planners of large solar power systems
26 February 2014
by Constanze Böttcher

Renewable energy sources play an important role in securing future energy supply and mitigating climate change. Even though the solar energy sector, so far, only contributes little to global energy production, it has grown faster than other energy sectors over the past years, according to a report published in 2011 by the International Energy Agency. In sunny parts of the world, such as Spain or California, concentrating solar power (CSP) plants are increasingly built and planned. These concentrate the sun’s energy by using mirrors or lenses, turn it to heat and, ultimately, to electricity. Knowing when, where and how much the sun shines is essential in order to plan such large solar power systems.

Data on solar radiation for any given location worldwide is precisely one of the outcomes of the EU-funded research project MACC II. “We provide solar radiation data with 15 minutes temporal resolution and three to five kilometres spatial resolution,” says Marion Schroedter-Homscheidt, sub-project leader and scientist at the Remote Sensing Data Center of the German Aerospace Center in Oberpfaffenhofen. The time series data run from 2004 until now. They will be available on the project’s website later this year as part of a European information infrastructure within the Copernicus programme.

The data stem from a so-called clear sky model of solar radiation. In addition to information on water vapour and ozone, it includes best estimates of aerosols that are based on observations and computer simulations. Combining this information with cloud data derived from satellite measurements allows the scientists to calculate the radiation reaching the surface of the earth at a given location and time. “It is the aerosol data the solar industry is particularly interested in,” Schroedter-Homscheidt tells youris.com.

Indeed, knowledge of these tiny particles in the atmosphere is crucial for determining the direct radiation from the sun. Aerosols scatter or even absorb light, which is subsequently no longer available for concentrating solar power systems. Previous models of direct solar radiation used aerosol data derived from climate models with a rather low resolution. “Now we have a much higher data quality,” Schroedter-Homscheidt says.

Experts welcome the efforts of the project consortium. Providing aerosol and direct solar radiation data is “a good service,” comments Elke Lorenz, expert in solar energy meteorology from the University of Oldenburg, Germany. While clouds have the biggest influence on the total amount of solar radiation reaching the earth’s surface, “aerosol data are important if the sky is clear, like in Spain,” she tells youris.com. In her view, the data provided by the project consortium are of better quality than previous estimates based on climatological data.

Other experts agree. “It is a better approach [for estimating aerosols] than before, in absolute values as well as in the availability of continuous data,” says Lourdes Ramirez Santigosa, head of the solar radiation group at CIEMAT, the Centre for Energy, Environment and Technology, in Madrid, Spain. Her team had previously tested other sources of aerosol data for its own research. “We think that [the project’s aerosol data] is the best available for long term assessments,” Ramirez says. “For planning of CSP plants, we need at least an hourly resolution of solar radiation data covering ten to 20 years,” she adds.

However, “there is always room for improvement,” Ramirez believes. Within the next five to ten years, models should get close to resolutions of ten metres and one minute. This would enable plant operators to simulate more accurately, for example, the temperature within the tubes of the solar panels and the orientation of the CSP plant mirrors.

Chinese Solar Growth to Underpin Record Global Expansion in 2014
25 February 2014

Feb. 26 (Bloomberg) — Solar developers around the world will install record capacity this year as a thriving Chinese market drives growth, a Bloomberg survey showed as manufacturers in the $102 billion industry began to return to profit.

About 44.5 gigawatts will be added globally, a 20.9 percent increase on last year’s new installations, according to the average estimate of nine analysts and companies. That’s equal to the output of about 10 atomic reactors. Last year new capacity rose by 20.3 percent, after a 4.4 percent gain in 2012.

China became the biggest solar market in 2013, helping to end a two-year slump for manufacturers in the industry. State support for photovoltaic projects in the country, the largest energy-consuming nation, has seen installation costs tumble as the government speeds renewables development to curb pollution.

“After two years of a punishing downturn, the global solar industry is on the rebound,” said Ash Sharma, senior research director for solar at Englewood, Colorado-based IHS Inc. “Worldwide PV installations are set to rise by double digits in 2014, solar manufacturing capital spending is recovering, module prices are stabilizing and emerging markets are on the rise.”

Growth in China, Japan and the U.S., where solar-panel prices have dropped and governments have ramped up subsidies, is making up for lower installations in Europe, the industry leader until 2012. U.S. and Asian producers such as SunPower Corp. and Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. are restoring profits following two years of losses caused by a glut of panels.

Chinese Growth

Yingli, based in Baoding, China, expects to report its first profit in three years as soon as the second quarter. Its home market, where solar developers installed as much as 12 gigawatts last year, may build more in 2014, according to BNEF. The government has set a 14-gigawatt cap for installations to prevent runaway growth.

“The 2013 figures show the astonishing scale of the Chinese market,” said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at BNEF. “PV is becoming ever cheaper and simpler to install, and China’s government has been as surprised as European governments by how quickly it can be deployed in response to incentives.”

Global investment in solar installations built last year totaled $102 billion, according to BNEF.

Japan may install record capacity of about 10.5 gigawatts this year, while the U.S. will build as much as 5.3 gigawatts, BNEF estimates show. The companies that survived the slowdown have emerged stronger and better prepared, Chase said.

As the industry oversupply shrinks, large manufacturers of polysilicon, a raw material used in solar equipment, and panel makers active in Asia should gain the most, IHS’s Sharma said. “We are not expecting bottlenecks, but the supply-demand gap is closing.”

New Report Highlights Growth In Solar Jobs For Veterans

Fresh off the news that President Obama is making noises about withdrawing all US troops from Afghanistan, the organizations Operation Free and The Solar Foundation have released a first-of-its-kind report that offers returning veterans the prospect of civilian employment in the US solar industry. In a nutshell, the new report demonstrates that veterans are employed in the solar industry at higher than average rates.

That’s a note of optimism for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, who in this generation have faced a challenging employment picture.

The new report, Veterans in Solar: Securing America’s Energy Future, is all the more significant in light of Republican leadership policy pushing for cuts in food stamps and other safety net services on which many veterans and their families depend.

Veterans Solar Jobs On Active Duty…

It’s worth pointing out that more than a few returning veterans already have experience with solar equipment on active duty, as the Department of Defense has been pushing aggressively to transition out of dependency on fossil fuels and into more flexible, logistically sensible forms of power. That includes bases here at home as well as forward operating bases and field maneuvers overseas, too.

Just a few notable examples in the latter category are the portable solar-in-a-suitcase and solar-in-a-backpack kits, a wearable solar powered “talking vest,” and micro-grid systems with solar input.

So in a very real sense, many veterans already have solar jobs.

Rootop Solar Use In South Australia Surges In 2nd Half Of 2013

The uptake of rooftop solar PV in South Australia – already the state with the highest penetration of solar PV in the country – surged in the second half of 2013.

According to data provided by electricity distributor Spark Infrastructure, there was 548MW of rooftop solar PV on 157,000 South Australian rooftops as the end of the year. This represents 21.2 per cent of its about 750,000 residential customers.

According to Spark, the total capacity of rooftop solar PV in the state jumped 50 per cent over the year, from 366MW.

But the rate of installations actually doubled in the second half to 121MW, from 61MW in the first half, as the feed in tariff was reduced in September.

South Australia removed a 16c/kWh payment made through the networks in September, meaning that new households connections would receive only 9.8c/kWh for electricity exported to the grid.

That price has since fallen to 7.6c/kWh, as a result of falling wholesale prices (courtesy of South Australia’s large renewable contribution and falling demand), and will fall further to 6c/kWh when and if the carbon price is removed).

Ideal Power’s Converter Could Be the Key to Solar-Storage Integration
How “Power Packet Switching” could beat existing inverters in grid-integrated storage plus PV.
Jeff St. John
February 26, 2014

For a company just starting to bring its brand-new power conversion technology to market, Ideal Power has some pretty big ambitions: to disrupt the way that solar PV, grid-scale batteries and EV chargers are connected to the grid.

But if its technology works as promised, and as ongoing Department of Energy tests appear to indicate it does, then these ambitions may just be justified.

That’s the promise that this quiet startup turned Nasdaq-traded company is bringing to potential grid storage partners at this week’s ARPA-E Summit conference outside Washington, D.C. Armed with a roster of patents related to its “Power Packet Switching Architecture” technology and just under $26 million in grants, debt and public market financing, the Spicewood, Texas-based company is now developing a set of power converter devices that it says can beat existing inverter technologies for small-scale PV, energy storage and "hybrid" systems on a range of grid-edge performance features.

Those include size and weight. Ideal Power’s 30-kilowatt devices are less than one-fifth the weight of similar scale commercial inverters, based on their reduction of passive elements like electrolytic capacitors and magnetic components. Ideal Power's device also doesn’t require a transformer to electrically isolate batteries from the grid, as is required for other inverters serving that bi-directional storage-grid power flow capability, further reducing weight, complexity and efficiency losses.

But more critically, “It’s all an indirect power transfer process,” Paul Bundschuh, Ideal Power’s president and COO, told me in a Monday interview at the ARPA-E Summit. That’s because, unlike traditional inverters, Ideal Power uses a magnetic storage mechanism, or “high-frequency AC link,” to manage the conversion of direct current to alternating current.

REC Silicon to build 19,000MT polysilicon plant in China under JV partnership
By Mark Osborne - 26 February 2014, 09:38
In News

REC Silicon is licensing its polysilicon FBR technology and forming a joint venture with China-based Shaanxi Non-Ferrous Tian Hong New Energy Co to build and operate a major polysilicon production complex in Yulin, Shaanxi Province.

The polysilicon plant will use REC Silicon’s next generation fluidized bed reactor (FBR) technology and have an initial nameplate capacity of 18,000MT of granular polysilicon.

However, the plant will also house 1,000MT of Siemens-based polysilicon and 500MT of silane gas loading, according to the company, which would enable the JV to offer silane gas, solar and electronic grade polysilicon.

The production joint venture will construct and operate a new plant for the production of silane gas, solar and electronic grade polysilicon, utilizing REC Silicon's next generation fluidized bed reactor (FBR) technology.

The JV plans would almost double REC Silicon’s polysilicon capacity after recently noting production in 2014 would be limited to 19,764MT, down from a peak in 2012 of 21,405MT.

The new plant will be located in Yulin, in the Shaanxi Province, and is expected to have capacity of 18,000 metric tons of granular polysilicon, an additional 1,000 metric tons of Siemens polysilicon, and 500 metric tons of silane gas loading.

Solar with batteries could allow US ‘grid defection’ by 2030: Rocky Mountain Institute
By Andy Colthorpe - 26 February 2014, 11:47
In News, Power Generation, Grid Connection, Market Watch

The Rocky Mountain Institute has published a report which claims it could be possible, using PV coupled with storage, for portions of the USA to "defect" away from using grid networks entirely by 2030.

The report features what RMI claims is the first detailed analysis of when and where it will be possible for users of solar coupled with storage in the USA to go off-grid.

The sustainability research organisation claims that while more and more people and institutions, including the Edison Electric Institute, are more aware of the possibility of customers "defecting" from grid networks by using a combination of solar power and electrical energy storage (EES), the report, 'The Economics of Grid Defection', is the first detailed analysis of the subject.

According to RMI, the concept of bringing together solar and storage to create a “utility in a box”, presents an entirely new set of challenges for public utilities, even compared to previous disruptive technologies such as PV with net metering. The prospect of PV users, in a market partly driven by falling battery prices being able to affordably “cut the cord” from centralised utility generation is, in the view of the report’s authors, well within the expected 30 year economic lifespan of central power plants.

The report’s authors, including RMI senior associate Leia Guccione and editorial director Pete Bronski, examined five representative geographical regions of the USA to assess where and when it would be possible for customers to bypass their utility without incurring decreased reliability of electricity supply or higher costs. According to RMI, the report is not designed to argue for or against defection from grids, but instead models current market trends and forecasts to identify where it could take place in the US.

Graph of the Day: How solar can save households money
By Sam Parkinson on 26 February 2014

The Australia Solar Council says it has passed $150,000 in its “Save Solar” fund-raising campaign after receiving a $100k donation from Greenbank Environmental, a leading renewable energy certificate trader. The Australian Solar Council has been raising money in its fight to try and protect the small-scale element of the renewable energy target.

Meanwhile, the Australian Solar Council has also released this graphic below that shows what is happening in the energy markets as well as the role solar plays in bringing down costs.



Will the grid become optional? Solar and storage already at parity
By Leia Guccione and Peter Bronski on 26 February 2014

For years, low-cost solar-plus-battery systems were seen as a distant possibility at best, a fringe technology not likely to be a threat to mainstream electricity delivery any time soon. By far, the limiting factor has been battery costs. But thanks to a confluence of factors playing out across the energy industry, the reality is that affordable battery storage is coming much sooner than most people realize. That approaching day of cheaper battery storage, when combined with solar PV, has the potential to fundamentally alter the electricity landscape.

While grid-tied solar has seen dramatic recent cost declines, until recently, solar-plus-battery systems have not been considered economically viable. However, concurrent declining costs of batteries, growing maturity of solar-plus-battery systems, and increasing adoption rates for these technologies are changing that. Recent media coverage, market analysis, and industry discussions—including the Edison Electric Institute’s January 2013 Disruptive Challenges—have gone so far as to suggest that low-cost solar-plus-battery systems could one day enable customers to cut the cord with their utility and go from grid connected to grid defected.

But while more and more people are discussing solar-plus-battery systems as a potential option at some point in the distant future, there has been a scarcity of detailed analysis to quantify when and where. Until now.


Today, Rocky Mountain Institute, HOMER Energy, and CohnReznick Think Energy released The Economics of Grid Defection: When and where distributed solar generation plus storage competes with traditional utility service. Seeking to illustrate where grid parity will happen both first and last, the report considers five representative U.S. geographies (NY, KY, TX, CA, and HI). These geographies cover a range of solar resource potential, retail utility electricity prices, and solar PV penetration rates, considered across both commercial and residential regionally-specific load profiles.

The report analyzes four possible scenarios: a more conservative base case plus more aggressive cases that consider technology improvements with accelerated cost declines, investments in energy efficiency coupled with load management, and the combination of technology-driven cost declines, energy efficiency, and load management. Even our base case results are compelling, but the combined improvements scenario is especially so, since efficiency and load management reduce the required size of the system while technology improvements reduce the cost of that system, compounding cost declines and greatly accelerating grid parity.



The results of the report show:
Solar-plus-battery grid parity is here already or coming soon for a rapidly growing minority of utility customers. Grid parity exists today in Hawaii for commercial customers, and will rapidly expand to reach residential customers as early as 2022. Grid parity will reach millions of additional residential and commercial customers in places like New York and California within a decade (see Figures 3 and 4 above).
Even before total grid defection becomes widely economic, utilities will see solar-plus-battery systems eat into their revenues. Factors such as customer desires for increased power reliability and low-carbon electricity generation are driving early adopters ahead of grid parity, including those installing smaller grid-dependent solar-plus-battery systems to help reduce demand charges, provide backup power, and yield other benefits. These early activities will likely accelerate the infamous utility death spiral—self-reinforcing upward price pressures, which make further self-generation or total defection economic faster.
Because grid parity arrives within the 30-year economic life of typical utility power assets, the days are numbered for traditional utility business models. The “old” cost recovery model, based on kWh sales, by which utilities recover costs and an allowed market return on infrastructure investments will become obsolete. Utilities must re-think their current business model in order to retain customers and to capture the additional value that such distributed investments will bring.


Solectria Renewables’ Solar Inverters Power 750kW At Guantanamo Bay
February 25, 2014 Kathleen Zipp : 0 Comments

Solectria Renewables, PV inverter manufacturer, announced that its SMARTGRID Inverters, string combiners and SolrenView web-based monitoring were chosen by World Electric Supply and Miller Electric Company for the 750-kW solar array at the Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Electrical supply distributor World Electric Supply and electrical contractor Miller Electric Company of Jacksonville, Florida, chose Solectria Renewables SGI 225 & SGI 500 inverters for this project.

Solectria Renewables says its the only inverter manufacturer that offers a stainless steel enclosure for its commercial PV inverters and string combiners. Their stainless steel product lines are best for marine environments, such as Guantanamo Bay or anywhere else close to the sea. In addition to their robust enclosure, the SMARTGRID 225-500 inverters are the most efficient, reliable and customizable commercial inverters in the industry today.

“Solectria Renewables is proud to be the inverter manufacturer for this project, especially being the only one that offers a stainless steel option to the PV market,” says Bob Montanaro, Southeast Regional Sales Manager. “We worked hard with World Electric Supply, Miller Electric Company and the naval engineers to provide the best possible solution with our inverters, string combiners and monitoring.”

Tesla Battery Jolts Shares Higher While Disrupting Power
By Mark Chediak
Feb 26, 2014 6:39 AM PT

Tesla Motors (TSLA) Inc.’s plan to boost battery production by building what Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk calls a “gigafactory” may do more to transform the power industry than it does to advance the electric car.

Utility customers throughout the U.S. have already begun turning to battery storage and solar panels as a way of reducing electricity bills and their dependency on local power companies. The trend threatens the more than 100-year-old monopoly utility business model that books about $360 billion in annual power sales.

By lowering the cost of energy-storage with its lithium-ion batteries, Tesla could accelerate the disruption of the electric utility business as it doubles its share of the global car market to about 1 percent, Adam Jonas, a Morgan Stanley analyst, wrote in a note yesterday. Morgan Stanley’s note helped push Tesla’s market value above $30 billion for the first time yesterday, as the company’s Model S sedan also became the first U.S. car to receive Consumer Reports’ “best overall pick” in the magazine’s annual ranking.

“If it can be a leader in commercializing battery packs, investors may never look at Tesla the same way again,” said Jonas, who rates the shares the equivalent of a buy. “If Tesla can become the world’s low-cost producer in energy storage, we see significant optionality for Tesla to disrupt adjacent industries.”

Utility Obsolescence

Tesla gained 5.8 percent to $262.32 at 9:38 a.m. in New York. The shares have climbed more than sevenfold in the past year. The company has said it may partner on the new battery plant with Panasonic Corp., which rose 5.3 percent to close at 1,259 yen in Tokyo trading, the highest in about three weeks.

NRG Energy Inc. Chief Executive Officer David Crane, who says the U.S. utility industry is doomed to obsolescence unless it changes, drives himself to work every day in his Tesla Model S.

Tesla’s Musk told Bloomberg Television last week that the company plans to provide details on a proposed “gigafactory” to produce the batteries needed to make more affordable vehicles. With each Tesla capable of storing enough energy to power the average house for 3.5 days, a growing population of Tesla cars represents a significant increase in how much electricity can be held in a country’s infrastructure.

‘Holy Grail’

Worldwide, the market for energy storage is expected to grow from about $500 million to about $12 billion in 2023, according to Navigant Consulting Inc.

Homeowners might use battery storage, combined with solar power, to further reduce their dependence on utilities and potentially sell electricity back to the grid, a new business model known as distributed generation. Batteries allow customers with solar panels to store energy during the day and then tap the excess overnight when the sun goes down.

“Battery storage is the holy grail of the distributed generation movement,” said Travis Miller, an analyst at Morningstar Inc. “If developers can create a high-capacity battery technology, it opens the door to a significant increase in options for customers to supply their own power.”

While still considered too expensive for wide-scale adoption, a drastic reduction in the cost of home energy storage systems would be a “game changer,” American Electric Power Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Nick Akins said during an interview last year.

“If you can get batteries cheap enough and combine them with solar panels, you no longer need the utility,” said Sam Jaffe, an analyst with Navigant. “Then the question is how cheap does it have to be? And it has to be really, really, really cheap.”

Tesla, Panasonic said to plan $1B investment in US battery plant
Tesla and Panasonic may hook up on a US battery plant with a total investment close to $1 billion, according to a Japan-based report.
by Brooke Crothers
February 25, 2014 9:24 PM PST

Tesla Motors, Panasonic, and other Japanese companies are planning to invest close to $1 billion in a US battery plant, according to Nikkei.

With a target date of 2017, the lithium-ion-battery facility will "handle everything from processing raw materials to assembly," Japan's largest business daily said on Wednesday.

Panasonic, which is an investor in Tesla, is inviting a number of Japanese materials makers to join the project, with a total investment estimated to reach more than 100 billion yen ($965 million), Nikkei said.

This is a non-trivial investment for an electric car maker as the battery represents a large part of the vehicle's cost, Nikkei pointed out.

One of the aims of the plant is to bring down the cost of the battery component and make future Tesla models more affordable. The Model S starts at about $70,000.

The plant may also supply Toyota and other automakers with batteries. There are also plans for "home-use" storage batteries in order to boost product numbers, Nikkei said.

February 26, 2014 2:00 am JST
Panasonic, Tesla to set up auto battery plant in US

TOKYO -- Panasonic and California-based electric-vehicle startup Tesla Motors are in talks to build an automotive battery plant in the U.S., aiming to lower manufacturing costs via mass production.

Targeted to go onstream in 2017, the lithium-ion-battery facility will handle everything from processing raw materials to assembly. Panasonic is inviting a number of Japanese materials makers to sign on, with total investment expected to reach more than 100 billion yen ($965 million).

Slashing battery prices is key to making electric cars more affordable to consumers, as the units represent a big chunk of a vehicle's cost. With the new facility, Tesla aims to bring the vehicles down into the same price range as their gasoline-burning cousins.

The plant will produce small, lightweight batteries for Tesla and may also supply Toyota Motor as well as other automakers. Plans to make home-use storage batteries are also on the table to raise production volume.

Rooftop Solar Array in Palo Alto to Save Over $1.5 million over 20 Years
Published on 25 February 2014

Palo Alto’s second largest solar roof system has been installed at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center (OFJCC) campus to reduce energy costs and further its green building credentials.

Developed through a partnership with THiNKnrg, the 397.5 kW system is also the largest installation of Trinasmart solar panels to date. The OFJCC will celebrate its new solar rooftop with a ribbon cutting on 18 March.

The OFJCC solar array encompasses 1,840 solar panels spread across the rooftops of the 12 buildings of the Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life (TKCJL), which also includes Moldaw Family Residences for senior living.

This solar project was financed by a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), which required no capital cost to the OFJCC and utilized all available incentives. Conergy, a leading global solar photovoltaic downstream company, along with its owner Kawa Capital Management, structured the PPA to supply the OFJCC with renewable energy at less than half the current energy rate. The campus is expected to save $26,000 in the first year and an estimated $1.5 million in energy savings over the 20-year contract. The solar roof system will supply approximately 20 percent of the OFJCC’s energy needs.

The OFJCC solar installation is expected to generate 616,920 kilowatt-hours of electricity and reduce the TKCJL’s carbon footprint by approximately over 9,500 tons of CO2 over the next 20 years, the equivalent of growing over 223,000 tree seedlings or removing 1,814 passenger cars from the road.

Feb 26, 2014, 6:42 PM
Important to note that Hawaii has residential rates between 35.10 and 46.61 ¢ per kWh — around four times the Alberta or Ontario rate and six times the Quebec rate.

amor de cosmos
Feb 27, 2014, 5:33 PM
Renewables Infra Fund Targets More Solar as Raise Near
27 February 2014

Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) — The Renewables Infrastructure Group Ltd., a U.K. fund that listed in July, aims to increase its share of solar assets as it invests as much as 200 million pounds ($333 million) a year, its investment manager said.

Solar plants could represent as much as a third of its portfolio, up from 17 percent now, Richard Crawford, a director at its investment manager InfraRed Capital Partners Ltd., said by phone. TRIG, which has raised 310 million pounds and aims to issue shares in March, may invest 100 million pounds to 200 million pounds in wind and solar projects a year, he said.

“We like the mix of wind and solar in the same portfolio, because this manages weather exposure,” he said in an interview today. “We would like to further increase the portion of solar within the portfolio to a quarter or a third” compared with 10 percent initially.

TRIG was the first of four clean-energy funds that listed last year to tap investors interested in such income-generating assets in the U.K. So far it has invested about 300 million pounds in 14 wind farms and six solar parks.

Bloomberg: Solar installations set to hit record 45GW this year
Industry expects rapid growth as Chinese market thrives and problems posed by panel glut recede
By BusinessGreen staff
27 Feb 2014

Solar developers are expected to install a record 44.5GW of capacity this year, equating to an almost 21 per cent year-on-year increase.

The figures, from a Bloomberg survey of nine analysts and companies, are driven in large part by continuing optimism about the thriving Chinese market, which became the world leader for the first time last year.

State support for solar PV projects in China has helped drive down installation costs and accelerate growth across the industry. Buoyant markets in Japan and the US, which are expected to install 10.5GW and 5.3GW of capacity respectively in 2014, have also helped offset lower installation numbers in Europe.

Chinese solar developers installed as much as 12GW of capacity last year and may well build more in 2014, according to analyst Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), although the chances of a large surge in installations are tempered by the fact the government has set a 14GW cap for the year.

"The 2013 figures show the astonishing scale of the Chinese market," said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at BNEF. "PV is becoming ever cheaper and simpler to install, and China's government has been as surprised as European governments by how quickly it can be deployed in response to incentives."

The worldwide industry is also regaining momentum, according to the report. Last year new capacity rose by 20.3 per cent, after a 4.4 per cent gain in 2012. Global investment in solar installations totalled $102bn (£61.3bn) in 2013, according to BNEF, while the second half of the year saw solar manufacturers rebound from earlier losses caused by a glut of panels on the market. The NYSE Bloomberg Global Solar Energy Index has jumped more than 70 per cent in the past year, with several stocks more than tripling in value.

Report: Solar Paired With Storage Is a ‘Real, Near and Present’ Threat to Utilities
Is the solar-storage combination a deadly one for traditional power companies?
Stephen Lacey
February 26, 2014

In October 2012, as Superstorm Sandy rocked the East Coast, 75 residents gathered in the Midtown Community School in Bayonne, New Jersey.

The elementary school was operating as an emergency shelter, giving people who were stuck in the severely flooded town a place to stay dry. But the school was much more than a shelter -- it was an experiment in hybrid solar photovoltaics that may herald a coming structural change in the power sector.

Four years earlier, the local school district approached the New Jersey-based installer Advanced Solar Products, which had already developed a 272-kilowatt system for the Midtown school. The school district wanted to figure out how to allow the solar PV to operate during power outages when other systems were required to shut off. The company worked with SMA to modify a commercial inverter and tie it into the emergency diesel generator, allowing the generator to idle at low levels when the sun was shining.

The result was a steep drop in fuel consumption at a time when it was nearly impossible to make diesel deliveries to flood-stricken areas.

"The solar did what it was supposed to do. It worked exactly as planned," said Lyle Rawlings, president of Advanced Solar Products, in an interview.

Although the system was a custom job, making it fairly expensive, Rawlings says his company took the experience to heart. Advanced Solar Products is now working with other commercial facilities to integrate lithium-ion batteries with solar, and plans to make solar-storage systems a bigger part of the business going forward.

"We see this as a thing that's going to develop more and more, and we want to take the lead in development," said Rawlings.

And it's not just emergency backup that makes storage attractive. Now that fast-responding systems like flywheels and lithium-ion batteries can get paid for frequency regulation services in PJM or help reduce onsite demand charges for commercial facilities, storage is emerging as a viable economic alternative.

In one case, Advanced Solar Products was able to pay for a commercial storage system and inverter through frequency regulation payments -- actually making the cost of a hybrid solar-storage system lower than solar alone.

"That, to us, seemed magical, and it told us we could provide this service for a low cost," said Rawlings.

Now that storage is moving beyond simple emergency applications, that "magical" alternative -- while still very site- and market-specific -- is emerging as a potential threat to utilities.

Driven by market changes that reward storage, improving system economics and third-party financing tools, the nascent distributed storage market is on the upswing in the U.S. Witnessing these changes, the country's leading solar installer, SolarCity, has started offering solar paired with storage to commercial customers. And distributed storage providers such as Solar Grid Storage, Stem, Intelligent Generation and Green Charge Networks are reaching out to solar developers to form partnerships.

A recent GTM Research report projected that the U.S. commercial storage market could grow to more than 720 megawatts by the end of the decade. Some of that growth will come directly from a closer relationship with the solar industry.

So what does this mean for the power sector's future?

China Climbs Past US and Europe in Cleantech Investment
China and developing nations lead renewable energy investment growth.
Katherine Tweed
February 26, 2014

It may come as no surprise that China leads the world in commercial cleantech investment, but it has not just inched past the U.S. or Europe; today, China has a commanding lead.

Commercial cleantech investment had more than quadrupled from $30 billion in 2007 to nearly $160 billion in 2012, according to a recent report from the National Science Foundation on science and engineering indicators.


Storing the Sun
Aquion manufactures cheap, long-lasting batteries for storing renewable energy.
By Kevin Bullis | Photographs by Ken Richardson on February 18, 2014

A new kind of battery invented by Jay Whitacre, a professor of materials science at Carnegie Mellon University and founder of the startup Aquion Energy, could make renewable electricity more practical and economical around the world. Aquion is about to start full-scale production of the batteries at a new factory in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania.

Whitacre says his batteries’ most promising near-term application lies in storing energy from solar panels or other renewable sources in off-grid homes or rural areas, providing a much cheaper 24-hour power source than a common alternative: diesel power. Lead-acid batteries are used for this purpose today, but they are toxic and require air-­conditioning to avoid deterioration in some climates, raising costs.

Whitacre’s batteries are expected to last twice as long as lead-acid batteries and cost about the same to make. They won’t require air-conditioning and will use nontoxic materials. Electrical current in the battery is generated as sodium ions from a saltwater electrolyte shuttle between manganese oxide–based positive electrodes and carbon-based negative ones.

One place the battery could make a big difference: in poor regions of the world that lack an existing electric grid. By 2030, one billion people are expected to get electricity for the first time. That will mean a lot more use of fossil fuels unless renewable power options are as cheap, safe, and reliable as possible. If “even a fraction of that billion can use solar because of our batteries,” Whitacre says, the company will be able to reduce not only carbon dioxide emissions but also local pollution from diesel generators.

To match the cost of lead-acid batteries, which are among the cheapest types, Whitacre uses inexpensive manufacturing equipment repurposed from the food and pharmaceutical industries. Hydraulic presses originally designed to make aspirin pills stamp out wafers of positive and negative electrode materials, and robot arms built to wrap chocolates are used to package electrode wafers with foils that act as current collectors. At the end of the line, the briefcase-sized batteries are stacked and bolted together. A pallet of 84 batteries, about a meter tall, will store 19.2 kilowatt-hours of electricity. Whitacre says you’d need about 60 such pallets to serve a village of 200 people in a poor country. Two pallets would power a U.S. home for a day.

The technology has its limits. It is best suited for slow and steady operation, not rapidly charging and discharging large amounts of power as some utilities require. And while the batteries are cheaper than other kinds, pairing them with solar panels still can’t beat the economics of conventional power plants in most areas. That is why Whitacre is focusing initially on regions without an existing electricity grid. Aquion has already started shipping batteries to customers for evaluation. The company expects to start full-scale production by this spring, making enough batteries each year to store about 200 megawatt-hours of electricity—enough for roughly 150 solar-powered villages. The factory in Pennsylvania could be replicated in other countries. “If our technology proves out, we won’t be able to make them fast enough,” Whitacre says.

many pics

Trina Solar secure EPC contract for Jordan's largest PV project
27. February 2014 | Markets & Trends, Investor news, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Ian Clover

The Chinese solar company will supply its high efficiency modules to the 2 MW solar rooftop project in Amman, the nation's capital.

China's Trina Solar has announced today that it has secured the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for a 2 MW solar rooftop installation in Jordan.

Food storage and logistics company Fresh Fruits Company signed a contract today with Trina Solar, permitting the solar giants to install its TSM-PC05A Honey 260 Wp high efficiency modules atop its stores and warehouses in the Jordan capital of Amman.

The modules were chosen due to their durability and performance in dry and near-desert conditions, such as those found in Amman. The project is the first mega-scale rooftop installation in Jordan, and work is expected to commence next month, with a completion date penciled in for the third quarter of the year.

Once complete, the installations will deliver 3,200 MWh of solar power each year, mitigating the effects of 38,400 tons of C02.

"We are delighted to have been awarded this mega-scale project in Jordan," said Trina Solar CEO and Chairman, Jifan Gao. "Our successful selection as the EPC provider for this project demonstrates our ability to develop large-scale projects in the Middle East.

"For oil and natural gas importing countries like Jordan, they are vulnerable to fluctuations in global oil and natural gas prices. Solar energy provides Jordan with a viable alternative and we see huge potential for growth in this market. Following this EPC contract and a previous supply contract for 1 MW of Trina Honey photovoltaic modules also in Jordan, we will continue to actively pursue new opportunities in this emerging market."

Lux Research: Concentrating solar power has the potential to beat solar PV on cost

Lux Research Inc. (Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.) has released a new report which says that despite an expected market decline for concentrating solar power (CSP) over the next five years, the technology has the potential to offer lower levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) than multicrystalline silicon (mc-Si) solar photovoltaics (PV).

In “Turning Up the Heat on Advanced Concentrating Solar Components”, Lux says that this could lead to a rebound in the technology. The company looks at various avenues for cost reduction, concluding that thermal energy storage systems offer the most potential.

“CSP has fallen by the wayside of the solar industry after attracting huge amounts of government and investor money in 2010 and 2011,” said Lux Research Associate Ed Cahill, lead author of the report.

“But the industry can still bring the technology back to the forefront for utility-scale, stand-alone power applications. Advanced components and thermal energy storage that enable higher operating temperatures could allow CSP to beat PV systems on LCOE by 6% to 33% in some of the sunniest areas.”

Superabsorbing Design May Lower Manufacturing Cost of Thin Film Solar Cells
For Immediate Release
Matt Shipman | News Services
Dr. Linyou Cao
Release Date: 02.26.14
Filed under Releases

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a “superabsorbing” design that may significantly improve the light absorption efficiency of thin film solar cells and drive down manufacturing costs.

The superabsorbing design could decrease the thickness of the semiconductor materials used in thin film solar cells by more than one order of magnitude without compromising the capability of solar light absorption.

“State-of-the-art thin film solar cells require an amorphous silicon layer that is about 100 nanometers (nm) thick to capture the majority of the available solar energy,” says Dr. Linyou Cao, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and senior author of a paper describing the work. “The structure we’re proposing can absorb 90 percent of available solar energy using only a 10 nm thick layer of amorphous silicon.

“The same is true for other materials. For example, you need a cadmium telluride layer that is one micrometer thick to absorb solar energy, but our design can achieve the same results with a 50 nm thick layer of cadmium telluride. Our design can also enable a 30 nm thick layer of copper indium gallium selenide to fully absorb solar light. That’s a huge advance.”

Cao notes that the deposition of semiconductor materials stands as a major bottleneck for improving manufacturing productivity and lowering the cost of thin film solar cells. “A decrease in the thickness of semiconductor materials by one order of magnitude would mean a substantial improvement in manufacturing productivity and reduction in cost,” Cao says, because the cells would use less material and the thin films could be deposited more quickly.

In cross-section, the new design looks like a rectangular onion. The light-absorbing semiconductor material coats a rectangular core. The semiconductor, in turn, is coated by three layers of anti-reflective coating that do not absorb light.

To develop the design, the researchers began by examining the maximum light absorption efficiency of semiconductor materials using light-trapping techniques. They found that maximizing solar absorption requires a design in which the light-trapping efficiency for solar light is equal to the intrinsic absorption efficiency of the semiconductor materials. In other words, in order to maximize solar absorption, you need to match the amount of solar light trapped inside the structure and the amount of solar light that could be absorbed. The researchers then designed the onion-like structures to match their light-trapping efficiency with the absorption efficiency of the semiconductor materials in thin film solar cells.

02/26/2014 11:24 AM
More Big Solar Projects Come Online, Trends Are Toward Rooftop Solar
SustainableBusiness.com News

Two more gigantic solar projects have been approved near the Nevada-California border, bringing the number of utility-scale solar projects in the Western US to 14.

The 300 megawatt (MW) Stateline Solar Farm Project in California's San Bernardino County is two miles from the Nevada border, spread out over 1,685 acres of public land.

Next door is the 250 MW Silver State South Solar Project in Primm, Nevada on 2400 acres of public land. 50 MW is finished and sending power to the grid. Its final footprint will be 150 MW smaller than originally conceived because of environmental impacts.

As part of ongoing efforts to protect the threatened Desert Tortoise, the Bureau of Land Management is expanding the nearby Ivanpah Desert Wildlife Management Area by more than 20,000 acres and requiring First Solar to spend over $3.6 million to protect the tortoise. Another $3.5 million will fund research on future efforts that can protect the tortoise in the project area.

Combined, the two solar PV projects will power 170,000 homes and create about 700 construction and operations jobs. First Solar is building both and has 20-year power purchase agreements with Southern California Edison for the energy.

Including these plants, 50 utility-scale renewable energy projects have been approved by the Interior Department since 2009 - 27 solar, 11 wind, and 12 geothermal - for a total of 14 gigawatts. In all, they are supporting 20,000 jobs and, when completed, will power 4.8 million homes. 13 projects are operating so far.

A hallmark of President Obama's climate agenda, his administration can take credit for creating utility-scale renewable energy in the US, taking it from Zero to 14 GW. While some of us would prefer an emphasis on small, distributed solar instead of gigantic plants on public lands, his administration's efforts have made renewable energy - for the first time - an increasingly significant part of the US energy mix.

"When President Obama first took office in 2009, there were no solar projects approved on public lands, and no process in place to move forward the hundreds of applications pending from businesses that wanted to harness renewable energy to help power our nation," says Sally Jewell, Secretary of Interior.

Investors Take a New Shine to Solar
Volatile Sector's Shares Rally From Shadow Cast in 2008 Due to Falling Costs, Industry Shakeout
By Chris Dieterich
Updated Feb. 26, 2014 7:28 p.m. ET

Investors are stepping back into one of the stock market's most volatile sectors, solar-energy companies, after many had pulled the plug on the group several years ago.

Starting in 2008, heavily hyped solar companies stumbled amid oversupply, sputtering demand and a series of bankruptcies.

But now, bullish investors say an industry shakeout of the past few years and falling costs of producing and installing solar-power systems pave the way for a continuation of recent big gains in the stocks.

These stocks aren't for the faint of heart. Price swings in the sector are often dizzying, and Wednesday was a prime example. Shares of Tempe, Ariz.-based First Solar Inc. which makes panels and develops large-scale solar projects, have been the most volatile stock on the S&P 500 over the past two years, according to Bespoke Investment Group. That was shown Wednesday, when the stock fell 9.1% after missing Wall Street's quarterly profit and sales estimates.

Meanwhile, Missouri's SunEdison Inc. shot up 9.3% after gaining financing for new solar parks in the U.K. SolarCity Corp., a favorite of day traders thanks in part to its association with Tesla Motors Inc. founder Elon Musk, jumped 4.6% to a record on Wednesday, trading more than 10 times higher than its December 2012 initial-public-offering price.

Amid such highly volatile trading, shares of companies tied to solar power have broadly rallied over the past year, as some long-term stock pickers dive back into the solar industry.

"The economics are good, the weak players are gone and demand is back," said Rob Lutts, chief investment officer at Cabot Wealth Management, which manages about $550 million. His firm has been buying shares of the $467 million Guggenheim Solar exchange-traded fund and other individual company stocks over the past seven months.


The Guggenheim ETF has gained 31% so far in 2014 to $46, while the S&P 500 is down 0.2%. Last year, the Guggenheim ETF shot up 128% to be the best-performing ETF on the market, excluding leveraged funds, according to research firm XTF.

That contrasts with the period starting in mid-2008, when the ETF, which holds a highly concentrated mix of small and midsize global companies, fell from nearly $300 in 2008 to just under $13 in late 2012.

Solar energy also became a political lightning rod after Solyndra LLC, a producer of solar panels that borrowed more than $500 million from the U.S. government, filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2011.

Mr. Lutts now ranks solar as his firm's No. 1 sector pick in 2014, holding about 7% in solar in his firm's riskiest portfolios, up from zero a few years ago. "We're in the beginning of the first inning for solar," he said.

Others won't touch solar stocks. Kim Forrest, senior equity analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group, which manages about $1.5 billion, said a maze of government subsidies and high-profile corporate flameouts keep her leery about the whole sector, even as an investor who looks for cheap stocks to hold over the long term.

"It will take all my brain power to suss out who are the long-term players, what subsidies are in effect," she said. "It's a big hot, hairy mess that often has nothing to do with business fundamentals."

Tom O'Halloran, a portfolio manager at Lord Abbett & Co. who oversees about $6.5 billion at the firm, bought shares of Calif.-based SunPower Corp. in 2012 and SunEdison in 2013, in large part because costs of installations are coming down.

"Solar's growth potential is virtually unlimited," said Mr. O'Halloran. "As long as the sun keeps coming out, I'm optimistic about the future of these companies."

Investors say some of solar's recent rocket ride higher is due to traders being forced to buy as they reverse bearish bets. Solar stocks have been popular targets for short sellers, who borrow shares from other investors and sell them in the hope of buying the shares back at a lower price later.

"This was a hedge-fund favorite to short—many got trapped," Mr. O'Halloran said.

For some investors, the group's volatile nature shows the importance of treading carefully.

Bruce Jenkyn-Jones, head of listed equities at London-based Impax Asset Management, which oversees $4 billion in investments tied to environmental markets, has been buying solar-related stocks he views as least sensitive to competition, such as GCL-Poly Energy Holdings Ltd., which makes base material polysilicon used in solar panels, and Meyer Burger Technology AG, which builds machines used in solar panel production.

Still, he characterized solar stocks as "undoubtedly the riskiest area in our investment universe."

IEA: System-wide transformation needed for cost-effective integration of high levels of wind and solar
The International Energy Agency (IEA, Paris) has released a report which finds that enough wind and solar to meet 45% of electrical demand can be integrated at a system cost only 15% higher over the long term, provided that measures are taken to transform the entire electrical system.

These measures include sufficient flexible generation and regional interconnection, more robust grids, power market improvements, and a better integrated and more responsive demand side. “The Power of Transformation” also finds that wind and solar work best together.

IEA stresses that the worst error is to concentrate variable renewable energy generation in one location far from load centers. In fact, the report's authors state that it is often better to look not at where the wind and solar resources are best, but where they maximize value to the system.

The report's cost modeling assumes current technology costs and a USD 30 per ton price on carbon. However, the price of emissions was a minor factor and IEA expects the cost of wind and solar generation to continue to decline. The agency also found that low shares of renewable energy can be integrated at little or no cost.

Any country can reach high shares of wind, solar power cost-effectively, study shows
Transformation of power systems is necessary to guarantee flexibility over long term, but this will be more difficult in some markets than in others
26 February 2014

Wind power and solar photovoltaics (PV) are crucial to meeting future energy needs while decarbonising the power sector. Deployment of both technologies has expanded rapidly in recent years – one of the few bright spots in an otherwise-bleak picture of clean energy progress – and IEA scenarios indicate that this trend will continue for decades. However, the inherent variability of wind power and solar PV is raising concerns: Can power systems remain reliable and cost-effective while supporting high shares of variable renewable energy (VRE)? And if so, how?

A landmark study released today by the International Energy Agency addresses these concerns and confirms that integrating high shares – i.e., 30 percent of annual electricity production or more – of wind and solar PV in power systems can come at little additional cost in the long term. However, costs depend on how flexible the system currently is and what strategy is adopted to develop system flexibility over the long term. Managing this transition will be more difficult for some countries or power systems than others, the study says.

“Integrating high shares of variable renewables is really about transforming our power systems,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said as she launched The Power of Transformation - Wind, Sun and the Economics of Flexible Power Systems, the latest in a series of IEA reports shedding light on the challenges and opportunities of integrating VRE into power systems globally.

“This new IEA analysis calls for a change of perspective,” she explained. “In the classical approach, variable renewables are added to an existing system without considering all available options for adapting it as a whole. This approach misses the point. Integration is not simply about adding wind and solar on top of ‘business as usual’. We need to transform the system as a whole to do this cost-effectively.”

Currently, wind and solar PV account for just about 3 percent of world electricity generation, but a few countries already feature very high shares: In Italy, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, and Denmark, wind and solar PV accounted respectively from around 10 to more than 30 percent of electricity generation in 2012 on an annual basis.

The report says that for any country, integrating the first 5-10 percent of VRE generation poses no technical or economic challenges at all, provided that three conditions are met: uncontrolled local “hot spots” of VRE deployment must be avoided, VRE must contribute to stabilising the grid when needed, and VRE forecasts must be used effectively. These lower levels of integration are possible within existing systems because the same flexible resources that power systems already use to cope with variability of demand can be put to work to help integrate variability from wind and solar. Such resources can be found in the form of flexible power plants, grid infrastructure, storage and demand-side response.

Going beyond the first few percent to reach shares of more than 30 percent will require a transformation of the system, however. This transformation has three main requirements: deploying variable renewables in a system-friendly way using state-of-the art technology, improving the day-to-day operation of power systems and markets, and finally investing in additional flexible resources.

amor de cosmos
Feb 28, 2014, 6:14 PM
Japan May Impose Land, Equipment Rule for Solar, Yomiuri Says
28 February 2014

Feb. 28 (Bloomberg) — Japan plans to introduce a new rule for solar developers obliging them to secure land and equipment within a year after projects are approved, the Yomiuri newspaper reported today without saying where it got the information.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry intended to present the idea to a task force meeting today, the paper said.

Hearings are planned for as early as March with developers of projects that haven’t secured both sites and equipment, the ministry said earlier this month.

Solar Power’s Relentless Push To Greater Efficiency
By Pete Danko
Featured, Renewable Energy, Solar Power
February 27, 2014

First Solar is apparently inching toward manufacturing some silicon solar products, but that doesn’t mean the company’s bread and butter, cadmium-telluride (CdTe) cells, are taking a back seat. Not if this news is any indication: a new CdTe cell conversion record of 20.4 percent.

This beats the old world record of 19.6 by GE Global Research last year – and what do you know, it was last year that GE sold its own thin-film technology to First Solar and partnered with First Solar on solar R&D.

“We are demonstrating improvement in CdTe PV performance at a rate that dramatically outstrips the trajectory of conventional silicon technologies, which have already plateaued near their ultimate entitlements,” First Solar CTO Raffi Garabedian said in a statement. “The synergy realized in our partnership with GE also demonstrates the value of our consistent and strong investment in R&D. The advanced technologies and processes we developed for this record-setting cell are already being commercialized and will positively impact performance of our future production modules and power plants.”

New Math: Solar Power + Salt Water = Sahara Forest

The folks over at Sahara Forest Project have just alerted the Twitterverse that their new pilot facility in Qatar is good to go, and since we’ve been following that project since 2008 we’ll jump at the chance to update you on its progress from high concept to working hardware.

The idea behind Sahara Forest dovetails with the solutions we saw on a recent technology tour of Israel (sponsored by the organization Kinetis), namely, when you have several problems going on at once, mash them up together and see what happens.

In this case we’re talking about too much salt, too much sun, and not enough soil and water for farming. Israel found the key to the solution in brackish aquifer water, and Sahara Forest has come up with its own twist.

The Sahara Forest Project

When Sahara Forest first came across CleanTechnica’s radar in 2008, we weighed in slightly over to the skeptical side, given the cost of solar power compared to other desert farming practices:

Of course, deserts can also produce lush vegetation using permaculture farming practices that are much cheaper to implement. But if countries are willing to invest in the Sahara Forest Project, more power to them—literally.

When we dropped in again in 2012 the idea of large scale solar powered greenhouses was beginning to gel, and right around this time last year we noticed that things were really starting to take off at the Qatar pilot plant:

Aside from the technology itself, one thing that stands out about the project is the speed with which it happened. Once all the agreements were signed, construction began early last year and was completed within a year.

The basic idea behind Sahara Forest is that solar power could be used to evaporate seawater for a freshwater source, and seawater could also pull double duty as a coolant for the greenhouses.

So far Sahara Forest has reported that its Qatar greenhouses are competitive with European yields, while using half the water of conventional greenhouses in the region.

The Biggest Solar Farm In Latin America Will Replace An Old Coal Plant
Originally published on ThinkProgress.
By Ari Phillips.

Last week President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Mexico for what’s traditionally called the “Three Amigos” meeting. In the daylong rendezvous, energy issues were slated to play a major role, with Obama and Harper jockeying for room when it comes to the impending decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would bring dirty crude oil down from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

However, Mexico also has some major energy changes in the pipeline, and after decades of state-run oil company PEMEX having sole purview over fossil fuel extraction, international investment and companies will now be let into the mix after recent constitutional reforms. This will increase oil flows from America’s southern neighbor into those same Gulf refineries as Keystone XL might. At the same time renewable energy has started to take off in Mexico, with construction of the biggest solar power plant in Latin America, Aura Solar I — a 30-megawatt solar farm in La Paz, Mexico — the latest signal.

If Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s recent summit with North American leaders is an indication of the significance of the trio’s relationship, then his expected upcoming visit to the Aura I solar farm can be seen as a benchmark on the country’s path to a more renewable future. Mexico is poised to be Latin America’s solar hotbed according to Greentech Media, with the solar market’s installed base expected to quadruple from 60 megawatts to 240 megawatts by the end of this year. Mexico’s energy ministry has set a target for 35 percent of power generation to come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2024.

“The current reform provides a real opportunity, particularly in the electricity reform, to increase investment in renewable energy generation in Mexico by opening up the sector and making other institutional changes,” Christina McCain, Senior Manager for the Latin American Climate Initiative at the Environmental Defense Fund, told ClimateProgress in an email. “Some in Mexico have criticized that the energy reform is missing an opportunity to provide more direct incentives to renewable energy. While the focus of the reform seems to have largely been on the major overhauls we hear most about, there is still opportunity to provide more direct incentives to renewables, as well as leverage existing laws designed to increase renewable sources in Mexico’s energy mix.”

In La Paz, where pollution from a dirty thermoelectric plant creates noxious air impacting resident’s lifestyles and well-being, the solar plant is a welcomed clean development. The $100 million project, which includes 132,000 solar panel-modules, is the first Mexican private enterprise of such a size to get a development bank loan and an agreement to sell its electricity to the grid. According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank, gave the project a $25 million credit line and also helped set up another $50 million in loans from the Mexican development bank Nacional Financiera (Nafin).

The Expansion of Distributed PV in the Age of the Grid Edge
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