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Old Posted Jul 14, 2013, 4:27 PM
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Thin film PV breakthrough may cut solar costs by one third
By Giles Parkinson on 11 July 2013

A new Silicon Valley developer of thin film solar PV modules, backed by an Australian venture capitalist, has claimed an engineering breakthrough that could cut the manufacturing costs of PV modules by one third.

RSI has broken cover after five years of development to announce it has created a 1.5 square metre cadmium telluride PV (CdTe) module, twice the size of conventional modules.

It says this will enable solar PV modules to be manufactured at a cost of less than 40c/Watt, around one third cheaper than current mass-produced thin film and silicon based modules – and hastening the charge towards grid parity for solar PV.

First Solar, currently the world’s largest thin film solar PV module manufacturer, had predicted reaching 40c/W by 2017 through increases in efficiency. RSI says it can deliver that cost in 2014 by doubling the size of the module through a process known as Rapid Efficient Electroplating on Large- areas (REEL).

The company is backed by a group of venture capital firms, including the CalCEF Clean Energy Angel Fund co-managed by Australian Paul Fox, as well as Silicon Valley powerhouse Mayfield Fund, greentech VC specialist Nth Power, and Vancouver-based Pangaea.

Fox told RenewEconomy that the technology breakthrough would hasten the march towards grid parity for solar PV.

“The significance is that we can now deliver 40c/W, and will do so in 2014. People didn’t expect that to happen until 2017. This is a real acceleration. It is a step change in cost structure of PV. We are heading owards wholesale grid parity several years earlier than expected.”

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Old Posted Jul 16, 2013, 5:16 PM
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Solar’s Future According to Intersolar: 100 GW per Year
Intersolar Founder and CEO Markus Elsaesser on the state of solar

Herman K. Trabish: July 16, 2013

Few people have a better view of the solar industry or have been more astute at predicting where it would go than Intersolar founder and CEO Markus Elsaesser. He talked to GTM about his perspective and solar's future last week at Intersolar North America 2013 in San Francisco.

Elsaesser first brought his successful international event to San Francisco in 2008, just as the U.S. solar industry was starting to take off. Then he took Intersolar to India when that country only had 20 megawatts of grid-connected solar, but had just instituted a target of 20,000 megawatts by 2022.

Two years later, he founded Intersolar China just before solar’s unprecedented expansion there. And this year, Intersolar opened in Sao Paulo, Brazil, just as the international industry has begun looking to Latin America.

The only time his timing was off was at the beginning. He founded the first Intersolar in 1991, when he was still a college student. “There was almost no industry or market, just the vision that renewables would someday play a role in the energy supply,” Elsaesser said. German lawmaker and solar advocate “Hermann Scheer was a speaker at the first conference and really inspired me. He was a visionary. The feed-in tariff he helped design and put in place created the international market.”

Module manufacturer bankruptcies: “The balancing of supply and demand is what happens in other new businesses. We are talking mainly about the failure of manufacturers. In the future, there will also be a lot of distributors, developers, and downstream companies. In 2011, we had 530 solar manufacturers from China at Intersolar. This consolidation phase was not a surprise. We are in the middle of it. Still, the balance of systems segment and the energy storage segment and other segments are growing.”

Solar’s future: “I don’t believe the publicity that says the boom is over. For sure, we have overcapacity and shrinking margins and a lot of cost pressure. This will last for a year or two more. But I think we are just at the beginning. Solar is becoming more and more affordable. It is cheaper in a lot of markets than traditional energies. We will go from this year’s 30 gigawatts of new installations to over 100 gigawatts of new installations per year.”

Solar takes a step closer to trillion-dollar securities market
By Felicity Carus - 16 July 2013, 07:00
In News, Finance

Tapping into the trillion-dollar securities market for portfolios of solar projects moved a significant step forward at a meeting last week of the Solar Access to Public Capital (SAPC) working group in San Francisco.

Led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the SAPC includes stakeholders from across the spectrum of the solar and financial industries. SunPower, SolarCity, Sunrun and Recurrent Energy are among those solar companies participating in the working group along with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Rabobank, Union Bank and Standard & Poor's rating agency.

SAPC aims to issue standard contracts by the end of the summer for residential leases and commercial power purchase agreements. Mock filings will also soon be publicly available that will explain the assets being pooled and securitised and provide analysis and data on how well the systems and the assets in the portfolio performed both on a technology basis and a credit basis.

Solar Energy Myths Debunked
by Zach
on July 16, 2013

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Old Posted Jul 17, 2013, 4:17 PM
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Peru Solar Power Program To Give Electricity To 2 Million Of Poorest Peruvians
July 15, 2013

Peru last week initiated a new program that will provide electricity to more than two million of its poorest residents using solar panels.

Energy and Mining Minister Jorge Merino said that the program will allow 95% of Peru to have access to electricity by the end of 2016. Currently, approximately 66% of the population has access to electricity.

“This program is aimed at the poorest people, those who lack access to electric lighting and still use oil lamps, spending their own resources to pay for fuels that harm their health,” said Merino.

The first phase of the program, called “The National Photovoltaic Household Electrification Program” was initiated on Monday (July 8) in the Contumaza province, where 1,601 solar panels were installed. These installations will power 126 impoverished communities in the districts of Cupisnique, San Benito, Tantarica, Chilete, Yonan, San Luis, and Contai.

The program plans to install about 12,500 solar (photovoltaic) systems to provide for approximately 500,000 households at an overall cost of about $200 million.
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Old Posted Jul 18, 2013, 4:37 PM
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Wind And Solar Competing With Nuclear
July 18, 2013

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013 (WNISR) was published last Thursday and revealed a measly growth of over 1.2 GW during 2012 globally, compared to 32 GW of solar growth in the same time. In fact, the nuclear industry seems to be in decline in every category and in every country across the face of the planet, and many are laying the blame equally at the feet of the Fukushima disaster and the growth of the renewable energy sector.

The report us subsequently proclaiming the end of the “nuclear renaissance.”

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report bill themselves as “the Independent Assessment of Nuclear Developments in the World,” and are headed up by lead authors Mycle Schneider and Anthony Patrick Froggat, with support from Steve Thomas, Dough Koplow, and Julie Hazemann. The report “provides a reality check of the current situation and trends of an industry in great difficulties”, as well as this year providing “an essential status report on the complex situation that arose from the triple meltdowns in Fukushima” in 2011.

Coming in at 140 pages long, the WNISR outlines the decline and fall of nuclear as a viable future alternative to fossil fuel energy sources.

Stanford scientists break record for thinnest light-absorber

Stanford University scientists have created the thinnest, most efficient absorber of visible light on record. The nanosize structure, thousands of times thinner than an ordinary sheet of paper, could lower the cost and improve the efficiency of solar cells, according to the scientists. Their results are published in the current online edition of the journal Nano Letters.

"Achieving complete absorption of visible light with a minimal amount of material is highly desirable for many applications, including solar energy conversion to fuel and electricity," said Stacey Bent, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford and a member of the research team. "Our results show that it is possible for an extremely thin layer of material to absorb almost 100 percent of incident light of a specific wavelength."

Thinner solar cells require less material and therefore cost less. The challenge for researchers is to reduce the thickness of the cell without compromising its ability to absorb and convert sunlight into clean energy.

For the study, the Stanford team created thin wafers dotted with trillions of round particles of gold. Each gold nanodot was about 14 nanometers tall and 17 nanometers wide.
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Old Posted Jul 19, 2013, 5:04 PM
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Chile approves US$1.1 billion investment in PV sector
By Lucy Woods - 19 July 2013, 11:20
In News, Power Generation, Finance, Project Focus

Around US$1.1 billion of investment in photovoltaics have reportedly been approved by the Chilean Foreign Investment Committee (CIEC).

Five applications for investment were submitted by Sky Solar. It has now been reported that plans for 300 MW of PV power plants are under way.

Sky Solar will be working with Sigdo Koppers the Chilean international business conglomerate in transport construction and logistics, and the Development Bank of China.

Sky Solar has allegedly said it will provide 100% of the capital needed.

The Foreign Investment Committee (CIEChile) approved 10 applications on 9 July for investment by Chinese companies reaching a total of US$1.2 billion.

France passes 3.33GW of installed solar capacity
By John Parnell - 19 July 2013, 10:03
In News, Power Generation

Mainland France has installed more than 3.33GW of solar power capacity according to the country’s grid operator Electricite Reseau Distribution France (ERDF).

The latest data shows that by the end of the second quarter, a total of 3,339MW had been installed across more than 279,000 separate grid-connected projects.

A total of 113MW of new capacity was added during the quarter, up from 100MW in the previous quarter.

This is still well short of what is needed for the country to fulfil its goal of installing 1GW during 2013 despite efforts earlier this year to stimulate further growth.

Canada set to install 3.48 GW of PV by 2018
By mbissegger
July 17th, 2013
By Mark Bissegger, Analyst

The Canadian solar PV market is expected to have a cumulative installed capacity of 3.48 GW by 2018 according to ClearSky Advisors’ recently released Canadian Solar PV Sector Market Forecast. The report, which details the policies and expected installations of each Canadian province between 2014 and 2018, also forecasts an average annual rate of installations of 450 MW over these years.

As expected, Ontario will remain the largest market for PV in Canada and will install the majority of the forecasted installations. The province’s feed-in tariff program will continue to be the primary driver of installations in the province due to new capacity targets of 200 MW per year for the next four years and an updated competitive bidding system for utility-scale projects.

Outside of Ontario, however, there are also expected to be opportunities as other provinces begin to develop renewable energy incentive programs and as their provincial industries grow while their installation costs fall. By examining the market in each province and the likelihood of an incentive program being developed, ClearSky Advisors has identified which provinces will see the largest amount of capacity installed over the next five years.

As the Ontario market matures and the rate of installations levels off over the next five years, the ability to identify opportunities in other Canadian provinces will become crucial for companies looking to expand their Canadian presence. By knowing the structure of each province’s electricity market, the state of the policies within each market and, most importantly, the amount of PV which is expected to be installed in the future, industry players can make strategic choices today to take advantage of future opportunities in the Canadian marketplace.

Solar market worth $134 billion by 2020
19. July 2013 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Investor news, Market & Trends | By: Max Hall

Annual revenue from PV installations will top $134 billion in seven years' time and solar will stand alone without subsidies from 2017, claims Navigant Research report.

Market analyst Navigant Research has predicted annual revenues from PV installations worldwide will top US$134 billion by 2020.

The company's Solar PV Market Forecasts report predicts most government renewable energy installation targets will be met in coming years resulting in 438 GW of cumulative installations worldwide over the next seven years.
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Old Posted Jul 22, 2013, 4:18 PM
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Thailand adding 1,000MW of solar with feed-in tariffs
By Paul Gipe on 21 July 2013

While municipal utilities in Los Angeles and on New York’s Long Island plod along with timid municipal feed-in tariff programs, Thailand plans to add another 1,000 MW of solar photovoltaics (solar PV) by the end of 2014.

Since Thailand launched its aggressive feed-in tariff program in 2006, the country had installed nearly 1,000 MW of solar PV by 2010 and had a portfolio of signed contracts of more than 4,000 MW, nearly half of that for solar PV.

Georgia votes for 525MW of new solar projects
By Nicholas Brown on 22 July 2013
Solar Love

The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved a new program under which the local energy generator and distributor Georgia Power would be required to construct 525 MW of solar power plants by 2016.

This was proposed by Lauren McDonald and was passed with a vote of 3-2. Incidentally, a lot of support came from the local Tea Party.
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Old Posted Jul 23, 2013, 4:44 PM
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Thailand Boosts Solar Target by 50% to 3,000 Megawatts
23 July 2013

July 23 (Bloomberg) — Thailand will build 3,000 megawatts of solar power capacity by 2021, 50 percent more than previously announced, after approving new subsidized rates for rooftop and village-based projects.

The government will work with the Village Fund, a state-run microcredit provider, to develop 800 megawatts of community-owned photovoltaic plants by the end of 2014, the Ministry of Energy said in a July 16 statement.

In addition, 200 megawatts of rooftop installations built by the end of the year will be eligible for the special rates, it said. Half must be built on residential homes.

Thailand follows Europe and Japan in offering feed-in tariffs, or fixed rates above the wholesale price of power, to attract investment into renewable energy. The country, which relies on fossil fuels for 80 percent of its energy consumption, seeks to build 13,927 megawatts of clean-energy capacity by 2021.

Could Photosynthesis Be Our Best Defense Against Climate Change?
Some scientists think that biochar is the key to extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

—By Mark Hertsgaard
| Fri Jul. 19, 2013 12:24 PM PDT

This story first appeared in Slate and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

A gigantic, steaming-hot mound of compost is not the first place most people would search for a solution to climate change, but the hour is getting very late. "The world experienced unprecedented high-impact climate extremes during the 2001-2010 decade," declares a new report from the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization, which added that the decade was "the warmest since the start of modern measurements in 1850." Among those extreme events: the European heat wave of 2003, which in a mere six weeks caused 71,449 excess deaths, according to a study sponsored by the European Union. In the United States alone, 2012 brought the hottest summer on record, the worst drought in 50 years and Hurricane Sandy. Besides the loss of life, climate-related disasters cost the United States some $140 billion in 2012, a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council concluded.

We can expect to see more climate-related catastrophes soon. In May scientists announced that carbon dioxide had reached 400 parts per million in the atmosphere. Meanwhile, humanity is raising the level by about 2 parts per million a year by burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests, and other activities.

At the moment, climate policy focuses overwhelmingly on the 2 ppm part of the problem while ignoring the 400 ppm part. Thus in his landmark climate speech on June 25, President Obama touted his administration's doubling of fuel efficiency standards for vehicles as a major advance in the fight to preserve a livable planet for our children. In Europe, Germany and Denmark are leaving coal behind in favor of generating electricity with wind and solar. But such mitigation measures aim only to limit new emissions of greenhouse gases.

That is no longer sufficient. The 2 ppm of annual emissions being targeted by conventional mitigation efforts are not what are causing the "unprecedented" number of extreme climate events. The bigger culprit by far are the 400 ppm of carbon dioxide that are already in the atmosphere. As long as those 400 ppm remain in place, the planet will keep warming and unleashing more extreme climate events. Even if we slashed annual emissions to zero overnight, the physical inertia of the climate system would keep global temperatures rising for 30 more years.

We need a new paradigm: If humanity is to avoid a future in which the deadly heat waves, floods, and droughts of recent years become normal, we must lower the existing level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. To be sure, reducing additional annual emissions and adapting to climate change must remain vital priorities, but the extraction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has now become an urgent necessity.

Under this new paradigm, one of the most promising means of extracting atmospheric carbon dioxide is also one of the most common processes on Earth: photosynthesis.

Over 1 GW And 11,000 Jobs in Australian Solar Industry Over 2012
July 23, 2013 Joshua S Hill

The Australian Photovoltaic Association (APVA) announced last week that 2012 had been a great year for the Australian photovoltaic industry, installing over 1 GW of capacity (nearly half the nation’s current solar panel capacity of 2.6 GW) and employing approximately 11,000 people.

Furthermore, the APVA affirmed that the average price of installing a solar photovoltaic system has dropped to prices even lower than those seen in 2011.

Specifically, 1.038 GW of solar PV capacity was installed in 2012, more than any other year previously, including the 2010 and 2011 boom years. Of this 1.038 GW, 98% was from distributed systems across the grid, accounting for 4.5% of Australia’s total energy generation capacity and 70% of the new capacity installed in 2012.

Report: Central American Solar Markets Spurred On by High Electricity Prices
GTM Research publishes a new report on growth in unsubsidized Central American PV markets.

Nicholas Rinaldi: July 23, 2013

On the surface, Central America seems ripe for solar development. All seven countries -- Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, and Guatemala -- enjoy significant solar resources and nearly all are heavily reliant on thermal generation (primarily fuel oil and diesel) and hydroelectric resources, which can prove fickle in warmer months. With limited domestic fossil fuel resources, the cost of generation is typically very expensive in many of these countries.

However, as explored in a new report from GTM Research, differences in electricity market structure, available incentives, and local economies significantly affect whether or not PV is a tenable option for residential, commercial, and utility customers. The report also explores whether it is realistic to expect solar market growth in this region in the near future.

There have been a number of large-scale project announcements to come out of the region recently. Guatemala awarded two large-scale tenders for a total of 55 megawatts, and Costa Rica received a loan of US$30 million from the Chinese government for the construction of a 10-megawatt PV facility. Following a similar trend to other Latin American projects, this first round of large-scale PV development will likely be financed by national development banks and will not reach completion for a few more years. However, there is also opportunity in distributed PV markets in a number of countries.

Bringing color to solar façades
Research News Jul 01, 2013

Until now, designers of buildings have no choice but to use black or bluish-gray colored solar panels. With the help of thin-film technologies, researchers have now been able to turn solar cells into colorful creations.

Covering a roof or a façade with standard solar cells to generate electricity will change a building’s original appearance – and not always for the better. At present only dark solar panels are widely available on the market. “Not enough work has been done so far on combining photovoltaics and design elements to really do the term ‘customized photovoltaics’ justice,” says Kevin Füchsel, project manager at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena.

But things are changing. The IOF physicist has been focusing for the last four years on nanostructured solar cells suitable for mass production as part of a junior research group funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF). Together with a Fraunhofer team and scientists from the Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena, the group of optics specialists is looking for cost-effective techniques and manufacturing processes to increase both the efficiency of solar panels and the design flexibility they give architects and designers.


Off-grid sterilization with Rice U.’s ‘solar steam’
Solar-powered sterilization technology supported by Gates Foundation

HOUSTON – (July 22, 2013) – Rice University nanotechnology researchers have unveiled a solar-powered sterilization system that could be a boon for more than 2.5 billion people who lack adequate sanitation. The “solar steam” sterilization system uses nanomaterials to convert as much as 80 percent of the energy in sunlight into germ-killing heat.

The technology is described online in a July 8 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition. In the paper, researchers from Rice’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP) show two ways that solar steam can be used for sterilization — one setup to clean medical instruments and another to sanitize human waste.

“Sanitation and sterilization are enormous obstacles without reliable electricity,” said Rice photonics pioneer Naomi Halas, the director of LANP and lead researcher on the project, with senior co-author and Rice professor Peter Nordlander. “Solar steam’s efficiency at converting sunlight directly into steam opens up new possibilities for off-grid sterilization that simply aren’t available today.”

In a previous study last year, Halas and colleagues showed that “solar steam” was so effective at direct conversion of solar energy into heat that it could even produce steam from ice water.

“It makes steam directly from sunlight,” she said. “That means the steam forms immediately, even before the water boils.”

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Old Posted Jul 24, 2013, 5:59 PM
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Punjab government awards 250 MW in new projects to 26 developers
24. July 2013 | Global PV markets, Markets & Trends | By: Edgar Meza

India continues to expand solar power generation as the state of Punjab approves 250 MW of new solar projects as part of achieving its 1 GW goal in four years.

The Indian state of Punjab has awarded 250 MW of solar projects to 26 private developers who are set to invest between US$420 million and US$500 million in the ventures.

According to Indian daily The Economic Times, the list of project investors includes Lanco Solar Energy, Punj Lloyd Infrastructure, Moser Baer Clean Energy, Essel Infra Projects, Asopus Infrastructure, Welspun Solar Punjab and Azure Urja.

Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said the state has “set a target to generate at least 1,000 MW power from renewable resources of energy like solar, biomass, co- generation, mini-hydel and solar roof tops in the next four years," The Economic Times reported.

Arizona leads US in per capita solar
24. July 2013 | Markets & Trends, Top News, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers | By: Edgar Meza

Solar generation is on the rise in the U.S. and Arizona has become the leading state in terms of solar capacity per capita, but it now appears to be reversing course.

A new report published by the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center shows that the U.S. state of Arizona now leads the nation in solar electricity capacity per capita, but recent moves by the state's utility regulator may rein its recent progress.

With 167 W of solar capacity per resident, Arizona boasts nearly seven times as much solar capacity per person as the national average, according to the report, "Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America's Top 12 Solar States."

The report points out that Arizona's solar energy success is due in part to its early commitment to solar energy – it was the first state to require utilities to obtain a certain percentage of their electricity from solar energy.

Arizona also ranks second in the nation (behind California) in large, utility-scale solar energy projects. As of May 2013, Arizona had 633 MW of utility-scale solar energy capacity, with another 495 MW under construction.

Hareon Solar to build 300MW solar cell plant in Taiwan
By Mark Osborne - 24 July 2013, 10:10
In News, Fab & Facilities, Cell Processing

A potential shift by Chinese PV manufacturers to avoid anti-dumping duties in the US and EU as well as in India has started with plans by Hareon Solar to build a 300MW solar cell plant in Taiwan.

The China-based company has signed an memorandum of understanding with Mascotte Holdings, which acquired polysilicon start-up, Sun Mass Energy, last year. Sun Mass Energy has yet to start production due to technical difficulties related to hydrofluoric acid recycling facilities needed but is expected to start production at its 2,000MT plant later in 2013. Hareon Solar had previously expected to be a key customer of Sun Mass Energy.

Twelve US solar states prove effectiveness of policy
By Felicity Carus - 24 July 2013, 01:01
In News, Market Watch

The impact of policy on the growth of solar was underscored today by a new report examining the effect of state mandates and incentives on the industry.

The report from the Environment America Research & Policy Centre named the top 12 states which lead on solar initiatives and installations.

The "dazzling dozen" states account for only 28% of the US population but 85% of the installed capacity.

Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and Vermont – possess strong policies that are enabling increasing numbers of homeowners, businesses, communities and utilities to “go solar,” the report said.

"The pathway to a solar future laid out by the Dazzling Dozen is open to every state," said the report. "By following their lead and implementing a new wave of public policies to expand access to solar energy, the United States can work toward the goal of getting at least 10% of our energy from the sun by 2030."

Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar found broad-ranging consistencies in effective policy among the dozen states:
• 11 of the 12 leading states have strong net metering policies;
• 11 of the 12 states have renewable electricity standards;
• nine have solar carve outs;
• 10 have strong statewide interconnection policies;
• the majority of the top solar states allow for creative financing options such as third-party power purchase agreements and property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.

Rob Sargent, energy programme director with Environment America, said: “The sky’s the limit on solar energy. The progress of these states should give us the confidence that we can do much more. Being a leader in pollution-free solar energy means setting big goals and backing them up with good policies.”

Industry Perspective: Tips to entering the US solar market
Written by Haresh Patel 24 July 2013

Last week marked the fifth Intersolar in San Francisco. And, despite the fact that I spent much of the week in meetings instead of on the show floor, the news that seemed to linger in the air everywhere I went were the epic fails of Gehrlicher and Conergy. For those of us that work closely with European developers, the news was a sharp reminder that even the most experienced players can be brought to theirs knees by a flawed entrance strategy.

U.K.’s Biggest Clean Energy IPO Raises $460 Million
24 July 2013

July 24 (Bloomberg) — The Renewables Infrastructure Group Ltd., raised 300 million pounds ($460 million) in the U.K.’s biggest initial public offering of a clean-power company, to invest in solar and onshore wind projects.

The proceeds from the share sale on the London Stock Exchange will be used to buy 14 onshore wind farms and four solar photovoltaic plants with a combined capacity of 276 megawatts, the company said today in an e-mailed statement. The projects are in the U.K., France and Ireland.

“TRIG’s diversified portfolio of high quality operational onshore wind and solar photovoltaic generation assets will provide investors with the potential to secure an attractive long-term, stable, inflation-linked yield,” Helen Mahy, non-executive chairman of the company, said in the statement.

Investec to invest US$813 million in South Africa renewables
By Lucy Woods - 24 July 2013, 11:19
In News, Power Generation, Finance

Specialist bank Investec is investing ZAR8 billion (US$813 million) in South Africa’s renewable energy independent power producer procurement programme (REIPPPP).

Robert Gecelter from Investec's project and infrastructure finance team said the funding amount for solar has not been decided yet, but most of the funding is likely to go to concentrated solar power as well as a number of PV projects and also wind.

The funding will go towards the third round of bids under the REIPPP programme, which is due to close on 19 August and expected to allocate 400MW of PV.

In total, 27 PV projects were selected in the first and second rounds of the programme, worth over 1GW of capacity.

In total the REIPPPP has set a target of installing 3,725MW of renewable-energy capacity by the end of 2016.

According to Bloomberg, Investec has already invested ZAR20 billion in clean energy in south Africa.

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Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar States
Posted by Content Coordinator on Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Executive Summary

Solar energy is on the rise. America has more than three times as much solar photovoltaic capacity today as in 2010, and more than 10 times as much as in 2007. In the first three months of 2013, solar power accounted for nearly half of the new electricity generating capacity in the United States. The price of solar energy is falling rapidly, and each year tens of thousands of additional Americans begin to reap the benefits of clean energy from the sun, generated right on the rooftops of their homes or places of business.

Solar energy is good for the environment, consumers and the economy.
  • Solar photovoltaics (PV) produce 96 percent less global warming pollution per unit of energy than coal-fired power plants over their entire life cycle, and 91 percent less global warming pollution than natural gas-fired power plants.
  • Solar energy benefits consumers by reducing the need for expensive invest- ments in long-distance transmission lines.
  • Solar energy can lower electricity costs by providing power at times of peak demand.
  • Solar energy costs are falling rapidly. The cost of installed solar energy systems fell by 27 percent during 2012, on top of a 20 percent decline between the beginning of 2010 and the end of 2011.
  • Solar energy creates local clean energy jobs that can’t be outsourced. More than 119,000 people currently work in America’s solar energy industry, most of them in jobs such as installation that are located in close proximity to the places where solar panels are installed.

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RMI: New Insights Into the Real Value of Distributed Solar
For once and for all—what is distributed photovoltaic power really worth?

Herman K. Trabish: July 29, 2013

The report A Review of Solar PV Benefit and Cost Studies from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) is an analysis of fifteen studies on the value of distributed photovoltaic solar. Some of the studies were commissioned by utilities, some by solar advocacy groups, and some came from independent government or non-government researchers.

“We are on the cusp of needing a new methodology for how to integrate distributed energy resources into our planning,” explained RMI Senior Consultant Virginia Lacy. She and co-author/RMI principal Lena Hansen set out to assess “the knowns and unknowns” about categories and best practices that define the value of distributed energy resources, and especially of distributed PV, as well as the variables that contribute to the tensions between distributed generators and utilities.

“As we move into a world of customer-sited electricity, led strongly by distributed PV, it is critical to better understand the benefits and costs,” Lacy said, “to enable effective tradeoffs between distributed and centralized investments.”

For solar advocates, utility leaders and regulators, Lacy said, “The biggest takeaway is that there are important gaps in the approach for identifying, quantifying, and assessing the benefits and costs of distributed PV.”

The best of two worlds: Solar hydrogen production breakthrough
3 hours ago

Using a simple solar cell and a photo anode made of a metal oxide, HZB and TU Delft scientists have successfully stored nearly five percent of solar energy chemically in the form of hydrogen. This is a major feat as the design of the solar cell is much simpler than that of the high-efficiency triple-junction cells based on amorphous silicon or expensive III-V semiconductors that are traditionally used for this purpose.

The photo anode, which is made from the metal oxide bismuth vanadate (BiVO4) to which a small amount of tungsten atoms was added, was sprayed onto a piece of conducting glass and coated with an inexpensive cobalt phosphate catalyst. "Basically, we combined the best of both worlds," explains Prof. Dr. Roel van de Krol, head of the HZB Institute for Solar Fuels: "We start with a chemically stable, low cost metal oxide, add a really good but simple silicon-based thin film solar cell, and – voilà – we've just created a cost-effective, highly stable, and highly efficient solar fuel device."

Thus the experts were able to develop a rather elegant and simple system for using sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. This process, called artificial photosynthesis, allows solar energy to be stored in the form of hydrogen. The hydrogen can then be used as a fuel either directly or in the form of methane, or it can generate electricity in a fuel cell. One rough estimate shows the potential inherent in this technology: At a solar performance in Germany of roughly 600 Watts per square meter, 100 square meters of this type of system is theoretically capable of storing 3 kilowatt hours of energy in the form of hydrogen in just one single hour of sunshine. This energy could then be available at night or on cloudy days.

A new record: More than 80 percent of the incident photons contribute to the current!

The biggest challenge, however, was the efficient separation of electrical charges within the bismuth vanadate film. Metal oxides may be stable and cheap, but the charge carriers have a tendency to quickly recombine. This means they are no longer available for the water splitting reaction. Now, Van de Krol and his team have figured out that it helps to add wolfram atoms to the bismuth vanadate film. "What's important is that we distribute these wolfram atoms in a very specific way so that they can set up an internal electric field, which helps to prevent recombination," explains van de Krol. For this to work, the scientists took a bismuth vanadium wolfram solution and sprayed it onto a heated glass substrate. This caused the solution to evaporate. By repeatedly spraying different wolfram concentrations onto the glass, a highly efficient photo-active metal oxide film some 300 nanometers thick was created. "We don't really understand quite yet why bismuth vanadate works so much better than other metal oxides. We found that more than 80 percent of the incident photons contribute to the current, an unexpectedly high value that sets a new record for metal oxides" says van de Krol. The next challenge is scaling these kinds of systems to several square meters so they can yield relevant amounts of hydrogen.

Artfully using stained glass to capture solar energy
Artist Sarah Hall's cathedral windows now hooked up to the grid

By Emily Chung, CBC News
Posted: Jul 29, 2013 4:54 AM ET

A collection of eye-catching stained glass installations by a Toronto artist is generating solar power in three provinces, and one of them is in the process of being hooked up to the Saskatchewan grid.

"Lux Gloria" by Sarah Hall, at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon, is currently being connected to Saskatoon Light & Power's electrical distribution network, confirmed Jim Nakoneshny, facilities manager at the cathedral.

The artwork, which consists of solar panels embedded in brightly coloured, hand-painted art glass, had just been reinstalled and upgraded after breaking and falling into the church last year.

Once it is connected, the cathedral will be able to use the solar power produced by the art installation to offset its own power consumption from the regular grid, Nakoneshny added.

According to Kevin Hudson, manager of metering and sustainable electricity for Saskatoon Light & Power, the solar panels are expected to produce about 2,500 kilowatt hours annually or about a third to a quarter of the 8,000 to 10,000 kilowatt hours consumed by a typical home in Saskatoon each year.


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UCLA researchers double efficiency of novel solar cell
Device could coat windows, smartphone screens with energy-harvesting material

By Bill Kisliuk
July 29, 2013

Nearly doubling the efficiency of a breakthrough photovoltaic cell they created last year, UCLA researchers have developed a two-layer, see-through solar film that could be placed on windows, sunroofs, smartphone displays and other surfaces to harvest energy from the sun.

The new device is composed of two thin polymer solar cells that collect sunlight and convert it to power. It's more efficient than previous devices, the researchers say, because its two cells absorb more light than single-layer solar devices, because it uses light from a wider portion of the solar spectrum, and because it incorporates a layer of novel materials between the two cells to reduce energy loss.

While a tandem-structure transparent organic photovoltaic (TOPV) device developed at UCLA in 2012 converts about 4 percent of the energy it receives from the sun into electric power (its "conversion rate"), the new tandem device — which uses a combination of transparent and semi-transparent cells — achieves a conversion rate of 7.3 percent.

Researchers led by Yang Yang, the Carol and Lawrence E. Tannas, Jr., Professor of Engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, said the new cells could serve as a power-generating layer on windows and smartphone displays without compromising users' ability to see through the surface. The cells can be produced so that they appear light gray, green or brown, and so can blend with the color and design features of buildings and surfaces.

The research was published online July 26 by Energy & Environmental Science, a Royal Society of Chemistry journal, and it will appear later in a published edition of the journal.

A new way to trap light
MIT researchers discover a new phenomenon that could lead to new types of lasers and sensors.

David L. Chandler, MIT News Office
July 10, 2013

There are several ways to “trap” a beam of light — usually with mirrors, other reflective surfaces, or high-tech materials such as photonic crystals. But now researchers at MIT have discovered a new method to trap light that could find a wide variety of applications.

The new system, devised through computer modeling and then demonstrated experimentally, pits light waves against light waves: It sets up two waves that have the same wavelength, but exactly opposite phases — where one wave has a peak, the other has a trough — so that the waves cancel each other out. Meanwhile, light of other wavelengths (or colors) can pass through freely.

The researchers say that this phenomenon could apply to any type of wave: sound waves, radio waves, electrons (whose behavior can be described by wave equations), and even waves in water.

The discovery is reported this week in the journal Nature by professors of physics Marin Soljačić and John Joannopoulos, associate professor of applied mathematics Steven Johnson, and graduate students Chia Wei Hsu, Bo Zhen, Jeongwon Lee and Song-Liang Chua.

“For many optical devices you want to build,” Soljačić says — including lasers, solar cells and fiber optics — “you need a way to confine light.” This has most often been accomplished using mirrors of various kinds, including both traditional mirrors and more advanced dielectric mirrors, as well as exotic photonic crystals and devices that rely on a phenomenon called Anderson localization. In all of these cases, light’s passage is blocked: In physics terminology, there are no “permitted” states for the light to continue on its path, so it is forced into a reflection.

Solar Shipment Index shows June upswing in global PV market
1 August 2013

Chinese and Taiwanese photovoltaic manufacturers are enjoying a warm summer of demand, according to new index from Bloomberg New Energy Finance

London and New York: The world solar photovoltaic industry, dogged by overcapacity and consolidation in recent years, saw a pick-up in shipments as well as firmer prices in June. So reveals Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s new Solar Shipments Index, based on a survey of leading manufacturers in the PV supply chain.

The booming Japanese market, expected to total between 6.9 and 9.4GW of new-build PV in 2013, was one major driver for the June upswing; another was a rush to ship products to the European Union before a higher rate of preliminary anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese products was expected to come into effect on 6 August.

The Solar Shipments Index showed that leading Chinese cell makers made shipments corresponding to 116% of their average manufacturing capacity utilisation in the month of June 2013, with Chinese module makers averaging 99% and Taiwanese cell makers 84%.

The best of two worlds: Solar hydrogen production breakthrough

Using a simple solar cell and a photo anode made of a metal oxide, HZB and TU Delft scientists have successfully stored nearly five percent of solar energy chemically in the form of hydrogen. This is a major feat as the design of the solar cell is much simpler than that of the high-efficiency triple-junction cells based on amorphous silicon or expensive III-V semiconductors that are traditionally used for this purpose. The photo anode, which is made from the metal oxide bismuth vanadate (BiVO4) to which a small amount of tungsten atoms was added, was sprayed onto a piece of conducting glass and coated with an inexpensive cobalt phosphate catalyst. “Basically, we combined the best of both worlds,” explains Prof. Dr. Roel van de Krol, head of the HZB Institute for Solar Fuels: “We start with a chemically stable, low cost metal oxide, add a really good but simple silicon-based thin film solar cell, and – voilà – we’ve just created a cost-effective, highly stable, and highly efficient solar fuel device.”

Thus the experts were able to develop a rather elegant and simple system for using sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. This process, called artificial photosynthesis, allows solar energy to be stored in the form of hydrogen. The hydrogen can then be used as a fuel either directly or in the form of methane, or it can generate electricity in a fuel cell. One rough estimate shows the potential inherent in this technology: At a solar performance in Germany of roughly 600 Watts per square meter, 100 square meters of this type of system is theoretically capable of storing 3 kilowatt hours of energy in the form of hydrogen in just one single hour of sunshine. This energy could then be available at night or on cloudy days.

30th July 2013, 10:14am
Suburban sprawl to power cities of the future

A city’s suburbs could hold the solution to dwindling fuel supplies by producing enough energy to power residents’ cars and even top up power resources, pioneering new research has found.

It is commonly assumed that compact cities, with built-up central business districts and densely-populated residential areas, are more energy efficient than the low-density suburban sprawl that surrounds them, which are dependent on oil for high levels of private transport use.

In a future with photovoltaic solar panels on suburban roofs and increasing use of electric vehicles however, experts have predicted that suburbia will adopt a valuable new role – transforming from a high energy consumer into a vital power provider for the city.

Newly published research, conducted by Professor Hugh Byrd from the University of Lincoln, UK, and collaborators including Professor Basil Sharp from the New Zealand Energy Centre and experts from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, challenges the conventional theory that compact urban form offers the best solution for a sustainable city.

Instead, the team of researchers highlight the potential of suburbs for harnessing solar energy, with detached suburban houses capable of producing ten times the amount of energy created by skyscrapers and other commercial buildings.

The findings also reveal that lower density housing in suburbia not only has the greatest capacity for collecting solar energy, but also the greatest surplus after its own energy uses have been taken into account to help out city centre peak electricity loads.

Professor Byrd, from Lincoln’s School of Architecture, said: “This study challenges conventional thinking that suburbia is energy-inefficient, a belief that has become enshrined in architectural policy. In fact, our results reverse the argument for a compact city based on transport energy use, and completely change the current perception of urban sprawl.

“While a compact city may be more efficient for internal combustion engine vehicles, a dispersed city is more efficient when distributed generation of electricity by photovoltaic installations is the main energy source and electric vehicles are the principal mode of transport.

“However, if this energy contribution is to be effective, controls of new suburban development may be needed that require the installation of photovoltaic roofing, along with smart meters and appropriate charging facilities for vehicles. City planners will need to make the changes necessary to control suburban development.”

Lawrence Livermore engineering team makes breakthrough in solar energy research
Kenneth K Ma, LLNL, (925)-423-7602

LIVERMORE, Calif. - The use of plasmonic black metals could someday provide a pathway to more efficient photovoltaics (PV) -- the use of solar panels containing photovoltaic solar cells -- to improve solar energy harvesting, according to researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

The LLNL Materials Engineering Division (MED) research team has made breakthroughs experimenting with black metals. These nanostructured metals are designed to have low reflectivity and high absorption of visible and infrared light. The MED research team recently published their black metals research results in a cover-page article in the May issue of Applied Physics Letters titled "Plasmonic Black Metals in Resonant Nanocavities."

Authored by MED physicist and research team member Mihail Bora, the article details the work of the nanophotonics and plasmonics research team led by LLNL engineer Tiziana Bond.

It describes the team's concept of black metals, which are not classic metals but can be thought of as an extension of the black silicon concept. When silicon is treated in a certain way, such as being roughened at the nanoscale level, it traps light by multiple reflections, increasing its solar absorption. This gives the silicon a black surface that's able to better trap the full sun's wavelength spectrum.

Similarly, black metals are produced by some sort of random nanostructuring -- either in gold or silver -- without guaranteeing a full, reliable and repeatable full solar absorption. However, Bond's team developed a method to improve and control the absorption efficiency and basically turn the metals as black as they want, allowing them to increase, on demand, the absorption of a higher quantity of solar wavelengths. Her team built nanopillar structures that are trapping and absorbing all the relevant wavelengths of the entire solar spectrum.

Solar programme aims to install 5MW across 170 schools
By Peter Bennett
30 July 2013, 14:38 Updated: 30 July 2013, 15:40

The newly-formed ‘Power Your Future’ programme is aiming to install 5MW of solar on school roofs across the UK.

The programme, set up by Engynious and Winch Energy, is capable of installing solar on up to170 schools.

“For the Engynious Group, this is the largest programme and its first in the UK market to date. Our tailored solutions provide distributed energy production combined with on-site consumption, a major pillar for the world’s future energy supply”, commented Gregor Loukidis, director of Engynious Clean Power.

“Schools benefit from having an off-grid energy supply and lower cost energy than traditional energy supplies that are subject to energy price rises. By ring-fencing part of their electricity costs, schools can better manage their budgets and students gain from the teaching and learning opportunities that having solar PV on their roofs affords,” added Nick Wrigley, chairman of Winch Energy.

The solar arrays will vary in size between 20-50kWp depending on site constraints. The first installation to be successfully completed under the programme was a 50kWp installation at West Park School in July 2013.

College Solar Installation Saves $750,000 Annually
Published on 30 July 2013

An 8MW solar installation on the campus of Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, New Jersey (US) may be the largest college solar system in North America.

The 8MW solar system is located on a 45 acre parcel of land at MCCC and will save the college approximately $750,000 annually.

Patricia C. Donohue President, said the solar farm moves forward on many fronts. "The solar farm will save critical dollars and enable us to restore to our budget many cuts in programs and services we have made over the past two years. It also helps us fulfill our sustainability goals. We have committed to the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) with the goal of achieving carbon neutrality."

The annual electricity produced from this project will provide 70% of the power needed to run the campus and is equivalent to:
  • 9,010 metric tons of CO2
  • 1,767 passenger vehicles greenhouse gas emissions
  • 89 acres of forest preserved from deforestation of carbon sequestered
  • 1,123 homes greenhouse gas emissions
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US solar targets could save consumers US$20 billion
By Lucy Woods - 02 August 2013, 11:25
In News, Power Generation, Finance

Solar could provide one third of energy in western America, saving US$20 billion by 2050 if price reduction targets are met, according to research by Berkley University of California.

Using a computer simulation of western America’s grid, Berkley predicted what would happen if the US reaches the goals defined in the department of energy (DoE)’s SunShot initiative.

SunShot started in 2011 with the aim of making solar energy commercially viable in the US. The initiative predicts when solar reaches US$0.06 per kWh it will be cost competitive with all other forms of energy.

The study shows achieving the SunShot targets could moderate increasing electricity costs. Solar power could save consumers an estimated 14% of their bill - or more than US$20 billion annually by 2050.

If the initiative's targets are achieved, Berkley predicts solar will displace natural gas and nuclear, and decrease carbon emissions.


G20 should use solar to solve ‘world’s greatest problem’
By Peter Bennett - 02 August 2013, 10:59
In News, Power Generation

A former UK chief scientific adviser has called on all G20 countries to solve “world’s greatest problem” of climate change by developing low-cost solar energy.

Writing in the Financial Times, former UK chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, and the former founder-director of the London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance, Richard Layard, identify solar technology as mankind’s most plausible solution to climate change.

The pair write: “To defeat the axis powers, the allies developed the atom bomb. When threatened in the cold war, the US sent a man to the moon .When threatened by global warming, we surely need a similar effort to save the planet. The Manhattan and Apollo projects engaged the best minds of their ages from a few nations. But today the effort needs to be international.

“The project would need a clear aim – like the atomic bomb or a man on the moon. We suggest the following: to enable bulk electricity to be produced more cheaply by solar energy than by any fossil fuel.”

Deutsche Bank: Solar, distributed energy at ‘major inflection point’
By Giles Parkinson on 1 August 2013

Deutsche Bank analysts have painted a bullish outlook for the global solar market, noting that solar PV is about to enter a “third growth phase” where it can be deployed without subsidies, and can resist a backlash from utilities.

The report by analysts led by US-based Vishal Shah estimates that three-quarters of the world’s market will be “sustainable” for solar within 18 months, meaning they can operate with little or no subsidy. (see graph at end of story). In two years, the market for solar will have flipped from one largely “unsustainable” – needing big subsidies – to one mostly sustainable.

That’s because with module prices stabilising at around $US60c-70c/watt, and installation costs of around $US1-$US1.20 a watt, the levellised cost of solar electricity is between US10c-20c/kWh.

“We believe the underlying economics of the sector have improved significantly and we may be just at the beginning of the grid parity era,” the Deutsche Bank analysts write. “Low natural gas prices may make large utility scale solar deployments in the US less attractive for now, but we remain bullish about rapid development of utility scale solar in several international markets over the next 3-5 years.”

Deutsche Bank said that although the market in Europe had contracted, at least one third of new, small to mid size projects were being developed without subsidies. Multi-megawatt projects were being built south of Rome for €90c/W. This was delivering electricity costs (LCOE – with 80 per cent self consumption) of around €80/MWh (€8c/kWh)


Growth of Global Solar and Wind Energy Continues to Outpace Other Technologies
Published August 1, 2013 04:47 PM

Solar and wind continue to dominate investment in new renewable capacity. Global use of solar and wind energy grew significantly in 2012. Solar power consumption increased by 58 percent, to 93 terrawatt-hours (TWh), while wind power increased by 18.1 percent, to 521.3 TWh.

Global investment in solar energy in 2012 was $140.4 billion, an 11 percent decline from 2011, and wind investment was down 10.1 percent, to $80.3 billion. Due to lower costs for both technologies, however, total installed capacities still grew sharply.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installed capacity grew by 41 percent in 2012, reaching 100 gigawatts (GW). Installed PV capacity has grown by 900 percent since 2007. The countries with the most installed PV capacity today are Germany (32.4 GW), Italy (16.4 GW), the United States (7.2 GW), and China (7.0 GW). Concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) capacity reached 2.55 GW, with 970 megawatts (MW) alone added in 2012.

Europe remains dominant in solar, accounting for 76 percent of global solar power use in 2012. Germany alone accounted for 30 percent of the world's solar power consumption, and Italy added the third most capacity of any country in 2012 (3.4 GW). Spain added the most CSP capacity (950 MW) in 2012 as well. However, Italy reached the subsidy cap for its feed-in tariff (FIT) program in June 2013, while Spain recently made a retroactive change in its FIT policies, meaning that growth in solar energy will likely slow in these countries in the near future.

Could Utilities’ Future Be Selling Light Instead of Electrons?
Minnesota examines an alternative utility business model.

Midwest Energy News, Dan Haugen: August 2, 2013

What if instead of offering electricity by the kilowatt-hour, utilities sold light, cooling and screen time?

That’s the idea behind a new utility business model being discussed by a civic leadership group in Minnesota that’s looking for ways to better promote energy efficiency in the state.

The Energy Services Utility model is one of several concepts being studied and debated as part of an electricity policy project organized by the Citizens League, a St. Paul nonprofit. The goal is to build consensus around ideas that could become policy or legislative proposals later.

The energy-as-a-service model has been promoted most recently by author and energy consultant Peter Fox-Penner, who is scheduled to speak today at the Minnesota Rural Electric Association’s annual Energy Issues Summit in St. Cloud.

“The mission of the Energy Services Utility is to provide lowest-cost energy services to its customers -- light, heat, cooling, computer-hours, and the dozens of other things we get from power each day,” Fox-Penner said in his 2010 book Smart Power: Climate Change, the Smart Grid, and the Future of Electric Utilities.

Today, electric utilities make money by building power plants and other equipment and selling kilowatt-hours of electricity to customers. The model not only discourages conservation but it also leaves utilities at serious risk for disruption from new energy-efficient and solar technologies.

Arizona Solar Strikes Back
A new video and social media campaign defends rooftop solar and net energy metering.

Herman K. Trabish: August 2, 2013

Arizona solar and net energy metering advocates appear to be swaying public opinion in their favor.

Ads attacking solar (see "Fair" at the bottom of the page) began about the same time as the Arizona Public Service (APS) effort to have the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) roll back the net energy metering (NEM) benefit. NEM reduces rooftop solar system owners’ bills at the retail rate for the kilowatt-hours they send to the grid.

APS proposed either allowing new solar system owners to continue being reimbursed in the same way but adding a charge to their bills for their use of the grid, or giving them a bill reduction at a different rate set by the ACC.

After the new video (below) from the group Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed (TUSK) opposing the APS proposal was posted on Facebook, the daily total reach (the number of people who saw the page’s content) went from 368 on July 26 to 41,331 on July 30.

Video Link

Sharp and Panasonic ride the solar wave
02. August 2013 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Investor news, Market & Trends | By: Ilias Tsagas

Japanese giants see their balance sheets boosted by the domestic solar boom. In response, Sharp announces plan to widen its solar product range and expand its development business.

Japanese electronics giants Sharp and Panasonic are benefiting from the domestic solar boom which saw the former's solar cells sales grow 101 per cent from January to March compared with the same period in 2012.

Sharp's solar cells division posted first quarter operating income of JPY6.8 billion (US$68.3 million) as it turned around the JPY6.9 billion losses in the same period last year.

In a press release reporting the figures, Sharp said the division scored sales of JPY84.3 billion, a 101 per cent year on year increase from last year's JPY41.9 billion.

With a boom in domestic residential and utility scale solar in Japan being driven by generous government FITs, solar contributed a turnaround after the cells division posted losses in the first three quarters of last year.

Report: Residential PV storage to hit 2.5GW by 2017
By Ben Willis
02 August 2013, 8:37

Residential PV storage capacity could hit 2.5GW by 2017 as domestic solar generators increasingly look to consume the power they produce, a report claims.

Research by analyst firm IHS predicts a boom in domestic solar storage in the coming years as self-consumption replaces feed-in tariff maximisation as the main motivation for installing residential PV systems.

This shift is already underway in Germany, where in May a government-backed subsidy was introduced to cover the upfront cost of installing a small-scale PV storage system. Storage systems allow PV energy to be stored at times of peak production and consumed at times of peak demand when grid electricity costs are highest.

IHS maintains that initiatives such as this, combined with dwindling FiTs in other markets and rising electricity costs will make residential PV storage systems more attractive.

“Residential PV customers are striving to maximise their own consumption of the energy they are generating,” said Abigail Ward, PV analyst at IHS. “This is because rising electricity prices and decreasing feed-in-tariffs are serving as a disincentive for consumers to export their power to the electricity grid.

“Such developments, combined with the introduction of the German Energy Storage Subsidy, are forecast to accelerate the overall growth of the residential solar storage market.”

Bio-inspired Design May Lead to More Energy Efficient Windows
August 2, 2013

University of Toronto Engineering professor Ben Hatton (MSE) is turning to nature to find a way to make windows more energy efficient.

In a recent article in Solar Energy Materials & Solar Cells, Hatton and colleagues at Harvard University describe a novel process to cut down on heat loss during the winter and keep buildings cool during the summer. Their “bio-inspired approach to thermal control for cooling (or heating) building window surfaces” calls for attaching optically clear, flexible elastomer sheets, bonded to regular glass window panes.

The elastomer sheets, made from polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) have channels running through them through which room temperature water flows. The technique has resulted in 7 to 9 degrees of cooling in laboratory experiments and is effective both at small and large scales, Hatton and his colleagues said.

“Our results show that an artificial vascular network within a transparent layer, composed of channels on the micrometer to millimeter scale, and extending over the surface of a window, offers an additional and novel cooling mechanism for building windows and a new thermal control tool for building design,” he said.

Cobalt Replacements Make Solar Cells More Sustainable

Aug. 2, 2013 — Researchers at the University of Basel have successfully replaced the rare element iodine in copper-based dye-sensitized solar cells by the more abundant element cobalt, taking a step forward in the development of environmentally friendly energy production. The journal "Chemical Communications" has published the results of these so-called Cu-Co cells.

Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs) transform light to electricity. They consist of a semiconductor on which a dye is anchored. This colored complex absorbs light and through an electron transfer process produces electrical current. Electrolytes act as electron transport agents inside the DSCs.

Usually, iodine and iodide serve as an electrolyte. Chemists at the University of Basel have now been able to successfully replace the usual iodine-based electron transport system in copper-based DSCs by a cobalt compound. Tests showed no loss in performance.

The replacement of iodine significantly increases the sustainability of solar cells: "Iodine is a rare element, only present at a level of 450 parts per billion in the Earth, whereas cobalt is 50 times more abundant," explains the Project Officer Dr. Biljana Bozic-Weber. Furthermore, this replacement also removes one of the long-term degradation processes in which copper compounds react with the electrolyte to form copper iodide and thus improves the long-term stability of DSCs.

The research group around the Basel chemistry professors Ed Constable and Catherine Housecroft is currently working on optimizing the performance of DSCs based on copper complexes. They had previously shown in 2012 that the very rare element ruthenium in solar cells could be replaced by copper derivatives.

This is the first report of DSCs, which combine copper-based dyes and cobalt electrolytes and thus represents a critical step towards the development of stable iodide-free copper solar cells. However, many aspects relating to the efficiency need to be addressed before commercialization can begin in anything other than niche markets.
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Solar Yields High Returns for Homeowners in Many States
Clean Edge News

Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts now outrank California, Arizona and New Mexico in the amount of money each ray of sunlight can generate for homeowners, according to the Geostellar Solar Index, a new scientific and economic analysis of Americans’ savings through rooftop solar.

The new quarterly index, released by Geostellar, shows the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states offer the highest Internal Rate of Return on residential solar energy, an economic analysis that measures and compares the profitability of investments, with profits as high as 24 percent per year over the 25-year life of the solar array. By comparison, the S&P 500 has shown an 9.9 percent Compounded Annual Growth Rate over the last 50 years, 30-year U.S. Treasuries have a current yield of 3.7 percent, and five-year certificates of deposit (CDs) typically return just 0.75 percent annually.

Surprisingly, California, Arizona and New Jersey, 2012’s top three solar states by installed capacity, are not among the top five states in the index. Tax credits and other incentives in New York and Connecticut have helped propel those states toward the top of the Geostellar Solar Index, which is calculated using sophisticated economics, energy and environmental factors to rank all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and more than 3,000 counties nationwide, in order of profitability for residential solar installments.

Conversely, only Mississippi residents would pay more for solar energy than they would for the conventional electricity provided by the power grid, according to the index.

Rooftop solar power in Brazil to reach 1.4 GW by 2022
05. August 2013 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends, Applications & Installations | By: Edgar Meza

The falling price of solar modules may lead to an increase in rooftop photovoltaic installations in Brazil, which is initially targeting 1.4 GW of solar by 2022.

Brazil is expecting to achieve 1.4 GW of solar energy via rooftop installations by 2022 – a major increase from the 11 MW currently in operation.

The Brazilian government has set a target of 1.4 GW of distributed solar generation by 2022, but that figure could change depending on how photovoltaic system prices develop.

Mauricio Tolmasquim, president of the government energy-research agency Empresa de Pesquisa Energetica, said on Aug. 1 that the forecast may be included in the country's 2013-2022 energy plan, which the Ministry of Mines and Energy is currently drafting.

Solar could provide one-third of western US power needs by 2050
By Ryan Koronowski on 6 August 2013
Climate Progress

Solar power could supply one-third of the West’s power needs by 2050 if federal cost-reduction targets are met and the region adopts reasonable carbon policies, according to a new study from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

The cost of solar has been declining rapidly, and it has proliferated in use faster than many thought possible. The U.S. recently became one of four other countries to reach 10 gigawatts of solar capacity. Still, it has barely crested one percent of total energy production in the United States. As the twin trends of lower cost and increased distribution accelerate, the stark reality remains: transitioning the electric grid more completely to renewables could be expensive and difficult.

The Berkeley study, published in Environmental Science and Technology, analyzed how widespread solar could reasonably become in western North America by mid-century. They developed a model that determined the optimal investment of solar generation, transmission, and storage across the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC). This is the grid rich with renewable resources that serves 14 Western states, plus British Columbia, Alberta, and northern Baja California in Mexico. That richness in intermittent renewable power, plus the large geographic size of the grid, makes the WECC an ideal place to examine how renewable power such as solar would actually scale.

The crucial factor in the study was the impact of solar cost-reduction targets on the broader energy mix. The Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative was announced in 2011 with the goal of reducing total solar costs by 75 percent by 2020, to be cost-competitive with other large-scale forms of energy without subsidies. The name is a play on President Kennedy’s “moon shot” goal he set, to get Americans on the moon. Since its inception, the program has supported next-generation photovoltaic cells, such as “multijunction cells” that boost efficiency, as well as efforts to reduce the “soft costs” of solar installation like financing hurdles and simplifying installation technology. If successful, the price of solar would drop to a dollar a watt, or 6 cents a kilowatt-hour — right on par with conventional fossil fuel energy without subsidies.

Republicans Support Solar… By Putting It On Their Roofs
by Zach
on August 4, 2013

Polls have long shown that both Republicans and Democrats love solar power. Everyone loves solar (okay, nearly everyone). But it’s one thing to say you support something and another thing to put that thing on your roof, right?

The good news is that some solar research in Arizona has found that Republican districts have installed more solar than Democratic ones.

In an email I received a few days ago, a representative of TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed) wrote:

Although solar has long been considered a Democratic issue, solar installation locations in Arizona suggest that solar may be one thing people from both sides of the aisle can agree on. An analysis of where rooftop solar has been installed in Arizona, one of the country’s sunniest states, confirms that large numbers of Republicans are going solar. Of the 14 legislative districts with the most private rooftop solar customers, 12 of them are primarily represented by Republicans. The five legislative districts (22, 1, 13, 14, and 28) that have the most solar installed are all predominantly Republican in terms of legislative representation. Combined, those customers represent more than 15,000 solar households.
Pretty good news. And I wouldn’t be surprised if that was also the case in other states. The fact of the matter is, on the citizen level, solar power is a bi-partisan issue. The problem is with it becoming something Republican leaders in Congress and at the head of some state governments want to attack.

ARPA-E Announces $30 Million for Research Projects to Develop Breakthrough Technologies to Advance Solar Energy
Tuesday, July 16, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC -- The Department of Energy today announced that up to $30 million from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will be made available for a new program that will engage our country’s top scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to develop new technologies that deliver cost-effective solar energy when the sun is not shining. The technologies developed will help advance solar energy beyond current photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) technologies to ensure solar power remains a consistent, cost-effective renewable energy option.

“ARPA-E’s new program will leverage the ingenuity of America’s best and brightest to develop technologies that are critical to the continued growth of the solar industry,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “As the President made clear in his plan to cut carbon pollution, energy innovations like these are a critical contribution to ensuring America’s future national, economic, and environmental security.”

The new program entitled Full-Spectrum Optimized Conversion and Utilization of Sunlight (FOCUS) seeks to develop two distinct technology options to deliver low-cost, high-efficiency solar energy on demand, specifically: (1) new hybrid solar energy converters and (2) new hybrid energy storage systems.

Residential PV Storage To Hit 2.5 GW By 2017
by Zach
on August 3, 2013

Market research firm IHS has projected in a new report that installed residential PV storage system capacity could likely hit 2.5 GW by 2017.

Naturally, Germany is leading the way in this arena, where a home energy storage subsidy went into place on May 1. In the leading solar PV country, it is increasingly competitive to store power collected via home solar panels and use it when the sun is down (especially in the early evening hours of peak demand and higher electricity prices). While this is still a very nascent market, it is increasingly attractive for consumers to generate and store electricity than to buy electricity from the grid.

“Residential PV customers are striving to maximise their own consumption of the energy they are generating,” said Abigail Ward, PV analyst at IHS.

This is because rising electricity prices and decreasing feed-in-tariffs are serving as a disincentive for consumers to export their power to the electricity grid.

Such developments, combined with the introduction of the German Energy Storage Subsidy, are forecast to accelerate the overall growth of the residential solar storage market.
“Not only will the incentive reduce the upfront cost of residential storage solutions deployed in Germany by up to 30%, it will also generate volume in this immature market—and price reductions achieved by mass production will also benefit installations in other countries,” said Sam Wilkinson, PV research manager and co-author of the report.
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Electron ‘spin’ key to solar cell breakthrough
07 Aug 2013

Latest research paves way for inexpensive, high performance cells

Organic solar cells, a new class of solar cell that mimics the natural process of plant photosynthesis, could revolutionise renewable energy - but currently lack the efficiency to compete with the more costly commercial silicon cells.

At the moment, organic solar cells can achieve as much as 12 per cent efficiency in turning light into electricity, compared with 20 to 25 per cent for silicon-based cells.

Now, researchers have discovered that manipulating the 'spin' of electrons in these solar cells dramatically improves their performance, providing a vital breakthrough in the pursuit of cheap, high performing solar power technologies.

Report signals PV boom in the Middle East and North Africa
08. August 2013 | Top News, Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Markets & Trends | By: Ilias Tsagas

A new report examining renewable energy in the MENA region finds that "PV is experiencing rapid growth due to its tremendous potential and continuously decreasing technology costs," with a current pipeline of 2.3 GW.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) and the United Arab Emirates' Directorate of Energy and Climate Change recently published a joint report examining the deployment of renewable energies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

MENA region, the report says, is currently characterized by an increasing amount of renewable power investment and a burgeoning project pipeline to harness the region’s abundance of renewable energy resources

Self-Healing Solar Cells ‘Channel’ Natural Processes
For Immediate Release
Mick Kulikowski | News Services | 919.515.8387
Dr. Orlin Velev | 919.513.4318
Release Date: 08.07.13

To understand how solar cells heal themselves, look no further than the nearest tree leaf or the back of your hand.

The “branching” vascular channels that circulate life-sustaining nutrients throughout leaves and hands serve as the inspiration for solar cells that can restore themselves efficiently and inexpensively.

In a new paper, North Carolina State University researchers Orlin Velev and Hyung-Jun Koo show that creating solar cell devices with channels that mimic organic vascular systems can effectively reinvigorate solar cells whose performance deteriorates due to degradation by the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Solar cells that are based on organic systems hold the potential to be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than silicon-based solar cells, the current industry standard.

The nature-mimicking devices are a type of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), composed of a water-based gel core, electrodes, and inexpensive, light-sensitive, organic dye molecules that capture light and generate electric current. However, the dye molecules that get “excited” by the sun’s rays to produce electricity eventually degrade and lose efficiency, Velev says, and thus need to be replenished to reboot the device’s effectiveness in harnessing the power of the sun.

“Organic material in DSSCs tends to degrade, so we looked to nature to solve the problem,” Velev said. “We considered how the branched network in a leaf maintains water and nutrient levels throughout the leaf. Our microchannel solar cell design works in a similar way. Photovoltaic cells rendered ineffective by high intensities of ultraviolet rays were regenerated by pumping fresh dye into the channels while cycling the exhausted dye out of the cell. This process restores the device’s effectiveness in producing electricity over multiple cycles.”
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Q2 shipments reach 5.8 GW from leading suppliers
12. August 2013 | Market & Trends, Financial & Legal Affairs | By: Jonathan Gifford

Shipments of photovoltaic modules from the leading 20 manufacturers exceeded 5.8 GW in Q2 2013, representing 21% year-on-year growth.

Figures from NPD Solarbuzz released on Monday have revealed that Q2 2013 module shipments have reached new highs, with more than 5.8 GW shipped in the quarter. Leading the shipment growth is Chinese producer Yingli, which shipped 800 MW in the quarter, representing a new world record for any producer.

The Q2 figures indicate that module shipments are continuing to increase despite some manufacturers focusing of profitability rather than market share, the market analysts have observed.

INSIGHT-California aims to "bottle sunlight" in energy storage push
Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:59am EDT
  • State proposes target for 1.3 gigawatts of storage
  • GE, LG Chem among companies entering growing market
  • Utility ratepayers on hook for cost, but grid to benefit
  • Silicon Valley venture capital also behind push
By Braden Reddall and Nichola Groom

SAN FRANCISCO/LOS ANGELES, Aug 12 (Reuters) - California, whose green ambitions helped the solar and wind industries take root, is taking an essential next step by proposing a sharp rise in energy storage to better integrate renewable power with the rest of the grid.

Power from sun and wind fluctuates dramatically, so capturing it for later use makes the supply more predictable.

"We can't just rely on sunlight," Governor Jerry Brown told the Intersolar conference in San Francisco last month. "We've got to bottle the sunlight."

California's storage push comes as renewables move toward a mandated one-third of the state's electricity supply by 2020. The proposal has fired up a technology race that has already attracted venture capitalists Peter Thiel and Vinod Khosla, large-scale battery makers such as LG Chem, and establishment forces like General Electric Co and Microsoft Corp founder Bill Gates.

It isn't just about California. Germany is a storage pioneer, and in the United States, stimulus funds have backed projects in states such as New York and Texas.

But the Golden State's aggressive renewables target is forcing the issue here: it wants storage of up to 1.3 gigawatts by 2020. That capacity is enough for traditional plants to power more than a million homes.

Lux Research analyst Steven Minnihan said California's proposal is the first legislation that will have an immediate and lasting impact on the grid storage market, which he estimates will soar to installations worth $10.4 billion in 2017 from just $200 million last year.

Venture capitalists poured $2.2 billion into storage in the last five years, according to the Cleantech Group, or well over double that of the previous five years. Werner, of San Jose-based SunPower, noted that the same minds behind smartphones are moving into smart meters and storage in Silicon Valley.

"These are capitalists. They're not doing this as a science experiment."

News Release NR-4413
NREL Report Firms Up Land-Use Requirements of Solar
Study shows solar for 1,000 homes would require 32 acres

July 30, 2013

The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has published a report on the land use requirements of solar power plants based on actual land-use practices from existing solar facilities.

“Having real data from a majority of the solar plants in the United States will help people make proper comparisons and informed decisions,” lead author Sean Ong said. The report, “Land-use Requirements for Solar Power Plants in the United States,”PDF was written with NREL colleagues Clinton Campbell, Robert Margolis, Paul Denholm and Garvin Heath.

Ong gathered data from 72% of the solar power plants installed or under construction in the United States. Among the findings:
  • A large fixed tilt photovoltaic (PV) plant that generates 1 gigawatt-hour per year requires, on average, 2.8 acres for the solar panels. This means that a solar power plant that provides all of the electricity for 1,000 homes would require 32 acres of land.
  • Small single-axis PV systems require on average 2.9 acres per annual gigawatt-hour – or 3.8 acres when considering all unused area that falls inside the project boundary.
  • Concentrating solar power plants require on average 2.7 acres for solar collectors and other equipment per annual gigawatt-hour; 3.5 acres for all land enclosed within the project boundary.

By the third quarter of 2012, the United States had deployed more than 2.1 gigawatts of utility-scale solar generation capacity. Another 4.6 gigawatts was under construction. There has been a long-running debate over the comparative land needs for various forms of energy, old and new. But that’s not the purpose of the new report, Ong and Denholm emphasized.

“The numbers aren’t good news or bad news,” Denholm said. “It’s just that there was not an understanding of actual land-use requirements before this work. However, we were happy to find out that many of the solar land use ranges and estimates used in the literature are very close to actual solar land use requirements that we found.”
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Solar Industry Looking To Modernize U.S. Electric Grid
August 13, 2013 Julia Engelbrecht : 0 Comments

Reacting to a new report issued today by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the White House Council of Economic Advisors, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) says its members are well-positioned to assist efforts to modernize the U.S. electric grid and to make it more resilient in the future when pounded by severe weather.

SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch released the following statement after the report’s release:

“Ten years after the largest blackout in U.S. history, which blanketed eight states in the Northeast in the summer of 2003 and left 50 million Americans in the dark, solar is more important than ever to our nation’s energy security and grid reliability. We look forward to working with the White House, DOE and Congress to leverage ways that solar can add to the grid’s resiliency and overall long-term effectiveness.

“As more and more nuclear and coal plants are mothballed, America’s solar energy industry is doing its part to make up for some of that lost generating capacity. Today, more than 30 utility-scale, clean energy solar projects are under construction, putting thousands of electricians, steelworkers and laborers to work and helping to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. These facilities, along with rooftop solar on homes, businesses and schools, will generate electricity for generations to come. In fact, by the end of next year, distributed generation from residences alone is expected to top 3,000 megawatts (MW) for the first time ever.

“All totaled, there is now more than 8,500 MW of cumulative solar electric capacity installed in the U.S. – enough to power more than 1.3 million American homes. What’s more, in the first quarter of 2013, more than 48 percent all new electricity added to the grid was solar. In addition, innovative solar heating and cooling systems are offering American consumers cost-efficient, effective options for meeting their energy needs.

“Today, solar employs nearly 120,000 Americans at more than 5,600 companies, most of which are small businesses spread across the United States, making solar one of the fastest growing industries in America. Part of this amazing growth is attributed to the fact that the cost of a solar system has dropped by nearly 40 percent over the past two years, making solar more affordable than ever.

“Simply put, solar is critically important to our nation’s energy security and national security – and we’re doing our part to fight climate change, too. By anyone’s standards, that’s a win-win for America.”
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Solar panels mean $3 electricity bill for Surrey man
Hans Wekking says $10,000 solar panels provide electricity "for free"

CBC News
Posted: Aug 14, 2013 5:32 PM PT

A Surrey resident has drastically cut his electricity bill by installing solar panels on his home.

Last week, electrician Hans Wekking's energy bill was $3, which includes the cost of charging his electric car.

Two weeks ago, Wekking installed eight solar panels on his house at a cost of $10,000.

“This shields you from any rate hikes. Once you've paid for the system, the electricity is free,” he said.

“So if there's any future rate increases — like gasoline keeps going up, so is electricity — so for 25 years you are producing electricity,” he added.

Plastic Solar Cells' New Design Promises Bright Future
Unprecedented fill factors of 80 percent come close to that of silicon solar cells

August 13, 2013 | by Megan Fellman

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Energy consumption is growing rapidly in the 21st century, with rising energy costs and sustainability issues greatly impacting the quality of human life. Harvesting energy directly from sunlight to generate electricity using photovoltaic technologies is considered to be one of the most promising opportunities to produce electricity in an environmentally benign fashion.

Among the various photovoltaic technologies, polymer (plastic) solar cells offer unique attractions and opportunities. These solar cells contain Earth-abundant and environmentally benign materials, can be made flexible and lightweight, and can be fabricated using roll-to-roll technologies similar to how newspapers are printed. But the challenge has been improving the cells’ power-conversion efficiency.

Now a research team of faculty members and students led by Professor Tobin J. Marks of Northwestern University reports the design and synthesis of new polymer semiconductors and reports the realization of polymer solar cells with fill factors of 80 percent -- a first. This number is close to that of silicon solar cells.

“Our results indicate that the power-conversion efficiency achievable with polymer solar cells may be far beyond the current levels, heralding a bright future for this technology,” Marks said. “With our high fill factors, polymers with very good but not champion light absorption still are able to achieve very good efficiency.”

Marks is the Vladimir N. Ipatieff Research Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The study was published Aug. 11 by the journal Nature Photonics.
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India to start US$7.9 billion investment for solar-ready grid
By John Parnell - 15 August 2013, 10:12
In News, Power Generation

India is about to kick-start a planned US$7.9 billion investment in its electricity grid as it prepares to introduce more solar and wind.

The first €250 million (US$332 million) of investment - out of a committed total of €1 billion (US$1.33 billion) for Indian grid improvements - is expected “soon” from the German development bank KfW, Ratan P. Watal, secretary of the ministry of new and renewable energy told Businessweek.

According to Watal, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, the country’s own National Electricity Fund and local governments, will also contribute to the programme.

India experienced huge blackouts in 2012 that left 700 million people without power.

According to the World Bank, 400 million people in India have no access to electricity. A number of on- and off-grid projects are under way to reduce this number.
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Largest Solar Rooftop In Europe Complete, In Germany!
Published on August 17th, 2013 | by Nicholas Brown

The largest self-consumption rooftop solar array in Europe has been completed, and it is of course located in Germany. It is eleven hectares in size, consists of 33,000 solar panels, and has a generation capacity of 8.1 MW (which could power up to about 1,846 homes).

The record-breaking solar roof is on top of the Pfenning Logistics distribution centre named multicube rhein-neckar, which is located in the Heddesheim municipality, a bit south of Frankfurt. The building was recently constructed and has been owned by Union Investment as of 2012.

Dennis Seiberth, president of international large-scale projects at the project development company Wirsol, said: “In this size we usually build solar parks.” He added that Wirsol was ambitious in its aims to build the plant in four weeks.

São Paulo Aiming For 1 GW Of Solar Energy Capacity By 2020
Published on August 17th, 2013 | by Nathan

The Brazilian state of São Paulo — the economic and industrial heart of the country — is currently aiming to possess a total of at least 1 GW of solar energy capacity by the year 2020, a goal which is very achievable, according to a solar atlas of the region that was recently released by the state’s energy secretariat. The state of São Paulo possesses twice the maximum global solar irradiation of the solar powerhouse Germany.

São Paulo, which in addition to being the economic heart of the country is also the most populous state in Brazil, has a total solar power generation potential of 12 TWh per year in the areas with the absolute highest annual solar radiation, according to the new solar atlas. The areas in question total 732 square kilometers — 0.3% of the state’s total area of 248,209 square kilometers. It’s estimated that these areas could host at least 9,100 MW (9.1 GW) of installed capacity.

São Paulo is already well on its way to achieving its aforementioned goal of possessing 1 GW of solar energy capacity by 2020 — 207 MW of thermal solar capacity are already installed. The rest of the 1 GW target capacity will be split up thusly: a further 592 MW of thermal solar capacity, 50 MW of photovoltaic solar capacity, 50 MW of concentrated solar power, and 100 MW set aside for passive solar energy exploitation in the form of solar architecture projects.

Can US Solar PV Costs Keep Falling?
Chris Nelder says that depends on what happens to soft costs.

Chris Nelder: August 16, 2013

Solar PV costs are still falling rapidly in the United States, but further cost reductions will depend largely on policymakers.

Those are the conclusions of a new paper from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Tracking the Sun VI [PDF].

The analysis covers more than 200,000 residential, commercial, and utility-scale PV systems in 29 states, representing 72 percent of all grid-connected PV capacity in the United States as of 2012, and tracks installed prices before any incentives or tax credits, in 2012 dollars, from 1998 through 2012, with some preliminary 2013 data.

Are Utilities Ready for the Coming Death Spiral?
Jigar Shah, Stephen Lacey and Richard Caperton discuss the impact of distributed energy on utilities.

Stephen Lacey: August 16, 2013

Utilities may soon be on the verge of a "death spiral" as more customers leave the grid and implement distributed energy technologies like solar. A similar shift happened in telecom as the rise of mobile phones made copper lines nearly obsolete.

This week, we'll ask what lessons the utility sector can learn from telecom companies that have already navigated the shift to distributed technologies. (And for another take on the issue, read Scott Clavenna's piece on the utility-telecom connection.)

We'll also discuss why some in the Tea Party and other unlikely groups are supporting renewables, as well as ask what we've learned about grid management ten years after the notorious 2003 blackout in the Northeast U.S.

Canadian Solar sees grid parity for big solar in 5 years
By Giles Parkinson on 16 August 2013

Global solar manufacturing giant Canadian Solar expects that solar power will be competitive with fossil fuels in many countries with five years.

In an interview with RenewEconomy, chief commercial officer Yan Zhuang said utility-scale solar costs were currently around 15c/kWh. But within five years this would fall to around 10c/kWh. By this time, fossil fuels will be around the same price.

However, Zhuang said the arrival of cost competitive energy storage would be a key for solar’s future growth, because the output needed to be delivered.

“Storage is just so important now – whether we are moving to self consumption (at the residential and commercial level) and at utility-scale. It will become a game changer because we need to shift the load. But we are not quite there yet.”

Once storage became a viable commercial option, Zhuang said that residential solar would then truly be at “grid parity”. He said residential rooftop was not at grid parity yet because “there was no sun in the evening”.

But he said solar was already at grid parity for commercial users with daytime loads, and for off-grid locations where diesel or other expensive fuels were the only option.

New rechargeable flow battery enables cheaper, large-scale energy storage
Design may support widespread use of solar and wind energy.

Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office
August 16, 2013

MIT researchers have engineered a new rechargeable flow battery that doesn’t rely on expensive membranes to generate and store electricity. The device, they say, may one day enable cheaper, large-scale energy storage.

The palm-sized prototype generates three times as much power per square centimeter as other membraneless systems — a power density that is an order of magnitude higher than that of many lithium-ion batteries and other commercial and experimental energy-storage systems.

The device stores and releases energy in a device that relies on a phenomenon called laminar flow: Two liquids are pumped through a channel, undergoing electrochemical reactions between two electrodes to store or release energy. Under the right conditions, the solutions stream through in parallel, with very little mixing. The flow naturally separates the liquids, without requiring a costly membrane.

The reactants in the battery consist of a liquid bromine solution and hydrogen fuel. The group chose to work with bromine because the chemical is relatively inexpensive and available in large quantities, with more than 243,000 tons produced each year in the United States.

In addition to bromine’s low cost and abundance, the chemical reaction between hydrogen and bromine holds great potential for energy storage. But fuel-cell designs based on hydrogen and bromine have largely had mixed results: Hydrobromic acid tends to eat away at a battery’s membrane, effectively slowing the energy-storing reaction and reducing the battery’s lifetime.

To circumvent these issues, the team landed on a simple solution: Take out the membrane.
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3D Graphene: Solar Power's Next Platinum?
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Last Modified 11:43 AM, August 20, 2013
By Marcia Goodrich

August 20, 2013—

One of the most promising types of solar cells has a few drawbacks. A scientist at Michigan Technological University may have overcome one of them.

Dye-sensitized solar cells are thin, flexible, easy to make and very good at turning sunshine into electricity. However, a key ingredient is one of the most expensive metals on the planet: platinum. While only small amounts are needed, at $1,500 an ounce, the cost of the silvery metal is still significant.

Yun Hang Hu, the Charles and Caroll McArthur Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, has developed a new, inexpensive material that could replace the platinum in solar cells without degrading their efficiency: 3D graphene.

Regular graphene is a famously two-dimensional form of carbon just a molecule or so thick. Hu and his team invented a novel approach to synthesize a unique 3D version with a honeycomb-like structure. To do so, they combined lithium oxide with carbon monoxide in a chemical reaction that forms lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) and the honeycomb graphene. The Li2CO3 helps shape the graphene sheets and isolates them from each other, preventing the formation of garden-variety graphite. Furthermore, the Li2CO3 particles can be easily removed from 3D honeycomb-structured graphene by an acid.

The researchers determined that the 3D honeycomb graphene had excellent conductivity and high catalytic activity, raising the possibility that it could be used for energy storage and conversion. So they replaced the platinum counter electrode in a dye-sensitized solar cell with one made of the 3D honeycomb graphene. Then they put the solar cell in the sunshine and measured its output.

The cell with the 3D graphene counter electrode converted 7.8 percent of the sun’s energy into electricity, nearly as much as the conventional solar cell using costly platinum (8 percent).

Synthesizing the 3D honeycomb graphene is neither expensive nor difficult, said Hu, and making it into a counter electrode posed no special challenges.

Nanoplasmonic Black Metals Could Provide 95% UV-NIR Light Absorbance
Written by Sandra Henderson 19 August 2013

In a breakthrough experiment, researchers in the Materials Engineering Division (MED) at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have created nanoplasmonic black metals that could provide a path to improved energy harvesting from the sun. Much like black silicon, these nanostructured metals are treated (e.g. by roughening the material at the nanoscale level) to have low reflectivity and high absorption of visible and infrared light.

On the path to more efficient photovoltaics, black plasmonic aluminium, for instance, could one day serve as electric contact in PV modules, providing broadband solar energy harvesting at low cost. “Such electrode would increase light absorbance up to 95% in the UV-NIR range and could potentially be integrated with various thin-film technologies, which suffer from limited absorbances,” says LLNL engineer Tiziana Bond, PhD, who led the nanophotonics and plasmonics research team.

Rather than classic metals, the LLNL scientists describe nanoplasmonic black metals as an extension of the black silicon concept. But because the nanostructuring here is random, reliable and repeatable absorption of the full solar spectrum cannot be guaranteed. Nonetheless, the cutting-edge method developed at LLNL enables the researchers to control the absorption efficiency and increase the blackness of the metals. Namely, metallic nanopillar structures are trapping and absorbing all of the solar spectrum’s relevant wavelengths. “The metallic nanoresonator arrays couple very efficiently with the incident light by adiabatic nano-focusing in the tapered nanogap cavities present in the array and exhibit broadband absorbance due to multiple gap modes obtained by increasing the resonator lengths and controlling the quality factor of the cavity itself,” explains Bond, who collaborated with Mihail Bora, PhD on the research project.

JA Solar P-Type Mono-Si Solar Cells Surpass 20% Efficiency
Written by Anne Fischer 19 August 2013

JA Solar Holdings Co., Ltd. today announced that its p-type mono-crystalline silicon solar cells, a new family of high-performance solar cells dubbed Percium, have surpassed 20% conversion efficiency.

The newly achieved conversion efficiency, which has been independently confirmed and certified by the Fraunhofer ISE's photovoltaic calibration laboratory (CalLab) in Freiburg, Germany, sets an industry-leading level for industrial size (156x156 mm2) solar cells using p-type mono-Si wafers.
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