Samsung’s Solar Powered Internet School in South Africa

Samsung Business Leader for East and Central Africa Manoj Changarampatt says that Africans are more likely to have their first experience with the Internet by using a smartphone rather than a computer. This explains why, while many other companies are exiting the African marketplace, Samsung is ramping up its marketing and sales efforts on the continent.

“We’re entering new countries… we’re investing into more territories, and while other companies are moving out of the African market, we’re walking into the big countries and establishing an entity by investing in infrastructure and human resources,” said Changarampatt.

One way the company is doing this is with its solar-powered, mobile classroom. Housed in a renovated shipping container, the South African village of Phomolong now has a high-tech Solar Powered Internet School, a product of Samsung’s “corporate-social responsibility initiative.”

A “supplement” to the village’s secondary school, the classroom’s solar panels are made out of a special substance like rubber so that the entire container can be moved by truck to other locations. The classroom is also insulated and well ventilated so that students are able to learn basic computer and internet skills in a comfortable, climate-controlled environment.

The panels produce about 9 hours of electricity each day, enough to power the tools inside the classroom: a 50-inch electronic board, Samsung Internet-enabled solar-powered notebooks, Samsung Galaxy tablets, and Wi-Fi cameras.

While Samsung only recently provided the public with details about the solar-powered classroom, it has been operational in Phomolong for quite a while and already received the African Solar Project of the Year award for 2012 from Africa Energy.

If Samsung’s promotion video is anything to go by, the mobile computer lab is a hit with students.

“I was just happy that finally I would get an opportunity to go into the Samsung [Solar Powered Internet School] and just hold the computer all to myself and learn all those things I’ve always wanted to learn,” said a student named Lefa in the video.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

Maryland’s Largest Solar Plant Announces December Completion

First Solar entered into a leasing agreement with the state of Maryland in order to construct the state’s largest solar power plant. Located on 160 acres near the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, the 20MW project will include over 300,000 solar panels.

Maryland has an aggressive renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that requires the state to generate 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2022. In 2006, solar power plants generated less than 0.1 megawatts.

But a lot has changed over the last few years. The Maryland Energy Administration’s former director Malcolm Woolf said in a recent statement on the MEA’s website that Maryland is expected to produce 100 MW by the end of 2o12.

The new project in Hagerstown is another big win for Maryland’s solar advocates.

First Solar estimates that the solar farm will generate “a peak of 20 megawatts of power per hour”, producing enough electricity to support 5,000 homes nearby.

The $70 million solar power plant broke ground a few months ago and has provided dozens of jobs to local residents during construction.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

Dubai Chooses First Solar for 13MW Solar Plant

The Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA) has engaged First Solar, Inc to develop a 13MW solar PV power plant near Dubai. First Solar will not only handle all engineering, procurement and construction details but will also use its own thin-film modules for the project.

The solar power plant is just the first step in a much larger project, the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. The solar park, an AED $12 billion (about USD $3 billion) project, will cover 30 miles with solar panels and generate 1,000 MW for the capital of Dubai.

The development will ultimately incorporate both solar PV and solar thermal technology.

“The PV plant installation is a key step in the implementation of the energy diversification strategy adopted by the Supreme Council of Energy, in which solar energy is set to become part of Dubai’s energy portfolio. The strategy is based on Dubai’s growing energy requirements and aims to maintain security of supply in the Emirate of Dubai,” said HE Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD & CEO of DEWA, in a statement.

For its part, the stage one PV power plant will produce over 22 million kWh of electricity annually. That’s enough to support 500 nearby households while saving 14,000 metric tons of CO2 each year.

Earlier in the week, we spotlighted a neighboring country’s renewable energy goals. Cleantechnica reported last week that that Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud, a main spokesman for Saudi Arabia, made a startling statement at the Global Economic Symposium in Brazil last week: his country intends to be 100% powered by renewable energy and other low-carbon energy forms.

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Saudi Arabia at 100% Renewable?

Cleantechnica reports that Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud, a main spokesman for Saudi Arabia, made a startling statement at the Global Economic Symposium in Brazil last week: his country intends to be 100% powered by renewable energy and other low-carbon energy forms.

The prince said he hopes to see this change take place within his lifetime, although he did say it may take longer since he is 67. Such a dramatic change would certainly take several decades.

Skeptics of the announcement dubbed it “greenwashing,” but the Saudi prince said the country is absolutely expanding its renewable energy investments and use of of nuclear power and other “undefined” alternatives to fossil fuels.

Saudi Arabia has over 100 major oil and gas fields within its borders; only Venezuela has larger proven oil reserves than Saudi Arabia. Roughly one-fifth of all of the conventional oil reserves in the world are Saudi.

The Saudi prince said that the country’s massive oil reserves would still be used around the world to produce plastics and polymers.

“Oil is more precious for us underground than as a fuel source,” Prince Turki said. “If we can get to the point where we can replace fossil fuels and use oil to produce other products that are useful, that would be very good for the world. I wish that may be in my lifetime, but I don’t think it will be.”

Because of the immense availability of oil and natural gas, energy prices are “artificially-low” with the country and energy use is quite high. But it’s already made progress on its renewable energy development; the prince said that solar power in particular has a lot of potential.

“The cost of solar energy is now 15% of what it was 20 years ago,” he said during the symposium.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

Denmark Reaches 2020 Solar Goal Ahead of Schedule

Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the country is adapting solar technology at a much quicker rate than anticipated.

This year, interest in solar technology has soared: “the solar cell capacity will be a hundred times bigger this year compared with 2010.” Every month, another 36 MW of solar capacity is added to the grid in Denmark.

Major Danish energy companies Dansk Energi, Energinet.dk and DONG Energy are confident that the trend will continue. They believe 1000 MW will be online by 2020 and 3400 MW by 2030.

“…Denmark has a unique energy system with a very high share of renewable energy,” said Kim Schultz, project manager with Invest in Denmark. “This makes the energy system very suitable as a platform for Smart Grid technologies, which are a key element to fully exploit renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind energy.”

Last month, the Danish Energy Agency said in a press release that it had already met a 40% renewable energy generation goal. This is impressive considering it outpaces neighbor Germany’s share of “green electricity” by 50%.

Denmark stated its national energy goal a little more than six months ago. The goal is to reduce overall energy consumption in the country by 12% in the next 7 years and ultimately generate 100% of all electricity needs with clean power sources by 2050.

The country is well on its way to achieve this thanks to a couple of important factors differentiating Denmark from its European neighbors. The country’s population of about 5.5 million was entirely self-sufficient in 2011, producing 10% more energy than it consumed in 2011. A large oil reserve in the North Sea keeps the country’s relatively small population amply supplied with energy.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

Net Zero Building: The Future?

As sustainable building trends continue to emerge, the ambitious goal of net-zero building continues to emerge among industry leaders. Imagining a building that literally produces as much–or more–energy than it consumes almost seems unrealistic. However, both major organizations and small businesses are showing us exactly the opposite–with careful planning and responsible energy management practices.

Net zero is achievable but on how wide of a scale?

I recently had the opportunity to discuss the growing trend with a handful of industry professionals–including the Sustainable Manufacturing Manager at McCormick whom provided a promising case study of the transformation of one of their facilities–a 363,000 square foot distribution center which achieved net zero earlier this year.

Organizations are showing us that net zero is widely achievable with two primary steps: first addressing current consumption across a facility, and secondly–retrofitting a building to both reduce and produce energy.

Generally, energy reduction retrofits include upgraded lighting and HVAC–meanwhile, photovoltaic solar (PV) panels are installed to produce remaining energy that can result in equilibrium. PV panels may sound like a hefty investment, but the prices of solar paneling are quickly dropping; furthermore, many energy supply companies are supplying and installing such installations as part of power purchase agreements requiring little, if any, up front investment from the organization. Finance payments, of sorts, can be made towards the cost of installation via energy savings over time.

And what do experts think of the future of net zero building?

Obviously some organizations, depending on their nature, will have a much more difficult time in achieving ambitious goals like these.

Read the original story written to see what they say on the Software Advice blog: Breaking Down Net Zero Building: Reality or Wishful Thinking?

Japan Eyes Geothermal Energy

Now that Japan has committed to shutting down nuclear power plants that supplied 30 percent of the country’s power prior to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, the government has supported more clean energy development through generous subsidy programs.

This has attracted an unprecedented level of renewable energy investment in the last two months alone: over $2 billion since the program’s launch in July and September.

Most of the attention has been centered on solar development in Japan, although some companies, like one of the world’s largest trading houses Sumitomo Corp, have instead looked to wind power for a “more manageable” way to achieve Japan’s renewable energy goals.

Until now, not a lot has been said about Japan’s geothermal potential. Japan has the third largest geothermal energy potential in the world, after Indonesia and the United States, but currently only generates about 0.3% of its energy with geothermal. That makes it about eighth in the world in annual geothermal energy output.

The New York Times drew attention to Japan’s geothermal development last week, stating that the Japanese government is spending over $115 million on geothermal energy development surveys this year with a request for about another $100 million in surveys for next year.

In addition to the surveys, the Japanese government has funded a program that assists geothermal developers with capital injections and debt guarantees. It has requested an 30% increase in funding for the program in 2013.

Keiichi Sakaguchi, head of the geothermal resources research group at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, told the Times, “Unlike solar or wind energy that can vary in output due to weather conditions, geothermal energy is pretty consistent and stable in output and has the potential to serve as a base load for energy production.”

Analysts say that there is a wealth of geothermal energy just waiting to be tapped into, more than 20 GW around the country according to a report issued by the Japanese government.

Development must proceed carefully, however; nearly 80 percent of the country’s geothermal potential exists in regions reserved as national parks and monuments. While for many years, projects in these areas were banned, after the Fukushima disaster last year, the government lifted the ban and allowed five new geothermal sites to be explored under tight supervision of course.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

Japanese Solar Bubble: In The Cards?

It’s been a big year for global renewable energy development as Japan announced its intention to phase on nuclear energy and instead rely heavily on clean energy sources. Recent clean energy subsidies in the county sparked $2 billion in clean energy investments in just two months while the Japanese government predicts a “$640 billion spending boom” between now and 2030.

Major investors in the emerging Japanese solar market include Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and billionaire Masayoshi Son. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that “99 percent of applications for the new tariffs are for electricity generated from sunlight.”

Analysts say that within the Japanese solar boom, land prices and industry salaries are quickly becoming overly inflated. Investors looking to cash in on the new wave come from all industries, ranging from (according to Businessweek) gambling parlor operators to asset managers.

This is causing critics of solar in Japan to predict a “solar bubble” in the future.

But big investors like Sumitomo Corp, one of the world’s biggest trading companies, still sees potential in the market. So Sumitomo is taking an alternate route in renewable energy investment, choosing to focus on wind over solar.

Sumitomo is certainly influenced by data from the Japanese government showing that while solar is overwhelmingly the most popular development choice at present, wind farms can actually be built less expensively and yield higher returns.

In fact, Sumitomo’s local utility, Summit Energy Corp., is predicting that it will triple its wind power profits over the next few years. Sumitomo will be developing multiple wind farms as well as at least two biomass plants. Both types of energy will qualify for the government subsidies that pay above-market rates for electricity generated from clean energy sources.

Summit Energy Corp president Shinichi Kitamura explained the company’s strategy in an interview in early September, saying, “With so many companies rushing in, we are seeing a solar bubble forming and land prices are rising.”

He added that his company sees wind energy as a “more manageable” way to achieve Japan’s renewable energy goals.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

Google’s Data Center Powered by Oklahoma Wind Farm

Green data centers have become all the rage among the big tech companies like Apple and Facebook. In fact, the New York Times is running a series this past week detailing data center operations.

Google has now made a significant statement by announcing this week that it has entered into a wind energy agreement with an Oklahoma utility company to supply a nearby data center with clean energy.

The multimedia giant will purchase 48MW of wind energy from Grand River Dam Authority, who will be selling the power generated by the Canadian Hills Wind Project. The facility is predicted to be up and running by the end of the year.

Renewable energy is nothing new for Google since the company has held power purchase agreements (PPAs) for wind power previously. It has also been a major investor in clean energy projects, most notably the massive Ivanpah solar thermal power plant in the California desert.

Earlier in the week, Apple announced that it is expanding the clean energy resources of its Maiden, North Carolina data center by a large solar array at an offsite facility. This is in addition to the two 100-acre solar arrays already generating electricity for the data center’s operations. Apple also has a “bio-gas-powered 5-megawatt fuel cell installation” in the works and claims it will be the largest non-utility fuel cell in operation in the U.S. when it’s completed.

Environmental advocacy group Greenpeace lauded Google’s announcement but took the opportunity to call out Microsoft for not pursuing their own renewable energy agenda.

“Unlike Google, Microsoft has yet to significantly invest in clean energy,” Greenpeace senior IT analyst Gary Cook said. “Microsoft has instead continue to build data centers attached to dirty sources of electricity and sought to mask its dirty energy supply with carbon offsets and renewable energy credits.”

According to the New York Times, by their very nature, data centers usually run at maximum capacity all the time, transferring mind-boggling amounts of information around the world. They are terribly inefficient and waste over 90 percent of the electricity they draw from the power grid.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

Georgia Power to Triple Solar Capacity

Georgia Power filed a request with the Public Service Commission (PSC) today in order to expand its solar energy capacity between now and 2015. The utility is looking to triple the amount of solar from 61 MW annually to 210 MW over a three-year period.

This is an abrupt shift from Georgia Power’s previous position that solar was too expense to be a viable energy resource.

But all that has changed since solar installation costs have dropped as much as 75 percent in recent years, says solar advocate and Tybee Island City Council member Paul Wolff.

“The costs have come down dramatically and continue to fall,” Wolff said. “…Anything we can do to incentivize solar, particularly distributed solar, is going to benefit the state, region and nation by not only producing green, emission-free energy but by using no water.”

Water shortages have plagued Georgia and its largest city, Atlanta, in recent years. About half of the U.S.’s daily water usage is attributed to water used to cool power plants.

Georgia Power is quick to take credit for the recent PSC filing as “the largest solar initiative in state history,” adding that if the plan is approved, the utility will become “the largest solar player among investor-owned utilities in the 13 states where renewable energy quotas aren’t mandated by law.”

Even so, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a national trade organization representing solar interests in the United States, isn’t terribly impressed.

“More needs to be done for Georgia to become a true leader in solar and to build a sustainable solar market in the state… The program announced today offers a very limited program for homeowners and business owners to install solar on their own roofs,” SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch said via a public statement in the wake of Georgia Power’s announcement.

“Distributed solar must be allowed to grow at a rate higher than 10 megawatts per year in order to create a truly sustainable market and jobs across the state.”

But for others in the state, Georgia Power’s moderate approach is a good enough start.

Tim Echols, PSC Commissioner, stated that the plan is an “excellent short term solution.” State Sen. Buddy Carter, who failed to get a solar power purchase agreement (PPA) bill out of committee during the last legislative session, agreed.

“I was pleased, to be quite honest, that they have evolved into the position they’re taking,” Carter stated. “They’re moving the needle and I’m glad to hear that.”

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

Broken Promise? Solar Panels Still Not on White House Roof

It’s the season of campaigns and campaign promises, but for the solar industry, an unfulfilled presidential promise from nearly three years ago is still rankling.

In 2011, President Obama announced that he was bringing back solar panels to the White House. Over twenty years before, in 1979, President Jimmy Carter installed a solar hot water system on the White House as a way to encourage solar development in the United States. But just a few short years later during the Reagan administration, the system was removed and the panels were taken down in 1986.

So the solar energy industry was greatly encouraged two decades later to hear that President Obama would be bringing solar back home to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. After the announcement in 2011, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, “This project reflects President Obama’s strong commitment to U.S. leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home. Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come.”

But nearly three years after the initial announcement and there are still no solar panels at the White House. CleanTechnica says, “At this point, it is too late to make excuses for the glaring absence of solar technology at the White House. Even George Bush had some solar presence at the White House…”

The Atlantic reported that during George W. Bush’s time in office, the National Park Service installed a small, 9KW solar electric system on the White House grounds as well as two solar hot water systems.

More than 1.5 million people tour the White House facilities annually. Solar in operation on the grounds would stand as an unprecedented example to those visitors.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

Massachusetts Solar Market: Full Steam Ahead

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has identified Massachusetts as one of the few states that is experiencing a “pretty hot” solar market. The state has more than tripled its solar-generating capacity in the last two years alone.

Historically speaking, Massachusetts residents have paid a higher price for electricity than in other states around the country. This is one reason why the state has seen such explosive solar energy growth over the last two years; solar is more competitive when up against high energy rates.

Massachusetts’ Department of Energy Resources now reports a solar-generating capacity of 143.1 megawatts around the state. That amount of solar energy could power more than 21,000 households around the state. SEIA expects Massachusetts to be in the top 10 solar states by the end of 2012.

Of course it’s not just high energy costs that are driving solar development: commercial building owners, municipalities and large retail companies like REI and Kohl’s are using the state’s myriad of solar incentives to bring down the cost of installing systems.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has encouraged the ramping up of solar in the state by announcing an aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) of 250 MW of solar-generating capacity in the next five years. By 2020, utilities in Massachusetts are required to have 15 percent of their energy generated by renewable sources.

Because of these mandates, the state has developed robust incentive programs like Commonwealth Solar that offers rebates for solar energy projects. Likewise, Solarize Massachusetts educates consumers in both the residential and commercial markets to consider saving money on solar installation costs through bulk purchases.

Local energy audit company Ameresco has watched the solar growth in Massachusetts over the last two years with interest. Jim Walker heads that company’s solar operations. He said he noticed an uptick in solar interest as incentives in surrounding states expired.

“That brought in more investment and more companies taking a look at Massachusetts,” Walker told the Boston Globe.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

The Dark Side of Solar

The Los Angeles Times is talking about the dark side of all the huge, utility-scaled projects shooting up across California’s desert. Experts are predicting that consumers’ utility bills could go up by 50 percent as renewable energy produced in the state boosts electricity rates 10 – 20 percent.

Last year, California Governor Jerry Brown approved legislation that requires the state to use renewables for 33 percent of its power by 2020.

It’s an ambitious goal and one of the highest renewable portfolio standards (RPS) in the country. In order to meet that goal, transmission companies are upgrading power lines around the state over the next several years. These upgrades will allow more than 22,000MW of additional clean power to be transmitted throughout California.

But all this clean energy isn’t coming free. Major companies like Google, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, General Electric and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway have invested in renewable energy projects, but these projects still rely on government subsidies from the federal government to get projects off the ground.

Clean energy advocates fiercely defend federal subsidies, arguing that the oil, gas and nuclear industries have received similar financial support for decades and that the renewable energy industry deserves similar support in order to even the playing field.

Daniel Poneman, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, agrees. “We are driving clean energy projects that would otherwise not have gotten built at a commercial scale with innovative technology,” said Poneman.

Representatives from the Energy Department defend the initial high cost of renewables like solar energy, pointing out that the cost of electricity generated from conventional sources is guaranteed to rise while solar for example will move towards grid parity.

But in the mean time, subsidies for solar and other clean energy technologies are at the taxpayers’ expense. Additionally, solar developers engineer power purchase agreements (PPAs) with utilities, meaning utilities agree to purchase clean energy at a significantly higher rate for a set number of years. The clean energy initially costs two to four times as much as conventional electricity, at least in the beginning.

Some believe the practice of utilizing federal subsidies and then passing on costs to ratepayers is nothing short of a ripoff.

“What’s happening in California is a tragedy, on every front,” said Bill Powers told the Los Angeles Times. Powers is a San Diego-based electrical engineer who assists government entities, nonprofits and developers as a power plant consultant.

“It’s a huge waste of money…. I see a lot of this as just an old fashioned rip-off,” Powers added.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News

U.S Transmission Lines Need Upgrading for Renewable Energy Projects

The Telegraph Herald highlighted an issue that many people may not consider when advocating renewable energy projects: a lack of an adequate transmission system to move clean energy generated in remote desert areas to more populated regions around the country.

Developers–and the government–believe that the vast expanse of sun-drenched desert in the American Southwest could potentially generate enough clean energy to meet the country’s energy demands, now and in the future.

Arizona for example is third in the country (behind California and New Jersey) for solar development, thanks to a wealth of large, utility scale solar farms and commercial projects like the recent 2MW installation at a Walmart distribution center near Phoenix.

Over 285,000 acres of federal land in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah were identified this summer by the Obama administration to develop solar energy projects that could generate electricity for area homes and businesses. These projects will be overseen by the Bureau of Land Management and the President has identified these future renewable energy projects as key to securing the country’s energy security in the coming years.

But despite the solar potential of these lands and the support from the federal government, without necessary upgrades to the power transmission infrastructure, there’s no way to turn the energy produced in the desert into useable electricity for communities hundreds of miles away.

“We have incredible renewable energy resources,” U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said while visiting a solar research lab earlier in 2012. “The bad news is they’re where there are not many people. We need a distribution system that can accommodate that.”

This is real dilemma in places like New Mexico. The state receives 300 days of sunshine each year, but has a relatively small energy demand since it has a smaller population than other states. As the Telegraph Herald pointed out, “sending solar power from there to population centers isn’t as simple as loading coal into boxcars and shipping it cross country.”

A recent study by the Department of Energy found that the United States’ power transmission lines will require an upgrade in the next 20 years. Over 200,000 miles of power lines criss-cross the country and the electric industry is predicted to spend nearly $70 billion in the next three years alone to improve power transmission reliability and capacity. But it won’t be enough for all the renewable energy projects that have been green-lighted in recent years.

Original Article on AtisSun Solar Insider News