Australians Love Solar!

solar-australia

Australians overwhelmingly support distributed electricity generation, particularly solar, according to a recent survey there.

The Australian Photovoltaic Association commissioned the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to determine public sentiment and willingness regarding solar energy and the willingness of Australians to adopt it.

Of the 2,643 respondents, 26.3 percent already had some type of solar panels installed at their homes – complete solar PV or hot water systems or just a couple panels to power specific appliances.

Among those who already has some kind of solar installed, more than 70 percent said they were happy with their systems and would consider investing further in the technology. Among those survey respondent who did not already have solar panels, more than two-thirds said they supported distributed generation and would consider investing in solar. Homeowners were more likely to support the technology than renters and people living in single-family homes were more likely to say they would invest in solar than people living in condominiums or apartments.

“The survey results indicated that overall, there is general support by householders to participate in the distributed energy market,” according to the report, “particularly through the installation of solar hot water heaters, solar photovoltaic systems connected to the grid for energy generation and with battery backup.”

Most respondents said they felt buying solar systems outright was the best way to make an investment in renewable energy. The least popular method for going solar was the use of energy service companies, which is equivalent to third-party-owned systems and solar leases in the United States. More than a quarter of respondents said they wouldn’t even consider contracting to buy renewable energy. But more than 56 percent said they would think about signing a contract if they would save money on their electricity bills.

The Australian Photovoltaic Association has seen rapid growth in the industry over recent years. While lower solar panel prices have been driving greater demand for the technology all over the world, Australians have another reason to go solar.

Electricity rates in the country climbed more than 40 percent between 2009 and 2012. Those high power prices combined with falling solar prices have made the technology naturally more attractive.

However, the report also notes that increased government incentives, such as renewable energy certificates, solar rebates and feed in tariffs, have contributed to a rapid surge in the installed solar capacity in Australia.

The capacity skyrocketed from 123 megawatts in 2009 to 305 megawatts in 2010 and 1,450 megawatts in February 2012. More than a year later, capacity is even higher in the country with every indication that favorable public sentiment regarding solar could continue fueling industry growth.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Electric Motorcycles: The Next Big Thing?

electric-motorcycle

Electric motorcycles are taking on some impressive challenges these days. A Moto-Electra Racing all-electric motorcycle just crossed the U.S. in 3.5 days. Motorcycles from Zero Motorcycles are set to take on an ambitious challenge when they tackle the Pikes Peak on June 30, ascending the 14,110-foot tall mountain’s steep. Racers will compete in the 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb’s first electric motorcycles division. Meanwhile the solar-powered Lightning Motorcycles SuperBike may take the overall record for the challenge home this year.

Electric motorcycles isn’t gaining the attention that Tesla Motors’s Model S, or Nissan’s Leaf are gaining in the media, but maybe they should. After all, these vehicles can be monsters. For instance, the Lightning SuperBike has hit speeds as high as 218.6 miles an hour at the Bonneville Salt Flats, and it’s a production vehicle!

More recently (June 13) the SuperBike bested all gas-powered bikes in practice runs on Pikes Peak, according to TTXGP, The eGrandPrix. The Lightning SuperBike was ridden by Carlin Dunne, who holds the Pikes Peak Challenge’s all-time record and is a two-time champion of the race—on gas-powered motorcycles. This time Dunne chose to ride the electric motorcycle over a gas-powered one in an attempt to seek a third consecutive victory.

“This is the first time in history that an electric bike has beaten top gas bike competitors on the same playing field,” Lighting Motorcycles CEO Richard Hatfield said.

Of the Lightning, Dunne said, “I’ve been testing it for a month and it’s insane. Its power and acceleration is like nothing I’ve ever ridden. When you light that fuse, hang on.”

The cross-country achievement is nothing to smirk at either. After all, constrained by speed limits and other factors—like sleeping—it’s hard to make it across the continent in three days with a single driver. Moto-Electra’s achievement announced June 13, was accomplished on a single battery that was recharged while the rider, former AMA Pro Thad Wolff, rested. “This record was established using a standard motorcycle design—the  same used by the Moto-Electra team for GP type racing, land speed racing, and everyday driving,” the company said.

“We could have done it faster, but we wanted to be safe. If we were to do it again, we would travel farther between charges, and increase the speed a bit—something learned.”

Before Moto-Electra set the record, another rider on an electric motorcycle traversed the U.S. as well, according to Moto-Electra. Although it took him 6 days, both accomplishments, as well as the installation of thousands of charging stations across the U.S., are showing that long-range use of electric vehicles is coming. “I think it’s only a matter of time when charging stations will allow cross country travel by anyone with an electric vehicle,” Richardson said.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Energy’s Free Market: Still Waiting

us-capital

Earlier this week Obama laid out his plan for combatting climate change, an area where Congress has continued to lag in terms of taking any serious action. One of the likely beneficiaries of any such action would be renewable energy industries like solar and wind. Considering that allowing people to have more choices in terms of where and what type of energy they get, would also fit nicely with the idea of the free market system the country, and particularly Republicans, espouse, one should ask: ‘Where’s the free market in energy?’

To change this would require Congressional action, and there are those who have tried in the Senate, but nothing’s really changed. “Since 2007, certain members of Congress, mostly Democrats but also a few Republicans, have been trying to pass comprehensive climate legislation that would use a market-based system to limit greenhouse gas emissions throughout the U.S. economy,” wrote MapLight Political Writer Donny Shaw. “Year after year, the bills have died in the Senate, either refused a markup in committee or filibustered to death on the floor,” he said.

The energy supply in the U.S. is largely protected by entrenched industries and solar and wind are relatively nubile to the market and utilities have an interest in maintaining their monopoly status rather than letting the free market work throughout the U.S. And they’re putting the money they make from ratepayers, i.e., the public to make sure they retain their status.

MapLight released an analysis of who’s spending the most to influence Congress in the the energy sector. The analysis looked at the period between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2012. It found that carbon-emitters far outspent—by nearly six times those that support market-based climate legislation. The analysis found that those spending against such legislation spent $25.1 million compared to $4.2 million from those that would benefit from such legislation.

The top five contributors to Senators to stymie action on climate change legislation shouldn’t be much of a surprise. MapLight found that the top contributors were gas & electric utilities, which paid $3.2 million to fight climate change legislation, electric power utilities weren’t too far behind with $2.8 million. The chemicals industries, which emit carbon and other pollutants in manufacturing processes would also be impacted by such legislation, as such, they spent $2.2 million to oppose it. Coal mining spent $2.1 million and independent oil & gas producers rounded out the top five with $2.1 million to fight climate change legislation.

Meanwhile contributions to Senators from those who would benefit from market-based climate legislation were much fewer and had nowhere near as deep pockets. Environmental policy advocates spent $2.9 million, while alternative energy production & services spent $1.1 million and nuclear energy, which rounded out the whole group, spent $262,660, according to MapLight. The difference in spending is perhaps one of the reasons why climate legislation that would benefit renewable energy industries hasn’t passed. But more recent work from groups like TASC, The Alliance for Solar Choice, are trying to change that.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

In California, Latinos Are Pro Solar

solar-installer-california

Latino voters in California strongly support rooftop solar, according to a recent poll.

The William C Velasquez Institute, a non-partisan organization charged with engaging Latino and other underrepresented groups in political and economic discussion, conducted a poll of Latino voters in California to judge attitudes toward green initiatives.

Californians Against Utilities Stopping Solar Energy (CAUSE), a political advocacy agency lobbying to prevent utilities from cutting their net metering programs, sponsored the poll.

The results were stark and revealed an overwhelming support for green technology, particularly solar energy, among Latino voters in California. Eighty-nine percent of respondents said they preferred solar to other energy source and 80 percent of South California Latino voters said they believed “state legislators should make it a high priority to increase the amount of rooftop solar energy in California.”

The survey went beyond solar energy, to show broad support for green and environmental efforts in general, with 60 percent of respondents saying they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who opposed policies that support the green economy and 88 percent saying they are more likely to re-elect a legislator who “voted for stronger clean air standards to reduce pollution. Two-thirds of respondents said they believed “increasing the use of clean renewable energy is important. Another 54 percent said they believed that growing the state’s solar energy industry would create new jobs.

“It is clear from the survey results that Latinos are making choices about their preferences of energy sources and those choices are clearly green and rooted in not only public health concerns but excitement about the job potential that rooftop solar growth provides,” said Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C Velasquez Institute.

The study also found broad support among Southern California Latino voters for net metering, which is the practice of a utilities crediting homeowners with rooftop solar the retail rate for excess electricity their panels generate. The poll found that 70 percent said they supported the net metering law and 74 percent said they agreed with the statement: “If customers are required to buy power from the utility at a certain price, the utility should have to buy excess power created by customers’ solar panels at the same price.”

CAUSE is one agency among a few that have come together as utilities seem poised to fight the solar energy industry and net metering requirements.

“The Latino community now realizes that jobs and public health go hand in hand with the clean economy, and rooftop solar is leading the way,” Gonzalez said in a statement, “Latinos will hold their elected officials accountable if they are too cozy with groups like the investor-owned utilities that rely on fossil fuels for energy generation.”

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

University of Michigan Debuts Solar Car

u-mich-solar-cell

It looks like something from the distant future, long and flat, except for the bubble popping out with the Michigan “M.”

It is called “Generation” a car designed by the University of Michigan for the World Solar Challenge, an 1,800-mile, week-long race across Australia.

The bold, strange new shape is meant to comply with new rules that require four wheels instead of three, while still maintaining maximum efficiency.

The change meant the students had to start their design from scratch, said Eric Hausman, project manager with the UM Solar car. It was the biggest shift in rules since 2007 when the driver moved from lying down to seated.

The UM team evaluated several designs starting in June 2012 when they learned of the rule change and settled on something asymmetrical by February 2013 when they began construction. The students worked with the driver’s seat, nicknamed the “butt bucket” by the team. In the old three-wheeled cars, the butt bucket was situated directly behind the front wheel, encased in the same fairing. Under the new rules, the wheels can’t be directly next to each so if the team arranged them like in a regular car, the bucket would hang down below the surface reducing efficiency. Instead the driver and two wheels are in one giant fairing on the left side of the car and on the right side there are two small fairings, one for each wheel.

“Aerodynamically, it’s about creating as few bumps on the surface as possible,” Hausman said in a press release. “The design also reduces shading of the solar cells by placing the canopy to the side.”

It looks like a motorcycle with a sidecar from the front. But to keep the center of gravity in the car’s center, most of the heavy equipment is on what would be the passenger side. The car runs off a battery charged by sunlight.

About 100 students participated in the 2-year project, Hausman said. The project is completely student run, from design to construction and 22 will take the semester off to travel to Australia to race the car in October. The UM team has come in third place five times in the race, most recently in 2011. They are the reigning national champions but have yet to secure a world race victory.

The change in wheels will require the team to change its strategy, said Matt Goldstein, a senior in computer science and engineering who heads the team’s strategy in a press release.

“The new regulations will definitely stir the pot and I am excited to make our best shot at a championship,” he said.

The World Solar Challenge is Oct. 6-13 in Australia.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Sunrun: Now In Connecticut

sunrun-connecticut

Sunrun announced this week that it has expanded into its 11th state.

The solar company, which specializes in third-party-owned solar installations, just made its service available to Connecticut residents who get their electricity from Connecticut Light & Power and the United Illuminating Company.

“Those two utilities represent about 90 percent of the customers in the state,” said Susan Wise, Sunrun spokeswoman. “We think there is great potential in Connecticut. There’s plenty of sunlight and plenty of rooftops.”

Connecticut Governor Danell Malloy, along with other elected officials in the state, have made a commitment to sustainable energy and to the long-term health of the solar market in Connecticut.

California-based Sunrun’s model allows homeowners to install solar with no up-front expense and to pay a fixed and predictable rate for the power their solar panels produce. The lease, or power purchase agreement, model is growing in popularity throughout the country. Sunrun, Sungevity and SolarCity all specialize in the solar as a service space. The model has made it easier for more people to go solar and has made it possible for average middle-class Americans to afford solar.

Sunrun has seen continued growth in its other markets.

“We’re always looking for ways to expand and bring solar to more people,” Wise said.

In Connecticut, Sunrun is partnering with local installers Roof Diagnostics Inc., Real Goods Solar, REC Solar and Trinity Solar.

Wise said Sunrun always partners with local installation companies when it moves into new markets. The partnerships offer several advantages, she said. First, it eliminates competition issues. But it also gives Sunrun boots on the ground with installers who are already familiar with all the local regulations and processes for getting new solar installations approved.

“It allows the homeowners to have local connections and work with companies they know and trust,” Wise said. “It allows us to expand into new markets while supporting local growth and local businesses.”

She said Sunrun is currently focusing on its existing markets and doesn’t have any announcements about other new states where the company might begin doing business in the future.

“But we are always thinking about how we can bring this opportunity to more people,” she said.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Walgreens Announces Plan to Go Solar at 200 Stores

walgreens-retro-corner-store

Yesterday (June 19) Walgreens announced that it plans to more than double the amount of solar installations it has on stores across the country—and it already has about 150 stores with solar. But under a new partnerships with SoCore Energy, Walgreens plans to install more than 200 new solar arrays at its drugstores throughout California, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. Once this round of installations is completed, Walgreens will have solar on more than 350 stores.

When the installations are completed, it will likely be the leader in the U.S. in terms of installed solar arrays. In doing so it may supplant Kohl’s, which currently has 137 solar installations at stores throughout the country, and is the EPA’s Green Power Partner among retail stores (Walgreens is not now a member of the Green Power Partnership, however). It will also likely have more PV arrays installed than Walmart, which has solar installations at more than 150 locations across the world.

“We love working with companies that strive to be leaders, and after we are done here, Walgreens will have more solar locations than any other company in the US. This is a remarkable accomplishment for both Walgreens and the team at SoCore,” said SoCore Energy CEO Pete Kadens.

The announcement today builds on previous announcements from Walgreens that it would be installing more solar. For instance, earlier this year, Walgreens announced that it would install solar on 22 stores in Colorado under a partnership with SolarCity. And in 2011, it said it was installing solar on more than 100 stores in Ohio, under a partnership with SoCore. When that project was completed it was slated to have solar on 136 stores.

“We are committed to reducing our carbon footprint and leading the retail industry in use of green technology,” said Thomas Connolly, Walgreens vice president of facilities development. “Because we operate more than 8,000 stores, we believe our implementation of sustainable energy technology can have a significant positive impact on the nation’s environment while also creating jobs.”

Under the latest agreement the arrays will be owned by SoCore and Walgreens will purchase the power they produce, under a power-purchase agreement. It’s similar to the partnership Walgreens signed with SoCore in Ohio and with SolarCity in Colorado.

Walgreens says it is installing the arrays as part of its participation in the Department of Energy’s Better Better Buildings Challenge, under which Walgreens has committed reduce its energy use by 20 percent by 2020. The company already has a number of LEED certified buildings, including a LEED platinum, net-zero energy store in Evanston, Ill., which will have one of the arrays.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Turanor PlanetSolar Docks in NYC

planetsolar-docks-nyc

The Turanor PlanetSolar, covered in 5,554 square feet of solar panels, is parked at the North Cove Marina until June 20 so people can view it and learn about the cutting edge vessel.

PlanetSolar already circumnavigated the globe once between September 2010 and May 2012, stopping in 28 countries to showcase its technology. This trip is different. The boat crossed the Atlantic Ocean making few stops before arriving in Miami earlier this month. After New York, PlanetSolar will stop in Boston before beginning its research mission.

Scientists from the University of Geneva will collect uncontaminated samples from the Gulf Stream to study the impacts of global climate change.

“Our objective is to understand the complex interactions between physics, biology, and climate, eventually enabling scientists to refine climate simulation, especially as it relates to energy exchanges between the ocean and the atmosphere,” Geneva professor Martin Beniston said in a statement. “Since the ship is powered by solar energy it does not emit any polluting substances that could distort the data collected on its 8,000 kilometer journey between Miami and Bergen, Norway.”

While PlanetSolar is making far fewer stops and will spend much less time at sea during this second journey, the boat is still getting significant attention in the ports where it does dock. The Swiss government is proud of the attention the boat is receiving globally. It’s one of the PlanetSolar’s sponsors.

“PlanetSolar has become a prominent ambassador for renewable energies. It also embodies Switzerland’s commitment to foster innovation for a more sustainable future, similar to the recent initiatives announced by the City of New York,” said Ambassador François Barras, Consul General of Switzerland in New York. “The ship’s arrival is timely following Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to protect the city against the effects of climate change.”

The boat is worthy of praise. The vessel weighs in at 90 tons and is powered entirely by the more than 5,500 square feet of solar panels bejeweling its deck. Wings fold out when the boat is at sea to capture more of the sun’s energy. Nine tons of batteries store up to 72 hours of power to move the boat through waters at night and on cloudy days.

The boat’s average speed is about 6 miles per hour, though it can get up to 16 miles per hour. While that’s about on par with the 8 miles per hour colonial ships traveled across the Atlantic in the 1700s, the PlanetSolar stirs a different sense of the pioneering spirit.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

America’s Problem with Solar

america-solar-problem

Each day, our industry sits down and whittles the unsightly knots off the tree we call solar energy. We, as a group, spend more time than we should pointing to one of a growing number of reasons why solar energy isn’t taking hold in America: that perhaps our government incentives were cut too quickly, that our state’s SREC program is broken, that the net metering requirements aren’t strong enough. Not that those things wouldn’t further bolster our industry, but go out and ask your friends and family about solar energy. The problem with solar energy in America isn’t a result of the deficiencies of the incentives (although improved incentives would set this industry on fire), it’s with the astounding lack of knowledge about a technology that can transform the lives of everyone in our nation and around the world.

Let me be provocative for a moment. Do you know how much of a return on your investment you would receive if you installed solar on your home or business right now? Do you know enough to even estimate the amount of money you’d save over 25-30 years? Would you guess that solar energy is actually a financial investment with recent returns more solid than stocks and bonds? Do you know that solar energy works in colder climates and on cloudy days? Did you know that nearly any solar installation company will gladly provide you these numbers for free? Probably not. Not many Americans can begin to answer these questions. And who can blame them?

We, as an industry, are still young. We’re not the behemoth of major corporations with seemingly unlimited budgets to pay for lobbying and well-placed television commercials. We reach out to a media who has no idea what solar energy really is. We burn with such passion to help our country, and yet many nights feel like we are strangers in our own homes. You can’t explain the entirety of the benefits of solar energy in 140 characters. It’s both a great and terrible feeling to know what you can give people if only they knew what you could give. It’s unrequited love in the form of a solar panel, and we have thousands upon thousands of them waiting to find a good home.

We’re not at war with the other energy companies, either. People will still need oil for a very long time (probably longer than our actual supply will last). No energy employee from fossil fuel plants will end up on Skid Row because of solar any time soon. What about utility companies? Utilities are actually required by the state governments to purchase renewable energy, and most of them have employees that are themselves dedicated to the renewable energy sector. They are not our enemies, either. Banks? Banks are in the business of lending–they would love for solar modules to be included in home appraisals. The real estate market? Solar panels on a home sells that home much easier and (say it with me) “not our enemy.” We simply have no natural predators, and for that, we’re thankful.

What we do face is a nation who just doesn’t understand us. We’re right here, and there’s not been a better time to go solar than today. The panels pay for themselves typically about halfway through their life cycle, and the rest is yours to keep. There is a 30% federal  tax credit for anyone who installs solar on a home or business. Many states have similar tax incentives to add to that. You can get paid to send your excess energy back to the grid. You can also sell solar credits to utility companies.  And if you own a business, there’s a good chance you can depreciate the entire installation in one year. Did you know you’ll see, on average, a more steady return from “going solar” than you would on stocks and bonds (at least historically speaking)?  It’s okay; most people don’t know that.

So here we sit as an industry with such a powerful solution for our country–both as a whole and to the people individually. We are, as a nation, being quickly passed up by other countries. Research countries like Germany and what they are doing with solar energy–it’s amazing. But we here in the US can’t afford to tell everyone what they need to know. We, instead, have to rely on people finding us. We try, don’t get me wrong, but we just don’t have the financial size and subsequent influence to achieve the success solar energy deserves. The solar industry is young, lacking the means to get the word out in the way that giants of other industries are able to do.

Yet each installation site still drips with the exhilaration and sweat of The Cavern Club in 1961, right after a little-known band named The Beatles just finished playing to a room of about 100 people. Solar energy is the early rock and roll of our generation. We’re the rock and roll stars of our time, hell-bent on changing the World. This time, though, it really works. We, as an industry, can see what is ahead. We’ll be here waiting. And when you say “Oh man, I wish I knew about this sooner,” we won’t judge. We’ll love and support you just the same. It was Marty McFly in Back to the Future who said: “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it.” See you soon, America.

Terrill Dines is the CEO of Honeycomb Solar, a renewable energy company. Honeycomb Solar’s goal is to bolster US energy enterprise through installation, innovation, and education. To learn more, please visit https://www.honeycombsolar.com or write to the company at info@honeycombsolar.com.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

PV @ $0.37 per watt in 2017?

pv-fall-37-cents

That’s according to a new GTM Research report introduced today (June 18). The report contends that by the end of 2017, the costs of manufacturing crystalline silicon PV modules will fall to 37 cents per watt for leading Chinese PV manufacturers including Jinko Solar, Renesola, Trina Solar and Yingli Green Energy.

The majority of the price drops will come from innovations, like diamond wire sawing of silicon wafers, metallization advances and manufacturing mechanization, according to the new report PV Technology and Cost Outlook, 2013-2017.

It’s the latest sign that previous predictions for the solar industry fell short in terms of falling prices. “Yesterday’s PV cost reduction roadmaps are no longer relevant today,” said report author and GTM Research Senior Analyst Shyam Mehta. “Three or four years ago, the industry was targeting one-dollar-per-watt costs in 2013; today, we are at 50 cents per watt, and there is currently little consensus on what is a realistic goal for the module supply chain to set for itself over the next three to five years. This is important not only for these manufacturers and their investors, but also for installers and project developers across the globe.”

In fact, as recently as December 2012, at least one analyst firm said that the cost of solar would drop to 48 cents per watt in 2017. In that report Lux Research said the cost reductions would come about from efficiency gains and more production in China.

“With supply consistently 200 percent of demand annually, c-Si module prices have fallen approximately 70 percent in two years,” Mehta said. “One positive externality of this cutthroat pricing is that manufacturing costs have fallen in line with pricing declines. This is mostly because pricing for key inputs further up the value chain has also fallen as a result of overcapacity and consequent margin evaporation.”

The GTM Research report observed that the industry is starting to face some changes in how it will drive price drops. “While precipitous cost declines of roughly 70 cents per watt from 2010 to 2012 were made possible by cutthroat pricing and margin erosion in the polysilicon and PV materials markets, the report sees cost reduction drivers migrating in-house for wafer, cell, and module suppliers, as adoption of advanced technology platforms and manufacturing automation will account for 80 percent of the forecasted declines,” GTM Research said.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

UW Professor Designs Solar Cells that Store Energy

uw-solar

When people think about solar, they often think about harvesting- how to gather the energy.

“But there’s another side of the story that’s sometimes overlooked,” said Hongrui Jiang a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “How do you store it?”

Bulky batteries or supercapacitors often accompany solar panels. Jiang wanted something smaller and more self-sustaining for a power source. So Jiang created a design for solar panels that can simultaneously generate power from sunlight and store power reserves for later, all within a single device. Jiang and his students developed the idea which was published in the journal for Advanced Material June 6.

The project was developed as an offshoot of a National Institutes of Health grant to design a self-focusing contact lens that adapts to the eyes of adults suffering from presbyopia, a natural aging process that stiffens the lens and reduces the eye’s ability to focus, a press release said.

To power the lens, the team created a design that balances energy harvesting, storage and use. The goal was to create a way to provide power to the contact lens so that people wouldn’t have to wear bifocals, Jiang said.

It took Jiang and his students about two years to come up with a design that worked, he said.

The design balances energy, harvesting, storage and usage

We needed a multi-functional and small-form-factor device in order to integrate it all into a single contact lens structure,” Jiang said in a press release.

The top layer of each photovoltaic cell is a conventional photo electrode, converting sunlight into electrons that split off into two directions- most out of the device to support a power load, but some are directed to a polyvinylidene fluoride polymer coated in zinc oxide nanowires that can store energy.

When there isn’t sunlight, the stored power returns through the nano wires to create power, the release said.

The final design creates a closed-loop system for small-scale solar energy applications, powering a device and storing energy for later.

“We can have some energy set aside locally, right in the panel, so that when you need it, you can get it,” Jiang said in the release.

Other similar panels have been around for a while, but the ability to provide continuous energy sets Jiang’s apart, the release said.

Jiang’s design converts only 4 percent of sunshine that strikes the photoreceptor into usable electricity- about 20 percent less efficient than most commercial solar panels.

Research will continue, he said. He wants to enhance the performance.

“Ideally we want to get the best of both worlds- harvesting and storage,” he said. “There is plenty of room to make the best of both worlds.”

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Supply and Demand in Solar Materials Market

materials-solar

An increased focus on quality will drive growth in the materials market that supports solar photovoltaic panel production, according to a report from Lux Research.

Oversupply of solar modules is beginning to balance out and the demand is expected to equal supply by 2015, according to the report. That will drive growth in the PV materials market up 52 percent to become a $27.2 billion market by 2015. Metals, metallization pastes and metallic absorber materials will see the biggest growth, according to the report.

“The one thing that really stood out to me the most is that it’s not just about the dollar per watt anymore,” said Fatima Toor, a research analyst at Lux and the report author. “It’s more about dollar per kilowatt hour and quality.”

Solar panel manufacturers that produce low-quality modules that don’t last are falling behind, whil manufacturers that boast long-lasting, highly efficient and top qualiy modules are pushing ahead, Toor said.

“That’s the strategy SunPower has adopted,” she said. “They guarantee the best quality and the highest efficiency.”

And that’s what consumers have been buying. They want to know they’ll get the promised return on their investment.

That new focus on quality wil drive a different materials market, Toor said.

“Differentiated materials that enable high cell or module efficiencies or longer lifetime will be able to earn a premium and cash in on the growing demand,” she said.

Crystaline silicone will take the lion’s share of solar materials market growth, surging to $23.8 billion by 2018. Materials that will encourage differentiation and innovation for greater efficiency and power output will also shine, Toor said. That means things like Innovalight’s silicon inks for selective emitter cell design could see significant growth along with innovations from other emerging companies like Notcore Technologies, BandgapEngineering and Polyrise.

There is also a lot of opportinty for companies develing anti-reflective coatings for solar modules.

“It’s a very simple change,” Toor said. “But it could be disruptive.”

She said anti-reflective coatings can be simple, inexpensive glass coatings sprayed on before modules are shipped. It would add little cost, but could contribute significantly to power output.

Backsheets are another technology that has growth potential. Companies like Dupont are already experimenting with lacing backsheets with conductive metals to increase their power output. Toor said a lot of energy is lost between the panel and the inverter and part of that is conductivity of panel backsheets.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Colorado Wants More Renewable Energy!

red-rocks-colorado

Earlier this week, on June 5th,  Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) signed into law SB13-252 the “Renewable Energy Standard Retail Wholesale Methane” act. The act expands the amount of renewable energy, like wind and solar, that rural electric cooperatives must have in their generation portfolio. Under the new law large rural electric co-ops must source 20 percent of their power from renewables by 2020. The signature drew the praise of local and national environmental organizations, particularly because conservative groups of late have spent millions to repeal renewable energy programs.

In signing the bill Hickenlooper observed, “The assertion that this legislation will levy billions in costs to rural consumers is not borne out by the facts.” He added, “We know that utilities across the country have actually saved money by incorporating more renewable energy generation. Wind, for example, can cost as little as $2.75 cents per kilowatt hour, which is lower than the average cost of new natural gas generation. Renewable energy generation also offers long-term price contracts, negating the price volatility of fossil fuels.”

Hickenlooper also issued an executive order related to the bill. “This legislation will expand economic opportunities across Colorado through the development of wind, solar, and other innovative energy resources,” he wrote in the order. “Rural areas, in particular, will benefit economically from the expansion of renewable resources because the vast majority of renewable resources are located outside of the State’s urban centers. For example, this bill will expand construction and manufacturing opportunities in rural areas through large wind and solar projects and will create jobs in the newly eligible waste-to-energy and coal mine methane industries,” he said.

The order also criticized the bill, calling for more work on it in the next legislative session, related to the implementation timetable and consumer protections and called for an advisory committee to study it. Still, “The reasons for signing the legislation outweigh the reasons for vetoing the bill,” he said.

“The bill doubles the Renewable Energy Standard…for Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, the wholesale energy provider to most Colorado electric co-ops, and Intermountain Rural Electric Association, the largest distribution cooperative in the state,” said Colorado Renewable Energy Society Executive Director, Lorrie McAllister.  “By 2020, these large energy providers will make progress toward reaching a renewable energy standard that Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy are well on their way to meeting today.”

The legislation faced an uphill battle. According to the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado’s Programs Director Anna Zawisza, “Opponents spent millions of dollars to spread misinformation about renewable energy. You may have heard the negative TV and radio ads but in the end, they weren’t enough. Coloradans want more clean energy and this bill is a step in that direction.”

“These new standards will grow Colorado’s clean energy industry and protect our clean air and water. We send a grateful ‘thank you’ to Gov. Hickenlooper for making Colorado a national leader on clean energy,” said Nellis Kennedy-Howard, Colorado Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

The Sierra Club helped organize more than 2,500 people to support the legislation. “The Sierra Club has been proud to work with the many volunteers, groups, and individuals who worked so hard to get this bill signed into law,” Kennedy-Howard said.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Japan’s Solar Industry: Ready to Explode

japan-solar-houses

Japan’s existing 7.4 gigawatts of installed solar capacity is expected to double this year, thanks to the country’s aggressive feed-in tariff.

Word of Japan’s rapid adoption of solar energy has the industry buzzing. Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported last week that Japan is expected to trail only China in new solar capacity installed this year. Several market analysts, like Lux Research, have reported that the solar market in Japan should remain strong for years to come as the Japanese people express increasingly strong opposition to nuclear facilities like the Fukushima Daiichi plant that failed after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Japanese property owners and entrepreneurs aren’t wasting any time. They are installing solar. The new feed-in tariff that began in July coincides with a perfect storm of market factors that will enable explosive growth in the Japanese market.

When European countries like Germany and Italy launched their feed-in tariffs in the mid 2000s, they were the early adopters. Solar panel prices were high and the significant tariffs drove a market that couldn’t have existed without subsidies.

But when Japan implemented its feed-in tariff in July 2012, solar panel prices had just spent a year nose-diving and continued plummeting throughout 2012.

The low cost of solar panels combined with the high cost of electricity generated from imported fossil fuels and a short supply of power resulting from more than 50 nuclear facilities knocked offline by politics, the Japanese solar market is ripe for rapid advances. Utility companies are hungry to buy any kind of electricity, even renewable, from whoever is producing it. And companies like Lawson, which installed solar panels atop the roofs of 1,000 of its Japanese convenience stores, and international utility-scale solar developers are happy to sell power back to the grid.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance revised earlier estimates that the island nation would install 3.2 to 4 gigawatts of solar this year to forecast installations of 6.1 to 9.4 gigawatts, which could potentially trump China, which is expected to install 6.2 to 10.5 gigawatts this year.

Both figures are grand and illustrate a new global solar market with explosive potential. The most solar ever installed in a single country was 7.9 gigawatts in Italy in 2011.

Many analysts believe this is just the beginning of an industry that will ramp up in Japan and continue to grow as solar and other renewable energy sources only account for a tiny fraction of the country’s total generation capacity.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority