Solar Will Grow 20% in 2013

growth-up-solar-arrow-greenDemand for solar energy in the United States is expected to grow 20 percent this year, building the market up to a record 4.3 gigawatts, according to an industry analysis report.

NPD Solarbuzz released its quarterly report on the North American solar market and found that four states will make up 70 percent of the demand for solar photovoltaic panels in the country – California, Arizona, New Jersey and North Carolina.

Most of the market growth in the second quarter of 2013, according to the report, is coming from utility-scale solar development, which will account for 68 percent of new solar installed in the top four states.

Residential rooftop solar installations make up 18 percent of the demand and larger commercial installations claim anther 14 percent.

“The strong commercial and utility-based solar PV being deployed in the US is stimulated by state specific mandates that require solar to meet target levels, or carve-outs, of total energy production,” said Chris Sunsong, analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. “Meanwhile, residential demand is being driven by new third-party ownership models that allow homeowners and businesses to install PV systems with minimal upfront commitments.”

While those four states are dominating the market, they’re hardly the only ones with big growth in solar on the horizon.

Texas and New Mexico are also expected to drive utility-scale solar growth this year, according to the NPD report.

Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York and Ohio are also expected to be major players in the growing solar market in 2013 with some significant announcements planned for the end of the year.

Demand for new solar projects is expected to climb to 2.5 gigawatts in the U.S. in the second half of 2013 and is forecast to exceed 5 gigawatts in 2014. That represents a 70 percent compound annual growth rate of 70 percent since 2009, according to NPD.

While the industry growth has historically been concentrated on the East and West coasts, interest in renewable energy has spread across the country with several Midwestern and Southern states adopting renewable energy portfolio standards with carve-outs for solar. As a result, six of the 10 fastest growing solar markets are in those seemingly less likely regions of the country.

While the solar market is growing dramatically, analysts warn that there are factors that could slow growth.

“The success of federal incentives and aggressive renewable portfolio standards that were intended to stimulate domestic solar PV installations in the US is now coming under increased scrutiny at the state level”, Sunsong said.

On top of that, some of the states with the most solar demand are dependent on a trade market for Solar Renewable Energy Certificates that becomes increasingly weak the more solar is installed.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Green Mountain College Students Build Solar Garage

solar-garage-college-students

Students at Green Mountain College don’t just study solar projects, they design and build them.

This year students in the Renewable Energy and Ecological Design Program designed a solar-powered garage. The project not only taught students practical real-world experience in designing and building, it also will serve the college’s fossil fuel-free farm and could make electric car charging more viable in Vermont, where long cold winters and hilly terrain make plug-in cars less efficient.

The program received a $50,000 grant from Constellation Energy Resource’s “E2 Energy to Educate” program.

Students were involved in every aspect of the project from design to working with contractors, said Lucas Brown, Assistant professor of environmental studies with the college.

They learned to generate ideas and modify plans based on client feedback and implemented the building.

“One of the things we’re doing at Green Mountain College is we’re creating opportunities for students to get engaged and find real world solutions as part of the curriculum,” he said.

Projects like the garage give students confidence to go into the real world, equipped with skills and ready to start work immediately and understanding what it takes to create a project from the idea to construction.

“It’s this collision of ideas and values of sustainable design with the real world of construction and budgets,” Brown said.

Solar classIt started from the beginning, when 21 students in the class had to organize themselves into team and collaborate.

“It was good practice in consensus decision-making,” said student Connor Magnuson in a press release about the project.

The garage features and integrative design to optimize performance of electric vehicles in cold weather.

The students designed the garage to use recycled or repurposed materials. The building, which is situated on the college’s fossil-free farm, uses active and passive solar technology to charge an electric vehicle.

A fiberglass passive-solar south facing wall serves multiple functions including being used for early-season crop germination for the college’s farm where the building is located. It was meant to showcase integrative design and serve multiple purposes.

“It’s really a spectacular space,” Brown said.

The project will not only serve the school, it’s already had an impact on the students involved in the project. Audrey Jiunta, said the project bolstered a passion for design and construction.

“It was the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “Finding a design that fit into the ecology and actually building it- that’s what I want to do now.”

She plans to travel to Guatemala in late May for an internship in the design-build field.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Moth Eye Inspired Solar?

moth-solar-chart

The natural world has often inspired science and where researchers at North Carolina State University turned for inspiration to harness light more efficiently in solar devices.

If you picture oil on a puddle or a soap bubble, they each resemble the sheen of rainbow. That is a reflection caused by the thin film of one substance layered on top of another.  Where these two layers meet is called an interface.

North Carolina State researchers have created a nanostructure, inspired by the structure of moth eyes, that limits the reflection of light where two films meet.

While the concept of mimicking moth eyes, which don’t reflect light,  has been around in the science world for a long time, the researchers found a new application, by embedding it into thin films which eliminate the color, said Chih- Hao Chang, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina state.

“We’re borrowing the principle inspired by nature and we’re applying it in a very different way,” he said.

Gasoline, for example, is transparent but some light is still reflected off its surface. Similarly some of the light that passes through the gasoline is reflected off the underlying surface where the two substances meet, a press release said. The light reflected has to pass back through the gasoline so it takes a different optical path than the light that was reflected off the surface of the gas. The mismatch of the optical paths creates the rainbow sheen and is known as thin-film interference.

For thin-film solar cells that means some light is lost every time thin films meet. The more thin films a device has, the more light is lost.

In solar cells, light goes through the first layer of material to the next. The goal is to have a high transmission of light with little reflection, capturing as much light as possible, Chang said.

The nanostructures are built into thin films that will have another film layered on top. The nanostructures can penetrate into the thin film layer on top and limit the amount of light reflected. Researchers found that when the nanostructures were used, 100 times less light was reflected than in interfaces where it wasn’t used, the release said.

The next step for the researchers is to incorporate the nanostructure into a solar device and see how it can be used for commercial applications.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Should We Worry About Defective Solar PV Panels?

Solar/Wafer Screening Tool

In the rush to compete are PV manufacturers putting out higher levels of defective products? That’s the question central to a new New York Times article out this week. If it’s true, it could lead to billions of dollars of insurance claims and lawsuits says at least one prominent law firm.

The New York Times article contended that the issue was largely one related to cheap modules from China, particularly when companies attempt to cut corners or use expired materials, like coatings for PV modules. In doing so, they can imperil a PV module’s safety or make it degrade much faster than its anticipated 25+ year lifetime. For instance, now bankrupt Abound Solar had issues that allegedlly caused some to catch fire. While many manufacturers are inspected regularly to ensure quality some inspectors have found significant amounts of defects. While 5.5 percent isn’t too high a number, 22 percent is, a too high figure, which one company, SolarBuyer said it has seen in factories.

If that’s really the case and more solar installations fail it could have some ugly results. “A wave of large lawsuits could be coming against solar panel manufacturers, the component manufacturers that supplied parts or materials used in the making of those panels, the panel distributors and dealers, and the contractors who installed the panels,” said Anderson Kill’s Scott Turner, a lawyer who specializes in Insurance Recovery, Real Estate and Construction. Turner also authored the two-volume Insurance Coverage of Construction Disputes.

“We know pretty well what to expect. We’ve been here before,” Turner said. “The insurance companies will refuse to honor coverage on these claims and will fight them at every remotely arguable procedural and policy provision hedgerow.” He likened the potential for claims to others related to the build environment, that have resulted in significant legal action, like moldy drywall from China and asbestos.

If this does become a crisis and insurers see an increasing number of claims regarding defective PV modules, Turner anticipated that commercial general liability (CGL) policies will likely be exclusion of property damage from the manufacturers’ or distributers’ own products, from insurance companies trying to limit their liability.

The law firm anticipated that such fights will be hardest on small policyholders, like homeowners and small installers. If larger claimants are pursuing a suit against against manufacturers, particularly against manufacturers that could go bankrupt, the firm recommended pursing claims against such companies’ insurers. That said, it’s still up for debate how widespread a problem this is, or will be.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

PlanetSolar Breaks It’s Own Speed Record

planetsolar-record

When the Turanor PlanetSolar boat docked on May 18 in Marigot, St. Martin, it broke the speed record for a transatlantic crossing in a solar-powered boat.

Of course, PlanetSolar had only its own record to beat.

Planet Solar was built in Kiel, Germany and is powered exclusively by solar panels. It completed an around-the-world voyage in 584 days between 2010 and 2012. The reason for the boat and its big journey then was to prove the viability of solar power.

During that first journey, it took the crew 26 days to cross the Atlantic in the PlanetSolar. While the boat is on a different mission this time around, carrying a crew of scientists to study the Gulf Stream, proving solar technology is still a part of the boat’s purpose.

Once again, the boat provided a brilliant demonstration of solar energy’s potential by breaking its own speed record for a transatlantic crossing set in 2010, improving it by 4 days, 6 hours, and 38 minutes,” said Gerard d’Aboville, the boat’s captain.

The speed record likely would have been even greater if not for some environmental hiccups along the way.

“It was necessary to make a significant deviation to the south,” d’Aboville said, “which increased the travelling distance by 7 percent, but enabled us to avoid winds and unfavorable swells.”

The crew also encountered several cloudy days in a row and had to optimize the boat’s route in order to be as energy-efficient as possible.

After its journey around the world that ended in 2012, the boat received some maintenance and optimization, which d’Aboville credits with some of the increased speed.

He said the two journeys can’t be compared side by side because they were completed at different times of year. But the difference is still significant.

“She will now travel to Miami to begin her second life as part of an exploratory mission along the Gulf Stream current conducted by the University of Geneva,” d’Aboville said.

The University of Geneva has sent a research team led by Martin Beniston, a climatology professor, on the boat. They will spend June through August traveling along the Gulf Stream and up the east coast of the United States, over to Iceland and Norway.

The PlanetSolar was the ideal vessel for the research trip because it doesn’t emit anything into the water that could contaminate samples.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Solar Stocks are Back!

stocks-board

Solar energy stocks have had a great week, though analysts warn that its still a volatile industry, and the European Union’s proposed trade sanctions on Chinese solar panel manufacturers could have adverse effects.

Some of the big name solar companies, from manufacturers to installers, have seen massive surges in their stock process this week, adding to significant gains since the start of the year.

Stocks like SunPower (SPWR) limped through 2012 at stock price lows hovering around $5 a share, only to come bounding back to life in 2013. The stock has surged 240 percent since January to $19.49 a share on May 24.

New darling of the industry, SolarCity (SCTY) is up 148 percent in the past three months to $49.25.

Both companies are dramatically different from each other. SunPower is a U.S.-based solar panel manufacturer, which means the company has struggled with extraordinarily low profit margins as solar module prices plummeted over the last two years.

The company, however, has created its own downstream markets, building solar plants throughout the U.S. and in emerging markets like Asia and selling completed or nearly-completed projects.

SunPower and other solar companies saw their stocks soar after a Warren Buffet subsidiary bought two SunPower farms earlier this year.

SolarCity uses the solar leasing model, installing panels on residential rooftops, retaining ownership of them and selling the power they produce to the occupants at a fixed price. Elon Musk, who owns SpaceX and Tesla is deeply affiliated with the company, adding to its high-profile status.

JA Solar Holdings (JASO) also climbed 42 percent since the beginning of the year to $8.32 per share after announcing this week a 6 percent increase in first-quarter revenue. The new bumped JASO along with other solar panel manufacturers.

However, an impending June 6 implementation date for a European Union punitive trade tariff on Chinese solar panel manufacturers could damage gains for Chinese manufacturers and ultimately send other solar stocks slipping in tandem, warn some analysts.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Printer Belts Out Solar PV at 10 Meters Per Second

solar-printer-fast

The new printer installed at Australia’s science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is making solar modules as fast as the news can print it. But this isn’t a conventional inkjet by any means.

While scientists and researchers have talked about printing PV cells and modules, this is one of the largest PV printing facilities that’s been developed to date. By printing PV devices with a printer and at room temperatures in normal atmospheric conditions, the devices are much less expensive than silicon or other types of PV which require expensive equipment that’s also expensive to run, like vacuum chambers and high-temperature ovens. In addition, the printer uses existing printing technologies which makes it much less expensive. In fact, CSIRO said it is worth A$200,000 (about $194,760 in U.S. dollars). Other companies, like Nanosolar are also working on printing PV modules, but thus far there aren’t many commercial deployments of the technology.

Scientists at the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC)—which consists of CSIRO, The University of Melbourne, Monash University, BlueScope Steel, Robert Bosch SEA, Innovia Films and Innovia Security and supported by the Victorian State Government and the Australian Government—will use the printer to literally print Organic PV modules at a rate of up to 10 meters a minute, and a cell every 2 seconds. The cells from the printer are as large as 11.7” by 16.5”; the modules can be much larger. “In just three years they have gone from making cells the size of a fingernail to cells 10 cm square. Now with the new printer they have jumped to cells that are 30 cm wide,” CSIRO said.

“There are so many things we can do with cells this size,” said CSIRO materials scientist, Scott Watkins. “We can set them into advertising signage, powering lights and other interactive elements. We can even embed them into laptop cases to provide backup power for the machine inside.”

The printer can also apply the PV materials to a variety of flexible surfaces, from plastics to metals. “Eventually we see these being laminated to windows that line skyscrapers. By printing directly to materials like steel, we’ll also be able to embed cells onto roofing materials,” David Jones, VICOSC project coordinator.

Still, the solar modules the printer produces aren’t nearly as efficient as silicon or even thin-film modules, which means you need a lot more of them—and space—to produce the amount of electricity a silicon PV module produces. But, since the device essentially uses semiconducting inks, the ink formulas can be tweaked and reformulated as they become more efficient.

There’s also another PV printer on the way, according to CSIRO. “As part of the consortium, a complementary screen printing line is also being installed at nearby Monash University,” the organization said.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Artificial Photosynthesis in a Solar Nanoforest

nano-solar-forestPhotosynthesis, the ability of plants to create food from water and carbon dioxide with the help of the sun, has drawn the interest of scientists, who have wished to ape the process, for a long time. Now they may have done it. Late last week the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory announced that it made a breakthrough in creating artificial photosynthesis by creating a nanoforest.

Noting plants’ ability to create fuel from little more than the elements, scientists have theorized that the process could be replicated to make fuels. In the artificial photosynthetic process, water is split into its constituent elements, hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can then be used as fuel. With the recent discovery at LBL, it looks like they’re one step closer to making it a reality.

“A major challenge for artificial photosynthesis is to produce hydrogen cheaply enough to compete with fossil fuels,” LBL said. “Meeting this challenge requires an integrated system that can efficiently absorb sunlight and produce charge-carriers to drive separate water reduction and oxidation half-reactions,” it added.

“In natural photosynthesis the energy of absorbed sunlight produces energized charge-carriers that execute chemical reactions in separate regions of the chloroplast,” said Peidong Yang, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division, who led the research. “We’ve integrated our nanowire nanoscale heterostructure into a functional system that mimics the integration in chloroplasts and provides a conceptual blueprint for better solar-to-fuel conversion efficiencies in the future.” Yang and co-authors Chong Liu, Jinyao Tang, Hao Ming Chen and Bin Liu published their research “A Fully Integrated Nanosystem of Semiconductor Nanowires for Direct Solar Water Splitting” in the journal NANO Letters.

The device the researchers developed mimics the chloroplasts in green plants that carry out photosynthesis. “Our artificial photosynthetic system is composed of two semiconductor light absorbers, an interfacial layer for charge transport, and spatially separated co-catalysts,” Yang explained. “To facilitate solar water-splitting in our system, we synthesized tree-like nanowire heterostructures, consisting of silicon trunks and titanium oxide branches. Visually, arrays of these nanostructures very much resemble an artificial forest.” Albeit a really, really tiny one.

The device consists of “trees” with silicon trunks which are the hydrogen-generating photocathodes. The oxygen-generating photoanode is made of titanium oxide. “The tree-like architecture was used to maximize the system’s performance. Like trees in a real forest, the dense arrays of artificial nanowire trees suppress sunlight reflection and provide more surface area for fuel producing reactions.”

The device isn’t very efficient at this point. Thus far it’s achieved a 0.12 percent solar-to-fuel conversion efficiency, which while comparable to some real photosynthetic systems isn’t nearly good enough for commercial use. “We have some good ideas to develop stable photoanodes with better performance than titanium oxide,” Yang said. By replacing the titanium dioxide with other materials, the group may be able to push the efficiency up to single digits to start.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Tesla Repays DOE Loan (9 Years Early)

tesla-supercharger

Apparently some people don’t like being beholden to others. At least that seems to be the case for Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors. On Wednesday (May 22), the high-end electric vehicle (EV) maker announced that it fully repaid the $451.8 million that it borrowed through the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program, making it the first auto manufacturer to do so.

The repayment is also just another sign that the Department of Energy’s advanced energy loan programs are actually doing what they were supposed to do, create jobs and reinvest in the country’s economy following the great recession. The DOE invested in emerging technologies, like EVs, and EV chargers,  solar and new battery technologies under Presidents Bush and Obama. However, it’s been more famous for supporting failures, like Solyndra than it has for supporting successful efforts like Tesla—even though its loan programs are still performing better than expected.

Hopefully Tesla’s early repayment—about nine years early, will restore some faith that the DOE can help some companies emerge from research and development phases into fully emerged, commercial products.

“I would like to thank the Department of Energy and the members of Congress and their staffs that worked hard to create the ATVM program, and particularly the American taxpayer from whom these funds originate,” Musk, Tesla’s co-founder said upon repaying the loan. “I hope we did you proud.” The made the loan repayment after raising roughly $1 billion in funds in common stock and convertible senior note options.

The Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program was signed into law by President Bush in 2008. But the funds for Tesla were awarded by the Obama administration. Tesla was awarded the milestone-based loan in 2010. To win it, the company had to raise enough private funding to match the federal loan. It accomplished the leveraged funding through through its initial public offering.

Tesla’s been around for just about a decade now and until receiving the federal loan it was primarily bankrolled by Musk and other investors. It’s Roadster, based on a Lotus, proved popular with purchasers and last year it introduced it’s Model S, the first car the company has designed from the ground up. The Model S is also receiving rave reviews from automotive magazines, like receiving Motor Trend’s 2013 car of the year award and being named 2013 Automobile of the year by Automobile Magazine.

The Model S also has free access to Tesla’s growing network of PV-powered EV charger network, which the company is building out along high-traffic corridors in the US Southwest and Northeast first.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

FUTUREWATCH: Self Assembling PV Cells

pv-assemblyNewly published research from Rice University and Penn State show that some polymer-based organic PV devices can self-assemble. The research could make producing organic PV far easier and cost effective in the future.

The research, led by Rice’s Rafael Verduzco and Penn State’s Enrique Gomez—both chemical engineers, was recently published in the American Chemical Society’s journal Nano Letters. In creating the self-assembling devices, Rice’s lab discovered a block copolymer—P3HT-b-PFTBT—that separates into bands about 16 nanometers wide, according to Rice. “More interesting to the researchers was the polymers’ natural tendency to form bands perpendicular to the glass. The copolymer was created in the presence of a glass/indium tin oxide (ITO) top layer at a modest 165 degrees Celsius,” Rice said.

That was coupled with a layer of aluminum constructed by Penn State. “On the other side of the device constructed by the Penn State team, the polymer bands stretched from the top to bottom electrodes and provided a clear path for electrons to flow,” Rice said.

“On paper, block copolymers are excellent candidates for organic solar cells, but no one has been able to get very good photovoltaic performance using block copolymers,” Verduzco said. “We didn’t give up on the idea of block copolymers because there’s really only been a handful of these types of solar cells previously tested. We thought getting good performance using block copolymers was possible if we designed the right materials and fabricated the solar cells under the right conditions.”

Why the device assembles itself in the way it does isn’t completely understood yet. “Our hypothesis is that both polymers want to be in contact with the ITO-coated glass. We think that forces this orientation, though we haven’t proven it yet,” Verduzco said.

At this point the efficiency of the device is low at nearly 3 percent conversion efficiency. But even the organic PV devices have efficiency levels around 10 percent. While that lags far below the 24 percent efficiency of high-end silicon cells like SunPower’s Maxeon cells, organic PV is much cheaper to produce and can be used in more applications than silicon PV. For instance, some organic PV cells and modules are made, literally, by printing them out.

Now the team will experiment with other block copolymers in a bit to increase the efficiency of the devices. “We’ll focus on performance first, because if we can’t get it high enough, there’s no reason to address some of the other challenges like stability,” Verduzco said.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Grid Storage Industry: Ready to Launch

transmission-lines-4

The grid storage market is poised to grow dramatically from $200 million today to $10.4 billion by 2017.

Increased adoption of renewable energy like wind and solar is driving the market, said Steve Minnihan, a senior analyst with Lux Research and author of the report: “Global grid storage market to grow to $10.4 billion in 2017.”

Minnihan said he and his team calculated the internal rate of return on investment in grid storage for every individual country and found that about 70 percent of the demand for new grid storage will come from the deployment of renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

While renewable integration is driving the grid storage market, battery sales will not keep up with solar panel sales.

“Battery storage is a relatively small percentage of the solution,” he said.

One reason for the slower grid storage adoption is that it’s still expensive.

“Generally today if you add a battery to a solar project, you’re just adding cost to get more stabilization,” Minnihan said.

That means battery integration with renewables will trail far behind solar and wind power adoption for now.

While 70 percent of grid storage growth can be attributed to renewable energy integration, the other 30 percent is interesting, Minnihan said.

Researchers found that there are geographic areas where the difference between on-peak and off-peak electricity rates is wide enough to justify residential and commercial grid storage in some cases.

“Japan certainly is a very good market for residential grid storage,” Minnihan said.

Germany’s dramatic price differences between on-peak and off-peak prices for commercial customers will also drive storage there.

And there are places in the United States, like New York and California where high utility rates and tax incentives could drive wider grid storage adoption.

Minnihan also investigated the viability of the industry.

“It has been an incredibly tumultuous 18 months for the players in the grid storage market,” Minnihan said.

Even the bigger, more-connected startups like A123 Systems have declared bankruptcy or sought acquisition. Minnihan looked at how many partnerships and connections companies had to see if it was an indicator of their likelihood for success. It wasn’t, he said.

But companies on the fringes that work in small networks will have a harder time commercializing. They might have more advanced chemistry and a viable product.

“But it’s very hard to woo a new customer,” Minnihan said.

Those companies have to do a lot to prove their technology, which takes a lot of time. And time requires cash.

“Generally, they’re going to fail before they can demonstrate their product,” Minnihan said.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

New CPV Efficiency Record for Amonix

amonix-cpv

Amonix, which makes concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) systems, has once again broke a world record for real-world efficiency testing. In real-world testing, the company’s latest CPV technology reached a peak conversion efficiency of 36.2 percent at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. The new record broke Amonix’ former world record of 34.2 percent by 2 percent.

The new technology tested higher during the whole testing period from February to April. “Over the entire testing period, the Amonix module earned a National Renewable Energy Laboratory outdoor efficiency rating of 34.9 percent, a new world record, under international standard operating conditions for concentrator photovoltaics,” Amonix said. The testing module used Boeing Spectrolab’s 40 percent high efficiency solar cells.Amonix' 7700 CPV system. Courtesy Amonix

“Amonix’s proprietary technology platform allows us to continue driving rapid performance improvements in our CPV system,” said Vahan Garboushian, Amonix founder and CTO. “The advances we have demonstrated over the last two years have all been with the same generation 40 percent cells, demonstrating an unprecedented cell-to-module conversion efficiency of greater than 90 percent,” he said. The advances show that the efficiency growth has come from Amonix’ innovations rather than more power multi-junction cells.

“With improvements that are underway in cell efficiency and additional advances in our module technology, we will continue to drive efficiency higher over the coming years,” Garboushian said. To help drive that efficiency, the company is making partnerships with companies like Solar Junction to help bring down the costs of the advanced cell technology.

While most commercial photovoltaics (PV) are silicon-based, Amonix and some other companies are using specialized, multi-junction PV cells, like gallium arsenide (GaAs) PV cells. These specialized cells are able to convert more of the sun’s light into electricity on various layers of the cell. The theoretical conversion efficiency limit for a single-junction silicon PV cell is around 33 percent and the most efficient silicon PV cells on the market are able to convert about 24 percent of the sun’s energy into electricity. However, Amonix partner Solar Junction’s cells have converted 44 percent of the sun’s energy into electricity.

Most multi-junction PV cells are much more expensive because of the rare material they are made out of. Therefore, these specialized cells are not really suitable for modules on rooftops. In fact, their primary use has been for space applications. Now companies like Amonix are concentrating sun on these multi-junction cells to get the most out of them. For instance, Amonix’ previous generation MegaModules concentrated the sun on each small PV cell over 500 times. One MegaModule consisted of 36 sets of lenses and receiver plates that were assembled into the larger 7700 MegaModules, which—at 77 feet by 49 feet—were larger than an IMAX screen.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Spray on Solar 2.0

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

New Energy Technologies announced last week that it has successfully scaled up its spray-on, see-through solar photovoltaic technology designed for after-market application on windows.

The futuristic idea behind the technology is that it could be used to solarize windows in the 85 million commercial buildings and residential homes throughout the country.

The Maryland-based company first announced its product in 2011 and signed an agreement to work with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to scale it up.

“You would think that going from the prototype to a 12 by 12 version would be a simple scaling up,” New Energy Technologies CEO John Conklin told CleanEnergyAuthority.com in 2011. “But it’s orders of magnitude more complicated.”

In addition to scaling the technology up so it covers a larger surface, the company announced last week that it slashed its fabrication time and increased the energy conversion efficiency.

“The Company’s SolarWindow technology has progressed significantly beyond early research,” according to a release, “and is now in advanced product development.”

Spray advances, which were headed by Dr. Xiaomei Jiang, have doubled cell efficiency, reduced fabrication time from more than a day to a few hours and developed a more aesthetically-pleasing uniform coat that acts as a window tint.

That particular advancement will be important to commercialization as it will make the technology more applicable in a practical market. Consumers will want the technology to look uniform and to function without changing the way we see windows.

Researchers are hopeful that this latest announcement puts the company in position to begin mini-module spray-on device fabrication that could lead into larger-scale production and New Energy Technologies’ commercial launch, according to the release.

The company has been slowly and steadily marching toward commercialization with each new advance. It currently has 14 patents pending approval.

“This latest breakthrough is an exciting testament to our ongoing efforts as we continuously work to improve the quality and performance of our SolarWindow mini-modules,” Conklin said. “Moving forward, we remain devoutly focused on producing large surface area prototypes compatible with high-speed production methods, important to commercialization of SolarWindow.”

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

BYD Sets Up Shop in California

byd-logo-building

In a time when cities are clamoring for manufacturing facilities and the high-value jobs they bring, one California city lured a major Chinese battery manufacturer to town with its reputation of deep support for clean technology, solar energy and innovation.

BYD, which stands for Build Your Dreams, announced this week that it will establish two manufacturing plants in Lancaster, Calif. The Chinese battery manufacturer, which claims to be the world’s largest supplier of rechargeable batteries, will produce batteries in one of its facilities and electric buses in another, according to a release from the city of Lancaster.

The company recently established its North American headquarters in Los Angeles, about 70 miles southwest of Lancaster.

Lancaster is a city of about 185,000 on the western edge of the Mojave Desert that has in recent years established itself as the greenest state’s greenest city. Per capita, the city has almost twice as much renewable energy capacity, primarily from solar, than any other city in the state.

Earlier this year, the City of Lancaster, Calif. became the first in the country to require all new home construction to include rooftop solar panels.

Lancaster mayor Rex Parris went to China on a trade mission in 2010 and met with BYD leaders. After the visit, Parris developed the “home of the future” project, which brought KB Homes and BYD together to develop the most affordable net-zero production home in the country.

“This innovative use of cutting-edge technology, coupled with the ability of the BYD/KB team to think outside the box to create the most affordable production green energy home our country had ever seen, was truly inspiring,” Parris said. “This cemented the concept in my mind that BYD must be part of Lancaster’s future. Their developing technologies dovetail perfectly with our community’s sustainable energy goals, while also providing stable green jobs for local residents.”

After that, BYD established its headquarters in Los Angeles and signed a $12.1 million contract to produce 10 zero-emissions, all-electric buses for Long Beach, Calif.

With that, BYD started looking for a nearby manufacturing facility. Lancaster has long been home to Rexhall Industries recreational vehicle manufacturing. But declining demand for RVs has caused the use of those facilities to dwindle to the point that the RV manufacturer can co-locate its retail and manufacturing facilities in the city.

BYD purchased the facility and will begin production soon.

“This truly is the best of both worlds,” Parris said. “With this arrangement, BYD benefits from a ready-made, fully-permitted facility which perfectly suits its needs, and will also enjoy access to the expertise of highly trained personnel with extensive experience in the manufacturing industry. Simultaneously, Rexhall staff will enjoy stable, green-sector jobs, along with a significant number of local families who will benefit from the new jobs BYD’s operations will create.”

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority