Solar Manufacturing: Not as Toxic as Fossil Fuels

Cadmium telluride nanocrystals that have been centrifuged to separate the crystals from the sodium chloride solution

Everybody knows that once solar’s installed, it doesn’t pollute. But some of the materials in some photovoltaics can be hazardous. Even so, the amount of toxic waste is far, far less than is produced during conventional energy production, according to data from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).

For instance, between the period of 2007 to 2011, the manufacture of photovoltaics in California produced a total of 46 million pounds of toxic waste (23,000) tons, most of it tainted water. Roughly 12.5 million pounds of it came from the now defunct Solyndra, which produced cadmium-tainted water as a byproduct of its manufacturing process. But only certain thin-film companies like Solyndra or First Solar use cadmium in their photovoltaic devices.

First Solar has a very strong end-of-life recycling program for its PV devices so none of the cadmium gets released into the environment. For instance, “By establishing the industry’s first comprehensive pre-funded module collection and recycling program, First Solar is able to reuse more than 95% of the semiconductor materials for the production of new solar modules, closing the loop on our environmentally responsible product life cycle,” the company said.

According to a European Commission Institute for Environment and Sustainability report: “Cadmium is produced as a by-product of Zinc production and can either be put to beneficial uses or be sequestered and stored in a way that won’t allow for any releases into the environment. CdTe used in PV is in an environmental stable form that doesn’t leak into the environment during normal use or foreseeable accidents and therefore can be considered the environmental safest current use of cadmium.”

On the other hand, fossil fuel-fired power plants, like coal or natural gas plants spew (albeit much less than they used to) toxic materials into the air. In the U.S. coal-fired power plants, for instance, emit between 33 tons and 48 tons of mercury into the atmosphere annually (depending on different sources). It’s the leading reason why mercury is in almost all fish in U.S. waters.

Oh, and they emit cadmium, too. “Air emissions of cadmium from the whole life-cycle of CdTe PV (including mining, smelting and purification) are 100-360 times lower than cadmium emitted into air routinely from coal and oil power plants that PV displaces,” the same report stated. They also emit carbon dioxide sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxide, powerful greenhouse gasses.

While solar electricity generation doesn’t produce any greenhouses gasses, the transportation of the hazardous waste does. In response to an AP reporter Jason Dearden’s question Dustin Mulvaney, a professor of environmental studies at San Jose State University said offsetting the carbon impact of transporting the materials used in a PV modules requires between one to three months of generating. But that’s a moment in the lifespan of a PV module, which can operate for 25 or more years. The article reported “Producing solar is still significantly cleaner than fossil fuels. Energy derived from natural gas and coal-fired power plants, for example, creates more than 10 times more hazardous waste than the same energy created by a solar panel.

The article did observe that many of the companies that produced the hazardous waste were startups or newer companies that had not ramped up production commercially. As such they hadn’t developed manufacturing processes that could have reduced or eliminated the waste they produced.

The article failed to note though, however that the majority of modules produced are silicon-based modules that don’t rely on hazardous materials like cadmium, or for that matter that the amount of cadmium in modules like First Solar’s are minute.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

SolarReserve Looks for Global Growth


SolarReserve, known for its solar thermal towers with energy storage systems, is looking to the mining industry and foreign markets for growth opportunity.

The company already has major projects in California, Nevada and Colorado. While there is plenty more opportunity domestically, Tom Georgis, vice president of business development for SolarReserve, said there are other countries looking for exactly what SolarReserve has to offer.

“Certainly, we’re looking more globally to other market,” he said.

Among those markets, Chile is at the top of the list. The South American country has a strong mining industry in its northern Atacama Desert. It’s not easy to get power there. The power miners do have in that region is expensive, dirty and unreliable.

“The mining companies need base load power,” Georgis said. “The government there is going to be seeking solar thermal with storage, which is exactly what we do. We’re going to have a tremendous advantage in that market.”

The mining industry could be a fit for SolarReserve in other countries as well, Georgis said.

“In Africa and Australia, they’re trucking in diesel to their remote mining operations,” He said. “And they’re working 24/7. They need a lot of power.”

Diesel generators get very expensive quickly when they’re producing so much electricity. Georgis said there’s a good chance SolarReserve technology, which provides up to eight hours of stored electricity that can be deployed at any time, will be very attractive to some of those mining companies and even the governments in Australia and some African countries.

He said SolarReserve has already been working on projects in South Africa in order to establish a relationship and base there. The initial project uses solar photovoltaic panels rather than SolarReserve’s solar thermal towers. Georgis said they did that because it’s easier to get a PV project financed and approved in that market. And getting established is an important first step in foreign markets.

Suadi Arabia and the Middle East also offers a lot of potential and opportunity for the company, Georgis said.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Brown (UPS) Goes Green in New Jersey


On Feb. 19 UPS said it is adding in more solar with two new 1.2 megawatt rooftop solar PV installations at its Parsippany and Secaucus locations in New Jersey. The former was completed last fall and the latter will be completed in Spring 2013. The shipping giant said it chose to go solar in New Jersey because the investment made sense there.

“The equipment and design was sourced directly by UPS,” said William Moir, UPS’s Facilities energy program manager. “The field installation was handled by local electrical or roofing firms through a competitive bid process.” UPS chose to own the systems outright rather than get them through a third-party lease or power purchase agreement. By choosing a direct ownership approach the company said it uncovered valuable best practices to produce a strong return on its investment in current and future developments. The company chose New Jersey as its test market because of the state’s incentives.

“Our efforts in New Jersey (which includes our  first project in Lakewood, N.J.) have provided us standardized models for the three different mounting techniques we would expect to use on a UPS facility across the U.S.: direct connect, ballasted and standing seam metal roofs,” Moir said. The projects in New Jersey offered the company valuable information as UPS looks to install solar at other locations in the U.S. “All UPS facilities across the U.S. are part of our analysis. It’s a question of evaluating local operation, facility considerations, costs and incentives.”

The systems it installed at the New Jersey locations used domestically sourced high quality mono-crystalline PV panels, according to Moir. He explained that the company has used different mounting technologies to get a better idea of how it impacts costs. “Parsippany used an elevated direct connect mounting system with a 15 degree tilt, and the Secaucus facility used a ballasted system. Taking into consideration the efficiencies we learned in their development, $1.90 per watt to $2.15 per watt is a reasonable price range for what they would cost today, on those particular roofs. We continue to look for ways to drive the price down, while ensuring we are purchasing system capacity which we can effectively use for 25 to 30 years.”

Since UPS’ primary delivery business occurs during the 9-5 workday, the systems will produce the most when the buildings aren’t using as much energy as they do in the evenings and morning. “Generally speaking our ‘processing hours’ tend to be off peak, so during the afternoon hours our usage is down, and these systems will likely be sending power that UPS does not need into the grid. That time frame also tends to be the typical utilities peak demand time frame, especially during the summer months,” Moir said. Overall the systems will produce up to 35 percent of the facilities’ energy demand throughout the year.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

WTF? Residential Solar So Much Cheaper in Germany


In a follow-up to a 2012 study conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL), researchers found that the average number of man-hours to install a PV system on a residence in Germany is 39. That’s a significant difference from the 7.5 man-hours LBL’s researchers found when they surveyed German PV installers in Sep. 2012, yet the cost difference remains the same, leaving us to wonder why it’s so much cheaper there (roughly $3.42 per installed watt at the end of 2011) compared to the U.S. (roughly   $6.21 per installed watt at the end of 2011).


The LBL found that the main difference in cost between the two countries is in the so-called soft-costs of solar. Soft costs include legal, permitting and other non-system costs related to installing a PV system. “Total soft costs for residential PV in Germany, including margin, are just 19 percent of the implied soft costs for U.S. residential PV ($0.62/W vs. $3.34/W),” according to the new version of the study.

The roughly $2.70 per watt difference in soft costs—as of the end of 2011, was attributable to a number of factors within the larger umbrella of soft costs. The majority of lowered costs about $1.32 per watt in Germany were related to overhead, profit and residual soft costs. Other cost reductions stemmed from the lower customer acquisition costs (ads, etc.) of 7 cents per watt—that’s about 62 cents less per watt than installers spend per customer in the U.S. And, despite lower wage costs in the U.S. , the cost of labor on German residential PV installations was 36 cents per watt lower than in the U.S. Germany also doesn’t have any sales or value-added tax, reducing costs by 21 cents per installed watt, and similar amount is reduced because Germany doesn’t have any permitting fees.

In the revised study, LBL found some additional reasons for the lower costs in Germany, including shorter project development times and, because Germany’s solar resources are less than in the U.S., homes need larger arrays, allow access to greater economies of scale. And the market in Germany is more homogenous, meaning that it’s not fractured by 50 states, and thousands of local regulations.

These costs are just related to the soft costs of solar in the U.S. and Germany, modules also cost less in Germany, largely because of the higher adoption and more stable market for solar there. The study recommended taking a number of policy steps in the U.S. to bring the costs down. Such steps include creating a concentrated market, a simple incentive structure and a simple process for interconnection, permitting and inspection. LBL will host a Webcast on Feb. 26 to discuss the study and its findings.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

UConn Professor Uses Nanotech for 70% Efficient Solar Cell


While current solar energy technology, which is usually based on semiconductor technology made of silicon or gallium oxide functions at 20 percent efficiency on the high end, a University of Connecticut professor is working on a new technology that could harvest 70 percent of the sun’s electromagnetic radiation.

The technology uses nanosized antennas. Working with elements and distances as much as 30,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, UConn engineering professor Brian Willis aims to build a prototype nano-antenna device that will both produce electric energy and harvest it.

“There’s no silicon or gallium oxide involved,” Willis said. “We have tiny electric waves on these metallic nanostructures.”

Willis said the metals need to be to be gold, silver or copper for conductivity. When you shine a light on the metallic nanostructures, they can shape that light and transform it into electric waves, Willis said.

Scientists have been researching this technology for years and it has advanced dramatically.

“What’s new about what we’re doing is that we’re trying to capture those electric waves and extract them,” Willis said.

The trick is to trap the energy. Willis has worked with partners at Penn State University on the theory. Together they have come up with a proof of concept that works. It concentrates the energy on the “tiny, tiny tip” of a nano-antenna. The next step is to extract it, which involves a flat surface placed just 1 or 2 nanometers away from the tip. It’s a lot like a static charge going from the head of a straight pin to a flat surface.

Willis has developed a fabrication process that he said should allow his team to develop a device that will both generate and capture electric energy. Using the selective area atomic layer deposition method Willis developed, the team has already created some proof of concepts. The next step is to build a prototype of the device.

“It won’t be tomorrow,” Willis said. “But it’s a single-digit number.”

California Throwdown: Solar vs. Farmland


Solar developers are swallowing up thousands of acres of productive California farmland to build utility-scale solar installations.

That could be a big problem for California’s agriculture industry if the development is not more carefully monitored, said Ed Thompson with the American Farmland Trust.

There are currently 40,000 acres of California farmland in development or slated for development with solar arrays, Thompson said.

“That’s a lot of farmland,” he said. “Ideally you’d pick areas that are not as good for farming.”

But, he said, a lot of the areas solar developers are targeting are productive farm acres, especially those in the south San Joaquin Valley.

“There’s no way to know what the cumulative impact on farmland is going to be,” Thompson said.

Municipal and county governments are making piecemeal decisions about projects and approving them in vacuums.

“There doesn’t seem to be an overall strategy,” Thompson said.

That’s what organizations like his and others are pushing the California government to tackle. There needs to be an accounting of farmland being developed for solar and some external force pushing solar developers toward less productive farmland. Thompson said there isn’t anything right now other than groups like his urging it.

Developers are just looking for flat ground near power distribution lines.

There is a huge demand for solar installations in California. The state’s renewable energy portfolio standard requires utilities in the state to get a third of their power from renewable sources by 2020. Attempts to build solar arrays in the Mojave Desert have been met with strong resistance from environmental groups concerned with the impact on endangered species there.

Thompson said it’s very hard for farm owners to resist development offers. While agriculture in California is a $40 billion industry, agricultural uses still can’t compete with more urban uses, Thompson said.

“Even in the Napa Valley, where prime wine-growing land can go for $100,000 an acre, it still can’t compete with the price if that land were broken up into housing lots,” he said. “We just keep losing the farmland.”

He said California has lost more than 500,000 acres – a full sixth of its farmland – to development in the last 20 years.

In addition to solar and other renewable energy development, Thompson said a high-speed rail line and oil and gas development is taking up farmland. “There are a lot of competing interests.”

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Why Emerging Solar Markets are Essential


Moving into emerging markets is a big risk, but one that utility-scale solar developers will have to take if they want to continue to thrive, according to recent report from Lux Research.

Boston-based Lux analyst Matt Feinstein reported that China and India will be key emerging markets for solar developers even in the face of difficult political issues surrounding stirring trade wars.

“What we wanted to look at in the report was mostly markets from a policy perspective,” Feinstein said.

There are a lot of new markets and solar developers are targeting different ones. It’s still competitive out there, but nothing like it was when all of the solar developers in the world were concentrating their efforts in Germany and Italy and those two countries made up almost 70 percent of the demand. Now, different developers are tending to target certain markets that are offering big incentives from the Middle East to Africa, India, China and South America.

“But in those emerging markets, there’s a good amount of risk involved, especially for foreign companies,” Feinstein said. “The good thing is that the demand for electricity in those markets is growing a lot and they have much more reason to install solar.”

The risk is that those countries need power so badly, they might be overpaying for it or using money they don’t have to pay incentives.

“It’s very easy for high incentives to run into high deficit,” Feinstein said.

Some developers are even investing in Feed-In-Tariff insurance policies for certain projects, he said.

“While each of those markets are risky, companies that want to be successful in utility-scale development need to take that risk,” Feinstein said.

Of course, the emerging markets aren’t the only ones left. While Europe is generally viewed as a dying market, developers interested in distributed generation projects still have a lot of opportunity there.

There are still a lot of home and business owners installing solar in Germany and Italy and throughout the rest of Europe and that’s something likely to continue for years to come, Feinstein said.

“Even if those markets are half of what they are today long-term, there’s still a lot of business to be done there. That’s still a $1 billion market.”

Feinstein said the U.S. market is in a similar boat. While there is likely to be a lot of utility-scale solar installed during the next five to 10 years, most developers see the U.S as a distributed generation market.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Apple’s Solar Touchscreen Patent Revealed


In what was called a ‘shocker’ by Patently Apple, a blog—not surprisingly—dedicated to Apple’s patents, Apple was granted a patent for a touchscreen that would also serve as a transparent solar charger. Apple filed the patent in 2008. While it’s far from the first solar patent by Apple or other tech giants, it could be the last nail in the head to help Apple move forward with making a solar-plowed iPhone or even an iPad.

What’s interesting about this patent is that the solar panel would also operate as the touchscreen itself, rather than as two separate units, observed Forbes. Most touchscreens today use either a resistive (pressure-sensor) or a capacitive (conductive-sensor) screen to respond to touch input. The iPhone and iPad use capacitive touchscreens, for instance. However, the new patent takes a fundamentally different approach.

“The integrated touch sensor array and solar cell stack-ups may include electrodes that are used both for collecting solar energy and for sensing on a touch sensor array,” according to Apple’s abstract. “By integrating both the touch sensors and the solar cell layers into the same stack-up, surface area on the portable device may be conserved. In addition to being used for capacitive sensing, the integrated touch sensor and solar panel configurations may also be used for optical sensing.”

The grant of the new patent was just one of 40 patents granted the company on Feb. 5, according to Patently Apple. However, the new solar/touchscreen grant was somewhat unexpected. “In this particular report we cover a real little shocker,” wrote Patently Apple site manager Jack Purcher. “In this granted patent Apple reveals that they’ve been working on display panel technology that integrates both touch and solar cells on a single panel since a little after launching their revolutionary iPhone.”

“In the negative hoopla surrounding Apple these days, it is a common lament that Apple is no longer innovating,” wrote Nigam Arora, a Forbes contributor who writes the Arora Report. He added, “A newly approved patent suggests otherwise.”

This is not the first granted patent for Apple’s solar ambitions. It already received two patents related to an electronic microcontroller that could handle energy inputs from multiple sources. It also filed other patents related to solar.

Other companies are also working on transparent PV devices that can be integrated into smartphones, tablets and other devices. One of the furthest along is likely Wysips (What You See is Photovoltaic Surface), a subsidiary of French company SunPartner SAS, which already produced working prototypes in 2011. And in January 2013, they announced their device reached 90 percent transparency and it would be showcased at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February. Their device, however, uses a thin screen that could fit under a smartphone’s touchscreen apparatus to generate electricity, hence the transparency issue. Which company or option will win the horserace remains to be seen.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

DOE Treasury Throws $150M at Clean Energy Manufacturing


In an effort to spur more U.S.-based solar, wind and other clean energy manufacturing, the Department of Energy and the Treasury Department teamed up to offer $150 million in tax credits. Under the offer, announced today, Feb. 7, the Treasury Department is allocating credits to the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credits program that weren’t previously used.

The credit was established in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 in an attempt to foster investment and job creation in clean energy manufacturing, according to the DOE. The Section 48C Advanced Manufacturing Tax Credit originally provided a 30 percent investment tax credit and helped fund 183 domestic clean energy manufacturing facilities valued at $2.3 billion.

“The President has been clear that we have to do everything we can to boost growth and job creation today and build a more sustainable foundation for tomorrow,” said Acting Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin. “Manufacturing the clean energy products of the future in America will create good, middle-class jobs right now and help lay the groundwork for the long-term resilience of our economy.”

“Since 2009, the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit program has supported innovative American manufacturers that boost our nation’s competitiveness in the global race for clean energy,” said DOE Secretary Steven Chu in a release. “These new investments will continue that momentum, supporting the President’s commitment to American-made energy, increasing energy security, and creating jobs.”

Unfortunately it’s not new money for the program. The $150 million being offered were not used by the previous awardees, according to DOE. They are being allocated on a competitive basis and applications will be assessed on following criteria: commercial viability, domestic job creation, technological innovation, speed to project completion, and potential for reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, DOE said. Additional factors will include the diversity of geography, technology, project size, and regional economic development.

Eligible technologies include: Solar, wind, geothermal, or other renewable energy equipment; Electric grids and renewable energy storage; Fuel cells and microturbines; Electric and hybrid vehicle energy; Carbon dioxide capture and sequestration equipment; Equipment for refining or blending renewable fuels; Equipment for energy conservation, including lighting and smart grid technologies. Other advanced energy equipment designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may be eligible but must be determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

SunPartner Enters U.S Market


SunPartner, a French company that won the second-ever Nobel Sustainability award earlier this month, is expanding its technology to solarize new surfaces and its market reach into the United States.

SunPartner is known for its WYSIPS technology, which stands for “What You See Is a Photovoltaic Surface.” It’s an ultra-thin, transparent and flexible solar film that can be applied to screens of mobile devices for solar charging anywhere. The company also has a crystalline product that electronic manufacturers can build into their screens, said SunPartner spokeswoman Marion Chanson.

The company is already doing business in Europe with its electronic screen covers, but will expand that business to include building facades, roof tiles, glazing on skyscrapers and windows in electric vehicles and trains, Chanson said.

“We are already in discussions with many players in Europe in these fields and seeking industrial partnerships abroad,” Chanson writes in an email. “Our objective is to get first products available for these applications from end of 2013.”

She said SunPartner is still licensing its technology in the United States. The company will likely engage in some research and development efforts as well as manufacturing in the U.S. once the licenses are transferred. This year, she said she expects SunPartner to be able to begin marketing its screen applications for tablets, phones, watches and e-readers. That market alone could make SunPartner a major player in the U.S., Chanson said.

“We think that the first concrete opportunities in the U.S. market will apply on screen-related applications that we began to investigate last year,” she said. “It is too early to set in stone figures but we are talking of hundreds of millions of screen devices. If you just think of how many screen devices or electronic items you own or use every day, the ones in your pocket – at home or at the office, it gives you a rough idea of the potential.”

SunPartner is also looking for U.S. manufacturer partners it can license its façade and roof applications to and expects to build U.S. research partnerships by the end of 2013 for transportation and building-integrated solar applications.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

IKEA: Florida’s Largest Non Utility Solar Owner


While Ikea’s newest rooftop solar installation in Sunrise, Fla. makes the Swedish furniture manufacturer and retailer the largest non-utility solar owner in the state, it also illustrates the company’s commitment to sustainability.

“We think it’s very significant,” said spokesman Joseph Roth. “Not many folks make the investment to purchase their own systems. We think it represents a significant commitment to solar electricity.”

Several business owners are entering power purchase agreements and installing solar photovoltaic panels on their rooftops throughout the country, but not many businesses are investing in systems they own outright.

The new rooftop solar array, which is a little bigger than 1 megawatt, will produce enough electricity to power 134 homes. It’s the third Ikea solar installation in Florida and the 35th in the country. There are another four installations in the planning stages, Roth said.

“By the time we are completed with our U.S. installations, it will put us at about 30 megawatts,” Roth said.

Ikea is not a solar developer, so 30 megawatts is a pretty big investment.

The investment is moving the company toward its goal of being 100 percent sustainable by 2020.

“We’re already 50 percent there,” Roth said. “So, I really believe it is possible. We definitely need to keep going.”

He said Ikea in the U.S. has progressed more quickly than the stores in other countries, mostly because the infrastructure was in place and the development was easier to do here than in less developed countries that didn’t have a strong existing solar industry.

In addition to solar photovoltaic installations, Ikea is pursuing geothermal installations where they make sense, Roth said. The Denver store has both solar PV and geothermal. A location near Kansas City could also have both, he said.

Some of Ikea’s earliest stores also have solar thermal hot water heaters for food service and the bathrooms.

While the Sunrise store has pushed Ikea past a threshold in the state, it’s just one among several more to come, Roth said.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Stion Shines at the Superbowl


Stion, the thin-film photovoltaic manufacturer, which has rushed out of startup operations and into the big leagues over the past few months is upping its visibility at the Super Bowl this weekend with Solar Alternatives. The two companies have built a solar canopy at the Kingswood Playground in New Orleans as part of the Big Easy’s Super Bowl preparations. The canopy is part of an effort to renew the park and more of New Orleans as it gets ready to host the big game.

It only makes sense. After all, Stion’s manufacturing facility is only across the border in Hattiesburg, MS., and Solar Alternatives is a New Orleans based solar designer and installer. The two have installed the PV canopy, which uses Stion’s PV modules at the park.

“We are excited to showcase Stion’s unique technology to the millions who will be watching worldwide,” said Jeffrey Cantin, president of Solar Alternatives.

“It’s part of our partnership with Northsea and the NFL,” said Richard Pavlick of the Young Leadership Council. Pavlick said it’s part of the effort to make sure kids have a safer, brighter place to play, during an interview with WWL TV. Other enhancements will include new light and renewed green space. It’s part of the New Orleans Super Saturday of Service.

The Super Bowl Host Committee’s community initiative, Super Saturday of Service is working with Habitat for Humanity, the Young Leadership Council and other local organizations to help renew New Orleans. It will result in $2 million of renovation and beautification across the city.

“There is no event more American than the Super Bowl, so we are proud to take part in this project as we help lead the resurgence of US solar manufacturing,” said Frank Yang, VP of Business Development for Stion Corporation and Stion Solar Mississippi LLC. “This is a great opportunity to highlight our emphasis on community involvement.”

Stion’s PV canopy has an octagonal design to showcase Solar Alternatives’ design expertise and Stion’s all-black modules. The 11-kilowatt array will reduce CO2 emissions in the area by more than 500,000 pounds over the next 25 years. Since the company uses thin-film CIGS materials as their semiconductors, the modules don’t need the same electrode contacts that many silicon photovoltaics have.

In all the installation, which will power the park’s lighting and other services, will make the playground Louisiana’s first net-zero public facility, according to Stion. According to Stion, the modules are the only solar products manufactured locally in the Gulf Coast region.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Envision Solar Lands Contract for 2,300 Solar Trees


Envision Solar announced plans this week to install a forest of 2,300 of its Solar Trees at a property in North Carolina.

“We’ve installed a couple hundred Solar Trees in our company history,” said Envision CEO Desmond Wheatley. “This is a major leap.”

It’s a leap the company has been preparing to make. Over the last year, Envision has made repeated announcements about increasing modularization of its solar photovoltaic product. Because of the company’s new method of building the components for the Solar Trees in a factory and shipping them to the site, assembly only takes a few hours and its reasonable to expect Envision to be able to ramp up production quickly enough to finish installing the 35 megawatts of Solar Trees in 2014, Wheatley said.

“This is a break-out year for use,” he said. “Now it’s all in the execution,” he said.

There will be staffing and logistical challenges in moving from an operation that put out about 100 Solar Trees a year to one doing more than 200 times that volume.

“The good news is that this isn’t really a surprise,” Wheatley said.

He knew the business was poised for this type of growth and he expects there will likely be more announcements like this in the future. The company has outsourced all of its manufacturing and has contracts with a handful of facilities that can get to work building the components for the Solar Trees right away.

Wheatley said the company might start doing some of its own fabrication as well, though that’s not a certainty yet. He hopes there will be an opportunity to do some of the manufacturing in North Carolina, close to the site for the new solar forest, which Envision’s partner Horizon Energy is developing.

“We’re committed to improving the environment in every way,” Wheatley said. “And that includes the economic environment.”

Local contractors will work to install the Solar Trees, creating new jobs. But Wheatley said he hopes, for several reasons, there could also be a plant nearby.

The property owner did not want to be identified, Wheatley said. But the Solar Trees were the solution the owner was looking for over several years. The forested property is home to some logging operations. The shading from the trees and the hilly terrain meant regular ground-mountain systems wouldn’t work well at the site. “The Solar Trees can co-exist with their leafy cousins,” Wheatley said.

And since the tracking panels sit atop concrete pillars, they can be planted in any kind of terrain.

The trees will provide regular revenue for the property owners.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority

Solar Industry Standards: Can’t We All Just Get Along?


To bring next-generation pv to market in a way that’s standardized both for manufacturers and end-users, SEMI, a semiconductor manufacturers industry organization has partnered with the U.S. Photovoltaic Manufacturing Consortium (PVMC), a DOE SunShot Initiative program focussed on reducing the costs PV. The two organizations announced Jan. 29 a memorandum of understanding to more directly co-develop solar thin-film standards and roadmap activities.

PVMC is delighted to partner with SEMI to drive the development of standards and roadmaps that will guide next-generation PV research and advanced manufacturing,” said Dr. Pradeep Haldar, PVMC chief operating and technical officer and CNSE vice president for Clean Energy Programs. “This collaboration further highlights the ability of public-private partnerships to enable leading-edge technologies while supporting the critical needs of industry.”

Basically the understanding is taking steps to ensure that as new technologies come to market that there are standards in place to make it easier for everyone to work together. This makes it easier for downstream companies like integrators or inverter manufacturers to make products that work with a wide variety of PV modules, and for upstream suppliers to make equipment and materials that can benefit a number of companies. Standards and roadmaps also reassure investors and makes it easier for them to understand the technology, the value proposition and lowered risk. All of which help to reduce the cost of solar and its various components.

Under the partnership SEMI will use its resources as a standards development organization to work collaboratively with PV manufacturers through the SEMI International Standards program and provide technology roadmap development services through the International Technology Roadmap for PV (ITRPV). Meanwhile PVMC will use its resources to together industry, academia and government working on solar to accelerate development, commercialization and manufacturing of next-generation solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

“By joining forces with PVMC and by leveraging lessons learned from SEMI’s ITRPV roadmap and PV standards activity, we intend to create synergies along the PV thin-film manufacturing supply chain, enabling cost reductions and efficiency gains that will benefit the entire global solar industry,” said Bettina Weiss, vice president, business development, SEMI.

The project is being undertaken by PVMC as part of it and SunShot Initiative’s mission to reduce the cost of installed solar by 75 percent by 2020. While SEMI works on a more international basis, PVMC is primarily concerned with the U.S. market.

Original Article on Cleanenergyauthority