CPV: Call it a Comeback?


The most efficient form of solar power, concentrated photovoltaic (CPV), is the least commonly used right now. Last year the U.S. alone saw multiple gigawatts PV installed. The whole world is likely to have about 357.9 megawatts of CPV installed in 2014. That could change, according to a new report from GlobalData, which anticipates that the CPV industry will grow through the end of the decade as the technologies behind it mature.

A few years ago it was anticipated that the industry would grow quicker. In fact, as PV arrays got larger hitting the 50 megawatt then ballooning to more than 100 megawatts in size in  a short period, CPV arrays by some companies were starting to follow the trend, like the 30 megawatt Alamosa Generating plant in Colorado that uses Amonix’ CPV systems. Those system consist of giant trackers mounted on pedestals that are 70 feet wide by 50 feet high and consist of 7,560 Fresnel lens that each focus the sunlight about 500 times onto a small multi-junction PV cell.

Likewise Suncore’s 50 megawatt CPV power plant in Golmud, China—the largest CPV plant in the world came online in 2013. But both of these are singular examples of where the technology is headed and there aren’t, at this moment, many other large-scale CPV facilities planned. At this point China and the US dominate the global CPV market. The U.S. has 33.3 percent of the world’s share of CPV and China 35.4 percent.

However, by the end of the decade CPV is expected rebound, according to a new report out today (March 18) from GlobalData. The report anticipates that while CPV won’t overtake PV anytime soon by 2020 it should reach 1,044 megawatts.

“The CPV market is at a nascent stage, especially with the technology evolving and achieving new heights of efficiency improvement,” said GlobalData Analyst Swati Singh. “Companies that have been successful in operating CPV prototype systems in pilot sites are now progressing towards multi-MW CPV projects.”

Things were looking up for the industry with a number of companies entering the market and then, as silicon PV prices plummeted, CPV couldn’t keep up with the price drops. That’s largely because because the industry is still in earlier stages of commercial development than PV or even concentrated solar power (CSP), like trough and solar tower installations.

The industry faces other challenges as well, according to Singh. “A further concern in the CPV industry is the reliability and performance of the systems,” he said. “Although significant efforts have been made to develop International Electrotechnical Commission standards for CPV-system certification.”

CPV systems can offer advantage over conventional PV arrays, too. Since the PV cells are only part of the system, they can be swapped out as cells become worn out or better, more efficient PV cells become available and while silicon PV cells are around 24 percent efficient at best, multi-junction PV cells are already more than 43 percent efficient at converting sunlight into solar power.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Solar Comes to Best Buy


Are solar panels becoming consumer electronics? While the majority of devices at the local Best Buy suck more and more of the energy in your home—albeit more efficiently if you opt for Energy Star products, the store is starting to offer solar arrays so homeowners can power their new toys and tools with the sun.

Through a partnership with SolarCity that’s now coming out of its pilot phase roughly 65 Best Buy shops in the U.S. now offer solar arrays to their customers. The company’s solar-as-a-service offerings allow homeowners to go solar with little or no up-front costs.

“The services we offer, it tends to be a conversational sale,” SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive told The L.A. Times. “Meaning most people don’t understand the value proposition until they spend two or three minutes listening to it, and the value proposition is cheaper, cleaner energy.”

SolarCity said it is now offering its solar services in select stores in Arizona, California, Hawaii, New York and Oregon. Oh yeah, and then there’s the award for going solar (a full listing of participating stores is available here:https://www.bestbuysolarcity.com/). “To celebrate the new offering, SolarCity will give every customer a $100 Best Buy gift card, valid for any other purchase in the store, if they sign up for solar service through Best Buy before Earth Day (April 22nd, 2014),” SolarCity said.

The company has kiosks manned by SolarCity representatives in each of the applicable stores. “As the first national consumer electronics retailer to offer a solar service option in-store, Best Buy is helping to make solar power more accessible,” the company said. “A SolarCity representative at each participating Best Buy location will be able to provide Best Buy customers with a satellite-based assessment of their home’s solar power potential in minutes.”

It’s not the first time that SolarCity and other companies that offer third-party ownership options (TPOs) like leases and power-purchase agreements have partnered with retail outlets. Indeed, last year SolarCity partnered withHome Depot at certain locations to offer its solar services there. Likewise Sungevity partnered with Lowe’s to offer its similar services.

As solar becomes more affordable and more popular for homeowners across the country and as companies continue to compete for marketshare it’s likely that solar installers will look for more diverse ways to reach homeowners. Vivint Solar, for instance, uses its direct sales approach and builds on the extensive customer list that use other home services such as security and energy efficiency services. Other solar companies have opened up showrooms and mall kiosks to reach customers.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Illinois: The Greenest State


Illinois’ cornfields aren’t the only thing that’s green in the state, nearly 100 communities in the the state are 100 percent powered by renewable electricity. That’s according to a new report, Leading from the Middle: How Illinois Communities Unleashed Renewable Energy. As such it’s likely the greenest energy state in the nation on a per capita basis.

The report, released today (March 7) by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Environmental Law and Policy Center, LEAN Energy US, the Illinois Solar Energy Association, Illinois Sierra Club, and The George Washington University Solar Institute, found that the number of communities in Illinois serving their residents with 100 percent renewable electricity far outpaces any other state. Perhaps that’s why Illinois was one of six states in the U.S. last year that sourced all of its new energy from solar power. For instance, it’s neighbor, Ohio has only two cities that serve their residents with 100 percent renewable energy.

What’s more, each Illinois community supported by 100 percent alternative energy chose to do so of its own volition. The communities voted to purchasing enough renewable energy credits to offset any of their other electric use from conventional power generation. “Without fanfare, 91 local governments in Illinois have decided that renewable electricity is the best option,” said Keya Chatterjee, director of renewable energy and footprint outreach with WWF. “No one knew this was happening, and I doubt anyone would have guessed. America’s green energy revolution is here; and it starts in Illinois.”

The 91 communities were able to advantage of Illinois’community choice aggregation (CCA) policy. The policy allows the communities to leverage their group purchasing purchasing power to solicit bids from energy providers. In all, only six states have CCA  policies in place, they are: New Jersey, Ohio, California, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The CCA policies also allows communities to use their clout to reduce their overall electricity cost. The Illinois communities, which serve a total of 1.7 million residents, did so while also choosing to source their electricity from renewable sources—primarily wind in the Prairie State.

“We are seeing the power of letting communities choose their electricity supply,” said Sarah Wochos, senior policy advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Across Illinois, cities and towns are asking for clean, renewable energy, and we encourage them to use that power to bring new renewable energy projects to their communities.”

“The findings of today’s report are an example of Illinois leading our country’s movement to a more sustainable future from the community level,” said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin (D). “Communities up and down the state have banded together to pursue renewable electricity, reducing both their utility costs and the state’s environmental footprint. Illinois is showing what can happen when change at the local level is harnessed to create a collective movement, and I hope other states take notice.”

The largely Illinios-focussed report also includes guidance for communities in states with CCA policies intended to help them pursue clean-energy aggregation.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

In Focus: Rooftop Solar System Obstacles


The dramatic decline in the cost of solar energy, combined with a greater understanding of its financial benefits have made rooftop solar more appealing to homeowners across the US. But some clean energy enthusiasts have discovered that installing solar on their property isn’t as easy as it may sound. Trees, skylights, chimneys, roof structures and aesthetic restrictions by Homeowners’ Associations can complicate the logistics of a solar electric installation.

“My already-built house wasn’t designed for solar panels,” said Jim McDaniels of Colorado Springs, Colo. “My roof may not be strong enough, or big enough, or angled ideally for the solar panels I need to match my electricity needs.” AMECO Solar reveals that the ideal rooftop is an unshaded, south-facing roof with asphalt shingles, few obstacles (like skylights and vents) and won’t need replacing for 10 to 15 years.

“I had been looking into solar energy for years, but the challenges of on-property location and building it turned into a second thought,” said Greg Gerloff of Breckenridge, Colo.

Gerloff and McDaniels are not alone.

study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that only 22 to 27 percent of residential rooftops are suitable for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Even customers who built their home with solar in mind have stumbled into roadblocks—like Worth Robbins who constructed his Harvard, Mass. home on an east-west axis to accommodate a future, south-facing solar array.  “What I didn’t take into account was that trees grow,” Robbins said on a segment of Living on Earth. And once he removed trees on both his property as well as his neighbors, Robbins would still be 4 kilowatts short of offsetting his total energy use. “We didn’t want to do that. We like our wooded setting,” he said.

Besides the physical logistics of installing a residential system, other barriers such as upfront costs and length of tenure can deter initially-enthusiastic advocates of rooftop solar. Since customers are paying today for a system that will generate electricity for 25 years or longer, buying a solar energy system is like purchasing several decades of energy all at one time, reports Environment America. The advocacy group also notes that some homeowners are reluctant to invest in solar because they might move before the system pays for itself, or that the remaining value of their array will not be included in the home’s resale value.

After studying the barriers to rooftop solar installations, NREL acknowledged: “Clearly, community options are needed to expand access to solar power for renters, those with shaded roofs, and those who choose not to install a residential system on their home for financial or other reasons.”

And the community solar movement started taking flight.

Community-owned solar, the model pioneered by Boulder, Colo.-based Clean Energy Collective (CEC), allows local residents to own their solar system by purchasing panels in a shared array. This model eliminates the physical obstacles to rooftop solar, with options to overcome other barriers such as length of tenure, ongoing maintenance, initial cost and financial risk.

Customers can choose how much they want to spend based on the number of panels they purchase; and opt for financing if they desire. All CEC arrays are fully insured with guaranteed maintenance for the lifetime of the array (between 20 and 50 years). If a customer moves, he or she can sell the panels to anyone else in the utility’s service territory.

These aspects made community solar an easy decision for McDaniels, who purchased 25 panels in the Colorado Springs Community Solar Array.

“Now I don’t have to worry about the installation and ongoing upkeep of a home solar system,” McDaniels said. “If and when I sell my house, I don’t have to worry about a buyer not wanting solar panels on the house or not being able to afford the cost of the panels.”

Gerloff is an outdoor enthusiast who purchased 26 panels in a Breckenridge, Colo. community array. “I’m excited to see the payback in my monthly bill,” he said.  “I see the panels daily, which is a great reminder to me about my change on the environment.”

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Why Facebook Wants A Solar Drone Company


A rumor’s been swirling around the Internet this week that Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are interested in acquiring solar-powered drone maker Titan Aerospace. The social media giant is rumored to be interested in the drone company to make the Internet truly mobile. Such a purchase could be part of the Internet.org initiative, which seeks to bring the Internet to parts of the world where there is little to no Internet access at this point.

Facebook isn’t the first to have its head in the clouds, when it comes to increasing Internet access around the world by making servers mobile and airborne. In 2012 The Pirate Bay, a website that hosts bit torrents of files including music, software and other potentially copyrighted materials looked into establishing a network of offshore quadcoptors or drones that would be capable of using tiny Pi computers and servers. That project, dubbed the LOSS (Low Orbit Server Stations) project could transmit to 100 megabytes of information a second. Thus The Pirate Bay could thwart what it considers censorship but others consider international copyright laws while still serving visitors around the world.

More recently Google introduced Project Loon. Under that project, launched last June (2013) Google began flying solar-powered balloons in New Zealand Canterbury region allowing 3G like Internet access in the region. In the test the balloons traveled at about 20 kilometers above the earth’s surface traveling up and down in the stratosphere to catch prevailing air currents and in attempts to keep the balloons in a relatively stable location above the test area. However, it was found that some of the balloons strayed off-course and were lost above the Pacific ocean.

Still, Google is moving forward with the next phase of Project Loon. Earlier this week the company announced that the pilot project was expanded. “The pilot test has since expanded to include a greater number of people over a wider area,” Google said. “Project Loon will continue to expand the pilot through 2014, with the goal of establishing a ring of uninterrupted connectivity around the 40th southern parallel, so that pilot testers at this latitude can receive continuous service via balloon-powered Internet.”

But there’s a difference between the solar-powered balloons that Google is launching compared to the solar-powered drones that Facebook is investigating. Google’s balloons can last more than 100 days—TechCrunch which first reported about the potential Facebook purchase, reported that Facebook is looking into Titan Aerospace’s Solara 60 model, which would be designated as satellites and could fly at elevations of 65,000 feet, for up to five years without needing to land, and such drones could be configured to maintain a relatively fixed position above a region or circulate to provide services as needed.

While the rumors are whirling like air currents. TechCrunch said the rumored purchase price being discussed is for roughly $60 million. To begin with the company would produce roughly 11,000 of the vehicles, Which would start by providing access to the Internet to parts of Africa.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Solar: Helping Pot Growers


The sun’s been around for a long time. So has marijuana. Legal pot in the U.S. hasn’t been around for a long time. In fact, earlier this year Colorado became the first state to sell legal marijuana in the U.S. With the county’s—if not the world’s—eyes on Colorado’s new policy, growers are looking for opportunities to better use their profits while still dealing with federal roadblocks. One potential is investing in solar to offset soaring utility costs for growers in Colorado that grow in warehouse. The issue was at the heart of one of the sessions at Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association’s Solar Power Coloradoconference last week.

While marijuana could grow outdoors without much additional care even in Colorado’s climate it’s not legal under the state’s marijuana laws. As such growers must grow marijuana in enclosed spaces like warehouses and, in some cases, greenhouses. Growing in warehouses, particularly becomes amazingly expensive.

Sean Coleman President of 36 Solutions a lobbying organization focussed on marijuana and other issues, said his clients in the marijuana industry have electric utility bills that start at $30,000 a month and go up to $100,000. This is largely spent to mimic the light of the sun to grow the plants. “It’s not just about having lights, it’s about having lights with the right spectrum,” he said. “There’s only a certain amount of compromise when you’re doing agriculture which wants to be outdoors, indoors.”

Colman’s largest client pays more than $1 million annually in utilities. “If they have the opportunity to invest $500,000 in solar instead, they would do it now,” he added.

But the equation isn’t so simple. Session moderator Ricardo Baca, The Denver Post’s marijuana  editor said that under warehouse conditions producing a pound of marijuana requires roughly 2,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. Meanwhile producing a pound of aluminum takes 7 kilowatt hours of electricity. Already, Baca said it’s estimated that 1 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S. powers marijuana growth operations and in California that’s up to 3 percent.

Brian Nye, now an electric inspector with Boulder County, formerly installed solar arrays, and installed electric systems at marijuana growhouses, the only person on session panel that had experience with installing solar or electricity. “When I was in business I wired some of these grow facilities. I do know that they consume a tremendous amount of electricity and one-1,000 watt light fixture is going to take about 3 kilowatts of PV power, which is a tremendous amount and a lot of these facilities have anywhere from 50-60, 100, 500 light fixtures,” he explained. A solar array designed to meet the needs of a large, 500-light grow house would have to be roughly 1.5 megawatts.

At the same time Nye thought that advances in lighting could also help make it easier to power grow house facilities. “Lighting companies could develop a lighting fixture that takes a lot less wattage to bring that power consumption down.”

Many solutions were discussed, greenhouses, for instance were mentioned, but zoning issues related to the law have made it hard for growers to use them. Another possibility discussed was using light tubes or pipes to bring in natural sunlight in the day time to offset the need for as much artificial light, even during the seedling part of the plant’s lifecycle when it can take up to 16 or more hours of sunlight.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Veterans: 10% of Solar Workforce


More than 13,000 U.S. Veterans are already working in the solar industry, and the number is growing. That’s almost 10 percent of the workforce in the solar industry, according to a new report from Operation Free, a coalition of veterans and national security experts, and The Solar Foundation. The report also found that nearly 62 percent of solar companies plan to hire more people in the next year.

The new report, Veterans in Solar: Securing America’s Energy Future, is based on data from The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2013. “This short report establishes the first and most complete understanding to date of veteran employment in the U.S. solar industry,” explained The Solar Foundation President Andrea Luck. The report found that the majority of veterans in the solar industry (39 percent) work in the installation sector, while another 27 percent work in the manufacturing sector of the industry.

“We are thrilled to partner with The Solar Foundation on this important report,” said Advocacy Director of Operation Free Jaclyn Houser. “We are finally able to see, with hard numbers, what we have suspected for years: veterans are huge assets to the clean energy economy,” she added. “They view their work in clean energy as a continuation of their service.”

Veterans are still experiencing a high level of unemployment in the U.S. at 15 percent, according to the report. Showing that veterans are finding great opportunities in the solar sector. “Our servicemen and women have made great sacrifices for our country and it is our responsibility to ensure that when they return home there are high-skill and well-paying jobs available,” said Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52).

“This report highlights the ways solar strengthens the U.S. economy and our national security,” said Nat Kreamer, CEO ofClean Power Finance and a former Intelligence Officer, Special Forces, U.S. Navy, who served in Afghanistan. “Veterans are over-represented in the solar industry because we know first-hand that clean, affordable domestic power makes America and the world safer.”

The report also suggests next steps to expand opportunities for veterans. Among the suggestions is the creation of a skills transfer tool, now under development. Such a tool, according to the report will help employers match their needs with the skills obtained by veterans.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Solar Decathlon Stays in California


The Solar Decathlon, a signature biennial event showcasing the possibilities of solar homes tomorrow with today’s technologies, announced two things today (Feb. 13) its competitors and locations for 2015. The event will stay at Irvine, Calif.’s Orange County Great Park in 2015 and 20 collegiate teams from around the world will compete in the 10 event competition. Now the teams have until fall of 2015 to design build and transport their unique homes to the park’s grounds where they will reconstruct them for the competition.

It appears that the coming Solar Decathlon competition, the seventh in the U.S. series, will feature more collaborations than in previous iterations of the events, with each of the international schools—four in all, hailing from as far as Singapore and Germany—partnering with at least one U.S.-based school. Such collaborations can help reduce the transportation logistics while playing up on each college’s or university’s strengths.

“The Solar Decathlon provides the next generation of America’s architects, engineers, and entrepreneurs with the real world experience and training they need to strengthen U.S. innovation and support new, clean sources of energy,”said Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman.

“The Solar Decathlon can be a positive, life-changing experience for participating students,” said Solar Decathlon Director Richard King. “In addition to developing leadership, team spirit, and problem-solving skills, this competition bridges formal education with hands-on experience that helps decathletes excel once they enter the workforce.”

From the first Solar Decathlon in 2002, to the fifth event in 2011, the event was held in Washington, D.C. on the nation’s backyard, other wise known as the National Mall. However, because restoration efforts on the mall the event had to find a new home—at least while restorations are being made—and maybe permanently or perhaps it will become a traveling show—as of early 2014, no final decisions for a permanent home for the event have been announced.

Hosting the competition in D.C. gave Senators, Representatives and other government officials quick and easy access to the event. That said, the two-week 2013 Solar Decathlon at Orange County Great Park was well attended with more than 60,000 people taking advantage of the free tours of the unique homes.

At the competition in 2015 the homes will likely showcase energy efficiency measures, better PV cells and solar panels, inverters, solar thermal arrays and more. Since all such technologies have rapidly advanced every year. To learn more about the 2015 Solar Decathlon, visit: www.solardecathlon.gov.

The teams in 2015 are:

• California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

• California State University, Sacramento

• Clemson University

• Crowder College and Drury University

• Lansing Community College and Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University

• Missouri University of Science and Technology

• New York City College of Technology

• Oregon Institute of Technology and Portland State University

• Stanford University

• State University of New York at Alfred College of Technology and Alfred University

• Stevens Institute of Technology

• University of Florida, National University of Singapore, and Santa Fe College

• The University of Texas at Austin and Technische Universitaet Muenchen

• University at Buffalo, The State University of New York

• University of California, Davis

• University of California, Irvine; Saddleback College; Chapman University; and Irvine Valley College

• Vanderbilt University and Middle Tennessee State University

• West Virginia University and University of Roma Tor Vergata

• Western New England University, Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá, and Universidad Tecnológica Centroamericana

• Yale University.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

U.S Not Down with India’s Solar Program


The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) filed a complaint against India to the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the country’s domestic content requirements for solar systems. The complaint is about Phase II of India’s National Solar Mission (NSM), which requires Indian power developers to use Indian-manufactured solar equipment as opposed to equipment from other countries, including the U.S. The country previously had a domestic content requirement but in Phase II even thin-film photovoltaics, like those made by First Solar, are excluded from the program.

India launched the NSM in 2010. Under the first phase solar developers were required to use certain solar cells and modules manufactured in India, according to USTR. However, the rules didn’t apply to thin film PV. Last February the U.S. requested WTO consultations with India with respect to these domestic content requirements, however, those consultations didn’t resolve with the U.S.

“These domestic content requirements discriminate against U.S. exports by requiring solar power developers to use Indian-manufactured equipment instead of U.S. equipment,” said U.S. trade Representative Michael Froman. “These unfair requirements are against WTO rules, and we are standing up today for the rights of American workers and businesses. We also take this action in support of the rapid global deployment of renewable energy. These types of ‘localization’ measures not only are an unfair barrier to U.S. exports, but also raise the cost of solar energy, hindering deployment of solar energy around the world, including in India.”

Under the prior phase of India’s NSM, India still required that most PV used in solar arrays have domestic content, but thin-film PV like that made First Solar was exempt. “As thin film currently comprises the majority of U.S. solar product exports to India, these domestic content requirements are likely to cause even greater harm to U.S. producers than under Phase I,” the office said.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) agreed with the filing calling it justified and necessary. “We strongly support today’s decision by U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to move forward with a WTO case against India’s solar local content requirement,” said SEIA President Rhine Resch. “Localization barriers are a growing threat to U.S. solar exports and clearly violate WTO rules.”

“Over the past three years, the U.S. government has provided India every opportunity to remove restrictive and unfair marketplace requirements,” Resch stated. “In the absence of any meaningful effort by India to find common ground, it’s now time for the WTO to finally resolve these long-festering issues.”

Original Article on Solar Reviews

In Focus: Solar Energy Storage


One of solar power’s biggest enemies is—not surprisingly—when the sun’s not shining. Not just at night, but also on cloudy days. The variability of the power source, time and again, is one of the reasons utilities have fought the addition of more solar power to their networks, particularly distributed solar generation. But energy storage technologies batteries, thermal storage—even more exotic energy storage technologies like flywheels and compressed air are starting to gain traction and analysts are increasingly seeing it as a potentially large future market.

This week at least two companies, GTM Research and Navigant Research released reports related to solar energy storage, with Navigant anticipating energy storage will generate $4 billion in revenue annually by 2024. Meanwhile GTM Research projects that energy storage for commercial energy in the U.S. could increase from a little over 100 megawatt hours in 2014 to more than 700 megawatt hours by 2020. And efforts to explore more ways to store solar energy are already underway. Also this week, Sumitomo Corp. announced that it deployed a new energy storage system using used EV batteries to provide large-scale energy storage in Japan.Sumitomo's 4R battery system

Why is energy storage becoming such a big deal? “Because electricity supply must match demand on a second-by-second basis, ensuring that demand is met requires costly planning and investments from grid operators throughout the energy supply chain, as well as critical ancillary services which ensure the stability of the electrical grid,” GTM Research said in a brief on its new report, Distributed Energy Storage 2014: Applications and Opportunities for Commercial Energy. It added, “The proliferation of intermittent, renewable generating sources (such as solar PV) over the last several years has presented utilities, grid operators, and project developers with a new set of challenges and opportunities—many of which can be addressed through the deployment of distributed energy storage.”

A key area of energy storage won’t just be large-scale deployments adjacent to giant PV or wind farms but at distributed locations including micro grids—the focus of Navigant’s new report: Energy Storage for MicrogridsNavigant anticipates that the worldwide capacity of microgrid energy storage systems will grow from 817 megawatt-hours 2014 to 15,182 MWhs by 2024. As such it will grow from an industry with $662 million in revenue this year to one with a revenue of $6 billion over the next decade.

“The primary value proposition of energy storage in a microgrid is in improving the payback period of the system, either by enabling an increase in the penetration of renewable energy sources, allowing participation in deregulated ancillary service markets, or reducing diesel fuel consumption,” said Anissa Dehamna, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “High prices for diesel fuel, a stronger push for the utilization of renewable resources in microgrids, and ancillary service market reforms will all underscore the business case for energy storage for microgrids.”

Still, the technologies are being evaluated. The new, used battery storage system in Japan is near the Hikari-no-mori solar power project on Yume-shima Island, Osaka. It consists of 16 used EV batteries and has a capacity of 600 kilowatts and 400kW hours. To develop the project Sumitomo partnered with Nissan to create the company 4R Energy to address the secondary use of electric vehicle lithium-ion batteries. The system will be evaluated over the next three years.

Original Article on SolarReviews

Apple: Solar Charging Ahead?


There are plenty of rumors out there about new gadgets and gear and none are usually more tantalizing than those that come out around Apple. While some companies are creating solar-powered smartphone cases with extra battery power others are working on ingenious ways to incorporate solar-charging directly into a smartphone’s touchscreen surface itself. One of the most active companies in this space is Apple, which has filed numerous patents related to photovoltaic devices that could be used to power its devices—most likely phones and tablets and now some are raising speculation that as soon as 2014 it could start integrating invisible solar charging into the surface of its mobile devices.

While a solar-powered battery pack will and can work, it’s also far from an ideal solution since most devices require the user to turn the device so its back faces the sun. An external solar charger will allow users to see or interact with the screen while charging but requires carrying additional equipment. But integrating a PV cell into a device’s screen would allow users to charge the device while still using or looking at it.

Most recently a contributor to Seeking Alpha wrote a piece discussing whether or not Apple will integrate solar charging into its iPhone 6 and other devices out this year. The author, an investor named Matt Margolis cited a number of reasons Apple could introduce the technology this year in his post “Apple’s Solar Powered iPhone 6 And iPod Touch Under A Sapphire Hood.”

Among the reasons, Apple has posted jobs for engineers that could be working on such a product. In addition, the company signed a $578 million contract with GT Advanced Technologies for manufacturing its Sapphire materials at Apple’s new facility in Arizona, which could serve as a replace material for the Gorilla Glass on its current iPhones—but also be integrated with PV. In addition, the Sapphire material could even be tougher than Gorilla Glass.

In making his argument Margolis references two patents Apple was granted in 2013. The first for an integrated touch sensor with solar panel configurations, which was filed last February. The second major patent was granted on Oct. 31 related to a power management system with a solar panel option, which would allow a device to safely charge the battery without adding much or more space-taking components. Another reason to support Margolis’ argument is that having the Sapphire facility on site in the U.S. as well as other manufacturing equipment that could be used for manufacturing solar onsite could all Apple to more quickly launch products for the U.S. and international markets.

Other companies are in hot pursuit of making a solar-powered smartphone with invisible PC cells as well, among them Samsung and LG. But perhaps most notable is that developed by France’s Sunpartner, called WYSIPS (What You See Is Photovoltaic Surface). As of 2011 the device almost entirely transparent and could be attached to a touchscreen device without interrupting its operating ability. That company partnered with Chinese mobile phone maker TCL Communication last summer to develop such a device.

On the other hand, this technology may not yet be ready for the commercial market. “Of all of Apple’s products, the iPhone offers some of the least surface area to work with. The latest generation of solar panels are a lot more efficient reaching close to 40 percent in the labs, but still, there’s no way that a panel the size of an iPhone screen – even the larger one we expect in the iPhone 6 – is going to power the phone on its own,” wrote 9to5Mac’s Ben Lovejoy in response to the Seeking Alpha piece. And those are the most expensive PV cells. Integrating them into a cell phone could still add a lot of cost. Ultimately it’s hard to tell whether or not these technologies will see the light of day anytime soon, but there’s always hope if not just hype.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

U.S Solar Industry: 142,000 Employees Strong


The U.S. now has 142,698 employees working in the solar sector—up nearly 20 percent from the year before. That’s according to the the Solar Foundation’s (TSF’s) fourth annual National Solar Jobs Census, which was released yesterday (Jan. 27). Overall the growth rate eclipsed that of the national employment growth rate by about 10 times.

The census, by TSF and BW Research Partnership and support from the GW Solar Institute, found that the solar industryadded 23,682 in 2013, which it said was a 19.9 percent growth in employment since September 2012. And that’s just part of the picture. “The industry has grown an astounding 53 percent in the last four years alone, adding nearly 50,000 jobs,” said Andrea Luecke, president of TSF. The strongest growth is in the installation sector, which grew nearly 60 percent adding 25,000 jobs since TSF launched the census.

“The solar industry’s job-creating power is clear,” Luecke said. “Our Census findings show that for the fourth year running, solar jobs remain well-paid and attract highly-skilled workers. That growth is putting people back to work and helping local economies.”

“The study shows both aggressive hiring and clear optimism among US solar companies,” said Philip Jordan, Vice President at BW Research Partnership. “Of particular interest was the continued high wages amongsolar installers, who earned an average of between $20.00 and $23.63 per hour. We also found higher than average employment of veterans in the solar industry, a sign that their high-tech skills are valued in this sector.”

TSF anticipates that employment growth in the industry will continue. “With leading market analyses predicting continued growth in annual installed solar capacity, it is likely that the national solar workforce will continue to experience similar growth,” it said in the report. For instance in 2014 solar employers expect to add roughly 22,240 jobs or about 15.6 percent. Of all the solar companies surveyed, fully 45 percent expected to add more employees in 2014, according to the report.

SunPower is among those that plan to add positions in 2014. “We employ about 1,000 people at facilities in 10 states, and are actively hiring hundreds more,” said SunPower CEO Tom Werner. “Our network of approximately 400 dealers employs more than 6,000 across the U.S., and two of our major solar power plants last year created 1,300 jobs at peak construction,” he added.

“The solar industry is a proven job-creator,” said former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D), now director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University. “In Colorado and across the country, we have seen that when the right policies are in place to create long-term market certainty, this industry continues to add jobs to our economy.” Ritter was champion for renewable energy in Colorado while Governor, expanding the state’s renewable portfolio standard to 30 percent from 10 percent, among other efforts to encourage renewable energy like solar and wind.

The census also compared the growth in solar employment to that in the fossil fuel electric generation sector and in coal mining. But it found that in terms of fossil fuels, employment dropped by 8.7 percent, shedding 8,500 jobs. Meanwhile coal mining jobs grew by 0.25 percent, according to TSF’s findings.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Vivint Solar Gobbles Up Solmetric


Residential solar installer Vivint Solar announced Jan. 23 that it acquired Solmetric Corp., a developer of photovoltaic installation instruments and software products. The strategic acquisition will bring Solmetric’s services in-house for Vivint. Vivint Solar, the second largest residential solar installer behind SolarCity, now joins that company in making strategic acquisitions as the residential solar market starts to consolidate. The companies did not disclose the purchase price.

“We are thrilled to welcome Willard MacDonald and his team of executives, engineers and other employees at Solmetric to our technology team at Vivint Solar,” said Greg Butterfield, CEO of Vivint Solar. “The Solmetric team has developed industry-dominant SunEye hardware and PV Designer software product lines that have maintained an impressive, satisfied customer base.”

Solmetric’s instruments and software are used by solar installers to measure and make solar installations as efficient as possible. “Further in-house, advanced development of Solmetric products will help strengthen our pre-installation site assessment and CAD design process even further at this crucial market expansion time for Vivint Solar,” Butterfield explained. Solmetric’s PV Designer software, for instance, shows solar installerslayout and energy production estimates for a rooftop system and its PV analyzer tool is a I-V curve tracker for solar. The tools are also used to measure system performance during operations and maintenance services.

“We are pleased with the merger agreement with Vivint Solar,” said Willard MacDonald, president Solmetric who joins Vivint Solar as vice president of technology development. “As part of Vivint Solar, we plan to continue to enhance our existing products line and develop even more offerings to benefit the entire industry and enable us all to install faster, low-cost and higher quality solar.”

Under the agreement Utah-based Vivint Solar will retain Solmetric’s employees at their office in Sebastopol, Calif. In addition, the company’s existing sales contracts and distribution partnerships will remain under the Solmetric brand. It’s products will also continue to be called Solmetric.

Vivint Solar and its largest competitor, SolarCity, are both starting to purchase other companies to compliment their product offerings. For instance, last October SolarCity purchased racking company ZEP Solar, which makes racking and mounting equipment for solar modules that allow for faster installation of solar arrays. As 2014 starts to firm up it will be interesting to see how these solar companies move forward.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

15.6% Efficient Graphene PV Device Developed


Earlier this week  Spanish scientists at the Universitat Jaume I in Castelló’s Group of Photovoltaic and Optoelectronic Devices (DFO) and the University of Oxford published research in the journal Nano Letters showing that they are able to create a graphene and perovskite photovoltaic (PV) device that converts 15.6 percent of the sun’s energy into electricity. While the devices they used are less efficient then traditional silicon photovoltaics, which are already higher than 24 percent efficiency atSunPower, for instance, the graphene and perovskite used in the new devices use less and less expensive materials than in conventional—and even most thin-film PV modules.

Graphene, the single layer, 2-dimensional, electrically-conductive carbon wonder material is proving very interesting to thesolar industry as a potential material to make inexpensive solar PV. The material was only realized in 2004, using the “Sotch Tape” method even though it was theorized as early as 1947. Using that method tape is used to peel atom-thin layers of graphene from graphite. The method was developed by Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov at Manchester University and they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery in 2010.

Perovskite is also being looked at to make more efficient organic PV devices. This past fall researchers at Oxford University led by Henry Snaith, demonstrated perovskite PV cells with efficiencies over 15 percent. Snaith also contributed to the research in Spain and is a coauthor of the more recent paper. In the new device titanium oxide and graphene serve as the charge collector and perovskite absorbs the sunlight.

The resulting device, which has reached efficiency levels of 15.6 percent, is among the best for organic PV and essentially doubles the efficiency of record organic PV devices made with graphene as recently as 2012. “This efficiency exceeds that obtained by combining graphene with silicon, which is the photovoltaic material par excellence,” Asociación RUVID said. “This development is a new milestone for the progress of perovskite solar cells.”

The device is manufactured at low temperatures, which makes it less expensive to manufacture. “Researchers Eva Barea, Iván Mora and Juan Bisquert have explained that the new device consists of several layers processed at temperatures below 150°C,” according to Asociación RUVID. The low temperature process also means that the material could even be used in flexible PV devices.

Original Article on Solar Reviews