July 2017 (www.jdsupra.com)
Renewable Energy Focus
Greentech Media – Jul 13 The Department of Energy may be facing potentially massive budget cuts and interference in how it gives out green technology research grants, but it is still getting the money out there. The latest installment is $46.2 million from DOE’s SunShot Initiative, aimed at bringing a host of solar PV, solar thermal, energy storage, and inverter technologies closer to market. The grant awards, announced Wednesday, are split among 48 companies, universities, and research organizations. The largest grants fell under the Advanced Module Design and Fabrication category, including $1.2 million for SunPower to work on “newly conceived surface bonding procedures” for manufacturing interdigitated back contact solar cells, which are highly efficient yet hard to make. The new concepts, if they work, could cut the number of process steps by more than half and “significantly reduce the cost of module fabrication.”
PBS – Jul 7 For the first time in decades, the United States got more electricity from renewable sources than nuclear power in March and April. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said last Thursday that electricity production from utility-scale renewable sources exceeded nuclear generation in the most recent months for which data is available. That’s the first time renewable sources have outpaced nuclear since 1984. The growth in renewables was fueled by scores of new wind turbines and solar farms, as well as recent increases in hydroelectric power as a result of heavy snow and rain in Western states last winter. More than 60 percent of all utility-scale electricity generating capacity that came online last year was from wind and solar.
Solar Industry Magazine – Jul 13 SolarWorld Americas, which operates a large PV manufacturing plant in Hillsboro, Oregon, is cutting its workforce in half but also announced it expects a double-digit-million-dollar infusion of cash to enable the company to stabilize and optimize operations through 2017 and beyond. Ever since its parent company, Germany-based SolarWorld AG, entered insolvency in local court, the U.S. subsidiary has consistently said it would work to maintain operations despite the parent’s financial woes. However, SolarWorld Americas issued a warning of an impending mass layoff to its approximately 800 employees in late May. In addition to the significant workforce reduction, SolarWorld Americas has announced its lenders have agreed immediately to forward $6 million in cash to the U.S. company.
Marin Independent Journal – Jul 7 The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has decided to review the mechanism by which Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and other investor-owned utilities are compensated when customers switch to community choice aggregators, such as Marin Clean Energy. The utilities and the community choice aggregators agree that the current mechanism for compensation is flawed. They are at odds, however, over how it should be changed or what should replace it.
San Diego Union-Tribune – Jul 12 A government-run alternative to San Diego Gas & Electric could deliver more green energy while costing residents and businesses less money over time, according to a report released Wednesday by the city of San Diego. The study looked at the feasibility of launching a community choice aggregation (CCA) program in San Diego, which might eventually be adopted to satisfy the city’s pledge to tap only solar, wind, and other green energy sources by 2035. The new report found that a community choice program has the potential to deliver cheaper rates than SDG&E’s while providing 50 percent renewable energy by 2023 and 80 percent green power by 2027. SDG&E currently offers about 43 percent renewable energy to its customers, and under state law must get to 50 percent by 2030.
Utility Dive – Jul 11 California startup Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS) has raised $34 million in a Series B funding round, bringing on board a wide range of investors looking to dip a toe into the distributed energy resource space. The funding includes commitments from DBL Partners, Energy Impact Partners (which is backed by about a dozen utility companies), Southern Co., Macquarie Capital, and others. Macquarie last year agreed to commit $200 million to finance energy storage projects. Greentech Media points out that instead of project finance, AMS will use the $52 million it has raised so far to expand into new markets and grow its software.
PV-Tech – Jul 12 8minutenergy Renewables and Capital Dynamics plan to develop the 328-megawatt Mount Signal 3 PV project. The plant, located near the city of Calexico in California’s Imperial Valley, is the third phase of the 800-megawatt Mount Signal Solar Farm, which will be one of the largest PV installations in the world. Capital Dynamics acquired the 328-megawatt project’s equity interests from 8minutenergy, which will continue to serve as the project developer. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but Capital Dynamics is currently arranging tax equity and debt financing for the project, with financial closing expected in late July 2017.
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
by Leanna Garfield (July 11, 2017) www.finance.yahoo.com
The growth of rooftop solar power has skyrocketed in recent years. Globally, there are now approximately 305 gigawatts of solar power capacity, up from about 100 gigawatts in 2012.
But solar’s proliferation is slowing, partly due to a well-funded lobbying campaign by conventional utility giants. According to a recent New York Times report, several large US utility companies have been working with state politicians nationwide to reverse economic incentives for homeowners to install solar panels.
The utility companies say that rules letting homeowners sell excess power back to the grid — a process known as net metering — are unfair to those who do not want or can’t afford their own solar installations. They also argue that renewable energy could be hurting traditional sources, including oil, coal, and natural gas. (REALLY! . . . isn’t that the whole idea!)
Some energy writers have coined this competition from renewables as a “utility death spiral.”
Five investor-owned utility companies in Indiana — some of the largest financial contributors to the state’s elected officials — have contributed at least $3 million to mostly Republican candidates over the past four elections, according to campaign finance filings. In 2016, the utility industry also gave over $21 million to ballot initiative to ban third-party sales or leasing of solar panels.
Almost every state is now reviewing its solar energy policies, and some, like Hawaii, Nevada, and Arizona have already started to phase out net metering.
In many locations, utility companies bundle distribution costs for electricity, and charge a uniform per-kWh rate for solar power. When this pricing model combines with net metering, solar customers receive a subsidy partially paid by other non-solar customers in their state.
Edison Electric Institute (EEI), an industry organization comprised of the country’s largest investor-owned electric companies, is pushing to buy back solar at lower rates. That means the cost would become higher for homeowners who choose to buy solar power.
“We believe it is important to balance the needs of all customers,” EEI spokesperson Jeff Ostermayer told Business Insider. “A fair system means paying private solar customers the same, competitive price we pay for other solar energy, instead of above-market rates that result in higher costs for all customers.”
In spite of all this, the solar industry continues to grow (albeit slower than in the past decade). In 2016, the amount of new solar power installed worldwide increased by about 50%, reaching 76 gigawatts. China and US spearheaded the surge in solar — both countries nearly doubled the amount of solar photovoltaic panels they added in 2015. But in 2017, that growth is projected to hit just 2%, this year’s Bloomberg New Energy Finance Outlook said.
“While it is true that some utilities perceive rooftop solar as a threat to their business model, rooftop solar is, in fact, thriving in many new markets and is projected to grow dramatically across the country in the years ahead. Most states have strong policies in place that support the adoption of solar, because consumers are demanding access to this form of energy,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), told Business Insider.
According to SEIA, the cost of installing solar panels has declined more than 70% since 2010, making it a more attractive as an alternative energy source to homeowners.
David Pomerantz, executive director of the Energy and Policy Institute, a renewable energy advocacy group, believes that the new lobby campaign by utility companies could continue to hurt the growth of solar, especially in the US.
“Utilities are trying to block rooftop solar because it presents an existential threat to their monopoly business model,” he said.
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
July 2, 2017 (www.wallstreetpit.com)
According to a new report from GTM Research – Greentech Media’s market analysis and advisory arm — solar prices are continuing to drop, and there aren’t any indications that the trend is slowing down. In fact, GTM has predicted that by 2022, average global solar project costs will be down by around 27%, which is equivalent to an annual decline of approximately 4.4%.
GTM also says the decline in cost is not exclusive to the U.S. It’s happening all around the world and in some locations, the price decrease is even higher than what’s being experienced in the U.S.
The figures were derived from a new PV system pricing forecast developed by GTM Research solar analyst Ben Gallagher. It’s not just the numbers that are significant; it’s the reason behind those numbers as well. Gallagher believes the drop in cost is being driven by the reduction of all related costs, including that of tools, materials and manpower.
At present, solar cost is at its lowest in India — 65 cents per watt. So far, that’s the lowest record in the entire world. China offers the second lowest cost — $0.80 per watt.
On the other end, solar energy is most expensive in Japan — $2.07 per watt. Apparently, it’s because there’s more ‘engineering scrutiny’ involved owing to the incidence of earthquakes, heavy winds and mountainside erosions.
In the U.S., it’s $1.10 per watt and in the U.K., it’s $1 per watt.
The decline in cost is mostly beneficial to almost everyone, of course. Especially because we are in desperate need to transition to clean and sustainable energy, and what’s primarily deterring consumers from shifting is the perceived high price of solar energy. We said ‘mostly beneficial’, though, because there’s a downside to it too.
Lowering the cost of solar power makes it more attractive. However, the dynamic sometime may come at a price.
As stated in the report, India was able to achieve that low price primarily because of the low labor cost involved, paying their ‘labor force and engineers next to nothing’. And then there’s also the worry that in their attempt to keep production costs at a minimum, there might be a tendency to ‘cut corners’, make use of low quality materials and do stuff in a substandard way. We know that’s never a good thing because it compromises the safety of the structure built and the quality of its output.
So while declining solar power costs are welcome news, we should also be wary about the way it’s being achieved. We do want to keep our planet from deteriorating further, but we have to make sure it’s done the proper way — through resourcefulness, innovation and technological advancements, and never through oppressive, dishonest and unscrupulous practices.
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
by Chris White (June 15, 2017) www.dailycaller.com
Nevada’s Republican governor signed a bill Thursday reinstating a solar energy policy that would bring electric automaker Tesla back after a prolonged boycott of the state’s initial decision to nix the rule.
Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the legislation bringing back installers Sunrun and Tesla after nearly a two-year absence. CEO Elon Musk boycotted the state until Nevada reinstated the policy, which requires public utilities to purchase excess power from rooftop solar panels.
State legislators passed the bill, known as net metering, a policy many activists say is critical to keeping Nevada’s solar industry afloat. The growth of the residential solar industry has slowed recently in several Western states.
The policy reinstatement will “bring in thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in positive economic benefit” to Nevada, Tesla executive JB Straubel said at the bill’s signing.
Sandoval’s decision to sign the bill comes after voters passed the Energy Choice Initiative in 2016 calling on lawmakers to split up the state’s electrical market and end the utility company’s legal monopoly. The amendment was spurred in part by massive companies seeking to leave NV Energy and find their own providers.
The vote likely came as a result of a decision in 2015 by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to hike fees on homes affixed with solar panels, a move that basically kicked one of Tesla’s solar panel divisions out of the state.
PUC at the time imposed rules effectively ending net-metering, all but forcing electrical utilities to buy the energy produced by rooftop solar panels at near-retail rates. The move eventually led to a 30 percent decrease in solar installation jobs in the state last year.
Tesla, Sunrun, and others promote net metering to encourage the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Some analysts believe the policy is a wealth transfer from public utilities to rooftop solar companies, because the demand and price for the electrical power fluctuates widely on any given day.
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
by Danielle Ola (Jun 9, 2017) www.pvtech.org
Nevada solar moved up in a big way earlier this week, with the state legislature passing several bills to ensure the industry will return to its former heights.
AB 405, if enacted by governor Brian Sandoval, would restore the state’s net metering scheme that was effectively destroyed in a 2015 Public Utilities Commission (PUC) decision that caused many residential installers to cease operations in the Silver State.
The bill also includes solar consumer protection measures and a ‘Bill of Rights’ for solar customers, as a stopgap mechanism to prevent a similar situation repeating itself when the residential market stalled and around 2,600 jobs were lost.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) issued a statement recently urging Sandoval to approve the legislation.
“We applaud Assemblymen Watkins, Brooks, Yeager, and Fugo and Senators Ford, Atkinson, Manendo, and Spearman for their leadership, and we urge Governor Sandoval to sign this bill into law and restore Nevada to its rightful spot as a top solar state,” Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for SEIA, said.
“Nevada is one step closer to a policy that will allow it to get back thousands of solar jobs that were lost,” Gallagher added. “This bill is a compromise that doesn’t fully value the benefits of distributed solar. It will, however, allow Nevada consumers and small businesses who may have wanted to go solar, but found it uneconomic under the existing solar policies, to now proceed.”
Back in business
The passage of these bills that boost clean energy, in particular the bill that would allow solar customers to be paid for their excess solar power, has resulted in companies who previously exited Nevada after the PUC scrapped the popular net metering programme, to return.
PV Tech previously reported on Utah-headquartered Vivint Solar returning to the state. In addition, San Francisco’s Sunrun left Nevada in January 2015 after the PUC decision with the loss of hundreds of jobs, but has announced its return on the prospect of solar picking up again.
“The near unanimous bipartisan support for legislation to reinstate net metering and establish a bill of rights for solar customers is a reflection of overwhelming public demand for affordable, clean energy options,” said Lynn Jurich, CEO and co-founder of Sunrun, in a statement. “Thanks to the hard work of Governor Sandoval and Nevada State Legislators, we can now say with confidence that Sunrun is coming back to Nevada.”
SolarCity exited at the same time as Sunrun. But now, Tesla, which owns SolarCity, also applauded the decision of the legislature to reinstate the state’s residential solar segment.
“Tesla will begin selling rooftop solar and residential storage products in Nevada, and we look forward to bringing even more jobs to the state in the years ahead to help provide residents with affordable rooftop solar and energy storage choices,” Tesla said in a statement.
Under the new law, rooftop solar customers will be reimbursed for excess generation at 95% of the retail electricity rate. As more solar is installed, the rate will fall, but it stops at 75%.
“This legislation, which is supported by businesses and consumers alike, will not only bring back solar energy to Nevada and enable the industry to innovate and grow sustainably, it will create thousands of jobs and bring millions of dollars in economic benefits to the state,” a Tesla spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Reuters.
Things are looking up for the Silver State, with governor Sandoval stating that he intends to sign AB 405 into law.
“I will soon be signing a bill with regard to net metering” he said. “Nevada has always been a place, and will continue to be a place, that leads the county with regard to our renewable resources,” he said on Monday.
The good news for solar in Nevada does not stop there, as the legislature also passed AB 206 which expands the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) to 40% renewable energy by 2030, up from its former 25% by 2025. A coalition of clean energy advocates, including the SEIA and the American Wind Association (AWEA) wrote a letter to the governor, also urging him to sign this bill into law also.
Increasing the target is expected to attract over US$3 billion in additional investment to Nevada, as well as fostering greater energy diversity to result in more consumer savings.
A third bill to make it through the legislature with potential to bolster Nevada’s renewable energy prowess is SB 292 that will establish a state-wide community solar program if enacted.
by Maria Robinson and Ted MacDonald (May 25, 2017)
The Sunshine State is finally living up to its nickname. In early May, both chambers of the Florida legislature passed SB 90, the implementing legislation for Amendment 4. With Florida state government currently tied up in budget deliberations, SB 90 has not yet been delivered to Gov. Rick Scott. Once it has been, he will have 15 days to sign the bill or let it become law without his signature. With the mechanics for implementation nailed down, the constitutional amendment will extend important property tax exemptions for renewable energy installations, including solar, on both commercial and residential properties. Florida has long been a sleeping giant for the solar industry. Although it ranks third nationally in solar potential, the state is currently 15th in installed capacity. With passage of SB 90, Amendment 4 will fulfill its promise – and open up the market for solar in Florida, which is poised for takeoff.
SB 90 provides the necessary statutory language to implement Amendment 4, a ballot initiative that went to the voters in 2016. Amendment 4 came out of the 2016 legislative session, where bills sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Fort Myers) sought to allow Florida voters to decide whether to eliminate the ad valorem tax – property tax based on assessed value, exclusive of fixed assessments like fire and rescue or trash collection – on all new commercial solar energy equipment for 20 years. Rep. Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach) later signed on as a House co-sponsor. This measure passed with broad bipartisan support, including a unanimous vote in the House. It was signed by Gov. Rick Scott in March 2016.
The measure then went on the primary ballot, in part to avoid confusion with a separate solar measure, Amendment 1, which was on the November general election ballot. On August 31, Amendment 4 passed with 73% of the vote, well over the 60% threshold needed for a constitutional amendment to be approved.
As it will now be implemented, SB 90 exempts tangible personal property tax on solar or other renewable energy source devices installed on commercial and industrial property. Ultimately, 80% of the assessed value of a renewable energy source device, which is considered tangible personal property, and is installed on real property on or after January 1, 2018, will be exempt from ad valorem taxation. SB 90 reflects an extension to commercial property owners of the existing tax abatement for solar and other renewable energy devices on residential property. Once implemented by the legislature, the tax incentives would begin in 2018 and extend for 20 years.
This new tax exemption should give the solar market in the state a big boost. Florida has traditionally been a difficult market for renewable energy. This is due, in large part, to the prohibition of third-party ownership of solar installations, with Florida being one of only four states in the country explicitly forbidding this arrangement, which is used by homeowners and businesses to avoid the upfront capital cost. Numerous past attempts to expand solar power in Florida through the legislature failed, including an effort by Sen. Brandes in 2015. There was also a recent campaign to legalize third party sales of solar through the Florida Constitution that failed to make the ballot.
One reason Amendment 4 succeeded was because it was backed by a diverse coalition of groups from across the political spectrum. These included both statewide and national business associations (including the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce), environmental organizations (including The Nature Conservancy and Florida Wildlife Federation), faith-based organizations (including the Christian Coalition), and of course bipartisan support in the legislature. (Or, as Senator Brandes likes to say, the campaign put together “the Baptists and the bootleggers.”) Having a diverse group of supporters made solar issue a much easier sell to voters.
Another reason is that Amendment 4 was offered as a pro-business and pro-economic growth measure. The price of solar panels has dropped significantly in the past several years. Additionally, the market in Florida is ripe for commercial solar, as demonstrated by projects done for the military. AEE member First Solar supplied PV modules for use in three Gulf Power solar plants being constructed by AEE member Coronal Energy on military installations in the Florida Panhandle, with these plants having a total of 120 MW of capacity. Because solar was already exempt from the residential ad valorem tax, it made sense to extend the benefit to commercial property owners as well. By simply offering a tax break, Florida was able to incentivize job-creating investment, consistent with Gov. Rick Scott’s laser focus on jobs and economic growth.
Plus, the time was ripe, given solar power’s growing popularity in Florida. According to the Solar Foundation, Florida already ranks fifth nationally in solar jobs, despite the ban on third-party ownership. This number will only increase, given Florida’s growing population and almost year-round need for air conditioning. Solar growth in Florida is also good for the broader advanced energy market, which totaled $6.2 billion in revenue in 2014. In 2015, advanced energy jobs in Florida, including solar energy, reached 140,000 workers, more than twice as many as in agriculture and more than in real estate, with advanced energy jobs expected to grow 4% last year.
With the passage of SB 90, Amendment 4 is ready to be implemented, and the will of the voters fulfilled. There are now greater opportunities for both Florida businesses and consumers to expand energy choices and control costs. Florida is beginning to realize its potential as a powerhouse for advanced energy, with the future looking increasingly bright.
CLICK HERE to read the article.
by Frank Andorka (April 13, 2017) www.pv-magazine-usa.com
Arizona’s largest investor-owned utility says the next 15 years will include significant increases in solar production, battery storage products and significant reductions in coal-fired production plants.
With the net-metering battle in its rearview mirror, Arizona Public Service (APS) is forging a new electricity-generation future – and says solar will play a crucial role for at least the next 15 years.
APS filed its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) with the state’s Corporation Commission (which regulates utilities) late yesterday, and it contained good news for consumers who want to be powered by solar, including a prediction of a significant increase in private rooftop solar capacity. The plan is the result of a three-year-long, back-and-forth discussions with customers.
The plan says Arizona’s customers can expect more solar power and energy efficiency programs over the next 15 years, generating nearly 50% of the utility’s new energy growth. It says it will also expand its battery-storage programs beyond its existing 500 MW of pilot programs to support solar power and its smooth integration into the grid.
Among APS’ other commitments are to develop a more robust and advanced grid infrastructure to allow an increase of distributed energy resources, batteries and microgrids, as well as figuring out the best ways how solar, energy storage and other technologies interact. Lastly, APS pledged to reduce its use of coal will drop from 21 percent to 11 percent under the plan.
APS serves about 2.7 million people in 11 of Arizona’s 15 counties. Renewable energy currently makes up around 12% of the utility’s non-carbon based electricity production.
Arizona currently supports 7,310 solar jobs, more than half of which are in installation, according to The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census. It ranks No. 1 in access to solar resources and has a current renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of reaching 15% of its utility production from renewable energy by 2025.
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
by Rachel Iacovone (March 10, 2017) www.news.wgcu.org
Florida is looking toward solar energy as a solution — not only for its energy problems but for its economic issues as well. Though it is the third most populous state, it currently ranks fifth in the nation on solar energy yields. Florida Power and Light hopes to change this, with plans to add three solar sites by 2018 and eight more in the coming years.
Despite its moniker, the “Sunshine State” Florida is not using its solar energy opportunities as much as one might expect.
Florida’s 400 megawatts of solar energy last year pales in comparison to California’s 18,000 and so do the Sunshine State’s 8,200 solar industry jobs when compared to California, which boasts more than 100,000 solar-related jobs.
With Florida making the short list of most populated states alongside California, clean energy proponents, as well as Florida Power and Light, hope to catch up to solar states. FPL spokesperson Alys Daly recently talked about the state’s current solar situation on WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.
“Right now, our solar is in line with the country’s, which is about 1 percent,” Daly said. “That’s not including the last three plants that we built over on the west coast of Florida, and that’s not including the eight new plants that we’re developing. While the national average is about 1 percent for solar, the rest of their generation is made up of much more oil and coal where ours is clean, natural gas and nuclear.”
FPL has 11 active solar sites. It plans to bring another three online by 2018 and eight more in the future.
Industry experts attribute FPL’s current ability to expand the state’s solar industry to the sharply declining price of solar energy over the years.
Twenty-five years ago, solar energy cost $90 dollars per watt. Now, the price has dropped to $3, and Americans can afford to invest in solar, though Daly says it’s more cost effective to wait on FPL’s expansion rather than invest in personal roof units.
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
by Adam Vaughan (March 7, 2017) www.theguardian.com
The amount of solar power added worldwide soared by some 50% last year because of a sun rush in the US and China, new figures show.
New solar photovoltaic capacity installed in 2016 reached more than 76 gigawatts, a dramatic increase on the 50GW installed the year before. China and the US led the surge, with both countries almost doubling the amount of solar they added in 2015, according to data compiled by Europe’s solar power trade body.
Globally there is now 305GW of solar power capacity, up from around 50GW in 2010 and virtually nothing at the turn of the millennium.
The industry called the growth “very significant” and said the technology was a crucial way for the world to meet its climate change commitments.
James Watson, the chief executive of SolarPower Europe, said: “In order to meet the Paris [climate agreement] targets, it would be important if solar could continue its rapid growth. The global solar industry is ready to do that, and can even speed up.”
In the UK the amount of solar power installed in 2016 fell by about half on the record level added the year before. The drop came after the government drastically cut incentives for householders to fit solar panels and ended subsidies for large-scale “solar farms”.
But despite the slowdown, the UK still led Europe for solar growth with 29% of new capacity, followed by Germany with 21% and France with 8.3%. Germany, which moved several years ago to subsidise and build a solar industry, still retains the crown for total solar capacity, with Italy second top.
Across Europe, the total amount of solar power passed the symbolic milestone of 100GW in early 2016 and now stands at 104GW. However, slowing growth in Europe prompted the solar industry to call for the EU to set more ambitious renewable energy targets.
“We need to build a major industrial project around solar and renewables. To start with, increasing the 2030 renewable energy target to at least 35% [up from 27%] will send a strong signal that Europe is back in the solar business,” said Alexandre Roesch, policy director at SolarPower Europe.
European solar companies have also been urging the European commission to rethink the anti-dumping tariffs it imposed on Chinese solar panels in 2013. The commission is looking to extend the tariffs by 18 months, shorter than previously planned, after opposition to them from member states.
Nearly half of the solar installed last year was in China, with Asia as a whole making up two-thirds of new capacity in 2016.
Solar is still a relative minnow in the electricity mix of most countries, the figures show. Even where the technology has been embraced most enthusiastically, such as in Europe, solar on average provides 4% of electricity demand.
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
by Danielle Muoio (Feb 24, 2017) www.businessinsider.com
Tesla will begin selling and installing its solar roof later this year, the company wrote in its fourth-quarter investor letter.
Tesla unveiled its solar roof product in late October, about a month before the company acquired SolarCity in a deal worth $2.1 billion. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said it looks “quite promising” that the solar roof could be cheaper than a normal roof, factoring in the price of labor.
Here’s everything we know about the new solar roof product:
Tesla will offer four types of shingles to match different housing aesthetics in an effort to get homeowners to ditch clunky solar panel add-ons in favor of a beautiful roof.
Here you see Tesla’s textured glass option.
See how it shimmers?
Tesla tucked the solar cells behind the glass…
… And in doing so, you can’t really tell the roof has solar cells. That’s really the whole crux of Tesla’s solar roof vision: to create something that’s both aesthetically appealing and efficient.
Musk has been emphasizing the importance of competing on an aesthetic level when it comes to the new solar product offering.
“First of all, I’ve never seen a solar roof that I would actually want… they’re weird,” Musk said on a conference call Nov. 1. “Every one of them that I’ve seen is worse than a normal roof, without exception. So unless you’re going to beat a roof on aesthetics, why bother?”
Musk seemed most excited about Tesla’s French slate tile offering, saying the style is “one of the hardest things to do.” This photo gives you a nice look at the solar cell hidden in the tile.
“My roof is a French slate roof, that’s one of the tile styles I wanted to do,” Musk said on the conference call. “And we were able to get that. Super hard.”
Musk said at the event that each French slate tile was made using a process known as hydrographic coloring, a process that uses water to apply printed designs.
“The production process itself makes each tile specially unique, it’s sort of a special snowflake tile,” Musk said at the solar roof unveiling.
Tesla’s hydrographic process is being overseen by a brand new Tesla glass tech division, Musk said on the Nov. 1 call. He said the process is “using a lot of techniques from the automotive glass business.”
Musk said the solar roof could cost less than an actual roof, but still hasn’t given specific pricing information. However, Lyndon Rive, SolarCity’s former CEO, said on the Nov. 1 call that “we think we can get to that price point of 40 cents a Watt over time in large scale” for the solar cells, which would put it in line with the competition.
“We’ll have the best cell at the lowest price. Just as we have the best battery cell at the lowest price,” Musk said on the Nov. 1 call. “We have the highest energy density cell at the lowest price.”
Rive said on the call that the solar roof would most likely not fall under a lease or power purchase agreement, but instead as a straightforward loan. “In that case, there is no asset ownership challenge. We would just transfer the ownership to the new homeowner,” he said.
Tesla’s smooth glass tile is meant to offer “more of a modern look,” Musk said at the event.
Unlike the textured glass tile and French slate offering, the smooth glass tile seen here was purposefully designed so you could see the solar cells from certain angles.
“From the vantage point of the street or anywhere near the house it looks completely opaque, but to the sun it’s transparent,” Musk said. Although, it’s hard to imagine why a feature you can only see from an aerial vantage point would be a huge selling point.
Lastly, Tesla’s Tuscan glass tile offering. The roof shown at the event wasn’t exclusively made up of Tesla’s Tuscan tile. Instead, only the darker tiles seen here come with the solar cells.
Like the smooth glass tile, Musk made a point of showing how looking at the Tuscan tile from different angles will determine whether you can see the solar cell.
Here’s a better shot of how the Tuscan glass tiles look once they’re installed.
Musk also made a point of showing the durability of Tesla’s glass tiles with a weight taste. He also wrote in an Oct. 28 tweet that you can walk on the tiles like you would with regular asphalt shingles.
Musk also tweeted that the solar glass tiles can incorporate heating elements to clear snow while generating energy. He said it wouldn’t be energy intensive to melt the snow, but “strongly net positive” in an Oct. 28 tweet.
The solar cells will be produced at a plant in Buffalo, New York.
Tesla and Panasonic will produce the solar cells at the Buffalo manufacturing facility in mid-2017. Tesla is referring to the Buffalo plant as Gigafactory 2.
by Danielle Ola (Feb. 13, 2017) www. pv-tech.org
Despite a whopping 4,143MW of solar PV installed in the US in the third quarter of last year, Q4 2016 is expected to surpass that historic total, according to latest figures from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
2016 is set to be a record year for solar on all counts; shattering all previous quarterly installation results.
“Coming off our largest quarter ever and with an extremely impressive pipeline ahead, it’s safe to say the state of the solar industry here in America is strong,” said Tom Kimbis, SEIA’s interim president. “The solar market now enjoys an economically-winning hand that pays off both financially and environmentally, and American taxpayers have noticed. With a 90% favorability rating and 209,000 plus jobs, the US solar industry has proven that when you combine smart policies with smart 21st century technology, consumers and businesses both benefit.”
With more than 1 million residential solar installations nationwide and record-breaking growth in the utility sector, the industry is projected to nearly double year-over-year.
PV module manufacturers innovating
Whilst the numbers are encouraging, the industry still faces challenges pertaining to improving efficiency and cutting manufacturing costs. Industry experts are expecting that lower production costs will come from the innovations around PV modules.
To this end, many module manufacturers have been finding new ways to develop solar panels. For example, Tesla’s solar rooftop tiles are Elon Musk’s answer to harnessing more of the sun’s energy; especially when paired with the new Tesla Powerwall 2 which will feature twice the storage capacity of the first Powerwall battery.
Canadian Solar, for its part, has sold all of its operating assets in Canada in order to “monetise solar plants in other countries”, according to CEO Shawn Qu.
Thin-film expert First Solar recently announced that it has been awarded the module supply contract for the 140MW solar farm in North Queensland, Australia. The project marks the largest solar initiative by the country and, once constructed, is set to utilize more than 1.16 million First Solar advanced thin-film PV modules to produce approximately 270,000MWh of energy in its first year of operation.
“Large-scale solar is fast becoming one of the most cost-effective sources of energy generation in Australia. This project represents the viability of the commercial and industrial solar market in Australia, and the growing trend of major energy consumers owning and operating renewable energy assets,” said Jack Curtis, First Solar’s regional manager for Asia Pacific.
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
by Judy Fahys (Dec 22, 2016) kuer.org
Snow’s been swept from the roof of a Davis County home where workmen mount supports for new solar panels. Aaron Gray manages quality control, and he loves what he does. But a piece of Gray’s heart is back where he used to work: Las Vegas. His wife and two sons still live there.
“It’s hard — it’s hard to be away from my family,” he says. “I mean those two little guys are my life, along with my wife, and she takes the sole burden of raising those two boys while I’m gone.”
This time last year Solar City began laying off most of its Nevada workforce. The new rates brought rooftop solar investments to a standstill. Gray’s job was one of the casualties when the market collapsed.
“It was tough,” he says. “It’s — I mean it’s not a good way to roll into the holidays. You’re not knowing where the next move is going to be.”
Gray won’t move his family here because he’s worried this job could disappear too. That’s because Rocky Mountain Power has asked to restructure its rates for Utah customers with rooftop panels.
Now Gray’s worried that Utah’s booming solar industry might screech to a halt like Nevada’s did. And he’s in good company.
Thousands of solar industry jobs evaporated in Nevada when utility regulators ended net metering. That was last year, and now Utah’s economy is bracing for a final decision on rooftop solar rates here and the impacts it might have.
Paul Murphy is the spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power in Utah, a sister company of NV Energy and the utility behind Nevada’s rate rewrite.
“This is an issue that’s facing every utility in the country.”
Murphy says rooftop solar customers enjoy subsidies of about $400 a year from traditional residential customers. And, with projections of rapid growth, the subsidy would add up to around $667 million dollars over the next two decades.
“People talk about being fair and I think the issue is about fairness,” he says. “Is it fair to force others to pay for their neighbors’ rooftop solar panels?”
Rocky Mountain Power recognizes that its customers want clean energy. It secures power from large-scale arrays in southern Utah and offers it through a subscriber-solar program.
“If the goal is to have clean energy,” says Murphy, “the most economical way to add solar energy to the system is to go to big, big solar farms.
“Which you have,” a reporter says.
“Which we have,” Murphy says.
It’s a classic power struggle: rooftop solar companies fighting for traction in terrain where a competitor had a monopoly for decades. Similar battles are happening in half the states in the country.
“I think all eyes are upon Utah now the same way all eyes were upon Nevada,” says Austin Perea, a solar-industry analyst with GTM Research in Boston.
“Last year Nevada installed nearly 90 megawatts of solar,” he says. “This past quarter, they installed just over 1 megawatt on the residential side. So, it basically cratered the market.”
Perea hints that Nevada’s become a cautionary tale for other states – partly because it had more solar jobs per capita last year than any other state, nearly 9,000.
Utah ranked tenth on that list — with around 2,700 jobs — and looked primed to boom. But, lots of people want to know if Utah’s solar industry will keep growing so fast. Much depends on what Utah utility regulators ultimately decide.
Sarah Wright, director of the non-profit Utah Clean Energy, is one of the organizations that urged regulators to reject Rocky Mountain Power’s plan to start the new rates this month. She and some staffers were stuffing envelopes late on a Friday afternoon two weeks ago when the PSC announced the rates are suspended – but only temporarily.
“This is a reprieve,” she says, noting that Utah’s rooftop rates won’t be settled until August or later. “The problem is that the proposal that Rocky Mountain Power put on the table for net-metering customers would have dramatically hurt customers going forward and the industry.”
Rocky Mountain Power is talking with the solar industry and advocacy groups like Wright’s about a possible compromise.
“Our goal,” says Wright, “is to see a proposal go forward that works for all customers and allows the solar industry to thrive.”
While negotiations continue, the future for solar workers like Gray remains uncertain.
“It’s very much the same feeling to be in limbo of what the decision is going to be by the PSC here.”
Meanwhile, he’ll keep making that six-hour drive to see his family in Las Vegas every other weekend.
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
by David Wichner – Arizona Daily Star (Dec, 10, 2016) www.tuscon.com
After years of debate, Arizona utility regulators finally appear ready to decide a long-burning question: What is solar energy generated on customers’ rooftops really worth?
The Arizona Corporation Commission is expected to decide the issue on Dec. 19, when it will consider proposals to change rates for rooftop solar customers including controversial cuts to credits solar customers get for the excess power they generate.
And that could have a major impact on the cost and adoption of rooftop solar in territories of state-regulated utilities including Tucson Electric Power Co. and the biggest state-regulated utility, Arizona Public Service Co.
Under the process, known as net metering, solar customers are credited monthly at the full retail rate for excess power — for TEP about 11.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Any credits left at the end of the billing year are credited at each utility’s comparable cost for wholesale power, for TEP about 2.5 cents per kwh.
While solar companies and advocates want to keep the full retail credit rate, TEP has proposed cutting the net-metering credit rate from the retail rate to the cost of power from its most recent utility-scale solar farm, about 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, reasoning it is a similar resource.
APS has proposed a rate not much more than the avoided cost of fueling conventional power plants, about 3 cents per kwh.
In a ruling in late October, a Corporation Commission administrative law judge said regulators should scrap the current system of reimbursing customers with rooftop solar at the full retail rate for power.
For the near future, Judge Teena Jibilian said, new credit rates for solar customers should be based on short-term studies based on costs avoided by rooftop solar, or on the cost of power from large, utility-scale solar farms.
The cost studies would be based on a rolling five-year examination of the benefits and costs of rooftop solar, potentially eliminating from consideration long-term benefits including reduced pollution and public-health costs.
That riled solar advocates, who insist long-term societal benefits of solar including lessening the need for new fossil-fuel power plants and reduction of health risks should be fully counted.
The judge’s recommendation, will form the basis for the Dec. 19 hearing, but the full Corporation Commission has final say and can reject or modify the proposal.
For its part, TEP agrees with most of the judge’s decision but has sought clarification on several issues, company spokesman Joe Barrios said.
The company wants it made clear that “banking” of solar energy credits — allowing one month’s excess production to be credited toward the next month — would end under the new rules.
In commission filings, TEP said it prefers the solar-farm cost proxy for setting solar export rates over the avoided-cost methodology, but that the commission should clarify that utilities could use either.
Any cuts to net-metering rates would reduce the advantages of solar and extend the financial payback period for such systems by years.
In fact, the prospect of fewer solar benefits has caused many customers to balk at installing their own panels, especially since the utilities have been telling customers changes are on the way.
Kevin Koch, owner of the local solar installation firm Technicians for Sustainability, said his business has been down since TEP filed to change net-metering policy effective June 1, 2015.
The matter was put off along with other utilities’ net-metering change requests, to await the outcome of the value-of-solar proceeding, but TEP’s notices that net-metering rates could change chilled the market, Koch said.
“That created a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the marketplace,” he said.
TEP didn’t see much of a drop off overall, however.
This year through November, TEP counted 3,019 rooftop solar installations tied to its grid, compared with 3,199 in all of 2015, and 1,937 in 2014.
The uncertainty isn’t limited to TEP.
William Rood was interested in installing solar on his SaddleBrooke home when he found that his power company, Trico Electric Cooperative, was proposing changes including new demand charges and lower net-metering rates for rooftop solar customers.
With Trico’s help he calculated that the proposed new credit rate of 7.7 cents per kwh would extend his payback period more than two years. Still, Rood decided it was worth it.
In October he spent about $20,000 to install a 6.36-kilowatt photovoltaic system that offsets most of his power usage.
“I decided to go ahead with it because it was the right thing to do,” said Rood, a retired newspaper reporter and editor.
Rood may have avoided the new rates after all.
In a pending rate settlement with the Corporation Commission’s utilities staff, the Trico net-metering changes would apply to customers who applied to install their systems after May 31. All prior customers would be grandfathered under the old rate system.
But in a recommended order issued last week, a Corporation Commission administrative law judge recommended that the new rules should apply to Trico customers who apply to install solar after the effective date of the new rates, likely early next year.
The judge in the value of solar case also has recommended that all solar customers be grandfathered under current retail credit rates until each utilities’ new rates are approved.
Though the matter isn’t settled, Rood said he’s glad regulators are rejecting the idea of retroactive changes.
“The grandfathering thing, I think, is just patently unfair,” he said.
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
Yes, no, maybe so. One type of rooftop solar product has caused some havoc for residents in the community of Roseville, CA. Multiple reports of roof-mounted solar shingles literally going up in flames and damaging the surrounding shingles and roof deck have made residents uneasy, to say the least.
In this solar-conscious town, it’s rare to see a home that does NOT have solar panels or shingles on the roof – 1,300 homes are currently powered by the sun.
The problem: Overheating
The problem appears to stem from OE-34 solar tiles, which are a type of photovoltaic (PV) tile designed to integrate seamlessly with the existing roof shingles. The solar shingles were installed by Centex, a multi-state construction company focused on building energy-efficient homes.
A design flaw in the OE-34 panels left them susceptible to overheating. As the panel overheats, it can damage the internal wiring, and worst case scenario, start on fire. These particular panels are no longer used in Roseville or anywhere else in California.
The OE-34 Open Energy SolarSave Roofing Tiles were placed on recall on March 25, 2014. Centex warned homeowners to stop using these solar systems several years before then due to the fire risk.
One man’s story
Edward Snyder told Fox40 of Sacramento he spent $17,000 for his solar setup. His investment wasn’t paying off; he was saving just $500 a year in energy costs. On top of that, his roof started on fire a few years after installation because of the overheating issue.
He, like other area homeowners, was lucky no one was hurt, but the financial damage is significant. The maker of the solar shingles went out of business, so recovering the financial losses isn’t a guarantee.
Centex is trying to make good by installing safer raised-roof solar panels on affected homes for free. Insurance companies may also pay for damages caused by the fire.
Should you avoid rooftop solar systems altogether?
Absolutely not, but it’s critical to do your due diligence when purchasing a rooftop solar system. The problem in Northern California seems to be an isolated issue involving a flat-out horrible product.
Here are a few simple tips to ensure your solar installation is a safe and efficient one:
- Choose a well-established solar installer or roofing contractor to do the install.
- Go with a solar product that has a proven track record of good performance. A simple Google search can uncover problems you otherwise may not have known about.
- Make sure you understand the warranty inside and out.
- Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website for current recalls.
- Go to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) website to find out which tax credits and incentives you’ll qualify for.
The solar roof tile problems in California appear to be isolated, and the solar tiles in question are off the market. Don’t let this incident turn you off from home solar energy systems. A high-quality solar setup can save you up to 60% on your monthly energy bills, so it’s definitely worth looking into.
As with any major investment, it’s important to do your own research and due diligence. Don’t always rely on what others tell you about a particular product – everyone’s a salesman!
Even though solar shingles were the culprit in this story, they are largely a safe and eco-friendly product. In fact, solar shingles are becoming popular as ever as prices continue to drop and the energy efficiency of these shingle-sized tiles begin to approach that of the larger solar panels.
The Dow Powerhouse Solar Shingles are one example of how solar shingles are made right. These shingles are efficient and received safety certification from three different Underwriters Laboratories back when they were first announced in 2011. They are fire and weather resistant.
It’s sad that in the early stages of residential rooftop solar shingle technology, good folks like those in Roseville had to in a way act as “sacrificial lambs” for everyone else to learn about the dangers of poorly made solar products. Let’s hope builders, solar installers, government entities and homeowners take notice and learn from these unfortunate circumstances.
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
by Nichole Groom (Nov 28, 2016) www.reuters.com
U.S. wind and solar companies for the first time gave more money to Republicans than Democrats during the 2016 election cycle, according to federal campaign disclosures, part of a years-long effort to expand renewable energy’s appeal beyond liberal environmentalists.
The industry is now hoping its strategy of reaching across the political divide will pay off in the form of Congressional support as Republican Donald Trump, a climate change skeptic who has expressed doubts about the role of clean energy, takes the White House in January.
“We’re not starting from ground zero,” said Isaac Brown, a principal at 38 North Solutions, which lobbies on behalf of clean energy clients.
The U.S. wind and solar industries employ over 300,000 people, making clean energy an important political constituency that is about five times bigger than the coal sector for jobs, thanks to years of rapid growth fueled by government incentives and declines in the cost of their technologies.
They have also fought to win over a new breed of backer: conservatives skeptical of climate change but interested in supporting homegrown energy alternatives that increase national security, boost competition, and create well-paying blue collar jobs.
But Trump’s upset victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election has cast doubt on the future of a federal tax break for renewable energy seen critical to the industry’s continued growth.
Trump has never specifically called for those credits to end, but has expressed skepticism about the role of solar and wind in the U.S. energy landscape, calling both “so expensive” and blaming wind turbines for killing birds and ruining picturesque landscapes.
During his campaign, Trump also called global warming a hoax and promised to quit a global accord to cut greenhouse gas emissions, though he has since softened his stance and said he is keeping an “open mind” about the deal.
The renewable energy industry got a boost last year when Congress approved a five-year extension of tax credits for new power projects fueled by solar panels and wind turbines, and the industry’s main concern in Washington is to ensure they are not withdrawn in Trump’s first term, or allowed to expire should he win a second.
A Trump official did not respond to a request for comment about how he will approach renewables as president. But one of Trump’s potential picks for Energy Secretary, Oklahoma oil and gas drilling mogul Harold Hamm, has been a vocal opponent of subsidies for renewable energy.
Renewable stocks took a beating immediately after Trump’s election but have since mostly recovered.
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
by Mary Ellen Klas (Nov. 12, 2016) www.miamiherald.com
TALLAHASSEE – Florida’s utility industry steered more than $20 million of their profits into a failed constitutional amendment to impose new barriers to the expansion of rooftop solar energy generation, but developers say that as the cost of installing solar panels drops, the state could quickly become a leader in private solar energy expansion no matter what the energy giants do.
The Florida Solar Energy Industry Association estimates that over the next five years, Florida homeowners, businesses and utilities are projected to take advantage of the falling prices and install 2,315 megawatts of solar electric capacity — 19 times more than the amount of solar installed in the last five years.
“Solar prices are in free-fall, and no one knows where the bottom is,” said Chris Delp, an attorney with the Tampa law office of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick.
Large companies, such as Elon Musk’s Solar City, are offering zero down, low-interest loans, and people can also cut their expenses by deducting 30 percent of their costs under a federal Investment Tax Credit program that was extended last year, he said. “The economics are just going to make these regulatory barriers irrelevant. Florida’s utilities could work with customers to roll out solar or they could work to rule it out.”
What approach will Florida’s investor-owned utilities take?
Will they encourage homeowners and businesses to install their own solar systems — as utilities in Georgia, California, New York and dozens of others states have done — or will they ask regulators to stifle rooftop solar expansion, as they attempted to do with Amendment 1, so that they can control the development of solar themselves and limit the hit to their bottom line?
According to the Florida Public Service Commission’s 10-year site plan, utilities plan to increase their solar generation, but solar will make up only a tiny fraction of all energy generation supplied by the regulated utilities in the next 10 years. Gulf Power has announced it will add up to 500 megawatts of solar power to its fleet by 2024 and Florida Power & Light has asked the PSC for permission to add 1,200 megawatts over the next four years as part of a settlement agreement to raise its electric rates.
Florida ranks third in the nation for rooftop solar potential, according to SEIA, but is only 14th for cumulative solar capacity that is installed. That could change, Delp said, if the emerging interest in solar installation in Florida, fueled by the drops in prices, results in more people installing their own electricity generation, circumventing utilities.
“I don’t think this was their intent, but what the utilities did with Amendment 1 was bring the discussion of solar energy development in Florida to the forefront,” said Delp, who is working with a company building a 30-megawatt private solar farm in Leesburg. “It’s now a kitchen table issue. There is awareness that there is a lack of solar in Florida and that we lag behind so many other states.”
CLICK HERE to read the rest of this article.
by Brent Sauser
It’s that time again to dig deep into the internet of endless information to find recent pearls of solar energy progress that evidences the relentless march forward in renewable energy research. The attached video shows promising boosts in overall solar PV efficiency and is worth a watch. Enjoy!
by Brent Sauser (www.NetZeroMax.com) Sep. 2, 2016
Wait a minute! Transparent solar glass! Really! I always thought you got solar energy from those bulky, roof mounted, rectangular panels. And, they aren’t that pretty to look at either.
Photovoltaic solar technology continues to make amazing advances in various ways to harvest solar energy. Considerable research has been focused in the development of transparent solar glass. This is made possible by allowing visible light through the glass, while harvesting the unseen UV and infra red light to create solar energy. At the present time testing has produced 10% efficient transparent solar glass, which is less than the traditional solar panel. However, when you consider the vast expanse of vertical surfaces from millions of buildings in the US, the potential for solar energy harvesting from transparent solar glass is endless. Typically, there is more vertical surface area in a building than roof surface. Transparent solar glass greatly increases the solar energy harvesting potential for each building. Just think of the possibilities!
But, hey . . . don’t take my word for it. Check out these videos . . . .
by Jeff St. John (July 22, 2016) www.greentechmedia.com
The SolarCity partner explains how residential PV in a state without NEM works to mitigate risk and fill out the generation mix.
When SolarCity announced last year that it was moving into Texas, solar industry watchers scratched their heads. How, they asked, could a rooftop solar installer put together a money-making proposition for itself and its customers in a state without net metering?
The answer lies with its partner, MP2 Energy. The Texas-based energy company has joined SolarCity in its first rollout in Dallas last year, and in last month’s move into the Houston market. Together, they’ve created a customer offering that closely matches net metering, by paying the retail rate for solar power in excess of what the customer consumes, and locking in rates for the power they do buy from the grid in 12- or 24-month terms.
It’s an unusual offer in a state where, outside a few vertically integrated utilities like Austin Energy or San Antonio’s CPS Energy, solar incentives for customers are few and far between. Texas also has some very low electricity prices, driven by today’s low natural-gas prices and competition amongst energy retailers in the state’s fully deregulated electricity market.
That’s limited rooftop solar growth in what otherwise could be a hot market, as the state’s growth in utility-scale solar and its low PV prices attest. What makes the SolarCity-MP2 deal pencil out is MP2’s ability to tap the benefits of distributed PV, as both an energy retailer and “qualified scheduling entity,” or QSE, able to sell and buy energy in the energy markets run by state grid operator ERCOT, according to Maura Yates, the company’s vice president of sustainability.
MP2 managed about 1.5 gigawatts of power, including large-scale solar and wind generation assets, as well as about 50 megawatts of natural-gas-fired peaker plants, she said. It also does demand response, and serves as a retail energy provider for commercial and industrial customers including Southern Methodist University and Rice University, oil and gas facilities, and manufacturing sites.
Until recently, however, “We haven’t served the residential market, because we’re not in a race to the bottom” in terms of competing against other retailers on low prices, she said. “We did say we were going to enter residential when it made strategic sense…and it’s the partnership with SolarCity that makes it make sense.”
Specifically, rooftop solar provides a valuable resource in the form of a predictable source of generation during the times when Texas energy companies need it most — primarily on hot summer days, when the state’s wholesale energy prices tend to spike the highest, and show the most volatility.
And, unlike the blocks of power that Texas energy companies must buy on the wholesale market to cover their commitments during those high-risk times, solar generation comes in nice bell-curve shapes that more closely match the energy consumption patterns of the customers that MP2 serves, she said.
It makes sense to trade energy in blocks, or set amounts of power deliverable over specific increments of time. But power consumption rises and falls in curves, not blocks. That forces electricity retailers to create “shapes” through quickly buying and liquidating market positions, using complicated mathematical equations to hedge risk throughout the process, she said.
“Shape is the most valuable thing that solar has, and it’s more valuable in ERCOT than any other market we’ve worked in.” Those markets include Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio, she said. ”When you start trending where volatility comes, when risk comes in the market, it’s highly correlated with when solar is in the market as well.”
“The shape brings value in almost every level of the market,” she said. “On the retail side, you can extract more value, because I’m able to reduce some of my peak distribution charges.” That’s because rooftop solar is generated at the distribution grid level, and doesn’t need to be transported across the state’s transmission grid from far-off generators, which adds costs to the power delivered to end customers.
“But on the wholesale side, that shape brings a lot of value from a sheer optionality standpoint,” she said. In other words, “When I’m a retailer and looking at a bilateral deal with a generator, the fact that I can purchase shape, rather than going to the market and buying a block — that’s a big deal.”
There are other Texas retail electricity providers with net-metering-like offers, she noted. But most limit how much net exported power they’ll pay for in a month, or force customers to forfeit any unused solar power at the end of each month. MP2 doesn’t cap for its program and allows customers to carry forward excess generation through the course of a year, like most net metering programs across the country.
That’s likely because they’re not in a position to use the relative certainty of rooftop solar production curves to manage risk in their portfolio as MP2 does, she said. “We don’t see ourselves as energy retailers — we see ourselves as energy risk managers.”
Taking this approach to rooftop solar seems more fruitful to Yates than seeking out changes to state solar incentive policies, such as lobbying for adding capacity markets to the state’s energy-only market regime, as she used to do in her previous job as government affairs director for the now-bankrupt SunEdison.
“Texas and ERCOT are probably better equipped to take on solar than any other market in the country,” she said. “And when you look at risk,” and matching solar generation profiles against it, “we think solar is better than anything we can get on the market.”
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
by Joshua S. Hill (May24, 2016) planetsave.com
A new report shows how the combination of solar and storage could save residents of multifamily affordable rental housing thousands on electricity bills.
According to the authors of Closing the California Clean Energy Divide, which explores how battery storage technology combined with residential solar PV could provide greater control to system owners, “significant electric bill savings” could be in the offing to both property owners and residents of multifamily affordable rental housing in California. The authors also highlighted the increased potential in light of the recently enacted Assembly Bill 693, which established California’s Multifamily Affordable Housing Solar Roofs Program, including provision of up to $1 billion in cap-and-trade funding over 10 years to create incentives for installing solar PV.
The report, authored by the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE), California Housing Partnership, and the Clean Energy Group, reached several conclusions:
- Adding battery storage to an affordable rental housing solar installation in California can eliminate demand charges for building electricity loads, resulting in a net electricity bill of essentially zero
- Adding battery storage to California affordable rental housing can almost double the building electricity bill savings achieved over the savings realized through solar alone
- Adding battery storage can achieve incremental utility bill savings similar to solar for about a third of the cost of the solar system for owners of affordable rental housing properties in California
- Solar+storage projects result in a significantly shorter payback period than stand-alone solar projects
Specifically, the report found that affordable multifamily housing property owners in two specific territories — Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — could increase savings by nearly 100% simply by adding storage to solar installations.
“Our analysis, which is based on data from real buildings, shows that adding battery storage to a solar PV system installed on an affordable housing property in Southern California could increase the annual savings on a property owner’s electricity bill to 99 percent, which is nearly double the savings of what a solar-alone system can provide,” said Seth Mullendore, a program manager at Clean Energy Group.
“California has invested heavily to ensure qualified low-income properties have had equal access to our growing solar market,” added Sachu Constantine, CSE director of policy. “But recent changes to the critical underlying rates and tariffs may compromise the value proposition of solar for affordable housing residents and owners unless we find a way to include the combination of energy storage and solar in the Solar Roofs program.”
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
by Michael McDonald (May 12, 2016) yahoo.com; oilprice.com
In February, the millionth solar installation was completed in the United States. That momentous number has taken forty years to arrive. Fortunately for renewable energy advocates everywhere, the next million installations will likely take a lot less than forty years. At the end of 2015, the U.S. solar market had a total capacity of 27 gigawatts.
While that number may sound like a lot, in reality it’s only 1 percent of the overall electrical mix of the country. Given that, solar still has a long way to go before it becomes a major energy production source in the U.S. Conversely, solar power also has a long potential growth runway ahead of it.
Solar power installations are expected to grow 119 percent in 2016, or roughly 16 GW of additional installed base. That compares to 7.3 GW installed in 2015. By 2020, the U.S. could have 100 GW of installed capacity and an annual growth installation rate of 20GW. On the whole then, solar still seems to have years of growth ahead of it.
Solar’s growth is changing the economics of the conventional utility industry. Now that more than a million households have solar panels, grid managers are set to cut the amount of electricity they buy from conventional power plants by 1,400 MW starting in 2019, according to industry consultants ICF. That amount represents the power capacity consumed by roughly 800,000 households.
While it sounds extreme to call conventional electrical generation a business in secular decline or even at risk of being disrupted, there might be more truth in either of those arguments than many investors would like to believe. The cuts to the conventional grid due to solar represent more than $2B in lost revenue. Adding to generation woes, environmental rules are becoming tougher and tougher with no sign of turning back, and wholesale power prices are being driven largely by the price of natural gas. The current minor rebound in natural gas and oil prices notwithstanding, there is still a glut of both commodities, and that is especially true for U.S. natural gas. Against this backdrop then, it’s little wonder that electrical wholesalers seem to be struggling. Revenue from electricity sales fell 1.3 percent to $388 billion in 2015.
Yet it’s too soon for either environmentalists or solar business owners to begin celebrating. An industry with almost $400 billion in annual revenues is still very much a lion in a cage match with a solar mouse. Utilities can call on political power and the ability to effectively arbitrage prices based on peak usage throughout the day (though storage batteries are increasingly undermining this latter tool). In addition, there is nothing to stop major energy companies from entering the solar business on their own either in the rooftop segment or with a distributed grid model. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, utilities and generation firms still command the lion’s share of capital in the industry. It is well within the capacity of utility firms to buy part or all of various new technology companies thus giving themselves a call option on changes in the industry.
Utility companies have many tools at their disposal to help deal with the changing environment if they accept that the environment is changing and choose to adapt. After all, mammals were a lot smaller than dinosaurs, yet the former survived the changing environment of the Ice Age as the latter died in droves. Utilities could learn a thing or two from that historical analogy.
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
Associated Press (May 11, 2016) www.roanoke.com
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski says she wants to double the government’s use of solar power from 6 percent to 12 percent by the end of the year.
The mayor made the announcement Tuesday with Rocky Mountain Power CEO Cindy Crane, whose company’s new solar program is powering the switch.
Biskupski says the city’s subscription to Rocky Mountain Power’s program will provide more than double of renewable energy output than all of the 4,000 solar panels the city has installed on its own.
The company’s solar power comes from a 20-megawatt solar plant in Millard County. The city will subscribe to three megawatts of solar power, or about 9,000 solar panel’s worth.
Biskupski says she wants to ramp up the use of renewables to 50 percent of municipal operations by 2020.
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
by Tina Casey (March 24, 2016) cleantechnica.com
Perovskite solar cells have only been on the scene for a few years and they’re already on track to catch up with — and surpass — silicon as the go-to material for the next generation of super efficient solar cells. In the latest development, a bi-national research team has figured out that perovskites have a unique ability to re-create their own photons and recycle them for an extra energy boost.
New Solar Cell Recycles Photons
For those of you new to the topic, perovskites are a class of synthetic crystalline minerals. The discovery of naturally occurring perovskite dates back to the 19th century, but it took researchers about 150 years to catch on to its high solar potential, and to realize that they could easily make their own perovskites in the lab.
Lead halide perovskite solar cells have emerged as the go-to technology, with researchers around the world charting an “exceptional” rise in conversion efficiency in just a few years of tinkering.
The key characteristics of lead halide solar cells include long charge carrier lifetimes and high emissions yields, leading researchers to wonder if the material is “recycling” photons.
The new study answers that question. It comes from a team at St John’s College at the University of Cambridge, partnering with the University of Oxford and Amsterdam’s FOM Institute AMOLF.
According to author Richard Friend, the recycling observation was conducted on a new solar cell created by co-author Luis Miguel Pazos Outón. The cell was the first demonstration of a back-contact solar cell using perovskite, and it had not been engineered specifically to demonstrate high energy production.
For their research, the team leveraged the fact that when light falls on perovskites, they emit light as well as absorb it.
They used a laser to measure photon activity within a nanoscale piece of lead-iodide perovskite, about 500 nanometers thick. As expected, they observed a high-energy light emission close to the laser point.
The surprise was that another high-energy light emission near the infrared end of the scale was appearing farther away. The farther-away emission was also accompanied by another emission consisting of lower-energy photons.
Those two types of farther-away emissions provided the team with enough evidence to conclude that the perovskite chip was “recycling” photons, combining them with incoming photons:
This single cell proved capable of transporting an electrical current more than 50 micrometers away from the contact point with the laser; a distance far greater than the researchers had predicted, and a direct result of multiple photon recycling events taking place within the sample.
The result, as described by co-author Outón, is to concentrate many charges in a small area, a quality that silicon and other materials “simply don’t have.” As Outón explains:
The low-energy component enables charges to be transported over a long distance, but the high-energy component could not exist unless photons were being recycled.
CLICK HERE to read the rest of the original article.
Solar City Press Release (Jan 06, 2016)
LAS VEGAS – Following the decision by Governor Brian Sandoval’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to terminate Nevada’s rooftop solar industry just days before Christmas, SolarCity® (NASDAQ: SCTY) announced that it has been forced to eliminate more than 550 jobs in the state. Where possible, the company will relocate affected employees to business-friendly states.
The PUC’s decision to change the rules to punish existing solar customers after the state encouraged them to go solar with rebates is particularly callous and leaves Nevadans to question whether the state would ever place the financial security of regular citizens above the financial interests of NV Energy.
“I contacted Governor Sandoval multiple times after the ruling because I am convinced that he and the PUC didn’t fully understand the consequences of this decision, not only on the thousands of local jobs distributed solar has created, but on the 17,000 Nevadans that installed solar with the state’s encouragement,” said Lyndon Rive, SolarCity’s CEO. “I’m still waiting to speak to the Governor but I am convinced that once he and the Commissioners understand the real impact, that they will do the right thing.”
SolarCity announced on December 23 that as a result of the PUC decision, it had to cease solar sales and installation in the state effective immediately. Other Nevada solar companies with higher cost structures than SolarCity are expected to collectively lay off thousands of additional Nevadans in the coming months.
“Telling employees they can no longer work for SolarCity is the hardest thing we’ve ever done,” continued Rive. “These are hard-working Nevadans and a single government action has put them out of work. This is not how government is supposed to work.”
SolarCity has also closed a training center in West Las Vegas that it opened a little over a month ago. The November press release announcing its opening contained this statement from Governor Sandoval: “I’m proud to celebrate the opening of SolarCity’s new training center, which will make Nevada the regional hub for training workers in the jobs of the 21st century. Our homegrown solar industry has already created over 6,000 good Nevada jobs, and has tremendous potential to continue driving innovation, economic diversification, and opportunity in the Silver State.”
Fortunately, there are other voices speaking up for solar employees and customers. The Nevada Bureau of Consumer Protection is attempting to protect Nevadans by filing a motion to halt implementation of the PUC’s ruling, stating that the order’s impact “is not consistent with the Governor’s stated objectives of SB 374 or the Governor’s initiatives and focus to increase jobs and employment for Nevada residents.”
Just weeks after Congress voted with bipartisan support to extend the federal tax credit for solar, Governor Sandoval’s Commission is moving the state backwards. The Governor’s and Commission’s support for a de facto ban on rooftop solar defies public opinion, including the opinion of the members of his own party. According to a recent poll by Moore Information, 73% of registered Nevada Republicans support the state’s previous rooftop solar rules.
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
by Lynda Delacey (October 29, 2015) GizMag.com
An interesting new player is set to enter the emerging home energy storage arena in the shape of the Enphase Home Energy Solution. Enphase is billed as the world’s first integrated system that allows home users to store, monitor and manage their rooftop-generated solar electricity, while controlling their overall electricity consumption. The new product will be piloted in Australia from December 2015.
The system, (which was clearly named by engineers) provides a modular AC battery array and a networking hub that connects to a cloud-based monitoring app.
“Every other solution on the market that we know of is essentially just a battery,” Enphase Energy’s Asia-Pacific managing director, Nathan Dunn, told Gizmag. “This means you’d have to add additional components to convert the power supply to AC, and additional software to monitor the battery usage. All of that requires a lot of complex engineering. We’re offering a complete solution that can be essentially a plug and play exercise.”
The wall-mountable Enphase AC Battery measures just 390 x 325 x 220 mm (16 x 13 x 9 in) and weighs 25 kg (55 lbs). Each battery incorporates a bidirectional microinverter and provides 1.2 kW hours of energy and 275W/500W power output. It has an ambient temperature range of -20°C to 45°C (-4° to 113° F) and a limited warranty (> 80% capacity) for up to 10 years or 7300 cycles.
“We’ve partnered with ELIIY Power, a Japanese battery provider to develop a battery based on Lithium Iron Phosphate chemistry,” said Dunn. “This is an incredibly safe technology with a prismatic cell format that is very resilient to high temperatures and trauma events.”
According to Enphase, a hypothetical home user with a PV array may choose to install the system in three stages.
Stage one: Install Enphase Envoy-S Metered, the networking hub of the system. This device – around the size of an iPad – will send you information via the company’s MyEnlighten app. You can then start obsessing over how much energy your PV system is generating (and when), and how much energy your household is drawing from both your PV system and the grid throughout the day. This shows you how many storage batteries you may need.
Stage two: Start with two or three Enphase AC Batteries and have them installed in series to start building towards the battery capacity you need.
Stage three: The system will automatically start optimising your PV energy usage – shifting it to batteries when you’re generating more power than you use, and drawing electricity back from the batteries during peak usage periods. You can then start mixing things up – change your habits, or add more batteries and solar panels – to find ways to further reduce your electricity bill.
Enphase has announced pricing for the battery at AUD$1,150 (US$817) per kilowatt hour for volume purchases by direct customers in the Australian market, with a margin to be applied by partners.
There’s no denying that solar energy isn’t a cheap prospect yet, but with storage and efficiency still the industry’s biggest stumbling blocks, it will be interesting to see how the system goes on the market.
CLICK HERE to access the original article.
by Stephen Lacey
December 18, 2015
Lawmakers in the House and Senate passed a spending package today that includes multi-year extensions of solar and wind tax credits, plus one-year extensions for a range of other renewable energy technologies.
The pair of bills, which included tax extenders and $1.1 trillion in funding to keep the government running for the next year, passed hours before lawmakers adjourned for the holidays.
“May the force be with you,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, urging her fellow Senators to vote in favor of the package shortly after the House approved the bills.
The force was certainly with renewables.
Under the legislation, the 30 percent Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar will be extended for another three years. It will then ramp down incrementally through 2021, and remain at 10 percent permanently beginning in 2022.
The 2.3-cent Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind will also be extended through next year. Projects that begin construction in 2017 will see a 20 percent reduction in the incentive. The PTC will then drop 20 percent each year through 2020.
Also included were geothermal, landfill gas, marine energy and incremental hydro, which will each get a one-year PTC extension. Those technologies will also qualify for a 30 percent ITC, if developers choose. In addition, the bill expanded grants for energy and water efficiency.
Business groups and analysts say the extensions will support tens of billions of dollars in new investment and hundreds of thousands of new jobs throughout the U.S.
“There’s no way to overstate this — the extension of the solar ITC is the most important policy development for U.S. solar in almost a decade,” said MJ Shiao, GTM’s director of solar research.
According to GTM Research, the ITC extension will help spur nearly 100 cumulative gigawatts of solar installations by 2020, resulting in $130 billion in total investment. More than $40 billion of investment will be “directly attributable to the passage of the extension,” said Shiao.
The American Wind Energy Association expects similar growth. The group did not issue precise figures, but said the PTC extension would support tens of gigawatts of new wind projects through 2020.
The legislation also lifts a 40-year ban on exports of crude oil produced in the U.S. In exchange for lifting the ban, Democrats pushed for multi-year extensions of renewable energy tax credits and demanded that Republicans strip out any riders that would weaken environmental laws.
Both sides got what they wanted.
However, Pelosi publicly worried yesterday that she didn’t have enough votes to support the bill. Many Democrats expressed concern about the oil export ban tradeoff, saying it would increase subsidies to fossil fuels and boost carbon emissions.
Congressional leaders and the White House lobbied hard to convince the Democratic base that the bill would be a win for the environment.
“While lifting the oil export ban remains atrocious policy, the wind and solar tax credits in the Omnibus will eliminate around 10 times more carbon pollution than the exports of oil will add,” wrote Pelosi in a letter to lawmakers.
Katherine Hamilton, a partner with 38 North Solutions, called the bill “sausage-making at its most intense.”
“The product should be palatable for most parties in clean energy. Extensions for renewables and efficiency tax credits were key sweeteners. In addition, clean energy R&D funding, land and water conservation funds, and clean energy funds were included in the deal,” she said.
Other independent analysts found that the deal would be a net positive for the climate. Although emissions would increase slightly because of increased drilling activity, they would be easily offset by increasing renewable energy development and decreased coal consumption.
“Our bottom line: Extension of the tax credits will do far more to reduce carbon dioxide emissions over the next five years than lifting the export ban will do to increase them. While this post offers no judgment of the budget deal as a whole, the deal, if passed, looks like a win for climate,” wrote Council on Foreign Relations fellows Michael Levi and Varun Sivaram.
The tax credit extensions cap a big month for renewable energy policy.
In early December, world leaders agreed to a framework for lowering global greenhouse gas emissions — a deal that will leverage hundreds of billions of dollars in private investment for clean technologies.
And earlier this week, California regulators issued a new proposal on net metering that would preserve the retail rate paid to rooftop solar systems. The new rules — combined with the continued federal tax credit — will ensure strong activity in the top solar state.
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
by Brent Sauser
I know this will sound like bragging, but we paid $11.08 for our electric bill last month. That’s right . . . . $11.08! Our total billable power consumption was only 5kWh. The cost for that power was only 55 cents, but then you add the mandatory taxes and net meter hook-up fees and you get to $11.08. Can’t get much lower than that per month while still being connected to the power grid. Hey . . . I’ll take it.
As we are moving into the fall and winter seasons the sun is at a lower angle in the sky and the days are shorter, which means less time for direct sunlight on the solar panels. My daily records show fewer kWhs per day than in the summer months, which is understandable. However, in like manner our overall power consumption is reduced by cooler temperatures. Less A/C time means lower power consumption. So, even though the sun is at a lower angle and there is less of it, power consumption has decreased as well.
We are using Enphase micro-inverters that enable us to monitor each solar panel individually. We are only into month #4 in the Net Zero process and look forward to see how our energy consumption balances with our energy consumption during the cooler months of the year.
by Brent Sauser
I had the honor of working with the Orlando chapter of Habitat for Humanity from 2008 thru 2013. They are a great organization that not only lefts up individuals and families, but local communities. The services they provide are deeply rooted in their love for those who need help with getting into a home of their own. Habitat depends on donations and volunteers to keep the costs down and help enable the worthy needy to afford a modest home of their own and feel the satisfaction of home ownership. Habitat has recently decided to go solar in an effort to save more money by producing their own energy for one of their ReStores. I invite you to watch the video (below) for more information.
by Brent Sauser
As many are turning to solar energy as a renewable source for power . . . . ME INCLUDED, still others are standing on the sidelines scratching their heads and wondering what all this solar business is about anyway! Although the fundamentals of solar energy are easy enough to grasp . . . (i.e. the sun comes up and heats the earth, then goes down . . . repeat process daily), the actual chemistry of converting solar energy to usable AC power is a bit more complex. The attached video does a good job in explaining this sustainable process.
NOTE: It’s been 44 days since our installation of a roof-top 7.54kW PV system. Since then we have generated an average of 24.6kWh of PV power per/day. That works out to 738kWh for a 30 day period. Last month our power consumption totaled 556kWh, so at least on the average the Sauser household appears to be on track to become Net Zero. And because we installed our PV system before the end of 2016 we are eligible for a 30% Federal Tax Rebate. Isn’t it time you check out PV solar for yourself!
by Brent Sauser
Solar cell technology is moving ahead in leaps and bounds. The included video shows very promising work in the Silicon Valley to perfect transparent solar cells. These creative scientists have managed to capture the ultraviolet and infrared light waves (that we don’t see) and convert them into power, leaving 90% of the window pane in visible glass. Pretty impressive! Think of the applications . . . . homes, skyscrapers, commercial/retail buildings, and countless handheld devices. The future for solar is bright indeed!
By Brent Sauser
After three years of preparation the Sauser home has finally taken the “leap” and installed a 7.54 kW roof-top solar array. Because our 22 year old, east facing home is not oriented to the south, we ended up placing solar panels on the east, south, and west roofs. We are on track to produce close to 700 kWh of electricity this month. By the way, our electrical consumption last month was only 564 kWh. A year from now we hope to report that we are a Net Zero home.
- (29) 260W Axitec polycrystalline solar panels (2 on east roof, 10 on south roof, and 17 on west roof).
- (29) Enphase M215 micro inverters (for maximum flexibility in solar panel orientation, maximum potential for energy production, and best tracking and reporting software).
Our system was installed by a local solar installer with a long and impressive resume of solar installations . . . 3 Guys Solar. I highly recommend 3 Guys Solar to all those living in the Central Florida region. They can be reached at: http://www.3guyssolar.com, or at (407) 865-9338. Ask for Andy or David and drop my name. They will be happy to help you design and install the right solar array for you . . . from start to finish. They were able to install our complete system in one, very hot day.
If you are thinking about going solar and taking advantage of the 30% Federal Tax Rebate (that expires at the end of 2016) I suggest you follow the Sauser plan for preparation. Remember, a solar installation should be the LAST thing you consider AFTER doing as many energy conserving things beforehand. Three years ago our electrical consumption was over 2020 kWh per month. Since then we:
- Replaced our aging asphalt shingle roof with an Energy Star rated roof system.
- Added daylighting with a Solatube for our living room.
- Installed a solar powered attic exhaust fan.
- Replaced all incandescent bulbs and CFLs with LED bulbs
- Installed a NEST thermostat and raised the temperature to 80 degrees during the day and 79 degrees at night. Turned off the thermostat (A/C) when the house was empty.
- Replaced our old, energy-hog water heater with a GE GeoSpring hybrid water heater. I have adjusted the setting to “Heat Pump”, which is the most energy efficient setting.
Each one of these energy saving decisions has served to reduce our overall electrical consumption to be where we are today, that is, 564 kWh consumed on the hottest month of the year! The solar array required to support a 564 kWh usage will be much smaller than the one needed to support a 2020 kWh consumption rate.
My wife and I couldn’t be any happier with our decision to go solar. We are excited to see what the next 12 months will bring in energy production and see if we achieved Net Zero or not. There is something about being sustainable that gives a feeling of peace and security. Now is great time find out for yourself before the 30% Federal Tax Rebate runs out. Remember, to be eligible for the rebate your solar array must be totally functional. Plan on a minimum of three to four months for that to happen.
$250 Million plan, state’s largest, to include 21 sites.
By David Shaffer – Star Tribune (May 29, 2015)
The biggest solar power project in Minnesota won approval Thursday from state regulators.
The $250 million Aurora Solar Project by Edina-based Geronimo Energy calls for the installation of ground-mounted solar panels at 21 mostly rural sites from Chisago County north of the Twin Cities to Waseca in southeast Minnesota. Geronimo plans to finish the project in 2016 and sell the power to Xcel Energy.
“This signals that something big is happening in solar energy in Minnesota,” said Michael Noble, executive director of Fresh Energy, a St. Paul nonprofit that advocates greater reliance on renewable energy.
It is by far the largest solar project approved in Minnesota, and in one sweep increases the state’s solar output sevenfold. The combined 100 million watts is the equivalent of a small traditional power plant. The largest of the 21 solar sites, near Paynesville, will cover an area the size of Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis.
The state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted 3-0 to approve a permit for project, but rejected three of the original 24 sites, in Pipestone, Wyoming and Zumbrota, because of local land-use objections. Another site, near Hastings, is in jeopardy because of recently discovered soil conditions.
Geronimo Energy said the project will go ahead without them.
“We had offered more sites than we would use because of the need for flexibility if a site ended up not being constructible,” said Betsy Engelking, vice president for policy and strategy at Geronimo.
In a major victory last year, the project successfully competed in a PUC bidding process against natural gas projects. It aims to be a cost-effective means to supply Xcel Energy extra power on high-demand summer days. Geronimo plans to achieve this by installing solar panels that track the sun from east to west, capturing solar power late in the day when electricity demand rises.
To avoid expensive transmission lines, Geronimo selected solar sites near existing electric substations, and will send power straight onto distribution lines. Most of the solar sites now are farmland, and at the request of environmental officials, Geronimo agreed to put bee-friendly native plants under and around the solar panels.
Enel Green Power, a global renewable energy company, will own and operate the solar project, selling the power to Xcel, the Minneapolis-based power company serving 1.2 million electric customers in Minnesota.
First of a wave
Even more solar is coming to Minnesota under a 2013 solar energy law that requires investor-owned utilities like Xcel to get 1.5 percent of their electricity from the sun by 2020.
Xcel has signed deals with three other energy developers to build large solar projects in the state.
One of them near North Branch would be the same size as the Aurora project — but all the panels would be installed on one site. Those projects are now seeking permits from the PUC.
One Aurora site that the PUC rejected was in Pipestone, in the southwest corner of the state.
It is adjacent to a residential area. With homes on the south side of the project, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to screen from view the acres of solar panels. Any barrier, such as trees, likely would have blocked the sun.
“The record clearly demonstrates that’s probably not such a great site,” Suzanne Steinhauer, a state Commerce Department official who reviewed the site, told the commission.
A solar site off Hwy. 52 in Zumbrota was rejected because it lies in an area where local and state governments have upgraded roads and utilities hoping to attract commercial and industrial projects, which pay higher property taxes than solar projects.
“We weren’t against solar, just the area it was placed in,” Zumbrota City Administrator Neil Jensen said.
Weighing local concerns
State law gives the PUC sole authority to approve or reject large energy projects — trumping local zoning laws — although regulators must consider local concerns. Some legislators have pushed for a change in state law to give local governments more say.
PUC Chairwoman Beverly Jones Heydinger said she recognized that communities raised issues with solar projects.
“Because this is the first facility that we are siting, we are particularly sensitive in having it go as smoothly with local units of government as possible,” Heydinger said.
Engelking said Geronimo hopes to begin construction this fall, using roving teams of construction workers who go from site to site.
Earth-moving crews would start off, followed by those who install the solar panel supports, then teams that install panels and do other work.
To retain eligibility for an expiring 30 percent federal solar investment tax credit, the Aurora project must be generating electricity by the end of 2016. After that, the tax credit drops to 10 percent.
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
By Brent Sauser
Not only is solar power totally sustainable and environmentally friendly . . . . it puts money back in your pocket! In fact, going solar provides a greater rate of return on investment (on average) than the stock market. It’s time we understand the simple truth:
SAVING ENERGY SAVES YOU MONEY!
We only have 20 more months to take advantage of the 30% Federal rebate program for solar installations. The time to decide to go solar is NOW! The following video helps to explain the benefits of going solar in greater detail.
By Diane Cardwell (April 18, 2015) The New York Times – Energy & Environment
HONOLULU — Allan Akamine has looked all around the winding, palm tree-lined cul-de-sacs of his suburban neighborhood in Mililani here on Oahu and, with an equal mix of frustration and bemusement, seen roof after roof bearing solar panels.
Mr. Akamine, 61, a manager for a cable company, has wanted nothing more than to lower his $600 to $700 monthly electric bill with a solar system of his own. But for 18 months or so, the state’s biggest utility barred him and thousands of other customers from getting one, citing concerns that power generated by rooftop systems was overwhelming its ability to handle it.
Only under strict orders from state energy officials did the utility, the Hawaiian Electric Company, recently rush to approve the lengthy backlog of solar applications, including Mr. Akamine’s.
It is the latest chapter in a closely watched battle that has put this state at the forefront of a global upheaval in the power business. Rooftop systems now sit atop roughly 12 percent of Hawaii’s homes, according to the federal Energy Information Administration, by far the highest proportion in the nation.
“Hawaii is a postcard from the future,” said Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar, a policy and advocacy group based in California.
Other states and countries, including California, Arizona, Japan and Germany, are struggling to adapt to the growing popularity of making electricity at home, which puts new pressures on old infrastructure like circuits and power lines and cuts into electric company revenue.
As a result, many utilities are trying desperately to stem the rise of solar, either by reducing incentives, adding steep fees or effectively pushing home solar companies out of the market. In response, those solar companies are fighting back through regulators, lawmakers and the courts.
The shift in the electric business is no less profound than those that upended the telecommunications and cable industries in recent decades. It is already remaking the relationship between power companies and the public while raising questions about how to pay for maintaining and operating the nation’s grid.
The issue is not merely academic, electrical engineers say.
In solar-rich areas of California and Arizona, as well as in Hawaii, all that solar-generated electricity flowing out of houses and into a power grid designed to carry it in the other direction has caused unanticipated voltage fluctuations that can overload circuits, burn lines and lead to brownouts or blackouts.
“Hawaii’s case is not isolated,” said Massoud Amin, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Minnesota and chairman of the smart grid program at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a technical association. “When we push year-on-year 30 to 40 percent growth in this market, with the number of installations doubling, quickly — every two years or so — there’s going to be problems.”
The economic threat also has electric companies on edge. Over all, demand for electricity is softening while home solar is rapidly spreading across the country. There are now about 600,000 installed systems, and the number is expected to reach 3.3 million by 2020, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
The Edison Electric Institute, the main utility trade group, has been warning its members of the economic perils of high levels of rooftop solar since at least 2012, and the companies are responding. In February, the Salt River Project, a large utility in Arizona, approved charges that could add about $50 to a typical monthly bill for new solar customers, while last year in Wisconsin, where rooftop solar is still relatively rare, regulators approved fees that would add $182 a year for the average solar customer.
In Hawaii, the current battle began in 2013, when Hawaiian Electric started barring installations of residential solar systems in certain areas. It was an abrupt move — a panicked one, critics say — made after the utility became alarmed by the technical and financial challenges of all those homes suddenly making their own electricity.
The utility wants to cut roughly in half the amount it pays customers for solar electricity they send back to the grid. But after a study showed that with some upgrades the system could handle much more solar than the company had assumed, the state’s public utilities commission ordered the utility to begin installations or prove why it could not.
It was but one sign of the agency’s growing impatience with what it considers the utility’s failure to adapt its business model to the changing market.
Hawaiian Electric is scrambling to accede to that demand, approving thousands of applications in recent weeks. But it is under pressure on other fronts as well. NextEra Energy, based in Florida, is awaiting approval to buy it, while other islands it serves are exploring defecting to form their own cooperative power companies.
It is also upgrading its circuits and meters to better regulate the flow of electricity. Rooftop solar makes far more power than any other single source, said Colton Ching, vice president for energy delivery at Hawaiian Electric, but the utility can neither control nor predict the output.
“At every different moment, we have to make sure that the amount of power we generate is equal to the amount of energy being used, and if we don’t keep that balance things go unstable,” he said, pointing to the illuminated graphs and diagrams tracking energy production from wind and solar farms, as well as coal-fueled generators in the utility’s main control room. But the rooftop systems are “essentially invisible to us,” he said, “because they sit behind a customer’s meter and we don’t have a means to directly measure them.”
For customers, such explanations offer little comfort as they continue to pay among the highest electric rates in the country and still face an uncertain solar future.
“I went through all this trouble to get my electric bill down, and I am still waiting,” said Joyce Villegas, 88, who signed her contract for a system in August 2013 but was only recently approved and is waiting for the installation to be completed.
Mr. Akamine expressed resignation over the roughly $12,000 he could have saved, but wondered about the delay. “Why did it take forceful urging from the local public utility commission to open up more permits?” he asked.
Installers — who saw their fast-growing businesses slow to a trickle — are also frustrated with the pace. For those who can afford it, said James Whitcomb, chief executive of Haleakala Solar, which he started in 1977, the answer may lie in a more radical solution: Avoid the utility and its grid altogether.
Customers are increasingly asking about the batteries that he often puts in along with the solar panels, allowing them to store the power they generate during the day for use at night. It is more expensive, but it breaks consumer reliance on the utility’s network of power lines.
“I’ve actually taken people right off the grid,” he said, including a couple who got tired of waiting for Hawaiian Electric to approve their solar system and expressed no interest in returning to utility service. “The lumbering big utilities that are so used to taking three months to study this and then six months to do that — what they don’t understand is that things are moving at the speed of business. Like with digital photography — this is inevitable.”
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
Photo credits: Kent Nishimura for The New York Times
by Natalie Crofts (KSL.com – Page Two, Science &Tech)
April 10, 2015
PROVO — Low-cost solar energy could be the end product of research carried out by students at Brigham Young University.
Stephen Erickson and Trevor Smith are building materials designed to absorb different wavelengths of light, which common silicon solar cells miss. Together, they published a study on how nanocrystals in ferritin can increase efficiency in solar energy conversion.
“What we’re looking to do is use the protein ferritin, which is a 12 nanometer-wide hollow sphere that your body and most animals use for iron storage, but through some fancy chemistry you can take out that iron and replace it with a wide variety of different minerals that all behave differently,” Erickson said. “I’ve been looking at how these minerals within the ferritin protein absorb light for solar energy applications.”
The biggest benefit of using the nanocrystals is that researchers could control the wavelengths of light it absorbs, letting them divide up the solar spectrum and increase efficiency in the solar cells, according to Erickson.
Another strength is that the materials are Earth-abundant and can be synthesized at room temperature. In contrast, Erickson said one of the main expenses for creating silicon solar cells is heating furnaces to produce the necessary crystals. He believes eliminating the need for heating could open up the possibility for low-cost solar energy.
The students have been working on the project for about two years with chemistry professor Richard Watt and physics professor John Colton. Recently, the team has grown to include about six more undergraduate students. Erickson, an undergraduate student, and Smith, a graduate student, are both slated to graduate from BYU in the coming months.
Erickson said the next step of the research is to build a prototype solar cell.
“There are a lot of interesting experiments still to do that future undergraduates will take over and I’m sure see great success with,” he said.
CLICK HERE to read the original article.
By EurekAlert! – March 18, 2015 (ECNmag.com/news)
A flexible organic solar cell from TREASORES project undergoing mechanical testing: the cell is repeatedly flexed to a 25 mm radius whilst monitoring its performance. Such cells have shown lifetimes in excess of 4,000 hours. Credit (Image: National Physical Laboratory (NPL), England)
In order to make solar energy widely affordable scientists and engineers all over the world are looking for low-cost production technologies. Flexible organic solar cells have a huge potential in this regard because they require only a minimum amount of (rather cheap) materials and can be manufactured in large quantities by roll-to-roll (R2R) processing. This requires, however, that the transparent electrodes, the barrier layers and even the entire devices be flexible. The EU-funded project “TREASORES” (Transparent Electrodes for Large Area Large Scale Production of Organic Optoelectronic Devices), which started in November 2012 with an overall budget of more than 14 Mio Euro and is led by Empa researcher Frank Nüesch, aims at developing and demonstrating technologies to facilitate R2R production of organic optoelectronic devices such as solar cells and LED lighting panels.
Transparent electrodes with superior performance
The TREASORES project recently completed its mid-term review and has already achieved some major milestones. The international team that comprises researchers from 19 labs and companies from five European countries has, for instance, developed an ultra-thin transparent silver electrode that is cheaper than, and outperforms, currently used indium tin oxide (ITO) electrodes. The researchers could also demonstrate a record efficiency of 7 % for a perovskite-based solar cell using such novel transparent electrodes. What’s more, their first fully R2R-produced solar cells already achieved commercially acceptable lifetimes when tested «in the field». The next step, says Nüesch, is to scale up and improve the most promising technologies identified so far, say, to produce barrier materials and transparent electrodes in larger quantities, i.e. in rolls of more than 100 meters in length.
By Sebastian Anthony on August 26, 2014 (ExtremeTech.com)
Researchers at Michigan State University have created a fully transparent solar concentrator, which could turn any window or sheet of glass (like your smartphone’s screen) into a photovoltaic solar cell. Unlike other “transparent” solar cells that we’ve reported on in the past, this one really is transparent, as you can see in the photos throughout this story. According to Richard Lunt, who led the research, the team is confident that the transparent solar panels can be efficiently deployed in a wide range of settings, from “tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader.”
Scientifically, a transparent solar panel is something of an oxymoron. Solar cells, specifically the photovoltaic kind, make energy by absorbing photons (sunlight) and converting them into electrons (electricity). If a material is transparent, however, by definition it means that all of the light passes through the medium to strike the back of your eye. This is why previous transparent solar cells have actually only been partially transparent — and, to add insult to injury, they usually they cast a colorful shadow too
To get around this limitation, the Michigan State researchers use a slightly different technique for gathering sunlight. Instead of trying to create a transparent photovoltaic cell (which is nigh impossible), they use a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC). The TLSC consists of organic salts that absorb specific non-visible wavelengths of ultraviolet and infrared light, which they then luminesce (glow) as another wavelength of infrared light (also non-visible). This emitted infrared light is guided to the edge of plastic, where thin strips of conventional photovoltaic solar cell convert it into electricity. [Research paper: DOI: 10.1002/adom.201400103 – “Near-Infrared Harvesting Transparent Luminescent Solar Concentrators”]
If you look closely, you can see a couple of black strips along the edges of plastic block. Otherwise, though, the active organic material — and thus the bulk of the solar panel — is highly transparent.
Michigan’s TLSC currently has an efficiency of around 1%, but they think 5% should be possible. Non-transparent luminescent concentrators (which bathe the room in colorful light) max out at around 7%. On their own these aren’t huge figures, but on a larger scale — every window in a house or office block — the numbers quickly add up. Likewise, while we’re probably not talking about a technology that can keep your smartphone or tablet running indefinitely, replacing your device’s display with a TLSC could net you a few more minutes or hours of usage on a single battery charge.
The researchers are confident that the technology can be scaled all the way from large industrial and commercial applications, down to consumer devices, while remaining “affordable.” So far, one of the larger barriers to large-scale adoption of solar power is the intrusive and ugly nature of solar panels — obviously, if we can produce large amounts of solar power from sheets of glass and plastic that look like normal sheets of glass and plastic, then that would be big.
by Brent Sauser
SIMPLY AMAZING! A technological miracle! Further evidence that the Sustainable Revolution is well underway and gaining momentum.
The attached video (below) is of a remarkable solar plane – Solar Impulse 2 – will soon begin its journey around the world, without stopping and without a single drop of fuel! The plane is powered by nothing more than 17,000 solar cells. Batteries under the wings store enough energy to maintain flight at night. The body is made of super lightweight materials. The plane will carry two pilots.
The video is not only entertaining, but inspirational. The only thing that is slowing this marvelous sustainable Net Zero transition is our ability to understand it and embrace it. The technology is here, now. What are we waiting for?
By KSL Local (October 9, 2014)
Solar energy is a resource with many benefits. It’s sustainable for energy consumption and continuously renewable. Not only can solar power be used to generate electricity, it can also be used to heat water. You may have already known these tidbits of information, but here are five additional facts that may surprise you about electricity and solar energy in Utah.
Utah’s residential electricity is expensive
If you were to research energy costs by state, Utah would appear to be one of the cheapest states. While this may be true in general, there is a big variance between commercial and residential cost per kilowatt hour. Residential rates average between 9 – 12 cents per kilowatt hour for the average home, and even more for larger homes. Summer costs can get even more expensive, with even higher rates charged to those who use over 1,000 kilowatt hours per month. Kelly Curtis, Director of Operations at Solaroo Energy, a Utah based solar energy supplier, touched briefly on how the costs of residential electricity can add up quickly.
“When it comes to commercial energy, the general rates for an average business are at three to four cents per kilowatt hour. Although that may be cheap, compare it to residential electricity. A house that is 4,000 square feet or more can be charged as much as 14.5 cents per kilowatt hour.”
Solar energy rates are fixed
According to the State of Utah Public Service Commission, one Utah power company has averaged 4.44 percent increases since 2000. In the last seven years alone, the rates have gone up 50 percent. The latest rate increase was levied just last month. “Utility rates have a history of going up, and they are projected to increase even more, whereas solar energy is fixed. You pay for it up front, but the cost of producing energy is fixed over the life of the system, and results in huge savings,” Curtis says. “Solar gives you the opportunity to control your rates, and control your power.” With solar energy, you are purchasing your own electricity generation at a fixed cost, allowing you to maintain the same energy rates for 25 years or longer. The best part is that the longer your solar panels produce energy, the cheaper your energy will be.
Solar system guarantee
You can now have a warranty on your solar system (not the one made up by planets orbiting the sun) that will guarantee how much energy you will produce over the next 25 years. While many companies offer leases for their solar panels, keep an eye out for a good warranty and production guarantee.
Technology has improved
Advancement in technology is the main reason why U.S.-based manufacturers are now willing to warranty entire systems and components for 25 years. Curtis also mentioned how using specially designed solar panels from SunEdison, a Fortune 1000 company and a global leader in solar technology, can make all the difference when switching to solar energy.
“Many solar energy companies continue to purchase their solar panels from China because they are really inexpensive, but they are also poorly made. These solar panels lose their effectiveness only after a few short years,” say Curtis. “SunEdison guarantees that your panels will produce the energy we say they will over 25 years.”
Solar system costs have come down in Utah
The cost of installing efficient, reliable, and maintenance-free solar systems in Utah is much more affordable compared to other states, according to Solaroo Energy. For example, systems in California can cost up to $7 per kilowatt, whereas in Utah, systems will cost as little as $4 or less per kilowatt. The cost of solar energy has decreased over the last few years. With the ever-increasing electric rates, the time has never been better for installing solar systems in Utah.
by Barry Casseli (Sep. 5, 2014) GenerationHub.com
According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) Q2 2014 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, the U.S. installed 1,133 MW of solar photovoltaics (PV) in the second quarter of this year.
The residential and commercial segments accounted for nearly half of all solar PV installations in the quarter, the association noted in a Sept. 4 statement. The residential market has seen the most consistent growth of any segment for years, and its momentum shows no signs of slowing down.
Across the U.S, cumulative PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) operating capacity has eclipsed 15.9 GW.
“Solar continues to soar, providing more and more homes, businesses, schools and government entities across the United States with clean, reliable and affordable electricity,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “Today, the solar industry employs 143,000 Americans and pumps nearly $15 billion a year into our economy. This remarkable growth is due, in large part, to smart and effective public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), net energy metering (NEM) and renewable portfolio standards (RPS).”
The utility PV segment made up 55% of U.S. solar installations in the second quarter of the year. It has accounted for more than half of national PV installations for the fifth straight quarter. In just two years, the utility segment has quadrupled its cumulative size, growing from 1,784 MW in the first half of 2012 to 7,308 MW at this point.
“Solar continues to be a primary source of new electric generation capacity in the U.S.” said Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President at GTM Research. “With new sources of capital being unlocked, design and engineering innovations reducing system prices, and sales channels rapidly diversifying, the solar market is quickly gaining steam to drive significant growth for the next few years.”
GTM Research and SEIA forecast 6.5 GW of PV will be installed in the United States by the end of this year, up 36% over 2013.
Other key report findings include:
- The U.S. installed 1,133 MW of solar PV in the second quarter of this year, up 21% over Q2 2013, making it the fourth-largest quarter for solar installations in the history of the market.
- Cumulative operating PV capacity has now eclipsed the 15 GW mark thanks to three consecutive quarters of more than 1 GW installed.
- As of the first half of 2014, more than half a million homeowners and commercial customers have installed solar PV.
- For the first time ever, more than 100 MW of residential PV came online without any state incentive.
- 53% of new electric generating capacity in the U.S. in the first half of 2014 came from solar.
The first quarter of 2014 was the largest quarter ever for concentrating solar power, due to the completion of the 392-MW (ac) Ivanpah project and Genesis Solar’s second 125 MW (ac) phase. While the second quarter of this year was dormant for CSP, a total of 857 MW (ac) is expected to be completed by year’s end, making 2014 the largest year ever for CSP.
Tesla recently announced that its Gigafactory, which will produce electric car batteries, will be located near Reno Nevada. More interesting to me, being an engineer and renewable energy advocate, is Tesla’s commitment to renewable energy. In his press conference, Elon Musk stated that the factory will produce all of its own energy using a combination of solar, wind, and geothermal. That’s a tall order, so let’s look at the numbers to see how feasible that is.
The factory is expected to be 10 million square feet (about 929,000 square meters), sitting on nearly a thousand acres of land. Tesla’s drawings show the plant covered in solar panels with a field of wind turbines in the distance. Musk said that the factory would be aligned with true north so equipment could be located with GPS and so the solar panels would be aligned with true south for maximum production. Although the picture shows panels on the roof, there’s a lot of land available for a ground mounted array and/or more turbines. The numbers don’t lie. The site could realistically produce more than 2900 MWh of renewable electricity each day … 20% more than it needs. These are conservative estimates on production and worst-case estimates on consumption, and it’s clear that there’s enough renewable energy to run the plant with some to spare.
In other words, you might produce 2400 MWh per day, but that doesn’t mean you’ll always have 100 MW available at any given instant. Sometimes you’ll generate more, other times less. Obviously there will be no solar production at night and less wind production on calm days. To be fully off-grid, Tesla will need some form of storage. Tesla is probably shooting for more than the EV market; it seems logical for them to be looking into grid-level storage as well. What better way to showcase that than to include Li-ion batteries for on-site storage?
But that’s a lot of batteries, the plant isn’t built yet, and the factory needs to produce enough batteries in time for Tesla’s planned rollout of their newest car. My guess is that they won’t be off-grid for a while. Instead, they’ll be grid-tied and take advantage of net-metering, with storage as a future possibility. Either way, the Gigafactory will be a net-zero energy facility that should offer plenty of lessons on energy-efficient building construction and management.
By Brent Sauser
The long awaited official announcement was made on Thursday, September 4, 2014 that Tesla Motors will be building their new $5 billion “Gigafactory” in Nevada, beating out rivals California, New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona. This new state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant will increase Nevada employment by 6,500 workers. Experts say that mass production of the storage batteries could cut the cost in half, which opens the door for affordable home battery storage for PV systems. SolarCity has joined Tesla in exploring this potentially lucrative and untapped market.
Renewable energy is making significant progress in meaningful ways. Within three years Tesla hopes to have a lower cost mass production electric vehicle on the market. About this time, also, the cost of lithium-ion battery storage will lower to an affordable range for home PV use. The prospect of going from a Net Zero solution to a Zero Energy Solution before the year 2020 is nothing short of remarkable and doable. The ultimate goal is to be totally detached from the power grid, meaning no Net Metering . . . . . no meter at all! Perhaps the best way to solve this global issue is one solar home conversion at a time. Thanks to organizations such as Tesla and SolarCity we can do it!
(by PHYS.org; dated May 4, 2014)
Northwestern University researchers are the first to develop a new solar cell with good efficiency that uses tin instead of lead perovskite as the harvester of light. The low-cost, environmentally friendly solar cell can be made easily using “bench” chemistry—no fancy equipment or hazardous materials.
“This is a breakthrough in taking the lead out of a very promising type of solar cell, called a perovskite,” said Mercouri G. Kanatzidis, an inorganic chemist with expertise in dealing with tin. “Tin is a very viable material, and we have shown the material does work as an efficient solar cell.”
(a) Cross-section schematic of a perovskite solar cell with copper iodide hole conductor. (B) Image of the complete device. SEM cross-section images of solar cells using (C) copper iodide and (D) spiro-OMeTAD hole conductors. Credit: Christians, et al. ©2013 American Chemical Society
Kanatzidis, who led the research, is the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.
The new solar cell uses a structure called a perovskite but with tin instead of lead as the light-absorbing material. Lead perovskite has achieved 15 percent efficiency, and tin perovskite should be able to match—and possibly surpass—that. Perovskite solar cells are being touted as the “next big thing in photovoltaics” and have reenergized the field.
Kanatzidis developed, synthesized and analyzed the material. He then turned to Northwestern collaborator and nanoscientist Robert P. H. Chang to help him engineer a solar cell that worked well.
“Our tin-based perovskite layer acts as an efficient sunlight absorber that is sandwiched between two electric charge transport layers for conducting electricity to the outside world,” said Chang, a professor of materials science and engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Details of the lead-free solar cell will be published May 4 by the journal Nature Photonics. Kanatzidis and Chang are the two senior authors of the paper.
Their solid-state tin solar cell has an efficiency of just below 6 percent, which is a very good starting point, Kanatzidis said. Two things make the material special: it can absorb most of the visible light spectrum, and the perovskite salt can be dissolved, and it will reform upon solvent removal without heating.
“Other scientists will see what we have done and improve on our methods,” Kanatzidis said. “There is no reason this new material can’t reach an efficiency better than 15 percent, which is what the lead perovskite solar cell offers. Tin and lead are in the same group in the periodic table, so we expect similar results.”
Perovskite solar cells have only been around—and only in the lab—since 2008. In 2012, Kanatzidis and Chang reported the new tin perovskite solar cell with promises of higher efficiency and lower fabrication costs while being environmentally safe.
“Solar energy is free and is the only energy that is sustainable forever,” Kanatzidis said. “If we know how to harvest this energy in an efficient way we can raise our standard of living and help preserve the environment.”
The solid-state tin solar cell is a sandwich of five layers, with each layer contributing something important. Being inorganic chemists, Kanatzidis and his postdoctoral fellows Feng Hao and Constantinos Stoumpos knew how to handle troublesome tin, specifically methylammonium tin iodide, which oxidizes when in contact with air.
The first layer is electrically conducting glass, which allows sunlight to enter the cell. Titanium dioxide is the next layer, deposited onto the glass. Together the two act as the electric front contact of the solar cell.
Next, the tin perovskite—the light absorbing layer—is deposited. This is done in a nitrogen glove box—the bench chemistry is done in this protected environment to avoid oxidation.
On top of that is the hole transport layer, which is essential to close the electrical circuit and obtain a functional cell. This required Kanatzidis and his colleagues to find the right chemicals so as not to destroy the tin underneath. They determined what the best chemicals were—a substituted pyridine molecule—by understanding the reactivity of the perovskite structure. This layer also is deposited in the glove box. The solar cell is then sealed and can be taken out into the air.
A thin layer of gold caps off the solar-cell sandwich. This layer is the back contact electrode of the solar cell. The entire device, with all five layers, is about one to two microns thick.
The researchers then tested the device under simulated full sunlight and recorded a power conversion efficiency of 5.73 percent.
CLICK HERE to read the PHYS.org article.
CLICK HERE to read more regarding Perovskite solar cells.
By Brent Sauser
Last June I wrote an article on the V3 Solar Spin Cell. (CLICK HERE to read the article.) Back then the concept of a spinning solar cell that could convert solar energy directly to AC current was considered highly unlikely and, therefore, a fraud and a scam. Claims of significant improvements in efficiency at lower costs were met with skepticism by flat panel solar manufacturers. Admittedly, the revolutionary potential for solar spin technology would, if proved viable, be the eventual demise of the flat solar panel market, hence the dollar-driven push-back.
What has happened in the last 10 months since my last article? V3 Solar has continued their research and testing and have developed prototypes of solar AC spin generators that convert sunlight directly to AC current. V3 Solar has also developed additional methods for utilizing their spin technology, all of which are in the developmental phase. What was on the drawing boards 10 months ago is beginning to show positive signs of success.
NetZeroMax will continue to monitor V3 Solar’s progress and bring it to you. This is a wonderful example with how 21st Century technology and ingenuity is achieving more efficient and affordable sustainable products for the consumer. We wish V3 Solar continued success in their research and development of their spin cell technology.
By Brent Sauser
While traditional silicon-based solar panel technology continues to improve in efficiency and cost reduction, thin-film solar innovation is stretching the boundaries of application limited only by our imagination. Thin-film solar is less expensive than traditional solar panels, easier to manufacture, and is capable of being integrated into the overall building design, instead of being attached to the roof surface. Although not as efficient as solar panels, thin-film solar can be integrated into a window glazing system becoming part of the building skin; providing UV protection, radiant heat reduction, consistent renewable power during sunlight, and visual transparency. Thin-film permits the architect to integrate solar without it appearing as an afterthought, or secondary to the overall aesthetic approach. Not only has thin-film solar become a part of the window and glazing industry, but other practical applications for thin-film solar are coming on the market. Various types of roofing tile and shingle manufacturers are integrating thin-film solar into their products to permit the entire roof to function as a solar collector. Thin-film is being applied to flexible surfaces for placement between the standing seams of metal roofs, reducing roof penetrations in the process by “sticky back” application.
Thin-film technology has expanded the solar energy palette of renewable energy products, options, and applications. As citizens of the 21st Century we owe it to ourselves, especially those in the design and engineering community, to take advantage of these innovative breakthroughs that will move us further away from non-renewable resources for power, provide a more environmentally sensitive solution that benefits building occupants and the surrounding community . . . . not to mention money back in your pocket! Let’s collectively throw away the obsolete specifications of the past, embrace the realities of today, and “spec” forward.
The following videos demonstrate and explain in greater detail the benefits of thin-film BIPV systems.
Advancements in solar technology are happening every day. Whether with conventional silicon wafer solar panels or new advancements with thin-film solar PV . . . improved technology means greater efficiencies at lower costs.
- The fundamentals of PV technology
- Breakthroughs in thin-film technology, and
- Sharp’s Sunyvista transparent thin-film PV Windows
by Brent Sauser
It is an unwritten understanding that new home improvement products are not generally accepted or considered “mainstream” until the big-box retailers have brought them through their “doors” to the general public. I’m very pleased to announce that Home Depot and Lowe’s, two of the biggest big-box home improvement retailers, have embraced the solar energy kit market BIG TIME! One only needs to visit their websites to review a long list of solar panel kits that range from 1 kW to 9.5 kW in size. Both retailers have partnered with solar kit manufacturer, Grape Solar, and provide the same variety of kit options. Prices vary slightly. For example:
HOME DEPOT: Solar panel kits, from Grape Solar, are available on-line that range from 1 kW ($2,897) to 9.5 kW system ($21,475). A 5 kW solar kit costs $11,350. For more information regarding Home Depot solar panel kits CLICK HERE.
LOWE’S: Solar panel kits, from Grape Solar, are available on-line that range from 1 kW ($2,745) to 9.5 kW system ($21,399). A 5 kW solar kit costs $11,499. For more information regarding Lowe’s solar panel kits CLICK HERE.
When rebates and incentives are factored in, the net cost can be reduced from 30% and up. Federal incentives of 30% are in play through 2016. CLICK HERE to check out the additional incentives and rebates offered in your State.
Solar panel system installation has been simplified significantly to the “do-it-yourself” level, and the Grape Solar system offered by Home Depot and Lowe’s is no exception. Easy to follow instructions and videos are available to assist in installation.
A few minutes on-line will also reveal many other solar panel manufacturers offering kits for sale. The selection has never been greater, the costs lower, and installation easier than now. Freedom from non-renewable power has never been more affordable, more doable! Whether for new construction or remodeling, going solar makes dollars and “sense”.
At a time of heightened tensions in the Middle East – coupled with rising gasoline prices across the United States – there is finally some good news on the energy front. America’s solar energy industry is currently on pace to achieve a record-shattering year.
A new market analysis by SEIA and GTM Research shows the U.S. market installed 832 megawatts (MW) of new photovoltaic (PV) installations in the second quarter of this year – a whopping 15 percent increase over the first three months of 2013.
So what does this mean? Well, for starters, there are now 9,370 MW of solar electric capacity in the United States – which is enough clean electricity to power more than 1.5 million American homes, including the White House!
Here are some other key findings of the report:
- The U.S. residential market grew by 48 percent over Q2 2012.
- Solar is now more affordable than ever. Average PV system prices have declined by more than 40 percent since the beginning of 2011 – and by more than 50 percent since the beginning of 2010.
- What’s more, average module prices have declined by over 60 percent since the beginning of 2011.
- The U.S. PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) markets remain on pace for a record year in 2013. SEIA/GTM project that 4,400 MW of PV and more than 900 MW of CSP will come online throughout this year.
Why isn’t this front page news? Well, here’s the “dirty” little secret that opponents of clean, renewable energy don’t want you to know: Solar is boosting the U.S. economy, while helping to protect our environment.
Today, solar employs nearly 120,000 Americans at 5,600 companies, most of which are small businesses spread all across America, making solar one of the fastest-growing industries in America.
Right now, there are 38 utility-scale, clean energy solar projects under construction in the United States – utilizing both CSP and PV technologies – putting thousands of electricians, steelworkers and laborers to work, while also helping to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. These facilities, along with rooftop solar on homes, businesses and schools, will generate clean electricity for generations to come.
In addition, innovative solar heating and cooling systems are offering American consumers cost-efficient, effective options for meeting their energy needs, while lowering their utility bills.
Considered together, this all adds up to a huge shot-in-the-arm for the U.S. economy. Yet solar is truly the definition of a “twofer,” because we’re also helping the world to fight climate change.
It’s estimated that the 9.37 GW of solar electric capacity currently installed will displace 9,232,122 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually (effectively offsetting the need to plant 236 million trees). This is equivalent to:
- Displacing the emissions produced from burning nearly 40,000 railcars’ worth of coal.
- Removing 1.9 million cars from the road.
- Displacing the emissions produced from burning the gasoline contained in 121,764 tanker trucks.
- Replacing almost 3 coal-fired power plants with clean solar energy.
Take a few minutes to read the report, and you will see why solar is a such growing and important part of America’s future. Today, we’re helping to create new jobs, grow the U.S. economy, strengthen our nation’s long-term energy security and fight climate change.
Even as this new report comes out, the debate continues over how long oil, natural gas and coal reserves will last before becoming completely depleted. 100 years? 200 years? Maybe 300 years at most?
Then remember this: The life expectancy of the sun is about 5 billion years – give or take a millennia.
Finally, repeat after me: Hail solar.
Rhone Resch, SEIA President and CEO
By Brent Sauser
As an individual deeply committed to the Net Zero movement, I am always searching for leading edge news that can provide evidence of significant advancement in the ever-evolving Green Building arena. On rare occasion I come across something so amazingly different, so radical in concept, so potentially revolutionary, that one can’t help but think it’s too good to be true!
Enter the V3 Solar “Spin Cell”. To better understand the spin cell technology, the following is a portion of a V3 Spin Cell review provided by Bill Rever, Independent Consultant (December 18, 2012):
“The V3 Solar system is fundamentally a rotating assembly of photovoltaic cells under a structure of lenses that concentrate light onto the moving cells. The nominal shape of both the lens arrangement and the assembly of cells is conical, although this shape could be different if more optimal forms emerge in the design process. The design is referred to as the “Spin Cell”. The essential characteristics of the design are:
- Captures light from the full hemisphere of the sky to maximize the use of available insolation
- Motion of the cell assembly provides cooling solving a fundamental problem of systems using concentration
- The moving cell assembly can be used to produce an alternating current (ac) output directly without a traditional inverter
- The cooling effect is sufficient to allow for the use of mass produced one sun cells available from hundreds of manufacturers globally
- Enhanced efficiency is hypothesized via a “cascade effect” whereby cells retain and build some energy as they pass by the sequence of lenses
- The system is self-contained and doesn’t require additional racking and mounting – it can be mounted directly to earth screws, poles or other low cost foundations.”
Information provided on the V3 Solar website states:
“The Spin Cell’s ability to concentrate light dramatically reduces the amount of PV required for a given output, thus reducing the cost per watt. The improved efficiency of the PV means that less light is required to create the same amount of watts, further reducing costs and improving efficiency of the overall unit. With a 20X concentration of the sunlight, the Spin Cell can produce the same amount of power while using 5% of the PV material. Since the lensing costs 92% less than the PV material, this lowers the cost/watt.”
Some of the components are still patent pending and testing is being conducted on prototypes to verify and establish the extent of V3’s Spin Cell capability. Without doubt, this new approach to solar energy could, if testing proves out, change the course of solar technology as we know it. Flat panel manufacturers are not excited about it and have been quite vocal in their opposition to spin cell technology. Until the tests are in, we will not know for sure if this is fact or fraud. I can only hope that the technology turns out to be factual, but will reserve my endorsement until the results are in.
In the mean time . . . . I have my fingers crossed!
For further information regarding the V3 Solar Spin Cell CLICK HERE.