Solar Goes White

4af8a17c-1725-4cb0-8b74-93b41ce2a3afWhen people think of solar energy they think of red. Now people will start to think white. Neuchatel, Switzerland -based CSEM has produced what they believe to be the first white solar modules. According to company materials, the technology is attractive to the building industry where solar elements can blend into the building’s design and become a “hidden” renewable energy source.

CSEM’s white solar module technology has no visible cells and connections. It combines a solar cell technology able to convert infrared solar light into electricity and a selective scattering filter, which scatters the whole visible spectrum while transmitting infrared light. Any solar technology based on crystalline silicon can now be used to manufacture white, and colored, modules.

The technology can be applied on top of an existing module or integrated into a new module during assembly, on flat or curved surfaces.Besides its main application in building, CSEM expects other fields such as consumer electronics (laptops), and the car industry to show significant interest.

ONR Expands Green Reach in Asia-Pacific

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is expanding its work in Asia-Pacific’s renewable energy sector. The announcement was made during National Energy Action Month where the Navy is promoting energy efficiency and conservation by participating in and hosting events around the world. The announcement comes after ONR’s work with the Chiang Mai World Green City that was established two years ago at Chiang Mai Rajabhat University with support from ONR. It uses solar cells, batteries for energy storage and a direct-current (DC) microgrid to power more than 20 buildings over 200 acres, including residences, offices, businesses and a vegetable farm.

Navy National Energy Month poster“Each new partnership we establish moves the United States and our allies closer to energy independence,” said Dr. Richard Carlin, head of ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department. “This system is unique in that it uses direct current to power an entire community. While this concept is perfect for isolated and remote communities, it also could be used in the future on naval installations and even ships at sea to bring power to our Sailors and Marines wherever they are.”

Scientists in Thailand plan to establish another smart grid-powered village at the University of Phayao and introduce sustainable technologies to military barracks and other communities throughout the country.

ONR now has turned its attention to Vietnam, where there is an abundance of solar, biomass, wind, geothermal, hydro and other rich renewable energy sources. The U.S.-Vietnam collaboration also will take advantage of investments made in Hawaii, where ONR is sponsoring a study of electrical grids for three naval bases. As part of that initiative, the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) and the Applied Research Laboratory at the University of Hawaii are working with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command to develop an action plan for the Navy’s energy needs in Hawaii.

“We are expanding our research collaboration to Vietnam to build off the success in Thailand and to support the United States in our pivot to the Asia-Pacific region,” said Dr. Cung Vu, ONR Global associate director for power and energy. “Vietnam’s remote rural, mountainous and island areas will benefit from ONR’s microgrid research, and the Navy will be able to increase its understanding of energy-efficient technologies through another key partnership.”

Renewables Continue to Gain Ground

Renewables continue to gain ground according to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report renewable energy sources including biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind, account for more than 40.61 percent of all new U.S. electrical generating capacity installed during the first nine months of 2014. Only natural gas provided more new generating capacity. The report was published by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects (FERC).

Wind EnergyNew capacity in 2014 from the combination of renewable energy sources is nearly 35 times that of coal, oil and nuclear combined (3,598 MW vs. 104 MW). When looking at just September, renewable energy sources accounted for 2/3 of the 603 MW of new generating capacity put in service (367 MW of wind/60.8% plus 41 MW of solar/6.8%).

Of the 8,860 MW of new generating capacity from all sources installed since January 1, 2014, 187 “units” of solar accounted for 1,671 MW (18.86%), followed by 28 units of wind 1,614 MW (18.22%), 7 units of hydropower 141 MW (1.59%), 38 units of biomass 140 MW (1.58%), and 5 units of geothermal 32 MW (0.36%). The balance came from 41 units of natural gas 5,153 MW (58.16%), 1 unit of nuclear 71 MW (0.80%), 11 units of oil 33 MW (0.37%), and 6 units of “other” 7 MW (0.08%). There has been no new coal capacity added thus far in 2014.

Comparing the first nine months of 2014 to the same period in 2013, new generating capacity from renewable energy sources grew by 11.8 percent (3,598 MW vs. 3,218 MW). Renewable energy sources now account for 16.35 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S. – up from 15.68 percent a year earlier: water – 8.45 percent, wind – 5.35 percent, biomass – 1.38 percent, solar – 0.84 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.33 percent. Renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.23%) and oil (3.97%) combined.

“The steady and rapid growth of renewable energy is unlikely to abate as prices continue to drop and the technologies continue to improve,” commented Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The era of coal, oil, and nuclear is drawing to a close; the age of renewable energy is now upon us.”

SEIA Launches Campaign to Extend Solar Tax Credits

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has launched a national campaign designed to get Congress to extend the 30 percent solar Solar Power International 14 logoInvestment Tax Credit (ITC) beyond 2016. The campaign focuses on ‘tax fairness’. SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch announced the campaign during the opening session of Solar Power International (SPI). The campaign will begin in full stream in 2015, when a new Congress is sworn in.

“Since the United States first began incentivizing energy development, the average annual subsidy has been $4.8 billion for oil and gas, compared to just $370 million for all renewable technologies,” Resch said. “How is this fair? How is this a leveling playing field? How does this kind of policy support an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy? Simply put, it doesn’t.”

Since the ITC went into effect in 2006, solar investment has exponentially grown. According to Resch, Solar installations in 2014 will be 70 times higher than they were in 2006, and by the end of this year, there will be nearly 30 times more installed solar capacity. There are also more than 143,000 Americans currently employed in solar.

“We’ve gone from being an $800-million industry in 2006 to a $15-billion industry today,” added Resch. “The price to install a solar rooftop system has been cut in half, while utility systems have dropped by 70 percent. It’s taken the U.S. solar industry 40 years to install the first 20 gigawatts (GW) of solar. Now, we’re going to install the next 20 GW in the next two years. And finally, during every single week of this year we’re going to install more capacity than what we did during the entire year in 2006. Tell me that’s not worth fighting for.”

NRG Energy & MGM Install Rooftop Solar System

NRG Energy, Inc. and MGM Resorts International have completed installation of what they believe is the world’s largest rooftop solar array on a convention center. Covering approximately 20 acres atop the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, the 6.4 MW photovoltaic array will produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 1,000 average sized U.S. homes each year and is the first of its kind on the Las Vegas Strip.

“Together, MGM Resorts and NRG are an excellent example of private sector companies working together to develop innovative technologies that protect our planet’s most precious resources,” said Nevada Senator and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “I applaud MGM and NRG for leading the way for other businesses to embrace environmental best practices, and demonstrating that it’s good for business.”

Mandalay Bay Solar ArrayMGM Resorts and NRG also announced plans to build an additional 2 MW dc photovoltaic array atop a future expansion of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, scheduled to begin construction later this year.

“Today marks a major milestone for MGM Resorts, NRG and the entire Las Vegas community,” said Jim Murren, Chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International. “The completion of this solar array demonstrates our steadfast commitment to the principles of environmental responsibility, and the announcement of the second array reinforces that we’re always looking to do more.”

When the addition is completed, the solar project is projected to provide pricing stability and reduce energy draw from the grid during peak times. Through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), Mandalay Bay Resort will purchase all the electricity generated by both solar arrays.

Tom Doyle, President and CEO of NRG Renew added, “As one of the largest providers of renewable energy solutions in North America, we’re delighted to be the chosen partner of MGM Resorts to take this giant leap forward and join their longstanding legacy in environmental stewardship. NRG envisions a thriving, sustainable future powered by renewable energy. We look forward to continuing our partnership with MGM in bringing competitively priced, clean energy to Mandalay Bay through the second solar array of this project; further supporting their commitment to reducing energy costs.”

Study: Leasing Ups Interest in Residential Solar

A national poll by EnviroMedia fins that a large majority of Americans are definately or somewhat interested in new solar leasing programs offering installation for little or no money down and a low monthly fee.

EnviroMedia solar leasing poll“It’s no surprise we found 70 percent of Americans perceived ‘cost’ was a barrier to installing solar panels,” said EnviroMedia president and behavior change expert Kevin Tuerff. “Consumers are probably unaware of the plummeting cost of solar power, and most have never heard of solar leasing.”

The new poll finds 48 percent of American homeowners say they have not considered adding solar panels to their home to offset some of their electricity use. However interest in a solar option spiked when respondents were educated about the benefits of a solar leasing program. About 67 percent said that they were very or somewhat interested in such a program.

The poll also found that only 9 percent of respondents said they currently participate in a renewable energy or green power option with their electricity provider. But 69 percent said they might be interested.

“Americans need basic education about where their electricity comes from and how clean energy works,” added Tuerff. “Unfortunately, only one-third of Americans said they definitely know the fuel source of their electricity, so we’ve got a ways to go.”

Panasonic to Install 68 EV Charging Stations

Panasonic is providing engineering, construction and procurement services to Powertree Services Inc. (Powertree) to build 68 electric vehicle charging stations at several multi-unit residential properties in San Francisco, California. The EV charging stations will be powered by solar energy a battery storage component. When complete the EV charging stations will have the ability to supply high power charging to vehicles, ancillary services provided to the utility to support the grid, solar power to tenants and supplemental power to the buildings. The stations are scheduled to be completed by Earth Day 2015.

Powertree EV charging station“Panasonic is committed to driving new technologies and collaborating with entrepreneurs to help bring about renewable energy options and a sustainable future. Our work now will pay off in terms of future economic and other benefits for building owners, and a reduction in greenhouse gases,” said Panasonic Enterprise Solutions’ Jamie Evans, Eco Solutions Managing Director.

When complete, the 68 stations will result in a total installed capacity of 6.1 megawatts of power and 2.5 megawatts of EV charging capacity. Each station is configured to support up to 70 amps or 18 kilowatts. This is roughly equivalent to 60 to 70 miles of range for every hour of charging. The exact rate of charging depends on vehicle models. The stations will be powered by on site photovoltaic panels, and can generate clean energy for building use, or have the ability to provide backup generation, in the event of a grid outage.

Stacey Reineccius, founder and CEO of Powertree, added, “Owners of multi-tenant apartment and mixed use buildings face a rising demand from tenants, drivers and new regulations that combine to require them to install, manage, upgrade electric charging facilities and support electric vehicles. With Powertree Services owners can turn this potentially burdensome situation into new value and offer attractive new amenities for their tenants even in medium to small urban properties with no capital outlay by the property owner.”

Positive Energy Trends Bode Well for US

According to a new report, “Positive Energy Trends Bode Well for U.S. Security and the Economy,” smarter use of energy is the biggest contributor to three positive trends: reducing of oil dependence, slowing the growth of electricity needs and making energy services more affordable to Americans.

“Despite what you may be hearing from a final onslaught of negative campaign ads, the security and affordability of America’s energy services has never been better, and energy efficiency is the most important reason why,” said Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the Natural NRDC 2014 Energy ReportResources Defense Council (NRDC) energy program, who commissioned the study. “The latest data confirms that our consumption of energy, including oil and coal, remains well below its peak levels from a decade ago. However, we can and should do more.”

NRDC’s Second Annual Energy Report is an analysis of new government data on 2013 U.S. energy use that shows optimizing energy use through efficiency continues to contribute more to meeting U.S. energy needs than any other resource, from oil and coal to natural gas and nuclear power.

“Efficiency helps America get more work out of less oil, natural gas, and electricity while pushing our economy forward and cutting residential, business, and industrial customers’ bills,” added Cavanagh. “Far less costly than adding other energy resources like fossil fuels that also create climate-changing pollution, efficiency saves the nation hundreds of billions of dollars annually, prevents millions of tons of carbon emissions, helps U.S. workers and companies compete worldwide, and increases our energy security.”

The report notes the nation is already two-thirds of the way toward meeting President Obama’s goal of cutting 3 billion tons of carbon pollution by 2030 through his administration’s efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings, which also will lower customer energy bills by more than $4 billion. Meanwhile, the government’s proposed emissions standards for existing power plants would keep over 5.3 billion additional tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. But based on the nation’s positive energy trends, the report says even larger reductions are feasible and cost-effective.

How to Power Up Clean Power Plan

According to an analysis conduced by the Union of Concern Scientists (UCS), states can cost-effectively produce nearly twice as much renewable electricity as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculated in the Clean Power Plan. Increased renewable electricity growth could allow states to collectively cut heat-trapping carbon emissions from power plants by as much as 40 percent below 2005 levels rather than the 30 percent reduction the EPA included in its draft rule.

EPA-targets-are-modestOverall the EPA calculated that renewables could comprise 12 percent of U.S. electricity sales in 2030, marginally more than business-as-usual projections from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). If fully implemented, UCS’s proposed modified approach for setting state targets would result in renewables supplying at least 23 percent of national power sales by 2030.

“There is an urgent need to reduce heat trapping gases, and power plants are about forty percent of the problem,” said Ken Kimmell, UCS’s president and former head of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. “Fortunately, renewable electricity has been growing by leaps and bounds for the past five years and costs keep dropping. That’s great news and the agency should take full advantage of what’s been happening on the ground.”

UCS’s analysis found that seven states are already producing more renewable electricity than EPA computed they could in 2030 under its draft rule. Additionally, 17 states have existing laws that require more renewable electricity than EPA’s targets. Continue reading

The Veteran Asset Training Vets in Solar

The Veteran Asset (TVA) is training veterans across the U.S. for careers in solar energy. The non-profit has announced the availability of TVA scholarships to help cover cost of education.

Scott Duncan, Lieutenant Colonel U.S. Marine Corp (Retired) Scoot Duncan is co-founder and CEO of The Veteran Asset whose mission is recruiting, training and placing veterans into the renewable energy sector, at no cost to the veterans. He said they are establishing the highest quality benchmgI_93484_Jose on Roofark in the industry.

“We are hand-selecting veterans and transitioning military candidates, screening and qualifying them for TVA scholarships,” said Duncan. “This very solar-specific recruiting and training process makes TVA graduates extremely valuable to the solar community. Effort on the front end assures high-quality graduates. By vetting out the right candidates, we insure that the end result is a skilled, solar-trained workforce, which is already proving to make a tremendous difference to the solar companies that hire them and to the industry in general.”

The hand-selected veteran recruits are provided a 32-hour course, entitled Entry Level Solar PV Design and Installation, offered in the Ambassador Energy College training facility in Murrieta, California. On the final day of the course, the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Entry Level Exam is proctored. The TVA formula appears to be working, as the majority of those who have graduated the program since May 2014 have found gainful employment within the solar industry.

Dates for upcoming courses include October 20 – 24 and November 17 – 21, 2014. Interested candidates should visit The Veteran Asset’s website, where they may obtain course details and apply for an interview by TVA staff.

Ecotech Institute Offers Free Energy e-Books

Ecotech Institute has released a series of free energy ebooks detailing how to begin a career in wind or solar energy. The guides cover issues from a day in the life of a Ditch the Desk Ecotech Instituterenewable energy technician to potential salaries to required skills and advice form current professionals working in the solar and wind industries.

The wind and solar energy renewable energy industries continue to do well, but according to Ecotech Institute that doesn’t mean getting a green job is easy. The jobs take specialized training, cleantech industry knowledge and passion is a plus.

  • Future solar and wind technicians have one place to access vital information, including:
  • Key industry facts about the renewable energy sector;
  • Tips for job seekers in the energy efficiency field;
  • Expectations and requirements for wind and solar energy green jobs;
  • Cleantech employment trends;
  • And advice from working industry experts and technicians.
  • Learn everything there is to know about “ditching the desk” and landing a green job in the wind or solar industry by downloading the free Wind and Solar Energy eBooks here.

Ecotech Institute is the first and only school in the U.S. that is solely dedicated to sustainable energy. The school currently offers eight associate’s degree programs, including hands-on training for wind and solar energy technology:

Tanzania Mini-Grid Project Underway

Continental Energy Corporation, an emerging international energy investment company, announced that its Tanzanian affiliate, Ruaha River Power Company Ltd. has begun construction of the Phase-I development of its Malolo Mini-Grid. They have also begun signing up first subscribers from a waiting list of 400 customers. The Mini-Grids are being installed in an area surrounding the village of Malolo and three nearby villages, all located in the Kilosa District, Morogoro Region, Tanzania.

The Malolo Mini-Grid is the first of four separate, isolated rural “Mini-Grids” to be built, owned, and operated by the Ruaha Power, from which Tanzania flagit intends to generate, distribute, and sell electrical power directly to consumers at pre-payment meters. When complete, the four Malolo Mini-Grids will have a combined generation capacity of 300kW and each Mini-Grid shall directly deliver 75kW of power to a combined total of approximately 2,500 identified residential, commercial, and light industrial customers.

Phase-I of the Malolo Mini-Grid development is expected to begin delivering power by the end of the first quarter of 2015. It involves the installation and commissioning of the first embedded generators, a 25kW hybrid biomass gasifier and a 25kW diesel generation plant, together with more than four kilometers of low voltage distribution network.

The distribution network will be constructed to standards sufficient for connection to the national grid at such time as it may be extended into the Malolo Mini-Grid area. A 21,500 square-foot site near the village of Malolo has been acquired for the first generator house and power line easements have been arranged. Civil works and the construction of the first powerhouse and office has begun and are expected to be complete by year end.

A Phase-II development is planned to add solar PV capacity to complete a hybrid biomass-solar PV-diesel powered Mini-Grid. Ruaha Power plans to duplicate the Phase-I and Phase-II development at each of the other three villages, one after the other, upon completion of Phase-II of the first network.

Abengoa Yield’s Solana Solar Project Wins Award

Abengoa Yield has announced that Solana, its Arizona-based solar power plant, received the Energy Storage North America (ESNA) Innovation Award in the Utility-Scale category. WinnersAbengoa Yield Solana solar field were announced on October 1st, 2014, at the ESNA Innovation Awards ceremony in San Jose, California. Winners were chosen by the ESNA Advisory Board and votes on social media.

According to the company, Solana is the largest solar parabolic trough plant in the world. Located near Gila Bend, Arizona, it has a total installed capacity of 280 megawatts. With a six-hour molten-salt thermal energy storage capacity, it supplies clean energy to Arizona Public Service (APS), Arizona’s largest utility, meeting peaks of demand before dawn and after dusk.

Intermittency issues are a signficant hurdle with renewable energy such as solar. Using solar thermal energy coupled with molten salt elimates this issue according to the company. The storage component also increases dispatchability in
the power generation process, creating systems which can operate flexibly both with and without solar radiation.

The company explains that Solana’s parabolic trough collectors track the sun and concentrate sunlight onto receiver tubes located at a focal point of each collector. A heat transfer fluid (HTF) is heated as it circulates inside the tubes and is then circulated back to a central power plant. The HTF then passes through a series of heat exchangers to produce superheated steam that is used to generate clean electricity in a conventional steam turbine generator.

Martifer Solar Closes Contracts

Martifer Solar, a subsidiary of Martifer SGPS, has added close to 90 MW of new third party O&M contracts throughout Italy. According to the company, they have been able to distinguish its O&M Service capabilities in Italy by leveraging a resourceful and qualified local O&M staff, the company´s high quality processes and systems integration, such as its award-winning Operation Management System, and its global industry expertise.

Henrique Rodrigues, CEO of Martifer Solar, said, “We are proud when Clients such as DIF and Eland rely on our O&M team to complement their Asset Management services as it demonstrates that the market is recognizing our strength and reliability as a global O&M Service provider.”

MTS_OM_Italy_PR_1With this recent achievement from the Italian team, Martifer Solar´s global solar O&M portfolio has grown to more than 550 MW of plants under supervision across Europe, Asia and the Americas. The portfolio is comprised of both plants completed by third parties and those built by Martifer Solar.

David Lau, Associate Director of DIF who has contracted with Martifer Solar, said, “As our strategy is focused on targeting investments that generate predictable, long-term and stable cash flows, we need to count on a credible and trusted partner like Martifer Solar to provide operation and maintenance services for our assets.”

The recent addition to the Italian portfolio will strengthen Martifer Solar´s pace as the third largest vertically-integrated O&M player in Europe, as named by recognized research firm, Greentech Media Research. “As we have done here in Italy, as well as other European markets such as Spain, France and the UK, we expect to double the capacity of our O&M portfolio in the near future,” added Rodrigues.

Renewables Outpacing Nuclear

According to a recent Vital Signs, renewable energy is outpacing nuclear electricity expansion even though renewables still have a long way to go to catch up with fossil fuel power plants. Michael Renner, senior researcher with Worldwatch Institute writes that nuclear energy’s share of global power production has declined steadily from a peak of 17.6 percent in 1996 to 10.8 percent in 2013. Renewables increased their share from 18.7 percent in 2000 to 22.7 percent in 2012.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, following a rapid rise from its beginnings in the mid-1950s, global nuclear power generating capacity peaked at 375.3 gigawatts (GW) in 2010. Capacity has since declined to 371.8 GW in 2013. Adverse economics, concern about reactor safety and proliferation and the unresolved question of what to do with nuclear waste have put the brakes on the industry according to Renner.

Vital Signs - NuclearIn contrast, wind and solar power generating capacities are now on the same soaring trajectory that nuclear power was on in the 1970s and 1980s. Wind capacity of 320 GW in 2013 is equivalent to nuclear capacity in 1990. The 140 GW in solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity is still considerably smaller, but growing rapidly.

In recent years, renewable energy has attracted far greater investments than nuclear power. According to estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA), nuclear investments averaged US$8 billion per year between 2000 and 2013, compared with $37 billion for solar PV and $43 billion for wind. Individual countries, of course, set diverging priorities, but nowhere did nuclear have a major role in power generation investments.

In contrast with investment priorities, research budgets still favor nuclear technologies. Nuclear energy attracted $295 billion, or 51 percent, of total energy R&D spending between 1974 and 2012. But this number has declined over time, from a high of 73.6 percent in 1974 to 26 percent today. Renewable energy received a cumulative total of $59 billion during the same period (10.2 percent), but its share has risen year after year. Because wind and solar power can be deployed at variable scales, and their facilities constructed in less time, these technologies are far more practical and affordable for most countries than nuclear power reactors. Worldwide, 31 countries are operating nuclear reactors on their territories. This compares to at least 85 countries that have commercial wind turbine installations.

The chances of a nuclear revival seem slim writes Renner. Renewable energy, by contrast, appears to be on the right track. But it is clear that renewables have a long way to go before they can hope to supplant fossil fuels as the planet’s principal electricity source.