Equatorial Guinea Installing Solar Microgrid

The government of Equatorial Guinea is installing a self-sufficient solar microgrid project in Annobon Province in partnership with three American companies: the consulting firm MAECI Solar, GE Power & Water and Princeton Power Systems. This project will be Africa’s largest self-sufficient solar microgrid and will bring significant benefits to the West African nation. It will supply Annobon Island with reliable, predictable power and will supply enough electricity to handle 100 percent of the island’s current energy demand.

Annabon Province“The solar microgrid will feature 5-MW solar modules and system integration by MAECI, an energy management system and controls from Princeton Power Systems and energy storage from GE,” MAECI said in a news release. Chris Massaro, senior vice president of MAECI noted that the project would both raise the quality of life and advance the Equatoguinean government’s goal of diversifying the economy.

“The Annobon Electrification Project will be the platform for economic growth on the island by bringing a much needed power supply that will enable the development of multiple industries, add 700 to 1,000 direct and indirect jobs to Annobon Island and significantly raise the standard of living,” added Massaro.

Annobon Province consists of tiny Annobon Island and has a population of 5,000. The Annobon Province currently has reliable electricity for only a few hours a day, but the solar microgrid aims to provide electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The project is a part of Equatorial Guinea’s National Economic Development Plan Horizon 2020, which aims to make Equatorial Guinea an ‘emerging economy’ and accelerate its development and democratization by 2020.”

CSP: ELEMENTS Awarded to Southern Research Institute

Southern Research Institute has signed a jointly funded cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as part of the DOE’s new Concentrating Solar Power: Efficiently Leveraging Equilibrium Mechanisms for Engineering New Thermochemical Storage (CSP: ELEMENTS) funding program. The program is part of the SunShot Initiative. CSP: ELEMENTS supports the development of high-temperature thermochemical energy storage (TCES) systems that enable concentrating solar power plants to produce electricity in the evenings and even overnight when the sun is no longer shining.

“Southern Research Institute is excited and honored to be selected by DOE for this project,” said Michael D. Johns, vice president engineering at Southern Research Institute. “We are proud to be recognized for our leadership in alternative energy, and the development of this innovative thermochemical storage system is in great alignment with the work at our recently established Southeast Solar Research Center, where we design, test, and validate technologies throughout the solar energy spectrum.”

CSP technology employs mirrors that concentrate reflected sunlight onto receivers containing heat transfer fluids. From there, the fluids are used to heat water, which in turn generates steam that is used to power turbines and produce electricity. By adding thermal storage to these facilities they are able to operate at significantly higher capacity factors and produce approximately double the energy for the same size power facility. In addition, the production of electricity can be shifted to occur at the same time as peak power demand, making the electricity much more valuable.

More specifically, the Southern Research Institute project will develop a TCES system that uses a low-cost calcium-based sorbent in a reversible closed-loop endothermic-exothermic chemical reaction cycle. The system stores energy during mid-day when sunlight is plentiful in the endothermic step, and then releases energy when the sun is no longer shining during the exothermic step, allowing for electricity to be produced in a more stable and consistent fashion. This TCES system is projected to cost less than a current state-of-the-art molten salt storage systems, and will be able to store the same amount of energy in a system about one-sixth the size. Continue reading

Prez Michelle Bachelet of Chile Inaugurates Solar Plant

President Michelle Bachelet of Chile inaugurated the Amanecer Solar CAP plant in Copiapo, Chile. The solar project is the largest photovoltaic solar power plant in Latin America and one of the largest in the world. The project was developed, built and interconnected by SunEdison under an offtake agreement with CAP Group.

The Amanecer Solar CAP plant has 100 MW of total installed capacity; the amount of energy consumed each year by approximately 125,000 Chilean homes, or equivalent to 10 percent of the renewable energy generation capacity goal established by the Chilean Government for 2014. The project involves an investment of US $250 million and is critical for the future development of renewable energy in Chile and Latin America.

SunEdison 100 MW Amanecer Solar CAP Power PlantAhmad Chatila, President and CEO of SunEdison, noted: “This project has changed the course of renewable energy development not only in Chile and Latin America, but throughout the world. Amanecer Solar CAP has become a benchmark for SunEdison in how to develop photovoltaic solar energy on an international level.”

Located 37 kilometers from Copiapo in the Atacama Desert, the plant has more than 310,000 photovoltaic modules spread over 250 acres. The Amanecer Solar CAP plant was built in six months and all of its energy is injected into the Central Interconnected System, which lowers the net cost of grid electricity.

In its first year of operation it is estimated that the plant will inject 270 GWh (gigawatt hours) of clean energy into the system. To generate the same amount of energy using diesel would require more than 71 million liters of fuel.

Jose Perez, President of SunEdison for Europe, Africa and Latin America, added: “This plant demonstrates that photovoltaic solar energy is an ideal way of diversifying the energy matrix in Chile, reducing costs and contributing towards meeting the demand for clean and sustainable energy. SunEdison has now interconnected 150 MW in the Atacama Desert – the 100 MW Amanecer Solar CAP plant plus a 50 MW power plant in San Andres – and this is just the starting point. We are firmly committed to the future of clean energy production and the development of the energy industry in Chile.”

Spider ST Solar Roof Mount System Seeing Success

Patriot Solar Group (PSG) has announced they are seeing success with their recently launched Spider ST roof mount system. The Spider ST is a polypropylene polymer-based roof mount for commercial flat roof applications. Because of its design and ease of use, the company says it offers solar installers unique cost saving features.

Patriot Solar Group Spider STAlthough mounting systems are defined as “hardware costs,” the the company says Spider ST reduces soft costs, which account for a large percentage of installed system costs for roof-top solar projects.

Patriot Solar Group explains its “snap together” design requires no tools for assembly and comes standard with integrated grounding – significantly lowering associated mechanical and electrical labor. The design to build process is shortened due to zero roof penetrations and lighter roof loading because of its airfoil wind deflector design.

“Projects are getting financed quicker and more easily because of our extensive research data, wind tunnel testing and UL 2703 compliance – thus further reducing associated soft costs,” said Jeff Mathie, president of Patriot Solar Group, “Developers, building owners, roof manufacturers and financiers feel very comfortable using the Spider ST and we are seeing a stronger market acceptance towards polymer based materials for racking.”

South Africa Lights Up With 2 New Solar Projects

SunPower Corp. and AE-AMD Renewable Energy, a joint venture between the Spanish and the AMDA energía South African Alt-E Technologies, as well as its partners have completed two South African ground-mounted solar projects. The solar power systems are now feeding 33 megawatts (MW) into the grid. Both projects, which were constructed by SunPower, are located near Douglas, South Africa in the Northern Cape Province.

“The successful completion of these projects, on time, demonstrates what can be achieved with committed and professional partners,” said Piero Granelli, AE-AMD CEO. “The projects not only help SunPower Corp Herbert power plantto alleviate pressure on the country’s power supply, but also provide much needed support to the local communities over the lifetime of the plants.”

Herbert, a 22-MW project, and the 11-MW project Greefspan, were both part of the South African government’s Independent Power Producer Procurement Program. Combined, the solar projects cover more than 160 hectares, or 395 acres, of land and feature 138,000 solar photovoltaic panels on single-axis trackers. The trackers are programmed to follow the sun throughout the day, ensuring the maximum amount of power is being generated.

“With the completion of the Herbert and Greefspan projects, SunPower continues its track record of building highly efficient and reliable solar power plants around the globe,” said Howard Wenger, SunPower president, regions. “We’re now looking forward to continuing our efforts in South Africa as we prepare to begin work on an even larger solar power project in Prieska.”

Both systems are owned by AE-AMD Renewable Energy and its partners, including the IDEAS Fund, an infrastructure fund managed by Old Mutual Investment Group of South Africa. Electricity generated from the solar power projects will be sold to Eskom.

Wind, Solar Solution for New EPA Power Plant Rules

epa-logoThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce later today new rules to reduce carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants by 30 percent by 2030, and a couple of renewable energy sources could help states comply. This article from the Boston Globe says solar and wind energy might be part of the compliance mix.

Under the rule, states will be given a menu of policy options to achieve the pollution cuts. Rather than immediately shut down coal plants, states could reduce emissions by making changes across their electricity systems — by installing new wind and solar generation or energy-efficiency technology, and by starting or joining state and regional “cap and trade” programs, in which states agree to cap carbon pollution and buy and sell permits to pollute.

And this article from the Houston Chronicle says power plants in Texas could end up in good shape because they use clean-burning natural gas.

[T]he state would have some 110 fully operating power plants, mostly fueled by natural gas, [Al Armendariz, a former EPA official who now leads the Sierra Club's anti-coal campaign in Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas] said. “That’s the good news. The problem can be solved at a small number of plants. This will not affect nuclear plants or natural gas plants.”

Texas officials said the low prices for natural gas have led to the seasonal mothballing of coal-fired plants and reduced their output overall. The shift, they said, will lead to fewer emissions of greenhouse gases.

You can bet more renewable energy sources will be chiming in when the rule is announced later today.

Researchers Look to Find Motivations Behind Solar

KiranResearchers are trying to figure what motivates which consumers to buy solar equipment. This article from Sandia National Laboratories in California says they’re trying to better understand what persuades people to buy photovoltaic (PV) systems for their homes in hopes of increasing the amount of solar energy in the electricity market from its current share of less than .05 percent to at least 14 percent by 2030.

“If we can develop effective and accurate predictive models, we can help identify policy variables that could increase purchases of residential PV systems and ultimately help advance the mission of the SunShot Initiative,” said Kiran Lakkaraju, Sandia’s project lead. Specifically, he said, an effective model of solar purchase dynamics can be used to predict and even influence consumer purchasing decisions.

The modeling project, part of the Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies (SEEDS) program, is one of many activities in the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, which seeks to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity. SEEDS projects are designed to investigate methods for transforming the operations of solar researchers, manufacturers, developers, installers and policymakers.

Meanwhile, another group of researchers at Sandia are using computer models to predict homeowners’ likelihood to buy and invest in PV systems. A group of 1,000 respondents who have bought PV systems and another 1,000 who have not are being surveyed about their choices with those results being examined by quantitative modeling experts and fed into modeling tools. Other research is looking at how messaging about solar can influence consumer demand.

Wind Leads Renewable Energy Increase in Texas

Cielo Wind Power farm in TexasOil-rich Texas is seeing a surge in renewable energy use, and that surge is being led by wind. This article from the Dallas Business Journal says an Electric Reliability Council of Texas report shows wind, solar and other renewable energy sources increased 12 percent last year, with wind making up the lion’s share of that increase.

Renewable energy produced 38.1 million megawatt hours of power in 2013 compared to just 33.9 million MWh in 2013. Wind power makes up 97 percent of the renewable generation. Wind generation grew by more than 4 million MWh , or 13 percent, in 2013 as well.

Solar grew by 33 percent, or 40,000 MWh, in 2013. Landfill gas had a modest increase, too.

The article goes on to say that biomass and hydroelectric actually went down in 2013.

UCR Unveils Sustainable Grid Initiative

The University ofSIGI-graphic California, Riverside has launched its Sustainable Integrated Grid Initiative to research the integration of intermittent renewable energy including photovoltaic solar panels, energy storage including batteries, and all types of electric and hybrid electric vehicles. The project is the largest of its kind in the state.

“This project puts UC Riverside at the forefront of smart grid and electric vehicle research, providing a unique platform for engineers and utilities to identify and solve potential problems at scale,” said Matthew Barth, lead investigator of the initiative and the director of UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT). Continue reading

Students Hope to Get Solar Edge from Soy

Students at Appalachian State University (ASU) are hoping to get the edge during the Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 using soy-biobased products. The student team designed and built a “reimagined” solar-powered row house that is sailing to France to compete against 20 global teams. ASU, located in Boone, North DOEstudentsfastenersinwoodCarolina, is one of three schools chosen for the sister competition to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

“We congratulate these students on their innovation and leadership for sustainability,” said United Soybean Board Customer Focus Action Team Chair John Motter. “People around the world will learn from their example.”

The students worked around the clock to design and build the “Maison Reciprocity” house that they will also disassemble and ship to France from Norfolk, Virginia on May 16, 2014. Once in Versailles, students from ASU along with their partner school, Université d’Angers, will unite to reassemble and then compete in the house that offers multiple environmental attributes.

Soy-based, formaldehyde-free plywood as well as durable floor matting are important features of Maison Reciprocity. Students used 1,700 square feet of Columbia Forest Products’ PureBond® hardwood plywood made with its soy-based formaldehyde-free adhesive on DOEstudenttylerthepanelguyfloors, walls and stairs. The product won the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Presidential Green Chemistry Award. Formaldehyde is classified as a known human carcinogen.

“These panels not only provide an attractive finish, but the fact that they are formaldehyde free is an important attribute that will help our entry compete in the ambient air quality portion of the competition,” said Mark Bridges, a graduate student at ASU and the communications manager for the project. “The floor mat, basically a 30-feet-long runner, will protect the floors from the large amount of foot traffic that the home will experience during its weeks of open houses,” Bridges says.

EcoPath™ and the USB provided the mat backed with EnviroCel™, which uses soy as well as recycled plastics. The mats are widely used at the Pentagon and other major facilities with very heavy foot traffic.

Crystalline Module Manufacturers Outsource Trend

According to a new report from GlobalData, significant growth in market demand and attempts to reduce a number of costs are fueling a module production outsourcing trend among the world’s leading crystalline module manufacturers. Ankit Mathur, GlobalData’s Project Manager for Alternative Energy, said that out of the top crystalline module manufacturers – Yingli Green Energy, Trina Solar, Sharp Corporation, Canadian Solar and Jinko Solar – only the latter company and Trina Solar are able to utilize their own module production fabrication lines without the need for outsourcing.

silicon modulesMeanwhile, Mathur continued, the other companies, including Yingli Solar, have a less-than-68 percent factory utilization rate. However, these firms are still able to boast substantial module manufacturing under their own brand names by outsourcing their production to Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) partners.

“Sharp Corporation’s recent announcement that it will outsource its entire module production from 2014 signifies that most of the leading companies are taking the outsourcing route,” said Mathur. “This is due to a massive increase in global market demand, which is difficult for manufacturers to meet using their existing production capacity. Attempts to reduce other costs, such as logistics costs related to transporting modules from the factory to the customer, are also contributing factors.”

Until last year, key manufacturers could leverage upon plummeting silicon prices to reduce module production costs. However, the expected price recovery of polysilicon in 2014 will make it difficult to implement such reductions further. As a result, said Mathur, companies will either outsource their entire production capacity to OEMs, or produce a certain proportion of modules from their production lines and source the rest from OEM partners.

PowerBridgeNY Student Award Winners Announced

The first student winners of the PowerBridgeNY awards have been announced by New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. The recently established Proof-of-Concept Center aids clean energy ideas move from the laboratory to commercial product. These awards continue to support the development of New York’s cleantech economy to create jobs and businesses focused on emerging clean-energy technologies.

New York is taking a leading role in supporting the development of cleantech products that are environmentally friendly, reduce energy use and increase reliability of the State’s energy systems,” said Governor Cuomo. “When the best and brightest cleantech researchers in New York State have the opportunity to collaborate with smart, experienced experts in the private sector, the result can be a powerful force for economic development resulting in a cleaner, greener, more sustainable state for future generations.”

cleaning-solar-panelsPowerBridgeNY was created by Columbia University and New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering, leading a consortium of public research institutions throughout the State, and is partially funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The winners, who were awarded up to $150,000, are working on products with the potential to reduce wastewater treatment costs, increase energy efficiency of solar panels, reduce electricity outages, decrease the cost of fuel cells, absorb carbon dioxide.

“The funding announced today will help these scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs move their innovative technology closer to market-readiness as they tackle technical clean-energy issues,” said John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, NYSERDA. “Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s support, the proof-of-concept centers are advancing cleantech innovation in New York State, growing new companies and commercializing the next generation of products that will help reduce the State’s energy use.”

Businesses were judged on the products’ technical potential, the potential appeal to investors and how the scientists could benefit by taking part in this program. Continue reading

EIA Report: Solar Making Large Gains

eiaThe latest Short-Term Energy Outlook from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that the growth of solar power will continue to make good gains. EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski made the following comments in the May report:

Renewables:“U.S. solar-electric generation capacity has increased significantly in the last four years. EIA expects continued robust growth in solar electricity generation. EIA currently expects that utility-scale solar capacity will increase by over 50% between 2013 and 2015, with utility-scale solar providing about one half of 1% of total electricity generation in 2015. Growth in customer-sited solar capacity is expected to exceed utility-scale solar growth over this same period. Customer-sited units provide most of the nation’s solar power.”

Meanwhile, underground storage of natural gas supplies remains well below average but is expected to rebound through the summer and fall.

The report has some good news for drivers as well. Record U.S. crude oil inventories are expected to help push down gasoline prices by as much as 20 cents per gallon by September.

SolarEdge Solar Array Completed at Challenger Site

Bouygues Construction has completed the installation of 2.5 MWs of PV modules at the Challenger site near Versailles, France. Several key technological components of the solar project, including inverters and power optimizers, was from SolarEdge, selected, said Bouygues Construction, for their 20 percent increase in energy yield.

“Bouygues Construction was looking, on the one hand, for technology that would make PV installation safe by allowing the immediate shutdown of energy production on demand, and Challenger 2on the other hand, technology that would simplify maintenance by allowing a faulty PV module to be easily pinpointed,” said Phillippe Metgès, Director of the Center for General Affairs at Bouygues S.A. “This is the reason we chose SolarEdge power optimizers. In addition, SolarEdge technology increases our installation’s yield.”

Bouygues Construction installed six SolarEdge firefighter gateways, which are designed to enable firefighters to immediately stop energy production including decreasing the system voltage to safe DC levels, either manually through an emergency stop button or automatically through a Fire Alarm Control Panel System.

On a total surface of 25,000 m2, the Challenger’s PV installation consists of ground-mounted and roof-mounted sections. With 12,180 SolarEdge power optimizers and 202 SolarEdge inverters optimizing part of the installation, the system is expected to produce a simulated 2,500 MWh annually. The fixed-string voltage in SolarEdge technology allows an increase in the number of modules per string of at least 43 percent compared to a traditional inverter, according to SolarEdge.

“SolarEdge technology is becoming a standard feature in commercial systems because it improves the bottom line of large projects,” stated Lior Handelsman, VP Marketing & Product Strategy SolarEdge. “Being selected by Bouygues Construction, a leader in its field, demonstrates the growing trend to use module-level optimization in large PV systems in order to protect these significant investments.”

2012 Ag Census Includes Renewable Energy

2012-censusThe 2012 Census of Agriculture shows a doubling of on-farm renewable energy production since 2007.

According to the census data released by USDA today, there were 57,299 farms that produced on-farm renewable energy in 2012, more than double the 23,451 in 2007. By far the biggest was solar panels, used on over 36,000 farms. Geoexchange systems and wind turbines each were used on more than 9,000 farms.

For renewable fuels, biodiesel was produced on 4,099 farms and ethanol on 2,397. Small hydro systems were used on about 1300 farms and methane digesters on 537.

The census reveals there are now 3.28 million farmers operating 2.1 million farms on 914.5 million acres of farmland across the United States. Those numbers are all lower than 2007 when the census reported 3.18 million farmers, 2.2 million farms and 922 million acres. The top 5 states for agricultural sales were California ($42.6 billion); Iowa ($30.8 billion); Texas ($25.4 billion); Nebraska ($23.1 billion); and Minnesota ($21.3 billion). Corn and soybean acres topped 50 percent of all harvested acres for the first time.

Census data is available from USDA online and a recording of the webcast release of the census data is here: USDA Releases 2012 Census Data