Wednesday, January 29, 2014

London Welcomes World's Largest Solar-Powered Bridge

TAKEPART. (Photo: Richard Newstead/Getty Images) January 28, 2014 By Salvatore Cardoni  The energy generated by the 4,400 solar panels atop Blackfriars Bridge will prevent 511 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year. Iconic London landmarks Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben will probably always top the must-visit list for casual city tourists. But for granola-minded visitors, there might just be a new top-dog attraction—Blackfriars Bridge, the world’s largest solar-powered bridge.   The roof of the bridge, first built in 1886, was recently retrofitted with 4,400 solar photovoltaic panels covering 6,000 square meters. Capable of generating up to 900,000 kilowatt hours of clean energy annually, the panels will supply half the power needed to run the Blackfriars tube station each year. Officials at the firm behind the project, SolarCentury, estimate the panels will prevent 511 tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year. That’s equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 106 cars. "Electric trains are already the greenest form of public transport—this roof gives our passengers an even more sustainable journey," David Statham, director of First Capital Connect, the group that manages London’s rail transport, told Business Green.   Others involved with the solar overhaul said they hoped the panels would serve as an outsize advertisement for citywide sustainability efforts. "The fact that it's so visual is a real bonus," said SolarCentury’s Suzanna Lashford. "London often tries to be a sustainable city, and I think it's great from that point of view." 
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Monday, January 27, 2014

Solar thermal to take centre stage in 2014 in England

By Peter Bennett | Solar Power Portal. 24 January 2014. After waiting four years for the introduction of the domestic RHI, solar thermal installers can’t be blamed for possessing a healthy dose of cynicism when it comes to the effectiveness of the world’s first renewable heat incentive.  However, now that the majority of the details ahead of the scheme’s introduction have been fleshed out, a number of industry insiders are predicting a positive outlook for solar thermal in 2014.  Paul Barwell, CEO of the Solar Trade Association (STA), explained to Solar Power Portal in the video below why the opportunity presented by the domestic RHI makes it an exciting time for the solar thermal market sector:   The most pertinent question for renewable installers remains: can the domestic RHI do to solar thermal what the feed-in tariff did for solar PV?  First of all, the current solar thermal market is disappointingly small. After installation rates more than doubled from 2008-2010, the number of solar thermal installations carried out in the UK has declined sharply.  The current support mechanism, Renewable Heat Premium Payments (RHPP), has failed to stimulate any real significant demand. The latest figures published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) reveal that from 1 April 2013 to 31 December 2013 just 1,063 RHPP vouchers were issued for solar thermal installs.
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Friday, January 24, 2014

Shout Out for Solar Day!!!

Why Latin America Will Be A Tough Solar Market To Crack

By Ucilia Wang Contributor GREEN TECH 1/23/14. Latin America is a shining, promising solar market that will be a lot more difficult to crack.That’s because Latin America doesn’t have the same levels of generous government incentives that subsidize project costs or guarantee high prices for solar electricity in countries such as Germany, United States, Japan and China, said Adam James, a solar analyst at GTM Research, during a webinar on Thursday. The global solar industry has grown tremendously in the past decade as a result of policies for promoting clean energy generation and reducing carbon footprint. In Japan’s case, a strong desire to reduce its reliance on nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster in 2011 also has turned it into a booming market for solar.“Unsubsidized markets grow and develop instead of just explode,” James said. “What we are seeing (in Latin America) is a steady growth as developers move from doing mostly off-grid projects to on-grid projects.” That lack of lucrative incentives hasn’t stopped solar companies from Europe, the United States and Asia from landing in Latin America, though. If anything, figuring out a strategy for an emerging and unsubsidized market is smart for solar companies that want to stay ahead of competition. Plus, changes in politics sometimes cause a boom-and-bust cycle in subsidized markets that that catches companies off guard, leaves them with a buildup of unsold equipment or forces them to do massive layoffs. Back in 2011, First Solar declared its long-term plan to find anchors in unsubsidized markets after it had grown to become one of the largest solar panel makers in the world by doing a brisk business in subsidized markets. Latin America is expected to install 724 megawatts of solar panels in 2014, said Shayle Kann, GTM’s senior vice president of research. It will likely make up 2% of the global demand for solar in the next four years, GTM said.
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Monday, January 20, 2014

Elon Musk’s five insights into solar energy

The Washington Post. By Dominic Basulto. 1/16/13 It’s hard to argue against Elon Musk being one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our era, responsible for bringing to market such innovative companies as PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors. But it’s his role as chairman and primary shareholder in SolarCity — a solar energy company run by his cousins – that’s getting a lot of attention these days. SolarCity went public in 2012 at $8 a share and now trades at close to $70. That’s nearly a 10x investment in just two years. (Just look at that beautiful chart) So what does Elon Musk know about solar that the rest of us don’t?

1. Solar energy is inherently an exponential technology.
If there’s one thing Wall Street loves, it’s a good growth story, and that’s something that SolarCity has been careful to cultivate. The company already has 80,000 paying customers and expects to sign up 1 million customers within the next four years. That means the company will need to literally double in size every few months. Think about that for a minute: 1 million customers over four years means 250,000 new customers in 2014, or approximately 20,000 new customers each month. So the company will have doubled in size — from 80,000 to 160,000 customers — by Memorial Day weekend. 
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Friday, January 17, 2014

Kenya to generate over half of its electricity through solar power by 2016

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

With startup acquisition, Common Assets, SolarCity will open up solar investing to individuals

By By Gigaom.  1/15/14. Massive, and growing, solar panel installer and financier SolarCity announced on Wednesday that it has acquired a startup called Common Assets, which has developed software that enables individuals and small companies to invest in its solar panel projects. Traditionally only large banks, institutional investors, and big companies were able to invest in funds that SolarCity would use to fund solar projects.  The move validates the emergence of new types of financing, like crowd funding, in recent years as a brand new way to develop clean power projects. SolarCity says it’s responsible for almost a third of all new solar panel projects being built on home rooftops in the U.S. these days, so the new investing platform will have a wide audience from the start.  A variety of startups, like Solar Mosaic, have developed software and services that enable accredited investors to put their money in solar projects, for returns between 4.5 percent and 5.5 percent. In some states, like California and New York, anyone can invest in Solar Mosaic’s solar projects.  SolarCity plans to launch its new investing website for individuals and companies soon. The company says the financing platform will be different than other crowd funding sites because they’ll be using debt investments, instead aggregating investments to provide loans for projects (which other crowd funding sites commonly do). Common Assets CEO Tim Newell and Chief Architect John Witchel will join SolarCity. Witchel was the co-founder and CTO of Prosper, one of the first crowd funding loan platforms launched. Private equity company U.S. Renewables Group (USRG) was a backer or Common Assets.
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Monday, January 13, 2014

South Korea's solar thermal market grew 17% in 2012

2014-01-10 | Courtesy: Solarthermalworld | © Heindl Server GmbH South Korea's solar thermal market grew 17% in 2012 with 63,800 square meters of collector area installed, according to statistics published by Solarthermalworld. Systems larger than 300 square meters represented 22% of this collector area, and systems smaller than 12 square meters only 30%.  A number of policies have been driving the Korean solar thermal market. These include both mandatory solar thermal requirements for government and public buildings, as well as a law that requires minimum spending on renewable energy for new and renovated buildings above a certain size. Due the mandatory requirement, the collector area on public buildings more than doubled to 15,300 square meters in 2012. As of January 2014 this requirement was changed to fulfill a 12% renewable energy share in buildings' predicted energy demand. More information and a link to full statistics can be found on the Solarthermalworld website.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Power play: Utilities want solar users to pay up

NBC News. By  The explosive growth of solar power -- a new rooftop system was installed every four minutes in 2013 -- has utility companies pushing in several states to scale back what they call unfair rate advantages that solar users have long received.  The debate centers on net metering, which requires utility companies to credit customers for solar energy that they generate in excess of their own usage. The credits were part of financial incentives to invest in solar energy.  Policies for net metering, which is used in 43 states, vary from state to state, but most credits are set at the local retail price for electricity. That bothers utilities, which contend that the retail price is set too high, resulting in excessive credits to solar users. Utilities want credits set by wholesale prices, which are much lower than retail.  "The principal issue is making sure everyone is paying a fair price for what they use," said Ted Carver, CEO and chairman of Edison International, the parent company of utility Southern California Edison. "We don't care where or who we buy the power from, but it should be purchased at the wholesale price."  But some experts say the mere fact that utilities—which generate $360 billion a year in energy sales—are battling with solar indicates the threat it now poses to them.  "The success of solar power is forcing utilities to rethink their business model and push for the changes," said Franc Del Fosse, an energy industry lawyer and partner at Snell & Wilmer. "If you have an individual putting solar panels on the roof, it's easy to suggest that a utility is making less money."  The effort for higher fees on solar panel users could backfire, said Alan Beale, general manager of SolarMax.  If the fees are too high, he said, "it will just delay ... the inevitable, and more companies and individuals will go to the independent energy producers." 
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Thursday, January 9, 2014

California added more rooftop solar capacity in 2013 than in the past 30 years combined!

TreeHugger. By Michael Graham Richard January 8, 2014. From 1 gigawatt to 2 gigawatts in a single year It took the residents of California about 30 years to reach 1,000MW of rooftop solar. And during 2013, that number doubled to just over 2,000MW. The previous record for rooftop solar was in 2012 with 500MW. Let that sink in: In a single year, as much rooftop solar was installed as during the previous 30 combined. If that's not a good sign for clean energy, I don't know what is.  While California is the leader for solar power in the US, other states are also doing well. Bloomberg recently reported: "About 200,000 U.S. homes and businesses added rooftop solar in the past two years alone – about 3 gigawatts of power and enough to replace four or five conventionally-sized coal plants."  "If California continues to grow its rooftop solar market at its 2013 pace, the state may very well top 5,000 MW in 2014 - far exceeding the goals of the Million Solar Roofs Initiative, which aimed to install 3,000 MW of rooftop solar by the end of 2016," writes Bernadette Del Chiaro in Solar Industry Magazine.  The data also shows that residential solar is mostly a middle-class phenomenon (not just a thing for wealthy people).
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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Home Features Our Town Ask A Builder Ask a Builder: How well do solar panels work in the winter?

December 26, 2013. By Cold Climate Housing Research Center staff. FAIRBANKS — Q: Do solar panels work in the winter? A: There are two types of solar panels on the market today. Solar thermal panels provide space heating and domestic hot water. They work by piping a fluid through the panels, where it is warmed by the sun's rays. The fluid then transfers that heat back into a water tank in a home. The other type of solar panel is a photovoltaic (PV) panel, which converts solar radiation into electricity. Both solar thermal panels and solar PV panels require the sun's rays to "work," or produce heat or electricity. In Alaska, the sun is a great energy resource during the summer months. While Alaskans still need hot water for showering and laundry during the summer, space heating loads are small. Likewise, electricity loads are much higher in the winter, when we run heating appliances, plug in our cars and use heat tape to prevent pipes from freezing. So do solar panels work during the winter, when we need them most? Solar panels will not work if there is no sun at all. If you live above the Arctic Circle, your panels will go offline completely for a portion of the year. In other locations solar panels can work year-round, depending on the type of panel and amount of sunlight.
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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

WaterFX Sees Solar Desalination of Ag. Runoff As One Way To Address The World's Water Problem

1/07/2014 FORBES. By Peter Kelly-Detwiler. Aaron Mandell, Founder and Chairman of WaterFX, looks at California’s water issue like a classic entrepreneur. Where others see problems, he sees opportunity for improvement and profit. And that opportunity is huge. It is common knowledge that access to clean water is a mounting problem across the globe. However, few places have water issues as complex and challenging as California, which has been dealing with the water issue for generations (some may remember the 1974 Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway film ‘Chinatown’ that focused on the California Water Wars of the early 1900s). In that state, the issue is highly complex, layered in a complicated history of rights, claimants, and the physical reality of too much demand for a limited supply. Water issues are also inextricably linked to energy issues: it takes an enormous amount of energy to pump, treat, and move water. So the water problem is not only limited to H2O, it’s a costly energy issue as well. Mandell hopes to change that reality. He has a vision for how to make that happen, starting with a clean and modular technology and an open source approach that he hopes will stimulate a growing community of solutions providers. His company, WaterFX has created a solar-powered desalination system to treat agricultural drainage that is not only benign from an energy standpoint, but also leaves the agricultural environment in better shape. WaterFX has successfully piloted a 6,500 square foot system with California’s Panoche Water District over the past six months, producing almost 500 gallons of clean water per hour. Panoche is one of the water districts in California taking a leading role in addressing the state’s water crisis. Following on the pilot’s success, the Water District has now agreed to work with Mandell’s company to expand the system to produce 2,200 acre-feet per year.

Here’s how the system works:
Instead of the traditional desalination approach normally used to treat seawater, which uses a high-pressure reverse osmosis system that forces salt and other solids through a membrane, WaterFX cleans water through use of a Concentrated Solar Still. It uses existing technology, adapting 400 kilowatt parabolic solar troughs originally designed for power generation. The solar troughs concentrate the sun’s energy and heat a pipe containing heat transfer fluid that transfers the heat to a heat pump, further increasing efficiency. This heat is then utilized in a distillation process to evaporate clean water out of source water (in this case, agricultural drainage water that contains salts, fertilizers, and other impurities). The condensate is then recovered as pure H2O. Since the sun doesn’t always shine, a thermal storage system is used to hold the excess heat so that the process can function around the clock. Mandell – who studied groundwater engineering in school and has been involved in previous water-related start-ups – migrated to energy work in recent years and became convinced that the energy-water nexus was an area worth devoting attention to.
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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Ford to unveil solar hybrid concept car at CES: it gets 100 mpg!

FOX NEWS. Published January 02, 2014. Associated Press Ford plans to unveil at this month's International CES gadget show a solar-powered concept car that offers the same performance as a plug-in hybrid but without the need for a plug. The C-MAX Solar Energi Concept car uses a gasoline engine combined with a gizmo that acts like a magnifying glass to concentrate the sun's rays on the vehicle's roof-mounted solar panels. The automaker says the vehicle's estimated combined city-highway mileage is 100 mpg. Ford says that by using solar power instead of an electric plug, a typical owner will reduce their annual greenhouse gas emissions by four metric tons. The company says it sold about 85,000 hybrid or electric vehicles in 2013, including 6,300 units of its C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid. The sun-ray concentrator was developed by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and uses what is known as a Fresnel lens, which concentrates light but can be made thinner than a conventional lens. A full day of sunshine is equivalent to a four-hour battery charge, or 8 kilowatts, Ford says.
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