Friday, April 5, 2013

Sun Roof: Solar Panel Shingles Come Down in Price, Gain in Popularity

Photovoltaic roof shingles, which are tax-subsidized and easier to install than bolt-on panels, have become a viable option for homeowners looking to lower their electric bills...

Dear EarthTalk: I’m getting my roof redone and have heard about solar shingles. Are they available—and are they practical for the Northeast?—John Denson, Glastonbury, Conn.
Solar shingles are photovoltaic cells designed to look like and integrate with conventional asphalt roof shingles. First commercially available in 2005, solar shingles were much more costly than traditional “bolt-on” photovoltaic panels, and thus were used mainly by those wanting to go solar but maintain a traditional roofline. But more recently solar shingles have become price-competitive with bolt-on panels, and are getting much more popular accordingly. Eco-conscious home and building owners might find solar shingles especially attractive when they are re-shingling anyway since the solar shingles also double as functional, protective and weatherproof roof shingles in their own right.
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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spain's First Gemasolar Array is the World's First 24/7 Solar Power Plant

S A N I T Y !!

Torresol Energy has overcome one of solar energy’s biggest challenges: operating when the sun doesn’t shine. The 19.9 MW Gemasolar concentrated solar power plant in Spain’s Andalucia province has two tanks of molten salt (MSES) that store heat energy generated throughout the day. Unlike normal plants that have less thermal storage or none at all, this stored energy enables Torresol to satisfy peak summer energy demand long after sunset. A joint venture between Spanish giant Sener and Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s Future Energy Company, the Gemasolar plant has hurdled one of alternative energy’s biggest obstacles.

The MSES consists of 60% potassium nitrate and 40% sodium nitrate. This mixture has the amazing ability to retain 99% of the heat energy generated by the CSP plant to be reused later. Essentially what Forbes calls a “battery” that lasts for about 15 hours — more than double Andasol I’s 7 hour capacity — the MSES is not considered especially toxic to the environment.

Gemasolar is located near Seville, Spain, on 185 hectares (about 0.7 square miles) of land.

Gemasolar is expected to produce approximately 110,000 MWh of energy each year — enough to power 25,000 homes. Although a 19.9 MW plant is relatively small, this functions on par with a 50MW plant that lacks decent storage since it can feed the grid all of the time. Designed to operate 6,500 hours annually, this latest development in super-duper CSP plants opened in May, 2011.

GOODBYE FRACKING — I WISH...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Japan To Replace Nuke Plant With Wind Farm



In the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor disaster, the Japanese government has opted to build the world’s largest offshore wind farm.
As you may remember, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit the eastern coast of Japan in 2011, destroying the nuclear power plant that lay on the coast of Japan’s Futaba District of Fukushima Prefecture. The resulting meltdown immediately spread radioactivity into the towns of Okuma and Futaba and the surrounding areas. In the aftermath, the Japanese government has begun to turn away from nuclear power, which powers a great deal of the country, and is focusing its efforts to develop more renewable energy such as wind, geothermal and solar.
To that end, the country plans to build 143 wind turbines offshore, producing a gigawatt of power, or about 21 percent of the total energy that was produced from the now-defunct nuclear power plant. That is still twice the power of the largest offshore wind farm in the world today, the Greater Gabbard wind farm in the U.K., which produces 504 megawatts with 140 turbines. It’s enough energy to power nearly a million homes.
Instead of each individual turbine being anchored to the ocean floor, the contraptions will float on steel frames that are anchored to the continental shelf — basically an anchored raft. Ballast will keep them standing straight. Each 2-megawatt turbines will stand about 656 feet high.
Project manager Takeshi Ishihara of the University of Tokyo told New Scientist magazine that the wind farm will be designed with major earthquakes and tsunamis in mind. Wind farms actually have a good record when it comes to tsunamis — the Kamisu wind farm survived the earthquake relatively unscathed. He added that it should have little effect on the local fishing industry — if anything it could even be beneficial.
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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Why You Should Go Solar



The energy from the sun is powerful: Every year the earth receives 15.000 times more energy than the human consumption and many times the energy stored in the earth. Solar energy is environmentally friendly and will play a big part in the production of useful energy in the future.
Some appliances we are going to talk about in this article could potentially save you money through lower energy bills. However, some of them would most likely end up costing you more, even in the long-term, but of course contributes in the fight against global warming
There are many ways to harness the energy from the sun. Passively with the principles of green houses, thermal heating, photovoltaic cells generating electricity are the most important. The illustration above uses solar water heaters on the roof for warm water (both room heating and water itself) – In many cases the most cost-efficient solar solution.
DIY solar panel kits have been on the market for some time now and happy customers worldwide have been using these kits to generate their own free electricity. Solar power for homes is a good idea if you live in the right geographic location and can harness the energy efficiently. The initial costs can be expensive, but this is a long-term investment and should bring in some bucks in the future.
Solar battery charger kits are in principle the exact same thing as solar panels, using the technology of photovoltaic cells to generate electricity, in a more practical manner. The idea is to supply electricity to charge batteries for everything from cell phones to large vehicles. It works really well and should be one of the things someone who spends much time travelling should look into
The potential in the energy from the sun is huge. Most of the energy sources we use today are actually coming from the sun, the exception being geothermal energy from the center of the earth. At the current time the technologies of these methods are still relatively young and prices are high. Big solar power projects still need quite large incentives to be able to compete with the prices of more convectional forms of producing energy.  Solar power is a big part of our future and we will see an increasing amount of appliances in the years to come.
Solar energy is only one small piece in the puzzle of moving towards a renewable and sustainable energy system. One thing is clear – we are facing a massive transition in our climate. There is not really anybody that can say for certain what will happen – if we continue to rely heavily on fossil fuels and other carbon emitting energy sources.
You can read on the other things that are absolutely necessary in solving global warming atEnergyInformative. This site covers a wide array of different relevant subjects such as energy storage, increasing energy efficiency, as well as both renewable and non-renewable energy sources.
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Sunday, September 16, 2012

The "Solar Tunnel"

The project, known as the "Solar Tunnel", is the first of its kind in Europe in that it is the first time the railway infrastructure has been used to generate green energy. The €15.7 million ($21.5 million) project will supply 3300 MWh of electricity annually, enough to power 4,000 trains. High-efficiency solar panels — 16,000 of them, with a rating of 245W each — were turned on, on the roof of a high-speed rail tunnel in Antwerp, Belgium (all of which were supplied by JinkoSolar).

The 3.6-kilometer (2.2-mile) tunnel was built to protect trains from falling trees as they pass through an ancient forest. The installation covers a total surface area of 50,000m² (538,000 ft2). The electricity produced by the installation will be used to power railway infrastructure, such as signals, lighting and the heating of stations. It will also power the trains using the Belgian rail network. The endeavor is estimated to reduce CO2 emissions by 2,400 tons per year.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Solar Power Generating Windows

20120722-003944.jpg Researchers from UCLA have developed a new transparent solar cell that is a significant step towards giving the windows in homes and other buildings the ability to generate electricity while still being transparent. The research team “describes a new kind of polymer solar cell (PSC) that produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared light, not visible light, making the cells nearly 70% transparent to the human eye.” They created the device from a photoactive plastic that generates an electrical current from infrared light. “These results open the potential for visibly transparent polymer solar cells as add-on components of portable electronics, smart windows and building-integrated photovoltaics and in other applications,” said study leader Yang Yang, a UCLA professor of materials science and engineering, who also is director of the Nano Renewable Energy Center at California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI). READ ARTICLE

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Solar installations doubled last year, with California leading the way

The amount of photovoltaic solar panels installed in the United States more than doubled from 2010 to 2011, representing a historic year for the American solar industry. A year-in-review report jointly released Wednesday by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research found that 1,855 megawatts were installed nationwide in 2011, up from 887 megawatts in 2010 -- for a growth of 109 percent.

"After a record-breaking 2011, the U.S. has proved itself as a viable market for solar on a global scale," says the executive summary of the report. "In 2011, the U.S. market's share of global (photovoltaic) installations rose from 5 percent to 7 percent and should continue to grow. We forecast U.S. market share to increase steadily over the next five years, ultimately reaching nearly 15 percent in 2016."

One megawatt is enough to power about 750 to 1,000 homes. But because the sun doesn't shine all the time, solar industry experts typically say that 1 megawatt of solar power capacity is sufficient to power about 200 households.
California continued to lead the nation, installing 542 megawatts, accounting for 29 percent of all installations in the country. Next came New Jersey, Arizona and New Mexico.

The record number of installations was fueled, in part, by a free-fall in solar panel prices, which dropped more than 50 percent in 2011. But lower prices put enormous pressure on solar manufacturers like Fremont-based Solyndra, which filed for bankruptcy in September.

Solar still counts for less than 1 percent of California's electricity, most of which comes from natural gas, two nuclear power plants and hydropower. But advocates, including Gov. Jerry Brown, want solar to play a key role in the state's energy future, in part because solar projects generate local installation jobs. Brown hopes to add 12,000 megawatts of rooftop solar generation by 2020.

California utilities are also under pressure to meet the state's aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard, which calls for 33 percent of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020. In 2011, San Francisco-based PG&E began receiving power from five solar photovoltaic projects built by independent developers, bring 135 megawatts of new capacity online.
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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Top ten fasting-growing solar cities in California announced by SunRun, PV Solar Report


San Jose, Bakersfield and Simi Valley rounded out the top three fastest-growing solar cities in California based on a report released by SunRun and PV Solar Report as part of the Q4 and year end solar sales and installation reports from PV Solar Report. The top ten California cities all demonstrated that they had added more home solar systems in 2011 than other California cities. Lancaster, Fresno, Corona, Murrieta, Rocklin, Hemet and Apple Valley completed the top ten list.

“We thought it was important to not just look at which cities have the most solar installations, but also those that are growing the fastest,” said Stephen Torres, founder and managing director of PV Solar Report. “While Apple Valley may not have the most solar in the state, its solar installation numbers grew by almost 70 percent in 2011.”

SunRun and PV Solar Report advised that cities like San Jose were not a surprise as leaders in California solar cities, but newcomers such as Hemet and Apple Valley have shown that solar projects are expanding to different geographic locations. The report additionally advised that many of the homeowners in the cities cited chose to bring a solar installation to their domain through a solar power service rather than buying the panels. The report specifically cited the top city, San Jose, as having 648 homeowners choose solar service in 2011, compared to the 312 who purchased their panels.

"The cost of solar is coming down, which makes it more affordable for families in a more diverse range of cities," said SunRun President and Co-founder Lynn Jurich. "At SunRun we’ve also seen solar expand to more median income communities because our service allows homeowners to make the switch for zero or very little money upfront, and they lock in a low rate for clean electricity.”
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Sunday, December 4, 2011

BrightSource Energy and Southern California Edison Add Energy Storage Capabilities to Power Purchase Agreements


BrightSource Energy, Inc., a leading solar thermal technology company, today announced the addition of its SolarPLUSTM thermal energy storage capability to three of its power purchase agreements with Southern California Edison (SCE). The agreements illustrate the critical value of highly-efficient power tower solar thermal technology with storage in providing utility customers with cost-competitive, reliable and dispatchable clean power that meets peak demand.

Recent studies1 by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory point to the high value of concentrating solar thermal power technologies with storage. This added value is a result of the resource’s unique capabilities including:
  • Shifting electricity production to periods of highest demand
  • Providing firm capacity to the power system; replacing the need for conventional power plants as opposed to just supplementing their output
  • Providing ancillary services such as spinning reserves to help support a reliable grid
  • Avoiding the variability and integration costs that other renewable resources like photovoltaics (PV) and wind create for utilities and grid operators; reducing the need for additional fossil fuel units required to back up intermittent renewables that put a hidden financial burden on ratepayers
To mitigate these integration costs, energy regulators, utilities, grid operators and policymakers are focusing their attention on advancing deployment of energy storage technologies. California recently passed Assembly Bill 2514, landmark legislation designed to encourage the adoption of energy storage technologies.
"Energy storage improves the overall efficiency of our electric power system which will lower costs for consumers," said Assembly Member Nancy Skinner (D – Berkeley), author of the bill. "The Assembly's passage of AB 2514 is another step that advances California's clean energy economy and represents a great economic opportunity for the State."
A BrightSource power tower solar thermal system uses a field of software-controlled mirrors called heliostats to reflect the sun’s energy to a boiler atop a tower to produce high temperature and high pressure steam. The steam is used to turn a highly efficient steam turbine to produce electricity. When storage is added, the steam is directed to a heat exchanger, where molten salts are further heated to a higher temperature, thus efficiently storing the heat energy for future use. Later, when the energy in storage is needed, the heat stored in the molten salts is used to generate steam to run the turbine.
Under the original power purchase agreements with Southern California Edison, BrightSource would provide approximately four million megawatt-hours of electricity annually across seven power plants. Due to higher efficiencies and capacity factors associated with energy storage, the new set of agreements will provide approximately the same amount of energy annually but with one less plant, reducing the land impacts of delivering this energy and avoiding transactional costs that ultimately impact California’s ratepayers.
The new set of contracts, if approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, now consist of two BrightSource solar thermal plants scheduled to deliver electricity in 2015 and three BrightSource plants with energy storage scheduled to deliver electricity in 2016 and 2017. In addition, BrightSource and its partners – NRG Energy, Google and Bechtel - are currently constructing a 126 megawatt plant for Southern California Edison at the Ivanpah solar project in southeast California.
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Sunday, November 27, 2011

San Bernardino manufacturer MacroAir receives accolades for cooling technology Read more: http://www.sbsun.com/business/ci_19418673#ixzz1eusADLhB

MacroAir, a manufacturer of industrial cooling fans, has a new accolade pointing the firm as one of the Inland Empire's most innovative companies. MacroAir won the Innovator award at this year's Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards ceremony earlier this month in Riverside.

The Center for Entrepreneurship at Cal State San Bernardino, which hands out the awards, praised MacroAir for becoming an industry leader in providing commercial air ceiling fans to a variety of users, such as distribution centers, airports and factories. MacroAir's specialty is what the company calls high-volume, low-speed fans. The basic principle behind the firm's product is that a large fan turning slowly can move air more efficiently than a smaller fan that turns quickly.

In mathematical terms, there is a linear relationship between the size of a fan and the amount of power needed to keep it turning, MacroAir co-founder and president Eddie Boyd explained. That means that when one doubles the size of a fan's blade, one must also double the amount of power that goes to the device. Much more power is required to make a fan turn faster, Boyd said.

He said there is a cubic relationship between speed and power, meaning that if one wishes to double a fan's speed, one must provide an eightfold increase in power. "It's the speed of the air that kills you, not the size of the fan. We keep them running slow," Boyd said.
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Monday, November 14, 2011

The energy, and expense, of bringing water to the Southland

The aqueduct stretched across the desert like an endless blue freight train, carrying its cargo of Colorado River water to a concrete building at the base of a craggy-faced mountain. Inside the plant, adorned with the seal of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a set of massive pumps hoisted the water 441 feet high, disgorging it into a tunnel and the final leg of its journey from the Arizona border to a Riverside County reservoir.

The Julian Hinds Pumping Plant is one of the hydraulic hearts of California's vast water supply system, built early in the last century to push water from where it is to where it isn't, no matter how many hundreds of miles of desert, mountains and valleys are in the way. Defying geography on such a grand scale takes energy. A lot of it. It's also expensive. And it's going to become more so, driving up Southern California water rates and forcing the region to consider more mundane sources closer to home. The volume of water propelled uphill on one recent day at Hinds weighed the equivalent of more than four World Trade Center towers and required six 12,500-horsepower motors driven by electricity, much of it from Hoover and Parker dams on the Colorado.

But the federal contract that allocates more than a quarter of Hoover Dam's hydro-generation to the MWD expires in 2017. The water agency expects to lose 5% of its Hoover electricity under a new pact that will accommodate additional customers by trimming sales to longtime users. The MWD will have to buy additional power on the open market, at higher prices. And the state's upcoming cap-and-trade program designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could require the district to purchase expensive pollution allowances to offset the energy it gets from fossil-fuel power plants.

Agency officials predict that the double whammy will boost the aqueduct's energy costs, which amounted to nearly $49 million last year, by 80% over the next decade. For similar reasons, the district could face even steeper price hikes from its other water source, the State Water Project, which brings supplies from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the Southland. That system is the single biggest power user in California. Costs there are expected to climb by $20 million a year after the Department of Water Resources drops its ownership interest in a coal-fired Nevada power plant in 2013, and replaces it with cleaner electricity sources.
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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Trade War In Solar Takes Shape

The Commerce Department in Washington on Wednesday opened an investigation sought by American manufacturers who accuse the Chinese of “dumping” solar panels into the United States at prices, aided by government subsidies, lower than the cost of making and distributing them.

...it exports 95 percent of its production, much of it to the United States, rather than using it within China. That has helped push wholesale solar panel prices down sharply — to $1 to $1.20 a watt of capacity today, from $1.80 in January, from $3.30 in 2008.

Although plunging prices could speed up the adoption of solar power, the American industry contends the Chinese are simply not playing fair. Besides Solyndra, two other American solar companies that together represented one-sixth of American manufacturing capacity in the sector went bankrupt in August, while four other American solar companies have laid off workers and cut output since spring of last year.

President Obama said in an interview on Nov. 2 with a television reporter from Oregon, the hub of the American solar panel manufacturing industry, that there were “questionable competitive practices coming out of China” in clean energy.
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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pomona senior complex to have solar panels installed

A collection of businesses and government agencies have chosen the Las Brisas senior-housing complex as one of 15 places to receive new solar panels through a $3.6 million grant. Las Brisas is a five-year-old complex where nearly 90 seniors live. Los Angeles-based TELACU, which operates the complex, is also adding photovoltaic solar panels at eight other Los Angeles and San Bernardino complexes.

The panels are set to be installed through the state's Solar for All California program, which subsidizes the installation of solar panels at low-income residences. Once the panels are on the roof at Las Brisas, TELACU plans to use the electricity to power lights and electrical devices in the building's common areas. When panels are operational at all nine TELACU properties, the community development corporation predicts a yearly savings of $1 million. "It starts paying back right away," TELACU president David Lizarraga said.

"This is really creative financing," Main Street Power senior vice president J.W. Postal said. "There's a state grant. There are federal tax credits for solar, and there's tax equity from Morgan Stanley." Tax-equity investments allow investors to earn returns from federal incentives intended to stimulate alternative energy investments, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Energy developers themselves often do not have enough taxable income to receive the full benefit of federal incentives. The arrangement between TELACU and Solar Access California will enable TELACU properties to receive free electricity for 10 years, Postal said.

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Screen-Printed Solar Cell Sets New Efficiency Record – 20.2%

SCHOTT Solar announced the world’s first monocrystalline screen-printed solar cell on Wednesday — with conversion efficiency of 20.2%. The Fraunhofer ISE in Freiburg, another research institute, confirmed the results of SCHOTT Solar’s tests with an independent measurement.

The previous record – 17.6% – was achieved through use of multicrystalline solar cells, one of several methods of making a solar cell go. SCHOTT Solar’s Dr. Axel Metz, head of solar cell research and development at SCHOTT Solar, acknowledges the multicrystalline concept as the greatest contributing factor to his team’s outstanding results. “We’ve been concentrating on the development of monocrystalline cells since the start of 2011,” he said. “We had three years of experience with the multicrystalline cells to carry over to the monocrystalline concept.”

The initial attempts produced cell efficiency of well above 19%, but that wasn’t quite good enough. Co-operating with the Schmid Group from Freudenstadt and further supported by federal grants, the SCHOTT Solar team focused on optimizing the front surface of the cell. In the end, it was a combination of Schmid’s production-established selective emitter technology with SCHOTT’s PERC (Passsivated Emitter and Rear Contacts) technology that pushed them over the 20% mark. The final result is an industry standard 156x156mm screen-printed solar cell.
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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

REC Solar Awarded 6.6 Megawatts of Turnkey Solar Contracts from Veterans Affairs in California and Texas

REC Solar, leading solar electric provider in the United States, today announced the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has awarded the company two contracts to design and install turnkey rooftop, ground mount and carport solar arrays for VA hospitals in California and Texas. The contracts total 6.6 megawatts and include a 4-megawatt addition at the West Los Angeles Medical Center, bringing that total system size to 9 megawatts—making it the largest installed solar energy system nationwide for the VA.

By summer 2012, VA will install solar PV systems at five VA medical centers in sunny locations, from Texas to California. VA selected the sites based on feasibility studies that determined the most ideal locations to invest in on-site renewable energy projects. VA’s goal is to increase renewable energy consumption to 15 percent of annual electricity usage by 2013. The installation of these solar PV systems will help VA meet that goal.

“With these investments in clean energy and other renewable energy projects, we are marching forward with the President’s initiative to expand innovation in the federal government and create new jobs,” said VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. “The benefits of using solar power are profound, from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to improving the quality of the air we breathe. This initiative is good for Veterans and good for our environment.”

At the West Los Angeles Medical Center—part of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System—most of the new solar system will be installed on carports. The entire installation will include four rooftop systems and provide carport shelter in 11 parking lots for a total of 15 separate arrays. The 2.6-megawatt installation at the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System in Temple, Texas includes a 1.7 megawatt ballasted ground mount structure sited on a reclaimed capped landfill owned by the VA and designed specifically to be suitable as a renewable energy source. The remaining 900 kilowatts will be installed on five separate rooftops. The modules for these projects are supplied by Kyocera Solar, Inc. and REC Solar US LLC, and the inverters are furnished by Advanced Energy and PV Powered.

“We are proud to work with the VA in its ambitious campaign to achieve aggressive renewable energy goals through undaunted solar adoption. REC Solar has proven to be an essential partner, meeting the VA’s rigorous standards, while using our deep expertise to help them achieve their objectives,” said Angiolo Laviziano, CEO of REC Solar. “The two landmark installations at VA hospitals in California and Texas demonstrate that going solar is good for the environment, as well as a smart business decision. We look forward to more VA projects as we work to bring solar mainstream.”

Since 2009, REC Solar has been awarded 23 megawatts in projects nationwide for the Dept of Veterans Affairs, including a 2.9-megawatt carport system for the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System (SAVAHCS) completed earlier this year. REC Solar has consistently met the VA’s best value criteria for award by providing superior technical solutions that deliver the most favorable economic returns for the VA medical centers.
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gov. Jerry Brown to build world's largest solar plant in Inland Empire

A massive solar power project is expected to bring in hundreds of jobs. It broke ground Friday on federal land outside of Blythe, near Black Rock Road and Dracker Road. Gov. Jerry Brown was joined by federal, state and local officials to break ground on the world's largest solar plant. "This is as big as the day they discovered oil in Texas," said Brown. "And we will replace oil with California sun."

The Solar Trust of America Renewable Energy Station will sit on 7,000 acres. The construction project is in the earliest stage, with brush clearance and road work being done to ready the site. "We have parabolicly-shaped mirrors and they are focusing the sunlight to a tube," said Solar Trust of America CEO Joseph Eiphhammer. "With that we are then producing steam and operating a steam turbine."

The solar plant, similar to one in Lancaster, is expected to generate enough power for 300,000 homes and businesses. It will also put California closer to a 2020 mandate for 33 percent renewable energy. "One of the key buckets of making sure that we get to that energy future is what we do with renewable energy all around this country," said Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

The solar project will also have an economic impact for the Blythe area. One thousand construction jobs are tied to the project. Once online, it's expected to generate more than 200 jobs. Riverside County stands to collect $400,000 in property taxes.

"When completed it will double the world's capacity of solar-generated electricity," said Brown. By 2013 the solar plant will begin harnessing the sun's rays and converting them into clean energy.
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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Edison adds new rooftop solar installations


Southern California Edison on Monday announced the addition of four solar power plants on warehouse rooftops in Fontana and Redlands that can produce up to 7 megawatts of power, enough to serve 4,550 homes. That brings to 14 the number of warehouse roofs in the Inland Empire where Edison is converting sunlight to electricity.

Edison said it also is developing another rooftop facility at an undisclosed Inland Southern California location that will be the largest yet, with an output capacity of 8.2 megawatts. To date, the largest Edison solar plant is a 5 megawatt ground installation in the Central Valley.

The utility said it is preparing to make the first major changes in a 100 years to its neighborhood power distribution system so it can accommodate renewable energy sources like solar power that fluctuate quickly and dramatically with the time of day and cloud cover. Speaking at a test facility in Pomona, Edison officials said the company is pioneering new technology that can convert direct current produced by solar panels into alternating current used by its distribution grid without causing power ebbs or surges.

Edison has developed almost 29 megawatts of large solar plants since 2008 and plans for a combined 500 megawatts to be completed over the next few years. The move toward solar is being accelerated by state legislation requiring investor- owned utilities such as Edison to produce 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
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Monday, March 28, 2011

The Dry Garden: 'Reimagining the California Lawn'


Carol Bornstein, now a Central California garden designer, was for years director of horticulture of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. The heart-stoppingly beautiful meadow there is her work. In 1976, David Fross co-founded Native Sons Nursery in the Central Coast city of Arroyo Grande and has since been the Johnny Appleseed of dry gardening. Bart O'Brien, for years director of horticulture at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, now its special projects director, is among the most knowledgeable plantsmen in the country. Once, when interviewing a homeowner by phone, I mentioned that O'Brien was outside, and she screamed, as if he were not one but all four Beatles, straight from Liverpool.

There are as many reasons for this reaction as there are microclimates in California. The most important is that as the need for more durable plants and more sustainable garden practices has steadily increased during the last three decades, these three people have been at every turn with solutions for our state.
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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Germany’s solar panels produce more power than Japan’s entire Fukushima complex

Germany is the world leader in installed solar photovoltaic panels -- and they also just shut down seven of their oldest nuclear reactors. Coincidence? Maaaaybe ... Anyway, it's worth noting that just today, total power output of Germany's installed solar PV panels hit 12.1 GW -- greater than the total power output (10 GW) of Japan's entire 6-reactor nuclear power plant. nuclear power plant.
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Solar Plant Opens Near Las Vegas

The electricity generated at a newly opened solar plant just outside Las Vegas will be sold to a California utility for the next 20 years, according to Sempra Generation. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, who attended dedication of the Copper Mountain Solar Plant on Friday, said the state has potential in creating renewable energy. "I think Nevada should be the leader in the United States -- if not the world -- in renewable energy," he said. "This is a great start."

The plant is about 10 miles south of Boulder City, occupying 380 acres of desert in the Eldorado Valley off U.S. 95. The plant took a year to build and through the use of 775,000 photovoltaic solar panels, generates enough electricity to power 14,000 homes.
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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Edison contracts for three local solar projects

Three new solar projects are in the works for the Victor Valley, and Southern California Edison has signed contracts to buy the 24 megawatts of power they’ll harness. Amonix, a firm based in Seal Beach, is contracted to build a 14-megawatt solar photovoltaic project that should come online in Lucerne Valley by March 2014.

San Francisco-based Silverado Power plans to build two 5-megawatt solar PV projects in Victorville, with an estimated completion date by April 2014. Officials declined to say how many local jobs would be created.

The local contracts were three of 21 power purchase agreements recently signed by Edison, with 17 other solar projects scattered from Little Rock to Blythe and one wind farm planned in Cabazon. Altogether the projects will produce about 259 megawatts of power, or enough to power more than 168,000 average homes.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

SoloPower unveils new flexible rooftop solar panels



SoloPower introduced on Monday a line of flexible panels for commercial rooftops. The panels are lighter than glass-encased panels and can be installed quicker than other technologies, SoloPower CEO Tim Harris said in a statement. The panels can be laminated onto rooftops and mounted on racks to tilt the panels.

The company makes thin-film solar cells from a combination of copper, indium, gallium, and selenium (CIGS) which is placed on a flexible foil. Its first product line is a set of solar panels designed for the flat roofs of commercial buildings.
Each 80-watt module weighs just 5 lbs. and measures 30 centimeters by 290 centimeters. With their flexible design, SoloPower's panels can be installed on a variety of surfaces and roofs where a conventional solar installation might not fit or function properly.

One benefit of SoloPower's flexible solar modules is their relative quickness and ease of installation. The panels can be laminated onto rooftops, and mounted onto mobile racks to tilt the panels for optimum solar exposure.

Like many solar thin-film solar technologies, the trade-off for lightness and cheapness is lower efficiency - the SFX1-i converts about 10 percent of sunlight's energy into electricity. It makes up for this, however, with a relatively low manufacturing cost of under $1 per watt, although the company will not give precise figures.
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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Los Angeles DWP Moves to Add More Wind, Solar Generation to Energy Mix


The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has moved forward on solar, wind and electricity transmission projects as it begins transitioning to increased use of renewable energy. The nation's largest municipal utility approved a plan to buy 100 megawatts of generating capacity from a Utah wind farm and also advanced two 10-megawatt solar photovoltaic projects closer to its service territory in California.

The Milford Wind Farm Phase II is an expansion of an existing 200-megawatt wind farm that began delivering electricity to Los Angeles in November 2009. The city receives 185 mw of the existing capacity. The expanded wind project will benefit from infrastructure built for the first phase in Beaver and Millard counties, Utah. It will connect to an existing High Voltage Direct Current transmission system that brings power to Los Angeles. The agreement requires approval by the Los Angeles City Council.

The department is expanding the capacity of the existing HVDC transmission line, known as the Southern Transmission System, by using the new technology to deliver energy from Milford II and other proposed renewable projects in Utah to Los Angeles and other Southern California cities at about one-tenth of the cost of building a new transmission system. The Southern Transmission System is owned by the Intermountain Power Authority and operated by the LADWP.

The public power authority, a nonprofit joint powers agency of Southern California municipal utilities, will finance the project by issuing $157.4 million of low-cost, tax-exempt bonds. The agreement has been structured to benefit from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus grants. The indirect benefits of the cash grants, along with the prepayment for power, are estimated to reduce the cost of the project by $53.6 million in current dollars. The agreement includes an ownership option for the LADWP.

The board also has moved forward with two new solar PV projects. The solar projects are at the department's Adelanto switching station near Victorville and at the Pine Tree Wind Power Plant in the Tehachapi Mountains. Both projects will provide 10 megawatts of solar power and will take advantage of existing transmission lines and other electrical infrastructure. The projects will be constructed, owned and operated by the LADWP.
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Solar Energy Conversion Process Could Double Solar Efficiency of Solar Cells

Stanford engineers have figured out how to simultaneously use the light and heat of the sun to generate electricity in a way that could make solar power production more than twice as efficient as existing methods and potentially cheap enough to compete with oil.

Because PETE performs best at temperatures well in excess of what a rooftop solar panel would reach, the devices will work best in solar concentrators such as parabolic dishes, which can get as hot as 800 degrees C. Dishes are used in large solar farms similar to those proposed for the Mojave Desert in Southern California and usually include a thermal conversion mechanism as part of their design, which offers another opportunity for PETE to help generate electricity, as well as minimizing costs by meshing with existing technology.

Photovoltaic systems never get hot enough for their waste heat to be useful in thermal energy conversion, but the high temperatures at which PETE performs are perfect for generating usable high temperature waste heat. Melosh calculates the PETE process can get to 50 percent efficiency or more under solar concentration, but if combined with a thermal conversion cycle, could reach 55 or even 60 percent -- almost triple the efficiency of existing systems.

With the right material -- most likely a semiconductor such as gallium arsenide, which is used in a host of common household electronics -- the actual efficiency of the process could reach up to the 50 or 60 percent the researchers have calculated.
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

43% Growth for Solar Market in 2010

A new report from Pike Research says the global solar market will buck its two-year growth slump and increase 43% in 2010.

According to the report, the increase will be propelled by lower production costs and greater accessibility to financing. In total Pike expects this year's solar demand to be over 10 gigawatts.

By 2013 solar demand is expected to be 19 gigawatts. The United States, China, Italy and Germany are expected to push this growth.

Additionally an analyst from Pike Research says the market is glutted with an over-supply of solar manufacturers and modules.
“The solar market is now faced with a gross oversupply of modules,” says senior analyst Dave Cavanaugh. “The industry is currently supplied by more than 190 cell and module manufacturers, making consolidation of weaker competitors an inevitable outcome.” Cavanaugh adds that, in the meantime, overcapacity and intense competition will create downward pressure for module average selling prices (ASPs), which will accelerate grid parity for the cost of solar-produced power to the 2013 timeframe in many markets.
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Monday, May 3, 2010

SunPower unveils more efficient solar panels

SunPower, a Silicon Valley manufacturer of high-efficiency solar cells, panels, and systems, announced Monday the debut of its its new SunPower E19 Series solar panels, a product lineup that offers an efficiency of 19 percent or greater. The efficiency figure measures how great a percentage of the sunlight that hits a solar panel is actually converted into usable electricity. The higher the efficiency, the cheaper the cost of using solar energy.

Some companies have reached up to 42 percent efficiency in testing their products. Others have claimed even higher percentages in the lab. But most commercial silicon solar cells average in the 15 percent range. The E19's panels achieve a higher efficiency by using 3 percent more surface space per cell and by employing an antireflective coating that can capture greater amounts of off-angle light, explained San Jose, Calif.-based SunPower. The coating helps generate more energy per watt than a conventional solar panel. The combination of the coating and larger cells also offer a darker and more aesthetic look to the panels, the company said.
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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Small-scale solar plan clashes with big energy

Big wind farms sprawl across our hills. Big solar power plants will soon blanket acres of desert. Big new power lines will bring that electricity to our cities.

This, Bill Powers insists, is exactly the wrong approach. He wants us to think small. Powers, an engineer and energy consultant, argues that California should cover every available rooftop with photovoltaic solar panels, especially commercial buildings. The panels can be installed quickly, unlike large solar power plants that take years to win government permits. They don't require big new power lines. And their price has dropped about 40 percent in the past year.

Even though much of the environmental movement has rallied behind the construction of large wind farms and solar power plants, an undercurrent argues that they aren't necessary, or even desirable. Better to get energy from hundreds of smaller facilities close to home than a giant one far away.
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Solar power outshining Colorado's gas industry

The sun had just crested the distant ridge of the Rocky Mountains, but already it was producing enough power for the electric meter on the side of the Smiley Building to spin backward. For the Shaw brothers, who converted the downtown arts building and community center into a miniature solar power plant two years ago, each reverse rotation subtracts from their monthly electric bill. It also means the building at that moment is producing more electricity from the sun than it needs.

"Backward is good," said John Shaw, who now runs Shaw Solar and Energy Conservation, a local solar installation company. As La Plata County in southwestern Colorado looks to shift to cleaner sources of energy, solar is becoming the power source of choice even though it still produces only a small fraction of the region's electricity. It's being nudged along by tax credits and rebates, a growing concern about the gases heating up the planet, and the region's plentiful sunshine.
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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

GE: Solar business is our 'next wind'

General Electric plans to give its solar business a charge in two years with the introduction of panels with the same solar cell material used by industry cost leader First Solar. In 2011, the energy giant expects to produce solar panels made with cadmium telluride, a thin-film solar cell material, said Michael Idelchik, vice president of advanced technologies at GE Global Research at the EmTech conference here on Wednesday.

The company now sells solar panels that use silicon solar cells, but its long-term bet is on thin-film and specifically cadmium telluride because it offers the cheapest cost per watt, he said.

Thin-film solar cells offer lower production costs than the incumbent silicon because thin-film cells use far less material. Over the past five years, several solar companies have formed to make thin-film cells from a combination copper, indium, gallium, and selenide (CIGS), which are still not in the market in high volumes. GE's cells will be made from a compound of cadmium and tellurium.

Silicon cells are durable and more efficient at converting sunlight to electricity than thin-film solar cells with the most efficient commercial silicon cells over 20 percent. But GE Research projects that it can boost the efficiency of cadmium telluride to 12 percent and potentially higher, Idelchik said.
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