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Solar industry advocates, green enthusiasts and environmental conservation groups are basking in the sun today.
With a historic 105-0 vote on Wednesday, May 21, South Carolina’s House of Representatives approved of advancing solar technologies and making other crucial energy usage changes to help end residential and commercial reliance on fossil fuel electric power generation.
Critics of solar technology advancements have gone to great lengths in the past to block such bills in the U.S. “Palmetto State,” including the state’s many utility companies. Since 2013, state legislators have had to make numerous changes to their original recommendations to craft a compromise bill that would receive unanimous approval.
Although the bill won’t completely stop fossil fuel usage by the state’s residents and power companies, it’s still considered a successful, much needed first step in a region known for majority support of traditional approaches to power generation.
According to “The State” newspaper, the blocks to this legislation were finally overcome because of the increasing general advance of solar programs around the country and a desire by power companies to recoup related costs.
If passed into the law by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, at least 2 percent of the average peak demand for power over five years must become solar generated by 2021. The bill also approves of third-party rooftop solar power leasing and raises the cap on the amount of nonresidential solar energy usage up to 1 megawatt.
The bill is expected to go through final House and Senate approvals later today.
Vortex Engineering, an Indian start up, is rolling out solar-powered ATMs to facilitate banking in rural parts of India.
The ATMs use the same amount of energy as a conventional light bulb, and can operate without air conditioning is heat up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Vortex’s solar-powered ATMs emit at least 18,500 kg of CO2 each year, when compared to conventional ATMs.
“Our ATM is a customized solution to rural India’s unique problems where power is scarce, accessibility is poor, crisp notes are rare and the language and dialects vary. Yet, it a product that is scalable across geographies,” Kannan Lakshminarayan, co-founder and chief technology officer at Vortex Engineering, told CNBC.
“I have always been motivated by the social impact of work on society. Local problems need local solutions. When you import solutions, you can at best be only second rate,” says Lakshminarayan.
In addition to being powered on solar energy, the ATMs have a simplified, energy efficient design with fewer parts that could require repair.
Next year, Vortex Engineering will supply at least 5,000 ATMs across the country. At the moment there are about 150,000 ATMs in India – a country with a population of 1.2 billion.
Construction on the largest solar PV installation at a U.S. army site will begin this month at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
“This will be the largest solar array in the department of defense on a military installation,” said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment.
The installation is expected to provide about 25 percent of the electricity required at Fort Huachuca each year. Construction will start on April 25, with the solar panels expected to go live in late 2014.
“Energy is an installation priority,” said Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, Fort Huachuca commanding general.
“The project goes beyond the megawatts produced. It reflects our continued commitment to southern Arizona and energy security,” he said. “The project will provide reliable access to electricity for daily operations and missions moving forward.”
The solar project will be owned, funded, operated and maintained by Tucson Electric Power and E.ON will work on the design, engineering, procurement and construction.
“The project establishes a new path for an innovative partnering opportunity among the U.S. Army, other federal agencies, private industry and the utility provider,” added deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability Richard Kidd.
This solar installation will add to the U.S. Army’s goal of using 1 GW of renewable energy by the year 2025.
Scientists in Singapore have discovered a new material that acts as a solar panel in the day, and a light panel at night.
The researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have developed solar cells from a material called Perovskite. These cells don’t just convert sunlight to electricity, but also have the capacity to emit light.
Such a material could be used to make cell phone or tablet screens that can be recharged simply by exposing them to sunlight.
“What we have discovered is that because it is a high quality material, and very durable under light exposure, it can capture light particles and convert them to electricity, or vice versa,” said Assistant Professor Sum Tse Chien, a Singaporean scientist at NTU’s School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (SPMS).
“By tuning the composition of the material, we can make it emit a wide range of colours, which also makes it suitable as a light emitting device, such as flat screen displays.”
The discovery was made when Assistant Professor Sum asked his postdoctoral researcher to shine a laser on the new Perovskite solar cell material they have been working on – and the solar cell glowed!
“What we have now is a solar cell material that can be made semi-translucent. It can be used as tinted glass to replace current windows, yet it is able to generate electricity from sunlight,” said Assistant Professor Nripan Mathews, another of the researchers responsible for this discovery.
“The fact that it can also emit light makes it useful as light decorations or displays for the facades of shopping malls and offices,” said Dr Mathews.
Thanks to an easy manufacturing process, this Perskovite material is five times less expensive than current Silicon-based solar cells.
“Such a versatile yet low-cost material would be a boon for green buildings. Since we are already working on the scaling up of these materials for large-scale solar cells, it is pretty straightforward to modify the procedures to fabricate light emitting devices as well. More significantly, the ability of this material to lase, has implications for on-chip electronic devices that source, detect and control light,” he added.
The U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it added import duties to Chinese manufacturers’ solar panels and related items.
The new duties add more than eighteen to thirty-five percent plus to these solar imports. The newly assessed duties will of course raise the prices of imports manufactured by Trina Solar Inc., Jinko Solar Holding Co., Ltd., and Yingli Green Energy. The shares of these companies immediately traded down on the announcement by an average five plus percent. Solar World Industries America, a U.S. subsidiary of German-headquartered Solar World, petitioned for the closure of a loophole that helps Chinese solar businesses to duck import duties. The U.S. Department of Justice first evaluated the issues in 2012.
U.S. solar companies’ shares also traded higher on the news. First Solar, in partnership with conglomerate General Electric, and Sun Power, partnering with Google, are already strong performers in the stock market. Solar installations in the United States were almost USD 14 billion in 2013, but about half of solar products installed were actually made in China. Rooftop solar is an extraordinary example of China’s dominance in the sector, controlling about seventy percent of the equipment installed.
The response to the Department of Commerce’s decision was negatively received by China’s government. In what was viewed as a retaliatory gesture, China’s imposed anti-subsidies of U.S.-imports of about fifty-three to fifty-seven percent on polysilicon. Regardless of the new U.S. duties, solar equipment and manufactured products are still controlled by Chinese businesses. And since China holds almost ten percent of outstanding U.S. national debt, it’s clear that the country has bargaining power with the United States.
The Californian company Sungevity recently signed a deal with the Neatherlands utility company E.ON Benelux to create a partnership offering services in solar energy.
The arrangement calls on Sungevity to use their marketing and solar design platforms to serve utility customers, and the services will be promoted in a co-branded way.
The partnership follows investments made in April by E.ON in Sungevity. The investments enabled Sungevity to combine that capitalization money with other investors such as GE Venture to expand their holdings in Zonline, a Dutch solar company, and enabled them to obtain complete ownership. The resulting organization will be known as Sungevity Netherlands.
The Netherlands solar market has now reached grid parity with more traditional power sources. This parity has been achieved gradually over several decades in which retail electricity rates have steadily risen while solar costs have fallen. “Obviously, the lines have to cross,” said Sungevity CEO Andrew Birch. According to Birch, there are at least eight other European markets where solar parity has also been achieved.
Analysts credit the success of solar power in the Netherlands to the fact that the European energy market is further evolved in utilizing solar power than countries such as the United States. Sungevity is currently negotiating with U.S. utilities to establish partnerships, however the demand for solar power in the U.S. is not as great as in Europe at present.
An Australian home now has what is believed to be the world’s first solar panel roof that produces both electricity and heat for the home.
The $5 million project was developed by building materials firm BlueScope with support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). The system includes thin-film solar panels which are set on steel roofing sheets to generate electricity.
This building-integrated photovoltaic-thermal (BIPV-T) system, on an inner-city home in Sydney, also has a thermal duct system warms and cools air to supplement air conditioning.
“Today we are witnessing an exciting new technology solution moving from the lab to be prototyped on everyday Australian rooftops for the first time,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht.
“This new integrated PV system has been designed to provide a low cost system for Australian residential, commercial and industrial rooftops,” he said. “It has the potential to reduce installation and energy costs as well as reduce peak energy demands placed on the grid.”
The system replaces the home’s original corrugated steel roof, and has also been installed in another part of the country, replacing a tile roof.
“These first installations are an important step as the technology moves towards commercialisation and cost competitiveness with conventional rooftop PV,” added Frischknecht.
The system is made to not only replace existing roofs, but also can be used for new residential, commercial and industrial buildings.
“The roofing systems have been specifically designed for Australia’s climate and buildings, to ensure effectiveness and reliability, “ said Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Bob Baldwin.
Other cost-saving measures – aimed to make such systems attractive from a price perspective – include reduced packaging and transport, improved building energy efficiency and easy, low-cost installation.
It’s been reported this weekend that China Sunergy is facing steep issues competing in the crowded Chinese solar industry.The solar industry is booming, but competition has become tremendous thereby challenging some companies like China Sunergy. The company is a worldwide high-tech leader specializing in top-rate solar modules that produce green power.
China Sunergy is affiliated with the China Electrical Equipment Group, or CEEG. It supplies cells to many leading European solar module makers and provides material to aircraft and other manufacturers.
The company recently opened a facility in Turkey to serve Middle East markets and customers in Europe. However, the stock that’s listed as CSUN continues to drop due to investor wariness about production claims and future growth.
Company officials managed to keep afloat by convincing Chinese banks and creditors to work with them to restructure company debt. Despite problems with prospective performance along with current output, the company also appears to have successfully lined up additional credit from U.S. sources. Company leaders also believe they will raise additional funding in Turkey.
China Sunergy earned more than $30 million in the first quarter of 2014, compared to $54 million in first quarter, 2013. Facing financial challenges, company leaders have cut bak on expenses and refocused strategy towards high value markets like France and Japan.
Worldwide, Chinese solar energy companies face challenges from increased regulation. China’s sometimes stormy relationships with immediate neighbors, including sparring with Japan and Vietnam over energy-rich islands in the China Sea has slowed some company growth.