Solar

Solar Installations Surge 95% In 2016

16 Feb 2017   Solar

The solar industry posted its best year on record in 2016, obliterating previous records by installing a smashing 14.6 gigawatts of new solar in the U.S. That is a 95 percent increase from the 7.4 GW installed in 2015, which happened to be the previous record. It was the best year in the history of the U.S. solar business, according to new data from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Even more impressive is the fact that with a cumulative installed capacity at just over 40 GW, roughly one third of all solar capacity ever installed was installed in 2016. Of course, solar has been growing from a small base, and it still represents around 1 percent of total electricity generation. But what matters going forward is growth, and the 2016 figures point to a solid trend that suggests solar will dominate the future. In 2016, […]

OPEC’s Top Producer Is Turning to Wind and Solar Power

14 Feb 2017   Saudi Arabia, Solar, Wind

The nation most identified with its massive oil reserves is turning to wind and solar to generate power at home and help extend the life of its crucial crude franchise. Starting this year, Saudi Arabia plans to develop almost 10 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2023, starting with wind and solar plants in its vast northwestern desert. The effort could replace the equivalent of 80,000 barrels of oil a day now burned for power. Add in natural gas projects set to start later this decade, and the Saudis could quadruple that number, according to Wood MacKenzie Ltd. That could supplant all the crude burned in the kingdom during its winter months. The effort goes hand-in-hand with a drive by the royal family to broaden the economy following two years of budget deficits tied to low oil prices. More industry, though, means more energy, with the amount of power used […]

Cheaper renewables to halt coal and oil demand growth from 2020: research

The falling cost of electric vehicle and solar technology will halt demand growth for oil and coal from 2020, according to research published on Thursday, posing a threat to fossil fuel companies unprepared for the transition. The Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and independent think tank Carbon Tracker Initiative analyzed cost forecasts for electric vehicle (EV) and solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, government policies and the impact on road transport and power markets, which account for half of global fossil fuel consumption. “Fossil fuels may lose 10 percent of market share to PV and EVs within a single decade. This may not sound much but it can be the beginning of the end once demand starts to decline,” Carbon Tracker said in a statement. A 10 percent […]

Solar Could Be A Cheaper Power Source Than Coal Within A Decade

20 Jan 2017   Solar

Coal already faces tremendous competition in the U.S. from low cost natural gas, and pressure from environmentalists concerned about its pollution. The last thing the coal industry needs are more problems. But when it rains it pours… or in this case when it’s sunny the solar industry looks to rain on coal. Coal cost an average of roughly $0.06 per kWh globally which makes it the cheapest power source on average around the world. (Natural gas is much more expensive outside the U.S.) Solar is looking to usurp the title of cheapest power source though. In 2016, countries from Chile to the United Arab Emirates broke records with deals to generate electricity from sunshine for less than 3 cents a kilowatt-hour, half the average global cost of coal power. This year Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Mexico are poised to hold auctions and tenders which could see solar generation prices […]

Solar Could Beat Coal to Become the Cheapest Power on Earth

4 Jan 2017   Solar

Solar Could Beat Coal to Become the Cheapest Power on Earth Solar power is now cheaper than coal in some parts of the world. In less than a decade, it’s likely to be the lowest-cost option almost everywhere. In 2016, countries from Chile to the United Arab Emirates broke records with deals to generate electricity from sunshine for less than 3 cents a kilowatt-hour, half the average global cost of coal power. Now, Saudi Arabia , Jordan and Mexico are planning auctions and tenders for this year, aiming to drop prices even further. Taking advantage: Companies such as Italy’s Enel SpA and Dublin’s Mainstream Renewable Power , who gained experienced in Europe and now seek new markets abroad as subsidies dry up at home. Since 2009, solar prices are down 62 percent, with every part of the supply chain trimming costs. That’s help cut risk premiums on bank loans, […]

Solar power at 1¢/kWh by 2025 – “The promise of quasi-infinite and free energy is here”

29 Dec 2016   Solar

Thierry Lepercq, head of research, technology and innovation at the French energy company Engie SA, said in an interview at Bloomberg that he sees a potential for the cost of solar electricity to fall below $10-megawatt hour (1¢/kWh) in the sunniest climates by 2025. Lepercq believes “solar, battery storage, electrical and hydrogen vehicles, and connected devices are in a ‘J’ curve (of upward growth potential).” One consequence of this new energy economy is that, “the price (of oil) could drop to $10 if markets anticipate a significant fall in demand.” “The promise of quasi-infinite and free energy is here.” The key argument being pushed regarding renewables by Lepercq is price – nothing to do with environmental concerns at all. From a business perspective, Engie is hoping to grow into the microgrid market in the coming years – as can be noted by the combination of technologies and studies from […]

On the road to solar fuels and chemicals

27 Dec 2016   Solar

In a new paper in the journal Nature Materials (in an edition focused on materials for sustainable energy), a team from Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has reviewed milestones in the progress of solid-state photoelectrocatalytic technologies toward delivering solar fuels and chemistry. Noting the “ important advances ” in solar fuels research, the review team also noted that the largest scientific and technical milestones are still ahead. Following their review, they listed some of the scientific challenges they see as the most important for the coming years. As CO 2 levels in the atmosphere increase and it becomes clear that this has substantial consequences for our climate, developing alternatives to fossil fuels is more urgent than ever. Fuels are unrivaled for energy storage and we have an enormous infrastructure built to handle fuels for transportation and heating. In addition, the chemical industry and all the products and […]

2016 was the year solar panels finally became cheaper than fossil fuels. Just wait for 2017

27 Dec 2016   Solar

The renewable energy future will arrive when installing a new solar panels is cheaper than a comparable investment in coal, natural gas or other options. If you ask the World Economic Forum (WEF), the day has arrived. Solar and wind is now the same price or cheaper than fossil fuels in more than 30 countries, the WEF reported in December (pdf). As prices for solar and wind power continue their precipitous fall, two-thirds of all nations will reach the point known as “grid parity” within a few years, even without subsidies. “Renewable energy has reached a tipping point,” Michael Drexler, who leads infrastructure and development investing at the WEF, said in a statement. “It is not only a commercially viable option, but an outright compelling investment opportunity with long-term, stable, inflation-protected returns.” Those numbers are already translating into vast new acres of silicon and glass. In 2016, utilities added […]

Saudi Use Of Solar Could Boost Its Oil Exports

23 Dec 2016   Saudi Arabia, Solar

Saudi Arabia will turn to solar for electricity, which could allow it to export a lot more oil. The connection between solar and oil is not an obvious one since they typically do not compete against each other – oil is used to refine fuels for transportation while solar is used to generate electricity. Solar traditionally competes with natural gas, coal and nuclear power. However, that is not the case in Saudi Arabia, where oil is still burned for electricity, an increasingly uncommon practice throughout the world. In fact, Saudi Arabia is the largest consumer of oil for electricity, a weakness that Saudi officials believe they can no longer afford. Saudi Arabia burns through roughly 900,000 barrels per day during the summer months, according to the IEA, when Saudi citizens crank up the AC to provide some relief during the sweltering heat. That consumption is equivalent to roughly $16 […]

EROEI estimates show PV to be a fully mature technology

23 Dec 2016   Solar

“The EROEI of Photo-Voltaics can be whatever you like these days” a friend of mine said once after attending a bio-physical economics conference. It epitomises a growing problem in this field, while the broad concept of net energy or Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) is broadly accepted there is no unified methodology for its calculation. Different researchers apply different methods producing markedly different results. Photo-Voltaics (PV) is an energy source where this problem has been more acute. Equipment and installation prices collapsed four or five fold since 2010, but published EROEI studies have not converged; in fact it appears they dispersed even further. Fortunately, another friend, Rembrandt Koppelaar, has recently finished a study assessing these assorted EROEI estimates, entitled Solar-PV energy payback and net energy: Meta-assessment of study quality, reproducibility, and results harmonization . As it turns out, low EROEI figures are largely an artefact of outdated data […]

Saudis Accelerating Sunward Tilt in Charge for Oil Revenue

22 Dec 2016   Saudi Arabia, Solar

Saudi Arabia’s long-awaited drive to free up more oil revenue by shifting to solar power generation is expected to pick up speed next quarter, according to local developers eyeing contracts. “I’m fully expecting within the first quarter 500 megawatts to come out in tenders and then it’ll ramp up,” said Paddy Padmanathan, the chief executive officer of Acwa Power International in Riyadh. “That will be a game changer for the region.” The world’s biggest crude exporter also burns more oil than any other country to generate electricity. According to the most recent International Energy Agency figures, the kingdom consumes at least 900,000 barrels a day at peak periods of the year to keep the lights on — an amount worth over $16 billion a annually based on current oil spot prices. Integrating more solar power onto the Saudi grid could free up more crude for export. Saudi Arabia plans […]

EROEI Calculations for Solar PV Are Misleading

22 Dec 2016   Solar

The Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI) concept is very frequently used in energy studies. In fact, many readers seem to think, “Of course, EROEI is what we should be looking at when comparing different types of energy. What else is important?” Unfortunately, the closer to the discussions of researchers a person gets, the more problems a person discovers. People who work with EROEI regularly say, “EROEI is a tool, but it is a blunt tool. An EROEI of 100 is good compared to an EROEI of 10. For small differences, it is not so clear.” Because of the idiosyncrasies of how EROEI works, different researchers using EROEI analyses come to very different conclusions. This issue has recently come up in two different solar PV analyses. One author used EROEI analysis to justify scaling up of solar PV . Another author published an article in Nature Communications that claims, […]

U.S. wind power enjoys a rebirth as solar’s obstacles mount

16 Dec 2016   Solar, Wind

A year after Congress extended generous tax credits for renewable energy projects, the U.S. wind industry is thriving. Solar power companies, meanwhile, are hunkering down for a rough 2017. The tax credit renewal has boosted the long-term outlooks for both industries. But in the short term, the subsidies are far more attractive for wind power, which has spurred utilities to launch wind projects while they scale back or delay solar installations. Advances in wind turbine technology are also opening up new locations for development and driving a wave of spending to upgrade existing projects. In the last few weeks, power companies with large renewable holdings – including Southern Co ( SO.N ), NextEra Energy Inc ( […]

U.S. Solar Boom Continues: 1MW Installed Every 32 Minutes

15 Dec 2016   Solar

Renewable energy policy faces a future of uncertainty with a new fossil fuel-friendly administration set to take office, but the U.S. solar industry just marked its best quarter to date. In the third quarter, the U.S. saw 4,143 megawatts of new solar PV installations, blowing past the previous record set in 2015, according to new data from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. That breaks down to one megawatt installed on average every 32 minutes in the third quarter. “Coming off our largest quarter ever and with an extremely impressive pipeline ahead, it’s safe to say the state of the solar industry here in America is strong,” Tom Kimbis, SEIA’s interim president, said in a statement . “The solar market now enjoys an economically-winning hand that pays off both financially and environmentally, and American taxpayers have noticed. This year has been exceptionally strong because solar developers expected […]

Vast Moroccan solar power plant is hard act for Africa to follow

7 Nov 2016   Morocco, Solar

On the edge of the Sahara desert, Morocco is building one of the world’s biggest solar power plants in a project largely funded by the European Union. It is a hard success for other African nations to match as they seek to implement a new global deal to combat climate change. The huge 160-megawatt first phase of the Noor plant near the town of Ouarzazate contrasts with efforts by some other nations focused on tiny roof-top solar panels to bring power to remote rural homes. At Noor, curved mirrors totaling 1.5 million square meters (16 million square feet) – the size of about 200 soccer pitches – capture the sun’s heat in the reddish desert. Morocco is showcasing Noor before talks among almost 200 nations in Marrakesh about implementing […]

Clouds gather in rooftop solar’s biggest U.S. market

26 Oct 2016   Solar

For years, the quiet, winding streets of the Scripps Ranch neighborhood have been pure gold for solar installers. Thanks to its high power prices, hot summers and large homes to cool, a greater share of Scripps Ranch residents have embraced solar power than anywhere else in California, itself the nation’s solar energy leader. The rooftops of some 2,000 homes – 26 percent – are fitted with panels in Scripps Ranch, according to an analysis of state and utility solar installation numbers and U.S. Census Bureau housing data by the non-profit Center for Sustainable Energy and the environmental news web site EcoWatch. The growth has been rapid. In July of 2014, San Diego installer Sullivan Solar put up […]

Renewables overtake coal as world’s largest source of power capacity

25 Oct 2016   Solar

About 500,000 solar panels were installed every day last year as a record-shattering surge in green electricity saw renewables overtake coal as the world’s largest source of power capacity.  Two wind turbines went up every hour in countries such as China, according to International Energy Agency officials who have sharply upgraded their forecasts of how fast renewable energy sources will keep growing.  “We are witnessing a transformation of global power markets led by renewables,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the global energy advisory agency.  Part of the growth was caused by falls in the cost of solar and onshore wind power that Mr Birol said would have been “unthinkable” only five years ago.  Average global generation costs for new onshore wind farms fell by an estimated 30 per cent between 2010 and 2015 while those for big solar panel plants fell by an even steeper two-thirds, an IEA report published on Tuesday showed.

IEA to Lift Solar, Wind Outlook After Decade of Underestimates

15 Oct 2016   Solar, Wind

The world’s most prominent energy forecaster will raise its outlook for wind and solar installations following a decade of underestimating growth in the renewables industry. The International Energy Agency, which was established as a watchdog of the industry in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis, will “significantly” raise its estimates for renewables when it publishes its annual mid-term market report for the industry at the end of this month, a spokesman for Paris-based organization said. The findings will feed into the World Energy Outlook report due in November, which is used by many forecasters as a starting point for trends in the industry. Although the IEA aims to provide its 29 member-nations impartial advice, it’s been criticized for publishing conservative estimates that failed to predict the rapid growth of wind and solar farms as a source of electricity. “The IEA has significantly raised its estimates for the deployment […]

Alberta looks to power government buildings with solar

8 Oct 2016   Canada, Solar

The provincial government of Alberta said it was looking at whether solar power could replace expiring contracts to power its buildings. Alberta’s government issued a request for information on the potential costs and the best way forward toward using solar power for half of government operations. Three contracts to power government-owned buildings are on the books, but two of those are set to expire before the end of 2017.

The government said replacing the two set to expire opens the door for potential solar energy development. If the government can take on solar instead, it said that would result in 10 times the current amount of solar energy produced in the oil-rich province.  “With this request for information, Alberta is leading by example and exploring how to create an opportunity for an emerging technology, drive new innovation and diversify our electricity sector,” Minister of Infrastructure Brain Mason said in a statement.

After Paris, India gets support for solar power

5 Oct 2016   Climate, India, Solar

Asian Development Bank lends India a hand to help advance rooftop solar power programs. Photo by Craig Russell/Shutterstock After depositing its signature to the Paris climate deal, India’s low-carbon objectives received financial support to advance solar energy, a lender said. The Asian Development Bank said it would set aside $500 million in funding to help advance a rooftop solar energy system to help India acclimate to what, for the country’s energy sector, is emerging technology. “There is huge potential for India to expand its use of solar rooftop technologies because of the sharp drop in the price of solar panels, meaning the cost of producing solar energy is at or close to that from fossil fuels,” Anqian Huang, a regional specialist at the ADB’, said in a statement. “Sourcing more solar energy will also help India meet the carbon emissions reduction target that it has committed to as part […]

Solar, wind developers: U.S. desert plan hurts renewable energy

15 Sep 2016   Environment, Solar, Wind

The United States on Wednesday unveiled a long-awaited plan for desert renewable energy development that the solar and wind industries said unfairly favors land conservation and severely limits the ability to build projects critical to meeting the nation’s climate goals. The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, eight years in the making, was designed to streamline development of wind and solar projects on federal and private lands in California while preserving pristine desert habitats. On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Interior unveiled the first phase of the plan, covering 10.8 million acres of federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It designates 388,000 acres of those lands as best for renewable energy development. Applications for projects in those areas will receive a streamlined permitting process and possible financial incentives, the agency said in a press release. A coalition of five wind and solar energy trade groups said the […]

Record Year For Solar Expected As Installations Surge 43%

13 Sep 2016   Solar

Solar panels The record-breaking installations of solar panels in the U.S. continues with an eye-popping 2 gigawatts installed in just the second quarter of this year, according to new data from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The solar industry installed 2,051 megawatts between April and June, marking the eleventh consecutive quarter in which the U.S. saw more than a gigawatt of solar capacity added to the grid. The volume of installations also marks 43 percent growth from the same quarter in 2015. “We’re seeing the beginning of an unprecedented wave of growth that will occur throughout the remainder of 2016, specifically within the utility PV segment,” Cory Honeyman, GTM Research associate director of U.S. solar research, said in a statement. “With more than 10 gigawatts of utility PV currently under construction, the second half of this year and the first half of 2017 are on […]

North Carolina has more PURPA-qualifying solar facilities than any other state

24 Aug 2016   Solar

North Carolina surpassed states with more favorable solar resources to become the state with the second-highest amount of installed utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity owned by independent power producers in 2015, behind only California. Utility-scale—one megawatt (MW) or greater—solar PV growth in North Carolina has been encouraged by a decades-old federal mandate, the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA), and by state policies such as the renewable portfolio standard and the state renewable energy tax credit . Currently, 1,173 MW, or 92%, of North Carolina’s 1,271 MW utility-scale PV capacity is certified to have qualifying facility (QF) small power producer status under PURPA, which is more than any state in both absolute and percentage terms. Congress […]

Solar and Wind Manufacturing Is Thriving. Why Don’t Mainstream Reporters Know?

18 Aug 2016   Solar, Wind

Solar panels Like many Americans, I am an avid listener to American Public Radio’s Marketplace Show. As their website proudly proclaims: Marketplace [is] the most widely heard program on business and the economy — radio or television, commercial or public broadcasting — in the country. This past Friday, they did their weekly roundup on the economy and focused on manufacturing jobs because of emphasis provided on this topic by both of the Presidential campaigns. The guests were John Carney of the Wall Street Journal and Catherine Rampell from the Washington Post . At minute 3:00 Catherine weighs in on whether clean energy jobs would really put the laid off manufacturing sector workers back to work. At 4:30, John Carney shows his complete ignorance and claims that clean energy jobs are “science fiction”. I know that Marketplace knows better because Scott Tong does excellent clean energy reporting on the show […]

Solar Manufacturers Pivot Away From Big U.S. Utility Plants

12 Aug 2016   Solar

SunPower, First Solar shift focus to rooftops and panel sales Utility solar to decline 11% as tax extension delays deals The top two U.S. solar manufacturers are shifting away from the biggest domestic market because utilities aren’t signing as many deals to buy electricity from their giant power plants. SunPower Corp. the No. 2 U.S. panelmaker, said Tuesday it’s turning its attention to rooftop power, while First Solar Inc., the biggest producer, now expects more of its growth to come from selling panels to other companies. The two companies built some of the biggest solar farms in the world, projects that would never have been completed unless utilities had agreed to buy the power. Because of a shift in tax policy at the end of 2015, those power-plant deals are slowing, which may drag down results. “Certainly 2017 will be a difficult year in power plants,” SunPower Chief Executive […]

6 Signs The Big Global Switch To Solar Has Already Begun

4 Aug 2016   China, Solar

China has installed 20 gigawatts of new solar power just in the first half of this year. This achievement beats analysts’ expectations by a wide margin. China wants to add 20 GW of new solar every year for the next four, but apparently could do twice that. At the end of 2015, China had about 40 gigawatts of installed solar power, so in just six months it has added half as much again. It already surpasses the previous solar champ, Germany. The Crescent Dunes “concentrating solar power” plant in Nevada, operated by a Santa Monica firm, is using molten salt as a battery so that it can generate electricity 24/7. It is the first such plant to use solar energy to melt the salt directly instead of via oil, which is a huge advance in efficiency. All electricity plants are just a way to turn turbines using boiling water. […]

Quiet Solar Revolution Unfolding In U.S. Despite Low Oil Prices

29 Jul 2016   Solar

Oil is enduring a tough month, as further worries about the ongoing supply glut and declining demand push prices to their lowest point in three months. Yet as fossil fuels struggle, the quiet revolution in renewable energy continues to push forward. Attention has been focused on high-profile ventures like Elon Musk’s Gigactory and the recent roll-out of Tesla’s long-term plan. Musk hopes to single-handedly transform the world’s energy infrastructure, with factories like the Gigafactory run on renewable energy, producing cheap lithium batteries of electric cars. Musk has also positioned himself as a key figure in the future of solar power, serving as chairman and major shareholder of SolarCity, the largest American solar energy firm, which is now being formally taken over by Tesla. Skeptics however have pointed to the poor profitability of Tesla, which has lost hundreds of millions, and the potential for lithium demand to be […]

A New Way of Looking at Solar Cells

12 Jul 2016   Solar

Advanced imaging technology reveals a bumpy surface of tiny, faceted grains on perovskite solar cells. A big step in helping perovskites reach their potential as the basis for far cheaper and more efficient types of solar cells came this week from a team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory . The scientists found that the surfaces of materials with this distinctive crystal structure vary dramatically in performance. Perovskites are made up of tiny grains that are faceted, not unlike diamonds, says Alexander Weber-Bargioni, one of the lead researchers, and some facets turn out to be much more efficient at producing electrical current than adjacent ones. The result suggests that optimizing the favorable facets would allow far more efficient solar cells. Some of the facets studied by the Berkeley group can convert the energy in sunlight into electricity at a rate of close to 31 percent, which is the theoretical efficiency […]

Big solar is leaving rooftop systems in the dust

5 Jul 2016   Solar

Solar power is on pace for the first time this year to contribute more new electricity to the grid than will any other form of energy – a feat driven more by economics than green mandates. The cost of electricity from large-scale solar installations now is comparable to and sometimes cheaper than natural gas-fired power, even without incentives aimed at promoting environmentally friendly power, according to industry players and outside cost studies. Buoyed by appeals to self reliance and environmental stewardship, as well as government subsidies, the early solar industry was dominated by rooftop panels that powered individual homes and businesses. But such small-scale installations are expensive, requiring hefty incentives to make them attractive to homeowners. Today, large systems that sell directly to utilities dominate. […]

Floating Solar: A Win-Win for Drought-Stricken Lakes in U.S.

30 Jun 2016   Solar

Floating solar panel arrays are increasingly being deployed in places as diverse as Brazil and Japan. One prime spot for these “floatovoltaic” projects could be the sunbaked U.S. Southwest, where they could produce clean energy and prevent evaporation in major man-made reservoirs. Courtesy of KYOCERA Corporation. A 2.3-megwatt floating solar array in Kasai City, Japan. The Colorado River’s two great reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are in retreat . Multi-year droughts and chronic overuse have taken their toll, to be sure, but vast quantities of water are also lost to evaporation. What if the same scorching sun that causes so much of this water loss were harnessed for electric power? Installing floating solar photovoltaic arrays, sometimes called “ floatovoltaics ,” on a portion of these two reservoirs in the southwestern United States could produce clean, renewable energy while shielding significant expandes of water from the hot desert sun. […]

U.S., Canada and Mexico vow to get half their electricity from clean power by 2025

28 Jun 2016   Solar, USA, Wind

The leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico will pledge on Wednesday that by 2025 half of their overall electricity generation will come from clean power sources, according to administration officials. The commitment — which will be a joint one, rather than an individual commitment by each nation — represents an aggressive target given the reliance by the United States and Mexico on fossil fuels for much of their electricity supply. Roughly 59 percent of Canada’s electricity is generated by hydropower operations, with another 16 percent coming from nuclear plants, so it has already surpassed the targeted benchmark. The new commitment includes not just renewables but also nuclear power, carbon capture and storage plants, and […]

When Will Solar Overtake Oil?

31 May 2016   Solar

Solar Power Cells Several years ago, when I was working on my book Power Plays , I spent a lot of time thinking about the future of energy. One thing I concluded was that solar power would become one of the world’s most important sources of energy – if not eventually the most important source of energy. I also discussed this in the 2007 column “The Future Is Solar.” There are a couple of reasons I still believe this. But first, I should make it clear that it will be a long time before solar power rivals the consumption of oil in the global energy market. While solar power is growing rapidly, we still use about 100 times as much energy in the form of oil (and about 90 times as much in the form of coal). Further, even though solar power is growing at a fast rate, the […]

Saudi Arabia to Revive Its Solar Power Program at Smaller Scale

26 May 2016   Saudi Arabia, Solar

Saudi Arabia is seeking to revive its stalled solar-power program, scaling back more ambitious targets it set four years ago after making little headway in transforming the energy supply of the world’s biggest oil exporting nation. The kingdom plans to install 9.5 gigawatts of renewable energy under its Vision 2030 program announced last month, about a quarter of the previous goal. The new target is about 14 percent of the country’s current generating capacity and is achievable because of a plunge in the cost of photovoltaics, government officials said. “Solar should be the fundamental solution for Saudi Arabia,” Ibrahim Babelli, the country’s deputy minister for economy and planning, told reporters at a conference in Dubai. The goals reflect work by Prince Mohammed bin Salman to overhaul the economy of Saudi Arabia, selling off a stake in the state owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co. to diversify away from fossil fuels […]

Solar power getting cheaper in the United States

20 May 2016   Solar

The cost of installing solar energy in the United States is down more than 50 percent since the start of a federal support program, the Energy Department said. The federal government is supporting solar development through its SunShot initiative, which aims to make the renewable technology competitive. The program aims to move solar power capacity from less than 1 percent of the national electricity supply to 14 percent by 2020. In a progress review , the Energy Department said it was about 70 percent on its way to reaching its goals. Solar power accounts for about 1 percent of the total electricity consumed in the United States, but represented 30 percent of the new power […]

Solar Hits Millionth Installation In The U.S. – Faster Growth Ahead

12 May 2016   Solar

Solar Roof Installation In February, the millionth solar installation was completed in the United States. That momentous number has taken forty years to arrive. Fortunately for renewable energy advocates everywhere, the next million installations will likely take a lot less than forty years. At the end of 2015, the U.S. solar market had a total capacity of 27 gigawatts. While that number may sound like a lot, in reality it’s only 1 percent of the overall electrical mix of the country. Given that, solar still has a long way to go before it becomes a major energy production source in the U.S. Conversely, solar power also has a long potential growth runway ahead of it. Solar power installations are expected to grow 119 percent in 2016, or roughly 16 GW of additional installed base. That compares to 7.3 GW installed in 2015. By 2020, the U.S. could have 100 […]

New Record Set for World’s Cheapest Solar Power

10 May 2016   Solar

10 years ago making solar power cheaper than coal seemed like a very long term goal. Now it is reality. I wonder if the dudes at Google who gave up on this goal feel a bit embarrassed now ? Bloomberg reports that the developers bid as little as 2.99 cents a kilowatt-hour to develop 800 MW of solar power projects for the Dubai utility company – 15% below than the previous record set in Mexico. The lowest priced solar power has plunged around 50% in the past year – New Record Set for World’s Cheapest Solar, Now Undercutting Coal .

U.S. throws more money at solar power

4 May 2016   Solar

The U.S. Energy Department said it has $25 million in funding to help software developers and utility provides better integrate solar power to the grid. “Our ongoing grid modernization work will help accelerate the widespread adoption of the clean energy resources that will define our low-carbon future” Lynn Orr, the Energy Department’s undersecretary for science and energy, said in a statement. “This funding will help that mission by supporting industry partners working to integrate, store, and deploy solar energy throughout our electric grid.” The Energy Department said the dozen or so projects that could be developed with the new funding will help companies build demonstrations that will offer insight into how to incorporate solar power to the grid more […]

As Oil Jobs Dry Up, Workers Turn to Solar Sector

22 Apr 2016   Solar

Workers install massive racks that will hold solar panels at the Alamo 6 solar farm… A few years ago, Sean and Stormy Fravel were riding the oil and gas boom like so many others in West Texas. But when their jobs disappeared along with $100-a-barrel oil prices, they turned to a new type of energy occupation: solar power. Instead of driving an 18-wheeler to haul drilling equipment in and out of the oil patch, the Fravels now install solar panel racking systems and perform quality checks on Alamo 6, a solar farm under construction in McCamey, about 300 miles northwest of San Antonio. “If oil booms I’ll send her back to the field,” Mr. Fravel said of his big rig. “I won’t go though. My grandfather always said it’s better to make a slow dime than a fast nickel.” Plunging oil and gas has generated more than 84,000 pink […]

Solar-Panel Installers Face Clouded Future

26 Mar 2016   Solar

Many U.S. states are considering dialing back solar-power incentives amid growing pressure from local electric utilities, potentially dealing a blow to the companies that install home solar systems around the country. More than 900,000 homes across the U.S. are equipped with solar panels, with most of those homeowners able to sell any excess electricity their houses generate back to the utility, helping reduce the cost of home solar panels by up to 30%. But the price solar customers get paid for that extra renewable power through so-called net metering is starting to fall, as several states, including Nevada and Hawaii, have slashed their solar subsidies. Utilities in Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Utah and many other states are currently proposing measures that include changing their net metering programs or raising the monthly fees charged to home solar users for […]

Saudi Arabia’s Oil Chief Prepares for a World After Fossil Fuels

18 Mar 2016   Saudi Arabia, Solar

 Even as it pumps near-record quantities of oil, Saudi Arabia is getting ready for a time when the world will no longer need its biggest export. The world’s largest crude exporter is focusing on renewable-energy sources such as solar power in preparation for a post-oil global economy, Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said at a conference in Berlin on Thursday. Still, he doesn’t expect that era to dawn any time soon, estimating that consumers will still be burning fossil fuels for at least another 50 years. “I don’t think there is a more ideal country for renewables than Saudi Arabia,” given its abundant sunshine, available land and plentiful sand, which is needed for making solar panels, al-Naimi said. Studies by the kingdom and other countries into alternative energy are looking at ways to shift from oil and gas to renewables, he said. It’s not […]

$2 Billion Loss for Generators as a Million U.S. Roofs Get Solar

18 Mar 2016   Solar, USA

Rooftop solar is casting a $2 billion shadow over power generators across the eastern U.S. With more than a million U.S. houses set to have solar panels by the end of next month, grid managers serving the eastern U.S. plan to cut the amount of electricity they buy from conventional plants by about 1,400 megawatts, starting in 2019, according to industry consultant ICF International Inc. That’s enough juice to power about 780,000 households. The result could be as much as $2 billion in lost revenue for generators that are already reeling from lower demand, tight environmental regulation and depressed prices. Power producers including NRG Energy Inc. warn that the growing reliance on solar may curtail investment in conventional power plants, threatening the reliability of the U.S. electricity system. That’s already happened in Germany, they say, citing plans by EON SE and RWE AG to scrap existing or planned plants. […]

First Solar’s Cells Break Efficiency Record

8 Mar 2016   Solar

Driving forward in the race for highly efficient solar cells, First Solar says it has converted 22.1 percent of the energy in sunlight into electricity using experimental cells made from cadmium telluride—a technology that today represents around 5 percent of the worldwide solar power market. The company’s commercial line of solar cells has reached an energy conversion efficiency of 16.4 percent.  The theoretical efficiency limit for cadmium telluride cells is above 30 percent—significantly higher than that of conventional silicon. (Today’s commodity silicon-based solar panels have efficiencies between 16 and 18 percent; their theoretical limit is thought to be well below 30 percent.) First Solar, which is the only major manufacturer of cadmium telluride solar panels left in the United States, is working to bring commercial solar panels closer to that limit. “The gap between what’s theoretically achievable and what’s out there today has been pretty broad,” says Raffi Garabedian, First Solar’s chief technology officer. “We are closing that gap at a breakneck pace.”

View full article at www.technologyreview.com

Crescent Dunes concentrating solar plant begins producing electricity

5 Mar 2016   Solar

Crescent Dunes Solar Energy, a 110 megawatt (MW) concentrating solar power (CSP) electricity plant, began full operation in February, according to its press release . Crescent Dunes uses an energy storage system that developers expect will be able to store enough thermal energy to generate electricity for up to 10 hours after sunset or on cloudy days when direct sunlight is unavailable. Through December 2015, CSP made up 8% of total U.S. solar electric generating capacity, while utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) made up 53%, and distributed solar PV made up 38%. Solar thermal electricity power plants differ from PV technology , which uses solar cells to convert direct and diffuse sunlight directly into electricity. Solar thermal plants rely on direct sunlight to focus the sun’s heat energy onto collectors. Most of the earlier utility-scale CSP projects […]

First Solar’s Cells Break Efficiency Record

5 Mar 2016   Solar

Driving forward in the race for highly efficient solar cells, First Solar says it has converted 22.1 percent of the energy in sunlight into electricity using experimental cells made from cadmium telluride—a technology that today represents around 5 percent of the worldwide solar power market. The company’s commercial line of solar cells has reached an energy conversion efficiency of 16.4 percent.  The theoretical efficiency limit for cadmium telluride cells is above 30 percent—significantly higher than that of conventional silicon. (Today’s commodity silicon-based solar panels have efficiencies between 16 and 18 percent; their theoretical limit is thought to be well below 30 percent.) First Solar, which is the only major manufacturer of cadmium telluride solar panels left in the United States, is working to bring commercial solar panels closer to that limit. “The gap between what’s theoretically achievable and what’s out there today has been pretty broad,” says Raffi Garabedian, First Solar’s chief technology officer. “We are closing that gap at a breakneck pace.”

View full article at www.technologyreview.com

IHS CERAWeek: Texas likely to see ‘wave’ of new solar power generation: panel

26 Feb 2016   Solar

A top Texas power regulator, a grid operator and two corporate executives focused much of their panel discussion Thursday at IHS CERAWeek on distributed generation, agreeing that a “wave” of solar generation is likely on its way. A state that leads the nation in installed wind generation but has lagged behind on both rooftop and utility-scale solar, the subject of DG in Texas has previously not received much public airing. DG is power that is generated at the point of consumption, not centrally. Donna Nelson, chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission, said she believes solar will be the “fifth wave” of change that has transformed the Texas power sector since it was deregulated in 1999 and a competitive retail market was launched in 2002. Article continues below… Megawatt Daily provides detailed coverage of power prices in major US and Canadian electricity markets, up-to-date information about solicitations and supply […]

California has nearly half of the nation’s solar electricity generating capacity

6 Feb 2016   Solar

The United States has slightly more than 20,000 megawatts (MW) of solar generating capacity, which includes utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal installations, as well as distributed generation solar PV systems, also known as rooftop solar. In 2014, California became the first state to generate at least 5% of its electricity from utility-scale solar plants (i.e., generators with at least one MW of capacity). Utility-scale solar makes up more than two-thirds of California’s solar capacity, with utility-scale solar PV making up 55% and solar thermal systems such as concentrating solar making up another 13%. Distributed generation solar PV systems, often installed on rooftops of residential and commercial buildings, account for the remaining 32%. Utility-scale systems in California make up a higher share (68%) than the national average of 60%. The mix of utility-scale versus distributed generation solar PV varies by […]

Solar Energy Is the Future; You Can’t Stop It

4 Jan 2016   Solar

Your Dec. 29 editorial “ Nevada’s Solar Flare ” targets the solar-leasing companies, calling them “overgrown solar babies,” and there is some truth to that. But many of us bought our systems outright. I make about one-third of the energy I use; the rest I buy from the utility. Nobody subsidizes me; I pay the same price for electricity that all customers do. Consider this analogy: If I use less gasoline than the guy with the big SUV, should I be charged extra to pay my “fair share” of the fossil-fuel infrastructure? Doesn’t big oil have refineries and trucks and gas stations, just as big electric has transmission, delivery and grid maintenance? Every commodity has an infrastructure, but where else do we attempt to parse the infrastructure and charge separately for it? If the utilities decide to penalize solar customers by changing the net-metering system, some of us will […]

A Sunny Future for Utility-Scale Solar

30 Dec 2015   Solar

Utility-scale solar and distributed solar both have an important role to play in reducing greenhouse emissions, and both have made great strides in the past year. Utility-scale solar, the focus of this article, is reaching “grid parity” (i.e., cost equivalency) with traditional generation in more areas across the country. And solar received a major boost when the federal tax incentive was recently extended through 2021. The amount of the incentive decreases over time, but the solar industry may be able to offset the lower tax incentive if costs continue to decline. New changes in policy and technology may further boost its prospects. Record year for utility-scale solar Some of the world’s largest solar plants came on-line in the U.S. during the past year, such as the 550-megawatt (MW) Topaz Solar plant in San Luis Obispo County, California and the 550MW Desert Sunlight plant in Desert Center, California. Last year […]

Wind, Solar Companies Get Boost From Tax-Credit Extension

17 Dec 2015   Solar, Wind

Solar and wind companies scored a major victory when U.S. lawmakers voted to extend lucrative federal subsidies for renewable energy late Tuesday night. The tax credits for new power projects fueled by wind turbines and solar panels have been key to the rapid expansion of renewable energy from California to Massachusetts. But those credits were set to expire. The wind subsidy technically lapsed at the end of 2014, though many wind farm developers who had started construction were able to tap it this year; the solar subsidy was scheduled to shrink significantly at the end of next year. The extension of the environmental tax credits came as part of the $1.15 trillion federal spending bill , which averted a government shutdown and lifted the 40-year-old ban on exporting American crude oil. Both the House and Senate still must pass it and President Barack Obama must sign it into law. […]

Big Oil, Make Way for Big Solar. The Winners and Losers in Paris

14 Dec 2015   Climate, Solar

Saving the world isn’t going to be cheap. If you sell oil, coal or old-fashioned cars, that threatens disaster. For makers of stuff like solar panels, high-tech home insulation, and efficient lighting, it’s a potential miracle. That’s the bottom line from this weekend’s climate deal in Paris, which commits 195 countries to reducing pollution in order to head off dangerous climate change. Global governments and companies are counting the costs and benefits from the agreement, which calls for wholesale transformations of energy, transportation, and dozens of other lines of business. Fossil-fuel producers and countries that depend on them face massive, costly disruption. Players in up-and-coming industries like renewable power and energy efficiency are looking at an unprecedented opportunity. “As a major oil and gas company, we are clearly at stake in these discussions,” Patrick Pouyanne, the chief executive officer of French oil giant Total SA, said in Paris. But […]