Solar

Floating solar power: new frontier for green-leaning water utilities

18 Aug 2017   Solar

Lakes and ponds used by water utilities have long been viewed with a single purpose: holding water. Now a handful of pioneering water utilities are looking at their aquatic real estate with a new purpose in mind: solar energy generation. Large-scale floating solar projects have been installed in Japan and China, as well as on ponds at California wineries. But solar energy has remained primarily a terrestrial endeavor because, in most cases, it is simpler and cheaper to mount photovoltaic (solar) panels on land. That is beginning to change. The floats and other mounting components unique […]

Researchers Have Been Underestimating the Cost of Wind and Solar

26 Jul 2017   Solar, Wind

How should electricity from wind turbines and solar panels be evaluated? Should it be evaluated as if these devices are stand-alone devices? Or do these devices provide electricity that is of such low quality, because of its intermittency and other factors, that we should recognize the need for supporting services associated with actually putting the electricity on the grid? This question comes up in many types of evaluations, including Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE), Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI), Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), and Energy Payback Period (EPP). I recently gave a talk called The Problem of Properly Evaluating Intermittent Renewable Resources (PDF) at a BioPhysical Economics Conference in Montana. As many of you know, this is the group that is concerned about Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROI). As you might guess, my conclusion is that the current methodology is quite misleading. Wind and solar are not […]

Is Solar Reliable When Grids Are Stressed?

14 Jul 2017   Prices, Solar

If you want more solar BTUs for your buck, track the sun. This generally means the array is on the ground since very few homes are set up for rooftop tracking. Some commercial buildings are suitable, but once you get up in the air, even one story, the wind load becomes a factor, and engineering an array (and the building itself) to stand up to the wind will probably be a money loser. There is another way to get more output from the same amount of space and that is by concentrating the light. PV panels are ‘one-sun’ arrays: what you see is what you get. Concentrators (many suns) come in a few different shapes and sizes, and they can magnify what the sun has on offer by a factor of several thousand. It is not that difficult to build a dish (it looks like a big DirecTV saucer, […]

Trump’s ‘Solar Border Wall’ Claim Sends Stocks Soaring

23 Jun 2017   Prices, Solar

BBC . During the rally, he suggested that the idea to install solar panels on the hypothetical wall was originally his, though the green amenity had been included in several companies’ bids to plan and construct the wall. “ We’re thinking of something that’s unique, we’re talking about the southern border. Lots of sun, lots of heat,” Trump said. “ We’re thinking about building the wall as a solar wall, so it creates energy, and pays for itself. And this way Mexico will have to pay much less money…Pretty good imagination, right? Good? My idea.” The Mexican border wall had been a cornerstone of Trump’s campaign for president last year. The Department of Homeland Security invited construction companies to submit proposals for the wall’s design after the January inauguration. Two hundred companies have responded so far and 20 have been short-listed. Bloomberg reported that stocks of solar panel companies […]

Forget Coal, Solar will Soon be Cheaper than Natural Gas Power

22 Jun 2017   Solar

The staggering drop in the cost of clean energy has already upended the global power market over the past two decades — and that trend will only continue for the next two decades, according to new analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). As a result, renewables will capture the lion’s share of the $10.2 trillion the world will invest in new power generation by 2040, BNEF projects in its annual New Energy Outlook 2017 report. CREDIT: BNEF New Energy Outlook 2017 Despite years of plummeting prices for renewables, BNEF projects that over the next two decades, the cost of solar power will still drop another two-thirds, onshore wind costs will be cut nearly in half, and offshore wind costs will drop a stunning 71 percent. Here’s how this will profoundly transform power markets in the years ahead: By 2028, solar will beat existing gas generation. Solar and wind […]

Trump Says ‘Solar Wall’ on Mexican Border Would Pay for Itself

22 Jun 2017   Solar

‘The higher it goes, the more valuable it is,’ president says U.S. ‘spending a lot’ on design and planning of wall, he says U.S. President Donald Trump said he’s proposed building a “solar wall” on the Mexican border that would pay for itself by generating electricity. “We’re thinking of something that’s unique, we’re talking about the southern border. Lots of sun, lots of heat,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “We’re thinking about building the wall as a solar wall, so it creates energy, and pays for itself. And this way Mexico will have to pay much less money, and that’s good. Is that good?” Donald Trump says “we will build a solar wall” along Mexico border https://t.co/598isRMkuF pic.twitter.com/Fa63a65tBj — Bloomberg (@business) June 22, 2017 Trump ran for the presidency on an oft-repeated promise to construct a wall across the 1,933-mile (3,207 kilometer) Mexican border […]

Wind, solar energy have not harmed U.S. power grid: industry study

21 Jun 2017   Solar, Wind

With the Trump administration expected to publish an analysis that could undermine the U.S. wind and solar industries, two renewable energy lobbying groups on Tuesday released their own study saying new energy sources pose no threat to the country’s power grid. Wind and solar advocates have said the government study’s outcome appeared to be pre-determined to favor fossil fuel industries. The new report, commissioned by the American Wind Energy Association and Advanced Energy Economy, says cheap natural gas is behind most of the decline in the numbers of U.S. coal-fired power plants in recent years, not government subsidies that have bolstered the growth of wind and solar power. It also said there is no evidence to show that wind and solar energy are threatening the reliability of the electric grid. The groups commissioned the report shortly after […]

America’s hungriest wind and solar power users: big companies

21 Jun 2017   Solar, Wind

FILE PHOTO: A man views solar panels on a roof at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, U.S., on June 18, 2007. REUTERS/Kimberly White/File Photo Major U.S. corporations such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc and General Motors Co have become some of America’s biggest buyers of renewable energy, driving growth in an industry seen as key to helping the United States cut carbon emissions. Last year nearly 40 percent of U.S. wind contracts were signed by corporate power users, along with university and military customers. That’s up from just 5 percent in 2013, according to the American Wind Energy Association trade group. These users also accounted for an unprecedented 10% of the market for large-scale solar projects in 2016, figures from research firm GTM Research show. Just two years earlier there were none. The big reason: lower energy bills. GRAPHIC – Big companies are powering the U.S. clean energy push: […]

Switching From Coal To Solar Could Save 50,000 Lives

20 Jun 2017   Coal, Solar

Replacing coal-fired power plants with solar power installations could save as many as 51,999 lives every year, a study from the Michigan Technological University has found. This is the number of people who will in all likelihood not die of things such as asthma and congestive heart failure resulting from harmful emissions from coal-fired plants. Coal currently accounts for 30 percent of the U.S. energy mix, according to the Energy Information Administration. In terms of consumption, however, coal only accounted for 15 percent, almost all of it going into power generation. The fossil fuel is quickly losing share to natural gas, but is still a solid contributor to CO2 and other pollutants emissions – solid enough, according to the study’s authors, Emily Prehoda and Joshua Pierce, to kill more than 50,000 people on an annual basis. Switching from fossil fuels to renewables is at the core of sustainability efforts. […]

Solar Power Will Kill Coal Faster Than You Think

17 Jun 2017   Solar

Solar power, once so costly it only made economic sense in spaceships, is becoming cheap enough that it will push coal and even natural-gas plants out of business faster than previously forecast. That’s the conclusion of a Bloomberg New Energy Finance outlook for how fuel and electricity markets will evolve by 2040. The research group estimated solar already rivals the cost of new coal power plants in Germany and the U.S. and by 2021 will do so in quick-growing markets such as China and India. The scenario suggests green energy is taking root more quickly than most experts anticipate. It would mean that global carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuels may decline after 2026, a contrast with the International Energy Agency’s central forecast, which sees emissions rising steadily for decades to come. “Costs of new energy technologies are falling in a way that it’s more a matter of when […]

Solar And Wind Revolution Happening Much Faster Than Expected

16 Jun 2017   Solar, Wind

The clean energy revolution is unfolding even faster than previously thought, which will have massive ramifications not just for the solar and wind industry, but also for the fading fortunes of old King Coal. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) published its “ New Energy Outlook ” (NEO), with renewable energy forecasts through 2040. BNEF says that the costs of wind and solar are falling rapidly, and the transition to cleaner energy will be more significant than expected. “ This year’s report suggests that the greening of the world’s electricity system is unstoppable, thanks to rapidly falling costs for solar and wind power, and a growing role for batteries, including those in electric vehicles, in balancing supply and demand, ” said Seb Henbest, BNEF’s lead author of the NEO 2017. Solar is already cost-competitive with coal and natural gas in parts of Europe and the U.S., and solar will become […]

U.S. solar power gaining momentum

9 Jun 2017   Solar

Solar power in the United States is gaining momentum that’s independent of partisan issues in Washington, the head of an industry trade group said. A report published Thursday by the Solar Energy Industries Association found first-quarter 2017 marked the sixth quarter in a row with more than 2 gigawatts of solar power installed. The price point, meanwhile, is becoming competitive, with utility-scale installations falling below $1 per watt for the first time. Abigail Ross Hopper, the trade group’s CEO and former director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, told UPI the sector has established a sustainable trajectory that’s independent of the levers of power in Washington. “This quarter shows us […]

Utility-scale solar has grown rapidly over the past five years

5 May 2017   Solar

Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory Republished May 4, 2017, 4:30 p.m. to clarify that utility-scale solar plants make up 2% of electricity generating capacity, not 2% of utility-scale electricity generation. Utility-scale solar installations—including both photovoltaic (PV) and thermal technologies—grew at an average rate of 72% per year between 2010 and 2016, faster than any other generating technologies. Utility-scale solar (plants with a capacity of at least one megawatt) now makes up about 2% of all utility-scale electric generating capacity and 0.9% of utility-scale generation. The first utility-scale solar plants were installed in the mid-1980s, but more than half of the currently operating utility-scale solar capacity came online in the past two years. As of December 2016, more than 21.5 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale solar generating capacity was in operation across the United States, with more than 7.6 GW of that capacity coming online in […]

Solar-Power Subsidies Are Money Well Spent

26 Apr 2017   Solar

Regarding Robert Bryce’s “Thanks for Giving Me Your Tax Money” (op-ed, April 19): Mr. Bryce, you and your community are welcome for your reliable and competitive solar electricity. Yours is one of 1.4 million American households, and skyrocketing, that have solar on their roofs. Your claim that only the wealthy are benefiting from solar energy is flat wrong. Our customers come from all walks of life and are investing in solar in large part because the cost of panels has dropped by more than 82% in the last six years. A…

Solar power reliability in Britain boosted with batteries

25 Apr 2017   Solar

Batteries deployed at solar farms in Britain could add reliability to the renewable energy portfolio in the country, developers said. Investment manager Ancala Partners and energy storage provider Anesco said their joint effort led to the completion of their first portfolio-scale deployment of batteries at 10 solar plants across Britain. Solar power is an intermittent source of renewable energy and its expansion in the British grid means more reliability is necessary. “Batteries offer a unique solution to the challenges of intermittent generation by storing and deploying electricity into the National Grid at the times it is required most” the collaborators announced. The development comes about a week after the British grid reached a milestone when about 4 percent, or 29 gigawatt hours, of the nation’s […]

Saudis Target 30 Solar, Wind Projects in $50 Billion Pledge

18 Apr 2017   Saudi Arabia, Solar, Wind

World’s biggest exporter of crude seeks to wean itself off oil Government to tender for 400 megawatts of wind in 4th quarter Saudi Arabia will develop 30 solar and wind projects over the next 10 years as part of the kingdom’s $50 billion program to boost power generation and cut its oil consumption. The world’s biggest exporter of crude oil will produce 10 percent of its power from renewables by 2023, Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said Monday at a conference in Riyadh. It also plans to generate an unspecified amount of electricity from nuclear plants. The country is currently seeking bids to build 700 megawatts of wind and solar power capacity in a first round of tenders. It plans a second tender round for rights to build 400 megawatts more of wind power and an additional 620 megawatts of solar plants, Turki Al Shehri, head of the ministry’s renewable […]

Solar Installers Struggle as Panels Become Cheap Enough to Own

14 Apr 2017   Solar

Solar panels are more affordable than ever for U.S. homeowners, and that is bad news for the biggest players in the industry. The price of solar panels dropped by 20% in the past year thanks in part to a global glut of panels and better technology, according to GTM Research, accelerating a shift among homeowners to buy panels rather than lease…

U.S. solar market set new record in 2016

10 Mar 2017   Solar

The solar market in the United States had its best year on record in 2016, according to researchers with the Solar Energy Industries Association. In a study published by the industry group, researchers note the solar market nearly doubled its previous record, and added more electric generating capacity than any other source for the first time in history. Solar Power Enter Your Zip Code & Connect. Pre-Screened Contractors Near You! homeadvisor.com The report, called the U.S. Solar Market Insight 2016 Year-in-Review, says the market is set to triple over the next five years, a trend SEIA president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper calls good news for solar energy producers. “It would be hard to […]

Battery Power Boost to Renewables

22 Feb 2017   Solar, Wind

It is the holy grail of the renewable energy sector – a cheap and efficient battery system that can store energy generated by renewables such as wind and solar. These days there are few who doubt the potential of renewables, except those diehards on the extreme of the fossil fuel industry. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) , the main body monitoring developments in the global energy sector, renewables are surging ahead. Investment in renewables In 2015, investments in oil and gas – fossil fuels that, along with coal, are the main drivers of global warming – declined by 25% , while energy produced from renewables rose by 30%. Renewables are becoming increasingly competitive with fossil fuels in […]

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 […]