Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Solar Corona Revealed in Stunning HI-Def Images

NASA astronomers have released the highest-resolution images ever taken of the Sun's corona, its million-degree outer atmosphere, at an extreme-ultraviolet wavelength.

The 16-megapixel images - five times as detailed as anything produced by the Solar Dynamics Observatory - were captured by the High Resolution Coronal Imager, or Hi-C, launched on July 11th.

"Even though this mission was only a few minutes long, it marks a big breakthrough in coronal studies," says Smithsonian astronomer Leon Golub.

The corona consists of million-degree ionized gas, or plasma, so hot that the light it emits is mainly at X-ray and extreme-ultraviolet wavelengths. However, it's not really understood why the corona is so hot, and why it erupts in violent solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

Hi-C focused on an active region near sunspot NOAA 1520 - chosen only on launch day, for its large size and active nature. The resulting high-resolution snapshots, at a wavelength of 19.3 nanometers, reveal tangled magnetic fields channeling the solar plasma into a range of complex structures.

"We have an exceptional instrument and launched at the right time," says Jonathan Cirtain, senior heliophysicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. "Because of the intense solar activity we're seeing right now, we were able to clearly focus on a sizeable, active sunspot and achieve our imaging goals."

Since Hi-C rode on a suborbital rocket, its flight lasted for just 10 minutes, with only about 330 seconds spent taking data. "The Hi-C flight might be the most productive five minutes I've ever spent," says Golub.

Source: http://www.tgdaily.com/space-features/64876-solar-corona-revealed-in-stunning-hi-def-images

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Growing Potential of Solar Energy

Solar power could play a central role in Switzerland’s future energy mix by partially replacing nuclear energy which will be phased out in future. The solar industry has requested more subsidies to fund accelerated expansion.
Mounting photovoltaic panels on anti-avalanche
infrastructure in canton Valais (Keystone)

The Swiss parliament decided in 2011 against the construction of new nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan and a wider shift away from atomic power.
In the coming months Switzerland’s new energy policy must be fine-tuned and agreement found on the substance and framework of how to exit nuclear energy.

At stake is how this can be achieved, finding potential energy saving mechanisms to cushion the blow and financing the exit from nuclear power.

“The electricity market will adjust to the new conditions. This is not an issue. If the conditions are clear and reliable, the industry can make the necessary investments and utility companies can align their strategies,” Thomas Zwald, head of public affairs at the Swiss Association of Electricity Companies, told swissinfo.ch

Nuclear substitute

As an interim solution, the electricity industry has its sights set on gas-fired plants, but the questionable environmental credentials of this energy source have placed doubts on its acceptance as a long-term answer.

Up to now solar power has been a niche product in Switzerland, with nuclear power currently providing 40 per cent of electricity.

“With decentralised photovoltaic systems on roofs, solar energy could expand to 20 per cent [of total energy supply in Switzerland] and thus provide a substitute for half of the nuclear power now used. This does not even include the potential that large-scale plants or green areas could contribute,” according to Franz Baumgartner, professor of renewable energies at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences.

“The other half of the energy currently supplied by nuclear power plants could be made up by using a mix of wind and biomass, and later, geothermal and small hydropower plants.”

Due to their small size and widespread location, photovoltaic rooftop plants have the advantage of encountering less resistance from the population and from landscape and environmental conservationists.

This would allow them to be built faster and with less difficulty than larger gas-fired power plants, solar power plants and wind farms, which attract more controversy.

“How quickly solar power can be built up to supply 20 percent of electricity needs depends on how fast the infrastructure is developed. Over the past ten years Germany has been able to build up its proportion of new renewable energy sources to about 13 per cent. This could be taken as inspiration,” according to Baumgartner.

How far, how fast?

David Stickelberger, managing director of the Swiss Solar Energy Association, noted that some studies had optimistically pointed to a solar power expansion potential of up to 30 or 40 per cent.

“Realistically, it would be about 2025 before we could provide a share of 20 per cent,” he admitted.

Solar energy associations and electricity companies agree that the true potential of solar energy remains largely untapped. But they disagree on exactly how much solar power Switzerland could eventually produce, how quickly and at what cost.

“You need to distinguish between the technical and the economic potential,” said Zwald. “The fact is that the costs associated with solar power are still very high. Funding to subsidise the cost of feed-in tariffs needs to be increased,” said Stickelberger.

“Our model projections show that if solar power provides 20 per cent of electricity, prices would increase by about 10 per cent,” he added.

According to Zwald, the big question is whether to accelerate the transition by providing huge subsidies – as in Germany – or to wait until the price of solar energy gradually reaches market levels.

The electricity industry believes that more gas-fired power plants will have to be built to replace nuclear energy.

“It’s about how to compensate for the disappearance of energy from nuclear power plants. This path leads to gas-fired power plants because water power has a limited capacity to develop and fully compensating for the energy losses through imports is neither realistic nor politically desirable,” said Zwald.

Depending on the scenario, the companies calculate that four to eight gas-fired power plants will be needed. But gas-fired power plants burn fossil fuels that produce CO2 and are thus in conflict with Switzerland’s stated aim to reduce carbon emissions.

Plugging the gap

However, harnessing the sun’s energy also has its downsides. Unlike nuclear, water, or gas power, solar energy must grapple with the problem of irregular electricity production.

Various alternatives have been suggested to compensate for fluctuations. Because solar energy does not perform well in winter, but wind turbines do, one option would be to import wind turbine surpluses to fill the gap, from the Baltic Sea for example.

In addition, planned mega-solar power plants in North Africa and southern Spain are expected to operate year-round, potentially supplying enough power to compensate for fluctuations.

Finally, significant progress is expected in the technology of decentralised storage of solar energy, in the form of batteries, in coming years.

The decentralised production of electricity by means of photovoltaic systems will require not only an expansion of networks, but also so-called “smart grid” or “intelligent networks”. These could be precisely controlled with the help of modern communication technologies that are able to manage electricity use and consumption.

“The economy is well aware that these investments must be made and that decentralised production has gained in importance. It’s all a question of pace and how capital is applied,” said Zwald.

Private investors will need to be attracted because the expansion of renewable electricity production and the required networks will require billions.

“Whoever wants to go in a new direction needs to invest. It’s simply not possible to declare ‘we’re making an energy revolution’ without going the extra mile. You need to invest to have an edge,” said Baumgartner.

“Energy has always been a political issue. Hydropower also required a large investment initially.”

Sunday, July 29, 2012

OCI Solar Power to Partner with CPS Energy in Largest U.S. Utility Solar Project

OCI Solar Power signed a deal with CPS Energy today in San Antonio, Texas, to develop, own and operate the largest municipal utility solar project in the country. The groundbreaking sustainable energy development project will produce more than 400 megawatts of power through a consortium of partners brought together by OCI Solar Power for the landmark deal. The project will also create more than 800 long-term jobs and drive an estimated $700 million in economic impact each year. OCI Solar Power is locating its U.S. headquarters in San Antonio.

As part of its plan, OCI Solar Power will develop several solar facilities that will ultimately power more than 70,000 homes. The company, which announced a new president last week, is surging toward a new leadership position in the solar industry. With more than 40 projects ranging from 3 to 400 megawatts across the U.S. and Canada, OCI Solar Power is creating new standards for partnerships and community development.

"OCI Solar Power is breaking new ground for sustainable energy in the U.S.," said Tony Dorazio, president of OCI Solar Power. "This project will not only serve as a public-private partnership model for communities around the country but also a blueprint for building a new energy development hub. As part of our commitment to this vision and to the San Antonio community, we will also drive investments in education, research and development and the new innovations necessary to sustainably impact the economy and landscape for years to come."

The first phase of the project which includes 50 megawatts of solar power will be completed by mid 2013. Plans are for the remaining megawatts to be built through 2016. OCI Solar Power is also planning to create an Engineering and Operations Center to fuel ongoing innovations in sustainable and efficient solar energy production.

"Today is an exciting day for OCI Solar Power as we expand our energy portfolio with CPS and San Antonio," said Kirk Milling, president and CEO of OCI Enterprises. "The consortium of global solar industry leaders we have assembled will change the way the U.S. is able to access the latest high-performance technologies and processes in solar energy today. We look forward to working with our partners to serve CPS Energy's customers and the broader region."

OCI Solar Power LLC is an emerging leader in the solar power industry, providing innovation and development for utility scale solar power plants in communities throughout the U.S. and Canada. OCI Solar Power works with local officials, community organizations and leading environmental and engineering firms to ensure that each project is suitable for the community and built in an environmentally conscious manner. OCI Solar Power is majority-owned by OCI Enterprises, Inc. which is the North American subsidiary of OCI Company Ltd, headquartered in Seoul, Korea. For more information, please visit www.ocisolarpower.com .

Source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oci-solar-power-to-partner-with-cps-energy-in-largest-us-utility-solar-project-2012-07-23

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Solar Electric Backup for Disasters? Not as Easy as You Think

Fires, floods, tornadoes, derechos, hurricanes and earthquakes shatter the lives of a few very quickly, but cause lingering problems in the aftermath for many. Electricity can be out for weeks on end as power line repairs are made, with deaths from heat stress, failed medical equipment and more very common. The fires here in Colorado last month hit my area hard; some locations are still waiting for power to be restored. An estimated 3.7 million people lost power during last month's East Coast derecho, many for over a week.

So, why not just cut that electrical umbilical cord from the power company to your home and go off grid completely, in the middle of the city or suburbs? The power company keeps raising their rates each year anyway. Throw some solar panels on the roof and a wind turbine in the backyard. Looks like there's a couple funny looking black boxes involved too, just order 'em online.

Antique technology

Unfortunately it's not that simple, and not cheap. The problem is, how do you store energy for when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing? A solar array and wind turbine with no battery backup will not power anything in your house if the grid goes down. Only a battery bank or engine generator can do that.

And let's face it, we're stuck with 1859 technology when it comes to storing a lot of electrical energy at a reasonable price: the lead-acid battery. Gaston Planté, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford would all instantly recognize the batteries used today in off-grid power systems, and likely comment that "That's odd, they haven't changed much in all these decades..." And that's the rub.

There are certainly high-tech options out there, like Nickel Metal Hydride cells used in the Toyota Prius, the Lithium Ion cells in the Tesla Roadster (and also in your laptop computer), and of course over-hyped hydrogen fuel cells. None of these new energy storage technologies has matured yet -- at least not to the point that makes them affordable for or compatible with powering a typical home for even 24 hours.

Even worse, all batteries wear out. Pull a battery bank down too low too often or leave it that way for too long, and you might get only one to four years of life instead of the eight to 10 normally expected. Amortize the cost of the batteries and installation over the years, and you can rack up a pretty expensive "battery bill" each month, just for the privilege of owning them.

Electric vehicles for backup power?

The 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan spurred automakers there to start providing options where electric and hybrid vehicles can provide power for lights and appliances during a blackout. Toyota says that a full 12-gallon tank of gas in a 2012 Estima with the power inverter option could energize a home for 2 days at full 1.5 kilowatt output, but that still involves running an extension cord and power strip into the house, and plugging appliances into that. Works in a pinch, but not particularly safe or convenient.

Mitsubishi and Nissan have both announced they are working on standardizing systems and equipment so a car can power home mains circuits, and Sharp Corporation revealed their new "Intelligent Power Conditioner" that's in development to solve the tricky issue of making different cars, battery banks and home power systems send power back and forth to each other. Great concepts, but unfortunately "in development" is the operative phrase right now.

A sensible approach to emergency home power backup

The average U.S. homeowner consumes roughly 33 kilowatt-hours of energy every 24 hours. Lead-acid batteries to provide 24 hours of backup at that rate would come in at about $9,600, weigh almost two tons, last only seven to 10 years and take up an entire small room. A lithium ion battery bank to do that -- say from a Tesla Roadster -- would cost $36,000 with a rated lifespan of about seven years. Those costs are just for the battery bank and don't include all the black boxes needed to connect it to your home.

Instead, I recommend a more sensible approach for most people. The more serious you are about backup power, the farther you'll make it down this list:

  • Conserve energy -- Replace older appliances and lighting with new, energy-efficient models. Install insulated windows and doors. Upgrade your wall and ceiling insulation, and caulk air leaks. Besides lowering your power bill, reducing your ire toward the power company and gaining you federal tax credits, you'll need less backup capacity during a blackout.
  • Install a backup transfer switch -- Actually, have an electrician install it. This automatic device lets you use any portable generator to safely power everything in your home, right through your normal circuits, during an emergency. Don't even consider a trip to the hardware store to build a double-male extension cord to plug your generator output into a wall outlet--that's illegal because it could electrocute a lineman trying to restore your power, and you'll be liable.
  • Install a reliable propane generator -- Propane keeps for decades in pressurized tanks, and most propane generators can be used with utility natural gas service too. Many can be fitted with auto-start circuits that detect blackouts. Gasoline generators are the most common and least expensive, but gasoline is problematic in cold weather and spoils quickly in storage, even with stabilizer additives. Liquid gasoline is also quite dangerous to store in your garage, at least in quantities large enough to power your house for days or weeks. And gas stations need electricity to run their pumps, too.
  • Have an electrician install a "critical loads" sub-panel for you - This secondary breaker box isolates all your most critical loads, like the refrigerator, freezer, water pressure pump, a few lights, and a few outlets (for a portable TV to keep up on emergency news, etc.) When the grid goes out, shut off everything but the critical panel if you need to conserve generator fuel. And, you'll be paving the way for a future battery backup system with solar power to charge it.
  • Consider a grid-tied solar energy system with battery backup - This is a big step, so do your homework. Your conservation efforts and a critical loads sub-panel will save you money on solar, but don't expect to get into it for less than10,000. Small, portable "emergency solar power systems" popular in survival and preparedness publications and websites might run a few small lights and a portable television for you during an emergency, but won't power your fridge, freezer, furnace blower or air conditioner for more than a couple of hours.

Wind power systems are a terribly ineffective waste of money unless installed high in the air -- the small wind industry standard is at least 30 feet above anything within 500 feet in any direction -- and most locales strictly regulate such tall towers, especially in residential areas. So, wind is not an option for most people.

However, if your site and climate are right for renewable energy and your utility will pay you favorable rates, you might have the opportunity to reduce your electric bill to near zero, get a federal, state or local tax credit, and have ample power during an extended blackout. Contact a NABCEP-certified system installer for the straight facts on renewable energy.

Before the lights go out

Do be prepared before the next disaster strikes. But don't jump into any backup generator or solar energy solution without a lot of research, especially if you need to power critical equipment such as medical devices. Even a freezer can be considered a critical device if it's full of hundreds of dollars worth of meat! Be sure that whatever power backup solution you choose can run everything you need all at one time -- that's power, measured in watts -- and can keep it up for however long you need -- that's energy, measured in kilowatt-hours.

Consult with a professional if you have any doubts about what you are doing, and remember: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-r-fink/solar-electric-backup-for_b_1696535.html

Friday, July 27, 2012

In the last year, we’ve seen scientist try to put photovoltaic materials everywhere--the paint on your walls, in space, and even your coffee table. Now, a team of researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of California, Santa Barbra (UCSB) has developed transparent solar panels that could be used as power-generating windows for your house.
A clear piece of glass compared to the transparent solar cell

The new transparent solar panels are a flexible, plastic cell that pulls energy exclusively from the infrared spectrum of the sun’s rays. At the same time, the panels allow the visible light to pass though pane that’s nearly 70 percent transparent.

Previous attempts at developing transparent solar panels have always resulted in a poor balance between efficient energy production and transparency. These researchers, however, developed a special recipe that’s achieved a 4 percent power-conversion efficiency rate while being the most transparent solar panel ever created.

The researchers created the clear solar panel by using a polymer that's sensitive to near-infrared light overlaid with a silver nanowire composite as a transparent electrode. The biggest breakthrough of the research was the creation of a transparent electrode, produced by mixing silver nanowires with titanium dioxide nanoparticles, to replace the opaque metal electrode that was used in the past.

Polymer solar cells are a particular item of great interest because they are lighter, more flexible and potentially cheaper to produce at high volume than traditional solar panels. If the scientists work out a way to mass-produce their clear solar cells, the cells could be integrated into every home, skyscraper, car, and mobile device.

Source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/259688/researchers_develop_solar_panels_that_still_let_the_sunlight_through.html

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Christie Signs Solar Bill Increasing N.J. Energy Requirement

New Jersey utilities will be required to buy more solar energy under legislation signed today by Governor Chris Christie.

Utilities including Public Service Electric & Gas and Jersey Central Power & Light will need to get 2.05 percent of their electricity from solar projects in 2014, up from less than 0.5 percent now.

New Jersey developers added 174 megawatts of photovoltaic panels in the first quarter, surpassing California as the largest solar state with 34 percent of all U.S. installations, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The legislation will spur additional solar development, Christie said at a press conference in Trenton today.

“Renewable energy not only helps meet our goals of increasing sustainability and protecting the environment, but can be an engine for economic growth,” he said in an e-mailed statement. The law “will help us remain a national leader in the solar-energy industry.”

Solar plants in New Jersey earn renewable-energy credits for each megawatt-hour they produce that utilities must buy. That incentive helped drive up installations in the state, and the boom led to an oversupply of credits that threatened to stall new development.

Falling Prices

Prices for the credits sank to less than $100 a megawatt- hour this year from more than $500 a year ago because installed plants were producing twice the amount that utilities needed, according to Flett Exchange LLC, an environmental broker.

The state’s solar requirement will increase to 4.1 percent by 2028. The penalty for utilities that fail to meet the increasing percentage will be $339 for each megawatt-hour short of the goal in 2014, declining annually to $239 a megawatt-hour in 2028. Reducing the penalty will save utility customers about $1.1 billion over the next 15 years, according to the statement.

JCP&L is a unit of Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp. (FE) and PSE&G is owned by Newark, New Jersey-based Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. (PEG)

Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-23/christie-signs-solar-bill-increasing-n-j-energy-requirement-1-.html

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Solar Power Deal Means 800 Jobs in San Antonio

A solar energy deal has been announced for the San Antonio area in a project that backers say should create about 800 jobs.

Leaders of CPS Energy and OCI Solar Power LLC signed the manufacturing-to-generation agreement Monday. The 25-year contract is for solar power purchase and other economic development.

Officials say several manufacturing facilities will be established to create solar panel components, including a San Antonio unit to be built by Nexolon America LLC. At least five solar plants are expected to be built across Texas.

CPS Energy is the nation's largest municipally owned natural gas and electric utility. The company serves about 728,000 electric and 328,000 natural gas customers in the San Antonio area.

Company officials say the solar project should provide enough electricity for nearly 70,000 households.

Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505244_162-57478503/solar-power-deal-means-800-jobs-in-san-antonio/

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Solar Production Glut to Persist to 2015 Study

Solar panel manufacturers face three more years of tough conditions until the market shuts down excess production capacity, according to a new report issued on Tuesday by renewable power consultancy GTM Research.

Production capacity for photovoltaic solar panels this year stands at 59 gigawatts, about double the 30 gigawatts expected to be sold into the global market, according to GTM analyst Shyam Mehta.

About 21 gigawatts of the current production is expected to be retired by 2015 as panel prices continue their steep declines, GTM said.

Companies such as Suntech Power Holdings, Yingli Green Energy Holding Co Ltd and First Solar Inc have all expanded manufacturing in recent years to supply panels into the fast-growing market for renewable power.

But with subsidies in top European markets including Germany and Italy falling under the knife, the panel makers have been forced to pull back on their expansion plans, and most are operating manufacturing lines at levels well below their capacity.

"The training wheels of subsidies are coming off, and the next few years will see the industry's first attempt to ride without support. Consequently, the next three years will be an extremely difficult period," Mehta said.

The glut of supplies has already taken its toll on the industry, sending several U.S., European and Asian companies into bankruptcy as they failed to keep pace with a more than 50 percent drop in wholesale panel prices since the beginning of 2011.

The drop in panel prices, which currently stand at about 70-85 cents per watt for most major manufacturers, will continue, with prices likely to reach 45 cents by 2015, GTM said.

Leading that price drop will be Chinese companies such as Trina Solar Ltd, Yingli Green Energy, Jinko Solar and Hareon Solar, according to GTM.

While those price drops will make solar power more affordable, they will force many companies to alter their strategies and potentially cede the panel-making business to more efficient players, Mehta said.

"Most current PV manufacturers will have to take a long, hard look in the mirror and make tough decisions about their future role in the industry," said Mehta.

Source: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/06/26/solar-forecasts-idINL2E8HQ94J20120626

Solar Prices Expected to Keep Falling in 2012

Solar equipment manufacturers will struggle for the rest of the year with a sustained drop in panel prices, a Goldman Sachs analyst said Tuesday.

Prices have tumbled for the past few years as Chinese manufacturers flooded the market with cheap solar systems. Analyst Amy Song said China appears committed to a "vicious circle" of aggressive investment despite international criticism and higher tariffs in the U.S. That will likely keep panel supplies high and prices low throughout 2012, Song said.

At 94 cents per megawatt, solar modules cost less than half of what they did three years ago. Goldman Sachs expects prices to drop by another 27 cents, or 29 percent, to 67 cents per megawatt by 2013.

Song noted that demand for solar equipment has remained strong in Germany, the world's largest market for solar. It's expected to pick up in Japan, which has recently installed a generous renewable energy incentive program. But supplies will remain robust as long as China continues to prop up its solar industry with cheap loans, low taxes and free land.

"Until we see a clear pullback in these local policies, the circle is likely to persist," Song said.

The U.S. already has called for higher tariffs on Chinese solar in response to what it considers to be a flood of underpriced solar. The European Union could follow, and that could lead to additional expenses for Chinese companies, Song said.

Song singled out Yingli Green Energy as an investment risk, downgrading the Chinese company to "Sell" from "Neutral." Song said Yingli could have trouble paying off an aggressive expansion in its manufacturing capacity. Yingli shares fell by 1.4 percent.

Also Tuesday, LDK Solar Co. posted a first-quarter loss of $185.2 million and cut its 2012 revenue forecast, after booking charges related to a plunge in solar panel prices and new anti-dumping regulations in the U.S. LDK Solar's shares fell 5.9 percent Tuesday.

Shares of other solar companies also dropped. Trina Solar Ltd. fell by 8 percent and Suntech Power Holdings Co. by 5.2 percent. First Solar Inc., the largest solar company, fell by 2.1 percent.

Source: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-06-26/solar-prices-expected-to-keep-falling-in-2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

IKEA Powers-up Solar Energy System's Panels at Orlando Store

IKEA, the world's leading home furnishings retailer, today officially plugged-in the solar energy system installed at its store in Orlando, Florida. The 120,900-square-foot PV array consists of a 967-kW system, built with 4,115 panels. IKEA Orlando's program will produce approximately 1,421,500 kWh of clean electricity annually, the equivalent of reducing 1,080 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), eliminating the emissions of 192 cars or powering 122 homes yearly (calculating clean energy equivalents at www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-resources/calculator.html ).

This investment by IKEA reinforces the company's long-term commitment to sustainability and confidence in photovoltaic (PV) technology. IKEA owns and operates each of its solar PV energy systems atop its buildings -- as opposed to a solar lease or PPA (power purchase agreement) -- and this Orlando installation represents the 18th completed solar energy project for IKEA in the United States, with 21 more locations underway, making the eventual U.S. solar presence of IKEA nearly 89% with a total generation of 38 MW.

For the development, design and installation of the Orlando store's customized solar power system, IKEA contracted with REC Solar, Inc., a national leader in solar electric system design and installation with more than 8,000 systems built across the U.S.

"We at IKEA believe in the never-ending job of striving to improve the sustainability of our day-to-day business," said Julie Mott, IKEA Orlando store manager. "The IKEA coworkers in Orlando are excited to help contribute to this goal with our newly operational solar energy system. We appreciate the support of the City of Orlando, Progress Energy and REC Solar, Inc., our partners in this project."

IKEA, drawing from its Swedish heritage and respect of nature, believes it can be a good business while doing good business and aims for its operations to minimize impacts on the environment. Globally, IKEA evaluates all locations regularly for energy conservation opportunities, integrates innovative materials into product design, works with Global Forest Watch to maintain sustainable resources, and flat-packs goods for efficient distribution. Specific U.S. sustainable efforts include: recycling waste material (paper, wood, plastic, etc.); incorporating environmental measures into the construction of buildings in terms of energy-efficient HVAC and lighting systems, recycled construction materials, skylights in warehouse areas, and water conserving restrooms; and operationally, eliminating plastic bags from the check-out process, phasing out the sale of incandescent light bulbs and facilitating recycling of customers' compact fluorescent bulbs. IKEA also has installed electric vehicle charging stations at nine stores in the Western U.S.

Located on 22 acres along Conroy Road at Millenia off I-4, the 309,000-square-foot IKEA Orlando store opened in November 2007. In addition to 10,000 exclusively designed items, this IKEA store presents 48 different room-settings, three model home interiors, a supervised children's play area, and a 450-seat restaurant serving Swedish specialties such as meatballs with lingonberries and salmon plates, as well as American dishes. Other family-friendly features include a 'Children's IKEA' area in the Showroom, baby care rooms, preferred parking and play areas throughout the store.

IKEA strives to be 'The Life Improvement Store,' and since its 1943 founding in Sweden, has offered home furnishings of good design and function, at low prices so the majority of people can afford them. There are currently more than 330 IKEA stores in 40 countries, including 38 in the U.S. IKEA incorporates sustainable efforts into day-to-day business and supports initiatives that benefit children and the environment. For more information, go to IKEA-USA.com.

Source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ikea-powers-up-solar-energy-systems-panels-at-orlando-store-2012-06-27

Solar Business Fears 'Boom and Bust'

QUEENSLAND solar businesses fear a dramatic boom and bust after the state government slashed the solar feed-in tariff.

More than 180,000 Queenslanders are in the solar bonus scheme.

Those who provide power back to the grid will keep the 44 cents per kilowatt hour payment from July 9, but anyone who joins after that date will get an eight cent rate.

Stuart Stratton of Green Initiatives says the future is now uncertain for his 100-plus employees.

He's "extremely disappointed" the government drastically changed the main drawcard for households.

"Where it drops over time and it's predictable, the market can shift and your business can plan for staffing levels and training," Mr Stratton told AAP.

"When something like this happens out of the blue and you've got two weeks to adjust, it has potentially a massive downward impact on the business."

He imagines the next two weeks will be like "Christmas in July" - followed by silence.

Energy Minister Mark McArdle says Queensland households are subsidising the solar sector to the tune of $54 a year and it's unsustainable.

The Clean Energy Council says 4500 jobs could go as a result of the move but Mr McArdle has told ABC Radio he hasn't been briefed on possible job losses.

The Australian Solar Energy Society's John Grimes says his group had called for a graduated withdrawal down to about 20 cents per kilowatt hour.

"It would have allowed solar to compete and wouldn't have resulted in, sort of, this mini boom and bust," he told ABC Radio.

Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/breaking-news/solar-business-fears-boom-and-bust/story-fn3dxiwe-1226408722085

German Govt, States Agree Solar Incentive Cuts-MPs

Germany's government has agreed with federal states on cuts to incentives for the solar power industry after a weeks-long dispute and a parliamentary mediation committee could approve the deal on Wednesday, participants in the working group said.

Opposition parties and some federal states had in May opposed the plans to slash so-called feed-in tariffs in the upper house, forcing the proposals drawn up by Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right coalition to be suspended.

Under the compromise, one-off cuts in incentives of 20 to 30 percent from April are to remain and incentives will be capped for installed capacity of 52 gigawatts. Solar power will still have to be fed into the grid, but at market prices.

In addition, medium-sized plants of 10-40 kilowatts will receive compensation of 18.5 cents per kilowatt hour.

Germany is the world's biggest market for the solar branch but several German firms have been left struggling in the last few months largely due to stiff competition from China and companies have warned against cutting the incentives too dramatically.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/26/germany-solar-idUSB4E8HB00320120626

Hospital Unveils Solar Project

When warm blood, cleansed of impurities, flows through machines and back into the bodies of people getting dialysis at Glens Falls Hospital, some of that warmth now comes from the sun rather than the burning of natural gas.
David Kruczlnicki, president and CEO of Glens Falls Hospital,
stands on the roof of the hospital's Renal Dialysis Center on
Monday, June 25, 2012 in Glens Falls, NY. A media event was
held on Monday to show the installed solar thermal system,
seen in the background. The Center uses 200 gallons of heated
water per hour for patient treatment, and now has become one
of the first in the U.S. to use solar thermal technology for
dialysis treatments.

On Monday, the hospital unveiled rooftop solar thermal panels at its Renal Dialysis Center, becoming the first hospital in the Capital Region to run kidney dialysis partially on solar energy.

"This innovation at its purest ... will also help us save a few bucks," said David Kruczlnicki, hospital president and CEO. The $32,500 system was partly paid for by a $25,000 federal stimulus grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Kruczlnicki said the system will replace about 45 percent of the natural gas that had been used to heat water for the center. It uses about 5,500 gallons of heated water a day during treatments. He said money saved on lower gas bills will allow the hospital to repay its investment in five years and, after that, keep saving that money, year after year, for its 30-year estimated useful life.

Heat is a critical part of dialysis, keeping blood at the proper temperature of 77 degrees as it moves through cleansing machinery and then further warming it to 98.6 degrees so it can be returned to the patient's body. At the rooftop array, heat from the sun is absorbed by municipal water that flows through sealed vacuum tubes in 15 panels on the roof.

That water, which is between 45 and 55 degrees when it enters the panels, depending on the amount of sunshine and the season of the year, is heated to temperatures of between 70 and 200 degrees, again depending on the amount of sun and the season, said Stan Dobert, managing partner at Apex Solar, a Glens Falls company that installed the array.

The warmed water from the array flows into a 375-gallon holding tank, where a heat exchanger is used to warm specially treated municipal water that is run through the dialysis machines. Other heated water also is used for sinks and showers at the center.

During the summer, the solar system could handle all the needs of the center, while during the winter months, when sunlight strength and duration are diminished, natural gas would have to be used more often, Dobert said.

He said the panels were installed starting in January and have been operational since March.

"Dialysis centers are one of the many types of water-intensive facilities that can reduce fossil fuel use and cut water heating costs by using solar thermal technology," said Francis Murray Jr., president and CEO of NYSERDA.

The authority has spent about $1.2 million on 216 solar thermal projects statewide since beginning its program in December 2010, Murray said. About $20 million remains available under the Solar Thermal Incentive Program through 2015.

Source: http://www.timesunion.com/business/article/Hospital-unveils-solar-project-3661842.php

Solar Shake-up Slashes Feed-in Tariff

The benefit earned by Queenslanders who install solar panels and then provide power back to the grid will be slashed from 44¢ per kilowatt hour, to 8¢.
Campbell Newman inspects solar panels in Mackay during
the state election campaign.

But the Newman government says anyone already in Queensland's Solar Bonus Scheme as of July 9 will continue to receive the 44¢ per kilowatt hour feed-in tariff.

Energy Minister Mark McArdle this afternoon announced changes to the four-year-old Solar Bonus Scheme, saying the changes were needed to ensure every household did not pay too much to help pay for some homes to have cheaper solar power.

He said modelling of the current solar bonus scheme showed it would cost every household $54 a year by 2014/15, costing Queensland about $1.8 billion by 2028 if the bonus scheme remained unchanged at 44¢ per kilowatt hour.

The changes will kick in from July 10 and a review of the scheme will also be launched.

The Liberal National Party's costings document, released before the March election, said the LNP was "committed to retaining the solar feed-in tariff" but the financial blueprint was silent on what rate it would be set at.

According to the government's media release, a replacement feed-in tariff of 8¢ per kilowatt hour will apply from July 10, 2012, and end on July 1, 2014, “pending a further review of the scheme”.

It says existing Solar Bonus Scheme participants will continue to receive the current 44¢ per kilowatt hour feed-in tariff as long as they continue to meet eligibility criteria.

The Queensland Competition Authority will be asked to make recommendations by early 2013 on a “subsidy-free 'fair and reasonable' solar feed-in tariff for Queensland”.

Mr McArdle said the government's approach would provide certainty for the Queensland solar photovoltaic (PV) industry and minimise any short-term impacts on investment and jobs.

“While consumers will still have to weigh up the costs and benefits, the government believes the replacement tariff will still make solar PV systems a viable proposition for many households,” he said.

Opposition environment spokeswoman Jackie Trad said the LNP had “committed to retaining the solar feed-in tariff”.

“What the [LNP costings] document didn’t say is they planned to strip the scheme down to only 20 per cent of the previous government’s scheme,” she said in a statement.

“While there have been arguments about whether existing tariffs are sustainable, voters would have naturally taken the LNP’s commitment at face value.”

Ms Trad criticised the government for announcing the decision late in the day with a statement issued at 4.15pm.

The Queensland Greens accused the government of engaging in “on-the-run decision making” that would create “uncertainty and service delivery problems for small businesses installing solar panels”.

“The announcement that the government will review the program after the changes have been introduced indicates that they are developing policy on the run,” Greens spokeswoman Libby Connors said.

Mr McArdle said the Bligh government scheme, introduced in 2008, had met its objectives of stimulating the local solar PV industry and helped make solar energy more affordable for many Queenslanders.

“Installed solar PV capacity under the scheme has increased from just 3.2 megawatts in 2008 to more than 461 megawatts today,” he said.

“The number of scheme participants has also increased from 1200 to more than 180,000 today, meaning Queensland has the largest solar PV capacity in Australia.”

Mr McArdle said customers who lodged an Inverter Energy System connection application with an electricity network distributor before midnight on July 9 would be assessed against eligibility criteria for the existing scheme and, if deemed eligible, would receive the 44¢ per kilowatt hour feed-in tariff rate.

Those who lodged such an application after this time would be assessed against eligibility criteria for the replacement feed-in tariff and, if deemed eligible, would receive the 8¢ per kilowatt hour rate, he said.

Mr McArdle said under changes to legislation planned for later in the year, eligibility for the 44¢ rate would cease if the existing participant ceased to be the electricity account holder for the eligible premises (for example, sold or rented out the property), or failed to install the system by June 30, 2013.

Source: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/solar-shakeup-slashes-feedin-tariff-20120625-20y6c.html

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Despite What Many Think, Solar Is a Great Fit for New England Homes

Homeowners who think New England does not get enough sun to justify an investment in solar electricity are "just plain in the dark," says a Connecticut-based solar company.

Jeffrey Mayer, CEO of Soluxe Solar, says that the most popular objection to solar installations is "not enough sun."

"Believe it or not, the sunlight in New England is only a little less than Florida, about 15%," says Mayer.

As a result, Mayer claims, solar panels are as good an investment in New York as they are in states like Texas. "When you take into account the higher cost of electricity, as well as the incentives from state and local governments, solar is actually a better investment up north."

Soluxe Solar sells solar panels to homeowners and small businesses in the Northeast. Mr. Mayer says that many customers raise objections to solar because of their perception that there is not enough sun in northern latitudes. Often they overestimate how much solar roof panels will cost, he added.

"We have shown consistently that customers in New York and Connecticut can realize considerable savings with affordable solar power," he says.

New England customers can research the savings of solar at www.soluxesolar.com .

SOLUXE SOLARSoluxe Solar is committed to helping homeowners and small business owners take advantage of solar energy systems that work for their needs. Headquartered in Darien, CT, the Soluxe Solar leadership team combines decades of expertise in the energy markets and solar technology. Soluxe Solar prides itself on delivering premium customer service, high quality products, and hassle-free installation. Soluxe Solar aims to help customers save money and save the planet at the same time.

Source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/despite-what-many-think-solar-is-a-great-fit-for-new-england-homes-2012-06-25

Solar Panels at LAUSD Schools Convert Valley's Blazing Sun into Energy

When triple-digit temperatures hit Woodland Hills this summer, Alma Aguirre isn't going to be thinking about her vehicle baking in the parking lot at Taft High, but the electricity generated by the solar panels covering the school's new carport.
Solar panels at Taft High School

The 492-kilowatt, $3.2 million solar carport at Ventura Boulevard and Winnetka Avenue is one of the first to be completed as Los Angeles Unified moves to reduce its utility bills by harnessing the San Fernando Valley's sunshine.

"It shades our cars, doesn't cost any money to run and it sometimes makes enough power to give some back to the (electric) grid," said Aguirre, plant manager at Taft.

Los Angeles Unified launched its solar-power initiative in 2009, when it installed a rooftop array at Canoga High. By 2014, it plans to have nearly 60 solar projects erected districtwide, including 26 in the Valley.

The entire system will generate a total of 21.3 megawatts of electricity, resulting in savings of $350,000 to $400,000 a year, said Kelly Schmader, chief of the district's Facilities Division.

Carport systems are being erected this summer at 15 Valley schools, including two which will also get rooftop arrays. Three additional carports and one more rooftop system are in the planning stages.

Although he conceded that solar carports are "somewhat of an eyesore," Schmader said they're cheaper to install and are less likely to create long-term problems than rooftop systems.

At Roybal High School in downtown Los Angeles, workers had to penetrate the roof in 1,000 places to install the solar panels.

"Punch a hole in a roof," Schmader said, "and water will find its way in."

The Division of State Architect, which has to review all school construction plans, said solar projects are becoming increasingly popular as districts try to reduce their energy costs. The agency has reviewed 77 solar projects so far this year, officials said, compared with 36 projects in all of 2007.

Although the photovoltaic panels are the most efficient in direct sunlight, they still work during June gloom or the overcast days of winter.

Very simply, sunlight reflected on the panels generates a direct-current charge that is transmitted to an inverter. There, it is converted to an alternating-current charge that can be used as electrical power.

The systems are designed so that a school uses the solar power first, before drawing electricity from the grid.

"We don't have any schools that are completely off the grid - but we're very close," Schmader said.

The district has contracted with five companies to complete the solar program, which is budgeted at about $143 million. LAUSD is paying for the program using $98 million from its construction bond program, $31 million in energy-saving rebates from the city Department of Water and Power and $14 million from a legal settlement with the utility.

"Every nickel we spend is bond money, but all the savings are going to the general fund," Schmader said. "People look at these and ask, `How can they afford to build projects when they're laying people off?' I ask, `How can we not afford them?"'

Source: http://www.dailynews.com/ci_20929016/solar-panels-at-lausd-schools-convert-valleys-blazing?source=most_viewed

Summit County Solar Options Stay Steady, New Ones on the Way

Though the initial $1 per installed kilowatt of installed residential solar was eliminated a week-and-a-half ago by Xcel Energy in Colorado, the company adjusted its production credits to maintain a mostly even payback.
Innovative Energy installed 18 195-watt solar panels at a
home in Blue River in September 2010. The Summit County
solar garden project is currently on hold until Xcel Energy
opens the program, which onlookers expect to happen by
the end of July.

Currently, residents wanting to install solar arrays can benefit from a credit of 15 cents per kilowatt-hour of energy produced for 20 years. That payback will diminish eventually, but not until the utility reaches 4.8 megawatts of power produced from customer-owned arrays. According to Xcel's Solar Rewards website, 4.794 megawatts remains in the tier. The next 4.8 megawatts of solar power installed and placed on the grid will be rewarded at 14 cents per kilowatt-hour.

“If you don't use much energy, (the production credit) might offset (the entire bill),” said Michelle Zimmerman of Innovative Energy.

The idea behind Xcel Energy's tiered system is to encourage customers to build out the company's solar structure as quickly as possible. Those who buy in first get the best incentives, and so on down the line until the mandated capacity is reached.

For customers who don't want to pay $20,000 up front for a solar array, a lease option allows an investor to construct the system, with the customer paying back the loan. Xcel aims to create an energy bill that is less than the non-solar energy bill after combining the rebated energy bill with the loan payments. Customers can put zero down and save money — creating more of an incentive to install the arrays.

Banks provide loans for such projects as well, so customers can treat it as a home-improvement project, which would eventually realize the energy rebate savings once the loan is repaid.

Solar gardens are another option for residents wanting to buy into the solar movement.

The Summit County project is currently on hold until Xcel Energy opens the program, which onlookers expect to happen by the end of July. Previously, would-be applicants waited for the Public Utilities Commission to decide on its rules, and now, roughly two years ago legislation passed incentivizing solar gardens, it appears the program is ready to go.

When Xcel opens the program, applicants will be in a frenzy, uploading applications and application deposits that will be kept in escrow until the applications are reviewed and approved. The money gets the time stamp, so whoever wires the money fastest will be first in line with their application.

It's like sitting on the Web, waiting for a sell-out band to open tickets to a popular concert. It'll be over in minutes.

Zimmerman said nine megawatts are available for solar gardens throughout the state.

As for Summit County's competition, High Country Conservation Center's Lynne Greene said it's like 24 applicants are vying for 4.5 seats.

Together with Zimmerman, Greene is heading up the county's solar garden effort, and also has a Lake County application to submit.

The women said that, ideally, the nine megawatts would be spread among projects throughout the state, even though Xcel advertises a first-come, first-served approach.

Greene has many people tentatively signed on to the solar garden in a non-binding agreement, but she's seeking more.

Now that a financing program that can be as low as $1 per day has been developed by the project's potential developer, Clean Energy Collective, she hopes more people will sign on. A credit union loan provides interest rates as low as 2.5 percent and can be purchased in 3-, 5-, 7- and 10-year terms.

It buys a solar garden subscription, eliminating the need to build an array on a home, allowing renters and homeowners in multi-family units as well as those with lower incomes or less immediately disposable income to buy into solar. A solar garden also allows subscribers to separate a solar investment from their house, making it possible to sell a house separate from the solar subscription — also meaning the subscription is transferable.

“Not everyone has $3,000 to drop on solar,” Greene said. Financing is an option that sees immediate payback without immediate savings (because of interest), but once it's paid off, subscribers will feel the impact.

If everything goes according to plan, the Summit County solar garden could break ground in the fall and be running by next spring or summer.

Source: http://www.summitdaily.com/article/20120625/NEWS/120629902/1078&ParentProfile=1055

Solar Panels Crop up in New Orleans

A new development of affordable housing in Central City, a neighborhood plagued by blight and abandoned houses, is seeing a flourishing of solar panels.

The Times-Picayune reports that residents in the Harmony Neighborhood Development are putting solar panels on their homes.

The development, being built by a nonprofit, is being constructed using federal funding to convert blighted and vacant properties into the new affordable housing.

So far three residents in the neighborhood have solar panels and there are plans to put them on at least 11 more homes this year thanks to funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Entergy New Orleans has approximately 760 customers who are connected to its grid who use solar panels, according to Entergy spokesperson Jolen Stein.

Denise Patton, a new homeowner in the Harmony development, said she was looking forward to getting her first utility bill in the mail.

She expected to cut her power costs by 50 percent or more.

Falling prices of solar panels have made the equipment attractive to consumers in recent years.

But Harmony and other nonprofit developers have been able to afford solar panels, once considered too expensive and out of reach of such projects, through an initiative from Make It Right, which established a separate, for-profit entity to leverage the available tax credits and lower the upfront costs for others.

Under the deal, Make It Right Solar buys the equipment and pays for its installation, covering up to 80 percent of the cost of the panels with federal and state tax credits. From there, developers are on the hook for the remainder of the cost, working out to about $5,000 to $7,000 per unit.

In Central City, where eight homes equipped with the panels have been built by Harmony, residents have taken notice.

"That's a significant number for this area, and through Make It Right and our partnerships, we were one of the first entities to be able to install solar panels in Central City," said Charles Cutno, project manager for the group.

Cutno said that while the solar arrays would typically cost between $15,000 and $24,000 each, the arrangement has enabled the costs to drop to around $3,400 to $6,000, depending on the size of the system.

Overall, Make It Right Solar has done about 45 installations outside of the Lower 9th Ward, where the Brad Pitt-led push to rebuild the storm-ravaged neighborhood with affordable, energy-efficient housing got its start.

Source: http://www.theadvertiser.com/viewart/20120625/NEWS01/206250305/Solar-panels-crop-up-New-Orleans

Salazar Approves First-Ever Commercial Solar Energy Project on American Indian Trust Lands

The U.S. Department of the Interior issued the following news release:

As part of the Obama Administration's all of the above approach to American energy, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today approved a 350-megawatt solar energy project on tribal trust land of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians (Tribe) in Clark County, Nevada. The project marks a milestone as the first-ever, utility-scale solar project approved for development on tribal lands, and is one of the many steps the administration has taken to help strengthen tribal communities.

The project is also the 31st utility-scale renewable energy project that Interior has approved since 2009 as part of a Department-wide effort to advance smart development of renewable energy on our nation's public lands. Prior to 2009, there were no solar energy projects permitted on public lands; today's approval brings the total to 17 solar projects, 6 wind farms, and 8 geothermal plants. If built by the companies, the renewable energy projects approved by this administration will provide approximately 7,200 megawatts of power to communities across the West, or enough to power nearly 2.5 million homes. These achievements build on the historic expansion of renewable energy under President Obama, with energy from sources like wind and solar doubling since the President took office.

"This trailblazing project is part of the President's commitment to help build strong, sustainable tribal communities by supporting safe and responsible renewable energy development," Secretary Salazar said. "Tribal lands hold great renewable energy potential, and smart development of these resources has the power to strengthen tribal economies, create jobs and generate clean electricity for communities across Indian Country."

The Record of Decision signed today approves the construction, operation and maintenance of a low-impact photovoltaic (PV) facility and associated infrastructure on about 2,000 acres of the Tribe's reservation, located 30 miles north of Las Vegas. The site represents about three percent of the Tribe's 71,954-acres, which are held in trust by the U.S. Government. The project is expected to generate about 400 jobs at peak construction and 15-20 permanent jobs.

"This is a great day for the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, and for Indian Country as a whole," said Donald "Del" Laverdure, Acting Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs. "As our nation's energy portfolio continues to grow, it is important that tribal communities have the opportunity to harness the energy of the wind and sun in a way that can power our homes, businesses and economies. Today is a important step in that direction."

The solar project approved today builds on President Obama's strong record of supporting rural economies through the White House Rural Council. Established one year ago, the Rural Council has focused on maximizing the impact of Federal investment to promote economic prosperity and improve the quality of life in rural communities, including on tribal lands.

Proposed by K Road Moapa Solar LLC, the project would be built in three phases of 100-150 megawatts. In addition to PV panel arrays, major project components include a 500-kilovolt transmission line to deliver power to the grid and a 12- kilovolt transmission line to the existing Moapa Travel Plaza after Phase 1 is complete. About 12 acres of U.S. public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management would be required for the 500-kv transmission line.

The project will generate lease income for the tribe, create new jobs and employment opportunities for tribal members, and connect the existing tribally-owned Travel Plaza to the electrical grid, decreasing its dependence on a diesel-powered generator. The procurement of construction materials and equipment is expected to generate additional sales and use tax revenues for the county and the state.

In evaluating the proposed project's compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as the lead federal agency, worked closely with cooperating agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Moapa Band.

To minimize and mitigate potential environmental impacts, a Desert Tortoise Translocation Plan, Bird and Bat Conservation Strategy and Weed Management Plan will be implemented, and natural resources monitoring by qualified biologists will be conducted during all surface disturbing activities. Tortoises found within the project boundary would be relocated within the reservation in accordance with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protocols. No water will be used in the production of electricity, but will be used periodically for cleaning the photovoltaic panels.

Under the Obama Administration's initiatives to foster tribal energy self-sufficiency and advance economic competitiveness, Interior is also engaged in a sweeping reform of federal surface leasing regulations ( http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/Significant-Leasing-Reform-will-Spur-Commercial-Residential-and-Renewable-Energy-Development-on-Indian-Lands.cfm ) for American Indian lands that will streamline the approval process for home ownership and spur renewable energy development in Indian Country. As trustee for the land and resources of federally-recognized tribes, Interior is responsible for managing about 55 million surface acres in Indian Country.

Source: http://www.power-eng.com/news/2012/06/23/salazar-approves-first-ever-commercial-solar-energy-project-on-american-indian-trust-lands.html

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

S&T Close to Finishing Solar Car

A group of Missouri University of Science and Technology students recently pulled an all-nighter — not studying for a test, but gearing up for a challenge.

The university’s Solar Car Team is working to finish building its car from scratch in time for the 2012 American Solar Challenge, which starts July 14 in Rochester, N.Y., and ends July 21 in St. Paul, Minn.

The race route passes through all eight states that border the Great Lakes. Eighteen teams are eligible to qualify.

This year, every team must use silicon cells that have lower power and cost less than some of the other kinds of solar cells that are available.

Missouri S&T has won two championships in solar car racing, including once in 1999 and again in 2003. The teams are required to design and build a new vehicle for each official challenge.

Missouri S&T’s car this year has a stealth-like, black design, but it will still use the number 42 as its car number, as it always has.

Among the many sponsors that support the Missouri S&T Solar Car Team is the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Energy.

Source: http://www.therolladailynews.com/news/x448227480/S-T-close-to-finishing-solar-car

Catching the Solar Heat Wave

If you’re planning to “go solar,” go with Bonterra Solar, one of Hawaii’s fastest-growing solar energy companies. Bonterra thinks many homeowners are ready to catch the wave — the heat wave — of energy savings they’ll enjoy after they have a state-of-the-art solar photovoltaic (PV) system installed.

“Solar energy systems have been around for years, but only now are so many Island homeowners realizing that clean, green, affordable solar energy isn’t an ‘extra’ for today’s homes, it’s essential,” said Andrew Yani, Bonterra Solar’s founder and principal. “There are a lot of solar companies in the market, so it’s important that homeowners understand the differences when it comes to choosing a solar installer.”

For Yani, the key to selecting the right solar company is simple: quality.

In Hawaii’s highly competitive, rapidly growing solar power industry, Bonterra Solar has been a rising star. Since it was founded in 2009, Bonterra Solar has achieved more than $6.5 million in sales. That only could have happened because Bonterra was doing something right. And that something, according to Yani, is using quality materials, ensuring quality installation and providing quality post-installation support with unmatched warranties and system monitoring.

“We use top-quality materials right down to the bolts,” Yani said. “Bonterra was the first certified SolarWorld installer in Hawaii. We exclusively use Solar-World PV panels, and we have since day one.”

SolarWorld, based in Hillsboro, Oregon, has been the largest solar manufacturer in the U.S. for the past 35 years, and it produces advanced American-made solar panels and systems in its four production plants on a 97-acre campus. SolarWorld provides a 25-year “power production” guarantee and product warranty. That’s backed up by Bonterra’s 10-year workmanship warranty, Yani said.

There is no typical solar system for any home. “We specialize in custom, expandable systems,” he said. “From the solar panels to the racking systems securing the panels, to the micro-inverters — which convert the “DC” electricity generated by the panels to the “AC” current used in homes — right down to the aluminum flashing used to keep water from seeping inside your attic … the system is designed to suit your particular house and your specific energy needs,” Yani said.

If you are going solar with Bonterra, you also can expect to get your system up and running with a variety of financing options. You can get the entire system installed with a no-money-down payment plan. Or you can get a “Clean Loan” from American Savings Bank, which has qualified Bonterra for its “Clean Loans” list.

Going solar with Bonterra also means you are going with a company that has a track record of quality installations, large and small. Along with serving individual homeowners, Bonterra works with major Island developers.

Bonterra installed solar systems for 19 homes in the Kaupuni Village development in Waianae, a Hawaiian Home Lands project that was the first “net-zero” sustainable community in the entire country.

Bonterra is the exclusive PV systems subcontractor for Gentry Homes and also installs solar systems for Graham Builders, which has been building homes in Hawaii since 1990.

Along with quality installation, warranties, financing and the use of top-notch materials, an-other reason to go with Bonterra when you go solar is because you’ll be going with a local company with a heart. Bonterra not only installed the solar systems in Kaupuni Habitat for Humanity Village, but it continued to work closely with homeowners to help them learn to maintain energy-efficient homes.

Bonterra also works with Honolulu Habitat for Humanity, the nonprofit that builds simple, affordable homes for those in need. Bonterra installs a free solar hot-water system for each new Habitat house.

Yani, who was recently elected vice president of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association (HSEA) board of directors, is proud of Hawaii’s solar industry and its members. Not surprisingly, however, when pushed to pick the top solar company in town, he said, “If you’re going to go solar, go with Bonterra.”

Source: http://hawaiirenovation.staradvertiser.com/2012/06/exterior/catching-the-solar-heat-wave/

Las Cruces Solar Farm will Produce Enough Power for 2,000 Homes

Sunflowers are known for their ability to track the sun across its east-west arc through the sky.

An array of solar panels west of Las Cruces will do the same.

City officials on Tuesday inaugurated a 12-megawatt solar-power generating plant just south of the Love's truck stop on Interstate 10.

Dubbed the Las Cruces Centennial Solar Farm, the plant is expected to produce enough electricity to power about 2,000 homes a year, according to an estimate by El Paso Electric Co.

The 48,900 solar panels are grouped in bunches and mounted on about 2,200 mechanized stands, officials said. Like the sunflower, they follow the sun across the sky.

The ability to maximize power-generating capacity by tracking the sun is one of several reasons the plant is expected to be among the most productive solar plants run by the Maryland-based SunEdison and possibly one of the most productive in North America for its size, said Tim Derrick, vice president of global services for SunEdison North America.

Other factors favoring the plant include the abundance of sunny days, a relatively high elevation and plenty of wind; the latter two attributes will help keep the solar panels cooler than they'd otherwise be, Derrick said.

"This is a unique location," he said. "The sun is our fuel, and you have very abundant fuel in Doña Ana County."

SunEdison spearheaded construction of the $50 million capital project and will continue as its operator. It's owned by PNC Bank, a national bank.

In addition, SunEdison has a 25-year contract with El Paso Electric Co., which has pledged to buy the plant's electricity.

Electric company officials touted the project as one of a handful in Doña Ana County that are helping achieve a state standard, which requires electric companies to supply 20 percent of power through alternative energy sources by 2020.

"By 2020, it's 20 percent of our New Mexico load" that has to come from alternative energy sources, said Rocky Miracle, senior vice president of corporate planning and development for El Paso Electric.

With the new solar plant, El Paso Electric Co. reaches the 3 percent mark, meaning about 37 megawatts is derived from renewable sources, Miracle said.

The new plant will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to El Paso Electric. It will offset emissions equivalent to about 4,400 vehicles a year.

In comparison, one of El Paso Electric Co.'s main plants, the Newman Power Station, which is mostly powered by natural gas, generates about 485 megawatts, Miracle said.

Against a backdrop of hundreds of solar panels, Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima and Davin Lopez, executive director of the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance, flipped an oversize light switch to ceremonially mark the plant's start.

Derrick said the plant actually went online in mid-May. A second, "almost-identical" plant, also spearheaded by SunEdison, is about to go online in Chaparral, he said.

Between the two plants, about four or five permanent jobs will be generated, Derrick said.

The company plans to contract out for other services, such as washing the panels.

Lopez said it would take the establishment of more solar-power plants before a solar-panel manufacturer might decide to locate in the area.

Source: http://www.elpasotimes.com/business/ci_20925382/las-cruces-solar-farm-will-produce-enough-power?source=most_emailed

Solar Energy Systems Could Help Save Money in Texas

High temperatures cause boost in energy prices

A new study from the Brattle Group, a consultancy firm operating in the energy sector, suggests that solar energy systems could be a good way for consumers to save money during summer. The study, titled “The Potential Impact of Solar PV on Electricity Markets in Texas,” brought researchers to Texas to examine the possible economic impacts of solar energy systems. The state is well known as being home to some of the hottest weather in the country, especially during the summer season. The study shows that this simple fact can have a dramatic impact on the price of energy.

Study shows that state could save millions by adopting solar energy systems

As temperatures rise, consumers consume more electricity to power air conditioning and other methods of cooling off. As the demand for electricity grows, so too does its price. According to the SEIA study, consumers could have saved more than $520 million in 2011 if they had adopted solar energy systems or if the state had incorporated solar technology into its energy infrastructure. The prospect of significant savings has drawn more attention to the concept of alternative energy as an economic force.

Texas could be an ideal home for solar energy

Texas is home to large expanses of land that could be converted into solar energy farms. Currently, much of this land is unused. The study suggests that installing solar energy systems in these large areas could help lower the prices of energy in the state, especially during the summer season. Solar energy systems installed at homes can also alleviate the financial pressures associated with high temperatures.

Study suggests alternative energy can help the state handle power crisis

Texas has shown modest support for solar energy in the past. According to the study, the state has been struggling with a small-scale energy crisis. The study suggests that this crisis could be solved through the use of solar energy systems.

Source: http://www.hydrogenfuelnews.com/solar-energy-systems-help-save-money-texas/854352/

First Solar Shares Jump After Antelope Valley Construction OKd

Shares of First Solar soared after the biggest maker of thin-film solar panels got permission to continue construction on a $1.36-billion power project in Los Angeles County.

Shares of First Solar Inc. soared after the biggest maker of thin-film solar panels received permission to continue construction on a $1.36-billion power project in Los Angeles County.

First Solar had the biggest increase among the companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index Friday, rising 9.2% to $15.88. Shares of the Tempe, Ariz., company are down 53% this year.

Construction of the Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One plant had been suspended during a permitting dispute with county officials over building codes, First Solar said Friday. The project is partially funded by a $646-million U.S. Energy Department loan guarantee and is expected to be completed next year.

First Solar sold the 230-megawatt Antelope Valley plant in September to Exelon Corp., a power company. The price was $75 million, according to a February filing from the solar company. Exelon, based in Chicago, said it would invest as much as $713 million in the project.

Source: www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-first-solar-20120623,0,4965704.story

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Solar Opportunity on the Horizon

Since its inception in 2005, the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Association has sponsored community service projects centered on providing renewable energy solutions to non-profit organizations. This year Opportunity House, 430 N. Second St., was determined to be the ideal recipient.
Above, from left, Modesto Fiume, president of Opportunity
House; Bob Elwell, HVAC manager for Energy Systems
Installation; and Tom Green, lead project engineer, on the
roof of Opportunity House, 420 N. Second St. where solar
collector panels hopefully will be installed. Elwell and
Green are both members of Mid-Atlantic Renewable
Energy Association, which has started a campaign to
raise money to fund a solar hot water heating system at
Opportunity House. Right, a diagram explaining how the
proposed solar system would work.

"We felt that if you look at Reading, it's the poorest city in America," said Bill Hennessy, vice president of MAREA and owner of Berks Solar. "Opportunity House takes care of the poorest of the poor and we thought, 'what can we do to help them out?'"

Opportunity House is a multi-service organization that focuses on improving the lives of children, adults and families with the aim to help them become self-sufficient. Services include emergency shelter, supportive housing, meals, 24-hour-a-day childcare and advocacy for victims of child abuse.

MAREA is a non-profit organization dedicated to informing and educating the public about renewable energy production, energy efficiency and sustainable living.

When MAREA took into consideration the energy demands on Opportunity House to function on a daily basis as well as factoring in the cost involved in various renewable energy solutions, it determined the organization could best benefit from a solar hot water (solar thermal) system.

"What makes solar hot water great for Opportunity House is they have a huge demand for hot water for the shelter, day care" and daily operations, Hennessy said. "The more hot water you use, the more solar will benefit you."

He estimates Opportunity House will save approximately $4,000 annually with the solar thermal system.

"About $6,000 is what their gas bill is right now," he said. "Every dollar they don't spend on heating water they can spend on services for the poor and homeless."

Determining that Opportunity House had solid roof space in addition to ample solar access were more reasons MAREA felt it was the ideal candidate for a solar hot water system.

Modesto Fiume, president of Opportunity House, sees the project as a great opportunity to partner on a shared vision.

"It ties in with our focus as an organization about being sustainable," Fiume said. "It will also help us save some operating costs each month."

He also added it will complete a goal he has been working towards for approximately six years. Since that time Opportunity House has successfully accomplished building a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified technology center for children ages 4 to 13.

Hennessy said the solar thermal system would consist of 18 roof-mounted solar collectors, each 4 feet by 10 feet.

He explained that a pump circulates a propylene glycol and water mixture to the rooftop to the collectors where the sun will heat it and then it returns to a heat exchanger and heats the water in the storage tank. The heat from the that water tank is then transferred to a second heat exchanger and warms the incoming cold water when needed. The tanks will hold at least 2,500 gallons of water.

A backup water tank provides hot water on cloudy days or during the winter months.

"The natural gas backup is making up the difference if water isn't hot enough," Hennessy said.

After considering various hot water systems for the project, it was determined a pressurized glycol system would be most suitable.

MAREA anticipates installation of the system, which is scheduled to happen in the fall, will take two weeks.

The cost of the solar thermal project is estimated to be $110,0000, but thanks to the help of donations in labor and materials the cost currently stands at approximately $50,000.

"We go out in the public to raise funds," said Hennessy, who added no government funding will be used for the project.

MAREA launched their fund drive in May. Fundraising is being coordinated by Pier Ignozzi-Shaffer of Reading.

In addition to their fundraising efforts, MAREA has been successful in securing the donation of services and materials necessary to aid in completion of the project.

Individuals in the renewable energy field have been eager to get on board to offer their skills and resources to design, manage and successfully complete the project, which has led to a solid lineup of local leaders in the field coming on board.

MAREA board member, Tom Green, a professional engineer and certified energy manager, will be lead engineer on the project. Green is also the director of campus energy services at Kutztown University.

Bob Elwell, heating, ventilation and air conditioning manager of Energy Systems & Installation, in Jonestown, Lebanon County, is on board as well.

"The company will be donating its services as contractor for the installation," Hennessy said.

"It's a great project," Elwell said at a recent monthly MAREA meeting. "We want to do our part."

Elwell's son, Bryan, is manager of Hickory Ridge Solar, District Township, which joins the project as a supplier. It distributes UMA Solar products.

"The company will provide the solar collectors and other materials for the project at cost or at a greatly reduced rate," Hennessy said.

In addition, Entech Engineering, 4 S. Fourth St., is donating engineering and drawing services for the permit application.

"These companies are sharing their resources with the community," Hennessy said. "We hope this generosity is contagious and we are looking forward to the contributions necessary to complete the installation."

Source: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=395949

First Solar Shares Jump After Antelope Valley Construction OKd

Shares of First Solar soared after the biggest maker of thin-film solar panels got permission to continue construction on a $1.36-billion power project in Los Angeles County.

Shares of First Solar Inc. soared after the biggest maker of thin-film solar panels received permission to continue construction on a $1.36-billion power project in Los Angeles County.

First Solar had the biggest increase among the companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index Friday, rising 9.2% to $15.88. Shares of the Tempe, Ariz., company are down 53% this year.

Construction of the Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One plant had been suspended during a permitting dispute with county officials over building codes, First Solar said Friday. The project is partially funded by a $646-million U.S. Energy Department loan guarantee and is expected to be completed next year.

First Solar sold the 230-megawatt Antelope Valley plant in September to Exelon Corp., a power company. The price was $75 million, according to a February filing from the solar company. Exelon, based in Chicago, said it would invest as much as $713 million in the project.

Source: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-first-solar-20120623,0,4965704.story

First Solar to Resume Work at California Projects

First Solar Inc said it would restart construction at two California solar power projects, after it secured approval from the public works department of Los Angeles, pushing up its shares as much as 13 percent.

Installation of panels at the company's 230-megawatt (MW) Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One project and at the 66-MW Alpine power plant was delayed as the county had sought information regarding electrical certifications, said Alan Bernheimer, public relations director at First Solar.

The company, which had sent 295 workers on temporary unpaid leave while it was in talks with the county, said the employees will now return to work.

The Alpine project, which is expected to be completed in the third quarter, will create an estimated 250 jobs. The plant is being built for power producer NRG Energy Inc.

The plant is expected to contribute as much as ten percent to First Solar's total sales this year, said Avian Securities LLC analyst Mark Bachman, who expects the company to raise its outlook for the year.

First Solar, the world's lowest-cost solar panel maker, forecast 2012 sales of $3.5 billion to $3.8 billion in February.

The utility-scale Antelope Valley project, where construction began in August 2011, had earlier faced uncertainty after the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) held back initial funds under its $646 million loan guarantee program.

The DOE released funds after the company secured a permit required for the construction.

The project is expected to go online in 2013 and will generate enough electricity to power 75,000 homes.

Maxim Group analyst Aaron Chew expects the project to contribute 20 to 30 percent of First Solar's 2013 earnings.

First Solar expects to ramp up staffing for the project over the next several weeks. The company has said construction of the plant would create about 400 jobs.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/22/us-firstsolar-lacounty-idUSBRE85L0QR20120622