Thursday, July 31, 2014

Solar Power for Traffic Lights in Accra

A good number of traffic lights in Accra are to be powered by solar energy.

This move has come about as the Department of Urban Roads (DUR) turns to the renewable energy source as a means to eliminate chaos at road intersections in the city, often caused by power outages that render traffic lights nonfunctional.

Already, traffic lights at intersections in areas such as the Nationalist Park, American House, Kawukudi, Flagstaff House and Fiesta Royale Hotel are being run on solar energy.

Solar energy involves the conversion of sunlight into electricity by either using photovoltaics cells (PV) or concentrated solar power (CSP). The CSP systems use lenses or mirrors and a tracking device to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. PV converts light into electric current using the photoelectric effect.

The DUR engaged a local contractor, A2Z, to install the traffic light panels and batteries for the six intersections. It will do same for the traffic lights on the N1 Highway.

The Deputy Minister of Roads and Highways, Mr Isaac Adjei-Mensah, and Heads of the DUR, the Ghana Highway Authority (GHA) and the Department of Feeder Roads visited the site close to the Fiesta Royale Hotel to inspect the work done.

A2Z has completed work on schedule and the traffic lights at the various road intersections are no longer taking their source of power from the national grid. They are now powered using solar panels and batteries. The batteries conserve excess energy to be used on days that are not so sunny.

According to the Director of the DUR, Mr Abass Awolu, “the system can work for two days even when there is no sunshine and the cost of maintenance is also very low,” he said.

The team also inspected solar power installation works on four traffic lights at intersections on the N1 Highway.

At Abeka Lapaz, Facol Roads, a road construction firm, is sticking up channels from one end of the road to the other to avoid cutting through the road for easy transmission of electrical signals to the solar panels in that location.

Mr Adjei-Mensah observed that solar energy offered uninterrupted power supply. He was hopeful that the step would help to manage traffic, especially during peak hours in the morning and evening.


Massachusetts Solar Bill and the National Grid

Clean Footprint published an excellent article yesterday regarding the National Grid and Massachusetts Solar Bill.  If you're company is in Massachusetts, you should read this article and learn about what's going on in the State!

For instance, did you know:
"A company needs only 25% of its roof covered in solar to completely offset its electric bill. It can now install the other 75% of solar and sell that electricity to another account holder in National Grid territory that may not have enough roof space to offset its entire bill. Make sense? Don’t wait to see how much you can save by going solar! Get a solar quote now!

Clean Footprint is having a FREE Webinar on Tuesday, August 19th from 2:00 - 2:30pm EST.  If you want to learn "Why Massachusetts Businesses are Rushing to go Solar" and why you should too.

Click here to learn more and to sign up for the webinar.

Solar Company Leverages Tournament into New Markets

Full coverage: World Cup 2014 

The world cup attracts billions of viewers which means TV airtime and advertising for many sponsors. But sponsorships are also crucial gateways into new markets.

Chinese solar panel manufacturers aren’t having a smooth ride in the US market. In early June, a US ruling started the second wave of investigation against imported solar panels, amplifying woes of many Chinese solar companies.

“The rulings are wrong and we feel very angry. This will force our prices to increase, and thereby intensifying global competition. It may also threaten the survival of our manufacturers as they will be impacted as well as workers in PV industry in the US,”said Liang Tian, PR director of Yingli Solar, Baoding, Heibei Province.

And one door to new markets lies in marketing and sponsorship. This year, the World Cup in Brazil provided the perfect opportunity for Yingli Solar. And it’s not their first attempt. Four years ago they kicked off efforts in South Korea, and executives hope to score new goals for new markets in Latin America.

“Both the South Africa 2010 World Cup and this years’ Brazil World Cup are doors to new markets for solar power. We believe the markets there are likely to double within a couple of years. Our target is to take 30 percentage share of the market,”Liang said.

Yingli, based in Baoding of Hebei Province in Northern China is one of the many sponsors of the World Cup. Though a World Cup sponsorship is a huge investment for the company, executives are optimistic about the returns, given their recent strides in technology that may bolster sales.

“This product generates power from both sides, and we are one of three companies globally to manage such techniques,”said Tian Shuquan, chief engineer of Test Center of Yinli Solar.

Yingli says it intends to continue sponsorship in the sporting event with the next one at the 2018 Russia World Cup.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Breakthrough in Solar Panel Manufacture Promises Cheap Energy Within a Decade

Technical advance based on edible salt overcomes need to use toxic agents
A breakthrough in the production of solar cells will make the next generation of solar panels cheaper and safer, and promises to accelerate the development of solar energy over the next decade, scientists said.

A technical advance based on an edible salt used in the manufacture of tofu could revolutionise the production of future solar panels to make them less expensive, more flexible and easier to use than the current models seen on millions of roofs across Britain.

Researchers believe they have found a way of overcoming one of the most serious limitations of the next generation of solar panels, which are based on toxic cadmium chloride, by simply adding magnesium chloride, an abundant salt found in seawater.

A study has shown that the solar cells produced with magnesium chloride – which is also found in bath salts as well as used to coagulate soya milk into tofu – work just as efficiently as conventional cadmium cells but at a fraction of the cost and with much lower toxicity.

“We certainly believe it’s going to make a big change to the costs of these devices. The cost of solar is going to match fossil fuels eventually but this is going to get us there quicker,” said Jon Major of the University of Liverpool, who led the research.

“Magnesium chloride is incredibly low-cost and it’s simply recovered from seawater. It’s used to de-ice roads in winter and it’s completely harmless and non-toxic. We’ve managed to replace a highly expensive, toxic material with one that’s completely benign and low cost,” Dr Major said.

About 90 per cent of the solar panels currently in use are made of photovoltaic cells composed of silicon semiconductors, which convert sunlight directly into electricity. However, silicon is not good at absorbing sunlight which is why the next generation of PV cells will be based on a thin coating of cadmium telluride, which absorbs sunlight so well that it only needs to be about one hundredth of the thickness of silicon.

However, although cadmium telluride is seen as the future for solar energy, it is potentially dangerous after it is “activated” with cadmium chloride, a critical step in the manufacturing process that raises the efficiency of converting sunlight to electricity from about two per cent to 15 per cent or more.

The Liverpool team attempted to find an alternative to cadmium chloride in the activation step and discovered that it could be done just as well with magnesium chloride, which they sprayed onto a test sample of cadmium telluride with a model aircraft spray gun they bought for £49.99, Dr Major said.

In a study published in the journal Nature, the researchers demonstrated that the efficiency of the resulting photovoltaic cells made from cadmium telluride and magnesium chloride were on a par with commercial cadmium telluride cells that had been activated with toxic cadmium chloride.

“We have to apply cadmium chloride in a fume cupboard in the lab, but we created solar cells using the new method on a bench with a spray gun bought from a model shop,” Dr Major said.

“Cadmium chloride is toxic and expensive, and we no longer need to use it. Replacing it with a naturally occurring substance could save the industry a vast amount of money and reduce the overall cost for generating power from solar,” he said.

It is not possible to estimate how much cheaper the new solar cells will be, Dr Major said, but magnesium chloride is about one per cent of the cost of cadmium chloride. In addition, waste disposal will be far easier and cheaper with a product based on a non-toxic salt, he said.

Asked why the solar power industry had not thought of using magnesium chloride before, Dr Major said: “We genuinely don’t know. The only reason we can suggest is that cadmium chloride works well so it may be a case of ‘if it’s not broke, why is there a need to fix it?’”

Jeremy Leggett, chairman of the renewable energy firm Solarcentury, said that the development is exciting because it promises to make an already competitive industry even more competitive with conventional sources of energy, such as fossil fuels.

“Their costs are coming down so fast that they are already knocking the business models of utilities into what some analysts call a ‘death spiral’. Imagine, then, what will happen if developments such as the one described in the new research come to market,” Dr Leggett said.


Solar Tariffs Seem Certain to Hurt U.S. Installation Market

The U.S. solar sector, which has seen its share of ups and downs, is bracing for yet another swell - more tariffs levied on Chinese solar panel manufacturers.

The recent June 3 ruling by the U.S. Department of Commerce was made in an effort to close a loophole in the 2012 tariff ruling, which allowed Chinese solar manufacturers to circumvent the tax by sourcing photovoltaic cells from nearby Taiwan and Korea.

Here is the question on everyone's mind: Will this ruling help or hurt solar business?

For the last several years, the U.S. solar installation market has largely benefited from low PV panel costs, primarily driven by Chinese suppliers. However, the downside of low-cost panels flooding the market is that U.S.-based solar manufacturers have been forced to choose between selling their panels below cost or losing critical market share by selling at uncompetitive premiums.

So what does this mean for the U.S. solar installation market?

"Prices for solar systems are inching up," says Jaymes Callinan, president of commercial solar installation firm Vista Solar. "In the few weeks since the tariffs were announced, we've seen prices from module suppliers increase by about six percent."

Price increases aren't just limited to Chinese solar panel manufacturers. As the fiercely competitive solar panel manufacturing industry moves to source new tariff-compliant suppliers, those very suppliers are rapidly becoming hot commodities. As in all things, when demand is up and supply is low, prices rise. Tariff-free suppliers are renegotiating long-term contracts, cherry-picking partners and inevitably raising prices to match their scarcity.

"The real question is not how much the cost of panels will rise, but how availability will be affected," Callinan says. "None of the manufacturers win if they raise their pricing to the point where our customer's paybacks go above the five-year threshold, which is regarded as the sound investment marker for most chief financial officers. It doesn't matter how much margin is being made on solar panels if no one is buying them."

Callinan thinks that the immediate concern for the solar sector is whether there will be enough non-tariff solar modules available in the second half of the year to meet the growing demand of the U.S. market.

Further complicating the situation is a second anti-dumping case that is expected to issue more tariff rulings against Chinese module suppliers in July.

"While we don't anticipate supply issues in 2015, we've seen a major up-tick in interest from clients who are moving to secure panels this year before the second round of tariffs come down in July," Callinan says. "The fact is, with federal tax credits set to expire in 2016, state rebates disappearing daily and these trade cases increasing the cost of modules, it will be awhile before an investment in solar looks this good again."

While the tariff rulings and resulting price increases and availability issues appear to be a setback to the industry, if there's anything that the U.S. solar sector has proven over the last decade, it's that it can weather a storm. From rebate drops to fluctuating tax incentives and net-metering battles with the utilities, the solar sector has demonstrated that it's able to weather these storms.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Solar Array Dedicated in Belchertown Expected to Start Producing Electricity Next Week

KEVIN GUTTING The owners of Evergreene Golf, a miniature golf course on Ware Road (Rt. 9) in Belchertown, have leased adjacent land, just to the south, for a solar array.
BELCHERTOWN — Town Planner Douglas Albertson called a new 1.5 megawatt solar array that was dedicated Thursday at the former driving range of the Evergreene mini-golf course “a point of pride” for the community.

Albertson spoke to about 20 people including town officials and representatives from Nexamp, the Boston-based solar developer that built the power generating plant. They gathered at the site on 11 acres along Route 9 for speeches and a tour of the solar field. Nexamp has a 20-year lease on the land that belongs to Barbara and Richard Greene.

Nexamp vice president for business development Christopher Clark, said the project is a “win-win for a multitude of stakeholders” which was made possible by “an aggressive incentive program” under which Massachusetts expects to see the production statewide of 1,600 megawatts of solar-generated electricity by 2020.

Project manager Brandon Doane gave the tour of panels containing 5,071 modules on the site that are mounted in the ground at a 23-degree angle to the sky.

Barbara Greene said that it took three years to complete the project since Nexamp approached her and her husband about building the array. She expects National Grid to start actually drawing energy off the site next week.

Albertson said he is “a big fan” of solar energy and that he hopes to see more of it in Belchertown in years to come. He installed solar panels of the roof of his home last year and the town’s building inspector has been getting an increasing number of applications from people who want to do the same.

“The bigger picture is that this is what we need to be doing as a society for our future,” said Albertson. “Solar is something we can generate in Massachusetts and we don’t need to import it.”

He pointed out that another firm, Solar Design Associates of Harvard, is considering building solar panels as part of a development plan for the former Belchertown State School property. “I kind of like it,” Albertson said of the idea, although there is not yet a formal proposal.

Clark said Nexamp is currently working on two projects in Hadley, both on land it is leasing from Wayne Goulet. The first, a 3-megawatt facility on slightly less than 10 acres north of Mill Valley Road is due to go on line in the next few weeks, said Clark.

Permits are being obtained for the other, a 2.5-megawatt site which is expected to produce electricity within 1½ years, Clark said that.


Japan’s Solar Energy Capacity Continues to Show Impressive Growth

Report highlights the country’s growing solar power capacity

Japan is becoming one of the world’s leading solar energy markets. The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry has released a report concerning the country’s growing solar power capacity. Over the past year, Japan’s solar capacity has increased significantly, partly due to the falling cost of photovoltaic technologies and the increased domestic production of these technologies. The government has also been funding the development of the solar energy sector throughout the country quite aggressively.

More than 7 GW of solar capacity was installed in Japan over the past fiscal year

The figures highlighted in the report are based on data provided by the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy. The report shows that more than 7 gigawatts of solar capacity was installed throughout Japan during the past fiscal year. This represents a 10-fold increase over the country’s capacity as recorded in early 2013. Much of Japan’s solar growth is being attributed to the development of commercial solar energy systems and the growing popularity of rooftop photovoltaic systems.

Residential solar power continues to gain momentum thanks to government incentives

The residential sector had been the most prominent market for solar power in Japan before the development of commercial-scale energy projects won more support from the Japanese government. Residential photovoltaic systems are still growing in popularity among homeowners that are interested in renewable energy and saving money by reducing their consumption of fossil-fuels through utilities. Japan’s solar feed-in tariff has gone a long way to promote the adoption of solar power among the country’s homeowners.

Japan expected to become a leading solar power market as more solar projects begin to take form throughout the country

Solar energy is expected to continue seeing significant growth throughout Japan for the foreseeable future. There are currently several solar projects under development in the country, such as the Oita Solar Project. This particular project has already established a longstanding power purchase agreement with Kyushu Electric Power Company. This project has a capacity of 82 megawatts and is one of several similar projects that are beginning to work alongside Japanese utilities.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Growing Solar Panel Use Poses Huge Safety Risk for Firefighters

Firefighters battle the so-called Poinsettia Fire in Carlsbad, California May 14, 2014. REUTERS/Sam Hodgson
Solar panel use is on the rise due to lowering costs and generous federal, state and local subsidies. But rooftop solar panels pose a huge risk firefighters trying to put out burning buildings and rescue those who may be trapped inside.

In the American Southwest, many homes are putting up rooftop solar panels, but in areas that are already a high risk for fires, this poses an extra level of danger to firefighters.

Firefighters in Arizona are preparing to meet the challenge of putting out fires at an increasing number of homes and buildings using rooftop solar. The problem with solar panels is that they can electrocute firefighters and make it harder for fires to be put out and buildings to be saved.

Solar panels’ photovoltaic cells are “producing a live electrical current that cannot simply be turned off like a traditional grid-powered electrical connection,” explains the East Valley Tribune. “That means whenever fire crews need to go on the roof for access, venting or to apply water to a growing fire, extra precautions must be taken.”

This means that even the solar panel’s connection to the electrical grid is severed, it can still generate electricity, producing a shocking surprise for rescue workers. It’s not only electrocution that firefighters must worry about, but the added weight of a solar array can cause rooftops to collapse more quickly than anticipated.

“The thing is identifying it early, making sure we secure the system … but you can’t turn the system off,” said Keith Welch, battalion chief of the Chandler Fire Department in Arizona, told the East Valley Tribune.

But that’s not all. Solar panels also block ventilation and water access to the roof of a burning buildings, according to firefighters. Welch told the East Valley Tribune that sometimes fire crews must wait for buildings to partially collapse in order to get around the solar panels and get inside. This is on top of the concern of spraying water onto live, energy-producing circuitry.

CBS Los Angeles reported in February that “a fire at an industrial complex outside Philadelphia burned for 29 hours because firefighters say they couldn’t get to the roof since it was covered with energized solar panels.”

But it’s not just a problem for firefighters in the southwest, as many homes across the New England and the northeast have also installed rooftop solar panels.

“There certainly have been examples with power being backfed into the site that have killed firefighters in adjacent states,” Northampton, Massachusetts Fire Chief Brian Duggan told 22WWLP’s I-Team.

Duggan also told the I-Team that it takes a lot longer for firefighters about twice as long to cut through roofs in a blaze to get ventilation in the roof.

“As an example in Easthampton there was a ventilation hole cut in a roof, it took about 25 minutes to do it, this would elongate that time by approximately double,” he said.

Danbury, Connecticut’s Deputy Fire Chief Mark Omasta told the News Times that even the floodlights used to illuminate emergency scenes can cause solar panels to generate electricity.

“We could use tarps to cover the panels, but the conduit that goes from the panels to the inverter is usually still charged,” Omasta said. “We are teaching our firefighters to always treat solar panels as live electricity.”

Firefighters in the northeast are expecting more buildings to install solar in the coming years and are beginning to adjust their training and firefightings strategies to cope with this development.

“With all the incentives that are being offered to homeowners and businesses to go solar, we expect to see a lot more solar arrays in the next five to 10 years,” Omasta said. “We’ll definitely have to adjust our strategy when it comes to these structures.”

The solar industry says it’s working with firefighters across the country “ to improve fire safety through the development of building codes and product standards.”

“We’re working diligently to better educate firefighters about how solar works,” the Solar Energy Industries Association said in a statement.

But Gregory Garrison, president of Northeast Solar, told 22WWLP’s I-Team that solar panels don’t pose a big risk to firefighters.

“The only issue that remains for them is maybe ventilating the roof and finding the convenient way to ventilate the roof,” he said. “Technology is continuing to advance to provide those solutions for us, but for right now, from an electrical standpoint, they pose no issues.”


Solar Boat Team Makes ‘Splash’ at Intercollegiate Competition

The Northeastern Solar Boat club finished in second place and won most improved team at the 2014 Solar Splash competition earlier this month in Ohio. Contributed photo
Mem­bers of Northeastern’s Solar Boat club had planned to rebuild in 2014, fore­going a chance to win now in exchange for future success.

Turns out, the future is now: Ear­lier this month, North­eastern fin­ished second overall and was named the most improved team at the annual Solar Splash com­pe­ti­tion in Ohio. In 2013, the North­eastern team fin­ished 10th.

“This year was sup­posed to be a tran­si­tion year for us,” said first-​​year club pres­i­dent Christo­pher Hickey, E’16, whose team also won a sprint race, fin­ished second in the slalom, and placed third in visual dis­play. “It was great we ended up being so suc­cessful because it showed that our pre­de­ces­sors left the club in good shape.”

Solar Splash began in 1994 and is billed by orga­nizers as the world cham­pi­onship of inter­col­le­giate solar/​electric boating.

Northeastern’s student-​​run engi­neering club designs, builds, and races a 19-​​foot long solar-​​powered boat, giving mem­bers a chance to apply skills they have learned on co-​​op and in the classroom.

This year, the team worked to build a boat that could with­stand each and every event at Solar Splash, which wasn’t the case at last year’s com­pe­ti­tion. “Our goal was to not have parts of the boat break on us,” said club alumnus Scott Kil­coyne, E’14, who worked with the team at the com­pe­ti­tion. “I’d say we def­i­nitely succeeded.”

One redesign required the club mem­bers to make the boat’s five solar panels, rather than buying them. This marked the second time in the club’s five-​​year his­tory that the stu­dents built the solar panels them­selves. Not only are the custom panels lighter and more robust, Kil­coyne explained, but they also boost performance.

“The com­pe­ti­tion rules state that teams are allowed 528 watts of energy for home-​​built panels and 480 watts of energy for com­mer­cially built panels,” he explained. “They’re trying to encourage teams to build their own.”

Hickey noted that this year’s results were even more impres­sive because of the club’s lim­ited prac­tice time. Since the Charles River was frozen into May, the team mem­bers could do little to test their single-​​person boat, which can reach a speed of 25 miles per hour.

“We only had about a month to test the boat with all of our updates,” Hickey said, which included new pon­toons to keep the boat stable and above water.

The club’s 10 active mem­bers work year-​​round, tin­kering and fine-​​tuning, but they some­times solicit out­side help. In the past they have uti­lized other engi­neering stu­dents’ cap­stone projects for design ideas; for example, the club’s first iter­a­tion of the hand­made solar panels derived from a cap­stone project.

“It’s good to get a fresh bit of knowl­edge and exper­tise that the club might not have,” Kil­coyne said.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Finding Common Ground on Solar

Over the past 18 months, states across the country have seen utility companies and the solar industry embroiled in high-pitched battles about the future of rooftop solar. As CEOs from either side of the debates, one from a utility and the other from a national rooftop solar company, we rarely agree on the topic — until now. A landmark bill in the Massachusetts Legislature is the first major example of our two sides finding comprehensive common ground on solar policy.

If passed, the bill would help ensure a stable solar future for Massachusetts. It would also continue Massachusetts’ strong track record of leadership on renewable energy and set an example for other states across the country.

Among the agreements, the legislation would put in place Governor Patrick’s goal of installing 1,600 megawatts of solar in Massachusetts by 2020. Patrick announced this plan in May of 2013 after surpassing his original 250 megawatt goal four years early. In fact, National Grid recently interconnected a project that brings the company’s total amount of customer-owned solar in Massachusetts to 228 megawatts and is on pace to process about 5,000 applications for interconnections in Massachusetts this year. The new 1,600 megawatt goal affirms Massachusetts’ leadership in ensuring a cleaner future, and the proposal would further solidify the commitment.

The legislation would also remove the Massachusetts net metering cap for solar customers. Net metering policy gives rooftop solar customers retail credit for the surplus energy they put back on the grid. This bill proposes to eliminate any cap on the number of customers that can participate.

In addition, the proposal assures that the costs of the distribution system are supported by all users through electric rates in a fair manner. This reform demonstrates utilities’ and the solar industry’s joint commitment to aligning rate design and solar growth in a sustainable way.

The legislation also proposes to replace Massachusetts’ current solar incentive program with a more stable and efficient alternative. The new program will have incentive levels that reflect market realities and step down over time as solar costs continue to drop. This structure ensures predictability to encourage more private investment, job creation, and economic growth through the Massachusetts solar market.

Massachusetts has been at the forefront of change since our nation’s founding, and the passage of this legislation would build on that leadership. While heated debates between utilities and the solar industry continue across the country, Massachusetts can set the example for what common ground looks like.

We are proud to have the opportunity to participate in the state’s history of positive change. The program embedded in the bill will assure solar developers and owners are compensated fairly, while putting in place incentive structures that lower the costs of this important clean energy initiative for all electric consumers across the state.


Seaside Solar Plan Gets Another Look

BRIDGEPORT -- The Connecticut Siting Council is heading to Seaside Park this summer.

But unlike the visitors who head there for swimming, sunbathing, picnics and sporting events, this trip is all business.

The utility regulatory body's members on Thursday agreed to hold a public hearing in Bridgeport on United Illuminating's plan to, with Mayor Bill Finch's enthusiastic cooperation, erect 9,000 solar panels atop a landfill adjacent to Seaside Park.

A pleased Councilman Enrique Torres, R-130, called the Siting Council's announcement "huge."

He and other critics have complained that the plan industrializes historic Seaside Park. Having failed this winter to keep the Parks Commission and City Council from embracing the idea to lease the former dump to UI, opponents appealed to the siting authorities for another opportunity to plead their case.

"UI argued no hearing was necessary since the locals approved it," Torres said. "The Siting Council disagreed. It gives us an opportunity to argue our case once again."

"Bullish investment"

The nine-person Siting Council is charged with reviewing utility projects and balancing the need for adequate, reliable, reasonably priced services with protecting the environment and scenic, historic and recreational assets.

"We did get numerous requests from members of the public," said Melanie Bachman, the Siting Council's acting executive director. "Given the size of the project and the public interest, the council in its discretion decided it would be wise to hold a public hearing on the matter."

Bachman noted siting officials have held similar hearings for UI solar projects in Somers and East Lyme.

A date still has to be chosen. Bachman said the visit would be several hours, beginning in the early afternoon with a visit to the landfill for UI to walk council members thorough the plans.

Then an evidentiary hearing will be held during which the council will cross examine UI. The public speaking portion will likely happen around 7 p.m., Bachman said.

A UI spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Finch spokesman Brett Broesder said in a statement that the solar array was thoroughly vetted at the local level and is a "bullish investment in Bridgeport's future" that will create jobs and cleaner energy.

"This project will help make Bridgeport a place where our kids and grandkids will choose to live, work and raise their families," Broesder said.

Broesder said the mayor will make a personal appearance at the Siting Council's hearing.

While the lease deal was a victory in Finch's efforts to make Bridgeport a leader in the green economy, the solar project's approval proved embarrassing for the Democratic administration, which was caught off guard by some of the opposition and wound up having to work harder than anticipated last winter to explain the lease and push it through.

At one point the Parks Commission voted the proposal down, leading the City Attorney's office to subsequently make the controversial declaration that the group's vote was "non-binding" and could be ignored by the City Council.

Instead Finch had the mayoral-appointed parks board vote again, producing the desired lease approval.

Then the mostly Democratic Council voted 15-5 in mid-March to finalize the 20-year lease with UI.

"I thought this was put behind us and we were moving forward with this historic solar project," said Onte Johnson, head of the city's Sierra Club branch, about Thursday's Siting Council decision. "We will be there for the hearing and testify and give our support, as we have in the past. We still think this project is very important."

Torres was optimistic the opposition's case will be viewed more objectively by the Siting Council than by local boards.

Asked if he was willing to live with a Siting Council decision to endorse the solar array, Torres said no.

"I am not willing to concede this facility, at this location, ever," he said.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

HDB Ramps Up Solar Leasing With Latest Tender

Experts say the move is a shot in the arm for energy development here and proves that the concept is economically viable.
The HDB’s solar test-bed site in Serangoon North Avenue 3. (Photo: TODAY/Ernest Chua)
SINGAPORE: The Housing and Development Board (HDB) has called for the largest solar-leasing tender to date, under which solar photovoltaic (PV) panels will be installed on the rooftops of about 500 HDB blocks managed by the Marine Parade, Jurong, Tampines and Sembawang town councils.

The 20 megawatts-peak (MWp) of electricity generated – enough to power more than 4,000 four-room HDB flats – could be used in common areas, to power lifts, corridor and staircase lights, for example, in these blocks as well as the Toa Payoh HDB Hub, the Woodlands Civic Centre and a factory building in Bedok North.

The tender, which was published on May 23 on the Government Electronic Business (GeBIZ) portal and closes on July 11, eclipses an earlier one put up by the HDB in August last year for a company to own and operate 5MWp for 125 blocks – which was then touted as the single largest project – in Ang Mo Kio, Sengkang, Serangoon North and Buangkok.

The pace at which HDB is ramping up solar leasing is a shot in the arm for the development of solar energy here and proves that the concept is economically viable, experts said.

When contacted, an HDB spokeswoman confirmed that the tender is the largest to date. More details will be announced later, she said.

In the August tender, the HDB would offset up to 30 per cent of the start-up costs and buy the electricity from the successful bidder for 20 years at a lower price than the prevailing market rate.

The HDB has not announced the award of this tender.

Dr Thomas Reindl, Deputy CEO of the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore, said after Singapore achieved grid parity in 2012 – where the cost of installing and maintaining solar PV panels is on a par with using conventional electricity – solar leasing has established itself as a viable business model in the country.

He added: “As soon as it makes economic sense, the private sector will take care of the market uptake and fast adoption (of the technology).”

Other prominent solar-leasing projects under way include that at the newly opened Sports Hub, to which solar company Phoenix Solar Singapore leases 707kWp.

The firm’s commercial director Chee Yeen Yee said that while the solar-leasing model is still relatively new here, its introduction has opened up a new market that is largely driven by government tenders. Increasingly, commercial building owners are also showing interest, she added.

Sunseap Leasing, a solar-system developer, expressed interest in bidding for the latest HDB tender. The company was awarded a tender in January last year to lease 3MWp to 80 blocks of flats in Punggol Eco-Town, among other solar-leasing projects on its books.

Its business development manager Shawn Tan noted that the latest tender documents did not provide an option for bidders to state an amount they require the HDB to subsidise as part of start-up costs. He felt this could possibly indicate the authorities’ confidence in the viability of the solar-leasing model for housing blocks.

Instead, bidders are assessed on the efficiency of their systems and the amount of discounts they can offer on the tariffs, he noted.

Town councils involved in the latest tender said the use of solar energy is not only good for the environment, but will also reduce their electricity bills, which have ballooned in recent years due to higher tariffs.

With economic viability no longer a challenge, Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, executive director of the Energy Research Institute at Nanyang Technological University, said the intermittency of solar energy – it could be affected by cloud cover, for example – could become a constraint if Singapore ramps up its use of such renewable energy.

One of the solutions include looking at storing energy that is generated, he added.


Wind and Solar Survey Prepares Way For Fast-Tracking Consent

WIND and solar-photovoltaic (PV) sites are the subject of a strategic environmental assessment study by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

A separate exercise to the broader study into obstacles facing renewable energy provision, the study is designed to identify geographical areas in which large-scale wind and solar PV projects can be developed.

It was begun in late 2012 and commissioned by the Department of Environmental Affairs.

The locations should minimise significant negative effects on the environment while ensuring projects are commercially attractive and offer the maximum social and economic benefits.

Co-manager Lydia Cape-Ducluzeau says the study focuses on five provinces for solar PV — Northern Cape, Western Cape, North West, Free State and Eastern Cape. The study areas for wind are based on Wind Atlas of South Africa data: Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape.

These renewable energy development zones (REDZ) will have no effect on projects already approved — unless their authorisation lapses — but projects in the identified zones will benefit from streamlined approvals. If projects are concentrated in these areas, Eskom will find it easier to plan its new transmission lines.

The updated IRP 2010 targeted 3,700MW of energy from renewables by 2017 and projects totalling 3,933MW already have the green light. The target by 2018 is 17,800MW.

In the first phase of its study, the CSIR team has identified preliminary areas, in positive and negative mapping exercises.

Positive mapping looks at where resources are, the existing grid and the need for socioeconomic development, in particular the areas that the government has identified for industrial use such as special economic zones, industrial development zones, ports and solar and wind corridors. These fit with areas where manufacturing will be concentrated — solar plants around Upington, and wind turbines around Atlantis.

Negative mapping excludes areas of high sensitivity.

"We ended up with 15 study areas for wind and eight for solar PV," Ms Cape-Ducluzeau says. "We approached the renewables industry for their views, and they helped us to further define our study areas.

"We discussed these with provincial authorities and we ended up with eight areas for both wind and solar PV, totalling about 80,000km². At this point we now have specialists doing scoping studies on those eight areas."

These REDZ are not exclusive zones — other land usages could be integrated with the renewables projects.

Final decisions will now be made on the focus areas, identifying boundaries for the REDZ and preparing protocols so that environmental permits can be obtained. Once these areas are defined and the various departments agree, they will be submitted to the Cabinet for approval.

This process requires the amendments to the environmental regulations allowing for pre-assessments to which the CSIR’s study on transmission corridors has referred.

"What it means for developers in these areas is that they still have to go through certain processes, including public consultation, but it will be quicker to secure environmental consents," Ms Cape-Ducluzeau says.

"We have a steering committee on which a number of government departments are represented, and an expert reference group including NGOs and industry associations. Their participation has been very helpful."


Friday, July 25, 2014

Solar Energy Could Save Lansing Schools $1.4M

The Lansing Board Of Education (BOE) voted unanimously Monday to allow Superintendent Chris Pettograsso to send a letter of intent in support of a solar power company, Dynamic Energy, application for a NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research & Development Authority) grant to build a nearly two megawatt solar array that could provide 95% of the school district's electricity.  The project is estimated to save the district just under $45,000 in energy costs inits first year, and almost $1.4 million over the 20 year life of the contract.

"The concept is we would contract with this company to install a solar array, a big field of panels," said BOE President Glenn Swanson.  "Because we don't want to use up our playing fields and we don't have enough roof space it will likely be on an off-site location.  There is a lot of work to be done to figure that out and all the legal aspects of it."

TST BOCES Energy Management Coordinator Chris Santospirito and Jim Slavetskas, who acts as project manager for many of the Lansing school district's capital projects, attended Monday's meeting to answer questions about the 300 page proposal.  Dynamic Energy has proposed an 1,800 kilowatt system that would generate an estimated 2,226,952 kilowatt hours in the first year.  Santospirito said that the $44,539 savings in the first year accounts for 18.8% of what the district is currently paying.

"In the proposal it's 1.8 megawatts," Sanispirito said.  "We've asked them to rethink that because the schools use about two and a half million killowatt hours of electricity a year.  We're trying to get closer to that, but we don't want to get so close that you are paying for electricity that is generated that you're not using.  Then you don't get the credits back from NYSEG.  So you really don't want to go beyond 90% or 95% in the best interests of the economics of the district."

School Superintendent Chris Pettograsso told the board that Dynamic Energy has worked with institutions including Skidmore College on similar projects.  She said that Lansing is under no obligation until it signs a final agreement, leaving plenty of time to get questions answered, talk to other institutions and vist installations.  She said the only rush is to send the company a letter of intent to support their grant proposal before the July 17 application deadline.

"The resolution (the board was to vote on Monday) really just states that you are giving me the authority to send a letter of intent to allow Dynamic Energy to submit a proposal for a NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research & Development Authority) grant," explained Pettograsso.  "That's where we are in the process right now.  It's clear that we have to receive the grant, we have to agree to the final proposal that Dynamic Energy provides us, and we have some questions we need answered.  Tonight is just about saying I can work with this company to go ahead and apply for the grant."

"Our lawyers are suggesting we enter into an agreement that we can get out of at any time, because legally we can't obligate future boards to something," Swanson said.  "That is the legal sticky point.  There is a lot more study and work to be done."

Sanispirito said that no school systems in the state have been able to successfully implement a solar project of this scope.

"Let's be first," said BOE Vice President Christine Iacobucci.

"You will be first," Sanispirito replied.  "There is no other public school system in New York State  that has been able do a system like this because no other company has been willing to honor the non-appropriations clause in the law.  The key is to work with the solar company so that you're starting out paying for your energy at a lower cost than you're currently paying.  Not only will you be first in complying with the law, but you will be first in terms of having the largest system for a public school district."

Sanispirito explained that the school district will have no capital investment in the project because it will be purchasing the power from Dynamic Energy, which would build the 6,000 panel solar array on about 10 acres of land owned by Cayuga Operating Company (COC), which owns the Cayuga Power Plant in northwest Lansing.  If the NYS Public Service Commission approves a repowering plan in December a 2MW solar array will be part of the project.  She says COC owns over 400 acres, more than enough to accomodate both arrays, and noted that COC attorneys confirmed that if the plant is closed or sold the lease contract can insure that the school array land is not taken away.

"The solar company invests all of the money on the front end," Sanispirito said.  "They take care of it.  They insure it.  They inspect it.  They will also have to enter into an agreement with the Cayuga Operating Company to lease the land.  So there is no money invested by the district.  Instead of Lansing Central School District writing a check to NYSEG they'll write a check to the company that's going to finance this.  You'll buy the electricity generated by the solar panels instead of from the other companies."

The project is by no means assured.  Pettograsso said that providing a letter of intent is only the first of many steps.  Sanispirito added that he company must be able to supply electricity at less than the district is currently paying, and that state and federal grants and tax credits and the NYSERDA grant will decide whether the company can make a firm offer to provide energy for the Lansing schools.

"If they win it they're going to get paid about 24 cents per kilowatt hour to build the system," Sanispirito explained.  "That's their incentive.  In addition to that they offset the cost of this through a 30% federal tax credit, a New York State $5,000 credit, and if Congressman Reed is successful in bringing back the super bonus depreciation factor they'll be able to depreciate 50% of the system in the first year, and fully depreciate it in five.  That's how they get their money back."

"It is a really exciting opportunity for us," Pettograsso said.  "Although we came into in the last few months, Chris and Jim have been working on it for over two years.  Chris has been the one crossing the Ts and dotting the Is for us.  It is certainly an opportunity that we are excited for, but there are still a lot of 'ifs' in it."


Pros & Cons of Solar Energy in Massachusetts

Wes Morrison, of Clean Footprint is an expert in solar energy for the State of Massachusetts. Here's his list of the good, the bad and the future of solar energy in Massachusetts.

"Every state is unique when it comes to solar due to the different policies that are in place. We will highlight the major pros and cons of solar energy for the State of Massachusetts. If you are interested in solar for your business I can tell you without reading any further that the pros do far outweigh the cons. Over the years, I have spoken with business owners, NABCEP certified solar installers, engineers and environmentalists to get a holistic understanding of the Massachusetts solar market. I found it to be helpful and worth sharing with you so that you may make a better decision if you are currently considering solar or just interested in learning more. Going solar in Massachusetts can either make sense or make stress. Understanding the pros and cons will help you make the proper first step towards going solar."

Interested to know the Pros and Cons of Solar Energy in the State of Massachusetts?
Read the whole article here.

Huge Solar Panel Farm Could Be Built Near Harborough

A huge green energy scheme to build a solar panel park the size of 70 football pitches near Market Harborough has been pitched to Kettering Council.

The green energy plan would put about 125 acres of solar photovoltaic panels – equivalent to the size of 70 football pitches – on land 400 metres south-east of the edge of Harborough, between the A6 and the railway line.

Access to the scheme would be off a concrete farm path at the top of Kettering Road, Harborough, just before it joins the A6. Part of the site was previously occupied by a motocross track.

Thousands of south-facing solar panels would be mounted on metal frames up to three metres high, allowing for grazing to take place beneath them.

The solar photovoltaic park could generate at least 20MW of power, which would be enough to supply more than 6,000 homes, according to figures supplied by the Solar Trade Association.

The proposal, which falls mainly in Braybrooke, Northamptonshire, despite being close to Harborough, is in its very early “scoping report” stages, the Mail understands.

A scoping report sets out a description of a proposed project, with details of its environmental and other impacts, but is not yet an official planning application.

A spokesman for Kettering Council confirmed: “Ecus Ltd have submitted a screening and scoping opinion for the site. The local planning authority has responded, requesting that any future planning application is accompanied by an Environmental Impact Assessment covering matters as outlined in the issued scoping opinion, application reference KET/2014/0281.

“The details can be viewed on our website via the application reference number.

“We await a planning application, which will be dealt with and publicly consulted upon in the usual way.”

The site, which would be called Braybrooke Solar Photovoltaic Park, would have a capacity of about 20-25 MW, putting it in the medium-to-large category of British solar energy parks.

It would take about six months to build, including the laying of underground cables and the building of an electricity sub-station, which Ecus Ltd says would be “approximately the size of a large garage”.

It has been proposed by a small company called SLP Energy (Braybrooke) Ltd, based in Spixworth, near Norwich, via environmental consultants Ecus Ltd, which is based in Sheffield. Ecus has so far not responded to several requests by the Mail for a comment about the scheme.

The proposal was first drawn to the attention of the Mail by reader Karen Stanley who said: “It is potentially a very large development on high ground above the railway line and will be visible for miles.”

County and Harborough district councillor Sarah Hill said: “I’ve no problem with it, as long as there isn’t any detrimental visual impact on the town.

“Given the lie of the land, it looks like it will only be visible from some considerable distance.”

The Ecus report says the panels would be located on the side of a valley, and will be most easily viewed from roads to the south including Braybrooke Road and Harborough Road.

But the report says additional landscape planting would help to screen the site.

And it claims that the number of residents in the so-called Zone of Theoretical Visibilty (ZTV) is “not high”.

Darren Woodiwiss, co-founder of green group Transition Town Harborough, said that his group would, in general terms, “welcome any renewable and sustainable energy source”.

He said: “We all know we have an energy gap forming in the UK. We would be particularly interested in a scheme that created locally generated electricity for local residents.”

James Beard, a spokesman for the Solar Trade Association, said: “A scheme like this, if it’s well positioned and well screened, is an asset. It’s all about how well planned it is.”

Site selection is crucial issue

Solar parks are not automatically a good thing – you have to keep a close eye on the planning process.

That’s the view of the Council for the Protection of Rural England .

The CPRE says: “The increase of inappropriate wind farms and solar photovoltaic (PV) parks threatens to severely damage our matchless countryside.”

Paul Hayter, chairman of CPRE Northamptonshire, said that any new solar PV park should meet five important criteria.

Firstly, it should be on a site where the local topography limits its visual impact.

Secondly, it should not harm the views in sensitive or valued landscapes.

Thirdly, it should not harm views from settlements or public rights of way.

It should also not significantly affect the setting of settlements and finally, it should have a minimal impact on food production.

Northamptonshire already has a solar PV park, near Towcester, Mr Hayter said.

He said: “I would say that’s not an example of a good solar farm. It would probably not get planning permission now, because it’s more visible than anyone expected.”

But really it all depends on the site, claims Solar Trade Association press officer James Beard,

“If it’s planned badly, it will generate the ire of the public – and that’s entirely understandable,” said Mr Beard.

“But we encourage best practice in terms of site selection and site screening.”

Leonie Greene, head of external affairs for the Solar Trade Association, added: “Some of the earlier solar parks in Britain were done badly. But what we find is that when these parks are done well, they’re well received,”

Solar farm fact file

The total ‘footprint’ of the proposed solar park could be 172 acres. Of this, about 125 acres would be covered with the solar photovoltaic panels – equivalent to the size of 70 football pitches.

It would be on south-facing on land south-east of Harborough, between the A6 off Braybrooke and the railway line.

Panels would be mounted on metal frames up to three metres high.

It could generate at least 20MW of power, enough to supply more than 6,000 homes.

A recent YouGov poll revealed that 74 per cent of British people want more solar power. The same poll said 67 per cent thought solar power was a realistic way of combating climate change.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

AB 2188 Would Make California’s Solar More Affordable

Walker Wright, Director of Government Affairs at Sunrun
A very promising solar bill is making its way through the California Legislature. AB 2188 calls for a streamlining of the permitting process, and Sunrun has issued a report stating it could deliver an additional $5 billion into the state’s coffers. This bill has already been passed by the Assembly (58-8) and is now before the senate. I recently had an opportunity to ask Walker Wright, Director of Government Affairs at Sunrun, how AB 2188 would make California’s solar more affordable.

Question: Tell me a little about the idea that streamlining the solar permitting process can deliver billions in additional growth to California’s economy.

WW: Solar equipment costs have fallen dramatically over the last decade, but non-hardware costs (soft costs) are the last frontier to continued price declines. Already, the soft costs involved with solar installations (the permitting, customer acquisition, labor, etc.) are 50-70% of the total installation cost. Permitting alone can be 5-20% of the total cost, depending on location and size of the system.

Streamlining the permitting process across municipalities will reduce those costs, making solar available for even more homeowners of all income levels. More rapid solar adoption through streamlined permitting will grow the California economy and create clean economy jobs.

What kind of permit streamlining is AB 2188 calling for?

WW: AB 2188 focuses on streamlining the process for standard systems under 10 kW. To offer a comparison, in Germany these types of systems no permitting at all.

Under AB 2188, municipalities would provide a checklist for the specifications of the system. The installers would fill this out, similar to a checklist at the doctor’s office. (If you don’t check off any health issues, then you’re good to have a standard appointment. If you do, then more questions are asked.)

If everything fits the checklist, then the permit is given. If anything about the system doesn’t fit the standard design, then additional work is required to grant the permit. Following installation, a single inspection will happen within a determined amount of days of the request to ensure that the specifications on the checklist carried through to system construction.

Question: Tell me a little about the online component. How much of the process will homeowners be able to do online?  

WW: AB 2188 will help usher rooftop solar permitting into the modern age by requiring municipalities to publish the checklist and permitting documentation on its web site. Moreover, this process will authorize electronic signatures on all forms, applications and other documentation (as many municipalities already have) instead of only wet signatures.

This provides advance visibility into the requirements from a particular jurisdiction to prevent a trial-and-error permitting process. In many cities today, an installer could end up waiting all day at a permitting office with paper records, only to turn around and repeat the exercise if something needs revising. This is wasted time and money, and it carries through to installation costs. The online component expedites this approval flow.

Q: AB 2188 calls for some very tight timelines – inspections within 5 days of the request, an application review within 24 hours – How do you know that the various municipalities can do this? 

WW: The framework on which AB 2188 was based is already in practice in a few municipalities in the state, including San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles. There have been no issues meeting the timelines. The result is faster and smoother installations for the installer and the homeowner.

Q: There does not appear to have been much opposition. Was everyone in the Assembly pretty much behind the bill? Do you expect that kind of reception in the senate? 
WW: The bill passed with broad support in the Assembly. We hope the Senate will also see the immense value in this bill when it moves into Committee at the end of this month.

Q: Assuming it passes the Senate as well, when do you expect to see the final vote? 

WW: We are hopeful that it will pass swiftly and be signed by the Governor in September so California can continue to lead the way on solar cost reduction.


Utilizing Solar Energy

For more than a century the model for generating and distributing electrical power has remained unchanged. Power is produced in large generating plants each of which takes years to build and typically costs hundreds of millions of dollars. These plants supply power to a grid — a network of high and low voltage cables and transformers, which deliver power to homes and factories across the country. But this century-old model now faces a new challenger. What is about to happen in the power industry is reminiscent of what happened in the telecommunications industry when cellular networks started to be deployed in the early 1980s.

Poor countries, many of them in Africa, leapfrogged conventional landline telephony and moved directly to cellular networks. They saved billions of dollars, which would have been invested in landlines and exchanges. And extended reliable mobile phone services to their remotest and poorest regions. Change, in the telephone industry, was made possible by new technology — cellular telephones. Change, in the power industry, will come because of improvements to a very old technology.
The French physicist Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect in 1839. Becquerel later used his discovery to produce the world’s first photovoltaic cell — a device to convert light energy directly to electric power. These devices are now more commonly known as “solar cells.”

Over time the efficiency of these cells has improved dramatically and their costs have plummeted. In 1971 for example solar cell cost was $100 per watt of power generated. Today, this cost is below $0.50 per watt, and still falling. It is thought that “grid parity”— the cost at which producing power from solar cells equals the cost of traditional electricity — was achieved several years ago.
The implications of solar power cost falling below grid parity are immense and potentially revolutionary. This is especially true for poor countries such as Pakistan where the grid has yet to reach the poorest parts of the country. And where sharp rises in international oil prices have had two related and devastating effects. First, the cost of electricity has risen beyond the ability of the poor to pay. And second, the government itself, lacking the resources to buy energy to operate all of its power plants, has been obliged to resort to widespread power cuts. Most cities and villages now routinely see power cuts that range from 15 to 20 hours a day.
A new “solar model” for power generation would address many of these problems. Here is how it could work: A small solar plant consisting of an array of solar panels will be set up in a village. Cables will run from the plant to every house to provide basic needs — a couple of fans, several LED lights (which consume only 5 percent of the power of conventional lights) and appliances like a fridge and TV.

Of course the Sun only shines during the day. So each house would need to have a storage battery, which would be charged during the day and then supply power during the night. Advances in battery technology have brought down costs, resulted in increased storage capacity, longer life and as a consequence lower life cycle cost.
We in Pakistan can quickly and cheaply electrify large swathes of the rural countryside. Sunlight is free and non-polluting. So tens of millions of people who have no power now will get cheap and green electricity. Billions of dollars will be saved by not building huge new centralized power plants and related distribution networks. This is money that can instead be used to build schools and health care facilities.

The new model for power generation is localized production and distribution of cheap, green electricity. And before the decade is out it will change the way the world’s poor get their electricity.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Solar-Distilled Water

IN the Prohibition Era, 90 years ago, bootleggers used clandestine stills to produce moonshine.
INNOVATION: Stuart Estaugh, national sales manager for solar still F Cubed Australia Ltd with Member for Mildura Peter Crisp at the launch of Mildura Eco-Village’s solar, water-producing still.Picture: Graeme O’Neill
Mildura’s Eco-Village now uses a sunshine-powered still to produce sparkling aqua pura from water recycled from the adjacent Mildura landfill facility.

Welcome to the future – one that might not be too far away  for people living in remote rural regions where there is no access to reticulated water, and a very limited natural water supply, according to Stuart Estaugh, national sales manager for solar still F Cubed Australia Ltd.

F Cubed built the demonstration solar still at the Eco-Village.

It describes itself as a solar water processor.

Member for Mildura Peter Crisp and Mildura Mayor Glenn Milne opened the large, modular solar still at the Eco-Village yesterday.

The still has no moving parts, and requires nothing more than a free supply of sunshine – an energy source in oversupply in north-western Victoria.

Councillor John Arnold, who holds council’s economic development and tourism portfolio, said the Eco-Village’s new solar distillation demonstration site was something industry, private homeowners and corporations should be looking at in the future.

“Water is a major issue in our region from an environmental, social and business point of view,” Cr Arnold said.

“Designs such as this show how water can be recovered and reused using solar power, with high-quality distilled water offering another option for everyone.”

The solar still is quite simple in design – each module consists of a large black metal panel covered by a thin layer of tough, UV-resistant polycarbonate plastic.

The panel faces north, and is inclined at an angle of 28 degrees – a slightly lower angle than Mildura’s latitude of 34 degrees south would normally require for a flat-plate collector, but optimal for the still’s operation.

Contaminated water is fed into each module, and the high temperature inside the absorber turns it into water vapour.

As it circulates, it  condenses on the relatively cool, hydrophilic (water-attracting) lower surface of the polycarbonate.

Because the polycarbonate slopes downward at an angle of 28 degrees, the water runs down its surface and is collected and piped to a nearby tank for reticulation around the site.

At peak operating efficiency in hot weather, each module is capable of producing up to 5 litres per hour.

It’s drinkable – purer than the water that comes out of a suburban tap – but will be used to irrigate the Eco-Village’s elevated garden bed.

In turning it back into water, the vapour leaves all its impurities behind, which are piped away, and the impurities are left behind, and any remaining contaminated water is recycled again, until it is pure enough to be pumped into a small storage tank, for use in the site’s irrigation system.

There are 70 modules in the Mildura installation, which is the largest in Victoria.

Each module has a typical output of about 15 litres of distilled water per day, ranging up to 20 to 25 litres on a very hot summer day, so the array can pipe around 1000 litres a day into the storage tank nearby.

On a hot day, it can provide up to 1500 litres of water – enough to provide for the minimum vital needs of about 10 people, based on the Brumby Labor Government’s minimum daily per-capita target of 140 litres during the Millennium Drought.


VA Hospitals Fund Solar Panels While Veterans Wait for Doctors

Veterans Administration hospitals have spent at least $420 million on solar panels and windmills while vets wait months — or even lay dying — to see a doctor.

In total, VA hospitals reported 23 deaths due to 76 instances of delayed care, an April 2014 VA fact sheet said. Then on June 5, Acting Veteran Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson revealed that at least 18 Phoenix patients died while waiting for treatment on a secret list kept off the books. It is not clear if that number is in addition to the 23 deaths reported earlier. During the past month, the scandal has resulted in the resignations of both the VA secretary and the leaders of its health care component.

According to a June 3 audit, 100,000 veterans had lengthy wait times for appointments. Of the nation’s 216 VA hospitals, 37 percent will require further investigation.

A whistleblower revealed Tuesday that seven of the patients listed on the Phoenix VA hospitals waiting list are already dead. That same Phoenix facility spent $20 million to build the nation’s largest solar carport. Phase one of the project was completed in 2011. The hospital also had an $11.4 million shortfall that year, an Inspector General’s report stated.

Also in 2011, only 49 percent of first-time patients nationwide got a full mental health evaluation within the VA’s own goal of within 14 days after initial contact, the IG’s report said.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Huge Solar Farm Gets Go-Ahead ... And The Sheep Can Still Graze

Sheep beside solar panels in a farm in England. A similar set-up is to be established near Crumlin, Co Antrim, which will produce enough power for 1,627 homes
A huge solar farm near Crumlin capable of powering more than 1,500 homes has been given planning permission.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan yesterday announced the decision to give the go-ahead to Northern Ireland's second large-scale solar farm, which is more than 30 acres in size.

The development by Lightsource Renewable Energy Ltd will be capable of generating 6.5MW of electricity, enough to power 1,627 homes during its 30-year lifetime.

That equates to an annual saving of 2,775 tonnes of carbon emissions.

Mr Durkan said: "This type of development helps sustain our environment through the use of renewable energy.

"These new, more sustainable technologies will contribute to key Programme for Government targets for increasing renewable energy.

"This application was turned around in under four months, which demonstrates my commitment to improving service delivery and supporting the green economy."

DoE Planning consulted Antrim Borough Council and it raised no objections to the proposal.

The solar farm at Knockcairn Road will be built on land that was formerly used for the grazing of cattle.

The company says that due to the small footprint of the solar farm, with panels occupying less than 30% of the land, the site will be seeded with grass and sheep grazing can continue.

The panels will be mounted on an aluminium framework with steel legs which can be pile-driven into the soil, so at the end of the lease period the installation will be dismantled and removed without harming the land and wildlife should be unaffected.

Conor McGuigan, business development director at Lightsource Renewable Energy, said: "We are essentially a new generation of tenant farmer – primarily generating energy, but also taking care of the land – keeping livestock, maintaining hedgerows, building wildlife habitats and sowing wild flowers.

"We want to ensure a bright future for renewable energy in Northern Ireland and the approval of this development is an encouraging step as we work towards that goal."

Technical director Chris Buckland said: "Local energy consumption take-off will consume some, if not the majority, of the energy generated.

"Depending on the voltage level at which the generated energy is connected to the grid, and where this is in the local distribution network, there may well be a voltage reinforcement or stabilisation of the line to which the power is connected.

"So local consumers might see any 'voltage drop' problems, such as dim lights, much improved whilst the solar farm is generating."


Solar panels do not require direct sunlight to produce electricity, only daylight. So they still work well on cloudy days, and actually perform more efficiently in cooler temperatures. All existing hedgerows and vegetation around the site will be retained. New hedgerows will be planted to minimise views into the site and provide a further boost to wildlife through the strengthening of foraging habitats.


How Solar Can Help us and NV Energy

A recent article said the Public Utilities Commission may be considering whether homes with solar power are paying their fair share (whatever that means).

Some states are downright hostile to solar homes because of vested interest in fossil fuels.

In Kansas, the Legislature recently tried to put limits on renewable energy. However, the governor sided with the many farmers who have wind power on their farms.

In Southern Nevada, we are blessed with sunshine. NV Energy is not unfriendly toward solar homes, but the company may begin to worry about the so-called death spiral whereby there are too many solar homes.

NV Energy will be closing coal plants and replacing them with some natural gas units and solar farms. This is a step forward, but with all the sunshine we have, we can do better.

Since climate change is forcing us to move to renewable resources, we (and especially the PUC) should encourage more solar homes, not increase their cost of ownership.

NRG Energy, a major Texas utility, is now in the business of installing solar systems. It also operates a network of electric-car charging stations. NRG Energy wants to evolve beyond its traditional generation-and-distribution model.

If NV Energy installs and leases such systems, residents will have solar power, which will be cleaner and may be priced somewhat lower than their existing costs, and there will be more jobs for our workers. NV Energy would not have to worry about the death spiral because it will have continuing income from the solar systems, and Earth will be rid of much of the carbon dioxide spewed out by fossil-fuel plants.

Of course, until we have an efficient way to store electricity, we still will want to partner with NV Energy, which, under this process, would be using fewer fossil fuels.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Quinn Signs Band-Aid Fix for Solar

Mike Marrese, General Manager of Earth Friendly products in Addison, walks past the 312 solar panels atop the company's roof. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)
Gov. Pat Quinn said he will sign legislation Saturday to free up $30 million for the purchase of solar energy for Illinois electricity customers, a move expected to help the state catch up on its lagging renewable energy goals.

“Thousands of average residents will soon get cheaper, cleaner energy, and we will create good paying jobs for working families in the process,” Quinn said in a statement.

The law, which is effective immediately, establishes a competitive procurement process to purchase energy from existing solar installations and new solar projects, particularly rooftop solar, which allows consumers to sell excess electricity back to the grid and receive “solar credits” if purchased as part of the state solar program.

“Increasing our investment in clean energy creates jobs, protects the environment and reduces our dependence on fossil fuels,” said state Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), who sponsored the bill along with state Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston). “Over the past few years, we’ve seen wind energy take off in Illinois. I hope that this investment starts a similar revolution in solar energy.”

A glitch in the wording of state law has prevented solar power from being bought for Illinois electric customers over the last two years even though they have paid $53 million into a fund set aside for that purpose. An additional $80 million is expected by fall, according to Illinois Power Agency Director Anthony Star.

The problem is that the law allows the money only to be spent when power is purchased for Commonwealth Edison and Ameren Illinois customers. But those utilities have more power than they need because most of their customers fled for alternative suppliers. ComEd is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corp.

Several legislative attempts to fix the law have failed in Springfield. As a result, the state is failing to meet its goals for renewable energy purchases. Under the Renewable Portfolio Standard, the state is aiming to have 25 percent of the state's energy come from renewable sources like wind and solar by 2025.

Even though the state hasn’t been buying solar energy for Illinois consumers, some companies and homeowners are still generating solar power on their own. A billing mechanism called "net metering" allows those solar producers to run their meters backward when they produce more electricity than they consume.

But now solar owners could offset the cost of installing the solar panels by selling their renewable energy credits to Illinois electricity customers, as was intended under a 2007 law, adding an extra source of revenue.

The credits, whose values vary by state, are based on power production. Renewable energy producers receive one "credit" for each megawatt-hour produced in addition to offsetting electricity costs.

In May, lawmakers offered the solar bill as a temporary fix to the problem. A broader energy bill is expected to be hashed out as early as this fall – one which policy analysts say is expected to also incorporate reforms that would benefit the state’s nuclear plants which have been struggling financially against competing forms of energy, including renewables such as electricity generated by wind and solar.

The support of Exelon, which owns six nuclear plants in the state, is a key to any broader deal. Since wind and solar power compete with Exelon’s nuclear plants, the company has no reason to support a legislative fix for renewable energy unless there’s something in the mix for its nuclear plants.

In a note to investors Friday, Julien Dumoulin-Smith, executive director of equity research for electric utilities at UBS Securities in New York, said “ultimately any deal will focus on providing a quasi ‘market solution’ to compensate Exelon’s nuclear units” and that he expects that could include some adding nuclear power to the state’s definition of “clean energy,” a deal that would ultimately mean subsidizing those plants in some way.

Lawmakers signaled their support for Exelon in the last session by signing on to a resolution the company pushed that calls on state lawmakers to aid in pro-nuclear lobbying of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, electric grid operators and Congress.


Solar Leaders Launch Operations in India and East Africa for Industrial Energy Cost Reduction

NEW YORK---Astonfield Renewables, a leading solar independent power producer across India, Eastern Africa and the Middle East, and Solesa, an international engineering and project management leader in commercial and industrial solar projects, announced a strategic partnership to deliver highly customized solar energy solutions to save fuel costs, reduce power outages and increase the cost competitiveness of industrial businesses across India and Eastern Africa.

Marketed under the name Astonfield Solesa Solar in India and Eastern Africa, the company has developed a unique and innovative PV-diesel hybrid system, marketed as the Hybrid Power Controller, which integrates solar PV with existing diesel generators to significantly offset the high and rising costs of diesel fuel for commercial and industrial power systems. Applications range from industrial rooftop solar systems to ground-mounted solar and off-grid systems.

Astonfield Solesa Solar has already secured contracts with customers for systems between 100 kW to 10 MW within its first 90 days of operation. It has commissioned its first project in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu — a 100 kW ground-mounted solar hybrid system for Indo Shell Cast Pvt. Ltd., a leading iron manufacturer for motorcycle, automotive and other industries. Its first projects in Eastern Africa for industrial rooftops are under construction as well.

It is estimated that diesel gensets total 30 GW of capacity in India alone. Industrial companies rely on diesel as a hedge against frequent power shortages from the grid. According to Navigant Research, the market growth for diesel gensets between 15 kW and 6 MW for residential, commercial and industrial applications will reach 82 GW globally per year by 2018. The potential for solar rooftops for industrial and large roofs just in India has been estimated to be 27 GW.

"We are well positioned to take advantage of this market opportunity and become leaders in India and Eastern Africa," said Ameet Shah, Co-Chairman of Astonfield Renewables. "With our strong international project finance and procurement experience and Solesa's long track record designing and engineering projects for commercial and industrial customers worldwide, we have an unbeatable combination of local and international expertise across the project spectrum, from design and finance to EPC and operations."

Astonfield has emerged as a leading independent power producer in India with 20 MW of operational assets, 17 MW under construction, 270 MW under advanced development, and a strong commitment to cost leadership in the power sector. Outside of India it has projects moving into the construction phase in Oman, Mauritius, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.

Solesa, an Italian engineering and solar project development leader, has significant design, engineering and project management experience delivering rooftop and ground-mounted solar projects. Its track record consists of developing 150 MW of solar projects, 30 MW of EPC projects and 30 MW of operations and maintenance (O&M) contracts.

"Our scalable and customizable solutions are uniquely compatible with other power sources, and complement most industrial and commercial load profiles, thus reducing reliance on diesel generation. And, at a minimum, they deliver a 30-40 percent discount relative to the cost of utilizing emergency power supply," said Alfredo Giardina, CEO of Solesa. "Our innovative Hybrid Power Controller seamlessly integrates into industrial operations, delivering affordable solar energy consistently even in a fluctuating load environment."


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Solar Farm Considered in Spartanburg County

A solar farm could be in the works for two large sites on Spartanburg's south side, S.C. Rep. Harold Mitchell said.

Mitchell confirmed talks are underway among various parties for a solar farm on the 40-acre site of the former IMC fertilizer plant and possibly, the 30-acre, city-owned Arkwright dump site. The city spent about $5.6 million to cap the former landfill — a process that was completed in 2012. Since the site was formerly used as a dump, the city would have to get state approval before developing the property in the future. In the past, city officials have said the site has very restricted uses.

Mitchell told a handful of people gathered at C.C. Woodson Community Center Thursday for an EPA public hearing that a solar farm could be an option for properties, which he said were too large for a single public entity, such as Spartanburg County, to maintain alone.

Mitchell mentioned the solar farm in response to a constituent question on the future of the former fertilizer plant site. South side residents who live near the former fertilizer site have worried another large industry could come back into their neighborhood. An EPA official said deed restrictions would be placed on the property.

"We've been working with the city, Duke Energy and a solar company to try to see whether (a solar farm) would be feasible here," Mitchell said. "There is potential for reuse, and it's something worth exploring."

Mitchell said the discussions are in the preliminary stages, but the argument to bring a solar farm to the south side is bolstered by the S.C. House of Representatives recent passage of a solar energy bill that had the support of utility providers.

City of Spartanburg Communications Manager Will Rothschild said the city is always interested in exploring options for the former Arkwright landfill property. The site of the former fertilizer plant is outside the city limits.

"We're always interested in any possibilities for that site, and we're open to exploring options," Rothschild said.


Santa Fe School Goes Solar

Workers Thursday pour cement in one of numerous pillars that
will hold up the solar panels at Santa Fe Elementary School.
By the time the new school year begins, the staff from Santa Fe Elementary School driving to work will be able to park their vehicles in a shaded parking lot.

On Thursday, the pouring of cement at Santa Fe Elementary marked Porterville Unified School District’s last solar project of the summer.

Completed during the summer because it is the least disruptive time for education, the solar project included installations at Santa Fe Elementary, Vandalia Elementary and Pioneer Middle School, said Porterville Unified School District Superintendent John Snavely. Completed recently were other solar projects at Monte Vista Elementary and Bartlett Middle schools.

The combination of California Solar Initiative rebates and energy savings would be self-funding if there is enough savings and revenue to meet the repayment obligation, said Assistant Superintendent Ken Gibbs.

The solar projects included roof mounted, parking structure and ground mounted systems for several elementary and middle school sites, including Los Robles, Olive Street, Roche, Monte Vista, West Putnam, Westfield, Bartlett, and Sequoia, elementary and middle schools.

West Putnam and Belleview elementary schools’ solar projects are pending, Snavely said.