Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Arizona Public Service Finds Prime Real Estate For Solar: Your Roof

Arizona’s largest utility company wants to put solar panels on customer rooftops in a proposal that resembles a proposal made earlier this year by former Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who suggested utilities avoid a predicted “death spiral” by getting into the rooftop solar installation business.

APS will spend an estimated $57-$70 million placing solar panels on 3,000 Arizona rooftops, enough to generate 20 MW and meet Arizona’s renewable energy mandate. Participating homeowners will receive $30 a month off their energy bills over 20 years, a total of $7,200 each.

My colleague Steven Kannelos has the scoop on the APS announcement. I contacted APS to inquire about its resemblance to Steven Chu’s suggestion.

“This is not a radical model,” Chu said in a February appearance at the University of Chicago, “this is the old telephone system model, where the telephone companies owned the phone, they rented you the phone for so long, they maintained it.”

Nor is it radical for APS, spokesman Jenna Shaver told me.

“APS has a long track record of providing utility-owned distributed energy to customers, starting with our innovative Community Power Project in 2008,” she said.

In the Community Power Project, APS maintains 125 utility-owned panels on 125 customer rooftops. “The purpose of the project is to measure system impacts and to better understand the total customer experience of distributed generation,” she said.

And in 2010, APS began installing panels at schools. It operates utility-owned solar at 59 schools in 24 school districts.

Critics have called the APS proposal a Trojan horse in the utility’s battle with solar-power competitors.

The rooftop program would cost roughly the same as a traditional solar farm, APS spokeswoman Jenna Shaver told me, but will produce electricity less efficiently. At solar farms panels can be built to track the sun, but on rooftops they’ll be stationary.

“We prefer the rooftop solar program because it is an innovative concept that continues Arizona’s solar leadership, makes rooftop solar available to customers who would not otherwise be able to afford it, and provides our customers with a simple, easy option for installing solar,” Shaver said.

The Arizona Corporation Commission has mandated that regulated utilities generate 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015. APS needs 20 MW to reach its goal, and has two proposals before regulators: the rooftop program and a more traditional solar farm.

APS’s parent company, Pinnacle West, was recently ranked first among investor owned utilities in “incremental energy efficiency,” a metric that measures recent gains in efficiency, but 13th in sales of renewable energy. According to Ceres, 5.35 percent of Pinnacle West’s electricity sales came from renewables, a total of about 1.5 million Megawatt hours.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2014/08/09/arizona-public-service-finds-prime-real-estate-for-solar-your-roof/

China Will Install More Solar This Year Than The U.S. Ever Has

Company executives look at thin-film solar panels developed by MiaSole before a press conference held at the headquarters of Hanergy Group in Beijing, China, in 2013.
CREDIT: AP/ Alexander F. Yuan
According to new numbers released by the Chinese government, China added 3.3 gigawatts of solar capacity in the first six months of the year ending June 30, marking a 100 percent increase over the same period last year. That brings China’s total solar supply to 23 gigawatts — 13 shy of the country’s goal of installing 35 by the end of 2015. In 2013 China installed around 11.3 gigawatts of solar, representing 37 percent of global growth, and the bulk of this year’s installations will come in the second half of the year. The agency vows to install 13 gigawatts of solar power capacity this year, which would mean an average of more than one gigawatt a month for the rest of the year — an amount equatable to South Korea’s total installed capacity as of 2013.

Australia, one of the most sunny, potentially solar power-friendly countries on Earth, has just about 3.2 gigawatts of total solar installed capacity. The U.S. has over 12 gigawatts of solar capacity installed. Many countries are adding solar capacity so quickly that it can be hard to find the most up-to-date numbers. Solar accounted for 29 percent of all new global electricity generation capacity added in 2013, up from just 10 percent in 2012, making it the second-largest source of new electricity generating capacity after natural gas.

According to China’s National Energy Administration, utility-scale photovoltaic power plants accounted for 2.3 gigawatts of the new capacity with distributed projects comprising the remaining gigawatt. China is intent on growing domestic distributed solar capacity and the government also announced that there will likely be forthcoming policies to encourage the installation of panels on rooftops and other distributed locations. In an effort to reach a goal of eight megawatts of distributed solar capacity, the NEA could do things like ask local planners to add more distributed solar projects for nearby customers and offer subsidies to for solar investments on buildings like school and hospitals.

“China’s finding a way to prop up local demand by providing additional incentives for residential and commercial solar — and the focus is going to be on the distributed side,” Angelo Zino, an analyst at S&P Capital IQ in New York, told Reuters.

Pollution from fossil fuel power plants is one of the drivers of China’s quest to ramp up solar power. Just this week China announced that the country’s smog-plagued capital, Beijing, would ban the use of coal by the end of 2020. The official Xinhua News Agency said coal accounted for a quarter of Beijing’s energy consumption in 2012 and 22 percent of the fine particles floating in the city’s air. However the focus on Beijing, where there is a lot of global attention and domestic pushback, does not mean China’s overall coal consumption will diminish — in fact it is still expected to soar.

Source: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/08/08/3468974/china-solar-capacity-booming/

Monday, September 29, 2014

Roseville’s SPI And German Firm Have Deal to Develop Solar Projects in United Kingdom

SPI Solar, the Roseville-based solar-energy developer, says it has entered into a joint-venture agreement with a German company to develop solar projects in the United Kingdom.

SPI and the German renewable energy firm, WIRCON GmbH, initially will develop solar energy projects totaling 55 megawatts. Under terms of the deal, the various projects will be developed with the joint-venture company owning and operating some assets, while others are sold to investors.

“WIRCON has amassed a wealth of solar project development experience in Europe over the years, and this agreement provides a foundation for SPI to grow our business in the critically important UK market. The UK will be one of our key geographic focus markets in the coming years...,” SPI Chairman Xiaofeng Peng said in a statement accompanying the joint-venture announcement.

SPI said the UK’s Department of Energy & Climate Change has set a target of 30 percent of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2020. The announcement also cited a study saying that the UK will eclipse Germany as the largest installer of solar panels in Europe in 2014.

Source: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/08/6615366/rosevilles-spi-and-german-firm.html

Sun Sets For A NASA Solar Monitoring Spacecraft

Artist's rendering of the AcrimSat spacecraft. Image credit: NASA
After 14 years of monitoring Earth's main energy source, radiation from the sun, NASA's Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor satellite has lost contact with its ground operations team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and its mission has been declared completed.

AcrimSat's ACRIM 3 instrument was the third in a series of satellite experiments that have contributed to a critical data set for understanding Earth's climate: the 36-year, continuous satellite record of variations in total solar radiation reaching Earth, or total solar irradiance. The three ACRIM instruments have supplied state-of-the-art data during more than 90 percent of that time. Three other satellite instruments launched in 1995, 2003 and 2013 continue to monitor total solar irradiance.

Launched on Dec. 21, 1999, for a planned five-year mission, AcrimSat went silent on Dec. 14, 2013. Attempts since then to reestablish contact have been unsuccessful. The venerable satellite most likely suffered an expected, age-related battery failure.

The sun puts out a fairly stable amount of energy compared with many other stars. "That's where the term 'solar constant' comes from," said AcrimSat project manager Sandy Kwan of JPL, referring to a standard unit of measurement in astronomy. Over the sun's 11-year cycle, the average variation in visible light is about one-tenth of one percent -- a change so small that scientists only discovered it when they were able to observe the sun from satellites above our light-scattering atmosphere. Kwan pointed out that AcrimSat's grandfather, the ACRIM 1 instrument on the Solar Maximum Mission satellite launched in 1980, was the first instrument to show clearly that solar irradiance does vary.

Although the percentage of change is minuscule, the energy it represents can have important effects on Earth. Scientists believe that sustained changes of as little as 0.25 percent in total solar irradiance over periods of decades to centuries caused significant climate change in Earth's distant past. Today, as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, it's critical to understand the relative contributions of variations in solar irradiance and human-produced greenhouse gases to changes in Earth's climate. To gain that knowledge, a long, continuous series of solar observations is an essential tool.

"The data record from the ACRIM series remains valuable for studying solar variability," said Greg Kopp, a senior research scientist at the University of Colorado's Laboratory of Astrophysics and Space Physics in Boulder. "This more than three-decade-long data series exceeds the duration of any other irradiance instruments."

Richard Willson, ACRIM principal investigator, has used the ACRIM data set to study cycles in the sun's variations. With co-investigator Nicola Scafetta of Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, Willson has been able to attribute some regular cycles of variation in irradiance to the alignment of planets and their gravitational tug on the sun. "The sun, Earth and Jupiter are aligned in their orbits every 1.09 years, and we see a bump in solar irradiance every year at that time," Willson explained. "That's just one of many cycles we have found. People have guessed at these effects for 150 years, but finding these frequencies in ACRIM data made it possible to pin down the effects for the first time."

Willson noted that the cycles have been connected with past changes in climate through analyses of air trapped for centuries in glacial ice. "Our measurements have contributed significantly to understanding the sun's effect on climate on time scales up to half a million years."

AcrimSat was built at a cost of $26 million, equivalent to about $45 million today. Kwan noted that the ACRIM 3 instrument was still working perfectly when the satellite lost contact and that AcrimSat's batteries had far exceeded their shelf life.

The spacecraft, built by Orbital Sciences Corporation in Dulles, Virginia, remains safely in orbit about 435 miles (700 kilometers) above Earth and is expected to stay aloft for another 64 years.

For more information on AcrimSat, please visit: http://acrim.jpl.nasa.gov

NASA monitors Earth's vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

To learn more about NASA's Earth science activities in 2014, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/earthrightnow

Source: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2014-270

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Finding New Angles On Solar Energy

Solar panels typically cannot capture solar radiation properly unless the sun is straight on the solar panel. However, a company has developed material that can help solar panels capture sunlight from all angles.
Workers set up a solar panel at a solar power field in Kawasaki, near Tokyo, June 27, 2011. A company has developed material that can help solar panels capture sunlight from all angles.

If you’ve ever looked at a flat-screen TV or computer monitor from an odd angle, you’ll get an idea of the challenge facing manufacturers of solar panels. Just as you can’t properly see the image on a flat screen from the wrong angle, a solar panel can’t capture solar radiation properly unless the angle is dead on.

Not any more, according to Glint Photonics, a new company whose technology is so intriguing that it has received funding from the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E).

Glint reports that it has developed a protean material that adapts its reflectivity depending on the heat from concentrated sunlight. This passive, “self-tracking” technology enables the panel to capture sunlight shining on the panel at different angles at different times of the day.

Some solar panels now use complex mechanisms, which enable manufacturers to produce smaller, less costly solar cells. But the current method involves mirrors or lenses whose angles must be changed precisely as the Sun moves across the sky. This requires an expensive structure of steel and concrete to ensure stability.

Glint says its light concentrator technology is less complex and much less expensive. It starts with a set of thin, inexpensive lenses that concentrate sunlight. It also has a sheet of glass that gathers light over its surface and can concentrate light up to 500 times more than conventional solar panel surfaces.

Here’s how it works: The glass sheet is coated on both sides with reflective materials that trap sunlight inside the glass itself. The light energy bounces back and forth between these reflective coatings within the glass sheet until it reaches the edge of the glass, where it becomes concentrated. At this edge is mounted a small solar cell that absorbs the energy and generates electricity.

Meanwhile, as the Sun moves across the sky, the material on the glass adapts to get the optimal angle for absorbing solar radiation. This cuts the need to keep the focusing mechanism pointed directly at the Sun.

Peter Kozodoy, Glint’s CEO, tells MIT Technology Review that once Glint’s solar panels hit the market, the power they generate could cost as little as 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, exactly half the cost of today’s best conventional solar panels. So far, though, the startup has been limited to testing only tiny prototypes measuring just about an inch wide.

Thanks to a $2.2 million grant from ARPA-E, though, Glint will be able to begin testing panels measuring almost a foot wide, nearly large enough for a commercial application.

Yet there’s one more hurdle, according to Howard Branz, a program director at ARPA-E. He says Glint should find a way to increase the amount of sunlight that the lenses and the glass panel deliver to the solar cells. So far, he explains, some of that light is diverted, and therefore wasted, before it reaches its goal.

Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2014/0808/Finding-new-angles-on-solar-energy

New Report Says NC Among Top States Using Solar Energy

NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - A new report says North Carolina is ranked in the top ten states in the country leading the solar energy initiative.

That's according to Environment North Carolina's latest study titled "Lighting the Way." The report says it's not necessarily the amount of sunlight in the state that makes it a leader but the public policies created by state and local governments to make clean energy a priority.

"North Carolina's solar capacity more than doubled in 2014, bringing the total capacity to 557 megawatts. Growth in the number of large scale "solar farms" built across the state is mostly responsible for the increase," a press release from Environment North Carolina said. However, according to their report, North Carolina lags behind other leaders in residential and commercial rooftop systems installed.

"I think it was always an accepted energy source but I think now people are realizing that it's not an experiment anymore," Ken Varner with Wilmington-based Cape Fear Solar Systems said.

Varner credits tax incentives and lower energy costs for the increase in solar energy in North Carolina. An average solar power package initially costs about $25,000, but with the rebates, consumers only end up paying about a third of that price.

"With the incentives right now, they allow a very high value product to become accessible not only to the home owner but also business owners," Varner said. "Solar energy, not only is it a good idea or a good concept, but people are also saying this is a good deal. It's in my financial interest to actually go with solar energy."

However, solar energy's impact on the environment also plays a major role in why people choose this power source.

Experts say it produces no pollution, including carbon emissions that could cause global warming. According the report, solar power produces 96 percent less global warming pollution than coal-fired power plants over its entire life-cycle and 91 percent less global warming pollution than natural gas-fired power plants.

"It does help that North Carolina, and even on the coast especially, does have a very good solar resource," Varner said. "That allows the panels, or let's say your investment, to produce more power and also then more revenue based on that."

The report also outlines a number of policies that other leading solar states follow that would help North Carolina be even more solar accepting:
  • Enable third-party sales of electricity. Financing rooftop solar energy systems through third-party electricity sales significantly lowers the up-front cost of installing solar PV systems for consumers. The state should allow companies that install solar panels to sell electricity to their customers without subjecting them to the same regulations as large public utilities, such as Duke Energy.
  • Improve the state's net metering laws. Net metering helps ensure that small commercial or residential customers are fairly compensated for the solar electricity that they produce. Investor-owned utilities should be required to reduce "standby fees" to encourage large commercial customers to install solar panels, and co-op and municipal utilities should be required to offer net metering to their customers.
  • Defend and strengthen the state's renewable energy standard to require utilities to get 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, and to increase requirements for solar energy production. The state should also require all of the solar power that counts towards North Carolina's renewable energy standard to be produced within the state.
Source: http://www.wmbfnews.com/story/26231196/new-report-says-nc-among-top-states-using-solar-energy

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Op-Ed: Just Pay The Fee And Go Solar

I am a geography professor, and that means more than placing countries on a world map. I study changes in climate, fire, vegetation and beetle outbreaks over time. Climate variability is part of life on Earth, and my work looks at climate change over thousands of years to provide context for what is happening now and in the future.

There is no question that carbon dioxide concentrations are increasing, as are global temperatures. When I started studying climate change in 1995, average annual carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere were 360.8 parts per million. When I taught my first global climate change class in 2000, it had increased to 369.5, and last May it hit 400 parts per million. The last time carbon dioxide concentrations were this high was millions of years ago when sea levels were up to 30 feet higher, trees were growing in the arctic and modern humans weren’t even on the scene.

 The science is clear: When concentrations of carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere, more heat is retained and global temperatures rise. Therefore, it should be no surprise that in 2013 the global annual temperature was nearly two degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th century average.

While we understand that burning "fossil fuels" such as oil and gas is the cause of this increase in carbon dioxide, changing our habits to reduce emissions is daunting. As with many problems, there is no single solution that can easily solve the problem. However, our carbon problem could be addressed by making many smaller adjustments and using technologies we already have available, such as driving less, using more-fuel-efficient cars and switching to renewable energy, such as wind or solar.

Solar energy provides a particularly cost-effective, high-impact option for alternative energy here in Utah. However, the prospect of doing research on the best panels and installers and system size can be intimidating, even for a scientist. When I found out about the University of Utah Community Solar program, I decided to put my planned summer projects on hold to take advantage of the discounted offer. Having lectured on climate change for nearly 20 years, I am grateful to put my money where my mouth is and do something significant about my carbon footprint.

Through the U. Community Solar Program, I have just installed 3.24 kilowatts on my home in Salt Lake City. The full cost was $11,314, but after the federal and state rebates, the system will cost only $5,920. I expect to save at least $18,000 and close to 200,000 pounds of carbon dioxide over the life of the system.

Rocky Mountain Power is currently trying to add a $4.65 monthly solar fee to compensate for costs associated with infrastructure. While I chose to install solar on my home knowing this was a possibility, it seems unfair to those of us using less power and investing in cleaner technology. However, it is still the perfect time to go solar because even if the fee is imposed, it only takes away about 10 percent of my cost savings.

I might not be able to place every country on the map, but if we don’t do something about global warming, it won’t matter because our geography is changing. We are already losing entire island nations to sea level rise, and soon our coastlines won’t look the way they did in our own high school geography books. We all need to take steps to reduce our personal carbon footprint and support large-scale infrastructure changes throughout our communities. Thank you to the University of Utah for providing opportunity and leadership on this critical issue. And to learn more about the program and whether your home qualifies, visit MyCommunitySolar.org/UCommunitySolar.

Andrea Brunelle is the chair for the geography department at the University of Utah.

Source: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/58272700-82/carbon-solar-dioxide-climate.html.csp

Rehoboth Will Celebrate Town's Newest Solar Farm

REHOBOTH - A grand opening celebration for the town's newest solar farm will be held at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the former town landfill site on Barney Avenue.

Earlier this year, the town agreed to lease property for the development of a 996 kilowatt solar panel array that would sell electricity directly to the grid. Individuals or companies will be able to offset their energy costs by purchasing one or more of the panels, and receiving credit on their electric bills.

The solar farm would be owned initially by the Clean Energy Collective, which is marketing panels to the public, spokesman Tim Brown said.

Clean Energy currently has 40 similar solar array projects either operating or in various stages of development in eight states.

The Rehoboth development, which Brown described as "medium size," will have about 3,200 solar panels, and will be able to prooduce 1,300 kilowatt hours per month.

A similar array is being built in Hadley.

Last May, town meeting voters authorized placing the proceeds from solar facilities into a fund that would be directed to various capital projects.

Source: http://www.thesunchronicle.com/news/local_news/rehoboth-will-celebrate-town-s-newest-solar-farm/article_383d3cde-4697-5dd6-aa7e-f0ab22d891bc.html

Friday, September 26, 2014

How Recycled Solar Powered Phones Could Save Rainforests And Change How The Tech Industry Tackles Climate Change

Rainforest Connection is trying to stop illegal logging with recycled smartphones and mobilize the masses to make a global impact on deforestation and climate change. 

An old cell phone is encased in solar panels, perched high in the tree canopy in the middle of the rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia. It's constantly listening to the sounds of the forest -- the insects, the leaves, the wind, the hundreds of species of animals.

Inevitably, the phone will catch one more sound: that of a chainsaw, cutting down a tree up to one square mile away. The sound and location data is automatically sent to the cloud, and an alert is sent to rangers patrolling the forests who can stop the loggers in their tracks.

Stopping them could change the course of climate change. About 17% of greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation, according to the World Wildlife Fund. One of these devices protects enough trees from logging to prevent 15,000 tons of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere.

Rainforest Connection is the startup behind this project, and it was recently fully crowdfunded on Kickstarter, raising $167,000. The goal was $100,000. It's no $5 million like the Veronica Mars movie raised, but that's not the point.

The Rainforest Connection team is trying to do much more than just save the rainforest and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. They want to completely transform how we understand and use technology to solve global problems. It's an experiment, and so far, it's worked the way they hoped it would.

"We showed we had an idea that was not the run of the mill, save the rainforest -- because frankly, those don't get very well funded from crowdfunding perspective," said Topher White, co-founder of Rainforest Connection.

"We're trying to do something a little bit fresh, were trying to show our idea is accessible enough that you can explain it in a two minute video. Our point is largely to say they can become part of it -- streaming live audio [and getting alerts]. It's a totally new way of engaging with the rainforest."

Technology in the trees

A study by Interpolshowed that somewhere between 50% to 90% of logging is illegal, contributing to a multi-billion dollar black market for wood. According to the World Wildlife Fund, illegal logging is a major problem in the Amazon and Congo Basin, but it's rampant everywhere, from Canada to Latin America to Russia.

Illegal logging causes world timber prices to be 7% to 16% less than they should be, according to one report by the American Forest and Paper Association. The World Bank estimated that the global market loses $10 billion annually through illegal logging.

Though they only cover 2% of the Earth's surface, the world's rainforests are home to 50% of the animals and plants. A four-square-mile patch of rainforest contains up to 1,500 plants, 750 species of trees, and 400 species of birds, according to the Nature Conservancy. At the current rate, 5% to 10% of rainforests are lost each decade. As rainforests are destroyed, we sink further into a biodiversity crisis.

The idea for Rainforest Connection spurred from a trip White, whose background is in physics and engineering, took to Indonesia to volunteer at a gibbon reserve. At one point, not five minutes from the ranger station, there was illegal logging occurring, and no one was aware of it. Most of the monitoring relies on satellite imagery, surveying by people, or aerial drones, which are useful but often come after the damage is already done. But in this area with no running water, no electricity, and no real roads, there was cell phone service.

"This was the front of the game when it came to this one aspect, which was real time alerts on deforestations -- [so we could] build it without trying to engage new technology, just by using infrastructure that is there and technology we were largely throwing away," White said.

Using smartphones was a simple choice for White. More than 150 million are thrown away in the US each year, destined to pile up in landfills around the world, leaking toxins and polluting the environment. Most of these rainforests, no matter how remote they may be, have phone service -- or at least, enough to send data into the cloud and to the village nearby. And mobile technology as a whole is very robust and durable, so it offers a reliable solution for this problem.
 Image: Rainforest Connection
Figuring out how to power the phone in the rainforest, under the shade of so much tree canopy, was by far the biggest challenge, White said. Rays of light only break through for a few minutes at a time. The team had to work for a year and a half to build the system, and the solar panel design for the phones ended up being the only new invention for the product.

"We wanted to avoid building new things and focus on things that already work [and] focus on things that can scale," White said.

The first tests have only used Android phones (some that are up to five years old) but White said they plan to use others in the near future. Through the Rainforest Connection website, people can find out how to send in their old smartphones. The team will retrofit it and use it for the cause.

The Kickstarter money (and subsequently, money that is donated through the website) will fund three pilot projects in Indonesia, the Amazon, and Africa in late 2014. Rainforest Connection already has multiple partners in these regions. This year they will also release the mobile app, which will allow users to listen to the sounds of the rainforest and eventually receive CNN-style alerts about illegal logging occurrences around the world.

"Our society is waking up to fact that there's no such thing as far away any more," said Dave Grenell, co-founder of Rainforest Connection. "We can no longer live under the illusion that the destruction of rainforests, which seems far away and not something we can impact...we are beginning to suffer the consequences of things happening in these places."

Bettering the system

The technology startup industry, specifically in San Francisco, has turned into a gold rush. The mentality is based on creating instant wealth and success in the shortest amount of time. Realistically, that's rarely the case, but with companies like WhatsApp being bought for $19 billion, it skews perception.

As frustrating as it is for White and other startups trying to raise enough money to build products that can have real, positive impact, there are lessons to be learned from the billion dollar valuations for companies like Yo and Snapchat. For one, it proves that the public's attention is worth something, and it's worth fighting for, he said.

Crowdfunding is a viable -- and inspirational -- option for many startups like Rainforest Connection, who would run into obstacles in the traditional funding system.

"There's slow money and fast money," said Grenell, who has a background in climate policy and government work. Slow money, he added, is NGOs, non-profits, organizations that require grant funding. Often, these have the right incentives, but there are many levels of oversight and with that comes a cost: loss of flexibility, time, and speed.

On the other hand, going the for-profit route, where money often flows faster, often means giving up control and allowing outsiders to derail the original mission.

Grenell explained it further: The first question for most institutions, businesses, and governments is not what the right thing to do is, or what is the greater good is, but primarily questions serving self-interest, he said.

"If you want to move towards a more responsible world of economic actors, [the] culture to change [requires] more role models in startup and business community," he added. "Then begin their decision making processes by asking what's the right thing to do. That doesn't mean you're going to give up all the other stuff, that just needs to be asked when making important decisions."

Idealistically, Rainforest Connection becomes a catalyst for this model. And for this startup, the question of "greater good" involves the international community. About 49% of their funding came from abroad, and the rest from the US. It was a crucial part of the campaign because the problems they're tackling -- deforestation, climate change, species extinction -- involve everything on this planet.

"Governments aren't going to solve these problems. We think it's really about creating the tools and empowering the people," Grenell said. "Crowdfunding campaigns show people really care about this stuff and they'll get behind it if we give them the opportunity to."

Source: http://www.techrepublic.com/article/how-recycled-solar-powered-phones-could-save-rainforests-and-change-how-the-tech-industry-tackles-climate-change/

Southern NM RV Park Goes Solar

welcomia / Thinkstock
Rusty’s RV Ranch, an RV campground in Southern New Mexico,
has converted all of its sites to solar power.
Rusty’s RV Ranch, an RV campground in Southern New Mexico, has converted all of its sites to solar power.

Albuquerque’s Consolidated Solar Technologies installed the 204 Conergy solar panels at Rusty’s. CST Spokeswoman Hollie Constant said the solar panels provide almost 100 percent of Rusty’s electricity, saving the company an estimated $12,000 a year in electricity bills. “It’s a rather large array, because the RV park itself uses a lot of power,” she said.

Rusty’s is located on 40 acres of land in the Chiricahua and Peloncillo Mountain area, near the Arizona border. The RV park specializes in stargazing and astronomy, which is made easier by the park’s remote location.

CST General Manager Tom Styer said in a statement that Rusty’s is exactly the kind of business that CST was established to serve.

“This project is another example of CST’s vision of economic independence and environmental stewardship, and we commend Rusty’s for their efforts,” Styer said. “It’s a great fit for a project, as Rusty’s focuses on astronomy — the stars — and they can now use energy provided by the sun, an energy-producing star.”

Source: http://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/news/2014/08/08/southern-nm-rv-park-goes-solar.html

Thursday, September 25, 2014

No 'Takers' For High School Solar Project

A British chemist of Jamaican parentage hopes to sell his London home to cover the cost of financing a 100 kilowatt solar facility at a high school in St James but says he is being frustrated by a lack of interest.

Dr John Lennon, who claims to be a Clarendon College old boy, says he has dreams of creating and tapping into alternative energy sources to help reduce the cost of power on the island but says he has not been getting a warm reception from representatives of two schools to whom he would like to pitch his proposal.

Lennon, 49, told The Gleaner that he wanted to have the facility at a local school but it proved very hard to get past the secretaries at two St James high schools. He is now searching for a school that will be willing to accept his gift.

"When you are bearing gifts, you expect to be greeted, not searching for a recipient. With such inept, insular automatons employed in the public sector, there is little hope for Jamaica," a frustrated Lennon said.

Comon sense limited

"I knew that getting things done is particularly hard in Jamaica, but even when you want to give something, it is hard. Common sense and initiative seem in short supply." expressed Lennon.

Contacted last Friday, Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell said he was hearing of the proposal for the first time. He said he is in favour of the idea and would make efforts to contact Lennon to see what could be done.

Lennon said he has since been contacted by the minister.

The Government has been touting the need to diversify the sources from which it gets energy. Schools, for example, have been targeted for solar projects, with the energy ministry recently announcing the planned installation of solar PV systems for 15 schools at a cost of more than $62 million.

The University of Technology and the Jamaica Public Service on July 10 formally commissioned a 100kW solar-energy system, which was done at a cost of US$308,000.

Lennon told The Gleaner that his London house could pay for a similar facility for a school here. He said that if he gets the go-ahead to construct a solar plant in Jamaica, his plan is to write to green philanthropists regarding raising funds to help finance the project.

He said he hopes that he will be able to start a movement in Jamaica where persons will be prepared to make similar investment in the country's future.

Source: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20140811/lead/lead6.html

Rules Prevent Solar Panels in Many States With Abundant Sunlight

Solarcity workers Joey Ramirez, left, and Taran Stone install solar modules on the roof of a Long Beach home. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Few places in the country are so warm and bright as Mary Wilkerson's property on the beach near St. Petersburg, Fla., a city once noted in the Guinness Book of World Records for a 768-day stretch of sunny days.

But while Florida advertises itself as the Sunshine State, power company executives and regulators have worked successfully to keep most Floridians from using that sunshine to generate their own power.

Wilkerson discovered the paradox when she set out to harness sunlight into electricity for the vintage cottages she rents out at Indian Rocks Beach. She would have had an easier time installing solar panels, she found, if she had put the homes on a flatbed and transported them to chilly Massachusetts.

"My husband and I are looking at each other and saying, 'This is absurd,'" said Wilkerson, whose property is so sunny that a European guest under doctor's orders to treat sunlight deprivation returns every year. The guest, who has solar panels on his home in Germany, is bewildered by their scarcity in a place with such abundant light.

Florida is one of several states, mostly in the Southeast, that combine copious sunshine with extensive rules designed to block its use by homeowners to generate power.

States like Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — not known for clear, blue skies — have outpaced their counterparts to the south in the installation of rooftop solar panels.

While the precise rules vary from state to state, one explanation is the same: opposition from utilities grown nervous by the rapid encroachment of solar firms on their business.

The business models that have made solar systems financially viable for millions of homeowners in California, New England and elsewhere around the country are largely illegal in Florida, Virginia, South Carolina and some other Southern states. Companies that pioneered the industry, such as SolarCity Corp. and Sunrun Inc., do not even attempt to do business there.

"We get all kinds of inquiries every day" from the South, said Will Craven, spokesman for SolarCity. "People there want to be our customers."

Florida, in particular, is known as the "sleeping giant" of his industry, Craven said. "It has a ton of sunshine, a ton of rooftops," he said. "But there is no rooftop solar industry in Florida."

In South Carolina and Virginia combined, only a few hundred homes have solar panels, according to the Solar Energy Industries Assn. New Jersey has 21,500; California, 234,600.

Under the typical business model for the solar industry, homeowners sign lease agreements with installation companies. The homeowners pay the cost of the panels over time and sell any excess power the systems generate.

Along with tax breaks and other government incentives, the lease agreements have made solar installations increasingly affordable.

States where solar thrives typically pay homeowners attractive rates for the excess power they generate and require utilities to get a considerable share of their power from renewable sources. That gives companies an incentive to promote use of solar.

Southern states, several of which cherish low electricity rates afforded by extensive use of coal, typically have far fewer solar incentives.

Several also have rules that specifically discourage homeowners from going solar. In addition to the bans and restrictions on leasing arrangements, some Southern states assess taxes and fees on solar equipment and generation that do not exist elsewhere.

When Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., installed solar panels a few years ago, for example, the local utility, Dominion Virginia Power, threatened legal action. The utility said that only it could sell electricity in its service area. The university and the solar firm it worked with had to change their lease arrangement and forfeit valuable tax credits.

Soon after, in South Carolina, objections from another utility forced the cancellation of about 80 contracts under which a solar firm had planned to provide panels free of charge to churches and school districts.

The resulting backlash forced a change in the state's law, but a limited one. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley last week signed a bill that directed regulators to establish rules under which leasing would be permitted.

The details still need to be worked out, however, and solar firms worry the rules will be heavily influenced by electric companies that will insist on provisions to discourage installations.

For now, many homeowners and businesses that want to install panels are in the same predicament as Wilkerson. Finding no viable option to lease a system in Florida, she is exploring paying cash to buy one outright for three of the cottages she owns. The cost: $106,000.

Utility officials say the policies inhibiting solar installations result from more than a mere turf battle. Utilities bear the cost of maintaining the power lines, switches and extensive computer networks that make up the electrical grid.

How much of a burden homeowners who install rooftop solar systems place on the grid is hotly debated between utilities and environmentalists.

"We want to bring on more renewables, but we also want to make sure the cost of electricity stays reasonable," said Randy Wheeless, a spokesman for Duke Energy Corp., which serves customers in the Carolinas, the Midwest and Florida.

Officials at Dominion Virginia Power say they are moving as aggressively as they can to promote solar in a heavily regulated, fiscally conservative state reluctant to subsidize homeowners who go green.

Nearly two years ago, the company launched a pilot program that mimics the SolarCity and Sunrun models for leasing solar equipment to businesses. So far, two systems have been installed.

"It might sound small," said Dianne Corsello, manager of customer solutions at Dominion, but she says regulators want to see evidence that such programs will not create unreasonable costs for the utility.

"We are studying the impacts and assessing the benefits to our grid," she said. "It is providing an opportunity to get data."

Solar installation firms scoff at such utility programs. Sunrun Vice President Bryan Miller calls the Dominion rooftop effort "a make-believe program" designed for public relations, not to entice customers to install panels.

Back in South Carolina, solar advocates were pleased last week to see the governor sign the new law loosening restrictions on the industry, but were are also growing impatient.

"There is so much pent-up demand," said Blan Holman, managing attorney at the Charleston office of the Southern Environmental Law Center. "The sunshine is so obviously abundant. It is 98 degrees here today."

Source: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-no-solar-20140810-story.html#page=1

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Solar Help For Low-Income Communities

Volunteers needed; will get training in solar installation

GRID Alternatives is a nonprofit organization that brings the benefits of solar technology to communities that would not otherwise have access. Using a barn-raising model, they lead teams of volunteers and job trainees to install solar electric systems for low income homeowners, providing needed savings for families struggling to make ends meet, preparing workers for jobs in the fast-growing solar industry and helping clean the environment.

Maggie Graham, outreach and volunteer coordinator, new to the area from Virginia, was hired to open GRID's new office in Willits to serve Mendocino, Lake, Humboldt, upper Sonoma and Del Norte counties. She and Cora Saxton, solar installation supervisor, are seeking eligible homeowners for installation of photovoltaic systems and volunteers who want to gain hands-on experience in the field installing the systems.

GRID Alternatives is an international nonprofit with eight offices in California with the newest satellite in Willits. They have offices in Denver, Colorado, New York, serving a tri-state area, a voluntourism program in Nicaragua, a national pilot program in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and projects in Washington and Arizona. Erica Mackie and Tim Shears started the nonprofit in 2001 in response to the California energy crisis with the idea of developing free clean energy from the sun for everyone.

Saxton who taught for three years in the sustainable technology program at Mendocino College is looking for volunteers, ages 16 and up, who are interested in developing job skills to enter the industry, community members who are interested in installing their own systems and individuals who are interested in participating in a community, educational experience. No experience is required; job training happens on the job and skills include locating rafters, mapping the array, stand off installation, junction box, wiring, home run wiring, ground wiring, module installation, conduit bending and inverter wiring. For those who are interested the next mandatory volunteer orientation will be on Tuesday, August 12th from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Willits Library.

The projects usually take two days, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and volunteers are requested to participate for at least one of those days.

GRID Alternatives has been serving the area since 2009 from their Oakland office and at the end of 2013, a very generous donation allowed them to open the office in Willits in May and set up the volunteer model to better serve and provide job training. Teams range in number from 3 to 10 members.

They can award North American Board of Energy Certified practitioner status to those who want to work in the industry.

Recent work sites have been primarily in Pt. Arena on tribal lands and they have completed 12 homes. Candidates for installation must own their own homes, be income qualified and have purchased their home through a low-income assistance program.

Their goal is to provide solar systems at low or no cost; sometimes there is a gap fee. Their funding comes from a variety of sources including private donors, corporate, and equipment-owner sponsors. Their main source of funding is from the California SASH (Single Family Affordable Homes) Program, a state rebate through the California Public Utilities Commission.

Saxton particularly likes the way GRID incorporates so many facets of the community. "We teach students in job training who want hands on experience and low income homeowners who need the savings most, and at the same time w are helping the environment by promoting renewable energy. We are addressing people, the planet and employment."

With a grant from Sun Edison, a photovoltaic manufacture, and the vision of Mackie, GRID is working to create a national women in solar initiative promoting women in the trades. Graham says, "We are trying to put together an all woman install, allowing woman the chance to get their their hands on all the tools. Part of the grant money went to 20 solar core internship positions, a one-year paid training for women. Our goal is to get 1000 women volunteers worldwide.

They have established a solar corps fellows program, a one-year placement at GRID Alternatives providing those interns with the opportunity to learn about solar and the inner workings of a nonprofit.

GRID is the largest nonprofit solar installer in the country and the 6th largest in California. Their systems range from 1.8 KW to 5 KW and they do both micro inverter and string inverter systems; solar panel installation, wiring connecting into main service panels, safety disconnects when necessary, flashing and rails to support the modules. Photovoltaic cells are installed on roofs that are within 40 degrees of true south, not shaded and have 10-plus years left.

Since 2004 they installed 70KW of solar energy on 46 homes in Mendocino County diverting the same amount of green house gases equivalent to planting over 100,000 trees or taking 790 cars off the road and saved homeowners over $1.4 million. In California they installed 13,000 KW of solar energy on over 4400 homes saving homeowners over $110 million.

Source: http://www.ukiahdailyjournal.com/news/ci_26306679/solar-help-low-income-communities

Local Churches Turn to Solar Power

Students of St. Therese Catholic School helped raise money for a solar array. Here, from left, are pastor Vincent Chavez, principal Donna Illerbrun and alumnus Lou Apodoca. (Courtesy of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light)
Students at St. Therese Catholic School on Fourth NW put their hope for saving the planet into raising money for a solar energy array on their roof.

Their efforts went live on Earth Day this past year.

Principal Donna Illerbrun says, “We teach them it’s their responsibility to be caretakers of creation. It’s pretty exciting to see our children making a difference for the future of other children. Our children are advocates for our planet.”

St. Therese is a small school of 169 students from preschool through eighth grade, so that meant raffles, golf tournaments and online fundraising to reach the goal of $112,000 to pay for the solar array. It took three years of saving, but the array creates 85 percent of all the energy required for the school, Illerbrun says.

Illerbrun will talk about the project at an educational workshop, “Caring for Creation through Conservation, Efficiency and Solar,” sponsored by the New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Rio Rancho.

Joan Brown, a Catholic Franciscan sister and executive director of the interfaith nonprofit for New Mexico, says solutions to conserve energy through sustainable sources like the sun and wind are practical and spiritual.

BROWN: “It’s the ethical and
moral issue of our times.”
The nonprofit has branches in 40 states.

“It’s the ethical and moral issue of our times,” she says about climate change. “As members of faith communities, our responsibility is to be good stewards of the Earth. We have a responsibility to care for the Earth for future generations. Energy resources are gifts and we need to conserve them.”

Tom Stark, president of the New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light board, says connecting to renewable resources also makes financial sense for families and for congregations.

On a personal level, Stark took his 2,400-square-foot home solar a couple of years ago. After rebates, he says his cost was about $20,000, but he has not paid an energy utility bill since the system was installed and gets paid for the energy he generates beyond his use. “It’s nice to get a paycheck from PNM.”

It takes a lot of energy to heat and cool churches, synagogues and mosques in Albuquerque and around the country, he says.

Area congregations of all faiths have begun to rely on renewable energy including Stark’s congregation at the First Unitarian Church on Carlisle NE, which has a LEED certificate, he says.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices.

Stark and Brown say they hope that houses of worship can lead the way and become examples for individuals for ways of conserving energy and reducing pollution.

Don Conklin, an administrator at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in the South Valley, says parish members carefully considered their options before proceeding with a $200,000 solar array that will generate energy and savings, paying for itself in 10 years.

“We basically paid for it out of our savings,” he explains, adding that many parts of the church are more than 60 years old and a newer sanctuary is 22 years old. “Parents and grandparents saw this as an investment in the future for their kids.”

He says that they factored in their energy costs, about $28,000 annually, and their moral responsibility to the Earth and the environment. “What are our responsibilities of stewardship, to take care of the Earth?”

Conklin will also speak at the New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light workshop.

Source: http://www.abqjournal.com/443496/news/local-churches-turn-to-solar-power.html

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Missouri Solar Industry Shines But Future Progress is Cloudy

Photo credit: pedrojperez/morguefile.com

Solar Panel

More Missouri homes and businesses are turning to solar energy,
according to a new report, but there is no clear consensus on how
to keep that growth going.
(Jefferson City) -- It's been a bright few years for solar energy in Missouri, with a new report detailing the state's triple-digit growth in solar capacity several years in a row.

But experts caution the outlook won't be so sunny if the state doesn't support the policies in place.

P.J. Wilson, executive director of the advocacy group Renew Missouri, says the state's net metering policy and voter-mandated solar rebates have led the way for that growth.

But, he says the utilities have simply stopped paying those rebates, despite an agreement passed last year to wind them down.

"It's clear that the state is not poised for that solar growth to continue unless there is a way to figure out how to honor the law that the legislators passed last year, which requires utilities to continue offering rebates," he says.

Wilson points out several legal challenges ordering the utilities to keep paying those rebates have been filed, but so far there has been no action taken toward the utilities.

The full report, Lighting the Way, is available on http://www.environmentmissouri.org/reports/moe/lighting-way

Wilson says he remains hopeful the industry will find a way to survive what he calls senseless partisanship, but he says it might take a new generation of Missouri legislators to offer the renewable energy industry the kind of support it needs to thrive.

"There's a lot of talk about economic growth and development in Missouri, and while that talk is happening, there is actual economic growth and development that has happened in the solar sector," he says.

Wilson adds that if the rebates were to continue according to schedule, the solar industry would be poised to help Missouri achieve the carbon reduction goals outlined in the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan ahead of schedule.

Source: http://www.kmaland.com/news/missouri-solar-industry-shines-but-future-progress-is-cloudy/article_f919d96e-1e41-11e4-9f33-0017a43b2370.html

QC Council Wants Solar-Powered Air Conditioners

MANILA, Philippines - Amid reports of a possible energy crisis next year, the Quezon City council has approved a resolution asking Mayor Herbert Bautista to consider the use of solar-powered air conditioners at the city hall.

Authored by second district Councilor Ramon Medalla, the measure said that the use of solar-powered air conditioners will lower power consumption and lessen the city’s utility expenditures.

According to the councilor, price hikes and blackouts are the common problems when there is a shortage in power distribution, especially during dry season when the water level is low and could not support hydro-electric generating systems that supply the power needs of Luzon.

The council said it is optimistic that the use of solar-powered air conditioners will reduce the city’s greenhouse gas discharge and will save the city hall some 30 to 50 percent in its electrical bill.

The measure stated solar air conditioners involve the use of solar panels for energy.

The council cited Republic Act 9513, or the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, which called for the development of renewable energy resources like solar power to trim down the country’s dependence on fossil fuel and to tap clean sources of energy.

Source: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/metro-manila/08/10/14/qc-council-wants-solar-powered-air-conditioners

Monday, September 22, 2014

Green Technology Spotlight: Spray-On Solar

Imagine being able to spray solar onto windows and buildings, turning bulky solar panels into first-generation technology. Until now, attempts have been too inefficient and expensive, but scientists at UK's University of Sheffield may have found an answer to creating "solar paint."

The key is an inexpensive mineral called perovskite, which absorbs light almost as well as silicon. Not only can it achieve conversion efficiencies of 19% - not far from 25% for traditional silicon - the process can be scaled for high volume manufacturing.

The process is similar to spray-painting cars, which would be another exciting application. It could leapfrog over using solar panels on car roofs to charge electric cars, as Ford is experimenting with, or even replace batteries altogether, giving us solar-powered vehicles.

Here's the equipment:

Using perovskite results in thin-film solar cells just half of micrometer thick. Fewer steps are needed in manufacturing and since it's a low temperature process, significantly less energy is used compared to silicon-based cells. The industry's hazardous waste would also be reduced and the small amount of lead that's necessary would come from recycled batteries.  All these factors would make it easy to get to large scale cheaply, researchers say.

If all this is possible, the technology would open a world of new applications for solar, while significantly cutting the price. 

"There's a lot of excitement around perovskite based photovoltaics," says Professor David Lidzey, lead researcher on the development team. "Remarkably, this class of material offers the potential to combine the high performance of mature solar cell technologies with the low embedded energy costs of production of organic photovoltaics."

"What we have done is replace the key light absorbing layer - the organic layer - with a spray-painted perovskite, which gives a significant boost in terms of efficiency," he explains.

Until now, spray-on solar using organic solar cells have plateaued at around 10% efficiency.

Source: http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/25853?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+SBGeneralNews+%28SustainableBusiness.com+General+News%29

Delhi's 1st Solar Tariff This Month

NEW DELHI: Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission will finally notify regulations for net metering and the city's first solar tariff this month. It means that private players and individuals can set up rooftop solar systems and supply energy generated to the grid.

All transactions to and fro from the grid will be metered. The policy gives individuals the freedom to tap as much solar power as they require. Experts, however, say the solar tariff needs to provide more financial incentives if it is to become successful.

"The net metering proposal is at an advanced stage. It's likely to be released this month. It's meant for anyone who plans to supply renewable energy to the grid. For large private players, the tariff will be decided on a case-by-case basis depending on capital cost and the solar regulations we have. For individuals, the energy they produce can offset their electricity bills," said DERC chairperson P D Sudhakar.

The timing of the solar policy announcement will coincide with the net metering, and will explore the option of incentives. "We are looking at various options specific to the type of consumer. We may offer subsidies in lower slabs for initial capital expenditure and more incentives to large customers like DMRC or malls. The policy is still being finalized and is new for us, too," said a senior official.

Another proposal to subsidize solar rooftop projects is by way of the ministry of new and renewable energy waiving loan interest rates. "For instance, if the individual takes a loan of 80% of the cost at 12% interest, 9% interest will be paid by MNRE. The individual will still have to pay a 3% interest. This reduces the cost upfront but the individual may still have to pay a substantial amount in instalments," said a source.

Experts said that financial incentives are critical to make solar power generation a success story in Delhi. "Why should people install solar PV systems if there is no financial incentive for them? They will build an extra floor instead. Only 30% subsidy from the ministry is not attractive. DERC has the opportunity to set an example for state governments by providing preferential tariff to individuals," Abhishek Pratap, senior campaigner for renewable energy at Greenpeace India, said. Pratap added the tariff in Gujarat is favourable for rooftop solar power generation which has picked up in that state.

Discoms, meanwhile, seem optimistic. Sources at Tata Power Delhi are looking forward to the net metering notification and a tariff-based incentive for solar PVs. "We have already commissioned a study funded by United States Trade and Development Agency to assess what could be the feed in tariff for rooftop solar. As of now there is no tariff for solar rooftop only for solar. We are hoping that the economics of this is finalized," said a senior official. They will start procuring net meters once the notification is made.

As of now, Delhi government is focusing on government buildings. It has already commissioned 10KW projects in government schools and hospitals. "PWD will take up many government building projects. We are only going to facilitate the process," an official from the environment department said.
Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Delhis-1st-solar-tariff-this-month/articleshow/39963288.cms

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Eco-Friendly Solar-Pedal Hybrid Bike Hits Milwaukee's Streets

Kirsten Shead answers the questions from John Scardina (left) and Jared Matthews about her ELF, an eco-vehicle that can be pedaled or run on solar power.
Kirsten Shead is used to turning heads. Sure, maybe it's those Nordic good looks. Then again, it could be her eye-catching new ride.

Shead and her husband, along with another couple, are co-owners of what is thought to be southeastern Wisconsin's first Organic Transit ELF, a solar-pedal hybrid bike in an egg-like shell that has piqued the curiosity of cycling enthusiasts and alternative transportation advocates across the country.

Everywhere she goes these days, Shead draws a crowd. Curious onlookers wave from porches, shoot videos from their car windows, and hover with questions when she parks outside local businesses or her west side office.

"I call it the happy-maker. ... It's like being in a parade every day," Shead said of the ELF, which can reach speeds up to 20 mph.

Alyssa Pointer
The ELF can be pedaled or run on solar power, allowing riders to exercise or cruise.
Shead, of Shorewood, is program director for the Earth Network at the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee. A self-described "minimalist wannabe," she spends her days helping people of faith live out their spiritual calling to care for creation.

And while no Interfaith funds were used to buy the ELF, she sees it as in keeping with the conference's mission, whether that's promoting sustainable environmental practices or building bridges across lines of faith and color, neighborhoods and rungs of the economic ladder.

'Inspirational value'

"Really, the most powerful part of the ELF is its inspirational value," said Shead, who gets the same enthusiastic reaction whether she's driving through the North Shore or on Vliet St. in Milwaukee's central city.

Rob Cotter is CEO, founder and chief architect at Organic Transit, which produces the ELF — for Electric Light Fun — in Raleigh, N.C.

He came up with the idea about five years ago while consulting on a bike sharing program for New York City. He and a couple of colleagues spent two years designing the early prototypes. They raised capital through angel investors and the online crowdfunding site Kickstarter, delivered their first ELF in March 2013, and have sold about 400 since, Cotter said.

The ELF is essentially a recumbent aluminum tricycle encased in a body made of Trylon — the hard plastic used for kayaks — and carbon fiber. It's legally a bike, but it has a solar-powered electric motor and room to haul eight bags of groceries, Cotter said.

"It gets the equivalent of 1,800 miles per gallon," he said. "If you get the advanced battery pack, you can go 40 to 45 miles without pedaling and 90 to 100 miles with pedaling. There's one that gets half that much and another that gets double that."

The bikes range in price from $5,500 to $10,000, depending on the features. Shead's wasabi-green model came in just shy of $7,000.

"It seems like a lot for a bike, but if you compare it to an electric car at 40K, it's not that bad," she said.

Shead and husband James split the cost with Tom Heinen, her boss at the Interfaith Conference, and his wife, Katie. They trade off the vehicle between the Heinens' home in Wauwatosa and the Sheads' in Shorewood.

Attracting a crowd

The Sheads are evangelical Christians and "car light" folks, who opt for bikes or the bus when possible. They went vegan a few years ago, in part for the health benefits, but also because of the environmental impacts of meat processing. They wear organic, sweatshop-free underwear. Worms compost their food waste in their basement.

"I would love to live car-free, and maybe someday, but we're not there yet," Kirsten Shead said.

And so, when she can, she dons her watermelon rind bike helmet and hits the road in her ELF. Shead rode south in the bike lane down Humboldt Ave. on a recent ride to Colectivo Coffee Roasters. She held court in the parking lot as one passer-by after another stopped to chat.

"Talk about the church of two wheels," said Sean O'Byrne, an executive headhunter.

"That is so cool!" said Claudine Lienau of Riverwest, whose husband, Dan Soiney, poked his head inside to get a better look.

Tom Heinen discovered the ELF while researching a possible new car purchase. He knew it would appeal to his wife, an environmentalist who volunteers with the Earth Network. He reeled her in by suggesting he'd get some exercise pedaling it.

The Heinens and the Sheads flew to Raleigh in February to check out the factory and took delivery of their ELF in April.

They see it as an investment in the search for alternative technologies and a rolling advertisement for what is possible.

Tom Heinen saw that potential when he drove the ELF recently to the Wauwatosa Farmers Market. Among the curious who flocked to it was a Marquette University engineering professor, who started measuring the vehicle. He invited Heinen to bring it to his class, and he plans to challenge his students to improve on it.

"That's the whole idea, to inspire possibilities," Heinen said. "Maybe it's the solution. ... Or maybe it helps spark the thinking that produces something even better."

Since the foursome bought their ELF, a Milwaukee-area bicycle maker, Tom Ryan, has signed on as a franchise dealer. Ryan said he will demonstrate the ELF at area biking events.

The real test for the Sheads and Heinens will be this winter. Heinen is already looking into studded tires.

"The winters in North Carolina I'm sure are much different than they are in Milwaukee," Shead said. "But part of what we're doing is to test it out, to see if this kind of vehicle works in Wisconsin."

Source: http://www.jsonline.com/news/religion/eco-friendly-solar-pedal-hybrid-bike-hits-milwaukees-streets-b99325812z1-270611711.html

Solar Lights Seen To Boost Kids’ Learning In Agta Village

Education Secretary Armin Luistro. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
MANILA, Philippines—Through solar-powered lights, the Department of Education (DepEd) hopes to improve the learning conditions for an indigenous Agta village in Cagayan Province.

Education Secretary Armin Luistro stressed his agency’s commitment to leave no child behind in education, as the DepEd teamed up with the Global Peace Foundation (GPF) Philippines to inaugurate the country’s first All Lights Village (ALV) in Cagayan Valley to improve the studying conditions of kids in a remote Agta community.

The ALV, a program of the GPF, aims to build model communities by providing solar-powered lamps to villages without electricity enabling school children to have enough time to study and to be productive citizens contributing to the community’s development. There are currently 22 ALVs nationwide.

“We would like to journey with IP (indigenous peoples) communities in building the foundations of culturally-rooted education,” Luistro said, adding, “Our doors should not be the only ones which should be open for our IP brothers and sisters. Our hearts and minds must also stay open, because we will learn a lot from them.”

The DepEd secretary and GPF Philippines representatives, led by its president for Asia Pacific Jinsoo Kim, turned over 60 solar-powered lights to the Agta community; three solar lamp posts and two solar-powered lights to the Pureg Primary School in Sitio Pureg, Sanchez-Mira town where some 60 of the young villagers are enrolled.

The primary school is made up of two buildings for pupils in Kindergarten to Grade 4, who are taught by three teachers. It also offers alternative learning system classes at night for adults who work in the day.

Source: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/627789/solar-lights-seen-to-boost-kids-learning-in-agta-village

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Galway City Piloting Solar-Powered Wifi Litter Bins

Shop Street, Galway
Talk about a rubbish internet connection - Galway city’s new solar powered litter bins are now equipped with wifi.

Five bins have been installed on Shop Street as part of a five-week pilot scheme to determine their efficiency and frequency of use by the public.

Ordinary litter bins usually cost local authorities €1,500 each. The new bins are €5,000 each but they fit up to eight times more rubbish than standard bins thanks to their self-compacting ability.

Street bins are ordinarily emptied up to six times a day, but the solar-powered bins are emptied just once every two days. The council would save significantly on service costs, according to Cllr Niall McNelis.

"“Another saving will be less bin liners needed, which means less plastic going to landfill," he added.

The futuristic bins might become more commonplace as DĂșn Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council is considering installing 400 of them.

Source: http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/galway-city-piloting-solar-powered-wifi-litter-bins-278887.html

Ecology Center Adding Solar Panels

Ann Arbor is getting greener. The non-profit Ecology Center is installing eight solar panels on its roof Friday.
Credit Ecology Center

The center's Creative Director Monica Patel says the price of solar panels continues to decrease. Patel says solar is a viable source of energy, despite southeast Michigan's erratic weather, "Enough to offset a good portion of our day to day household and commercial electricity needs.  There are grey days, but there also are a lot of sunny days.  More than say Portland, Oregon, or even parts of Germany where they have quite a lot of solar installations."

Patel says this installation is the first step in a larger plan to eventually install five-thousand solar roofs across Ann Arbor.

The center is also working on a community solar installation as part of its green affordable housing efforts. 

Source: http://wemu.org/post/ecology-center-adding-solar-panels

Friday, September 19, 2014

West Monroe Waste-water Treatment Plant Gets Grant for New Solar Panels

WEST MONROE, LA -- West Monroe's waste water treatment plant should soon be more efficient.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has awarded a $1.5 million grant to the city -- to add solar panels.

The panels will reduce the amount of electricity needed.

"This project will create enough electricity for us to reduce our energy demand... Our purchase of electricity by about 25 to 35 percent," said Mayor Dave Norris of West Monroe.

The waste water treatment plant will reduce the amount of water pulled from the Sparta Aquifer by recycling around 5 million gallons of waste water per day.  

That water is then used by Graphic Packaging.

Source: http://www.myarklamiss.com/story/d/story/west-monroe-waste-water-treatment-plant-gets-grant/78415/cnjMJnGZsU2Z1pHa8wq1XQ

New Process Could Increase Solar-Cell Efficiency 30%

Scientists looking to boost the efficiency of solar panels are taking a fresh look at an exotic physics phenomenon first observed nearly 50 years ago in glowing crystals.

Called singlet fission, the process can enable a single photon of light to generate two electrons instead of just one. This 1-to-2 conversion, as the process is known, has the potential to boost solar cell efficiency by as much as 30 percent above current levels, according to a new paper published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.

Most commercial-grade solar panels, have an efficiency
of 20 to 25 percent; the singlet fission process could
boost it an additional 30 percent.
Singlet fission “was originally proposed to explain some weird results that were observed in fluorescent organic crystals,” said the study’s first author, Christopher Bardeen, a chemist at the University of California, Riverside. “It received a lot of attention in the 1960s and 1970s, but then it was mostly forgotten.”

But around 2006, Bardeen and other scientists exploring new ways to boost the solar-energy conversion rates of photovoltaic panels began taking a renewed interest in singlet fission. In recent years, experiments conducted by Bardeen’s group not only helped confirm that the phenomenon is real, but also that it can be highly efficient in a variety of materials.

The hope is that singlet fission materials can be incorporated into solar panels to increase their energy conversion efficiency – the ratio of electrons produced to the amount of photons absorbed – beyond the current theoretical ceiling of approximately 32 percent, which is called the “Shockley-Queisser Limit.”

“The efficiency of most commercial-grade PV panels, like the ones you would install on your house, are around 20 to 25 percent,” Bardeen said.

Engineers have managed to overcome the Shockley-Queisser Limit through clever engineering to boost the efficiency of photovoltaic (PV) panels up to 50 percent. One technology, called multijunction solar cells, involves combining two or more semiconductor panels. But such technologies are currently limited mostly to military and space applications due to their high costs.

“It may be possible to find a way to make (multijunction cells) cheaply. … Some companies are trying to do this, but without much impact so far,” Bardeen said.

Many scientists believe the only way the next wave, or third generation, of photovoltaic technology will surpass the Shockley-Queisser Limit while remaining inexpensive is if they make use of physical processes such as singlet fission.

“First-generation solar cells were based on silicon, and they were efficient but expensive. The second generation cost much less and was based on thin-film technology. The goal of the third generation is to keep cost down but get efficiency as high as possible,” Bardeen said.

Currently, solar cells work by absorbing a photon and generating an exciton – a bound electron with a negative charge and a positively charged “hole” – which subsequently separates into an electron-hole pair. The electrons are then harnessed as electricity. In singlet fission, however, some photons – those with higher energy – get converted into two excitons, each of which can split to yield two electrons. Bardeen’s team estimates that singlet fission can boost efficiency of solar cells by up to 30 percent, resulting in a maximum efficiency of above 40 percent instead of the current 32 percent.

Experts predict that it could be another five to 10 years before solar panels based on singlet fission technology are ready for commercial use. Before that can happen, scientists will need to gain a much better understanding of how singlet fission works, said Josef Michl, a photophysicist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who helped revive interest in singlet fission several years ago. At the moment, the main challenge for researchers trying to create a singlet fission solar panel is “a thorough understanding of the underlying physics that should allow chemists to come up with more practical materials than the few that we now know to work well in the laboratory,” said Michl, who was not involved in the study.

Michl called Bardeen’s group a “key player” in the worldwide effort to develop the technology, and said that that team’s experimental work has helped singlet fission shed its “reputation of an obscure and inefficient phenomenon.”

The other primary hurdle toward a functional singlet fission solar panel will be one of engineering, Bardeen said. Once more materials that can undergo singlet fission are developed, they will still need to be incorporated into photovoltaic cells to convert solar energy into electricity. Researchers led by Marc Baldo at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently reported that they had proven that it was possible to create a solar panel that uses singlet fission, but the efficiency of their device was only 2 to 3 percent.

“Baldo’s group showed that it could be done,” Bardeen said, “but nobody’s going to be putting those on rooftops tomorrow.”

Source: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/08/10/5085715/new-process-could-increase-solar.html#.U_xwAHZ_PNt

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Concern Raised On Poor Quality of Chinese Solar Cells

Solar panel seen in Labutta Township in February in 2014 (Photo-EMG)
The influx of cheap Chinese-made solar panels raises concerns, mainly due to lack of guarantee and the potentially dangerous level of electromagnetic (not electronic) waves.

Aung Myint, the general secretary from the Renewable Energy Association Myanmar (REAM), said that low-quality solar panels may emit the dangerous level of electromagnetic wave, causing danger to the environment and health problems.

He noted that China is very cautious about the use of solar panels which emit the high level of electromagnetic wave in the country, but the unwanted poor-quality products are being exported to Myanmar. He added that the panels come without any guarantee and the specifications are unclear, but they find buyers here due to the cheap price.

“People here have no clue on these panels. Some people think that the big panels mean good quality. That is a major problem here,” said Aung Myint.

Solar panels are in high demand in Myanmar, to fill the electricity gap in urban and rural areas. More villages now rely more on solar power, particularly after Typhoon Nargis, as the national electricity grid has not yet reached their homes.

“People have to spend a lot of money on the installation of solar panels. Thus, the technology, design and standards of the panels matter. Without clear specifications, these could lead to a huge loss,” added Aung Myint.

Source: http://www.elevenmyanmar.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7132:concern-raised-on-poor-quality-of-chinese-solar-cells&catid=44:national&Itemid=384

San Diego Fiat Dealership Deploys Solar-Powered Digital Signage

Renewable energy Media and Branding product company Envision Solar International Inc. recently deployed its EV ARC Digital Platform at Kearny Mesa Fiat in San Diego, according to a company release. The dealership will offer "test driving on sunshine" and will leverage the built-in digital signage advertising screen to deliver sales content and to drive revenue from partners with complementary products such as insurance vendors.

Kearny Mesa FIAT is among the top U.S. retailers of the Fiat 500e all-electric vehicle and engages in eco-friendly practices, earning it the second-annual dealer Environmentally Conscious Operations program award. The dealership incorporated ECO initiatives during its construction, and the EV ARC is placed prominently in a high-visibility location where it can create maximum customer interest.

"We know that San Diegans care deeply about the environment. We are committed to being pioneers in eco-friendly automotive operations." Kearny Mesa Fiat President Javier Soriano said in the announcement. "The EV ARC and offering test drives on pure sunshine are great examples of that commitment. The integrated digital screen not only allows us to communicate more efficiently with our customers but also to recoups the costs of having the EV ARC on the lot. We love offering free charging to our guests -- it doesn't cost us anything and we didn't have to dig up our dealership to get it done."

Invented and manufactured in the U.S., the announcement said, the EV ARC fits inside a parking space and generates around 16 kilowatt hours per day that are stored in the on-board batteries. The system's solar electrical generation is enhanced by EnvisionTrak, which enables the array to follow the sun, generating 18 percent to 25 percent more electricity than a fixed array. The EV ARC Digi has an outdoor digital advertising screen, which is powered by the unit and receives content updates across the EV ARC unit's wireless network connection.

"Kearny Mesa Fiat is a visionary and thought-leading San Diego business," Envision Solar CEO Desmond Wheatley said in the announcement. "This is an important milestone for Envision Solar as well: our first media-based and recurring-revenue business. It's great for the customer because it makes the pricing much more approachable, and they can cover their costs. It's great for Envision because there are thousands of such businesses to whom this sort of model should appeal so we believe that we can scale this business model very profitably."

Source: http://www.digitalsignagetoday.com/news/san-diego-fiat-dealership-deploys-solar-powered-digital-signage/

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Electric Field Enhances Solar Cell

Researchers at the Kavli Energy Nanosciences Institute, the University of California at Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, have succeeded in boosting the performance of a new type of solar cell by simply applying an electric field to it. The device (made of low cost zinc phosphide and graphene) is novel in its design in that it lacks a junction between the two p- and n-type semiconductors that make it up – which is a first. The cell might be ideal for use in areas where the intensity of sunlight changes a lot over the course of the year.
The device and experimental results
“Our solar cell does not need to be doped, nor does it require high-quality heterojunctions, which are challenging and expensive to fabricate,” says team member Oscar Vazquez-Mena. “Our work is a novel and promising approach for making photovoltaics with low-cost and abundant materials such as certain phosphides and sulphides that are easy to synthesize and which are environmentally friendly.”

Beside expensive light absorbers like silicon, there are semiconductors like zinc phosphide, copper zinc tin sulphide, cuprous oxide and iron sulphide that are much cheaper. However, for these materials to efficiently convert sunlight into energy, they need to be doped to form homojunctions, or require complementary emitter materials to form high-quality p-n heterojunctions. A team led by Alex Zettl, Harry Atwater, Ali Javey and Michael Crommie has now overcome this problem by making a simple junction with graphene rather than a semiconductor. A voltage applied to a gate over the junction can tune the energy barrier between the graphene and an adjoining layer of zinc phosphide to boost how efficiently solar cells made from these materials convert light into energy.

The devices are relatively simple to fabricate, says Vazquez-Mena. “Jeff Bosco from Harry Atwater’s team at Caltech makes high-quality zinc phosphide films and in our lab at UC Berkeley, we are experts at growing graphene on copper substrates. Basically, we transfer the graphene from the copper onto the zinc phosphide film to form a graphene- zinc phosphide junction. We then add an insulator layer on top of the graphene, prepared by our colleagues in Ali Javey’s team, also at UC Berkeley. Finally we add a thin top gate to the structure.”

Barrier is like a dam

Conventional solar cells normally contain two bulk semiconductors, with their electrons at different energy levels. These semiconductors are brought into contact to form an electric barrier between them that separates the electrons from each side. “This barrier can be likened to the dam in a hydroelectric power plant that separates two reservoirs of water at different heights,” explains Vazquez-Mena. “In a solar cell, the electric charges are the water in the dam and we use energy from the Sun to make the charges jump over the barrier.”

In the new device, the researchers used a layer of graphene in place of one of the semiconductors and added a top gate to it. “Why? Because it is easy to control the energy level of electrons in graphene by doing this,” Vazquez-Mena tells nanotechweb.org. “Such a thing is difficult to do in a bulk semiconductor.”

The top gate can regulate the barrier between graphene and the zinc phosphide, needed for the solar cell to work, he adds. “This is critical for the performance of the device and allows us to optimize the energy extracted from it. Going back to the dam analogy, it is as if we would be controlling the height of the dam.”

The fact that we can manipulate the barrier height in this way means that, in principle, we could make graphene junctions with many other materials, he says.

Modifying the barrier

In bulk semiconductor solar cells, the barrier height depends on the intrinsic properties of the materials making up the barrier. So, once you put the materials together, there is not much you can do to change the barrier, explains Vazquez-Mena.

“Our device is very different in that we can modify this barrier by simply applying an electric field to the top gate and adjusting the strength of the field applied for different materials and light conditions to optimize energy conversion. Our device, which is just a basic graphene-zinc phosphide solar cell, normally has an efficiency of 1% without any applied gate voltage, but we have doubled this to 2% by increasing the gate voltage to 2V. We have thus been able to boost its performance beyond the intrinsic properties of the material it is made up of.”

This type of solar cell might be ideal in climes where the sunlight varies a lot, he says – thanks to the fact that we can adjust the barrier to optimize energy conversion.

The California researchers say that they are looking to improve the efficiency of their devices and improving the quality of the graphene-zinc phosphide junction so that it produces a higher photocurrent. “We also want to apply our technology to other low-cost and readily available materials,” says Vazquez-Mena. “For example, the device we have made can be improved by using graphene itself or a transparent conductor like indium-tin oxide as the top gate.”

The team, reporting its work in Nano Letters, says that it will also test copper zinc tin sulphide, cuprous oxides and copper sulphide. “These materials are less harmful to the environment compared with commonly used solar cell materials like cadmium telluride and are cheaper than pure silicon. We definitely have many ideas to try but we also hope that other research groups will be inspired by our experiments and develop similar strategies to keep improving the efficiencies of alternative photovoltaic materials.”

Source: http://nanotechweb.org/cws/article/tech/58161