Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Backyard Power Plants Can Back Up Solar, Rival Batteries

Scientists are scrambling to develop efficient, reliable batteries that can make solar and wind power less dependent on fossil-fuel back up, but an efficient miniature power plant may beat batteries to the punch, panelists at a smart-grid symposium said in Chicago Tuesday.

Miniature combined heat and power plants (Micro-CHPs) are in development that could provide backup electricity for rooftop solar, using natural gas already piped to most homes, the panelists said. Instead of waste heat vanishing up a smokestack at a power plant miles away, they would employ waste heat the way gas is used in homes now: to heat water and heat rooms. They might even store heat for later use.

“There’s a lot of focus on electrical storage, but I think thermal storage holds tremendous promise in innovation in terms of resiliency and distributed generation systems,” Steve Johanns, the CEO of Veriown Energy, a distributed-generation energy company, told about 100 people Tuesday at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

The efficiency of centralized power plants is less than 30 percent, Johanns said—meaning more than 70 percent of the power generated is lost as heat at the power plant or lost through inefficiencies in the grid—but a distributed-generation system combining rooftop solar and micro-CHP is more than 80 percent efficient.

“At one stage you’ll utilitze a free fuel called sunlight, in another stage you might use a cheap and abundant fuel called natural gas,” Johanns said.

A recent study found that natural gas offers little or no short-term benefit to the climate over coal, but such studies assume the gas is being burned at less efficient centralized power plants.

Micro-CHP can also improve the resilience of micro grids ( self-sufficient sections of the grid that could survive as islands in the event of a major power outage), said Vijay Bhavaraju of Eaton Corp.

“Maybe CHP is one of the technologies that needs to be encouraged,” Bhavaraju said during another panel at the Great Lakes Symposium on Smart Grid and the New Energy Economy.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2014/09/24/backyard-power-plants-can-back-up-solar-rival-batteries/

Monday, November 17, 2014

New Solar Cells Serve Free Lunch

Professor Qi suggests that his new, semi-transparent design for solar
cells could allow windows to generate energy from the sun.
One of the most common complaints about solar power is solar panels are still too expensive to be worth the investment. Many researchers have responded by making solar cells, the tile-like components of solar panels that absorb and transfer energy, more efficient and longer lasting. But even the longest living solar cells that most effectively convert sunlight to energy will not become common if they are prohibitively expensive. Therefore, Professor Yabing Qi, the head of the Energy Materials and Surface Sciences Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, has a different idea: make solar cells using a type of semiconductor called perovskite materials, which are, in Qi's words, "dirt cheap." If solar cells are cheap enough, Qi reasons that people will want to use them for the immediate payback in energy savings.

Now Professor Qi and members of his research unit have developed a new method for making perovskite solar cells worthy of attention, and The Royal Society of Chemistry published their findings September 5, 2014 in their journal, Energy & Environmental Science.

Qi's new method uses what he calls hybrid deposition to create perovskite solar cells, made from a mixture of inexpensive organic and inorganic raw materials. In addition, his solar cell is about a thousand times thinner than a silicon solar cell, and therefore uses far less material. Qi estimates that for the same price, he could either buy raw materials to build 1000 square meters of his solar cell, or he could buy about 20 wafers of crystallized silicon, to build 0.16 square meters of traditional solar panels. "Silicon is not rare," Qi explains, "but processing silicon requires expensive equipment and sophisticated steps demanding high temperature, vacuum, or high pressure, and that makes crystallized silicon very expensive." In contrast, the hybrid deposition process uses less energy to produce a solar cell at a far lower temperature. In fact, Qi envisions manufacturing the new solar cells using a low-cost printing process. The process would deposit the materials onto thin sheets of PET plastic very quickly to make large quantities of cheap solar cells. Qi does not yet know the limits of his hybrid cells, but optimists in his field hope that they could reach 20% efficiency. This means that that the solar cells will convert 20% of the energy they absorb from the sun into usable energy, which is comparable to the best silicon solar panels on the market.

The extremely thin perovskite cell that Qi and his lab designed measures merely 135 nanometers and reaches an efficiency of 9.9%. Because these films are semitransparent, Qi hopes to use them on windows, as a sort of lightweight set of blinds. "It will be a window and at the same time it will be a solar cell," he says. "Some of the light could go through and the rest will be absorbed. Then, a certain percentage of the absorbed light will be converted to electricity."

If solar cells are cheap enough, consumers will reap almost immediate benefits even if the solar cells are not the most efficient, because their savings on air conditioning and electricity will offset the expense.  "If it's so cheap that it is like wallpaper, then you might as well use it," said Qi. "It's like a free gift. It's an investment with a lot of payback."

Source: http://phys.org/news/2014-09-solar-cells-free-lunch.html

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Vermont Smoke And Cure Now Cooking With Solar Power

HINESBURG, VT – Vermont Smoke and Cure, maker of “damn fine” bacon, ham and award winning RealSticks, is teaming with AllEarth Renewables of Williston, Vt., to source local renewable solar to power the company’s electrical needs. Nearly half of Vermont Smoke and Cure’s electric demand is now being supplied by solar projects with future plans for solar to fulfill all of the meat plant’selectrical load.

A 156-killowattsolar orchardin Essex, Vt. and an 88-killowatt solar orchard in Marshfield, Vt. will produce approximately 366,000-kilowatt hours annuallyof emissions-free solar electricity for the Vermontcompany.Both projects utilize Vermont-made solar trackers.

“Utilizing local and sustainable resources whenever possible is a fundamental part of Vermont Smoke and Cure’s mission,” said Chris Bailey, CEO of Vermont Smoke and Cure. “Whether it’s local pork for our 5 Knives line, Vermont maple syrup or cider across our bacons and hams, offering meat processing as a service for small farmers, or local renewable energy to run our smokehouse and coolers, working with our community to consciously produce the best smoked meats is who we are.”

Several other Vermont business have recently teamed up with AllEarth Renewables to go solar and save money on their electric bills, including Woodchuck Hard Cider, Concept2, Small Dog Electronics, Jericho Settlers Farm, Stark Mountain Woodworking, American Flatbread, Green Mountain Power, Cold Hollow Cider and Morse Farm Sugarworks, among others.

AllEarth Renewables is the Vermont manufacturer of the AllSun Tracker, a dual-axis solar tracker that uses innovative GPS and wireless technology to follow the sun throughout the day, producing up to 45 percent more energy than a rooftop solar. The company has manufactured and installed more than 2,400 solar tracker systems used for residential and commercial installations.

Source: http://vtdigger.org/2014/09/23/vermont-smoke-cure-now-cooking-solar-power/

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Worried About Spike In Power Bills? Go Solar

At a time when the government has announced a hike in domestic power tariffs, it seems to make sense to take the path of alternative energy systems, if only to supplement conventional power sources.

If you are not convinced, speak to those who have already installed rooftop solar plants. The Tamil Nadu Energy Development Authority’s (TEDA) Chief Minister’s Solar Rooftop Capital Intensive Scheme is yet to take off on a big scale, but has begun yielding benefits, authorities say.

Take the case of N.S. Venkatesan, a resident of Mahalakshmi Nagar, Adambakkam, who has become an electricity producer by installing a 1 kilo watt-solar plant in his house. The solar plant was installed at a cost of Rs. 56,000 (after deducting the subsidy of Rs. 44,000) and Mr. Venkatesan has, on an average, saved on 45 per cent of electricity consumed on a daily basis.

Mr. Venkatesan said the solar plant was installed in the first week of September and is showing results as is reflected by details about import (consumption) and export (supply) from the distribution network of Tangedco that he gets from the net metering process.

The retired railway engineer said the net meter installed in place of the static meter could also be linked to the computer via wifi to see his power consumption patterns.

Mr. Venkatesan was happy at the swift installation of the solar plant from the empanelled installers and the simple procedure for getting the net meter connection from the officials of Tangedco.

A senior official of TEDA said a total of 1,800 rooftop solar power plants have been installed in the city. A total of 10,000 units have been targeted under the rooftop solar scheme.

Source: http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chen-infra/worried-about-spike-in-power-bills-go-solar/article6439354.ece

Friday, November 14, 2014

Raleigh Company Supporting Development Of Solar Flight Technology

In 2013, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg successfully flew the Solar Impulse from Phoenix to New York.
In 1903, Orville Wright piloted the first powered airplane on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, flying 120 feet over the course of 12 seconds. Now another possible breakthrough in aviation is on the horizon in North Carolina.

According to Greek mythology, Icarus met his downfall by flying too close to the sun when the heat melted his wax and feather wings. But Icarus didn't have the Solar Impulse.

Solar Impulse is a Swiss long-range solar-powered aircraft project led by Swiss psychiatrist and aeronaut Bertrand Piccard and Swiss businessman André Borschberg.

Utilizing 17,000 solar cells powering four electric motors, the hope is that the Solar Impulse could one day travel around the world using only power from the sun.

Utilizing 17,000 solar cells powering four electric motors, the hope is that the Solar Impulse could one day travel around the world using only power from the sun.
One of the project's main partners is ABB, whose North American headquarters are on North Carolina State University's Centennial Campus.

Up until recently, ABB focused its efforts on standard projects like integrating renewable energy into power grids. But the Solar Impulse could send the message that solar power is capable of much more.

"This is an effort to bring the technology to the people, make the, aware of solar power," said Bob Stojanovi, the director of solar power for ABB North America. "We bring the sun to the socket."

A plane like a Boeing 747 uses 5 gallons of fuel per mile, meaning a 10-hour flight requires about 36,000 gallons.

"Even on conventional fuel, it's always been a challenge," Stojanovi said. "To prove you can do it with solar technology is quite a statement."

The Solar Impulse is the only airplane of perpetual endurance, able to fly day and night on solar power without a drop of fuel. Any excess power generated by the sun is stored to keep the plan flying at night or in cloudy conditions.

The big difference between the Solar Impulse and a conventional airplane is that a Boeing 747 can fit around 500 people. The Solar Impulse has room for only one.

A plane like a Boeing 747 uses 5 gallons of fuel per mile, meaning a 10-hour flight requires about 36,000 gallons.
The group has been working on the Solar Impulse for 12 years; and in 2013, they successfully flew from Phoenix to New York.

That's just the start, ABB says.

"Showing that it can be down will make people realize the potential to use solar power in every day lives," Stojanovi said. "We at ABB are going to be watching it very closely."

Piccard and Borschberg will attempt the first around-the-world solar flight in 2015.

Source: http://www.wncn.com/story/26610124/raleigh-company-supporting-development-of-solar-flight-technology

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Solar-Powered Picnic Table Developed In Lansing Charges Your Cell Phone Outdoors

The Solar Power-Dok's umbrella is adorned with three solar panels and the heat from the panels drains into the pole which has four power outlets. It was first developed in 2006.
LANSING — If you are taking a walk past the Lansing City Market's upper patio along the grand river, you'll notice a couple of new additions that could help when your cell phone is low on juice.

The Lansing Board of Water & Light and Mayor Virg Bernero unveiled the city's first Solar Power-Dok picnic table today - complete with an umbrella designed to provide energy whenever it is placed outdoors in direct sunlight.

The idea for the picnic table and solar docking ports was developed by Lansing-based EnerFusion Inc. and its owner Joe Kobus.

The table has solar panels attached to the umbrella and delivers electricity to four GFCI outlets and four USB power outlets that can charge gadgets such as cell phones, smart phones, and laptops.

"If you're just sitting around having lunch, and your phone's running a little low, why not just plug it in as I have just done," J. Peter Lark, BWL chairman, said during the unveiling. "This is a symbol of what we're all about.

Lansing Board of Water & Light President J. Peter Lark and Lansing
Mayor Virg Bernero try out the power ports on the Solar Power-Dok at
the Lansing City Market on Sept. 23, 2014.
Jay Scott Smith | MLive.com
"I like to think that we lead the state for utilities in the area of renewable energy, particularly in solar," he added.

Enerfusion also developed a solar charging station called Radiance, which features 11 USB ports and two lockboxes that are opened through fingerprint recognition.

"We recognized that there is a real strong need for places to plug in," said EnerFusion's Kobus. "We pursued that and we knew that the market for the outdoors was just ripe for the picking so that's where we put all of our efforts."

Kobus said that the first design of the Power-Dok was created in 2006. The "Radiance" model is set to make its full debut in October and he has already formed a partnership with Sprint to debut it with a WiFi hotspot built into it.

 "We were working with NASCAR earlier in the year, and we were at races," he said. "We would pepper these all over the field and it allows people to charge their devices all during the day."

Kobus said that there are 90 of the Solar Power-Dok picnic tables around the country, including 30 on college campuses including Hope College in Holland. However, they have yet to make their debut at Michigan State University or Lansing Community College.

BWL spokesman Steve Serkaian said that the Solar Power-Dok costs $9,000 and Kobus said other models of it range between $4,000 and $10,000. The BWL says that the table, which is a part of the Live Green Lansing initiative, will help make the city a greener place.

"These little things that you're going to see cropping up in and around Lansing that is going to make Lansing a much different place," Lark said. "None of these chargers are requiring any fossil fuels to be burned, it's all coming right off of the sun. It's pretty exciting."

Source: http://www.mlive.com/lansing-news/index.ssf/2014/09/bwl_debuts_solar_powered_picni.html

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Will Solar Manufacturers Be Viable In The Long-Term?

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Green energy such as solar power often takes a lot of tax incentives to work. So it begs the question: is it viable long term?

SolarCity will be the largest solar manufacturer in North America. There’s a lot at stake for the both company and Buffalo.

The company plans to build a 1.2 million-square foot facility at Riverbend in South Buffalo. Solar Liberty is the largest solar installer in the state and Vice President Nathan Rizzo thinks the plant will be viable.

“I think in New York State our overall production from solar electricity is less than one percent, so there’s really unlimited potential for solar and that’s just New York State, let alone the rest of the United States or world.”

Currently there are federal subsidies, which are a major draw for SolarCity, but they’re not relying on them forever.

“Hands down, no doubt in my mind. Just to be clear in 2017 the federal tax credit goes down from 30 percent to 10 percent,” said Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity.

Rizzo said the subsidies will run out by 2023 and he expects solar-based businesses to do just fine.

“Solar as a whole, currently incentives do help but we’re working toward that goal of being self-sustainable,” said Rizzo.

Solar Liberty has already seen major growth. Since the business began 11 years ago, it’s installed 125,000 panels. Next year they plan on installing 50,000 alone.

While it’s great for the solar business, Rizzo said home and business owners should be excited, too.

“Homeowners are seeing a payback time of three to five years. That means in three years they can have paid off a system that is producing 100 percent of their electricity and they no longer have to remain connected to the utility company,” said Rizzo.

Rizzo said Erie County has the most installations or installed systems in the entire state.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Massachusetts Utility-Scale PV Sector In Danger

Massachusetts' Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has proposed a 0 MW 2016 annual capacity target for the sector that features traditional ground-mounted solar PV projects larger than 650 kW and not sited on landfills or brownfields.

Under the state's new solar renewable energy credit program (SREC II), projects are broken into four sectors, with varying degrees of preference given to small generation, community solar, building-mounted solar, self-consumption projects, and projects on landfills and brownfields.

PV projects which do not fall into any of these other three categories, are larger than 650 kW and feature less than 2/3 of electricity used for an on-site load fall into the “Managed Growth” portion of the program.

DOER proposes to allocate no capacity for this sector in 2016, and as a result new projects would not be eligible for SRECs. Borrego Solar VP of Strategy and Business Development Dan Berwick notes that due to a backlog of 109 MW, this will effectively put an end to new projects in this sector.

“It is shifting us, it is going to force (the solar industry) into those sectors,” notes Berwick, who also serves as chair of the Massachusetts chapter of Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “(The Managed Growth) segment is done, we aren't doing that anymore.”

A letter from SEIA, the New England Clean Energy Center (NECEC) and Solar Energy Business Association of New England (SEBANE) spells out the consequences of a zero allocation. The document warns of “the end of an important market sector, a further erosion of confidence in the Massachusetts solar market, millions of lost development dollars that were invested in anticipation of a more pragmatic estimate, and job contraction”.

The proposed zero allocation is based upon DOER's future market estimates in the other three sectors, in order to meet state targets to install roughly 150-200 MW annually towards Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's goal of 1.6 GW of installed solar PV by 2020.

SEIA, NECEC and SEBANE have appealed DOER's findings, stating that they are based on overly optimistic estimates of growth in the other sectors. The three organizations cite multiple factors, including pending net metering caps, which could provide barriers to growth in the other sectors.

SEIA, NECEC and SEBANE estimate that the Managed Growth sector could accommodate 50 MW of PV in 2016, given more conservative assumptions. All three organizations also backed a bill to remove net metering caps as part of an overall policy redesign in the state's last legislative session, however this did not make it to a vote.

While Berwick notes that there is a “legitimate public policy objective here that DOER is pursuing”, he also says that it will affect the participation of larger developers in the state's market.

“It has an impact on how attractive Massachusetts looks to us,” notes Berwick. He also emphasizes that the allocation is not yet final.

Source: http://www.energyblogs.com/landpowersolar/index.cfm/2014/9/16/Massachusetts-utilityscale-PV-sector-in-danger

Monday, November 10, 2014

Viewpoint: Mass. Solar Industry Can’t Afford Another Stand-Off

During the recent legislative session, Gov. Deval Patrick tried to persuade legislators to pass a bill that would have restructured the state’s incentives for solar energy. This was surprising, given his record of solar success. Policies he previously proposed, and that the Legislature approved, have produced a local industry that employs hundreds of people. The state now hosts 15,000 solar installations that can generate over 640 megawatts of clean electrical power.

Yet the governor could see problems on the horizon and moved aggressively to get ahead of them. He could see that limits (known as “caps”) on the amount of solar power that can qualify for financial incentives would likely cause a sudden stall in the growth of the state’s burgeoning solar industry. His bill would have removed those caps altogether. At the same time, he was hearing complaints from utilities and the business community that current incentives are too expensive. His bill would have provided for less generous, though more predictable, revenue streams for new solar projects.

But the bill did not gain the support it needed to pass. Solar businesses and advocates differed on whether any reform was needed. Utilities and business groups differed on whether the proposed reforms were still too generous.

This lack of consensus caused the Legislature to balk at restructuring the current incentives. Instead, it raised the caps, though only slightly, allowing solar development to continue at its current rate for another six months to a year. It also appointed a task force of representatives from all sides of the debate and asked for legislative recommendations by next spring. Despite what must have been a considerable disappointment, the governor signed the stopgap bill.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Some See Garbage, Others See an Opportunity: Installing Solar on Landfills

Green Mountain Power just broke ground on a 2 MW photovoltaic plant in Rutland, Vermont. While some other large PV systems planned for the area have met with strong opposition (some residents worry large, ground-mount solar arrays will be an eyesore on the state’s pastoral landscape), this project seems to be welcomed with open arms. Why? It’s being built on a 9.5 acre closed landfill.

The number of active municipal solid waste landfills that accept our household waste have been on a major decline, from nearly 8,000 in the late 1980s to less than 2,000 by the mid 2000s. All of the closed landfills around the country (not to mention closed cells on still-active landfills) leave us with a big question: What to do with those brownfields of largely undevelopable land? Many cities and towns —from Massachusetts to Colorado and Georgia to Nevada—are taking the same approach as Rutland, and using that unused and often unusable land to generate revenue and/or save on energy costs through solar farms.

What makes landfills such an ideal spot for solar? For one, often the disrupted or even contaminated land may not be suitable for commercial or residential development. Also, putting solar on landfill sites is often cheaper, less impactful, and raises less community concerns than an installation on a greenfield site.

Another reason why landfills make such good areas to put solar farms on is the fact that many municipalities don’t have large areas of green space. However, it’s estimated that there are over 10,000 old municipal landfills in the country, many of which are located in close proximity to an existing utility grid, making interconnection economical.
Massachusetts Leading the Way

Massachusetts has taken the lead in repurposing its landfills with large-scale and utility-scale solar, and much of that work has been done by PV financing and contracting company Borrego Solar. “When I look at a landfill I see a great opportunity,” Amy McDonough, senior project developer for Borrego Solar, told RMI. “Putting a solar energy generating system on land that couldn’t be used for anything else and that will save the municipality millions of dollars over the terms of the PPA is a win-win situation.”

Once a landfill’s useful life is over, it gets capped. Capping consists of putting a barrier over the landfill, the geomembrane, to separate any harmful elements from people and the environment. Then comes a layer of sand for drainage, then vegetation. The geomembrane must not be penetrated, so Borrego Solar has engineered a ballast system for the racks. Since every solar array rack has two ballasts it costs more than doing a regular foundation, adding about 25 cents per watt to the total price of the system.

Massachusetts incentivizes solar installations on brownfields, though, helping improve the economics for landfill-based solar, which despite certain addition requirements like the ballast system already benefits from economies of scale associated with utility-scale PV projects. Now Borrego Solar is working with the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) to convince that agency to put in incentives for brownfields as well.

According to McDonough, the Northeast has a lot of great landfill opportunities. “A lot of the landfills are small, often with flat tops,” McDonough explains. “A properly closed landfill offers a really great base for a solar project. If it’s been closed for 10 or 12 years you don’t have to worry about settlement. But you can’t build a building on it, so there’s not much else you can do with it.”

One success story can be seen in the Town of Ludlow in Hampden County. The Town signed a 20-year PPA with Borrego Solar to lease 17 acres of the town’s closed landfill. Ludlow now purchases the energy produced from the solar panels at a rate of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour—compared to 9 cents per kilowatt-hour charged by the local utility. The 2.6 MW system is saving the town approximately $140,000 a year on energy bills, created local construction jobs on land that had been previously written off as undevelopable, and is estimated to offset 4.3 million pounds of CO2 each year.

Other States Joining the Trend

Massachusetts now has dozens of solar farms on landfills generating over 78 megawatts of power, but other states in the Northeast are joining the trend. Vermont’s first solar landfill project, a 2.7 MW system, is currently being installed in Coventry, on the only active landfill in the state. Although the landfill is still active, the solar system is being built on the buffer zone, the required land that separates the landfill from other usable land. Since very little can be built on buffer zones, solar farms present a great option. The landfill in Rutland, Vermont, meanwhile is making headlines as it is including 4 MW of battery storage to shave peak electricity demand and to provide emergency backup power for Rutland High School (an emergency shelter) during outages.

New Jersey has also hopped on board as just last year the Garden State approved a proposal to turn the state’s 800 closed landfills into solar farms. And New York State is about to turn the world’s largest landfill—2,200 acres on Staten Island—into a park with a 47-acre, 10-MW solar farm.

Although the Northeast seems to be taking the lead in solar landfill development, the area is home to only 7 percent of the landfills in the U.S.—40 percent are in the western U.S. and 35 percent in the South. In fact, the largest solar energy generating facility in Georgia is a 1 MW farm on the Hickory Ridge landfill that uses a geomembrane cap covered with 7,000 thin-film PV panels.

While as of February 2013 there are 15 solar PV farms on landfills producing 30 megawatts of power, that number is growing quickly. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has prescreened 1,600 landfills for solar potential. One study estimates closed landfills cover hundreds of thousands of acres of solar opportunity. A 2013 NREL study estimated that municipal solid waste landfills and other contaminated sites covered an astounding 15 million acres across the United States. Once other states get on board offering incentives for brownfield development, we may see those old heaps of garbage turning into electricity generating stations across the country.

Source: http://blog.rmi.org/blog_2014_09_16_installing_solar_on_landfills

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Boston Maps Solar Potential on Over 127,000 Buildings

The Mayor of Boston, Massachusetts (US), Martin J. Walsh, launched Solar System Boston, a new map that enables homeowners and businesses to quickly and easily understand their roof’s solar potential and installation cost estimates.

With over 12MW of solar PV installed in Boston producing roughly enough power to supply 2,000 homes, the new solar map is one more tool to accelerate the adoption of solar and help Boston meet its goal of installing 25MW of solar by 2020. 

Solar System Boston is a partnership with Mapdwell, a Boston-based  M.I.T. spin-off that looks to advance collective sustainability through information, education, and choice architecture, to provide accurate and accessible information about going solar. The tool has mapped all 127,000 buildings in Boston for their solar potential and found that Boston has a potential for 2.2GW of solar power. While there are barriers to putting solar PV on every building with good sun access such as roof age and financing constraints, this map confirms the significant potential for solar to expand rapidly in Boston as installation prices continue to drop. 

The City will be conducting a solar PV feasibility analysis of all its municipal buildings this fall through a separate contract. After finding the buildings with the most potential to install solar PV, the City will begin exploring the next steps to installing solar PV. 

The City is currently updating its Climate Action Plan, which after a year-long public engagement process, will be available for public comment in November. The plan will include existing and new strategies to reach the citywide goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, as well as preparing for the impacts of climate change.

Solar System Boston is the result of a collaboration between Greenovate Boston, the City of Boston’s Department of Innovation and Technology, and Mapdwell.

Source: http://www.solarnovus.com/boston-maps-solar-potential-on-127-000-buildings_N8131.html

Friday, November 7, 2014

Solar Array Coming To Former Braintree Landfill

General manager William Bottiggi is eager to explain why the Braintree Electric Light Department (BELD) is teaming up with the town to install a solar array at the closed landfill next to the Covanta transfer station on Ivory Street.

"This will continue to increase our renewable energy portfolio," he said of the project, which has been in the works for two years. "In addition, we currently have wind energy and hydro power in Maine along with a landfill gas project in Massachusetts totaling more than 10 percent of our power supply."

Construction on the array, to be made up of 4,142 solar panels with the capacity to produce 1.26 megawatts of electricity, is expected to begin in October and go into production by the end of December.

"Ivory Street Solar, LLC, is a cooperative project that will add environmentally friendly value to our landfill," Braintree Municipal Light Board Chairman Thomas Reynolds stated.

Over the course of a year, according to Bottiggi, the solar array is anticipated to generate approximately 1.65 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, providing enough power to more than 200 homes.

"As a municipality, we’re taking a positive step." Mayor Joseph Sullivan said.

Framingham-based Ameresco, described by Bottiggi as a leading supplier of solar power solutions for public enterprises, will assess, permit, engineer, construct and operate the photovoltaic (PV) system manufactured by Canadian Solar.

Ameresco has installed three other PV systems on landfills in Acton, Lowell and Sudbury, Bottiggi said.

The array will serve as a stand-alone power-generation site, offsetting the amount of utility power sourced by BELD through net metering, according to Bottiggi.

The installation will include an educational kiosk featuring displays of real-time and historical data from the system.

"The landfill is a highly visible site," Sullivan said. "This project will light the way for us as we venture into the world of solar energy, which is a viable option. We envision the possibility of a walking trail at the landfill so people can see firsthand what’s taking place."

On the South Shore, Marshfield, Rockland and Scituate already have solar power arrays on their landfills. and Hingham and Pembroke are planning similar projects.

Source: http://braintree.wickedlocal.com/article/20140918/NEWS/140916917

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Cost of Going Solar Keeps Shrinking, and Solar Grows the U.S. Economy

It may be overheating the Earth, but our sun is still the gift that keeps on giving, if you’re looking for clean energy or robust economics. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s new Department of Energy study Tracking the Sun crunched the price of photovoltaics from 1998-2013 and found that the cost of going solar is predictably plummeting.

From 2013 to the halfway mark of 2014, the price tag for various rooftop systems dropped 12-15 percent, with an extra 5-12 percent thrown in for systems in larger states like California, Arizona, Massachusetts and New York. That’s four years and counting the industry has trended costs downward — a poker tell if there ever was one.

“Today, solar provides 143,000 good-paying jobs nationwide, pumps nearly $15 billion a year into the U.S. economy and is helping to significantly reduce pollution,” SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch explained in collaborative press release with Vote Solar. “There are now more than half a million American homes, businesses and schools with installed solar, and this is good news for freedom of energy choice as well as for our environment.”

Meanwhile, returns on solar investment are tracking oppositional, exponentially upward. According to Bloomberg, private equity and venture capital firms are pouring $5 billion into rooftop solar this year, nicely above the $3. 3 billion of 2013, and a harbinger of things to come. Things like money, well spent, whether on solar panels or power, hopefully both.

“We knew that in order to maintain quality and be able to scale, you have to build up your own infrastructure,” SolarCity Chief CEO and co-founder Lyndon Rive told Bloomberg. “Our competitors are now realizing that.”

The numbers are sparkingly clear, for those already in the solar game or wondering if now is the time to dive in. Solar’s climate change argument is unassailable: It is the king of cleantech, given that the sun daily bombards our planet with enough light to last for years. That environmentally friendly fact is finally transforming the energy market, resulting in more resilient homes and pensions for those buying into photovoltaics. In a globally warmed world, solar is the closest thing to a sure thing.

“These price declines mean that solar power is now an affordable option for families, schools, businesses and utilities alike,” VoteSolar’s executive director Adam Browning explained. “Its grid, economic and environmental benefits are shining in communities across the country.”

Source: http://solarenergy.net/News/the-cost-of-going-solar-keeps-shrinking-while-solar-grows-the-u-s-economy/

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

RENEWABLE ENERGY: U.S. Schools Quickly Climbing Learning Curve In Solar Power

America's K-12 schools are among the fastest adopters of solar power in the United States, with an estimated 3,000 new solar installations coming online between 2008 and 2012, a fivefold increase, according to a new study from the Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The output from today's 3,752 solar-equipped schools is on the order of 490 megawatts, enough to power tens of thousands of classrooms while offsetting nearly 443,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, according to the solar organizations, whose findings were published yesterday in a nationwide survey.

Moreover, the findings suggest that schools and school systems have shaved millions of dollars from their utility bills by installing solar panels, allowing for greater investment in textbooks, teachers and educational programs.

"It's a trifecta for schools," Andrea Luecke, the Solar Foundation's president and executive director, said in a telephone interview. "On the one hand, these systems are allowing schools to save millions of dollars every year. But they're also enriching students through interactive learning, and they're providing a big environmental benefit by providing clean energy."

School buses park under the solar arrays at Analy High School in
Sebastopol, Calif. Photo courtesy of the Solar Foundation.
Early adopters of school-based solar systems were drawn initially to the educational or even symbolic value of mostly small systems, but today schools are tapping solar at a much larger scale. They are relying on photovoltaic panels to meet significant amounts of their electricity needs.

In California, for example, 963 schools are producing 217 MW using solar panels, according to the analysis, roughly the amount generated by a utility-scale power plant. New Jersey and Arizona follow in terms of total solar generation from school sites, with 91.4 MW and 66.2 MW, respectively, according to the report.

The East Coast, however, claims the largest school-based solar arrays, and six of the top 10 largest arrays serve schools or school districts in New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York.

A solar farm feeds a Mass. school (and its budget)

The Lawrenceville School outside Trenton, N.J., hosts the largest array, a 6.1 MW system occupying a 30-acre site on the campus of the 800-student private high school. The solar panels produce 90 percent of the school's electricity needs, and during peak generation excess power is sold to Public Service Electric & Gas under a net-metering arrangement.

Lisa Gillard, a spokeswoman for the school, said in an email that "the solar farm is much more than a collection of solar panels." In addition to providing clean energy to the school, "the facility also serves as unique, hands-on living laboratory and case study for our science and mathematics classes." The site also hosts a wildflower garden that attracts bees, which in turn pollinate fruits and vegetables at the school's traditional farm.

The public school system in Plymouth, Mass., meanwhile, claims the country's second-largest school-based array, at 5.57 MW of capacity. Power from the system, built by Borrego Solar of San Diego, is estimated to meet 60 percent of the 8,000-student school system's energy needs and generate $500,000 in annual energy bill savings. A second solar site being developed by Borrego should boost the Plymouth school system's solar output to 8 MW, according to school officials.

Students at Robinson Elementary School in Starksboro, Vt., get a closer
look at the power of sunshine. Photo courtesy of the Solar Foundation.
Solar's success in schools, according to the analysis, can be attributed to a combination of factors. These include an abundance of solar-ready rooftop space on school buildings nationwide, rising awareness about the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy, and the proliferation of third-party financing programs that allow schools and school districts to construct solar arrays with little or no upfront costs.

Budget-strapped schools also have a powerful incentive to cut energy costs wherever possible, Luecke said, and much of that savings can be converted into investment in other projects and programs that directly benefit student learning.

"Schools tend to be big energy consumers, especially during warm periods when air conditioners are running during peak school hours," she noted. Demand is also driven by overhead lighting, personal computers and other electrical equipment necessary to keep school buildings and classrooms functioning.

As with residential and commercial solar adopters, schools are also finding solar systems more attractive as installation costs decline. According to the latest market report from SEIA and partner GTM Research, national blended average system prices dropped 53 percent between 2010 and the second quarter of 2014.

The newer math

In fact, the Solar Foundation analysis found that 450 school districts nationwide could each save more than $1 million over 30 years by installing a solar system, and some districts could see energy savings reach into the tens of millions of dollars.

"That's a lot of money," Rhone Resch, SEIA's president and CEO, said of the findings. "In a time of tight budgets and rising costs, solar can be the difference between hiring new teachers -- or laying them off."

Despite the significant benefits provided by school-based solar systems, the Solar Foundation notes that far more schools could be tapping the sun's energy. In fact, the analysis states that between 40 and 60 percent of the nation's roughly 125,000 schools could go solar cost-effectively.

Luecke said that further expanding the solar portfolio of U.S. schools depends on continued efforts to educate school districts and local elected officials about the benefits of going solar, including the economic benefits of third-party ownership. "Most of these systems were installed because there was a local champion who said, 'Let's do this,'" she said.

One of those champions is the Chicago-based Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, which has promoted and financed the installation of hundreds of small-scale solar systems at K-12 schools throughout Illinois. As a result, Illinois now ranks third in the nation for school-based solar systems, ahead of Arizona, Massachusetts and Florida.

Luecke also credited nonprofit groups such as the National Solar Schools Consortium, which aims to have 20,000 solar systems installed at K-12 and postsecondary schools by 2020. Such organizations, she said, are essential to "keeping the narrative going" about solar before administrators and school boards nationwide.

Source: http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060006112

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

As Massachusetts Sees Global Warming Impacts First-hand, New Report Identifies Largest Carbon Polluters

As international leaders prepare for the United Nations Climate Summit next week in New York, Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center released a new study showing that power plants in the United States emit more carbon than the entire economy of Russia, Japan, or India. Environmental advocates, civic leaders, local residents, and farmers gathered in front of City Hall to voice their support for proposed federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

 “Across the state, people are hurting from the effects of global warming, and emissions from power plants are a big reason why,” said Ben Hellerstein, field organizer for Environment Massachusetts. “Our state and local officials are leading the way towards a clean energy future, and it’s time for the rest of the nation to follow our example.”

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the Clean Power Plan, which would create the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants. If enacted, the Clean Power Plan would be the largest step the United States or any country has ever taken to cut global warming emissions. Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to adopt a similar policy to limit carbon pollution from power plants, in 2001.

The report, America’s Dirtiest Power Plants, comes as tens of thousands of activists and world leaders converge in New York City seeking solutions to climate change, which scientists have linked to a rise in severe weather events. In Massachusetts, extreme snow and rain storms have become 81% more frequent since 1948.

“I’ve seen how global warming has made it more difficult for my farm, and for farmers throughout the Pioneer Valley, to make a living from their land,” said Michael Docter of Winter Moon Farm in Hadley. “That’s why I installed solar panels on the roof of my barn, and I hope our elected officials support policies that will help more farmers, families, and businesses to go solar and reduce their carbon emissions.”

The report compares carbon emissions from U.S. power plants in 2012 to the total carbon emissions of entire countries, and argues that limiting pollution from power plants would make a significant impact on global warming. Key findings include:
  • If the United States’ fleet of coal- and gas-burning power plants were a country, it would be the 3rd-largest carbon polluter, behind the entire US and China.
  • U.S. power plants emit nearly as much carbon each year as the energy-related emissions of Canada, Mexico, and South America combined.
  • The EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan would reduce as much carbon pollution in 2030 as the entire country of Canada, the world’s 8th-largest polluter, emits today.
In recent years, Massachusetts’ greenhouse gas emissions have declined while the renewable energy sector has boomed. Massachusetts’ solar energy capacity has increased more than 150-fold since 2008, thanks to the SREC (Solar Renewable Energy Certification) program, net metering, and other state policies.

Cities such as Springfield and Holyoke have installed solar panels on schools, municipal buildings, former landfills, and other vacant parcels of land.

“Springfield has taken substantial steps to reduce its carbon footprint through a focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency,” said Councilor Michael Fenton, council president for the City of Springfield. “As City Council President, I am committed to helping Springfield build upon its record of leadership on global warming.”

Programs such as Solarize Massachusetts and the Agricultural Energy Grant Program have helped individual homeowners, businesses, and farmers to install solar panels on their property, cutting carbon emissions and reducing the state’s dependence on fossil fuel-burning power plants. In 2014, 932 residents and businesses in 15 communities — including Amherst, Chesterfield, Whately, and Williamsburg — participated in Solarize Massachusetts.

"We're already living with the effects of climate change, and everyone is paying the price — but that's especially true in cities like Springfield, and even more true for poor people," said Michaelann Bewsee, executive director of Arise for Social Justice. “We need local, state, and national leaders to do everything in their power to cut carbon emissions and prevent the worst impacts of global warming, and not to approve new sources of pollution like the biomass incinerator we're fighting in Springfield.”

Americans have submitted more than 6 million comments to EPA supporting limits on carbon pollution from power plants; and more than a thousand people testified in support of the Clean Power Plan at hearings held across the country this summer. Local elected officials, small businesses owners and dozens of members of Congress have all voiced support for limits on carbon pollution.

“In Massachusetts, we’ve made good progress in cutting our carbon emissions. But there are still a lot of big polluters out there,” Hellerstein said. “National limits on carbon pollution from power plants are the biggest step we can take to protect Massachusetts communities from the worst impacts of climate change. Let’s make sure the EPA takes this critical step as soon as possible.”

Source: http://www.environmentmassachusetts.org/news/mae/massachusetts-sees-global-warming-impacts-first-hand-new-report-identifies-largest-carbon

Monday, November 3, 2014

‘Electrode Barrier’ Broken for Organic Solar Cells

A new organic solar cell has broken the “electrode barrier” known to hamper efforts to enhance efficiency.

A team from the University of Massachusetts Amherst developed the cell, which can use virtually any metal as the electrode. Many common metal electrodes can obstruct the power conversion efficiency of organic solar cells, as they are typically unstable and susceptible to oxidation.

“The sun produces 7,000 times more energy per day than we can use, but we can't harness it well,” said Dr. Thomas Russell, a professor of polymer science and engineering at UMass. “One reason is the trade-off between oxidative stability and the work function of the metal cathode.”

More stable metals that don’t degrade in the presence of water and oxygen have high work function, but do not allow good electron transport. Metals with lower work function and easier electron transport have been found to be unstable and over time will degrade and become less conductive.

A layer of zwitterionic fullerenes is applied to
allow the use of any type of metal electrode in a
more efficient, lightweight and low-cost organic
solar cell. Courtesy of the University of
Massachusetts Amherst.
In their study, the researchers used ultraviolet photoelectron spectroscopy (UPS) to categorize several metals including copper, silver and gold, and to identify exactly what aids electron transport from solar cells’ photoactive layer to the electrode.

The researchers synthesized conjugated polymers featuring zwitterions — neutral molecules with both a positive and negative charge that also have strong dipoles that interact strongly with metal electrodes. These conjugated polymer zwitterions (CPZ) were applied to several different polymer scaffolds in conjugated systems in the inter-layer of solar cells.

“Once we could make CPZs, we were able to incorporate any conjugated backbone we wanted with zwitterionic functionality,” said Dr. Todd Emrick, a synthetic chemist and polymer science professor at UMass.

The researchers next turned to fullerenes, which are often used in the photoactive layer of solar cells and provide strong electron transport, to determine electron transfer efficiency. By modifying the fullerenes with zwitterions to change the work function of the electrodes, they said they were able to incorporate the zwitterions’ functionality as efficiently as possible.

“This is really a sweeping change in our ability to move electrons across dissimilar materials,” Emrick said, adding that the researchers essentially made “polymers and fullerenes that change the qualities of the metals they contact, that change their electronic properties, which in turn transforms them from inefficient to more efficient devices than had been made before.”

Source: http://www.photonics.com/Article.aspx?AID=56697

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Massachusetts City Leads by Example with 1.8-MW Brownfield Solar Project

Government officials commissioned a "superfund" solar project in New Bedford, Mass, a coastal city that is reinvigorating itself with renewable energy.

Today government officials commissioned a 1.8-MW solar project on what is classified as a “superfund” site — an abandoned plot of land that harbored hazardous waste affecting the environment and population — in New Bedford, an economically depressed coastal city in southeastern Massachusetts. What was once a toxic lot is now a shining example of how renewable energy can transform the environment and local economies, according to government officials at today’s dedication.
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy stand near the 1.8-MW Sullivan's Ledge superfund solar project in New Bedford, Mass.
The Sullivan’s Ledge site is now 10 acres of remediated land, which houses more than 5,000 panels that will save the city more than $2.7 million dollars over the course of 20 years. SunEdison and Boston-based BlueWave Capital provided panels and EPC services, and this marked their third project in the city.

Sullivan’s Ledge adds to the more than 16 MW of solar installed or under construction in New Bedford, which is now ranked number two for installing the most solar per capita behind Honolulu, Hawaii, and number two for installing the most MW on the U.S. east coast behind New York City. New Bedford now purchases 50 percent of its energy needs from solar, and expects to reach its long-term goal of 60 percent by the end of this year.

“This marks a huge step forward for New Bedford to reduce city electric costs, save tax payers millions and add clean energy to our contaminated sites,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell. “We are showing leadership through our renewable energy programs, and now other cities are asking us how to do it.”

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was also there to dedicate the project, expressing the importance of local projects and environmental benefits of transforming brownfields with renewable energy. She said that these local-level projects are what will move clean energy forward and help tackle climate change – the most important issue the world faces today.

“People always ask how we can turn these challenging sites into opportunities,” said McCarthy. “These projects convince people that we just can’t sit and do nothing. This is how we will move clean energy forward in this country – one small site at a time.”

Solar projects have provided huge benefits for the city, explained Deputy Commissioner of the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection David Cash. “This project has paid for local SunEdison employee paychecks and helps local school and police departments to save money on their bills, which allows them to hire more people,” said Cash. “What Mayor would not want to save $100,000 a year — solar is a no-brainer."

Not only is New Bedford leading in solar, but city officials also worked to redevelop its port to become the nation’s first offshore wind distribution hub. Mitchell announced that the city won the bid to provide services for the Cape Wind project, which is the first U.S. offshore wind project to start construction next year.

“Together, we’ve turned lemons into lemonade,” said Mitchell, “and we should all be proud of that.”

Source: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2014/09/massachusetts-city-leads-by-example-with-1-8-mw-brownfield-solar-project?cmpid=rss

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A More Efficient, Lightweight and Low-Cost Organic Solar Cell

University of Massachusetts Amherst
AMHERST, Mass. – For decades, polymer scientists and synthetic chemists working to improve the power conversion efficiency of organic solar cells were hampered by the inherent drawbacks of commonly used metal electrodes, including their instability and susceptibility to oxidation. Now for the first time, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a more efficient, easily processable and lightweight solar cell that can use virtually any metal for the electrode, effectively breaking the “electrode barrier.”

This barrier has been a big problem for a long time, says UMass Amherst’s Thomas Russell, professor of polymer science and engineering. “The sun produces 7,000 times more energy per day than we can use, but we can’t harness it well. One reason is the trade-off between oxidative stability and the work function of the metal cathode.” Work function relates to the level of difficulty electrons face as they transfer from the solar cell’s photoactive layer to the electrode delivering power to a device.

Russell likes to use a lock-and-dam analogy to talk about electron transfer. “People have thought you’d need to use tricks to help electrons, the water in the lock, over an obstacle, the electrode, like a dam. Tricks like sawing the dam apart to allow the flow. But tricks are always messy, introducing a lot of stuff you don’t need,” he says. “The beauty of the solution reached by these synthetic chemists is to just move the dam out of the way, electronically move it so there is no longer a difference in energy level.”

Synthetic chemist and polymer science professor Todd Emrick agrees, “That challenge was unmet and that’s what this research is all about.” He and polymer chemistry doctoral student Zak Page in his lab had been synthesizing new polymers with zwitterions on them, applying them to several different polymer scaffolds in conjugated systems, also known as semiconductors, in the inter-layer of solar cells. Zwitterions are neutral molecules with both a positive and negative charge that also have strong dipoles that interact strongly with metal electrodes, the scientists found.

Emrick asked Page to see if he could synthesize conjugated polymers, semiconductors, with zwitterionic functionality. With time, and by enlisting a system of multiple solvents including water, Page was able to prepare these new “conjugated polymer zwitterions,” or CPZs.

Emrick explains, “Once we could make CPZs, we were able to incorporate any conjugated backbone we wanted with zwitterionic functionality. That allowed us to make a library of CPZs and look at their structure-property relationship to understand which would be most important in electronics. In particular, we were interested in electron transport efficiency and how well the CPZ could modify the work function of different metals to help move electons across interfaces towards more powerful devices.

In choosing a metal for use as an electrode, scientists must always negotiate a trade-off, Page says. More stable metals that don’t degrade in the presence of water and oxygen have high work function, not allowing good electron transport. But metals with lower work function (easier electron transport) are not stable and over time will degrade, becoming less conductive.

Guided by UMass Amherst’s photovoltaic facility director Volodimyr Duzhko in using ultraviolet photoelectron spectroscopy (UPS), Page began to categorize several metals including copper, silver and gold, to identify exactly what aided electron transport from the photoactive layer to the electrode. He and Emrick found that “if you want to improve the interlayer properties, you have to make the interface layer extremely thin, less than 5 nanometers, which from a manufacturing standpoint is a problem,” he says.

To get around this, Page and Emrick began to consider a classic system known for its good electron transport: buckyballs, or fullerenes, often used in the photoactive layer of solar cells. “We modified buckyballs with zwitterions (C60-SB) to change the work function of the electrodes, and we knew how to do that because we had already done it with polymers,” Page points out. “We learned how to incorporate zwitterion functionality into a buckyball as efficiently as possible, in three simple steps.”

Here the synthetic chemists turned to Russell’s postdoctoral researcher Yao Liu, giving him two different fullerene layers to test for electron transfer efficiency: C60-SB and another with amine components, C60-N. From UPS analysis of the zwitterion fullerene precursor, Page suspected that the amine type would enhance power even better than the C60-SB variety. Indeed, Liu found that a thin layer of C60-N between the solar cell’s photoactive layer and the electrode worked best, and the layer did not have to be ultra-thin to function effectively, giving this discovery practical advantages.

“That’s when we knew we had something special,” says Page. Emrick adds, “This is really a sweeping change in our ability to move electrons across dissimilar materials. What Zak did is to make polymers and fullerenes that change the qualities of the metals they contact, that change their electronic properties, which in turn transforms them from inefficient to more efficient devices than had been made before.”

Russell adds, “Their solution is elegant, their thinking is elegant and it’s really easy and clean. You put this little layer on there, it doesn’t matter what you put on top, you can use robust metals that don’t oxidize. I think it’s going to be very important to a lot of different scientific communities.”

Source: http://www.labmanager.com/news/2014/09/a-more-efficient-lightweight-and-low-cost-organic-solar-cell?fw1pk=2#.VDQ9NHZ_PNt