There was a moment in 2013 and early 2014 when utility-scale solar hit a snag in America. California utilities were reaching the upper limits of their renewable energy mandates, concentrating solar power costs were not coming down as expected, and investors had turned their attention to the booming residential PV market.
But that moment passed fairly quickly. Moving into the second half of 2014, utilities all around the country signed an unprecedented number of contracts for utility-scale PV projects -- in large part because the technology had gotten so cheap. California had largely dominated the market since 2010, but suddenly utilities in Colorado, Minnesota, Utah and Kentucky were inking deals for large projects below the price of natural gas, completely separate from state mandates.
Today, utility-scale solar continues to hit cost and generation records. There are now more than 7 gigawatts of PV projects slated for completion around the country next year. In June, Austin Energy revealed that the average bid from developers in the second round of a 600-megawatt procurement were averaging below 4 cents per kilowatt-hour. And in March, California became the first state to generate 5 percent of its electricity from utility-scale solar power plants.
Here's another notable record: this week, the U.S. government's energy research arm showed that generation from utility-scale solar power plants is 31 times higher than it was a decade ago. (Note: EIA defines utility-scale solar as any project over 1 megawatt; GTM defines it as any project on the utility side of the meter.)
Utility-scale solar now accounts for just over a half percent of U.S. electricity production. Add in the 700,000 distributed projects around the country -- which make up 45 percent of U.S. installed capacity -- and solar generation is over 1 percent of production.
But the most compelling part of this EIA data set isn't the surge in overall generation. It's the shift in solar generation itself.
From 2005 to 2012, concentrating solar power saw a resurgence of investment after years of virtually no activity. Over that five-year period, the technology contributed 85 percent of overall solar generation. After 2011, as PV development costs fell and CSP costs stagnated, that dynamic flipped. More than 86 percent of total solar electricity came from PV as of last year.
Welcome to week two of GTM's Energy News Quiz. I'm your host,
Alex Trebek Mike Munsell.
Take the quiz below. If any questions leave you puzzled, we've provided explainer links at the bottom.
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Mike Munsell is GTM's resident game geek. In addition to creating the GTM Energy News Quiz, hosting GTM's annual ping pong tournament, and winning Super Smash Brothers games at solar trade shows, he writes original riddles at www.riddleearth.com. Sign up to get them in your inbox every Monday and Friday.
Washington Post: Top Leaders of Solyndra Repeatedly Misled Federal Officials
Top leaders of a troubled solar-panel company that cost taxpayers a half-billion dollars repeatedly misled federal officials and omitted information about the firm’s financial prospects as they sought to win a major government loan, according to a newly-released federal investigative report.
The report, written by the Energy Department’s Inspector General, summarizes the findings of the four-year-long investigation conducted by FBI agents and investigators from the Office of the Inspector General.
Solyndra officials told the government in 2009, for example, that they had firm contracts to sell $2.2 billion worth of their unique cylindrical solar panels over the next five years. But behind the scenes, investigators found, Solyndra was struggling with customers who were balking at the high panel prices, arranging secret side deals to pay discounted prices, and refusing to buy as many panels as they once promised.
Bloomberg: Oil Surges Most in Six Years on Faster U.S. Economic Growth
Oil jumped the most in more than six years, caught up in a relief rally that swept the globe as the U.S. economy grew more than predicted.
West Texas Intermediate futures rose 10 percent, the biggest gain since March 2009. U.S. gross domestic product grew at a 3.7 percent annualized rate in the second quarter, exceeding all estimates of economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index headed for its biggest two-day gain since 2009 as Chinese shares snapped a five-day losing streak.
Scientific American: Hawaii First to Harness Deep Ocean Temperatures for Power
A small but operational ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) plant was inaugurated in Hawaii last week, making it the first in the world. The opening of the 100-kilowatt facility marked the first time a closed-cycle OTEC plant will be connected to the U.S. grid. But that amount of energy production can power only 120 Hawaiian homes for a year, a tiny drop in the ocean for the island state’s own energy needs. What promise OTEC holds for other regions is even less certain.
The United States entered OTEC research in 1974 with the establishment of the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA). But after decades of investment in the development of OTEC, this new Navy-bankrolled project is still seen by many as only a way to test the process rather than to secure the place of OTEC as a viable renewable technology.
NPR: New Tesla Breaks Consumer Reports' Ratings Scale
With a rare mix of blazing speed, safety and energy efficiency, the new Tesla Model S P85D left the folks at Consumer Reports grasping for ways to properly rate the car, after it scored a 103 -- out of 100. "It kind of broke the system," says Jake Fisher, director of the magazine's auto test division.
Listing the all-electric car's attributes, including its improved handling and stopping power, Fisher says, "We're seeing numbers that we haven't seen before. So this kind of blew out the system. We're giving it a score of 100."
Wheeling Intelligencer: Natural Gas Rigs Being Shut Off
For the first time since the U.S. Energy Information started tracking the data, natural gas production from shale formations -- including the Marcellus and Utica -- is set to decline in September amid a glut of supplies related to inadequate pipeline infrastructure.
Also, with natural gas prices down by more than $1 per unit compared to this time last year -- and crude oil crashing to a value lower than $39 per barrel -- both Ohio and West Virginia continue to see fewer rigs drilling within their borders.
According to the EIA, all U.S. shale natural gas production recently reached a record high of 45.6 billion cubic feet per day. To put that in context,1 Bcf can power 85,000 road trips across the U.S. However, officials believe the number will decline to 44.9 Bcf per day next month.
Sources indicate that most or all of the company's employees were let go. Other sources suggest that Draker has left customers without monitoring capabilities and scrambling for a replacement.
Last month, Draker and monitoring firm Inaccess were set to merge. The two firms would have had a combined portfolio of 5 gigawatts of utility and commercial-scale solar power plants, according to the report Global PV Monitoring 2014-2018 by GTM Research and SoliChamba Consulting
That deal fell through.
Sources close to the deal suggest that Draker had a high cost structure and was being pressured by competitors such as Also Energy and Locus Energy.
But perhaps all is not lost.
Here's the text of a letter from Draker Executive Chairman Everett S. McGinley that was sent to customers on Thursday saying that Draker had signed an agreement with "a leading solar industry solution provider."
Valued Draker Clients
We are pleased to announce that Draker has signed an agreement with a leading solar industry solution provider for the continuation of Draker’s business and service to its clients. The agreement provides for the following:
What vendor might want to acquire Draker?
Inaccess might want to re-engage, and we've heard talk of companies like SunEdison or SunPower taking an interest, although solar companies have a bit less buying power than they did a few weeks ago. Cedric Brehaut of SoliChamba Consulting, author of the GTM Research report, notes that "due to the business practice of selling monitoring software subscriptions on a 5-year upfront basis (mostly to leverage the ITC), the existing installed base is seen not necessarily as an asset but rather as a liability.”
“The most likely scenario,” adds Brehaut, "is that a downstream company operating a large fleet of megawatt-scale PV plants picks up Draker for its software platform, in order to bring monitoring in-house and/or to replace internally developed software with Draker technology."
In the meantime, competitors like AlsoEnergy and Solectria are trying to migrate Draker's customers to their platform.
When Terrell Smith walks through his neighborhood in East Baltimore, he sees boarded-up windows, empty lots and trash-strewn alleys. But now, he also sees solar -- and not just solar panels, but people working in solar jobs.
Terrell is one of a cohort of young African-American men from Baltimore’s Civic Works job training program who have spent the last month learning how to install solar with GRID Alternatives, helping 10 families here go solar as part of a pilot program in partnership with Baltimore, a city that could greatly benefit from the economic opportunities solar can bring.
“It’s great for people in the neighborhood to come out and see solar on their rooftops, and see young people like me working,” he said. “It shows that the community is improving.”
For Terrell and countless other people in economically struggling communities, solar is not always an obvious career option. But with the solar industry adding high-quality, living-wage jobs at a rate of 20 percent a year, solar is a growing force for economic empowerment in the places that need it most.
Just as solar is a positive economic and social force in diverse communities, diversity is good for solar: it’s good for companies’ bottom lines, our industry’s long-term success, and for the country’s economy.
That’s why GRID Alternatives and SunEdison have partnered on a national initiative, Realizing an Inclusive Solar Economy (RISE), to increase diversity in the solar industry and connect people like Terrell who need good jobs with an industry that needs good people. It’s an issue the industry as a whole should care about a lot.
In an article we wrote last year, we made the business case for gender diversity. What’s true about the positive impact of gender diversity on business performance is even more true for ethnic and racial diversity. According to a 2015 study by McKinsey, ethnically diverse companies are 35 percent more likely "to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians,” and in the United States, a 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team means a 0.8 percent earnings increase.
As the market for solar grows both domestically and globally, our customer base is becoming increasingly diverse. A diversity of perspectives inside the industry will not only help us engage new customers, but will also help us continue to adapt and innovate. Abundant research, including this 2011 Forbes study, shows that diverse perspectives foster innovation and improve decision-making.
According to the Solar Foundation, 77 percent of solar industry employers reported finding qualified employees to be somewhat or very difficult. With an industry growing at the rate ours is -- the solar industry expects to add more than 36,000 jobs by November 2015 -- we need to tap every available talent pool to fill open positions at every level, from installers to senior management. Women, for example, make up 67 percent of college graduates and 70 percent of valedictorians, but just 21.5 percent of the solar workforce. Diverse workforces are also happier workforces, reducing turnover.
Perhaps most importantly, solar diversity supports a healthy national economy. Solar installer jobs offer a tremendous pathway into the middle class, offering living wages of $20-$24 an hour for workers who lack a college degree. A thriving middle class and its increased spending power is key to revitalizing struggling communities and strengthening our economy, which is good for everyone’s business.
With RISE, we are committed to providing hands-on solar installation training to 4,000 individuals over the next two years, proving long-term career pathways for young people like Terrell while also connecting companies with trained individuals to fill the fast-growing demand for solar installers. But with an estimated 36,000 solar jobs coming on-line this year, the opportunity is much bigger, both for our industry and for cities where demand for good jobs far exceeds the number of job opportunities.
The solar industry’s diversity is growing, according to the National Solar Jobs Census. But we as an industry can do a lot more. At SunEdison, our mission is to transform lives through innovation, and we do so in part with best-in-class HR policies and mentoring programs, and by recruiting to create a company of people who innovate faster and more creatively thanks to our diversity and common purpose.
The Solar Energy Industries Association has also committed to make solar the most diverse energy sector, and is working with GRID Alternatives to host a solar job fair at Solar Power International this year.
We can learn a lot from one another about how to cultivate and maximize the talent pools available to us, both through direct programming and through community investment. Let’s take the long view on our success as an industry, and work together to make diversity and inclusion an integral part of the nation’s energy transition.
Join us in persuading your company to set new hiring and mentoring initiatives, and to help SEIA’s new Community Engagement Committee by submitting examples of your work. And as more people like Terrell see solar providing both green on their rooftops and green in their wallets, we’ll show that what’s good for solar is good for the nation.
Erica Mackie is the CEO of GRID Alternatives; Ahmad Chatila is the president and CEO of SunEdison.
PV Magazine: Storage Installed With Solar in Germany Increasing by 35% a Year
The number of subsidized solar-plus-storage installations has increased by more than 35% in a year in Germany. Falling prices and the desire for energy independence are fueling this high demand.
In the first seven months of this year, the German development bank KfW has supported 35% more solar energy storage projects than in the same period in 2014. Since the German federal government's launch of the PV storage system support program in 2013, more than 12,000 PV storage systems have been installed.
Houston Energy Insider: Gasoline Prices Are at Their Lowest in Over a Decade
Not since 2004 have gasoline prices been this low. The decline in price is only expected to continue to drop as U.S. oil prices also resume to fall. According to AAA, oil is just slightly more than $38 per barrel as of Monday. The national average, as of yesterday, is $2.59 per gallon of gasoline. This is an 11-year low that is only expected to decrease even as demand has increased and the problems being faced by some refineries continues.
However, it should be noted that it is typical for gas prices to fall in the fourth quarter of the year due to a decrease in demand. The sharp decline in oil prices is, of course, the major contributor to the dip in price. Some analysts have also been on record saying that gas prices would be at $2 if not for some operational and maintenance obstacles that occurred at U.S. refineries. Over the summertime, there was a notable increase in demand, which also was a factor.
Oilprice: Does Arctic Drilling Have a Future With Sub $50 Oil?
Italian oil group ENI is expected to begin production from the Goliat Field off Norway in a few short weeks. The project, which has cost $5.6 billion, is expected to produce 34 million barrels of oil per year by the second year of production.
Yet ENI seems to be bucking the global trend, as would-be Arctic drillers in other parts of the region hand back leases or allow them to expire, citing high risks and high costs as major contributing factors. Successful environmental campaigns as well as an increased global awareness -- and political will -- to address climate change have also been influential.
Washington Post: There's a Big Change Coming to the Way We Power Our Homes
Earlier this year, home energy received its biggest jolt since rooftop solar when Tesla Motors announced a home battery dubbed the Powerwall. Immediately useful for backup during power outages, the Powerwall also open a broader doorway into a world of home energy storage. When paired with rooftop panels, the availability of storage brings us closer to a future in which homes could be generating much of the energy they need during the day, and then storing some of the remainder for use overnight.
But on Wednesday, the Rocky Mountain Institute, a noted energy think tank, released a new report suggesting that there’s a less noticed change underway in how we use energy at home -- and pay for it -- that could have similarly dramatic potential.
UPI: Obama Calls Out Koch Brothers for Opposing Solar Power
President Obama lashed out against critics of his energy policies and high-power conservatives, specifically the Koch brothers, for pushing back against regulations that would enable growth in the renewable energy sector.
"When you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the Koch brothers pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards, or to prevent new clean-energy businesses from succeeding, that's a problem," he said. "That's not the American way. That's not progress. That's not innovation. That's rent-seeking. That's standing in the way of progress," Obama said.
The Nevada Public Utilities Commission has voted to extended the state's existing solar net metering policy through the end of year, as the commission debates the future of the program.
The decision brings a temporary end to a battle that broke out in July, when NV Energy announced the state was approaching its 235-megawatt net metering cap. Nevada hit the limit on net-metered solar projects last Friday, months earlier than NV Energy originally predicted.
Net metering, which allows customers with solar panels to sell excess energy back to the grid, is one of the solar industry's most important policies. According to the Alliance for Solar Choice, Nevada's solar market shut down last week with news that the previous cap had been reached. Vivint Solar suspended operations in the state a few weeks earlier amid the policy uncertainty.
Today's 3-0 vote is a victory for solar advocates who lobbied to keep existing rates in place, including the hundreds of solar workers who made their case before the commission over the last month. Nevada's solar industry currently employs around 6,000 people.
“We are grateful that the commission’s decision will allow Nevadans to return to their jobs today, while the commission determines long-term rules for solar net metering," said Bryan Miller, co-chairman of TASC. "Nevadans will remain vocal to ensure that these rules allow Nevada’s solar industry to continue creating jobs and driving economic growth.”
Earlier this month, NV Energy filed an alternative solar policy with the PUC that would have reduced the value of net metering credits and added new fees on solar customers. The utility argued the changes are needed to avoid unfair cost-shifting to other non-solar customers.
In light of today's vote, NV Energy said it will work with commissioners and solar advocates to find an acceptable long-term solution. The PUC is required to decide on a permanent net-metering structure by December 31.
"While the interim rate approved today was not what the company proposed, we supported Senate Bill 374 along with the rooftop solar industry, which determined that the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada is the appropriate body to define future net-metering rules and rates," said Jennifer Schuricht, spokesperson for NV Energy, in an emailed statement. "As we have said from the beginning, we support cost-competitive renewable energy in all forms, and will continue to work with stakeholders through this interim period to ensure Nevada retains its leadership position in the development of renewable energy."
The PUC in Colorado, meanwhile, has also voted to uphold net metering in its current form, despite calls for change from the state's largest electric utility, Xcel Energy. Today's win for the solar industry stems from more than a year of meetings and commission deliberation in the state, said Jessica Scott, regional director of the Interior West for Vote Solar.
Scott praised commissioners in both Colorado and Nevada for supporting policies that protect consumer choice. But while solar advocates are pleased with these recent victories, they still see a rough road ahead.
"Over the past couple of years, utility interests have made it clear that they want to stall consumer solar adoption and have chosen net metering and rate design as their targets for achieving that end. We don't expect that to change significantly in the year ahead," said Scott. "2016 will be another critical year for these fights over our energy future. But we are hopeful that commissions and policy leaders will continue to see past the utility rhetoric, recognize the true value of distributed renewables, and uphold solar options for the consumers they serve."
Governor Jerry Brown
Sacramento, CA 95814
Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon
Sacramento, CA 95814
RE: California Distributed Power
Dear Governor Brown and Senator de Leon:
As leading investors in California’s cleantech industry, we greatly appreciate your leadership to establish strong renewable energy goals that will reduce climate pollution. With only three weeks left in this year’s legislative session, we wish to bring to your attention an important gap in current state policy efforts.
As Governor Brown noted in his January 2015 State of the State address, deriving 50 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030 will require transforming our electricity grid and distributed power must play an important role. This means expanded deployment of rooftop solar, which is occurring across the state in large part because of the availability of net energy metering (NEM).
The NEM policy has helped California’s solar industry grow into a world leader and leverage billions of dollars in private investment in the installation of distributed solar energy systems across the state. This policy has helped create more than 54,000 solar jobs all over California -- greater than the total number of persons employed by the state’s five largest utilities. The NEM policy is also spurring innovations that have enabled the solar industry to scale, bring down costs substantially, and save energy consumers in California billions of dollars.
Legislation that Governor Brown signed two years ago, AB 327, requires that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) develop new NEM rules by the end of the year that now are projected to be implemented for new customers in many communities across the state during 2016. In recent filings at the PUC, the utilities have proposed ending NEM and replacing it with radically different programs and rate designs that would destroy the economics for solar customers.
Investors have been committing capital to California’s rapidly growing rooftop solar industry with the expectation that the state’s solar-friendly policies will not be dramatically changed overnight. That expectation is now being called into question by the utilities’ proposals and the PUC Energy Division’s apparent decision to apply the wrong cost-effectiveness test when evaluating the program. This market uncertainty is compounded by implementation of significant changes to electricity rates and tariffs, the scheduled step-down of the federal Investment Tax Credit for solar at the end of 2016, and the focus of the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) on larger systems.
We ask that you restore policy certainty for California’s rooftop solar industry by ensuring that a sustainable NEM policy continues. This will reassure the market and the venture capital community of the state’s ongoing commitment to include distributed power in California’s clean energy plans. It will encourage additional private-sector investment and job growth in our state’s growing cleantech industry and send a powerful signal to markets in other states.
Nancy E. Pfund
Rick Brown, Ph.D.
President, TerraVerde Renewable Partners
Managing Partner, City Light Capital
Robert Davenport III
Managing Partner, Brightpath
Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers
Managing Partner, DBL Partners
Managing Partner, Greener Capital
Managing Director, Draper Fisher Jurvetson
Managing Partner, CCM Energy
Managing Director, SJF Ventures
Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers
Managing General Partner, Rockport Capital
Managing Partner, Angeleno Group
Partner & Managing Director, Capricorn Investment Group
General Partner, Foundation Capital
Managing Partner, Westly Group
Partner, Draper Fisher Jurvetson
cc: Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins
Assembly Member Susan Bonilla
Assembly Member Jim Cooper
Assembly Member Richard Gordon
Assembly Member Patrick O’Donnell
Assembly Member Henry Perea
Assembly Member Bill Quirk
Assembly Member Anthony Rendon
Assembly Member Phil Ting
Assembly Member Das Williams
Despite Mexico opening up its electric-power sector to private players, unclear rules are holding back installers and investors from tapping much of the country’s solar power potential.
Mexico's energy reforms, approved last year, are expected to bring up to USD$9 billion in investment in the electric power sector to 2019, according to the energy ministry. But investors and companies bemoan that red tape and regulatory uncertainty are hindering the sector’s growth.
GTM Research predicts that Mexico will lead Latin America in solar power generation by 2020, with the market likely to almost triple in size this year to 194 megawatts. The country’s solar energy association, ANES, announced this week it is targeting a total installed capacity of 3 gigawatts by 2025.
Progress is underway, with the government having set targets for renewables to account for 25 percent of power generated by 2018, 30 percent by 2021, 35 percent by 2024, and 60 percent by 2050 as part of the reform’s energy transition law.
Investment in the solar sector so far this year totals around USD$2.5 billion, while the number of solar companies operating in Mexico has leapt to around 600 -- a 1,200 percent increase from 46 in 2010, according to ANES.
But there are major hurdles to overcome for Mexico to harness its full potential, according to academics and local and international firms. Much of the frustration comes from the lack of information regarding regulations and tenders provided by state utility CFE and the energy regulatory commission (CRE).
“The mañana mantra is alive and well at the CFE,” said Don Walter, CEO of Sonora Energy Group, based in the northwestern city of Hermosillo, in an interview with GTM.
“The bigger concerns are not the timing or release of data, but with the CFE’s fumbling of the ‘qualified user’ definition, which is a major impediment to further development," said Walter.
He also expressed concern about the manipulation of commercial, industrial and residential electricity rates, which, as promised by the CFE late last year, have dropped month-on-month since January, but rose again in August.
“That does not give developers or investors confidence that they are dealing with something they can understand. And that’s a problem, and a risk that Mexico runs by overplaying its hand,” he said.
There is also uncertainty concerning how the clean energy certificates that Mexico's energy ministry plans to issue in 2018 will be traded.
“If you want to attract foreign investment, stability and confidence must be in place, and they are not,” Walter said.
Furthermore, the design of many buildings makes them inadequate for solar panel installation.
“If we really want to harness power from solar panels, we need to move toward the construction of electricity network infrastructure or autonomous micronetworks operating on direct current," said Arturo Morales-Acevedo, an academic at the national polytechnic’s advanced research and study center, speaking to the state news agency in July.
Cost is still a major barrier as well. The investment required to install a 2-kilowatt-capacity solar array is around $4,000 to $5,000 -- a price tag beyond the reach of many households. Apartment buildings, where the majority of people in the capital and other large cities live, are not able to support solar arrays large enough to power all the residences, said Morales-Acevedo.
Finally, the regulation of solar electricity sales are still in flux.
“The CFE [Federal Electricity Commission] has yet to develop an understanding of the sector,” said Juan Pablo López, corporate director of Mexico-based PV solutions firm Bioenergy.
Fiscal incentives are in place, including a 20 percent discount on property tax for residences generating more than 50 percent of their power needs. Companies using solar also receive a tax break on payrolls and water tariffs, making PV technology more accessible. But the lack of clear rules means that "one cannot yet sell electricity to the CFE," said López.
Despite the uncertainty, American and European solar companies are eyeing Mexico’s potential. In May, French solar tracker manufacturer Exosun signed a supply contract with Mexican PV developer Forza to build a pilot plant in the northwestern state of Sonora. And California-based SolarCity in August acquired Mexican rooftop solar developer ILIOSS.
“Mexico's combination of high electricity rates, favorable solar economics and massive solar resources makes it one of the most promising solar markets in the world," SolarCity said at the time.
Domestic firms are also starting to ramp up. Mexican firm ErgoSolar said in July it plans to invest $15.8 million in new residential and small business projects in the country.
The states currently seeing the heaviest investment in solar are Baja California, Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Jalisco and Sonora.
Join GTM for Solar Summit: Mexico in January. Learn more here.
BBC: Carbon Credits Undercut Climate Change Actions, Says Report
The vast majority of carbon credits generated by Russia and Ukraine did not represent cuts in emissions, according to a new study. The authors say that offsets created under a U.N. scheme "significantly undermined" efforts to tackle climate change.
The credits may have increased emissions by 600 million tonnes. In some projects, chemicals known to warm the climate were created and then destroyed to claim cash.
As a result of political horse-trading at U.N. negotiations on climate change, countries like Russia and the Ukraine were allowed to create carbon credits from activities like curbing coal waste fires, or restricting gas emissions from petroleum production.
Guardian: South African Team May Have Solved Solar Puzzle Even Google Couldn't Crack
It is a problem that so far has stumped even Google’s brainy engineers -- how to generate cheap solar electricity using a small-scale array of mirrors to concentrate the sun’s energy.
Now a team at a South African university -- led by a former Intel strategic planner -- believes they have cracked it. Once they have completed a prototype system in October, they have big plans for rolling out the technology.
Their work has already attracted the interest of well-known foreign companies, including a German consortium and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology solar company.
Forbes: Who Says Nuclear Can't Smooth Out an Erratic Wind?
A new study by the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), together with NuScale Power and Energy Northwest, has shown that small modular reactors, a new design for nuclear power, can easily and economically back up wind just fine. With none of the issues that older nuclear power plants conjure up in most people’s minds.
The study describes how the NuScale SMR is actually designed for load-following of wind, and meets all of the new guidelines and specifications relative to optimal load-following in the User Requirements Document from the Electric Power Research Institute.
Energy.gov: South Carolina BMW Plant Converts Landfill Gas to Hydrogen Fuel
Operations at a BMW manufacturing plant in Greer, South Carolina are powered by fuel from a unique source: garbage.
In a first-of-its-kind demonstration, the Energy Department, BMW and project partners Ameresco, Gas Technology Institute and the South Carolina Research Authority, are powering most of the facility’s fuel-cell forklifts with hydrogen produced on-site from biomethane gas at a nearby landfill.
In order to achieve this, project researchers and engineers had to overcome two main obstacles. The first challenge involved converting the biomethane gas into hydrogen. This required the development and testing of multiple tanks with catalysts for removing contaminants. The second was purifying the hydrogen enough so it could be used in fuel cells. To do this, the project team had to purge the gas stream of all non-hydrogen molecules, including nitrogen.
Oilprice: Is the Fed Oil’s Only Hope Right Now?
In the short term, Janet Yellen could be the only hope that oil bulls have left. Oil prices have continued to plummet, except on August 24, they were no longer alone. Stock markets around the world crashed on what is becoming known as “Meltdown Monday.”
Driving the meltdown is the Chinese economy, which has suddenly looked extremely rickety since its main stock exchanges began crashing in June. The Shanghai Composite fell by 8.5 percent on Monday, precipitating a sell-off across the globe.
Oil has been dropping since June, but the crash kicked oil’s decline into a higher gear on Monday, with WTI and Brent crumbling by more than 5 percent and 6 percent, respectively.
With 2015 right around the corner, it’s a good time to reflect on the past year and think about how we as the solar industry can improve. Since 2014 was a good year for the industry, here are three New Year’s resolutions for the U.S. solar community to keep in mind for a happy and […]
If you’re like me, you’ve read many of the recent posts from Jonathan Silver, the former director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s loan program, proclaiming the program’s success. If you can get past the claims where skeptics were simply “proven wrong,” he paints a picture wherein the loan program is performing exactly as planned […]
Despite the ongoing incremental improvements in conversion efficiencies and cost reduction taking place in the solar manufacturing community, it would be a stretch to call most of the players truly “high tech.” Industry executives like Trina Solar’s Jifan Gao can tout his company’s “emphasis on technology breakthroughs” and its efforts to “remain at the forefront […]
My recent poster presentation from Solar Power International 2014, “Using Seven Forms of Waste and Critical Path Method to Lower Residential Solar Soft Costs,” lays out a methodology that residential solar installers can use to help them most effectively target soft cost reductions. This methodology pulls best practices from automobile manufacturing and other industries as […]
If Nelson Mandela were alive today, he would be proud of the rapid growth of solar power in his beloved South Africa. It’s been nearly a year since he passed away last December 5, and during that time, several hundred megawatts of photovoltaic projects have moved from the developmental pipeline to actively converting photons into […]
Before the speeches by Sen. Harry Reid and DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz bookended the industry executive panel during the second general session at this year’s Solar Power International in Las Vegas, a slick aspirational video kept the audience’s attention and caught my eye. Rather than hitting the viewer over the head with a heavy commercial […]
Few places in the world have all the critical elements needed to create a profitable solar power market, but Saudi Arabia stands out as one of them. From vast deserts that can accommodate large installations and high solar resources that guarantee maximum energy yields, to adequate financial resources and a well-established construction industry—the Kingdom has […]
LONDON–The rise of Grupotec Renewables’ bourgeoning U.K. solar business is indicative of the growth seen in solar deployment across the country in recent years. On entering the market in 2011, the company set ambitious targets of installing 100MW of PV in a three-year timeframe. Two years later, the company boasted a successful portfolio of more […]
Last month, the Indian government decided not to impose antidumping duties on solar cells and modules imported from China, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the United States. The step has been celebrated by many within the industry as a win for solar. To gain a greater understanding of what this means for the future of the Indian […]
In recent weeks there have been various examples of just how much impact politics continues to have on the solar industry. In the U.K., the fallout from the government’s enforced incentive switch from the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme to Contracts for Difference (CFD) and resultant legal battle rumbles on. In India, what would be the […]