Sunday, 30 November 2008

Solar Thermal Market Growing

The Solar Thermal Systems (STS) market for hot water and heating has changed considerably over the past few years in Europe as market shares spread into new countries. In 2003, close to 80% of the solar thermal market in operation was concentrated in Germany, Greece and Austria.

Just a few years later, these same countries only hold 55%, making room for countries like Spain, Italy and France that previously only held about 10% of the total market share each. Now France, Italy and Spain are among the fastest growing solar thermal markets in Europe.

Supported by government legislation, consumer attitudes, and manufacturers' increasing production, Frost and Sullivan believes this combination is a strong predictor of medium and long term market growth.

"Within the past few years, all circumstances are very encouraging for the continuation of the STS growth in the European market. This growth is no longer exclusively ensured by a few leading countries, such as Germany and Austria, but by new countries like Spain, Italy, and France, and even Portugal and the UK," notes Frost and Sullivan Hammam Ahmed, Research Analyst.

Motivated by meeting their national and international commitments to decrease dependency on fossil fuel and create more jobs, many European governments are spurring on domestic markets through a number of incentive programmes, providing support for R and D, and raising public awareness. The solar thermal market is being increasingly supported by these governments.

Financial incentives, lessoning the burden of petitioning for building permission are ways governments have been stimulating STS growth. At times European governments have gone as far as introducing new legislation that requires or goads installing solar systems in buildings, either under construction or being renovated. By softening regulations, governments will continue to have a positive impact in the long term.

Customer attitudes about solar thermal systems are also becoming more optimistic. The combination of solar thermal systems becoming more affordable and noticeably cutting customers' energy bills has improved the public perception of this technology.

Public support is directly related to the growth of the STS market, as the largest sector is residential, especially single family homes, which account for almost 80% of the total market. As the public continues to search for affordable and effective alternative energy, the residential sector will continue to grow as public support does.

Finally, over the past few years many solar thermal system manufacturers significantly increased their production. These expansions are not exclusive to solar thermal system manufacturers, but traditional heating suppliers are also getting a piece of the action and including solar thermal systems in their range.

In his research, Hammam Ahmed gives an example from the UK, where some boiler manufacturers are starting to include solar thermal system along with their products, as a supplement. This kind of promotion further propels the STS market forward.

In the past five years, the STS market has overcome a lot of change and, even in the midst of a receding global economy, seems unscathed. Considering all of the elements that shape the STS market, future growth is widely anticipated.

Source - Solardaily

Time to invest in renewable technology

Myth 1: solar panels is too expensive to be of much use

In reality, today’s bulky and expensive solar panels capture only 10% or so of the sun’s energy, but rapid innovation in the US means that the next generation of panels will be much thinner, capture far more of the energy in the sun’s light and cost a fraction of what they do today. They may not even be made of silicon. First Solar, the largest manufacturer of thin panels, claims that its products will generate electricity in sunny countries as cheaply as large power stations by 2012.

Other companies are investigating even more efficient ways of capturing the sun’s energy, for example the use of long parabolic mirrors to focus light on to a thin tube carrying a liquid, which gets hot enough to drive a steam turbine and generate electricity. Spanish and German companies are installing large-scale solar power plants of this type in North Africa, Spain and the south-west of America; on hot summer afternoons in California, solar power stations are probably already financially competitive with coal. Europe, meanwhile, could get most of its electricity from plants in the Sahara desert. We would need new long-distance power transmission but the technology for providing this is advancing fast, and the countries of North Africa would get a valuable new source of income.

Myth 2: Large-scale wind power is too unreliable

Actually, during some periods earlier this year the wind provided almost 40% of Spanish power. Parts of northern Germany generate more electricity from wind than they actually need. Northern Scotland, blessed with some of the best wind speeds in Europe, could easily generate 10% or even 15% of the UK’s electricity needs at a cost that would comfortably match today’s fossil fuel prices.

The intermittency of wind power does mean that we would need to run our electricity grids in a very different way. To provide the most reliable electricity, Europe needs to build better connections between regions and countries; those generating a surplus of wind energy should be able to export it easily to places where the air is still. The UK must invest in transmission cables, probably offshore, that bring Scottish wind-generated electricity to the power-hungry south-east and then continue on to Holland and France. The electricity distribution system must be Europe-wide if we are to get the maximum security of supply.

We will also need to invest in energy storage. At the moment we do this by
pumping water uphill at times of surplus and letting it flow back down the mountain when power is scarce. Other countries are talking of developing “smart grids” that provide users with incentives to consume less electricity when wind speeds are low. Wind power is financially viable today in many countries, and it will become cheaper as turbines continue to grow in size, and manufacturers drive down costs. Some projections see more than 30% of the world’s electricity eventually coming from the wind. Turbine manufacture and installation are also set to become major sources of employment, with one trade body predicting that the sector will generate 2m jobs worldwide by 2020.

Myth 3: marine energy is a dead-end

The thin channel of water between the north-east tip of Scotland and Orkney contains some of the most concentrated tidal power in the world. The energy from the peak flows may well be greater than the electricity needs of London. Similarly, the waves off the Atlantic coasts of Spain and Portugal are strong, consistent and able to provide a substantial fraction of the region’s power. Designing and building machines that can survive the harsh conditions of fast-flowing ocean waters has been challenging and the past decades have seen repeated disappointments here and abroad. This year we have seen the installation of the first tidal turbine to be successfully connected to the UK electricity grid in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, and the first group of large-scale wave power generators 5km off the coast of Portugal, constructed by a Scottish company.

But even though the UK shares with Canada, South Africa and parts of South America some of the best marine energy resources in the world, financial support has been trifling. The London opera houses have had more taxpayer money than the British marine power industry over the past few years. Danish support for wind power helped that country establish worldwide leadership in the building of turbines; the UK could do the same with wave and tidal power.

Myth 4: nuclear power is cheaper than other low-carbon sources of electricity

If we believe that the world energy and environmental crises are as severe as is said, nuclear power stations must be considered as a possible option. But although the disposal of waste and the proliferation of nuclear weapons are profoundly important issues, the most severe problem may be the high and unpredictable cost of nuclear plants.

The new nuclear power station on the island of Olkiluoto in western Finland is a clear example. Electricity production was originally supposed to start this year, but the latest news is that the power station will not start generating until 2012. The impact on the cost of the project has been dramatic. When the contracts were signed, the plant was supposed to cost €3bn (£2.5bn). The final cost is likely to be more than twice this figure and the construction process is fast turning into a nightmare. A second new plant in Normandy appears to be experiencing similar problems. In the US, power companies are backing away from nuclear because of fears over uncontrollable costs.

Unless we can find a new way to build nuclear power stations, it looks as though CO2 capture at coal-fired plants will be a cheaper way of producing low-carbon electricity. A sustained research effort around the world might also mean that cost-effective carbon capture is available before the next generation of nuclear plants is ready, and that it will be possible to fit carbon-capture equipment on existing coal-fired power stations. Finding a way to roll out CO2 capture is the single most important research challenge the world faces today. The current leader, the Swedish power company Vattenfall, is using an innovative technology that burns the coal in pure oxygen rather than air, producing pure carbon dioxide from its chimneys, rather than expensively separating the CO2 from other exhaust gases. It hopes to be operating huge coal-fired power stations with minimal CO2 emissions by 2020.

Myth 5: electric cars are slow and ugly

We tend to think that electric cars are all like the G Wiz vehicle, with a limited range, poor acceleration and an unprepossessing appearance. Actually, we are already very close to developing electric cars that match the performance of petrol vehicles. The Tesla electric sports car, sold in America but designed by Lotus in Norfolk, amazes all those who experience its awesome acceleration. With a price tag of more than $100,000, late 2008 probably wasn’t a good time to launch a luxury electric car, but the Tesla has demonstrated to everybody that electric cars can be exciting and desirable. The crucial advance in electric car technology has been in batteries: the latest lithium batteries - similar to the ones in your laptop - can provide large amounts of power for acceleration and a long enough range for almost all journeys.

Batteries still need to become cheaper and quicker to charge, but the UK’s largest manufacturer of electric vehicles says that advances are happening faster than ever before. Its urban delivery van has a range of over 100 miles, accelerates to 70mph and has running costs of just over 1p per mile. The cost of the diesel equivalent is probably 20 times as much. Denmark and Israel have committed to develop the full infrastructure for a switch to an all-electric car fleet. Danish cars will be powered by the spare electricity from the copious resources of wind power; the Israelis will provide solar power harvested from the desert.

Myth 6: biofuels are always destructive to the environment

Making some of our motor fuel from food has been an almost unmitigated disaster. It has caused hunger and increased the rate of forest loss, as farmers have sought extra land on which to grow their crops. However the failure of the first generation of biofuels should not mean that we should reject the use of biological materials forever. Within a few years we will be able to turn agricultural wastes into liquid fuels by splitting cellulose, the most abundant molecule in plants and trees, into simple hydrocarbons. Chemists have struggled to find a way of breaking down this tough compound cheaply, but huge amounts of new capital have flowed into US companies that are working on making a petrol substitute from low-value agricultural wastes. In the lead is Range Fuels, a business funded by the venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, which is now building its first commercial cellulose cracking plant in Georgia using waste wood from managed forests as its feedstock.

We shouldn’t be under any illusion that making petrol from cellulose is a solution to all the problems of the first generation of biofuels. Although cellulose is abundant, our voracious needs for liquid fuel mean we will have to devote a significant fraction of the world’s land to growing the grasses and wood we need for cellulose refineries. Managing cellulose production so that it doesn’t reduce the amount of food produced is one of the most important issues we face.

Myth 7: climate change means we need more organic agriculture

The uncomfortable reality is that we already struggle to feed six billion people. Population numbers will rise to more than nine billion by 2050. Although food production is increasing slowly, the growth rate in agricultural productivity is likely to decline below population increases within a few years. The richer half of the world’s population will also be eating more meat. Since animals need large amounts of land for every unit of meat they produce, this further threatens food production for the poor. So we need to ensure that as much food as possible is produced on the limited resources of good farmland. Most studies show that yields under organic cultivation are little more than half what can be achieved elsewhere. Unless this figure can be hugely improved, the implication is clear: the world cannot feed its people and produce huge amounts of cellulose for fuels if large acreages are converted to organic cultivation.

Myth 8: zero carbon homes are the best way of dealing with greenhouse gas emissions from buildings

Buildings are responsible for about half the world’s emissions; domestic housing is the most important single source of greenhouse gases. The UK’s insistence that all new homes are “zero carbon” by 2016 sounds like a good idea, but there are two problems. In most countries, only about 1% of the housing stock is newly built each year. Tighter building regulations have no effect on the remaining 99%. Second, making a building genuinely zero carbon is extremely expensive. The few prototype UK homes that have recently reached this standard have cost twice as much as conventional houses.

Just focusing on new homes and demanding that housebuilders meet extremely high targets is not the right way to cut emissions. Instead, we should take a lesson from Germany. A mixture of subsidies, cheap loans and exhortation is succeeding in getting hundreds of thousands of older properties eco-renovated each year to very impressive standards and at reasonable cost. German renovators are learning lessons from the PassivHaus movement, which has focused not on reducing carbon emissions to zero, but on using painstaking methods to cut emissions to 10 or 20% of conventional levels, at a manageable cost, in both renovations and new homes. The PassivHaus pioneers have focused on improving insulation, providing far better air-tightness and warming incoming air in winter, with the hotter stale air extracted from the house. Careful attention to detail in both design and building work has produced unexpectedly large cuts in total energy use. The small extra price paid by householders is easily outweighed by the savings in electricity and gas. Rather than demanding totally carbon-neutral housing, the UK should push a massive programme of eco-renovation and cost-effective techniques for new construction.

Myth 9: the most efficient power stations are big

Large, modern gas-fired power stations can turn about 60% of the energy in fuel into electricity. The rest is lost as waste heat.

Even though 5-10% of the electricity will be lost in transmission to the user, efficiency has still been far better than small-scale local generation of power. This is changing fast.

New types of tiny combined heat and power plants are able to turn about half the energy in fuel into electricity, almost matching the efficiency of huge generators. These are now small enough to be easily installed in ordinary homes. Not only will they generate electricity but the surplus heat can be used to heat the house, meaning that all the energy in gas is productively used. Some types of air conditioning can even use the heat to power their chillers in summer.

We think that microgeneration means wind turbines or solar panels on the roof, but efficient combined heat and power plants are a far better prospect for the UK and elsewhere. Within a few years, we will see these small power plants, perhaps using cellulose-based renewable fuels and not just gas, in many buildings. Korea is leading the way by heavily subsidising the early installation of fuel cells at office buildings and other large electricity users.

Myth 10: all proposed solutions to climate change need to be hi-tech

The advanced economies are obsessed with finding hi-tech solutions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Many of these are expensive and may create as many problems as they solve. Nuclear power is a good example. But it may be cheaper and more effective to look for simple solutions that reduce emissions, or even extract existing carbon dioxide from the air. There are many viable proposals to do this cheaply around the world, which also often help feed the world’s poorest people. One outstanding example is to use a substance known as biochar to sequester carbon and increase food yields at the same time.

Biochar is an astonishing idea. Burning agricultural wastes in the absence of air leaves a charcoal composed of almost pure carbon, which can then be crushed and dug into the soil. Biochar is extremely stable and the carbon will stay in the soil unchanged for hundreds of years. The original agricultural wastes had captured CO2 from the air through the photosynthesis process; biochar is a low-tech way of sequestering carbon, effectively for ever. As importantly, biochar improves fertility in a wide variety of tropical soils. Beneficial micro-organisms seem to crowd into the pores of the small pieces of crushed charcoal. A network of practical engineers around the tropical world is developing the simple stoves needed to make the charcoal. A few million dollars of support would allow their research to benefit hundreds of millions of small farmers at the same time as extracting large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Source - The guardian

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Homes And Businesses Go Solar With No Upfront Cost

Renewable Funding is now providing a first-in-the-nation financial service allowing property owners to install solar panels and pay for them over 20 years through a voluntary line item on their property tax bills.

The company provides a complete financing and administration package to cities interested in offering this financial product to property owners. The City of Berkeley selected Renewable Funding to finance
and administer its nationally recognized new solar and energy efficiency program.

This innovative financing program, known as CityFIRST, overcomes the principal obstacle that has hindered widespread adoption of solar and energy efficiency projects by homeowners and small businesses -- the daunting upfront cost.

With CityFIRST, owners can afford to install solar installations and major energy efficiency projects and pay for them over 20 years. If the property is subsequently sold, the repayment obligation transfer to the new owner.

"CityFIRST is a game-changer for solar and energy efficiency," said Stephen Compagni Portis, Renewable Funding's founder and chairman.

"With CityFIRST, people are converting their homes and businesses to clean energy with little or no additional cost. We are making it as easy to go solar as it is to pay your utility bill."

CityFIRST is quickly gaining steam as a pillar of government and community based efforts to reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Both California and Colorado have passed new state laws enabling any city or county to implement the CityFIRST program. Dozens of cities have announced an interest in replicating the program.

"The CityFIRST program eliminates the most significant roadblock to widespread adoption of solar and energy efficiency. It turns a large upfront capital cost into small incremental payments. I expect hundreds of cities will quickly move to adopt this program," said Professor Daniel Kammen, Director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory
at UC Berkeley and an advisor to Renewable Funding. Kammen recently highlighted the CityFIRST program in testimony before the U.S. Congress.

Renewable Funding is led by an experienced management team, including Cisco DeVries, Mimi Frusha, and Stephen Compagni Portis.

Source - Solardaily

Texas Renewable Energy Project Of The Year

WorldWater and Solar Technologies has announced that the San Benito, Texas Solar Energy Project - designed, engineered and installed by WorldWater - has been chosen by the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association (TREIA) as "Texas Renewable Energy Project of the Year."

The award was given out at the recent TREIA annual meeting in Austin, which recognized WorldWater along with its project partners - the City of San Benito, Texas General Land Office, the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the North American Development Bank.

The 45 kW solar array is the largest of its kind on the Texas-Mexico border, and was constructed to help power the new water treatment plant for the City of San Benito, Texas. It utilizes 224 ground mounted solar panels that tilt to follow the sun during the course of the day, producing more energy than fixed tilt systems.

The system will produce 75 thousand kWh per year of clean, dependable electricity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by three million pounds, or the equivalent of 3,000 barrels of oil. The project will provide about 10 percent of the power used to filter water at the plant.

"While many of the projects that WorldWater has completed are more significant in size, we are pleased to report that the San Benito project is the largest solar installation of its kind along the Texas-Mexico border," said Frank Smith, CEO, WorldWater and Solar Technologies.

"We hope that flat plate and concentrator solar technology - which we also produce through our subsidiary, ENTECH - will attract more public attention in this geographic area as a viable alternative energy source."

The Texas General Land Office selected San Benito as the site for its border solar showcase project using funds provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The North American Development Bank agreed to monitor the project, intending to incorporate solar energy into future border infrastructure projects.

"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to play a role in the evolution of solar energy technologies," said Moises Madrid, Project Coordinator for the City of San Benito. "Our city is grateful to Soll Sussman and Commissioner Jerry Patterson for working closely with us to see this come to a reality."

Souce - Solardaily

Claim solar panels grants – but do it now

GREEN support services provider eaga is urging local authorities and housing associations across the UK to apply for funding from the Low Carbon Buildings Programme before it runs out next year.

The Government-funded scheme encourages the take up of low and zero-carbon energy sources. It will match fund up to 50% of the cost of installation projects to a maximum value of £1m.

But applications must be made by June 2009 and the cash must be spent by June 2010.

FTSE 250 eaga has considerable experience in facilitating access to the Low Carbon Buildings Programme funds and fitting renewable energy sources such as solar thermal panels.

It has worked with numerous local authorities and housing associations across the UK and has recently helped launch a renewable energy education programme for local students by donating a solar demonstrator panel to Yardleys Science College in Birmingham.

Steve Caseley, managing director of eaga Renewables, said: “The Government recently increased the Climate Change Bill targets for reducing the UK’s greenhouse emissions from 60% to 80% by 2050.

“While this positions the UK at the forefront of efforts to tackle climate change – it will also dramatically ramp up the pressure on local authorities and similar organisations to cut their carbon emissions.

“Securing funds from the Low Carbon Buildings Programme can help meet these demanding targets. Indeed, if organisations get their renewable and low carbon energy management right, they could also tap into exciting opportunities ahead through potential feed in tariffs. Hospitals, for example, could create their own renewable or low-carbon power source and then sell any surplus back to the national grid.

This already happens in other European countries and every indication is that the same will happen here.”

Using the sun as a renewable power source, solar thermal panels can convert enough heat to provide up to 60% of a typical household’s hot water needs. A 4sq m panel can also cut annual CO2 emissions by up to a tonne.

Even in overcast conditions the solar panels can still absorb up to 65% of available energy.

For local authorities and social housing providers they can therefore offer an extremely economical and efficient source of renewable energy, particularly for homes or properties which have no access to mains gas or which are in remote rural areas and hard to reach.

Source - NE Business

Sunday, 16 November 2008

LA's First Solar-Powered, All-Green Urban Community Premieres In Hollywood

Utility costs may be rising, but utility rates will remain at an all-time low at one eco-friendly Southern California community. The Gatsby Hollywood has announced it will be Metro L.A.'s first all solar-powered, all-green urban community.

The enclave is now under construction on the corner of Hollywood's Fountain and Wilcox Avenues. A first for the area, the all-new, single-family-home community offers premier sun-powered features and a Certified California Green Builder stamp of approval.

This collection of 34 detached homes will reduce each resident's carbon footprint, while lowering monthly utility bills by as much as 60%.

The Gatsby Hollywood is planned and developed by MasterCraft Homes. Energy-saving features include solar roof panels that generate clean energy from the sun. The solar panels collect sunlight, which is channeled to an inverter and converted to electricity for household use.

Any unused electricity is fed back into the energy grid and the local utility company may give credit for the unused energy. The captured solar energy actually turns the home's electric meter backwards. This reliable power generation also comes with an included warranty and free internet-based solar panel monitoring for 10 years.

Other home features include Energy Star appliances that reduce green house emissions and Bosch Tankless Electric Water Heaters, which provide water and energy conservation as well as an 82% thermal efficiency rating with up to a 50% reduction in water use.

The Gatsby homes are warm during the winter and cool during the summer, thanks to the benefits of modern technologies, including dual-pane windows with Low-E coating. The homes' environmental insulation maintains even temperatures throughout the residence while cutting heating and cooling costs.

The energy-efficient interior and exterior lighting also conserves energy and reduces electric bills. Other thoughtful green building technologies used throughout the community range from drought-resistant California native plant landscaping and low-emitting building materials to recycled construction waste and lumber culled from managed forests.

The Gatsby Hollywood's all-new California Brownstones offer Southern California homebuyers single-family residences made possible through the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance.

Adopted by the Los Angeles City Council in 2004, the ordinance allows developers to build new homes on a single land parcel in areas zoned for multifamily housing, which ultimately encourages community development in existing neighborhoods near job centers.

This crucial legislation helps enable builders meet the demand of California's increasing infill housing need.

Source - Solar Daily

Homes And Businesses Go Solar With No Upfront Cost

Renewable Funding is now providing a first-in-the-nation financial service allowing property owners to install solar panels and pay for them over 20 years through a voluntary line item on their property tax bills.

The company provides a complete financing and administration package to cities interested in offering this financial product to property owners. The City of Berkeley selected Renewable Funding to finance and administer its nationally recognized new solar and energy efficiency program.

This innovative financing program, known as CityFIRST, overcomes the principal obstacle that has hindered widespread adoption of solar and energy efficiency projects by homeowners and small businesses -- the daunting upfront cost.

With CityFIRST, owners can afford to install solar installations and major energy efficiency projects and pay for them over 20 years. If the property is subsequently sold, the repayment obligation transfer to the new owner.

"CityFIRST is a game-changer for solar and energy efficiency," said Stephen Compagni Portis, Renewable Funding's founder and chairman.

"With CityFIRST, people are converting their homes and businesses to clean energy with little or no additional cost. We are making it as easy to go solar as it is to pay your utility bill."

CityFIRST is quickly gaining steam as a pillar of government and community based efforts to reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Both California and Colorado have passed new state laws enabling any city or county to implement the CityFIRST program. Dozens of cities have announced an interest in replicating the program.

"The CityFIRST program eliminates the most significant roadblock to widespread adoption of solar and energy efficiency. It turns a large upfront capital cost into small incremental payments. I expect hundreds of cities will quickly move to adopt this program," said Professor Daniel Kammen, Director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at UC Berkeley and an advisor to Renewable Funding. Kammen recently highlighted the CityFIRST program in testimony before the U.S. Congress.

Renewable Funding is led by an experienced management team, including Cisco DeVries, Mimi Frusha, and Stephen Compagni Portis.

Source - Solar Daily

UK energy blackouts warning

UK Energy experts asked by BBC News warn the UK could face an unacceptable risk of major blackouts in less than 10 years unless policy is improved.

They said the government has dithered for too long over policies vital to energy security and climate security.

But they added that forecasts of an imminent power crisis were far-fetched.

The possible energy gap is being created because of the impending closure before 2015 of nine of our major coal and oil-powered plants.This is due to an EU directive on acid rain. The issue is compounded by the closure of four ageing nuclear plants during the same period.

We do not claim our questionnaire of 30 experts is definitive. But its findings do help to map out the scale of the huge challenge facing the new secretary of energy and climate change.

Experts were, for example, asked: “Under current policies there is an unacceptable risk of major blackouts in the next 10 years?” A total of 13 agreed, nine disagreed, six were undecided and three gave no answer.

Some of the experts surveyed in our questionnaire said any short-term energy gap would be filled by burning gas, which undermines our ambitions on climate change.

Another option would be to lobby the EU to keep the coal stations open, which is also harmful to the climate and, experts say, is a case of throwing good money after bad.

But others said there was an unacceptable risk of blackouts as key elements of policy appeared paralysed or compromised.

Of the 31 experts who took part in our questionnaire, there was a feeling that the government’s long-term ambitions on nuclear won’t be achieved due to a lack of industrial capacity.

And many warn that government renewables targets are unlikely to be hit thanks to a combination of a lack of political will and engineering challenges for offshore wind.

The experts demanded much more urgent action on carbon capture and storage from coal, on which the government is due to make a decision soon.

They also said the UK had to move much more quickly to improve storage of gas in depleted gas fields.

Source - BBC News

PV solar panels installation debate

PV solar panels are one of the least cost-effective ways of combating climate change and will take 100 years to pay back their installation costs, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) warned yesterday.

But as others have pointed out, the calculations failed to assume any rise in energy prices, when a conservative estimate of 10 per cent a year would transform the calculations.

In a new guide on energy efficiency, Rics said that roof panels for heating water and generating power are unlikely to save enough from bills to make them financially viable in a householder’s lifetime. In the case of solar panels to heat water for baths and showers, the institution estimates the payback time from money saved from electricity and gas bills will take more than 100 years – and up to 166 years in the worst case.

Photovoltaic (PV) panels for power – and domestic, mast-mounted wind turbines – will take between 50 and 100 years to pay back.

Given that the devices have a maximum lifetime of 30 years, they are never likely to recoup the £3,000 to £20,000 cost of their installation, according to Rics’ building cost information service. Instead, it suggested people wanting to cut fuel bills should insulate lofts and cavity walls, install efficient light bulbs and seal windows.

Joe Martin, author of Rics’ Greener Homes Prices Guide, said there was an argument for installing solar panels but it was not an economic one. “We wanted to bring some reality to this because there are a lot of missionaries out there. The whole push for household renewable power is that you can do these things and make back money but that’s not true on existing property,” he said.

The solar power industry accused Rics of failing to take account of the rising cost of energy and other financial benefits of renewable power in its figures. Jeremy Leggett, of Solar Century, said: “They are grossly irresponsible.”

Rics assessed the cost, annual savings, disruption and payback time of various energy-saving methods and gave each an overall rating of one to five stars.

Solar panels for heating and power and wind turbines generating between 3kW and 5kW merited two stars. Smaller 1.5kW turbines of the type installed on roofs paid back in 25 years, received a three-star rating.

By contrast, cavity wall insulation had a five-star rating: spending £440 would save £145 a year in fuel bills, paying back in three years, while an investment of £325 in extra loft insulation would save £60 annually, paying back in five years.

The figures were compiled before energy companies put up bills by up to 30 per cent last month and ignore state subsidies.

Last year, the Department for Trade and Industry slashed grants for the installation of household renewable power by 83 per cent, infuriating the fledgling micro-generation industry which complained the move rendered solar panels unaffordable to all but the wealthy.

Jeremy Leggett, executive chairman of Solar Century, complained that Rics’ figures failed to assume any rise in energy prices, when a conservative estimate of 10 per cent a year would transform the calculations.

In addition, Rics had failed to take account of a number of other benefits – renewable obligations certificates worth £160 a year to householders from next year; reductions in energy consumption of up to 40 per cent for schemes with a meter; the rising payments from energy companies for spare electricity put back into the national grid; and the increased value of an energy-efficient home.

He estimated the current payback of power-generating PV panels was 13 years.

Rics countered by saying it had not taken account of maintenance costs and that it deliberately chose not to include “ifs” in its figures. “I doubt however you do the sums, they [solar panels] make sense,” a spokesman said.

Source - The Independent

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Solar panels look brighter with Obama

The election of Barack Obama has put the wind back into the sails of the renewable energy sector, where investor confidence had been badly punctured by the credit crisis. Clean technology and green energy stocks have soared as City analysts predict a major boost from the incoming president.

Solar Integrated Technologies rose by 30% yesterday after increases of 22% by Renewable Energy Corporation and 16% by the wind turbine maker Vestas in the 24 hours before, when they were helped upwards by oil prices returning to above $70 a barrel.

Obama has promised to invest $150bn over 10 years in renewables as part of a wider plan to increase US energy security amid fear of oil shortages, while also reducing the country’s carbon emissions in a bid to tackle global warming - and create jobs during an economic downturn.

Kate Hampton, head of policy at Climate Change Capital, a UK-based investment manager, was one of many who welcomed the poll result as a massive step forward for renewables.

“We cannot overstate how divisive the Bush administration was, how far behind the US now is in the transition to the low-carbon economy and how high expectations are now that Obama is the president-elect,” she said.

Dean Cooper, alternative energy analyst with Ambrian Partners in London, predicted widespread change in the US with production tax credits for the wind industry increased from one year to seven years and a national renewable-energy guideline introduced alongside a cap-and-trade scheme to give more certainty on a carbon price.

The moves come as Britain has recently put more muscle into its low-carbon drive by creating a new government department to cover energy and climate change, while Spain, Germany and other European nations press ahead with their own plans to boost renewables.

The US election result has provided a much-needed boost at a critical time for an emerging investment sector that risked being crushed by the banking crisis and emerging economic recession. Some companies had seen their share prices halve in the turmoil that began in September.

“Since the onset of the most recent phase of the credit crisis, the European wind sector has been battered with an unweighted average decline of 45% compared to a decline of 23% for both the S&P 500 and FTSE Eurofirst 300 over the same period,” said Michael McNamara, analyst at Jefferies & Co, in a research note published at the height of the sell-off.

“Much of this has been linked to fears that wind power developers would see themselves cut off from access to financing due to a toxic combination of a potential global closure of the project finance market and a drying up of demand for tax equity investment in the US.”

Sentiment in the City and Wall Street has steadied since, but the dependence on project finance at a time when the cost of money has soared continues to cast uncertainty over a sector that is also nervous about rising costs and planning delays in countries such as Britain.

Peter Horsburgh, a manager of the Environmental Technologies Fund, said early start-up businesses were going to find it much harder to raise capital and those who had rushed early into a stockmarket listing could find it hard to win secondary tranches of cash.

“Rights issues are going to be incredibly difficult and yet neither is bank lending going to be easy for small and medium-sized firms,” said Horsburgh, who expects his own fund will look at less speculative, “later stage” companies that have defined revenue streams.

In fact, there is nothing new about volatility in the clean tech and green energy sector, with share prices being driven in the past to hugely inflated levels on the back of hyped euphoria that sucked in investors before being rapidly deflated as realism set in.

The dotcom boom surrounding internet stocks was followed in the US at the turn of the century by a bubble in solar and hydrogen companies that soon burst. A similar spike happened in Europe with Vestas among the companies whose future looked in doubt at one stage.

Global solar stocks have suffered since last Christmas over fears of an oversupply of modules and cells, while wind turbine makers have been hit since the highs of the summer by soaring input costs. Confidence in the offshore wind sector in Britain was also dented by Shell’s decision to sell up its interest in the huge London Array project.

Peter Fusaro, chairman of energy consultant Global Change Associates, said the green investment sector remained still relatively small but “fat with hype and fluff”.

But it is also growing. Whereas there were four hedge funds looking at the sector in 2004 there are more than 90 today, while an estimated 4,000 private equity funds are said to be targeting the sector, according to Fusaro.

But the profit margins in many of the renewable sectors are relatively small, making them particularly vulnerable to a serious global economic slowdown and rising inflation. However, Kevin Collins, chief operating officer at the specialist renewables insurer GCube, said he was confident of the long-term value in the sector. He also warned: “Are the banks and lenders going to be in a position to finance projects as they were? We don’t see a massive slow-up in demand yet, but its early days and while renewables will continue to grow it is difficult to say at what rate.”

Many of the pioneers of low-carbon energy are dependent on public subsidy to survive. There is a question over whether bank bail-outs will have drained the state coffers and lead to a slowdown in environmental grants.

France, Germany and Austria have already called for an easing of European Union climate goals to help industries cope better with the downturn. In Washington one Republican senator said, on condition of anonymity, that the green bubble had burst.

“There is a very large question mark hanging over the idea that Congress would take economy-wide action on global warming with the economy in such anaemic shape,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.

Source - The Guardian

Thursday, 6 November 2008

SolFocus And EMPE Solar Sign Deal For 10MW Project

SolFocus has announced the signing of a US$103 million (euro 80M) agreement with EMPE Solar to install over 10 megawatts (MW) of CPV solar energy projects in several sites across southern Spain by the end of 2010.

SolFocus' CPV systems use a proven combination of high-efficiency PV cells and advanced optics to provide high solar energy yields at competitive costs for commercial, industrial, and utility applications. This project will be the largest deployment of CPV technology in Europe, and will be capable of meeting the domestic energy requirements for a city of approximately 40,000 residents.

"CPV, with its high energy density and output, is an ideal solution for the Spanish market, providing more clean, reliable energy with a small land footprint and low lifetime cost," said Gary D. Conley, CEO and Chairman of SolFocus.

"As we continue to drive down costs towards becoming competitive with fossil fuels, sophisticated partners like EMPE Solar will play a critical role in breaking new ground throughout the Mediterranean."

The SolFocus-EMPE deal comes after SolFocus recently completed two utility-scale CPV projects for the Institute of Concentration Photovoltaic Systems (ISFOC) in Spain. Through the 3 MW ISFOC project, SolFocus demonstrated CPV's ability to scale to aggressive energy production targets while showcasing the overall system reliability and efficiency.

Eduardo Goicoechea and Sebastian Sagues, Partners at EMPE Solar, explain: "EMPE Solar seeks only the most innovative solutions to reduce electricity production costs for our customers. SolFocus has proven its technology's value in our region, and we are confident it will enable us to quickly achieve our cost targets for carbon-free energy."

CPV technology, a rapidly growing disruptive energy technology, is targeted to the high solar resource areas of the world. SolFocus CPV leverages readily available, low-cost materials such as glass and aluminum to provide rapid scalability to hundreds of megawatts of solar electricity.

Using mirrors and advanced reflective optics, SolFocus modules concentrate the sun's rays 500 times onto a small high efficiency solar cell resulting in use of 1/1000 the amount of photovoltaic material used in traditional PV systems.

SolFocus panels are integrated onto an advanced sun-tracking system allowing the systems to produce energy throughout the day, providing ideal delivery to peak demand requirements.

The SolFocus CPV system is 95% recyclable being primarily aluminum and glass. In its first year of operation this 10 megawatt installation will eliminate the generation of 27,000 tons of CO2 emissions which would have resulted from traditional fossil fuel energy generation.

The technology also offers the lowest carbon footprint of any solar energy solution, and capitalizes on mature manufacturing processes and tools such as are used in the automotive and electronics industries.

Souce - Solar daily

Inner-City College Solar Project Major Step Toward Energy Independence

As we find ourselves faced with escalating fuel costs and depleting natural resources, the clamor for answers is growing every day. With its latest inner-city solar project at L.A. Southwest College (LASC), the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) is doing more than just listening to the call for action -- it is continuing its ambitious move toward ultimately declaring energy independence for the entire district.

LASC's new four (4) megawatt (MW) solar project, which was designed and constructed by Chevron Energy Solutions, marks another major milestone in LACCD's sustained efforts to make its colleges carbon neutral through its Renewable Energy Plan.

This new project also solidifies the District's commitment to "greening" the inner-city, and will serve as a living model for under-served students, allowing them to study renewable technologies as it relates to design, construction, chemistry and physics.

Earlier this year, in partnership with Chevron Energy Solutions, the District unveiled a 1.2 MW project at East L.A. College -- another inner-city campus. Both projects will serve to prepare students for the "green collar" jobs of the 21st century.

When completed, the District's projects will comprise one of the largest urban solar generation facilities in the United States.

"This project is another major push toward our ultimate goal to declare our energy independence and foster awareness of green concepts and technology in traditionally underserved areas," said Dr. Marshall Drummond, chancellor, Los Angeles Community College District.

"We are energized by Southwest's project, as it gives us an exciting chance to highlight the District's commitment to building green and to developing a new pipeline of eco-conscious workers for the green workforce."

The LACCD spends approximately $12 million annually on energy; LASC spent $1.8 million in 2007 alone. The first phase of LASC's green-energy program will allow the College to save the District $280,000 per year and meet all of the school's electric needs by generating more than 5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.

The photovoltaic farms will consist of two (2) MW arrays mounted atop five carport structures, one (1) MW integrated onto building rooftops and one (1) MW installed on ground-mounted arrays with tracking systems.

In total, the campus will gain four (4) megawatts of solar power, which is expected to offset production of 3,800 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually - equivalent to removing 1,050 cars from the road. Both phases of the project are expected to be completed by the end of 2009.

LASC is also going to be utilizing additional green energy technologies, including Urban Wind Generation, which is designed to capture the accelerated wind currents as they sweep between and over campus buildings. Initially, the College is planning on installing a small array of six one (1) kilowatt units, with more units planned over time.

A Geothermal Heat Exchange system will also use the natural constant ambient temperature of the Earth to heat in the winter and cool in the summer. The process works in much the same way as standard air conditioner, except a geothermal system uses water or loop fluid that remains at a constant temperature.

"I'm proud of the steps the District has taken to be a leader in the area of clean energy," said Kelly G. Candaele, president, Board of Trustees, LACCD. "Each energy project we unveil is a tangible symbol of the commitment we have made to operate better as a District and cause less negative impact on our environment
and our future."

LASC is also requesting a $1.4 million financial incentive over a five year period from the California Solar Initiative Program for the Photovoltaic Phase of the program.

The Program offers customers installing up to one (1) MW of solar panels a financial incentive based on performance, which can be used to offset the cost of the system over a five year period. Additional funding will be pursued for the renewable component of the program through State, Federal and Utility agencies.

Through the District's continued partnership with Chevron Energy Solutions, it has been able to meet its energy independence goals. Chevron Energy Solutions has developed hundreds of projects involving energy efficiency or renewable power for education, government and business customers in the U.S. since 2000.

"The Los Angeles Community College District and other educational institutions are using solar projects to reduce their carbon footprint, achieve cost savings and teach their students about renewable energy," said Jim Davis, president of Chevron Energy Solutions. "We are delighted to be a partner in this clean energy program."

Source - Solardaily

Monday, 3 November 2008

UK aims to support solar panels from 2010

The UK says it wants to guarantee a price premium for small producers of renewable power, for example from the wind and sun, from 2010.

The government included the proposals in amendments tabled Wednesday to an energy bill being debated and due to pass into law by December this year.

The plan would support households and communities which install solar panels or small wind turbines on their property.

They would earn a feed-in tariff, which guarantees a price premium for supplying electricity from renewable sources into the national grid.

“We hope to have it available by 2010,” said a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change Thursday.

Britain’s present price support, or renewables obligation (RO), is considered complicated and bureaucratic for small producers, and will be replaced by a feed-in tariff for microgeneration of renewable electricity up to 3 megawatts (MW) — enough to power about 1,500 homes.

The 3 MW cut-off would make feed-in tariffs available for schools, hospitals and communities as well as households.

“We don’t want to tinker with the RO,” the spokeswoman added. Some 95 percent of RO claimants now were above the 3 MW threshold.

The RO forces utilities to get a certain portion of their electricity from renewable sources or else pay a penalty, money which is then used to pay renewable power producers.

Feed-in tariffs have been very effective in boosting the adoption of solar power by households, farmers and communities in Germany. Such tariffs, also very popular in Spain, guarantee a certain power price premium typically for 20-25 years.

The government had not yet decided on the value or duration of a British tariff, the spokeswoman added.

Under EU targets Britain will have to get 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 compared to just 1.3 percent in 2005.

Source - Reuters