Sunday, 28 June 2009

The UK to lead the way on climate change

The prime minister is to pledge UK leadership in the international battle against climate change.

He is due to launch a document showing what the UK will offer to the Copenhagen conference tasked with forging a new global climate agreement.

Climate Secretary Ed Miliband described the conference as “make or break time for the climate”.
The Road to Copenhagen document will outline plans for ongoing emissions cuts in the UK.
It will also contain practical advice to people on how they can cut emissions and often save money too.
The document will focus on UK ambitions for the Copenhagen conference and also for the G8 meeting, soon to take place in Italy.

At that summit, leaders of the world’s top polluting nations – including emerging economies – will attempt to clear a path for a global deal.

The UK plays a leading role in international negotiations and is on track to exceed the targets for emissions cuts agreed under the current Kyoto Protocol.

But new figures from the Stockholm Institute – a respected research body – throw a different light on the UK’s performance.

The climate department DECC says, for instance, that although China’s total emissions are immense, the average European is responsible for emitting twice as much greenhouse gases as the average person in Chinese.

But the official tally of emissions does not include aviation and shipping, and it takes no account of emissions embedded in imported goods.

When these are taken into account, the institute calculates that the average UK resident pollutes 15 tonnes a year – almost five times more than the average Chinese person at 3.1 tonnes a year.
This implies that the UK should be making much deeper cuts in emissions than are already planned.
The Scottish Parliament voted this week to cut Scottish emissions by 42% by 2020, compared with a UK target of 34%.

The Scottish cuts will include aviation and shipping, but not embedded emissions.

The failure to calculate embedded emissions has damaged the reputation of countries like China which are making goods for export to the West but then being blamed for the pollution.

Source - BBC

New property will be installed with solar panels

Solar panels should be a fundamental part of all future housing stock built in the UK, the National Energy Foundation (NEF) believes.

The organisation, which helps homes and businesses to reduce their carbon emissions by pursuing energy efficiency measures, also called for new residences to be better insulated to reduce energy consumption.

A spokesperson for the NEF said that biomass could also be a “significant” technology for helping to lower emissions tied to the nation’s energy consumption, but suggested that it is limited by how much feedstock can be grown.

“Solar is an infinite quantity,” he added. “Every single property that is built in the UK, if it doesn’t have solar panels on it then I ask, ‘Why?’”

His comments came after research from UK Climate Projections warned that t

Source - Low Carbon Economy

World's First Hybrid Solarized Gas Turbine Power Station

AORA has launched the world's first hybrid solar thermal gas turbine power station at Kibbutz Samar in southern Israel. This marks the first time that a CSP solar power station has the capability of providing environmentally-friendly, or "green" power 24 hours a day, seven days a week - at a local level.

"The size and relative price of our solar power system means it can be implemented in local as well as large-area instillations," said Haim Fried, AORA's CEO.

"This marks the beginning of a new era for solar energy, where any city, town or village can now consider AORA for its energy needs, due to the attainable price point and build-out time of just several months, versus other CSP timelines of several years."

AORA's Samar "Power Flower" station - so named due to the unique yellow tulip design concept created by architect Haim Dotan for the plant's solar tower - consists of a field of 30 tracking mirrors (heliostats) situated on half an acre of land. The power module is expected to supply 100 kW of power to the national grid, enough to sustain approximately 70 households.

Each of the station's 30 heliostats tracks the sun and reflects its rays towards the top of a 30 meter-high tower housing a special solar receiver along with a 100kW gas turbine. The patented receiver uses the sun's energy to heat air to a temperature of 1,000 degrees Celsius and directs this energy into the turbine. The turbine converts the thermal energy into electric power that will be fed directly into the national grid.

AORA's hybrid approach allows the system to run on solar radiation input, as well as almost any alternative fuel, including biogas, biodiesel and natural gas.

This flexibility enables the module to run in a variety of operation modes - from solar-only mode, where electricity is supplied when there is ample sunlight, to hybrid mode, where fuel helps generate electricity when sunlight is insufficient, such as at night or when it is cloudy. This capability offers uninterrupted, green power 24 hours-a-day.

Among the dignitaries in attendance at the AORA launch was a delegation of businesspeople from Spain, representatives from the Spanish and Israeli government and executives from power companies in Australia, Mexico and Germany who have already expressed interest in purchasing AORA's system.

At the launch, Chile-based CAM, an integrated energy solutions company, signed an agreement with AORA giving CAM the exclusive rights to market, distribute and construct AORA's technology in Chile while Greenearth Energy Ltd, a green energy company based in Melbourne, signed an agreement with AORA to exclusively market and distribute the company's technology across Australia.

Additionally, AORA and the Spanish company AORA SL signed an MOU awarding AORA SL the right to sell the technology in Spain and Portugal.

Source - Solardaily

Thursday, 25 June 2009

California Regulators Approve Solar Panel Installation Program

A plan proposed by Southern California Edison (SCE) for the largest U.S. installation of advanced solar panels on otherwise unused large commercial rooftops across Southern California has been approved by the California Public Utilities Commission.

During the next five years SCE will install, own and operate 250 megawatts of solar generating capacity. The utility also will conduct competitive solicitations offering long-term power contracts to independent solar power providers who will install an additional 250 megawatts, bringing to 500 megawatts the total generating capacity of the project - the largest photovoltaic program ever undertaken.

"This innovative solar rooftop project is part of Edison International's 25-year commitment to developing cleaner renewable and alternative energy sources for our customers," said Theodore F. Craver, Jr., Edison International chairman and CEO.

"The program will create hundreds of neighborhood solar power plants, strengthen local grid reliability and produce hundreds of new green jobs to bolster Southern California's economic recovery."

During the fall of 2008, SCE completed the first of what eventually will be about 150 sites making up this program, a 600,000-square-foot Fontana, Calif. distribution warehouse roof. The rooftop now holds 33,700 advanced thin-film solar panels with a generating capacity of 2.4 megawatts of direct current power, known as DC power - the largest single rooftop solar photovoltaic array in the nation.

SCE already has begun construction of its second installation atop a 458,000-square-foot industrial building in Chino, Calif. First Solar of Tempe, Ariz. was the winning bidder to supply panels for these first two installations.

Based on the regulatory approval, competitive solicitations will take place for the remaining roof leases and equipment needed for the 250 megawatts of facilities SCE will install and operate. A limited number of ground mounted installations also will be considered as part of SCE's solar program.

Competitive solicitations also will take place for 250 megawatts of long-term power contracts SCE will offer independent power providers who construct similar solar installations.

Potential Benefits
SCE sees numerous benefits to customers, the region and the state from its massive solar project. The program will provide a new generation source to areas where customer demand is rising. The solar modules can be connected directly and quickly to the nearest neighborhood circuit while major new renewable energy transmission lines are being built.

Additionally, the output of solar panels generally matches peak customer demand - lower in the morning and evening, higher in the afternoon.

Also, the project will allow SCE grid engineers to study the electrical effects of a high penetration of photovoltaic on distribution circuits. The information gained will be shared with the industry.

SCE anticipates its solar power project will create as many as 800 new green jobs in Southern California in the solar industry. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, one of SCE's project partners, is supporting the project through the expansion of its solar installation apprentice training program.

Source - Solar Daily

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Denmark to power electric cars by wind in vehicle-to-grid experiment

Cars could be the solution to the intermittent nature of wind power if a multimillion European project beginning on a Danish island proves successful.

The project on the holiday island of Bornholm will use the batteries of parked electric cars to store excess energy when the wind blows hard, and then feed electricity back into the grid when the weather is calm.

The concept, known as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) is widely cited among greens as a key step towards a low-carbon future, but has never been demonstrated. Now, the 40,000 inhabitants of Bornholm are being recruited into the experiment. Denmark is already a world leader in wind energy and has schemes to replace 10% of all its vehicles with electric cars, but the goal on the island is to replace all petrol cars.

Currently 20% of the island's electricity comes from wind, even though it has enough turbines installed to meet 40% of its needs. The reason it cannot use the entire capacity is the intermittency of the wind: many turbines are needed to harness sufficient power in breezes, but when gales blow the grid would overload, so some turbines are disconnected.

So the aim of the awkwardly named Electric Vehicles in a Distributed and Integrated Market using Sustainable Energy and Open Networks Project – Edison for short – is to use V2G to allow more turbines to be built and provide up to 50% of the island's supply without making the grid crash.

Each electric vehicle will have battery capacity reserved to store wind power for the island rather than for travelling. This means it acts like a buffer, says Dieter Gantenbein, a researcher at IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory. IBM is developing the software needed for the island's smart grid, and will showcase its work next week. When the cars are plugged in and charging their batteries, they will absorb any additional load the grid cannot cope with and then feed it back to power homes when needed, he says.

"It's never been tried at this scale," says Hermione Crease of Cambridge-based Sentec, which develops smart grid software. There are plenty of smart grid trials already under way, usually involving the use of software to monitor and manage supply and demand, for example, by temporarily switching off industrial cooling units during periods of peak load, she says. But unlike these so-called "negawatt" approaches, proving that cars can be used as part of the grid has yet to attempted.

Andrew Howe of RLTec in London, another smart grid technology firm, says many important questions need answers. It is not clear, for example, how the cost and lifetime of batteries will influence the economics of such a system.

These are the kinds of issue the project seeks to shed light on, says the project manager Jørgen Christensen of the Danish Energy Association, which with technology companies Siemens and Dong and the government are running the scheme.

Source - The Guardian

Solar Electricity Goes Mainstream

David Egles, one of Canada's leading authorities on the solar industry, applauds the Green Energy Act passed in Ontario.
"This could be the beginning of solar electricity going mainstream," says Egles, founder and President of Canada's foremost provider of home solar systems, Home Energy Solutions

"Solar electricity has the potential to provide significant amounts of clean energy to power Ontario homes, simply by using existing roofs," says Egles.

"The Green Energy Act will promote the growth of the solar industry, resulting in lower costs and cheaper energy in the long run."

Through the Green Energy Act's solar feed-in tariffs, homeowners installing up to 10-kilowatt solar systems are eligible to receive $0.80 for each kilowatt of excess energy their systems deliver for the next 20 years. A complete 10-kilowatt system costs approximately $100,000; on a south-facing roof, it would generate approximately $9,600 each year in income.

"An investment in solar has a strong financial yield while being a green, ethical investment," says Egles. "Over two decades, homeowners can recoup twice their initial cost - and then continue to reap all the benefits of an environment-friendly energy system."

Source - Solar Daily

PV solar panels for the credit crunch

Solar4U has launched a new line in Photovoltaic’s for domestic use. A credit crunch domestic PV solar panels system has been developed specifically to make financial sense for most homeowners.

Solar4U’s 1.0 kilowatt grid-connected photovoltaic (PV Solar Panels) system has been designed to take full advantage of current Government solar grants for installing solar technologies. It is also set to reap the benefits of increased feed-in tariffs and subsidies, due to come into effect next year.

Stuart Lovatt, Director of Solar4U, explained: “Many people look to solar panels or micro generation with some sense of environmental consciousness, there is also a compelling financial argument. What we are finding now, is people are becoming aware of the UK’s and global energy problems and are purchasing for this reason not environmental reasons, as was the case in the past.

Currently there is a unique window of opportunity for Britain’s homeowners and those who take advantage before 2010 will have the double benefit of receiving solar grant money as well as almost certainly benefiting from the generous feed-in tariffs which will be introduced from April 2010.”

The new system has been created to attract a near-maximum Government grant of £2,500, as well as to require no planning permission assuming certain basic criteria are met such as basic energy efficiency measures like loft insulation, low energy light bulbs used and cavity walls insulated.

On average, it will generate 1000kWh per year, about a third of the typical UK annual domestic usage. Energy is fed into the property’s electrical network to meet its power requirements when necessary, but when there is little or no demand in your home, the system automatically exports the excess power to the National Grid for which you will be credited annually.

Additional income can also be generated by selling (ROCs) Renewable Obligation Certificates to energy companies that are required by law to generate a percentage of their energy from sustainable sources.

Source - Heat my home

The problem with Solartwin

Stuart Lovatt, ex employee of Solartwin, would like to share my experience’s, good and bad about Solartwin and it’s product, so you may benefit from my experience.

I began promoting their product on my website (aimed at promoting the use of solar panels) Heat my Home back in 2004. Like many of their customers I thought the concept and thinking behind the product was great and it was.

My website began bringing them many interested potential customers, so much so that they offered me a job within the company. I took their offer and moved to Chester to begin my new career.

My perception of Solartwin began to change, after a manager in charge of after-sales service left the company and told me how many unhappy customers they really had. (this was kept secret from other employee’s). This was the reason he was leaving, 76 and growing, customers all with broken panels, noisey pumps or leaks. He had enough and left.

Shortly after this they were banned from the government approved list of solar technologies, and the Solar Trade Association expelled them for good.

My conscious kicked in. Unhappy I confronted the managers that I was unhappy and their only solution was to encourage me to lie to new customers. This I could not do. Solartwin began a policy of bullying to make me toe the company line, but this came to a head when I left because the bullying and nastiness aimed at me became to much to bear. I handed my resignation letter in.

During this time the sales coming into the company drastically reduced and the unhappy customers had risen further. Panels only installed 5-2 years ago were encountering problems. (A good solar panel should easily last 25-30 years)

I took Solartwin to an employment tribunal, were they settled out of court.

My bad experience’s continued recently when they tried to accuse me of fraudulently using services worth £2000 when in fact it was only £69. This was due to a mix up when I left the company about website access. This issue was dealt with outside of court and the £69 returned.

The Solartwin Product – By my experience


1. You can use your existing old hot water tank.
2. It uses a PV solar panel to power the pump.
3. Can easily be installed as a DIY solar panel.


1. Installing to an old tank is a false economy. You will need to change your tank anyway in the see able future and the panel will become unusable on your modern tank.
2. The pump is a cheap car’s windscreen washer pump.
3. The pump is strapped to your rafters with a cheap piece of insulating foam and tie grips.
4. The panel its self is only a large piece of builders (Kingspan) foam encased into a plastic box.
5. The price of the product does not match the quality of the product.
6. The performance of the panel is poor.
7. The pump is noisey and generally situated above your bedroom.
8. Solartwin promote their product as ZERO Carbon. Lying to their customer even in their marketing. Nothing is Zero Carbon not even tree’s.

I myself continued to promote QUALITY solar panels through my website Heat my Home.

Source - Heatmyhome

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Africa's sun to power Europe's homes?

A group of 20 German companies wants to invest $555 billion in concentrated solar power plants in northern Africa to sell green power to Europe and make the continent less dependent on oil and gas imports.

It would be one of the world's biggest private renewable energy projects: Some 20 German companies are planning to join forces to build CSP plants in northern Africa and transport the electricity to Europe via new, direct current power grids.

The consortium, to be formed by mid-July, includes, among others, economic powerhouse Siemens, finance institution Deutsche Bank and energy giant RWE, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reports. The ambitious green project, dubbed "Desertec," could produce power as early as 2019 and eventually satisfy 15 percent of Europe's electricity demand, Torsten Jeworrek, a Munich Re board member, told the newspaper.

The companies, backed by German government officials and the Club of Rome, plan to invest some $555 billion in the deserts of northern Africa. The money would not only be used for building the CSP plants, but also the gird infrastructure needed to bring the electricity to Europe.

"This is no longer a distant vision but technologically fascinating and also achievable," Jeworrek said in a statement Tuesday. "Desertec is clearly banking on the right incentives in the long term, namely climate protection and a low-carbon energy sector."

European energy experts have long advocated making the sunny African deserts Europe's power bank in order to reduce the continent's dependence on oil and gas imports from Russia and the Middle East. As its domestic fossil fuel resources are quickly depleting, Europe will have to transform its energy mix to avoid rising import dependence, experts say. In the case of solar power from Africa, however, investors have always been deterred by the high up-front investment required.

Munich Re is now banking on several international partners, also from the government side, to help finance the project.

"We are very optimistic when it comes to Italy and Spain, and we are also getting positive signals out of northern Africa," Jeworrek told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Only France, he added, might be hard to convince because of its reliance on nuclear energy.

A similar project in southern Spain was realized only when a feed-in tariff was implemented to pay for the electricity generated there. But Jeworrek said the plant would not need permanent support. He expects Desertec to be competitive "within 10 to 15 years."

Jeworrek added the consortium would choose the plants' locations according to political stability. The host countries would benefit from taxes, job creation and technology transfer, observers say.

Source - Solardaily

UK MPs back solar panels campaign

The solar industry’s campaign to secure political support for its efforts, as the government shapes new renewable energy subsidy schemes, has now gained more than 250 signatures from MPs.

The “We Support Solar” campaign is aiming to highlight solar power as being a “key element” of the UK’s attempts to hit European targets to source 15% of its energy from renewable sources before 2020.

It wants government to bridge the current funding gap for solar photovoltaic (PV solar panels) projects following the end of the Low Carbon Buildings Programme Phase Two.

Back in February, the campaign introduced into Parliament an Early Day Motion – a statement that is not normally debated by MPs, but can be signed up by them to indicate their support – expressing concern about the treatment of solar power by government policy.

It has now become the most supported motion in the current Parliamentary session.

Put forward on the campaign’s behalf by Labour backbencher Colin Challen, the MP for Rothwell and Morley, the motion said the government’s draft Renewable Energy Strategy, which was issued for consultation last summer, gave solar photovoltaic technology a “negative treatment”.

It called on ministers to put the technology centre stage, adding that it would be important in delivering carbon dioxide emission cuts in the built environment while also potentially creating “tens of thousands” of new “green” jobs in the UK.

As of this afternoon (June 15), the motion had secured 255 signatures.

Mr Challen said: “The wide range of support from all sides of the House for my motion underlines the extent of Parliamentary feeling on this issue.

“Today, there is still unnecessary uncertainty surrounding the level of solar PV funding under the Low Carbon Buildings Programme Phase Two, as well as an enormous opportunity to drive forward this technology through the forthcoming feed-in tariffs.”

Mr Challen said “many hundreds” of jobs were under threat because potential solar customers would be waiting until the start of the feed-in tariffs subsidy scheme before investing. The scheme is to start in April 2010.

“I hope very much therefore that Ministers are listening to Parliamentarians on this issue. It’s important that solar PV is treated positively in the final renewable energy strategy document and feed-in tariff consultation both expected before the summer recess,” he said.

The message was backed by industry figures, including Andrew Lee, general manager at Sharp Solar UK. Mr Lee said: “If the UK is to reach its renewable energy targets set out by the EU, that will require a major contribution from solar PV. But PV solar panels was the forgotten technology in last years Government renewable energy strategy consultation. That needs to change.”

Mr Lee said the industry was now urging government to continue grant funding schemes for solar panels until the introduction of feed-in tariffs in April 2010.

“Failure to do this will result in many hundreds of job losses in the UK solar PV industry, just at the time when we should be investing with confidence for the start of the feed-in tariff next year,” he said.

Simon Hughes MP, the Lib Dem front bench spokesman for energy, said it “beggars belief” that two months after the government’s Budget statements promising support for renewable energy projects, the solar PV industry “is still faced with a suspension of grants under the Low Carbon Buildings Programme, dating back to 23 March”.

Mr Hughes said: “Ministers now need to get on top of this situation urgently and resolve the ongoing solar PV funding crisis positively once and for all. Solar panels PV can play a big role in helping to deliver the UKs future renewable energy targets but the Government’s current indecision is making it impossible for UK companies to invest with confidence and to retain skilled solar jobs.”

Source - New Energy Focus

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Sainsbury's brings green power to the checkout with 'kinetic plates'

A supermarket chain will open its first "people-powered" store this week using technology that captures energy from vehicles to power its checkouts.

In a European first, Sainsbury's will install the invention at its new store in Gloucester, opening this Wednesday.

Energy will be captured every time a vehicle drives over "kinetic road plates" in the car park and then channelled back into the store.

The kinetic road plates are expected to produce 30 kWh of green energy every hour — more than enough energy to power the store's checkouts. The system, pioneered for Sainsbury's by Peter Hughes of Highway Energy Systems, does not affect the car or fuel efficiency, and drivers feel no disturbance as they drive over the plates.

Alison Austin, Sainsbury's environment manager, said: "This is revolutionary. Not only are we the first to use such cutting-edge technology with our shoppers, but customers can now play a very active role in helping make their local shop greener, without extra effort or cost.

"We want to continue offering great value but we also want to make the weekly shop sustainable. Using amazing technology like this helps us reduce our use of carbon and makes Sainsbury's a leading energy-efficient business."

The kinetic road plates are one of a number of energy-saving measures at Sainsbury's new store in Gloucester Quays, Gloucester. The store will harvest rainwater to flush the store's toilets and solar thermal panels will heat up to 100% of the store's hot water during the summer, and more than 90% of the construction waste was re-used or recycled.

David Sheehan, director of store development and construction at Sainsbury's, said: "The new environmental features within the Gloucester Quays store mark a very exciting time in store development. We are able to use cutting-edge technology to improve our services and the store environment for our customers and colleagues, at the same time as ultimately reducing our carbon footprint across the UK."

Source - The Guardian

Sunnier times ahead for solar energy as MPs back tariff boost for photovoltaic power

Britain could become a booming market for solar power from next year when the UK introduces a support system used successfully by dozens of other countries.

Last week 240 MPs signed a parliamentary motion supporting the mass rollout of solar photovoltaic (PV) power. The support was the biggest of any such motion introduced in this parliament.

Colin Challen MP, who tabled the motion, said: "There is an enormous opportunity to drive forward this technology through the forthcoming feed-in tariffs."

Feed-in tariffs (FITs) work by paying a guaranteed, above-market price for any electricity fed into the grid for a period of 20-25 years. They have been designed to offer returns close to 10%, thereby reducing payback times for any household investing in a PV system to 10 years or less.

Similar tariffs have boosted solar power in the 50-odd countries that have introduced them in the past decade, in turn promoting production of PV panels and pushing down prices to the extent that PV will not need subsidies for much longer.

"FITs have been very effective at improving take-up," Kenichiro Wakisaka, senior manager at the Japanese electronics group and PV maker Sanyo, said at the recent Intersolar trade fair in Munich. "Japan has reintroduced one and the market there will double at least. The same will happen in the UK and we will increase our allocation to the UK market."

"We are very excited about this," said Clive Collison, head of Action South Facing, a solar system installer based in Hertfordshire. "We are now getting all sorts of inquiries from companies, local authorites and individuals. But nothing is guaranteed. We don't know the level it will be set at yet and the big energy companies are still lobbying against it."

Jerermy Leggett, chairman of the British solar group Solar Century, says the British market has tremendous potential but is also concerned that some officials at the Department for Energy and Climate Change may stall the introduction of the FIT at the behest of groups arguing that nuclear power is the answer.

"If so, UK plc will essentially have to sit and watch as other countries create jobs, tax income and energy security in one of the fastest-growing industries within the emerging green industrial revolution."

The British market, along with those of China, Japan and the United States, which have also recently announced plans for feed-in tariffs and other forms of support, offers a bright future for the solar industry. After several years of meteoric growth, it has been laid low this year by the credit crunch and a change to Spain's feed-in tariff that has reduced demand in one of the world's fastest-growing markets.

The global financial crisis has hit the industry hard because its costs are high and it has had trouble accessing bank financing. This has forced companies to rein in production and cut their prices in a bid to maintain their growth.

At the same time the supply of silicon, from which PV panels are made, has finally caught up with, and overtaken, demand, giving another nudge down to prices – to the benefit of consumers.

"Prices to end-users are down about 16% this year," says Georg Salvamoser, head of the German solar industry association, BSW. "This is hard for firms' margins but it does move us an important step towards making solar energy cheaper."

He predicts that the number of projects installed in Germany – Europe's biggest market – will grow this year, although more slowly than in recent years. "Last year we installed 1.5 gigawatts peak [GWp] of PV in Germany and this year I think there will be slightly more," he said.

That total is equivalent to the power produced from about two conventional coal or gas power stations. PV in Germany accounts for about 1% of total electricity production but the country hopes to boost that to 12% by 2020 and 25% by 2030.

Stefan Dietrich, spokesman for Q-Cells – the world's largest producer of silicon PV cells – said prices had tumbled 20% this year. "Things have changed a lot. It's a buyer's market right now. But in the short term that is good because it will help the industry reach grid parity."

"Grid parity" – the point at which PV electricity is as cheap as that coming from conventional power stations – is the PV industry's holy grail. It depends on how sunny a country is and the cost of its electricity.

Dietrich thinks Italy will be the first country in Europe to hit grid parity – possibly as soon as next year. Other candidates are Hawaii and California, where grid electricity is expensive. Many other countries, including Britain, will achieve parity within three to five years, say experts.

Once that happens, demand is potentially infinite. Solar PV also has the advantage that, once installed, the buyer is protected from rising oil and gas prices for several decades.

Industry analysts iSuppli forecast in a recent report that worldwide PV installation would tumble by a third this year to about 3.5GWp. But it expects growth to explode again from 2011, reaching 25GWp annually by 2013 and giving the industry an annual turnover of nearly $100bn.

But Jerry Stokes, vice-president for strategy at Chinese group Suntech – the world's biggest maker of PV panels – says life has got tougher.

"The market is very challenging now and there is a flight to quality going on," he says. "Project developers and investors are very cautious about what they spend their money on.

"It's not just about cost per watt but the number of kilowatt-hours you will get over the lifetime of a project, 20 years and more. And we are confident that we are in front in the race to grid parity – we don't want to live off government subsidies any more."

Source - The Guardian

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Hyatt Regency Flips Switch On New Solar Power System

Hyatt Regency New Brunswick has flipped the switch to dedicate its newly installed SunPower solar power system, marking the hotel's initial step towards generating clean, renewable solar power.

The hotel partnered with SunPower to design and install the 32,000-square-foot, 421-kilowatt system over the top floor of the hotel's garage.

At a dedication ceremony, Hyatt Regency New Brunswick celebrated the completion of the new photovoltaic (PV) solar panel system. General Manager Adrian Hughes and Director of Engineering Scott Stahl addressed a group of attendees, including New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill.

"We are thrilled to be moving forward in our efforts to conserve resources," said Hughes. "The hotel has instituted many successful energy saving programs over the past several years, and solar is the next logical step to furthering our environmental commitment."

Hyatt Regency New Brunswick's solar power system utilizes SunPower's high-efficiency solar panels with its patented PowerGuard roof tile technology. PowerGuard is a non-penetrating, wind-resistant system that lies flat on the roof and provides added thermal insulation for the building and environmental protection to the roof membrane.

The output from the system will help reduce New Jersey's CO2 emissions by 10,000 tons over the next 30 years, and will further lessen oil dependence by at least 749 barrels annually, according to conversion formulas provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Using SunPower technology will maximize the amount of power generated by the system, and will also maximize Hyatt Regency New Brunswick's return on investment, saving on annual electricity costs now and over the long term," said Tom Leyden, managing director, SunPower. "We commend Hyatt Regency New Brunswick for their leadership in environmental stewardship, and for helping New Jersey attain its renewable energy goals."

Hyatt Regency New Brunswick is strongly committed to shrinking its environmental footprint by reducing, reusing and recycling. Some of the steps the hotel has taken include:

+ In April, the hotel implemented food composting with a combined recycling of metals, plastic, glass, cardboard, paper and food.

+ With the installation of a kitchen exhaust hood control system in May, the hotel anticipates an average energy savings of 206,000 kWh annually and $28,000 per year on reduced heating and air-conditioning costs.

+ The hotel has converted to CFL lights wherever possible, and has also replaced the garage lighting with QL lights, resulting in energy saving of over 192,000 kWh per year. LED lighting can also be found in various locations around the hotel, reducing electricity consumption by 375,000 kWh annually.

Source - Solardaily

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Solar Power Partners Helps LA Go Green

Solar Power Partners has officially announced that several of its solar energy facilities in the Los Angeles area are in full commercial operation and generating electricity.

The solar energy facilities include a 238.68 kW system at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena; a 601.02 kW system at BT's North America corporate headquarters offices in El Segundo; and Safeway Inc.'s Vons grocery stores in Monrovia (230.09 kW), Oxnard (187.53 kW), Corona (204.82 kW), and Murrieta (198.17 kW).

Each solar facility was financed and developed using a solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), a long-term energy financing solution that helps customers go green without the hassles or costs of solar facility ownership, operations, or maintenance.

A solar PPA allows SPP's host customers to pay only for the energy produced by the system, while SPP, alone and/or through its subsidiaries, develops, operates, and maintains the system for the length of the agreement, usually over twenty years. SPP's host customers can enjoy predictable energy rates for the life of their agreement.

"Thanks to our partnership with Solar Power Partners, BT is now not only significantly reducing carbon emissions - we're realizing reduced power costs for our site as well as helping our company fulfill its very ambitious corporate social responsibility goals," said Jon Reiter, Senior Director, Major Transactions, BT Americas.

As noted by Bill Irwin, Senior Director of Facility Management at Caltech, "SPP's experience making solar power attainable for schools and universities makes for a great long-term partnership."

"SPP is proud to be a part of solar energy initiatives by leading corporations and universities in the greater Los Angeles Area, the regional market with possibly the greatest potential for distributed commercial solar applications throughout America. Our projects with Caltech, BT, and Safeway are excellent examples of how solar Power Purchase Agreements enable entities to embrace solar energy without any of the operational hassle of owning a power plant," said Alexander v. Welczeck, President and CEO, Solar Power Partners.

SPP's dedicated asset management team operates each facility using web-based monitoring technology, which provides performance data every 15 minutes and operation alerts as necessary. SPP manages all aspects of preventative maintenance and repairs when needed.

The Caltech solar system features a 238.68 kW sized fixed rooftop array on the Holliston parking garage. The system's estimated annual solar-generated electricity eliminates 527,000 pounds of CO2 emissions from the air, which is equivalent to removing 46 cars from operation, planting 72 acres of trees, or powering 38 average homes annually.

The system at BT's office building in El Segundo is a 601 kW fixed rooftop and elevated system, including a tracking system over the main parking lot. The tracking modules move during the day to follow the sun, thereby increasing energy production.

The system is expected to generate approximately one million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of renewable electricity each year, which will reduce carbon emissions by 700,000 pounds (more than 316 metric tons) annually, helping the company fulfill its global goals for sustainability.

The four Safeway stores in Monrovia, Oxnard, Corona, and Murrieta total 820.61 kW in size, and are all fixed rooftop systems.

Combined, these systems are estimated to produce enough solar-generated electricity to eliminate 973 metric tons of CO2 emissions from the air, or to power 88.5 average homes annually, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency calculator.

Financing of the solar facilities was partially provided by Bank of America in the form of a tax equity investment and Energy Investors Funds through their United States Power Fund III, L.P.

Source - Solar Daily

UK slow to benefit from solar panels

The amount of money pouring into clean energy technology has now overtaken investment in fossil fuels according to United Nations figures - a clear signal of which way the wind is blowing in terms of the world’s future energy generation.

And as governments around the world continue to crank up legislation in the area, investors are being drawn to the opportunities on offer in both the renewable energy generation and energy efficiency markets.

Environmental legislation has mushroomed over the last couple of years and this year is set to be no exception as the world builds up to December’s UN convention on climate change in Copenhagen from which the successor to the Kyoto Protocol is likely to emerge.

Catalyst Corporate Finance partner Mark Wilson said the intensification in new legislation was being driven by two key issues.

“One of them is climate change, which is indisputable now, and the second is energy security.

“This means there is an increased sense of urgency and a political will that we have to change the way we operate.”

In terms of energy security, the global market has seen huge volatility in the prices of oil and gas recently.

Combined with the fact that the UK’s current generating capacity is set to shrink in the next decade as a generation of coal-fired power stations start to come offline and a number of nuclear power stations are decommissioned, this means there is an urgent need to find alternatives if the UK is to avoid becoming increasingly dependent on fossil-fuel rich states in the Middle East and Russia.

Last year saw the introduction of the Energy Act which brought in measures such as a feed-in tariff to encourage small-scale renewable energy generation and a renewable heat incentive.

At the same time as the Energy Act was passed, the Climate Change Act also came into force which introduced the world’s first long-term legally binding framework to tackle the dangers of climate change. The act committed the UK to reducing greenhouse emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050.

This year will see the publication of the Government’s Renewable Energy Strategy which sets out the details of how it plans to meet the UK’s EU targets of 15 per cent of energy from renewables by 2020.

And the Government has just finished consulting on the Heat and Energy Saving Strategy which sets out

an aim for emissions from existing buildings to be approaching zero by 2050.

Later this year world leaders will meet in Copenhagen to thrash out the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which will undoubtedly unleash another round of targets which should increase expansion in the low-carbon sector.

Mr Wilson said in terms of the renewables sector, the UK had two key areas of strength - wind energy and energy from waste.

“There is, we believe about £82 billion worth of investment to be invested up to 2020 in offshore and onshore wind.

“However there are issues with wind as it’s not constant. Therefore you can expect 35 per cent efficiency in certain circumstances whereas for a coal-fired power station you can probably expect 90 to 95 per cent.

“The area of investment that sits alongside that is energy from waste. There are already very established and well-proven commercial technologies in this area.”

Although at the moment most of the energy from waste plants are traditional mass burn incineration fitted with energy recovery systems, there are a number of other technologies that can address different aspects of the waste industry.

“The problem with mass burn incineration is that it is high capital but there are other technologies which are more modular and are employable on a smaller scale and can be used for microgeneration.”

One of these is anaerobic digestion - a process where micro-organisms break down biodegradable material such as wastewater sludges and organic wastes to provide a source of renewable energy.

Mr Wilson said: “What’s really exciting about this industry is the possibilities are quite substantial - we are seeing waste businesses transform themselves into energy businesses and we are seeing others coming into the sector who are traditionally not investors into it.

“There is a lot of government support and that has become attractive to investors because of some of the incentives that the government has put into place.”

Bioenergy benefits from the Renewables Obligation, the Government mechanism to support renewable energy by requiring electricity suppliers to source a proportion of their electricity from renewable sources.

Renewable energy generators receive Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) for each MWh of electricity generated which can then be sold to electricity suppliers who need to make up their shortfall.

Mr Wilson said that many technologies in the waste-to-energy sector were eligible for double ROCS

“That really makes the economics of this sector very attractive,” he said.

Mr Wilson pointed to the strength of the Midlands in this area, citing companies such as Monsal, an environmental technology company specialising in digestion technology and Enpure, a process engineering business in the environmental sector, which is working on the Greater Manchester waste PFI, one of the largest waste PFI projects in Europe.

Advantage West Midlands business development manager, environmental technologies cluster Ralph Hepworth said that owing to the region’s status as a large generator of waste, energy from waste very important in the West Midlands.

“If you go to Germany and stand on a car park and look in both directions like I did recently the first thing you will see is an indecent amount of wind turbines and also in the other direction the factory that makes the wind turbines.”

Mr Hepworth said the West Midlands had a similar potential for a closed-loop system in terms of energy from waste, where waste generated in the region can be converted to energy locally which can then be used in the region.

Another division of the cleantech market which holds potential for companies in the West Midlands is the supply of components to the wind industry.

Advantage West Midlands (AWM) has been helping the region’s engineering firms use their expertise gained from more traditional sectors by reapplying it to the cleantech sector.

Mr Hepworth said there was a wealth of smaller engineering firms, many of which supply the oil and gas sector and electrical engineering market, who are repositioning themselves as suppliers to the environmental technology companies.

“A wind turbine has four tonnes of bolts in it and they are not the sort of bolts you buy at B&Q. There are four or five companies that come to mind in the Black Country that supply this area.”

He pointed to companies such as nuts and bolts manufacturer Doran Engineering in Willenhall and bolted joint solutions and machining services firm Hydratight in Walsall.

However Mr Wilson said that the UK had been slow to move into this area and the region’s firms were playing catch-up with their European counterparts.

“In terms of the wind sector the Midlands should be a great starting point for a lot of the components that go into wind farms.

“But the problem has been that we are so far behind the eight ball in the UK that there are European companies already have an established hold on supplying into renewable sector. There’s a lot of catch up to do.”

Hugh Goulbourne, an environmental campaigner and solicitor at Cobbetts, said that although Germany had done a good job in supporting its solar and wind sector, the UK should look to different technologies to expand its cleantech sector.

“Yes we need to catch up but do we want to catch up with the same technologies? Possibly not.”

“The UK is second behind Portugal in terms of wave technology and that’s something the renewable energy strategy is currently proposing some ambitious targets on.

“Then if you look at energy efficiency it’s probably is Denmark that is the leading nation in Europe. I think that the Heat and Energy Saving Strategy will put us on a pretty good footing for that.”

Source - Birmingham Post

China launches green power revolution to catch up on west

China’s ambitious wind and solar plans represent a direct challenge to Europe’s claims of world leadership on cutting carbon emissions.

China is planning a vast increase in its use of wind and solar power over the next ­decade and believes it can match Europe by 2020, producing a fifth of its energy needs from renewable sources, a senior Chinese official said yesterday.

Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice-chairman of China's national development and reform commission, told the Guardian that Beijing would easily surpass current 2020 targets for the use of wind and solar power and was now contemplating targets that were more than three times higher.

In the current development plan, the goal for wind energy is 30 gigawatts. Zhang said the new goal could be 100GW by 2020.

"Similarly, by 2020 the total installed capacity for solar power will be at least three times that of the original target [3GW]," Zhang said in an interview in London. China generates only 120 megawatts of its electricity from solar power, so the goal represents a 75-fold expansion in just over a decade.

"We are now formulating a plan for development of renewable energy. We can be sure we will exceed the 15% target. We will at least reach 18%. Personally I think we could reach the target of having renewables provide 20% of total energy consumption."

That matches the European goal, and would represent a direct challenge to Europe's claims to world leadership in the field, despite China's relative poverty. Some experts have cast doubt on whether Britain will be able to reach 20%. On another front, China has the ambitious plan of installing 100m energy-efficient lightbulbs this year alone.

Beijing seeks to achieve these goals by directing a significant share of China's $590bn economic stimulus package to low-carbon investment. Of that total, more than $30bn will be spent directly on environmental projects and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

But the indirect green share in the stimulus, in the form of investment in carbon-efficient transport and electricity transmission systems, would be far larger.

HSBC Global Research estimated the total green share could be over a third of the total package.

China also believes the price reforms that will take place in its economic recovery programme will lead to more efficient use of resources and an increased demand for renewable energy.

"Due to the impact of global financial crisis, people are all talking about green and sustainable development," Zhang added. "Enterprises and government at all levels are showing more enthusiasm for the development of solar for power generation, and the Chinese government is now considering rolling out more stimulus policies for the development of solar power."

He said the government would also plough money into the expansion of solar heating systems. He said the country was already a world leader, with 130m square metres of solar heating arrays already installed, and was planning to invest more. The US goal for solar heating by 2020 is 200m square metres.

Zhang was speaking in London on a day China came under increased pressure from Washington to do more cut its emissions.

David Sandalow, the US assistant secretary of energy, said the continuation of business as usual in China would result in a 2.7C rise in temperatures even if every other country slashed greenhouse gas emissions by 80%.

"China can and will need to do much more if the world is going to have any hope of containing climate change," said Sandalow, who is in Beijing as part of a senior negotiating team aiming to find common ground ahead of the crucial Copenhagen summit at the end of this year.

"No effective deal will be possible without the US and China, which together account for almost half of the planet's carbon emissions."

Zhang said China was pursuing "a constructive and a positive role" in negotiations aimed at agreeing a deal in Copenhagen. As part of that agreement, he said developing countries would have to pursue "a sustainable development path", and said Beijing was open to the idea of limits on the carbon intensity of its economy (the emissions per unit of output).

"We have taken note of some expert suggestions on carbon intensity with a view to have some quantified targets in this regard. We are carrying out a serious study of those suggestions," Zhang said.

Zhang told the all-party parliamentary China group in Westminster yesterdaythat Beijing's stimulus package was already showing signs of re-energising the Chinese economy. He said it grew by 6.1% in the first quarter of this year, and growth in the second quarter would be stronger than the first. He predicted that China would meet its target of 8% growth this year.

Source - The Guardian

Sunday, 7 June 2009

China teams up with Singapore to build huge eco city

The buildings will be the latest word in energy efficiency: 60% of all waste will be recycled, and the settlement will be laid out in such a way as to encourage walking and discourage driving. But this is not the latest experiment in European green living. This is a ground-breaking mega development in China that could serve as a model for eco cities across the developing world, say to its backers.

China and Singapore are pooling expertise and finance to build a green urban community in north-east China, with the capacity for 350,000 people, near the western shore of the Bohai, one of the most polluted seas in the world.

The plan to build this settlement, known as Tianjin Eco-City and likely to be the size of Bristol, is, though, haunted by the failure of a yet more ambitious scheme, near Shanghai.

At a ceremony to mark the start of construction on the first phase of Tianjin – an "eco-business park" over 150 hectares (370 acres) – investors said the 10-year scheme was intended to be "scalable and replicable" so it could be used across China, India and other developing nations.

A new model is certainly needed. Over the next 20 years the number of urban dwellers in China is forecast to swell by more than 300 million, equivalent to the entire population of the US. With consumption levels and wages three times higher in the city than in the countryside, this will put an enormous strain on energy and water resources – unless there is a change in the urbanisation model.

Prototype eco cities and villages are springing up in several areas in China, including Xiangji town in Xinjiang, and Huangbaiyu in Liaoning.

But finding the right balance between radical change and realism has proved elusive. The biggest disappointment has been the eco city plan for Dongtan, which the engineering consultants Arup billed as a model for the world.

Under a hugely ambitious scheme dreamed up by the British company, the silt flats north of Shanghai would have been home to a low-carbon, near car-free city the size of Manhattan. But just a year before the first phase was to have been completed, the site is moribund. The project's main political backer is in jail on corruption charges, construction permits have lapsed and prospects of the plan being realised look increasingly distant.

Goh Chye Boon, chief of the joint venture running the business park at Tianjin Eco-City, said his project had learned from Dongtan that it was better not to reach immediately for the skies. "We aspire to one day be a dream city like Dongtan but we want to take one credible step at a time," he said. "Dongtan inspired me, but I think when you reach too high, you may forget that the ultimate beneficiary must be the resident."

But the new city being built in Tianjin is in danger of going too far the other way by not being ambitious enough. Although it will use wind and geothermal power, its target of 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020 is only a tiny improvement on the goal for the national average. The goal for carbon emissions is equally modest.

Every building is to be insulated, double glazed and made entirely of materials that abide by the government's green standards. More than 60% of waste will be recycled. To cut car journeys by 90%, a light railway will pass close by every home, and zoning will ensure all residents have shops, schools and clinics within walking distance.

It will be more verdant than almost any other city in China, with an average of 12sq metres (nearly 130sq ft) of parks or lawns or wetlands for each person. Domestic water use should be kept below 120 litres (26 gallons) per person each day, with more than half supplied by rain capture and recycled grey water.

Success will depend on finding the right mixture of economics, user-friendliness and environmental concerns.

Paul French, chief China analyst at Access Asia, said Dongtan had died because planners h ad failed to consult the local community and had aimed too high. "Dongtan was plonked down on everyone. They were going to do everything, but nothing has been realised. It's really important with environmental stuff that you only say what you can actually deliver or people will lose trust."

Liang Benfan, a professor of urban development at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: "It's good people are discussing this, but they are too focused on technology. There's not much thought about nature and local culture."

Source - The Guardian

Lasers Are Making Solar Cells Competitive

Solar electricity has a future: It is renewable and available in unlimited quantities, and it does not produce any gases detrimental to the climate. Its only drawback right now is the price: the electric power currently being produced by solar cells in northern Europe must be subsidized if it is to compete against the household electricity generated by traditional power plants.

At "Laser 2009" in Munich, June 15 to 18, Fraunhofer researchers will be demonstrating how laser technology can contribute to optimizing the manufacturing costs and efficiency of solar cells.

Cell phones, computers, MP3 players, kitchen stoves, and irons all have one thing in common: They need electricity. And in the future, more and more cars will also be fuelled by electric power. If the latest forecast from the World Energy Council WEC can be believed, global electricity requirements will double in the next 40 years. At the same time, prices for the dwindling resources of petroleum and natural gas are climbing.

"Rising energy prices are making alternative energy sources increasingly cost-effective. Sometime in the coming years, renewable energy sources, such as solar energy, will be competitive, even without subsidization," explains Dr. Arnold Gillner, head of the microtechnology department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology in Aachen, Germany.

"Experts predict that grid parity will be achieved in a few years. This means that the costs and opportunities in the grid will be equal for solar electricity and conventionally generated household electricity." Together with his team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, this researcher is developing technologies now that will allow faster, better, and cheaper production of solar cells in the future.

"Lasers work quickly, precisely, and without contact. In other words, they are an ideal tool for manufacturing fragile solar cells. In fact, lasers are already being used in production today, but there is still considerable room for process optimization."

In addition to gradually improving the manufacturing technology, the physicists and engineers in Aachen are working with solar cell developers - for example, at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg - on new engineering and design alternatives.

New production technologies allow new design alternatives
At "Laser 2009" in Munich, the researchers will be demonstrating how lasers can drill holes into silicon cells at breathtaking speed: The ILT laser system drills more than 3,000 holes within one second. Because it is not possible to move the laser source at this speed, the experts have developed optimized manufacturing systems which guide and focuses the light beam at the required points.

"We are currently experimenting with various laser sources and optical systems," Gillner explains. "Our goal is to increase the performance to 10,000 holes a second. This is the speed that must be reached in order to drill 10,000 to 20,000 holes into a wafer within the cycle time of the production machines."

The tiny holes in the wafer - their diameter is only 50 micrometers - open up undreamt-of possibilities for the solar cell developers.

"Previously, the electrical contacts were arranged on the top of the cells. The holes make it possible to move the contacts to the back, with the advantage that the electrodes, which currently act as a dark grid to absorb light, disappear. And so the energy yield increases. The goal is a degree of efficiency of 20 percent% in industrially-produced emitter wrap-through (EWT) cells, with a yield of one-third more than classic silicon cells," Gillner explains.

The design principle itself remains unchanged: In the semi-conductor layer, light particles, or photons, produce negative electrons and positive holes, each of which then wanders to the oppositely poled electrodes.

The contacts for anodes and cathodes in the EWT cells are all on the back, there is no shading caused by the electrodes, and the degree of efficiency increases. With this technique, it may one day be possible to use unpurified "dirty" silicon to manufacture solar cells that have poorer electrical properties, but that are cheaper.

Drilling holes into silicon cells is only one of many laser applications in solar cell manufacturing. In the EU project Solasys - Next Generation Solar Cell and Module Laser Processing Systems - an international research team is currently developing new technologies that will allow production to be optimized in the future. ILT in Aachen is coordinating the six million euro project.

"We are working on new methods that make the doping of semiconductors, the drilling and the surface structuring of silicon, the edge isolation of the cells, and the soldering of the modules more economical," project coordinator Gillner explains. For example, "selective laser soldering" makes it possible to improve the rejection rates and quality of the contacting, and so reduce manufacturing costs.

Until now, the electrodes were mechanically pressed onto the cells, and then heated in an oven. "But silicon cells often break during this process," Gillner knows. "Breakage is a primary cost factor in production." On the other hand, however, with "selective laser soldering" the contacts are pressed on to the cells with compressed air and then soldered with the laser.

The mechanical stress approaches zero and the temperature can be precisely regulated. The result: Optimal contacts and almost no rejects.

Laser technology means more efficient thin film cells
Laser technology is also helping to optimize the manufacture of thin film solar cells. The extremely thin film packages made of semiconducting oxide, amorphous silicon, and metal that are deposited onto the glass panels still have a market share of only ten percent.

But as Gillner knows, "This could be higher, because thin film solar cells can be used anywhere that non-transparent glass panels can be mounted, for example, on house facades or sound-insulating walls. But the degrees of efficiency are comparable low at five to eight percent, and the production costs are comparatively high."

The laser researchers are working to improve these costs. Until now, the manufacturers have used mechanical methods or solid-state lasers in the nanosecond range in order to structure the active layers on the glass panels. In order to produce electric connections between the semiconductor and the metal, grooves only a few micrometers wide must be created.

At the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft booth at "Laser 2009" the ILT researchers will be demonstrating a 400-watt ultrashort pulse laser that processes thin-film solar modules ten times faster than conventional diode-pumped solid-state lasers.

"The ultrashort pulse laser is an ideal tool for ablating thin layers: It works very precisely, does not heat the material and, working with a pulse frequency of 80 MHz, can process a 2-by-3 meter glass panel in under two minutes," Gillner reports. "The technology is still very new, and high-performance scanning systems and optical systems adapted to the process must be developed first. In the medium term, however, this technology will be able to reduce production costs."

The rise of laser technology in solar technology is just taking off, and it still has a long way to go. "Lasers simplify and optimize the manufacture of classic silicon and thin-film cells, and they allow the development of new design alternatives," Gillner continues. "And so laser technology is making an important contribution towards allowing renewable energy sources to penetrate further into the energy market."

Source - Solardaily

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Green energy overtakes fossil fuel investment, says UN

Green energy overtook fossil fuels in attracting investment for power generation for the first time last year, according to figures released today by the United Nations.

Wind, solar and other clean technologies attracted $140bn (£85bn) compared with $110bn for gas and coal for electrical power generation, with more than a third of the green cash destined for Britain and the rest of Europe.

The biggest growth for renewable investment came from China, India and other developing countries, which are fast catching up on the West in switching out of fossil fuels to improve energy security and tackle climate change.

"There have been many milestones reached in recent years, but this report suggests renewable energy has now reached a tipping point where it is as important – if not more important – in the global energy mix than fossil fuels," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN's Environment Programme.

It was very encouraging that a variety of new renewable sectors were attracting capital, while different geographical areas such as Kenya and Angola were entering the field, he added.

The UN still believes $750bn needs to be spent worldwide between 2009 and 2011 and the current year has started ominously with a 53% slump in first quarter renewables investment to $13.3bn.

Counting energy efficiency and other measures, more than $155bn of new money was invested in clean energy companies and projects, even though capital raised on public stock markets fell 51% to $11.4bn and green firms saw share prices slump more than 60% over 2008, according to the report, Global Trends in Sustainable Energy, drawn up for the UN by the New Energy Finance (NEF) consultancy in London.

Wind, where the US is now global leader, attracted the highest new worldwide investment, $51.8bn, followed by solar at $33.5bn. The former represented annual growth of only 1%, while the latter was up by nearly 50% year-on-year.

Biofuels were the next most popular investment, winning $16.9bn, but down 9% on 2007, as the sector was hit by overcapacity issues in the US and political opposition, with ethanol being blamed for rising food prices.

Europe is still the main centre for investment in green power with $50bn being pumped into projects across the continent, an increase of 2% on last year, while the figure for America was $30bn, down 8%.

But while overall spending in the West dipped nearly 2%, there was a 27% rise to $36.6bn in developing countries led by China, which pumped in $15.6bn, mostly in wind and biomass plants.

China more than doubled its installed wind turbine capacity to 11GW of capacity, while Indian wind investment was up 17% to $2.6bn, as its overall clean tech spending rose to $4.1bn in 2008, 12% up on 2007 levels.

A number of Green New Deals – government reflationary packages designed to kickstart economies and boost action to counter climate change – have been laid out by ministers around the world.

The slump in global renewable ­investment during the first quarter of 2009 has alarmed the UN and New Energy ­Finance, the London-based consultancy that compiled the figures for the UN.

Michael Liebreich, chief executive of NEF, said the second quarter had revealed "green shoots" of recovery, which indicated this year could end up with investment at the upper end of a $95bn to $115bn range, but still a quarter down on 2008 at the least.

About $3bn of new money had been raised via initial public offerings or secondary issues on the stock markets in the second quarter, compared with none in the first three months of this year.

The New Energy Index of clean tech stocks, which had slumped from a 450 high to 134 by March, had since bounced back to 230, while more project financing had been raised in the last six weeks than in the 13 before that, he said.

But Steiner and Liebreich are still anxious that politicians do more to stimulate growth.

"There is a strong case for further measures, such as requiring state-supported banks to raise lending to the ­sector, providing capital gains tax exemptions on investments in clean technology, creating a framework for Green Bonds and so on, all targeted at getting investment flowing," said Liebreich.

It is important stimulus funds start flowing immediately, not in a year or so, he added: "Many of the policies to achieve growth over the medium-term are already in place, including feed-in tariff regimes, mandatory renewable energy targets and tax incentives. There is too much emphasis amongst some policy-makers on support mechanisms, and not enough on the urgent needs of investors right now."

Source - The guardian

Satcon Powers Hawaii's Largest Solar Farm

Satcon has announced that their industry leading PowerGate Plus Spectrum micro grid solution has been selected to power La Ola Hawaii's largest solar photovoltaic (PV) farm and Micro-Grid on the island of Lana'i.

The 1.2 megawatt (MW) installation sits on a 10 acre site in south Lana'i on the Palawai Basin and is the first solar photovoltaic power plant to be controlled remotely by a utility, Maui Electric Company, Ltd. (MECO).

The micro grid developed, coordinated and operated by Lanai Sustainability Research, LLC, through its managing member, Castle and Cooke Solar Management, LLC, and designed and built by California-based SunPower, is expected to produce enough solar energy to supply up to 30 percent of the island's electric demand.

The advanced control capabilities and optimized power efficiencies of Satcon's Spectrum micro grid solution, combined with SunPower's solar tracking system, will increase the energy capture of the farm by more than 500,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) annually.

"Our goal of helping the state of Hawaii achieve energy independence has taken a significant step forward with the La Ola solar farm in Lana'i," said Harry Saunders, President of Castle and Cooke Solar Management.

"Satcon was the obvious partner choice for this project as we assembled a team of the industry's most innovative minds to pioneer our micro grid solution. The combination of their deep expertise within solar power conversion, their experience with successful large scale renewable to grid interconnection, and their proven PowerGate Plus solutions helped enable our team to solve the challenges that faced us as we constructed a stable and reliable island grid built on a solar energy framework."

The solar farm builds on the progress of Governor Lingle's Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative; an unprecedented state partnership launched in January 2008 with the U.S. Department of Energy which aims to have 70 percent of Hawaii's energy needs come from clean sources by 2030.

Satcon's Spectrum channels renewable power into the Maui Electric Company grid, resulting in an increase of 14.4 percent of installed electric generating capacity to the island. La Ola offers an offset equivalent to burning 202,400 gallons of diesel fuel, thereby avoiding 4.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide emission annually.

"We are honored to be a part of this best in class team of solar power innovators who are successfully supplying stable, high quality renewable power locally, at the point of demand," said Leo Casey, Chief Technology Officer of Satcon.

"What we have achieved with MECO and Castle and Cooke is a significant advancement in solving renewable energy challenges of intermittency and power storage and will ensure uninterrupted utility-grade renewable energy to deliver the energy security, reliability, safety, sustainability and cost effectiveness required for the island."

"The La Ola, Lanai's Solar Farm, will offer visibility to utilities around the world about how to successfully integrate solar PV power plants into the grid at high penetration levels," said Jean Wilson, Vice President and General Manager of Utilities and Power Plants at SunPower Corp.

"Satcon's inverters provide low voltage ride-through as well as the production and consumption of reactive power, both of which are crucial to grid operation in this application, as the solar farm will provide up to 30 percent of peak generation on Lana'i. We believe that the solar power plant solution Castle and Cooke, MECO, Satcon and SunPower jointly developed will be the foundation for planning rapid growth in deployment of solar PV power plants around the world."

Source - Solardaily

The UK fails to meet it’s renewable energy obligations

The UK is failing to green its economy, according to reports from the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

The internal forecasts show that by 2020 the UK will be sourcing only 5% of its energy from renewables, far short of the 15% target we signed up to with the European Commission.

The data, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, will be highly embarrassing for Gordon Brown. The prime minister signed up to the legally-binding target and, if Britain fails to meet it, the government will be liable for substantial fines from Brussels.

Greg Clarke, the shadow energy minister, said the figures revealed the “fundamental failure” of Labour’s climate-change policies. “This amounts to an admission that the government is going to fail not just marginally but abjectly. For the past 10 years we have lacked a credible and comprehensive energy policy. Labour’s piecemeal approach is clearly not working.”

Today Britain is one of the worst performers in Europe in terms of renewable energy, sourcing only 2% of its needs from non-fossil-fuel sources such as wind and landfill gas.

The prime minister has called for a “green revolution” and in the budget last month Alistair Darling put the sector at the centre of his plans to revitalise the economy.

The chancellor introduced subsidies for biomass and wind generation but fears persist in industry that many projects are uneconomic. The DECC’s own forecast, based on present policies and subsidies, seems to support that view.

A DECC spokeswoman said the department would soon announce proposals to help bridge the gap. She said: “We are not relying on existing policies. We consulted last summer on measures to take us to our binding 15% renewable-energy target and will be publishing our strategy this summer. This will set out how we intend to meet our share of the 2020 target.”

The largest portion of renewables is expected to come from wind followed by hydro power, biomass and sewage processing.

The Tories advocate greater use of micro-generation and building a bio-gas network, but it is unclear how the party would deal with planning restrictions that make it hard to get such projects off the ground. It opposes a Labour-created commission that would take away the power of local councils to assess large infrastructure projects but has not yet announced any alternative.

Source - The times

Interview with Dick Strawbridge

Dick Strawbridge, BBC TV presenter and green home expert, dispels some of the myths surrounding eco home renovations.

1) Environmentally friendly installation is expensive

All insulation is environmentally friendly. Some installation has better environmental credentials, but what matters is the energy it saves. There is something nice about insulating the loft with reused sheep fleece, or recycled bottles, but if the cost of the insulation is putting you off doing it don’t think twice: buy the cheapest. Some stores have sold insulation as cheap as £1 a roll in the past. All insulation takes energy to make it, but that is not a reason not to invest in it. The savings, for both the planet and the bank account, can be impressive. Incidentally, you need about 270mm of insulation in your loft which is about a foot deep — anything less and you’re wasting valuable heat.

2) The UK is not sunny enough for solar power

For a nation that spends a lot of time talking about the weather, we don’t seem to realise just how much sunshine we actually get. Maybe that’s because we tend to concentrate on the negative aspects. Every square metre in the United Kingdom has on average about 1,000W of solar energy incident on it every day. That’s an awful lot of free power. Without getting too technical, a 1,000-watt photovoltaic system can be expected to produce 1,200kWh a year, an average of nearly four hours working at maximum power a day. Obviously, it’s much more productive in the summer, and there are lots of days when it is not frightfully impressive, however, let’s not forget we do get some lovely sunny spring, autumn and winter days. Even in the winter, my home’s solar thermal system (that uses the power of the sun to heat water) is capable of harnessing the weak winter sun to preheat the water in our hot water tank.

3) Wind turbines only function on hilltops

I fully understand the physics and know that “laminar” airflow, or streamline, is what every wind turbine loves. In theory a wind turbine on a mast in the middle of a vast plain will give the best performance, but there are not too many locations that fit that bill. So we have to compromise. Most importantly, to get good performance from a wind turbine, it is necessary to have no obstacles near it that will disrupt the airflow. A built-up area with houses, hedges, and trees is a long way from the ideal location. However, if that is where you live and you want a wind turbine you don’t have a lot of choice — and a turbine will still generate electricity in such a setting.

4) Most eco-renovation take decades to pay back the cost

Every time we decide to make an investment in an eco-project, the subject of payback comes up. It is possible to do the sums, and before we spend any hard earned cash I like to make sure that it’s a good investment. For example, loft insulation can pay for itself in two winters, and with the 2010 feed-in tariff I would expect solar PV to pay for itself in about seven or eight years, and a DIY solar thermal system to heat your hot water should have paid for itself in four or five years. But surely this is missing the point: when it comes to environmentally friendly projects we seem unable to accept the fact that it can be an investment and will add to the value of the house. What is the payback time for a new bathroom or kitchen? If you install solar photovoltaic panels you can reasonably expect them to easily last 25 to 30 years. Everyone knows a new kitchen makes a house more saleable, but in the current economic climate, how much more saleable is a house that will cost the new owners very little to run or may even generate an income?

5) DIY loft insulation is horrid and itchy

It’s a fair cop, installing fibreglass or rockwool insulation is not the most pleasant job in the world, but if you are installing your own loft insulation why choose fibreglass or rockwool? There are lots of alternative insulations that are very benign and easy to handle. You can now buy loft insulation that is made from high-tech composite material, recycled plastic bottles, hemp… the choice is almost limitless. Indeed, in our loft we have Thermafleece at one end (made from the fleeces of upland sheep that in the past has gone to landfill), and insulation made from recycled denim at the other. Lots of these materials are easy to lay and relatively pleasant to handle. However, we do have to face up to the fact that working in the loft is not the most pleasant of environments so, no matter what you sort of insulation you choose, you will end up being a bit sweaty and dusty!

6) It takes more energy to build a solar panel then it will ever create

This particular misconception has been doing the rounds for several years. It is fair to say that it takes a lot of energy to make photovoltaic panels because it is a complex crystalline structure. Depending on the type of panel it can take between two and four years of use to recover the energy needed to make it. That said, the efficiency of the modern solar panel and modern manufacturing techniques are improving every day. There are no moving parts, so it is reasonable to expect the PV panels, which are usually guaranteed for 25 years, to last an awful lot longer (some of the older ones have been going for nearly 40 years).

7) Eco-gadgets are cons

It would appear that the green revolution is a marketing man’s dream. Everywhere we go there are eco-gadgets that claim to be saving the planet. Most eco-gadgets tend to be quite complicated. Wind-up and solar-powered radios, battery chargers and numerous small electronic devices, are usually marketed as being cool. It is fair to say that they are extremely useful if you do not have access to another power supply (which does not happen very often in today’s world). So, if you find yourself in a situation where only an eco-gadget can save you they are definitely not a con. However, from an environmental standpoint, to justify the embodied energy it takes to produce them they have to be used a lot rather than being kept in a drawer full of other cool things.

8) You have to be an engineer to undertake your own eco home projects

In the 21st century there is no excuse for not being able to get stuck into any eco-project. Information is readily available and all the materials you need can usually be sourced within 10 miles. Of course, I have to acknowledge that there is some sensible legislation that means you are not allowed to fiddle with mains electricity, or get involved with structural engineering, unless you’re suitably qualified. That does not mean you can’t do most of the work yourself, which is by far the cheapest way. There seems to be a certain reticence when it comes to starting a project and a lot of excuses rather than reasons out there. If you have running water and a desire to have a water wheel, all you need is to know that the angle of the bucket is 114°. With a little bit of common sense, anything is achievable.

Source - BBC