Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The future’s bright for home owners with solar panels?

The solar panels are cheaper than ever and you can sell your surplus energy to the grid. No wonder, the future’s bright for home owners solar panels.

Real, gutsy solar power is as rare as hen’s teeth in this country. By the real deal I mean photovoltaic (PV solar) systems that convert sunlight into electricity as opposed to rather prosaic solar thermal systems that heat water. Last year just 6MW of solar PV solar panels were installed in this country. Compare and contrast the situation in Germany, where more than 1,500MW was installed last year and one in 10 buildings has a solar power system.

This is ludicrous because solar PV could provide 30-40% of the UK’s total electricity needs by 2050, reducing CO2 emissions by 15% a year. An average domestic system (a fairly modest 1.8kWp PV system) can provide at least 25% of a household’s energy. The sticking point has been the expense.

Luckily there are sunnier days ahead. We’ve been waiting years for a Feed-in Tariff scheme (rebranded as the Clean Energy Cash Back Scheme), and now it is expected to arrive in April 2010. This will guarantee domestic PV installations 36.5 pence per kw hour of electricity they feed back into the grid, probably for around 25 years.

If plans go through, they’ll get just 36p for their surplus output and be able to enjoy the more generous tariff and possibly a grant (£10m is available until April 2010 via the governments grants programme in the form of £2,500 per households.

And you’ll be able to take advantage of the fact that solar panels have come down in price. According to Sharp, a UK-based solar-module manufacturer, units are 30% cheaper than a year ago. You can get different types to stick on or integrate into your roof, not just the traditional crystalline cells using reject silicon from the electronics industry. The new wave is full of efficient, sleek models. Some look uncannily like normal roof tiles. Thanks to a recession in Spain (a voracious PV consumer) there are lots around.

But in the solar rush, remember to purchase responsibly. PV solar cells are far from ecologically innocuous, as they contain a concoction of toxic conductors. They should be manufactured in a closed-loop system to high environmental standards.

They also remain the only renewable really attuned to normal life. You can add them on to a house without incurring the wrath of planning departments or undertaking huge civil engineering projects.

Source - The Guardian

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Energy Conversion Devices Announces Large Solar Project In Spain

Energy Conversion Devices has announced it has been selected by Recurrent Energy to deliver 4.8MWp of solar generating systems for eight separate building rooftops at ProLogis Park Sant Boi in Barcelona and ProLogis Park Alcala in Madrid, Spain.

ECD will be supplying its UNI-SOLAR photovoltaic (PV) laminates and providing development resources through its Solar Integrated subsidiary.

The solar power systems will be owned by Recurrent Energy, a distributed power company and a leading provider of solar energy, and installed on rooftops leased by Recurrent Energy from ProLogis, a leading global provider of distribution facilities. Construction on the project is expected to start in October 2009.

ProLogis, a leading global provider of distribution facilities, currently has UNI-SOLAR systems installed on facilities in the U.S., Spain and France.

"We are very pleased to continue our relationship with UNI-Solar and SIT through this project," said Drew Torbin, director of global renewable energy for ProLogis. "We look forward to working with the company closely over the next several months as we bring this project on line."

"This new agreement is the first example of the benefits of combining our leading UNI-SOLAR PV laminate product with the rooftop solar expertise of Solar Integrated. This project also demonstrates how we will work closely with Recurrent Energy and our key channel partners--in this case Soprema and its dedicated subsidiary Solardis--to provide innovative solutions that meet the needs of our customers and their roofs," said Mark Morelli, president and chief executive officer for ECD.

For this project, Solar Integrated will engineer, procure, and construct the solar PV systems totaling 4.8 megawatts for Recurrent Energy.

The PV systems will consist of UNI-SOLAR laminates combined with the SOPRASOLAR complex - a bituminous waterproofing system, and will be applied directly on the roofs. Installation will be done by Soprema's local installer Master Renovables.

Source - Solar Daily

Friday, 2 October 2009

Has China kick started the solar panel revolution

In recent years China, and in particular the capital Beijing, have become synonymous with heavy air pollution with carbon emissions a natural result of being the largest manufacturing base in the world.

The Olympic Games held in Beijing in 2008 highlighted to the world the problems that China is having with pollution in urban areas where population density and heavy road traffic has contributed to a situation where on some days visibility is severely reduced.

The televised images of the Beijing skyline obscured by a murky cloud of smog offered a grim reminder of the contamination which is of course an inevitable by-product of a rapidly industrialising economy. However, China has embraced the concept of renewable energy with a massive shift towards solar energy. Legislation introduced by the Chinese government has been designed to spark investment in renewable energies and has so far, proved to be successful.

As the largest manufacturer of photovoltaic (PV solar) components, China has been a market leader in developing new products for markets elsewhere. Certainly, the Spanish market which experienced its own boom following the introduction of a feed-in tariff in 2007 relied massively on Chinese PV imports with the market experiencing a glut of Chinese produced PV solar panels plant when the Spanish industry went through its downturn and failed to install the solar plant which had been ordered. However, in a bid to alleviate some pollution problems and help meet climate change targets, the Chinese government has recently sought to increase the number of solar installations within the country.

In order to do this the government introduced a feed-in tariff system. Essentially, the feed-in tariff (FIT) was designed to attract investment in the new solar industry by offering financial incentives to investors. The FIT mechanism operates on the basis that the law guarantees a fixed, premium rate for units of electricity fed-in to the grid by solar energy generators. The utility companies are obliged by the legislation to purchase the solar electricity at above market prices, the costs of which are passed on to the consumers. In China this mechanism which has been successful in areas such as Germany, Spain and California has also proved successful in China. In July 2009, the New York Times ran with the headline, “Green Power Takes Root in China” heralding the arrival of the Chinese PV market on the world stage.

The arrival of the Chinese PV solar industry has come in the form of a national renewable energy law which decrees that utilities must generate 8 per cent of their energy by renewable means by 2020. The fact that this 8 percent figure does not include hydroelectric power adds to the importance which the Chinese are now placing on green energy. The growing awareness of the lack of long-term sustainability in traditional coal energy sources has prompted the Chinese government to take action to maintain China has a major industrial power well in to the future. There has also been somewhat of a frenzy among private companies seeing the opportunities that will undoubtedly present themselves in the Chinese renewable industry, with a growing activity particularly in sectors such as wind and photovoltaic solar panels technology which will inevitably boom in China in the near future.

The New York Times was keen to use this Chinese government action to make comparisons with the comparatively weak efforts being made in Washington to spur the renewable sector in the United States. Indeed, in the United Kingdom, with the recent feed-in tariff legislation, members of the green energy industry will be hopeful that government action in the UK will have the same effect it has had on the Chinese market.

The New York Times asserted its almost neurotic view of Chinese renewable growth compared to that of the US by warning,

“You won’t just be buying your toys from China, you’ll be buying your energy future from China.”

China has a target in place to produce 8000 megawatts of energy by wind energy by 2010 which they are set to smash. If China continues apace to move towards solar energy, they will surely shame efforts currently being made in the West to develop their own sustainable renewable industries.

Source - Official Wire

An extra 10p to create a solar panel industry in UK

A higher tariff for green electricity generation would help the UK catch up with the rest of Europe.

An extra 10p on the level of the proposed tariff given to small-scale renewable energy producers would be enough to kick-start a solar power sector in the UK, say industry groups.

Earlier this summer the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) finally agreed to introduction of a long sought-after feed-in tariff (FIT) under which households and businesses will be paid an above-market rate for every unit of electricity they generate and feed back to the grid.

Feed-in tariffs have been identified as the key factor behind the success of solar energy in Germany. But UK campaigners for solar power worry that the planned Government tariff will be too low.

The campaign group We Support Solar, which includes Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and more than 270 MPs, says that increasing the tariff from around 30p per unit of electricity to around 40p would increase uptake six times over.

Now, construction groups, including the Federation of Master Builder (FMB) have predicted that the extra 10p on the proposed rates could result in 400,000 new solar PV installations on homes by 2014. The knock-on effect would be the creation of nearly 30,000 jobs in the solar power sector.

‘There is a lot of talk about the “green economy”. The construction industry have seen the huge potential of solar power. The feed-in-tariff is the chance to now drive investment in the sector,’ said Seb Berry of solar installation company, Solar Century.

The UK lags badly behind in the solar power stakes compared to other EU countries, where financial incentives have been in place for a number of years.

Germany, which introduced FITs 9 years ago, installed 250 times more solar photovoltaic panels than the UK in 2008.

Source - Ecologist

Solar panels review 2009

The solar thermal heating market is forecast to reach huge growth in the coming years as policy pushes renewable space and water heating up the agenda.
solar thermal heating,European Solar Thermal Industry Federation, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Austria, German Market,
In 2008, solar thermal heating and cooling solutions gained favour in more and more countries,’ says European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) president Olivier Drücke. ‘The solar thermal market in the EU and Switzerland grew by over 60% to 3.3 GWth of new capacity, that is 4.76 million m2 of collector area,’ he adds.

Indeed, the latest ESTIF annual statistics on European solar thermal markets show that while demand for solar thermal technologies increased strongly in Spain, Italy and France, the biggest push came from the German market, which more than doubled from 0.7 GWth to 1.5 GWth of newly installed capacity in 2008.

Demand for solar thermal technology also increased strongly in smaller markets, such as Ireland, Poland and Portugal. Meanwhile, Austria continues to lead the continental states, with a total operational capacity of 273 kWth per 1000 inhabitants. Furthermore, with 29 kWth per 1000 inhabitants, Austria’s newly installed capacity is (in per capita terms) more than high-potential countries such as Spain, Italy or France have installed over the past 20 years. It trails only world champion Cyprus, which reached an installed solar thermal capacity of 623 kWth per 1000 inhabitants at the end of 2008.

In the face of such impressive growth figures solar thermal is also becoming a significant economic stimulator. The European turnover in solar thermal products surpassed the €3 billion mark in 2008 and the industry now employs more than 40,000 people full-time. ‘Solar thermal is well anchored in today’s European markets,’ says Drücke, adding: ‘With oil prices rising again, we believe that our sector will continue to grow steadily and be less affected by the current economic turmoil.’

Although led by Europe in terms of technology development, in terms of volume, global solar thermal is to a large extent driven by China which is the biggest solar thermal market worldwide. Three out of four collectors are produced and installed in the People’s Republic. Its national market grew by a constant rate of 28% in recent years. The newly installed capacity in 2008 was approximately 21 GWth — 16 times greater than the European market as a whole.

Another promising market outside Europe is the United States. Still small but with a high potential for growth, as the statistics of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) show in their document: ‘US Solar Industry Year in Review 2008.’ According to this trade group, the US solar thermal market grew by 50% in 2008, reaching some 229,000 m² of collector area, or around 160 MWth.

Economic downturn aside, the prospects for any industry which can report such impressive growth statistics remain positive. Enabling this growth is a global supply chain that is becoming increasingly robust and established as capacity investment ramps up to meet enpanding demand.

The big flat plate collector manufacturers in Europe are well prepared for the boom. These manufacturers have all increased their production capacities considerably over the last year [to July 2009].

Flat Plate Collectors

A significant player in the flat-plate solar thermal supply chain is metals group Luvata, which supplies copper and aluminum tubing as well as producing, for example, a specialized copper strip for solar thermal applications. Formerly known as Outokumpu Copper Products and acquired from Outokumpu OYJ in 2005 by Nordic Capital, Luvata employs over 6300 staff in 19 countries. The company has been busy over recent years building its position in the heating products market with a series of acquisitions.

As the shift towards a low-carbon energy sector steadily gathers momentum, it appears that a transformation of the energy market is inevitable. Growing concerns over security of energy supplies, price volatility in fossil-fuel markets, and the threat of climate change are accelerating this transformative process. It seems that, despite years of neglecting the solar thermal sector, policy-makers are finally getting the message that solar thermal has a great deal to offer in respect of all of these issues.

Indeed, as a highly efficient renewable energy source for heating and cooling — an area that corresponds to more than 45% of the global need for energy — among the renewable energy sources available, solar thermal energy has perhaps the greatest potential of all to transform the global energy market.

Certainly as a market, the solar thermal sector is displaying admirable growth, particularly so in the face of the on-going economic downturn, matched with a 60% market increase in Europe in 2008 for example. Recognizing this groundswell, many of the leading manufacturers are already ramping up production capacity and looking to expand into previously untapped regional markets in anticipation of further growth.

Those in the market for a solar thermal installation apparently benefit from a broad range of technologies, manufacturers and installers, indicating that the roots of a competitive market likely to engender further product innovation are already well established. With the giants of the industry standing at the ready, eager to deliver, perhaps it is at last time for the sleeping giant of renewables to wake up the world.

Some good ideas take a while to be copied. This is the case with solar building codes, which were invented in Israel 29 years ago. It was back in 1980 when the Israeli government implemented a law which made solar water heaters mandatory in new buildings up to 27 metres high such as residential housing, hotels, guest houses and care homes.

It turned out to be a success. Nowadays, more than 80% of the households in Israel obtain their domestic hot water from solar rooftop heaters.

This success is about to be copied by many more countries in the world — among them important solar thermal markets such as China, Germany, Spain, Australia and India. Within the last two to three years, this political instrument has reached all five continents. It will become — where correctly implemented — an important long-term driver of the global solar thermal market.

But there is a second factor that is pushing the international solar thermal markets in a sustainable direction. It is the urgency of saving electricity in many countries. Politicians have understood that solar thermal technology can play a crucial role in reducing national peak loads and avoiding electricity gaps on the national level. The Australian government is leading the way by prohibiting electric water heaters initially in new construction buildings, and most probably refurbished buildings will also follow. This opens the door for the greenhouse gas emission free production of hot water and space heating by the sun.

Source - Renewable Energy World

Will local authorities introduce solar panels

The government’s proposed “clean energy cash back” scheme (or feed in tariff) when introduced, will guarantee a set price for every unit of green electricity generated for 25 years. If all housing association properties had a solar photovoltaic (PV) system, which can generate 2,100 units of electricity a year, they could earn an income of around £20 thousand per home over 25 years.

The scheme would also pass on thousands of pounds of electricity savings to tenants – many of whom are suffering from fuel poverty.

Faced with a shortfall of £260 million due to the government’s recent decision to cut social housing rent in 2010, some housing providers are taking advantage of the financial benefits that investing in solar power brings. As well as a much needed income boost for the organisations, solar power helps low-income families cope with the financial hardship caused by rising fuel prices.

Brent Housing Partnership (BHP) is an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) working with Solarcentury, a UK solar energy company, to generate a guaranteed income from clean electricity. Solarcentury has begun to install solar electric roof tiles, designed to suit the majority of housing associations at a low cost, on over 80 existing homes on the Brentfield Estate in Brent. This will provide residents with approximately a third of the electricity they need for free – a saving of £120 every year.

Shaun Gillam, Senior Project Manager, Brent Housing Partnership said: “Solar power is a great way of investing in the future for our tenants. It is a way for us to reduce our residents’ expenditure on energy and meet energy efficiency targets whilst making a profit at the same time. With over 13000 BHP homes in Brent, we’re able to make a real difference to the quality of our tenants’ lives.”

Housing providers own an estimated 2.4 million homes across the UK. Many of these tenants live in fuel poverty, spending more than 10 per cent of their household income on heating and powering their homes

Town & Country Housing Group, in Kent, is another housing provider helping their tenants out of fuel poverty with solar PV.

Paul White, Innovation, Design & Quality Manager said: “Solar power is already playing a key role in the greening of our estates, 160 of our households have solar so far. It is reducing tenants’ electricity bills and helping us to deliver low energy homes that are affordable, functional and easy to live in.”

According to campaign group National Energy Action, more than five million households across the country are affected by fuel poverty.

A typical size solar PV system for a household is a 2.5kWp system and costs an average £12,500. On average, this system will generate 2,125 units (kilowatt hours (kWh)) of electricity a year. The Energy Saving Trust says this will produce about 50% of the electricity a household uses in a year.

This size of system will result in bill savings of £245 a year based on the average cost of electricity at 13p per unit and 50% electricity generated used. The income received from exporting 50% is £50 per year, with total generation annual income an additional £730 for 25 years with the feed-in tariff scheme.

Each property in the Brent scheme will produce 1,062 kWh a year – approximately one third of their electricity, saving approximately £120 each year for the tenant. This income figure is based on the system generating the number of units stated above and applying the government’s proposed generation tariff of 36.5p per unit generated. The figure also assumes that on average tenants will consume 50% of the solar electricity in the property and export the remainder and it assumes a top up payment of 5p for each unit exported and energy savings of 13p per unit.

Source - Green Building Press