Monday, 31 May 2010

Solar power for Europe from North Africa

North Africa has the potential to become a significant exporter of electricity to Europe from solar energy projects according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Solar power for Europe from North Africa
Recently, France has launched a new project, TransGreen, to build an underwater network for Electrical transmission cables from North Africa to Europe.

Earlier this year, a German consortium launched the mega-project "Desertec" that plans to use solar power in the Sahara to generate electricity for Europe.

Is the TransGreen Project a Competitive or a complementary project to Desertec? 

The TransGreen project has been introduced at the May 25 Cairo meeting of energy ministers from the 43 countries. Participants discussed the formation of a consortium to install electrical lines connecting Europe to North of Africa.

The project TransGreen, aims to bring together power companies, network operators and high-tension equipment makers under the leadership of French energy giant EDF. The German industrial and engineering group Siemens, which is already part of Desertec, may also join TransGreen.

Currently, only a dual AC line with a capacity of 1,400 megawatts across the Mediterranean, under the Strait of Gibraltar between Morocco and Spain.

At the end of May, the Transgreen consortium plans to launch the first phase, a €5 million study phase before the building of the actual lines. Many companies have already agreed to contribute to this first step.

In addition to this financial advantage, the Transgreen project offers obviously a nice reference for similar future projects in China and India, which has undoubtedly been at least as convincing for Siemens, ABB, Alstom/Areva, Nexans, Prysmian, Cap Gemini or Atos Origin.

Solar energy could supply up to a quarter of the world’s electricity by 2050. Solar plants would harvest sunlight from fields of reflectors to boil water and drive steam turbines. The region’s “high solar resource largely compensates for the additional cost of long transmission lines” beneath the Mediterranean Sea.

Desertec aims to deliver 15 per cent of Europe’s power requirements by 2050 as the EU seeks to reduce its carbon emissions, in part by reducing consumption of electricity generated by burning fossil fuels. The MENA-region countries hoping to export power to Europe include Mediterranean nations such as Morocco and Algeria, Egypt as well as Saudi Arabia.

The Sahara, in North Africa, has the biggest Uninhabited Areas in the World, particularly well exposed to the Sun, which could boost Economies of Scale for a Big Solar Energy Production Network linked to the EU from Spain (via Gibraltar), up to Greece (via Crete) and Cyprus, as well as Italy (via Malta and Sicilia), France (via Sardaigne and Corsica), etc.

From the outset, the TransGreen project, sponsored by France, looks like a competitor to Desertec, a project initiated by German companies. However, The French group Saint-Gobain is actually part of the project Desertec, Siemens, the giant German electrical, engineering and electronics company is said to be joining the TransGreen consortium. Instead, one project (TransGreen) will deliver to Europe, part of the energy generated by the other (Desertec) project.

Source - IEA

Panasonic aims to be Japan No. 1 in solar business

TOKYO — Panasonic Corp. is banking on the solar-panel business that it gained by acquiring domestic rival Sanyo, aiming for top market share of at least 35 percent in Japan by 2012.

New solar generation products, being offered in Japan starting next month, combine Sanyo Electric Co.'s solar technology with Panasonic's sales networks in appliances and housing, said Panasonic Executive Vice President Toshihiro Sakamoto.

Panasonic will be able to provide overall energy-saving systems for homes that will include rechargeable batteries, heating and air conditioning, security systems and Net-linking gadgets besides solar panels, which will all be hooked up to each other, he said.

Homes will be able to save on utility costs by selling surplus power from solar power generation systems, and using water heaters at night when utility rates are cheaper, he said.

"You will be living with virtually zero carbon-dioxide emissions through creating, saving, storing and managing energy," Sakamoto said in Tokyo.

Panasonic took over Sanyo in December and gained its solar-panel business as well as other businesses such as home appliances and batteries.

Although overlap in consumer electronics in the two companies is being eliminated, Panasonic has much to gain from Sanyo's technological prowess in solar panels and lithium-ion batteries, which are expected to be in stronger demand as the popularity of green vehicles grows.

The Osaka-based maker of Viera plasma panel TVs, has made being environmentally-friendly a major theme in its growth strategy, hoping to become "the No. 1 green innovation company in the electronics industry" by 2018.

Source - The Associated Press

SunEdison venture could lead to $1.5 billion in solar energy projects

SunEdison, a Beltsville firm that develops solar energy plants around the world, is teaming with one of the industry's largest private-equity companies in a joint venture that could generate up to $1.5 billion in new projects.

The deal with First Reserve comes as the price of manufacturing photovoltaic cells has dropped sharply in the past 18 months, making new projects much more affordable. At the same time, a growing number of governments around the world are requiring utilities to generate more power from renewable sources -- helping to kick up demand for solar.

Rhone Resch, president and chief executive of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said the deal could be a harbinger of what's to come in the industry.

"The biggest challenge we have faced in recent years is project financing," Resch said. "This starts to free up capital and allow the industry to begin to scale up."

With 350 projects built or underway, SunEdison is already one of the world's largest developers of solar energy projects. The company has a healthy backlog of plants going through the permitting process and waiting for funding.

SunEdison specializes in developing projects in areas near existing portions of the electrical grid in order to avoid large transmission costs. Its plants range from big, utility-scale operations to smaller rooftop systems feeding power to everything from Kohl's retail stores to Montgomery County school buildings. Any excess is typically sold back to utilities.

SunEdison employs about 100 people at its Beltsville offices. Last November, the company was bought by MEMC, a St. Peters, Mo.,-based manufacturer that sells silicon wafers to the semiconductor and solar industries.

"Our model has not changed," said SunEdison President Carlos Domenech. The joint venture "serves as an accelerator."

SunEdison and First Reserve have agreed to put $167 million into their new venture, which they say should be enough to attract additional debt financing to fund as much as $825 million in new projects. First Reserve may raise an additional $150 million of equity, which can be leveraged to bring the total amount of projects funded to $1.5 billion, the companies said.

"We're looking for a way to invest in solar projects and a way to do it on an economical scale," said Mark Florian, managing director of First Reserve Energy Infrastructure.

First Reserve has $20 billion under management and invests exclusively in energy projects. It has offices in Houston, London and Greenwich, Conn.

Demand for solar power is projected to grow. At least 24 states have adopted rules requiring utilities to generate power from renewable sources, and federal climate legislation contemplates a national standard. Maryland and D.C. have adopted portfolio standards, as they are known, and Virginia has established nonbinding goals, according to an Energy Department summary.

In addition, the federal government has adopted tax credits, grants and loan guarantee programs to create incentives for new solar projects.

The cost of manufacturing solar cells has fallen 40 percent in less than two years, which many attribute in part to a decision by several countries to curb incentives. Spain, in particular, moved to cap the size of its market, shrinking the opportunities there by roughly 75 percent, Resch said. Many manufacturers that ramped up production in anticipation of new orders suddenly found themselves with a glut of supply.

Source - Washington Post

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Taipower to Build Taiwan’s Biggest Solar Power Plant (Update1)

May 26 (Bloomberg) -- Taiwan Power Co. plans to build the island’s biggest solar power station in the southern county of Tainan as the government aims to reduce carbon emissions.

The proposed 5-megawatt plant will surpass a 4.6-megawatt facility being constructed in the neighboring Kaohsiung County, Tu Yueh-yuan, chief engineer of Taiwan’s biggest electricity producer, said by telephone in Taipei today. One megawatt is enough to power 800 U.S. homes.

State-run Taiwan Power, known as Taipower, is building solar stations and wind turbines as the government aims to have renewable energy account for 15 percent of the island’s electricity generation capacity by 2025 to help cut carbon emissions. The industrialized island releases about three times more heat-trapping gases per person than the world average, Bloomberg data show.

“Budget for it won’t be a problem” as the company plans to boost solar power capacity, Tu said. Details of the project, including costs, aren’t yet available, she said.

The utility is negotiating with state-run Taiwan Sugar Corp., which owns the land for the proposed site, Tu said. Taipower plans to build another solar power station, with installed capacity of 4 megawatts, on Taiwan Sugar-owned land in Tainan, She said.

Energy Sources

Renewable source, including solar energy and wind turbines, accounted for 5.7 percent of Taiwan’s installed capacity as of April, according to Taipower’s website.

Taiwan’s government set minimum wholesale prices in December for electricity generated by solar panels and wind turbines at levels higher than for power from fossil fuels to spur renewable energy production.

Lawmakers approved the Renewable Energy Development Act in June, designed to help cut carbon emissions and reduce the island’s dependence on imports, according to the Bureau of Energy. Taiwan relies on overseas shipments for about 99 percent of its energy needs.

The 60-megawatt Olmedilla plant in Spain is the world’s biggest photovoltaic power station, according to, a website on solar technologies and applications.

The government owns 97 percent of Taiwan Power, which generates about 75 percent of the electricity the island uses.

Source - Business week

Okotoks solar community sets world record

Okotoks’ solar community has set a world record in energy production after becoming the first to provide 80 per cent of space heating from the sun.

Drake Landing, a solar community of 52 homes, is well on its way to achieving a goal of 90 per cent space heating over five years after reaching 80 per cent in only three.

“I’m fiercely proud of what we set out to do and the fact that it’s working validates the ideas that went in to the beginning of it,” said town councillor Ed Sands.

When the community first opened in September 2007 homeowner Robert Pugh was the second resident to move in.

“The house itself has totally lived up to my expectations. There’s no disappointments, no regrets, so it’s been a great decision,” he said.

Okotoks may have the first solar community of this kind but general director for Natural Resources Canada Gilles Jean said it won’t be the last.

“I think it’s quite clear that we’re not on a sustainable path the way we produce and use energy, so solar energy is going to be a huge contribution,” he said.

Source - Metro News

Green property: solar thermal systems

Tony Dunn had solar water heating panels installed on the roof of his home in 2006 at a cost of £7,125. “When the installer’s salesman pitched to us, he promised wildly optimistic savings,” says Tony, who lives near Braintree in rural Essex. “I knew his figures were unrealistic, and told him so, but the money wasn’t important to us; our main reason for installing the panels was to be less reliant on fossil fuels for our energy needs.”

Although the Dunns did not expect enormous savings, they did expect to save slightly more than the £2 over three years that their solar thermal system has actually delivered.

Their story highlights findings from the consumer organisation Which? that the majority of solar thermal companies exaggerate the potential savings of installing these systems. Last year the Office of Fair Trading received more than 1,000 complaints about the solar panel industry. With a Government target of 800,000 such installations by 2020, consumers need to be able to trust this potentially vital technology.

So how did Tony Dunn’s system end up giving him such poor return on his investment? The installer, Smart Energy, now bust, sent one hard-pressed workman to install the system over one day. “He worked for nearly 12 hours in hot, cramped conditions in our roof,” says Tony, who runs a holiday cottage on his two-acre property. “I asked him to spread the work over two days but he made it clear his orders were to finish the job in one day so he could be free to do another one the next. But it’s evident now that corners were cut and the workmanship was not of a good enough standard.”

Shortly after the 12-month guarantee period expired, a thermocouple developed a fault, pumping cold water into the shower, then last July, Smart Energy went into administration and at about the same time some of the water pipes in the roof started to leak. A firm recommended by the administrator sent out an engineer who serviced the system and fixed the leak, for which they charged £250.

“The savings from the panels amount to 8kW per day for seven months a year, which makes £84 per year. After three years that means we have saved £252 off our heating bills,” Tony says. “If you subtract the service charge that means we have saved £2 on our £7,125 investment. Not great, is it?”

The Which? investigation found that 10 out of 14 solar installers exaggerated the savings home owners could make and not one of the companies tested warned potential clients about the technical challenges involved in installing a solar system.

“Complex plumbing and electrical work is required for these systems, plus it’s all in the roof, a vital part of any house,” Tony says. “We now have stains on our bathroom ceiling because of the leak. You’ve got to have a well-regulated system with well-trained and accountable technicians, otherwise people are going to turn their backs on renewable technologies,” he adds.

Cathy Debenham, of renewable energy users website YouGen, says: “I’m a great fan of solar thermal. We turned off our boiler last week and are showering solely in solar heated water. But both my father and uncle have been on the receiving end of pushy solar salesmen, who over-quote, offer discounts if you sign up today and claim too much for the product.”

In a statement the industry body said: “The Solar Trade Association (STA) takes the issues highlighted by Which? seriously. The solar industry is growing exponentially and as a new industry it is not immune from 'rogue traders’. We will do everything within our power to eradicate such companies.”

STA board member Peter Creasey added that if home owners are to take advantage of the financial incentives of the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive, which comes into force next April, they must use installers accredited through the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS).






Source - The Telegraph

The global popularity of solar panels

PV solar panels are expected to provide almost a quarter of the globes electricity supplies by 2050, according to a report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA). With the right policies in place, the IEA says that Photovoltaic solar panels on domestic and commercial buildings could compete with fossil fuel electricity supplies by 2020. By 2030 the IEA anticipate pv solar panels will provide about five percent of global electricity.

In April this year, the UK Government introduced the Feed in Tariffs Scheme (FITs) to stimulate growth in the UK PV solar panel market. The scheme promises cash rewards to homeowners, businesses and communities who install solar technologies, and the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme which begins next April, promises to pay householders to a guaranteed income from installing solar heating panels too.

11% of total supplies are predicted to come from solar panels on homes and offices while a further 11 percent will be provided by central solar power stations feeding clean electricity to populous areas.

Stuart Lovatt from Heat my Home believes that solar power is a viable combination with fossil fuels.

“Realistically, I think solar power has quite a bright future. I’ve seen predictions before and they are becoming more and more bullish as the technology develops. Countries like Germany, Spain and Belgium have embraced PV solar panels and are already reaping the rewards, but solar panels perform very well in the British climate too so there’s no reason why UK home-owners shouldn’t benefits of solar”.

“Solar power’s time is starting to come, and we are seeing the begins of a new solar powered century”, Lovatt adds.

Whilst the benefits of solar Photovoltaic s are well documented, the opportunity extends far beyond the market for household systems.

The FITs also provide opportunities for integrating PV into buildings, as a way for building owners to generate their own power, utility companies to meet their ‘Renewable Obligation’, and for not-for-profit organisations to help cut fuel poverty. However, to boost solar PV in the UK it’s essential to create new ‘green’ jobs along the supply chain and build the infrastructure to support the growing low carbon economy.

The UK’s solar industry is still in it’s infancy, but with these new incentives and rewards in place, the growth of the solar industry is expected to sharply rise and give our country a fighting chance not only with global trade in green technologies but also with environmental issue’s.

Source - Heatmyhome

Solar Industry Poised To Create 200,000 Jobs With Key Tax Policies

The Solar Energy Industries Association, joined by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and industry leaders, has released an independent study projecting the positive economic impact of the Deparent of Treasury Grant Program and the Solar Manufacturing Invesent Tax Credit.

The study found that extending the TGP by two years and including solar manufacturing in the industry's existing tax credit would add 200,000 new domestic jobs to the solar workforce and supporting industries in the U.S. Additionally, it would result in 10 gigawatts (GW) of new solar installations by 2016 - enough to power 2 million homes.

"Extension of the Treasury Grant program is essential to continuing our nascent economic recovery and moving to a cleaner, more distributed 21st Century energy system," said Senator Cantwell. "Tens of thousands of jobs hinge on continuing this successful program, including thousands of new solar jobs in Washington State in the next two years."

"Unemployment across the country remains near 10 percent, while the construction industry is suffering at nearly 22 percent unemployment," said Rhone Resch, President and CEO of SEIA.

"But last year, the solar industry was one of the bright spots in our economy with the creation of 17,000 new jobs."

New solar jobs by State include: California (60,000); Michigan (24,000); Ohio, Oregon and Texas (13,000+ each); Arizona, Colorado, and Florida (10,000 each); Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Washington (about 5,000 each); Nevada, New Jersey, and Tennessee (3,000+ each); and Connecticut and Hawaii (1,500+ each).

New solar installations through 2016 by State include: California over 4,400 MW; Arizona over 1,400 MW; Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Nevada, and New Jersey 300 MW each; and Hawaii, New York, North Carolina, Oregon and Texas 100+ MW each. Every 100 MW can power 25,000 average American homes.

"We need to support these workers with stable, common-sense policies like an extension of the Treasury Grant Program that provides new opportunity for American workers while saving the taxpayer money," added Resch.

Source - Solar Daily

Solar Power Manufacturing Makes Good Business Sense For Governments

Canadian and provincial governments could spend $2.4 billion to build a large scale solar photovoltaic manufacturing plant and then give it away for free and still earn a profit in the long run, according to a financial analysis conducted by the Queen's University Applied Sustainability Research Group in Kingston, Canada.

Queen's University Mechanical Engineering Professor Joshua Pearce conducted the study - to be published in the August edition of the academic journal Energy Policy - to find out if it makes economic sense for governments to support solar cell manufacturing in Canada.

He was surprised to discover the answer is an overwhelming yes even in extreme situations and feels governments should be aggressively supporting this industry to take advantage of the financial opportunity.

"This study uses hard financial numbers. Everything we did is transparent and all our equations are in the study," says Professor Pearce. "The benefits of encouraging solar manufacturing in Canada are clear and massively outweigh the costs."

The report looked at six different scenarios: everything from building a plant and giving it away or selling it to more traditional and less costly loan guarantees or tax holidays for a private sector company to construct the plant.

In all the scenarios, both federal and provincial governments enjoyed positive cash flows in less than 12 years and in many of the scenarios both governments earned well over an eight per cent return on investments ranging from hundreds of millions to $2.4 billion.

The revenues for the governments of nearly $500 million a year, were determined from taxation (personal, corporate and sales), sales of panels, and saved health, environmental and economic costs associated with offsetting coal-fired electricity.

Queen's started the study last summer, before the Ontario government announced a $7-billion power production and manufacturing deal with Samsung in January. Some criticized the deal but Professor Pearce says Canadians are the winners.

"Canada will really make out if Samsung comes through with what they said they are going to do. We gave them a little bit of incentive and Samsung will give us a lot of jobs, less pollution, and a long term substantial source of revenue. We are absolutely winning on this deal - there is no question," Professor Pearce says.

"The market is much larger than the Samsung deal. The question now is how to bring even more photovoltaic manufacturers to the province."

The Energy Policy report, co-authored by Queen's student Kadra Branker, studied the financial impact in Ontario but Professor Pearce says the numbers can apply to all provinces in Canada.

Source - Solar Daily

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Google blows $39m into wind power

Google has added another string to its bow: wind farms

The internet search giant, which has expanded into mobile phones and maps of world, the ocean and the stars, has invested $39m (£25.6m) in two North Dakota wind farms.

It is Google's first direct investment in a large-scale green energy project. The company said the windfarms, developed by NextEra Energy Resources, will generate enough electricity to power 55,000 homes.

The move is a shift in strategy for Google, which previously sought to invest in renewable energy via start-ups.

Rick Needham, Google's green business operations manager, said: "To reach a clean energy future, we need three things: effective policy, innovative technology and smart capital. Through our philanthropic arm, we've been pushing for energy policies that strengthen the innovation pipeline, and we've been dedicating resources to developing new technologies, including making investments in early-stage renewable energy companies such as eSolar and AltaRock."

He said bigger projects such as the windfarms will help "accelerate the deployment of the latest clean energy technology while providing attractive returns to Google and more capital for developers to build additional projects".

Google is one of the world's largest users of electricity via its data centres, which house millions of servers.

Earlier this year Google began trials of its own high speed fibre broadband network in the US.

Source - Telegraph

Solar Paint – a dream?

NextGen is a start up company which is developing new product in the solar industry field which could become a a small revolution in the solar industry.

NextGen Solar has announced that it has raised half of the $1 million it needs to bring its “solar paint” to customers.

The NextGen solar paint is a liquid material that forms webs of nanoscale solar cells when it dries and it can be painted onto practically any surface. Developed by the Argonne National Laboratory, the solar paint beats out thin-film PV cells in efficiency because it captures more wavelengths of light.

The company is working with ambitious clean tech investors, hoping to get the prototype out of the lab and onto roofs, windows and walls soon. A commerical breakthrough of this type of clean energy technology – one that is cheap and efficient enough to go up against coal – could make a big impact.

NextGen is claiming the efficiency for at least 25%, and possibly as much as 40% at a third of the cost.

Source - EcoGeek

German solar energy real estate investments being offered in UK

There is an increase in interest among property investors for German solar energy investments as a feed-in tariff cut approaches, it is claimed.

Germany is one of the world leaders in solar energy but a cut off up to 16% is expected for most solar photovoltaic installations from 1st July 2010, significantly reducing the incentive for investment.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panel manufacturers have been inundated with orders not only from domestic homeowners but also from businesses and investment groups with larger roof spaces and qualified installers have been working around the clock to fit the panels in time.

‘With the 1st July deadline fast approaching we are sourcing additional roof space in order to meet the serious demand for solar energy investments in Germany. Investors know that plugging in by this date will maximise their returns over the next 20 years,’ explained Steven Worboys, managing director of Experience International who is marketing solar energy investments in Germany in the UK for the first time.

Feed-in tariffs (FIT) was first introduced into Germany in 1990 and required utilities to connect renewable energy generators to the grid and buy the electricity produced at a rate of 65 to 90% of the average tariff charged per unit to end-users. The model has been so successful in supporting the development of the renewable energy industry that is has been replicated all over the world, including the UK.

However, some 20 years later, the German government has decided that the feed-in tariff, currently at 32 to 43 eurocents/kWh, is over-subsidizing the renewable energy industry and costing the consumer too much so the FIT rate is to be reduced. The fall of up to a third in the production of solar panels and growth in cheaper imports, especially from China, has also influenced the decision.

By their very design FITs are intended to reduce over time and the cut is not unexpected, even if the double-digit nature is deemed somewhat severe by some. ‘The feed-in tariff has been integral in turning Germany into the largest and most successful solar energy producer in the world. It has installed 9 GW of PV capacity with government targets for 66 GW by 2030. The industry has a turnover of some €1.7 billion per annum, employs 20,000 people and analysts predict that solar energy can provide 25% of the nation’s electricity by 2050, said Warboys.

With such marked progress to date and new government targets for renewable energy production being made, the imminent cut in FITs is certainly not the end of Germany’s solar success story, he believes. ‘There remains a window of opportunity for investors to see returns of €21,501 net income in year one and 17% net ROI for years one to 20. Investment is from €50,000 and 90% non-recourse finance is available,’ he added.

Source - Property Wire

Dutch SolarNow program wins EU award for renewable energy

Today the Dutch Rural Energy Foundation received the prestigious EU Sustainable Energy Award 2010 for its SolarNow program from EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger.

Rural Energy Foundation facilitated during the past three years access to solar energy to 330.000 off-grid Africans. Access to energy is an important condition for development. People save a considerable amount of oil, batteries and candles, while their productivity increases and children can do homework after sunset.

The foundation is praised because of the high cost-effectiveness and sustainability of its approach. The costs related to providing access to solar energy to an off-grid African are only EUR 4.

Most rural households in Africa largely depend on kerosene lamps. Besides poor quality of light, this is expensive and polluting. Most people have not heard of solar energy; there are hardly any shops selling and servicing solar home systems in rural areas.

The SolarNow program supports local entrepreneurs to start a business in solar energy household solutions. The program thus far supported 200 entrepreneurs in nine sub-Saharan African countries.

In addition, the program organizes awareness campaigns to promote the use of solar energy. Finally, as many households do not have the cash available to meet the upfront investment, SolarNow facilitates access to end-user credit schemes.

Director Willem Nolens reacts enthusiastically: "Great that the EU recognizes that small-scale renewable energy solutions in Africa are more efficient than large-scale infrastructural energy projects.

Africa faces an attractive opportunity to leapfrog the carbon-intensive development path that industrialized countries followed". The Foundation receives financial support from the Dutch Postcode Lottery and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Source - Rural Energy

Half Of Moroccan Territory To Be Powered By Solar Energy

This makes perfect sense given the fact that the North African Kingdom receives more than three thousand hours of dependable sunshine on a yearly basis. Nine centuries of unremitting sunlight have drenched this Kingdom of Morocco with all of its ancient charm and intrigue.

Morocco has plans to invest nine billion dollars in advance to construct two gigawatts of solar power, dispersed between five solar power facilities within ten years.

Two Gigawatts or [Two Thousand Megawatts] is plenty to provide for forty percent of the country’s electricity requirements for thirty two million inhabitants, who by the sounds of it, utilize very little energy in general. For instance, in California in 2008, they needed to add three thousand megawatts of power – primarily in the form of wind energy production. Nevertheless, it was supplying but a small fraction of the states actual energy requirement.

In Morocco, their five solar power facilities will be constructed successively, the initial plant slated for construction beginning in 2015. It will start saving Moroccans money straight away since it will reduce the need for foreign fossil fuel imports from adjacent oil producing nations.

It is inspirational to see the country’s politicians get behind the solar power initiative stating how they desire to see a “green footprint in the sands of time” and even more astounding was the ability to garner the majority of ballots in the Kingdom’s parliament that will give it the necessary push to get it off the ground.

No Right Wing Media Pundits Here!

The Moroccan Minister of Finance has said that the solar project will be an obviously significant point regarding the vital requirement of government to step up to the climate change question and he says this is simply their initial effort as a country. He adds that Morocco is placing a priority on environmental safeguards in every foreseeable project.

The Moroccan Minister of Energy also is staunchly behind the solar power progress. She emphasized that though it is a formidable plan it is a realistic endeavor and that guarantees are in place for all financial and technological resources for the project to be a winning venture.

The government of Morocco is putting into place all of the necessary financial resources as it collaborates with the World Bank, the European Commission as well as Desertec to realize their vision of a future with lean solar energy at the forefront.

One can only wish that our own western governments – specifically North American – could be so simply persuaded to leave their own green footprints in the sands of time. Domestic reliance on fossil fuel is so great that making any significant inroads toward a renewable energy future is more of a transparent gesture at this time than a determined energy policy promoting green renewable energy advances.

Granted, countries such as Morocco have less of a power commitment than most western democracies do and they have their predictable climate going for them. However, until political will is transformed across the aisle, green energy initiatives will continue to be patronizing at best.

Source - Renewable Power News

Frogs, Foam and Fuel: Solar Energy Converted to Sugars

For decades, farmers have been trying to find ways to get more energy out of the sun. In natural photosynthesis, plants take in solar energy and carbon dioxide and then convert it to oxygen and sugars. The oxygen is released to the air and the sugars are dispersed throughout the plant -- like that sweet corn we look for in the summer. Unfortunately, the allocation of light energy into products we use is not as efficient as we would like. Now engineering researchers at the University of Cincinnati are doing something about that.

The researchers are finding ways to take energy from the sun and carbon from the air to create new forms of biofuels, thanks to a semi-tropical frog species. Their results have just been published online in Nano Letters.

Research Assistant Professor David Wendell, student Jacob Todd and College of Engineering and Applied Science Dean Carlo Montemagno co-authored the paper, based on research in Montemagno's lab in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Their work focused on making a new artificial photosynthetic material which uses plant, bacterial, frog and fungal enzymes, trapped within a foam housing, to produce sugars from sunlight and carbon dioxide.

Foam was chosen because it can effectively concentrate the reactants but allow very good light and air penetration. The design was based on the foam nests of a semi-tropical frog called the Tungara frog, which creates very long-lived foams for its developing tadpoles.

"The advantage for our system compared to plants and algae is that all of the captured solar energy is converted to sugars, whereas these organisms must divert a great deal of energy to other functions to maintain life and reproduce," says Wendell. "Our foam also uses no soil, so food production would not be interrupted, and it can be used in highly enriched carbon dioxide environments, like the exhaust from coal-burning power plants, unlike many natural photosynthetic systems."

He adds, "In natural plant systems, too much carbon dioxide shuts down photosynthesis, but ours does not have this limitation due to the bacterial-based photo-capture strategy."

There are many benefits to being able to create a plant-like foam.

"You can convert the sugars into many different things, including ethanol and other biofuels," Wendell explains. "And it removes carbon dioxide from the air, but maintains current arable land for food production."

"This new technology establishes an economical way of harnessing the physiology of living systems by creating a new generation of functional materials that intrinsically incorporates life processes into its structure," says Dean Montemagno. "Specifically in this work it presents a new pathway of harvesting solar energy to produce either oil or food with efficiencies that exceed other biosolar production methodologies. More broadly it establishes a mechanism for incorporating the functionality found in living systems into systems that we engineer and build."

The next step for the team will be to try to make the technology feasible for large-scale applications like carbon capture at coal-burning power plants.

"This involves developing a strategy to extract both the lipid shell of the algae (used for biodiesel) and the cytoplasmic contents (the guts), and reusing these proteins in the foam," says Wendell. "We are also looking into other short carbon molecules we can make by altering the enzyme cocktail in the foam."

Montemagno adds, "It is a significant step in delivering the promise of nanotechnology."

Source - Science Daily

First look: Architect creates 'Solar City Tower' for Rio's Olympic Games

Swiss architect Rafael Schmidt, of Zurich-based practice rafaa, has entered a breathtaking structure into the International Architecture Competition for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which he hopes could help turn the city into a symbol of eco-sustainability.

Consisting of a skyhigh, artificial waterfall structure built around a solar plant, the Solar City Tower is designed to greet visitors to the city, "whether they arrive by air or sea."

With a dominant position on Cotonduba Island, the energy-producing building could grow into an icon for green living and put Brazil, which has announced plans to cut down on carbon emissions and deforestation in the past, at the forefront of the development.

The structure would rely on solar energy from its massive panels to provide energy to the city and the Olympic village during the day, with excessive energy being pumped as seawater into the tower. At night, this 'left-over' energy could be released again and, with the help of turbines, generate electricity to illuminate Rio.

"After hosting the United Nations Earth Summit in 1992, Rio de Janeiro will once again be the starting point for a global green movement and for a sustainable development of urban structures," Schmidt said. "It will perhaps even become a symbol for the first zero carbon footprint Olympic Games."

If approved by the jury, the building would also host viewing platforms, a cafeteria, shopping facilities, and even a deck for bungee jumping.

It is the first project to emerge as candidate for the official architectural structure to mark Rio's hosting of the Olympic Games. According to the organizers, building work on the winning proposal is planned to begin this year, even though no official schedule has yet been announced.

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Source - Independent

Future of solar energy looks bright

Professor of Engineering Angus Rockett spoke about the positives and negatives of solar energy during his speech titled “Photovoltaics as Part of a Renewable Energy Economy” Monday at 4 p.m. in the ACES library.

While it’s still an evolving technology, solar energy can already be found in a few places on campus.

The Gable Home, 1900 S. First Street, Champaign, was created by the 2009 Solar Decathlon team and won second place in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. The house has 40 solar panels on it.

The house runs almost completely on solar energy, said Patrick Chapman, one of the team’s advisors and professor of electrical and computer engineering. “On average, we generate more power than we use,” he said.

A unique aspect of the house’s technology is that it converts the solar energy directly to electricity, instead of being converted to heat.

Other buildings powered by solar energy include the Business Instructional Facility, which uses solar cells on its roof.

Also, there is a single solar cell module outside Grainger Library. Rockett said solar energy is an expanding industry.

“The industry has been growing about 40 percent a year in recent years,” he said.

While solar cells are expensive right now, they are becoming more affordable.

“Prices are coming down. Prices are low enough now that it make sense for consumers to invest,” Rockett said.

Chapman said this price decrease should make solar energy a more viable option.

“I think that, just in general, as solar energy becomes cheaper, it will become more attractive,” Chapman said.

At 10 percent efficiency, solar energy is more efficient than other renewable sources of energy, including wind energy, Rockett said.

Another benefit is people do not have to go through the power grid because solar cells can be installed on their roofs, he added.

However, rare elements involved in making solar cells make solar energy problematic due to lack of sources, Rockett said.

Also, storage systems are needed in order to preserve the energy.

Curtis Manahan, graduate student, said he found the lecture interesting but did not think the University should install more solar cells.

“I think it (solar energy) has great possibility for growth and widespread use,” he said. “With the current amount of money they’re making, I don’t think it’s worth it to currently invest in it,” he said.

Source - Daily illini

Purple Pokeberries Hold Secret To Affordable Solar Power Worldwide

Pokeberries - the weeds that children smash to stain their cheeks purple-red and that Civil War soldiers used to write letters home - could be the key to spreading solar power across the globe, according to researchers at Wake Forest University's Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials.

Nanotech Center scientists have used the red dye made from pokeberries to coat their efficient and inexpensive fiber-based solar cells. The dye acts as an absorber, helping the cell's tiny fibers trap more sunlight to convert into power.

Pokeberries proliferate even during drought and in rocky, infertile soil. That means residents of rural Africa, for instance, could raise the plants for pennies. Then they could make the dye absorber for the extremely efficient fiber cells and provide energy where power lines don't run, said David Carroll, Ph.D., the center's director.

"They're weeds," Carroll said. "They grow on every continent but Antarctica."

Wake Forest University holds the first patent for fiber-based photovoltaic, or solar, cells, granted by the European Patent Office in November. A spinoff company called FiberCell Inc. has received the license to develop manufacturing methods for the new solar cell.

The fiber cells can produce as much as twice the power that current flat-cell technology can produce. That's because they are composed of millions of tiny, plastic "cans" that trap light until most of it is absorbed. Since the fibers create much more surface area, the fiber solar cells can collect light at any angle - from the time the sun rises until it sets.

To make the cells, the plastic fibers are stamped onto plastic sheets, with the same technology used to attach the tops of soft-drink cans. The absorber - either a polymer or a less-expensive dye - is sprayed on. The plastic makes the cells lightweight and flexible, so a manufacturer could roll them up and ship them cheaply to developing countries - to power a medical clinic, for instance.

Once the primary manufacturer ships the cells, workers at local plants would spray them with the dye and prepare them for installation. Carroll estimates it would cost about $5 million to set up a finishing plant - about $15 million less than it could cost to set up a similar plant for flat cells.

"We could provide the substrate," he said. "If Africa grows the pokeberries, they could take it home.

"It's a low-cost solar cell that can be made to work with local, low-cost agricultural crops like pokeberries and with a means of production that emerging economies can afford."

Source - Solar Daily