Monday, 10 January 2011

Large Scale Solar Farm Given the Go Ahead in Cornwall

It now appears that a large-scale solar farm has been granted planning permission by the Cornwall Council. This is a farm that will actually benefit from the government’s current feed in tariff. This tariff is one of the main reasons why so many companies are now looking into setting up such large scale “farms.”

Solar photovoltaic panels will be installed on land owned by the Lanhydrock Estate Company. All of the electricity generated by this renewable energy will be supplied to Restormel Water Treatment Works, which is owned by South West Water.

Julian German, the Cornwall Councillor, said that planning permission was granted because of the carbon reduction opportunity that it offered to the water treatment site. This new plan could help South West Water reduce its carbon footprint and enhance its energy security by consuming its total power output from the solar farm.

Of course, there are a number of community projects by renewable energy developer Cornwall Power that are also required as part of this planning permission. The council has also recently approved a ten-acre solar farm to be built near Bodmin, north Cornwall. It will generate up to 1.8 MW of energy, and construction will be finished by April of this year.

The more of these kinds of renewable energy projects that get started up, the better. In order for the UK to reach the carbon emissions goals that it has set for itself, it will need more companies taking an active role in reducing their CO2 output. The government will need consumers to play an active role in trying to reduce their carbon footprint as well.

Source - Electric News

Australian students smash solar vehicle speed record

The top speed world record for a solar-powered vehicle has stood for a 22 years. But last week it was smashed by a group of students from the University of New South Wales.

The solar car they developed, called Subswift IVy, managed to reach speeds of 88km/h, that’s over 9km/h faster than the previous Guinness World Record set at 78.3km/h by the GM Sunyraycer. IVy uses silicon solar cells and usually charges a 25kg battery for power. As this was a top-speed record attempt, though, the battery was removed and the car was pushed as fast as it could go at the HMAS Albatross navy base airstrip.

In total some 40 students were involved in the creation of IVy. The final design is capable of producing 1,200 watts of power and has been known to travel as fast as 103km/h. But for the world record attempt 88km/h was enough, and it was done at 10:32am–long before the sun is at it’s highest around midday.

Project manager Daniel Friedman commented:

We were expecting to get our peak sun at noon, so the fact we broke the record so early was a great result. We hope the news will spur a lot more interest in solar energy and the debate about renewable energy technology.

Matthew’s Opinion

Although these solar-only vehicles are specially designed to be super-light and super-efficient, that doesn’t mean the technology cannot be applied to standard road cars.

Producing 1,200 watts of power could go a long way towards powering the devices we are all used to in our cars. Of course it depends on the weather where you live, but coating the roof of your car with solar panels could have an impact on your fuel use ultimately saving you money.

While to focus for road vehicles at the moment seems to be hybrid and electric vehicles, as solar panel become more efficient they will turn into viable power or recharge options for the batteries all cars will eventually carry.

Source - Geek

U.K. Solar Installations Hit Record on New Incentives

The U.K., which had its 12th coldest year on record in 2010, installed more solar power than in any other year, data from the energy regulator Ofgem show.

Solar panels with the capacity to generate more than 42 megawatts of electricity were registered to receive above-market power prices last year, according to data e-mailed from the regulator Ofgem. The facilities were spurred by a government program starting in April that offered as much as 12 times the market rate for power from renewable sources.

The installations covered more than 16,000 homes and commercial properties. The new rules included in a “feed-in tariff” are aimed at expanding the clean energy industry and led to a 10-fold expansion in U.K. solar power.

“The feed-in tariffs sparked investment in an economic downturn,” Andrew Lee, head of Sharp Corp., the Osaka-based electronics maker’s U.K. solar unit, said in a telephone interview. “They’ve been a birth for the solar industry, and we’ve responded by creating jobs.”

A total of 4 megawatts of solar power facilities were installed in the U.K. in 2009 and 4.4 megawatts in 2008, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Sharp says it’s working to double production at its solar cell factory in Wales, the biggest in Britain, and Lee said the company has added about 300 new jobs at its expanded plant.


The impact on small-scale renewables has been “tremendous,” Dave Sowden, chief executive officer at the Micropower Council, an industry group, said in an interview. “They’ve been a complete game-changer in the market. We’ve seen more than a threefold increase in the number of companies registered as installers. It started 2010 at about 600, and ended at over 2000.”

Larger companies from the German utility E.ON AG to Tesco Plc, the biggest U.K. supermarket are tapping the market, offering homeowners help to buy and install panels, and tap the tariffs, which apply only to small-scale installations of renewable energy.

The Ofgem figures, which are dated Jan. 5, also showed 10.8 megawatts of wind power and 4.3 megawatts of hydro-power were registered to benefit from the tariffs from their introduction in April through December.

The guaranteed prices were introduced by the Labour government, which in May lost a general election, ceding power to a coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. The new government, in an October review of spending across all departments, said it would maintain the tariffs for now.

Investor Certainty

The tariffs are guaranteed for 25 years and vary according to capacity and whether panels are fitted to old buildings or new ones. They’re as high as 41.3 pence per kilowatt-hour, about eight times the current day-ahead U.K. power price, and 12 times the power price on April 1, when the system began.

The tariffs are “positive for investors in renewable technologies because it gives much more certainty on the price they can achieve,” Steve Jennings, who leads the utilities consulting practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers in London, said in a telephone interview. “Investment decisions need certainty in order for developers to invest in these installations.”

The U.K. Met Office said yesterday that U.K. temperatures averaged 8 degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit) in 2010, making it the 12th-coldest year in a series dating back a century. Solar panels can still generate power in cold temperatures and overcast conditions.

Germany Leads

The U.K. registered 42.5 megawatts of solar power since April, including about 9.3 megawatts of panels installed before 2010 that were allowed to participate in the new subsidies. The 33 megawatts of new installations mark an annual record for Britain, more than doubling the total installed solar power base from 32 megawatts at the end of 2009.

Still, that’s a fraction of activity in world leader Germany, where BSW Solar, the German Solar Industry Association, estimates 2010 installations will range from 7 gigawatts to 8 gigawatts. A gigawatt is a thousand megawatts.

In the U.K. spending review, the government said changes to the tariffs will be studied in 2012, while announcing a 40 million-pound cut in funding for the 2014 to 2015 tax year. The energy department says it may review the tariffs earlier if installations exceed forecasts.

“We’re concerned the government might curtail growth by putting a cap on installations next year,” Sharp’s Lee said. “We hope to work with them to maximize the job and industry growth potential for U.K. Plc.”

Source - Bloomberg

Pentagon Must ‘Buy American,’ Barring Chinese Solar Panels

HONG KONG — The military appropriations law signed by President Obama on Friday contains a little-noticed “Buy American” provision for the Defense Department purchases of solar panels — a provision that is likely to dismay Chinese officials as President Hu Jintao prepares to visit the United States next week.

A solar installation at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. The military is increasingly eager for alternative energy because fossil fuels are dangerous and expensive to transport in war zones.

Although there are many big issues to discuss, including concerns about North Korea, trade and economic matters are certain to be high on the agenda. And while both sides are aiming to keep the discussion positive — the United States is the world’s largest importer and China the largest exporter of goods — simmering resentments over trade in green-energy technologies could be a distraction.

China has emerged as the world’s dominant producer of solar panels in the last two years. It accounted for at least half the world’s production last year, and its market share is rising rapidly. The United States accounts for $1.6 billion of the world’s $29 billion market for solar panels; market analyses typically have not broken out military sales separately.

The perception that Beijing unfairly subsidizes the Chinese solar industry to the detriment of American companies and other foreign competitors has drawn concern in Congress. The issue of clean-energy subsidies is also at the heart of a trade investigation under way by the Obama administration, which plans to bring a case against China before the World Trade Organization.

The new Buy American provision, created mainly by House and Senate conferees during a flurry of activity at the end of the lame-duck session of Congress, prevents the Defense Department from buying Chinese-made solar panels.

The American military is a rapidly growing consumer of renewable energy products, because it is extremely expensive and frequently dangerous to ship large quantities of fuel into remote areas of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The solar panel provision is carefully written to help it comply with the free trade rules of the World Trade Organization, which would make it hard for China to ask a W.T.O. tribunal to overturn the provision, trade lawyers said.

Chinese leaders have strongly criticized such provisions in the past, particularly one in President Obama’s economic stimulus package in early 2009 that applied to government procurement of steel and construction materials.

But China required in the late spring of 2009 that virtually all of its $600 billion economic stimulus be spent within China, not just for construction materials.

Chinese officials in Beijing and Washington did not respond on Saturday or Sunday to requests for comment on the solar panel provision.

While the United States and Europe have focused on subsidizing buyers of solar panels, China has emphasized subsidies for solar panel manufacturers. It then exports virtually all of its panels to the United States and Europe, often helped by the American and European consumer subsidies.

The solar panel provision in the defense appropriations law comes as President Obama has ordered a broad investigation into whether Chinese export subsidies, local content requirements and other rules have violated W.T.O. rules. As a result of the investigation, the United States started a W.T.O. case on Dec. 22 against what it said were Chinese wind turbine manufacturing subsidies.

American trade officials said then that they were still examining other Chinese clean-energy subsidy policies to decide whether to file additional W.T.O. cases.

The solar panel provision was part of the initial defense appropriations bill passed by the House. The House version had a simple requirement that the Defense Department buy solar panels made in the United States.

The Senate, which has been more leery of interfering with free trade, had no comparable provision, however, and many people in the solar panel industry did not expect the final law to have such a provision.

But the conference of House and Senate leaders ended up retaining the House provision and modifying it, by adding legal language to require that it also comply with previous American trade legislation.

Representative Maurice Hinchey, Democrat of New York, said he had fought for the provision to be included in the bill.

“We’ve had a lot of money taken out of this country and invested in other places around the world, particularly China, and particularly in alternative energies,” he said in an interview by phone. “For them to be producing alternative energy, that’s great, but we need to do it ourselves, and as much of it as possible.”

Mr. Hinchey said he did not think the provision would jeopardize relations with the Chinese ahead of Mr. Hu’s visit. “We have provided them with a lot of economic growth there,” he said. “A lot of money has gone out of this country and into China, and a lot of manufacturing operations, particularly alternative energy, has also gone into China.”

Mr. Hinchey had praised the Obama administration in November for starting a broad investigation into Chinese subsidies for solar and wind energy exports, saying then that these subsidies had put a company in his district, Prism Solar Technologies of Highland, N.Y., at a competitive disadvantage.

Two prominent trade lawyers said in e-mails over the weekend that the law’s language meant that in practice, the Defense Department must buy solar panels from any country that signs the W.T.O.’s side agreement on government procurement. Earlier American trade laws require compliance with that agreement.

Virtually all industrialized countries have signed the side agreement, which requires free trade in government purchases. China vowed to sign it as soon as possible when it joined the W.T.O. in November 2001, but still has not done so.

The two trade lawyers said that the United States was within its rights to discriminate against Chinese solar panels in military procurement.

“The W.T.O. Government Procurement Agreement allows signatory countries, including the United States in its Defense Department contracts, to favor goods from countries that have signed that agreement over countries that have not,” said Carolyn B. Gleason, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery in Washington who is one of the best-known litigators of W.T.O. cases.

Alan Wolff, a former senior American trade official who is now the chairman of the trade practice at the law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf in Washington, said that it was hard to understand China’s resistance to signing the agreement. “There would be a clear benefit both for it and its trading partners,” he said.

Solar panels are technologically complex to manufacture, and are made almost entirely in industrialized countries that have signed the W.T.O. side agreement — or in China.

Inland Chinese provinces and cities have strongly lobbied Beijing not to sign the agreement because they want to retain the legal right to continue steering government contracts to local companies, said a trade policy adviser to the Chinese government who insisted on anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the issue.

The Buy American provision in the 2009 economic stimulus legislation also has a little-known clause allowing purchases from other countries that have signed the Government Procurement Agreement, and not just from American suppliers.

Ocean Yuan, the chief executive and president of Grape Solar, a company based in Eugene, Ore., that distributes mostly mainland Chinese solar panels but also American, Japanese and Taiwanese panels, said that imported panels typically cost 20 percent less than American-made panels.

Mr. Yuan predicted that the new legislation would have a big effect on the American solar panel market, by encouraging Chinese solar panel manufacturers to establish factories in the United States. “This policy will certainly have a negative impact on the imported solar panels from China, which have lower cost over all due to lower labor and overhead costs,” he said.

Grape Solar sold $500,000 worth of Chinese-made solar panels to the American military shortly before Christmas, Mr. Yuan said, adding that he expected future contracts to specify American-made panels.

The legislative provision was welcomed by SolarWorld, a German company that is one of the biggest manufacturers of solar panels in the United States and which has not followed the example of most manufacturers in moving production to China.

“As a long-standing and still-expanding American manufacturer of solar technology, SolarWorld is heartened that the U.S. government and military clearly grasp the critical role of domestically produced solar technology in the country’s national-security future,” said Bob Beisner, managing director of the company’s American subsidiary in Hillsboro, Ore., which is already installing American-made solar panels at United States military facilities at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

The defense appropriations bill has another provision related to China. It requires that the military conduct an immediate review of its needs for rare earth metals, which are mined elements increasingly crucial in sophisticated technologies. About 95 percent of the world’s supply comes from China.

The bill also requires the department to establish “an assured source of supply” for rare earth metals by 2015 and to consider setting up a stockpile.

Rare earths are essential for a wide range of military hardware, be it missiles or sonar. The Defense Department has been studying its contractors’ reliance on Chinese supplies for more than a year. A draft report shared with Congressional aides last fall had a preliminary conclusion that rare earths were very important but suggested that the department’s contractors continue to be allowed to buy them from any source.

Source - New York Times

Masdar plans wind turbine project, new solar plant

Masdar, the Abu Dhabi government-backed renewable energy company, plans this year to start building a 20-to-30-megawatt wind turbine facility.

“We are evaluating bids from international companies who want to help us build the plant,” Frank Wouters, director of Masdar Power, said at an industry briefing in Abu Dhabi today.

Wind speeds in the UAE are “moderate but still sufficient” for such turbines, he said.

Abu Dhabi, which holds almost all of the UAE’s oil reserves, is expanding its use of solar and wind power in a effort to become a regional hub for renewable energy. The emirate is building Masdar City, a business and residential complex designed to emit minimal carbon emissions, and serves as headquarters for the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Masdar also plans to build a 100MW photovoltaic plant called Noor and wants to award construction contracts for the venture by the end of the year, Wouters said. Photovoltaic plants use solar panels, which convert sunlight directly to electricity. Masdar already operates a 10MW facility of this type in Abu Dhabi.

Wouters said in October that Masdar’s Shams 1 solar plant, a $600m, 100-MW concentrated solar thermal plant to be completed in 2012, will receive less energy than planned because dust particles in the area will block sunlight. Concentrated solar plants reflect sunlight, usually with mirrors, to heat liquids and create steam to turn turbines and generate power.

The Noor plant will cost less than Shams 1 because of improving efficiency and “the normal learning curve for the industry,” Wouters said.

Shams 1 is a venture between Masdar, Abengoa SA and Total SA.

Source - Arabian Business

Is The Hornet Our Key To Renewable Energy

As every middle-school child knows, in the process of photosynthesis, plants take the sun's energy and convert it to electrical energy. Now a Tel Aviv University team has demonstrated how a member of the animal kingdom, the Oriental hornet, takes the sun's energy and converts it into electric power - in the brown and yellow parts of its body - as well.

"The interesting thing here is that a living biological creature does a thing like that," says physicist Prof. David Bergman of Tel Aviv University's School of Physics and Astronomy, who was part of the team that made discovery. "The hornet may have discovered things we do not yet know."

In partnership with the late Prof. Jacob Ishay of the university's Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Prof. Bergman and his doctoral candidate Marian Plotkin engaged in a truly interdisciplinary research project to explain the biological processes that turn a hornet's abdomen into solar cells.

The research team made the discovery several years ago, and recently tried to mimic it. The results show that the hornet's body shell, or exoskeleton, is able to harvest solar energy. They were recently published in the German journal Naturwissenschaften.

Discovering a new system for renewable energy?
Previously, entomologists noted that Oriental wasps, unlike other wasps and bees, are active in the afternoon rather than the morning when the sun is just rising. They also noticed that the hornet digs more intensely as the sun's intensity increases.

Taking this information to the lab, the Tel Aviv University team studied weather conditions like temperature, humidity and solar radiation to determine if and how these factors also affected the hornet's behavior, but found that UVB radiation alone dictated the change.

In the course of their research, the Tel Aviv University team also found that the yellow and brown stripes on the hornet abdomen enable a photo-voltaic effect: the brown and yellow stripes on the hornet abdomen can absorb solar radiation, and the yellow pigment transforms that into electric power.

The team determined that the brown shell of the hornet was made from grooves that split light into diverging beams. The yellow stripe on the abdomen is made from pinhole depressions, and contains a pigment called xanthopterin. Together, the light diverging grooves, pinhole depressions and xanthopterin change light into electrical energy. The shell traps the light and the pigment does the conversion.

A biological heat pump
The researchers also found a number of energy processes unique to the insect. Like air conditioners and refrigerators, the hornet has a well-developed heat pump system in its body which keeps it cooler than the outside temperature while it forages in the sun. This is something that's not easy to do, says Prof. Bergman.

To see if the solar collecting prowess of the hornet could be duplicated, the team imitated the structure of the hornet's body but had poor results in achieving the same high efficiency rates of energy collection. In the future, they plan to refine the model to see if this "bio-mimicry" can give clues to novel renewable energy solutions.

The research team also discovered that hornets use finely honed acoustic signals to guide them so they can build their combs with extraordinary precision in total darkness. Bees can at least see what they are doing, explains Prof. Bergman, but hornets cannot - it's totally dark inside a hornet nest.

Source - Solar Daily

happy new year to all