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"I don't think in the last two or three hundred years we've faced such a concatenation
of  problems all at the same time.... If we are to solve the issues that are ahead of us,

we are going to need to think in completely different ways."

  Paddy Ashdown, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina 2002 - 2006

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Why Solar?

".... you're not going to be self-sufficient, or even produce half of our energy from biomass in the U.S., if we want to eat.... The difficulty is that plants do not collect very much solar energy. On average, plants collect one-tenth of one percent of the solar energy available. Photovoltaic solar cells collect at least 10 percent, which means 100 times the energy collected by plants. Biofuel Skeptic Extraordinaire.... When these people talk about biofuels providing us with our energy, they need to look at the facts right now. Eighteen percent of all corn is going into ethanol production. We're getting 4.5 million gallons of ethanol. That's 1 percent of U.S. petroleum use. It's 1 percent. If we use 100 percent of U.S. corn, and we won't do that, but if we used 100 percent, what would that do for us? Six percent."
Professor David Pimentel, Cornell University
Biofuel Skeptic Extraordinaire
Grist, 8 December 2006

"Humanity’s 'primary energy production,' including all fossil fuels, nuclear power, hydroelectric and renewables, is 13 terawatts (equivalent to 13,000 large power plants), less than 1/100 of 1 percent of the 170,000 terawatts continuously delivered to the earth as sunlight. With 600 terawatts of terrestrial potential, solar energy far exceeds all other possible forms of substitution..... A direct path from sunlight to electricity can be 10 times as efficient as photosynthesis. Solar energy can’t be touched or put into a bottle. Solar is radiant energy, not a solid, liquid or gas. Electricity from renewables is ideally suited for urban transportation. It is nonpolluting and well-suited for fixed guide rail and automated routing of traffic, and an electric vehicle is at least twice as efficient as a gasoline vehicle. We are ready for a good reason to get rid of the internal combustion engine in dense urban areas, where it is about as practical as a campfire in the kitchen. Efficiency in the face of oil depletion is that compelling reason. Solar technologies continue to improve, and so do electric vehicles. A battery with three times the energy density of lead-acid and a charging time under two minutes is scheduled for introduction in 2007 or 2008."
Dawn of the Solar Era - A Wake-Up Call
Solar Today, March/April 2006

2012

"Bloomberg reported last week that a number of solar developers in Spain have applied for permits to connect to the country’s electric grid and sell solar power at market prices. Taken together the permit requests total 37,5 gigawatts (GW = 1,000 megawatts). ... The rest of the world has Spain to thank for inching so far out into traffic that they lost the hood ornament on the car: the stimulus effect from that program (and that of Germany – which has spent a couple billion Euros for 30,000 MW of solar – and other European countries) helped create a global industry with rapidly falling costs and increasing efficiencies. As a consequence, we are now able to talk seriously about grid parity of solar resources, and sun-drenched Spain has gotten to the point that utility-scale programs can be envisioned without subsidies."
Solar Grid Parity Comes to Spain
Forbes, 26 December 2012

".... this year, Friedman’s team succeeded so spectacularly in bending the rules of the solar spectrum that NREL and its industry partner, Solar Junction, won a coveted R&D 100 award from R&D Magazine for a world-record multijunction solar cell. The three-layered cell, SJ3, converted 43.5% of the energy in sunlight into electrical energy — a rate that has stimulated demand for the cell to be used in concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) arrays for utility-scale energy production. Last month, that record of 43.5% efficiency at 415 suns was eclipsed with a 44% efficiency at 947 suns. Both records were verified by NREL. This is NREL’s third R&D 100 award for advances in ultra-high-efficiency multijunction cells. CPV technology gains efficiency by using low-cost lenses to multiply the sun’s intensity, which scientists refer to as numbers of suns."
Solar PV's 44% Efficiency Record, Thanks To NREL & Solar Junction
CleanTechnica, 30 December 2012

2011

"By harvesting waste heat, researchers from the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have for the first time built a solar cell with an external quantum efficiency over 100 percent. A cell's external quantum efficiency is the number of electrons flowing per second in its external circuit, divided by the number of photons per second entering it, and is different at different wavelengths. "
Solar cell could be cheaper than fossil fuel
TG Daily, 19 December 2011

2010

"....solar-panel companies are increasingly optimistic that, with technological advances and improvements in manufacturing efficiency, it won't be too long before 'grid parity' — the point at which solar power is equal to or cheaper than conventional energy sources — is reached, especially if oil prices remain high.... If the technology continues to improve, solar power could achieve parity within five to 10 years, says Peter Thiele, executive vice president of Sharp's energy-solutions division in Europe. Or even sooner, if panel prices continue to fall while oil prices rise. Observers say sales growth is rebounding as buyers respond to increasingly cost-effective solar power."
Solar Power: Sunshine's Cloudy Days
TIME, 25 January 2010

Those who believe that future wars will be fought over global energy supplies and other natural resources include John Reid (former UK Defence Minister), Paddy Ashdown (former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina), Bill Clinton (former US President), Joe Lieberman (Senator and former Vice Presidential running mate to Al Gore), and Mike McConnell (US Director of National Intelligence to George W Bush).

Improved global energy conservation will need to play a vital role in trying to pre-empt the occurrence of these harrowing scenarios. But large amounts of energy will still be required as the world population expands and develops.

Finding new sources of energy in this context is an essential part of establishing and maintaining world peace and stability. Reserves of traditional fossil fuels are depleting, and their are even doubts about the adequacy of global uranium supplies to fuel nuclear reactors. By contrast there are other sources of energy which cannot be depleted as long as the sun continues to shine.

Most forms of renewable energy are driven partly or wholly by the sun - wind, wave, hydroelectric, near surface ground source heat, biomass, and even tidal (through gravitational effects, although the influence of the moon is much greater), are all part of the framework of solar energy in one form or another.

All of these have a potentially important role to play in moving humanity towards the onset of a new solar based society. This web page, however, focuses on news items related to the development and use of direct solar thermal and solar photovoltaic energy systems.

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SOLAR ENERGY NEWS
2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009 - 2008 - 2007 - 2006 & Earlier
2014

"INSTALLING state-of-the-art solar panels on 250,000 roofs could meet one-sixth of Scotland’s electricity demands, according to researchers. Scientists believe the strategy could help the one in three Scottish households which they claim are currently struggling to provide themselves with adequate heat and hot water. Experts from the University of Edinburgh, along with other researchers, business leaders and public sector representatives, contributed to a new report which sets out how Scotland could benefit from solar power. Those involved in the project say it offers the most comprehensive assessment yet of Scotland’s solar energy potential, and argue that harnessing energy from the sun on the roofs of south-facing buildings could have 'significant economic, environmental and social impacts'. Solar power could help Scotland meet renewables targets, create jobs and make sure the energy needs of people in cities and rural areas are met, the project found."
Solar panels solution to Scotland’s energy demands
Scotsman, 21 May 2014

"India’s new government led by Narendra Modi plans to harness solar power to enable every home to run at least one light bulb by 2019, a party official said. 'We look upon solar as having the potential to completely transform the way we look at the energy space,' said Narendra Taneja, convener of the energy division at Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which swept to power on May 16 in the biggest electoral win in three decades. About 400 million people in India lack access to electricity, more than the combined population of the U.S. and Canada. The outgoing government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh missed a 2012 target to provide electricity to all households. The five-year goal will require the cooperation of state-level administrations with which the central government shares control over the power industry, Taneja said. If successful, solar panels could allow every home to have enough power to run two bulbs, a solar cooker and a television, he said. Expanding clean-power generation will be the administration’s top energy-related priority, especially solar because it has the potential to create jobs and supply millions of scattered households not connected to the grid, he said."
Modi to Use Solar to Bring Power to Every Home by 2019
Bloomberg, 19 May 2014

"Subsidies that have driven the spread of large solar farms across Britain are to be scrapped under plans to stop the panels blighting the countryside. Energy companies that build solar farms currently qualify for generous consumer-funded subsidies through the so-called 'Renewable Obligation' (RO) scheme, and had expected to keep doing so until 2017. But the Department of Energy and Climate Change announced on Tuesday that it planned to shut the RO to new large solar farms two years early, from April next year. The decision follows an admission by ministers that far more projects have been built than expected, leading to an rising subsidy bill for consumers and increasing local opposition.  Greg Barker, the energy minister, pledged last month that solar farms must not become 'the new onshore wind' and said he wanted solar panels installed on factory rooftops instead. Although a separate, new subsidy scheme will be made available to large solar farms, it is expected to be far more difficult for solar farms to gain funding under the new regime. A Whitehall source said: 'Large scale solar shouldn't be in any place or at any cost. The direction of travel is away from farms - especially where communities don't want them.'  Leonie Greene, head of external affairs for the Solar Trade Association, said the industry was 'dismayed' at the proposals. She said that the replacement subsidy scheme - so-called 'contracts for difference' (CfD) - simply 'doesn't work for solar'. The new scheme will have a capped budget and onshore wind and solar farm projects will be forced to compete with each other in reverse auctions to win subsidy contracts. Ms Greene said that, on current costs, solar farms 'can't compete with onshore wind'. The uncertainty in the auction process also made solar farm development too risky for the small businesses who typically build them."
End to solar farm blight as subsidy scheme is scrapped
Telegraph, 13 May 2014

"Agua Caliente, the largest photovoltaic solar power facility in the world, was completed last week in Arizona. The plant comprises more than five million solar panels that span the equivalent of two Central Parks in the desert between Yuma and Phoenix. It generates 290 megawatts of power—enough electricity to fuel 230,000 homes in neighboring California at peak capacity. The Agua Caliente Solar Project represents a significant advance in the technology compared with just four years ago, when the largest solar facility in the U.S. generated only 20 megawatts. 'Solar has completely arrived as a competitive energy resource,' says Peter Davidson, executive director of the Loan Programs Office at the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE)."
World’s Largest Solar Array Set to Crank Out 290 Megawatts of Sunshine Power
Scientific American, 9 May 2014

"Driven by an energy-hungry population and unstable oil prices, countries in the Gulf and the wider MENA region are investing in various green energy options, with a focus on in solar energy. The Middle East could see more than $50 billion investment in its solar power sector by 2020, according to report by Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA). The report found that new renewable projects, providing around 37,000 megawatts (MW) of energy, are to be commissioned by the end of this decade. Solar energy projects are forecast to provide around 12,000MW to 15,000MW of power. Saudi Arabia is the largest solar power market in the region with plans to install 23,900MW of renewable energy by 2020. The Kingdom announced plans to spend around $109 billion on solar, in a bid to shift power generation to renewable sources. The UAE too has been stepping up investment in solar. Last year Abu Dhabi launched Shams 1 – the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant (CSP) in operation. The 100MW plant, located in the western region of Abu Dhabi, generates enough clean energy to power 20,000 homes in the UAE. Dubai too opened the first phase of a 13 MW photovoltaic park last year, which has the capacity to generate 1,000MW of power when completed. Despite being abundantly blessed with sun throughout the year, countries in the MENA region have traditionally shied away from investing in solar, citing reasons of commercial unviability in the long term. But attitudes have drastically changed in last few years. Experts point out that a combination of rising population and declining oil reserves has increased the appeal of renewables."
The Middle East Eyes Solar As Easy Oil Era Ends
Gulf Business, 26 April 2014

"At long last, this Earth Day we celebrate the true dawn of the Solar Age. That sunrise is hastened, here and abroad, by the slow demise of the once-touted 'too-cheap-to-meter' Atomic Age of nuclear power. As utilities find nuclear power less and less cost effective, new solar photovoltaic installations in the United States are springing up. New solar installations in 2013 reached a record 4.2 gigawatts, bringing the total to 10. On average, one gigawatt of solar photovoltaics powers 164,000 U.S. homes. That means power for 1.6 million homes.  Worldwide, in 2013, solar power installations grew by 38 gigawatts, from 96 to 134. According to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013, in the preceding year, 45 gigawatts of wind and 32 gigawatts of solar power were installed worldwide, compared with a net addition of just 1.2 gigawatts of nuclear. Hastening this energy revolution is the nuclear industry's Achilles heel: an aging, dangerous reactor fleet that is increasingly uncompetitive and new reactor designs that are too expensive to build. Last year, utilities permanently shuttered five more reactors, lowering the number of operating units in the United States to fewer than 100 for the first time in two decades. Utility owners canceled at least nine planned upgrades of existing reactors, deeming the investments no longer economically justifiable. Additionally, nine planned new nuclear reactors were axed in 2013, an indication of how rapidly things have changed. Just five years ago, utilities applied for licenses to construct at least 27 new reactors. By the close of 2013, only four of those reactor projects were still alive."
As nuclear power dies, solar rises
CNN, 22 April 2014

"It's official. Off-grid energy is moving from the eco-fringe to mainstream. Last month US investment bank Morgan Stanley announced that the off-grid era had arrived: falling prices for renewable energy equipment and rising prices for energy supplied by power companies are fundamentally altering the business model of the trillion-dollar electricity industry. A key piece of the jigsaw came in another statement last month: Tesla Motors are now committing to a huge increase in battery production, bringing down the cost of energy storage capacity by over 50%. The power grid is like a giant battery and up to £500 per year of our energy bills is paying for the maintenance of that battery. Morgan Stanley calculates that Tesla's batteries will only cost an off-grid household £350 per year, rendering the Utility company business model obsolete. 'Our analysis suggests utility customers may be positioned to eliminate their use of the power grid,' says the Morgan Stanley report, Clean Tech, Utilities and Autos. 'We expect Tesla's batteries to be cost competitive with the grid in many states, and think investors generally do not appreciate the potential size of the market.'"
Off-grid living: it's time to take back the power from the energy companies
Guardian Online, 11 April 2014

"Internet access fuelled by solar power could soon be a reality. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have developed technology that enables solar panels to detect broadband signals, allowing data to be transmitted on the world wide web using daylight. In addition, solar energy can be used to power such a device, as well as detect and carry data.... The two technologies combined could enable self-sufficient wireless communications in remote areas, in developing regions with no web infrastructure, or in emergency situations. Prototypes of the system have reached transmission speed of about 7 Mbps, which is equivalent to maximum speeds in conventional wireless networks. The research builds on the Edinburgh team's pioneering Li-Fi technology, which enables data to be transmitted over the Internet using LED light bulbs. Telecommunications pioneer Professor Harald Haas explains the latest developments in his research at the Tam Dalyell prize lecture at the Edinburgh International Science Festival. This University of Edinburgh annual prize recognises an individual or group for their public engagement work such as hosting school visits, talks and other public events or through publishing and broadcasting."
Solar-powered Internet access set to broaden reach of web
Economic Times, 11 April 2014

"The total grid-connected solar capacity, commissioned under the National Solar Mission, crossed the 2,500-MW mark and stood at 2,632 MW as on March 31, 2014. Of the total, a little over a third of capacity was commissioned in Gujarat. A total capacity of 947 MW was commissioned during fiscal 2013-14 and Madhya Pradesh added highest capacity of 310 MW during the year, according to a document of Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). Of the commissioned, higher contribution came from state-policy driven projects at 1,322 MW, followed by MNRE projects at 688 MW, REC Scheme at 491 MW and the rest came from RPO (renewable purchase obligation), private sector rooftop and central government organisations."
Solar capacity in India crosses 2,500 MW
The Hindu, 5 April 2014

"Oregon State University chemists have discovered how to use the sun as more than just a way to harvest passive energy - they can use it to directly produce the solar energy materials that make energy harvesting possible. This breakthrough by chemical engineers at Oregon State University could soon reduce the cost of solar energy, speed production processes, use environmentally benign materials, and make the sun almost a 'one-stop shop' that produces both the materials for solar devices and the eternal energy to power them. Writing in RSC Advances, they say the  work is based on the use of a 'continuous flow' microreactor to produce nanoparticle inks that make solar cells by printing. Existing approaches based mostly on batch operations are more time-consuming and costly. In this process, simulated sunlight is focused on the solar microreactor to rapidly heat it, while allowing precise control of temperature to aid the quality of the finished product. The light in these experiments was produced artificially, but the process could be done with direct sunlight, and at a fraction of the cost of current approaches."
How Meta: Using The Sun To Create Solar Energy Materials
Science2.0, 3 April 2014

"Solar energy now costs the same as conventionally generated electricity in three European countries. The latest report from an ongoing "PV (Photovoltaic) Grid Parity Monitor" study by consulting firm Eclareon found that the cost of solar- and fossil fuel-powered electricity has the same per kilowatt hour (kWh) price tag in Germany, Italy and Spain. Germany decommissioned all of its nuclear power plants in 2012 after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. The country has a ways to go to replace that with energy from renewable resources. While Germany is the world's top PV installer, with a solar PV capacity of 35.8 gW at the end of January, the total represents only 3% of its total energy produced there. Germany has set a goal of producing 35% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and 100% by 2050.... Cory Honeyman, a solar power analyst with GTM research, said the dropping costs of solar power has spurred utilities to sign contracts to use renewable energy rather than conventional fuels like gas in power plants. For example, utility Austin Energy recently signed a contract to buy solar energy-produced electricity from SunEdison at a rock bottom price of 5 cents per kilowatt hour of energy. SunEdison will generate the power at two solar energy plants in West Texas. 'SunEdison beat out the natural gas prices by 2 cents per kilowatt,' Honeyman said. 'That's a prime example of what we're seeing in terms of [solar plant] projects bid by developers at really competitive prices.' Power costs from plants fueled by renewable energy and conventional fuels fluctuate state-by-state in the U.S. due to subsidies and other factors. According to a July 2013 report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories in Berkeley, Calif., the price of PV solar power plant installation has seen a 'precipitous decline' year over since 2008. On average, the plant installation price has declined by 9 cents per watt (or 14%) for solar installations. Among projects installed in 2012, the median plant cost $5.30 per watt for systems under 10kW in size, $4.9 per watt for systems ranging from 10-100 kW, and $4.6 per watt for systems greater than 100 kW in size. A separate study by Stanford University revealed that it's possible to fulfill all of America's energy needs through renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and hydroelectric, while creating jobs in the process. The Stanford team of researchers created 50 individual plans for how each U.S. state could transition to 100% renewable energy.... The GPM by Eclareon monitored competitiveness in seven European countries with retail electricity prices for residential consumers (PV systems of 3kW) and commercial segment (PV systems of 30kW). Photovoltaics (solar PV) is already price competitive against retail electricity in the commercial sector of major European markets, according to Ecareaon.... While the cost of renewable energy has gone down, high installation prices in Latin America still prevent PV technology from being competitive against grid electricity there, according to Eclareon's report. At the same time, the majority of Latin American countries have been facing retail electricity price decreases. In contrast, European countries such as Germany, Italy, and Spain have reached grid parity. France is the only exception of the analyzed markets in continental Europe, as high irradiation levels and relatively low installation prices are offset by low electricity rates there, the report stated."
Solar achieves price parity in Europe
ComputerWorld, 27 March 2014

"Testing by AAA has found that how far an electric vehicle can travel on one charge varies widely depending on the weather. Frigid temperatures can reduce that distance by 57%. The research is important to the Automobile Club of Southern California because it maintains mobile recharging trucks for people who misjudge how far they can go in their electric car. 'EV drivers need to carefully monitor range in hot and cold weather,' said Steve Mazor, the engineer who manages the Southern California club’s Automotive Research Center...The average EV battery range in AAA’s test was 105 miles at 75 degrees but dropped 57% to just 43 miles at 20 degrees. Heat also sliced the cars' ranges but by not as much: The cars averaged 69 miles per full charge at 95 degrees, 33% less than in 75-degree weather."
Electric cars can go only half as far in freezing weather, AAA finds
Los Angles Times, 20 March 2014

"First Solar, Inc. FSLR +0.18% today announced it has set a world record for cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) module conversion efficiency, achieving a record 17.0 percent total area module efficiency in tests performed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The new record is an increase over the prior record of 16.1 percent efficiency, which the company set in April 2013. This announcement comes weeks after First Solar announced it achieved a world record in CdTe research cell efficiency of 20.4 percent."
First Solar Sets Thin-Film Module Efficiency World Record of 17.0 Percent
Business Wire, 19 March 2014

"Basic, safe, sustainable sanitation remains an issue for approximately 2.5 billion people world-wide. These people do not have access to running water or safe sanitation methods such as sewage systems or water processing plants. Now, with sufficient sunlight, a new solar powered toilet can serve up to a family of six while turning their waste into a product that they may want. A University of Colorado at Boulder team has developed a toilet that is not only solar powered but can generate biochar. Biochar was used as a farming aid in the Amazon basin almost 3,000 years ago. The indigenous people took wood and leafy greens and roasted them in smothered fires. These low temperature burns created charcoal as opposed to ash. The people then took the charcoal and buried it in the fields to fertilize crops. With the arrival of the Europeans, this type of farming was soon gone but the layers of biochar remained. In the 20th Century, these deposits of black soil were found and in the 1990s it was discovered by scientists that this black soil was actually made by man. The soil deposits were immense. Some of the deposits were up to six feet deep with a total acreage on the order of 180,000 square miles.... The self-contained solar powered toilet was developed by Karl Linden, a professor of environmental engineering at Colorado University in Bolder. The toilet uses the sun’s energy to sterilize the solid human waste, a need and a want of approximately 40 percent of the Earth’s population. In addition to the sterilization of the waste, this particular toilet turns the waste into biochar. Not only simply a soil additive, the resultant product from the toilet may be used for heating.The toilet utilizes the sunlight to heat up the waste and turn it into biochar. This process is done by using eight parabolic mirrors which focus the light on a small area. This, in turn, heats up a bundle of fiber optic cables which transmits the heat to a reaction chamber. The temperatures in this reaction area may exceed 600 degrees Fahrenheit."
Solar Powered Toilet Turns Waste to Want
Liberty Voice, 18 March 2014

"California set back-to-back solar power records last week, the state grid operator said on Monday. The amount of electricity produced from carbon-free solar facilities connected to the grid reached 4,093 megawatts on Saturday, surpassing the day-earlier record of 3,926 MW, the California Independent System Operator (ISO) said in a statement. With 5,231 MW, California leads the nation in installed solar generation, including thermal and photovoltaic facilities, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Power generated from solar has more than doubled from June 2012 when the ISO recorded 2,071 MW of peak production, the ISO said. 'This shows that California is making remarkable progress in not only getting new resources approved and connected to the grid, but making meaningful contributions in keeping the lights on as well,' Steve Berberich, president the California ISO, said in a statement. Electricity was being produced by 78 percent of the state's installed solar capacity Saturday, well above the 20 percent of nameplate electric capacity solar plants typically produce on an annual basis, according to the Electric Power Research Institute. The record solar generation accounted for about 18 percent of the state's 22,700-MW demand on Saturday, the ISO said, with the ability to supply about 3 million homes. 'The milestones illustrate that we are well into a new era when clean, renewable energy is shouldering its share of our electricity needs,' Berberich said. California also has about 5,890 MW of wind generation, second only to Texas which has 11,213 MW in commercial operation. California's wind, solar and geothermal resources make up about 15,000 MW of the state's generation mix. California's wind production record stands at 4,302 MW, set June 23, 2013."
California electric grid sets solar generation record
Reuters, 10 March 2014

"Now that the world’s largest concentrated solar plant is operational in California’s Mojave Desert, the question is whether it will prove its mettle and whether more of those facilities will crop up. The 392-megawatt Ivanpah solar plant doesn’t just have competition from natural gas and nuclear facilities. It is also up against photovoltaic (PV), or rooftop solar panels, which have fallen in price by 70 percent since 2010. Odds are that concentrated solar power (CSP) technology, which focuses the sun’s rays to produce heat, will have a tough time competing, unless it can reduce costs and perfect the technology. 'CSP has fallen by the wayside of the solar industry after attracting huge amounts of government and investor money in 2010 and 2011,' says Ed Cahill, a research associate with Boston-based Lux Research and lead author of its recent report on CSP. ' But the industry can still bring the technology back to the forefront for utility-scale, stand-alone power applications.' The plunge in solar PV prices has led to 4,400 megawatts of solar-panel installations in the United States. PV’s gain will be CSP’s loss. Because several large plants are in the pipeline, the 520 megawatts of CSP capacity in operation now could become 1,300 megawatts by year end. But after that, while PV takes off, CSP's growth will slow and eke its way to 2,000 megawatts by 2018."
Concentrated solar power: Did it miss its chance?
Christian Science Monitor, 7 March 2014

"The latest Bloomberg prediction is that the solar market will grow 20%-plus in 2014. After consulting with 'some of the world’s most knowledgeable and respected solar analysts' – Deustche Bank, HSBC, Citigroup, Yingli, NPD Solarbuzz, Wacker Chemie, and PricewaterhouseCoopers – Bloomberg suggests there will be around 44.5 GW installed. That is only a little less than the 46 GW suggested by the Deutsche Bank. The big story, from 2013, is the change of leadership amongst the world’s solar powers. After dominating the industry for more than six years, Germany is expected to install a mere 3.3 GW this year. Instead of incentives, the owners of clean energy plants may soon be paying a 4.4 euro cents (6 cents) a kilowatt-hour tax. That could turn potential customers away."
Solar to grow 20% in 2014: analysts
The Australian, 6 March 2014

"Energy harvested from the Sun was the second-biggest source of new electricity generation capacity in 2013, but there are clouds on the horizon as a trade war between the U.S. and China stands to throw a monkey wrench in the works... While big utility scale plants like Ivanpah, which harnesses the heat of the sun with concentrated solar mirrors, got most of the headlines, it was small-scale residential systems that drove much of the demand last year. Residential projects increased by 60% over 2012 as the price of installing solar fell and as customers took advantage of leasing options—offered by companies like Solarcity....Last year China installed at least 12 gigawatts of solar capacity, at least 50% more than any other country had ever built in a single year. But that’s where things get cloudy. The U.S. solar boom has been fueled in part by cheap solar panels from China, which have helped bring down the cost of solar power—now 15% cheaper than it was in 2012. But those same cheap Chinese panels have hurt domestic manufacturers of solar PV, even as they’ve helped installers like Solarcity. Several domestic solar manufacturers—led by SolarWorld, an American arm of a German company—have complained that the Chinese government is unfairly subsidizing national solar PV manufacturers, which allows them to undercut their American competitors. In response, the U.S. government agreed in 2012 to impose tariffs of 24 to 36% on Chinese PV panels. But that made little difference—Chinese companies just outsourced much of their production to Taiwan. This year, however, SolarWorld brought a new suit in response, pushing the U.S. to extend those tariffs to Chinese panels made in Taiwan. Last month, the U.S. International Trade Commission said it would move forward with an investigation, and is set to issue a preliminary ruling by the end of March. If those tariffs are indeed extended, you can expect solar power in the U.S. to get more expensive, slowing down growth and hitting installers—who employ far more Americans than U.S. solar manufacturers do—very hard, especially since China has already said it would impose retaliatory tariffs. More expensive panels would likely depress demand for solar in the U.S., hurting installers."
A Bright Year for Solar in the U.S.—But There Are Clouds on the Horizon
TIME, 5 March 2014

"Volkswagen has released the first official images of the Golf GTE plug-in hybrid ahead of its world premiere at the Geneva motor show on March 4. Claimed to combine the dynamics of the petrol GTI with the cleanliness of electric propulsion, the GTE has a range of about 37 miles in electric-only mode and a total range of 583 miles. Its Combined fuel consumption is 188mpg, with 35g/km of CO2. It will cost about £28,000 after a Government grant has been included. It will be available to order in late August, with the first cars expected in showrooms in late November.Essentially it’s a Golf GTI with a smaller capacity petrol engine and the addition of an electric motor. A 1.4-litre, turbocharged TSI unit develops 148bhp, with a 75 kW/100bhp electric motor integrated into the housing of the six-speed, triple-clutch DSG gearbox to provide a total power of 248bhp. Even better, the combined petrol engine and electric motor develop 258lb ft of torque. Using the electric motor only, the GTE is capable of 80mph. With the addition of the TSI petrol engine, it can accelerate from 0-62mph in 7.6sec, with a top speed of 138mph.  The battery can be fully charged in three and a half hours from a domestic socket, or about two and a half hours using a high-capactiy home charger or public charging site. The car’s socket is located behind the VW badge on the grille.'"
VW Golf GTE plug-in hybrid revealed
Telegraph, 20 February 2014

"'You can just imagine the area in New York, Chicago, or Hong Kong: There are huge buildings with big windows. That area is just wasted.' That’s Alan Heeger, a Nobel chemistry laureate, getting enthusiastic about new uses for thin, flexible, semi-transparent solar cells he’s developing using a 'liquid ink' material. The transparent solar cells can generate power for air conditioning and even serve to screen from the sun’s rays. 'It’s like wearing sunglasses,' Heeger explained; the cells act as a solar insulator, reducing the amount of heat radiating in the building. The liquid solar cell material can be printed from a roll-to-roll printing press, much as newspaper is printed; comes in different colors; is durable; and being bendable, can be placed along curved surfaces like the outer walls or windows of high rises. Its lightweight and rugged aspect is very attractive to urban planning specialists because it allows endless possibilities on where and how the solar cells can be applied to surfaces. Another interesting use of these solar cells is on greenhouses. They are light enough to be placed on the roof and sides of the structure, and their transparency lets the sun shine through toward the plants. Heeger suggested that tinting the color of the cells may increase the productivity of the plants below. The possibilities of solar installation are endless with the new variables of flexibility and lightweight technology. This alone may allow people who’ve never considered using solar cells to find ways to apply them to their structures. Solar cells need a reasonably high efficiency to make the cells productive. Heeger explained that he and his colleagues originally sparked the idea in 1995 in the laboratory and created cells that were about one percent efficient. He explained, 'Many people around the world see the potential value in this research. Now, the efficiencies [of our solar cells] are steadily rising up to about 12 percent, and we foresee 15-20 percent in the reasonable future. By utilizing tandem cells, we could probably obtain even higher efficiencies, which is fantastic.'"
Solar Window Panels?
Santa Barbara Independent, 14 February 2014

"The world's largest solar energy plant has officially opened in California. Sprawling across 3,500 acres in the Mojave desert, Ivanpah solar thermal power plant can produce nearly 400 megawatts of energy - enough to power 140,000 homes. The opening of the $2.2 billion complex of three generating units represents a major milestone in the growing green industry. .... The plant consists of three 459-foot tall towers each with tens of thousands of robotic, heliostats that angle sunlight towards a water boiler. Each heliostat consists of two garage size doors. The reflective area of each heliostat is 163 square feet.  Seen from above the 173,500 heliostats together look like a lake, reflecting the blue sky, but this has proved problematic for birds. Government documents show dozens of dead birds from sparrows to hawks have been found on the site, some with melted feathers. The suspected causes of death include collisions with mirrors and scorching."
World's largest solar energy plant opens in California
ITV, 14 February 2014

"It seems far-fetched to imagine that putting money into solar panels on the roof of your house could deliver a better return than in a private pension. But that is exactly what the energy minister, Greg Barker, argued in an interview with the Telegraph this week. Installation costs for solar panels have fallen, and the Government subsidises the electricity they produce, meaning households could get typical rates of return of between 5pc and 8pc, according to official figures. Average rates on annuities, which many pensioners buy to guarantee a set income for life, are currently around 3.5pc, if the rate of return is linked to inflation. Financial advisers have been swift to warn that while solar panels have their merits, they are no substitute for a pension in retirement planning.  Laith Khalaf, head of corporate research at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: 'There is nothing wrong with the idea of installing solar panels, but it is not a way to save for retirement. Rather, they are something you spend your retirement savings on.' Figures calculated for the Telegraph show that when compared on an annual basis, solar panels could provide a higher income than a pension. But there are certain provisos – and over the long term, the figures appear to swing in favour of pensions. Some 500,000 British homes have installed solar panels, which enable users to generate their own electricity and sell any excess power to energy firms. If a householder spent £7,500 on a 4kWp installation of solar photovoltaic panels to generate electricity, under the current feed-in tariff rates they could generate an income of £770 a year. The Energy Saving Trust, which provided the figures, said that households could earn £555 a year for generating the electricity, as well as £90 a year selling excess power back to the energy companies. The trust estimated that savings on electricity bills would add another £125 a year. These figures are calculated on the current tariff rates, which will fall slightly on April 1, so the average 4kWp system could save around £750 a year. A lump sum of £7,500 paid into a pension by a 50-year-old higher rate taxpayer can produce a tax-free lump sum of £5,600 and a pension income of £504 a year when they retire at 60, according to Hargreaves Lansdown. After income tax at retirement, which is calculated for a basic rate taxpayer at 20pc, this leaves an income of £403 a year. A key advantage of pension saving is that a pension typically comes with an employer contribution, as well as benefiting from tax relief from the Government, so a lump sum can go much further.  For each £100 a saver puts into a pension, for example, a further £100 will typically be added by your employer and the Government. Higher rate taxpayers get a further £25 tax back from the Government, turning a saving of £75 into a pension investment of £200. A pension generates a secure income for life, while the solar panel income will last for 20 years; and the average lifespan of a panel system is 25 years. If the average male, who has a life expectancy of 86, retired at 60, then the £7,500 lump sum would pay out £16,070 in total over his retirement. Women on average live slightly longer, with a life expectancy of 89, so they can expect a total of £17,280. If a pensioner lived until they were 95, which is increasingly common, the initial lump sum would pay out £19,700 over the course of their retirement. These figures are based on assumptions of 6pc investment growth over the decade before the pensioner retires, and an inflation-linked annuity over the course of their lifetime. The expected profit for households for solar panels over 25 years is around £10,500, according to the Energy Saving Trust, based on the income and savings after installation and maintenance costs. ... Mr Khalaf said that rather than replacing a pension in a retirement plan, solar panels could be a good use for the tax-free lump sum people can take out of their pension savings. To extend the tax efficiency even further, people could put the money saved each year on energy bills into an individual savings account (ISA), which will allow the savings to grow each year free of income and capital gains tax.... Once fitted, solar panels require little maintenance and they should last 25 years or more, although the inverter, which converts the electricity for household use, is likely to need replacing at some point, at an approximate cost of between £800 and £1,000. "
Can solar panels really beat your pension?
Telegraph, 6 February 2014

"The Punjab government has approved a PC-1 to install 20 Solar Energy Irrigation System (SEIS) across Rawalpindi Division in a bid to improve crop yield in the rain-fed region, The Express Tribune has learnt. The Potohar region has a unique topography which offers perfect storage-and-fall terrain suitable for making small dams. Realising the potential and making up for the absence of canal water, past governments have constructed over 900 dams in the division."
Solar irrigation: Harnessing sun to benefit Potohar farmers
Express Tribune, 3 February 2014

"Saudi Arabia, the biggest producer in Opec, and the UAE plan to solicit bids this year for as much as 1,000 megawatts of new solar capacity to reduce reliance on fossil fuels for domestic power production. Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company Masdar, along with Total and Abengoa, borrowed about US$600 million from 10 banks in March 2011 to build the Arabian Gulf’s first large-scale solar plant. They did not disclose the interest rate for the 100MW facility, which started operating last March....The Middle East and North Africa will need more than $50 billion in investments by the end of the decade to add as much as 15,000MW of solar-generating capacity, the Middle East Solar Industry Association and Meed Insight said in a report last month. Fourteen countries in the region have a combined capacity to produce 260,000MW from all energy sources, including 271MW of solar, according to the report."
Solar energy progress comes at a price
Bloomberg, 2 February 2014

"Advances in solar technology are set to revolutionise the Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) market with the development of a new type of cells which combine semi-transparency with good efficiency, opening up the possibility of entire facades formed of electricity generating glass. A paper in the prestigious American Chemical Society (ACS) journal ACS Nano, by Oxford University physicist and Oxford Photovoltaics co-founder Professor Henry Snaith and his team, charts the development of alternatives to crystalline silicon photovoltaics, describing how the original ‘new generation’ technology based on organic or dye-sensitised solar cells achieved the semitransparency that is desired by designers and developers of buildings, but was unable to achieve efficiencies close to crystalline technology. Now, however, Professor Snaith and his team at the University have developed solar cells using perovskite. These solar cells have achieved efficiencies over 15% in the last 12 months, overtaking other emerging solar technologies which have yet to break the 14% barrier despite decades of research. Most significantly, the team has also found a solution to the reddish-brown tint previously associated with the use of perovskite to produce neutral coloured, semi-transparent cells which address the needs of the construction industry. This world-leading research is being brought to market by Oxford Photovoltaics (Oxford PV), which holds an exclusive license to the technology. Oxford PV scooped a number of awards for its progress in the commercialisation of the technology during 2013 including the British Renewable Energy Association’s Innovation Award, the UK Business Angels’ Best Early Stage Investment in a Disruptive Technology Business Award and the Solar Award for Excellence: BIPV Innovation at the 2013 Solar UK Industry Awards. In December last year, Nature magazine identified Professor Snaith, Oxford PV’s Chief Scientific Officer, as one of the ten people who made a difference to science in 2013. Commenting on this latest breakthrough he said: 'The pace of development, of this new solar technology, alongside ongoing research into storage solutions, means that photovoltaics will play an increasingly important role in meeting future energy demand globally.'"
Semi-transparent perovskite solar cells
AZoM, 31 January 2014

"Ten million homes in the UK should have their roofs covered with solar panels in the next six years, if the country is to fulfil its renewable energy potential, energy experts said on Wednesday. That number - of more than a third of households generating energy from the sun - would allow the UK to produce about 6% of its annual electricity needs from solar power, with as much as 40% coming from the panels on sunny days in summer, by 2020. These figures are comparable to those of Germany, which has made a major push on solar power in the last decade. Installing more solar panels brings the costs of the technology down dramatically, because of economies of scale, as the example of Germany and other countries shows. By 2030, the cost of solar should be comparable to that of even the dirtiest forms of coal, and of gas, said Ajay Gambhir, of Imperial College London. Nearly half a million homes in the UK have solar panels installed today, recent figures show. At present, the cost of solar power in Germany is about Euro cents 10 per kilowatt hour, compared with about 6 to 8 Euro cents per kilowatt hour for 'brown' coal – the most carbon-intensive form of the fuel, but also the cheapest – and gas. On current trends that should reduce to 6 to 8 Euro cents per kilowatt hour for solar energy by 2030, while the cost of fossil fuels is expected to stay the same, according to academics from the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, who published a briefing paper on the subject on Wednesday."
UK should have 10 million homes with solar panels by 2020, experts say
Guardian, 29 January 2014

"A new approach to harvesting solar energy, developed by MIT researchers, could improve efficiency by using sunlight to heat a high-temperature material whose infrared radiation would then be collected by a conventional photovoltaic cell. This technique could also make it easier to store the energy for later use, the researchers say. In this case, adding the extra step improves performance, because it makes it possible to take advantage of wavelengths of light that ordinarily go to waste. The process is described in a paper published this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, written by graduate student Andrej Lenert, associate professor of mechanical engineering Evelyn Wang, physics professor Marin Soljacic, principal research scientist Ivan Celanovic, and three others. A conventional silicon-based solar cell "doesn't take advantage of all the photons," Wang explains. That's because converting the energy of a photon into electricity requires that the photon's energy level match that of a characteristic of the photovoltaic (PV) material called a bandgap. Silicon's bandgap responds to many wavelengths of light, but misses many others. To address that limitation, the team inserted a two-layer absorber-emitter device — made of novel materials including carbon nanotubes and photonic crystals — between the sunlight and the PV cell. This intermediate material collects energy from a broad spectrum of sunlight, heating up in the process. When it heats up, as with a piece of iron that glows red hot, it emits light of a particular wavelength, which in this case is tuned to match the bandgap of the PV cell mounted nearby."
Solar-power device would use heat to enhance efficiency
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 19 January 2014

"Cloudy Britain is emerging as Europe’s hottest market to build solar parks. Cheaper equipment costs and steady subsidies are attracting developers of large-scale, ground-mounted projects from nations like Germany and Spain that pioneered solar on the continent. Britain may build more big plants — 2 megawatts or larger — than any European country, adding as much as 2,000 megawatts of capacity this year, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Those panels would occupy about 16 square miles, enough to cover most of central London. While much of the continent has scaled back solar aid to favor economic growth over green policies, Britain pledged subsidies through 2020 with no limit on the size of projects. Investors raised at least $1.2 billion last year for megawatt-scale projects, according to data compiled by Bloomberg."
England's clouds part for solar energy
The Record, 18 January 2014

"Ford Motor Company, in collaboration with Georgia Tech, debuted a new solar car concept earlier this month at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas. The C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is a first-of-its-kind hybrid electric vehicle with the potential to free drivers of their dependence on the electric grid. Instead of recharging its battery from an electrical outlet, C-MAX Solar Energi Concept harnesses the power of the sun by parking under a special concentrator that acts like a magnifying glass, directing intensified rays from the sun onto solar panels on the parked vehicle’s roof below. The result is a car that takes a day’s worth of sunlight to deliver the same performance as Ford’s conventional C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, which gets combined miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPGe), with EPA-estimated 108 city/92 highway/100 combined MPGe. “Ford didn’t just want to build an electric car, but a plug-in hybrid electric car that actually uses green electricity,” said Bert Bras, a professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. “Just putting photovoltaic cells onto a car is not going to do it, so they reached out to us to help progress the concentrator idea.”"
New Solar Car Concept Shines
Product Design and Development, 17 January 2014

"Roughly 300 million Indians living in 80 million households — about a quarter of the country’s population of 1.2 billion — do not have access to electricity. According to the World Bank, per capita electricity consumption in India, centered mainly in cities and towns, is 684 kilowatt hours — just 1/20th of the United States’ per capita consumption of 13,246 kilowatt hours. Nearly all microgrids in India are powered by solar photovoltaic panels, with the exception of 20 to 30 networks that run on hydropower in the states of Karnataka and Uttarakhand and the biomass-powered grids operated by Husk. To date, microgrids provide just a tiny fraction of India’s overall power needs. Although no comprehensive statistics exist on the number of microgrids, a conservative count shows that they serve at least 125,000 households in India, divided mostly between large, government-sponsored projects in the North Indian states of Chhattisgarh and West Bengal and private ventures centered on Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are among the most rural and least electrified states in India — a countryside packed with tens of millions of people, united by darkness. India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, through its National Solar Mission, has set the highly ambitious goal of replacing kerosene lamps with 20 million solar lighting systems — powered by microgrids, solar panels on individual homes, or solar lanterns — by 2022. ...By illuminating an entire village at once, a microgrid can spread light more quickly than handouts of solar-powered lanterns. It can also scale up far faster than traditional power lines, which are often promised in India but seldom delivered. By deriving their power from biomass or solar panels, microgrids raise the possibility that large regions could stay off the coal-fired power grid forever, shaving a significant chunk off the world’s future carbon budget. Whoever finds the business model for providing cheap, reliable, local power will help pull 300 million Indians from the 19th century into the 21st century, with vastly expanded opportunities for education and commerce."
Indian Microgrids Aim to Bring Millions out of Darkness
Yale environment 360, 16 January 2014

"US researchers have made an important step forward in the quest to store electricity from intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar. A Harvard University team came up with a way to drive down the cost of flow battery technology, which is capable of storing energy on large scales - within an electrical power grid, for example. Grid-scale storage for renewables could be a game-changer - making wind and solar more economical and reliable. While flow battery designs are suited to storing large amounts of energy cheaply, they have previously relied on chemicals that are expensive or difficult to maintain, driving up costs. Most previous flow batteries have chemistries based on metals. Vanadium is used in the most commercially advanced flow battery technology, but its cost is relatively high. Other variants contain precious metal catalysts such as platinum. The researchers say their new battery already performs as well as vanadium flow batteries, but uses no precious metal catalyst and has an underlying chemistry that is metal-free, instead relying on naturally abundant, more affordable chemicals called quinones. These water-soluble compounds are organic (carbon-based) and are similar to chemicals that store energy in plants and animals. These molecules are cheap and they're in all green vegetables, as well as crude oil,' said co-author Michael Aziz from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.... Much like fuel cells, flow batteries store energy in chemical fluids contained by external tanks, instead of within the battery container itself as do the solid-electrode batteries found in cars and mobile devices. '[A flow battery is] similar to a fuel cell in that respect. It stores energy as hydrogen gas outside the fuel cell and when you need to convert that chemical energy into electrical energy, you run it through the fuel cell to make electricity,' Prof Aziz explained. 'The difference with a flow battery is that you need to run it forwards and backwards. You run it backwards to turn the electrical energy into chemical energy and store it in the tanks. Then you run it forwards to get the energy back out, converting the chemical energy back into electricity.' The amount of energy that can be stored by a flow battery is limited only by the size of the tanks and the amounts of storage chemicals that can be afforded, he added. In an accompanying article in Nature, Grigorii Soloveichik, from General Electric Global Research in New York, called the results 'promising', and said the approach 'may serve as the basis for a new flow-battery technology".
Battery advance could boost renewable energy take-up
BBC Online, 9 January 2014

"To help remedy India’s situation, two solar septic systems and a lavatory are being shipped from the Caltech campus to India on Tuesday. Using the solar toilet system will provide underdeveloped or impoverished areas a cleaner and healthier way to dispose of human waste without the risk of mixing it with drinking and bathing waters.... According to the World Wide Water Report, 2.5 billion people live without basic sanitation like flushing toilets and latrines, almost one billion of them children. Every 20 seconds, a child dies as a result of poor sanitation. A 20-foot lavatory and treatment system will be sent to Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam, Kerala, which will collaborate with Caltech on the solar-powered septic system. A treatment system will be shipped to either Ahmedabad or Trivandrum to be connected to an Eram Scientific 'eToilet,' an energy-saving approach to the toilet. The systems were built three months ago. A third solar toilet will stay at Caltech for further studies, and can be used by anyone on campus. Kohler, a kitchen and bathroom design and technology company, is supporting the efforts by donating plumbing products and design advice...'In 2011, a team of Caltech researchers was awarded a $400,000 grant to create a toilet that would safely dispose of human waste for just five cents per use per day. In 2012, their solar system won first place in the Reinventing the Toilet Challenge sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Using solar power, which can be operated remotely, the solar toilet converts sunlight to electricity that powers an electrochemical reactor, which breaks down water and human waste into fertilizer and hydrogen, which can be stored in hydrogen fuel cells. In addition, the waste water can be recycled through the septic system to keep the toilet from contaminating drinking water. 'We’re oxidizing the waste, and we’re also disinfecting it, so we’re killing bacteria,' Cid said."
Caltech solar toilet set to flush away to India to provide cleaner sanitation
Los Angeles Daily News, 3 January 2014

2013

"Four million solar panels covering land the size of 3,400 football pitches should be built on government land and property including schools and prisons, a minister will announce. Greg Barker, the energy minister, is expected to in the New Year disclose plans for one gigawatt of electricity generated by solar panels on the 'government estate'. It could mean huge solar farms on Government land as well as panels on thousands of public buildings. Mr Barker's desire to dramatically increase the Government's commitment to renewable energy will dismay many senior Conservatives. The plans are understood to be a 'personal ambition' of Mr Barker’s and are not an official Government target."
Energy minister wants four million solar panels installed on government land and buildings
Telegraph, 30 December 2013

"The documented savings for people who go solar are enormous. Solar power is surely now saving millions of people billions of dollars. However, generic studies regarding solar savings and even building-specific projections of how much you can save aren’t enough for some people. Generaytor may have a solution for those who need a little more convincing. The company started off by offering its service to IKEA customers in the UK (solar panels are sold at IKEA there), but it has now expanded its service to web users the world over. So, compared to other solar savings projections that companies like 1BOG (with whom we have a partnership) and Cost of Solar (for whom I write) offer, what’s so unique about Generaytor? 'With Virtual Solar, users get a live simulation of their savings, powered by actual data from solar systems of nearby community members,' Generaytor writes. In other words, rather than using entirely generic inputs + your home’s specifics, the service also utilizes the solar data from houses in your area. Additionally, it lets you look at how solar would theoretically perform on your roof in real time. As they say, it’s 'try before you buy' for solar… or something close to it.'"
Virtual Solar Roofs Let You “Try Solar” Before You Buy It
Clean Technica, 21 December 2013

"Photovoltaics proved so successful in Hawaii that the local utility, HECO, has instituted policies to block further expansion....Hawaiian Electric Co., or HECO, in September told solar contractors on Oahu that the island's solar boom is creating problems. On many circuits, the utility said, there's so much solar energy that it poses a threat to the system and a safety issue. Studies are needed on whether grid upgrades are necessary. If they are, residents adding solar must foot the bill. And starting immediately, contractors and residents would need permission to connect most small rooftop systems to the grid. The new HECO policy was included deep in the text of emails the Walkers' solar contractor had sent, but it escaped their notice before installation. They're now paying $300 per month on a loan for the panels, plus the $250 electric bill. 'It goes from frustration to outrage,' William Walker, 33, said of his reaction. 'We hear the excuses that HECO provides, that they put out there at least as far as the justification. There's really not a lot of substantiation. My belief is it's purely profit-motivated, to keep people away from PV and keep them on the grid.'...The new struggle on Hawaii foreshadows what the rest of the country could face as solar moves closer to the mainstream, several involved in the debate said."
A Solar Boom So Successful, It's Been Halted
Scientific American, 20 December 2013

"You may have noticed lately that more residences and businesses are being equipped with photovoltaic solar roof panels. The reason is relatively simple: the cost to do so has dropped dramatically over the past five years. The cost of installing photovoltaic solar arrays has dropped to $3 per watt of electricity they produce - about the same as coal-powered plants cost to build - creating a watershed moment in the development of clean energy, experts say. The average price of a solar panel has declined by 60% since the beginning of 2011, according to GTM Research. And, according to CleanTechnica, a website dedicated to renewable energy news, the price of solar power has fallen rom $76.67 per watt in 1977 to 74 cents today. This year, solar power was the second leading source of new electricity, according to CleanTechnica. The amount of power produced by solar arrays in the U.S. is skyrocketing as installations soar. This year, it's expected that the amount of power solar arrays produce will be equal to that of 10 nuclear power plants or 10 gigawatts (a GW is equal to 1 billion watts), according to GTM. As a whole, the U.S. installed 4.3GW of PV solar arrays this year, a 27% increase over 2012."
Solar power installation costs fall through the floor
Computer World, 16 December 2013

"Israel’s foremost green energy pioneer is visiting London next week, where he will propose, among other innovations, a 'renewable energy' solution to the Iranian crisis. 'Nuclear power is the power of war and solar power is the power of peace,' said Yosef Abramowitz, who has set up massive solar fields in Israel’s Negev desert.  'If the Iranian government says it is concerned about having electricity for its people, no one so far has either called its bluff or helped it towards cheap energy that is greener.' Mr Abramowitz will argue at a meeting in Parliament that the West should try to end the nuclear crisis with Iran by offering to help it develop large-scale green energy capabilities. He acknowledged that his idea is unorthodox, but said he thinks there is a 'diplomatic opening' for it."
Peace is solar-powered, says Israeli green energy guru
Jewish Chronicle, 6 December 2013

"A Japanese construction firm is proposing to turn the moon into a colossal solar power plant by laying a belt of solar panels 250 miles wide around its equator and beaming the energy back to Earth by way of lasers or microwave transmission. The 'Luna Ring' that is being proposed would be capable of sending 13,000 terawatts of power to Earth - more than three times more than the United States generated throughout the whole of 2011. Shimizu is reluctant to put a price tag on the construction costs involved but, given adequate funding, the company believes construction work could get under way as early as 2035. Robots and automated equipment would be developed to mine the moon’s natural resources and produce concrete and the solar cells required for the scheme. Shimizu believes that “virtually inexhaustible, non-polluting solar energy is the ultimate source of green energy”. "
Could this be future of renewable energy?
Telegraph, 29 November 2013

"Fracking is not going to reduce gas prices in the UK, according to the chairman of the UK's leading shale gas company. The statement by Lord Browne, one of the most powerful energy figures in Britain, contradicts claims by David Cameron and George Osborne that shale gas exploration could help curb soaring energy bills. Browne added to the government's ongoing troubles over energy policy by labelling nuclear power as 'very, very expensive indeed' and describing the fact that more state subsidies are given to oil and gas than to renewable energy as 'like running both the heating and the air conditioning at the same time'. The former chief executive of BP, who now holds a senior government position as lead non-executive director, told an audience at the London School of Economics that climate change was 'existentially important', but that without gas the transition to a zero-carbon energy system would never happen. However, Browne, who is the chairman of fracking company Cuadrilla, said: 'I don't know what the contribution of shale gas will be to the energy mix of the UK. We need to drill probably 10-12 wells and test them and it needs to be done as quickly as possible.' 'We are part of a well-connected European gas market and, unless it is a gigantic amount of gas, it is not going to have material impact on price,' he said..... Browne criticised the UK's fossil fuel subsidies: 'In 2011, the UK spent over £4bn supporting the production and consumption of oil and gas, more than they spent to support renewable energy.' Across the OECD, he added, $80bn every year is spent supporting production of carbon-based fuels: 'It is like running both the heating and the air conditioning at the same time,' he said..... Browne said nuclear power was one of the safest energy sources available, but said that had come at a cost: 'Nuclear power has become very, very expensive indeed.' In October, ministers agreed a deal to pay French state energy company EDF billions of pounds in subsidies if it goes ahead with two new reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset, a deal that left some analysts 'flabbergasted' at the cost. Browne also said the siting of new reactors on the coast when sea level and storm surges are rising was a 'big issue' and that they must be made resilient. Lord Adair Turner, the former chairman of the Financial Services Authority and Committee on Climate Change, introduced Browne's lecture and agreed that the cost projections for nuclear power were 'disappointing' compared to a 2008 analysis he led. Turner said that in contrast, solar power costs had fallen 'beyond our wildest dreams' by about 80% in five years.' Browne, once known as the 'sun king' and who said he is now co-head of the largest private equity renewable energy fund in the world at Riverstone Holdings, said: 'Solar is a very good technology and we should use more of it.'"
Lord Browne: fracking will not reduce UK gas prices
Guardian, 29 November 2013

"If anybody doubts that federal energy regulators are aware of the rapidly changing electricity landscape, they should talk to Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). 'Solar is growing so fast it is going to overtake everything,' Wellinghoff told GTM last week in a sideline conversation at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas. If a single drop of water on the pitcher’s mound at Dodger Stadium is doubled every minute, Wellinghoff said, a person chained to the highest seat would be in danger of drowning in an hour. 'That’s what is happening in solar. It could double every two years,' he said. Indeed, as GTM Research's MJ Shiao recently pointed out, in the next 2 1/2 years the U.S. will double its entire cumulative capacity of distributed solar -- repeating in the span of a few short years what it originally took four decades to deploy."
FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff: Solar ‘Is Going to Overtake Everything’
Greentechmedia, 21 August 2013

"In a first for the solar power industry, Wall Street is dealing with bonds backed by solar electricity payments. SolarCity, a provider of energy services, plans to sell the bonds, secured by its residential and commercial power contracts. The offering will be managed by Credit Suisse and has received an investment-grade classification of BBB+ from Standard and Poor’s. The bonds will have a yield of 4.8 percent, a relatively high rate that rewards investors for buying untested securities, and will be sold initially to select institutional investors. The solar industry needs new sources of financing. To date, it has relied on tax equity investments and has not been able to draw on capital from public markets. In its preliminary rating report, S&P outlined the risks of the industry’s limited operating history as well as uncertainty about the future of tax credits: the federal tax credit for solar energy projects is set to drop to 10 percent from 30 percent at the end of 2016. Other risks were identified, such as quickly evolving technology and changing utility rates. But S&P also pointed out benefits to the bonds, such as the inclusion of extra collateral, a special reserve account to cover equipment failures, and a shortened, 13-year bond term. In conclusion, S&P stated that it expected the market to continue to grow rapidly. This bond offering is an important step toward financial sustainability as we move toward an energy future powered by renewable sources."
Solar Power Industry to Sell First Investment Bonds - Energy Minute for November 21, 2013
3BL Media, 21 November 2013

"Saudi Arabia has long been known for its oil. According to Oil and Gas Journal, Saudi Arabia has almost 265 billion barrels of proven oil reserves or around one-fifth of the world's oil reserves. Those oil riches afford Saudi citizens one of the highest living standards in the Middle East with a purchasing power parity per capita of $31,800 per year. With the trend of increasingly affordable solar, Saudi Arabia may soon be known for solar as well. According to Reuters, Saudi Arabia plans to install 41 gigawatts of solar power over the next 20 years from the current 12 Megawatts of capacity today. To put that in perspective, according to the European Photovoltaic Industry Association, the entire continent of Europe had 70 gigawatts of solar installed at the end of 2012."
Why Saudi Arabia Is Going Solar
Motley Fool, 16 November 2013

"Solar panels work great, as long as the sun is shining. This is not some esoteric problem. Solar's intermittency boosts its overall cost because utilities can only depend on a small portion of a panel's generational capacity. The good news is that grid operators realize that pumped hydro storage is tried and tested, offering grid scale storage and a straightforward path for more reliance on solar. Pumped hydro storage transfers water between two reservoirs, allowing the water to flow downhill and make electricity when prices are high. Back in the 1890s Italy and Switzerland were already using pumped hydro storage, and it currently represents around 3% of global generation capacity. More storage facilities are already being built to help handle the new solar farms in America's Southwest. The 1,300 megawatt (MW) Eagle Mountain facility was recently approved with a price tag of $1.4 billion. The operator will be able to release energy during times of peak demand, helping California meet its renewable energy goals."
Solar's Biggest Problem Is Being Solved
Motley Fool, 16 November 2013

"BMW, a manufacturer that knows how to make cars sell, has partnered with SolarCity, which happens to be very good at selling its solar services to provide a package in which they could enjoy SolarCity’s famous solar leasing plan (but at a discount) when they buy BMW i series vehicles at any of the participating BMW i Centers in SolarCity’s territory.....Normally, the high initial cost of a solar system plus the high initial cost of an electric vehicle is a major problem. However, BMW and SolarCity’s bundle marks a big step forward towards zero emissions transportation, and away from that financial issue."
BMW Partners With Solar City To Offer Solar + EV Bundle
CleanTechnica, 15 November 2013

"Toward the end of last year, installed global photovoltaic generating capacity passed the milestone of 100 gigawatts — enough to meet the energy needs of 30 million households and save more than 53 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, according to a recent report by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association, E.P.I.A., a solar power industry lobby group. 'Right now, today, the world has installed 130 gigawatts of PV, up from 1.4 gigawatts in 2000,' Wolfgang Palz, a former manager of the European Commission’s development program for renewable energies, told a conference organized by France’s National Center for Scientific Research, CNRS, in Paris last month. Europe alone now has 80 gigawatts of installed photovoltaic capacity, of which 35 gigawatts is in Germany, the European Union leader, providing about 7 percent of the country’s electricity, he said. Some regions of Germany are even further ahead: 'If you buy an Audi today, manufactured in Bavaria, 10 percent of the electricity used to produce it is PV,' Mr. Palz said in an interview. With large-volume installation, economies of scale have substantially reduced unit costs. According to a report by the E.P.I.A., the European solar industry’s lobby group, photovoltaic costs have dropped 22 percent with every doubling of production capacity. Going back 10 to 15 years, 'we had to fight to find some crazy people who would install solar panels for $70 per watt on the rooftop,' said Eicke Weber, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, in Freiburg, Germany.  'We had to find some market support systems for the first thousand-roof program,' Mr. Weber said. 'That became the 100,000-roof program — and then the million-roof program.'  Now, 'the number that should be broadcast is that, in Germany now, we are able to put PV systems on the rooftop for one euro per watt,' or $1.34, 'with the back-up system, with the inverter, and with the cost of installation,' Mr. Weber said. An inverter is a device that converts the direct current electricity produced by solar generation into alternating current that can be fed into the electrical grid. “In other countries, in the United States, it’s about a factor of two to three more expensive,” he added."
Solar Power Begins to Shine as Environmental Benefits Pay Off
New York Times, 11 November 2013

"American innovators still have some cards to play when it comes to squeezing more efficiency and lower costs out of silicon, the workhorse of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules worldwide. A recent breakthrough - the product of a partnership between manufacturer TetraSun and the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) - could spark U.S. solar manufacturing when the approach hits the assembly line next year. The innovative design, simple architecture, and elegant process flow for fabricating the cells make the technology a prime candidate for large-scale production. Solar industry leader First Solar acquired TetraSun in April 2013, about the time R&D Magazine honored TetraSun and NREL with one of its coveted R&D 100 Awards for the year's top innovations. Typically, silicon PV cell manufacturers add a grid of thin silver lines to the cell via a screen-printing process to form the front contacts. The TetraSun cell instead loads 50-micron-wide copper electrodes on its front contacts in a way that prevents diffusion of the metal-which can degrade performance. The new process exceeds the performance of traditional heterojunction cells without the need of any special equipment, complicated module assembly, or costly transparent conductive oxides. That adds up to a significant cost advantage when it comes to high-volume manufacturing. 'It's a potentially disruptive technology, and that's why we decided to work with TetraSun,' said NREL's Martha Symko-Davies, who headed the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative PV Incubator program when TetraSun received a grant from it back in 2010. 'The Incubator program supports potentially disruptive innovations from small startups.'"
New Solar Cell Is More Efficient, Less Costly
HispanicBusiness, 8 November 2013

"The sound vibrations that make up music can make solar panels work harder, according to new research, and pop music performs better than classical.Scientists showed that high pitched sounds like those common in pop and rock music caused the greatest improvement in the solar cells' power output, increasing it by up to forty per cent. Classical music, with typically lower pitched sounds, still increased the cells' output, but not as much.This discovery makes it possible to power a wider range devices with solar energy than at present, as scientists can improve the efficiency of solar cells using the ambient, or background, noise present in many environments. The study is published today by LCN researchers at Imperial College London and Queen Mary University of London, in the journal Advanced Materials. They found that sound levels as low as 75 decibels (equivalent to a typical roadside noise or a printer in an office) could significantly improve the performance of the solar cells tested in the study. Practical uses for this discovery could include solar powered air conditioning units, laptop computers or electronic components on buses, trains and other vehicles... 'After investigating systems for converting vibrations into electricity this is a really exciting development that shows a similar set of physical properties can also enhance the performance of a photovoltaic solar cell,' said Dr Steve Dunn, Reader in Nanoscale Materials from Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Materials Science. 'The work highlights the benefits of collaboration to develop new and interesting systems and scientific understanding,' he added."
Solar panels perform better when listening to music
London Centre For Nanotechnology, 6 November 2013

"Sunlabob Renewable Energy and Fondation Energies pour le Monde this week announced the completion of a solar-powered mini-grid that is now delivering reliable, affordable electricity to nearly 500 people in a remote village in Luang Prabang Province, Laos. Ban Houaypha, a village of 83 households, has limited job opportunities, low income levels, inadequate education and health services and no short-term outlook to receive electricity from the national electricity grid. The average household income is less than $2.50 a day. The 6.5 kWp solar plant will distribute electricity through a decentralized village grid to households, a community center and five street lights. The Ban Houaypha mini-grid is the first step within the Fondation’s long-term rural electrification strategy in Laos that aims to implement 15 solar village grids to provide energy access to at least 10,000 rural Laotians and contribute to the Lao Government’s target of 90% electrification by 2020."
Solar power mini-grid opens energy access in rural Laos
Eco-Business, 30 October 2013

"Sitting on a rooftop, soaking up sun, the humble solar panel may not look like a threat to a multibillion-dollar industry. But some electric utility executives say it is. They even have a name for the nightmare scenario solar could create - the 'death spiral.' They fear solar's rapid spread across homes and businesses, combined with the increasing efficiency of modern buildings and appliances, could slowly erode the utilities' ability to grow. California utilities get paid based on the value of the assets they own - the transmission lines, substations and wires. As more businesses and homeowners generate their own electricity, the utilities won't need to add as many of those assets as before. At the same time, the costs of maintaining the electricity grid might fall on fewer and fewer nonsolar utility customers. The companies could compensate by tacking on fixed monthly charges for all customers, solar and nonsolar alike. But those new charges would jack up bills, and that could prompt more people to slap panels on their roofs. The problem will only get worse if advanced battery packs become cheap enough for home use, parked in the basement by the water heater. Mike Florio, a member of the California Public Utilities Commission, remembers listening to an irate solar homeowner at a hearing in San Diego, where utility executives had proposed a fixed charge. 'A gentleman came up and said, 'Well, I put in solar, and now the utility wants to hit me with a fixed charge,' ' Florio said. ' 'Guess I'll just put in storage with solar and get off the grid altogether.' That's the death spiral. That's what we don't want.' Most everyone who uses the term death spiral quickly acknowledges that it's overblown. Solar installations are spreading at breakneck speed, with another added somewhere in the nation every four minutes, says the Solar Energy Industries Association. But the number of systems is still small, estimated by GTM Research to reach 399,111 by year's end. Most of those systems will be in California."
Solar switch forces utilities to shift priorities
San Francisco Chronicle, 26 October 2013

"All indications are that electric vehicles will rapidly come into common use. The major problems have been the cost, cruising ranges that are less than what we are used to, the time it takes to recharge batteries, and for many, a place to do the recharging. During the last six months there have been dozens of announcements by companies and laboratories around the world concerning the improvement in battery and occasionally ultra-capacitor technology. Many of these speak of 4-5 fold increases in potential energy density of their new electricity storage devices. While most of these are still at the laboratory-bench stage, a few appear ready for commercial application in the next few years or at least before the end of the decade. In August, the Department of Energy announced that it will award $36 million to spend on 22 projects aimed at accelerating the development of better energy storage systems that will speed the adoption of electric vehicles. The era of the electric vehicle is much closer with a dozen or so models from different manufacturers likely to be on the market within the next year. These are coming from manufacturers in the U.S., Europe and the Far East. BMW, Mercedes and VW will have high quality vehicles with ranges in excess of 100 miles on the market next year. Rapid charging that will boost a battery to 80 percent of capacity or less in 20 minutes is being tested as are methods of charging a vehicle simply by stopping over a device on the ground. Similar progress is being made for light trucks and buses. The Koreans are testing a bus that recharges its electric batteries from wires buried beneath its route as it is moving. This allows for smaller and cheaper battery packs and the ability to move the bus off its designated route. Forecasters are starting to take notice of these developments and making what they consider bold predictions that sales of electric-powered cars might reach 400,000 vehicles ten years from now."
The Peak Oil Crisis: Cars, Trucks & Buses
Falls Church News-Press, 22 October 2013

"Significant improvements to the efficiency of solar cells could be possible in the near-future thanks to the recent development of a new heat-resistant thermal emitter by researchers at Stanford University. The new heat-resistant thermal emitter was created as a means of converting the higher-energy portion of light into lower energy waves which can then be absorbed by the solar cells and converted into electricity, along with the lower energy portions that most solar cells convert. Technologies such as this — more broadly known as thermophotovoltaics — have been around for quite some time, but have, until now, possessed a number of important limitations that this new device seems to overcome. Foremost of which, are the limitations to do with operating temperature ranges — earlier designs have all become nonfunctional at temperatures of around 2200 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas the new one “remains stable at temperatures as high as 2500 F”..... 'These results are unprecedented,' stated lead author Kevin Arpin. 'We demonstrated for the first time that ceramics could help advance thermophotovoltaics as well other areas of research, including energy harvesting from waste heat, high-temperature catalysis and electrochemical energy storage.' 'We’ve demonstrated that the tailoring of optical properties at high temperatures is possible,' Braun added. '[Hafnium and tungsten are abundant, low-cost materials, and the process used to make these heat-resistant emitters is well established. Hopefully these results will motivate the thermophotovoltaics community to take another look at ceramics and other classes of materials that haven’t been considered.' The new research was just published in the October 16th edition of the journal Nature Communications."
Vastly Improved Solar Cells Possible With Use Of New Heat-Resistant Materials
CleanTechnica, 19 October 2013

"Concentrated solar thermal is again making the news, with the world’s largest parabolic trough array with thermal storage – opening for business in Arizona. The 280 MW Solana Generating Station constructed by Spanish group Abengoa has six hours of molten storage capacity that will allow it to produce energy into the evening, and deliver output according to the needs of the customer. 'Solana is a monumental step forward in solar energy production,' said Don Brandt, the president of APS, the local utility. 'This provides a huge boost toward our goal to make Arizona the solar capital of America.' The opening of Solana is one of three major new projects that are coming on stream, as CSP begins to recover the ground lost, and projects ceded, to solar PV when that technology delivered massive cost reductions in recent years. The 375 MW Ivanpah project, the largest solar power tower in the world, has delivered to the grid for the first time and is due to start full operations within the next few months, as is the 110 MW Crescent Dunes facility in Nevada, which will be the world’s largest solar power tower project with molten salt. Also, the first commercial scale solar thermal plant with storage, the Gemasolar plant in Spain, recently marked its second anniversary by delivering electricity 24/7 for 36 consecutive days. On Thursday, Dr Keith Lovegrove, the head of solar thermal at Australia’s IT Power, said CSP with storage is ”virtually unbeatable” as a technology, and the costs are coming down quickly. The Solana plant’s CSP technology produces electricity by collecting the sun’s heat to create steam that turns conventional turbines. It has 2,700 parabolic trough mirrors,which follow the sun to focus its heat on a pipe containing a heat transfer fluid. This fluid, a synthetic oil, can reach a temperature of 735 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat transfer fluid then flows to steam boilers, where it heats water to create steam. The steam drives two 140 MW turbines to produce electricity, much like a traditional power plant."
World’s Largest Solar Thermal Plant With Storage Comes Online
CleanTechnica, 14 October 2013

"A novel device that uses only sunlight and wastewater to produce hydrogen gas could provide a sustainable energy source while improving the efficiency of wastewater treatment. A research team led by Yat Li, associate professor of chemistry at the University of California, Santa Cruz, developed the solar-microbial device and reported their results in a paper published in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano. The hybrid device combines a microbial fuel cell (MFC) and a type of solar cell called a photoelectrochemical cell (PEC). In the MFC component, bacteria degrade organic matter in the wastewater, generating electricity in the process. The biologically generated electricity is delivered to the PEC component to assist the solar-powered splitting of water (electrolysis) that generates hydrogen and oxygen."
New device harnesses sun and sewage to produce hydrogen fuel
University of California Santa Cruz, 10 October 2013
EE Herald, 29 September 2013

"Last week there were two announcements related to innovation in increasing solar PV efficiency. Both are from a team of companies rather than individual company. In the established silicon PV cell domain imec, RENA, and SoLayTec have achieved solar PV cell efficiency of 20.1% on a Passivated Emitter and Rear Cells (PERC) type silicon solar cells, which are made using atomic layer deposition (ALD) Al2O3 passivation and standard screen printed contacts. These silicon solar cells are manufactured on imec’s silicon solar cell pre-pilot line using RENA’s InPilot tool for rear-side polishing and emitter removal, and SoLayTec’s spatial ALD tool for Al2O3 deposition. A top efficiency of 20.6% was reached when applying Cu-plated contacts at the front instead of silver screen printed contacts. ALD Al2O3 passivation process by SolaYTec is aimed at lower cost of ownership (< 2€ct/layer) without effecting the cell efficiency, which is ready to be implemented in an industrial environment. While silicon-based solar PV getting better, researchers are exploring III-IV group semiconductor materials to develop high-efficiency solar cells for concentrated solar photovoltaic applications. The CPV is suitable for areas where sunlight intensity is very higher. In another announcement on solar PV efficiency achievement, The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin have jointly achieved a new record efficiency of 44.7%. Scientists have used multi-junction solar cells to achieve increased efficiency, several cells made out of different III-V semiconductor materials are stacked on top of each other. Each material is designed to convert light radiation into electricity for different wavelengths such as infrared, ultraviolet and visible light. Multiple semiconductor wafers were bonded one over the other."
Solar PV cell efficiency taken to new levels

"Solar power is here, and it isn’t just environmentalists saying it anymore. A research division of Citigroup, the massive multinational bank that probably doesn’t share Greenpeace’s worldview on many issues, does agree with us on one point: solar energy is poised to explode in the U.S. Citi Research published the report, 'Rising Sun: Implications for U.S. Utilities,' in August (hat tip to Marc Gunther, who referenced it in a great piece for Yale Environment 360.) It slipped under the media radar, which is unfortunate because the analysis is phenomenal and offers great hope for the clean energy revolution here in the U.S. Citi’s analysts don’t mince words: 'Our viewpoint is that Solar is here to stay and very early in the growth cycle in the U.S.' They note that solar panels costed an average of $75/watt in 1972. In 2012, that number was down to less than $1/watt (the number is even lower now, closer to $.65/watt in some places.) The report compares that rapid decrease in cost to Moore’s Law, the famous theory which postulated in 1965 that computer chips could double in performance every two years. That prediction turned out to be uncannily accurate, which is the basic reason for why you’re reading this on a laptop, tablet or smartphone right now. A similar phenomenon is happening now with solar costs, which have shrunk reliably and quickly. As a result, two thirds of all the solar power in the world has been installed since 2011, and that number will double again by 2015, Greentechmedia reported. Citi’s analysts noted that this solar growth has exceeded almost everyone’s expectation: 'The biggest surprise in recent years has been the speed at which the cost of solar panels has reduced, resulting in cost parity being achieved in certain areas much more quickly than was ever expected.' The most exciting thing about this solar boom is probably the hope that it provides for everyone who depends on a healthy planet (AKA, everyone.) Solar growth means less burning of coal, gas and eventually oil, the main causes of the climate change that is already causing extreme weather here in the U.S. and around the world, and portends much uglier effects like increased conflict, rising sea levels, ocean acidification and fresh water scarcity down the road.'"
Solar Energy Revolution Reaching Full Speed
EcoBusiness, 27 September 2013

"A new world record has been set for solar hydrogen production efficiency — the new record-breaking efficiency of 5.3% blows past the previous record of 4.2%, thanks in large part to the development of a new 'wormlike' hematite photoanode. The new photoanode was developed by researchers from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in South Korea, and from the University of Tokyo in Japan. The impressive jump from a record efficiency of 4.2% to 5.3% was achieved by the researchers through the utilization of an entirely new method/different materials — whereas the previous record was set by researchers (from the Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne in Switzerland) using stable oxide semiconductor photoanodes, the new record was set via the use of the new worm-like hematite photoanode."
Solar Hydrogen Production Efficiency World Record Broken — “Wormlike” Hematite Photoanode Crushes Old Record
CleanTechnica, 27 September 2013

"German and French researchers said Thursday that they have achieved a new world record on converting sunlight to energy through a photovoltaic, or solar cell.  The solar cell was able to collect energy at a 44.7% rate of efficiency, which was measured at a concentration of 297 suns. The team of scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Soitec, CEA-Let and the Helmholtz Center Berlin jointly announced the "major breakthrough" with their new solar cell. The solar cell contains four solar sub cells and paves the way to achieving their 50% efficiency roadmap, the researchers said in a statement.....The efficiency rating means the solar cell collects 44.7% of the sun's spectrum's energy, from ultraviolet to the infrared spectrum, which is converted into electrical energy."
New solar cell sets world record, focusing the power of 297 suns
ComputerWorld, 26 September 2013

"For the first time, more solar will be added to the world's grid this year than wind. About 36.7 gigawatts (GW) of solar is expected to be installed this year compared to 33.8 GW of onshore wind and 1.7 GW of offshore wind, says Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That's because this is the worst year for wind installations since 2008 - down 25% - largely because of policy uncertainty in the US and China. Last year, new wind capacity totaled 46.6 GW, much more than solar at 30.5 GW - but both were record figures.  Going forward, wind and solar PV are expected to grow neck-in-neck through 2030 - expanding at about the same rate, says New Energy Finance. Wind is expected to grow from 5% of the world's total installed capacity in 2012 to 17% in 2030. Solar PV is projected to grow from 2% today to 16% of world energy generating assets by 2030."
Solar Catches Up With Wind: Growing Neck-in-Neck Worldwide
SustainableBusiness, 26 September 2013

"More than two-thirds of the residential solar power systems installed in California over the past two years were owned by third-party investors, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In other words, most of the solar power systems installed at homes in California are owned by someone other than the homeowner. The EIA’s analysis, which relied on data from the California Solar Initiative, provides still more evidence of a maturing third-party financing market for solar PV projects. While the CSI data is limited to California, other industry reports have shown similar growth trajectories for third-party-owned residential solar PV systems in other states."
Majority Of California's Residential Solar PV Not Owned By Homeowners
Forbes, 17 September 2013

"Developers installed 832 megawatts of solar power capacity in the U.S. in the second quarter, led by large projects that sell electricity to utilities, a trade group said. Installation grew 15 percent from the prior quarter, with flat results in the residential market and commercial demand slumping 11 percent, the Washington-based Solar Energy Industries Association said today in a statement. Utility-scale projects increased 42 percent. The U.S. will probably install 4.4 gigawatts of solar power this year, up 30 percent from 2012, as demand increases for residential rooftop systems and the pipeline of utility-scale projects increases, according to Shayle Kann, vice president of research in Boston at GTM, which wrote the report with SEIA."
U.S. Solar Power Rises 15% on Large Scale Power Projects
Bloomberg, 12 September 2013

"Today’s solar industry is puny – it supplies less than 1 percent of the electricity in the U.S. – but its advocates say that solar is, at long last, ready to move from the fringe of the energy economy to the mainstream. Photovoltaic panel prices are falling. Low-cost financing for installing rooftop solar is available. Federal and state government incentives remain generous. Yet opposition from regulated utilities, which burn fossil fuels to produce most of their electricity, could stop a solar boom before it gets started.  Several utilities, including Arizona Public Service and Denver-based Xcel Energy, have asked their state regulators to reduce incentives or impose charges on customers who install rooftop solar; so far, at least, they aren’t making much headway. A bill in the California legislature, backed by the utility interests would add $120 a year in fees to rooftop solar customers.  But other utility companies are adopting a different strategy – they are joining forces with solar interests. NRG Energy, based in Princeton, N.J., has created a rooftop solar unit to sell systems to businesses and, eventually, homeowners. New Jersey’s PSE&G is making loans to solar customers, and Duke Energy and Edison International have invested in Clean Power Finance, a San Francisco-based firm that has raised half a billion dollars to finance solar projects.   'The industry is divided on how to deal with the opportunity – or threat,' says Nat Kreamer, Clean Power Finance’s CEO. 'Some utilities are saying, how do I make money off distributed solar, as opposed to, how do I fight distributed solar.'
With Rooftop Solar on Rise, U.S. Utilities Are Striking Back
Yale Environment 360, 3 September 2013

"A new tax on solar power introduced two weeks ago by the Spanish government has been described as 'ludicrous' and 'stupid' in two leading international publications. US business and finance magazine Forbes pulled no punches in an article titled, 'Out of ideas and in debt, Spain sets sights on taxing the sun'. It pointed out that Spain 'is one of the top countries in the world with respect to installed photovoltaic (PV) solar energy capacity.' But the author took an incredulous tone and noted: 'Spain is now attempting to scale back the use of solar panels – the use of which they have encouraged and subsidized over the last decade – by imposing a tax on those who use the panels.'"
'Let's tax the sun': new law shocks world press
The Local (Spain), 12 August 2013

"The world installed 31,100 megawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) in 2012—an all-time annual high that pushed global PV capacity above 100,000 megawatts. There is now enough PV operating to meet the household electricity needs of nearly 70 million people at the European level of use. While PV production has become increasingly concentrated in one country—China—the number of countries installing PV is growing rapidly. In 2006, only a handful of countries could boast solar capacity of 100 megawatts or more. Now 30 countries are on that list, which the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects will more than double by 2018."
Solar Power
Earth Policy Instititute, 31 July 2013

"China has raised its 2015 target for solar-electricity capacity, giving a shot in the arm to its solar companies, many of which are struggling due to industry overcapacity, slow global demand and overseas trade disputes. China’s State Council, or cabinet, in a statement dated July 4 but posted Monday said installed capacity for solar electricity would reach more than 35 gigawatts by 2015, and would grow by about 10 gigawatts a year between now and then. China’s previous target was 21 gigawatts, and its installed capacity in 2012 was about 7 gigawatts."
China Raises Target For Solar Power Capacity
Wall St Journal (blog), 15 July 2013

"Britain's new support plans for renewable energy confirm that offshore wind is the most expensive green power technology, raising the question why the country is placing so much faith in it. Offshore wind is even more expensive than solar power, which is not an energy technology where Britain has a competitive advantage, as a northern country whose climate is dominated by wet Atlantic weather. The country has one of the best wind resources in Europe, which has led to a belief by some that it makes more sense to invest in offshore wind. Such thinking is muddled because solar power is cheaper, even in Britain, and will probably remain so. Britain announced support rates on Thursday for the second half of the decade which would provide offshore wind with a 20-25 per cent premium to solar power. The premium was even greater compared with other low-carbon technologies including onshore wind, biomass, waste-to-energy and hydropower. That is before accounting for the astronomical grid connection cost for offshore wind - by sub-sea cable. This cost, about 10 times that for rival electricity generation technologies, is subsidised separately and is far from transparent. The evidence for higher costs is a concern for Britain's plans, confirmed on Thursday, to install more offshore wind capacity than any other renewable power technology by 2020. The government says it supports offshore wind because of its potential to help generate thousands of jobs, and to improve Britain's security of energy supply with low-carbon power....Under the new system of support, offshore wind will qualify for a strike price of 155 pounds per megawatt hour (MWh), from 2014/2015, while large-scale solar photovoltaics will get 125 pounds, and onshore wind 100 pounds. The rate for offshore wind is higher than any other technology, with the exception of an experimental waste-to-energy process called pyrolysis, and marine wave and tidal projects. Offshore wind will continue to earn the highest level of subsidy - with the exception of wave and tidal - through 2018/2019. (See Chart 1) The difference with pyrolysis, wave and tidal power is that these are unproven and experimental, and will therefore see negligible capacity installed by 2020 - an aggregate of about 0.4 gigawatts, according to the DECC figures. By contrast, offshore wind will see the most capacity installed of any renewable technology, at 8-16 GW. The logic of selecting the most expensive technology for the largest deployment is unclear. It may be that DECC expects the costs of offshore wind to plummet shortly thereafter, but that expectation is not demonstrated."
Solar beats wind even in cloudy Britain
Reuters, 28 June 2013

"Most efforts at improving solar cells have focused on increasing the efficiency of their energy conversion, or on lowering the cost of manufacturing. But now MIT researchers are opening another avenue for improvement, aiming to produce the thinnest and most lightweight solar panels possible. Such panels, which have the potential to surpass any substance other than reactor-grade uranium in terms of energy produced per pound of material, could be made from stacked sheets of one-molecule-thick materials such as graphene or molybdenum disulfide. Jeffrey Grossman, the Carl Richard Soderberg Associate Professor of Power Engineering at MIT, says the new approach 'pushes towards the ultimate power conversion possible from a material' for solar power. Grossman is the senior author of a new paper describing this approach, published in the journal Nano Letters.... Pound for pound, he says, the new solar cells produce up to 1,000 times more power than conventional photovoltaics. At about one nanometer (billionth of a meter) in thickness, 'It’s 20 to 50 times thinner than the thinnest solar cell that can be made today,' Grossman adds. 'You couldn’t make a solar cell any thinner.' This slenderness is not only advantageous in shipping, but also in ease of mounting solar panels. About half the cost of today’s panels is in support structures, installation, wiring and control systems, expenses that could be reduced through the use of lighter structures. In addition, the material itself is much less expensive than the highly purified silicon used for standard solar cells — and because the sheets are so thin, they require only minuscule amounts of the raw materials."
Solar power heads in a new direction: thinner
MIT, 26 June 2013

"An expert here believes that the Kingdom is likely to spend all its oil on electricity in the country by 2031 if current consumption continues, and has called for an urgent program to harness solar energy. 'There must be real work done to benefit from this alternative energy in the Kingdom in light of climat changes, population growth and increasing electricity use,' said Abdel Malik Al-Junaidi, chairman of the mechanical engineering department at King Abdul Aziz University. He said Saudi Arabia has a 'real wealth' of alternative energy but has not exploited it. He said Saudi Arabia could become a leading exporter of solar power. The Kingdom has this potential because it is located close to the equator, its skies are cloud-free and because the sun's rays fall vertically onto the country. 'Solar energy generation can be 1,000 watts for every square meter which requires stations to transfer this solar energy to electrical energy. (This is important) especially since Saudi Arabia by 2031 will need to use all its oil for electricity production.' Al-Junaidi said that Saudi Arabia has "the highest consumption of electricity in the world.” He said Saudi Arabia has become dependent on oil for its electricity because of the low production costs involved. In contrast, there is a fivefold increase in costs for solar power stations. However, the cost will be much less over the long term, beating traditional sources. He said there was too much electricity consumption in the Kingdom, with the Saudi Electricity Company producing 50GW. In comparison, dams only produce 2GW. There are 25 dams used for electricity generation in the Kingdom."
‘Solar energy crucial to meet rising demand in Saudi Arabia'
Al Bawaba, 16 June 2013

"Ambulance service vehicles in the south of England have become the first in the country to be fitted with solar panels. Thirty-six rapid response vehicles from the South Central Ambulance Service have been fitted with the panels following a nine-month trial last year. The panels, on the single-crewed cars, help power life-saving equipment and will now be trialled on larger double-crewed ambulances. The ambulances cover Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Hampshire. The solar panels charge the emergency vehicle's secondary battery which powers on-board equipment such as defibrillators, satellite navigations systems and communication devices. Before, ambulances had to let their engines run idle while on standby between emergency calls in order to keep the equipment charged. The idea has come from within the south ambulance service itself as its engineers sought ways of reducing its carbon footprint and fuel costs. It cost £34,560 in total to fit the vehicles with the panels, but the service anticipates reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 30.28 tonnes and its fuel costs by more than £50,000 over the next five years."
Solar panels installed on ambulance vehicles
BBC Online, 15 May 2013

"It's the first manned plane to fly for 24 hours on nothing but solar-powered batteries. That's right -- we're talking about a sun-powered plane that can fly at night. 'Theoretically,' said its pilot, Bertrand Piccard, 'the plane can fly forever.' The Swiss-made Solar Impulse is in the middle of a U.S. tour this month, flying five legs from California to New York. In 2015, Piccard and his co-pilot, Andre Borschberg, hope to make the next generation of Solar Impulse the first solar-powered plane to circle the globe."
Funny-looking plane designed to make history
CNN, 13 May 2013

"In February, California, which mandates that 33% of its electricity come from renewable sources by 2020, required a Los Angeles-area utility to ensure some capacity comes from energy storage. On May 1, Germany, which is shuttering its nuclear power plants as it boosts renewables, began subsidizing homeowners' purchases of batteries to store power from solar panels. China's five-year plan calls for 5% of all electricity to be stored by 2020. In the United States, about 2% of electric capacity is pumped hydro storage, the most common form of energy storage. The global market for storing power from solar panels is forecast to explode, from less than $200 million in 2012 to $19 billion by 2017, according to a report this month by IMS Research. One factor driving this growth is the plummeting price of renewables, especially solar panels that have fallen at least 60% since the beginning of 2011. As a result, industry groups report historic growth as U.S. electric capacity from solar panels jumped 76% and from wind turbines, 28%, last year alone.... Toyota's Jaycie Chitwood said lithium-ion batteries are just too expensive to make electric cars cost competitive without subsidies. Speaking at the Advanced Energy 2013 conference last month in New York City, she said Toyota is expanding its line of electric vehicles to meet the U.S. government's fuel-efficiency targets — not because they're profitable. She said it gives a $14,000 discount for each new electric RAV4. Chitwood said a major battery advance is needed. Toyota is working on several alternatives, including cheaper, longer-range batteries that use magnesium instead of lithium. Commercialization, though, is years away. 'Batteries continue to be a challenge,' especially those for electric vehicles, Esther Takeuchi,chemistry professor at SUNY Stony Brook, said at the same conference. 'Things aren't where we'd want them to be, but they're getting closer.' ... IBM's Allan Schurr is bullish on his company's new lithium-air battery, which takes in oxygen from the air to form a chemical reaction that generates an electric charge. It's lighter and denser than the lithium-ion ones in most of today's electric vehicles, which use heavy metal oxides to drive the chemical reactions that produce power. 'The performance we've seen in tests so far is at or above our expectations,' he says. With 500 miles on a single charge, he says, 'You'd take the 'range anxiety' out of the equation.' The current Nissan Leaf gets up to 75 miles on a single charge, and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, 62 miles."
Better batteries could revolutionize solar, wind power
USA Today, 12 May 2013

"A Vijayawada-based solar energy equipment manufacturer, Jyothi Solar Power Projects has claimed that by using two new technologies together with the existing photo-voltaic (PV) panel system, 91 per cent of the Sun’s energy could be converted into electrical power. At a meeting to showcase the technologies here on Saturday, P. Lakshminarayana, Director-Technical of the company said they had applied for patents. They include ‘Twintin’, a system based on sensors that could synchronise PV panels with the Sun’s movement, thus capturing maximum heat and a Multi-Junctional Device (MJD) with Nano technology that could instantly convert solar energy into electrical power.... In two months, the company’s technical team would prove the technology by generating 40 megawatts of solar power in the presence of scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA. A young scientist with Jyothi Solar Power Projects, Prasanna Kumar said the cost would work out to between Rs. 1 and 1.2 lakh per kilowatt of electrical power produced. Currently, he said between 14 and 16 per cent of solar energy was converted into electrical power in India."
New technology to instantly convert solar energy into electricity
The Hindu, 12 May 2013

"A project that envisaged supplying solar and wind energy from Morocco to Europe has been shelved. Observers say the question is now whether it will be possible to revive at a later stage. Expectations were running high at the start of November last year for plans to construct a solar and wind power plant in Morocco and export the energy it produced to Europe. Paul von Son, head of the green energy project Desertec Industry Initiative (Dii), had been waiting for a declaration of intent to be signed by Morocco and a number of European countries. 'It would be the first agreement between European and North African governments that regulates the transfer of electricity from renewable sources across national borders,' said von Son at the last Dii annual conference November 2012 in Berlin. That could have been the breakthrough moment for the Desertec project - but in the end, nothing was signed."
Europe not likely to get North African electricity
Deutsche Welle, 11 May 2013

"'We're fifteen to twenty years out of date in how we think about renewables,' said Dr. Eric Martinot to an audience at the first Pathways to 100% Renewables Conference held April 16 in San Francisco. 'It's not 1990 anymore.' Dr. Martinot and his team recently compiled their 2013 Renewables Global Futures report from two years of research in which they conducted interviews with 170 experts and policymakers from fifteen countries, including local city officials and stakeholders from more than twenty cities. They also reviewed more than 50 recently published scenarios by credible international organizations, energy companies, and research institutes, along with government policy targets for renewable energy, and various corporate reports and energy literature.  The report observes that '[t]he history of energy scenarios is full of similar projections for renewable energy that proved too low by a factor of 10, or were achieved a decade earlier than expected.' For example, the International Energy Agency's 2000 estimate for wind power in 2010 was 34 gigawatts, while the actual level was 200 gigawatts. The World Bank's 1996 estimate for China was 9 gigawatts of wind and 0.5 gigawatts for solar PV by 2020, but by 2011 the country had already achieved 62 gigawatts of wind and 3 gigawatts of PV."
Conventional Wisdom About Clean Energy Is Still Way Out of Date
Greentechmedia, 9 May 2013

"Australian scientists have found a way of hugely increasing the efficiency of solar panels while substantially reducing their cost. The University of NSW researchers have come up with improvements in photovoltaic panel design that had not been expected for another decade. The breakthrough involves using hydrogen atoms to counter defects in silicon cells used in solar panels. As a consequence, poor quality silicon can be made to perform like high quality wafers. The process makes cheap silicon 'actually better than the best-quality material people are using at the moment' the head of the university's photovoltaics centre of excellence, Professor Stuart Wenham, said. Silicon wafers account for more than half the cost of making a solar cell. 'By using lower-quality silicon, you can drastically reduce that cost,' he said. 'We've been able to figure out what the secret is that enables hydrogen to sometimes work the way people want it to, and sometimes doesn't.' At present, the best commercial solar cells convert between 17 per cent and 19 per cent of the sun's energy into electricity. UNSW's technique, patented this year, should produce efficiencies of between 21 per cent and 23 per cent. The price of solar panels has fallen by about 65 per cent in two years, partly due to a huge rise in production in China. Australians have been taking advantage of lower prices, with the number of homes with solar panels exceeding 1 million. The phenomenal growth has caused some casualties in the industry as companies have taken on massive debt to expand supply, then struggled with falling prices in saturated markets. Notable among them is the recent debt default by Suntech Power, once the world's largest solar-panel maker, founded by former University of NSW researcher Shi Zhengrong. Panel prices are predicted to fall much further. European producers predict they will be 60 per cent cheaper by 2020. 'Based on the technological advances we're making, we think that's certainly achievable,' Dr Wenham said."
Breakthrough in solar efficiency by UNSW team ahead of its time
Sydney Morning Herald, 6 May 2013

"In 2007 installed solar power amounted to .0006 of the world's electrical consumption and did not keep pace with the growth of electric consumption. Or as Prieto put it in 2008: 'The Energy Consumption Chariot goes over 200 times faster than the Solar Power horses.' Spain, of course, has gained some fame and notoriety as a global solar pioneer. One-tenth in 2009 and one-fifteenth of the world's installed solar power modules now dot the Spanish countryside. But these expansive operations provide but 4.3 per cent of Spain's electricity....The sun is renewable but photovoltaics are not. Just to make the silicon used to trap the sun's rays on manufactured wafers requires the melting of silica rock at 3,000 Fahrenheit (1,649 Celsius). And the electricity of coal-fired plants or ultrapurified hydrogen obtained from fossil sources provide the heat to do that. It also takes a fantastic amount of oil to make concrete, glass and steel for solar modules.... what troubled Prieto most were the paltry energy returns of some 57,900 solar plants, both big and small. He reviewed Spain's excellent data on the energy outputs of the nation's solar network and than compared those findings to actual energy inputs. To his dismay Prieto found that solar offered only slightly better returns than biofuels. Or 2.4 to one. #That is not enough to maintain society as it is today.' His finding surprised many researchers and for good reason. Previous studies put solar returns as high as eight or even up to 30 to one in some cases, or almost on par with conventional oil. But most of this research used the same sort of best-case scenario modelling typically employed by car industry mileage studies....Prieto calculates.... that to replace all electricity made by nuclear and fossil fuels in Spain would take a solar module complex covering 6,000 sq. km of the country at the cost the entire Spanish budget (1.2 billion Euros in 2007). It would also require the equivalent of 300 billion car batteries to store the energy for night-time use. Prieto is not alone in reaching such sobering conclusions. A 2013 Stanford University report, for example, calculated that global photovoltaic industry now requires more electricity to make silicon wafers and solar troughs than it actually produces in return. Since 2000 the industry consumed 75 per cent more energy than it put onto the grid and all during its manufacturing and installation process."
Solar Dreams, Spanish Realities
The Tyee, 3 May 2013

"Tesla pioneered the idea of harnessing solar power to create an incentive to lure potential customers to its cars. Late last year the Californian startup opened the first of a series of ‘fueling’ stations where owners of its Model S could drive in and charge their batteries to approximately half their charge, for no cost whatsoever. Now BMW, which later this year will launch its first of a new range of electric cars, is announcing a similar concept. Rather than establish its own solar-powered charging stations, BMW will offer owners of its new i range of electric cars an elegant charging system designed to be installed on a garage at their home. The solar-powered home charging system has been developed by fellow German firm Solarwatt and includes a household microgeneration system that can be used to help reduce a home’s power bill."
BMW To Offer Solar-Powered Charging Systems To EV Customers
High Gear Media, 25 April 2013

"Qatar is racing to develop efficient solar-powered cooling technology to counter the searing heat of the Middle Eastern summer in its stadiums during the 2022 soccer World Cup, a senior organizing committee official said. Nasser Al-Khater, the organizing committee's communications and marketing director, also said the tiny gulf state would construct its stadiums with modular technology so it could downscale them after the tournament, and donate seating to countries with little sports infrastructure. Al-Khater said the wealthy emirate already boasted the world's first cooled stadium, albeit with traditional energy sources. Temperatures in Qatar can reach more than 40 C in the summer months."
Qatar races to develop solar-powered cooling
Reuters, 20 April 2013

"Solar power and other distributed renewable energy technologies could lay waste to U.S. power utilities and burn the utility business model, which has remained virtually unchanged for a century, to the ground. That is not wild-eyed hippie talk. It is the assessment of the utilities themselves. Back in January, the Edison Electric Institute — the (typically stodgy and backward-looking) trade group of U.S. investor-owned utilities — released a report [PDF] that, as far as I can tell, went almost entirely without notice in the press. That’s a shame. It is one of the most prescient and brutally frank things I’ve ever read about the power sector. It is a rare thing to hear an industry tell the tale of its own incipient obsolescence....the power generated by solar panels on residential or commercial roofs is not utility-owned or utility-purchased. From the utility’s point of view, every kilowatt-hour of rooftop solar looks like a kilowatt-hour of reduced demand for the utility’s product."
Solar panels could destroy U.S. utilities, according to U.S. utilities
David Roberts - Grist (Blog), 10 April 2013

"Can solar power address the issue of power deficit in Tamil Nadu? It appears so at his juncture considering that the State, despite having the highest installed wind power capacity faces some inherent challenges. These include poor evacuation infrastructure and age-old windmills. The above observation led speakers at the Solar Energy Investment and Technology Forum 2013 to conclude that solar looked to be a more viable option than wind, and probably ‘the’ option to mitigate the power deficit scenario in the State."
‘Solar power becoming a more viable option than wind’
The Hindu, 9 April 2013

"Australia has reached one million rooftop solar systems installed on homes and businesses, capping off a massive rise over the past decade of federal and state incentives. The one million mark was exceeded on March 12, with an analysis of government data by solar industry consultants SunWiz finding 1,011,478 systems had been installed across the country at the end of last month."
Solar hits the million mark despite cuts to incentives
Sydney Morning Herald, 5 April 2013

"Japan will probably become the largest solar market in the world after China this year, boosted by an incentive program that offers above-market rates for energy from renewable sources. Commercial and utility-scale projects will boost solar installations to a range of 6.1 gigawatts to 9.4 gigawatts in 2013, exceeding an earlier forecast of 3.2 gigawatts to 4 gigawatts, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said in a research note."
Japan to Become Largest Solar Market After China, BNEF Says
Bloomberg, 4 April 2013

"The excitement over solar power, which once attracted billions in private investment and public subsidies, has waned recently, underscoring the limitations of renewable energies and the unchallenged dominance of fossil fuels. Some of the $75 billion sector's high profile names have fallen on hard times recently – most notably Suntech Power. The China-based solar panel company rattled the industry when it filed for bankruptcy last week. In its heyday, the stock traded just shy of $90 and had a market capitalization of $16 billion: on Thursday, the last day U.S. markets were open, the shares traded around for 42 cents each. Alternative energy advocates point out that Suntech's difficulties were specific to its business model, exacerbated by a trend of compressed industry prices that have squeezed profit margins for solar companies. The company's failure belies a U.S. market where solar panel installations grew by 76 percent last year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). 'The overall story is about growth and declining costs,' said Arno Harris, chairman of the SEIA Board, in an interview. Much like the way low-cost natural gas is transforming the U.S. energy market, '[solar] costs have come down so dramatically, it's created a Darwinian environment,' Harris added. He pointed to the collapse in silicon – a linchpin of solar panel manufacturing – which has led to a steep drop in prices per watt of solar panels. That amount is now less than a dollar, down sharply from $4 per watt a few years ago, making it difficult for companies to make money. ... SEIA's Harris said that prospects for solar remain bright as renewable energy becomes more mainstream. 'Solar this year will be the number two technology right behind natural gas,' he said. 'It's no longer this fringe thing that's a fun science experiment.'"
Once 'Overhyped and Sexy,' Solar Tumbles Back to Earth
CBC, 30 March 2013

"Solar power will be the second-biggest source of generating capacity added to the U.S. electric grid this year, according to Sharp Corp. (6753)’s Recurrent Energy unit.  'Solar is going to move into the No. 2 position in terms of new build, second only to gas,' Recurrent Chief Executive Officer Arno Harris said in an interview yesterday at the company’s main office in San Francisco. Rooftop solar systems can be installed for about $4 a watt and utility-scale systems for $2 a watt, Harris said. 'We can see our way to $1.50,' he said. 'At those kinds of costs, we’re competitive in the Southwest with conventional electricity.'”
Solar Will Be Second-Biggest Source of U.S. Power Added in 2013
Bloomberg, 21 March 2013

"President Barack Obama called on Congress to approve $2 billion in funding for advanced vehicle technology over the next decade, the latest in a series of proposals to boost research for cars and trucks. Obama made the proposal Friday at an appearance at the Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, where federally funded research helped develop lithium-ion batteries for electric cars.... Obama said funding research for an Energy Security Trust would help move the nation off oil and 'helps us free our families and our businesses from painful spikes in gas once and for all.'... Obama said the project could create more auto jobs. He pointed to progress by two U.S. automakers: 'Last year, General Motors sold more hybrid vehicles than ever before. Ford is selling some of the most fuel-efficient cars so quickly that dealers are having a tough time keeping up with the demand,' Obama said. 'We're making progress, but the only way to really break this cycle of spiking gas prices, the only way to break that cycle for good is to shift our cars entirely — our cars and trucks — off oil.'"
Obama seeks $2B for auto research
Detroit News, 16 March 2013

"The oil-rich sheikhdom of Abu Dhabi this week dedicated what it says is the largest concentrating solar power plant in the world, a sign that Middle Eastern countries are serious about developing their solar resources. The 100-megawatt Shams 1 power plant covers two and half kilometers and generates electricity from over 700 rows of large reflective troughs. Mirrors on the parabolic troughs reflect light onto a tube carrying a synthetic oil, which is converting into steam to turn a conventional electricity-generating turbine. The plant is part of Abu Dhabi’s effort to diversify its energy supply and develop renewable energy technologies for export, says Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the CEO of Masdar, the state-owned renewable energy company. 'From precious hydrocarbon exports to sophisticated renewable energy systems, we are balancing the energy mix and diversifying our economy–moving toward a more sustainable future,' Al Jaber says in a statement. The project was developed as a joint venture of Masdar, French energy company Total, and Abengoa Solar of Spain, which has a number of concentrating solar plants around the world. The $600 million project took three years to build and will power thousands of homes. It will use an air-cooling method to condense steam, a water-conserving measure. The Middle East, with its ample sunlight, is emerging as a promising area for growth in the solar industry. Neighboring Saudi Arabia plans to generate one third of its electricity from solar in 20 years..."
Abu Dhabi Plugs in Giant Concentrating Solar Plant
MIT Technology Review, 19 March 2013

"The $77 billion solar-energy industry is forecast to expand the most since 2011, as China becomes the biggest market for the first time and drives annual global installations to a record. New generation capacity will rise about 14 percent this year to 34.1 gigawatts, equal to about eight atomic reactors, according to the average estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. That would beat the 4.4 percent growth in 2012, when demand shrank in Italy and France after subsidies were cut."
China Drives Record Solar Growth Becoming Biggest Market
Bloomberg, 8 March 2013

"Hanergy Holding Group Ltd., a Chinese thin-film solar panel maker, expects the technology it has backed to take a greater share of the market that’s dominated by silicon-based cells as the biggest manufacturers stumble...'A new age represented by thin-film technology will come,' as silicon-based panel producers led by Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. and LDK Solar Co. Ltd. suffered losses, Hanergy’s Chairman Li Hejun said in an interview. 'The market demands cheaper equipment that features flexibility and with more applications.'... Our costs are around 50 cents a watt, and we aim to cut it by 10 percent this year,' Li said. 'The international market is very good for thin-film panels as they don’t face anti-dumping and anti-subsidy probes in Europe and import duties in the U.S.'”
Hanergy Sees Thin-Film Solar Gaining Market Share
Bloomberg, 8 March 2013

"A new technique developed by University of Toronto Engineering Professor Ted Sargent and his research group could lead to significantly more efficient solar cells. In a paper published in the journal Nano Letters, the group describes a new technique to improve efficiency in what are called colloidal quantum dot photovoltaics. It's a technology that already promises inexpensive and more efficient solar cell technology. But researchers say such devices could be even more effective if they could better harness the infrared portion of the sun’s spectrum, which is responsible for half of the sun’s power that reaches the Earth. The solution has an unwieldy name: spectrally tuned, solution-processed plasmonic nanoparticles. These particles, researchers say, provide unprecedented control over light’s propagation and absorption. The new technique developed by Sargent’s group shows a possible 35% increase in the technology’s efficiency in the near-infrared spectral region, says co-author Susanna Thon (pictured left). Overall, this could translate to an 11% solar power conversion efficiency increase, she says, making quantum dot photovoltaics even more attractive as an alternative to current solar cell technologies."
Improved colloidal quantum dots to make solar cells more efficient
R & D, 8 March 2013

"If the electric car batteries were much cheaper, the range longer, and recharging faster and more readily available, such vehicles just might catch on as an attractive option in the face of ever increasing gasoline costs. This is where the good news comes in, for in the last year what may prove to be highly significant advances in battery technology have been announced and partially verified. These new battery technologies offer the prospects of greatly lowering the cost of batteries, increasing the range of electric cars, and even offering an affordable way of storing intermittent power generated by wind and the sun. The first announcement came in February 2012 from a start-up in California, called Envia, which announced that they had developed a battery cathode made of manganese for lithium ion batteries that would allow electrical energy to be stored at a density of 400 watt-hours per kilogram as compared to 100-180 watt-hours in current batteries. This announcement was followed shortly by one made in March of last year from another California startup, CalBattery, who said they were developing a new lithium ion battery anode material that would allow electric cars to go three times further at a battery life-cycle cost 70 percent less than that of current batteries. Last October CalBattery announced that independent tests had verified that their new silicon-graphene anode material was showing an energy density of 525 watt-hours per kilogram which should clearly allow three times longer ranges for electric cars – provided of course that this new anode material can be introduced into batteries that will last long enough to useful."
The Peak Oil Crisis: An Electric Car in Your Future?
Falls Church News-Press, 6 March 2013

"The solar manufacturing industry is now a highly competitive industry. Solar module companies that can’t compete are dropping like icicles on a warm spring day. Shell dropped out of the solar module race in 2006, giving its solar business to SolarWorld. Nonetheless, Shell is still quite bullish on solar energy in the long term. In one of the two future energy scenarios it just released (the New Lens Scenarios), it projected that solar would become the largest source of energy by 2070."
Shell Bullish On Solar Despite Dropping Solar
Solar Love!, 3 March 2013

"Buoyed by bullish demand forecasts, and increasing utilization rates and pricing, Deutsche Bank forecasts a solar market transition from subsidized to sustainable in 2014. The German bank has raised its 2013 global solar demand forecast to 30 GW – representing a 20% year-on-year increase – on the back of suggestions of strong demand in markets including India, the U.S., China (around 7 to 10 GW), the U.K. (around 1 to 2 GW), Germany and Italy (around 2 GW). Rooftop installations are, in particular, expected to be a main focus, says Deutsche Bank. A trend for projects being planned with either 'minimal/no incentives' has also been observed, despite the belief that solar policy outlooks are improving, particularly in the U.S., China and India, and 'other emerging markets'. Looking at India, Deutsche Bank predicts that due to state and RPO programs, demand is likely to be strong, at between 1 to 2 GW. Meanwhile, it says, 'grid parity has been reached in India even despite the high cost of capital of ~10-12%.' With system prices between €1,500 to €2,000/kW, net metering for systems below 200 kW and 'advanced' plans for unsubsidized projects in the south of the country, Italy also 'appears to be at grid parity'. 'Assuming small commercial enterprises are able to achieve 50% or more self consumption, solar is competitive with grid electricity in most parts of Italy,' says Deutsche Bank."
Deutsche Bank: Sustainable solar market expected in 2014
PV Magazine, 26 February 2013

"Solar cells made using a process like spray painting have been developed by a research collaboration between scientists at the University of Sheffield. The method could potentially reduce the cost of solar cells significantly meaning the technology could be provided to people in developing countries and perhaps one day be used on glass in buildings or car roofs. Experts from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and the University of Cambridge have created a method of spray-coating a photovoltaic active layer by an air based process – similar to spraying regular paint from a can – to develop a cheaper technique which can be mass produced. Professor David Lidzey from the University of Sheffield said 'Spray coating is currently used to apply paint to cars and in graphic printing. We have shown that it can also be used to make solar cells using specially designed plastic semiconductors. Maybe in the future surfaces on buildings and even car roofs will routinely generate electricity with these materials. We found that the performance of our spray coated solar cells is the same as cells made with more traditional research methods, but which are impossible to scale in manufacturing. We now do most of our research using spray coating. The goal is to reduce the amount of energy and money required to make a solar cell. This means that we need solar cell materials that have low embodied energy, but we also need manufacturing processes that are efficient, reliable and consume less energy.' Most solar cells are manufactured using special energy intensive tools and using materials like silicon that themselves contain large amounts of embodied energy. Plastic, by comparison, requires much less energy to make. By spray-coating a plastic layer in air the team hope the overall energy used to make a solar cell can be significantly reduced."
Solar cell fabrication is simplified by spray painting
University of Sheffield, 11 February 2013

"Light-trapping, silver nano-antennas could dramatically improve the performance of solar panels by catching more light, according to a new study. A team of physicists, including Professor Constantin Simovski from Finland's Aalto University, has developed theoretical designs that could increase photovoltaic cell efficiency in a commercially viable way. It proposes incorporating chessboard-patterned arrays of tiny silver nano-antennas into solar panels. This would trap more incoming light, allowing it to be preferentially re-radiated through the photovoltaic slab, improving efficiency. New fabrication techniques for printing a nano-antenna array on thin film means it could be done at low cost."
Solar cells get silver lining
ABC (Australia), 7 February 2013

"The U.S. will add more solar power in 2013 than wind energy for the first time as wind projects slump and cheap panels spur demand for photovoltaic systems, according to the head of Duke Energy Corp. (DUK)’s renewable-energy development unit. The U.S. may install 3 gigawatts to 4 gigawatts of wind turbines this year, and solar projects will probably exceed that, said Gregory Wolf, president of Duke Energy Renewables. The U.S. added 13.1 gigawatts of wind power last year, beating natural gas for the first time."
U.S. Solar Will Eclipse Wind in 2013, Says Duke Energy
Bloomberg, 5 February 2013

"Using an exotic form of silicon could substantially improve the efficiency of solar cells, according to computer simulations by researchers at the University of California, Davis, and in Hungary. The work was published Jan. 25 in the journal Physical Review Letters. Solar cells are based on the photoelectric effect: a photon, or particle of light, hits a silicon crystal and generates a negatively charged electron and a positively charged hole. Collecting those electron-hole pairs generates electric current. Conventional solar cells generate one electron-hole pair per incoming photon, and have a theoretical maximum efficiency of 33 percent. One exciting new route to improved efficiency is to generate more than one electron-hole pair per photon, said Giulia Galli, professor of chemistry at UC Davis and co-author of the paper. 'This approach is capable of increasing the maximum efficiency to 42 percent, beyond any solar cell available today, which would be a pretty big deal,' said lead author Stefan Wippermann, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis. 'In fact, there is reason to believe that if parabolic mirrors are used to focus the sunlight on such a new-paradigm solar cell, its efficiency could reach as high as 70 percent,' Wippermann said. Galli said that nanoparticles have a size of nanometers, typically just a few atoms across. Because of their small size, many of their properties are different from bulk materials. In particular, the probability of generating more than one electron-hole pair is much enhanced, driven by an effect called 'quantum confinement.'"
One In, Two Out: Simulating More Efficient Solar Cells
Science Daily, 28 January 2013

"U.K. solar electricity may more than double this year as a boom in solar farms and domestic installations adds 2 gigawatts of new capacity, according toTrina (TSL) Solar Ltd., the third-biggest solar cell maker. The U.K. industry benefits from a stability that 'every other country in the world pretty much envies right now,' Ben Hill, president of Trina Solar Europe, said in a Jan. 25 phone interview from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Government incentives for rooftop panels and ground-mounted farms are spurring both types of development, he said....Hill’s prediction for 2 gigawatts of U.K. installations this year compares with the current installed base that Energy Minister Greg Barker put at 1.8 gigawatts in a Jan. 16 speech. London-based Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts installations this year will total 1.1 gigawatts, up from 830 megawatts in 2012. The government is chasing 20 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2020, and on Dec. 27 added the technology to a list of nine deemed crucial for the nation to meet renewable-energy and carbon-reduction targets. That followed the second wettest year on record, with U.K. rainfall averaging 1,330.7 millimeters (52.4 inches), just 6.6 millimeters short of the record set in 2000, according to the Met Office, the government forecaster. Guaranteed prices for electricity, known as feed-in tariffs, or FITs, are the main spur for rooftop installations, and changes to them were the subject of the legal challenges in 2011. Since then, the government has introduced a system of rolling cuts to ensure predictable reductions as solar costs come down and installations mount."
Trina Predicts U.K. Solar ‘Boom’ to Double Installations
Bloomberg, 28 January 2013

".... researchers announced that they’ve set a new record for flexible copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells, a type of solar cell that has the potential for low costs because it can be made quickly with relatively small amounts of material. CIGS cells, if made on a flexible plastic or metal foil, can also be flexible, unlike conventional silicon solar panels, which are heavy and rigid. But CIGS cells aren’t as efficient as conventional silicon ones, making it hard for the technology to compete. Efficiency is the most powerful lever for reducing solar power costs. Improved efficiency reduces the number of solar panels needed for a given installation, saving on the cost of panels and labor. The researchers demonstrated solar cells with an efficiency of 20.4 percent, which is far better than the roughly 13 percent efficiency of flexible CIGS cells used in commercial applications such as solar rooftop shingles. It’s also better than typical silicon solar cells, which are roughly 16 percent efficient (higher cost, premium silicon solar cells can have efficiencies as high as 24 percent)."
Thin Film Solar Gets a Boost from a New Record Efficiency
MIT Technology Review, 22 January 2013

"Here's how to make a powerful solar cell from indium and phosphorus: First, arrange microscopic flecks of gold on a silicon background. Using the gold as seeds, grow precisely arranged wires roughly 1.5 micrometers tall out of chemically tweaked compounds of indium and phosphorus. Keep the nanowires in line by etching them clean with hydrochloric acid and confining their diameter to 180 nanometers. (A nanometer is one billionth of a meter.) Exposed to the sun, a solar cell employing such nanowires can turn nearly 14 percent of the incoming light into electricity—a new record that opens up more possibilities for cheap and effective solar power. According to research published online in Science—and validated at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems—this novel nanowire configuration delivered nearly as much electricity as more traditional indium phosphide thin-film solar cells even though the nanowires themselves covered only 12 percent of the device's surface. That suggests such nanowire solar cells could prove cheaper—and more powerful—if the process could be industrialized, argues physicist Magnus Borgström of Lund University in Sweden, who led the effort."
Novel Solar Photovoltaic Cells Achieve Record Efficiency Using Nanoscale Structures
Scientific American, 17 January 2013

"The global solar market will rise 22 percent to 33.4 gigawatts in 2013, with gains in China, the U.S. and India more than offsetting declines in Germany and Italy, Deutsche Bank predicted today in a note to investors. The Chinese market, the second biggest in 2012, will more than double to 10 gigawatts this year from 4 gigawatts last year, Deutsche said. The Indian market will more than triple to 4 gigawatts and the U.S. will rise 29 percent to 4.5 gigawatts, the bank’s analysts, led by Vishal Shah, predicted in the note. Those gains will help offset declines in European markets, led by Germany and Italy, where demand will be cut in half, according to the bank. Those two countries were the biggest and third-largest markets in 2012, it said."
Solar Market to Rise 22 Percent in 2013, Deutsche Bank Predicts
Bloomberg, 10 January 2013

"Renowned innovator and futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that within 20 years we will have our energy problem licked. It’s solved. We just don’t know it yet. As he told Lauren Fenny of PBS: 'One of my primary theses is that information technologies grow exponentially in capability and power and bandwidth and so on. If you buy an iPhone today, it’s twice as good as two years ago for half that cost. That is happening with solar energy — it is doubling every two years…Every two years we have twice as much solar energy in the world. Today, solar is still more expensive than fossil fuels, and in most situations it still needs subsidies or special circumstances, but the costs are coming down rapidly — we are only a few years away from parity. And then it’s going to keep coming down, and people will be gravitating towards solar, even if they don’t care at all about the environment, because of the economics. So right now it’s at half a percent of the world’s energy. People tend to dismiss technologies when they are half a percent of the solution. But doubling every two years means it’s only eight more doublings before it meets a hundred percent of the world’s energy needs. So that’s 16 years. We will increase our use of electricity during that period, so add another couple of doublings: In 20 years we’ll be meeting all of our energy needs with solar, based on this trend which has already been under way for 20 years.' Of course, there are huge integration and storage issues that will need to be addressed. But his point about solar echoes what has occurred with 'green' technologies such as the Prius. Consumer Reports recently found the Prius to have the lowest cost of ownership of any car. People buy it 'because of the economics.' Similar things are happening with electric vehicles. Motor Trend just named the Tesla Model S it’s car of the year, and competitive in price with other luxury car peers. 'At its core, the Tesla Model S is simply a damned good car you happen to plug in to refuel.' For Motor Trend, the environmental benefits are beside the point.... The next area where solar may make huge gains is integration into the skin of buildings, what is know as Building Integrated Photovoltaics, or BIPV. A recent report from Pike research see BIPV growing from just over 400 MW in 2012 to 2,250 by 2017, with annual value increasing from just over $600 mn to $2.4 bn. 'In the future, BIPV will no longer be confined to spandrel or overhead applications. Rather, the entire building envelope will be able to put it to use, allowing the structure to produce its own power and feed additional power into the grid system.' ...But what about the enormous fleet of existing buildings? How to attack that? Stanford scientists may have just found the answer. In tackling the vexing problem that most solar panels are rigid and thereby limited in their applications, Stanford researchers came up with a technology to create decal-type panels that can be stuck to virtually any surface. Including window panes..."
More Solar Innovation: Stanford's Peel and Stick Flexible Application
Forbes, 10 January 2013
2012

"It takes outside-the-box thinking to outsmart the solar spectrum and set a world record for solar cell efficiency. The solar spectrum has boundaries and immutable rules. No matter how much solar cell manufacturers want to bend those rules, they can’t. So how can we make a solar cell that has a higher efficiency than the rules allow? That’s the question scientists in the III-V Multijunction Photovoltaics Group at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) faced 15 years ago as they searched for materials they could grow easily that also have the ideal combinations of band gaps for converting photons from the sun into electricity with unprecedented efficiency. A band gap is an energy that characterizes how a semiconductor material absorbs photons, and how efficiently a solar cell made from that material can extract the useful energy from those photons. 'The ideal band gaps for a solar cell are determined by the solar spectrum,' said Daniel Friedman, manager of the NREL III-V Multijunction Photovoltaics Group. 'There’s no way around that.' But this year, Friedman’s team succeeded so spectacularly in bending the rules of the solar spectrum that NREL and its industry partner, Solar Junction, won a coveted R&D 100 award from R&D Magazine for a world-record multijunction solar cell. The three-layered cell, SJ3, converted 43.5% of the energy in sunlight into electrical energy — a rate that has stimulated demand for the cell to be used in concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) arrays for utility-scale energy production. Last month, that record of 43.5% efficiency at 415 suns was eclipsed with a 44% efficiency at 947 suns. Both records were verified by NREL. This is NREL’s third R&D 100 award for advances in ultra-high-efficiency multijunction cells. CPV technology gains efficiency by using low-cost lenses to multiply the sun’s intensity, which scientists refer to as numbers of suns."
Solar PV's 44% Efficiency Record, Thanks To NREL & Solar Junction
CleanTechnica, 30 December 2012

"Solar panels that can be integrated right into rooftops and the walls of buildings is a new market that is set to grow dramatically over the next five years, according to a new report from Pike Research, a part of Navigant. The report says that the energy capacity of solar panels that are built into the structures of buildings will grow from 400 MW in 2012 to 2.25 GW in 2017, or a five-fold increase worldwide. The solar industry calls this technology “building-integrated photovoltaics” or BIPV. Some of this new capacity will come from thin film solar panels that will be able to be printed right onto building materials, like shingles, steel roof casing, and windows. A lot of companies have been gunning for this market, and many have been held back by the difficult solar production market in 2012. There are at least 53 companies working on this tech, says Pike."
Building integrated solar panels set to boom over the next 5 years
Gigaom, 27 December 2012

"Bloomberg reported last week that a number of solar developers in Spain have applied for permits to connect to the country’s electric grid and sell solar power at market prices. Taken together the permit requests total 37,5 gigawatts (GW = 1,000 megawatts). Clearly, not all of these proposed facilities will get built. To put it into context, Spain has about 4.2 GW of installed solar capacity at present (representing almost 10% of the country’s peak power generating capability). If even a fraction of these plants were to be built, it would crush the market and bankrupt the developers. However, if the amount is limited, the first few actors are likely to see a profit. The proposed installations are enormous – the largest eyed for Europe to date, ranging from 150 to 500 MW – with costs coming in as low as $.073 to .079 (.055 to .060 Euros) per kilowatt-hour. These plants compare in size to the 290 MW NRG/First Solar Agua Caliente facility in Arizona, and Exelon‘s 230 MW Antelope Valley project in Southern California, but they are considerably less expensive. This is a far cry from a snapshot of solar in Europe just a half decade ago. At that time, Spain was looking at subsidized prices for solar coming in at 9X traditional fossil plants. These prices surely stimulated the market, resulting in Spain installing more solar than the entire rest of world in the boom days in 2007-2008. However, the Spanish economy and ratepayer paid a significant price – transfers from ratepayers to solar developers totaled $3.3 bn before the program was axed this year. It is that kind of program which fuels conservatives’ anger. But it is also this type of program which sometimes sparks a technological revolution. The rest of the world has Spain to thank for inching so far out into traffic that they lost the hood ornament on the car: the stimulus effect from that program (and that of Germany – which has spent a couple billion Euros for 30,000 MW of solar – and other European countries) helped create a global industry with rapidly falling costs and increasing efficiencies. As a consequence, we are now able to talk seriously about grid parity of solar resources, and sun-drenched Spain has gotten to the point that utility-scale programs can be envisioned without subsidies."
Solar Grid Parity Comes to Spain
Forbes, 26 December 2012

"Fabrication of thin-film solar cells (TFSCs) on substrates other than Si and glass has been challenging because these nonconventional substrates are not suitable for the current TFSC fabrication processes due to poor surface flatness and low tolerance to high temperature and chemical processing. Here, we report a new peel-and-stick process that circumvents these fabrication challenges by peeling off the fully fabricated TFSCs from the original Si wafer and attaching TFSCs to virtually any substrates regardless of materials, flatness and rigidness. With the peel-and-stick process, we integrated hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) TFSCs on paper, plastics, cell phone and building windows while maintaining the original 7.5% efficiency. The new peel-and-stick process enables further reduction of the cost and weight for TFSCs and endows TFSCs with flexibility and attachability for broader application areas. We believe that the peel-and-stick process can be applied to thin film electronics as well."
Peel-and-Stick: Fabricating Thin Film Solar Cell on Universal Substrates
Scientific Reports, 20 December 2012

"There is huge potential in solar power. The sun is a giant ball of burning hydrogen in the sky, and it’s going to be sticking around for at least a few more billion years. For all intents and purposes, it’s a free source of energy. Sadly, humanity hasn’t been very good at harnessing its power directly. Our current methods of capturing the sun’s energy are very inefficient. For example, modern silicon and indium-tin-oxide-based solar cells are approaching the theoretical limit of 33.7% efficiency. Well, a research team at Princeton has used nanotechnology to create a mesh that increases efficiency over organic solar cells nearly three fold. Led by Stephen Chou, the team has made two dramatic improvements: reducing reflectivity, and more effectively capturing the light that isn’t reflected. As you can see by the illustration below by Dimitri Karetnikov, Princeton’s new solar cell is much thinner and less reflective. By utilizing sandwiched plastic and metal with the nanomesh, this so-called 'Plasmonic Cavity with Subwavelength Hole array' or 'PlaCSH' substantially reduces the potential for losing the light itself. In fact, it only reflects about 4% of direct sunlight, leading to a 52% higher efficiency than conventional, organic solar cells. PlaCSH is also capable of capturing a large amount of sunlight even when the sunlight is dispersed on cloudy days, which results in an amazing 81% increase in efficiency under indirect lighting conditions when compared to conventional organic solar cell technology. All told, PlaCSH is up to 175% more efficient than conventional solar cells. As you can see in the image to the right, the difference in reflectivity between conventional and PlaCSH solar cells is really quite dramatic."
Princeton’s nanomesh nearly triples solar cell efficiency
Extreme Tech, 11 December 2012

"There wasn’t much coverage earlier this month of the Saudi Arabia‘s decision to invest $100 billion in solar power. Instead there was a lot of frothy coverage of an International Energy Agency report suggesting the USA could overtake Saudi Arabia as an oil producer by 2020 if a lot of dubious assumptions panned out. Likewise there wasn’t a lot of interest earlier this year when Warren Buffett, through MidAmerican Holdings, put over $2 billion into one solar project in California. Instead there was a lot of noise and grandstanding when the US government picked the wrong bet and lost a quarter as much in Solyndra. The reality is that solar power has come of age and is now a bankable technology attracting the likes of Buffett and Google and KKR and Blackstone and Walmart and MetLife because it garners double-digit returns on investment. Smart money and the Saudi’s know solar works; why don’t we? Take only the news from King Abdullah City for a moment, where spokespeople say they’re targeting around 41,000 megawatts of solar capacity within two decades. Can you imagine the hype if 41 nuclear power plants were seriously canvassed to be built anywhere in the next 20 years? Did you realize more solar panels were installed in Europe last year than all the gas, coal and wind power installations combined? That’s from the Global Market Outlook to 2016 of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association – a great read full of charts “up and to the right” for a region otherwise beset by doldrums. Germany has had days this year where 50% of the electrons consumed were solar power from its 27,000 megawatts of capacity... One analyst, who wants to remain anonymous expects solar power to be competitive with gas-fired power on the eastern seaboard of China by this time next year. The economics will reach that point when it costs $1 to install a watt of solar power capacity – the current market rate is $1.25/w in China down from over $2/w this time last year... There’s not a lot of coverage of the phenomenon of the technology cost curve that is driving down the price of solar power, even though it’s as American as Apple. Instead there’s still a lot of buzz about the latest oil or gas boom, even though we know busts follow those and are already stalking the shale plays."
Saudi Arabia Makes Big Bet On Solar
Forbes (Blog), 10 December 2012

"A nanostructured 'sandwich' of metal and plastic may be a way to nearly triple the efficiency of organic solar cells, those cheap and flexible plastic energy devices that could be the future of solar power. The researchers were able to increase the efficiency 175 percent and the technology should increase the efficiency of conventional inorganic solar collectors, such as standard silicon solar panels, but that is another research issue. Any solar solution needs to to overcome two primary challenges that cause solar cells to lose energy; light reflecting from the cell, and the inability to fully capture light that enters the cell. With their new metallic sandwich, the researchers were able to address both problems. The subwavelength plasmonic cavity can dampen reflection and trap light. The new technique allowed the team to create a solar cell that only reflects about 4 percent of light and absorbs as much as 96 percent. It demonstrated 52 percent higher efficiency in converting light to electrical energy than a conventional solar cell.  That is for direct sunlight, but the structure achieves even more efficiency for light that strikes the solar cell at large angles, which occurs on cloudy days or when the cell is not directly facing the sun. By capturing these angled rays, the new structure boosts efficiency by an additional 81 percent, leading to the 175 percent total increase."
Subwavelength Plasmonic Cavity: Metallic Sandwich May Make Solar Power Delicious
Science 20, 9 December 2012

"Computer simulations by researchers in the US and China could lead to solar cells that work efficiently across a broad range of the solar spectrum. Dubbed a 'solar energy funnel', the new concept offers a way of using strain to modify the band gap of a semiconductor so that it responds to light within a range of different wavelengths. However, the funnels have yet to be made and tested in the lab – some researchers suggest using them in practical devices could prove problematic."
Semiconductor funnel could boost solar cells
PhysicsWorld, 4 December 2012

"The reality of solar panels is that those on the market today aren’t very efficient – most of the solar cells, which make up an entire panel, convert less than a fifth of the sunlight into electricity. But researchers at MIT said on Monday they have come up with a funnel-like design that will manipulate the incoming electrons to engineer more efficient solar cells. The research, just published in the journal, Nature Photonics, used computer modeling to look at how to stretch the semiconductor molybdenum disulfide to change its physical properties to make use of a broader spectrum of sunlight than what silicon, the most common solar cell material, can manage today. Whether the design will work as well in real life will require further research."
A solar funnel that could lead to more efficient cells
Gigaom, 26 November 2012

"Qatar’s effort to expand its solar industry is being held up by issues including the scale of the projects planned and dust that blows in from desert areas, one of the nation’s most senior leaders said. 'We are one of the biggest believers in solar,' said Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, a former energy minister who is chairman of Qatar Electricity & Water Co. (QEWS), said at a press conference in Doha today. 'We have some technology problems. I am a big believer that technology will solve it.' He said Qatar’s projects will cover huge areas and require careful planning and that 'we are receiving a lot of dust from the frontier areas, and the dust is one of the challenges. It reduces sharply the efficiency of solar.' Qatar, which is hosting this year’s United Nations climate talks, plans to install 1,800 megawatts of solar power capacity by 2014, government-backed venture said on Oct. 17."
Qatar Says Solar Program Held Back by Issues of Scale, Dust
Bloomberg, 26 November 2012

"What if we could use solar energy when the sun has set, or wind energy when the air is calm? Donald Sadoway is working on a way to make that happen. The professor of materials chemistry at MIT is leading an effort to develop a new kind of battery -- a 'liquid metal battery' -- that would enable the economical storage of energy from solar, wind and other sources so that it could be used when homes and businesses need it.... Inspired by the technique developed in the 19th century to produce aluminum at very low cost, Sadoway came up with the idea of using such commonly available materials as magnesium and antimony to create the battery. He said a battery of this type housed in a 40-foot shipping container could store enough power to meet the daily needs of 200 American households. Sadoway got enthusiastic applause when he told the audience at TED: 'If we're going to get this country out of its current energy situation, we can't just conserve our way out; we can't just drill our way out; we can't bomb our way out. We're going to do it the old-fashioned American way, we're going to invent our way out, working together."
Solar power when the sun has set
CNN, 19 November 2012

"The average combined savings and income households made from installing solar PV panels has increased by nearly £100 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust. Figures collated by the EST showed that the annual net benefit from solar PV panels has risen to £635 from around £540 per year. The average size of solar PV installed has increased, said the EST, meaning households generated more electricity and consequently more savings and feed-in tariff income.   However, of the third of Brits approached with solar panels last year only 4 per cent chose to purchase them."
Household annual benefits of solar panels 'have risen by nearly £100'
Utility Week, 6 November 2012

"Construction has started in Puerto Rico on what will soon be the Caribbean's largest solar energy park. The $265 million project is being built in southern Puerto Rico and is expected to generate enough electricity to power more than 13,000 homes in the U.S. territory. The park features 270,000 solar panels and is being financed by CIRO Energy Group and One Planet Caribbean of San Juan and San Francisco-based GCL Solar Energy Inc. CIRO Group executive Ruben Perez said Friday that the project will help save 236 million barrels of petroleum a year and reduce greenhouse emissions by 217 billion pounds. Puerto Rico's government also expects construction to start soon on what will be the region's largest wind farm. It will be near the island's southern coast."
Puerto Rico begins building large solar park
Associated Press, 2 November 2012

"Scientists at California's Stanford University have managed to construct the first solar cell made entirely of carbon. If ultimately brought to market, a carbon-based solar cell could offer a potential alternative to the expensive materials currently used in photovoltaic devices. 'Unlike rigid silicon solar panels that adorn many rooftops, [our] thin film prototype is made of carbon materials that can be coated from solution,' she explained. 'Perhaps in the future we can look at alternative markets where flexible carbon solar cells are coated on the surface of buildings, on windows or on cars to generate electricity.' As expected, the coating technique also has the potential to reduce manufacturing costs. 'Processing silicon-based solar cells requires a lot of steps,' Stanford graduate student Michael Vosgueritchian confirmed. 'But our entire device can be built using simple coating methods that don't require expensive tools and machines.'"
Scientists design first all-carbon solar cell
TG Daily, 1 November 2012

"The Saudis are raising $100 billion for solar-power development, which could ease its rapidly growing demand for electric power. Though natural gas would be cheaper, the Saudis may prefer solar. Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud, an important member of the Saudi royal family, announced last week that his hope was that Saudi Arabia would replace 100 percent of its power generation with renewables within his lifetime. This follows public announcements earlier in the year that the kingdom was in the process of raising $109 billion in investments for solar power and was already in the process of constructing 100 megawatts of solar generation in Mecca as part of a larger renewable energy plan for the city. It's important to note that the energy proclamation by Prince Turki (a classmate of Bill Clinton's at Georgetown) needs to be taken in context. He has never held an energy related position in the Saudi government, but has held very high-profile government roles, including director of intelligence and ambassador to the United States. The 100 percent claim is clearly aspirational, but the $100 billion investment, representing enough solar to meet roughly one-third of current Saudi power demand, appears to be entirely serious. Saudi Arabia's interest in renewables, and solar in particular, highlights a handful of important points: * Power demand growth in the Middle East * Saudi Arabia is bullish on future oil prices  * Saudi's limited access to natural gas * Oversupplied solar market may have a new demand base."
Why Saudi Arabia is taking a shine to solar
Christian Science Monitor, 28 October 2012

"China is creating supportive measures to shore up its ailing photovoltaic (PV) industry, which has been rocked by recent U.S. duties on Chinese exports over alleged dumping. In the latest attempt, State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), the country's largest state-owned utility company, announced a plan to allow small-scale distributed solar power generators to connect to its power lines. Under the plan, SGCC will allow solar power generators with less than 6 megawatts of installed capacity to be connected to the grid."
New policies support ailing solar industry
Xinhua, 28 October 2012

"Clean energy has become a dirty word in presidential politics. In their second debate, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama each tried to outdo the other’s love of fossil fuels: Obama extolling his record on oil and natural gas production, Romney vowing to take 'advantage of the oil and coal we have here.' The Republican candidate has ridiculed the administration’s $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra, the bankrupt California-based solar panel maker, and accused Obama of living 'in an imaginary world where government-subsidized windmills and solar panels could power the economy.' The candidates’ coolness to renewable energy comes at a time when the domestic supply of traditional energy sources, such as oil and natural gas, is at an all-time high. And yet this failure to make the promise of renewables a keynote in the debate is a huge missed opportunity. In particular, it ignores the dramatic reduction in the cost of photovoltaic solar power worldwide and the considerable benefits to U.S. consumers and the environment. The untold story of this campaign is that what killed Solyndra may turn out to be a boon for the nation. 'Economically and technologically, the game is over,' says Bill Powers, a San Diego engineer and board member of Solar Done Right, a group that proselytizes for rooftop solar power. 'The hangups in the U.S. are strictly political.' Over the past five years the price of photovoltaic panels has plummeted 75 percent, due largely to a glut of Chinese-made panels. The fall in prices rendered technically advanced photovoltaic panels, like those produced by Solyndra and other U.S. companies, too expensive to compete. But cheap panels have been a godsend for consumers... Nationally, the average cost of residential installations—including hardware, permits, and labor—has plummeted from $9 a watt in 2006 to $5.46. Averaging in commercial industrial installations, the national installed price plummets to $3.45 a watt, says the Solar Energy Industries Association, a Washington-based trade group. The result is a burgeoning rooftop revolution. The SEIA says almost 52,000 residential rooftop systems were installed in the U.S. last year, up 30 percent from a year earlier. Total rooftop installations, including on commercial buildings, grew 109 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to SEIA data. Total photovoltaic installations are projected to grow an additional 71 percent this year from 2011 levels. Worldwide, the picture is even more positive. Australia projects that 10 percent of its 8 million houses will have rooftop systems within the next 12 months—most of that growth coming in the past three years. European rooftop installations continue to outpace those in the U.S., even as some countries begin to pare subsidies that have helped spur a continental rooftop boom. Including residential, commercial, and industrial-scale projects, the world had installed about 67 gigawatts of photovoltaic power at the end of last year—up from just 1.5 gigawatts in 2000. Despite such breakthroughs, the U.S. economy is harnessing only a fraction of solar’s potential benefits. Based on U.S. Census Bureau data, about 100 million U.S. residential units could physically hold rooftop systems one day, generating by one estimate 3.75 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity a year. In 2011, total U.S. electrical generation from all sources was about 4 trillion kilowatt hours—42 percent of that from coal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The trouble is, many of the big,investor-owned utilities that provide about 85 percent of America’s electricity see solar as both a technical challenge and a long-term threat to their 100-year-old profit models. And the lack of a national energy policy means regulation of solar is up to states, public service commissions, and a wealth of local governments and bureaucracies—many of whom have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo."
Solar Energy Is Ready. The U.S. Isn't
Bloomberg, 25 October 2012

"Iraq plans to spend up to $1.6 billion on solar and wind power stations over the next three years to add 400 megawatts to the national grid to help curb daily blackouts, an official from the ministry of electricity said on Monday. Nine years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, investment is needed in most of Iraq's industries, not least power generation, which produces just 8,800 MW of the 14,000 MW needed."
Iraq plans to invest up to $1.6 bln in solar and wind energy
Reuters, 15 October 2012

"The United States finally has a road map for developing solar energy on federal land in the West. The big idea: Seventeen solar-energy zones – about 285,000 acres of public lands in six western states – have been set aside as priority areas for commercial-scale solar development. That way, instead of approving such large renewable energy projects on a case-by-case basis where developers want to build them, the energy zones will guide development to areas that are high in solar energy, close to transmission lines, and have, in the Interior Department's words, 'relatively low conflict with biological, cultural, and historic resources.' The road map also excludes 79 million acres of federal land as being inappropriate for development and another 19 million acres as "variance" areas where the government would continue to decide solar projects case by case. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar finalized the roadmap at a signing Friday. The six states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah."
Renewable energy: US takes new tack with 'solar energy zones'
Christian Science Monitor, 14 October 2012

"Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) Managing Director Arif Alauddin has said prices of solar panels have dropped 80% over the last five years, making alternative energy attractive for the consumers. 'We should avail of the opportunity and switch to solar energy to overcome the energy crisis,' he stressed while speaking at the International Exhibition and Conference on Alternative Energy and Energy Efficiency, organised by the Renewable and Alternative Energy Association of Pakistan here on Saturday. As the country was generating power at an average rate of Rs20 per unit, Alauddin said the consumers could have cheaper electricity with the help of solar applications. Despite the decrease in the cost of battery, the solar panels were still expensive, but the consumers could take benefit of them in day time, he suggested."
Solar panel prices drop 80%
The Express Tribune (Pakistan), 14 October 2012

"Silicon nanowire and nanopore arrays promise to reduce manufacturing costs and increase the power conversion efficiency of photovoltaic devices. So far, however, photovoltaic cells based on nanostructured silicon exhibit lower power conversion efficiencies than conventional cells due to the enhanced photocarrier recombination associated with the nanostructures. Here, we identify and separately measure surface recombination and Auger recombination in wafer-based nanostructured silicon solar cells. By identifying the regimes of junction doping concentration in which each mechanism dominates, we were able to design and fabricate an independently confirmed 18.2%-efficient nanostructured ‘black-silicon’ cell that does not need the antireflection coating layer(s) normally required to reach a comparable performance level."
An 18.2%-efficient black-silicon solar cell achieved through control of carrier recombination in nanostructures
Nature Nanotechnology, (2012) doi:10.1038/nnano.2012.166

"Australia's 800,000 solar-powered homes should be slugged more to plug into the main electricity grid, so as to reduce costs for other families, energy distributors say. As households try to offset skyrocketing bills, an explosion of solar photovoltaic panel installations has seen an extra 400,000 homes go green in the past year."
Heat is on solar-powered homes
Australia, 7 October 2012

"V3Solar has developed a new way to convert the sun's energy into electricity using traditional technology in a new way, and in so doing have discovered a way to get twenty times more electricity out of the same amount of solar cells. Their new device, called the Spin Cell, does away with the traditional flat panel and instead places the solar cells on a cone shaped frame which are then covered with energy concentrators. Once in operation, the whole works spins, making unnecessary the need for tracking hardware and software.... Because of the great potential of solar energy, researchers have looked into increasing the efficiency of solar cells by using lenses or mirrors to direct more of the sun's energy onto them hoping to get more electricity out of the same number of cells. Unfortunately, doing so tends to create so much heat that the cells become useless. The engineers at V3Solar took this idea and modified it to prevent such overheating by mounting the cells on a rotating platform; doing so means that each cell only receives extra heat for a very short amount of time and is then allowed to cool as the cone spins. The concentrators form an outer skin creating a hermetically sealed inner environment for the triangular shaped blue colored solar cells. The cone is situated on a base of electromagnets powered by some of the energy that has been converted from the sun's energy by the solar cells, creating a nearly frictionless spin. The result is a marvel of engineering and an artistic triumph – a means to produce much more electricity than traditional flat panels in a pleasing, and as the company says, beautiful way."
V3Solar photovoltaic Spin Cell generates 20 times more electricity per cell than flat panels
Phsy.org, 3 October 2012

"While the contract hasn’t been finalized, analysts are predicting that First Solar will win the rights to supply NextEra Energy Inc. with solar arrays for what will be the world’s largest solar farm. The two companies are currently working together on the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight solar farm in Riverwide County, California."
World's largest solar farm coming to California
Christian Science Monitor, 29 September 2012

"Reports of the demise of the European solar industry have been greatly exaggerated. That is the central conclusion of a new status report from the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, which reveals that despite subsidy cuts in a host of key markets two-thirds of the world's new solar PV panels were installed in Europe last year. It also confirms that solar power delivered two per cent of the EU's electricity needs in 2011, equivalent to the national electricity demand of Austria. Writing in the foreword of the report, Arnulf Jager-Waldau, senior scientist for renewable energy at the Joint Research Centre, said that demand for solar power was being driven by a drastic reduction in the cost of solar panels. 'From 2008 to second quarter of 2012, residential PV electricity system prices have decreased by almost 60 per cent in the most competitive markets, and in some markets, the cost of PV-generated electricity is already cheaper than residential electricity retail prices,' he wrote. 'Due to falling PV system prices and increasing electricity prices, the number of such markets is steadily increasing.' He added that as a result solar energy had attracted almost half of all new renewable energy investment globally last year, approaching $130bn, with around two-thirds invested in Europe. 'In 2011, the photovoltaic industry production increased by almost 40 per cent and reached a world-wide production volume of about 35 GWp of photovoltaic modules,' he wrote. 'Yearly growth rates over the last decade were on average between 40 per cent and 90 per cent, which makes photovoltaics one of the fastest growing industries at present.' The report acknowledged that European solar firms are facing growing competition from Chinese manufacturers – a scenario that has prompted threats of legal action against China by European and US firms."
Europe generating enough solar electricity to power Austria
BusinessGreen, 25 September 2012

"First Solar Inc. (FSLR) Chief Executive Officer Jim Hughes is stepping up efforts to manage power plants that generate electricity from the sun, helping utilities use the technology in a way his rivals in China can’t. The biggest U.S. solar panel maker plans to build new projects from the Middle East to Australia and use proprietary systems that help power-purchasers manage the amount they buy from solar farms, Hughes said in his first interview since taking the CEO position in May. The company’s pitch to utilities is that it will help them predict uneven power flows from solar panels, giving grid operators the ability to integrate the facilities into their networks alongside those that burn fossil fuels. That’s making First Solar less dependent on manufacturing, an industry dominated by Chinese companies led by Suntech Power Holdings Co. (STP)."
First Solar Beats Chinese by Making Sun Power Predictable
Bloomberg, 13 September 2012

"The solar-power business is expanding quickly in the U.S., helping lift the cloud that has surrounded the industry since the demise of Solyndra LLC a year ago. But the growth isn't coming from U.S. solar-panel manufacturing, despite the money and rhetoric devoted to the industry by the Obama administration. Instead, it is in installations of largely foreign-made panels, whose falling price has made solar more competitive with other forms of power. 'There should be little emphasis put on where the panels are made,' said Lyndon Rive, chief executive of SolarCity Corp., which finances and installs rooftop solar systems."
Sun Peeks Through in Solar
Wall St Journal, 9 September 2012

"China's push into solar energy was supposed to be a proud example of how the country was advancing into hi-tech manufacturing. But now the whole sector is on the brink of bankruptcy. Two years ago, LDK Solar, one of China's largest solar panel makers, built a new, state-of-the-art factory in the central city of Hefei. It sits in one of the city's industrial parks, a big LDK Solar logo on its wall, with the New York-listed company's slogan underneath: 'Lighting the Future'. 'It cost 2.5 billion yuan (£250m) to build, the majority of the equipment was imported from Germany, and it hired 5,000 staff,' said Jie Xiaoming, a 30-year-old who works at the plant's quality control and packaging department.  Last month, however, 4,500 of the staff were put on gardening leave. They receive 700 yuan a month to stay at home. The factory has shut down 24 of its 32 production lines. 'There do not seem to be any orders. People are still turning up for work, but mostly just sleeping. The management has not said much, just that the United States has a new policy that is stopping our exports,' said Mr Jie. .... in Europe and the US, governments provided subsidies to buy Chinese-made panels as part of commitments to boost renewable energy. But the incentives created a glut of suppliers, and since 2010, the price of polysilicon wafers has fallen by nearly three-quarters. The price is now below the production cost - in the latest quarter, LDK Solar's gross margin was -65.5pc. Meanwhile, the debt crisis in Europe has cut government subsidies to the sector and the US imposed a 31pc tariff in May on Chinese wafers, complaining that manufacturers were being underwritten by the government. In July a group of 25 European solar companies followed suit, filing an anti-dumping complaint with the European Union. At the same time, the quality of the solar equipment being made by Chinese companies, even by the biggest companies, is often not export-grade. While the Chinese government has promised to hugely increase its purchases of solar panels, there is a significant excess capacity in the domestic market that has kept prices low. China's big five firms are all reporting disastrous trading and heavily indebted balance sheets."
Dark clouds gather over China's once-booming solar industry
Telegraph, 29 August 2012

"Princeton Satellite Systems announced on Friday an electric car charging station integrated with a stationary solar power system. The company claims the SunStation is the first 100% green charging station for electric vehicles, because all power comes from the Sun. The SunStation has a built-in battery pack that enables recharging electric cars 24 hours a day, even when the Sun has set. It provides a 240 volt charging voltage for charging an electric car at it's normal rate, namely the Nissan Leaf in 8 hours, a Chevy Volt in 4 and a Toyota Prius Plugin Hybrid in 1.5. The system is installed simply by pouring a concrete base and bolting the station to the base. The SunStation does not require a wired connection to the electricity grid, because of the battery pack. Other electric vehicle charging stations require an electricity grid connection to provide the power. It does wirelessly connect via the cell phone network for a payment system, and allowing Princeton Satellite Systems to remotely manage the station."
Solar powered electric car charging from Princeton Satellite Systems
Torque News, 26 August 2012

"New research out of Berkeley Lab and the University of California suggests that it is possible to make solar cells from any semiconductor, opening the door to solar panels made from cheaper, more abundant materials. Until now, phosphides and sulfides of metals have been judged ill-suited for solar cells because of the near-impossibility of chemically doping them with the quality of p-n junctions required. The new approach, dubbed 'screening-engineered field-effect photovoltaics' (SFPV), sidesteps the problem by inducing p-n junctions in semiconductors by applying an electric field."
Discovery opens door to cheaper solar panels
ArsTechnicha, 10 August 2012

"Abu Dhabi has installed the first rapid charging station in the Middle East, reducing the time taken to recharge electric cars by over 90 percent, it was announced this week. The CHAdeMO-certified Rapid Charger, the first of its kind in the region, has been installed at Masdar City, the low-carbon development backed by the Abu Dhabi government, and was in collaboration with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries."
Abu Dhabi launches region's first rapid electric car charger
ArabianBusiness, 2 August 2012

"Researchers from UCLA have developed a new transparent solar cell that is a significant step towards giving the windows in homes and other buildings the ability to generate electricity while still being transparent. The research team 'describes a new kind of polymer solar cell (PSC) that produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared light, not visible light, making the cells nearly 70% transparent to the human eye.' They created the device from a photoactive plastic that generates an electrical current from infrared light. 'These results open the potential for visibly transparent polymer solar cells as add-on components of portable electronics, smart windows and building-integrated photovoltaics and in other applications,' said study leader Yang Yang, a UCLA professor of materials science and engineering, who also is director of the Nano Renewable Energy Center at California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI). Yang also said that there has been a definite world-wide interest in polymer solar cells. 'Our new PSCs are made from plastic-like materials and are lightweight and flexible,' he said. 'More importantly, they can be produced in high volume at low cost.'... The new study appears in the journal ACS Nano.”
Solar Cells for Windows Take Another Step Forward
CleanTechnica, 22 July 2012

"Researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have launched a four-year research program that aims to improve the efficiency of organic solar cells to more than 10 percent. Organic solar cells are cheaper to produce, lighter and more flexible than traditional silicon-based solar cells, opening new perspectives in particular for the architectural design of buildings. Solar modules can be integrated in facades and even windows. The downside is that the efficiency rate of OPV cells remains much lower than inorganic solar cells, demonstrating 15-20 percent efficient. Led by Dr. Alexander Colsmann, at KIT's Light Technology Institute, the newly-launched project uses tandem architectures. Two solar cells with complementary absorption characteristics are stacked directly on top of each other to achieve better sunlight harvesting and more efficient energy conversion. The KIT scientists said they use novel materials, develop innovative device architectures, optimize their stability, and test the solar cells in a real-life environment. They also intend to transfer manufacturing processes from the laboratory to an industry-compatible production environment so as to promote future commercial use of their results. ... Recently, Heliatek GmbH (Dresden, Germany) claimed it had pushed the record efficiency for organic solar cells higher, achieving an efficiency of 10.7 percent in a 1.1 square centimeter tandem cell. Measurements, led by independent test house SGS SA (Geneva Switzerland), showed that the cell improved efficiency under low light conditions and that the efficiency remains constant with temperature."
Scientists to push organic solar cell efficiency
EE Times, 4 July 2012

"Riding on the crash in photo voltaic (PV) panel prices, the solar power sector in India had a dream run last year with capacity ballooning to 940MW in 2011-12 from a paltry 20MW in 2010-11. That's just statistics. What's significant and not borne out by these statistics is the fact that the cost of power from solar is now on a par with the cost of power from new coal-based plants. In industry parlance, it's referred to as grid parity, considered the holy grail of solar power. Grid-parity is the point where the cost of electricity generated from sunshine becomes competitive with that of power produced from coal, gas, wind and hydro-based plants. .... 'If we compare the cost of power from new coal-based plants, it will be at par with that of solar. If one takes into account the total duration of the power purchasing agreement, which is 25 years, grid-parity is already there. Solar power needs only a one-time investment in the form of land and PV panels. Its fuel, which is sunshine, is free unlike coal where price will head only northwards,' said Gaurav Sood, managing director, Solairedirect, a solar power producer. ... Three years ago, the cost of generating a unit of solar energy was around Rs 18. In fact, solar has already taken over diesel as a cheaper form of energy and a lot of telecom towers are now being run on solar power. In recent years, there has been a sharp decline in capital costs for solar PV plants. PV module prices have fallen a sharp 80% in the last five years and 30% during last year alone."
Solar power shines on photo voltaic panel price crash
Times of India, 25 June 2012

"Invisible solar cells have been a popular subject in the realms of science and technology lately. The prospect of a solar energy system that is imperceptible to the eye is alluring because of its many possible applications. Invisible solar cells could be used on nearly any surface, such as windows, enabling them to harvest solar energy. New Energy Technologies, a company specializing in the research and development of transparent solar panels, has been a pioneer in this sector and has announced its latest breakthrough. The company has made a breakthrough in the manufacturing technique it uses to create its invisible solar cells. With the aid of researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, New Energy Technologies was able to lower the materials costs of its production method as well as adopt a new technique that is expected to increase the efficiency of the solar cells the company produces. More efficient solar energy technology is expected to bring more attention and support to the alternative energy."
Invisible solar cells may be moving closer to mass production
Hydrogen Fuel News, 24 June 2012

"Developers installed 85 percent more solar panels in the U.S. in the first quarter than a year earlier, led by strong growth in commercial projects and demand in New Jersey, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Total U.S. installations were 506 megawatts in the quarter and may reach 3,300 megawatts this year, about 11 percent of the 2012 global market, the Washington-based trade group said today in its quarterly market report. That will make the U.S. the fourth-largest solar market this year, and one of the few countries where growth is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, according to GTM Research, a Boston consulting company that prepared the report with SEIA. Falling prices are making solar energy an economical energy choice for U.S. homeowners and businesses. 'The economics have improved dramatically, with companies realizing it’s a good hedge against rising energy prices,' Rhone Resch, chief executive officer of SEIA, said in an interview."
U.S. Solar Grew 85 Percent in First Quarter, SEIA Says
Bloomberg, 13 June 2012

"Global investment in renewable energy reached a record $257 billion last year, with solar attracting more than half the total, according to a U.N. report released Monday. Investment in solar energy surged to $147 billion in 2011, a year-on-year increase of 52% thanks to strong demand for rooftop photovoltaic installations in Germany, Italy, China and Britain. China was responsible for almost a fifth of the total investment volume, spending $52 billion on renewable energy last year. The United States was close behind with investments of $51 billion, as developers sought to benefit from government incentive programs before they expired. Germany, Italy and India rounded out the top five. Large-scale solar thermal installations in Spain and the United States also contributed to growth during a fiercely competitive year for the solar industry. Several large American and German manufacturers fell victim to price pressure from Chinese rivals that helped to halve the cost of photovoltaic modules in 2011.   The report's authors said the demise of companies such as Solyndra, Evergreen Solar, SpectraWatt, Solar Millenium and Solon was a sign that the solar industry is maturing. 'In 1903, the United States had over 500 car companies, most of which quickly fell by the wayside even as the automobile sector grew into an industrial juggernaut,' the report said. 'Today, the renewable energy sector is experiencing similar growing pains as the sector consolidates.' Wind power investment slipped 12% to $84 billion due to uncertainty about energy policy in Europe and fewer new installations in China, according to the report. Overall investment in renewable energy grew 17%, a slowdown from the 37% increase in 2010. Still, the head of the U.N. Environment Program claimed the latest figures are an indication that renewable energy is drawing level with fossil fuels in some markets. 'These trends are real, they are substantive and they are transformative,' Achim Steiner told reporters in a conference call."
China topped USA in renewable energy investment in 2011
USA Today, 11 June 2012

"Australia will go ahead with a A$450 million ($446 million) large-scale solar energy project to be built at two sites in New South Wales state, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said on Saturday. The 159 megawatt project will be undertaken by solar photovoltaic manufacturer First Solar and gas retailer AGL Energy and should be completed by the end of 2015, Ferguson said in a statement. The project will benefit from a government grant of nearly A$130 million, announced on Saturday, and will be built at the inland towns of Broken Hill and Nyngan. It should produce enough electricity to power about 30,000 homes, the minister said."
Australia to go ahead with A$450 million solar energy project
Reuters, 9 June 2012

"One of the biggest challenges facing the silicon photovoltaic industry is making solar cells that are economically viable. To meet this goal, the module cost, which is currently about $1/watt, needs to be decreased to just half that. Much of this cost comes from the silicon material and the expensive fabrication processes often used. In a new study, a team of scientists and engineers has demonstrated that a hybrid solar cell covered in silicon nanocones and a conductive organic polymer can address both cost-cutting areas while providing excellent performance. The researchers, led by Professor Yi Cui and Professor Michael D. McGehee from Stanford University, have published their study in a recent issue of .....  After testing the solar cell and making some improvements, the researchers produced a device with an efficiency of 11.1%, which is the highest among hybrid silicon/organic solar cells to date. In addition, the short-circuit current density, which indicates the largest current that the solar cell can generate, is only slightly lower than the world record for a monocrystalline silicon solar cell, and very close to the theoretical limit. Due to the hybrid silicon nanocone-polymer solar cells’ good performance and inexpensive processing, the researchers predict that they could one day be used as economically viable photovoltaic devices."
Nanocones could be key to making inexpensive solar cells
Phys.org, 5 June 2012

"German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour - equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity - through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday, the head of a renewable energy think tank said. The German government decided to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022. They will be replaced by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-mass. Norbert Allnoch, director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster, said the 22 gigawatts of solar power per hour fed into the national grid on Saturday met nearly 50 percent of the nation's midday electricity needs. 'Never before anywhere has a country produced as much photovoltaic electricity,' Allnoch told Reuters. 'Germany came close to the 20 gigawatt (GW) mark a few times in recent weeks. But this was the first time we made it over.'...The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world's leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed....Government-mandated support for renewables has helped Germany became a world leader in renewable energy and the country gets about 20 percent of its overall annual electricity from those sources. Germany has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets about four percent of its overall annual electricity needs from the sun alone."
Germany sets new solar power record, institute says
Reuters, 26 May 2012

"An experimental solar-powered airplane took off from Switzerland on its first transcontinental flight Thursday, aiming to reach North Africa next week. Pilot Andre Borschberg planned to take the jumbo jet-size Solar Impulse plane on its first leg to Madrid, Spain, by Friday. His colleague Bertrand Piccard will take the helm of the aircraft for the second stretch of its 2,500-kilometer (1,554-mile) journey to the Moroccan capital Rabat. Fog on the runaway at its home base in Payerne, Switzerland, delayed the take off by two hours, demonstrating how susceptible the prototype single-seater aircraft is to adverse weather. 'We can't fly into clouds because it was not designed for that,' Borschberg said as he piloted the lumbering plane with its 63-meter (207-foot) wingspan toward the eastern French city of Lyon at a cruising speed of just 70 kilometers an hour (43.5 mph). Before landing in Madrid in the early hours of Friday, Borschberg will face other challenges, including having to overfly the Pyrenees mountains that separate France and Spain. Just in case things go disastrously wrong, Borschberg has a parachute inside his tiny cabin that he hopes never to use. 'When you take an umbrella it never rains,' he joked in a satellite call with The Associated Press."
Experimental solar-powered plane, Solar Impulse, begins flight across Europe
New York Daily News, 24 May 2012

"California is poised to more than double its targeted electricity output from rooftop solar panels. The state Public Utilities Commission on Thursday tweaked its rules to authorize an increase in the number of residential, commercial and government buildings that can participate in a program that allows solar users to lower their electricity bills by getting credit for excess power sent back to the grid. The move raises the maximum total capacity of all the state's rooftop solar systems to about 5,200 megawatts from a current 2,400 megawatts. That's enough new electricity to power about 2.1 million homes."
Utility regulators more than double California's solar power goal
Los Angeles Times, 25 April 2012

"Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, may finally be getting serious about overcoming the technical and financial hurdles for tapping its other main resource: sunshine. Thousands of solar power panels have sprung up across Europe over the past few years, thanks to generous subsidies that make the technology an attractive alternative to conventional energy. Saudi Arabia too, wants to generate much more solar power as it lacks coal or enough natural gas output to meet rapidly rising power demand. Doing so would allow it to slash the volume of oil it burns in power plants bankrolled by billions of dollars worth of saved oil earnings. 'At world market prices, solar is competitive if you use crude oil to generate electricity,' said Maher al-Odan, a senior consultant at King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Research (KA-CARE) which was set up to plan Saudi Arabia's energy mix. Saudi Arabia has said it wants to become a major solar producer before, but its investments amount to much less than 50 megawatts versus several countries which have added thousands of megawatts a year. This month, KA-CARE set forth a much more ambitious plan, recommending that the kingdom aim to get more than a third of its peak-load power supply, or about 41 gigawatts (GW), from the sun within two decades at an estimated cost well over $100 billion. Making the plan work economically rests on three assumptions: that technology improvements will cut costs, that a domestic solar industry will emerge and create jobs for a booming population, and that many billions of dollars worth of exportable oil will be saved. An average of 700,000 barrels a day of crude were used in Saudi power stations during the peak air-conditioning demand period from May to September last year, according to official data supplied to the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI)."
Saudi battles excess heat, dust to build solar power
Saudi Arabia, 23 May 2012

"An Israeli solar company says it has raised more than $200 million to build eight solar energy fields in the country's southern desert. Arava Power Co. says the deal is by far the biggest ever in Israel's solar power industry. Arava Power's chief executive, Jon Cohen, said Tuesday the installations, to be built in southern Israel's Negev desert, are 'another step toward energy independence for Israel and a greener future for generations to come.' The company says the fields will generate 58.5 megawatts of power. Investors include the Noy investment fund, French energy company EDF, Bank Hapoalim, Israeli insurer Migdal and pension fund manager Amitim. Israel hopes to generate 10 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020."
Israeli solar firm raises $200 million
Associated Press, 22 May 2012

"Electric cars are far more expensive to buy than their petrol equivalents, largely because the cost of the lithium-ion battery that powers the vehicle is so high – currently about $12,000. But the fuel costs of electric vehicles are already far lower than for petrol-powered ones. In the US, for example, the petrol for an average car costs about 8 cents per kilometre, compared with less than 2 cents for the electricity to power an electric car. In Europe, where fuel tax is higher, the numbers are 12.5 cents and 2.5 cents, respectively. Either way, that is a huge gap. So for electric vehicles to compete on price, battery costs need only fall far enough to be swallowed by that gap, and Galves believes that it is likely to happen sooner than most people think. First, he expects the costs of batteries to plummet as mass production ramps up – just as they did for laptops – to less than $7000 by 2015. Second, the gap is likely to widen with most analysts expecting oil prices to keep rising. 'On a 10-to-15-year view, it’s almost impossible for electrification not to carve out a decent portion of the market,' says Galves, who expects electric vehicles to be economic within a decade even without the subsidies that many governments currently give.  The effect of falling electric vehicle costs will be reinforced by strengthening fuel efficiency and emissions policies in the world’s most important car markets. The policies of the world’s biggest gas guzzler will soon be among the toughest. In 1975, US president Jimmy Carter passed a law forcing vehicle manufacturers in the US to meet average fuel efficiency standards. For cars, that number has languished at around 27 miles per gallon (11.5 kilometres per litre) since the early 1990s, but recent legislation means average fuel economy must double to 54.5 mpg by 2025. The standard has been rising since 1978, and by 2020 the targets become so demanding, says Galves, that car manufacturers will not be able to meet them without selling a significant number of electric vehicles. Galves expects them to make up a fifth of US car sales in 2020. The impact will be dramatic. Every day, US vehicles guzzle about 9 million barrels of oil – the biggest single element in our daily global consumption of almost 90 million barrels (see chart, top left). Deutsche Bank oil analysts expect US petrol consumption to plummet, almost halving by 2030. The story is the same in the European Union, which regulates carbon dioxide emissions per kilometre rather than miles per gallon. Cars manufactured there in 2020 must reduce their average emissions by more than a quarter compared with models made in 2015. Such standards will especially encourage electrification because they govern 'tailpipe' emissions pumped out in the day-to-day running of car engines and not those emitted while they are being built. By this measure, electric vehicles are zero emission. Deutsche Bank expects them to make up 25 per cent of Europe’s car sales in 2020, accelerating the decline in demand for petrol. So much for the world’s richer nations. In China, where the developing car market is booming, the demand for petrol will continue to rise for at least a decade. Yet the global impact will be limited because the size of China’s car fleet is currently just a fifth of that of the US. The Chinese government too is strongly committed to electric vehicles as one way of tackling appalling air quality in the cities and the country’s dependence on imported oil. Deutsche Bank forecasts that Chinese petrol demand will start to fall from 2025, as electric vehicles become more common. The net effect is that global petrol demand will peak as early as 2015. 'From that point forward,' writes Deutsche Bank’s lead oil analyst Paul Sankey in a research note. 'We believe gasoline demand will be on an inexorable and accelerating decline.' And as a result, he argues, global demand for crude oil will go the same way in about 2020. Others disagree with Deutsche Bank’s analysis. The International Energy Agency has long been dismissive about predictions of an early peak in the global oil supply. It is just as dismissive that demand will decline within the next couple of decades. It forecasts that daily oil demand will rise to 107 million barrels by 2035 on the basis of current government policies. Fatih Birol, the agency’s chief economist, believes that there are simply too many cars in the world – about a billion and rising – for electric vehicles to have a meaningful impact in the short term. Although most governments have policies to encourage electrification, they are very unlikely to achieve their targets. Even if they do, says Birol, the number of electric vehicles on the road in 2020 will be just 20 million – about 2 per cent of the total fleet. Stefanie Lang, a London-based automobile analyst at investment-research firm Sanford C. Bernstein, agrees that electric vehicles will make only limited progress over the next 10 to 15 years. She argues that they will struggle because they will remain far too expensive and will face fierce competition from the incumbent technology – the internal combustion engine. Even after a century of development, the internal combustion engine has the capacity to make major improvements in fuel economy, says Lang, rattling off three examples. .... So what does the motor industry itself think lies ahead? That the internal combustion engine’s days are numbered, for one thing. In a recent survey, consultants KPMG asked 200 top executives of car companies how long they thought the traditional engine would continue to prevail over electric vehicles. Some 70 per cent answered 1 to 10 years, but only 18 per cent thought 10 to 20 years. One reason for the result could be that electrification is now widely seen as the best way to make major reductions in transport emissions, even taking into account the emissions from generating the electricity in the first place. That is because electric vehicles are far more efficient than petrol cars. Take the Nissan Leaf. It is responsible for just 99 grams of CO2 per kilometre, even when charged on electricity generated by the average mix of coal, natural gas, nuclear and renewables. That makes it 40 per cent cleaner than a typical petrol car in Europe. And as electricity generation becomes cleaner, the emissions of electric vehicles will fall further still – unlike those of cars powered by biofuel or natural gas (see New Scientist, 25 February, p 48)."
Dump the pump: could peak oil be voluntary?
New Scientist, 17 May 2012

"The world's solar power generating capacity will grow by between 200 and 400 percent over the next five years, with Asia and other emerging markets overtaking leadership from Europe, a European industry association said on Monday. 'Europe has dominated the global PV (photovoltaic) market for years but the rest of the world clearly has the biggest potential for growth,' the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) said in its market outlook until 2016. The fastest PV capacity growth is expected in China and India, followed by the southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa in the next five years, said the report distributed at a PV conference in northern Italy. Global installed PV capacity, which turns sunlight into power, is expected to have risen to between 207.9 gigawatts and 342.8 GW in 2016, depending on the level of political support, from 69.7 GW in 2011, the report said. This year, the world's total PV capacity is expected to rise to between 90 and 110 GW, EPIA's Secretary General Reinhold Buttgereit told the conference."
Asia to overtake Europe as global solar power grows - EPIA
Reuters, 7 May 2012

"German solar installations may have more than tripled in the first quarter from a year ago, the country’s deputy environment minister said. 'The first quarter had big installations,” Katherina Reiche said today in an interview during an informal meeting of ministers in Denmark. 'It is assumed that nearly 1,800 megawatts were installed.' Germany added 513 megawatts in the same period last year, according to the Bundesnetzagentur grid regulator."
Germany Solar Installations May Have Tripled in First Quarter
Bloomberg, 19 April 2012

"China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, said it will provide financial support and individual subsidies to promote the use and development of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The government will broaden pilot programs, build recharging facilities and develop a plan to recycle batteries, as part of a drive to have 500,000 such vehicles by 2015, rising to 5 million by 2020, the State Council, or cabinet, said in astatement posted on its website yesterday."
China to Give Stimulus for Development of Electric Vehicles
Bloomberg, 19 April 2012

"Thin-film solar panels may perform better in hot climates than rival crystalline products, based on half a year of data from the first Indian projects, an executive at the nation’s largest contractor on the developments said. 'The last six months for which we have data show that the performance of crystalline in hot climates is not as efficient as thin film,' said S.N. Subrahmanyan, senior executive vice president of construction at Larsen & Toubro Ltd. (LT) 'Of course, it’s still early days. But that’s what we’re seeing.' Concerns over use of thin-film panels were raised as First Solar Inc. (FSLR), the largest supplier, in February boosted provisions for warranties by $37.8 million due to potential for 'increased failure rates in hot climates.' Developers and their lenders are seeking data on how technologies fare in warmer conditions as Europe, the biggest solar market, cuts renewables subsidies. Traditional crystalline modules are silicon-based, while thin-film technology coats panels with materials such as cadmium telluride, copper indium gallium selenide and amorphous silicon. Crystalline’s competitiveness matches thin-film when placed on trackers to rotate panels with the sun’s movement, boosting output as much as 20 percent, Subrahmanyan said in an interview."
Solar Thin-Film Panels May Outperform Rival Technology in India
Bloomberg, 18 April 2012

"The average price of an electric vehicle-grade battery fell 14 percent year-on-year to $689 per kilowatt hour in the first quarter as manufacturing capacity outstripped demand, a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance said on Tuesday.Lower battery costs for electric vehicles could improve their commercial uptake, which has been slow. The United States wants to see up to 1 million electric and plug-in hybrids on its roads by the middle of next decade. To help achieve this goal, the U.S. government has spent over $2 billion under President Obama to underwrite domestic battery production and billions more to finance electric car development to cut U.S. oil imports and reduce pollution. But electric vehicles such as Mitsubishi Motor Corp.'s iMiEV, Nissan Leaf or Tesla Model S to travel longer distances need to store 16 to 85 kWh at a cost of $11,200 to $34,000, which is around 25 percent of the total cost of the vehicle. A Tesla car with an 85 kWh battery, for example, has a range of about 300 miles before it needs to recharge. Battery prices for plug-in hybrid vehicles such as GM's Volt are on average 67 percent higher than those for electric-only vehicles, mainly due to the greater power-to-energy performance required for plug-in hybrid vehicles."
Q1 electric car battery prices drop 14 percent on year
Reuters, 17 April 2012

"Solar energy is gaining momentum around the world, especially in Japan, where the solar market is experiencing a period of rapid growth. Japan has long been interested in alternative energy because of its economic and environmental implications. The country is home to one of the most ambitious and powerful hydrogen energy systems, the ENE-FARM, and has been using geothermal energy for decades. Solar power is not new to the Land of the Rising Sun, but it has been growing in popularity over the past year. The Kyocera Solar Corporation, a leading manufacturer of solar panels, has released information concerning the growth of the solar industry."
Japan’s solar energy growth
Hydrogenfuelnews, 8 April 2012

"California may be the solar Promised Land but Delaware is where those big green dreams go to die. On Monday, Solar Trust of America became the latest solar developer to file for bankruptcy in Delaware federal court, putting into jeopardy photovoltaic power plant projects utilities were counting on to generate 2,000 megawatts of electricity – enough to light hundreds of thousands of homes at peak output. Among the projects was what would have been the world’s largest solar station, the Blythe Solar Power Project, a 1,000-megawatt power plant to be built in the Mojave Desert that had received a $2.1 billion federal loan guarantee offer. Solar Trust’s parent company, German developer Solar Millennium, filed for bankruptcy in Germany in December and moved to sell its U.S pipeline of projects to a German photovoltaic power plant developer called Solarhybrid. Then late last month Solarhybrid itself sought bankruptcy protection, citing a cutback in German subsidies for solar energy. According Solar Trust’s bankruptcy filings, the company has liabilities of $20 million and missed a $1 million rent payment on April 1 to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for the 7,025-acre Blythe site. Solar Trust this week faces deadlines to pay $30.9 million in security deposits to related to its right to connect its projects to the power grid."
Collapse of German Solar Companies Threaten California's Big Solar Projects
Forbes, 3 April 2012

"President Obama visited a dusty, desert town 30 miles outside Las Vegas Wednesday to declare he's doubling down on federal efforts to boost the solar industry. Republicans believe Obama is gambling with taxpayer dollars as he continues to aggressively push alternative forms of energy after the failure of Solyndra, which resulted in the loss of half a billion dollars in taxpayer dollars."
President Obama doubles down on efforts to boost solar industry
News, 22 March 2012

"In a move with potential to spark a trade war, the Commerce Department ruled Tuesday that US solar panel manufacturers are being victimized by Chinese manufacturers dumping cheap panels in North America that were unfairly subsidized by the Chinese government. Amid an ongoing investigation, Commerce determined that Chinese producers and exporters have received subsidies ranging from 2.90 percent to 4.73 percent, a smaller advantage over US manufacturers than many analysts had expected. Commerce will now direct tariffs to be collected on Chinese imports. The Obama administration argues that dumping of under-priced solar panels is a violation of World Trade Organization rules that has come at a high cost to US panel manufacturers. Several have already been forced to close domestic manufacturing facilities even though 2011 was one of the best years ever for US solar panel sales. While the US remains a leader in the production of thin film – an advanced type of solar-electric panel technology – at least 12 US manufacturers that made more conventional photovoltaic panels have laid off employees, shut down plants or filed for bankruptcy during the past two years, according to the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing. The group of seven US manufacturers filed trade petitions last year against two Chinese silicon solar PV manufacturers, leading to the Commerce investigation."
China subsidized solar panels, US finds. Are tariffs the right response?
Christian Science Monitor, 20 March 2012

"The national solar industry installed a record number of panels in 2011, more than double 2010, and is likely to see strong growth again this year, according to a new report.Solar installers built 1,855 megawatts of photovoltaic projects in 2011 for a total of $8.4 billion, up from 887 MW in 2010, according to a report released by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The growth in U.S. demand comes as the makers of the panels that turn light into electricity have struggled to earn profits amid a glut of supplies on the global market that eroded margins."
Solar power growth jumps to new record
Reuters, 14 March 2012

"China is aiming to reduce the cost of domestic solar power and expand the domestic market to better develop the photovoltaic (PV) industry during the 12th Five-Year-Plan period (2011-15), said the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on Friday. According to the industry plan announced by the ministry, the country will reduce the cost of solar power to 0.8 yuan (12 US cents) per kilowatt-hour by 2015 and 0.6 yuan per kWh by 2020 and increase production of solar panels."
China's domestic solar market to expand
China Daily, 25 February 2012

"Solar-power capacity in Ukraine is forecast to double this year, spurred by the completion of Europe’s biggest photovoltaic plant in December and incentives a third higher than anywhere else in the region. Developers in the former Soviet republic may add panels with 300 megawatts of capacity after last year installing about 200 megawatts, according to the Association of Alternative Fuels and Energy Market Participants, the main lobby group tracking PV installations in the nation. It had just 2.5 megawatts in 2010. .... President Viktor Yanukovych’s efforts to develop Ukraine’s renewable energy industry contrast with steps to rein in solar subsidies in Germany, Italy and Spain after incentives for the industry pushed installations past government targets."
Europe’s Biggest Solar Power Incentive Bolsters Ukraine: Energy
Bloomberg, 22 February 2012

"..... analyst firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) is now predicting that substantial penetration of energy storage technologies into national grids is likely to be led by an expected drop in battery prices over the next few years. According to a new report from the firm, grid-scale lithium-ion battery projects today cost more than $1,000/kWh, but with battery manufacturing capacity likely to outstrip supply in the short term, BNEF forecast prices will drop over the next 36 months and reach $600/kWh by 2015. The report argues that falling prices mean using storage systems to manage energy prices, buying energy at periods of low demand and then storing it for use during peak periods could make economic sense for large power consumers within the next year and for smaller consumers by 2016. Significant growth is also expected for pumped hydro and flywheel energy storage systems, meaning that by 2020 energy storage could be in widespread use in the UK across the transmission and distribution systems, and even co-located with wind farms and solar parks. However, BNEF warns that changes in government policy, such as allowing transmission and distribution utilities to sell stored electricity to National Grid, will be needed to realise the benefits of bringing more renewable energy online and allowing commercial users to avoid having to purchase power at the most expensive times of day."
Energy storage economically viable within five years
Business Green, 25 January 2012

"SolarFocus's SolarKindle case is a charger for Amazon's Kindle e-reader which 'tops up' the gadget with the sun. One hour's direct sun can provide three days' reading - so lucky users in warm countries may never have to visit a power socket again. Once the gadget's topped up, the SolarKindle diverts power to a backup battery - eight hours will fully charge the backup , which offers roughly three weeks' use. The battery also powers an LED light."
Solar-powered jacket means Kindle lasts forever - as long as the sun keeps shining
Mail, 9 January 2012

"Germany saw solar output rise a record 60 per cent last year to more than 18 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, according to new figures from the German Solar Industry Association (BSW-Solar). The trade body said the output was equivalent to the entire electricity consumption of the state of Thuringia and could theoretically provide clean power to 5.1 million households for an entire year."
Germany reports record 60 per cent surge in solar generation
BusinessGreen, 4 January 2012

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"This is Europe's first commercially operating power station using the Sun's energy this way and at the moment its operator, Solucar, proudly claims that it generates 11 Megawatts (MW) of electricity without emitting a single puff of greenhouse gas. This current figure is enough to power up to 6,000 homes. But ultimately, the entire plant should generate as much power as is used by the 600,000 people of Seville. It works by focusing the reflected rays on one location, turning water into steam and then blasting it into turbines to generate power..... The vision is of the sun-blessed lands of the Mediterranean - even the Sahara desert - being carpeted with systems like this with the power cabled to the drizzlier lands of northern Europe. A dazzling idea in a dazzling location."
Power station harnesses Sun's rays
BBC Online, 2 May 2007

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".... if you look around and see what the world is now facing I don't think  in the last two or three hundred years we've faced such a concatenation of  problems all at the same time.....[including] the inevitability, it seems to me, of resource wars....  if we are to solve the issues that are ahead of us,
we are going to need to think in completely different ways. And the probability, it seems to me, is that the next 20 or 30 years are going to see a period of great instability... I fear the [current] era of small wars is merely the precursor, the pre-shock, for something rather larger to come... we need to find new ways to be able to live together on an overcrowded earth."
Paddy Ashdown, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina 2002 -2006

BBC Radio 4, 'Start The Week', 30 April 2007

"Individual peace is the unit of world peace. By offering Consciousness-Based Education to the coming generation, we can promote a strong foundation for a healthy, harmonious, and peaceful world.... Consciousness-Based education is not a luxury. For our children who are growing up in a stressful, often frightening, crisis-ridden world, it is a necessity."
Academy Award Winning Film Producer David Lynch (Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, etc)
David Lynch Foundation

   

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